PHOTOESSAY OF THE HAYDEN PLANETARIUM - 20-29 of 60 ------------------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2000 May 10
SESSION 20 - 1997 OCTOBER 16 -------------------------- I photoessayed the Hayden Planetarium on Thursday 16 October 1997. The sky was overcast with nimbostratus and from it dropped a fine mist. This mist chilled the air, tho not unpleasant, to about 15C. The mist did not at all interfere with my picture taking. The drops were very tiny and never accumulated on me. The ride to the Museum was uneventful. The mixing up of coaches on the Sixth Avenue trains continued but everyone got used to it by now. I arrived at the Museum at 12:40 EDST and entered, for no special reason, thru the subway entrance of the Museum. It was this time quite empty and the clerks were relaxed. They passed me on to Ms Oliver of the Planetarium. Yes, they gave me a red armband. I just carried it in my pocket. Ms Oliver noted that Dr Tyson was out for the day and we went to my viewing spot. From the Museum's special place the scene was quite busy. The foundation was building out nicely for the internal fittings of the new Planetarium. The nadir pit and main entrance were shaped. Equipment and workers filled the area. The tower crane was in full swing, swooshing its boom to and fro to move materials about the site. Piles of panels and crates sat on the land outside of the foundation. With the extreme busyness, there was very little moise. Some hammering, an occasional buzzsaw noise, and the revving up of the crane motors. Despite the misting, the grounds were only slightly damp and there was no puddling or standing water. The workers went about in regular garments; no one had rain gear. After about ten minutes I thanked Ms Oliver and left for the street to continue the visit. Both gates were open and I spent some moments at the eastern one, the one nearer to Central Park West and the subway entrance. The view was partly blocked by cars strewn about on the former circular drive. Even from this point the noise was minimal. I heard more commotion from a sidewalk and frontage works across 81st Street. The misting made the cobblestones on the drive very slippery and they were lubricated by damp dirt. I walked mostly on the solid dirt portions, which were only damp with no mud or water. From my usual gate, the western one in the mid block of 81st Street, workers came and went constantly. One dump truck emerged from the site from somewhere in the western part of the campus, associated with the other construction on the campus. Other than this one interruption, I went about my session in peace. The park was mostly empty of people. The benches were bare and only a few dogs with their runners were in the dogrun. This I found strange being that it never rained nor was it foercast to rain. And there was no standing water anywhere on the ground or grass. The crunched pier was finally getting some attention. A pair of orange highway bollards stood next to it, as if to ward off further impacts. Altho I could not see into the Planetarium foundation, it being well below grade with no significant structure yet rising to ground level, the workings of the tower crane were in plain view. I asked the fellow minding the gate if the crane will be used for the other parts of the works, being that the boom can cover much of the rest of the grounds. He explained that this present installation is just for the Planetarium. The crane will be relocated later to handle the other construction. It has to be moved anyway to make way for the new car garage, on whose site it now stands. In the chat I had with him, he noted that the work is proceding quite on schedule and there was no major stoppage or slippage. Altho the Planetarium seems the going well along in construction at the moment, it is the last of the new halls to open. Work on the other buildings will in the winter and spring of 1998 catch up to and pass the Planetarium. These other halls open in late 1998 and early 1999. Many of you good folk asked for 'official' or 'final' plans for the Planetarium. I have none and neither does the Museum. While the basic scheme is fixed, the sphere in a cube, many of the details are still under discussion. The Museum and Planetarium regularly meet with the architect and engineer and do confer with the Association. Sometime in early 1998 things will solidify enough for the 'final' and 'official' plan to be issued. For this reason, there is riotously wide dispersion in the accounts from various followers of planetarium news. At 13:15 I finished the visit and waited for the Eighth Avenue bus for returning to work. Now when MetroCard took off in July 1997 with the One CIty-One Fare feature, ridership on the transit system swelled with some 250,000 allnew daily riders. This is about the entire carriage of San Francisco or Boston. This forced a major realignment of service! Particularly, the crosstown buses, which link the east and west sides of Manhattan due to the lack of subways, were increased. As I waited for my bus, I counted the 79th Street buses. There was a bus scudding into the stop every 40 to 50 seconds.
SESSION 21 - 1997 NOVEMBER 14 --------------------------- This session was one miserable disaster, the worst weather and comfort I went thru in all the sessions so far. The day, Friday 14 November 1997, was a raw chilly and rainy one. The temperature was about 5C and the rain teetered between liquid and sleet. But I arranged for my visit already and I do like to keep my appointments. My walk to the subway was a wet one, even tho the adit is on my very corner. Rain pelted and stang my face. My knit hat was happily soaking up the stuff and releasing the excess down my forehead. The actual ride was quick, the normal two-train one with the change at Columbus Circle. I arrived at 81st Street station at quite 12:30 EST. To avoid further soaking, I entered the Museum from the gate inside the subway. The hall was packed with people and the air stank from wet clothes. The din was raucous, a mix of schoolkids and families, all trying to make words to each other. Only one checkpoint was staffed; the other sat vacant. The clerk was busy with collecting the suggested fees, checking paperwork from school groups, referring to booklets, handing out flyers, and otherwise really being overburdened. This mill I wasn't going thru. A quick look around turned up no idle staff. Ah!, I know how to get someone's attention. I smartly walked up to and thru the vacant checkpoint, figuring I'll be intercepted. Then I'll explain my business. So I clacked thru the unstaffed turnstile. And I continued walking across the hall, melded into the crowds, and, and, and, ... No one challenged me! I kept right on all the way to the elevators and went to the Planetarium office. While hanging cool by the elevator I noticed how utterly filled the Museum was. This is one of its 'Grand Central' days when the mean free path is down to one meter! The elevator was slow to come. When it did it vented a full load of riders. A mob crushed in, entraining me with it. More uproar from the voices and shouts in the shutup cabin. The space around the Planetarium office is normally quiet. It's off in a corner of its floor and no one bothers it. Today the floor was teeming with visitors coursing between the exhibit galleries and packed around the elevator door. Those getting off here had to ooze out, like on the train in rushhour. Home free, at last? Nope. The office was walled off by tall and broad rolling partitions, the kind used to protect work areas so the public doesn't interfere. And there was a guard spotted by these partitions. He asked my business and escorted me behind the wall. Was this some reaction to an antiplanetariumist's threat? Right behind the wall, smack in front of and blocking the Planetarium office, was a long folding table. Assorted folk queued up in front. Stern folk seated behind it. Lots of money piled up on the table. Hmmm. The guard hustled me along. Now the guard picked up a wall phone and tried to call into the Planetarium to announce me. He couldn't remember its number! He fumbled around in his pockets. Oh, come on, the door is right here. Knock, man. Ms Francine Oliver answered my knocking and let me in. She explained the weird scene outside. On payday at the Museum one of the money stores in the nabe sets up shop in this spot to cash Museum paychecks. It just happened that with the rain outside today was extra busy for the