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New York City


  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    NYC becomes archaeological site: 18th-century bone toothbrush, old champagne bottles unearthed

    NEW YORK — The city has become an archaeological site, with thousands of artifacts such as an 18th-century bone toothbrush with animal hair bristles and wine and champagne bottles corked centuries ago unearthed to prove it.A copper half-penny and a pair of children’s shoes are some of the other remnants of early New York life workers discovered in lower Manhattan while digging to install new utilities for the growing residential and business South Street Seaport area....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    David Levering Lewis: The New York Public Library Must Be Saved From Itself

    David Levering Lewis, a university professor and professor of history at New York University, is the author of two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of W.E.B. Du Bois. Both books were researched at the New York Public Library. Guarded by two beloved lions familiar to generations of readers since it opened, the New York Public Library, at 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, is the second-largest public library in America, after the Library of Congress. Ever since the doors first opened, 102 years ago, the grand marble palace of learning has served all who come, rich and poor, immigrant and native, without charge. The venerable institution would have seemed in need of no more than upgraded maintenance, paired with prudent planning, to maintain its leading place in 21st-century research service.

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Can JFK's Pan Am Terminal be saved?

    If you saw that blessedly short-lived television series called Pan Am a couple of years ago, you probably think, as I do, that the best thing about it was the Pan Am terminal at J.F.K., a cheerful, round structure with a gigantic overhanging concrete roof that seemed to emerge out of the naïve notion that flying could be fun: airport as midcentury modern circus. The building was certainly more exuberant, not to say more convincing, than any character in the show.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    Mohawk history towers over New York

    MONTREAL—Generations of toil at dizzying heights have culminated in this towering achievement.Ironworkers from a Mohawk community were part of the team that installed the final section of spire at the top of the new One World Trade Center in New York last month.John McGowan was one of those involved as he and colleagues wrote a special page in a history filled with high-level triumph, and also with tragedy.“It was a clear nice day. It couldn’t have been a nicer day,” said the 48-year-old resident of Kahnawake, Que., near Montreal....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Gay landmarks, lost and found

    A year ago, if the old Portofino at 206 Thompson Street in Greenwich Village was remembered at all, it would have been as the restaurant where Elaine Kaufman cut her teeth in the early ’60s, before opening her own place uptown.This year, now the Malt House, it is a landmark in American history — minor, to be sure, but a landmark all the same. The case of United States v. Windsor, which culminated on Wednesday when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, can be traced to an evening in 1963 when Edith S. Windsor met Thea Clara Spyer over dinner at Portofino. After half a lifetime together, they were married in 2007.The rediscovery of Portofino is a reminder that social landmarks don’t make their significance readily apparent. A bit of context is often needed to appreciate the triumphs, disasters and dramas that have played out in these buildings.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Frank Lloyd Wright's NY showroom a memory

    A small landmark of New York City architectural and automotive history disappeared recently, almost without notice. The theatrical auto showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at 430 Park Avenue, at 56th Street, had displayed a number of European brands over the years, notably Mercedes-Benz from 1957 to 2012.The space, with a spiral ramp and turntable interior, was designed in 1954 for the pioneering auto importer Max Hoffman.In early April, the Wright interior was demolished by the owners of the building, Midwood Investment and Management and Oestreicher Properties. Debra Pickrel, a preservationist and co-author of “Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959” (Gibbs Smith, 2007) wrote about the showroom’s destruction in Metropolis magazine....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Did a missile down TWA Flight 800?

    Former investigators are pushing to reopen the probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York, saying new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet.The New York-to-Paris flight crashed July 17, 1996, just minutes after the jetliner took off from John F. Kennedy Airport, killing all 230 people aboard.The effort to reopen the probe is being made in tandem with the release next month of a documentary that features the testimony of former investigators who raise doubts about the National Transportation Safety Board's conclusion that the crash was caused by a center fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a spark from a short-circuit in the wiring....

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Brook Wilensky-Lanford: Discovering “Little Syria”

    Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011) and an editor of the online literary magazine Killing the Buddha.I don’t think much of the patch of Lower Manhattan surrounding the former World Trade Center towers that I pass through almost daily on my way between work and home in Jersey City. Between the Jeff Koons balloon statue in front of the PATH station to the Century 21 department store, and south to Zuccotti Park, the landscape is teeming with scaffolding, glossy announcements of things to come, construction cranes, and throngs of tourists coming to pay their respects to the 9/11 Memorial Tribute Center, and, it seems, simply to stand on the street and ogle the spot of sky where the towers used to be.

