These days most people consider gardening a hobby. However, back in the early days of the 20th century, just about 100 years ago, it was a pastime of great interest among the wealthier classes. In the case of one man, Samuel Untermyer, his passion for horticulture was in a league of its own.
Untermyer, who lived in Yonkers, was a partner in a prominent New York City law firm. As a corporate lawyer, his career was very lucrative. Samuel Untermyer is noted as the first lawyer to make a million dollars from a single legal case. In addition to that he was an astute investor, and became very wealthy.
With his fortune, Mr. Untermyer built one of the most splendid gardens anywhere in the world. Unlike most wealthy people who simply enjoyed gardening, Samuel Untermyer became an expert on horticulture. He also had an appreciation for Indo-Persian architecture, which is apparent in the design of his garden.
At one point Untermyer employed 60 gardeners to maintain the 150-acre property. His garden soon became a popular spectacle. It was such a significant attraction that on one day in 1939, a year prior to Untermyer's death, 30,000 people came out to visit.
When Untermyer died at the age of 82, he willed his garden to the State of New York. Today the Untermyer's Garden is operated by the City of Yonkers which collaborates with a conservancy whose mission is to fulfill Mr. Untermyer's last wish for the garden. He merely wanted it to be the most exquisite garden in the world.
Although the present garden is only a third the size it was in Untermyer's day, the portion which remains open to the public is beautiful and well maintained throughout the year. During the holiday season, there is a spectacular light show which draws thousands of visitors from throughout the tri-state region.
It is the ambition of Stephen F. Byrn, the president and founder of the Untermyer Conservancy to restore the garden to its glory days. The Untermyer Park and Garden are free to enter. However, there are tours of the garden, and they cost between $10 and $25.
The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy is a gem hidden on the hills above the east bank of the Hudson River. From that vista some of the most breathtaking views of the river below may be observed. For the overall beauty and peaceful quiet of this place, I highly recommend it as a day travel destination. Samuel Untermyer did a wonderful thing for the people of the New York metropolitan area when he gifted his garden to us. It was a thoughtful gift which has continued to bloom for eight decades now and counting.
Click on this moovit link for direction to the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy via public transit.
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It was a typically hot and muggy August day in upper Manhattan. A band of fast thinking wise guys from Canarsie had planned a meet up with a Dutchman from out of town. They intended to engage in the biggest fraud and misrepresentation in real estate history. The plan was to sell a piece of property which they did not own to a motivated buyer who had not bothered to ask to see the deed to the land in question.
The year was 1626 and there was no deed, because the wise guys were a band from the Canarsie Tribe of the Lenape Nation. The Lenape did not know of the concept of buying and selling land back then. But the traveling swindlers from across the river knew a good deal when they saw one. So, when Peter Minuit, the director of the Dutch North America Colony of New Netherland offered to pay them 60 guilders worth of beads and metal items in exchange for the entire Island of Manhattan, they accepted as fast as they might have had Minuit offered to pay for all the sunshine on Earth.
The “$24 worth of beads” narrative is usually told to make the Lenape seem like the innocent victims of the Dutch Colonist. The truth is that the group who Peter Minuit dealt with were merely in Manhattan hunting. If Minuit wanted to purchase Manhattan legitimately, there were numerous local bands of the Lenape who lived in settlements on Manhattan Island year-round. Instead, for some reason, these travelers from Canarsie were able to convince him and his delegation to meet them in upper Manhattan. There, in what is now Inwood Park, they consummated their deal.
Incidentally, Manhattan which the Lenape called Manhantes, and the Dutch changed to Mannahata, was sold for the equivalent of $1,025 in today’s money according to scholars. The Canarsie Lenape were not foolish savages as the legend would have you believe. If anything, they were opportunistic hustlers, but in the big picture, they shot themselves in the foot. In time these same Dutch Settlers would establish New Amsterdam and overrun the Lenape.
The region, which today is known as the New York metropolitan area, was once known as Lenapehoking or the land of the Lenape. By the time the British seized control of New Amsterdam and changed its name to New York, many of the Lenape had been killed off as a result of conflicts with Dutch settlers leading to bloodshed and retribution on both sides. The woes of the Lenape didn’t end there, unfortunately. The remnants of the Lenape nation were eventually banished from their ancestral lands and sent to live on reservations in Wisconsin and Oklahoma by the U.S. government as part of the native American Removal Act of 1830.
It is a sad story, but one which we cannot forget. That brings me to today’s day trip. I recommend that anytime you are down near Battery Park you should take a moment to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. The museum houses several exhibits showcasing native American art and culture. A 45-minute walk through will allow enough time for you to enjoy and absorb them all.
There is no better place to appreciate the culture and history of the Lenape and the many other Native American tribes who once called this land their home. We live in a different time and may find it difficult to justify what became of them. However, that does not mean that we should ignore that part of our history. There are lessons to be learned from the past. To benefit from them fully, we must face our history with sincerity.
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There are more former American presidents buried in New York (six in all) than in any other state in the Union. Interred inconspicuously most go unnoticed by we the living. However, there is a notable exception. One of them has a massive monument built of white marble in his honor.
Taking a drive down the West Side Highway, it is impossible not to notice the grave marker of our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant. The man who saved the Union and fought to free 4,000,000 former slaves during the Civil War. Following the conflict he oversaw reconstruction and promoted civil rights. A term which had not yet become popular in the American lexicon. In short, President Grant laid the post-bellum foundation upon which modern American society stands.
The people's gesture of gratitude to President Grant in 1897, 12 years after his death, was the completion of the biggest mausoleum in North America. Today Grant’s Tomb is the final resting place for both he and his wife, the former first lady, Julia Grant. Mrs. Grant lived 17 years beyond the death of the president who died in 1885 at the age of 63. She was entombed beside him in 1902 shortly after passing away at the age of 76.
