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.

nypl-bronx_spuyten-duyvil-library_giorgio-cavaglieri_1971NYPL Spuyten Duyvil branch. All photos by Elizabeth Felicella.

The new exhibit, Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Librariesopened yesterday at the Center for Architecture, featuring photographs by Elizabeth Felicella of all 210 of the New York Public Library branches. The extensive collection totals over 2000 images, ranging from expansive architectural interior and exterior shots to details. The idea, writes the Center for Architecture, is to invite the viewer “to appreciate the intricacy, complexity, and vast scope of these vital and evolving public resources.” The project took a total of five years and the images are organized in the Center for Architecture exhibit by date of the library’s construction.


hart-island-nyc-potters-field-mass-burial-ground-city-island-bronx-nyc_14The ferry to Hart Island, visible in background across from City Island in the Bronx

In a city where everything seems to be just at one’s fingertips – from a taxi ride to the hope of a better future – there remain a few mythical places that are just out of grasp. The history of New York City is at the root of this, with centuries of policy that pushed undesirable activities and populations to seemingly distant islands. But as development continued, these islands inched closer and closer to desirable waterfront real estate – both industrial and residential. From Rikers Island, where New York City’s largest jail is, to the numerous abandoned islands, the city is simultaneously feeling the impact of this long, isolationist history and actively continuing to practice some of the same ideas to this day.

Hart Island, New York City’s current potter’s field, or mass burial ground, is one of these places – missing off mass transit maps and rarely thought about. Yet, it contains about a million souls, those who died without known family, means, or burial plans. Under New York State law, next of kin may only have 48 hours to claim their relatives, leading to inadvertent burials on Hart Island.

Like Rikers Island, access can be difficult and cumbersome. That being said, we recently visited the island through a coordinated visit via the New York Adventure Club.



We’ve been following the Lowline project for several years and the organization is one of our partners in our tour, the Past, Present and Future of the NYC Subway, which provides docent-led access to the Lowline Lab. In July, the Lowline received city approval a little less than four years after the project began. The Lo-Down recently released the 156-page proposal that the Lowline submitted this past February in response to NYCEDC’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the former Essex-Delancey trolley terminal site that the world’s first underground park will be located in.

The Lo-Down notes that although the proposal was only supposed to be accessible via applications under the Freedom of Information Act, the Lowline wanted it publicly accessible and allowed for its release with approval from the NYCEDC. You can view the whole proposal embedded below, but first, a few highlights.


new-york-public-library-nypl-new-book-train-stephen-a-schwartzman-buiding-research-milstein-stacks-bryant-park-nycPhoto by Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

We’ve come a long way from the plans to completely destroy the stacks under the New York Public Library‘s Stephen A. Schwartzman Building at 42nd Street-Bryant Park. Not only are those 125 miles of stacks staying put, storage is actually being expanded and the Rose Reading Room is about to complete a comprehensive restoration. There will also be a new book train system, developed by the design and architecture firm Gensler and built by the New Jersey-based firm, Teledynamic. It’s intended to deliver research materials from the Milstein Research Stacks–now with a capacity of four million volumes–to the first floor and the Rose Reading Room.


20-exchange-place-banking-hall-wpa-murals-skyscraper-downtown-manhattan-observation-deck-film-locations-inside-man-nycWPA murals inside the banking hall at 20 Exchange Place

Other skyscrapers in the Financial District have received more attention in recent years, notably 70 Pine, but 20 Exchange was more than press-worthy when it opened. The building was completed in 1931 with state of the art conveniences, including “refrigerated water,” recessed radiators built into the structure, plate glass windows, telephone outlets. At the opening of 20 Exchange on February 24th, 1931, the building was deluged by visitors – an hourly average of 3,851 guests, reported the New York Times.



Until 1 pm today, a replica of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra was under a cover at City Hall Park when there was a large unveiling for the public. The 20 foot tall, 30 ton marble replica of the Syrian arch was installed yesterday.