Ansonia- luxury coop with the farm on the roof and sex club in the basement

     Ansonia is one of the most famous and maybe most unusual apartment buildings in new York. It is located on the intersection of Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, upper West Side. It is more the 100 years old and the history of it is fascinating – there was a farm on the roof, famous gay club and Plato’s Retreat, the sex club, in the basement.
     It was the city’s largest and grandest apartment hotel in New York when it was built. Ansonia was a residential hotel when it was officially opened in April 1904. It had 1400 rooms and more than 300 suits that were connected by pneumatic tubing snaked through the walls. These tubes delivered messages in capsules between the staff and tenants. There was a cooling system - the first one in New York- that kept the building at 70 degrees even on the hotter days.     

     Altogether, with the ballrooms and the dining rooms at full capacity, the hotel could accommodate 1,300 dinner guests. There was the world’s largest indoor pool in the basement. The interior corridors may be the widest in the city.

     There was a farm on the roof with 500 chicken, ducks, a pig, called Nanki-Poo and even a small bear! Every day, a bellhop delivered free fresh eggs to all the tenants. There was a cattle elevator, which enabled dairy cows to be stabled on the roof. In 1907 the Department of Health shut down the farm and animals went to Central Park. Every apartment had lush inventory of towels, napkins, table linen and soap that was refreshed three times a day. Suites were equipped with electric stoves, hot and cold water and freezers and had very thick walls, installed to protect against fire. This feature made the Ansonia apartments one of the most soundproof in the city.

     The doors were so wide that grand pianos could easily be moved in and out. Giulio Gatti-Casazza was a manager of Metropolitan Opera from 1908 to 1935. Before it he was a manager of La Scala in Milan. When he moved to New York with his family he rented apartment in Ansonia. Dozens of opera stars followed them to New York, and almost all rented in the same building. Among the famous renters were Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Gustav Mahler,Enrico Caruso,  Theodore Dreiser.   

     Ansonia was built by William Earl Dodge Stokes, the great son of New York merchant Anson Greene Phelps from an old Massachusetts family. Stokes started his career working in the family business. After the death of his father Stokes contested the will, sued his brother, gained a $1 million inheritance and developed real estate on the Upper West Side. In 1899, Stokes hired architect Paul E. Duboy to build the Ansonia hotel in Manhattan, named after his grandfather.     

     The Ansonia was luxurious, but it was never considered chic and it had a risqué reputation. The hotel first became linked with gambling  just two years after it opened, when Al Adams, the King of the New York numbers racket, moved into the Ansonia straight from a stint in a maximum security prison Sing Sing. He stayed two years in the apartment  before Stokes found him dead of a self-inflicted bullet wound in Suite 1579.      

      Stoke died from pneumonia in 1926. His son Weddie never cared much about the Ansonia and left its operation to a series of management companies, which let the building fall into disrepair. The restaurants and kitchens closed with the Depression. Ansonia turned into a residence with no services. In 1930, the elegant central entrance on Broadway was bricked up and storefronts were installed.    

     In 1942  almost all of glorious metal ornamentation was stripped to supply material for bullets and tanks for World War II. The copper cartouches on the corner domes, each seven feet tall and weighing half a ton, came down. The old cooling systems and copper pneumatic tubes were stripped out of the walls. In 1945, Weddie Stokes sold the Ansonia to a crooked landlord named Samuel Broxmeyer, who milked the building, offering discounts to get tenants to pay several years rent in advance. Broxmeyer eventually got five years in jail, and the Ansonia was sold at bankruptcy auction for a  $40,000 to Jake Starr - one of its mortgage holders.     

     In 1968, Starr rented the abandoned basement swimming pool to a former opera singer Steve Ostrow, who created a luxurious gay bathhouse. The most remarkable thing about the Continental Bath was its cabaret. The line to get in on a Saturday night went down the block.
      In 1977, The Continental Baths was closed  and the new club was opened, Plato’s Retreat.  It was "swingers club" for heterosexual couples.  There was a “membership” fee at the door of $30 per couple—no single men allowed. A sex shop moved into a street-level storefront.
   When New York’s housing codes and laws were changed and residential “hotels” fell under the protection of the Rent Stabilization Board, Jake Starr—then nearly 80 years old—decided: The Ansonia would be better off demolished.

