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The Insider's Connection

Architecture

Jane Jacobs and the Future of Architecture and City Planning

What influences the character and development of a New York City neighborhood? Who decides which voices are heard in the face of urban renewal and expansion? How did one woman’s love for New York City empower communities and shift the future of architecture and city planning? After a costly war and an economic collapse, mid-20th…

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April 30, 2021

The Disappearing and Reappearing Lenin Statue

Whose decisions impact New York City’s skyline? Does a recognizable statue at the intersection of art, politics, and architecture change meaning when moved from its intended location? What story does your building tell? In the 1980s, the USSR commissioned a statue of Russian dictator Vladmir Lenin. The statue was meant to be a tribute to…

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January 6, 2020

The Birth and Purpose of Rutherford Place

 Does your house or apartment building tell a story? Who was in it before you? Do you ever imagine the conversations, conflicts, and transformations that have happened in the place where you live? What conversations are happening now, and what has changed? No two of the 127 upscale apartments at 305 Second Avenue are the same. There are 3 quadruplexes, 66 triplexes, 50 duplexes, and 8 simplexes, each with unique layouts, ceilings ranging from 7-19 feet tall, and stunning views of Stuyvesant Square. 305 2nd Avenue, also known as Rutherford Place, is one of the most expensive addresses in its area. But the several A-list celebrities that have called this building home are the least interesting aspect of its story. The 10-story building was completed in 1901, a philanthropic gift to New York City from J.P. Morgan. Though the building’s…

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November 18, 2019

The Marble Palace in Lower Manhattan

How can one man’s investment in lace and fringe for women’s clothing revolutionize an entire industry? Where did New York City’s reputation as an epicenter for shopping and commerce begin? What is the unlikely building in Downtown Manhattan that tells us this story? Alexander Turney Stewart was a young immigrant in New York City when…

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November 12, 2019

The “Brightest” Subway Station – 49th Street

Do you ever notice something aesthetically unusual in New York and wonder about its history? Thousands of commuters pass through the bright orange, open, columnless 49th Street subway station at 7th avenue every day and likely notice – it looks nothing like NYC’s other stations! How did this happen? In the 1970s, the MTA was expanding and funding the enhancement of existing stations that needed an upgrade. The architectural trends at the time were about clean lines, bold colors, and unobstructed spaces and when architect Philip Johnson was commissioned to spearhead the $2.5 million renovation of the 49th Street subway station, he had “cheer” in mind. This is the theater district, and the subway, he thought, was ready for some zest and color. The 49th Street station previously looked similar to most others in New York City – white tiling…

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November 5, 2019

Brooklyn’s Abolitionists on Duffield Street

Can gentrification change–and even erase–history? What kinds of buildings mobilize a community to dispute a city’s attempts at eminent domain? What stories do New York’s streets tell, and who controls those stories? The Fugitive Slave Act had just passed when Harriet and Thomas Truesdell moved into 227 Duffield Street in 1850. This set of laws, passed as an attempt to stop southern secession, incentivized citizens to assist authorities in capturing runaway slaves. It denied runaway slaves the right to trial by jury, and punished free citizens who attempted to aid in their escapes. But stronger restriction was met with stronger resistance. The Underground Railroad–a network of people and safe houses that assisted runaway slaves in their escapes to Northern states and Canada-reached its peak in the 1850s. It was getting increasingly difficult to be an abolitionist, but some of Brooklyn’s…

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September 16, 2019

The Dakota: Fame and Survival in New York City

How does a building get famous? How do a building’s residents shape its history? What would the Upper West Side be like without The Dakota? Over the past 135 years, The Dakota building has maintained its complicated place in the spotlight. It was built on the Upper West Side when the area was farmland; scandalously far north (and west) from everything else at the time. Some critics suggested the building would fail; it was so remote it may as well be in ‘Dakota territory,’ which is the rumored reason for its unique name. It anchored the subsequent residential book on Central Park West, it survived three financial crashes and drastic neighborhood reconstructing, and it’s been home to famous artists, thinkers, and Bohemians for decades. In some ways, Manhattan’s Upper West Side has been built around The Dakota. No matter what…

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August 26, 2019

Chelsea’s Limelight Building–the Church? the Nightclub? the Gym?

 The northeast corner of 6th Avenue and West 20th has looked nearly the same since 1844. The building’s facade, a striking asymmetrical church, was designed by Richard Upjohn when the neighborhood was home to Manhattan’s wealthiest families. Though its Gothic revival-style exterior has hardly changed in 175 years, the stories of this Chelsea corner reveal the city’s secrets and its tendency to keep changing. On this corner 150 years ago, you’d run into Cornelius Vanderbilt or John Jacob Astor coming out of the Church of the Holy Communion, the original congregation here. On this corner 30 years ago, there’d be thousands of Club Kids in lines around the block, and you might catch a glimpse of 50 Cent, Cyndi Lauper, or the Beastie Boys getting ready to perform. On this corner today, who do you see? What story are you…

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August 19, 2019

The Secret Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge: Emily Roebling

Who are the hidden women behind some of the iconic structures of New York? Who was the secret engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge? How many people–of the hundreds on the bridge at any moment on a summer afternoon–know the name Emily Warren Roebling? Every day, more than 150,000 commuters rely on the Brooklyn Bridge for…

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July 29, 2019

Bridging the Gap in Community & Business: The Williamsburg Bridge

As the 19th century came to a close, city planners in New York faced a big question: how can disparate neighborhoods in a sprawling metropolis be integrated into one accessible, cohesive New York City? In the face of rapid technological innovation and population growth, sustainable integration was urgent. The Williamsburg Bridge is an iconic example of building for–and then with–New Yorkers. At the time, multiple transit systems were spread throughout New York City, making public transportation complicated. To come into Manhattan from Williamsburg via trolley, commuters would pass through an underground terminal on the edge of the East River, and then connect to buses and trains that would take them into different neighborhoods. Today, the trolley station lay empty and abandoned under Delancey Street–as it has been since 1948– as local artists and engineers submit proposals for how to best…

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May 6, 2019

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