By Natalie Adams
On Thursday, April 12, Signature, Leadership, and Economics students visited Wall Street and Times Square in New York City to learn more about the history of Wall Street, the financial industry, the economy, and New York City.
Originally, on Thursday, March 22, students were scheduled to visit New York for a tour of Wall Street. The 25 Japanese exchange students and two teachers from Arundel’s sister school, Sagamihara High School in Sagamihara-Shi Japan, were visiting at the time, and a few of the Japanese students were planning to attend the trip. However, a snow storm, which began on Tuesday, March 20, and continued into the following day, caused the trip to be rescheduled for Thursday, April 12.
Students arrived at Arundel around 6:10 a.m. on the morning of the trip since the bus was scheduled to depart promptly at 6:30 a.m. However, the bus, a charter from Hubers Bus Service Inc., did not leave until 6:45 because Mrs. Stawas, the lead teacher and chaperone, was having difficulty with the school’s computers and printers crashing.
Students brought a plethora of pillows, blankets, and breakfast from Chick-fil-a and Dunkin’ Donuts for the drive that took approximately four hours. Once in New York, students were allowed to leave belongings on the bus, such as their pillows and blankets, but were told to not leave anything valuable behind. Also, if they did leave anything on the bus, they would not be able to access it until reboarding the bus at 6:15 p.m. for departure.
The group traveled north and through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel towards New York. They made a stop at the IKEA parking lot in White Marsh to pick up one of the teacher chaperones, Mrs. West, before resuming the drive.
At this time, Mrs. Stawas put on “Despicable Me” for students to watch, which elicited multiple positive exclamations. After “Despicable Me” was over, Mrs. Stawas put on “Mamma Mia,” which finished around the same time students got their first glimpse of the city.
It was very hazy in the morning, but became clearer as the group crossed the Verrazano Bridge.
Then, the group traveled through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel and arrived outside the American Stock Exchange at about 10:30 a.m.
Students quickly exited the bus since the driver could be fined for staying parked for too long. They were arranged into four groups of about twelve students to make it easier to keep track of everyone and move around the city more quickly.
Two tour guides from Wall Street Walks handed out radios and ear buds to everyone for the tour. Two groups of students and their chaperones, Mrs. Stawas and Mrs. West, went with one tour guide, and the other two groups, chaperoned by Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Smith, went with the other. Both guides had microphones that broadcast to the little radios, sort of like a one way walkie-talkie. This made it easier to hear as each group walked around the city, although some of the batteries for the radios died during the tour. However, the tour guides had extra batteries, so it was an easy fix.
While standing outside of the American Stock Exchange, the guides gave a brief history of Manhattan, starting with its original colonization by the Dutch, and then the takeover by the British. They also explained that the area that everyone was standing on, used to be part of the Hudson River, but had been filled in to make the city bigger. They also explained that New York had been the first capital of the United States, and the group was later shown where George Washington had actually been sworn into office.
Just across the street from the stock exchange is Trinity Church. The guides explained that it was actually the third church to stand on that site.
Then, students were led up a flight of stairs into the church yard to see Alexander Hamilton’s grave.
The tour guides gave a short biography of Alexander Hamilton, explaining how he founded The Bank of New York and famously died in a duel against Aaron Burr. This information was also on a plaque next to the grave.
Next, students exited the church yard onto Wall Street. The tour guides explained that Wall Street is the longest street in New York and that every year there are ticker-tape parades. Ticker-tape is the scrolls of paper that would have the ever-changing price of stocks constantly being printed on it, so people could see what was happening with the stock market before the time of televised news.
The guides also talked about the relatively recent movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” that was partially filmed in one of the buildings on Wall Street.
Students were led father down the street, across Exchange Alley, the narrowest alley in New York, and to the Charging Bull.
The Charging Bull is a seven ton, 15 foot, bronze statue, created by Arturo Di Modica, that symbolizes financial optimism.
It is a permanent fixture, but there has been some controversy around it due to the addition of The Fearless Girl. She was added in 2017, and was supposed to be temporary, but her appearance upset Di Modica, so the city will rule whether The Fearless Girl will become permanent.
A little farther down the street is one of the Smithsonian buildings. The tour guides explained that it was used in the recent Ghostbusters movie, and then pointed out Bowling Green Park, the first park in New York, which is right in front of the Smithsonian.
The next stop on the tour was the Brown Building. It stands where the original Dutch City Hall stood and is controversial for being built in such an historic part of the city.
That history is seen just across Pearl Street, named for its proximity to the Hudson River, at Fraunces Tavern. The tavern is the same colonial style as many buildings in Annapolis and is currently a restaurant and museum. It was formerly frequented by George Washington in its time as a real tavern.
