Friday, July 22, 2016

The Skinny on Food at Film Fest

Here's the skinny on the food vendors for this week's HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America screening of Three Days of the Condor (1975).

We all know one of the best parts of HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America is the food. We've already detailed some strategies for putting together a picnic, but what if you want to avoid the hassle and grab something easy and delicious? Luckily, we have a variety of options around the park for you to enjoy.

Our good friends at Hester Street Fair are back this year and will be on the Fountain Terrace every Monday during Film Fest dishing out a variety of tasty options. They'll be curating a rotating list of vendors from their cache of cult-favorite culinary institutions. Here are a few vendors you can expect to see:

Black Tap Burger will be dishing out their famous burgers without the equally famous line you'd encounter at their brick and mortar store. Photo: carnivorr 

Renegade Lemonade is debuting two new lemonade flavors, Raspberry Rose and Strawberry Rose, in addition to their classic Lemon and Peach Mint concoctions. Photo: Xgtrs

Mr Bing: Beijing Street Foods will be dishing out traditional Northern Chinese street crepes in Peking Duck, BBQ Pork, and vegetarian variety. Photo: Mr Bing Instagram

The fair will be open on the Fountain Terrace from 4pm until the film begins at Sunset. Keep an eye out for Gordos, Uma TemakeriaIl BucoOconomi, and more exciting food vendors.

In addition to the Hester crowd, our mainstay kiosks will be open serving their usual classics.

Coffeed has a variety of fresh brewed iced teas and coffee as well as a remarkable selection of baked goods.
Le Pain Quotidien will be doling out their usual sandwiches and salads as well as some seasonal dishes.
Two of our kiosks, Wafels and Dinges and Breads Bakery, will be doing double duty with both Kiosks and Fountain Terrace tents for twice the confectionery goodness. How many of our film fest vendors can you sample?

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America
Mondays, June 20 - August 22
Lawn opens at 5pm

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reel Talk: What to Expect the First Time you Watch The Omen

Resident film expert Scott Adlerberg, who hosts the Reel Talks discussions, shares his thoughts on this week's HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America screening of The Omen (1976).

I first saw The Omen when it opened forty years ago, at the age of 14. I hadn’t yet seen The Exorcist, which came out three years earlier, in 1973, but with so many horror movies out in its wake having to do with the Devil or possessed children, I was aware before going to see The Omen what its subject matter covered. To be more precise, I should say that I had expectations in a general sense. The truth is that I was raised in a household where religion, including Catholicism, played no part, and so (it seems hard to believe now) I actually had never even heard of the concept of the anti-Christ before seeing the film. I knew going in I’d be seeing an evil kid movie – the commercials suggested that clearly enough – but the specifics of what made the kid evil I found to be engrossing and full of surprise as The Omen’s story unfolded. At 14, seeing it with friends over the summer in 1976, I found the movie to be really scary and suspenseful, and I remember how a group of us for the rest of the summer kept wanting to shave each other’s heads to make sure none of us carried the telltale mark of 666.

Since that initial viewing, I’ve seen The Omen a number of times. I remember watching it on several occasions when it had its first run on HBO in the late 70’s. But I hadn’t seen it in at least thirty years when I watched it the other night to refresh my memory of it, and I have to say I was curious to see whether I would find that it still holds up.

I’m glad to report that it does. At the time it premiered, The Omen had a couple of scenes that were particularly unsettling. One involved the nanny who hangs herself at a child’s birthday party, and the other is a decapitation of a major character by plane of glass. In terms of sheer graphic dismemberment, the beheading scene has long since been surpassed in films, and yet this scene remains a memorable one. It occurs at a pivotal point in the story and happens to somebody sympathetic. And the nanny suicide remains as startling as ever; it’s a parental nightmare of a scene if ever there was one.

The magic of the HBO Film Festival is watching a classic with so many fellow cinephiles.

Richard Donner directed The Omen, and what he brought to it is a strong storytelling sense. While watching it for the first time in decades, the movie’s pacing struck me. Nothing in The Omen drags. Each scene begins where it needs to, says what it has to say, and cuts sharply to the next scene. And the narrative is clear and uncluttered; the plot proceeds in straightforward fashion, its momentum building as clues and frights lead to a tense and dramatic finale.

