You better clean your room or you'll end up like the Collyer Brothers.
New York City, a city crammed of 8.6 million people, is filled with stories of people who just want to be left alone – recluses, hermits, cloistering themselves from the public eye, closing themselves off from scrutiny.
But none attempted to seal themselves off so completely in the way that Homer and Langley Collyer attempted in the 1930s and 1940s. Their story is infamous. In going several steps further to be left alone, they in effect drew attention to themselves and to their crumbling Fifth Avenue mansion – dubbed by the press ‘the Harlem house of mystery’.
They were the children of the Gilded Age, clinging to blue-blooded lineage and drawing-room social customs, in a neighborhood that was about to become the heart of African-American culture. But their unusual retreat inward -- off the grid, hidden from view -- suggested something more troubling than fear and isolation. And in the end, their house consumed them.
The ultimate history of New Year's celebrations in New York City!
This is the story of the many ways in which New Yorkers have ushered in the coming year, a moment of rebirth, reconciliation, reverence and jubilation.
In a mix of the old and new, we present a history of world's most famous December 31st party, paired with a short history of New York's other transitional celebration -- Chinatown's traditional (and occasionally non-traditional) Chinese New Year parade.
Why did Times Square become the focal point for the world's reflection on a new calendar year? And how did Times Square's many changes in the 20th century influence those celebrations? Featuring Dick Clark, Guy Lombardo -- and Daisy Duke.
THEN: Greg brings you the story of the Chinese New Year which has been celebrated in Manhattan's Chinatown since before there was even a Times Square!
Newark Liberty International Airport or LaGuardia Airport? Which do you prefer? (Or is the answer -- none of the above. Give me JFK!)
Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy history! In this episode, we present the origin stories of New York City's airports and airfields.
The skies over New York have been graced with aircraft for almost 110 years. In fact the first 'flying machine' was flown by no less than Wilbur Wright, the man who (with his brother Orville) invented the airplane.
Yet by the time the U.S. government began regulating the skies in the 1920s -- making way for commercial aviation -- the city had failed to develop an adequate airfield of its own.
Meanwhile the thriving city of Newark, New Jersey, had just opened a glistening new airport, and in 1929 it was awarded the government's coveted airmail contract. Brooklyn's new Floyd Bennett Field didn't stand a chance because of it.
This did not sit well with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who engineered a spectacular tarmac stunt in 1934, drawing attention to this deficiency. And then he began dreaming of a new airport in northern Queens, one poised to draw customers away from New Jersey.
And thus began a decades-long tug-of-war for supremacy over New York City skies.
CORRECTION: Near the end of this show, Greg says that 18 new gates have opened this month at LaGuardia Airport. It’s actually 11 gates in a concourse that will eventually have 18.
New York City has always cast a melodramatic profile in past Bowery Boys podcasts, but in this episode, we're walking on the funny side of the street to reveal the city's unique relationship with live comedy.
The award-winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel depicts the birth of modern stand-up comedy in the late 1950s, forged by revolutionary voices in the small coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. But New Yorkers had been laughing for decades by that point.
Most of the early American comedy greats got their starts on the New York vaudeville stage -- like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges and Eddie Cantor. By the 1940s, comedy stars came from the New York supper clubs, cementing a particular style of broad, big-joke comedy. The first major stars of television came from a different pool of talent -- young Jewish entertainers, updating the vaudeville feel for TV broadcast.
But the counterculture movements in Greenwich Village would help comedians evolve more personal -- and more explicit -- acts as they performed along side beat poets and jazz musicians. In 1963, an enterprising club owner named Budd Friedman would change comedy forever in a tiny room in Hell's Kitchen.
The rise of the comedy club and opportunities like Saturday Night Live would create a specific brand of New York City comedy, and the local stages would help create major film and television stars during the 1980s. With Seinfeld, in 1989, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David would create the perfect fusion of stand-up and New York City attitude. But the following decade brought in new voices and a surprising new direction.
On January 31, 1857, a prominent dentist named Harvey Burdell was found brutally murdered -- strangled, then stabbed 15 times -- in his office and home and Bond Street, a once-trendy street between Broadway and the Bowery.
The suspects for this horrific crime populated the rooms of 31 Bond Street including Emma Cunningham, the former lover of Dr. Burdell and a woman with many secrets to hide; the boarder John Eckel who had a curious fondness for canaries; and the banjo-playing George Snodgrass, whose personal obsessions may have evolved in depraved ways.
The mechanics of solving crime were much different in the mid-19th century than they are today, and the mysterious particulars of this investigation seem strange and even unacceptable to us today. A suspect would stand trial for Dr. Burdell's death, yet the shocking events which followed -- including a sinister deception and a faked childbirth -- would prove that truth is stranger than fiction.
The beat goes on! In 2009 we recorded a podcast about the history of Tin Pan Alley, the cluster of buildings on West 28th Street where the American popular music industry was born. It was from these loud, bustling offices and parlors that some of the world's greatest songs were written and sold, launching and igniting the careers of songwriters like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
But nine years later, Tin Pan Alley finds itself in peril as the neighborhood surrounding it -- now called NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) -- rapidly develops into a boutique hotel district. Can these historic structures be saved?
We present to you our original 2009 podcast, followed by a brand-new segment for 2018 featuring an interview with George Calderaro of the Save Tin Pan Alley! preservation campaign.
Featuring even MORE music classics from the Tin Pan Alley era.
The Manhattan neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen has a mysterious, troubling past. So what happens when you throw a few ghosts into the mix? Greg and Tom find out the hard way in this year's ghost stories podcast, featuring tales of mystery and mayhem situated in the townhouses, courtyards and taverns of this trendy area of Midtown West.
This years Ghost Stories of Old New York show features:
-- The troubling tale of a 1970s motion picture classic that may have left a sinister mark on West 54th Street
-- The haunted home of a popular film and TV actress, possessed with a very hungry ghost
-- An enchanting courtyard layered with several horrifying ghost stories
-- And the shenanigans at a 150 year old tavern where the beer and the spirits flow freely.
There would be no New York City without Peter Stuyvesant, the stern, autocratic director-general of New Amsterdam, the Dutch port town that predates the Big Apple. The willpower of this complicated leader took an endangered ramshackle settlement and transformed it into a functioning city. But Mr. Stuyvesant was no angel.
In part two in the Bowery Boys' look into the history of New Amsterdam, we launch into the tale of Stuyvesant from the moment he steps foot (or peg leg, as it were) onto the shores of Manhattan in 1647.
Stuyvesant immediately set to work reforming the government, cleaning up New Amsterdam's filth and even planning new streets. He authorized the construction of a new market, a commercial canal and a defense wall -- on the spot of today's Wall Street. But Peter would act very un-Dutch-like in his intolerance of varied religious beliefs, and the institution of slavery would flourish in New Amsterdam under his direction.
And yet the story of New York City's Dutch roots does not end with the city's occupation by the English in 1664 -- or even in 1672 (when the city was briefly retaken by a Dutch fleet). The Dutch spirit remained alive in the New York countryside, becoming part of regional customs and dialect.
And yet the story of New Amsterdam might otherwise be ignored if not for a determined group of translators who began work on a critical project in the 1970s......
We are turning back the clock to the very beginning of New York City history with this special two-part episode, looking at the very beginnings of European settlement in the area and the first significant Dutch presence on the island known as Manhattan.
The Dutch were drawn to the New World not because of its beauty, but because of its beavers. Beaver pelts were all the rage in European fashion, and European explorers like Henry Hudson reported back that this unexplored land was filled with the animals and their beautiful coats.
Of course, people were already living here -- the tribes of the Lenape -- and the first settlers sent by the Dutch -- French-speaking Walloons -- encountered them in the mid 1620s. But relations were relatively good between the two parties at the beginning. Could the native Munsee-speaking people and the first Dutch settlers get along?
In this episode, we walk you through the first two decades of life in the settlement of New Amsterdam, confined to the southern tip of Manhattan. What was the island like back then? How did people live and work in a region so entirely unknown to its European inhabitants?
The classic diner is as American as the apple pie it serves, but the New York diner is a special experience all its own, an essential facet of everyday life in the big city. They range in all shapes and sizes -- from the epic, stand-alone Empire Diner to tiny luncheonettes and lunch counters, serving up fried eggs and corned beef.
In this episode, the Bowery Boys trace the history of the New York diner experience, a history of having lunch in an ever-changing metropolis.
There were no New York restaurants per se before Delmonico's in 1827, although workers on-the-go frequented oyster saloons and bought from street vendors and markets. Cellar establishments like Buttercake Dick's served rudimentary sustenance, and men often ate food provided by bars.
But once women entered the public sphere -- as workers and shoppers -- eating houses had to evolve to accommodate them. And thus was born the luncheonette, mini-lunch spaces in drug stores and candy shops. Soon prefabricated structures known as diners -- many made in New Jersey -- moved into vacant lots, streamlining the cheap eating experience.
Cafeterias appealed to New Yorkers looking for cleanliness, and those looking for an inexpensive, solitary meal turned to one unusual restaurant -- the automat. Horn Hardarts' innovative eateries -- requiring a handful of nickels -- were regular features on the New York City streetscape.
How did all these different types of eating experiences culminate in the modern New York diner-counter experience? For that, you can thank the Greeks.
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