Tag Archives: Urban History

Brooklyn Museum Cancels Street Art Exhibition


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The Brooklyn Museum has canceled the spring 2012 presentation of Art in the Streets, the first major United States museum exhibition of the history of graffiti and street art. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, where it is currently on view at The Geffen Contemporary through August 8, 2011, the exhibition had been scheduled at the Brooklyn Museum from March 30 through July 8, 2012.

“This is an exhibition about which we were tremendously enthusiastic, and which would follow appropriately in the path of our Basquiat and graffiti exhibitions in 2005 and 2006, respectively. It is with regret, therefore, that the cancellation became necessary due to the current financial climate. As with most arts organizations throughout the country, we have had to make several difficult choices since the beginning of the economic downturn three years ago,” Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman said in a prepared statement.

The announcement follows a recent follows the limiting of Friday hours, effective July 1. The Brooklyn Museum will no longer remain open until 10 p.m. every Friday, a change resulting from what museum officials called “the challenging economic climate confronting many public institutions throughout New York City and the country.”

Lower East Side History Project Walking Tours


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The Lower East Side History Project (LESHP), a non-profit organization dedicated to research, education and preservation, has announced its Summer 2011 walking tour schedule.

LESHP walking tours have been called a “Must do…” by Frommers Guide (2009) and was ranked “Top Five in New York City” by Time Out New York (2010). New York Newsday announced, “Nothing will get you closer to the real thing…” (2010) and NBC declared “You will be amazed…” (2010).

LESHP’s stable of licensed tour guides are multigenerational, native New Yorkers with well over a century of personal insight. They are veteran educators, professional authors, movie consultants, researchers active in neighborhood politics, arts and culture. The organization is partnered with museums and cultural institutions in the City of New York and has unique access to images, documents and information.

The full schedule is below, but you can find out more online or call 347-465-7767.

LESHP Summer 2011 public walking tour schedule:

Alphabet City Walking Tour

Once the godforsaken broken heart of the ghetto, the most densely populated square mile on the face of the earth, built over an industrial wasteland, then abandoned to a wild mix of marginal artists, angry anarchists, gangs, dealers, excons and thieves, against a backdrop of urban blight, tenements burned to rubble and danger on every corner out of which grew jazz and the beat generation, graffiti art and punk rock, the squatters movement, the garden movement and radical underground cinema: there’s more to Alphabet City than meets the eye, stories that could happen only in metropolis’ darkest corner.

When: Every Saturday at 11:00am
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: Entrance to Tompkins Square Park, St. Marks and Avenue A
Subway: L train to 1st avenue or 6 train to Astor Place

Bowery Walking Tour
The Bowery is not just the oldest and most architecturally diverse thoroughfares in NYC, it is one of most historically significant streets in the country. Beyond the myths, legends and gritty reputation, the Bowery offers an absolute treasure trove of NYC and American history.

Once an important Native American trail, the Bowery has undergone many changes in its modern history. From elegant opera houses to rowdy working-class theaters; from America’s vice district controlled by gangs and crooked politicians to a haven for the homeless and downtrodden as “skid row” during the great depression; and from factories and warehouses to pioneering artist colonies. Today the Bowery has become a popular hotel, restaurant and nightclub district, but buried beneath the five-star offerings is a repository of social, economic, political, immigrant, labor, underground, criminal, deviant, marginal, counter-cultural, literary, musical, dramatic and artistic history.

When: Every Sunday at 11:00am
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: Astor Place Cube, E.8th St and 4th Ave
Subway: 6 train to “Astor Place”

Chinatown/Five Points Walking Tour
New York’s legendary slum, a story of Irish, Italians, Africans, Germans, Jews and Chinese, their struggles, their cultures; gangs of New York to the tongs of Chinatown — with underground passageways still in use on winding Blood Alley where countless gang members were murdered in half a century of turf warfare — to the single oldest relic of western civilization on the island of Manhattan. It’s 19th century New York: bigotry and rivalry, ribaldry and racism, oppression, defiance, perseverance, progress and reform.

When: Every Sunday at 2:00pm
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: SE corner of Centre & Worth Streets
Subway: J to Chambers St or 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall

East Village Walking Tour
This is a crash course in East Village/Lower East Side history. From the farmlands of the 1600s and the wealthy estates of the 1700s, to immigration, tenements, the “melting pot” and how the East Village became a haven for artists and counter culturalists in the twentieth century (and everything in between). Also learn about how recent commercial development and gentrification is the changing landscape of the East Village and surrounding neighborhoods.

When: Every Saturday & Wednesday at 12:00pm
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: In front of Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery
Subway: F train to “2nd Avenue/Lower East Side”

Jewish Mob Walking Tour
Trace the steps of pre-Prohibition era gangsters like Monk Eastman, Max “Kid Twist” Zweifach, “Big” Jack Zelig and Benjamin “Dopey” Fein – pivotal figures in the organizing of crime in New York City; paving the way for men like Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky and “Bugsy” Siegel. Learn about the Jewish immigrant experience on the Lower East Side and the conditions that led to organized gangsterism; visit the sites of gang headquarters, shootouts and assassinations, and learn how the Jewish Mob expanded out of the slums and into a contemporary organized crime syndicate.

When: Every Sunday at 12:00pm
Reservations: Required, RSVP: 347-465-7767 or online.
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: Outside of Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 E. Houston
Subway: F to “2nd Ave/Lower East Side”

Lower East Side Walking Tour
This one-of-a-kind tour of the LES highlights all aspects of our neighborhood’s rich diversity by providing an introduction to the many distinct populations — Native-American, African, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Hispanic, and others — which influenced the character of the Lower East Side over the last thousand years.

When: Every Friday at 12:00pm
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: Outside of New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery
Subway: F to “2nd Ave/Lower East Side”

Mafia Walking Tour
This popular and exciting weekly tour explores the Sicilian/Italian immigrant experience and examines the roots of the Mafia in America: From the original Sicilian Black Handers and Neapolitan Camorra to the forming of the Mafia Commission in 1931 — this tour visits the early homes, headquarters, hangouts of such criminal heavyweights as “Lucky” Luciano, Al Capone, Giuseppe Morello, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, Vito Genovese, and many more.

When: Every Saturday at 2:00pm
Reservations: Not Required
Fee: $20 General Admission
Meet: Outside of New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery
Subway: F to “2nd Ave/Lower East Side”

Radical Spirits Bar Crawl
Whether you like a warm pub, a dive bar or an innovative cocktail lounge, the East Village has a history and a present to satisfy your fermented dreams. In fact, there are more liquor licenses (old and new) issued in this zip code than any other in New York. Explore why that’s a good thing and why that’s a bad thing in this bar crawl focusing on the East Village’s legacy of artists, writers, musicians, radicals and other indulgers. In short, an evening walk of the New York of Lou Reed, W.H. Auden, Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, Keith Haring, and Abbie Hoffman…with refreshments

When: Every Tuesday at 6:15pm
Reservations: Not Required (21 and over only, with ID)
Fee: $35, includes three drinks
Meet: Outside St. Marks Bookshop, 31 3rd Ave at E. 9th St
Subway: 6 train to “Astor Place”

Photo: The Bowery.

Historic Districts Council Preservation Awards


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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) presented its annual Grassroots Preservation Awards to seven organizations and individuals on May 12th in the garden of Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. This year, HDC is celebrating its 40th year of advocating for 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 to be able to shine the spotlight on these neighborhood leaders.”

2011 Grassroots Awardees

Cedar Grove Beach Club

Established on the North Shore of Staten Island in 1911, Cedar Grove Beach Club is the last beach bungalow colony on the island. In 1962, the club land was taken by eminent domain but residents were allowed to remain and continued to restore the buildings and keep the beach clean and accessible. However in 2009, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation declared that they were evicting the residents in order to demolish the majority of the bungalows. The Beach Club rallied to stop this action but was unsuccessful. Their campaign, however, raised awareness about this special piece of New York City’s cultural history.

Central Queens Historical Society

In 1988, Jeffrey Gottlieb established the Central Queens Historical Association to advocate for preservation of the borough’s significant areas, including Kew Gardens, Jamaica, and Richmond Hill. Through his ongoing advocacy campaign for downtown Jamaica, the LPC moved forward on the designation of several historic structures including the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Building, Queens General Court House, two Jamaica Savings Bank buildings, and Jamaica High School.

Mary Kay Gallagher

Mary Kay Gallagher has been a leading figure in Brooklyn’s Victorian Flatbush area for more than four decades. She founded Mary Kay Gallagher Real Estate in 1970, in part to help find sympathetic buyers for the wealth of large, free-standing Victorian-era homes that dominate Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, Midwood Park, Beverly Square West and Caton Park.

Prospect Cemetery Association

Cate Ludlam has been the driving force behind Prospect Cemetery Association, a group dedicated to preserving and restoring Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, Queens. The site is the oldest burial ground in Jamaica, with burials dating back to the mid-17th century. Ludlam has led the group through an intensive effort to reclaim the largely abandoned cemetery and recently completed a restoration of the adjacent Chapel of the Sisters.

