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Tell the Story of New York in 10 Objects

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February 01, 2012 01:40:31 PM
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Andy Pagano

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Ridgefield, CT

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Round rubber balls of all sizes

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The marriage between ball and concrete (handball, stoopball, punchball, kickball...)illustrates the irrepressable spirit and creativity of New York.

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February 01, 2012 01:28:24 PM
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Adam Herbst

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River Edge, NJ

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Zagat Restaurant Guide

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This gives a snapshot of the life we live now. Not only does it say that New Yorkers love food, eat out (maybe because those apartment kitchens are so small), and are sharp and witty (essentially what a New Yorker is), but it also speaks to the depth and breadth of New Yorkers. The vast array of ethnic restaurants represented comments not only on the nationalities found in the City, but also New Yorkers' willingness to interact with every else's ethnicities. By reviewing places from Momofuku to Grey's Hot Dogs, it shows the breadth of the economics and class that are in NY. Lastly, although it is compiled by the Zagats, it is a grass roots project - a microcosm of the city - all of our voices coming together to create a vibrant, dynamic source that is greater than ourselves.

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February 01, 2012 01:21:30 PM
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Carlo Balestri

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Battery Park

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The manhole cover

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The visual symbol and real gateway to the city's vast unseen infrastructure that supports us all. The unseen, unknown, most critical part of our city. The history and development of the city's subterranean infrastructure reflects our hisotry and presages the future.

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February 01, 2012 01:19:03 PM
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Mark Kalan

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United States

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Any Subway token - maybe one from the 60s when it was 10¢ to ride the trains.

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It is the subway/mass transit system that brought settlement and commerce to the outer boroughs and contributed to making NYC the world-class metropolis it is today.

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February 01, 2012 01:08:39 PM
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Bill DelGrosso

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Upper West Side

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A New York City Subway Token

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The token represents the MTA, the one thing that unified the whole city: the establishment of a working subway. The MTA gave everyone in all 5 Boroughs the chance to travel around the other 4 easily and cheaply. Every New Yorker knows at least one train, bus or ferry to get where they are going, or navigates around the City via the MTA system.

Every business, apartment, house of worship, restaurant, bar etc identifies where the closest subway stop is. The token is also fashioned after Roman coins, and represents an exact value if you still had them in your pocket.

It represents the achievement of engineering, and the labor of the immigrants that dug the tunnels, surfaced the streets, or built the ferries that encompass the system.

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February 01, 2012 05:10:44 AM
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Robert Wilkanowski

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Long Island City

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My vote: The Oyster

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I am currently reading Mark Kurlanky's fascinating history of New York. Here are two quotes from the preface:

"The fact that oysters are about the only food eaten alive is part of what makes them a unique gastronomic experience—that and the sense that no other food brings us closer to the sea."

The history of New York oysters is a history of New York itself—its wealth, its strength, its excitement, its greed, its thoughtlessness, its destructiveness, its blindness and—as any New Yorker will tell you—its filth. This is the history of the trashing of New York, the killing of its great estuary.

Kurlansky, Mark (2007-01-09). The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell . Random House Trade Paperbacks. Kindle Edition.

The very existence of New York first as a native American settlement, and later as a great city has largely to do not just with it's relationship with the sea and inland water-ways, but more significantly with it's surrounding tidal estuary...a beautiful and abundant natural food source that has all but disappeared.

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February 01, 2012 01:41:20 AM
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Ramin Tabatabaie

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Long island

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NYC subway token.

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I think it was a unique symbol of NYC. All new Yorkers from uptown to downtown from east side to west side and all boroughs, the 99%s and the 1%s used it equally and it was as recognizable as Empire State Building.

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January 31, 2012 10:34:27 PM
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Tim Saternow

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Manhattan/Chelsea

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The Otis Elevator - the invention that allowed New York City to grow UP.

Specifically, the elevators Elisha Grave Otis installed in 34 Gramercy Park in 1883. The original cable driven elevators are still there.

http://nyc-architecture.com/GRP/GRP008.htm :
"The structure still contains its original cable-driven Otis elevator."

http://godsleuth.blogspot.com/2007/10/elevator-etiquette.html :
"The oldest operating elevators in the U.S. are direct plunger elevators. They are located at 34 Gramercy Park, in New York City's earliest cooperative apartment house. The elevators were installed by Otis Elevator back in 1883 and still retain most of the original equipment first used in the nine-story building."

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With limited real estate, New York had only one direction to enlarge this city -- up. And only until a safe elevator was invented, then building could be built higher than 5-6 stories. The elevator allowed the age of the skyscraper.

Although Elisha Grave Otis didn't invent the elevator, he did invent the braking system that made them safer, and acceptable to New Yorkers.

And it's still here in New York, at 34 Gramercy Park.

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January 31, 2012 09:28:13 PM
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Ted Ricks

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Lake Oswego, OR

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The Chrysler Building

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The art nouveau architecture with its shape and gargoyles is, for me, the quintessential New York statement of elegance, smart, urban, and metallic significance.

It is no wonder that it appears in so many movies, TV coverage, and photos of the city.

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January 31, 2012 06:16:43 PM
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Janet

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Manhattan

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white hall gig

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these boats were uses as water taxis.

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January 31, 2012 04:40:33 PM
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paul leibow

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Leonia NJ

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Indian Beads
Riffle/Bayonet
Brick
Trolly
Hot dog
Subway token
I beam (cast iron)
Radiator
Broadway Playbill
Speak Easy Liquor bottle

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Beads: traded for island of Manhatten from Indians
Riffle/Bayonet- influential in draft wars and securing NYC from the british.
Brick: Used in early construction of buildings
Trolly: Early mass transportation
Hot dog: Displays both a food from immigrants, German knock wurst and Politics from Nathan's.
Subway token: advance mass trans. from trolly to the underground which worked within the sewer system construction and help develop NY City with fresh water aquifers.
I beam: to display early building for highrise such as the Empire state building in which the name of NY State is known as, along with all the tallest buildings of that era.
Radiator: Another display of immigrants in tenement housing and what is connected to those buildings mostly now remain on Orchard and Delancy st. area, where my father happened to also grow up.
Broadway Playbill: The great white way, why tourists flocked to NYC and actors became stars!
Speak Easy Liquor bottle: Indicates organized crime from tammany hall and Boss Tweed political machine.

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January 31, 2012 04:34:28 PM
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rob buchanan

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brooklyn

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whitehall rowing gig--27'

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this was a boat that evolved in new york harbor in the early 19th century and served as a water taxi, pilot boat and even police launch. it's design reflected that era's obsession with speed, elegance and information, and helped set the stage for the rise of new york as one of the great cities of the world.

--rob buchanan, village community boathouse

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January 31, 2012 01:28:04 PM
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Ben

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Westchester

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I'll nominate a few:

1) A "red bird" number 1 subway car from the 1980s.

2) A pay phone. Ideally, the bank of twenty pay phones in a row that lived until 1990 on the north end of the Times Square mini block of 43rd St., the island between 7th and Broadway.

3) The guest book for any ultra-popular restaurant from the 1980s or 1990s, any era, really.

4) One of Manhattan's ugliest buildings, 33 Thomas St.

5) The golden orb clock that sits in the middle of Grand Central Terminal.

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I'll nominate a few:

1) I don't think you can tell the history of New York without putting a subway car in the exhibit. The reasons are many, but the 24/7 nature of the city, the bringing together of cultures, races, and classes, these are all about the subway. There is no more enduring symbol of the city than a single red bird 1 car from the 1980s.

2) A pay phone. You can't possibly explain the import of pay phones to anyone under 25 years of age. But this was the symbol of New Yorkers always in touch, always on the go.

Growing up, on the north end of the Times Square mini block of 43rd St., the island between 7th and Broadway, there used to be about twenty pay phones in a row. That was a total symbol of New York.

3) I'd love the guest book for any ultra-popular restaurant from the 1980s or 1990s, any era, really. You could argue Elaine's, Babbo, Daniel, I don't really care. I just think the booking of a thousand people into time and space, with phones and names and notes of who is how important and who knows who -- speaks to New York City's nature of access, exclusivity, getting in, being seen, etc.

4) Finally, I'll nominate one of Manhattan's ugliest buildings for a very specific reason. 33 Thomas St. is a huge, windowless tower, full of telephone switching equipment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/33_Thomas_Street

The "nerve center" quality of New York is best expressed by looking at a giant building whose sole purpose, identity, and design is based around the flow of terabytes of information per nanosecond.

5) The golden orb clock that sits in the middle of Grand Central Terminal. Its ability to masquerade as an object of classic art, while in fact it remains connected to the coming and going of a thousand trains and a million people every day, is pure New York City.

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January 31, 2012 01:28:03 PM
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David Palsgrove

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Brooklyn

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Whitehall Gig.

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The Whitehall Gig is a 27' wooden row boat that was a common sight in the Hudson and East Rivers in the 19th Century. These boats were designed and built here (they continue to be so). This is the all purpose boat that really was a corner stone to the early NYC economy. These boats were used to escort the trading ships to ports along the shores of Manhattan. They were used as transportation between the islands. They were used by the police and even oyster fishermen. There is a famous victory of a rowing team led by John Magnus in the General Lafayette where they beat a British crew team. There is even an old folk story that NY won Staten Island in a boat race involving this boat.

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January 31, 2012 01:22:29 PM
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Sharon

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Asbury park nj

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Structural Steel
Taxi cab
Subway token
Hotdog
Pizza
Bagel

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Structural steel is the skeleton of the city and the buildings that give it it's aesthetic. NYC makes the best pizza and bagels. No contest!!!

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January 31, 2012 12:20:44 PM
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Alexis

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Brooklyn

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A car from the Cyclone

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It's a piece of NYC history! Years from now people won't remember what it used to be like. Home of so many great things - the Mermaid Parade, Astroland, Nathans, the NY Aquarium...

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January 31, 2012 11:53:49 AM
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Matt Creamer

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East Village

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"We are happy to serve you" coffee cups

Helvetica (not an object)

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Cups: seemed ubiquitous, but have been on the wane thanks to advertising, Starbucks etc. Seems like a metaphor for the corporatization of NY

Helvetica: the Subway saga is just really interesting

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January 30, 2012 10:57:36 PM
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Patricia Zumhagen

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New York

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Jon Stewart's video on how to eat a New York Pizza

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-1-2011/me-lover-s-pizza-with-crazy-broad

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It needs no description

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January 30, 2012 05:04:55 PM
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Ed Norton

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The Garden Spot of the World, Brooklyn, U.S.A.

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Manhole Cover
Steam Exhaust Pipe
Stickball Bat
Fire Escape
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Picalilli and/or Chow-Chow
Cashmere Vest
Raccoon Lodge Hat
Ice Box

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Every one of these objects reminds me of New York City. Except for the yellow-bellied sapsucker, though seen in NYC, actually reminds me of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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January 30, 2012 02:28:52 PM
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Rennick Despeignes, MS

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Brooklyn

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1. Chains - the earliest 17th century dated chains used to enslave the first eleven Angolan slave during this century to represent the second group to enter Manhattan in June 1626. They built the first fort and cleared land for Dutch farmers

2. Sixty Guilders - The earliest Guilders yet discovered, to represent the Sixty Guilders.

3. Gun and Bullets - the earliest gun and bullet from the 18th century, to represent how natives and slaves were ultimately controlled.

4. Concrete

5. The first section of The Croton Fountain, used in 1842 to start indoor plumbing.

6. The first shovel to be used to dig the Erie Canal (and/or Dewitt Clinton's 1811 written proposal)

7. First notice of the Stamp Act to be sent to NY in the Spring of 1765.

8. Any of the first light bulbs purchased and used in NY.

9. The TV

10. The PC

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Please see Nominees above

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