cashing station. Due to the loose money laying about, this had to be hidden from public view and a sentry deployed here. With all this behind us, we went to my viewing room. The site was generally quiet but workers were all about it. The foundation is sprouting superstructure, which by now poked above local grade. From the rain the area was spotted with mud and puddles. The tower crane was depositing some oblong load onto the foundation floor. Ms Oliver does not follow the construction work and noted that the Planetarium is in general out of the loop for overseeing the work. Everything is in the hands of a panel from the Museum. Recall that technicly the Planetarium and Museum remain distinct legal enterprises. So far as she knew, nothing serious impeded the work and she saw activity on the site in all weather. Some of my fellow AAA members mentioned that there is in the Museum an exhibit describing the new Planetarium, but didn't know where it was. I asked Ms Oliver; she said there is none. She added that it would be a good idea. She could send people to it for answers to the bulk of the routine questions she gets. After about ten minutes we departed, she to her office and I to the street. More mobs to squeeze thru. I came to a guard who was fielding inquiries from visitors. I asked about any Planetarium exhibit. He said there is none. The Planetarium is closed and a new one is under construction. But the Museum has nothing on display to explain the project. You have to inquire at the Planetarium office. I left thru the lower level exit, the one 'under the horse', relative to the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt that dominates the Central Park main entrance. This hall was wall to wall school children. It was a marshalling pen for the teachers to collect their pupils and make sure all are accounted for. Both inbound and outbound groups collided here. It was patently -- and painfully in the ear -- evident that no teacher's voice was understood by any pupil. Any way, I floated out on the crest of an outbound school group. I designed to try for my street pictures. No go. The rain was too repellent. Soonest I got out in the open air I was assaulted by cold stinging raindrops. I just better go back to my office. I trotted to the bus stop and peered into the rain for the Eighth Avenue bus. The entire four-block length of curb on Central Park West was thronged by school buses. They rooted for a curbside spot. They guaguaed at the curb (so now you know how the Spanish word for bus came about). They revved up and gunned their motors to leave. A Museum guard with walkie-talkie was thoroly drenched in his sunny day jacket and hatless head. He had no rainy weather protection! The poor chap flitted from bus to bus to check their papers and instruct the drivers. He conversed thru the walkie-talkie, probably to other similar guards down the block? He also had to warn the mobs of kids about traffic and general safety cautions. It was quite a full minute when I plain had it with this snotty day. The bus was not yet coming. And if I did ride it, I faced a two long block walk from Penn Station to my office in this stupid rain. I dived into the subway kiosk right there at the corner of 81st Street and Central Park West and paid a full second fare. I forfeited my MetroCard transfer. The West End local swooshed in. I sat down, wrang out my hat, and zipped back to Herald Square. I left by the exit on my corner and sprinted to my office, arriving there at 13:30 EST.
SESSION 22 - 1997 NOVEMBER 18 --------------------------- Because of the heavy and cold rain on Friday 15 November I did not take any pictures from the street. So on this Tuesday, the 18th of November, I rode to the Planetarium to fill this gap in my photoessay. I didn't enter the Museum this time but went directly to the site from the subway. I arrived at 12:40 EST under a bright and sunny sky with temperature of 0C to 5C. A soft breeze tingled my cheeks and hands, but otherwise it was a most refreshing day. Both gate were open for me and I spent some time at each. The eastern one next to the subway offered me a close up view of the site. What I thought was superstructure from the high window on Friday was actually an new stud and panel wall. Workers were finishing off an enclosure tightly surrounding the site about 2-1/2 meters high. Apart from some hammering and clanking of materials, the area was quiet. So there was not much to see this time. Even the tower crane was still while I was there. It rained a little on Monday, the 17th, and there were some muddy spots left over from then. Otherwise the area was clean and dry. I went to the western gate. As I walked along 81st Street to this gate I was assailed by construction noise. No, it did not come from the Planetarium. Most of it flowed from a road cutting in 81st Street near Columbus Avenue, frontage renovation across the street on 81st Street from the Planetarium, and from work on the new halls at the western end of the Museum campus. The busted pier was finally repaired. New stone blocks restored it sometime since my visit in early November. The job was OK, nothing special, just cut stone fitted together with cement to look like the pier on the opposite side of the circular drive. It'll weather to blend with the older stone in a few months. The dogrun was filled with dogs and their runners with lots of barking and yelping. The park was lightly trafficked. a few strollers, a few joggers, a few sitters. In the areas under residual foliage the ground had tacky drying mud from yesterday's rain. From this gate there was no action visible. The enclosing wall was about complete around the Planetarium. Despite the bright Sun and his low altitude, I had no problem finding trees and other shadows to shade my camera. Outside the new inner wall the grounds were generally clean, as if recently swept or hosed. A couple workers lazed about and plodded slowly thru the site. I asked one how the works were going. He noted that so far everything is on schedule. There were no stoppages or slowages. He further noted that construction will continue thru the winter being that all the concrete is placed. Steel and other structure can go up in almost any weather, limited only by the endurance of the crews. I don't know the rank of this fellow; he just happened to amble out of the gate while I was there and looked no different from the other crew in the site. But he seemed to know what was going on. We chatted for a while, then he had to continue on his way to the street and out of sight. He explained the main steps to come. The base of the Planetarium is of rustic stone to carry around to the north face of the campus the dropdead motif of the south face. This will be finished first and protected from damage by later work. Then the struts for the main ball will be built, followed by the ball itself. He called this the 'Hayden Sphere', but emphasized that this is just a convenient name to refer to it by. It is not the official name, even tho it houses the actual Hayden Planetarium sky theater. When the ball is skinned over to enclose it, work starts on the outer cube. As the ball rises the adjacent walls of the Museum are holed thru for the access into the Planetarium's new offices and labs. That's his general description of the scheme of things. I walked around to the west side of the campus, saw heavy construction on the other halls, and walked down Columbus Avenue. There was an other road crew filling the air with its jackhammering din. And in the side streets off of Columbus Av, across the street from the Museum, there were more frontage improvements in progress. There bring no point in backtracking to the subway, I continued counterclockwise around the Museum to 77th Street, then to Central Park West. The entire circuit is a mite over one kilometer of continuous level pavement, forming a perfect measured jogging track. The street was quiet with a light sprinkling of pedestrians. There were more renovations going on along 77th Street all emitting the usual and annoying racket. The bright Sun and blue sky showed up the south facade of the Museum. This is the first section of the Museum constructed, in the 1870s, and is far, far, and away the most spectacular part of the campus [until the Planetarium is opened]. It is a massive Victorian Gothic monumental style with a grand entrance, looking more like a citadel than an institutional edifice. It was impossible to photograph this to best