The city of bright lights…the city that never sleeps…the city of skyscrapers…the city of hopes and dreams i.e. the American dream if I were to put it more eloquently.  

Alas due to the multiple crises in the United States their greatest city faces a dull decline from its original limelight stature. For the first time in many decades, the world is today no longer looking up to the American authorities for breakthroughs, aid and management during a global crisis i.e. the COVID crisis in particular.  

A lot hinges on the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections regarding the future of the United States and its great cities. I was privileged enough to briefly visit the United States during late 2017 by securing some clinical rotations as a foreign medical professional.

The most exciting side prospect for me was exploring the city of New York. Much is already known about what makes New York so famous in almost every corner of the globe.

Its name resonates with Paris and London every time and cannot be forgotten. Times Square, Manhattan skyscrapers, 5th Avenue Branded stores, Central Park, the New York Stock Exchange and the World Trade Centers are already well-known features of New York City (NYC).

During my 3 week stay, I explored some finer yet less popular aspects of the city. I would like to elaborate today on a few of these hidden gems. Each personal experience reflects the great virtues of NYC for me.

Hidden gems of new york

hidden gems of new york

[1] The Smallpox Hospital – hidden gems of new york

I shall start with my own field of interest.

This old heritage intrigued me more for it is a reminder of the havoc that smallpox kept wreaking until the 18th century.

hidden gems of new york
The Smallpox Hospital

It was built in 1856 and closed almost a century later. Located in Manhattan it stands today in its dilapidated yet ivy-wrought glory.

While the smallpox vaccine was available then; this 100-bed hospital continued serving patients and handling outbreaks brought by immigrants.

It later became known as ‘Maternity and Charity Hospital Training School’. Today it stands witness to a novel pandemic which has evolved and wreaked havoc over just half a year.

[2] ‘The Immigrants’ monument

A monument in Battery Park, NYC that emanates mixed expressions of liberty, fear, uncertainty and hope from its very outlines. It dates back almost 50 years and symbolizes 7 million immigrants who entered United States through the Gates of Castle Clinton (an immigration housing center during the late 1800s).

‘Immigrants’ monument different views

The monument depicts immigrants having extremely mixed emotions of fear, relief and uncertainty. It is a controversial monument.

Regardless of the United States over the last many decades has been the most sought after land for immigration irrespective of caste, creed, wealth, religion and colour.

[3] The bronze ‘Fearless girl

Almost everyone has somewhere heard about the magnificent bronze bull of Wall Street; made even more famous by Leonardo di Caprio’s ‘Wolf of Wall Street‘.

The bronze ‘Charging Bull’ of Wall Street

The masculine charging bull is in its originality symbolic of aggressive dominance and excellence in the field of finance. Yet the women leaders cannot be forgotten today.

A small girl’s statue was hence placed in front of the bull in 2017 to remind the world that women can and are continuing to fearlessly equal men in finance, business and all worldly matters.

The two certainly are incomplete without each other. Wall Street is today certainly hosting to women who are more than just attractive secretaries and personal assistants.

The current locations of the 2 statues are still subject to relocations.

P.S It is a popular tradition to click solo pictures with the Bull’s masculinity.

[4] Flushing Meadows, Queens

I found this site as flushing and meadow-like as its name suggests. Situated in Queens, one of the 5 boroughs of NYC, this site is a mixture of lakes i.e. Meadow and Willow Lake, parks and small eateries.

One of the hidden gems of new york.

It is bustling with sports and activity yet embedded with secluded areas of idyllic peace and serenity. I also happen to recall an old English lady whose name was ‘Melody’.

A lake in Flushing Meadows
A lake in Flushing Meadows – hidden gems of new york

I casually passed her as she was meditating alone near one of the lakes. Not a hint of racism or deflection did I feel from the old white lady during my brief interaction with her.

[5] The Unisphere

This magnificent metallic architecture is much more than just a fine architectural masterpiece. It is also located in Flushing Meadows within their Corona Park.

The+Unisphere.jpg

It was created in the early 1960s for the first World Fair held in NYC to mark the beginning of the space age and world peace.

