Grand Central Terminal Lobby via Wikipedia
On June 26th, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision that wouldn’t just save a cherished New York landmark, it would establish the NYC Landmarks Law for years to come. This drawn-out court battle was the result of a plan, introduced in the late 1960s, to demolish a significant portion of Grand Central Terminal and erect a 50-story office tower.
Though the proposal may seem unthinkable now, it wasn’t at the time. Pennsylvania Station had been demolished a few years earlier, with the owners citing rising costs to upkeep the building as train ridership sharply declined. The NYC Landmarks Law was only established in 1965, the idea of preservation still novel in a city practicing wide-scale urban renewal. Finally, Grand Central wasn’t in good shape itself, falling apart, covered in grime, and home to one of the highest homeless populations in New York City. But a dedicated group of preservationists–aided by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis–took the fight to the highest levels of the court. Keep reading to find out how, as well as learn about the celebrations planned by the MTA surrounding the anniversary.
Here’s how Grand Central was saved
Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt on Riverside Drive is just one of a handful of monuments to women in NYC; via Wikimedia
City officials announced on Wednesday an initiative aimed at bringing more commemorations of historic New York City women to public spaces. First lady Chirlane McCray and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen are seeking ideas of women or events in women’s history that should be honored with monuments. The Department of Cultural Affairs has committed up to $10 million for the program, called She Built NYC!. “This is a first step to creating a public art collection that more accurately represents the diversity of New York City’s history,” McCray told NY1.
On June 24, 1936, thousands of Lower East Siders turned out for a spectacle the likes of which New York had never seen. They jammed Hamilton Fish Park, filled Pitt Street, and perched on surrounding fire-escapes and rooftops to get a glimpse. With great fanfare (and the swim stylings of the Jones Beach Water Troupe) Mayor La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses officially opened Hamilton Fish Pool. The dedication kicked off New York’s “Summer of Pools.” One by one, for each week of the summer, 11 gleaming outdoor pools, financed and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), opened in underserved neighborhoods across the city, providing recreation and relief to millions of heat-addled, Depression-strapped New Yorkers.
Learn more about the summer of 1936
Photo via Kirti Poddar/Flickr
Chocoholics all over the country know Brooklyn blackout cake, a three-tiered devil’s food cake with layers of chocolate pudding and chocolate frosting topped with cake crumbs. In recent years, the rich cake has become re-popularized from its heyday in the first half of the 20th century. But most of us who gluttonously indulge in this tasty dessert have no idea where its borough-centric name came from or just how long this confectioner’s delight has been around. It all started in 1898 at a German bakery called Ebinger’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, but it wasn’t until World War II that the moniker took hold.
Get the full story here
PS General Slocum; photo via Wikimedia
On June 15, 1904, a disaster of unprecedented proportions took place in New York City, resulting in the loss of over 1,000 lives, mostly women and children. This largely forgotten event was the greatest peacetime loss of life in New York City history prior to the September 11th attacks, forever changing our city and the ethnic composition of today’s East Village.
It was on that day that the ferry General Slocum headed out from the East 3rd Street pier for an excursion on Long Island, filled with residents of what was then called Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. This German-American enclave in today’s East Village was then the largest German-speaking community in the world outside of Berlin and Vienna.
Central Park, 1900 © Ray Simone
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Ray Simone shares vintage photographs of New York City he has lovingly restored to stunning quality. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Born-and-raised Manhattanite Ray Simone has a native knowledge of New York, as well as an intimate understanding of its past lives. When he’s not taking current photos of the city, he’s in his Williamsburg studio, restoring its past, negative by negative to shocking quality. While some negatives take under an hour to restore, the more badly damaged ones can require more than 40 hours of painstaking work, going pixel by pixel. “You can only work at something a certain amount of hours at a time,” Simone reflects, “You get tunnel vision after a while; carpal tunnel.” Ahead, 6sqft talks to Simone about his photo restoration business and his thoughts on NYC’s history and future, and we get a special look at some of his greatest restoration works.
Travel back in time
Image via New York Transit Museum
Is there anything more dad-approved than trains and tattoos to celebrate Father’s Day? Not much! This weekend, celebrate with pop at the New York Transit Museum’s 4th Annual Parade of Trains. Hop on and off six different types of vintage train cars, including the oldest train cars in the Transit Museum fleet, dating from 1904.
Visitors can also stop by the museum’s membership station to get a super cool, Father’s Day temporary transit tattoo while learning more about the New York Transit Museum’s ongoing exhibits. The event takes place Saturday (6/16) and Sunday (6/17) from 11 am to 4 pm at the Brighton Beach (B/Q) station. The Parade of Trains shuttle rides are free with the swipe of a MetroCard and will run continuously to and from the Brighton Beach station B/Q platforms.
Get the details
Eleven blocks of Rockaway Beach will be closed this summer due to erosion, but that’s just one setback in a long history of resilience on the peninsula. Four-and-a-half miles of the beach are open right now, with every block steeped in history. The Rockaways ushered Henry Hudson into the New World; Walt Whitman into paradise; Hog Island into oblivion; and the Transatlantic Flight into existence.
As “the brightest jewel within the diadem of imperial Manhattan,” the pristine beaches of the “Queens Riviera” became the preferred summer locale for New York’s most illustrious citizens. Later, the “people’s beach” at Riis Park helped make the Rockaways accessible to more New Yorkers. From, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to Patti Smith to Robert Mosses, everybody wanted to be at Rockaway Beach.
Get the full history here
55 Washington Street in 1907, courtesy of the Skyscaper Museum
New Yorkers are known for their innovative thinking: Inventions like Scrabble, credit cards, and even Baked Alaska all came from local creators. A little less exciting, but still a crucial contraption, the cardboard box was also invented in New York City. Like many discoveries, the box came to be only after a careless mistake. Scottish-born entrepreneur Robert Gair owned a paper bag factory on Reade Street in Manhattan. One day in 1879, a pressman accidentally cut through thousands of small seed bags, instead of pressing them. Following the accident, Gair, who moved headquarters to Dumbo, developed a method for the mass production of cardboard boxes and later supplied major companies like Kellogg and Nabisco.
Find out more
Lincoln Square, a part of the Upper West Side, is a literal square of approximately 50 blocks that runs east-west from Central Park West to the West Side Drive and north-south from 59th to 72nd Streets. The neighborhood, which is bisected by Broadway and contains the Lincoln Center “superblock,” has an enormous amount of culture, loads of prestigious schools, tons of old-school luxury residences lining the park, and a massive, five-acre, four-building new development called Waterline Square, finalizing a decades-long master plan for the neighborhood. Ahead, we take a look at the neighborhood’s history, from its Dutch roots to Robert Moses’ slum clearance, modern residential development, and all the amenities that make this area more fun than one may think.
Your guide to Lincoln Square