Category Archives: Commentary

Old New York In Postcards #16 – 1960s & 70s Aerial Views of Manhattan In Color

Color Aerial Views of Manhattan’s Skyline In The 1960s & Early 70s

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The Staten Island Ferry is arriving as Manhattan’s classic skyline is seen from the south c 1963

As Manhattan grows more crowded with slender glass boxes rising all over the island, some say New York is losing its classic skyline.

The truth is that classic skyline started to be lost  in the early 1950s as box-like buildings replaced older “obsolete” structures.

Developers were aided by city planners like Robert Moses whose vision of urban renewal often lead to urban devastation. In the mid 1950s Moses proposed building a ten lane elevated highway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway, across the neighborhoods now known as TriBeca and SoHo. Dozens of historic buildings would have been bulldozed in the process to connect a highway from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Fortunately after a long debate the city abandoned the plan in 1969.

For the most part in the past 300 years, progress and the money involved in Manhattan real estate has never let sentimentality or a sense of history stand in the way of demolition.

Sites that once held classic tall buildings such as the Savoy Plaza Hotel and the Singer Building were demolished in the 1960s to make way for even bigger skyscrapers. With the exception of a few well designed buildings, hundreds of nondescript office and residential buildings have been constructed over the past 60 years.

The current skyscraper building craze has blocked views from many vantage points of Manhattan’s iconic buildings.

These photo postcards were all taken between 1963 and 1974. Manhattan still had many vestiges of its classic skyline and sense of scale in place. They capture lower and midtown Manhattan from various angles just before the permanent eradication of these classic views.

nyc-skyline-1A close view of lower Manhattan’s financial district looking north in 1963. Only a few post-war buildings have been constructed in the financial district.

nyc-skyline-1-2Looking northwest, change has begun as several boxy buildings are under construction near South Street and the FDR Drive as seen directly behind the Staten Island Ferry terminal (1965).

nyc-skyline-2Looking south in 1964 towards the financial district. On the left are the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges spanning the East River. The tallest building on the right is the Woolworth Building. Other tall buildings seen in the center, include the Cities Services Building, the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, and the City Bank Farmers Trust Building,. The modern tall glass and aluminum structure is the 60 story Chase Manhattan Bank Building bounded by Nassau, Liberty, William and Pine Streets. When opened in 1961 it was the sixth tallest building in the world. Continue reading

Pitchers Hitting In The Postseason

It Still Happens – Pitchers Hitting In The Postseason (And Making A Difference)

sandy-koufax-singles-world-series-october-12-1965This photograph of pitcher Sandy Koufax shows a rarity.

In 20 times at bat, Dodger great, Sandy Koufax got only one hit in postseason play.

Koufax is leaving the batters box after stroking a single in game six of the 1965 World Series driving in Ron Fairly. Koufax’s single gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh in an eventual 7-0 shutout over the Minnesota Twins. It wasn’t Koufax’s hitting that won the game, it was the complete game, four hitter with 10 strikeouts that he hurled. Still to everyone watching, sans Twin fans, Koufax’s hit was a pleasant surprise.

The Dodgers went on to win the seventh game and Koufax was named the series MVP.

Koufax was one of the worst hitters ever, compiling a miniscule .097 career batting average over 12 seasons. But no one ever came to see Koufax hit, they came to see him pitch. As bad as a hitter as Koufax was there was always the slim chance that he might get a base hit. And when he did guess what? It was exciting.

The use of the designated hitter in the American League and the DH’s use in World Series games only in American League ballparks has effectively eliminated the thrill out of watching the pitcher impacting the game with his bat.

So in this day and age when it is considered a shock when a pitcher comes to the plate and gets a hit, it is refreshing to see pitchers in the 2016 postseason hitting and making a difference in many games.

Travis Wood homers photo: Dennis Wierzbicki USA Today

Travis Wood homers photo: Dennis Wierzbicki USA Today

Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was actually used as a pinch-hitter in game two of the NLDS playoff game against the Cubs.  In that same game, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks singled in two runs and reliever Travis Wood blasted a home run against the Giants pitcher George Kontos.