The theme of the World’s Fair was “Peace Through Understanding” and this Unisphere represented themes of global interdependence, being dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe”.

It is symbolic every spring with children playing near its fountains. I could not witness the fountain magic for it was winter during those days.

I felt the sphere on its best days represents joy, freedom and equality for all people particularly children.

[6] Queens Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and the Bronx

Better known and popularized as ‘QB’ by the most famous rappers of Queens i.e. Nas and 50 cents. Brooklyn on the other hand is more famously known because of Jay-Z. I briefly visited the outskirts of the Bronx borough i.e. the birthplace of rap music, with a friend of mine.

Queens Bridge - hidden gems of new york
Queens Bridge – hidden gems of new york

Young black men in vests and Afro hairstyles brought back some memories from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson’s ‘Die Hard’ film. New York also reminds us of the famous Notorious Big who held the greatest rap rivalry (East coast v West coast) in the hip-hop culture with California’s Tupac Shakur.

Hip-hop is more than just a culture in NYC. It is more like religion hence it deserves special mentioning. During its prime days, it served as a beacon of free expression and thought for Black Americans.

I can recall 2 young black men performing dance moves and ‘spitting’ rap ‘bars’ during my subway rides just to earn a few cents and of course entertaining the commuters. For me, those young men clearly made an honourable choice between robbing and glorified begging on those days.

[7] Traces of Hollywood

While the city of lost angels i.e. Los Angeles is better known for its Hollywood landmarks, I found a few traces here that stirred great nostalgia inside me.

Within the Flushing meadows lies the popular New York Mets Baseball team’s ‘Shea’ stadium. Anyone who has seen the original ‘Men in Black’ Will Smith films will easily recall the two circular discs mimicking fictional UFOs near the stadium.

A trip into the Grand Central park also revealed a statue of the famous ‘Balto’. [5] When Cable television was still civil; a few animated cartoon films from my childhood always stand out. ‘Balto’ was one of them.

He is famously remembered as the heroic husky dog which alongside his mates drove ‘vaccine serum’ on sledges through blizzards in 1925 during the fierce Diphtheria epidemic in Alaska. Alas, I have lost Balto’s picture.

Taxis are quite expensive so I avoided one, yet the memory of Robert De Niro cruising through mean streets would always ignite every time I saw a yellow cab.

A cheap ride through the orange Staten Island Ferry suddenly reminded me of the new Spiderman franchise and a decent glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The Roosevelt tram is a similar unique trip not to miss since it offers a fascinating view of the city.

[8] Food trolleys, Subway Graffiti and Street Art

Food sections that cannot be missed are the famous food trolleys particularly the ‘Halal Guys’ spread throughout NYC. The New York ‘Halal Guys’ are the most popular worldwide.

The subways of New York are perhaps the most time-efficient railroad service that the United States offers. A trip through the inner zones of Bronx and Brooklyn reveals eerie yet beautiful wall graffiti.

Among the many street arts, the ‘Love comes in every Color’ mural stood out for me. It speaks for itself; certainly on behalf of majority New Yorkers.

Love comes in every Color

There are many other famous landmarks and tourist hotspots which I found lower in essence and ‘greatness’ than the ones I described during my brief 3-week travels.

America today is facing a crisis within a crisis. The latter is a novel health issue while the former reeks of unfortunate racial supremacy, injustices and turmoil.

I hope that the great city of New York plays an empirical role in addressing these challenges and attaining the limelight and traits for which it rightly was assigned greatness.

These are traits of racial and gender equality, liberty, justice and freedom truly reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty located within the Liberty Island which lies right between the States of New York and New Jersey.

Obviously the American citizens know much more than a mere tourist about what is better for their country’s future; ultimately it is their internal matter. But the time for ultimate decisions should not solely depend on the presidential elections. A masterstroke must come from within the New Yorkers to set examples of greatness for the whole country.

P.S All the above travels did not cost me a single cent/ticket excluding almost 1$ for the Roosevelt tram and the Staten Island Ferry trip. The subway metro-card weekly packages more than suffice for multiple rides across the city.

Written by, Dr. Taimoor Khalid Janjua  

References

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