Today on the blog, Kate Papacosma talks to Karen Taborn about the process of developing her book, Walking Harlem: The Ultimate Guide to the Cultural Capital of Black America.
Karen Taborn published Walking Harlem in May 2018. Her training as a musician and ethnomusicologist informed her interpretation of her longtime neighborhood; she features lots of musically centered information on her tours. Harlem’s musical history is hard to rival as a quintessentially American story, and few things bring history alive more than a walking tour. Past, present, even glimmers of the future — it’s all there. With a trained eye, one learns to decode the everyday. Taborn’s clearly written and engaging guide includes maps of each tour and lots of anecdotes about the neighborhood and its culture-shaping personalities. The book is light enough to toss in a bag or pocket and easy to follow, belying the serious amount of information that it contains.
By Gergely Baics and Leah Meisterlin
The New York City grid is often understood as a foundational system of land subdivision and cadastral allotment. Accordingly, the grid divides Manhattan into a highly regularized system of rectangular shaped blocks, subdivided into lots, making standard (and stackable) units of real estate available for urban development. The grid accomplishes the city’s apportionment through its collection of more frequently spaced and narrower east-west cross-streets and less frequently spaced and wider north-south avenues — each serving as partition and demarcation between the blocks with their nested lots. Indeed, conceptualizing the grid as a system of subdivided blocks highlights its underlying cadastral logic. Previous posts (#4 and #6) have addressed two myths following from this line of reasoning, specifically the extent to which block sizes determined lot sizes, and how the relentless regularity of blocks and lots contributed to rampant real estate speculation.
By Nick Juravich
However, as Dawson and Joe discussed in their Labor Online interview, by charting this “movement of movements,” The Defiant reveals the interconnectedness of struggles that are often studied separately. It also shows how diverse movements and actions are, in many ways, “expressions of protest against the same thing — crass greed that is destroying people’s lives and undercutting democracy.” The same is true when we tighten the frame. One of the joys of this book, for me, was connecting the dots not just across the country, but between diverse forms of organizing in New York City.
With all that in mind, I thought I’d start by walking through the three “New York moments” in the book, and then ask Dawson to reflect on some of the larger questions that arise when we look closely at protest in post-liberal Gotham.
Heidi Waleson's Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America
By Matthew Guariglia
As the rest of the world continues to ruminate on the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, New Yorkers also must grapple with the lasting impact the “Great War” had on their city. In the years leading up to, during, and following the United States’ 1917 entrance into the war, “preparedness” became the watchword that signaled New York’s increasing awareness of its connection to the world and the conflicts happening beyond the harbor. From food rationing to drafting soldiers, preparedness and all it involved included a full-scale reorganization of American society, including the New York City Police Department.
Although for many New Yorkers, interactions with the police remained unchanged, the NYPD’s transition from the hulking 19th century bruisers of Gangs of New York to modern police officers was cemented by how preparedness and militarization effected the way NYPD officers acted, looked, and understood their jobs.
From 1915 through 1917, “preparedness” became a central tenet of Police Commissioner Arthur Woods’ department, whether it be for “fire, flood, cyclone, tidal wave, earthquake, or even foreign invasion.” Of course, preparing a police force for a foreign invasion also meant remaking it as a military force to be reckoned with.
By Molly Rosner
Molly Rosner works at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College. The piece below, and any opinions expressed within, do not represent the Archives or the College’s point of view.
On November 13, 2018, Amazon announced that Long Island City would become the site for its new headquarters “HQ2” along with a site in Crystal City, Virginia. Since then, New Yorkers have greeted this announcement with both applause and outrage. Throughout the year, Amazon has received bids from cities and towns across the country trying to entice the trillion-dollar company to their area. But after the gimmicks and tax incentives have all been weighed, it feels clear that New York was always high on the list of places the company was considering.
Reactions have been swift and dramatic. LaGuardia Community College, in Long Island City, added a note to its website that reads, “We’re very proud that LaGuardia was a key player in the proposal process to bring Amazon here, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that LaGuardia’s diverse and talented students were a big plus for LIC.” The President of LaGuardia Community College, Gail Mellow, posted an open letter on the college website welcoming the company and saying, “we’re ready for Amazon to make a commitment to education and workforce training in Long Island City, and are ready to support Amazon in Queens as its educational partner.”At the same time others, including professors at the college, have expressed concern about how Amazon’s presence in the area will impact the already burdened infrastructure and transportation system.
By Joanna Steinberg
In 1968, Village Voice critic Jill Johnston proclaimed that between 1962 and 1964 a “revolution” had occurred at Judson Memorial Church. With its exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done, MoMA brings visitors into this seminal moment when a collective of choreographers and downtown artists across disciplines came together to create and show new works in non-commercial spaces, works that transformed the definitions of art and how we experience it. MoMA pushes the boundaries and conventions of the museum space as well, beginning the exhibition in the Atrium, where a video installation and a series of live performances take place daily, showing the work of preeminent choreographers from Judson Dance Theater: Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, David Gordon, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton, and Tricia Brown. As the subtitle suggests, “the work is never done.” The performances embody the idea that experimentation is ongoing, as is the interpretation by both artists and audiences who come together in the present moment.
New York City Has the Country’s Most Elaborate Zoning Code. Why Isn’t It Protecting Us From Luxury Overgrowth?
By Samuel Stein
Construction is booming in New York City, and, as the real-time construction map recently released by the New York City Department of Buildings shows, a lot of the new development is wildly out of context with the surrounding neighborhoods. While scale is not sacred, many of these buildings pose quite specific problems for their neighbors, as in the case of a proposed string of towers on Franklin Avenue that would cast looming shadows over the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. A luxury development whose size and shape would make a public garden obsolete is exactly the kind of development that city planners should be working overtime to prevent.
The main tool city planners use for such regulation is zoning — the set of rules that regulate what can be built where, and at what size. New York City has one of the world’s most elaborate zoning codes, with nearly 4,000 pages of maps and text delineating over 150 different zoning types. Given the code’s power and complexity, one might think that the city would use zoning to prevent property owners from running roughshod over neighborhoods and communities. Instead, however, contemporary planners and politicians use zoning to protect the real estate industry from the people, rather than to protect the people from the real estate industry.
Isn’t this precisely the opposite of what zoning is supposed to do? Isn’t the whole point of zoning to prevent market chaos and create a more orderly, predictable, healthy and harmonious urban landscape? To answer these questions, we must return to the roots of the city’s zoning code.
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