The Greatest Year to …

Coney Island, 1904.Photo: A. Loeffler/Courtesy of the Byron Collection/ Museum of the City of New York/Getty Images

Be a Newspaper Reader:
1862: “You had Horace Greeley’s anti-slavery New York Tribune and James Gordon Bennett’s Herald. The telegraph had come in, so the papers were, for the first time, able to write news from yesterday: Bennett sent about 60 reporters to cover the Civil War. And the New York papers were being read by everyone—Abraham Lincoln was really concerned with what James Gordon Bennett thought.” —Mitchell Stephens, NYU professor and author of History of the News

Go to Coney Island:
1904: “It was the last year Coney Island was an actual island—an isolated fantasy world. All three great amusement parks, Luna Park and Steeplechase and Dreamland, and the racetracks were still open. And the Atlantic Yacht Club, which had Vanderbilts and Whitneys as members.” —Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found

Be in the West Village:
1917: “The beatniks and the anti-AIDS pushback were important, but the teens were the heyday, with Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marcel Duchamp. In December 1917, several artists climbed the Washington Square Arch and declared the Village the Independent Republic of Bohemia.” —Andrew Berman, president, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Be a Sports Fan:
1923: “No other year even came close. Yankee Stadium opened, and the Yankees won the Series. At the Polo Grounds, 90,000 people saw Luis Firpo knock Jack Dempsey out of the ring. The first college-football game in New York was Army versus Notre Dame. Bill Tilden won the U.S. Open. And Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice were there to write about it all.” —Bert Sugar, sports historian

Ride the Subway:
1939: “It was the last year of three competing systems operating the subway and elevated lines. Many regarded the Els rumbling down Manhattan avenues as a nuisance, but there was a greater range of transit service in 1939—and the elevateds were stunning engineering.” —Brett Dion, archivist, New York Transit Museum

Be a Rat:
1968: “The nine-day sanitation strike. Something like 10,000 tons of garbage piling up every day.” Robert Sullivan, author of Rats

Be a Hip-Hop Fan:
1988: “Nineteen ninety-four, with Nas’s & Biggie’s debuts, is beloved, but I favor 1988, with Public Enemy and the Afrocentric renaissance. That’s the year when hip-hop began revolutionizing pop culture.” —Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Compiled by Kat Ward.

The Greatest Year to …