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  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:09 am on December 1, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Elevator, , Empire State Building observatory, Fancy, , , , , online ticketing system, Patrick's Cathedral, ,   

    Top of the Rock 

    I have been looking forward to the opening of the “Top of the Rock” for a long while. As soon as the online ticketing system became available, I got the tickets for the first day, and the first sunset that this observation platform became available to regular shmoes like me.

    The entrance, which is located in the underground concourse is decorated with this fancy Swarovski Crystal chandelier. Top of the Rock chose two somewhat strange marketing alliances – with Swarovski and with Target.

    The elevator ride to the observation platform features a ceiling-projected movie of cheesy historical images and newsreels. Though that you can see exposed and lighted elevator shaft which is much more impressive.

    Once you get to the multistoried observation platform, you start to notice and and photograph hundreds of interesting things otherwise unseen from the ground. The rooftop of the building where you work.

    The cross of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

    You get to stand basically face to face, on the same level with the spire of the Empire State Building, only separated by the annoying bulletproof glass. The spaces between panes allow you to take decent pictures, and the top setbacked platform does not even have the glass. That’s where you can entertain your superhero daydreams – by quietly standing there, of course, and not by jumping off of it.

    Besides the glass and the loud tourists, the only annoyance that I can name is a little bit of sewage smell. I am pretty sure that came from the plumbing vent that you can see in this picture.

    Overall, I have to say that the whole experience was superior to the Empire State Building observatory. Online ticketing interface allows you to buy tickets for specific time, avoiding lines (the guy who coded the ticketing system even dropped me an email on my previous entry). You get to see the Empire State Building itself, as well as views of Central Park. The top deck without the glass is very cool.

    Unfortunately I forgot my own camera and had to borrow co-worker’s Nikon, so I’ll be back with my own gear, the long lens and possibly a tripod. One unsettling thing about Top of the Rock, though, is that the ticket (but not the website) states that you are only allowed to take pictures for non-commercial purposes. That’s not very nice. I did see a lot of people with tripods and fancy cameras though – hopefully they are not going to hassle me.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:54 am on November 12, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 212-768-8001, Baku, , , Elevator, , , Jewelry, , , , Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant, , West 47th Street   

    Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant or a Hidden Starbucks 

    Advertising might be the engine of commerce, but there is a surprising number of NYC businesses are hidden inside skyscrapers with almost no indication of them on the outside.

    For instance, me and my co-workers often go to a Starbucks that is located in a lobby of a skyscraper. There is no sign outside, and inside you need to pass a security guy (who surprisingly lets you through) and turn a corner. I could not believe my eyes – you absolutely had to know where that Starbucks was.

    There is nothing special about our hidden Starbucks, except it is the closest one to us and the lines are usually shorter. They do have an old style La Marzocco machine not yet replaced by the new superautomatics, but the barrista has no idea about how to grind the coffee and tamp it properly. I guess they don’t teach that anymore at Starbucks U.

    There is a more interesting hidden place that we frequent. It’s a restaurant called Taam-Tov (46 West 47th Street, 4th floor 212-768-8001) which happens to be located on the fourth floor of a dumpy and decrepit art deco building in the middle of the Jewelry district on 47th street. To be fair I have to mention that there is a little sign on the step of a staircase that can be seen from outside. But you have to climb 8 flights of stairs, past dirty walls, an exposed phone comm. box and frequent full trash bags. There you will see an unmarked closed door and a small open order window.

    Alternatively you can enter a jewelry store on the first floor and take a tiny little elevator, which will deposit you inside the restaurant. I strongly discourage you from using it.

    Once me and three of my co-workers, one of whom is “portlier” than I am (and I am pretty “portly” myself), two have asthma and only one inhaler, despite my reluctance chose to take that tiny elevator. We let a bunch of people go up before us, waited for the elevator to come back and boarded it. Immediately what seemed to me like three shady looking Russian jewelers squeezed in after us. To my horror I noticed that in fact there was a fourth guy with them, just as sweaty and unshaven, but really short and skinny. Of course we got stuck between the floors and it took me and one of the jewelers few very uncomfortable minutes to figure out how to open the doors. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the co-worker who insisted the most on the elevator was not only slightly asthmatic, but a bit claustrophobic as well.

    Anyway, the place is rather unique. The patrons are mostly jewelers – you might see them exchanging large sums of money and gold or diamonds, but there are a lot of programmers from surrounding offices who also found that place somewhere. Since the place was featured in the last issue of Time Out New York dedicated to cheapest restaurants, there the mix will be a bit more eclectic in the future.

