Tortoise Strolls

Washington Square Park (Its Beauty is transparent; Characters and artists abound)

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Mid-November is the time NYC gets saturated with color. As I take some of my favorite walks in the city I cannot help but admire the foliage. Just this saturday I was in Washington Square Park. A perfectly blue sky overhead and an energy of inspiration filled the four corners of the park that day. Colin Huggins was playing his baby grand. He’s known as the “Crazy Piano Guy”. Why crazy, I do not know. He’s been dragging his piano to the city’s parks for years while knocking out great tunes. Everyone just loved it.  Walking past him was a pleasure.

The street performers were doing what they always do, acrobatic maneuvers with some side jokes thrown in. Here’s a fun move. My yoga teacher wouldn’t mind if I finally learned this one myself.

Now these guys are a riot. Any film students doing a Hitchock remake? Well if you need birds these guys can help.

Just looking at the skyline with the beauty of the trees below, relaxes and invigorates me at the same time. Autumn in New York is truly special and I’m beginning to think that Spring in Paris cannot compare.


Written by agnesbstanton

November 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Parks, West Village

New Amsterdam Market

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The New Amsterdam Market was founded by Robert LaValva in 2005 and takes place every Sunday from 11-4pm. Its location, just north of the South Street Seaport, is a familiar place for haggling produce as far back as the 1640’s when markets began to spring up along the Ferry landing at Peck Slip.

Right next door to the New Amsterdam Market sits an old icon of a building that once housed the Fulton Fish Market, (which you can see in my second photo). The fish operation moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx as of 2005 and for 7 years nothing has been done with this crumbling building. No one comes down at the crack of dawn to buy fish here anymore. The area’s residents probably don’t miss the smells but a crumbling empty building with no purpose is a waste and an eyesore.  Robert LaValva’s bright idea would be to move his once a week New Amsterdam Market (which currently takes place outside in the parking area) into this enclosed space. Of course there’s red tape but I think it’s a great idea and I wish him luck. Through the New Amsterdam Market, many emerging businesses get to have their fledgling opportunities. Some of the vendors sell handcrafted, vintage inspired bicycles, artisanal jams, kimchi and wines grown on the North Fork of Long Island. There’s plenty of cheeses, meats and heirloom fruits and vegetables. There’s even some yummy sandwiches that pair up well with a walk along the East River. The New Amsterdam Market has great views of the Brooklyn Bridge so grab a treat from the market and head over for a stroll or cycle.

Written by agnesbstanton

October 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

550 Park Avenue & Diana Vreeland

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I took a walk across Central Park the other day and marveled at the leaves that now litter the ground. September, my favorite month, is gone, replaced by October ever so quickly. My strides led me to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. The Documentary on Diana Vreeland “The Eye Has to Travel” was playing and since such movies only play in three or four theaters in the city, I decided to go to the one on the  West side.  Angelika theatre  on Houston Street was too far, and I don’t particularly like City Cinemas across from busy Bloomingdales.

On my way to the theatre I made sure to pass by Diana Vreeland’s former home at 550 Park Avenue. A very civilized building, nothing eye catchy about it. Diana lived with her husband Reed on the 9th floor. They did not have a particularly large apartment (for Park Avenue standards), but it was made distinctive by her choice of the color red used in her living room. She called that room “a garden in hell”. Lacking the serious money needed to properly decorate such an apartment, Diana instead chose a very inexpensive fabric, some would even call it hideous, and had her walls, her sofa, chairs and pillows upholstered in it. Other shades and patterns of red were added, and with her trained eye, the room came alive with excitement. It goes to show how you don’t always need a boat load of money when you have ideas. Designers such as Carolina Herrera and Anna Sui have paid homage to Diana’s inspirational room by having red rooms of their own. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

The documentary would not necessarily get a standing ovation but it was very informative. Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Diana’s granddaughter- in-law, was the director of this movie. She also wrote a book by the same name that was published in 2011.  The film mainly revolved around  the interview/talks that George Plimpton had with Diana in preparation for her autobiography “DV” which was published in 1984 and which Plimpton edited. One of my favorite lines in the film is when Diane is describing how to become a fashion editor and says in her deep drawn voice “One must first arranged to be born in Paris”. Indeed that was the city she was born in, (5 Avenue Foch) and the city she loved coming back to throughout her life.

Diana’s estate sold her apartment at 550 Park Avenue to W. Michael Blumenthal, a Carter-era Treasury Secretary. In 2008 Mr. Blumenthal decided to sell and combined his apartment with his neighbors for a total of about 6,500 square feet, making it one of the largest Park Avenue apartments in today’s era. I can think of a few larger apartments at 740 Park Avenue but not too many other buildings kept their 1920’s configurations. Socialite Phyllis Mack passed the board and now lives here, having paid only $20 million, a bargain.

Written by agnesbstanton

October 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Co-ops, Upper East Side

Hudson River Park Pier 25 Playground

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Splashy, Splashy!! Oh boy what fun my son had at this fairly new playground on Pier 25. It’s part of the 550 acres that make up Hudson River Park which extends from Battery Park Place all the way up to West 59th Street. Along with the “Imagination Playground” at South Street Seaport, this ranks as one of the most modern play-areas in Manhattan! There aren’t many tall trees around so do bring the hats and sun-block and don’t forget a change of clothing for the little ones. They will definitely get wet as a good third of the area is dedicated to water activities. Don’t let your child fool you into standing under the dripping water bucket. You’ll be drenched before you know as it unexpectedly dumps all of its contents once a minute. In other words, you’ll get a whole bucket load of water on top of your head.