Then in the next game of the series Cubs starter Jake Arrieta hit a three run homer against the Giants. In the fourth inning of game 4 Giants pitcher Matt Moore singled home the go ahead run in a losing effort.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw helped his own cause in game four against the Washington Nationals by doubling and scoring the go-ahead run in what ended up being a 6-5 L.A. victory.

If you polled baseball fans most would say they want more offense and never have pitchers bat. Continue reading

World Series Action 1950

October 6, 1950 World Series, Game Three – Yankees Hold off The Phillies in the Top of the Ninth

yogi-berra-granny-hamner-sequence-1-2-world-series-oct-6-1950yogi-berra-granny-hamner-sequence-3-4-world-series-oct-6-1950Remember when the World Series used to be played and concluded by early October? Of course you don’t unless you are over the age of 50.

The endless rounds of playoffs, a 162 game season and the elimination of scheduled doubleheaders during the regular season have lengthened baseball’s post-season to an interminable length. Baseball’s fall classic is moving closer to becoming a winter classic. If there is a game seven this year, the World Series will conclude November 2.

Maybe that’s okay if the game is played in Los Angeles, but if it ends up in Cleveland, Chicago or Boston you can rest assured the players will not be playing under the best possible conditions and the attendees will not be warm.

Let’s look back to a simpler time. The year was 1950. The date – October 6 and game three of the World Series was played at Yankee Stadium. The Philadelphia Phillies lost the first two games of the series to the New York Yankees by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. The sequence of photos from above capture exciting action that would probably be against the rules today Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

Continue reading

This Is The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Cover Band I’ve Ever Seen

Gruhak? Yes Gruhak From Croatia. An Amazing Rock ‘n’ Roll Cover Band

gruhak-photo-via-dulist-hr

If Gruhak ever does a concert in the United States, I’m going to see it.

Since the 1970s I’ve seen over 300 concerts. Among them: AC/DC, Deep Purple, Paul McCartney, Motörhead, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, The Clash, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Rush and countless other classic bands.

Sometimes the shows have been great, other times it’s been a disappointment. Especially now because as the older the bands get, the harder it is for them to perform live. In the past 10 years I’ve mostly stopped going to shows rather than see my rock ‘n’ roll illusions shattered.

Enter the tribute or cover band, that in some cases can deliver a performance that sounds better than the band they are copying. Cover and tribute bands are a dime a dozen, many of them are not very good and they play the bar circuit. There are a handful of bands that can  make a full time living at it and have developed their own fan following.

It is rare that there is a band that can have the energy, the vibe and the talent to cover multiple groups and do it well.

That fits the description of Gruhak, a five piece band from Dubrovnik, Croatia.  The word “gruhak” means a loud and obtrusive person.

Rather than go on and on about their talent, have a look and a listen.

First up – The Who – We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Now performing in a totally different style, Gruhak takes on The Doors with Love Me Two Times.

It’s not that Gruhak sound like The Doors. It’s not an imitation, but an interpretation and it’s a damned good one. Gruhak’s  singer Boris Kosovic has Jim Morrison’s intonations and the band sounds more like the Doors, than the band that Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger put together a dozen years ago with Ian Astbury, formerly of The Cult, on vocals.

As far as Gruhak’s version of We Won’t Get Fooled Again, it’s as if we’re hearing Roger Daltrey and company in their prime. The other musicians in Gruhak are equally accomplished. Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson On Foreign Ideas and Immigration

In 1782, Thomas Jefferson wrote of the dangers of unrestricted immigration.

What we can apply today from his words of wisdom.

Thomas Jefferson circa 1780 the 3rd President of the United States. Born in Virginia, he drafted the Declaration of Independence,

The United States faced a population problem in 1782. There simply weren’t enough people living in the U.S.: just over 2.7 million according to the census.

Some citizens proposed increasing population by inviting foreigners to settle in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson was firmly against using immigration by “inviting (foreigners) by extraordinary encouragements” as a means of increasing population. Jefferson was not against immigration for people who wanted to come to the United States on their own.

Jefferson’s belief was to allow population to increase naturally through its native stock and continue to allow immigration at its natural pace. While Jefferson wasn’t speaking against any particular group of immigrants flooding our shores, he knew that foreign allegiances and ideas could cause great upheavals. Jefferson questioned whether increasing population just for the sake of increasing population was a wise move for our young country.

