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9/11 Memorial and Museum Reflections

24th March 2017

Final Ferry Trip Followed by Architectural Discoveries in the Civic Centre

World Trade Centre Transportation Hub (Oculus)
Fearless Girl Facing Down Charging Bull
    As I made my way out of the WTC transportation hub, or Oculus, for the last time, I could not help but marvel at its sleek design. Architect Santiago Calatrava designed the $4 billion skeletal structure after a bird released from a child's hands. And it does indeed resemble a gleaming white dove in flight (or tail of a whale, depending on who you're talking to). The steel ribs make up an elliptical dome, the Oculus, while the spine of the building is a large, glass, retractable skylight that opens on temperate days and every 11th September. The white steel railings and symmetrical curves are a signature of Calatrava's.
    The state-of-the-art World Trade Centre Transportation Hub, completed in 2016, serves 250,000 PATH daily commuters and millions of annual visitors from around the world. At approximately 800,000 square feet, the building incorporates multi-level state-of-the-art retail and dining. The concourses emanating from the Oculus link the entirety of the site above and below ground level. With an additional 290,000 square feet of exciting, multi-level retail and dining space, the World Trade Centre site is a focal point of Lower Manhattan.
Last View Across Upper Bay to New Jersey and Manhattan
    Making my way down Broadway, I passed by the Charging Bull again. At the early hour of the morning it was relatively free of hordes of tourists. The unearthly hour also gave me the opportunity to spot the Fearless Girl standing defiantly in front of the bull. Here stood a statue of a defiant little girl with her hands on her hips, head held high, as she faced off Wall Street's Charging Bull to challenge the "traditionally male environment" of the industry. It was erected on 7th March 2017, the night before International Women's Day.
    The statue was designed by Kristen Visbal and commissioned by State Street Global Advisers (SSgA) as part of a marketing campaign to sell their gender-diverse index fund. Fearless Girl was placed facing the bull, and seems to be staring it down. The city granted a permit allowing Fearless Girl to stay on the site for at least 11 months. Meanwhile Di Modica, who sculpted Charging Bull, has asked that the statue of the girl be removed, arguing that the piece exploits his work for commercial purposes and alters the perception of the bull. He has called Fearless Girl as "an advertising trick" that he wanted relocated, citing its political messaging. While I was in New York, petitions were circulating asking the city's mayor to make the temporary installation a permanent feature on Wall Street. I sincerely hope the petitions sway the mayor and his groupies.
Greek Soldiers at Attention
    There was a cool wind blowing across the Upper Bay as I sailed across to Staten Island and back. I would be leaving this great city today, and I wanted to savour that view looking across to Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn one last time, as well as the close-ups of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In faraway places, I always have the urge to try and burn a landscape, seascape or cityscape into my mind, to retain the image forever, but with my rapidly decaying brain cells I know it is a futile task. As usual, a hundred likeminded souls were going through the same thought process.
Car Park in Chinatown
    Back on Manhattan, there was now a group of Greek soldiers lined up on Evacuation Day Plaza near the Fearless Girl, accompanied by a great deal of music and singing in the background. I never did get to the bottom of this exercise. Evacuation Day on 25th November marks the day in 1783 when British troops departed from New York on Manhattan Island, after the end of the American Revolutionary War.
    I hiked up to Canal Street and sat down to an exceedingly tasty Vietnamese meal. I don't normally bother with lunch, but hey, this was my last day, and a decent meal at midday would be better than a half decent meal in the evening at the airport. The sesame chicken on a bed of broccoli was served up just as it was shown in the picture on the menu. It was scrumptious.
    The reason for heading up into this neck of the woods was I wanted to visit the Drawing Centre which was just a few blocks away. The Drawing Centre was formed in 1977 to promote the art of drawing, a passion I share. The centre displayed the drawings of more than 2,500 emerging artists, including the early work of Kara Walker and Sikander Shahzia, as well as the work of the Old Masters. Despite being advertised as being open on Fridays, today it was not. However, there were a few other fine art galleries in the vicinity for me to browse.
Chinese Men Playing Mah-jong in Columbus Park
    I then dipped into Chinatown, I just love the sheer hustle and bustle of this offshoot from China, it could almost be Kowloon. I leisurely walked through Columbus Park, formerly known as Mulberry Bend Park, Five Points Park and Paradise Park. During the 19th century, this was the most dangerous ghetto area of immigrant New York, as portrayed in the book and film Gangs of New York.
    I paused to watch the old Chinese men play mah-jong, where constant playful bickering and good humour mattered more than the game. Traditional Chinese music drifted through the park, serenading tai chi practitioners. The atmosphere here reminded me of Chinatown in San Francisco in September 2010.
    Time was moving on, and I needed to head back to the PATH system at the WTC. I got myself onto Centre Street. Walking past Foley Square I noticed the New York County Supreme Court across the road. The court is the highest trial-level court for civil cases in the state court system in New York County. The court traces its origins to the year 1691, and is one of the oldest continuously-serving courts of general jurisdiction in the United States. The hexagonal building has a courtroom in each of its six wings.
    Just past the New York County Supreme Court stood the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sometimes referred to simply as the Second Circuit. This is one of the thirteen federal appellate courts. The court was established in 1891 and has a total of thirteen posts.
New York County Supreme Court
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
New York City Hall
    Continuing down Centre Street I walked by the resplendent New York City Hall. Constructed from 1803 to 1812, New York's City Hall is one of the oldest continuously used City Halls in the nation, and houses the offices of the Mayor and City Council, the executive and legislative branches of government. Considered one of the finest architectural achievements of its period, City Hall was designed by architects Joseph Mangin, a French emigre, and John McComb, Jr., a native New Yorker. The building is in the federal style, with clear French influences that can be seen in the large arched windows, delicate ornamental swags, and more decorative Corinthian- and Ionic-style columns and pilasters. City Hall is a designated New York City landmark. A statue of Justice crowns the structure.
    Centre Street conveniently converged with Broadway. I walked down past St. Paul's Chapel to the Memorial Plaza. This haunting plaza had a magnetic pull on me. I took a slow walk around, the emotions aroused from yesterday's explore still bubbling away in me.
    But, I had to break the pull and head back to New Jersey to collect my bags and head out to Newark International Airport. The lady who drove the hotel courtesy bus was Egyptian, still possessing a thick accent. Like most large cities in the world, every country on the planet is represented.
    We crawled along to the airport on the verge of rush hour. My fellow passengers were an Indian father and son returning back to India, whose mountain of suitcases resembled a scrapyard of ancient sea-chests. The airport was a bit soulless, a place to kill time before jumping on the big bird back to blighty. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in Barbados and New York, but I was ready to get back to reality, to catch up with family and friends.

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9/11 Memorial and Museum Reflections
Last updated 14.4.2017