     A weeklong protest and demonstration eventually followed; a petition drew 25,000 signatures, calling for Mayor John V. Lindsay to save the building. On March 15, 1972 the Ansonia Hotel became a landmark. The Ansonia’s final act began with Jesse Krasnow. When he took over, Krasnow’s plan was to fix the violations that Starr had run up and then ask the city to unfreeze the rents. Outraged tenants accused Krasnow of doing only patchwork repairs. The leaky roof became a joke.

    In 1980, the Ansonia Residents Association declared a rent strike. The Ansonia Hotel became the single most litigated residence in the history of New York City. A housing-court judge was assigned full-time to the case, and over the next ten years, Krasnow found himself cast in the role of one of the city’s most villainous landlords. Krasnow realized the best way to make the building functional again was to buy out the tenants who were unhappiest, and in 1990, the tenants accepted a condo plan allowing them either to continue renting or to buy their apartments at a 60 percent discount. Today, 29 percent of the building is rent-protected.

Learn More:

Balto the sled dog in Central Park

   There is a small statue of the dog in the Central Park, just west of East Drive and 67th Street. This is Balto, Jet black Siberian husky of the Chukchi Siberian tribe’s stock. The word Husky originated from the word referring to Arctic people in general, Eskimos.
     The statue, a big favorite  of kids in the Park -  is on it’s place for more than 85 years.  It was done by Brooklyn born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth. Other works of the sculpture includes Dancing Goat and Dancing Bear standing near the Central Park Zoo

Balto was named  after Norwegian explorer Samuel Johannesen Balto, who participated in the first recorded crossing of the interior of Greenland, together with famous  North Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. In the winter of 1925, Balto and other sled dogs and their drivers became national heroes when they successfully delivered a diphtheria serum to the isolated residents of the small city Nome, Alaska.

     Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial disease. The disease can be treated with an antitoxin (serum containing antibody to neutralize the toxin) or prevented by vaccines. The antibodies in the horse serum neutralized the toxin causing the patient's symptoms. Vaccine was developed by German physiologist von Behring in 1913. Today’s vaccine is recommended for all infants and for adults who have not been immunized.
     Nome lies just two degrees south of the Arctic Circle. From November to July, the port was icebound and inaccessible by steamship. The only available aircraft were water-cooled World War I planes that were not reliable in cold weather. The only link to the rest of the world during the winter was the Iditarod Trail
The trail ran 938 miles (1,510 km) from the port of Seward in the south. Welch was the only one doctor in Nome. He had noticed the first case of diphtheria in December. Welch had only expired diphtheria antitoxin. He had ordered a new supply but the port was closed for the winter before the serum arrived. Welch sent a radio telegram to all the major Alaska towns – there were more than 20 confirmed cases of diphtheria in the end of January. Without the antitoxin the disease would kill the area's entire population of about 10,000 people.

   The nearest supply was in Anchorage, but the train line from Anchorage reached only as far as the city about 675 miles from Nome. Officials asked local dogsled teams for help. The drivers delivered the serum in 5 days and 7 hours. Under normal circumstances, the trip would have taken a single driver and dog team 15 to 20 days. Recognizing the bravery and tenacity of the drivers and dogs, President Calvin Coolidge rewarded each man with a gold medal, and the territory of Alaska gave them each $25.

The price for ½ gallon of milk at that time was 33 cents  - so  $25 dollars was not a big sum.
   The serum run received national press through radio and headlines in the United States and Alaska, both during and after the run. As the lead dog of the final leg of the journey, Balto received much attention. New York dog lovers raised money to honor the Balto. The statue was dedicated in December 1925. Balto spent a few years touring with sideshow entertainers and after that found a permanent home in the Cleveland Zoo. After his death at 11 in 1933, he was mounted and placed on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Learn more:
History of the 1925 Nome Serum Run

