Bright Lights, Big City
Finding yourself in the concrete jungle
(page 3 of 3)
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a world-class waterfront park with rolling hills, riverfront promenades, lush gardens and spectacular views.
Coming Up for Air
I thrive on fresh air. After a few days between towering buildings and packed subway cars, I craved wide-open spaces. Luckily, there are a few places that provide that peace, Central Park being the most obvious. Countless statues, a scenic lake, trails and even a zoo lie within. What I enjoy most about the park are the massive rocks that erupt from the earth, protruding before glimmering skyscrapers. For those willing to climb them, they provide a prime photo opportunity as well as expansive views of some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.
If you enjoy brisk walks with incredible views, the Highline, which is built on an old sky-rail track from the 1930s, is very popular. But for this Florida girl, who is drawn to the water, a sunset stroll along the river can’t be beat — unless I’m actually on the river, itself.
Cruising along the river proved to be a scenic way to view the city from a unique vantage point as well as a way to learn the history of all three bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg) and see the Statue of Liberty. I waved to the mint-green lady in passing.
But for those who really crave fresh air, the cleanest and most pristine air in the city is found by going up — way up.
A View from the Top
To truly see the city, you have to go above it. Until then, you won’t fully appreciate its inner workings, its magnitude, its history and its future. An array of bars and restaurants allow you to sip and dine from the rooftops while feasting your eyes on unparalleled views; but the most prized vantage points are atop the city’s highest buildings.
Top of the Rock is interactive and in a bustling part of the city with plenty to do in the vicinity, such as visit the famous Rockefeller rink or tour a favorite television studio. Many prefer the Rock for its impressive view of the Empire State building.
I, for one, am partial to the Empire State building view. It might be because of the building’s significance, history and symbolism; or it might be because of the experience I had there. At the apex of this shimmering silver icon, I looked out upon the inky sky pinpricked with lights in a rainbow of colors cast from every building in the city. Snow began to fall, dusting my jacket lightly. That same snow wouldn’t line the ground until the following morning.
If I had to choose one view or even one moment that defines and encompasses my experiences in this city, it would be one from the observation deck of One World Trade Center. You must first stop at the memorial pools that have been placed within the imprint of the Twin Towers. It’s an experience that is parallel to entering a sanctuary — a place so sacred, you don’t want to dishonor it with noise. Nearly 3,000 names are etched into the pool’s surfaces. I glance down at a name and then look ahead of me and know that I am seeing the very same view of the city that the man whose name I just read once saw. It is still and quiet, as if an invisible barricade to block out the city sounds was constructed. I like to think that every minute that passes here is commemorative and reflective.
In less than 60 seconds after entering the elevator of the One World Trade Center, you will ascend to the main observatory on the 100th floor. In a way that will make your breath catch, but that I will not reveal, an encompassing view becomes yours to take your time with. We took an hour just looking, barely talking. The entire city unfolded before us. Looking down was a bit disorienting at first, until I realized that I was witnessing the inner workings of the city happening below me. A truck unloading boxes into a building, doll-sized people crossed busy city streets, a hot dog vendor appeased the lunchtime masses and boats cut small waves through the Hudson.
My eyes were drawn to the Statue of Liberty. From our vantage point, she appeared tiny; but I know the power she possesses now and that she possessed in 1892, when her torch represented a guiding light for those who sought a better life in the United States. I thought of the sacrifices immigrants had to make for freedom.
“Freedom” repeated over and over in my mind as I stood atop a building that symbolizes that word.