Place Matters works to foster the conservation of New York City’s historically and culturally significant places.
These are places that hold memories and anchor traditions for individuals and communities, and that help tell the history of the city as a whole. We are convinced that such places promote the well being of New York’s many communities in ways that too often go unrecognized.
Our process begins with surveying New Yorkers to learn about the places they care about. We follow up with educational programs and advocacy to promote and protect these places and others like them.
* Place Matters conducts a citywide survey called the Census of Places that Matter to discover places that evoke associations with history, memory, and tradition. Hundreds of New Yorkers have nominated places to the Census. Amounting to a new knowledge bank, the Census identifies places of public significance and helps us understand how and why “place” is meaningful to people.
* Place Matters publishes the Census of Places that Matter to promote the many places that have been discovered through the survey. We also conduct further research on many of the nominated places to enrich the information provided. We aim to provide New Yorkers with a unique repository of information on places that tell our history and anchor our traditions. When a place is threatened; when an artist, activist, architect or scholar needs information; when a student wants to research the roller rink where her parents and most of Brooklyn went to skate; when a developer wants to make an informed decision-the Census will be there for them.
* Place Matters advocates for places of history and tradition by working in the policy arena on place marking, asset mapping, broadening the historical record to include previously overlooked narratives, historic preservation, and other protective strategies. To the extent that our small staff allows, we also provide technical assistance to groups working to protect cultural and historical places. The Place Matters Toolkit is a resource for citizens seeking to take action on behalf of important places.
* Place Matters promotes significant places through publications and public programs, such as Community Focus projects, cultural tours, maps, discussion series, and more.
The idea for Place Matters evolved from City Lore’s Endangered Spaces project and a Municipal Arts Society (MAS) taskforce on encouraging protection for places that are vital to New York City’s history and traditions but not necessarily architecturally distinguished. City Lore took part in the taskforce, and teamed up with MAS to hold the History Happened Here conference in 1996. The excitement created by that day of discussion led to the ongoing City Lore-MAS collaboration on the Place Matters Project, and its focus on a multiplicity of ways to promote and advocate for special places.
Place Matter’s founders and co-directors were Laura Hansen, Ned Kaufman, Marci Reaven, and Steve Zeitlin. Place Matters draws its staff from its two sponsoring organizations, and works with many consultants, interns, and collaborating organizations.
From the start, Place Matters has asked New Yorkers and others to tell us which places matter and why they matter. The resulting Census of Places that Matter is a fascinating and growing information bank of little- and well-known places around the city that hold memories, anchor traditions, tell the history of New York City, and contribute to local distinctiveness.
All nominations for places get posted to our online Census, and we add photos and fuller “place profiles” to the postings we can. The nominations are driving the creation of a citywide inventory of places that warrant attention and caretaking. They also prompt promotion and advocacy. Initiatives spawned by Place Matter include: the book Hidden New York: A Guide to Places that Matter; film From Mambo to Hip Hop, documenting the South Bronx in the making of Latin music; historical sign project Your Guide to the Lower East Side, virtual tours, advocacy for the first labor landmark (for the Triangle Shirtwaist fire) and the first National Register listing associated with Puerto Rican migration (Casa Amadeo); support for numerous preservation campaigns, and community history and public art initiatives across the city and the U.S.
We’d like to hear from you. Tell us how you’ve used the Place Matters website, share your suggestions for new initiatives, and enter your places into the Census. Contact us at (212) 529-1955 ext. 17, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preserving a Hometown Corner for Posterity: Casita Rincón Criollo as a Traditional Cultural Property
by Molly Garfinkel
Background and future plans for a nomination of the South Bronx’s Casita Rincón Criollo as a Traditional Cultural Property on the National Registry of Historic Places. Within historic preservation policies in the United States, Casita Rincón Criollo has served as a challenge and a model for better integrating folklorists into the process of registry.
Hidden New York: A Guide to Places That Matter
Steven J. Zeitlin & Marci Reaven
Despite its innumerable tourist attractions, New York City still has many secrets, hidden in the most unlikely places. There is the Edison Hotel in Times Square, where magicians gather ’round the Magic Table to socialize and compete. There is Hua Mei Garden in the Lower East Side, where elderly Chinese men meet to display exotic birds. And there is Sahadi’s in Brooklyn, where the culinary arts thrive, and New Yorkers go for just the right ingredients for a Middle Eastern meal. This book details thirty-two unusual locations such as these and enhances them by including a cluster of additional, related spots. Hidden New York shows you why these places matter and guides you through the historical and cultural significance of each one.
A South Bronx Latin Music Tale
Roberta L. Singer & Elena Martínez
When the story of Latin popular music (salsa) is told in popular and scholarly writings, the South Bronx is consistently overlooked despite the critical role it played in the development of that music. From the late 1940s through the early 1970s Hunts Point, Longwood, and Mott Haven were thriving Puerto Rican communities where an explosion of musical activity and creativity was taking place. This article examines the confluence of people and places that created an environment for the growth of Latin music in the South Bronx. While highlighting the sites that provided a locus for performers to adapt and reinterpret predominantly Afro-Cuban music forms and styles to express their urban South Bronx reality, the work reveals the symbiotic relationship between music, place and community; issues of identity are an underlying theme but are not the central focus of the work.