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New York Public Library Digital Gallery

10 Elaborate Floor Plans from Pre-WWI NYC Apartments

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
New York Public Library Digital Gallery

By the mid-1800s, most of New York City's upper and middle class still lived in private stand-alone homes while apartment life was a feature of the working and lower class. Inspired by multi-residence buildings that were all the rage in Paris, New York developers began introducing the idea of "French flats" to monied Manhattanites around 1870. The idea caught on, and by the turn of the 20th century, about half of the wealthy city residents had opted for apartment-style living.

Eager to attract even more upper class families—especially as laws allowed buildings to grow taller and subways made them more accessible—real estate developers in the first few decades of the 1900s released a series of pamphlets advertising attractive options. The floor plans below are all taken from 1908 and 1910 brochures. But just because they were giving up their mansions didn't mean these upper and middle class families were ready to forgo luxury. The apartments feature up to a dozen rooms each—although any New York readers will undoubtedly do a double-take at the prices for these swanky digs.

1. The Langham

This 46-apartment building stretched the entire Central Park West block from 73rd to 74th Streets. Facilities for washing, drying and ironing are available on the top floor and accommodations for servants were available in the basement. Rents started at $4500—per year.

2. The Dorilton

There were four apartments per floor in this building, which was located at the intersections of Broadway, Amsterdam Ave and 72nd Street. The entryway was reached via a long driveway and the interior was decorated in the opulent style of Louis XVI. Rents ranged from $1700 to $4000 ... again, yearly.

3. The Ansonia

Even though they had the city at their fingertips, residents of the 350 suites at the Ansonia hardly ever had to leave their stunning, French Renaissance-style abode. The hotel-slash-apartment complex also housed food markets, laundry, liquor and cigar stores, florists, a bank, dentists, and physicians.

4. The Apthorp

These first floor apartments at the Apthorp, occupying an entire block on the Upper West Side, were all duplexes situated around a manicured courtyard. The second floor bedrooms were shown on a missing page.

5. The Chatsworth

For families still ambivalent about apartment living, the Chatsworth offered a semi-freestanding mansion, called the "Annex," that was attached to the main building on just the first floor. Each floor of the Annex was its own 11-room apartment.

5. The Brentmore

Each one of the apartments inside the lavish Central Park-adjacent Brentmore had its own private elevator. As with the Anthorp, the bedrooms for the above residences were all on a second floor page that is missing from the pamphlet.

6. The Barnard

As a beacon of luxury living, the Barnard boasted an array of "modern" accoutrements: telephones in each apartment, mail chutes, clothing dryers, and separate bathrooms for your servants in the basement.

7. 44 West 77th Street

One of New York's earliest co-operative establishments, this unnamed apartment building claimed to appeal to families who were "socially inclined and looking for 'class.'"

8. The Colosseum

There were just 16 apartments in the 14-story Colosseum, which boasted proximity to Columbia University in its listing. Inside the unusually shaped building were rooms finished with mahogany wood and ivory enamel.

9. The Belnord

The main feature of this colossal, 176-apartment residence was the sprawling courtyard of over 22,000 square feet.

10. The Wyoming

Among the modern luxuries—like laundry facilities—that each apartment in the Wyoming came with was an "air vacuum dust-removing apparatus," which likely refers to a built-in predecessor to the handheld vacuum that cropped up for a short time in the very early 1900s.

All images courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

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Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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Here's How Much Traffic Congestion Costs the World's Biggest Cities
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Traffic congestion isn't just a nuisance for the people who get trapped in gridlock on their way to work, it’s also a problem for a city's economy, City Lab reports. According to a study from the transportation consulting firm INRIX, all that time stuck in traffic can cost the world’s major cities tens of billions of dollars each year.

The study, the largest to examine vehicle traffic on a global scale, measured congestion in 1360 cities across 38 countries. Los Angeles ranked number one internationally with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic jams during peak times in a year. Moscow and New York City were close behind, both with 91 lost hours, followed by Sao Paulo in Brazil with 86 and San Francisco with 79.

INRIX also calculated the total cost to the cities based on their congestion numbers. While Los Angeles loses a whopping $19.2 billion a year to time wasted on the road, New York City takes the biggest hit. Traffic accounts for $33.7 billion lost by the city annually, or an average of $2982 per driver. The cost is $10.6 billion a year for San Francisco and $7.1 billion for Atlanta. Those figures are based on factors like the loss of productivity from workers stuck in their cars, higher road transportation costs, and the fuel burned by vehicles going nowhere.

Congestion on the highway can be caused by something as dramatic as a car crash or as minor as a nervous driver tapping their brakes too often. Driverless cars could eventually fix this problem, but until then, the fastest solution may be to discourage people from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

[h/t City Lab]

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