KENNETH JOHANNESSEN
-------------------------things I like in New York

 



Unlike most cities, New York has a number of newspapers: the Times, the Post, Newsday, the Observer, Metro and AM New York.
But when I'm in New York, stopping at a newsstand and picking up the Daily News is one of my guilty pleasures. I feel like a New Yorker - scanning the catchy headlines while waiting for the subway, marvelling at the direct, down-to-earth wording. It's a newspaper written for the masses - "Tell it to Sweeney" was their cry. It's every bit as important as the more upscale Times; in this age of twitter and the smartphone (and yes, www.nydailynews.com), I hope the paper version never goes away.


Ever since my first visit to NYC in 1989, it's THE way I find out what's going on when I'm in town - New York's first all-news station.
It sounds like New York: the pace is fast and unforgiving, the writing and reporting straightforward with no frills. No happy-talk chatter here; if you didn't get the last story, too bad - the next one is already on the way (but it'll probably be back in 20 minutes or so). The anchors and reporters are among the best in the business. Traffic and transit on the ones, sports at :15 and :45, business at :26 and :56.
Give them 22 minutes and . . . well, you know.


I first tried C.Howard's Violet Mints on my first visit, and was instantly hooked. It has a smell and taste that is totally different from any mint I've had - flowery (naturally), kinda chalky, and not too strong. And, aside from one store in Downtown Seattle and a couple of boutique candy stores, I've only found it in the New York City area, although their company website says they're sold in many states. They're also available from their website, www.chowardcompany.com.

But I've found that I'm about the only person I know that likes them. I offer them to others, and am almost instantly turned down. Of those who've tried them, most say it "tastes like soap." One newsstand owner in NYC who didn't have the mints demanded to know why I liked them. "They're PERFUME!", he shouted. I'm puzzled by their reactions, but secure in the knowledge that when I get these little purple treats,
I won't have to share them with anybody.

Although C.Howard's makes a really good spearmint, too.


It may be the only one of its kind left in New York - a soda fountain and lunch counter.
A place where you can get breakfast, a hamburger, an eggcream, an ice cream soda . . .
or a handmade Coca-Cola!

It's at 1226 Lexington Avenue, at the southwest corner of 83rd St.

I love its old-style feel - it opened in 1925, and was last remodeled in 1948!
It's been used in many TV shows and movies; the walls are dotted with pictures of the celebrities who've been there over the years.

This is John Philis. He's one of the owners, and grandson of the shop's founder.
He's holding one of his specialties - a chocolate eggcream. Contrary to its name, there's no egg in an eggcream.
It's a mixture of chocolate syrup, half and half, and soda water. And it's delicious.

The shop's association with Coca-Cola is legendary; there are several displays of Coke bottles, cans and memorabilia.

Here's another display, in one of their windows. That's Debby looking from inside.

If you want to know more, check out their website - www.lexingtoncandyshop.com.


Nineteen buildings on twenty-two acres in midtown Manhattan.
The world's largest privately owned business and entertainment complex.
Elegant, orderly and well-kept, it's a stark contrast to the messiness of the city.

It was going to be a new home for the Metropolitan Opera - the three-block area from 48th to 51st streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Owned and leased out by Columbia University since 1811, it had deteriorated into a stretch of decrepit row houses and nightclubs.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. - whose family lived only a few blocks away - spearheaded the project, leased the land from Columbia,
and remained committed when the Opera backed out with the onset of the Great Depression.
He transformed the idea into a center for commerce and entertainment, focused on the new broadcasting industry - "Radio City" -
and, going it alone, personally funded the construction of the first 14 buildings in the complex between 1931 and 1939.

The statue of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods as a gift for Man, bringing knowledge and the arts to mortals.
It stands in the Sunken Plaza, surrounded above by flags of the United Nations.

30 Rockefeller Plaza.
I just call it "The Shrine" - the home of the National Broadcasting Company since 1933.
The people who have worked here could fill up a "Who's Who" of Broadcasting.
Yes, it's been renamed twice since 1988, but to me it will always be the RCA BUILDING.
(The French Building is to the left, the British Empire Building to the right.)

Ever wondered how they know exactly where to put the Christmas tree?

But when they do put it up . . . oh, what a sight! From December 2017.

Above the entrance to 30 Rock is "Wisdom," who rules over Man's knowledge and interprets the laws of nature.
It's perhaps the most dramatic piece of outdoor art there, but there's more . . .

The sculpture above is called "News," made of stainless steel and installed in 1940.
Many consider it Rockefeller Center's finest work of art. It's at 50 Rock, which used to be the Associated Press building.
Its figures carry the tools of the AP's trade: a camera, a notepad, a telephone, and a typewriter.
Running in the background are transmission lines - "the wire."

"Atlas," carrying the heavens upon his shoulders as punishment for defying Zeus.
The largest sculptural work in the Center, it's the companion piece to "Prometheus."
It's in front of the International Building, across from St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

At the corner of 50th and Sixth is the entrance to Radio City Music Hall.
If you have a chance, go inside and marvel at the decor in the lobby.
And take in a show if you can - the size of the theater, which seats almost six thousand, will take your breath away.

Finally, the credo of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., etched in green granite and installed overlooking the Sunken Plaza in 1962.
It's a shame people seem more interested in taking selfies there than reading it.
They used to make printed copies available inside the lobby of 30 Rock. But I've scanned mine; you can read it here.


One of my favorite places for food and drink in New York is Hurley's on West 48th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

This is the relocated Hurley's; the original was in Rockefeller Center at 49th and Sixth, but it had been there long before. It was the "hold-out" tavern when the Hurley brothers refused to sell their property to John D. Rockefeller, so the facade of the RCA Building was redesigned to accomodate the saloon, which became a legendary hangout for NBC employees (Steve Allen, Frank Blair and Johnny Carson,
to name only a few; it was Jack Paar's first stop after he walked off "The Tonight Show" in 1960 over the "W. C." story). Inside NBC, it was known as "Studio 1H," and a special phone line was installed to get a hold of employees who may have wandered in.

Hurley's finally relocated in 2000 to the heart of the theatre district, and is a wonderful stop for lunch, dinner, or just a drink. One tip: have the burger on an empty stomach - that's the only way it will fit! It's a great Irish pub experience, with a bar that seemingly goes on forever.
And say "hi" to Mike at the bar for me; he's a great guy (hope he's still there)!


I had always wanted to see the Unisphere up close, but in four trips to NYC I had never made it. Until 2005, when I made a point of going to Flushing Meadows Corona Park (but called "The Fairgrounds" by almost everybody) after a Mets game one sunny Sunday. The park is adjacent to Citi Field, with a subway yard and the National Tennis Center in between. It was a long walk, but it was worth it.
It's a truly awe-inspiring structure.

It was built by United States Steel for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Made of stainless steel, it's the largest replica of the world ever built. 140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter. 700 thousand pounds. Cost: $2 million.

The rings signify the precise orbits of the three NASA satellites orbiting the globe when the fair opened in 1964. During the fair, lights indicated major capitol cities around the world.

The Unisphere was refurbished some time back - the continents were tightened (after almost losing Malaysia); the rings were shined up and strengthened; the fountains were restored and computerized (unfortunately, the pool is filled only half way to discourage vandals and wading - they don't want any lawsuits); and it's lit up at dusk by five brilliant white beams. The effect is best, I'm told, when you're driving down the Van Wyck Expressway at night.

Time was when immigrants knew they were in the United States when they saw the Statue of Liberty. But for foreign tourists and immigrants landing at JFK, it's the Unisphere - that wonderful symbol of early-1960s optimism, of "man's achievements in an expanding universe."
Oh, if only we had that kind of spirit today.

I took a number of shots of the Unisphere when I was there. The shot below was one I almost deleted when I was reviewing them on the subway back to Manhattan that night.
Smarter thinking prevailed, though, and good thing, too - it's now one of my favorite photos.


It opened as Hammerstein's Theatre in 1927. It was also known as the Manhattan Theatre and Billy Rose's Music Hall.
CBS took a long-term lease on the property in 1936 and began broadcasting from the renamed "CBS Radio Playhouse #1"
(first program: "Major Bowes' Amateur Hour"). In 1950, the theatre was converted for television use and renamed "CBS-TV Studio 50."
Ed Sullivan moved his "Toast of the Town" there soon afterward, and stayed until his "really big show" was cancelled in 1971.

IN 2014, CBS put up a retro marquee to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearance there.

In December 1967, the theatre was renamed in Sullivan's honor - it was said to be the happiest moment of his life.

But it wasn't only the home of the Sullivan show - it was one of the busiest studios in New York. "Password," "What's My Line?" and "To Tell the Truth" all moved there once it was converted for color broadcasting in 1965; "Line" and "Truth" remained there once they went into syndication.

It was still in demand in the 1970s: ABC tried to recapture some of the Sullivan magic there for its "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell" variety hour in 1975 (it didn't work - the show lasted 17 weeks). It was most often used for game shows - "The $10,000 Pyramid" (CBS 1973-74), "Musical Chairs" (CBS 1975), "The $128,000 Question" (Syndicated, 1976-77), "Shoot for the Stars" (NBC 1977), and "Pass the Buck" (CBS 1978) all were based at the Sullivan Theater.

Reeves Teletape took over the lease in 1981, and taped "Kate and Allie" there from 1984 to 1989. (The first time I saw the theater in person, in August 1989, the dimly-lit marquee read, "Kate and Allie" - though by then it had been cancelled, and the theater was dark.)

CBS purchased the theater (and the adjoining 13-story building) in 1993 and spent millions to restore it for David Letterman.
I went to one show in 2007 (guests: Jerry Seinfeld and just-fired Yankees manager Joe Torre). They jammed the entire audience into the lobby before the show (never before had I been so physically close to someone I had never met - now I know what a sardine feels like). When they opened the doors to let us in the theater, it was like letting the air out of a balloon - we rushed in! I got an aisle seat, about three rows up from the stage. The theater was very pretty inside, but I understand it's even prettier now.

It underwent a full restoration before Stephen Colbert moved in -
they re-installed stained glass windows, exposed the dome above and restored the wooden chandelier.
I hope to go back and get another look.


In my recent visits to New York, I've become fascinated with the transportation system -
how they manage to get six million people into, out of, and around the city every day.

The Port Authority was built to bring all interstate bus traffic from eight private terminals scattered around Manhattan into one.
Opened in 1950, it's the largest bus terminal in the United States, and the busiest in the world.
It serves eight thousand buses and 225-thousand people each weekday.

The Port Authority has two main entrances on Eighth Avenue - above is inside the newer 42nd Street entrance.

Here's the ticketing plaza at the other end of the 40th Street entrance. (You have to buy a ticket to get on a NJ Transit bus.)

Looking towards the 40th Street entrance in the rush hour - as you can see, it goes on forever.

There are three levels of bus gates at the Port Authority - the second and third levels are for NJ Transit.
The 200 gates are pass-throughs; the 300 gates have a saw-tooth design.
The lowest level is for interstate travel and jitney buses.

Artwork: outside the 40th Street entrance is "Ralph Kramden: Bus Driver - Raccoon Lodge Treasurer - Dreamer."

More artwork: waiting in the ticketing plaza with "The Commuters."



Port Authority Trans-Hudson

The bus is only one mass-transit option to get from New Jersey into Manhattan - the other is the PATH train.
It operates four different routes that serves seven stops in New Jersey, and six in Manhattan.

