Tag Archives: Robert Moses

West Side Story: The Making of Lincoln Center

PODCAST The origin story of Lincoln Center, an elegy to the neighborhood its campus replaced, and a celebration of West Side Story, the film that brings together several aspects of this story in one glorious musical number.

Warm up the orchestra, lace up your dance slippers, and bring the diva to the stage! For our latest show we’re telling the origin story of Lincoln Center, the fine arts campus which assembles some of the city’s finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City.

Lincoln Center was created out of an urgent necessity, bringing together the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Julliard School and other august fine-arts companies as a way of providing a permanent home for American culture.

However this tale of Robert Moses’ urban renewal philosophies and the survival of storied institutions has a tragic twist. The campus sits on the site of a former neighborhood named San Juan Hill, home to thousands of African American and Puerto Rican families in the mid 20th century. No trace of this neighborhood exists today.

Or, should we say, ALMOST no trace. San Juan Hill exists, at least briefly, with a part of classic American cinema. The Oscar-winning film West Side Story, based on the celebrated musical, was partially filmed here. The movie reflects many realities of the neighborhood and involves talents who would be, ahem, instrumental in Lincoln Center’s continued successes.

FEATURINGLeonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, James Earl Jones, Imelda Marcos, David Geffen and, naturally, the Nutcracker!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #218: LINCOLN CENTER AND WEST SIDE STORY

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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The Metropolitan Opera House, in 1904. In the far distance, you see One Times Square being constructed in Longacre Square.

Courtesy MCNY
Courtesy MCNY

The New York City Ballet had its first home at City Center while the New York Philharmonic was housed for decades at Carnegie Hall.

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Lincoln Square, 1920. This picture is actually taken from the spot where Lincoln Center stands today. The triangular plaza pictured here would later be called Dante Park (a statue to the Italian writer would be placed here a year after this photo was taken). Take note of the 9th Avenue elevated streaking up Columbus Avenue at the bottom of this image.

Arthur Hosking/Museum of the City of New York
Arthur Hosking/Museum of the City of New York

And that building to the right? That’s the Hotel Empire which is still standing there today (albeit in a greatly modified form). Here’s an ad for the Empire from 1909.

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Robert Moses’ slum clearance plan for San Juan Hill, published in 1956.

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Scenes from old San Juan Hill — 1932, 65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue

Charles Von Urban/MCNY
Charles Von Urban/MCNY

1939 — the stoop scene in San Juan Hill, street unknown

Courtesy MCNY Lee Sievan (1907-1990). San Juan Hill. 1939
Courtesy MCNY Lee Sievan (1907-1990). San Juan Hill. 1939

An early effort to improve the housing quality in the neighborhood — the Phipps Houses, built in 1906. An interesting New York Times article describes a few residents: “A typical tenant was the steamboat steward Joseph Craig, 36, classed as ‘mulatto’, who was born in Trinidad and arrived in the United States in 1891. Another was the horse breeder Daniel Moore, 43, born in Missouri and married for six years to Tilly Moore, 30, born in Cuba and in the United States since 1892; she worked as a domestic.”

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The scene in April of 1963. The Philharmonic Hall was already opened by this point. This really brings home the fact that there must have been so much noise pollution due to construction which must have perturbed the organizers of the Philharmonic greatly!

(MATTSON/DAILYNEWS)
(MATTSON/DAILYNEWS)

The opening sequence of the Oscar-winning film West Side Story was filmed on the streets of San Juan Hill, the structures around the actors clearly boarded up and ready for demolition.

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(The website Tom mentioned on the show — Pop Spots NYC — shows a very detailed comparison of film scenes with maps and old photographs. Highly recommended!)

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An overhead view of Lincoln Center in 1969 with most of the major venues completed by this point. At the bottom right you see the Empire Hotel, then (moving clockwise around the fountain): the New York State Theater, Damrosch Park, the Metropolitan Opera House, the library and the Vivian Beaumont Theater and Philharmonic Hall.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Philharmonic Hall, later Avery Fisher Hall,  then David Geffen Hall — designed by Max Abramovitz.

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MCNY

The Metropolitan Opera House, designed by Wallace Harrison.

MCNY/Edmund Vincent Gillon
MCNY/Edmund Vincent Gillon

The New York State Theater, later the David H. Koch Theater.

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Jackie Kennedy attending the opening night of Philharmonic Hall, September 23, 1962.

 

Opening night at the New York State Theater, April 24, 1964

Bettman/Corbis
Bettman/Corbis
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Eero Saarinen’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, the reflecting pool featuring a sculpture by Henry Moore, and the Julliard School, designed by Pietro Belluschi.
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Patricia McBride and Edward Villella in front of the unfinished New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, in Tarantella costume, choreography by George Balanchine, 1964

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Patricia Wilde and Andre Prokovsky in Raymonda posing in front of fountain in plaza at Lincoln Center, choreography by George Balanchine, 1965

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

Program from the 1967 revival of South Pacific which played at the New York State Theatre……

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NYPL

….starring Florence Henderson as Nellie Forbush! Here she is with Richard Rodgers and Georgio Tozzi (who played Emile de Becque).

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NYPL

The plaza at Lincoln Center is always a place where surprises greet visitors. Here’s an image from a couple years ago of a video installation which sat in front of the fountain:

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And a couple years ago they hosted the premiere of Game of Thrones. With a life-size dragon!

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Martin Scorsese! He introduced a screening of his film The Age of Innocence at the New York Film Festival.

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A History of the Bronx Part Two: Building The Borough

PODCAST The story of how the Bronx became a part of New York City and the origin of some of the borough’s most famous landmarks.

In the second part of the Bowery Boys’ Bronx Trilogy — recounting the entire history of New York CIty’s northernmost borough — we focus on the years between 1875 and 1945, a time of great evolution and growth for the former pastoral areas of Westchester County.

New York considered the newly annexed region to be of great service to the over-crowded city in Manhattan, a blank canvas for visionary urban planners.  Soon great parks and mass transit transformed these northern areas of New York into a sibling (or, perhaps more accurately, a step-child) of the densely packed city to the south.

The Grand Concourse embodied the promise of a new life for thousands of new residents — mostly first and second-generation immigrants, many of them Jewish newcomers. The Hall of Fame of Great Americans was a peculiar tourist attraction that honored America’s greatest. But the first time that many outside New York became aware of the Bronx may have been the arrival in 1923 of New York’s most victorious baseball team, arriving via a spectacular new stadium where sports history would frequently be made.

By the 1930s Parks Commissioner Robert Moses began looking at the borough as a major factor in his grand urban development plans. In some cases, this involved the creation of vital public recreations (like Orchard Beach). Other decisions would mark the beginning of new troubles for the Bronx.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #213: BRONX TRILOGY (PART 2) THE BRONX IS BUILDING

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

________________________________________________________________________

The burial vault of the Van Cortlandts was actually contained within the newly formed park. And it’s still there.

Courtesy New York Park Service
Courtesy New York Park Service

 

NYU’s former University Heights campus (now the home of Bronx Community College) contains one unusual tourist attraction — the Hall of Fame of Great Americans

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Louis Risse’s vision of the Grand Concourse in 1892 obviously did not imagine automobiles using the boulevard.

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MCNY

Kingsbridge Road near the Grand Concourse, 1890. It was originally a dirt road of course.

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The New York Botanical Garden inaugurated Bronx Park and created another reason for New Yorkers to head up to the vastly evolving area up north.

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A romantic depiction of the Lorillard snuff mill on the Bronx River. The building is still on the river, contained within the Botanical Garden.

By Frederick Rondel, Jr., courtesy MCNY
By Frederick Rondel, Jr., courtesy MCNY

Jerome Park Reservoir, opposite a set of homes, pictured here in 1920 and (below) 1936.

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The unveiling of the Heinrich Heine monument in today’s Joyce Kilmer Park on the Grand Concourse.

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Lavish apartments like the Roosevelt  (pictured here in 1924 and in 1937) were able to attract New Yorkers escaping the overcrowded Lower East Side.

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Fordham Road in 1930 with the Grand Concourse East Kingsbridge Road steaming by.

Photo by William Roege (1930)
Photo by William Roege (1930)

A Yankee Stadium postcard circa 1945

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Courtesy MCNY

Ruth was so integrally a part of the Bronx and Yankee Stadium that when he died in 1948, his casket was taken to the stadium where tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects.

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A few selections from our Instagram account of things we discussed on this week’s show:

A photo posted by Gregory Young (@boweryboysnyc) on

A photo posted by Gregory Young (@boweryboysnyc) on

From the Grand Concourse:

A photo posted by Gregory Young (@boweryboysnyc) on

A photo posted by Gregory Young (@boweryboysnyc) on

A photo posted by Gregory Young (@boweryboysnyc) on

Here’s Tom and our special guest this week — the great Lloyd Ultan

Joseph Papp vs. Robert Moses: The saga of Shakespeare in the Park

PODCAST REWIND The fascinating story of the Public Theater and Joseph Papp’s efforts to bring Shakespeare to the people. (Episode #85)

What started in a tiny East Village basement grew to become one of New York’s most enduring summer traditions, Shakespeare in the Park, featuring world class actors performing the greatest dramas of the age. But another drama was brewing just as things were getting started. It’s Robert Moses vs. Shakespeare! Joseph Papp vs. the city!

ALSO: Learn how the Public Theater got off the ground and helped save an Astor landmark in the process.

THIS SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON JUNE 18, 2009 — MANY, MANY YEARS BEFORE LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND ‘HAMILTON’ HIT THE PUBLIC STAGE

THIS IS A SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED PODCAST!  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible with AAC/M4A files, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well. (This will work as a normal audio file even if the images don’t appear.)

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #5-#84), subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed on iTunes or directly from our host page.

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

________________________________________________________________________

And now I present some of the fantastic photographs from the Billy Rose Division of the New York Public Library.

From the 1971 Shakespeare In The Park production of Cymbeline, with Belvedere Castle standing out in the background.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

A photo of Joseph Papp in the Navy (he’s the second one from the left), 1942.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Papp in from of the Decorate Theater, under construction in 1960.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Joseph Papp with Elizabeth Swados and Meryl Streep in a Public Theater production of Alice In Concert.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

The ‘mobile theater’ of the New York Shakespeare Festival, pictured here in 1972.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Theater at the East River Amphitheater: The Taming Of The Shrew with Colleen Dewhurst, 1956

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The Merchant of Venice, 1962

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The set from Love’s Labours Lost, performed at the Delacorte in 1965:

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The city peeks over top of the sets of 1985’s Henry V.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

A vivid battle scene from 1991’s Henry IV Part 1.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

PODCAST REWIND: A Short History of Prospect Park

PODCAST REWIND Prospect Park, 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?

ORIGINALLY RELEASED JUNE 5, 2009

THIS IS A SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED PODCAST!  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible with AAC/M4A files, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well. (This will work as a normal audio file even if the images don’t appear.)

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #5-#83), subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed, on iTunes, directly from our host page, or directly via our RSS feed.

___________________________________________________________________________

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

________________________________________________________________________

Some images of Prospect Park from 1895 to 1920 from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

The boat house, photographed in 1910, but could very well be a picture from today with an Instagram filter!

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MCNY

Anybody for a game of polo on the lawn? Pictured here in 1896.

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The entrance to Prospect Park, with Grand Army Plaza (a fairly new edition in this photograph from 1900) and the Mount Prospect Reservoir on the hill.

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MCNY

 

Sheep attending to the meadow in a photograph (from early 20th century) by Robert Bracklow.

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MCNY

 

You can thank McKim, Mead and White and the rising preference of neoclassicism in the Gilded Age for the abundance of statuary in Prospect Park (pictured here in 1903).

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MCNY

 

The park is an arresting synthesis of Olmsted and Vaux’s original vision (as seen in this picturesque view from 1909), McKim, Mead and White’s neoclassical alterations, and Robert Moses’ pragmatic additions from the mid 20th century.

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MCNY

 

A former feature of the lake called Fire Island, named for its flamboyant flowers!

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MCNY

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF PROSPECT PARK, CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST ON THE HISTORY OF PARK SLOPE.

Beyond Hamilton: A flurry of new stage shows take on Robert Moses, Black Crook, Wild Party and more

A string of New York City history related shows is hitting the stage this summer and fall, bringing interesting new interpretations to well-known historical events or revitalizing forgotten old shows in curious ways.  I’ve had so many recommended to me in the past couple weeks that I thought I’d share the list for those of you who prefer to see a historical tale brought to life at less than Hamilton: the Musical prices.  In fact, you can grab tickets to all these shows for half the price of one Broadway show ticket:

Di-Goldene-Kale

CURRENTLY PLAYING

THE GOLDEN BRIDE

You can find a glimpse of New York’s old Yiddish theater world currently playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, courtesy the National Yiddish Theater.

“With music by famed Yiddish composer Joseph Rumshinsky, libretto by Frieda Freiman and lyrics by Louis Gilrod, this long-running popular romantic comedy premiered in 1923 and was revived consistently and presented internationally through the 1940’s, but was lost to time following the Second World War. In 1984, Dr. Michael Ochs, former head of the music library at Harvard unearthed an original vocal score and manuscript for Di Goldene Kale and spent a number of years translating, researching and reconstructing this nearly-forgotten treasure.”

Ticket details here. The show runs through August 28.

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PLAYING NEXT WEEK

DEMENTIA AMERICANA

The Fringe Festival, beginning this Friday and now in its 20th year, always offers up a buffet of productions that are earnest, captivating, hilarious, head-scratching and oftentimes strange.  Fans of our podcast on the murder of Stanford White may want to explore Dementia Americana, a depiction of the tragic events which led to the tragedy in 1906.

“Sex! Murder! Insanity! John Philip Sousa! All this and more in a darkly comic and appallingly relevant play that explores the upsetting and true events surrounding Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K Thaw, and the 1906 murder of famed architect Stanford White.”

Get your tickets here. The show runs August 14, 19, 21, 24, and 26.

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CURIOUSITIES

From Deaths Head Theatrical — the folks who brought you seances at the Morris-Jamel Mansion (!) — comes a truly mysterious experience:

“The year is 1936, the country is in the throes of the Great Depression.  Times are hard and people are desperate.  Though illegal, secret traveling sideshows were ever popular distractions.  These exclusive gatherings would take place in secret locations all over the country, often in rented houses to avoid the eye of the police.  Professor Mysterium invites you to join him for an night you will never forget at a secret location in Manhattan.

The exclusive event will only welcome 50 patrons per night to the secret sideshow.  Tickets are $50 and include 2 drinks at the bar before and during the event.  Audience members are encouraged to come in 1930’s attire.  Doors open promptly at 7:30pm and the event begins at 8pm.”

TWO NIGHTS ONLY — August 21 and 22! Book your tickets now.

PLAYING NEXT MONTH

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DEAD SHOT MARY

I’m shocked that the story of Mary A. Shanley, New York city police detective, has not been turned into a movie or a television show by now. (You can read my blog post from 2010 about her dramatic exploits.) A new off-Broadway play Dead Shot Mary seeks to rectify her egregious absence from pop culture.

DEAD SHOT MARY about the NYPD’s pioneering female detective runs Off Broadway, September 9 – October 15

 “A pioneer for women in law enforcement, Mary Shanley joined the NYPD in 1931, quickly becoming a Gotham all-star and tabloid sensation. During her 30-year career, she worked undercover to achieve a staggering 1000 career arrests, became the fourth woman in history to make detective 1st grade, and then nearly lost it all. Capturing her at a major crossroads of career, identity, and love — her most elusive culprit of all — DEAD SHOT MARY grapples with the legend of this trail blazer, a maverick, and a true New York original.”

The show debuts on September 9th and runs through October. Visit their website for more details or here to order tickets.

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WILD PARTY

A boozy revival from B-Side Productions (the terrific Jasper Grant was our musical director at last year’s 54 Below event with The Ensemblist), luxuriating in a 1920s decadent Manhattan party. Based on a 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure Marsh with the line: “Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still/And she danced twice a day in vaudeville. ”

From September 6 to the 17. More information here.

 

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THE BLACK CROOK

The Black Crook, considered the very first Broadway musical, is a strange curiosity of the Gilded Age, a show from 1866 that seems hard to imagine today.   Back in 2007, I wrote the following description:  “Young Rodolphe is enslaved by a sorceror Hertzog, who must grant the Devil the soul of one innocent every New Years Eve. Rodolphe saves a white dove from peril which just happens to be a good witch in disguise — Stalacta, Fairy Queen of the Golden Realm — who rescues him and sends all the bad guys straight to Hell. Damn it, why hasnt this thing been revived?”

Nine years later, it is indeed being revived! If you are a history AND a musical nut, I’m assuming your head just exploded right now.

“On September 12, 2016, The Black Crook will celebrate its 150th anniversary, marking 150 years of the American Musical. From the rubble of the Civil War, The Black Crook emerged taking an entire country by storm; an unprecedented commercial juggernaut that contributed, whether first musical or no, to a popular melting-pot entertainment that blended art both high and low. The Black Crook is an origin story for the spectacle that is America, and 150 years after the fact, it will be exhumed once again.

The show pulls a little bit of a Shuffle Along! trick, blending the original music with a “behind the scenes” about the show’s playwright Charles M. Barras. Performances begin September 19 at the Abrons Art Center in the Lower East Side, and runs through October 7th. More information here.

AND FINALLY…..

ROBERT MOSES ARRIVES — IN OCTOBER

BLDZR: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MOSES!

The Robert Moses rock musical is almost here. I’ll just let the show speak for itself. It begins in October. Details here.

For More on Jane Jacobs….

We hope you enjoyed our 200th Bowery Boys podcast on Jane Jacobs. For further reading on her life, philosophy and work, we recommend the following books, most of which we used as source material for this show.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs — Obviously you should start with Jacobs’ opus on how the American city works (well, at least the city of the 1960s).  She has a clear, approachable and pragmatic way of looking at urban problems. You’ll also notice immediately how modern city planners have used some of the ideas she’s described.

Wrestling With Moses by Anthony Flint — Perhaps the most succinct book on the specific crises which pitted Robert Moses with Jacobs, a breezy and engaging tale of New York City in the 1950s and ’60s.

Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary by Alice Sparberg Alexiou — If you’d like a good biography on Jacobs, try this enjoyable read (published in 2006, the year of Jacobs’ death) that gives an overview of her life and career.

Becoming Jane Jacobs by Peter Laurence — If you’re looking for something more recent, this brand new biography uniquely explores the origins of how she developed her ideas of urban places. Even if you’ve read any of the books listed above, Laurence’s book goes more deeply into her many influences.

The Battle For Gotham by Roberta Brandes Gratz — For even more expansive look at the legacies of both Moses and Jacobs, especially in the proceeding decades. Gratz takes specific aim at more recent projects in New York in a very personalized way.

The Village by John Strausbaugh — A wide-lens history of Greenwich Village, Strausbaugh spends a great amount of time looking at how Jacobs assisted in the salvation of her neighborhood, and how these preservation battles interlocked with the culture of the day.

The Power Broker by Robert Caro — Jacobs famously doesn’t even make an appearance in Caro’s legendary, barn-burning biography, but the book remains essential reading for anybody interested in mid-century America.

