Anomalies and Icons of NYC
New York City is a city like no other and we would not dare to call it normal. And yet, after living here for years, the city does tend to ‘normalize’ around us. Still, we wondered – what anomalies exist in this crazy city and can actually capture the attention of even the most harried New Yorkers? And more importantly, what do they stand to gain by going against the norm?
1. BROADWAY Broadway is an urban planning anomaly. Beginning as a Native American trail cutting through the topography, the street now runs diagonally through the rigid, orthogonal street grid of Manhattan, yielding little bow-tie plazas such as Father Duffy Square, Greeley Square, and of course – the Flatiron Building.
2. DATA SKYSCRAPERS As we grow more dependent on cloud technology and interconnectivity, we also require more structures to house everything from servers and electrical systems to motherboards and cooling systems. Datacenters (or data skyscrapers, as they exist in New York) such as the AT&T Long Lines Building and the Verizon Building represent the physical manifestation of our virtual world. For the most part, they have been designed or re-purposed for machinery rather than mankind, as evidenced by their windowless facades and lack of ornamentation. The result? A solid fortress amongst the glass towers that can allegedly survive a nuclear fallout.
3. THE INFLATABLE RAT Inflatable rats are not unique to New York and are not, in fact, a unique marketing campaign by an exterminator (as I once believed). They are an extremely eye-catching, larger-than-life way for labor unions to protest work sites using non-union labor, without relying on signs and picket lines – this vermin is worth a thousand words.
4. DEAD HORSE BAY Dead Horse Bay in the Rockaways is not just a stretch of sand with a littering problem. Instead, it is a necropolis of possessions resulting from slum-clearing actions taken by Robert Moses in the 1930s. Because the landfill was not capped properly, the garbage has been continually trickling into the bay and washing ashore for the past 60 years. Dubbed ‘The Weirdest Beach in NYC,’ Dead Horse Bay has become an unexpected hotspot for New Yorkers looking not to sunbathe, but to scavenge for old-fashioned bottles and everyday items from a past era.
5. OLDE GOOD THINGS TRUCK. New York City is brimming with antique stores, but there is one with a particularly strong advertising strategy. Rather than relying on foot traffic through their stores, Olde Good Things brings the goods out to where the foot traffic already is: the streets of New York. Driving around in an open-air semi truck and showcasing some of their more interesting items, the truck is a showroom on wheels, a roaming billboard, and an accidental icon all at the same time.
6. THE MITZVAH TANK. Sticking with the vehicular theme, the Mitzvah Tank is another example of something deviates from the norm of both a ‘synagogue’ and a ‘recreational vehicle.’ Equipped with a loudspeaker and vinyl graphic wraps, the Mitzvah Tank is a means for the Chabad Lubavitch group of Hasidic Jews to engage (and entertain) passersby on the city sidewalks to promote the ‘mitzvah’ or commitment. As if the sight and sounds of one ‘Tank’ isn’t strange enough, wait until the day you witness the entire Mitzvah Tank Parade rolling through town.
7. EAST VILLAGE MOSAIC TRAIL. You have heard of the Oregon Trail (dysentery, anyone?) and the Freedom Trail, but do you know about the Mosaic Trail? Located in the East Village and continuing along St. Mark’s Place between Astor Place and Avenue A, are a series of telephone poles, sidewalk pavers, and lamp posts that have been bedazzled by local ‘Mosaic Man’ Jim Power beginning in the 1980s. Deemed as ‘graffiti’ by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and as ‘beautification by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mosaics are slowly disappearing as their street fixture homes are removed or replaced by the city.
8. FLY BY NIGHT. We end with an experience actually designed to make New Yorkers take notice and look up. On weekends through June 12, artist Duke Riley is converting the everyday pigeon (aka New York’s ‘spirit animal’) into a spectacular event taking place over Brooklyn. Attaching an LED to the leg of each bird, Riley’s team then releases the troop of 2000 trained pigeons who trace patterns and light trails in the night sky, returning to their coops when signaled. The goal of this unusual show is to help change New Yorkers’ opinion of the lowly pigeon and also inspire people ‘to re-imagine their relationshipto their city and their neighbors.’