New York State of Mind

After a lunch stop near Toledo, Ohio, we continued on our coast-to-coast road trip east bound. We considered driving straight through to New York City, but it would’ve been quite exhausting and logistically then I would have to figure out a way to get back home to Washington, DC. So we decided to take a little detour and end our fourth traveling day in the suburb of Washington, DC, where I live, and to continue on the next day with the last leg of our trip. From home, I would drive my own car separately from my brother and then I would continue on with a couple more days of road trip to New England on my own.

So on the last day of the trip, we got up early again to start driving on the last leg of our coast-to-coast road trip. Each of us drove a car and we tried to keep close to each other since I had GPS and traffic notification in my car. We used the Motorola Talkabout two-way radios to communicate between the two cars.

The drive from DC to New York was not that memorable, partly because we were driving with only few hours of sleep the night before, and because we were focused on getting back to New York as soon as possible. We had to return the car that day, and before that, we would have to unload my brother’s belongings first, so we thought we didn’t have much time to spare.

We finally reached New York City, and after unloading my brother’s belongings in his apartment in Brooklyn, we went to Midtown Manhattan to return the rental car that had served us well during the coast-to-coast road trip.

After returning the car, we went for a late lunch in Chinatown at a restaurant that had become one of my brother’s favorite restaurants in New York City. Then we went to the South Street Seaport area to find a place where I could take another photo to bookend our trip. We started with at the Santa Monica Pier on the West Coast, so I thought it would be appropriate to finish at the Pier 17 near the South Street Seaport with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn area, my brother’s new home, to finish the trip.

While writing about this last part of the trip, I couldn’t help to remember how much our view of New York City had changed over the years. I remembered when I visited New York City with my brother for the first time how after half day of sightseeing on the Grayline double-decker bus, my brother commented that he didn’t like New York and wouldn’t want to live there. Not long after, I also spent a couple of months working on a work project at my company’s New York office. I enjoyed visiting the city, particularly going to the Broadway shows, but I didn’t really think it’s a place I would like to live in.

Several years later, my brother was ‘forced’ to move to New York City to pursue his graduate degree. Then he got a job that allowed him to stay in the area, and along the way, he came to love the city and its unique lifestyle. After I moved to Washington, DC, I could visit my brother more frequently, and during those visits, I came to see and appreciate what it was like to see and experience New York City from the perspective of its resident. Now my brother lives with his family in Brooklyn, very much a New Yorker. I still don’t think I could live there (for the same reason I wouldn’t like to live in downtown DC either — I rather live in a suburb with easy access to the city than live in the heart of the city itself), but it’s becoming a place that I do like to visit.

Brooklyn Bridge

Central Park

Central Park is a large public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City. The park is 2.5 miles long by 0.5 miles wide. With approximately 35 million visitors annually, it is the most visited public park in the United States. It is yet another well-known New York City site that has been featured in countless movies set in Manhattan, and it features many familiar landmarks like the famous restaurant (now closed) Tavern on the Green, the Central Park Zoo, the Great Lawn, Strawberry Fields (a tribute to John Lennon), the Reservoir, and the large Metropolitan Museum of Art building.

I first visited the Central Park during my first sightseeing tour of New York City. I remembered going as a group to see the Strawberry Fields and took a group photo near the Imagine mosaic. We also went to the Tavern on the Green around sunset and seeing the lighting of the lights on the trees around the restaurant. It was definitely a memorable sight for someone visiting the Big Apple for the first time.

Several years later, my brother lived in the Upper East Side neighborhood east of the Central Park. Several times when I visited him, I went for a walk near the park. It’s quite interesting place to enjoy the scenery around the park, but also to people watch. As you get closer to the park on the east side, you can tell that the homes are getting higher in price. In fact, many of the upper-class New Yorkers live in this part of town.

The photo below was taken in late Spring afternoon during a walk in the eastern part of the Central Park. You can see the reservoir and the buildings on the west side of the park reflected on the water.

Central Park

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located on Fifth Avenue right across from the Rockefeller Center area. It is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The church building was built in 1858-1878. Today it received around five million visitors every year, some come to participate in the masses held at the church, and many come to visit to admire the building’s exterior and interior. Its location that is close to the Rockefeller Center makes it convenient for visitors to combine visits to both sites in one trip.

I’ve visited the St. Patrick’s Cathedral a couple of times, all as visitors to check out the interior of the cathedral while there was no mass going on. It’s definitely a beautiful building to worship in. On September 16, 2001, the Sunday after the 9/11 terrorist attack, there was a service held at this church in remembrance of the fallen victims. I can only imagine what it’s like to be part of that — some people already knew they had lost their love ones, some others were still looking for the missing ones and holding out hope, and others were scared of what might happen in the near future, all turning to their faith for strength, comfort and peace.

The photo below was taken from across the street outside the church. It’s an interesting contrast to see the church with its spires and the tall modern building right behind it.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings in Midtown Manhattan part of New York City, located between 48th and 51st Streets and between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. The buildings are among the best examples of the Art Deco and International architecture styles in New York City. They were built in the 1930s around the time of the Great Depression, so at the time it was a source of employment for a lot of people in New York. Today these buildings are home to offices and the center building, the GE Building (30 Rockefeller) is the headquarters of NBC, one on the main television broadcasting companies in the United States. It’s a major tourist destination in New York City with the NBC’s Today Show broadcasted every morning from there, and occasionally the anchors would go out and interview crowds of visitors watching as the show being shot live. During the Christmas time, there is a nice Christmas display outside the the RCA Building, and there is also an ice skating rink open to the public. And nearby within there is also the famous Radio City Music Hall, a performance hall that at the time it was open in 1932 was billed as the largest and most opulent theater in the world. Since then it has hosted many big events like the Grammy Awards and the Tony Awards.

