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kottke.org posts about NYC

Poem from 1943 complaining about poor street sign typography in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2016

Nyc Type Poem

In 1943, artist and poet Gelett Burgess wrote a poem to New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia complaining of the poor typography on some of the city’s street signs. La Guardia wrote back, also in verse. (via @john_overholt)

RIP Bill Cunningham

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2016

Bill Cunningham

Sad news from the NY Times: legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham has died today at the age of 87.

In his nearly 40 years working for The Times, Mr. Cunningham operated both as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist, one who used the changing dress habits of the people he photographed to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more diffuse and individualistic.

At the Pierre hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he pointed his camera at tweed-wearing blue-blood New Yorkers with names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Downtown, by the piers, he clicked away at crop-top wearing Voguers. Up in Harlem, he jumped off his bicycle — he rode more than 30 over the years, replacing one after another as they were wrecked or stolen — for B-boys in low-slung jeans.

I saw Cunningham out on the streets of NYC twice and both times chills ran up my back watching a master at work. Unless Cunningham had something in the can before he died, it looks as though the last of his On the Street features is about black and white fashion. Tonight might be a good time to watch the documentary Bill Cunningham New York — it’s available on Amazon (free with Prime).

Misplaced New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2016

Misplaced NYC

Misplaced NYC

The Misplaced Series removes notable New York buildings from their surroundings and “misplaces” them in desolate landscapes around the world. Concrete behemoths and steel-and-glass towers rise from sand dunes and rocky cliffs, inviting viewers to see them as if for the first time. Out of context, architectural forms become more pronounced and easily understood.

See all 10 buildings in their new surroundings at Misplaced New York.

How NYC gets its water

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2016

NYC water tastes amazing. Better than bottled. Where does the city get such great water from?

The Catskill/Delaware watershed, which extends 125 miles northwest of the city, provides more than 90 percent of the city’s supply. The rest comes from the Croton watershed.

Nyc Water Aqueduct

It can take 12 weeks to a year for water to wind its way to the city from the streams, tunnels, dams and reservoirs in the Catskills. All of it is delivered to the city by gravity alone.

“Gravity’s an important friend of ours,” said Mr. Rush, the deputy commissioner, explaining that it “works nonstop” and is “energy efficient.”

Whoa, I had no idea the aqueduct tunneled 1000 feet under the Hudson River. Water systems have been in the news lately, both in Flint, MI and here in NYC, where Mayor de Blasio postponed work on Water Tunnel #3 and then, a day later, responding to public concern over the postponement, announced that he was going to accelerate the work on Tunnel #3.

See also David Grann’s classic 2003 New Yorker piece about the NYC water system, City of Water.

The author accompanied a group of sandhogs and nine cases of dynamite six hundred feet down a shaft leading to a segment of the tunnel that lies below Tenth Ave. and 13th St. New York’s invisible underground empire goes as deep as the Chrysler building is high. Tunnel No. 3 has been under construction since 1969; it will extend sixty miles, from the reservoir in Yonkers to the end of Manhattan, with various redundant loops.

The Old New World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2016

Alexey Zakharov gathered old photos of New York, Washington D.C. and other American cities from Shorpy and animated them into something wonderful. There’s a cheesy steampunk time machine at the beginning…push through that to the good stuff. (via @pshoplifter)

Tracking Time

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2016

Camilo Jose Vergara’s Tracking Time project is a collection of photos of locations around the US (LA, Harlem, Detroit, South Bronx) photographed repeatedly over the years, from the 70s to the present day. For instance, here’s how 65 East 125th St in Harlem looked in 1978:

Tracking Time 01

In 1998:

Tracking Time 02

And in 2015:

Tracking Time 03

As Stewart Brand noted, Vergara’s project is a perfect illustration of How Buildings Learn.

Update: I can’t stop looking at these. Check out Fern St. in Camden, New at Newark Sts. in Newark, Paired Houses in Camden, and 6003 Compton Ave. in LA.

