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Posted: Jan 23, 2013 | 1:42 AM

January 23rd in NYC History - Necessity, the mother of Invention

1664:  Holland issued an edict emphasizing the right of the Dutch West India Company to plant settlements in Nieuw Nederland.
  The British Navy was unimpressed, and within a few months its overwhelming superiority convinced the colony to officially become British. 

For the most part.  Dutch loyalists in the colony, renamed New-York, would pop in and out for a few decades, attempting to re-establish Dutch rule.

1849:  Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first American woman Medical Doctor.
  Later she pioneered women's health, public health, and nursing education in New York City.  She was born and returned to England.

1867:  The East River, actually a salt water tidal strait, froze solid, halting ferry service from Brooklyn, the breadbasket of New York City.  New Yorkers and Brooklynites crossed the river by foot, but how long would Manhattan last without food deliveries?!

A few months later, New York State approved the construction of a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  The Brooklyn Bridge, the Eighth Wonder of the World, would open in 1883.  Its development required bold new technology and daring deadly construction work.

We experience some of this on Brooklyn Heights Tours, Seaport Tours, Brooklyn Bridge Tours, and DuMBO tours.

(Editorial Tangent:  As of this blog 1/23/13, the Statue of Liberty's island, and Ellis Island remain closed due to the Super Storm Sandy on 10/29/12.  The Statue and the Immigration Monument are undamaged, but the landings require about $60 million in repairs.  Even though these are internationally famous and important New York City and national symbols, there are no plans to fix these islands' docks, so the islands remain closed to the public.  Compare and contrast.)

1932:  New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  It worked out.

1933:  Broadway singer, dancer, and actress Chita Rivera born.

1943:  Casablanca, starring New Yorkers Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is released in theaters across the U.S.

1962:  In New York Tony Bennett recorded "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"
on Columbia Records.

1976:  Actor, singer, athlete, scholar, and Civil Rights Activist, an American "Renaissance Man," Paul Robeson died.  He lived 79 years.

1984:  Hulk Hogan won his first World Wrestling Federation title at Madison Square Garden

1986:  The first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which honored Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly
and other greats.

1964:  Actress Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" celebrates her birthday.

2002:  Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted in Karachi, Pakistan, by terrorists who demanded that the US resume the sale of military aircraft promised to Pakistan nearly ten years before but stopped due to Pakistan's nuclear weapons development.  (Strange request from terrorists indicating that perhaps they had links to the Pakistani military.) 

Pearl was investigating the Shoe Bomber Richard Reid's support in Pakistan.  (Perhaps that act of terrorism had links to the Pakistani military.) 

Pearl was later brutally killed, partially due to anti-semitism, even though Pearl was an egalitarian who sought peace and the best in people and diversity. 

The Pakistani investigation into his murders is slowly, very slowly, wending its way through their courts.

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Posted: Jan 22, 2013 | 3:13 PM
by Jared Goldstein

Jan 22nd in New York City History - "Cleopatra's Needle" slakes our thirst for an obelisk

1673:  Mail service begins in America with delivery from New York to Boston along the Boston Post Road.

1881:  "Cleopatra's Needle" erected in Central Park.  The 200 ton, 35 century old monument actually has no historical connection to Cleopatra.

"It would be absurd for the people of any great city to hope to be happy without an Egyptian Obelisk!  ...We could never rise to any real moral grandeur until we had our own obelisk!" 
The New York Herald

At the bottom of today's diaries is a piece about this obelisk's history in Egypt, the impacts of various civilizations and the vicissitudes of epochs wreaked upon it, as well as its glorious, or ignominious, erection here in an obscure part of New York City's Central Park.*

1909:  U Thant, the UN's third Secretary General, born in Burma.  He died 11/25/1974.

1922:  Telly Savalas, who portrayed the tough NYC cop Kojak, born

It seems that there is not a Greek diner in NYC that doesn't have an autographed portrait of him.

1922:  Howard Moss, the poet and editor of The New Yorker, born.  He died in 1987.

1941:  Pioneering television news reporter Ed Bradley born.  He died at 65.

1953:  Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials, opened on Broadway to mixed reviews. 

Perhaps with anti-communist McCartheyist anti-media 'witch hunts' afoot, the topic was unnerving for newspaper reviewers to face.

We visit his old neighborhood on Brooklyn Heights tours as well as Brooklyn Heights literary tours.

1953:  Happy Birthday to Director Jim Jarmusch.

1957:  "The Mad Bomber" arrested
in Connecticut after a six-year manhunt. 
George Metesky, the former Con Ed worker, planted dozens of homemade bombs in public places, injuring fifteen in 22 explosions that terrorized the city.  His motive was retaliation for a workplace injury.

