My Media Vacation (Part 1 of 3): New York City

Sunday, October 13, 2013
[NOTE: Due to the amount of research I've been doing for my current journalism class and work-related activities, my brain is a little too "fried" for a deep-thought posting.  A while back, I shared parts of a vacation trip that I made with my son over to the East Coast in late July/early August 2012.  These are some of the photos that I took along the way--I hope you enjoy them!] 

"30 Rock" serves as the anchor of New York City's Rockefeller Plaza (and the headquarters of NBC News)

After the reunion/family-related activities of our visit back in Pennsylvania was completed, our first stop for this father/son "road trip" was Secaucus, New Jersey--just across the river from Manhattan and the recognized media capital of the world, New York City.  I chose the cross-river location due to expenses (a two-night stay at a quality hotel in "the Garden State" was roughly equivalent to a single night just five miles to the east) and easy access to the city itself (we were just one exit away from the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and mid-town locations).  Fortunately, a day-long tour bus stopped right outside our lobby and we made sure we were up bright and early for day one of our two-day visit to "the Big Apple".

 The view looking north up Broadway at Times Square.

Our group leaving the pedestrian-friendly area of Times Square to get back on the bus.

Once we picked up all the riders, we proceeded under the Hudson River and reemerged around 40th Street for our initial destination--Times Square.  Named after the national paper of record, The New York Times, back in 1904, it currently serves as one of the city's major meeting places and is widely known as called "The Crossroads of the World".   Turned into a pedestrian-friendly plaza in 2009, the site is famous for being the setting for the August 1945 Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of a kissing sailor and nurse during spontaneous celebrations when President Truman announced the end of World War II.  It also hosts annual New Year's Eve celebrations that are attended by crowds numbering near one million people.  We had the chance to take in the sights and sound of traffic making its way up and down 7th Avenue as well as the day-glow signage on the buildings forming a literal canyon around us.  We had only what seemed to be about 10 minutes before we had to pile back into the bus to continue on the excursion.

 A quick photo of the Hearst Tower on our way up 8th Avenue.

 Passing by the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

The ABC Television Center East studio near Lincoln Square.

We made our way up the west side of Manhattan and drove by several media-related locations, to include the Hearst Tower (headquarters of the Hearst Corporation and its numerous publications and communications companies), the Time Warner Center (the base for CNN's New York operations) and the ABC Television Center East studio (home of local affiliate WABC-TV and syndicated shows like Live! With Kelly and Michael and Katie).  After a stop at Strawberry Fields, we made our way through Central Park and down 5th Avenue (through the Museum Mile) on our way to Rockefeller Center.

Outside the Today Show studios at Rockefeller Plaza.

There was a lot to see there that did not relate to my "mission" but I did make my way over to the NBC News areas to browse around.  Unfortunately, we happened to pick a week during the 2012 Summer Olympics when the Today show was doing their program from London.  I was able to snap a photo of the cast pasted onto the side of the building before we had to board the bus again (I wasn't too disappointed because I knew that we would be here again the next day).

Passing by The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.

A Village Voice newspaper rack in Greenwich Village.

We continued down 5th Avenue until we reached the Madison Square area when we headed west towards Greenwich Village, one of New York City's most bohemian areas (and passed by The Stonewall Inn--where riots held in 1969 are considered to be the genesis for the American LGBT movement).  After a quick sampling of pizza at John's of Bleecker Street, we made our way back to the bus to continue on towards the lower end of the island.

There was still a heavy police presence at Zuccotti Park over 10 months after the Occupy Wall Street movement first took up residence.

Barricades and armed security protecting Arturo Di Modica's Charging Bull statue from possible vandals in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.

After meandering through Little Italy and Chinatown, our bus entered the city's Financial District.  Getting back on Broadway, we passed by Wall Street and Zuccotti Park, a location of high tension in the fall of 2011 when members of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement camped in the privately owned public space to demonstrate against social and economic inequalities in the United States and around the globe.  As we made our way down to Battery Park, we passed by Arturo Di Modica's iconic Charging Bull sculpture, a symbol of financial optimism and prosperity.  Due to lingering hard feelings about how the OWS protests were forcefully ended, there was a very visible level of security around the sculpture and we opted to continue on our way instead of stopping.  Perhaps that time would be better spent at our next destination.

