138 years ago today, throngs of New Yorkers came to the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts to celebrate the opening of what was then known as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. It was reported that 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people total crossed what was then the only land passage between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge–later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge, a name that stuck–went on to become one of the most iconic landmarks in New York. There’s been plenty of history, and secrets, along the way. Lesser-known facts about the bridge include everything from hidden wine cellars to a parade of 21 elephants crossing in 1884. To celebrate the anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge, 6sqft rounded up its top 10 most intriguing secrets.
All posts by Emily Nonko
The image of New York’s old tenements is hardly complete without lines of laundry hanging between each building. Like today, doing laundry was a public endeavor for most New Yorkers. But unlike today, they depended on their building’s laundry lines to dry everything out. Ephemeral New York notes that Monday was typically the chosen day to get it done. As the photo caption says above, full lines of laundry were evident of “A Monday’s Washing.” Monday was known as a “hard wash-day” that required incredible effort from the women of the tenements.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been an unpredictable, challenging year. This March, COVID-19 brought New York City to a standstill, from the city’s bustling street life to the plethora of construction projects that defined the prior year. The pandemic quickly changed the way we live and build, but ultimately didn’t stop New Yorkers from doing either.
The city is still a place with bold new construction projects, glittering towers and mega-developments, unique and creative amenities — especially to respond to a year sticking close to home. 2020 brought the introduction of a new public park inside an Upper West Side mega-development, multi-million dollar condo sales along Billionaire’s Row, the restoration of a classic NYC landmark, and impressive new architecture that promises to shape our ever-changing skyline.
Our picks are down to 12 of the most notable residential structures this year. The only question is: Which do you think deserves 6sqft’s title of 2020 Building of the Year? To have your say, polls for our sixth annual competition will be open up until midnight on Sunday, December 13 and we will announce the winner on Monday, December 14.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “City Hall Subway Station, New York” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1906.
The Interborough Rapid Transit Subway, or IRT, was the first subway company ever in New York City. The company formed as a response to elevated train lines springing up around the city–it was time to go underground and build a rapid transit railroad to help combat street congestion and assist development in new areas of New York, according to NYCsubway.org. And so 116 years ago, on October 27th, 1904, the first IRT subway line opened with the City Hall station as its showpiece. It’s no overstatement to say that after this date, the city would never be the same. And the day was one to remember, with pure excitement over the impressive feat of moving the city’s transit system underground.
Image © Emily Nonko for 6sqft
The iconic Grand Central Terminal is a building with more than a few secrets. Constructed in 1913 with the wealth of the Vanderbilt family, there was a lavish private office (now known as The Campbell Apartment), glass catwalks, a hidden spiral staircase, and even artists’ studios on an upper floor. One of the most infamous secrets of the terminal, however, was a secret track used specifically for a president to access one of the most famous hotels in the world. Known as Track 61, it leads to a special platform that was never used or intended to be used in regular passenger service—it just happened to be in the right place.
1885 map showing 13th Avenue, via the New York Public Library
You may be scratching your head at the mention of the 13th Avenue in Manhattan, but it does exist–and it’s the shortest avenue in the whole city with a fascinating history behind it. The minuscule stretch covers prime Meatpacking District real estate, just west of 11th Avenue and between Little West 12th Street and Gansevoort Street. The single block across the West Side Highway is unmarked, but officially known as Gansevoort Peninsula. The avenue was created by the city in 1837, and in no way was intended to be so short. In fact, by the mid-1800s 13th Avenue encompassed nearly 15 blocks and was planned to stretch all the way up to 135th Street. But the block never left Chelsea and was mostly destroyed by the city at the turn of the century.
An illustration of the first Labor Day parade, via Wiki Commons
Though Labor Day has been embraced as a national holiday–albeit one many Americans don’t know the history of–it originated right here in New York City as a result of the city’s labor unions fighting for worker’s rights throughout the 1800s. The event was first observed, unofficially, on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882, with thousands marching from City Hall up to Union Square. At the time, the New York Times considered the event to be unremarkable. But 137 years later, we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of every September as a tribute to all American workers. It’s also a good opportunity to recognize the hard-won accomplishments of New York unions to secure a better workplace for us today.
Leave it up to Riverdale to supply some of the most jaw-dropping, “is it really in New York City?” properties. This Greek Revival mansion at 5501 Palisade Avenue looks like it belongs upstate, but it’s located right here in the Bronx, in a neighborhood known for impressive properties with views. The 1.7-acre property is situated on the top of the hill, so it has prime views of the Hudson River and the Palisades. The interior, which boasts five bedrooms, isn’t too shabby, either.
Architecture, Chelsea, condos, Features, Major Developments, New Developments, Rentals, Starchitecture
In the decade since the High Line opening, the surrounding area of West Chelsea has exploded into one of Manhattan’s most desirable areas for developers building luxury real estate. (It didn’t hurt that the opening of the now-famous elevated park coincided with a neighborhood rezoning.) These days, any walk along the park reveals a variety of development in different stages of construction right alongside buildings that have welcomed new, typically wealthy residents over the past several years. 6sqft has rounded up the 14 defining buildings now open around the High Line. There are the early trailblazers, like the energy-efficient condo HL23, as well as the starchitect standouts, like Zaha Hadid’s 520 West 28th, and of course, the new kids on the block, including Bjarke Ingels’ twisting towers The XI and Thomas Heatherwick’s bubbled Lantern House condo.
In some ways, 2019 was a continuation of the past few years: political and global uncertainty loomed over the New York real estate market, development continued at a steady pace, and prices were as high as ever. (Oh wait — they were actually higher.) But the year also brought notable changes, from a total overhaul of rent and tenant protections, increased urgency in regards to climate change, an increasingly buyer’s market, and dry-up of the once pervasive rental concessions.
So what’s in store for the year ahead? Real estate experts believe sustained political uncertainty — particularly around an election year — could mean buyers proceed cautiously. The new rent laws will undoubtedly shape New York, as both the rental and condo markets tighten. Pre-war design will make a comeback in defiance of glassy modern architecture, while the focus on sustainability will increase and amenities will become more flexible.