John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2000 May 10 
SESSION 10 - 1997 MAY 23
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Friday 23 May 1997 as a 
followup to 22 May 1997, session #9. I wanted to stop up at the site
during lunch but business kept me at my office. In the stead I 
closed the office early for the Memorial Day weekend, sent everyone 
home, and hopped a West End train directly to the Planetarium. I 
arrived at 16:30. 
    The sky was brilliantly sunny with a bank of approaching haze and 
cloud along the west horizon. The foliage on the trees was by now 
completely full so I had no problem is finding a handy shadow to 
cover my camera. The air was warm, about 20C, and I could well have 
gone about without my light jacket.
    The overall scene was essentially the same as for session #9 
except that 'my' gate at the entrance side of the circular drive was 
open. Vehicles, according to a worker passing by inside, were using it 
all during the day. He reminded me to stay outside the gate but 
otherwise let me alone. He went about his business; I didn't see him 
again during the visit. 
    Apart from this chance meeting with a worker on the site there was 
no standing guard at the gate or the street. A person could have 
walked into the restricted zone without impedence. But this time he 
would be quickly noticed by workers walking around inside. 
    I must note there that I received some criticism for my activity 
during session #7. In that session I noted that the site seemed 
unguarded and that a man went into it and retrieved a car with no 
apparent challenge. Why didn't I go in and get a close up look at the 
then-new apertures? Why didn't I walk to various points inside the site 
for other camera angles? 
    The reason is simply that of common sense. Signs were posted 
pointing out the restricted access. While I'm certain that if I was 
caught I would merely be pointed to the gate, there's no purpose in
making the demolition work any more worriful than it has to be. 
    There is also the prospect of personal danger. A construction or 
demolition site is not one for the lay person to wander around. I work 
in an engineering field office that oversees heavy civil construction 
at hydroelectric projects. From this experience I'm aware of the 
hazards of such places. When a lay person is allowed on the site, like 
for a dress visit, he is fitted with proper protective gear and is 
escorted around by an onsite supervisor. 
    Of course as a kid I and all my friends routinely played in 
construction sites. We played on the railroad tracks, in coalyards, 
across rooftops, thru storm sewers, too. We climbed onto the el, put 
small (and old) toys on the tracks, then clang tightly on the beams to 
watch the train crush them. But that was then and this is now. 
    Foliage blocked any clear sightline onto the Planetarium from the 
gate but the prospect was, of course, quite ample for the grounds in 
general. There were waste carts lined up in the apex part of the 
circular drive, some full. There was a chainlink fence about man-high 
hugging the front of the Planetarium. The flagpoles were gone; I don't 
know when they were removed. 
    I again brought my monocular and this showed details in the scene 
which the plain sight overlooked. It's so small that I started to 
leave it in my shoulder bag all the time. That way I'll not forget to 
bring it for any special occasion. 
    In the carpark the pile of rubble was rearranged from yesterday. 
There were two caterpillar excavators and one payloader in the 
carpark. At the moment they were idle. All activity was done on foot 
as workers crisscrossed the site and muscled around the aperture in 
the west wall of the Planetarium. The carpark surface was now breaking
up from the heavy wheels and treads running over it. Most lamppoles,
signs, and fences from the old carpark were still in place. About the
grounds there was debris: safety cones, swiss cheese, lumber, rocks. 
    The dogrun was full today with people coming and going all the 
while I was at the site. It was in full use yesterday, too, but I 
happened to miss that note from my report of session #9.
    At 17:00 a hardhat trudged to the gate and started to close it. He 
first closed the right leaf (as seen from my standpoint outside of the 
gate). I had one or two pictures left in the camera. I asked him if I 
could take a couple pictures before he closed up the gate. He agreed 
and waited at the left leaf for me. There were two shots left and when 
I finished them I waved thank-you to the worker. He waved back and 
completed the closure. He was on the inside so I could not engage him 
for convo. With nothing left to see or do, I departed at 17:00. 
SESSION 11 - 1997 JUNE 4
    This is a brief report on the lecture by Dr Neil Tyson before the 
Amateur Astronomers Association on 4 June 1997. I intended to visit 
the Planetarium site earlier in the day but business kept me at my 
office until quite close to 18:00. I went directly to the prelecture 
dinner with no time to see the works around the corner. 
    I put this report among the photoessay series so you have in one 
place a continuous story of the Planetarium. I will visit the site 
later in this week and present a regular photoessay report about it. 
Dr Tyson's lecture is more fully covered in the July 1997 issue of 
EYEPIECE. Here I discuss only a few major topics. 
    The Hayden Planetarium is, do please remember, only one element in 
a massive redevelopment of the Museum's campus. The allin cost of this 
project is 135 million dollars, made from a breadbasket of internal, 
municipal, corporate, and federal funds. It is not, as whispered in 
astronomy circles, the most expensive educational project in history. 
Peter Stuyvesant High School near North Cove, Manhattan, may clinch 
that pennant. That scheme consumed some 300 million dollars. 
    In addition, there is a general ongoing rebuilding of other 
buildings on the campus unrelated to the main project. So when you 
stop at the Museum there is lots of action all around, giving the 
Museum a messy appearance for the duration. 
    The Planetarium itself is actually two structures. The main one is 
the ball-in-a-box thing which agitated astronomers the world over. 
This structure is essentially a gigantic exhibition space and sky 
theater. There are no offices, labs, library, computer lounges, or 
other support services in it. This apparent lack of ancillary services 
generated major adverse criticism against the project. 
    The aesthetics of this structure drew out much vigorous debate. 
Some critics panned it as too glitzy and, uh, spaced out. Others 
assert it violates the City Majestic paradigm for new construction on 
Manhattan. One listener in the auditorium slumped back in her seat, 
arms across her chest, and hissed, 'It's a testicle in a lab jar!'. 
    But this cube is wrapped around on its east and south faces with 
four stories of planetarium offices, classrooms, conference hall, and 
so on. These are not visible from the street and occupants in them 
have no view of the street. The intent was to give the visitor a 
contiguous open arena to explore while the operations of the facility 
go on in adjacent separate quarters. Yes, the famous astronomy library 
is preserved and reestablished in the new offices. Recall that the 
cube is deliberately confined to the footprint of the old building to 
preserve the option of 'completing the Square' on the Museum campus. 
There is a kerf on the east and south sides of 5 to 8 meters. This gap 
is filled with the new offices and access to the rest of the Museum. 
    The projector is the Zeiss VIII. No!, no fuzzball flinger for New 
York. No whirlygig that shakes itself to pieces. No star-warping new-
age sky-mister. In deed, even Minolta and Goto in effect told Hayden 
that for New York there is only one place to get a projector: Jena. I 
can't give all the marvels Zeiss packed into this machine. 
    For starts, the planets are not ganged together by gears. They are 
driven by individual stepping motors. You can jump directly to any 
date immediately. Other projectors, including Hayden's old Zeiss VI, 
require you to twirl the planets round and round in annual motion. 
This did give the machine a full-press workout for the Star of 
Bethlehem show! 
    Each of the 6,500 stars is fitted with a fiberoptic, colored for 
the 60ish brightest ones. The fiber tips are then imaged by lenses 
onto the dome to form points mere millimeters across. Why so few stars 
when some nonZeiss models throw 1, 2, 4 myriads on the dome? If you 
can spot with the naked eye 25,000 separate stars in the sky you don't 
need a planetarium. The new model can display asteroids and comets 
when fed their orbit elements, complete with guesstimated brightness 
and tail. 
    The old machine is dismantled and packed away. It is not chopped 
up for scrap as some astronomers claim. Specimina of the mechanism 
are removed for placement in a historical exhibit. The rest of the 
parts are offered to other Zeiss planetaria for just the pack & post 
    The sky theater occupies the upper hemisphere of the globe. The 
projection dome is 23 meters across, leaving some interval for crew to 
work between it and the globe. There are 440 seats, some 200 less than 
the old theater. The reduction comes from removing the outer two rings 
of seats to make a perimeter walk-around. The reduced number of seats 
still leaves Hayden among the largest capacity planetaria in the 
    The seats are concentric around the center of the floor where the 
projector stands. People face inward to the projector, like in the old 
theater. Epicentric seating and tilted domes were examined and 
summarily rejected. We want a sky that behaves like the real one! 
    The projector recesses into the floor when out of use. When 
recessed the floor is flat and people can walk across it. Trap doors 
slide open (after everyone is seated!) and the machine slides up into 
its operating position. The machine has only one starball and off-
chassis planet cages. The entire thing is about the size of two hefty 
motorcycles parked side by side and costs about 2.8 million dollars. 
The Charles Hayden Foundation, donor of the first projector in 1935, 
threw in $5 million dollars for the equipage of the new sky theater. 
    The lower half of the globe houses a walk-thru simulation of the 
bigbang, still in planning. The intent is to show the primitive 
nuclear soup as it gels into atoms and stars. Some critics object to 
such a single-purpose room however cunningly the demonstration can be 
performed. The sky theater, on the other hand, can be a lecture or 
concert hall by recessing the projector. 
    The globe is the hub of the world's largest true scale model of 
the solar system. The planetarium's ball represents the Sun. Pluto 
would be a 5-cm ball placed, uh, 115 Km away! Sites for the various 
planets are under search thruout the City area. Pluto will be 
somewhere near Montauk, Long Island. 
    The enclosing cube is not glass on all sides. Only the west 
(facing the carpark) and north (facing 81st Street) sides are glass 
The other two connect into the Museum. The west face will get fierce 
heating from the summer Sun and there is a concern about adequate 
acclimatization. If the air condition system breaks down you have one 
colossal sweatbox! There is also the problem of glare, shadowing, and 
edge & grade detection from the strong sunlight. 
    The volume between the globe and sphere is free for exhibits. To 
the maximum extent practical these are in 3D, not 2D. The space is 
allotted in cubic meters, not square meters. To circulate among the 
exhibits a ramp spirals thru the cube. On its deck is a timeline of 
the universe from bigbang to today. There is even room under the nadir 
of the globe for exhibits. The globe is supported by a tripod of 
struts so it looks like it hovers over the ground. 
    Much objection was raised against the two-story gift shop and 
restaurant 'in the planetarium'. There are no such features in the 
Planetarium. The gift shop and restaurant are part of the other 
construction for the Museum. They are near the power house and are 
reached by direct entry from 81st Street and not via the Planetarium. 
    Concern continues about the increased traffic around the campus. 
With the carpark closed all buses must load and unload at curbside, 
causing all manner of congestion and blockage. Even with the new 
garage, buses must leave the campus for offsite stowage. This is a 
true headache for the Museum and the nabe. The problem may well worsen 
as the new additions attract allnew visitors. For the time being the 
Museum stresses access by transit and refers buses to commercial 
caryards near the Hudson River. 
    Complaint was raised that there is no specific display for 
telescopes & instruments, history, and space travel. These are 
subsumed into the overall display of astronomy as a science and 
culture. Besides, for space travel nothing can beat the Air & Space 
Museum in Washington, only 3 hours away by Metroliner. In partial 
compensation there are computer stations in the cube where visitors 
can read all the space and observatory news and see their images. 
    The partnership of the Association and the Planetarium is now 
reinstated. The Planetarium already draws on the Association for its 
course instructors and after-show starviewing. In the new facility 
there will be more engagement of Association astronomers for 
demonstrators and docents. On top of the planetarium offices is a mid 
size (undecided yet) remote control telescope. In the adjacent 
terrace, on the roof of the new garage, are power and data points for 
portable computers and telescopes. These are included largely for 
Association use.
    There is a permanent liaison between the Association and the 
Planetarium to work on joint programs and to promote the astronomy 
profession in the City. The bottom line is that for the unattached 
astronomer anywhere in the country membership in the Association is 
the passport to the stars. For when he tells his friends about the 
astronomy of New York he knows he's a genuine part of it. Yes!, women 
astronomers, often marginalized elsewhere, are welcomed in the City. 
    The Planetarium is a academic department of the Museum, the 
Department of Astronomy. It collapsed a generation ago under inept 
planetarium management. The disgrace of the Hayden Planetarium in the 
1970s and 1980s helped spawn the rubric that astronomy is a curriculum 
non gratum in New York. The new Planetarium crew are bringing 
astronomy back to the City as a prime civic, cultural, and academic 
pursuit. In addition to the regular planetarium duties the crew is an 
academic corps. Ample research and support service is provided for it. 
    Dr Tyson is recruiting astronomers to do their scholarly work at 
the Hayden Planetarium. Many, whose arrangements are still under 
private discussion, are already relocating to the City from astronomy 
centers elsewhere in the country. 
    While all the attention is on the Planetarium there is a lot more 
to the project. I am photoessaying only the Planetarium; the rest of 
the works are just too much to cover. They include two major new 
wings, one for planet Earth and the biosphere. These open in 1998 and 
1999 before the Planetarium. The new Hayden Planetarium opens on New 
Year's Eve 1999. 
    The lecture began at 20:00 and ran thru 22:30! There was a lively 
Q&A afterwards. Dr Tyson noted that there are many many details to be 
worked out and some of the questions had no firm answers now. After 
the auditorium let out some of the astronomers went with Tyson to his 
office for further chat, but I with a long ride home had to leave. 
SESSION 12 - 1997 JUNE 5 
    I visited the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 5 June 1997. I wanted 
to visit it yesterday, the 4th, but I was busy all day at work. I was 
further unable to see the site after work. I left a little late and 
had to go straight to the prelecture dinner of the Association. The 
lecture was about the Hayden Planetarium by its director Dr Neil 
Tyson. I give a synopsis of his talk as 'session 11' in this series. 
    I arrived at 13:00 during lunch. The air was warm, 20C to 25C, and 
calm. An occasional soft breeze did blow. The Sun was bright in an 
ordinary blue sky. I had on a light jacket which I left open as I went 
about my picture taking. 
