With nearly all of New York’s attractions having reopened following the worst of the pandemic, Chol HaMoed Sukkos is an ideal time to see what’s new at some of your favorite parks, museums, and neighborhoods. Closer to home, there are plenty of places to explore. In no particular order, I give you a brief guide to our hometown borough and beyond.
Located on the same block as the active Kaufman Studios, this museum is filled with film technology artifacts going back more than a century. Aside from a century of film technology, the museum is popular for its ongoing Jim Henson exhibit that includes props used for the Muppets and Sesame Street. I had no idea that famed director Stanley Kubrick was born in the Bronx. An exhibit on 2001: A Space Odyssey contains artifacts from 1968 and how he envisioned space travel would appear at the turn of the millennium.
Located inside a building designed for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, its top attraction is the Panorama of New York City, the largest architectural model in the world. If you have relatives coming in from out of town and there is no time to take them on a tour of the five boroughs, the Panorama will suffice. I’ve done this for my family members. Instead of sitting in traffic to visit Manhattan, your Panorama visit should be followed up with a group photo with the country’s largest globe, the unofficial symbol of our borough. This year’s exhibit, Ambitious Slogans and Colorful Promises: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, contains art and artifacts from a year when Flushing Meadows hosted countries, companies, and organizations, with promises of “Peace Through Understanding.” On view through January 30, 2022.
Sixth floor of Queens Gymnasia
60-05 Woodhaven Boulevard
Call Aron Aronov at 718-897-4124
Many of our readers either know Bukharian Jews as neighbors or happen to be themselves Bukharian, so why does there need to be a museum? For historian Aron Aronov, it is a place to tell the stories of families through artifacts collected over the course of a quarter century, resulting in the narrative of a community. What began as a collection in his basement is now in a school where the next generation of leaders in this community learns about their heritage. Numerous diplomats, politicians, philanthropists, and regular people have been here. As a historian, I find Aronov’s do-it-yourself museum an inspiration, and so do many larger museums, which often borrow his artifacts for their exhibits on Central Asian Jews.
When Liberty Science Center and the American Museum of Natural History had reopened, Queens residents kept asking, “When is our turn?” In July, this former World’s Fair pavilion reopened with a hands-on exhibit, The Happiness Experiment, where visitors ask what makes them happy, and the answers can be surprising. Inside the historic Great Hall, the interactive Connected Worlds feels like an indoor park with virtual plants and a waterfall that move with your hands. The mini-golf course was beautifully restored, while the outdoor Science Playground is covered with weeds and moss, without any certainty on its reopening.
Unfortunately, the flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida forced the museum to shut its doors again. Will the Hall of Science reopen for Chol HaMoed? Keep checking its website and social media.
Outside the Hall of Science is a herd of fiberglass cows covered in art, inspired by the Cow Parade of 2000. They will be on view through September 30, as they are being auctioned for charity.
This museum defines the term “neighborhood celebrity.” From 1943 until his death in 1971, this townhouse was home to the world’s leading jazz musician, one who gave free lessons and bought ice cream for local children. The inside is nearly untouched from the day of his death. A guide pushes a button and Satchmo’s voice gives you tidbits on his life along with a few tunes from his cornet. It’s as if he never left the place.
Sure our borough has plenty of green rooftops, community gardens, backyard plots, and windowsill spices, but the largest and last true farm in the borough is in Floral Park, taking up 47 acres. In operation since 1697, this farm has livestock, heavy farm machinery, planting fields, and a vineyard. Events on its calendar include a children’s carnival, antique motor show, and a Native American pow-wow.
The newest item here is the Con Edison Reading Room, which transformed a storage shack into a one-room schoolhouse filled with books on farming and gardening and a few toys for the youngest visitors. The farm also has the city’s only corn maze with a design inspired by the art of Andy Warhol, open for exploring through October 30.
A pristine peninsula at the borough’s northeast tip surrounds a preserved Civil War fortress. Feel the breeze of salt air from the Long Island Sound as you walk through the tunnels connecting the fortress with the park. As the park still shares the peninsula with a National Guard Reserve base and a Fire Department training academy, you may still pass by companies of young recruits jogging to humorous rhymes barked out by their drill instructors.
