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Friday, August 26, 2011

Urban Gadabout: NYC tour updates -- breaking news!

The Bowery in 1896 -- it sure doesn't look like this now, and the long-ago disappearance of the el is almost the least of the changes. The third in Francis Morrone's MAS tours focusing on the East Village (October 9) targets the Bowery.

by Ken

As I wrote Sunday, given how perilously close we're getting to September, the new tour schedules of the Municipal Art Society had to be released momentarily, and now they have been, more or less. I've done some difficult triage and filled in a lot of my fall calendar.


Again as I wrote Sunday:
In the case of the Transit Museum, the smartest thing you can do for now is to become a member. While it's technically true that very few of its tour offerings require you to be a museum member, in fact members take such advantage not just of the lower members' price but of the early registration period that it's awfully hard to squeeze onto most of the tour lists if you aren't a member.

Members have now received the full fall tour schedule, and the members-only early registration period is set for August 31-September 8, and this time it's going to be doable online as well as by phone. (I've got my sights set on four tours.)

I assume there will be a general announcement of the tour list shortly. I don't feel at liberty to pass on what we've been told, except to note that the cutthroat competition for tour slots should be eased with all of the fall regular tours offered at least in duplicate, and some of the likely most popular ones being offered even more frequently. There is, by the way, another one of the Transit Museum's famous Nostalgia Tours, scheduled for late October.

My advice still is to join immediately, and ask to have the tour list sent to you if it's still not posted.


The September and October listings are now up on the "Tours" page of the MAS website, and there's lots of exciting stuff. I'm conflicted out of a couple I would have loved to do: The Architecture of Literacy: University Heights, the Bronx (Saturday, September 17, 11am, with Jean Arrington), Arts for Transit: Brighton Line (Sunday, October 2, 11am, with Amy Hausmann, registration required -- when I moved to NYC at age 12, the Brighton line from Brooklyn was my lifeline to "the City," as I learned to refer to Manhattan), and Crown Heights North (Sunday, October 16, 11am, with Suzanne Spellen and Morgan Munsey, with whom I did an MAS tour of sections of Bedford-Stuyvesant a month or two ago -- unfortunately that's the day of my Working Harbor Committe Circumnavigation of Staten Island, also mentioned in my Sunday post).

However, in a frenzy of excitement I've already registered for seven tours. Except as noted, the tours are all still $10 for members, $15 for nonmembers.

Dawn Powell and the Greenwich Village of Her Time. Sunday, September 4, 2pm, with Francis Morrone
The World Trade Center: 10 Years Later. On the eve of the anniversary, Saturday, September 10, 6pm, with Francis Morrone, $20
The Architecture of the Garment District. Tuesday, September 20, 5:30pm, with Andrew Dolkart
Starchitecture NYC, 2011, "a concentrated three-hour tour via small motor coach and on foot of some of the city's most talked-about buildings, structures, and spaces," Saturday, September 24, 10am, with Matt Postal (also offered Saturday, October 15 -- I think! the schedule says "Sunday, October 15), $49 for members, $55 for nonmembers
East Village III: The Bowery, the third in a series of East Village tours Francis Morrone is leading. Sunday, October 9, 2pm
Chinatown-Little Italy Historic District. Saturday, October 22, 11am, with Kerri Mulhane

Then there are a bunch of tours offered on a walk-up basis (as I've mentioned, tours director Tamara Coombs likes offering the tours in both formats, to accommodate the widest range of potential tour-walkers) which I've inscribed on my calendar:

Sixth Avenue and the 1961 Code Revisited, the first of two walks looking at the wave of high-rise construction that was build in accordance with the major changes in the code implemented in 1961 (Sunday, September 18, 11am, with Matt Postal)
Battery Park City Evolving, "love it or hate it," focusing on the northern section. Sunday, September 25, 4pm, with Francis Morrone
Catalysts for Change: East Midtown and the 1961 Code, the East Side continuation of Matt Postal's Sixth Avenue walk above (September 18). Saturday, October 1, 11am
Forest Hills: Garden City in the City. Sunday, October 23, 2pm, with Francis Morrone
Downtown's Forgotten Neighborhood, the immigrant-rich "Lower West Side" that remained a multicultural hotbed until it was largely displaced by the World Trade Center. Saturday, October 29, 11am, with Joe Svehlak ("whose family settled here in the early 1900s")

There are also a pair of "Beyond Sight" tours specifically conceived for people with visual impairments (though open to others), stressing "visual description and multi-sensory exploration," led by art historian Sylvia Laudien-Meo (reservations required for both): Grand Central Terminal, September 3, 11am, and The September 11 & Irish Hunger Memorials, October 20, 12n.

And a tour of a project that was never built --

I'm also delighted to see that Matt Postal is once again doing what was my first MAS tour (only last fall!), one I talk about all the time: LOMEX Remembered (Thursday, September 15, 5:30pm) -- a tour of a project that was never built (!), Robert Moses's planned Lower Manhattan Expressway, when a local community threatened with destruction discovered that it could too fight City Hall, in a long series of battles (Moses didn't give up easily; every time the opponents thought they had thwarted the project, he came back with a revised plan and they had to start all over) in which Jane Jacobs's name was heard for the first time.


Sherman Creek seen from the northern edge of Inwood, Manhattan -- target of James Renner's October 2 WAHI tour.

It's a series of six, covering areas of Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill, being offered Sundays at noon from September 11 to October 16 by Northern Manhattan historian James Renner, author -- by strange coincidence -- of the book Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill (Arcadia Publishing; I've ordered my copy!) and the official historian of Community District 12 Manhattan. Again, you'll find the schedule here, and the tours are $15, $10 for students and seniors.

I'm sorry to say that after the triage with the NYTM and MAS schedules, plus other tour plans (like, again the Staten Island circumnavigation, which I have no intention of missing!), I'm probably only going to be able to make two of the six, but they're two I'm especially eager for: Jumel Terrace Historic District & Sugar Hill (Washington Heights and Harlem, the first of the series, September 11) and Sherman Creek (Inwood, October 2). I'm hoping that the book will help me plug some of those gaps. And of course I assume James will be offering more tours in the future.

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