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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How Desperate Would You Have To Be To Stay At A Trump Hotel?

As you know if you're even a semi-regular reader of this blog, I travel a lot-- always have. When I was a kid I would crash wherever I could. I hitch-hiked out to San Francisco for what the media later dubbed "the Summer of Love" and wound up sleeping on a step on a staircase in an old Haight-Ashbury Victorian. Years later I spent several years living in a VW camper can as I drove from London to India. Still later I wound up as president of a large company and stayed in the major luxury class hotels like the Plaza Athénée in Paris, the Principe Di Savoia in Milan, the New Otani in Tokyo, the Prk Tower in Buenos Aires, Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton's everywhere... But never, under any circumstances, a Trump-branded hotel. Trump hotels-- like the one I wrote about in Baku last June when I visited Azerbaijan always have a reputation for being glitzy and third rate. These days, when I travel, I tend to rent apartments or houses and use them as a base to explore. The idea of walking into a Trump property-- even for a dinner-- has always been inconceivable, long before he decided to jump into politics. His properties are as phony and superficial as he is.

This week, Benjamin Freed, writing for the Washingtonian was just the latest to laugh at all the tasteless Arabs rushing to hold their gawdy, ostentatious events at Trump's new hotel in DC. A match made in heaven. Freed's review is brutal-- and not in a good way. "Before the Trump International Hotel opened," wrote Freed, "Donald Trump liked to brag that the business he and his family built inside the Old Post Office would be 'one of the great hotels of the world.'" It's worth mentioning that part of the deal when you pay Trumpanzee to use his name to brand your hotel is that he will publicly state that when the hotel opens, no matter how much of a pile of crap it is, Trump will put out a press release calling it "one of the great hotels of the world." Every hotel he's ever been associated with gets that worthless accolade for their worthless promo packet, often backed up by the same worthless pronouncements from Ivanka and one of the sons (who Trump himself referred to on camera as "retards.") Freed continued: "But according to a year-end list of new luxury hotels from a travel group that specializes in high-end accommodations, it’s one of the world’s worst. The Trump hotel rated as the world’s third-lousiest new hotel, according to the membership-only United Kingdom operation LTI-Luxury Travel Intelligence. Maybe not quite as bad as Trump Grille in NY's Trump Towers, but still really gross.
“The building itself is undoubtedly impressive, but once inside we start to ask questions,” LTI’s review begins, acknowledging the Old Post Office as a marvel of late-19th-century Romanesque Revival architecture and design. But from there, the review is brutal.

“LTI finds the décor a little garish and more quantity over quality,” it continues. Few who have been inside the hotel might argue differently. In Trumpian fashion, the hotel is a pageant of too-muchness, from the gold-colored bathroom fixtures to a $29 bowl of hummus to the crystal spoonfuls of sickly-sweet Hungarian wine that go for as much as $140.

It goes on.

“Service is poor on occasions and lacks confidence,” LTI founder Michael Crompton writes. “The whole experience seems a little forced, and therefore this place is not for the true discerning luxury traveller.”

no comment
For supporters of the president-elect or his hotel, Crompton’s suggestion that his DC hotel is not truly luxurious might be the most cutting. Throughout his business career, Trump has resembled a spoiled outer-borough brat robing himself in glitz and luxury to get in the good graces of rich Manhattan swells, and his political rise could very well be a response to DC establishment types laughing him out of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

Only two hotels-- anywhere in the world-- fared worse in LTI’s rankings: a Four Seasons on Oahu, Hawaii, and the Palazzo Versace in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

While LTI’s review does not make explicit mention of Trump’s election or the brewing mess over the Trump Organization’s lease from the General Services Administration for the Old Post Office, it does acknowledge that it is unlikely to have much impact on the hotel. “But no doubt the tourist hordes will keep the place eternally busy,” Crompton writes.

UPDATE, 5:48 PM: In an email to Washingtonian, Crompton piles on to his publication’s initial criticism, writing that the Trump hotel’s gaudiness—and that of the larger Trump brand-- runs counter to recent hotel-industry trends. “For quite a while there has been a move towards an understated elegance in new luxury properties,” he writes. “We had similar feelings towards Trump Turnberry (one of Trump’s golf courses in Scotland).”
You think there's any chance at all his presidency will be any different? I don't.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ever Get Caught Up In A Revolution?

Cairo, revolution

-by Eden Bowditch

I met Eden Unger because I used to do a alt-metal rock show on KUSF in San Francisco and she was in an all girl hard core band, Rude Girl. Great band! Eventually, Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, The Clash) was going to produce their debut album for my record label and CBS, which had bought my company, was going to release it. But it never happened and I can't remember what exactly why or what transpired next. I remember Eden being a metal sculptor working with a blow torch and then the next thing I knew decades had passed, she was an author with a family and living in Cairo, teaching at the American University. Time flies. Her new book The Strange Round Bird is coming out in a few months, the third book in her trilogy, The Young Inventors Guild. It must have been at least a couple years ago that I asked her to share some of her thoughts about the Egyptian revolution with DWT readers. There's already been a counter-revolution, but today she sent in her post! You know metal people, right? And sculptors? Writers? Egyptians?

Aftershocks of a Revolution
-by Eden Unger Bowditch

The strangest thing was that we learned to live with the sounds of gunfire. As daylight began to fade each evening, Nate and Julius, our eldest son, who was 15 at the time, would join the other men in our building and barricade the glass entry. This was how the Egyptian revolution unfolded for us, in Cairo, in 2011.

Actually, that was how the unfolding continued. The beginning was just as much of a surprise for us as the rest of the world. Lyric, our daughter, was in Abu Dhabi for a Global Issues Network conference with other 7th graders from Cairo American College. She had plans for a slumber party with her two best friends when she returned that Friday. Julius had the lead in the HS musical, and Cyrus, then 6, was hanging out and being cute. And there was Olive, the dog, too.

The first night of the HS musical was Thursday, 27 January. There had been a massive protest on Tuesday, 25 January (now the date considered to be the Egyptian revolution) but that was on the other side of town. In truth, it was the 28th that everything went crazy. When Julius went to school to prepare for the Friday performance, he was told the school was closed. Closed? After months of preparation, his first thought was ‘Crap! No show?’ Looking around, he realized everything was closed. It wasn’t until later that the revolution dawned on us all.

Actually, technically, it wasn’t a revolution. It was the deposing of a dictator with nothing to fill the gap. At the time, we only knew we were in the middle of it, whatever it was. At 3am on Saturday, our car disappeared along with fifty other cars on the street. Tanks were filling the streets. At dusk, we and the other tenants barricaded the glass front doors of the building. Curfew was set at random hours, one day 4pm, the next day 1pm. We’d have to run home, hiding behind the ad hoc militia’s safe points (broken fences, benches, tires or chairs or other detritus blocking the road) where the local shop owners and bawabs (doormen) would band together to check for bombs and guns and folks who did not belong. Every few blocks, there was a different color of arm band, made from plastic bags. We had yellow. This allowed us to pass without being searched.

Then, they shut off the internet and mobile phone service. We had the only land line in the neighborhood that could call out of the country. This is how we contacted friends in Germany who contacted the hotel where Lyric was in Abu Dhabi. They found the teacher and told her to assure the kids that parents were OK. The teacher had no idea what was happening. They had been at the conference and had gone to sleep, never checking the news. Once they knew, The Global Issues Network kids crowded around the television, watching the tanks in the streets and the burning buildings. Still, it was surreal to them and they could not relate this to their own neighbourhood.

Back in Cairo, we had lines of friends and colleagues coming to our flat. Everyone was calling loved ones abroad to let them know they were alright. Many were scrambling to get to the airport. Those who tried to leave first were stranded at the airport for days before getting flights anywhere. Evacuations began in earnest and buses of colleagues started leaving. One of our dearest friend, former bureau chief of the New York Times in Cairo, now in Berlin, would call every few hours to let us know what was happening since we were cut off from our own news. He wanted us to leave, but we couldn’t. Lyric was still in Abu Dhabi and we had to be here when she got back. She was, we had heard, en route.Then we heard that flights were blocked leaving from Abu Dhabi to Cairo. The kids had to fly back through Bahrain. They flew from Bahrain to Cairo. Days later, Bahrain fell under a violent rebellion. That was too close.

When Lyric returned from Abu Dhabi, life had changed. Utterly. The friends who were planning the slumber party had evacuated, never to return. There were blockades in the streets, our jeep was gone, and there were tanks in the streets in front of our apartment building. The curfew sent people running through the streets for shelter. Lyric arrived at curfew. We ran.

For the next week or so, we would close the window when the gunfire became too loud or if we could smell clouds of teargas coming. We’d make whatever we had in the house since, without internet or ATMs, no use of credit cards or means of getting cash, we had few resources to buy food. Then, Cyrus began having nightmares of Bionicles taking over the city. The curfew became The Curfew, like The Bogeyman, and make us all run through the streets for shelter. It was time to get out of Dodge.

When you evacuate, you are flying away from something, not going to something, so you just get on the next plane out. We were put on a plane to Germany. In Frankfurt, they met us with blankets and fresh water. It was surreal. We called our New York Times friends when we landed and took the train from Frankfurt to Berlin. I remember thinking how strange the tanks at the airport looked… until I realized they were luggage vans. In Berlin, I was anxious about making lunch plans because of the curfew. But of course, we left that behind. Or did we? We were touched in ways we could not measure. Having been in uncertain circumstances has made us all more aware of the residual effects, the reverberations, of every experience we have in our lives.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hertz Has Terrible Service, And I Want To Know If They Are Running A Scam

-by Melody Siegler

Before I get to my thoughts about a possible Hertz scam, let me give some background.

I’ve had to go to the L.A. area several times over the past months, as executor of my mother’s estate, flying in from Atlanta. So far, I’ve rented cars from Hertz. I will not rent from Hertz again, for many reasons, culminating in my most recent “adventure,” thus:

Somehow, before my last trip, I was made a “Gold Plus Hertz member” without asking for this. The apparent upside to this is that I can change to another car, no questions asked, if I don’t get the one I want. So, last time, flying in to LAX, I got some car other than the 2016 Toyota Camry I had asked for. So, I decided to go to the LAX Gold Plus Hertz “change your car” area and wait around to see if a 2016 Toyota Camry appeared.

Why did go to this trouble?

Because on the previous trip (flying into Burbank), I happened, by chance, to get a 2016 Toyota Camry. It was wonderful to drive, and not at all hard to figure out various things that had caused me “car rental hell” on four previous trips. Just one example of that: Like how to change the mirror to “night view,” which on one previous trip, driving a rental car of a brand I can’t remember, I tried to change the mirror view, and instead I ended up pushing a button on the mirror that got me in voice contact with some internet site. Just what I didn’t need.

So, my waiting for a Camry at Hertz LAX was rewarded (or so I thought). I got a Camry. I drove the Camry to the exit gate. Gold Plus members can just drive to the exit gate, and they get all the rental ticket stuff printed out there. And so I did. But, I asked “don’t I/you have to fill out the form that notes all damage/ imperfections to the car?.”

I asked because on the previous trip, Camry Hertz rental from Burbank, the woman at the exit asked me for this “damage form” (what damage form? I wasn’t given one.) So, she filled it out for me (at Burbank).

Back to most recent experience at LAX. I was told that was not necessary to fill out this “damage form” because I was a Gold Plus member. Note this detail. It becomes important later in this rather long story.

So, I drove out of the LAX Hertz lot in the Camry, and got on to the 405 North, to drive to the Valley. A neighbor was waiting there, to give me dinner. It was rush hour, stop and go on the 405, after dark. For an hour and a half, I felt every bump in the road, and every time I had to put on the brakes. I am especially prone to motion sickness, and by the time I arrived at my neighbor’s for dinner, I was close to throwing up. Instead of eating dinner, I sipped an Alka-Selzer on the rocks for about an hour, and then was able to eat a bit of dinner. But, I took a bowl with me when I went to bed in her guest room, in case I had to throw up. Thankfully, I didn’t throw up.

The next day, I drove the LAX Camry on various errands. I knew that there was something wrong with this particular car. Remember, I’d driven another Camry on my previous trip, and had had no complaints. It was as if the suspension on this particular car was damaged-- again I felt every slight bump in the road to the max.

I decided to take advantage of the “Gold Plus exchange this car” priviledge. I phoned Hertz, and arranged to exchange the LAX Camry at Burbank Airport, giving the reasons stated above. It was a Saturday, and thankfully a good friend in L.A. had driven to my place of abode in the Valley. He went with me to exchange the car at BUR. I simply wouldn’t have driven there alone, because I was afraid of getting motion sickness again.

And, my (our) experience exchanging the car at BUR was gawd-awful. I’ll abbreviate the story, so that I can get around to the part where I started wondering if Hertz was running some kind of a scam.

So, every person, from the moment I (we) drove into the return lot at BUR was rude from the get go. The general theme was “you can’t park here.” Okay, fine. And lots more that I am leaving out.

After many travails, I finally made it into the desk of the “Gold Plus” place. As things progressed, I happened to hear a woman standing at a nearby computer telling the person at the computer-- “The windshield is cracked. It has to be replaced.” I said “Are you talking about my original rental car (LAX Camry)? “Yes”, she said. “Show me,” I said. So, we went outside to the car, and she pointed out a small nick on the outer side of the winshield, driver’s side, about halfway up. It was maybe 1/8 an inch in diameter. I felt the spot, and yes, it was slightly rough.

And now I get into the “hmmm, I wonder if this is a profitable Hertz scam” part.

So, in discussing this nick, the woman said “Maybe you got it on the freeway.” (That would be me driving on the 405). Given the speed I was going, 5-10 mph, I thought to myself that this was very unlikely, and also, I didn’t remember anything hitting the windshield. The woman said repeatedly, staring sternly at me “But the windshield will have to be replaced.” She didn’t say that I would have to pay for this, but that was the strong implication. The friend who was with me witnessed this, and had the same impression.

I finally said “I have a loss-damage waiver”, or whatever that expensive daily insurance Hertz provides, is called. Her tone changed immediately. “Oh, then you’re golden.” No worries.

So, the Hertz scam part-- supposing you or someone else didn’t have the expensive insurance that I did. And, you happened to overlook this tiny nick when inspecting the rental car, assuming you were given the damage form at all. I’d never been given such a form in all of my previous rentals from Hertz. You would be on the hook for considerable dollars for a windshield replacement.

I very much doubt that Hertz replaced the windshield on the rental Camry I returned. I suspect that they put the car back in rental circulation. I wonder if some poor “fool” will eventually be entrapped. Seems like it makes for a great Hertz scam, no?

And, back to the suspension problem with the LAX Camry I returned. Dave, the mechanic at BUR, yes, that was the name on his shirt (he was the only Hertz person who had a name) was eventually called up to assist my friend and I in resetting the clock on my “new” rental. Dave was the only person I encountered who was polite from the get go. It took him only 20 mins to figure out how to reset the clock.

After this was done, I told him about the suspension problem in the Camry. His response-- “Those idiots at LAX-- the tire pressure was probably 400 when it should have been 300.” Made immediate sense to me-- if the tires are overinflated, then they have no “give.” Stiff as a wooden wheel on those old Conestogas. No ability to absorb irregularities on the road surface.

