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Open House New York’s best closed-to-the-public sites

As Open House New York takes over the five boroughs, discover the usually closed-off spots you need to hit up

Each year, Open House New York lets city dwellers get a behind-the-scenes view of a ton of historic landmarks and New York attractions, arts institutions, beautiful NYC buildings, industrial complexes and more spaces throughout the five boroughs. The point, explains OHNY Executive Director Gregory Wessner, is to “open up the city to give people an idea of how important architecture and urban design is in shaping everything we do.” This 14th annual installment, happening October 15 and 16, includes in-depth and free tours of City Hall, United Palace and nearly 300 other sites. Best of all, a few of them—the ones we’ve detailed here—are places none of us usually have permission to visit. But you need to make reservations to get in, which you can do at the official OHNY website starting at 11am on October 6. Get ready to start exploring, New York, and be sure to hit up our list of the best NYC events in October for more inspiration.

RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to Open House New York

Gould Memorial Library
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Gould Memorial Library

Tucked away in the Bronx’s University Heights neighborhood (centered around the campus of Bronx Community College near the Harlem River) is this Beaux Arts masterpiece designed by one of the Gilded Age’s most renowned New York architects, Stanford White, who also designed the Washington Square Arch. The library boasts a tall dome covered in copper tiles, a rotunda with 16 Irish green marble columns, Tiffany stained-glass windows, statues of Greek Muses that line the balcony and an opulent floor with marble mosaic tiles imported from Italy. Wessner advises that you stop by the backyard to check out the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, a colonnade full of 98 statues. “It’s a really interesting collection of people: inventors, politicians, artists, scientists,” he says. Enter at Sedgwick Ave and Hall of Fame Terr, Bronx

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Gould Memorial Library
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Gould Memorial Library
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Lite Brite Neon Studio
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Lite Brite Neon Studio

“Who doesn’t love neon?” says Wessner. The artists at Lite Brite Neon Studio surely do, crafting crazy-cool glowing designs that put retro motel VACANCY signs to shame. (The cover of this year’s OHNY Weekend Event Guide is a shot of one of the studio’s fluorescent creations.) Located in the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, the shop has been home to artists such as Agnes Denes and Glenn Ligon and has made candescent, eye-popping displays for the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, which used Lite Brite works for its 2014 holiday window display. During the tour, get an up-close look at the quirky pieces (past ones have included a giant skeletal hand making devil horns and a sign reading FUCKING JAMES FRANCO) and stick around for the live neon-bending demonstration. 232 3rd St, Brooklyn (718-855-6082, litebriteneon.com)

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Lite Brite Neon Studio
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Westbeth Artists’ Housing
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Westbeth Artists’ Housing

These days, it might seem like every creative type or bohemian wannabe lives and/or works in a converted industrial building. But when architect Richard Meier (Getty Center) molded the Westbeth Artists’ Housing project from the former Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1970, he was designing in uncharted territory. “It now seems pretty common,” Wessner explains of the low-and-moderate-income housing facility, “but this was one of the first examples.” The West Village complex, which over the years has been home to such luminaries as Diane Arbus and Merce Cunningham, serves as the studio and living quarters of nearly 400 artists. Since the landmark is no longer accepting applications to get in—and before that, the waiting list for a spot extended longer than a decade, which accounts for the majority of its tenants being senior citizens—here’s a golden opportunity to see the coveted space for yourself. 55 Bethune St (westbeth.org)

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Westbeth Artists’ Housing
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Westbeth Artists’ Housing
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Pier 17
Photograph: Courtesy SHoP Architects PC
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Pier 17

During this sneak peek of the upcoming addition to the South Street Seaport (set to open next summer), you need to wear a hard hat as an architect leads you through the construction site of its 300,000-square-foot state-of-the-art retail space. (Vendors are still up in the air, although chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten recently signed on for a 10,000-square-foot restaurant that will be similar to his ABC Kitchen.) “There’s going to be an emphasis on the design and the functionality of the building,” reveals Wessner. “The firm SHoP is known for being innovative in its use of materials and pushing the construction process into new territory.” One of those innovative features? Glass garage doors that completely seal off the lower level of the four-story building, in case another natural disaster in the realm of Superstorm Sandy hits the East River. The real tour de force, however, is the one-and-a-half-acre roof, which is expected to have a huge grassy area for concerts and events, with sweeping views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Enter at Fulton and South Sts

Photograph: Courtesy SHoP Architects PC

Photograph: Courtesy SHoP Architects PC
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Photograph: Courtesy SHoP Architects PC

The National Arts Club
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The National Arts Club

Housed in the former digs of New York’s 25th governor, Samuel Tilden, this brownstone was revamped by famed Central Park architect Calvert Vaux. Today the Gramercy historic landmark keeps much of the flavor that it had when the National Arts Club moved there in 1906: carved fireplaces, period furniture with decadent, patterned upholstery and artwork such as busts and 19th-century paintings befitting a grand mansion. Those looking to join the club need to be backed by “two members in good standing” in order to apply. (Psst: If you want to rub shoulders with members—but not take in the whole space, sorry—the NAC occasionally hosts band performances and artist talks that you can R.S.V.P. to.) “It’s like walking into an Edith Wharton novel,” Wessner says of the digs. (This is fitting, as the movie based on Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence was partially shot here.) Don’t forget to look up while you visit; the stained-glass cupola is worthy of a museum. 15 Gramercy Park South (212-475-3424, nationalartsclub.org)

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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Gramercy
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The National Arts Club
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

WABC-TV
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WABC-TV

To quote Ron Burgundy, WABC-TV, channel 7 news is “kind of a big deal.” The local TV station reaches more than 7.3 million households in 29 counties, making it the most watched channel of its kind in the country. And now you can see how the whole shebang works, peeping the Eyewitness Newsroom, where anchors Sade Baderinwa and Bill Ritter (and many, many others) do their thing, as well as the station control rooms where sophisticated broadcasting technology produces the goods. More of a chat-show person? Well, you’re in luck: You can walk on the set of Live with Kelly. Act accordingly perky. 7 Lincoln Sq (abc7ny.com)

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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WABC-TV
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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WABC-TV
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

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