Friend in High Places
State Senator Bill Perkins, 30th District, Manhattan

Senator Perkins currently serves as State Senator from Manhattan’s 30th District. Both in his role as New York State Senator for the past five years and previously during eight years as a city councilmember, he helped champion numerous preservation causes. Recently he has been a strong supporter for the designation of the West End Avenue Historic District and a Morningside Heights Historic District, and the successful designation of West-Park Presbyterian Church. Among the other preservation campaigns Senator Perkins has been involved with include holding public education programs on tax incentives for historic properties and leading the effort for more comprehensive legislation to improve oversight of the landmarks process.

Friend from the Media

The Architect’s Newspaper

Since its founding in 2003, The Architect’s Newspaper has featured broad coverage of preservation and development–related issues from across the city. Looking beyond concerns of architectural design, the paper has covered important neighborhood preservation issues such the proposed redevelopment of St. Vincent’s Hospital, the tower proposal at 980 Madison Avenue and the future of Coney Island in depth. Although it is targeted towards a self-identified audience of architects and design professionals, AN’s coverage is both balanced and accessible, with a deep understanding of the arcana of New York City’s development world.

Mickey Murphy Award for Lifetime Achievement
Bronson Binger and Ann Walker Gaffney

Bronson and Ann have been tireless preservation advocates for decades. Bronson served New York City as Assistant Commissioner of Capital Projects for both the Parks Department and the Department of General Services. As Vice President of the Municipal Art Society, he saw the need to form a committee to protect the city’s historic neighborhoods, which later became the Historic Districts Council. He was closely involved in several successful campaigns, including the creation of the Carnegie Hill, Upper East Side, and Sailors’ Snug Harbor Historic Districts. Trained as a Graphic Designer, Ann has contributed her art of logos, brochures and invitations for many not-for-profit organizations. She served on the Historic Districts Council’s board of directors for almost 20 years as well as serving on the Board of The Fine Arts Federation and as a governor of the Brooklyn Heights Association for many years.

Gita Lenz’s New York Views Online Photo Gallery


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Places, an online journal of environmental design published in partnership with Design Observer, has just published an online slideshow “Gita Lenz: New York Views.”

The site features work by the mid-century New York photographer Gita Lenz, whose long neglected work is now gaining new attention. Lenz lived most of her life in Greenwich Village where from the 1940s through the mid-1960s, she the city and life around her first in the documentary tradition and then in abstraction. Lenz died January 20th, 2011 at a nursing home in New York City.

The gallery can be found on here.

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: “[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”

“Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Exhibit: African American Women’s Literary Societies


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“They Kept Their Word: African American Women’s Literary Societies and Their Legacy” is a fascinating new exhibit that has opened at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. The exhibit traces the development and influence of African Americans in Buffalo, particularly with regard to women’s efforts to improve their economic and intellectual conditions.

The remarkable growth and accomplishments that took place in the Buffalo area during the 1830s and 1840s were due to many factors, including expansion of communication through transportation, newspapers, pamphlets, study groups, and lecture series.


Photo: Mary Church Terrell was an influential African American woman in Buffalo in the 1900s. Photo provided.

JAY-Z to Appear at Brooklyn Museum


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In a rare interview, multi-platinum, 10-time Grammy Award-winning artist and icon JAY-Z will speak with Charlie Rose, executive editor and anchor of the Charlie Rose Show, before a live audience in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday, November 18, at 7 p.m. The conversation, which will be taped to air nationwide at a later date on the Charlie Rose program, will focus on JAY-Z’s book DECODED, to be published on November 16 by Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint. DECODED recounts JAY-Z’s life from his childhood in Brooklyn’s Marcy housing projects to becoming a world-famous performer and songwriter, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

Tickets to the event will go on sale TODAY, Wednesday, November 10, at noon. They may be purchased online at www.museumtix.com (two-ticket purchase limit for this program) or at the Brooklyn Museum Visitor Center in person. Ticket prices are $50 for the general public, older adults, and students and $45 for Brooklyn Museum Members. Become a member at www.brookklynmuseum.org/support/membership_plans.php. Ticket price includes a copy of DECODED by JAY-Z that will be provided to the patron upon admission to the program the night of the event.

Printouts of tickets will not be accepted. Patrons must check in at the will-call desk (the night of the event) at the Brooklyn Museum to receive hard copies of their tickets and must provide ID matching the name on the ticket. There will be no standby line for this event.

Decoded Book Cover In his conversation with Charlie Rose, JAY-Z will speak candidly about his journey from drug dealing to becoming one of the best known hip-hop artists of his time. He will explore issues that informed him and his songwriting, including how visual art and poetry influenced his craft, how he became involved in politics and business, and how he managed to stay true to himself in the midst of extraordinary fame.

