PHOTOESSAY OF THE HAYDEN PLANETARIUM - 30-39 of 60 ------------------------------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 2000 May 10
SESSION 30 - 1998 JUNE 16 ----------------------- I planned to visit the site last week but roving thunderstorms over the City deterred me. The morning of the 16th of June brought clearish skies and weather forecasts of sunshine with no rain. So at 12:30 EDST I set out from Herald Square and rode to the Museum via the Concourse express and West End local. The local came into Columbus Circle a moment after I stepped off of the express. I arrived at 12.45 and emerged into a cloudy sky, humid air, and high temperature. The day turned into a typical New York summer day. Altho I had on a thin jacket, and most every one else had no outer coat at all, I got pretty sweaty after a few minutes in the open air. The temperature was around 30C and humidity was quite 100%. The clouds were thin enough t0o pass the Sun thru once in a while to cast weak diffuse shadows. Between the clouds and dense foliage on the trees I had no trouble photographing from any angle I wanted. Both gates were open. On walking down to the eastern one (at Central Park West) I noticed the major new feature of the site. The first tower crane, the one surrounded by the new car garage, was gone. I knew eventually it had to go yet its absence made the place look empty. The second crane, in front of the Planetarium, was sleeping. Its boom was tied down. I shuttled between this gate and the west gate (in 81st Street) all during my visit. The Planetarium itself was quiet. All the activity was in the other works on the campus near Columbus Avenue. Workers sauntered thru the Planetarium structure carrying hand tools and paperwork, but no heavy materials. The back office rooms against the Museum walls were almost fully fleshed out with interior walls, door frames, and ceiling. The columns and beams facing into the belly of the Planetarium were dressed to a smooth finish. These will be visible from within the completed building and some parts are balconies overlooking the central globe. The car garage is all built out to its full envelope, including the entry opening onto the circular drive. The insides, dark and lighted by construction lights, were taken over as a work room. At one moment a delivery truck trudged down the circular drive, thru the west gate, and into the garage. Workers then removed materials, electrical parts and fittings, and laid them aside in the garage. At the street entry to the west gate there was a painter, an artist kind of painter. He had all the usual gear: easel, paint brushes, and all that. He was building a picture of the Park looking toward the new works. We did not converse but we nodded when he saw me taking photos of the area. A guard at the street admitted the delivery truck from an electrical supply company. Other than that chore she more or less sat in a folding chair in the Sun. There were new construction sheds on the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street. These were not associated with the Museum or Planetarium. They belonged to renovations underway in the subway station. Many of the benches in the Park were roped off with safety tape so people will not sit on them. They were not obviously damaged. The guard explained that as part of the overall betterment project the benches will be replaced with new ones. Despite torrential rains in the past day, the ground was dry, except under the thick foliage. There the dampness and muddiness and occasional puddling persisted. On the very previous evening, for example, the City was walloped by a lightning and thunder attack that dumped several centimeters of rain. All of this in the sunny sections of the grounds was gone. The Park was full of people, carefully avoiding the wet areas, enjoying the summer day. The dogrun was also filled. Along Central Park West in front of the Museum were several school buses, no tourist buses this time. School classes gaggled around the buses, either arriving for a museum visit or about to go back to their schools. The Museum's bus agents were visibly weighed down by the warm moist air. One leaned against a lamppole was fanned with his clipboard. The subway and bus stops were flowing with riders. It is quite a full year since the City went to the 'One City - One Fare' scheme. This obliterated the two-fare system where separate fares had to be paid for a subway and a bus ride. Now when the MetroCard is used on the one mode, a tranboarding mark is written to it. This is good for a free second ride on the other mode. (There is still no transfer between subways -- yet!) All this will change cataclysmicly on 1998 July 4. On that day the new unlimited ride passes kick in. These, in common use in other towns, are allnew to the City. Daily, weekly, and 'monthly' MetroCards will allow full free exchanges between nay mode, even subway to subway, within their time spans. Note that I put 'monthly' in quotes. This pass is a 30-day pass, good for the thirty days -- not a calendar month -- following its first use. This may seem confusing. For the layman it may be because of the variable number of days in a month. He can not think of the expiry as the same date of the next month. For astronomers there is no problem at all. Just note the age of the Moon when you initialize the card. The card expires at the end of that same age in the very next lunation. (The daily pass is good for 24 hours after initialization; a weekly, 7 days.) By now, 13:20, I was getting enough of the oppressive air. I went to the bus stop at 81st Street and Central Park West. In a couple minutes the Eighth Avenue bus arrived and I rode back to my office.
