Tenement House Act of 1901

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Photo of tenements by Jacob Riis, c. 1900. Increasing awareness by the public of poor living conditions led to housing reform such as the Tenement House Act of 1901.

April 12, 1901 marks the date when the New York State Legislature passed the Tenement House Act of 1901, more commonly known as the “New Law” or “New Tenement Law.”   This significant moment in New York City housing history resulted from intense pressure by housing reform groups, leading to Governor Theodore Roosevelt appointing a commission to study the issue of the need to reform existing housing law in New York in 1900.  In February 1901, the commission issued a report to the new governor, Benjamin B. Odell, Jr. (Roosevelt had become vice president), recommending new legislation.  The State Legislature almost immediately held hearings, and on April 12, 1901, only two months after the commission issued its report, the Tenement House Act of 1901 was enacted.

Though you may not be familiar with this law, its impact and legacy in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and the East Village cannot be understated, as some of the most distinctive and ubiquitous structures in these neighborhoods are “new law tenements.”

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Rallying To Save The South Village

Five years ago this Sunday GVSHP and other community and preservation groups held a Rally to Save the South Village.  More than 150 people including elected officials, community and business leaders and neighbors turned out on April 11, 2011 to call upon the City to landmark the remainder of the South Village and save this historic neighborhood from further destruction and out-of-scale new development.

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Andrew Berman speaking at the Rally to Save the South Village, April 10, 2011

This was an important stop along the way in our ongoing effort to preserve and protect the South Village.  We’ve made tremendous progress, but the job is still not entirely done.

 

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Three Ways the New LPC Map is Better than NYCMap

The Landmarks Preservation Commission recently released a new interactive map. The map shows all exterior, interior, and scenic landmarks, historic districts, and properties calendared for designation. According to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, “The launch of this map is a key milestone in our efforts to ensure that all New Yorkers have the history of our city at their fingertips”.

You might ask how is this map different from the NYC map, which already shows exterior, interior, and scenic landmarks, historic districts.  There are several tools that the new map provides that are not available on NYC Map:

The Citymap image on the left (Image 1) indicates a landmark but the Image 2 on the right is from the new LPC site on the right shows the borders of the landmark, in this case Grace Church School.

The Citymap image on the left (Image 1) indicates a landmark is present but the new LPC Map on the right (Image 2) shows the borders of the landmark, in this case Grace Church School.

1. The LPC map specifies the borders of an individual landmark rather than just indicating it with a symbol on a map. This is helpful when indicating which property is the landmark and which are surrounding buildings (see image on the right), and how much exactly of the property is landmarked, since sometimes not all is. Read the rest of this entry »

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One Hundred Twenty Five Years of NYC Streetcars Started in the Village

New York City Trolley or Streetcar service ended in New York City on April 6th, 1957 on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island. But it began one hundred twenty five years earlier on November 14, 1832, with not only New York City but the world’s first streetcar line with ran on the Bowery and Fourth Avenue, between Prince and 14th Street.

Trolley and elevated subway line at Cooper Square circa 1901. Postcard image courtesy of David Mulkins.

Trolleys were an effective way to travel for decades and directly related to where development occurred in the growing city.  An improvement over horse drawn carriages, their predecessor, they dominated our streets until cars, buses and the subway system edged them off the platform of transportation options.

Always looking for a faster way to get around town, and adapt to different real estate and development dynamics, public transportation has changed quite a bit since the city’s first efforts in the 1820’s.  Crowded subways with people sandwiched next to each other coupled with intense car and truck traffic are leading to new ideas inspired by history for getting around town and changing the minds of naysayers.

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On This Day in 1837 — Christopher Park Is Born!

Christopher Park sign. Photo courtesy of the Christopher Park Alliance.

Christopher Park sign. Photo courtesy of the Christopher Park Alliance.

On this day in 1837, the City condemned a parcel of land between Christopher, Grove, and West 4th Streets, which eventually became Christopher ParkRead the rest of this entry »

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43 MacDougal Street: A Happy Ending At Last?

Five years ago we wrote about the terrible, deteriorating conditions at 43 MacDougal Street, a landmarked, 1846 Greek Revival townhouse at the corner of King Street in the King-Charlton-VanDam Historic District.  The building had been neglected to the point of near-abandonment for over a decade.

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43 MacDougal Street, April 4, 2011

With a rainy week ahead, we were worried the historic structure might not survive, as it was unsealed and had suffered for years not just from the elements but from homeless encampments within and without.

A few days later, we found out things were even worse than we thought.

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43 MacDougal Street, April 7, 2011, from above

Neighbors of the building had to deal with garbage, smell, rodents, penetrating leaks, and the fear that the buildings might collapse.  For years, GVSHP pushed both the absentee owner and the City to take action to save the deteriorating landmark, including calling for a “demolition by neglect” suit.

Who says there are no happy endings?

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Rocky Horror Midnight Show Is Born

rockyhorrorWhile the Rocky Horror Picture Show premiered in London and Los Angeles in 1975, the now classic cult film was not really successful until it launched its ongoing run of midnight shows here in Greenwich Village. That very first midnight show took place on April 1, 1976, at the Waverly Theatre (now the IFC Center) on 6th Avenue and W. 3rd Street. This first midnight screening set off a chain of events leading to the film’s unique place in American culture. Read the rest of this entry »

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Astor Place Reconstruction Recalls Historic Streets, Mosaics & The Alamo

The old Astor Place. The Alamo and the mosaics will be returning. The hammock will not. Image via http://heryktomassini.com/artwork/3759111-hammock-at-astor-place.html

The old Astor Place. The Alamo and the mosaics will be returning. The hammock will not. Image via http://heryktomassini.com/artwork/3759111-hammock-at-astor-place.html

If you are one of the over 100,000 people a day that make your way through Astor Place or Cooper Square, you cannot help but notice the amazing amount of progress that is evident by the workers on the long awaited reconstruction.  The cement is still drying in some parts, but more of the major components of the Astor Place / Cooper Square area are coming into view. The Alamo, features of the historic streets and trails, as well as the impressive street furniture mosaics, will all be prominent features of the redesign.

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The Federal Style Explained

33-39 7th Street

33-39 East 7th Street

We recently published a detailed report of the Federal style houses which GVSHP has helped to get landmarked, listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, or both.   This architectural style for houses prevailed between the Revolutionary War and about 1835, and derived from the English Georgian style following a classical vocabulary.  In Classic New York, Ada Louise Huxtable described the Federal style as refined and decorous, “the architecture of good breeding and good manners.”

To help understand and appreciate the Federal style and its characteristics, here is a detailed explanation of the style as applied to the New York City row house.

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Five Hundred Years Ago, The First Ghetto Is Founded

Five hundred years ago today, on March 29, 1516, the Venice Ghetto was established by decree of the Venice Ruling Council.  The very first ghetto, it was a tiny 2 1/2 block area on a small, dirty island housing over 4,000 people.  The name comes from the Italian getto meaning “casting,” or Venetian geto meaning “foundry.”

The Venice Ghetto, long after the walls were torn down. Via http://www.jewishlearningworks.org/events/2016/3/29/exhibition-opening-for-il-ghetto-the-venice-ghetto-at-500

The Venice Ghetto, long after the walls were torn down. Via http://www.jewishlearningworks.org/events/2016/3/29/exhibition-opening-for-il-ghetto-the-venice-ghetto-at-500

With its establishment, the ghetto became the only place Venetian Jews were allowed to live — a gated area within which its residents were locked at night.  The Jews of the ghetto were surveilled, limited in their movements and the professions they could practice, and forced to wear yellow markings on their clothing when they left the ghetto.  In the years that followed, similar ghettos were established in cities throughout Europe.  Venice’s gated ghetto survived until 1797, when Napolean stormed the city and tore down the ghetto walls, ending the restrictions on Jewish life.

The legacy of the founding of the Venice ghetto five hundred years ago cannot be overstated. Not only did it give birth to the concept of a “ghetto” as a place where marginalized groups where forced to live in cities under trying conditions.  But this type of anti-Semitism eventually led to a mass migration of Jews from Europe to the New World, particularly to New York’s Lower East Side, including the present-day East Village.  Here, these immigrants shaped and utterly transformed our city, nation, and especially our neighborhood.

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