Turtle Bay in Manhattan

Monday, 11 April 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  7 minutes

Tudor City © flickr.com - Tony Hisgett/cc-by-2.0

Tudor City © flickr.com – Tony Hisgett/cc-by-2.0

Turtle Bay is a neighborhood in New York City, on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. It extends from roughly 43rd Street to 53rd Streets, and eastward from Lexington Avenue to the East River‘s western branch (facing Roosevelt Island). The neighborhood is the site of the headquarters of the United Nations and the Chrysler Building. The Tudor City apartment complex is to the south of Turtle Bay. Turtle Bay is named after a former cove of the East River. The neighborhood was originally settled as a Dutch farm in the 17th century, and was subsequently developed with tenements, power plants, and slaughterhouses in the 19th century. These industrial structures were largely demolished in the 1940s and 1950s to make way for the United Nations headquarters. Today, Turtle Bay contains multiple missions and consulates to the nearby United Nations headquarters.

An army enrollment office was established at Third Avenue and 46th Street, after the first Draft Act was passed during the American Civil War. On July 13, 1863, an angry mob burned the office to the ground and proceeded to riot through the surrounding neighborhood, destroying entire blocks. The New York Draft Riots continued for three days before army troops managed to contain the mob, which had burned and looted much of the city. The cove was filled in after the Civil War, serving as a valuable shelter from the often harsh weather on the river, and became a thriving site for shipbuilding. After the war ended, the formerly pastoral neighborhood was developed with brownstones. By 1868 the bay had been entirely filled in by commercial overdevelopment, packed with breweries, gasworks, slaughterhouses, cattle pens, coal yards, and railroad piers. By the early 20th century, Turtle Bay was “a riverside back yard” for the city, as the WPA Guide to New York City (1939) described it: “huge industrial enterprises—breweries, laundries, abattoirs, power plants—along the water front face squalid tenements not far away from new apartment dwellings attracted to the section by its river view and its central position. The numerous plants shower this district with the heaviest sootfall in the city—150 tons to the square mile annually”. The huge Waterside Station, a power plant operated by the Consolidated Edison Company, producing 367,000 kilowatts of electricity in its coal-fired plant, marked the southern boundary of the neighborhood. There were also 18 acres (73,000 m²) of slaughterhouses along First Avenue. With an infusion of poor immigrants having had come in the later part of the 19th century, and the opening of the elevated train lines along Second and Third Avenues, the neighborhood went into decay with crumbling tenement buildings.

© Tdorante10/cc-by-sa-4.0 United Nations Headquarters © flickr.com - Cancilleria Ecuador/cc-by-sa-2.0 German mission to the UN © Jim.henderson Lexington Avenue from Chrysler Building © Julius Schorzman/cc-by-sa-2.0 Tudor City and East River © flickr.com - dsearls/cc-by-sa-2.0 Tudor City © flickr.com - Tony Hisgett/cc-by-2.0
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United Nations Headquarters © flickr.com - Cancilleria Ecuador/cc-by-sa-2.0
Many tenements were restored in the 1920s, and a large communal garden was established. Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan saw promise in the run-down rowhouses of Turtle Bay. In 1918 she purchased twenty houses on 48th and 49th Streets between Second and Third Avenues; within two years she had renovated the enclave called Turtle Bay Gardens. An area between First and Second Avenues, and 41st and 43rd Streets was known as “Goat Hill”—goats and squatters ruled the area—and later renamed “Prospect Hill”. Prospect Hill developed into a shanty Irish community known as “Corcoran’s Roost”, founded by Jimmy Corcoran, in the 1850s, and later became known as a community with a high rate of violent crime and a haven for waterfront thieves such as the Rag Gang, during the late 19th century. From 1927 to 1932, the 2,800-unit Tudor City was built on this site, which was in 1988 named a historic district.

The clearing of the slaughterhouses for the construction of the UN headquarters in 1948, largely completed by 1952, and the removal of the elevated trains opened the neighborhood up for high-rise office buildings and condominiums. Concurrent with the UN headquarters’ construction, the Ralph Bunche Park staircase was constructed, connecting Tudor City to the rest of Turtle Bay. Until the Third Avenue El was demolished in 1956, it was characterized by a blighted stretch of sooty darkness that had separated the neighborhood from Midtown Manhattan. The Turtle Bay Association, a neighborhood non-profit 501(c)3 organization, was founded in 1957 by James Amster to protest, successfully, the widening of East 49th Street. It now serves as an advocate for residents of Turtle Bay, and maintains the neighborhood’s quality of life. The Association’s efforts have resulted in more park and landscaping development, creating the neighborhood’s tree-lined and relatively quiet atmosphere.

After the UN headquarters’ expansion plan was originally announced in 2000, it was opposed by some Turtle Bay residents over concerns about the loss of the current Robert Moses Playground in order to build a long-sought new UN building on the site. In October 2011, city and state officials announced an agreement in which the UN would be allowed to build the tower adjacent to the existing campus on the current playground. In exchange, the United Nations would allow the construction of an esplanade along the East River that would complete the East River Greenway, a waterfront pedestrian and bicycle pathway. While host nation authorities have agreed to the provisions of the plan, it needs the approval of the United Nations in order to be implemented. The plan is similar in concept to an earlier proposal that had been announced in 2000 but did not move forward.

Read more on Wikipedia Turtle Bay (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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