Subway escalator High Fives: Improv Everywhere cheers folks up

We’re fans of Improv Everywhere’s work here at Gadling. There’s Frozen Grand Central, Food Court Musical (my favorite) and welcoming home strangers at JFK. Here’s another one designed to put a smile on the face of New Yorkers and one idea to try at home. All you need is a couple of friends to hold signs, an escalator and a hand. This video is of a packed subway station in New York City, but a busy shopping mall would work as well.

Panic after fighter jets escort 747 around Manhattan

Several buildings in Manhattan and New Jersey were evacuated earlier today, after officials spotted a Boeing 747 jumbo jet flying over the city escorted by fighter jets. As it turns out, the jet was one of President Barack Obama’s backup aircraft that was circling for a photo op. The whole operation was supposed to have been coordinated among the FAA and local officials, but apparently the message wasn’t communicated too well. The WSJ has video of the circling jets below. Imagine watching this from your highrise in Manhattan.

Cherry blossoms at New York’s botanical gardens

With only through next week to catch the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., there’s another chance in April to enjoy the pink glory if you head north. At the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, and at the Brooklyn Botantic Gardens, the cherry trees bloom later than those in D.C.

To create this time lapse photography video that highlights the blooming, 3,000 shots, one every three minutes, were taken between April 18 and April 26, 2008. The video was created by Dave Allen, the webmaster for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The effect is a bit like a musical kaleidoscope of nature in shades of pink. Nicely done!

To see the cherry trees bloom in real time, head to the section the Brooklyn Botanic Garden called Cherry Walk. According to the New York Botanical Garden website, rhododendron, buttercups, pansies, and magnolias are some of the other flowers and trees that bloom there in April.

The Freedom Tower gets a new name

Ground ZeroNo more Freedom Tower.

The tower being built atop Ground Zero to replace the Twin Towers which fell in the devastating terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, will now be known as One World Trade Center.

Steve Sigmund, the spokesperson for the Port Authority (who owns the site), says the name is more marketable. One World Trade Center is the address of the future building.

To be fair, “Freedom Tower,” does sound a little bit like it came out of a comic book, and it reminds us of that whole “Freedom Fries” debacle which was so generally embarrassing.

One World Trade Center. Personally, I want to open a burger shack nearby and name it Another World Trade Center.

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Undiscovered New York: Hidden Wall Street

It’s no surprise New York City bankers are not too popular these days. Between the housing meltdown and the bank bailouts, New York’s most famous financial thoroughfare, Wall Street, seems to be in the news a lot, and definitely not for good reasons. Many visitors have long-agreed, regarding the area as a dead zone for good reason. Sure, there’s a giant flag down there on the stock exchange and a metal bull, but once you snap a few photos it’s time to move on, right?

But to write the district off does it a serious injustice. Beneath the veneer of mega-banks, frenzied stock buying and selling and pinstripe suits lies a very different Wall Street, an area with a history dating back to New York’s earliest days as a North American settlement. In fact, the street gained its name because it was exactly that – an enormous wall constructed in the 17th Century to protect the small Dutch settlement from attacking Native Americans and British settlers.

To really get to know what Wall Street is about, in other words, you’ve gotta move past the banker cliches. Unless you dig a little deeper how would you know that Wall Street is brimming with history? Interested in visiting an African Burial Ground? Want to see what a stack containing one fourth of the world’s gold bars looks like? How about a drink in one of New York’s oldest bars?

Step inside Undiscovered New York’s guide to “Hidden Wall Street” to learn more…
The Lost City of Gold

Deep within an underground vault 80 feet below street level, resting on the bedrock of the island of Manhattan, sits a king’s ransom of treasure, filling an entire room from floor to ceiling. Think we’re talking about some hidden pirate treasure or Pharaoh’s tomb? It’s actually the physical manifestation of one of the world’s largest official monetary gold reserves, held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, located at 33 Liberty Street.

Containing around 266 million troy ounces of gold, the precious metal reserve is estimated to account for between 25 and 30 percent of the entire world’s monetary gold supply. Each weekday a select group of visitors is allowed in for tours of the Federal Reserve Building and its gold vault. It’s a fascinating look inside the U.S. economy (or what’s left of it) and an incredible trove of real-life treasure.

Ancient African Burial Grounds
The year was 1991, and construction crews were hard at work on the foundation of new office building in New York’s financial district. Suddenly the crews came upon the skeletal remains a few men, women and children. A research team was called into the site and soon had discovered the remains of a sprawling 6 acre burial site, containing more than 400 free and enslaved Africans laid to rest in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

In honor of the newly rediscovered burial ground, the site was renamed as the African Burial Ground and commissioned as a National Historic Landmark managed by the National Park Service. Stop by the Visitor Center located at 290 Broadway, check out the nearby monument and make arrangements for tours covering African presence in early New York.

Bridge Cafe
Undiscovered New York first took a look at some the city’s oldest bars back in November of 2008. But there was one bar we didn’t get to cover – the 1700’s-era Bridge Cafe, which is located close to Wall Street in the South Street Seaport. This Revolutionary War-era tavern is the self-proclaimed “oldest surviving tavern in New York.” Not only is the tavern still serving up pints of suds over 200 years later, it’s also the site of a former 1800’s brothel and apparently is haunted by ghosts. If you’re looking to enjoy some one-of-a-kind history and a legit New York historical landmark, look no further.