    The first thing I noticed as I emerged from the subway station 
was, um, where's the Planetarium? The whole building is now gone! 
There is no more a Hayden Planetarium on the site! Since my last visit 
on 23 May 1997 the entire structure was jackhammered and cut into 
pieces. The view over the contractor's wall revealed the long-hidden 
bland inner walls of the Museum. 
    I went to my gate, the one at the former entrance to the circular 
drive. It was open with a clear sightline into the site. In deed, 
where the building stood there were now piles of rubble. Excavators 
were busily scooping up debris onto the piles. Some jackhammering was 
going on out of sight in the carpark. Workers were crisscrossing the 
    The carpark, while still intact, was all broken up from the 
machine wheels and treads. An excavator in the carpark was placing 
debris into a dump truck. Waste carts were lined up in front of the 
Planetarium, many filled with debris. 
    The noise was surprisingly mild. It was diluted by distance with 
me being about the closest a public could approach to the grounds, 
some 20 meters away. Ordinary convo could be heard around me. People 
and dogs in the dogrun seemed totally unaffected by the activity. 
Passersby apparently were oblivious to it. 
    By the groundrules hammered out between the Museum and the nabe 
all work is carefully confined within the contractor's wall. Nothing 
at all may disturb Theodore Roosevelt Park or Margaret Meade Green. (I 
miscalled this 'Field' in previous session reports.) Inside the wall 
it appeared that all trees were still in place. Even the lamppoles 
around the Planetarium were still standing. 
    The entrance to the circular drive, at the street, was tended by a 
guard who lazed about and checked his watch. A few minutes after I 
arrived an empty dump truck lumbered along on 81st Street to enter the 
site. The tender unhooked the barrier chain, let the truck thru, and 
rehooked the chain. Then he went away. The truck ambled slowly thru 
the gate to a spot in the carpark. Shortly thereafter the excavator in 
the carpark began loading it with rubble. With the gate tender gone I 
couldn't ask where the truck takes the spoils to. 
    All around the Museum was dense foot traffic. Dogwalkers! Joggers! 
Babypushers! Cyclists! Skaters! On this visit I was buffetted by 
people coursing down the sidewalks. It is a very stern rule in New 
York that you do not just stop and stand in mid traffic. Move! 
    A large portion of the traffic was in schoolkids. I counted eight 
separate flocks passing me in just a half hour. I know I missed some 
when I just stayed down by the gate. They were all aligned behind the 
teacher and shepherd on the way to or from the Museum. Despite the 
construction noise in the park the children seemed to hear and (sort 
of) pay attention to instructions barked out to them. 
    People welled out of the subway station. Or poured down into it. 
Crowds mobbed the food wagons dotted along Central Park West. Cascades 
of people flowed across CPW to and from Central Park. Steady streams 
of visitors flowed thru the CPW entrance of the Museum.          
    There was also immense perfluence of motor vehicles in 81st 
Street. Schoolbuses pulled up to the curb to encharge or discharge 
children. Taxis skidded to grab waiting fares. City buses slid into 
the bus stop minute after minute. 
    81st Street is one of the few corridors joining the east and west 
sides of Manhattan thru Central Park. All traffic from parallel 
streets must funnel into 81st Street for crossing the Park. The corner 
of 81st St and Central Park West is a nightmare of motor traffic. 
Vehicles must mesh into CPW or push across into Central Park. 
    Taxis cruised at this corner for sprints across the Park at (I 
think) two dollars a head. This is, of course, illegal, but the cabs 
stuffed up with riders anyway. On the Fifth Avenue side of the Park, 
near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the taxis play the same game for 
the return trip. The corner has two bus stops and there was a constant 
exchange of riders between the two as bus after bus stopped at them. 
    The situation on the west side of the Museum, which I swang past 
before returning to work, was little better. Columbus Avenue had 
rivers of people shopping, going to business, taking a stroll. Buses 
scooted southbound (this is a oneway street) toward Lincoln Center, 
Columbus Circle, and points south. 
    One deep worry the Museum has is the overtopping of the nabe's  
tolerance for the foot and motor traffic when the new buildings are in 
full operation. Concourses of allnew visitors are sure to converge on 
the campus and their circulation must be carefully organized and 
controlled. For the time being, with no carpark, buses must load and 
unload at curbside. This already causes congestion and blockage. The 
Museum pushes for approach by transit and steers schoolbuses to 
commercial caryards near the Hudson River. 
    There may be a sea change in travel patterns at 81st Street and 
Central Park West in a few weeks. On 4 July 1997 the freefare plan 
gongs in. After paying a first full fare by MetroCard all other rides 
within two hours of that first one are free. The principal restriction 
is that in this period only one ride may be via subway. The others may 
be on just about any bus. So this intersection may turn into an olio 
of people availing of the three-way free interchange between the 
subway and two bus corridors. 
    After a half hour, at 13:30, I made a sweep around the campus to 
the west. Then I went into the subway station to return to work. 
SESSION 13 - 1997 JUNE 19 
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 19 June 1997 
under a summer sunny sky. The air was humid and warm, 25C to 30C. I 
worked up a thin sweat as I walked about. The air was laden with 
moisture; the sun threw shadows around clouds that passed in front of 
it. The Sun itself was tempered into a yellow-white hazy ball. 
    I went during lunch via the West End line from Herald Square 
directly to 81st Street. I arrived at 13:00 EDST. The streets were 
filled with vehicles and people, but this time there were no school 
crowds. The schools in New York are winding down their season and 
trips are not scheduled so close to the end of the term. But there 
were the waves of older visitors and families, joggers, dogwalkers, 
and all that. 
    Today was the busiest I ever saw the site! Workers were all over 
the place loading debris into dump trucks. Also, this is the first 
visit when both gates in the contractor's wall were open. So I had a 
new vantage point to inspect the works, the former exit arm of the 
cirque drive, the way that leads to the subway station. 
    The overall noise was subdued by the general remoteness of the 
public, held off by the wall, from the action. Most of the noise was 
that from engines, yet an occasional jackhammer was heard from 
somewhere out of sight in the site. As a matter of fact, the noise 
from a road-breaking crew in 81st Street itself was louder and more 
distracting. This work seemed to be related to a housing tower 
renovation on the north side of 81st Street. 
    The park was filled with people; the dogrun was filled with dogs 
and their exercisers. Hordes of visitors pushed into and out of the 
Museum on Central Park West. And, for the first time since demolition 
began, actual spectators joined me in watching the activity. A young 
woman carrying a little boy of age about 2 or 3 lingered around the 
gate and watched. Other spectators came and went, some talking among 
themselves about the project. Their convos were intelligible above the 
noise of both the Planetarium and the street works. 
    My main interference this time was from dump trucks. In the half 
hour I was on the premises some full score of them entered or left! 
There were guards at both gates to control their movements, lowering 
and raising the chain as needed. I asked about the spoil depository. 
