By Amy Starecheski
New York City in the 1980s and ‘90s was home to a squatting movement unlike any other in the United States. Drawing on their diverse radical and progressive roots, squatters claimed and occupied city-owned abandoned building with a winning combination: a Yippie sense of drama and fun, punk rock aggression and subcultural grit, and urban homesteaders’ earnest appeals to American values of self-sufficiency and initiative. When faced with eviction they learned how to build barricades and booby traps and drum up riots from their European counterparts, and each attempt to evict Lower East Side squatters from the late ‘80s on brought newly escalated police and squatter tactics. By the mid-1990s, the police were using tanks and helicopters and the squatters were burning cars in the streets.
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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