Tag Archives: Urban History

1930s Gotham Rising: New York Skyscrapers


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1930 skyscraperThe skyscraper can trace its ancestry back many years, millennia in fact, before the existence of New York City. The book of Genesis tells the story of Babel, the Babylonian city in which Noah’s descendants tried to erect the mythological tower: ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into Heaven.’ For their presumption the people were punished: their words were made incomprehensible to one another. This aetiological tale of the diversity of speech could easily be applied to New York, home to the speakers of some 800 languages, a city in which cab drivers routinely set their satnavs to Russian, Bengali or Serbo-Croatian. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Bostons in the 17th Century


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ben_franklins_worldThe City Upon a Hill. The Athens of America. The Cradle of Liberty.

Boston has many names because it has played important roles in the history of North America. But how did Boston, or “The Hub,” come to be?

Why did the Puritans who sailed from England in 1630, choose to settle in Massachusetts Bay on the Shawmut Peninsula?

What were their early days like?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore answers to those questions by exploring the history of the two Bostons—Boston, England & Boston, New England— during the 17th century with Rose Doherty, President of the Partnership of Historic Bostons. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/095

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‘No One Helped’: The Myth of Urban Apathy


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no one helpedMarcia M. Gallo takes a look at one of America’s most infamous crime stories, in No One Helped (2015 Cornell University).  This new book examines  the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.

Front-page reports in the New York Times incorrectly identified thirty-eight indifferent witnesses to the crime, fueling fears of apathy and urban decay. Genovese’s life, including her lesbian relationship, was also obscured in media accounts of the crime.

Fifty years later, the story of Kitty Genovese continues to circulate in popular culture. Although it is now known that there were far fewer witnesses to the crime than was reported in 1964, the moral of the story continues to be urban apathy. No One Helped traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created. Continue reading

Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Coperation in Harlem, 1890-1920


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race and real estate conflict and cooperation in harlemThrough the lens of real estate transactions from 1890 to 1920, Kevin McGruder’s book Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem 1890-1920 (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015) offers unique perspectives on Harlem’s history and reveals the complex interactions between whites and African Americans at a critical time of migration and development.

During these decades Harlem saw a dramatic increase in its African American population, and although most histories speak only of the white residents who met these newcomers with hostility, this book uncovers a range of reactions. Continue reading

A NY Woman Who Belongs On The $20 Bill


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800px-Frances_Perkins_cph.3a04983Recently the Treasury Department has announced its intent to place a prominent woman of historical importance on the U.S. currency. There is no one who is more deserving of this honor than Frances Perkins, a New York woman, who was probably the most significant and important female government official of the 20th century.

As Secretary of Labor throughout President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms and the first woman ever to hold a cabinet position, Frances Perkins designed most of the New Deal Social Welfare and Labor Policies, such as social security, the minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and protections for unions, and reshaped America. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: Highlighting Albany’s Heritage


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1024px-North_Pearl_Street_Albany_1800sAlbany is a historic city! Its website includes a history of the city. Kathy Sheehan, campaigning for Mayor in 2012, cited its “deep and palpable history” as one of its assets and one of the bases for its potential development in the future. As Mayor, she initiated the Albany Heritage Tourism Initiative and gave a very impressive talk on “Albany: Our History, Our Future,” emphasizing its potential for heritage tourism at the kick-off luncheon for New York History Month organized by the University Club in November 2014.

One of her key themes was connections — among Albany’s historical buildings, its history organizations such as the Albany Institute of History and Art, and state sites such as the State Museum and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. Continue reading

Bronx Stories of Courage, Commitment


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Bronx Faces and VoicesIn Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading

New York’s Long History of Peace Activism


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Vietnam Veterans Against the War take part in an anti-war march in New YorkAs a scholarly specialist on the American peace movement, I am sometimes telephoned for background information by journalists writing articles about current demonstrations against war or against nuclear weapons. Almost invariably, they have no idea that the American peace movement has a rich history. Or, if they realize that it does have such a history, they have no idea that that history goes back further than the Vietnam War. This is a very big and unfortunate gap in their knowledge. Continue reading

Schenectady Immigrants: Italians and Poles


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Schnectady ImmigrantsPresented by Robert Pascucci, Ph.D., will present “Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, 1880-1930”, on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 2 pm at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.

Dr. Pascucci’s presentation will focus on the two largest immigrant groups, Italian and Polish, that settled in Schenectady during its period of rapid economic growth that was fueled largely by General Electric and the American Locomotive Company.  How these two immigrant groups adjusted to the city will be examined, as well as the impact that the new arrivals had on Schenectady. Continue reading