By Joseph Alexiou
Writer and photographer Mitch Waxman is the leading authority on the history of Newtown Creek, a toxically polluted industrial waterway on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to his reporting and documentation, Waxman leads regular tours on land and by boat while spreading the unique stories of New York’s most centrally located contaminated coastline to the community.
You are considered New York City’s foremost authority on Newtown Creek. What was the journey to becoming an expert on a federal Superfund site?
Famously how I ended up at Newtown is that I got sick with heart “stuff,” and my doctor told me to start running. The quote I always give everyone is that in the part of Brooklyn I’m from, you only run if someone is chasing you. So I walked. I walked around with camera and discovered Newtown Creek and discovered this wild thing in the center New York City.
Recovering New York’s Entangled Dutch, Native American, and African Histories: An Interview with Jennifer Tosch
By Andrea Mosterman
The tour, which she describes as “a pilgrimage,” addresses the difficult histories of slavery practiced by the region’s Dutch descendants. In 2017, Jennifer and her colleagues of the Mapping Slavery Project, a public history project based in the Netherlands that focuses on the Dutch history of slavery, published Dutch New York Histories: Connecting African, Native America and Slavery Heritage, a collection of New York sites that in some way are linked to the interconnected histories of the area’s Dutch, Indigenous, and African American peoples. The tour and publication highlight many important New York City sites. I talked to Jennifer about the tour, the book, and her motivations to start this project.
Reviewed by Benjamin Serby
By Joseph Alexiou
On a cool November morning in 1883, George J. Hardy, Deputy Sheriff of Brooklyn, marched toward the city’s most notorious slum. Behind him followed a small army of fourteen “special assistants” — nameless men in frock coats and bowler hats — Sergeant Reeves of Brooklyn’s 10th Precinct with three of his own officers and some newspaper reporters.
Upon first approach it appeared as though nobody was lived among the meandering rows of one-story shanties. The officers commented that it seemed odd. Goats snacked on bits of scrap metal and old hoop skirts that littered the dirt-path while pigs of varying age frolicked, but no people could be seen. Still they advanced on Darby’s Patch as though ready to battle an absentee goatherd.
But when Hardy’s crew reached fifty yards from the bounds of “the Patch,” suddenly “the hillocks teemed with life, every male inhabitant coming up as if from the ground, armed to the teeth with every conceivable implement,” as described one reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1883 this would mean metal rakes and ice picks, hammers or pokers, perhaps intentionally rusty. He added: “and the females also equipped with kitchen and other utensils, ready to defend their shanties.”
Hardy turned to the reporter, saying: “My letters must have been given to the goats and they forgot to read them.”
By Sandra Roff
Publishing periodicals was an exciting step in advancing knowledge and providing information to a news hungry audience. Philadelphia, Boston and New York in the early part of the 19th century established themselves as publishing centers and they all had newspapers, book publishers and an active periodical press. As their respective populations grew so did the demand for periodicals that were cheap, portable and served as an outlet for aspiring authors. These publishing centers as early as the late 18th century published magazines and journals many of which proved to be short lived. By the beginning of the 19th century the readership grew and so did the number of successful magazines.
While these three cities competed with each other for publishing prominence, there was another growing presence in the periodical world. Brooklyn, New York considered the first suburb of New York City was just a ferry ride across the East River and its population increased substantially during the 19th century leading to a demand for more intellectual pursuits. Spooner’s Brooklyn Directory for 1824/1825, listed the census of Kings County taken in August, 1820. Kings County consisted of Brooklyn, the Navy Yard, Bushwick. Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht and had a total of 11,183 occupants.  As the county began to fan out and settle areas beyond Brooklyn Heights, the citizenry founded more libraries, literary societies, schools, clubs and other venues appropriate for new magazines and journals.
By Benjamin Serby
The leafy Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens is nestled between Degraw Street (or Sackett, depending on your source) to the north and Hamilton Avenue to the south, bounded to the east by either Hoyt or Bond Street (again, answers may vary) and Hicks Street to the west. It’s just a small slice of the borough’s “brownstone belt,” but it packs a wallop, as any pizza enthusiast will tell you. With its deep front lawns, stoop-sitters, and tiny pasticcerias, Carroll Gardens is a unique corner of the city, to be sure — but, in many respects, its past and present tell us much about New York City as a whole.
By Katie Uva
It’s the first Thursday in June! To most people, that means little more than that it is almost the first Friday in June, and that it was just the first Wednesday in June. But to New York City school children, it means Brooklyn-Queens Day, a gratuitous day off to go to amusement parks, run through sprinklers, and monitor the steady progress of ice cream melting down one’s face and arms. Nowadays, this holiday is a citywide phenomenon and has been renamed Chancellor's Day, but those of us old-timers who went to school before 2006 remember when Brooklyn-Queens Day used to be only for kids in Brooklyn and Queens, the one day of the year when kids in Manhattan actually envied us. But what is Brooklyn-Queens Day anyway?
By Andrea C. Mosterman
Why is it important to study New York’s Dutch past? That is the question a New Netherland Institute (NNI) conference in Brooklyn will address on June 1st and 2nd. I talked with Dennis Maika, senior historian and education director of the New Netherland Institute, about New York’s Dutch history and the Brooklyn event.
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