Rethinking the Grid
May 6th, 2019
Although the Manhattan grid plan was conceived over two centuries ago, its impacts on the city and the mystery surrounding its creation continue to foster controversy and debate. In this panel discussion, four authors discuss recent scholarship that challenges some of the widely-held myths and misconceptions about it.
Gerard Koeppel, author of City on a Grid: How New York Became New York, recounting the history of the plan's creation, with new details about John Randel, Jr. and the Commissioners
Gergely Baics, Associate Professor of History at Barnard College, who has published new research with Leah Meisterlin highlighting some of the "hidden" impacts of the grid
Leah Meisterlin, Assistant Professor in Urban Planning at Columbia University, whose recent work with Gergely Baics carefully maps how the plan impacted land use in mid-19th c. NYC, using cutting-edge GIS research to dispel misconceptions about the grid
Jason Barr, Professor of Economics at Rutgers University-Newark, author of Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan's Skyscrapers
Moderator: Sarah Henry, Chief Curator at the Museum of the City of New York, who oversaw "The Greatest Grid" exhibit
Read some of all four scholars' research here at the Gotham blog series
"The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections"
A Second Gilded Age?
Historical Parallels, Differences, Lessons
April 9th, 2019
Are we living in a "Second Gilded Age”? Journalists, scholars, and reformers are increasingly using this phrase to describe the political economy which has developed over the last forty years or so, especially since the Great Recession. But historical analogies can have their perils. If we seek both to understand and fight economic inequality today, might this loose comparison obscure, as well as inform? To answer this question, we’ve asked experts in various disciplines to identify and compare for each period the economic factors driving inequality, the political factors which created or exacerbated those dynamics, and the effectiveness of various policies in leveling those inequities, as well as the social movements or electoral coalitions that may be required to enact them. Participants include Steve Fraser, Janet Gornick, Suresh Naidu, Paul Krugman, Devin Fergus, Rosanne Currarino, Julia Ott, Kimberley S. Johnson, Thomas Ferguson, Kay Schlozman, Kim Phillips-Fein, Jeffrey Broxmeyer, Joshua B. Freeman, K. Sabeel Rahman, Elizabeth Clemens, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Joseph Stiglitz. For more information, click here.
This conference was co-sponsored by The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
Statue of Liberty?
Myths about the Lady in the Harbor
March 11th, 2019
Francesca Lidia Viano speaks about her new book, Sentinel: The Unlikely Origins of the Statue of Liberty. Few structures have become as iconic, for the city and nation, as the Statue of Liberty. Yet its own history remains obscure. In this new work, “the fullest account yet of the people and ideas that brought the lady of the harbor to life,” Viano, a Fellow at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, discusses the contradictory mix of ideologies and values behind it.
Monuments of the Future: Alternative Approaches
February 6th, 2019
Looking for solutions to the dilemma about how to confront and constructively address ‘difficult' places of memory and, in some cases, their absence, this panel presentation will offer real and virtual alternative approaches that use different media to promote a public dialogue about how and what we remember. The speakers represent projects and institutions that encompass local and national efforts, providing possible models as well as obstacles to public education and participation in New York City.
Kubi Ackerman, Director of the Future City Lab at the Museum of the City of New York
Marisa Williamson, Multimedia artist and creator of “Sweet Chariot: The Long Journey to Freedom Through Time"
Ken Lum, Artist and co-curator of "Monument Lab: A Public Art and History Project"
Moderator: Jill Strauss, Assistant Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
The last of a three-part series presented with The American Social History Project and The Public History Collective at The Graduate Center, CUNY, with funding provided by Humanities New York.
NYC vs. The Axis
February 5th, 2019
Marci Reaven, curator of the New-York Historical Society’s past exhibit “WWII & NYC,” sits down with John Strausbaugh to discuss his new book, Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers during World War II. The book presents a view of Gotham at the height of its power. New York, by 1941 the largest city in the world, had the busiest port on Earth, and the greatest number of manufacturing laborers in America. It was the nation’s undisputed center for finance. But it was also a swirling, contradictory mess of Nazi and communist spies, mobsters and liberal reformers, war profiteers and draft resisters, immigrant hordes and fascist sympathizers. ictory City takes readers on a panoramic journey through it all. Strausbaugh is the award-winning author of City of Sedition: The History of New York During the Civil War and The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village.
Black and Blue
The Long History of Police Brutality, Resistance, and Reform in NYC
January 18th, 2019
Marcia Davis, editor at the criminal justice news organization The Marshall Project, interviews the distinguished historian Clarence Taylor about his new book, Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City. Discussion continues in the second half with a status report on where the problem of NYPD violence and institutional reform stand now, almost five years after the strangulation of Eric Garner and the massive protests that ensued: featuring Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter-Greater New York, and CUNY’s Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing and longtime consultant to both police departments and human rights organizations, internationally.
The Ancient World in the Modern City
December 4th, 2018
Molly Heintz, editor of Oculus, quarterly of the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter, speaks with Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis (author of Housing the New Romans) and Matthew McGowan (head of the Classics Department at Fordham University and former President of the New York Classical Club) about their new book, Classical New York — the first work to investigate the imposing legacy of classical architecture in Gotham, the "city of tomorrow."
Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins at 100
November 14th, 2018
Julia Foulkes, historian of the arts in the postwar U.S. and curator of "Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York," joins Carol Oja, author of Bernstein Meets Broadway, in a conversation about the legendary icons during this centennial year.
Born to an immigrant Jewish family in Manhattan’s lower east side one hundred years ago, Robbins — choreographer, director, dancer, and theater producer — earned five Tony and two Academy awards, as well as Kennedy Center honors, for such works as On the Town, Peter Pan, The King And I, West Side Story, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof. Bernstein, born that same year, spent most of his life in New York as well, becoming a prominent social figure in the city, and one of the nation’s most prolific composers, across many styles — from symphonic and orchestral to choral and chamber music, in ballet, film, theater, and opera.
Waterfront: The 400 Year Struggle over NYC’s Greatest Asset
November 1st, 2018
Elizabeth Albert, editor of Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City's Forgotten Waterfront, sits down with Kurt Schlichting to discuss his new book, Waterfront Manhattan, the first comprehensive history of the asset which arguably "made" NYC. Nature provided Gotham with a sheltered harbor, which allowed early republic New York to grow dramatically as other cities struggled to compete. But the government handed ownership and control of the priceless asset to businesses, until neglect and conflict between the various companies forced the city to resume management during the mid-1800s — a situation that lasted until the post-WWII era of jet transport and containerization destroyed the old industrial waterfront, opening the door to its contemporary revival, in which private interests have again dominated.
Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution
Uncovering the Forgotten History of Cuban NYC
October 10th, 2018
On the day marking the 150th anniversary of Cuba’s first war for independence, Ana Dopico, editor of a two-volume anthology of letters by the "Apostle of Independence," José Marti Pérez, sits down with the authors of two new books exploring the largely unexamined and forgotten history of Cuban NYC — the largest early Latino community in North America, where much of the anti-colonial movement was based.
