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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.


For those of us that lived through the peaceful blackout of 2003 in New York City, an outage that affected eight states as well as Ontario, Canada, there was always the memory of the violent 1977 blackout. Though lasting only two days, the earlier blackout was situated in a much different social time. New York City was virtually bankrupt, now gentrified neighborhoods like the East Village could be dangerous places to be after hours. Fear-mongering was prevalent in this tough time of high unemployment–the Fear-City anti-tourist pamphlet came out in 1975, an extreme reaction to layoffs in police, firefighting, sanitation, and other municipal services. To top it off, the Son of Sam, New York City’s most notorious serial killer was still on the loose.

In “Blackout,” the latest AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on PBS, explores what happened on the hot and humid day of July 13, 1977 and the days to follow. Lightning took out an electrical line in Westchester County, leading to a domino effect of downed lines from an overload of demand. Con Edison engineers were forced to disconnect customers to prevent a total failure of the system. But a story like this is better told through New Yorkers themselves, including first responders, journalists, shop owners, and those who worked in the Con Edison control center on West End Avenue. This exclusive clip on Untapped Cities shows, among other accounts, how disconnected even the police force was–their cars lacked AM/FM radios to begin with and for some, the portable radios went down.

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The Statue of Liberty may be one of the most visited sites in New York City (if you’re willing to battle with the tourists), but it too has a long list of secrets and fun facts. Here we explore the history and architectural details that make the Statue of Liberty still one of the most unique landmarks in the city.

Designed as a gift to the United States, the Statue of Liberty (officially called Liberty Enlightening the World) has always maintained a connection to its native France. It was dreamt up by Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, a French abolitionist, lawyer, and poet. Its exterior was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor, its interior created by Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer. It was built in France and paid for by its citizens.

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Hunts Point Produce Terminal-Bronx-NYCEDC-Behind the Scenes NYC-Untapped Cities-002The Hunts Point Produce Terminal. Photo via NYCEDC

Yesterday, 25 Untapped Cities readers had a chance to go inside the Hunts Point Produce Terminal with the NYCEDC in our Behind the Scenes NYC series. At Hunts Point Produce Terminal in the Bronx, 60% of the produce sales in New York City take place. After an initial walk- through the large maze of facilities, visiting a potato packing plant and a sorting facility, and standing in a rail car that had come in full of produce, the guests were taken to the board room of the terminal where they could ask Myra Gordon, manager of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, questions.

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Cooper Hewitt Design Museum-Fifth Avenue-Museum Mile-Renovation-Treasures of New YorkImage via Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

For architecture enthusiasts, a visit to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum on New York City’s Upper East Side is already a treat, as it’s located in the former mansion of Andrew Carnegie. The New York City (and national) landmark is also the first and only museum in America dedicated to design. There are over 200,000 objects, covering 30 centuries of innovation.

A new episode in Treasures of New York on WNET/THIRTEEN focuses on this special museum that reopened in December 2014 following a 3-year, $91 million renovation. Treasures of New York: Cooper Hewitt focuses on collective effort of architects, designers, technologists and others to achieve the modernization and expansion of the museum.

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spanish portuguese synagogue photos abandoned-NYC-Untapped Cities-james garcia-4

Tucked right in Chelsea overshadowed by tall buildings is the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Cemetery, a sudden green respite on 21st Street fronted by wrought iron gates (and now a Citi Bike station as well). Its official name is the Third Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue because the cemetery of the religious organization had to move four times since the founding of the religious organization, the oldest Jewish congregation in North America, in 1654.

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Groundswell-Art Mural-Rose M. Singer Center Rikers Island-The Freedom Within-NYC

The Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers Island is the women’s barracks of Rikers Island, opened in 1988 as a $100 million state-of-the-art correctional facility under Mayor Edward Koch. Despite forward-thinking initiatives like job training programs in horticulture, nursing, sewing and cooking (there is even a restaurant called The Rose Garden that was designed by prison staff), the women’s prison has seen its fair share of problems, most recently a lawsuit alleging a “pervasive culture of rape” by correctional officers.

Yet, in a rare instance of positive news recently, Groundswell, a New York City organization for community public art, in partnership with the NYC Department of Correction and Department of Education, worked with the female inmates to produce a mural inside Rikers Island titled “The Freedom Within.” The mural was dedicated in a ceremony on June 12th.

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