kottke.org posts about NYC
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.
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.
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.
Hassan Hajjaj's photos of female motorbike enthusiasts from Morocco are fun.
On display at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in NYC through March 7.
This collection of before-and-after photos of NYC's streets shows how much the Bloomberg administration and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan transformed the city's streets.
Constructing our cities around cars is one of the biggest mistakes of the 20th century and we're still paying for it. As Kaj Pindal cleverly depicted in his 1966 Oscar-nominated short film What On Earth!, it often seems like cars and not people are the Earth's dominant life form.
I love this sort of thing: visualizations of Olympic venues plopped into Manhattan to provide a sense of scale. My favorite is the bobsled run in Times Square:
My son and I were just talking about this and when he asked me, I had no idea how big the track actually was. Can't wait to show him this when I get home tonight.
In other news, the news media has arrived in Sochi and the town doesn't seem to be ready for the Games. Oopsie!
TIL (today I learned) a new phrase from this article in the Times about a showdown between a McDonald's in Queens and a group of elderly Korean patrons: naturally occurring retirement community (NORC).
The demographic term "NORC" was first coined in the 1980s by Michael Hunt, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He defined NORCs as neighborhoods and housing developments, originally built for young families, in which 50 percent of the residents are 60 years or older and have aged in place. Over time, this threshold definition has been adjusted by communities and policymakers to reflect local residential patterns.
Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly in an age where government funding of any social program is greeted with derision, NORCs are eligible for funding at local, state, and federal levels to provide support for services for the elderly. For instance, in 2010, there were 27 offical NORCs in NYC.
What counts as a "sizeable elderly population" varies from place to place (and from one level of government to the next), but NORCs are important because once a community meets the respective criteria, it becomes eligible for local, state, and federal funds retroactively to provide that community with the support services elderly populations typically need. These include (but are not limited to): case management and social work services; health care management and prevention programs; education, socialization, and recreational activities; and volunteer opportunities for program participants and the community.
Love this use of funding to support bottom-up behavior. Reminds me of using desire paths to place permanent sidewalks in parks and public spaces.
I was just wondering this the other day...where can you get good nachos in NYC? Serious Eats investigates.
Not only are they delicious (when made right, and we'll get to that), but they practically create their own conversation. Everybody has an opinion on how chunky the guacamole should be. We all have feelings about whether chili or beans make a better topping. Who hasn't considered whether or not they'd ever prefer a fresh jalape~no to a pickled one, and who hasn't considered de-friending a friend who dares to express a preference for fresh over pickled? And then there's the ever-raging debate of cheese sauce vs. melted cheese, a subject you might actually consider not broaching in mixed company.
Great post by Nick Carr on Scouting New York comparing the movie locations in The Godfather to what they look like today.
Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.
Gothamist uncovered a NYC guide book from the 1920s called Valentine's City of New York: A Guide Book. Some of the tips include:
Don't take the recommendation of strangers regarding hotels... Don't get too friendly with plausible strangers.
Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable. They are also "smart."
Don't forget to tip. Tip early and tip often.
From photographer Greg Alessandrini, a collection of photos of diners in New York City taken in the 1990s. I was pleased to see a shot of Jones Diner, which I ate at several months before moving to NYC:
It closed shortly before we moved and I never got to eat there again. At the time, word was some condos were being built on the site, but it took ten years for construction to start. What a waste.
BTW, the rest of Alessandrini's site is well worth a look...hundreds and possibly thousands of photographs of NYC from the 80s and 90s. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)
2004 was a pretty good year for the NYC food scene. Among the openings were The Spotted Pig, Per Se, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Shake Shack.
If there was a movement taking shape, its key players admit they didn't notice until after the fact. And many of them spent the year struggling. Mr. Chang was desperate for customers in the early days at Noodle Bar, and kicking himself for having failed to apply for a kitchen job at Per Se or Masa. "I remember thinking very clearly, 'What am I doing?' " he said. " 'This is stupid. I should be working at Masa!' "
In some cases, 2004 was an outright fight. At the Spotted Pig, Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield, who had arrived from England, envisioned the vibrant boite as "a really cool bar that happened to have food as good as any restaurant in town," Mr. Friedman said. "Who made the rule that you can't have a real chef instead of someone who defrosts the frozen French fries?"
In a clip from The Daily Show in August, Jessica Williams completely skewers the Bloomberg administration's asinine stop-and-frisk policing by advocating for a stop-and-frisk policy for white collar criminals on Wall Street (aka Business Harlem).
[Deleted the embed because of some reports of autoplaying. Why can't anyone but YT and Vimeo get this right?]
