Reflections on April Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2023

This is the first time that The Big Jackfruit Tree is taking part in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. And the experience was awesome, to say the least. 

To start with, there was no question about the theme… it had to be about New York. After much thought, the criteria was decided… every day feature an attraction in the city (museum, monument, memorial, park, whatever) that is located within the five boroughs of NYC, entry is free during all open hours, and the location is reachable by public transit.

Here I’ve to express my thanks to my circle of friends for their suggestions and recommendations. There is no way I could have completed the list of without their help. So thank you! 

The next phase was the most interesting… visit each of the identified location and take photos. Happily, this was completed before winter and all I had to do was select the photos for use, adjust color, crop and resize, and add the copyright watermark. And of course, do the write-ups. What’s the hurry… the Challenge started only in April!

Whoever has participated in the Challenge knows the rest of the story… April rolls around, a-post-a-day is staring you in the face! And this was double trouble for me as our sister blog Pepper Route was also participating! For a month, life was on hold, fingers were on the keyboard, and eyes were going wonky. 

And at the end of it all when you have posted the Z… the immense joy, the satisfaction, the sense of achievement, makes it all worth the trouble. All I need now, is the T-shirt! 🙂

Somewhere around the letter M, I was thinking ‘never again’. At the end of the Challenge I’m already thinking of next year’s theme! 🙂

My only regret is that I could not return the visits and comments from many of my visitors. Lack of time is not an excuse, it is actually lack of planning, I know. All I can say is that I’ll do better next time around.

Hoping that the list of attractions will be useful to visitors to New York as well as to city dwellers, even though they might already be familiar with these, here I present you the list of April Blogging from A to Z Challenge posts.

a-is-for-american-folk-art – American Folk Art Museum 

b-is-for-bronx – The Bronx Museum of the Arts

c-is-for-castle – Castle Clinton National Monument

d-is-for-drawing – The Drawing Center

e-is-for-elevated – Elevated Acre… the Secret Garden!

f-is-for-federal – Federal Hall National Memorial

g-is-for-grant – General Grant National Memorial

h-is-for-hamilton – Hamilton Grange National Memorial

i-is-for-indigenous – National Museum of the American Indian 

j-is-for-jazz – The National Jazz Museum In Harlem

k-is-for-king – King Manor Museum

l-is-for-little – Little Island

m-is-for-maritime – Maritime Industry Museum

n-is-for-new-york – New York Public Library

o-is-for-old – The Old Stone House

p-is-for-park – Prospect Park

q-is-for-queens – Queens County Farm Museum

r-is-for-rockefeller – Rockefeller Center 

s-is-for-snug – Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

t-is-for-theodore – Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

u-is-for-union – Union Square Park

v-is-for-veterans – Vietnam Veterans Plaza

w-is-for-waterfront – Waterfront Museum

x-is-for-xception – Museum of Contemporary Art

y-is-for-yards – Hudson Yards

z-is-for-z-train – The Z Train

Thank you for your support, visits, and comments. See you all next year!


04 May 2023

Z is for Z Train

Located at Queens and Manhattan, New York

The Z Train

No series on New York attractions will be complete without an article on the Subway; so this is fulfilling that need, writing about the Z Train.

The New York Subway consists of more than 6,455 subway cars, 472 subway stations, and 665 miles of track. The subway trains collectively traveled about 331 million miles in 2021. They had an annual ridership of 760 million, with a weekday averaging to 2,369,655 riders, in 2021. 

The Z Train, also known as the Z Nassau Street Express, runs between Jamaica Center – Parsons/ Archer in Jamaica, Queens, and Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. This is the same line that is run by the J trains. 

The Z is an unusual line. It runs only on weekdays, only during peak periods in the morning and afternoon, and only in the peak direction. An express, it makes skip-stop service during those times with the J train, which operates at all times.

The complete schedule can be checked online.

Their route emblems called bullets, are colored brown. See the route color map of the Subway lines here: MTA Colors

The Z Train had its first run on December 11, 1988 when the BMT Archer Avenue Line opened, extending the line east from 121st Street to Jamaica Center–Parsons/Archer.

To make J/Z service more attractive, all trains on those lines consisted of refurbished subway cars that were more quiet, graffiti-free, and had improved lighting and new floors, were expected to have air-conditioning by the summer of 1989. The service was briefly suspended after the September 11 attacks in downtown Manhattan.

Due to budget problems, the MTA announced it would eliminate the Z Train service among other service cuts, in November 2008. However, after financial support came through legislation passed by the New York State Legislature in May 2009. And the Z Train continues its run today.

A wealth of information about the Subway and bus transport is available in the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn and the Transit Museum’s Gallery and Store in the Grand Central Terminal. Though this main museum is a paid visit museum, the Transit Museum’s Gallery and Store in the Grand Central Terminal is free to visit. The gallery is located just off the Main Concourse in the Shuttle Passage, adjacent to the Station Masters’ Office.

The gallery offers changing exhibitions and educational programming to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the cultural, social and technological history of public transportation in the New York metropolitan region. The store has a large selection of transit related publications, gifts, memorabilia, posters, and toys.

Currently on view at the Grand Central Gallery and Store is the exhibition about MTA’s latest program East Side Access which extends the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to the new Grand Central Madison station under Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side. The project is completed and full service began at the station on February 27, 2023.

This is the largest capital project in MTA’s history, and the first expansion of the Long Island Rail Road in over 100 years.  

The gallery is highlighting photographs by Patrick Cashin documenting the construction, and showcasing a model of the new terminal.

30 Apr 2023

Y is for Yards

Located at Midtown Manhattan, New York, NY 10001

Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards is a 28-acre mixed-use development on Manhattan’s West Side, between 10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Street. The development consists of two phases, the Eastern Yard which opened in March 2019, and the Western Yard which is expected to be completed in 2025. The Eastern Yard includes six high-rise office buildings; The Shed, an arts center; a shopping mall called The Shops and Restaurants; and the Vessel, an architectural showpiece.

Western Yard, when completed, will include additional residential, office, and retail space, as well as an elementary school. When both phases are completed, in 2025, the development is expected to encompass more than 18 million square feet of built space, with nearly 14 acres of open public space.

Located at the top of High Line, Hudson Yards is the biggest private real-estate development in U.S. history.

An interesting fact… Hudson Yards development is constructed above active railroad tracks! A ten-acre platform was devised to support the development, with facilities like special ventilation, cooling, stormwater retention, and plant-friendly smart soil. This complex platform weighs more than 35,000 tons and uses more than 25,000 tons of steel.

The area’s development history goes back to the arrival of railroads in the middle of the 19th century. The adjacent Hudson River docks also spurred growth, making it one of the bustling industrial district. However, after world war 2, the growth was reversed and the area went into decline, despite the construction of the Javits Center in the vicinity in 1986.

New York City planned to construct a new sports stadium for the Olympics, when the city started its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The plan included the extension of the 7 train to the area and an expansion of the Javits Center. For this purpose, the area was rezoned for new development in January 2005.

When the bid for the Olympics failed, the city decided to go on with the development that was possible with the rezoning, deciding on office and residential buildings instead of the sports stadium. With interest from private investors, the plans for the new Hudson yards development took shape and construction began in December 2012.

Planned as the centerpiece of Hudson Yards is the Vessel, a 16-story, 150-foot-tall spiral staircase-like structure in the middle of the Hudson Yards Public Square. 

Supposedly inspired by ancient Indian stepwells, the Vessel with its 54 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs offers views of the neighborhood from different heights, angles and vantage points. It consists of almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings.

Unfortunately, this structure is currently closed while safety measures are being tested, with no definite date fixed for reopening. Access to the ground-level base is open to the public.

Another attraction at the Hudson yards is the Edge, an outdoor sky deck, a triangular platform, 1,100 feet high, cantilevered from the top of 30.Suspended in mid-air, it provides visitors 360-degree views of Manhattan.

The Shed is an arts and cultural center with gallery spaces, an artists’ lab, and rehearsal spaces. It also houses The McCourt, a large theater that can seat an audience of more than 1200.

The shopping mall spans more than 700,000 square feet and is home to more than 70 luxury retailers. 

29 Apr 2023

X is for ‘Xception

Located at 158 Sterling Rd, Toronto ON, Canada A M6R 2B7
Museum Website: 

Museum of Contemporary Art

This is the exception that proves the rule… in other words, this post doesn’t stick with any of the theme rules… it is not in the five boroughs of New York City, it can’t be reached by the New York public transit system, and it is not free! So it is a true ‘Xception!

If there is one thing that is truly a representation of our current cultural moment, that would be art, more specifically our contemporary art, inclusive and interdisciplinary. Such is the base for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Toronto.

MOCA was born in the late 90s to provide Canadian artists an opportunity to manifest their internal voices. This space was created for artists to experiment with multilayered themes, diverse realities and complexities thriving in the cultural microcosm of this globalized city.

With multiple transformations since its inception, MOCA has set up roots in various parts of the city and thus brought a cultural dialogue into those neighborhoods. Initially located at Queen West, MOCA established its presence as a renowned art gallery of Toronto. Later, it moved to the current location, the heritage Auto building, that was designed by architect John W. Woodman of Winnipeg in 1919. This historical building was originally a factory that produced aluminum products for World War II and was known for its innovative architectural construction. In those days, it was the tallest building in the city and pioneering an innovative approach known as concrete flat slab architecture. Each floor is a slab of reinforced concrete and is supported by concrete columns.

During my visit to the museum, I was mesmerized by its external and internal architectural design. 

The museum had large barn doors with a blue metal window protruding out of the front face of building, which is an installation art by Ghazaleh Avarzamani.

There are some woderful exhibitions going on currently.

Kapwani Kiwanga – Remediation

The Canadian-French artist Kapwani Kiwanga`s survey exhibition Remediation showcases the artist’s work around environmental sustainability and conservation in the face of the political and economic turmoil. It delves into the interactions between humankind and nature and how the two while disrupting each other also provide remediation through unique ways of purge and sustenance to maintain ecological balance. 

The main exhibit, Elliptical field, is a site-specific arrangement of steel compositions covered in sisal fiber. This artistic installation is considered a contrast to the industrial space the museum housing in. It emphasizes the coexistence of the natural with the manmade and the duality of the world. 

Another exhibit that I found interesting is the balloon vivariums in different plant shapes that signaled a promising future, in which vivariums will be made to protect and support plant life rather than enclose and cage.

Other site-specific elements include a sculpted drywall with colored windows that give off a sense of blocking the concrete jungle outside to preserve the aesthetics inside. 

Athena Papadopoulos – The New Alphabet

The Greek-Canadian artist Athena Papadopoulos has two bodies of work titled Trees with No Sound and Bones for Time, which were created within the timespan of the Covid pandemic. Trees with No Sound are a set of sculptures recycled from the artist’s own belongings like furniture, clothing, stuffed objects, etc. to sew, meld, and paint materials into what ultimately looked like trees. Portraying the artist’s state of mind during the pandemic, the trees reflect a forest of fears stemming from the economic uncertainties and whether the artwork would be seen by the public. The artist aimed to pose the question whether a tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound. 

The title Bones for Time signifies a dual meaning, one that compares the trade-ins of the victims’ bodies for a reduced sentence during a criminal prosecution to working for hourly wages based on precarious labour practices. Bones for Time sculptures looked like archeological artifacts made in the shape of letters in the English alphabet. The artist traces her own body on unused hospital and wool blankets to compose solid structures, attached with a surreal meaning, that resemble various letters.

