The City that Never Sleeps
--New York Tourist Bureau Ad Slogan
". . .the world's greatest experiment in social and political democracy."
-- Mayor Fiorello La Guardia
"Our society will never be great until our cities are great."
-- President Lyndon B. Johnson
knocking at your back door.
Ain't it wonderful to be
where I've always wanted to be?
I GUESS THE LORD MUST BE IN NEW YORK CITY."
-- Harry Nilsson
A "fairy catastrophe"
A "theater of progress. . .the performance can never end."
-- Le Corbusier, French architect of the United Nations headquarters
and a leader of the modern International style of architecture
"Skyscraper national park."
"New York is the city where the future comes to rehearse." -- Mayor Ed Koch, January 1, 1986
For many New Yorkers, NEW YORK CITY itself is the most magnificent and beloved character in a city full of an extraordinary large cast of characters. Paris and Venice may have their own unique beauty and Old World charm, but New York City is uniquely vibrant and beautiful with its blend of innovative and bold modern Art Deco skyscrapers and architectural designs of the 20th and 21st centuries with Old World buildings and styles of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, no other city in the world has New York's combination of excitement, ebullience, energy, vitality and, most of all, diversity. New York City is also the most heterogeneous city in the world. For many New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers, the city is a patch quilt of beautiful spaces and treasured moments.
Throughout the city's history it has been described in extremes -- both positive and negative -- ranging from colorful and magnificent to noisy and dirty. There are many misconceptions about New York and some of them noted by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in The Ten Misconceptions of New York, written in 1939 -- the year of the World's Fair in New York -- include: New York is "a cold, hard place to live," "an unhealthful place to live," and an "architectural hodge-podge."
Wander the City's old streets where ghosts of the past linger in its buildings and twisting alleys. Stop and listen to the hum of the City's pulsating sounds, -- sometimes ominous -- of screeching cars, the honking of taxi horns, footsteps on the sidewalk, the laughter of crowds and the quiet in its early morning hours. Television detective shows often focus on murder and crime in the City; however, contrary to public opinion New York City remains the safest big city in America, according to FBI statistics.
and success were extremely important to the Dutch West India Company,
the founders of New Amsterdam, and the company was always welcoming to
a wide diversity of people as long as they were willing to work.
Holland was the only 17th Century country in Europe that offered women
an education and that tradition was continued in New Amsterdam. New
York has been described as the cultural capital of America and is the
birthplace of motion pictures and television broadcasting. New
Amsterdam was a city of commerce and a town of merchants. Author
Russell Shorto calls New York "The Island at the Center of the World"
in his book about Dutch Manhattan. This island at the center of the world has more than 400 miles of coastline. The City of Greater New York is composed of the islands of Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island. New York City is separated from the state of New Jersey by the Hudson River. The East River separates the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx from Long Island and the Harlem River separates northern Manhattan from the Bronx.
The population of New York City dropped to 12,000 during the Revolutionary War (due to disease and the absence of men who joined the Continental Army). New York City became the American city with the largest population in the country in the year 1790 and has remained as such ever since. Before 1790 Philadelphia had been the country's largest city. In 2012 the population of the borough of Manhattan alone is 1.6 million. On an average work day Manhattan’s population increases to 3.9 million with all the commuters and visitors coming into the city. Its population was as high as 2.3 million in the year 1910 and the Lower East Side with its immigrants and tenement buildings was the most crowded area in the entire world.
In HERE IS NEW YORK (written in 1948), E.B. White describes three different NEW YORKs:
White also described those living in the borough of Manhattan as "strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town."
As with many large cities, there will always be those who LOVE it and those who HATE it. A large number of words have been used to describe the City ranging from such extremes as sparkling to dirty, rich to poor, exciting to noisy, elite to vulgar and heaven or hell. It is a City of many wonderful treasures. Look and you shall find them -- sometimes in unexpected places.
Throughout its history, New York City has been a symbol of freedom, hope, tolerance, American culture and artistic expression, and power. The hopes and promises of the City and what the City itself means to each of its over eight-million inhabitants are as different as its diversities of people and cultures.
of New York City as a city with many neighborhoods and communities of
various nationalities and cultures with certain similarities and many
differences. Some neighborhoods were named after the immigrants who
settled them so there are neighborhoods known as Germantown, Little
Italy, Little Ukraine, Chinatown, Little India and Little Korea, etc.
The City has been described as a "melange of customs and people." A
walk through these different neighborhoods will reveal entire new
In a history of New York City, EMPIRE CITY: NEW YORK THROUGH THE CENTURIES, authors Kenneth T. Jackson and David S. Dunbar list ten factors that make New York City so special. Among them are: the City's tempo, its reputation for tolerance, its public transportation and its incredible diversity.
York City began to acquire its very famous skyline between 1890 and
1930 according to Thomas Bender in his THE UNFINISHED CITY New York
and the Metropolitan Idea. Motion Pictures and photography have made the NYC skyline one that is easily recognized throughout the world. But New York City is also a city with beautiful parks, forests, wetlands and salt water marshes.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT NEW YORK:
In The Unfinished City New York and The Metropolitan Idea, Thomas Bender notes that the Alfred Stieglitz circle of NYC photographers saw the City as "a place of visual delight, not a place of working, living, and laughing; nor a place of active public life, of people enjoying the streets or using them for formal rituals of self-representations." Stieglitz's vision of the City was in contract to others, such as painter John Sloan, whose works focused more on working class people, people's activities, people in a park or other public places.
photographers such as Lewis Hine (1874 - 1940) and Jacob Riis (1849 -
1914) were social commentators. Hine did a series of photographs on
child labor and Riis is known for his photos of immigrants on the Lower
East Side. For over 50 years James Vanderzee (1886 - 1983), an
African-American photographer, had his own studio in Harlem where he
captured portraits of Harlem residents and others who passed through.
The Photo League was established in 1936 in New York by Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand to promote documentary photography of social causes, working class families, and political and trade union activities. In addition to Abbott and Strand, photographers in the group included: Ansel Adams, Robert Frank, Lewis Hine, Ruth Orkin, Ralph Steiner, Weegee, Edward Weston,Margaret Bourke-White, and others. The very progressive group was eventually investigated by the House Committee of UnAmerican Activities and blacklisted on December 5, 1947.
Painters such as John Sloan (1871 – 1951) and Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967) would also capture the beauty of New York City. Sloane moved to NYC in 1904 and his paintings are often of city neighborhoods, especially those he loved and where he lived, both the Village and in Chelsea. He also painted the working class people on the streets and a New York City of the early 1900's: Jefferson Market Courthouse, Backyards Greenwich Village, Six O'Clock, the Flatiron Building, McSorley's Bar, the Sixth Avenue Elevated subway trains, The Coffee Line, The Haymarket (1907), and the Wake of the Ferry. Sloan's works have been featured in a special exhibit, Seeing the City: Sloan's New York organized by the Delaware Art Museum and exhibited in other parts of the country.
Hopper's most famous painting, Nighthawks -- of customers sitting at the counter of a Greenwich Village all-night diner -- portrays the moody, dark side of the City. The subject of Hopper's paintings are ordinary scenes or indistinctive buildings: New York Corner, The Roofs of Washington Square, Drug Store, Night Windows, or People in a Park.
INFORMATIVE BOOKS ABOUT NEW YORK:
THE ARCHITECTURE OF NEW YORK CITY: HISTORIES AND VIEWS OF IMPORTANT STRUCTURES, SITES AND SYMBOLS by Donald Martin Reynolds*
THE BIG OYSTER: A HISTORY ON A HALF SHELL by Mark Kurlansky
EMPIRE CITY NEW YORK THROUGH THE CENTURIES by Kenneth T. Jackson and David S. Dunbar *
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NEW YORK CITY by Kenneth T. Jsckson
THE EPIC OF NEW YORK CITY A NARRATIVE HISTORY by Edward Robb Ellis*
A PICKPOCKET’S TALE: THE UNDERWORLD OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW YORK by Timothy J. Gilfoyle
THE GANGS OF NEW YORK by Herbert Ashbury
THE GAY METROPOLIS, 1940 – 1996 by Charles Kelser
THE GAY MILITANTS HOW GAY LIBERATION BEGAN IN AMERICA, 1969 - 1971 by Donn Teal
GAY NEW YORK: GENDER, URBAN CULTURE, AND THE MAKING OF THE GAY MALE WORLD, 1890 - 1940 by George Chauncey
GOTHAM A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY TO 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows & Mike Wallace*
GREENWICH VILLAGE CULTURE AND COUNTERCULTURE by Rick Beard and Leslie Cohen Berlowitz (published for the Museum of the City of New York by Rutgers University Press*
GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS by Andrew S. Dolkart*
HARLEM ON MY MIND: CULTURAL CAPITAL OF BLACK AMERICA, 1900-1968 by Alton Schoener*
THE HISTORICAL ATLAS OF NEW YORK CITY A VISUAL CELEBRATION OF 400 YEARS OF NEW YORK CITY'S HISTORY by Eric Homberger*
THE HUDSON A History by Tom Lewis
THE ISLAND AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD: THE EPIC STORY OF DUTCH MANHATTAN AND THE FORGOTTEN COLONY THAT SHAPED AMERICA, by Russell Shorto
LOW LIFE: Drinking, drugging, whoring, murder, corruption, vice and miscellaneous mayhem in old New York
NEW YORK in the 50s by Dan Wakefield
97 ORCHARD STREET: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, by Jane Ziegelman
REPUBLIC OF DREAMS Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia 1910 - 1960 by Ross Wetzsteen*
TERRIBLE HONESTY MONGREL MANHATTAN IN THE 1920s by Ann Douglas
THE UNFINISHED CITY New York and The Metropolitan Idea, by Thomas Bender
THE WOMEN OF THE HOUSE: HOW A COLONIAL SHE-MERCHANT BUILT A MANSION, A FORTUNE, AND A DYNASTY by Jean Zimmerman*
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER: CLASSICS OF AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE by Anthony W. Robins. First published in 1987 before 9/11, the book's revised 2011
edition is a "memory of the World Trade Center as it once was."*
*Denote an especially excellent and informative books about the City; however, all of the above are highly recommended.
Office of Metropolitan History Time Out New York