Let’s state the obvious: There is always something new to explore in NYC. If you think you’ve seen it all, you are deluded. Amongst new discoveries for me this trip are a sculpture park and the home of the city’s mayor.
The two places sit almost facing each other on opposite sides of the East River. One in a neighbourhood of established Manhattan condo buildings; the other in Queens and overlooked by the construction of yet more apartment blocks as the city continues to burst at its seams.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park is in the Queens District of Astoria. Established in 1986, it’s an outdoor gallery with a view. A perfect place for me to chill this record breaking warm October. It’s set to be one of the warmest New York has ever experienced.
I sat myself down on the dry grass, did a little sketch and took in the calm, blue skies, with just the sound of the occasional helicopter or nearby construction noise breaking the quiet.
It’s a great little neighbourhood park with an artistic twist. A new collection of sculptures had just gone on display for the autumn and winter.
A group of teens played ball nearby, old school park style. For my part, I was drawn to an initially disconcerting tower-like installation by artist Moeinedin Shashaei.
‘Unum’ seems at first glance to be a display of dentistry artefacts. It is in fact far jollier and – once I understood what I was looking at – I found it rather captivating.
The nearby placard says of the piece, “with hundreds of distinct smiles unified in a mass, Unum presents an optimistic view of humanity’s cultural differences.”
At home with the mayor of NYC
Across the river from that grinning tower is Gracie Mansion.
Two floors are open to explore, though you have to book in advance and public visit days and times are limited. It’s a fascinating way to spend an hour, as I found out after joining the small group queue for my 2pm tour.
From its outset in the lobby with its paintings representing the four freedoms it was an interesting tour. This was as much for the people who had joined the group wondering around the house as for the contents of the house itself.
There were just 20 of us but that included Germans, Norwegians and Croatians, along with representives of several US States in my group as well as a family of New Yorkers which included four small children.
The kids were very well behaved but had begun to crawl beneath the furniture by the end of our 70 minutes in the house. This was understandable, I might have joined them in another ten minutes.
A Cannon ball, a Steinway & a Parisian Park
The house was restored during Bloomberg’s time as mayor and boosts chandeliers, some rather pleasant furniture, showy wallpaper and a cannon ball amongst other artefacts.
Photography is not allowed in the property so I can’t show you any of the above. Mayor de Blasio was apparently at home hosting a meeting during my tour. Judging from that day’s news reports, this may have been about the future of the city’s historical monuments. Should former slave traders be feted with large statues?
I don’t have a picture of de Blasio or a slave trader either.
What I do have is a nice autumnal picture of the NYPD parked up in the sunny park outside Gracie Mansion.
Carl Shurz Park makes for a nice place to relax before and after visiting Gracie Mansion. Central Park is really not the only place in NYC to hug a tree.