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Recap: Exploring Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture, Aug 11

On August 11, OHNY joined Harlem One Stop for a walking tour, “Exploring Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture.”  OHNY Volunteer Council member Leah Strigler came and helped out on the tour. She recaps the sites and history that was explored during our evening in Harlem.

Over forty participants followed tour guide John Reddick for a walk in central Harlem, starting at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

the group gathers around tour guide John Reddick

John shared samples from his extensive collection of sheet music to illustrate the rich musical life that was prevalent in Harlem in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when music was sampled in clubs and theaters and enjoyed at home via sheet music.  The Apollo Theater, which opened as the 125th Street Apollo in 1934, was a later institution in this mold and stands on the site of an earlier theater, Hurtig and Seamon’s.  The Apollo later merged with the Harlem Opera House, which had been located up the street.

the Apollo Theater

Another major site was the Hotel Theresa, which opened in 1913 at the corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.  Years ago, the hotel was a focal point for the vibrant Harlem neighborhood. Guest included Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker and Lena Horne. Malcolm X also heald an office there. The Hotel also receive a lot of publicity when Fidel Castro famously stormed out of the Shelburne Hotel and took his entourage with him to Harlem, occupying 40 rooms in the top floor of Hotel Theresa during his 1960 visit to the U.N.

Hotel Theresa

Another stop on the tour included the old studio of James Van der Zee, the Harlem photographer whose is famous for his portraits and documentation of the Harlem Renaissance. Van Der Zee’s work was first exposed to a larger audience during the controversial exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harlem on My Mind in 1969.

the photography studio of James Van Der Zee, a prominant figure in the Harlem Renaissance

The tour’s last stop was at Tian, a restaurant in Riverbank State Park on 145th Street, with Panoramic views of the Hudson, live Swing Dance and Big Band Music performed by the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra. John Reddick’s exhibition on this era will be showing this fall at the Casa Frela Gallery, a site that will be featured during the upcoming Open House New York Weekend.


OHNY Sunset Boat Tour

Aerial photo © 2011 Jonathan Atkin

Monday, September 19, 2011
5:15 – 7:30pm

A Waterside View of the  Queen Elizabeth

Then Escort the Luxury Liner AIDAluna out of the Harbor and more

The Zephyr will depart from Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport at 5:15pm and will first take us to see a waterside view of the Queen Elizabeth. Bill Miller, renowned ocean liner expert, will talk about life on board the transatlantic ship and discuss the piers, docks, cargo and history of the ocean liners of the past.Then we will accompany the AIDAluna as she leaves the port and heads out to sea. Maritime photographer and licensed captain Jonathan Atkin will join us as we hear a special harbor salute horn blast for OHNY. Representatives from Sandy Hook Pilots will explain what takes place on the AIDAluna bridge as she maneuvers through the harbor into open waters.

The tour will then head to the Battery, past Governor’s Island and into the Erie Basin. We will learn from historian Betsy Haggerty, former editor of Offshore Magazine, about the history of the Basin and the Erie Canal while enjoying beautiful views of the New York City harbor bridges at sunset.

Confirmation emails with meeting location details and directions will be sent shortly after purchase of your ticket. If you have any further questions, please email:

Tickets to this event are non-refundable. Should you not be able to attend, the full price of unused tickets may be treated as a donation to openhousenewyork and is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Purchase tickets here.

Field Trip Friday: Austrian Cultural Forum

Back in late May, OHNY’s program coordinator, Jailee headed over to the Austrian Cultural Forum to view the exhibition Fünf Räume (on view until September 5th). It can be easy to pass by the Austrian Cultural Forum building without noticing it since it sits among all the other tall buildings in Midtown. However, if you are across the street and happen to glance up the building’s unique design and verticality is very striking. The building, occupying a space of 25 feet wide by 81 feet deep and consisting of 24 floors, is tall and thin. It was designed by Austrian-born American architect, Raimund Abraham.

Austrian Cultural Forum Exterior

The concept of the current exhibition is focused on the unique architecture of the Forum’s gallery spaces. Five contemporary Austrian artists were invited to produce a new piece of art in a particular space, or room (Fünf Räume literally means 5 rooms or spaces in German). The artists chosen have had success in their native country but have yet to gain recognition in the U.S. Their work displays how space can be altered in a most unassuming yet powerful way. Even the entry space of the Forum has been turned into a work of art by Esther Stocker, who has two installations in the exhibition.

Esther Stocker

Esther Stocker, Untitled (2011)

As you walk up to the upper galleries, you encounter a work be Clemens Hollerer that evokes the idea of barriers and boundaries as his color choice is much like the colors used for police barriers.

Clemens Hollerer, On the Other Side (2011)

In the upper gallery is another installation by Esther Stocker that visitors can walk through if careful. It is interesting to see how the work changes as you move throughout the room.

Esther Stocker, Untitled (2011)

As you walk down into the lower mezzanine gallery, you find Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer’s The Empty Mirror, 2011. This piece using only mirrors, chairs and words, creates a somber and slightly menacing aura. The 16 chairs represent the pawns of a chess game and allude to the important yet inferior role that the pawn plays in the game of chess and, ultimately, in the game of life.

Zenita Komad and Michael Kienzer, The Empty Mirror (2011)

Daniel Domig’s piece in the lower gallery is a cage like structure featuring the only figurative work in the exhibition, featuring haunting paintings of figures that are hung on the exterior of the structure.

Daniel Domig, The Eyes are not Here, There are no Eyes Here (2011)

The exhibition Fünf Räume will be up through Labor Day Weekend and is free and open to the public daily from 10am-6pm. The Austrian Cultural Forum hosts a number of concerts, event and exhibitions. See their calendar of events for more details. They will also be participating in this year’s OHNY on Oct 15 & 16. Tours of the building will available on demand.

All Photos by David Plakke

Austrian Cultural Forum
11 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022

New Event – Place setting: Urban farming at its finest

Tuesday, September 13*

6:30 – 9:00 pm

Brooklyn Grange

37-18 Northern Blvd., Long Island City

Join openhousenewyork for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the most rural of urban settings, Brooklyn Grange. In anticipation of the 9th Annual OHNY Weekend and to celebrate the end of summer, OHNY has teamed up with the Consulate General of Israel to host a bon voyage summer soirée in true OHNY-style. Israeli chef Einat Admony of Balaboosta will prepare a special tasting menu with vegetables and herbs picked from the farm that day. The evening includes tours of the farm, live music, and spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline while sipping wine and the soirée signature cocktail, a fresh rose sangria with summer peaches, basil and thyme.

Brooklyn Grange is an organic farm is located on the rooftop of a 7-story building in Long Island City, Queens and was founded by Ben Flanner in 2010.  A full acre in size, the farm grows local produce and sells their produce to restaurants and markets throughout the city.

Purchase tickets here.

Please take note of the following:

-attendees are required to walk up two flights of stairs to get to the rooftop farm

-paths on the farm are made of gravel, choose your footwear accordingly

*Rain Date: September 15, 2011

In the event of rain, the event will be postponed to September 15, 2011. Please make sure your calendar is free for both dates before buying a ticket.

Tickets to this event are non-refundable. Should you not be able to attend, the full price of unused tickets may be treated as a donation to openhousenewyork and is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Recap: OHNY Hidden Harbor Tour – Aug 16th, 2011

OHNY Volunteer Council member, Bob Moore, joined our volunteer crew last month for the Hidden Harbor Tour that was organized in partnership with the Working Harbor Committee. He recaps the evening and gives details about the harbor, landscapes and vistas that were seen during the two hour tour.

Despite the fact that the day dawned overcast and rainy, the clouds rolled back as the afternoon wore on an we were more than happy to see the sun begin to shine just in time for the OHNY/Hidden Harbor Boat Tour that took place on August 16th.  OHNY staff and passengers assembled at the Pier 16 dock at the South Street Seaport, all keenly waiting to board the Zephyr, a large three-deck tour boat.  We made it smoothly on board; all of us, that is, with the exception of one passenger who was seen making a mad dash down the pier and crossing the gangway just as it was about to be withdrawn!

passengers aboard the Zephyr

The ship backed out of the pier and proceeded a short distance up the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our “hosts” for the evening were Captain Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee and Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association.  Both provided us with a continuously fascinating commentary on each site we passed in addition to a number of nautical and maritime facts.

Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association

The Zephyr then set course southwards towards Buttermilk Channel, a narrow stretch of water bordered by Governor’s Island to the west and Red Hook to the east.  Apparently Buttermilk Channel received it’s name in the early 19th century, when farmers were able to drive their cattle across when the channel dried out at low tide.

a full ship

We sailed onwards past the Brooklyn Passenger Terminal to the end of the Red Hook peninsula, where a Fairway supermarket and some art studios are now housed in the old brick warehouses.  Zephyr then entered the Erie Basin ,which has been transformed by the advent of IKEA. The once thriving shipyard has now been closed and our captains called our attention to the remnants of the old graving dock.  The basin is occupied by a large fleet of barges which operate short distances up and down the coast carrying oil fuel, cement and other commodities. These are important links on the transport chain.

colorful tugboat

We then proceeded out into the Red Hook Channel, past the Gowanus waterfront and the immense Brooklyn Army Terminal, the site of Elvis Presley’s  (the anniversary of whose death this day was) departure for Germany to carry out his military service. The Terminal is an enormous building which provided a gateway for much military equipment to be transported overseas to the war efforts in Europe.

making our way into the Kill van Kull

Heading westward, Zephyr passed the Statue of Liberty on its starboard side and proceeded towards the entrance of the Kill van Kull, another narrow strip of water which separates Staten Island from New Jersey.  Zephyr then passed under the Bayonne Bridge, a very picturesque bridge redolent of the Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia.  It is listed a s a National Historic Monument.  However, the distinctive bridge, with its parabolic arch and lower road bed, is now unfortunately causing a botttleneck in the port.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise the bridge by raising the height of the roadbed by 60 feet,  a very difficult job that  is not due to be completed for several years.  This could have a severe economic impact on the port.

passing under the Bayonne Bridge

After passing under the bridge, Zephyr rounded Bergen Point and swung up to the north-right to enter Newark Bay, home to the huge Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container ports.  We passed the large ‘Arthur Maersk’ container vessel, owned by the largest container shipping company in the world, AP Moller of Denmark.  Much has changed in the shipping industry over the last 30 years or so.  So many of the goods which we take for granted stocked in local stores come from overseas, and Ed Kelly pointed out that were an accident to occur in the Kill van Kull, blocking entry to the port, dramatic consequences would quickly impact the tri-State area.

the "Arthur Maersk" container vessel

As Zephyr turned and headed for home, the sun was setting over New Jersey, casting the Bayonne Bridge into a beautiful silhouette.  Swinging leftwards down the harbor, we passed Robbins Reef light house, in which legendary lighthouse keeper Kate Walker once lived (rowing her children to school everyday in a row boat to Staten Island).  We passed the Statue of Liberty just as the sun was making its final exit.  Once we made our way back to South Street Seaport the reaction from all who disembarked Zephyr was universally positive.

gorgeous sunset at the end of the tour

(Images courtesy of Mitch Waxman)

Volunteer for the 9th Annual OHNY Weekend!

The OHNY Weekend is Saturday & Sunday, October 15 & 16, 2011.

Be a Part of Architecture, Design, History and NYC’s Unique Built-Environment!