No one at the gates knew where the trucks were bringing the rubble, 
altho several suggested I ask the superintendent in the contractor's 
camp. In the general chat they explained that the removal of the 
rubble is about complete and by next week foundation laying for the 
new Planetarium should begin. 
    On the site itself, from the two prospects I enjoyed today, there 
was action all over. Excavators were dipping into the former basement 
of the Planetarium to fill dump trucks standing in the apex of the 
cirque drive. In the carpark more dump trucks were being loaded with 
debris piled there. The guards explained that much of the building was 
knocked into the basement as a hopper, there being no room on the 
campus for a true waste depository. The payloader, not seen today, 
mostly shoved piles of rubble into the basement cavity and let the 
excavators scoop it out later. This former basement will be reshaped 
as the 'nadir pit' of the new Planetarium. Against its outer walls 
will be set the anchor blocks to support the struts for the main ball. 
    The former carpark is being kept intact as long as possible for 
work and laydown room. Altho it is badly pitted and rutted by 
machinery working over it, it is not deliberately dug up. 
    Construction (and demolition) projects in New York are quite 
different from those elsewhere. In Rest of World any project meant for 
visitors, like even a convenience store, must have a carpark or 
caryard surrounding it. Visitors in ROW approach the project by 
automobile and there must be a place to stow the vehicle during the 
visit. This extra land, often equaling or exceding the floor area of 
the structure, can be graded and drained as work and laydown space. 
The contractor can put his huts, machines, material stockpile on it. 
He can manoeuver trucks around it and set up waste piles in it. 
    In New York essentially no new structure is so favored with extra 
land around it. In fact. it is common that structures be built 
contingent to others. It is this shoulder-to-shoulder setting of the 
towers that adds to the majestic skyline of the City. IN the case of 
the Planetarium and other Museum structures, all of some 30,000 square 
meters of new floor area!, there is no gigantic caryard to serve it. 
    Hence, delivery and removal of material, parts, modules, and 
equipment must be done on the fly. The parts are made up off of 
Manhattan, mainly in New Jersey, and are trucked to the site at the 
very moment they are needed. The arrival and departure of trucks is 
orchestrated to the minute. A truck pulls up, cranes lift off the 
delivery, lay on the removal, and the truck leaves. 
    Because everything comes from off of Manhattan, the trucks and 
their loads are small to fit the tunnels and bridges. They are also 
small to manoeuver thru the streets of the Island. Holland Tunnel and 
George Washington Bridge are favored for their more ample clearances. 
    And so the guards kept a constant eye for the incoming empty dump 
trucks and the outgoing filled ones. They studied their clipboards and 
checked off the vehicles as they came and went. At times they held off 
an approaching truck to let one on the site leave and make room for 
it. The guards also had to hold back the foot traffic on 81st St, a 
task hardly simple or sure. People skipped around the trucks or darted 
in front of them. One kid scampered UNDER a departing truck as it 
waited its turn to enter the traffic. 
    This whole ballet was constrained by the cutting across the 
street. The works narrowed 81st Street to one traffic lane westward.  
Dump trucks had to pick their way past this neck before gunning into 
freer traffic further down the block. 
    I stayed for quite a half hour and left at 13:30. The train 
entering 81st Street station was a West End local, which took me right 
to my office in Herald Square 
SESSION 14 - 1997 JULY 3 
    Notice that I bylined this session. I learned that astronomers have 
been fetching my old session reports from Internet archive sites. But 
when they search for them under the author 'John Pazmino' nothing 
turns up. It seems that the header fields are not always included in 
the search. So!, from now on I'll byline the reports. What about all 
the previous ones? I suppose it's too late. Look for them under key 
words like 'photoessay' and 'Hayden Planetarium' and 'session'. 
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 3 July 1997 as 
part of an errand for the Planetarium. On this occasion I brought to 
the Planetarium's office some historical material from my collection 
and then went to the site for my session. Sure, there is no more 
Planetarium building on the campus. Its offices were moved into 
temporary quarters carved out of the Museum itself. 
    For this reason I exited the subway from the Museum exit and not 
the usual street exit on 81st Street and Central Park West. This other 
exit was closed and walled off with sheet metal about two years ago 
without good explanation. The closure was to be permanent. With the 
construction work in progress and the lack of a carpark the Museum 
embarked on a scheme to facilitate transit access. As part of this 
effort the adit was reopened in late June 1997. 
    This is part of the exit of the 81st Street station at 79th Street 
and Central Park West. There is no actual cross street here; the 
Museum campus oblitterated it. The street stairs are directly in front 
of the Museum's main entrance. Signs on the platform call this the way 
out to 77th St, which is in fact the next actual cross street two 
blocks away. 
    After passing thru the turnstiles from the platform you can go 
either upstairs to the street or thru bronze doors into the basement 
of the Museum. This puts you exactly under the main entrance of the 
Museum and one level below the street. 
    That this was closed at all is quite odd. As long as I can 
remember this adit into the Museum was open (during Museum hours, of 
course) since I was a kid. For some weird reason the Museum shuttered 
it suddenly some two years ago. I think this happened shortly before 
the first announcement of the new Planetarium and other Museum works. 
The room inside continued in use with a gift shop, formal restaurant, 
fastfood outlet, and restrooms, all reached by stairs or elevators 
from the upper floors. 
    But while it is a welcomed adit into the Museum, it is itself a 
most unwelcoming one. You are steered by velvet ropes to a pair of 
paypoints and turnstiles. Here you give a contribution to the Museum 
and get a receipt and badge. Once thru the turnstile you have free run 
of the Museum, except for particular exhibits which charge a regular 
separate admission. 
    If the paypoints handled just these collections, the two would 
easily accommodate the influx of visitors. I walked into a mob of 
people milling around and getting edgy. The chart explaining the 
donation policy looks very much like a chart of admissions. So many 
people, ignorant of the true policy, did pay the suggested amounts. 
Others offered what ever amount they felt was adequate and they were 
admitted without question. 
    But the suggested donations are odd amounts making it tricky to 
total up to pay for a group, like a family or tourist party. The 
hesitation and figuring at the windows really slowed up the service. 
    On top of this delay was one caused by general inquiries. The 
clerks fielded questions, often requiring lengthy answers and recourse 
to pamphlets and maps. All in all, what should have been a trivial 
pause ended up being a fifteen minute wait in a crowded entry room. 
    But I wasn't actually visiting the Museum; I was bringing an 
envelope to the Planetarium. Why didn't I ask a guard to pass me by? 
There were none to ask! There was a guard deep inside the room and I 
tried to call for his attention. He didn't notice me, probably because 
of the din of the mob and of trains just outside. I did notch up 
eventually to the paypoint window and explained my visit. The clerk 
duly called the security agent over to let me in. 
    This whole matter of fees and admission is for many visitors quite 
irritating. By a smorgasbord of legalities the Museum can not charge 
an 'admission fee'. I mean this here American Museum of Natural 
History. There are numerous other musea in the City that can assess a 
general admission by the legal mechanism of their existence. 
    On the other hand the Museum (and pretty much any other one) can 
ask for donations. And it is sensible to solicit the donation as you 
enter the place. So far so good. If for some internal reason you want 
to give just a dollar, fine, the clerk must allow you in for a dollar. 
If you want to give nothing the clerk must let you in. But he does try 
to squeeze something out of you before doing so. The sensible thing is 
to give some reasonable amount, as your sentiments dictates, and get 
it over with. 
    After dropping off my package I went outside from the main 
entrance and walked around to the Planetarium. I arrived there at 
12:45 EDST. The air was soaked with humidity, this being a typical 
East Coast summer day. Altho the temperature was a moderate 30C, it 
with the humidity made for a sweaty and sticky and shtoonky session. 
The Sun was hidden most of the time by clouds so it did not interfere 
with my picture taking. 
    Only the one gate in mid block of 81st Street was open. I was out 
of luck for the gate at the corner of 81st Street and Central Park 
West. From my gate the scene was no way as busy as in session 13. A 
few dump trucks paraded in and out of the site, but just a few. The 
sidewalk was getting broken up by the heavy wheel traffic on it in the 
past several weeks and there was much tracked dirt along the circular 
    There were three new features near the gate. First there was the 
stump of a large mature tree bearing saw marks all over it. This tree 
was cut down in late June and carted away as rubbish. The initial 
reaction by the surrounding community was that the Museum felled it as 
part of the ongoing works. It turned out that it was chopped up by the 
Parks Department for having Dutch Elm disease. I don't know if this 
was an elm tree. The Parks Department administers the lands on the 
Museum campus, the former Manhattan Square, and is off limits for the 
Museum to tamper with. 
    The edge of the park wall at the street where the circular drive 
springs is all smashed and toppled. Some heavy vehicle rammed into it. 
This damage was on the pedestrian or outer lane, not the inner or 
vehicle lane. It was allegedly caused by a Parks Dept truck while 
removing the diseased tree. The stump and the broken wall are but 
three meters apart. 
    On top of the wall on the vehicle lane was a large fluffy stuffed 
toy tiger, al a Calvin and Hobbs. It was held in place by large 
country rocks. I asked the gate guard what it was for; he didn't know. 
He said it was there one day last week and he just left it alone. The 
thing was filthy. 
    Inside the contractor wall the site was generally clean. Gone are 
the heaps of rubble and phalanges of carts. The ground was generally 
free of dirt and debris, but probably not swept or brushed clean. The 
area of the Planetarium was mostly cleared and there was little work 
going on there. Dump trucks were loading with debris in the carpark. 
Apparently the rubble removal was now shifted to the western part of 
the grounds, well away from the Planetarium. 
    The north face of the Museum directly behind the old Planetarium 
was walled in with a temporary facing from the ground to the roof. 
This facing reached across the full width of the Planetarium. Altho I 
didn't see any activity here today, this section of the Museum will be 
punched thru and its floors made continuous with floors for the new 
   Despite my explanation in a previous session, I'm still being 
railed and sallied at for not invading the site for closer views and 
exploration. When you pay for my accident and liability and litigation 
insurances, we'll talk, OK? 
    On the whole action in and around the Museum was in slomo. It was 
not the day for vigorous exercise! The dogs in the dogrun walked or 
trotted. There were no joggers. Cyclists wheeled by slowly. I had my 
shoulder bag to carry the Planetarium package. Now with it being empty 
it in this heat and humidity weighed on me. 
    I may note that a day like today is no good for Museum visiting! 
The American Museum of Natural History has very incomplete 
acclimatization. Yes, there is a project underway, apart from the 
Planetarium, to air condition some of the halls. In the main, the 
place is dreadful, like a classical European museum. Much of the 
annoyance raised up in the people entering from the subway was the 
still stale air in the entrance room. 
    With only minor goings on at the site and my succumbing to the hot 
day, I left at 13:10 EDST via an air-conditioned train back to my 
SESSION 15 - 1997 JULY 23 
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday 23 July 1997 
after a very quick ride from my office. As I stepped into the platform 
at Herald Square a Brighton Beach express was entering the station. 
This I took to Columbus Circle. When I stepped onto the platform there 
a West End local was pulling in. (It must have paced behind the 
Brighton Beach train, but I could not have known this.) This brought 
me to 81st Street station in about the quickest possible time, ten 
    Dr Neil Tyson, the Planetarium's director, offered me a new 
viewing point for my photoessays. I went to the Museum first to see 
him. The entrance from the station into the Museum, the one I used 
previously on an errand for Tyson, was jammed with irritated visitors 
and slomo clerks. I went thru that already. In the stead I went out to 
the street and into the formal entrance on Central Park West and 79th 
    The sky was partly cloudy with hazy sunshine. Air was about 30C, a 
little humid, yet not unduly so. This was a very comfortable day 
compared to the 35C-40C stuff we melted down in last week! 
    The place was swarming with children on class trips. Maybe this is 
part of summer school? The other visitors were mostly tourists. 
Inside, the air was acclimatized, the crowds looser, the clerks 
livelier. I was let upstairs to the Planetarium offices right away. 
    Francine Oliver, the Planetarium administrative assistant, and Dr 
Tyson received me in their temporary rooms deep inside the Museum. 
With no building of its own, the Planetarium must live in a cubbyhole 
until the new edifice is finished. The space is brightly lit and well 
tempered, but the air-condition machine threw off a loud hum. 
    Dr Tyson took me to two viewpoints in the nonpublic regions of the 
Museum. Both had a broad prospect over the site. He explained some of 
the activity as best as he knew. We got to the first spot at 12:40 and 
to the second at about 13:00. 
    The demolition is all done. In mid July 1997 piling started over 
the entire site. Altho none was in progress at the instant, the piles 
and steam hammers were set around the place for later resumption of 
the work. Piling consists of pounding verticly into the ground a 
forest of pipes or tubes to cover the floor area of the structure. The 
tubes -- the piles -- are made of steel about 30cm diameter. 
    The steam hammer looks like a drilling rig with a heavy iron slug, 
the hammer's head, sliding up and down on guide rails. Steam raises it 
to the top of the gantry, where it's released to fall. Under the head 
is supported the pile. The action is quite rhythmic as the head whacks 
up and down. 
    The use of steam to lift the hammer is odd to most modern folk. 
But the method is very simple, cheap, safe, and efficient. The steam 
hammer in its present form is almost unchanged since its invention in 
the mid 19th century. The only real bad feature is the noise. It's 
deliciously awful. 
    Some of the piling from the old Planetarium can be used for the 
floor of the new. The new piling is clustered at the anchor points for 
the main ball and the uprights for the enclosing box. Dr Tyson wasn't 
sure how deep the bedrock is here; he recalled seeing about 10m of 
piling going into the ground. 
