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Archive for April, 2016

A supplement to Harper’s Weekly, from May 6, 1871 — 145 years ago!

NewYorkFromABalloon1871HarpersWkly

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CathedralOfCommerce

A beautiful guidebook from 1920 (earlier versions were also published) to the “highest building in the world,” 233 Broadway, the Woolworth Building. Note the plate inside the cover: this copy came from the personal library of Seymour Durst!

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Pierpont Morgan
Click on the above photo to see my full album!

The main building on this campus was J. Pierpont Morgan’s private house, and included an incredible private library, complete with mezzanines and bookshelves that turn to reveal hidden, spiral staircases. The architectural detail of this property, alone, makes it worth a visit. The displayed collection currently includes a Gutenberg Bible, an original manuscript by Mozart, and a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci’s teacher. J.P. Morgan was also an avid collector of cylinder seals from the ancient world (little spools of lapis lazuli, obsidian, or other hard materials, that were carved with a unique image and pressed into hot wax in order to verify the authenticity of a document or packaged good). Morgan became something of an expert on these, and many items from his collection are displayed. Fascinating stuff.

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We hear more and more about the threat to coastal cities from rising sea levels. But being able to visualize the local spatial implications of this phenomenon brings it home in an entirely new way. One of the most interesting tools is the Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, from Climate Central, a Princeton-based independent organization that promotes public awareness about climate change. Here, you can search for any location, and visualize the contours of new shorelines with sea levels that have risen in increments of feet and meters.

Here’s a map of what would happen in the Newark Bay basin by 2100 if sea levels rose by more than two meters, as envisioned by a recent analysis of the potential loss of significant Antarctic ice sheets:

NewarkBasinSLPlus7ft

Urban New Jersey, plus 7 feet of sea level. Source: Climate Central, Princeton, N.J.

In this scenario, Newark Airport, the entire Seaport area, and much of the Ironbound has been flooded. In addition, Newark Bay appears to have swallowed up most of the salt meadows, and the blocks along the tidal portion of the Passaic River are under water. Finally, take a look at Hoboken and downtown Jersey City, on the far right: the Hudson River waterfront has essentially become a barrier island, while the blocks leading back toward the Palisades have been saturated.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the coastal areas of New York City, under the same scenario:

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Coastal New York, plus 7 feet of sea level. Source: Climate Central, Princeton, N.J.

The submerged areas on this map (e.g., the Rockaways, Coney Island, Howard Beach, Canarsie, Red Hook, and the South Shore of Staten Island) line up almost perfectly with the areas that experienced the most destruction from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Keep in mind that these maps offer a vision of what could happen with just a seven-foot (7′) rise in global sea levels, which is now being held out as a plausible scenario for 2100. Some of the projections to the year 2500 show global sea levels rising 49 meters.

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Hushed in the smoky haze of summer sunset,
When I came home again from far-off places,
How many times I saw my western city
  Dream by her river.

Then for an hour the water wore a mantle
Of tawny gold and mauve and misted turquoise
Under the tall and darkened arches bearing
  Gray, high-flung bridges.

Against the sunset, water-towers and steeples
Flickered with fire up the slope to westward,
And old warehouses poured their purple shadows
  Across the levee.

High over them the black train swept with thunder,
Cleaving the city, leaving far beneath it
Wharf-boats moored beside the old side-wheelers
  Resting in twilight.

From Flame and Shadow (1920), by Sara Teasdale.

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