Day 12, Jul 7: NYC, Part 1 – Lower Manhattan


9/11 Memorial

We had come to NYC in 2014 after returning from 2 weeks in Europe, mostly as part of a strategy for managing jetlag and layovers. We only stayed one afternoon and night, and I got very sick shortly after we landed and we didn’t get to do much. I was very disappointed because I love being in New York. So I loved it when Dan suggested we do a stopover here again this trip. This time we planned on 2 nights so we could make it worth the stop. And because neither of us had spent much time in Lower Manhattan, we decided to focus on that area. Our hotel, Millennium Hilton, is across the street from the World Trade Center complex.

This is Oculus. It has the Westfield branding on the outside, and I read some reviews on TripAdvisor of the 9/11 Memorial where travelers were offended that a shopping mall would be here, that it was somehow tacky. Clearly, they never went inside. We noticed people were coming and going quite a bit from our window at breakfast around 7:30am. That would be a bit early for a mall, even in NYC I would think. So yes, it has stores and restaurants, but it’s really a transportation hub.

Here is a much more attractive picture I got from the WTC website. Although now that I look closer I think this is the model. Still, it looks just like that 🙂

 

It was raining a little when we left the hotel about 9:15am so we ducked into this to get to the 9/11 Memorial on the other side of it. And we are so glad we did. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, we are city boys, and while we didn’t use it on this trip, we love the public transportation system in major European cities. And one of the things they do well is create spaces around transportation hubs that allow people to do other things while they’re getting from one place to another – eat, shop, get a haircut, what have you. This felt like that.

We loved the modern architecture and the hustle and bustle of a Friday morning commute crowd.

 

It connects to 11 subways and walls inside announced more to come. It also connects to PATH trains – the Port Authority for NY & NJ.

 

A huge exhibition space is on the main floor, currently being used for a bit on the Sistine Chapel.

We walked through this to the other side and upon exit the 9/11 Memorial Museum was to our left. It was $24 each to get in – pretty high as museums go – and worth every penny. We stayed for 3 hours. It’s really well done, a tremendous collection of artifacts and personal stories, especially in audio. Timelines of exactly what happened, what different government agencies knew when, lots of video, a section on the Pentagon, and a beautiful presentation of life for the people in NYC for the first few weeks after. You really got a sense that if you weren’t here, it would be difficult to understand exactly what they went through.

I forgot to take a photo of the outside; it’s not that interesting a building. And you’d only see a piece of it as most of it is underground. For the majority of the tour inside, photographs were not allowed, which I was really grateful for. That would have disturbed the otherwise solemn atmosphere that’s created by the subject and the presentation.

To the left is a segment of the slurry wall, essentially a retaining wall built in the early stages of construction back in 1966 to keep the Hudson River out. One of the concerns after 9/11 was that this would break and create whole different kind of disaster. To the right is the Last Column, a piece of steel chosen near the end of the recovery to mark the occasion symbolically. Recovery workers, first responders, volunteers, and victims’ relatives signed the column and added memorial messages, photographs and other tributes. It was removed from the site in a ceremony on May 30, 2002. Below: as you went through this first section of the exhibit, these visuals would tell you where you were relative to both the current and the new site.

 

 

A remnant of a staircase going up to Vesey Street. These became known as the Survivors Stairs. They …”provided an unobstructed exit for hundreds seeking to escape. To reach the stairs, many had to cross the Plaza beneath treacherous debris falling from the North Tower.”

 

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The mosaic that frames this Virgil quote is called “Trying to Remember the Color of Sky on that September Morning” by Spencer Finch of New Haven, CT. It is composed of 2,983 individual watercolor drawings, each a “distinct attempt by the artist to remember the color of the sky on the morning of September 11, 2001. Commemorating the people killed in the attacks [of 9/11/01 and 2/26/93], every square is a unique shade of blue. Finch’s work centers on the idea of memory. What one person perceives as blue might not be the same as what another person sees. Yet, our memories, just like our perception of color, share a common reference.” Below: the plaque in the far right bottom corner of the mosaic.

“Reposed behind this wall are the remains of many who perished at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001.”

