by BCB Property Management | Oct 5, 2016 | History, New York City
If you leave New York City for any length of time, you will return to find it familiar and yet endlessly adapted–ruthlessly updated. In the city that never sleeps, that is both timeless and modern, that changes constantly and yet stands eternal, history takes on a special dimension that doesn’t take up any extra square footage.
In an admirable effort, residents and organizations have documented the rich history behind the myth and legend of New York City. Here are eight experts you should follow to keep up with the evolution.
Imagine your apartment building–perfectly preserved and inoculated by time–has reopened by historians. 70 years later, it can now toured by curious visitors. In viewing your perfectly preserved or restored apartment, they try to understand what life was like at this point in history: what has changed and what has stayed the same in this ephemeral city.
Touring other people’s apartments fulfills deep-seated voyeuristic tendencies inherent to New Yorkers, to whom space is a precious commodity. Touring a fellow New Yorker’s apartment removed by the span of several dozen years and a handful of generations is now a unique educational treat, courtesy of the Tenement Museum.
On a mission to document the immigrant experience and New York City’s tenement communities, historian and social activist Ruth Abram and Tenement Museum co-founder Anita Jacobson stumbled across a time capsule at 97 Orchard Street. Just one building on a block of many housed nearly 7000 working class immigrants during its lifespan. Operating from 1863 to 1935, tenants were subsequently evicted and the higher floors shuttered, due to a building code upgrade that never happened.
Discovered in this condition in 1988 and re-opened in 1992, the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side is a fascinating and ever-expanding look into the history of the city, through the eyes of the people who fundamentally shaped it. It documents the struggle and magnifies the story of a movement in microcosm. Perhaps most fascinating for its focus on history through people and stories, the Tenement Museum is very much a living history.
The popular Bowery Boys have recorded over 200 podcasts celebrating over 400 years of New York city history.
This feed is a window into the vast knowledge of Levys’ Unique New York: “NY’s First Family of Tour Guides,” who can tailor your New York experience like no other.
This historian-curated feed is chock full of old photos and depictions of New York City, almost impossible to reconcile with the vividly technicolor, larger-than-life smorgasbord we see and hear today.
The Gotham Center, through the Graduate Center at CUNY, works to make New York City history available to the public for study and enrichment, pooling the resources of “professional historians, amateur buffs, museum curators, archivists, librarians, educators, filmmakers, and preservationists.” The Gotham Center was prompted by an award-winning book: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. Based on its success, author Mike Wallace established Gotham Center in 2000.
Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society showcases a historical collection and culturally-relevant exhibitions about this city’s rich history.
Founded in 1923 and formerly located in the official residence of the New York City Mayor–Gracie Mansion–the Museum of the City of New York features an eclectic and exceptional cross-section of New York City history.
New York Public Library’s Labs are focused on harnessing and optimizing the extensive resources at the library’s disposal for the internet’s edification. This effort has led to projects such as the New York City Space/Time Directory, Stereogranimator, and Building Inspector. Also check out the OldNYC app, which places old NYPL photos of New York on the map, literally.
by BCB Property Management | May 20, 2016 | History, New York City
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known colloquially as the Met, is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the most visited in the world. With a permanent collection of over two million art works, the nearly century and a half-old museum’s secrets are as rich as its history.
The best way to learn about the Met is to visit and take a tour. Tour guides spend day in and day out exploring and touring the majestic space, understanding its evolution, and become acquainted with the timeless objects curated with care throughout its many galleries.
Here are 14 amazing and surprising facts about the Metropolitan Museum of Art straight from the individuals that know it best: New York City’s tour guide experts.
1. The Met is the brainchild of a Founding Father’s grandson, and many other prominent New York figures.
According to @Discovering_NYC, a writer, historian and NYC tour guide popular on Twitter, the idea for the Met came from John Jay, the grandson of lesser-known Founding Father, also named John Jay.
In 1869, a committee of 300 met in 1869 to organize the museum, including many prominent New Yorkers involved with its creation: Andrew Haswell Green, John La Farge, James Lenox, Frederick Law Olmsted, Alexander Stewart and Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, to name a few.
