New York City

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The Big Apple! New York is one of the most famous cities in the world, with so many landmarks it is instantly recognisable, and its fame has been heightened by all the television and film based there, and the various high profile events which have taken place throughout its history. It is the most populous city in the United States and is divided into the five boroughs of Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten and Manhattan. There are not many travellers who go to the United States without going through New York, it is a magnet for tourism with so much to do and see that nobody could possibly be disappointed with their trip.

My own New York experience took place for a week in Easter 1992 and a couple of days in June 2001. In '92 we stayed for a week on 9th Avenue 57th Street at the Days Inn which was a dump, and we saw as many of the famous sights as we could, starting at the top of the list and working our way down. In 2001 I stayed in the Upper West Side at the American Youth Hostel at 103rd and Amsterdam, and another hostel nearby called "Jazz On the Park". I spent most of the time marching the canyon-like streets seeing what I could see, and generally enjoying the atmosphere of the city. As I was skint, the only touristy things that I did were the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. Unfortunately my photos from both occasions are rubbish, so please excuse the bad quality!

Oh say can you see..!

Just before they docked at Ellis Island, newcomers to the United States would sail past Lady Liberty, who back then might not have been quite so green. The enduring symbol of New York it has appeared in many films, my personal favourite being Ghostbusters II where she is brought to life and marches to the mainland. The queue to get to the top is very long, so we only went up to her feet in '92, I didn't go back in 2001 as I didn't have time. She was sculpted by a French bloke, and in a bit of an exchange between the two cities there is a smaller replica by the Seine in Paris, which coupled with the replica Arc D'Triomphe in Washington Square at the bottom of Fifth Avenue, made a fair swap.

The new immigrants to NYC wouldn't have seen this as they sailed in though, downtown New York as it looked in 1992. Most of the buildings in this picture were built on reclaimed land, and all of the ones to the left of the twin towers were built on earth from the excavation of the World Trade Center basement which was dumped in the Hudson. In the right of the picture the green steeple of 40 Wall Street can be seen.

Downtown Manhattan

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is probably New York's most famous landmark after the Statue of Liberty. It was built in the years of the depression following the Wall Street crash of 1929, well under budget and very rapidly for a structure its size. The outdoor viewing platform on the 86th floor used to be supplemented by a small circular room that was the 102nd level, but when I visited for the second time in 2001 I was disappointed to find it had since been closed to the public. The building was hit by a B25 bomber during the Second World War when it was foggy outside, resulting in a number of deaths but no danger of the building collapsing. There is an interesting story about a woman who was in a lift at the time, the cables above snapped and the lift fell 60 storeys before bouncing to rest on the large pile of cable that had collected under the lift cab as it fell.

Looking North from the top of the Empire State Building up to Central Park and the Rockefeller Center. In the upper right of the photo the white sloped roof of the Citigroup (formerly Citicorp) building can be seen. It was the first building to use a tuned mass damper system, effectively a great big weight in the attic which shifted opposite to the building's movement, making it more stable. Also, in a hush hush operation soon after it was completed emergency reinforcements were added under cover of darkness, as someone suddenly noticed that it could blow down if the wind came in diagonally not head on. Well spotted.

Midtown North

Midtown North East

The view slightly overlaps the previous photo, but was taken more than 9 years later. Although not distinguishable the white writing on top of the building in the centre reads "MetLife" where previously it read "Pan Am". After the collapse of the airline in the early 90s, largely due to the Lockerbie bombing, the building tenant changed. The MetLife building is joined onto Grand Central Station, and all the trains running north go right underneath it. Also visible in to the right of the photo is the beautiful art deco spire of the Chrysler Building.

And the view south towards downtown Manhattan and the twin towers, this one from '92. In the foreground the wedge shaped Flatiron Building can be seen with the light hitting it, it was the first skyscraper to be constructed in New York.


Park Avenue

Here I am on Park Avenue, one of the more landscaped Avenues in the city. The Metlife Building stands blotting out the sky directly behind me, and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel can be seen on the left of the photo, with the green pointy roof. Note also the typical New York cab heading away.

I often try to get a spot of greenery in a photo which would otherwise be all steel and concrete, this is the view I got after getting off the wrong subway stop for the World Trade Center in 2001. I was there for the second time about two and a half months before the terrorist attacks of September the 11th, and I was there for the first time 11 months before the car bomb of '93. I thought the twin towers were more impressive than the Empire State, because standing at the bottom you could still see the whole thing with no obstruction of setbacks, an absolutely sheer wall of steel rising 413 metres above my head. I sat for a while in the sun on the concourse with a diet coke gazing up at the towers, before paying my 13 bucks and getting in the lift. The decor was still quite Seventies inside.

Twin Towers


Here I am in 1992 at the tender age of 9 next to one of the 107th floor windows of the south tower, looking north up Manhattan. The picture quality is too poor to see the Empire State in the background, but the distinctive trapezoidal shape of the roof of 7 WTC can be seen in the foreground. That building collapsed on the afternoon of 9/11 following hours of burning, but it had been evacuated long before.

This is a somewhat better view of me on the roof of the south tower in 2001, again looking north with the top of the north tower behind me. I am standing on a raised walkway which is still a good 20 feet from the edge, and there was an electric fence to stop people from leaping off, be it for Base Jumping or any other purpose. The helipad in the middle of the roof was where parts of Limp Bizkit's "Rollin" video was filmed. I stood around for a good half an hour taking in the view from all sides and watching helicopters fly around below me, before going down the escalator to the lifts on level 107, never to come back.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2003