Eagles on the roof. Grand Central Terminal. Part 3

Grand  Central Terminal. Part 1
Grand  Central Terminal. Part 2
Grand Central Terminal is 100 years old this year.  Before Grand Central Terminal, there was Grand Central Depot, built by William Vanderbilt in 1898 as the expansion of the old station.  There were four clock towers on the roof, and at the corners of those towers  there were 12  huge  cast iron eagles. The eagles at that time were recognized nationally as a symbol of the country’s growth.  They represented flight, movement, travel and were a symbol of patriotism.
 The corners of the 61st floor of The Chrysler Building, built in 1928, are graced with eagles. There were eagles on the Pennsylvania Train Station, that was built in 1910 and demolished in 1963.
 Old Grand Central Depot was destroyed  in 1910 to give  way for the new station, built in 1913.  Two massive black iron eagles from the flock that rested on Grand Central Depot roof, were taken to the entrance to Willie K’s Centerport, Long Island, Eagle’s nest and today greet the visitors.
     The beautiful Spanish Revival mansion   was built in 1910 and owned by William K. Vanderbilt II, founder of the New York Central Railroad . The estate  is located on the Northern Shore an hour drive from the city. There is a museum now  with extensive collection of artifacts and natural history specimens. Vanderbilt traveled around the globe and his collection  is the largest privately held collections of marine specimens in the world. 

     Different private estates and institutions bought other eagles.   By mid-century, the majority of these estates had been divided into smaller lots, and many of the birds were almost lost.
     One of the eagles was found more than 70 years later. The couple from Bronx found it in the backyard of their newly bought  house  in Bronxville.
     The bird was almost invisible because of the overgrowth.   Their daughter went to school with the grandson of Mr. Conway , the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owned Grand Central Terminal. The grown-ups got in touch and Mr. Grand Pre and Ms. Hawkes decided to donate the bird to the terminal project.  It was placed at the Lexington Avenue entrance to the Grand Central Market in 1999.
     In 2001 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the terminal, rescued another  eagle from a Franciscan Friars monastery in Garrison, N.Y. For many years it was mounted on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River on the former estate of U.S. Rep. Hamilton Fish in Garrison, N.Y. After undergoing extensive renovation, the eagle  was installed above the terminal's southwest entrance, at 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, complementing the other original eagle perched above the entrance to Grand Central on Lexington Avenue and 43rd Street.

    Architectural Iron company  did the restoration work in both cases. Each Eagle was nine high, with a wingspan of 14 feet and a weight of 4,040 pounds.  Architectural Iron Company wanted realism and perfection in all respects and called upon the expertise of Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center. Iron Company wanted to know what color to pain the eagle's tongue( eagle's tongue is pink). 

      The Bald Eagle became the National emblem in 1782 when the great seal of the United States was adopted.   The bald eagle is displayed on the backs of American monetary units, military coats of arms and national symbols all over the country.You can see the image of the bald eagle almost everywhere. 
     The head of the eagle is not bold at all -  it is  covered with white feathers. Of all birds in the world, Bald Eagles hold the record for the biggest nest ever built.

     Six years ago, in 2007, another eagle from Grand Central Depot was found by the investigators from “History Detectives” by PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in US). The eagle belongs to family-run  Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Sussex, NJ.  More than 80 years ago, in 1927,  this place had been started as mom and dad general store. Then The Great Depression hit the country. It was difficult for the customers to find even a penny and they  brought their possessions  to trade for groceries. Elizabeth, the original owner of the farm, displayed  the treasures around the shop. It was the beginning of the museum.
     The statue's previous location is not known  - it was brought to Space Farms in the mid-1960s. Experts proofed that it is a Grand Central Station bird.
PBS published a story about the Cast Iron Eagle found in Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Sussex, NJ.
 Who knows- maybe you, my readers, will find other Grand Central Eagles…

Learn More:
PBS  with the story about the eagle
Visit  Long Island Vanderbilt mansion  
Visit  Space Farm Zoo in New Jersey 

Grand Central Terminal : history and secrets. Part 2

Grand  Central Terminal. Part 1
Grand  Central Terminal. Part 3

One hundred years  and three months ago, at 12:01 AM on February 2 the first passengers boarded trains departing from the new Grand Central Terminal on the east side of Manhattan, New York.   Grand Central is the world’s largest train terminal with 45 track platforms and 63 tracks. Grand Central is the second most visited tourist destination in New York City, with over 750,000 visitors every day. There are huge windows on the south side of the building. Similar windows, but twice the size, once graced the north wall. They were blocked when the 59-story Pan Am (now MetLife) Building went up in 1963.
     The center of the terminal is the Main Concourse, and the center of it  is occupied by the informational booth with the clock on the top. Its four convex faces are actually made from high-grade opal. The little bulbous point at the top is a compass that’s aligned to true north so the four sides of the clock line up perfectly with the four compass points of the building.