Today’s day trip suggestion is a visit to Grant’s Tomb, to pay respect to the memory of President and Mrs. Grant. It is a quiet, and beautiful part of the city. Situated upon a hill in the area of Manhattan called Morningside Heights. The mausoleum overlooks the Hudson River. I’m sure that the President and his wife would approve of the site selected for their final resting place. However, it is we who should feel highly honored to have them here with us. Upon visiting this hallowed ground, you will sense what I am alluding to. Grant's tomb may honor the dead, but it is a place where history lives.
Rightfully the Grants might have requested to be entered in Ohio where the general was born. Or, this beautiful mausoleum might have been built on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery where many of the soldiers who fought under his command lie. Instead, the president and Mrs. Grant have come to rest here with us in the City of New York.
We must also consider that at the end of his life Ulysses S. Grant was living as a retired statesman in a small town in Upstate New York called Wilton. He and Mrs. Grant had become New Yorkers and made a home for themselves here. So, it is only fitting that they would stay with us. Because, home is where the heart is, and that is always the best place to rest.
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New York’s three major airports, JFK, Newark-Liberty, and La Guardia, have served the metropolitan area for years. However, the Big 3 are buckling under the volume of passengers they are each serving. It’s time for the New York Metropolitan area to add another option to the mix. Fortunately for us, the heavy lifting has already been done.
In 2007, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) took control of Stewart International Airport in Orange County. The Port Authority is the government agency responsible for all three of the major airports in the region. The people running that agency understand better than anyone the immediate needs of the aviation sector in our region.
The 20 million people living in metro New York today exist in the midst of some of the most active air traffic on the planet. The passenger figures flying in and out of the tri-state are colossal:
JFK 59 million passengers
Newark 43 million passengers
La Guardia 30 million passengers
The plan is for Stewart International Airport to expand as the region continues to grow over the next several decades. Although Stewart International is only handling half a million passengers as of 2018, the airport's present capacity is 2.5 million passengers, which it will soon outgrow.
The Port Authority intends to invest $11 billion in aviation improvements between now and 2028. A considerable portion of that investment will go towards expanding the capacity of the terminal at Stewart International. The Port Authority's goal for Stewart is to increase its passenger volume by 1 million travelers per year for each of the next ten years. The end game is for Stewart to eventually handle as much air traffic as any of the other three major area airports, if not more.
On the way to that objective, a direct rail link to Manhattan is a necessary part of the plan. The rail link will either connect with Grand Central Station or Penn Station. A conventional commuter train could move passengers up and down the Hudson River Valley to and from Stewart Airport in an hour and a half. That’s approximately 30 minutes more than it takes a taxi from midtown to reach JFK.
What it all means is more convenience for the traveling public. Tourist, business people, and New Yorkers entering and leaving New York City will have a much more enjoyable experience. Flying from Stewart International in the future, there will be no more anxiety-producing traffic on the Van Wyck or the New Jersey Turnpike for fear of missing your flight.
So, today’s day trip is not to a place. Instead, it is a mind flight to a time in the not too distant future when congestion at the metro New York airports will be a thing of the past. I have little doubt that Stewart Airport will eventually achieve its full potential as the tri-state area’s fourth major airport. I hope to fly out of Stewart one day. You and I may even be on the same flight seated beside one another. If so I’ll let you have the window seat.
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Not long ago Long Island City (LIC) was a place where New Yorkers traveled to earn their daily bread. LIC was one of the leading industrial areas of New York City for much of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1970s when that all began to change, as many factories shut down in search of greener pastures overseas where labor was more affordable. When the factories began closing the jobs evaporated. Things did not look good for this part of Queens.
Thus, New York City’s urban planners got busy reinventing the neighborhood at the foot of the 59th street Bridge. By the end of the 1980s the city had rezoned LIC. It was decided that LIC would work best as a residential zone due to its proximity to midtown Manhattan.
Since that time billions of redevelopment dollars have poured into the neighborhood to build housing. In some instances, former industrial buildings have undergone a makeover. They’re now repurposed as sleek residential condominiums. However, down where the East River meets the borough of Queens an entirely new world has emerged. The industrial past of Long Island City is in the process of being erased.
Scanning west from Court Square, the Citicorp Building is no longer alone in the skyline looking towards Manhattan from Queens. The first of many tall apartment buildings, Citylights, which was erected in 1998 has been followed by several others since then. There are many more in the process of being built, and others are in the planning stages. That is the vision of what will eventually make up this turn-of-the-century district called Queens West.
One of the most appealing aspects of living in Queens West is already in place. It is Hunter’s Point Park South, which brings us to today’s day trip suggestion. Situated on the east bank of the East River immediately across from the United Nations, Hunter’s Point Park South provides a spectacular view of Manhattan from Long Island City.
At sunset Hunter's Point Park South is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is difficult to imagine that this was all part of an abandoned industrial waterfront a mere ten years before. The Park’s Department does a fantastic job maintaining Hunter's Point Park South. Across from the park there's an outdoor cafe called LIC Landing. It's a super convenient outdoor spot for coffee and a bite to eat.
I have no reservations about advising you to visit Hunter’s Point South Park. The only way to completely appreciate the Manhattan skyline is from this vantage point. As the sun begins to set, and the lights start turning on, Queens uniquely reveals the spectacle that is New York City at night. For that reason Hunter's Point is one of my favorite places in the city, and I’m sure you will appreciate it as much as I do.
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Click on this moovit link for directions to Hunter’s Point Park South via public transportation.