Where in the World?

You are looking eastward from Manhattan. The large green area is Central Park, and the waterway is the East River. The tiny sliver of an island is Roosevelt Island. Right across from that, you are in Queens, baby. The big yellow arrow is pointing to MSLK, for all who have been wondering exactly where is MSLK located.

This photo was not taken from a plane. It was taken from the observation deck of the Panorama of New York in the Queens Museum of Art… home to the largest scale model of any urban center. Most New Yorkers have never even heard of this museum, let alone the main attraction.

The museum itself is rather impressive. Located in Flushing Meadows Park, it was built in 1939 for the World’s Fair as the “city’s pavilion.” It is situated directly in front of the Unisphere — the the iconic relic from the 1964 World’s Fair (also the fictional location of Men in Black’s underground headquarters). Impressive fact #83,664: The very room that the Panorama occupies was the original general assembly room for the United Nations before moving into its swankier digs in Manhattan.

Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way, back to the Panorama. It’s simply incredible. If you’ve ever flown into New York’s Laguardia airport, there’s a good chance you’ve been privy to such a view. The problem is you’re moving too fast, the airplane window is usually too small, and unless you’re sitting in the window seat, the person next to you is usually hogging the view. If you’ve ever had a thirst for more, I urge you to see this.

It’s easy to think about “New York City” and forget that it’s much more than the tiny island of Manhattan. I still do that all the time. Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island have all been part of the City since 1898, and each individually dwarf Manhattan as far as sheer acreage.

This scale model is built to exacting detail, allowing you to walk around on an elevated ramp with glass flooring in sections to see below. The result is breathtaking experience allowing you to comprehend the vastness of New York City from any angle. (I was particularly interested in seeing new routes to take our new MINI…)

The model, in all its glory, transcends the experience of simply seeing a museum exhibit. It becomes a meditation of our celebrated city, begging for reflection as you find familiar landmarks and discover new ones. Your eye traces familiar neighborhoods (“Look! My first apartment!”) as it finds new ones (“Gotta see the Far Rockaways this summer…”).

What I realized during my viewing experience was just how much my knowledge of the city had grown since I first arrived from college in 1996. Then, I really only knew Manhattan… and at that, anything above 34th street seemed like the hinterlands. Now that so much is happening culturally in all five boroughs (Staten Island, please represent!), I found a new appreciation for this beautiful mess that makes New York so unique.

If you have any interest in seeing all of new York City from above, you no longer need to go through the hassle of security check-in. All you need to do is come out to Queens. Here’s some other pictures…

This is a photo from the a great New York Times article about the Panorama. It’s amazing to see the sense of scale compared to a person:

Tip of Manhattan looking towards Queens and the Bronx. The last time the model was updated was 1992… obviously there’s some updating that needs to be done, with regard to the Twin Towers:

The Verrazano Narrows bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island: