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Ideas

Boston’s vanished New York Streets

What the strange name of a long-gone neighborhood reveals about the city’s changing ambitions

In the desolate eastern reaches of Boston’s South End, at the corner of the Mass. Pike and Interstate 93, the old Boston Herald office sits empty. The paper’s staff decamped to offices in the Seaport District in January. Earlier this month, new details emerged of a redevelopment scheme for the area, currently under consideration by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. With a large residential and shopping complex called the Ink Block and other plans for apartments, shops, restaurants, and a hotel, developers hope to transform this light industrial zone into a vibrant, “18-hour” neighborhood.

The Ink Block name is a hat tip to the printing presses that once defined the area. But nearly forgotten is an earlier identity of this same parcel of land, one that opens a window on a point even deeper in Boston’s economic history. Today, its only visible remnant is the street that would be home to many of these new buildings: Albany Street.

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