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New York's Steel Shutters

New York Streetscapes author and Times columnist Christopher Gray appeared on WNYC to answer questions about historical NYC buildings: what's the deal with that ornate building at the tip of Roosevelt Island? How about the large apartment building at 57th street and 9th avenue called the Windemere? Our favorite:

I have been trying to figure out what exactly is the purpose of the giant metal shutters on the back windows of many Manhattan buildings (e.g. the Puck building). Were they storm shutters? Then why only on the back? For security? Then why on the upper floors? For noise? Did people worry about noise in the late 19th century, which is when this adornment was most popular?Or were they?and we hesitate to suggest this?something far more nefarious?
· Christopher Gray on Manhattan Buildings [WNYC]
· New York Streetscapes [Amazon.com]