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Thread: Grand Central Terminal - 89 East 42nd Street @ Park Avenue - New York's Great Gateway

  1. #61


    TV Review | 'Grand Central'

    Crossroads of a Million Private Lives

    Published: February 4, 2008

    The “American Experience” documentary “Grand Central” is such an entertaining wallow for New York PBS viewers that it’s disconcerting to note that it was produced, as World Series champions are these days, in Boston, by the public television station WGBH. Think of it as a peace offering.

    A 1919 photograph of Grand Central Terminal, subject of a documentary on PBS.

    The film, which was written and produced by Michael Epstein and has its premiere on most PBS stations on Monday night, is at its best when it sticks to its primary concerns of commerce and technology (rather than aesthetics), beginning with Cornelius Vanderbilt’s construction of the original Grand Central Depot on 23 acres in what was, in the 1870s, a squalid industrial zone in the netherlands of Manhattan.

    That European-style station, with its huge train shed serving three rail lines, helped to consolidate Vanderbilt’s monopoly on train traffic into New York, but it also quickly became an eyesore, and the tracks running north at grade level through the growing city were a public menace.

    From there the story flows: The tracks are sunk below Park Avenue into uncomfortably hot and dangerous tunnels. That leads to a horrific underground collision in 1902 in which 15 died, many killed by steam while trying to escape. That, in turn, forced the railroads to convert from steam to electric locomotives and led, along with competition from the Pennsylvania Railroad and its impressive new station on the West Side, to the building of the current Grand Central Terminal. Among the innovations were two levels of tracks and platforms, both below ground, to handle the growing traffic; and the sale of air rights above the Park Avenue tracks to finance the construction, changing the nature of the Upper East Side.

    The narrative gains some contemporary resonance because it takes place largely during the Progressive era, when publicly slamming the predatory practices of big business was a popular sport, one that we’re beginning to see the faintest stirrings of in our own suddenly perilous economic times.

    “Grand Central” tells its tale of business and the city briskly via the familiar, and in this case entertaining, mix of archival photos and congenial talking heads. The film’s other component, which could be called the nostalgic-poetic as opposed to the historical-dramatic, is not as felicitous.

    Apparently feeling the need to acknowledge the Grand Central-as-modern-cathedral clichés, the filmmakers stop the narrative every so often for brief testimonies, from an immigrant, a veteran, a photographer and so forth, about the terminal’s place in their lives. These stories are touching but ordinary — words like “incredible,” “amazing” and, yes, “cathedral” pop up — and do little but slow down the narrative.

    Of course just about anyone can be susceptible to Grand Central’s charms. The film quotes a certain New York daily newspaper — O.K., this one — on the occasion of the terminal’s opening in 1913: “Without exception, it is not only the greatest station in the United States, but the greatest station of any type in the world.”

    Grand Central
    On most PBS stations Monday (check local listings).

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  2. #62
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Sep 2004
    in Limbo


    That must be the beautiful Commodore hotel, there to the left of GCT, that Trump so tragically defiled.

  3. #63
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    PRINT : Bird's eye view of the Grand Central Station on the site prior to the GCT (with open tracks all the way up Park Avenue) ...

  4. #64
    Banned Member
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    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    This seems like a good thread to host this. Check it out. Brilliant guerilla performance in GC.

  5. #65


    Ha! Thats great, though I wonder why people took photos because in the photo everyone is going to look like they are standing still!!

  6. #66
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    My sister did that! She's an "agent" occasionally with them on some of their "missions". Cracks me up every time.

  7. #67
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    That is so BRILLIANT!!! greatest thing I've seen in a very long time. Now that's New York! I was imagining what my own reaction would be if I witnessed that happening. Aliens? Someone meddling with the space-time continuum?

  8. #68
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Manhattan - South Village

  9. #69


    Reminds me of what I used to see every day during rush hour scrambling across Grand Central from the subway station to catch my train.

  10. #70


    New Wave of Upgrades at Grand Central Shops

    Photographs by Patrick Andrade for The New York Times
    The window of the boutique La Crasia looks out into the Lexington Passage at Grand Central Terminal.

    Published: March 19, 2008

    Grand Central Terminal is like a seasoned Hollywood celebrity, aging gracefully with the help of a little nip and tuck now and then, and a major face-lift only when absolutely necessary.

    Patrick Andrade for The New York Times
    The passage leads commuters past stores on the way to the street.

    The last overhaul was completed 10 years ago; it resulted in a whole new retail face for one of New York’s best-known landmarks. Now, many of the leases signed after the renovation will be expiring in the next few years, with the first wave concentrated in the Lexington Passage, an entrance from 43rd Street created during the renovation.

