On the Hunt for the Perfect Shot: A Photo Walk with NYC Photo Safari


“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
– Richard Avedon

If my marriage hinged solely on my aptitude as an “Instagram Husband”, I would have become a divorcée long ago. Though I greatly admire the artistry found in photographs, I’ve never been particularly keen to play the architect of their creation or the subject of their inspiration. Much of that can be traced back to my father’s overeagerness with a camera throughout my formidable years.

So that brings me to a confession. A confession as embarrassing for an adult as the admission of not knowing how to swim or ride a bike: I never learned how to take a photograph. I’m not talking about pointing a camera in a particular direction and applying a little pressure to a button. In truth, it takes a fair amount of knowledge and skill to take a great, good, or even adequate photograph. That’s perhaps a shocking admission for a blogger, but thankfully, Lynn has happily filled that void. Whenever I’m asked by tourists to take a photo, it’s a foregone conclusion that I will gesture to Lynn and hand her the camera. “Trust me”, I always say, “You’ll want her to take your photo.” I didn’t want them to forfeit a cherished memory.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
St. Patrick’s Cathedral photographed with a smartphone

Recently, though, I finally decided enough was enough and set out to find a way to learn some photography basics in an environment that would be both supportive and fun. This is why I was so excited when I stumbled across NYC Photo Safari. They offer a number of photography tours and workshops around the city, and welcome all skill levels. We decided to join the Iconic NY (P1) tour, which explores classic New York City landmarks and locations such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and Central Park. The group sizes are small, which allows the experienced professional photographer leading the walk to offer personalized suggestions and feedback to sharpen your photography skills.

We were paired with Zim, who is an accomplished photographer with nearly 30 years of professional experience. She provided valuable tips into composition and lighting, as well as other technical aspects. She explained basics like exposure and shutter speed in simple terms, and before we knew it, we were capturing motion blur on a train pulling into the station. Lynn and I love taking tours, and we know that a guide can make or break the experience. Zim had a great sense of humor and was accommodating at every juncture.



NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Though it rained for a good portion of our tour, we had fun and learned a tremendous amount. Three hours simply flew by. While waiting out the rain, I found myself experimenting with some shots and angles. Something I never would have done before.

If you’re visiting New York City as a tourist, taking a tour with NYC Photo Safari is a great alternative to a regular walking tour (or simply hunting down the main attractions yourself). You can pick up some new skills and take home some unique vacation photographs. But if you’re a local looking to sharpen your photography skills, NYC Photo Safari is also a fantastic way to spend a few hours in the city. You can have as much fun shooting with your smartphone as your hefty DSLR. We loved looking at the buildings with a new eye (and getting the opportunity to spruce up our Instagram feed!).

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
No, I’m not taking pictures of the mannequins at Victoria’s Secret. This window is where you’ll get the reflection shot we posted above 😉
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A photo of Noguchi’s sculpture we took for our Rockefeller Center post published earlier this year
NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The same sculpture photographed on the walk with a different perspective

At the end of the day, what constitutes a beautiful photograph is subjective. But learning a few tricks and forcing a change in perspective can give you just the right amount of confidence to find your own point of view. Check out all the tours offered by NYC Photo Safari on their website here.

Pro Tip: Dress appropriately for the weather since the tours are rain or shine. You don’t need to own a camera, you can rent one from them too. Camera phones are welcome, though technical limitations will depend on your model.

Thank you to NYC Photo Safari for partnering on this post.



Pair it with:

A meal at Made Nice

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

NYC Photo Safari Walk Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Occasionally, we attempt to eat something on the lighter side. Let’s call it “healthy-adjacent”. That doesn’t mean we’ll accept something mediocre and tasteless, which can often be the compromise in such a pursuit. Enter Made Nice.

This fast-casual dining experience, from Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park (recently declared World’s Best Restaurant) and The NoMad, opened back in April to much excitement. Made Nice offers a selection of vibrant salads and plates, and a highly popular Chicken Frites dish.

We went with a trio to share: the Nicoise Salad, the Curry Cauliflower Salad, and the Chicken Rice. The Chicken Rice was underwhelming. Maybe after a decade-long love affair with Halal Cart, this was doomed by comparison from the start. I quite enjoyed the Nicoise Salad but the star of the show was the Curry Cauliflower Salad. The combination of Cauliflower Stew, Tofu, Couscous, Coconut, Lemongrass, Watercress, Almond & Grapes was absolutely delicious. I’m eager to return to try out the roasted chicken since our neighbors at an adjacent table were devouring theirs like wild animals. And you might be able to convince me to grab a cup of Milk & Honey Soft Serve Ice Cream with Honey Brittle and Oat Shortbread.

Location:
8 W 28th St

Hours:
Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Closed Sundays

– J.

It’s a Small World After All: A Visit to Gulliver’s Gate



I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures we’ve posted, but I’m kind of… petite. Height-challenged. Runty. Low-profile. Diminutive.  Short, okay, I’m short.

Other shorties know the troubles I’ve seen.  Trying to discreetly jump to reach something on the top shelf in the grocery store, then finally having to ask for help.  Searching for “cute shoes that provide height yet remain comfortable”. (An urban myth, by the way). Having almost every piece of clothing altered. And standing-room concerts? Forget about it.

Studies tell us that taller people are more successful, more attractive, more happy.  Shorter people are supposed to be less accident-prone (yay?), but thanks to depth perception issues, I don’t benefit from that advantage either.  Pretty bleak, I know.  But changing your point of view can be simple: enter Gulliver’s Gate.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Brookfield Place’s atrium, including its giant palms
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Miniature buildings call for miniature street art
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Do you see the Hamilton billboard? Yup, still sold out.



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A staff member tinkering with the models
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The least crowded Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade you’ll ever attend

Located in the heart of Times Square, Gulliver’s Gate is a miniature model fan’s dream come true. And for a petite girl like me, it’s a fresh change in perspective.  Sprawled before me in a 50,000 sq ft space, there are miniature versions of my favorite New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building.  Some newer additions to the skyline are also included, like the stunning Via 57 West building.  And miniature Times Square comes replete with its own Hamilton billboard (which we FINALLY got to see last month, you can find that post here).

For travel buffs, Gulliver’s Gate is a fun trip around the world — you’ll find recognizable structures from France, India, Russia, and more.  The project is the result of a collaboration between model-makers around the world, which leaves local touches throughout.  It’s also a little bit of a treasure map: you’ll have to look closely to uncover secrets.  Interactive features are built into the models for children (or curious adults that have trouble keeping their hands off things).  With a touch of a button, you can attend a Queen concert, or see the Loch Ness monster (and accompanying miniature paparazzi trying to photograph it), or send Santa off in his sleigh.  

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Are there miniature copies of Hillary’s emails here?
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Most of the figures in Mecca are in white, which is what men wear when completing the pilgrimage
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Grand Palace of Bangkok



Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, which is illuminated with a blue light at night just as pictured
Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I maybe look kind of tall here, right?

But it’s not just models loaded with playful features, there’s tech too.  If you want to truly immerse yourself in this fantastical universe, you could get 3D-scanned in a giant orb and have miniature versions of yourself placed anywhere in the Gulliver’s Gate world.  Want to get to the top of the Aztec ruins without killing your thighs?  This is how.

Gulliver’s Gate is currently open for previews at a reduced admission rate through May 8.  There are a few incomplete displays but there is still much to see, and if you choose to return after the official launch your admission will be discounted.  This might be a great play if you have friends and family visiting later in the year and you know you’ll be back.  The miniature universe also plans to evolve, so there will continue to be new things to discover.  Visit the Gulliver’s Gate website for additional information and to purchase tickets.

Location:
216 W 44th Street

Hours:
Daily 9 am – 10 pm



Pair it with:

Brunch at Gotan

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Gulliver's Gate Miniatures New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

We’ve griped about food choices in Midtown many times before.  We regularly cry about chain restaurants and bitch about overpriced food.  So when we find a gem like Gotan, it’s truly something to celebrate.  

