The Bowery Boys: New York City History (podcasts)
New York City history is America's history. It's the hometown of the world, and most people know the city's familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it?

New York's Crystal Palace seems like something out of a dream, a shimmering and spectacular glass-and-steel structure -- a gigantic greenhouse -- which sat in the area of today's Bryant Park. In 1853 this was the home to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, a dizzying presentation of items, great and small, meant to exemplify mankind's industrial might.

We take you on a breathtaking tour of the Palce and its legendary exhibition, including the Latting Observatory (the tallest building in New York!)

Whatever happened to the Crystal Palace? And what inventions contained within do we still benefit from today?

Direct download: 178_The_Crystal_Palace.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:06pm EST

Little Italy is the pocket-neighborhood reminder of the great wave of Italian immigration which came through New York City starting in the late 1870s.  This was the home of a densely packed, lively neighborhood of pushcarts, cheese shops, barber shops and organ grinders, populated by thousands of new immigrants in dilapidated old tenements.

The area has some of New York's oldest still-operating shops, from Ferrara Bakery to Di Palo's.  But there's also a dark side to this neighborhood, memories of extortion plots by the Black Hand and a perpetual presence of organized crime.

The present-day Little Italy is completely charming but constantly shrinking. How long can the neighborhood survive in the face of a growing Chinatown and the threats of gentrification?

PLUS: Our love/hate relationship with Nolita -- REVEALED!

Direct download: 177_Little_Italy_Grande_Storia.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:26am EST

As New York City enters the final stages of this year's mayoral election, let's look back on a decidedly more unusual contest 100 years ago, pitting Tammany Hall and their estranged ally (Mayor William Jay Gaynor) up against a baby-faced newcomer, the (second) youngest man to eventually become the mayor of New York City.

John Purroy Mitchel, the Bronx-born grandson of an Irish revolutionary, was a rising star in New York, aggressively sweeping away incompetence and snipping away at government excess.  Under his watch, two of New York's borough presidents were fired, just for being ineffectual!  Mitchel made an ideal candidate for mayor in an era where Tammany Hall cronyism still dominated the nature of the five boroughs.

Nobody could predict the strange events which befell the city during the election of 1913, unfortunate and even bizarre incidents which catapulted this young man to City Hall and gave him the nickname the Boy Mayor of New York.

But things did not turn out as planned.  He won his election with the greatest victory margin in New York City history.  He left office four years later with an equally large margin of defeat.  Tune in to our tale of this oft-ignored figure in New York City history, an example of good intentions gone wrong and -- due to his tragic end -- the only mayor honored with a memorial in Central Park.

Direct download: 156_The_Boy_Mayor_of_New_York.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:10pm EST

It's the 1820s and welcome to the era of the pleasure garden, an outdoor entertainment complex delighting wealthy New Yorkers in the years before public parks. Niblo's Garden, at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street, was the greatest of them all, with an exhibit room for panoramas and one of the first proto-restaurants. But it was Niblo's Theatre that set the stage for its reputation in the 19th Century. And in 1866, a production debuted there that would change everything -- the gaudy, much-too-long spectacle The Black Crook, known as the very first Broadway musical.

Music in the episode by Elgar

Direct download: Niblos_Garden.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:06pm EST

Gracie Mansion today serves as the city's official mayoral residence. But who was Archibald Gracie, and why did the city take over his country house?

Direct download: Gracie_Mansion.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:24am EST

#103: Case Files of the NYPD We're playing Good Cop / Bad Cop this week, as we take a close look at four events from the early history of the New York Police Department. You'll meet shining stars of the force like Jacob Hays, who kept the peace in the early 19th century armed with a mean billyclub -- and the only man to ever hold the title of High Constable of New York. And then you'll encounter Joseph Petrosino, the Italian immigrant turned secret weapon in the early battles against organized crime.

Not all the early men in blue were so recommendable. During the Police Riot of 1857, cop turned against cop while the city burned and "Five Points criminals danced in the streets." And finally there's the lamentable tale of officer Charley Becker, the only member of the New York Police Department to be executed for criminal misdeed. But did he really commit the crime -- commissioning the murder of a nervous gambler who was prepared to rat him out?
Direct download: NYPD_files.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:16am EST

Today it's known as Brooklyn's thriving Russian community next door to the amusements of the neighborhood of Coney Island. But a hundred years ago, the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach were the homes of lavish hotels catering to the upper and upper middle classes. While many people were playing at Coney Island's Steeplechase Park, Dreamland and Luna Park, the wealthiest were playing at the three most toniest hotels -- Brighton Beach Hotel, the Oriental Hotel and Manhattan Beach Hotel.

Find out the origins of these long-gone resorts and how they make their mark on the current neighborhoods. 

ALSO: Why should we care so much about one particular raging anti-Semite? And why did the Brighton Beach Hotel, several thousand tons of it, have to get dragged inland 500 feet?
Direct download: Brighton_Beach.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:23pm EST

#101 The Bronx Zoo

New York City's most exotic residents inhabit hundreds of leafy acres in the Bronx at the once-named New York Zoological Park. Sculpted out of the former DeLancey family estate and tucked next to the Bronx River, the Bronx Zoo houses hundreds of different species from across the globe, many endangered and quite foreign to most American zoos. The well meaning attempts of its founders, however, have sometimes been mired in controversy. The highlight of the show -- and the institution's lowest moment -- is the sad tale of Ota Benga, the pygmy once put on display at the zoo in 1906!

ALSO: We take you on a tour of the zoo grounds, unfurling over 110 years of historical trivia, from the ancient Rocking Stone to the tale of Gunda, the Indian elephant who may also have been a poet.

Direct download: Bronx_Zoo.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:14am EST

#100 Robert Moses

EPISODE 100 We obviously had to spend our anniversary show with the Power Broker himself, everybody's favorite Parks Commissioner -- Robert Moses.

A healthy debate about Moses will divide your friends, and we provide the resources to make your case for both sides. Robert Moses was one of the most powerful men in New York from the late 1920s until the late 1960s, using multiple appointed positions in state and local government to make his vast dream of a modern New York comes to fruition.

That dream included glorious parkways and gravity-defying bridges. It also included parking lots and the wholesale destruction of thousands of homes. World's fairs and innovative housing complexes. Elevated highways plowed through residential neighborhoods -- straight through Harlem, midtown Manhattan, and SoHo.

We get into the trenches of some of Moses's most renown and controversial projects -- the splendor of Jones Beach; the revolutionary parks and pools; the tragedy of the Cross Bronx Expressway, and his signature project, the Triborough Bridge.

What side will you come down on -- did Robert Moses give New York City the resources it needs to excel in the 20th century, or did he hasten its demise with short-sighted, malignant vision?


Direct download: Robert_Moses.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:19am EST

#99 Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden is certainly the recognizable name in arena entertaining, hosting sports, concerts, even political conventions. But it adopted that reputation from three other buildings which also called themselves 'Madison Square Garden'. 

The first, inspired by P.T Barnum and a popular bandleader, staked its claim in the hottest area of New York in the 1870s. The second, a classic designed by the city's most famous architect, featured both trendy new sports and high society events. The third Garden, moving up town, stripped off the glamour and helped make the Garden's sporting reputation.

We'll also tell you about the most famous event to ever happen in any Madison Square Garden -- a shocking and brutal murder which led to the 'trial of the century'.

Direct download: Madison_Square_Garden.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:41pm EST