Nancy Raquel Mirabal’s Suspect Freedoms — the first book to look at Cuban racial and sexual politics in Gotham during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — explores how the fear that Cuba might become “another Haiti” was critical in the early colonial diaspora, prompting Afro-Cubans to become the authors of their own experiences by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Lisandro Perez’s Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution brings to life the dramatic story of a community that emerged from New York's sugar trade and became one of the principal scenes for the long struggle for independence from Spain. The city was the primary destination for Cuban émigrés in search of education, opportunity, wealth, and freedom.
Who Decides? The History and Future of Monument Creation in NYC
October 9th, 2018
New monuments are coming to NYC. But how will they be selected? The Mayor’s office has left this question unanswered, despite the controversies which led to establishment of a Monuments Commission last fall, and two, seemingly distinct announcements by the government, pledging $10 million for statues or public art honoring neglected groups, and the same amount for monuments recognizing women.
This panel will explore that history, often neglected in the current debate, now that another wave of monument creation is promised, as well as consider the question of whether the institutional process should change.
Michele Bogart, leading expert on the history of monument construction in NYC, author of the new Sculpture in Gotham
Jack Tchen, co-founder of the Museum of Chinese in America, member of the NYC Mayor's Commission on Monuments
Mary Anne Trasciatti, President, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition
Moderator: Todd Fine, President, Washington Street Historical Society, advocate of the monument for "Little Syria"
The second in a three-part series presented with The American Social History Project and The Public History Collective at The Graduate Center, CUNY, with funding provided by Humanities New York.
The Subway… Ugh
How Did it Get So Bad? Will it Ever Get Better?
September 17th, 2018
Skyrocketing delays. Near-record overcrowding. Mechanical failures. Breakdowns. Track fires. Rats. There’s no end to NYC subway problems. Whereas the system once commanded the envy of the world, now it looks archaic, frozen, hopeless. Citing decades of “underinvestment,” the MTA’s new chairman recommended a “complete overhaul” last year, and the state now appears poised to deal with the issue. But some question whether the ambitious new plan by the governor’s NYC transit czar, Andy Byford, can even work. How did we get here? And must it only get worse?
Joseph B. Raskin, author of The Routes Not Taken, talks about the difficulty of establishing the first lines, and why many failed. Philip Plotch, who led MTA planning for the 7 Extension to Hudson Yards and the Second Avenue Subway, talks about the challenges in recent history. Jaqi Cohen, campaign coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign, evaluates today’s problems and the new Byford plan from the view of advocates. Independent transportation researcher Alon Levy challenges the standard explanations for NYC’s problems, reframing them in comparative national and international perspective. Hayley Richardson of TransitCenter moderates.
Does Protest Still Matter?
Lessons from NYC; Activist Capital, USA
September 6th, 2018
Is resistance futile? Since the last economic downturn, there has been a tremendous surge of new grassroots activism — mostly on the left, in keeping with the dominant historical pattern. Yet in recent years, numerous commentators have observed that protest now seems less effective than in decades past, a feeling shared by some veteran organizers and scholars, too.
So what makes for not just hope, but change? We ask historian Steve Jaffe, author of Activist New York, and geographer Don Mitchell, editor of Revolting New York — the first books to survey the city’s long history as the major site of democratic reform in the U.S. — as well as leaders from some of the most visible and effective activist groups in NYC today:
Hawk Newsome, President, Black Lives Matter, Greater New York
Jari Geigl, Senior Organizer, Picture the Homeless
Asenhat Gomez, Senior Director of Programs, El Puente
Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Moderator: Kayla Rivera, Organizer, Working Families Party
Monuments as History / Art / Power
June 13, 2018
Historians, art historians, community activists, and artists discuss the ongoing reevaluation of public monuments in New York City and across the country. This interactive presentation will focus on the J. Marion Sims monument to explore how we can understand Sim's medical research and experimentation on enslaved women, the East Harlem community response to his memorialization, and future possibilities for remembering this difficult history.
Harriet Senie, Professor of Art History, Graduate Center, CUNY
Deirdre Cooper Owens, Assistant Professor of History, Queens College, CUNY
Marina Ortiz, Founder and President, East Harlem Preservation
Francheska Alcantara, Community-based artist
Moderator: Arinn Amer, Ph.D. Program in History, Graduate Center, CUNY
The first in a three-part series co-presented with the American Social History Project and the Public History Collective at The Graduate Center, with funding provided by Humanities New York
Gotham's Black Radical Past (and Future?)
May 9, 2018
New York has often been a headquarters for social, political and economic reform. And the city's internationalism often gave movements here a more radical tinge. How did that global perspective shape far-left and progressive black activism in 20th c. America? And what should we learn from this radical past?
Margaret Stevens talks about her new book, Red International and Black Caribbean, which re-situates black New York during the interwar period within the radical global anti-colonial struggle. Christopher Tinson speaks about his new work, Radical Intellect, the first history of the NYC-based Liberator magazine, exploring the influential radical black journal of the 1960s. Nikhil Singh, author of Black is a Country and the new Race and America's Long War, talks about the radical black tradition in our current moment. Premilla Nadasen (author, Household Workers Unite, and consultant on the National Domestic Workers Alliance “We Dream in Black Project”) joins and moderates.
NYC: On Canvas, Page and Stage
April 30, 2018
Morris Dickstein, distinguished professor of literature at The Graduate Center, moderates a panel on why New York City became a national and global citadel for the arts in the twentieth century, and how painters, filmmakers, writers and others shaped the world's view of Gotham.
The authors of four new works explain:
Julia L. Foulkes, A Place for Us: West Side Story and New York
Fran Leadon, Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles
Christoph Lindner, Imagining New York City: Literature, Urbanism, and the Visual Arts, 1890-1940 and
Robert A. Slayton, Beauty in the City: The Ashcan School
The Unmaking (and Remaking) of Protestant New York
Elite and Evangelical Churches in the Early Republic & Antebellum City
April 12, 2018
Evangelicalism is not often associated with cities, much less New York. But it was a powerful force shaping Gotham in the early 1800s, as New York went from relative colonial backwater to emerging global behemoth. The dominant congregations of the British era also powerfully encountered in New York City, a leading site of modernization, the forces challenging and transforming Protestantism in the wider U.S. after independence and before the Civil War — not just disestablishment and revivalism, but the growing market economy, slavery and immigration.
Join us for a conversation with Kyle Roberts, author of Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860, and Kyle T. Bulthuis, author of Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York’s Early Republic Congregations, about how these churches responded to these immense social, economic and political changes, and how they in turn reconfigured life in Gotham.
Trump's New York
How the Family Got Rich in (and Swindled) the City
February 7, 2018
Unpopular as he may be with New Yorkers, Donald Trump is a son of the city, and rose to great wealth and power in this liberal capitalist mecca. How did the family make it here, and what does it tell us about New York City history?
David Nasaw, the acclaimed biographer and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Professor of History at The Graduate Center, leads the discussion with Gwenda Blair, bestselling author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President, and Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, author of The Making of Donald Trump and the new It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.
How New York's Women Got the Vote And the Difference it Made
November 10, 2017
One hundred years ago, nearly to the day, New York granted women the right to vote. Two years later, after decades of struggle, it became national law. Why did earlier campaigns fail? What role did NYC play in realizing this old dream? And what happened after?