2. The Met was not always located in Central Park.
The Met’s first location was in the Dodworth building at 681 5th Avenue, a simple brownstone building, then in a mansion at 128 W 14th street. The Central Park location was secured in 1969 thanks to cooperation from the Central Park Commissioners (many of whom were involved with the Museum) and opened in 1880.
3. The original red Gothic building is still visible if you to know where to look.
The original red Gothic building was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. It still stands, and one great view is from the European Sculpture Court, according to Discovering_NYC.
Since the Met expanded outward, the building can be seen at its center, which is called Medieval Court. “The Met is like a giant onion; they just keep building more stuff onto it,” says Museum Hack, a leading provider of fun, unconventional tours at the Met and other museums. The 1880 building is totally encased, and the best places to spot it is in the Petrie Court Sculpture Gallery and the Lehman Wing.
4. Since the first collection opened, objects have risen in number from less than 200 to 2 million. That’s an average of over 13,000 new artworks every year.
The first collection opened on February 20th, 1872, before the Met had its permanent home, including just 174 paintings and a few sculptures. Now, it contains two million objects celebrating mankind’s artistic endeavors spanning a quarter of a mile and 20 buildings.
5. The Museum’s front facade has been incomplete for over a century.
One of the numerous additions to the original building, the magnificent facade facing 5th Avenue was built in 1895, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, one of the founders of the American Institute of Architects. Hunt’s design included four columns supporting allegorical statues of architecture, sculpture, music and painting, but they were never finished because the funds didn’t allow for it. (Discovering_NYC).
6. The Met includes a beautiful uptown complex called The Cloisters.
Not everyone knows that there is more to the Met than its on-site art collections. Situated in Fort Tryon Park, the complex includes five Medieval cloisters and an incredible collection of Medieval art. John D. Rockefeller bought the collection for the Met, and also purchased land on the side of the Palisades to preserve the magnificent view. (Discovering_NYC)
7. The best bathrooms are in Gallery 207, not the Egyptian Wing.
According to Museum Hack’s insider knowledge, the bathrooms in the Egyptian Wing can be “packed and smelly.” To avoid this, take the Grand Staircase and high-tail it to Asian Art, where the Gallery 207 bathrooms are impressive, crowd-free and nice-smelling.
8. Use the 81st street entrance for shorter lines, pre-admission bathrooms, and your own private gift shop.
The main entrance on 82nd Street can be a madhouse, with long waits for coat check and admission. But if you simply stroll down to 81st and use the Uris Center for Education Entrance, Museum Hack attests, there will be shorter lines, a separate coat-check, pre-admission bathrooms and a private gift shop.
9. With over six million visitors each year, it is always crowded — but there are a few quiet spots.
Though the museum is almost always full of people, there are some somewhat secluded galleries if one is seeking a contemplative spot, says NYC Licensed Sightseeing Guide Robin Garr says, who also works for the private tour group The Levys’ Unique New York.
These include the Astor Chinese Garden Court, where you’ll find a replica of a Ming Dynasty garden from Suzhou (2nd floor, Asian Art galleries); the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art featuring 10,000 American decorative and fine art objects in open storage cases (2nd floor of American Wing); and the 20 historic-period rooms in the American Wing.
10. The Met holds the largest collections of arms and armor in the Western Hemisphere.
Created within the museum in 1912, the collection comprises roughly 14,000 objects, of which more than 5,000 are European, 2,000 are from the Near East, and 4,000 from the Far East.
The first curator of the Arms and Armor department was, rather fittingly, a man named Helmut Nickel, Robin Garr says.
11. The museum’s first accessioned object was a Roman sarcophagus, currently on display in the Greek and Roman Galleries.
A sarcophagus, which means “flesh-eater” in Greek, is an ancient Roman burial practice and art form by which elaborate designs are carved into limestone and marble containers. The Met’s Roman sarcophagus was a gift from J. Abdo Debbas, the American vice-consul at Tarsus (Southern Turkey) in 1870. It remains a centerpiece of the galleries of Greek and Roman art, says Garr.