effect. While the foliage was mostly gone from the trees, the trees were so thickly studded on the grounds that they blocked all the good sightlines. I took several pictures being that I normally come here in the evening for the Association lectures and don;t get to see the place in sunlight. I mentioned in an early session, I forget which, that the Museum was supposed to ultimately embrace this entire block with four faces in perfect symmetry. Only this one on the south was ever actually finished. The east face on Central Park West, built in the 1930s, is altogether different, being more Beaux Arts. And there never was a north and west face. This south face was the only entrance when Anighito was captured and brought to the Museum. This is still the biggest meteorite in captivity (larger ones are still in the ground here and there). The thing, all 36 tons of it, was brought by sail-&-steam ship from Greenland straight to the pier at 79th Street and Hudson River. This was once used for a ferry depot and now as a cove for houseboats. The stone was eased into the Museum thru this south gate to a display among other minerals. When the first Planetarium was built, Anighito was to be a major exhibit in it. To avoid the hassle of moving it into a new place, it was placed on the floor of the new building before the steel went up around it. It was protected under a lumber crate. It was unveiled with the opening of the Planetarium. But no one knew for sure its mass. It could be doped out by an estimated volume and density, of course. In the early 1950s, in one of the last major exhibit improvements of the old building, Toledo Scale Company donated a truck scale and hoisted Anighito onto it. This is the exhibit we all remember from the old Planetarium. And for the first time since capture the meteorite was finally weighed: 36 tons! The exhibit was designed so a person looking at the giant dial stood on the weigh plate. His mass was added to that of the stone, so no two visitors agreed on the weight he read off of the dial! In 1981 Anighito was moved from the Planetarium to a new Hall of Gems and Minerals. To get the thing out of the Planetarium a hole was cut in the west wall in the old carpark. I photoessayed this adventure, too. The meteorite was placed on a massive sledge and pulled out on log rollers. The logs were exposed off of the back of the sledge as the stone was pulled along by winch. Roustabouts muscled these logs to the front, where the sledge slid onto them again. The crew was in deep sweat from the heavy work. This was for me an amazing sight. At that time I was studying Egyptian hieroglyphs with the late Mabel Georgi, a noted hieroglyphs reader from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum. I then learned how the ancient engineers moved the blocks to build pyramids and temples. Their culture did not use the wheel, a device pretty useless in sandy ground and obviated by floats on the Nile. They used logs as rollers to haul the stones scores or hundreds of kilometers from mine to site. The logs rolled over other logs laid in the sand like tracks. As the block moved forward under muscle power, the logs from the back were pulled up and relaid in front. So here in the late 20th century -- some 30 and more centuries since the pyramids! -- the exact same method was used to shift Anighito to its new display site. (Steel I-beams were used in the place of the Egyptian log rails.) It now lives in the round tower at the 77th St & Columbus Avenue corner of the Museum. This is one of many such towers on this south side looking like brick skyrockets. I reached Central Park West. There was a couple school buses along the curb, guaguaing the time away. Two, at least, guards looked after them. They relaxed against the lamppoles or walked about happily. compared to the scene on Friday, session 21, this was utterly placid! I waited for the Eighth Avenue bus and rode back to my office, arriving there at 14:00.
SESSION 23 - 19970 DECEMBER 5 --------------------------- I wanted to visit the site on Thursday the 4th, but both the Planetarium's and my work didn't mesh. So I arranged to stop up on the next day, Friday the 5th of December 1997. I rode to the Planetarium by the usual two-train trick and entered by the lower level entrance from the subway station. There was no real reason to do this but I happened to be near the back end of the train and as I walked to the street exit I passed the Museum's gate. So I looked in and saw it empty and quiet. It was then about 12:20 EST. The gatekeeper phoned the Planetarium and let me thru the checkpoint. I met Ms Francine Oliver who was at the moment packing papers and books into cartons. After a few minutes we went to the special viewing site. A gaggle of teenagers was horsing around by the elevator and Ms Oliver steered us away from them. To me they were just goofing around Ms Oliver is a short and light woman and wanted no chances with the kids. We walked the giant stone stairs that connect the floors of the Museum, the ones with the heavy bronze handrails. As a kid I and friends would slide sown the handrail, being ultra careful to hike up over the 'speed bumps' embedded in them. A collision with one of these bumps would land you in the Museum's infirmary for 'repair'. Concerned that the boys were on the elevator we avoided, we wanted to continue by stairs. But the floor of our quest is closed off and Ms Oliver had no entry to them by stairs. The Museum segregates keys and access to better govern use of the offlimits areas and the Planetarium normally has no need to enter certain parts of these areas. But a worker let us in by recognizing Ms Oliver and we continued on foot to the viewing site. Dead end. In the stead of reaching our site, the route led into a new and unknown hole in the Museum. Several offices were cut into the walls and even on the very stairs themselfs. Altho there were windows facing out, they were blocked by furniture and junk piled on the floor. We puzzled at this scene, which to me looked like an engineering or architect's workshop with drawing boards, handbooks, instruments, gooseneck lamps, and all. We retreated to the public floor. By now the elevator was in free use; the teenagers wee gone. We rode to the viewing spot. The site was alive with action all over! The entire ground and first floor of the Planetarium was fleshing out. Work on the backoffice section was underway. The Planetarium's glass box has a kerf of 8 to 10 meters all around between it and the blocks of other Museum structures. This space will house the rooms, labs, utilities for the Planetarium and are not part of the ambitious architectural scheme. They are conventional concrete skeleton construction that also give structural support to the glass box. Only the north and west sides of the box are glass walled. The other two sides abut and are integrated into the rest of the Museum. The floor, the new cellar and nadir pit, were filled with temporary trailers and materials. Many of the vaults for utilities were in place. The tower crane was busily ferrying vats of concrete to the backoffice section against the east side of the Planetarium. After about ten minutes here I went to the street. The air was thick with a mist and the sky was thoroly overcast. The temperature was about 10C altho it seemed chillier from the dampness. The streets and park were lightly filled and the dogrun was thinly populated. Both gates in the contractor's wall were open for me. From each I got clear views of the work. The entire front of the Planetarium was complete. This is the new front entrance later to be clad in granite The east side was swarming with workers placing concrete from vats hoisted to them by the tower crane. The operation was smooth and quick. A bevy of concrete trucks lined up in front of the Planetarium and filled the vats. Each vat was about the size of a small car and, from my general construction experience, held some four tons of concrete. When filled the crane hoisted and swang the vat over the front wall of the Planetarium to the backoffice section. There the vat was lowered to the placement spot to be emptied. Forms were in place for floor and columns, with footings ready for the second floor to rise on a following day. The trucks emptied quickly and then trudged out of the site by the circular drive to 81st Street. They headed west toward Columbus Av to the filling station by the Hudson River. I don't know where the concrete mill is but in general it can not be on the construction site. In New York construction is an incredibly delicate ballet played out on the tiniest of sites. Buildings have no surrounding terrain to set up shop and there can be no disturbance to adjacent property. All materials are prepared off site, in the Bronx, New Jersey, riverfront piers, and so on. They are laden onto trucks of a certain maximum bulk to fit the tunnels and bridges of Manhattan. These trucks are sent to the site at the moment their load is needed and they must then clear the area and return to the offsite depot. So, litterally, the truck pulls up under the crane, the load is hoisted off, and the truck guns off for the next load. The material just picked off of the truck is used right then and there. It is placed in the structure and not just set aside for a later application. If you visit New York in the winter months of 1997-1998, you can see this scheme in full swing at many sites all over the City. For two examples look at the new Conde Nast tower rising in Times Square, a 45ish floor office edifice. Or stop at Union Square to inspect a 22 floor mixed use tower. The surrounds are devoid of the usual camp for construction and the sidewalks and streets are open for passage. To the casual sight the skyscrapers sprout out of the ground like magic. So the concrete trucks once relieved of their contents into the vats must depart immediately. There was a steady stream of trucks coming and going all the while I was at the site. Despite the mist, the area was overall clean and free of loose dirt and debris. Around the Museum there were waves of school groups coming and going. The scene was rather calm and the crowds seemed to be under good control and order. School buses lined Central Park West with Museum guards clocking them in and passing out instructions. After about a half hour at the site, at quite 13:20 EST, I boarded the Eighth Avenue bus and returned to my office.
SESSION 24 - 1998 JANUARY 23 -------------------------- I wanted to visit the site in early January, right after my holidays during Christmas and New Years. The weather that first week was always rainy and foggy, with visibility at times down to 50 meters! So I waited for the second week of January. No go. On Monday morning, 12 January, I woke up with a phlegm-packed throat! Before exposing myself to the outdoors more than I really had to I better throw off this cold. I did by Thursday the 15th. So it was the third week of January 1998 that I had the first chance to see the recent work. As it happened work got very busy and I couldn't get away for an extended lunch until Friday the 23rd. And so my visit was on Friday the 23rd of January. I arrived at 81st Street station by the two-train route at 12:15 EST. The weather was a thick drizzle, not quite a full rain, and I entered the Museum by the adit in the subway station. The traffic was moderate with family groups milling around. Altho the clerks at the gates were lively, there were no idle ones to announce my visit. So I did what I did once before. I just shoved thru the turnstile and melded into the scene inside. No one challenged me. Upstairs at the Planetarium office there were barriers across the front door. The temporary banking table was set up behind them and a line snaked around them. Yes, there was a guard posted and he did see me. However, he did not intervene. I walked along with the line behind the barrier. Once inside I merely noted that I was continuing on to the Planetarium office. The clerk at the cashpoint waved me thru. I met Ms Oliver; she was on the phone at the instant. All around her were large boxes, like file storage boxes, filled with paperwork. Files in folders, it seemed. I saw five or six around her on the floor and visitor chairs. When she finished with her phonecall I asked if she was packing the office for a relocation. No, she explained, the boxes were crammed full of job applications! The Planetarium advertised for a single position thru the American Astronomical Society's joblist. She may have noted the job description but I can't recall it. Anyway, she received several hundred applications and she filed them in folders for review. Later in the day I checked the AAS website and found the job notice. It was for a systems administrator in the Planetarium's Milky Way project. The new facility will have the world's most complete and accurate model of the Milky Way galaxy using conventional exhibit material and computer visualization and animation. From the bulk of the boxes and the packing fraction I estimated that there were some 300, at least, applications already received for this one job opening! What a drastic demonstration of the utter constriction of career choices in our profession! Anyway, she and I went to the viewing spot without incident. While the work has been quiet without the heavy construction noise of prior months, she observed a general busyness about the site. The floor of the Planetarium is mostly clear of construction huts and laydown material. These were relocated to uplands in the park along 81st Street. These were still within the perimeter wall. The birdhouse, the hut protecting the Museum's remote video camera, is now raised up on stilts to clear the ground clutter and first floor wall of the Planetarium. The heavy concrete work on the first, or ground, floor seemed to complete. Forming and placement of concrete for the second floor was in progress. These areas were between the east face of the Planetarium and the Museum, the southeast corner, and a bit of the west face of the Planetarium. Ms Oliver hadn't noticed any major penetrations of the Museum for access to these backoffice areas, altho there will be several passages between the Planetarium and Museum. After about ten minutes I thanked Ms Oliver and left for the street. I figured on passing up the ground picture taking until a drier day. I was surprised to feel that the drizzle was not at all discouraging. The rain sort of drifted down in warm drops! I had no fear about relapsing into my cold of last week. Of course, I wore a hooded coat and knit hat in keeping with the general winter season. The site was quiet with no heavy work going on. Workers crisscrossed the site and there were several trucks and utility cars scattered about. The trucks were regular cargo trucks like for local deliveries. The tower crane was still and poised over some construction on the west side of the carpark. The grounds were moist, not really wet, from the drizzle, with only minor ponding and runoff. I did get some loose mud on my shoes from walking on bare ground around the site. Both gates were open and I spent some time at each. Vehicles blocked some sightlines. The major new feature was the stone arch main entrance to the Planetarium. This ws on the same spot as the entrance for the old building. The idea was to pick up some of the motif of the Museum's dropdead south facade, which has a sweeping arched entry. The streets and the park were mostly barren of people. A few walkers strolled by and the dogrun had a few dogs. Only a couple school buses sat along Central Park West. All in all, everything was quite tranquil. I found the light rain very soothing to walk around in. It never interfered with my picture taking. After about fifteen minutes I left the site. This time I had a package to mail overseas. I took it with me to mail at the local postoffice branch on the grounds that one would be less busy than the ones near Herald Square. I walked from the site to the postoffice, on 83rd Street near Amsterdam Avenue. This is equivalent to 10th Avenue. The name picks up at 59th Street. The postoffice by City norms was a lazy place. Three windows were open and only five people were on live ahead of me. But this is the same old postoffice operation never the less. The line moved slowly as the clerks lazed their way thru the business of each customer. I got the window after about twenty minutes of wait! This matter done with, I went back to work. I was a bit far from the 81st Street subway station. Now I found myself in the 'drainage basin' of the subway and buses in Broadway. With the free transfer still on my MetroCard I took a Broadway bus back to my office. It came within a minute; this is a sweet route. This particular bus didn't go thru or near Herald Square. It turned into 42nd Street and went east toward the United Nations. I got off at 5th Avenue, at the Library, and walked the few blocks to my office.
SESSION 25 - 1998 FEBRUARY 18 --------------------------- Generally busyness all thru February thwarted plans to visit the site until this very week, the eve of my journey to the upcoming solar eclipse. I'm off to the Caribbean Sea via cruise ship and will see the eclipse from sea near Aruba. So I shoved off other chores and arranged to see the works on Wednesday the 18th of February. It rained in the previous night with thunder and lightning. By morning rushhour the rain ebbed to a drizzle. When I set off for the Planetarium the rain already stopped. The sky remained thoroly overcast and the streets were still wet. A cool breeze blew and my heavy winter coat was welcome on by back. I arrived at the Museum at 12:20 EST by a one-train ride and entered the Museum thru its subway access. Altho the hall was crowded, I saw a guard answering some visitor's questions. When he was free I announced my appointment. The chap was the stereotypical Bulgarian postal clerk. He even smelled like one. He nodded and said something like, "OK". I started to walk into the hall toward the elevator. He hailed me and asked that I sit down. There are benches along the walls and he pointed to one. He then brought out a large plastic toolbox or fishing tackle box and set it on the bench next to me. Is this a new signin process with fingerprinting and photographing? He fumbled at the box and finally yanked it open. Out sprang stuffed up papers. He pulled one out, smoothed it with his fingers and handed it to me. "Put your name on this paper". In the dim light I made out lines on a form, some of which were filled in. I wrote my name on the first empty line. The guy studied the form, fingered it, and slowly handed it back. "Where are you going? Put it here". I did, "Planetarium office". He studied the paper again. After many seconds he asked, "What time did you get here?" I asked him being that I needed the official time from his watch. He pulled his watch from a pocket, studied it, and noted it was around 12:30. So I put that time in the little space on the form. He studied the form for a while, then asked "Who are you seeing?" I told him I had an appointment with Ms Oliver. "Put that here". So I squeezed in her name in the line. Apparently all this now was copasetic. He folded the form and stuffed it into his toolbox. He rummaged around in it and pulled out a nametag. "Put your name here." I wrote out my name on the tag. He studied it. "What is your name?" I pronounced it slowly and pointed out the characters on the tag. "OK, you can go now." I rammed the tag into my coat pocket and skipped off to the Planetarium office. When I stepped off of the elevator I was struck by how dark the hall was. There was little light coming thru the exterior windows. These are corrugated and frosted, like privacy windows, so one can not see anything clearly thru them. But they were dark. By interpreting the shadows outside I guessed that the Planetarium structure was rising up to the level of the office. Ms Oliver greeted me and, yes, the edifice is climbing higher. I didn't bother telling Ms Oliver what went on with the guard; it was too silly. We went to the special viewing station and, lo!, the works outside were a full floor higher and definitely was covering up the exposed walls of the Museum. Right under the window we looked out of were workmen busy tinkering on the floor forms of the next higher level. We could hear their chatter and the clanking of tools thru the glass. The Planetarium is up to its fourth floor! Work is proceding on the backoffice section, that abutting and keying into the Museum. The belly of the Planetarium was filled with laid out materials and some workhuts. The tower crane was swooshing back and forth moving small piles of material to the site. In this instance the load was lumber to build concreting forms on the top of the fourth floor. It was settled down before several workers, who untied the lumber and let the crane's empty hook haul up and away. It will be soon be impractical to continue inspection of the works from this spot. The concrete shell of the backoffices will cover the windows. Unless we can find an other site for the overviews, I'll be limited to the photoessay from the street. We were finished after some fifteen minutes and I left by the subway access. It has a ramp up to the street. I gave my nametag to the Bulgarian bloke. He studied it, fingered it, put it in his pocket. "OK, you can go now." From the street, near 79th Street and Central Park West next to the main ceremonial entrance, I walked around to 81st Street. The ground was rapidly drying out after the previous night's rain. The breeze was cool and refreshing and probably helped in the quick evaporation of the water from the ground. Both gates were open and I took several pictures from each. The work in progress was fairly routine and the only significant din was the motors of the tower crane. It alternately moved parts from a laydown area in the former carpark to the Planetarium and removed items from there to the laydown area. All operations went quickly and smoothly. The park was overall empty, likely the people were dissuaded by the rain earlier in the day. The dogrun had only a couple dogs and their runners. The surrounding street had light foot traffic. The new feature on the site was a plank road leading from the circular drive in the midblock of 81st Street to the contractor's wall. It rested on grass. I asked the gate keeper about this. He explained that it was freshly put down a day or two earlier. It was the road fro moving onto the site a second tower crane. Later in the project a third will be set up. He wasn't sure when the second crane will arrive but it is soon. The Planetarium edifice is still completely in the open with no enclosure of the completed sections. All is exposed to the elements with not even a tarp or canvas sheet to fend off any wind or rain. So far the main accomplishment is the placing of concrete for the skeleton and the embedding of utility mains. A curious feature of the works is the preservation of the lamppoles. The trees on the site are worthy to be protected but the lamppoles will be torn out and replaced with nostalgic ones of starsafe design. No one on the site could understand why the old poles are so carefully avoided and were not pulled out long ago. At night, when I come to the AAA's lectures at the Museum, these lamps are burning with their glary glow. There being nothing more to inspect or essay I left at quite 13:30 for an errand at the nearby post office. This is on 83rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. When that business was done I walked back to the Museum for a final look-around. Then I took the Eighth Avenue bus back to my office.
SESSION 26 - 1998 MARCH 19 ------------------------ I completed with this session a full year of my photoessay project! For those who collected all the session reports, the first one was on 8 March 1997. There remains about 1-1/2 years of work on the new Hayden Planetarium before it formally opens on 31 December 1999. This session was quite different from the others. The morning of the 19th was rainy. This rain continued more or less all thru the day, altho it varied from a thin drizzle to heavy pitter-patter. I called Ms Francine Oliver in the early morning to arrange a visit for the noontime period. She had a surprise for me. "The Planetarium is all the way above our viewing perch; the windows are all walled in." Wow! She added that the coverage of the windows occurred at the end of February, when I was at the Caribbean solar eclipse. Ergo, there was no need for a special appointment any more. Perhaps a new vantage station can be arranged but for now only the inspection from the street is possible. As it turned out I was going to the Museum in the evening with a ladybuddy to a talk on the development of prehistoric humans. I figured on arriving a bit early to check out the Planetarium, thus getting two uses out of a single trip, MetroCard or no MetroCard. I got to the Museum during the rampup of the evening rushhour. The West End local pulled into Herald Sq right away and I rode straight to the 81st Street station. Ladybuddy asked me to meet her at 18:00 by the horsey statue at the main gate of the Museum. With me getting there ahead of time, at 17:45 EST, I went right to the Planetarium. The site was quiet and all the machinery was still. In the overcast gloom of the sunset hour the slowly falling light revealed a rather massive concrete structure hugging the inner walls of the Museum. The thing was about the full height of the Museum! The east gate of the contractor's wall was closed. The west gate. too, was closed but a side door, for people only, was open. I stood in it a few minutes to look over the place and take a couple pictures. Because of the diminishing light and the impending lecture inside the Museum I figured to return here tomorrow in midday. So I took just a couple shots. The guard there recognized and greeted me. He said that it's quite 18:00 and he has to lock up the site for the night. He let me finish the pictures and then he padlocked the door to seal the wall up. There is one correction for the last report for session #25. I noted that the site was unprotected against the weather. This was a general comment, but some readers took it to refer to the skeleton alone. They noted, from their own visit to the site, that the very top floor of the concrete skeleton was then shrouded in tarps. There was still only the one tower crane. The plank easement laid for moving in an other crane was apparently unused. The site in general was clean and rather free of standing water despite the allday rain. At this moment it was drizzling lightly. I started to loop back to 81st Street around to the main gate to meet ladybuddy. I stopped at the front of the Planetarium. There were about a dozen nightlights blazing within the structure. They were of the usual glaring obnoxious kind used in construction. I tried to block some out with trees to photograph this front view. Being that the sky was rapidly darkening, maybe the clouds were thickening, I quit the inspection at 18:05. Ladybuddy was waiting for me and we went to the lecture. After the lecture I just went home to Brooklyn by the 8th Av and 6th Av trains.
SESSION 27 - 1998 MARCH 20 ------------------------- Because my visit to the site was a brief one on the 19th of March and done under a cloudy twilight sky, I returned to the site on the 20th during the day. There being no longer a vantage point for the overhead view of the project, there was no need to arrange a visit with Ms Oliver. I merely went on my own via the West End local from Herald Square and walked straight to the site. I arrived at 12:40 EST. The air was cool and partly cloudy, about 4C with a gentle breeze. I didn't need my winter coat but it was well enough that I was wearing it. During the visit the clouds thinned out to reveal the Sun. However, the Sun remained veiled all the time, what we photographers call 'cloudy bright'. The Sun never hindered me in my picture taking. Both gates were open. The guards at both cautioned me about heavy trucks coming and going and on two instances they did call me away to let one pass thru. The place was busy with flatbeds, freight trucks, and concrete mixers lumbering into and out of the gates. Most of the activity is shifted to the rest of the Museum works in the center and west parts of the campus. The tower crane was swooshing concrete from the concrete mixer to forms in the next pavilion west from the Planetarium. I forget which this is, but it's part of the Earth & Space complex, which includes the new Planetarium. There is a second crane on the site. It is a truck-mounted stick crane planted in the front left corner of the site. This is relative to a viewpoint as if standing in front of the old Planetarium. This crane, with a boom about 20m long when fully extended, is the same kind used to insert or remove furniture from apartments and offices elsewhere on Manhattan. Commonly the older buildings have small or weak elevators which can not be used for heavy furniture. So the moving company, after paletting and cushioning the stuff, hoists it thru windows with a stick crane. It makes for quite a spectacle on the streets! (Sometimes the window has to be enlarged, but this is later rebuilt.) The crane was hidden by other vehicles on the property and by the contractor's wall. The best I could see is that crated material was brought to the middle floors of the skeleton. On the floor roustabouts moved the crates farther into the frame, out of sight. The skeleton is all the way to the top of the Museum walls, completely covering them on the south and east flanks of the Museum, as seen from within the Planetarium site. The activity was overall modest. The main noise was from the tower crane, plus some hammering and clanging. There was a plank boardwalk laid down in the park joining the circular drive (what's left of it) with the contractor's wall. I saw it in session #25 and was told it was a access road for a second tower crane. No one then knew when it would come. Now there was a flatbed of trusses parked on the boardwalk. This is the first shipment for the second tower crane. However, no one knew just when it would be assembled or just where it would stand. One worker explained, uncertainly, that the new crane will stand in the western part of the grounds. Then the first crane will be dismantled and moved to a third site. In any case the existing crane will soon be engulfed. The new car garage, on whose land it now stands, is starting to take shape against the Museum walls. Parked near the western gate was a tree care truck. The guard explained that its company was onsite to examine the trees to ensure their health and tend to any problems they have. The backoffice section of the Planetarium communicates with the rest of the Museum at only certain spots along their common wall. Over most of the contingent area the structures are separate. The two are free standing pieces. There is no structural connection between the Museum and Planetarium. In theory when we replace this new building in the late 21st century there is no harm to the Museum halls. Perhaps from the possibility of rain early in the day the streets and the park were lightly trafficked. The dogrun, on the other hand, was filled with dogs and their runners, all shouting and yelping. Only a couple school buses coursed to and from the main entrance of the Museum. The conditions in the Museum I don't know. On this visit I never went inside. Altho there was only a moderate level of busyness about the grounds I ended up spending perhaps the longest time ever on this visit. When I finally left it was 13:45! I hurried back to work on the Eighth Avenue bus. On the bus on this the first anniversary of my photoessay project I thought about how simply wonderful it is to be an astronomer in New York. It is here that in the daily goings about the astronomer sees the flowering of an 'urban astronomy Eden'. At 77th St, south side of the Museum, I recalled how barely a year ago 20 or so of us watched the Hale-Bopp comet before the monthly AAA lecture. And how other members streamed into the lecture with their own accounts of seeing it from nearby streets. In the mid 70s I rolled past the housing blocks of Central Park West. In this section of the City live about a score of our members! I could see their towers out the right side windows. It is this densification of the City that makes a strong and healthy fellowship among astronomers in New York. They're all neighbors! 72nd Street, Strawberry Fields, this being hidden behind the trees in Central Park. 72nd Street leads to Sherman-Verdi Sq, an enclave of science fiction writers. Do you know why every futuristic sci-fi city looks like Manhattan? Think a bit. What did Asimov, Bradbury, Gernsback, and the others see when they stepped out for their morning strolls? Mid 60s, Tavern-on-the-Green. The world's busiest restaurant, yet it is totally star-friendly in its design. The trees, unlike in almost every other American town, are not floodlighted. They are gorgeously constellated! What's more, just about every one of the nearly 3-1/2 million annual diners comes by transit or taxi. (Some do arrive by Central Park's fabled horse-&-carriage.) Beyond Tavern-on-the-Green I made out Sheep Meadow, buried in the trees but marked by its flat expanse. This is where the City celebrates its real stars, our annual Urban Star Fest. In the three brief years of running, this is now America's far and away best attended starparty, with several thousand visitors from all over the country side. Oh? Astronomers actually do come into the City for our stars. The bus hopped over to Lincoln Center, the world's largest center for performing arts, including the Metropolitan Opera House. Despite its size, all its outdoor lighting is thoroly starsafe, even the area lights along Broadway and Columbus Av. Lower 60s. I bounced (New York streets are really pitted and scarred) past New York Institute of Technology on the right, a leading center for computer graphics. The techniques developed and perfected here are in routine use for spacebased imaging. I swirled around Columbus Circle to head into Broadway, passing the large kiosk for the subway in front of the Coliseum. The transit grid of the City oblitterated the car culture here with all of its horrible sky whitening highways, parking lots, and so on. After some many years of shameful neglect, the system is under an allpoints rebuilding. The flowers around the kiosk should bloom in a couple weeks. Down into the 50s I rattled into the Theater District. A veritable sea of taxis surrounded the bus! Taxis are the third pillar of the City's transit system, carrying each day on Manhattan 2/3 of all the country's cab riders. With its 12,500 yellow and 15,000 'black' cabs, there is simply no motivation to drive your own car around the City. Result: a vastly lower demand for sky-trashing automotive structures and facilities. Times Square was filled with people, all pursuing their business and pleasure. The evisceration of street crime, that hideous barrier against nighttime astronomy, is epitomized here. Where once you dared not let your children go to Times Square, you now bring them here! The former regime of violence quenched not only stargazing but also attendance at astronomy meetings. Today the Association meetings enjoy a rising attendance. This spills over to a steady growth in membership. Down Forty-Deuce I spotted Bryant Park out the left windows, site of two of the City's Earth Day festivals. The AAA does not have a distinct 'Astronomy Day' event. It sets up a booth at Earth Day, during late April, to promote the City's stars. On the occasions we were in Bryant Park we received several thousand visitors at our table. Further east on 42nd Street I saw part of that utterly enchanting monument to astronomy as civic art, Grand Central Terminal. Its ceiling freaks out the visiting astronomer. Mama mia! The stars are lighted now and form a teary-eyed magnificent vault. Standing on the interior balcony, the astronomer sees the perfect union of the stars and the City. The 30s constitute the Garment District, where 2/3 of all the clothes sold in the US must pass thru. The towers hemming in the street, now 7th Avenue, are vertical factories, extremely economical of land and energy. The sky friendly structures emit little stray light, smoke, poisons, and do not despoil the land or waters around our happy island. Yet some 50,000 laborers are tenanted here. Across 34th Street I rode, with its new starsafe outdoor lighting. I personally have seen astronomers hug one of our new lamppoles and sob how their home town would just never replace its trash lighting in their lifetime. The new illuminating scheme is diffusing into other parts of the City, both on Manhattan and the outer boros. As the bus bulled into my stop, I saw the world's first international darksky shrine. It was humming full tilt with visitors streaming in and out. All of its 3-1/2 metric acres are compacted into a neat and cozy totally benign structure. Now, when was the last time you in your town drove past the local K-Mart because you didn't notice it? Probably never. The store kind of makes itself visible, no?. Here, I have let visiting astronomer stroll right by it. I grab them back and show it to them. That's when they fall to their knees and worship it. I got off at Penn Station, a sorry replacement for the archetypicly magnificent rail depot. It was the killing of old Penn Station in 1963 that consolidated the world's civic sensitivity and preservation ethic. So we're putting the station back! Heavy construction is slated to begin around Christmas of 1998. I later thought about what I did that afternoon. In a twenty minute bus ride I saw more enhancements for our profession than folk elsewhere may see in a year! So, please, when you visit New York, look us up. We'll show you the stars.
SESSION 28 - 1998 APRIL 15 ------------------------ April 15ht is the most hated day in the United States; it's the date our income taxes are due for the preceding calendar year. The governments -- federal, state, and city -- are nice enough to allow 3- 1/2 months to work out the just and proper tax to collect. Actually the formulae and calculations and rules are just so complex it takes that long to dope them out. So it was a lousy start for today's photoessay as I stood on line at the tax office near Times Square. I had to hand in an extension of time request being that I needed more time to work out my taxes. When I got out of the place I headed straight for the Museum. This time I wa quite far from Herald Square so I entered the subway at the 42nd Street station. This is just one stop farther up the SIxth Avenue line. I would have passed thru it on my usual train from Herald Square. Apart from this deviation from the normal trip, my ride to the Museum was uneventful. I arrived at 13:45 EDST, rather much later than usual on account of the long dwell at the tax office. The sky was overcast with no rain either just past or foretold to come. The temperature was about 20C with an occasional breeze now and then. During the session the clouds thinned somewhat, letting the Sun shine thru as a frosted spot. I had my winter coat on but I could well have worn a spring jacket in the stead. The foliage was budding on the trees. Soon I'll be masked off from many of my sightlines. I went directly to the site and, wow!, the second tower crane was set up and running!! This crane stood in front of the Planetarium, where the old apron was. It was of the same general size and build as the first (still working) crane except that it looked truly humongous. That's a trick of perspective because the public can approach far closer to this one than to the old. A technical difference between the two cranes was the manner of balancing. The first crane has a horizontal back boom laden with several tons of concrete weights. The new crane has a stablizing cable running from the boom to the back boom and then vertically along the back edge of the tower. The balance is achieved by the tension in this cable. Both designs are used elsewhere and there's little to choose between them. Both gates were open and I shuttled repeatedly between them. The great new item on the grounds was a chink of the timeline spiral! This looked all for the world like a curved section of gas main with a web all along its length. Overall it was about 10 meters long and it rested on the ground in front of the Planetarium right next to the second crane. In fact, this crane was used to lift and manoeuver the pipe so workers could get at all sides of it. The crane gently lifted the pipe, set it down, lifted, set, and so on under calls from the foreman of the work gang. The timeline spiral is one of the noval features of the new Planetarium. It springs from the exit of the sky theater, the actual Hayden Planetarium, and encircles the Hayden Sphere in a downward slope. The top edge of the pipe will carry a flat walkway with railings. The walkway is a series of panels depicting the history of the cosmos from the bigbang to the present. The distance walked is proportional to the time elapsed since the bigbang. Visitors leave the sky show via this spiral ramp and walk thru the entire lifetime of the cosmos until they reach the street. The panels are replaceable for addiurnation as new facts and figures in cosmology come along. Elsewhere on the property apparently all of the concrete work is done. From now on it's the turn of the steel and glass to be put up. For example, in the next week or so this piece of the timeline ramp will be inserted inside the Planetarium starting from the street level and working its way up. Inside the backoffice rooms workers were busily installing the interior services, like wiring and plumbing. The mass concrete for the new garage is growing. It encloses the base of the first tower crane, which was busily hauling steel girders from a flatbed truck to the western part of the garage or to the next building. I mentioned in earlier sessions that in New York there is no staging room for materials. The land is too crowded and tightly filled with adjacent structures. The usual practice of taking over a future caryard for the new project as a staging area is not possible here; there is no caryard around any new works here! Hence, the pieces for the Planetarium (and rest of the Museum's project) must arrive at the moment they are needed. They are plucked off of the truck and unneeded materials are loaded onto it in their place. Then that truck has to get off of the property to make room for the next truck. And so soonest the last girder was lifted off by the first crane that flatbed revved up and scudded out into 81st Street. The park was lightly trafficked today, even tho there was no threatening weather. The dogrun had only a few dogs. This time there were some other spectators! One chap took a few pictures with a simple point & shoot camera. I tried to chat him up but he was withdrawn and did not really get a convo going. He mumbled short clipped answers to my questions and slided off by himself. Other people came and went to see the works, stayed for a moment or two, and continued on their way. The plank path by which the second crane parts were moved onto the site was mostly torn up. Only a few boards were laying about. After some 30 minutes, at 14:15 EDST, I left the site for work on the Eighth Avenue bus
SESSION 29 - 1998 MAY 15 ---------------------- This day I had several errands to look after and I melded my visit to the site among them. I was near Times Square when I set off for the Museum. I entered the subway at 42nd Street station in 6th Avenue. This is one stop uptown along the line from Herald Square so I could get the same trains. It turned out that a West End train came in first to being me to the Museum on a one-seat ride. I arrived at 12:40 EDST under a generally clear, but humid and warm, sky. Temperature was around 30C. I had a light jacket on and at times it was too much to wear. I left it open the whole while I was at the Planetarium. A puff of breeze came thru once in a while. Otherwise the air was quite still. Under these conditions my light and easy walking about rose up a moistness on my skin. Both gates were open and I had clear views into the grounds from each. However, the Planetarium was quiet with only occasional tool noises. The second crane was idle with its boom hung down in the sleep position. There were no major materials on the ground adjacent to the new structure. The interior of the Planetarium is thoroly blocked from view from the ground by the completed concrete base, which is some 5 meters tall all around. Some time later this will be encased in rusticated stone to mimic masonry. The first crane, still planted on the west side of the Planetarium, was busily hauling material to and from the other buildings in the project, including the new garage. This is mostly fleshed out in concrete from the south side, against the existing Museum, to about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way to the planned front face. It is full height, two floors above grade. It partially embraces the tower crane, which eventually will have to be dismantled and moved. Everything, so explained the guard at the west gate, is going on schedule or even a bit ahead of it. The other new galleries are slated to open in early and mid 1999. These are distinct from the new hall inside the existing Museum that opens in June of 1998. That, the Hall of Biodiversity, is part of the interior renovations on the campus. It features a small walkthru (shielded by glass walls) rain forest. The timber road in the park by which the second crane was brought onto the site is pulled up. A few water rotted planks remain. The area in and near the site was overall clean and neat. Trucks laden with materials came and went by the west gate (in mid block of 81st Street). None used the east gate (at the corner of 81st Street and Central Park West). The initial pieces of the timeline ramp are in place inside the Planetarium, according to one of the workers. Of course, when I asked about the 'timeline ramp' he had no idea was this was. I then asked about the 'big curly pipe'. That he knew. It's mounted inside the building. This I could not verify due to sight blockage by the enclosing wall I mentioned above. I got numerous email seeking details on this timeline ramp. It seems I may have poorly described it. For starts, it is NOT a large tube the visitor walks thru and is encased by. The pipe thing is all of some 700 or 800mm diameter. This is merely the bottom spine of the ramp. The ramp's walkway is fitted along the top of the pipe. That is, the pipe is nothing but the backbone in the stead of beams or trusses. This pipe is welded to the three arms, placed 120 degrees apart, that hold up the central ball. This is ever more commonly called the Hayden Sphere, altho the name is not really official. The total length of the walkway is 110m. This is quite longer than a [American] football pitch across the endzones. The answer to any puzzlement is that the ramp encircles the Hayden Sphere making one and a half turns. It also slopes down from the bigbang theater, in the lower half of the central ball, to the ground level under the ball. With no real activity on the site I wandered back to Central Park West. I passed the dogrun, filled with people and dogs. The sidewalks around the park were well populated with walkers and strollers. On Central Park West the curb was lined with buses. Today these buses were mostly intercity vehicles, not school buses. From the license plates I saw they came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, as well as from New York. The people clambering off of them were pretty obviously tourists. Whether the buses made this special trip to the Museum or stopped here on a larger itinery I could not at all tell. The Museum's bus agents were busily clocking in the vehicles, checking their paperwork, and instructing them where to park. WIth no Museum garage all vehicles must park off the campus. The Museum made deals with area parking lots to stow the buses until they are needed to collect the riders for the trip home. All in all this reach of Central Park West was as busy as a major town's bus depot! It was now 13:30 and I had an other chore to tend to. I got the Eighth Avenue bus to head into the mid 30s, not quite all the way back to my office.