  • Originally published 06/03/2013

    Ann J. Lane, pioneer in women's history dies at 81

    Ann J. Lane, 81, of New York City, died on May 27, 2013. She was born in Brooklyn on July 27, 1931, the daughter of Harry and Betty Brown Lane. Lane completed all of her schooling in New York City. She earned a BA from Brooklyn College in English in 1952, an MA in sociology from New York University in 1958, and a PhD in history from Columbia University in 1968.Lane served as Assistant Professor of History at Douglass College of Rutgers University from 1968 to 1971, and then as Professor of History and Chair of the American Studies Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, from 1971 to 1983. She was a research fellow at The Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, Harvard University from 1977-1983.Early in her career, Lane specialized in southern and African American History, the fruits of which appeared in two works published in 1971, The Brownsville Affair: National Outrage and Black Reaction, a monograph on a 1906 racial incident involving black soldiers and white citizens, and The Debate Over Slavery: Stanley Elkins and His Critics, an edited work on an important historiographical controversy for which she also wrote the introduction.

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Muppets creator Henson's items head to NYC museum

    NEW YORK — The Muppets may have taken Manhattan, but they're getting a spiffy new home in Queens.Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street" fame, the stars of "Fraggle Rock" and other puppets, costumes and items from throughout Muppets creator Jim Henson's career have been donated to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is building a new gallery to house them, the institution announced Tuesday.Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket in 2011 and 2012 during a temporary exhibit of Henson's work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson's widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died last month at 78....

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    America's First Political Dirty Trick

    Credit: Smithsonian.Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer and the New-York Historical Society. Copyright © 2013 by the New-York Historical Society.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    9/11 museum officials say admission fee needed

    NEW YORK (AP) — Faced with hefty operating costs, the foundation building the 9/11 museum at the World Trade Center has decided to charge an admission fee of $20 to $25 when the site opens next year.The exact cost of the mandatory fee has not yet been decided.Entry to the memorial plaza with its twin reflecting pools still will be free.The decision to charge for the underground museum housing relics of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has been greeted with dismay by some relatives of 9/11 victims....

  • Originally published 05/04/2013

    Henry Hope Reed, historian, is dead at 97

    Henry Hope Reed, an architecture critic and historian whose ardent opposition to modernism was purveyed in books, walking tours of New York City and a host of curmudgeonly barbs directed at advocates of the austere, the functional and unornamented in public buildings and spaces, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 97.The death was confirmed by Paul Gunther, president of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.Walking historical tours of New York are now staples of the city’s cultural menu, but when Mr. Reed first began leading them for the Municipal Art Society in 1956, they were novel enough to be the subject of a news article in The New York Times.Modernism was in favor at the time, but a reporter accompanying a tour on the East Side of Manhattan, north of Union Square, described how persuasive Mr. Reed’s bias against it was: “The tour ended at Pete’s Tavern,” the reporter, John Sibley, wrote. “Over their drinks, the hikers reviewed the tour. The flamboyant architectural adornments of the last century had impressed them, but they bemoaned the encroachment of bleak and sterile streamlined apartment buildings.”...

  • Originally published 05/02/2013

    9/11 plane part removed from building

    NEW YORK — Using a pulley system and sheer brawn, police removed a suspected 9/11 plane part from between two buildings near the World Trade Center site, and the medical examiner said no potential human remains had been found there.About a dozen officers raised the jagged, 255-pound metal piece, which contains cranks, levers and bolts from the ground. They took it over a three-story wall, lowered it into a courtyard and they carried it through the basement of a planned mosque, where it was discovered by an inspector last week.Onlookers across the street took pictures as they heaved it onto a truck taking it to a Brooklyn police facility. The process took about two hours....