Lauren Santangelo, author of a forthcoming book on the movement in Gotham, discusses how activists built a successful coalition between 1870 and 1917. Susan Goodier, author with Karen Pastorella of the new book, Women Will Vote, highlights the involvement of neglected groups, such as black women, in gaining the vote, and the importance of New York to securing national legislation. Brooke Kroeger talks about the men who helped make suffrage possible, drawing on her new work The Suffragents. The conversation concludes with a preview of the award-winning filmmaker Dawn Scibilia’s documentary in progress, on the decades between feminism's first and second “wave,” in which New York again played a special role.
New Deal, Trump Deal
How Federal Spending on Public Works Transformed NYC During the Great Depression,
And How it Might Again
October 26, 2017
Even as the Great Depression devastated New York, the city saw a renaissance in public works, as the federal government stepped up to finance a breathtaking list of projects: bridges, tunnels, airports, sewers, roads, hospitals, parks, schools, artwork, government buildings, and more. The legacy of this era stands, quite literally, all around us.
Gray Brechin, founder of the Living New Deal Project, showcases a new map locating these often-invisible sites around NYC, and discusses their enduring impact on public health in the metropolis. Albert Appleton, former Commissioner of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, now an internationally recognized consultant on infrastructure and the economics of sustainable development, joins for conversation afterward, contrasting the New Deal approach to infrastructure and job-creation legislation today.
Mike Wallace, on his Long-Awaited Sequel
October 6, 2017
Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for the New York Times, and Gotham Center founder Mike Wallace, co-author of the Pulitzer-winning Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, discuss his long-awaited sequel, Greater Gotham, which carries the story forward through 1919. Watch here.
Eleanor Roosevelt: New Yorker
September 21, 2017
Bill Goldstein of NBC's "Weekend Today in New York" joins Blanche Wiesen Cook to discuss the final volume of the biographer’s trilogy on Eleanor Roosevelt, focusing on the influence of NYC on her political activism, and its legacy.
"Why Can't NYC Do Big Projects Anymore?"
The Myths and Challenges of Large-Scale Development in Today's NYC, and Planning for Tomorrow
September 11, 2017
While many complain NYC's days of major public works are long gone, the government has in fact undertaken a number of huge development projects in recent decades, several described as the largest in our history — new rail lines and bridges, a sixty-mile-long water tunnel, redevelopment of industrial parks, transit yards, waterfront, Times Square, the World Trade Center, and more. So how does the current age stack up historically? How does it compare? And what lessons might we draw, now that it is time to plan for the next generation?
Lynne B. Sagalyn, professor emeritus of real estate at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, discusses her recent book, Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan, and the challenges of large-scale development in present-day New York. Jay Kriegel, chief of staff to Mayor John V. Lindsay from 1966 to 1973, and senior adviser to Related Companies, reflects on his experiences "building big." Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, shares his view on what must be done to update NYC's infrastructure like subway and rail, based on insights gleaned from the RPA's Fourth Regional Plan, set to be released this fall.
NYC’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics
May 8, 2017
Kim Phillips-Fein speaks about her new book, which challenges the orthodox view of the 1975-76 fiscal crisis as the result of wasteful, profligate spending under Mayor Lindsay, and the moment when labor, business, finance, and the citizenry came together in common sacrifice to keep New York City alive. Drawing on never-before-used archival sources, Fear City describes a fierce battle for the soul of New York — one that not only transformed the metropolis but permanently altered ides about the role of government across the United States. The Graduate Center's distinguished professor Joshua B. Freeman joins for reflection and conversation.
Is New York’s Future Sustainable?
Measuring the Historical Impact of Growth, and Planning for More
April 19, 2017
Eric W. Sanderson, author of the national bestseller Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, discusses the consequences of Gotham's development on the environment, and how we might restore the estuary's ecology. Denise Hoffman Brandt, director of the graduate program for landscape architecture at the Spitzer School (City College), shares her thoughts on the limits of "sustainability," and recommendations for a greener Big Apple. Nilda Mesa, director of urban sustainability and equity planning at Columbia University's Earth Institute, reflects on her experiences as NYC’s first Director of Sustainability, and the political challenges ahead. Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter for WNYC, moderates.
The Politics of Electoral Reform in NYC, Then and Now
April 5, 2017
Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote, talks about NYC’s forgotten experiment with proportional representation (the most common electoral system in modern democracies) in the 1930’s and ‘40s, and how to increase participation by moving beyond a winner-take-all model. Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, discusses the steep decline of voter turnout in recent decades, and the major push underway to overhaul the system this year. Gerald Benjamin, former Director of the Center for New York State and Local Government Studies, shares his view on the major problems with election administration. DeNora Getachew, New York Executive Director of Generation Citizen, reflects on her work in government and public advocacy to modernize voting law. Brigid Bergin, City Hall Reporter for WNYC, moderates.
The History and Future of Criminal Justice Reform in NYC
March 22, 2017
Shannon King, historian at the College of Wooster, discusses his research on policing and criminal justice reform in New York City between the 1920s and 1970s. Alex Vitale, author of City of Disorder and the forthcoming work The End of Policing, details the rise of “broken windows” theory and practice in the decades afterward. Martin F. Horn, former Commissioner of the departments of Probation and Correction under Mayor Bloomberg and the current Executive Director of New York's Sentencing Commission, shares his thoughts on the future of the carceral system. Gabriel sayegh, a key figure in the legislation rolling back the “Rockefeller Drug Laws,” speaks about reform under De Blasio and Cuomo, and where it might go in the era of Trump. Maurice Chammah, staff writer at The Marshall Project, leads the discussion.
Skyscrapers: Boon or Blight?
March 16, 2017
Jason M. Barr, author of Building the Skyline, provides a new myth-busting history of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, as well as some thoughts on how the buildings could help Gotham meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Lynn Ellsworth, co-founder of the coalition New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City, discusses the protests over the De Blasio administration's push to rezone midtown, and the new “supers” rising in the city. Alex Marshall, Senior Fellow with the Regional Plan Association, joins and moderates the discussion.
Asylees, Refugees, and Migrants in NYC
December 15, 2016
New York has long been America's premier "city of immigrants." But it has also been a safe haven for untold numbers of refugees, asylees, and at-risk migrants. This panel will explore that history, and discuss the potential threats and challenges of a new federal administration. Mae Ngai (Columbia) provides an overview of modern U.S. immigration law. Camille Mackler, Director of Legal Initiatives, New York Immigration Coalition, and Heather Axford, Central American Legal Assistance, will discuss the legal politics of sanctuary. Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, shares the De Blasio administration's view of the moment. Julia Preston of the New York Times moderates. Watch here.
The History and Future of Food Policy in NYC
December 13, 2016
Bloomberg was the first mayor to create an office of food policy. But concerns over the production and distribution of food in the city have long been of central importance. This panel will explore that history and evaluate present and future needs. Gergley Baics (Barnard College) will speak about his new book, Feeding Gotham, exploring the deregulation of New York's public food markets in the early 1800s. Marion Nestle (NYU) will report on the late Joy Santlofer's new Food City: Four Centuries of Food-Making in New York (for which she provided a foreword) and her own work on the politics of food. Nick Freudenberg, Director of the Urban Food Policy Institute at CUNY's School of Public Health, will discuss food policy issues facing the city. Renowned food writer Mark Bittman, formerly of the New York Times, will moderate. Watch here.