Scam or not, I’m done with renting cars from Hertz.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

U.S. Election Day

What a disgrace for America, but at least one Middle East Airline is cashing in on the dubious prospect of an unlikely Donald Trump victory today.

And from our German friends... a not so subtle warning to any American voters who haven't quite made up their minds yet-- or who are leaning towards making a fatal mistake:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In The Hospitality Industry Worldwide, Trump's Brand Is Now Completely Toxic-- Less Than Worthless

This past summer we were in Azerbaijan, primarily in Baku, the capital city. Really nice place to visit! We noticed that there was a huge hulking Trump Tower in the middle of the glittering skyline. But it was empty. In fact, it was closed down, having only opened for a week before firing the entire staff and shutting down the operation. Presumably they'll remove the toxic logo that the local bandits who own the building paid Trump to use, and re-open it under less toxic name-- like Motel 6 Baku. But Baku isn't the only city where the Trump name is keeping hotel rooms empty... even at heavily discounted prices.

The prestigious new hotel in DC that he's always trying to drum up business for is the cheapest 5-star in Washington-- and the most empty. And the Trump Towers in Istanbul, where the president of the country demanded the name be changed, is desperate to sell over a dozen luxury apartments that no one will buy at very deep discounts.
Property Turkey is privileged to offer to its clients 15 luxury apartments available for sale below market value within Istanbul's prestigious Trump Towers. This is a one-off offer for a limited period only and on a limited number of apartments.

  Trump Towers located in between Sisli and Mecidiyekoy is one of Istanbul's landmark mix-use complexes, where residences and commercial units always command a premium. The complex is one of Istanbul's most prestigious.
CNN reported that travel agents and events planners are avoiding the Trump brand entirely. In DC, "room rates also indicate the hotel may be lagging behind its competition. A Tuesday night stay at the Trump hotel was priced at $505 on, more than $200 cheaper than five-star alternatives like the Four Seasons and the Jefferson. Comparable hotels like the downtown Ritz-Carlton and Hay-Adams, meanwhile, had no open rooms." The new hotel "has been the target of protests and vandalism since it opened last month. And its namesake's presidential campaign has made the Trump name awkward at best and toxic at worst for those who specialize in the hotel industry. 'There certainly are people who are concerned about the message they send by spending money in Trump-branded hotels,' said David Loeb, a senior hotel analyst at the Robert W. Baird private equity firm. Brand research studies suggest those concerns are taking hold. A Foursquare analysis showed foot traffic at Trump's hotels, casinos and golf clubs is down 16% this year. And a Young & Rubicam report released Tuesday shows consumers think Trump himself is less fun, trendy and stylish than he was three months ago. That's bad news for Trump, who claims his name is worth more than $3 billion in real estate licensing and branding deals. Industry analysts say that number is exaggerated."

Travel + Leisure doesn't, as a rule, slag off potential advertisers, but the news is all over the hospitality industry: Trump Hotels Ditching Name For New Hotels. I don't know if Trump plans on having Barron run the business, but his new hotel ventures will be called "Scion."
Amidst reports that occupancy rates at Trump Hotels have slipped this election season, the company has announced that new brand hotels will no longer bear the Trump name.

The newest line of luxury hotels, geared towards millennials, will be called Scion, the company said.

“We wanted a name that would be a nod to the Trump family and to the tremendous success it has had with its businesses, including Trump Hotels, while allowing for a clear distinction between our luxury and lifestyle brands,” Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said in a statement.

Although Trump Hotels has said the new name has nothing to do with the eponymous businessman’s presidential campaign, empty rooms at the hotels have caused officials “to reduce rates during the peak season," according to New York Magazine.

Nightly rates at the newly-opened Trump International Hotel in D.C. plummeted below $500 while practically every other five-star property was sold out for the International Monetary Fund conference two weeks ago. And after his remarks about Mexican immigrants, two celebrity chefs backed out of their contracts to open a restaurant in the hotel.

According to Hipmunk, bookings at Trump Hotels plummeted 59 percent during the first half of 2016 and data from Foursquare shows a 17 percent drop in foot traffic at Trump properties since June 2015, when the reality TV star announced his presidential bid.
Back to Trump Tower Baku. His crooked partners, the notorious Mammadov family, tried burning the building down for the insurance money. And further south, in the United Arab Emirates, Trump’s name and image were removed from a $6 billion golf and housing complex in Dubai.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Urban Gadabout: Last call for Jack Eichenbaum's big day on the L train (this Saturday!)

With the rapid gentrification of Williamsburg, then Bushwick, and continuing farther out on the line, NYC's L train has gone from a forlorn stepchild of the subway system to its "boom" line.

by Ken

I'm hoping that by now urban geographer Jack Eichenbaum -- who's also the Queens borough historian -- needs no introduction to readers, and if he does, just click on the tag below. As I've noted, Jack's wide-ranging tours around NYC (I've toured all five boroughs except Staten Island with him), with their emphasis on the evolving forces of urban geography, have done more than I could tell to enable me to see how and why the city has developed and continues to develop.

One of Jack's choice tour modes is to devote an entire day to a single subway line, usually involving a half-dozen off-the-subway mini-walking tours along the route, giving urban gadders a sense of how variously the urban fabric both absorbed and was shaped by the line. He's probably best-known for what he calls his "signature" tour, "The World of the #7 Train," showcasing the diversity of what may be the world's most "international" rail line. But with Jack I've also toured the J train (from Lower Manhattan across the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn and then Queens) and the Brighton line in Brooklyn (revisiting Howie's and my old lifeline into "the City").

Now, as I've noted here previously, Jack is taking on the L train, in advance of the year-and-a-half shutdown of its connection from Williamsburg to Manhattan, to make possible desperately needed reconstruction and repair of damage caused by the ravages of time and Superstorm Sandy.

The Subway Nut's caption: "A Manhattan-bound R143 L train leaves Atlantic Avenue passing the tracks that lead from the L to the East New York L. (29 May, 2007)"
Life and Art Along the L Train
Saturday, October 22, 10am - 5:30pm

Since its expansion to 8th Avenue in Manhattan in the 1930s, the L line has stimulated gentrification along its route which traverses three boroughs. We explore the West Village and meatpacking district -- including a portion of the new Highline Park— and on to the East Village, Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood noting the continuous transformation of each of these neighborhoods, stimulated by the movement of artists.

This tour requires registration and payment in advance and is restricted to 25 participants. Fee $49 

For a complete prospectus, email:

The L train will soon be shut down for repairs; join this tour prior to that.
Obviously, it isn't going to be possible to do this tour again at least until the L line reopens, and even then, who knows? So if this sounds like something you might be interested in, now is the time to get on board. At last word from Jack, there's still space, but since we're talking about this coming Saturday, you need to contact Jack ASAP, either by e-mail or by phone (if you e-mail me at, I'll send you the number).

While the Manhattan connection is still operational, before it closes for post-Sandy reconstruction and repairs, rhe L train runs from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street crosstown under 14th Street, then under the East River to Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and then eastward, eventually hooking southeastward to Canarsie, within bus range of Canarsie's Jamaica Bay shore. [Click to enlarge.]

Friday, August 19, 2016

Urban Gadabout: Noshwalks, "Steamboat Bill Jr.," Long Island Art Deco, and mudh more (Fall gadding preview, Part 2)

Tomorrow evening movies return to Washington Heights' gorgeous, nearly 3400-seat United Palace Theater [click to enlarge], built in 1930 as Loew's 175th Street, the last of Loew's five 1929-30 "Wonder Theaters" in NYC and Jersey City, as the Buster Keaton silent masterpiece Steamboat Bill Jr. is shown with live organ accompaniment. Advance tickets, available online through today only, are $10. (Tickets tomorrow night will be $15, $10 for seniors.)

by Ken

As I explained Wednesday in Part 1 of this fall gadding preview, what I intended as a brief note on Myra Alperson's Noshwalks, which I haven't written about before, grew out of hand, and so had to be spun off into a Part 2, which has given me an opportunity to include some other odds 'n' ends, including the screening, with live organ accompaniment (by silent film music composer, organist, and orchestrator Bernie Anderson), of Buster Keaton's 1928 classic Steamboat Bill Jr. at the United Palace Theater in my own northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights.

