Frieze New York 2015

A Brief Guide to Sightseeing Along the East River While Riding the Ferry to Frieze

The East River.

The East River as seen from the back of the water taxi Abraham Lincoln.

All sorts of wonders await at Frieze New York this year: a labyrinth, a maze, free ponchos, walruses, and art from nearly 200 exhibitors from around the world. But if you’re taking the ferry to the fair from East 34th Street in Manhattan, there are also all sorts of intriguing things to take a look at on the roughly 30-minute ride. Below, a quick guide.

U Thant Island measures only about 20,000 square feet, and is the smallest island that is legally part of the borough of Manhattan. It was created from land that was dug up during the construction of trolley tunnels beneath the river around the start of the 20th century. Its name comes from former United Nations Secretary General U Thant.

#1: U Thant Island is tiny—the smallest island that is legally part of the borough of Manhattan. It was created from land that was dug up during the construction of trolley tunnels beneath the river around the start of the 20th century. Its name comes from former United Nations Secretary General U Thant. As with most minor islands in New York, there’s a great backstory to all of this. Thirteen has more information. In 2004, it also figured in a performance by Duke Riley, in which he landed on the island and declared it a public space. The Coast Guard eventually intervened.

The United Nations

#2: The Headquarters of the United Nations, which was built in 1952 and designed by Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Harrison & Abramovitz.

#3: Louis Kahn’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which was built in 2012 from designs that the architect had with him when he died in 1974 at the age of 73.

#4: The Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island, which was designed by James Renwick Jr. (who is better known for his St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan) and inaugurated in 1856, has been abandoned since the 1950s, though efforts are underway to preserve it.

#5: The mighty Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, also known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which opened in 1909, connecting Manhattan and Queens. It runs across Roosevelt Island.

#6: Just north of the Queensboro Bridge sits this stunner of a sculpture by the redoubtable Alice Aycock. Built in 1995, it’s called East River Roundabout and measures some 80 feet long. More information is available from the New York City Parks Department.

#7: Garbage on Roosevelt Island is collected through pneumatic tubes in which speeds can reach 60 miles per hour. It’s a pretty wild system. Wired has a great story about it.

#8: This is going to sound insane, but there are actually three Tom Otterness sculptures perched on little cement pedestals along Roosevelt Island here. Look very closely, and perhaps pay a visit on a later trip to Roosevelt Island. Here are photos.

#9: Renwick also designed this 1872 lighthouse, the Blackwell Island Light, on Roosevelt Island, which measures about 50 feet tall. (The island was long known as Blackwell Island, until being renamed Roosevelt Island in 1971. It also went by the name Welfare Island for much of the 20th century.)

#10: This is Mill Rock, another little island that is technically part of Manhattan. Though uninhabited, it did play host to the 7th Avant Garde Festival in 1969. Electronic Media Arts has some details. By the time you get here, you’re about 5 minutes away from Frieze.

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