I’ve never taken the groundhog’s shadow seriously, especially when late March gave us cold rain and wind with temperatures that were hovering close to the freezing mark. At the same time, there are signs of optimism in the cherry blossoms blooming next to the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows, a long-neglected World’s Fair structure that is undergoing a restoration: better weather, reopened museums, and restored landmarks. If you’re home for Pesach or visiting family members in the suburbs, there’s plenty to see around the city and its vicinity.
In Our Borough
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria
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. At this time, the exhibit LAIKA: Life in Stop Motion is worth a look. It looks at the work of the animation studio that created the films Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), and The Boxtrolls, among others. On display through August 27.
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
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.
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street, Corona
The New York Hall of Science, rebuilt and reopened, is an easy destination that is close to most of our readers. Inside the historic Great Hall, the interactive Connected Worlds feels like an indoor park with virtual plants and a waterfall that moves with your hands. The exhibit Human Plus explores the ways in which different kinds of technologies can be used to supplement and enhance human abilities using inventions.
Louis Armstrong House Museum
34-56 107th Street, Corona
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.
Across the street from the historic house is a wall of undulating glass that will be completed this fall. Behind it is a museum expansion that will host exhibits, events, and archives.
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park
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.
King Manor Museum
150-03 Jamaica Avenue
In the heart of downtown Jamaica is one of the oldest mansions in Queens, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The park surrounding the King Manor is a 12-acre remnant of a 160-acre farm that belonged to Rufus King, the Senator, diplomat, and anti-slavery activist who died in the 50th year of this country’s independence. The interior takes us back to the late 18th century, when Rufus King lived here.
37-01 Bowne Street
The oldest standing dwelling in Queens, it dates to 1661, when Quaker colonist John Bowne settled in Flushing. He famously stood up for religious freedom, when fellow members of his faith authored the Flushing Remonstrance addressing the Dutch authorities. Nine generations of Bownes lived in this home, until it became a museum in 1945. Visitors can experience how they lived, with period furniture and guides explaining what Flushing was like as an outpost – unimaginable in the dense neighborhood it has since become.
Lewis Latimer House
34-41 137th Street
Imagine a self-taught genius born to fugitive slaves who worked in the labs of Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram Maxim, and Thomas Edison. Lewis Latimer’s name did not appear on their patents, but he made their world-changing inventions possible. When he wasn’t tinkering with inventions, he painted, wrote essays, and lived in this Flushing house that was preserved and relocated to a park.
Fort Totten Park
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.
169 State Rd, Breezy Point
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 from Queens
If you aren’t 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’s 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, 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.
In This City
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
One of the world’s greatest art museums has something for everyone. Among the local-inspired exhibits is Berenice Abbott’s New York Album, 1929, a photographer known to city history buffs, whose works take us to a time when concrete skyscrapers raised the skyline of Manhattan, while elevated trains cast its streets in darkness and seemingly all men wore fedoras.
Two E. 91st Street
Across the street from Central Park is a Gilded Age mansion-turned-museum that celebrates graphic and industrial design. The exhibit Hector Guimard: How Paris Got Its Curves, shows sketches and models of the famous French designer, best known for his sculptural subway entrances in the Paris Metro. On view through May 21. Across the street from the museum is the Russian consulate. Expect tight security on this block.
AKC Museum of the Dog
101 Park Avenue, First Floor
On the first floor of an office tower at the corner of Park Avenue and East 40th Street, the American Kennel Club has a museum dedicated to the popular domestic animal with paintings, sculptures, and trophies – in total, there are more than 1,700 objects in its collection.
The museum is located within two blocks of Grand Central Terminal, where the Long Island Railroad recently opened its East Side Access. On those new hallways and mezzanines are a set of new public artworks relating to the nature of Long Island and the diversity of its people. Closer to the museum is the two-block Library Walk on East 41st Street, which has illustrated bronze plaques with quotations from famous poets.
West Side Highway at Gansevoort Street
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.
Battery Place at West Street
Battery Park City
Battery Park is filled with monuments documenting the city’s 400-year history, such as 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 the Hudson River flows into 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.
Moynihan Train Hall
Eighth Avenue at West 33rd Street
This project was a dream of its namesake, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who sought to restore the grandeur of Penn Station, which 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.
200 Eastern Parkway
The palatial museum designed to rival The Met was not completed to its intended size, but it makes a convincing case with a permanent collection that includes Egyptian mummies, Assyrian statues, and European art that includes works by Monet, Matisse, and Picasso. On the fourth floor, a farmhouse built in 1676 in Mill Basin and relocated inside the museum is hosting DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash, by Brooklyn-based artist Duke Riley. His works involve plastic trash repurposed into works of art.
1000 Surf Avenue
The revival of Coney Island’s amusement district continues with two new rides opening this season: a new roller coaster called Tony’s Express, and a log flume named Leti’s Treasure. The names were given by operator Alessandro Zamperla in honor of his grandparents, Antonio and Letizia Zamperla. Like their namesakes, the two rides are intertwined with each other so that visitors riding on the roller coaster pass by the log flume as they hear each other’s screams. Next to the new rides is the landmarked Cyclone, nearly a century old. Any visitor to this corner of Brooklyn deserves to have this ride of a lifetime.
Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge Street
The historic synagogue of the Lower East Side reopened last 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.
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
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.
The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
Located inside a former mansion, the exhibit on the Sassoon family speaks of the global impact of the famed Baghdadi merchant family whose descendants operated businesses in India, Singapore, China, and Britain. In their experiences, family members amassed a collection of over 120 paintings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and Judaica that shows their worldly and Jewish interests. On view through August 13.
Beyond the City
Hicksville Gregory Museum
1 Heitz Place, Hicksville
On rainy days, some Long Island parents take their small children to the IKEA in Hicksville to run around the fake domestic interiors and jump on beds with funny Swedish names. Within a few minutes’ drive of this megastore is a humble former courthouse with admission by voluntary donation. This museum is the result of a collection by Hicksville residents Gardiner Gregory and his wife Ann. An educator at the local school district, he collected minerals and fossils in his home, opening it to children. As his collection grew, it gave a new purpose to an abandoned courthouse. The museum is small enough that it can be seen in its entirety within a half hour. An easy attraction on the drive to Plainview.
Valley Stream Historical Society
143 Hendrickson Avenue, Valley Stream
At the southern tip of Valley Stream State Park is a historic mansion that predates the suburbanization of Long Island, when the Village of Valley Stream had a rural appearance. The Valley Stream Historical Society operates the historic Fletcher-Pagan house, which has photos, maps, and artifacts testifying to the village’s role in early aviation, supplying water for the city, suburban development, and famous individuals who lived here. The state park behind this house offers trails and playgrounds in a forested setting.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Garden City
A former hangar transformed into a museum of air and space technology, in eight permanent gallery spaces. The exhibit The Future is Now: Drones! displays the history of military, scientific, and civilian drones, with a simulator for visitors.
and History Museums
2201 Marconi Drive, Wall Township
On the drive to Lakewood, there’s a museum on a former military base that shows how radio technology developed, including radar, military communications, and satellites. The museum complex also has exhibits on shipwrecks, computers, battlefield dioramas, and model trains.
Edward Hopper House Museum
82 North Broadway, Nyack
On the drive to Monsey is the picturesque town of Nyack, which has the look of an artist’s village overlooking the Hudson River. The most famous painter who lived in Nyack is Edward Hopper, the realist master of subdued drama. On display are his early works, scenes of Nyack from his lifetime, and furniture from his time. The museum is a short bike ride from the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which offers overlooks and informative signage along its 3.1-mile stretch.
2245 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale
I have not visited Adventureland since I was in summer camp. Long Island’s longest operating amusement park struck me as a street fair permanently moored in place with rides that are standard across the country, such as a swinging pirate ship, carousel, and log flume. I had no idea that in 2015, it welcomed Turbulence, a new roller coaster that has become its star attraction. This new ride serves as an extra reason to revisit this blast from the past.
American Airpower Museum
1230 New Highway, Farmingdale
Within a ten-minute drive from Adventureland is the American Airpower Museum. If you live on Long Island and have been to Cradle of Aviation too many times, this former airport-turned-museum is the local alternative. More than a dozen fighter aircraft and parts can be seen at this museum.
By Sergey Kadinsky