“New York City, city of exaggerations. Place of Herculean ascensions and perilous falls.” (Kurt Wenzel)
A first glance at the iconic New York City skyline certainly heightened our interest in touring Manhattan Island on our recent cruise along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. With so much to see in only a short, one day stopover, however, our excursion options seemed noticeably limited. In addition, a Brooklyn landing point for the Caribbean Princess several miles from Manhattan Island precluded any thoughts of making our way on foot this day. We thus logically realized that a morning scheduled tour offering of a convenient “hop-on hop-off” bus service to/from NYC seemed the most feasible self traveling option this day.
Finding our way to the top of our double deck bus, we would soon cross over the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn into NYC downtown. I noticed then how the abrupt transition from our sheltered lifestyle on a cruise boat to the frenzied urban chaos of Lower Manhattan radiated both sadly depressing and positively energizing thoughts. It also seemed clear that the more I listened to our bus tour guide describe our surroundings, the more intense my mixed feelings about NYC curiosities became. Seeing good reason then to stay on the bus the entire time, I would thus photograph this tour, gauging my “see saw” like ambivalence for over thirty stops throughout our circle route uptown from Battery Park to Times Square and return.
As we departed Brooklyn Harbor on our “hop-hop-off” bus north to Manhattan, the magnificent panorama of Manhattan skyscrapers and the Brooklyn drew closer. However, an unsightly field of industrial clutter/roof graffiti obstructed our attention to dampen our sightseeing enthusiasm.
Along our route through downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, we observed many historically interesting buildings. Yet the dense traffic gridlock and horn honks combined with the continuous noise coming from urban construction sites made it difficult to concentrate on the tour narrations of our driver.
Towering High Rise housing complexes at the southern tip of Manhattan provided stunning visual evidence of NYC’s current wave of luxury residential living. Yet I could also reason how few could afford typical buying prices averaging over $1,000,000 per unit there.
Sturdy structural designs from the early 20th century remain in Lower Manhattan as amazing fixtures of historic preservation. Yet poor infrastructure and unsightly urban decay increasingly damage their functional capacities.
The rebuilt steel tower of One World Trade Center again stands as a modern symbol of American will to heal from the 9/11 disaster. Seeing the tallest building in New York City again from a distance, I admired the modern grandeur of this structure. Yet as I drew closer to the monument, I felt the profound sadness emanating from its surrounding open space memorials in honoring so many who died there on that fateful day.
The public parks in Manhattan offered us plentiful opportunities for walking pleasure. However, Bryant Park, in particular, seemed overcrowded and thus lacking in privacy.
We exited our “Hop – On Hop Off” to the sensory mesmerizing sights of Times Square. Yet we got lost in the mass throngs of people looking for a specific restaurant due to GPS service interference there as well as poor address number signage on buildings. So much for the modern look of gentrification here if it makes tourism more difficult.
Passing street scenes often revealed interesting people watching opportunities in Manhattan While I often enjoyed this immersion into cultural diversity, New Yorkers at times seemed stressfully overwhelmed about the fast pace life there.
The subways of NYC create a subterranean world of urban survivors who are whisked daily below to their destinations in an efficient fashion. Yet in their failure to see the light of day, this cemetery overlooking a subway station suggested to me that such tunnel living each day evokes a dark and eerie kind of coffin.
The skies over Manhattan turned black and high winds whistled strongly in late afternoon at the end of our tour. Quickly entering a shuttle at Battery Park, we felt fortunate that we would soon be back in the safe confines of our cruise ship.
As or cruise departed New York City in evening, I admired the enduring presence of two landmark symbols of American immigrant freedom: The Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge. In the face of political times today fomented by our divisive American President, however, my fears mounted then about U.S. future commitments to such “open door” policies.