Register here

Benefits of being an OHNY Weekend Volunteer 
meet people who share your interest in architecture and design
-an OHNY button that allows front-of-the-line access at non-reservation sites during the Weekend and an OHNY t-shirt
-celebrate at the wrap party on Sunday evening

Volunteer Responsibilities 
-volunteer for at least one 4-hour shift on either Saturday and/or Sunday of the OHNY Weekend
-manage OHNY signup sheets, meet and greet visitors, manage lines
-work with Program and Site Sponsors to ensure that visitors are welcomed and follow necessary building requirements

-mandatory attendance at one 2-hour training session (Tuesday, September 27 at 6:15pm / Saturday, October 1 at 9:45am)
-receive your site/program assignment and learn about what is expected of you as an OHNY Volunteer
-hear more about openhousenewyork and why our volunteers make OHNY Weekend a success
-pick up the OHNY button and t-shirt that all volunteers wear during the Weekend

For more information contact: 

Megan Elevado

Volunteer Coordinator
telephone: (212) 991-6470

Field Trip Friday: United Nations Headquarters

Last week the OHNY staff (all three of us!) stepped outside the boundaries of the U.S. and entered into international territory to visit the United Nations Headquarters located in Turtle Bay. If you walk inside the boundaries of the U. N. (between 1st Ave and the East River from 42nd Street up to 48th Street) you are, in fact, walking in an area governed not by the United States, but by the U.N., which has its own police and fire department and its own postal service. As you enter the U.N. Visitors Center, you pass an impressive line of flags, 193 in all, representing all of the member countries. They are laid out in alphabetical order starting with Afghanistan and finishing with Zimbabwe. Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s anti-gun sculpture titled Non-Violence sits outside as a symbol of international peace.

Outside the U.N.

Non-violence sculpture, donated to the U.N. by Luxemburg

The NY Headquarters, built in 1952, consist of four buildings: the Secretariat building, the General Assembly building, the Conference building and the Dag Hammarskjold Library, which was added in 1961. Rather than holding a competition for the buildings, the United Nations Board of Design was created, an international committee of architects that included Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and Wallace K. Harrison, among others.

U.N. General Assembly building atrium

U.N. General Assembly building atrium

The tour of the building started in the impressive Security Council, with its iconic circular wood table, a gift of Norway. The primary purpose of the Security Council is to promote peace and to discuss and defuse international conflicts. The Presidency of the Security Council rotates each month; each member country getting a turn.

U.N. Security Council

The other main highlight of the tour was the General Assembly, the main conference hall where all 193 member States of the U.N. meet to discuss international issues. It features a large golden wall that sits just behind the podium and upper booth areas that are reserved for the official translators (as seen in the movie The Translator with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn).

U.N. General Assembly

Along the tour, there are also a number of exhibits that represent the three main goals of the U.N. – peacekeeping and security, upholding and maintaining human rights, and social and economical development. Other exhibits serve as reminders of the international catastrophes that have taken place in the past due to war and conflict. You can see a status of St. Agnes that was found face-down in the ruins after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Also on view is the official document of the U.N. rejecting the denial of the holocaust.

St. Agnes statue

The tour is a great way to get an intimate view of how the U.N. functions and how it conducts international business on a daily basis. It also provides a sense of hope and solidarity, knowing that right here in New York, the U.N. is working to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

The U.N. buildings are currently undergoing their first renovation since they were built. It is an extensive renovation that started 2009 and is scheduled to finish in 2013. Only the infrastructure of the buildings are being updated; the buildings, for the most part, will remain unaltered in honor of the international style and symbolic nature of the U.N. Headquarters. Access to the visitors center is free and open to the public daily from 9:00am – 5:30pm. Public tours will continue through the renovation and are now being conducted from the General Assembly building. For more information about tours prices and times click here.

The U.N. will also be conducting architectural tours during the 9th Annual OHNY Weekend taking place on October 15 &16. Stay tuned to find out more details soon!



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