Infrastructure
September 29, 2020

Workers Create Illegal Bachelor Pad Below Grand Central Station

 

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, three railway workers at Grand Central Station in New York City converted an unused room below the station into a private room for themselves.

The remodelling of the subterranean room was only reported last year, and the workers have furnished it with all the modern conveniences~there was a wall-mounted TV with a streaming device, a sofa, beer fridge, air mattress and microwave.  There was even a pull out bed cleverly hidden in an adjoining work room.

As reported by MSN, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector Carolyn Pokorny understood the fascination with it all:

Many a New Yorker has fantasized about kicking back with a cold beer in a prime piece of Manhattan real estate– especially one this close to good transportation. But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal & make it their very own man-cave sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders’ expense.”

The three men who allegedly created and used the room have been suspended without pay and denied their involvement, despite addressed packaging  and half filled beer cans with finger prints on the exterior.

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In the 1950’s  North American advertising was highly competitive for kids’ attention. Cereal companies created colourful cereal boxes with great toys inside them, or the chance to redeem box tops for a special item that would be mailed to you.

But one of the most successful cereal campaigns actually offered child land moguls their first piece of real estate~ a square inch of land in The Yukon. A kid could actually get a certificate for their land stake in a box of Quaker Puffed Rice.

As documented in “the Klondike Big Inch” which sadly does not have the author’s name the Great Klondike Big Inch land Caper was  “one of the most successful sales promotions in North American business history.For long after all the rocket rings and plastic submarines arid other cereal-box prizes were lost, millions of those official-looking, legal-sounding, gold-embossed deeds to a square inch of Yukon land remained in drawers, albums, safe deposit boxes, scrapbooks, vaults and, more importantly, in the memory of a generation of men and women not so young anymore.”

It’s no surprise that a half century later many of these “former children” still have those deeds and assumed that the square inch would be worth something, and wrote the cereal company looking for current valuations.

Sadly the Klondike Big Inch Land Company which dealt with the land title is defunct, and the Federal Government repossessed the land in 1965 for $37.20 in back property taxes.

The 19 acre piece of land on the Yukon River is still there, and Yukon government workers regular receive letters (there are thousands) from  cereal box title owners inquiring on their property.

The whole idea of selling square inches of land came from Bruce Baker who pitched Quaker Oats cereal on issuing 19 MILLION “deeds” for square inches in the Yukon. Of course there was a radio program tie-in with advertising done during the radio show “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”. The promotion was a tremendous success  with children jockeying parents to eat Quaker cereals for the land titles.

 

The company was set up to acquire 19 acres in the Yukon Territory which was purchased for  $1,000. This enabled Quaker Oats to issue 21 million official looking deeds through the company. Each deed entitled the holder to one square inch of land in the Yukon Gold Rush Country. In 1955, deeds were put into boxes of Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat and were a promotion for the radio show “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.”

Advertising campaign or not, it’s always important to read the fine print of a land title in a cereal box and there was the catch that would thwart a future generation of potential title holders.

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Shortly after the Notre-Dame de Paris fire in 2019, according to Architectural Digest, “Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a competition for fresh ideas for the cathedral, and designers rushed to create original renderings and post them to Instagram. They range from the tasteful and restrained, to the borderline inscrutable, to social experiments never intended to be built.”

But how can you tell the difference, especially when some unserious interventions are justified as intended to ‘start a conversation’?  (A justification used so much these days – as though the ‘conversation’ was the purpose, not the process.)

Here are four of the seven that AD found on Instagram, all from practicing architects:

After all the conversation, the decision, announced a few days ago, was this:

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Why is Dermot Ryan’s jig – yes, about Covid-19 – worth listening to?

Clever, very clever.

No instruments but it doesn’t matter.

Reminds us how masterful the Irish are at using a language that we may share but not use half as well.

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Last year I wrote about an American named Bill Heine who became the “local character” in Oxford Great Britain.Heine ran two cinema houses, and had garnered a law degree before turning to movies.

In 1986 Mr. Heine had a Big Idea and for some reason  commissioned the building of a huge headless fibreglass shark which he craned to the top of his house. The timing of his installation of a headless shark on the roof of his 1860 British townhouse was the  “41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.” The piece was created by artist John Buckley. Mr. Heine tried to say that his headless shark was a political statement. The shark weighs 400 pounds and is 25 feet from its tail to the top of its headless body.

The good citizens of Oxford were apoplectic about this shark among the roofs, and as   this web page on the Hedlington Shark attests  the local Oxford city council sprung into action.

You can read about that debacle here. The story spoiler is that Mr. Heine got to keep the shark,  with an appeal tribunal stating that this was not about the fact the shark did not blend in to the surrounding historic roofscape but rather the individualism that the shark did NOT blend in the historic roofscape. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Hedlington Shark is now a historic significant monument. But what are the chances that a local Price Tags Vancouver reader actually interviewed Bill Heine in person? And that this interview was published in People Magazine?

Dianna Waggoner wrote this piece in 1987:

The neighbors should have seen it coming. When Bill Heine, a 42-year-old American from Batavia, Ill. moved onto High Street in quiet little Heading-ton, England, he already had a reputation for strange roof embellishments. First he had stuck a pair of plaster arms above his movie house in nearby Oxford. Next he had put a pair of humorous, black-and-white-stockinged legs atop a second theater. Last spring, shortly after buying his brick house on High Street, he pulled his best trick yet. One Saturday neighbors awoke to see a 25-foot, fiberglass shark sculpture being towed through town by a farm tractor. Sure enough, before the day was out, the shark was up there on the roof, right above the ivy and the pots of geraniums, head-down in the shingles. What did the neighbors make of that?

“Downright disgusting,” observed Irene Williams from her front yard.

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