Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs squaring off
Love him or hate him, Robert Moses left an indelible mark on New York City’s urban infrastructure. Most of us formed our opinions on the city’s master planner after reading Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Power Broker.” But if you’re looking for a lighter (in both senses of the word; Caro’s book weighs 3.3 pounds) read on Mr. Moses, you may want to check out the new graphic novel “Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City.” Created by French writer Pierre Christin and Chilean artist Olivier Balez, the “anti-hero comic” is the perfect dramatic portrayal of Moses, both celebrating and criticizing his contributions to the city.
We were saddened here at 6sqft to hear about the passing last week of Leonard Nimoy, an extraordinary actor, director, poet, singer, and photographer, known worldwide for his role as Mr. Spock in “Star Trek.” Closer to home, though, Nimoy was also known as a dedicated philanthropist who adored the Upper West Side’s Symphony Space. In fact, in 2002 the multi-disciplinary performing arts organization renamed its historic Thalia Theater the Leonard Nimoy Thalia to reflect their patron’s generosity.
Just like the storied career of Nimoy, Symphony Space has its own eclectic past, from its beginnings as a food market funded by Vincent Astor to the Crystal Palace skating rink and, finally, to a neighborhood institution frequented by the likes of Stephen Colbert and Cynthia Nixon.
Learn about this history of Symphony Space here
It’s hard to imagine New York City without its streets overflowing with people, but this “home video” we’ve uncovered from 1968 gives us an incredible look at the city during one of its most transformative periods. Although the video quality isn’t all that great—the guy or gal filming this is using ’60s technology, after all—the footage captured is pretty stellar nonetheless. Expect to see a near-desolate Soho, a Strand bookstore that amazingly looks exactly like it does today, and a lot of tucked shirts and knee-length skirts. Though there aren’t any protesting hippies or riots in the near-30-minute video, there are signs of the politically contentious times, including a couple of poster boards urging citizens to join the U.S. Marines and Army.
Starting at the Brooklyn Bridge, going up Broadway, and ending at the lake in a very crowded Central Park, you won’t want to miss a second of this fantastic film.
Watch the video here
The Village People Stepping Out, The Grand Ballroom, NY, NY, June 1978 (l); Three Amigos, Bushwick (r). By Meryl Meisler.
It’s 2015 and Bushwick is on fire. But instead of being lost to the flames of neglect and destruction, buildings are being sold and rented like hotcakes. Photographer Meryl Meisler’s first monograph, “Disco Era Bushwick: A Tale of Two Cities,” published by Bizarre Bushwick gives us an insider’s view of the streets and scenes of New York City during the glam/gritty 1970s and ‘80s when Manhattan’s iconic dance clubs like Studio 54 and Paradise Garage were in their heyday–and there was no brunch to be had in Bushwick.
See more of a bad and bygone Bushwick this way
If you’ve ever wondered what subway lines were the first to appear in NYC, this cool animated map has all the answers and then some. Created by Appealing Industries via Paste Magazine (h/t Untapped), the map shows the evolution of the city’s various lines over the 100-plus years that it’s been in operation. Surprisingly, Brooklyn is the first to see action on the map; the lines were part of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (later the BMT), created in 1896, and followed existing surface railways and streetcar lines. The IRT, which runs in Manhattan and marked the official opening of the subway network, wasn’t established until several years later in 1904. Untapped is also apt to note that the map doesn’t consider the aboveground rail lines that were constructed in the late 19th century, nor does it include the first pneumatically-powered subway line which opened in 1870.
Magnolia Grandiflora via Wiki Commons (L); Weeping Beech Tree via NY State Archives (R)
Last week we looked at the city’s oldest and tallest tree in Alley Pond, Queens, which got us thinking about one of the questions at the Preservation Trivia night we recently attended. What are the only two living things in NYC to have ever been landmarked? We’ll admit, we were stumped. We guessed Peter Stuyvesant’s pear tree and the World Trade Center Survivor Tree, which were both wrong. But they are trees: the Weeping Beech Tree in Flushing, Queens and the Magnolia Grandiflora in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. And to make it even more exclusive, only the latter still survives; the Beech Tree died and was cut down in 1999.
Find out the history of how these landmarks came to be
A 1776 map that shows Peter Stuyvesant’s farm in the present-day East Village
Cartographers and history buffs will have a field day with this online tool known as NYC Time Machine. Using public data from the New York Public Library, the resource allows users to “navigate perfectly-overlaid maps of NYC from 1660 to present day.” The site is part of Vestiges of New York, which overlays historic photos and current images.
Can you visualize what New York City looked like in 1896? If not, a new video will let you step back in time. It shows shots of 28 locations from 1905 all the way back to 1896, making it the oldest known footage of the city. The absolute oldest shots were taken on May 11, 1896 and were of Herald Square. Since in many cases a lot has changed over the last century, pinpointed maps with dates provide a welcome commentary.
Watch the full video here
Alley Pond Park via NYC Parks (L); The Queens Giant via NPR by Benjamin Swett (R)
In case you haven’t noticed, we typically talk about buildings here at 6sqft, but today we’re taking a look at a different kind of structure important to the urban fabric of New York City–a tree. But not just any tree; this is the oldest and tallest tree in the entire city, and it can be found in Alley Pond Park in Queens, between Douglaston and Bayside.
Known as the Queens Giant, the record holder is a 134-foot (when last measured in 2005) tulip poplar tree that is believed to be 450 years old, according to Untapped Cities. Despite its impressive status, however, even the most seasoned New Yorkers don’t know about this gem, which is likely what has led to its longevity.
Find out more here
Expect conditions to be a little more, um, icy. Photo courtesy of Green-Wood Cemetery
What could be more romantic than a cozy mid-winter afternoon trolley ride through one of NYC’s most interesting national historic landmarks, Green-Wood Cemetery? Celebrate this most romantic of holidays with a bit of a gothic twist: Expert guide Ruth Edebohls will lead a tour highlighting historic power couples, romantic monuments and tales of love everlasting, both triumphant and grim.
You can also view Civil War love letters from the Brooklyn Historical Society’s historic archives on display in the Historic Chapel and have some coffee, tea or hot chocolate before the trolley tour begins. The event is on February 14, 1-3 PM; $20 for Green-Wood and BHS members/$25 for nonmembers.
Find out more and buy tickets here: Love Set in Stone: A Valentine’s Trolley Tour.