It was originally the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, and predates the New York City subway.
The H&R went bankrupt in 1954, but kept operating until 1962, when the PATH took over operation in exchange
for the rights to build the original World Trade Center on the land occupied by the H&R's Hudson Terminal.

When the original WTC was destroyed, PATH service to Lower Manhattan was suspended for two years.
When it resumed, it used this temporary gull-winged station.

This station was demolished in 2007 to make way for the new, permanent station.

Its official name is the "World Trade Center Transportation Hub." The head house (above) is called the Oculus.

It connects the various modes of transportation in Lower Manhattan, and also includes a high-end shopping mall.

It's also used for special events, such as the 2017 "Holiday Market."

On the West side of the Oculus is the entrance to the PATH trains.

Looking toward the Oculus from the PATH terminal.





I'm sorry, but if you drive a car in Manhattan and you're not a cabbie or car service driver, you're CRAZY.
Especially since fairly reliable transportation is readily available.

The subway is my favorite - it's the quickest way to get from one end of town to the other, it's relatively clean, it's a great exercise in people watching, and it's the best way I've found to really feel like a New Yorker. It's very weird - on each of my trips to NYC, I've been asked at a subway station for instructions on which subway to take, or how to get somewhere. Now, usually I'm as clueless as they are, but the secret is to look like you belong, and like you know where you're going. In other words . . . fake it 'til you make it!


"As a bullet seeks its target, shining rails in every part of our great country are aimed at Grand Central Station,
heart of the nation's greatest city. Drawn by the magnetic force of the fantastic metropolis,
day and night great trains rush toward the Hudson River, sweep down its eastern bank for 140 miles,
flash briefly by the long red row of tenement houses south of 125th Street,
dive with a roar into the two-and-one-half mile tunnel which burrows beneath the glitter and swank of Park Avenue,
and then . . ."

EEEEEESSSSSHHHHHsssss . . .
"GRAND CENTRAL STATION!!
Crossroads of a million private lives!
Gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily!"

That opening to the popular 1940's radio series puts it perfectly.
Although it's now a commuter rail hub, Grand Central - restored after decades of decay and neglect -
stands as a gleaming midtown Manhattan masterpiece.

What can I say about Grand Central that hasn't already been said? It's simply magnificent.


Finally, a few words of - if not LOVE, then understanding (if not outright PITY) - for poor Penn Station.

But first, a quick look back:

It was, from 1910 to 1963, one of the finest structures in New York, if not anywhere -
the beautiful Beaux Arts terminus for the Pennsylvania Railroad inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla:

But with the decline of passenger rail travel (and the Pennsylvania Railroad, which eventually couldn't afford its upkeep),
it was taken away by the wrecker's ball - a "monumental act of vandalism," as The New York Times described it -
and consigned to spend eternity in the landfills of New Jersey.
Now, it's reduced to a low-ceilinged catacomb beneath Madison Square Garden,
a tragedy most New Yorkers realized only too late.

Said architectural historian Vincent Scully,
"One entered the city like a god.
One scuttles in now like a rat."

Yes, it lacks beauty, charm and class, and one gets that low-end mall feeling while there.
It's not a place you'd like to stay in for a while (unless, maybe, you like to shop or eat).
Be that as it may, it is the busiest passenger transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere, serving
Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit, with connections to the subway.
600-thousand people use it every day - usually as quickly as possible.
But dare I say, they've done the best they could with what they have (which, admittedly, wasn't much)?

The Amtrak concourse (above) is not unattractive. And they do snazz it up at Christmas time:

They've opened a new west end concourse under the James Farley Post Office building across the street.
It's modern, gleaming, and clean:

There has been talk about remodeling the Post Office (now mostly surplus space) into a new Penn Station.
However, with the tunnels leading into it in serious need of repair,
it'll be a LONG time before a new era of glory for Pennsylvania Station will be at hand.

But the eagles standing guard outside will wait.


This webpage was created and produced in the United States of America.

02/18/18