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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.


Most Americans have long forgotten the importance of “our daily bread,” but up in Fort Washington Park in New York City, there are rumored remnants of ovens soldiers used to bake during the American Revolution. When we originally wrote about these ovens in The Secrets of Fort Washington Park, we knew that the ovens had been used by Girl Scouts in the 1950s. There were suggestions that it may have been built by either the Civilian Conservation Corps or the workers who built the George Washington Bridge. But a reader recently told us, based on a book he had read that they date to much earlier. He believed “George Washington had the ovens built there so soldiers could break bread (they carried flour for this purpose.”

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Wildcard News App-Untapped Cities-IOS-iPhone-Secrets of NYC-Grand Central-High Line

If you’re like us, you consume the news voraciously. And when you say news, you don’t just mean what’s traditionally known as news–it’s everything from trending urban exploration topics, to cat GIFs, to Reddit snippets. Social media platforms were the first to harness this–that what’s shared is just as important as the news told to us through traditional channels, and all of it together reflects our new common experience for better or worse.

But a more encompassing definition of “news” also means more to organize and sift through. Some of you may have used the app Circa, and lamented its demise. But have no fear, the new app Wildcard launched today taking on the challenge, though with some key differences.

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Non-residents of Washington Heights and Inwood may not venture too far off Broadway and 10th Avenue–after all, all those nice pre-war apartment buildings and city parks get swapped out for utility companies and the 207th Street rail yard. But in this neighborhood, many of the bars and restaurants happily exist underneath the elevated train and alongside manufacturing zones, where noise is less of a concern to neighbors. Along a side street behind Miguel’s auto glass store with nary a sign, is the Ganesha Outdoor Room, an outdoor courtyard bar and restaurant whose blasting live music thoroughly disconnects it from any religious affiliation.

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Provident Loan Society-19th Ward Bank-180 E 72nd Street-NYCThe Provident Loan Society, in former location of 19th Ward Bank at 180 East 72nd Street. Original photo via Library of Congress.

Pawn shops have long been known to take advantage of a community’s poor and desperate, even with an attempt to rebrand the businesses as upscale “loan offices” to the more well-off in the early 20th century. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Provident Loan Society, a non-profit pawn shop founded in 1894 with money from the city’s most influential, including Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, and August Belmont. The architecture of the Provident Loan Society that remains today, deemed by Christopher Gray in his New York Times Streetscapes column “the best-looking pawnshops ever,” reflects a concerted operational strategy to provide access to all New Yorkers in need.

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Part of Penn Station is actually getting a facelift (woohoo!). Behind high temporary fences, a Roy Lichtenstein pop art sculpture, not too dissimilar from the one inside the Tweet Courthouse downtown, and a Keith Haring sculpture were installed. 33rd Street has been closed off for a car-free summer plaza called Plaza 33, hosted by Vornado Realty Trust. This comes just after the launch of a new extended sidewalk on 32nd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue, a colorful design by the 34th Street Partnership.

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Anyone who has walked from Penn Station to Herald Square along 32nd Street will notice a few incongruous things: homeless people, a Jack’s 99¢ store, the side entrance of Manhattan Mall, and possibly the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. But now, thanks to the In-House Design Department of the 34th Street Partnership, led by Ignacio Ciocchini, Vice President of Design for the 34th Street Partnership and managed by Columbia University GSAPP Urban Design graduate Alexandra Gonzalez, pedestrians will have a colorful, extended sidewalk.

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