Category Archives: New York City travel

Historical Society’s ‘Notorious RBG’ Pays Homage to New York’s Own Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” pays homage to the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

No exhibit that looks back into the past has been more timely and relevant than “Notorious RBG” which recently opened at the New-York Historical Society – a homage to the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, lawyer, wife, mother and woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who at age 80, became an internet phenomenon and cultural icon. It is so important to be reminded – through her words, documents, historical artifacts, archival photographs, contemporary art and interactives – of what society was like, what it took to change, and what is at risk today. The SCOTUS with the mostus challenged us to continue her work for a just, equal and compassionate society.

The traveling exhibit, which was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and based largely on Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik’s book, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” (which was the source for a documentary),  opened to the public just the day before marches in Washington DC and around the nation in support of women’s reproductive rights. It was also mere days before the start of the Supreme Court’s new term, with a 6-3 conservative majority, including the justice who took her seat, Amy Coney Barrett, gunning to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “Notorious RBG” is on display only through January 23, 2022.

“It is different to be here, knowing she’s not with us,” author Irin Carmon reflected at the press preview of the exhibit. “She intended to visit Skirball but cancelled because of her cancer treatment. When the exhibit came to Philadelphia, she agreed to accept an award and see it more than a year after opened. It was an extraordinary experience of giving her a tour of her life.”

New-York Historical Society Presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 “We walked her through to an imagined re-creation of her childhood living room. She stopped, as if completely alone, stopped in front of a portrait of her mother – who died just before her high school graduation. Opera was playing on an old fashioned radio. We all fell silent as she gazed. I thought of what she said when she accepted the nomination to the Supreme Court in 1993, standing with President Clinton. I was thinking what her mother would have thought.”

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg toured the “Notorious RBG” exhibit in Philadelphia with author Irin Carmon, she stopped in front of this re-creation of her childhood Brooklyn home to reflect on the portrait of her mother © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What RBG said on that day was, “It is to my mother, Celia Amster Bader, the bravest and strongest person I have known, who was taken from me much too soon. I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”

Justice Ginsburg said she would have come to the NYHS’ exhibit, which was supposed to open in 2020, but the exhibit was delayed because of COVID. She died September 18, 2020.

“It falls on all of us who share her values, what she stood for, to carry on her legacy,” Carmon said.

The exhibit traces her life from modest beginnings in Brooklyn, losing an older sister when she was two, her mother sick with cancer from when she was 13 and dying just before her high school graduation.

But you appreciate how Brooklyn was formative to the person she became – the immigrant community of Eastern Europeans, Irish and Italians. Her Jewish heritage inbued in her a commitment to seek justice and compassion, to question, and it triggered her feminism when, in Jewish tradition, she was not counted in the minyan (the quorum of 10 males required) at her own mother’s funeral because she was female.

RBG became “notorious” because of her firey dissent in Shelby v Holder in 2013, when the majority overturned the preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act, unleashing a score of voter discrimination laws in states that otherwise would have been curtailed. She charged that overturning the Voting Rights Act would invite violations of the 15th amendment. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts saying it wasn’t needed anymore because (after Obama’s election to the presidency) “things changed.”

In her dissent, RBG said that overturning the provision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” 

We enter the exhibit at the pinnacle – one of her Supreme Court robes and jabots on display, an official portrait of her in her office as only the second woman to have served on the Supreme Court, a PBS News Hour video of her as “Notorious RBG”, and as you wind through, you understand the context, the ecosystem, that forged her character and set her on her path.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the modest girl from Brooklyn, was tickled by becoming an internet sensation, the “Notorious RBG” at age 80, and took the association with the Notorious B.I.G. with humor, saying, “We have something in common – we’re both from Brooklyn.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

She took the “Notorious RBG” with humor – in a video of a PBS News Hour appearance, she said, “Notorious B.I.G. and I have something in common – we are both from Brooklyn.”

Very quickly, we are pushed back in time to her childhood in Flatbush Brooklyn, her time at Cornell University where she met Martin Ginsburg, and their decision to pursue law – because she thought lawyers the vanguard of societal change and because Harvard Law School had begun to accept women, albeit precious few.

“Both wanted to marry and keep on working together…Harvard Business School did not accept women. So they settled on law.”

From the beginning, “Their marriage defied gender expectations of the period and embodied her belief that men, women, and families are better when both partners share their lives and goals on equal footing. Marty was a passionate supporter of his life partners’ legal career and shared in child rearing and household responsibilities long before men were expected to do so.”

When Marty got sick with testicular cancer, she took his notes and transcribed his papers so he could stay in the program. And she left Harvard Law to go to Columbia when Marty got a job in New York (she made the Law Review at both.)

When she graduated, no law firm would hire her – “I was Jewish, a mother and a woman” so three strikes against her. She began teaching at Rutgers.

She signed up as a volunteer lawyer at the New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which was being overwhelmed by letters from women. “None of their problems were new. What was new was that anyone thought it was worth complaining about.”

“It was clear to RBG that fighting discrimination one strongly worded letter at a time was like catching the ocean in a thimble. There would always be another sexist law or regulation to take down. Women’s rights advocates needed to think bigger. What the country needed was a broader recognition of gender equality.”

New-York Historical Society presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a very illuminating list of what women couldn’t do in the 1930s and 1940s – a sort of marker – which women today take for granted:

Practice law in most states or become a judge

Serve on a jury in most states

Get paid the same amount as men for doing the same work

Answer want ads for jobs labeled “men only”

Open a bank account or get a credit card without a husband’s or male relative’s permission (I would add: get a mortgage or a business loan without a man to co-sign)

In some states, own property without having a husband in control as “head and master”

Attend most Ivy League universities

Play school sports on an equal basis with boys

Attend a military academy

Get pregnant without the threat of losing her job

Wear pants on the US Senate floor

Serve in combat in the military

Much of her argument for gender equality was derived from the 14th Amendment – passed after the Civil War’s emancipation of slaves: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Roe v. Wade was decided based on the “right to privacy” implied by “due process” rather than “equal protection”.)

Marty, a prominent tax attorney, brought her the breakthrough case, Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Charles Mortiz was a businessman who was caring for his 89-year old mother, but the IRS denied him the tax deduction for expenses for her care that was allowed women, widowers or husbands of incapacitated women. But Moritz had never married. “The idea that a man might be a caregiver had apparently never crossed the government’s mind,” Ginsburg wrote.

The Ginsburgs realized that the government was senselessly denying a benefit to someone purely on the basis of sex. “If the court said that was wrong, the precedent would open the door to a broader recognition of gender equality.”

“The line the law drew rested on a stereotype: Women are caregivers, so a daughter would take care of her aging mother but men are out in the world, earning a living, so they don’t take personal care of aging parents. That law was blind to the life Charles E. Moritz lived. We took his case from the tax court to the Tenth Circuit. Marty argued the tax part of it and I argued the equal protection part,” RBG wrote.

And when one of her cases brought her up against her former Harvard Dean Erwin Griswold, who had become Solicitor General of the US, he had counsel prepare an appendix of all the laws that would have to be changed if Ginsburg were successful in her argument about gender discrimination in the law. In other words, you change this law, you have to change all the others. Ruth saw it as a handy roadmap.

Between 1971 and 1981, RBG litigated cases that would set the stage for gender equality (or rather, “neutrality”): widower, pregnancy, forced sterilization of black women; jury, and even the right to buy beer at age 18.

It is important to note in these times as a woman’s reproductive freedom is in question, that the government that can ban abortion – and deny a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body – is also a government that can force sterilization, or require an abortion. This is exactly what the government did to Captain Susan Struck in 1970; the case that RBG took up, Struck v. Secretary of Defense, resulted in the USAF changing its policy of automatically discharging pregnant women who refused to get an abortion, and led to Congress passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

“RBG Tattoo II” by Ari Richter, fashioned of pigmented human skin on glass, is painted based on a photo of Justice Ginsburg taken as she officiated at the artist’s wedding to “Notorious RBG” author Irin Carmon. It is one of the personal items on view at New-York Historical Society’s exhibit “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

RBG spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU to tackle discrimination in education and training programs, prisons and the military, advocate for reproductive freedom and hold accountable institutions that discriminated against pregnant women.

You can listen in on decisions and see original documents and artifacts – for example, Stephen Wisenfeld’s letter to the editor complaining of the discriminatory rule of Social Security that prevented him from getting survivor’s benefits after his wife, the “breadwinner” of his family, died in childbirth; the personal letter from RBG to Stephen Wisenfeld in 1977 about going to DisneyWorld, which is so revealing about her as a person; photos of RBG with Steven’s son Jason Wiesenfeld when she officiated at Jason’s wedding in 1998, and another with Stephen Wiesenfeld and Elaine Harris Wiesenfeld at their 2014 wedding that RBG officiated.

“Wiesenfeld is part of an evolution toward a policy of neutrality – a policy that will accommodate traditional patterns, but at the same time, one that requires removal of artificial constraints so that men and women willing to explore their full potential as humans may create new traditions by their actions.” RBG wrote (she won an 8-0 decision at the Supreme Court).

The 2016 anti-abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016, struck down a Texas law that required such stringent standards on abortion clinics that they would have had to be shut down. The court ruled 5-3 that this imposed an “undue burden.”

RBG joined Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion but added, “I fully subscribed to everything Breyer said, but it was long and I wanted something pithy…. I wrote to say, ‘Don’t try this anymore.’”

New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” features 3-D re-creations of key places in RBG’s life including her desk in her Supreme Court chambers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But we know that they have not stopped trying to chip away at the “undue burden” standard. Now Texas has come up with most brazen assault on women’s rights, without Ginsburg on the bench to challenge, instead, replaced by an ultra-conservative, anti-abortion justice Amy Coney Barrett. In a dire sign of what is to come, the court allowed the Texas law to go into effect – creating a new class of vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce a blatantly unconstitutional “burden” on women who seek an abortion after six-weeks.

RBG’s last dissent was in 2020, in the “Little Sisters of the Poor v Pennsylvania,” in which the majority, 7-2 allowed religious objectors to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory requirement to provide health plans that include contraceptive coverage.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote.

New-York Historical Society Presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On her deathbed, Justice Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could care less, and even though the 2020 presidential election had already gotten underway (and he had delayed an Obama nomination more than a year, to give Trump his appointee, Neil Gorsuch in place of Merrick Garland), pushed through his candidate, Amy Coney Barrett to complete a 6-3 radically conservative majority on the court.

And so, people are marching, rallying and protesting again with urgency to protect the rights that were thought to have been won, but now may be overturned. Many carry a sign that reads, “Ruth sent me.”

“Ruth Sent Me” sign at the New York City Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There are such personal items, including a reproduction of the letter her husband Marty wrote just before he died, in 2010, “My dearest Ruth- You are the only person I have loved in my life…what a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world!!”

Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life—from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities—to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter, and the costume she wore for her cameo as the Duchess in Washington National Opera’s production of “Daughter of the Regiment.”

