By Andy Battle
“City of Workers, City of Struggle.” Since its founding, New York has been emphatically both. A new exhibit with this name, up at the Museum of the City of New York until January, communicates the ways in which the shape of the present city — physical, economic, social, and cultural — has been given to us by the cumulative struggles of its workers for material well-being, autonomy, and a dignified life. The main goal, according to lead curator Steven H. Jaffe, is to communicate “just how intertwined the rise of modern New York City is with working people and their movements.”
The show fulfills this commitment. Housed in a second-floor gallery, the exhibition marshals text, artifacts, images, sound, video, and interactive games to survey the history of work and workers’ struggles in New York from the industrial revolution through the present day. Four main sections -- “In Union There Is Strength” (1830–1900), “Labor Will Rule” (1900–1965) “Sea Change” (1965–2001), and “New Challenges” — chart the ways in which workers both inside and outside the formal labor movement have sought to wrestle the terms of their relationships with their employers, with the state, and with each other to make the conditions for a fulfilling life available to those born without riches. The exhibition also details the ways in which the struggles of New York workers have served as the spearhead of national movements to realize these goals.
Reviewed by Elvis Bakaitis
Reviewed by Burton W. Peretti
Reviewed by Kara Murphy Schlichting
What metaphor captures the relationship between the Hudson River, the cities that line its shores, and the people who plie its waters? Is the river a touchstone by which thinkers trace American ideas about nature? Is it an allegory, teaching those humbled in the face of ecological change to repent humanity's role? Is it the exemplar of the declension narrative present in American environmental storytelling? Or is the river more like a battle cry, rallying those committed to environmental activism and resiliency? Hudson Rising, the new exhibit at the New York Historical Society, contends it is all of these things. This deeply researched, thoughtfully presented, and satisfyingly interdisciplinary exhibit introduces the visitor to myriad people who have used and shaped the river, confronted ecological ruin, and turned towards preservation to mitigate degradation.
Hudson Rising, New York Historical Society. March 1 – August 4, 2019.
Reviewed by Leslie Day
Reviewed by Emily Brooks
The Girl on the Velvet Swing is an engaging and fast-paced presentation of this story that will prove compelling to popular and academic audiences interested in New York City history or histories of the gilded age. Despite these strengths, Baatz’s analysis is weakened by a problematic interpretation of Nesbit’s narrative of her own assault, included in the book’s afterword, which may unsettle readers.
Carol Lamberg's Neighborhood Success Stories: Creating and Sustaining Affordable Housing in New York
Reviewed by Nicholas Dagen Bloom
Mayors LaGuardia, Wagner, Koch, Bloomberg, and de Blasio get all the attention for affordable or public housing. Lost in the “top down” approach are key figures such as NYCHA founder Mary Simkhovitch; the Rose family that was deeply involved in Mitchell-Lama; or the Koch-era HPD leader Felice Michetti who today manages thousands of subsidized units. New York’s deep bench in the private/public world of housing development and management was as important as the largescale programs.
Reviewed by Benjamin Serby
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