Tag Archives: Urban History

Sink or Swim? Post-Sandy Waterfront Restoration

Scape Studio. Plan for Oyster Reefs in NY Harbor

As people blow dry the mold from basement walls and vacuum Sandy from corners and carpets, city activists gathered in a forum sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate, called &#8220Sink or Swim: Waterfront Restoration in a Post-Sandy Era.&#8221
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Saving Cities: Learning from Melanie Griffith

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Continue reading

Peter Feinman On New Yorks Ruin Porn

Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.

As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) &#8220&#8216-feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation- a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks&#8221. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading

Roberta Brandes Gratz Recieving Landmarks Lion Award

The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, buildings and open spaces, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 5 to advocate, author, journalist and urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz.

Participating in the ceremony will be Ronald Shiffman, co-founder of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, Richard Rabinowitz, president of the American History Workshop, and Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Center for the Living City. Since 1990 the Landmarks Lion Award has honored those who have shown outstanding devotion in protecting New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. Continue reading

Odetta, Richard Wright Being Honored Today in NYC

Today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012 the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center in New York City will unveil new cultural medallions for two pioneers in the fields of literature and music.

First at 11:00am, in collaboration with the Fort Greene Association, author Richard Wright will be celebrated with a medallion unveiling at 175 Carlton Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Then at 2:00 pm their will be an unveiling of a medallion commemorating the life of Odetta, the legendary singer, songwriter and political activist, at her longtime residence, 1270 Fifth Avenue, in East Harlem. The public is invited to both events.

Odetta: The Voice of the Civil-Rights Movement, 1930-2008

Odetta Holmes, born on December 31, 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama was a true activist, performance artist and musician. Her powerful image and robust voice was and continues to represent the politically driven folk-music of the 1950’s and 1960’s. As an African-American female performance artist during a time of political and racial upheaval, Odetta was a leader and voice for the civil rights movement- marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and performing a show for John F. Kennedy. The ability she had to convey meaning and life into her music inspired others to follow in her pursuit of fairness, equality and justice.

Author Richard Wright, 1908- 1960

Born in Mississippi, Richard Wright spent the majority of his childhood living in poverty in the oppressive racial and social atmosphere of the south. Wright escaped familial and social constraints by immersing himself in the world of literature, and became one of the first great African American writer’s of his time. Richard Wright relocated to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood and was living here in 1938 when he drafted his first novel, Native Son. He wrote several controversial novels, short-stories and semi-autobiographical accounts that reflected the brutalities often inflicted on the African American people of the south during this period. Wright eventually left New York City for Paris. His grave is located in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

About the Ceremony and Cultural Medallion Program

Distinguished scholars, artists and elected officials will be participating in both of the cultural medallion ceremonies. The Richard Wright program will include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, celebrated playwright Lynn Nottage, Paul Palazzo of the Fort Greene Association, musician and author Carl Hancock Rux, and Howard Pitsch will read a message from Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright, who currently resides in Paris. Pianist Dave Keyes will perform Odetta’s signature piece, This Little Light of Mine, at the Odetta ceremony.

The Cultural Medallions are a program of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the HLPC, created the Cultural Medallions program, and will lead the ceremony. The HLPC has installed almost 100 medallions around the city to heighten public awareness of the cultural and social history of New York City.

New York Heritage Weekend, May 19 and 20th

Organizations throughout the state will celebrate New York history during this year’s New York Heritage Weekend on May 19th & 20th. Now in its 3rd year, the weekend will offer special programs, discounted or free admission to sites and events that celebrate national, state or local heritage.

Guided hikes, local history festivals, historic garden events, open historic houses, and events that explore all kinds of New York culture and history are on tap. Last year Heritage Weekend hosted 166 Heritage Weekend events with 143 federal, state, and private organizations. For a full searchable listing of events, and maps see www.heritageweekend.org .

Not only does this Heritage Weekend celebrate New York’s rich history, but it also boosts local economies. According to recent studies, tourism generates 81 billion dollars and sustains over 670,000 jobs in New York. According to a recent study recent commissioned by the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce, 78% of US domestic travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities.

“Heritage Weekend opens the door to so many of New York’s great historic and cultural treasures,” said Beth Sciumeca, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “Once that door is open, people will find that there is a lifetime of places to experience throughout the state.”

New York Heritage Weekend 2012 is funded in part by The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and sponsored by I Love NY, National Park Service, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and participating event partners.

Modern New York: Recent NYC Economic History

The economic history of New York is filled with high-stakes drama. In Modern New York: The Life and Economics of a City (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), journalist, economist and political commentator Greg David (who edited the regional Crain’s New York Business for more than 20 years and is now director of the business and economics reporting program at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY), tells the story of the city’s financial highs and lows since the 1960s.

David fairly conservative approach looks at how Wall Street came to dominate the economy in the years following a decade of economic decline. He argues that New York City’s great recession is not happening now, and it didn’t happen after 9-11. &#8220The Great Recession That Wasn’t&#8221, is David’s term for the current American economic disaster.

&#8220By comparison, the city’s great recession had occurred between 1969 and 1977, when a stock market crash devastated Wall Street and the city’s manufacturing sector collapsed and it’s competitiveness waned as the city hiked its tax burden,&#8221 David writes. &#8220Some 650,000 jobs disappeared over those years, and the population fell by almost 1 million people, two little-discussed factors that were as important as budget chicanery in created the Fiscal Crisis that almost sent the city into bankruptcy.&#8221

This understanding of New York’s post-war period rests in part on the neo-liberal interpretation of New York City’s recent history. It goes something like this: the anti-business policies (regulation, and higher taxes) of liberal machine politicians like John Lindsay (Mayor from 1966 to 1973) and Abe Beame (Mayor from 1974 to 1977) led to the loss of manufacturing and then the flight of New Yorkers from a desperate, crime-ridden and &#8220grimy&#8221 Gotham. Only the pro-development policies of Ed Koch and the great victory of Rudolph Giuliani, reformist street cleaner and crime fighter, kept New York City from becoming another Detroit.

That’s more or less the story told here in chapters like &#8220Structural Not Cyclical&#8221, and &#8220Making New York Safe For Commerce&#8221. David chastises leaders for failing to recognize long term manufacturing declines, and points to unions, burdensome taxes, and restrictive zoning as the major culprit. Perhaps due to the author’s limiting regional scope and focus on the perspective of the business community, significant American trends such as baby-boom suburbanization, container shipped goods from low wage workers in Asia and elsewhere, and media-based perceptions about crime and quality of life issues are set on the back burner.

For example, a wider perspective in Modern New York would include worker struggles to retain the wages and benefits that made living in the city attractive. New York City’s economic decline coincided directly with unprecedented attacks on the city’s workers. Witness, for example, the 1966 transit strike during which Lindsey refused to negotiate and mocked workers to the press. Or the seven-month teacher strike in 1968 that was the result of the firing of teachers opposed to Lindsey’s contract negotiation plan to divide their union. These strikes were followed by actions on Broadway, and the sanitation strike in the fall of 1968. In 1971 the city’s AFSCME workforce walked off the job. One might argue that workers simply had no interest in living in the city’s difficult employment environment. Whatever the cause of the city’s working class losses, Modern New York could have offered a deeper, more multidimensional understanding of the city’s recent economic history.

In David’s interpretation, after 9-11 the finance industry and tourism stepped in to help save the day, at least temporarily. In a chapter entitled &#8220Three Sectors To The Rescue&#8221, the author suggests that film and television production, higher education, and the technology sectors are the future of New York, leaving the contrary reader to wonder how the city can survive without its working class.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Arts-and-Culture Investments in Placemaking

What do theaters, cultural centers, jazz clubs and the like contribute to local economies? To public safety? To neighborhood desirability? Many agree that culture is an essential component of urban livability, but quantifying how much and in what ways is a challenge. And that makes justifying and attracting investment an equal one.

At the forum &#8220Measuring Vibrancy: The Impacts of Arts-and-Culture Investments in Placemaking,&#8221 the Municipal Art Society of New York expects to offer those involved in placemaking – an approach to developing public spaces that starts by gathering information about users’ and potential users’ needs and aspirations – a chance to hear how some of their counterparts have met the measurement challenge.

The panelists, who represent the disciplines of economic development, urban design, research and real estate, are:

Carol Coletta, President, ArtPlace (NYC) – Moderator

Joe Cortright, President and Principal Economist, Impresa (Portland, OR)

Kevin Stolarick, Research Director, The Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management (Toronto, ON)

Harriet Tregoning, Director, Washington, DC, Office of Planning (Washington, DC)

Sue Mosey, President, Midtown Detroit (Detroit, MI)

ArtPlace, which moderator Carol Coletta leads, is a national collaborative of foundations, federal agencies (including the NEA) and some of the nation’s largest banks which support placemaking initiatives. The organization is in the process of developing a set of “vibrancy indicators” that will measure the impact of investments in arts and culture.

&#8220Measuring Vibrancy: The Impacts of Arts-and-Culture Investments in Placemaking&#8221 will be held on Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 &#8211 8:00 pm (reception to follow) at the National Museum of the American Indian (One Bowling Green, NYC). The event is free, but registration is required.

This is the latest program in the MAS Arts Forum series. Produced since 1990, the series presents visionary cultural leaders working in all disciplines, across the country and around the world, who share their knowledge and experience with New Yorkers passionate about arts advocacy, policymaking and management. This event follows an April 12 MAS Arts Forum in which the leaders of all three NYC library systems will discuss the libraries’ role as centers of neighborhood cultural activity.

The Municipal Art Society of New York, founded in 1893, is a non-profit organization committed to making New York a more livable city through education, dialogue and advocacy for intelligent urban planning, design and preservation.

Preservation Conference: NYC Public, Open Spaces

The Historic Districts Council (HDC), the citywide advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, will host its 18th Annual Preservation Conference, “The Great Outside: Preserving Public and Private Open Spaces,” March 2-4, 2012.

“The Great Outside” will focus on significant open spaces and landscapes in New York City, including public parks, plazas, parkways, yards, planned communities and public housing. Participants will examine a variety of issues such as development history, current threats, preservation efforts and future use. Speakers will address both broad issues as well as smaller, neighborhood-based battles. Attendees will gain a strong understanding of how open space conservation and preservation works in New York City. The conference is co-sponsored by more than 200 community-based organizations from across the five boroughs.

The conference begins on the evening of Friday, March 2 with an opening reception and a keynote address, “Change, Continuity and Civic Ambition: Cultural Landscapes, Design and Historic Preservation,” by Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, the country’s leading organization dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of its cultural landscapes. This event will take place from 6-8pm at New York Law School, 185 West Broadway in Manhattan.

The conference continues Saturday, March 3 with two panels examining the preservation of public and private open space: distinguished speakers include author and curator Thomas Mellins- landscape architect Ken Smith- Thomas J. Campanella, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design at University of North Carolina- independent scholar Evan Mason, and Alexandra Wolfe of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. The Saturday conference will also present networking opportunities where attendees will learn about the latest campaigns dealing with open space concerns across the city. The Conference will be held at Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square, between East 6th and East 7th Streets, Manhattan.

On Sunday, March 4, HDC will host five related walking tours in a diverse group of New York City neighborhoods and sites with significant public and private open spaces, including Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens, public and private plazas of Midtown Manhattan, Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, the North Shore Greenbelt of Staten Island, and a bicycle tour of the changing waterfront of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Advance reservations are required.

Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx A National Historic Landmark with a stunning array of mausoleums and world class landscape design.

Midtown’s Public Plazas See the renowned as well as little-known public plazas that dot the landscape of Midtown Manhattan. Many were designed by prominent landscape architects as public amenities.

Northshore Greenbelt of Staten Island is part of the larger green belt that makes this the second largest area of city parkland in New York.

Sunnyside, Woodside and Beyond. This tour highlights a variety of significant landscapes including the early garden style housing of Sunnyside and the public housing in nearby Woodside.

Williamsburg and Greenpoint Waterfront Bicycle along this changing face of Brooklyn and learn about the large new waterfront towers, public parks and plans for the future.

HDC will offer several pre-conference programs with content related to open space issues. On February 5 at 8:30am at 232 East 11th Street, Andy Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, will present new and affordable pedestrian spaces created from underutilized street segments through the DOT Public Program. Both of these programs are free to the public.

Fees: March 2 Opening Night Reception and Keynote Address: $35, $30 Friends of HDC, Students & Seniors- March 3 Conference: $25, $15 for Friends of HDC & Seniors, Free for students with valid ID- March 4 Walking Tours: $25. Reservations are necessary for all programs.

For more information or to register for the Conference go to www.hdc.org or call (212) 614-9107.

The 18th Annual Preservation Conference is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by Councilmembers Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Stephen Levin and Rosie Mendez.

The conference is also co-sponsored by the New York Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects and more than 200 Neighborhood Partner organizations.

Photo: Statue of George Washington (by Henry Kirke Brown, 1856) in the middle of Fourth Avenue at 14th Street, circa 1870- the statue was later moved to the center of Union Square Park. Courtesy Wikipedia.