NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.

  

Friday
Dec062013

Before & After - Schermerhorn Row at South Street Seaport

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

The South Street Seaport has a rich history that was almost lost in the mid-20th century. At a time when the Fulton Fish Market began to descend into organized crime and the surrounding neighborhood was nothing more than deteriorating 19th century row houses, the city had enough issues without trying to restore an old port neighborhood.

Luckily things began to turn around when Peter and Norma Stanford founded the South Street Seaport Museum around the same time that original photo above was taken (note the up-lifting banner). It would take another 30 years before the neighborhood would be truly revitalized, and still to this day there's work to be done. For example, the Fulton Fish Market moved to a new facility in the Bronx in 2005, but the old market still sits empty 8 years later.

The buildings in today's photo, known collectively as Schermerhorn Row, were in bad shape before being taken over by the museum. They were renovated in 1983, though the New York Times criticized the renovation saying it turned the block "into something flat and dull." Arguably the Times had a point: Their prior appearance was full of character, the same way a scarred face would have character – it told a story.

Photo source: Tom Riggle, Flickr

Wednesday
Dec042013

Before & After - East Coast Memorial

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

The East Coast Memorial, which sits near the southern tip of Battery Park, is often overlooked as thousands walk by it on their way to Statue of Liberty ferries. It memorializes those lost on the Atlantic front of World War II. Along with two sister memorials – one on San Francisco and one in Hawaii – it is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Photo source: Tom Riggle, Flickr

Monday
Dec022013

Before & After - Manhattan Municipal Building

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

Built after the unification of New York City, the Manhattan Municipal Building helped address the growing need for office space for city services. Throughout the building you can see symbolism to represent the five boroughs, most notably its five cupolas. Despite many imitators it's still one of the largest government buildings in the world still serving its original purpose.

Photo source: Tom Riggle, Flickr

Tuesday
Nov262013

Before & After - The Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

Walking up Nassau Street past numerous, seemingly identical cross streets its easy to start to feel lost in the Financial District. Only with the help of landmarks like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (on the right in today's photo) can one regain their bearings.

When you first approach the Federal Reserve (which is hard to miss; it takes up a whole city block), it's immediately apparent that this is an important place. The scale of the stone walls and the thickness of the iron bars across the first floor windows help create that impression. You may assume that like many old "banks" these architectural elements are vestiges from a bygone era. However, that's not the case. As anyone who's ever watched Die Hard 3: With A Vengeance can tell you, The Federal Reserve in NY holds more gold than anywhere in the world – including Fort Knox. The vault in the building's basmenet sits 50 feet below sea level, directly on Manhattan bedrock. This is partly because the combined weight of the gold (approximately 13,400,000 pounds) would far exceed the capacity of other foundations. Unfortunately for the United States and our economy, very little of the gold actually belongs to us, but rather is stored for free on behalf of other nations.

Photo source: Tom Riggle, Flickr

Monday
Nov252013

Before & After - Essex Street Market

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

When one thinks about the Lower East Side in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, one likely conjures up images of congestion and deplorable living conditions. Indeed, after decades of unrivaled population growth – due mostly to immigration from Europe – the LES became one of the most crowded and run-down slums, not just in the United States, but the world.

By the 1930's, things needed to change. In addition to problems with quality of life in the tenements, there were untold numbers of street cart vendors crowding the already-narrow lanes of the neighborhood. This was becoming a a problem for municipal services since fire trucks and ambulances were having difficulty getting through the street efficiently. The Essex Street Market was devised as a solution under the administration of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia around 1930.

The market was very successful for most of the mid-20th century. 1986 saw its management turned over to a private developer who promptly raised rents and evicted several merchants. The New York City Economic Development Corporate took over the space in the early 1990's and began a multi-year revitalization. NYCEDC operates the Essex Street Market to this day.

Photo source: Tom Riggle, Flickr

Friday
Sep202013

Before & After - The Turtle Bay Gardens

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Formerly a decrepit neighborhood covered in soot from nearby factories, and caged in by elevated trains on 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Turtle Bay exited the 20th century as one of the nicer neighborhoods in Midtown Manhattan. In 1918 Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan purchased nearly the entire block of rowhouses between 48th & 49th Streets and 2nd & 3rd Avenues. She had them extensively renovated, faced with stucco and built quiet, secluded gardens in the middle. Having since been landmarked, the Turtle Bay Gardens have been home to many celebrity residents over the years. By the mid 20th Century the rise of the United Nation Headquarters and the fall of the elevated lines helped remove many of the unsavory elements nearby.


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.