We'll get to the Noshwalks et al., but first --


Last night I attended an Open House New York (OHNY) members' open house at the gorgeous United Palace Theater, which included a presentation by Mike Fitelson, executive director of United Palace of Cultural Arts, one of the three entities responsible for activities in this amazing nearly 3400-seat palace, built as Loew's 175th Street Theater in 1930, the last of five "Wonder Theaters" built by Loew's in 1929-30 (so named not just for their massive scale but for their monumental "Wonder Organs"). Here's Wikipedia's rundown of those Wonder Theaters (links and footnotes onsite):
• Loew's 175th Street Theatre, Manhattan (opened 1930) - Operates as a church and an entertainment venue under the name United Palace Theater.
• Loew's Jersey Theatre, Jersey City (opened 1929) - Operates as a classic cinema and performing arts center.
• Loew's Kings Theatre, Brooklyn (opened 1929) - Reopened January 23, 2015, following a complete renovation.[2]
• Loew's Paradise Theatre, The Bronx (opened 1929) - Between 2005 and 2012 it operated as a venue for live entertainment. It is currently a church.
• Loew's Valencia Theatre, Queens (opened 1929) - Remains open as a church, the Tabernacle of Prayer.[3]
Obviously the best-known currently is Loew's Kings in Brooklyn, which as noted reopened in 2015 after a long period of neglect, apparently fabulously rehabilitated. (I haven't been inside the building since Howie's and my high school graduation, like graduations for schools all over Brooklyn, took place there -- a long, long time ago.)

Once Loew's 175th Street went out of use as a movie theater, it had the good fortune, from a preservationist standpoint, of being bought by Reverend Ike, the televangelist, who gave it the name United Palace and undertook an impressive restoration. (I can vouch, never having been inside the building before last night, that it looks simply stunning.) Since Reverend Ike's death in 2009, the "trans-denominational" activities of the United Palace House of Inspiration have been overseen by his son, United Palace's president, Xavier Eikerenkoetter, and his wife. In 2012 Xavier got the ball rolling for an uptown arts center (Loew's 175th had always billed itself as providing "Times Square entertainment closer to home") the United Palace of Cultural Arts, which opened in 2013 as. (The third United Palace entity is presumably as for-profit as it can be: It books the theater, which is being steadily modernized technologically, for outside performances.)

When Reverend Ike bought the building, he had no idea that sealed in concrete was none other than the Wonder Organ, which when uncased turned out to be still playable -- at least until accumulated water and other damage (including "a small fire") to its (count 'em) 1799 pipes rendered it unusable. Now, however, it is being fully restored, under the auspices of the New York Theatre Organ Society, and NYTOS Recording Secretary Nick Myers was on hand, brimful of excitement, to talk about the project, with the four-keyboard console on display in the lobby for one last night before being removed to the space where it will be worked on. (Nick explained that yes indeed, all of those pipes will be painstakingly removed for restoration -- some onsite, others to a proper restoration site. And by one means or another the rest of the instrument's work will be got at.)

The United Palace Wonder Organ console (click to enlarge)

From the NYTOS website:
In the late 1920s, the Loew’s chain of movie theatres designed five “Wonder” theatres to be built, initially, in all five boroughs of New York City (Staten Island’s was eventually built in Jersey City). These theatres were some of the grandest movie palaces ever built and would stand as the flagship theatres for the company. To match the extravagance of the Wonder theatres, the Loew’s firm commissioned the Robert-Morton Organ Company of Van Nuys, California, the second largest theatre organ builder in the world, to build five identical, large organs to fill the massive spaces. These organs would be Robert-Morton’s magnum opus and use some of the highest pressures and largest scales the company ever produced. They would also be some of the last organs the firm produced.

The console, where the organist plays, was designed to be “over the top” and very ornate. The organ’s large pipework and many percussions are installed in two large chambers (rooms) on either side of the stage behind large statues. Also inside of these chambers are over 2,000 valves, tens of thousands of feet of wire, and twelve sound effects. The organ console also has its own lift from the orchestra pit which would rise up, extravagantly, at the beginning and end of each film. The organ in the United Palace was the youngest of the five Wonders; it is the only remaining in its original location with all of its original parts, unaltered. [If I've got this right, the working Wonder in Loew's Jersey is the one originally from Loew's Paradise in the Bronx. -- Ed.] From the over 12,000 theatre organs manufactured throughout the world, there are only around 20 known to be in their original theatres. This organ, along with the Brooklyn Paramount and Radio city, are in that very short list.
Obviously tomorrow night's screening of Steamboat Bill Jr., for the benefit of the organ restoration project, won't be using the United Palace's own Wonder Organ. Luckily, NYTOS has a touring organ, which will be brought onto the premises.


The last Noshwalk I did was just this month in Corona (Queens), which Myra especially likes because the food scene there is still very much in the fermenting stage. Still, you can't do a food tour of Corona, or any kind of tour of Corona, without stopping at the legendary Lemon Ice King of Corona. I had watermelon, and it was really and truly sensational.

I'd been hearing about and seeing listings for Myra's Noshwalks for ages before I finally did one, thanks (as I recall) to a periodic reminder via Justin Ferate's ever-invaluable mailing list -- another reminder of how much we lose when Justin moves to Santa Fe in January (as reported in the update to Part 1 of the preview). Since then I've done a number of Noshwalks, whenever I've managed a schedule fit.

With the double explosion of walking tours generally and, specifically, of food-themed activities, there are now all sorts of food tours going on around town, but none I'm aware of like Myra's now-extensive and far-flung roster of Noshwalks, which cover not just neighborhoods you might expect but all manner of others around the five boroughs, and even beyond. (Go to the website and click on "Tour Schedule," or go directly to the schedule page.) I'm especially trying to keep my calendar clear for the walk in Newark's Ironbound on Sat, Dec 3.)

Myra's walks are quirky and personal and as up-to-date as she can make them -- she's always looking for new gastronomic destinations as well as updating and refreshing even tours she's done for a while, explaining that she herself would be bored doing the same tour over and over. She's especially happy to be able to find areas that are still in the gastronomic developmental stage, when they're at their most fermentatious.

The actual eating consists of mostly takeout items from a circuit of eateries Myra normally scouts afresh for each outing, with occasional planned sitdowns. (At sitdowns eaters are expected to kick in a bit for a tiip, but otherwise all food costs -- though not beverages -- are included in the tour price.) She also scouts neighborhood parks and suchlike public spaces where the goodies can be consumed at leisure, weather permitting -- though even in not-so-permissive weather we've always managed somehow.) Since there are hardly any NYC neighborhoods these days that are ethnically monolithic, tours almost always include a fascinating assortment of goodies.

Myra doesn't neglect non-gastronomic features of neighborhoods either. For example, as many tours as I've done in Flushing, I had never set foot in the post office before doing her Flushing Noshwalk. And back on gastronomic ground, as many walking tours as I've done in Brooklyn's Greenpoint, it wasn't till I did Greenpoint with Myra that I heard tell of the great weekly event at the plant of Acme Smoked Fish, the fish smokers-processors-distributors -- "In Brooklyn since 1906" -- which opens its doors on Fridays only, from 8am to 1pm (there are also limited pre-holiday retail times' cf. Dec 24 and 31), making "Acme Smoked Fish, Blue Hill Bay, and Ruby Bay products available direct to consumers at wholesale prices." (Note: It's cash only.)

