Archive for April, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

This past weekend, OHNY staffer Hae-In took a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to view the cherry blossoms now in season. Founded in 1910 and located right by Prospect Park, the 52-acre garden contains many specialty gardens on their grounds, including the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the Cranford Rose Garden, the Shakespeare Garden and the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, located in the Steinhardt Conservatory.

Cherry Esplanade

The Garden has more than 200 cherry trees of 42 Asian species and cultivated varieties, making it one of the most sought after cherry-viewing sites outside of Japan. The first cherry trees were planted after World War I as a gift from the Japanese government. The cherry trees can be found on the Cherry Esplanade and Cherry Walk, in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, and in many other locations throughout the Garden. Depending on weather conditions, they bloom from late March or early April to mid-May.

Cherry blossoms

Every spring a month-long cherry blossom viewing festival called Hanami is held at the BBG, to celebrate when the trees are in bloom. Hanami, which means “flower viewing,” is the Japanese tradition of viewing and celebrating the cherry blossom, or “sakura” season.

Cherry trees in bloom

Although the blooms do not usually last longer than a week, different trees bloom at slightly different times. Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden soon to take advantage of this beautiful tradition!

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
1000 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY

The Opening of the Visitor Center at Newtown Creek

New York City Department of Environmental Protection presents the opening of the
Visitor Center at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25, 2010
12  – 4 pm
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
329 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn

Directions to the Newtown Creek Visitors Center:
Subway: G train to Greenpoint Avenue Station
Bus: B24
• Take the Long Island Exp. I-495 W toward MIDTOWN TUNNEL (RT-25 W)
• Continue straight on BORDEN AVE
• Make a U-Turn at 31ST PL onto BORDEN AVE
• Turn Right on VAN DAM ST
• Bear Right on GREENPOINT AVE
• Go over JJ Byrne Memorial Bridge and continue on GREENPOINT AVENUE
• Entrance is on the right on GREENPOINT AVE & HUMBOLDT ST.
(Parking is not available on site)

Join OHNY’s Volunteer Council!

Bruce, VC member, at the 450 West 14th Street hard hat tour

Greetings, openhousenewyork volunteers and supporters! Bruce McDonald here, from your trusty OHNY Volunteer Council. I’m peering through the computer screen today, searching out some of our most energized and devoted minions to join our ranks, and I think I see one. Yes, you, right there – the one reading this post! I think you’ve got what it takes to be on the V.C.!

A quick rundown: the OHNY Volunteer Council is a group of dedicated volunteers who are tasked with recruitment, training, retention, management, and recognition of our nearly 1000 active volunteers. We meet monthly to chart the course of action for Open House Weekend (it really does take all year to make the planets align for the weekend!); to get briefed by OHNY staff about overall issues and goals for the organization (and how we might be able to help out); and to ensure that all of the wonderful year-round programs and events are populated with warm, welcoming, and knowledgeable folks to act as support for the amazing OHNY staff members.

In addition to our monthly meetings, Volunteer Council members have the honor of acting as District Coordinators on Open House Weekend, overseeing all of the sites and programs within a certain geographic area of the city. As a regular site volunteer, I loved having the opportunity to interact with site sponsors and visitors, but that experience paled in comparison to being the point person for volunteers and sponsors in 10 different locations! Being able to directly experience the diversity of options over the weekend and oversee dozens of volunteers from all walks of life is one of my favorite things about my seat on the V.C.

Another perk to being on the council is representing the volunteer population at large to our supporters. For each year-round program or fund raising event, we make sure that at least two members of the V.C. are front and center alongside members of the staff and board of directors, meeting, greeting, and reinforcing the importance of the work OHNY does with the help of our generous patrons. Plus, as you can see from the accompanying photo, we are one foxy bunch!

Every year at this time, we put out a general call to our volunteers to join the ranks of the Volunteer Council, so if you’re interested, please get in touch with the office and let them know! The only requirements in addition to the duties outlined above are that you are already an active volunteer, that you’re willing to serve a minimum two-year term, and that you commit to our monthly meetings (almost always held on a the second Tuesday evening of the month). By just committing a few hours a month, you can make a palpable difference to OHNY and to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers we serve!

So that’s the Volunteer Council in a nutshell. We have a few open seats at the table…don’t you think one of them should be yours?

(Image courtesy of Jeffrey Donenfeld)

Field Trip Friday: The Museum of Chinese in America

Last week, OHNY visited The Museum of Chinese in America, in Chinatown, which opened in their Maya Lin-designed space this past September. Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent here in the US. Their new home at 215 Centre Street showcases their unique collection, spanning 160 years of Chinese American history. Their old gallery space on 70 Mulberry Street is still an archival space for researching Chinese American history.

