I walked all day in the city yesterday, starting at 86th street on the East Side and walking up to 125th and Broadway, then all the way down Broadway to Penn Station, talking to all the Christmas tree vendors I met. The main thing I learned is that they’re undocumented migrant workers and very shy of publicity. This was an interesting fact in itself. This country operates just fine, as long as everyone ignores the law. New York City in 2010 is unable to provide itself with a legal supply of Christmas trees. Utterly bizarre.
But the biggest surprise to me was walking along Central Park North and looking at a large, fine building in good repair whose windows were all boarded up. It was the nicest building in the area, and as Harlem gets fancier and fancier this will naturally be its premier locale, at the intersection of Central Park North and Fifth Avenue. I crossed the street to get a closer look, and learned it was a prison! An operating prison. It’s called the Lincoln Correctional Facility; a brief history of it can be found here. This can’t be a wise allocation of urban space. The view it commands of the park is extraordinary, though the inmates don’t see much of it from their blocked windows. The picture below of the park is how it appears just steps from the prison.