old school

Stay Cool

Children escape the heat of the East Side by using fire hydrant as a shower bath

It is crazy hot, here in NYC, but of course, I’m loving every sticky minute of it!В I’m still forgoing fans or an AC in my apartment, but I’ve been indulging in lots of ice showers—my indoor version of what those kids are doing in the photo above.

Maybe because it’s so old school, but I love that cooling off via fire hydrant is an NYC tradition.В (This photo was taken in 1943.) Today, local fire departments even distribute free “spray caps” for hydrants, to save water and create makeshift sprinklers for anyone looking for heat relief.

Stay cool (and safe)!

(Photo by Roger Smith via the Library of Congress)

1940s New York

I’m a big fan of all things NYC, both new and old. And since I’m also a spreadsheet-enamored, data-appreciative geek,В I’m really loving Welcome to 1940s New York, a new, interactive map that CUNY’s Center for Urban ResearchВ launched this week.

AsВ Gothamist describes it, the map is:

a slick mash-up of 1940s Census data, web maps and a rare 1943 book calledВ NYC Market AnalysisВ found byВ then-graduate student Steven Romalewski in 1997В and painstakingly scanned and placed onto a map of the city…Using newspaper and census data (including info from the Times, the Daily News, The Daily Miror, and the New York Journal American) the site gives you a peek into the “City of a Hundred Cities,” with each neighborhood getting a clickable description with photographs, block-by-block rental breakdowns and population statistics.

Of course, I went straight to my ‘hood, Washington Heights. The pop-up window showed me a few photos of different blocks from 1943. (The corner of Cabrini Boulevard and 181st Street doesn’t look too different!) It also has a color-coded key to apartment prices from that year. AndВ since all of us New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate, that’s pretty awesome.

Rent in my apartment building ranged from $75 to 99 a month. And since I live in a studio, I can safely assume that my rent would have been $75. It’s scary how much more I pay for the same space less than 100 years later!

P.S. More old-school photos of NYC.

(Image via Gothamist)

Old School NYC Photos

In last week’s NY Mag “Approval Matrix,” an item in the Highbrow/Brilliant quadrant caught my eye:

870,000 city photographs–some 150+ years old–are now available at nyc.gov

Curious about what kinds of photos were online, I went to the siteВ and learned this:В Between 1939 and 1941, and again between 1983 and 1988, the city photographed every building in the five boroughs for tax purposes. You can now purchase prints–or just sift through the online archives of 35mm photos taken in the 1980s.

I clicked on the Manhattan photos and searched for my current Washington Heights apartment. The archive contained photos of neighboring residences, but not mine.

Then I looked up my second-most recent address, also in Washington Heights. This time, a snapshot of my old building came up.

I’ll admit that the result didn’t wow me. The building is from 1929 and looks pretty much the same now as it did in the ’80s.

So I decided to go way back. I clicked over to the Queens photos and typed in the street where I lived from when I was born until I was 10. As the photos appeared, I instantly recognized old neighbors’ homes. And there was the house I grew up in, looking exactly how I remembered, with my family’s blue Volvo and my dad’s black van in the driveway.

I haven’t lived there in nearly two decades, so seeing the house exactly as it was felt surreal–a pretty cool (and slightly creepy) discovery!

(Photos via nyc.gov)