New York City opens America’s first elevator museum

elevator museumGoing up (or down) to New York? Hit the button for Queens and head to the country’s first elevator museum. Former elevator repairman and collector Patrick Carrajat opened the museum last week to chronicle the history of the American elevator from the oldest Otis elevator in 1861 to an autographed photo from the movie Titanic of the ship’s elevator. Located in Long Island City, the “nexus of the elevator world” for its proximity to elevator companies and many of the city’s subway lines, the one-room museum is full of elevator paraphernalia but mostly serves as a showcase for Mr. Carrajat’s extensive knowledge and stories about his career. He hopes to eventually move the museum into a bigger space with room for an antique elevator.

The free museum is open weekdays and some Saturdays, check www.elevatorhistory.org or call

917-748-2328 for more details.

Want more ideas for a visit to Queens? Check out our Undiscovered New York guide to modern art in Long Island City.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Grevel.

Undiscovered New York: Times Square (?!)


Undiscovered New York is a series that investigates New York’s unexpected and off-the-beaten-path attractions. The places left off the “NYC tourist trail.” But like all good things, the series must come to an end. This week marks our final post. It’s not because we’re tired of the Big Apple – far from it. The effervescent shine and never-ending energy of New York will linger in our bloodstream for many years to come. But with the end comes a new beginning: there’s no better way to finish up than by helping visitors continue exploring this magical, one-of-a-kind metropolis on their own terms. And to prove it, we’re going to show how to visit one of New York’s most generic, overblown and monotonous tourist spots with fresh eyes. Lookout, we’re heading to Times Square!

Times Square is arguably New York City’s most famous tourist destination. Each day, thousands of visitors descend on this tiny pulsating strip of land, ebbing and flowing among Broadway shows and deep-fried chain restaurants, imbuing the area with a constant sense of energy. But this vitality has a way of robbing Times Square of all its fun. For an area that was once the city’s most notorious den of vice, it’s undergone a remarkable clean-up, morphing to a destination of squeaky-clean fun and glitzy nightlife. Yet for all these family-friendly charms, Times Square still retains vestiges of New York’s gritty charm and out-of-the-way attractions – you just need to know where to look.

Want to discover a forgotten gathering of magic and mystery in an old-school New York cafe? How about some of the city’s best BBQ north of the Mason-Dixon? Or perhaps some gorgeous vintage architecture from the days of old, hidden in plain view behind gaudy neon billboards? It’s time to leave your biases at the door – this week, Undiscovered New York is taking a fresh look at Times Square. Click below to see what we found…
The Magician’s Table – Cafe Edison

These days, magic is a dying art. The glory days of magic on Broadway are long gone and the craft has gone underground, finding favor at childrens’ birthday parties and the occasional Las Vegas casino. But if you’re looking relive the surprise and wonder of magic’s glory days, head over to Times Square’s Cafe Edison for the weekly Magician’s Table. The Society of American Magicians has held weekly meetings at this defiantly old-school cafe for over 60 years, dating back to the days when Times Square was a hotbed of New York’s flourishing magic scene. Magicians and regulars have been enjoying card tricks and the cafe’s top-notch Eastern European favorites like Matzo ball soup, Kasha varnishkas and blintzes for over 25 years.

Hidden Architecture
With all generic strip-mall restaurants and chain stores serving Times Square these days, it’s easy to forget the neighborhood is home to some of New York City’s most impressive architectural relics. Walk just a block or two from the frenzied movement of Broadway to corners like 46th Street and 7th Avenue, where visitors will find a the shocking remains of New York’s famous theatrical past, housing a facade with four statues from famous Broadway shoemaker Israel Miller. Just a few blocks south on 40th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue are the “40th Street Philosophers,” a group of incredibly detailed building sculptures hidden in plain view. For all the flashy digital signage and gaudy lights in the area, it’s surprising to realize there’s plenty of historic New York architecture if you just stop and look around.

Killer BBQ
You don’t have to head to Texas, Kansas City or North Carolina to get some of the country’s best barbecue. It’s actually found near Times Square at Virgil’s Real Barbecue, which has been dishing up down-home favorites like pulled pork sandwiches and chicken fried steak to patrons from around the world. Considering your average dinner in Times Square involves some kind of cheesy nacho popper or fried shrimp, Virgil’s represents a defiant culinary stake in the ground for anyone who cares about quality well-made food.

With that, our odyssey here at Undiscovered New York comes to a close. Over the past year, we hope you’ve had a chance to explore New York’s five boroughs with fresh eyes, discovering all this vast, multicultural, history-rich city has to offer. Hopefully the next time you find yourself in the Big Apple, you’ll step off that well-worn tourist trail and head off in search of fresh adventure. Because in a city like New York, you never know what might be waiting for you around that next corner. See you soon!

Undiscovered New York: Under the bridge

The bridges of New York City serve as lifelines, connecting this vast city of islands to the people, places and goods that lie beyond. From the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to the majestic Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, just about anywhere you look in New York, you’re bound to see one of these graceful structures dominating the city’s skyline and waterways. But for all the time we spend looking at and walking across New York bridges, did you ever think about what’s going on underneath them?