The costume Justice Ginsburg wore for her cameo as the Duchess in Washington National Opera’s production of “Daughter of the Regiment” is on view in New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”   © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation – and only seen here – are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalization ceremony of 200 new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders. (She sent a note,  “I had shingles, not yet diagnosed, on April 10, but would not have missed the oath-taking ceremony. Looking out at the 201 faces of the new citizens, I could hardly hold back the tears. The diversity represented among the new citizens, proudly pledging allegiance, is what the USA means to me. With appreciation, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

A city mourns one of its own: an overview of the memorials that appeared throughout New York City after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, September 18, 2020, is a special feature of New-York Historical Society’s presentation of the traveling exhibition “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is also a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing, “Rest in Power, A City Mourns Its Own.”

The various RBG iconography on display is fun and fascinating, like the “real life action figure” (you can buy one in the gift shop).

The strangest – and one of the most personal – is the “RBG Tattoo II” by Ari Richter, fashioned of pigmented human skin on glass, painted with a photo of RBG taken as she officiated at the artist’s wedding to “Notorious RBG” author Irin Carmon.

“Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,  co-author Irin Carmon poses with “RBG Tattoo II” painted  by her husband, Ari Richter, based on a photo of RBG taken as she officiated at the their wedding © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

When Irin Carmon asked, “And when the time comes, what would you like to be remembered for?” RBG replied, “Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

Supreme Court Justice and trailblazer Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a cultural icon, warranting an action hero figure (on sale at New-York Historical Society’s gift shop) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.

The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400,  nyhistory.org. Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and Tumblr.

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TD Five Boro Bike Tour, ‘A Truly New York City Experience in a Truly Unusual Year’

NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea  is in the first wave to kick off the 2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a stunning demonstration of New York City’s famous resilience and grit, Bike New York, New York City and TD Bank pulled off the 2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour, hosting 20,000 riders as they rode 40 miles of car-less urban streets and bridges. “A truly New York City experience in a truly unusual year.”

Last year’s ride was cancelled because of COVID-19, and this year’s ride, the 43rd edition of the Five Boro Bike Tour, restricted to 20,000, substantially fewer riders than the 32,000 that typically join the ride because of COVID-19 protocols, was originally set for August 22, but Hurricane Henri had other ideas.

As it turned out, postponing the ride by a week rewarded riders with perfect weather for cycling – overcast, misting and a comfortable 72 degrees.

Participants who came from all 50 states and 16 countries had a ball, and were treated, as has become tradition, to bands welcoming the riders to each borough, well organized rest areas and water stations with the added dimension of COVID-protocols, superbly organized street closures manned by New York’s finest and Bike New York volunteers, excellent signage.  And all on incredibly short notice.

NYC Police Commissioner Dermot at the 2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour. First cancelled last year, hastily put on for 2021 then postponed because of Hurricane Henri, it could not have happened without the support of NYC police, transportation, sanitation and scores of others © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

An incredible feat accomplished by numerous New York City agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Sanitation, and Police.

The route was modified somewhat – possibly because of the short notice for even the August 22 date (the ride wasn’t announced until May), and then it had to be hastily put together for August 29.

2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour gets underway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Biking up car-less 6th Avenue,2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Biking up car-less 6th Avenue,2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So we skirted Central Park, riding up Central Park West, instead of going through it, and had our rest stop outside of Triboro Park in Queens.

But the biggest change was where the ride finished: at the new Empire Outlets right at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, where there is also NYC Ferry’s newly launched St. George route (which connects St. George to Battery Park City and West 39th Street on Manhattan’s Westside) and waterfront walk, where the Finish Festival was held.

Biking up car-less 6th Avenue,2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
We’re only in The Bronx a short time but get to enjoy music by Bombayo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Still, there were those iconic experiences  you only get on the Five Boro Bike Tour, of riding down the FDR, over the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge, on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and over the Verrazano Bridge, plus the chance to see  neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

Biking down the FDR, 2021 TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A highlight of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour is riding over the 59th Street (Queensborough) Bridge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A scene you can only get by riding the TD Five Boro Bike Tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bike New York was scrupulous about maintaining COVID-19 protections- every rider had to show proof of vaccination to pick up the registration packets (but not to ride) and wear masks at the start and finish,  indoors and on the Staten Island ferry but not while riding (unvaccinated individuals could not go inside).

A group from New Jersey on the TD Five Boro Bike Tour at the rest stop in Queens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A Queens band entertains the TD Five Boro Bike Tour at the rest stop in Queens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Taking in a classic Brooklyn view © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The number of riders was reduced from 32,000 in past years to 20,000, to allow for more spacing. Also, over the years, the organizers have developed a terrific method of staggering starts by “waves.”

Close to the finish in Staten Island, riders stop to memorialize the scene with the Verrazano Bridge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Close to the finish in Staten Island, riders stop to memorialize the scene with the Verrazano Bridge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A festival atmosphere at Empire Outlets and the new NYC Ferry dock in Staten Island at the finish of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour at the rest stop in Queens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Andrew Bregenzer. EVP, Regional President at TD Bank, the title sponsor of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour since 2007, told the riders, “We believe in quality of life for New York. We’ve been a New York bank for 20 years. The ride today has new meaning, perspective. This is the greatest city in the world. Celebrate resiliency of New York City.”

“New York City is proud to celebrate the cycling boom—and the return of iconic events that highlight great neighborhoods in all five boroughs—by welcoming the TD Five Boro Bike Tour this summer,” said New York City Senior Advisor for Recovery Lorraine Grillo. “We look forward to welcoming locals and tourists alike to enjoy a safe, exciting event this year.”

“Given the pivotal role that bikes have played in protecting the health, wellness, and safety of New Yorkers through the pandemic—especially for essential workers commuting to their jobs—it feels right that bikes will also play a part in powering New York City’s economic revitalization,” Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York, remarked when the 2021 tour was announced in May. “The Tour has been a landmark event for NYC for decades, and it’s a true highlight for international tourism. We hope our ride will continue to support the city we call home as we all strive to come back strong from these hardships. Now more than ever, New Yorkers need a safe and welcoming space to reconnect, to celebrate.”

The ride is a fundraiser for Bike New York – in fact, it is one of the world’s biggest charitable bike rides, along with Bike Expo New York, one of the country’s most attended consumer bike shows. Proceeds from the Tour fund its free bicycle education programs. In 2020 alone, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bike New York taught bike riding and bike safety skills in a virtual classroom to more than 25,000 kids and adults.

The ride also supports Bike New York’s advocacy for safe biking and bike lanes. “We fight for safer, more equitable streets,” said Podziba.

Bike New York provides a completely free, year-round curriculum of classes for children and adults at every stage of their cycling journeys, from first rides and fundamentals to commuting and touring.

The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is Bike New York’s main fundraiser and also supports Bike New York’s advocacy for safe biking and bike lanes. “We fight for safer, more equitable streets,” said Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We’re dedicated to making cycling more inclusive and accessible, and that’s why we hold free classes in all five boroughs at our Community Bike Education Centers. Students are provided with bikes, helmets, and the insights and knowledge of experienced instructors, creating an encouraging environment for building core riding skills.”

 “When COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, Bike New York was forced to temporarily suspend its in-person programming. Though cycling events came to a halt, the need for bike resources swelled as a huge influx of people turned to cycling for transportation and recreation. We knew we couldn’t slow down.

Among the luminaries joining the TD Five Boro Bike Tour is NYS Senator John Liu, US Congressman Tom Suozzi, NYC Deputy Transportation Commissioner Leon Heyward and Councilmen© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“To address the sudden surge in demand for accessible bike education, we pivoted from teaching in the streets to bringing our lessons to the virtual classroom. Since launching our digital education program and Virtual Bike Education Resource Hub in April, we’ve helped hundreds, if not thousands, of students build their bike skills, confidence, and know how—and with aspiring cyclists from across the country tuning in to our weekly classes, we’re making a difference far beyond the five boroughs.”

Bike New York also has a Recycle-A-Bicycle program, which accepts donations of old, used, and broken bikes, which are completely restored, refurbished, and sold or salvaged for parts, and out of the waste stream. In 2019, RAB reused or repurposed nearly 12 tons of material, which saved 77.95 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

In July 2019, Bike New York celebrated the opening of Brooklyn’s Shirley Chisholm State Park by launching a free bike share pilot program designed to make exploring nature as easy as checking out a library book. The Bike Library hosts a fleet of 84 bikes (refurbished by graduates of Recycle-A-Bicycle’s Earn-A-Bike program) available for park visitors to “check out” for rides around the grounds in the summer and fall.

In the Library’s first three months, park-goers took 8,585 rides along 10 miles of car-free pathways by scenic Jamaica Bay. The Library reopened and expanded for the 2020 season, offering New Yorkers a meaningful way to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing and other pandemic restrictions were in place.

 “We know that one of the best ways to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and regular physical activity in children and young adults is to give them the freedom to explore on two wheels.” Bike New York partners with Woodhull Hospital, Lincoln Hospital, and New York Cycle Club to produce our Kids’ Ride Club, a friendly, fun group ride program for youth cyclists in low-income neighborhoods. And to challenge kids to see what cycling life is like beyond city limits, Bike New York held its inaugural bike touring trip for teenage bike enthusiasts in 2019,
a tristate adventure that pushed them out of their comfort zone to prove just what amazing things they could accomplish together.”

Last year, Bike New York partnered with One Community, a nonprofit dedicated to professional training and employment placement, to pilot an intensive, hands-on bike mechanic training program that helps formerly incarcerated New Yorkers continue down the path of rebuilding their lives through the power of stable employment. The program focuses on the particulars of repair and maintenance for Citi Bikes and prepares participants for a well-paying union job on Citi Bike’s mechanic team. Recycle-A-Bicycle provided 60 hours of instruction, as well as tools, materials, and support, to a cohort of students. (Learn more here.)

In 2019, Bike New York began a concentrated effort to actively engage in and spearhead local-level advocacy initiatives. Within its first year, projects included:

  • Providing expertise and detail to the City Council’s Streets Master Plan Bill, which passed in October of last year. It commits the city to install 50 miles of protected bike lanes per year starting in 2022, and to measure bike network connectivity.
  • Supplying a broad set of ideas for Mayor de Blasio’s “Green Wave Plan,” issued in July 2019. It raises NYC DOT’s target for protected bike lanes from 20 to 30 miles per year in 2020 and 2021. It also calls for more attention to the quality of barriers along protected bike lanes, bike-speed signal timing, and bike parking.
  • Producing a Bike Network agenda to take advantage of congestion pricing.

And in the summer of 2020, Bike New York launched Street Action Now! program to instruct a cohort of students how to analyze unsafe street conditions, perform a street audit, and work with community boards to prompt real change on their blocks.

