By Shari Rabin
Where do you live? What’s your place like? New Yorkers love talking about real estate. In a city where land is at a premium, recent articles about tiny houses, shared housing, poor doors, public housing, and the social consequences of housing all point to the everyday ramifications and moral valences of housing in New York and elsewhere. To talk about housing –- in New York City especially -– is to have a conversation about religion, not only as a site of ultimate meaning, but of ritual practice and identity formation. This intensity about where and how to live is not new to our generation of New Yorkers, however. One largely forgotten form of housing offered a popular –- if controversial –- solution for New Yorkers throughout the nineteenth century: the boardinghouse.
By Richard Howe
By the end of the 19th century most of the streets and avenues laid out on the island of Manhattan by the 1811 Commissioners Plan and its 1870 northern extension by the Central Park Commissioners had been opened to traffic and as much as two-thirds or more of them had been paved. The island’s rural estates had been broken up and sold after having been subdivided into building lots conforming to the blocks in the street plan. Most of the island up to about 168th Street had been densely built up, with nearly 100,000 buildings —- over 80,000 of them residential -— carpeting the built-up area. At least 90% of all the buildings on the island -— and 99% of the residential buildings -— were no more than six stories tall; the average height was about five stories: 60 feet at a nominal 12 feet per story. And at least 75% of the buildings were 20–25 feet wide and 60–80 feet deep. But why? Why so many buildings, and why so many in just this range of sizes?
By Suzanne Wasserman
I have lived off the grid in New York City for over twenty five years. Living “off the grid” has come to mean living by choice without electricity and therefore without such 21st century basics as lighting, stoves, flush toilets, dishwashers, air conditioners, washing machines, and dryers. But in New York City, “off the grid” has an entirely different meaning. The grid I live off of is not an electrical grid. Rather it is the grid of horizontal and vertical streets implemented in the early 19th century that makes up New York City.
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