Susan for Susan – Trade Show 

This exhibition called trade show exhibition explores the balance between sculpture and product design. The collaborative design practice of John and Kevin Watts, of Susan for Susan design studio, present a visual language in an apartment interior using industrial materials and fine craftwork.

As an interconnected system, the installation includes seating, a table, shelving, a vanity, and lighting, suspended around a central column and hung from a gantry. It utilizes a wide range of industrial materials from aluminum and steel, to glass, wood and concrete. Matching function with creativity, the exhibits overlap the practices of art, architecture, and design.  

Matt Nish-Lapidus – Only the dreamer knows it (sound installation)

A Torontonian, the artist shares his memories of the industrial building before the museum occupied the space. This sound installation work comprises of three audio tracks, which are played along the three floors of the museum. The first floor audio replays the neighborhood sounds with rhythms and loops. The chord progression from the second floor recording simulates a sci-fi audio experience. On the third floor landing, the sci-fi tune is interrupted by rhythmic beats signifying how routine life can be disturbed by twists and turns, also pointing to the construction in the neighborhood.

28 Apr 2023

W is for Waterfront

Located at 290 Conover St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Museum Website:

Waterfront Museum

The Waterfront Museum, founded in 1985, is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It is housed aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The museum aims to preserve the city’s maritime history and waterfront traditions and promote an understanding of the importance of our water highway for commerce, carrying commuters, culture, and recreation. 

The museum provides free and low-cost opportunities for education, exhibition, and the performance arts abroad the barge.

Open year-round, the museum offers free tours every Thursday 4 to 8 pm and Saturday 1 to 5 pm. In addition, school and group tours are offered by appointment.

The barge was built in 1914, for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, to carry cargo across the New York Harbor. It is an example of transport prior to the container system, where cargo to and from ships had to be transported to the railroad depots for distribution or further transport. Barges were also used to transfer much of the freight from rail to water, and float it to its destination. It was done this way until a road system blanketed the region, and trucks took over the local distribution.

Lehigh Valley #79 is the only surviving example of its kind afloat today. 

The barge which was functioning till 1941, was acquired by David Sharps in 1985 and turned into a maritime museum. It had to undergo extensive repairs and refurbishing of the superstructure before it could be afloat and moved.

The historic vessel operated from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, Hoboken, Piermont, NY, and South Street Seaport in NYC, before moving to its permanent homeport Red Hook, Brooklyn in 1994.

A former dumping area into was transformed, with the help of volunteers, to an example of open space and waterfront development. 

The museum’s permanent collection includes artifacts that tell the story of the barge and what it used to be used for, a large collection of barge and ship models, and tons of information on maritime history and traditions.

The barge had a cabin on top where the barge captain and family would have lived. This cabin was cut off and put in the stern of the barge as the captain’s quarters. David Sharps also built up the belowdecks part of the barge where his family lived.

The museum holds several arts programs for youth and entertainment programs throughout the year. An area of the main deck has been transformed as a stage for this purpose. You can see a list of upcoming events on the museum’s website.

As barges do not have engines, they have to be towed around by tug boats. The Waterfront Museum has an interesting collection of tug boat signs on its walls.

Another attraction is the bell board of the Orange Ferry that ran between Beacon and Orange.

A large sign ‘Women’ did not indicate the ladies’ room, but the half of the boat where women could go on. 

A cute little flower patch grows in shoes on the outside deck of the museum.

During the barge’s functioning years, cargo was carried on the main deck. You can see the barn door and the hatches through which cargo was handled in and out.

It is interesting to see the ‘Fender’, a rope contraption created by wrapping rope over rope, and used over the sides to protect the vessels as well as the dock.

A beautiful George Rhoads audio kinetic ball machine adds to the charm of the place. And the views… the Verrazzano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty… there is nothing to beat the views from the barge.

27 Apr 2023