“When I first started working on this book, I told my editor that I wanted to do three important things. The first was to make the case that hip-hop lyrics-not just my lyrics, but those of every great MC-are poetry, if you look at them closely enough. The second was that I wanted the book to tell a little bit of the story of my generation, to show the context for the choices we made at a violent and chaotic crossroads in recent history. And the third piece was that I wanted the book to show how hip-hop created a way to take a very specific and powerful experience and turn it into a story that everyone in the world could feel and relate to.”–JAY-Z from DECODED

CFP: Staten Island, Am. History, 21st Cent. Education


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A Call for Papers has been issued for a conference entitled Staten Island, New York in American History and 21st Century Education, to be held at the College of Staten Island (City University of New York) on March 19-20, 2011.

An understanding of the role of place and the attachment to community in America has never been more critical than in our rapidly changing global environment. This conference seeks to explore major turning points and issues in American history as experienced by the residents of Staten Island past and present. Located at the entrance to New York harbor, Staten Island is one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City.

Since 1661, Staten Island has been the home of settlers and migrants from around the globe. Staten Island’s cultural diversity and its regional and global interconnections are reflected in its institutions, cuisine, art and architecture, businesses, social movements, recreational tourism, transportation heritage, and in the service of its military veterans. The organizers’ goal is to rethink the significance of Staten Island and its important historic sites, as part of New York City, the region, the nation, and the world through the interdisciplinary lenses of history and Place-based
Education.

In celebration of Staten Island’s 350th Anniversary in 2011, the organizers invite
innovative proposals from scholars, curators, teachers and public historians related to community history and education. Proposals must be relevant to and illustrate the conference theme, including but not limited to the following topics:

*History of ethnicity and immigration
*History of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities
*Staten Island in the transatlantic world, e.g. Huguenot refugees, the Loyalist Diaspora, the Free Trade Zone
*Staten Island in the history of New York City, e.g. Civil War Draft Riots, Consolidation, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
*History of the arts, architecture, health, business, military, sports, transportation, religion, food and drink, education, childhood, or of the environment
*Geography, politics, and economics in the study of local history
*The historical interconnectedness of Staten Island to the New York/New Jersey region
*The role of the museum in public history and preservation
*Pedagogy, including Place-based Education, civic engagement and community-based research
*Memory and oral history

Proposals for complete panels and/or individual papers for this peer-reviewed conference are welcome. Proposals for panels must include the following: 1) a cover sheet with the panel title, paper titles, and the name, address, affiliation, and email addresses of the chair/commentator and of the panelists; 2) a 350-word abstract of the panel as a whole; and 3) a 350-word abstract for each paper included on the panel. Individual paper proposals for twenty-minute papers should include the following: 1) a cover sheet with the paper’s title, and the name, address, affiliation,
and email address of the participant and 2) a 350-word abstract of the paper.

All materials should be e-mailed to Dr. Phillip Papas, Associate Professor of History and co-chair of the SI 350 Academic Conference/Education Symposium at papas@ucc.edu. Proposals for panels and/or individual papers must be received no later than October 15, 2010. Successful applicants will be required to send a completed paper no later than February 7, 2011. E-mail Dr. Margaret Berci, Associate Professor of Education and co- chair of the SI 350 Academic Conference/Education Symposium at berci@mail.csi.cuny.edu with questions.

For more information and resources please refer to their website at www.si350.org.

The event is co-sponsored with Wagner College, St. John’s University and SI350, Inc, with major support from the Staten Island Foundation.

New Reference Book: Architects in Albany


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Every once in a while a book shows up that I know will have a permanent place on my desk-side bookshelf. Architects in Albany, a new book by the Historic Albany Foundation and Mount Ida Press, is a collection of profiles and images of the work of 36 designers and their firms that played a major part in forming Albany’s architectural heritage.

Edited by Diana S. Waite, the president of Mount Ida Press, this new volume was five years in the making and expands on a booklet the Historic Albany Foundation published in 1978, soon after Albany’s leading historic preservation organization was founded.

Architects in Albany if heavily indexed and includes the work of popularly known local architects like Philip Hooker, Marcus Reynolds, and also the work of builders with a national reputation that worked in Albany like Robert Gibson (Cathedral of All Saints) and Patirck C. Keely (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception). Albany is unique in that the work of architects brought in by the state is also present in large numbers, and Architects in Albany includes profiles of them as well. Men like Thomas Fuller, H. H. Richardson, and Leopold Eidlitz (State Capitol), are featured along side more recent builders like Edward Durell Stone (SUNY Albany Campus), and Wallace K. Harrison (Empire State Plaza).

The real gems here are the original research, much of it contributed by Cornelia Brooke Gilder, on the lesser known Albany architects. Ernest Hoffman’s late 19th century contributions (15 of them) are documented here. Albert W. Fuller, one of Albany’s more prolific architects, who built Albany Hospital (the original buildings of the Albany Medical Center) and the Harmanus Bleecker Library, but also banks, clubs, apartment houses, a YMCA, several schools, the Dudley Observatory, the Fourth Precinct Police Station, and a number of residences. The book is heavily illustrated.