The Ever-Higher Costs of Higher Ed
Student Debt and the Decline of State Funding in NYC
December 5, 2016
After World War II, federal and state funding to public higher education increased dramatically. But since the 1970's governments have been investing less, and student debt has been steadily rising. The panel will explore this history and current efforts to restore the public commitment. Stephen Brier and Michael Fabricant (CUNY), authors of the newly published Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education, provide historical background. David Saltonstall, Assistant Comptroller for Policy, discusses the current impact on New York City students and the view from government. Thomas L. Harnisch, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, will provide a national perspective on the crisis and legislative efforts. Stephanie Saul of the New York Times moderates. Watch here.
Segregation Then, Segregation Now, Segregation Forever?
November 18, 2016
Fifty years ago, black and Puerto Rican parents in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant launched a massive campaign to end segregation in New York City's schools. It failed. So did subsequent initiatives. Now a new effort is underway. This panel will review current proposals in light of this history. Ansley Erickson, author of Making the Unequal Metropolis, and co-chair of a project at Columbia studying education in Harlem over the twentieth century, will provide an historical background. Clara Hemphill, founder of InsideSchools.org and head of research on economic segregation at The New School's Center for NYC Affairs, will assess the current situation. Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director with the Alliance for Quality Education, and co-initiator of the national Journey for Justice project, will speak about being a grassroots education activist in Brooklyn. Patrick Wall, former Senior Reporter at Chalkbeat, currently a Spencer Fellow studying the issue, will moderate.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness in New York City
From LaGuardia to de Blasio
October 26, 2016
Mayor De Blasio plans to build or rehab 200,000 units of affordable housing by 2024. This panel will assess how the initiative is faring, and compare it with previous efforts at combating homelessness and the high cost of housing.
Nicholas Dagen Bloom (New York Institute of Technology), author of Public Housing that Worked and co-editor of Affordable Housing in New York, will suggest what today’s reformers can learn from yesterday’s “housers.” Thomas J. Main (Baruch College), author of Homelessness in New York: Policymaking From Koch to De Blasio, will discuss various mayoral approaches. Barika Williams, Deputy Director, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, will evaluate de Blasio’s progress. Jessica Katz, Assistant Commissioner, NYC Dept. Housing, Preservation, and Development will provide an insider’s perspective. Charles V. Bagli of the New York Times will moderate.
Priced Out: Stuyvesant Town and the Loss of Middle-Class Neighborhoods
May 10, 2016
On an average morning in the tree-lined parks and playgrounds of Stuyvesant Town, birds chirp as early risers dash off to work, elderly residents enjoy a peaceful morning stroll, and flocks of parents usher their children to school. It seems an unlikely location for conflict and strife. Yet this eighteen-block area, initially planned as middle-class affordable housing, is the site of an ongoing struggle between long-term, rent-regulated residents, younger, market-rate tenants, and new owners seeking to turn this community into a luxury commodity. Priced Out takes readers into this heated battle as a transitioning neighborhood wrestles with contemporary capitalist strategies and the struggle to preserve renters’ rights, offering an intimate view into the lives of tenants involved in the struggle through tenant interviews. Rachael A. Woldoff, award-winning author of White Flight/Black Flight (2013), will discuss the new work, co-authored with the sociologists Lisa M. Morrison and Michael R. Glass.
Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Where Are You?
A Panel Discussing New York's Forgotten, Postwar, Three-Term Mayor
April 21, 2016
While recent years have seen a revival of interest in John V. Linsday and his administration's response to various crises in the 1960s and '70s, to date no one has written a biography or extensive study of his predecessor, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., who served during one of the most pivotal and transformative eras in the city's history. How did Wagner shape, or fail to alter, the developments that would challenge, and help, Lindsay and other later mayors?
Mason Williams hosts this panel discussion, exploring the legacy of New York City's arguably most neglected recent mayor. Richard Flanagan discusses his new monograph, presenting Wagner as the city's "true New Deal mayor" and the "tamer of Tammany." He will be joined by three historians addressing different facets of his legacy: Michael Woodsworth, author of a forthcoming book on antipoverty efforts in Bed-Stuy; Jeffrey Kroessler, who has published several works on transportation planning, suburbanization, and housing preservation in the Wagner years; and Clarence Taylor, a leading historian of the postwar civil rights movement in New York
Recovering NYC's Black Past from a Distance
A Conversation with Shane White and David Waldstreicher
April 12, 2016
What are the difficulties, and advantages, of writing the history of a people from halfway around the world? The Graduate Center's David Waldstreicher probes this question with Shane White, the eminent Australian historian, whose contributions over the past generation have greatly enriched our understanding of African-American and New York City history. Please join us for a discussion exploring the arc of this distinguished scholar's career, the details of his latest work, Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire, and their reflections on the cultural approach to black history.
The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890's
April 6, 2016
While bicycles seem to be everywhere these days, their heyday was a century ago, and New York was arguably the cycling city. Thousands upon thousands cruised the city’s newly paved streets, its parks, and its world-famous bicycle paths, day and night. It was home to more bicycles, more cycling amenities, and was more infused with a bicycle culture than anywhere else in the world. It was a particular place at a particular time in which bicycles, like never before or after, shaped American cities. Evan Friss discusses this new book of the same title from the University of Chicago Press.
New York's Local Shops: Keeping Small Business Alive in a Global City
March 24, 2016
In recent years, New York's small retail — the local shops, cafés and restaurants that make neighborhood shopping streets both familiar and distinctive — has struggled to survive, increasingly competing with chain stores and online shopping. Owners often cannot pay rising rents and taxes, and are forced to move or shut down when their building is sold, demolished or transformed into expensive new condos. While immigrants have brought old shopping streets to life by opening new kinds of small businesses, they too face "commercial gentrification" and displacement. How can the city support revitalization without killing local shops? Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer joins Graduate Center sociologists Sharon Zukin and Philip Kasinitz, and their research partners Xiangming Chen and Takashi Machimura, to explore this question in a local and global context — in conjunction with the publication of the scholars'new book, Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai.
Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City
March 8th, 2016
Over the course of 130 years, Italian American Catholics in New York City have developed a repertoire of sacred spaces in their homes and neighborhoods. These ethnic traditions have been neglected by all but a few scholars. Joseph Sciorra spent thirty-five years interviewing these immigrant and native-born Catholics and researching their art forms. The result, Built with Faith, offers a place-centric, ethnographic study of religious material culture, written in an accessible style that will appeal to general readers and scholars alike. It is a unique study that explores the question of how value and meaning are produced at the level of everyday community life.
Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City
December 10, 2015
Once nicknamed "Frankfurt on the Hudson" for its large population of German Jews, Washington Heights became known in the postwar era as “Quisqueya Heights,” home to the nation’s largest Dominican community. Its story reflects the city's long passage from the Great Depression and World War II to the "urban crisis" and "revitalization" of the twenty-first century. In this new book, Robert W. Snyder pays tribute to a great American neighborhood, and shows how residents learned to "cross Broadway" — a boundary that separated black and white, Jew and Irish, Dominican and native-born for decades — to make common cause in the pursuit of making a better life in New York.