Gotan is located in Midtown proper, so we’re not even sending you on a little trek.  It’s a surprisingly large space, with bar seats up front and tables in the back.  The coffee is good (they serve Counter Culture, one of my favorites), and so is the food.  And guess what?  The weekend brunch here is a steal.  You heard me, a bargain brunch in Midtown.

If you order off the brunch menu, you’ll receive orange juice, coffee and an entree for under $14.  Or order off the a la carte menu, which is still reasonably priced.  The avocado toast and the breakfast plate hit the spot.

Location:
20 W 46th Street

Hours:
Mon – Thu 7 am – 5 pm
Fri 7 am – 4 pm
Sat 9 am – 3 pm

– L.

Flatiron Walking Tour



Are you a fan of Serial? How about Making a Murderer? So are we. It seems all the best crime dramas are products of real life. So let us tell you about one that happened in our very own Flatiron district: the sensational murder of acclaimed American architect, Stanford White, by the wealthy Pittsburgh railroad heir, Harry Kendall Thaw.  All you have to do is step back in time to a little over a century ago.  1906, to be exact.

Stanford White was a wealthy, powerful man who maintained a bachelor pad”on 24th Street, just off Madison Square Park.  He was a serial womanizer, and a young model turned chorus girl, Evelyn, soon caught his eye.  White slowly gained the trust of her mother then convinced her to go on an all-expense-paid trip and leave Evelyn in his care.  During this period he drugged and raped the young Evelyn, then swore her to secrecy.  

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The MetLife Tower was the tallest building in New York City from 1909-1913. The Woolworth Building knocked it off its top spot.



Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Part of the Admiral Farragut Monument. Farragut is known, among other things, for defeating Confederate forces and taking Mobile Bay where he uttered the immortal words: “Damn the torpedoes . . . full speed . . . ahead!”

White eventually moved on to greener pastures and Evelyn found a new suitor in Thaw.  Thaw proposed to Evelyn, but her sordid past prevented her from accepting.  He continued to push, and finally, Evelyn broke down and confessed the truth.  Thaw persisted in his proposals, so she eventually capitulated and became his wife despite his increasingly unstable behavior.  One evening in New York City, prior to attending opening night of a new musical, the married couple dined at a nearby restaurant and found themselves in the company of White.  Thaw became agitated, which continued throughout dinner and the show.  So when White showed up at the tail end of the performance, there on the rooftop of the original location of Madison Square Garden, Thaw marched up to him and shot him three times in the head.

The proceedings were dubbed “The Trial of the Century” since it included all the hallmarks of such a public spectacle: Wealth. Check. Influence. Check. Sex. Check. Insanity. Check. And, of course, murder. Check. Add to all that the rise of tabloid journalism, the first time a jury had to be sequestered and the first successful use of the insanity defense, and it’s just magic.

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The Appellate Division Courthouse Beaux-Arts building, featuring historical, religious, and legendary lawgivers including Confucius and Moses.



Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Statue of William Seward, which is rumored to be Seward’s head added to an existing statue of Lincoln’s body because the employers ran out of funds

And who tipped us off to this true crime bonanza?  It was none other than Mike, our guide during the free walking tour offered through the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. That’s right, we said FREE.  The non-profit organization spearheads improvement projects, markets the area for business investment, maintains and increases value for residents and promotes the area to visitors.

Longtime tour guide, Mike Kaback, offered an immersive and passionate discourse on the history of the area and many of the surrounding buildings. Having lived in New York his entire life and worked for decades in the nearby Fashion District, Mike was a veritable trove of information. His love for the city and its rich history was undeniable, from the books he recommended to us for further reading to the scrapbook of notations and photos he carried along with him as he presided over the tour.

Free tours are offered weekly on Sunday at 11:00 am and meet at the southwest corner of Madison Square Park.  We covered the current art installation in the park here, but the tour will cover some of the other art fixtures, the buildings, and the rich history that comes with all of it.  

For additional information on the free Flatiron walking tours, visit the website here.  For additional tours by Mike, visit his website here.  

(And for more a really detailed account of the White murder, with great pictures and news clippings, visit Keith York City’s blog post about it here.  You know you want to.)



