Gold for Vancouver’s Green Roofs

This post is the third part of a short series covering similarities between Vancouver, British Columbia and the Bronx — noted while I was vacationing there last summer. I introduced the series, through the remaining days of the 2010 Olympic Games only — here.

Green Roofs are not usually leading the list for what’s on top of most Bronx buildings. The Bronx apparently has 15 green roofs, including the 10,000 square foot of green on the Bronx County Courthouse Building.  A roof tour sponsored by the BOEDC last summer was full by the time I heard about it. I do look forward to seeing the 15,000 plants and 10 different kinds of grasses and flowers the next time the opportunity comes up.

In Vancouver, we could see the sprawling green roof of the Vancouver Convention Centre from our hotel room.  All six acres of it. Over 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses grow on this roof as well as 240,000 bees. It is apparently the largest green roof in Canada and the largest non-industrial green roof in North America. I spotted someone in an orange vest walking atop. No tours allowed though. We went over and asked.

All that green eye candy is so lush and attractive and off limits, yet these roof top meadows are not public parks or gardens.  These are working living roofs.

Vancouver may have the Bronx beat in sheer square footage but I am happy to see some initiatives taking place in the Bronx on existing buildings and on buildings where Bronxites live in affordable and low income housing.

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10 Things to Do During Lunch Break While on Jury Duty in the Bronx

Executive Towers at 165th Street and the Grand Concourse.
Executive Towers at 165th Street & the Grand Concourse. Notable curved balconies and the only circular driveway on the boulevard. It was the last luxury building built on the Concourse in 1963.

The spring before last I was called for jury duty and spent those gorgeous hour and half lunch breaks chatting on my phone in the park across the street from the Courthouse.  What a waste!  If only I’d known then what I know now about that area and The Grand Concourse. I could have taken a short stroll in any one direction to find something of interest.

So here are 10 Things To Do During Your Lunch Break While On Jury Duty at the Bronx County Courthouse:
(To maximize your time “sightseeing” I suggest bringing your lunch. That way, you don’t have to spend precious time waiting for and paying for lunch).

1. Stroll around the Courthouse itself. {built 1931-1935} The statues that flank each staircase are related to the images on the frieze, around the top edge of the courthouse.

Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building
Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building

2.  Time Capsule – buried on the courthouse grounds in 1989 — imagine what the Bronx will look like in 2089 when it is opened up.  Fernando Ferrer contributed his cigarette lighter in an effort to stop smoking. I wonder if he misses it/replaced it. What would you put in the Bronx Time Capsule?

3.  Walk in Joyce Kilmer Park:  bring your sneakers and get your heartbeat up by taking an energizing power stroll around the park.  I saw a couple of women doing this in business dress and their sneaks.  As you’re walking, memorize Kilmer’s famous poem:

“Trees”
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

4. The Tree Museum:  brilliant creation by artist Katie Holten who has tagged over 100 trees along the Grand Concourse — each with an accompanying audiocast by Bronxites who live(d) along or near the Concourse speaking their thoughts of the grand boulevard.  Trees in the museum can be identified by a marker on the sidewalk bearing a phone # to call to hear the audiocast. Maps available at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.  The Tree Museum was scheduled to “close” October 12th, but will remain open until January 3rd, 2010.

5. Bronx Museum of the Arts (165th and the GC) It is a great space — modern and open and the zig zag facade follows that of many of the art deco buildings along the Concourse. Check out the current exhibit in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Concourse.

6. Andrew Freedman Home (166th and the GC) — the grand palace of the Grand Concourse, the only building on the boulevard with a lawn, built in 1925 as a retirement home for poor rich folks.

7. Yankee Stadium(s) — you can relax and sit on the benches here at Babe Ruth Plaza, taking in the new stadium and reminiscing on the old, catch yourself between two stadiums. I am no baseball fan but the enormous banners and photos of the players do give you the feeling of walking in a canyon.

8.  Find the Statue of Liberty — on 161st between the Courthouse and Jerome Avenue is a small Statue of Liberty, see if you can spot it. Hint: look on the rooftops.

"Fish House" built in 1936 by Horace Ginsburg. The ultimate example of art deco -- rounded corners, angled windows and the fish mosaic.
"Fish House" the ultimate example of art deco -- rounded corners, angled windows and the fish mosaic.

9.  The Grand Concourse — This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Grand Concourse. It was modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris for all its art deco and art moderne buildings —  the mosaics, the rounded curves, the zig zag facades — the most found on any boulevard in the country. “Fish House” at no. 1150, is the ultimate example — including angled windows, designed to maximize sunlight streaming into the interior.

10.  Bronx Walk of Fame — Follow it from the courthouse going downtown, to where it ends at Hostos Community College on 149th Street. A lot of greats here. My childhood favorites Rita Moreno (“HEY YOU GUYS!”) and Sonia Manzano (aka Maria on Sesame Street) are here. For me, Rita Moreno was famous for Electric Company waaay before Westside Story.

Rita Moreno's marker on the Bronx Walk of Fame.
Rita Moreno's marker on the Bronx Walk of Fame.

Bonuses for those jury duty days ending at 2 o’clock:
11Ben Shahn murals at the Bronx Main Post Office (149th & GC) — lobby filled with large murals painted by artist Ben Shahn and his wife Bernarda Bryson Shahn, during the Roosevelt administration. The panels depict the American worker of the 1930s and include one of Walt Whitman speaking to a crowd of people.  In 1933, Diego Rivera asked Shahn to be an assistant on his infamous mural at Rockefeller Center and Bernarda Bryson was a reporter from Ohio who’d come to New York to interview Rivera.

Ben Shahn mural at Bronx Main Post Office.
Ben Shahn mural at The Bronx Main Post Office.

12.  Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos (149th & GC) — directly opposite the Bronx Main Post Office, check out whatever is on exhibit there, it is a bright airy gallery space.

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Bronx Time Capsule

Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building
Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building

Time Capsules strike me as small townish and a bit old fashioned.  Maybe my second grade drawings are buried in one somewhere in the prairie town where I grew up outside of Chicago.  So I was quite surprised to discover a time capsule marker on the grounds of the Bronx County Courthouse. It was buried there during a ceremony on December 19, 1989 to commemorate the 350th anniversary since Jonas Bronck first arrived. And it is scheduled to be unsealed in 2089 after 100 years in the ground.

Bronx Life Time Capsule Ceremonies Program
Bronx Life Time Capsule Ceremonies Program

What are among the books, newspapers, posters, photographs, letters, video tapes, audio cassette tapes and lapel buttons buried there?

Autographed copies of World’s Fair and Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow. Inside Billy Bathgate, Mr. Doctorow had written, “Dedication: Is there still reading? And will you understand this? Or will you read it all too well and smile for the primitives we were.”

Drawings from children at P.S. 83 in the Bronx on the topic “What I like about The Bronx.”

A Bronx telephone and address directory.
A list of churches, schools, funeral directors and hospitals in existence for up to 100 years in 1989.

A 30cc syringe with articles and texts reflecting the concern for drug abuse, spread of AIDS and the improper disposal of such medical devices with respect to protecting the environment.

A subway token.
A quarter, dime, nickel and penny.

Letters from President George Bush, Colin Powell, David Dinkins (then Mayor Elect) and Arne Thoren, the Swedish Consulate General congratulating the Bronx on its anniversary .

Oral histories and impromptu interviews with the Bronx people, community leaders and elected officials.

A New Yorker cartoon with caption:  “Hear this. The new ‘in’ place is the Bronx.”

The bill for the Time Capsule and a brochure on how it was made.

Borough President Fernando Ferrer’s business card and his cigarette lighter, donated upon his cessation of smoking December 1, 1989.

Newspaper clipping about the burial of the Bronx Time Capsule
Newspaper clipping about the burial of the Bronx Time Capsule

The marker is on the northeast corner of the Bronx County Courthouse Building on the Grand Concourse side near East 161st Street..