Open House New York, now in its fourteenth year, is a seriously cool way to get a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the city tick. Whether it’s a tour of the polluted and wondrous Newtown Creek, the former Loew’s Wonder Theater in Jamaica, or just a tour of manhole covers in Chelsea, OHNY asks you, just for once, to focus on your surroundings. Reservations for the most in-demand tours go live at 11 a.m. today, and can be made here. Here’s a list of our ten favorite tours, in no particular order.
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant: These beautiful garlic-like structures have replaced the Elmhurst Tanks as checkpoints for traffic on the BQE. They’re also totally gorgeous. The tour lets you go up to the top, where the view of the city, from industrial Greenpoint, is stunning.
DSNY Manhattan 11 Sanitation Garage: This is the sanitation garage in northern Manhattan that’s home to the “Museum of Trash,” a collection of decades of beautiful (and sometimes expensive objects) that New Yorkers have tossed to the curb. I got a private tour of the museum once, but that also involved an arrest and a plea involving community service. So, for easier (and less criminal) pathways to the trash museum, just reserve your tour here.
Woolworth Building: Designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed pretty much every important building in the United States in the early twentieth century, the Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world until 1930. It’s no longer all that tall in comparison to the monstrosities going up in Midtown, but this tour lets you explore a building constructed for actual human use, and not one for Russian oligarchs to store their money inside of. (Editor’s note: Don’t let Max see this.)
NYC Manhole Covers: We step over them every day, but do we ever think about what’s underneath them? (Besides alligators and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?) Take this tour and find out!
Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility: You’re a good person. You recycle. You snicker when others don’t. But wouldn’t you like to see that all your planet-saving smugness is actually getting put to good use? The SPMRF is the principal processing center for all of NYC’s metal, glass and plastic recyclables — if you recycle, this is where it ends up. Ah, breathe in the smell of recyclables, and your own righteousness.
Bryant Park Hotel: A night at the Bryant Park Hotel probably costs more than your month’s rent. But for two hours, you can feel like you have that kind of money! And you can tell all your friends, “Ah, the Bryant Park Hotel? Yes, I’ve stayed there.” (Briefly, on a tour, that cost $5. Then they kicked you out.)
Tabernacle of Prayer for All People: Lowe’s built four theaters in the 1920’s, one in each of the boroughs that matter (Editor’s note: Damn.). The Brooklyn wonder theater, the Kings Theatre, was wonderfully restored at great cost last year after falling into disrepair. Luckily, the Queens theater has been in the hands of the Tabernacle of Prayer congregation since the Seventies and has been kept entirely intact. This is truly a gem, and a place the neighborhood takes great pride in. If you don’t get a reservation, feel free to stop in for services every Sunday — they’re quite special.
DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage & Salt Shed: Another Sanitation garage, really? Oh, yes, my friend. This totally gorgeous salt shed along the West Side Highway tricks you into believing that it’s some off-shoot of the new Whitney. But no, just a salt shed — but what a salt shed!
Newtown Creek Wildflower Roof: The Newtown Creek Alliance, led by the affable and extremely knowledgeable Mitch Waxman, has been working for years to help get the area surrounding the Newtown Creek cleaner, while preserving its important small businesses and staving off impending gentrification. The wildflower roof demonstrates the potential the area has for some non-industrial beauty. But the tour is really all about learning all about the history of Newtown Creek from Waxman, who lives and breathes (possibly too much) this humble Superfund site.
Via 57 West: Want to see a beautiful condo where you’ll never, ever live? This is your chance! Truly gorgeous, totally hidden from view, this is where the opulent and wealthy will bunker down when the end times come. Take the tour to get a jump on where to find them.