The Secret: A Treasure Hunt New York

In the shadow
Of the grey giant
Find the arm that
Extends over the slender path
In summer
You’ll often hear a whirring sound
Cars abound
Although the sign
Speaks of Indies native
The natives still speak
Of him of Hard word in 3 Vols.
Take twice as many east steps as the hour
Or more
From the middle of one branch
Of the v
Look down
And see simple roots
In rhapsodic man’s soil
Or gaze north
Toward the isle of B.

The following is a detailed recounting of the clues, stories and history found for The Secret – A Treasure Hunt, the New York casque. The solutions presented here have been provided by myself, Scott Harrison, and submitted to Byron Preiss Visual Publication for confirmation. To simplify reading, important links in the search are shown in bold. Enjoy!


I’ve been told that this is too much to read and too many steps to follow, so let’s jump right to the end and suggest that you read this description of a playground in Harlem on the NYC Parks & Recreation website, Alexander Hamilton Playground. I’ve also created an abridged overview of the search presented below which outlines the path taken.

The Themes

I learned a lot about Preiss’s approach to these puzzles while working on the solution for New Orleans, and in many ways the New York search has been very similar. Preiss wants us to learn about a city by finding stories of people and places we never knew. To follow the path he’s created for us we can’t simply match shapes and imagery, we have to discover the tales and history he wants us to find. He gives us blatant clues to establish where we need to begin our search, but those can be rabbit holes.

Here’s a hint to the story below, the carrot sticks in the puzzle are the Statue of Liberty and Alexander Hamilton, but the paths we’re meant to follow are those of Eleanor Roosevelt and Jazz.

Note: Preiss’ puzzle takes us in three separate directions before reconnecting. I added a few “Where Are We Now” sections to help summarize key points of the search. Preiss wanted us to discover and learn on this journey, but I’ve simplified this first presentation as much as possible. More detail will follow as well as more of the relevant history.

New York

There could be no more recognizable face associated with a particular city in the United States than that of the Statue of Liberty

There is no Indies native more famous in American history and more associated with New York City than Alexander Hamilton

These two clues together leave no question that Preiss wants us to begin our search in New York City

Find the Eagles

Eagles are everywhere in New York, but two sets of eagles have become symbols for a movement that began in the 1970s. The eagles that once adorned the facades of the original Pennsylvania Station and the original Grand Central Terminal symbolize the importance of protecting the landmarks and history of the city we love.

In particular, the Penn Station eagles remind us of the lost of a great treasure and embolden us to never let it happen again.

Preiss is telling us to follow the eagle, but which eagle? The closest to the Statue of Liberty would be the eagles on Ellis Island. But all of the sculptures are unique and many come close to matching the one in the image. If we’re going to narrow the search we need more information.

While people are looking at the bird for patterns in the wings, shapes in the tail and meaning in the position of the legs, they miss the obvious …

this isn’t an eagle, it’s a seagull

The bird’s hanging legs, the coloring and the shape of the wings tell us that this is a seagull with the head of an eagle.

That suggests we should be searching for an eagle which is somewhere along the shoreline.

Battery Park – East Coast Memorial

If we’re looking for an eagle along the shoreline, it would be obvious to look at the eagle in the East Coast Memorial that stares out at the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park.

Dedicated in 1963, this memorial commemorates those soldiers, sailors, Marines, coast guardsmen, merchant mariners and airmen who met their deaths in the service of their country in the western waters of the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.  The monument was commissioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In her daily writings, Eleanor Roosevelt had championed the need for west and east coast monuments.

United States Merchant Marine

Immediately after the Revolutionary War the brand-new United States of America was struggling to stay financially afloat. National income was desperately needed and a great deal of this income came from import tariffs.

Because of rampant smuggling, the need was immediate for strong enforcement of tariff laws, and on August 4, 1790, the United States Congress, urged on by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, created the Revenue-Marine, later renamed Revenue Cutter Service in 1862. It would be the responsibility of the new Revenue-Marine to enforce the tariff and all other maritime laws.

The biggest supporter of the merchant men was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was he who in 1936 urged the United States Congress to pass the Merchant Marine Act, which established a 10-year program for building ships that would be used for commerce during peacetime and would be converted for use by the Navy during times of war or national emergency; and a training program for seamen that linked them to the military in wartime, specifically the Navy. It was this legislation that enabled the country to take on the Axis powers a few years later.

United States Coast Guard

Also in Battery Park, we can find a monument to the men and women of the the US Coast Guard who lost their lives in World War II.

The Revenue Cutter Service proposed by Hamilton was also the forerunner of the US Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard was organized by merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the US Life-Saving Service in 1915. The Coast Guard’s duties include navigational aid, search and rescue efforts and in 1941 was put under control of the Navy by President Franklin D. Roosevelt so that forces could be joined during times of war.

Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning “Always Ready”), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted

US Merchant Marine Academy

The United State Merchant Marine Academy was dedicated in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who noted “the Academy serves the Merchant Marine as West Point serves the Army and Annapolis the Navy.” The academy is located in Kings Point, NY, on the shoreline of the Long Island Sound.

I’m sure you’re wondering where all this history might be leading, but the background is key to linking the relevant parts of the story. If you take a look at the USMMA logo you might get an idea where we’re going.

The US Merchant Marine began with Alexander Hamilton. Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Merchant Marine Academy on the shores of Long Island. The academy’s logo contains a proud eagle and flanking the entrance to the assembly hall we can find two of the Penn Station eagles.

An important thing to note in this verse is that “isle” is not capitalized, we are not looking for a name.

And if you were to stand on the shores of the academy looking north you would see City Island. The island of the Bronx.

The Chrysler Building

If you turned back towards the campus, you would be looking at the USMMA’s Wiley Hall.

Wiley Hall was formerly known as “Forker House” and was originally Walter Chrysler’s twelve-acre waterfront estate.

The Chrysler Building, headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation, with it’s greyish brick and grey stone details is caped in stainless steel and adorned with eagles.

The shadow of the Chrysler Building at 11:00am (the time on the clock in the image) in the middle of the summer would point precisely at the east wall of Grand Central Terminal.

If you’re a New Yorker, you should know where Preiss is leading us.

Grand Central Terminal

Within the windows at each end of the terminal you will find slender walkways with floors made of pure, translucent quartz stone. Every now and then you can see someone walk by or see some type of art installation, as in the image on the left.

* Note: the image above is the opposite side of the terminal which has the same windows, but for the purpose of an overlay this was the best image I could find

It wasn’t until the mid-80s that the main hall of Grand Central was air-conditioned. Prior to that, the windows on each end of the terminal were opened via the walkways to allow air to circulate through the terminal.

With the windows open there was a whirring sound from the circulating air and you would hear the sounds of cars in the city. It’s important to note that you could pick any spot in Manhattan and say that cars abound. “In summer” is the qualifier which suggests that cars cannot be heard in the winter. That makes the verse much more specific.

The odd double line below the arched window in the image maps perfectly to the location of the uppermost walkway within the window.

The Water-bearer

And what’s the one thing that almost everyone knows about Grand Central, it’s the celestial mural that spans the ceiling above.

And at the far end, reaching out above the windows, we find the arm of Aquarius, the Water-bearer.

Jumping back to the academy (USMMA), if we walk to the other side of Chrysler’s former home we find a formal garden.

At the end of that garden is the Amphitrite Pool with a statue of a water-bearer in the center.

Her gown flows similar to the woman in the image, tied in the front and draping down to her knees.

Where Are We Now

I know that this can be a bit hard to follow. Preiss is actually taking us in three different directions and is expecting at some point for us to discover the connections that bring the stories together. For clarity, I’ve started with the first two tracks of the search, the other will follow below.

At this point we find ourselves in two places, Grand Central Terminal in NYC and the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. As you’ve seen, Preiss was a tricky bastard, creating clues that relate to each other across the two completely different locations.

The question at this point is, what do Grand Central Terminal and the US Merchant Marine Academy have in common? The answer is President Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.

FDR and Grand Central

A secret for many years, but now well known, is that Grand Central has a secret track, Track 61. I assume the number 61 can be found somewhere in the image but have yet to find it.

On his trips to his home in Hyde Park, NY, Roosevelt would enter and exit via a secret elevator to a secret track in order to hide his worsening case of polio. Track 61 has hidden the comings and goings of a number of Presidents over the years.

FDR’s armored train car still sits beneath the station to this day.

One small clue might be the 3 and 2 hidden in the splash of the wave. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States.

The Roosevelts and the Academy

We’ve established that President Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the academy, but where do we go from the Amphitrite Pool. The answer can be found in the daily diary of Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s interesting to note this diary entry she highlights the goal of erecting a monument to the fallen of the Merchant Marine.

New York , Sunday—Saturday morning at 10 o’clock, Captain Giles G. Stedman called for me and we went to visit the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. This is a very unique spot, beautifully landscaped and with permanent buildings. The old Chrysler House has been painted to conform with the newer buildings. …

The first thing I did on arrival was to be conducted to the Amphitrite pool, where just before exams, the cadets toss in pennies. …

These pennies have an ultimate purpose as well as an immediate one. Some day they hope to erect a memorial to the members of the group who have died at sea during the war. Already 124 have died and some are missing, for the Merchant Marine is a dangerous service. There are some fine stories of heroism on which to begin building the traditions of the cadet midshipmen of the Merchant Marine Academy. …

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

The United Nations

President Roosevelt considered his most important legacy the creation of the United Nations, making a permanent organization out of the wartime Alliance of the same name. He was the chief promoter of the United Nations idea and it was his highest postwar priority. It was Roosevelt that suggested using the name United Nations.

The US Secretariat Building was completed in 1952 on the eastern end of 42nd Street, not far from Grand Central. The building was designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier

* But if I remember my architectural history correctly, Corbu refused to have his name associated with the design

After the death of FDR in 1945, President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to be the first delegate from the United States to the United Nations. As head of the Human Rights Commission, she was instrumental in formulating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She continuously advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace and the civil right of African Americans. 

“Although no one knew its imperfections first hand better than Eleanor Roosevelt did, she still thought the UN was humankind’s best hope of lasting peace.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Can you see it?

In the Amphitrite pool that Roosevelt talked about, we see a figure with a similar sash. Within the sash of the painting we can see the face and hand of Eleanor Roosevelt.

This pose has become so emblematic of Eleanor Roosevelt that it was used for the sculpture of her in Riverside Park.

Note: before everyone pulls out their shovels, the solution is not in Riverside Park, this monument designed by Penelope Jencks was dedicated in 1996, but I included it as a teaser given that it took me off the trail as well

This memorial to Eleanor Roosevelt was dedicated in 1966 and can be found on the northern end of the United Nations Sculpture Garden.

The Twins

Preiss was being exceptionally sneaky with this one. Are we to move east of the Amphitrite Pool or east from the figure of Aquarius in Grand Central?

A segmented line representing the weeks of the year runs through the Grand Central constellations, but if we follow it we would be heading west.

Except, the constellations in Grand Central are actually backwards. If we move west in the terminal, away from Aquarius, we are heading east in the night sky of the mural.

The 22nd step from the “V” formed by the intersection with the equator line, is at the foot of Gemini (The Twins). You can take five more steps within Gemini before you reach Cancer.

The Manhattan skyline is full of twins, many of which frame the western skyline of Central Park.

Even Now, A Skyline of Twins This article talks about the twin towers in the city from the World Trade Center to the AOL Time Warner Center, which I coincidentally worked on under David Childs at SOM.

If you map the dark red objects in the left panel you can find the stars which are lights in the Grand Central ceiling as well as other stars in the constellation.

If you read the article at twins in Manhattan, you’ll probably notice one set of twins east of Grand Central which have somewhat familiar addresses, 860 and 870 United Nations Plaza.

Tucked within the trees of the UN Sculpture garden, directly in front of the towers, you will find the Eleanor Roosevelt monument.

It’s hard to tie this image down to a particular reference. It could represent one of the twins, it could represent the Eleanor Roosevelt monument and could even be the Secretariat Building of the UN, all simple rectangular shapes.

Where Are We Now

We’ve followed a path from the Statue of Liberty and Alexander Hamilton, through the US Merchant Marine Academy, to the Chrysler Building, to Grand Central and now to the UN. We’ve followed Hamilton which has connected us with FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. We stand now in the United Nations Plaza in front of the Eleanor Roosevelt monument waiting to find our next clue. The next thing we have to find is the rhapsodic man’s soil.

George Gershwin (a step in the right direction)

This verse immediately leads us in the direction of George Gershwin, best known for his composition “Rhapsody in Blue“.

Gershwin performed his first concert off of Tompkins Square (which contains a statue of Hebe carrying water) and at the time was living on 2nd Avenue.

But Gershwin composed his most important works while living and working at 33 Riverside Drive. His apartment was adjacent to Riverside Park but I wouldn’t call that “his soil”.

If we walk north along the park we find the Hamilton Fountain on the very next corner with its sculpture of an eagle. This monument and drinking fountain for horses was given to the city by a descendant of Alexander Hamilton.

On the monument we can find a depiction of the Hamilton family crest. The lion at its center can be found in the splashing waves of the image.

Preiss seems to be pulling us along Riverside Drive. If we continue walking in that direction we arrive at a street named after another rhapsodic man, Duke Ellington Blvd.

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is one of the greatest jazz composers, performers, and bandleaders in American history.  His compositions, and the travels of his band, exposed the world to jazz and earned him the nickname, “The Ambassador of Jazz.” Ellington’s 1973 book Music Is My Mistress focused on George Gershwin and he had created multiple arrangements of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. For a decade he struggled with his answer to Gershwin, eventually composing the magnum opus, Black, Brown and Beige, which he premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1943.

Ellington arrived in New York just when jazz emerged as the dominant musical style of the Harlem Renaissance.  The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s inspired black artists to explore their African heritage and the black experience in America. He was a prolific composer, and within the patterns and colors of the panels of the image we can find some of Ellington’s songs. His most celebrated work, Black, Brown and Beige, can be found in both the background of the clock and the face of the Statue of Liberty.

  1. Tulips and Turnips
  2. Deep Purple
  3. Blue Bubbles
  4. Deep Blues
  5. Rooftop
  6. Black Brown and Beige

In the Tulips and Turnips image we can see a greenish background that could represent leaves.

It’s possible that the theme Palencar used for his New York painting was inspired by the Ellington song How Deep Is The Ocean(How High Is The Sky)

The 3 Sacred Concerts

In the last decade of his life, Ellington wrote three Sacred Concerts, which he called “the most important thing I have ever done”. The critic Gary Giddins characterized these concerts as Ellington bringing the Cotton Club revue to the church.

The third Sacred Concert was performed as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the United Nations in London in 1973. Ellington was already in the advanced stages of cancer, but was determined to accept and complete the commission. Given the condition of his health and his awareness of the reverberant acoustics of Westminster Abbey, most of the music this time is unusually slow, and richly meditative. Ellington played a special version of United Brotherhood with a chorus singing “the United Nations brotherhood” and dedicated it to the UN.

The concert and song dedication is the connection in Preiss’ story between Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations and Duke Ellington in the Harlem Renaissance.

One last wonderful detail to close out this connection: when Ellington debuted Black Brown and Beige, a composition in three movements each representing a period in black history, at Carnegie Hall in 1943, who do you think was in the audience? Eleanor Roosevelt.

Rhapsodic Man’s Soil

Sometimes you have to take things literally. Looking down on the rhapsodic man’s soil is simply directing us to look at a map of the city from Washington Heights, through Sugar Hill and into Harlem.

By lining up the gown with the curve of Riverside Drive and the angle of Macomb Place the markers fall into place. The other line approximate the street in between.

The waist band in the image is I95 with two bands representing the two directions of traffic . As possible a dual reference, one arm extends over the slender path of the George Washington Bridge, while the other extends over the Harlem River. The folds of the gown approximate the major roads with the outline of the sash following the edge of the park. The end of the sash falls on the Roger Morris Park and Morris–Jumel Mansion, where Hamilton often visited.

The flower in the image falls over the George Washington Bridge and we can find the letters B, W, and G hidden in the pedals. The long stem represents the straight span of the bridge over the Hudson River.

The markers below the gown fall directly on four playgrounds; the Ten Mile Playground (which is part of Riverside Park), the Renaissance Playground (which is named after the Harlem Renaissance), the Frederick Johnson Playground, and the Alexander Hamilton Playground, where the jewel is hidden.

Alexander Hamilton Playground

The map places the jewel directly over Alexander Hamilton Playground. At the entry of that playground we can find a sign with tells us about the Indies native.

On that same sign it says “A lesser-known aspect of Hamilton’s influence on our developing nation was his innovative proposals to create the Revenue Marine, which is now the United States Coast Guard. “

The last verse might be referring to Hard Bop which grew in Harlem as a response to Ellington’s classical compositions and Charlie Parker’s Bebop. Hard Bop is most associated with Miles Davis, “jazz’s brightest star“.

Langston Hughes put the jazz arising from the Harlem Renaissance into word form with his Jazz Poetry. In The Collected Works of Langston Hughes the first 3 volumes represent his poetry.

* Note: these are best guesses, hopefully someone can find a more solid connection

Today the park is almost entirely covered with asphalt and other surfaces with the exception of the rectangular area around the flagpole which cannot be seen in older images.

There are a number of very import details in the clock which provide us with the next series of steps. The oval in the center suggests we should look at this as a perspective view with the minute hand representing some type of pole which would be topped by something round. The hour hand would then show us the location of the treasure.

The grey band that runs along the right side seems like an accident, but it’s a reference to the concrete retaining walls that border the sides of the park.

Retaining walls run around the both 140th and 141st sides of the park. We should be looking for rectangular areas that border the retaining walls with a central pole.

Sadly, all the open areas along the walls are today either paved or covered by a rubber safety coating underneath children’s play equipment.

In this aerial from 1980 we can see two rectangular areas that border the retaining wall along 141 Street. There may be another rectangular area that is hard to see in the aerial, but one of these would have been distinctive in that it had some type of pole in the center (a flag pole, tether ball pole, light pole, etc.)

Sadly, as this 2012 aerial shows, the park was entirely repaved in 1995 and neither of rectangular areas remain uncovered today. Today they are covered by a walkway with benches along the retaining wall and children’s play areas.

The two target areas are both covered by rubber surfaces, and whatever pole once existed is long gone.

Quoted from the park’s website: “In August 1995, the playground was redesigned with updated play equipment, safety surfacing, new flowerbeds, and a climbing sculpture in the shape of an elephant.”


Palencar always seems to include some type of outline of the site and highlights it somewhere in the image. There are a couple of places where the shape of the outline can be found, notably in the roman numerals, but they don’t seem to be accentuated.

Is it possible that within the hand on the right we find the outline? The lines are straighter than expected and the soft bend on the thumb is unusually sharp.

If someone can find a better match for the site outline please let me know.

There is a distinctive pattern which obviously represents something and is strangely familiar. What could this be?

Amazing Coincidences

The American Merchant Mariners Memorial, by sculptor Marisol Escobar, can be found on a pier off Battery Park looking out at the Statue of Liberty, but it was dedicated on October 8th, 1991. It was conceived in 1976, but I can find no evidence that Palencar knew Escobar or knew of this project.

In Riverside Park, steps away from the homes of Ira and George Gershwin, not far from the Hamilton Monument, we find this statue of Eleanor Roosevelt. The statue, designed by Penelope Jencks, depicts Roosevelt in the same pose found in the sash of the gown, but it was dedicated until October 5, 1996.


I know that people have been looking everywhere for the building that matches this image. These are not Russian Orthodox Church steeples, they are not the towers on Ellis Island, in fact, they don’t even appear to be the same style of architecture. On the left is likely Victorian, the middle is possibly rounded with a supporting colonnade and on the right is a taller tower similar to the Highbridge tower.

While there could be multiple buildings visible from a single location, the best explanation is simply that it references the Duke Ellington song Rooftop.

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