From All-You-Can-Eat Press in Brooklyn, the New York Ramen Map.
Attention noodle lovers: this is your lucky day! Our third publication-the New York Ramen Map-is here !! It features 33 of New York's most interesting and delicious noodle shops, plus a special glossary and regional map of ramen in Japan.
Not sure I see my favorite place on there. Same folks also do a New York Doughnut Map and a New York Burger Map.
From Freestyle: The Art of the Rhyme, a short clip of a 17-year-old Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G.) freestyle rapping on a street corner in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn in 1989.
It's all there...the talent, the confidence, the skills. Compare with a 17-year-old LL Cool J rapping in a Maine gymnasium in 1985. (via ★interesting)
Update: Biggie was rapping on Bedford Ave between Quincy St and Lexington Ave in Bed-Stuy. Check it out on Google Maps. (thx, debbie)
On the occasion of leaving New York, Rebecca Flint Marx writes about one of her favorite New York City places (Russ & Daughters) and a particular counterman there, Paul.
Being a regular is a funny thing in a big city. Outside, you're just an anonymous schmo. But if you come inside often enough, each visit starts to feel like a family reunion of sorts; like the extended members of your biological family, the people you encounter will likely be happy enough to see you, though they probably have little idea of who you actually are as a person. But there's a beauty in deciding how much of yourself to offer as part of the general exchange of money and goods: You can be the thoughtfully curated version of you -- the one who always smiles and never has any problems. The one who is a good person simply because she says "please" and "thank you," exchanges salty banter with the cantankerous counterman, and bakes a cake for the Yom Kippur rush, as I started doing for the staff a few years ago.
What a lovely piece. See also the joys of being a regular.
Flinder Boyd follows streetballer TJ Webster on a cross-country bus trip for an opportunity to play his way onto a team in the prestigious EBC tournament at storied Rucker Park.
Despite his small size and light frame, he carries, like a weapon stashed under a vest, a 38" vertical jump. Along with his self-proclaimed "great" outside jump shot, he knows that during this 20-minute open tryout he'll have to do enough to impress one of the handful of coaches glaring at him from the stands. They represent teams in the upcoming Entertainer's Basketball Classic, an eight-week long tournament and the jewel of New York's basketball summer circuit.
Just two days ago, TJ stepped off a cross-country bus with every penny to his name wedged into the bottom of his bag for a chance to change his life. It's a long shot; he understands that, and so do the other nine players on the court. There are only two ways to make an EBC team, either by reputation or by being selected after your performance in the open run.
Each year, one, maybe two players, at most will be good enough to be granted a jersey and, in essence, a pass inside the halls of the cathedral of street basketball; a chance to feel the nearly religious power of Rucker Park - the same court that has hosted some of the greatest players to ever play the game.
Sometimes dreams are best kept that way.
Here's how Balthazar, one of Manhattan's busiest and most-beloved restaurants, serves 1500 meals every single day.
Roughly one in 10 people who enter Balthazar orders the steak frites. It is far and away the restaurant's best-selling dish, and Balthazar can sell as many as 200 on a busy day. A plate of steak and potatoes requires a tremendous input of labor if you're going to charge $38 for it. At a smaller restaurant, cooks are typically responsible for setting up their own mise-en-place -- preparing food for their stations -- before each service begins, but at Balthazar, things are necessarily more atomized. The fries, for example, go through numerous steps of prep, done by a few different people, before they wind up on a plate.
Step 1 begins at about 6:30 a.m., when Diogene Peralta and Ramon Alvino, the prep cooks in charge of potatoes, each grab a 50-pound case of GPODs, from the Idaho company that sources Russet Burbank potatoes, known for their consistency, and place a massive plastic tub on the floor behind them. This morning, Alvino is flying, his left hand's fingers imperceptibly rotating the potato between upward strokes of the peeler, blindly flipping the naked spuds over his shoulder into the tub. I pull up my phone's stopwatch to time him for a minute, treating each potato as a lap: his slowest is 10.7 seconds, his quickest 6.4. Alvino, a shy man from the Dominican Republic, has been doing this same job for 15 years. "Like anything else, it was difficult at first," he says, but he caught his rhythm after a couple of months. Peralta has been at it for 14 years. Today, they will peel and chip about 600 pounds of potatoes. (Since russet supplies are short in late summer, Balthazar stockpiles thousands of cases of potatoes in a New Jersey warehouse.) Next, they will soak them in water that must be changed three times in order to leach out starch. The potatoes that are peeled today won't be fried, actually, until tomorrow, and then refried -- but that's another guy's job.
