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Big Apple Unpeeled 8th October - 8th November 2010

Monday, 27 December 2010

Visiting the 911 Memorial Preview Site

Coincidentally, on the morning I decided to visit the 9/11 site it was in the local news that a generous benefactor had made a big cash donation to the Memorial Preview Site.

I caught a bus down town, taking in all the streets scenes that passed me by, and got off at the World Financial Centre. This distracted me somewhat from my route to the 911 site and I decided to explore the area a little.

There were lots of business-type people and office workers and stepping inside I was greeted by an array of restaurants. I walked through the lobby and out the other side which brought me to an open area which over looks the North Cove Marina.

View from the World Financial Centre Plaza, Manhattan, NYC by Karen Strunks

It seemed like a tourist free area, apart from myself, and the tourist helicopter passing by periodically, which broke the peace and quiet.

I gathered my bearings on my map and back tracked out of the World Financial Centre, took a right and walked over a bridge that led the the 9/11 building site. I stopped at a gateway of the construction site and got chatting to a construction worker. He told me he had his own business, but had put that on hold to work on the new site. He seemed genuinely happy to be working there and excited about the plans. Telling me that the new tower he was working on was going up at the rate of one floor a week (at least), he compared the building work to a jigsaw puzzle; once you have the initial pieces in place, it's easy to just slot in the rest.

There was some police presence around the site, but having said that, Manhattan seems to be pretty well policed all over. There had recently been some furore about the 'Ground Zero Mosque' and community centre, with opposers creating quite an ugly scene about it. I'm with Mayor Bloomberg on this one.

I made my way to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, and made a (rather emotional) video of that experience.

You can view photos from the book I refer to, Here Is New York, on their website.

I'll leave you with some of the images from my time at Ground Zero.

Building work at the former World Trade Centre, NYC by Karen Strunks

American Flag flying over the 911 site by Karen Strunks

Defy This World Deny Yourself, NYC by Karen Strunks

From the 911 Memorial Centre, NYC by Karen Strunks

Model of the new buildings planned for the September 11 site, New York, by Karen Strunks

Helmet Mickey Kross of Engine 16, FDNY

Here is New York Book 911 Photographs, NYC by Karen Strunksrs

Grieving at 911 Memorial Centre, NYC

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Friday, 17 December 2010

The Grand Central Terminal Experience

Continuing my walk along 42nd Street, my next stop was Grand Central Terminal.

If you haven't been there in person, you will certainly have caught glimpses of it in movies such as Carlito's Way, North By Northwest, The Taking Of Pelham 123 to name just a few.

It was early evening by the time I reached Grand Central and peak rush hour.

Grand Central Terminal, NYC, NY by Karen Strunks

I stood on 42nd Street just observing and trying to get my bearings and figuring out the way in. That bit was easy, I just had to follow the crowds.

Surprisingly to the entrance had swing doors that needed to be pushed or pulled, which although kept with the traditional features of the building, didn't do much to ease congestion at this busy time of the day. I made a note to try not to get in anyone's way; keep moving, don't stop suddenly or a commuter might run into me, step to one side if I have to stop and look around before taking up a position to take photos.

Without much of a plan or knowing the layout I stepped from the street into the terminal and paused.... Walking past some shops (there are 68 retails stores inside) and following the crowd I found myself in the entrance tunnel lit by beautiful chandeliers.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York

This led to the food hall which hosts food outlets that can satisfy any taste bud, from Chinese, to salads, to bagels and pretzels to Mexican and everything in between.

Feeling a little peckish I decided to stop and re-fuel and take in the atmosphere. I grabbed a bite to eat and a drink and wandered around with my tray looking for a spare seat, which I found underneath a stone archway.

People watching, I noticed the couple holding hands across a coffee cup strewn table, perhaps an illicit encounter I imagined. Parents trying to calm two unruly and overtired children. The homeless guy rummaging through the bin, looking inside discarded food containers for tonight's dinner.

To my left were a couple of business gents in their smart suits. One was particularly vocal, his voice resonating around the stone archway; sales figures, the big deal, overseas contracts, the team. He went on and on. "I'm a big wig" his talked seemed to want to tell everyone within earshot. I exchanged looks with his quiet partner who was fiddling with his empty coffee cup; Me: Poor you, he does go on doesn't he? Him: Yep! I wish he'd shut up about himself so I can get home and salvage what's left of the evening!

Finishing my diet coke and gathering my bags, someone was already waiting in the wings to take my seat.

I can't quite remember how now, but I managed to make my way to the upper level of Grand Central, the main concourse.

It's huge, it's beautiful, it's splendid. It echoes with the sound of rushed foot steps and the murmur of hundreds of voices in unison, occasionally interrupted by announcements on the tannoy.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

I took my place upon the steps that lead up to Charlie Parlmer's Metrazor restaurant (strictly no sitting on the steps!). With my view raised above the concourse I soaked it all in.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

It was a regret that I didn't bring a tripod that day, but having since read more on Grand Central's terminal it's seems you need to give a weeks notice if you have the intention of photographing or filming with a trip. The sun was getting low and I had lost the light of the day, so my photo capturing had to be done with a steady hand, as fast a shutter speed I could manage, and with the occasional help of a ledge to rest my camera on.

I thought it would be a good chance to experiment with some time lapse video. Again, forgive the camera shakes, I will get better!

As with my visit to the New York Public Library earlier in the day, I wondered about the history and all the people that have journeyed through the terminal. The station would have seen many happy reunions and sad goodbye's.

I intrepidly stepped through the arch of track 25, not sure if I was allowed there without a ticket. No one seemed to notice. The tracks were darker, the walls covered in a build up of grime and pollution, but yet that gave it another appeal to me. It's funny how New York dirt adds to the character of the place, but in the UK it's just grime!

Train on Platform 24 at Grand Central Terminal

Empty train track at Grand Central Station, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

Taking another turn I noticed an entrance into long neon lit pedestrian tunnel. Hmm...was this for the station's staff? Should I go in? Ah, someone will trow me out if I'm not meant to be there!

Public Payphones at Grand Central Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

A few seconds later I was walking against a stream of commuters rushing to catch their trains. Walking against the tide of people I shot from the hip.

New York Commuters Running for trains at Grand Central Station

Then I noticed some doorways onto some train tracks and I secreted myself just inside and clicked away unseen.

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

I walked the length of the long corridor, which, if I remember correctly, took me out at around 45th Street. It was dark now and getting cooler, but not cool enough to put me off walking back to my apartment and soak in some more of the beautiful city of New York.

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