86'ED ON 86TH!
 John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2006 November 11 
    There is now an upswell of population and urban activity in 
Yorkville, Manhattan. New residence towers are sprouting thruout the 
district, smaller stores are changing hands, 'big box' chains are 
moving in, housing costs are soaring. 
    This activity can cause disruption to foot and road traffic; 
annoyance from noise, lights, dust; congestion on transit and delivery 
lines. Community Board 8 and the 86th Street Merchants and Residents 
Association convened a public meeting to describe some of the changes 
taking place in Yorkville. 
    The meeting was held on Thursday 9 November 2006 in an auditorium 
of St Ignatius Loyola Church, near Yorkville center. It was widely 
announced to businesses, organizations, residents in Yorkville. About 
80 turned out for the presentation, which began at 7PM, under clear 
calm skies. A Yorkville activist invited me as an astronomy resource, 
there being no significant astronomy representation in Yorkville. I 
could take part in the meeting for the agenda item of luminous graffiti. 
Luminous graffiti 
    One topic of the community board meeting was the potential for 
reckless lighting at night. Altho, taken as a town for itself, 
Yorkville placed in the middle of Kansas would be only moderately 
offensive to the night sky, it does have deliberate concern for 
luminous graffiti. It may seem weird, but Yorkville residents do take 
in the night sky from the promenade of Carl Schurz Park. This is 
Yorkville's only large open public space, the roof of the FDR Drive 
six-lane highway on the waterfront. Its open deck with clear views 
across East River gives ample sky exposure for watching the stars. 
    The 86th Street Merchants and Residents Association, founded in 
2004, is compiling guidelines for stores to remove excess and 
offensive lights. It already got rid of several flashing advertising 
lamps. The aim is to 86 all trashlighting in the 86th St corridor, 
Park to River, and give it an elegant and civilized motif. 
    Starting in spring 2007 it axes all the cobraheads. They are 
replaced by bishopcrooks. These are lower smaller lamppoles with 
vastly less glare and side spray. They are already installed in 
several other areas, like Greenwich Village and Lenox Hill. 
    During an after-meeting discussion of the new lighting scheme, 
several attendees commented loudly about the annoyance they suffer 
from the present lamps. One protested that the streetlights shine into 
her flat, leaving no darkness to sleep by. An other pointed out that 
glare from many lamps interfere with people of low-vision and may 
actually be in violation of ADA laws. And one man bellowed that 'Get 
rid of those [frigging] lights. This is New York, NOT TUCSON!!' 
Early Yorkville 
    Other segments of the community meeting gave background on 
Yorkville and and its past and present state. The legacy of Yorkville 
as a capital of German culture in America is passing from living 
memory as this district evolves into the 21st century. Because a 
competent astronomy advocacy requires familiarity and understanding of 
the community that influences the profession, I explain here some of 
the history of Yorkville 
    The area, and various streets and places within it, took its name 
from the Duke of York, who had friendly affiliation with the Prussian 
culture of the 18th century. There seems to be no formal Latin 
equivalent, like for legal purposes. Very early maps lettered in Latin 
predate the community. Perhaps 'Eboraconia' may fit? 
    Yorkville was a casual settlement on the east side of Manhattan 
island in the 80s from Central Park to the East River. The nominal 
borders on the north is 92nd St; south, 79th St. It was first settled 
as farms in the 17th and 18th centuries. These farms provisioned New 
York, then consisting of just Lower Manhattan. The district was a 
half-day walk from New York by Boston Post Road. This road started at 
broadway and Park Row, squiggled its way in to and along Third Avenue, 
and ended in Boston Commons on Massachusetts Bay. Yorkville was worked 
by boats at docks on the East River shore in the 80s. They sailed to 
New York at South Street Seaport and to other seacoast ports. 
    Gradually in the 19th century, permanent houses were built. They 
offered convenience to the newly built Central Park and the East River 
waterfront. The modest elevations, such as Carnegie Hill and Lenox 
Hill, gave good prospect along the river and exposure to breeze and 
sunlight. Fresh water was taken from streams like the one still 
flowing underground in the upper 70s. 
    The population was well mixed with many nationalities. The 
dominant ones were English and German. Until World War I England and 
Germany were on good terms. In fact, in the first years of the new 
United States it was seriously considered to make German as the 
national language rather than English to cut off relations with the 
former colonial rulers. 
    The district really took off in the late 19th century when the els 
reached it in Second and Third Avenues. The els provided quick, 
frequent, cheap travel to and from New York, still concentrated below 
Canal Street. The New York & Harlem railroad, in Park Av, tied 
Yorkville to the rest of the country at its 86th Street station. 
Suaerkraut Strasse
    The German-speaking population achieved the critical mass to 
attract more German residents by the turn of the 20th century. There 
were two German nabes on Manhattan, Lower East Side and Yorkville. 
People travelled between the two by el or boat, 
    In 1904 some 1,400 Lower East Siders took an excursion on East 
River aboard the 'General Slocum' steamboat. Near the Hell Gate the 
boat caught fire, floundered, ran aground. About 1,000, mostly 
children, perished. Until World Trade Center in 2001, this was 
America's most deadly peacetime human disaster. 
    To cope with this stupendous loss of life from a single nabe, 
there was a mass migration of Lower East Side Germans north to 
Yorkville. They caravaned along Bowery and Third Av by horse- and 
mule-hauled wagon. They moved into tenements all over Yorkville. 
    By 1910, Yorkville was truly a 'kleindeutschland' on Manhattan. 
German music, theater, litterature, cinema, restaurants, clubs were 
everywhere along and near 86th St. There was social and political 
exchange with the mother country; German newspapers and magazines 
flourished, both natively produced and brought over from Germany; many 
signs were only in German. 
    A sister district grew up just south of Yorkville, in the low 80s 
down to the mid 70s. This was filled with German-speaking folk from 
middle and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Hungary, Poland. I myself 
dwelled for several months each year in the late 20th century in this 
area and acquired some appreciation for this culture. 
World War I and II
    Germany was on the wrong side of both wars, invoking hostility 
against 'German' features in the United States. In fact, in other 
German neighborhoods, like Bushwick and Ridgewood, in Brooklyn, 
streets were renamed to remove their original German legacy. 
    Much of the disinclination against Germans was exaggerated, being 
that the ones living here had nothing to do with the behavior of the 
mother country. More over, Yorkville Germans opposed, even by serving 
in the American armed forces, the Nazi regime in World War II. 
    Americans, however. often miss out such distinctions and lump all 
Germans together. The result was a diversion of attention from 
Yorkville. Yorkville began a protracted decline of German flavor 
following World War II. 
    The German heritage toughed it out until the 1950s. The older 
Germans started moving out as nearby sections of Manhattan turned 
hazardous to life and limb. The younger incoming Germans settled 
elsewhere, with little strong preference for Yorkville. The demolition 
of the els triggered a building boom along 2nd and 3rd Avs that 
displaced many poorer Germans. 
    As the City densified and residents migrated into previously 
underdeveloped districts, Yorkville was targeted for change. Among the 
low-rise tenements in the 1960s there sprang up a few taller apartment 
houses. As German stores closed, other nationalities took over. 
Germans were far less represented among the newer residents. 
Manhattan housing
    One of the awesome spectacles on Earth is the island of Manhattan. 
It is, believe it or not, among the world's ten most beautiful 
islands, the only one so recognized for its human-made features rather 
than natural ones. Part of the fascination of Manhattan comes from its 
incredible density, diversity, and vertical development. New York is 
the world's first 3D city. 
    Yorkviile is within the Upper East Side, that zone of Manhattan, 
one of the densest spots on the planet. You would have to look at 
Calcutta or Dacca or Cairo to match it. From the official 2000 census, 
this nabe houses some 55,000 people per square kilometer! If uncounted 
residents are factored in -- and it's no secret that New York holds 
about 1-1/2 million more people than the census tallied -- the number 
soars to some 70,000/Km2! 
