Finally! The days are beautifully comfortable in New York City and the flowers have returned to distract you from long commutes and pizza rats.
Here are five Bowery Boys: New York City History podcasts from our back catalog that encourage appreciation of the season. Put them in your ear and enjoy a long walk through the city this weekend. Listen to them here or find them on your favorite podcast player.
Bicycle Mania! From Velocipede to Ten Speed (#145)
The bicycle has always seemed like a slightly awkward form of transportation in big cities, but in fact, it’s reliable, convenient, clean and — believe it or not — popular in New York City for almost 200 years.
The original two-wheeled conveyance was the velocipede or dandy horse which debuted in New York in 1819. But it was during the 1890s when New Yorkers really pined for the bicycle. It liberated women, inspired music and questioned Victorian morality. Casual riders made Central Park and Riverside Drive their home, while professionals took to the velodrome of Madison Square Garden. And in Brooklyn, riders delighted in New York’s first bike path, built in 1894 to bring people out to Coney Island.
(Pictured at top — photographer Alice Austen on her bike. She also took the iconic photograph above of the messenger boy.)
Prospect Park: A Brooklyn Masterpiece (#84)
Brooklyn’s biggest public space and home to the borough’s only natural forest was a sequel for Olmsted and Vaux after their revolutionary creation Central Park. But can these two landscape architects still work together or will their egos get in the way? And what happens to their dream when McKim, Mead and White and Robert Moses get to it? ALSO: what classic Hollywood movie actor is buried here?
What can you find on Governors Island? Almost 400 years of action-packed history! This island in New York Harbor has been at the heart of the city’s defense since the days of the Revolutionary War, and its story takes us back to the very beginnings of European occupation in America.
The High Line (#135)
This popular tourist attraction, which snakes up New York’s west side, is an ambitious park project refitting abandoned elevated train lines into a breathtaking contemporary park. This is the remnant of a raised freight-delivery track system that supported New York’s thriving meat, produce and refrigeration industries that have defined the city’s western edges.
You can trace the footprints of this area back almost 200 years, to the introduction of the Hudson River Railroad and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who transformed the streets along the Hudson River into ‘the lifeline of New York’, filled with warehouses, marketplaces and abattoirs. And, of course, lots of traffic, turning 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue into ‘death avenues’, requiring New York’s first ‘urban cowboys’. The West Side Elevated Freight Railroad was meant to relieve some of trauma on the street. That’s not exactly how it worked out.
Home to the Metropolitan Museum’s repository for medieval treasures, The Cloisters was a labor of love for many lovers of great European art. In this podcast, Greg highlights three of the most important men in its history — a passionate sculptor, a generous multimillionaire and a jet-setting curator. Equally as fascinating is the upper Manhattan park that houses the museum, a site of a Revolutionary War fort of the same name and the exploits of the war’s most heroic women.
Another reason to celebrate — the Cloisters opened 80 years ago today!