The Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group: A Local Gem
I have heard Win reminisce about the rich, diverse, integrated neighborhood that was erased -- above ground, at least -- to make way for the construction of Park West Village in the 1950s. Here's some more detail from a 2011 New York Times piece that covered one of the reunions that residents of the neighborhood still have; the fact that they are compelled to get together and proclaim they endure as a community despite that their brownstones have long since been torn asunder sends a shiver down my spine. It is a profound statement about the power of memory:
"From about 1905 until the 1950s, West 98th and 99th Streets constituted a vibrant, predominantly African-American community that was something of a miniature Harlem, with its own Renaissance. Philip A. Payton Jr., a real estate entrepreneur who wanted to end housing segregation, owned or managed most of the buildings on those blocks. The singer Billie Holiday lived there for a time, as did Arthur A. Schomburg, the historian and writer whose collection of art, manuscripts and photographs became the foundation for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other residents included the author Rosa Guy and the actor Robert Earl Jones, the father of James Earl Jones. The actress Butterfly McQueen...."
Many will recall that this area was part of the Robert Moses-ifcation of New York. In his elegant timeline of our parts, BNHG member Gil Tauber points to the demolition of 14 blocks which made way for the Frederick Douglass Houses and Park West Village as the begining of Robert Moses's decline.
The BNHG delivers a new lecture series each season and how they sustain the level of quality that they do is a testament to the commitment of BNHG's board: Win Armstrong, Peter Arndsten, Marjorie Cohen, Cynthia Doty, Hedda Fields, Alice Hudson, Ginger Lief, Paul Lindberg, Jim Mackin, Batya Miller, Gil Tauber, Pam Tice and Vita Wallace. Among other things, on their site is Gil's elegant history of the nomenclature of Bloomingdale. A must read for anyone who still thinks of the department store when our area's name comes up!
Mark your calendars, because the good stuff is coming up quickly! Here's an overview of the group's offerings this fall.
By Caitlin Hawke
Collage courtesy of the BNHG (Pam Tice, artist)
UPDATE: Nice piece here by the Columbia Spectator on October 9th covers the BNHG.
These free lectures presented by the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group
Please consult the group's website below for exact location information and other details.
Tuesday, October 7, 6:30 pm
Goddard Riverside in its Second Century: A Work in Progress. Stephan Russo, Executive Director in conversation with Ethan Sribnick, Urban Historian.
Bernie Wohl Auditorium, 647 Columbus Avenue (W. 91st Street). Please note that there is a life but the auditoium is not wheelchair accessible.
Monday, October 27, 6:30 pm
Celebrate The IRT's 110th Birthday* with John Tauranac, Urban History and Mapmaker, in
discussion of its impact on the development of our neighborhood.
Hostelling International, 891 Amsterdam Avenue (W. 103rd Street)
Wednesday, November 19, 6:30 pm
Jim Mackin will present the first In a series of the histories of the
remarkable medical institutions that started in the Bloomingdale
neighborhood. Hostelling International, 891 Amsterdam Ave (W. 103rd Street)
December - Date TBA
Think Straus Park (W. 106th Street & Broadway) is just a name? Learn the back
story from local historian Batya Miller.
And don't forget the monthly neighborhood walks led by Jim Mackin.
For more info and to sign up, contact the Columbus-Amsterdam BID office at 212-666-9774. The next one is Sunday, October 5th at 1 pm and meets at Straus Park, 106th Street & Broadway.