Since we didn't have timed tickets for entry, this was the closest we would get to the National September 11 Memorial.

One World Trade Center steel was at the 104-floor mark when we visited.

Some parts of the World Trade Center complex still showed signs of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Our final New York stop on the tour was a quick photo opportunity at the World Trade Center campus.  We were dropped off at the World Financial Center, just across West Street from the site of the former Twin Towers (and the current National September 11 Memorial).  Our itinerary did not include a timed ticket to visit those hallowed grounds so our photo opportunities were limited to distant shots of that area and the surrounding buildings.  One World Trade Center was still under construction and tower steel had made it 104 stories up just before our visit (with the glass exterior panels lagging a dozen or so stories below that).

While it has no direct journalism connections, the September 11th attacks were probably the biggest story of the first decade of the 21st century both in the United States and across the world.  While I was only in this country for a few days after it happened, the media coverage of those activities was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of American television (no commercials or entertainment programming on the three broadcast networks that lasted 90 hours).  I never visited the original WTC before the 2001 attacks (our grade school trip to the city was the year when those structures were completed) but I was able to see some physical reminders of that fateful day on some of the peripheral structures in the area that stood in contrast to all the new construction over the past decade.

The real (and reflected) One World Trade Center as seen looking through the New Jersey 9/11 Memorial, known as Empty Sky.

The Great Hall on Ellis Island, where an estimated 12 million immigrants were processed during the site's 62-year history.

A view of the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline just off of Liberty Island.

Once we got back on the bus, we made our way over to the Holland Tunnel for the New Jersey portion of our tour.  Arriving at Jersey City's Liberty State Park, we got our tickets to ride the ferry out to two popular tourist attractions located out in New York Harbor--Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  As one of the country's major immigration inspection stations, the facility processed an estimated 12 million people from 1892 to its closure in 1954.  The museum provided a detailed overview of what those immigrants went through on one of the final portions of the journey to their new lives in America.  We next made our way over to Liberty Island to view the first symbol many of those newcomers saw when they made their way up New York Harbor.  A gift from France to commemorate America's centennial, it was dedicated in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland and was a stop on my1973 school trip (we got to climb up into the crown to look out the windows).  Unfortunately, the entire statue (to include the museum and exhibits in its base) were closed to the public so we wandered around the island to take photos of it as well as the skyline of lower Manhattan.  We caught the next-to-last ferry of the day back to the New Jersey side and met up with our bus for the trip back to the hotel.  While not technically "newsworthy", visiting those two locations helped me to connect to our country's foundation principles of liberty and freedom--with freedom of speech and freedom of the press being two core tenets of a democratic society.  A hearty meal of deep-dish pizza was in order for all of our travel and we turned in early to get an early start for our "solo" adventure the next day.

We got to experience some of the local issues facing New York residents firsthand.

A statue of Ralph Kramden, the quintessential ambassador for New York public transportation, greeted us outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Another advantage of our hotel choice was that it was just a short walk to public transportation that would take us non-stop to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, just a short stroll from 42nd Street.  After checking out of our lodging (and having our personal belongings temporarily stored by their staff during our cross-river jaunt), we headed to the bus stop and waited for our ride back over to Manhattan.  After making our way through the terminal, we emerged from the 8th Avenue exits to the hustle and bustle of mid-morning life in New York City.  The first thing that caught my eye was a display on the side of a Pepsi Cola delivery truck that provided the soda manufacturer's take on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent unpopular edict on the size of soft drink containers (that was later struck down in the courts).  As I took in the surrounding scenery, I also noticed a statue of Ralph Kramden, the Brooklyn bus driver for the fictional Gotham Bus Company portrayed by Jackie Gleason on the 1950s TV classic The Honeymooners.  However, it was when I looked directly across the street that my eyes truly lit up because I was staring at one of my "must see" places.

The 8th Avenue entrance to The New York Times Building.

A look at the western face of the 52-story structure featuring glass and ceramic curtain walls on three sides.

A close-up of one of the doorways leading into the building's main lobby area. 