Front entrance to MOCA

Designed by artist and architect Maya Lin, MOCA’s new 14,000 square-foot space was formerly a machine shop. The renovation transformed it into exhibition galleries, with interactive display kiosks and multipurpose classrooms. In the center of the space is a brick courtyard, with a skylight, that has been left deliberately untouched to represent a traditional Chinese courtyard house. The rest of the galleries wrap around this central courtyard and stairs lead downstairs to the classrooms and offices. The Museum expects to achieve LEED SILVER certification through the incorporation of environmentally sustainable design solutions throughout their space.

Interactive video wall

The Museum promotes dialogue and provides a space for people to learn and share about the evolving story of Chinese in America through its innovative exhibitions. This includes a wall of interactive videos that highlight the experience of various well-known figures in the Chinese-American community, including fashion designer Anna Sui, TV journalist Ti-Hua Chang and writer and New York Times contributor Jennifer 8. Lee.

These touch screens allow visitors to hear different stories and many other exhibits involve touch screens or audio components, many of which you can hear as you walk through the space. There was one exhibit about the evolution of Chinese food menus where one could hear a radio ad for La Choy food products. Hearing all the different voices in various galleries, as visitors interact with the exhibits, gives a unique feeling of the myriad journeys and expansiveness of the Chinese American diaspora, echoing from the walls.

Visitors at MOCA

More than 60,000 letters and documents, business and organizational records, oral histories, clothing and textiles, photographs and precious artifacts make up MOCA’s collection, providing the public with a unique resource. To find out more about visiting MOCA, please see their website.

The Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre Street, New York, NY

Field Trip Friday: John Johansen’s Home

Last summer, OHNY  traveled upstate to Dutchess County, New York for a rare opportunity to visit and tour John M. Johansen’s private residence. Long admired for his intricate concrete forms like the U.S. Embassy in Dublin (1963) and Oklahoma City’s Mummers Theater (1970), Johansen has blazed a highly original trail over a career spanning more than a half-century.

The only surviving member of the New Canaan–based Harvard 5 (with Eliot Noyes, Breuer, Landis Gore, and Philip Johnson), Johansen is also known for designing some of the most unique private houses on the East Coast. One of them, his own country house—a truncated and translucent fiberglass pyramid in Dutchess County—was sold last year and Johansen moved out this past fall.


Originally built by the architect in 1975, and dubbed ‘A Plastic Tent,’ the house is made of translucent corrugated fiberglass. Protecting against rain and wind, the fiberglass also allows for light to enter the space, giving it a warm glow.


Johansen took us on a tour of the space, including the cave-like bedroom, with stone walls, that also extends into the bathroom and adjoining hand-made hot tub, an early “jacuzzi” of sorts. Johansen spoke about his inspirations and ideas, as well as earlier work. OHNY helped the architect celebrate his 93rd birthday with family and colleagues last June, allowing everyone to experience his home as he designed and built it.


iPad Raffle winner: Tom G!

Congratulations to the winner of OHNY’s iPad Raffle fundraiser:

Tom G. of New York City!

Thank you to everyone for participating and supporting OHNY!  And a big thank you to Valiant Technology, for the iPad!

Field Trip Friday: Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson Place

Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson Place

Last Saturday, Hae-In checked out the Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson Place for Kenneth Jackson’s talk on the history of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building and its relationship to Brooklyn as a borough. Jackson, a New York City and Brooklyn historian and professor at Columbia University, was joined by Stuart Blumin, a history professor at Cornell. They spoke about the building’s architectural details and history, including the barber shop on the upper level, and highlighted features such as the giant tile mosaic map of Brooklyn on the bank’s back wall. They also explained that while it is located in the Fort Greene neighborhood, the name was given to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank after they moved from the bank’s original headquarters in Williamsburg

At 37 stories and 512 feet tall, it was designed by Robert Helmer of Halsey, McCormack and Helmer and built in 1927. A beautiful space with gold tiles and wrought ironwork, the 80-year-old landmark bank is a great place for the Flea. Crammed full with vendors, even the side rooms and upper mezzanine are used. And downstairs in the bank’s vault are where all the Flea’s famous food vendors are located.

One Hanson Place is located near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, across from Atlantic Terminal Mall. Luckily, the Flea will be staying here on Sundays (starting April 10 it will be back outdoors at Bishop Loughlin H.S.) so there is plenty of time to check it out yourself!

Brooklyn Flea
1 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY