Monday, May 2, 2011

CLASSIC TRIP - New York 1999, Part 2

Back in 1999, we visited New York for the first time.  The first day, we took the subway to Coney Island.  Now, we head back to see some sights in Manhattan.  Back in the WayBack Machine we go...

Today is our Manhattan day. Maybe we shoulda done it yesterday too, but we just had to see Coney Island.

We retrace our steps to the Brooklyn Bridge station and start walking towards the Battery. It’s Columbus Day and we stumble onto a sidewalk festival around Bowling Green Park. The three of us eat a lot of strange and colorful food and wash it down with some beer and soda.
Arriving at Battery Park, we head over to the water to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s amazingly small. Much smaller than we were prepared for, but still, it’s one of those things you want to see. It reminds me of how everybody has to see Hollywood when they get to my hometown, only to be amazed at how dirty, depressing, and disgusting it is. At least the statue is just small...none of the other bad things can be said of it.

The wait for the ferry is several hours. We already know that the statue itself is not accessible, so we content ourselves by gazing at it from the shore. We do want to get a closer look, however, and NYC’s public transit system again comes to the rescue.

The big yellow boats of the Staten Island Ferry will take you right by Liberty Island on a scenic, free, and accessible cruise over the bay. Even close up, the statue still looks small. The view of Manhattan from the fantail is what postcards are made of though.
Back at the Battery, we walk a few blocks up to the World Trade Center. New York’s tallest buildings are actually a big complex of buildings atop a mall and a sprawling subway station. I am shocked and deeply saddened, today, that a few lunatics could erase it off of the landscape.

The map here shows several lines are accessible. The station master told us only the E line was. Lacking any other obvious signs of access, we boarded the E line to Penn Station, which our map said was accessible.

Penn Station, at least on the E line, turned out to have elevator. Doing it over, we would take the E a little bit farther to the Port Authority station where there is an elevator. We work Tim up the stairs in relays with him and his chair and proceed down 34th Street to our next destination, the Empire State Building.

Along the way, hungry for lunch, we decide to try some New York pizza. We find a little hole-in-the-wall called Spinelli’s and have a few slices. Yes, New York pizza is delicious and, yes, you need to fold it to eat it right.

We find the usual handicapped entrance to the Empire State Building on 34th is closed but a maintenance worker quickly directs us around the corner to the entrance on 5th Ave. Although not signed as such, an accessible entrance does indeed reside there between two revolving doors.

A guard directs us to an elevator to go to the basement where the ticket counter is. Like Disneyland, you skip the line here if you are disabled and go right up to the counter to purchase tickets for the observation deck. Adults are $6, kids $3, and handicapped are comped.

Next, an ear popping ride up to the 80th floor followed by a another quick ride to the 86th floor deck. An additional elevator goes up to the 102nd floor but was closed this day. The deck we were on is the one you see in “Sleepless in Seattle”.
The view from here is amazing. On a clear day, as ours was, 50 mile views are possible. Even a jaded kid like Tim was impressed by it. After the obligatory visit to the gift shop for miniature versions of the building, we head uptown (by foot) towards Central Park.

Along the way, we swung through Rockefeller Center to see the ice rink and the Today set and then up 5th Avenue by Tiffany’s to the park.

We just did a quick loop through the southern end by Tavern on the Green and Wollman Rink to see what it was like. As it was getting dark, we headed south to Times Square.
Here the lights knock our socks off and the energy of the place seeps in. The the vibrancy of New York is on full display. We also find the only clean public restrooms we saw in the city at the Times Square Starbucks.

We’re only there for the facilities and end up having some drinks, music, and a marvelous time at the accessible Times Square Brewery.

At the end of the evening, it’s a short walk east to Grand Central Station for our train home.

Back in 2011 - This was, of course, only our first trip to New York.  After having had a taste, we'd return again and again.  Those reports will be coming up on future episodes.  


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