Big Apple Greeter takes pride in its ability to provide New Yorkers with opportunities to enhance their leadership skills. Greeter Outings expand a Greeter’s knowledge base by introducing neighborhoods and cultural sites in all five boroughs, with which the Greeter may be unfamiliar. From Fort Green to Astoria, Washington Heights and beyond, every outing provides Greeters with an insider’s look at various cultural and historical sites which they in turn can share with visitors, friends and family. All Greeter Outings are coordinated by Volunteer Greeter Trip Coordinator Bobbie Gold.
- NYC Historic Places
- U.S. Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Anne Frank Center
- New York Historical Society
- The Grand Concourse
- Turn-of-the-20th Century District: Victorian Flatbush
- Hudson Square
- Brooklyn Navy Yard
- The Jewel In the Crown: City Hall Station
- Brooklyn Museum
- Social Media Workshop
- Eldrige Street Museum
- The Museum of Arts and Design
- Hamilton Grange
- Governors Island
- Access to Public Transportation for Visitors with Mobility Issues
- June in Jackson Heights, Queens
- Greeter Outing to the Studio Museum of Harlem
- Eat Elmhurst Week
- Museum of the City of New York Links City’s Past, Present and Future
- Holocaust Survivor Shares Moving Memories at Museum of Jewish Heritage Greeter Outing
- New York’s Coolest New Park: The High Line
- Greeters Get to Know the Dazzling Diamond District
- Greeters Visit Coney Island: the Old and the New
- Fort Greene
- The Greater Astoria Historical Society
- Greeters Visit Washington Heights-Inwood
- The King Manor Museum
- The Museum of Chinese in America
- Greeters Visit Important Historic Site in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
My Favorite NYC Historic Places
A slide show given by Michael Misconie, Manhattan Borough Historian
On January 31st at the Big Apple Greeter office building, over 50 Greeters and volunteers experienced
a rare treat: a slide show of New York City’s history, given by Manhattan’s official historian, Michael Misconie.
Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, introduced Mr. Misconie. Stringer stressed how important Big Apple Greeter is for the city’s economy as well as its image. He expressed the hope that Big Apple Greeter would receive the financial and media support it deserves.
Mr. Misconie then presented “My Greatest Historic Hits List.” A few of the hidden gems were:
*Chester A. Arthur’s Inaugural site. When President Garfield was assassinated in 1881, Vice President Arthur had to be sworn in as President – quickly at his house – at 123 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Today the house still exists but is now an Indian grocery!
*Pratt Institute Engine Room in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The Engine Room makes its own electricity and is only open to the public on New Year’s Eve for its annual steam-whistle-blow. The experience is loud, cold and awesome. Steam pipes across the campus drive different sized whistles to make completely different sounds.
*The Andrew H. Green Memorial Bench in Central Park. Green, a city planner, supervised the construction of Central Park as well as the Metropolitan Museum and the Bronx Zoo. The memorial was placed at 106th street in 1929, surrounded by five maple trees representing the five boroughs.
U.S. Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Also Known as a Watchtower Building
On a freezing February day, Greeters found relief when we entered the warm lobby of the U.S Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of their 34 Watchtower Buildings. We were welcomed
into their community in Brooklyn and given a behind-the-scenes tour – something that’s generally
not open to the public.
Our guide was Dennis, a computer expert from Trinidad. Dennis explained the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are based on beliefs from the Bible – that a world ruled by God leads to a fulfilling life. There are 236 branches worldwide, with almost eight million members.
Dennis shared other interesting facts with us. There are 4968 people at this branch who live, work, shop and receive medical care through Jehovah’s Witnesses. The building has eight gymnasiums and four dining rooms which are staffed with their own bakers. When the 2008 recession began, donations actually went up – some from celebrities like Michael Jackson and Prince. And within three weeks of Haiti’s earthquake, Jehovah’s Witnesses had built 1700 free homes for the newly homeless.
The Watchtower buildings in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights have been a fixture since 1909, but now the church has outgrown its facilities and is planning to move upstate to Warwick, New York.
We left feeling enlightened, since most of us had known little about Jehovah’s Witnesses. But before we went, we were invited to lunch. Needless to say, there was no way we could ever pass up those homemade pastries and cakes!
Anne Frank Center
On a warm day in April, a group of about 20 Greeters went to the Anne Frank Center USA at 44 Park Place in Manhattan. What we learned was by turns, poignant, illuminating and harrowing. Dr. Robert A. Levin, Director of Education for The Center, welcomed us warmly. The New York Center was founded in 1977 by Anne’s father Otto. A group of New York survivors and other concerned people reached out to him to create a memorial that told Anne’s story.
Dr. Levin showed us a film, The Short Life of Anne Frank, narrated by Jeremy Irons. It captured the horror of Hitler and the beauty of Anne. At thirteen-years-old, she had already found her voice, even as she lived in a secret annex in Amsterdam – with eight other people in two cramped rooms! Although Anne died in Camp Bergen-Belson at age fifteen, her diary went on to become one of the world’s most beloved books – translated into more than 60 languages.
Another area in the museum was filled with I-pads, each allowing us to read different topics: from Anne’s entire Diary, to an Interview with Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who owned the annex where the Franks hid. We saw a yellow star the Jews were forced to wear. There was also a life-size photo showing how tiny the annex was.
Ironically, we left on a positive note: knowing the human spirit can soar…even in the face of unspeakable evil.
To schedule a visit, call 212-431-7993 or email: email@example.com or go to the website:
Greeter Outing to New York Historical Society
- Big Apple Greeter volunteers visit the New York Historical Society
On a clear November day, a large bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln welcomed a group of Greeters to the New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West.
The Society describes itself as New York’s collective memory, with art and artifacts that paint a vivid picture of the city’s rich history. We Greeters were eager to see the World War ll and New York City exhibit.
Our knowledgeable docent, Jeanne Pape, guided us through different rooms, taking us back in time through the memorabilia she showed and the stories she told.
We came upon a radio with Edward R. Murrow broadcasting from London. Murrow’s dramatic reporting was the start of his brilliant career. Radio was crucial during World War ll, for President Roosevelt’s fireside chats that brought comfort to all America and connected Americans to news of the war.
As America’s leading port, New York was the place where the war coalesced. After Pearl Harbor’s attack, pro-war propaganda appeared everywhere – movies, radio, magazines – even Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side created a popular sign: SEND A SALAMI TO YOUR BOY IN THE ARMY. That sign is still there today.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard’s shipbuilding was at its peak during the war, employing 70,000 people 24 hours a day. Combat photographers trained in Astoria, Queens. The formidable Glider planes were built in Astoria, too.
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia brought the war industry to New York City. Munitions and war supplies were manufactured here, giving rise to the iconic Rosie the Riveter poster. Rosie represented all the American women who “manned” the factories while the men were at war.
“V-J Day,” Alfred Eisenstaedt’s beloved photo of an American sailor kissing a nurse in the heart of Times Square, captured the unabashed joy of the end of the war.
The last room of the exhibit had General Eisenhower’s victory telegram: “The mission of this allied force was fulfilled on May 7th, 1945.” That FDR didn’t receive the telegram was especially poignant. He had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month before.
Story and photo by Bobbie Kaplan
Greeter Outing to The Grand Concourse
On a crisp October day, a group of eager Greeters met with Greeter Charles to discover the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
Starting at MacDonald’s across the street from Yankee Stadium, Charles asked us where we grew up, what schools we attended, and wanted us to share our life experiences as we walked through the neighborhood.
We posed for a photograph by the “new” Yankee Stadium, and Charles spoke about the “new” versus the “old” stadium. We admired the ornate façade of the Bronx County Courthouse, and once we were in the Rotunda, we viewed beautiful murals portraying NYC’s colonial period and the Revolutionary War.
Charles introduced us to the Grand Concourse, pointing out the architectural contrast between the ornate 1920′s apartment houses on Walton Avenue and the 1930′s art deco buildings on the east side of the Concourse. We walked through Joyce Kilmer Park and stopped at a plaque commemorating Kilmer’s celebrated poem, “Trees.”
We continued toward All Hallows School where Greeter Bobbi recalled riding her tricycle in the park. We paused at 165th Street where Leon Trotsky and his family once lived in a Bronx apartment with heat and plumbing – comforts not available in revolutionary Russia.
As we walked along the Grand Concourse to River Avenue, Charles pointed out his childhood home on Walton Avenue – also once home to Milton Berle!
Our final stop was the 167th Street station of the #4 line, where we admired the magnificent stained glass window, an example of the MTA’s Arts for Transit.
Written by Bobbie Kaplan and Charles Schwartz
Photos by Charles Schwartz
Turn-of-the-20th Century District: Victorian Flatbush
Photo by Gail Morse
Photos by Saul Row
On a steamy day in June, eight Greeters met at the Church Street Station to visit a surprising neighborhood: Victorian Flatbush in Brooklyn. Greeter of the Year, Saul Raw led us through the turn-of-the-20th-Century district. The historic, single-family homes were lavish, sprawling, 3-storied structures – with seven or eight bedrooms designed in different Victorian architectural styles. We lunched at The Farm on Adderly, devouring luscious comfort food with an upscale gourmet twist: a dipping plate with Hummus, Tabouli and slices of French baguettes, an “Adult Grilled Cheese Sandwich” with Grafton Cheddar (instead of Velveeta.) A few of the Greeters suddenly developed a throbbing sweet tooth, so they rushed to John’s Bakery & Pastry Shop. Word has it, the Oreo Chocolate Cake, swirled in chocolate frosting with Oreos inside and out, stopped the throbbing immediately!
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Back to the Top
Big Apple Greeter Outing to Hudson Square
On Friday, April 22nd, 14 enthusiastic Greeters discovered Hudson Square, a little known part of the Tribeca neighborhood. It was an area of contrasts: old industrial buildings next to modern apartment houses; wide open streets leading to narrow cobblestone alleys; antiquated brownstones across from sleek, new hotels.
Construction was everywhere, lending an air of transition. Our leader, Greeter Joan, had visited only months before, but didn’t recognize many new buildings. She took us to The James Hotel, with a grey wood façade rarely seen in New York City. This “beach-house” exterior belied the modern interior – with marble floors, a glass elevator, and white standing lanterns, known as “jelly fish lamps” because of their floppy layers.
History came to life when we stopped at The Ear Inn, the oldest bar in Manhattan. In 1817, the city had too many bars and didn’t want any more. The owners had bought a neon “Bar” sign and couldn’t afford another. So they painted over the curves of the “B” turning it into an “E.” And so, The Ear Inn was born.
Next we stopped at The Compleat Sculptor, with hunks of every possible kind of stone, marble and wood for working sculptors. Finished artwork awaited us at the Saatchi & Saatchi building, where we viewed four massive and dazzling Frank Stella paintings in the lobby.
The mouthwatering highlight of our trip was the Jacques Torres Chocolate Factory. As we entered, the smell of chocolate wafted through the air, begging us to buy. While some of us succumbed, others left quickly when the seductive chocolate-chunk cookies started calling our names!
Story and Photos by Bobbie Kaplan
Big Apple Greeter Outing to the Brooklyn Navy Yard
On Saturday, April 14th, a free shuttle bus whisked 28 Greeters to Building 92 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard at 63 Flushing Avenue. This same free shuttle takes visitors to the Yard on weekends from downtown Brooklyn subway stops.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard was once the most active shipbuilding center in our history. Closed in 1966, it went through a tumultuous period until 2007, when it re-opened. Today this 300-acre waterfront site has a vibrant community of small green businesses, artists, and delighted visitors. Building 92 is a museum that celebrates the past, present and future of the Yard.
