kottke.org posts about NYC
Chef and Momofuku founder David Chang spends a lot of time thinking about food and he's arrived at what he calls the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.
My first breakthrough on this idea was with salt. It's the most basic ingredient, but it can also be hellishly complex. A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that's wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.
I'm not sure his observations are exactly unified, but they are interesting and also why I enjoy eating at his restaurants so much. A meal I had at Ssam Bar shortly after they switched away from the initial Korean burritos menu is in my top 5 meals of all time and a pair of dishes at Ko (both somehow simultaneously familiar and new) are among the most delicious things I've ever eaten.
Stacey Baker, who is a photo editor at the NY Times, spends some of her leisure time photographing the legs of women on the streets of NYC. Her Instagram account has 78K+ followers and now she's turned the project into a book: New York Legs.
Casimir Nozkowski grew up in a building at 70 Hester Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before his parents occupied it in the late 1960s, the building had been a synagogue, a Prohibition-era distillery, and a raincoat factory. Before they moved out in 2012, Nozkowski "filmed the hell out of it" and made a short documentary about his childhood home.
My documentary is about my childhood home and how much of the past you could still see in it when we left. It's about the development of a neighborhood a lot of lives have passed through and whether you can protect that legacy while still making room for new lives and new memories. In making my movie, I tried to follow some advice my mom gave me: "Don't make a movie about moving out. Make it about how great it was to live here." I like that sentiment but I couldn't help wondering what was going to happen next to the old building I grew up in.
In 1943, artist and poet Gelett Burgess wrote a poem to New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia complaining of the poor typography on some of the city's street signs. La Guardia wrote back, also in verse. (via @john_overholt)
Sad news from the NY Times: legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham has died today at the age of 87.
In his nearly 40 years working for The Times, Mr. Cunningham operated both as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist, one who used the changing dress habits of the people he photographed to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more diffuse and individualistic.
At the Pierre hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he pointed his camera at tweed-wearing blue-blood New Yorkers with names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Downtown, by the piers, he clicked away at crop-top wearing Voguers. Up in Harlem, he jumped off his bicycle -- he rode more than 30 over the years, replacing one after another as they were wrecked or stolen -- for B-boys in low-slung jeans.
I saw Cunningham out on the streets of NYC twice and both times chills ran up my back watching a master at work. Unless Cunningham had something in the can before he died, it looks as though the last of his On the Street features is about black and white fashion. Tonight might be a good time to watch the documentary Bill Cunningham New York -- it's available on Amazon (free with Prime).
The Misplaced Series removes notable New York buildings from their surroundings and "misplaces" them in desolate landscapes around the world. Concrete behemoths and steel-and-glass towers rise from sand dunes and rocky cliffs, inviting viewers to see them as if for the first time. Out of context, architectural forms become more pronounced and easily understood.
See all 10 buildings in their new surroundings at Misplaced New York.
NYC water tastes amazing. Better than bottled. Where does the city get such great water from?
The Catskill/Delaware watershed, which extends 125 miles northwest of the city, provides more than 90 percent of the city's supply. The rest comes from the Croton watershed.
It can take 12 weeks to a year for water to wind its way to the city from the streams, tunnels, dams and reservoirs in the Catskills. All of it is delivered to the city by gravity alone.
"Gravity's an important friend of ours," said Mr. Rush, the deputy commissioner, explaining that it "works nonstop" and is "energy efficient."
Whoa, I had no idea the aqueduct tunneled 1000 feet under the Hudson River. Water systems have been in the news lately, both in Flint, MI and here in NYC, where Mayor de Blasio postponed work on Water Tunnel #3 and then, a day later, responding to public concern over the postponement, announced that he was going to accelerate the work on Tunnel #3.
See also David Grann's classic 2003 New Yorker piece about the NYC water system, City of Water.
The author accompanied a group of sandhogs and nine cases of dynamite six hundred feet down a shaft leading to a segment of the tunnel that lies below Tenth Ave. and 13th St. New York's invisible underground empire goes as deep as the Chrysler building is high. Tunnel No. 3 has been under construction since 1969; it will extend sixty miles, from the reservoir in Yonkers to the end of Manhattan, with various redundant loops.
Alexey Zakharov gathered old photos of New York, Washington D.C. and other American cities from Shorpy and animated them into something wonderful. There's a cheesy steampunk time machine at the beginning...push through that to the good stuff. (via @pshoplifter)
Camilo Jose Vergara's Tracking Time project is a collection of photos of locations around the US (LA, Harlem, Detroit, South Bronx) photographed repeatedly over the years, from the 70s to the present day. For instance, here's how 65 East 125th St in Harlem looked in 1978:
And in 2015:
As Stewart Brand noted, Vergara's project is a perfect illustration of How Buildings Learn.
Update: I can't stop looking at these. Check out Fern St. in Camden, New at Newark Sts. in Newark, Paired Houses in Camden, and 6003 Compton Ave. in LA.
In this short film, Manhattan becomes Mannahatta again, as the plants take over when the humans leave the city. The early part of the film, before the twist, has a This Is Legend vibe, but it also reminds me of a book I read with my kids, The Curious Garden, about a High Line-like elevated park that spreads across an industrial city. (via colossal)
In this 25-minute film, director Amanda Murray profiles The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair through rare color film footage and talking to people who attended.
A modernist, techno-utopia landed in New York in 1939, rocketing kids from the Depression into 'The World of Tomorrow.'
I had to stop myself from falling down a major research rabbit hole here, but just one of the tidbits I ran across was the IND World's Fair Line, an NYC subway line built especially for the fair. (via @jcormier)
Jeff Seal digs through garbage bags outside of NYC grocery stores, delis, bakeries, and supermarkets to find perfectly good food that's been thrown out.
The WSJ dispatched Matthew Riva to re-shoot classic NYC street scenes first captured by Berenice Abbott in the 1930s.
Yesterday, in need of a chance to think, inspired by a friend's recent long run, and in celebration of no longer being sick (mostly), I took the A train up to the last stop at 207th St, got out, and started walking down Broadway. Some observations:
When we first moved to NYC in late 2002, Meg and I did an "urban bushwhack" in Manhattan, very much like the one described here. We hiked around upper Manhattan for 15 miles -- the heel on my right foot hurt for months afterwards -- but it remains one of the best activities I've ever done in the city.
Broadway is the oldest north/south road in NYC. It was originally a Native American trail called Wickquasgeck. Today, even though it runs the length of the island, I'm not sure it's in any way representative of Manhattan or NYC as a whole. As a main thoroughfare, it's mostly businesses; there's very little in the way of residential.
I walked past approximately 50,000 nail salons, most of them north of 125th St. Also a lot of tax prep places up there, although I don't know if that's seasonal or what.
I totally forgot to jog over a couple of blocks in the 140s to see the house from The Royal Tenenbaums and Alexander Hamilton's house. :(
Times Square was the worst stretch of Broadway by a wide margin.
The weather was nice and for a stretch in the 120s, 130s, and 140s, people were out sitting on the sidewalks, eating, playing dominos, shooting the shit. I passed a group of guys talking about the Bulls/Knicks rivalry from the late 80s and early 90s, about whether Scottie Pippen was actually a good player.
The increasing number of chain stores and restaurants as you travel south is striking. Relatively speaking, Manhattan below 86th St. is all chains.
I ended up stopping at Houston...my legs were getting kinda sore and I didn't want to push my luck. I walked home from there, which as I look at the map now, turns out to be about the same distance as if I would have walked the rest of the way down Broadway. Oh well. Perhaps next time. 200+ blocks and about 10.7 miles total.
Gear Patrol collected a number of coffee cups from coffee shops around NYC. Prices for a small cup ranged from $1 to $4.50. I'm guessing the latter was not 4.5 times tastier than the former. (via @mccanner)
Christopher Robbins recently interviewed Robert Caro (author of The Power Broker, perhaps the best book ever written about New York) for Gothamist. The interview is interesting throughout. (I lightly edited the excerpts for clarity.)
Caro: If you're publishing on the Internet, do you call them readers or viewers?
Robbins: Either, I think.
Caro: How do you know they're reading it?
Robbins: There's something called Chartbeat -- it shows you how many people are reading a specific article in any given moment, and how long they spend on that article. That's called "engagement time." We have a giant flatscreen on the wall that displays it, a lot of publications do.
Caro: What you just said is the worst thing I ever heard. [Laughs]
That exchange makes a nice companion to Snapchat like the teens.
Caro: Moses came along with his incredible vision, and vision not in a good sense. It's like how he built the bridges too low.
I remember his aide, Sid Shapiro, who I spent a lot of time getting to talk to me, he finally talked to me. And he had this quote that I've never forgotten. He said Moses didn't want poor people, particularly poor people of color, to use Jones Beach, so they had legislation passed forbidding the use of buses on parkways.
Then he had this quote, and I can still hear him saying it to me. "Legislation can always be changed. It's very hard to tear down a bridge once it's up." So he built 180 or 170 bridges too low for buses.
We used Jones Beach a lot, because I used to work the night shift for the first couple of years, so I'd sleep til 12 and then we'd go down and spend a lot of afternoons at the beach. It never occurred to me that there weren't any black people at the beach.
So Ina and I went to the main parking lot, that huge 10,000-car lot. We stood there with steno pads, and we had three columns: Whites, Blacks, Others. And I still remember that first column -- there were a few Others, and almost no Blacks. The Whites would be go on to the next page. I said, God, this is what Robert Moses did. This is how you can shape a metropolis for generations.
That's something to remember the next time someone tries to rehabilitate Moses' legacy. Not to mention this excerpt from The Power Broker:
Robert Moses had always displayed a genius for adorning his creations with little details that made them fit in with their setting, that made the people who used them feel at home in them. There was a little detail on the playhouse-comfort station in the Harlem section of Riverside Park that is found nowhere else in the park. The wrought-iron trellises of the park's other playhouses and comfort stations are decorated with designs like curling waves.
The wrought-iron trellises of the Harlem playhouse-comfort station are decorated with monkeys.
And now I am filled with regret at never having read The Power Broker. I started it a couple times, but could never find the time to follow through. I wish it was available on the Kindle...a 1300-page paperback is not exactly handy to carry about and read. The unabridged audiobook is 66 hours long...and $72.
Today is my last day working out of the Buzzfeed office. The company is soon moving to new NYC digs, which seems like a good time for me to hop off. I was the company's design advisor back when it started and have been working out of their offices since there were five of us holed up in a former Communist Party HQ we shared with several enthusiastic roach coworkers in Chinatown. It's been a treat watching this ship rocket into the stratosphere from the inside.1 They've got offices all over the world now and are probably close to 1000 employees, perhaps more, most of whom had no idea why the guy sitting w/ the tech team surfed around on the web all day and never attended any meetings.
Anyway, so many thanks to Jonah and the rest of the crew there. And good luck!
Just as he did a couple of years ago, Casey Neistat busted out his board yesterday and went snowboarding behind a 4WD Jeep in the blizzard covered streets of Manhattan. (thx, david)
A photo of NYC's Flatiron Building, taken in 1904 by Edward Steichen.
Fun fact: the Flatiron Building was not so named because of its resemblance to a clothes iron. It was actually named after the building's owner, Archibald W. Flatiron.
Ok, not really. But *puts on mansplaining suspenders* the part about the building not being named after its resemblance to an iron is true. It was the piece of land that was so-named, long before the building was even built. A man named Amos Eno owned the property and it became known as "Eno's flatiron". The canny Eno, knowing his property was conveniently located right next to Madison Square, erected a screen on top of the small building at the very tip of the triangle and made it available for motion picture advertising in the 1870s. From Alice Alexiou's The Flatiron:
He set up a canvas screen on top of the Erie ticket office roof, and charged the enterprising owners of stereopticons or "magic lanterns" -- these were the first slide projectors, invented about twenty years earlier and now extremely popular -- to project advertisements upon the screen. Madison Square, just opposite, provided the perfect place for the spectators. To keep them interested, the operator alternated pictures with the ads, all in rapid succession. "Niagara Falls dissolves into a box of celebrated boot blacking, and the celebrated blacking is superseded by a jungle scene, which fades into an extraordinarily cheap suite of furniture," wrote a reporter in Scribner's Magazine in August 1880. Sometimes in the Young Men's Christian Association paid to add their messages -- "The blood of Christ cleanses all from sin," "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved" -- to the mix. On balmy evenings, the slide displays lasted until as late as ten o'clock. Even in cold and nasty weather, the free shows drew crowds. The New York Times began using Eno's screen for their news bulletins. The experiment drew huge crowds. "All the important events of the day were rapidly displayed in large letters... so that the public was at once informed of the news. From 7 o'clock until midnight the bulletins appeared in quick succession... The latest move in Erie, the Tweed trial, the hotel inspections, the doings of Congress... the messages being transmitted by telegraph from the Times office, as soon as received," the Times reported on January 14, 1873. The New York Tribune now also began buying time on Eno's screen. On election nights, Eno's flatiron was now the nerve center of New York, as Democratic and Republican Party bigwigs held court across the street in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers filled Madison Square, where, staring at the screen, the waited eagerly for election returns.
Not to get all Victorian Internet on you, but that sounds a little like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.
Eno was not the first to use such a system to disseminate information. Before baseball games were broadcast on the radio, enterprising business and newspaper owners used information from frequent telegraph messages to display scores from the games in increasingly engaging ways. In Georgia, they even cosplayed games from telegraph intel:
"A novel feature of the report was the actual running of the bases by uniformed boys, who obeyed the telegraph instrument in their moves around the diamond. Great interest prevailed and all enjoyed the report," read the Atlanta Constitution on April 17, 1886. (And as if that wasn't enough to entice you, the paper also noted that "A great many ladies were present.")
Which brings us back to that photo of the Flatiron. Just as the telegraph-assisted baseball game wasn't "the real thing" or in some sense "authentic", neither is Steichen's print. For starters, it's not the only one. Steichen made three prints from that same shot, one in 1904, another in 1905, and the last in 1909, the one shown above. You'll notice that each of the prints is a slightly different color...he applied a different pigment suspended in gum bichromate over a platinum print for each one. The 1909 print was time-delayed, a duplicate, and painted on...was it even a proper photograph? Perhaps some in that era didn't think so, but I believe time has proved that "great interest prevailed and all enjoyed" Steichen's photographs. *snaps suspenders*
YouTube user DJ Hammers has been uploading videos of start-to-finish trips on NYC subway lines from the perspective of the operator at the front of the train. The realtime videos are interesting to watch, but the 10x time lapses are probably a better use of your attention. Here's the time lapse of the Queens-bound 7 train (realtime version):
See also Slow TV.
I love watching Gordon Ramsay make scrambled eggs. I first saw this video years ago and, possibly because I am an idiot, have yet to attempt these eggs at home. You and me, eggs, next weekend.
P.S. Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes scrambled eggs in a very similar way. Not quite soft-scrambled...Serious Eats calls them fancy French spoonable eggs.
P.P.S. Anyone have a square Japanese omelette pan I can borrow?
P.P.P.S. In Jiro Dreams of Sushi (now on Netflix!), an apprentice talks about making tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) over 200 times before Jiro declared it good enough to serve in his restaurant.
That apprentice, Daisuke Nakazawa, is now the head chef at Sushi Nakazawa, one of the five NYC restaurants that currently has a four-star rating from the NY Times (along with the aforementioned Jean-Georges and not along with Per Se, which recently got dunce capped down to 2 stars by populist hero Pete Wells).
Late last year, Todd Schneider did a big data analysis of taxi and Uber usage in NYC. This morning, he posted the results of a similar analysis for Citi Bike.
But unlike the taxi data, Citi Bike includes demographic information about its riders, namely gender, birth year, and subscriber status. At first glance that might not seem too revealing, but it turns out that it's enough to uniquely identify many Citi Bike trips. If you know the following information about an individual Citi Bike trip:
1. The rider is an annual subscriber
2. Their gender
3. Their birth year
4. The station where they picked up a Citi Bike
5. The date and time they picked up the bike, rounded to the nearest hour
Then you can uniquely identify that individual trip 84% of the time! That means you can find out where and when the rider dropped off the bike, which might be sensitive information. Because men account for 77% of all subscriber trips, it's even easier to uniquely identify rides by women: if we restrict to female riders, then 92% of trips can be uniquely identified.
Dwell has a short feature on Tekserve, a beloved Manhattan technology store and Apple service shop.
But think about that: you can walk in, take a ticket (like at the deli counter), and then talk to a live person, someone knowledgeable who will give you diagnostics right on the spot and provide you with options. We have a 30-year history of working with the Apple community, so we really know our stuff. Our community trusts us-that's why we maintain an 80 percent repeat customer rate.
In November, after many stubborn months of using my Macbook Air as a desk-bound device because the battery was so bad that accidentally kicking out the power cord would shut the whole thing down,1 I took it in to Tekserve. I'd somehow never been there before, even though friends had raved about it. The store immediately reminded me of the computer stores of my youth, when you could actually tinker with the guts of these machines. Today's technology shops, like the Apple Store, are so antiseptic that you barely even think about how the computers work, which I guess is part of the appeal for both company and patron.
Anyway, I took my laptop in there around midday on a Thursday, they quoted me a lower-than-I-expected price for the battery replacement, and told me it'd probably be read by the end of Friday or possibly, if they were super busy, by first thing Monday. I got an email about 3 hours later saying it was ready. Great service. If you need service on your Apple products -- they are an "authorized Apple Premiere Partner" which means they honor warranties, AppleCare, etc. -- you should definitely check Tekserve out.
Pastrami on Rye is a full-length history of the NYC Jewish deli, written by Judaism scholar Ted Merwin. From a review in The Economist:
Jewish delicatessens may now be known for knishes, latkes and pastrami sandwiches, but back in their heyday, during the 1920s and 1930s in the theatre district in New York, they also served beluga caviar, pâté de foie gras and Chateaubriand steak. Jewish classics were gussied up and defiled: chopped chicken liver was served with truffles. Treyf, like oysters and pork chops, was eaten with abandon alongside kosher delicacies.
That reminds me...a trip to Katz's is looooooong overdue.
A collection of old film footage of NYC, taken between 1896 and 1905, along with maps and descriptions of the locations.
Todd Schneider used a couple publicly available data sets (NYC taxis, Uber) to explore various aspects of how New Yorkers move about the city. Some of the findings include the rise of Uber:
Let's add Uber into the mix. I live in Brooklyn, and although I sometimes take taxis, an anecdotal review of my credit card statements suggests that I take about four times as many Ubers as I do taxis. It turns out I'm not alone: between June 2014 and June 2015, the number of Uber pickups in Brooklyn grew by 525%! As of June 2015, the most recent data available when I wrote this, Uber accounts for more than twice as many pickups in Brooklyn compared to yellow taxis, and is rapidly approaching the popularity of green taxis.
...the plausibility of Die Hard III's taxi ride to stop a subway bombing:
In Die Hard: With a Vengeance, John McClane (Willis) and Zeus Carver (Jackson) have to make it from 72nd and Broadway to the Wall Street 2/3 subway station during morning rush hour in less than 30 minutes, or else a bomb will go off. They commandeer a taxi, drive it frantically through Central Park, tailgate an ambulance, and just barely make it in time (of course the bomb goes off anyway...). Thanks to the TLC's publicly available data, we can finally address audience concerns about the realism of this sequence.
...where "bridge and tunnel" folks go for fun in Manhattan:
The most popular destinations for B&T trips are in Murray Hill, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Midtown.
...the growth of north Williamsburg nightlife:
...the privacy implications of releasing taxi data publicly:
For example, I don't know who owns one of theses beautiful oceanfront homes on East Hampton's exclusive Further Lane (exact address redacted to protect the innocent). But I do know the exact Brooklyn Heights location and time from which someone (not necessarily the owner) hailed a cab, rode 106.6 miles, and paid a $400 fare with a credit card, including a $110.50 tip.
as well as average travel times to the city's airports, where investment bankers live, and how many people pay with cash vs. credit cards. Read the whole thing and if you want to play around with the data yourself, Schneider posted all of his scripts and knowhow on Github.
Update: Using summaries published by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, Schneider takes a look at how taxi usage in NYC is shrinking and how usage of Uber is growing.
This graph will continue to update as the TLC releases additional data, but at the time I wrote this in April 2016, the most recent data shows yellow taxis provided 60,000 fewer trips per day in January 2016 compared to one year earlier, while Uber provided 70,000 more trips per day over the same time horizon.
Although the Uber data only begins in 2015, if we zoom out to 2010, it's even more apparent that yellow taxis are losing market share.
Lyft began reporting data in April 2015, and expanded aggressively throughout that summer, reaching a peak of 19,000 trips per day in December 2015. Over the following 6 weeks, though, Lyft usage tumbled back down to 11,000 trips per day as of January 2016 -- a decline of over 40%.
Here is one of the original architectural drawings done for the Empire State Building by William Lamb:
Scott Christianson wrote a brief piece (taken from his new book 100 Documents That Changed the World: From the Magna Carta to Wikileaks) on how the building was designed and built. The whole thing happened incredibly fast: the first architectural contract was signed in September 1929 and after only 410 days of construction, the building was opened in May 1931.
Ada Calhoun, author of St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street, writes about the ever-changing neighborhoods in NYC.
I think there's more to these "the city is dead now" complaints than money. People have pronounced St. Marks Place dead many times over the past centuries -- when it became poor, and then again when it became rich, and then again when it returned to being poor, and so on. My theory is that the neighborhood hasn't stopped being cool because it's too expensive now; it stops being cool for each generation the second we stop feeling cool there. Any claim to objectivity is clouded by one's former glory.