Now every week as Friday approaches my mind wanders to thoughts of Greenpoint and Acme. For that matter, each of the Noshwalks I've done with Myra has left indelible food memories -- some as tangible as the bottle of delicious Greek extra-virgin olive oil from a "Mediterranean" (aka Greek) market in Astoria, where a little old man was dispensing samples, and a bunch of us who sampled couldn't resist buying. Yum! You leave each tour not only well filled but well provided with a list of destinations to return to, as well as a feel for the ways Myra scouts the offerings of unfamikliar destinations (and the familiar ones too). The tours also tend to attract eaters with special knowledge of the neighborhood which can enrich the experience, in deliciously unpredictable ways.

Here's what Myra has listed for the rest of 2016 (but keep checking the schedule on the website for changes including possible additions):

Sun, Aug 21: Rego Park (Queens)
Sat, Aug 27: Woodlawn and Wakefield (Bronx)
Sun, Sept 11: Sephardic Brooklyn
Sat, Sept 17: Ridgewood Queens
Sat, Sept 24: Sunset Park (Brooklyn)
Sat, Oct 1: Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach (Brooklyn)
Sat, Oct 8: Astoria (Queens)
Sat, Oct 29: Staten Island Ramble
Sun, Nov 13: Kosher Williamsburg
Sat, Nov 19: Amsterdam Avenue Meander (Manhattan) -- New Tour!
Sat, Dec 3: Nosh New Jersey: Newark's Ironbound
Sat, Dec 10: Belmont/Bronx (Little Italy of the Bronx)
Sat, Dec 17: Dyker Heights Holiday Lights (Brooklyn)
Fri, Dec 30: The Wonders of Woodside (Queens)

Note: There's a Noshwalks blog on Facebook.


In Part 1 of the preview I noted Tony Robins's Oct 16 "Art Deco of Central Park West" for the Municipal Art Society as self-recommending -- if you think of "art deco" and "New York," you think of Anthony W/ Robins. (I should also have warned that it's likely to fill up sooner rather than later. You can, by the way, keep up on Tony's doings on It was because of Tony that I found my way to the Art Deco Society of New York, for which he does events including periodic ones of the lollapalooza variety. My initiation was an April 2015 all-day five-borough art deco bus expedition, "Art Deco Landmarks: Unlikely Battles and Great Successes" (which you can read about by scrolling down on the ADSNY "Past Events" page).

In a few weeks Tony is undertaking an even more rarified -- for us city-bound folk, anyway -- exploration, for which I gather there's still space. (I don't take chances on these things. I registered as soon as I saw it announced!)

Destination Deco: Long Island Bus Tour
Sun, Sept 11, 9am-6pm

Come join us on an all-day safari as we explore the wilds of Long Island looking for Art Deco. Though Nassau and Suffolk counties are known primarily for their suburban residential architecture, they also have town and city centers with commercial and government buildings dating from the late 1920s and early 1930s – and that means new Deco marvels for us to discover and enjoy.

Join architectural historian, Tony Robins, as he leads ADSNY on this special day-long bus trip that will see treasures such as:

• The Nassau County Courthouse, part of an early 1930s “Modern Classic” government complex in Mineola.
• A handsome WPA-era post office in Hempstead, which is across the street from a fabulous early telephone company building by the same firm (Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker) that gave us the three great Deco behemoths of Lower Manhattan (and it includes marvelous ornamental tracery similar to that found on Ralph Walker’s seminal Barclay-Vesey building).
• An intact, 1928 Art Deco high school in Valley Stream, rivaling any of New York City’s (very few) Art Deco public school buildings.
• Another splendid Deco post office, in Patchogue.

But then come the special treats!

• Lunch at the central pavilion – just opposite the central administration tower – of Robert Moses’s 1930s fabulously designed Jones Beach. [Note: Lunch isn't included in the tour price.]
• A visit to a rarely seen set of WPA murals in a Hempstead firehouse.
• And a visit, behind-the-scenes tour, and wine reception at the beautifully restored and splendidly Deco, Suffolk Theatre in Riverhead, where we will present an ADSNY award to the couple who single-handedly brought the theater back from the brink of destruction.

Members: $90. Non-members: $115. [Check for prices for Jazz Age Order members and their guests.]
As you can see, the saving on the member price will go a long way toward paying for your membership ($55 for one year, or $140 for three years), which gets you the member price on all ADSNY events. (For membership info, check here.) So far announced are:

Thu, Sept 22, 6:30-8pm: Bakelite: A Collector's Odyssey
Sat, Oct 1, 1-3pm: Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn Walking Tour (a new tour with Matt Postal)
Sat, Oct 22, 1-5pm: Jersey City Art Deco Bus Tour (Note: Registrants have to provide their own transportation to the meeting place in Jersey City and then back.) [I'm bummed because I can't do this tour, at least the second event -- so far! -- that I can't do because it's the same day as Jack Eichenbaum's epic trek along the L train.]
Sat, Oct 29, 1-3pm: Jazz Age Icons of Woodlawn Cemetery Halloween Tour (with Susan Olsen)
Thu, Nov 10, 6:30-8pm: Art Deco Ceramics: Craft and Collectability (with Judith Miller and Tom Folk)


Sometimes things just don't work out. As I've written, I've been frustrated for a while trying to get myself onto one of the tours my pal Mitch Waxman has been doing in Queens's Calvary Cemetery, but every time a new one was announced, I had some kind of schedule conflict. Finally I manned up and made a big decision: Tempted as I was by the Art Deco Society of New York's already-announced "Egyptomania" event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (tickets weren't on sale yet, but I'd already put it on my calendar), on that Saturday in July I would finally do Calvary with Mitch, and I signed up. Then the day before, because extreme heat was forecast, they went and canceled the tour! (Hey, I'm used to Municipal Art Societies, which proceed rain or shine. We don't pack it in just 'cause it may get a little warm.) You'll note below that Brooklyn Brainery has rescheduled Calvary Cemetery with Mitch, for Oct 8. Naturally, I can't make it.

By then, naturally, "Egyptomania" was sold out. So much for acting decisively, for taking control of your damn life! Then I remembered a recent mention by a gadding friend of AIANY, which I tend not to think about because they don't seem to have a mailing list, and for that matter don't seem to have a proper of list of their own tours. For the list I manufactured below, I had to peel the listings off of the AIANY calendar, filtering each month's listings for "Tours."

I don't suppose architects would want us to think of AIA as their trade association, which it is, but it's more serious than that, sharing and promoting all aspects of the profession. And this is one organization that isn't trying to glad-hand us into joining. In fact, unless you have documentable ties to architecture or related professions, you can't join. But AIANY maintains a busy schedule of tours that are open to the public; presumably they'd like us to be better-educated about architecture.

In the past I'd done AIANY tours -- usually, as I think of it, when jogged by some sort of external listing that included them. I remember a nice walking tour of the Financial District; and an excellent preview of the new section of Governors Island, the Hills, before it opened in mid-July; and several boat tours" (which you'll note do have a page of their own): both the "architecture"-themed and "bridge and infrastructure"-themed circumnavigations of Manhattan, and the "Roosevelt Island Loop Tour." I still want to do their boat tour to Staten Island's still-in-the-making, transformed-from-landfill Freshkills Park, which you'll note below is being offered a couple of times in the period covered.

