Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Grand Street, starting from East River Drive

Grand Street was laid out in 1766 by James de Lancey Jr. as the road between Corlears Hook, a piece of land that juts out into the East River between the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges and what was then de Lancey Square or the Great Square (now Essex Street). It was named for its great width relative to other streets of the period. Grand Street runs from the East River Drive to Varick Street, not quite river to river.

The street begins at the East River (aka FDR) Drive. To the north is the Williamsburg Bridge

This part of Manhattan Island was owned by the de Lancey family, who were fervent loyalists during the American Revolution. At the end of the war, the de Lancey land was sold and the area was developed in a few decades for low-income housing, i.e., tenements primarily for new immigrants.

By the 1930s, the old tenements had become uninhabitable and block upon block of them and the streets on which they were located, were razed for the superblocks and high-rise, high-density buildings that one sees at the eastern end of Grand Street. These buildings were orginally sponsored by clothing workers unions for union members.

Some of the buildings are named after prominent figures connected to the lives of the people who lived in the area, usually with a leftist slant

...although it's not "this land is your land..."

There is attractive brickwork on some of the older buildings.

One of the most famous of the co-ops is Seward Park. Its lobby has some murals dating from 1959 that the buildings' owners tried to paint over at the time a few years ago when they decided to attract market-rate buyers. An effort by the NYC Municipal Art Society and others saved the murals. The artist who painted the pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein was Hugo Gellert, who had been far more prominent a generation earlier. See the murals at http://newdeal.feri.org/gellert/murals.htm


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