A word should be said about the acting.  It helps that the cast plays things straight – no camp, no eye winking. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are convincingly beleaguered as the parents of a child they love, then are puzzled by, then come to fear. Peck’s usual gravitas works well in keeping the supernatural grounded in a recognizable world. His reactions to what is unfolding are the skeptical reactions any sane parent would have to what he is learning about his kid. And hats off to whoever did the casting of the main supporting players: David Warner as a reporter and Leo McKern as the Van Helsing like expert who sheds light on the true nature of the mystery bring total conviction to their roles also. They come across as real people, and of course, in horror, the more real the unnerved characters seem, the more plausible the uncanny things happening to them seem. Then there’s Billie Whitelaw, the second nanny for little Damien, and though she’s not onscreen that long, she’s a character you never forget – Mrs. Blaylock. Once she enters the household, we’re again in the realm of parental bad dreams….

Finally, there’s the music, composed by Jerry Goldsmith. It won the Academy Award for Best Score in 1976, and I remember buying the soundtrack album as a teenager. No, I was not a goth kid into Satanism, but I did, and still do, consider it a great score. Much of it is choral and creepy, sung in Latin, but there are evocative gentler themes, too, during the film’s calm moments. It’s a beautifully modulated score that contributes mightily to the film’s impact. Indeed, whenever I think of the movie now, I start hearing its Latin chant in my head.

It seems like my first time seeing The Omen was yesterday. There’s nothing like getting scared by a movie as a kid. That experience sticks with you. I’m just glad that forty years later, watching the film again, I still enjoyed it.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Mondays, through August 22
Lawn opens at 5pm
Films start 30 minutes after sunset

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

All-Star Culinary Lineup at Barefoot Ball

Barefoot Ball, taking place on Wednesday, July 20, is just around the corner. In no time you'll be taking your shoes off and dancing under the stars to a 3-hour DJ set by Questlove. Our toes are already tapping in anticipation of the evening's great tunes; here's a sampler to get your mouth watering for the sips and bites of the evening, all from top NYC and international names.

Ticket price includes a 3-hour open bar. Sip on wine from Sud de France and Wines of Germany, and suds from Bronx Brewery.

Bronx Brewery will be serving its refreshing Summer Pale Ale.
Photo from the Bronx Brewery Facebook.

Sustain your dancing with food from Momofuku Milk Bar and Daniel Boulud's db bistro moderne. Food is included in VIP ticket price and available for purchase with general admission tickets.

Hot dogs are the ultimate summer food, and when they're from DB Bistro Moderne you can expect an upscale twist.
Photo: DB Bistro Moderne.
Momofuku Milk Bar's cookies and infamous Crack Pie, pictured above, will help fuel your dancing.
Photo from Momofuku Milk Bar

This benefit is hosted by the Bryant Park Young Professionals and seeks to raise money to continue the park's mission of providing wonderful free activities and events for the public.

Barefoot Ball
July 20
7:30pm - 11pm
The Lawn

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bryant Park By the Numbers: Board Games, Rent Premiums, and Public Park Funding

We keep thousands of data points about the park, from the number of chairs we have to the number of guests we have during the day. Every week, we share a new data point in our e-newsletter, MidCity News, in a section called "Bottom Line." Here is a selection of some of our recent Bottom Lines. 

23.12. A recent "Stat of the Week" in Commercial Observer states that asking rents around Bryant Park command a $23.12 premium per square foot over the Midtown average.

Cumbia drew quite the crowd. Photo by Angelito Jusay Photography.

4. Midtown music lovers have a lot to choose from this summer as 34th Street Partnership presents four live music series. Download the 2016 events brochure to make sure you don’t miss a performance.      

54. With the recent addition of real “gamer” favorites like Forbidden Island, Shadows Over Camelot, Carcassonne, Wits & Wagers, and King of Tokyo, Bryant Park Games now offers 54 tabletop games for use free of charge.

5,775. Park Manager Brian Schliessman directed the installation of the park’s lawn, during which crews laid down 5,775 pieces of sod measuring 2 by 4 feet each.

The lawn takes a rest before its big debut.
3,222. In 2015, players at The Tables went through 3,222 ping pong balls. The Tables, as well as our other activity areas, are open daily from 11am to 8pm.

While not required, wearing suits makes ping pong all the more challenging.

116. This winter, 116 chilly park visitors took home a free scarf created by participants at Bryant Park Knits. Directed by the pros at Knitty City, "Found But Not Lost" made the scarves available at various spots throughout the park.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Where Did All The Birds Go?

Over the last few years, we have cultivated a relationship with the NYC Audubon, resulting in biweekly Birding Tours of the park during migration. We've been delighted as our Audubon Guide Gabriel Willow teaches us about the avian life of NYC, and helps us spot some of these magnificent creatures up close. Now Gabriel shares his experiences in the park.

Summer is here. That means a range of experiences in NYC, from days spent at the beach to the smell of hot garbage. Some people revel in longer days and warm nights and all of the fun summer events the city has to offer, while others escape to Long Island or the Catskills if they can.

Birds have a similar range of adaptations. The vast majority head to their country homes to raise young in areas with more extensive forests and fields. While over 120 species of birds have been seen in Bryant Park over the years, as far as I know, only three (none of them native) remain to nest in the park: Rock Pigeons, European Starlings, and House Sparrows. These three are the big three of city birds, those that are most supremely adapted to the densest urban environments. If you were in Bryant Park in the summertime and were to cast your eyes skyward, you might catch a glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon or a Herring Gull flying overhead, which might bring your count up to 5 or 6 species. But overall, it's slim pickings.

This is why we have a hiatus from our Bryant Park Bird Walks during the summer months: there's very little to see! Where did all the birds go? The vast majority of birds seen in NYC are simply migrating through the area.  Some winter here (such as the abundant White-throated Sparrows that spend October to May in Bryant Park), but still depart to head north to raise young. Some species, such as the abundant Ovenbirds I profiled in my last post, breed as close as 20 or 30 miles outside the city, but still are rarely found nesting within NYC.

Gabriel Willow leads a tour earlier this summer.
Photo: Angelito Jusay Photography
Even in the city's larger parks such as Central Park or Prospect Park, only about 25-35 species of birds have been recorded breeding (which is synonymous with remaining over the summer). This is contrasted to the 250+ species those parks have on their total bird lists. So only about 10% of bird species that can be found in NYC remain here to sing, court, build nests, and raise young. It seems that for most birds, the motto is "New York City is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to raise kids there."

This is presumably due to the relative lack of habitat. Some species that migrate through our area breed on arctic tundra, or in boreal forest, or on mountaintops, and the appropriate habitat simply isn't found in our area. Others breed in deciduous forests or grasslands of the type that can be found at our latitude, but there just isn't enough of that habitat here to entice them to stay. Many of these species can be found within 50 miles or less of the city. It's always a bit mysterious to me which species choose to remain and which don't: why are Baltimore Orioles common breeders in NYC parks and even street trees, but not Indigo Buntings? Why do Warbling Vireos nest in the city commonly, but Yellow-throated Vireos do not? It all must come down to some subtle differences in habitat requirements, whether tree species, food, or some other factors.

Birders scan the tree canopy for critters.
Photo: Angelito Jusay Photography
These questions are worth taking a closer look at. As increasingly large swaths of our country and the world are urbanized, some birds will adapt, and others won't fare as well. Some species have more specific habitat requirements, particularly for nesting, and prefer larger, undisturbed tracts of forests or fields. These species will be the hardest-hit by habitat loss and fragmentation. We are already seeing declines in certain species, such as a lovely bird called the Bobolink, which prefers large meadows to nest in. Their population has declined precipitously in recent decades. Whether this is because of habitat loss in their South American wintering grounds, or farmland in the northeast, or declines in their insect prey from pesticide use, is unknown.

On a brighter note, there is a surprising amount of habitat preserved near NYC. A network of State Parks, National Forests, and other protected lands exists across the state. These refuges are part of the reason we see such an abundance and diversity of birds passing through our area during the migratory season (as well as the existence of ancient flyways that the birds follow through our region).

Soon, they will finish raising their young, and both the adult and the immature birds will heed the ancient pull to fly south as the days grow shorter and cooler. The young birds, migrating for the first time, will follow their instincts and fly along a large river, or along the coastline, and will encounter a dense and unfamiliar landscape of concrete, glass, and steel. They will look for islands of green and blue, and land by the thousands in our city parks, seeking shelter, food, and rest. And we'll be there to greet them, as our Fall Migration walk series resumes on September 12.

I hope to see you there! In the meantime, there are movies and many other fun diversions in Bryant Park.  Have a great summer...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Asiatic Lillies Populate Garden Beds

Late June is one of the most stunning times of year at the park, because that's when our Asiatic Algarve Lillies bloom. The stems, which can reach shoulder height, are crowned with a cluster of creamy pink lillies. Some of the stems are so elegantly adorned that they are staked for support. 
Summer colors emerge from the northern garden beds. 

Hollyhocks reach for the sun among the lillies, and will be the next to bloom. 
The garden beds on the southern side are equally beautiful, and quite different from the northern beds. The southern gardens' shade encourages a complimentary, not identical, color palate with dark greens and pearly whites.

The southern beds' dappled sunlight is reflected in the
alternating dark and light colors of the plantings. 

Come enjoy the last several days of these beautiful pink lillies! If you're not able to catch them before their season is over, good news: the next lillies to bloom will be stunning bright white Casablanca Lillies, so you're not too late to enjoy lily season at Bryant Park!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sourcing a Picnic for Film Fest

The HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America is one of New York's great outdoor events. Guests from all over set up camp on the lawn with an assortment of goodies and treats.

If you're heading over right after work and need a quick bite to eat, Hester Street Fair will be setting up shop on the Fountain Terrace with a host of fantastic vendors (be on the lookout for a feature on them soon.) We've also got our park mainstays, Breads Bakery, Wafels & Dinges, Le Pain QuotidianCOFFEED, and Southwest Porch at your service. But if you're feeling a little adventurous and you're in the area early looking to throw together a picnic, we've complied a list of a few of our favorite local spots to grab all the supplies you'll need.

Don't let the line discourage you, these pastries are worth it.

Maison Kayser - One of our favorite local bakeries, Maison Kayser is known for their endless variety of french baked goods which are made on-site all day long. They not only have delectable pastries and tartes but also baguettes and sourdough breads as well as sandwiches. If you're in need of beverages for film fest Maison Kayser has got you covered with their selection of fresh juices and coffee.

Murray's Cheese - This West Village staple has a Midtown outpost that isn't to be missed. Perfect for any picnic basket cheese plate, Murray's offers an assortment of fine cheeses from all over the world. Whether you're looking for a fine Brie or a hearty Gouda, you'll find it here (they even have water buffalo cheese!) They also stock a healthy variety of sliced meats like salami and prosciutto and sell other picnic must-haves such as nuts, crackers, dried fruits, and pâtés.

These baskets will bring your #BPFilmFest Instagrams to the next level.

Zeytinz - Zeytinz might look unassuming from the outside, but it's definitely an essential stop for your picnic. During the lunch rush it's known for its counter service where you can grab all sorts of sandwiches and hot foods such as Tex-Mex and paninis. Zeytinz's is more than a one-trick pony though, hidden in the back is a small grocery section with a variety of fresh produce and organic snacks. The deli counter has a wide selection of meats you can get wrapped up if you want to pair with your Maison Kayser baguettes. Best of all however is hidden on the second floor. Wander up the unassuming staircase and you'll find an entire section devoted to baskets and other gifts.

Rosen & Chadick Fabrics - So you've got your baked goods, sandwiches, beverages, snacks, and even a chic basket to pack everything in but how will you demarcate your section of the lawn? Thankfully, Bryant Park happens to be close neighbors with the Garment District. Need a Picnic Blanket DIY style? A short walk from the park on 39th Street brings you to Rosen & Chadick Fabrics hidden on the 2nd and 3rd floor or a mid-rise building. They have a well organized variety of fabrics from all over that you can have cut to size in no time by their attentive staff. 

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival presented by Bank of America 
Mondays, June 20 - August 22
Lawn opens at 5pm