What a year it has been! The Untapped Cities team has done a lot of urban exploration this year, gained many new contributors, passed a million+ page views monthly starting in October and produced many behind-the-scenes tours for our community. We have a lot in store for you next year too – brand new tours, a podcast, and more fresh content.
As a look back, we’ve compiled this year’s most popular reads split into two categories: lists and non-list content because it’s always good to have the balance. We started Untapped Cities to produce original, inquisitive and fun content that would unveil another side to the cities we live in, and we hope in all that we produce, this remains the constant.
Without further ado, our top articles of 2015:
Our compilation of more than 10 of New York City’s indoor public spaces is really about New York City’s zoning code, which gave developer bonuses for the construction of privately owned public spaces managed by the developer rather than the city. But if you’re not an urbanism nerd, you can still appreciate these indoor civic spaces which range from a tropical getaway to a made-up avenue called 6 ½ Avenue, a series of privately owned public arcades through Midtown.
This article on unique coffee shops for design buffs in Manhattan was published in 2013, but is still one of the year’s most popular reads. As the story of New York City goes, a few of these places have either relocated or closed so we updated it for 2015.
Who doesn’t love the New York City subway system? Built over time, just like the city it serves, its underground is ripe with fun secrets, abandoned stations, and quirks. Discover the top 12 secrets of the New York Subway system. If you want even more about the subway, we have many fun facts about opening day of the subway in 1904 (like how 15 diamonds were lost!).
This year, Untapped Cities founder Michelle Young and contributing editor Laura Itzkowitz released the book, New York: Hidden Bars & Restaurants published by JonGlez which built upon this initial list. For hidden bars and restaurant enthusiasts, the book has nearly 90 locations. This first list of New York’s hidden restaurants, rated by Redditors as “solid” continues to be a crowd pleaser. For more, check out our first list of hidden bars in New York City, the 2015 update, and The Top 10 Hidden Restaurants in NYC: 2015 Edition.
Photograph via Wikipedia by
We know you just can’t get enough of abandoned subway stuff, so this year we expanded this original compilation from 7 subway stations to 20, which include stations with abandoned levels and platforms. This is one of the most comprehensive guides you’ll find out there, with most of the stations traversed by our own explorers.
Macarons have a staying power beyond what we even anticipated ourselves. Luckily, we tried out all the macarons on this list and can attest that they’re tasty. Some you can even get in a cat cafe.
Sometimes people write us about this article, saying we forgot some hidden bars off this list. But when we say underground bars and lounges, we mean literally underground because sometimes its fun to be both hidden and below the city’s streets.
3. Art Installations Not to Miss in NYC Each Month
This year, we started compiling the outdoor art exhibits that we thought readers shouldn’t miss in New York City each month. Then as the weather got cooler (kind of) we started including great urbanism exhibits in the mix too. Here’s the latest list of 15 installations and urban exhibits not to miss in December 2015.
View of Grand Central Terminal from atop the glass walkways in the windows
Our Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal is written by Tamara Agins, a project manager with the New York City Department of City Planning who has an obsession with Grand Central. Every year, we find out more secrets and access new spots to photograph (like the view from the glass walkways (above) and the famous M42 basement. So even if you’ve read this piece before, there are more photographs now to revel in.
There are fewer and fewer places in New York City that are abandoned and easily explored, but this list still has a good number (though some are mid-conversion). Some locations we’re happy to have reported on good news this year: the partial rehabilitation of the Neww York State Pavilion in Flushing-Meadows, progress on the the Queensway, the Lowline, and a possible re-opening of North Brother Island to the public.
Most Popular Non-List Articles
Most of what we publish here at Untapped Cities are not lists, in fact. Here are 10 pieces that made an impact this year:
Photo by Rembert Browne
Sometimes in New York City, you’ll come across a subway entrance to nowhere. We took a look at where these come from.
Arguably the most famous of New York City’s abandoned subway stations, City Hall station was originally the jewel of the new IRT subway system when it opened in 1904. It was decommissioned after World War II because its curved platform was too short for the new longer trains. You can visit the station only a few times a year, on a tour for members of the New York Transit Museum. Our article shows that exploration with numerous photographs of the station.
We went on a research trip to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. While there, we discovered a veritable underground city, along with a subway that has been dubbed the “shortest and most exclusive railway in the world,” because it’s only accessible to Congressional members and approved guests. You can also get a ride during an official tour of the Capitol.
In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Paris erected a temporary monument in the shape of the Twin Towers. This year, this gesture (and thus the article) was remembered again as New York City showed its support for Paris after the attacks in November.
Floor plan of Kennedy Onassis’ apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue
The Kennedys are probably the closest thing America has had to a royal family and readers continue to be fascinated by the massive floorplan of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue. A video in this article gives an overview of the place and Jackie’s time there after JFK’s assassination.
Though just one of many abandoned psychiatric centers dotted throughout the east coast, Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg is particularly notable because the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black films at a different portion of the site. James Garcia from My Haunted Diary and a contributor to Untapped Cities took a trip up there to document the place for us.
A documentary series from Vocativ featured Will Ellis, Untapped Cities’ Abandoned NYC columnist going into the bowels of Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital on Long Island. After you see it, follow-up with two other videos about the same place.
One of the city’s most fascinating finds is this secret train platform underneath the Waldorf-Astoria, accessible also via Grand Central Terminal. Daniel Brucker, manager of Grand Central Tours at Metro-North Railroad, confirmed on a special tour that Franklin D. Roosevelt did indeed use this track, and that the train car that still sits there did belong to the President. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum would like to get it back, but logistically it’s rather problematic!
Nothing quite gets people like a fun map, and one that’s judgmental to boot. This series of maps by Joe Larson hits a lot of stereotypes on the nose.
We were one of the first publications to do an in-depth piece about this private community on Long Island within Yaphank still run by the German Settlement League. Before WWII, it ran a pro-Hitler summer camp and had streets named after Hitler, Goebbels and Goering. Armed with the officially approved town street map from 1936, we went to Yaphank to get photographs. We later did an interview for a segment on National Geographic about the town. Then came the news in the New York Times later this year that discrimination against non-Germans was persisting in the settlement, whihc led toa subsequent related lawsuit.
Next, check out 7 NYC Tunnels where Subway Trains Go to Sleep. Stay tuned for our compilation of our favorite stories we wrote this year.