Good Morning New York...

New York City. My long-term inspiration. The theme of countless movies, songs, and backgrounds for incredible stories, both nonfictional and fictional. Take a flight with me over this wonderful place I’ve called home for over 20 years.

It’s the middle of August and Manhattan works at half pace. The unbearable heat of the concrete has not yet crept in and the air is still fresh. The day is anew.

The Staten Island Ferry arrives at its terminal in Battery Park. The City That Never Sleeps awakes, as workers slowly start filling the streets, getting on with their daily routine.

Looking north on the way uptown, the Freedom Tower stand tall and proud. The symbol of The Changed America it fails to deliver on the power that Twin Towers symbolized. As the world changes, so does this nation. Calling it “Freedom” was a sad cry, almost a trick for the past 9/11 times, in which we experience it less and less as the time passes.

Continuing north on the Hudson we pass by Midtown Manhattan. A residential neighborhood, conveniently located close to all of Midtown’s office buildings seems tranquil in its early morning haze. The feeling of stopped time is, however, only imaginary. Within an hour the streets will fill with pedestrians and automobile traffic, the waterside will host joggers and bikers partaking in their morning routine. A day, just like any other. Hard to miss is the “Big Tetrahedron” building to the left. Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it presents a unique structure on the island’s skyline.

Another “new” New York Icon, the IAC headquarters designed by Frank Gehry, stands in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Mr. Gehry must have taken this to heart, as he designed the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere (at the time), 8 Spruce Street. This achievement was unfortunately quite short-lived as it was overtaken by one of the boring pencil-like structures in Midtown Manhattan.

In order to continue this story, we need to fast-forward a few years to this wintry, cold New York morning. 432 Park Avenue – that unattractive tall, pencil-like building that rises above the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan. Soon to be home to many, yet so few, as the prices started at $9 million and went all the way up to $95,000,000. Despite this, in 2018 this building was NYC’s best selling real estate ever! To add spice to the story, it’s top glory is bound to be short-lived, as coming to the market soon is Central Park Tower which will also top out at almost 200 feet higher when finished in 2020. Will 432’s apartments soon become ‘affordable’? I seriously doubt so.

But, there’s hope! Turns out that you do not have to be a trillionaire in order to enjoy the nice views. All you need is Rusty. This Million Dollar View was presented to me as I was cleared to cross over Manhattan on my way to the East River. The sweet glory of big bucks tickled me as I made this passage. To wake up to such a vista? Beyond fabulous. To experience it yourself anytime you wish from a small plane? Not too shabby, right?

Altitude is like a drug – it is addictive, it gets you high, and way too much of it will…well, never mind. Most importantly, altitude is good, as it’s the slow and low that is usually problematic for all things flying. Here, I climbed close to 10,000 feet in order to have a look at the island in all its beauty. Fresh snow covers the city, and none of the annoyances and complaints that the city folk constantly bring up during wintertime is apparent from this height. It is damn cold – about 0°F (-20°C) – and with the open windows and wind blowing past, the flight is challenging. Taken by the beauty of the scene, I quickly ignore the discomfort, safely bundled in my warmest jacket, scarf, and good gloves.

Have you seen this already? If you have been browsing my site, chances are that you did. This photo cost me frostbites on my fingers but it also won me a prestigious award a few years back. A result of meticulous planning and near-perfect execution, plus a bit of luck. I was (which is almost always the case) both the pilot and the photographer at the time. Key here is the line of shadows, and because the time was early March, their length also offers perfect proportion. This photograph has grown into a 4-season series, which I am inviting you to explore:

Central Park from 10,000 Feet / Seasons

Let’s stay in the park but fast forward to this beautiful spring day. It’s the end of April, the trees are blooming in its full glory and locals and tourists alike stream to the park to enjoy Sunday afternoon in Manhattan’s largest park – New York’s landmark icon.

Two years later, it’s 2020 – the year that invented the term ‘social distancing’. Large circles in Brooklyn’s Domino Park guide the sunbathers in maintaining safe spacing due to the COVID-19 pandemic that the city is battling.

Forget COVID for a moment, and let’s go back to the good ol’ days and follow the crowds as they flock south during the warm days of August. It’s the last day of ‘official’ summer and New Yorkers escape the urban frying pan to visit the city beaches. Those are the last days with full blown sun soon to be dearly missed, as September is just around the corner. Coney Island has always been THE destination, still in the shine of its 50s glory, it is still a place to be during summer. Yes, Rockaways is cool, Hamptons may be cooler, but what sets Coney apart from their hipper siblings is the culture. And there’s plenty of it; I look back with joy to the times of photographing their burlesque shows, freak festivals, strongman competitions, concerts and shows during my vivid nightlife Time Out NY collaboration period.

What makes Coney unique, in addition to its rich culture, is its amazing over 100-year old Luna Park. The Cyclone, Parachute Jump, Nathan’s Hot Dogs – those have all become landmark names made famous the entire world over. Usually busy during hot summer days, pictured here they lie dormant, waiting patiently for the influx of visitors and entertainers alike.

Not that far away to the west, Staten Island’s Ferry Terminal is the host to this community-made Black Lives Matter mural. As a bold statement to the changing times, and to the city emerging from the COVID-19 crisis with so much uncertainty ahead.

As protests against inequality and police brutality continued for weeks, they had their culminating moment on June 19, 2020. Spontaneous, yet well organized protests have been popping up everywhere around all of the boroughs, in a peaceful atmosphere, and with joy in hope and expectation of changes to come. An important date in American history, the Day of Liberation is also commonly referred to as “Juneteenth”. And as long as Google spell check still finds this word as an error, we have more work to do.

As the day ends, I find myself over one of my favorite places in New York City. The Met – one of the landmarks of the city’s cultural life – is wrapping up for the day. Oh the sweet hours that I’ve spent in its spacious and rich interiors. The art and culture that I’ve witnessed, the stories that I’ve documented. Writing from the distance of isolation, while all the museums remain closed for an undetermined time, the longing to return feels extra poignant.

Back in my Brooklyn days of early 2000s, I often visited Prospect Park during warm autumn days. As my flight training was at its highest peak, I constantly walked in my head in the clouds, dreaming. One of the joys of these evenings was visually following the airliners on their way to La Guardia and wondering how it was possible that the kites them fly so high never bother the pilots.

So, one day I have decided to catch an Embraer 175 overflying a game of cricket.

In a different part of town, another game is about to begin while we witness another late La Guardia arrival. Normally, it is not permitted to fly over an active sports event, but at that altitude, who cares. (Actually I was well above the restriction 😉

The sun had set in the west, and a beautiful calm evening poured over the city as it celebrated its 15th anniversary of September 11.

It is the time when the city’s magic comes alive.

With July 4th celebrations well underway, smoke from the nearby fireworks explosions filled Downtown Manhattan’s narrow streets. It’s the night where New York looks like a true Gotham City.

See More Fireworks

Let’s enjoy the beautiful Tribute in Light once more, from this ‘classic Manhattan’ perspective, before we retire for the day.

Good night, New York. Sleep well. Tomorrow, I will see you again.

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