SESSION 31 - 1998 JULY 14 ----------------------- I went to the Hayden Planetarium on 1998 July 14 Tuesday on a hot humid hazy day. This was a typical summer day in the City, with temperatures in the 30s and little breeze. I arrived at the site quite at 13:00 EDST via the usual two-train trip from Herald Square. I had a quick errand to finish first in the Museum. I entered the Museum thru its subway lobby and was sent off to the security office one flight upstairs. There I handed off some papers for Dr Tyson, Planetarium director. Then I went to the street to the construction site. This office is in the lower level entry, one floor below the street but above the subway lobby; it is the one reserved for school and tour groups. While the room was mostly empty and I walked about it with no impedence, the ramp leading to it from the street was choked with school groups. Phalanges of them trooped from their buses completely filling the walkway. I ascended to the street by the motorway, at that time chained off from vehicular traffic. The Sun was dull and occasionally blocked by passing clouds. The leafy trees offered additional relief. I had a thin jacket which I left unzipped for the heat. As long as I walked slowly and rested frequently I avoided building up a sweat. The dull Sun and cover of leafs let me take my pictures from any angle. Both gates were open and workers roved around thruout the site. My, oh, my!, how totally calm and quiet the place was. I do mean quiet. There was simply no continual racket of any kind. Once every many seconds a single burst of hammering or sawing sprang up. It's as if the place was shut down for some unknown holiday. I walked to the western side of the campus. Same thing. All was still. Workers wandered around carrying tools and material but there was almost no construction noise. The scene was little changed from the June visit, session 30. Some more interior work was done in the back office areas and the garage looked more finished on the exterior. There were a couple dumpsters sitting around, all partially filled. The tower crane in front of the Planetarium was sound asleep. Come to think of it, the only time I saw this machine in active use was when it first appeared in April! On all the other visits it slept quietly in place. The guard at the western gate, apparently a new one, asked me to hold off taking pictures until she called in for instructions. A quick phone convo from his booth assured her that all was copasetic and she waved me off to continue my photoessay. During the chat she mentioned that today was particularly quiet and only a couple trucks passed thru the gate so far. She then climbed into her booth and moped thru the rest of my visit. The Planetarium suffered its only major work stoppage. On 1998 June 30 the construction industry staged a street rally and protest in midtown. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was building a new command and control base near Hell's Kitchen and its contractor uses nonunion workers. This infuriated the unionized contractors and for several days in mid June they held pickets at the site. The scene heated up as the days rolled on until the morning of Tuesday the 30th. Forty thousand construction workers piled into the 40s from Madison Av to Ninth Av! The mob totally clogged traffic for a kilometer around, as far away as Columbus Circle and Herald Square. Despite some news accounts, the entire demonstration was very peaceful and under the control of some 3,000 police on foot and horse. Only a dozen or so injuries from falls or scuffles resulted out of a total involvement of thirty nyriads of both demonstrators and spectators Anyway, the Planetarium contractor joined the general rally in sympathy, closing all work there. By noon the protest winded down and everyone went back to work. The park was almost empty and the dogrun had only a few occupants. Several people dozed off on the benches, some even stretched out and slept. The area streets were lightly trafficked, except for the bevy of school buses along Central Park West and 77th Street. I walked completely around the Museum block, ending up at 77th St and Central Pk W in front of the New-York Historical Society. There, at about 13:45 EDST, I got the Eighth Av bus for the ride back to my office. Now I did not have to take the bus. Until now I did to cash in the free transfer placed on my MetroCard by the subway ride to the Museum. On July 4th the new unlimited MetroCard gonged in. There are daily, weekly, and 30-day (NOT 'monthly'!) cards that for a fixed price allow unrestricted use of all the transport services for the associated timespan. I could well have went back to work by the Eighth Av subway, retracing my route to the Museum. On my old card this would cost a new fare. Mostly from habit I took the bus anyway.