12. The Met’s Egyptian collection holds the largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Cairo, and the oldest items in the museum.
Mostly from private collectors, the Met is home to over 26,000 pieces of Egyptian art from the Paleolithic era to the Roman era, second only to Cairo in quantity. The oldest items in the museum are a set of Acheulean flints in this collection, which date from the Lower Paleolithic period — between 300,000 and 75,00 BC!
Notable artworks also include the Temple of Dendur, a stunning Egyptian temple built by the Roman governor Petronius in 15 AD. A gift from Egypt to the USA in 1965, the temple is illuminated in a sky-lit room with a pool meant to evoke the Nile river. (Robin Garr)
13. There is a resident florist at the Met that arranges humongous floral displays.
You may see some beautiful floral arrangements during your visit to the met. According to Garr, the floral displays in the Great Hall niches were permanently endowed by Lila Acheson Wallace (co-founder and co-chairman of Reader’s Digest).
There is also a resident florist for the Met: “Floral Curator” Remco van Vliet is a third generation master Dutch florist. Floral arrangements are comprised of fresh, seasonal vegetation and can be as tall as ten to twelve feet.
14. You can’t see the Met in one visit.
At two million square feet, it’s impossible to see everything the Met has to offer in just one day. Many visitors make the mistake of winging it only to miss the best parts because they didn’t plan properly.
Robin Garr suggests that visitors pick a few favorite objects, two periods of art, or two geographical/cultural areas they would like to see. Prioritize the ones that are most important, but don’t spread yourself too thin or you’ll be unlikely to enjoy the experience.
If it wasn’t already clear that they know the Met inside out, it goes without saying that a knowledgeable guide can help you make the most of your day or days at the Met, and share even more pearls of wisdom along the way.
Check out Discovering_NYC, Museum Hacks, Robin Garr and The Levys’ Unique New York for more of insight likely to escape regular visitors.
Featured image: Steven Pisano via Flickr
by BCB Property Management | May 11, 2016 | History, New York City
For about a decade, plans have been in the works to build a skyscraper adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Construction began in 2015 for the 1,050-foot tower, which will add to New York City’s skyline a two-peaked, 82-floor skyscraper designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel.
The project, first called the MoMa Expansion Tower, Tower Verre and ultimately 53W53, will be the latest transformation to the area literally built upon the MoMA’s place and history in New York City. The 17,000-foot lot was sold by the MoMa to the real estate company Hines in 2007, and will be nearly the size of the Empire State Building.
Birth of a museum
Though 53 West 53rd will soon be topped by a graceful and angular monolith, the lot would have been virtually unrecognizable at the time of the MoMA’s first occupancy on the block in 1939. (Though opened in 1929, the MoMA tested various locations before settling where it remains today.)
Still, the property was impressive for the time, designed in the “International Style” by modernist architects Philip L Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone. The multi-departmental structure devoted floors upon floors to various forms of modern art, adding departments for architecture and design, film and video, and photography to its existing collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and illustrated books.
The property underwent several renovations in the 50s and 60s; in 1958, a second-floor fire caused by smoking construction workers destroyed an 18-foot long Monet painting of water lilies, among other works.
The MoMA has undergone various expansions leading up to its latest vertical endeavor. In 1983 it doubled its gallery space and increased curation space by 30 percent, adding an auditorium, two restaurants, and a bookstore.
In 1997, Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi won the honor of redesigning the space: the project, completed in 2004, doubled the space with an additional 630,000 feet of space, expanding the scope of its educational and research abilities. Taniguchi’s renovation was overall considered a fine example of contemporary architecture.
Now, with the addition of 53W53, the MoMA will be changing its face once more. After acquiring the American Folk Art Museum, MoMA unveiled new plans by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to transform the space into a MoMA addition instead of demolishing it. The renovation will include a retractable glass wall, new gallery space, and free access to the first floor, including the sculpture garden.
This latest facelift coincides with the continued construction of 53W53; it will add 15,500 feet of space in the former Folk Art Museum, plus 39,000 in the new tower. Along with gallery space, the visually impressive skyscraper will include apartments of various sizes and hotel rooms.