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Or burrow your way through the New York Times archives of material on the battles waged by Jane Jacobs and Village community activists against the city.  Start with these:

Shopping Scarce In City Projects “Most of the 350,000 New Yorkers living in public housing must go outside the projects for the loaf of bread, the quart of milk, the daily newspaper and the sociability of the candy store, coffee shop or tavern.” (June 16, 1957)

Road Test Halted In Washington Square: Closing of Park to General Traffic Called Success By Village Leaders (November 25, 1958)

Two Blighted Downtown Areas Are Chosen For Urban Renewal (February 21, 1961)

Board of Estimates Votes Expressway Across Manhattan (March 8, 1968)

And here’s Jane’s 2006 obituary in the Times.

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Below: Washington Square in 1930. Photo by Samuel H Gottscho. Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth (May 4), the Municipal Art Society, with funding by the Rockefeller Foundation, has been hosting a series of events this year. From the website #JJ100:

“The celebration will pay tribute to Jane Jacobs on the 100-year anniversary of her birth by highlighting self-organized activities and events that embody Jane’s lasting legacy in cities around the world.”

Starting with Jane’s Walk in May, and culminating at the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador, Jane Jacobs at 100 will promote self-organized Jacobsian programming and projects taking place in New York and in cities around the world.”  Keep checking in at their website for more information. And of course Jane’s Walk arrives in May!

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Meanwhile The Center for the Living City is taking a fascinating approach to their celebration of Jacobs’ legacy. Check out their dedicated page Jane’s 100th for a list of events and unique objectives. Including getting Jane Jacobs on a postage stamp! (How is she not on a postage stamp? Harry Potter has a postage stamp!)  Author Peter Laurence has set up a petition for this that you obviously must sign.

You also may be interested in their new project being launched as part of their Jacobs celebrations — the Urban Acupuncture Network.

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By the way, if you’re interested in hearing the entire 1962 chat by Jane Jacobs that we featured in our show, you can hear it here.

Or perhaps you’d like to catch the new Robert Moses/Jane Jacobs opera — A Marvelous Order!

Jane Jacobs: Saving Greenwich Village

PODCAST The story of Jane Jacobs, the urban activist and writer who changed the way we live in cities and her fights to preserve Greenwich Village in the 1950s and ’60s.

 

Washington Square Park torn in two. The West Village erased and re-written. Soho, Little Italy and the Lower East Side ripped asunder by an elevated highway. This is what would have happened in New York City in the 1950s and 60s if not for enraged residents and community activists, lead and inspired by a woman from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Jane Jacobs is one of the most important urban thinkers of the 20th century. As a young woman, she fell in love with Greenwich Village (and met her husband there) which contained a unique alchemy of life and culture that one could only find in an urban area. As an adroit and intuitive architectural writer, she formed ideas about urban development that flew in the face of mainstream city planning. As a community activist, she fought for her own neighborhood and set an example for other embattled districts in New York City.

Her legacy is fascinating, often radical and not always positive for cities in 2016. But she is an extraordinary New Yorker, and for our 200th episode, we had to celebrate this remarkable woman on the 100th anniversary of her birth.

FEATURING: Mrs. Jacobs herself in clips interspersed through the show.

PLUS: ROOOOBERT MOOOOSES!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #200: JANE JACOBS: SAVING THE VILLAGE

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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Jacobs at the White Horse Tavern, sometime in the 1960s. Jane lived on the block!

Cervin Robinson/New York Times (http://cervinrobinson.com/)
Photography by Cervin Robinson/New York Times. Visit his website for more extraordinary images of New York City (http://cervinrobinson.com/)

 

Jacobs in Washington Square Park (though I believe this is 1963 and not during the 1958 protest).

Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images
Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images

 

Washington Square Park in 1935. The 1958 activists were so successful in their goal of saving the park that they were able to banish automobile traffic from it entirely.

New York Parks Department
New York Parks Department

 

What Moses had planned for the park:

NYPL
NYPL

Robert Moses, pictured here in Brooklyn in 1956. Although he frequently situated as the arch-nemesis to Jane Jacobs, in fact they were rarely in the same room together.  Their battles were fought in the press and in City Hall.

AP
AP

Jacobs presenting damning evidence about the proposed West Village demolition, taken at their main headquarters the Lion’s  Head, in 1961 at the corner of Hudson and Charles Streets.

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Jane Jacobs and her son Ned in 1961, during the West Village protests.  The Xs were placed on buildings to be condemned. Activists wore sunglasses with Xs on the lenses in protest.

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Photo courtesy Aesthetic Realism

 

The February 21, 1961, article from the New York Times which riled up the West Village. The  East Side project would eventually become Haven Plaza Apartments, but residents would fight off the designation in the West Village.

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January 01, 1963 — Jacobs protests the destruction of Pennsylvania Station with architect Philip Johnson.

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A map of the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Although this plan never came to fruition, the stack of buildings near the bridges seems to be coming to pass — on the Brooklyn side!

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Another sketch by Paul Rudolph” of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, showing the new construction from the Holland Tunnel as it enters through Manhattan.

paul

 

Jane Jacobs in Toronto, Dec. 21, 1968. She would continue her activism there, helping other community activists in foiling plans to build the Spadina Expressway.

SCANNED FROM THE TORONTO STAR LIBRARY *U42 GRAPHIC Jane Jacobs outside her home on Spadina Road just north of Bloor Street. Photo taken by Frank Lennon/Toronto Star Dec. 21, 1968. Also published 19730425 with caption: Jane Jacobs. Urban affairs expert. Also published 19740520 with caption: Toronto's in good shape, says author Jane Jacobs, but "We've got to be thinking about how we make sure it stays that way." Just being Canadian gives it some advantage, she says, but she fears amalgamation will bring some of the problems of cities like New York.
TORONTO STAR LIBRARY

 

The 1965 New York World’s Fair: Opening Day

The New York World’s Fair opened for its second and last season on April 21, 1965.  The grand opening the previous year had been rocky indeed — protests, rain, even a parking lot riot.  Thankfully the second season was met with beautiful weather and abundant crowds.  In order to jazz it up a bit — not too much, just enough to increase ticket sales — Robert Moses authorized a host of changes, great and small.  Some of the exciting guest stars and new features that awaited entrants to the 1965 World’s Fair that day included:

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Opening the World’s Fair that day: Mayor Willie Brandt of West Berlin; Robert Moses naturally; Vice President Hubert Humphreys; Chief Justice Earl Warren and New York Mayor Robert Wagner (from NYT file photo)

Vice President Hubert Humphrey took a leisurely stroll through the fair, creating quite a stir. “He’s a walking pavilion,” cracked one observer. His entourage included Chief Justice Earl Warren.  During his visit to the New York State Pavilion, a riot almost ensued.  “Children cried out in terror, parents shouted, toes were trampled, cameras clicked.”

Courtesy Life Magazine
Courtesy Life Magazine

Hall of Presidents: Appropriately, Humphrey’s appearance coincided with the opening of some striking new exhibits within the United States Pavilion (which had opened the previous year) featuring memorabilia from over a dozen American presidents, including original copies of the Bill of Rights, Washington’s inaugural and farewell addresses and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Meanwhile, a crude Animatronic version of Lincoln continued to greet visitors.

Photo by Bill Cotter/NYT
Photo by Bill Cotter/NYT

Under The Dome: One of the most anticipated new arrivals to the fair was the Winston Churchill Center, a tribute to the former British Prime Minister who had died in January.  “Included in exhibits documenting Sir Winston’s career are some of his own paintings, and photographs of him at various periods in his life. Also on display are a replica of Churchill’s study at Chartwell; models of Blenheim Palace, where he was born, and Bladon churchyard, where he lies buried; and an exhibit of his personal effects, including his desk, which once belonged to Disraeli.”

The dome of this dramatic pavilion would later be used as the Queens Zoo Aviary.

heinz

MORE FOOD: According to the New York Times, “the number of restaurants has been increased from 111 to 198. This means the fair can now serve more than 38,000  person simultaneously, or about 8,000 more than last year. ”  Certainly there was food to be found at the Theater of Food-Festival of Gas Pavilion?

The Gutenberg Bible: If you were craving a more spiritual exhibition, look no further than the latest resident of the Vatican Pavilion, one of six existing copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Also on site: The Pope’s jeweled tiara.  These two items were joining the Pieta, perhaps the most historically significant work of art at the fair.

dino

New Dinosaurs at Sinclair’s Dinoland : And not just any dinosaurs, but automated dinosaurs that could roar. “Last year we were of the school that dinosaurs had no vocal cords,” said the exhibit’s fuddyduddy spokesman. “This year we are in a new school.”

Kiddie Phone Center : As a way to get children excited about using the phone, Bell Telephone opened a Phone Fun Fair featuring a variety of wacky telephone games. “The center has three tot-sized phone booths where a youngster, by dialing, can get a pleasant message from one of six Disney characters, or a commercial message from an operator.” BONUS FUN:  “A voice Mirror lets you hear how you sound on the telephone. Weather-phones allow you to dial Weather Bureau information in selected cities. Quiz games, solar battery display — and much more!”

fiesta

People To People Fiesta: The youth oriented People to People International is a youth outreach non-profit started by President Eisenhower in 1956. “Africa, Asia, Europe, as well as the Americas, are represented in a “village” of kiosks which display and sell a variety of folk art. Admission is charged; proceeds go to a center for world understanding.”   The ‘fiesta’ “will stress folk singing and dancing in the setting of colorful tents.”

Today PTPI takes the World’s Fair’s slogan — Peace Through Understanding — as its own.

(Image courtesy Worlds Fair Community forum.)

mars

MARS! One of the more innovative new exhibits was located in Space Park with a focus on Mariner 4, a spacecraft launched the previous year that would successfully take the first images of Mars. Photos sent by Mariner 4 would be displayed here as they came in on July 14-15. Above: An image of Mars sent by the orbiting spacecraft.

Kensington Runestone: And finally no trip to the fair in 1965 would be complete without a viewing of the mysterious Kensington Runestone, an ancient stone marking found in Minnesota in 1898.  Some believe this to be a link to 14th century Swedish explorers although how it got to Minnesota is anybody’s guess. It was debunked as a hoax in 1910, and yet here it is at the  World’s Fair! It was accompanied, naturally, by the 28-foot-tall Viking that you see below:

viking

Picture courtesy the World’s  Fair Community boards

Bryant Park: The Fall and Rise of Midtown’s Most Elegant Public Space

NEW PODCAST  In our last show, we left the space that would become Bryant Park as a disaster area; its former inhabitant, the old Crystal Palace, had tragically burned to the ground in 1858.  The area was called Reservoir Square for its proximity to the imposing Egyptian-like structure to its east, but it wouldn’t keep that name for long.

William Cullen Bryant was a key proponent to the creation of Central Park, but it would here that the poet and editor would receive a belated honor in the 1884. With the glorious addition of the New York Public Library in 1911, the park received some substantial upgrades, including its well-known fountain. Over twenty years later, it took on another curious present — a replica of Federal Hall as a tribute to George Washington.

By the 1970s Bryant Park was well known as a destination for drug dealers and most people shied away from its shady paths, even during the day.  It would take a unique plan to bring the park back to life and a little help from Hollywood and the fashion world to turn it into New York’s most elegant park.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #179: The Fight For Bryant Park

_____________________________________________________________________________

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

Starting with this episode, we are doubling our number of episodes per month. Now you’ll hear a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  And we need your help to make these expansion plans happen.

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

________________________________________________________________________

William Cullen Bryant, photo taken by Matthew Brady

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William Cullen Bryant in bust form, but Launt Thompson.  It seems this bust has made its way back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

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William Cullen Bryant installed in his marble niche behind the New York Public Library.  This picture was taken in 1910, well before the radical redesign of the park in the 1930s. (Museum of the City of New York).

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During World War I, the YMCA had a special ‘Eagle Hut’ built in the park for traveling servicemen. (Library of Congress)

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A colorful depiction of the Bryant Park ‘demonstration gardens’ that were planted during the war. (Library of Congress)

7096409143_3df8bc2aa4_b

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Bryant Park in 1920. Looking west on 42nd Street at 6th Avenue (you can see the elevated railroad!) In the distance is One Times Square. Note the reappearance of the Chesterfield Cigarettes billboard from the picture above. (Museum of the City of New York)

Bryant Park in 1920. Looking west on 42nd Street at 6th Avenue (you can see the elevated railroad!) In the distance is One Times Square. (Museum of the City of New York)

Constructing a replica of Federal Hall in a barren Bryant Park. (Picture taken by the Wurts Brothers, Museum of the City of New York)

8x11mm_X2010_7_1_ 703

The Federal Hall reconstruction had a corporate sponsor — Sears Roebuck & Co.  Here’s how it looked in better days.  Believe it or not, the reproduction of Mount Vernon actually did get built in New York — in Prospect Park in Brooklyn!  (Bryant Park Corporation)

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Bryant Park’s Federal Hall, May 1932. (Museum of the City of New York)

Bryant Park's Federal Hall, May 1932. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The interior of Bryant Park’s Federal Hall. (Museum of the City of New York)

The interior of Bryant Park's Federal Hall. (Museum of the City of New York)

The reconstruction of Bryant Park in 1934, overseen by new Parks Commissioner Robert Moses

The reconstruction of Bryant Park in 1934, overseen by new Parks Commissioner Robert Moses

This photo was taken by Stanley Kubrick during his years as a photographer for Look Magazine. The caption reads “Park Bench Nuisance [Woman reading a newspaper, while a man reads over her shoulder.]” Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

This photo was taken by Stanley Kubrick during his years as a photographer for Look Magazine. The caption reads "Park Bench Nuisance [Woman reading a newspaper, while a man reads over her shoulder.]" Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

People enjoying the New York Public Library’s outdoor reading room, 1930s. (New York Public Library)

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Bryant Park at night, photo by Nathan Schwartz, taken in 1938. (New York Public Library)

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The hedges of the central lawn, photo taken in 1957.  These were removed in the desperate effort to clean up the park in the late 1980s. (Library of Congress)

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Bryant Park in the 1980s.  High walls allowed for suspicious behavior to occur in the at all hours of the day. (Bryant Park Conservancy)

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Overlooking the new renovations in the late 1980s (Bryant Park Corporation)

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Bryant Park after the clean-up, taken sometime in the 1990s. Photo by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)

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Great overhead shots directly from the Bryant Park Conservancy!

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And Now … Two Christmas Poems By Robert Moses

My new column for A24 Films is up over on their 1981 site (in support of the film A Most Violent Year). 1981 was the year that Robert Moses died, and his death sparked new discussions into what his legacy to the New York City area truly was.  In a word: automobiles.  You can read my article here.

But that’s a little depressing. How about I tell you about the time that the New York Times published a couple Christmas poems written by Moses?

That’s right, the Santa Claus of Long Island, bearing gifts of bridges and highways, did occasionally get into the Christmas spirit, albeit dripping in vitriol and sass.


Moses in 1934 during his failed campaign for governor. (Courtesy New York Daily News Archive)

POEM ONE – ‘TIS THE NIGHT BEFORE ELECTION

This loosely poetic speech first manifested in print during the last gasps of Moses’ failed bid for New York governor in 1934.

As the Republican candidate running against incumbent Herbert H. Lehman, young Moses failed to connect with voters, and the experience soured him on elected positions. He was soundly defeated by Lehman, the investment banker-turned-politician aligned with new president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who had preceded Lehman as governor).

His final words as a candidate were spoken on radio station WEAF and printed the following day.  Those words paid an awkward homage to the great Christmas poem written by Clement Clarke Moore. Despite the fact that the election was in early November, his point in conjuring the visage of Old St. Nick would become clear.  It’s hardly rhythmic. Imagine this read in his gruff, determined voice:

“‘Tis the night before election, and nothing much is stirring throughout the state.

The stockings in Democratic homes are hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Jim Farley soon will be there.

The Big Bag Man is dressing himself up as Santa. He doesn’t really look the part, but that’s not important.

Neither is the fact that all the presents were bought on credit, and that Santa Claus is running up a tremendous bill.   

The important question is:  Has he plenty of presents to go around for the boys and girls who have been good?

Governor Smith expressed the fondest hopes of the Democratic party, and summed up the strategy of the whole Democratic campaign when he said that he thought the people would not shoot Santa Claus before a hard Christmas.”

Jim Farley (pictured at right, 1938) was considered a ‘kingmaker’ in Democratic politics, responsible for the election of FDR.  He would become Roosevelt’s U.S. Postmaster General.  The James A. Farley Post Office across from Madison Square Garden is named in his honor.

Using the Santa analogy, Moses was taking a dig at Democratic programs that would soon shape FDR’s New Deal.  Of course, as New York’s power builder, Moses would later benefit greatly from these programs so perhaps he shouldn’t have been complaining.

In 1948, Robert Moses received the very first honorary degree from Hofstra University, along with Robert Gannon, the president of Fordham University.  However, that year it would be a phony university that would inspire Moses to pen a sassy Christmas verse. (Courtesy Hofstra University)

POEM TWO: CHRISTMAS GREETINGS (LETTER TO THE CHANCELLOR)

Perhaps more unusual was the poem which ran the day after Christmas in 1948, an inside joke between men of influence.

By the late 1930s, Moses had amassed several positions of responsibility and power and had pushed through a great number of vast, expensive projects, including the Triborough Bridge. Moses had to routinely pitch these projects to the New York Board of Estimate — the men who held the purse strings — which included Henry M. Curran (Deputy Mayor), Newbold Morris (City Council President), and James Lyons (Bronx Borough President).

Curran was a bit of a grammar nerd — the kind who cringes at improper usage of words — and recoiled during debates when Moses (at right) and the others misused the English language.

According to the Times, Curran organized among the men a hierarchy of language correction, (jokingly?) referred to as Curran University.  One could only ‘graduate’ from this phony university by excelling in their verbal and written debates with grammatical aplomb.

During a board meeting where the fate of the old Claremont Inn was discussed, Moses used the phrase ‘coign of vantage’ which scandalized Curran but suggested that Moses’ verbal skills were improving.

Then, one day, Moses wrote a memorandum to Lyons using the phrase ‘high-falutin‘ as well an apparent mis-use of the word Aurignacian.  This threw his superiors into a light-hearted conniption.

“We tried to help.  But Moses has failed, flunked.  Up with the bars!  Let Mose wail — without — not within,” wrote Curran.

Moses, who would become more powerful than all three men combined, responded in an unusual way — he wrote a biting Christmas poem.  The following verse, penned by Moses, was delivered to Lyon, who “promptly converted it into a Christmas card — with embellishments — and passed it along to his superior officer.”  The poem, as published in the Times:

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
To Chancellor Henry H. Curran
Great Chancellor of Curran U
Greetings from Borough Hall and Zoo.
 
Assorted barks and roars and honks
From the four corners of the Bronx.
 
Gannon, Osborn, Robbins and Moses
Greet you with laurel, rhinos and roses.
 
Cheerios and loud hosannas
From Pelham Bay and the Bronx savannas.
 
Great critic of the spoken word,
Greetings with the proverbial bird.
 
From every coign and height definitive
We greet you with a split infinitive.
 
Signed, 
James J Lyons, Dean
Robert Moses, Sophomore Cheer Leader

So remember: the next time you have a friend correct your grammar, remind yourself, “Hey, I have something in common with the Power Broker!”

Below: A New Yorker cartoon from 1960, the year when his grammar pal Morris took the job of Parks Commissioner from Moses.