6-7 August New York – those buildings really are tall

6 August

As my backpackers was under a block from Central Park, I decided to go downtown by the scenic route through the park. It was a very nice walk, watching all of the diligent locals running, jogging, biking and roller blading through the park on a sunny Sunday morning. It is a pity there were no coffee stands, I could have sat and watched them for hours.

Most interesting was the horses though. There were several people riding their horses through the park. In a city where it costs hundreds of dollars a week to get a car park, I would have thought that keeping a horse would be impossible. But neigh, people do.

5th Avenue of course looks very impressive, even on a Sunday, when most of the shops, are shut. New York in general was impressive. I could have snapped off a roll of film just taking photos of the buildings, which for me is a lot. I even would have if my camera was not broken.

Of course when wandering down 5th Ave, you just have to pop in to the Metropolitan Museum of Modem Art, so I did. It was pretty good, a lot of design exhibits, which was interesting more appealing than just pictures. But they did have some great Dali’s, some ok Van Gogh’s & of course a pile of Andy Warhol stuff, some of which even looked ok.

7 August

Another day of wandering around looking at the sights (isn’t that a surprise?). One of the more impressive sights was the USS Intrepid. This was an ex WW2 aircraft carrier, which upon reaching the end of its useful life was parked up in NY & turned into an aircraft museum. Because this was such an old ship it was a lot smaller than the modern ones. But it was big, The main hanger floor inside the ship was just huge. As wen as a lot of interesting planes, including a version of the mach 3 Blackbird spyplane, which had a pretty interesting blurb about them. They were designed & built in secret for the CIA. -Several years later the airforce found out that they existed complained that they didn’t have toys that much fun & several years after that, even managed to get their bands on some.

Inside the hanger there was a number of informative displays on how the US navy, and in particular the Intrepid won WW2 against the Japanese. Apparently there were a few conflicts in other areas, but these were not too major. But considering how the Americans often do the glory of their fallen soldiers thing it was not too bad. Just across the wharf was one of the original nuclear missile submarines, and that was small. We toured through that and you came out wondering how they managed to fit that many people in such a small space for so long.

After looking at all of the 40s & 50s stuff designed to knock things down, I wandered back into town to have a look at the some of the things they were trying to stop other people from getting a chance to try to knock down. And the best of these was the Chrysler building. Thegroovyest building in a city full ofgroovy buildings. Unfortunately, other than the lobby , which was fantastic even down to the level of having great looking mailboxes, you couldn’t go in. The Empire State may be taller (but only just), but it has nothing on the Chrysler. Pity their cars aren’t as good. Mind you in the 30s they looked better than they do now.

So, not having enough of the big buildings I wandered south to the World Trade Centre, which is simply a pair of very tall shoe boxes laid on their ends. But getting in is no easy matter. Sure you can just walk in to the shopping mall below it, but to actually go up a lift you need to go through security. Togo to the top this included full airport grade metal detector treatment. I am not 100% sure what the point of this was because based on past evidence terrorists can just park their van in the carpark below, and unlike a plane, you cannot demand to be flown to Libya from inside a building. Especially one 108 floors high. But then again it may have been to stop people getting pissed off in the huge queues for the lift & clearing a passage with their Uzi (which they carry solely for personal defence of course.) But eventually 1 made it to the lifts and the lifts made it to the 107th floor and stopped in the normal manner, unlike what happened a couple of days later when they were stopped by the roof. Better than being stopped by the basement I guess.

Once at the l07th floor you can stand right at the edge and look straight down. It is a long way. But then you have to go up onto the roof. This was somewhat freaky .It was pretty windy up there, enough to make the building sway quite noticeably. A lot of the other people didn’t seem to notice this, leading me to conclude that my sense of swaying buildings is more heightened than most. Probably one of my many highly attuned survival instincts.

But the swaying building was not the oddest thing. The roof of the building was not flat. We were on a central area, then there was a drop of several metres and a high fence, which was in turn set in from the edge of the building itself. This fence was odd. It was topped with razor wire, which was in turn electrified. I did not see machinegun towers, but I guess that you are not allowed them in downtown New York. Or at least not in the areas the tourists go to. But my question is this.

Why? What are the odds of someone breaking into the building by climbing unnoticed up 108 floors of sheer glass? I doubt that anyone who is determined enough to achieve that is going to be put off too much by a fence at the top. Especially when the alternative is climbing back down again.

After getting down onto solid ground, I did as any accountant would do, and popped over to Wall Street. Unfortunately the market was -closed, but I think it is like sausages. If you like the finished product it really is best not to see how it is made. It was an interesting street. Very much a concrete canyon, tall buildings lining both sides of a very narrow road all the down. With one exception. On the corner right opposite the exchange is the JP Morgan building. When the land was bought, it was the most expensive land in the US and probably still is. Therefore to get any sort of efficiency you you would want to build the tallest building you possibly can, like the rest of the street. Or you could build a small. 4 storey office block, because efficiencies are for people who have a shortage of money.

I figured I should continue to work on the aversion therapy while I was at it and so wandered up to the Empire State. The outside viewing platform on this one (at least the one which was open) is only at the 86th floor, so it is not that big. It still gives a pretty good view of the city by night though. Unlike the World Trade Centre the fence here is at the edge. I was beginning to become very aware that I was standing at the top of a 70 year o1d rush job (it was built in a very short space of time, partially as labour was pretty easy to come by at the time). It was amusing to watch all of the people try to get better shots with their video cameras by holding them outside the bars of the fence. While this makes sense, those bars did mess with the view (and provided zip reassurance about the potential reawakening ofgravity in this area), I really think that actually putting your hand through that strap they tie to the comer of a camera may have been advisable. I wonder how many very broken cameras are lying on the sticky outy bits of the building 10 floors below. I suspect quite a number. Bags not being the guy who has to go and clean them up though.

Alas the lifts from the 86th floor to about the 80th, where you caught the lift to the bottom, were out of order. Out of order in one of those vague non-specific we don’t want to cause alarm ways so we had to walk down the stairs for a few floors before catching a functioning lift down the remaining 80 floors. Unfortunately when I asked people on the lift on the way down if they knew what was wrong with the other ones had the cable snapped or something exciting like that or had they just got stuck 1/2 way between the 82nd & 83rd floors no-one seemed to know. Couple of people looked like they didn’t want to know though.