The Mayors and the Gay Pride Parade

Everyone loves a parade. Especially New York City mayors. Usually front and center—mayors march on every occasion—Veterans Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day, Steuben Day, Puerto Rican Day, Norwegian Day (yes, in case you missed it, the 2019 Norwegian Day parade stepped off in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on May 19).

And this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio will join an estimated 150,000 marchers when New York City hosts WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn which galvanized the modern gay rights movement. In the blog this week we highlight photographs depicting New York City mayors marching in the annual Gay Pride parades.

NYPD Surveillance of Lesbian and Gay Power

The Stonewall Riots that took place in the West Village at the end of June, 1969 mark the beginning of a movement for the basic visibility and full equality of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The early morning raid on the Stonewall Inn was nothing new in itself, as the NYPD had been raiding and shutting down similar bars throughout the 1960s. Lesbian and gay New Yorkers had been increasingly responding to police harassment with acts of civil disobedience and activist journalism during the 1960s, but the scope of resistance at Stonewall was different. Another thing that was certainly different about Stonewall, though, was how it changed the NYPD’s views on gay and lesbian power in the City, as evidenced by their moving image surveillance logs. Before Stonewall, there is no mention in the NYPD records of film surveillance activities of groups agitating for gay, lesbian and transgender rights. After Stonewall, the NYPD began to identify not a specific group or individual activists for surveillance, but a broad movement that had begun to take hold: Gay Liberation.

Central Park: A Musical Destination for all New Yorkers

The blog this week highlights the long tradition of music concerts in Central Park. It is adapted from our new book, “The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure.”

Alterations to Music Pavilion, mason’s and carpenter’s contract, 1886. Black and colored inks with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 23¾ x 34¾". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The vividly colored Music Pavilion was originally constructed in 1862 and was moved to several different locations on the Mall during its lifetime. Jacob Wrey Mould prepared this drawing for alterations to the structure in 1886.

New Yorkers have enjoyed musical performances in Central Park from its earliest days. Park planners Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted believed that their urban oasis should provide not only “healthful recreation,” but also serve as a cultural destination for the appreciation of art and beauty. In 1859, an estimated five thousand people delighted in the first formal concert at a temporary bandstand built in the newly-opened Ramble.

Temporary winter covering for the Music Pavilion, carpenter’s and ironmonger’s contract, 1869. Black ink with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 19½ x 21". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

As crowds grew larger, Vaux and Olmsted decided that the west side of the Mall, near the Bethesda Terrace, would be the ideal spot for a permanent structure. As they explained to the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park: “This site is recommended because it is conspicuous without being obtrusive, and is easy to access from the promenade [later known as the Mall] and from one of the leading avenue entrances; while, to the north, it commands from its terraces and verandas the finest views that are to be obtained in the lower part of the park.”

By 1862, the overwhelming popularity of free concerts in the park prompted the Board of Commissioners to approve building a permanent Music Pavilion to be located at the north end of the mall. Architect Jacob Wrey Mould’s Moorish-influenced cast-iron and wood bandstand, with six slender red columns that carried a bright blue cupola decorated with gilt stars, is still considered one of his park masterpieces.

Study for a floating music pavilion on the Lake, c. 1861. Black ink and pencil with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 17½ x 18½". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

These detail maps show the pavilion’s positions on the Lake during a concert and when not in use; the central panel lifts up to reveal a second seating arrangement for a larger orchestra.

Before the Music Pavilion was built, Olmsted had toyed with a much different location. In 1861, he wrote to Central Park Board Commissioner Andrew Haswell Green suggesting that a bandstand floating on the Lake might be the best place to feature orchestras and bands during the concert season. Always fearful that large crowds of any size would trample and ruin the grass, Olmsted also believed that acoustics on the Lake would carry the music to listeners scattered around its shores, including on the Terrace, where chairs could be placed. The structure could be movable and would offer seating arrangements for both large and small groups of musicians. In the end, it was Mould’s Music Pavilion that was built, but occasionally a ten-man cornet band would give afternoon concerts from a boat on the water.