1965:  Actress Diane Lane born in NYC.

1970:  The Boeing 747 went on its first regularly scheduled commercial flight, from New York to London.

2008:  Actor Heath Ledger died in his NYC loft after overdosing on normal doses of prescription and over-the-counter medications to address painful backache and persistent flu symptoms.  The combination led to liver failure.

We can go by his home on Little Italy tours and SoHo tours

* "CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE" and how it got to Central Park (in a quiet clearing on a knoll behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The following piece was adapted by me from one written by  Paul Rush, a respected NYC tour guide for the Partners in Preservation Program, which raised money to preserve this wonderful monument.  The piece was abridged for brevity and it loses the drama and beauty of his writing.  If there are errors, they are mine.  Here is my digest:

'What is now a felicitous Central Park surprise was once a matter of international significance tracing back 3500 years to the reign of Egypt's Pharaoh Thutmose III's jubilee at the Temple of the Sun. 

900 years later it was toppled by the Persians.

500 years later, Augustus Caesar had the pair obelisks relocated to Alexandria from Heliopolis to celebrate Caesar's deification, much as they had for the Pharaoh.  There they stood for 1300 years when one tumbled due to an earthquake amidst the ruin of Caesar's temple, which had crumbled years prior. 

Nearly 600 years later the US Navy's Lt Commander Henry Honeychurch Gorringe was inspired by the standing obelisk.  The fallen one was removed to London.  In 1876 an Egyptian leader proposed gifting the obelisk to the US. 

By 1879 the New York (and therefore the nation's) press had obelisk fever.  The New York Herald stated:

"It would be absurd for the people of any great city to hope to be happy without an Egyptian Obelisk!  Why, London, Paris, and Rome could point the finger of scorn at us and intimate that we could never rise to any real moral grandeur until we had our own obelisk!" 

That year Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt gave it to the City of New York. 

Now comes the challenge: moving a stone rock weighing 200 tons with a height of 69 feet and width of 8 ft, then erecting it.  It took the Roebling Factory [related to the Brooklyn Bridge project] to engineer the apparatus. 

Meanwhile, in Alexandria, protests decried the loss of the obelisk, but gold donated by the Vanderbilts to the protest leaders proved mollifying, and the stone was draped in an American flag as it boarded its steamer.

Gorringe's mission was nearly sunk by the weather. 

After arrival, it took months for this two hundred ton, yet delicate, monument to make its way across half of Manhattan using a custom-built railway.

On an icy day, the obelisk was erected amidst hushed silence.  As it rested in place the crowd roared. 

Gorringe died at 44 of an accidental fall.  His tomb is marked by an obelisk.'

Here is a link to Paul Rush's actual and beautifully written and well-researched piece.

Tangent:  as of this blog 1/23/13, the Statue of Liberty's island, and Ellis Island remain closed due to the Super Storm Sandy on 10/29/12.  The Statue and the Immigration Monument are undamaged but the landings require about $60 million in repairs.  There are no plans to fix this, so the islands remain closed.

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Posted: Jan 22, 2013 | 2:24 PM
by Jared Goldstein

January 21st in NYC

1784:  The state legislature meets for the first time at City Hall on Wall Street. New York City remains the state capital until 1796, when Albany is chosen as the new site.

1920:  Pilot Charles Lindbergh sets a new record for the fastest cross-country flight when he lands in New York after 14.75 hours.

1950:  A federal jury in New York City found former State Department official Alger Hiss guilty of perjury.

We see the Federal Court on our Municipal District Tour, the Downtown Black History Tour, the Five Points Tour, and Brooklyn Bridge tours.

1951:  New York City and Columbia's Eric Holder, Attorney General during the Obama Administration, born.

1985:  Don DeLillo, author, who was born in NYC, and living here again, wins the American Book Award for White Noise

The story resonated with me during my evacuation from Super Storm Sandy.

1990:  John McEnroe disqualified from the Australian Open for misconduct.

We see McEnroe's apartment building on Upper West Side Tours.

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Posted: Jan 20, 2013 | 1:38 AM

January 20th in New York City History

1896:  George Burns the film and television actor born in New York City, New York, United States was born.

1903:  Today in 1903 "The Wizard of Oz," a play based on L. Frank Baum's beloved book, has its New York premier at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway and 59th Street.

1930:  Pilot Charles Lindbergh sets a new record for the fastest cross-country flight when he lands in New York after 14.75 hours.

1956:  Happy Birthday, Bill Maher.

1981:  Barry Rosen of Brooklyn was one of 52 American hostages freed from Iran's U.S. embassy after 444 days. 

1990:  Actres Barbara Stanwyck (born in Brooklyn) died on this date.

1993:  Audrey Hepburn, Broadway actress and movie star who chronicled New York City life as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's died.

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Posted: Jan 19, 2013 | 1:08 PM
by Jared Goldstein

January 19th in NYC History

1770:  The Battle of Golden Hill.  British soldiers were posting broadsides denouncing the Sons of Liberty.  New Yorkers tried to stop them, leading to bloodshed.

1776:  The New Jersey Militia enters Queens to disarm and arrest British loyalists in Newtown.

1886:  John Jacob Astor, the London Newspaper publisher born in NYC.

1937:  Actress Suzanne Pleshette was born in New York City.

1957:  Johnny Cash makes his first national television appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show.

1972:  Former Yankee catcher and soon-to-be Met manager Yogi Berra is voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1994:  New Yorkers brave a record-breaking deep freeze, as the thermometer dips to -2 degrees.
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Posted: Jan 18, 2013 | 1:52 AM
by Jared Goldstein

January 18th in NYC History

1849:  New York's first major semi-public library, the Astor
Library, was founded on Lafayette Street with money donated by financier John Jacob Astor. The Astor is one of three private libraries that merge to form the New York Public Library in 1895.

1850:  Seth Low, Philanthropist, Politician and Educator, born.  He was the only person to be mayor of both the cities of Brooklyn and Greater New York City.

1975:  Brooklyn's Barry Manilow gets his first hit: Mandy.


1991:  After 62 years in the air, New York City-based Eastern Air Lines announces it is shutting down due to bankruptcy

1961:  Rangers Stanley Cup garnering Captain Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier born.

1965:  Comedian Dave Attell born.

Danny Kaye
Oliver Hardy

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Posted: Jan 18, 2013 | 1:07 AM
by Jared Goldstein

Jan 17 in NYC

1944...Mobster Louie "Lepke" Buchalter, the leader of
the notorious Brooklyn-based criminal enterprise dubbed "Murder Incorporated," is turned over to New York State by federal authorities after a New York jury convicts him of murder. He is executed later that year.

1763:  John Jacob Astor born in Waldorf, Germany.

1899:  Brooklyn's Al Capone born.

1916:  PGA formed.

1990:  Simon and Garfunkel inducted into Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. 

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Posted: Jan 16, 2013 | 5:19 AM
by Jared Goldstein

January walking tours are underrated!

The only good thing about global warming for me is that January walking tours are great. 

No leaves blocking the architecture and streetscapes of the Upper West Side, Victorian Brooklyn, and Greenwich Village, for example. 

The light is almost horizontal, which is good for photography. 

Sidewalk traffic is reduced.

Unfortunately, people don't associate January with "Let's take a walking tour."  A liberal weather rescheduling policy is a good idea.
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Posted: Jan 16, 2013 | 2:09 AM

January 16th in NYC History:
Benny Goodman,
Ethel Merman,
Jimmy the Greek,
Hello Dolly,
Minnesota Fats,

1908:  Astoria's Ethel Merman, Broadway star, singer, and comedienne for five decades born.

1920:  Prohibition begins and so does the organization, glorification, and international corporatization of crime graduating from street corner thugdom. 

The government gives you what you need; the mob gives you what you want.

1933:  Writer and intellectual Susan Sontag born.

1938:  Benny Goodman's "King of Swing" jazz entertains Carnegie Hall, representing a crossover of Black music to a white audience.  This wasn't the only crossover: Goodman's All-Star band was racially integrated, such as featuring Lionel Hampton.  Goodman advocated for tolerance.

1947:  The New York Knicks made their first major trade, selling forward Ralph Kaplowitz to the Philadelphia Warriors.

I post this to note two things.  First, Basketball 'the city game' used to have many great Jewish players who rose from ghetto playgrounds and schools.  Secondly, college hoops retained dominance over professional basketball for years.  College hoops, such as St Johns and the NIT, would sell out the Garden.  Meanwhile, the Knicks and the rest of the NBA was a creation of arenas who wanted events to fill their seats when their profitable hockey teams were away.

What transformed basketball?  We explore that on our Basketball tour.

1960:  The Knicks played their last home game at the 69th Regiment Armory.  Until this year, the Knicks were displaced from Madison Square Garden 131 times, including 15 playoff games, since its founding in the mid 1940s!

1964:  The Broadway musical "Hello, Dolly!" with Carol Channing opened on Broadway, the first of 2,844 performances.

