Friday, July 09, 2010

Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!

Day Three starts with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry.

The terminal is large and clean and still undergoing renovation. Lots of security, including dogs. Since vehicle transport was stopped after 911, only people and bikes are allowed on board.

The terminal and docks were undamaged during the 911 attacks and the ferry was used to evacuate people from lower Manhattan and to emergency personnel and equipment and even U.S. Army tanks to the area. Captains had to operate under zero visibility as the smoke and debris from the tower collapses filled the sky.

Current operational stats -- The ferry annually carries over 19 million passengers on a 5.2 mile run that takes approximately 25 minutes each way. (See route on aerial photo.) Service is provided 24 hours a day, every day. Each day approximately five boats transport about 75,000 passengers during 104 boat trips. Over 33,000 trips are made annually.

The day we rode the ferry was sunny and very hot but it stayed breezy and cool on board. The best part of the trip is going past the Statue of Liberty although the views of the skylines and Ellis Island are also terrific. Back on land we made our way up to Wall Street, stopping at Trinity Church, Ground Zero, City Hall Park and various sites in between.

The first "famous" place you see walking toward Wall Street is Trinity Church, an Episcopal church built in 1846 in the Gothic Revival style. New since my last visit is the large sculpture "Roots." On September 11th, 2001, debris from collapsing World Trade Center knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel. Sculptor Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for the bronze sculpture next to Trinity Church. Informational material posted at the cathedral said the tree took the brunt of the impact from the fall of the towers and thus protected the St. Paul's from damage.

Ground Zero is filled with cranes and the structural steel framework of new buildings. I couldn't reconcile that space with my memory of the towers and their surrounding mall. It didn't seem big enough for the structures I remembered. See this web site for information about the current design for the site.

My thoughts were interrupted by a commotion in the street -- a tall man running at top speed being chased by a woman in a dark skirt who, although a lot smaller, was gaining on him. Down they went to the end of the block and as they went other security personnel appeared and joined the chase. We hadn't noticed any of them until they broke their cover to help apprehend the runner. In the end, the woman got her man and he was marched back up the street between two officers, to the applause of the onlookers.

We did a quick walk down Wall Street, saw the stock exchange building, Federal Hall, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Reserve. Then it was on down Broadway toward City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Along Broadway we stopped at a shoe store while Sarah checked out what was on offer. While there we saw a number of fire trucks in full siren and lights go by the front window, speeding to an alarm. I watched them head in the same direction as Ground Zero -- Tower Ladder One painted on the side of the lead truck -- and was completely surprised when I broke down in tears. Somehow, I was back to that awful morning of the attack and, at the same time, remembering all of the men and women who had given their lives because they were honorable people doing their duty, and the families and friends left to mourn them. My heart goes out to each of them.

The building at 195 Broadway was originally the American Telephone and Telegraph Company Building. According to architectural information on the structure, the exterior "is styled directly on the Septigorim in Rome, and features dozens of massive, granite columns." It sure caught my eye, especially the bas relief sculptures that decorate its front.

Another historic skyscraper is the Woolworth Building but as with many buildings now, public access is restricted to individuals who have business to conduct inside the building. I've located some photos of the lobby on the web and included them in the photos related to this post so you can get an idea of the place.There are carved caricatures inside the lobby, of men who were involved in the buildings construction. One is a sculpture of Cass Gilbert, holding a model of the Woolworth building, another depicts Frank Woolworth paying for his building in coins. Woolworth chose to pay the $13.5 million cost of the building in cash. Guess he must have had a bad experience with credit cards!

Drew took a break in City Hall Park while Sarah and I walked up the first section of the Brooklyn Bridge and saw more great views of city skylines and other bridges. We decided to let the walk substitute for the bridge bike ride we'd planned. The park was beautiful -- check out the sculptures and City Hall in the photos. History note -- located in downtown Manhattan, this park has played a key role in New York civic life for centuries, from its Colonial beginnings as a rebel outpost to its current function as the seat of City government.The land has been used, among other things, as a pasture, a prison, a parade ground, a public execution site, an almshouse, an art museum, and a post office.

Enough walking! We needed food and were on a mission for a "NYC slice." We found the real deal at the Majestic Pizza, right next to ground zero. This small storefront pizza place is literally within a stone's throw of ground zero.Check out the photo that hangs on the wall showing the post 911 view from the sidewalk in front of the store.

Fueled up, we headed back to the hotel for our big night at the Broadway Theatre. They say folks don't dress up like they used to to go to the theatre but hey, we like to dress up! A quick subway ride to 50th street and we exited right in front of the theatre with the big marquee touting the show we are going to see -- Mama Mia! Mama Mia!

It was great. Cast, music, theatre, seats -- all great. Exiting the theatre, we walked past the rear exit and saw the female lead, Natalie Gallo, and one of the male leads, John Dossett, talking to folks. Sarah posed for a picture with the Mr. Dossett and we thanked him for a wonderful evening.

Times Square at night is a whole other experience from its daytime persona! The lights are so brights and pulsing photographs are nearly impossible. We soaked that up for awhile and headed back to the hotel to play our Mama Mia! CD and plan our adventures for Day Four.

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