Posts by michelle young:

Articles By: michelle young

Michelle is the founder of Untapped Cities. Michelle can usually be found in New York (where she grew up), Paris, backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, or in-transit between. She’s traveled to 40+ countries, has an obsession with buses and shoots with a Canon SLR camera. She is an author of 100 Ways to Make History, published by the New York Public Library and is currently working on a book on the history of Broadway for Arcadia. She holds a masters in urban planning from Columbia University, where she is an adjunct professor, a B.A. from Harvard in the History of Art & Architecture, and is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. Follow her on Twitter @untappedmich.

NYC Subway Vacuum Train Car-VaktrakA vacuum car, also called a “Vaktrak.” Courtesy of Ishaan Dalal

If you sometimes feel like the tracks on some subway stations in New York City are straight up gross, there seems to be a reason for that. Although the MTA’s goal is to clean the tracks every three weeks, a recent report from the New York City’s comptroller’s department discovered that some stations were only cleaned once in the last 12 months. That means the fun vacuum train (also known as the Vaktrak) is quite as rare of a sighting as we thought it was. On the other hand, rats might serve a rather useful purpose after all.


haussmanhattan-Paris-NYC-photomontage-Luis Fernandes-4NYC’s Flatiron Building on Île de la Cité with the Pont Neuf in Paris

You may remember one of the early Fun Maps that we made, What If Manhattan Were Like Paris? where we superimposed the Hausmannian street grid of Paris onto Manhattan (retaining Central Park for orientation). Now, in Haussmanhattan Luis Fernandes has taken the concept to cityscapes using vintage photography. We’re not surprised Fernandes is both an architect and photographer, as the ties between the two cities have endless possibilities for comparisons, whether in graphic design, illustration, video, photography or more. And we’re honored that he did a reversal of What If Manhattan Were Like Paris? too!

In this series of photos, we’ll break down exactly parts of the urban fabric he pulled from both cities and the famous buildings you’ll see:



We’ve made a big update to our long-running tour of the Woolworth Building with even more behind-the-scenes access than before! On August 12th and September 16th, Untapped Cities will offer an hour-long tour of the normally off-limits Woolworth Building which will feature not only a visit through the stunning lobby but also an exclusive walk through the massive basement levels. On this tour of the underbelly of the Woolworth Building, you’ll get a complete picture of the engineering feat and aesthetic masterpiece that the skyscarper is. With access to locations not normally included on any other public tour, this behind the scenes look at the underpinnings of one of NYC’s most important historic landmarks is only available exclusively through Untapped Cities. Tickets are limited in number.

The tour will be led Lisa Renz, a preservationist working directly on the Woolworth Building and Roy Suskin of The Witkoff Group who manages the building. In addition to a guided visit through the spectacular lobby, we will also visit the cellar level where the bank vault is located and where the former entrances to the subway are, the sub-cellar jam-packed full of machinery, and the boiler room, an immense space that one housed the engine room that once powered and lighted the building.

See more images of some of the great architecture you’ll see on the tour. See our full list of Untapped Cities events here.

Bartman-Bart Simpson Sculpture-6th Avenue-NYC-Fox News-Newscorp-001

In our discussion of all the outdoor art to see in New York City this month and last, we were remiss not to include the bronze Bart Simpson sculpture on 6th Avenue in front of the News Corp. building. Depicting Bart as a superhero with cape, “Bartman” was made by the actress Nancy Cartwright who voices Bart himself on the hit cartoon. Originally made in clay, out of a suggestion by Cartwright’s son, Bartman in its bronze cast form has a twin at the University of Southern California. Both were installed as a celebration of The Simpsons’ 25th Anniversary.


American Museum of Natural History. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Today, we published a guest article on Refinery29 about New York City’s unsolved mysteries. Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite mysteries in the list–the epic jewel heist at the American Museum of Natural History.

On October 29, 1964, two young thieves managed to break into the J.P. Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals (now named after Harry Frank Guggenheim) at the American Museum of Natural History after hours to grab 24 priceless (and somehow uninsured) gems, including the Star of India (the world’s largest sapphire), the Midnight Star (the world’s largest black sapphire), and the De Long Star Ruby, considered the world’s most perfect ruby. The stones, in total, were worth the equivalent of approximately $3 million dollars today.


Photo by Nick Reale for Untapped Cities

It’s summer and New Yorkers know what that means: riding the subway can be unbearable from the heat. Plus, it involves other people–the inevitable moments you get crammed up into someone sweaty armpit or grab a glob of something unknown on the poles. The WNYC Data Team has been tasked on something quite timely. First, they’ve created a “Live Subway Agony Index” which we’ve embedded below and they’ve also created a guide to which subway cars are likely to be more hot (something key to know when faced with the choice of transfers).