In the late nineteenth century, municipal officials and boosters of a regionally-scaled New York City endeavored to reshape the material nature of the cityscape. Debates about the physical nature of the urban fringe demonstrate how the city’s coastal edge was both an ecological system and a cultural and political landscape. The harbor environment included both sides of the high-tide line — riparian land and lands underwater. Developers looked to control the material characteristics of the coast through infrastructure. Landscape architects, engineers, and street commissioners approached the urban edge as a laboratory for regional planning. These city builders focused on regional environmental boundaries in contradistinction to laissez-faire urbanization and development that overlooked the conditions of environment and topography. Parks, channelized rivers, and street systems expanded the urban fabric into rural hinterlands.
Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.
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.
By Andrew Urban
In November, 2018, the Public Historian published a review that I wrote of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s newest tour: Under One Roof. The tour interprets the lives of three families who lived in the tenement at 103 Orchard Street — which was acquired by the museum in 2007 — from the 1940s up until the recent past. Addressing post-World War II immigration and migration to the Lower East Side, the educators leading the tours that I took did an excellent job highlighting how Americans have frequently been reluctant to welcome the world’s “huddled masses,” national myths notwithstanding. For instance, visitors are introduced to surveys conducted with Americans in 1946, in which a majority of respondents rejected proposals that would have suspended quota restrictions in order to permit Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and other Displaced Persons from Europe to enter the United States. One of the Under One Roof tours I took occurred in January 2018, a few days after President Trump expressed a desire for the United States to receive immigrants from Norway rather than from “shithole countries” such as Haiti. In 1946, the educator explained, Scandinavian countries also scored favorably with the American public as the most desirable sources of immigration. Through framings such as this, the Under One Roof tour rightly insists that the United States will only be able to come to terms with the controversies and debates that surround immigration policy today if it honestly evaluates its own history — racist attitudes included.
Samantha Grace Lewis, “Occupy the MoMA January 13, 2012.” Occupy Museums, an activist movement that originated as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, has been a leading critic of the relationship between art museums and capitalism. Recent actions have included a 2017 protest at MoMA calling for the removal of board member Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc., whose “investment management company” has used campaign donations and the political appointments of former employees to attack and weaken regulations directed at the finance industry.
By Matt Kautz
However, the rehabilitative push was short-lived and movements to punish drug users and distributors culminated in the passage of the country’s harshest drug laws, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, in 1973. In large part, the criminalization of Black drug users and dealers in New York City drove this punitive turn. By looking at New York state’s response to heroin in Harlem during the 1960s, we can better understand how racialized narratives about drug addiction impact policy.
By Terri N. Watson
Edwards led I.S. 201’s Community Education Center and, along with her dear friend and neighbor Hannah Brockington, served on its 21-member governing body. The center was housed in I.S. 201: a windowless structure that contained an intermediate school and nearly a dozen centers and programs created to meet Harlem’s needs. It was also one of the three demonstration school districts established in 1967 after New York City’s Black and Hispanic parents demanded a say in their children’s schooling. The other two districts were located in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in lower Manhattan.
By Kim Dramer
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Trapped by locked doors and only a single flimsy fire escape, 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished in the conflagration itself or jumped from windows to escape the flames and died from the fall. The Triangle Fire was the most fatal workplace tragedy in New York City history until 9/11. Today, New Yorkers walk by three small plaques marking the spot of the tragedy, many unaware of the events that unfolded at the spot more than a century ago. 
This article will examine three current efforts by New York women memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire workers. Significantly, many of these women are the descendants of immigrants who plied the needle trades in search of the American dream. While the dreams of the young immigrant women who perished in the Triangle fire put an end to their quest, their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
By Jonathan S. Jones
Today on Gotham, Minju Bae interviews Diane Wong, co-curator of Homeward Bound: Global Intimacies in Converging Chinatowns, a recently-concluded exhibition at Pearl River Mart. Homeward Bound displayed photographs from thirteen Chinatowns around the world. These photographs came from the curators’ personal projects to learn from the people who have built homes, families, and communities in a global diaspora. The exhibit will travel to a number of other locations starting in the spring of next year.
Diane, we first met at the thirtieth-anniversary gala for CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Over the years, we have discussed our related projects and aligned political frameworks, often while sharing food. What are the origins of this exhibition?
The exhibit was inspired by the Homeward Bound series I did with the W.O.W Project at Wing on Wo & Co last winter. The series of public programs was done in collaboration with Mei Lum, founding director of the W.O.W. Project, and Huiying B. Chan, a multimedia storyteller whom I met through the Chinatown Art Brigade. It featured stories of migration, displacement, and everyday resilience in Chinatowns around the world including Lima, Havana, Johannesburg, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney, Singapore, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Seattle. The exhibit builds from the series and uses photographs and oral histories from our own academic research to honor, preserve, and build on the histories and contemporary issues of Chinatowns through community-led and curated narratives of residents. There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to connecting our academic scholarship to what is happening on the ground in communities and to more intimate spaces like our homes. This exhibit was a way for me to be creative and to redefine what I have been taught about academic knowledge production and rigor — and to produce work that is accountable and responsive to the demands of the communities I write about.
By Marie Warsh
On November 16, 1966, an unprecedented event took place on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Beginning at midnight, thousands of New Yorkers convened on the park’s largest lawn to watch the Leonid meteor showers, which were expected to be particularly brilliant. Although the crowd was let down — dense cloud cover prevented visibility — the gathering nonetheless offered a convivial atmosphere. Spectators brought chairs, blankets, and hot beverages, and the event became an after-dark picnic, with some marveling at the novel scene. One woman observed, “All these people in the park after midnight, and no one is getting mugged.”
New York’s Parks Commissioner, Thomas Hoving, had conceived of the event, which he’d dubbed the “Heavenly Happening,” and it epitomized his approach to revitalizing Central Park. The event was a direct response to concerns about safety in the park. Incidents of crime began to increase in the late 1950s, and this reality, as well as often ominous or even sensationalized press coverage, contributed to a growing reputation of the Central Park as a “hoodlum haven,” as J. Edgar Hoover declared in 1964.
Cartoon Performance, May 15, 1966. The first happening in Central Park involved the installation of a 105-foot-long canvas across the lawn known as Cedar Hill for the public to paint on. Capturing the open-ended nature of the happening, the press release for the event stated that “The performance will end when the painting is finished, or when it rains, or when it grows too dark to continue.”
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