The Bronx Zoo: A History

The Bronx Zoo: A History

In the midst of the country’s foremost urban jungle, an oasis of plants and wildlife collected from around the world has thrived for over 100 years and counting. The Bronx Zoo is one of the city’s crown jewels, attracting over 2 million visitors to the northernmost borough every year. In a city best known for gridlock and nonstop action, the zoo has been a haven of intrigue and discovery for several generations of New Yorkers.

The Bronx Zoo’s story began in 1895 as the brainchild of the newly formed New York Zoological Society (now known as the Wildlife Conservation Society). The society came together with the explicit aim of building a top-quality zoo to complement the city’s celebrated museums and parks. Work soon began on identifying an appropriate site with enough space but not too far for city residents to visit.

By 1898, the newly consolidated City of New York allotted a plot of land in the Bronx to become a wildlife preserve and the following year the New York Zoological Park opened at the Fordham Road site. It was an immediate sensation, attracting thousands of curious guests to see the 843 animals on display. Today, that number has grown to over 4,000 representatives of more than 650 different species, still capturing imaginations of visitors young and old.

The zoo was among the first to consider exhibiting animals outside of restrictive cages, opening their African Plains showcase in 1941, a new kind of exhibit where animals freely intermingled and explored a recreation of the serengeti. This groundbreaking exposition not only offered a thrilling naturalistic display but imparted visitors with an understanding of the importance of preserving animals’ native habitats. The zoo’s Wild Asia did the same thing in an Eastern setting starting in 1977, with 77 acres of roaming space viewable by elevated monorail.

Over the years, the zoo has been home to some truly rare specimens. It’s only one of two zoos in the United States to have exhibited the thylacine, a now-extinct doglike marsupial from Tasmania. Their last thylacine died in 1919, and the species’ last known individual died in captivity in 1936.

Perhaps the zoo’s best known species have been their snow leopards, first exhibited in 1903. Over 70 of the endangered white cats have been bred at the Bronx Zoo, making it their foremost sanctuary in the United States. They’re far from the only rare species to call the zoo home, however, with Chinese Alligators, Kihansi Spray Toads, and Yellow-Headed Box Turtles all calling the Bronx their birthplace over the years.

The successful 20th century effort to revive the American Bison has much to owe to the zoo as well. The zoo’s original director William T. Hornaday cofounded the American Bison Society in 1905, and set about breeding the animal in the Bronx Zoo’s confines. Two years later, the zoo was able to send 15 bison to a preserve in Oklahoma, where a thriving colony exists to this day.

The zoo boasts some remarkable non-animalian features as well. The famed Rockefeller Fountain on the park’s north side, brought to the United States from Como, Italy by oil baron William Rockefeller, is a designated New York City Landmark, as are the bronze Rainey Memorial Gates decorating the zoo’s north entrance. Architectural enthusiasts will also appreciate the historic beaux-arts buildings of Astor Court, including the Elephant house and the zoo’s main administrative building.

In a city that boasts soaring buildings and cutting edge works of art, there’s no experience quite like the thrill and wonder housed in the 250 acres of the Bronx Zoo. Whether a leisurely visit or a lifetime residency, no time spent in New York City is complete without visiting the city’s wildest residents.

What Amazon’s Rise Means for New York City

What Amazon’s Rise Means for New York City

Amazon has changed the way we shop, but two Amazon products will change the face of New York City as we know it — and they’re not what you might expect. As much as we’ve seen Amazon innovate online, the tech giant is also changing the way we shop for basics, and that impacts local stores in every neighborhood. The issue is, of course, that mom-and-pop stores will have trouble competing with the pricing Amazon secures through the sheer quantity it sells. When looking at Amazon and its effect on brick-and-mortar stores, the company’s rise is likely to both threaten and encourage the shops that line our city streets.

First, here’s what Amazon is bringing back from the past. Remember bookstores? When Amazon Books announced its first NYC location on Columbus Circle, not only New Yorkers were skeptical. Books, printed on paper? Sold in an actual building? It seemed so…analog. Inside Amazon Books, the shelves are actually set up and stocked based on the online data collected from customers everywhere, so it’s a mix of both. The location was chosen based on data including the purchasing habits in the neighborhood. There must be a lot of Kindle owners on the west side! The next location will be at 7 W 34th Street.

One interesting aesthetic detail is the store places its books with the cover facing out. This is the way you would see the book online, but it’s also a pleasant surprise compared to the library style of a row of book spines. Somewhere, book designers are rejoicing. It’s all set up to encourage shoppers to come into the store and spend time using a mix of information and intuition to buy. Something is charming about bringing bookshops back to the city. What this means for the neighborhood is more foot traffic and a destination for shopping which could encourage related businesses to establish themselves nearby.

There could be another effect of the arrival of Amazon Books. As a massive store, Amazon can set trends. Smaller, beloved bookstores of New York could potentially benefit from the rise of book shopping. What if book readings and poetry nights could actually receive a boost from the competition? Amazon Books, in bringing back the bookstore, might revitalize a whole reading culture again. The New York Public Library will always be great, but books can use all the help they can get.

The other product that will change the face of New York City is Amazon Fresh. There are many home grocery delivery services, and even entire home meals pre-packaged and delivered ready to cook from companies such as Blue Apron. But New York is still a city of bodegas and corner delis. Amazon, with its recent agreement to purchase Whole Foods, is going to own a significant share of the food business. Small shops will have to be more gourmet, specialty, or stand out in other ways.

Farmers markets are another business that could be impacted by Amazon. Shopping locally is especially important at these markets, because it supports the people who grow the produce and make the foods directly. Here’s a list of NYC farmer’s markets that can be sorted by day and area so you can find one nearby. Some of these local businesses may already be online, but they will have to compete with online ordering more and more each year.

What will really cause a change in New York’s streets could be the way all shops function. Amazon loves to use data to make suggestions to customers, enabling customers to shop. Currently, AmazonFresh lets people select items online which are delivered to their doorstep.  n neighborhoods without much fresh organic produce, this could be extremely beneficial to people’s health. If people get in the habit of shopping from home for essentials, they may stop going out for groceries at all.

One certain downside? Amazon’s takeover is unlikely to be beneficial for jobs. Grocery stores operated by Amazon will probably be heavily automated, letting people scan and check out without ever speaking to a person, or simply driving by to pick up pre-selected items. Isn’t part of New York’s charm the surly shopkeeper, the friendly butcher, the always-there bodega owner? This balance of convenience and human contact is difficult to achieve. New York will have to think carefully about how to preserve neighborhood shops, which define our streets and have become a part of our daily lives.

The Best-Ever Theme Bars in New York City

The Best-Ever Theme Bars in New York City

New York is a mix of cultural influences and has seen the rise and fall of many creative eras. The best theme bars either retain an element of old New York and make it the focal point, or transport the bar hopper to another place entirely. Here are some of the best places for a night out on the town, though you might forget where you are.

Beauty Bar

231 East 14th St

Salons are a place for gossip, and so are bars, so the proprietors of this chain put the two concepts together for a successful bar/beauty parlor. For $10 the manicure and martini special is just that. Open since 1995, the bar has comedy nights and other shows. It is especially popular for women having bachelorette parties. Now with locations across the river in Brooklyn and across the US including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas.

Reunion Surf Bar

357 West 44th St  

Named for the island Ile de la Réunion off the coast of Madagascar, the space is full of surf influence and island drinks. Christmas lights adorn the ceiling, pineapple slices adorn the drinks, and surfboards are posed as decoration in every nook. The owners include a musician and a former handyman, but both their business profiles start with their favorite surf breaks. The sister restaurant Playa Betty’s (320 Amsterdam Avenue) serves California style tacos and beach food.

Slaughtered Lamb Pub

182 West 4th St

A werewolf themed bar…spooky! Complete with a werewolf lounge and dungeon, this English style pub is named after the historic London pub of the same name where allegedly werewolves roamed.

Trailer Park Lounge & Grill

271 West 23rd St

The Trailer Park Lounge announces proudly that it was voted one of the top five kitschiest restaurants in America by the Food Network. It serves hamburgers, fries, and other staples of the American diet. Every wall is decorated with vintage items that would fit in not only in a trailer park but also in the 1950s. The burger & beer lunch special is just under $14.

The Rusty Knot

412 West St

Water surrounds New York City, so it’s only fitting to include a couple of maritime themed bars. Drinks on the limited menu are fit for a sailor, with a pickle back, dark & stormy, mai tai, singapore sling…you get the idea. Food is basic chips and tacos, because food is not the point.

The Ship

158 Lafayette St

A cocktail lounge with a different nautical theme, this space is all sleek metal and quiet booths made from sails, ideal for small groups. The menu includes chicken liver foie gras, homemade ricotta, and vegetable tartine. Drinks are sophisticated with one called the Bartender’s Choice, a surprise drink for those in the mood for adventure at sea.

The Way Station

683 Washington Ave

A Doctor Who themed bar and self-described “nerdvana.” The scene is complete with a blue TARDIS in the back and a small stage. Performances include musical guests and karaoke. Drinks include Sonic Screwdrivers named after various incarnations of the Doctor as well as other characters.

Gotham City Lounge

1293 Myrtle Ave

A comic book themed bar with a secretive lack of web presence. Their Twitter is the best way to find out about movie nights, discounts for voting, and other community events.

Otto’s Shrunken Head

538 East 14th St

This tiki bar points out on their website, “Manhattan is after all, an island.” They serve rum drinks and no food, except for the occasional BBQ or food contest. The signature drink comes in a custom tiki mug, and other beverages include a flaming bowl and a selection of drinks served in tiki glasses that can be taken home for an extra charge.

Burp Castle

41 East 7th St

A “temple of beer worship” and place for fans of Belgian and other beers to find unusual favorites. The tap list changes frequently and the best way to find out what is being served is to ask. Free pomme frites are served during happy hours. It’s a community environment, with meetings of the New York City Home Brewers Guild held here, but it’s not for parties. Bartenders are known for shushing the crowds to encourage more focus on the beer.

Zaha Hadid’s Legacy Piece

Zaha Hadid’s Legacy Piece

Her acclaimed mergings of expressive form and robust functionality grace the world from Zaragoza to Guangzhou. Across a nearly 40-year career, Zaha Hadid established herself as a premier creator of architectural elegance before her untimely passing in 2016. Her legacy, however, will live on in New York City in the newly finished 520 West 28th Street in Chelsea. Overlooking the High Line, this building merges timeless views and state of the art amenities to stand tall in the city’s high rise luxury scene.

Hadid’s elegant creation counts among its neighbors not only the repurposed elevated rail line, but cutting edge Hudson Yards development, the perpetually trendy Meatpacking District, and the Whitney Museum. But as usual for Hadid, the most intriguing aspect is what’s inside. No luxury was too extravagant for this apartment building, which boasts amenities such as NYC’s only private 3D IMAX theater, a skylit 75-foot swimming pool, and a fully automated parking garage.

The luxury building is limited to 38 exclusive units, with rooms designed by Hadid that evoke the sleek minimalism of the surrounding area’s cutting edge art galleries. Not to be outdone by those neighbors, the building’s ground floor will host it’s own 5,000 square foot gallery. Complementing the “High Line Nine” galleries being completed this year, 520’s gallery will host the latest branch of the acclaimed Paul Kasmin Gallery, one of New York’s finest purveyors of visual

Though she is sadly unable to see it in person, Zaha Hadid’s first and only large-scale New York City project will serve as an enduring capstone to an untouchable architectural legacy. This masterwork of residential splendor will be the last of a long line of forward-thinking achievements. In a metropolis filled with rich experiences, 520 West 28th Street’s stunning facade and luxe interiors confirms the best of the city is only just arriving.

A History of Harlem (And Why It’s Hot Right Now)

A History of Harlem (And Why It’s Hot Right Now)

The Harlem neighborhood is an emblematic part of Manhattan, but few know its beginning as Dutch farmland and later as a key point for George Washington during the American Revolution. Now, it’s a hot neighborhood for its restaurants, cultural heritage, and central location. Knowing Harlem’s history, and its many phases of change, is essential to understanding why it is now one of the newly hot places to live in New York City.

Harlem is a large area of Uptown, from the East River to the Hudson River, and from the bottom of Washington Heights at 155th Street down to around 96th Street. It is commonly divided into Central Harlem, West Harlem, and East Harlem (often called Spanish Harlem).

Harlem was formally incorporated in 1660 as New Haarlem, named after the Dutch city of Haarlem. The Dutch settlers recognized the flat lands would be good for farming, in part because they saw Manhattans and other Native American tribes farming there. Later, the Dutch tried to change the name to Lancaster, luckily without success!

During the American Revolution, George Washington established a base in Harlem to fight off the British troops. He successfully pushed them back, marking his first American victory. To retaliate, the British burnt Harlem down, starting the first in a series of rebuilding and rebirths for the area.

By the 1820s, Harlem had only a few families and was difficult to reach from other areas of the city. Prominent American figures held large areas of land, including Alexander Hamilton and the Roosevelt family (several generations before President Roosevelt would be born). Harlem was considered the countryside, and the land was mostly used for farms.

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that real development began. In 1832, the arrival of the New York and Harlem Railroad (now Metro North) changed everything. It was the first street railway in the world and one of the first railroads in the United States. At first, it used horses, then steam engines, and finally electricity. With reliable transportation in place, Harlem was finally a viable place for development. Many cultural centers were established over the years, including the City College of New York in 1907. The easy access to transportation is one of the reasons Harlem is popular right now.

Harlem has seen a diverse flow of residents, most notably black, Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican and Latin American populations who were pushed out of other areas of the city. In the early 20th century a large population of black residents fleeing the Jim Crow laws of the South established homes in Harlem. Prohibition, The Harlem Renaissance, housing policies elsewhere in the city and the Harlem Riot all had an impact on the area, but it has come back each time.

Because so many of the multi-ethnic influences are preserved, Harlem is now experiencing an economic renaissance as people move into the area to experience the arts and culture. Historic buildings and sites to visit include the home of author Langston Hughes (20 East 127th Street), the home of Alexander Hamilton Grange (West 141st Street and St Nicholas Avenue), and the many historic churches and theaters such as the Apollo Theater (253 West 125th Street). There are also many popular restaurants and bars which draw crowds.

For people looking for their next home, the architecture is a major draw for Harlem, especially in areas such as Mount Morris Historic District where historic townhouses sit along tree-lined streets. Also popular are beautiful brownstone apartment buildings, many of which are in the process of being modernized on the inside. New residents of Harlem have the benefit of experiencing the history of New York City, with all its diversity, while also participating in the growth and yet another rejuvenation of the area.