Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: The New York Of The Future... Then

Over the past 100 years, engineers and urban planners have come up with some ingenious solutions to New York City's inherent challenges... Here are five that are wildly unique, if not either highly impractical or just plain stupid.
1) In 1918, the concept of technology that could dig tunnels not only beneath existing streets, but tunnels beneath tunnels—that didn't cave in on one another—was apparently next to impossible to imagine.
Using the Broadway subway line's construction as an example, city planners offered a visual to New Yorkers to demonstrate how steel wedges and wooden beams would be employed to support existing rails, while blasting rock from beneath them.

Eventually, the steel wedge would serve as permanent ceiling for the second layer of tunnels, while another beam would hold everything in place. After areas surrounding the supports were filled with cement, workers could take them away and let the structure stand on its own.

For that matter, it's still pretty astounding.

2) In 1916, Dr. T. Kennard Thomson, a consulting engineer, proposed a novel solution to New York City's growing population problem: simply add more land! His proposal entailed adding 50 square miles of land from the New York Bay, which would add about 100 miles of new waterfront, essentially turning downtown Manhattan into midtown!

The black portions at the bottom of the map display the areas Thomson planned to add land mass, including the new East River he planned to carve inside Queens. With the original East River filled in, Brooklyn and Manhattan would become the new East and West Side.

Even though the project was projected to cost more than the Panama Canal, the engineer theorized that the added populace would contribute enough financial returns to justify the investment.
3) A decade after T. Kennard Thomson offered his proposal, in 1924, John A. Harris, special deputy commissioner in charge of traffic, proposed draining the pesky East River and constructing a massive paved boulevard between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

After damming and draining the East River between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Harlem River, a new city hall atop the boulevard would house a police, health, music and art center, while new high schools, playgrounds and a theater district could serve all four boroughs.

Beneath the pabed boulevard would be parking spaces, subway lines, east and west ramps, as well as a tunnel for large vehicles... Actually, this is a pretty boffo idea... you know, except for turning New York City into a dustbowl.

4) Transferring on the S subway shuttle between Grand Central Station and Times Square is a royal pain in the ass, to this day. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Stevens-Adamson Manufacturing came up with a genius solution in 1951: installing conveyor cars that would shuttle passengers between the two stations.

According to the plan, these cars would carry twice as many people a third faster than the existing shuttle train. To ease up traffic even further, a moving sidewalk would carry commuters to and from the tunnels, the conveyor cars and the subway platforms themselves. Damn shame that never happened.5) Welcome to the all-new Times Square, via 1962! Without cross streets, traffic flow would be magically undeterred, as the center of the universe was transformed into more of a village setting, complete with multi-level connecting theaters, retail and transportation...

Funny, while nothing of the sort ever happened, NYC Mayor Bloomberg has taken today's Times Square back in time, a la George Orwell's 1984. Even though you're outdoors, somehow, smoking is hazardous, despite the steady stream of car, cab and bus exhaust.

Monday, May 30, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: Fifth Avenue, 1913

In this gratifyingly expansive, beautifully sharp image looking up Fifth Avenue in the spring of 1913, it doesn't much matter if it's in black or white, since all of the automobiles were the color of shiny coal. Note that at the time, Fifth Avenue had traffic in both directions. Photo: George Grantham Bai.

EXCLUSIVE: Lady Lib Gets Ready For Work, Just Like The Rest Of Us

If there's no camera aimed at her, is the Statue of Liberty really standing on her pedestal 24/7? The Smoking Nun has discovered in these exclusive photos that Lady Liberty gets ready for work, just like everybody else, taking a ferry boat from Battery Park to her daily job on Liberty Island....Above, Lady Liberty is none too amused when I try to take her picture before she's officially on duty... She then gathers her things: sunblock, sunglasses, make-up bag, cigarettes and a small flask of booze... And to my astonishment boards the Statue Cruises boat with all of the tourists...Thirty minutes later, standing tall, as her workday begins. Who knew?!!

Window To The World

Urban Oasis: Fulton Landing, River Cafe, Brooklyn Bridge Park

An utterly poifect weekend day. Sunny and warm, with blue skies abounding... and a walk in the park with Leo. Destination: Fulton Landing, the grounds of the five-star River Cafe and Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1. Ain't it great to be alive?Kayaking on the East River... scary!

Friday, May 27, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: The 1890s Version Of Google?

 Today, we call them pop-up ads. Were the billboards plastered all over this abandoned building in the 1890s any less invasive?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: The Astor Theatre, 1936


The Astor Theatre, located at Broadway and 45th Street, was among New York City's most prominent Broadway theaters from 1906 to 1925. It was eventually managed by the Shubert Organization, which today maintains control of 17 Broadway houses. From 1925 to 1972, Astor was a movie theater, but was shuttered because of faulty air conditioning.

The above image from 1936 shows the premiere of The Great Ziegfeld, a 1936 musical biopic of Florenz Ziegfeld, including music by Irving Berlin. It stars Luise Rainer, William Powell, Myrna Loy & Frank Morgan, as well as real-life Ziegfeld performers Fanny Brice & Ray Bolger, who played themselves.

In 1982, the Astor Theatre was demolished—along with the Victoria, Helen Hayes, Morosco and Bijou theaters—to make way for the Marriott Hotel. All is not totally lost, however: The Marriott houses Broadway's Marquis Theatre, which opened in 1986. Among shows there: Me and My Girl, Gypsy, Man of La Mancha, The Goodbye Girl, Damn Yankees, Victor/Victoria, Peter Pan, Annie Get Your Gun and Thoroughly Modern Millie.Below, today's Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NYC Vintage Image Of The Day: Gray's Papaya, Since 1973

Gray's Papaya, established in New York in 1973, is a hot dog restaurant renowned for inexpensive, tasty wieners. A single dog costs $1.50, while the Recession Special—two dogs & a 14-ounce drink—is $4.45 (up from 2008's $2.75). Its namesake papaya fruit drink is joined by orange, grape, pina colada, coconut champagne & banana daiquiri. Thankfully, Gray's also serves sodas, coffee & hot chocolate. And that's it: other than bagels for breakfast, no fries... nuttin' else.
Gray's was founded by a former partner of its predecessor, Papaya King, established in 1932. In 2006, Time Out ranked Gray's hotdog No. 1 over Papaya King.
Two locations of the iconic joint remain, which are open 24/7/365: Broadway & 72nd Street and Sixth Avenue at 8th Street.The 72nd Street locale has been featured in a bunch of films, including The Warriors, Die Hard with a Vengeance, You've Got Mail, Fools Rush In, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and in 2010, The Backup Plan, starring Jennifer Lopez—which I watched last night, prompting me to find out more about this NYC fave. Gray's has also appeared in TV shows Sex and the City and How I Met Your Mother.
Above, The Smoking Nun's take on the Sixth Avenue location... and below, a telling image I took in November 2008 during the Bush administration, weeks before Obama was elected.

Monday, May 23, 2011

NYC Vintage Image: New York Public Library, 1911

The New York Public Library, on Fifth Avenue covers two city blocks from 40th to 42nd Streets. The handsome Beaux Arts building, constructed entirely of marble, cost $9 million. The cornerstone was laid in November 1902 and the library opened May 23, 1911.
Views of the main reading room: left is from the 1930s, right from the 1920s. Below: Today, gloriously, it looks the same.
Fifth Avenue & 42nd, Easter, 1913
The two twin male lions guarding the entrance of the New York Public Library’s main branch were called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after two NYPL benefactors, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. But in the 1930s, with the first Great Depression taking its toll on the city, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude, believing that these were the qualities city residents needed most to survive the horrible economic times... I'm thinking we're due for another name change with the second Depression today. How about Job and Cash?Below, opening day, May 23, 1911.