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Walking Architecture

 There was literally too much going on in Rockaway this past weekend. I mean, A Taste of Rockaway, Thai Rock, Bungalow Bar, Riis Park Bazaar, and RAA’s Noisy Paint Box. The peninsula was exploding with things to do, not to mention Mother’s Day (a happy belated Mother’s Day to all); and an awesome fundraiser in Breezy Point that proves that no matter what happens on the western end of the peninsula, they have a heart that just won’t quit.

Imagine if we had a ferry and a boardwalk? It could be overwhelming. My old neighborhood has to grapple with losing the L train to Manhattan and back, and all the folks that moved there the last couple of years are howling!!! The folks that have lived there as long as I have been alive don’t really care about the L train; they are not hipsters and didn’t just move there from Kansas.

Maybe we shouldn’t care about the ferry and boardwalk too. Some gentrified neighborhoods are unrecognizable by people who have lived there their whole lives. They can’t park, are in danger of getting mowed down by some crazy bicyclist, and don’t like food from places they can’t pronounce. There is something to being in a neighborhood where you know everyone, you feel safe and the food is identifiable.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want a ferry and a boardwalk, but maybe the city should fix the roads first, just saying. If Rockaway gets too hot for you this summer, I have an idea for those of you who like architecture, go to 42nd Street in Manhattan. Why you say? Well, its home to two really cool architectural gems that are completely overlooked by most New Yorkers: Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library.

Saved from the wrecking ball that took the beautiful but decaying Penn Station, Grand Central is a masterpiece. You could just stand in the middle of the terminal and look up at the stars that are embedded in the ceiling. Or,  go to the Oyster Bar for a drink. Or check out the whispering hallway where you can hear a conversation from the other side of the room by listening to the wall.

Jackie Onassis Kennedy, who led a coalition to landmark the building, and preserve this gem, saved Grand Central. It’s also fun to simply people watch. Some people are native New Yorkers who are charging through the terminal; others are tourists gawking at the big city. It’s fun to be a tourist in your own city sometimes. It takes focus to slow down and look around.

If you walk just a few blocks away – take 41st Street – where embedded in the sidewalk are quotes from famous authors of the world. It will lead you right to the steps of the NY Public Library. Once a reservoir for NYC, this is one beautiful building. But don’t just hang out with the lions out front, go inside! Beside the great gift shop to the right, to the left is a display room that always has cool stuff. This spring it is photos from their library. Definitely go to the third floor (the Rose Reading Room is closed on the first). There is a Guttenberg Bible on display. One of the few in the world, it is an example of the first printing press, literally the internet of its time, and it changed the world forever by spreading knowledge to the masses. Go inside the huge reading room and you will find paintings of George Washington and other famous New Yorkers.

When you are done admiring the best of free New York, walk around the corner to Bryant Park and grab a drink and a snack, and maybe a free movie. If we did have those ferries, it would be great if they could pick you up right at 42nd Street and the East River. Now that would be cool!

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