Conference: Preservation in New York – The Next Generation


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The New York City Historic Districts Council has announced the Sixteenth Annual Preservation Conference, “Preservation in New York: The Next Generation” which will examine the future of preservation in New York City as a movement, both in terms of the types of buildings we should be preserving and the audiences we must engage in order to be successful. What will be the landmarks for the next generation and who will be fighting to preserve them?

The conference which runs March 5-7, 2010, will be preceded by an Opening Night Reception on Friday, March 5th. The Sunday following the Conference will feature a series of walking tours of historic areas throughout New York City. Participants can register online.

March 5: Opening Night Reception

This year the Opening Reception will be held in the LGBT Community Center, housed in an historic 19th-century school. As with last year’s event, in addition to refreshments and good preservation-minded conversation, this festive kick-off event will feature presentations on proposed historic districts and preservation campaigns across the city.

Friday, March 5, 6:00pm, at The LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street between Seventh and Greenwich Avenues. Tickets for this event are $35/person, $30 for Friends of HDC, seniors and students. Reservations required. Please call (212) 614-9107 or visit our website.

March 6: “The Next Generation” Conference Panels

This year’s Conference Panels will bring together a distinguished group of preservationists, educators, community activists and non-profit leaders from New York City’s five boroughs to present their views in a series of panel discussions: “New Landmarks: Modern, Vernacular and Cultural Sites” and “New Audiences: Identifying and Partnering with Diverse Populations” and a keynote address delivered by Fran Leadon, architect, professor, and co-author of the forthcoming AIA Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition.

Saturday, March 6, 8:30am-4:30pm, at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street between Court and Clinton Streets, Brooklyn. Full day admission is $45/person, $35/person for Friends of HDC and seniors. Fee also includes continental breakfast, box lunch, and afternoon snack. Entrance fee will be waved for students with valid university ID (meals are not included). For reservations, please call (212) 614-9107 or visit our website.

March 7: Walking Tours

The final day of HDC’s Preservation Conference features six walking tours of neighborhoods throughout New York City:

The Grand Concourse: Ain’t It Grand!

A Walk Through Norwegian Brooklyn: Lapskaus Boulevard

Chelsea and Lamartine Place: A Cultural History

Modern in Midtown: Landmarks of the Recent Past

Parkchester: A City Within a City

West End Avenue: Way Out West

Space is limited, so reserve early. Meeting times and locations will be provided upon registration.

Historic Districts Council’s Morning Coffee Talks


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Each Month, the Historic Districts Council hosts a Coffee Talk – a presentation and question and answers session with folk important to local historic preservation. The first Coffee Talk of 2010, on January 11th, will feature representatives of the New York City Department of Design and Construction. The event begins at 8:30 am, in the Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, Manhattan.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC), is the lead agency for New York City public construction projects such as street, water and sewer reconstructions, firehouses, libraries, police precincts, courthouses and senior centers. Because the agency is responsible for such a large portfolio (valued at over $6 billion), the Historic Districts Counciil believes it is essential that communities help make sure that each project that DDC undertakes respects and responds to the specific needs of the communities where the projects are located.

Richard Zetterlund, Associate Commissioner for Infrastructure and Sergio Silveira, Assistant Commissioner for Structures will discuss their respective divisions and how neighborhood advocates can provide input on major projects. Our speakers will also showcase some of DDC’s recent successful initiatives and talk about the efforts of DDC’s Historic Preservation Office.

This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required, as space is limited. For more information about this or other Coffee Talks, contact Frampton Tolbert at (212) 614-9107 or ftolbert@hdc.org.

Photo: Brooklyn Terminal at Brooklyn Bridge c 1903.

World War II in New York City Materials Wanted


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The New-York Historical Society is soliciting donations of materials relating to the impact of World War II on New York City. They are interested in snapshots of armed forces personnel (particularly leaving and returning to the city), photographs of victory gardens, women in the work force, minority communities, and locations in the city that relate in some way to the war effort. They would also like to receive soldier’s diaries that include descriptive passages about the city or the war experience, vivid and distinctive letters to or from New Yorkers and ephemeral material such as posters, broadsides, propaganda pamphlets, menus, programs, etc. All items should be identified clearly with names, dates, and locations, when known.

Please DO NOT send materials directly to them. They can only handle a limited number of items and cannot return unwanted material to donors. Instead, submit descriptions of what might be of interest with scans or photographs, if possible to wwii@nyhistory.org.

