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Brooklyn Bridge


The title for the first steel suspension bridge goes to none other than the Brooklyn Bridge. With a total length of 6,016 feet, the bridge spans the distance from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. Built by John Roebling in 1869, the Brooklyn Bridge is a marvel of engineering. 


Walking along the Brooklyn Bridge, I saw many more cars and much less people than I thought I would. But the people I did see were very interesting. On the Manhattan side, there were vendors, selling souvenirs like magnets, statues, and hoodies, as well as hot dogs and slushies. Music was playing in Spanish and Chinese, with tourists rushing back and forth from the view. On the Brooklyn side, I saw nannies pushing children in strollers, parents carrying their babies, skateboarders whizzing past, and older people sitting on the benches together and talking. On the promenade, I saw other people taking photos like I was, joggers knocking elbows with people in their way, and people standing alone staring at the city.



With its bright lights, colorful lanterns, and delicious food, Chinatown is a wonderful place in New York City. Boasting the largest Chinese population outside of China, Chinatown, Manhattan is a place full of culture and history. The neighborhood borders the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Civic Center, and Tribeca. Crime has been intertwined with the neighborhood since its inception. Doyers Street is one important site, with crime being so prevalent on its curve that it was nicknamed the “bloody angle”. The amount of crime was due to the Tong Gangs, specifically the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association (On Leong Tong). At the turn of the century, Chinese men who came to the U.S. Another significant place is Five Points, a place that was heavily reviled by other residents of the city for its reputation as a site of hedonistic indulgence. Now, the neighborhood is struggling after the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses having closed down after not being able to adapt, as well as violent hate crimes towards Asians/Asian-Americans being on the rise due to prejudice and racism after the spread of COVID-19. Poverty is also an issue within the community, with many still living in the tenement housing along Doyers Street.


I love Chinatown. I’ve gone to Mei Lei Wah with friends to enjoy some steamed pork buns or pineapple buns, or to Nom Wah Tea Parlor for dim sum, and even Chinatown Ice Cream factory for some black sesame ice cream. The neighborhood has always captivated me with its unapologetic show of cultural pride. Even though some worry about the threat of gentrification, the Chinatown I see now is strong and resilient.

Empire State Building


From King Kong to Tom Hanks, the Empire State Building is t the most iconic building in New York City, or even the United States as a whole. Its construction completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world until 1971. It stands at 1,454 feet tall, being beaten out by One World Trade Center in NYC. During its time, it has been the site of many iconic movie scenes. In An Affair to Remember (1957), the main characters meet on top of the Empire State Building; that same scene is later  referenced in Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Within the building you can find mentions of its film history, with exhibits showcasing different films.


I was somewhat shocked when I visited the Empire State Building for this project. I expected to see tons of people crowding the street that you could barely move, but instead I was met with a nearly barren scene. The crowding near the skyscraper was more so for the Starbucks nearby than the building itself, though I wasn’t entirely surprised at this. As a child, when I visited the Empire State Building, I remember being slightly underwhelmed. It didn’t feel as special to be up so high, because nearly every other building is tall as well. I definitely felt that way again, as I struggled to even find the Empire State Building as it was choked out by the supertall figures nearby, creeping up to it.

Times Square


When you think “New York” you think of Times Square. Originally known as Longacre Square, it was renamed as Times Square in 1904. In 1907, the New Year’s Eve ball drop began, and Times Square became a hub for the United States’ entertainment industry. However, it wasn’t always this well used. After the toll that the Great Depression and  World War II took, the hedonism of the 1960s turned Times Square into a den of crime, with the mob staking their claim in 1968. The Rolling Stone called Times Square “the sleaziest block in America” in 1981. It wasn’t until the 90s that its reputation began to turn around, after efforts were put in to reform Times Square as corporations began entering the space.