The little acorn at the top of the clock is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family. Their motto was: "From the acorn grows the mighty oak." .  In 1954 the clock  was removed for the repairs for the first time   after the Terminal was opened  in 1913. There is a spiral staircase that connects the Main Concourse booth with the informational booth one floor below.

     Initially, the architects wanted skylights to fill the ceiling of the main concourse so that the actual night sky would be exposed. That option was expensive and the French artist  Paul César Helleu painted his mural instead. His portrait with his wife made by his close friend John Singer Sargent can be seen in Brooklyn  museum. Helleu was one of the most celebrated artists of the Edwardian era in both Paris and London.  

     There were 2,500 stars painted on the 125 feet high ceiling.  The constellations, with the exception of Orion, are painted backwards. The backward zodiac is a mystery. According to one of the popular legends, The Vanderbilt’s were surprised when they started getting comments and letters from commuters about the mistake. They later claimed it was painted deliberately from God’s perspective rather than having to admit to the evident error.

    The ceiling was completely covered in the 1930s and cleaned only in 1998.
If you look carefully at the northwest corner you can see a small dark square. The spot was kept as a reminder of how dirty the ceiling was before the massive cleaning that took place here in the ’90s.

   There is a small circle in the midst of the stars right above the image of Pisces. In a 1957, after the Soviet launch of Sputnik   and in the middle of a Cold war American the  Redstone rocket was placed on the floor. There was the hole in the ceiling that was made for an anchor for the cable to secure the missile that was more than 60 feet high.

     During World War II millions of servicemen passed through Grand Central on their way to and from the front.  At this time there was a secret outpost M42 - the area as large as the Main Concourse.  During WW2 troops were stationed down there with the guns trained directly at the entrance. The subbasement contained a dozen of huge power convertors that were very sensitive.  If broken or destroyed the Central Terminal could be paralyzed. The old engines have long been replaced by solid ones, but M42 is still strictly an off-limits place 

     On June 13, 1942 a team of four Germans spies landed   five miles to the North of East Hampton, Long Island   from a German submarine, U-Boat 202. The plan was to destroy key logistical locations in the northeast, including Grand Central.  The spies buried their explosives, ammunition and detonators, changed into civilian clothes and headed for the train station for New York.   The Coast Guard found the hidden uniforms and the alarm went out.  On the morning of their second day in New York, the leader of the Group used a public phone to contact the local FBI.  The group was quickly arrested.

     Among the maze of  tunnels, corridors, and tracks there is a Track 61 – the secret rail that was used by the President  Franklin D. Roosevelt. An elevator runs straight from the track to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  FDR’s   armored rail car with bulletproof windows is still parked there. 

    From 1939 to 1964 CBS Television occupied a large portion of the terminal building.  In 1958, the first major videotape operations facility in the world opened in a former rehearsal room on the seventh floor. 
 Today it is occupied by a tennis court that is accessible to the public.

On the same day when the Twins we ruined  by the terror attack, but 25 years  earlier, on September 11, 1976, Croatian nationalists planted a bomb in a   locker at Grand Central Terminal and  hijacked a plane. The bomb was found and taken to Rodman's Neck Firing Range in the Bronx where police attempted to dismantle it. There was an explosion that wounded over 30 and killed one.

In 1994, the MTA signed a long term lease on the building and began massive renovations.  These renovations were mostly finished in 1998. The quarry in Tennessee that was used in the original Grand terminal project was   reopened  to provide matching stone to fix the old staircase and to build a new one.

There is a new project now that will bring Long Island Rail Road trains to the Terminal. The project is scheduled to complete in 2019.
To be continued....

Grand Central Terminal : history and secrets. Part 1

Grand  Central Terminal. Part 2
Grand  Central Terminal. Part 3  

This year New York's Grand Central Terminal turned 100. The building is not the first one built on the same space.  Grand Central Depot, built by   Cornelius Vanderbilt,   opened  in 1871. Depot  had   an ornate Second Empire-style façade, iron and glass train shed 100 feet high  and   15 tracks—one of the largest interior spaces in America at that time. There was a four-track ventilated tunnel from 56th to 96th Street and an open track bed along Park Avenue.  Steam locomotives on all this tracks generated a lot of smoke and dust.   The traffic was growing very quickly  - there were   22 tracks in 1898.

     Vanderbilt family announced plans to construct a new station after the tragic accident happened in 1902:  one commuter train crashed into another, killing 15.  The huge dirty cloud, emanating from the station area, blinded   the train’s driver.
Wilgus, the New York Central Railroad’s chief engineer since 1899, in his letter to the railroad’s president proposed to raze the existing Grand Central and replace the steam locomotives with electric trains. The terminal, he explained later, “could be transformed from a nonproductive agency of transportation to a self-contained producer of revenue — a gold mine, so to speak.”

     In 1903 the Central invited architects to submit designs for the new terminal. One firm suggested to build a baroque, a turreted confection with  Park Avenue slicing it into two separate parts; another proposed  to build  60-story skyscraper   atop the terminal.

     Reed & Stem, a St. Paul firm, won the competition. Allen H. Stem was Wilgus’s brother-in-law. Soon after that, Warren & Wetmore (Whitney Warren was William Vanderbilt’s cousin) submitted an alternative design.

     In   1903, the   board of directors, including Cornelius II Vanderbilt and William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan approved the plan.   More than hundred houses, three churches and two hospitals have to be demolished. Grand Central Depot was demolished too.The construction of   the new Terminal lasted for ten years (from 1903 - 1913). The terminal alone cost $43 million to build, the equivalent of about $1 billion today.

     The new construction was done without disrupting  the daily arrivals and departures of hundreds of trains, whose numbers had been  increasing each year. During the entire demolition and rebuilding, train service never stopped. The work was difficult.   The quantity of rock and soil that was excavated for the two levels of tracks was stupendous—3 million cubic yards. At peak periods, 10,000 workers were assigned to the site and work progressed around the clock.

     William J. Wilgus took advantage of the recent electrification technology and proposed to build a bi-level station below ground.  Air rights over the tracks and   platforms were sold for real-estate development.  In next several years apartment and office buildings were erected around Grand Central and the area was turned the most desirable commercial office district in Manhattan – Terminal City.

     The leading architect of the building, Whitney Warren, wanted to bring a lot of Parisian flair to New York City with his Beaux-Arts style. Warren brought a bunch of his French friends who worked on the project with him.
The sculpture at the peak of the building façade that faces 42nd Street was the largest in the world when it was unveiled in 1914. Mercury is at the top with Hercules to his right and Minerva goddess of wisdom, to his left

      The building of Grand Central was the largest construction project in New York’s history up to that time and was as one of the world’s first all-electric buildings.    When the station was opened in 1913 , there were more than 4000 light bulbs in chandeliers and lighting fixtures, and all of them were uncovered. There are now over then 35000 light bulbs, but they still remain bare.

     Another innovation was the extensive use of ramps, rather than stairs, throughout the station. When the Terminal was opened   there was a separate women’s waiting room with   maids at the ready, a ladies’ shoe-polishing room  and  dressing room, and a private barber shop for men.

     Terminal had served as an important cultural hub for the city of New York. There was a movie theater, on-site museum, restaurants and even an art school, established in the 1920s by a group of painters included John Singer Sargent, which offered lessons to hundreds of students before closing in 1944.The school was on the 7-th floor of the east wing and  Norman Rockwell was one of the students.

     After fifty years of usage Grand Central  became dirty and seedy. It was dark and dusty, windows were broken. The terminal was owned by the Penn Central Railroad.  Penn was close to the bankruptcy.  The developments rights of the Penn station were sold to the company that destroyed the station.

     The beautiful Penn station was made of pink granite with   the   Greek Doric columns and had the largest indoor space in the world.  Penn Station was demolished in 1962 – there is a Madison Square garden on its place now.Penn Central Railroad proposed to do to Grand Central what it had done to Penn Station.

