Joe’s Pizza and Other Downtown Adventures

King Kong refrigerator magnetThe more frequent I visit New  York City, the longer my list of things-to-do grows!  I am just returning from a fabulous June visit, culminating this probably being my 20th+ year visiting the Big Apple.  This trip was unofficially intended to celebrate my official status as an “old-fart” breaching the official Senior Citizens barrier of SIXTY FREEKING TWO!  When a person is in their 20’s and 30’s, this seems like an undesirable destination, but now the daily goal is to keep my mind and body engaged and motivated to keep rawkin’ as hard as I can into my 80’s! Whaaaaaat? If Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones can do it, why not me?  Get out of my way AARP! 😂

Roosevelt Tram
Roosevelt Tram transiting Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.

My goals for this particular trip were –

  • Visit Roosevelt Island – rent a Citibike and capture skyline shots of Manhattan and Queens. Since e-scooter are not avail around Manhattan, the Citibikes are a good option.  BUT, my 4-hour rental cost me over $30!😒
  • Hire a model and do a lifestyle photoshoot at the new Disco Oasis roller rink in Central Park – Found out the hard way, I guess I cannot rollerskate!?🤪 The model was great, but we ended up doing Plan B!
  • Reconn some shooting locations in Tribeca – Did not happen…ran out of time.
  • Visit the Whitney Museum – Great location, sort of by Chelsea at the Piers.
  • Connect with some Zoom contacts I had not met in person…. This was the highlight which makes the monster of New York City feel like you are just hangin’ on the stoop with friends!👌
ARTIZEN HOTEL IN THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT

Artizen Hotel on John Street – I would never consider myself a Master Reviewer or gawd forbid a horrid “influencer”, but for my needs, this boutique hotel located downtown Manhattan in the financial district was probably my best hotel stay in the city EVER!

Artizen HotelMost franchise hotels try and lump in various features and benefits to increase their room rate and profitability, regardless if you need their amenities. Makes perfect sense in a capitalistic marketplace.  But, for this trip I was not going to have a rental car, wanted to be close to a legit train station, and, be at a pivotal location to improve my ability to get around.

Joe's Pizza
Joe’s Pizza

Cut to the chase – the most important features that rendered a perfect stay for me was that the rooms were modern, QUIET, and the bed was super comfy.  Yes, the staff (100% of everyone I interacted with from housekeeping to the Concierge) were friendly, helpful and on point.  But, I am in NYC, so I don’t need a breakfast bar or a gift store, etc.  Subtle but modern design throughout, which is actually important to me.  Not just some new veneer on an old Best Western. As a smaller boutique hotel, I rarely ran into other guests, and you could assume that they could afford their room, and it was not some super-discounted $99/night special.

Just prior to my depature to New York, I had finally received an important tilt-shift wide angle lens that was one back-order from Laowa due to COVID lockdown in China. This optic is specifically designed for architectural photography, and my room at the Artizen was the perfect place to take my first capture.

Lastly, when I arrived into my hotel around 10pm, I was starved and the good news I was about 1/2 of a normal NYC city block from JOE’s PIZZA!  So simple, but so delish!  It turned out that was my dinner location three nights in a row because my days were so busy that by the time I would get back to the hotel room, pizza sounded perfect! Next door to Artizen was the Healthy Green Juice Bar that ended up being the perfect place for an afternoon smoothie!

ROOSEVELT ISLAND

Anyone that has a passing interest in Manhattan eventually will research real estate – Uptown, downtown, eastside, upper westside, Harlem, Tribeca, Chelsea, etc, etc.  I have never been a mainstream guy where ever I have lived.  Now I live in South Summerlin which really means that I detest the planned communities spawned by the Howard Hughes Corporation that resulted in the greater Summerlin area.  BUT, by living just adjacent, I can snub my nose at “them” and “them” at me.  😂 That attitude lends itself to someone interested in Roosevelt Island.😉

Anyhoo, so, I have spent many mornings over coffee looking at properties on Roosevelt Island. No one really famous would live there, but it is closer to Manhattan than Queens or Brooklyn and because it is so overlooked as a sort of “step-child” location, I have seen penthouse properties for under $1mill!  True, the views from the island don’t really afford the photographic skyline that includes the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower, but, it is still nice.