It is expected to be completed by 2018.
by BCB Property Management | May 3, 2016 | History, New York City
New York City is steeped in the history of the skyscraper. Since the completion of the 348-foot World Building in 1890, the love affair NYC has had with iconic buildings has spanned over a century. With man’s desire to reach unyielding heights brought into view an ever-changing skyline.
The World Building (348 feet)
Since 1890, eleven structures have been cataloged as the world’s tallest building. From the 1910s to the 1930s,16 of the city’s tallest buildings were built: the Woolworth, Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (The Trump Building – 927 feet), the Chrysler Building (1,046 feet), and the Empire State Building (1,250 feet) among them. At the time each of these skyscrapers were erected, they were the tallest of their day. Today, these high rises along with three of their contemporaries represent an iconography that’s unmistakably New York.
Woolworth Building (792 feet)
A little known fact about the Woolworth Building: The bicycle storage area in the basement once led into the NY subway system. According to Jason Crowley, a building tour guide, the doors led to a “[…] passageway under Broadway to the BMT and IRT subways. The BMT is now the City Hall R stop and the IRT is the now closed off City Hall stop where the 6 turns around.That passageway was completely filled in under Broadway and no longer exists.”
Designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1913, the Woolworth was named after its owner in 1910, F.W. Woolworth. Woolworth bought the site for $1.65 million. Built to resemble Gothic cathedrals, the building was nicknamed “The Cathedral of Commerce” by Reverend S. Parkes Cadman. The 800 light bulbs to commemorate the opening of the tallest building of its time were turned on by then President Woodrow Wilson to great public aplomb.
Since then, the building has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966 and a NYC landmark since 1983.
Bank of Manhattan Trust Building (now Trump Building – 927 feet)
Now known exclusively as the Trump Building, the 927 foot structure was originally designed by H. Craig Severance et al. Construction of the Bank of Manhattan Building began in 1928, with a planned height of 840 feet. In an effort to be the tallest building in New York, the plans were designed specifically to be two feet taller than the Chrysler Building. Upon completion in 1930, the building was indeed the tallest, but the victory was short-lived once Walter Chrysler topped off the Chrysler Building with a stainless steel spire that had been secretly assembled. Once in place, the Chrysler Building’s height stood at 1,046 feet, defeating the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building for tallest.
Chrysler Building (1,046 feet)
Though the Chrysler only carried the title as the world’s tallest building for less than a year, it remains the tallest brick building in the world. With its Art Deco design and steel frame, it is an undeniable nod to the automobile industry. The sleek, powerful design continues to cut a striking figure across the NYC skyline. Initially intended to stand at 807 feet, designer Van Alen’s designs proved to be too grand to stand at anything less than 1,046 feet. Van Alen’s vision and Walter P. Chrysler’s auto industry money collaborated to create a pinnacle in modern architectural design.
The Empire State Building (1,250 feet)
The Empire State Building is synonymous with New York City. Like the Chrysler, the Empire State was built in the Art Deco Era fashion. Named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by the Society of Civil Engineers, the building is a National and NYC Landmark often a favorite in Hollywood depictions of the NYC skyline.
The building was built in 1931 and was New York’s tallest until the erection of the North Tower in 1972 which stood at 1,368 feet. After the Twin Towers were destroyed during the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Empire State once again became New York’s tallest structure until the construction of One World Trade Center in 2012.
The Twin Towers (North Tower 1,368 feet, South Tower 1,362 feet)
The entire World Trade Center complex consisted of seven buildings with the “Twin Towers” being the most visible. Upon their completion in the early 1970s, the towers were the tallest buildings in the world. Located in Lower Manhattan, the two colossal buildings shown as two giant figures of industry and finance with 3,400,000 square feet of office space. The two buildings were tragically destroyed after the 9/11 terrorist attack; the other buildings in the complex were all severely damaged by the collapse of the twin towers, and were eventually demolished.
One World Trade Center (1,776 feet)
Also called One WTC or the “Freedom Tower”, the building has the same moniker as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center. One WTC is the current record holder of the tallest building in New York, the United States, and the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest building in the world. One World Trade Center began construction in 2006 and was completed in 2013. This skyscraper stands on the northwest corner of the World Trade Center.
The building takes up a 200-feet square, with an area of 40,000 square feet almost identical to the area the original Twin Towers inhabited. Constructed with glass and steel, the structure acts as a prism reflecting light and air across the skyline.
Today, New York is home to approximately 8.406 million people and 6,125 skyscrapers that stand over 600 feet. As of April of this year, almost 500 high rises are either proposed for or under construction in New York City. Throughout history, New York’s reverence of architectural design and height have colored its skyline as one of the most unique and alluring in the world.
Curious about the list of New York’s tallest buildings today? Read on here…
by BCB Property Management | Mar 29, 2016 | History, New York City
For many, it’s the gateway to New York City: the Holland Tunnel, an underwater channel through which cars disappear, endure a hellscape of dimly lit traffic, and eventually emerge whole on Canal street into a sea of other vehicles.
Though not ideal for claustrophobics, the Holland Tunnel is widely considered an extraordinary feat of engineering — especially considering its age: 89 years. The 1.7 mile tunnel was begun in 1920 and completed in 1927, and bears the name of first chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland, who unfortunately did not live to see its completion.
For centuries, the only way one could travel across the lower Hudson River was by ferry. Considering the amount of traffic that pass through the tunnel in the 21st century — 34,698,000 vehicles a year in 2007 — it’s obvious why a ferry would not cut it, especially as automobiles gained prominence.
Tunnels proved a feasible solution after several railways were successfully built beneath the river. In 1906 New Jersey and New York commissioned jointly to build a bridge, before shifting to plan for a tunnel in 1913 due to height concerns.
An engineering triumph
Several design proposals for the tunnel were passed on before Clifford Holland’s was accepted. Both Holland and his engineering successor, Milton Freeman, would die before the tunnel’s completion in 1927. Ole Singstad oversaw the completion of the tunnel and also designed its innovative ventilation system.
A mile and a half long tunnel, you see, is more difficult than it seems — and the claustrophobic among us should be especially grateful for ventilation technology most of us didn’t know we needed. The Holland Tunnel in particular is an early example of mechanically ventilated design, and the first ever mechanically ventilated underwater vehicular tunnel.
To keep automobile fumes from polluting the air inside the tunnel, Singstad came up with a practical solution. It works like this: four ventilation buildings, two on each side of the Hudson, house 84 fans that provide a change of air every 90 minutes. Thanks to this solution, air quality in the tunnel is kept well within safety limits. This way in the off-chance you do need to leave your car in a particularly bad bout of traffic, the air is plenty fresh.
At the time of the tunnel’s opening, the press declared that the air in the tunnel was fresher than many open-air streets in the city.
Opening and operation
The tunnel was opened to much aplomb by President Coolidge, who ceremonially triggered the event from his yacht, as giant brass bells rung at either end of the tunnel. It was an immediate success as a portal from New Jersey to New York City.
The tunnel has needed very little updating over the years: a testament to its solid design and construction. There have been notable moments in time and history that mark the tunnel’s evolution as the City of New York grew up and outward.
In 1930, control was transferred to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which continues to operate it today. In 1955, a narrow, one-man electric car was designed for police officers to maneuver in case of emergencies.
This emergency protocol makes since, because over the years the Holland Tunnel has weathered some especially nasty events, like fire aboard an electrical truck in 1949, and severe flooding during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It’s considered one of the most high-risk terrorist targets in the United States by government officials.
There have been close calls in this regard: Following September 11 attacks, the tunnel remained closed for a month. The FBI uncovered a plot they believed the Holland Tunnel was the target of in 2006, though it turned out to be aimed at the New Jersey PATH.
Today, the tunnel remains key to entrance and exiting of the Big Apple. Though tolls have gone up, its function remains the same, and its legacy grows with every year.
The Holland Tunnel was made a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil and Mechanical Engineers in 1982 and a National Historic Landmark in 1993 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Featured image: Noud W. via Flickr