Bird Hunting in New York City: The Audubon Mural Project



Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.

I’m a city girl, through and through. Do I love nature? Sure. I’d love to go on an African Safari or visit a wildlife sanctuary. But camping out in a wooded park in New Jersey? I’ll pass. So when I say “Let’s go bird hunting!”, I’m meaning for bird murals, of course.



Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Peter Daverington. Endangered species: Bald Eagle
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Jason Covert. Endangered Species: Brown Pelicans
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Don Rimx. Endangered Species: Yellow-headed Blackbird

Why bird murals specifically? Because we have a ton of them. And it’s not a coincidence. John James Audubon, the name synonymous with ornithology, spent his final years in a large rural estate in upper Manhattan. The first bird preservation society, The National Audubon Society, was named in his honor. It’s since evolved into a powerful non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the conservation of all natural ecosystems.

The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Harlem art gallery Gitler &_____. Together they set out to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old stomping grounds in New York City. In 2014, The National Audubon Society issued a Birds and Climate Change Report, which studied how North America’s birds may respond to future climate change. It found potential impact on 314 species. So the goal is to commission artists to paint murals of each of these species to bring awareness to the issue.

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Shawn Bullen. Endangered Species: Western Bluebird and Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: ATM. Endangered Species: Townsend’s Warbler

The Audubon Mural Project is still very much an ongoing venture, with only 67 of the 314 species painted. The murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood on gates, doors and walls. Use the map above to track down all the existing murals. Just note that the ones located on gates might not be visible if the business is open, so plan your bird hunt strategically.

The Audubon Mural Project is still seeking sponsors. Donations would fund the artists and help obtain the supplies needed. If you’re interested in offering assistance, you can contact Avi Gitler of Gitler &_____.

Featured photo is courtesy of Audubon.org, Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon.

Note: This post is part of our continuing summer series on street art in New York City. Learn about the Welling Court Mural Project, the Bushwick Collective, or link to the others through this post. We promise the breadth of the talent will astound you!



Extra Credit

Harlem has an extremely rich history, and has been home to a very diverse demographic. Besides John James Audubon, its famous residents have included Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. More recent famous residents include George Carlin, Alice Neel and Moby. It’s an essential piece of New York City’s story. Walk around and explore, you’ll come across quite a few gems!

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Pair it with:

Dinner at Oso

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bird Hunting in New York City Audubon Mural Project - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Oso is a special restaurant in Harlem that captures a magical mixture of good food, good drinks and great ambiance. It manages to feel fresh yet familiar, easy yet sophisticated. The Day of the Dead-inspired wall art is the perfect find to top off a day of mural-hunting. Oso takes Mexican street food and turns it into a dining experience.  It strives to makes sure its dishes maintain authenticity by working with a family from Puebla on the menu. The pozole was delicious, and I was particularly enamored with their Pulpo entree, which combines octopus, potatoes, stewed pimento and mandarin oranges. It’ll make you wish Harlem was your neighborhood, and this was your joint.

And here’s a random fact: it’s owned by Alex Trebek’s son!

Location:
1618 Amsterdam Ave

Hours:
Lunch
7 days 11:00 am-4:15 pm

Dinner
Sun – Wed 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Thu – Sat 5:00 pm – 12:00 pm

– L.

Breaking Bread NYC: Raising a Fork and Awareness



“May we borrow a cup of sugar?”  I know, it’s a tad idyllic. And it’s certainly an anachronism in today’s introverted, disconnected world. But once upon a time, perhaps more recently than you can imagine, this concept was commonplace. You might recall recently hearing about Chris Salvatore and Norma Cook, a 31-year old actor and his 89-year old neighbor who were in the news when they became unlikely roommates (RIP, Norma). But there was a time when this wouldn’t have made headlines. We regularly reached out to those in our communities, shared provisions, broke bread together, attended to the elderly, and shouldered the burden of raising children. We knew our long-standing neighbors, welcomed newcomers and even stayed in touch with those who moved away.

I was pondering this recently, somewhat abstractly, while watching a movie on Netflix. It’s called Today’s Special, and I happened upon it during one of those all-too-frequent occurrences when I simply couldn’t find anything that struck my fancy. And I’ll admit, I juuuust about scrolled past it.

Today’s Special didn’t win any major awards. There were no flashy actors (though there were some incredible veteran players in the ensemble cast). It’s a simple, somewhat cliché story. But it embodies some beautiful ideals. It’s a New York story. It’s an immigrant story. It’s a story about cuisine, family, identity and love. And it’s a story that resonates with me, particularly in light of recent events.



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

On a recent weekend Lynn and I ventured out into the city, which turned out to be a risky proposition given the weather. It was bitterly cold, the wind was pushing us forward, backward and sideways and a hazardous mixture of rain and sleet steadily pelted us with minuscule shards of what felt like wet glass. We found no respite in the subterranean tunnels of the subway system, either. Trains were slow or nonexistent. Runoff gushed or dripped from every crack and crevice. Impatient, ill-tempered commuters milled about anxiously until they finally gave up, cursing as they wandered off. But we were on a mission of sorts, so we battled through it.

Our plans involved a map we had purchased, as the weekend approached, from Breaking Bread NYC.  Breaking Bread NYC is a charitable project with the stated aim of “bringing people together with shared food experiences through food tours, campaigns, and events”. The map set us back only $10 and doubled as a donation to local hunger relief initiatives. The focus of the map was on local businesses serving cuisine from countries listed on the recent travel ban. For Lynn and I, eating as a way of protest seemed like a natural fit.



Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Breaking Bread NYC - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The map offered nine locations in Manhattan. Happily, we found a few that we had not yet had the opportunity to sample. So we decided to hit up Ravagh and Moustache, respectively. At Ravagh, a casual Persian eatery, I went with a hearty bowl of Ash Reshteh, a traditional lentil and noodle soup, perfect for such a cold day, while Lynn lapped up the subtle smokiness of Mirza Ghassemi (a spiced, grilled aubergine spread) with warm, fresh pita bread. From there, we moved on to Moustache, where we ordered the Green Pitza with leeks, scallions, herbs and fresh mozzarella. The pitza crust was crispy and delicious and the sweetness of the leeks and mild saltiness and creaminess of the cheese was the perfect marriage.

If you make a similar donation through Breaking Bread NYC, you will continue to receive maps every Saturday “until they run out of recommendations”, so you’ll have the opportunity to discover new eateries and offer your continued support. If you prefer a more in-depth food and cultural experience, Breaking Bread NYC is also offering a variety of guided meals and food tours. Visit their Facebook page to purchase your food map and to check out all available events.

– J.

Canstruction at Brookfield Place



When I was a college student in Cleveland, one of the events my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed was the annual Chalk Festival held at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  The festival is an homage to the old Renaissance street art tradition, and participants pay a small fee for a square around the museum’s garden, a box of chalk, and a sponge for blending.  Our first year we sat around doodling, then afterwards we walked around the garden checking out everyone else’s work.  There was a scatter of seascapes, comic book drawings and personal messages.  Then we came across an exact replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night.  In chalk.

Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
In my defense, we were heading into the fall and I was really excited about Halloween.

After I got over the initial shame from my kindergarten-level artwork that, up until that point, I’d been pretty proud of, I briefly went through a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moment, and then I landed squarely in the shock-and-awe camp.  It’s always inspiring to see someone take a simple event like a Chalk Festival and turn it into an opportunity to be truly creative.  And that’s kind of where a visit to Canstruction takes me.

Canstruction is an annual competition that combines art and activism.  A group of New York Architects and Engineers came up with the original idea of creating sculptures out of canned food, then donating the food at the end of an exhibition to local food shelters or hunger relief organizations.  Unlike art that simply involves chalk and a sidewalk, the sculptures require some building skills.  Registered chapters solicit teams to compete, and the teams are encouraged to include a mentor with a physics, architecture, design, engineering or construction background.  So in addition to combining art and hunger relief, there’s also a marriage of art and science.

Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Bird’s Eye View, by RAND Engineering and Architecture
Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Can-struction Site, by ads Engineers (you think they played with Lego’s as kids?)
Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
What Goes Around, Cans Around by Gensler, with Peace by BluEdge in the background
Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Hungry Like the Wolf, by Leslie E. Robertson Associates
Canstruction Brookfield Place - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Gear Up to Fight Hunger, by Ted Moudis Associates

Canstruction has since grown to include international and youth teams.  In 2015 over 600,000 cans of food were donated through the program.  The competition encourages design and innovation while aiding hunger in communities from Hong Kong to Dallas. The displays are free, which also increases public awareness to the cause.  At Brookfield Place, where Canstruction is on display, anyone can make a canned food donation at designated drop off boxes.  All the canned food will be donated to City Harvest at the end of the competition.

Several awards will be handed out, including Jurors Favorite, Best Use of Labels, and Structural Ingenuity.  But you can also vote so your favorite sculpture can snag the People’s Choice Award.  (It’s guaranteed to be less harrowing than yesterday’s vote.)  

Canstruction is on display in Brookfield Place through November 16.

Location:
230 Vesey St

Hours:
Daily 10:00 am – 8:00 pm



Pair it with:

A meal at PJ Clarke’s on the Hudson

PJ Clarke's on the Hudson - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

PJ Clarke's on the Hudson - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

PJ Clarke's on the Hudson - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

PJ Clarke's on the Hudson - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

PJ Clarke’s has been around longer than any of us have.  It survived the Prohibition Era so that its likeness could appear in The Lost Weekend and Mad Men, and so that Buddy Holly could propose to his wife there.  But PJ Clarke’s on the Hudson takes all that pedigree and gives it a new spin.  You still have red checkered table cloths, but you now have the largest raw bar in the city, some large-screen TVs at the bar, and that view.  

