Big Brother is coming, and at a faster rate than you may have suspected. The surveillance system that has been in place in New York’s lower Manhattan since last year is being expanded to midtown.
The system, which currently covers the financial district, will now monitor 30th to 60th Streets, which includes the United Nations, Grand Central and Penn Stations, and the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. The new system will bring total surveillance spending for the city to more than $110 million, and is modeled on a system in London.
Additional cameras will start appearing in the city in 2010, with completion of the system targeted for 2011.
Weapons sensors and license plate readers will also be added to the network, which now monitors an almost two-square-mile area that covers the World Trade Center site and the New York Stock exchange.
The counterterrorism network is sometimes referred to as the “Ring of Steel,” and is being financed with about $24 million in federal money. Reactions from New Yorkers are mixed, with some polled saying they like the idea of added security, while others fear the encroachment on their privacy. Money is also being set aside to monitor New York waterways for possible radioactive materials.
Interesting Security Fact of the Day: The cameras are currently monitored from just one room somewhere on Broadway.
Six New York City beaches were closed to swimming today, August 21, due to Hurricane Bill looming in the Atlantic Ocean. Rip Currents, heavy surf and tall waves will most likely keep the beaches shut down through the weekend. Manhattan and Brooklyn beaches have been closed, including Coney Island. Also closed is Rockaway Beach in Queens and Midland, and South and Wolfe’s Pond beaches in Staten Island. Rockaway Beach is the city’s only official surfing area, which could disappoint many surfers looking to take advantage of the heavy surf. The hurricane could create seas as high as 10 feet at New York City and Long Island beaches.
Concerned about staying cool? There are 63 pools in New York City. All beaches at Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island will be closed by tomorrow and are expected to be closed over the weekend as well. Robert Moses State Park on Long Island was closed today and Jones Beach State Park may be closed soon. Orchard Beach in the Bronx is still open to swimming for as long as conditions will allow.
Hurricane Bill closed in on Bermuda today on track to move up the east coast of the United States and even to northeastern Canada by this weekend. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory that winds of 110 miles makes Hurricane Bill a Category 2 storm.
New York City is truly a cupcake lovers paradise, famous for its cupcake bakeries since a “Sex and the City” episode in which Sarah Jessica Parker eats a pink-frosted cupcake in front of Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street. Nine years since the episode aired, tourists still flock to Magnolia Bakery.
New York City is crazy for cupcakes; cupcake bakeries can often be seen with lines out the door. Manhattan’s Institute of Culinary Education leads cupcake tours and offers cupcake-making classes. And cupcake bakeries are being more creative than ever to cater to the masses, offering everything from vegan to gourmet cupcakes. Here are some of the best cupcake shops in New York City worth a visit:
Babycakes NYC (248 Broome Street) serves up dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free vegan cupcakes, sweetened with agave nectar.
Buttercup Bake Shop (973 Second Avenue) cupcakes are have decadent touches like German chocolate cake and almond white cake.
Crumbs Bake Shop is a popular bakery with 10 locations throughout Manhattan that have large, sugary sweet cupcakes in flavors like watermelon, key lime, and cappuccino.
Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street) is arguably the most famous cupcake bakery due to its exposure on Sex and the City and for their cupcakes baked fresh all day, every day.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine (126 Rivington Street) is a vintage-themed bakery serving small buttercream cupcakes in simple flavors like red velvet and pistachio.
Looking for a fun new way to tour New York City? How about by boat? The New York Water Taxi offers a hop-on/hop-off weekend boat service around New York Harbor, making stops at 10 of the city’s best neighborhoods and attractions. This service will run from May 2 to October 11, 2009, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. A day pass ($20 for adults, $15 for kids) allows for unlimited travel.
The Water Taxi’s first stop is West 44th Street at Pier 84. Check out the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86 at West 46th Street to tour the large aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The second stop is West 27th Street at Pier 66 in Chelsea. Cool off from the summer heat by ice-skating at Chelsea Piers. Next up is Greenwich Village at Pier 45. Stroll the West Village and Hudson River Park. Traveling further south, the Water Taxi docks at the World Financial Center for a great opportunity to see the World Trade Center Memorial.
The fifth stop is Battery Park, the very Southern tip of Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty. Round the island to South Street Seaport for shopping and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, followed by Fulton Ferry Landing, the oldest ferry landing in New York City. The Water Taxi then stops at Hunters Point for access to Water Taxi Beach and Long Island City. The tour ends at East 34th Street, with sites like the United Nations Building and the Empire State Building in the vicinity.
Whether you live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, there are two free public concert programs not to miss this summer in these New York City boroughs. Central Park SummerStage, a program of the City Parks Foundation founded in 1986, presents a variety of free performing acts to the public. The performances and events are open to all ages and showcase music, dance, spoken word, and film. These are held in the various outdoor venues in Manhattan’s Central Park in New York City. The series began June 5 and will conclude August 16, so there is still time to catch a show. Some well-known names still to come this summer that are sure to draw large crowds are Jazmine Sullivan, Q-Tip, Chester French, Ginuwine, Bettye LaVette, Bela Fleck, The Pretenders, and Juliette Lewis.
Celebrate Brooklyn! is an outdoor performing arts festival offering free music, dance, theater, and film events in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Bandshell. The program began June 8 this summer with a performance by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and will end August 15 with Animal Collective. Several other artists yet to perform this summer are Big Daddy Kane, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal. The concert series is free but a $3 donation is suggested upon arrival. Celebrate Brooklyn! was launched in 1979.
The new High Line Park, an urban park in the sky, opened on June 9 to the public in New York City. It is constructed on top of the skeleton of a former rail system on building rooftops 30 feet above the ground. High Line Park is located on Manhattan’s West Side, running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 20th Street in Chelsea, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
The rooftop park was renovated and designed by James Corner Field Operations along with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It has wooden lawns chairs, an LED lighting system, and landscape of green plants and grass among concrete. The park is accessible from Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 18th Street, and 20th Street, and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The original High Line, a 1.45-mile long steel railway, was built in the 1930s in an effort to remove freight trains from street traffic after too many accidents occurred between the two. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Nature took over after trains stopped running and became overgrown and untouched.
Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999, a non-profit community-led group advocating for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as a public park. The group gained city support in 2002 with a City Council resolution supporting the High Line’s reuse. Groundbreaking and construction started in April 2006.
A second section from 20th Street to 30th Street is projected to be ready in 2010, and a third and final section will come after that.