Sunday, November 27, 2011

Historic House: Gracie Mansion

Today Gracie Mansion is the elegant of the Mayor of New York City, but it was not always that way.
Winter at Gracie Mansion

Built in 1799 as the gracious home of prosperous New York businessman Archibald Gracie, it was constructed 5 miles north of the City at a scenic bend in the East River.

Gracie was forced to sell his country house in 1823, and the property was purchased and sold several times until the City of New York took possession of the estate in 1896. The house was made a part of the newly-established 11 acre Carl Schurz Park.

The building was used as a concession stand and bathrooms for the park, and then became the place where the Museum of the City of New York was first housed. When the museum moved Gracie Mansion became an historic house museum  run by New York’s Parks Department.

During the tenure of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and under his influence the City was convinced to make Gracie Mansion into the official residence of the mayor of New York. In 1942 Mayor Fiorello H. La Gurardia became the first New York mayor to live there.

In 1966 the house was expanded, and in 1981 the Gracie Mansion Conservancy was created. In 1981 and 1984 major restorations were made on the house.  Again in 2002 restoration was done, creating the “People’s House” which is more accessible to the public and to City agencies. The mansion is also sometimes used to host visiting dignitaries, such as First Lady Rosalynn Carter and even South African President Nelson Mandela.

Visitors are welcome to tour the mansion. There are general tours which last 45 minutes and charge a fee; Tea tours can be arranged for large groups of between 25 and 50 visitors for a fee of $25 per person; and school children are welcome to visit the historic site for free as part of an organized class trip.

For more information go to “A Visit to Gracie Mansion, The People’s House.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Delicious French Cuisine at the Tree Bistro

At 190 1st Avenue, in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village, is a French Cuisine restaurant that stands alone.

The Tree Bistro prided itself on its homemade, in-house food preparation, with only the freshest ingredients, prepared exactly to order.  Indoor dining is in the intimate dining room, while it is possible, weather permitting, to enjoy your scrumptious meal in the canopied and walled garden. And if you just don’t feel like venturing outside your cozy abode, The Tree Bistro has delivery service.

New York Magazine reviewed the Tree in April, 2007 and had this to say, in part:

“[she] wandered in one night just before curtain at Theater for the New City down First Avenue and found chef-owner Andrew Robinson eating at the bar. ‘I’ll have what you’re having,’ she said, ‘if I can eat and be out in twenty minutes.’ Now she’s hooked on his crusty short ribs atop bow-tie pasta—a variation of the menu version with its wonderfully savory chorus of root vegetables.”

Check out their web site or call 212-358-7171.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oasis in the Village

The Creative Little Garden is a tranquil space set aside for the use of anyone who feels a desire to get away from   stress of life in New York City, even for just a few precious moments. The Garden is found at 530 East Sixth Street, between Avenue A and B, and is open from 11am until 6pm every day from April to October, with longer hours during the months of summer.

The garden was begun in 1982 after the building that had been on the site burned down and was demolished in the early 70s. Francoise Cachelin was the leader of the project; she was an outspoken supporter of individual and community rights, making a name for herself as a member of the French resistance during World War II . She was able to gain help from  city officials to begin the garden, and although she died in 2003, she still inspires the volunteers from the neighborhood who continue to maintain the beauty and peace found at the Creative Little Garden.

In May 2011 the Creative Little Garden was officially designated as a National Wildlife Federation Habitat, meeting all the requirements of providing food, water, cover and places to safely raise young for local wildlife.

The Garden is operated under the auspices of the NYC Parks Department, through its special “Greenthumb” program. The Garden receives a bit of support from the NYC Council on the Environment and elsewhere for construction and maintenance, voluntary donations being the sole method of funding for the Garden. There are expenses despite the fact that there is no salaried staff. All donations are tax-deductible.

In the months of November and December hours are more limited, with closures during especially windy days, or rain, and of course closed for snow or when the temperature plunges below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The garden is always closed before dark.