Sunday, July 27, 2008

Off the grid in Battery Park

Having finally arrived after my hellacious journey downtown, I was excited to be in the Financial District. As I walked out of the Wall St. 4 station I had no clue where I was. I knew I was kind of near the New York Stock Exchange. I knew I was kind of near the southern tip of Manhattan. I knew I was kind of near the World Trade Center site.

I just picked a direction and started walking. Turns out I picked south. I ended up at the US Customs House and snapped a few photos. Then I headed across the street to Battery Park. Gorgeous! There were street vendors, plenty of people and it seemed much more vibrant than I was expecting.

The Sphere, formerly kept
on the
World Trade Center plaza
now living in Battery Park.

Battery Park has such an amazing history. I think Castle Clinton is one of two last castles left standing in the city (Belvedere Castle being the other I know of). Clinton was built before the war of 1812 to help defend the city. This is where my ancestors landed after registering at Ellis Island. The ghosts live on in more ways than one, as you could also nickname it monument park. There's the Korean War Memorial and the East Coast War Memorial.

I walked down to the promenade and watched as tourists boarded ferries to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. This is supposed to be year of boat and it was tempting to go myself. But I really hate that you can't go up to the torch anymore, so I decided to pass. I took some more photos instead.

The sun shines over Liberty Island
and the Statue of Liberty.
(Ellis Island on the right)

I walked around the park for awhile, watching kids splash in the fountains and admiring the many views. I watched the Staten Island ferry depart and saw one of the waterfalls at Governor's Island. Then, I saw a New York water taxi with a big ol' Ikea ad on the side. Wait, was this where the Ikea water taxi left from??!?

After hating Ikea for so long I've become a convert, and they just opened a new store in Red Hook (Brooklyn). They're offering free water taxi rides back and forth from Manhattan and you know I so wanted in on that. So I walked over to where the taxi docked hoping to catch a free ride. It turned out, however, that the Ikea water taxi departs from Pier 11. Wherever that is. (A search later revealed that it was just about a 5-minute walk away east of Wall St. Oh well.)

I bought a snack and walked around Battery Park City for awhile, hitting the Oval Lawn, the Esplanade, Rector Park and Teardrop Park. Everything was gorgeous. I knew I still wanted to see the New York Stock Exchange so I started heading east. A few blocks later, I knew I was in familiar territory when I saw two large posters for WTC 2012. I was near the World Trade Center site. I have not been there since 2002 and at first I considered avoiding it again. But my curiosity got the best of me.

It looks like a construction zone now, which is at once both a relief and a tug at my heart. The fence around the site is high enough so that even from my raised position on Church St I couldn't see down and in. That's OK, I have a pretty good idea of what slurry wall looks like. I struck up a conversation with a couple nearby who had come down after seeing "Man on a Wire," which looks great. Part of the movie dealt with anticipating during the twin towers' construction and the husband remarked that we are in that stage again. So true.

The World Trade Center site, eventually
to feature skyscrapers once again.

A little while later I headed back towards Wall St., taking a slight detour by St. Paul's church first. My wallet is light so I looked longingly at Century 21 without going in. I finally found the bull statue but couldn't take a picture because it was swarmed by tourists. I imagined them all to be Europeans laughing at the dollar. I walked up one of the really cool cobblestone alleys between streets and found Broad St. A few minutes later I had made it to the New York Stock Exchange.


I didn't go inside (I'm not even sure if it's open on the weekends) but I snapped a few photos. Then I walked up to the Federal Memorial and said hello to the George Washington statue outside. I laughed as some guy climbed the statue and hi-fived Mr. Washington. There was plenty of police presence but they seemed very chill about it and I thought that was cool. I didn't give George a hi-five but I took a picture of him from his good side.

I walked up to 40 Wall St. and back down past Trinity Church. I was hoping to get in to see the beautiful stained glass but the church was closed. Bummer. I was pretty exhausted by my tourist-y day anyway, so I jumped back on the 4 train and headed home. Luckily, the trip home only took about 30 minutes. It was a long, satisfying summer Saturday.

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