    The local grade is about 6m below the surrounds, it being the 
level of the original basement. Little new excavation was needed for 
the Planetarium, while allnew digging was required for the adjacent 
garage. Tyson was unaware of any archaeologic or anthropologic relics 
on the site. There was a find in 1996 across the street in Central 
Park during some routine maintenance. The remains of an African 
settlement, Seneca Village, predating the construction of Central 
Park, were unearthed. 
    A new hut was on grass outside the contractor's wall. This, Dr 
Tyson, noted, sheltered a videocamera for timelapse photography of the 
site. This was set up by the Museum for documenting the work. 
    The carpark is gone. Totally. It is leveled in preparation for 
excavating the new garage. There was some ponding in the excavation. 
The new garage, unlike the old carpark entirely on the surface, has 
underground levels. 
    After the inspection from the new vantage sites we returned to 
Tyson's office for a chat. He filled in some details of the new 
facility to clarify some earlier errors. The main ball is a plain 
surface and not a video display screen. The finish is dull enough to 
project pictures and movies on it. Possibly scenes relating to the 
ongoing show can be shown on it, but there are no major plans to 
exploit the ball for this purpose. Dr Tyson is considering spot 
lighting the ball to mimic the Moon phases. 
    The Hall of the Universe, under the sky theater in the lower half 
of the ball, is not hardwired for a one skit reenacting the bigbang. 
The space and machinery will allow revisions in the show to follow 
advances in theory and observation regarding the bigbang. In this way 
the Hall will not succumb to structural obsolescence. Just how the 
bigbang will be presented is still in discussion. Similarly, the 
timeline ramp has replaceable panels. Updating the timeline is thus 
easy and quick. And the notion of size comparison between the main 
ball and other celestial objects can be reconfigured with new modules 
as needed. 
    The initial opposition against the new Planetarium essentially 
evaporated. Obviously there is no old building to save. But the 
overall unanimity of approval for the project by independent 
authorities and agencies soaked out any ardor in the opposition. 
    We examined several studies commissioned by the Museum for 
possibly rehabbing the original Planetarium. The prospect was to 
outfit the building with new exhibits without major structural 
changes. These studies are the second push in the Planetarium's 
history to update the facility. The first was the Norman Bel Gedde 
report presented to Park Commissioner Robert Moses in 1942. That plan 
allowed for massive reconstruction of the Planetarium. Altho the War 
shelved the project, many of Bel Gedde's proposals were adopted by 
planetria built since the 1960s. (The paper was only by then 
rediscovered by the planetarium world.) The study remains to this day 
a cult text within the planetarium trade. 
    From these studies, straddling 1990, the Museum discovered that 
the function and mission of planetaria evolved so far since the 
Planetarium's opening that an allnew facility must accommodate it. 
Astronomy in the 1930s, when Hayden and the other charter planetaria 
opened, was still mostly a solar system oriented science, with the 
galaxies and cosmology being embryonic notions. In this setting, the 
classical planetarium, like the old Hayden, served wonderfully. Under 
the present astronomy, which now includes vistas of the universe from 
from beyond the Earth and far outside visible light, the original 
planetarium design receded into a niche.of viability. 
    We had a good laugh over the reaction of the planetarium business 
to the project. At first the discussions were filled with wild -- and 
weird -- disinformation. 'The Hayden is throwing the Zeiss projector 
into a dumpster where rats now live in it'. 'The Hayden is converting 
the old building into a yuppie shopping mall'. Nowadays in the 
sci.astro.planetarium room there is a cold silence regarding the 
Hayden Planetarium. I, for instance, receive just about no give and 
take in that room, while in all the others I field numerous emails and 
public postings from each session report. 
    Quite separately from my ragchewing with Dr Tyson, I learned 
generally that among other planetaria in the US there is an 
infuriating jealousy against the new Hayden Planetarium. It is the 
first major planetarium built in a generation. (Many planetaria at 
colleges and small towns were opened in the last twenty years.) The 
City is getting something spanking new while other institutions live 
in decaying homes. And, of course, the lavish expense for the new 
Planetarium is utterly wasted in, uh, New York, where astronomy is 
reduced to pining over Sky & Telescope articles. 
    I completely passed over any inspection from the ground at my 
usual place, the one or the other gates in the contractor's wall. 
    We called it a day at 13:45. I did not take the train back to 
work. With the 'One-City-One-Fare' scheme running for three weeks, I 
took advantage of it. Oh, I used it all along for commuting and other 
goings about in the City. This is the first time I benefited from it 
for the photoessay project. I took an Eighth Avenue bus to Penn 
Station, one block away from Herald Square. My MetroCard rang up a 
SESSION 16 - 1997 JULY 25 
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Friday 25 July 1997 to 
keep the continuity of pictures from my usual station on the grounds. 
My visit on Wednesday 23 July 1997 took me only to private viewing 
sites inside the Museum. I wanted to return on Thursday, the 24th, but 
hurricane Danny was crashing thru the City. On Friday the sky cleared 
and the air dried. 
    I was off from work for consolidating several chores  I arrived at 
the site by 81st Street bus at about 14:00. The air was warm but dry, 
about 25C. Despite the monsoon rain of the previous day, all sunstrck 
areas were dried out. Regions under heavy foliage were damp, puddled, 
or muddy. It was partly cloudy and continually clearing all thru the 
    In fact, by nightfall the sky was fully clear for an good average 
Manhattan stargazing evening. And, in the owl hours going into 
Saturday, the 26th, the sky cleared even more to reveal stars of 4-1/2 
magnitude. This approaches the limit of the monthly S&T starchart!! 
Now this happened over an island packed with two million residents and 
about one million visitors at those hours. But, nope, no Milky Way -- 
    I went to my gate. The crumpled pier of the 81st Street wall was 
untouched; it looked as if it was struck yesterday. The stump of the 
felled tree was still in place. On the other hand, the filthy tiger 
was gone. Three Parks Department workers were setting up a bulletin 
board, the kind with a glass door to protect the sign from weather and 
tampering. A few Parks Department vans were deployed in the park. 
    There was a general busyness around the Museum with all the 
assorted folk desporting themselves. School children mobbed the main 
entrance on Central Park West. The dogrun was filled with lively dogs. 
By stepping into the grounds a couple meters I saw the camera hut, a 
large birdhouse or weather station house. 
    My bus approached from the east, thru Central Park. As it swang 
across Central Park West I heard that so familiar kabong-ssst-kabong-
ssst-kabong-ssst of the steam hammer. It was a loud, tho endurable, 
noise. Several spectators wandered down to the gate to see the 
construction while I was there. The racket did interfere with their 
    The steam hammer was in the former carpark laying down a nest of 
pilings. Here a full spread of piles was necessary for there were none 
from any previous structure. The carpark was just a blacktopped area. 
The hammer stood about 4 or 5 meters below local grade in what will be 
the lower level of the new garage. Due to a slope leading into this 
pit I had a clear view of the work. There was no visible activity at 
the very Planetarium itself, altho workers ambled in and out of its 
pit. Piling there wa minimal because much of the original piling could 
be reused and only modest new ones were needed for the footings of the 
ball struts and the outer walls. 
    This hammer was mounted on a vehicle resembling an ordinary crane; 
the rig was supported by a cranelike arm from the cab of the vehicle. 
This allowed the hammer to be moved easily from place to place without 
having to dissemble and assemble it. It also allowed it to be swung 
aside to check the piling. Finally, it was used at the time to raise 
into place a new pile after the manner of a regular crane. 
    I wasn't sure if the new pile was set atop the previous one or 
into a new spot near to it. There was some many minutes while this 
chore was going on and workers hustled about the base of the rig. It 
is quite common to push the tubes far underground to reach bedrock. 
Since the tubes are of short length, about 6 or 7 meters, they are 
butt-welded together as they are banged into the ground. I didn't 
notice any welding, like the flash and hiss of torches. In some parts 
of the City piling can extend as deep as 60 meters. I do not know 
where in this situation the bedrock sits. 
    The circular drive at both gates was by now badly pitted and 
broken from the continuous heavy traffic during the demolition. The 
wooden temporary wall against the north face of the Museum, where the 
Planetarium will key into it, was weathered and darkened. There was 
general heavy construction elsewhere along the north side of the 
Museum for the other new halls. 
    After some 25 minutes I left by the 72nd St bus back to the East 
Side to continue my rounds for the day. I got the freefare on my 
MetroCard being that this was a different route from the first one. 
No, you still can not transfer back to the same route you came from. 
Some readers asked what's so great about this One-City-One-Fare 
scheme. I well appreciate that it's hardly any new feature in urban 
transport. Many other towns had multi and discount fare systems for 
ages. It's just new for the City, which for eternity had a chinese 
puzzle of transfer among certain bus routes and none between subway 
and bus. 
    There grew up in the last week a very funny, but probably false, 
rumor. Some residents of the Beresford house, across from the Museum 
on the north side of 81st Street at Central Park West, protested 
against the project for its supposed entertainment and crowd-
attracting motif. It is claimed as a separate issue, again probably 
wrongly, that the Beresford has a few vacant floors begging for 
    Now, a music agent, Howard Knight Jr, recently got a call from 
God. The fellow was ordered to spread His word by a 'God's Wonderful 
World' Biblical themepark. And it must be open by New Year's Eve 1999. 
One major hall is Creation Theater, a planetarium demonstrating how 
the Universe was really formed all in a week. Knight is looking for a 
proper home for this entertainment and crowd-attracting wonderland. 
NOOooo! Uh, let's study those empty floors again.
SESSION 17 - 1997 AUGUST 6 
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday 6 August 1997 
during my lunch hour. I arranged thru Dr Neil Tyson to view the site 
from certain offlimits rooms in the Museum. He explained that only one 
such room was now available. The other was already closed off for 
reconstruction into a new exhibit hall. He wasn't sure if this work 
was part of the new halls in the Planetarium project or just some 
internal remodeling separate from that project. 
    I arrived at the Museum at 12:20 EDST via the Brighton Beach 
express and Washington Heights local. I went thru the main Central 
Park West entrance, and was let in to the Planetarium offices. The 
weather was sunny, with some passing clouds, breezy, about 25C. 
    Altho there were several school buses parked along Central Park 
West there were no mobs of kids on the entrance stairs. Odd? When I 
got to the top of the stairs, I saw a large panel display. It directed 
all school groups to the lower entrance under these stairs. 
    That is, there is a two-story monumental stairs leading to the 
main gates of the Museum. At street level on both sides of these 
stairs is a circular drive that arcs underneath them. It leads to 
entrance doors directly below, sheltered by the stairs, the main 
gates. It so happens that this main entry commemorates Theodore 
Roosevelt with a horsey statue of him on the stairs. Kids play on it. 
Hence, the lower entry is sometimes called the entry under the horse. 
The Museum discourages this description. 
    From the one available interior viewing site Dr Tyson and I 
inspected the work. The noise was quite modest, being mostly engine 
droning. Overall, the site was calm. Workers were scattered around and 
the premises was generally quite neat and clean. Altho it rained the 
night before, the ground was just about completely dry. Only a little 
dampness and puddling was noticed under heavy foliage. 
    The pile driving was completed at the Planetarium. Placement of 
concrete for the basement floor and the anchor blocks was in progress. 
This is a brief task being that there is really little concrete in the 
new structure. Despite its bulk and size, the Planetarium will be 
mostly empty volume requiring light structures. The main ball needs a 
concrete foundation for its struts's anchor blocks and the curtain 
glass walls need concrete footings for its columns. The open pit under 
the nadir of the ball carries no heavy load; it is a thin concrete 
    So far, according to Tyson, there were no major stoppages or 
interruptions in the project and everything is running on schedule. 
The work can go on in virtually any weather. 
    Because both Tyson and I had work to look after, we stayed for 
about ten minutes and then I left to continue the session from the 
street. Thru my gate there was little to see. A stiff breeze coming 
off of the site into the park carried clouds of powdery dirt over me. 
This is the first occasion I experienced any undesirable spillover 
from the project. A few spectators wandered sown to the gate and 
    The busted up pier at the street entrance to the circular drive 
was still undisturbed. The broken blocks were still laying on the 
ground. The stump of the sawed-down tree was removed, leaving a mushy 
and soft patch where it stood. The new bulletin board was empty of any 
messages. The dogrun was in full use, the park was filled with people, 
and there was a general busyness around the Museum. 
    At 13:00 EDST I boarded an 8th Avenue bus back to my office. I 
don't care for buses. With the new transfer scheme I now do take all 
the advantage I can of them. So I got the free ride. The ride was slow 
enough -- you must not be in a hurry -- to enjoy the scenery. 
    I passed the palisade of housing and cultural towers in Central 
PArk West, Lincoln Center, NYIT and Fordham U, and the Coliseum in 
Columbus Circle. Along Broadway I glided by the Theater District and 
Times Square. In Seventh Avenue I rode thru the Garment District and 
finally  I got off at Penn Station. From there I walked past Macy's, 
thru Herald Square, by the Empire State Building, to my office. Lunch? 
Two hotdogs from a pushcart in Herald Square. 
SESSION 18 - 1997 AUGUST 28
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 28 August 1997. 
I arrived at the site at 12:35 EDST after a ten-minute ride from 
Herald Square. This is about the absolute swiftest trip possible 
because both the express and local trains were waiting for me to board 
them when I stepped onto the platform. 
    I arranged to view the site from the interior private area of the 
Museum. Dr Tyson was on holidays but Ms Francine Oliver, his 
administrative assistant, looked after me. Due to chores at my office 
she expected me between 12:30 and 13:00. 
    The quick ride brought me to the Museum so early that I spent a 
few minutes taking pictures from the street. Then I went to see Ms 
Oliver via the main entrance on Central Park West. Altho the 
gatekeeper let me thru, the process was a bit more involved. I was 
given a red wrist strap, of paper, to wear. I then had to sign in a 
visitor's logbook. This would show any guards that I'm a guest and I 
didn't somehow sneak in. 
    It rained in the morning. By noon the rain stopped but the sky was 
thoroly overcast. Humidity was quite 100% with some condensation fog 
here and there. Ordinarily such a day would be horribly miserable. But 
the temperature was only 20-25C, so the moisture was cool.
    The Planetarium was generally quiet with no heavy machinery 
operating in it. All the work was going on in the carpark and the 
western parts of the campus. The ground was soaked and puddled from 
the morning rain. Mud was tracked all over the place. 
    Ms Oliver knew rather few details of the work. She was minding the 
shop, so to speak, being that business at the Planetarium was at a low 
level for the past several days. We stayed at the viewing spot for 
about ten minutes and I thanked her for the favor. I turned in my 
wrist strap at the front desk. 
    I continued the session at my gate. The Planetarium site was 
quiet. A hardhat walked into or out of it once in a while. In the 
carpark excavators was busily scooping out the basement of the new 
garage. The only noise were engines and some jackhammers, both 
subdued by distance from the public areas of the park. 
    There was obviously heavy vehicle traffic at the site in the 
morning. The circular drive and the sidewalk next to it were 
splattered with fresh mud. A hardhat minded the entrance at 81st 
Street and a guard sat in a cubbyhole next to my gate. We exchanged 
    The park and sidewalk were thinly populated, perhaps because the 
morning showers pushed people off of the street. The dogrun had a few 
dogs romping around. The walks and benches were still wet. 
    The entrance on 81st St was still in ruin. The stones seemed 
undisturbed since they were knocked over. The Parks Department was on 
the scene recently. There was a new pole-&-wire fence around the lawn 
next to the entrance, probably to protect filling and seeding for the 
tree which was cut down a few weeks ago. The new bulletin board was 
still empty of postings. 
    With little else to record I left at 13:20 EDST. With my MetroCard 
transfer I rode the 8th Avenue bus back to work.
    I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Tuesday 30 September 1997 
under a bright, breezy, cool day. It drizzled in the early morning, 
but by noon a cold front pushed off the clouds. I arranged with Dr 
Tyson to view the site from the inside private area; he was away for 
the day and his administrative assistant Ms Francine Oliver looked 
after me. 
    The ride to the Planetarium was routine. There was a technical 
confusion in that the B and Q routes swopped rolling stock! In the New 
York subways, because of the myriad styles and vintage of coaches, the 
routes tend to be assigned all one or an other stock. So most riders 
recognize their train by its cars without reading the routing signs. 
Why the switch today -- which lasted at least thru Friday the 4th -- I 
do not know. Anyway, I arrived at the Planetarium at 12:20 and went to 
its offices in the Museum.
    The signin process does vary unpredictably. I entered via the main 
entrance on Central Park West. When I presented my appointment to the 
security desk they waved me in. I asked about getting past the 
hawkeyes who check for donations. Oh, OK, here's a red armband to let 
you in without feeding the bowl. 
    From my vantage point I immediately noticed that the foundation of 
the new building was about completely finished. The new concrete 
outlined the future interior fixtures and appeared to be in generally 
sound condition. Altho it did drizzle for a while earlier in the day, 
the ground was essentially dry and there was only minor puddling and 
dampness in scattered places about the site.
    To the west of the Planetarium, in the carpark, was a newly 
established tower crane. It, a stalk of steel lattice about 2 meters 
square and 30 or so meters tall, was idle at the time. The boom was 
about 20 meters long and fixed over the planetarium site. 
    The is a common crane used thruout Manhattan for construction on 
account of its simplicity, cheapness, and compactness. The pillar is 
set up in one corner of the site. The boom can sweep over all parts of 
the site to lift and move material. In very tall structures, the crane 
is hitched upward onto the steelwork as it is completed; this action 
gives this type of crane its nickname, 'kangaroo'. It 'jumps' from 
floor to floor as the tower rises higher. For the Planetarium, the 
crane will remain at its present spot and height. 
    Ms Oliver herself does not follow the construction news, so she 
could not answer my technical questions. She did note that she 
overheard talk that the project is a bit ahead of schedule.
    At 12:50 I left the Planetarium office for the street and went to 
my gate. I was hit by two major impediments. First was the Sun. The 
sky was covered with fractocumulus scooting over the Sun. The Sun 
dipped into and out of the clouds within seconds! This made the 
lighting irregular across the site. I tried waiting until the Sun was 
in a large clear spot or behind a large cloud. Not so easy to do; the 
clouds shredded as they flew.
    These clouds skidded by at about 50 Km/h. How can I tell? Easy. 
Look at the cloud shadow on the 'wall' of skyscrapers along 81st 
Street! They paced cars in the street rolling along at quite 50 Km/h. 
    The other interference was the wind. The cold front brought stiff 
gusts that blew up loose and dry dirt. The wind made the air chilly 
beyond its still-air temperature of about 20C. Being that I wear 
contact lens I had to keep my eyes tightly squinted for the whole 
session! Dirt bits getting under a contact is about as fun as a war 
prisoner being tortured by pins in the eye. The two, wind and clouds, 
conspired to stretch out my picture taking and I did shoot a few duds. 
    The site was filled with workers, both hardhats and civilians, 
milling around. The major activity was in the area west of the 
carpark, for the other new wings of the Museum. The grounds were 
tracked with dirt from vehicles, altho none came or went during my 
visit. The chain at the street entry to the site was unhooked and laid 
on the ground; vehicles could drive right over it. Yet there was no 
gatekeeper. The other gate, nearer the subway station, was closed and 
a car was parked next to it.
    The corner of 81st Street and Central Park West was a madhouse of 
people. They were massed at the two bus stops and were streaming in and 
out of the subway. Virtually everyone clinched in their hands the 
MetroCard. For sure they were using the new free transfer between the 
bus and subway. 
    While the grass around the fallen dead tree was now smooth and 
under some care, the crunched pier at the street entrance was still in 
ruin. There was apparently no effort to restore it as yet. The new 
bulletin board at this location had posters about Museum events. 
None related to the Planetarium project. 
    The crane looked immense next to the Museum, but by City standards 
it's really small. These things can easily stand 50, 70, or even 100 
meters tall. Some of the new foundation protruded above local grade 
and there was some formwork in the northwest part of it. 
    The noise today was low. Some engine sounds filtered out from the 
active region in the west part of the campus. There was in fact far 
greater annoyance from roadworks on 81st Street! Street and sidewalk 
cuttings were sprinkled along the whole block and workers at them 
threw up a racket.
    The streets around the Museum were filled with people taking in 
the breezy cool air. The dogrun was in full swing and the park benches 
were thickly populated. Altho the school year is well under way, there 
was only one large school group playing at the main entrance. A 
double-decker bus filled with tourists stopped and many got off for 
the Museum. This bus did not wait for the riders to reboard. Their 
ticket allowed them to linger at the stop and get on a following bus. 
    By 13:30 I was finished and rode the Eighth Avenue bus back to Penn 
Station near my office.