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Chris Mottalini

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Revisit these 10 NYC longreads that have nothing to do with coronavirus

If you need a distraction, here’s some choice writing about New York City

The novel coronavirus, which has prompted a state-wide stay-at-home order is a modern-day phenomenon that’s disrupted New Yorkers’ lives. It has been, in a word, trying. Psychologically and physically, we are being asked to shift our lives in dramatic fashion.

Sometimes we just need a break. If you yearn to tune out the news for an hour or two (stepping away from Twitter is a good, albeit difficult, practice), here are 10 stories published on Curbed NY that will get your mind off the temporary situation saddling us all. These articles run the gamut, from the history of a modernist Manhattan apartment building to the personal stories of nine native New Yorkers.

As always, take care and thanks for reading.

Chris Mottalini

New York City, block by block by Rebecca Bengal

In New York City, entire and distinct worlds are compressed into each city block. The sense of the block as community has been passed down among those who grew up on its stoops and balconies and ingrained in those who came from elsewhere, raised on pop-culture portrayals of the city’s neighborhoods as early as Sesame Street, as trenchant as Do the Right Thing.

Sean Brady

How to get into Gramercy Park by Angela Serratore

For weeks I’ve been grumbling to anyone willing to listen (and everyone who follows me on Twitter) about Gramercy Park—more specifically, about how I work three blocks away on Irving Place and am a tax-paying, law-abiding resident of New York City, a historic preservation enthusiast who never litters, and yet this space, a perfect square of green I have to walk around to get to Lexington Avenue, is inaccessible to me because I don’t have one of the 400 keys in circulation.

New York Narratives lead Khushbu Shah

New York Narratives by Zoe Rosenberg

There’s something about the experience of growing up in New York City—riding the subway to school as a child, or playing tag in the street instead of a backyard—that’s unlike so many other places. Here, you’ll meet nine New Yorkers of varying ages and backgrounds, who have very different perspectives on their hometown but are united in one common theme: they care deeply about this city and its future. They love where they live.

Stanley Greenberg

What if you could walk to the airport? by Karrie Jacobs

On a crisp and sunny autumn day, not long ago, I walked to LaGuardia Airport. I wasn’t one of those people you’ve seen on the news who get so panicked by gridlock on the Grand Central Parkway that they abandon their taxis and drag their wheelies across eight lanes of traffic and up the exit ramps to their terminals. I wasn’t even in a hurry. I didn’t have a plane to catch. I wasn’t going anywhere except the airport.

Photo by Jessica Burstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Law & Order’s New York was never real by James Nevius

Now, 28 years later, Law & Order has become the longest-running franchise in prime-time history. The show’s most successful spin-off, Special Victims Unit (SVU), has just been renewed for a record-breaking 21st season, while a new iteration, Law & Order: Hate Crimes, is waiting in the wings for a possible 2020 debut. And while detectives and district attorneys have come and gone over the years, two things have remained constant about Law & Order: the legendary dun dun sound and New York City as a character in the show.

Siobhan Gallagher

The sorority in the skyscraper by Joanna Scutts

In 1921, the New York chapter of the Panhellenic Conference, the national network of college sororities, turned its attention to an urgent local problem: the lack of affordable housing for graduates moving to the city in search of jobs. The chapter’s 3,000 members voted to take direct action to alleviate the situation by creating a unique shared living experiment, a sorority “residence and clubhouse” in the heart of the city. Given how urgent the need was, the group decided that “there was more to be lost by building too small than too large,” and proposed a 14-story building with bedrooms for 400 women, each available on a temporary or long-term basis.

Andre D. Wagner

Hoop dreams by Britta Lotking

The Cage is nothing more than a square of asphalt beside the West Fourth Street subway stop, but it is a place of worship and coolness and budding dreams. On a Friday in June, the excitement of Kenny Graham’s summer league is in full swing. Passersby cling to the chain-link fence. One man is camped out on the sidewalk with a beach chair. Abe Weinstein (“no relation to Harvey”) sits in his usual seat, front row center, sucking a pink lollipop and wearing the T-shirt from his 40th wedding anniversary. The announcer, who goes by Worthy, commentates each play into a megaphone: “Here’s the next NBA player versus the young one!”

The life and death of Willets Point by Nathan Kensinger

For many decades, Willets Point was one of New York City’s most unique neighborhoods. Hundreds of junkyards and auto body shops lined its ragged streets, luring in a constant parade of damaged cars. Meanwhile, thousands of local workers traversed its flooded potholes, building a colorful community of muffler artists and hubcap kings. Better known as the Iron Triangle, it was a dirty, loud, vibrant mess—exactly the kind of place that New York was once famous for.

Alan Tansey

Meet Chatham Towers, the architect aerie of Lower Manhattan by Fred A. Bernstein

On a famously gridded island, where facades of glass, brick, or stone aim straight for the sky (or, occasionally, step back in orderly layers), there isn’t much room for the kind of eccentrically shaped concrete edifices for which he was known. Yet at the southern tip of Chinatown, two very Corbusian apartment towers—a pair of concrete totem poles—have been beguiling architects (and architecture buffs) since 1965.


What the loss of longtime neighborhood bars means for NYC by Jason Diamond

The loss of places where you can grab a drink or two without putting much thought into it—the places that don’t have extensive Japanese whisky lists, or fancy glassware for expensive beer—can help to explain the recent history of certain parts of New York City. They went from being places where people from various backgrounds lived for decades, to what MIT professor of housing policy and city planning Philip Clay calls the pioneer stage of gentrification, when younger creative types move in.

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