The New-York Historical Society will not be able to accept magazines, newspapers, newspaper clippings or material that is in poor condition (i.e., dirty, moldy, unreadable) or outside the scope of our collection. Materials selected by the staff may be used in the Society’s upcoming (2012) exhibition on World War II in New York; some may be added to our permanent collections; some may appear on web presentations.

For more information contact: wwii@nyhistory.org

Photo: A crowd watching the news line on the Times building at Times Square, NYC, on D-day, June 6, 1944. Large-format nitrate negative by Howard Hollem or Edward Meyer, Office of War Information.

NYC Landmarks Commission Rejects Half of a Building


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The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 6-3 on Tuesday to designate the B. F. Goodrich Company Building (1780 Broadway) as a landmark and at the same time reject the B. F. Goodrich Company Building at 225 West 57th Street. Although the buildings face adjacent streets, they are on the same lot and were both developed in 1909 by the same architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw, for the B. F. Goodrich Company. They are Shaw’s only extant buildings in New York.

The Historic Districts Council issued the following Preservation Alert after the vote:

At today’s hearing, all nine commissioners present stated their support for the designation of 1780 Broadway, mentioning its architectural design but stressing its historic connection to Automobile Row. Six commissioners stated that 225 West 57th Street was of lesser significance because it did not have Broadway frontage and was “an accessory building” to the larger Goodrich headquarters. The other three commissioners defended the significance of the building and spoke highly of its architectural merit as well as its history of automobile-related uses.

225 West 57th Street, cureently under scaffolding and construction shroudOf particular interest was LPC Chair Robert Tierney’s statement referring to the City Council’s concerns about this designation. After the public hearing on August 11th, Council Members Daniel Garodnick, Melinda Katz, Jessica Lappin and Christine Quinn sent a joint letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission opposing the designation of 225 West 57th Street based on “its drab appearance”, that “the company never occupied the building” and that “the designation of 225 West 57th Street could fatally compromise the footprint of the proposed development on this site”. This unprecedented message reframed deliberations about the significance-based worthiness of the buildings into “the argument for preservation against the economic development rationale… [of] allowing for new development on sites where buildings stand today”. Commissioner Tierney went on to state his belief that since there was a likelihood that the City Council would overturn the designation of 225 West 57th Street, the LPC should make a priority of designating 1780 Broadway which everyone agreed should be preserved.

The buildings’ preservation had been supported by HDC, other preservation groups and the local community boards on the basis of their significance to the development of New York City as the center for the nascent American automobile industry, as well as for the importance of the buildings’ architectural design. 225 West 57th Street specifically was a very early and unusual fusion of traditional and Modern design elements, using motifs and techniques from the Chicago and Viennese Secessionist Schools. These points were supported by research in the LPC’s files.

Representatives of the owner, Extell Development, as well as the American Institute of Architects/New York Chapter testified in favor of the designation of 1780 Broadway but opposed to 225 West 57th Street, stating that the buildings were only significant historically as they related to Automobile Row. Since West 57th Street was not on Automobile Row and the building was not occupied by the B. F. Goodrich Company, it was not worthy of being preserved. Additional owner’s representatives also stated that they might pursue a hardship application if 225 West 57th Street was designated (Extell is proposing to build a 60+-story building on the block including this site and has been assembling lots and air-rights to allow for this development for some time.)

In the end, it would appear that the developers won. Thanks to their lobbying efforts the City Council leadership was apparently convinced that this landmark designation was detrimental to the City. The Council’s opposition to the designation resulted in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s rejection of the building. This is not how it should work.

HDC is exceptionally disappointed in the LPC’s yielding to political pressure. If the City Council was going to reject the designation of a worthy building, then the Council should have been put in a position of justifying that action. By ceding the designation of 225 West 25th Street, the LPC has set a terrible example for future designations.

HDC is also extraordinarily disturbed by the Council’s actions in this instance. While it is entirely appropriate for CM Daniel Garodnick to weigh in on a designation within his district, doing so before the community board has a chance to review the project is, at best, precipitous. The joint letter from the four council members, with its not-so-veiled threat, was a direct assault on the independence of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the integrity of the Landmarks Law.

HDC has contacted these council members about our concerns over their involvement and we will be taking additional steps to make sure that the Landmarks Preservation Commission and their process remain transparent and independent. We look forward to updating you in the coming months.

Photo: 1780 Broadway, NYC

Sex and the City: The Early Years


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On Wednesday, November 18th, Bill Greer, the author of The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan, is giving a talk at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, at 7 p.m. The lecture, entitled “Sex and the City: The Early Years,” looks at the bawdy world of Dutch New York from 1624 to 1664. Through anecdotes of real people and events, the talk examines the libertine culture Europeans brought to the Hudson Valley and how this culture engendered an independent streak that fueled a rebellion of the common people against their rulers. This conflict, many historians argue, laid the foundation for the pluralistic, freedom-loving society that America became.

