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IMG_1989 macy's

Today, we take a look at some of New York City’s most notable architectural holdouts–those buildings that refused to be demolished in the face of oncoming development and remain today, curiously and sometimes incongruously in the urban landscape.

1. Macy’s Shopping Bag at 34th Street

Recently, the giant shopping bag at the front of Macy’s made its way onto our Daily What?! series. Well, really we mean the building covered by the Macy’s bag, an architectural holdout that forced Macy’s to build around rather than over it. But it wasn’t so much that the building owner refused to move, as he was holding the corner unit hostage hoping to force Macy’s to give up its earlier location on 6th Avenue and 14th Street. Macy’s called the bluff, so the owner demolished the building and replaced it with a 5-story building on which Macy’s started advertising on in 1945. Even today, it’s still owned by a separate entity from Macy’s, the Rockaway Company.

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Currently abandoned interior of the "Rennie" Source:  AbandonedNYC

Currently abandoned interior of the Ballroom inside the  “Rennie”
Source: AbandonedNYC

If you were to transport yourself back in time to Harlem in the 1920s, and in particular, to the corner of Seventh Avenue between 137th and 138th Streets, you would find yourself in front of the The Renaissance Theater and Casino.  The popularity of jazz joints made Harlem a destination during the 1920′s.  Leading the way were the big three–The Cotton Club, located on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the stunning Savoy Ballroom, which covered an entire city block on Lenox Avenue between 140th-141st Streets, and Connie’s Inn located on Seventh Avenue at 131st Street.  But the only club open to African-Americans was The Renaissance Theater and Casino.

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We’ve got an exciting batch of tours planned for this fall, with a great deal to explore in the great city of New York, including the escape routes for a former speakeasy, the epic Brooklyn Army Terminal, a vertical climb up the Cathedral of St John the Divine, a walking tour of the Tenderloin, New York City’s cradle of vice, and more dates for a tour of the Woolworth Building.

Speakeasy Tour & Cocktail at Museum of American Gangster – September 13th, 2pm (2 tickets left!)

Museum of American Gangster-Speakeasy-Safes-East Village-NYC Discover the secrets of a former speakeasy on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, with access to mafia tunnel escape routes and artifacts, like one of two original safes that held enough money to buy the entire Lower East Side. The tour guide from the Museum of American Gangster will also give us a walkthrough of the museum that will conclude with a vintage cocktail at the bar of the theater 80 St. Marks, an area authentic to the original speakeasy.

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top-urban-deisgn-and-planning-projects-in-the-us-now-that-you-should-care-about-nyc-chicago-dc-minneapolis-las-vegas-untappedcities-nick-reale-7Image Source: Regional Plan Association’s Second Regional Plan

With public consciousness of cities at an all-time high, planning and design projects have been commanding the imaginations of urbanities in ways unforeseen. On the positive end, more governing bodies and planning agencies are placing higher value on public awareness, information dissemination, and “ground-up” development. There’s certainly a long way to go, even in cities like New York City, but below are 10 of some of the more innovative and impactful projects going on across the United States right now. Though some have captured the imagination and support of masses while others hang in limbo, all will affect the lives of many in their wake.

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Tar-Mastic-NYC Subway-Waterproofing-Sealing-Melting-Drip-Columbus Circle-Subway Station-NYC

Every time we go through Columbus Circle subway station, we wonder about those big patches of black tar-like substance that just keep growing on the subway platforms. Last year, when there wasn’t quite as much, and we thought in passing it might be just a really popular place to throw gum. But this time, the more we poked around the more we saw that the stuff was just all over the place. And, some of it was fresh! Looking up, we could see it dripping from the beams.

Digging into it, lo and behold, Slate dug into this bizarre issue back in May. Turns out it is indeed tar or rather, mastic, as Branko Kleva, assistant chief of the Division of Stations explains. The MTA uses mastic to seal up and waterproof subway infrastructure but when it gets hot, the stuff starts dripping down. Incidentally, tar was also used to black out the beautiful skylights of the now-decommissioned City Hall Subway Station during WWII. 

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Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish spiritual center-770 Eastern Parkway-Crown Heights-Gran Rebbe Manachem Mendel Schneerson-Andrea Robbins-Max Beecher-Photography-Crown Heights-Brooklyn-NYCBrooklyn’s Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish spiritual center. Photo: Andrea Robbins and Max Beacher

The New York Observer has a remarkable story about a particular building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home to the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish spiritual center that has doubles in more than a dozen places around the world. Located at 770 Eastern Parkway, it’s an example of a building that holds such a strong symbolic hold that the followers of this religious group have replicated it as they’ve spread. The original building is the de facto headquarters for the Lubavitch and was once the workplace of Grand Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

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