Crime and Activism in Postwar Gotham
December 1, 2015
John Jay College
We present three new perspectives on major flash points in the history of crime in New York City from the 1960s to the 1990s. Marcia Gallo revisits the Kitty Genovese case. Robert Snyder tackles the Washington Heights crack wars. And Fritz Umbachexplores myths about crime and public housing. In this event, The Gotham Center goes on the road and leaves its usual home at The Graduate Center.
What We Bring:
Talks and Performances Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Hart-Cellar Immigration Reform Act
November 24, 2015
Hart-Cellar, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, fundamentally changed the demographics of our nation. Still the foundation of immigration law today, the legislation brought in tens of millions of people from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, phasing out the 1920s quota system, which had sealed the borders to everyone but northern Europeans. This program looks at the contributions of the "new" immigrants, and how they might illuminate the current discussion of immigration reform. The panel will include short talks by Madhulika Khandelwal (Queens College), Nancy Foner (The Graduate Center), and Jack Tchen (NYU), with performances by Colombian vocalist and cuatro player Johanna Castañeda and harpist Vidal Garzón; Gambian kora player and jail (praise singer) Alhaji Papa Susso; and members of the Central Asian group Ensemble Shashmaqam.
Changing Face of Harlem: A Film Screening
November 10, 2015
Twenty years ago, the press described Harlem as a crime-ridden ghetto, full of hoodlums and drugs; tourist maps ended at 96th street. Locals weathered the storm, despite a lack of services, common building abandonment, and bank rules preventing most from purchasing their own homes into the 1980's. In recent years, however, developers have begun marketing Harlem as the ideal investment, and with this new influx of money has come a younger, more professional class of residents. Award-winning filmmaker Shawn Batey examines these changes in a one-hour documentary, shot over a period of ten years, and told through the deeply personal stories of long-time residents, small business-owners, politicians, real estate developers, and clergy.
New York City and Water: An Historical Perspective
October 26, 2015
Please join us for a special panel discussion, with Russell Shorto (author, The Island at the Center of the World) on the Dutch as pioneers of water management; Gerard Koeppel(author, Water for Gotham: A History) on water in New Amsterdam; noted historical painter Len Tantillo, on the importance of New Netherlands’ river systems; and Henk Ovink, the Netherlands' Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, on water management issues, present and future.
A Dangerous Woman:
The Life, Loves, And Scandals Of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America's Original Superstar
October 13, 2015
Marilyn Monroe might never have become the legend she did without America's original tragic starlet: actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken. In a century remembered for Victorian restraint, her modern flair for action, scandal, and unpopular causes revolutionized show business. Born in New Orleans to a “kept woman of color," Menken eventually moved to the Midwest, where she became an outspoken protégé of the rabbi who founded Reform Judaism. In New York, she became Walt Whitman’s disciple. During the Civil War she was arrested as a Confederate agent — and became America’s first pin-up superstar. On stage, she was the first actress to bare all. Off stage, she originated the front-page scandal and became the world's most highly paid actress — celebrated on Broadway, as well as in San Francisco, London, and Paris. At thirty-three, she died mysteriously. Barbara Foster will speak about this new book, co-authored with her husband Michael, the first to tell Menken’s fascinating story.
Mourning Lincoln in New York City
October 1, 2015
New Yorkers both grieved and rejoiced when word of Lincoln’s assassination reached the city, pondering black freedom, the fate of former Confederates, and the very future of the nation. Public responses to Lincoln’s assassination have been well chronicled, but Martha Hodes is the first to delve into personal responses across the country, both despairing and gleeful, investigating this transformative event on a human scale. The prize-winning historian will be speaking about local reactions, based on her new book on the subject.
Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age
September 16, 2015
Edward T. O'Donnell speaks about his new book, set largely in New York City during the 1880's, which examines how the influential reformer joined forces with the nation's surging labor movement to combat the widening inequality of the late industrial period and the threat it posed to American democracy — a topic of growing interest today, in what some are calling "the new Gilded Age." Watch the C-Span footage here.
Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn
May 7, 2015
Since he first stepped onto the field in 1947, breaking the color line, Jackie Robinson has been a mythical figure. Enduring the rough transition of being the first black man to play in the Major Leagues and tear down the wall of segregation, Robinson did more than just entertain crowds with his athletic prowess. He changed the nation. Peter Laskowich discusses the icon's life and his impact on the United States, Brooklyn, and baseball.
The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway
April 29, 2015
In the 19th century, cities like Boston and New York grew congested with plodding, horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 crippled the entire northeast, a solution had to be found. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families — Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York — pursued the dream of digging America's first subway, and the race was on. Doug Most chronicles the story, as exciting as any ripped from the pages of history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful, and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions. Watch here.
The "Dress Rehearsal for McCarthyism": The Struggle for Free Speech at City College of New York, 1931-42
April 16, 2015
Carol Smith brings to life a unique chapter in the history of CCNY with photographs, cartoons, and graphics documenting the rising tide of student and faculty activism spawned by the Great Depression and European fascism. This resulted in various suspensions and expulsions and a state legislative investigation, which ultimately led to the dismissal of fifty CCNY faculty and staff: the largest academic purge in U.S. history. This presentation is based on a traveling exhibit, which can be viewed online here.
A History of New York in 101 Objects
April 8, 2015
Sam Roberts tells the history of America’s great metropolis through 101 objects, combining the iconic, the unusual, and the scrumptious — mastodon tusks, oysters, wooden water barrels, elevator brakes, Checker cabs, black-and-white cookies — in a fascinating look at the items that he believes epitomize the Big Apple. Inspired by A History of the World in 101 Objects, Roberts's new book collects the fifty articles he wrote for the New York Times, plus the added suggestions of readers. Unique and whimsical, it is a beautiful chronicle that will rekindle memories and enrich your mind.
The Progressive Era Reconsidered
March 24, 2015
Mike Wallace sits down with David Hyussen, author of Progressive Inequality: Rich and Poor in New York, 1890-1920, and Joseph Varga, author of Hell's Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City, 1894-1914, to discuss some of our misconceptions about the famous reform era, new directions in historiography and research, and implications for today's inequality crisis. Watch here.
New York's Legal Landmarks
March 3, 2015
Join us for a tour of NYC through the eyes of a history-loving lawyer. Robert Pigott's new book takes us inside Gotham's great courthouses, the sites of famous trials in film and real life, the locations of some of the most important moments in constitutional history, the law firms where some of the best Americans practitioners worked, and the homes, schools, and final resting places of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether you want to stroll down the Lower East Side's Attorny Street or re-open the cold case of Judge Crater's disappearance, Pigott is the guide for you.
Black Entertainers and NYC History
February 24, 2015
Judith E. Smith, author of Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical, Gayle Wald, author of a forthcoming book on the TV show "Soul!,” Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics during World War II, and Ruth Feldstein, author of How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement discuss the history of black entertainment in New York City.
Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights and the NYC Teachers Union
December 9, 2014
The New York City Teachers Union bears a deep history with the American Left, having participated in some of its most explosive battles. Historian Clarence Taylor recounts the pivotal relationship and the backlash it created, as the union threw its support behind social protest movements. Taylor’s research reaffirms the union’s close ties with the U.S. Communist Party, yet also makes clear that the organization was anything but a puppet. Reds at the Blackboard showcases the rise of a unique type of unionism that would later dominate the organizational efforts behind civil rights, academic freedom, and the empowerment of blacks and Latinos.
"A Vast and Fiendish Plot" : The Confederate Attack on New York City
November 19, 2014
One hundred and fifty years ago, Manhattan was almost wiped from the map in what could have been the worst terrorist attack in world history when eight Confederate officers failed miserably to burn down the city on November 25, 1864. Had they scouted better targets, or made better use of the chemical weapons they carried, firefighters would have been overwhelmed and hundreds of thousands would have burned to death. Come hear Clint Johnson tell the true story of how New York ignored clear warnings from the federal government about the impending attack, and how local, state, and national politicians may have aided the Confederates in the attack.
Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend
November 6, 2014
Anna May Wong remains the ultimate Asian-American film star, having appeared in over fifty films with such legends as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Ramon Navarro, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, Marlene Dietrich, Sessue Hayakawa, Werner Oland, and many others. Despite being forced to play degrading roles, Wong's global fame crystallized the image of the Asian woman in the first half of the twentieth century. Join Graham Russell Gao Hodges for a brief introduction to her life, focusing on her stage and vaudeville career, and her innumerable friendships among New York’s intellectual and artistic communities.
Radio Unnameable: Bob Fass and the Rise of Free Expression on the Airwaves: A Film Screening
October 29, 2014
Legendary personality Bob Fass revolutionized late-night FM radio by serving as a cultural hub for music, politics, and audience participation for nearly 50 years. Long before today’s innovations in social media, Fass utilized the airwaves for mobilization, encouraging luminaries and ordinary listeners to talk openly and take the program in surprising directions. “Radio Unnameable” is a visual and aural collage that pulls from Bob Fass’s immense program archive, film, photographs, and video that has been sitting dormant until now.
New York's Colored Orphan Asylum: A History
October 7, 2014
William Seraile discusses the history of the Colored Orphan Asylum, founded in 1836 as the nation's first orphanage for African-American children. The agency weathered three wars, two major financial panics, a devastating fire during the 1863 Draft Riots, several epidemics, waves of racial prejudice, and severe financial difficulties to care for 15,000 orphaned, neglected, and delinquent children. Weaving together African-American history with a unique history of New York, this painstaking work spotlights an unsung institution and casts light onto its complex racial dynamics.
Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York
September 17, 2014
Cindy Lobel chronicles the emergence of Gotham’s food shops, restaurants, and food industries in the nineteenth century, taking readers on a lively tour of oyster cellars and fine dining establishments, public markets and corner groceries, brownstone dining rooms and tenement kitchens, Broadway houseware stores and Lower East side pushcarts. By the 1900’s, New Yorkers had access to the most diverse and abundant food supply in the nation. But as the city and its food became increasingly cosmopolitan, corruption, contamination, and inequity escalated. Urban Appetites shows how New York's growth changed the way its people ate, and how the way New Yorkers ate changed the way the city grew.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things
May 6, 2014
Alice Hoffman, bestselling author of The Dovekeepers, speaks about and reads from her mesmerizing new novel, a story about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.
Bohemians: A Graphic History
April 28, 2014
Historian Paul Buhle and contributors speak about Bohemians, a graphic history of the transcontinental movement and its illustrious figures, recovering the utopian ideas behind millennial communities, the rise of Greenwich Village and Harlem, the multiracial and radical jazz and dance worlds, and West Coast, Southern, and Midwest bohemias, among other scenes. Drawn by an all-star cast of comics artists, Bohemians is a broad and entertaining account of the rebel impulse in American cultural history.
Habitats: Private Lives in the Big City
April 3, 2014
Journalist Constance Rosenblum talks about her new book, which expands selections from the “Habitats” column in The New York Times, and takes readers to both familiar and remote sections of the city — history-rich townhouses, low-income housing projects, out-of-the-way places, and every corner of the five boroughs — to introduce them to a wide variety of families and individuals who call New York home.
A History of Comedy in New York City
March 17, 2014
Join members of the Museum of American Humor for an evening of readings from some of Gotham’s greatest humorists: James Thurber, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Calvin Trillin, Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen and more. And stay for a spirited discussion afterwards. Admission is free and the laughs are on us.
One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century
March 5, 2014
Graduate Center sociologist Nancy Foner leads a discussion based on a new anthology, which she edited, of portraits of immigrant life in New York City this century. Featuring contributors Joseph Salvo, director of the population division, NYC Department of City Planning; Philip Kasinitz of the Graduate Center and Hunter College; Bernadette Ludwig, doctoral candidate in sociology at the Graduate Center; Ramona Hernandezof City College and the Graduate Center, director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute; and Pyong Gap Min of Queens College and the Graduate Center, director of the Research Center for Korean Community.
Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto
February 11, 2014
Writer-photographerand MacArthur fellow Camilo José Vergara’s deeply personal new book, an unprecedented record of urban change. Vergara will talk about the neighborhood he chronicled for forty-three years, documenting segregation, poverty, and crime, and — eventually — recovery, gentrification, and integration. Eric K. Washington, author of Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem; Phil Bicker, senior photo editor at Time; and Sharon Zukin, professor of sociology at The Graduate Center, join in the discussion. Watch here.
Endtimes? Crises and Turmoil at the New York Times, 1999-2009
December 10, 2013
From Jayson Blair and Judith Miller to 24-hour cable and the blogosphere, the first decade of the twenty-first century was not particularly kind to the New York Times. In this groundbreaking study, Daniel R. Schwarz describes how America's most important newspaper confronted not only various scandals and embarrassments, but also the rapid rise of the Internet, the ensuing decline in print advertising and circulation, and the dramatic changes facing the contemporary news industry.
The Changing Status of Women in New York City, 1913-1950: The Case of Theresa Bernstein
December 3, 2013
The most active years of Theresa Bernstein's career in New York City, 1913-1950, witnessed enormous changes in opportunities for women, as conditions and attitudes evolved in the workplace and broader culture. Please join Gail Levin, Jeffrey Taylor, Grace Schulman, and Elsie Heung for a celebration of Bernstein's work in context, through an examination of these important transformations in the suffrage movement, worlds of art and jazz, and other areas.
The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City
November 12, 2013
Looking at the historic Italian-American community of East Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, Simone Cinotto recreates the bustling world of Italian life in New York City and demonstrates how food was at the center of the lives of immigrants and their children. From generational conflicts resolved around the family table to a vibrant food-based economy of ethnic producers, importers, and restaurateurs, food was essential to the creation of an Italian-American identity. Italian-American foods offered not only sustenance but also powerful narratives of community and difference, tradition and innovation as immigrants made their way through a city divided by class conflict, ethnic hostility, and racialized inequalities.
