Mention one new detail that you learned from the documentary segment that none of your classmates have commented on previously.
I am an Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, CUNY.
November 7, 2015
November 8, 2017 at 1:40 am
In the documentary on The End of the War to the Fall of Penn Station, I learned about Helen Levitt, the director of the 1948 short film In the Street. As a photographer, she depicted the lives of blacks and Spanish speaking newcomers that lived in the poor tenements in an area known as ‘Spanish Harlem’. Along with James Agee and Janice Loeb, the three photographers followed the lives of these poor immigrants for three years. They depicted the beauty and struggle of people living within Manhattan’s poorest neighborhoods in their silent film. They wanted to tell the story of those living in the city who lacked the voice or power to do so themselves. With their 16 mm film cameras, the trio captured the street life of children and families. Their artistry aimed to enlighten the New York middle class on the harsh reality of the city as a whole. Oftentimes, the wealthy try and ignore the underprivileged, however in the mid 20th century, similarly to today, there was a very large income gap which could be seen clearly by the drastically different economic communities in close proximity to one another. Ultimately, the wonder of New York City lies in its representation of America as a whole, with all the beautiful and troubling counterparts that go along with it.
November 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm
Post World War II, New York city reached its optimal peak of success, thriving in a fixed economy and explosion of culture and business. Coming right off of the Great Depression, New Yorkers were thrilled to find the city had burst into an affluent society, and no longer lingered on the edge of collapsing due to an economic failure or wartime anxiety. Some would say that the city was back on track, and better than ever. In fact, New York had been determined the unofficial capital of the country, the epicenter for business, consumerism, art, and culture of the entire United States. What was unique about New York however was that it was not unique to just one thing. Within the bounds of the city you could find everything, form hats, to musical instruments, to beer, to sugar, to lamps, to shoes, to bricks, to bread, to skin creams, to anything you could think of. In the history of New York City, there was never one thing that could define it. Pittsburgh had steel, Detroit had cars, Akron had rubber, Vermont had syrup, but New York had it all. One historian in the documentary illustrates this idea saying “New York looked down on the rest of America from Olympus”. At its heart, New York had always been a manufacturing town. Because of this, immigrants could both get a job and start a family, knowing that they would always have stability in their pay and field. Families were given the seeds to grow and prosper, filling New York’s economy as well as its streets with new buildings, achievements, and culture. New York is the greatest factor of its own success, a success that at that time was unlike any other city in the world.
November 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm
During the 1950s, immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean also started to go to New York City by travelling on airplanes. They wanted to escape their poverty and living conditions in hopes of pursuing a better life in America. One interesting point was that they did not need to go through any immigration tests because the airplanes would land in fields and they would get off there. Three hundred thousand immigrants came to seek new opportunities. However, it was not that simple. Just like other immigrants that came before them, they were discriminated and it was difficult for them to get jobs. As a result, they had to take on low paying jobs and live in slums. Industrialization had also started to slow down in New York City and the current factory workers were already having a hard time maintaining their positions. With the increase of immigrants, it was difficult for them to compete with others to find jobs and maintain a stable income.
November 10, 2017 at 10:51 pm
One of the things that caught my attention in the documentary was the celebration of the end of World War 2. When the news reached the City, millions of New Yorkers converged on Times Square. The voice in the documentary says this very casually but the notion of millions of people crowding into only 5 blocks is simply awe-inspiring. In no other City could something of this manner happen. As the voice in the documentary talked about the celebration, a photo popped up that was indeed visually shocking. In the photo, you can’t see the streets whatsoever because every square inch of the place, or so it seems, has someone standing and engaging in the celebration. Additionally, there is a huge statue, an unmistakable replica of the Statue of Liberty in the middle of Times Square, standing guard over the New Yorkers around her. The symbol of freedom looms over all the laughing, shouting, weeping, embracing New Yorkers who celebrated all through the night and on into the early hours of the morning. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which had carried off over 2 million men to war between the two of them, came to the ports of New York City with decks filled with soldiers. Every inch of land in the ports that day was covered in cheering spectators, united in celebration of the boys coming home. In a city that was usually tumultuous and chaotic, this was the one great unifying moment that overshadowed all others.
November 11, 2017 at 11:52 pm
The vision of post-war New York was at its highest peak at the hands of Robert Moses. Moses became the most powerful individual with aspirations of the city’s reconstruction in mass transit and highway development to connect with the rest of the nation. He, later on, has the support of the federal government to be in command of the federal funds in public housing. As the new office of construction commissioner, Moses not only built bridges, highways, and parks but also built houses in the city. By the end of 1948, he established the title one program called Urban Renewal Program to clear the slums and relieve the post-war housing crisis. He wanted to provide affordable housing for the poor. The program was projected to have the federal government buy the slumlands and reconstruct the living conditions of the buildings, then have new corporations to take over the houses and help the poor. However, in reality, Moses’s envision felt apart. This program was a fraud and mainly benefitted the landowners and real estate developers. The reconstruction of the houses was built for middle classes and did not cater to the Black or Hispanic population, who desperately needed the housing the most.
November 12, 2017 at 2:47 pm
After watching this documentary, something new that I learned was the vibe and emotion within New York City during the end of the second World War. I find it crazy to hear historians within the documentary stating that if they could travel back to any time period, that they would travel back to be in New York City during the Spring of 1946 to relive the troops coming home from the war. I learned that on August 14th, when President Truman announced that Japan has surrendered and the terrible war has come to a halt, I found it to be absolutely ridiculous to see the enormous amount of people out in the streets, specifically Times Square, running around, dancing, hugging and kissing each other, and just genuinely being happy and appreciating the end of the war and chaos by celebrating. Twice a month, after the ending of the war, the two greatest and largest ocean-liners within the world, the Queen Mary, and the Queen Elizabeth would return home to port in America filled to the maximum capacity, returning and bringing home the survivors of the 2 million men that were brought out to the war originally. The decks were fully crammed with American soldiers, no empty space was seen on those ships. Every inch of Staten Island, New Jersey, and New York was filled with proud patriots screaming and cheering upon the return home of their proud soldiers.
November 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm
The post depression era was a period of economic prosperity. As Moses continued to sign contracts on new infrastructure, new highways and bridges were constructed. However, his growing power and control as the adminstrator for these works results in a dark turn. Under the control of Moses, the Office of Construction Coordinating had discretion over any federal funding that the city requested. This overwhelming power he possessed gave him the authority to execute Title I, which was also known as the Urban Renewal Program. While this “urban renewal” connotes modernization and infrastructural advancement, it was, in reality, a mask for the Slum Clearance Committee with Moses as the chairman. This program was one of the most controversial programs at the time as it gave Moses the power to confiscate land from slum owners and demolish their buildings. It was then given to housing developers and real estates who reconstructed a newer and more modern building. Since housing developers were more interested in giving these houses to the middle class, many of the lower class residents were not given housing opportunities. As a result, over 100,000 lower class residents were evicted from their homes. Moses did hold up his promise to a low proportion of the lower class residents. Those who were fortunate enough to find a new home were placed in low income housing. This inherently encouraged segregation based on race and wealth.
November 12, 2017 at 8:57 pm
Something that I found incredibly interesting in this segment of the documentary was the history of Pennsylvania Station. For years I have been traveling to New York, arriving in Penn Station, not realizing that there was once a much larger and more spectacular Penn Station in New York City. Hoping it would bring in more money, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company decided to demolish Penn Station in 1963 and replace it with Madison Square Garden. This was a tragedy to the New Yorkers of the time; it seemed as if a significant New York City monument was being taken out of history deliberately. New Yorkers, mostly architects and those concerned with preserving traditions, showed up to protest the demolition of Pennsylvania Station, but to no avail. On the morning of October 28, 1963, deconstruction began. One by one, the columns and sculptures that were once a part of Pennsylvania Station came down and were transported to New Jersey, just to be dumped in the Meadowlands. The demolition of Penn Station represented a significant change in New York, as well as America’s perception of the future.
November 13, 2017 at 2:29 am
One detail that I learned about from the documentary segment was New York’s emergence as the global capital. After World War II, the United States had emerged as the economic and military superpower of the world. In large part because of this and the city’s peak of prosperity at the time, New York was chosen for the placement of the headquarters of the newly formed United Nations. The Rockefellers and Robert Moses helped get a site on the East side of Manhattan along the East River chosen as the location of the headquarters. The United Nations headquarters featured modern designs and architecture that had never been seen before. The arrival of the UN headquarters to New York transformed the architecture, diplomacy, and corporate culture of the city and brought the city into a new era. This led to the creation of abundant new office spaces and corporate headquarters in New York as American corporations saw the need to operate on the international stage. With the arrival of the UN headquarters and New York’s emergence as the center of globalism, such corporations could think of no better place to relocate to.
November 13, 2017 at 6:18 am
One new detail that I learned was that Title One was only part of the story; there was actually a Title Two. Title One demolished large parts of the city. Title Two, however, was a program that encouraged people to move to suburbs. In essence, one program sought to destroy parts of the city and the follow up program pushed people away from the city and into suburbs. Under Title Two, the government basically told banks that they are going to institute a program of mortgage guarantees. This meant that the federal government wanted banks to give mortgages even to people with dangerous credit risks and if those people defaulted, the government will still pay the banks. As a result, money was able to flow into the suburban housing markets and not into homes in the city. Between these two programs, the government has created two anti-city policies. This radically changed the way Americans lived.
November 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm
The documentary brought to light the difficulty of constructing several expressways in New York City. Every time I travel down one of the highways I never seem to think about the hard labor that went into building it. Robert Moses ordered hundreds of houses to be demolished to make space for the roads. Some of them were seven stories or higher. Sewage lines and subway tracks became an obstacle; however, they knew they could not stop the subways from running. Thus, this added more time to their predicted 10-12-year job. From what it seemed, Moses lacked sympathy towards those that lost their homes because of the highway construction. However, he believed it had to be done for the greater good. Highways increase mobility and communication between different boroughs. If it weren’t for the expressways it would take people hours to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan, when on average it takes approximately 30 minutes. Thus, even though these expressways and highways Moses built caused a lot of turmoil in the city during its time, it overall benefited people, businesses and neighborhoods.
November 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm
One of the major things I took away from this segment of the New York City documentary was just how vast Robert Moses’ power in New York City was. Prior to watching this segment, I had heard of Robert Moses before because of his contributions to Long Island infrastructure as well. However, unbeknownst to me, Robert Moses was directly involved in a large number of public works projects in the city as well. By naming himself the office of construction coordinator, Moses was able to assume control over public housing and federal highway money. Another big part of what Robert Moses was involved in was clearing out the slums of New York and replacing them with nicer public housing options for low income families. Through a bill commonly known as title I, Moses was able to confiscate land from little slum owners and give it to new private developers.
November 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm
One facet of this documentary that I found interesting was the dire effects the expressways and parkways constructed by Robert Moses had on the working class community. The 130 miles of concrete that were laid to construct the massive thirteen roadways uprooted communities from areas far and near. The construction of these roadways cut through over twenty-one neighborhoods. However, political power made it simple for Robert Moses to take these actions without considering the local population and their lives for even a split second. The Cross Bronx Expressway tragically tore apart neighbor from neighbor, customer from shop owner, and parks from children. The rapid construction created unviable, unsustainable neighborhoods as an essential shop was left to one side of the neighborhoods and all its customers to the other. Before watching this documentary, I had never considered the effects that these roadways might have had on surrounding areas. Although I drive on these highways everyday, the thought had never previously crossed my mind but now I stand with a new perspective.
November 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm
I was always curious about what the logs sticking out of the Hudson River were. I live in Jersey City in an apartment right on the coast of the Hudson River. So every so often when I walk along the boardwalk, I would see the rotting remains of the piers that were mentioned in the document. I always thought they were rather eerie to look out (I joked that there were water prisons underneath). After watching the document, those remains changed from eerie and creepy, to empty and sad. They’re not accessible anymore because of the new board walk and of course, the railings. But it was very interesting to envision how busy the waters were when now, the waters are largely empty and quiet (other than your average taxi boat or private boats passing by).
November 14, 2017 at 12:17 am
This documentary opened my eyes as to how Moses tore neighborhoods in order to create expressways in NYC. He took no account as to who the people are and didn’t question as to whether he can work the highways into existing life. They had the power to build in straight lines and they did. Many people in such communities did business at home and they did their marketing locally. It was a culturally and materially self-sufficient world in many ways. Up until the point on December 4, 1952, when this community was told that Robert Moses was going to take away their homes. They received a typical letter stating that their homes are in the path of already approved expressways and they have 90 days to clear out. This was early on for protests. The community did fight for a while. Robert F. Wagner who was running for mayor at the time promised in his campaign that he would never approve of this. However, it wasn’t his word that mattered. The opposition never had a chance. By April 23, 1953, Bronx borough president had a change of heart after a few words with Moses, and soon later, so did the elected Mayor. Although the highways and expressways Moses built had an overall beneficial impact on the city, his lack of sympathy towards the people that lost their homes surprised me greatly.
November 14, 2017 at 12:26 am
I was particularly fascinated by the section detailing the construction of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, effectively making it, in the words of the E.B. White “the capital of the world”. Not having been the inevitable choice but ultimately the one that made most sense, the headquarters were place along the East river. I was somewhat surprised to learn that the project was funded in part by the Rockefeller family and was not only politically significant but architecturally significant as well. The design of the building having been constructed of entirely with glass on the east and west sides was a very futuristic design, a sign perhaps of the optimism they held for the future. The headquarters established New York as a diplomatically and corporately important city. The building opened the gate for New York to become the office capital of the world, a title it hangs on to till this day.
November 14, 2017 at 3:00 am
The first analogy used in the documentary that I found interesting was its comparison of the key claims to fame of some of the world’s greatest cities. Athens was linked to glory, Rome to power, Paris to culture, and New York City, apparently, to a sense of home; the narrator claims that New York City is unique in its ability to be a home to all people.
Another detail that I found really interesting and very pleasing to hear described was the process of returning troops back to the United States from Europe after the end of World War 2. The documentary describes the two greatest ocean liners of the time, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which had initially brought thousands of men to war, now returned back to New York City packed with soldiers returning home to great cheers of people standing on the shoreline. The documentary even makes the claim that this was the city’s greatest time, as the World War had essentially “saved” the city, by curing the Depression and reinstating the city’s unofficial status as capital of The United States. The city was eager to get back to its great construction projects, which had been halter for 4 years due to the war.
However, something I didn’t know was that this massive boom in construction, led by Robert Moses (who insisted that any change to his plans for the city, even a change in the sewer system, be approved by him) would lead the city into great trouble. By 1960, NYC was in an intense downward spiral. The construction of new highways and buildings led to the destruction of large amounts of space devoted to manufacturing. Many small workshops and factories were destroyed, under the statement that the city was destroying slums, when in reality, the areas affected were middle-class neighbourhoods that relied on very real manufacturing. Many neighbourhoods began to decline, and people fled to the suburbs in increasing numbers. This gave the city an entirely unexpected problem- a decline of the tax base in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
November 14, 2017 at 10:59 am
I found the destruction and removal of numerous poor communities to be very evident and problematic in even today’s society. Robert Moses, once praised for his progressive reforms and public works program, was now pushing the limit. Showing his true demeanor, Moses had no regard for the poor people of New York City and worked in the interest of the upper classes, or what he thought was in their interest. In reality, his creation of vast highways and demolition of factories led middle class and upper class white people to move away from the city and into suburbs. This left urban cities empty, except for the displaced poor people, stuck in their positions. With both the factories and ports gone, the industrialization of New York City had come to an end. This displacement of poor communities is similar to the gentrification going on in New York City today. Like Moses, rich investors and contractors are pushing entire communities out of their homes by making it too expensive to live in. They’re replaced with Starbucks or Whole Foods. It was interesting to see this happen even 50 years ago, when I only thought this was a recent problem.
December 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm
From the documentary, I learned about Title I and Title II. Title I was about the rebuilding of communities to almost gentrify them/update the neighborhoods. However, this was done by people who didn’t like the city and having a house or home that was monotone. Title II also brought about the suburbs, another form of anti-city. Suburbs were where people could own a house, lawn, backyard, etc. and have space between them and their neighbor rather than being right on top of them like in a city. Suburbs were also quieter and less congested than the city which a lot of people preferred. These were both results of the expansion of the high way system by Robert Moses as well. However, he also destroyed neighborhoods such as the East Tremont in the Bronx by the creation of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Despite much opposition to the parkway being built, Robert Moses didn’t care and was able to persuade the Mayor of the time to support it as well.
December 16, 2017 at 3:06 am
Traditional histories always taught that Ellis Island was the first step of the immigration process in the United States, so I was surprised to learn that Puerto Ricans came via planes instead of ships and essentially skipped over that phase. Like other immigrants, they came to New York City in search of more opportunities for success, but their method of arrival did not signify a better life. On the contrary, Puerto Ricans were among those who faced discrimination on account of race and lived in slums while struggling to find jobs. Those who were employed carried out menial tasks and earned very low wages. During this period, hundreds of thousands of people were competing for a position in the workforce, but the gradual progression into New York’s post-industrial economy resulted in a slim chance of securing employment as industrial labor.
December 25, 2017 at 11:13 am
The documentary showed how after WW2, America emerged as the clear leader of the world. And NYC was claimed the capital of the world as well. New York was deemed the capital of the world and it was claimed as the capital of the UN with the UN building being built at the site of the former slaughterhouse industry in New York. New York had a massive construction boom during this time and many new buildings were built. Lots of corporations also knew that they needed to have a presence in New York and it sparked a construction boom of office space.
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