Events, History, New Developments, Policy

EVENT: Is Historic Preservation Elitist?

By Diane Pham, Thu, July 9, 2015

west village, west 4th street

Many folks argue that historic preservation is elitist, time-consuming, expensive and a drain on resources, further claiming that it’s a whole lot easier, cheaper and more practical to replace an old building with something new—especially when that means more housing. However, on the other side of that coin is the argument that historic districts and the architecture preserved within them are a critical part of maintaining the culture and the air of a place. Really, can you imagine a West Village made up only of tall glass buildings?

On Monday, July 20th at 6:30-8:30 PM, join a panel of community activists, preservationists and architects at The Museum of the City of NY as they discuss the challenges of preserving unique neighborhoods “whose greatest asset lies in the histories they contain, rather than the quality of their buildings.” Panelists will include Claudette Brady, a Bed-Stuy resident and essayist of the book Saving Place; Kerri Culhane, Two Bridges’ Associate Director; Nikolai Fedak, of pro-development blog YIMBY; Tia Powell Harris, Weeksville President & Executive Director; and Paimaan Lodhi, REBNY Vice President for Urban Planning. Laurie Beckelman, Founding Partner of Beckelman+Capalino will serve as the moderator. The event is free for museum members and $16 for general public. You can purchase tickets here.



History, Transportation, Video

The Atlantic, funicular, history of transportation, human travel

The fact that skiing has gone from a major mode of transportation to a winter recreational activity says a lot about how getting from point A to B has changed over the course of human history. “Here to There,” the latest video in the Atlantic’s 10-part animated series (we previously featured an installment on housing through time), traces the history of transportation from the canoe in 8,000 B.C. to the recent debut of the hydrogen fuel-cell car. Covering more than 10,000 years in two-and-a-half minutes, this video shows that there is much more to the timeline of transportation than the switch from horses and buggies to motor vehicles.

Watch the video here

Featured Story

Features, History

Map of freedmen’s farmland via Slavery in New York (L); Harper’s Magazine illustration of the New York City slave market in 1643 (R)

A stranger on horseback in 1650 riding up a road in Manhattan might have noticed black men working farmland near the Hudson River. It was not an unusual sight, and if he remarked on it at all to himself, he would have thought they were simply slaves working their masters’ land. But no–these were freedmen working land they personally owned and had owned for six years. It was land in what is now the Far West Village and it had been granted to eleven enslaved men along with their freedom in 1644.

In 1626, the year Manhattan was formally settled by the Dutch, these eleven African men had been rounded up in Angola and Congo and shipped to the New World to work as slaves clearing land and building fortifications. We know they were from there because the manifests of Dutch ships list them with names such as Emmanuel Angola and Simon Congo. Another of the eleven was named Willem Anthonys Portugies, suggesting that he may have been bought and sold in Portugal before reaching his final destination in New Amsterdam.

How did these men get the right to own land?

History, Video

Port Authority in 1950

Port Authority in  1950, via MCNY

When Port Authority bus terminal opened in 1950 it was considered “among the miracles of transport and the milestones of the century.” Though we’re pretty sure this sentiment is entirely lost today, it’s still interesting to see how shiny and new Port Authority was regarded as 65 years ago.

This video was a promotional newsreel for the terminal, and it notes that Port Authority wasn’t just built to keep buses off the busy Manhattan streets, but because “the states of New York and New Jersey also wanted to make life pleasanter for the traveler.”

Watch the video here

City Living, History

NYPD car, New York City Police Department

Around the country, little children are taught to dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency as soon as they know their ABCs and 123s. But, believe it or not, this universal number hasn’t even been around for 50 years. It was first implemented right here in New York City in July of 1968. Before that, New Yorkers had to call the police department’s main phone line at 440-1234. At first, it was only for police calls; it wasn’t until 1970 that the three-digit number also reached the fire department and ambulance services.

Read more


Plaza Hotel, Goldfleck the lion, Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

The Plaza (L) and Goldfleck’s headstone at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery (R)

Last week, we explored the history of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, America’s oldest and largest cemetery of its kind. We mentioned that beloved pets laid to rest in this upstate burial ground include much more than just cats and dogs. One of the most notable unconventional pets is Goldfleck, a lion cub who lived the life of royalty in the Plaza Hotel.

Goldfleck belonged to Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy of Hungary. She was a well-known portrait painter with a love for animals. After visiting New York twice, she moved to the city permanently in 1909, taking up residence in a 14-room suite on the third floor of the Plaza. She had seen a cute lion cub at the Ringling Brothers circus, but when she asked to buy him, the circus owners refused. They did, however, agree to sell him to Daniel E. Sickles, a Civil War hero whose portrait the Princess had just painted. He immediately turned the cub over to Princess Elisabeth.

Find out the rest of the story

History, Video

Watch this 26-minute video without sound and you’ll see a striking, visual portrait of the 1970s graffiti movement in NYC, where everything from park monuments to subway cars was covered in tags. Listen to the commentary, though, and you’ll find something much deeper. Created as a mini-documentary for BBC, the video explores the root of graffiti culture. Is it folk art, youngsters marking their territory, planned-out vandalism, a result of pent-up anxiety, or quiet rebellion? Keep in mind this one of the roughest and crime-ridden decades in the city, so it’s interesting to see how some of those interviewed saw graffiti as a parallel to the crime, while others felt it was an artistic alternative that typified the energy of New York.

Watch the video here

History, Upstate

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

We treat our pets like family during their lives, so why not give them the same dignity in the afterlife as we would a human relative? This is a pretty common sentiment in today’s society, but it’s actually nothing new. In fact, the country’s first pet cemetery opened right here in New York, and still to this day is the nation’s largest such burial ground.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery was established in 1896 by NYC veterinarian Samuel Johnson (an early promoter of the ASPCA), who provided part of his apple orchard at his Westchester retreat to serve as a burial spot for a client’s dog. Now, nearly 120 years later, this area is the resting place for more than 80,000 pets, from dogs and cats to reptiles and a lion cub who called the Plaza Hotel home. Known as “The Peaceable Kingdom,” the grounds are also home to a 50-ton above-ground mausoleum for a pair of spaniels and the War Dog Memorial, a post-WWI tribute to military canines that was the first of its kind. Even Diana Ross, George Raft, and Mariah Carey have buried their four-legged friends here.

Find out more about this historic pet cemetery

Greenwich Village, History, Video

Yes, the 1960s were a rocky period; a turning point for a nation at war and an era that birthed a counterculture movement that would transform the world as everyone knew it. But amongst all the chaos, life went on in NYC. And in Greenwich Village things were especially great.

We recently uncovered this fun little film that takes viewers through the trends and lifestyles that permeated throughout the beloved neighborhood. Although the times were far different—apartments were filled with struggling creatives like Dylan Thomas, Norman Mailer and Bob Dylan versus wealthy celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio and Sarah Jessica Parker—the life that’s depicted isn’t all that different from what the neighborhood’s uber-rich residents enjoy today. Daily habits, or “chores” as the video calls them, ranged from “minding the laundry, browsing through antique shops for possible bargains, or discovering a rare volume in a quaint bookstore.” Folks would then of course follow up all that work up with a “relaxing moment” at one of the many sidewalk cafes where they’d find an artist ready to draw them.

Watch the video here

History, maps

Taking Pride map, NYC LGBT history, NYC Pride

We’re right in the middle of NYC Pride Week, and this Sunday will be filled with festivities surrounding the 45th annual Pride Parade, the largest parade of its kind in the world. And in a perfectly timed decision, the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced on Tuesday that it had designated the Stonewall Inn as the city’s first LGBT landmark. The LPC now has even more to share, releasing a fun new interactive map called Taking Pride, which documents 150 years of LGBTQ history in Greenwich Village, the hub for gay activism in the city, and even the world.

Read more


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