A Cape Town Castle of Good Hope tagged image from photographer – Ed Yourdon as published on Flickr.
A sign of the times: hospitals turn into luxury condos (at least in New York)
Image by Ed Yourdon
This photo was taken on Central Park West, of a building that spans the block between 105th and 106th St.
Note: this photo was published in a Sep 16, 2014 blog titled "132- Castle on the Park."
As Wikipedia tells us, "In the summer of 1884, former President Ulysses S. Grant developed throat cancer… Considered incurable, as well as contagious and shameful, Grant’s death the following year brought awareness of the disease..
"In the year of Grant’s diagnosis, John Jacob Astor III … and other prominent New Yorkers laid the cornerstone for the New York Cancer Hospital, the country’s first to devote itself exclusively to the care of cancer patients. Designed by Charles C. Haight and completed in 1887, the first portion of the hospital, designated solely for women, was at the southwest corner of 106th and Central Park West.
"Largely because cancer remained so deadly, the hospital soon ran into financial troubles. It came to be known as "the Bastille," a place to be feared and avoided by patients and patrons. At the turn of the century, administrators of the beleaguered hospital changed its name to the General Memorial Hospital, and again in the early 1920s to the General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. Through the decades, the hospital endured its arduous dedication for its principle grounds of finding a cure for cancer.
In 1955, the General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases moved out of the outdated Central Park West facility to its new location on the East Side. There it grew to become what is present day Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It was during this time that the former New York Cancer Hospital building began its decline. Under the new ownership of nursing home magnate Bernard Bergman, it was turned into a facility called Towers Nursing Home. The nursing home later became infamous for its negligence and lack of standards. The elderly patients testified to "atrocious conditions," including inadequate heat, pest infestations, physical abuse and negligence. The patients weren’t the only ones being neglected either. The old facilities were unkempt, filthy, and a "pungent odor" filled the air. The once immaculate building, became a sad derelict place. A state and federal investigation ensued, following a probe into allegations of Medicaid and Tax fraud that ultimately caused the home to close its doors in 1974. The former New York Cancer Hospital was left in such a disastrous condition following the closure of the nursing home that there were talks of demolition before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the hospital building a historic landmark in 1976.
"Through the years, many promising developers expressed interest in the decaying property… The old hospital lay abandoned for nearly 3 decades until March 2000, when a Chicago based developer MCL Companies gave new hope after all. But like numerous predecessors he was forced to halt the work due to financial holdups following the events of 9/11. McLean envisioned a plan that called for massive renovation of the old hospital remnant into modern luxury condominiums, that includes a new modern 26 story tower adjacent to the landmark building. Among the new tenants are Columbia University, who bought several entire floors to use as residence to house senior faculty and visiting dignitaries. The purchase by Columbia, as well as a new construction loan, allowed McLean’s project to get back on track after work was halted due to lack of money following 9/11.
"By early 2005, construction on the old landmark hospital, now called 455 Central Park West, had come to a completion. The once abandoned hospital had finally found a new promising life as luxury condominiums, with units that sell for as much as million. The new apartments in the old hospital building feature cavernous circular rooms, and lofty ceilings, those in the tower have splendid views overlooking Central Park. Tenants enjoy such amenities as a spa, indoor pool, and 24 hour concierge service. The building is reputed to be haunted."
For more details, see
This set of photos is based on a very simple concept: walk every block of Manhattan with a camera, and see what happens. To avoid missing anything, walk both sides of the street.
That’s all there is to it …
Of course, if you wanted to be more ambitious, you could also walk the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. But that’s more than I’m willing to commit to at this point, and I’ll leave the remaining boroughs of New York City to other, more adventurous photographers.
Oh, actually, there’s one more small detail: leave the photos alone for a month — unedited, untouched, and unviewed. By the time I actually focus on the first of these "every-block" photos, I will have taken more than 8,000 images on the nearby streets of the Upper West Side — plus another several thousand in Rome, Coney Island, and the various spots in NYC where I traditionally take photos. So I don’t expect to be emotionally attached to any of the "every-block" photos, and hope that I’ll be able to make an objective selection of the ones worth looking at.
As for the criteria that I’ve used to select the small subset of every-block photos that get uploaded to Flickr: there are three. First, I’ll upload any photo that I think is "great," and where I hope the reaction of my Flickr-friends will be, "I have no idea when or where that photo was taken, but it’s really a terrific picture!"
A second criterion has to do with place, and the third involves time. I’m hoping that I’ll take some photos that clearly say, "This is New York!" to anyone who looks at it. Obviously, certain landscape icons like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty would satisfy that criterion; but I’m hoping that I’ll find other, more unexpected examples. I hope that I’ll be able to take some shots that will make a "local" viewer say, "Well, even if that’s not recognizable to someone from another part of the country, or another part of the world, I know that that’s New York!" And there might be some photos where a "non-local" viewer might say, "I had no idea that there was anyplace in New York City that was so interesting/beautiful/ugly/spectacular."
As for the sense of time: I remember wandering around my neighborhood in 2005, photographing various shops, stores, restaurants, and business establishments — and then casually looking at the photos about five years later, and being stunned by how much had changed. Little by little, store by store, day by day, things change … and when you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s even more amazing to go back and look at the photos you took thirty or forty years ago, and ask yourself, "Was it really like that back then? Seriously, did people really wear bell-bottom jeans?"
So, with the expectation that I’ll be looking at these every-block photos five or ten years from now (and maybe you will be, too), I’m going to be doing my best to capture scenes that convey the sense that they were taken in the year 2013 … or at least sometime in the decade of the 2010’s (I have no idea what we’re calling this decade yet). Or maybe they’ll just say to us, "This is what it was like a dozen years after 9-11".
Movie posters are a trivial example of such a time-specific image; I’ve already taken a bunch, and I don’t know if I’ll ultimately decide that they’re worth uploading. Women’s fashion/styles are another obvious example of a time-specific phenomenon; and even though I’m definitely not a fashion expert, I suspected that I’ll be able to look at some images ten years from now and mutter to myself, "Did we really wear shirts like that? Did women really wear those weird skirts that are short in the front, and long in the back? Did everyone in New York have a tattoo?"
Another example: I’m fascinated by the interactions that people have with their cellphones out on the street. It seems that everyone has one, which certainly wasn’t true a decade ago; and it seems that everyone walks down the street with their eyes and their entire conscious attention riveted on this little box-like gadget, utterly oblivious about anything else that might be going on (among other things, that makes it very easy for me to photograph them without their even noticing, particularly if they’ve also got earphones so they can listen to music or carry on a phone conversation). But I can’t help wondering whether this kind of social behavior will seem bizarre a decade from now … especially if our cellphones have become so miniaturized that they’re incorporated into the glasses we wear, or implanted directly into our eyeballs.
Oh, one last thing: I’ve created a customized Google Map to show the precise details of each day’s photo-walk. I’ll be updating it each day, and the most recent part of my every-block journey will be marked in red, to differentiate it from all of the older segments of the journey, which will be shown in blue. You can see the map, and peek at it each day to see where I’ve been, by clicking on this link
If you have any suggestions about places that I should definitely visit to get some good photos, or if you’d like me to photograph you in your little corner of New York City, please let me know. You can send me a Flickr-mail message, or you can email me directly at ed-at-yourdon-dot-com
Stay tuned as the photo-walk continues, block by block …
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