There’s a climbing wall as well as one of the best dome climbing nets I’ve ever seen. I feel like I’m on an island when I’m here, especially when the water sparkles and boats pass on by on the Hudson. Sunsets are my favorite time to come visit.

Written by agnesbstanton

June 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Attractions, Tribeca

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (89th Street and Riverside Drive)

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I lived on the Upper West Side for a short time only, nevertheless I feel privileged to have had that experience which opened up the doors for my appreciation of Riverside Park. It’s quit unique, hardly a tourist in sight, and there’s a very European feel to it. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument I would pass many times as I descended the ramp towards the Hudson River and made my way to the 96th Street tennis courts. I was never any good at the game but managed to find a partner here and there. What I loved best, and still remember, is playing in the evenings when the sun was setting on the Hudson a few feet away.  The water would sparkle and there would be a warm hue to it all. The perfect atmosphere for pondering the day’s events in between an ace. Of course it was always my partner who would get those aces:)

Designated a landmark in 2001, The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument commemorates the Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the American Civil War. The Interior gets opened once a year for OpenHouseNewYork which takes place in October. The Monument is also home to the Hudson Warehouse, a not-for-profit theatre company. It’s akin to “Shakespeare in the Park” but on a smaller scale. This year’s lineup will be: “A Comedy of Errors” taking place in June. “The Rover” by Aphra Behn in July, and concluding the summer season will be “Richard III”.  Throughout the summer, don’t be surprised to see young lads and lasses practicing their lines in full Renaissance costumes. I’ve jogged past many of them thinking that they’re getting a better sweat than I.

Written by agnesbstanton

April 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

132 E. 65th St. “The Touraine”

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February 13th, 2012

April 8th, 2012

The difference a couple of weeks makes in the world of construction can be very profound especially in NYC, where a new floor goes up every week or two in some developments. The Touraine is a wonderful example of very solid yet frighteningly fast construction. The Toll Brothers are the developers behind this condo on the southeast corner of Lexington Avenue and 65th St. where the manor house called Crocodile Hall once stood. Due to the location being just outside the landmark district, the Toll Brothers were able to tear down the former 1920’s house designed by architect J. Stewart Barney who also resided there.

When finished, the Touraine will have 22 apartments and will be 15 stories tall. The quality is top-notch and is being marketed to a somewhat empty nester crowd as well as international buyers looking for pied-a-terres (very expensive ones I might add). Some features that the Touraine will have include  a roof-top terrace with an open air fireplace. Another less common feature will be a library. There are only a few other buildings in the city that have their own librarys as a recent NY Times article made note of. Both of these features will facilitate the neighbors getting to know each other, sometimes an unheard of concept in this fast-paced city. Because many Upper East Side buyers want a pre-war look with modern luxury finishes, The Toll Brothers are making an attempt to mingle these two styles effortlessly together. Since this is a boutique condo with a prime location, most units have already been sold.

Written by agnesbstanton

April 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Condos, Upper East Side

101 E. 63rd St. (Halston’s townhouse)

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This townhouse was once the home of the legendary fashion designer Roy H. Frowick, better known as Halston. It is now being sold by the estate of the late photographer Gunter Sachs, for a mere $38.5 million. Any takers?

A carriage house built in 1880 once stood on these grounds. The architect Paul Rudolph was hired by the real estate lawyer Alexander Hirsch and his partner Lewis Turner, to do a complete renovation. In a sense what Rudolph really did was build a new townhouse without there being any landmark official to stop him. The new townhouse was finished in 1967 but its fame would come in 1974 when Halston purchased it. He would own it until 1990, the year he died.

Photo of Halston: By Bob Colacello

Photo of Halston with Bianca Jagger: by Ron Galella

Halston was born in 1932 in Des Moines, Iowa. He lived in Indiana as a youth where he graduated from high school. After just a semester at Indiana University, he packed up his bags and headed to Chicago where he originally got his start assisting a milliner and taking night classes at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. His fame would come in New York after he designed the pillbox hat that Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband’s 1961 Presidential inauguration. From then on everyone knew who Halston was especially the jet set crowd that came to his house parties. From Mikhail Baryshnikov to Liza Minnelli, Fred Hughes, Diane Von Furstenberg, Truman Capote, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Bianca Jagger, Gianni Agnelli, the list goes on and on. Steve Rubell would leave behind Studio 54 and come to Halston’s parties along with a few of his bartenders, aka the coke boys.

Known simply as “101”, Halston’s townhouse definitely stood out on E. 63rd Street, but it was never an eye sore. Rather, it knew how to blend in. I’ve walked by this townhouse many times never noticing it. I’m glad I now know its story. But there’s a bit more.  Halston sold it in 1990, two months before his death to Gunter Sachs and Gianni Agnelli who bought it together. No they were not romantically involved, in fact Gunter Sachs was Brigitte Bardot’s third husband and Gianni, well he definitely liked women. Gunter and Gianni probably thought it was a  good business opportunity to do together. The price paid in 1990 was $5 million. Gunter quickly bought Gianni out and owned it solely until his recent death in May 2011. His estate is now trying to sell it for $38.5 million. With a three story living room, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and 10,000 square feet, most of it great entertaining space, this town-home seems like it might sell to a very wealthy bachelor.

Written by agnesbstanton

February 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm