How an Ancient Egyptian Obelisk Ended Up in NYC

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When Cleopatra’s Needle was commissioned by Pharaoh Thutmose III around 1450 BCE for the Heliopolis sun temple, the island that would be Manhattan was mostly woodlands. Yet through an unlikely journey the 69-foot, 220-ton length of red granite would arrive in 1880 in New York City and become one of the icons of Central Park.

via HyperAllergic.

Green in a mayor way

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While the election is still undecided, one thing is clear: Climate change awareness and smart growth will live in New York well beyond Bloomberg’s tenure. No major candidate ran on a platform of reversing Bloomberg’s climate or transportation policies.

via Grist.

Separate Entrance for Poor People?

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Extell Development Company, as former Next City intern Raillan Brooks details at the Village Voice, is using a “workaround enabled by the city’s Inclusionary Housing law to help Extel (sic) collect on some major tax breaks and building allowances.” Floors two through six of the building will be available only to residents earning less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income, putting them under the “affordable” umbrella.

Now, get this: Those five floors are part of the exact same building as the luxury condos, but because of the separate entrance they could be legally designated as a separate entity.

via Next City.

Eat the City: A Tale of Producers Who Built New York

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Although man has moved past his agrarian roots and settled in cities built of concrete and asphalt, you can sense an inherent longing to till the land, tend the animals, or simply produce something natural. Plenty of city dwellers do their share of producing food even if its a simple pot growing coriander leaves on the window sill. Robin Shulman in her book, Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poulty Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Bee Keepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York (Phew! A shorter title would’ve helped).

As the title suggests, Shulman divides the book into chapters based on the product and takes a deeper look at how each is produced in the city of New York. Although I’m sure there are plenty of products, she focuses on honey, vegetable, meat, sugar, beer, fish, and wine. Within each chapter, she beautifully captures the current efforts of entrepreneurs and places it within the context of historical narratives. The prose is beautiful for a non-fiction book especially the historical background that, I admit, I loved more than the present. Although I’m well aware of New York city’s history and its development over the past two hundred years, even I was surprised by some facts. Did you know that New York was once considered the most fertile land and had the most bountiful coast in all of the country? If trade hadn’t been imposed on the city’s coast, the estuaries would’ve easily qualified to be a national park with a thriving natural ecosystem. As the book conveys, Shulman has done extensive research and has talked to hundreds of people in writing this book and has done a commendable effort in weaving a fantastic narrative of the city and the resilience of its natural producers.

The book also helps in clearing some myths that you would associate with city life. Beekeepers have it easier than beer breweries just on account of high real estate prices. I would hate to share some narratives and spoil the reading experience for you so I’ll try to keep them to the minimum. The first chapter on honey was for me the most fun. I’m, as any ordinary person, terrified of bees so I can’t imagine someone willingly spending time around them. The urban beekeepers not only fought legislation that banned their practice in NYC but also worked with other industries that generally dislike bees. One beekeepers’ bees produced red honey because they got their ‘catch’ from a cherry candy factory nearby. The vegetables chapter explored the sylvan history of Harlem and described the amazing amount of fresh produce that Willie farmed that even I can’t dream of producing in my backyard. The fish and the beer chapter were the most difficult to read because you would imagine those two to be a perfect fit for a coastal urban city like New York. But unfortunately, due to rampant pollution in the waters and skyrocketing prices of real estate have made the two activities the most difficult.

In conclusion, Shulman writes a very engaging read and I highly recommend buying the book. If you’re not interested in urban farming, you will still love it for its indepth look into New York’s history from the perspective of each of those products. The history not only describes the products transition but also the underlying sociocultural impact on the city’s demographics.