Tag Archives: First Avenue

Old New York In Photos #87 – East 69th Street 1931

69th Street Looking East From First Avenue – 1931

This is an ordinary view of an ordinary street, East 69th Street taken on April 4, 1931 from the northeast corner of First Avenue. But even though it is ordinary, there is a lot to notice.

Still under construction at the end of 69th Street and York Avenue are the art deco inspired buildings of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College. The hospital began construction in 1929 and was opened in September 1932. What had previously been the site of the Central Brewing Company and some row houses, became the home of buildings that housed New York Hospital, Cornell University Medical College, New York Hospital School of Nursing, and the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

On the right side of 69th street is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Siena. The church had been located there since 1897 and was soon to be demolished. The congregation moved to a new building on East 68th Street in 1932.

Even with the paucity of pedestrians and traffic on 69th Street, there is activity near the church. Continue reading

The Myth of Congestion Pricing – A Plan To Tax and Punish Car Drivers

New York City and State Are Getting Ready To Implement Congestion Pricing – Which Doesn’t Solve The Underlying Issues And Imposes A Regressive Tax That Punishes All But The Very Wealthy

Second Avenue 3 pm – What’s causing the traffic? It’s not the cars.

What I’m about to say will not be popular because most readers do not own a car and live in Manhattan. But if you disagree, don’t bother to write back because you can’t convince me and I probably can’t convince you.

There is a war on cars and their drivers in New York City. And the city’s solution in this war is congestion pricing, which is not the answer.

A preface- I bicycle a minimum of 50 miles a week on city streets. I walk at least another five miles and take public transportation whenever possible. But I also own a car. Why car owners are despised and have scorn heaped upon them I’ve yet to understand. Maybe because so many drivers are dangerous and don’t actually know the proper way to drive. Seeing someone speeding up to a red light is just one of my pet peeves.

It doesn’t take a car driver to notice that in New York City, especially in Manhattan, traffic is moving slower than ever.

Over the last eight years traffic’s gotten progressively worse. At first glance you might say; well there are just too many cars and why should people be driving into Manhattan? Let those who drive in Manhattan pay for the privilege.

There are several things wrong with that logic. Let’s start with the most basic problem.

The city, not the vehicles have purposely made traffic worse.

If you think that this was an unintended consequence think again.

What is causing the actual horrific bumper to bumper traffic? Guess what, it is definitely not passenger automobiles. I long suspected this and now I had to go out and prove it. Continue reading

Second Avenue Elevated, 100 Years Ago

A View Of The Second Avenue El From 14th Street

Second Avenue El from First Ave 14th Street Station Jan 13 1915The Second Avenue Elevated (El for short) was one of four elevated train lines that ran in Manhattan. This photo was taken 100 years ago today on Wednesday, January 13, 1915, and shows the view looking north from the 14th street station and First Avenue. That is correct, the Second Avenue El ran on First Avenue up until it turned west on 23rd Street to continue north on Second Avenue.

Enlarging the photo, at track level we can see the next station at 19th Street. At street level there is little activity, with a few people going about their errands. We see on the left side of the street a wall advertisement for Mecca Cigarettes and on the right side of the street on the second floor, a pawn shop window advertisement saying they’ve been “here since 1880” and a warning to any criminals that they have Holmes Electrical Protection (inventors of the modern burglar alarm).

The Els in Manhattan were discontinued over a 17 year period. The first to shut down was the Sixth Avenue El in 1938, followed by the Ninth Avenue El in 1940 and the Second Avenue El in 1942. The Third Avenue El ceased service in 1955 (the Bronx part of the Third Avenue line continued running until 1973), bringing a close to the era of Manhattan elevated trains.

Book Review – Yorkville Twins

Twins Grow Up In An Exciting, Post-WWII New York City

Yorkville twins coverIf there were more books like Yorkville Twins we would have a clearer picture and better understanding of what it was like for the everyday existence of ordinary people living in Manhattan in post-war New York City. Twins Joseph G. Gindele and John F. Gindele, weave funny, touching and poignant stories of growing up in Yorkville on the upper east side of Manhattan from 1944-1962 with their three siblings and immigrant parents.

Unlike many New York memoirs written by famous or infamous personages who lay their memories of privileged upbringings or Dickensian struggles in print, the Gindele’s recount the daily experiences of middle class family life in a New York that has now largely vanished. This is the New York of cobblestone paved streets where the milkman and the iceman made deliveries with horse drawn wagons. Pushcarts sold vegetables and kids played with erector and chemistry sets and took the time to cut out the backs of cereal boxes and  redeem them in the mail for prizes. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #31

The Garbage Strike of 1911

boys chase garbage carts Nov 13 1911

This photograph shows First Avenue and 50th street looking north. A policeman is running after boys who were harassing and chasing a garbage truck (to the left of the trolley) driven by a strike-breaker (now what would be termed a scab) in November 1911.

On November 8, 1911 New York City’s garbage collector’s went on strike demanding better working conditions. The ashcart men did not like working at night when seeing dangerous items deposited in the trash and obstacles on the street was difficult, so they wanted to work only during the daylight hours when it was warmer and safer. Another complaint the union lodged was having only one man to lift trash cans that sometimes weighed over 200 pounds.

City officials were irate and refused to give in. Earlier in July during a smaller garbage strike, Mayor William Jay Gaynor warned that every worker who did not report to work would be fired. Continue reading

Permanent Street Signs in New York

Looking Above Street Level

There is nothing extraordinary about 1113 First Avenue, the building at the northwest corner of 61st Street and First Avenue. A late 19th century five story walk-up building with a restaurant at ground level. But if you look up to the corner between the second and third floors you will see the street name etched in stone and attached to the building, circled in red in the photo above.

The rectilinear street grid layout imposed upon Manhattan at the beginning of the nineteenth century assured the builder of this building that it would be located at 61st street and First Avenue seemingly forever.

Before the twentieth century street signs were not at every corner. There were in fact few street signs in New York and they were usually at major intersections or the nicer parts of town.  Continue reading

Under First Avenue

Beneath the Pavement

1st Avenue and 61st Street – August 11, 2010

Cobblestone streets.

Every so often New York scrapes away its layers and you can get a glimpse into the past. There was a time when many of New York City’s streets were paved with what are popularly called cobblestones, but in actuality is Belgian Block.

Last summer, the city repaved a twelve block section of First Avenue and huge swaths of Belgian Block were uncovered for a few days by the road milling machine. These vestiges of the past could be seen for the first time in decades.  Within a week, they were covered again.

For the short time they were exposed, late at night, if you listened very hard, I bet you could hear the horses hoofbeats.

New York City MTA’s Select Bus Service – A Decent Idea, Poorly Executed

SBS Should Stand for Stupid Bus System

It has been several months since the Metropolitan Transit Authority replaced Limited Stop Bus Service on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan with Select Bus Service to speed up trips.

Having used it for most weekdays since its inception in October 2010 I’m ready to offer a judgment – it still needs a lot of improvements.

Now remember, this is the MTA. This is the organization that cannot determine if it has a deficit or a surplus in a year.  They are the organization that has announcements on the subways that say, “Thank you for riding with MTA New York City Transit!” As if we have any choice but to use this bureaucratic monopoly. If they were a business entity they would be out of business or the board members would have all been fired.

So I should not expect the MTA to do much right, but foolishly I believe they will figure out the shortcomings of the SBS system by observation or complaints and make adjustments.

Apparently they will not.

Narrow Aisles

First the buses themselves.  The bus aisles were designed by a groper. The aisles are so narrow that two people cannot pass each other without rubbing into one another.  Either that or Nova Bus, a subsidiary of Volvo, hired Japanese transit designers.  From what I’ve seen of the Japanese transit system they pack them in like sardines and actually have “pushers” to  squeeze everyone into the trains (if someone did this to me I’d freak out.)

The articulated buses can supposedly hold 60 passengers. Providing that they are under 120 pounds each.

Don’t Yell Fire in Here

The buses get so crowded that I have seen people actually Continue reading