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Last month, Brooklyn real estate broker Dan Levy proposed a system of gondola lifts to ferry people between Manhattan and quickly growing waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Dubbed the East River Skyway, the proposal is modeled as a sort of juiced up Roosevelt Island Tram. Levy envisions the system connecting South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan to Dumbo and the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, up to Williamsburg and across again to the Lower East Side, and a final stretch extending the Roosevelt Island tram over to Long Island City in Queens. He estimates the entire project could cost $225 million to $375 million, and could transport 5,000 commuters per hour per direction, with cars arriving every 30 to 40 seconds.

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There are many, many secrets to Grand Central Terminal as you may have read in our ever popular article on the Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central. One we haven’t mentioned before is the access to the famous Tiffany Clock, which is the largest Tiffany clock in the world at 13 feet in diameter. Our Instagram friend, urbanaldarkness, has been exploring some incredible spaces around New York City and recently shared his visit inside and atop the clock.

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Masonic-hall-grand-lodge-room-nyc-untappedThe Grand Lodge Room

We’ve always been curious about the Freemasons, and even more so about the Grand Lodge of New York situated on a bustling 23rd street in Chelsea. So that we could learn about the the ancient and mysterious fraternal order without joining, we toured their Masonic Hall, home to the Grand Lodge of New York (more formally the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons). Often thought of as a secret society, they actually boast a large flag in the middle of Manhattan and insist “Our big secret is that we have no secrets.” Nevertheless, no one is really sure of what goes on in this grand Masonic Hall unless they’re “in.”

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Walking the hallways of an abandoned hospital would give anyone shivers. But what if throughout the tour, apparitions from times past unexpectedly appeared in the adjoining rooms, windows, and staircases? We visited the South Side hospital complex on Ellis Island, the site of Unframed, an installation by Parisian street artist JR that opened on October 1st.

Artist JR is known for his large scale photographs in places accessible to the public view, like New York City’s Times Squarethe Pantheon in Paris, and the favelas of Brazil. The hospital site has been off-limits to the public, apart from special visits like our coverage for the 2012 Partners in Preservation campaign. For a short time, it will only be accessible through a  guided “hard-hat” tour.  The tours are capped at 10 people and tickets are sold out thorough November, but tickets are still available into April 2015. So why would JR choose such an exclusive site that requires a hard-won reservation to visit?

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5Pointz-Interior Demolition-Rooftop-StreetArt-Long Island City-Queens-Urban Exploration-NYCFall 2014-0185Pointz from 3rd floor of demolition. Photo by franklyfrank

The last time we heard from urban explorer __Macgyver and his crew, they were creating pyrotechnic fire art in New York City’s abandoned subway stations. This time, they’ve hit up the demolition at the beloved street art haven, 5Pointz which was whitewashed last year. In an evening raid, __MacgyverMr_Dume, Jenyc_photography, _Fabricios_franklyfrank and thompsonlxs_ capture what they describe to us as “a last hoorah” for 5Pointz. According to __Macgyver, 5Pointz “literally looked like it was blown away by a tornado.” Yet some of the street art was still intact. With a central building already down and the rest prepared for the wrecking ball, it is likely that 5Pointz will come down imminently.

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Peeking into courtyards is a great way to explore a town literally going beyond the surface of a destination. From pocket parks in New York City to “Jardins” in Barcelona, such little oases help us escape overcrowded city lives. But if many of New York’s pocket parks are corporate-backed and designed down to the most minute details and Barcelona’s “jardins” are something out of the most creative dreams of landscape gardeners, Rome’s hidden inner courtyards were meant to recreate the atmosphere of the village’s main square. They are places where you can hang out the laundry, let the kids play all day long, and where neighborhood relationships are built. You can find these hidden gems of beauty both within the medieval buildings of the city center and in the suburbs of Rome, especially in those suburban neighborhoods planned as garden cities. Here are 5 of our favorite destinations in Rome:

1. Arco Degli Acetari | Campo de’ Fiori

top-5 hidden courtyards of Rome campo de fiori untapped cities giulia blocal

This is probably one of the most famous hidden courtyards of Rome, portrayed in many postcards and featured in several movies. You can enter it from a striking passage from via del Pellegrino just few blocks away from the popular piazza Campo de’ Fiori. Here the time seems to have stopped; you will find a characteristic hand-cart parked in the middle of the courtyard and some sleepy cats resting on the outer stairs of the beautiful medieval buildings.

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