Archive for the ‘neighborhoods’ Category

Transitions in Bay Ridge

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Tim McLoughlin in the New York Times writes about the Danish Athletic Club on 65th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. As the Scandinavian population in Bay Ridge dwindles, the club is finding a new clientele among Mexican immigrant families. Manager Reidun Thompson says, “They are like the Norwegians. They work hard, they play hard.”

Brooklyn’s Scandinavian history also lives on in the Scandinavian East Coast Museum. This project, incorporated in 1996 by the dynamo Victoria Hofmo, is still seeking a permanent home, but its website offers histories (written & oral), genealogical information, photos and videos, and a terrific map of old 8th Avenue from 54th to 60th St.

In the meantime they will be celebrating Fastelavn, the Danish Mardi Gras, on Sunday, February 23, and Viking Fest on May 17. Show them some love!

Imagine yourself drinking beer in 1870

Saturday, January 19th, 2013
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Lower East Side Tenement Museum

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum has a new tour: Shop Life, which includes the re-creation of an 1870s German saloon along with stories and pictures from other retail businesses that have been part of 97 Orchard Street over the decades.

The saloon is a beautiful warm space, although dimly lit—and, our guide Claudia told us, in the days of kerosene lanterns it probably would have been dimmer still. Besides a fine wooden bar and nice furniture, there’s a table in the corner laid out with the same food you find in Germany today—sausage, eggs, bread. (Unfortunately the repast was only a model—while it would be wonderful to have a live experience in the saloon, with food and drink and music, that would be too much to ask of the museum. But you can find Germans drinking beer at Der Schwarze Kölner in Fort Greene.) Beyond the saloon is a little office room, then a tiny kitchen, then a well-furnished small bedroom. 

Claudia raised some good points about the importance of the wife’s unpaid labor (a great book about female lives & labor back in the day, if you’re interested, is Olwen Hufton’s The Prospect Before Her) and the controversy about New York’s blue laws, which forbade alcohol sales on Sunday—in German culture, the day the families liked to enjoy a few beers together after church.

The last room features an interactive exhibit that offers a variety of information and stories to read and listen to. I would have liked to meet the 15-year-old girl who mastered the new typewriter model in 1900, opening up her career horizons. The onward pace of the generations comes through in this exhibit; by the 1930s, many of the Lower East Side shopkeepers no longer lived in a room behind their business, but in Brooklyn or elsewhere. In many cases, America was indeed a springboard to the middle class.

As with the other tours at the museum, it’s about putting yourself in a space and hearing stories to help you imagine. The guides are good about reminding us of things affecting life for nineteenth-century immigrants that might never occur to us today.

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We had a great time at Shop Life, and then went for soup in Chinatown.

 

 

 

Gorgeous mosaic

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The New York Times has printed a beautiful new update on the ethnic concentrations of New York’s neighborhoods and how they’ve changed since 2000. Of course, an actual mosaic wouldn’t have so many large enclaves, but these colors don’t represent the entire population of a neighborhood, only pluralities.

Chinatown, my Chinatown

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Why so many posts about Chinese Americans? It just worked out that way.

On the Times City Room blog, Peter Kwong of Hunter College has been answering questions about the gentrification of Chinatown. In discussing “the decline of New York’s Chinatown as a viable living, working and shopping area for new immigrants,” he cites the closing of the garment factories (despite paying low wages, they can’t compete with China) and the rise of real estate speculation. He worries that Chinatown will turn into “an ethnic theme park without its ethnic population.” This has certainly happened to some Italian American neighborhoods. Chinatown also suffered quite a bit from the events of 9/11, but he says the process started before then.

If you haven’t noticed any gentrification, he points out what to look for, and in a second round of discussion he gives a brief overview of the neighborhood’s history. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the patterns of immigrant settlement and evolution of neighborhoods.

Chinese American museum expands

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

The Times reports that the Museum of Chinese in America has moved to a much larger space at 211-215 Centre St in Manhattan. Its new home, designed by Maya Lin, is in a former industrial machine repair shop.

Exhibits are still moving into the building, which is open Thursdays only through the summer. (They also offer walking tours of Chinatown on Saturdays.) The grand opening is set for Sept. 22. Until then, you can read a lot more about it in the Times. It sounds terrific!

