Sun, Surf and Street Art: A Visit to Coney Art Walls



Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.

And it’s for this very reason that Joseph J. Sitt brought Coney Art Walls to life. The President & CEO of Thor Equities felt Coney Island had lost some of the shine he remembered from his youth, and he wanted to help bring it back.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Marie Roberts
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: D*Face


Artist: Crash

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Work in progress, Artist: Alexis Diaz
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Nychos

Coney Art Walls is an outdoor street art museum that features many incredible talents like Nychos and D*Face. Instead of painting murals on a building, the artists get to display their work on freestanding walls placed throughout the space located between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. Shipping containers house food vendors, so visitors are free to enjoy quick bites while surrounded by some of the most amazing contemporary art. New pieces have been added each season since its inauguration in 2015, and they mingle with ones from prior years. The unmistakable Coney Island Parachute Jump and other roller coaster rides provide a unique backdrop for the outdoor gallery.



Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: The London Police
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Miss Van
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
When retro beauties present themselves, you photograph them! Artist: Eine
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Icy & Sot
Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chris Stain



Coney Art Walls is part of our summer series dedicated to celebrating street art in New York City. In case you missed it, be sure to check out earlier posts in the series which include:

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City

As a reminder: The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

Any street art lover will not regret traveling out here to experience the amazing public art space, which has found a home in a classic New York summer destination.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Daily 12 pm – 10 pm



Pair it with:

A hot dog from Nathan’s Famous

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Coney Art Walls Street Art Coney Island - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There’s a certain mystique to the original Nathan’s Famous near Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. Forget, for a moment, that over its legendary 100-year history it has survived Prohibition, founding family squabbles and damage from Hurricane Sandy. Disregard the fact that the neon signs are the originals from the 20’s or that it holds one of the oldest post-Prohibition beer licenses in New York. Ignore the anecdotes about the famous names attached to it, like Al Capone, FDR and Frank Sinatra. Pooh-pooh the annual July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Sure, that’s fascinating, but it’s all just noise.

Focus instead on what truly makes it special and quintessentially New York: the all beef frankfurter in natural casing. A dog in a roll. Simple. Don’t add a bunch of garbage. Just meat and bread.

Many New Yorkers will swear that even though you can get Nathan’s hot dogs all over the city and in your grocery store, the ones at the original Coney Island location taste better. There’s no science to it, but we’re inclined to agree.

Location:
3050 Stillwell Avenue

Hours:
Sun-Thu  9 am – 11 pm
Fri-Sat  9 am – 12 am

– L. & J.

 

Making a Splash: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade



Throngs of visitors come to New York City every year to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s such a popular event that hotel rooms along the route have the equivalent of “surge pricing” and still manage to sell out way in advance. That kind of fervor can only mean one thing: New Yorkers will stay very, very far away from it. 

New Yorkers who want to enjoy a good parade will, instead, make their way out to Coney Island for the annual Mermaid Parade. There is no need to bundle up to fend off freezing temperatures. (Quite the opposite, as you’ll see.) There is no need to claim your spot along the route at 6 am. The parade starts at a reasonable hour and covers a short route. It ends on the boardwalk, where the party continues throughout the day. It oozes a fun, laid-back vibe: just show up and have fun.



2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Rain or shine. And they mean it.

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

If you’re conjuring up images of Disney’s wholesome The Little Mermaid, thinking this is strictly an event for little girls and tweens, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Mermaid Parade celebrates the city’s creative spirit, providing its denizens with an outlet for self-expression. There are no boundaries, and is celebrated as such. Every year a new King Neptune and Queen Mermaid is crowned to kick off the parade. The notorious list has included Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Carole Radziwill (Real Housewives of New York City), Moby and Queen Latifah. It sets the tone for what to expect from the parade quite nicely. This year’s King and Queen were none other than Chris Stein and Debbie Harry. Yup, BLONDIE, guys. Pardon me while I scream into a pillow.

Here are some highlights from our time at the 2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Confetti bomb
2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
If you look closely… it’s a mirror selfie from a sanitation truck!



All in the Family

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Politics as Usual

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Creatures of the Sea

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Crafty

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bust a Move

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Squad Goals

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2017 Coney Island Mermaid Parade - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The best way to get to Coney Island is always using the subway. This is, in fact, one of those cases where your subway fare is a steal! Take the D, F, N or Q subway to Stillwell Avenue, which puts you right in the heart of the action. Just build in a little bit of time for the travel, it takes approximately 45-60 minutes to get there from Manhattan.

If you missed the Clamilton performance on our Instagram Stories, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. (Excuse the quality, it was shot from a smartphone on a cloudy day!)

Our summer street art series will resume shortly, so stay tuned!

– L. & J.

It’s My Party And I’ll Paint If I Want To: A Street Art Mural Party in New York City



Summer in New York City is more of a feeling than a season. Even though temperatures fluctuate wildly, everyone wants to be outside. That makes it a great time for one of our favorite activities: hunting down street art. We’ve decided to do a small series of posts on it here on the blog, which we kicked off last week with our post on the Bushwick Collective.

What’s unique about the Bushwick Collective is that there’s an active curator who obtains the necessary permits and blessings. But elsewhere, most street artists still operate under the cloak of darkness. Illegal pieces are tucked into corners and slapped onto doors. And just as quickly, they can get painted over or removed.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

In Alphabet City, we recently attended a mural party organized by Robert Galinsky. As an active member of the neighborhood, Robert observed that bare walls invited less desirable tagging. So even though the activity isn’t officially sanctioned, he’s taken it upon himself to curate the walls of the city-owned building he manages. On this particular occasion, he invited three artists to contribute: Funqest, SacSix and XORS. He doesn’t offer them compensation, just a space to display their craft.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by FUNQEST (@funqest) on

Funqest is an artist of Japanese heritage with a distinct, dynamic style. His recent murals are largely abstract faces built with colorful blocks and dark borders. But a quick visit to his website shows a large breadth of work beginning in 2013. Funqest dons a Japanese Gigaku mask to hide his identity. He works in tandem with a partner, who helps him execute his vision.

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by @sacsix on

SacSix has long been a fan of street art, but only became an active participant less than two years ago. But even within that short period he managed to capture a coveted commission for the 2016 MTV Music Awards. His wheatpaste pieces feature icons of pop culture…. and Mr. Poop. Mr. Poop is a pigeon with a recurring guest star role in many of his pieces. The “Be Great” wall is SacSix’s largest outdoor work to date, and it features notable women of color.



Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by Renee Snelson (@reneexors) on

Renee Snelson, who works under the name XORS, creates hyper-exaggerated images of shoes. But the shoes aren’t just there to promote a Carrie Bradshaw-level obsession (she’s also a talented shoe designer). The images of stilettos and high-heeled boots also speak to the darker side of fashion and the struggles women have with self-image.

Robert hand-selected the artists to blanket the block with vibrant hues, just in time for the summer. But if you happen to walk by, you may notice the new art has gone up around a couple of older pieces. One is a tribute to musician Gil Scott-Heron which locals are particularly fond of. The other, a simple wall by artist Chico that reads “Peace L.E.S”, was painted a week after 9/11. The old and the new capture the spirit of the neighborhood perfectly.

Location:
E 12th St and Ave C



Pair it with:

A meal at Superiority Burger

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street Art Mural Party New York City- Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Most people find the term veggie burger to be an oxymoron, but I’ll confess that I’m a fan. It’s a great avenue for creativity, and I’ve come across some very interesting varieties in my foodscapades. But if Justin doesn’t need to follow up a veggie burger with a “real burger”, then I know we’ve stumbled upon something good.

When Brooks Headley left Del Posto to open Superiority Burger, it caused quite a stir. He started with a pop-up, then opened his East Village joint. Lines snaked down the block, no matter the weather. Waits have eased up a little, but the vegetarian fare is still really good. Justin particularly enjoys their version of a Sloppy Joe, and the burnt broccoli side is a favorite. Give it a shot, we have a feeling you won’t miss the meat.

Location:
430 E 9th St

Hours:
Wed-Mon: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Tuesday

– L.

Chasing Rainbows at the Bushwick Collective: The Ultimate Street Art Destination in New York City



If you’re a fan of street art, then you’re in luck.  There’s no shortage of it here in New York City, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open.  (Judging by how regularly people bump into me on a sidewalk, this doesn’t seem to be as regular a practice as you might think.)  Thanks to its temporary nature, graffiti is both a literal and figurative fresh coat of paint — blanketing the city with different images, styles and personalities on a regular basis.  

Searching for street art in the city is a fun pastime of ours.  We’re fortunate that New York City attracts worldwide talents who turn our streets and alleys into art galleries.  While there are treasures to be discovered all over the city, fanatics can get a huge payoff by visiting one of the most well-known hubs where street artists go to create and collaborate: the Bushwick Collective.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Chor Boogie
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: FKDL



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Phetus88

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is easily accessible via the L Train.  A trip to Bushwick takes less than a half hour from Union Square, so a quick jaunt from Manhattan is entirely manageable.  It’s open year-round, so all you need to do is dress for the weather and bring a camera.

The Bushwick Collective is a non-profit group founded in 2012 by native Joe Ficalora, who still curates the walls in the area.  It was the natural heir to graffiti mecca 5 Pointz which fell victim to gentrification.  At the Bushwick Collective, artists submit recent work, bios and concepts for review and are awarded precious space for their ideas to come to life.  

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Louis Masai
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Oji



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artists: Joe Iurato and Logan Hicks
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Adam Fujita

A broad range of artists are represented at the Bushwick Collective. You’ll find the work of Brazilian artist Sipros and Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez.  You’ll find the distinctive signature of Austrian artist Nychos.  British pop art murals by DFace will catch your eye.  But the walls aren’t simply decorative: many contain social and political messages of our times.  Take, for example, London-based Louis Masai’s “The Art of Beeing” series, which seeks to bring attention to endangered species.  Or consider the work of Adam Fujita AKA AdamFu AKA Atoms, the creative force behind the graffiti podcast My Life in Letters. His pieces are often topical, and have included political issues like national security and impeachment.

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx



Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Gustavo Gutti Barrios
Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Straker

The Bushwick Collective recently held its annual block party, which provides the masses an opportunity to actually see some of the artists at work.  Food trucks line the streets, musical acts take the stage, and there is art at every turn.  It’s a fun event for those interested in a big, lively outdoor party.  (Follow their Facebook page for updates.) But be forewarned: it can get a little rowdy.  If you’re more interested in photographing the art you’re better off coming on a different day, when there aren’t as many people around.

Location:
Troutman St at Saint Nicholas Ave



Pair it with:

For large groups: Tutu’s

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Roberta’s is Bushwick’s most famous resident and it’s a lovely place, but there’s usually a wait.  Tutu’s is a quaint little place nearby.  Thanks to picnic table seating in the back room, it accommodates large groups nicely.  Tutu’s is the definition of casual dining, with a nice selection of burgers.  Time generally moves more slowly in Bushwick, so don’t expect super speedy service.  On the plus side, that means you won’t feel rushed out the door either.  Settle in and make a night of it.

Location:
25 Bogart St

Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11:00 am -1:00 am
Fri-Sat: 11:00 am – 4:00 am



If there are just a few of you: Arepera Guacuco

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bushwick Collective Ultimate Street Art Destination New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This Venezuelan arepa joint has a bustling open kitchen that appears to work as rhythmically as the loud music blaring over its speakers.  There are a number of creative arepas on the menu, including a vegetarian and vegan option.  The Pabellon, which has shredded beef, cheese, sweet plantains and black beans is sublime.  The Mariscada, a tomato-based seafood stew with an arepa on the side for dipping, is also an excellent choice.  And don’t miss the popular cocada, a delightfully refreshing coconut milkshake.

Location:
44 Irving Ave

Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Fri: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Sat:11:00 am – 11:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

– L.

 

An Explosion of Color: Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden



If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you know that everything there is magnified and exaggerated by a factor of 1000, and it’s easy find yourself with whiplash from taking it all in.  I have somewhat mixed feelings on the “More Is More” mantra, but one thing I remember being notably impressed with was the stunning ceiling of glass flowers in the Bellagio. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first experience with Dale Chihuly’s masterful craft.

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Chihuly’s ceiling at the Bellagio, courtesy of Chihuly.com

If you happened to read our post on Chuck Close, you might notice some parallels here.  We’re​ drawn to artists who aren’t just pioneers in their field, but who have also overcome diversity on their way there. Chihuly’s path wasn’t a straight one.  He suffered the loss of a sibling and a parent early in life.  And after he had cultivated a successful career in the art of glass sculpture, tragic accidents left him with one blind eye and a dislocated shoulder.  As a result of the latter injury, Chihuly was unable to hold a glass blowing pipe. But he refused to stop creating, and assembled a team of glassblowers from around the world to execute his vision.  Now he likens himself to the conductor of a symphony.



ICYMI – Shots from our Instagram Story on the day of our outing.  There was also a duck video.  Find us on Instagram so you don’t miss any more duck videos: @madhattersnyc

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Blue Polyvitro Crystals outside the Metz Library (AKA the rock candy display)
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sapphire Star
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Red Reeds on Logs at the Reflecting Pool
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Float Boat and Koda Studies #1 and #2 at the Native Plant Garden

Like most artists, Chihuly is constantly extracting beauty from everything around him.  The idea for one of his installations, Float Boat came to him on a trip to Finland when he was standing on a bridge over a river.  He decided to throw glass spheres into the water to see which ones would shatter. When the pieces were retrieved and placed into skiffs, he was struck by the contrast of the contemporary glass forms against old wooden boats.

Memories of his mother’s garden have also been a great source of inspiration.  It seems only fitting that his kaleidoscopic creations have found homes in many botanical gardens over his career.  The current exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden isn’t his first, but is in fact a triumphant return after 11 years.



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sol del Citrón

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
White Tower with Fiori



Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Glasshouse Fiori
Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower

In an interview, Chihuly once stated that his motto is, “If big is good, bigger is better. If one is terrific, twelve is even better.”  Like I said in the beginning, I’m not entirely sure that’s true.  But if there were one artist who might convince me, it would be Chihuly.

The Chihuly exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden will run through October 29, so that it can be viewed as the seasons change here in New York City.  Additional Chihuly programs will also run throughout the course of the event.  Information can be found on the NYBG website here.  

Tip:  If you take the train from Grand Central it’s a short 20-25 minute ride. It drops you right in front of the Mosholu Gate entrance to the NYBG. On the weekends take advantage of the City Ticket, which offers a reduced rate. 

Location:
2900 Southern Blvd

Hours:
Tues -Sun: 10 a.m.–6 p.m
See website for exceptions



Pair it with:

A meal at Zucker’s

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Chihuly New York Botanical Garden - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Taking the train from Grand Central is usually our preferred way to get to the New York Botanical Garden.  While there are a number of options to meet any commuter’s needs in the terminal itself, another fantastic option lurks just around the corner.  A skip, hop and a jump away you’ll find the Midtown branch of Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish.

Zucker’s serves traditional New York style bagels — hand-rolled and kettle-boiled just as they are meant to be — with that crisp exterior and hefty, satisfying interior chew.  Try any number of their bagel sandwiches, like the classic Zucker’s Traditional with Nova Scotia salmon, cream cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, red onion and capers.

Zucker’s also partners with many local vendors, from their produce to their pickles to their snacks and coffee.  That means coffee lovers can get a La Colombe Draft Latte on tap here, and dessert lovers can top it all off with a Fat Witch brownie.  (We are both.)

Location:
370 Lexington Ave

Hours:
Mon – Fri: 6:30 am – 7:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 6:30 am – 6:00 pm

– L.

Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Rockefeller Center



True story: a few years ago on a late December evening, we arrived in Grand Central after visiting with some friends in Connecticut.  We needed to pick up desserts for a friend’s party and Bouchon Bakery was a favorite, so we thought we’d make a quick run to Rockefeller Center.  Well, we collided with the holiday-loving mob, and it took us an hour to navigate the tiny Plaza.  So now, like all other New Yorkers (well, except Mary Lane at New York Cliche), we avoid Rockefeller Center in December.  

Unless it’s late in the season and/or it’s late at night, and it looks like this.

But, now that the holiday madness has subsided, Rockefeller Center is actually a great place to visit.  Come for the skating rink, the television show tapings or Top of the Rock.  But stay for the history, design and amazing art.



Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The center was one of the most ill-timed projects imaginable: it commenced shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, requiring John D. Rockefeller Jr. to self-finance the project after initial plans were thwarted.  It supported the local economy through the worst parts of the Great Depression, and buoyed spirits when it officially opened in 1933.  The skating rink was originally a temporary installation —  thanks to exciting innovations that finally allowed for artificial outdoor ice skating — to draw attention to the sunken plaza.  It’s been a midtown fixture since 1936.  And Rockefeller Center also played an essential role in World War II efforts, housing operations for both the British and Allied Intelligence.  On Navy Day in 1945, thousands visited the Observation Roof to view the return of the fleet on the Hudson River.

The Art Deco movement was well underway and still massively popular at the time of construction.  The buildings are still landmark examples of the style.  The distinguishing features include simple, clean shapes, geometric ornamentation and unusually varied, often expensive materials.  

And let’s talk about the art.

When I see the gilded cast bronze sculpture of Prometheus, it’s hard not to hear the 30 Rock theme song.  (Or hear Kenneth’s voice).  And impressive as it may be, there are other pieces all around that are equally deserving of some time and attention.  Here are some of my favorites:

Atlas

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Lee Lawrie’s sculpture is the largest one at Rockefeller Center.  It depicts the Ancient Greek Titan condemned by Zeus to stand at the edge of the Earth and hold up the sky on his shoulders.  With its position facing St. Patrick’s Cathedral, some have compared it to Jesus carrying a cross on his back.  

Wisdom

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Another magnificent piece by Lee Lawrie graces the entrance of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or the Comcast Building. The figure presides over a biblical quote from the book of Isaiah which reads, “Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.”  



News

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

News sits above the entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza and depicts five reporters.  (The building was previously home to the Associated Press.)  It’s Isamu Noguchi’s only stainless steel work.  It was a catalyst for his fame, as he was relatively unknown at the time of the unveiling.

Industry and Agriculture

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

At One Rockefeller Plaza, you’ll find two figures: one holds a shovel while the other holds a scythe. Carl Paul Jennewein’s figures symbolize industry and agriculture, which were seen as the roots of prosperity in America.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The stunning murals by Catalan artist Jose Sert which chart American progress, and the touching portrayal of St. Francis of Assisi with Birds are some of the other inspiring works of art in the area.  Rockefeller Center offers guided tours if you’re interested in more in-depth coverage.  But just strolling around and uncovering the wealth of treasures is a fun way to remind ourselves why the area attracts millions of visitors every year.



Pair it with:

The Halal Guys

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Rockefeller Center - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We’ve been going to the Halal Guys longer than we care to admit.  Every time we visited New York City, this was a required stop (usually for a late night supper).  Back then you had to be in the know: the cart switched hands during the day, so the legit crew was only available at certain hours.  

Well, our continued patronage (and that of so many others) has paid off in spades.  Now the Halal Guys have multiple carts, a brick-and-mortar location, and a rapidly growing international empire.  But the value and quality remains untouched (the price has only gone up one dollar since we started coming here).  We still crave the magical combination of meat, rice, lettuce, pita and that WHITE SAUCE.  If you’re in the area, join the legions of fans perched on every available bench, stoop, and statue base.  They’re the ones hunched over, completely entranced by their steamy platters.

Multiple locations

– L.

Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays



Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City.  The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring.  Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here. 

Here are some highlights from the same route we shared in last year’s post:

Bloomingdale’s:

Bloomingdale’s windows feature the work of visual artists who created one-of-a-kind chandeliers based on the word “light”, which is their holiday campaign theme. The chandeliers will be auctioned off to benefit the Child Mind Institute.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Brilliant by Susanne Bartsch
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Moon Glow by Abby Modell
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Sparkle by Allison Eden




Barneys New York:

Barneys unveiled the Love Peace Joy Project with windows featuring the work of well-known artists and celebrities.  “Our intention was to take the theme of Love Peace Joy and filter it through the eyes of five extraordinary, creative people,” Creative Director Dennis Freedman said of the project.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist Collective Studio Job
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Contemporary artist Rob Pruitt
2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
And of course, Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Bergdorf Goodman:

Bergdorf’s theme, Destination Extraordinary, is a compelling collection in shades of green from rich emeralds to leafy tones.  The windows depict a dreamlike itinerary of lush locales, unexpected landscapes and verdant gardens.  According to David Hoey, Senior Director of Visual Presentation, “The windows are like magical realist versions of natural history museum dioramas.”

