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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 10, 2001 - 2001-08-09


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today ... we celebrate New York City.

We play some songs about the city ...

answer a question about its buildings ...

and tell about an unusual museum that explores its past.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum


The United States was settled by people who came from other nations. Many of those immigrants lived in New York City. People can learn about their lives by visiting the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Shirley Griffith tells us about it.


The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is in a building at Ninety-Seven Orchard Street. The building was one of the first tenements in New York City. It was built in Eighteen-Sixty-Three. “Tenement” is a word that describes an old and often crowded apartment building. A tenement building included many small apartments where families lived.

Workers at the Tenement Museum researched the history of the building. They know that about seven-thousand people from more than twenty countries lived there. The building closed in Nineteen-Thirty-Five because the owner did not pay to improve it as required by new city laws.

The tenement building had twenty apartments. The museum shows four of them. It recreated how they would have looked during four time periods. Visitors can learn about the lives of four families who lived in the building. One was the Gumpertz (GUM-pertz) family. They were Jews from Germany who lived there in the Eighteen-Seventies. Visitors can also see the apartment of the Rogarshevskys (RO-ga-shef-skeez) an Eastern European Jewish family who lived there in Nineteen-Eighteen. And they can see the rooms where the Italian Baldizzi (bal-DEET-see) family lived during the Nineteen-Thirties.

A fourth apartment shows the life of the Confino (con-FEE-no) family, Jews from Turkey who lived there in Nineteen-Sixteen. Visitors can touch the Confino family’s clothes and other belongings. They can listen to music on the record player. They can meet a performer who is dressed like teen-aged Victoria Confino. They can talk to Victoria about her life in the new country.

Visitors to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum say it teaches everyone about the lives of people starting out in a new country. And it makes them want to find out how their own families lived when they first arrived in the United States.



Our VOA listener question this week comes in an e-mail from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Nguyen Trung Dung asks about skyscrapers.

Skyscrapers are the world’s tallest buildings. They are called “skyscrapers” because they rise so high that they seem to touch the sky.

Skyscrapers provide space for offices, eating places, homes and hotels. The first one was built in Chicago, Illinois in Eighteen-Eighty-Five. It was almost fifty-five meters tall. Today, skyscrapers are much taller. The world’s tallest skyscrapers are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They are the Petronas Towers. Each building is four-hundred-fifty-two meters high.

New York City has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world. New York is also home to the world’s most famous skyscraper -- the Empire State Building. It was built in Nineteen-Thirty-One. It was the world’s tallest building for more than forty years. It is still one of the most popular.

Each year, more than three-million people ride an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. They stand outdoors in a special observation area almost three-hundred-eighty meters above the ground.

Last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers honored the Empire State Building as one of the greatest structures of the twentieth century. The group called it a “Monument of the Millennium.”

Other famous skyscrapers in New York include the two buildings of the World Trade Center. The Center was built in Nineteen-Seventy-Three. It occupies six-and-one-half hectares of land. Its two buildings are more than four-hundred-ten meters tall. They once were the tallest buildings in the world. About fifty-thousand people work in the World Trade Center. About seventy-thousand others visit the two buildings every day.

One place to learn more about skyscrapers is the Skyscraper Museum in New York City. It was organized in Nineteen-Ninety-Six to show visitors the tall buildings of the past, present and future. The museum explains the history, design, building and operation of skyscrapers. The Skyscraper Museum is not among the most well known museums in New York. But its managers say people should see it first, before visiting other areas of New York City.

New York Songs


New York City is home to musical plays, music clubs and dance halls. And many writers have celebrated the city in song. American singer Mel Torme recorded a whole record of songs about New York. Here is Shep O’Neal to play a few of them.


One traditional song about New York is old, but is still well-known today. Listen as Mel Torme sings “Sidewalks of New York.”


Perhaps the most famous street in New York City is Broadway. Many visitors go to New York just to see plays performed in theaters on or near Broadway. Here is a song about it.


Another song about New York was written in the Nineteen-Forties for a movie called “On the Town.” The movie is about three sailors who are visiting New York for just one day. We leave you now with Mel Torme singing the most famous song from that film, “New York, New York”.



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today about New York. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC—VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

Remember to write us with your questions about American life. We will try to answer them on future programs. Listeners whose questions are chosen will be sent a Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

Send your questions to American Mosaic, Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D.C. two-zero-two-three-seven, USA. Or use a computer to e-mail your question to Please include your name and postal address. This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Tom Verba. And our producer was Paul Thompson.