Times Square has always been an interesting place to me. It's always fascinated me how one place can feel like it runs on pure excitement and nothing else. When I visited as a child, I was overwhelmed by the giant electronic billboards and the huge crowds. Now, I am much more endeared to them. I like the large, bright buildings, the crowds of excited people, and the sheer variety of things to do. People can shove past me on the street, but I can duck into a restaurant and be given a friendly nod by a complete stranger. Times Square feels like all of New York to me: bright and loud and overwhelming, but genuine at its core. Visiting Times Square now, I could see the toll that COVID-19 took. The crowds have significantly shrunk, and restaurants seem a bit emptier than before. But Times Square is slowly recovering, as are all of us, from the pandemic.

Central Park


Central Park is an iconic place in Manhattan, encompassing a jaw-dropping 843 acres. The park has carriage rides, playgrounds, ice rinks, ponds, walking trails, gardens, and much more. However, the history of the park isn’t so beautiful. In 1855, two years after 700 acres of land for the park was first acquired, the land from West 82nd to West 89th street was acquired. This land was occupied by a place called Seneca Village. Founded in 1825, the village consisted of freed African-Americans, Irish immigrants, and German immigrants. These people were forced out of their homes in an act of slum clearance, and by 1857 they were completely cleared out. In the section of the park where Seneca Village once stood, there’s information on the site’s history, as well as some original pieces of the once thriving community.


Before my program began, I had never been to Central Park, not even during previous visits to New York City. Entering the park for the first time was magical. It felt like I had left the city and had been transported to somewhere completely new. It was quiet and green, and I could see horse carriages walking through as people played fetch with their dogs or sat down for lunch. Even as the temperature dropped, I could still see children playing at the playground, people taking selfies at the Pond, buying hotdogs, or just walking through the scenery. A woman I spoke to called Central Park “truly beautiful.” Even though it can be hard to look past the park's history, I still find it incredible.

Columbus Circle


Columbus Circle stands near the southwest corner of Central Park. On October 12, 1892, ten thousand people gathered to see the dedication of the Columbus Monument. Many people view Christopher Columbus as “the first immigrant”, and he’s celebrated by Italian-Americans even today. After controversy arose during the 2017 Columbus Day parade debating the actions of Christopher Columbus (due to the horrific acts he committed towards indigenous people in North America) and whether or not he should be memorialized, the statue was landmarked in 2018.


Despite the attendance when the monument was first dedicated, and its importance to Italian-Americans within New York, each time I’ve visited the circle it has been virtually empty. The monument feels overshadowed by all the new buildings surrounding it. The first time I visited, there were unhoused people sleeping on the benches, but no one else. The other times I have visited, the space has been filled with pigeons, businessmen walking through talking on their phones, people trying to cross the street, and oddly, skateboarders. When I asked one skater why they came here, he replied that the flat ground and slightly raised benches were good for skating. I watched him and his friends leisurely skate around while everyone else just passed by. I don’t know what Columbus Circle looks like in the summer or spring, but at least in the winter, wheels dominate the space more than shoes.

Rockefeller Center


When you think “Christmas in New York City”, you think Rockefeller Center. On October 1st, 1928, John D. Rockefeller leased the land that would become Rockefeller Center. The first of the iconic Rockefeller Christmas trees was put up in December of 1931, and became a yearly tradition starting in 1933. The skating rink opened on Christmas Day in 1936. Other than the entertainment industry, Rockefeller Center has always been connected to feelings of joy and Christmas cheer.


When I visited Rockefeller Center, I found just that. People lining up at FAO Schwartz to get that one last toy, tourists flooding the gardens, and families ice skating beneath the tree. Little kids were bundled in piles of scarves and coats, young adults were walking in couples and taking photos, and even older people would sit around the rink and the gardens, enjoying the space and smoking away from the children. I had never been to Rockefeller Center before, so seeing everything was very surreal. I chose it as one of my sites because of its connection to Christmas as well as the entertainment industry. However, it did make me slightly sad to see all the major name brand stores surrounding the gardens.

On Central Park

“You see people from all walks of life, age, gender, nationality. it's a really beautiful place."
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