Iconic New York: Capturing the Essence of NYC

By Troy Segal

“I’m bound to say that New York’s a topping place to be exiled in,” P.G. Wodehouse once claimed. If you happen to be feeling exiled in an emptying city during these summer days, don’t sweat it. Embrace it, with activities in and/or centering on buildings, places and institutions that capture the essence of the city. Our town may seem quiet—but it never sleeps.


Flanked by those two stone lions, the main branch of the New York Public Library may be the most recognizable book repository in the world. Its current exhibit, Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography, includes the interactive installation “On Broadway,” which traces NYC’s most famous 13-mile stretch in images and statistics. New York Public Library—Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, daily, through Jan. 3.

al hirschfeld events nyc

Speaking of Broadway: for decades, no play or musical was complete until cartoonist Al Hirschfeld had rendered a drawing—spoofing, yet eerily accurate—of it. To accompany the exhibit The Hirschfeld Century, a trio of jazz musicians (from Juilliard, no less) is playing a night of classic melodies from musicals they dub Hirschfeld’s Broadway Songbook. New-York Historical Society, Friday, Aug. 14.

life along the curb robin nagle

They work while we sleep (and sometimes wake us up): the municipal garbage collectors. Learn the ins and outs of the NYC Department of Sanitation from its anthropologist-in-residence (really). The talk will be followed by a documentary on a Harlem sanitation garage museum—made up entirely of trash-picked treasure. Museum of the City of New York, Monday, Aug. 17.

learning to drive

Only in the New York melting pot could a WASP-ish critic and an Indian chauffeur meet cute—like most Manhattanites, she can’t drive—and develop a relationship. Watch the story unfold in a screening of the new film Learning to Drive; stick around afterwards to see leads Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. 92nd Street Y, Tuesday, Aug. 18.

iconic new york

Observe the New York skyline through fresh eyes—specifically, the eyes of photographer Jake Rajs—as he and collaborator Francis Morrone discusses the new edition of their book New York City Landmarks. The Skyscraper Museum. Wednesday, Aug. 19.

icons of new york talks

Many of us love pizza, that quintessential New York delivery staple (what’s credited as America’s first freestanding pizzeria opened here in 1905). But few love it as much as Colin Atrophy Hagendorf, aka the Slice Harvester, who managed to consume a slice from every single New York City pizzeria within two years. Come attend his pizza party, featuring readings about the noble pie. WORD, Wednesday, Aug. 19.


The Roaring Twenties conjure up a New York City that’s still with us, in architecture and a degree of lingering glamor. Hear from correspondent Eric Burns at the Bryant Park Reading Room as he talks about the kickoff year of the decade and its foreshadowing of the century to come. Wednesday, Aug. 19.

world's fair celebration anniversary

Those of a certain age have fond memories (could it really have been 50 years ago?) of the 1964-65 New York World Fair, its scientific marvels, its tribute to futuristic architecture and that catchy Disney tune “It’s a Small World After All.” Tour the remnants on this walkabout of the Queens site sponsored by the AIANY Architecture Tour Committee. Sunday, Aug. 23.


Once—for about a New York minute, before the Chrysler Building went up—it was the world’s tallest skyscraper. And while the Woolworth Building lost that title long ago, its Cass Gilbert-designed, cathedral-like interior still amazes. A preservationist leads an Untapped Cities-sponsored visit around this usually off-limits site. Wednesday, Sept. 16.

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