A 20-foot segment of the 360 foot radio and TV antenna that was at the top of the North Tower.
A photo of Ladder 3. All 11 members of this rescue team were inside the North Tower and killed when it collapsed.
It was interesting to see that they have several “emergency exits” that they used different labels for, I don’t remember now what. But they weren’t traditional fire exits. The content could be so overwhelming they created paths for people to get out quickly. If you were someone from NYC who was reliving it, I could see the value in that. For the rest of us, it seemed like the least we could do is walk through all of it. and try to understand what happened here. And I’ll admit, it felt pretty overwhelming by the time you got to the end. But some of that for me is just my general museum threshold is typically 2 hours. So as we were approaching 3 hours of pretty heavy content, I was definitely ready to go when we were done.

Memorial pools were created in the holes left from the footprints of the towers. They are beautiful, elegant in their simplicity and the sound of the flowing water is both comforting and moving. The names of each person who perished in the 9/11 attacks are included along the 4 sides of each pool, those in DC and Pennsylvania, passengers and flight crews. Water flows continually from the inside edge of the top of the pool into the basin and then down into a huge drain. Because they are built into the original foundation of each tower, it is perfectly square, the symmetry adding to the beauty. South Pool above, North Pool below.

 

This is the new One World Trade Center building, which is also what you saw from our window in the final photo of Thursday’s post. It opened in October of 2014. It is 104 floors and is 1776 feet high. It is the tallest building in the US and #6 in the world.
It was lunch time. We found a deli close by, on Vesey Street actually, Stage Door.

 

We got there about 12:30 and got in easy, but soon after it got pretty crowded. We ordered pastrami and roast beef, and they were both amazing. The quality of the meat was superb and made all the difference.

 

We walked along the Hudson on the Battery Park City Esplanade towards our next destination. That’s Jersey City, NJ, behind me above.

 

We signed up for a walking tour of SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown, which was scheduled to take 2 hours, and it did, starting promptly at 2pm. There were about 25 people in the tour, most of them from other countries including Austria and Australia. The tour guide, Dante, has lived in NYC all his life so was able to provide a lot of details and perspective. We didn’t take a lot of photos, but saw filming locations for Sex & the City and Ghost, Heath Ledger’s apartment, learned about the Cast Iron district which I hadn’t heard of, and where all the cutesy neighborhood names originate (SoHo = South of Houston; Tribeca = Triangle Below Canal St, etc.). Mostly we were taking notes about where in Chinatown to eat because we wanted to come back here for dinner.

Above: what he claimed to be the narrowest building in NYC. Below: used to be police headquarters, is now luxury apartments.

 

Little Italy sign over the street.

We were done with the tour right at 4pm and walked back to the hotel to rest a bit. A few photos along the way.

Above: courthouse. Below: the fountain in City Hall Park, which we kept running into and will again today.

 

Above and below: daytime views from our hotel window.

We went out again about 6:15pm. Above and below are photos of this building that looks better from a distance, but we liked it and kept coming upon it. It’s the David N Dinkins Municipal Building, at one time called Manhattan Municipal Building and home to the Manhattan Borough President’s office and related administration. I loved that it included New Amsterdam in it’s name on the marble entrance below.

 

We had dinner at a place in Chinatown called Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. It was highly recommended by our tour guide, on a little side street off of Bowery.
The first floor above was packed when we got there, so they took us to the 2nd floor below. We were the first ones seated there but that didn’t last for long.

 

We split a beef stew and their combination pan fried noodles. The soup was good, the noodles were incredible. You could taste the difference of hand made noodles made shortly before they cooked them.

 

We went around the corner for dessert, Audrey Bakery. Strawberry shortcake and a Black Forest cake. Pretty good (but not as good as the ones we had in Istanbul 🙂 ). After we went walking around more and realized that the Chinese community here is huge. We went several blocks northeast of the Manhattan Bridge then west and south each several blocks and we never seemed to get out of Chinatown. Seems bigger than the one in SF even.

We made our way back to the WTC because we wanted to see the memorial pools at night. Outside of Occula a nice public and free movie event was happening. What a nice idea! It was great to see it well attended as well. That’s the front of our hotel in the background.

 

This map shows the layout of everything that’s planned. The performing arts building is under construction now.
What is this called when the engraving goes through the material so that light below can be seen through it?

 

My first attempt with a panoramic, with Dan getting in on both sides.
Dan caught Oculus at a nice angle as we returned to our hotel. The photos above and below were essentially taken in the same spot.
A great first day in NYC. Today includes a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, and later this afternoon we’ll return to JFK for our respective flights home.

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