Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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Most of the Manhattan Trade School report card files consist of four or five individual five-by-eight-inch cards. But some of the files have additional paperwork: notes from the school staff, letters from social workers, and, as you can see above, notes from doctors. These extra documents -- sometimes still tucked into their original envelopes -- are among my favorite aspects of the Permanent Record project, because they introduce a new set of voices to the chorus of schoolmarminess that's found throughout most of the report cards.

I also love that these notes and letters are often printed on lovely old stationery. In the case of the letter shown above (which was in the file of a student named Florence Gattusa), I was intrigued by the address on the letterhead. Second Aveneue between 7th and 8th Streets -- I know that block. It's in the East Village, and I've walked on it countless times over the years. In fact, I used to walk on it a lot on my way to See Hear, the now-defunct fanzine shop on East 7th Street.

Hmmm, I thought, could there still be an optometrist's office at 124 Second Avenue today? A quick check of Google Maps reveals that the address is now a convenience store. But is it the same building where Florence had her eyes examined by Dr. Rubin in 1931? Probably not -- the oldest certificate of occupancy on file for that address with the city's Department of Buildings (or at least on the department's web site) is dated 1973. This isn't definitive -- sometimes there are older records that aren't available on the web -- but the likelihood is that the old building was torn down and replaced by the current one.

That's part of the fun, and sometimes the sadness, of Permanent Record -- getting to see how New York has transformed and reinvented itself over and over in the years since the students attended Manhattan Trade.

A few other quick notes about Florence:

• Her teachers absolutely loved her. Check out all of the glowing comments on her report card.

• The school placed her in a sewing job with a downtown operation called Progressive Underwear. That's one of the many excellent business names scattered throughout the report cards.

• Here's something I hadn't even noticed until I began working on this blog entry: At one point Florence and the other workers at Progressive Underwear apparently went out on strike. I can't recall seeing any other references to organized labor actions in the report cards; then again, I didn't even notice this one until just now, so I may have to take a closer look.


  1. I love the phone number in the upper left hand corner Dry Dock 0564

  2. Take another look at Florence's work card -- she had a Dry Dock phone number too!:

  3. Paul, I am sure that it is the same building. The '73 C of O calls it and old law tenement, meaning that it is from the turn of the 20th Century or earlier. Most older buildings in the City don't have a C of O. The City's City Map address lookup has an estimated date of 1920 for the building, but by the looks of it and the fact that it is old-law (ie: prior to the post Jacob Riis light and ventilation requirements of the new tenement law), it's got to be older than April 12, 1901.

  4. It is the same building.
    I work for a property information company (hit me up if you need the year built dates for any property mentioned in the report cards ;), and we show this building as being built in 1920.

    There is also what's called an "effective year built" date of 1978...that just means that the proeprty was 50% or more rehabbed.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Mindy.

    Thanks also for your offer to help with further building research. Can you please send me your contact info? I'm at plukas64 at gmail.

    Thanks! -- Paul

  6. I kind of wonder if these kind of cards are also being sent to students who've been undergoing online trade schooling? :)