The space is expansive, so much so that it can feel like it goes on forever.  (A trek to the bathroom is like a walk around the block, your Fitbit will be happy.)  It’s a New York City rarity when everyone in your office fantasy football pool can lunch together.  But most importantly, there’s a relaxed, old-school vibe here.  No one is rushing you out the door so that they can fill your seat.  And the food is nothing to sneeze at — you don’t become a staple without some prime eats.  The classic Clarke Burger is still one of the best in the city, but now they’ve added a new Wagyu Prime Burger which we’ll definitely be back for.  We’ll probably sit in the same spot, and check in with our favorite server.  It’s just that kind of place.

Location:
250 Vesey St
(located in Brookfield Place)

Hours:
Mon – Fri 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sat – Sun: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm

– L.

New York Fashion Week: Hot to Adopt with Fresh Step



Four years and twenty-six days ago, I lost my cat Felix.  Everyone thinks their cat is special, but calling Felix “special” would be doing him a huge disservice.  He was uncannily shrewd.  He figured out how to open doors and drawers.  He manipulated timed feeders into futility.  And he orchestrated cover-ups: he’d once gained access to a large bag of food in the pantry, but continued to pretend he was hungry at feeding times so we wouldn’t get suspicious.  Felix gave me fourteen years of laughter, frustration, pride, annoyance, and lots and lots of love.

I’ve never shied away from the “cat lady” moniker, but it turns out maybe I should have.  The term is often used in a derisive manner, with images of unattractive women destined for eternal singlehood attached.  So Fresh Step set out to dispel the negative connotations with its first ever Fresh Step Feline Fashion Lounge and Adoption Event during New York Fashion Week.  In a space located just off the High Line, Fresh Step and actress Katie Cassidy (of Arrow, Gossip Girl and Melrose Place fame) played host to a Hot to Adopt event, where models walked the runway in fabulous fashions and the hottest accessory in town: a cat.

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC
Our little babies, Felix and Chloe in 2007

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

The Hot to Adopt event was nirvana for cat lovers: upon entering, you could pledge allegiance to the feline race by donning your own pair of cat ears or branding yourself with a cat sticker.  Then you could head over to the Fresh Step step-and-repeat and strike a pose. As you waited for the runway show to begin, you could munch on cat-shaped cake pops or play with adorable kittens in a makeshift petting zoo.  All the while, drinks flowed and a DJ spun tunes.  NY Drawing Booth was on hand with a talented artist who could sketch a personal portrait or fashion illustration in a matter of minutes, which would then be printed out as the perfect New York Fashion Week keepsake (the original digital file was emailed directly to you).

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC

NYFW Hot to Adopt - Mad Hatters NYC
Our 17-year old cat, Chloe, perched on our, okay, HER bed

All glamour and fun aside, pet rescue and adoption is a cause close to our hearts, as both of our cats were adopted from local animal shelters. Several of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals partner rescue groups and shelters were on-site during the event with adoptable cats, each one cuter than the next.  If we didn’t have an ornery (but lovable) 17-year old cat at home, we might have gone home with a more than a souvenir!  The Hot to Adopt event has since passed, but you can still visit a local shelter and add a loving fur baby to your family.  And for those unable to provide a home for a kitty, there are other ways to contribute: pet owners who purchase select Fresh Step products can earn Paw Points which can be redeemed for rewards, or donated to pet shelters around the country.  A direct donation to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals can also do wonders.  The non-profit organization is committed to transforming New York City into a no-kill community, meaning that no dogs or cats of reasonable health and temperament will be killed merely because they do not have homes.  The New York Fashion Week Hot to Adopt event reminds us we can look good and DO good.

As part of an ongoing campaign to prove that “adopting a cat is always on trend”, Fresh Step has initiated Feline Fashion Fridays, where all cat lovers can share fashionable cat pics to be featured on their Instagram page.  Share yours and tag them with #freshstep and #felinefashionfriday.  Tag us with @madhattersnyc too, we’d love to see your pics!



Pair it with:

Dinner at Gato

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

Gato NYC - Mad Hatters NYC

If you’re dressed to the nines in your Fashion Week ensemble, and you’ve just left a feline-inspired fashion catwalk, then it seems obvious that the next step should be to head for dinner at the fabulous Gato in NoHo.  Housed in a 100-year old building, Bobby Flay’s Mediterranean restaurant serves up warm ambiance and amazing food.  You can hang out in the bar and lounge area and partake from the extensive menu of bar bites, or treat yourself to a wonderful dinner where the dishes promise to surprise and delight.  If it’s available, I can’t recommend the Black Rice with Shrimp and Squid enough.  And the vegetables are not to be overlooked: the Roasted Cauliflower was mind-blowing.  Bobby Flay’s Maine Coon, Nacho, is the official face of the restaurant.  If reincarnation exists, coming back as Nacho Flay is my number one choice.

Location:
324 Lafayette St

Hours:
Bar: Open daily at 4pm
Dinner:
Sun: 5:00-10:30pm
Mon-Thu: 5:30-10:30pm
Fri-Sat: 5:00-11pm

– L.