All posts by Lucie Levine

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Art, Events

Mort Gerberg, “No, not a ‘D’ – it’s a ‘B’! You know, like in Beowulf…Botticelli…Brahams…”, cartoon for the Saturday Review, 1965 Courtesy of the New York Historical Society

Sometimes, the daily grind of  New York City life – from waiting for the subway, to getting hit with unidentified “New York Drip,” to sharing an apartment with God-knows-how-many people, can be overwhelming. Other times, you just have to laugh. Beloved cartoonist Mort Gerberg has been helping New Yorkers laugh about the various predicaments of city life, current events, politics, and even sports for more than 50 years. Now through May 5th, the New-York Historical Society is hosting “Mort Gerberg Cartoons: A New Yorker’s Perspective,” a retrospective of his work that offers over 120 cartoons, drawings, and pieces of sketch reportage spanning the whole of Gerberg’s career.

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Featured Story

Features, History, Upper West Side 

10 things you might not know about Riverside Park

By Lucie Levine, Tue, February 12, 2019

Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. (1887 – 1964). Parks – Riverside Park – West 122nd Street; Via NYPL Digital Collections

Riverside Park is the place to be whether you want to bask in the sun at the 79th Street Boat Basin, pay respects at Grant’s Tomb, or do your best T. Rex at Dinosaur Playground. Did you know that the park’s history is as varied as its charms? From yachts to goats to cowboys, check out 10 things you might not know about Riverside Park!

Get all the details!

Art, Harlem, History

Photo of Harriet Tubman Memorial, “Swing Low,” in Harlem via denisbin on Flickr

Harriet Tubman, the fearless abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad who led scores of slaves to freedom in some 13 expeditions, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, and dedicated herself to Women’s Suffrage later in life, was known as “Moses” in her own time, and is revered in our time as an extraordinary trailblazer. Her status as a groundbreaking African American woman also extends to the now-contentious realm of public statuary and historical commemoration, since Tubman was the first African American woman to be depicted in public sculpture in New York City.

Tubman’s statue, also known as “Swing Low,” was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, and designed by the African-American artist Alison Saar. It was dedicated in 2008 at Harlem’s Harriet Tubman Triangle on 122nd Street. In her memorial sculpture, Saar chose to depict Tubman “not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as a train itself, an unstoppable locomotive that worked towards improving the lives of slaves for most of her long life.” She told the Parks Department, “I wanted not merely to speak of her courage or illustrate her commitment, but to honor her compassion.”

Learn all about this statue

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Features, Harlem, History

The Apollo Theater c. 1946, via Library of Congress

The Apollo Theater, the legendary venue at 253 West 125th Street “where stars are born and legends are made,” opened its hallowed doors on January 26th, 1934. That year, a 17-year-old Ella Fitzgerald made her debut at Amateur Night, kicking off a tradition that has served as a launch pad for luminaries including Sarah Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and the Jackson 5. To celebrate its 85th anniversary, we’ve rounded up 10 things you might not know about this iconic Harlem institution, from its beginnings as a whites-only burlesque club to becoming the place where James Brown recorded four albums.

All this and more

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Features, History

Jackie Robinson at bat, 1949, photo by Frank Bauman, courtesy of MCNY, LOOK Collection

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson strode onto Ebbets Field, and into history, as the first African American Major League Baseball player. During his stellar 10-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was the first player ever named Rookie of the Year. He became National League MVP 1949 and was named an All-Star every year from 1949-1954. After retiring from Baseball, Jackie Robinson remained a trailblazer. He became the first African American officer of a national corporation, as well as a Civil Rights leader, corresponding with politicians including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, urging each to support true equality for all Americans.

January 31, 2019, would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday. To mark the centennial, the Museum of the City of New York and the Jackie Robinson Foundation have collaborated on a new photography exhibit “In the Dugout With Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend.” The exhibit features unpublished photos of Robinson, originally shot for Look Magazine, and memorabilia related to Robinson’s career. The exhibit will open at MCNY on the 31st to kick off the Foundation’s yearlong Jackie Robinson Centennial Celebration, which culminates in the opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum in Lower Manhattan in December 2019. As part of the celebration, 6sqft is exploring the history of 10 spots around town where you can walk in the footsteps of an American hero.

Follow 42…

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Features, History

First Earth Day, April 22, 1970. View of crowds in Union Square, NYC Parks Photo Archive, Neg #53262_28. All of the photos in this post are courtesy of the Parks Department.

Maybe you’ve gathered in Union Square. Perhaps you’ve marched up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. You could have even held signs aloft in Columbus Circle, Tompkins Square, or Zuccotti Park. If you have ever been part of a protest in any park across the five boroughs, you’re in good company. New York City’s parks have a rich history of social protest that stretches back to the American Revolution.

Today, the NYC Parks Department’s Ebony Society will kick off a celebration of that history with “Power to the People,” which will feature archival photographs alongside mixed-media art on the theme of public demonstration. To celebrate the exhibit, we checked out the history behind some of the protests highlighted in the show.

Read on for the history of seven protests in NYC Parks

Financial District, History

Federal Hall, George Washington statue

Photo of Federal Hall and the George Washington statue, via John Schiller/Flickr cc 

Right now, Federal Hall at Wall and Broad Streets is closed due to the Government Shutdown. But long before the current crisis, Federal Hall was the site of several Federal firsts. New York was the nation’s first capital, a distinction the city held until 1790, and the original Federal Hall, at the site of today’s monument, was the first Capital Building. Federal Hall hosted the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch Offices. The building witnessed the drafting of the Bill of Rights and the passage of the Northwest Ordinance. George Washington took his Oath of Office from the balcony of Federal Hall on April 30, 1789, and on January 8, 1790, he delivered the nation’s very first State of the Union Address from the building’s Senate Chamber.

What were the hot-button issues of 1790?

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Behind the Scenes, Downtown Brooklyn, Features, History

Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn, 9 DeKalb Avenue, Halsey McCormack and Helmer, Dime Savings Bank history

Since it opened in 1859, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn has been integral to the history of the borough it calls home. True to its name, you could open a savings account with just a dime. The first person to make a deposit was a man named John Halsey who invested $50. Scores of Brooklynites followed suit, and by the end of the bank’s first business day, 90 people opened accounts; by the end of the first month, more than 1,000 people were depositing at Dime.

But the bank cemented its prominent status in 1908 when the first subway tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn opened and Dime moved into its grand neo-classical building on Dekalb Avenue and Fleet Street. After the bank closed in 2002, the landmark still stood in all its former glory, operating as a special event space. Three years ago, JDS Development filed plans to build Brooklyn’s tallest tower adjacent to Dime, incorporating its Beaux-Arts interior as retail space for the project. And with work now underway, 6sqft recently got a behind-the-scenes tour of Dime Savings Bank with Open House New York.

Explore the history and future of Dime Savings Bank

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Features, History

Gum, and Gum disposal, advertising on the 8th Avenue IND, via The Municipal Archives

In December 1939, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was at war – with chewing gum. The situation was one we would recognize today: the subway was stuck. With subterranean transit stalled and sticking in stations, the Mayor believed the answer was a full-scale assault on chewing gum. La Guardia led the charge against gum, urging New Yorkers to throw away their finished sticks, rather than sticking them to the city’s streets and subway stations. In true La Guardia fashion, he turned his crusade against sticky subways into a city-wide contest, soliciting catchy anti-gum slogans from the public. And in true New York fashion, the public responded with a variety of slogans, from the sweet to the sly, including “Don’t be Dumb, Park Your Gum” and “Shoot the Wad.”

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Features, Financial District, History, holidays

Ringing in the New Year via NYC Parks

Every year on December 31st, the eyes of the world turn to Times Square. In fact, New Yorkers, and revelers worldwide have been ringing in the New Year from 42nd Street since 1904, when Adolf Ochs christened the opening of the New York Times building on what was then Longacre Square with a New Years celebration complete with midnight fireworks. In 1907, Ochs began dropping a ball from the flagpole of the Times tower, and a tradition for the ages was set in motion.

But long before Adolf Ochs and his proclivity for pyrotechnics, New Yorkers had been ringing in the New Year with traditions both dignified and debauched. From the George Washington and the old Dutch custom of “Calling,” to the rancorous tooting of tin horns, one thing is clear, New York has always gone to town for the New Year.

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