It Came From New York

In­tro­duc­ing an en­cy­clo­pe­dia of the city’s great­est in­no­va­tions

New York Magazine - - FEA­TURES - the en­cy­clo­pe­dia of new york is on sale Oc­to­ber 20.

even if an

idea does not strictly start here, New York is, dis­pro­por­tion­ately of­ten, the place where it is dropped off, trimmed to size, mat­ted and framed, and dis­played to ev­ery­one with an ex­plana­tory wall text.

Cer­tain types of peo­ple are drawn to a place like this. They tend to be young, smart, and am­bi­tious. Def­i­ni­tion­ally, they are dissatisfi­ed with their home­towns. (Oth­er­wise, why leave?) Home to au­thors and aca­demics and mu­si­cians, art gal­leries and fash­ion houses—how ex­actly did this ma­jes­tic con­flu­ence of cre­ativ­ity ap­pear here? One ex­pla­na­tion is New York’s sheer size: Big ideas are mag­netic, and in a big town rather than a small one, you can gather enough Trot­skyites or avant-garde po­ets at an event to make waves. There’s a self-ful­fill­ing­ness to th­ese things too: Self-con­fi­dence begets self-con­fi­dence, and cen­tral­ity draws peo­ple who want to be at the cen­ter, which makes the cen­ter big­ger. Not to men­tion the fierce com­pe­ti­tion.

It is, of course, not a place for ev­ery­one. Peo­ple come here to try to shoot the moon. If it doesn’t work out, a lot of them go back to where they came from, or some­times to New Jer­sey. Those who hang on are a self-se­lected sub­set, in­tent on mak­ing some­thing never be­fore seen. You can hardly go a day with­out en­coun­ter­ing some­thing that started here. The list is, you might say, en­cy­clo­pe­dic. And, in fact, the en­tries that fol­low have been adapted from the forth­com­ing En­cy­clo­pe­dia of New York, a book com­piled by the ed­i­tors of this very mag­a­zine. It’s a his­tory of New York’s core power—in­no­va­tion—and of the ways in which one city ex­ports the in­ten­tions, whether cor­po­real or in­tan­gi­ble, that have shaped our ev­ery­day ex­is­tence for hun­dreds of years. It was al­ways a ter­ri­ble, great idea to move here and shoot your shot, and it still is. The apart­ment next door to you may be cramped, but the ideas that will de­fine ev­ery­one’s life a few years hence may lie within.

From The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of New York, by the Ed­i­tors of New York Mag­a­zine. Copy­right © 2020 by Vox Me­dia, LLC. Reprinted by per­mis­sion of Avid Reader Press, an im­print of Si­mon & Schus­ter, Inc.

A Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ism Acrylic Paint ACT UP

By 1987, the AIDS epi­demic had claimed al­most half a mil­lion lives world­wide and over 6,500 in New York City. Early that year, the play­wright Larry Kramer spoke at the LGBTQ Com­mu­nity Cen­ter on West 13th Street and told a room­ful of pri­mar­ily gay men that two-thirds of them would be dead in a few years if they did not take rad­i­cal steps. Two nights later, about two dozen peo­ple met at Kramer’s Green­wich Vil­lage apart­ment and launched the ac­tivist col­lec­tive ACT UP (for AIDS Coali­tion to Un­leash Power), which went on to score some of the big­gest gains against the epi­demic be­fore an ef­fec­tive treat­ment emerged in 1996. With its un­apolo­get­i­cally queer rhetoric and aes­thetic— the sig­na­ture chant was “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”—ACT UP ef­fec­tively de­fined what it meant to be LGBTQ and po­lit­i­cal in the U.S.

Air Con­di­tion­ing Al­go­nquin Round Ta­ble Alt-Weekly Ama­ An­chor­man An­thora Cup Atomic Bomb Au­teur The­ory Au­tomat Au­to­mated Teller Ma­chine B Bagel Bar­bi­cide

As a teenager, Mau­rice King was dis­gusted that bar­bers sim­ply used wa­ter to clean their combs. In 1947, af­ter earn­ing a de­gree in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, he started mix­ing batches of chem­i­cal dis­in­fec­tant in the bath­room of his Brook­lyn apart­ment. He dyed it elec­tric blue to sig­nal pu­rity, leav­ing a per­ma­nent stain on his bath­tub. He then be­gan lob­by­ing for a law re­quir­ing the use of dis­in­fec­tants in bar­ber­shops. The states bit, and many wrote leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing the prod­uct by its name, Bar­bi­cide—which,

King joked, means “Kill the bar­ber,” a nod to his teenage dis­taste.

Base­ball The Beats Be­bop Bike Lane Birth-Con­trol Clinic Bloomberg Ter­mi­nal ▼ Bodega Brassiere

In 1913, Mary Phelps Ja­cob, a 21-year-old

New York debu­tante, was dress­ing for a dance. Re­peat­edly frus­trated with the corset that was, at the time, the lit­eral foun­da­tion of a well-dressed woman’s at­tire, Ja­cob asked her maid to bring her two silk hand­ker­chiefs, a rib­bon, and a nee­dle and thread. The gar­ment she as­sem­bled, she later said, “was de­li­cious. I could move more freely, a nearly naked feel­ing, and in the glass I saw that I was flat and proper.” Al­though a va­ri­ety of sim­i­lar gar­ments pre­date her patent, she is gen­er­ally cred­ited with the in­ven­tion of the bra. Af­ter her un­der­wear break­through, she moved to Paris for a while; co­founded the Black Sun Press, pub­lish­ing Ernest Hem­ing­way; mar­ried three times; changed her name to Ca­resse Crosby; worked as an an­ti­war ac­tivist; dab­bled with opium-smok­ing in North Africa; owned a dog named Cly­toris; and died in 1970 at the age of 78, not far from the cas­tle she owned in Rome.

Break-danc­ing Brill Build­ing

Broad­way Brown­stone Row­house C Café So­ci­ety Cel-Ray Soda Chabad Ju­daism Che­mex Cof­feepot Chris­tian Re­al­ism Christ­mas Lights Club Kids Club Sand­wich Col­lege En­trance Exam Co­op­er­a­tive Apart­ment Build­ing Crayon Credit Re­port­ing Agency Cronut

The Cronut, a cross be­tween a filled dough­nut and a crois­sant, in­vented by French-born pas­try chef Do­minique Ansel, made its de­but at his Soho bak­ery on May 10, 2013, her­alded by Hugh Mer­win on New

York’s Grub Street blog as a “Hy­brid That May Very Well Change Your Life.” The tourists are still lin­ing up for it. Crossword

D De­part­ment-Store Hol­i­day Win­dow Dis­play Deu­terium Dig­i­tal Ad Ex­change Disco Dis­count Store Dol­lar Slice Dou­ble Dutch Dow Jones In­dus­trial Aver­age Down­town Dry Clean­ing

“Letters patent be­ing granted un­der the Great Seal of the United States of Amer­ica unto Thomas L. Jen­nings, Tai­lor, 64

Nas­sau Street, New York”—thus ran a line in the New York Post on March 27, 1821, mark­ing the first U.S. patent is­sued to an African Amer­i­can for Jen­nings’s sys­tem of “Dry Scour­ing Clothes, and Woollen Fab­rics in gen­eral, so that they keep their orig­i­nal shape.” We’d call it “dry clean­ing” to­day, and the ad­ver­tise­ment says the tech­nique “also re­moves stains from cloth.” Jen­nings was a free man, but his wife, born in slav­ery, was an in­den­tured ser­vant; he made enough money off his in­ven­tion to buy her free­dom.

E Easter Pa­rade Egg Cream Eggs Bene­dict Elec­tri­cal Grid El­e­va­tor/Es­ca­la­tor Ex-Lax

A year or so af­ter he grad­u­ated from Columbia Uni­ver­sity’s phar­macy pro­gram in 1904, Max Kiss fell into a con­ver­sa­tion with a doc­tor who men­tioned Bayer’s new drug phe­nolph­thalein, which re­lieved con­sti­pa­tion. Mind­ful of chil­dren who re­sisted swal­low­ing their re­pul­sive spoon­fuls of cas­tor oil, he em­bed­ded the phe­nolph­thalein in choco­late and in­tro­duced his prod­uct in 1906. He named his prod­uct Ex-Lax for a Lati­nate phrase he’d picked up in Hun­gary that de­scribes po­lit­i­cal dead­lock: Exlex is a con­di­tion un­der which the Con­sti­tu­tion is tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended and Par­lia­ment is dis­solved, dur­ing which no leg­is­la­tion can, uh, move.

F Façade Law Fed­er­al­ism Fed­eral Re­serve Sys­tem Flash­mob FM Freak Show Free Verse G Game Show Gay-Rights Move­ment Gen­eral Tso’s Chicken Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion Gin Rummy Gos­sip Col­umn Graf­fiti As Art Gum H Ha­lal Cart Hare Kr­ishna Hal­li­gan Bar

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery fire de­part­ment in the U.S. buys its men and women the same tool: a steel bar a cou­ple of feet long with a forked chisel at one end and an adz and spike at the other. It’s called a Hal­li­gan bar, and it can pop open a door, break a win­dow and clear the frame of glass shards, bash through a Sheetrock wall, and pro­vide the lever­age to open a stiff wa­ter valve. The FDNY chief Hugh Hal­li­gan de­signed and patented it in 1948, im­prov­ing on a cruder pre­de­ces­sor known as a Kelly tool (in­vented a gen­er­a­tion ear­lier by an­other New York fire cap­tain, in fact).

Hall of Fame Har­lem Shake Hedge Fund High­way, El­e­vated Hip-Hop ▼

Cities are a lot like bod­ies. Proper cir­cu­la­tion keeps cities alive; cut off ac­cess, and rot sets in. Robert Moses—the famed “mas­ter builder” of New York City and, by ex­ten­sion, the whole ur­ban United States— fre­quently dec­i­mated neigh­bor­hoods and shov­eled fam­i­lies into pub­lic hous­ing that dis­placed Latino and African Amer­i­can res­i­dents with sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion. And hip-hop is the child of the dis­or­der that Moses vis­ited on com­mu­ni­ties of color. In those de­cay­ing neigh­bor­hoods, Bronx youths cre­ated their own in­fra­struc­ture and then their own cul­ture. In the sum­mer of

1973, the Ja­maican­born Bronx kid Clive Camp­bell, a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc, clev­erly crossed Kingston dance­hall and soundsys­tem cul­ture with thriv­ing Amer­i­can funk mu­sic. Herc, while DJing his sis­ter’s birth­day party, de­cided to show off a trick he’d been prac­tic­ing. In­stead of play­ing songs all the way through, he cued up two copies of the same

record, ze­ro­ing in on the dance break and us­ing two turnta­bles to run it back on a con­tin­u­ous loop. He was look­ing for the per­fect beat, whit­tling leaner, tighter dance-floor rou­tines out of hit records. Herc’s iso­la­tion of the white-hot in­stru­men­tal sec­tions of James Brown and In­cred­i­ble Bongo Band records is the back­bone of the sound of rap mu­sic. The prac­tice made mae­stros out of chil­dren who couldn’t af­ford in­stru­ments and/ or a mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion. The mu­sic made party plan­ners out of any­one who could jack enough juice to power turnta­bles, mi­cro­phones, and speak­ers.

Hip­ster Home Se­cu­rity Sys­tem

IIl­lu­mi­nated Ad­ver­tis­ing Sign Im­mi­gra­tion In­cu­ba­tor Iron, Elec­tric ▼

JJay­walk­ing Jazz Jeans, De­signer ▼

The work­ing­man’s denim pants, in­vented in 1873 by Ja­cob Davis and Levi Strauss, var­ied lit­tle for a cen­tury un­til Glo­ria Van­der­bilt— de­signer and heiress to one of Amer­ica’s great for­tunes—was ap­proached in 1976 by the In­dian gar­ment man­u­fac­turer Mur­jani. The jeans they came up with walked a line be­tween sexy and ac­ces­si­ble. Made of stretch denim, they

“fit like the skin on a grape!” as one TV ad promised. But they were also com­fort­able and wear­able for the aver­age woman. Van­der­bilt starred in the print and me­dia ads and grossed $30 mil­lion in sales in the first year. As Gilda Rad­ner put it, Van­der­bilt took “her good fam­ily name and put it on the asses of Amer­ica.”

Jell-O Junk Bonds

KKey-Lime Pie Klieg Light Knicker­bocker

LLa­bor Law Lap Dance ▼

In 1973, Al Kro­nish, an en­ter­pris­ing ac­coun­tant, con­vinced Fred Cin­cotti, an as­sis­tant D.A. for the State of New York, and Steven Katz, heir to a con­struc­tion em­pire, to in­vest in a brand-new strip club in Times Square. The Melody Burlesk was sup­posed to be classier than the other dives in the area, and it bombed. To save the club, they started hir­ing porn stars to put on shows there. In 1978, the club in­tro­duced Mardi Gras, a rau­cous week­end event where, for the first time, strip­pers in­ter­acted di­rectly with the au­di­ence, grind­ing on their laps for just $1 per sit­ting. Word spread, men be­gan lin­ing up to get one of th­ese new­fan­gled “lap dances,” and things de­volved from there.

Late-Night Talk Show Leo­tard As Streetwear Lindy Hop Loft Liv­ing

MMagic Marker Man­hat­tan May­hem Mr. Potato Head The Mob Mort­gage-Backed Se­cu­ri­ties Muck­rak­ing Mu­si­cal Theater N NRA Neo­con­ser­vatism News Blog Night­club

OOc­cupy Move­ment Oreo

PPark­ing, Al­ter­nate Side of the Street ▼

The New York City De­part­ment of Traf­fic was es­tab­lished in June 1950 as the post­war auto boom threat­ened to swamp

New York City with cars. Within weeks of its cre­ation, the DOT was be­seeched by the city’s San­i­ta­tion com­mis­sioner, An­drew W. Mul­rain, to try out a new plan on the Lower East Side: a scheme to ban park­ing on each side of the street on al­ter­nat­ing days, al­low­ing the DOS to clean at the curbs. Fif­teen hun­dred signs went up that July, and the law took ef­fect on Au­gust 1. The lo­cal auto clubs howled, but by the end of the year, the ar­range­ment had been ex­panded to the Up­per West Side and over the next few months into Brook­lyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Within two years, the city was declar­ing the plan a suc­cess be­cause of the sub­stan­tial park­ing-fine rev­enue and (ac­cord­ing to Mul­rain) cleaner streets.

Pas­trami Sand­wich Pent­house Pe­riod Un­der­pants Pick­le­back Pi­lates Pooper-Scooper Law Pop Art Power Lunch Pub­lic De­fender

On March 8, 1876, a group of Ger­manAmer­i­cans met on Wall Street with the lawyer and for­mer Wis­con­sin gov­er­nor Ed­ward Salomon, aim­ing to form an or­ga­ni­za­tion that would pro­vide le­gal as­sis­tance to Ger­man im­mi­grants who could not af­ford a pri­vate at­tor­ney. Out of that group, the Ger­man

Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety was born with the pur­pose of de­fend­ing im­mi­grants from, as its chief at­tor­ney, Leonard McGee, put it, “un­scrupu­lous peo­ple,

who, on one pre­text or an­other, would man­age to rob them of the lit­tle they pos­sessed.”

The So­ci­ety han­dled 212 cases in its first year; in its fifth, it took on 2,832. In 1890, the group be­gan of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to non-Ger­mans who “ap­pear wor­thy and at the same time [are] un­able to pay.” The or­ga­ni­za­tion changed its name to the Le­gal Aid So­ci­ety on June 1, 1896. To­day, there is a sim­i­lar so­ci­ety, if not more than one, in ev­ery state. Pub­lic Re­la­tions Puf­fer Coat Punk


Q-tips Quant


Rab­bit Ears ▼

Ra­dio Broad­cast­ing Re­mote Con­trol Ro­man­tic Com­edy ▼

The first on­screen kiss—50 feet of cel­lu­loid, run­ning about 20 sec­onds—was shown in New York in 1896. Ap­pro­pri­ately ti­tled The

Kiss, it was among the first mo­tion pic­tures ever shown the­atri­cally to a pay­ing pub­lic, pro­duced by Thomas Edison and star­ring May Ir­win and John Rice. (It also caused a brief up­roar over the de­pic­tion of such wan­ton sex­u­al­ity.) On film, the com­edy-ro­mance—an an­cient the­atri­cal form— de­vel­oped or­gan­i­cally through sit­u­a­tional and ro­man­tic vi­gnettes pro­duced by such

New York stu­dios as Vita­graph, Mu­to­scope (later Bio­graph), and

In­de­pen­dent Mov­ing Pic­tures. But oddly enough, the city emerged as a pop­u­lar set­ting only af­ter the in­dus­try be­gan its move west. Ce­cil B. DeMille, a New Yorker who had de­camped for Cal­i­for­nia (he di­rected Hol­ly­wood’s first fea­ture film), re-cre­ated New York lo­ca­tions in Los An­ge­les for 1914’s What’s His Name and 1915’s Chim­mie

