The Wonder Wheel with no cars installed; photos © James and Karla Murray
Honoring a 60-year tradition of opening on Palm Sunday, Coney Island Amusement Park will be back in business this Sunday, April 14th. One of the many activities will be the annual blessing of the rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel. The 150-foot-tall, 100-year-old structure is one of the most iconic pieces remaining at Coney Island. But there’s a lot that goes into this seasonal opening than even the most well-versed New Yorker may not know. Each winter, the 200-ton ride is repainted, and all of its 24 cars are removed. But come spring, second-generation co-owner Steve Vourderis goes through the process of precisely reinstalling and aligning the cars. We were lucky enough to visit Steve and his brother Dennis on a recent frigid Sunday to watch the magic happen.
Go behind-the-scenes at the Wonder Wheel
To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the Waldorf Astoria closed its doors in 2017 for a huge renovation project that will ultimately create larger hotel rooms and add a new set of luxury condos. After the plans were announced, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the hotel’s first three floors as an interior landmark, meaning the new owners will need to preserve the 1931 Art Deco spaces. But after a four-year hiatus (the hotel will reopen in 2021) and a completely new vibe, it’s not clear if those interiors will have the same glamorous, old-school New York vibe that they were once famous for. Luckily, photographers James and Karla Murray captured the Waldorf in all its glory before it closed its doors. Ahead, take a tour of the old Waldorf, from its iconic, two-ton lobby clock to the three-tiered grand ballroom.
Take the tour
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
Photos courtesy of Roey Yohai Studio
Gracie Mansion, the residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is officially in full holiday spirit. The historic home, which dates back to 1799, is showing off decorations that promote some of the mayor’s top initiatives, plus the overall theme of togetherness. It’s all the work of New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray and renowned event planner Bryan Rafanelli, who have been refining the vision since this summer. This is Rafanelli’s second year working with McCray to decorate the people’s home of New York. For 2018, they selected jewel-toned colors, lots of ribbon, and even worked in some participation from New Yorkers.
Keep reading to figure out how the pair made it happen, an effort that includes bringing a 17-foot-tall tree through a narrow French door into the mansion’s ballroom. The images are sure to put you in a New York holiday spirit.
Hardhats aren’t your typical church-going attire, but they were necessary at Trinity Church when Vicar Rev. Philip Jackson led a behind-the-scenes tour of Trinity’s ongoing $112,000,000, two-year restoration. The project, officially known as a “rejuvenation” of the facilities, began on May 7, 2018, and is slated to be finished in the spring of 2020. Now six months underway, the meticulous work, headed by architect Jeff Murphy of Murphy Burnham and Buttrick, will preserve Trinity’s landmarked church building while “enhancing the overall worship experience,” by making the church more accessible and welcoming.
Weaving our way between scaffolding and rubble in one of New York’s most iconic naves, we saw the very foundation of Trinity Church’s past and got a glimpse of its future. From the finer points of organ-voicing to some of the first examples of American stained-glass, check out 10 of the most exciting behind-the-scenes secrets of the Trinity Church Restoration.
Check out the Church!
Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the majestic Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, as well as the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights. In 2016, we joined Untapped Cities and NYCEDC on a tour of Brooklyn Kings Theatre, and just last month, as part of Untapped Cities Insider’s Tours, we were lucky enough to tour and photograph the former Loew’s Valencia Theatre on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, which is now home to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.
The majestic Loew’s Valencia Theatre opened on Saturday, January 12, 1929, as the first, largest, and most famous of the five flagship Loew’s “Wonder” Theatres established in the New York City area from 1929-30. All of the grand movie palaces were built by Marcus Loew of the Loew’s Theatres chain to establish the firm as a leader in film exhibition and to simultaneously serve as a fantastical yet affordable escape for people of all classes from the tedium and anxieties of their daily lives. The Valencia most definitely did not shy away from this fantastical approach, with its Spanish/Mexican Baroque architecture, gilded ornamentation, rich jewel-tone colors, and elaborate carvings.
Take the grand tour
As a media sponsor of Archtober–NYC’s annual month-long architecture and design festival of tours, lectures, films, and exhibitions–6sqft has teamed up with the Center for Architecture to explore some of their 70+ partner organizations.
With stunning stained glass windows and a striking mix of Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque features, the Eldridge Street Synagogue cuts an imposing figure on the Lower East Side. The Synagogue opened in 1887 as the first and finest Orthodox house of worship built by Eastern European Jews in America and served as a spiritual headquarters for millions of immigrants as they made new homes in New York. By the turn of the 20th century, over 4,000 congregants supported three daily services, and holiday crowds overwhelmed the building.
But, by the 1940s, the congregation dwindled, and the doors of the great sanctuary were sealed; not to be reopened until the 1970s. When preservationists rallied to save the building on its 100th anniversary, they rediscovered the splendor of the sacred structure and spent 20 years restoring it. Following a meticulous restoration, the Synagogue reopened in 2007 as the Museum at Eldridge Street. Today, the museum welcomes visitors from around the world, and preserves city’s immigrant history as well as the structure’s sacred secrets.
Learn about these 10 secrets of the synagogue
Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water in Brooklyn that got its name from the horse rendering plants that were on the former Barren Island in Jamaica Bay near the shoreline of Flatlands. In the late 1850s, Barren Island was the site of the largest dump in New York City, fed by barges carrying garbage and animal remains. Factories on the island used the carcasses of horses, which were put in large vats and boiled until the fat could be removed, for use in fertilizer, glue, and oils. The bones of the horses were then chopped up and dumped into the water. Starting in 1930, the island also became the site of the first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett) after the city filled in marshland to connect it to the mainland.
The last horse rendering factory on the island closed in 1935 and in 1936, the island’s final 400 residents were evicted to make way for the creation of the Belt Parkway. The City continued using the area as a garbage dump until 1953 when the landfill was capped. Since 1972, the area surrounding Dead Horse Bay has been part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We joined Robin Nagle, NYC Department of Sanitation’s Anthropologist-in-Residence for an exclusive exploration of Dead Horse Bay earlier this year with the City Reliquary Museum and had a chance to speak with her about this mysterious area, which is strewn with glass bottles, fragments of centuries-old horse bones, and mounds of trash.
Have a look around
We first learned about the proposal to turn Williamsburg‘s former Bayside Oil Depot into a public park nearly two years ago. Since then, co-founders Karen Zabarsky and Stacey Anderson have been working tirelessly with a team of designers and environmentalists to refine their plans to be something both true to the site’s history and representative of where the neighborhood is heading. Part of the larger Bushwick Inlet Park, a 28-acre open space along an unused waterfront industrial stretch, the plan is unique in that it plans to adaptively reuse the 10, 50-foot decommissioned fuel containers, transforming them into everything from performance spaces to greenhouses.
With a fresh name–THE TANKS at Bushwick Inlet Park–Karen and Stacey recently took 6sqft on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the abandoned site, giving us a glimpse into how this incredible industrial relic is poised to become NYC’s next anticipated park. Get a rare, up-close look at the tanks, hear what these powerhouse women have been up to, and learn what we can expect in the near future.
You won’t believe these photos
Earlier this year, 6sqft got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the Loew’s Jersey City, one of the five opulent Loew’s Wonder Theatres built in 1929-30 around the NYC area. We’ve now gotten a tour of another, the United Palace in Washington Heights. Originally known as the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, the “Cambodian neo-Classical” landmark has served as a church and cultural center since it closed in 1969 and was purchased by televangelist Reverend Ike, who renamed it the Palace Cathedral. Today it’s still owned by late Reverend’s church but functions as a spiritual center and arts center.
Thanks to Reverand Ike and his church’s continued stewardship, Manhattan’s fourth-largest theater remains virtually unchanged since architect Thomas W. Lamb completed it in 1930. 6sqft recently visited and saw everything from the insane ornamentation in the lobby to the former smoking lounge that recently caught the eye of Woody Allen. We also chatted with UPCA’s executive director Mike Fitelson about why this space is truly one-of-a-kind.
Take the incredible digital tour