Emilie Evans, Visitor Services Manager, said the older part of the building (mid 1800’s) was originally a Marine Commandant’s Residence. The newer part of the building has received a platinum LEED award for being the highest level of environmental efficiency. This incredibly modern building is attached to a 19th century gem – an example of old and new working beautifully together.
Adrienne Murray, Visitor Services staff member, showed us fascinating interactive exhibits that include computer access where you can find family members who once worked at the Yard, or you can go on a Scavenger Hunt to see all the latest green features, or you can travel through time with an interactive map. From the launch of the first steam warships to the nation’s first solar-wind street lamps, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been the epitome of industrial innovation and quality craftsmanship.
Be sure to sit outside and enjoy great views of the harbor, as well as the Ted & Honey Café. It serves local, organic food at affordable prices – another innovation!
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Photo by Paul Margolis
The Jewel In the Crown: City Hall Station
On a much-anticipated Friday in March 2012, 31 Greeters and volunteers took a trip back in time – to the Old City Hall Subway Station, the first in New York City, built in 1900 and closed in 1945.
We were transported to the grandeur of bygone days. The station’s platform and mezzanine had magnificent arches and skylights, colored glass tiles and brass chandeliers. Although the years have not been kind to the station, we could still imagine the elegance of the period – the wooden ticket booths, the rattan seats, a conductor attending each car.
Our knowledgeable guide, Carissa, a curator from the New York Transit Museum, shared the fitting nicknames the flagship station has earned: “The Jewel in the Crown,” “The Apotheosis of Curves,” and “The Mona Lisa of Subway Stations.” She spoke of its being the only station completely designed by the prominent architects, Heins and La Farge.
Even in the early 1900’s, advertisements in the cars provided revenue for upkeep and improvements. The original fare was five cents and it didn’t increase through 1945. Although the station is no longer in use, you can still get a glimpse of it if you stay on the downtown 6 train as it turns and heads uptown. Click on this link to see photographs of this beautiful piece of NYC history.
Our deepest thanks go to the MTA, the New York Transit Museum and to Edna Wells Handy, Commissioner of DCAS, Mario LaPaix, Special Advisor to the Commissioner of DCAS, and to Eileen M. Flannelly, Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Department of Records, for letting us visit this graceful, historic station.
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Photos by Elizabeth Holmes
Big Apple Greeter Outing to Brooklyn Museum
On February 24th, a group of 20 Greeters visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Founded in 1895, the Beaux-Arts building is as majestic and imposing on the outside, as it is warm and welcoming on the inside.
Beverly Sommer, Brooklyn Museum staff member, gave us an overview of the museum. We started at The American Collection, enjoying the amazing diversity of art through the centuries: a huge zinc statue of Robert Fulton was only a few feet away from a painting of George Washington, and just around the corner from the Tiffany lamps and vases.
Next was the highlight of our visit: The Dinner Party, by artist Judy Chicago. This monumental room-sized sculpture is a triangular table with 39 place settings, all paying homage to a mythic or historic female who changed the world. You could easily imagine Georgia O’Keefe sitting next to Eleanor of Aquitaine, even as Sappho was chatting with Susan B. Anthony. Wildly colorful porcelain dinner plates were set upon fabric tablemats, which were woven, embroidered, or sewn with joyful textures and designs.
Our final feast for the eyes was the Egyptian Mummy Chamber. The Museum’s Egyptian Antiquities span over 3000 years and are considered the best collection outside Egypt for range and quality.
This hour-long visit only whetted our appetites to come back again and spend more time among the masterpieces.
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Big Apple Greeter Social Media Workshop
On February 2nd, Social Media Consultant Denise Brown hosted a workshop for 24 Big Apple Greeter Volunteers to familiarize them with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – as well as our Facebook site. Not only did Ms. Brown give an overview of each medium, she also set up a page for each one. This way, the Volunteers could learn the process from the very beginning. She also showed them pages on Facebook and Twitter. At the end of the workshop, Ms. Brown conducted an enthusiastic question and answer discussion. Then she handed out packets of Social Media information. Volunteers agreed: the session was exciting and enlightening.
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Big Apple Greeter Outing to Eldrige Street Museum
On February 1st of this year, 24 Greeters uncovered the dual identity of the Eldrige Street Museum: It happens to be a Synagogue as well. It is also the first great house of worship built by East European immigrants in America.With the Director of Visitor Services and the Deputy Director as our docents, we were given the historical and architectural background of this breathtaking National Historic Landmark. It was built in 1807 and has now been meticulously restored in honor of its 125th anniversary.The Synagogue is a dynamic cultural and educational center that tells the story of immigrant life for people of all backgrounds. We learned about the annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival; the unusual walking tours including the home of a Jewish gangster and the best pickle shop in Manhattan; the luminaries who are part of the In Conversation Series, people like Mike Stoller of the famous Rock ’n Roll songwriting team, Lieber and Stoller, and the adored Yiddish Actor, Fyvush Finkel.The Synagogue’s newest addition — a spectacular stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans — is nothing less than “gasp-inducing” according to the New York Times.
Written by Bobbie Kaplan
Big Apple Greeter Outing to The Museum of Arts and Design
For nearly half a century, MAD has served as the country’s premier institution that celebrates contemporary art, craft and design. The seed for MAD was planted in 1942, when the American Craftsmen’s Council declared as its mission, to recognize the work of American craftspeople and the beauty of the hand-made object.
The docent, Diane Feldman, who showed us around, made our visit especially interesting. Since Dianne is the wife of one of our Big Apple Greeters, she was more than happy to give us a real “insider’s view.”
Included in that view was an internationally-acclaimed exhibition: Korean Eye: Energy and Matter – with new work by contemporary Korean artists in photography, painting, video, and mixed media.
