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Health and Living Newspapers and Newsies

Nellie Bly: Undercover in New York’s Notorious Asylum for the Insane

The story of New York World reporter Nellie Bly as she poses as a mental patient to report on the abuses of Blackwell’s Island’s Lunatic Asylum.   PODCAST Nellie Bly was a determined and fearless journalist ahead of her time, known for the spectacular lengths she would go to get a good story. Her reputation was […]

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It's Showtime Podcasts

Billie Holiday’s New York: Here’s to Swing Street, Harlem’s 133rd Street and other landmarks of jazz

  PODCAST Grab your fedora and take a trip with the Bowery Boys into the heart of New York City’s jazz scene — late nights, smoky bars, neon signs — through the eyes of one of the greatest American vocalists who ever lived here — Billie Holiday. Eleanora Fagan walked out of Pennsylvania Station in […]

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New York Islands

Whatever happened to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Island?

Welfare Island (once the more enticingly named Blackwell’s Island) was New York’s depository of human services, once a dour place of horrifying asylums and miserable workhouses.  In the 1960s Mayor John Lindsay was preparing to revitalize the East River island with new housing and increased support for the hospitals there.  Architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee […]

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New York Islands

Roosevelt Island – from the New York Times to tomorrow’s podcast!

In this weekend’s New York Times Travel section, I chat with Emily Brennan about three places outside the borough of Manhattan that would make ideal destinations for tourists if the lines get too long at the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.  You can read the interview here, but the places I discuss […]

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Health and Living

The Strangers Hospital: Your special home on Avenue D, brought to you by Boss Tweed’s plumber king

A genuine survivor: The building to the right was once the Strangers Hospital in the 1870s.  This picture, by Berenice Abbott, was taken many decades later, in 1937.  And the building is still around today! (Picture NYPL) New York used to lump the sick, the poor and the homeless into one mass of needy unwanted. […]

Presidential: Spending your weekend with the Roosevelts

In 1973, the sliver of land in the East River called Welfare Island was given a more lofty name — Roosevelt Island — in anticipation of a grand monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed by premier architect Louis Kahn.  But Kahn died in 1974 after designing the somber, angular granite memorial, set to be placed on […]

History in the Making: Park Slope Ownage Edition

Park Slope, snow and Volkswagen, January 1978, photo by Dinandi Nooney (courtesy Google Life images) Why was Park Slope named the best neighborhood in New York City? Being one of the city’s largest landmarked districts probably helps. [New York Daily News] Say it’s 1900, you’re injured and you happen to be at the Brooklyn Navy […]

100 Years Ago: How New York looked, to somebody

This post will definitely require you to click on the picture below to give it a closer look, and it’s a fairly large picture. This is the Hammonds 1910 map of “New York City and vicinity.” Give it a close look and observe the things the mapmaker thought worthwhile to highlight. — It’s clear that […]

Open House NY: Eight Best Bets (Still Available!)

Relive the 1964 World’s Fair this weekend — from a trolley Open House New York, a weekend-long celebration of city-wide architecture, history and habitation, rolls out this weekend at a varied host of locales. If you’re like me, you completely forgot to make reservations to any of the hottest tours. So if you’re interested in […]

Roosevelt Island: New York’s former ‘city of asylums’

The original Smallpox Hospital, designed by James Renwick, still stands today thanks to diligent restoration. (Click pic for detailed view) PODCAST Listen to it for FREE on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or click this link to listen to the show or download it directly from our satellite site Looking north over Roosevelt Island, which cleanly […]

Asylum! The insane foundations of Columbia University

The charming structure above, depicted as though it were a rest stop on the road to Eden, sits on land now occupied by Columbia University in Morningside Heights.  Students driven mad by their studies can find cold comfort knowing that the former occupants of this acreage were also mostly certifiably insane. Welcome to Bloomingdale Insane […]

Blackwell’s Island: a family sorta place

I have a special place in my heart for Roosevelt Island, that narrow land in the East River once known by such welcoming names as Welfare Island and Blackwell’s Island. Until the urban development experiments here during the 1970s, I never thought it particularly a family friendly place, unless your family happened to be criminal, […]

Charles Dickens’ guide to New York City low life

Dickens in 1850 What is this dismal-fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like an enchanter’s palace in a melodrama! – a famous prison, called The Tombs. Shall we go in? And thus in this voice continues the eager, fey, often condescending but spectacularly written account of Charles Dickens’ New York excursion as captured in his “American […]

Sarah Jessica Parker: her New York City history

Above: the sun comes out for Sarah Jessica Parker New York City usually spends the summer movie season being destroyed by aliens or scarred by car chases. So despite what you may think of the upcoming Sex And The City movie, consider this — not only does the Big Apple make it out alive, it […]

Wild Boys: New York’s Brother Islands

Above: North Brother island and its lighthouse The Brother Islands, two almost forgotten islands in the channel between Queens and the Bronx, have finally gotten some respect. Over the years North Brother, the big brother, has been used for a host of unusual purpose, home to the wounded, the drug addicted and the diseased. South, […]