Tuesday, December 11, 2012

With your gifting list growing this holiday season, saving money in other ways makes cents (and dollars!)

Here are a few ideas courtesy of MSN Money to add more cash for your stash.

DRIVE LESS - Save money normally spent at the pump by pumping your legs instead. If your destination is within walking distance - hoof it!

BREW IT TO GO - That Starbucks habit is probably whittling down your bank account more than you think. Wake up a few minutes earlier each morning and fill your thermos at home.

CLAP OFF - Turning off lights in unused rooms is not only good for the enviornment, it also may lead to a pleasant surprise in your next billing cycle.

FORGO THE FIDO - Thinking about bringing in a bounding bundle of joy this holiday? Don't forget about the accompanying vet bill. The annual cost of owning a medium-sized dog is over $1,100.

WATCH LESS (READ MORE!) The average monthly cable bill will set you back over 70 bucks. The average paperback can be purchased for between $15-$20. Chances are if you read - you can do the math.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New York Is Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and while this holiday usually conjures images of succulent roasted turkey and the rowdiness of football and family, New Yorkers may have a slightly more sobering outlook on this year's festivities. In the wake of the disaster that was Hurricane Sandy, many residents of this great city may be questioning their good fortune and wondering exactly for what they have to be thankful.

To those displaced, mourning, or devastated New Yorkers, we here at the Wall Street Walks Family would like to personally take a moment to express our most sincere and heartfelt condolences, and while it is undeniable that we have felt the effects of Sandy on our business, we cannot begin to comprehend the nightmare with which some of you are dealing. We are certinaly trying to do our part to raise awareness of the devastation that happened in Lower Manhattan and beyond, and we have launched a series of  Sandy Benefit Tours the proceeds of which will be donated to the recovery efforts of the South Street Seaport Museum.

It seems to be a tried and true fact that when this great city is faced with adversity, its people inevitably join together and help in whatever way they can. Our efforts are just a small drop in the bucket compared to the city-wide (and beyond!!!) push to get New York back on her feet. All over, people are donating their time, goods, and hard-earned money to those affected, and that is something we all can be thankful for. 

We would like to acknowledge the ever-growing list of other businesses organizations, and individuals that have worked tirelessly since the waters receded. Obviously, there are far to many to count, but here are a few...

  • Battery Park City Cares, a local charity, coordinated the collection and distribution of blankets, batteries, and bottled water. 
  • The BPC Dog Association first made sure that pets and their owners were safe, then began collecting pet supplies. 
  • The Manhattan Youth put out a call for volunteers to man a bucket brigade and more than 500 people heeded the call.
  • Julie Menin, former chair of Community Board 1, organized a six-day volunteer effort of 300 who  who knocked on 9,000 doors, bringing food, water, and blankets to stranded elderly and disabled residents throughout Lower Manhattan.
  • The Downtown Alliance announced the "Lower Manhattan: Back to Business" grant program to support retailers, restaurants and service providers affected by Hurricane Sandy. The program will provide offers grants of up to $20,000 to small businesses.  See their press conference here.
  • Chop't,  The Diamond in Greenpoint, Park Avenue Autumn, Pegu Club, Meatball Shop, Sfoglia, Shake Shack, Rooftop Supperclub in Greenpoint, Battersby, Pies-n-Thighs, Tasting Table, and countless other restaurants have donated money, food, and goods as well as played host to various charity events. 
  • MTV has round up the cast for “Restore the Shore," a special that will air live from the Times Square studio. The TV network is partnering with nonprofit Architecture for Humanity and viewers will be encouraged to donate via text to assist with reconstructing the Seaside Heights boardwalk and supporting re-building efforts of businesses and residents in the area
  • NYC Young Professionals Group will donate proceeds from their networking event at the Lower East Side's the DL to hurricane relief efforts. Get on the guest list here. Admission is $20 and includes one free drink.
  • At Industry Bar, Ally Sheedy and photographer Mike Ruiz will host a fundraiser to benefit the , an LGBTQ youth organization that had its drop-in center destroyed by the Hudson River storm surge. The event runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $20, will be available at the door.
  • Lucille Roberts in Forest Hills will host a Zumbathon for Hurricane Sandy relief. Members and nonmembers can donate $10 for a 12:30 p.m. Zumba class that will be doubly worthwhile — all proceeds go to the Red Cross and other efforts.
  • Cubana Social has joined forces with the Hester Street Collaborative to assist the Lower East Side and Chinatown's elderly and disabled residents stuck in housing development by doubling as a drop-off point for donations (food, water, batteries, flashlights, generators).
By most accounts, even the ones hit hardest are still counting their blessings and acknowledging the fact that they and their loved ones are still alive. Many are quoted as saying how material possessions can always be replaced and, while devastating, their loss cannot hold a candle to that of a family member or friend. Some are even taking a break from the cleanup, demolition, or re-building of hard-hit areas to celebrate Thanksgiving and are using the time to try and forget their current woes and enjoy the company of the ones they love. And for the rest of New York spared from Sandy's full wrath, perhaps that sentiment can serve as a meditation on what we all really should be thankful for on this holiday.