Jefferson espoused civilized values, the current “Western ideals” that the United States was founded upon and that are currently under attack by terrorists. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #65

The New York Times Tower Building Under Construction – 1904

New York Times Building under constructionRecently I had the misfortune of passing through Times Square, now a symbol of the mall-ification of New York.

Dead center, standing at 42nd Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge is the mutilated former New York Times Tower Building. The iconic building that gave Times Square its name, is now basically an electronic billboard. Before The New York Times moved from Park Row to their new headquarters, this area was known as Longacre Square. We covered the history of the building in a previous story.

What was once a classic building has become emblematic of the entire area. Times Square now means: chain stores, thick crowds moving s-l-o-w-l-y and solicitors every five feet hawking something. Then there’s a bunch of beggars in costumes who somehow get paid by having chump tourists hand over money to take a picture with them.

Our photograph from above shows the New York Times Building in the midst of construction in 1904.  The George A. Fuller Construction Company advertises that they are erecting the new skyscraper. The Fuller Company put up a similar building on a triangular plot two years previous to this at 23rd Street, the much beloved Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron Building. Continue reading

Who Controls The News In Newspapers?

In 1960 Reporter / Author Gene Fowler Saw The Impending Danger of Who Decided What’s News In Newspapers

Gene Fowler wrote the following in 1960:

…the besetting evils of a haywire economy, as well as the reprisals exacted by ferocious minorities against anyone who prints unpleasant truths, has taken much of the do-and-dare spirit out of the makers of newspaper policies. When appeasement supplants editorial enterprise, and silences the outspoken criticism of evil men, the newspaper forfeits its character, loses its influence—and eventually its life. Public servants become public masters. All freedoms are endangered when that of the press is assailed.

Gene FowlerWe continue looking inside Gene Fowler’s book Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s (Viking) published in 1961 a year after Fowler’s death. Fowler makes several prescient observations about the newspaper business. His commentary is astute and he recognized the shifting danger of publishers, rather than editors controlling what gets reported. Fowler witnessed the trend of electronic media (radio & TV at the time) making newspapers irrelevant as the news cycle became hourly. (Now it is instantaneous.)

As more newspapers are controlled by publishers who have an agenda, publishing what is really news has become a very blurred subject.

You’ll hear the term “the liberal media,” “conservative media” or “the mainstream media” thrown about in policy and political discussions. We all know one thing for sure, there are many forms of media bias. But who really sets editorial policy for newspapers? Continue reading

Proposed Brooklyn Bridge Expansion – A Terrible Idea, But I’ve Got A Solution

City Proposes Brooklyn Bridge Expansion Due To Overcrowding

The Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway is always crowded. photo via christiangood.net

The Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway is always crowded. photo via christiangood.net

As reported in the New York Times, New York City officials are considering widening the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bicycle promenade because of overcrowding.

It’s a terrible idea. But I’ve got a solution that may not be popular, but will surely lessen the congestion on the walkway.

Anyone who has tried to walk or bicycle across the bridge in the past few years realizes that it is crowded. How crowded?  At all hours the bridge’s 10 to 17 foot wide promenade is full of not just commuters, but tourists. Thousands of visitors, many with selfie sticks meandering slowly, oblivious to their surroundings. Add to that, the bicyclists, hawkers of water and food, the dreaded costumed characters and a few street performers and there you have it, a congealed mass of humanity in a confined space.

Officials say an expansion of the pedestrian path should alleviate the overcrowding. As many people know, city projects almost always end up taking longer and costing New York taxpayers significantly more than the estimated cost.

Taking an iconic bridge and altering it is not the solution to the overcrowding.

The simple solution is to charge a pedestrian toll. The toll would be applicable to anyone not from the New York area. Show a New York ID card or drivers license and you don’t pay the fee. The toll waiver could include residents from the surrounding tri-state area. Cyclists could also cross for free.

If you are from somewhere else and touring the city, you pay for the privilege of walking across the bridge, just as you pay for any other heavily visited tourist site.

The next part is to ban anyone performing or selling anything on the bridge. The problem with that, is something called the First Amendment, which allows artistic expression and the sale of items protected under the First Amendment; i.e. – art, books, etc. Continue reading