New York – Week Five

Reflecting back on this past week, I think I am viewing it in a more optimistic light than past weeks. Beyond the improvements in office environment I will discuss below, we got off of work early on Thursday and were given all of Friday off. Time off, especially over a lively holiday weekend, always puts me in a good mood. Work has also been improving, so that combined with having to do less of it, has put an extra spring in my step. In addition, the weather is slowly improving. Though there is still rain, there seems to be slightly less of it each week, replaced by a lot of grey clouds and small clips of sunlight. I am also looking forward to my mom visiting soon. She arrives in less than two weeks, and I am in the process of planning everything I want the two of us to do together. I love playing tour guide! And finally, I had a bunch of fun new adventures this week, as I will talk about below. I have officially visited four of out five of the New York City boroughs- the only one I haven’t been to yet is Staten Island. If I ever want to go all the way out there, I would have to plan a special trip, as you have to take a ferry.

Work was really good this week. I realized I haven’t been talking about work much recently, and I feel like it’s because I’ve been slightly disillusioned from the office until this week. Up until this week, work had been stressful, tedious and not the slightest bit boring. Filing paperwork and doing data entry gets boring fairly quickly, but this week was much more exciting than usual. We got a new intern at the office this week, and because she is helping me with a large project, I get to show her how our office works and how to perform the various tasks that are the responsibility of the interns. We also had our weekly staff meeting on Monday, so all of the staff members from both offices were up at our district office. I love getting to experience the dynamic of a packed office and the interactions between all of the different staff members who might not normally work together. It’s fascinating to hear about the jobs all of the staff members do for our council member, and how the functioning of the office is so complex. It really does take a village! All together, I think we have upwards of 25 people, including about 15 interns, working for the council member. Next week we get at least 5-7 more interns at the district office and a few more down at the legislative office. I can tell it’s going to be a really crazy summer!

As an employee, I am really learning a lot about the daily functioning of a political office, and am becoming significantly less timid about making contact on behalf of the office and in order to assist our constituents. Every time I make a phone call to another government office and they treat me with respect because I am calling from a city council office, I am resoundingly amazed. There are so many doors that open when you have pre-established political legitimacy. I can actually get information and communicate with other governments agencies and organizations in ways which helps people when I tell those on the other end of the line who I work for.

on Thursday we cleaned out our office and had a small party for the staff to celebrate the holiday weekend. We gorged ourselves on pizza and candy as we ceremoniously ripped up old paperwork which had been gathering dust in various corners of our office. We found mail from months ago and other forms from more than a few years in the past (I am unclear how this is possible, as our council member has only been in office for a little over a year). It was very cleansing for everyone to clean out their desks and I’m sure it will feel very empowering to have a fresh start on Monday morning when we come back to the office and indoctrinate our new interns.

The weather was cloudy and cold after I got out of work on Thursday, and I was fairly exhausted after all the cleaning, so I went straight back to my room to relax. On Friday I got up and went to the gym, had breakfast, and then walked to the ice rink on Chelsea Pier, about 10 blocks from my building. I was thrilled to find out that it has open skate hours on the weekends (and on Fridays), and so I rented a gorgeous pair of white figure skates and did laps for a few hours. It was a warm, beautiful day, so after ice skating I walked along the waterfront park in Chelsea. It’s on the Hudson River and has great views of the midtown Manhattan skyline and New Jersey. As I was sufficiently warmed up after being in the cold for so long, I headed back to my building to make lunch and rest before going back out again. Around 5, I departed for an evening of museum touring, or so I anticipated. I had a bit of time, and I walk at a rather quick clip, so I decided to make my way over to the Neue Galerie (the museum of Klimpt’s work) on foot. I walked all the way from West 31st Street to East 86th Street, only to find that because the Neue Galerie is free on Friday evenings (normally admission is 20 dollars), there was a stagnant line around the block.

I had another museum in mind that I was interested in seeing, and I would rather pay a hefty admission cost than stand in line for over an hour, so I crossed through Central Park to go to the New York Historical Society, which is pay-as-you-wish on Friday evenings. I loved all the amazing galleries they had there. It is a museum with a wide range of exhibits. This week, there were four many exhibits on display. A series of photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, a collection of Picasso’s paintings and tapestries, artifacts from the Revolutionary War period of New York City, and Al Hirschfeld’s finest drawings. The Al Hirschfeld gallery was spectacular- I recognized so many of his drawings, but had never known who had done them. They even had a small television playing the Rhapsody in Blue cartoon from Fantasia 2000. I absolutely love the story lines in the old film, and it was a joy to see them again. All in all, despite not getting to see the Neue Galerie, it was a delightful day, from which I was significantly worn out.

On Saturday I got up with the intention of going to Brooklyn to spend the day exploring an area I’d never been before. I wanted to walk to Red Hook and experience the gentrifying artistic industrial neighborhood along the water. However, as soon as I got off the subway in Brooklyn, it began to rain. I started walking in the direction I wanted to go, and thought that perhaps the rain would dye down as the afternoon progressed. No such luck. The rain fell faster and I spent the next half hour trying to locate a subway stop to get back to Manhattan. On the way home I stopped at Trader Joe’s and bought my groceries for the week, and then spent a few hours in my room watching tv and relaxing before going back out to watch the fireworks. It turns out that the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks are a rather large event in New York City, as upwards of 30,000 people amassed at the Brooklyn Bridge Park to watch them. I arrived an hour early, and there were already so many people on the pier that I could barely find a spot to stand.

Despite the long wait, and losing cell phone service because of the crowds of people on the data network, the fireworks were outstandingly beautiful shot over the East River against the Manhattan skyline. I managed to get a lot of great photos, and really enjoyed experiencing such a quintessential New York tradition. After the show, the swarms of people overflowed onto the streets of DUMBO, most headed back home to Manhattan. Normally I would take the subway under the river back to Manhattan, but a significant number of subway stations were not running trains back to Manhattan, so I and many others just walked across the Brooklyn Bridge instead. This was a pretty great decision, as it was a wonderfully warm night and many of the monuments along the waterfront skyline were lit up in red, white and blue. By the time I finally got home, walking about three miles and taking the subway the other three miles after getting as far north in Manhattan as Canal Street to avoid the crowds, it was 12:15, two and a half hours after the show finished!

On Sunday I slept in after getting home late from the fireworks show in Brooklyn. I reviewed my photos from the evening and then packed my bag for the day to go on another adventure. I had been wanting to get out to Queens for a while, and though I hoped to go to the County Farm, it’s quite a bit beyond the last subway stop, and I think I would have to have a trip all the way out there planned out a little bit earlier. Instead, I went to a popular park that has expansive grounds, a large fountain, sports facilities, and multiple museums. I contemplated going to either the science museum or the Queens History Museum, but I ended up just sitting on a bench and reading a book for an hour, and then wandering around. It was such a gorgeous day that, after the tumultuous weather the day before, I wasn’t eager to be inside. During my exploration of the park (a reasonable word to describe my wanderings, as the park is almost 900 acres), I found a large lake where you can picnic and rent paddle-boats. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the lake, as the water isn’t sanitary, but it’s still a nice place to spend an afternoon. Despite being at the park, called Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for over three hours, I still didn’t see all of it. The map indicates that there is another lake at the far end, as well as an ice rink somewhere farther to the back that I didn’t go. Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to go back!

Before I left, I was starting to get hungry, and since it was fairly warm, I thought it was a perfect time to get a soft-serve cone from one of the Mister Softee trucks stationed around the park. These are everywhere in New York City in the summer, and despite the overall average quality of the ice cream, are popular because of their affordability and accessibility. You can’t walk more than a couple blocks without passing one of these trucks, and as such, no one is ever lacking in ice cream. My commute back to Manhattan, or “the city”, as people in the outer boroughs seem to refer to it, was very simple due to the subway stop located a few stops from the park, and the fact that the same train stops near the park and my building.

I have no idea what I will be up to this week, so you will just have to wait to find out until I have! Stay tuned for more updates on my New York summer! I’ll post again in a week!

 

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Boats on the Hudson River along the waterfront park in Chelsea.

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Homes in Queens, in comparison to the skyscrapers in Manhattan.

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The Friday of Fourth of July weekend on the Great Lawn in Central Park.

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I caved and got a soft-serve cone from one of the Mister Softee trucks. It was impossible to resist.

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Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

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This often happens in New York. The sign claims that the 1 train isn’t running at this station because it isn’t making local stops below 42nd Street after 11:30 pm on Saturday, however, the 1 train is pulling into the station.

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By the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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By the Hudson River at the Chelsea waterfront park.

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I seriously wanted this boat. Whoever owns it, and has enough money to dock it at Chelsea Pier, is very lucky.

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Intentionally blurry party boat on the 4th of July at Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO.

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The Hudson River along the Chelsea Waterfront Park on a particularly gorgeous day in early July.

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Real figure skates for rent at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Pier!

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The lobby of the Hearst Building in Midtown Manhattan. It’s completely green, and uses recycled rainwater to run this fountain.

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By the raised subway tracks in Queens.

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People sitting on the sidewalk and along the curb at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO waiting for the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks. This picture cannot adequately capture the insane amount of crowds there.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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A line wrapped around the block to go to the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side on First Friday, when admission is free.

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Paddle-boats on the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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The Hoboken skyline in New Jersey.

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Another glimpse of what the outer boroughs looks like. This is taken from the subway station near Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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Swarms of boats stalling in the East River waiting for the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show.

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The Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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The World Trade Center lit up at night on Fourth of July.

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By the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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This guy made me want to learn how to roller blade.

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The abandoned streets of Tribeca. It is rare to find the streets of New York this quiet before 2 am on a weekend, especially a holiday weekend.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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Central Park.

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The Manhattan skyline as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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The Great Lawn in Central Park.

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The Freedom Tower as seen from the Chelsea waterfront, about three miles away.

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The ever-present Mister Softee trucks. Hard to resist, harder to avoid.

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All walks of life gathered on the pier at the Brooklyn Bridge Park waiting for the Macy’s fireworks.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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The only thing I saw on my brief venture to Brooklyn on Saturday, before the persistent rain forced me back home.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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A simply gorgeous place- Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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Can you spot the Empire State Building? Seen from Chelsea Waterfront Park.

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Hoboken, New Jersey skyline take two. Captured from the Chelsea waterfront.

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Best of: Fireworks!

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I have no idea why this is here. At Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

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