We tend to think of the space under bridges as a symbolic “no-go” zone, a place inhabited by phantom trolls and the darker side of our imagination. But in New York, a city that is among the most dense of any on earth, all that extra space is actually being put to good use. Since they were built, the undersides of New York City bridges have been used for everything from Cold War bunkers to massive art projects. In fact, rather than being areas of marginal interest, these spaces are among the most dynamic and intriguing in all of New York.

Ready to live it up in one of New York’s most elegant restaurants? How about a visit to a whimsical little lighthouse, located beneath a towering bridge? Or perhaps you’d like to hear the story of one of New York’s forgotten neighborhoods, hidden beneath the zooming path of millions of cars? This week, Undiscovered New York is going “under the bridge,” in search of attractions hidden from view under the city’s many bridges. Check it out after the jump.
Guastavino’s
Bridges provide a way to get past obstacles to travel elsewhere. But we might want to revise that assumption, especially when it comes to Guastavino’s a restaurant conveniently nestled beneath the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge. As you walk into this elegant restaurant on 59th Street, a frequent setting for banquets and weddings, you’re immediately confronted by the size of the cavernous space. Visitors can settle in with a nice cocktail, taking the time to gaze up in wonder at the series of vaulted ceilings supported by towering pillars of rock. It’s like stumbling into the grotto of some forgotten medieval castle, hidden in plain view.

The Little Red Lighthouse
The George Washington Bridge is another of New York’s busiest arteries, pumping Manhattan commuters back and forth on their way to New Jersey across the Hudson River. Those not intimidated by the bridge’s hustle and bustle might want to take a look down below, where they’ll be greeted by the strange sight of the Little Red Lighthouse. This iconic lighthouse was first built back in 1880, when it was installed along the banks of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. By 1921, it had been moved to its present location along the shores of the Hudson, where it helped sailors navigate their way up the river to points north. Today it has become the de facto symbol of Manhattan’s Fort Washington Park, where it now greets the area’s joggers and bikers on their daily routes.

DUMBO
Forget about the elephant in the Disney movie, New York has a DUMBO of its own. This neighborhood, whose name stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” is literally surrounded on all sides by bridges, with both the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge passing directly overhead. The result of this infrastructure decision is that DUMBO feels like a neighborhood kept under wraps, bursting with great bars, restaurants and shopping that most visitors pass right by as they drive overhead. Start your visit with an authentic taco at Hecho in Dumbo before taking a look at some of the area’s great stores like record store Halcyon, powerHouse Books or Japanese toy store Zakka. Finish your trip with a stop at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.

Undiscovered New York: Rocking the boat

It doesn’t really make sense. Why does music sound better when you’re riding on a boat? Do melodies travel better by sea breeze? Can the current of a river improve a guitar solo? They’re not questions we ponder very often, but maybe it’s time that we did. Because believe it or not, New York City happens to be a great place to hear live music on boats.

You’re probably thinking – why in the world are people playing music while floating on water? As much as we try to fill in the gaps here at Undiscovered New York, to help you try to understand the lesser known parts of this great city, we aren’t really sure that we have an answer. Maybe boat-goers enjoy the city’s awesome harbor views when accompanied by a good tune. Maybe leaving shore lets us leave our inhibitions behind. Or maybe there’s no need to rationalize – as with so many other unexpected activities in New York, sometimes you just show up and go with the flow.

Whatever, the reason, New York has some seriously good options when it comes to riding the waters to hear some top-quality tunes. Whether you want to enjoy a symphony orchestra along the East River, boogie down at an abandoned boat dance party or check out the latest in floating indie rock, there’s a boat concert to suit your needs. So leave those “lame” concerts for the land-lubbers. This week, Undiscovered New York is “rocking the boat.” Click below to see where you can hear some great music while riding the city’s waves.
The Frying Pan
From 1930 until 1965, the lightship Frying Pan played an important role for the U.S. Coast Guard, serving as a floating lighthouse to keep ships from running aground in rough seas. These days though, the ancient Frying Pan is more likely to guide partygoers to a good time. After spending three years at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay, the boat was salvaged and brought to New York, where it now floats at Pier 66 along Manhattan’s West Side. On weekends and evenings, partiers come to hang out along the water and dance inside the ship’s rusty barnacle covered hull. It’s a one-of-a-kind night out that definitely beats an evening on dry land.

Bargemusic
New York visitors are often surprised to learn that the city’s grimy East River is home base for symphony-quality performances of Chopin, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. These decidedly highbrow affairs happen at Bargemusic, a series of weekly classical music concerts hosted on a former New York City coffee barge. The event’s nautical setting makes for a surprisingly good concert – attendees claim the boat’s cavernous acoustics and intimate seating, close-up to the musicians, makes for a truly memorable experience.

Rocks Off Concerts
Remember that time you saw your favorite band live? Man, what a show. But good as it was, have you ever seen your favorite band live and on a boat? That’s exactly the thinking behind Rocks Off concert cruises. Now in its ninth year of musically-themed boat cruises, the events combine a New York City harbor cruise at dusk with a variety of up-and-coming musical acts like Electric Six and Amon Tobin.

Undiscovered New York: An interview with Scouting NY



When Gadling first started the Undiscovered New York series, our goal was to bring New York visitors a totally different perspective on this famous city. To show you the amazing forgotten places and stories that lie just below the surface, waiting to be explored.

Our passion for uncovering these forgotten spaces is exactly how we stumbled upon Scouting NY, the blog of a New York City film scout who spends his days scoping out potential NYC locations for use in feature films. We recently had a chance to speak with the creator of Scouting NY, the writer known mostly as “Scout,” to talk about New York’s undiscovered spaces, urban exploring and some of NYC’s most unique spots. Take a look:

Tell our Gadling readers what you do here in New York.
I work in New York City as a film location scout. Basically, I get hired by film productions to help find and secure locations for shooting in the New York area.

In the early stages, this means searching for any location mentioned in the screenplay: a back alley, a luxury penthouse apartment, a subway station, etc. Sometimes we turn to locations we know of from experience, other times we literally walk street by street. We try to provide the director with as many options as possible. Sometimes, we find the perfect place immediately. Other times, it’s more of a grind, often in part because the director does not know what he or she wants. I was on a job where we scouted about 200 different apartments to find the perfect one, for a scene that was no longer than 30 seconds in the final film.


What was your reason for starting your blog, Scouting NY?

My job is basically to stare at New York, and when you really take the time to stop and look around, you start to notice things you NEVER see on your daily commute. I kept a mental list going for a while, and would point places out to friends, often generating the reaction: “I’ve walked by that a zillion times and never noticed that!” Almost a year ago, I decided to start documenting my finds on a blog, in part to draw attention to things that have a bad tendency of disappearing forever.

How did you get interested in exploring the “forgotten” places of New York?

I have a natural curiosity for trying to find the hidden places and gems of a city. I’m not sure where it stems from, but I always seem to find my gaze landing on some unusual stuff. Everyone else will be staring at the Empire State Building, and I’m looking across the street at an ancient Bloomingdale’s building ad. Maybe it’s just a short attention span?

What is it about undiscovered areas of New York that makes them worthy of a visit?

New York is a city that is shared by millions, and yet, in finding these hidden treasures, you can sort of claim a piece of it for yourself in spirit. Also, New York has more history crammed into it than nearly anywhere else in the US, in part because Manhattan is an island. Because the city couldn’t sprawl, it had to constantly tear down and rebuild. Luckily, remnants of older times have a way of sticking around, and I find it to be very interesting to know that your apartment building might have a history of being, say, both an old age home AND a brothel.


You’re a big advocate of the preservation of historic buildings and places. Why is it important we preserve these spaces instead of redeveloping them for new uses?

It is important because they’re one of a kind works of art, testaments to an older generation which valued quality and craftsmanship far higher than we do today. Once historic buildings and places are torn down, they’re gone forever. You cannot rebuild them. It looks like the amazing Admiral’s Row mansions in Brooklyn will soon be torn down in favor of a supermarket parking lot, and it saddens me that the only reason this is allowed to happen is because they’re not in a particularly wealthy community.

I don’t believe that any historical structure should simply exist as a museum piece – it should function with the community, and there is always a way to do this without tearing anything down. You can always build another supermarket parking lot. You will NEVER see a mansion built in the style of Admiral’s Row.


Imagine you visit New York for the first time and want to “get off the beaten path.” Where should you go?

Before doing your requisite Times Square/Chinatown/Wall Street tours, pick a neighborhood off of your map and just go walking around without a guide book. Though I’m a travel guide addict, when I go to ANY new city, I always spend the first day walking around without a guidebook, getting a natural feel for the city. It’s only on day 2 or 3 that I pick up the guide book and start delving into what I might have missed. Personal favorites for visitors in Manhattan are: Morningside Heights, the West 70s/80s near Central Park, and the West Village.


You’ve been all over visiting unique New York locations. Do you have any favorites?

I’ve put together a list of my favorites which you can find here.

Manhattan is probably the most heavily visited Borough by out-of-town visitors. Tell us about one unexpected spot in Manhattan that’s “hidden in plain view.”

At 1st Street and 1st Ave, perched on the roof of a four-story brick apartment building is a Cape Cod beach house. No joke.

Do you have any tips for readers on how to find “unexpected” places of their own as they visit New York? What has helped you make some of your discoveries?

Stop worrying about how quickly you can get from Point A to Point B, and try looking up for a change. It’s all hidden in plain sight – all it takes is the desire to pay attention.

A special thanks to Scouting NY for the interview and for granting permission to use a few photos. Make sure to check out all the amazing places and photos at www.scoutingny.com.