So I checked the schedule, and sure enough that Saturday morning AIANY was offering the tour "Midtown Modernism(s): Crosstown Section: 53rd St (approx.) East to West," listed below for Nov 5. So I registered and even with the heat had a lovely time under the tutelage of architect Kyle Johnson, who in fact chairs the Architecture Tour Committee -- an affable as well as learned chap I'd encountered on a couple of previous AIANY tours where he was representing the committee. As Kyle noted, unlike tours offered by other organization, which tend to stress historic buildings, AIA people as architects, while not neglectful of older buildings, tend to be most interested in what more recent generations of architects have been designing.

Events have been announced through November. Here's what I pulled off the calendar:

Sat, Aug 20, 2-4pm: Remembering the Future: Architecture at the 1964/65 New York World's Fair
Sun, Aug 21, 11am-1pm: Between the Clocks: The Architecture of Park Avenue South
Sat, Aug 27, 10:30am-1pm: Battery Park City: Creating a New Neighborhood
Sun, Aug 28, 9:30am-12:45pm: AIANY Freshkills Boat Tour
Sun, Aug 28, 11am-1:30pm: Roosevelt Island: 1970s "New Town in Town" to FDR Four Freedoms Park
Sat, Sept 10, 10:30am-1pm: Midtown Modernism(s): East 42nd Street, the United Nations and Vicinity
Sun, Sept 11, 10:30am-1pm: The High Line, Hudson River Park and New Architecture in West Chelsea and the Far West Village
Sat, Sept 17, 8am-5pm: Escape From the City: Olana State Historic Site Day Trip
Sat, Sept 17, 10am-12:30pm: Times Square: Contemporary Architecture in and around the "Crossroads of the World"
Sat, Sept 24, 10:30am-1pm: Midtown Modernism(s): The Park Avenue Corridor
Sun, Sept 25, 10:30am-1pm: Modern FiDi: Expanding and Renovating the Financial District
Sat, Oct 1, 10:30am-1pm: SoHo: New Architectural Interventions in a Historic District
Sun, Oct 2, 10:30am-12:30pm: New York's Civic Center Walking Tour: History of Its Urban Development and Architecture
Sat, Oct 8, 1:30-3pm: West Side Story: The Evolution of Lincoln Center
Sun, Oct 9, 10:30am-1pm: Lower West Side Rebirth: New and Reused Architecture in the Former Washington Market Area and Southern TriBeCa
Sun, Oct 9, 1:30-4:45pm: AIANY Freshkills Park Boat Tour
Sat, Oct 22, 1:45-4:30pm: Battery Park City: Creating a New Neighborhood
Sun, Oct 23, 11am-1:30pm: Between the Clocks: The Architecture of Park Avenue South
Sat, Oct 29, 11am-1:30pm: Roosevelt Island: 1970s "New Town in Town" to FDR Four Freedoms Park
Sun, Oct 30, 10-11:30am: 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center: Architecture, Urban Planning and the History of the New and Original World Trade Center
Sat, Nov 5, 10:30am-1pm: Midtown Modernism(s): Crosstown Section: 53rd St (approx.) East to West
Sun, Nov 6, 11am-1pm: NYU and Washington Square: Changing Strategies of Growth and Design
Sat, Nov 12, 10:30am-1pm: New Architecture on Cooper Square, Bond St. and the New Bowery
Sun, Nov 13, 2-4pm: Remembering the Future: Architecture at the 1964/65 New York World's Fair
Sat, Nov 19, 10:30am-1pm: The Changing Face of North Midtown: On and Off 57th Street
Sun, Nov 20, 10am-12:30pm: Modern Architecture and Adaptive Reuse in the West Village and Meatpacking District

Non-member prices appear to be $25 for two-hour tours, $30 for two-and-a-half-hour tours.


I list these together, even though they're wholly unrelated -- except in my mind, because I came to both as the organizations (apart from the Working Harbor Committee) for which Mitch Waxman does most of his walking tours. That said, they both do lots of other interesting stuff.

BROOKLYN BRAINERY's mission is reasonably priced classes in most any sort of thing you could want to learn. Just in the last week I've done cooking classes with both halves of the Masters of Social Gastronomy, Jonathan Soma, a computer geek by day who "has more hobbies than can dance on the head of a pin," and Sarah Lohman, who styles herself a "historic gastronomist": the American-pancake installment of Soma's many-parted "Summer of Pancakes," and "Pies from Scratch: Stone Fruit Galette" with Sarah. As a matter of fact, Soma and Sarah are about to do an MSG event, "The Story of Sourdough: Starters to Science," Sunday evening, Aug 29, at the Institute for Culinary Education, with an assist from ICE's dean of bread baking, Sim Lee, who "will perform a sourdough bread-baking demonstration."

Since the $15 fee includes two beers, the thing is practically free, and it's fun just to see ICE's lovely, relatively new space. However, because of building and security logistics at Brookfield Place (the former World Financial Center), getting to it and into it, especially at the same time as a large group, is a hassle and a half, and lovely as ICE's class spaces look, the demonstration space is so large that amid that mob, even with a few video monitors, you're not likely to see any demonstrations very well. Still, the crowd is great for socializing, if that's what you're into, and remember, you've got your two beers.

Again, most of the Brainery offerings are lectures or classes that take place either at home base in Prospect Heights or other locations. Here are some field events I pulled out of the listings for the next month which have space left as of writing:

Sat, Aug 20, 12-1:30pm: Governors Island Walk (with James Hoffman, $15)
Sat, Aug 20, 10-11:30am: Drawn to Trees: Greenpoint (Brooklyn) (with Lisa Nett, $12)
Sat, Aug 27, Sat, Sept 3, Sun, Sept 18, and Sat, Sept 24, 10am-4pm: Oko Farms' Aquaponics ($135)
Sat, Aug 27, 1-3pm: Lower Manhattan History Walk (with James Hoffman, $20)
Sat, Sept 10 (Carroll Gardens), Sept 17 (Prospect Heights), or Sept 24 (Greenpoint), 10:30am-12n: Street Tree Identification for Beginners (with Lisa Nett, $13)
Sat, Oct 8, 11am-1pm: Calvary Cemetery (with Mitch Waxman, $30)

The local OBSCURA SOCIETIES are event-oriented local arms of Atlas Obscura. Their events are listed on the "Events" page of the Atlas Obscura website, but it's not necessarily easy to pull out the ones in your area. (There's an e-mail sign-up box on the above-referenced "Events" page, but I don't know whether that selects just for your area.) The New York Obscura Society does have a great mailing list, which is splendid at keeping subscribers up to date on future offerings. Otherwise, I can't find any listing of all offerings. (There's a Facebook page, but it has hardly any listings). I wound up using the relevant page on the Eventbrite site, from which I extracted these listings, omitting events that are already sold out (but you can sign up for a waiting list, so you may want to check them out as well):

Sun, Aug 21, 11am-1pm: The Poison Cauldron of Newtown Creek (with Mitch Waxman)
Sun, Sept 4, 11am-1:30pm: 19th Century Slums on the Lower East Side -- Dystopia in America
Sat, Sept 10, 10:30am-12:30pm: Wildlife Dioramas at the Museum of Natural History
Tue, Sept 13, 7-9pm: Behind the Scenes at Puppet Kitchen
Wed, Sept 14, 1-6pm: Chipmunk Taxidermy Workshop
Fri, Oct 7, 7:30-11:30pm: Murder and Mayhem at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Thu, Nov 3, 6:30-7:45pm: New York Academy of Medicine Series: Alchemy

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Urban Gadabout: A fall gadding preview

With Wolfe Walkers update: Oh no, it's the final season!

Yes! On Oct 22 Jack Eichenbaum is doing another of his day-long explorations of a single NYC subway line -- this time the L train.

by Ken

With the Municipal Art Society's Sept-Oct schedule already up and open to registration and with early (members-only) registration for the New York Transit Museum's fall schedule having begun this morning, we're already late for a fall gadding preview if we're ever going to do one. We'll get back to them, but I want to start with what for me is the fall highlight, another of urban geographer Jack Eichenbaum's all-day excursions built around a subway line, this time the L train, especially timely as its Manhattan-to-Brooklyn link is about to be shut down for 18 months for rehabilitation of its Sandy-damaged East River tunnel.


Jack, who's the Queens borough historian, always calls his day-long exploration of and along the #7 (Flushing) line his "signature tour" (you may recall that he recently did a wholly revamped version), but I've also spent days with him on the J train and the Q (Brighton Line). So I whipped out my checkbook when he announced this to his mailing list (which you should sign up for on his website, Geography of New York with Jack Eichenbaum):

[Click to enlarge.]

Life and Art Along the L Train
Sat, Oct 22, 10am-5:30 pm

Since its expansion to 8th Avenue in Manhattan in the 1930s, the L line has stimulated gentrification along its route which traverses three boroughs. We explore the West Village and meatpacking district -- including a portion of the new Highline Park -- and on to the East Village, Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood noting the continuous transformation of each of these neighborhoods, stimulated by the movement of artists.

This tour requires registration and payment in advance and is restricted to 25 participants. Fee $49. For a complete prospectus, email The L train will soon be shut down for repairs; join this tour prior to that.

Note that Jack is also doing a half-day outing on the J train:
A Day on the J
Sat, Sept 17, 10:30am-1:30pm

The J train enabled the crowded masses of the Lower East Side to move to Brooklyn and Queens. Elevated from the Williamsburg Bridge crossing until Jamaica, the ride provides diverse views of industrial and bucolic landscapes. This tour concentrates on the portion of the J train within Queens. Walks take place in commercial and historic downtown Jamaica, residential Victorian Richmond Hill and residential Woodhaven ending at historic Neir’s tavern, NYC’s oldest bar. At Neir’s enjoy a prix fixe lunch or drink and eat as you wish.

This tour requires registration and payment in advance and is restricted to 25 participants. Fee $25. For a complete prospectus, email

In addition, as usual Jack has been doing Wednesday-evening tours in Queens this summer. Still to come are:

Wed, Aug 24, 6-8pm, Corona Circuit
Wed, Sept 14, 5-7pm, Roosevelt Island Bridge and Four Freedoms Park

Check out the "Public Tour Schedule" page on Jack's website.


For some time now, the peerless Justin has been doing most of his public tours with Wolfe Walkers, and he just sent out an advance notice of the fall season that's about to be announced. When it is announced, it should be findable on the Wolfe Walkers page of his website, but the surest way to get up-to-date info is by being on Justin's mailing list. As I point out frequently, Justin's mailing list is an indispensable (free) resource for information not just about tours but about goings-on generally in NYC. He sends out a lot of stuff, but I can say that I never ignore one of his pass-alongs.

Meanwhile, here's the schedule as Justin sent it out in his advance notice (but see the UPDATE below):

Sunday, Sept 18, 3-6pm: Williamsburg -- The Land of the Chasidim (Rabbi David Kalb of the Jewish Learning Center of New York, with Justin on hand)
Saturday, Oct. 1, 10am-3pm: Fordham Museum of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities + Fordham University + Belmont (Arthur Ave. Little Italy)
Sat, Oct 8, 9:40am-2pm: United Palace Theatre and the New High Bridge
Sat, Oct 22, 11am-4pm: Broad Channel (Queens) and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (with Justin and Don Riepe, director of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society)
Sat, Oct 29, 7:45am-6pm: BUS: City Island and Bartow-Pell Mansion (with lunch at the Lobster Box on City Island)
Sun, Nov 6, 11:30am-2:30pm: Socrates Sculpture Park and the Isamu Noguchi Museum (Astoria, Queens)
Sun, Nov 13, 9:45am-6pm: Upper Montclair (NJ) Historic District and Stained Glass Tour (with Justin and Ron Rice)
Sat, Dec 17, 12n-3pm: Holiday Brunch at Pete’s Tavern, with Stanford White lecture by Justin

UPDATE: Justin has now sent out the Wolfe Walkers Fall 2016 brochure, and I've added the schedule information to the above listings. You can download a pdf of the brochure here.

The startling news (startling to me, at least) comes at the end of the brochure, where there's a full-page "Personal Note from Justin" followed by a two-page history of the Wolfe Walkers. In the "personal note" Justin tells a much fuller version of a story I first heard him tell when he suddenly realized that he'd been doing Wolfe Walkers longer than Gerard Wolfe. He tells how the dark depression he was experiencing over what was seeming an ill-advised move to New York City was turned around by his first contact with Professor Wolfe and the Wolfe Walkers. The part I especially love about the story is that it turned on Justin's habit-- and I can't tell you how much I love this -- of sending a thank-you note whenever he enjoys a book by a living author, on the theory that the author will have endured plenty of carping and nitpicking.

It was his discovery of the Wolfe Walkers, Justin says, that led him to fall in love with New York, "and I owe it all to Gerard Wolfe." He continues:
I have never been able to fully thank Gerard for the many, many years of pleasure he instigated for me. When Gerard left New York, his followers were bereft, so they asked me if I would continue in Gerard’s footsteps (literally). I’ve never regretted doing so.

The Wolfe Walkers have provided me with decades of warm, embracing, and exciting adventures. Hopefully, I’ve been able to provide the Wolfe Walkers with many of those same qualities in the countless tours I’ve created over that time.

Now, time continues in its steady pace. In January, I will be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It will be
difficult to say “Goodbye.” As most of you know, my love for New York City is palpable.
He goes on to thank Gerard "for your countless gifts" and "all of you Wolfe Walkers for joining me in our many, many adventures over the decades."

And all I can think -- once past the "Oh no, say it ain't so" stage -- is: No, thank you, Justin.

With the schedule heads-up Justin sent out earlier, I was able to juggle my schedule, with no idea that this would be the final Wolfe Walkers season, to be able to do all but two of the events -- one of them I've already done but would happily have done again if I didn't have a schedule conflict. (That's the Broad Channel/Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge tour with Justin and probably the best-known Jamaica Bay preservation activist, Don Riepe.) So my registrations are in the mail. Now I have to figure out how I thank Justin for everything I've learned thanks to him.


There is, as usual, a tremendously broad assortment of offerings -- at $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Remember that with your modestly priced membership (starting at $50 for an Individual Membership, $40 for seniors over 62), you also get a voucher for a free tour, so membership -- in addition to supporting an invaluable civic organization -- should be pretty much self-recommending.)

It's probably just me, but the tour that really popped out for me is Exploring the Hunts Point Peninsula, Sept 10, with Jean Arrington. Jean is best known as the ranking authority on the citywide deluge of schools built by the legendary C.B.J. Snyder but is also known to step out to interesting areas of "her" borough, the Bronx. Thanks to Open House New York I've been able to tour several of the big Hunts Point food markets, and couldn't help wondering what else goes on on that peninsula sticking out from the South Bronx.

Check out all the listings, but I can say that I get itchy if I go too long without doing a tour with Matt Postal, who's doing Lower Manhattan Skyscrapers, and Brooklyn's Waterfront, Oct. 13, and of course the tours of Tony Robins, Mr. Art Deco, like Art Deco of Central Park West, Oct. 16, are self-recommending. I call attention, especially for people who've never done a walk in the company of that amazing sweetheart Joe Svehlak, to his Atlantic Avenue (Brooklyn), Sept 3, and Nassau Street (Manhattan), Oct 30.

You don't have to remember the MAS Tours link; just go to and click on "Tours." These Sept-Oct tours still had openings as of writing.

every Fri and Sat, 12:30pm: Tour34: Empire to Penn (with the 34th Street Partnership)
Sat, Sept 3, 10am: Historic Atlantic Avenue (Joe Svehlak)
Fri, Sept 9, 12:30pm: Reflecting Absence: The 9/11 Memorial (Judith Pucci)
Saturday, Sept 10, 2pm, Exploring the Hunts Point Peninsula (Jean Arrington)
Sun, Sept 11, 2pm: Downtown Brooklyn, Part 1: The Department Store District (Francis Morrone) [Note: Part 2, on Oct 23, is already sold out, like Francis's other Sept-Oct tours. I'm surprised there'a still space for Part 1, and wouldn't expect this to remain for long.]
Sun, Sept 11, 2pm: The Theaters of Greenwich Village (Laurence Frommer)
Sat, Sept 17, 11am: Vanderbilt Mansions (Jason Stein)
Sun, Sept 18, 2pm: Jewish History of the Lower East Side (Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy)
Sat, Sept 24, 11am: Before the Code: Lower Manhattan Skyscrapers (Matt Postal)
Sun, Sept 25, 12n: Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (James and Karla Murray)
Sat, Oct 1, 11am: The Arc of the Beat: From West to East Villages Across Six Decades (Ron Janoff)
Sun, Oct 2, 2pm: Public Art of Lower Manhattan: An Outdoor Gallery Hiding in Plain View (Patrick Waldo)
Sat, Oct 8, 11am: Exploring Historic Jackson Heights (Meredith Toback)
Sun, Oct 9, 2pm: The Italian South Village (Laurence Frommer)
Sat, Oct 15, 11am: Preserving Brooklyn's Waterfront (Matt Postal)
Sat, Oct 15, 1pm: Subway Art Tour 2 (Phil Desiere)
Sun, Oct 16, 2pm: Art Deco of Central Park West (Anthony W. Robins)
Sat, Oct 22, 12:30pm: Exploring City College (Dalton Whiteside)
Sun, Oct 23, 2pm: Pre-Halloween Prospect Park South and Flatbush (Norman Oder)
Sat, Oct 29, 2pm: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: American Cultural Primacy and the Preservation of Our Architectural Treasures (Deobrah Zelcer)
Sat, Oct 29, 11am: Walk the QueensWay (Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay)
Sun, Oct 30, 11am: Downtown Manhattan's Nassau Street (Joe Svehlak)


As noted at the outset, registration for the fall schedule is already in progress for members. Information and registration now happen on NYTM's own brand-ew website. Find program information, beginning with the Aug 27 all-day nostalgia ride "To the Rockaways by Rail," on the "Programs" page. Note that some NYTM tours, like the ever-popular "Jewel in the Crown: Old City Hall Station," are members-only.

On offer for fall, at various dates:

Jewel in the Crown: Old City Hall Station (members only, some dates remaining)
Transit Walk: A Trip to Coney Island
Behind the Scenes: Jerome Avenue Yard (members only, all sold out)
Evening Ride to Woodlawn Cemetery, Oct. 29, 4-9pm
Underground Inspiration: from Art to Artifact


OHNY, whose mission is to give New Yorkers access to noteworthy sites not normally open to us, and also increasingly to give us peeks at the process by which new projects in the city are planned and executed, has events going on around the calendar, aimed mostly (but not exclusively) at members, so keep an eye on the website and get on the mailing list. (Check here for "Upcoming Programs," and check out membership info here.)

Of course OHNY is best known for the annual OHNY Weekend, when zillions of events will be scheduled all around the city at minimal cost, setting the stage for the opening-gun melee that is OHNY registration. As I always say, the most popular events -- the ones everyone will be gunning for -- are by no means necessarily the most interesting, and the interest level is deep enough that the sane people among us can generally come away happy with our fifth or sixth choices.

So by all means mark the dates: Sat-Sun, Oct 15-16, and keep an eye on the "Weekend" page of the website (link above). The tricky thing is that the full schedule isn't announced until barely before the actual event. (a slight advance look at the schedule is members' only advantage here.)

One interesting option is to offer service as a volunteer. OHNY has just put out a "Call for Volunteers":
Call for Volunteers

Are you passionate about architecture, design, and history? Want to share your love for New York City with others? Open House New York invites you to join our team of more than 1,000 volunteers who help make Open House New York Weekend one of New York's most exciting events!

Every year, OHNY Weekend opens the doors of hundreds of incredible buildings and sites across the five boroughs of New York City, offering an extraordinary opportunity to experience the city and meet the people who design, build, and preserve New York. Through the unparalleled access that it enables, OHNY Weekend deepens our understanding of the importance of architecture and design to fostering a more vibrant civic life, and helps catalyze a citywide conversation about how to build a better New York.

OHNY Weekend volunteers are integral to the festival's success. Volunteers are assigned to one of more than 250 sites or tours and provide support by welcoming visitors from around New York and around the world, assisting with check-in, managing lines, and acting as a representative of Open House New York. Volunteer for one shift (typically four hours) and receive a 2016 limited edition OHNY Weekend t-shirt, as well as a volunteer button that gives you and a friend front-of-the-line access to sites that do not require reservations throughout the Weekend.

Sign up today to volunteer for Open House New York Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, 2016! For more information visit or email us at
(Note: As the volunteer link reminds us, OHNY is also on the lookout for volunteers for its programs year-round.)


Myra Alperson's Noshwalks (as noted) plus a couple more tour purveyors I meant to include here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Personal Cyber Security While Traveling Overseas

Packing, even for a long trip abroad, used to be so much less complicated. Recently on a trip to Russia with two friends, all of our electronics got hacked. One friend had to buy a new cell phoned another had his bank account robbed. I just had to change some passwords. And there I was admiring how St. Petersburg had wonderful free public WiFi everywhere! Cyber security expert Joseph Sternberg listed 16 Things You Must Do Before Traveling If You Want to Stay Cyber-Secure in the new issue of Inc. "Criminals," he wrote, "have been targeting travelers for as long as there have been people and roads. The modern world is no different, and, even in locations in which a person might feel physically secure, hackers and cyber-crooks might still be launching full scale attacks. As such, here are sixteen things that you should do before traveling in order to dramatically improve yours odds of avoiding a cyber-catastrophe."
1. Bring only the electronic devices that you need for the trip.

2. Obtain a "throwaway" or "high risk zone" device if you are traveling to a high risk zone for hacking-- for example, China. [Many big companies do this for their employees on company business routinely.] ... [D]o not turn on any of your normal devices in the high risk zone-- and, even better, don't bring them along for the trip in the first place.

3. Backup all of your data before leaving.

4. Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth... [and] keep them off for the duration of the trip.

5. Notify your credit card company and bank where and when you are traveling... [to] improve their chances of preventing fraudulent charges or payments made by someone local to your home who has stolen your card or account information and attempts to commit fraud while you are en route or away.

6. Notify friends, relatives, and/or coworkers... [to] reduce the likelihood that they will fall prey to social engineers and virtual kidnappers.

7. Turn on your mobile phone's lock feature.

8. Enable remote wipe (and remote lock if it exists) for all of your mobile devices.

9. Encrypt... stored sensitive data.

10. Make sure that your name and contact information are visible on your mobile devices to help anyone who finds your devices return them to you.

11. Bring your own power sources... [because] various power cables and power banks have been found to contain chips that install malware onto devices to which they are attached.

12. Make sure that you have up-to-date security software.

13. Make sure you have all the hardware and software that you will need during your trip.

14. Prepare for sale social media usage [by] turning off location tracking and any automatic check-in features running on your social media accounts.

15. Plan your data access in advance.

16. Prepare your baggage to keep your data safe [by] making sure all of your equipment containing sensitive information fits in your carry on bag [not check in luggage].
The FCC also has some generic suggestions about traveling abroad with electronic devices... and so does North Dakota State University.