Amid the wild dunes that appear as hilltops are concrete installations that were designed to protect New York during both World Wars and the Cold War. Decommissioned in 1974, Fort Tilden is a unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, a series of federally administered parks ringing the city’s oceanic shores. Along with vacant military structures, Fort Tilden has a pristine beach filled with seashells and wildlife.
Take A Boat
If you are not comfortable taking the subway to Manhattan, and the expansion of bike lanes means fewer parking spots in the city’s business districts, you can take a boat for the same cost as a bus or subway. It is an affordable, outdoor, and scenic way to get around the city. NYC Ferry has docks in Astoria, Hunters Point South, and Rockaway Park, connecting to Roosevelt Island, East 34th Street, East River Park, Wall Street, and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
My favorite route runs from Rockaway Park to Wall Street, which runs past Coney Island, below the Verrazzano Bridge, and past the Statue of Liberty on its way to the Financial District. At the tip of Manhattan, one can ride the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park, where marine life takes the role of sculptural horses. Across the street from this park is the free-admission Museum of the American Indian, where displays relating to indigenous Americans coexist with beaux arts architecture from the turn of the 20th century.
New and Reopened Sights in Manhattan
If you’re willing to elbow your way through the crowds of Manhattan on Chol HaMoed, there are some attractions that recently opened and have quickly become part of the city’s fabric. You’re not the first to snap a selfie here, but why wait any longer?
Within walking distance of the High Line and the Whitney Museum is a privately financed concrete island elevated on pilings above the Hudson River. It offers winding trails with unique views of the city, but more likely it is a place to see the fashionable crowd of Manhattanites and foreign tourists excited about the city’s newest green spot. From the southern tip of Little Island, one can see construction on Gansevoort Peninsula, a former sanitation garage that is also on its way to becoming a park, the latest addition to the ribbon of green spaces on the Hudson River on Manhattan’s west side.
Accessible by the 7 train at its West 34th Street-Hudson Yards terminus, this is Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Predictably, the honeycomb-shaped staircase tower known as The Vessel is closed on account of too many tragic incidents that took place there, but you can pose for a photo below this 16-story sculpture.
More creative in its design is The Shed, a performance space with a retractable wall and roof that moves on rails. A couple of blocks north of West 34th Street, Hudson Yards Park, recently renamed after local politician Bella Abzug, has a postmodern-style playground and park landscaping by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the architect whose other post-millennial works include Brooklyn Bridge Park and Teardrop Park. This new neighborhood of glass box towers and condos connects on its south to the High Line, and one can then walk a mile downtown above the streets without leaving the park.
One of the world’s greatest art museums has something for everyone, but if you are not into classical sculptures and art history, it has exhibits on more recent American art. Baseball Cards from the Collection of Jefferson R. Burdick represents the largest collection of such items outside of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it certainly has artistic value spanning the period between the 1880s and 1950s. Who could have imagined that the namesake, an electrician from Syracuse, would have his collection on display at The Met? Posthumous fame indeed!
On the opposite side of the longevity spectrum is P.S. Art 2021, an exhibit of art produced by 289 of the city’s public-school students, selected from more than 800 entries. Their art reflects the views, hopes, and fears of the post-millennial generation.
This project was a dream of its namesake, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who sought to restore the grandeur of Penn Station that was lost in the 1960s when competition from automobiles and the construction of Madison Square Garden infamously doomed the palatial station. Taking up vacant space inside the Farley Post Office, this train hall features a soaring skylight, sculptural clock and murals that honor the city’s architecture. Gradually, retailers are moving in, and Midtown has its newest indoor place to meet.
Battery Park is filled with monuments documenting the city’s 400-year history, such its explorers, builders, immigrants, and heroes. It also has a lawn, garden, and carousel, enough things to see that one may miss the boat to Liberty Island. At the corner where Battery Park meets Battery Park City is Pier A, the long-neglected former fireboat station that marks the point where Hudson River flows in New York Bay. Inside the restored pier are long hallways decorated with nautical charts, images of grand cruise ships, and other maritime memorabilia. The furniture and design of the interiors bring to mind a transatlantic ship from a century ago, when this was the only way to cross the ocean. After a visit to the nearby Museum of Jewish Heritage, with its Holocaust history, this pier offers a contrasting narrative of giving thanks for readers whose ancestors fled Europe and arrived here safely before the genocide took place.
A thin sliver of land between Queens and Manhattan, Roosevelt Island is a former asylum and hospital campus transformed into a neighborhood of residential towers, parks, technology campus, and a scenic state park at its southern tip. Take the F train to the Roosevelt Island station, then the Tramway cable car to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This two-mile island that is only 800 feet in width is ideal for biking and jogging, with Manhattan Island on one side and Queens on the other.
At long last, one can take in the beaux arts architecture of the New York Public Library’s flagship building, where the reading room hosted generations of New Yorkers seeking to study in an inspiring quiet space. Outside this library is the sizable sukkah constructed by the Chabad of Midtown, and it is my favorite place for lunch in Manhattan during Chol HaMoed Sukkos.
To feel like a consummate city insider, the MTA recently opened a new transfer tunnel between the Sixth Avenue subway line and the Times Square Station containing mosaic art by Nick Cave. The tunnel opens into the redesigned shuttle platform, where the peculiar two-station line connects Manhattan’s two busiest stations.
The secular two-decade mark of the tragedy of our generation occurred on Shabbos this year, but the exhibits marking the attack’s impact on the city and the country take on a greater feeling this year as we mark the milestone date. I have long resisted visiting the memorial, the exhibits, and the Freedom Tower, but perhaps this is the year to make the visit and familiarize ourselves with examples of heroism, and everyday working people whose lives were lost from an act of extremism that continues to haunt our society.
The historic synagogue of the Lower East Side reopened this summer with its stunning architecture and exhibits relating to life in the immigrant neighborhood. On display at this time is Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward, containing plates used for printing the nation’s oldest Yiddish newspaper that show daily life and important events from the early 20th century. The museum has a visitor’s guide for children where they can search for hidden stars and other imagery in the building’s detailed interior.
This center hosts five vital institutions that document the stories of Jews in America through art, artifacts, and literature: American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Yeshiva University Museum, YIVO, and Leo Baeck Institute, each with its own exhibits and opportunities to research our past.
You can eat your lunch nearby, at either Union Square Park or Madison Square Park, which have sukkos courtesy of the local Chabad Houses.
Beyond The City
After hearing about it from her classmates in school and bunkmates in camp, my family took the trip to the American Dream Mall in the Meadowlands. Even when it’s not Chol HaMoed, this destination mall is filled with frum families eager to taste popular American foods with a hechsher, and satisfaction that this mall was built by the Ghermezian family, whose philanthropy sustains many educational projects in the Jewish community.
Did we feel like paying for an indoor amusement park when it is sunny outside, or a water park that is only a fraction of Mountain Creek and Splish Splash? Nor did we feel that the novelty of an indoor ski slope was worth the price when we could wait a few months until the slopes of the Catskills and Poconos reopen.
For a family on a budget seeking unique thrills, the indoor skating rink, mini-golf, and candy store would be worth experiencing. If you have friends in Lakewood, Monsey, or west of the city, this mall could be a good place to meet up and have fun. Last year, this mall had a sukkah on site, and I expect one this year, considering its popularity with Orthodox Jews.
Officially known as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, it is perhaps the most visible legacy of our previous governor Andrew Cuomo, as it carries his father’s name and he worked hard to have it completed during his administration. On the north side of this bridge is a three-mile path for bikes and pedestrians that is comparable to the High Line and Walkway Over The Hudson as it features places to sit and displays on the history of the bridge and the river.
Each sitting area on this path has a name: Fish & Chips, Palisades, Painters Point, Half Moon, River Crossing, and Tides of Tarrytown. At each side of the bridge, there are parking lots with a welcome center, restrooms, and information.
If you’re on your way to visit family and friends in Monsey, you may find yourself taking this bridge to get there. Why not appreciate its design and views by parking on either side and taking a walk on foot across the widest point of the Hudson River?
By Sergey Kadinsky