George Washington Bridge Then and Now

There are several beautiful bridges in New York City. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world.The Verrazano Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. However, there is one bridge on the upper west side of Manhattan that does not get as much recognition. This bridge is the only bridge in the city that connects New York to another State. This bridge is the George Washington Bridge and it has a very interesting history.

Construction on the George Washington Bridge started in 1927. The Bridge was designed by Othmar Ammann, a swiss architect. When Ammann came over to the states he started working with Gustav Lindenthal, a famous bridge architect. Lindenthal wanted to build a bridge that connected New York and New Jersey but his vision was too complex; he wanted the bridge to carry several railroad tracks as well as a pedestrian walkway. Lindenthal’s idea was too ambitious and expensive. Ammann thought the bridge should be simple and submitted a design to the Port of New York Authority and it was eventually chosen.

Othmar Ammann and the bridge Source:

The Bridge was constructed in several phases. Construction workers first built the two towers of the bridge. Next the workers strung the main cables over the towers from both sides of the shore. Workers then hung steel suspenders from the cables, which would support the roadway. The last step was to build the roadway and hang it from the suspenders. Ammann designed the two towers to be covered in granite but it was eventually decided that it was best to leave the steel frames bare because it would cost too much money and the country was in the Great Depression.


After four years of hard work, the George Washington Bridge was inaugurated and opened to the public on October 25, 1931.

Gov. Morgan F. Larson of New Jersey and Gov. Franklin Roosevelt of New York at the inauguration. Source:


In its first full year of operation, the bridge served more than 5.5 million vehicles. At the time, the bridge had the longest center span in the world.

The George Washington Bridge will turn 81 years old this year. The biggest difference between the bridge now and when it first opened is the lower deck that was added in 1962.

With old age comes a lot of wear and tear so the George Washington Bridge is need of some repairs. In December 2011, the Port Authority authorized $15.5 million in repairs which will eventually rise to $1 billion. The biggest part of the repairs will be replacing the 592 vertical suspenders of the bridge. While the bridge is not in danger of collapse, most bridges need to get their suspenders replaced every 70 years so the port authority decided it was best to start the process now rather than at a time when it is critical and would cause lane closures. This process will take a long time because no more than three suspenders can be removed at a time or the bridge will destabilize. The suspenders will be replaced using a system that was used on the Golden Gate Bridge. A rolling platform will be placed on the main cables and workers will work from above to replace the suspenders. The restoration will also include cleaning the anchors that tie down the two towers, replacing broken wires in cables, and replacing dehumidifiers in the chambers of the anchors. The main cables of the bridge will also be cleaned by workers. The whole restoration is expected to take eight years and create 3,600 jobs.

The George Washington Bridge in the Evening. Photo by Semyon Toybis

The Port Authority runs a bus station right by the George Washington Bridge. This station is a big transportation and retail space but has been neglected since the 1960s. In 2008, a plan was put together by the Port Authority to renovate the station, but this plan fell through because of the recession. However in 2011, the Port Authority agreed to a deal to renovate the station with SJM Partners and Slayton Equities. The deal will bring a $183 million renovation to the station, of which the Port Authority will provide $80 million. The renovation is set to begin in January 2012 and will be completed in the spring of 2013.

This renovation deal is huge for the Washington Heights Community. Not only will the renovation bring jobs to the community, but the opening of new stores in the retail areas of the station will improve the local economy as well. SJM plans to lease a 25,000 square foot retail area to a supermarket, a 25,000 square foot retail area to a women’s clothing store, and a 20,000 square foot retail area to a fitness center. Other businesses will also be interested in setting up shop at this station because the station is exempt from property taxes because it is a public building and because it is located in a low income area. These stores will provide places to shop not only for Washington Heights residents, but also for residents of New Jersey who commute across the bridge to their workplaces in Washington Heights, such as the employees of the Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian hospital.

The George Washington Bridge has a long history. It has connected the people of New York and New Jersey and made an economic impact on both states and the Washington Heights neighborhood. The Bridge has been effected by both the depression and the recession. Although it is getting old, with the new renovations the George Washington Bridge will serve us for a long time.

Works Cited

Hansen, Brett. 2008. “Simplifying the Suspension: The George Washington Bridge.” Civil Engineering (08857024) 78, no. 9: 36-37. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed April 13, 2012).

Haughney, Christine. “George Washington Bridge Needs Replacement Surgery –” The New York Times. (accessed April 13, 2012).

“History – George Washington Bridge – The Port Authority of NY & NJ.” The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. (accessed April 13, 2012).

Hughes, C. J.. “George Washington Bridge Bus Station to Get Renovation –” The New York Times. (accessed May 13, 2012).

Maeder, Jay. “Naming Bridges Has Long Been Contentious –” (accessed April 13, 2012).

Then and Now: Washington Square Park

A Sketch of Washington Square Park in the 1880s

Although Washington Square Park, named after the United States’ first president, is a beautiful and relaxing escape for many people today, it started off as a six and a half acre common burial ground in 1787 and remained as such until 1826.  In 1827, The Seventh New York Militia expanded the field by nearly eight acres and turned it into a “drill field,” where  “the militia’s heavy artillery sometimes unearthed crushed coffins and skulls” (Moke).  Despite these conditions, wealthy and powerful families, also known as “Knickerbockers,” moved from diseased and crowded downtown Manhattan to the relatively unpopulated Washington Square Park area.  The Knickerbockers built extravagant mansions, also known as Greek Revival mansions around the square (  Today, the mansions on the south side are no longer standing, but the ones on the north side are still there.

"An Italian-American cop chatting with a group of Italian-Americans in Washington Square Park" Feb. 1943 Photograph by Marjory Collins

The increasing popularity of the square and formation of the Department of PublicParks in 1870 led M.A. Kellogg, Engineer-in-Chief, and I.A. Pilat, Chief Landscape Gardener, to renovate and officially turn the field into a park (  The marble Washington Square Arch, which replaced a wooden arch, was built and completed in 1890-1892 to celebrate George Washington’s 100th anniversary of his inauguration.  American architect Stanford White led the project, which was funded by wealthy residents who lived around the area.

New York, New York. Washington Square arch
Photo Taken by Edwin Rosskam
1941 Dec.

Washington Square Arch
Photo Taken by Michelle Guo
2012 April

Washington Square Park’s reputation shifted from being a park surrounded by and visited by wealthy individuals to a bohemian public park filled with artists, entertainers, and students during the Great Depression.  The park’s first art fair was held in 1932 to help struggling artists have a source of income in the sinking economy; artists brought their artwork to sell and entertainers showcased their talents to earn tips.  As nice as this sounds, artists were lucky if they walked away with more than a couple dollars.  Even well-known and successful novelists and poets were not immune to the damaging effects of the Great Depression on the arts.  Macy Halford, a writer for The New Yorker, posted an article about the talented, struggling artists in Washington Square Park during the Great Depression:

Maxwell Bodenheim, a best-selling novelist who lost everything in the crash of 1929, was forced to peddle poems for twenty-five cents apiece in Washington Square Park… he wrote in 1934: ‘There’s something wrong with this world all right, but I can’t put my finger on it… Something must be wrong when a fellow can’t get a decent wage, can’t tell when he’s going to be fired, can’t look forward to any promise of happiness.  Something is rotten somewhere.’

Depression in Washington Square Park
Sketch by Eugenia Hughes

The Raven Poetry Circle of Greenwich Village also relied on Washington Square Park for sales.  Francis Lambert McCrudden founded the group in May 1933 after he retired from his job as a telephone worker.   The majority of his poems dealt with “the value of hard work despite the ruined economy” (Boog).  According to The New York Historical Society, the park was an essential element to the groups’ success:

The group held yearly exhibitions off Washington Square Park, in which members’ poetry was tacked to a fence at Thompson Street and Washington Square South for public display and potential sale. Poems generally sold at prices ranging from a quarter up to a dollar, the latter for particularly fine work.

At the end of 1934, legendary architect and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses announced that he had plans to “dress Washington Square Park in some new clothes” (The Villager).   Although Moses stated his vision was to “renew and replenish the pride which was in Village hearts” for the “grand old open space,” Greenwich Village residents protested against the redesigning of the park.  In the March 14, 1935 issue of The Villager, Moses’ full landscape renovation plan was posted on the front page.  He wanted to wipe out all traces of the 1870 park design and instead create a ceremonial garden theme.  Some of the greatest changes included taking away the park’s fountain and replacing it with a pool that would align perfectly with the marble arch as seen from Fifth Avenue.   However, because the residents around the park objected to the new landscape plan and complained relentlessly, the 1870 park design remained untouched (The Villager).

Nearly three decades later, Washington Square Park was still a popular destination for musicians to showcase their talents, whether it was for much-needed tips, or just to entertain the public.  However, in 1961, newly appointed Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris announced that musicians would no longer be permitted to sing or play music in the park because he wanted to “protect the Washington Square grass” (Time).  At first, the musicians protested peacefully by marching around the park and carrying signs that said “We Want to Continue As We Have in the Past.” However, the protest turned violent when an 18-year-old zitherist played the intro chords to “We Shall Not Be Moved” and was arrested and forced into a police van.  The other musicians were outraged and a small fight broke out between the protestors and the police. According to policemen at the scene, one folk singer “banjoed a lawman on the ankle” and then ran to a nearby church to repent (Time). Parks Commissioner Morris attempted to negotiate with the folk singers by inviting them to play in the East River Park.  However, two days later, Morris announced that because Greenwich Village residents enjoyed the presence of folk singers in Washington Square Park, the musicians were allowed to stay.

In 1986, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern closed Washington Square Park for three days to clean and repair the park in an attempt to “rid the park of drug dealers” (The New York Times).  Once the park reopened to the public, Parks Commissioner Stern announced some changes; the park would now be closed from midnight to 7:00AM everyday and visitors were no longer permitted to bring radios or glass containers inside the park.  Greenwich Village residents supported this renovation of Washington Square Park and the new regulations were implemented without any trouble.

In 2005, a renovation plan similar to Robert Moses’ 1934 renovation plan was proposed by the Parks Department.  According to an article published in The New York Times, the Parks Department wanted to move the fountain so that it would be aligned to the Washington Square Arch, flatten out the playground and asphalt, and install a four-foot-high granite and iron fence around the park that would lock at night.  Once again, Greenwich Village residents were in uproar about this new design; residents believed the monetary and environmental costs were too great and advocated that Washington Square Park “did not need a facelift” (Williams).  However, in 2007 the Manhattan Supreme Court approved the renovation plans (Sullivan).  Washington Square Park is still being renovated today.  Phase I of the renovation was completed around May 2011 and Phase II is currently taking place.  To follow up on the progress of the renovation at the park, check out this website:

Today, Washington Square Park is still a bohemian and family-friendly hangout area located in Greenwich Village.  The park is open year-round and accessible by the A, B, C, D, E, F, or V train to West 4th St/Washington Square (  Its 9.74 acres are filled with students, artists, and families (  NYU buildings and dorms circle the perimeter of the park, so the park is often associated with the university.  The park still holds two art fairs annually—one in May and one in September.   According to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit website, the fairs take place “every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows and every Labor Day weekend and the weekend that follows that” (  This event is designed to give talented artists and artisans from around the world an opportunity to gather in New York City to showcase their art.

Washington Square Park is also frequently the home of a variety of other events.  Most recently, on April 7, 2012, New York City’s 7th Annual Pillow Fight took place at the park.  Although I did not participate, I witnessed countless New Yorkers (mostly students) smack each other with pillows, which ended in a fun feathery mess.  This event proved to me that to this day, Washington Square Park has maintained its reputation as a laid back yet beautiful spot for people of all ages to relax, hang out, and have fun.  It is one of the few public areas in Manhattan where one can be a step away from both a beautiful garden and a busy, skyscraper-lined street filled with NYC taxis. 

**For some reason the photo captioning is not working for me on all the pictures, but all the unlabeled photos were taken by me**

Works Cited

Boog, Jason. “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The Believer Sept. 2010: n. pag. The Believer.
     Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

Brewer, Cassie, and Cathy Morgan Hajo. “Depression – Washington Square Park,
     Sketch.” Greenwich Village History. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

“The Foggy, Foggy Don’t.” Time 77.17 (1961): 69. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29
Apr. 2012.

“Guide to the Raven Poetry Circle of Greenwich Village Collection.” The New York
     Historical Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

Halford, Macy. “Orphans of the Great Depression.” The New Yorker 27 Aug. 2010:
     n. pag. The New Yorker. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

Hamil, Pete. Downtown: My Manhatan. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004.

“Manhattan: Renovation at Washington Square Park.” The New York Times. N.p., 4
     Dec. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

Moke, Bernadette. “Hidden History of Washington Square Park.” Untapped New York.
N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

O’Neill, David, and Lisa Darms. “Guide to the Washington Square Park.” New York
     University Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

“Shades of ‘Emperor Moses’.” The Villager 1 Nov. 2006: n. pag. The Villager.
     Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <

“Stanford White.” The New York Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

Sullivan, John. “A Lost Fight over Washington Square Park’s Renovation.” The New
     York Times. N.p., 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

“The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit – Now in Its 82nd Year!”
     Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

“Washington Square Park.” City of New York Parks and Recreation. N.p., n.d. Web.
     10 Apr. 2012. <

“Washington Square Park.” Top Sightseeing. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

“Washington Square Park Renovation.” New York Times 23 Oct. 1986: 1. Academic
Search Complete
. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.

Williams, Timothy. “Washington Square Park, Haven for Eccentricity, Is Set to
     Fall into Line.” The New York Times. N.p., 10 May 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

The High Line

The High Line

Trains transported supplies on the High Line from 1934 to 1980. http://continuous construction.blogspot. com/2009/07/high-line.html

The High Line on Manhattan’s West Side offers more than a spectacular view of iconic NYC landmarks. It provides New Yorkers and tourists with a serene, nature-filled park, a rare site among the skyscrapers that define the city. Such was not always the case, however, because between 1934 and 1980 the High Line was used as a railroad to transport supplies to businesses in Manhattan. The High Line was built during the Great Depression and served as a railroad until 1980. It sat neglected until 2009, in the midst of the recession, when it was turned into a public park.

Until 1934, the streets of Manhattan were crowded with trains carrying meat and baking ingredients to businesses in the city. The abundance of trains contributed to a crowded and dangerous neighborhood, giving 10th Avenue its nickname, “Death Avenue”. In an effort to avoid collisions on these overcrowded streets, men on horseback called the “West Side Cowboys” traveled in front of trains, waving a red flag as warning to those in their paths.

Tenth Avenue before the High Line was built.

As a result of these dangerous conditions, the city and state of NY, in conjunction with New York Central Railroad, built the High Line as part of the “West Side Improvement Project”. By relocating the transport of essential supplies to above ground, the streets of Manhattan became less crowded and, in turn, less dangerous. During the Great Depression, Robert Moses used funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to build the High Line because transporting materials by above ground rail was an affordable and efficient solution for businesses.

With the increased accessibility of interstate highways, however, transport of materials shifted from rails to roads. The High Line’s function diminished as businesses began relying on trucks instead of trains. In 1980,  a train carrying turkeys was the last to utilize the High Line’s tracks, ending its use as a railway.

Benches alongside the path Photo By Catrine Mattsson

Thereafter the High Line fell into disarray, giving way to mother nature as the plants that once dominated Manhattan reclaimed their home. Speculation of the High Line’s declining function led many to voice their support for its complete destruction. In 1999, however, Joshua David and Robert Hammond founded “Friends of the High Line,” an organization that worked to gain support from celebrities, such as Ed Norton and Kevin Bacon, to spread the idea of transforming the abandoned railway into a nature-filled park. With the support of donors, architects and celebrities, David and Hammond ultimately gained approval from the city government and the first section of the park opened in 2009 as a public strip of land for all to enjoy.

The High Line stretches through the Meatpacking District, a neighborhood once defined by factories and manufacturing businesses. With the opening of businesses catering to social and entertainment purposes, the area surrounding the High Line has become increasingly attractive to visitors, making it the ideal location for this park. The district is now defined by “low-lying industrial buildings…home to many restaurants, nightclubs, design and photography studios, and fashion boutiques” (Neighborhood Info). Among the first businesses to follow this trend was Florent Restaurant in 1985. Several other businesses joined the restaurant, including Hotel Gansevoort and The Standard Grill, all of which contribute to the reformed atmosphere of the neighborhood. The area continues to expand for entertainment purposes with the anticipated 2015 opening of the Whitney Museum of Art (Construction Update).

In Mayor Bloomberg’s speech in 2009, he introduced a nine-point plan targeting unemployment. Part of the initiative to increase job growth was to open “the first section of the world’s most innovative park, the High Line” (Bloomberg). One might wonder why the city decided to invest in a park such as the High Line in a time of economic crisis. According to Hammond, “this is a good economic generator for the city” as architects and developers alike have come to the High Line area in recent years to establish and grow businesses alongside the park (PBS). The High Line has attracted customers to several businesses, including the “Cookshop” whose owner says “there’s someone here all the time now because of the High Line” (PBS).The value of land surrounding the High Line continues to grow as more people look for real estate or to further expand business in this promising area. Nearby apartment buildings advertise living “artfully steps from the High Line”. Hammond continued to explain that since The High Line opened in economic hard-times, “it made people excited, since there wasn’t a lot of good news” at the time (PBS). In addition to being both serene and beautiful, it is easily accessible at no cost–making it all more attractive during an economic hard time.

Flowers line the path. Photo by Johanna Mattsson

The High Line now stretches from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, with a path surrounded by plants that offers a superb view of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. The High Line is accessible by either stairs or elevator from many points along the west side of Manhattan. Its opening hours range from 7 am to 10 pm, giving all a chance to experience this beautiful park.

Aside from being a place for visitors to take a relaxing stroll, the park hosts special events, such as “stargazing at the High Line”. Every Tuesday, enthusiasts come to the High Line to admire the stars with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.

For those who get hungry during their visit to the High Line, the park offers a wide array of boutiques selling ice cream and other goods. The High Line is currently home to  L’arte Del Gelato and Melt Bakery, selling gelato/sorbet and coffee, respectively. The park is looking to continue its expansion with the summer 2012 opening of The Porch, a cafe offering healthy produce from nearby farmers.

There are also “tours, lectures, performances, and events for the whole family [that] highlight the High Line’s design, gardens, history, public art projects, and more” (The High Line). Such tours will take visitors past unique art forms that are on display at various points along the High Line. Sarah Sze displays her sculpture, “Still Life with Landscape”, that attracts not only visitors but birds and butterflies that sit on the sculpture as well. The High Line also boasts artwork in the form of billboards and decorated containers, all which compliment the unique scenery of the High Line.

Since most of the programs offered by this organization are free of cost, they are particularly attractive during a time of economic turmoil. Other cities are now following New York’s example, including Atlanta and Chicago, both of which are currently working on transforming railroads into parks like the High Line!

“Big Apple History . Building the Big Apple . West Side Improvement | PBS KIDS GO!”

PBS KIDS: Educational Games, Videos and Activities For Kids!
Web. 08 Apr. 2012.
“Bloomberg: High Line Is “the World’s Most Innovative Park” | The High Line.” The High
. Web. 08 Apr. 2012.<
high-line-is-the-worlds- most-innovative-park>.
“Construction Update: Whitney Museum and High Line Headquarters | The High Line.” The High Line. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>.
“Meatpacking District.” New York : Visitor Guide : Editorial Review. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>.

“Neighborhood Info.” The High Line. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>.
PBS. PBS. Web. 08 Apr. 2012. <
“Sarah Sze, Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat).” The High Line. Web. 14
Apr. 2012. <>.
“The High Line.” The High Line. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.

Apartment buildings near the High Line (this one by West 24th) Photo by Johanna Mattsson

Grass surrounds the tracks on the High Line. Photo taken by Johanna Mattsson

Governors Island

Governor’s Island

After a long and rich colonial history, Governors Island transitioned into a new chapter which started in 1783, a time period mostly affiliated with the U.S. Army. After numerous wars prompted by unstable conflicts between France and Great Britain, the U.S. federal government opened a national program of harbor fortifications in the late 1790s, and by 1800 Governors Island was conceded from the State of New York to the federal government. This transition allowed the reconstruction of Fort Jay and Half Moon Battery, two of the most important structures on the island. After the works in late 1790s, the island underwent a second fortification in 1807 with the building of Castle Williams and second reconstruction of Fort Jay (Glen 10), (A Brief History of Governors Island). By the 1830s, however, Governors Island was defensively obsolete. Nonetheless, it continued military operations in most areas, although some parts were converted to non-military use.

The island was largely used as a training facility for peacetime U.S. Army troops, including serving as a military music school. The island was also used as a federal arsenal. Although Castle Williams remained largely for administrative purposes, during the Civil War it was used as a Confederate prison. In 1878, all the military installations on the island, which were collectively known as Fort Columbus, eventually became the army headquarters for Military Division of the Atlantic and Department of the East. The island was responsible for coordinating many military activities for the eastern US. The development of the island into a large military center allowed for military personnel (typically officers) to bring their families to live there. Eventually, the establishment of these communities allowed for the creation of several public structures, including a theater, chapels, public schools, YMCA, etc. Later on in 1939, the island officially became the headquarters of the U.S. First Army.

From the beginning of the 20th century and until roughly the 1960s, Governors Island underwent great changes. “Using rocks and dirt from the excavations for the Lexington Avenue Subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic yards of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 103 acres of flat, treeless land by 1912 and bringing the total acreage of the island to 172. In 1918, the Army built the Governors Island Railroad, which consisted of 1-¾ miles of track and three flat cars carrying coal, machinery, and supplies from the pier to shops and warehouses.” (The Trust for Governors Island). At one point, Robert Moses proposed for a bridge to be built, where one of the bases would be located on Governors Island. However, the proposal was shut down due to fear of threats to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Other proposals were given, such as a municipal airport, but many were turned down mostly due to costs.

Costs, in fact, played a large role in closing many of the military installations, including Fort Jay by 1966. That year marked the end of the second era in Governors Island’s history. Later on, the island became officially the largest Coast Guard base in the world, and became the headquarters for the Atlantic Area command. The community on the island bloomed to a population of roughly 3,500 and enjoyed the same great prestige as during the army era. During this time period, the island enjoyed a large number of historic events, including the U.S. – U.S.S.R summit between President Reagan and Gorbachev in 1988 and the UN 1993 summits on restoring democracy in Haiti (The Trust for Governors Island).

Again due to increased costs, however, the Coast Guard was also forced to stop operations in Governors Island. In 2001, the island went officially on sale to the people of New York. This change in ownership marked a new beginning for GI’s long history, particularly a new chapter marked with new promising public ventures for the benefit of NYC’s local communities, students, etc. A small part was given to the National Park Service and was declared the National Island National Monument.

In 2006, a proposal given by then Governor Pataki and current Major Bloomberg to push for new ideas to redevelop the island into a center of culture, business, education, and innovation, allowed for a plethora of new proposals for redevelopment. Over a span of only a few years, plans for sustainability, university research land grants, public schools, and many other initiatives took place, which eventually sparked further public excitement.

Pushed by organizations such as The Trust for Governors Island, new public outreach programs have allowed the island to become a bit more accessible and open each year. Every summer, the island gathers quite a bit of local as well as tourist attraction with its plethora of tours and events. These include special family festivals, arts and music exhibits, historical celebrations including “Army Heritage Day”, a vast number of party-like ceremonies such as the “Roaring 20s Lawn Party”, “Jazz Age Lawn Party”, dance exhibitions, and even bicycle tours, graphic and design workshops, and cancer-awareness walks. (Trust for Governors Island)

Besides the vibrant summer and spring activities, the island has also attracted institutions of higher learning who are seeking to expand research facilities. This includes an already ongoing plan for the expansion of New York University. (NYU 2031)

Governors Island was an attractive place for military and coast guard operations due to its strategic location in NYC and in the northeast. Even though military operations continued throughout the Great Depression and well into the 60s, then eventually transitioning to the U.S. Coast Guard, the island has since detached from these kinds of purposes and has become an attractive land for general public use. As is evident by the pace of current development, the island seems to perhaps have found its best role yet in serving the people of NYC.

Works Cited

A Brief History of Governors Island – Governors Island National Monument.” U.S. National Park Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <>.

Glen, Susan L.. Governors Island. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2006. Print.

“NYU 2031: NYU in NYC.” New York University. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2012. <

Smith, Edmund Banks. Governor’s Island: its military history under three flags, 1637-1913. New York: Published by the author, 1913. Print.

The Trust for Governors Island – History of Governors Island – History.” The Trust for Governors Island. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. shtml

Then and Now-New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is the largest marble structure in the United States; it is also one of the most famous landmarks of New York City. The history of New York Public Library can be dated back to the mid 19th century. During the second half of 19th century, New York City was emerging to become the most populous city around the world, creating a strong need for building a big public library that serves all of its citizens.

marble structure (New York Public Library Digital Gallery)

Public Library Now

When Governor Samuel J. Tilden died around 1886, he donated about $2.4 million to create a free public library and reading room in New York City. At that time, New York already had two important libraries, which are the Astor and Lenox libraries. However around 1892, both of the libraries experienced financial difficulties, they ended up combining together to form the New York Public Library. Dr. John Shaw Billings, who is the most famous librarian at that time, directed the project of building a new Public Library. It took about two years to prepare for this masterpiece of architecture; finally, the first cornerstone was laid in May 1902. On May 23, 1911 the library was opened to the public, attracted about 30,000 to 50,000 visitors.

Book Truck at 40th street during the Great Depression (New York Public Library Digital Gallery)

Besides being a famous landmark of the New York City, the New York Public Library also played an important role during both the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Throughout the Great Depression, the New York Public Library was able to maintain seven days of services, an accumulation of 82 hours per week. However, due to a budget cut on 1934, approximately ten branches of the New York Public Library were closed down from June to September of 1934. Some of the libraries continued to provide services to their customers by setting up book trucks around the city.

During the Great Recession, the New York Public Library was able to open at least six days per week in most of the branches. During the economic hard time, the library became a support for many people. According to Ann Thornton, director of New York Public Libraries, “attendance is up by 13% in the last year, and circulation has increased to 21.1 million in 2008, up from 17.2 million in 2007.” Many people take advantages of the programs that libraries offer to temporarily escape from the crisis; programs such as resume writing and skill training workshops. Records show that there is an increase in the amount of people who use the libraries’ job searching engine to look for a job.

The New York Public Library was famous for both of its architectural and historical values. It is the largest marble structure in United States, which has more than 100 years of history now. The New York Public Library also plays an important role during times of economic crisis, which is providing supports to many of its clients.


Library view from Bryant Park









“History of The New York Public Library.” Web. <>.

Ann Thornton, “Open Doors, Open Minds: The New York Public Library During the Great Depression and Today’s Economic Crisis.” March 11, 2009. Web. <>


Times Square – Then & Now

Times Square 2012 (photo by Mark Stone)Now a popular urban destination, Times Square welcomes millions of tourists each year. The “square” forms a deep X and spans West 42nd to West 47th Streets along Broadway and 7th Avenue. “Fiery neon signs” and “jumbo billboards” 1 light the square. Theatres, museums, and restaurants engage passersby. Termed “No. 1 Tourist destination” 2 by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Times Square generates $1 of every $9 of municipal economic activity.  Annual revenue exceeds $100 billion and will continue to soar, due, in large part, to a $27 million municipal redesign. 3 Times Square is bright, but its future is brilliant.

Formerly “Longacre Square,” “Times Square” received its name in 1904, after the New York Times Building on 42nd St. That year, Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre became the first theatre to run Vaudeville productions exclusively. Unable to meet financial demands, the theatre folded a few years later.

Postcard of Hippodrome Theatre (courtesy of Wikimedia)

The Hippodrome opened the following year as the world’s largest theatre. To capture new audiences, the theatre charged 25 cents per ticket, significantly lower than the standard $2 fare. Daily matinees showcased an “eclectic mixture of circus, ballet and avant-garde acts.” In later years, the woebegone theatre accommodated vaudevilles, movies, and boxing and wrestling matches, before closing in 1939 due to poor ticket sales and exorbitant real estate costs.

The 1914-1915 season produced a “record breaking 133 productions at 42 theatres staged in and around Times Square.” Reasonably priced, family-friendly shows attracted theatregoers of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. No longer an indulgence, theatre became a regular means of recreation… until the advent of film and onset of the Great Depression halted Broadway’s ephemeral heyday.

Burlesque (courtesy of the 1930s, waves of city residents migrated uptown (where rent was cheaper) and deserted Times Square.  Low attendance and impossible real estate costs forced theaters to close. In place, entrepreneurs constructed saloons and brothels. These, along with “burlesque halls, vaudeville stages, and dime houses,” solidified Times Squares’ “reputation for licentiousness.” May Livingston and Ann Grey exploited Times Square’s decline and managed a combined half-dozen “houses of ill-repute.” To finance their ventures, Grey and Livingston worked as chorus girls and prostitutes, simultaneously.

By the early 40s, most Depression-ravaged theatres closed and reopened as X-rated movie houses, “a staple of Times Square for many years to come.” The 60s, 70s, and early 80s saw further decline in theatre attendance and an increase in number of movie houses and adult stores. 4

In the late 80s, chagrined city and business owners “slowly joined together” to refine Times Square and renovate landmark buildings. Times Square BID (Business Improvement District) invested nearly $4 billion “to create the new Times Square,” a safer, more enjoyable destination. 5

Times Square Pedestrian Plaza Post Face-Lift (courtesy of NYTimes)Since 2000, New York City international and domestic visitors surged from 36 million to 51 million, 80% of whom passed through Times Square. Annual Broadway ticket sales are higher than ever – now at $1.3 billion (over 100 million tickets). Times Square employs 170,000 workers, a figure that will likely rise to 200,000 by 2014. Due in 2014, Times Square Alliance works on the “modern, minimalist sprucing up” project. Now a “dumpy-looking plaza,” Times Square will receive a face-lift, “a futuristic, streamlined look and a noirish quality that evokes the square’s colorful and occasionally illicit past.” While its façade will change, Times Square will continue to abide by district-maintained commitments to public welfare and visitor gratification. 6

P.S. Sample a few of Times Square’s current offerings!

Recommended: M&M’s World; Ripley’s Believe it or Not; Toys ‘R’ Us; Olive Garden

Eye of Toys 'R' Us Ferris Wheel (photo by Mark Stone)

  1. Grynbaum, Michael M. “A New Look Is Coming to Times Square: Minimalism.” Web. 1 May 2012. <>.
  2. “The World’s Top 10 Tourist Attractions.” USATODAY.COM. Web. 01 May 2012. <>.
  3. McGeehan, Patrick. “Times Square Lights Up City’s Economy, Study Finds.” Web. 01 May 2012. <>.
  4. Macbeth, VR. “The Great White Way.” Web. 1 May 2012. <>.
  5. “Blur of Excitement, 1995.” The New York Times. The New York Times. Web.  <>.
  6. Grynbaum, Michael M. “A New Look Is Coming to Times Square: Minimalism.” Web. 1 May 2012. <>.

Then and Now – Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden’s storied history has surely secured the building’s title of the “Worlds Most Famous Arena.” There is only one word to describe the Garden’s relationship to the city that it calls home, iconic. However, one wonders why the arena is called “Madison Square Garden” when in fact, it is currently located nowhere near Madison Square Park, or for that matter, Madison Avenue. Nor is there a garden of any kind in the facility. And perhaps the most obvious fact of all, it is not square. On top of all this, many New Yorkers may not even know that the Garden they know and love, is the fourth of its kind.

In 1871, P.T. Barnum leased the area formerly occupied by a railway terminal from Cornelius Vanderbilt and converted it into “Barnum’s Hippodrome.” After the lease expired, Vanderbilt renamed the venue, Madison Square Garden. The Garden I, as it is called today, stood at 26thStreet and Madison Avenue, a mere 5 minute walk from Baruch College today. On Memorial Day in 1879, Madison Square Garden opened as an arena for activities such as boxing matches and circus acts. The Garden I also had a cycling track built on its premises as well as the first indoor hockey rink in the United States.

In 1890, the building was redesigned; Stanford White modeled the Garden II after the Giralda in Seville. Standing at 32 stories, it was one of New York City’s tallest buildings. The main hall, now the largest in the world, measured 200 by 350 feet, with permanent seating for 8,000, and floor space for even more. Yet once again, the Garden was closed in 1925; this time it was demolished, and replaced by the New York Life Insurance Company Building.

The third Madison Square Garden, or MSG III, was an indoor arena located on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th street. It was the first Madison Square Garden to not be located near Madison Square Park, yet the name stuck. Architect Thomas Lamb designed the building under owner and operator, Tex Rickard. MSG III hosted events such as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, as well as basketball and ice hockey featuring the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, respectively. Perhaps the most prominent cultural event to have taken place at this version of MSG was the American First Committee peace rallies. The crowd was approximately 22,000 strong.

Constructed in a staggering 249 days, the Garden had a seating capacity of 18,496 people. Despite the attempt to build an elegant, ornate structure, the Garden faithful suffered from poor sight lines and ventilation problems (due largely in part to the lack of restriction on smoking indoors).  Subsequently, in 1967, MSG III was closed and replaced by the Garden IV.

MSG IV, “the World’s Most Famous Arena”, currently resides at 7th avenue between 31st and 33rd st, comfortably atop Penn Station. The arena opened on February 11, 1968 and since that date, has established itself as one of the world’s busiest arenas. Numerous artists, sports teams, and athletes have roamed the halls of this historic structure. The Garden is the home arena for both the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks, both of whom have won championships inside its walls. With seating capacity of 20,000, there is nothing like a sold-out night at the Garden. In 2011, MSG Inc. commissioned a massive renovation; overdoing the renovation that took place in 1991. The $850 million renovation will see the Garden’s entrances and concourses enlarged, improved seating, locker rooms and dining options, and a skyway which will allow fans to watch games from above the ice or floor. Phase One was completed in Fall 2011 and Phase Two will commence after the Rangers and Knicks close out their 2011-2012 Seasons. The Recession has been kind to the Garden; MSG Co. reported an increase in revenue and sales since 2007. This steady increase can be attributed to the fact that consumers want to see their favorite sports teams and their favorite bands, despite the effects the Recession had on them. The 25th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary Concert took place at the Garden in front of a sold out crowd; that was 2009. Justin Bieber sold out the Garden in 20 minutes in 2010. Each year more and more ticket subscribers join the Garden Faithful to cheer on the Knicks and Rangers. Obviously, the Recession hasn’t had too much of an effect on the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”



“History of Madison Square Garden”


Then and Now: The Chrysler Building

The completed Chrysler Building. Photo taken from: Stravitz, "The Chrysler Building"

The Chrysler Building is one of the most distinguishable architectures in the world. Located at Lexington Avenue on 42nd street, it is the greatest American expression of the Art Deco style. 1 It once stood as the world’s tallest building and to many it still remains as a symbol of the modern age.

There were two main impetuses that triggered the construction of the skyscraper. First was the unofficial race among the wealthy to build the tallest structure in New York City. 2 Second was Walter P. Chrysler’s desire to “commemorate his upward mobility” and success in the automobile industry. 3

In 1911, the Dreamland Park in Coney Island burned down and forced the project’s developer William H. Reynolds to join the city’s quest to build the tallest building. 4  He leased a land (on which the Chrysler Building now stands) and hired William Van Alen to design a skyscraper with a glass dome. Van Alen, the Paris trained architect, completed the design with a “jewel-like glass dome” with windows “topped…with glass-wrapped corners”. 5 However, it was too costly for Reynolds, who was already financially drained from the destruction of his previous project. And so in 1928, the entire skyscraper project was sold to Walter P. Chrysler for $2 million.

Top of the Chrysler Building. Source: Google images

Chrysler was eager to make the site into the New York headquarter of his thriving business. But not only that, he wanted it to be a monument to himself and his success. 6 He worked with Van Alen to redesign the structure to represent the machine age of the 1920s. He added eagle heads and corner ornaments that resembled parts of an automobile. He also added more height to the original design by erecting the 185-foot spire in secret. And once it was carried in sections to the 65th floor and “assembled inside, then hoisted into place in less than 2 hours”, Chrysler Building became the world’s tallest structure in 1930. 7 It surpassed the Bank of Manhattan tower, which was the world’s tallest building then. The finished building was 77 floors and 1,046 feet high. It obtained the title until the completion of the Empire State Building eleven months later in 1931.

Many architects praise the design of the building. In A/A Guide to New York, Wilensky and White emphasized that it was one of the first to use “stainless steel over a large exposed building surface.” Norwich in The World Atlas of Architecture praised its Art Deco wonder and said, “Art Deco in France found its American equivalent in the design of the New York skyscrapers of the 1920s. The Chrysler building…was one of the most accomplished essays in the style”. And the rapid yet safe construction of the building adds to the wonder of its beauty. Four floors were built each week yet no workers were killed during the construction.

Art Deco style Chrysler Building compared with another style Eiffel Tower. Source: Google Images

Close up of the sleek, symmetrical, linear design of the building, which are accurate characteristics of Art Deco designs. Source: Google Images

Eagle. Taken by Margaret Bourke-White

The steel framework of the spire and needle. Source: Stravitz, "The Chrysler Building"

It is a bit ironic that one of the greatest architects was completed at the beginning of the nation’s worst economic crisis. However, in the 1930s, the Chrysler Building “reflected a merger of the new and the old”. 8 Its exterior “enhanced the modernity of the skyscraper” while the “interior was designed to recall the distant past” filled with the Art Deco detailing. 9


Taken on October 23, 1929, day before Black Tuesday. Source: Stravitz, "The Chrysler Building"

The building has always been used as an office building. From 1930s to 1950s, it was the headquarter of the Chrysler Corporation. However, the family sold the building in 1953 as the preferred style of architectural design changed after the WWII. It soon became neglected. “Little loved and subject to a succession of sometimes ruthless owners, it went through years of degradation; the tower sprang leaks; garbage piled up” 10. Building’s occupancy decreased to 17% and “foreclosure proceedings began in 1975.” But as it always does, preferred or acceptable style of structures rapidly changed and “urban eccentricity” was beautiful again. Overtime, the Chrysler Building began to be prized as it were before.

Today the Chrysler Building continues to be used as an office building. It is a very popular tourist attraction site in New York City as well. Admission to the building is free but tourists are allowed only into the lobby considering that the building is used for business.

  1. “Chrysler Building.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History.
  2. “The Chrysler Building, 1926-1930” Picturing America. P.69 Web. 10 May, 2012
  3. Maher, James. “Chrysler Building” <>
  4. Pierpont, Claudia R. “The Silver Spire: How Two Men’s Dreams Changed the Skyline of New York.” The New Yorker, 18 November 2002. Web. 27 March 2012.
  5. Pierpont
  6. Patton, Phil. “For Chrysler, A Tribute to His Own Rise” The New York Times. 26 May, 2005.
  7. Stravitz, David and Gray, Christopher. “The Chrysler Building: Creating A New York Icon, Day by Day.” Princeton Architectural Press. New York.
  8. “The Chrysler Building: Ode to An Auto-mechanic’s Dream” Office Sublets. Web. 9 May, 2012
  9. The Chrysler Building, 1926-1930” Picturing America. P.69 Web. 10 May, 2012
  10. Pierpont

Then and Now – City Hall

City Hall at night. Source:

Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain in City Hall Park. Source:

I passed by City Hall twice every day in high school: on my walk to school, and on my walk back. City Hall Park, the public space surrounding City Hall, was a nice place to relax and chat with friends on a warm day. Even today, as I get out of the 6 train station at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, I can look past the Municipal Building and catch a glimpse of City Hall. Despite my many interactions with this well-known landmark, I’ve never sought out information about this building, which is why I decided to do my “Then and Now” post on it.

Front view of City Hall. Source:

The City Hall that I passed by every day between Broadway and Park Row is actually not the original “City Hall”. New York’s very first City Hall was built in the 17th century, on Pearl Street, and the second City Hall was built in the 18th century, on Wall Street. The first building was renamed “Federal Hall” after the Revolutionary War ended and passed its role as City Hall onto the building on Wall Street. The government was quickly growing and a newer, bigger City Hall was needed to accommodate this growth. In 1802, the New York City Council chose the site for the new City Hall (its current site, between Broadway and Park Row) and held a contest for the construction of the new building. Joseph Francois Mangin, a Frenchman, and John McComb Jr., a native New Yorker, won with their proposed plan. After going through further tweaks such as changing the building materials to lower construction costs, City Hall was finally finished in 1811 and opened in 1812. City Hall has a stairs leading to a central pavilion flanked by two wings. The exterior was inspired by the French Renaissance and the interior, by the American-Georgian style.

City Hall Subway Station. Souce:

On October 27 1904, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company built a subway station directly under City Hall plaza. This station was designed by Rafael Guastavino and was described as “the most beautiful subway station in the world”. It was meant to show off the debut of the very first subway line and was unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The station featured “Guastavino arches and skylights, colored glass tilework, and brass chandeliers”.

Now, New York’s City Hall stands as the oldest City Hall in the United States. It was meant to be a Criminal Courthouse but It still carries out the same functions as it was built for, which is to house the office of the mayor and the chambers of the NYC Council. More government buildings joined the neighborhood as time passed, such as the Municipal Building, One Police Plaza and The Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse. City Hall holds special events in the Governor’s Room and offer tours inside the building. Fun facts: Most pickets also held on the steps of City Hall and City Hall serves as a backdrop for NY1 news coverages.

The curved platform of the station, preventing re-construction. Source:

In addition, the City Hall train station no longer exists. As ridership increased, many station platforms had to be lengthened to support the amount of people but since the City Hall station is built on a curve, it wasn’t able to be re-constructed. As a result, the station shut down on December 31, 1945. When you reach the last stop of the 6 train, which is Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall, you are asked to get off the train (but you don’t HAVE to). If you stay on the train, you will pass by the shut down City Hall station and catch a glimpse of its beauty. But beware, the ride can be a bit creepy.


“A Brief History of City Hall.” 2004. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>.”New York Architecture Images- City Hall.” New York Architecture. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>.

“IRT East Side Line: City Hall.” New York City Subway History, Photos & More. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>.

“New York City Council – About City Hall.” New York City Council. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

Then and Now – The Pierre – The Upper East Side Historic District


What comes to mind when you hear the words Gossip Girl, Hermes, or Central Park? All of these are located in the Upper East Side Historic District. Its zip codes are 10021 and 10022, two of the nation’s most prestigious zip codes. The UES starts from East 59th Street all the up to East 78th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue. Ever since the early 20th Century, the the city’s movers and shakers called the Upper East Side their home. This neighborhood boasts some of the most elaborate and ornate architecture, mainly apartments and row houses belonging to the affluent. During the depression, residences and hotels saw a slower stream of tenants and guests. Today, the real estate industry still recognizes the Upper East Side district one of the most valuable neighborhoods in New York City.











In 1930, Charles Pierre Casalasco, former headwaiter led the construction of The Hotel Pierre on Fifth Avenue and 61st Street. Pierre Casalasco worked as a pageboy under his father, Jacques Pierre, who owned Monte Carlo’s Hotel Anglais. He immigrated to New York and began working at Sherry’s where he met influential figures including “J.P. Morgan, the Astors and the Vanderbilts” (Taj Hotels). With a wealth of experience, an entrepreneurial mindset, and financial backing from New York’s most powerful families, he launched his project during the Great Depression of 1929, The Pierre, which costs $15million to build. Pierre Casalasco contracted architecture firm Schulze & Weaver, the same firm that designed the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 41 stories high, the Georgian-style hotel is best known for the rotunda in the lobby, decorated by frescoes of nymphes and fauns. On October 1930, the Pierre opened for business.

Business boomed for The Pierre upon its grand opening. The Pierre served only those who could afford its decadence. The hotel could not keep up with the diminishing economy and the amount of guests dwindled until finally in 1932 when Charles Pierre Casalasco filed for bankruptcy. Six years following its bankruptcy, John Paul Getty, an oil baron bought the Pierre Hotel for $2.5million, one-sixth of the original value, demonstrating how detrimental the depression was to realty.


The Pierre recently underwent a $100 million renovation that spanned eighteen months and reopened in September 2009. Most of the original 700 rooms were transformed into 80 spacious apartments. A newly converted triplex penthouse racked up a price tag of $70 million until it was taken off market in 2008. Today, The Pierre operates under the ownership and management of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. Upon further observation of its stock trends since 2012, their stocks rose sharply after their reopening and slumped ever since the end of 2010. In 2011, New York’s tourism industry saw records sales of $48 billion among 50.2 million tourist. Despite high sales and high traffic, more visitors strayed away from luxury hotels as an option. The Pierre’s hefty price tag currently stands at $694 per night. Even with the Euro-USD conversion,  even spendthrift Europeans want to save a couple euros.


Le Caprice currently serves the patrons of the Pierre Hotel, the brasserie-style restaurant revisits ’60s-era France with its polished black walls and white floor, pink orchids, and vintage black and white photography. Previously, this restaurant was Café Pierre. Café Pierre translated French haute cuisine to the Upper East Side with the Pierre Salad, foie gras, and wine-braised short ribs. black and white photography hung on the walls. For the most part, Cafe Pierre maintained traditional French cuisine and upscale service as it did in its opening in 1930, evoking the same atmosphere of a French palace dining room.


The Pierre represents one of many buildings that have experienced the effects of the Depression firsthand and have since then exploded in prosperity considering New Yorkers now host parties and weddings in ballrooms that cost at least $38,000. The triplex penthouse now cost $70 million. The Pierre exemplifies what kind of folk live in the Upper East Side and leave those who wish to live there in admiration.



Ramirez, A. (2007, Dec 29). The pierre, it turns out, isnt ageless and needs fixing up. New York Times (1923-Current File),pp. B1. Retrieved from

Landro, L. (2010, Jan 23). The finicky traveler: New york glamour goes uptown — the pierre, remade for $100 million, is swank, if not quite soundproof. Wall Street Journal, pp. W.5-W.5. Retrieved from

Merryn somerset webb: No upside in these knock-down prices. (2009). FT.Com, , n/a. Retrieved from

“The Hotel Pierre.” NYC Architecture. Web. 24 Mar 2012. <>.

“Cafe Pierre.” New York Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar 2012. <>.

“The Pierre.” Taj Hotel Manhattan. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 April 2012. <>.

“Taj GVK Hotels & Resorts.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 April 2012.>.

*** Trivia: Celebrities who stayed at the Pierre***

From the music industry: Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Sheryl Crow

From the fashion industry: Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Tory Burch

From royalty and politics: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of England, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton