On August 8, 2008, Village Preservation and the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC) submitted a request to the LPC to landmark a little-known but remarkable survivor– Congregation Mezritch Synagogue at 515 East 6th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. The building was the last operating “tenement synagogue” in the East Village. A young, little-known developer named Jared Kushner was planning to tear it down and replace it with condos and a new space for the tiny congregation, which had operated out of the building since 1910.
The story has a (relatively) happy ending – the synagogue and much of its surroundings were landmarked in 2012, and the demolition plan was dropped. But unlike the deservedly beloved and celebrated Eldridge Street Synagogue, now a National Historic Landmark, Mezritch is one of several unique but in many cases overlooked historic synagogues still standing in and around Greenwich Village, the East Village, and the Lower East Side, which in the early 20th century contained what was by many accounts the largest Jewish community in the world. Ahead, we take a look at the history of seven of them and what makes them so unique.
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What do Woody Guthrie, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Frank Schubert (the nation’s last civilian lighthouse keeper) have in common? They all lived in Sea Gate, a private community at the westernmost tip of Coney Island. Sea Gate began as a 19th-century playground for the rich, turned into a hotbed of Yiddish literature and Socialist labor activism in the 1930s, and sported at least one commune in the early ‘70s. Today, Sea Gate is home to about 8,000 residents who enjoy private beaches and expansive views of the Verrazano Bridge.
If you want to “get in the Gate,” as the locals say, but aren’t ready to relocate west of the Wonder Wheel, you can snag a summer membership at the Sea Gate Beach Club, where even non-residents can while away the hours under a cabana. Or, you can read on for the history of a Coney Island beach town you’ve probably never been to.
Walt Whitman Way, image via Google Street View.
The corner of Dekalb Avenue and Ryerson Street in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn will be named Walt Whitman Way following a City Council vote on July 23, the Brooklyn Eagle reports. The intersection is a few avenues from 99 Ryerson Street, where the modest home in which the poet–a former Brooklyn Eagle editor–penned “Leaves of Grass” still stands. May of this year saw the the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth, and several efforts have also been underway to landmark the house as well.
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Sketch of the madhouse on Blackwell’s Island via NYPL; Photo of Nellie Bly via Wikimedia
An investigative journalist who exposed the horrible conditions of a New York City insane asylum will be honored with a memorial. In 1887, reporter Nellie Bly went undercover at the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum, located on what is now Roosevelt Island, and documented the cruel treatment of women being held there. Her six-part investigative piece, “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” led to major changes, including increased funding for the asylum and removal of abusive staff members. To recognize her achievements, a monument will be erected next year on Roosevelt Island.
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Photo credit: Evan Joseph for Empire State Realty Trust.
The Empire State Building unveiled today the second phase of a freshly reimagined $165 million Observatory Experience. The new second-floor gallery treats visitors to a series of nine individual exhibits, taking them on a digitally enhanced, experiential journey from the building’s construction to its current iconic cultural status. The 10,000-square-foot gallery’s redesign was led by experience designer Thinc along with team members IDEO, Squint Opera, Beneville Studios, Diversified, Intersection, Kubik Maltbie, Otis Elevator Company and Tenguerian Model.
Photos this way
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The tumult and unrest in the streets of Puerto Rico right now harken back to a time when many Puerto Rican New Yorkers were also agitating in the streets for long-overdue reform and change. One milestone in that history took place 50 years ago when several Puerto Rican activists gathered in the East Village to found the New York Chapter of the Young Lords. This began a flowering of Puerto Rican cultural and social ferment in the East Village, the legacy of which can still be seen and experienced in the neighborhood today. From Tompkins Square Park to the Nuyorican Poets Café, here are six of the most significant spots.
Bowne & Co. Stationers today, via Flickr cc
Bowne & Co. Stationers, which the South Street Seaport Museum bills as the city’s “oldest operating business under the same name,” has been a presence in Lower Manhattan since 1775. That year, Robert Bowne opened a dry goods and stationery store at 39 Queen Street. Following the American Revolution, Bowne & Co. grew along with the Port of New York, providing the advertising, stationary, and financial printing that made it possible for life and commerce at the port to function and thrive. Because New York’s printers were responsible for printing everything from stock certificates to tugboat notices, steamship broadsides to cargo invoices, fishmongers’ business cards to bankers’ prospectuses, the industry helped the city emerge as the world’s busiest port, and its preeminent financial center.
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This year, the American Museum of Natural History celebrates its 150th anniversary. Though best known for its spectacular T. Rex skeletons and incredible hanging blue whale, the story of this Upper West Side museum isn’t just one of dinosaurs and dioramas. For example, did you know that Ulysses S. Grant laid the cornerstone? Or how about that in the 1930s, there was a proposal to build a promenade through Central Park to connect the Museum with the Met? Ahead, we’ve rounded up eight things you might not know about the American Museum of Natural History.
All photos in this post were taken during the Central Park Moon-In, July 20th, 1969, by Parks Photographer Daniel McPartlin. Courtesy of the NYC Parks Photo Archive.
This Saturday, July 20, will mark 50 years since Neil Armstrong made one giant leap for mankind and set foot on the lunar surface. On Earth, hundreds of millions of people held a collective worldwide breath, then let out an ecstatic whoop of awe and excitement as man met moon. Earthlings around the globe may have wished to be aboard Apollo 11, but New Yorkers knew at least one thing for sure: If they couldn’t go to the moon, they could definitely dress up as the moon, head to Central Park, and witness the out-of-this-world walk from any of three 9’ X 12’ screens, offering coverage from NBC, CBS, and ABC. So began the greatest watch party in New York’s history. Roughly 8,000 New Yorkers, dressed all in white, sprawled across the Sheep Meadow for a blowout celestial-celebration known as The Moon-In.
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On Sunday, thousands of revelers will gather in Williamsburg for a festival full of food, dancing, and live music. Unlike other Brooklyn events, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel and San Paolino di Nola Feast is based in a tradition that got its start in Italy over 1,000 years ago, with its centerpiece a four-ton 72-foot tower. As part of the neighborhood’s nearly two-week feast, the tall, ornately decorated structure, known as the “Giglio,” is carried through the streets by over 100 men. The Giglio Feast, which officially kicked off on Wednesday, has been held in Williamsburg every July since 1903, nearly two decades before the better-known Feast of San Gennaro was celebrated in Little Italy. Ahead, learn about the roots of the unique festival, how it’s evolved over the last 116 years, and what to expect this year.