When John Winthrop was setting sail for America, he delivered a lay sermon which would become a foundational text for the American Civil Religion. Drawing on the Book of Matthew, he spoke of a “city on a hill” that the eyes of the world would be upon.
There is a longstanding idolizing of the city in human culture. This exaltation derives from ancient Mesopotamia, the first builders of major cities. The famous Epic of Gilgamesh, begins with a paean to the walls of the city he ruled. At the end of epic, with Gilgamesh’s adventures completed and his quest for immortality over, he returns to those same city walls with the insight that while the body is not immortal, the walls of the city are. In this ancient epic, when Gilgamesh clicks his heels three times and realizes there is no place like home, it is to the city to which he returns. Continue reading
Fifty years ago, civil rights activists from across the country came together in Mississippi to fight entrenched racism and voter repression. To mark the anniversary of 1964’s Freedom Summer, the Museum of the City of New York will examine one of its key players at a talk titled Stokely Carmichael’s Journey: From the Bronx to Freedom Summer on Thursday, August 12 at 6:30 p at the museum, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, NYC. Continue reading
In 1968 the conflict that erupted over community control of the New York City public schools was centered in the black and Puerto Rican community of Ocean Hill–Brownsville. It triggered what remains the longest teachers’ strike in US history.
That clash, between the city’s communities of color and the white, predominantly Jewish teachers’ union, paralyzed the nation’s largest school system, undermined the city’s economy, and heightened racial tensions, ultimately transforming the national conversation about race relations. A new memoir, Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69 (SUNY Press, 2014) has been written by Charles S. Isaacs, a teacher who crossed the picket lines. Continue reading
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is at it again! To welcome newly appointed New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivan on her first day, the trade association and lobbying group released yet another study claiming that landmark designation inhibits the development of affordable housing and is at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration’s goals of preserving and creating 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years.
REBNY’s complaints are nothing new, they are based on the group’s long-held and often-repeated premise that building on a landmarked site is so expensive and arduous that no one would ever want to do it. Continue reading
Cold warriors of the 1950s achieved one of their most macabre victories by frying Ethel Rosenberg in the electric chair, not for sharing atomic secrets, but simply as leverage to coerce her husband Julius to reveal sources.
Joan Beber’s play, “Ethel Rosenberg Sings: The Unsung Song of Ethel Rosenberg” at the Beckett Theatre until July 13th probes gender politics and personal story. This lively and intelligent exploration doesn’t flinch at setting Ethel’s story to music, since as a smart Jewish girl from the Lower East side bursting to escape the confines of immigrant horizons Ethel (Tracy Michaelidis) saw herself on stage “hitting a high C.” Undercover Productions and Perry Street Theatricals give this rendition of “straight from the spy files” of history an imaginative twist by framing it with prison politics and interracial casting that bounces the themes in an echo chamber of past and present. Continue reading
On the morning of June 10, 1723, just before the break of dawn, a British warship stationed out of New York spotted two sloops sailing less than 50 miles south of Long Island. The captain of the warship, Peter Solgard, was all but certain the sloops were trouble. Three days before, he had been warned by a sea captain about a pirate crew under the command of a notoriously violent captain, Edward Low. But in the HMS Greyhound that morning, Solgard did not attack. Instead, Solgard tacked and set a southerly course, keeping the pirates in view but not approaching, “to encourage them to give him chase.” Continue reading
The museum ship Lilac has opened for the summer at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. The exhibition Hero Project will be on view there through June 30.
With photographs by Jonathan Atkin, Hero Project is a selection from his on-going work-in-progress collaboration with dance artists aboard historic ships. His mission is to increase visibility of our maritime heritage by reaching new non-maritime audiences. In the exhibition, dancers athletically grace the gritty vessels in oversize photographs mounted throughout Lilac, from the bridge to the engine room. For more on the project, see http://www.heroproject.us Continue reading
Immigration has always been an important part of New York history. If one considers the story of the state from the Ice Age to Global Warming, then we and/or our ancestors all arrived here from somewhere else. Even if we were born an American and reside here now we may not have been born in New York. And if we were born in New York, we may not now live in the community where we were born or grew up. People move around a lot. How often do you hear the story of someone who has only been a resident of the community for 10, 20, 30 years and is still considered a newcomer?
Telling the story of immigration in New York provides an opportunity for us to connect with the world. What country doesn’t have residents in this state? So here is an opportunity for New York to tell the story about what it means to be a New Yorker by examining the lives of people who became New Yorkers. Continue reading
The Dakota. The Apthorp. The San Remo. The names of these legendary New York apartment buildings evoke images of marble-lined lobbies, uniformed doormen, and sunlit penthouses with sweeping Central Park views. Built from the 1880s through 1930s, classic prewar apartments were designed to lure townhouse dwellers reluctant to share a roof with other families.
Billed as private mansions in the sky, they promised a charmed Manhattan lifestyle of elegance and luxury. A new large format book, Manhattan Classic: New York’s Finest Prewar Apartments (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) takes readers on a lavishly illustrated guided tour of eighty-five of the most coveted buildings in New York. Continue reading
The Historic Districts Council (HDC), the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, will present the 2014 Grassroots Preservation Awards on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at 6:30 pm at Grace Church, 254 Hicks Street, Brooklyn Heights.
The Grassroots Awards honor and celebrate the activists and groups who work to preserve New York City’s historic neighborhoods. “These advocates are the foundation of the preservation movement and their efforts benefit everyone who lives, works or visits New York City,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of HDC. “It’s an honor and pleasure to be able to shine the spotlight on these neighborhood leaders.” The winners include: Continue reading
Organizations with deep roots in Lower Manhattan have come together to once again bring the celebration of July 4th to Lower Manhattan. Their efforts reflect Founding Father John Adam’s original admonition back in 1776 that the day of our independence be celebrated forever more in ways that will appeal to all Americans.
More than two hundred years ago Independence Day celebrations in Lower Manhattan helped give rise to the American government. More than a hundred years ago July 4th celebrations were the vehicle by which thousands of new immigrants to America learned about this country and its history. This year, the July 4th Festival Committee, a coalition of institutions, individuals, and organizations with an interest in Lower Manhattan and its history, intends to revive the American spirit by returning to Lower Manhattan’s roots with patriot celebrations. Continue reading
This morning New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced his choice for Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair – architect and urban planner Meenakshi Srinivasan.
Srinivasan, a native of India, has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture and a master’s degree in city planning, urban design, and architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1990 she began work at the Department of City Planning, and in 2000 was named deputy director of Planning’s Manhattan office where she led the Special Midtown District Theater Subdistrict rezoning, the Sixth Avenue rezoning, and the Hudson Yards Master Plan. Continue reading
Rescuing the Past in New York City opened May 1, 2014, at The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden and will remain on view until September 7, 2014.
In celebration of the Museum’s 75th anniversary, this exhibition highlights the commitment of heritage societies, like the Colonial Dames of America, to historic preservation, and honors the dedication of the Colonial Dames to the rescue and restoration of the Museum building, culminating in its opening to the public to coincide with the 1939 World’s Fair. Continue reading
Since its publication in 1995, John Tauranac’s The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure.
Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell University Press edition (2014), Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance and influence of the Empire State Building in the rapidly changing post-9/11 cityscape. Continue reading
On Tuesday, April 29th, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate the Park Avenue Historic District as the city’s 111th historic district.
I am thrilled about this designation and is especially thankful for the LPC’s swift action on this item. However, the commissioners’ deliberate decision to specify the Park Avenue Christian Center’s rectory and parish house as “no style” is confusing. When you think of a place with “no style”, Park Avenue is not what usually comes to mind. Continue reading
From 1971 to 1985, battles raged over Westway, a multibillion-dollar highway, development, and park project slated for construction New York City. It would have projected far into the Hudson River, including massive new landfill extending several miles along Manhattan’s Lower West Side.
The most expensive highway project ever proposed, Westway also provoked one of the highest stakes legal battles of its day, the subject of Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism, and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), by William W. Buzbee. Continue reading
On May 3, 2014, John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, N.Y. will sponsor a walk through lower Manhattan titled John Jay’s Not-So-Big City. The walking tour will trace John Jay’s haunts in New York in the late 18th century.
Founding Father John Jay, New York’s second Governor and America’s first Chief Justice, was born and educated in New York City, and spent much of his life there. The walking tour will trace his haunts, visiting the locations of the places where he lived and worked as one of New York’s leading lawyers and politicians, as well as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York. The tour will recall the time when New York was the capitol city of a young republic, and present a reminder of how the geography and architecture of Manhattan Island have changed since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century. Continue reading
In a new pictorial history from author William Alan Morrison, Images of America: Waldorf Astoria (Arcadia Publishing, 2014), honors the world-renown grand hotel.
Vintage images take readers on a journey through the magnificent history of the hotel and the many glamorous guests that it housed. The Waldorf Astoria has been host to emperors, rajahs, potentates and plutocrats — not to mention every US president since Grover Cleveland — its name has become synonymous with the epitome of glamour, luxury and sophistication. Continue reading
It is the Historic Districts Council’s firm belief, backed up by decades of observation, that the New York City Landmarks Law and the Commission empowered by it have enhanced and improved New York City. Landmark designation stabilizes neighborhoods, enhances property values, empowers communities and attracts private investment into the city. More importantly, landmarks and historic districts provide a physical continuity to our city’s past, enabling residents and visitors alike to physically experience New York’s history.
With all this in mind, it’s no mystery that the still unfilled de Blasio appointment for Landmarks Chair is a matter of great interest to us and we have thought a great deal about the type of person whom we’d like to see in the role. Continue reading
The OBIE Award winning Metropolitan Playhouse will present the fifth annual East Village Theater Festival, a three-week celebration of the life and lore of New York City’s East Village.
The festival features four different evenings of new plays and solo-performances, as well as the work of local artists, and a panel discussion on the neighborhood’s changing identity. Continue reading