Digging Up New York City’s Pasts
For the sixth essay, you will research how New York City has changed. It is, like all cities, a big place, so you will need to focus on one particular spot. Similarly, because the essay will only be six to eight pages long, it’s best to “think small”. You will research change(s) in one particular place in order to make a claim about your place, about New York City, and/or about the relationship between your place and New York City.
Initially, there are (at least) two different approaches–though they may (and often do) overlap at some point:
1. A Forgotten Function in the City
Search for a place (in any of the five boroughs) that served a different function in the past from the one(s) that it serves in the present (for example, a building, a street, a whole neighborhood). For example, the Lower West Side of Manhattan once served as a center for the meatpacking industry, but now it is a trendy neighborhood. Concerning this change, some questions might be: Why and how did this change happen? What is interesting and confusing about this change (or these changes)? What questions are raised by…? What might … tell us about …? (And arguably, equally interesting– where did the meatpacking industry go?) What could … mean for the future?
2. A Hidden Trace of ‘Then’
Find a place– a building, street, neighborhood– in New York City (all five boroughs included) where ______ used to be, but isn’t anymore. There is, however, some reminder of _____(for example, a plaque, a monument, etc.). Here are some questions to consider: At this site of (___), what has changed? Why and how? What, if anything, has been lost? What is being remembered? Why? What questions are raised by …? What does/do … suggest about …? What could … mean for the future?
When you are getting started, try to come up with a few places or options. If you are lost for ideas, here are some sites and resources to help get some thoughts percolating:
-The New York Historical Society
The Museum of the City of New York
Forgotten New York
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