Pair it with:

Breakfast at Pondicheri

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Flatiron Walking Tour - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

As much as we love breakfast — and boy, do we! — the comfort and familiarity of the accustomed breakfast offerings occasionally feel a little Groundhog Day-ish. So that’s how we ended up at Pondicheri, the Houston transplant offering multi-regional Indian fusion cuisine.  Here, the omelet is made with “everything but the kitchen sink” and is available as a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish.  The non-vegetarian version includes lamb keema, and it promises to wake you up with its curried spices and waves of flavor. If Indian food first thing in the morning makes you nervous, opt for one of their milder options, like the Green Dosa or the Beet Uttapam.  Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are plentiful.  Why not try something different?

Location:
15 West 27th St

Hours:
Mon through Thurs 7:30 am – 10 pm
Friday 7:30 am – 10:30 pm
Saturday 9 am – 10:30 pm
Sunday 9 am – 10 pm

– L. and J.

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.

Exploring Fulton Center via Open House New York



When a girl gets married, she’s supposed to wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue for luck.  Have you ever wondered where that comes from?  According to wedding planning site the knot, it originates from an old English rhyme.  Something old is meant to represent continuity, while something new offers optimism for the future.  Our Open House New York weekend experience captured those sentiments perfectly.  We were able to glimpse back into the past with our visit to a church constructed in 1875, and look to the future with our tour of a fairly new transit hub on which eleven subway lines and 300,000 passengers converge daily.  I’m speaking, of course, of Fulton Center.

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since our Instagram feeds first blew up with pictures of Fulton Center.  And when you’re standing in the atrium of the transit hub, it’s easy to see why the images were so prolific.  The Sky Reflector-Net and the louvered glass oculus creates an effect that is mesmerizing.  It manages to conjure the one word no one associates with mass transit: light.  This, of course, is no accident.  It’s just one of the many carefully considered design elements.

Fulton Center was one of the “Open Dialogue” sites, which offered on-site talks and tours led by architects and designers.  Ours was led by Christian Hoenigschmid-Grossich, an associate at Grimshaw Architects.  He moved to New York City in 2003 specifically to work on the Fulton Center project.  (Yes, you read correctly: it took 11 years to complete.)  When Grimshaw bid on — and won — the project, the mandate was simple: ease passenger flow.  And that was no easy feat.

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC
The perforated ceiling panels diffuse noise and the circular vents bring in fresh air
Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC
The original tile faces the platform, while the new light blue tile faces the atrium

Grimshaw wanted the new Fulton Center structure to pay homage to its surroundings, blend in seamlessly with its neighboring structures, and still feel contemporary.  And having toured the facilities, we think they succeeded on all fronts.  The futuristic design sometimes made you feel like you were on the Death Star and an army of Stormtroopers was going to march by at any moment.  And yet, you might turn a corner and find you’ve transitioned into a 100-year-old building.  There are perforated ceiling panels designed to diffuse noise, which can be individually lowered for access.  The doors between the subway platform and the atrium serve the dual purpose of limiting sound as well as controlling temperature.  Each detail, from the flooring materials to the color of the tile, was meticulously considered to prolong its lifespan and ease maintenance.  Form and function marry beautifully here.

If you’re dashing through the station at rush hour, it might be difficult to take a moment to savor the details.  So I’ll leave you with this impressive time-lapse video of the installation of the Sky Reflector-Net, the sculpture that has come to define Fulton Center:

Location:
200 Broadway



Pair it with:

A meal at Nish Nush

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

Fulton Center Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

We haven’t been shy about our love for hummus and falafel.  So whenever we find ourselves in Lower Manhattan, we take the opportunity to pop into one of our favorite places to indulge: Nish Nush.  Nish Nush makes its hummus and falafel fresh daily, and the falafel is gluten-free.  We find the roasted red pepper falafel a little on the spicy side for our tastes, but we could eat copious amounts of the classic green falafel or the spinach and mushroom falafel anytime.  The falafel platter is our go-to, which comes with hummus, a selection of salads and pita bread.  And I’m not embarrassed to admit that there’s not a lick left when we’re done.

Location:
41 John St

Hours:
Mon – Fri 11am – 9pm
Sat – Sun 11am – 8pm

– L.

Exploring the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church via Open House New York



We walk through these streets every day, on our way to work, on our return home, but above the roar of street traffic, the glaring lights, the high tide of daydreaming tourists and jaded daily commuters, we hardly notice that it’s lined on all sides by an imposing steel, stone and concrete forest. These brownstone row houses, brick tenements and glass and steel skyscrapers are the trees of our great city.

The common expression is “couldn’t see the forest for the trees”, but in our case, that’s not the dilemma. All we see is the forest. So what’s it like to break the treeline, to venture into the woods, to examine a grand Methuselah up close and personal? Well, Open House New York offers an answer to that question.

Open House New York follows in the footsteps of a program pioneered in London, in which participants are offered “unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York and to the people who help design, build, and preserve the city”. This incredible opportunity is available through programming throughout the year, but also during the annual Open House New York weekend.

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

During our Open House New York weekend experience, we visited the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church’s 141-year-old sanctuary for a special feature called Restoring This Old Brownstone.  The charming and informative lecture was delivered by Robert Henn, a trustee of the church, on the challenges of restoring and maintaining its magnificent brownstone facade.

Brownstone facades were incredibly popular throughout the latter half of the 19th century, and much of that stone originated in nearby New Jersey quarries. Architect Carl Frey’s incredible design for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1875, epitomizes the usage of this famous material in one of the more unique architectural sites in the city.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Henn elucidated, brownstone is also a relatively unstable material. The stone has a layered composition and high porosity, which means it isn’t particularly suitable for the harsh freeze-thaw cycles of the Northeast and deteriorates over time with exposure to the elements. And that leads right to the core of Restoring This Old Brownstone: the $8 million restoration of the church.

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

There was a burning question on everyone’s mind throughout Mr. Henn’s discourse, which was perfectly articulated by one of the attendees during the Q&A. If the material will simply continue to deteriorate over time, why not replace it altogether instead of restoring it? Well, there are two salient considerations.  First, the cost to remove the facade and replace it with another material would be simply cost prohibitive. And second, the historic and aesthetic cityscape would be irrevocably changed. Particularly on that last note, we couldn’t agree more.

In just a few short weeks, much of the upper scaffolding will be removed. The rebuilt spire and reset cross, as well as the refurbished clocktower, will once again grace the city skyline. If you missed the presentation during Open House New York weekend, don’t despair.  The church offers an insider’s tour monthly, and on all other Sundays (excluding Easter), docent-led tours of the Sanctuary, Kirkland Chapel and the Gallery take place following the 11 am worship service. Click here for a tour schedule.

Location:
7 W 55th St



Pair it with:

Brunch at Norma’s

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC

FAPC Open House New York - Mad Hatters NYC
A picture of us at Norma’s in 2007. We both had lots more hair.

Years ago, trying to get a reservation at Norma’s in the Le Parker Meridien hotel was like arguing with a bus driver: pointless. But we persevered. I ordered some absurdly rich and, admittedly, delicious French Toast made from slices of chocolate bread (quite possibly cake) and topped with strawberries, pistachios and chocolate sauce. It’s the type of thing a younger, less refined palate would find alluring. (It’s still on the menu, BTW.)

Fast forward nine years and Norma’s doesn’t have quite the same pedigree. Reservation requests are more like a conversation with a reasonably attentive concierge. In fact, we recently wandered in on Saturday morning and waited 15 minutes for a table, sans reservations. That’s not to say the food or the service has suffered. It’s actually still quite delicious and the service is still that of a high-end dining room. I ordered the Artichoke Benny: two eggs perched on top of artichoke hearts, with sauteed potatoes and spinach, drizzled with a light truffle porcini cream sauce. It was excellent.

During the Restoring This Old Brownstone presentation, Robert Henn joked that he had to warn the congregants to adjust their expectations because after the siding comes down, the church will still be brown. It’s not going to be shiny and new. Norma’s isn’t shiny or new, but therein lies its charm.

Location:
119 W 56th St

Hours:
Mon-Fri 7am-3pm
Sat-Sun 7:30am-3pm

– J.