My love affair with New York City started out as a long-distance relationship filled with whirlwind visits, teary goodbyes and months of longing in between. As my feelings for it grew deeper, the distance became unbearable and the decision to close the geographical gap became inevitable. Once we were no longer apart, I endeavored to explore it more deeply, anxious to unearth all its secrets. I was enthralled by its charms and blind to its flaws. But alas, time is no friend to commitment. Adorable quirks began to turn into grating annoyances. Fortunately, New York City is a savvy lover: it realizes when it’s been too trying, too needy, too demanding. So it does something special to remind you how great it is. This past Saturday it pulled a little velvet box out of its pocket and gave me Summer Streets.
Summer Streets is an annual tradition in New York City which follows in the footsteps of other major metropolises like London and Paris. On three consecutive Saturdays almost seven miles of road running through the heart of the island — from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park — becomes car-free so that residents and visitors alike can play, walk, run and bike. Between the hours of 7 am to 1 pm participants can safely traverse as much or as little of the path as they choose, and multiple rest stops — sponsored by some of the city’s biggest corporate residents — are strategically placed along the route to provide a variety of entertainment and refreshment options.
During Summer Streets one could choose to zoom down a 30-foot-high zip line at the Uptown Rest Stop or slide down a 300-foot water slide at the Foley Square Rest Stop (note that registration is required for both of these wildly popular events), but those of us with a little less appetite for adventure can simply stroll along the route and take in the amazing architecture and public art along the way.
You can enjoy Tom Friedman’s “Looking Up” on 53rd Street unencumbered by the usual mess of traffic rushing by on Park Avenue. The 33.3-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture depicts a quasi-human figure gazing up to the heavens, which can serve as an always-welcome reminder of how infinitesimal we (and perhaps our problems) are.
Also not to be missed is Jean Dubuffet’s “Welcome Parade”, which is on display in front of the Seagram Building. The piece is from his Hourloupe cycle, with which the artist sought to create “some wonderland or grotesque object or creature, while at the same time … evok(ing) something rumbling and threatening with tragic overtones.” Dubuffet is known for his flattened three-dimensional sculptures, which he referred to as “drawings which extend and expand in space.” Dubuffet’s work has found temporary homes in New York City several times, and “Group of Four Trees” commissioned by David Rockefeller and completed by Dubuffet in 1972 can still be viewed at the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza.
Drink in the intricate Byzantine Revival design of St. Bartholomew’s (more affectionately known as St. Bart’s) Episcopal Church, a jewel completed in 1930. Enjoy the clock and the sculptures over the entrance of the Beaux-Arts Helmsley building as you travel the through Park Avenue viaduct. Emerge to admire the Grand Central Terminal facade facing 42nd Street where you’ll find “Glory of Commerce”, a sculptural group by Jules-Félix Coutan featuring Hercules, Minerva and Mercury, unveiled in 1914. Admire the gorgeous granite, multi-hued brick and colorful terra cotta facade of the Pershing Square building which features Northern Italian motifs including round-arched windows and tiled hipped roofs. And that’s only half the route.
Mignon McLaughlin said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” New York City, you had me at hello.
Summer Streets will continue on August 13 and August 20. Visit the official website to see all the different organizations participating on the day of your visit.
Pair it with:
Brunch at Two Hands Cafe
As you close in on the SoHo rest stop, you’re likely to be distracted by the bevy of food options around you, and if your tummy is anything like mine, it’ll start to rumble. Loudly. So wander off the path eastwards on Broome Street towards Mott until you come across a hidden gem called Two Hands Cafe. It might seem like we’re heavily favoring Australian food on this blog when you consider the food pairings on this post and this post, but the fare just seems most likely to feel refreshing on a sticky summer day, but also rewarding after you’ve clocked some miles. We have yet to tire of the Avo Toast with its chili flakes and olive oil as pictured above, but the Corn Fritters is another Australian dish that manages to feel wholesome and sinful at the same time. But first, coffee.
164 Mott St
Kitchen closes at 5pm