#2 Caroline Otto

Senior Associate – anderson Architects, OHNY board member, site & program sponsor
Lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

What is your relationship to New York City? Next week marks 19 years for me living in New York City. Originally from Florida, I visited the City when I was a kid with my family and we did all of the cultural things together – museums, the zoo, etc. When I moved to New York, it was a peak time for architecture. Before moving to NYC, I lived in Madrid, where I worked for three and a half years.

How and when did you learn about OHNY? My desk at anderson was right next to Scott Lauer (the founder of OHNY). He talked about living in London and this amazing event (Open House London). He said that we should have the same thing here in New York and that someone needs to start it. This was in 2001. Scott was great at reaching out to the right people. I’ve been involved in OHNY before it ever even existed. This was also not long after September 11th and there was a strong push to promote the positive, inspirational aspects of the City.

So far, what has been your favorite OHNY site and/or program? After nine years, it is hard to pick! Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant stands out as well as the MTA Substation, the hospital complex and wards at Ellis Island’s South Side and the terrace of the Woolworth Building. We did only ask for one, Caroline! I know, I know. But, there is one more seminal OHNY site from 2010 – 1 World Trade Center. We were on the 25th floor looking down at the future memorial site and our tour guide from the Port Authority pulled out a silver pen and let us all sign our names on a steel column. It was something that you never, ever would get a chance to do normally. The building was under high security and this structure, once completed, will become such an important part of the evolving New York skyline – so significant architecturally, symbolically.

If you could gain access to any site in New York that you wanted, what would that site be? I have a favorite site – although I think it is on many peoples’ lists – the top of the Chrysler Building. I’d also like to get into the other secret spaces in Grand Central. I’ve walked on the glass walkway, which provides spectacular views overlooking the Great Hall, but I’ve also heard there is a tennis court and possibly a bowling alley somewhere in the Terminal.

As it’s the holiday season, what is your favorite holiday spot in New York? Of course, the tree in Rockefeller Center and I love all of the lights everywhere during Christmas. Also, one of the prettiest sights in winter is Prospect Park or Central Park after a snowfall. It’s like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting, when everything is so white and beautiful.

What is the best-kept secret about New York City? Well, if I tell you then it won’t be a secret anymore. You got us there! I have two thoughts. One is that there are an infinite number of neighborhoods and vibes in New York, like little invisible cities within the city. I’m not sure if that’s a secret. The other is Governors Island. There are so many things to do there, so many events and programs, all you have to do is hop on a ferry, which is free. It is so many things to so many people.

What sites do you have on your “to do” list for the 2012 OHNY Weekend? The TWA Terminal at JFK, for sure. I haven’t been there since the 1980s when I flew out of it. I would also like to see EverGreene Architectural Arts and 7 World Trade. The list always evolves right up until the last minute before OHNY Weekend.

If you could plan it, how would you celebrate OHNY’s Tenth Anniversary? For 2012, I would love to see a new site, one that is contemporary and still under construction and to visit a veteran site that has been participating since the beginning. For the 10th Anniversary, I would love to have a chance to drink to and toast all of the staff members, board, volunteers and site/program sponsors that have made all of these years possible and have gotten us to where we are now.

What is the thing you love most about OHNY? I love the way it brings so many people, ideas, and interests together.

Why do you give to OHNY? To support OHNY is to support New York itself. It is about community building, education and about expanding all of our perspectives.

Thanks for telling us why you give to OHNY, Caroline!

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