Another exceptional exhibit was Beauty in All Things: Japanese Art and Design. Here, Japanese concepts of beauty included shizen – the beauty found in nature; wabi sabi – cracked or chipped objects that show their age; and datsuzoku – any object that suggests a feeling of surprise or fresh creativity.
Story by Bobbie Kaplan
Photos by Paul Katcher
Big Apple Greeter Outing to J&R
On December 5, 2011, a blustery winter day, about 30 Big Apple Greeters gathered for an adventurous outing at the J&R Café, located at 23 Park Row in Manhattan. They were there to absorb a little history – as well as a little food – and to get a bird’s eye view of the amazingly large J&R store and the huge variety of products they offer.
What the Greeters learned is that J&R sells everything for all electronic needs: from digital cameras, computers and televisions, to cell phones, speakers and musical instruments, to games, housewares and movies, just for starters.
These days, J&R has more than electronics: NYC tourist trinkets, mugs, T shirts, etc., an Apple store with Apple experts to answer any questions, luggage, a health care shop, CDs, vinyl LPs and a new children’s department for infants to age 12 – with clothing, toys, books and CDs to delight any child.
A convenience that is offered by the J&R Café: restrooms are available for public use.
Written by Bobbie Gold
Big Apple Greeter Outing to Hamilton Grange
On October 28, 2011, eighteen Greeters visited the newly re-opened Hamilton Grange – the only home Hamilton ever owned. The home was actually moved less than two blocks from its former site to St. Nicholas Park in Hamilton Heights. This is a beautiful section of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, not far from City College.
The architect, John McComb, designed the Federal-style country home which was completed in 1802. Today all the furnishings are from that era. Sadly, Hamilton was only able to enjoy his home for two short years. In 1804, he was fatally wounded in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
It was our good fortune to have U.S. Ranger Edward Pennell as our guide. He was quite knowledgeable about the history of the period, the house and its restoration. As an added bonus, Council Member Robert Jackson joined us and described the official re-opening of Hamilton Grange. We especially enjoyed a story about a great, great, great grandson who attended the re-opening, along with other descendants.
Story by Bobbie Gold
Photo by Bob Moore
Big Apple Greeter Outing to Governors Island
On September 9, 2011, Greeter Sami Steigmann, who is also a federal tour guide for the National Parks Service on Governors Island, led a group of 17 Greeters and two visitors on an extensive tour of the former military base. They we were blessed with a warm sunny day and Sami made sure they covered the entire island to learn about its colorful history.
Governors Island’s original inhabitants, Native Americans of the Manhattan region, referred to the island as Pagganck (“Nut Island”) and used it as a fishing camp for local tribes. In June 1637, a Dutchman named Wouter Van Twiller purchased the island from the Mannahattas for his private use. The island, thereafter known as Noen Eylant or Nutten Island, was confiscated a year later by the Dutch government. In 1664, the English captured New York and took control of the island for the benefit of “His Majesty’s Governors”. Its strategic location resulted in its use as a military facility by British and American forces for over 200 years.
The island showcases two forts, Fort Jay and Castle Williams. In 1794, with the country in need of a system of coastal defenses, construction began on Fort Jay on high ground in the center of the island. In 1800, New York transferred the island to the U.S. government for military use. Between 1806 and 1809, the U.S. Army reconstructed Fort Jay and built Castle William. During the War of 1812, artillery and infantry troops were concentrated on Governors Island.
The island continued to serve an important military function until the 1960s. During the American Civil War, it was used for recruitment and as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers. Throughout World War I and II, the island served as an important supply base for Army ground and air forces.
In 1966, the island was transferred to the Coast Guard who were there until 1996. It was the largest station of its kind and housed 3,500 members of the Coast Guard and their families and was a self-contained community. In 1988, Ronald Reagan hosted a US & USSR summit with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Many of the buildings have been restored or are in the process of being renovated. The lawns are well kept and many events take place on the island. The day of the Greeter Outing, there was a large art exhibit featuring the work of artist Michael Davis who is the step son of former Board Member Anne Davis.
As a final treat, the Greeters were given a tour of the Artists in Residence building by Greeter Karen Bell who was awarded a position in photography.
Governors Island is open to the public between May and December. For further information, please visit their website at http://www.govisland.com
Access to Public Transportation for Visitors with Mobility Issues
For visitors with mobility issues, New York City’s public transportation system is easy to use. Here are some tips to help you get more from your stay in the Big Apple.The New York City subway system extends to the outer reaches of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. Although many subway stations have elevators, a few stations have elevator access to subway service going in one direction, but not the other direction. Knowing which platform has elevator access is important in figuring out a travel plan.All New York City buses throughout the five boroughs are wheelchair accessible. Although a bit slower than the subway, you can always count on the buses to get you where you want to go, and it is a treat to be able to view the city at eye level.Greeter Julie Compton, who uses a wheelchair, recently shared these tips with fellow greeters to use when meeting visitors with mobility problems.
- Accessibility Symbol The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway map has a wheelchair symbol next to the subway lines at each stop that are wheelchair accessible. When planning your route and need to transfer between subway lines, take special care that both lines are accessible at that station.
- Mind the Gap Some stations are not considered accessible because of the size of the gap between the subway car and platform. The size of the gap may widen or narrow depending on the location along the subway train. Navigating this gap may depend on the size of the wheels on your scooter or wheelchair.
- Hidden Elevators Sometimes a subway station is elevator accessible through a store with a subway-level entrance. An example of this is the Astor Place station on the #6 subway (downtown direction only) that is accessible by using the elevator in the K-Mart store. Be sure to check the store hours when you make your travel plans.
- Go the Distance When making accessible travel plans on the subway, you may find that the best way to get to your destination might include going past your station, then changing directions and traveling back to your stop. This might be necessary to gain access to an elevator that is available on only one side of the track or to avoid construction or another inconvenience.
- Call for Info Check www.mta.info for more accessibility information, including a list of elevators that are not in service, or call 718-330-1234. While the MTA works hard to keep service information up to date, an elevator that breaks down just before you arrive at the station may not be noted on the list.