The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
November 4, 2013
William Helmreich's The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City is a fascinating account of a 6,000-mile walk through New York City. Based on interviews with hundreds of people, including former Mayors Koch, Giuliani, Dinkins, and Bloomberg, Helmreich’s book gathers previously unknown facts and stories about New York's many neighborhoods, the immigrants, the gentrifiers, the gangs, the community "characters," the homeless, and much, much more. Watch here.
SOSÚA: Make A Better World: A Film Screening
October 23, 2013
SOSÚA: Make A Better World tells the story of Dominican and Jewish teenagers in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, who together with the legendary theater director Liz Swados, put on a musical about the Dominican Republic's rescue of 800 Jews from Hitler. Award-winning filmmakers Peter Miller and Renée Silvermaninterweave this little-known and racially complex Holocaust story with an intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of the making of the theater production. In a neighborhood where Jews and Latinos live side by side but rarely interact, the theater project brings its young actors on an extraordinary journey of discovery of what unites them — both in the past and in the present.
Priests of our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge
October 10, 2013
Marjorie Heins, civil liberties lawyer, writer, teacher, and the founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project discusses her new book, Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge. Heins traces the story of professors and teachers in New York City and Buffalo who resisted the Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s and later were able to convince the Supreme Court to overturn the Feinburg Law, thus shaping what we think of academic freedom today. Heins features interviews with the CUNY and SUNY professors who were part of the movement, including the five SUNY Buffalo professors who were responsible for the Supreme Court reversal. Watch here.
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance
September 30, 2013
Carla Kaplan offers a new perspective of the 1920's in this lively, groundbreaking group-biography that uncovers for the first time the untold story of the white women of the black Harlem Renaissance. While every other imaginable form of female identity in the Jazz Age has been studied — the flapper, the Gibson Girl, the bachelor girl, the Bohemian, the Twenties “mannish” lesbian, the suffragist — the story of the white women of black Harlem, the women collectively referred to as “Miss Anne,” has never been told until now. Miss Anne in Harlem brings to life an extraordinary group of women.
City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York
September 25, 2013
Mason Williams examines the relationship between two of the most remarkable political leaders of the twentieth century as they rose in counterpoint through the ranks of New York politics before taking power at the depths of the Great Depression. It is a study of how government came to play an extraordinarily broad role in a quintessentially market-oriented city; of how a robust public sphere, embodied physically in La Guardia Airport, the Triborough Bridge, Robert Moses’s parks and playground projects, and thousands of smaller structures, was forged; and of how a new vision of urban governance reshaped the city's political culture. Watch the video here.
Jews: A People's History of the Lower East Side (three volumes)
September 17, 2013
Join our panel of writers and editors, Clayton Patterson, Suzanne Wasserman, Jim Feast and Joyce Mendelsohn, for Jews: A People's History of the Lower East Side in three volumes, a discussion of the book and its contributions to the field. An essential history of the great Jewish wave of immigration to NYC’s Lower East Side, Jews covers art, literature, food, religion, and so much more.
New York City Cartmen, 1667–1850
May 9, 2013
The cartmen — unskilled workers who hauled goods on one horse carts — were perhaps the most important labor group in early American cities. Revised and re-issued in 2012, New York City Cartmen, 1667–1850 (NYU Press) uncovers the forgotten world of one-horse cart drivers who monopolized the movement of private and commercial goods in New York from 1667-1850. The cart men dominated the city streets while proving politically adept at preserving and institutionalizing their economic and racial control over this entry-level occupation. The cart men possessed a hard-nosed political awareness, and because they transported essential goods, they achieved a status in New York far above their skills or financial worth. The cart men's culture and their relationship with New York's municipal government are the direct ancestors of the city's fabled taxicab drivers. This is a stirring street-level account of the growth of New York, growth made possible by the efforts of the cart men and other unskilled laborers. Watch the C-Span video here.
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race around the World
April 17, 2013
It’s 1889, and the world is newly dominated by steamships, railroads and the telegraph. Two women take on the race of their life, spanning twenty-eight thousand miles through Europe, the Middle East, Far East and the North American frontier — for months, captivating the attention of the United States and much of the world beyond. Matthew Goodman’s Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World recreates the true story of two intrepid women determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. Through meticulous attention to detail and years of research, Goodman brings these two trailblazers to vivid life as they face wild ocean crossings and freezing mountain train journeys.
L is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir
April 3, 2013
L is for Lion is an achingly true story of a Bronx tomboy whose 1960s girlhood was marked by her WWII veteran father's lullabies laced with dissociative visions of trench warfare. At eighteen, on the edge of freedom, Annie Rachel Lanzillotto’s studies at Brown University were halted by the growth of a massive tumor inside her chest. She walked out of Sloan-Kettering just as A.I.D.S. was named, and made a wild, truth-seeking ride out of survival, going into the fray of gay clubs and cross-dressing on the streets of Egypt. This poignant and authentic story could only happen in New York, with this quintessential New Yorker as narrator and guide into the world of Italian-American characters, immigration, gay sub-culture, cancer, mental illness, gender dynamics, drug addiction, domestic violence, the childhood wonder of Spaldeens — all climaxing in a reluctant return home to the timeless wisdom of her peasant grandmother.
Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built
March 20, 2013
When Joel Russ started peddling herring from a barrel shortly after his arrival in America from Poland, he could not have imagined that he was witnessing the birth of a gastronomic legend. Here is the story of this "Louvre of lox" from its humble beginnings through the Great Depression, the food rationing of World War II, the passing of the torch to the next generation just as the flight from the Lower East Side to the suburbs was beginning, the heartbreaking years of neighborhood blight, and the almost miraculous renaissance of an area from which hundreds of other family-owned stores had fled. Filled with delightful anecdotes about how a ferociously hardworking family turned a passion for selling perfectly smoked and pickled fish into an institution with a devoted international clientele, Mark Russ Federman's reminiscences combine a heartwarming and triumphant immigrant saga with a panoramic history of twentieth-century New York, a meditation on the creation and selling of gourmet food by a family that has mastered this art, and an enchanting behind-the-scenes look at four generations of people who are just a little but crazy on the subject of fish.
More Powerful than Dynamite: Radicals, Plutocrats, Progressives and New York’s Year of Anarchy
March 6, 2013
In 1914, America was on the verge of revolution: industrial depression in the east, striking coal miners in Colorado, and increasingly tense relations with Mexico. On July 4, a detonation destroyed a seven-story Harlem tenement. It was the largest explosion the city had ever known. Among the dead were three bomb makers, incited by anarchist Alexander Berkman. They had been preparing to dynamite the estate of John D. Rockefeller Jr., son of a plutocratic dynasty and widely vilified for a massacre of his company’s striking workers earlier that spring. More Powerful than Dynamite charts how anarchist anger, progressive idealism, and plutocratic paternalism converged in that July explosion. Its cast ranges from celebrated figures such as Emma Goldman, Upton Sinclair, and Andrew Carnegie to the fascinating and heretofore little known: Frank Tannenbaum, a homeless teenager who dared to lead his followers into the city’s churches; police inspector Max Schmittberger, too honest for his department and too crooked for everyone else; and Becky Edelsohn, a young anarchist known for her red tights and for spitting in millionaires’ faces. Historian and journalist Thai Jonescreates a fascinating portrait of a city on the edge of chaos coming to terms with modernity.
Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America
February 28, 2013
A rich and entertaining history of the iconic Terminal just in time to celebrate the station's 100th anniversary. In the winter of 1913, Grand Central opened and immediately became one of the most recognizable landmarks in Manhattan. In this celebration, Sam Roberts of The New York Times looks back at the Station's history and the far-reaching cultural effects of a place that continues to amaze tourists and shuttle busy commuters. Learn how the transit hub foreshadowed the evolution of suburbanization and fostered the nation's westward expansion via the railroad. With stories about everything from the famous movies that have used Grand Central as a location to the celestial ceiling in the main lobby to the homeless denizens who reside in the buildings catacombs, this is a fascinating and exciting look at a true American institution.
Aspects of the African-American Experience in NYC
February 6, 2013
This panel will address several different aspects of the African-American experience in NYC as examined by recent Ph.D.’s from The Graduate Center, CUNY. Kristopher Burrell examines the role of ideology in the civil rights movement and the challenges to American liberalism during the mid-1960s. Kevin McGruder speaks about the making of Harlem's Strivers' Row. Carla Dubose discusses the foundations of the Black South Bronx. And Thomas Harbison will speak about the changing priorities for the reform of Harlem's public schools between 1914 and 1954.
Joe Papp in Five Acts: A Film Screening
December 11, 2012
This new film by directors Tracie Holder and Karen Thorsen is the story of NYC's indomitable, streetwise champion of the arts, Joe Papp, founder of the Public Theater and the free Shakespeare in the Park — who introduced interracial casting to the American stage and nurtured an entire generation of artists, along with their works, from Hair to A Chorus Line. Papp spent a lifetime expanding public access to the arts. His mission was to widen the portals of the theater, convinced that women and minorities, denied power elsewhere in society, could develop it on the stage. Papp's great accomplishments and his own tumultuous personal history is told by the artists he helped create — and sometimes tried to destroy — Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Kevin Kline, James Earl Jones, Olympia Dukakis and Larry Kramer, among others.
Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist with a Brain, a Heart, and the Nerve
November 27, 2012
Harriet Hyman Alonso, author of Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist, takes us into the political world of the writer of such beloved lyrics as "Over the Rainbow," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "April in Paris," and hundreds of other songs. Using over fifty interviews spanning the years 1934 to 1980 — most of them previously unpublished — as well as over forty lyrics and a number of poems, Alonso weaves the story of Yip's life and commitment to human rights from his birth in 1896 to this death in 1981. In this presentation, the author introduces some of Yip's memories, lyrics, and poetry to illustrate his commitment to the causes of world peace, racial justice, and people's right to basic human needs. This talk, like the book, is a wonderful collaboration between an extraordinary lyric writer and the historian who never met him.
City of Promises: The History of Jews in New York
October 16, 2012
Deborah Dash Moore (University of Michigan), will be joined by Howard B. Rock(Florida International University) Annie Polland (Lower East Side Tenement Museum), Daniel Soyer (Fordham University), and Jeffrey Gurock (Yeshiva University) to discuss this new three-volume set of original research. New York Jews, so visible and integral to the culture, economy and politics of America's greatest city, have eluded the grasp of historians for decades. Surprisingly, no comprehensive history has ever been written. City of Promises pioneers a path-breaking interpretation of a Jewish urban community at once the largest in Jewish history and most important in the modern world.
Edith Wharton: Old and New New York
September 12, 2012
In celebration of her 150th birthday, Hildegard Hoeller of The Graduate Center and College of Staten Island will discuss Edith Wharton's changing views of old and new New York, looking at her earliest short stories to her 1934 autobiography. This illustrated talk explores the function of place in Wharton's writing and highlights how the author revised her view of the old city in light of an emerging new one and her life in France. The event will be introduced by writer Vivian Gornick.
Beyond Borders: Social Movements, Immigrants, and New York City in the Transnational Context, 1895-1940
April 24, 2012
This forum explores the connections between immigration, race, policy, and social movements in New York City, from the beginning of the "yellow peril" in the 1890s to the start of the Pacific War in the early 1940s. Daniel Inuoye of Queens College, Dylan Yeats of NYU, Renqui Yu of SUNY Purchase, and Christina Zeigler-McPherson of the Museum of the City of New York explore anti-Japanese pulp novels at the turn of the twentieth century, the anti-German movement during WWI, the origins and work of the Issei radical movement in the 1920s, and Chinese-American labor and social activism during the 1930s.
Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination
April 12, 2012
In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981-96), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation's imagination and the consequences of that loss.
Domestic Workers in New York City, Yesterday and Today
April 2, 2012
This forum will examine the politics of domestic servitude in NYC, with a particular focus on nannies and child care workers. Julia Wrigley of The Graduate Center,Tamara Mose Brown of Brooklyn College, Premilla Nadasen of Queens College, andJoyce Gill-Campbell of Domestic Workers United will address the nature of domestic work and the workforce, as well as campaigns by domestic workers, past and present, to organize and improve the conditions of their work.
New York at War
March 14, 2012
New York, arguably the most powerful city on earth, is also extremely vulnerable. From its earliest days, a host of dangers — from Indian warriors and British redcoats to U-boats and terrorist bombers — have menaced the city, shaping its landscape and character in fundamental ways. In New York at War, historian Steven H. Jaffe offers a riveting account of the attacks, battles, and acts of sabotage that, in threatening this defining American city, have helped forge its very identity.
The Real MadMen: Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising
March 1, 2012
Are Don, Roger, Peggy and others at Sterling Cooper from the television series Mad Men! an accurate reflection of the office life and advertising personalities of the early 1960s? Join Andrew Cracknell, author of The Real Mad Men: The Renegades of Madison Avenue and the Golden Age of Advertising; Barbara Lippert, writer and curator of popular culture at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners; and Amil Gargano, advertising executive and founder of Ally and Gargano, as they reveal the reality of Madison Avenue in the late 1950s and 1960s — a world even stranger than fiction. A revolution in advertising took place in these years, and it is a remarkable story — of hard work, creative personalities and new business practices.
Soviet-Jewish Experience in NYC, 1972-2000, Fact and Fiction
February 16, 2012
Every immigrant has a story. For Russian immigrants in New York, such stories reveal the history, politics, and passion for storytelling of the Russian people. Please join us for a panel discussion on the Soviet Jewish immigrant experience from 1972 to 2000, with readings by authors whose essays and novels were inspired by that experience. Panel members include Russian emigre writers Anya Ulinich, Lina Zeldovich, Mikhail Iossel and American authors Emily Rubin and Annelise Orleck of Dartmouth University.
Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life
December 14, 2011
Vivian Gornick discusses her new book, which provides an intimate and empathetic portrait of the modern radical. By exploring Emma Goldman's psychological makeup, Gornick evokes the spirit of resistance and the philosophy of inner liberation that drove this most memorable champion of individual freedom.
Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives
December 6, 2011
Join editor of Italian Folk and folklorist Joseph Sciorra, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College; Anna L. Wood, Association for Cultural Equity, Hunter College; Joseph J. Inguanti, Southern Connecticut State University, and Peter Savastano, