Category Archives: New York

9/11- Putting Stories to Names

When we were in New York last fall we visited the 9/11 site and I took photographs of the names engraved on the steel bands that surround the reflecting pools in the memorial park. Since today is the anniversary of 9/11 I thought I would attach stories to three of those names. 

Michael John Otten was a 42-year-old third generation firefighter from Manhattan. He could always be counted on to lend a helping hand to those in his neighborhood who needed assistance. This coming January his 21-year-old son Christopher and his 18-year-old son Jonathan are scheduled to write their entrance exams for firefighting school so they can follow in their father’s  footsteps. Their Mom says although she will worry for her sons’ safety she has no intention of stopping them. She remembers how their father loved his job and woke up everyday happy about going to work. She wants that kind of joy in their profession to be a reality for her sons too. 

Rhonda Sue Rasmussen was a 44-year-old civilian employee of the United States Army. She and her husband Floyd had four children. He describes her as a woman with “a big heart, big smile, willing to listen, laugh at you, put you at ease.”  Her work as a budget analyst had taken her family to several overseas postings including three terms in Germany which she had particularly enjoyed. Rhonda loved to read aloud to her husband when they went on car trips. 


Amy R. King was a 29-year-old flight attendant on the plane that was flown into the South Tower. She was an avid runner, the youngest of three sisters and a devoted aunt to her nieces and nephews. She was dating Michael Tarrou a fellow flight attendant who died with her. Michael had recently asked his mother for his grandmother’s engagement ring to give to Amy. Her hometown of Jamestown New York will hold the 11th annual Amy’s Run this year. The 5K event was organized by Amy’s high school track coach and all proceeds go to summer camp scholarships for kids. The community has also built a playground called Amy’s Playce.  It’s spelled with a ‘y’ because it is a place for kids to play and new equipment is constantly being added.

Other posts……..

Thinking About 9/11

What’s Wrong With This Picture

Visiting a Land Mines Museum

1 Comment

Filed under History, New York, People, Reflections

Mothers at the Met

Mrs. Mayer and Daughter by Ammi Phillips 1835

Mrs. Mayer and Daughter by Ammi Phillips 1835

When we visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York I was overwhelmed! I knew I couldn’t possibly see or study everything in the short time we’d be there. I needed a theme! It didn’t take long before I realized I was being drawn to all the intriguing representations of motherhood. I decided to take photos of any piece of art that depicted motherhood in some way. Here is a selection of my favourites. 

Mothers nourish their children.

Mother and Child- Bamama People- Mali- 15th Century

Mother and Child- Bamama People- Mali- 15th Century

Mothers teach their children

Jungle Tales by James Jebusa Shannon 1895

Jungle Tales by James Jebusa Shannon 1895

 Mothers are role models for their children. 

The Way They Live by Thomas Aushutz 1879

The Way They Live by Thomas Anschutz 1879

 Mothers carry their children till they can walk on their own. 

Mrs. Brindley Sheridan and Her Son- by John Hoppner 1797

Mrs Brindley Sheridan and Her Son- by John Hoppner 1797

Mothers create a home for their children.

Just Moved by Henry Mosler 1870

Just Moved by Henry Mosler 1870

Mothers make their children feel beautiful.

La Coiffure by Picasso 1916

La Coiffure by Picasso 1916

Mothers risk their lives for their children.

On To Liberty by Theodor Kaufmann- 1867

On To Liberty by Theodor Kaufmann- 1867

Mothers care tenderly for their children.

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt 1899

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt 1899

Mothers share their delight in their children with their partner.

Conversation Piece by Lilly Martin Spencer 1851

Conversation Piece by Lilly Martin Spencer 1851

Mothers encourage their children.

Madonna and Child by Filippino Lippi 1483

Madonna and Child by Filippino Lippi 1483

Mothers are their children’s protectors.

Latona and Her Children Diana and Apollo by William Rinehart 1870

Latona and Her Children Diana and Apollo by William Rinehart 1870

Mothers work to provide for their children. 

The Lacemaker by Nicolaes Maes 1655

The Lacemaker by Nicolaes Maes 1655

Mothers establish meaningful rituals in their children’s lives.

Story of Golden Locks by Seymour Joseph Guy 1870

Story of Golden Locks by Seymour Joseph Guy 1870

Mothers can do many things at once for their children.

Two Hands by Claudette Schreuders 2010

Two Hands by Claudette Schreuders 2010

Mothers comfort their children.

