A Lot about a plot

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A Firehouse Where Pioneering Feminists Have Carried the Torch

(Via Landmarks Preservation Commission)

Eleanor Cooper was determined to keep 243 West 20th Street from turning into an icebox. This almost seemed like a joke, if she thought about it, since the building had been a fire station not six years earlier and for decades and decades before that. The three-story firehouse was decrepit and absolutely freezing, but if she had to shovel coal into the furnace herself she’d do it to keep the Women’s Liberation Center open. More →

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The Dance Hall That Charmed Dickens in America’s First Slum


William Henry Lane, a famous tap dancer at Almack’s dance hall, located at 67 Orange St. (Drawing: 1850, courtesy of New York Public Library)

Charles Dickens toured Five Points for a day and found only two things he liked about it. One was the pigs. Dickens described the city swine in better terms than he described many of the local slum dwellers. The pigs were gentlemanly, self-reliant and confident, while the people had “coarse and bloated faces” and lived in houses of debauchery. Dickens surmised that the pigs, who lived in those houses too, smugly wondered why their masters walked on two legs instead of four.  More →

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In Brooklyn, Luxury Apartments Where Walt Whitman Once Worked With a Bright Heart

The expanded three-story office of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, circa 1898. (Courtesy of the New York Public Library Milstein Digital Collection.)

Leaning against the rattling doors of a Brooklyn-bound train, their noses to the ground even as they cross the East River, commuters easily miss the glass clock face at the top of the red brick building that originally housed the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Today, the clock hands are still, their purpose only ornamental. With the clock’s back removed, it serves as a round window for the residents of the co-op at 28 Old Fulton Street. But a century and a half earlier, it was a ticking heartbeat for the Fulton Ferry district in its most bustling era. More →

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At Kellogg’s Diner, Mediterranean Migrants Got a Piece of the Pie

Kellogg’s Diner, November 2018.

The idea of a good life for Irene Siderakis was being able to stay at home with her four children. She got to live that dream until her husband, Christos, died suddenly in April, leaving her to run the 24-hour Williamsburg diner they owned together. Life has a way of throwing things at you, she told me one November afternoon, standing behind the counter. Clad in black, she wore no adornments, save a pair of pearl earrings, and teared up as she recounted Chris’ burial at the Antonopoulos funeral home in Astoria, where the line of mourners snaked around the block. Irene had no time to grieve. Someone needed to take the reins at Kellogg’s, one of the oldest and busiest diners in Brooklyn.

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Kidnappers, Quacks, and Go-Go Boys in One of Jared Kushner’s Buildings

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

Death! Destruction! Dutchmen! The history of one intersection in the East Village features murders, kidnappings, and a few famous names. Now the Spotted Owl Tavern occupies ground level at the northwest corner of Avenue A and 13th Street, the latest in a long line of bars at that location. There’s been a watering hole in that space (well, a saloon or maybe a bierpalast or a nightclub) for over 125 years, exempting, legally speaking, the unfortunate period between the 18th and 21st amendments.

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An ‘Orgy of Brutality’: Police Against Immigrants in the East Village

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

29 Avenue A, 1939-1941 New York City Department of Records.

The bullet tore through John Muller’s chest just above his left clavicle, fracturing the bone into small splinters that lacerated surrounding flesh and vein. The lead ball lodged in his neck between the trachea and the esophagus. His right temple was swollen and abloom in blackened bruises. Police officers had bludgeoned him, witnesses said, just outside his home at 29 Avenue A. But it was the gunshot, the coroner testified, that killed John Muller on July 11, 1857.

Muller died in the basement of what is now 33 Avenue A between Second and Third Streets. Today, the plot houses Joyful Nail Salon flush with clients reclined on taupe leatherette pedicure chairs. A sign outside advertises color gel and manicures. Just above, public housig apartments have long since replaced the original 19th century tenement building. But to peel past that lacquered exterior is to reveal the plot’s history long since erased. A history of the East Village when it was German-speaking Kleindeutschland with tenement houses lining Avenue A; of a city in turmoil in the summer of 1857; of a riot in the 17th ward; of a clash between police and a largely immigrant community; of a man shot dead.

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Before Essex Crossing, a ‘Temple of Eden’ With an Incendiary History

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

From Fire and Water Engineering, 1907.

The Essex is the tall, glassy residential and commercial building that looms over Broome Street between Essex and Norfolk. It is more a promise of the neighborhood’s future than a relic of its past, all visual traces of which disappeared when the block was razed in 1967. The new 26-story building fills in the blank of what in recent years was a vast and vacant parking lot that gave no indication of a block was once dominated by New Irving Hall, an active site of civic life in the Lower East Side.

On July 24, 1899, thousands of newsboys gathered at New Irving Hall at 214 – 220 Broome Street, only days into what became a two-week strike against New York’s rival afternoon newspapers, the New York Evening World published by Joseph Pulitzer and the New York Evening Journal published by William Randolph Hearst.

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After 36 Years, Greenpoint Hospital Emerges From Twilight Sleep

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

A view of the Greenpoint Hospital complex from across Jackson Street, on the corner with Kingsland Ave. On the right are buildings owned by the Neighborhood Women Legacy Project, one of the original founders of GREC.

This past September, New York City’s housing department announced plans to convert the entirety of the long-abandoned Greenpoint Hospital complex into over 500 units of affordable housing and 200 units of housing for the homeless. The new project grows out of a nearly three-decade battle between the city and a number of Greenpoint neighborhood community organizations. But a deeper look at the history of this plot of land reveals that the complex’s commitment to working class, underserved families reaches further back. The recent announcement to transform this historic and often contentious space into a community-supported and designed project represents a victorious new chapter in a longstanding legacy.

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A Factory That Saw ‘Smoky Skies, Blazing Blasts’ Awaits a New Chapter in Greenpoint

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

(Photo: Emily Corona)

Sol Graf was a vital-looking 36-year-old Jew in 1966 who, in the company of his wife and two daughters, boarded the Greek ship Olympia from the Israeli port of Haifa and headed for New York City to start a new life. In a black-and-white photo taken aboard the ship, Graf smiles relaxedly at the camera while sitting at a table with his family and two other companions. The image belies his horrific early life experiences trying to survive the concentration camps of World War II. The war, and his boarding the ship, would forever change the course of his life in ways that he himself would later describe as “immeasurable and unbelievable.”

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From Batters to Battallions: A Brooklyn Armory Sits On Baseball History

This week, we continue our series of deep dives into the histories of storied addresses.

Exterior of the armory today.

The 47th Regiment Armory on Marcy Avenue has loomed over its neighbors since 1883. The brick-layered building with crenelated turrets occupies an entire block, bounded by Marcy Avenue to the South, Harrison to the north, Heyward Street to the west and Lynch to the east. Up until 2011, when the federal government consolidated several regiments, the armory served as the drill hall for a branch of the New York National Guard.

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