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Archives for May 2016

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A Stroll on the High Bridge

The High Bridge is one of fourteen bridges that cross the Harlem River and connect Manhattan (at Highbridge Park and 173rd Street) to the Bronx (at West 170th Street, in the Highbridge section). The bridge, for pedestrians only, reopened last July after several decades of closure and undergoing approximately $62 million worth of renovations.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Towards The Bronx

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Towards Manhattan

Known originally as the Aqueduct Bridge, the High Bridge was part of the Croton Aqueduct that transported water from the Croton Reservoir in Northern Westchester to Manhattan. Construction on the High Bridge, which was designed to recall a Roman aqueduct, began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. It is the city’s oldest remaining bridge.

Spanning 1450 feet and 102 feet high, the bridge had 15 arches, 7 over land and 8 over the river. The arches were built high enough to allow navigation on the river, however, they were too narrow and in 1927, a steel arch replaced five of the 8 arches. The aqueduct closed in the 1950s and pedestrian access was closed in the 1970s.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Taking a stroll across the High Bridge, as 1900s New Yorkers used to, has been on my list since last summer but I didn’t get around to doing that until the Memorial Day weekend. My friend and I entered the sprawling Highbridge Park at Amsterdam between West 173 and 174 Streets and followed the signs to the bridge. Through the trees, we spotted some of the arches that remain on the Bronx side of the bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower, which was directly in front of us.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

A Stroll on the High Bridge

Designated a New York City Landmark in 1967, the 200-foot octagonal High Bridge Water Tower was built on the Manhattan side of the High Bridge in 1866-72 to help meet the city’s need for water.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

High Bridge Water Tower, a NYC Landmark

To get to the pedestrian bridge, we walked down approximately 100 steps (I saw a sign to the Edgecombe Avenue and 165 Street ramp entrance but a light drizzle started before I could check it out.) To my surprise, the bridge was not crowded at all – a few joggers, families out for a stroll, their kids, as soon as they saw the wide open space, took off running and giggling like only they know to do.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

At almost 100 steps, the stairs look daunting. There’s also ramp access.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

To the ramp

Unless I’m a passenger, whenever I’m on Harlem River Drive, I never have time to take in the view. From the High Bridge, I could see the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and the Washington Bridge (which, along with the Henry Hudson, comprise the four fixed arch bridges that span the river), and the parts of Manhattan and the Bronx that line the river.

A Stroll on the High Bridge

View of Harlem River Drive, the Harlem River and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge. Across the river is part of the Bronx. 

The original stonework on the bridge, the walkway, lighting and fencing were improved. I liked the addition of plaques that describe a bit of the High Bridge’s history. They’re off to the side, so be sure not to miss them. There are also a few benches for those who wish to linger a while and watch the traffic on the river or the Metro North trains as they head north.

High Bridge Particulars:

You can enter the bridge either from the Amsterdam and West 172 Street (High Bridge Park) entrance, or from the Edgecombe Avenue and West 165 Street ramp access on the Manhattan side. From the Bronx side, use University Avenue and 170th Street. The bridge is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. There is no fee.

Flux Art Fair, Harlem

I noticed them right away – two giant heads at one of the east side entrances to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. I stopped jogging to take a closer look. Neither figure resemblance Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born black nationalist after whom the park was renamed in 1973. Maybe, I thought, the likeness was of Pelham Fritz. Fritz, the former assistant commissioner of recreation at the Parks Department was a regular at the park. Following his death in 1988, the park’s recreation center was named for him. 

I checked but there were no plaque, no sign, nothing to indicate why they were there. I was intrigued. I took a few photos. As I did, another jogger stopped and asked if I knew who they were.

Flux Art in Harlem

(E)scape – New Faces, Bob Clyatt

I was jogging again the following week when I spotted this colorful totem-like piece just north of the basketball court.  I decided to finish my jog and go into the park to take a closer look. By now, there were several more pieces and all had plaques. In addition to the artists’ name and the title of the piece, each indicated this was a Flux Art Fair.

Flux Art Fair Harlem

Golem, 2013 Jordan Baker-Caldwell

According to their website, Flux Art Fair “embodies Harlem’s creative spirit and cultural significance” and is a collaboration with NYC Parks, NYC Department of Transportation’s Art Program and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Urban Structure, Kurt Steger

Flux Art Project Harlem

Sprout, Sui Park

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Big Head (Harlem Rose), Montserrat Daubon

Flux Art Project Harlem

Surge, Lucy Hodgson

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem

Bed of Flowers, Leah Pollar

Located in the Mount Morris area of Central Harlem, Marcus Garvey Park is bounded on the north by 124th Street, on the south by 120th Street, on the east by Madison Avenue and by Mount Morris Park West (Fifth Avenue). The park was previously called Mount Morris Park.

Flux Public Art Project Harlem

The Odyssey, 2016, Stan Squirewell

Flux Art Fair Harlem

Trompe l’oeil, 2016, Capucine Bourcart

Flux Art Fair features work by over 40 artists. Most will be on display at Marcus Garvey Park until May 31st. According to their plaques, Big Head (Harlem Rose), Surge, Sculpture Love, Outdoor Indoor, The Odyssey and (E)scape – New Faces will remain until August 1, 2016. The exhibition is free, however there are several paid events around Harlem, including talks on May 21 and 22 and a family brunch.

What do you think is the value of public art?

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations host. Be sure to stop by to view other photos from locations around the world.

Budget Travelers Sandbox

The Red Telephone Booth

The red telephone booth was ubiquitous in the Jamaica I grew up in. You’d find them outside post offices in districts and towns across the island. There was one outside our post office too. It stood like a sentinel at the intersection of the two main roads that dissected our district, looking square at the Anglican Church on the opposite side. To its right were the parish council office, shops, a movie theater, gas station and the market that was active from Thursday to Saturday and where we Anglicans had our annual Maypole Dance.

The phone in the red telephone booth was our district’s only connection to the world where it had sent scores of its children – to the ‘Big War’ (World War II), to England, Canada, the United States and beyond.

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Red Telephone Booths, near Burlington Gardens, London

When the phone in the red telephone booth rang, anyone nearby would answer, ask the caller to call back at an agreed upon time then rush (or send someone else) to deliver the news to the family. (One of the good things about a small community is that everyone knows everyone.)

To make a call, you gave the operator the number and she (it was mostly young women) would place the call for you and tell you how much to deposit into the coin slot for the first 3 minutes. Public phones took only coins then so you had to have a pocketful in case you exceeded the time. If you were calling a private number, you would tell the operator to ‘reverse the charges,’ that is, have the person on the other end pay for the call.

Because it was illuminated, the red telephone booth attracted moths and young people – and some older folks too. During the rainy season, children (as many as possible) would cram themselves into the booth to wait out the rain. It was near the phone booth that my first boyfriend broke up with me on a Sunday afternoon after church. I was devastated and convinced that my world had ended.

Red telephone booths, London

My cousin in a telephone booth in London. Notice the homeless man?

I never thought much of the red phone booth beyond its use as a means of communication until I saw one in the Cotswolds that had been repurposed as a defibrillator. I wondered what had happened to the booth that had occupied such a prominent spot in our district and our lives.  

A little research on Google revealed that the red telephone booth was the creation of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect who also designed Waterloo Bridge. There were several versions over the years and even the red color, BS381C-B539, was defined. The design, or an adaptation, was exported to the colonies, which is how they got to Jamaica.

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Our telephone booths had 4 large panes of thick, clear glass on each side that were framed by red strips. They were not soundproof so people nearby could hear your conversation if you were a loud talker and during the day, they got quite hot.  

I don’t know when the red telephone booth was removed (it was still there in the 1980s when I took a photo of it), but it sure occupies a special place in my memory.


Linking with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.

Budget Travelers Sandbox
A Hole In My Shoe