What an intricately designed system; even the menu is designed to drive profit.
The Roaring Twenties web site is "an interactive exploration of the historical soundscape of New York City".
The Roaring 'Twenties website is dedicated to that challenge, attempting to recreate for its listeners not just the sound of the past but also its sonic culture. It offers a sonic time machine; an interactive multimedia environment whereby site visitors can not just hear, but mindfully listen to, the noises of New York City in the late 1920s, a place and time defined by its din.
Jake Dobkin has been doing a series of posts on Gothamist called Ask a Native New Yorker and in the latest installment, he tackles the gentrification of New York City.
All New Yorkers are gentrifiers. Say you're of Jewish extraction: your forebears gentrified some Irish right out of L.E.S. around the turn of the century. Or maybe you're Irish, and your ancestors were responsible for gentrifying the marginal land around the Collect Pond in Five Points. Or maybe your family goes all the way back to New Amsterdam and Peter Minuit, the original gentrifier, who gentrified the poor Native Americans right off Manhattan island. No New Yorker, no matter how long their tenure, has the right to point fingers and say to anyone else "the problem started when you arrived here."
Looks like someone lost their drone in the West Village:
Pretty sure that drones falling from the skies in heavily populated metropolitan areas is going to lead to banning.
Former NY Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni writes about the joys of being a regular at your neighborhood restaurant.
What you have with a restaurant that you visit once or twice is a transaction. What you have with a restaurant that you visit over and over is a relationship.
My wife and I eat out at least once a week and we used to travel all over the city to try all sorts of different places, just-opened hot spots and old favorites alike. It was great. But now we mostly go to a bar/restaurant1 around the corner from where we live and that's even better. Bruni covers the experience pretty well, but I just wanted to share a couple of seemingly small aspects of being a regular:
1. Our local is popular and always crowded, especially during the dreaded 7-10pm hours and double especially Thu-Sat nights. But even when I go in by myself at a peak time, when the bar's jam-packed, there's always a seat for me. It might take a bit, but something opens up and they slot me in, even if I'm only stopping in for a drink and they could seat a two-top for dinner at the bar. (A regular in the hand is worth two in the rush.)
2. This is a totally minor thing but I love it: more than once, I've come in early in the evening, had a drink, left without paying to go run an errand or meet someone somewhere else, and then come back later for another drink or dinner and then settle my bill. It's like having a house account without the house account.
3. Another nice thing about being a regular at a place that values regulars is that you meet the other regulars. This summer I was often left to my own devices for dinner and a couple times a week, I ended up at my local. And almost without exception, I ended up having dinner with someone I'd previously met at the bar. Routinely turning a solo dining experience into dinner with a friend is an amazing accomplishment for a restaurant.
 Something I read in one of food writer Jeffrey Steingarten's books has always stuck with me. He said there are certain restaurants he frequents that he never writes about critically. Those places are just for him and he would never recommend them to his readers. Having written for so long here on kottke.org, there are certain things I hold back, that are just for me. Having a public opinion on absolutely everything you love is no way to live.
So, no, I'm not going to tell you what restaurant I'm talking about. It's beside the point anyway...Bruni's not trying to persuade you to try Barbuto or Charlie Bird, it's about you finding your own local. ↩
Paul Ford says that the Citi Bike is the perfect post-apocalyptic vehicle.
Citi Bikes thus also seems particularly well-suited for a sort of Hunger Games-style future: 1) The economy crashes utterly 2) poor, hungry people compete in hyperviolent Citi Bike chariot races at Madison Square Garden, now renamed Velodrome 17.
A trundling Citi Bike would make sense in just about any post-apocalyptic or dystopian book or movie. In the post-humanity 1949 George R. Stewart classic Earth Abides, about a Berkeley student who survives a plague, the bikes would have been very practical as people rebuilt society across generations, especially after electricity stopped working. And Walter M. Miller Jr.'s legendary 1960 A Canticle for Leibowitz, about monks rebuilding the world after "the Flame Deluge," could easily have featured monks pedaling around the empty desert after that deluge. Riding a Citi Bike (likely renamed something like "urbem vehentem") would probably have been a tremendous, abbot-level privilege, and the repair manual would have been an illuminated manuscript. It's gotten so that when I ride a Citi Bike I invariably end up thinking of all the buildings with their windows shattered, gray snow falling on people trudging in rags on their way to the rat market to buy a nice rat for Thanksgiving.
Choire Sicha ponders.
But if New York City is better than ever -- and we think it is -- then why does it suck so bad?
The money, yes. And the cupcakes, and the ATMs, and all these apartments that somehow are in clock towers, which are all also just money. Among the young set, it's newcomers' parents paying up at our phantom tollbooth. There is now a class of New Yorkers with the luxury of not just money but also plenty of time. Once you got a crappy coffee at the deli or you didn't get coffee. Now the city is a wonderland of delicious pour-over. Every day is choose-your-own-adventure when you're not dying over the rent. Now there's a substantial population who thinks New York's a lark, or college 2.0, or an indie-lectual Rumspringa, a lazy not so Grand Tour before packing it in to get married in Dallas. Not to pick on the millennials: The olds aren't suffering either. Now a vast number of them pretend to live in the city while gardening at their second homes, in the sweet spread from Germantown to Ghent to Kinderhook. The result: New York has fewer who'd bleed for her. Once the city was for people who craved it with the stridency of a young Madonna. The result was entertainment, friction, mayhem, disaster, creation, magic.
Robin Nagle, the Anthropologist in Residence for the New York City Department of Sanitation, recently wrote a book about the city's sanitation department. Collectors Weekly has an interview with Nagle about the book and sanitation in general.
Waring also dressed the workers in white, and even his wife said, 'What, are you crazy?' But he wanted them to be associated with notions of hygiene. Of course, those in the medical profession wore white, and he understood, quite rightly, that it was an issue of public health and hygiene to keep the street clean. He also put them in the helmets that the police wore to signify authority, and they quickly were nicknamed the White Wings.
These men became heroes because, for the first time in anyone's memory, they actually cleaned the city. It was a very bright day in the history of the department. Waring was only in office for three years, but after he left, nobody could use the old excuses that Tammany had used to dodge the issue of waste management. They had always said it was too crowded, with too many diverse kinds of people, and never mind that London and Paris and Philadelphia and Boston cleaned their streets. New York was different and it just couldn't be done. Waring proved them wrong. Rates of preventable disease went down. Mortality rates went down. It also had a ripple effect across all different areas of the city.
Now, NYC is not the cleanest city in the world, not by a long-shot, but it used to be so much worse. In the early 1890s, the streets were literally covered in trash because the Department of Street Cleaning (as it was known then) was so inept; look at the difference made by a 1895 reorganization of the department:
The book trailer for Thomas Pynchon's new novel is either brilliant or the dumbest thing ever.
Fun fact: the phrase "I don't even" was invented to react to this video. (via @GreatDismal)
A federal judge ruled this morning that NYC's controversial stop-and-frisk practice violated the rights of "tens of thousands" of New Yorkers.
In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.
These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.
To fix the constitutional violations, Judge Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan said she intended to designate an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department's compliance with the Constitution.
This is good news. Treating every young black male in the city like a criminal is not a policing strategy and it's embarrassing it has gone on this long. This kind of thing, along with the recent NSA revelations and other issues, make me wonder if "innocent until proven guilty" is still something the US citizenry and its law enforcement agencies still believe in. (via @beep)
Update: Using data from the last half of 2013, the NY Times says 'Stop-and-Frisk' Is All but Gone From New York.
Many who live and work in the neighborhoods say they see scant evidence of change, and some say the police are simply not reporting some or all of their stops. The police did not respond to requests for comment.
But something is clearly different: Misdemeanor drug and weapon charges, the most common arrests to result from a stop, are down considerably. Advocates say misdemeanor marijuana charges, which require that the drug is in plain sight, are a bellwether, because the police ordered thousands to empty pockets, and arrested them.
I'll reserve judgement until the numbers from 2014 are in, particularly those post-Bloomberg.
In July, Jay Z rapped Picasso Baby at Pace Gallery in NYC for six hours. The fruits of that labor have been condensed by director Mark Romanek into a 10-minute music video that premiered on HBO last night. Here's the film:
The idea of performance art came to mind. I was aware of Marina Abramovic's Artist is Present, even though I was in London shooting 'Never Let Me Go' and didn't get to go. And the idea that Jay-Z regularly performs to 60,000 people at a time, I thought, 'What about performing at one person at a time?' He absolutely loved it. He interrupted me and said, 'Hold on! I've got chills. That idea is perfect.' He thinks, like me, that the music video has had its era. I also wanted to make sure we had Marina's blessing. So she attended the event and took part in the event. She couldn't have been more happy or enthusiastic about us using her concept and pushing it forward.
Also, somehow, I have never heard Jay Z talk before. That's his voice?