    The cuisine can be described as Middle Eastern/Russian, typical of the Baku region. Everything is cooked on site (in fact I’ve witnessed a small kitchen fire once that was quickly taken under control while everyone continued eating), kosher and very tasty. Shish kabobs are excellent (my favorite is rib kabob), so are soups. Just don’t ask for sour cream for your Borscht – and you can be sure that they don’t use Ukrainian pork fat. Other than that it’s very good. There are good salads, golubtsi, pelmeni, shawarma, etc. They even have kompot – Russian fruit punch and green tea served in small “piala” cups with sugar cubes (for drinking “vprikusku”).

    Over the years I had lunch at Taam Tov with my boss, my boss’ bosses there, my co-workers, three different livejournal users and many other people. And until I’ve read Time Out New York article I did not know that one floor below Taam Tov there’s a second hole in the wall restaurant called Sabor Latino.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 10:08 am on September 21, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , American International Building, , , , City Services Building, , City Services Inc, Civil engineering, , Coruscant City, Coruscant City towers, Dana Building, Elevator, , good executive and salesman, , Holton, , , local gas, , , NYC building, , , oil and gas, oil refining, , personal train car, Russel, Sixty Wall Tower, , Skyscraper Rivals, , wireless equipment   

    Deadprogrammer’s Favorite Skyscraper 

    My favorite skyscraper is a little obscure (like many of my favorite things). Today it’s called the AIG building. When it was built, it was called the City Services Building or Sixty Wall Tower.

    The soaring art deco tower was built for City Services Corporation, a company willed into being by one Henry L. Doherty. Doherty was a thoroughly Randian character. A self taught engineer, he started off by leaving school in 1882 at the tender age of 12 to go to work for a local gas company and went on to build one the biggest electric, oil and gas companies worth 1.3 billion in 1930. A technophile, Doherty traveled around the country in his personal train car with telephone and wireless equipment to keep in touch with his empire. Even his bed had phone connections, and electric fan, heating pads and electric motors that could move it through remote control swinging doors onto a porch of his penthouse apartment. He was a very good executive and salesman, but always took a title of Chief Engineer. He even applied for an official engineering license (as he didn’t have any academic credentials). He did have 150 patents to his name and had many articles about oil refining and economy published.

    The architectural firm of Clinton & Russel, Holton & George was given the task of designing City Services Building, but Doherty and his engineers had a hand in it too. The building’s heating and air conditioning system was designed by City Services engineers, and Doherty himself suggested double-decker elevators, and terraces with aluminum railings. The building was planned as an embodiment of Doherty’s vision.

    The tower starts of as a chunky block wide “wedding cake“. The reason for that is New York City zoning laws. NYC building had to have “setbacks” that would allow light to reach the ground. This was required so that the shadow of a skyscraper would not permanently block daylight on the street. But higher than a certain level you could build without setbacks though. And that’s exactly what the architects did in this case: above the “wedding cake” is a tremendous tower.

    The building is recursive: there are two columns shaped like it on it’s sides.

    When I was reading The Fountainhead”, this is how I imagined the Dana Building. Coruscant City towers look very much like the City Services Building.

    Doherty was planning to live in a penthouse apartment on top of the building. But his health gave out, and after spending some time in sanatoriums he died. Instead of the penthouse apartment an observation gallery was built.

    City Services building also became the final masterpiece of it’s architects, Clinton & Russel, Holton & George. No major work came their way after senior partners Clinton and Russel died, and then one of the junior partners, Holton died and George retired.

    City Services Inc was hit hard by The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935: they were told that no company could sell or produce both oil and gas. They chose oil and became CITGO. The company moved it’s headquarters to Tulsa selling City Services Building to AIG. AIG renovated the building, but closed off the lobby and the amazing observation deck to the public. Now the observation deck serves as an executive lounge. If you have some juice at AIG and could give me a tour… Well, that would make me happy. Well, it could happen.

    Much of my information for this article came from a very good, but poorly organized book called Skyscraper Rivals. I could not find any books about Henry L. Doherty except a $350 “Principles and Ideas for Doherty Men”, a compilation of his articles and letters.

    Wegee was a big fan of City Services Building, a book “Weegee’s People” chronicles the life inside the tower. When I get it, I’ll write another article about the double decker elevators, the all-female redhead elevator operators and other marvels of the City Services Building.


    Henry L. Doherty and the City Services Building (from “Skyscraper Rivals”)


    This is how I get to see the AIG building from a train window.


    Coruscant City from Star Wars (image from http://www.wizards.com)

     
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