    One spinoff is that the substantial population living far above 
the street acquired a keen sensitivity to luminous graffiti. Light 
spraying into the sky severely affects their quality of life, It hurts 
them, as dwellers in the sky, as much as it hurts the mute stars. 
    In four-story towns elsewhere, such star-hostile lighting is 
usually recognized only by stargazers, a tiny niche in the general 
population. In Yorkville, and generally thruout the City, it commonly 
is the person with no specific astronomy interest who makes strong 
protest against luminous graffiti.  
Yorkville today 
    In the 20-thous there is little German flavor left in Yorkville. 
The small town atmosphere is shifting into a mid-western large town. 
Skyscraper houses of 40 to 60 floors are rising everywhere from the 
Park to the River. This growth spread north up to -- and across! -- 
the traditional 'event horizon' of 96th Street. 
    86th Street is the central spine of Yorkville. It is the main two-
way cross street with buses every 50 or so seconds, trucks, taxis, 
cars, casino buses all day long. Only in the owl hours is traffic 
slack enough for safe jaywalking. 
    86th St is heavily commercial and retail from Lexington Av to 1st 
Av, less so beyond these limits. Most of the avenues are densely 
commercial and retail, with residences on the upper floors. Because it 
happens that NO OTHER cross street in all of Upper East Side is a 
commercial-retail corridor, 86th St draws shoppers from many 
kilometers away. 
    Transit is provided by only the IRT Lexington Av line at its 86th 
St station since the els were removed in the 1940s and 1950s. A 
replacement subway in 2nd Av was planned in the mid 1920s but never 
built. Proposals came and went over the decades. The current scheme is 
a two-track line with far-spaced stations. One is at 86th St and 2nd 
Av. With the line so uncertain today, it is hard to consider it in 
urban planning for Yorkville. 
    More 'big town' conveniences are coming to Yorkville, notably a 
Marriott hotel, opened in spring 2006. It, on 90th St and 1st Av, 
offers lodging for visitors at corporations and institutions in this 
area. Before the hotel, visitors had to lodge in midtown, beyond 
comfortable walking distance. For some reason, Marriott didn't name 
this property for Yorkville, but almost everyone calls it 'Marriott 
Yorkville' anyway. 
    Other amenities are expanded shuttle bus runs to laGuardia airport 
and the Hamptons and home-office services. Yorkville got one Barnes & 
Noble superstore, yet a second one will open on Lexington Av and 86th 
St by 2009. Yorkville than goes to the top of the nation for having 
the closest pair of B&N superstores. They'll be only 400 meters apart.   
    The ethnic makeup is shifting away from Europe to Middle East and 
Pacific Rim. In fact, at the extreme north end of Yorkville, right on 
the event horizon, is the new Islamic Center, the largest mosque in 
America. Its cockeyed alignment on the block aims it toward the qibla 
of Mecca. 
    Among the seemingly countless institutions in Yorkville are 
colleges, charities, museums, hospitals. They employ myriads of 
commuters from all over the City. This 'reverse commute' contributes 
to the load carried by the IRT Lexington Av by moving huge numbers of 
people at all hours in both directions. The line moves 1.6 million 
riders per weekday, making it the busiest single transit line on 
The future
    Yorkville is a town under enormous pressure from the evolving 
social and economic climate around it. The new people moving in come 
to a crowded beehive of riotously expensive housing. The older 
inhabitants struggle with dwindling conveniences of a simple life. The 
subway overflows with ever more riders. Sidewalks are more crowded 
with foot jams at the corners. Construction blocks off sidewalks, 
generates dust and noise, jams streets with machines. 
    At the same time, Yorkville still retains a cohaesive unity, 
setting it apart from its nabes to the north and south. As a town 
equal to most mid American towns, it  can be a role model for dealing 
with rapid growth, social and economic stress, transit, traffic and 
congestion, lifestyle ma