From Zain Khalid at McSweeney's, The Four Horsemen of Gentrification: Brine, Snark, Brunch, and Whole Foods. From the book of Millennials of the New Standard Greenpoint Bible, chapter 6, verse 1:
Then I saw when the Landlord broke one of the rent-controlled seals. I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Gentrify." I looked, and behold, a green horse, and he who sat on it had a mason jar; and a fedora was his crown, and he went out pickling and to pickle.
Katherine Rosman recently wrote an article for the NY Times called How Organic Avenue Lost All Its Juice about a small NYC-based chain of juice stores recently going out of business. The piece is also a quote gold mine reflecting the zeitgeist of contemporary Manhattan.
"I kind of freaked out," she said. "I was distraught. I lost my yoga for a minute."
There is an admitted emperor's new clothes quality to paying $25 for a lunch of vegetable shavings and a smoothie made of Swiss chard, cashew milk and Himalayan salt.
You can't build a long-term business off what Gwyneth Paltrow likes.
A lot of vegans I know are now making stews out of meat bones and dairy.
Everyone is talking about coal and charcoal.
Bleeeeeaauuuckk. See also your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit.
Update: Some locations are reopening, but shared this mainly for the headline: Organic Avenue Is the Jon Snow of Overpriced Juice Chains.
I don't know what is going on, but in the past few days, several sites have linked to rarely seen or recently uncovered photos of vintage New York. In no particular order:
Paige Powell's photos of 80s culture in NYC, stored in boxes under her bed until very recently. She dated Basquiat and hung with Haring, Warhol, and Madonna. Below, Warhol and Grace Jones chat. Click through...there's another photo of Sting, Bob Dylan, and Warhol having dinner together.
David Attie's photographs of Brooklyn Heights from 1958, stored in wooden boxes in closets until recently. Attie was accompanied on his journey through the neighborhood by Truman Capote, a resident of the area. The photos are featured in a new edition of Capote's Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir.
Charles Traub's street style photos from the late 70s. He took the photos during his lunch breaks of everyday people he thought were interesting in some way. Traub's photos are collected in a new book, Lunchtime.
Janet Delaney's photos of NYC in the mid-80s. These photos have also been stored in a box until recently. Delaney also took dozens of photographs of SoMa in SF from 1978-1986.
From Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols comes This Bridge Will Not Be Gray (at Amazon), a children's book about how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be painted orange.
In this book, fellow bridge-lovers Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols tell the story of how it happened -- how a bridge that some people wanted to be red and white, and some people wanted to be yellow and black, and most people wanted simply to be gray, instead became, thanks to the vision and stick-to-itiveness of a few peculiar architects, one of the most memorable man-made objects ever created.
The kids and I sat down with the book last week and they loved it. The pages on the design of the bridge prompted a discussion about Art Deco, with detours to Google Images to look at photos of the bridge,1 The Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. The next day, on the walk to school, we strolled past the Walker Tower, a 1929 building designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, one of the foremost architects of the 20th century. We were running a little early, so I stopped and asked the kids to take a look and think about what the building reminded them of. "Art Deco" came the reply almost immediately.
I'm really gonna miss reading to my kids -- Ollie mostly reads by himself now and Minna is getting close -- but I hope that we're able to keep exploring the world through books together. NYC is a tough place to live sometimes, but being able to read about something in a book, even about a bridge in far-away San Francisco, and then go outside the next day to observe a prime example of what we were just reading is such a unique and wonderful experience.
Manhattan is home to many small clusters of businesses around a common theme. For example, the Garment District in the west 30s, the Diamond District on 47th St, and, formerly, the Meatpacking District. Here is a short guide to some of them.
A few weeks ago, as I walked to work in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I noticed something unusual -- not one, not two, but four tile stores, side by side, on 21st Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Strange. Then, I remembered rumors about a magical street in Chelsea populated by dozens of flower nurseries. I already knew of Manhattan's legendary Garment District. I wondered -- how many microdistricts could there be in the city?
From Mapzen's exploration of map projections other than the familiar (and often misleading) Mercator, an Inception-style view of Manhattan (or anywhere you want to point the map to...like Paris or London), inspired by Berg's Here & There project (which I was a fan of, obviously).
Matt Green plans to walk on every single street in NYC. Of an estimated 8-9000 miles of streets, trails, and paths in the city, he has already covered 7000 miles, including what looks like nearly all of Brooklyn.
I am going to walk every block of every public street in all five boroughs of New York City, excluding only the high-speed expressways and parkways that prohibit pedestrian traffic. I will also walk every bridge with pedestrian facilities, as well as many private streets, multi-use greenway paths, pedestrian paths and trails through parks and cemeteries, boardwalks, and accessible stretches of coastline.
It is my understanding that the total length of all the public streets in NYC is somewhere in excess of 6,000 miles. Add the bridges, private streets, paths, and coastline to that, as well as all the blocks I will end up covering more than once, and I expect to have walked more than 8,000 miles before I'm done.
Matt previously walked across the United States and visited every NYC subway station in one go.
William Helmreich is also attempting to walk every block in the city, and he and Green recently met to compare notes.
That video is wonderful, btw...two curious souls fully engaging with their surroundings. If you click on none of the other links in this post, you should at least watch the video. (thx, mike)
A much tinier number die alone in unwatched struggles. No one collects their bodies. No one mourns the conclusion of a life. They are just a name added to the death tables. In the year 2014, George Bell, age 72, was among those names.
That has changed since the NY Times' N.R. Kleinfield wrote a piece on the life and death of a random New Yorker: The Lonely Death of George Bell.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending a continuous year in space,1 tweeted out a photo by fellow ISS resident Oleg Kononenko of NYC on Saturday night.
Of the many possibilities, I'd like to point out just three interesting things.
1. Times Square! And not just that, but the whole of central Midtown is now lit up like a Christmas tree from 34th Street to Central Park.
2. The bright spot of light in the upper right corner of the image above is Citi Field. The photo must have been taken during Game 1 of the NLCS between the Mets and the Cubs. The Mets won that game 4-2. #LGM!
3. You'll notice that the streetlights in much of the city are orange. But in the bottom right corner, in Brooklyn, you can see the future. NYC is currently replacing all of the orange-glowing sodium vapor streetlights with blue-glowing LED lights that are longer lasting and more energy efficient. But they are also brighter and some are already complaining about the harsh blue light.
The new LEDs may be environmentally sensitive, but they are also optically harsh.
"The old lights made everybody look bad," said Christopher Stoddard, an architect, who lives at the corner of Fuller Place. "But these are so cold and blue, it's like 'Night of the Living Dead' out there."
"We're all for saving energy," his wife, Aida Stoddard, also an architect, said, "but the city can do so much better."
A few blocks away, Rose Gallitelli taped up black garbage bags on her bedroom windows so that she could sleep. "They're the heavy-duty kind," she said.
The lighting refit is scheduled to be completed in two years. The city will look different when it's done, in real life, on Instagram, and in film. (via @ginatrapani)
Update: Photographer Pari Dukovic has a shot of one of the old sodium vapor street lamps in the New Yorker this week.
Eater has the scoop: Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group is eliminating tipping at all of their full-service restaurants.
Big news out of Manhattan: Dining out is about to get turned on its head. Union Square Hospitality Group, the force behind some of New York's most important restaurants, will announce today that starting in November, it will roll out an across-the-board elimination of tips at every one of its thirteen full-service venues, hand in hand with an across-the-board increase in prices.
Why are they doing this? In part because cooks get the shaft at restaurants:
Under the current gratuity system, not everyone at a restaurant is getting a fair shake. Waiters at full-service New York restaurants can expect a full 20 percent tip on most checks, for a yearly income of $40,000 or more on average -- some of the city's top servers easily clear $100,000 annually. But the problem isn't what waiters make, it's what cooks make. A mid-level line cook, even in a high-end kitchen, doesn't have generous patrons padding her paycheck, and as such is, on average, unlikely to make much more than $35,000 a year.
I hope this catches on.
The Silicon City exhibit at the New York Historical Society takes a look at the long history of computing in NYC.
Every 15 minutes, for nearly a year, 500 men, women, and children rose majestically into "the egg," Eero Saarinen's idiosyncratic theater at the 1964 World's Fair. It was very likely their first introduction to computer logic. Computing was not new. But for the general public, IBM's iconic pavilion was a high profile coming out party, and Silicon City will harness it to introduce New York's role in helping midwife the digital age.
The exhibit opens on November 13, 2015 and runs through next April. The museum is using Kickstarter to help bring the Telstar satellite back to NYC for the exhibit.
Two weeks ago, 99% Invisible broadcast an audio documentary from 1998 about one of the last remaining flophouses on The Bowery in NYC called The Sunshine Hotel. It is an amazing time capsule from a Manhattan that just doesn't exist anymore.
The Sunshine Hotel opened in 1922. Rooms -- or really, cubicles -- were 10 cents a night. The Sunshine, like other flop houses, was always a men-only establishment. In 1998, the hotel had raised it's rates to 10 dollars a night and it was managed by resident Nathan Smith. He sat behind a metal cage at the front desk, answering the phone and doling out toilet paper to residents for 35 cents. Smith had once worked in a bank until he was injured, and then fired. His wife left him and he ended up in the Bowery, and eventually at the Sunshine Hotel.
The interviewees sound like they're characters in a play, not real people. It's so good. There is also a documentary film released in 2001 about The Sunshine Hotel which is available on Amazon Instant; here's a trailer:
Economist William Easterly and some of his colleagues built a site that focuses on the economic development of a single block in NYC, Greene Street between Houston and Prince. In the past 175 years, use of the block has gone from wealthy residential to sex work to garment manufacturing to artist galleries to luxury retail.
133 Greene Street, for example, has been part of the large Bayard farm, a grand residential home, a brothel, a garment factory, part of a slum, an art gallery, and is today the home of luxury co-op residences and a Dior Homme store.
Many of these shifts took only a decade and could have been very difficult to anticipate.
The site was built to accompany an academic paper on economic development.
By 1870, the Greene Street Block contained 14 brothels, the highest concentration of any block in the City. Just as surprising was the sudden end of prostitution on the block. Brothels still abounded in 1880, but during the next decade entrepreneurs demolished and rebuilt almost the entire block as castiron factories and warehouses, and what was left of the red-light district moved up town.
The site is a little confusing to navigate, but is worth checking out in detail. For instance, check out how quickly the garment manufacturing industry shifted from downtown to the present-day Garment District.
Mark Reay is a former model, actor, and fashion photographer who was homeless in NYC for six years. Homme Less is a documentary on Reay; here's a trailer:
So began a period of my life sleeping rough. It was pretty tiring, and I didn't have much luck with the photos, but I stuck it out. I've never let the lack of money stop me having a good time, and I still had (dwindling) savings from my modelling. It was a happy time. At night I would always treat myself to a rotisserie chicken, but I always wanted a chilled rosé with it. So, in the afternoon, I would sneak into a minimarket, get the cheapest one from the shelf and hide it under the frozen peas. Then, at night, I would put on a fresh shirt and go to one of the fancy bars with my wine in my bag. Again, maybe because I had a certain look, no one ever checked my bag. I'd just go in, nick a glass off the counter and drink my wine surrounded my millionaires.