1970:  Baseball teams' privileges challenged by a traded major player.  Curt Flood, who played 12 years for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the baseball players' union, sued the league over anti-trust laws enabling them to freely trade players.   For six of those seasons Flood won the top ranking of outfielder in his league, the Golden Glove.  He also batted .293.  He stated that he did not deserve to be traded around "like a slave."

The District Court disagreed a few months later, since baseball has an anti-trust exemption, and the Supreme Court agreed in 1972.  In 1976, an arbitrator in baseball enabled free agency for the players.

1974:  Yankees Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The were teammates on and off the fields.  Ford was a leading southpaw pitcher who held the World Series record for ten pitching victories and 33 consecutive scoreless innings.  Mantle held the World Series record for 18 home runs.

1979:  Brooklyn's singer, Aaliyah born.

1988:  Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder was fired from CBS as a sports commentator for making racist remarks in a television interview.  He died in 1996.

1996:  NYC's Minnesota Fats, Rudy Wanderone, the pool hustler and entertainer who helped popularize the sport, died.  His birth year was unclear: somewhere between 1900 and 1913.

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Posted: Jan 15, 2013 | 12:21 AM

January 15th in New York City History:

The Miracle on the Hudson,
the Democrat Donkey Kicks,
Ford Foundation Founded,
Two Giants Championships,
the Deaths of two Giants.

1777:  The independent republic of "New Connecticut," colloquially known as the Republic of the Green Mountains, it is created
from territories claimed by New Hampshire and New York. 

The dominance of New York was so great that, what was later named Vermont, did not join the nation until after the 12 original colonies, and what caused that was slavery politics.  Kentucky, the 13th state, was admitted as a slave state.  Vermont was one of the freest places around there. 

So fierce was Vermont's desire for independence from New York that, although they fought for American independence, they petitioned Britain for admission into Canada!  Perhaps this is why the state's name was inspired by French for Green Mountains, les monts verts.  Quebec is across their national border.

1870:  The Democrat donkey makes its first appearance courtesy of Thomas Nast and Harper's Magazine.  Nast did not like the Irish or the Democrats, so he picked an ass to personify them.

We go into this a bit on our Santa Claus Tour, because Thomas Nast popularized the look of the fat old jolly man, as well as other American icons.

1936:  The Ford Foundation founded.  For decades this diverse international philanthropic funder was the largest grant-giving foundation. 

I point out the foundation's ecologically sustainable headquarters, designed in the late 1960s, on my 42nd Street tour.  I don't think such architecture is coincidental that it's development is based on a carbon combustion fortune.

1939:  The 1938 NFL Champion New York Giants won the first Pro Bowl
against the All-Stars 13-10.

1982:  Red Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter and columnist, died
at 76 in Connecticut.  His career spanned 35 years from 1947-1982 in four NYC based publications.

My parents, part of sports media, took me along to Martha's Vineyard in 1979 or 1980 on a visit to his summer home there.  He seemed very old to a 12 year old who had a nice life and a great deal of admiration from my parents.

1983:  Meyer Lansky, pioneering organized crime figure, died
in the role as old Jewish man walking his dogs in Miami Beach.

We go near Lanksy's speakeasy on Jewish Lower East Side tours.

1994:  Legendary Giants Quarterback Phil Simms and linebacker "LT" Lawrence Taylor played their last game, losing to the 49ers 44-3.

2001:  The Giants won the NFC Championship against Minnesota 41-0, paving the way to their third Superbowl, which they lost to Baltimore 34-7.  On today's glorious date, Giants quarterback Kerry Collins passed for 381 yards and five touchdowns. 

2009:  The "Miracle on the Hudson" just when America and the world needed a hero, as financial institutions and economies were falling,
Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River. All 155 people aboard US Air Flight 1549 survived without even a serious injury.

The plane glided between the towers of the George Washington Bridge, skitched its tail on the river west of 96th Street, bouncing up slightly, perfectly landing 2.5 miles down to the Hudson's equivalent of 45th Street.

Local commuter ferries, as the Captain had planned on, quickly pulled up to the wings and discharged passengers.  After all, he, literally, recently wrote the book on emergency waterborne landings. 

Meanwhile, 'Sully' was wading waist high through the freezing water pouring into the plane, checking between the seats for any missing injured passengers. 

In my safety training to be a harbor tour guide we learned that in winter waters people have about seven minutes before paralyzing shock.  This is what the Captain was risking to save others after such an amazing landing.

I like to recount these stories while doing tours of the West Side, Foliage Tours that cross the GW Bridge, Downtown and Harbor Tours

When I regularly did winter harbor tours, our ship was Coast Guard restricted from the World Financial Center, where the plane, heavy with water, was hauled straight up from the river by huge mobile cranes.  We couldn't get past the buoys because the wakes would have disturbed the recovery. 

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