Month: August, 2006

Your Arsenal

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006 | All Things

The Young Friends of The New-York Historical Society arranged a private tour of the Central Park Arsenal at 64th Street, off Fifth Avenue — not to be confused with the nearby Park Avenue Armory. It is the second oldest structure in the Park (the oldest being the Blockhouse at the north end), built between 1847 and 1851 as a munitions supply depot for New York State’s National Guard, and actually predates the Park’s existence. It was designated an official New York City landmark in 1967.

Architect Martin E. Thompson designed the building, originally stuccoed, to resemble a medieval fortress. Over the past century and a half, the Arsenal has survived periods of neglect, and been employed as an armory, a museum (in fact, the precursor to the American Museum of Natural History), the Municipal Weather Bureau, the 11th Police Precinct, and a Gallery of Art. It also served as a makeshift zoo until 1871 (after which the interior cages were moved outside for safety and olfactory reasons) and is currently home to New York City Parks & Recreation, the Central Park Administrator, the City Parks Foundation, the Historic House Trust, the New York Wildlife Conservation Society, the Parks Library and the Arsenal Gallery.

Central Park Arsenal

The two-story Arsenal lobby murals, depicting scenes of old New York, a montage of park scenes and troops in military formation, were painted in the mid-1930s as part of the federal works program under the direction of artist Allan Saalburg.


The crown jewel of the Arsenal is the “Greensward Plan” — the original blueprint for Central Park submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux — which hangs on the wall of a third floor conference room. Interestingly, the original plan predated the Manhattan street grid system and extended only to 96th Street. This detail shows the location where Conservatory Water (better known as the Model Boat Pond) now sits. The original design proposed a conservatory (which gives the pond its name) and flower garden. Ground was broken for the project, but funding fell through, and the large, dug hole was reconfigured for its current use.

Plan detail

The other highlight of the tour offered access to the Arsenal rooftop and its views — generally not accessible to the public, but available for private event rental, though not advertised as such. One of the quirks of the Arsenal’s current use — and a testament to the preciousness of Manhattan commerical real estate — is the conversion of the corner turrets into individual office space. Notice the mounted silver box outside for interoffice mail delivery.

Arsenal Rooftop

Arsenal Rooftop

Arsenal View

Above the main rooftop, there is actually one more half level, accessible only by metal ladder. No offices there, but those few who make the trek are rewarded by spectacular views and are entitled to sign the official New York City ledger mounted on one of the edges.

Arsenal View


Afterwards, we returned to the Arsenal Gallery for a wine and cheese reception among the photographic exhibit of New York City’s WPA pools.

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Courtyard Cocktails at The New School

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Events

100 degree temperatures recorded at LGA today. Another scorcher of a day, another train delay. This time, I was stuck on the 2, inside the Fulton Street station – subway doors open, air conditioner churning ineffectually – for over twenty minutes before the conductor sent everyone off the train. Half an hour to travel three blocks from my office — thanks, MTA. In related news, the Straphangers Campaign released their 8th annual “State of the Subways” Report Card this week. This year, the 2 train tied with the C for the cleanest line (come to think of it, my car was pretty clean – just, you know, not moving ), but the group’s “MetroCard Rating” estimated the worth of a ride on the 2 at $1.00, $1.05 for the 3 and $1.10 for the 9 – yay, West Side.

Face flushed and running late, I arranged to meet SYB (and our CSA vegetables) down the block from where The New School was hosting their Courtyard Cocktail Party. The air-conditioned lobby offered sweet relief, and we hung back a bit, drinking in the cool before powering through to the courtyard where the festivities were taking place. A singer and his accompanist were set up and performing a repertoire of standards, much to the enchantment of one young blond in particular, who was focused on the singer with an intense, laser-like stare and mouthing along with him to every lyric of Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” Hmm.


New School party

The New School building at 66 West 12th Street was the last major New York City structure designed by Joseph Urban, who two years earlier had planned the International Magazine Building, out of which now emerges Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower.

Attendees were crowded around the food tables, and although the focaccia sandwiches did look good, it was just too hot to attempt jockeying for position. I satisfied myself with the chilled rosé, and managed to snag a prettily iced chocolate cupcake off one of the silver trays being whisked around.

We collected our goody bags and headed over for dinner at DoSirak on 13th Street.

In its previous incarnation, this charming, casual spot was “Hero’s Sweet Potatoes” – a Japanese fast-food snack spot with a menu entirely devoted to dishes made with a Japanese variety of yellow-fleshed sweet potato. I had gone in a few times, and gotten to know a little bit about the owner, Hirokazu Sakai. The first time I visited, Hiro (Hero), a Japanese native, explained to me the inspiration behind his restaurant’s concept: growing up, he had always admired the success of McDonald’s fast food and sought to replicate it “with a Japanese twist.” By his reckoning, “Americans love sweet and Americans love potatoes. So… sweet potatoes!” Who’s to argue? I smiled politely, and ordered another sweet potato with peanut butter to go. He seemed to need the business. Six months later, Hiro reportedly ran into visa troubles and the place was shuttered.

The new owner kept the Asian theme and now churns out simple, home-cooked Korean fare. I enjoyed my tasty bulgogi bibimbap topped with a poached “hand-gathered Knoll Crest egg,” but was less impressed with the kimchijeon (kimchi pancake) appetizer, which I found a bit too salty, and not as spicy and flavorful as I would have liked.



Incidentally, after dinner, we passed the singer from the New School party on the street with a blonde, who was not the would-be groupie. Popular boy!

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