In addition to supporting Bike New York’s endeavors,  hundreds of riders on the Five Boro Bike Tour were biking in support of charities and organizations including New York Cares, Planned Parenthood, Ronald McDonald House, The Hope Program, Sanctuary for Families, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (visit bike.nyc to see the charity partners).

Bike New York made provision for riders who paid their fees but could not come on the rescheduled date of August 29 – they could defer the fee for 2022’s ride or get 50% refund. 

Andrew Bregenzer. EVP, Regional President at TD Bank, the title sponsor of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour since 2007, told the riders, “We believe in quality of life for New York. We’ve been a New York bank for 20 years. The ride today has new meaning, perspective. This is the greatest city in the world. Celebrate resiliency of New York City.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

TD Bank has been the title sponsor since 2007; Manhattan portage is the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include Bloomberg, Amazon, NYU Langone Health, Trek, New York Bike Lawyers, Nestle Quik New York Times, Con Edison, NYC Ferry, NYC & Company and Empire Outlets.

Pulling off such an ambitious event was further demonstration, “There’s no stopping New York.”

Bike New York, 140 E 45 St., Ste 2002, New York, NY 10017, 212-682-2340, info@bike.nyc, www.bike.nyc.

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© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holidays in NYC in Photos: Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Holidays in New York City: Saks windows (c) Karen Rubin

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take  a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of  Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.

Come, walk with me:

Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask. (The bronze statue, the largest at Rockefeller Center, was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan and installed in 1937. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

WHERE TO GO FOR HOLIDAY CHEER: NOTHING STOPS NYC’S TRADITIONS, ICONIC EVENTS

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York City Virtually: Greatest Cultural Institutions, Closed for Coronavirus, Share Exhibits Online

The Metropolitan Museum of Art may be temporarily closed, but you can explore its collections virtually © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s major cultural institutions are temporarily closed to help minimize the spread of coronavirus, but many are making their exhibits and programs available virtually, and have websites that really engage, that make the time spent in enforced hibernation that much richer and more productive, and frankly, less maddening.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is celebrating its 150 anniversary year, has temporarily closed all three locations—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters—effective March 13. Meanwhile, you can watch videos from exhibition previews to curator talks and performances (https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia)) and experience the best of human creativity from every corner of the globe at The Met (I love watching the video of the conservation of the Degas tutu, https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/conservation-and-scientific-research/degas-tutu-conservation) and play audio guides (https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/audio-guide)

When the Met reopens, it will offer a series of special exhibits marking its 150th anniversary: The exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020 will present more than 250 works of art from the collection while taking visitors on a journey through the Museum’s history; The reopening of the galleries for British decorative arts and design will reveal a compelling new curatorial narrative; Transformative new gifts, cross-cultural installations, and major international loan exhibitions will be on view throughout the year; and special programs and outreach will include a birthday commemoration on April 13, a range of public events June 4–6, and a story-collecting initiative.

“Our galleries may be closed, but never fear! Social media never sleeps.” Follow @metmuseum on Instagram for Tuesday Trivia, #MetCameos, and daily art content.

Being confined to home is a perfect time to take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?, available now on Coursera. This course offers an in-depth look at over 70 works of art from MoMA’s collection—many of which are currently on view in the expanded Museum—from 1980 to the present, with a focus on art produced in the last decade. Learners will hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. What Is Contemporary Art? can be found at mo.ma/whatiscontemporaryart.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph is featured in MoMA’s exhibit “Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures”. Meanwhile, take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?

I can’t wait for MoMA to reopen so I can see Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive work in over 50 years. The exhibition includes approximately 100 photographs drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures also uses archival materials such as correspondence, historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures. These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide fresh insight into Lange’s practice. (Scheduled through May 9, 2020).

T. rex The Ultimate Predator at American Museum of Natural History. While the museum is closed, go online to its “Explore” site for videos, blogs and OLogy, a science website for kids of all ages. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

American Museum of Natural History while closed, the website is a treasure trove of information and engaging photos and ways to explore and interact on your own. At the section of its site labeled “Explore” https://www.amnh.org/explore, there are videos, blogs and OLogy: The Science Website for Kids, where kids of all ages can play games, do activities, watch videos and meet scientists to learn more about fossils, the universe, genetics, and more. (Check out https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/brain)

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC. While the exhibit is closed, there are excellent materials online. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is in the midst of the landmark exhibit, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. The most comprehensive Holocaust exhibition about Auschwitz ever presented in North America, the exhibit had already been extended until August 30, 2020. The museum so far is scheduled to reopen March 29; in the meanwhile, there are excellent materials at the website that will inform and prepare you for when the exhibit reopens (https://mjhnyc.org/discover-the-exhibition/about-the-exhibition/). (See Groundbreaking Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage Transports to ‘Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away’)

New-York Historical Society presents “Women March” exhibit marking centennial of Women’s Suffrage. Many materials are online, but you can also re-visit some of the N-YHS’s imortant past exhibits, like a personal favorite, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society is closed so you will have to wait to experience “Women March,”   presidential/election exhibits (take a selfie in Reagan’s Oval Office) and “Bill Graham” (phenomenal and surprising exhibit with fabulous musical accompaniment about this iconic concert impresario). Meanwhile, the N-YHS website offers sensational online exhibitions featuring some of their important past exhibits, including ‘Harry Potter; A History of Magic,” and “the Vietnam War: 1945-1975” and Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion (https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/online-exhibitions). You can also delve into its digital collection, with selections from the N-YHS Museum and Library’s holdings paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, broadsides, maps, and other materials that reveal the depth and breadth of over two centuries of collecting.  (http://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/).  (See: Many Pathways to Mark Centennial of Women’s Suffrage)

Meanwhile, some outdoor venues are open, as of this writing (the situation has changed daily):

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden remains open to the public, having implemented stringent cleaning protocols and posted new signage on-site about best practices in personal hygiene. “We hope that the Garden might offer you some comfort and beauty even during a particularly stressful time.” (https://www.bbg.org/visit)

Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows may well provide needed respite. However, the Wildlife Conservation Society has temporarily closed the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, effective Monday, March 16. Check wcs.org for updates.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Groundbreaking Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage Transports to ‘Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away’

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Out of 1200 artifacts, photos, video testimonies, it comes down to one: a tiny, well-worn leather child’s shoe, the sock still hanging out of it. Was it taken off in anticipation the child was just going to a shower, or was the child ferociously pulled out of the shoe and sock?

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shoes take on special significance at the “Auschwitz: Not so long ago. Not far away.” landmark exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in downtown Manhattan, which has been extended through August 30, 2020 before touring to other cities.

As you first walk in, there is a single red shoe in a glass case that perversely sparks an image of the ruby slippers in “Wizard of Oz.” set against a grey-toned wall-mural sized photo of piles of shoes. Further on as you walk through the three-floors of exhibits, there is the pair of hardened leather clog-looking shoes in a case with a prison uniform so rough and raw they would irritate, then infect and swell the feet, a death sentence for the hapless prisoner.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another display case in the “Selection” section contains shiny leather boots, much like those that the prisoners would see Mengele wearing as they were forced out of the freight cars minutes after being unloaded at Auschwitz, beneath the sign that said. ‘Work Sets You Free.” He was the doctor who selected out twin children for his medical experiments. The rest of the children – 200,000 of them – were immediately sent to the gas chamber along with their mother, aunt, sister, grandmother or friendly stranger who had accompanied them on their journey. The tiny leather shoe with the sock still in it is the only evidence this child existed at all, his life extinguished.

800,000 more Jews were immediately sent to their deaths in the gas chambers, 2000 at a time, their bodies thrown into crematoria that worked 24/7 to keep up with the factory-scale exterminations, their ashes thrown into a river.

Out of the 1.1 million “deported” to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi killing camps, only 200,000 were “selected” not for immediate death but to become slave labor in the concentration camp. They too were immediately marched into showers, their hair shaved, their arms tattooed, their bodies stripped of any dignity or humanness. Few lived more than a month or two under the atrocious conditions – dying of starvation, disease, overwork, beatings or simply shot on the spot. Some became so infirm, they settled into their fate, and welcomed being carried by stretcher to end their daily terror and pain. Others, packed six to a wooden plank in the barracks, would wake up to find a dead person next to them.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” offers a different perspective on the Holocaust, a horror on a scale that is incomprehensible, by focusing down to the most personal elements.

This exhibit, which focuses down to one “tiny dot” on a map that was the largest killing camp in the Nazi’s network – makes it as personal as is possible. You walk in their shoes. And yet, as well as they show the faces, the horrors, the personal objects, the testimonials of survivors, the drawings and photos, an actual freight car and an actual barracks, even so, it is still hard to comprehend.

Indeed, the incomprehensibility of the horror was key to its success – along with secrecy and deception. People could not imagine the level of brutality, cruelty, savageness. So they packed up what they could in suitcases, expecting they were being resettled to places free of anti-Semitism, where they could work and live out their lives.

It is also the danger that such dehumanization, genocide, industrial-scale killing can happen again. Indeed, Auschwitz was not that long ago, nor that far away.

“Auschwitz” isn’t just a look back with graphic evidence to plant a marker in the history books that others are working so hard to erase . It is a look at now, a look at where the trajectory can lead. That is what is embodied in the phrase. “Never Again.”

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I had been steeling myself to visit the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. I recognized that I had an obligation, a responsibility to be a witness to the extent possible. A NYC-Arts special on PBS helped enormously because I could visualize, know what to expect and better prepare for the horror – unlike the millions who were sent to the killing camps. Then there was that television screening of the story of Irena Sendler, a Warsaw nurse who smuggled 2,500 children out of the Ghetto to safety – the film so graphic, her courage and nobility so palpable. Surely I could summon the courage to face the past. To Remember. Never Forget.

If you thought you knew about the Holocaust and the Nazis’ Final Solution that exterminated 6 million Jews and too many (40% of adults and 65% of young people) don’t know anything at all, this rare exhibit, with artifacts gathered from 20 institutions around the world, focuses just on Auschwitz – from how a simple Polish village, Oswiecim where half the population was made up of Jewish families who had lived there for centuries, was turned into the largest of six killing factories in Poland. Original artifacts – documents, personal items, posters, photos – show the roots of anti-Semitism and how being Jewish was converted from a religion to “an inferior race,” a sub-human species, stripped of legal, political, property and professional rights. That’s the first floor.

You see and hear from survivors how families were stuffed 100, 150 into a box car (like the one outside the museum), with the ploy of telling them they were being resettled to a better place free of anti-Semitism, then locked in with just one pail as a toilet and one pail for water, so crowded, one had to stand up in order for someone to sit down. And then they arrive on the “ramp”, where they are “selected,” crossing under a wrought iron sign that said, “Work Makes You Free.” That’s just the middle of the second floor.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here you see stacks of suitcases, a pram (a rare artifact) that eerily reminds you of the display as you enter Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants into the United States. But here, it shows how unwitting the victims were. Because they were only moments away from being sent to their death. And because access to safe harbors like the United States were shut off to them.