Historically, the island was called Minnehanonck by the Lenape and Varkens Eylandt (Hog Island) by New Netherlanders, and during the colonial era and later as Blackwell’s Island. It was known as Welfare Island when it was used principally for hospitals, from 1921 to 1973. It was renamed Roosevelt Island (in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt) in 1973.

The 21st century has introduced gentrification to Roosevelt Island. In 1998, the Blackwell Island Light was restored by an anonymous donor. In 2006, the restored Octagon Tower opened, serving as the central lobby of a two-wing, 500-unit apartment building. Then, in 2010, the Roosevelt Island Tramway reopened after renovations. A year later, Southpoint Park opened south of Goldwater Memorial Hospital, near the island’s southern end.

In 2012, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was dedicated and opened to the public as a state park. Hillary Clinton officially launched her 2016 presidential campaign at Four Freedoms Park in 2015.

On June 24, 2019, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) published an open call for artists to create a memorial for journalist Nellie Bly. Bly’s investigative reporting about the abusive treatment at the New York City Insane Asylum at what was then called Blackwell’s Island, led to new forms of journalism as well as the reform of New York City institutions. In October, a committee of RIOC employees and community leaders selected The Girl Puzzle proposal by American artist Amanda Matthews. The public art installation of a plaza featuring bronze sculptures, stainless steel spheres and a fully accessible walkway is planned for unveiling in 2021.

Disco Oasis Rollerskate Lifestyle Photshoot

What are your dreams like?  Mine seem to be endless, bizarre and sometimes called upon. 😁

About two weeks prior to my NYC trip, I learned of this new happening at the Wollman Rink called Disco Oasis. Groovemaster and music curator Nile Rodgers collaborated with Live Nation (UGH – I despise Live Nation along with their Ticketmaster product) to rebrand the Wollman Rink this summer with daytime and evening sessions. Somehow, I thought, how hard can rollerskating be?  🤪Then, the idea was to hire a local model and do a “lifestyle” photoshoot with disco costumes, music and capture the mood of FUN RETRO!

NOT!  As soon as I put on my roller skates, literally within 15 seconds I knew I could not and would not be able to skate, especially with a camera bag with $25K of camera equipment.  Super sexy Shannon answered the casting call and arrived able to skate and with great energy. My disco lifestyle photoshoot theme idea quickly smoldered out, and we opted for Plan B which was just adjacent in Central Park.  I have never worked with such a gorgeous “ginger” before…and, even though the shoot was relatively short, we captured some great images.  Thanks Shannon!

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

Whitney Museum of American ArtRead that again. It probably took a Board of Directors countless hours to arrive at the title for this museum.  AND, it is perfectly appropriate.  In the various cities that I frequent during my travels, I have my foundational favs. In Southern California, my creative trajectory changed after a Georgia O’Keefe exhibition in 1989 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) but, now the newer THE BROAD (pronouced BRO-ED) funded ($140mill) and created by Eli and Edythe Broad is now my fav when I visit the City of Angels.  The Getty Museum has a sublime setting but more of hump to transit in the hills overlooking Malibu.

Visiting Manhattan it is almost a habit to either visit MOMA or the Met. Last year I did venture up the Hudson valley to explore the Storm King Art Center inspired by an episode in Master of None with Azia Ansari.

This year it was important to me to experience the Whitney.  Their main new exhibit, At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism, runs through January of 2023. Reading the intro, I really appreciate the commitment to curate works that were under-represented and potentially “less popular” which means the risk of lower ticket sales.