SESSION 32 - 1998 AUGUST 14 & 17 ------------------------------ This is a combined report of two visits on successive workdays. I intended to do a regular inspection on Thursday the 13th but before then other business intervened. So i designed to go on Friday the 14th. On the evening of the 13th I checked my camera and found that I ran out of film! This is quite unusual for me as a photographer being that I try to keep on hand a few rolls. In the camera were only a couple shots left. My lunch chore was certainly laid out for me. I first had to go to my photo supplier, in Greenwich Village, to stock up on film. While there I checked out a local bookshop around the corner for astronomy stuff. There was a good find, 'Celestial Charts' bu Stott. With the film, my camera brought from home, and my new book, I boarded the red line train for the ride to the Museum. I got into reading the book, a history of starcharts with many large reproductions, and lost track of my ride. When I heard the conductor announce '34th Street, Penn Station' I instinctively got up and left the train. I was already on the street when I remembered that I was supposed to stay on! I must have thought I was going to work, 'coz, in fact, this 34th Street station was near my office. It being then quite hot and humid and I being a block or so from work, I just continued to my office. It ended up being one of those typical Hudson Fever days when only mad dogs and Englishmen should be outdoors. Actually I was quite relieved to get into my air conditioned room! I figured I'll stop at the Planetarium right from work, when it cools off a bit. Straight from work I went to the site by the West End train and exited from the 81st Street station. I was struck by how dark the sky was! It was cloudy when I left work, but now, at 18:00 EDST or so, the clouds thickened and deepened. It was like mid twilight and the streetlights were just triggering on. I went to the site anyway. The both gates were closed and the place was dormant. Work quit for the day already. Being that it was too dark for good photos I contented myself with looking around. There wasn't much to see in the dark, even with my little monocular. On the whole there was almost no more structural work since session 31 almost a month ago. There was no one around to chat up and there seemed to be no major alterations since my last visit. So after only 10 or 15 minutes I went home. I took the subway this time and was lucky to get a West End train. This route took me all the way to Brooklyn on one seat. On Monday the 17th of August I vowed to make a proper photoessay. WIth replenished film I went to the site by two trains, with a change at Columbus Circle. The air was thoroly saturated with humidity, but there was a damp breeze. Temperature was about 25C It rained a little in the early morning. I arrived at 13:30 EDST. When I got out at 81st Street, the site wa abuzz with workers. The second crane (I still call it that to keep things in order in these reports) was unloading trucks and moving the cargo into the belly of the Planetarium. This is the first time since April I saw this crane in actual operation. During my other visits it was sleeping. In the daylight, the Sun trying to break thru the overcast from the morning rain, the site revealed itself to be structurally complete. That is, by ow there is no more major concrete to be placed in the Planetarium. The backrooms were being fitted out with utilities and ducts. The equipment hauled off of the trucks was mostly ventilation and air condition machinery, not structural materials. There was very little real noise, only a sporadic hammering or sawing. Most of the overall activity was in and about the new garage, with trucks coming and going all thruout my visit. These were smaller enclosed delivery trucks, of a few tons of capacity. According to the workers passing by the job is on or ahead of schedule. There is some diversion of labor to the other parts of the campus, whose halls open in stages during 1999. From Dr Tyson, the Planetarium's director, a few days later the work for the rest of the year will be as follows: The three fingers to support the Hayden Sphere are in place. I hadn't specificly noted this previously being that it is hard to get a clear view into the belly. It is routinely blocked by the contractor's fence, vehicles, the second crane. But close examination of earlier photos does show the struts, if you know what to look for. The Hayden Sphere will rise in situ, piece by piece, starting in 1998 September. This will be a most exciting part of the works! In New York there are few spherical structures. The most famous and largest in the world is the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows, Queens. An other is the 'World of Trump' in Columbus Circle. After the steel frame of the Hayden Sphere is complete, the outer walls will be erected to enclose the whole Planetarium. This protects the insides from the coming winter. The initial covering will be some plastic or plywood, not the final glass panels. Hence there is good chance the project will be hidden from the public for several month beginning at yearend 1998. During the visit the clouds darkened gradually, hiding away the Sun Sun, and started to splatter some warm large raindrops. They didn't bother me and I continued with the photoessay. Suddenly, happily when I was about finished, the sky broke loose with a massive downpour. This rain was icy cold and hard. I capped my camera, shoved it into my jacket, and sprinted to the subway. I was soaked thru and thru by the time I got underground. Looking back outside I saw already the torrents cascading down the steps onto the first landing in the station! I tried to mop myself dry with some napkins -- accumulated from assorted lunch counters -- but these were filled with water. The rain penetrated my jacket into the pockets. Note well that I got into the subway station and not try to take the bus. Of course the rain made up my maid for me. But I now have the 30-day MetroCard. It allows limitless rides on all the transit rides with essentially no restrictions. So I could go one way by train and return by train with no extra fare. In deed, the concept of a 'fare' disappears; the one fee for the card gives all the rides you can take with the 30-day life of the card. I got to Herald Square by 15:00; it was still pouring like crazy outside. I took a deep breath and started trotting to my office. No good. After but twenty meters I was once again drenched. It didn't matter any more. I slowed to a walk.
SESSION 33 - 1998 SEPTEMBER 16 ---------------------------- I went to the site on Wednesday the 16th of September by the one- train ride from Herald Square. The weather was mild, a bit warm with temperature about 30C. The sky was partly cloudy with the Sun showing thru from time to time. I arrived at 13:30 EDST and suddenly saw that the usual subway exit at 81st St was all walled up. More on this later, but signs sent me and the other riders to the south end of the 81st Street station to get to the street. This south exit left me at about where 79th Street would be and I had to walk the full length of the Museum frontage back to the Planetarium. The site was quiet with workers mostly in and around the parking garage. There was little going on and the noise was very low. There was more noise from the subway station and from renovations to apartment towers across 81st Street. The second crane was the only major equipment running. It was lifting off from a flatbed truck large 'wooden' frames and setting them atop the parking garage. They looked like wood from my distance,, the truck being just west of the front entry of the Planetarium. The seemed at first to be open crates to protect irregular or odd shaped structural pieces and were about 7m long, about 2 or so meters tall, and 1-1/2ish meter wide. There were already a couple of these on the roof of the garage set in rows near where the garage, Museum, and Planetarium meet. The crane while I watched moved off two more and emptied the truck. I asked the guard what these were but she didn't know. Obviously they were not packing crates and they must have been more substantially built than from wood. The Sun being behind cloud most of the time I had no problem taking pictures and seeing what's going on. But there was little activity apart from the crane and truck game. The backrooms seemed to pretty much all filled in with their utilities and services. There was no evidence of the Hayden Sphere, which in this month is supposed to get started. The park was lightly filled with people and the dogrun had only a few dogs and their runners. After about 30 minutes, at about 14:00, I started back to work. I noted above that the 81st Street exit was boarded up. Well, on street level the entire stairs was being fitted with an enclosing shed of stud and plywood. Transit workers were busily hammering it into shape with gusto and much racket. One worker explained that this adit (going into the station it's an adit; leaving, it's an exit) will be rebuilt as part of the station's rehabilitation. The encasing of the stairs, not usually done for subway work, was necessary here because the entry hall the stairs lead to is made over into a storage and work room for the construction work. So it has to be closed from weather and intruder.s To replace this adit, the one at 79th Street is kept open for all hours. Normally it is a parttime adit. This exit is signed as '77th Street' but it's actually at 79th Street. From the platform there is a long gentle ramp to the street. This merely gets the street stairs out rom under the main entrance stairs of the Museum, which is, too, at 79th Street. This station, along with the others along Central Park West and Eighth Avenue, is the first to open on the Independent lines of transit in September of 1932 -- 66 years ago almost to the day! It, with the others, is about the plainest blandest of all the stations in all of the system. The walls are plain white tile set in grid pattern; there are no icons or trimming or other decorations. The station name plate is a mosaic saying in white tiles '81st St - Museum of Natural History' set into a deep dark blue field and surrounded by a black border. There are supplementary plates with just '81' in white numbers on black field. The work ongoing during my visit was filling in holes and smoothing the surface of the walls. Some workers on the platforms were engaged in this task on short scaffolds. My train came, a West End local, and I had a one-seat ride back to work.
SESSION 34 - 1998 OCTOBER 2 & 5 ----------------------------- This is a combined report for two visits I made on the 2nd and 5th of October. I had my camera with me on Friday 2 October when I went to the Museum for the opening lecture of the Association's 1998-1999 season. I took a quick supper from a hotdog vendor in front of the Museum and met Dr Neil Tyson, Planetarium director. He was hurrying south on Central Park West to the subway on his way home. We chatted and he noted that I should go see the Planetarium like right now. I planned to go on the following Monday but I walked around anyway with some time to spare before the lecture began. It was around 18:10 EDST. The day was sunny, breezy, with a bright blue sky. The Sun was near setting in the west and it slanted into the Planetarium site. I turned the corner to the site and -- oh my God!! The Hayden Sphere is rising out of the base of the Planetarium!!! It was a freaky thing. From the belly of the Planetarium there rose up a steel lattice tower. Atop this was the north polar cap of the Sphere. There were a couple meridians already in place. I shot a few pictures but made up my mind to come back on Monday. Besides, the work quit for the day and the gates were shut. And it's time for the lecture. On Monday I hurried to the site after an errand I had on the east side of Manhattan. I took the 79th Street bus from the Upper East Side to the Museum. It left me at 81st Street and Central Park West, from where I crossed over to the Planetarium. The day was brilliantly clear and deep blue. The Sun was blindingly bright and stood right over the Planetarium. Temperature was about 25C with little, if any, breeze. The Sun glinted off of the Hayden Sphere's north pole perched on top of a steel framework rising out of the base of the Planetarium. It was made of seemingly thin girders, not the heavy ones usually associated with large steel structures. The second crane was busily lifting from trucks sections of the Sphere for placement by workers on falsework around it. Each piece was of moderate size and weight so the Sphere is made of lots and lots of pieces. Despite its height of some 20m from the ground it was distractingly hard to get a clear view of it. The trees still have dense foliage to block my view. But thru a few select gaps I got some pictures. Other than the lifting and placement of Sphere parts there was little else going on. The dogrun was filled with visitors and the park had lots of people in it. One thing I saw this time was a large fraction of people in the street or in the park with their dogs. This is in addition to those already in the dogrun. There just seemed to be far more dog walkers this time than in previous site visits. The Sun was really distracting and I keep getting it in my eyes as I tried to look into the site from the both gates. I did hide under leafy parts of the trees or shade the camera with my free hand. I felt that tonight will be one of those extra clear nights that New York is getting famous for. At 13:15 I headed back to work. I walked all the way around the Museum campus to the open subway adit at 79th Street. The shed hiding the 81st Street adit was complete and being painted when I passed by it. Signs nailed to it directed riders to the other adit at 79th Street. The station seemed to be completely patched. The holes (of which some were homes for little rats) were all filled in and the walls were all smoothed out with concrete. It looks like only the large blue and black name board are to be preserved. These were carefully avoided by the patch work. On the other hand, the patching material covered over many of the little number plates. There were trenches cut into the platform and boarded over with plywood and some corners walled up behind plywood. At the moment there was no major work in progress. Some readers asked about the 'IND color code'. There was one built into the colors of the name board and, on the newer IND stations, in the color band. But utterly no one seems to know just what the code is. There is a definite pattern to the colors from station to station; that's the easy part. There just seems to be nowhere an authoritative explanation of the pattern. I myself believe that what ever was the intent of the color scheme, it was far far too subtle. For one thing, there are many shades of blue, green, and other spectral colors. Even the color names are not at all obvious. What's more the whole color scheme was designed for viewing under the original pale incandescent lamps, not the present fluorescent lamps. So the mystery -- or legend -- persists. The West End local came right away and I rode back to work.
SESSION 35 - 1998 OCTOBER 19 -------------------------- Because the building of the Hayden Sphere, which began at the end of September, will progress pretty rapidly, I figured to see the place more frequently. My last visit was on the 5th of October, so this one here is but two weeks later. I rode to the site by the one West End train from Herald Square station. The train swooped into the station just as I stepped off of the escalator. Just when I cleared the doors of the car, they closed and the train was off and running. The result is that I reached the Museum station in 9 minutes! This is perhaps the fastest ride I ever had between work and the Museum. I arrived at the site at 13:30 EDST. I went straight to the 79th Street exit from the station being that the one at 81st Street is good and boarded over. On the way along Central Park West I passed a fleet of school buses. These were receiving or dropping off groups on visits to the Museum. The Museum's bus crew was busy with getting the crowds onto and off of the buses and barking instructions to the drivers. The day was a totally dropdead lovely New York autumn day. The temperature was about 15C, the was a light occasional breeze, the sky was icy blue. The Sun was a mellow yellow exactly matching its spectral class. While the Sun was bright and annoying, it did not blind me like it did on the 5th . The trees in Theodore Roosevelt Park were shedding their leafs. Those still on the trees were taking on their fall colorations. The ground was littered with fallen leafs that swirled around in the breeze. The new gaps in the trees opened up my sightlines, the ones closed off in the spring with the then-new leaves. Yet there were enough leafs left to give convenient shade for picture taking. The site was quiet with workers coming and going during my visit. The grand spectacle was the Hayden Sphere. It was fleshed out into a gorgeous globe! It was a gigantic armillary sphere! While there was no apparent work ongoing at the moment with the Sphere, there were in the vicinity more pieces waiting to be fitted into it. WIth such rapid progress, I better come back in two weeks, at the most. There was a hanging point from an earlier session, the 'frames'. I mentioned large frames being hoisted to the top of the car garage. At that time I wasn't sure what they were. They are a covered gallery or porch along the back of the terrace on top of the garage. They form the entry from it onto the terrace. The park was filled with people and the dogrun was alive with its dogs and runners. Both gates were open and I had good views from both. I was repeatedly interrupted by trucks coming and going. On this visit the chains across the circular drive were hanging loose and there were no guards to mind them. Trucks flew onto the site without warning, dropping down the incline from the street at regular road speed. All the trucks were delivery trucks, two- or three-axle rigs with enclosed boxes. I walked to the Columbus Avenue side. Construction is advancing on the other halls of the project, but so far little seems to be underway for the new entry facing 79th Street. In this part of the park many of the benches were occupied by visitors stretched out in deep sleep. After about a halfhour, at around 14:00 EDST, I headed back to the subway. The station is under a major fixup, outside of these photoessays, with workers cutting trenches for new drainage pipes on the platforms. My West End train came in a few minutes to bring me back to Herald Square
SESSION 36 - 1998 NOVEMBER 2 -------------------------- WIth the construction pace notching up I rushed to the site soonest after returning from the AAVSO meeting. This convened in CAmbridge MA on 1998 October 29 thru November 1. I went to work as usually on Monday the 2nd and went to the Planetarium during my lunch. I had the two-train ride and arrived at the site at 12:40 EST. The air was cool and breezy with temperature of about 10C. The sky was mostly cloudy when I set out for the site from work. During the visit it gradually cleared to reveal an ice blue sky surrounding a dazzling Sun. I was wearing my winter jacket, the first time this season I had to wear it. Foliage was more depleted and the grounds were littered with small heaps of fallen leafs. While the new openings in the trees let me get a clear sightline onto the Planetarium, they also let the Sun rain its rays directly over the structure. I suspect that some of my pictures may be spoiled by influx of direct sunlight. Both gates were open, but the entry to them was untended. The chains were limp on the ground and trucks came and went at road speed without warning. The new car garage is still in service as an interior staging and storage area. A couple delivery trucks were parked in it. The new work is the erection of columns for the glass box. These are open lattice or truss frames. They are set with their planes normal to the side of the box they support. The entire east wall, against the back offices on that side of the Planetarium, are all in place. One column, the farthest eastern one, of the front face is also in place. The tower crane was busily moving hardware from the ground in front of the building to the various columns. One assembled column was lying on the ground ready for the lift into position. The Hayden Sphere is about fully fleshed out but still uncovered. It's a densely gridded armillary sphere. The scheme is to sheet in the Planetarium with plywood or such. This will protect it from the winter wind and allow work to procede within the box. Mainly the hazard is wind. Once this is blocked by the solid sheeting, the interior air can be warmed up with gas heaters placed at the various work spots. Soon there will begin a 'cocoon' phase with the Planetarium covered from view. In the spring of 1999 the opaque walls come down to reveal a finished skinned over Hayden Sphere. Then the final glass walls go up. The park was filled with people, many still wearing light jackets or sweaters. The dogrun was in full use. On Central Park West this time there were only a couple school buses and the scene there was overall calm. There was construction all over 81st Street! Besides the Planetarium, there were road cuts in the street, facade renovation on the housing towers across the street, and rebuilding of the 81st Street subway station. ALtho the last is all underground the contractor set up a camp on the sidewalk and curb at 81st Street and Central Park West. Hence there was a continual background din. After about fifteen minutes I left the site. This time I lingered at the Museum and Central Park West for a new and exciting reason. The streetlights on Central PArk West are being replaced! The ones there now were put up two years ago as part of a gut rebuild of Central Park West. They are ornamental single-bulb sculpted poles of a rusticated color. The intent was to resemble a 19th century style. The illumination is not completely starsafe but is far, far less obnoxious than the cobraheads they replaced. So what's going on? The nabe wasn't happy with the lamps. They are still annoying to go about under at night and they intruded into the sightline down the street. They suspend the bulb from a long boom overhanging the street. In fact, one lamp was knocked down in the 1997 Macy's parade by the 'Vat-in-the-Hat' balloon. High winds during the parade caused the balloon to sway into the boom despite the wrestling of the handlers. The new poles have two bulbs set in a two-armed fixture over the curb. They open up the sightline along the street and are out of harm's way of the parade balloons. They also have biased globes to divert light emitted outward back to the ground. Hence, from a distance the bulbs are much less annoying and the ground under them is more evenly lit. So I inspected the progress in the vicinity of the Museum. Several were in place already; work began in late October. Some had only one bulb fitted, Others were naked awaiting their bulbs. I wandered south in Central PArk West toward 72nd Street. Many lamps can not be easily replaced because they are hemmed in by construction scarfs around some of the housing towers. In the brilliant Sun, it being thoroly clear by now, the aesthetics of the old and new are quite dramatic. The new poles stand like soldiers on the curb while the old ones hang out over the street and stick into the view looking down the street. By 13:40 EST I reached 72nd Street, opposite Strawberry Fields and next to the Dakota residence project. This latter was built in the 1880s as an early experiment in high-rise high-density housing. It is today a ultraluxury home of notables like the late Beatles member John Lennon. Across 72nd Street, not in the Dakota, lived the late Isaac Asimov. Strawberry Fields, an flowered oasis in Central Park across the street from the Dakota, is a memorial to Lennon. It has an inlaid emblem on the ground inscribed 'imagine'. With my visit finished I went into the subway station at 72nd Street and got a West End local directly back to Herald Square.