    The property managers of Grand Central think this provides an ideal time for another nip and tuck. “We want to freshen things up a bit, update the look and mix of retailers,” said Gordon L. Pelavin, vice president and general manager for Jones Lang LaSalle, which has managed Grand Central for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority since it gained control of the property in 1994. “Retail has really changed over the last 10 years.”

    So has Grand Central. When the Lexington Passage retail spaces were being completed in 1998, the terminal was considered a risky venture.

    Then, most of the stores were aimed at commuters, and the Main Concourse was dingy and covered with large banner advertising.

    The original leasing agent, Williams Jackson Ewing, based in Maryland, courted local boutique operators.

    “National chains get tired,” said Michael Ewing, a principal of Williams Jackson Ewing, which had overseen the redevelopment of Union Station in Washington in the early 1980s. “They get to be big companies, and it’s hard for them to change. Small retailers are constantly evolving and updating.”

    The strategy worked, and the small stores did well. Grand Central remains one of the rare collection of stores where national chains have not taken over. There is still a concentration of local retailers, and only 16 percent of the stores are national chains.

    Not only have annual sales steadily risen, to $175 million in 2007 from $117 million in 2000 (excluding fine-dining restaurants), but there has also been little turnover among tenants.

    With annual sales averaging $1,300 a square foot, many tenants would like more space, including Pink Slip, a lingerie shop, whose lease expires this year.
    Margo Andros started Pink Slip by selling at flea markets and initially went to Grand Central as part of the Holiday Fair, a temporary market set up in November and December in Vanderbilt Hall, adjacent to the Main Concourse. This event has acted as an incubator for local retailers to test their products without taking the risk of a long-term lease.

    After solid sales, Pink Slip signed a lease. With only 337 square feet, its revenue was $906,385 in 2007, not including the Holiday Fair, which pushed the total over $1 million, Ms. Andros said. The leasing agents and property managers have “done a great job with marketing,” she said. “We have 4,000 customers, and we made a name here and we would like to expand,” despite a potentially difficult retail climate on the horizon.

    Ms. Andros said that while total sales are the same as last year in dollar terms, the number of transactions is down (meaning that shoppers are spending more on average).

    Recent surveys indicate that consumer confidence in New York State is down sharply, according to the Siena College Research Institute, based in Loudonville, N.Y., which has been tracking consumer confidence in New York since 1999.

    Indeed, a few tenants are concerned about slowing sales, even though the ridership of Metro-North Railroad is higher than ever; 700,000 people pass through Grand Central daily. One manager of a store in the Lexington Passage said that total sales revenue and the number of sales so far this year were down compared with last year.

    Among the Lexington Passage shop owners interviewed, however, not one wanted to leave, and most wanted to expand, which may not be easy to do.
    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Jones Lang LaSalle and Williams Jackson Ewing require shop owners to reapply for their spaces as they become available and explain how they will upgrade their businesses. By March 2011, 49 leases will be expiring, representing 56,884 square feet, a little more than 40 percent of the total space.

    Ms. Andros said she would apply for five spaces just to make sure she gets a spot. While she believes that Pink Slip, with good sales and a willingness to upgrade, will almost surely be approved for a new lease, others might not be so lucky.

    This is particularly true of retailers that are dealing with difficult market changes, like InMotion Entertainment, a DVD and CD store, which faces the prospect of becoming obsolete as online sources for movies and music gain in popularity.

    The terminal has qualities that make it exceedingly attractive to retailers, said Karen Bellantoni, executive vice president of Robert K. Futterman & Associates, who is familiar with leasing activity at Grand Central but is not currently involved.

    “You’ve got tourists and commuters coming in on Metro-North, a strong demographic coming from Westport and Westchester,” she said. “And you also have the office population, lawyers, hedge funds and the MetLife Building attached.”

    She added, “Maybe the former World Trade Center is about the only thing that would be similar.”

    Meanwhile, another nip and tuck is starting at the grande dame. About 15 years after its last big overhaul, Vanderbilt Hall is closing for a major cleaning, the transportation authority and Metro-North Railroad recently announced.

    For the next seven months, conservators will clean and repair the faux Caen stone walls, the Tennessee pink marble floors and the white Botticino marble wainscoting in the 12,500-square-foot room.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company.

  11. #71

    Default Vanderbilt Hall

    Hall at Grand Central to close for $3.6M cleaning

    The Associated Press March 4, 2008 Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall is to undergo a $3.6-million cleaning that will close it to the public for seven months.