Neighborhood Faces

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Dan Ziskie has taken some nice photos in Chinatown. The New York Times has put up a slideshow, Neighborhood Faces.

New tour at the tenement museum

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
The old Loew's Canal, built 1927

The old Loew's Canal, built 1927

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is kicking off the outdoor season April 4 with a new walking tour, Immigrant Soles.

The museum has given a walking tour of the Lower East Side since 2005, but this one has a new focus on the daily lives of neighborhood immigrants from 1863 to 1935. How did they spend their time (as much as possible, outside their overcrowded and airless apartments)? How did they create an American identity? What were their everyday struggles?

Hints come from newspaper ads; from the advice column in the Jewish socialist newspaper, The Forward; and from “the historical landscape itself,” says David Favaloro, director of curatorial affairs.

Some things haven’t changed so much: just as young people today—including the children of immigrants—often work in retail, teenage girls coveted jobs at the E. Ridley & Sons department store, where the pay was not so hot, but the work sure beat the garment factories.

Favaloro led a preview of the walk this week with VP of Education Annie Polland. The tour covers shopping, worshiping, banking, politics, education, and entertainment. And because the Lower East Side is very much an immigrant neighborhood still, it’s the farthest thing from a theme park.

New York is full of walking tours, many of which are worthwhile. What I liked most about this one is that it doesn’t focus on the famous Someones or the Major Incidents. This is about ordinary life a century ago, and the ways in which people navigated its demands and complexity.

“Historians have to pick their theme,” Polland says. “Living there, you experience it all at once.”

The 90-minute tour will be offered once a day Saturday and Sunday, starting April 6, and will expand to twice daily by summer. Admission is $17 for adults, $13 students & seniors. A discount is available if you combine it with tickets for a tenement tour and make a day of it—god knows it won’t be hard to find a place for lunch.

And stay tuned for another walking tour this fall!

Irish and more

Friday, March 13th, 2009

A quick roundup of many weekend events, mostly centered around St. Patrick’s Day:

Museum events: Music, food

Traditional Irish songs by Irish Fever at 7:30 and 9 pm Saturday, Historic Richmond Town, 441 Clarke Ave, Staten Island. $15. Reservations required; call (718) 351-1611, ext. 281.

“Bridget Murphy’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration,” with samplings of 19th-century Irish-American foods and Irish music. 6 pm Tuesday. Call (212) 777-1089 for reservations (suggested). $30. Merchant’s House Museum, 29 E. Fourth St.

Walking Tours

Big Onion Walking Tours: “St. Patrick’s Weekend Irish New York,” meeting in front of St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway between Vesey and Fulton. (212) 439-1090, bigonion.com. 1 pm Saturday.

Adventure on a Shoestring: “When Irish Eyes Were Smiling!” A walk in Clinton, meeting on the northeast corner of Eighth Ave and 48th St. 2 pm Saturday, (212) 265-2663. $10.

NYC Discovery Tours: “Little Ireland and Little Italy History and Tasting Tour,” visiting cultural and gastronomic sites of importance to Irish and Italian immigration, with a sampling of foods. 1 and 3:45 pm Saturday, noon and 2:45 pm Sunday. Call (212) 465-3331 for reservations and meeting place. $22.

Gotham Walking Tours: “Immigrant New York City,” a tour of Lower Manhattan, meeting on the southwest corner of Chambers and Centre. 11 am Sunday, (646) 645-5782, walkingnyctours.com. $20; $18 for seniors.

Center for the Urban Environment: “The Yiddish Rialto,” a tour of the Second Avenue theater district, meeting in front of the Sunshine Theater, 143 E. Houston. 11:30 am Sunday, (718) 788-8500, ext. 217, bcue.org. $13.

Bowery and Canal Walking Tours: “Five Points and the Irish,” meeting at City Hall Park, Broadway and Park Row. 1 pm Sunday, (917) 602-3543. $15; $12 for seniors & students.

Joyce Gold History Tours: “Hell’s Kitchen and Its Vivid Irish Past,” meeting on the northwest corner of Tenth Ave and 42nd St. 1 pm Sunday, (212) 242-5762, joycegoldhistorytours.com. $15; $12 for seniors.