Welcome to my blog, ‘Hidden NYC.’ Now, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s so hidden about New York City? After all, haven’t you seen it all? Getting to Times Square and Central Park are cakewalks for you, Google Maps is your BFF, and foreigners consider you a legendary direction guru. What if I told you that you probably haven’t seen it all? I mean, think about it. New York is so vast, you’ve got to be missing something right? New York is the second largest city in the world, yet we New Yorkers confine ourselves to visiting the same old sites over and over again. I swear, one more Starbucks coffee cup post on Facebook, and I’ll go insane! We go to Coney Island every year and we’ve seen Central Park so many times, that it is no longer central but booooring. You my friend, clicked this link because, like me, you’re searching for your next adventure, and I am going to give that to you.
What does this adventure entail? Glad you asked! I want us to seek out the places obscured by the shadow of the “usual,” and “mundane.” Secret venues, haunted sites, hidden forests, and more. So, if you’re tired of the same old scenery and starting to feel as if you’d prefer to watch your clothes go through dryer cycles than sit in the Museum of Natural History one more time, this blog is for you! Grab your MetroCard, strap on a pair of boots, secure that camera *or smartphone* and tie your hair back, you’re all going to come with me on a grand adventure through New York City. Our first stop? A Rainforest.
A year ago, if you told me that there was a tropical forest a couple blocks down from the hustle and bustle of 42nd St, I would have laughed. If you told me that visiting this forest was free and open to the public any season, I would have considered you a bit befuddled. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Is this possible? An all year round tropical forest? In NYC? Yes, believe it or not. Tucked away in Manhattan’s Ford Foundation Building sits a miniature rainforest. The best and most unusual part is that this forest grows inside a building. As soon as I caught wind of this amazing secret, I knew I had to go check it out. I grabbed my trusty 7-day MetroCard (where’d we be without those?) and began my journey. After exiting the 7 train at Grand Central 42nd street and walking a couple of blocks in the mild summer heat, I reached my destination and found myself staring at an ordinary building. How could this building, I wondered, hold a rainforest? Then, as the swinging doors closed behind me, the atmosphere changed. I’d left New York City.
As I entered a receptionist attempted to greet me, but my mind was so caught up with the view that I hardly heard him. It wasn’t until I had reached into my backpack to grab my phone and take a quick photo that I realized I was being spoken to. Still half listening to the receptionist and keeping my eyes on the forest, I decided to go for it and enter into the unknown. As I continued to make my journey deeper and deeper through the foliage, singing whichever Disney song popped into my head, I soon found myself completely surrounded by beauty. The farther I went into the forest, the harder it became for me to tell I was inside a corporate building and soon the receptionist desk had disappeared from view entirely. The end of the trail led me to a beautiful pool, smack dab in the middle of all the greenery. I stood there for a couple of minutes, taking it all in. I couldn’t believe it. I had lived in New York City for years and had never even heard about this place. It was free, beautiful, open year round, and may I add, climate controlled.
FUN FACTS: After snooping around, I found out that the building itself was completed in 1967, and is actually one of the most distinguished modern buildings constructed by Dan Kiley and architect Kevin Roche after World War II. During the post-war era, many architects attempted to combine nature and modernism, but failed horribly as plants withered under artificial lights. Kiley and Roche devised a plan to solve this problem by constructing an atrium made up of glass panels. The glass panels surrounding the Ford Foundation’s atrium allowed the plants the natural light they needed to thrive. Even more interesting, the glass interior of the building creates a temperate climate that is ideal for a subtropical garden, and allows accessibility to the garden during any season. The garden is watered with rain from the glass roof and steam condensation, which actually conserves New York’s resources. It just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?
It took 5 to 8 minutes to walk around the forest, and I loved every minute of it. So, if on one chilly fall day, you happen to be strolling through Grand Central – 42nd ST, don’t forget to stop in at this little gem.
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday: 9AM – 4PM
Ford Foundation Building
320 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
*Main entrance is on 43rd St, but there is an entrance point on 42nd St as well.*