    Metro-North Railroad officials say the cleaning, which begins today, involves repairing and replacing, as needed, the stone walls, the marble floors, the white marble wainscoting and every surface in the 12,500-square-foot room.

    During the cleaning project, travelers will be able to walk between the main concourse and 42nd Street through a plywood tunnel.

    Vanderbilt Hall, formerly known as the Main Waiting Room, once had seating for more than 600 long-distance travelers. As long-distance train travel declined, the room became obsolete. Since 1992 it's been used as a venue for parties, fashion shows, art exhibits and other events.

    Last edited by brianac; March 23rd, 2008 at 08:16 AM.

  12. #72


    East Side

    When Grand Central Was Younger

    Published: March 30, 2008

    THOMAS WOLFE wrote that the late Pennsylvania Station was vast enough to hold the sound of time. More than half a century ago, across town at Grand Central Terminal, a 23-year-old industrial design student named Boris Klapwald did something else with time: He stopped it.

    Boris Yale Klapwald/Brain-Ink
    More than half a century ago, a young design student named Boris Klapwald took a series of photographs of the station, capturing the romance of train travel and even the allure of waiting for a train. More Photos »

    Slide Show A Station in Time

    Mr. Klapwald, then a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, would occasionally wander through the station with his twin-lens Rolleiflex. All told, he shot only a few rolls of film. He liked Tri-X 120, big enough to enlarge dramatically, sensitive enough to use without a flash. In that pre-digital era, images were husbanded: He had only 12 exposures per roll, and he did not even use up all the ones he had.

    The young student thought he was documenting the great terminal’s eternal rituals, mostly the ritual of waiting. “It was a place of contemplation, really — the exact opposite of what it is today,” he recalled. “In the waiting room, you could sit. The policemen wouldn’t bother you. No one bothered you. I liked the quiet of it. It was like a cathedral. You didn’t have to pray; you could reflect on yourself.”

    In fact, what he documented was not just timeless but time-bound. His images captured an era when names like New York Central and New Haven Railroad were still emblazoned on the walls; when soldiers and sailors returned from war aboard trains; when women wore hats and nylons with seams; when smoking was so commonplace, and so tolerated, that cigarette butts littered the floor; when a person could leave suitcases unattended without thieves or bomb squads descending upon them; when, come to think of it, one still took suitcases to Grand Central, which was still a hub for long-distance trains rather than a pit stop for suburbanites; when there still was a waiting room.

    Although Mr. Klapwald developed his pictures and made contact sheets, he never even printed them. “I had no thought in mind of pictures that were going to become iconic or that someone else would look at and say ‘Wow!’ ” Mr. Klapwald, a modest and soft-spoken man of 77, remarked the other day as the clatter of dishes bounced off the vaulted ceilings of the Oyster Bar, in the bowels of the terminal.

    For more than five decades — until his daughter, Thea, unearthed them and took them to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the photographs sat in boxes in Mr. Klapwald’s basement in White Plains. But for much of the past year, his images have been displayed on both sides of the food court on Grand Central’s lower level, and they are both powerful and poignant.

    In the keynote picture, featured on the poster that introduces the show, two sailors, the collars of their pea coats turned up, huddle with a young woman on the western balcony, contemplating an impending departure, perhaps, or adjusting to a recent arrival. Beyond the vast concourse is the old Kodak sign, which came down years ago; in between are those mighty shafts of sunlight that appear in all the classic photographs of Grand Central. They, too, are gone: the building across East 42nd Street, erected several years ago by the company formerly known as Philip Morris, stands in the way of the light.

    In another picture, a mother reads to her young son as her daughter lies perpendicular to them on the bench. You might think they are homeless, until you look at their shoes. On another bench sit four black children; one is reading a Woody Woodpecker comic. Behind them, in chalk, is a train schedule, like a tote board at a racetrack.

    An ungainly young man with white socks, a refugee from a Diane Arbus photograph, sits on a cheap striped suitcase. A boy in shorts leans over a banister. (The picture is the victim of some 21st-century, politically correct cropping: Apparently concerned about suggestions of pedophilia, the transportation authority cut out the figure of a man who stood nearby.)

    On the other side of the dining concourse, past Junior’s Cheesecake and a juice bar, are more photos. In one, soldiers sit on duffel bags. Farther down, a world-weary young woman, arms folded, stares blankly from one side of a bench while an upright-looking priest, wearing black from his homburg to his shoes except for the bright white of his clerical collar, reads his missal on the other. Physically, cognitively, they are as distant as two occupants of a single bench can be: Edward Hopper meets Grant Wood.

