Banning Cars On City Streets In Manhattan – Not A New Idea

Fifth Avenue – Sans Cars 1970

The Story Of Mayor John Lindsay’s Pedestrian Malls

Top photo shows 5th Ave. on a typical day. Bottom photo shows 5th Ave. on July 11, 1970

Top photo shows 5th Ave. on a typical day. Bottom shows 5th Ave. on July 11, 1970 as traffic was cleared

While many environmental and safety groups bandy about various schemes for making streets safer for pedestrians by removing or limiting cars from city streets, the idea is older than you might think.

During his tenure as mayor of New York City from 1966-1973, John Lindsay always favored pedestrians.

Lindsay’s initial ban of cars took place in May of 1969. Lindsay and the city closed a small area of Nassau Street in downtown Manhattan as part of a temporary 90 day experiment during lunch hour from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M..

After 90 days Lindsay declared the “experimental” closure permanent.

The next year on April 22, 1970 the city closed some streets for the first Earth Day.

It’s one thing to shut down a narrow street in the financial district or some larger streets for a special occasion like Earth Day, it’s quite another to ban cars in the heart of New York’s shopping district.

Lindsay’s bigger plans came to fruition, also as an experiment, 44 years ago on Saturday, July 11, 1970. Lindsay closed vehicular traffic from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., on a fifteen block stretch on Fifth Avenue from 42nd through 57th Streets.

The day before the experiment Mayor Lindsay said, “New Yorker’s should enjoy the most beautiful and exciting street when it becomes a pedestrian mall.”

This would also be different because the merchants along Fifth Avenue were not enamored with the idea. It was the first concerted effort by city officials to see the impact of a traffic closure on a major New York City street and observe the effects on noise, air quality and more importantly, quality of life. Continue reading

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This Is What Riding The Third Avenue Elevated Was Like In 1950

A Train Ride New Yorker’s Will Never Experience Again

This is a portrait of a vanished New York unlike any other ever captured on film.

This ten minute impressionistic documentary film Third Avenue El (1950) is occasionally shown on Turner Classic Movies. If you love old New York City and have never seen the film, I strongly recommend you watch it (below).

On all levels this is a magnificent film and I’m so grateful that writer/director Carson Davidson preserved so many aspects of mid-century New York, all in glorious color.

Service on the Third Ave. El ended in 1955 and the tracks were soon torn down, forever altering  the streets of New York.

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1942 Brooklyn Suicide Attempt

Edna Egbert About To Get Pushed Off A Ledge By The Police

Edna Egbert suicide attempt Brooklyn 497 Dean Street March 19 1942

The caption for this International News Photo reads:

Three Cops and A Woman In Life and Death Drama

New York – Four of the five principal characters in today’s (March 19) life or death drama staged in a Brooklyn residential district. Mrs. Edna Egbert, 50, is shown on the 2nd story ledge of her apartment while three policemen flank her trying to talk her out of her threat to jump in a suicide attempt. Failing to dissuade the woman, the policemen pushed her from the ledge– into a large emergency net that had been rigged below. The fifth hero in this drama is the first policeman on the scene, who kept Mrs. Egbert on her ledge for 25 minutes while the net was being rigged. (credit: International News Photo 3-19-42)

What the slug does not mention is what caused Mrs. Edna M. Egbert such distress.

In the past year Mrs. Egbert’s son Fred had gotten married, joined the army and had not written to her once in that time, so she presumed he was dead.

Mrs Egbert climbed onto a window ledge at her home at 497 Dean St., Brooklyn and screamed: “I’m going to jump.”

If you’re wondering, as I was, how you could kill yourself from only the second floor, to either side of Ms. Egbert was a spiky iron fence that could have easily impaled her.

While a crowd gathered on the street, one patrolman talked to Mrs. Egbert from the street while others rigged a net. As officers Ed Murphy and George Munday tried to persuade her to come back in to the building, she brandished a mirror and started swinging it at them.

Edna Egbert suicide attempt Brooklyn 497 Dean Street March 19 1942 NY Post

The police grabbed her arms and she proceeded to sit on the ledge. That is when they quickly pushed her into the net. The estimated 600 onlookers quickly dispersed and Mrs. Egbert was taken to Bellevue for observation.

According to census records, Mrs. Egbert was either 42 or 44-years-old, not 50 as noted in every article about this story. Her husband John Egbert was 64 and their wayward son Fred was 20.

Edna Egbert suicide attempt Brooklyn 497 Dean Street March 19 1942 now and then Photo Marc Hermann NY Daily News

Original b&w photo: Charles Payne NY Daily News

The Daily News featured another photograph from this event in a great photo essay entitled Then and Now, which mixes original crime scene photographs with modern images taken by Marc Hermann.

Whatever became of Mrs. Egbert and her non-writing son Fred is unknown.

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Classic Hollywood #32

Busby Berkeley and Joe E. Brown Check Out A Stripper – 1935

(l-r) Busby Berkeley Esther Burke Joe E Brown

(l-r) Busby Berkeley, Esther Burke, Joe E Brown

Stripper may not be the word for what Esther Burke did. But in the 1930′s it was close to it.

The women in the background are portraying burlesque performers and were part of the chorus of the 1935 Busby Berkeley comedy Bright Lights starring Joe E. Brown, Ann Dvorak, Patricia Ellis and William Demarest.

The caption to the publicity photo reads:

Esther Burke, burlesque queen is all ready to contribute her talents to the opening chapters of “Broadway Joe”, Joe E. Brown’s latest starring vehicle for Warner Bros., with Joe playing a comic with a burlesque troupe. (credit: International News Photo June 8, 1935)

Esther Burke was uncredited in the film, yet was featured singing a song, Powder My Back. Very little information could be found on her, except that she was indeed a burlesque performer during the 1920′s and 1930′s.

Director Busby Berkeley created some of the great images of the silver screen with overhead shots of intricate dance numbers featuring chorus girls.

Joe E. Brown is immortal for saying one of the greatest closing lines in movie history in Billy Wilder’s, Some Like It Hot (1959).

Warning: spoiler to follow if you have never seen the movie -

Jack Lemmon, who plays Daphne, a man masquerading as a woman, informs Brown’s character millionaire Osgood Fielding III, several reasons why they cannot marry, Brown is unperturbed.

Exasperated, Lemmon finally confesses he is a man to which Brown responds “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

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Great Baseball Nicknames – Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones

Willie “Puddin Head” Jones Safe At The Plate 1949

Willie Puddin Head Jones Joe Garagiola 1949

Did anyone ever call “Puddin’ Head” Jones, Willie? Jones even signed his baseball card with his nickname.

1959 Topps Puddin' Head Jones baseball card

1959 Topps Puddin’ Head Jones baseball card

“Puddin’ Head” Jones, had a lifetime .258  batting average with 190 career home runs and 812 RBI’s. Known for his defensive prowess around the hot corner, “Puddin’ Head” played most of his fifteen seasons in the majors as the starting third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1947-1959.

“Puddin’ Head” was traded by the Phillies to Cleveland for a short eleven game stint and was then sold to the Cincinnati Reds for the remainder of the 1959 season. He remained there until he was released in 1961 at the age of 35.

“Puddin’ Head’s” best offensive output was during the Phillies 1950 pennant winning season in which he batted .267 with 25 home runs and 88 RBI’s with 100 runs scored.

So just how did “Puddin’ Head” get his unique nickname? He received it as a child after a song that was popular in the 1930′s called Wooden Head, Puddin’ Head Jones.

In the action photograph shown above, “Puddin’ Head” Jones is safe at home plate as Cardinals catcher Joe Garagiola awaits the throw.

Here is the original caption:

July 16, 1949 – Philadelphia Phillies – St. Louis baseball. Willie Jones of Phils safe at home in third inning. Del Ennis hit to third baseman Kazak  of Cards who threw him out at first. First sackman Nelson of the Cards then threw home to Garagiola (catcher) but it was too late. Jones was safe (credit  ACME Telephoto)

“Puddin’ Head” Jones died from cancer of the lymph glands at the age of 58 in Cincinnati, OH on October 18, 1983.

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The Craigslist Of Its Day – 1906

New York Times Lost And Found Simultaneous Classified Ads, Results In Diamond Brooch Being  Returned To Its Owner

diamond broochIf you look at old editions of newspapers from around the turn of the century you’ll notice the classified advertisements made up sometimes up to one quarter of the paper.

A typical weekday edition of the New York Times back then was only around twelve pages.

As such, people read newspapers from cover to cover and the classified’s acted as the craigslist of their day with all sorts of wanted ads: jobs and situations wanted, real estate and merchandise offerings and lost and found’s.

This story appeared in the January 26, 1906 New York Times:


The Finder Took Mrs. Morgan’s Reward and Both Are Satisfied

Mrs. D.P. Morgan of 70 Park Avenue lost a jewel in a car on Sunday. She inserted the following advertisement in THE TIMES of Friday:

LOST- Sunday, Jan. 21, on 4th Av. car entered at 38th St, or in 47th St., between 4th and 6th Avs., circular brooch, size of a nickel, of 13 diamonds. If returned to 70 Park Av. $40 reward.

The same day this advertisement was brought to THE TIMES:

FOUND – In Madison Av. car, Sunday, one 13-stone diamond brooch, which will be, upon proper identification, returned to its owner for the reward of $100: make arrangements to receive same C.O.D. by express. T.X. Box 305 Times Square.

As the result of the publication of both advertisements “T.X.” has returned the jewel. He received the $40 reward and in addition the cost of his own advertisement in THE TIMES, and he is content. Mrs. Morgan is equally pleased.

“It is the first time that this brooch has been so speedily found,” said Mrs. Morgan yesterday. “It has been lost twice already . Perhaps because it had thirteen stones. I think I will either leave it at home in future or have a stone added or removed.”

Probably the most amazing thing about this article is that Mrs. Morgan lost the brooch twice previously and it was returned each time. She sounds rather cavalier about it, as if it is expected that if you lose something valuable in New York City, of course it will be returned to the rightful owner. Maybe the city was once like that, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen today.

The second part of Mrs. Morgan’s solution to not losing the brooch in the future is also quite bizarre or extremely superstitious. How altering the brooch from thirteen diamonds to an even number of diamonds will prevent its future loss is baffling, as it is illogical.

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The 1904 General Slocum Disaster Had Survivors That Lived Into The 21st Century

Catherine Connelly & Adella Wotherspoon, General Slocum Survivors, Lived To Ages 109 & 100

The Story of The General Slocum Steamship Disaster

General Slocum Disaster

June 15, 2014 marks the 110th anniversary of what had been New York’s biggest disaster and loss of life until the September 11 attacks occurred. We think it is worth remembering the ill-fated General Slocum steamship fire. Here is the story of the General Slocum and  a brief summary of the lives of the last two survivors of the disaster who amazingly lived into the 21st century.

A Beautiful Day For A Picnic

“Kleindeutchland,” as the area of Little Germany was called on the lower east side, was bounded approximately by the East River and Third Avenue and stretched from Houston Street to about 23rd Street. It was a working class, close-knit community of laborers and business owners. The German families that lived in this neighborhood made Tompkins Square Park their center for congregating and relaxation. But for special occasions they would embark on a trip to get out of the city.

Wednesday, June 15, 1904 was a sunny day and the members of the Sunday School of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 323 E. 6th Street were looking forward to a day filled with games, music and a large picnic for their 17th annual excursion to bucolic Locust Grove, Long Island.

To get there, the church had chartered a steamship built in 1891, the three decked white paddle-wheeler, General Slocum.

Sudden Disaster

New York Tribune  June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

New York Tribune June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

The General Slocum was filled with around 1,400 passengers, mostly women and children as the men generally had to work on a weekday. The Slocum headed out from its berth at 3rd Street on the East River at about 9:30 am with a band playing and the passengers joyously celebrating the smooth ride and beautiful weather.

Thirty minutes after setting out, the ship caught fire Continue reading

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Did Two Sections In A Book Store Ever Go Along Better?

As Seen In Housing Works Bookstore Cafe on Crosby Street

Housing Works book cafe politics section

Whoever sets up the sections at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe on Crosby Street deserves a pat on the back for coming up with the shelving combination of Politics with True Crime.

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The Top 10 Rude & Annoying Things People Do In New York City

Distracting Devices, Double Parked Trucks And Too Much Perfume

There are hundreds of things that are daily annoyances in New York. But to live in New York you have to be impervious to many of them. Bad behavior is avoidable, but many New Yorker’s think they are above everyone else and the rules of civility or the law do not apply to them.

Obviously the sort of behaviors described below are not confined to New York City, but seem to flourish here. Here are my top 10 stupid/rude/self-centered actions that get my blood pressure rising.

Tell me you haven't seen this on the streets of New York?

Tell me you haven’t seen this on the streets of New York?

1 – People Who Walk Around With Those Giant Golf Umbrellas (a.k.a the inconsiderate bastard umbrella)

Okay its raining, you don’t have to cover an area the size of Missouri with your ginormous umbrella which is more appropriate for the beach rather than city streets.

They are called golf umbrellas and unless you are playing a round at Augusta, they are too big for the city. EVERY time you pass a person with one of these monstrosities they always  bump into your umbrella or nearly take out an eye. The people carrying them are unapologetic dunderheads.

2 – Women Who Douse Themselves In Perfume

Your perfume is worse than a fart

Perfume is worse than farting

Let’s get one thing straight: 99 out of 100 people do not need perfume.

This is not 1789 Louis XVI France where people never bathe or modern France where they bathe twice per year.

Of course some women aspire to smell like strippers, but unless you are going for the pole-dancer scent you don’t need perfume or cologne to make you smell decent. Regular showering and soap use is quite enough.

If you are putting on more than the tiniest amount of perfume we can smell you and let me tell you – you STINK! No one else is going to tell you, so I will. You could kill an army with the amount of perfume you’re wearing and you don’t even realize it.

In a subway, bus, elevator, restaurant or other enclosed place you, Ms. Valentine Valentina Assoluto wearer, are more offensive than the stinkiest gas emission from your arse.

So let me reiterate- perfume is not sexy and no one likes your god-awful perfume except you. So stop wearing so much of it. By the way, this goes for men too.

3 – Those Who Text While Crossing the Street

texting while crossing streetNew York City recently started a campaign where they have painted the word “L O O K” in big bold white letters on the ground at major intersections. Continue reading

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Old New York In Photos #38

Fifth Avenue Looking North From 44th Street 1923

Fifth Ave north from 44th st 1923

There is a lot of activity in this photograph taken in 1923 showing Fifth Avenue looking north from 44th Street.

No traffic signals impede the two way traffic which runs on the avenue. A Fifth Avenue double-deck bus is heading northbound packed with passengers. Pedestrians walk along on the avenue while deliveries are being made from trucks, like the one in the lower center of the photograph.

Among the buildings seen are H. Jaeckel and Sons Furriers which occupied the west side corner of Fifth Avenue at 45th street and further in the distance at 48th street is the spire of the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Saint Nicholas. The church was designed by architect Wheeler Smith and was built from 1869-1872. Theodore Roosevelt and his family occupied pew number number 39. The church was demolished in 1949 and the land was leased to Rockefeller Center.

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