I’ve visited the Rockefeller Center like many tourists coming to the New York City. The buildings were definitely impressive; you really get the sense that you’re in New York City among the skyscrapers when you stand in front of the GE Building and look up to see the 70-story building standing tall in front of you. The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree and the ice skating rink area are also interesting to visit, though you might have to wait in line for a while during the holiday season to even just see the Christmas Tree. During a visit one afternoon, as I sat near the ice skating rink resting and people watching, I saw people’s attention drawn to the center of the ice skating rink. It turned out that there was a television show shooting at the ice skating rink. I think it was a scene from a TV show called Monk.

The photo below was taken at night on the Fifth Avenue part of the complex. It is a large sculpture depicting Atlas carry the world on his shoulders. At night, it was lighted quite nicely, and you can see the tall GE Building in the background.


Trinity Church

Only one block away from the NYSE Building on Wall Street, there is another historical building that seems to be out of place with the tall buildings around. The Trinity Church, located at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway, was founded in 1697. The current building is the third building built on the same place in 1846. The architect of the building was Richard Upjohn, who was one of the co-founders of the American Institute of Architects.

The Trinity Church is one of the Episcopal churches in New York City. The church also has a chapel few blocks away from the main church building called the St. Paul’s Chapel. Opened in 1766, the St. Paul’s Chapel is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. George Washington worshipped at this chapel after his inauguration as the first President of the United States. In 2001, it became known as ‘The Little Chapel That Stood’ as it remained standing after the nearby World Trade Center twin towers collapsed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

I’ve passed both the Trinity Church and the St. Paul’s Chapel when I did a walking tour around the Financial District. On one visit to the Trinity Church, I ended up not going in to see the church interior because there was a service going on. I did visit the churchyard next to the church. It was a nice oasis in the middle of the Financial District to retreat for a moment from the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the people buried there was Alexander Hamilton, the first United States Secretary of Treasury (his portrait appears on the US $10 bill).

The photo below was taken during my visit to the Trinity Churchyard. I noticed this cool reflection of the churchyard on the church’s door glass pane — an interesting perspective to see churchyard with the big office building next to it.

Trinity Church

Ellis Island

Ellis Island is an island on the New York Harbor area close to the Statue of Liberty. From 1892 to 1954, it was the main gateway for millions of immigrants into the United States.

Back then, immigrants arrived in ships from Europe, and the lower class passengers where taken by ferry boats to Ellis Island to be processed. Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. It was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge”. About 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. Ellis Island was sometimes known as “The Island of Tears” because of those 2% who were not admitted after the long transatlantic voyage.

After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were displaced persons or war refugees. Today, over 100 million Americans – one third of the population – can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.

I visited the Ellis Island a couple of weeks ago after I visited the Statue of Liberty. The ferry that goes to the Statue of Liberty makes a stop at Ellis Island before heading back to the pier. For many visitors, especially those who don’t necessarily have any ancestors who went through Ellis Island, may pass the visit to Ellis Island as just an old historical building to visit when you have extra time. My first visit to Ellis Island few years back was only to take some photos from the exterior of the building. This time I decided to actually spend some time to learn about the history behind the island.

While I couldn’t relate from the perspective of having ancestors who came through Ellis Island, I could relate from the perspective of being an immigrant who came from another country and stayed as a resident. I remembered going through the modern equivalent of the interview and inspection process; for me, it happened at the US Embassy in Indonesia when I went for interviews during the visa application process.

The photo below was taken inside the Main Hall where the immigration processing was done. The hall looked empty today, but imagine the huge hall filled with rows of seats where immigrants waited to get processed. Once the processing was done, at the end of the hall there were stairs with three lines: one line for approved immigrants who were heading to New York City area, another line for other approved immigrants who are heading to destinations outside New York City, and a third line for questionable immigrants who needed to be processed further (e.g., due to possible health issues). These were nicknamed the Stairs of Separation as some family might have members who had to stay while others were approved to leave, so they had to make quick decision whether to stay together as a family, or separate and leave someone behind.

Main Hall at Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most recognizable monument in the United States. It is located on Liberty Island at the New York Harbor not far from Lower Manhattan part of New York City. The statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France to celebrate American’s independence. It was dedicated on July 4th, 1886. The statue has become a symbol of freedom and of the United States.

I’ve visited the Statue of Liberty several times over the years. My last visit was a couple of weeks ago during the Thanksgiving weekend. My brother now lives in New York City area, so I was in NYC for Thanksgiving and decided to spend the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island again. Since I went alone and I didn’t have anything planned for most of the day, I was able to take my time and listen to the audio tour that provided the historical background behind the building of the Statue of Liberty. It’s quite interesting to hear what visitors from around the world think the Statue represents — freedom, new beginning, opportunity, the United States, and more recently after the 9/11 attacks, it became the symbol of resiliency for the city of New York and the American people in general.

The photo below was taken from the grounds of the Liberty Island as I walked around the statue and listened to the audio tour. From every angle, it seems that you can always get a majestic view of the Lady Liberty standing there holding the torch and the stone tablet.

Statue of Liberty