SESSION 37 - 1998 NOVEMBER 18 --------------------------- With the Leonids a cloudout on both the 17th and 18th of November, I took extra pleasure in visiting the Planetarium today, the 17th of November. The clouds of this morning before dawn were steadily ebbing to yield a clear blue sky and bright Sun. The air was about 5C with a gentle puff of wind once in a while. I arrived at the site at 13:40 via the one-seat train ride from Herald Square. Because the 81st Street station is under a major rebuild with its main exit closed, I rode near the middle of the train. This left me nearer to the open south exit, the one under the monumental entrance of the Museum. I went around to the Planetarium to see that a boom crane was helping the tower crane. This boom crane was extended probably its full length, some 30 meters, and stood next to the tower crane in front of the Planetarium. It was working with the tower crane to steady and hold still one of the upright trusses forming the columns of the glass box. Workers busied with attaching this truss to the concrete base of the new building. There were bursts of riveting noises all during my visit. The operation seeks to get the frame of the box complete quickly, in this month, and then to cover it over with some protective sheeting, like plywood. This would allow for more comfortable conditions inside the building during the winter months. The jacket will be opaque so for a few months there will no view of the goings on inside the Planetarium. Particularly, the skinning over of the Hayden Sphere will likely be hidden from the public view. In this visit, I was hampered by the bright Sun shining directly over the Planetarium into my eyes and camera. This was due to the later hour of the visit and the falling off of almost all the leafs from the trees. I was by clever use of lamppoles and tree trunks able to get some pictures without the Sun in the field of view. The streets and park were thick with people. The dogrun was full. Apart from that, the overall scene was quiet. The chain by the west gate was loose on the ground. Cars and small trucks drove onto and out off the site unchecked at road speed. Construction vehicles were parked on the sidewalk around the subway entrance at the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street. The adit is covered by a plywood shed with signs directing riders to the adit at the Museum main entrance. Light construction noises sifted out of the hut from the works below the street in the station. I looked up and down Central Park West at the new lamppoles being placed there. The progress is rather rapid with most of the poles already in place but with many lacking one or both of the bulbs. After about 30 minutes I left for work by the one-seat ride from the 81st Street station. .
SESSION 38 - 1998 DECEMBER 4 -------------------------- It's getting into late fall by now but today's visit to the site was a scorcher. The City is in a warm spell with temperatures in the mid 20Cs. I shed my winter jacket this morning for a thin spring jacket! I went to the Planetarium by my two-seat ride, arriving there at 13:30 EST. The Sun was bright but not blinding and the sky had a few clouds here and there. Overall it was a glatt spring afternoon. Later that afternoon I learned that on this 4th of December the City scored during my photoessay the highest temperature ever for December! The tower crane was busy holding in place and steadying a roof beam of the enclosing box. Most of the uprights were in place, except on the western side next to the new car garage. The roof beams were in place from the east side of the edifice with the work gradually proceding westward. I asked workers about the coming activity. The outer walls will be covered over temporarily to protect the insides later this winter. In April of 1999 the glass walls go up. To me, given the speed with which the Hayden Sphere was finished, it looks like the erection of the outer cube is taking some long time. Actually it's mixed in with continuing work around the Hayden Sphere and other interior parts of the Planetarium. In fact the western face is the last to be installed to leave access open to the Planetarium. Once the interior work is done the wall can be closed up with the last set of columns. The site was mostly clear of construction materials and litter. In front of the Planetarium near the crane was a section of a truss beam waiting to be hoisted to the roof. The appearance is much like the Javits Center, the City's main exhibition hall at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. That structure is glass walled with the panels mounted on a gigantic frame of trusses. Due to the absence of foliage and the low meridian altitude of the Sun my view of the Planetarium was severely impeded. The Sun stood right over the project in the south and shined directly into my face and camera. Recall that 'south' in this situation means 'downtown' because the Manhattan street grid is twisted 29-1/2 degrees west of south. The Sun lines up with the north-south streets at 13h to 14h and not at noon. I fear that some of my pictures will be spoiled by glare from the Sun despite efforts to find branches and lamppoles to block the solar disc. Apart from that the site was remarkably quiet. Only a burst of riveting noise issued from the grounds. Far more annoyance came from the facade renovations across the street and the hut at 81st Street and Central Park West. This is the hut covering the subway entrance to form a work and storage room for the rebuild of the station. Crews stomped in and out of the hut clanking tools and pipes and generally milling around On Central Park West all of the new streetlights are installed. They are two-bulb rustic design with sculpted columns, after a turn of the [20th] century style. They march from 81st Street south to Columbus Circle and really open up the skyview along Central Park West. The only intrusions now are the booms for the traffic lights. The park and streets were filled with people soaking up the warm air. The dogrun was filled and the dogs seemed extra happy with the weather. The main entrance of the Museum was wall-to-wall schoolkids all shouting and playing and running about. A couple school buses were at curbside so I guess these kids were waiting for their particular bus to arrive. Remember that there is no parking of buses at the Museum. The buses must discharge the kids and then move off to remote parking lots, usually near the Hudson River. When the class visit id finished the bus returns to pick up the children. With nothing more to do here I walked up to 86th Street at 14:15 EST to get the crosstown bus to Yorkville. The Association's monthly lecture is tonight right here at the Museum. I had to get a supply of Observers Handbook from the AAA office in Yorkville for members who asked for them. Many of them will be at the lecture and I can distribute the books there in the stead of mailing them. As at today there are only a few copies left being that once the coupon appears in EYEPIECE the requests pour into the Association within a week. Good reason for that. The Observers Handbook thru AAA membership costs only $12.50. And that price includes pack & post so the member can get it in the mail if he prefers. In deed one of the major boons to the astronomer -- specially the remote one -- in the AAA is that he gets the Observers Handbook mailed to him at such a steep discount. Unfranchised astronomers must pay the listprice (or a shallow discount) and then pay extra for mailing.
SESSION 39 - 1998 DECEMBER 18 --------------------------- Today was a busy day! The Association is hosting a historian of astronomy to study the AAA's central role in the betterment of homebased astronomy. This work is part of a new book on home astronomy in the United States. As part of our assistance I had a package of papers to deliver to the fellow, who happened to lodge at a hotel near the Museum. Then I had a couple more Observers Handbooks to mail to our members. I fixed to bring them to the postoffice near the Museum. Also, because of the low midday Sun on previous visits, which interfered with my photoessay, I deliberately waited until the afternoon to see the site. I arrived by the one-seat ride from Herald Square at 14:45 EST on Friday 18 December 1998. Today was a typical winter December day in New York. Temperature was about 5C, a stiff breeze sweeped over the grounds, and the air was bone dry. My hands were chilled by the air and I kept them in my pockets when ever they were free. My winter coat was very welcome, as was my hat. The sky was overall clear with a couple clouds. This worked well. I dropped off the package for the historian and went around to the Planetarium. The Sun was well out of my line of sight and could be easily hidden behind trees and buildings for clear sightlines into the grounds. One unexpected plus was that by now it was lower in the sky and it cast an immense shadow of the tower crane onto the housing blocks on the north side of 81st Street! The tower crane was sleeping and there was almost no actual busyness on the site. In face, virtually all the workers I passed during the photoessay were leaving, not entering, the site. Perhaps the workday is shorter in the winter? More of the roof beams were installed and the box is really shaping up nicely. This time, because the Sun was out of my face, I took far more pictures, including a couple from across the street. From the street the Planetarium rises to about tree height and does not at all overwhelm the streetscape. As on the last visit, the greater noise and disturbance came from facade and subway construction. Only an occasional racket floated out of the Planetarium grounds. An additional commotion came from a street cutting job on 81st Street near Columbus Avenue. The streets and park were filled with people. Dogs and their runners enjoyed the dogrun. I went to the postoffice following the visit at about 15:20 EST. The lowering Sun filled the surrounding streets with deep shadows while highlighting the tops of the towers. One of the famous and queerest sights in New York is the 'canyon' effect. The towers -- even the little ones of fifteen or twenty floors around the Museum -- turn the streets into deep trenches running across Manhattan. AS I walked to the postoffice the stores had already turned on their frontage lights. Yet the upper floors and crowns of the towers right above them sparkled in sunlight! With the mailing of the Observers Handbook done with, I was well out of the basin of the Museum's subway station, particularly so with its 81st Street entrance closed. So I went back to work via the Broadway local at its 86th Street station.