The group traveled around the corner to another historic site. While known by many names over the years, the site is currently called Stone Street. It was the first street to be paved in New York and is a popular place to eat in the warmer months. It has many restaurants and breweries, and is closed to street traffic, so diners can eat outside, directly on the cobblestones.
At the other end of Stone Street is Hanover Square. The guides explained that Hanover Square burned down in 1835, as did most of lower New York. In Hanover Square, is the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Garden, dedicated in memory of British and commonwealth citizens who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The group continued walking and came to a stop at Delmonico’s. Delmonico’s was the first restaurant in the United States, opening in 1837. It was different from inns and taverns because it had an actual menu. Inns and taverns only served a few items that changed day to day, but Delmonico’s had permanent dishes for guests to choose from. It was a restaurant for the wealthy, such as John D. Rockefeller, and is still one of the most famous restaurants.
Around the corner, students saw The Trump Building, not to be confused with the Trump Tower, and the famous Tiffany & Co. across the street.
Next to Tiffany’s was the J.P. Morgan Building. It is very plain and does not have any signs that mark it. The reason for this is that J.P. Morgan believed that he was so well known that his Building did not need a sign because clients would know where to find him.
Another interesting thing about the J.P. Morgan Building is that just outside was the site of the first terrorist attack. On September 16, 1920, a horse drawn cart filled with dynamite was left in the street around lunch time. When workers went outside to get lunch, the cart blew up and killed several people. Marks from the attack can be seen on the side of the J.P. Morgan Building.
Across the street was the Federal Hall Memorial. It was the former city hall and the former customs house, but is now part of the National Park Service.
Inside, there is a great dome ceiling and pillars around the room. Stands were set up displaying art and there two vault doors on display.
The balcony that George Washington stood on when he was sworn in was also on display, since Federal Hall was where he was inaugurated in 1789.
After a quick bathroom break, students walked down the stairs and saw the New York Stock Exchange for the first time.
They sat on store benches across from the stock exchange, while the tour guides explained its history. The New York Stock Exchange opened in 1903 and is the busiest stock exchange in the world. The trading floor is the size of half a football field, but only has about 300 traders on the floor. The number used to be much higher, but now stocks can be traded on computers, so there is no need for traders to be there in-person.
Computers have revolutionized how stocks are traded, but even more revolutionary than computers was the telegram. Before telegrams, stocks would be traded from New York to Philadelphia by people who would stand on hills with telescopes and signal flags to communicate. It would take hours to make just one exchange, and creates a very different image than the current one of people feverishly waving slips of paper and using hand signals on a crowded trading floor.
Another advancement of the stock industry is the switch from ticker tape to stocks being listed on the news. In the early 1900’s, people followed the stock market with ticker tape, which was scrolls of paper that would constantly print out the ever-changing status of stocks. Now, stocks scroll across the bottom of the screen on news programs and on screens in highly populated places. One of these places is right outside of the New York Stock Exchange, by the security checkpoint.
The trading floor is on the second story of the building, and passer-bys used to be able to see in. However, in the age of terrorism, security has increased and a large banner covers the windows into the trading floor.
The street is also closed to street traffic, except for a few special deliveries, which must go through check points before passing through. The front perimeter of the stock exchange is enclosed by a gate with a security check at either end.
The last stop on the tour was the 9/11 memorial. Students were shown the two reflecting pools that are on the footprint of each of the world trade towers, the museum, and the freedom tower. It was explained that buildings are being built in the same places as the buildings that were destroyed in the attack. Even a church is being built in the location of a church that was destroyed.
The tour ended at 12:28 and the guides collected the radios, but students got to keep the ear buds.
Students walked through the 9/11 memorial and across the street to Brookfield Place for lunch. It is a large, glass structure with high end shops and food. On the first floor was a food court called Le District and had many foods listed in French. Upstairs was another food court called Hudson Eats. This food court had more variety and the menus were in English. Students had the option of Mexican, pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, barbecue, Chinese, bagels and even cupcakes.
The choices available were not normal fast food chains like Chick-fil-A or Chipotle. They were more upscale. But, more striking than the restaurants were the lines. The wait for food was long and once the students had ordered, they moved to another line to actually get their food. But, even with the crowds, many students had enough time to explore the shops in the building. One of the most visited stores was Gucci, although there was also a Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Tory Burch, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
None of the students bought anything at these stores. The prices were especially high—a Gucci headband cost $270.00–and they wanted to save their money for dinner and Times Square.
Everyone met up at 1:45 for a head count and walked outside to Battery Park to see the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. Students and teachers took pictures in front of the skyline and the statue, albeit very small.
While admiring the statue, Mrs. Stawas explained the next stop on the trip. Students had the choice of either going straight to Times Square or going to Greenwich Village. If they chose to go to Greenwich, they would still go to Times Square, they would just have less time there.
The group headed back towards the 9/11 memorial to the Oculus. The Oculus is a large structure that resembles the rib cage of a whale. Directly inside there is an escalator that leads to some shops like Ugg and Kate Spade, and down another escalator is the subway.
While figuring out which tickets to buy— there were three types of tickets: one way, 2-hour, and all day—students chose whether they wanted to go to Greenwich or straight to Times Square. In the end, 14 students, along with Mrs. Stawas and Mrs. Smith, went to Greenwich Village and the rest went to Times Square with Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. West.
After moderate difficulty finding the right train, and encounters with performers and vendors, the group heading to Greenwich went to the wrong stop.
After walking for a few blocks through brownstone neighborhoods, they ended up in Union Square Park. They went down into the subway to catch a train to SoHo, however the subway cards they had bought back at the Oculus had expired. Mrs. Stawas explained to the subway attendant how the group had gotten off at the wrong stop on the way to Greenwich and was now trying to get to SoHo. The attendant decided to open the emergency exit gate and let the entire group through without charge.
Once in SoHo, the group tried to go to the Supreme store, but were informed by police that Supreme was open by appointment only. Instead, they walked across the street to a shop called Alternative, which sold sustainably produced clothing.
Next door was another small shop that sold shoes. As the group headed down the street, one student stopped inside and bought a pair of Doc Martins for 50% off. Even though the student was separated from the group momentarily, causing a slight commotion, he was very pleased with the deal he got.
The next stop was Uniqlo, a store that sells casual wear that was closer to the price range of many students. Two students even had a competition to see who could find the best outfit for $100 or less.
The last stop in SoHo was Urban Outfitters. After about 15 minutes of shopping, one student acquired a pair of socks and a few face masks, and then the group headed back to the subway.
Mrs. Stawas explained to another subway attendant the difficulty they had had with the subway, however this time the attendant was not letting them through. A few students paid two dollars and had the money put on one student’s long term card. They got through the turnstile and a few walked through in pairs. At this point about half the group was through and the other half was stuck while Mrs. Stawas continued to talk to the subway attendant. One student opened the emergency exit door to let another student through. Eventually, the entire group was able to get to the train—after asking a few native New Yorkers which one to take—but then they almost got off at the wrong stop. Everyone was able to make it back onto the train before it pulled away and finally make it to Times Square, where stores like Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Forever 21, H&M, Uniqlo, the Disney Store, and Hershey’s Chocolate World awaited.
Mrs. Stawas told the students arriving from SoHo that they could shop until they had to catch the bus at 6:15 on 7th Avenue, between 50th and 51st Street, and to eat before they got on the bus. They split into a few groups and tried to see as much as they could in the hour and a half they had in Times Square. While that would seem like a lot of time, Times Square is very crowded and has extremely long lines for everything.
A group of six students went to find food with about half an hour left before they had to meet the bus, but every place had too long of a wait. Then they got calls from other students asking where they were. The six told the other students that they were told to meet at the bus at 6:15, but the other students told the six that they were supposed to be with the rest of the group at the red stairs. The six walked back to meet the others to the surprise of Mrs. Stawas, who explained that she had in fact told the six—who still had not eaten with only 15 minutes until the bus came—to meet at the bus, not the red stairs. Three of the six got food from a vendor by the red stairs. The other three walked across the street to a Starbucks.
The Starbucks did not have a long line, so they thought they would be able to order and get food in plenty of time, however it took much longer than expected. They had ordered and paid within three minutes of entering, but the drinks they ordered had to be made and sandwiches they bought were taken to be toasted. Apparently, there was a line for the toaster and they received their drinks before their sandwiches were even put into the toaster. Growing more anxious by the second, the three called friends in the group that was by the red stairs to find out what they were doing. The rest of the group had left to catch the bus, so when the three finally got their food, they frantically found where they had to go by using the maps app on one of their phones and calling friends that were with the rest of the group.
Fortunately, the three saw the bus and followed it to where the rest of the group was. Everyone made it safely onto the bus in time, and they started the four hour trek back home.
It took about an hour to get out of the city due to traffic, but once on the New Jersey turnpike, the roads were clear. After about an hour and a half after departure, Mrs. Stawas put on Hairspray. Some students watched it, others talked, listened to music, and shared portable chargers to save their dying phones. The only stop they made was, again, at the IKEA in White Marsh to drop off Mrs. West. They arrived back at the school at 10:30 p.m. and dropped off a few students at the middle school where they had parked before continuing to the bus lane outside the main entrance.
After gathering their belongings and making sure to place all trash in the plastic bags hanging off the arm of each chair, everyone exited the bus, walked to their cars, and headed home.