Turn the corner in a room shrouded in darkness and you come upon a white door of a gas chamber, a metal mesh chimney down which the Zykon B poison was sent, a gas mask. In another case, one of the innocuous looking showerheads that survived the fire the Nazis set to destroy evidence of their Final Solution. Extraordinarily powerful and horrifying drawings by survivor Alfred Kantor depict how women and children were told to undress and hang up their clothes on a numbered hook so they would find them again – “Remember your number.” And then they would be locked into the gas chamber.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

They, too, were told they were going to shower to be de-loused. The Nazis made a show of having them undress in a changing room, have them put their clothes on numbered hooks so they could find them again. They were shoved 1000 at a time into a shower room, the doors clanked shut, and Zykon B poison pumped in. It took barely 15 minutes to exterminate them all.

The door would open at the other end and a group of Jewish prisoners, called Sonderkommandos, would pull the bodies out one by one, drag them to a dumbwaiter to the crematoria. To keep the secret safe, the Sonderkommandos were kept isolated from the rest of the camp, living in barracks above the crematoria. A rabbi among them, a Hungarian, took each child and said Kaddish before placing the small body in the crematorium.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But one of the Sonderkommandos, working with Polish resistance, smuggled a camera and film and took photos of bodies being burned in vast fields with the overflow that couldn’t be handled in the crematoria, working night and day. There are four of these photos on display.

The Nazis harvested their victims. As the bodies were pulled from the gas chamber, a Sonderkommando designated “The Dentist” would pull out their gold teeth. Their clothes and meager belongings had already been plundered and sent to “Kanada” – vast warehouses named for a country that was considered rich but out of reach. Between the various business enterprises that the Nazis used their slave labor and the looting, it is estimated that each prisoner returned $794 in profit to the SS.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How were the Nazis able to lead 11 million including 6 million Jews to slaughter like sheep? The secret is how they kept such a massive killing secret, and who could have imagined such diabolical cruelty, such grotesque brutality, who could have imagined a Final Solution?

How did they keep such a monstrous secret? How they managed to move people by the thousands – trapping them into the freight cars when the people thought they were being resettled to a pleasant village where they would be allowed to work. They kept it a secret when immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz, they were separated into two groups. One line was pushed to showers, told to strip and were turned into slave labor – their hair shaved, arms tattooed, all their property stripped away along with their identity, their personhood, stuffed into a prison uniform with an appropriate identifying symbol as to their status.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You continue on to learn what life was like in Auschwitz for the 200,000 who were not immediately murdered. You listen to harrowing testimonials by survivors, see part of an actual barracks.

Indeed, Auschwitz  death toll of 1.1 million was the largest among all the German death camps. But it also had the greatest number of survivors – some 200,000 people brought to Auschwitz were sent to other camps before the war ended, and some 7,000 prisoners were liberated at Auschwitz in January 1945.

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You leave this section, which is dark, almost completely black, into a room called “Persistence and Resistance,” which is off-white, round, with natural light streaming from a domed ceiling.

Persistence took the form of ways that the prisoners preserved their humanity.

Resistance took the form of getting the story of what was going on in Auschwitz out to the world, in the hopes that the Allies would bomb the killing center or disrupt the deportations, and preserving evidence that would ultimately hold perpetrators of such colossal evil accountable.

This is the most moving section of all – when I can finally start breathing again.

The Auschwitz SS aimed to destroy any possible solidarity between prisoners…‘Resistance’ in Auschwitz therefore consisted of acts in which prisoners, against all odds, showed solidarity with others. It included heroic actions made with a view to the larger world outside of the camp, grand gestures of generosity and small acts of kindness and charity, along with spiritual resistance. And it was expressed in the determination that-despite the best efforts of the SS – death in Auschwitz would not remain anonymous, and the victims would not remain without names.

I learn the amazing story of Witold Pilecki, a Second Lieutenant in the Polish Army who had himself arrested under the name Tomasz Serafinski and sent to Auschwitz in 1940 (prisoner no. 4859) in order to spy for the Polish government.

Witold Pilecki, a Second Lieutenant in the Polish Army who had himself arrested under the name Tomasz Serafinski and sent to Auschwitz in 1940 (prisoner no. 4859) in order to spy for the Polish government. “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He managed to smuggle out messages about life and death in the camp while organizing fellow prisoners. In April 1943, Pilecki escaped, and returned to Warsaw to convince the Polish Resistance to attack Auschwitz in a coordinated effort with prisoners. But the commander who had sent him on his mission had been arrested, and the new leader judged an attack on the large and well-armed Auschwitz garrison to be suicidal. They also realized they wouldn’t be able to shelter the tens of thousands of inmates who might be freed. Pilecki wrote the first full report on conditions of Auschwitz and the mass murder of Jews in the gas chambers. The allies received the report but ignored it. Pilecki continued to fight the Germans, participating in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Outrageously, in 1947, he was arrested by the Polish Communist government, tortured, and executed in 1948.

It was so critical to get information out that several risked their lives to smuggle information out.

I learn the story of The Auschwitz Protocols:  In March 1944, Slovakian Jewish inmates Walter Rosenberg (aka Rudolf Vrba) and Alfred Wetzler observed the Nazi’s preparations for the arrival of transports from Hungary. With a lot of planning and luck, they escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944 and fled to Slovakia in the hopes of warning the Jews of Hungary.

The testimony of Vrba and Wetzler, along with information supplied by Czeslaw Mordowicz and Arnost Rosin, who escaped Auschwitz on May 27, 1944, yielded the first substantial report of the use of Auschwitz as a death factory. It became known as the “Auschwitz Protocols” and detailed the continuing massacres in the gas chambers. But the information didn’t reach the Hungarians in time: beginning in May, over 400,000 Jews were deported and murdered. A summary of the report arrived in the US in July. That same month, the Red Army’s liberation of the Majdanek camp led to the publication in the US of sensational reports written by well-known journalists in America media. Though it didn’t succeed in its primary objective, the Auschwitz Protocols led to diplomatic pressure that forced the Hungarian government [the leader now fearing he would be tried for war crimes] to stop further deportations, saving the lives of over 150,000 Jews. It also triggered a debate among the Allies: what parts of Auschwitz could or should be bombed.

On August 20, Allied bombers attacked the IG Farben factory, but not Auschwitz camps.

“I firmly believed that [the daily killing in the crematoria] was possible because the victims who came to Auschwitz didn’t know what was happening there,” Auschwitz survivor Rudolf Vrba wrote in 1985. “I thought that if this would be made known by any means within Europe, this might stir up the Resistance outside and bring help directly to Auschwitz. And thus the escape plans are finally formulated and the escape took place on April 7, 1944.

The Sonderkommandos organized an ill-fated revolt in October 1944.

Roza Robota recruited women prisoners working in the munitions factory operating next to the camp to smuggle gunpowder off-site. Robota passed it to Timofei Borodin, a Russian technician, who carried it to the Sonderkommandos. Their aim was to destroy the crematoria and spark a rebellion.

But the uprising went awry. The Sonderkommandos of Crematorium 5, hearing they were to b e gassed, revolted ahead of schedule. On October 7, they killed 3 SS, wounded 12 and burned down Crematorium 4. At the same time, the Sonderkommandos of Crematorium 2 attempted a breakout.

In retaliation the SS killed 451 Sonderkommandos. The camp Gestapo identified Robota and three other Jewish women – Regina Sapirstein, Ala Gertner and Ester Wajeblum – as plotters. After weeks of torture they were hanged publicly. As the noose was placed around her neck, Robota cried out ‘Nekama;’ (Revenge!)

Ester Wajeblum “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Auschwitz Sonderkommando Zalman Groiadowski (Sept 6, 1944), leaves a note. “Dear finder, search everywhere, in every inch of soil. Tons of documents are buried under it, mine and those of other persons, which will throw light on everything that was happening here. Great quantities of teeth are also buried here. We, the Sonderkommando workers, have expressly strewn them all over the terrain so that the world should find material traces of the millions of murdered people…”

Socks reinforced to muffle footsteps. Some 300,000 Jews went into hiding to avoid being rounded up and deported to concentration camps.“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This groundbreaking 18,000-square-foot exhibition takes up three floors, 20 thematic galleries. Through the artifacts and Holocaust survivor testimony, it brings you inside and re-creates the experience as best as possible, raising the alarm how the unimaginable, the inconceivable happened and can happen again. The commentary notes that one demagogue like Hitler could not have produced the Holocaust.

“Genocide is a social act,” the audio guide says toward the end of the exhibit. “It requires a society who conspires…But the same society can resist.”

Nazis attempted to burn all evidence of their atrocities. “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But there is one question that is not answered: who, what and how those who administered torture, who beat and murdered and presided over such intense suffering. That is a critical question to knowing whether such a thing could happen again. Just what percentage of a given population are sociopaths?

There are some clues provided in the statements that are presented:

Once Hitler had decided that the “Final Solution” would be enacted, one important question remained: Who was to be in charge of the genocide? Heinrich Himmler sought this responsibility as he believed it would help him consolidate his power.

Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss (1946) testified, “I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations. I did not think his methods were very efficient. I used Zykon B, a crystallized prussic acid dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from three to 15 minutes to kill the people. Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process.”

“The children, they’re not the enemy at the moment. The enemy is the blood inside them. The enemy is the growing up to be a Jew that could become dangerous. And because of that the children were included as well.” (Former Auschwitz SS man Oskar Groning explaining in a 2004 interview why he condoned killing Jewish children).

The exhibition explores the dual identity of the camp as a physical location—the largest documented mass murder site in human history—and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity.

Consider this: Jews had lived in Germany for 1000 years before the Holocaust; they had lived in the Polish town of Oswiecim.that the Germans renamed Auschwitz and repurposed for a killing factory for hundreds of years. It was only 10 quick years between when Hitler was democratically elected Chancellor in 1933, to the Final Solution in 1942. By the time Germany surrendered, two years later, 6 million Jews – two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population – had been exterminated.

That’s how fast things can descend into unimaginable evil.

Groundbreaking Exhibition

Produced by the international exhibition firm Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, the groundbreaking exhibition is the largest ever on Auschwitz with more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs. The New York presentation of the exhibition allows visitors to experience artifacts from more than 20 international museums and institutions on view for the first time in North America, including hundreds of personal items—suitcases, eyeglasses and shoes—that belonged to survivors and victims of Auschwitz. Other artifacts include: concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; part of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest-serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s Lithograph of Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight train car of the type used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland. 

