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Kanrin_Maru_members_-_Japanese_Embassy_to_the_United_States__1860__-_Wikipedia__the_free_encyclopediaThe Japanese Embassy’s Escorts from the Steamship Kanrin Maru in 1860. Image via Wikipedia

In 1853 US Commodore Matthew Perry steamed his way into Tokyo Bay (then called Edo Bay) and pretty much bullied the Japanese into ending 250 years of global isolation. Seven years later, the first Japanese delegation of 80 Samurai diplomats sent from the Tokugawa Shogunate set sail for a three month tour of the United States. While the rest of the country tried to put on their Sunday best for the Japanese, it was New York City that really showed these guys how to party. (more…)

New Yorker Hotel-Secret Tunnel-Basement-Subway-34th Street-NYCFormer entrance under the New Yorker Hotel that provided direct access to Penn Station

Roughly 200 feet beneath the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel lies a secret: an underground tunnel that connected the establishment to Penn Station. It’s mostly forgotten, used primarily as storage, but it once enabled guests to go directly from the subway and trains to an elevator and up into the hotel. A porter would greet you at the entrance and take you the rest of your way. Direct access was popular for the luxury buildings of this time – the Woolworth Building and the Knickerbocker Hotel are other examples.

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8264611516_4321dd62a1_kPhoto via Yelp Inc on Flickr

Distilling in New York City has been going on since Europeans first arrived in the 1700s and after a big roadblock has finally continued to grow from there. In fact, the first distillery in the US was in Staten Island. However, on October 28th 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act or “The National Prohibition Act.” This law effectively made it illegal to produce, transport, buy or sell alcohol in the United States. This obviously put a chilling effect on the distilling of quality liquors all across the country. There was scarcely a trace of a distilling community in NYC until circa 2010, when a new boom in urban living sparked the start of a distillery revolution in North and Central Brooklyn.

Here are a few distilleries to check out in everyone’s favorite boroughs. Cheers! (more…)

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Do you have Summer Fridays? Or you love getting into places before everyone else can? This Friday, we’ll be visiting The Hills, the new park on Governors Island on a tour led by the Governors Island Trust. Once open, The Hills will certainly be popular and crowded, and for good reason. There will be 40 lush acres of green space with four new hills up to 70 feet above sea level.

On this tour, you’ll learn about the Island’s history from military base to open green space and get an inside look at the recent and ongoing transformation of the barren landfill on the south island. You’ll get an unbelievable view of the New York harbor, lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from the summit. We’ll hear about the engineering feat behind the construction of The Hills, which will include New York City’s longest slide, a granite “scramble” made of old blocks repurposed from the old island seawall, and the planting of nearly 3,000 new trees.

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Earlier this month, we tracked down the incredible private subway car of August Belmont Jr., the financier for the first subway line in New York City at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut. Another find in this amazing museum, which has over 100 vintage trolley and subway cars, is the horse drawn trolley car, the Horsecar 76. It’s believed to be the oldest preserved streetcar in the world. This adorable trolley was tucked in the back of one of the museum’s brand new storage barns, built 17 feet above the 500 year flood plain.

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