Monthly Archives: January 2017

  • The cowardly hunter, a revolution on the toilet, and other New York stories

    What would the world be like without New York? Certainly much less interesting. It would also be lacking certain integral symbols of daily life. Did you know these things were invented in New York? We didn’t, either.

    1. The Teddy Bear – This most classic of stuffed animals was invented in Brooklyn by Morris and Rose Michtom. It was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, who on a 1902 hunting trip declined to shoot an injured bear. The name “Teddy” comes from “Theodore.”

    2. Air Conditioning– In 1902, Brooklyn resident Willis Carrier invented a machine designed to prevent paper in printing plants from bending in the summer humidity. The machine’s ability to cool off a room was a happy coincidence that went on to revolutionize daily life in America

    3. Toilet Paper– The first modern, commercially available toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph C. Gayetty, who sold the paper in his Manhattan store. It was made of manila hemp and enriched with aloe vera extract. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) thing about it: every individual sheet was embossed with his name.

    4. Scrabble –Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and anagram zealot from Jackson Heights in Queens, invented this beloved board game in 1938. Fun fact: the street where Butts used to live is marked with a sign in Scrabble language: “35t1Ha1V4e1n1u1e1.” This jumble of numbers and letters includes the name of the street (35th Avenue) and the corresponding Scrabble letter values.

    5. The Remote Control– This technology was developed by the New Yorker Nikola Tesla, who invented a radio-controlled boat in 1898. What at the time was almost impossible to believe is today an integral component of daily domestic life.

    6. Eggs Benedict – In 1894, upon returning to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night on the town, the stockbroker and bonvivant Lemuel Benedikt ordered poached eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and hollandaise sauce. The legendary maître d'hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, found this combination so interesting that he added it to the menu and named it after its inventor.

    7. The Hot Dog – The idea of serving a hot sausage in a bun came from the baker and Coney Island, Brooklyn resident Charles Feltman. Feltman sold his hot dogs at the unbeatable price of a dime ($0.10). The invention was a huge hit and made Feltman into an influential investor in Coney Island—at least until his former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened a shop of his own and began selling hot dogs for a mere nickel ($0.05).

    8. The ATM (cash machine)– The first prototype for a cash machine was designed by Luther George Simjiam in 1939. Citibank was the first bank that volunteered to test the invention over a 6-month trial period. The test was unsuccessful: too few people used the machine, and those that did were mostly prostitutes and casino visitors. 

    The next time you take out money, eat a hot dog, play Scrabble, or change the TV channel, think of New York. 

  • Hudson Yards: New York’s Newest Neighborhood



    A City in a City
    New York is a pulsating city in constant flux. Some things change subtly and invisibly; others take years to develop and alter the city irrevocably. An example of the latter is the megaproject Hudson Yards in Western Manhattan. Between 8th and 10th Avenues and 30th and 42nd St., that is, where Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Midtown West intersect, a new city district has emerged. It is the largest private construction project since Rockefeller Center was finished in 1939 and the largest in American history. By 2025, 15 skyscrapers will be built over a space of 395 acres (1,6 million m2). Once the construction is completed, the area, which encompasses 45 city blocks, will house 4,000 apartments. On top of that, 100 stores, a public school, a luxury hotel, several restaurants, and a center for modern art will also open their doors. Altogether over 125,000 people will live and work in the skyscrapers.

    How is a project like this possible in a city as densely populated as New York? The Hudson Yards are in a post-industrial section of Manhattan that was long neglected and unattractive. The Long Island Railroad parks its commuter trains here, and there’s also a railway tunnel to New Jersey. Because both the train station and the tunnel must remain in operation, the neighborhood will be built on top of the train tracks thanks to a 10-acre (four-hectare) platform. The construction will be supported by 300 pillars drilled 79 ft (24 m) deep into massive rock. When the Hudson Yards are completed, a mountain of new skyscrapers will leave Manhattan’s skyline forever changed. The project has been the talk of the town for years. There are three particular topics on peoples’ minds: 

    30 Hudson Yards
    When it is completed, the skyscraper 30 Hudson Yards will be the tallest building in the new district and the second-tallest in New York. At a towering 1296 ft (395 m), it will surpass the Empire State Building by 46 ft (14 m). Among the highlights is the highest outdoor viewing platform in the city. The building is scheduled to open in 2019.



    The Vessel
    A public park stretching across five acres (20’000 m2) will be home to 28,000 plants and 200 different tree species. In the middle of the garden, a sculpture called “The Vessel” will act as the heart of the new city district. The main component of the accessible structure, which is reminiscent of a beehive, is 154 interlocking stairways consisting of a total of 2,500 steps. While the diameter of the building is about 50 ft (15 m) on the ground, up on the 15th floor it’s a whopping 148 ft (45 m). The steps of the walk-in sculpture lead to 80 balconies, all of which serve as viewing platforms. The monument was developed by the British star architect, artist, and designer Thomas Heatherwick.



    The Shed
    The Shed will be New York’s most up-and-coming cultural center. The six-floor building was designed by the award-winning architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It’s already clear that the building will be an architectural highlight when it opens. One section of the building can be extended and drawn back in to adapt to cultural events of all kinds. In summer, there’s enough room for large outdoor events, and in the colder months the indoor halls can be used for concerts or other large events. The Shed will host music, art exhibitions, installations, dance performances, etc., and thereby become a new cultural hot spot in New York. New York Fashion Week is already in conversation with the building and plans to move in after the latter opens in 2019.



    This gigantic project will allow for an enriching new attraction in New York City.