The Museum of Modern Art in NYC is known as MOMA. But when it first opened, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s children called it ‘mother’s museum.’ She and two girlfriends pooled their resources and determination to open their new art museum just nine days after Wall Street crashed in 1929. What timing! Fortunately, their museum is alive and well.
The MOMA Across the Street with a High-Rise Under Construction:
But I want to tell you about the redesigned public library that opened a few years ago right across the street. The library is mainly underground to use the space that few want. But they have some comfortable library chairs to read and relax for a few hours. Even if you aren’t a library card-carrying New Yorker, this library offers a break from crowded weekday Manhattan.
Last time I was there, the huge 1950-built library reminded me of a grim institutional box, but it was full of life and huge overflowing with books. The original library was sold in 2008 for redevelopment into a hotel. (The MOMA is also leveraging their horizontal place into a mega high rise.) As what typically happens with real estate dealmakers, this promise fell through and the building was completed library-free. Eight long years later a new modern library finally opened its doors.
While the new library is only one-third of the size of the original and most of it underground, the design is modern and provides some sense of space. Creative decorating and ‘making the best of a bad situation’ mojo saved the day. The ‘little library that could’ has no particular name aside from its address – the 53rd Street Library.
The saddest part of the story is that the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, and his friends lived at the old library for twenty years. When their home was slated for demolition, they were banished to the History & Social Science Library eleven blocks south. Just like a Dickens story but this time it’s about Pooh-Bear and his buddies. On my next trip to NYC, I will check in and report back on whether they are happy in their promised children’s room.
“I have been Foolish and Deluded,” said he, “And I am a Bear of No Brain at All.”
“You’re the Best Bear in All the World,” said Christopher Robin soothingly.
“Am I?” said Pooh hopefully.
And one more perfect Pooh-ism: “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
My novel Aquavit doesn’t include Pooh, but much of it does take place in ever-changing NYC.