Museum Hack is offering non-traditional tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Join this "Museum Hack" tour to turn one of New York's most spectacular cultural institutions into a totally unique experience. We will show you the very best and most intriguing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display.
This is not a boring art history lecture. What we offer is a fun, group-oriented VIP tour experience. You will be entertained... and learn a bit along the way. We strive to offer a brand new view of the Met, one that you wouldn't get by simply visiting the museum on your own.
Great idea. Museum Hack grew out of a smaller effort to Hack the Met.
In 2011, Toyota offered to donate their celebrated business management process to The Food Bank for New York City. After some initial skepticism, the donation has "proved transformative" for the Food Bank.
"They make cars; I run a kitchen," said Daryl Foriest, director of distribution at the Food Bank's pantry and soup kitchen in Harlem. "This won't work."
When Toyota insisted it would, Mr. Foriest presented the company with a challenge.
"The line of people waiting to eat is too long," Mr. Foriest said. "Make the line shorter."
Toyota's engineers went to work. The kitchen, which can seat 50 people, typically opened for dinner at 4 p.m., and when all the chairs were filled, a line would form outside. Mr. Foriest would wait for enough space to open up to allow 10 people in. The average wait time could be up to an hour and a half.
Toyota made three changes. They eliminated the 10-at-a-time system, allowing diners to flow in one by one as soon as a chair was free. Next, a waiting area was set up inside where people lined up closer to where they would pick up food trays. Finally, an employee was assigned the sole duty of spotting empty seats so they could be filled quickly. The average wait time dropped to 18 minutes and more people were fed.
A very pretty but almost completely useless circular map of the NYC subway.
There's a London Tube version too.
From 1890, a hand-drawn map of Midtown Manhattan "from 34th Street to 59th Street and from 1st Avenue to 6th Avenue".
That's the iconic "Lunch atop a Skyscraper" photo taken in 1932 during the construction of the RCA Building (aka 30 Rock) in NYC. Eleven construction workers eating lunch on a steel girder 840 feet in the air. The shot was a PR stunt to drum up excitement around the near completion of the new skyscraper...no one even knows for sure who took the photo because it was likely a multiple photographer situation. On the same day the lunch photo was taken, some of the same men were photographed taking a nap on the same girder:
Ah, the good old days, when people used to talk to each other in public rather than looking at their phones or listening to headphones all the time. Except that's not been the case for awhile as XKCD demonstrates with a series of quotes from various publications dating back to 1871. This is from William Smith's Morley: Ancient and Modern published in 1886.
With the advent of cheap newspapers and superior means of locomotion... the dreamy quiet old days are over... for men now live think and work at express speed. They have their Mercury or Post laid on their breakfast table in the early morning, and if they are too hurried to snatch from it the news during that meal, they carry it off, to be sulkily read as they travel... leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them... the hurry and bustle of modern life... lacks the quiet and repose of the period when our forefathers, the day's work done, took their ease...
In 1946, a young Stanley Kubrick worked as a photographer for Look magazine and took this shot of NYC subway commuters reading newspapers:
The more things change, etc. More of Kubrick's subway photography can be found here.
Museum is the world's smallest museum, located in a small walk-in closet-sized space in Cortlandt Alley between Franklin St & White St in NYC. Collectors Weekly talked with one of the museum's founders.
In the current season, there's a collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world. There's a collection of mutilated U.S. currencies, money that's counterfeit or real money that's been scrawled on. There's a collection from Alvin Goldstein, who was the founder and editor of Screw magazine, who shared with us personal belongings that have stayed with him throughout the narrative of his life. There's a collection of Disney-themed children's bulletproof backpacks. They're things that touch upon something that's happening in society, things that comment on where we're at and how we're thinking and what we're doing.
Jacob Riis came to NYC in 1870 at the age of 21. He had $40 in his pocket, which he quickly spent. Unemployed, he lived for a time in the city's notorious slums before working his way up the social and economic ladder to become one of New York's strongest advocates for reform. Riis also took early advantage of flash photography to steer his camera into the city's darkest corners -- tenements, dark alleys, sweatshops, opium dens, beer halls -- and emerged with photographs that helped shift public opinion on NYC's poverty and slums.
Collections of Riis' photography can be viewed at Museum Syndicate and the Museum of the City of New York. Riis included many of his photographs in a book he published in 1890 called How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York. (via petapixel)
From a 1925 issue of Quill magazine, a map of NYC's Greenwich Village hand-drawn by Robert Edwards.