Greer is also a Trustee and Treasurer of the New Netherland Institute based in Albany.

Date: November 18, 2009
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, Grand Army Plaza, in the Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room

Books: The Bronx’s Boulevard of Dreams


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Stretching over four miles through the center of the West Bronx, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, known simply as the Grand Concourse, has served as a silent witness to the changing face of the Bronx, and New York City, for a century. To coincide with the Concourse’s centennial, New York Times editor Constance Rosenblum has written a book, Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx that brings to life this historic street.

Designed by a French engineer in the late nineteenth century to echo the elegance and grandeur of the Champs Elysées in Paris, the Concourse was nearly twenty years in the making (it celebrated its centennial in November). Over that century it has truly been a boulevard of dreams for various upwardly mobile immigrant and ethnic groups, yet it has also seen the darker side of the American dream.

Constance Rosenblum unearths the history of the street and its neighborhoods through a series of life stories and historical vignettes. The story of the creation and transformation of the Grand Concourse is the story of New York—and America—writ large, and Rosenblum examines the Grand Concourse from its earliest days to the blighted 1960s and 1970s right up to the current period of renewal. Illustrated with historical photographs, the vivid world of the Grand Concourse comes alive—from Yankee Stadium to the unparalleled collection of Art Deco apartments to the palatial Loew’s Paradise movie theater.

The publishers call it “An enthralling story of the creation of an iconic street, an examination of the forces that transformed it, and a moving portrait of those who called it home, Boulevard of Dreams is a must read for anyone interested in the rich history of New York and the twentieth-century American city.”

Conference: Merchant Jews in The New World: 1500-1800


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The first of three annual conferences focusing on a lesser-known role played by merchants, especially Jewish merchants, in the Caribbean and major ports of Colonial America in the establishment of the United States, will be held at the ‘Center for Jewish History’ in New York City on Sunday, October 18, 2009.

The initial one-day gathering, “Merchant Jews in The New World: 1500-1800″ is being organized by ‘The Gomez Foundation for Mill House’, an organization focused upon the pioneer experience in America. The aim of this conference is to highlight current research and foster further study in this long neglected corner of New World and Colonial American history. Represented on the panels will be noted scholars in the field, including Keynote Speaker, Dr. Jonathan Ray of Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Gomez Foundation for Mill House manages and operates one of the oldest, continuously occupied dwellings in North America, the 300-year-old ‘Gomez Mill House’ in Orange County, New York. On the National Register of Historic Places, the house was named after a Jewish merchant named Luis Moses Gomez. Other pioneers, patriots and significant owners who came after him are also honored at the house.

Gomez was born in Spain, fled with his family to Southwestern France, and came to New York by way of England and the Caribbean. His aim in building his trading post (now the house) was to help open up the Hudson River to increased trade.

The conference is open to those with both academic and non-academic backgrounds, particularly those who share an interest in the economic birth, maturity and modern expansion in the New World and early America. For further information on the conference, visit www.gomez.org.

Call For Papers: Reconsidering the City


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The History Department of SUNY Fredonia requests proposals for a conference, “Reconsidering the City,” scheduled for April 2010. The conference will explore new directions in the field of Urban History. How do Urban Historians define “the city”? How do scholars today conceptualize the field of Urban History? We welcome proposals for individual papers or panels that address these conceptual issues as well as proposals that highlight new work being done in Urban History in both western and non-western contexts. Paper proposals should be no more than 500 words; panel proposals should also include a brief (250-word) summary of the panel and its theme. Please send proposals and a one-page cv electronically to Mary Beth Sievens, Associate Chair, Department of History, SUNY Fredonia: sievens@fredonia.edu.

The deadline for proposals is March 13, 2009.

Preservation League Seeks Award Nominations


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The Preservation League of New York State is seeking nominations for its 2009 Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards, which recognize notable achievements in historic preservation throughout New York State. The postmark deadline for nominations is February 12, 2009. The awards will be presented during the Preservation League’s Annual Meeting in May in New York City. The Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards program continues a tradition that began in 1979 to acknowledge excellence in the protection and revitalization of the Empire State’s historic architectural and cultural resources.

By honoring meaningful accomplishments in the field of historic preservation, the League hopes to further encourage standards of excellence and to increase public awareness of and support for historic preservation throughout the state. Nomination forms are available to download on the League’s website at www.preservenys.org.

The 2008 Excellence Award recipients were: Webb Lofts in Buffalo, Erie County; MacNaughton House Stabilization in Newcomb, Essex County; U.S. Post Office & Courthouse, Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, Kings County; Downtown Revitalization Program in Canajoharie, Montgomery County; Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side, New York County; Proctors in Schenectady, Schenectady County; Hotel Kirkland in Kingston, Ulster County; and the BID Model Development Block in New Rochelle, Westchester County. Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks by Anthony C. Wood (Routledge, 2007) received a special citation. The Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors was honored for organizational excellence; and Trude Brown Fitelson of Rochester was honored for individual excellence.

For nomination forms and other information please contact the Preservation League office at 518-462-5658 x17; or by email at awards@preservenys.org.

The Preservation League of New York State, founded in 1974, is the not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of New York’s diverse and rich heritage of historic buildings, districts and landscapes. From its headquarters in Albany, the League provides a unified voice for historic preservation. By leading a statewide movement and sharing information and expertise, the Preservation League of New York State promotes historic preservation as a tool to revitalize our neighborhoods and communities, honor our heritage and enrich our lives.

1965 NYC Landmarks Preservation Law Lecture


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Anthony M. Tung, author of Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis and former New York City Landmarks Preservation Commissioner, will present a talk that envisions the state of urban preservation on different continents at the moment when Mayor Robert F. Wagner signed the New York City Landmarks Preservation statute in 1965. With the process of civilization unfolding at varying speeds, igniting the upheaval of urban modernization, how did the heritage of London, Beijing, Mexico City, Rome, and Warsaw fare? Mr. Tung will show accompanying photographs to complement his lecture.

The event will be held Wednesday, December 10th at 6:30 PM at Grace Church School, 84 Fourth Avenue, NYC; admission is free but reservations are required. RSVP to hdc@hdc.org or (212) 614-9107. This event is co-sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Neighborhood Preservation Center.

Edgar Allan Poe in New York City


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The blog Ephemeral New York is taking note of the Edgar Allan Poe house museum in The Bronx, which is closing in the spring for year long renovations:

“In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe, his wife (and cousin) Virginia, and his mother-in-law moved from Manhattan to a little wooden house built in 1812 in The Bronx’s rural Fordham neighborhood. The isolated, modest home, which rented for just $100 a year, must have suited Poe well; he wrote “Annabel Lee” and “The Bells” there.

But his time in the house would be short. Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis in 1847. Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore.”

According to the blog, in 1905, the New York State Legislature set aside preservation funs, and in 1910 the house was moved to Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse. New York City is a perfect location for a memorial to Edgar Allan Poe – he loved the city, any city.

The Boston of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth in 1809 was one of the world’s wealthiest international trading ports and one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation. It was also a city of squalor and vice, with a grim and ghastly underworld. It was a fitting start for Poe, whose mother and father (both actors) died when he was young. He came to be a master of the macabre weaving elaborate short stories into a shroud of mystery and death and launching a number of new American pop culture phenomenons.

Poe was a man of the new American city, having lived in the five largest cities in America during his lifetime. His first published work – Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827) – was credited only to “a Bostonian,” but as a young boy he was taken from his native city to Richmond, Virginia, and in his short life he also lived in Charleston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City and the world’s largest city – London.

Poe was a sport, a libertine, as familiar with gambling, hard drinking, and womanizing, as he was with his many literary pursuits. Known to frequent Oyster cellars, brothels, casinos, and other dens of inequity, his literary work reflects the characters he met in his own life, the scoundrels, the bawdy women, and those on the margins of society – he delighted in showing local police unsympathetically in his writing.

Poe was also the first well-known writer in America to try and earn a living through writing alone. As a result, he suffered financially throughout his career until the day he was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious and “in great distress… in need of immediate assistance” according to the man who found him. At the time of his death, newspapers reported Poe died of “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, common euphemisms for death from a disreputable cause like alcoholism. Thanks to a disparaging, and now long forgotten literary rival, Poe’s death at 40 remains a mystery – in the end he was the personification of a genre he is credited with inventing.

Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) is the first true detective story. The Dupin character established a number of literary devices that inspired the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot – the brilliant detective, his personal friend serving as narrator, and the final revelation offered before the reasoning is explained. But beyond inventing the detective mystery, Poe is best known as a master of the physiological horror story. The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Raven are disturbing and unsettling works that have found their way into popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. Poe’s writing influenced the creation of science fiction (he often mentioned emerging technologies, such as those in The Balloon-Hoax), and the areas of esoteric cosmology and cryptography. He continues to influence Goth pop culture.

Poe’s most recurring themes deal with death, its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, premature burial, reanimation of the dead, and mourning. But outside horror, Poe also wrote burlesque, satires, humor tales, and hoaxes often in an attempt to liberate the reader from cultural conformity – he wrote for the emerging mass market by including popular cultural phenomena like phrenology and physiognomy. He was also a literary critic, and a newspaper and magazine editor.