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibition also features 10 artifacts on loan from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, which include the spilled, dried beans Anne wrote about in her diary and that were later discovered lodged between the cracks of stairs in the home where she hid from the German Nazis. The beans have never been displayed anywhere before. Most recently, the Museum announced the exhibition’s incorporation of a shofar (a ram’s horn that is made into a special wind instrument used during Jewish High Holiday services) that was hidden and clandestinely blown in the Auschwitz. The shofar was newly added to the exhibition on the cusp of the High Holy days and temporarily transported to two New York City synagogues to be blown on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

The Museum of Jewish Heritage has incorporated into the exhibition nearly 100 rare artifacts from its collection that relay the experience of survivors and liberators who found refuge in the greater New York area. Alfred Kantor’s sketchbook and portfolio that contain over 150 original paintings and drawings from Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Schwarzheide; the trumpet that musician Louis Bannet (acclaimed as “the Dutch Louis Armstrong”) credits for saving his life while he was imprisoned in Auschwitz; visas issued by Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania often referred to as “Japan’s Oskar Schindler”; prisoner registration forms and identification cards; personal correspondence; tickets for passage on the St. Louis; and a rescued Torah scroll from the Bornplatz Synagogue in Hamburg, postcards sent home in order to deceive family members as to what was really going on at the camp. 

A rare film of a killing field. “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most profound is a film that has survived showing a killing field in which the killers are so casual, even bored by the routine as villagers look on, and the four photos of Crematorium 5 smuggled out by Alberto Errera, a Jewish-Greek army officer who joined the resistance during the German occupation, assuming the name Aleksos (Alex) Michaelides. Captured, Errera was sent to Auschwitz in April 1944 and selected for the Sonderkommando. On August 9, Errera attempted an escape but was captured, tortured and killed.

One of four photos smuggled by Alberto Errera of bodies being burned in a desperate effort to notify the world. “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most poignant are the video testimonials of survivors describing their personal experiences.

Also on display from the Museum of Jewish Heritage collection is Heinrich Himmler’s SS helmet and his annotated copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as well as an anti-Jewish proclamation issued in 1551 by Ferdinand I that was given to Hermann Göring by German security chief Reinhard Heydrich on the occasion of Göring’s birthday. The proclamation required Jews to identify themselves with a “yellow ring” on their clothes. Heydrich noted that, 400 years later, the Nazis were completing Ferdinand’s work. “These artifacts stand as evidence of a chapter of history that must never be forgotten.”

The information is presented as clearly, simply, directly, forth-rightly and in excruciatingly personal terms, but it is all still so hard to comprehend, to process, the magnitude, the scale of cruelty.

The artifacts and materials in the exhibition are on loan from more than 20 institutions and private collections around the world. In addition to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, participating institutions include Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim, the Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg, and the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide in London. 

Parallel Lives: One wall shows photos of Nazis frolicking at Auschwitz; the other the “Lost World”of Jews before the Holocaust. “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far awaywas conceived of by Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and curated by an international panel of experts, including world-renowned scholars Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, and Paul Salmons, in an unprecedented collaboration with historians and curators at the Research Center at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, led by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz.

“When we, the Musealia curatorial team set out to design the Auschwitz exhibition, we realized that we faced a difficult problem. In Auschwitz over a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered shortly after their arrival or suffered and died in unimaginable circumstances. How does one create an exhibition about such a dark chapter in human history that, in our understanding, is not long ago and happened in a place not far away? How does one make the public, that has so many opportunities to explore a great city like New York, decide that it would want to see such an exhibition? Our tools were straightforward: a narrative told through more than 700 original artifacts, 400 original images, 100 stories, made present by means of filmed testimonies and quotes – all revealing individual experiences of a history we must learn from,” said Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, Chief Curator.

Following the New York presentation, the exhibition will tour to other cities around the world.

Visiting

You need 2 ½ to four hours to see just this exhibit (I was there five hours before I realized it). hours).

Entry is by timed ticket available at Auschwitz.nyc. Audio guide (available in 8 languages) is included with admission. Tickets are $25 Flexible Entry (entry any time on a specific day); $16 Adults; $12 Seniors and People with Disabilities; $10 Students and Veterans; $8 Museum Members.

FREE for Holocaust survivors, active members of the military and first responders, and students and teachers through grade 12 in schools located in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (with valid school-issued ID). 

Garden of Stones is a memorial garden planted by the artist, Andy Goldsworthy, Holocaust survivors and families, overlooks the Statue of Liberty. Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The third largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second largest in North America, since 1997, the Museum of Jewish Heritage has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors; it maintains a collection of more than 40,000 artifacts, photographs, documentary films, and survivor testimonies and contains classrooms, a 375-seat theater (Edmond J. Safra Hall), special exhibition galleries, a resource center for educators, and a memorial art installation, Garden of Stones, designed by internationally acclaimed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Set in the southernmost tip of Manhattan overlooking the New York Harbor, the Museum completes the cultural and educational triad with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visible from its balcony.

The Museum also partners with Jewish Heritage Travel – offering heritage trips  to Germany & France; Poland; The Baltics; Germany; Spain & France; Argentina; and India (jhtravel.org, 845-256-0197).

The Museum is closed on Saturdays, Jewish holidays, and Thanksgiving. 

Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, 36 Battery Place, New York City, 646-437-4202, mjhnyc.org.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New Yorkers Show Solidarity with Chinese, Asian Community at Lunar New Year Parade

NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio presents proclamation to Steven Ting, organizer of the 21st Annual Lunar New Year parade and festival, with US Senator Chuck Schumer, China’s Consul General Huang Ping, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, State Senator Brian Kavanaugh, among other dignitaries © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Always a show of support, solidarity and respect for the Chinese and Asian community in New York City, this year’s Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown in downtown Manhattan, welcoming the Year of the Rat, took on added urgency because of the coronavirus afflicting Wuhan, China, and the recent fire that destroyed a building housing much of the collection of the Museum of Chinese in America.

People held up signs, “Stay Strong Wuhan,” but even though there have been no instances of the coronavirus in New York City, visits to Chinatown, normally at peak during the Lunar New Year celebration, have declined and business has been affected.

The parade route went just passed 70 Mulberry Street, where on the night of Thursday, January 16, a fire destroyed most of the 85,000 items stored there for the Museum of Chinese in America, housed nearby in a new building on Centre Street since 2009. The rare and cherished items preserved the rich and challenging story of the Chinese migration to the United States through such personal objects as textiles, restaurant menus, handwritten letters, tickets for ship’s passage, traditional wedding dresses (cheongsam).

The building, a former school that educated generations of immigrants, is a community center that housed a senior center, the Chen Dance Center and several community groups, in addition to storing the museum’s artifacts that were not on display.

Political and parade officials praised the New York Fire Department, which had a prominent place – bagpipers and all – in the parade.

Meanwhile, fear over the virus has kept people from Chinatown and Chinese restaurants during what should have been the busiest time of year, the Lunar New Year celebration.

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Elected officials are urging the public to take normal precautions against illness, but not to let fears concerning coronavirus stop them from participating in the event. “It’s really important in this moment where everyone is understandably worried about the coronavirus, we need to be factual, we need to be scientific, and we need to be calm,” NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The annual event has not only paid tribute to the contribution the Asian community has made to the city, state and nation, but immigration as a whole.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, reading from a proclamation, said, “As a city built by immigrations, New York is the proud home to residents who hail from every corner of the map and speak a multitude of languages. This unparalleled diversity is the source of our singularity and strength and it is exemplified by our thriving population of Asian Americans that has made invaluable contributions to the cultural, civic and economic life of the five boroughs. On the occasion of the 21st Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival, hosted by Beter Chinatown U.S.A. I am pleased to recognize the indelible imprint this vital community has made on our great and global city.

“New York is fortunate to have an abundance of organizations devoted to advancing positive change. Established in 2001, Better Chinatown U.S.A. is guided by its mission to improve quality of life in Manhattan’s Chinatown and promote it as a destination of choice for our diverse residents and visitors. Its annual Lunar New Year Parade is a much anticipated event attracting thousands of spectators from far and wide for a pageant of traditional lion dances, music ensembles, and dancers in colorful folk costumes, followed by a party in Sara D. Roosevelt Park featuring Chinese food and cultural performances.”

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, one of the Grand Marshals, spoke of the resilience of the Chinese community, and how the community “contributes to the fabric of our city, our nation.”

“I’m here to say that Chinatown is open for business and we are behind you and we will remain strong,” Velazquez said. “Last night, I was here dining in a restaurant in Chinatown. I welcome everyone to come here and celebrate the culture and beauty of this community.”

China’s Consul General Huang Ping said “China is doing everything to confront the coronavirus. We have mobilized forces. We have strong leadership, resources, are working with the international community. Be strong China. Be strong Wuhan.”

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, standing with China’s Consul General Huang Ping and messages to “Stay Strong China,” at Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lt Governor Kathy Hochul, “We stand together at one family. Stay strong China. Stay strong Wuhan.”

Other dignitaries participating State Senator Brian Kavanaugh, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Assemblyman David Webrin.

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio declared the city stands in solidarity with China and the Asian community, “no matter what is thrown at us.” New York has the largest Chinese community outside Asia “and we are proud of that.” The city made the Lunar New Year a school holiday and teaches Mandarin as early as pre-K, and is actively promoting participation in the 2020 Census.

“In China, there are so many of loved ones, faced with coronavirus and we stand together as community,” De Blasio said. “We celebrate New Year together – we are united, and we celebrate this extraordinary Chinese community the largest of any city outside of Asia.”

He also presented a Proclamation to parade organizer Steven Ting day for his continued work on the parade, proclaiming February 9 “Steven Ting Day.”

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

US Senator Charles Schumer used a bull horn as he marched in the parade to cheer for immigration. “New Yorkers are proud people, who come from all over the world. We fight those who oppose us.”

And on that score, the parade was also used to promote the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census, with one group of even handing out flyers to recruit census takers ($28/hr, flexible hours).

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The census, De Blasio stressed, will make Chinatown better represented if everyone takes part.

Here are highlights from the 21st Annual Lunar New Year Parade:

Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Knicks players march in the Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The march of the Lunar New Year Parade stretches almost two miles, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Participate in the 2020 Census. Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Apply online to be a Census Taker! Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration, Chinatown, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Rush to See the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ ‘Mikado,’ Showpiece of its 45th Season

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players take their bows after a stellar performance of “The Mikado” at the Kaye Playhouse, at Hunter College © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my earliest memories of New York theater is of seeing the D’oyly Carte production of “The Mikado,” one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most iconic works. So I am jarred when the curtain rises on a very different production –a first scene which I don’t recall, in which composer Arthur Sullivan, librettist William S. Gilbert and producer Richard D’Oyly Carte himself appear, reflect on the new exhibit of Japanese art at Knightsbridge, and Gilbert imagines a new opera set in Japan. When the curtain rises on the fictional town of Titipu, instead of elaborate Japanese kimonos, the Gentlemen of Japan look a lot like Englishmen with odd hats and outfits, and so do the ladies when they appeared in their modified flowing dresses.

I soon appreciate the bold innovation including the new opening scene and characters, and costumes that make clear these are Victorian Englishmen pretending to be Japanese – as the new character of Gilbert says “They dress like us,” except with bright colors. The device, to address the sensibilities of a modern audience, puts the focus of Mikado properly where it should be: a satire on human nature. And in revising the work in this way, a new generation can be delighted by the magnificent music and ingenious lyrics. If anything makes us laugh, especially at ourselves, that is a gift.