Cronuts are donuts made from croissant dough and they are all the rage here in NYC. They were invented by chef Dominique Ansel and they are only available in limited quantities at his bakery in Soho. Apparently people start lining up for them at 6am and all 200 of the world's daily supply of cronuts are gone within minutes of opening. Naturally, a black market has sprung up, with cronuts selling on Craigslist for upwards of $25/item:
Kevin Roose has some ideas for Ansel about expanding the reach of the cronut, but in the meantime, Edd Kimber replicated the treat at home with a quickie croissant dough.
Since I wont be in New York any time soon I thought I would see if I could replicate them at home, and you know what? They are pretty damn good! Now the dough I'm using isnt a proper croissant dough, its my quick dough made with just 20 minutes active work which, compared to traditional croissant dough is a snap to make.
Update: Pillsbury has gotten into the act as well with a cronut recipe that uses their crescent dough.
Update: In his forthcoming cookbook, Ansel reveals the recipe for the cronut and it's not for the faint of heart...the recipe takes three days to make.
This film was apparently shot in NYC in 1939. Features scenes in Midtown, Chinatown, Harlem, and more locales around the city.
Ben Crair visited some of Manhattan's fancier joints and ordered a decidedly unclassy cocktail: the Long Island Iced Tea.
11 Madison Park is either a very good restaurant or the absolute best restaurant in New York City. It depends on whom you ask. But don't ask me: I've only had a drink at 11 Madison Park, and that drink was a Long Island Iced Tea. It came in a highball with four perfect cubes of ice and a wedge of lemon. It cost sixteen dollars and tasted just like college.
"I haven't served one of these in six months," the bartender told me. Like his peers at the other fine New York bars and restaurants where I have lately been ordering Long Island Iced Teas, he had repeated my order back to me: "Long Island Iced Tea?" His neck muscles tightened, giving bloom to a gritted smile. That smile said: "The customer is always right." I confirmed the order, and he obligingly prepared it. Later, when we struck up a conversation, he told me the last person to order a Long Island Iced Tea at 11 Madison Park "was definitely not from New York."
True story: the guy who invented the Long Island Iced Tea is named Bob Butt.
There are a lot of outdoor movies showing in NYC this summer: here's a listing of the whats, wheres, and whens. Movies include The Goonies, Jaws, Duck Soup, Moonrise Kingdom, Grease, and Blade Runner.
Some interesting data about how protected bike lanes in NYC dramatically increased retail sales of local businesses.
A new study from the New York Department of Transportation shows that streets that safely accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel are especially good at boosting small businesses, even in a recession.
NYC DOT found that protected bikeways had a significant positive impact on local business strength. After the construction of a protected bicycle lane on 9th Avenue, local businesses saw a 49% increase in retail sales. In comparison, local businesses throughout Manhattan only saw a 3% increase in retail sales.
And that's just one of the many tidbits from a NYC DOT report released last November (right around the time of Hurricane Sandy, which is probably why no one noticed at the time); read the whole report here:
Among them: "retail sales increased a whopping 172% after the city converted an underused parking area in Brooklyn into a pedestrian plaza", and traffic calming in the Bronx decreased speeding by ~30% and pedestrian crashes by 67%. (via @lhl)
NYC is set to introduce their bike-share program at the end of the month. I think it's a great idea and am interested to follow how it does in practice. Many have objected to the share program even before it starts (reminding me of the smoking ban protests, ultimately much ado about nothing) but Sommer Mathis does an admirable job heading them off.
Claim #3: The stations are too ugly for historic neighborhoods, and Citibank's sponsorship is too crassly commercial.
These are just some of the claims behind a series of lawsuits that are already in the works, brought by specific building owners who argue that docking stations don't belong next to their beautiful buildings. They're also worried that delivery truck access may be impeded by the presence of some stations. The lawsuits are being filed within the context of additional complaints that neighbors feel they weren't consulted on the location of some stations, despite the city's department of transportation having held nearly 400 meetings on station locations with community boards and other neighborhood groups. This is a classic NIMBY reaction, and by far the easiest one the city could have predicted. The idea that bike-share infrastructure is somehow uglier or more commercial than any other element of New York's streetscape is easy enough to debunk. But the truth is, one of the best things about the design of the Alta bike-share stations is how easy they are to install and, if need be, later remove. It's entirely possible that small problems with the specific locations of some stations will become apparent after the program launches, and they'll need to be moved around the corner or across the street to better serve users. This has happened here in Washington, D.C., and it'll happen for sure in New York. But that's all part of the bike-share roll-out process. If there's a legitimate problem with the location of a single station, that can actually be fixed within in a matter of hours or at worst, a day or two.
Our neighborhood newspaper went full-NIMBY about the bike-share this week and hit all the major points addressed in this article, including the ridiculous "bike racks are taking valuable parking spots" one. (via @jmseabrook)
Adam Davidson on the asinine and broken food truck/cart system in NYC. This short paragraph not only explains what's wrong with the food cart biz in NYC but also with American politics in general:
Economically speaking, the problem is a standard one, known as the J-curve, which represents a downslope on a graph followed by a steep rise. Some sensible changes to the current food-vendor system may have long-term benefits for everyone, but the immediate impact could spell short-term losses for those who now profit from the system. A small group of New Yorkers -- particularly owners of commissaries and physical restaurants -- are highly motivated to lobby politicians not to change things. And most of the potential beneficiaries don't realize they're missing out. Many of the rest of us would love to have more varied food trucks, but we don't care enough to pressure the City Council.
A list of the most New York episodes of Seinfeld.
4. "The Rye" (Season 7, Episode 11)
This episode's titular breadstuff-which Jerry steals from an old lady who refuses to sell it to him, even for 50 bucks-supposedly comes from Schnitzer's, a great New York bakery name if we've ever heard one. The real place was called Royale Kosher Bake Shop. Unfortunately, it's now closed. A Jenny Craig branch stands in its place at 237 W. 72nd St. Also in this episode: Kramer leads Beef-a-Reno-fueled hansom cab rides through Central Park. His skills as a tour guide are questionable, though, as his historical "facts" are impressively inaccurate. For example, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-not former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone-designed the park.
Already good, Seinfeld got 100 times better when I moved to NYC and got 10 more of the jokes per episode.
Caroline Rothstein on how Kids came about and what happened to the young actors who starred in the film.
Two decades after a low-budget film turned Washington Square skaters into international celebrities, the kids from Kids struggle with lost lives, distant friendships, and the fine art of growing up.
The Morning News has a collection of maps showing the neighborhoods that New Yorkers might want to move to in a variety of cities around the world. Probably lots of generalizations to argue about here...have fun!
Prenzlauer Berg = Park Slope. Among the first neighborhoods to be gentrified after the Wall fell, Prenzlauer Berg (the locals shorten it to Prenzlberg, which isn't all that much shorter, but whatever) is populated by the same desperately, tragically hip mothers and fathers as Park Slope. But American yuppies have nothing on their German counterparts, who will invade a coffee shop, block the door with strollers, and turn it into a temporary romper room.
NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced yesterday that all rigid plastics are now included in the city's recycling program. It's about damn time.
"Starting today, if it's a rigid plastic -- any rigid plastic -- recycle it," said Mayor Bloomberg. "There is no more worrying about confusing numbers on the bottom of the container. This means that 50,000 tons of plastics that we were sending to landfills every year will now be recycled and it will save taxpayers almost $600,000 in export costs each year."
"Today's announcement represents the largest expansion of our City's recycling efforts in 25 years," said Deputy Mayor Holloway. "We were able to take this step because of the major commitment we made to recycling as part of the City's Solid Waste Management Plan in 2006 -- and this commitment continues today and will result in cost savings and 50,000 tons of plastics that we were sending to landfills every year now being recycled."
It looks like the online guidelines have been updated so you can go look at the specific dos and donts. Also mentioned in the press release is the expansion of the pickup of compostable material:
The City will also expand the organics recycling pilot under way in public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan to residents in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island next month, to other neighborhoods this fall and to all City schools over the next two years. The food waste composting pilot cut the amount of garbage participating schools sent to landfills by up to 38 percent.
I can't wait until they offer curb-side compost pickup for everyone. (via @eqx1979)
Caught The Central Park Five on PBS last night and it's one of those films that puts you into rage-against-the-machine mode.
The Central Park Five, a new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. The film chronicles The Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.
The entire film is available to watch on the PBS web site. Tonight, there's a TimesTalk in NYC featuring Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, Times columnist Jim Dwyer, and all five of the exonerated men; the talk will be broadcast live on the web here.
Filmed at 780 fps with a Phantom Flex from the back of a moving SUV, James Nares' Street depicts people walking New York streets in super slow motion.
The film runs 60 minutes (depicting about three minutes of real time footage), Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore did the soundtrack, and it's on display at The Met until the end of May.
A long piece in this week's New Yorker by Marc Fisher about more alleged sexual abuse at The Horace Mann School, a prep school in the Bronx. Fisher's piece focuses on Robert Berman, an English teacher at the school for many years.
One group of boys stood apart; they insisted on wearing jackets and ties and shades, and they stuck to themselves, reciting poetry and often sneering at the rest of us. A few of them shaved their heads. We called them Bermanites, after their intellectual and sartorial model, an English teacher named Robert Berman: a small, thin, unsmiling man who papered over the windows of his classroom door so that no one could peek through.
Assigned to Berman for tenth-grade English, I took a seat one September morning alongside sixteen or seventeen other boys. We waited in silence as he sat at his desk, chain-smoking Benson & Hedges cigarettes and watching us from behind dark glasses. Finally, Mr. Berman stood up, took a fresh stick of chalk, climbed onto his chair, and reached above the blackboard to draw a horizontal line on the paint. "This," he said, after a theatrical pause, "is Milton." He let his hand fall a few inches, drew another line, and said, "This is Shakespeare." Another line, lower, on the blackboard: "This is Mahler." And, just below, "Here is Browning." Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the chalk onto the floor, and, using the heel of his black leather loafer, ground it into the wooden floorboards. "And this, gentlemen," he said, "is you."
The next day, I asked to be transferred. I was not alone. By the end of the week, Berman's class had shrunk by about half. The same thing happened every year; his classes often ended up as intimate gatherings of six to eight. Many students found Berman forbidding, but some of the teachers referred to him as a genius. Boys competed to learn tidbits about him. It was said, with little or no evidence, that he was an artist and a sculptor, that he knew Sanskrit, Russian, and Urdu, and that his wife and child had been killed in a horrific car crash. Though he was only in his mid-thirties, a graduate of the University of Michigan, it was rumored that he had been a paleontologist and had taught at Yale. Administrators told students and their parents that Horace Mann was incredibly lucky to have him, however odd he might be. The boys who remained in his classes were often caught up in his love of art, music, and literature, and in his belief that every moment of life should be spent reaching for the transcendence of the Elgin Marbles, of a fresco by Fra Angelico, even of an ordinary sunset. The boys absorbed the lists he made. "Take this down," he'd say. "The ten greatest racehorses of all time." Or, "This is the list of the ten greatest movies ever made-but you won't find 'Lawrence of Arabia' on it, because it's off the charts!" One day, he mounted a rearview mirror on the far wall of the classroom so that he could stare at the portrait of Milton behind his back.
At random and unannounced times throughout the year, actress (and apparently performance artist) Tilda Swinton will be sleeping in a glass box at MoMA.
It's part of an unannounced, surprise performance piece called "The Maybe" that will be taking place on random days all year. A MoMA source told us, "Museum staff doesn't know she's coming until the day of, but she's here today. She'll be there the whole day. All that's in the box is cushions and a water jug."
Clearly some crowdsourced announcement system is needed...perhaps istildaswintonsleepingatmomaornot.tumblr.com? Also, in keeping with the theme of "my kid could do that" in contemporary art, both my kids slept at MoMA in chairs with wheels on them.
Starting on April 4, Upstream Color begins its run at IFC in New York. Star/director Shane Carruth will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As for several of the shows.
New York Day is a film by Samuel Orr that crams a whole NYC day into about three and a half minutes.
Orr is using Kickstarter to raise funds to make a longer version (~20 min.) of the film. (via @dhmeyer)
NYC Past has hundreds of large format historical photos of New York City. Like this one:
I'm not through all 49 pages yet, but I am getting pretty close.
For Polygon, Simon Parkin writes about how Barcade came about and where it's going.
Younger gamers are, in a sense, both the secret to Barcade's success and its great ongoing threat. More than players like Chien and the older pros, Barcade attracts young local patrons typical of the Brooklyn bar scene. For many of these visitors the classic arcade hits of the 1980s were released long before they were born, familiar to them primarily as cultural icons rather than living memories.
"When we opened in 2004, some of these games weren't even 20 years old," says Kermizian. "But now, eight years on, we find the ideal period of nostalgia keeps shifting on us as our customers are a little bit younger. So we've started to go with some early '90s games. You know, we've put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in two of the three arcade locations and that's our number one most popular game now. People just go crazy playing that."
On a good night a single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine will see its coin tray filled. "At the end of the night we just dump a bucket of quarters out of the machine, around 50 bucks worth."
All these years on, with prices unadjusted for inflation, the aging arcade still offers a viable business. But time continues to be the greatest menace to the arcade, even in the midst of this repackaged revival. For many, this parade of curios whose bleeps and flashes provide an atmospheric link to the past long gone is little more than a hands-on exhibit, where Space Invaders' and Pac-Man's iconography is not forgotten but made fashionable. But fashions are transient. How long can the business model sustain?