New York City. A Short History
by George J. Lankevich (pgs. 230-234 and pgs. 256-257)
The first section of the reading, Chapter 11 “Contemporary New York” detailed New York City in the 1980’s. The accounts about the economic, financial and social issues facing New Yorkers under the governance of Mayor Edward Koch, appeared to be pretty well-organized and thorough. The author was knowledgeable in his detailing of the events and the climate during this period. He accurately connected what was going on in Washington, DC under Ronald Reagan and how that budgetary decisions made and the financial crisis during that period negatively impacted New Yorkers. While reading the book, I was reminded of a similar historical account on New York City, titled, “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” by Edwin G. Burrows, which was considerably more in-depth and overall much more interesting. What I did find most interesting in this book was that the author chose to break up the history of New York into different sections, all of which mirrored the time periods of elected officials such as the governor and the mayors who were in office at the time of the account. The author tended to lay blame on the elected officials for the problems of the period, without giving much regard to the fact that the problems and deficits were usually inherited.
Although the accounts of both mayors (Koch and Bloomberg) included factual information as it relates to dates, decisions and data, the author lacked an interesting writing style. It is my opinion that the author did not draw the reader (specifically this reader) into the story. Instead, the author came across as being flat and one-dimensional. Another flaw was that the author did not focus enough attention to the economic hardships faced by the underclass (or 99%) of the population of New Yorkers in the city under both the Koch and Bloomberg Administrations. I also believed that the author did dedicate as much real estate in the text to those individuals who were consistently being marginalized. Another flaw that I experienced with the text is that there are so many interesting facets of what makes New York a great city, that the author did not focus enough attention on. Some of these items include the Arts, Culture, Cuisine and Social Life. All of these aspects contributed to making New York the epi-center of the world. Lastly, I believe that although the author appeared to be intelligent in regurgitating the factual information, I felt as if he did not convey an opinion or perspective on any of the events that transpired over the years, nor was he drawn to or bothered by any of the historical figures that appeared on the pages of the book. I was hoping for something inspirational and/or motivational to jump off the pages but unfortunately that never happened instead I was bored and uncommitted.
By 1900, there was more than 80,000 tenements had been built in New York City. The tenements housed in the area of 2.3 million people, a full two-thirds of the city’s total population of around 3.4 million.
Interesting details of the tenement buildings is that it often had 5 to 7 stories and occupied nearly all of the lot of which it was built. Many tenements began as single-family dwellings, and many older structures were converted into tenements by adding floors on top or by building more space in rear-yard areas. There was often built with less than of a foot of space between buildings, causing for little air and light could get in. In many tenements only the rooms on the street got light, and the interior room had no ventilation. Tenement houses were a quick and affordable solution to the housing problem. As tenement houses were quickly constructed, as many people as possible were packed into the smallest space possible in the hopes of maximizing the landlord’s profits
Erie Canal was essential to the growth of America. It opened opportunities in America of increasing trade, commerce and settlement. The canal was also used a place where social reform like abolitionism, women’s rights and various other movements flourished in the canal passageway.
The canal influenced New York City because it helped increase trade. The influx of people traveling upstate opened new markets and easier ways to get there and back, it also helped increase the physical growth of cities along the canal route. New York City being closer to Europe became the gateway to resources of the Midwest. Empowering NYC through its ability to transport and exchange goods it became the financial capital of the nation.
The Midtown East tour was an exciting tour of being able to able experience a wide range of significant style of buildings in such a small condensed area. We saw beautiful Art Deco buildings, Moorish Revival, and glass curtain systems among many other styles. One highlight in particular of the trip was the New York Public Library. The design is Beaux Art and it features white marble façade. The front of the Library is has wide steps that are designed that embrace the crowd of tourist and visitors without making the crowd feeling uncomfortable. History feels to be represented everywhere you see in this building. One interesting fact about the library is that is has more than 84 miles of stacks and its able to store 3.2 million books and it’s all built under Bryant Park.
Another captivating building on the tour was the Seagram Building, Ludwig Mies der Rohe. His belief of “less is more” is apparent in the Seagram Building. The Seagram’s building highlights parts of the building that before the date it was built were camouflaged instead of celebrated. It has a bronze exterior façade that features a non-structural bronze I-beams – visually suggesting the building’s structure however it is completely nonfunctional.
My New York is a place where I was never able to fully embrace her architecture or landscape before now. What I noticed most about My New York were the hard working people that play an active and meaningful, but thankless role in keeping My New York running and keeping her where she needs to be. From 30,000 feet for many America is known as the land of opportunity and New York is the heart that gives it life. New York is the hub that influences the world we live in. It is a place where dreams rise up and goals are something that is worth fighting for.
My New York means to me everything is amplified and more intense and exciting. It’s a place full of diversity and hearing new languages spoken is never really surprising. My New York is filled with a carnival of ideals and ordeals.
My New York is a destination for immigrants from all over the world. They come to My New York to experience the freedom to strive for and live out the American dream and not just survive. My New York opens her doors to people from all walks of life so that they can experience a better tomorrow in this lifetime.
To me, My New York is a place that changed as time went on. What used to be a symphony filled with musical interludes has now become a cacophony of loud and eclectic noise. My New York is a place were I want to escape from in my attempt to enjoy a landscape of green trees and grass filled meadows and pastures. My New York has become a place where I feel like I need to be released from so I can experience life feeling free. My New York has become a cold, dark and sterile place where people don’t seem to care about each other and the daily mantra rests on the belief that it is every man for himself. The love seems to have left My New York. In time I know it will return; like Winter gives way to Spring, I will experience the sights, sounds and feelings of My New York again it just takes time.