After civilization collapses, plants will take over NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2016

In this short film, Manhattan becomes Mannahatta again, as the plants take over when the humans leave the city. The early part of the film, before the twist, has a This Is Legend vibe, but it also reminds me of a book I read with my kids, The Curious Garden, about a High Line-like elevated park that spreads across an industrial city. (via colossal)

The 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2016

In this 25-minute film, director Amanda Murray profiles The 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair through rare color film footage and talking to people who attended.

A modernist, techno-utopia landed in New York in 1939, rocketing kids from the Depression into ‘The World of Tomorrow.’

I had to stop myself from falling down a major research rabbit hole here, but just one of the tidbits I ran across was the IND World’s Fair Line, an NYC subway line built especially for the fair. (via @jcormier)

How to dumpster dive in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2016

Jeff Seal digs through garbage bags outside of NYC grocery stores, delis, bakeries, and supermarkets to find perfectly good food that’s been thrown out.

Classic NYC street photos, from the 1930s and now

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2016

Berenice Abbott, Then and Now

The WSJ dispatched Matthew Riva to re-shoot classic NYC street scenes first captured by Berenice Abbott in the 1930s.

A walk down Broadway

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2016

Yesterday, in need of a chance to think, inspired by a friend’s recent long run, and in celebration of no longer being sick (mostly), I took the A train up to the last stop at 207th St, got out, and started walking down Broadway. Some observations:

When we first moved to NYC in late 2002, Meg and I did an “urban bushwhack” in Manhattan, very much like the one described here. We hiked around upper Manhattan for 15 miles — the heel on my right foot hurt for months afterwards — but it remains one of the best activities I’ve ever done in the city.

Broadway is the oldest north/south road in NYC. It was originally a Native American trail called Wickquasgeck. Today, even though it runs the length of the island, I’m not sure it’s in any way representative of Manhattan or NYC as a whole. As a main thoroughfare, it’s mostly businesses; there’s very little in the way of residential.

I walked past approximately 50,000 nail salons, most of them north of 125th St. Also a lot of tax prep places up there, although I don’t know if that’s seasonal or what.

I totally forgot to jog over a couple of blocks in the 140s to see the house from The Royal Tenenbaums and Alexander Hamilton’s house. :(

Times Square was the worst stretch of Broadway by a wide margin.

The weather was nice and for a stretch in the 120s, 130s, and 140s, people were out sitting on the sidewalks, eating, playing dominos, shooting the shit. I passed a group of guys talking about the Bulls/Knicks rivalry from the late 80s and early 90s, about whether Scottie Pippen was actually a good player.

The increasing number of chain stores and restaurants as you travel south is striking. Relatively speaking, Manhattan below 86th St. is all chains.

I ended up stopping at Houston…my legs were getting kinda sore and I didn’t want to push my luck. I walked home from there, which as I look at the map now, turns out to be about the same distance as if I would have walked the rest of the way down Broadway. Oh well. Perhaps next time. 200+ blocks and about 10.7 miles total.

Visual survey of NYC’s disposable coffee cups

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2016

Coffee Cups

Gear Patrol collected a number of coffee cups from coffee shops around NYC. Prices for a small cup ranged from $1 to $4.50. I’m guessing the latter was not 4.5 times tastier than the former. (via @mccanner)

“Robert Moses Is A Racist Whatever”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2016

Christopher Robbins recently interviewed Robert Caro (author of The Power Broker, perhaps the best book ever written about New York) for Gothamist. The interview is interesting throughout. (I lightly edited the excerpts for clarity.)

Caro: If you’re publishing on the Internet, do you call them readers or viewers?

Robbins: Either, I think.

Caro: How do you know they’re reading it?

Robbins: There’s something called Chartbeat — it shows you how many people are reading a specific article in any given moment, and how long they spend on that article. That’s called “engagement time.” We have a giant flatscreen on the wall that displays it, a lot of publications do.

Caro: What you just said is the worst thing I ever heard. [Laughs]

That exchange makes a nice companion to Snapchat like the teens.

Caro: Moses came along with his incredible vision, and vision not in a good sense. It’s like how he built the bridges too low.

I remember his aide, Sid Shapiro, who I spent a lot of time getting to talk to me, he finally talked to me. And he had this quote that I’ve never forgotten. He said Moses didn’t want poor people, particularly poor people of color, to use Jones Beach, so they had legislation passed forbidding the use of buses on parkways.

Then he had this quote, and I can still hear him saying it to me. “Legislation can always be changed. It’s very hard to tear down a bridge once it’s up.” So he built 180 or 170 bridges too low for buses.

We used Jones Beach a lot, because I used to work the night shift for the first couple of years, so I’d sleep til 12 and then we’d go down and spend a lot of afternoons at the beach. It never occurred to me that there weren’t any black people at the beach.

So Ina and I went to the main parking lot, that huge 10,000-car lot. We stood there with steno pads, and we had three columns: Whites, Blacks, Others. And I still remember that first column — there were a few Others, and almost no Blacks. The Whites would be go on to the next page. I said, God, this is what Robert Moses did. This is how you can shape a metropolis for generations.

That’s something to remember the next time someone tries to rehabilitate Moses’ legacy. Not to mention this excerpt from The Power Broker:

Robert Moses had always displayed a genius for adorning his creations with little details that made them fit in with their setting, that made the people who used them feel at home in them. There was a little detail on the playhouse-comfort station in the Harlem section of Riverside Park that is found nowhere else in the park. The wrought-iron trellises of the park’s other playhouses and comfort stations are decorated with designs like curling waves.

The wrought-iron trellises of the Harlem playhouse-comfort station are decorated with monkeys.

And now I am filled with regret at never having read The Power Broker. I started it a couple times, but could never find the time to follow through. I wish it was available on the Kindle…a 1300-page paperback is not exactly handy to carry about and read. The unabridged audiobook is 66 hours long…and $72.

So long and thanks for all the free snacks

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2016

Today is my last day working out of the Buzzfeed office. The company is soon moving to new NYC digs, which seems like a good time for me to hop off. I was the company’s design advisor back when it started and have been working out of their offices since there were five of us holed up in a former Communist Party HQ we shared with several enthusiastic roach coworkers in Chinatown. It’s been a treat watching this ship rocket into the stratosphere from the inside.1 They’ve got offices all over the world now and are probably close to 1000 employees, perhaps more, most of whom had no idea why the guy sitting w/ the tech team surfed around on the web all day and never attended any meetings.

Anyway, so many thanks to Jonah and the rest of the crew there. And good luck!

  1. I should probably write a book.

Snowboarding on the streets of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2016

Just as he did a couple of years ago, Casey Neistat busted out his board yesterday and went snowboarding behind a 4WD Jeep in the blizzard covered streets of Manhattan. (thx, david)

A brief history of The Flatiron Building

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2016

Flatiron Building by Edward Steichen

A photo of NYC’s Flatiron Building, taken in 1904 by Edward Steichen.

Fun fact: the Flatiron Building was not so named because of its resemblance to a clothes iron. It was actually named after the building’s owner, Archibald W. Flatiron.

Ok, not really. But *puts on mansplaining suspenders* the part about the building not being named after its resemblance to an iron is true. It was the piece of land that was so-named, long before the building was even built. A man named Amos Eno owned the property and it became known as “Eno’s flatiron”. The canny Eno, knowing his property was conveniently located right next to Madison Square, erected a screen on top of the small building at the very tip of the triangle and made it available for motion picture advertising in the 1870s. From Alice Alexiou’s The Flatiron:

He set up a canvas screen on top of the Erie ticket office roof, and charged the enterprising owners of stereopticons or “magic lanterns” — these were the first slide projectors, invented about twenty years earlier and now extremely popular — to project advertisements upon the screen. Madison Square, just opposite, provided the perfect place for the spectators. To keep them interested, the operator alternated pictures with the ads, all in rapid succession. “Niagara Falls dissolves into a box of celebrated boot blacking, and the celebrated blacking is superseded by a jungle scene, which fades into an extraordinarily cheap suite of furniture,” wrote a reporter in Scribner’s Magazine in August 1880. Sometimes in the Young Men’s Christian Association paid to add their messages — “The blood of Christ cleanses all from sin,” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved” — to the mix. On balmy evenings, the slide displays lasted until as late as ten o’clock. Even in cold and nasty weather, the free shows drew crowds. The New York Times began using Eno’s screen for their news bulletins. The experiment drew huge crowds. “All the important events of the day were rapidly displayed in large letters… so that the public was at once informed of the news. From 7 o’clock until midnight the bulletins appeared in quick succession… The latest move in Erie, the Tweed trial, the hotel inspections, the doings of Congress… the messages being transmitted by telegraph from the Times office, as soon as received,” the Times reported on January 14, 1873. The New York Tribune now also began buying time on Eno’s screen. On election nights, Eno’s flatiron was now the nerve center of New York, as Democratic and Republican Party bigwigs held court across the street in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers filled Madison Square, where, staring at the screen, the waited eagerly for election returns.

Not to get all Victorian Internet on you, but that sounds a little like Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.

Eno was not the first to use such a system to disseminate information. Before baseball games were broadcast on the radio, enterprising business and newspaper owners used information from frequent telegraph messages to display scores from the games in increasingly engaging ways. In Georgia, they even cosplayed games from telegraph intel:

“A novel feature of the report was the actual running of the bases by uniformed boys, who obeyed the telegraph instrument in their moves around the diamond. Great interest prevailed and all enjoyed the report,” read the Atlanta Constitution on April 17, 1886. (And as if that wasn’t enough to entice you, the paper also noted that “A great many ladies were present.”)

Which brings us back to that photo of the Flatiron. Just as the telegraph-assisted baseball game wasn’t “the real thing” or in some sense “authentic”, neither is Steichen’s print. For starters, it’s not the only one. Steichen made three prints from that same shot, one in 1904, another in 1905, and the last in 1909, the one shown above. You’ll notice that each of the prints is a slightly different color…he applied a different pigment suspended in gum bichromate over a platinum print for each one. The 1909 print was time-delayed, a duplicate, and painted on…was it even a proper photograph? Perhaps some in that era didn’t think so, but I believe time has proved that “great interest prevailed and all enjoyed” Steichen’s photographs. *snaps suspenders*

What the NYC subway train saw

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2016

YouTube user DJ Hammers has been uploading videos of start-to-finish trips on NYC subway lines from the perspective of the operator at the front of the train. The realtime videos are interesting to watch, but the 10x time lapses are probably a better use of your attention. Here’s the time lapse of the Queens-bound 7 train (realtime version):

See also Slow TV.

How to make perfect soft-scrambled eggs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2016

I love watching Gordon Ramsay make scrambled eggs. I first saw this video years ago and, possibly because I am an idiot, have yet to attempt these eggs at home. You and me, eggs, next weekend.

P.S. Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes scrambled eggs in a very similar way. Not quite soft-scrambled…Serious Eats calls them fancy French spoonable eggs.

P.P.S. Anyone have a square Japanese omelette pan I can borrow?

P.P.P.S. In Jiro Dreams of Sushi (now on Netflix!), an apprentice talks about making tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) over 200 times before Jiro declared it good enough to serve in his restaurant.

That apprentice, Daisuke Nakazawa, is now the head chef at Sushi Nakazawa, one of the five NYC restaurants that currently has a four-star rating from the NY Times (along with the aforementioned Jean-Georges and not along with Per Se, which recently got dunce capped down to 2 stars by populist hero Pete Wells).

Massive data analysis of NYC Citi Bike data

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2016

Late last year, Todd Schneider did a big data analysis of taxi and Uber usage in NYC. This morning, he posted the results of a similar analysis for Citi Bike.

But unlike the taxi data, Citi Bike includes demographic information about its riders, namely gender, birth year, and subscriber status. At first glance that might not seem too revealing, but it turns out that it’s enough to uniquely identify many Citi Bike trips. If you know the following information about an individual Citi Bike trip:

1. The rider is an annual subscriber
2. Their gender
3. Their birth year
4. The station where they picked up a Citi Bike
5. The date and time they picked up the bike, rounded to the nearest hour

Then you can uniquely identify that individual trip 84% of the time! That means you can find out where and when the rider dropped off the bike, which might be sensitive information. Because men account for 77% of all subscriber trips, it’s even easier to uniquely identify rides by women: if we restrict to female riders, then 92% of trips can be uniquely identified.

An appreciation of Tekserve

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2016

Dwell has a short feature on Tekserve, a beloved Manhattan technology store and Apple service shop.

But think about that: you can walk in, take a ticket (like at the deli counter), and then talk to a live person, someone knowledgeable who will give you diagnostics right on the spot and provide you with options. We have a 30-year history of working with the Apple community, so we really know our stuff. Our community trusts us-that’s why we maintain an 80 percent repeat customer rate.

In November, after many stubborn months of using my Macbook Air as a desk-bound device because the battery was so bad that accidentally kicking out the power cord would shut the whole thing down,1 I took it in to Tekserve. I’d somehow never been there before, even though friends had raved about it. The store immediately reminded me of the computer stores of my youth, when you could actually tinker with the guts of these machines. Today’s technology shops, like the Apple Store, are so antiseptic that you barely even think about how the computers work, which I guess is part of the appeal for both company and patron.

Anyway, I took my laptop in there around midday on a Thursday, they quoted me a lower-than-I-expected price for the battery replacement, and told me it’d probably be read by the end of Friday or possibly, if they were super busy, by first thing Monday. I got an email about 3 hours later saying it was ready. Great service. If you need service on your Apple products — they are an “authorized Apple Premiere Partner” which means they honor warranties, AppleCare, etc. — you should definitely check Tekserve out.

  1. More like Macbook Ground, am I right? … Hello?

Pastrami on Rye

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2015

Pastrami On Rye

Pastrami on Rye is a full-length history of the NYC Jewish deli, written by Judaism scholar Ted Merwin. From a review in The Economist:

Jewish delicatessens may now be known for knishes, latkes and pastrami sandwiches, but back in their heyday, during the 1920s and 1930s in the theatre district in New York, they also served beluga caviar, pâté de foie gras and Chateaubriand steak. Jewish classics were gussied up and defiled: chopped chicken liver was served with truffles. Treyf, like oysters and pork chops, was eaten with abandon alongside kosher delicacies.

That reminds me…a trip to Katz’s is looooooong overdue.

Old film footage of NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2015

A collection of old film footage of NYC, taken between 1896 and 1905, along with maps and descriptions of the locations.

Massive data analysis of NYC taxi and Uber data

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2015

Todd Schneider used a couple publicly available data sets (NYC taxis, Uber) to explore various aspects of how New Yorkers move about the city. Some of the findings include the rise of Uber:

Let’s add Uber into the mix. I live in Brooklyn, and although I sometimes take taxis, an anecdotal review of my credit card statements suggests that I take about four times as many Ubers as I do taxis. It turns out I’m not alone: between June 2014 and June 2015, the number of Uber pickups in Brooklyn grew by 525%! As of June 2015, the most recent data available when I wrote this, Uber accounts for more than twice as many pickups in Brooklyn compared to yellow taxis, and is rapidly approaching the popularity of green taxis.

…the plausibility of Die Hard III’s taxi ride to stop a subway bombing:

In Die Hard: With a Vengeance, John McClane (Willis) and Zeus Carver (Jackson) have to make it from 72nd and Broadway to the Wall Street 2/3 subway station during morning rush hour in less than 30 minutes, or else a bomb will go off. They commandeer a taxi, drive it frantically through Central Park, tailgate an ambulance, and just barely make it in time (of course the bomb goes off anyway…). Thanks to the TLC’s publicly available data, we can finally address audience concerns about the realism of this sequence.

…where “bridge and tunnel” folks go for fun in Manhattan:

The most popular destinations for B&T trips are in Murray Hill, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Midtown.

…the growth of north Williamsburg nightlife:

Taxi Uber Data

…the privacy implications of releasing taxi data publicly:

For example, I don’t know who owns one of theses beautiful oceanfront homes on East Hampton’s exclusive Further Lane (exact address redacted to protect the innocent). But I do know the exact Brooklyn Heights location and time from which someone (not necessarily the owner) hailed a cab, rode 106.6 miles, and paid a $400 fare with a credit card, including a $110.50 tip.

as well as average travel times to the city’s airports, where investment bankers live, and how many people pay with cash vs. credit cards. Read the whole thing and if you want to play around with the data yourself, Schneider posted all of his scripts and knowhow on Github.

Update: Using summaries published by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, Schneider takes a look at how taxi usage in NYC is shrinking and how usage of Uber is growing.

This graph will continue to update as the TLC releases additional data, but at the time I wrote this in April 2016, the most recent data shows yellow taxis provided 60,000 fewer trips per day in January 2016 compared to one year earlier, while Uber provided 70,000 more trips per day over the same time horizon.

Although the Uber data only begins in 2015, if we zoom out to 2010, it’s even more apparent that yellow taxis are losing market share.

Lyft began reporting data in April 2015, and expanded aggressively throughout that summer, reaching a peak of 19,000 trips per day in December 2015. Over the following 6 weeks, though, Lyft usage tumbled back down to 11,000 trips per day as of January 2016 — a decline of over 40%.

How the Empire State Building was built

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2015

Here is one of the original architectural drawings done for the Empire State Building by William Lamb:

Empire State Building Drawing

Scott Christianson wrote a brief piece (taken from his new book 100 Documents That Changed the World: From the Magna Carta to Wikileaks) on how the building was designed and built. The whole thing happened incredibly fast: the first architectural contract was signed in September 1929 and after only 410 days of construction, the building was opened in May 1931.

Has your cool neighborhood stopped being cool? Or have you?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2015

Ada Calhoun, author of St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street, writes about the ever-changing neighborhoods in NYC.

I think there’s more to these “the city is dead now” complaints than money. People have pronounced St. Marks Place dead many times over the past centuries — when it became poor, and then again when it became rich, and then again when it returned to being poor, and so on. My theory is that the neighborhood hasn’t stopped being cool because it’s too expensive now; it stops being cool for each generation the second we stop feeling cool there. Any claim to objectivity is clouded by one’s former glory.

The Four Horsemen of Gentrification

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2015

From Zain Khalid at McSweeney’s, The Four Horsemen of Gentrification: Brine, Snark, Brunch, and Whole Foods. From the book of Millennials of the New Standard Greenpoint Bible, chapter 6, verse 1:

Then I saw when the Landlord broke one of the rent-controlled seals. I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Gentrify.” I looked, and behold, a green horse, and he who sat on it had a mason jar; and a fedora was his crown, and he went out pickling and to pickle.

Juiced

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2015

Katherine Rosman recently wrote an article for the NY Times called How Organic Avenue Lost All Its Juice about a small NYC-based chain of juice stores recently going out of business. The piece is also a quote gold mine reflecting the zeitgeist of contemporary Manhattan.

“I kind of freaked out,” she said. “I was distraught. I lost my yoga for a minute.”

There is an admitted emperor’s new clothes quality to paying $25 for a lunch of vegetable shavings and a smoothie made of Swiss chard, cashew milk and Himalayan salt.

You can’t build a long-term business off what Gwyneth Paltrow likes.

A lot of vegans I know are now making stews out of meat bones and dairy.

Everyone is talking about coal and charcoal.

Bleeeeeaauuuckk. See also your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit.

Update: Some locations are reopening, but shared this mainly for the headline: Organic Avenue Is the Jon Snow of Overpriced Juice Chains.

Vintage photos of NYC from the 50s to the 80s

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 04, 2015

I don’t know what is going on, but in the past few days, several sites have linked to rarely seen or recently uncovered photos of vintage New York. In no particular order:

Paige Powell’s photos of 80s culture in NYC, stored in boxes under her bed until very recently. She dated Basquiat and hung with Haring, Warhol, and Madonna. Below, Warhol and Grace Jones chat. Click through…there’s another photo of Sting, Bob Dylan, and Warhol having dinner together.

Paige Powell

David Attie’s photographs of Brooklyn Heights from 1958, stored in wooden boxes in closets until recently. Attie was accompanied on his journey through the neighborhood by Truman Capote, a resident of the area. The photos are featured in a new edition of Capote’s Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir.

David Attie

Charles Traub’s street style photos from the late 70s. He took the photos during his lunch breaks of everyday people he thought were interesting in some way. Traub’s photos are collected in a new book, Lunchtime.

Charles Traub

Janet Delaney’s photos of NYC in the mid-80s. These photos have also been stored in a box until recently. Delaney also took dozens of photographs of SoMa in SF from 1978-1986.

Janet Delaney

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

From Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols comes This Bridge Will Not Be Gray (at Amazon), a children’s book about how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be painted orange.

In this book, fellow bridge-lovers Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols tell the story of how it happened — how a bridge that some people wanted to be red and white, and some people wanted to be yellow and black, and most people wanted simply to be gray, instead became, thanks to the vision and stick-to-itiveness of a few peculiar architects, one of the most memorable man-made objects ever created.

The kids and I sat down with the book last week and they loved it. The pages on the design of the bridge prompted a discussion about Art Deco, with detours to Google Images to look at photos of the bridge,1 The Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. The next day, on the walk to school, we strolled past the Walker Tower, a 1929 building designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, one of the foremost architects of the 20th century. We were running a little early, so I stopped and asked the kids to take a look and think about what the building reminded them of. “Art Deco” came the reply almost immediately.

I’m really gonna miss reading to my kids — Ollie mostly reads by himself now and Minna is getting close — but I hope that we’re able to keep exploring the world through books together. NYC is a tough place to live sometimes, but being able to read about something in a book, even about a bridge in far-away San Francisco, and then go outside the next day to observe a prime example of what we were just reading is such a unique and wonderful experience.

  1. We also looked at several photos of the bridge under construction, including this one of a construction worker standing on some wires near one of the towers without much separating him and the water below. I’ve heard about this gentlemen from the kids several times since. Like, “remember that guy standing on the wires when the Golden Gate Bridge was being built? I bet he isn’t scared of spiders.”

Mapping the microdistricts of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

Manhattan is home to many small clusters of businesses around a common theme. For example, the Garment District in the west 30s, the Diamond District on 47th St, and, formerly, the Meatpacking District. Here is a short guide to some of them.

A few weeks ago, as I walked to work in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I noticed something unusual — not one, not two, but four tile stores, side by side, on 21st Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Strange. Then, I remembered rumors about a magical street in Chelsea populated by dozens of flower nurseries. I already knew of Manhattan’s legendary Garment District. I wondered — how many microdistricts could there be in the city?

(thx, david)