1943 Market Analysis A Glimpse Into History

June 4, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

NEW YORK—A snapshot of Manhattan’s neighborhoods from 70 years ago can now be explored on the Welcome to 1940s New York website.

Steven Romalewski, from the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, is the man behind the interactive online map, which details rental prices of housing and the ethnicities of tenants.

The site presents the information from a document, circa 1943, called “New York City Market Analysis.” The report was put together by four newspapers for advertising clients.

Romalewski found the document in 1997, at the New York Bound bookstore’s going-out-of-business sale. The “absolutely captivating” item cost him $100, and was amid many that “were either too expensive or too arcane,” he recalled on his blog.

“I leafed through it and was amazed at the color-coded maps of every neighborhood in the city, visualizing down to the block what each area was paying in rent at the time,” Romalewski said.

“Each of 116 neighborhood profiles also included statistics from the 1940 census, a narrative highlighting key socioeconomic trends at the local level, and a handful of black and white photos.”

Though the document sat on his shelf for years, the 1940 census data coming online in April prompted an interest in publishing the market analysis online. After finding that the copyright has expired Romalewski and a team did just that.

The diversity of the city, the document’s description notes, made it “a city of 116 cities,” in 1943.

“No single section is all rich or all poor. The wealthy live beside the humble, and millionaire’s mansions back into bleak tenements,” the document states.

The lowest rental found, a three-room flat on Lower East Side for $12 a month, was just a few miles away from a 33-room Sutton Place apartment renting for $18,000 a year.

“Somewhere in between lives the vast, unspectacular aggregate, the world’s wealthiest market,” the market analysis states.

In Manhattan, the greatest population decline (57 percent) between 1940 and 2010 was in Mount Morris Park, now a middle section of Harlem, according to the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center.

The area with the most population growth (131 percent) during the same period was in Madison Square, which encompasses what is now the Flatiron District and Union Square, the center said.

Visit the website: http://ept.ms/KKf3HC

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