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The Insider's Connection

Central Park West

Seneca Village: New York’s First Black Property Owning Community

Whose perspectives represent a city’s story? Who gets to shape the public perception and legacy of a city’s communities? Which voices are left out when land, architecture, and public space are changed by the government? In 1824, the odds were stacked against the formation of free black communities in New York City. New York finally abolished slavery in 1827 (one of the last northern states to do so) but free black New Yorkers would still face systemic barriers that made social advancement nearly impossible.  Even after free black men could get jobs and own property here, they were barred from most skill-based trades. They couldn’t vote unless they had over $250 worth of property, which very few did. Black institutions were attacked constantly, and fugitive slaves were vulnerable to capture. Most of New York City’s population was settled downtown.  Meanwhile,…

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December 4, 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

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