New York State of Mind Amoeblog #14: NYE in NYC, Earwax Records' Fabio Interview, Horse Drawn Carriages, Historic Williamsburg Bridge

Posted by Billyjam, December 26, 2012 11:41am | Post a Comment

It wasn't a white Christmas in New York City this year, but it was a good one for most folks with people demonstrating compassion for those less fortunate, including their fellow New Yorkers who survived Sandy - the superstorm that ravaged a good deal of the area less than two months earlier leaving some homeless and others still trying to get their damaged homes/lives back on track. Meanwhile, New York City's Times Square Alliance is gearing up for the big New Year's Eve celebrations on Monday.
In this fourteenth installment of the weekly New York State of Mind Amoeblog I will do a run down of the pros and cons of ringing in 2013 at the "crossroads of the world." I will do a run down of other events (concerts etc.) happening in the week ahead, a look at horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, a look back at the historic Williamsburg Bridge, plus an Amoeblog video interview with record store owner/friend of Amoeba and longtime WFMU DJ Fabio who talks about his two-decade-old record store Earwax Records and the dramatically changed neighborhood of Williamsburg that surrounds his store, plus other things relevant to New York City.

For over a century Times Square has lived up to its tag as the crossroads of the world by being the center focus of every New Year's Eve as it rings in the New Year with the dropping of the ball and more than one ton of confetti being dropped from above. The tradition dates back to 1907 when the first Ball Lowering celebration took place in Times Square. In the years since, this event has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of its sheer scale (over a million people cram into the vicinity of Times Square - 42nd to 47th St.s between Broadway & 7th Ave.) and the amount of attention it gets around the globe (over a billion tune in worldwide) every December 31st/January 1st. Live entertainment is a key part of the event. Last year entertainment included Cee-Lo Green and Lady Gaga (who even did a little dance with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg). This year's live performers (on the ABC TV "New Year's Rockin' Eve" stage) will include Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees, and Mister "Gangnam Style" himself, Psy.

The event is free to the public but, like anything free in NYC where demand far outweighs supply, there are a lot of catches and restrictions to consider, should you plan on attending. First up, don't expect to roll up on the event in the hour before midnight because you simply won't get anywhere near or past the street blockades around the Times Square area. All the Times Square subway stations lock their gates too, so you can't plan a sneaky entrance that way either. Nope, you have to get there hella early in the day if you hope to snag one of those much sought vantage views of the ball. Most folks arrive between 3pm and 6pm to scope out a spot, which are based on a first come, first serve basis. Arriving even earlier than 3pm to lock down a position is futile because after 3pm cops will move you along and corral you into one of the many barricaded areas where you'll have to stay for the duration of the long event.

Note that absolutely no alcohol is allowed, which is probably a good thing since there are no portable public restrooms available in Times Square during the celebration. And if you really got to go and exit the cordoned off areas, you are not allowed back in. One way around these restrictions is to book a table at a restaurant in the area but even this does not guarantee you a view. Another thing to be aware of is the numerous companies that sell costly ($125 - $375) so-called "all access passes," which, even if they do get you into venues in the Times Square vicinity, the NYPD will not allow you to get to them. Don't fall for this scam.

If you do go, 3pm is when revelers begin to congregate - after cops have officially begun to cordon off areas. 6pm is the official lighting and raising (accompanied by special pyrotechnic effects) of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball atop One Times Square. At 6:20pm, the Times Square Alliance sanitation crew distribute tens of thousands of free fun handouts to revelers who are cheering in the New Year five hours and 40 minutes later. If you are not in NYC and able to attend, or are not near a TV set, the event is streamed live here. Of course Times Square is not the only place in New York City to ring in the new year. There are parties and events happening all over. Some of the concert events happening include Blonde Redhead at Irving Plaza, and Phish plus The Disco Biscuits at Madison Square Garden.

Fabio - owner of Earwax Records in Williamsburg - talks to the Amoeblog

Above is an Amoeblog interview, recorded a few weeks ago, with Fabio who opened Earwax Records in Williamsburg 21 years ago. As the record store owner says, he has witnessed firsthand a lot of changes go down in Williamsburg, which seem to follow a common trend among areas of New York City that undergo these cyclical gentrification transformations. Fabio is also a DJ on WFMU where he does a wonderfully eclectic weekly radio show (with an emphasis on psychedelic, experimental, electronic, and noise) entitled Strength Through Failure, which airs live every Thursday from 3pm to 6pm (EST) on the Jersey City station archived here.

Stop by Earwax Records (located at 218 Bedford Ave. at corner of 5th St., Williamsburg,  Brooklyn, NY 11211) and say hello to Fabio and such musically knowledgeable staffers as Brandon and Rory. Call for more info at (718) 486-377  and follow on Twitter at EarwaxRecordsNY.

And speaking of Williamsburg, below is a wonderful short silent film, made by Thomas Edison back at the turn of the last century that captures the December 1903 opening of the then New East River Bridge from Manhattan to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Historic Williamsburg Bridge - vintage footage

As shown in the photo at the very top of this Amoeblog post, which was taken along Central Park South (59th Street) between 5th Avenue and Sixth Ave., horse-drawn carriages are found lined up along this stretch of Central Park South where you can hop aboard for a ride round the park. If you have time (and extra cash) and want a leisurely ride round Central Park, this is the way to go. They range in price but are typically between $110 and $165 per 45 minute - 1 hour ride at this time of the year (it can be more on hot summer evenings). Besides seasonal pricing, cost also depends on if you walk up or if you book in advance, which is not necessary most days. Even though New York City is very strict on monitoring services like this to ensure tourists don't get ripped off, always be sure to get a price quote up front before you start out. More pricing and booking info here.

Currently there are an estimated 68 carriages, 216 horses, and 282 drivers in New York City. It is also worth noting that for some time now animal rights advocates have been pushing for legislation that would ban these horse-drawn carriages, citing mistreatment of animals. Every year there are a number of accidents involving the carriages and cars sometimes injuring the horses.

And from what I have seen the animals sure don't look happy dealing with chaos of NYC noise, traffic, and extremes in temperatures from summer to winter. From what I gather the consensus seems to be that animal activists will win in the end in their fight to save the horses, and that this old New York City tradition will likely come to an end within the next five years. More info on the movement to ban horse drawn carriages here.

And finally I leave you with a music video shot in New York City. It is for the classic Rolling Stones track "Waiting For A Friend" from their 1981 album Tattoo You and featuring Sonny Rollins on sax. Peter Tosh is featured in the video sitting on the stoop at the East Village building at 96-98 St. Mark's Place - incidentally the very same building on the cover of Led Zeppelin's album Physical Graffiti.

The Rolling Stones "Waiting On A Friend" (1981)

Relevant Tags

New Year's Eve New York City Times Square (1), Fabio (3), Rolling Stones (33), Earwax Records (1), Nyc Horse-drawn Carriages (1), Fabio Wfmu (1), New York State Of Mind (92), Wfmu (34), New Years Eve 2012 (1), Phish (5), Psy (3)