 The Movable Type artwork display in the main lobby of The New York Times Building.

 A bust of Adolph Ochs, former publisher and owner of The New York Times.

The reception and security entrances for the newspaper operations.

As a loyal reader and subscriber to "The Gray Lady" for many years, I had to pay them a visit--even if it was just to the main lobby area (security badges required to gain entrance to escalators to the second floor and above).  The 52-story building, currently tied for fourth tallest in the city (equal in height with the Chrysler Building) and eighth tallest in the United States, features a unique facing of ceramic tubes that also serves as a medium to display the paper's signature masthead (and that logo "brands" several other areas of the building's interior and exteriors).  Along the walls between the two reception/security entrance areas is a commissioned media artwork called Movable Type.  Created in 2007 by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, it incorporates 560 vacuum fluorescent displays arranged in two grids of seven rows by 40 columns each.  On these screens appear up-to-the-minute production of the news by The Times, both in print and online.  Next to one of the reception desks stands a bust of Adolph Ochs, the former publisher and owner who is credited with coining its motto ("All the News That's Fit to Print") and was the driving force in its international scope, circulation and reputation during his 39 years in those positions. Since there wasn't any retail outlet to buy any NYT-branded items, we decided to head over to our next destination--Times Square.

Newsies! The Musical might be a place to go the next time we're in town.

We were on foot for this second day and made our way across the Clinton District on our way to Mid Town.  41st Street is the north face of The New York Times Building and we walked by the Nederlander Theater on our way to 7th Avenue.  Newsies! The Musical, the story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899, premiered there in March 2012 and is now an open-ended engagement.  I've wanted to see the movie and have it on my NetFlix streaming queue...perhaps on my next (non-busy) rainy day.

 One Times Square, the original building used by The New York Times at that location.

The Walt Disney Company's Times Square Studios, home of ABC News' Good Morning America and a host of domestic and international programming.
Audience members lining up for seats for Good Afternoon America, a limited-run talk/lifestyle show that ran in the summer of 2012.
A late-morning peek into the Good Morning America studio.

 A promo poster for the ABC News morning program at the Times Square Studio.

We entered Times Square from the south, passing by One Times Square, the original home of The New York Times before they moved over to 43rd Street in 1913.  The building, mostly empty, serves as the centerpiece for the annual New Year's Eve celebrations (the Times Square Ball, dropped at 11:59PM on December 31st, sits atop the structure year-round).  The place I wanted to see was the Times Square Studio, the home of ABC News' Good Morning America.  Although we got there after the show ended, the downstairs areas were still lit up with studio lights and easily viewable through the large windows used for audience participation in the program.  A larger-than-life poster of the cast members adorned another window (unknown to us, co-host Robin Roberts would start a prolonged medical leave at the end of that month for bone marrow transplant treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome).

1211 Avenue of the Americas is the home of the Fox News and Fox Business channels. 
 Presidential politics (and social advocacy) on the back of a truck.

From Times Square, we headed east along 43rd Street until we got to the Avenue of the Americas (also known as 6th Avenue) and turned north towards Rockefeller Center.  Along the way, a stop at the News Corp. Building was in order (as proof to some of my conservative friends that I would actually go there).  Since they (like The Times) had no store to buy any "swag", we left quickly and headed a block or two up towards the Radio City Music Hall sign.  During that leg from Times Square, we saw a mobile billboard advocating marriage equality stuck in traffic, feature look-alikes for President Obama, former governor Mitt Romney and real estate mogul Donald Trump in a humorous matrimonial situation.  Since New York State was the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex couples to marry back in 2011, it appeared that the group actually wanted to see that option available across the country.

The 49th Street entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store features an above-ground glass cube and a 10,000 square foot below-ground shopping area.

A glass spiral staircase and elevator take Apple Store shoppers from street level to retail level.