From the Wall Street Walks family to yours - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Post-Sandy Photo Blog

 A 6'0" tall man stands next to the Storm Surge waterline

Ruined office equipment and furniture littering the streets 

 Park benches with no seats

 Water damage to the World Trade Center Memorial site

 Discarded sandbags

 Buildings in the process of drying out

Boarded up doorways

Water being pumped and diverted



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shadows of Deceased Ghosts

“They say that shadows of deceased ghosts
Do haunt the houses and the graves about,
Of such whose life's lamp went untimely out,
Delighting still in their forsaken hosts.”
-Joshua Sylvester

To many, ghost stories are campfire fodder, best told ironically in the bleary beam of a flashlight. However, to those who have experienced unexplained paranormal activities firsthand, these tales may be told without the requisite smirk.

But when does a rickety wine cabinet become a Dybbuk Box or the hushed voices in the apartment next door become EVP? When is it time to simply lay off the Fight Night double features or seriously gather loved ones for a séance?

Perhaps the most logical first step in determining whether or not you have a legitimate haunting is to identify some common hallmarks of paranormal activity. However, it should be noted that not all hauntings are alike and can vary from one specific phenomenon to a full-out scene from Poltergeist.

Some telltale signs that you may have a spiritual squatter include:

  • Unexplained noises (footsteps, knocking, banging, rapping, or scratching)
  • Lights turning on and off
  • DOP - Disappearing Object Phenomenon (items that vanish and then reappear)
  • Unexplained shadows     
  • Strange animal behavior    
  • Eerie sensations of being watched
  • Mild psychokinetic phenomena (including the unassisted opening or closing of doors, windows, cabinets, cupboards, etc.)
  • Sensations of being touched  
  • Disembodied cries and whispers    
  • Noticeable variances in temperature (spots can be cold or hot)   
  • Unexplained smells
  • Severe psychokinetic phenomena (such as moving or levitating objects)
  • Physical assault (scratches that suddenly appear with no viable cause)
  • Physical traces such as hand or footprints or unexplained writing

If enough of these boxes have been checked to warrant alarm, how exactly does one go about dealing with these unwanted house guests? (And you thought having bedbugs was trying…)

There are some experts who claim that the physical destruction of the site being haunted is a surefire way to rid oneself of a ghost. However, this method may prove problematic in several ways.  One’s landlord may not take this as an acceptable excuse for the complete demolition of his tenement. Also, this technique does not always work. For example, when the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland (now New York City), Peter Stuyvesant’s mansion burned down in 1744, he simply moved his haunting ground to the Stuyvesant family mausoleum.

Other experts claim that the destruction or removal of the physical remains of the body in question is the only way to quiet a disgruntled spirit. When the body of successful Irish entrepreneur A.T. Stewart was moved from near St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery to the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, his ghost eventually gave up the search.

Another popular method in dealing with visitors from the Underworld is a séance, which is an encounter or meeting during which a spiritualist or a medium attempts to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The word “séance” comes from the French word for “seat,” “session” or “sitting” and from the Old French word seoir, “to sit.” One famous ghost gabber, Hans Holzer, would speak with the spook via a medium to try and decipher the gripes of the restless. If Holzer was successful and the spirit was appeased, then the supernatural activities would come to an end.

For particularly disruptive ghosts who set their sights on people, an exorcism may be the only solution. From the Latin word exorcismus, and from the Greek word exorkizein (to abjure), exorcism is the practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place that they are believed to have possessed. An exorcist is the person called upon to perform this ceremony through prayer, ritual, formula, or through other means such as an angel or an amulet. One such exorcist, Dr. Joseph Green Cogswell, held a secular exorcism at the Astor Library, where he served as Director, after he encountered Austin Sands, a wealthy insurance executive (or what was left of him).

While the previously mentioned solutions are admittedly somewhat time consuming and involved, there are also some simpler techniques that might get the job done.

  • Solving the problem that causes the ghost to haunt (For helpful tips, a viewing of any Scooby Doo episode may prove enlightening)
  • Simply informing the ghost that he or she is deceased! (HELLO! We have all seen The Sixth Sense by now!!
  • Suggesting to the ghost a better place to haunt (How about that really annoying neighbor down the hall?)
  • Simply asking the ghost to leave or stop haunting. (Pretty please??)
  • Perhaps welcome the ghost as a friend. (Ask Christina Ricci, sometimes Casper can turn out to be a real looker.)
  • Or if all else fails, simply move away from the haunted location. (When the New York Times moved its offices uptown in 1904, the newspaper left its resident ghost behind.)

We would like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended our ghost tour, and we can hardly wait until next year as it will be bigger and scarier than ever! In the meantime, please feel free to check out our other tour offerings. We hope to see all of you on Wall Street soon!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Arrrrgggghhh me mateys! Thar be a ghost!

Arrrrgggghhh me mateys! Thar be a ghost!

Nowadays, one simply cannot attend a Halloween-themed costume party and not spot at least one pirate, buccaneer, or sailing scalawag. Although Captain Jack Sparrow may have curbed the modern market, there is one other pirate that shall forever remain synonymous with Halloween, especially in New York City.

Captain William Kidd was born in Scotland around 1645, but he sailed across the pond to settle in New York in 1691. Soon after, he married Sarah Oort and eventually fathered two daughters. Some might say that the union portended tragedy from the start as Oort was notoriously fraught with bad lack. Her first two husbands had died tragically (one, ironically, at sea) and Kidd was her third marriage. Nevertheless, they settled in to a posh new home at 119 Pearl Street near the eastern gate to New York’s northern wall, the very same wall that later inspired the name Wall Street.  The Kidd family was immediately accepted into high society, and gained notoriety for their extensive silver collection, well-stocked wine cellar, and the biggest Turkish carpet in the city. He was also a parishioner at Trinity Church and he contributed his services to the building of the original Churchyard by providing the winch that lifted the stones to build the church steeple.

In 1695, Kidd sought out a commission in the British Royal Navy. He failed to gain a command but was granted a privateering license by the Crown. He was given orders to capture pirate ships and any other foreign vessels that got in England’s way. It was agreed that the booty seized was to be split with a large portion going to the government and 60% to his backers.

In 1696, Kidd set sail back to New York City at the helm of his brand new ship, the "Adventure Galley.”  In the 1960’s New York was "the pirate port of choice in the English colonies in North America,” according to historian Richard Zacks. It boasted vast opportunities and a rich harbor. Seduced by illusions of grandeur, Kidd set sail in 1697 as an official privateer and soon gained notoriety and infamy for his increasingly reckless and erratic behavior on his tour of the Red Sea. Kidd then became the stuff of legend when he famously captured and boarded the laden Indian ship, the "Quedah Merchant." He renamed the ship and the "Adventure Prize” and set his course for the Caribbean where he learned that word of his antics had reached England and he was now a wanted man.

Kidd fled back to America and hauled twenty four chests ashore on Gardiner’s Island, located off of eastern Long Island. He carefully inventoried the booty and was granted permission by the island’s feudal lord, John Gardiner, to bury the treasure in a nearby swamp. . Gardiner’s itemized receipt to Kidd, dated July 17, 1699, listed precisely 1,371.625 ounces (85.73 pounds) of gold, silver and precious stones.

After his famous deposit, Kidd was arrested for piracy and murder. Because he was made a scapegoat, Kidd was not permitted to defend himself and was hanged in London on May 23, 1701. After his execution, Kidd's body was covered with tar, bound with chains, and hung over the Thames River in London as a warning to all future pirates. It remained there for years until finally it rotted completely away.

Rumors, legends, myths and tales began to sweep both sides of the Atlantic Ocean that Kidd buried a fabulous horde of treasure before facing trial. Perhaps word also traveled to the great beyond, as a ghostly apparition bearing an uncanny resemblance to the dead Captain began showing up in Lower Manhattan. Sightings have been reported in three different Downtown locations – at Trinity Church which he directly helped to build, near his old homestead at Hanover Square, and in Battery Park. Kidd remains one angry ghost to this day. Many say he still roams the city streets in his eternal quest for revenge for the betrayal of his crew and friends in the English and colonial governments.

To learn more about Captain Kidd and other Downtown Ghosts, please check out our spooky Halloween-themed walking tour brought to you exclusively by Wall Street Walks.


Monday, October 15, 2012

American Playwright Eugene O'Neill

In a city known for it’s talented musicians, authors and artists, few have had the success that NYC-born Eugene O’Neill had. This American playwright completed over 35 plays and won four Pulitzer Prizes during his 30-year career.

Not the greatest family guy – he disowned two out of his three children: his daughter Oona for marrying Charlie Chaplin and his son Shane for his addiction to heroin – O’Neill was a brilliant writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, “for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy.”

Sadly, by the end of his career O’Neill developed a Parkinson’s-like tremor in his hands that kept him from writing for the last ten years of his life. Born in the Barrett Hotel in Longacre Square in Manhattan (now Times Square) on October 16, 1888, Eugene O’Neill died in Boston’s Sheraton Hotel on November 27, 1953, after uttering his last words, “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Haunted New York City

As any good child of the 80’s can tell you, NYC has been long-synonymous with ghostly visitors from the Underworld and beyond. Whether you are making the pilgrimage to the Ghostbusters’ firehouse headquarters (Hook and Ladder 8 - 14 North Moore Street, Manhattan) or exploring the real-life spiritual haunt of the Morris-Jumel Mansion (65 Jumel Terrace, New York, NY), this city abounds in specter spotting potential.  

New York boasts many tranquil green spaces in which natives and visitors alike relax and de-stress. However, perhaps they would not breathe so easily if they knew these parks are also hotbeds for paranormal activity. Many of these are actually former cemeteries, complete with those originally entombed. Washington Square Park, for example, is a former place of burial for the poor, and many claim it is ghost central for New York City. Another example, Greenwood Cemetery, was designed to serve as a park for the living. It is certainly not an abnormal sight to see those of flesh and blood strolling among the gravestones.

Other potential ghost sighting venues include those places where natural (or unnatural) deaths occurred but the deceased were never properly buried. Some professional ghost hunters claim that the only way these sites can be properly ridden of disgruntled souls, is by vastly altering the scene or solving the crime in question. For instance, once McGurk’s Suicide Hall at 295 Bowery was torn down, the ghosts stopped haunting there.

Alcohol has been attributed to many, many deaths in this modern age and the same rings just as true for the past. Thus, any place where those of today or yesteryear imbibed or enjoyed, could be a potential haunt. Bars, inns, taverns, and other drinking establishments all have their fair share of ghost stories – just ask any employee of the Fraunces Tavern (54 Pearl Street, Downtown Manhattan).

Places of travel are also notorious for their ghostly apparitions. Grand Central Station certainly has its share of ghosts. Some even claim that locomotion attracts ghosts. In recent times, people have reported giving rides to passengers who have disappeared into thin air. Other such attractors allegedly include staircases and elevators.

As fall turns the air crisp and Halloween approaches, peoples’ minds are once again drawn to ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. If you too are eager to prove you “ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” drop into one of these famous haunts to try to bust some for yourself. Or even better yet - explore New York City’s most haunted neighborhood with your very own guide to the Underworld of the Financial District, courtesy of Wall Street Walks!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Columbus Day - Downtown

While the throngs gathered uptown to watch the Columbus Day Parade, the Wall Street area was abuzz with its own hustle and bustle. In addition to those who joined us for another fabulous Wall Street Walks tour, people were up and about enjoying activities ranging from a vocal performance at Saint Paul's Chapel to a Street Fair down Broadway. Here are some of the day's highlights:

NYC-themed bags at a vendor booth - The Columbus Day Street Fair
The crowd enjoying a crisp October morning

A vocal rehearsal at Saint Paul's Chapel.

We hope that you enjoyed your long weekend as well (where ever you are) and if fate, luck, or choice brings you to NYC in the near future, we sincerely hope that you spend some time with us at Wall Street Walks as we continue to celebrate the cultural and historical richness that defines the FiDi.
We hope you book a tour with us or visit our website today!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, NBC!

You’d know that notorious peacock anywhere – it’s the NBC logo and it’s served as the network’s mascot since television went color back in December 1953. A top broadcast station from the days of radio, NBC was formed by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) 86 years ago on October 9, 1926.

From kids’ programming like Howdy Doody and teen classics like Saved by the Bell, to “must-watch” shows like Seinfeld and Friends, to news programs, late night talk shows and daytime soaps – NBC has served as a constant fixture in our culture for nearly 9 decades.

Now known as NBCUniversal, the company is one of the world’s leading media and entertainment firms in a variety of industries including broadcast, cable, digital and film, as well as owning several theme parks and resorts.

According to their website, the NBC Television Network’s signal currently reaches an estimated 99% of all homes in the US with television sets.

Happy birthday, NBC. You’re making quite the impact.