    “This is my favorite of all,” Mr. Klapwald says. “What’s she thinking about? ‘Should I leave him? Should I go back?’ ”

    Mr. Klapwald surely captured a moment in time, but exactly when? He never wrote down a date, and his guesses are tentative, even contradictory. He’d always thought he’d taken the pictures in a single day, but that can’t be: While most of the people wear overcoats, some are in shirt sleeves.

    The year? Around the end of the Korean War, he thinks, which would place them in 1953. One might know for sure if the now-defunct newspaper — The World-Telegram and Sun? The Journal-American? — that a toothless man reads in one picture were not just a trifle too out of focus.

    THE time of day? The heavenly beams streaming through the grand windows on the station’s southern facade say it’s late afternoon, though in some other pictures the space is dark, and the clocks in still others read anywhere from 6:30 to 7:50.

    The project architect for Grand Central’s restoration, Frank J. Prial Jr. of Beyer Blinder Belle, theorizes that Mr. Klapwald visited at least twice, at different times of day, several months apart. The day of the week seems clearer: The sheer emptiness of the place, the absence of hurried, harried commuters, suggests weekends.

    Mr. Klapwald, who runs his own interior design business, still travels to Grand Central regularly. Next Saturday he is scheduled to give a tour of the exhibit, which will remain at least until June, under the auspices of the New York Transit Museum. He sometimes checks out his pictures, and whenever he does, he discerns not just a bygone era, but his own, younger self.

    And what does he see?

    “He was lonely,” he said. “Maybe not lonely, but a loner. He was interested in people, and the things that people were not doing as much as what they were doing. He’s interested in structure and design and detail. He was sensitive.”

    David Margolick, a contributing editor at Condé Nast Portfolio, is writing a book about Sid Caesar and “Your Show of Shows.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times.

  13. #73


    October 6, 2008, 3:18 pm

    A $240,400 Traffic Jam at Grand Central

    By David W. Dunlap

    A Maserati GranTurismo on display at Grand Central Terminal, promoting a raffle for the scholarship fund of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)

    Metro-North travelers find themselves battling two more obstacles on their way into the city this week. But they are two of the slickest obstacles ever thrown in a commuter’s path: a $125,750 gunmetal gray Maserati Quattroporte (doesn’t that simply mean four-door?) and a $114,650 cherry red Maserati GranTurismo. Perfect for the recession.

    It has been 20 years since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority allowed the floor of the terminal’s grand concourse to be occupied permanently by corporate interests. The last freestanding kiosk on the floor was a Merrill Lynch brokerage booth, so it would have been gone by now anyway.

    In recent years, however, automobiles have occasionally been allowed to spend a few days in what must be the world’s most glorious garage. The current display highlights a $1,000-a-ticket raffle to benefit the scholarship fund of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. The first prize is a Quattroporte.

    “We are very protective of the main hall at Grand Central Terminal, because it is both a historic space and a thoroughfare for our customers,” said Aaron Donovan, deputy press secretary of the transportation authority. “On rare occasions, we do set up displays, but this charity benefit has not proven to be a significant obstacle to pedestrian flow.”

    In fairness, we should note that the transportation authority has distinguished itself in recent weeks with creative new antiflood sidewalk grates in Lower Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens. So the agency is clearly sensitive to the aesthetics of public space.

    But none of that changes the fact that — for the moment — Grand Central feels a less like a train station and more like a high-end car dealership.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  14. #74
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Commuters Overlooking Free Treasure


    I might not have appreciated the marvel of the Grand Central Terminal water fountain if it hadn’t been for the notebook.

    I had run into Posman Books after getting off my train and finding myself without a notebook, and grabbed what Moleskine, the high-end paper packager, calls a reporter’s notebook. I’m a reporter; it spoke to me. Until I got to the counter and learned it cost a cool $17.95 plus tax, a sum no reporter I know would shell out for a notebook, even if it came with the story already written in perfect Pulitzer-worthy prose.

    I put the notebook back, and felt a flash of frustration. Now I needed a notebook and a drink of water. For most of my adult life, I’ve either commuted through Grand Central or lived within five blocks of it, but I didn’t know of a water fountain in the place.

    I was on the brink of buying a bottle of water along with my not-quite-as-overpriced notebook at Rite-Aid, but balked. It’s not just that bottled water is a waste of money and plastic; I also never need as much as a bottle carries, so it would either go to waste or I’d lug it around all day, with a lot of overpriced liquid weighing down my bag.

    Maybe the saleswoman knew where a water fountain might be. She didn’t, but asked someone. There was one right by the Chase A.T.M.’s.

    There, just a 30-second walk from the saleswoman, who surely must occasionally feel thirst, was the perfect water fountain. The spout juts out from the cool, beige Botticino marble wall of Grand Central, a handsome basin below it, a marble relief of some natural harvest above. Water was arcing above the spout, so high that I felt reassured no thirsty germy toddler had mouthed the metal at the base. A fluid piece of accessible history, that fountain, I later learned, has conveniently been spouting water almost continually since the terminal opened in 1913.

    I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this small wonder. Just across the way from a store where someone was charging $20 for a few hundred sheets of paper, the water fountain was proffering its goods free. Here it was, the ideal nourishment — nonfat, ice-cold, high-fructose-corn-syrup-free.

    If it’s good and it’s free in New York, you usually have to get there pretty early to get it. But at Grand Central Terminal, which 700,000 people hustle through every single day, there was not even so much as a line for the water. I took a drink, stood back, admired the carvings of oak leaves and acorns — a Vanderbilt family symbol — and drank some more. Then I looked up. A police officer was looking at me as if I’d just lapped up some water on one of the tracks.

    So it’s free, it’s cold, it’s pretty, it’s a Proustian trip back to splashy childhood satiations — is it safe?

    A phone call to Metro-North revealed that the terminal’s two water fountains are cleaned daily between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., and that a test last year confirmed the water was at least lead-free. A quick Google search of the medical literature on water fountains suggested that the real risk of germ contamination lies in the fountain handle. Given how few people use that water fountain — seven in the course of an hour I spent watching it during the Monday morning rush — chances are it’s a lot safer than the average subway pole.

    Of the seven people who used the fountain, only one was a woman. Maybe it’s the lipstick, or that women are more conscientious about hygiene, or think there’s something decidedly unchic about drinking from a public fountain. I like to think that just as the humble canvas tote has been transformed into a fashion and political statement — “I’m hip, therefore I recycle” — one day there will be a certain cachet in stopping to join a line in front of a public water fountain.

    Standing in such a line will signify: I eschew the landfill’s friend, the plastic water bottle. I resist the mass marketing of sugary coffees and teas and juices. At a minimum, it will signify what I wanted to say to the cop who was looking at me as if I’d just done something indecent in public: So sue me, I’m thirsty.

    Next time you pass through Grand Central, feast your eyes and drink freely of what’s free. And if you’ve got some hand sanitizer with you, that probably wouldn’t hurt.

  15. #75
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    The Grand Central Depot, which preceded today's Grand Central Terminal building, opened in 1871 on the same site along East 42nd Street.

    The PBS series American Experience has an hour show on the history; it can be viewed online: Grand Central

    The Depot under construction, as seen looking north from East 42nd Street along Vanderbilt Avenue (named for Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the head of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the New York and Harlem Railroad, and the New York and New Haven Railroad), circa 1869:

    The GC Depot fronting onto 42nd Street, circa 1871:

    The Depot from the south with the open tracks dug down into Fourth Avenue (later Park Avenue South):

    The train shed was a huge arc of iron and glass and ran from 42nd to 45th Street:

    The north end of the Depot faced a swath of open tracks at surface level (later the area was excavated, the tracks were sunken and covered over, eventually becoming Park Avenue):

    Looking east along 42nd towards the Depot from just west of Vanderbilt Avenue, circa 1885:

    From the west side of Madison Avenue looking east, with the Church of the Holy Trinity at center (seen above at left) by Leopold Eidlitz (1871), circa 1873:

    Leopold Eidlitz designed a number of grand NYC buildings including St George's Episcopal Church on Stuyvesant Square (1846-49), the Tweed Courthouse near City Hall and the Dry Dock Savings Bank on the Bowery.

    More views of the Church of the Holy Trinity, circa 1890:

    Looking west toward the Depot with the terminus of the elevated train just to the east on 42nd Street, circa 1889:

    The northern end of the GC Depot along Vanderbilt Avenue, circa 1889:

    42nd and Fourth Avenue, circa 1893:

    In 1899 the entire facade of the Depot was rebuilt, expanding it from 3- to 6-stories.

    A cutaway of the Depot showing the plan for new subway tracks beneath, circa 1901:

    Following a deadly train accident that killed 15 passengers in 1902 (the engineer was tried but acquitted, but met an untimely death 7 years later) it was determined that steam engines would no longer be allowed to enter Manhattan and the RR was forced to re-think and re-build Grand Central station to accommodate electric trains.

    The Depot was razed in 1903:

    This made way for the Grand Central Terminal building we know today ...

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