86'ED ON 86TH! ------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 2006 November 11
Introduction ---------- 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 Earth.
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