The Many Lives of San Juan Hill
There is no definitive book on San Juan Hill. For the past half-century, there has been little acknowledgment of it outside of references to “West Side Story.” The eastern and northern boundaries shift. The demographics are generalized. And various accounts describe this neighborhood of tenements and factories as “Hells Kitchen North” or, variously, “The Tenderloin,” a “Red Light District,” and most common, “Slum.”
Regardless of the reality, the last epithet is the one that stuck because after being designated a slum, the City of New York was allowed to take possession under the 1949 Housing Act. This maneuver displaced thousands of families in exchange for several internationally-renowned institutions.
LANDMARK WEST! is proud to launch this project with the support of a growing list of stakeholders. LW! especially thanks to New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and the City Council’s Cultural Immigrant Initiative, who generously stepped in to launch this body of research. We hope this serves as the foundation for a fuller history in the coming years, and we eagerly welcome participation from the community to more fully tell this story. Further, we intend that this effort daylights the rich immigrant past of this once vibrant neighborhood and renews our discussions about community, transparency, process, eminent domain, and urban renewal across our resilient city.
As preservationists, we recognize once it is gone, it is gone for good. Hopefully, with this project, at least it is not lost.
LANDMARK WEST! welcomes all San Juan Hill rememberances, and all community input.
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Scroll left and right to see what the neighborhood once looked like.
All slideshow images are provided courtesy of the Office for Metropolitan History.
Hover over the map and click the shaded areas to explore those blocks.