[The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections] Myth #10: Example of Laissez-Faire Planning
By Gergely Baics & Leah Meisterlin
Not until 1916 did New York City acquire its comprehensive zoning resolution, the first in the nation. Through the 19th Century, the city’s land-use restrictions comprised a patchwork of fragmented and locally scaled public and private regulatory interventions, including nuisance laws, fire zones, building codes, and deed restrictions in the form of restrictive covenants. Although with this patchwork of caveats, it is fair to describe this early land-use regime as largely unregulated, at least by our contemporary standards. The Commissioners’ Plan was laid out within this historical context: even as it strictly defines the geometry of blocks and streets — and, consequently, a geometry of intersections — the plan remains silent on land use, save the location of a few public spaces. In fact, the 1811 Plan preceded the conceptualization of distinct categories of use. Such categorization arguably first appeared decades later in William Perris’s landmark 1852-54 Fire Insurance Atlas, which catalogued and systematically organized each building in Manhattan by its function, establishing our still familiar taxonomy of residential, commercial, and industrial uses.
Recovering New York’s Entangled Dutch, Native American, and African Histories: An Interview with Jennifer Tosch
By Andrea Mosterman
The tour, which she describes as “a pilgrimage,” addresses the difficult histories of slavery practiced by the region’s Dutch descendants. In 2017, Jennifer and her colleagues of the Mapping Slavery Project, a public history project based in the Netherlands that focuses on the Dutch history of slavery, published Dutch New York Histories: Connecting African, Native America and Slavery Heritage, a collection of New York sites that in some way are linked to the interconnected histories of the area’s Dutch, Indigenous, and African American peoples. The tour and publication highlight many important New York City sites. I talked to Jennifer about the tour, the book, and her motivations to start this project.
By Andrew Urban
In November, 2018, the Public Historian published a review that I wrote of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s newest tour: Under One Roof. The tour interprets the lives of three families who lived in the tenement at 103 Orchard Street—which was acquired by the museum in 2007—from the 1940s up until the recent past. Addressing post-World War II immigration and migration to the Lower East Side, the educators leading the tours that I took did an excellent job highlighting how Americans have frequently been reluctant to welcome the world’s “huddled masses,” national myths notwithstanding. For instance, visitors are introduced to surveys conducted with Americans in 1946, in which a majority of respondents rejected proposals that would have suspended quota restrictions in order to permit Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and other Displaced Persons from Europe to enter the United States. One of the Under One Roof tours I took occurred in January 2018, a few days after President Trump expressed a desire for the United States to receive immigrants from Norway rather than from “shithole countries” such as Haiti. In 1946, the educator explained, Scandinavian countries also scored favorably with the American public as the most desirable sources of immigration. Through framings such as this, the Under One Roof tour rightly insists that the United States will only be able to come to terms with the controversies and debates that surround immigration policy today if it honestly evaluates its own history—racist attitudes included.
Samantha Grace Lewis, “Occupy the MoMA January 13, 2012.” Occupy Museums, an activist movement that originated as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, has been a leading critic of the relationship between art museums and capitalism. Recent actions have included a 2017 protest at MoMA calling for the removal of board member Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc., whose “investment management company” has used campaign donations and the political appointments of former employees to attack and weaken regulations directed at the finance industry.
By Matt Kautz
However, the rehabilitative push was short-lived and movements to punish drug users and distributors culminated in the passage of the country’s harshest drug laws, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, in 1973. In large part, the criminalization of Black drug users and dealers in New York City drove this punitive turn. By looking at New York state’s response to heroin in Harlem during the 1960s, we can better understand how racialized narratives about drug addiction impact policy.
Carol Lamberg's Neighborhood Success Stories: Creating and Sustaining Affordable Housing in New York
Reviewed by Nicholas Dagen Bloom
Mayors LaGuardia, Wagner, Koch, Bloomberg, and de Blasio get all the attention for affordable or public housing. Lost in the “top down” approach are key figures such as NYCHA founder Mary Simkhovitch; the Rose family that was deeply involved in Mitchell-Lama; or the Koch-era HPD leader Felice Michetti who today manages thousands of subsidized units. New York’s deep bench in the private/public world of housing development and management was as important as the largescale programs.
Edwards led I. S. 201’s Community Education Center and, along with her dear friend and neighbor Hannah Brockington, served on its 21-member governing body. The center was housed in I. S. 201: a windowless structure that contained an intermediate school and nearly a dozen centers and programs created to meet Harlem’s needs. It was also one of the three demonstration school districts established in 1967 after New York City’s Black and Hispanic parents demanded a say in their children’s schooling. The other two districts were located in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in lower Manhattan.
Counter to the neoliberal tautology that gentrification is inevitable — a claim that justifies all manner of violence against vulnerable urban communities — Stein argues that there indeed is an alternative to land value planning and capitalist land markets. Shining through Stein’s history of imperialist expansion, mass displacements and enclosure, and bipartisan commitment to prioritizing real estate profits over people are stories of tenants, workers, and radical planners who successfully fought back against the commodification of urban space. Hilary Wilson — PhD student in Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center — recently interviewed Stein to learn more about his motivations for writing the book and the social, political, and economic struggles that have constituted the real estate state.
John Garvey is a Brooklyn native and lifelong New York City resident. During the 1970s, he was a leading activist in the Taxi Rank & File Coalition, a group of radical cab drivers determined to fight their bosses and a union leadership they perceived as corrupt and ineffective. Later in life, John worked as an educator in New York City jails and headed the Teacher Academy and Collaborative Programs at the City University of New York, where, among other things, he was instrumental in establishing the CUNY Prep program, which offers out-of-school youth a pathway to college. He is an editor of Insurgent Notes, of Hard Crackers: Chronicles of Everyday Life, and was an editor of Race Traitor, a journal that published between 1993 and 2005 whose motto was “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.”
This interview, conducted by Gotham's Andy Battle, has been condensed and edited for clarity.
By Kim Dramer
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Trapped by locked doors and only a single flimsy fire escape, 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished in the conflagration itself or jumped from windows to escape the flames and died from the fall. The Triangle Fire was the most fatal workplace tragedy in New York City history until 9/11. Today, New Yorkers walk by three small plaques marking the spot of the tragedy, many unaware of the events that unfolded at the spot more than a century ago. 
This article will examine three current efforts by New York women memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire workers. Significantly, many of these women are the descendants of immigrants who plied the needle trades in search of the American dream. While the dreams of the young immigrant women who perished in the Triangle fire put an end to their quest, their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
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