   The 1963 demolition of Pennsylvania Station served as catalyst for an architectural preservation movement within the United States.  New Landmarks Preservation Commission was created and  Grand Central Terminal was designated as a New York City Landmark.  The owners sued in state supreme court, claiming the new landmark law was unconstitutional. The railroad won. But New York City won the appeal and the case then moved to the U.S. Supreme Court. New York won and Grand Central was saved. This was the first time when the court ruled on historic preservation.

The building has a lot of hidden secrets such as secret room, secret track, a hole in the ceiling that intentionally was not repaired. I’ll tell about it in my next post.

Atlas - a bronze statue on 5th Avenue and “Atlas shrugged” by Ayn Rand

     There were two famous brothers in Greek mythology – Prometheus and Atlas and both were punished -   first Atlas and later Prometheus.  There are two sculptures of the two brothers  near Rockefeller Center in New York.  You can find more details in my old post about Prometheus

     Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan is a very crowded street and only in the early morning you can make the picture of the statue of Atlas as if you are alone on one of the famous streets in the world. The monument sits in in front of Rockefeller building across from St. Patrick's Cathedral.
It is the largest sculpture at Rockefeller Center.
     This huge bronze figure was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan in 1937. Chambellan also created small Nereids and Dolphins on the fountain near Rockefeller center. 
    In Greek mythology Atlas is the titan of astronomy and navigation. He was a leader in the war between the Olympian Gods and the Titans.   After the war was lost, Atlas received the harshest punishment by King Zeus:  he had to hold up the heavens with bare hands and bear their weight on his shoulders forever. Atlas instructed the mankind in the art of astronomy.  A lost traveler can use the statue as a compass -the North-South axis of the sphere on Atlas' shoulders points towards  the North Star as seen from New York City.

  You can see this statue on the cover page of one of the most published books in the world, “Atlas Shrugged”  by Ayn Rand.  The theme of the novel, as Rand described it, is "the role of man's mind in existence".  "If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders--what would you tell him to do?" Rand wrote, answering, "To shrug."  

  The book, describing a dystopian United States, was first published in 1957. John Galt is one of the main characters of the book. He is the leader of the of society's most productive citizens believing that world, where individual is not free to create and have a profit, where every person is a slave to society and government, will end in the chaos and disaster.  John Galt believes that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society. Galt was an engineer and invented a  new type of motor for the company he had been working for.

     Forced by his employer, for the "social good," to share his part of profit  with his fellow workers, who contributed nothing to the motor's development, Galt walks out of his job, determined to "stop the motor of the world." 

   Ayn Rand   (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905. At the age of nine, she decided to make fiction writing her career.

  She supported Kerensky Revolution ( February 1917) and criticized the Bolshevik Revolution ( October 1917). She graduated from University of Petrograd in 1924 and in 1925, after obtaining permission for visiting relatives in the United States, Ayn came to USA. Her first novel "We are living" was semi-autobiographical and was set in Soviet Russia.

Ayn was so impressed with the skyline of Manhattan upon her arrival  in New York Harbor that she cried what she later called "tears of splendor”. Later she wrote about New York: "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline”. Rand wrote much of the book in New York and based many of the novel's fictional sites on real places in the city.

The story of Atlas Shrugged expresses Rand's philosophy rational self-interest. She wrote:
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors(…)And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it."  “"Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that 'human rights' are superior to 'property rights' simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others”

    “Atlas Shrugged” debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List at #13 three days after its publication - and was on the list for 22 consecutive weeks. Objectivism movement originally started out as an informal gathering of friends, who met with Rand on weekends at her apartment on East 36th Street in New York City to discuss philosophy. Later Rand   promoted her Objectivist philosophy, lecturing students in Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and MIT.

     Rand died of heart failure in 1982, at her home in New York City. Rand's funeral was attended by some of her followers, including Alan Greenspan (the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006). A six-foot floral arrangement in  the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. Ayn Rand always wore a gold dollar sign as a brooch on her lapel.

     The “Ayn Rand Institute” began operations on February 1, 1985, three years after Rand's death. More than 50 years after publication, sales are booming. According to a press release from this Institute, over 7 million copies had been sold by the US publishers as of January 2010, with sales in 2009 along being over 500,000 copies.  The numbers do not include sales from other countries. Very few novels have had an impact as continuing as "Atlas Shrugged".

The Wall Street Journal published  statistics about  "Atlas Shrugged" sales:
1980s -- 74,300 copies per year 
1990s -- 95,300 copies per year 
2000s -- 167,028 copies per year 
2010s -- 303,523 copies per year 

2012- -- 359,105 copies per year

    On the 22nd of April, 1999, the United States Postal Service has issued a stamp dedicated to  Ayn Rand.

     Part I of the American film adaptation of the   novel Atlas Shrugged was released in 2011, part 2- in 2012, and Part  will hit theaters on Summer 2014.

Learn more:

Forbes: Who is John Galt?
Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand Quotes

One57 - the new condo on the Billionaire’s Row

   The  tallest residential building in New York City and the Western Hemisphere One57 Tower is now under construction on 157 West 57th Street, not far from Carnegie Hall. Extell Development Co. is the developer of the 90-story building.

Gary Barnett is President and founder of Extell. He had his bachelors from Queens College and Masters from Hunter. Barnett started  as a diamond trader in Antwerp, Belgium.   Later he returned to  United States  and  purchased shopping malls and office buildings in the Midwest.
The architect is Christian de Portzamparc, a French architect.
     Portzamparc graduated from the École Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1970. His recent works in New York include LVMH Tower (1995) and residential tower on Park avenue South ,400 that has to be finished later in 2013.   One57 has only 92 condo units and includes everything you need (or maybe just dream about): triple-height indoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a crafts atelier, and even a pet washing room.

     Sales at the tower reached $1 billion a year ago.  Extell had  already twice increased prices. About 70% of One57's 92 units are sold.

     Three days ago Extell open their model apartment to attract more buyers- the building is almost complete.The walls  in this unit are covered in raw silk ,there is a leather-upholstered headboard,  fox-fur bedspread and crystal chandelier, World Street Journal reported.

     Last October during hurricane Sandy hundreds of people had to leave their homes because the winds had damaged the boom of a crane on One57 that was 1,000 feet above the sidewalk. Donald Trump told CNBC that he could see the crane from his window and it was moving violently in the wind before it collapsed. “I know lots about cranes and lots about building, and I am looking at that crane right now,” Donald Trump said. “I have a window that’s just about even with that crane and I was watching it yesterday, and they didn’t tie it down.”

     Buyers of the apartments in One57 include 66 years old fashion designer  Silas Chou from Hong Kong  (unit on 82nd floor with the price about $50 million), and   the founder of Pershing Square Capital Management LP William Ackman with the group of investors (penthouse for more than $90 million).

      $90 million is a new record for Manhattan apartments. The old record was set in February 2012 for apartment purchased for the daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

     One of the One57's latest buyers is a two-year-old Chinese girl. Her mother, who took care of the paperwork and stuff, said that her daughter will be “….. planning on going to Columbia or NYU, maybe Harvard, so she needed to be in the center of the city”

     Michael Gross , the author of bestseller  “740 Park” ( the inside story of    New York’s richest  cooperative apartment building)  published in 2005, introduced the term  "Billionaire's Belt "  for  57 street and vicinity.

     He said that he had seen “an uptick in the number of billionaires flocking to luxury buildings in the 57th Street and 59th Street corridors to the southern corner of Central Park, along to the Bloomberg building and 432 Park Avenue.”

"This neighborhood never really defined itself before," Gross told Business Insider. "Now, it's becoming the new 'billionaire's belt.'"

     By the way, Michael Gross and his wife live in  Alwyn Court (180 West 58th ) -   apartment house that was evacuated twice during last 6 months-the first rime when the crane on One57 collapsed, and the second time just less than two months ago when  the crane had to be reinstalled.


     One57  with it 1,004 feet will not keep the record for a long - apartment building 432 Park Avenue (completed by 2015) will be even taller. And the planned building  on 227 West 57th has enough air rights to rise 1,550 feet.   Six-bedroom, seven-bath penthouse with a library in 432 Park avenue is already under agreement for $95 million. So sky is the limit!

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Haute Living:One57 Penthouse: Most Expensive Manhattan Property Ever for $110 Mil 


Bills Gay Nineties, A New York Original Speakeasy

     Bill’s Gay Nineties piano bar is located   in a 19th century townhouse,   at 57 East 54th Street. Do not be fooled by the name – it is all about the Roaring Twenties and a speakeasy.   “The Gay Nineties” is an American nostalgic term that refers to the decade of the 1890s.  The same period in England is known as “Naughty Nineties”. 



     This term became popular in the Roaring Twenties  - 1920s era – the age of  financial prosperity  and social changes, jazz  and Charleston, Sinclair Lewis , F. Scott Fitzgerald and  Ernest Hemingway.  In this decade, America became the richest nation on Earth. For the first time in the United States, more people were living in cities than on farms.  1920s is also the period of Prohibition - national ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was added   and the Volstead Act set down the rules. Twenty-first Amendment  (1933) revoked Eighteenth Amendment.

   It was the first (and the last) case in US when new amendment repealed the old  one. The government did little to enforce the law. By 1925 in New York City there were more than 30,000 speakeasy clubs. Speakeasy is the slang name for the place that illegally sells alcoholic beverages.  The name derived from the practice of asking patrons to be quiet about the illegal bar’s location. There were a lot of “slang” words created in   Roaring. One of the examples is a “bootlegger” – the person who has flasks with spirit or wine hidden in the high boots.
     The house on 57 East 54th Street was built in the 1850’ as a private house and the first tenant was Reverend Robinson, a composer and a minister. He published countless number of songs and hymns Robinson  sold the house to the  grandson of  the famous C. Moore  -  the author or  “The Night Before Christmas “ (“A Visit from St. Nicholas”). Before  the creation of the story,  Santa Claus    had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeers. 

     Bill Hardy was  boxer, a jockey, a dance instructor, a Broadway dandy. He was married to one of the Ziegfield girls from the legendary Ziegfield Follies  - the popular Broadway show based Folies Bergère of Paris.

   Mr. Hardy idealized the 1890s.  He created one of New York’s first retro bars. The first floor of the restaurant  had  a lot of  sports memorabilia and was originally for men only.  The second floor  had a  high-ceilinged dining room with walls  covered with posters and photos dating from the mid 1800’s to the famous Gay Nineties. 

The third floor, The Tenderloin Room, was for private parties only and had a finely crafted bar. There was a secret liquor room in the basement hidden behind the false brick wall.  There was a special lever on the bar that can shuttle bottles with wine down to the basement with the sand on the floor so that the glass would not break.

 As the legend always had it, this bar was converted from a fireplace in the old Rockefeller mansion but recently that legend was altered when Bill Hardy’s widow, celebrated her 90-th birthday at Bill’s and was reported to have said with authority, “Oh no, dear, that bar came out of the old Delmonico’s". The famous Delmonico's restaurant   was operated by the Delmonico family lower Manhattan during the 19th and early 20th centuries and was  one of the nation's top fine dining establishments.

     In 1965, a man from New Jersey bought the business from Mr. Hardy ( a grandson of Bill Hardy) and a year later one of his daughters, Barbara, started  helping.
   She married, separated and fall in love with another man. Her father died in 1979, and since this year Ms. Olmsted took Bill’s over.
     Bill's Gay Nineties enjoyed a long, celebrated life as a restaurant and piano bar for more than 80 years.  It was one of the oldest city's restaurants. Most of the staff has been there for years and even decades. The manager and official greeter Aldo Leone had been with the place for over forty five years.
     In 2012 the building's owner, Noel Tynan, who lives in Dublin, refused to renegotiate the lease with restaurant owner Ms. Olmsted and the famous bar was closed on March 2012.

     Today there is a new restaurant “Bill's Food & Drink “ on the old place. The piano is still  there, but Elliot Paul, one of the charming guys who has played it for the last 15 years said: “ The new place looks so nice, but it's just not a saloon anymore. The renovations have been smart and careful, and there is still some live music, but the mood and the prices have changed quite drastically”  said  Village Voice in the article” Waiter, Bring Us Our Bill's”.

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