As we made our way past the southern entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza (also known as the GE Building), my son reminded me that this was supposed to be a joint vacation and that he wanted to visit a place special to him.  We initially saw it on the bus tour heading down along the western side of Central Park the previous day and, after a eight-block walk north from the center's Atlas statue, we arrived at Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store.  Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and opened in May 2006, this retail outlet features a 32-foot on side glass cube between 58th and 59th Streets over a 10,000 square foot retail outlet below the street level.  His eyes lit up as we descended down the stairs to view the (then) latest tech offerings.  I was a little tired from the walking so I let him chat with the associates as long as he wanted.  After about 25 minutes, I saw him winding down his conversation so I nodded to the elevator and we started our way back down the street towards where we initially were (before his "detour").

Flags adorn the area around the Lower Plaza.

A cut-out of NBC's 30 Rock's Kenny the Page (Jack McBrayer) hawks the behind-the scenes tour of the network's programs.

 An RCA TK-11 television camera on display inside the NBC Experience Store.

The peacock logo is used as a door handle for the NBC Experience Store.

A 1940's-era RCA Type 88A microphone used for NBC radio and television programming.

A view of the Empire State Building and the under-construction One World Trade Center from the "Top of the Rock".

4 Times Square picked up some of the radio and television broadcasting business in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Once back at Rockefeller Plaza, we wandered around the open spaces before finding the NBC Experience Store.  I went to the ticket agent to find out about tours of the NBC studios (I was really hoping to see the set of NBC Nightly News and Studio 8H, the home of Saturday Night Live) but they said that the next available one would not be for another two hours and, since we were pressed for time, I had to sadly decline.  I soothed my depression with purchases of several NBC logo-branded items (something I could not do at previous stops--hint, hint NYT and News Corp?) and we made our way over to purchase tickets for visiting the "Top of the Rock" observation deck to get some awesome camera shots of the city.  This site was one of the highlights of my earlier school trip (as well as seeing a show at Radio City Music Hall next door) so a flood of memories came rushing back.  While we were "herded" to the express elevators up to the 67th floor, several artifacts of NBC's past were on display.  One item, a 1940s-era RCA microphone with NBC branding, caught my attention and I just had to capture it digitally.  Before the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were built, almost all of metropolitan New York City's radio and television signals were transmitted from the Empire State Building (up until 1972, it was the tallest building in the city).  Once 1 WTC was completed, nine television and four FM radio stations moved their resources to its 360-foot telecommunications antenna and that decision later proved calamitous when that structure was destroyed in the September 11th attacks.  This problem was eventually resolved by moving many back to the Empire State Building and to another facility at 4 Times Square (also known as the Condé Naste Building), and that location will now serve as a back-up when the transmitters at One World Trade Center come online and stoke competition between the three of them.

1155 Avenue of the Americas serves as the headquarters for The Wall Street Journal, the country's largest (by circulation) newspaper.

The National Debt Clock, located at 1155 Avenue of the Americas, reflects our nation's overall debt and each family's share of that amount.

A local news van sits in stopped traffic along Broadway.

A newsstand inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal displays a veritable smörgåsbord of newspapers to choose from.

After about 20-30 minutes of getting as many photos and angles of famous buildings as I thought I could take, we caught the down elevator and started making our way back to the bus terminal and our way back over to New Jersey.  We headed down the Avenue of the Americas and got to walk past the headquarters of The Wall Street Journal, the nation's largest (by circulation) newspaper as well as the National Debt Clock (hung on a side of a Durst Organization property between 43rd and 44th Street).  We made one final pass through Times Square and then on to where our Manhattan adventure began several hours earlier.  On the way to our bus' gate, I walked by a newsstand featuring all sorts of papers from domestic and international publishers and had to shake my head about the limited amount that I have access to on any given day back in my part of Ohio.  Once back at the hotel, we packed up the car and headed south towards our next vacation destination, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--the City of Brotherly Love--where I will pick up this photo series in the very near future.

All in all, I was like a kid in a candy store during this two-day exposure to our nation's most populous city but I did regret not having the chance to see more than we did (the NBC Studio Tour, the top of the Empire State Building, the National September 11 Memorial, the CBS Broadcast Center, the Paley Center for Media, being part of one or both of the national morning television shows and probably a few others that I cannot remember right now).  With relatives living just a few hours away from "the Big Apple", I'm guessing that I will have at least one more opportunity to check those items off of my journalism/media "bucket list".

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