Fad­den. DeMille would go on to make a se­ries of suc­cess­ful re­mar­riage come­dies, in­clud­ing

1919’s Don’t Change Your Hus­band and 1920’s Why Change Your Wife?, both star­ring Glo­ria Swan­son. It’s a fairly straight line from there to Meg Ryan in the deli in When Harry Met Sally …. Rush Tick­ets


Safety Pin Scrabble Sin­gles Bar Sit­com Sketch Com­edy So­cialite Steam­boat Sub­way Se­ries Su­per­mar­ket Sus­pen­sion Bridge


Tabloid News­pa­per Ticker Toi­let Paper Toot­sie Roll Traf­fic Reg­u­la­tions Tuxedo


Unions United Na­tions Uri­nal


Vaude­ville Ver­mont Vogu­ing


Wal­dorf Salad “Walk” Sign Wine List Wrap Dress Wreck­ing Ball ▼

In­stead of suc­ceed­ing his deli-owner fa­ther, Suss­man Volk— in­ven­tor of the pas­trami sand­wich—in the con­struc­tion of ed­i­ble high-rises, Ja­cob Volk went into high-rise de­struc­tion, be­com­ing New York’s fore­most ex­pert in the de­mo­li­tion of tall build­ings. In his early days in the busi­ness, th­ese struc­tures were painstak­ingly taken down by hand, mostly by men with crow­bars. But in the 1930s, Ja­cob and his brother Al­bert be­gan knock­ing down walls and col­umns with a hang­ing slab of scrap iron sus­pended from a crane. By 1936 the Volks were us­ing a 3,000-pound “iron can­non­ball” swung from a 90-foot-tall arm. As the low-rise 19th­cen­tury city gave way to the high-rise 20th, the wreck­ing ball be­came ubiq­ui­tous. In re­cent decades, its use has be­gun to fade: Al­though it hasn’t van­ished from the de­mo­li­tion trade al­to­gether, for big build­ings im­plo­sion is faster and more ef­fi­cient. It’s used to­day less as a phys­i­cal tool than as a con­ve­nient metaphor, most no­tably by Mi­ley Cyrus, whose 2013 sin­gle “Wreck­ing Ball” was ac­com­pa­nied by a video of her rid­ing one as it swung from a chain. A smash hit.




Yel­low Jour­nal­ism Yup­pie


Zi­p­less Fuck Zon­ing ▼ When yet an­other su­per­tall tower pokes past the Em­pire State Build­ing, New York­ers rou­tinely ask, “Who let them build that?” The an­swer of­ten in­volves zon­ing, a rule­mak­ing art that goes back to New Am­s­ter­dam, when Peter Stuyvesant is­sued a code lim­it­ing the num­ber of tav­erns, des­ig­nat­ing cer­tain ar­eas off-lim­its to pigs and goats, and pre­vent­ing shacks and fences from spilling over onto pub­lic streets. Mod­ern zon­ing, how­ever, was pre­cip­i­tated by one par­tic­u­lar event: When the 40-story Eq­ui­table Build­ing went up in

1913, eat­ing up a whole block and loom­ing over lower Man­hat­tan’s old, nar­row streets, New York­ers clam­ored for more reg­u­la­tion. Two well-con­nected re­form­ers, Ge­orge McA­neny and Ed­ward Bas­sett, wrote the na­tion’s first zon­ing res­o­lu­tion, a revo­lu­tion­ary doc­u­ment en­acted in 1916 that shaped growth for decades.

The reg­u­la­tions can get de­tailed and ar­cane, but they ex­press the way each place and pe­riod sees the chal­lenges of liv­ing in close prox­im­ity; the po­lit­i­cal cost of try­ing to change that is for­mi­da­ble. To­day it’s of­ten the ur­ban fron­tier where bat­tles over gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, equal­ity, and jus­tice are waged and the fu­ture of the city is de­fined.

graf­fiti as art: A sub­way car graf­fi­tied by NOC 167 reaches 96th Street, 1981.

in his Greene Street loft, 1970.

loft liv­ing: Chuck Close work­ing on Keith

ro­man­tic com­edy: You should, in fact, have what she’s hav­ing. (Meg Ryan in 1989.)

When Harry Met Sally …, re­leased in

“Ivy League”

vogu­ing: Strik­ing a pose in Brook­lyn, 1986.

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