Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty as Seen from the Staten Island Ferry

I’ve been to New York City dozens of times, but I had never taken the Staten Island Ferry before my last trip. Some claim that the Staten Island Ferry is the last remaining free thing left in the greater New York City.

From the NYC DOT, some great statistics (emphasis added):

The City has operated the Staten Island Ferry since 1905. The Ferry carries over 23 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile run between the St. George Terminal in Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. The Ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Staten Island Ferry is the most reliable form of mass transit, with an on-time performance of over 96 percent.

On a typical weekday, five boats make 118 trips, carrying approximately 70,000 passengers. During rush hours, the ferry runs on a four-boat schedule, with 15 minutes between departures. Between rush hours, boats are regularly fueled and maintenance work is performed. Terminals are cleaned around the clock and routine terminal maintenance is performed on the day shift. On weekends, three boats are used (98 trips on Saturday and 96 trips on Sunday). The boats make over 40,000 trips annually. 

On this chilly Saturday evening, there were some moody skies over lower Manhattan—obscuring the Freedom Tower partially. I captured the photo below about ten minutes into the ferry ride toward Staten Island:

Manhattan as seen from the Staten Island Ferry. I’ve added this image to my New York City gallery.

There are some visitors who want to get a closer glimpse of the Statue of Liberty without actually going to a dedicated tour of Liberty Island. The Staten Island Ferry affords really great views of the Statue of Liberty, as seen below:

The next day, I made the return trip on the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan. This time, the skies were clearer and all of lower Manhattan was visible:

A view of Manhattan at night, as seen from the Staten Island Ferry.

A panoramic scene of lower Manhattan (note the Statue of Liberty at the far left and Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges illuminated at far right)

A panoramic view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

On the final approach to Manhattan from Staten Island, the ferry makes a gentle turn, allowing you to take in beautiful views of Freedom Tower and the surrounding buildings:

Freedom Tower at night, as seen from the Staten Island Ferry.

Photos from the Grand Re-Opening of FAO Schwarz at Rockefeller Center in New York City

During my recent visit to New York City, I stopped by the recently re-opened FAO Schwarz toy store. The store opened at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on November 16, 2018, just in time for the busy holiday shopping season. From the AP about the store’s cultural impact:

For more than 150 years, FAO Schwarz was known in New York City for its classy and sometimes extravagantly expensive toys. The fantasyland store it opened on Fifth Avenue in 1986 was a tourist attraction, replete with its own theme song, doormen who looked like palace guards and a musical clock tower. Financial problems at the parent company and rising rents closed that store in 2015, but FAO is now pulling back from the worst financial precipice since it was founded in 1862.

In recent weeks at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, workers drilled, hammered and sawed 24 hours a day to get the new store ready. Employees filled shelves with hundreds of plush animals that have long defined the brand — bears, bunnies, elephants, chicks and more. The big entrance clock tower has returned. And on the second level of the 20,000-square-foot space is a giant piano keyboard mat like the one on which Tom Hanks danced to "Heart and Soul" in the 1988 film "Big."

Photos from my visit to FAO Schwarz are below…

Walking into FAO Schwarz—expect plenty of crowds!

A Steiff plush bear at FAO Schwarz.

The Grand Piano is back, made famous in the 1988 film Big (see the clip here).

A small piano…

Toys for tots.

Almost ready to make the purchase…

The Barbie display at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan.

Ken and Barbie about to make their getaway.

This is what they call window shopping at FAO Schwarz.

Orangutan and unicorn, why not?

Giant clock inside FAO Schwarz.

Wink! ;-)

View from the second story of FAO Schwarz.

Looking up from below.

Inside FAO Schwarz are “stations” which have a theme, such as the FAO Raceway:

The racing station at FAO Schwarz. Customize your racer!

The holiday shopping season is in full swing—at least some of the customers are smiling!

Orange you going to buy that blaster?

Toys, toys, toys.

The famous FAO Schwarz teddy bear.

One interesting aspect of FAO Schwarz (and I think it has been true in the past) is that the store offers gifts that range from a few dollars to the thousands. Take, for instance, the Mercedes-Benz toy car encrusted with 44,000 Swarovski crystals. This handwork took over 126 hours to make by artist Kellie DeFries (aka the Crystal Ninja); the price matches the ostentatious glamor—it’s set at a dazzling $25,000.

FAO Schwarz branded Mercedes-Benz toy car. Price of admission: 25,000 USD.

Video of the FAO Schwarz Mercedes-Benz encrusted with Swarovski Crystals:

So much sparkle.

Near the revolving doors at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan.

The FAO Schwarz store has plenty of ways for kids and adults to entertain themselves even without purchasing anything. For instance, this little nook near the entrance had fun mirrors on all sides which you can photograph yourself and/or your friends or family.

“Am I Instagram-famous yet?” was overheard in this vicinity…

It’s been sad to watch toy retailers such as Toys “R” Us file for bankruptcy—here is to hoping that FAO Schwarz sticks around. This is an illuminating New York Times article on what the new management (Private Equity firm ThreeSixty) of FAO Schwarz is doing to prevent another downfall:

F.A.O.’s new owners are creating thousands of “stores within stores” at other large retailers as well as small stores in airport terminals and other locales across the United States and in China. The new locations will be stocked heavily with F.A.O.-branded stuffed animals and toys. To modernize the brand, the New York store will feature “Instagrammable moments” and soldiers’ uniforms designed by the supermodel Gigi Hadid.

ThreeSixty is essentially trying to replicate the F.A.O. Schwarz experience, while minimizing the costs of personnel, real estate and inventory. Other than its new flagship store in New York’s Rockefeller Center, many of the other locations will be owned and operated by other companies, while F.A.O. will collect franchising fees.

Did you make it to FAO Schwarz in New York City this holiday season? Feel free to comment about your experience or about your favorite part of the store!

Table of Love: Exploring Gillie and Marc's Rabbitwoman and Dogman Art Installation in New York City

On a short trip to New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday, I joined my cousin and his wife exploring parts of Manhattan which I hadn’t visited before.

One of their ideas was to take a few portraits around the Helmsley Building next to Gillie and Marc’s Rabbitwoman and Dogman art installation titled Table of Love. My cousin and his wife decided to blend with the scene while donning their Wintercroft masks.

Here is how Gillie and Marc describe their work and the popular Rabbitwoman and Dogman installations they are known for:

Gillie and Marc are best known for their beloved hybrid characters – Rabbitwoman and Dogman – who tell the autobiographical tale of two opposites coming together to become best friends and soulmates. Rabbitwoman and Dogman promote diversity, love and acceptance. As unlikely animal kingdom companions, together the Rabbit and Dog symbolize unity and togetherness – representing all people as one.

The artists met while working on a photoshoot in Hong Kong…and 7 days after meeting they were married on the foothills of Mount Everest. Because they came together while travelling, it’s always played a major role in their life and art.

Rabbitwoman and Dogman are frequently featured travelling the world, with a dream that all creatures, regardless of race, religion, or orientation, can have a safe place to never be judged. They dream that open hearts, and open minds can come together in a world that’s torn apart by its differences – differences that are really the most beautiful thing of all!

Posing in front of Gillie and Marc’s Rabbitwoman and Dogman art installation in New York City.

In front of Gillie and Marc’s Rabbitwoman and Dogman art installation titled Table of Love in New York City.

You can find the Rabbitwoman and Dogman as part of the Table of Love on the main level of the Helmsley Building in midtown Manhattan (on 46th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues; location on Google Maps: 237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA).

There are more than 100 art installations in Gillie and Marc’s theme of “Travel Everywhere with Love,” including the following art installations in New York City:

Happy exploring!

Explore more of Gillie and Marc’s public art installations of the Dogman and Rabbitwoman here.

The "Read Everywhere" Campaign at The New York Public Library

This week, I was in New York City for a brief business trip.

On the first evening of my stay in the City, I took a three hour walk around Midtown Manhattan. One of my favorite stops along the walk was the outdoor exhibit at The New York Public Library.

This summer, The New York Public Library has a very cool campaign called "I Read Everywhere" (hashtag: #ireadeverywhere on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter). From the promotional for the read everywhere movement:

This summer, The New York Public Library is celebrating the excitement and personal joy of reading with the hashtag #ireadeverywhere. We are asking all of you to join authors, librarians and other readers from all over the world to share your favorite — and unusual — reading spots, along with the hashtag and our handle @nypl, all in an effort to inspire others to pick up a book (or an e-reader) and start their own adventures.

I took a few photos of the outside of the NYPL:

The famous NYPL lion with the "Read Everywhere" advestisement.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to go into the library on this particular visit (as I arrived to the library at its closing time of 7PM). I did take a few photos of the beautiful outdoor library room:

The outdoor library room featured carts for a "book swap"leave one book for others, take one home.

Finally, there was a giant board where people left notes on what they are reading this summer:

Here's a selection of notable books profiled in the photo above (outside of the popular The Song of Ice and Fire series, which is mentioned numerous times):

Based on the press release, the outdoor reading room just ended on July 17. However, reading never stops. I hope you can find some of these book recommendations helpful. Happy reading!