Interviewed by Katie Uva
Today on the blog, editor Katie Uva talks to Erin Wuebker, Assistant Curator of the Brooklyn Historical Society's new exhibition, Taking Care of Brooklyn: Stories of Sickness and Health. The longterm exhibition, on view until June 2022, examines 400 years of Brooklyn's history through the lens of public health.
Can you start us off with a bit of an overview of the exhibition?
For 400 years, Brooklyn has served as a crucible for the social forces that determine public health — war, housing, urban crowding, poverty, working conditions, racism and sexism, and more. Brooklyn has been a site of bloodshed and genocide, a densely populated urban center, an immigrant enclave, an industrial powerhouse. It has fostered unprecedented innovation and unprecedented inequality. Against this backdrop, generations of Brooklynites have contended with epidemics of infectious disease, struggled with chronic conditions, experienced childbirth and death, and fought for access to healthy food and uncontaminated water.
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 Jonathan S. Jones
By Naomi Adiv
In the summer of 1870, New York City got its first municipal bath: swimming pools sunk into the rivers, through which river water flowed. An 1871 New York Times article describes them: “baths are of the usual house-like model, and have a swimming area of eighty-five feet in length by sixty-five feet in width. They are… provided with sixty-eight dressing-rooms, have offices and rooms in an additional story, and are well lighted with gas for night bathing.” In the year after they were built, the Department of Public Works reported that they were regularly used to their capacity, particularly on hot summer days. At their height, there were twenty-two such baths around the waters of New York City.
By Stephen Petrus
New York City is again confronting a surge in heroin use and opioid addiction in general. According to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, fatal drug overdoses increased in New York by 66% from 2010 to 2015. In 2015, 556 New Yorkers unintentionally overdosed on heroin. The Bronx and Staten Island were the hardest hit boroughs. Heroin use, once largely associated with African Americans and Latinos, affects white New Yorkers more than any other group. They had the highest death rate from heroin overdoses in New York in 2015.
“Does the United States Need a Medical Revolution?” Communism, Birth Control, and National Health Insurance in 1940s New York
Gotham is a blog for independent and professional scholars of
New York City history
We invite submissions
Click below to follow us on social media
using any feed reader
View the material as a broadsheet
See our list of
Visitors looking for
"The Gotham Blotter"
will find it here,
revised as blog posts