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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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neighborhoodxconstantine-NYC-Untapped CitiesImage via medium.com

Neighborhood names evoke a specific sense of place.

The best names connect places to their geography and history, and emphasize the qualities that make a place unique. This is especially important now, when bland, placeless design is making many cities feel homogenous.

In most cities, neighborhood boundaries are generally not well-defined, and neighborhood names change over the years as people try to change the associations around places. Just looking at New York City: native place names gave way to Dutch names, which in turn became English names. And historic names gave way to names created and promoted by real estate developers and urban planners.

There are three reasons why neighborhood names change. To distance themselves from a troubled past, to be associated with a more desirable area, or to establish a grandiose vision for an area.

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pier 54 arch white star history-NYC-Untapepd Cities- jinwoo chong-2

Chelsea Piers was once one of New York’s busiest shipping centers at the turn of the 20th century. Not only a popular docking point for passenger ships but a commercial center for travelers and foreigners who docked there throughout its history, the place, opened in 1910, was the city’s first port, a culmination of 30 years of discussions and 8 years of construction. On its opening day, the liner Oceanic sailed through a colored ribbon, marking the official opening. Today, several of the piers remain in operation, though one, Pier 54, remains sadly inactive, though plans to rebuild it completely are still being negotiated.

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Ellsworth kelly matthew marks architectural-NYC-Untapepd Cities- jinwoo chongThe centerpiece of ‘Ellsworth Kelly,’ painted aluminum ‘Blue Angle’ at Matthew Marks Gallery

At 92 years old, you would expect someone like Ellsworth Kelly, long-established as a forerunner of the minimalist, hard-edge painting, and Color Field painting schools, to slow down, perhaps thinking about retirement. But with enough works created over the past two years to fill all four Chelsea spaces of Matthew Marks Gallery on West 22nd and 24th Streets, that didn’t seem to be the case. Kelly’s self-titled exhibit at the gallery closed on Friday, but some of his earlier works are still on display at the nearby Whitney Museum‘s inaugural exhibit, ‘America is Hard to See.’

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It’s called The Liberty Inn. On an unassuming corner of West Street and 15th Street, it’s an oddly shaped triangular building, an old remnant of the Meatpacking District area’s former days as a shipping district and seafaring hotel. Built in 1906 by poultry wholesalers as the Strand Hotel, it got its current name in 1969. Aside from a red awning with ‘LIBERTY’ scrawled across the front in a faux-cursive type, there’s nothing particularly distinguishing about the place.

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oreo vintage ad cookie invention-NYC-Untapped CitiesImage via vintageadbrowser.com

The 103-year old Oreo cookie is America’s favorite, but like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woody Allen, and Billy Joel, just to name a few, it was also born in New York. Chelsea, to be exact, at Nabisco‘s former New York factory and headquarters. The building is now a popular high-end eatery and artisanal cheese mecca known as the Chelsea Market, but in the early 20th century, served a very different purpose.

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