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    NY, Israel museums jointly buy Hebrew manuscript

    NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem have jointly acquired a 15th-century illuminated Hebrew manuscript, they announced Monday.The Mishneh Torah is a rare manuscript with text by the Middle Ages Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. It is a synthesis of Jewish law and the second of a two-volume manuscript featuring six large illustrations plus 32 smaller images and marginal decorations. The first volume is housed in the Vatican.The two institutions said they would share the Mishneh Torah on a rotating basis.The manuscript was created in 1457 in the style of Northern Italian Renaissance miniature painting. It was restored at the conservation lab of the Israel Museum, where it has been on loan since 2007 and on public view since 2010....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    The $2 billion Wall St. Church

    There has never been any doubt that Trinity Church is wealthy. But the extent of its wealth has long been a mystery; guessed at by many, known by few.Now, however, after a lawsuit filed by a disenchanted parishioner, the church has offered an estimate of the value of its assets: more than $2 billion.The Episcopal parish, known as Trinity Wall Street, traces its holdings to a gift of 215 acres of prime Manhattan farmland donated in 1705 by Queen Anne of England. Since then, the church has parlayed that gift into a rich portfolio of office buildings, stock investments and, soon, mixed-use residential development.The parish’s good fortune has become an issue in the historic congregation, which has been racked by infighting in recent years over whether the church should be spending more money to help the poor and spread the faith, in New York and around the world. Differences over the parish’s mission and direction last year led nearly half the 22-member vestry — an august collection of corporate executives and philanthropists — to resign or be pushed out, after at least seven of them asked, unsuccessfully, that the rector himself step down....

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    A Murky Look Back at the 1969 Stonewall Riots and Gay History

    Hit the Wall Barrow Street Theater 27 Barrow Street New York, N.Y.On the hot, humid evening of June 27, 1969, undercover police at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, alerted their superiors that it was ripe for a raid. Hours later, eight police officers arrived and plunged into the crowd of some two hundred men and women in the bar. The paddy wagons arrived late and those charged stood outside on the hot street. The revelers who had not been arrested came back to see what was going on as the tide of people grew. Neighbors and patrons at other bars, seeing the angry crowd, walked out on to the street, too, and joined it. Shouts and threats were yelled, the people spilled into the busy street and traffic was jammed for blocks. When the police vans finally did arrive, a full scale riot broke out. Gay men threw empty garbage cans at the cops and the police responded by clubbing dozens. Blood flowed. The riots over the Stonewall raid continued for several days. They were highly publicized and the event was said to be one of the places where the American gay rights movement started.

  • Originally published 03/27/2013

    The Modesty Wars: Women and the Hasidim in Brooklyn

    Via Flickr.Originally posted on openDemocracy.Until recently, you could have lived your entire life in the United States and never have bumped into any Jewish Orthodox Hasidim, who live in scattered communities, mostly in the New York’s borough of Brooklyn. In the last few years, however, the media have publicized the Hasidim’s cultural clashes with their non-fundamentalist neighbours. In each instance, the conflict has pitted the Hasidic view of women’s modest traditional dress and their appropriate role in the family, on the streets, and in their community against the sexualized dress and behaviour of their neighbours. 

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    In Lower Manhattan, memories of ‘Little Syria’

    At the turn of the last century, Manhattan’s Lower West Side was a bustling hub of life for Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants who set up shops and moved into tenements in a community known as Little Syria.Now, there is little left marking the old neighborhood, seen as an epicenter of Arab immigration that was once home to stores like Brooklyn favorite Sahadi’s. But advocates are lobbying the Landmarks Preservation Commission to change that.“Every Arab-American who would have come to the United States would have probably spent some time or had ties to the Lower West Side of Manhattan,” said Todd Fine, co-founder of Save Washington Street. He calls Little Syria “the beating heart of Arab immigration to the United States,” with an important literary community and restaurants and cafes selling Lebanese food and pastries as the Ninth Avenue El whirred by....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Fifty years of the MetLife Building

    THIS MONTH MARKS the 50th anniversary of the completion of Park Avenue’s Pan Am Building, later renamed the MetLife Building, an occasion that a cursory Google search indicates is receiving no particular celebration. What is to be marked, really, is a half-century of evinced distaste, though some of it waning under the grip of nostalgia, for a building that existed as an assault on Grand Central Station, its visual foundation bifurcating and marring views of Park Avenue and casting dark shadows on crowded streets beneath it. The enmity actually dates back further. From the moment designs for the building were presented, the response in the architectural press was one of displeasure and reproof. Long in its development phase, enormous, expensive, controversial, denounced, the building became, in a sense, the city’s structural “Ishtar.”...

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Nathan Safferstein, counterintelligence agent on World War II Manhattan Project, dies in NYC

    Nathan Safferstein, a counterintelligence agent on the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II, died Tuesday night at his home in the Bronx after a long illness, his family said. He was 92. The genial native of Bridgeport, Conn., was barely 21 when circumstances suddenly propelled him from his job as a supermarket manager into the stealth world of a special agent....  

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Forget the Contrarians: Ed Koch Was A True Liberal

    Ed Koch as mayor. Credit: Flickr/LCB Ed Koch was laid to rest with applause for leading his city out of the despair of the 1970s with bluff, bluster and chutzpah. Yet the Koch mayoralty, for all its theater, was also a turning point. In complex and contradictory ways, Koch hastened the shift from a liberal New York that dates to the 1930s to the more conservative city of today. His record bears marks of both.When I interviewed Koch in 2010 for a book about New York City from LaGuardia to Bloomberg, he said he wanted to be remembered as the mayor who restored the city’s confidence after the fiscal crisis; balanced the city’s budget; built affordable housing on a massive scale; and reformed the process of selecting judges to take the politics out. All three were measures (excepting perhaps the pride in budget balancing) that any liberal Democrat could endorse. Yet his style and policies gave him a reputation as a conservative.

  • Originally published 02/03/2013

    Jim Sleeper: The King of New York

    Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale and author of “The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York,” is a former columnist for The Daily News.I WAS almost scripted to hate Ed Koch from the moment in September 1977 when I moved, with a new Harvard doctorate, to Brooklyn, on what would become a long activist-writer’s foray into the city’s fiscal crisis and the effects of that summer’s power blackout and looting.Mr. Koch was winning the Democratic mayoral primary, and my cousin James Wechsler, who’d been the editor of The New York Post in its liberal glory days but was then in charge of just the editorial page, was shaking his head in a lonely corner office on South Street as The Post’s new proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, turned it into a virtual press office for the Koch campaign.Throughout his 12 years as mayor I assailed Mr. Koch — in a Brooklyn newspaper that I edited, in Dissent, in The Village Voice and even while working across the hall from him as a speechwriter for the City Council president, Carol Bellamy, whom the mayor at one point denominated, with his customary grace, “a horror show.”...

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    A Gay Man, a Housewife, and Mussolini

    Working on a Special Day 59 E. 59 Theaters 59 E. 59th Street New York, N.Y.How do you turn a movie that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and starred Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren into a successful play?Very carefully.

  • Originally published 01/27/2013

    Jam On

    The Jammer Atlantic Stage 2 330 W. 16th Street New York, N.Y.It's Brooklyn, circa 1958. The Dodgers have been gone for two years, Eisenhower is president and rock and roll music is sweeping the nation. It's nighttime at a local sports arena, time for outlandishly dressed men and women to crash over rails, leap over fallen skaters and elbow each other. It is time for fans to lose their sanity and yell and scream at the top of their lungs for the hometown team.It is time for roller derby.From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, the brazen men and wild women of roller derby were skating in smoky arenas all over America on wooden ovals in a frantic race for points and time. Teams from New York to San Francisco drew crowds as large as 50,000 fans at indoor and outdoor arenas and millions more watched on television.The roller derby skating teams, with names such as the Jolters and Bombers, gave the country a very rowdy, fast paced sport, supposedly a little fixed at times. It was like professional wrestling, with roaring crowds, bigger than life stars and non-stop violence.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Q&A: Roosevelt Biographer Recalls an Earlier Top Cop

    ...But with a crowded race for City Hall this year and some likely candidates suggesting they would like appoint a different top cop, it remains unclear what’s might come next for the long-time commissioner. Metropolis spoke with historian Edmund Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt, on how  Kelly compares with New York’s other famous police commissioner. Here is the edited interview:Metropolis:  What drew TR into the police force? And how was policing different back then?Morris: TR came back to the city of his birth in 1895, after six long years as a civil service commissioner in Washington, ambitious to be a moral force in the reform administration of Mayor William L. Strong.Ironically, his restless progressivism ran into even more opposition here than it had been in the nation’s capital. This was partly because TR was just one member of the city’s four-man board of police commissioners (as president of the board, he had only titular preeminence). But it was also because he seemed to go out of his way to alienate such entrenched, conservative interests as the saloon industry, Wall Street, and indeed the corrupt ranks of the police force itself.