The results were largely ignored by the Whitney Museum, whose loyalty was to the urban realists who formed the core of the Whitney Studio Club, out of which the Museum had grown. A handful of non-representational works were acquired when the museum was founded in 1930 and more were added in subsequent decades, but it was not until the mid-1970s that the museum vigorously began to acquire vanguard art made between 1900 and 1930. While extensive, these acquisitions largely excluded work by women and artists of color….

Seeing some works by Georgia O’Keefe I was not familiar with made it feel sort of like a homecoming from my weekend jaunts to the LACMA back in the 80’s and 90’s. I enjoyed the outdoors as well, with views of Chelsea, downtown and the Hudson River waterfront.

Georgia O'Keefe
MANHATTAN HELICOPTER TOUR
NYC Helicopter tour
A visitor from Australia gets his photo taken before liftoff.

Spending 3/4 of my day on a Citibike rental, I was consistently enamored with the white puffy clouds and blue skies, ensuring my stock photos of any city skyline would be more compelling. Just as the tram landed back in Manhattan, I started to wonder if a helicopter tour was in order.  The weather looked fairly static – which means, by the time I can regroup with my camera gear back at the hotel, the weather would still hold.  I understood that I would not be able to bring a small camera bag with me on the heli, so, it was making that critical choice which lens would be best.  Too much of a wide angle (23mm) reduces the visual awe of Manhattan island, and too much lens allows only tighter cropped shots. Shooting medium format for the high resolution and detail hand-held, I opted for the 45mm which was perfect.  Some photographers prefer zooms in this type of shot, but I prefer primes only.

SUNSET AT THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

Probably the better shot is further north from the Chrysler building, so you can capture the Empire State Building in the composition, but, as touristy as it is, you just cannot deny that living this incredible piece of architectural history is worthy of the “tourist” trap.  Last June I had paid the premium to do the “sunrise” tour which required you be on-site by 4:30am and you finally ascend I think around 5:30am.  On that particular day, the fog was dense even at ground level, so as you reached the top, your visibility was more diminished.  Management was cool and offered a free trip back within 24 hours, but that year my schedule was too tight.

This year I opted for the Sunset tour and guessed the right reservation time might be 8pm.  Sure enough, at least on June 30th, 2022 with an 8pm reservation, the timing was perfect.  The top got very busy just as the sun went down but everyone was respectful enough and with four sides of the building you could find your shot.

Last on my shot list was the Flatiron building with this tilt-shift lens but by the time I did my best version of speed walking down 5th avenue, I noticed that the maybe the building was in a rehab mode – regardless it was not that photogenic.  So, I grabbed a few shots, of course headed into Caffe Lavazza for some tasty gelato before I headed back downtown.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Such a great trip this summer to the Big Apple.  I read the Post daily, and it pains me to read and also hear from people living in the city how crime has risen dramatically with it’s past Mayoral administration.  The woke agenda to pamper criminals is suffocating the city with crime and killing the business energy required to dig out of the Covid-19 hellhole. I hope the new administration can offset the cancer that has set in, and I hope Mayor Adams is committed to FIXING New York City first and then worry about his Hollywood career second.  It is certainly tempting to grab the glory without achieving results, but the WORLD’s ECONOMY depends on New York City thriving, as it was under Bloomberg and I dare say Giuliani when he was coherent.

If you have not been to New York City in a while, do yourself a favor and book that ticket stat!  So much to see, so much to do, so much to eat and smell! To quote one my fav artists, Georgia O’Keefe – “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.”

RB Profile

ABOUT ROBERT BAKER

I have been shooting for $$ since 2000 opening my shop with a Nikon D1.  I am primarily interested in shooting adventure lifestyle and travel with a host of my  day-to-day clients being within the industrial sector.  Many of my editorial stock photos have been published in all major news outlets, with my primary focus is distributing my images on a client-by-client basis to ensure their branding is unique and compelling.

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