A Young Mother by Bessie Potter Vonnoh 1896

A Young Mother by Bessie Potter Vonnoh 1896

Mothers have enough love for all their children. 

Chloe Burrall Smith and Her Five Children by Ralph Earl 1798

Chloe Burrall Smith and Her Five Children by Ralph Earl 1798 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like………..

What Does Your Mother Do?

What Artwork Reminds You of Home?

Big Mother- An Unusual Sculpture

Bride of New France- The King’s Daughters

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Childhood, Culture, Family, History, Mother's Day, New York, Parenting

De Ja Vu at the United Nations

We took a tour of the United Nations and almost everything I saw was a connection to another place I’d been or something I had seen before. This sculpture called A Sphere Within A Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro was a gift to the United Nations by the country of Italy and sits in the courtyard just before you enter the UN.  I took a photo of a very similar piece by the same artist when I visited the Vatican in Rome.A Sphere Within A Sphere- the United Nations To me the sculptures represent the world cracking apart enough for us to see it’s working interior. I think this gives us hope that it is possible to get the work done that we need to accomplish if we want to repair our fractured world. My husband Dave is chatting with a woman outside the United Nations who wanted people to sign a petition protesting the Chinese government taking over people’s land without giving them compensation for it.

She reminded me of a woman from Hebei province I saw praying to Mao’s picture when I visited Tiananmen Square in Beijing. She said her family land had been confiscated without proper compensation and when her husband went to government officials to protest he was arrested.  A stained glass window by Marc Chagall sits just outside the chapel at the United Nations. It was presented by United Nations staff members and Chagall as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash in 1961.  The window contains various symbols of peace and love. The musical notes in the window are a connection to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony a favorite of Mr. Hammarskjold’s.  I took this photo of a Chagall window in Mainz, Germany. It is one of a series of windows in St. Stephen’s church. The windows depict scenes from the Old Testament. Chagall made them after World War II to help Jews and Christians to remember the part of their faith story they share. He hoped this would aid in the reconciliation between Jews and German Christians after the Holocaust.  At the United Nations you can view a presentation about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world. They have these clothes on display from a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima. It is to remind United Nations visitors of the horrible impact of nuclear weapons.  It brought to mind this photo I took in Hiroshima, Japan at the Peace Memorial Museum showing some of the victims immediately after the dropping of the bomb. These are home-made prosthesis made for victims of land mines in Cambodia. The United Nations is part of a world-wide mission to eliminate landmines. According to this United Nations website land mines still kill 15,000-20,000 people a year.  The United Nations display reminded me of my two visits to land mines museums in Cambodia. At one our guide had lost his arm to a land mine.  According to our guide the United Nations has been working on finding a solution to the question of Palestine since the first special session of the General Assembly in 1947. It reminded me of my visit to a Palestinian refugee camp with twenty-four of my students from Hong Kong. Here the guide shows us bullet holes in the wall around a soccer field where school children were playing. My husband Dave is listening to the audio description of a mural at the United Nations that depicts the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.  The mural reminded me of our visit to the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev, Ukraine. I took a picture of this photo collage which shows the faces of children who were victims of the disaster. Out of the 3 million people the Ukrainian government recognises as victims of Chernobyl, 642,000 are children. Our visit to the United Nations prompted me to make connections with many previous experiences we have had. It evoked memories of other places we had visited around the world. Since the organization’s mission is to build positive connections between countries I guess that’s not surprising.   Dave poses on the steps across the street from the United Nations. On the wall behind him is a verse from Isaiah 2:4   “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. “

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…….

Land Mines Museum- First Visit

Questions at the Vatican

I Never Got Used to the Guns in Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under cambodia, History, New York, Politics, Travel

New York Reminds Me of Hong Kong

It has been about a year and a half since we moved back to North America from Hong Kong.  On our visit to New York City, I realized there were many things about New York that reminded me of Hong Kong.

Hiking in Sai Kung County Park in Hong Kong

Although the typical image of Hong Kong is a place of skyscrapers and traffic the city has lots of green space. There are plenty of parks and beautiful wilderness places to hike.

Riding bike in Central Park

New York has preserved some lovely green spaces as well. We spent several hours biking through Central Park. Right in the middle of this huge metropolitan city is a park that covers 843 acres and is 2.5 miles long. In both Hong Kong and New York people seem to pay little attention to street lights. They just cross the street in droves whenever they think they can get safely across. Our guide on one of our New York walking tours told us that jay walking is just an accepted part of life in New York City. It is in Hong Kong too. 

There were times in Hong Kong when I would look around in a train car and realize that I was the only Caucasian there. That happened to me a couple of times in New York too. 


In Hong Kong you see men in parks playing mahjong. In New York they are playing chess.

In Hong Kong ferry boats are still used daily for transportation. There are plenty of ferry boats to ride in New York too. 

In Hong Kong when you are in a restaurant or coffee shop or shopping mall you can hear people speaking all kinds of languages- Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Tagalog, and English. It is the same way in New York. We were sitting in a Starbucks just off-Broadway and I heard Spanish, French, English, Korean and a language I couldn’t identify being spoken by people sitting around me. There is lots of construction going on in both Hong Kong and New York. In New York, they use steel scaffolding.



In Hong Kong the scaffolding is made of bamboo. Rent is very expensive in both Hong Kong and New York. I found statistics for May 2012 that said an average two bedroom apartment in Hong Kong was renting for $2,800 a month and a two bedroom apartment in Manhatten was renting for $3,400 a month. 

In both New York and Hong Kong cars aren’t as popular as in many other cities.  In Chicago for example 89% of people have access to a personally owned vehicle while only 50% of people in New York own a car and only 56 out of every 1000 people in Hong Kong own a car.  The public transportation system is very heavily used in both Hong Kong and New York. 

In New York you board the trains after swiping your MetroCard. 


In Hong Kong you use an Octopus card. As I was walking down the streets of Time Square in the evening, the crush of the crowd reminded me of trying to make my way down the streets in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong, the most densely populated place on earth. 

There are lots of street sweepers in both cities although they dress a little differently.

Here is a Hong Kong street sweeper

and her New York counterpart.

In Hong Kong restaurants offer every kind of food imaginable just like they do in New York. 

Both Hong Kong and New York have iconic statues.

In Hong Kong there is the Big Buddha.In New York it is the Statue of Liberty.


Although I don’t know if I will ever get to visit Hong Kong again, being in New York City brought back some fond memories and comparisons with the city we called home for six years. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hong Kong, New York

Signs- Signs Everywhere in New York

Meg Ryan, playing the role of Sally Albright, fakes sexual fulfillment in a most convincing way at one of the tables in Katz’ Deli in New York. It is a classic scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally. That scene has put Katz’ on the map. There is a sign in the restaurant marking the table where the scene was filmed. 

This ‘in memory’ plaque was on a park bench right beside Strawberry Fields the art piece dedicated to John Lennon in Central Park. The plaque in memory of Britt Marie Katayama  begins with the words Imagine you at Peace . It alludes to Lennon’s peace anthem Imagine.

The David Letterman Show was in a filming hiatus during our time in New York but we went past the theatre which is its home and my husband Dave posed for a photo.

Most of the fire trucks I saw in Manhattan had one of these ‘in memory’ signs. They featured the names of firefighters who died during the 9/11 rescue operations.

In the Trinity Church cemetery I took a photo of the grave of John Grum 39, and his nine month old daughter Rachel, who both died in 1759. John died in August and his child in November. The words of a hymn written by Isaac Watt in 1709 are engraved on the bottom of the tomb.
Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound;
My ears, attend the cry;
Ye living men, come view the ground
Where you must shortly lie.


Names of the firefighters on Engine 154 who died doing rescue work at the Twin Towers during 9/11. Their names are engraved in the steel railing around the memorial pools at the Ground Zero site.
This is the table where the Canadian delegation sits in the United Nations assembly. 

This street light banner for Rutgers Presbyterian Church makes the congregation sound pretty inviting. Serious about peace and justice- Playful about worship-Joyful about faith.

The New York subway system has an initiative called Poetry in Motion.  They post a different poem every month on their trains.  In October during our visit to the city they were featuring an untitled poem by Jeffry Yang.  It read…..

west of rest is sleep
east, dream
where waters meet
north, emptiness,
south, wakefulness,
and out, rising up
to the stars, peace.

A reminder of Canada on Wall Street- The Toronto Dominion Bank

King Kong poster in the Empire State Building. In the 1933 movie King Kong the giant ape who is the main character, climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes.

One of the art pieces in a display at the United Nations that catalogues the 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……..

A Walk in New York City

Sightings of the American Flag in New York

In New York We…….

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, New York

Sound Bites in New York City

                                            Occupy Movement straggler Trinity Church

  • What the f__________ are you tourists doing here?

 homeless person who says he is part of the Occupy Movement outside Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street

  •  Speak softly. Be considerate. Keep your feet off the seat. 

electronic reminders on the train from New Jersey to New York

Ground Zero Memorial Pool

  •  My husband was crying when we visited the Ground Zero Memorial site.

– tourist from France staying at the same bed and breakfast we did

Immigrant Hall on Ellis Island

  • “My father had left Sicily two years before us to get a job and find a place for us in America. I was seven years old when he finally had saved enough money for my mother and we children to come to America too. I remember him walking through the door on Ellis Island after our ship arrived and he spotted us from across the room and he was just standing there looking at us. And then he knelt down on the floor and opened his arms wide and all five of us children rushed into his embrace. My father was crying and he said, “I promise that we will never be separated again.”

-paraphrase of a first person account on an audio tour guide track at Ellis Island

  • Theatres should have four times as many bathrooms for women as they do for men. 

-woman standing in line with me to use the washroom during the intermission of the Broadway musical Wicked when the announcement is made that there is one minute to curtain time. There were still a dozen women ahead of us in the line. 

  •  That apartment building is where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban live. They have an elevator for their car so they don’t have to get out of their vehicle to go up to their apartment

-our New York City tour guide

Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

  • I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do. 

– from the mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on October 14

  • Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? 

-Galinda in the musical Wicked

Dave gives money to Battery Park gymnast

  • You can come a little closer white people. No need to be scared of us. Remember we have a black president now. His name is Obama and he wants change but we want bills. 

– African-American gymnasts in Battery Park collecting money from the crowd after putting on an amazing show

Tenement Museum New York

  • In 1898 this tenement building was home to twenty families each with a 325 square foot apartment and on the main floor there was a saloon.  All the tenants and the saloon shared one spigot for drinking and washing water and it was located right beside the four outdoor toilets. The average wage was $10 a week and the infant mortality rate was 30%.

tour guide at the Tenement Museum

  • I left Europe after a failed marriage and entered the United States on a visitor visa. I soon realized if I wanted to stay and become a citizen I would need to get married. A friend set me up with a guy who seemed really nice but we had only been married a couple of days when I realized he was insane. He truly had mental problems and I was scared of him. So I kicked him out and got a divorce as quickly as I could. The second time I chose more wisely, a gay guy who was from Prague. He had American citizenship and needed a place to live while he went to university. It worked out well. We got married. He moved in with me. We were together for a couple of years. I got my citizenship. He got his degree and we got a divorce. Then he went back to Prague to look after his aging parents and he never returned. We have lost touch. I love living here in the United States. I have been able to get a college degree and now I have a steady job and income. You wouldn’t believe how many people I know who got their immigration papers by marrying someone and divorcing them later. Everyone does it!  Just like in the movie Green Card. 

– a woman we met in New York 

  • The United Nations was not created to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell. 

tour guide at the United Nations quoting former Secretary General Dag Hammarskjol

    What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
      Or does it explode?
– a poem called Harlem by Langston Hughes that kept running through my head when we took a tour of Harlem

Leave a comment

Filed under New York

In New York We……….

rode our bikes all around Central Park

paid our respects at Strawberry Fields a memorial to John Lennon

got chills studying the painting of Salome and John the Baptist’s Head by Andrea Solario at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

imagined we were taking part in a session at the UN

took a break in beautiful Bryant Park

stopped to admire the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim

waved to the Statue of Liberty

viewed the city from the top of the Empire State building

ate turkey and pastrami sandwiches and chicken noodle soup at Katz’s

strolled through China Town

took a picture of ourselves on the giant screen in Times Square ( we are on the left of the sign)

let a delectable praline souffle melt in our mouth at Capsouto Fieres

discovered a Canadian icon

pretended we were kids at the Museum of Modern Art admired the cheerleaders at Barclay’s Center at a Brooklyn Nets basketball game

In New York we had a very good time. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……..

Sightings of the American Flag in New York City

A Walk in New York City

Not the Harlem I Expected

Leave a comment

Filed under New Experiences, New York

Visit to the MOMA-Are All Artists Troubled?

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York

You can take photos of the art work at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. So I posed with Van Gogh’s Starry Night perhaps one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Dutch master painted it while spending time in a sanatorium after a mental breakdown. Van Gogh died at 37 from a gun shot wound. The two women he wanted to marry rejected him and he had an unsuccessful career as a pastor. He only sold one painting in his life time.  

I toured the MOMA with some of my former students from Hong Kong who are currently studying art in New York. During their art history courses they have learned about the biographies of many of the artists featured at the MOMA. We discussed whether all great artists have personal lives that are troubling and tempestuous. 

Three Ball 50/50 Tank by Jeff by Jeff Koons photographed at the MOMA in New York in 2012

Three Ball 50/50 Tank by Jeff by Jeff Koons photographed at the MOMA in New York in 2012

Here’s Three Ball 50/50 Tank created by American Jeff Koons.  Koons, whose work has been auctioned at prices as high as $25 million definitely qualifies for having a personal life fraught with drama. His first child, conceived when he was very young was put up for adoption. His subsequent marriage to, and divorce from, an Italian pornography star resulted in a nasty custody suit for their son which Koons eventually lost. 

frida kahlo self portrait museum of modern art new yorkThis is a self-portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She had polio and suffered all her life from a variety of injuries sustained in a bus accident. She was married to artist Diego Rivera. Both had numerous extra marital affairs and they were never able to have children. gold marilyn munroe by andy warhol Gold Marilyn Munroe is the work of American artist Andy Warhol. Due to a disease of the nervous system Andy became a hypochondriac as a child. His father died when Andy was 13. When he was forty, a script writer whose manuscript he had misplaced, shot him. Although his life was saved he suffered from related health problems till his death at age 58. This is just a small portion of a three panel mural of Water Lilies by French impressionist artist Claude Monet. Monet’s mother’s died when he was just 17. Monet and his first wife Camille and their son lived in poverty and he was so despondent about their situation Monet attempted suicide. He suffered from self-doubt about his work which led him to burn his paintings. Camille died from complications of a second pregnancy and after her death Monet became involved with a married woman.Les Demoiselles d’Avigno by Pablo Picasso is another jewel at the MOMA. Picasso and his father argued a lot and Picasso was traumatized by the death of his seven-year old sister from diphtheria. Picasso had two wives and a string of mistresses both before and during his marriages. One of his early mistresses died prematurely when she was only 30 and Picasso was devastated.  I was intrigued by this portrayal of American President Lyndon Baines Johnson, shown as a blockhead holding tiny versions of his wife and daughters in his hand. The piece is by Marisol Escobar, who after the death of her mother when she was just sixteen began to engage in harmful acts of religious penance, walking on her knees till they bled, tying tight ropes around her waist and refusing to speak for long periods of time. This is The Storm by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, perhaps most famous for his painting The Scream. Munch spent nearly a year being treated in a clinic for what he called ‘a touch of  madness.’ He experienced excessive anxiety and hallucinations made worse by his drinking and brawling. He didn’t want to ever get married so the one woman with whom he had a long-term relationship finally left him for a younger colleague of his. Salvador Dali’s painting The Persistence of Memory was much smaller than I thought it would be. Dali’s mother died when he was just 16, an event that left him devastated. His father disinherited him when Salvador began a relationship with a married Russian woman ten years his senior. He married her and she was able to accept his numerous affairs with younger women.  Dali tried to commit suicide after his wife died.

This is not the blog post I really wanted to write about the MOMA. I saw so much intriguing work there and learned things about that work which I was excited to share with my blog readers. However my comments about Van Gogh’s hard life at the beginning of this post got me off on the wrong foot.  It made me recall my conversation with my students about the troubled circumstances of many artists. This led me to explore the personal lives of the artists at the MOMA whose work I had photographed. I discovered unfortunately that most of them had pretty ‘messed up’ lives. 

I really do think you can be a great artist and not have a hugely dysfunctional personal life but that just wasn’t the case for the artists above. At a later date I’ll try to do an alternate blog post with other paintings I photographed at the MOMA, paintings whose creators were happy functional people. I’m sure there are some!

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, New York

Sightings of the American Flag in New York City

Although we Canadians are proud of our flag I certainly noticed during my time in New York City that Americans are more passionate about their stars and stripes than we are about our maple leaf. They display their flag literally everywhere! Here are some places I found the flag during my visit to the city.
In the Great Hall on Ellis Island. Over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through this hall between 1892 and 1954.

Behind singer Jenna Ushkowitz, a New Yorker and star of the hit TV show Glee singing the national anthem at a New York Yankees baseball game. With the Canadian and Japanese flags in front of the Exxon Building
Held by a Statue of Liberty performance artist in Battery Park.

Flag containing all the names of the people who died as a result of the tragedies on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.

Over the front door of the New York Stock Exchange Building on Wall Streetin the artwork Portrait of Ralph Dusenberry by artist Arthur Dove at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Over the door of the Brooklyn Bridge and Tunnel Authority Building which was used as the front entrance to the Men In Black headquarters in the movie Men In Black starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Held by honor guard during the singing of the national anthem before an NBA exhibition game between the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center

On the side of an office supply delivery truck

On the New York Health and Racquet Club White Flag by American artist Jasper Johns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

At the Ground Zero memorial site Unfurled by military men and women on the baseball field at Yankee Stadium.

Tiny, but still visible, in front of the United Nations Building- on the right hand side, by the tree, second flag from the the painting The Constitution and the Guerriere by Thomas Chambers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

at Radio City Music Hallon the side of the subway train
Lit up at night on the United States Armed Forces Recruiting Centre in Times Square

1 Comment

Filed under New York, Politics

Not the Harlem I Expected

I was expecting Harlem to be full of graffiti, garbage, homeless people, run down high rise projects and drug dealers. This is the image of modern Harlem I’ve gleaned from books and movies.  We took the Big Onion walking tour of Harlem with an excellent guide named Ted and I discovered Harlem was very different than I had imagined. It has some beautiful historic buildings.  Harlem is home to The Grange, the colonial mansion of Alexander Hamilton the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.  Hamilton, a self-made man who started life as an orphan from the West Indies, built The Grange to impress his wife Elizabeth Schuyler who was from one of New York’s richest and most influential families. This lovely building was the first public library in Harlem. It was built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie. Catherine Latimer the first black librarian hired by the New York Public Library system worked here. The library was the focal point for the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920’s and 1930’s when music, art and literature by African Americans flourished and gained international attention. In 1926 more than 5000 items related to African American culture that had been collected by Arturo Schomburg were added to the library’s holdings.  Harlem has some very stately grand homes including this one which was the location for the movie The Royal Tenenbaums. The campus of City College of New York with its eye-catching Neo Gothic buildings is located in Harlem. Ted our guide is an instructor here and according to him the college was opened as a place for the children of New York’s poor to have access to a post secondary education. Eight Nobel Prize winners are graduates, as is Colin Powell the former American Secretary of State. This historic Harlem building used to be home to the Big Apple Jazz Club. According to Ted our guide and  an article in the New York Times the club played a key role in popularizing the term “the Big Apple” —  used by jazz musicians and horse racing enthusiasts as a nickname for New York City. An eye catching sculpture by John Rhoden of a family adorns the Harlem Hospital. It was to this hospital they brought Martin Luther King in 1958 after a deranged woman stabbed him near his heart with a letter opener during a book signing event in Harlem for his book Stride to Freedom. King was rushed to Harlem Hospital where the surgeons saved his life. A series of memorial stones on 135th Avenue  commorate some of the famous people who lived and worked in Harlem, like Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes James Baldwin author of Go Tell It on The Mountain and jazz musician Ella Fitzgerald Harlem Grown is a hopeful sign in Harlem. It is an after school program for kids that gets them working in thriving organic gardens to grow produce they sell to local restaurants. Ted told us the kids who run this garden right across the street from their school sold over 6000 heads of lettuce this year. Not only are the kids working, they are learning about healthy eating and business management as well. According to Ted the program has some high profile sponsors, including actor Ed Norton.  During our time in New York we stayed in a bed and breakfast in Harlem. It’s owner bought the place over a decade ago when the city of New York began to sell abandoned properties in the area that had reverted by default back to the city. They sold the properties at bargain prices but only to middle class people with a steady income and less than a $100,000 in assets. They added property tax reductions as an incentive that would last a decade. This program encouraged many middle class people to move to Harlem and it began to slowly but surely change the entire neighborhood. We were so glad we had stayed in Harlem, where the bed and breakfast prices were reasonable and the commute to the downtown area easy. What is the very best thing about Harlem though? It would have to be soul food we enjoyed at Sylvia’s, a famous Harlem restaurant that has been frequented by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Caroline Kennedy and is Barack Obama’s favorite place to eat whenever he is in New York. Dave had collard greens, macaroni and cheese and barbeque ribs. My mouth watering plate above featured the grilled spicy cat fish, candied yams and pickled beets. Harlem Heaven!! Other posts about New York…….

Spotting the American Flag in New York

Hong Kong and New York- Same But Different

A Walk in New York City

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Food, History, New York