Articles by

michelle young

Michelle is the founder of Untapped Cities. She can usually be found in New York (where she grew up), Paris, backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, or in-transit between. She has an obsession with buses, shoots with a Nikon SLR camera, and destroys cellos on stage with her indie rock band. She’s traveled to 35 countries, including working for earthquake disaster organizations in Peru and Sumatra. She is an author of 100 Ways to Make History, published by the New York Public Library. She holds a masters in urban planning from Columbia University, 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.

05/30/14 3:00pm

Back by popular demand is our speakeasy tour at the Museum of American Gangster, with the next visit on June 7th at 3pm.

In 1964, a father and son were renovating a former speakeasy in the East Village into a theater when they came across two unopened safes in the basement. The speakeasy had been sold eagerly for a very cheap price and the entertainment business then was closely linked to mobsters. To touch their belongings meant death. Opening it with the former owner, $2 million dollars were found inside. What happened next has shaped the lives and the theater for the next sixty years.

Join us for a tour and cocktail at this former Prohibition speakeasy on Saturday June 7th at 3pm and Wednesday June 18th at 7 pm, which includes a guided walk through of the Museum of the American Gangster. You’ll see the original safes that were discovered, the former escape routes for the mafia, and more. There are only a few tickets left, so grab them now!

Saturday, June 7th 3pm Tour:

June 18th Tour at 7pm:

05/28/14 10:00am

Shooters Island-Staten Island-Abandoned-Newark Bay-Arthur Kill-Parks-NYC-6Shooter’s Island off Staten Island. Image by Hudson Kayaker

With the AMC Show Turn, the country is starting to get a wind of the history of the spy ring during the Revolutionary War. One spot is an abandoned island off of Staten Island, called Shooter’s Island, between Newark Bay and the Kill Van Kull.

43-acre Shooter’s Island is now part of the NYC Parks department but began as a hunting preserve for wild geese during the Colonial era (hence its name). According to the NYC Parks department, “George Washington used the island as a drop-off point for messages, and the place became a haven for spies.”


05/27/14 11:00am

“I’ve been wanting to work here since I was 3 years old,” says Jake Cesareo, an artist at the American Museum of Natural History, who you may have also seen riding his oversized cupcake around town. We met him in front of the Hayden Planetarium and followed him into the largest elevator we have ever seen. “5th floor, penthouse,” he tells the elevator operator and we head up to the studios where all of the dinosaurs, animals and space recreations come to life. The workshop has been in operation since the 1920s and old photographs of what it once looked like are displayed here and there amidst the wonderful chaos of collected objects.


05/22/14 9:00am

Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s Mansion at 742-748 Fifth Avenue (between 57th and 58th Streets)

Recently, we rounded up New York City’s architectural superlatives, ranging from narrowest building to smallest plot of land. In that mix was the shortest lived buildings in the city. While most of us see the city as ever-changing, it may surprise you to discover just how short-lived some buildings were.

Mount Vernon Replica in Prospect Park (2 Years) (more…)