New Exhibit at NYC’s Botanical Garden Annual Holiday Train Show

The New York Botanical Garden’s annual holiday train show is underway, featuring a range of model trains scattered throughout the greenery. But this year’s exhibit has a new holiday-themed feature: life-like replicas of NYC’s landmarks, all made and decorated with wood chips, leaves, flowers and other plant parts.

The new exhibit includes Coney Island, Manhattan Skyscrapers, the Empire State Building, the Hudson River and many more sites from throughout the five boroughs.

This year, the train show also includes several new locomotive models as well as a half-mile track, bridges and train sounds to create a multi-sensory experience for families.

NYC Preps for A Concert for Island Relief

NYC is getting ready to host Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio Band for a concert in support of hurricane relief efforts in the US and the British Virgin Islands.

The concert, called “A Concert for Island Relief”, will take place on January 6th at Radio City Music Hall. Other performers will include Aaron Neville and Hurray for the Riff Raff.

Radio City is owned by the Madison Square Garden Company, who says it plans to donate the use of the venue as well as all related expenses to benefit the the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, including residents of Florida and Puerto Rico. Ticketmaster has also stated its intention to contribute proceeds from its service fees as well.

Star Wars Bar Opens in NYC

A Star Wars-themed bar has popped up in NYC, with drinks like Red Force, Blue Force and the Mindtrick. The Darkside Bar has two sister bars in Washington D.C. and L.A.


Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” Breaks Auction Sale Record

A Leonardo Da Vinci painting has just broken the record for a work of art sold at an auction, at a final price of $450.3 million with fees.

The painting, “Salvator Mundi”, surpassed the 2015 sale of Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” for $179.4 million, which also took place at Christie’ Rockefeller Center HQ. The crowd was shocked by the 19-minute duel, and the winning buyer was not disclosed immediately.

Christie’s had been actively marketing the works from this year’s auction, having hired an external agency to advertise for the first time in the auction house’s history.

“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” said Pyms Gallery director Alan Hobart. “This is going to be the future.”

Others are more critical of the way this campaign played out.

“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” New York art adviser Todd Levin said.

The New York Times shared footage of the last moments of the bidding war:


Opera Diva Sings Highest Note in History

Opera singer Audrey Luna has broken a 130-year old Metropolitan Opera record by singing a high A note during her performance in The Exterminating Angel.

Luna is a Grammy-winning Soprano who plays Leticia in the show, which is based on the 1962 film by Luis Buñuel. After her feat, she interviewed with The Times and revealed:

“I’ve practiced up to a C above high C in the past, so I know it’s in me. But it’s just nothing I’ve performed on any stage before.”

Though it is possible that another singer has hit the note in the past, there is no known record of such an accomplishment.

Other divas have sung notes almost as high, such as a high A flat sung by Rachele Gilmore, the understudy for the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffman. She reached the note during her performance of “The Doll Song.” Luna has also hit the note in that very same role.

NYC Introducing New Transit Payment System

New York City is replacing the MetroCard in an effort to modernize the transit system and minimize waits at ticket lines.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee recently approved a $573 million contract to install a new payment system at more than 500 subway turnstiles and 600 buses throughout the city, some of which will be ready for use as soon as next year. The entire city will be switched over the the new system by 2020.

Chairman of the transit authority Joseph J. Lhota explained: “It’s the next step in bringing us into the 21st century, which we need to do. It’s going to be transformative.”

“The millennial generation, those who are more prone to new technology, will be our greatest users in the early stages,” he continuing, adding that card users will surely “want to be a part of it when they realize that 5.8 to 6 million people in NYC are getting on the subway every day.”

Riders Alliance executive director John Raskin said: “First things first: moving to a modern fare system is a convenience for riders. It allows them to benefit from the extraordinary innovations the private sector is undertaking these days.”


NYC To Welcome Self-Driving Cars in 2018

New York City is ushering in a new era of cars in collaboration with General Motors. Starting in 2018, a number of self-driving Chevy Bolts will take to the streets within a 5-mile section of NYC. The city has previously opposed the inclusion of automated cars in the city traffic, but recent developments in GM’s Cruise Automation technology has turned the tables.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the testing will take place in a designated area under the direct supervision of engineers. There will also be a police escort for cars on the road, as well as several other rules to ensure safe transportation.

Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt explained: “Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale.” Manhattan is a place which offers “new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate,” he said.

NYC traffic conditions will certainly pose a challenge for the software, but testing and further development will better prepare the cars for an urban environment.

Pretty Woman Coming to Broadway

Pretty Woman is coming to Broadway next fall. The film, released in 1990, was an international hit, grossing $463 million. Starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, the story captures an unexpected romance between businessman Edward Lewis and a woman named Vivian.

The stage-adapted musical will be produced by Paula Wagner of The Heiress, with music and lyrics written by Canadian star Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. The show will be directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, who has won Tony awards for his work on La Cage aux Folles and Kinky Boots.

The new musical will feature a book by the film’s director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton. Cast includes Tony-winner Steve Kazee of Once as Edward Lewis, and Samantha Barks as Vivian. Ms. Barks played Eponine in the film Les Miserables in 2012.

Brooklyn Bike Shop Owner Launches Campaign for Children with Special Needs

Sandra Alfonzo runs her own bicycle shop in South Slope Brooklyn, and loves watching children enjoy their bikes throughout the city. One morning, during her morning run, she spotted a child without a bike. He watched other kids whizz by sadly, but knew he would never ride one himself because he was in a wheelchair. At that moment, Ms. Alfonzo took on a new project: providing customized bikes to children with special needs. With no experience in fundraising, she calculated that she’d be able to buy one adapted bike, priced at $4,000, each year if she could successfully get a small donation for every flat tire that she fixed at the shop, and match each one.

Upon hearing of her plan, a regular customer revealed his background in fundraising and gave her some pointers. Together they researched adaptable bikes and spoke with an organization called Freedom Concepts about the options that exist and the challenges they may face throughout their campaign. Today, Alfonzo’s project is called AdaptAbility and is already raising funds online. Alfonzo is hopeful that they will be able to purchase their first bike by next month.

Instagrammable Locations the New Thing in NYC Tourism

If you’re visiting NYC, you’re surely planning trips to popular spots such as the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of course a Broadway show.

But have you heard of the pink doors of Sel Rrose restaurant on the Lower East Side? Or Metrograph, a small cinema and restaurant in Manhattan? Or While We Were Young in the West Village? Maybe not, but some people are traveling to New York just to snap photos as these “grammable” locations.

A new trend is sweeping through the streets of NY as Instagram users hop around the city visiting photo-shoot worthy locations, choosing settings that offer vibrant backdrops or moody, romantic atmosphere for their Insta accounts.

New York local Kate Lumpkin says the new insta-culture has both benefits and drawbacks. While some tourists don’t get an in-depth experience of the city, others use Instagram trends to explore and enjoy some of the lesser-known spots throughout NY.

Sel Rrose owner Kristin Vincent agrees, and says she painted the restaurant doors with social media in mind. “It’s a New Yorker’s way of seeing the city. It’s not just the pink doors,” she explained.