Indeed, Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas – basically inventing today’s musical theater form – are on par with Shakespeare and similarly deserve to be tweaked and reinterpreted, just as “Much Ado About Nothing” was at this year’s Public Theater production, and performed generation after generation.

This production, was first introduced in 2016 as a response to an outcry from New York’s Asian-American community in 2015 over the political incorrectness and insensitivity of the original, regularly performed with Caucasian actors in yellowish makeup and taped-back eyelids. There is no danger of that: this cast is multi-racial.

“NYGASP listened for a simple reason – it was the right thing to do. One year later we created an imaginative new production which all communities, audiences and artists could embrace,” the program notes. The show opened to sold-out crowds and critical acclaim in December 2016; this is its second New York City run. Run to see it before the season concludes, January 5.

The new opening scene and costuming make sure there is no confusion that the Mikado represents Englishmen satirizing Victorian society and politics, capitalizing on British fascination with all things Japanese in the 1880s, to defuse the pointed references that might have gotten Gilbert & Sullivan, who were under censorship of Lord Chamberlain, into trouble. And frankly, the depiction of The Mikado (who doesn’t even appear for the first 2 ½ hours of the three-hour show) as a cruel but ridiculous tyrant is reminiscent of how the Red Queen is depicted in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865). If anything, that character is more relevant today than in 2015 or even 1885.

Of course British audiences of 1885 could have cared less about “political correctness.” The object of Gilbert & Sullivan’s satire was British society and human nature and the human condition, and they created their fictional Titipu, Japan, to make their satire more palatable.

We take advantage of seeing the December 30 afternoon “Grandparents” performance, geared to families, which features a before-show talk introducing the plot and music and an after-show backstage tour in the company with the players.

Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 45 years ago, gives a family-friendly talk introducing “The Mikado”  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During the talk, by the Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 45 years ago, I learn that my comparison of “Mikado” for Gilbert & Sullivan to “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini is not entirely unfounded. While the music that Sullivan composed runs the gamut of British musical styles (ballad, madrigal, march), he incorporates the Japanese five-note scale and an actual Japanese folk song, Miya-sama (though for this production, new English lyrics are substituted for the Japanese) – music which Puccini also expropriates in “Madame Butterfly.”

“We took out what’s incomprehensible or inappropriate,” Bergeret says, who adds that Sullivan was a brilliant, classically trained musician who was well versed in all genres of music and composers from around the world. In “Mikado” Sullivan demonstrates his virtuosity in writing in many different forms.

Just as Gilbert incorporated contemporaneous digs, so too does this Ko-Ko, a common tailor taken from the county jail (for flirting) and elevated to Lord High Executioner, update his “List” of those who shan’t be missed, to be as current has yesterday’s tweet, changing it each performance, surprising even the rest of the cast.

Ko-Ko, brilliantly played by David Macaluso, includes “the wealthy narcisscist, he never will be missed” on his list and manages to spell out T-R-U-M-P in the subheads of the long, long list as the scroll unfurls.

Backstage with David Macaluso who shows off Ko-Ko’s executioner’s ax in New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The premise of “The Mikado,” is a society under the thumb of an all-powerful sadistic but ridiculous ruler who makes ridiculous but cruel laws on a whim: flirting as a capital offense, then demanding to know why no executions have been carried out. 

The Mikado, played by David Wannen, exclaims, “My object all sublime/I shall achieve in time/ to let the punishment fit the crime.. And make each prisoner pent/Unwillingly represent/A source of innocent merriment.”

The Mikado’s updated list of who to punish and how, includes the instagrammer “made to endure a dungeon cell without not one cellular bar” and “political pundits, who must sail for weeks on a boat full of leaks on a sea of alternative facts.” (That gets tremendous laughs.)

David Wannen who plays the title role of “The Mikado” gives audiences a backstage tour after New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

They do manage to slip in a few names, carefully spreading their barbs more or less equally: but one placement in particular is rich – Pooh-Bah, marvelously played by Matthew Wages, signs the execution order with all his official positions, but adds to the list signing of those supposedly witnessed Nanki-Poo’s execution Attorney General William Barr and the chair of the Judiciary Committee (balance).

The Mikado then looks to execute Ko-Ko (the Lord High Executioner), Pooh-Bah (the “Lord High Everything”) and Pitti-Sing (one of the “three little maids from school” and Ko-Ko’s wards, played by Amy Maude Helfer) for carrying out the Mikado’s orders to execute somebody but unwittingly executing the heir to the throne. The Mikado appreciates the effort (he only wishes he could have witnessed the execution) but insists they still should be executed for, well, killing the heir and looks for the entertainment value in their lingering death.

The Mikado justifies killing the three because, after all, this is an unfair world where the virtuous suffer and the undeserving succeed. This leads to the song that probably best sums up the moral of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” in which the three condemned sing, “See how the Fates their gifts allot/For A is happy, B is not/Yet B is worthy, I dare say/Of more prosperity than A…If I were Fortune which I’m not/B should enjoy A’s happy lot/And A should die in miserie/That is, assuming I am B.”

In the end The Mikado is less a jab at all-powerful monarchal misrule, than a comic contemplation of what human beings do when in that situation. Their focus is on human nature and the human condition. In Mikado, we see self-preservation – even by Yum-Yum who is willing to marry Nanki-Poo who loves her so much he is willing to be executed after just a month, until she realizes that as the wife of an executed man, she would be buried alive.

This production makes another change at the end, stopping the show for a return to the Gilbert & Sullivan characters trying to figure out an ending that would not rely on a magical or fantastical device like the “magic lozenge” they used in their 1877 opera “The Sorcerer” and almost breaks up their collaboration. (Gilbert finally gets to use the device in “The Mountebanks,” written with Alfred Cellier in 1892). Instead, Gilbert comes up with an argument that actually makes sense given the circumstance: Any order by the Mikado must be carried out, so having given the order, it must have been carried out (not much more absurd than “He was too stupid to know withholding military aid to a vulnerable ally in exchange for political favor was illegal”).

Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha, shows off the Titipu Depot set during a backstage tour of New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another part that young people might assume was added as a nod to “Me Too” to make relevant, is Katisha espousing on ‘beauty’ –her face might not be much (and doesn’t cruelty hold some allure?), but she has a shoulder blade, a right elbow, and a heel that admirers come miles to see.

“The Mikado,” the ninth of 14 collaborations between Gilbert & Sullivan, was immensely popular when it opened on March 14 1885 in London, running for 672 performances, the second longest run for any musical theater production. By the end of 1885, some 150 companies in Europe and America were performing the operetta. It even was widely performed in Japan (apparently they took no offense).

There were decades when a production of Mikado could be seen somewhere in the English speaking world any day of the year. Performed for the last 135 years, some of its word inventions have entered the lexicon, such as “the grand Poo-Bah” and “Let the punishment fit the crime.”

The brilliant David Auxier, who plays W.S. Gilbert as well as Pish-Tush, would make the real Gilbert proud in his crafting of a new Prologue for New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The new Prologue, written by NYGASP Director and Choreographer David Auxier-Loyola (who also plays W.S. Gilbert and Pish-Tush), appears actually a distillation of the actual background (or rather the mythology) to Gilbert & Sullivan creating “The Mikado,” especially their references to avoiding a similar plot solution of a magic lozenge. Apparently, the Knightsbridge exhibition of Japanese art came after Mikado opened, though British fascination in Japan had built up from the 1860s and 1870s, after Japan opened to Western trade in 1854. (The 1999 film “Topsy Turvy” is a marvelous film depicting their lives around this time.)

Gilbert & Sullivan actually invented musical theater. At the time Gilbert & Sullivan were writing, there were opera, light opera and music hall theatricals, but nothing like a musical show with story – music that had both class and pop – with real story lines, music advanced the story, Bergeret tells us. This is where musical theater started,. Watching “Mikado” you see a straight line to Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Matthew Wages plays the grand Pooh-Bah, a Gilbert & Sullivan character that has entered the lexicon, in New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

All eight-performances that are being presented this season are family friendly, but some have special events attached. We had the marvelous experience of attending a “Grandparents” performance which featured a before-show talk introducing the show (especially to children), and a most marvelous after-show backstage tour with cast members. (David Auxler, who plays the Gilbert character said they only had five rehearsals) and so enjoyed going backstage with David Macaluso (Ko-Ko), who showed us the various props including his giant executioner’s ax.

This not-to-be-missed production of the iconic comic opera is fabulous,  featuring original choreography and direction by NYGASP Associate Stage Director David Auxier, who also authored the show’s prologue and plays Gilbert and Pish-Tush, and Assistant Direction by Broadway performer/director Kelvin Moon Loh.

The show’s sensational cast includes: dynamic bass David Wannen as The Mikado; clever patter man and comic David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko; blustering Matthew Wages as Richard D’Oyly Carte and the pompous Pooh-Bah; creative David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush; charming tenor John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo; formidable Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; beautiful soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith as self-aware Yum Yum; Rebecca Hargrove as maiden sister Peep-Bo, and mellifluous mezzo Amy Maude Helfer as adventurous Pitti-Sing. 

We get to see the magnificent scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia close up during a backstage tour with Daivd Macaluso, who plays Ko-Ko in New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The production showcases magnificent scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia, costumes by Quinto Ott and lighting by Benjamin Weill.  The Mikado is produced by NYGASP Executive Director David Wannen. 

Since its founding in 1974, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) has presented more than 2,000 performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan masterpieces throughout the United States, Canada and England, captivating audiences of all ages.

NYGASP has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics” by New York Magazine and has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation.  According to the Company’s Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager Albert Bergeret, NYGASP’s mission is “giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan.”

Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 45 years ago, talks with audience on stage © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Everyone loves The Mikado and our new production, with its celebrated premise of imagination, keeps the revered story alive and colorful,” he says.  “I’m delighted to once more be involved in elevating the humor and musical values of this evolving and very theatrical production, while alternating on the conductor’s podium with my colleague, Joseph Rubin, as part of NYGASP’s commitment to the future development of the Company”.

“The Mikado” is the showpiece of NYGASP’s 45th season, presenting eight family friendly performances after Christmas, Dec. 27 through Jan. 5, 2020 at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. An encore Family Overture presentation will take place at 12:45 pm before the Jan. 4 Saturday matinee at 2 pm which features a musical introduction and plot summary made entertaining for the whole family (free to all ticket holders).

Tickets are $95/orchestra, $50/balcony; $25/rear balcony; special discounts:  50% off for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult, 10% off for seniors 65 and older; order by phone:  212-772-4448, order pnline:  www.nygasp.org, or purchase in person at the box office (Monday-Friday, noon-7pm).

The next NYGASP production is Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers,” April 18-19, 2020.

The Kaye Playhouse, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. 

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Photo Highlights of 93rd Edition of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 93rd edition of the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade  ushered in the holiday season with 16 giant character balloons; 40 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats of fantasy; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 11 of the nation’s finest marching bands, starting with the pilgrims riding a giant turkey and finishing with Santa Claus on his sleigh.

Macy’s Inc CEO Jeff Gennette and NBC’s Al Roker kick off the 93rd edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Despite strong winds and gusts on the cusp of forcing the giant balloons to be grounded, heroic balloon handlers acted more like wranglers to keep the balloons in control, though flying so low as to touch the ground. Still, there were thrills to be had, and not just the excitement at seeing favorite characters as tall or as long as a building flying overhead, as the balloons passed cross-streets where the winds were strongest, almost pushing the balloons over. The crowd cheered their encouragement, “Go, go, go.”

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Snoopy, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chris Janson. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Marching Band from Ronald Reagan High School, Texas. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Kelly Rowland. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New giant balloon characters joining the line-up this year included Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75th birthday, a heritage balloon and fan favorite Smokey Bear once again takes to the skies over Manhattan.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alvin Ailey dance troupe. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mighty Morphin Power Ranges. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Returning giant balloon characters included Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Children’s Books; Sinclair Oil’s DINO®; The Elf on the Shelf®; Goku; Illumination Presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Jett by Super Wings™; Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen 2”; Chase from PAW Patrol®; Pikachu™ by the Pokémon Company International; Pillsbury Doughboy™; Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; and Trolls. Completing the inflatable lineup is the famed Aflac Duck, Sinclair Oil’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles, as well as Universal Orlando Resort’s The Nutcracker.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Black Eye Peas. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Goku. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ozuna. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The parade also featured special performances and appearances by Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago, Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Debbie Gibson, former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL® Legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes, and Chris Young.

Ronald MacDonald. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Josh Dela Cruz. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
610 Stompers from New Orleans. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Awesome Original Second Time Arounders from St. Petersburg, Florida. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Awesome Original Second Time Arounders, St. Petersburg, Florida. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Billy Porter on the Rexy in the City float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Rexy in the City float. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Nia Franklin, 2019 Miss America, is from New York. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year, five new floats debuted including Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You! (Josh Dela Cruz), The Brick-changer by The Lego Group (NCT 127), Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® 3 (Tenille Townes), Rexy in the City by COACH® (Billy Porter), and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Kelly Rowland).

Green Eggs and Ham. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Madison Central HS, Kentucky. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Madison Central HS, Kentucky. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sponge Bob Square Pants. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Big Apple Circus. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chris Young on South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore float. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The returning float roster and its scheduled performers and special stars included 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop™ (The cast and Muppets of Sesame Street); Big City Cheer! by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin); Central Park (Lea Michele); Christmas Cheer is Near by Elf Pets®/The Elf on the Shelf®; Cornucopia; Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Idina Menzel); Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® (Jimmy Fallon and The Roots); Fantasy Chocolate Factory by Kinder™ (Natasha Bedingfield), Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Chris Janson); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (Chicago); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Chris Young); the NHL® Most Valuable Hockey Mom presented by MassMutual (Black Eyed Peas and NHL® Legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk); Parade Day Mischief by SOUR PATCH KIDS® Candy (Ozuna); Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon (Ciara); Santa’s Sleigh (Santa Claus); Shimmer and Shine by Nickelodeon (Debbie Gibson); Snoopy’s Doghouse by Peanuts Worldwide (Charlie Brown and former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire and Janet Kavandi); Splashing Safari Adventure by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions (TLC); Tom Turkey; and Universal Playground by Universal Kids (That Girl Lay Lay).

Smokey Bear. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Kings of Halftime, Lithonia, GA.Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Blue Springs Golden Regiment Marching Band, Missouri. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Trolls. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Balloon handlers wrangle the Trolls. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, Cullowhee, NC. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Returning for a third year by popular demand, the Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree by Delta Air Lines will feature the harmonious voices of more than 100 Macy’s colleagues and friends from Delta hailing from across the nation and the world. Performing an original song to celebrate the start of the holiday season, the golden-voiced chorus will touch the hearts and uplift the spirits of millions.

Lea Michele. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chicago. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enthusiastic parade watchers. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pillsburgh Doughboy. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For this year’s 93rd march, 11 of the specially chosen marching bands from around the country included Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band (St. Petersburg, FL), Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment (Blue Springs, MO), Catalina Foothills Falcon Band (Tucson, AZ), Franklin Regional Panther Band (Murrysville, PA), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), Madison Central High School Band (Richmond, KY), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Kings of Halftime (Lithonia, GA), Morgan State University’s The Magnificent Marching Machine (Baltimore, MD), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Ronald Reagan High School Marching Band (San Antonio, TX), and Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band (Cullowhee, NC).

Catalina Foothills Falcon Band, Tucson, AZ. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Catalina Foothills Falcon Band, Tucson, AZ. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Keeping The Nutcracker under control. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Idina Menzel. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Great American Band. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Great American Band. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Olaf. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Singing Tree. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Singing Tree. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Parade watchers also got a taste of the specialty performance groups. Joining the line-up this year were the teen dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer – together featuring more than 1,200 of the very best performers recruited from hometowns nationwide. Also, the hilarious 610 Stompers (New Orleans, LA), modern dance youth talent showcased by The Alvin Ailey School (New York, NY).

Santa Claus. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other performances included the tap dance theatrics of children from The Nice List (New York, NY). Rounding out the performance group line-up and joining select talent performances will be Gamma Phi Circus (Normal, IL), Manhattan Youth Ballet (New York, NY), the dance stars of the world-renowned in-school arts education program National Dance Institute (New York, NY) and Young People’s Chorus of NYC (New York, NY).

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some 3.5 million people turn out to line the two-mile parade route; another 50 million watch on television.

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Most Wonderful Time of the Year: New York City Sparkles with Holiday Festivities

The most stupendous, eagerly anticipated float of all at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade carries Santa Claus with his elves and reindeer ushering in the Christmas season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings, special events taking place from early November into January.

“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon. NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, is forecasting seven million visitors will visit the City during the 2019–2020 holiday season.

Here are some of the festive events, performances and activities across the boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City.

Annual Celebrations:

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances. Olaf from Frozen makes a return appearance in the 93rd edition of the parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, November 28, Manhattan
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances and more. The 93rd Annual spectacle will feature new balloons including Astronaut Snoopy, Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, Smokey Bear and Yayoi Kusama’s Love Flies Up to the Sky. New floats include Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!, The Brick-changer by The Lego Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH® and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West, snakes around Central Park South and heads down Sixth Avenue before concluding at Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Balloon Inflation, November 27, 1-8 pm: Head up to the American Museum of Natural History on November 27 from 1 to 8 pm to watch the balloon inflation at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue but be prepared for long lines (entrance at 73rd and Columbus.)  

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 4, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. The tree will arrive on November 9, light up on December 4 and be on view through early to mid-January.  

Rockefeller Center at Christmas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn and Lighting of the World’s Largest Menorah:  Manhattan, December 22, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan: Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Grand Army Plazas compete in the race for the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah. The Largest Menorah in Brooklyn has been lit since 1985, and the annual concert to kick off the holiday will be held on December 22.  

New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, December 31–January 1, Times Square, Manhattan: Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.  

New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park, December 31–January 1,  Prospect Park, Brooklyn: The Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park offer an alternative to the frenzy of Times Square. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.  

New Year’s Eve in Times Square (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sparkling Light Festivities:

Shine On at Hudson Yards, November 29-January 5. A new tradition being introduced at Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with full day of live performances featuring award-winning New York musicians, dangers and entertainers, plus Only at Hudson Yards offers. Then, every Tuesday through December 24, music and dance performances throughout Hudson Yards, and Saturdays children’s activities and family events. Immersive Light and Music Shows: the New York premiere of artist Christopher Schardt’s light sculpture Lyra, 5 pm daily at multiple locations throughout Hudson Yards. Visit Wells Fargo Lodge for hot chocolate tastings and 360-degree photo ops, plus interactive Star Stations with gift wrapping. Unlock holiday offers from SAP with shine ON LED bracelet available at Hudson Yards retailers.  

Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 21–January 5, Fordham, the Bronx: Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom lanterns and animated light shows.  

LuminoCity Festival, November 23-January 5, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan: Sixteen acres of lights will illuminate themed worlds during this inaugural festival, creating an immersive journey for visitors that includes a castle, skating unicorn and enchanted forest.  

Brookfield Place Light Up Luminaries, December 3-January 4, Battery Park City, Manhattan: This spectacular light installation kicks off December 3 with an evening of free ice skating, snacks and live performances.  

Hello Panda Festival at Citi Field, December 6–January 26, Flushing, Queens: The debut of this international lantern, food and art festival will include 60 global cuisine vendors, arts experiences, live performances and a holiday market.

NYC Winter Lantern Festival, November 20–January 12, Randall Manor, Staten Island: The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations, accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.  

Winter Exhibits and Cultural Events:

The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, November 25–January 12, Upper West Side, Manhattan: This beloved tradition includes a 13-foot tree and 1,000 origami models. The signature Origami Holiday Tree, themed “Oceans of Origami” this season, has been a part of the celebrations for more than 40 years.

New-York Historical Society, (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020:  A holiday favorite returns this season, reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown  showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving. Fun, train-related activities for kids of all ages take place through the exhibition’s run―all free with museum admission. These include: Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown! (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15; 1–3 pm); December School Vacation Week (Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1) (170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org)

Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, November 23–January 12, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens: Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science invites visitors to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.  

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, November 23–January 26, Fordham, the Bronx: Conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal, head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks, each re-created with natural materials.  

Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 30, Belmont, the Bronx: Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights.  

Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Festivities in this neighborhood include the Winterland Holiday Tree Lighting on December 2, Menorah Lighting on December 22, a pop-up tree farm, ice skating and a light display at Pier 17.  

Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 7–8, Riverdale, the Bronx: Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their interactive Holiday Workshop Weekend.  

Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 14–21, Staten Island: This Christmas season, experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York City which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps.  

11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum, December 16, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes.  

Melrose Holiday Parranda, December 21, Melrose, the Bronx: The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and holiday songs.
Cheer-Filled Performances:

The Rockettes are sure to perform their iconic Wooden Soldiers routine in the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, November 8–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages with incredible costumes, festive songs and synchronized high kicks.  

Four Renditions of the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol

An unforgettable Broadway experience, Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre will run November 7-January 5 with a new, enchanting interpretation of this holiday masterpiece.  

For a unique venue, head to the 1832 Merchant’s House Museum in Greenwich Village, as an actor portraying Charles Dickens shares this memorable story November 29–January 4.  

The Players Theatre will bring Charles Dickens’ timeless tale to life in their 11th annual A Christmas Carol the Musical December 1–20 in Greenwich Village.  

A Christmas Carol at Queens Theatre transports the audience to Victorian England to experience Scrooge’s iconic journey December 6–22.  

Three Extraordinary Versions of The Nutcracker:  

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center Plaza brings the classic Christmas Eve tale to life with breathtaking music and choreography November 29–January 5.  

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s The Nutcracker is coming to Flushing Town Hall in Queens on December 4 with a historical puppet cast bound to entertain children and adults alike.  

The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Theatre transforms familiar characters and scenes to represent the diverse traditions and vibrant culture of Brooklyn on December 14.  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, December 4–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season opens with premieres, new productions and repertory favorites, including the masterpiece Revelations.  

A Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular at the St. George Theatre, December 7, St. George, Staten Island: The famous theatre presents its annual Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular featuring critically-acclaimed performers such as The Vogues, The Crystals and Eddie Holman.  

Holiday Performances at the World Famous Apollo Theater, Harlem, Manhattan: The Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts holiday events including a Harlem gospel choir performance at Coca-Cola Winter Wonderland on December 14, followed by the Amateur Night Holiday Special. Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald Lawrence headline annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on December 21. As a grand finale, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on December 28 features Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest performances.

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., New York 10025, 212-316-7540,info@stjohndivine.org, www.stjohndivine.org), Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, 7-8:30 pm,: Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event with performances by the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle. Harry Smith, host; special guests Paul Winter, Jamet Pittman, Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. General admission seats are free and open to the public on the night of the show. Reserved seats are available now. 

Holiday Shopping:

Holiday Markets abound, including Bryant Park where you can also ice skate or visit the New York Public Library’s exhibits on novelist JD Salinger and Broadway Producer Harold Prince © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Holiday markets: New York City is full of incredible holiday markets, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities. This year, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever on October 31. Other popular markets include the Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Brooklyn Flea and Astoria Market.  

Iconic Holiday Windows: Awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store sparkle, inviting visitors to explore the magic of New York City shopping.  

Enchanted by the holiday windows © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Empire Outlets, St. George, Staten Island: New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets, will ring in the holiday season with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual tree lighting ceremony. Easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, the outlets will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree.  

23 Days of Flatiron Cheer, December 1-23, Flatiron District, Manhattan: 23 Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.

The Shops at Columbus Circle has kicked off its fourth year of Broadway Under the Stars, a five-week series of free public performances taking place this holiday season.Select cast from today’s hottest Broadway musicals will perform against the backdrop of the destination’s famous 12 massive stars. These stars, one of the largest specialty crafted exhibits of illuminated color displays in the world, are suspended from the 100-foot-high ceilings. Performances, lasting 20 minutes,  begin at 5 pm and are free to attend and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required. (Nov. 11, Waitress, Chicago, Oklahoma!andThe Lightening Thief; Nov. 18, Come From Away, Rock of Ages; Nov. 25: Dear Evan Hansen, The Illusionists, Frozen; Dec. 2: Beetlejuice, Tootsie, Mean Girls; Dec. 9: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked). Additional Broadway Under the Stars offerings include specialty cocktails from the Shops at Columbus Circle’s Restaurant and Bar Collection which includes Monday night drink specials like Center Bar’s Pomegranate Smash cocktail ($16). Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for more information and list of events and happenings.  

The Shops at Columbus is particularly festive during the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shop at Your Hotel: Several hotels are home to retail pop-ups this holiday season, partnering with iconic stores to make shopping easier than ever for visitors. ​

Grand Hyatt New York is partnering with Macy’s Herald Square for a pop-up located behind the check-in desk, featuring New York City-themed gifts, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade apparel and novel gift items November 25–January 1.  

Loews Regency New York Hotel and Bloomingdale’s are teaming up to bring a curated selection of holiday gifts to the lobby lounge November 29-December 24, including on-site monogramming of leather gifts by ROYCE New York.

Conrad New York Midtown is launching the first FAO Schwarz Holiday Suite, filled with shoppable toys, stuffed animals and gifts that will be restocked for visitors who book a stay in the suite November 18–January 5. Additionally, all guests during this time period will be able to order gifts on demand to their suite or home address.

For additional holiday celebrations and ideas, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Before the Macys Thanksgiving Parade Comes the Macy’s Balloon Inflation

The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is actually two events, which begins the day before with the Macy’s Balloon Inflation, from 1 to 8 pm when you can watch the volunteers as they literally breathe life into the iconic giants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is actually two events, which begins the day before with the Macy’s Balloon Inflation, from 1 to 8 pm when you can watch the volunteers as they literally breathe life into the iconic giants.

This has become wildly popular, with thousands and thousands of people arriving for a peek as hundreds of volunteers work to inflate the balloons. They start off flat, laid out in precise order on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History.

But the event is so popular, the entrance is at 73rd and Columbus (be prepared for intense security; can’t bring backpacks and very long lines), following a route up Central Park West, to 77th Street,  Columbus Avenue and back down 81st streets to the exit.

The best time to watch is around 5 pm when you will see the balloons in various stages of completion. (Insider tip: if you visit the Museum of Natural History early in the day, when you leave, you are right in the middle of the action.

This is really an insider’s look and it is really thrilling.

Since 1927, when the Parade’s character balloons first joined the revelry, the inflatables have become a signature element featuring some of the world’s most beloved characters. Over time, the inflatables have morphed from air-filled characters carried on sticks to high-flying giants, balloonheads and even hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) or tandem tricycles (trycaloons).

New giants joining the line-up this year include Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75th birthday, a heritage balloon and fan favorite will return to the Parade as Smokey Bear once again takes to the skies over Manhattan.

The Peanuts balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation event, NYC (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 In 2005, the Macy’s Parade began to feature what would become a collection of high-flying artwork created in collaboration with renowned contemporary artists. The special series, entitled Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery, has featured some of the art world’s finest creators. This year, for the eighth edition of the series, the world’s most renowned female contemporary artist will take her iconic art to new heights as Yayoi Kusama joins the Macy’s Parade with her Love Flies Up to the Sky balloon. The design was developed by the artist from face motifs that appear in her “My Eternal Soul” series of paintings–a body of work that she began in 2009. Vibrant and animated, the paintings embody Kusama’s innovative exploration of form and revolve around a tension between abstraction and figuration. The artist’s signature dots–which recur throughout her practice—are also featured prominently in the Macy’s Parade balloon design. Previous balloons in the Macy’s Parade Blue Sky Gallery series have included works from famed artists Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, KAWS, and FriendsWithYou™.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation event, NYC (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Returning giant balloon characters include Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Children’s Books; Sinclair Oil’s DINO®; The Elf on the Shelf®; Goku; Illumination Presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Jett by Super Wings™; Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen 2”; Chase from PAW Patrol®; Pikachu™ by the Pokémon Company International; Pillsbury Doughboy™; Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; and Trolls. Completing the inflatable lineup is the famed Aflac Duck, Sinclair Oil’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles, as well as Universal Orlando Resort’s The Nutcracker.

93rd Edition of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Then, the 93rd edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade kicks off at 9 am on Thursday, November 28  when the time honored phrase Let’s Have a Parade™ rings from the starting line. With more than 8,000 volunteers dressed as clowns, guiding the flight of larger-than-life character balloons, transporting some 2.5 million spectators who line New York City’s streets and 50 million more watching on television to new worlds.

Olaf flies in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The iconic holiday event ushers in the season with its signature giant character balloons, floats of fantasy, the nation’s finest marching bands, whimsical groups, musical performances, and the one-and-only Santa Claus With special performances and appearances by Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago, Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Debbie Gibson, former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL® Legends Dominic Moore and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna, Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes, and Chris Young

Here are more fun facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade:

OVERVIEW:

3.5 million people line the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route in New York city (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

• Years of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – 93 (est. 1924) o Note: The Parade was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.

• Parade Route Spectators – 3.5 Million

• Parade Route Length – 2.5 miles (77th & Central Park West south to 34th Street-Herald Square)

• Participants – 8,000+ including Macy’s colleagues and their friends & families, celebrities, recording artists, athletes, Broadway performers, marching bands, clowns, dancers, cheerleaders and other performance groups

BALLOONS:

• Giant character helium balloons – 16

• 40 novelty, heritage, specialty balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons

• New balloons – Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon, Smokey Bear by USDA Forest Service, and Love Flies Up to the Sky by Yayoi Kusama

• Height of tallest balloon – 62 feet (Diary of A Wimpy Kid®)

• Length of longest balloon – 77 feet (Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger)

• Width of widest balloon – 39 feet (Jett by Super Wings™)

• Balloon handlers – more than 1,600 (90 handlers on average per giant balloon)

More than 1600 volunteers are on hand to handle the giant balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

FLOATS:

• Floats – 26, comprised of hundreds of different set pieces and other structural elements

• New floats – Blue’s Clues & You! by Nickelodeon, The Brick-Changer by The LEGO Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH®, and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life

• Length and height of largest float – 60 feet long and 3.5 stories tall (Santa’s Sleigh)

• Float escorts – 400

THE BROADCAST:

• Television Viewers – More than 50 Million, one of the country’s most viewed televised events

• Hours of Live Television – 3 (9am-noon, in all time zones), 3 rebroadcast (2pm-5pm, in all time zones)

• Years on NBC, official national broadcast partner – 66 (since 1952)

• NBC TODAY Show anchors as host of the Parade: o 2019 marks Hoda Kotb’s 2nd year hosting o 2019 marks Savannah Guthrie’s 8th year (since 2012)

•  2019 marks Al Roker’s 25th year (since 1995)

Al Roker marks his 25th year in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

ENTERTAINMENT, PERSONALITIES & PERFORMERS:

• Marching Bands – 11 bands spanning approximately 2,793 members in total

• Performance Groups – 10 groups including 600 cheerleaders and 600 dancers from all over the country

• Radio City Rockettes® – An annual favorite, they first performed in the 1957 Parade

• Broadway musicals – 4, the long-standing relationship with Broadway shows to showcase performances nationally, dating back to 1977

• Choral Singers (Macy’s own) – 100

• Clowns – 1,000

• Clown Stilt Walker Units – 22

• Santa Claus – the ONE and ONLY in his famed Parade finale appearance o Santa Claus has closed the Macy’s Parade every year with the exception of 1933, the only year in which he led the official Parade march

There are 1000 clowns in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BEHIND-THE-SCENES MAGIC BY THE MACY’S PARADE STUDIO TEAM:

• Hours of labor from the Parade Studio team of approximately 27 painters, carpenters, animators, sculptors, welders, scenic/costume designers, electricians and engineers – 50,000+

• Square Footage of the Parade Studio’s Moonachie, NJ headquarters – 72,000

• Length of Tubular Steel – nearly ½ mile for creation of the Macy’s Singing Tree, and the most steel ever sourced for a Macy’s Parade float

• Pounds of Glitter – 300

• Costumes – 4,200

• Make-Up Artists for Clowns – 90

• Banner Carriers – 95

The Singing Tree at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2019 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures