Art and Politics A Level students at the Statue of Liberty

Politics Lecturer Steve Fitzgerald is back from an action-packed trip to New York with a group of A Level students. Here he tells us all about it in his own words:

At 4am on the morning of Monday 5 February, 30 A Level Politics and Art students left for Heathrow for six packed days in New York, which proved to be an amazing educational and cultural experience.

We arrived at our hotel in Midtown Manhattan, nears Hell’s Kitchen mid-afternoon, and after a couple of hours rest, we walked down 5th Avenue and took the lift to the top of the iconic Empire State Building – 84 floors up. At almost 1500 metres high, the outdoor viewing platform and cloudless night sky provided the perfect conditions for spectacular views in all four directions, allowing us to see Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Queens in all their glory.

After a well needed sleep, the next morning we took the NY Subway to downtown Manhattan, arriving at Battery Park in time to take the first ferry of the day out to The Statue of Liberty, the symbol of the American ideal of freedom, at the point where the immigrants who created and built the diverse USA first arrived in the country. On the ferry back, we also took a tour of Ellis Island, once the busiest immigrant inspection and processing station in the United States. It provided us with a unique insight as to how the USA became such a cultural melting pot, and why the political structure of Federalism became an essential component of the US political system.

On returning to Manhattan, we walked through Downtown, stopping for lunch in the famous Chinatown area before heading for Greenwich Village, which is a focal point for US political counterculture and is the bohemian capital of New York. We explored the famous Washington Square Park and the independent, unique thrift stores, record stores and coffee shops before returning to Hell’s Kitchen. Here we had the opportunity to check out some of the local diners and eat New York style, even taking in the iconic Ellen’s Stardust Diner, off Broadway.

The following morning, we walked the width of Manhattan for a fascinating guided tour of the United Nations. This allowed us the chance to learn more about the work of the UN, such as the promotion of human rights, maintaining peace and creating sustainable futures, especially in areas of the world that have suffered due to poverty and war. We were lucky enough to visit the General Assembly and even saw the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, deliver a keynote speech in the Security Council Chamber.

We the walked through 5th Avenue to visit the magnificently gold Grand Central Station, where we had lunch in the famous food court, before heading further uptown to go Ice Skating at the iconic outdoor rink at the Rockefeller Center.

Next it was on to the beautiful Central Park, where we enjoyed the man-made wonder right in the middle of Manhattan, making our way to Strawberry Fields, the memorial garden to John Lennon, the former Beatle who was tragically killed outside his apartment building opposite Central Park. We were fortunate enough to enjoy a busker who performed a greatest hit set for us to enjoy!

From there, we took the NY Subway back to Broadway, the heart of New York theatreland, to see an incredible performance of Moulin Rouge, with the legendary Boy George playing one of the leading roles. After the show, we headed out into Times Square to fully experience the neon-lit monument to capitalism, a truly amazing experience.

After some much-needed sleep, we set off the next morning to the Financial District to visit the 9/11 Memorial, which was a moving and humbling experience. We then went to the 9/11 Museum, at the site of Ground Zero, where the story of that tragic day was told in unflinching detail. What made the visit so vivid was the array of artifacts, including pictures, parts of the original building and voice commentaries from those who were affected by events that day.

After lunch, we walked through East Village and then across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, allowing us to view the amazing New York skyline from yet another perspective. We then walked into Brooklyn before taking the NY Subway back to Manhattan, arriving at the legendary Madison Square Gardens where we were privileged to see an NBA basketball game – the NY Knicks v the Dallas Mavericks. It was another fascinating insight into US culture, sport is a commercialised event, another monument to capitalism.

On our final morning, some took the opportunity to visit the amazing Museum of Modern Art, near 5th Avenue, seeing work from artists including Warhol, Picasso, Pollock and Matisse. Others chose to explore the cosmopolitan delights of 5th Avenue before reluctantly returning to the hotel to head back to the UK.

We returned in the early hours of Saturday 10 February, tired but full of fantastic memories. Planning has now begun for our next adventure – Washington 2025!

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