Exterior photo via Wikimedia; Photo of bell tower © 6sqft
After nearly 20 years, the iconic bell tower of the Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has officially reopened. The impressive Gothic-style cathedral is home to the 74-bell Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, which includes a 40,000 pound Bourdon bell, the largest tuned bell in the world. The tower closed to the public almost two decades ago following 9/11 but reopened for public tours earlier this month. 6sqft recently took a tour of the stunning Riverside Church, known for its interdenominational services and dedication to social justice causes.
Take the tour
The 2007 Times Square Ball during construction. Image courtesy of Focus Lighting.
When midnight hits this New Year’s Eve, the Times Square Ball will dazzle people just the same from five feet away or on their television. Making this magic happen is no easy feat, though. To learn a bit more about how the nearly 12,000-pound ball was created, we chatted with principal designer Christine Hope of Focus Lighting, the architectural lighting design firm who conceptualized the current ball more than 10 years ago. From engineering a new system to make all 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles sparkle to dreaming up the magical light show that plays leading up to the ball drop, Focus Lighting shares the inside scoop on this world-famous tradition.
All photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft
The New York Botanical Garden’s 28th annual Holiday Train Show is back for the season, and this year it has an entirely new Central Park section, featuring iconic spots like Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, and the Bow Bridge–all made entirely from natural materials including bark, seeds, berries acorns, and cinnamon sticks. 6sqft took a special tour of the exhibit, which features a total of 175 New York landmarks, and went behind-the-scenes with Laura Busse Dolan, President and CEO of Applied Imagination, the design firm that works all year long to make this whimsical show a reality. From the exhibit’s 2,000 plants to its 25,000 pounds of cedar bark and 200 boxes of moss, Laura fills us in on all the fun and little-known facts about the Holiday Train Show.
Take a tour
All photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft.
When the Union Square Greenmarket opened in 1976 as GrowNYC’s second-ever market, there were only seven farmers set up. At the time, the area was quite empty and crime-ridden, but the market, along with the opening of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe and a major renovation by the city in the ’80s, is credited with turning Union Square into the vibrant hub that we now know.
Today, there can be as many as 140 vendors, selling everything from produce to fish to meat to cheese to lavender, as well as 60,000 shoppers (and local chefs!) on a given day. And though every season is beautiful and fruitful at the market, fall is perhaps the most colorful, which is why photographers James and Karla Murray thought it would be the perfect time to capture the essence of the market and get to know some of the vendors personally.
Take a tour and watch a special video
The Wonder Wheel with no cars installed; photos © James and Karla Murray
Honoring a 60-year tradition of opening on Palm Sunday, Coney Island Amusement Park will be back in business this Sunday, April 14th. One of the many activities will be the annual blessing of the rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. The 150-foot-tall, 100-year-old structure is one of the most iconic pieces remaining at Coney Island. But there’s a lot that goes into this seasonal opening than even the most well-versed New Yorker may not know. Each winter, the 200-ton ride is repainted, and all of its 24 cars are removed. But come spring, second-generation co-owner Steve Vourderis goes through the process of precisely reinstalling and aligning the cars. We were lucky enough to visit Steve and his brother Dennis on a recent frigid Sunday to watch the magic happen.
Go behind-the-scenes at the Wonder Wheel
To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors in 2017 for a huge renovation project that will ultimately create larger hotel rooms and add a new set of luxury condos. After the plans were announced, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the hotel’s first three floors as an interior landmark, meaning the new owners will need to preserve the 1931 Art Deco spaces. But after a four-year hiatus (the hotel will reopen in 2021) and a completely new vibe, it’s not clear if those interiors will have the same glamorous, old-school New York vibe that they were once famous for. Luckily, photographers James and Karla Murray captured the Waldorf in all its glory before it closed its doors. Ahead, take a tour of the old Waldorf, from its iconic, two-ton lobby clock to the three-tiered grand ballroom.
Take the tour
Since it opened in 1859, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn has been integral to the history of the borough it calls home. True to its name, you could open a savings account with just a dime. The first person to make a deposit was a man named John Halsey who invested $50. Scores of Brooklynites followed suit, and by the end of the bank’s first business day, 90 people opened accounts; by the end of the first month, more than 1,000 people were depositing at Dime.
But the bank cemented its prominent status in 1908 when the first subway tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn opened and Dime moved into its grand neo-classical building on Dekalb Avenue and Fleet Street. After the bank closed in 2002, the landmark still stood in all its former glory, operating as a special event space. Three years ago, JDS Development filed plans to build Brooklyn’s tallest tower adjacent to Dime, incorporating its Beaux-Arts interior as retail space for the project. And with work now underway, 6sqft recently got a behind-the-scenes tour of Dime Savings Bank with Open House New York.
Explore the history and future of Dime Savings Bank
Photos courtesy of Roey Yohai Studio
Gracie Mansion, the residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is officially in full holiday spirit. The historic home, which dates back to 1799, is showing off decorations that promote some of the mayor’s top initiatives, plus the overall theme of togetherness. It’s all the work of New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray and renowned event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who have been refining the vision since this summer. This is Rafanelli’s second year working with McCray to decorate the people’s home of New York. For 2018, they selected jewel-toned colors, lots of ribbon, and even worked in some participation from New Yorkers.
Keep reading to figure out how the pair made it happen, an effort that includes bringing a 17-foot-tall tree through a narrow French door into the mansion’s ballroom. The images are sure to put you in a New York holiday spirit.
Hardhats aren’t your typical church-going attire, but they were necessary at Trinity Church when Vicar Rev. Philip Jackson led a behind-the-scenes tour of Trinity’s ongoing $112,000,000, two-year restoration. The project, officially known as a “rejuvenation” of the facilities, began on May 7, 2018, and is slated to be finished in the spring of 2020. Now six months underway, the meticulous work, headed by architect Jeff Murphy of Murphy Burnham and Buttrick, will preserve Trinity’s landmarked church building while “enhancing the overall worship experience,” by making the church more accessible and welcoming.
Weaving our way between scaffolding and rubble in one of New York’s most iconic naves, we saw the very foundation of Trinity Church’s past and got a glimpse of its future. From the finer points of organ-voicing to some of the first examples of American stained-glass, check out 10 of the most exciting behind-the-scenes secrets of the Trinity Church Restoration.
Check out the Church!
Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the majestic Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, as well as the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. In 2016, we joined Untapped Cities and NYCEDC on a tour of Brooklyn Kings Theatre, and just last month, as part of Untapped Cities Insider’s Tours, we were lucky enough to tour and photograph the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, which is now home to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.
The majestic Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened on Saturday, January 12, 1929, as the first, largest, and most famous of the five flagship Loew’s “Wonder” Theatres established in the New York City area from 1929-30. All of the grand movie palaces were built by Marcus Loew of the Loew’s Theatres chain to establish the firm as a leader in film exhibition and to simultaneously serve as a fantastical yet affordable escape for people of all classes from the tedium and anxieties of their daily lives. The Valencia most definitely did not shy away from this fantastical approach, with its Spanish/Mexican Baroque architecture, gilded ornamentation, rich jewel-tone colors, and elaborate carvings.
Take the grand tour