Friday, 20 March 2009


You take a taxi to your health club to exercise.

You think Central Park is "nature."

Your favorite movie has DeNiro in it.

You run when you see a flashing "Do Not Walk" sign at the intersection.

You go to a hockey game for the fighting. In the stands. To participate.

You say "the city" and expect everyone to know that it means Manhattan.

You've been to New Jersey twice and got hopelessly lost both times.

You pay more each month to park your car than most people in the U.S. pay in rent.

The subway should never be called anything prissy, like the Metro.
You have 27 different menus next to your telephone.

Going to Brooklyn is considered a "road trip."

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


......or STIFF NECK. My doctor peered over the top of his half-glasses and pronounced that I was probably the author of my own painful complaint. " Do you" he asked " spend a long time at your desk, one-fingering your keyboard, looking up or down at your computer screen and side to side at reference material?" When I confirmed that indeed I did, I was given a chapter-and-verse demonstration on the correct ergonomic proceedures to adopt in the future and sent on my way.

In order to let mother nature effect her customary reparations, the rate of OUTSIDERS NEW YORK CITY blogs will be cut back for a few weeks. In the meantime I shall be introducing better posture practices and, hopefully, will be back to full flow and discomfort-free in the not too distant future.


Hotel Gansevoort, 18, 9th Avenue at 13th Street (above) epitomizes the entire essence of the Meatpacking District. Uber-Chic and cutting edge trendy, slavish to 'killer' fashion, vainglorious and 'serial hedonistic' and yet fun, lively and irresistible. Like other establishments in the area it equates 'success' to the number of thick-necked, shaven-headed men in suits standing menacingly on the premises ostensibly providing security. Hotel Gansevoort even has these 'heavies' in each of it's elevators as well!

Hotel Gansevoort Lobby....

....and bedroom ....

....and rooftop swimming pool with spectacular views

It's 187 rooms all have high ceilings and large windows, sophisticated color scheme (neutrals and greys with a shot of blackberry) and minimalist decor, are comfortable enough if not a little tight in square footage. I stayed for two nights in 2008 and whilst initially a tad resistant to the room size and the 'razzmatazz' of most habitues and visitors, really warmed to the place particularly the front desk staff who were delightfully charming and helpful. The buffet breakfast served in the Ono Restaurant was very good value at $13 per head.
Generally the hotel's clientele is international (me), fashionable (not me), and affluent (definitely not me). A UK national newpaper's travel reporter recalls having checked out at the same time as a blonde starlet, who got into a waiting stretch limo, saying into her mobile phone: "Come in my plane darling. I'm leaving now and there's loads of room."

Hotel Gansevoort's position as 'the' place to stay and be seen at in the Meatpacking District is under threat from the forthcoming arrival of the Standard New York (below), hotelier Andre Balazs' ambitious 18-story, 337-room lodge, erected on pillars straddling the elevated High Line park at the corner of Washington and West13th Street, less than two blocks away.

Standing 4 stories taller and with nearly double the room capacity as the Hotel Gansevoort, with a beer garden, a pool and two restaurants, the hugely hyped Standard threatens to depose its barely four-year-old neighbour as the area's trendiest hub.

With the global economy in recession at best, there will be a marked reduction in visitors to NYC, along with a tightening of both corporate and individual's belts, which would indicate a 'shoot-out' between the Standard and Gansevoort for the lion's share of whatever is going of Meatpacking's hotel business and the sobriquet of the 'place to stay and be seen at' in this style obsessed district.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


Steve Brodie (1863-1901)(above) was a bookmaker from Brooklyn who claimed to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge (below) and survived on July 23, 1886. His claim that he jumped for a $200 bet won him instant celebrity. Some months earlier a daredevil named Robert Odlum was killed attempting the same dive, so Brodie's alleged accomplishment made front page headlines in New York City and eventually acquired myth status.

Like most urban legends, this incident was probably a hoax because the odds of anyone surviving the 135 foot plunge are practically nil. Skeptics claimed that Brodie had a friend toss a dummy off the bridge while he hid under a nearby pier, then swam out when rescue boats approached the scene.

