Adopt a building on the Panorama of the City of New York

Now's your chance to buy a little piece of New York real estate. The Panorama of the City of New York at Queen's Museum of Art is looking for people to adopt a building. Built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Panorama is a huge model of the city - 9,335 square foot in all, with 895,000 individual structures. I saw it a couple of years ago and it was one of the highlights of a truly great trip to New York. It's so meticulous - so detailed and so big. The effort that went into building it is mind-boggling.

So, starting at $50 you can buy a building, or pay more and you can name a school, library or 'firehouse'. More details on the sale from Queen's Museum, more photos in the Panorama's Flickr stream. Money raised helps to pay for its upkeep.

The Panorama of the City of New York

The Panorama of the City of New York, the amazingly-detailed model of New York City built for the 1964 World's Fair has its own Flickr photostream. The lovely people at Queens Museum of Art, where it lives are putting up some great photos, old and new. It would be great if every city had one of these. Seeing it on my first day in New York really helped me understand how the city was set out. I could have cheerfully gazed at it all day but there's so much to see in Flushing Meadows Park which surrounds it (The Unisphere, the ruined New York State pavilion, a Buckminster Fuller-designed aviary) that there's a good incentive to get out into the actual-sized world again.

Yonah Schimmel's Knishery

The thing I liked best about New York, out of a lot of good things, was the food. It was always tasty, and I experimented with a few new things. For example:

  • Bubble tea - A Taiwanese phenomenon where tapioca "pearls" are added to tea. I had a cold green tea, with black pearls which popped up the straw into my mouth. I was spared tapioca as a child so the bogey-like texture was literally something new to chew. It wasn't nice particularly, but it was interesting.
  • Root beer - I'd never had root beer either, but imagined it would taste like ginger beer. Ho no. It tastes like Germolene. I've been caught out before in the US by chewing gum or sweets that look like they're going to be minty but taste like this. What a peculiar flavour. Is this what sasparilla tastes like?
  • A knish - from Yonah Schimmel's knishery on the Lower East Side. Being full after a spectacular doughnut from The Doughnut Plant along the road, I bought a cheese and apple one to eat later. Was it a mistake to try one cold? It was really sweet (too sweet for me and that's saying something) and made out of the densest substance known to man, like cold, hard mashed potato.
  • Egg cream - my adventures with egg cream were more successful. A blend of ice cold (almost frozen) milk, seltzer water (is that the same as soda?) and syrup - no egg or cream - tastes like ice cream soda. Must be lovely in the summer. I got a chocolate one from the Gem Spa Newsstand on 2nd Avenue, which proudly proclaims to sell the best egg cream in New York. If you want to make your own here's the recipe.

The other thing I mean to try was canoli. Boxes of it are always being ferried about in The Sopranos, and it could be anything for all I know. Sweet, savoury - it's a mystery. So I found out it's a sort of cream cake, which I didn't really fancy. The mystery is solved though.

The General Assembly

As predicted I had a ball in New York. What a great place. The icing on the cake was spending 3 days at a conference in the United Nations Headquarters. I got the impression most of the delegates took the surroundings for granted, while I was obsessing over the typography, the chairs and the general ephemera of international relations, 1950s-style.


In the conference room there were two rows of chairs in different colours - one row for delegates, the second for alternates. The desks had little microphones, an earpiece and a space for a nameplate if I'd been a country there on diplomatic business. The nameplates were sitting out at the back in a huge pile, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with the Holy See sitting out on top.

Phone booths

Outside the conference room there were these phone boxes, and the best thing was they usually had two or three people in national dress in them, making an urgent call. It was like an old film. And everything else in the building was beautiful. The assembly rooms are spectacular, in a Cold War, Dr Strangelove kind of way. It's a combination of modernist aesthetics with the most beautiful colours and fantastic detail - classic typography, muted lighting and great seating.


It was hard to do it all justice without a better camera but here's the United Nations Flickr set. There are much better picures in The UN Building by Ben Murphy, some of which are also on his website. The book also has the background on how it was built - the committee of international architects, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer among them must have tested diplomatic protocol to its limits before the place was even built.

No idling

I haven't finished with my last holiday yet, but am thinking about my next trip. To New York in a week or so, for work. Yes, I know how lucky I am. It's my first visit there and I have a day and a half free. What should I do? Where should I go? What should I see? I don't have much money and am pretty worn out at the moment so don't feel like doing much - no art museums or anything too taxing. I'd like to wander about, eat some interesting food, and see something amazing. I'll be staying near the UN if that makes any difference. Grateful as always for your collective wisdom.

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