Here the Music Pavilion can be seen in its original location at the north end of the mall just behind a small decorative fountain that lead toward to the Terrace. The Pavilion would later be moved further the south and the fountain would be removed altogether. Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Large crowds gather to enjoy a concert in the park, c. 1910. The bench seating was designed by Calvert Vaux especially for concert-goers around the Music Pavilion. Photo by A. Tennyson Beals, NYC Municipal Archives Collection.

Design for modification of the area in the vicinity of the Music Stand on the Mall, c. 1865. Black and colored inks with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 28 ½ x 21 1/4." Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

In this drawing prepared by Calvert Vaux, we can see the Music Pavilion located along the western side of the mall. In 1884, a statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven was installed near this location of the Pavilion where it still stands today.

In 1921, Elkan Naumburg, a retired banker and music lover, offered the city $100,000 to replace the acoustically outdated Mould Pavilion. Naumburg’s nephew William Tachau designed the new venue in a neoclassical style. It was constructed with cream-colored Indiana limestone with side staircases and a coffered and gilded half-domed ceiling. Dedicated in 1923 and described as a “Temple of Music,” the Naumburg Bandshell is one of the few examples of the City Beautiful architectural style in the park. It is nestled into a hillside near the Mall and Pergola and has hosted everything from orchestral performances and big band era dances to a rousing speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the Music Pavilion and the Bandstand, in more recent years the Great Lawn and the Sheep Meadow have served as open-air venues for concerts on a much grander scale. Ranging from Barbra Streisand in 1967 and Elton John in 1980 to the massive crowds that flood through the gates to see the annual concert given by the New York Philharmonic each year, the park has been filled with music to the delight of all New Yorkers for over 160 years.

Harvest dance contest at Naumburg Bandshell, September 1942. NYC Municipal Archives Collection.

Music remained a popular attraction in the park even after the removal of Mould’s Music Pavilion. The Naumburg Bandshell, designed by William Tachau, replaced it in 1923 and is still in use today.

These illustrations, and more than 250 others, such as the original winning competition entry submitted by Olmsted and Vaux, meticulously detailed plans and elevations of many of the architectural features of the park, as well as intricate engineering drawings are included in “The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure.” It is available at bookstores throughout the city and through on-line retailers.

Mayor Edward Koch walking through the crowds while waiting for the start of the annual concert given by the New York Philharmonic in Central Park, August 8, 1983. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The Philharmonic’s concert in 1986 had an estimated attendance of 800,000 people, one of the largest gatherings for a musical event in the history of the park.

Form 51

Begun under Mayor William O’Dwyer, the Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey was a sprawling three-year labor that culminated in a hefty, two-volume final report with a slew of recommendations for sweeping changes to various agencies and offices of the government. The Committee ultimately presented eleven major findings, and twelve management recommendations, and many four-, five-, and six-point plans with their own numbered lists of justifying principles and inescapable underlying forces. Whether its primary purpose, “the securing of good management, which will bring in its wake those economies arising from the best use of men, materials, and time in getting the work of the City government done,” was in fact accomplished, is a topic for further research. What’s clear is that City government needed some kind of diagnostic.

Coney Island, from rabbits, to hucksters to ‘The World’s Largest Playground’

Summer may not officially be here yet, but New York City’s beach season is underway and that means it’s time for a refresher course on one of the city’s most venerable and storied beaches – Coney Island.

This year’s beach-goers will find some old favorites: The newish version of Luna Park, the 99th year of the Wonder Wheel, thrilling rides like the Cyclone and the Thunderbolt, and the 37th edition of the beloved, wild and wacky Mermaid Parade, with Arlo Guthrie as this year’s Neptune King and his sister Nora as Queen Mermaid. And, of course, a new season for the Mets’ minor league team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, at MCU Park (Municipal Credit Union), the former site of the historic Steeplechase Park.

“People here are very open, and very nice to us” — Fleet Week in NYC

New York City is celebrating Fleet Week from May 22 through May 28, 2019. Now in its 31st year, this annual tradition gives sailors, marines and coast guard service members the opportunity to explore the city and meet its residents. Our blog this week takes a look back at receptions and events hosted by the Mayor’s Office for the men and women of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and naval vessels from around the world.

The United States Marine Corps band entertains guests at the inaugural Fleet Week welcoming ceremony on the Steps of City Hall, April 22, 1988, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Edward Koch presided over the first Fleet Week during the last week in April 1988.  Always a cheerleader for the City, Koch’s welcoming remarks reminded his guests of our maritime history:  “It is my great honor today to welcome the officers and enlisted men and women of the greatest navy in the world to the City of New York.  Fleet week is a wonderful opportunity for New Yorkers to demonstrate our immense pride at being one of the premiere ‘Navy Towns’ in America.”

Mayor Edward Koch meets an eagle at Fleet Week 1989 ceremonies on Governors Island, April 29, 1989, roll 1, frame 24A, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Fleet Week always commences with a parade of ships. In 1989 the flotilla proceeded from New York Harbor and up the Hudson River to midtown.

Coast Guard ship passing in front of the Statue of Liberty during the parade of ships, April 29, 1989, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

U. S. Navy vessel passes along Battery Park with the World Trade Center Twin Towers in the background, April 29, 1989, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Fleet Week ’91 Program. Mayor David N. Dinkins event files, June 7, 1991. Mayor David N. Dinkins Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor David N. Dinkins’ files for the 1991 Fleet Week celebration included a printed program for the reception and a transcript of his welcoming  remarks.  The eloquent mayor greeted his distinguished visitors with a short speech:

“We in New York always look forward to Fleet Week.  It is a favorite rite of spring, evoking thoughts of salty sea breezes, and charging the air with added excitement, as naval officers and crew members, in crisp white, mingle with city residents on New York streets and sidewalks. Our harbor – for centuries the port for boats from all over the world – becomes even more dynamic with this infusion of extra activity.” 

According to the New York Times, 10,000 sailors visited New York City during Fleet Week 1995, and two hundred of them stood in formation at City Hall Plaza during the welcoming ceremony on May 25.

U.S. Navy sailors in formation, City Hall Plaza, May 25, 1995, photographer Joseph Reyes. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The first Fleet Week following the September 11, 2001 attack that destroyed the World Trade Center began on May 22, 2002. The festivities included receptions at 31 Chambers Street and the Intrepid Sea and Air Space Museum. 

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly addresses Fleet Week visitors in the central lobby at 31 Chambers Street on May 22, 2002. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg poses with U. S. Marine Corps men and women at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on May 23, 2001. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Bloomberg accepts a plaque commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a breakfast reception at Gracie Mansion, May 24, 2012. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a popular venue for Fleet Week celebrations. In 2017, Mayor de Blasio greeted visiting U.S. naval officers on the deck of the former aircraft carrier.  Launched in 1943, the USS Intrepid was deployed in World War II, survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Decommissioned in 1974, and berthed on the Hudson River, it serves as the centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Mayor Bill de Blasio tours the USS Kearsarge as part of Fleet Week 2017. Monday, May 29, 2017. Ed Reed photographer. Courtesy Mayor’s Office of Creative Communications.

Throughout the 31-year history of Fleet Week celebrations, the news media typically interview visiting service men and women for their reactions to the city and its inhabitants. In 2012, the Navy News Service, an official U.S. Navy Publication, reported that more than 6,000 service-members from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as a coalition of ships from around the world visited the City during the week-long event. One visitor, according to the Navy News, Indonesian Sub-Lieutenant Mario Marco from the KRI Dewaruci, noted sailors aboard his country's lone tall-mast ship have already experienced New York City's renowned hospitality: “People here are very open, and very nice to us,” said Marco.

For a complete list of activities and events for NYC Fleet Week 2019: