Posts by Melanie:

Articles By: melanie idler

Aspiring Manhattanite, currently attending Williams College and majoring in art history.

Photo Credit: Gothamist

No, you won’t have a three-day weekend this Fourth of July. But you can still celebrate the patriotic spirit of our forefathers with some all-American festivities taking place during the week.

Sunday, July 1st:

There are two days of historical reenactments this week at  Independence Celebrations at Lefferts Historic House  in Prospect Park one of the few surviving farmhouses from Brooklyn’s Dutch settlement. Now a museum,  Lefferts will honor the end of slavery in New York State on (July 4, 1827) with historic storytelling on July 1 from 1 to 4 p.m. The afternoon will end with a festive march, or “Freedom Strut,” through the Lefferts farmyard.  Then on July 4 from 1 to 4 p.m.  Lefferts invites children to  make plumed caps and sign their John Hancock with a quill pen on a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence.

Tuesday, July 3rd:

Make your way over to the Bell House to see Wasabassco Burlesque’s  annual  AMERICA F*CK YEAH!, a festive night of debauchery and  Bacchanalia  that promises beer, barbecue, and boobs (for America, okay!). And the kicker–admission is free if you come dressed as Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, July 4th:  

The American history buff and early-riser can go on the  10th Annual Nighttime Walking Tour of Revolutionary War New York  in the Financial District. Tour guide James Kaplan will take you to a few Revolutionary War sites, including Fraunces Tavern Museum (where George Washington gave a final address to Continental Army soldiers in 1783), and the tour culminates with participants watching the sun rise from Trinity Church. Meeting location disclosed with ticket purchase (by Fri 1); visit their website for details. July 4th from 2-6am; $20.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is a must-see if you’re planning on spending America’s birthday at the shore. You can witness the famous annual hot dog eating contest, a  nearly century-old tradition,  on Coney Island. This distinctly American competition captivated 40,000 onlookers last year, and over 1 million home viewers. The 2011 contest winner, Joey Chestnut, devoured 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes. This year, the contest is split into men’s and women’s divisions, with a $20,000 grand prize available for the winner of each championship. Starting at 10 am, you can watch this gluttonous affair and, if you can still stomach it, grab your own hot dog from Nathan’s Famous.

The annual Fourth of July  Invasion of the Pines  involves hundreds of drag queens and their entourage flocking  to the harbor to commemorate the  1976 incident when a restaurant in Fire Island Pines  denied entry to a man dressed in drag. Less a protest than a celebration of LGBT rights, we say don your heels and join this festive crowd.  The fun starts in the harbor at noon with the Invasion arriving at 2pm.

The Iron Horse pub is closing its street to traffic to host the Pig Roast BBQ Block Party. The porcine meats and burgers are free, but donations are suggested with all proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project.  That being said, spring for a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade ($3, $1) or head inside to the bar for $3 cans of Rolling Rock or PBR.  (Cliff St between Fulton and John Sts; 646-546-5426, ironhorsenyc.com; noon–8pm; free, donations encouraged).

Dozens of vendors will be out selling food, crafts, and other treats during  The Great 4th of July Festival on  Water Street, between Fulton and Broad streets.

The New-York Historical Society is celebrating Independence Day with its summer Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, a series of  beer tastings catered by local breweries.  Normally held on  Saturdays, they’ve made an exception so you could indulge in some pre-barbecue fun on the Fourth. Half-hour tasting sessions will start at 2pm and 4pm. Visitors get to taste some of these local ales as well as learn about the process behind brewing America’s beverage of choice.

There will be free movie screenings as part of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (which normally take place on Mondays)  and Rooftop Films: The American Experience.  A screening of the American classic,  Easy Rider, at Bryant Park begins at sunset  (lawns open at 5 pm). This Peter Fonda flick  celebrates 1960s counterculture. Bring a blanket, popcorn, or maybe some barbecue if you’re in a particularly patriotic spirit. Rooftop Films is also presenting a series of free short films titled The American Experience, which will celebrate “the diversity, daring, and charm of our country.” The films included in the series are Month One, a documentary about the early days of Occupy Wall Street; My American Life, a Bengali-American teenager’s struggle to lead a “normal” American life; and Mulvar Is Correct Candidate!, a man’s misguided attempt to run for office. Guitarist Dustin Wong will provide music before the shows, and afterwords you’ll also be able to see a live feed of the Macy’s fireworks display.

Celebrate America’s birthday in style with this vintage-themed rooftop party at the  Liberty Belle Spectacular  at the Empire Hotel,  featuring performances from Gelber & Manning and the Star-Spangled Orchestra, burlesque stars, the tap-dancing Minsky Sisters and other jazzy entertainment. Drink the night away until the fireworks begin, and trust us, the view will be “spectacular.”

More than 40,000 fireworks will shoot from six barges along the Hudson during  Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks display with performances by Beyonce and Brad Paisley. This dramatic  pyrotechnic spectacle will begin around 9:20pm, but we suggest staking out a spot along Manhattan’s West Side much earlier. Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues are open to revelers, but many parks along the West Side Highway are not. Curbed has listed some of the best viewing spots in New York and New Jersey.

Saturday, July 7th:

Stars and Stripes Forever Concert is a  free outdoor concert held by the Community Wind Ensemble and Concert Band. Conductor Ray Wheeler will lead a series of patriotic concert ensembles. Kingsborough Community College, 2001 Oriental Blvd at MacKenzie St, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Thursday, July 5th:  

Dixieland band the Red Hook Ramblers provide vintage jazz  accompaniment to Burlesque vocalist Ramblin’ Rose, conjuring a tantalizing Prohibition-era atmosphere. Starts at 9 pm.

Here at Untapped, we’ve found 10 eateries worth visiting that you may or may not recognize from your favorite HBO original series.  


Café Grumpy on Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint

Cafe Grumpy Lena Dunham Untapped Cities
As if Brooklyn weren’t already trendy enough, HBO’s Girls has romanticized the neighborhood more than any television show in recent years, and there are plenty of filming locations to explore. Our favorite is Café Grumpy, where Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and Hannah (Lena Dunham) make ends meet as Baristas. You’ll find it in Greenpoint, a filming mecca for Lena Dunham’s immensely popular new show.  (more…)

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.”

-Claude Monet

As a former intern at the New York Botanical Gardens, I was eager to set foot again through the familiar gates that lead to this Bronx oasis. On this occasion I was there to see  Monet’s Garden,  a unique collaboration between the Garden and  The Metropolitan Museum of Art  that juxtaposes the renowned painter’s famous masterpieces, and the botany that inspired him. It seems Monet’s green thumb effortlessly transitioned between hoe and paintbrush, with the exhibit itself evoking contemplation on the intersection of paintings and plants, and the profound connections between art and nature.

Previously Monet painted what others had created: cathedrals, haystacks and the newly invented locomotive. But at Giverny, he dedicated the remainder of his life to his passion for gardening, shaping the flowerbeds that would become the subjects of his painterly canvases.  Monet’s paintings offer a pure fantasy of being in nature without physical constraint, and the Gardens realize this reverie. Organized by Paul Hayes Tucker, the world’s premier scholar on Monet and Impressionism, the exhibit recreates Monet’s gardens using the detailed accounts of his horticultural activities. The multifaceted exhibition included photographs of his preserved garden at Giverny in northern France (which receives half a million visitors each year), rare documents and letters, and two of the impressionist’s paintings on loan from the Yale Art Gallery.

Tucker chose two garden-inspired Monet paintings that complement the exhibit. Gracing the halls of the Mertz Library’s Rondina Gallery,  The Artist’s Garden in Giverny  and  Irises  are prime examples of an Impressionistic take on a light-dappled garden scene. Also on display is Monet’s painting palette, the only one known though his garden offered what was to be a wholly different kind of palette.  While the show’s emphasis is not on Monet’s painting, examining his art through the vernal lens of his garden offers further insight into the Impressionists’ two great loves: of light and color.

Coming from the hushed, dimly lit halls that held Monet’s still-lifes, entering the perfectly manicured lawns of the botanical gardens provided room for thought on the overlap between nature and art throughout the ages, and whether one were superior to the other (or even if they can  both  be considered art).  The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Garden’s majestic Victorian greenhouse, has been transformed to recreate Monet’s home in Giverny. The exhibit is as breathtaking as any one of Monet’s masterpieces, with the aesthetic appeal of the French countryside. One first enters the floral bliss of  the Grand Allée and its riotously colorful flowers, complete with  a facade of Monet’s pink house. Green metal arches frame the walkway, leading to a green gate swung open to reveal a reproduction of the iconic Japanese footbridge featured in so many of Monet’s paintings.  The flowers chosen were  planted by Monet himself, though notably absent were the water lilies that Monet spent the last years of his life painting (water lilies do not do well indoors). The pond’s reflections and shifting light on the water dominated his abstract paintings of water lilies.  There were just a few outdoors in the Conservatory Courtyard’s Hardy Pool, but they will be in full bloom by July.

The colorist’s paintings evoked vivid fantasies of optical immersion in atmospheric nature. A beautifully staged  formal, European-style garden offers this same immersion: a  respite from the industrial city around it.  The Garden provides relief from feelings of entrapment in a denaturalized world. With this noble intent, the work of artist and gardener are indeed in sync.

Monet’s Garden is open until Oct. 21 at the New York Botanical Garden. For more information, visit nybg.org.

Seeking a place of silence and solitude seems like a fruitless, almost contradictory endeavor in the writhing atmosphere of New York City. And the number of solitary sanctuaries on this island of concrete and steel is about to get a little smaller. The New York Public Library’s landmark building on the bustling corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street will undergo extensive remodeling under the direction of its current president, Anthony Marx, who has vehemently and convincingly defended his plans for the proposed renovations. Marx’s seductive reexamination of the library as a public venue calls for a number of changes critics say would hamper research and turn the historic  reference library into little more than a glorified Starbucks for highbrow hipsters.

The $300 million dollar Central Library Plan would create up to 20,000 square feet more public space. Two of its most frequented branches, the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL), would be sold, and their collections and services consolidated in the main 42nd Street building. To make room for this addition, the plan calls for moving half of the 3 million volumes in the main library’s stacks to a storage site in New Jersey.

This update would require an extensive redesign of the library that has preservationists and architectural lovers mortified. Under the direction of the prolific architect Norman Foster, the Schwarzman Building would turn from a pure research facility (from which books cannot be taken out) into a circulating library that serves the broader public. The areas with the most foot traffic, like new circulating collections, public programming spaces, and yes, a café, would be on the lower floors.

Times have certainly changed in the century since the library first opened its doors in 1911. The nature of the New York Public Library has become something of a paradox, acting as both a site of touristic attraction as well as a legitimate space of personal, scholarly pursuits. Like the Beaux-Art classicism that graces the city, such as our beloved Grand Central Terminal, the library’s majestic architecture begs to be a site of public attraction. Yet unlike the crowds weaving their way through Grand Central, the New York Post Office, or the Met, quiet is the essential aspect of the library building. A sense of calm still prevails in the treasured Rose Main Reading Room, a hushed, scholarly sanctuary filled with elegant, lamp-lit wooden tables, and hunched-over intellectuals. Yet even this sacred space is punctuated by the noises of sightseers eager to catch a glimpse of one of New York’s most treasured attractions.

The library itself is succumbing to the same technologies that will soon render that particular institution obsolete. The New York Public Library has established itself on the digital landscape with e-publications, crowdsourcing projects, and its very own iPad app. Similarly, the conversion of the Schwarzman Building’s stacks into a circulating library will accommodate a future in which information is gleaned from digital media instead of books. While fewer New Yorkers read hardcopies, statistics show that the number of the Library’s visitors has hardly waned, meaning that they increasingly rely on it for computer use and free Internet. In that sense, replacing the century-old book stacks (which tragically, no one is reading from) with an open area with computers and wi-fi access makes sense.

While a library is nothing without its books, some of these changes will most certainly be implemented. The state of the library as an institution is in constant flux, its contents checked in and out, its collection continually expanding. The library itself must expand organically alongside the needs of the public it serves. Instead of a stagnated historicity to be endlessly preserved, we must hope that the inevitable changes retain the dignity of the New York Public Library’s original purpose as a center of scholarly and civic life.