Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rooftop Water Towers

Seen on rooftops all over the city, these water storage vessels last about 30 years. The yellow cedar wood strips are held together with steel bands, and the water inside swells the wood for a leak-proof fit. The wood insulates the water well enough to keep it from freezing in winter. Buildings taller than five stories need to have water pumped to the upper floors.

In the 19th century, NYC required that all buildings higher than six stories be equipped with a rooftop water tower. This was necessary to prevent the need for excessively high pressures at lower elevations, which could burst pipes. In modern times, the towers have become fashionable in some circles. As of 2006, the neighborhood of Tribeca requires water towers on all buildings, whether or not they are being used.

Two companies in New York build water towers, both of which are family businesses in operation since the 19th century. The original water tower builders were barrel makers who expanded their craft to meet a modern need as buildings in the city grew taller in height.

The rooftop water towers store 5,000-10,000 gallons of water until it is needed in the building below. The upper portion of water is skimmed off the top for everyday use while the water in the bottom of the tower is held in reserve to fight a fire. When the water drops below a certain level, a switch or  valve activates activate a pump or open a public water line to refill the water tower.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Library Bar at Hudson Hotel

Reminiscent of an old English club or drawing room, the Library is the perfect cozy hangout for relaxing by the enormous gas fireplace, chatting and drinking with friends, shooting billiards, playing a computer game, or reading a book from its extensive collection on topics ranging from film, theater, fashion and art, to travel and politics.

An artful blend of old and new, the two story Library features an antique billiards table covered in purple felt (and topped by Ingo Maurer’s enormous metallic hemisphere lamp shade), classic English caramel leather sofas and wing chairs, walls of leather-bound books and antique area rugs residing alongside cyber-desks fitted with laptop computers. Not to mention oversized black and white photographs by noted French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino of a most curious subject: Holsteins sporting jaunty couture hats. No lie.

Hudson Hotel
356 West 58th Street; 212.554.6000

Bottom photo courtesy Rob Tabor

Monday, June 6, 2011

Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park

The Boathouse Restaurant
East 72nd St. & Park Drive North
(within Central Park, west of the Metropolitan Museum)
Mon thru Fri: Lunch noon-4:00p; Dinner (Apr-Nov) 5:30-9:30 (last seating)
Sat and Sun: Brunch 9:30a-4:00p; Dinner (Apr-Nov) 6:00p-9:30 (last seating)

Located at the northeastern tip of the Lake, the Loeb Boathouse houses the Boathouse Restaurant, a famous icon of Central Park. Overlooking the lake, it is a charming place to have lunch on a pleasant afternoon (or dinner April through November). Many diners prefer the deck, where they can watch the rowboats and occasional gondola drift by.

Year-round, a complimentary trolley picks up patrons from a stop at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street and drops them off directly at the boathouse (between Nov. 4 and Apr. 14, the trolley runs only Sat., Sun., and holidays). Weekdays from 3pm to 7pm (when vehicles are permitted in the park) patrons can use the restaurant parking lot. At all other times, diners may use the Metropolitan Museum garage at 80th Street and Fifth Avenue and taking the free Boathouse Trolley to and from the restaurant. The garage is open 24 hours.

Note: Vehicles are permitted in Central Park only Monday through Friday from 7-10am and from 3-7pm. Whether by car or by foot, enter the park at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street and follow the traffic road to the right. It is a very pleasant walk to the restaurant and takes approximately 5-6 minutes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Museum Mile

The upper east side is home to a large clutch of museums, but these three facing Fifth Avenue make an excellent all-day museum outing, a great plan for a rainy day. Try to have lunch at Neue Galerie's Café Sabarsky.

Solomon Guggenheim Museum (5th Ave. at 89th St.)
$18 adults; $15 seniors 65+
Daily 10:00a-5:45p (except late Sat closing 7:45p)
Spend some time outside to marvel at the corkscrew spiral architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, this museum offers landmark works of modern art. The distinctive building, Frank Lloyd Wright's last major work, opened in October, 1959, six months after the architect’s death; Wright labored over the project for 15 years, and it was already "retro modern" when finally built, considering that construction took place at the same time as Lincoln Center.
The museum contains a renowned collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, modern and contemporary art. Internally, the viewing gallery forms a gentle spiral from the main level up to the top of the building, which is wider than the bottom, an unusual feature. Paintings are displayed along the walls of the spiral and also in exhibition space found at annex levels along the way. In 1992, the building was supplemented by an adjoining rectangular tower, taller than the original spiral (see photo at top of post). A large circular skylight illuminates the central atrium of the main building, casting deep shadows onto the exhibit areas, unfortunately. Many of the living artists represented in the museum's collection objected to having their works illuminated by artificial light. At the time of this post, much of the museum is closed to the public as a major retrospective on the works of Frank Lloyd Wright is being installed.

Dining options include the just-opened restaurant/bar simply called “The Wright.”
The Wright Restaurant (lunch 11:30a-3:30p, dinner 5:30p-11:00p; Sunday brunch 11:00a-5:00p)
The Wright Bar (appetizers/sandwiches 11:30a-5:00p)
Café 3 (on third floor) sandwiches/pastries with a view of Central Park (10:30a-3:00p)

Neue Galerie (5th ave. at 86th St.)
Austrian & German art circa 1900
$15 Adults; $10 seniors 65+; Building is the former home of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III
11:00a-6:00p (closed Tue/Wed) Complimentary coat check

Early 20th century Austrian paintings and decorative art (2nd floor). Be sure to view Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer
Early 20th century German art (third floor)

Café Sabarsky Thu-Fri-Sat-Sun 9:00a-9:00p; Mon &Wed 9:00a-6:00p (separate entrance)
Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner “Echt Viennese” menu; exceptional pastries

Metropolitan Museum of Art (5th Ave. at 82nd St.)
A pay-what-you-wish museum (but $20 per adult recommended). If you can visit only one New York City Museum, this is the one that can't be missed.

Fri/Sat: 9:30a–9:00p (cafeteria open 11:30a-7:00p)
Sun: 9:30a–5:30p (cafeteria open 11:30a-4:30p)
Mon holidays (such as MLK Day): 9:30a–5:30p (cafeteria open 11:30a-4:30p)

Other dining venues at the Met:
Petrie Café and Wine Bar (a la carte menu; large windows overlook Central Park)
Fri/Sat from 9:30a; last seating 8:30p
Sun 9:30a-4:30p
Daily afternoon tea begins at 2:30p ($24 per person)
Reservations (dinner & brunch only) 212-570-3964

Great Hall Balcony Bar (live classical music)
Fri/Sat only 4:00p-8:30p (last call 8:00)
Wine/beer/cocktails & appetizers

New American Wing Café
Fri/Sat 11:00a-8:30p
Sun 11:00a-4:30p