- Have a Plan B When making accessible travel plans on the subway, it is always good to have a back up plan – an alternate subway route or a bus map.
June in Jackson Heights, Queens
Greeters in Jackson Heights Garden District
Big Apple Greeters had the opportunity to visit Jackson Heights, Queens on June 21, 2011, during the second annual “June in Jackson Heights.” Sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, this initiative showcases the talents of local artists while benefiting local businesses. Festivities during the month included art shows, performances, films, historic tours and a week-long offering of specially priced menus at 20 local restaurants.
Developed in the 1920’s by Edward A MacDougall’s Queensboro Corporation, the Garden City District area was part of the global Garden City movement and is believed to be the first garden city community built in the United States. The historic garden apartment co-op buildings feature private block-long gardens or parks encased in each building. Many of the gardens cannot be seen from the sidewalk, but these hidden gems are open to the public one weekend a year, during the Jackson Heights Garden Tours.
One of most renowned garden buildings, The Towers, was built in 1924 by architect Andrew J. Thomas. Located on 80th and 81st Streets between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, The Towers is comprised of 8 Neo-Romanesque buildings that surround a beautifully landscaped interior garden.
To learn more about the history of Jackson Heights, you might enjoy reading Jackson Heights: A Garden in the City, by Daniel Karatzas; for information about events and dining in Jackson Heights, go to http://www.jhbg.org/events/events.html
Story and photos by Elizabeth Holmes
Greeter Outing to the Studio Museum of Harlem
Originally opened in 1968, the Studio Museum (located at 144 West 125th street, and easily accessible by train or bus) provides a venue for sharing the work of visual artists of African and Latino decent.
Upon arrival, the Greeters were met by Museum Education Assistant, Katrina DeWees, who spent the more than 2 hours with the group. In addition to providing a wonderful history of the Studio Museum and its’ mission and sharing an overview of the Artist in Residence program, which selects and funds 3 artists each year, the very knowledgeable Katrina led the Greeters on a tour of the museum’s galleries.
Katrina treated the group to several intriguing exhibits including “Harlem Postcards”, a series of photos capturing life in the vibrant community and available as postcards. Another exhibit featured Stephen Burke’s work creating basket lamps and tables and his collaborative efforts with Sengalese basket weavers both in Africa and here in the US on traditional basket weaving processes. Other exhibits capture a mix of artists and media and include an overview of Benjamin Patterson’s lifetime contributions, a metal works display titled “Sculpted, Etched, and Cut” and a series of “Collected Vignettes “ by several artists.
The studio museum is a compact space, interesting both in its physical layout as well as choice of works exhibited. The Greeters who participated in this experience, curious and engaged as always, seemed delighted with the morning’s tour. Many thanks to Big Apple Greeter for arranging this event and to the Studio Museum, and especially Katrina, for making it such fun.
Story by Arlene Dunn
Eat Elmhurst Week
Big Apple Greeters got a taste of Elmhurst, Queens on April 2, 2011, at the kick-off for Eat Elmhurst, the area’s first-ever Restaurant Week. The opening event took place at Elmhurst Hospital, the site of a greenmarket that will start operation in July.
Elmhurst Restaurant Week was initiated by Council Member Daniel Dromm to draw attention to the neighborhood’s wide selection of cuisines from around the world. Greeters joined locals and visitors to get a taste of some of these delicacies that included continental, Italian, South American, Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian selections. Participating restaurants offered discounts and free menu items during the week-long event.
The event at Elmhurst Hospital also included presentations by Hospital dieticians on tips for healthy eating at restaurants. Representatives from the American Diabetic Association, Cornell University Cooperative Extension and Greenmarket.org were also on hand to provide information on nutrition and healthful living.
Following the hospital exhibition, event coordinator, Celeste Balducci, took greeters on a walk around Elmhurst. The walk included visits to some of the participating restaurants. Greeters also got to see the old Jackson Heights Movie Theater which happened to be showing the live broadcast of the Cricket World Cup that was taking place in India. In celebration of India’s win, the theater operator offered Greeters some authentic Indian food that had been brought in for the occasion.
Written by Meryl Feiner
Museum of the City of New York Links City’s Past, Present and Future
The Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue and 103rd hosted a guided tour on February 10, 2011 for 25 fortunate Greeters. The focus of the tour was the temporary exhibition titled, “AINT NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING: How the APOLLO THEATER shaped American entertainment”.
Although this exhibit which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Apollo Theater closed on May 1. 2011, The Museum of the City of New York has many unique items in its permanent collection that illustrate the city’s distinctive character and diverse heritage. Among the most popular items in the collection are antique toys and miniatures. One ongoing display of miniature transportation vehicles provides insight not only into the toys that children played with but how transportation evolved over the years. Another permanent exhibition is a display of New York interiors dating from the 17th century to the early 20th century. The museum also runs a 22-minute multi-media show that follows the transformation of the city from settlement to one of the largest cities in the world.
The Museum of the City of New York is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays except holiday Mondays).
Written by Meryl Feiner
Holocaust Survivor Shares Moving Memories at
Museum of Jewish Heritage Greeter Outing
In early January, a group of Big Apple Greeters got a very personal tour of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The tour was led by Holocaust survivor, Big Apple Greeter and museum docent, Sami Seligman. Sami shared his own poignant memories and experiences as he took the group through the museum’s galleries.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage has a collection of more than 25,000 items displayed in three chronological areas; Jewish Life a Century ago, The War Against the Jews and Jewish Renewal. In addition to musical instruments, toys, documents and artifacts, the exhibits truly come to life through the extensive audio and video accounts by survivors, liberators, rescuers and others who lived through this dark era in history. Many of the items on display have been donated by families of survivors.
The Museum’s collection also provides insight and education on a broad range of topics related to Jewish culture including information on life cycle rituals and observances, the development of anti-Semitism and the Nazi movement, the founding of the State of Israel and the movement to save Ethiopian Jews.
Located in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan, The Museum of Jewish Heritage boasts breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Written by Meryl Feiner
New York’s Coolest New Park: The High Line
The weather was cool, sunny and invigorating on Wednesday, November 3 as a group of 16 Big Apple Greeter volunteers met in the Meat Packing District to begin their tour of the High Line. Led by Connie Milner, a docent for Friends of the Highline, the group was treated to a detailed introduction to one of New York City’s newest and most unique public parks.
The High Line, the former site of an elevated railroad built in the early 1930s to lift freight trains off the busy streets, was vacant and deteriorating since trains stopped running along its tracks in 1980. Many sections of the railroad were eventually demolished, with the remaining portion – beginning at Gansevoort Street – preserved by the Friends of the High Line who in 2001 won their lawsuit to keep it from being demolished and then began to plan for its new use.
Built on the remaining rail line, where train tracks are still visible among the plantings, the Section 1 of the High Line opened as an elevated park in June 2009. It runs from Gansevoort to West 20th Street and is beautifully and abundantly landscaped with various trees, bushes, grasses and flowers. Purple asters were ample throughout, creating a very rich and vibrant landscape. Connie explained that the High Line contains more than 200 different plant species, of which 161 are native to North America. There are also 24 varieties of grasses and eight different species of bees.
The High Line is rich with many unexpected experiences. Among them:
- Three art shows, including Steven Vitiello’s “A Bell for Every Minute,” comprised of audio recordings of bells ringing in New York City and surrounding areas
- Lounge chairs with wheels situated on the remaining train tracks
- An outdoor amphitheater at the northern end of the High Line, which is handicapped accessible and is the site of various lectures and other forms of entertainment
The High Line also offers some amazing views and close-ups, a bit of history, and some interesting architecture. Connie introduced the Greeters to:
- The High Line’s historical role in transporting meat, produce and other foods to factories and warehouses along Manhattan’s West Side
- The Standard Hotel, built in 2007 and the only building that straddles the High Line. The public bar on the top floor offers outstanding views of the City, Hudson River, and New Jersey.
- The arch that opens to Pier 54 and is the last remaining structure from the old Cunard Line. It is at Pier 54 that the Carpathia docked in 1912, bringing survivors from the Titanic, and from where the Lusitania set sail in 1915.
- The original home of the National Biscuit Company, where the Oreo cookie was invented.
- The modern architecture of Frank Ghery’s “glass schooner” building at 18th Street, and Nouvel Chelsea condominium, designed by Jean Nouvel and visible from a vantage point above West 19th Street. The latter building boasts 1,700 differently-shaped panels of glass.
Section 2 of the High Line, running from 20th to 30th Streets, will open in Spring 2011 and will include a lawn suitable for picnics. It will also have a flyover (ramp) that goes to the treetops eight feet high, between 25th and 27th Streets.
Connie explained that the High Line “is designed to be an adult park, a passive park…the only thing exercised here is your senses.” To learn more about this new and vibrant green space, visit www.thehighline.org.
The outing to the High Line is one of many created to familiarize greeters with New York City’s many neighborhoods and attractions. Other outings completed last fall include Gracie Mansion and unique, midtown hotel lobbies.
Story and photo by Melissa Weisstuch
Greeters Get to Know the Dazzling Diamond District
The holiday season transforms New York’s streets into their sparkling best, but there is one street that sparkles year round—West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, better known as the Diamond District of Manhattan. On November 30, 45 Big Apple Greeters went behind the scenes to learn more about this thriving Business Improvement District (BID), the only one among the city’s 64 BIDs that is a single street. There is no way to miss the district: two giant “diamond” street lights flank both ends of West 47th Street. The very informative visit, including a brief tour, was organized by Greeter Bobbi Gold.
After a bountiful buffet breakfast at the Diamond Dealers Club, Michael Grumet, Executive Director of the 47th Street BID, gave the Greeters an overview of the Diamond District and some history of this distinctive neighborhood. West 47th Street is the trading and communications center for the diamond and jewelry industry in New York City, which employs 26,000 New Yorkers. Grumet acknowledged that buying gold and diamond jewelry was a mysterious business to many visitors. He recommended the BID’s website,www.diamonddistrict.org, for consumer information, including shopping tips, the Jewelry Buyer’s Bill of Rights, and a safeguard for smart buying–the list of BID members.
Over 90 percent of all diamonds sold in the US go through New York, and most go through the current Diamond District. It evolved from earlier districts established in the 1920s near Canal Street and the Bowery. During World War II, thousands of Jewish émigrés fled from diamond centers of Antwerp and Amsterdam and settled in New York. Soon the trade became dominated by Orthodox Jews, who are still active in the business; the hats of several Hasidic sects can be seen on some businessmen along 47th Street. Grumet observed that the various businesses here, such as cutters, importers, and retailers, still provide opportunities for immigrant newcomers.
BID Board Member and jeweler Avery Weinschneider of Weisz Jewelry and Precious Stones described his jewelry-making techniques and his business. Greeter Roselyn Hirsch said, “The jewelry demonstration was fascinating. It was interesting learning more about the process of diamond-setting.” Weinschneider offered Greeters and their visitors additional insight at his store, where he will do demonstrations on Thursday afternoons (call him for details: 212/575-5817; 73 West 47 St.). He is a second-generation jeweler, and much of his business is focused on estate jewelry.
Grumet took the Greeters on a short walking tour, stopping at some of the jewelry exchanges: large rooms full of counters representing individual diamond and jewelry retailers. A front window booth in a prime exchange can rent for $20,000 monthly. Grumet advised not to buy through hawkers on the street, but to look for the logos of the BID’s Jewelry Buyer’s Bill of Rights and the Gemologists Institute of America (GIA) displayed by BID-member retailers, symbols he identified during the walk. The BID visit helped the Greeters become more savvy about the district and its stunning array of diamonds and fine jewelry. “We enjoyed learning more about the district and we will be taking visitors there armed with the impact and history of the industry,” said Greeter Jack Victor. Even if visitors are on a budget, window shopping on West 47th Street with a Greeter can be a great deal.
Written by Laurie Norris
Photo by Ruth Nordenbrook
Greeters Visit Coney Island: the Old and the New
On Sunday, June 13, a group of intrepid greeters met with Brooklynite Marianne Gennari for a sight-seeing expedition into the wilds of Coney Island. In addition to a history lesson on both the genteel and the colorful sides of the area, the group viewed the local architecture, learned about the rise and fall of the great amusement parks of Coney Island’s heyday, and examined the evolution of the hot dog and its impact on the national consciousness.
The outing included two city landmarks: Deno’s Wonder Wheel, which has thrilled crowds since 1920, and the Cyclone, the last of the great Coney Island roller coasters. After visiting Grandma, the mechanical fortune teller who has been reading the future since 1900, there was plenty of time to drop by the New York Aquarium and to feast on local fare.
Other highlights included:
- A visit to the new Luna Park, the first major amusement area to be built in Coney Island since 1962. Featuring 19 new rides, Luna Park is considered to be the first step in revitalizing the entire area.
- Learning about Coney Island’s contribution to the rebirth of professional baseball in Brooklyn. While visiting beautiful MCU Park, the stadium home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Marianne explained how to get discount tickets to the games and where to find the best seats in the stadium. The Brooklyn Cyclones are the minor league team associated with Major League Baseball team, the New York Mets.
- Enjoying a good, old-fashioned hot dog at the original Nathan’s, home of the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Greeter Tip: Go to Nathansfamous.com to join Nathan’s Coupon Club and have discount coupons emailed to you.
The expedition ended with a visit to the Williams Candy Company, purveyor of sweet treats for over 75 years; a drop-in at Gargiulo’s, serving fine Italian cuisine since 1907, and a final stop at the Stillwell Avenue subway station, the most energy-efficient transportation terminal in the United States.
To learn more about Coney Island and its many wonders, click Coney Island Neighborhood Profile for Big Apple Greeter’s website.
Story by Marianne Gennari with Lee Frankel
Photo by Elizabeth Holmes
Greeter Outing to Fort Greene
On Tuesday, June 1, 2010, Greeters met in Fort Greene, a neighborhood located in the northwest section of Brooklyn above Prospect Park, to explore this New York City designated historic district. The outing, organized by Jennifer Stokes from the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, included guided tours of Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill, and the Fort Greene Conservancy.
Sarah Farwell, also from the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, conducted the first part of the tour. She accompanied the Greeters for a walk along Myrtle Avenue, which runs from the Flatbush Avenue extension through Brooklyn to Richmond Hill in Queens. Myrtle Avenue features many locally owned businesses and has been a major roadway since at least the early 1800’s. Between Myrtle Avenue and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the group explored the historic Wallabout neighborhood, an area noted for having the largest concentration of pre-Civil War frame houses in the City, some dating back to the 1830’s, and what is thought to be the only surviving home of poet Walt Whitman located at No. 99 Ryerson Street.
During the next leg of the journey, Dave Haberer, former Big Apple Greeter Volunteer and President of the Society for Clinton Hill, in the Historic Clinton Hill District, joined the volunteers. Mr. Haberer pointed out magnificent wooden, brick and brownstone homes found along Washington, Waverly, Clinton and Dekalb Avenues. Wealthy magnates such as Charles Pratt built these freestanding mansions at the turn of the century. In 1877, Mr. Pratt opened Pratt Institute, located at 200 Willoughby Avenue. Mr. Haberer and the Greeters walked through part of the Pratt Sculpture Park that is found throughout the 25-acre university campus. It is largest park of its type in New York City and features the work of such artists as Richard Serra, Donald Lipski, and Mark di Suvero.
Leaving the campus, the group passed St. Joseph University and continued on to Fulton Street, where they were met by Phillip Kellogg, Manager of the FAB Alliance, who directed their attention to the Churches of St. Luke and St. Matthew with their many Tiffany windows and Atlantic Terrace, a low rise apartment building that is one of the Brooklyn’s first buildings to receive LEED Gold Certification for its environmentally sustainable features. Then Joan Reutershan, from the Fort Green Association, walked with the Greeters past many ethnic shops and outdoor cafes to South Portland Avenue, where they saw a tree lined expanse of Romanesque Revival Italianate brownstones all with cast iron grillwork.
Charles Jarden, Chairman of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, concluded the day’s outing at Fort Greene Park, originally the site where forts were built for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In 1864, Fort Greene Park was redesigned by renowned landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Mr. Jarden lead the group to the park’s highest point to view the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument. This monument is a memorial to the 11,500 individuals who died in British prison ships from 1776-83. Greg Rupiano, from the Walt Whitman Project, spoke of the memorial’s history, and Nicole Mitchell sang an ode written by Walt Whitman to the tune of the “Star Spangled Banner” and read Whitman’s poem My Captain.
Story by Bobbie Gold with Elizabeth Holmes
Photo by Bobbie Gold
Greeter Outing to the Greater Astoria Historical Society
On April 30, 2010, a group of 16 Big Apple Greeters met at the Greater Astoria Historical Society located in the Quinn Building at 35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor, Long Island City. They were welcomed by the President of the Society, Richard Melnick, and former President Bob Singleton and given a brief history and slide show of the area.
The Greater Astoria Historical Society, chartered in 1985, is a non-profit organization supported by the Long Island City community. They are dedicated to preserving the community’s past and promoting its future. The Society hosts field trips, walking tours, slide presentations, and guest lectures to schools and the public. They also have many archival photos and house a collection of antique cooking, household appliances and tools.