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog




Saks Fifth Avenue:

Saks Fifth Avenue chose the delectable theme Land of 1000 Delights, tempting all passersby with windows filled with candy-colored decor.  The festive windows draw a parallel between the sweet childhood temptations and the luxe store offerings that grace many an adult wish list.

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas weekend with loved ones!

– L. and J.

 

Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden at the New York Botanical Garden



If you follow us on Instagram, you might have caught whiff that I’m heading on a trip to Japan.  My family lives half a world away so we try to meet up somewhere we can all have a fun vacation, and this year we agreed on Kyoto.  I’ll spare you the ugly details on how many WhatsApp messages it actually took for all of us to reach a consensus — we’re one of those weird families that’s not remotely alike.  (Truth be told, my older brother is still wishing we were headed to a beach.)  

The workaround with our diverse family usually involves large swaths of time in the schedule that are “open”.  During those periods we split up and do whatever our hearts desire.  I have no doubt I will spend many of my open slots dining solo: my family isn’t quite as food-obsessed as I am, and for God’s sake, I’ll be in Japan.  I’ll want to eat every fifteen minutes!  My parents will likely find themselves in many of the gardens Kyoto has to offer, as they have long been fans of horticulture.

Serendipitously, on a recent visit to the New York Botanical Garden, the exhibition that occupied the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory was NYBG’s annual Kiku exhibition.  (As an aside, the Victorian-style stunner is one of our favorite buildings.)

Kiku, which means chrysanthemum in Japanese, is a flower that has been long revered in Japanese culture.  Kiku has been said to embody the idea of perfection, and is also viewed as a symbol of the sun. It’s featured in the Imperial Seal and the Japanese emperor sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne.  The art of growing and training the flowers is a dying tradition in Japan, so the long-standing alliance between the New York Botanical Garden and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo has been mutually beneficial.  Shinjuku Gyoen trains NYBG staff so that the craft lives on and enjoys worldwide attention.



Kiku NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kiku NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Kiku NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kiku NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Kiku NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

What’s unique to the art of kiku is that there’s a repetitive process of “pinching” that takes place over several months.  So there is a lot of trial and error — and a lot of contingency planning.  My inner control freak goes berserk at the thought of it.  The preparation for the annual Kiku event begins 11 months prior!  It’s the kind of contradiction I find synonymous with Japanese arts: they always manage to make something so complex seem so effortless.  And the lack of tension allows us to feel a sense of calm.

One of my chores as a child was to water the plants in my parents’ garden.  I had no appreciation for it then, and the idea of cultivating a garden still holds no appeal for me today.  I’ve always assumed the green thumb just skipped a generation.  But as often as I find myself at the New York Botanical Garden, I wonder if that’s still true.  I may not have inherited my parents’ gardening skills, nor the patience to pursue it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve inherited their love and admiration for the craft. 



Pair it with:

A Japanese-inspired meal at Hudson Garden Grill

Husdon Garden Grill NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Husdon Garden Grill NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Husdon Garden Grill NYBG - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We’ve already covered the Hudson Garden Grill, because it’s quite simply the best option for a meal if you happen to be at the New York Botanical Garden.  And it’s not the kind of meal that you settle for out of convenience, either.  To further prove the point, while the Kiku exhibition was running at the New York Botanical Garden, the Hudson Garden Grill offered a Japanese-inspired menu in tandem.  The $35 prix-fixe lunch offered appetizers like a Hamachi salad and a Wagyu Beef entree.  Pictured here are the Avocado Roulade appetizer, the Miso Glazed Cod entree and the Black Truffle ice cream dessert.  It was an enjoyable, immersive experience that served to showcase how nimble the eatery truly is.  We’re looking forward to more themed menus to come.

Hours:
Tuesday–Friday:
Lunch served 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Bar service, coffee, and lights snacks 3–6 p.m.
Weekends and Select Mondays:
Full menu served 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

– L.

Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Battery Park



Every once in awhile, Conde Nast Traveler or some other travel magazine will publish an article on “How To Not Look Like a Tourist”.  And without fail, it leads to a spirited discussion in the comments section and on social media.  It’s not difficult to understand this ambivalence towards tourists.  New York City received approximately 58 million visitors last year, and locals simply have to accept that it’s a part of city life.  Yes, you’ll encounter those five tourists who decide to walk side-by-side and take up an entire sidewalk. But 2014 statistics show that visitors generated a record $61.3 billion in overall economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism related jobs and $21 billion in wages.

Personally, I’ve never shied away from the label and all its connotations.  So I get excited about visiting somewhere new.  And maybe I don’t look like I fit in.  Isn’t that part of the experience?  There’s a different energy buzzing inside you when you first embark on uncharted territory.  Your senses are heightened, ready to devour everything you encounter.  And so I shamelessly wander, camera in hand.  There are certain areas in New York City that feel like designated tourist spots which locals avoid like the plague, but I think it’s fun to visit them every now and then.  It can be invigorating to play tourist in your town, and we did just that recently at Battery Park.

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park is mainly used as an access point for visits to the Statue of Liberty, as there are several water transportation options that can ferry you to the island or around it.  However, even if you choose to stay rooted on land, you won’t find yourself scrolling through Instagram out of boredom.  Steeped in history, Battery Park is a treasure trove of monuments, memorials and just fun sights.  It’s an excellent locale for a lovely stroll on any given morning, with its well-kept grounds and unparalleled waterfront view.

Here are a few highlights:

The Sphere

sphere_before_sept_11
Image courtesy of Wikipedia: The Sphere prior to 9/11

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

The Sphere is actually a piece salvaged from the original World Trade Center. According to this fascinating article from 2001, the World Trade Center’s architect, Minoru Yamasaki, was heavily influenced by Islamic architecture and design.  Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca’s courtyard — a circular pattern anchored by a sculpture and fountain, capped by two minarets.  And thus, the original World Trade Center embodied the marriage of Western and Islamic cultures that could have made it a prime target for the attacks.  After 9/11, the sculpture was recovered with minimal damage.  The original sculptor, Fritz Koenig, oversaw the creation of a new base so that the piece could find a second life as a memorial.  It is now located in Battery Park as a temporary art installation.

World War II East Coast Memorial

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

This memorial commemorates soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guardsmen, merchant marines and airmen who met their deaths in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.  Its axis, marked by the statue of a bronze eagle, is oriented to the Statue of Liberty.  Two rows of four gray granite pylons flank each side of the eagle and contain the name, rank, organization and state of each of the 4,611 missing in the waters of the Atlantic.

Seaglass Carousel

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

The Seaglass Carousel pays homage to the first New York Aquarium, which was located in Battery Park from 1896 to 1941.  Unlike most carousels, this one doesn’t revolve around a center pole.  Instead, it’s shaped like a nautilus.  Thirty fiberglass fish (designed after actual fish species) rotate thanks to four turntables located beneath the floor.  Clever LED lighting seeks to replicate the bioluminescence of being underwater.  It’s a visually enchanting experience, and definitely worthy of both a daytime and evening visit.

Not only has The Battery Conservancy done a phenomenal job restoring and maintaining Battery Park, it’s also documented much of the process.  Click through the slideshow below to see its transformation through the years.  Tourist attractions draw crowds for a reason, and I think it’s worth reminding ourselves why Battery Park is one of them.




Pair it with:

A meal at Lox

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

As you walk west on Battery Place towards the World Trade Center, you’ll come across the Museum of Jewish Heritage.  Pop inside and head to the second floor where their cafe, Lox, is located.  (No museum admission is required.)  As you might expect, you’ll find a selection of Jewish and Russian fare here, from blintzes to babka.  But what’s really worth visiting for, as the name suggests, is the cured fish.  

Chef and owner, David Teyf, actually has Japanese culinary training, which one can glean from the clean aesthetic of the cafe as well as his expert knowledge of fish.  He currently offers five different lox specialties, with an eye to expand the menu further.  The Signature House Lox paired perfectly with a bagel, while the Double Smoked Lox was deliciously complex and amazing with eggs.  We also sampled the other flavors and found the Grapefruit & Gin Lox so refreshing that we took some home with us for later.  If you’re a fan of lox, or contemporary spins on a classic, a visit to this cafe is a must.  We’ll definitely be returning just to discover the interesting new flavors he’ll concoct.

Location:
36 Battery Place

Hours:
Sunday-Tuesday, Thursday 10 A.M. – 5:45 P.M.
Wednesday 10 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Friday 10 A.M. – 5 P.M. Now through November 4, 2016
Friday 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. November 11, 2016 through March 10, 2017

– L.

Brew at the Zoo: Halloween at the Bronx Zoo



You’re waiting on a crowded subway platform.  The MTA has announced service interruptions.  You’ve read the notices, and you’re pretty sure you know where you’re going.  So you wait.  And wait some more.  You peer down at your phone.  And pace.  Until rage begins to snake its way through your veins like morphine through an IV.  Twenty minutes passes, and you can feel that flicker of madness barreling toward you down the dark tunnel of your mind, when, finally, a train arrives.  Slowly, in a drunk’s lurching, stumbling, stagger, it draws to a screeching stop at the platform. The cars are packed, tight as sardines, a mass of arms and heads and hands.

You realize there is no room in the car in front of you.  The idea of waiting an unknown period of time for another train — with no promise of a better situation — sends you into a panic. In a frenzy, you run along the row of cars, searching for one with just enough room for you and your companion to fill a space.  You see it, and charge through the door just as it closes.  And in less than a second, the nauseating odor hits you.  Cue the music, then fade to black.  

“The Empty Car at the End of the Train” is just one of the many real-life horror movies New Yorkers can find themselves in.  (“Rent Hike” is another one.)  So what do people do in a city where scary stuff is a way of life?  They adopt Halloween as their holiday and celebrate the heck out of it.  We were scrolling through the endless list of parties and events around town when we stumbled across Brew at the Zoo.

Brew at the Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Not to be confused with Boo at the Zoo which runs on weekends in October, Brew at the Zoo was the first-ever adults-only Halloween celebration at the Bronx Zoo.  Included in the ticket was a 5 oz. commemorative beer mug which gave you access to unlimited beer samplings from over 40 different breweries.  Food trucks were on hand to make sure you had something in your tummy to soak up all the alcohol.  There was music, a photo booth, and a costume contest.  And best of all, some of the zoo exhibits were open.  

The weather for the outdoor event couldn’t have been more perfect.  We had another unseasonably warm evening, so we were able to comfortably perch on benches around the zoo as we noshed on our lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster.  Luke’s was in good company: among the other food vendors was Coney Shack, who was the Rookie of the Year Vendy Award winner last year.  They offer Southeast Asian-style tacos and hot dogs, and our trio of tacos were excellent.  We were also pleased to find Arthur Avenue represented.  Greco’s, whose owner notoriously won a Throwdown! With Bobby Flay, set up shop to serve subs and pizzas.  (The pizza oven was located in the back of a van.  Camping will never be the same again.)  There was also an indoor VIP Glow-In-The-Dark party, which might have been a good investment had the weather not cooperated.

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

You couldn’t really beat watching lemurs hop around, or catching the adorable Fossa wide awake, but Brew at the Zoo was not without its challenges.  Most of the night was spent in line for a very small amount of beer.  (Perhaps this was a carefully orchestrated failsafe on the organizer’s part.)  And the long waits for the food vendors suggested they could have had a few more of those as well.  As with any event where people are dressed up and getting their drink on, things got a little more rowdy as the evening went on.  But overall, the beautiful grounds at the Bronx Zoo provided a fun Halloween evening for food lovers, beer lovers, animal lovers and any combination thereof.

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC
Leaping lemurs!
Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC
The wide-awake Fossa, which is related to the mongoose family but has a cat-like resemblance

Frankly, the only scary thing about Brew at the Zoo was the awful 90s cover music.  Oh, and maybe this guy:

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Halloween!  We’d love to hear what you did and/or who you went as.  You can find us on Instagram, G+ and FB – or you can just send us an email.  Thanks for reading!

Brew at the Bronx Zoo - Mad Hatters NYC

– L. & J.