Hoax or not, Brodie became famous, and his name became slang; "to pull or do a Steve Brodie" came to be understood to do something flamboyant and dangerous, a suicide leap, fall or flop.
His undoubted talent lay in his ability capitalise on his disputed claims to fame. He was a shrewd self-promoter who managed to milk his 15 minutes of fame into lasting notoriety. He went on to star in vaudeville musicals and operated a Bowery saloon-museum at 114, Bowery (below) that became a popular tourist attraction displaying a mural of his 'jump', the clothes he wore, and a signed affidavit from the barge captain who fished him out of the East River.

It is said that Jim Corbett once took his father to Brodie's saloon. The elder Corbett extended his hand and said, "I've always wanted to meet the man who jumped over the Brooklyn Bridge."
"He didn't jump over the bridge, Father," Jim said. "He jumped off it."
"Shucks," said the older man, turning to go. "I thought he jumped over it. Any damn fool can jump off it!"

Saturday, 14 March 2009


Capt. Joseph Rose built his first house at 273, Water Street in 1773 and the second - remnants of which stand to this day (above) - in 1780. Landfill had not yet changed the shoreline and the captain kept his brig, moored at a wharf outside his back door. The building is Manhattan's third oldest building but bears no plaque commemorating the captain or any subsequent occupant.

Just as well really as shortly before the Civil War, Christopher "Kit" Burns leased the building as "Sportsmen's Hall" ostensibly to run a tavern but as a side-line to promote, illegal but semi-tolerated bare-knuckle boxing matches.

However, Sportsmen's Hall was reportedly dedicated to "every variety of vice" particularly Burn's particular favorite, ratting; turning one terrier loose against up to 100 rats in his first floor amphitheatre (above illustration) before as many as 100 roaring spectators who wagered heavily on how quickly the dog would kill its prey. As James Dabney McCabe, writes in "Secrets of the Great City" (1868) "Rats are plentiful along the East River, and Burns has no difficulty in procuring as many as he wishes." He also staged regular dog fights (below) again for the benefit of crowds of baying sadistic gamblers. Burns was very proud of his dogs, and his cellar contained an awesome collection of the most frightfully hideous animals found in America.

Among the toughs who favoured Sportsmen's Hall was George "Snatchem" Leese, so called because he could steal almost anything from anybody. A "beastly, obscene ruffian, with bulging, bulbous, watery-blue eyes, bloated face, and coarse swaggering gait," Snatchem usually carried two revolvers in his belt, a knife in his boot top, and a bludgeon in his hand. One of the very worst scoundrels in New York City, at a time when there were thousands of miscreants, Snatchem would when not engaged in violent crime, provided half-time entertainment by jumping into the rat pit to bite off the heads of live rats for a quarter.
The building has now been converted into luxury apartments.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Pete's Tavern at 129 East 18th Street near Gramercy Park,, claims to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in New York City. This iconic bar has been featured in numerous television shows, advertisements, and movies. Pete's Tavern has been operating as a bar since 1864. During prohibition, when selling alcohol was illegal, Pete's continued to operate disguised as a flower shop.

Pete's Tavern at lunchtime. Sketch by Stephen Gardner

Take away the television (and most of the women), and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this pub looked like when it pulled its first pint back during the Civil War. It still retains a neighborhood atmosphere right down to the regular's football pool. The intricately carved bar serves enough beers (including Pete's own brew, 1864 Ale) to slake all but the pretentious thirsts, and the dense decor recalls an eccentric grandmother's attic.

O.Henry, the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter (1822-1910) was regular at Pete's Tavern. His short stories are known for wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings and from his favourite booth in the front part of the tavern wrote in 1904 one of his most famous stories "The Gift of the Magi".

Pete's Tavern is the ideal place to enjoy an intimate and flavoursome meal in one of the many cosy booths or outside (with the weather's blessing) on one of the colourfully presented tables. Or just hoist a pint of house ale at the original thirty-foot rosewood bar.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


A vacant Manhattan building at 22,West 24th Street (above), that played a part in an infamous 'Gilded Age' murder case, partially collapsed, less than two weeks after city officials expressed concerns about the buildings stability. No one was hurt as the back of the four-and-story building caved in about 8pm Saturday October 27th 2007.

The building became a salacious footnote in a sensational 1907 trial involving a teenage showgirl, a jealous husband, and a renowned architect Stanford White (below).

Something about him tickled her fancy.
Stanford White enjoyed a successful career which included designing the original Madison Square Garden, the famous arch at Washington Square Park and several other city landmarks. He was also a legendary philanderer. White rented part of this property and used it for trysts in 1901 with 16-year-old showgirl Evelyn Nesbit (below). She subsequently married, and her vengeful husband Harry Thaw, shot and killed White on Madison Square Garden's rooftop garden in 1906. The trial revealed that White's 24th Street hideaway was fitted with a red velvet swing (on which Miss Nesbit swung in the all-together, while he watched on appreciatively from beneath), among other racy details best left to the imagination. Thaw was eventually acquitted on the grounds of insanity.

It also came out that White would suggest to his guests "to see his drawings and etchings," kept here. This mock-seductive invitation to "come up and see my etching?" became a popular line with aspiring playboys for decades after this revelation.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Hotel Pennsylvania - 401, Seventh Avenue, across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden.
The Manhattan Room in this hotel was a favorite with the big bands of the thirties and forties with the hotel's phone number being immortalised by Glenn Miller in his song "Pennsylvania 6-500." Many big band names played here, including the Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Edwin H Land publicly demonstrated his "instant" picture camera on February 21, 1947. The sad-eyed inventor was his own subject in an 8-by-ten-inch print developed just 50 seconds after it had been exposed, to the astonishment of the winter meeting of the Optical Society of America.

On November 19, 1953, this hotel, during this period called the Statler, would be the site of a mysterious tragedy not fully explained for 22 years. On that night Frank Olson (above) a U.S. Army scientist and germ-warfare specialist, jumped through a glass window and fell ten stories to his death. It was reported as a suicide. In 1975 it was finally revealed that Olsen's death was the result of a CIA experiment to study the effects of the drug LSD. The scientist, who was working on the project, code-named MKULTRA, was an unwitting guinea pig after the drug was slipped into his drink. It was also revealed that the spy agency used prisoners and patrons of brothels set up and run by the agency to test the drugs effects.

Bad trip: Artist's portrayal of the suicide of Frank Olsen jumping from his hotel room window, 9 days after the CIA gave him LSD. Foreground, Dr Robert Lashbrook, the CIA scientist who brought Olsen to New York to seek treatment (Illustration by Haruo Miyauchi.)

The future of Hotel Pennsylvania is currently in doubt as the owner would like to demolish it and replace with an office tower. The debate rages on with nothing as yet decided.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Shortly after 8.00 on the morning of September 22, 1915, this stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 23rd and West 25th Streets, was the scene of an accident that killed twenty-five people. During work on the subway excavation for the construction of the new IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company), an explosion opened up a thirty-foot pit in the street that swallowed a crowded trolley car and a brewery truck. The death toll would have been higher but for the fact that the wooden planked structure gave way slowly, allowing hundreds of people on the street to scramble to solid ground.

As big a hole as it was, it still pales into insignificance when compared to the 'mind-boggling' size of the enormous hole left in the balance sheets of the world's leading financial institutions by 'toxic loans and other trading losses' made by negligent, foolhardy and totally irresponsible but surprisingly highly remunerated executives.


In my blog "WALKIES" published on 15th. December 2008, New Yorker's love of dogs was highlighted. It cannot be stressed enough how prominent the canine 'cuddly' is within the NYC street scene and the obvious love, affection and pride stretched across the visages of the owners, is apparent for all to witness. Below are just a few photographic examples of the pooch in New York City:-
Watching the world go by

Something in the city

"If it's not the Easter Day Parade my street cred's blown."

"Fidel Castro is my name."

Fire dog

Lock up your daughters - the Fleet's in town

Let's see what some famous and erudite people have said about dogs:-
"My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet."
Edith Wharton
"They never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation."
Jerome K. Jerome
"Happiness is a warm puppy."
Charles M. Schulz
"A man may smile and bid you hail
Yet wish you to the devil;
But when a good dog wags his tail
You know he's on the level."

Monday, 9 March 2009


Tabloids today are still focusing on salacious events as they did in 1836

41 Thomas Street is known as the birthplace of Tabloid journalism and newspapers. This is the notorious address where Helen Jewett (below), an upper class prostitute was murdered in her brothel in 1836. The murderer smashed her head in with an axe and later set her bed on fire. This was the first murder that was covered in detail by the city journalists and papers. The increase in circulation guaranteed that this sort of reporting would become the common practice.

Jewett (1813-1836) was borne in Maine to a working class family and her first job was as a servant girl in the home of The Lord Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court where she developed into a sexually assertive young woman. Upon reaching the age of 18 she left her home and became a prostitute locally, eventually finishing up in New York City.

Jewett's body was discovered by the matron of the brothel at 3am on April 10, 1836. The position of the corpse in bed indicated that the attack was not expected as there were no signs of a struggle. After inflicting the lethal blows, the murderer then set fire to Jewett's bed. The room was full of smoke and Jewett's body charred on one side. Based on the testimony of the women who lived in the brothel, the police arrested 19 year old Richard P. Robinson on suspicion of Jewett's murder. Robinson, a repeat customer of the victim, flatly denied killing her, and did not display much emotion when confronted by the still warm corpse. He was later charged with the murder.

On June 2, 1836, Robinson's trial began and after days of testimony from several witnesses, including, Posina Townsend, the judge gave the jury its instructions and ordered that as most of the other witnesses were prostitutes, the jury must disregard their evidence. These instructions coupled with the circumstantial nature of the other evidence resulted in the jury only taking less than half an hour to return a not guilty verdict.

An illustration of the murder scene from a pamphlet. Richard P. Robinson with hatchet in hand.

The murder of Jewett and trial of Robinson excited the press and the public and the coverage was highly polarized, with reporters either sympathizing with Jewett and vilifying Robinson or attacking Jewett as a seductress who, according to 19th century standards, deserved her fate. Whichever stance adopted by each of the papers covering the story, none passed by the opportunity to exploit the sexual, violent details of Jewett's death. Never before had a crime and subsequent trial been so graphically and widely reported.
Post trial, personal letters of Robinson's became public which undercut some of the his claims and showed him to be capable of vicious and (for the time) deviant sexual behaviour. The public turned on him, including those that had been his most vocal supporters, as his guilt became clear. He eventually moved to Texas where he became a respected frontier citizen.

Friday, 6 March 2009


208 E. 13th St. near Third Avenue

The famed anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman (below) lived in an apartment on the sixth floor of this old building from 1903 until 1913. She published her journal, Mother Earth, here starting in 1906. In that same year, her anarchist colleague and lover, Alexander Berkman (below with Goldman), was released from prison and joined her. Berkman had served 14 years for the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick in 1892.

Goldman's apartment was known as the "home for lost dogs" because many people who had little money and no place to stay often ended up here. It became a gathering place for Greenwich radicals and intellectuals.


Roosevelt's birthplace at 28 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America, was born on this site on October 27th. 1858. He lived in the house until he was 14 years old. The original brownstone house was demolished in 1916 before being rebuilt in 1919 after the lot was purchased by the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association

The house was rededicated in 1923 and was subsequently refurbished with many furnishings from the original house by the President's widow Edith, and his two sisters. The widow and sisters also supplied information about the interior's appearance during Roosevelt's residency.

The faithfully recreated Sitting Room

It now serves as a museum dedicated to the life and contributions of the 26th President of the United States of America. There is a small admission fee.