After the slide show, the Greeters were escorted to the roof of the four story building and were able to see for many miles in each direction. As it is one of the higher edifices in the neighborhood, most of the New York City bridges were visible from this grand viewpoint.
The Greeters were then taken on a long walk in the area, passing the American Museum of the Moving Image, the Kauffman Studios (where movies and TV shows are produced), and the Frank Sinatra High School for the Performing Arts. The Steinway Piano Factory is also nearby.
They then strolled through the interesting residential streets with a wide variety of architecture. Many of the homes are single and two family structures. The avenues in the surrounding area are filled with interesting shops and just about every ethnic restaurant that New York could offer.
For further information about the Society, please visit their website at http://www.astorialic.org.
Story and photo by Lynn Brooks
Greeters Visit Washington Heights-Inwood
“There is life after 155th St.,” joked our host Dennis Reeder, executive director of the Washington Heights & Inwood Development Corporation, who then went on to show greeters how true this is.
The Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods combined stretch along the Hudson, from 155th Street to the northern border of Manhattan, featuring the highest elevation in Manhattan, and including the George Washington Bridge crossing and Fort Tryon Park.
This hilly neighborhood has traditionally been home to a diverse ethnic mix, and today has a population of approximately 250,000 mostly Hispanic residents, two-thirds of them from the Dominican Republic. The area also uniquely combines “homey” residential streets and shopping, historical locations, institutions of culture and higher education, and a renowned medical complex.
With so much to see, the group began at the The Hispanic Society of America, now under renovation, followed by its neighbor the American Academy of Arts and Letters, famed for its architecture. Moving on, and reflective of the neighborhood’s diverse attractions, the group stopped at Manhattan’s oldest house, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, built in 1756; the Dyckman Farmhouse, originally from the 1600′s; Inwood Hill Park, where Peter Minuit bargained with the with the Native Americans and “bought” Manhattan Island; and The Malcolm X Museum.
Other trip highlights included the renowned Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospitals; Bennett Park; the Cloisters Museum; and Ft. Tryon Park, where 60,000 visitors are welcomed to its annual fall Medieval Festival.
We extend a big “thank you” to Dennis Reeder and the Washington Heights & Inwood Development Corporation for the interesting and informative visit, which we enjoyed very much.
Please visit the links below to learn more about some of the attractions in this dynamic Manhattan neighborhood.
Other volunteer greeter group visits in the five boroughs, during November and December, 2009, were:
St. George Historic District and Civic Center, Staten Island
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, Brooklyn
Concourse Village, the Bronx (hosted by the 161st Street Business Improvement District)
The Diamond District, Manhattan (hosted by the 47th Street Business Improvement District, http://www.diamonddistrict.org/home.html)
Written by Sally Rose
Photo by Karen Bell
Greeter Outing to the King Manor Museum
Photo Left to Right: Volunteers Mike Brown, Sami Steigmann, Bobbie Gold, Marianne Gennari, Brad Smith, Caretaker Roy Fox. Photo by Elizabeth Holmes
On December 15, 2009 six volunteer Greeters visited the King Manor Museum, an important historic landmark located on an 11-acre New York City park in Jamaica, Queens. The museum was once the stately manor home and farm of Rufus King, a Founding Father of the United States.
In addition to being a framer of the U.S. Constitution, King was one of New York’s first United States Senators, Ambassador to Great Britain and an early, and an outspoken, opponent of slavery. He resided in the manor from 1805 to 1827. Later it became the estate of King’s son, John Alsop King, who served as New York’s Governor. Since 1900King Manor has been a museum.
During the visit, museum caretaker Roy Fox presented a fascinating lecture on King’s role in shaping the nation; he also made life at King Manor in the 19th century come alive. Following the lecture, Fox provided the Greeters with a tour of the manor and a walk along historic Jamaica Avenue.
Asked about current research that may someday vault Rufus King into the national spotlight, Fox said, “I get the feeling we’re just getting started. There’s a gem in history to be polished and brought out.”
Location: 150-03 Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica, New York
Subway: E, J or Z to Jamaica Center
Train: Long Island Railroad to Jamaica Station
Story and Photo by Elizabeth Holmes
Greeter Outing to the Museum of Chinese in America
After a tour of the museum’s broad array of exhibits, lead by Assistant Curator of Education Daria Ng, docent Alice Fung gave the volunteer Greeters a guided walking tour through Chinatown, tracing the evolution of Chinese American eateries, food ways and local history.
“A jewel of a museum with a rich collection” says Big Apple Greeter volunteer Marianne Gennarie.
Big Apple Greeter takes pride in its ability to provide New Yorkers with opportunities to enhance their leadership skills. Greeter Outings expand a Greeter’s knowledge base by introducing neighborhoods and cultural sites in all five boroughs, with which the Greeter may be unfamiliar. Afterwards, many Greeters do additional research, bring visitors and recommend the sites to friends, family, and neighbors.
Greeters Visit Important Historic Site in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Eight volunteer Greeters accompanied by Isiah Hall, a representative from New York City Council Member Darlene Mealy’s office, visited the Weeksville Heritage Center, one of the earliest, historically documented owned and occupied communities of free African-Americans in the country. Established in 1838 in what is now Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Weeksville served as a refuge for slaves escaping the South and northern blacks in need of safe haven during the Civil War draft riots in lower Manhattan.
The landmark site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features The Hunterfly Road Houses, three restored homes from the 1860s, 1900s, and 1930s.
“What made it so fascinating is that it was a racially and socially integrated place,” says Big Apple Greeter volunteer Kate Sheahan.
“The tour of Weeksville introduced me to a sacred part of Brooklyn history that I was not aware of,” says Mr. Hall.
Greeter outings are a critical component of Big Apple Greeter’s programming as they help boost tourism throughout the city’s five boroughs. Afterwards, many Greeters do additional research, bring visitors and recommend the sites to friends, family, and neighbors.
Story by Janet Alicea