“Most New Yorkers spent their lives somewhere between the fruit cart and the fifth floor. To see the city from a few hundred feet above the riffraff was pretty celestial. We gave the moment its due.” — Amor Towles
The great Hindu Festival of Lights, known as Diwali, falls on October 20 this year. Celebrations and observances carry on throughout the month and feature opportunities for events on future dates for those who may have missed Diwali in Times Square on October 7. The Hindu festival celebrates victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, hope over despair. New York City enjoys a thriving community from India and the surrounding areas, including Curry Hill on the East Side, Jackson Heights and Flushing in Queens, and many others. So, wherever you come from, and however you celebrate, Happy Diwali!
“They had heard of New York as a place vague and far away, a city that, like Heaven, to them had existed by faith alone. All the days of their lives they had heard of it, and it seemed to them the center of all the glory, all the wealth, and all the freedom of the world. New York. It had an alluring sound. Who would know them there? Who would look down upon them?” — Paul Laurence Dunbar
On October 18, 1667, Brooklyn was chartered under the name Brueckelen by Governor Mathias Nicolls. The tiny Dutch farm village that had been called “Broken Land” by its inhabitants would eventually grow to become the most populous of the five boroughs of the largest city in the nation, boasting 2.5 million residents. The six parishes at the time would feature names that remain familiar to Brooklynites today; Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend, and New Utrecht.
On October 17, 1992, future Beautiful New York blogger and tour guide Matthew Baker arrived in New York City to live. Having grown up in a small homogenous farm town in Southwest Missouri, Baker came to New York to pursue a career in the theatre, which he practiced for the next 13 years. Changing careers in 2005 in order to support his family, he began guiding tours of the city, becoming newsletter editor for the Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) and later the National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (NFTGA). He would go on to serve six years on the board of GANYC including two as president. In 2014, he began the daily blog Beautiful New York which you are reading today.
Architect: William M. Kendall
The first skyscraper in the McKim, Mead, and White oeuvre, this contribution to the City Beautiful Movement towers over the Civic Center with its gold statue of Civic Fame, the second tallest woman in New York. Sculpted by Adolph Weinman and modeled by the immortal Audrey Munson, the statue is the crown jewel of the building that hosts offices for the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of Finance, the City Comptroller, the Public Advocate, and of course the Landmarks Preservation Commission. For many years, this was where you could “get married at City Hall” in a 4-minute civil ceremony.
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
The most iconic and widely loved work of Modern architecture in New York City was the last major contribution from the quixotic, romantic, futuristic Wright. This museum’s legendary ramp was designed for a smooth, symphonic, uninterrupted experience of the art on its walls, which focuses on splendidly curated featured exhibitions. This museum that has offered everything from five centuries of Spanish painting to sculptures made out of Vaseline presented perhaps its greatest exhibit on its 50th anniversary: a retrospective on Wright’s architecture, both of the Guggenheim itself and other works, both completed and merely envisioned. The exhibit was gloriously self-aware and wholly appropriate.
US Customs House
Architect: Cass Gilbert
Popularly considered the most exemplary representation of Beaux-Arts architecture in the city, Gilbert’s masterpiece is enhanced by the four Daniel Chester French statues of the continents out front and the extraordinary Reginald Marsh murals inside its rotunda. Though also home to the Federal Bankruptcy Court, this building’s primary tenant is the Museum of the American Indian, a free admission gallery run by the Smithsonian Institute. It was also used as the fictitious “Manhattan Museum of Art” in the 1989 Ghostbusters sequel (otherwise known as the Ghostbusters movie that wasn’t funny).
NYBG Museum Building
Architect: Robert W. Gibson
Borough: The Bronx
This Beaux-Arts confection of epic grace and grandeur and the most beautiful building in the Bronx. With its Fountain of Life and Tulip Tree Allee, it offers one of the most majestic approaches in the city. The home of the New York Botanical Garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library, its 4,000-volume collection is the largest of its kind under one roof. And, while only garden members can borrow books in circulation, on-site study is open to the public.
On October 12, 1892, the statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle was unveiled. Sculpted by Gaetano Russo and funded by the local Italian-language newspaper Il Progresso, the statue was erected in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the wrong place. Never before or since has anyone been more famous for getting more hopelessly lost than the man who was on the opposite side of the planet from where he thought he was. It is strangely appropriate, therefore, that Columbus Circle marks the spot from which all distances from New York are measured.