You can get away with anything if you're confident. Oh, and male, white, and good looking.
The walls of the elevator to the observatory at the top of 1 World Trade Center are covered with screens and when you ride it to the top, you see a time lapse of NYC's development, from 1500 to the present.
The observatory is open daily from 9am to 8pm.
As something of an expert on the topic, I thought this New York Magazine piece about spending time alone in the Big Apple is pretty good. The opening of the piece gets at why busy, crowded NYC is actually a good place for an introvert to be:
Being alone here is a state of mind, a perpetual choice, and an occasional imposition, a burden, and a gift -- and sometimes the very best way to meet a fellow stranger. "Every form of human expressiveness is on display," Vivian Gornick writes of walking the streets by herself, "and I am free to look it right in the face, or avert my eyes if I wish."
And this tip on the Empire State Building is one for the ol' bucket list:
A lot of people don't know this, but the Empire State Building is open until 2 a.m. The last elevator leaves at 1:15. If you go up then, it's empty, it's beautiful, and the city sounds like the ocean.
This video from the MTA shows some of the vintage technologies that are still in use to control many of the NYC's subway lines and how they are upgrading (ve. ry. slow. ly.) to safer and more reliable computerized systems. Some of control systems are more than 80 years old.
Whoa, after watching that, I'm shocked that the trains ever get anywhere at all. (via the kid should see this)
Pixar: The Design of Story is an upcoming exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum here in NYC.
Through concept art from films such as Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Brave, The Incredibles and Cars, among others, the exhibition will focus on Pixar's process of iteration, collaboration and research, and is organized into three key design principles: story, believability and appeal. The exhibition will be on view in the museum's immersive Process Lab -- an interactive space that was launched with the transformed Cooper Hewitt in December 2014 -- whose rotating exhibitions engage visitors with activities that focus on the design process, emphasizing the role of experimentation in design thinking and making.
More details are available in the press release. Definitely going to check this out and take the kids.
This video was shot in NYC on July 18, 1990, mostly in Times Square and Central Park.
The first 30 seconds of the video (stumbling drunk, trash digger, overheating car) is pretty much a perfect representation of how NYC felt to many at the time. A squeegee man can also been seen at work near the end of the video.
The New Yorker did a short feature on Charlie Pellett, the voice of the NYC subway.
This deep, sometimes vexing voice -- which also apologizes for "unavoidable delays" -- belongs to a man named Charlie Pellett. A radio anchor for Bloomberg News, Pellett was raised in London but cultivated an American accent by listening to the radio. His work for the M.T.A., which is done on a volunteer basis, is the only non-reporting voice-over work that he's done.
The WNYC Data News Team is looking for the longest possible NYC subway ride. The MTA says the longest direct trip is 38 miles, but WNYC found one that's 148 miles, requiring 45 transfers. They're running a little competition to see who can find a longer ride...check the rules for more details (short version: you can repeat stations but not track segments). This is basically a variant of the travelling salesman problem, yes? Anyone care to take a crack at it? (via @ryandawidjan)
An NYPD officer anonymously shares what it's like to be a cop in NYC.
I'm walking in Boerum Hill on one of the first really good days of summer. It's been a long week but I'm feeling good in a flowing sundress and sandals, relieved to be freed from what I've begun to think of as my blue polyester prison. I look up and realize with amusement that I'm walking by an actual prison, or, to be precise, a jail: Brooklyn Central Booking.
The doors to the courtroom lobby open and a man emerges, pausing to survey the street. He's a little scruffy but then the newly arraigned usually are -- there aren't many opportunities to freshen up in the holding cells. He has an open, pleasant face, and the recognition on my part is immediate. My heart sinks as I see him cross the street and make a beeline for me.
"Miss? Miss?" He doesn't sound particularly confrontational and I give him my best blank smile, hoping he has some kind of mundane procedural question.
"I don't mean to like bother you or anything, but if you're not busy, and a beautiful lady such as yourself is probably busy, but if you're not busy I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee."
Now I have to grin. This is my new favorite person in the world. What chutzpah! I'm so delighted by this guy that I almost chuck him on the shoulder. Then it hits me. He doesn't recognize me, at all. He has no idea that I'm the person who arrested him two nights before.
(via @choire, who called it "BY FAR the most interesting thing i read all week")
Eater's Nick Solares accompanies the proprietor of Peter Luger Steakhouse to one of the few remaining butchers in the Meatpacking District1 to see how she selects meat for the restaurant.
MoMA has announced that they've acquired the Rainbow Flag for their permanent collection. The flag has been a symbol of the LGBT community around the world since its creation in 1978. As part of the acquisition, MoMA Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher interviewed the man who designed the flag, artist Gilbert Baker.
And I thought, a flag is different than any other form of art. It's not a painting, it's not just cloth, it is not a just logo -- it functions in so many different ways. I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands. [The Rainbow Flag] doesn't say the word "Gay," and it doesn't say "the United States" on the American flag but everyone knows visually what they mean. And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it's very appropriate.
So the American flag was my introduction into that great big world of vexilography. But I didn't really know that much about it. I was a big drag queen in 1970s San Francisco. I knew how to sew. I was in the right place at the right time to make the thing that we needed. It was necessary to have the Rainbow Flag because up until that we had the pink triangle from the Nazis -- it was the symbol that they would use [to denote gay people]. It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things. Plus, it's a natural flag -- it's from the sky! And even though the rainbow has been used in other ways in vexilography, this use has now far eclipsed any other use that it had...
Jason Polan has turned his long-term project to draw each and every person in New York into a book coming out in August. As a long-time Polan fan, I'm looking forward to this.
Shuttered storefronts. Abandoned retail locations. Small businesses that fall like the House of Cards & Curiosities on Eighth Avenue. These are the signs of urban blight we usually associate with economic downturns or poor, forgotten neighborhoods. But these shuttered storefronts are in one of America's wealthiest neighborhoods; NYC's West Village. As The New Yorker's Tim Wu explains, some urban blight emerges when economic times are too good and rents get too high. And we're not just talking about mom and pop here. Even Starbucks is closing some Manhattan locations due to rent hikes.
OldNYC offers a map view of old photos of New York City, drawn from the collection at the New York Public Library. This is fantastic, like a historical Google Street View. For instance, there used to be a huge theater on the corner of 7th Avenue and Christopher St, circa 1929:
If I didn't have a thing to do this afternoon, I would spend all day exploring this. So so good. (via @mccanner)
Conrad Milster is the chief engineer at the Pratt Institute, which means he's in charge of the 19th-century steam engines that provide the school's heat and hot water. Dustin Cohen made this lovely short film about Conrad, an oddball who fits right into his life.
On the topic of New York, Conrad says, "It sucks, but it's the Big Apple!" (via acl)
Wednesday Martin is an anthropologist and author whose upcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue, examines the wealthy stay-at-home moms of Manhattan's Upper East Side like any other primate troop.
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.
Martin wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times about her findings called Poor Little Rich Women.
And then there were the wife bonuses.
I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a "bonus" over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn't work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her "year-end" to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.
A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband's fund had done but her own performance -- how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a "good" school -- the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don't just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.
Women who didn't get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.
Please note that Martin's book is a memoir...not an anthropological study, a memoir. I can't wait to see how they turn this one into a movie.
Update: Polly Phillips in the NY Post: I get a wife bonus and I deserve it, so STFU.
These pricey pairs of designer footwear will join a lineup of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Diane Von Furstenburg and Rupert Sanderson heels and a closet crammed with handbags from Prada, Chanel and Anya Hindmarch. Every single one was bought with one of my annual bonuses -- the nod from a happy boss for a job well done.
But, in this case, the boss in question is my husband, Al. The role he's rewarding me for is my work as a stay-at-home wife and mother. And the luxury labels are purchased with the "wife bonus" -- 20 percent of his own company bonus -- that I'm proud to receive for putting his career before my own, and keeping our lives together.
After all, he readily admits that, without me staying at home with our 19-month-old daughter, Lala -- not to mention the support and understanding I offer when his work intrudes on our home life -- he couldn't do his job. And he also knows that if we hadn't followed his career abroad, I might still be doing very well in my own.
Weird thing #1: Phillips refers to her husband as her boss. No ironic scarequotes. He's the boss. Which seems to be a point in favor of Martin's thesis of a lack of empowerment.
Weird thing #2: Why the hell call it a "wife bonus" if their income is completely shared and they each get 20% of the end-of-year bonus? I mean, it seems completely reasonable and equitable that they each get some mad money to spend however they want on above-and-beyond items. Why load that arrangement down with the icky "wife bonus"?
Update: Remember when I said "Martin's book is a memoir...not an anthropological study"? This is why: it turns out Martin monkeyed with the timelines quite a bit to create a better narrative.
She says she attended grueling exercise classes at Physique 57 to lose her baby weight after her second son's birth. But the upscale gym did not exist when she claims to have exercised there.
She also describes a posh party where the guests bring the hostess gifts from an upscale macaroon shop. But Ladurée didn't open in New York until 2011, four years after she had moved.
While at a lunch date just prior to the party, Martin and a friend do an accounting of how much their over-privileged peers spend on personal grooming, clothing and transportation. Her friend refers to Uber, even though the car service didn't debut in the city until 2011.
The Times reports that the book's publisher will append a note to future editions of the book explaining the tinkered details and timelines. (via @jtaylorhodge)
The real-life house that served as the stoop of Carrie Bradshaw's apartment on Sex and the City is blurred out on Google Street View.
The house was on the Sex and the City tour for a time, before it was dropped due to pressure from neighborhood residents, and remains a popular tourist attraction. I go by there quite often and there is always someone taking a photo on the stoop. As I'm writing this, the most recent photo of someone standing in front of the stoop was posted to Instagram 16 minutes ago. I can see why the owners would want it blurred out, and it turns out getting your property blurred on Google Street View is a simple process.
P.S. What's funny about the house is that Sarah Jessica Parker actually lives only a block or two away. I used to see her all the time, walking our respective kids to school. Ollie and I even got caught in a paparazzi shot one day...that's me in the dark coat right behind Parker and Ollie on the scooter:
No way to fill out a form to blur out my son's face though, I reckon. (via @michaeltsmith)
For lunch today, I was hungry for some noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods, one of my favorite places to eat in all of NYC. While preparing to trek to the East Village or up to Bryant Park, a friend told me about a relatively new location on 34th Street, just down the street from the Empire State Building and only 10 blocks from my office. When I looked it up on the website, I noticed something else: a real-time traffic meter that shows how busy each restaurant is.
What a great idea. The Shake Shack cam is one thing, but I want a meter like this (w/ a forecast option as well) on every restaurant listing in Foursquare. Like Google Maps real-time traffic, except for restaurants.
From Sarah Nir at the NY Times, an investigation into the world of NYC nail salons, where workers need to pay a fee to get a job, are underpaid, subjected to abuse, and are crammed into one-bedroom apartments with several other workers.
Qing Lin, 47, a manicurist who has worked on the Upper East Side for the last 10 years, still gets emotional when recounting the time a splash of nail polish remover marred a customer's patent Prada sandals. When the woman demanded compensation, the $270 her boss pressed into the woman's hand came out of the manicurist's pay. Ms. Lin was asked not to return.
"I am worth less than a shoe," she said.
Prepare to be infuriated over and over as you read this.
The typical cost of a manicure in the city helps explain the abysmal pay. A survey of more than 105 Manhattan salons by The Times found an average price of about $10.50. The countrywide average is almost double that, according to a 2014 survey by Nails Magazine, an industry publication.
With fees so low, someone must inevitably pay the price.
"You can be assured, if you go to a place with rock-bottom prices, that chances are the workers wages' are being stolen," said Nicole Hallett, a lecturer at Yale Law School who has worked on wage theft cases in salons. "The costs are borne by the low-wage workers who are doing your nails."
In a Q&A about the investigation, Nir shares how she became interested in nail salons:
About four years ago, I was at a 24-hour spa in Koreatown. It's one of the Vogue top-secret best-bet salons -- a really unusual place. It was my birthday, and I treated myself to a pedicure at 10 AM. And I said to the woman, "It's so crazy that this is a 24-hour salon. Who works the night shift?" And she says, "I work the night shift." And I said, "Well, it's daytime. Who works the day shift? What do you mean?"
And she said, "I work six days a week, 24 hours a day, I live in a barracks above the salon, and on the seventh day, I go home to sleep in my bedroom in Flushing, and then I come right back to work."
And I was like, This woman's in prison. People had to shake her to keep her awake. And then she would do a treatment. I just thought it was crazy.
I don't see how you can go to a NYC nail salon after reading this article. Even Nir's tips about being a socially conscious nail salon customer aren't much help.
Update: Part 2 of Nir's series on nail salons is out. It's about the health hazards faced by nail salon workers, including lung disease, miscarriages, and cancer. One woman even lost her fingerprints.
Similar stories of illness and tragedy abound at nail salons across the country, of children born slow or "special," of miscarriages and cancers, of coughs that will not go away and painful skin afflictions. The stories have become so common that older manicurists warn women of child-bearing age away from the business, with its potent brew of polishes, solvents, hardeners and glues that nail workers handle daily.
A growing body of medical research shows a link between the chemicals that make nail and beauty products useful -- the ingredients that make them chip-resistant and pliable, quick to dry and brightly colored, for example -- and serious health problems.
Whatever the threat the typical customer enjoying her weekly French tips might face, it is a different order of magnitude, advocates say, for manicurists who handle the chemicals and breathe their fumes for hours on end, day after day.
The prevalence of respiratory and skin ailments among nail salon workers is widely acknowledged. More uncertain, however, is their risk for direr medical issues. Some of the chemicals in nail products are known to cause cancer; others have been linked to abnormal fetal development, miscarriages and other harm to reproductive health.
Update: Governor Cuomo has set up a task force to conduct investigations into the city's nail salons.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered emergency measures on Sunday to combat the wage theft and health hazards faced by the thousands of people who work in New York State's nail salon industry.
Effective immediately, he said in a statement, a new, multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations, institute new rules that salons must follow to protect manicurists from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products, and begin a six-language education campaign to inform them of their rights.
Nail salons that do not comply with orders to pay workers back wages, or are unlicensed, will be shut down. The new rules come in response to a New York Times investigation of nail salons -- first published online last week -- that detailed the widespread exploitation of manicurists, many of whom have illnesses that some scientists and health advocates say are caused by the chemicals with which they work.
This is good news...as long as it results in real positive changes and doesn't just get a bunch of salon workers deported.
Update: The Times continues its nail salon coverage with an interview with Sister Feng, a Chinese social media star who worked as a manicurist in NYC for four years.
Q. The Times reported that some immigrant manicurists said their bosses would withhold tips and verbally or physically abuse them. Did you ever experience this?
A. There were times when my tips were withheld. But as long as I thought my wages weren't out of line with my labor, I wouldn't go to my boss and ask for the tips. In nail salons run by Chinese, being verbally abused was commonplace, so I changed workplaces often. But it never happened in salons run by Koreans. I was never physically beaten.
Ben Fino-Radin of MoMA's Department of Conservation wrote a brief post about how the museum manages their digital artworks, including a bit about how they think about futureproofing the collection.
The packager addresses the most fundamental challenge in digital preservation: all digital files are encoded. They require special tools in order to be understood as anything more than a pile of bits and bytes. Just as a VHS tape is useless without a VCR, a digital video file is useless without some kind of software that understands how to interpret and play it, or tell you something about its contents. At least with a VHS tape you can hold it in your hand and say, "Hey, this looks like a VHS tape and it probably has an analog video signal recorded on it." But there is essentially nothing about a QuickTime .MOV file that says, "Hello, I am a video file! You should use this sort of software to view me." We rely on specially designed software-be it an operating system or something more specialized-to tell us these things. The problem is that these tools may not always be around, or may not always understand all formats the way they do today. This means that even if we manage to keep a perfect copy of a video file for 100 years, no one may be able to understand that it's a video file, let alone what to do with it. To avoid this scenario, the "packager" -- free, open-source software called Archivematica -- analyzes all digital collections materials as they arrive, and records the results in an obsolescence-proof text format that is packaged and stored with the materials themselves. We call this an "archival information package."
Roger Pasquier hunts for coins on NYC sidewalks and keeps track of how much he finds. He discovered an odd consequence of everyone having a smartphone: people don't pick up change on the sidewalk anymore.
From 1987 to 2006, he averaged about fifty-eight dollars a year. Then Apple introduced the iPhone, and millions of potential competitors started to stare at their screens rather than at the sidewalks. Since 2007, Pasquier has averaged just over ninety-five dollars a year.
I know, I know, that's anecdotal and correlation != causation and whatever, but that's an interesting theory.
From New York Magazine, a big feature on NYC after midnight. Several people shared their stories, including Bebe Buell:
In 1974, I was on Hudson and Horatio -- it was still pretty shady over there at the time - and I could not get a cab. This big giant Cadillac pulls up, and a guy and a girl were in it. It was obviously a pimp and his girl. And the guy goes, "My name is Magic. Do you need a ride?" Who in their right mind would get in that car? But I did. His name was Magic, her name was Angel, and it was like a scene out of a Scorsese movie. I just remember the tranny girls yelling, "You go, girl!" They thought I had gotten a trick or something. I don't know what made me think it was going to be okay. Angel let me know, "Don't worry, honey, we're not serial killers." And for some godforsaken reason, I believed them.
And Alec Baldwin, who has always been interested in Saturday Night Live:
I was told that there was a place called Louis's Toy Bar on the Upper East Side. And it was this narrow sliver of a shop that obviously had sold antique clothes or something. And this guy Louis who owned it would put out plates of, like, Velveeta cheese and crackers and very modest kinds of canapes. I was told, back then, that all the cast of the original Saturday Night Live went there after the show; this was their haunt, this was their after-party-after-party Copacabana. And I went there countless times, eating Velveeta cheese, waiting for them, and they never came. They never showed up.
And Lydia Lunch:
I made money by standing on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 8th Street, shaking down women with children, saying I worked for the Cancer Foundation, until I got \$10. I could live on that. The rent at my apartment on 12th Street between A and B was \$75 a month.
And Dr. Jason D'Amore, formerly a resident at Bellvue:
One night, we got this guy in who was riding his Harley down the FDR at high speed, and he got run over by a semi, and he comes in and is very close to death. [...] So this guy, he was covered head-to-toe in iron crosses and swastikas and white-power tattoos. I'm looking around, and I'm D'Amore, and the ortho guy was Schwarzbaum, and we had to call neurosurgery, and that was Goldberg, and we intubated him and we got him stabilized and into the operating room, and he's totally sedated, and I leaned down and said, "Dude, I just wanted you to know a bunch of Jews just saved your ass."
And Colin Quinn:
It's easier to be nostalgic now. It's easier to look at it now and say, "Oh, I miss Taxi Driver." Suddenly, we're all like French film students who romanticize New York, even though when you lived it, it was bad. There were so many heroin dealers. If you were on, like, Avenue B and C, and somebody goes, "You want heroin?" and you said no, they'd get mad at you, like you were going browsing in a store and not buying anything. "You're wasting our time! Trying to make money here."
And Alexis Swerdloff:
The hand-delivered invite was a velvet-wrapped VHS tape. Five minutes and 42 seconds long, the video had Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Ananda Lewis, Todd Oldham, Veronica Webb, Ben Stiller, Pauly Shore, Derek Jeter, and dozens of other '90s luminaries hyping Puff Daddy's 29th-birthday party on November 4, 1998. Chris Rock said to leave your posse at home, Magic Johnson instructed guests to arrive at 10 p.m. on the dot, and Will Smith directed people to a 212 number in order to RSVP for the secret location. "It's gonna be all that," cooed Tyra Banks.
And there's so much more...go read the whole thing. The photos are great too. Look for the one with Edith Piaf singing at a club; it's just her in 1950 on a tiny stage with no microphone singing to people while they eat dinner. Man, if I had a time machine...
From Thrillist, the real subway map of Manhattan, your one-stop shop for Manhattan neighborhood stereotypes. (via @mkonnikova)
If you and a friend are walking around Manhattan trying to find dinner, this is how the conversation will go:
It's funny because it's true. That's a clip from We'll Find Something, a short film by Casey Gooden starring Upstream Color's Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz.
Update: The full film has been released online and it is excruciating to watch if you've ever had bad relationship moments while traveling.
Jeffrey Linn makes maps that show how extreme sea level increase will impact major cities around the globe. Recently he made a map of NYC showing what it would look like if sea levels rose by 100 feet, which is what would happen if a third of the world's ice sheets melted. So long, most of Manhattan and Brooklyn; hello Coral Gardens, Prospect Beach, and Sunset Island. Prints are available.
See also Linn's maps of a drowned London, the bay of LA, and islands of Seattle.
The producers of A Most Violent Year, one of the year's most acclaimed movies, are doing something interesting to promote their film. They're running a blog that posts all sorts of media and information about NYC in 1981, the year the film is set. Today, they released a short documentary that features interviews with some people who were scraping together lives in NYC circa 1981. It's worth watching:
Featuring Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, performance artist and former Warhol Factory fixture Penny Arcade, actress Johnnie Mae, Harlem street-style legend Dapper Dan, auto body shop owner Nick Rosello, and trucking union rep Wayne Walsh.
The trailer for A Most Violent Year is here...I've heard good things about this one and hope to catch it soon.
Being an avid eater and cooker of steak,1 a passage at the end of Tom Junod's profile of Wylie Dufresne / obit of WD-50 caught my eye:
"That's why I'm really proud of what we did here," he said over his cup of sake. "I'm proud of the big things, but I'm also proud of the little things we routinely did well. Do you know what made me most proud in the meal I served you? The Wagyu beef. It was perfectly cooked."
"The advantage of sous vide," someone said.
"But it wasn't sous vide!" Dufresne said. "That's the thing. It was cooked in a pan. And it had no gray on it! Do you know how hard that is? Do you know how much work that takes? Turning the beef every seven or eight seconds ... And so that question you asked me before, about food and music -- that's my answer: a perfect piece of Wagyu beef cooked in a pan that comes out without any gray on it. It might not be 'When the Levee Breaks,' but it's definitely 'Achilles Last Stand.'"
I couldn't recall hearing about this fast flipping technique from the many pieces Kenji Lopez-Alt has published about how to and how not to cook steak, so I pinged him on Twitter. He responded with Flip Your Steaks Multiple Times For Better Results.
Let's start with the premise. Anybody who's ever grilled in their backyard with an overbearing uncle can tell you that if there's one rule about steaks that gets bandied about more than others, it's to not play with your meat once it's placed on the grill. That is, once steak hits heat, you should at most flip it just once, perhaps rotating it 90 degrees on each side in order to get yourself some nice cross-hatched grill marks.
The idea sort of makes sense at first glance: flipping it only once will give your steak plenty of chance to brown and char properly on each side. But the reality is that flipping a steak repeatedly during cooking -- as often as every 30 seconds or so -- will produce a crust that is just as good (provided you start with meat with a good, dry surface, as you always should), give you a more evenly cooked interior, and cook in about 30% less time to boot!
It works for burgers too. Thanks, Kenji!
A bit late for today, but for future snow day reference, here's a crowdsourced map of good places to go sledding in NYC.
The American Museum of Natural History's research library has an online exhibit of bird illustrations taken from the book Extraordinary Birds. (via @kellianderson)
At Serious Eats, Ed Levine writes about Why Diners Are More Important Than Ever. From his ten-point list of what defines a diner:
8. All-occasion places: Diners must rise to many occasions, from first dates to pre- or post-game celebrations by fans or teammates, to wallowing in solitary self-pity. Diners are the best restaurants for planning murders, stick-ups, or other nefarious enterprises.
Being an all-occasion place is not the only egalitarian thing about diners:
People talk about Starbucks reintroducing the notion of what sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the "third place" in American life: spaces where we gather besides home and work to form real, not virtual, communities. Starbucks and more high-minded cafes that followed in its wake have surely succeeded on this point, but long before 1971, when the first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in Seattle, diners were already serving that invaluable function for us, along with the corner tavern.
And that's why we need to cherish our local diners, whether it's a mom and pop or a Waffle House or a Greek coffee shop. They're some of the few cheap, all-inclusive places to eat and hang out and laugh and cry and stay viscerally connected with other folks.
And it warmed my heart to see Ed include Cup & Saucer and Eisenberg's on his list of notable NYC diners. An unusual thing I've noticed about Eisenberg's: instead of getting your check at the table, you just tell the cashier what you ordered on the way out and pay for it. Like on the honor system! Is there anywhere else in NYC that does this? I wonder what their loss rate is compared to the norm?
Photographer Vincent Laforet hung himself out of a helicopter hovering at 7500 feet with his high-ISO cameras to capture these gorgeous shots of NYC at night. The blue-purple glow is Times Square.
These are pictures I've wanted to make since I was in my teens, but the cameras simply have not been capable of capturing aerial images from a helicopter at night until very recently.
Helicopters vibrate pretty significantly and you have to be able to shoot at a relatively high shutter speed (even with tools like a gyroscope) and that makes it incredibly difficult to shoot post sunset.Special thanks to long time friend and aerial coordinator Mike Isler & Liberty Helicopters.
Armed with cameras such as the Canon 1DX and the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 MP back -- both capable of shooting relatively clean files at 3200 & 6400 ISO and a series of f2.8 to f1.2 lenses including a few tilt-shift lenses.
I was finally able to capture some of the images that I've dreamed of capturing for decades.
Check out the whole series on Laforet's web site.
This is a great aerial tour (by drone) of all five boroughs of New York.
I bet the Coast Guard boats equipped with the scary-looking machine guns didn't take kindly to a drone shadowing the Staten Island Ferry. (via @anildash)
An exhibition by Danny Lyon of color photos he took in the NYC subway is being staged by the MTA. The photos have never been publicly shown before.
The trains shown in these two photos still run occasionally: just catch the M between 2nd Ave and Queens Plaza between 10am and 5pm on the two remaining Sundays in Dec.
The American Museum of Natural History is planning on expanding.
The American Museum of Natural History, a sprawling hodgepodge of a complex occupying nearly four city blocks, is planning another major transformation, this time along Columbus Avenue: a $325 million, six-story addition designed to foster the institution's expanding role as a center for scientific research and education.
The new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation would stand on a back stretch of the museum grounds near West 79th Street that is now open space.
The addition, to be completed as early as 2019 -- the museum's 150th anniversary -- would be the most significant change to the museum's historic campus since the Art Deco Hayden Planetarium building became the glass-enclosed Rose Center for Earth and Space 14 years ago.
John Lennon died 34 years ago today. The night he died, someone made a six-minute recording of what was playing on FM radio in NYC:
Almost every station was either discussing the death or playing a Beatles song. See also the front page of the NY Times the next day and the article in the Daily News about the shooting. (via wfmu & @UnlikelyWorlds)
Update: Legendary reporter Jimmy Breslin wrote a piece shortly after the shooting about the police officers that drove Lennon to the hospital that night.
As Moran started driving away, he heard people in the street shouting, "That's John Lennon!"
Moran was driving with Bill Gamble. As they went through the streets to Roosevelt Hospital, Moran looked in the backseat and said, "Are you John Lennon?" The guy in the back nodded and groaned.
Back on Seventy-second Street, somebody told Palma, "Take the woman." And a shaking woman, another victim's wife, crumpled into the backseat as Palma started for Roosevelt Hospital. She said nothing to the two cops and they said nothing to her. Homicide is not a talking matter.
And that last paragraph, wow. (via @mkonnikova)
The International Exhibition of Modern Art held at the The 69th Regiment Armory in NYC in 1913 was the first large public exhibition of modern art in the US. It has become known simply as The Armory Show. Among the artists represented at the show were Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, and Fernand Léger. So yeah, important show.
John Ptak noticed in a book he was reading that the sales total for the show was $44,148, which is something like $1,000,000 in today's dollars. Of that total, two artists were responsible for almost a third of the total: Odilon Redon made $7000 and Cézanne made $6700. Duchamp sold four pieces for $972. It goes without saying that the ~1600 pieces exhibited at The Armory Show would fetch billions of dollars at auction now.
On the walk back from soccer practice the other day, my sharp-eyed seven-year-old son spotted something through the partially papered-up window of a Chelsea gallery. "Hey, Kara Walker!" he says.1 And sure enough:
The gallery is Sikkema Jenkins on 22nd St and Walker's show, Afterword, starts there tomorrow and runs through mid-January. The show is an extension of A Subtlety, Walker's installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg over the summer. Several of the sugar statues and the left fist of the sugar sphinx from the Domino installation will be shown along with new video works and notes & sketches from the planning of A Subtlety. You can see some of the figures in the photo above (fashioned out of Domino Sugar, naturally) and I think that's probably the fist in the background on the right, wrapped in plastic.
city.ballet is a video series about the workings of the New York City Ballet. The twelve episodes of season two cover everything from apprentice dancers to injuries to the sacrifices the dancers make to pursue their onstage dreams.
Imagine a city unto itself -- a place where 16 year olds are professionals, 18 year olds are revered and many 30 year olds are retirees. Imagine a world so insular that nearly every one of these virtuosos has trained together in an academy since childhood, their lives forever intertwined by work, play, competition, friendship and love. Imagine a world in which the bottom line standard is to be, simply, the best on the planet, and where each night, an empty stage, in front of thousands, beckons with a challenge. This enclave has a name -- New York City Ballet -- and you are invited into this world, one that has never opened up to the outside before.
Season two just came out and is available at AOL. (via cup of jo)
Thirty years after starting Def Jam in his NYU dorm room, Rick Rubin returns to the room in question and talks about how Def Jam began.
A woman recently took to the streets of NYC and walked around for 10 hours. She walked behind someone wearing a hidden camera that captured all of the catcalls and harassment directed toward her during that time...108 incidents in all. This is what it's like being a woman in public:
At The Awl, John Herrman notes the parallels between a woman on the streets of NYC and a woman spending time on the internet.
But the video works in two ways: It's also a neat portrayal of what it is like to be a woman talking about gender on the mainstream internet. This became apparent within minutes of publication, at which point the video's comment section was flooded with furious responses.
A typical post in the YouTube comments thread:
are you fucking kidding me "verbal harassment"? most of all the guys called that woman "beautiful" or said to "have a good day"....it would be harassment if the guys called that woman a "hoe" or "bitch"...you are a fucktard.
On Tumblr, Alex Alvarez neatly dispenses with that sort of "logic":
To anchor this more concretely, consider the behavior of the men in the video. Take a look at how they seek the woman out to wish her a good morning, despite her not having made eye contact or shown any interest in talking to them. Take a look at how they're not wishing a good morning to any other person, particularly male people, also walking around. The woman is walking directly behind the man filming her (the camera is hidden in his backpack), and not one of the men shown in the video are seen to be greeting him and wishing him a good day. Just her.
Why is this?
It's because they don't care, really whether she has a good day or not. What they care about is letting her know that they have noticed her -- her hair, her face, her body, her outfit. They want her to notice that they've noticed, and they want her to notice them, however fleetingly.
From A Continuous Lean, a review of some of NYC's most beloved bygone music venues, including The Cotton Club (closed 1940), The Gaslight Cafe (closed 1971), and CBGB (closed 2006).
Despite being located in Harlem, and showcasing many black performers, The Cotton Club actually had a strict "whites only" policy.
Speaking of Mark Alan Stamaty, the illustrator did a pair of drawings in the late 1970s for the Village Voice: one of Times Square and one of Greenwich Village. They're packed with details of how those areas were perceived in the 70s.
Prints of both are available.
Casey Neistat visited several Apple Stores in NYC on the eve of the iPhone 6 launch to observe the folks standing in line. He found that many of those in line, particularly right in the front, were Chinese resellers.
The iPhone 6 won't be available in China for several months, so a lively and lucrative black market has sprung up. The video shows several typical transactions: two phones (the maximum allowed per person) are purchased with cash and then the people sell those phones to men who presumably have them shipped to China for resale.
I remember last year, when the iPhone 5s came out, there was always a line of mostly Asian people outside the Soho store in the morning, even months after the launch. (via @fromedome)
Join designer James Victore for an opinionated tour of the typography of Brooklyn and Queens.
We're going to do a typographical tour of Brooklyn and Queens, We're going to look at type on the street and signage on the street and try to figure out what the hell it's for.
Favorite quote: [Pointing at a logo for a waxing salon] "There's been a designer here. Which is not always a good thing." (via gothamist)
This starts out ordinarily, but give it some time...it gets really good around 90 seconds in. The combination of panning and slow motion creates a powerful sense of energy around almost-still imagery; it's a trippy effect. See also James Nares' Street. (via subtraction)
Dang! It looks as though the Shake Shack is gonna IPO at a value of $1 billion. (BTW, $1 billion would buy you about 210 million ShackBurgers.)
At that level, Shake Shack would debut at 50 times projected earnings of about $20 million this year, the people said, asking not to be named because the details are private. The company has tapped JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley to manage the share sale, said the people.
That valuation would put it in line with other dining chains that have tapped into investor appetite for new stocks in recent years. El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (LOCO), which raised $123 million in July, now trades at about 60 times projected 2014 earnings, while Potbelly (PBPB) Corp. trades at over 64 times estimated earnings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The Shack has about 50 locations worldwide. But their flagship Madison Square Park location will be closing for a few months soon for renovations...hopefully they'll have it back open for the IPO.
Update: And the Shack filed for their IPO on Dec 29, 2014.
Shake Shack is a modern day "roadside" burger stand serving a classic American menu of premium burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, shakes, frozen custard, beer and wine. Founded by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, LLC ("USHG"), Shake Shack was created leveraging USHG's expertise in community building, hospitality, fine dining, restaurant operations and sourcing premium ingredients. Danny's vision of Enlightened Hospitality guided the creation of the unique Shake Shack culture that, we believe, creates a differentiated experience for our guests across all demographics at each of the 63 Shacks around the world. As Shake Shack's Board Chairman and USHG's Chief Executive Officer, Danny has drawn from USHG's experience creating and operating some of New York City's most acclaimed and popular restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern, Maialino and Marta, to build what we believe is a new fine casual restaurant category in Shake Shack.
There are now 63 Shake Shacks. 63! I just wish the one across from the office would reopen. (via @caseyjohnston)
Update: From Tyler Cowen, Does the Shake Shack IPO mean you should stop eating there?:
A simple theory of IPOs suggests that they arrive when a product or company is experiencing "peak buzz," or at least when the insiders in the privately held company think they are at or near peak buzz. This will maximize the expected returns on the IPO when it comes to market.
When it comes to food, peak buzz usually arrives a wee bit after peak quality, given reputational lags. So if you are seeing peak buzz, it is probably time to bail on the restaurant, at least on a restaurant which is going to be sold. Bailing on the restaurant may in fact be slightly overdue.
To test Cowen's theory1, I went to the Shake Shack in Grand Central today (12/31/14). I stood in line for 10 minutes, ordered my customary Shack burger with fries (long live the crinkle cut), and then waited an additional 10 minutes for my food. Verdict: as delicious as ever. Service was snappy and friendly. Well worth the wait and price for me: I got exactly what I wanted.
In 1984, Daniel Root took photos of the East Village in NYC. Root is revisiting the locations of those photos and posting comparisons to a Tumblr.
Wish the images were bigger...370x250 is more of a 1984 resolution.
Tumblr of maps of cities with stereotypical labels. For example, NYC, land of Nuclear Industrial Cesspool, Asshole Cops, and Worst Train Station Ever.
In the latest installment of his excellent series Ask A Native New Yorker, Jake Dobkin tackles the question of how to react to those people holding clipboards asking if you have a minute for the environment or gay rights or whatever. The short answer is ignore them with "EXTREME PREJUDICE".
This is because Clipboard People are grifters, who, in the name of various causes (Gay Rights, the Environment), have only a single aim: to get your credit card number authorized for recurring payments to a "charity." In fact, the majority of that money does not go to the charity, but goes to pay the salary of the Clipboarder, and the evil canvas organizations that employ them. Even worse, the Clipboarders are themselves exploited-often young idealists from less vicious places, they are brought to New York on the promise of helping a charity they believe in, only to find out they've been dragooned into a commission-based predatory marketing scheme.
Well, good because that's what I've been doing (for other reasons). Instead, give to an efficient charity listed on Charity Navigator.
Today I learned that iconic designer Milton Glaser co-wrote a column for New York magazine (which he co-founded) about where to find cheap-but-good food in NYC. It was called The Underground Gourmet. Here's a typical column from the October 27, 1975 issue, reviewing a ramen joint in Midtown called Sapporo that is miraculously still around:
Glaser and his co-authior Jerome Snyder eventually packaged the column into a series of books, some of which you can find on Amazon...I bought a copy this morning.
I found out about Glaser's food enthusiasm from this interview in Eye magazine about The Underground Gourmet and his long collaboration with restaurateur Joe Baum of the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.
We just walked the streets ... When friends of ours knew we were doing it we got recommendations.
There were parts of the city where we knew we could find good places ... particularly in the ethnic parts. We knew if we went to Chinatown we would find something if we looked long enough, or Korea Town, or sections of Little Italy.
More then than now, the city was more locally ethnic before the millionaires came in and bought up every inch of space. So you could find local ethnic places all over the city. And people were dying to discover that. And it was terrific to be able to find a place where you could have lunch for four dollars.
In 2010, Josh Perilo wrote an appreciation of The Underground Gourmet in which he noted only six of the restaurants reviewed in the 1967 edition had survived:
Being obsessed with the food and history of New York (particularly Manhattan), this was like finding a culinary time capsule. I immediately dove in. What I found was shocking, both in the similarities between then and now, and in the differences.
The most obvious change was the immense amount of restaurants that no longer existed. These were not landmarked establishments, by and large. Most of them were hole-in-the wall luncheonettes, inexpensive Chinese restaurants and greasy spoons. But the sheer number of losses was stunning. Of the 101 restaurants profiled, only six survive today: Katz's Delicatessen, Manganaro's, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery, The Puglia and La Taza de Oro. About half of the establishments were housed in buildings that no longer exist, especially in the Midtown area. The proliferation of "lunch counters" also illustrated the evolution of this city's eating habits. For every kosher "dairy lunch" joint that went down, it seems as though a Jamba Juice or Pink Berry has taken its place.
Man, it's hard not get sucked into reading about all these old places...looking forward to getting my copy of the book in a week or two.
Update: Glaser's co-author Jerome Snyder was also a designer...and no slouch either.
Until his recent incarceration, Wilfred Rose was a very successful pickpocket operating on the streets of NYC.
Some of the thieves have a shtick. There is Francisco Hita, who when caught touching someone's wallet, pretends to be deaf, the police say, responding with gesticulations of incomprehension. There is an older man who pretends to be stricken by palsy while on a bus, and then uses a behind-the-back maneuver to infiltrate the pocket of the passenger next to him.
There are flashy dressers, like the 5-foot-3 Duval Simmons, whose reputation is so well known among the police that he says he sometimes sits on his hands while riding the subway, so he cannot be accused of stealing. Mr. Simmons, an occasional partner of Mr. Rose's, said he honed his skills on a jacket that hung in his closet, tying bells to it to measure how heavy his hand was.
Mr. Rose's notoriety stems from how infrequently he has been arrested, and how, at least in the last 15 years, he has never been caught in the act by plainclothes officers.
See also Adam Green's fascinating piece on Apollo Robbins from The New Yorker. Especially the bit about surfing attention:
But physical technique, Robbins pointed out, is merely a tool. "It's all about the choreography of people's attention," he said. "Attention is like water. It flows. It's liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way."
Robbins uses various metaphors to describe how he works with attention, talking about "surfing attention," "carving up the attentional pie," and "framing." "I use framing the way a movie director or a cinematographer would," he said. "If I lean my face close in to someone's, like this" -- he demonstrated -- "it's like a closeup. All their attention is on my face, and their pockets, especially the ones on their lower body, are out of the frame. Or if I want to move their attention off their jacket pocket, I can say, 'You had a wallet in your back pocket -- is it still there?' Now their focus is on their back pocket, or their brain just short-circuits for a second, and I'm free to steal from their jacket."
This clever and well-done visualization shows where individual NYC taxis picked up and dropped off their fares over the course of a day.
Mesmerizing. Has anyone done analysis on which drivers are the most effective and what the data shows as the most effective techniques? The best drivers must have their tricks on where to be at which times to get the most fares. (via @dens)
In the early 1930s, Western Union and AT&T built two new buildings in lower Manhattan to house their telecommunications infrastructure. Here's a short film about their construction and ongoing use as hubs for contemporary telecom and internet communications.
Amazing that those buildings are still being used for the same use all these years later...they just run newer and newer technology through the same old conduits.
Nice episode of 99% Invisible on how New York City got rid of the graffiti on all of their subway trains.
For decades, authorities treated subway graffiti like it was a sanitation issue. Gunn believed that graffiti was a symptom of larger systemic problems. After all, trains were derailing nearly every two weeks. In 1981 there were 1,800 subway car fires -- that's nearly five a day, every day of the year!
When Gunn launched his "Clean Trains" program, it was not only about cleaning up the trains aesthetically, but making them function well, too. Clean trains, Gunn believed, would be a symbol of a rehabilitated transit system.
Remember, the train cars used to look like this:
NYC and the Central Park Five have agreed to a $40 million settlement that will bring a years-long civil rights lawsuit to an end.
The five men whose convictions in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park were later overturned have agreed to a settlement of about $40 million from New York City to resolve a bitterly fought civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment in the sensational crime.
The agreement, reached between the city's Law Department and the five plaintiffs, would bring to an end an extraordinary legal battle over a crime that came to symbolize a sense of lawlessness in New York, amid reports of "wilding" youths and a marauding "wolf pack" that set its sights on a 28-year-old investment banker who ran in the park many evenings after work.
Ken Burns made a documentary film about this case in 2012. Highly recommended viewing...and you can watch the whole thing on the PBS web site.
You've probably seen Bruce Davidson's photos of the gritty 1980s NYC subway, which were collected into a book published in 1986.
Earlier this year, Time posted some previously unpublished photos of the NYC subway taken in 1981 by Christopher Morris, an admirer of Davidson's.
While not quite exhaustive in scope, Laura Turner Garrison's piece in Mental Floss about how Manhattan neighborhoods got their names is worthwhile reading.
In recent decades, businesses and real estate agents have tried in vain to clean up the lively reputation of this west side neighborhood by renaming it "Clinton." Gentrification and expansion from the neighboring theater district have certainly helped the beautification cause. Nonetheless, the area spanning 34th Street to 59th Street and 8th Avenue (or 9th, depending on who you ask) to the Hudson River just can't shake the nickname "Hell's Kitchen."
Not included in the piece is the East Village, which was part of the Lower East Side until the 1960s, when the neighborhood's new residents (artists, hippies, Beatniks) and real estate brokers recast the area as the eastern outpost of Greenwich Village. (via digg)
NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a whopping 400,000 high-resolution digital images of its collection available for free download. You can browse the collection here.
In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: "Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection."
The Metropolitan Museum's initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.
For instance, here's a 12-megapixel image of Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait...you can see quite a bit of detail:
Update: Wendy Macnaughton on why the high-resolution images released by the Met are such a big deal for art students and art history fans.
For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I'd get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.
As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books -- a picture the size of a wallet photo.
Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.
You can get so, so close -- far closer than one could in real life.
The Wordless Music Orchestra will offer live accompaniment of two screenings of There Will Be Blood in NYC in September. The composer of the film's score, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, will play a musical instrument called the ondes Martenot as part of the performances.
This fall, the Wordless Music Orchestra will once again collaborate with Jonny Greenwood for the U.S. premiere of There Will Be Blood Live: a full screening and live film score to Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 masterpiece, which will be projected onto a massive 50' movie screen at the historic and absurdly beautiful United Palace Theatre: the second-largest movie screen in all of New York City.
For these shows, the film's original score -- comprising music by Jonny Greenwood, Arvo Part, and Brahms -- will be conducted by Ryan McAdams, and performed by 50+ members of the Wordless Music Orchestra, including Jonny Greenwood, who will play the ondes martenot part in both performances of his own film score.
Tickets on sale now. See you there? (thx, gabe)
NYCgo has an extensive list of all free movie screenings happening around NYC this summer. Most of them are outdoors. Some highlights:
June 22: Coming to America, Habana Outpost
July 9: Jurassic Park, Museum of Jewish Heritage
July 30: The Princess Bride, Riverside Park
July 31: The Hunt for Red October, flight deck of the Intrepid
August 6: The Big Lebowski, McCarren Park
August 8: Groundhog Day, Hudson River Park at Pier 46
Someone should make an iCal/Google Calendar calendar of these screenings.
Update: Tim made a calendar of all the free movie events. (thx, tim!)
Update: And here's a Twitter account you can follow for summer movie reminders: @nycsummerfilms. (via frank)
You may have previously read about the Citicorp Center. Joe Morgenstern wrote about the Manhattan skyscraper in a classic New Yorker piece from 1995. The building was built incorrectly and might have blown over in a stiff wind if not for a timely intervention on the part of a mystery architecture student and the head structural engineer on the project.
Tells about designer William J. LeMessurier, who was structural consultant to the architect Hugh Stubbins, Jr. They set their 59-story tower on four massive nine-story-high stilts and used an unusual, chevron-shaped system of wind braces. LeMessurier had established the strength of those braces in perpendicular winds. Now, in the spirit of intellectual play, in his Harvard class, he wanted to see if they were just as strong in winds hitting from 45 degrees. He discovered the design flaw and during wind tunnel tests in Ontario learned the weakest joint was at the building's 30th floor.
The whole piece is here and well worth a read. Last month, the excellent 99% Invisible did a radio show about Citicorp Center and added a new bit of information to the story: the identity of the mystery student who prodded LeMessurier to think more deeply about the structural integrity of his building. (via @bdeskin, who apparently factchecked Morgenstern's piece back in the day)
From the NY Times Magazine in June 1976, a list of 101 things to love about New York City. Some of the list is evergreen:
1. Being nostalgic about things in New York that were never so great.
11. Hating Con Edison.
25. The best water-supply system in the nation.
42. The little red lighthouse still under the great gray bridge.
And other items on the list, not so much:
8. Dialing 873-0404.
24. A broken parking meter.
43. Page 1,029 of the Manhattan telephone directory under "Ng."
57. The personals in The Irish Echo.
Scouting New York has an explanation of some of the items on the list. Apparently 873-0404 was the number for the Dial-A-Satellite hotline; you could call it to get information about satellites passing overhead. (via @mkonnikova)
"My kids used to love math! Now it makes them cry." So tweeted Louis C.K. earlier this week. His opinion of the new math and standardized tests is echoed by a lot of parents who "have found themselves puzzled by the manner in which math concepts are being presented to this generation of learners as well as perplexed as to how to offer the most basic assistance when their children are struggling with homework." Rebecca Mead in the The New Yorker: Louis C.K. Against the Common Core.
From the incredible British Pathé archive, film footage from 1893 of the New York City fire brigade rushing to a fire.
Filmed nearly 120 years ago, this is quite possibly the first ever footage of the New York Fire Brigade. The film is very grainy but it clearly shows firemen rushing through New York on horse drawn engines. Behind them, you can see some sort of electric powered streetcar or trolley system with 'Clinton Avenue' on the back.
Man, I really like these paintings from Jeremy Mann's Cityscape series. Particularly the NYC street scenes, like this one in Hell's Kitchen:
Mann's paintings seem to hold a lot of detail, even up close, but there are also broader strokes visible only from afar. Not sure if that's novel (unlikely) but I haven't seen it elsewhere. (via colossal)
Nathan Pyle has written and illustrated a book about the unwritten rules for how to behave on the streets of NYC. It's called NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette (only $6!).
In NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette, Pyle reveals the secrets and unwritten rules for living in and visiting New York including the answers to such burning questions as, how do I hail a cab? What is a bodega? Which way is Uptown? Why are there so many doors in the sidewalk? How do I walk on an escalator? Do we need be touching right now? Where should I inhale or exhale while passing sidewalk garbage? How long should I honk my horn? If New York were a game show, how would I win? What happens when I stand in the bike lane? Who should get the empty subway seats? How do I stay safe during a trash tornado?
In support of the book, Pyle animated a few of the tips and put them on Imgur. Also, the Apple ebook contains the animated versions of the illustrations. You fancy!
Data visualization of Citi Bike trips taken over a 48-hour period in NYC:
Love seeing the swarms starting around 8am and 5:30pm but hate experiencing them. I've been using Citi Bike almost since the launch last year and I can't imagine NYC without it now. I use it several times daily, way more than the subway even. I hope they can find a way to make it a viable business.
Drone Week on Kottke continues with this beautiful drone video of NYC from Randy Scott Slavin.
I found two more videos and a bunch of stories about a drone crashing a crime scene last year. (thx, noah)
For the first post on his new blog, Tobias Frere-Jones discovers that most of the type foundries in New York in the 1800s and 1900s were all located within a few blocks of each other in lower Manhattan. Why there? Newspapers and City Hall.
I was able to plot out the locations for every foundry that had been active in New York between 1828 (the earliest records I could find with addresses) to 1909 (see below). All of the buildings have been demolished, and in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood for typography.
Gruber beat me to the punch in noting that Frere-Jones' site doesn't use any of the fonts from the company he was recently ousted from but instead a pair of faces (Benton Modern and Interstate) he designed before he formed his partnership with Jonathan Hoefler. Before I discovered Whitney (another Frere-Jones creation), Interstate was my go-to font for graphics for the site. Big TFJ fan, is what I'm saying.
Last week, the New York Public Library released a massive collection of maps online...over 20,000 maps are available for high-resolution download. An incredible resource.
The MoMA is hosting a series of debates on the intersection of design and violence. The first one took place last week and pitted Rob Walker against Cody Wilson on the topic of open source 3D printed guns. The next two center on a machine that simulates the "pain and tribulation" of menstruation and Temple Grandin's humane slaughterhouse designs.
The debates this spring will center upon the 3-D printed gun, The Liberator; Sputniko!'s Menstruation Machine; and Temple Grandin's serpentine ramp. Debate motions will be delivered by speakers who are directly engaged in issues germane to these contemporary designs -- the Liberator's designer Cody Wilson; Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and distinguished professor of law Gary Francione, to name a few. We want them -- and you -- to explore the the limits of gun laws and rights, the democracy of open-source design, the (im)possibility of humane slaughter, and design that supports transgender empathy.
Tickets are still available; only $5 for students!
Looking forward to this one: a cocktail recipe book from Death & Co, an East Village cocktail joint.
Featuring hundreds of recipes for signature Death & Co creations as well as classic drink formulas,Death & Co is not only a comprehensive collection of the bar's best, but also a complete cocktail education. With chapters on the theory and philosophy of drink-making; a complete guide to the spirits, tools, and other ingredients needed to make a great bar; and specs for nearly 500 iconic drinks, Death & Co is destined to become the go-to reference on craft cocktails.
Good advice from Mary Phillips-Sandy on what to do if you love New York but it's bringing you down.
Avoid the following: gourmet cupcake shoppes, Times Square unless you're on a side street and there's a light summer rain falling, Pilates classes, H&M, any place with bottle service, Port Authority, any place where you are likely to feel self-conscious about your outfit, high-end boutiques, people whose default mode of conversation is complaints about New York, people whose default mode of conversation is industry gossip or negativity about other people's career paths or start-ups or book deals or record deals.
Spend as much time as you can with people who are inclined (or willing) to avoid talking about how awful New York is, how hard it is, how much it costs, how it used to be better, how there are no good jobs, how it must be better someplace else. Spend time with the people you moved here to meet.
Aw man, the International Center of Photography is closing its museum on 6th Ave. The good news is they're planning on reopening in another location.
At our request for an interview, Lubell issued the following statement. "The International Center of Photography has been and continues to be at the center, both nationally and internationally, of the conversation regarding photography and the explosive growth of visual communications. In advancing this conversation, ICP has decided to move its current museum to a new space. This decision reflects the evolution of photography and our role in setting the agenda for visual communications for the 21st century. ICP will announce our future sites this spring. The school will remain at 1114 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan."
I'm long overdue for a visit...the Capa in Color exhibition looks promising, perhaps I'll stop in this weekend. (via @akuban)
They're changing the SAT and the New Yorker's Cora Frazier has a rundown of some of the modifications made to better reflect "skills they need to succeed in college and afterward".
11. Improving sentences. You receive the following text message: "You're an animal." This is an autocorrection of:
(a) "You're almost at Ludlow."
(b) "Young Leo DiCaprio."
(c) "Do we need eggs?"
(d) No autocorrection.
I don't care if all of this vocabulary of NYC's best bars is made up (it sure sounds made up), I still loved reading it. You can totally tell which places are about the drinks, which are about hospitality, which are bitchy, and which are all about the benjamins.
Sipper: A small pour (typically Mother's Milk) gifted to a colleague, loved one, regular, etc.
Amuse-booze (experimental term): A tiny sipper to acknowledge a guest an reassure them they will be served soon.
The Cousins: Affectionate term for other cocktail bars (after the British secret service's name for the CIA in Le Carre's Smiley novels).
Even if it's fake, it's real.
Not sure if he's still out there or not, but Dexter Benjamin has been a bike messenger in NYC for more than 20 years, navigating his bike around the city on only one leg. He lost the leg pushing a boy out of traffic in his native Trinidad. Here's a 2006 interview with Benjamin:
And from the NY Times in 2005, a brief profile.
He came to New York to participate in a marathon, decided to stay, and before long was leaning on a crutch and panhandling in Grand Central Terminal. He spent many nights sleeping in a shelter, and more than one dawn wondering who would stoop to steal a one-legged man's shoe.
Another Trinidad native, Steve Alexis, eventually hired him as a messenger. "He could walk with crutches," Mr. Alexis says. "I figure if he rides a bike, that's even better."
After learning to shift his weight for proper balance, Mr. Benjamin was soon darting through Manhattan streets in a triumphal blur. "I love their reaction when I pass them," he says of others. "They're seeing something impossible."
This is fucking great and crazy...when the snow hit NYC yesterday, Casey Neistat grabbed his snowboard and went snowboarding behind a Jeep in the East Village.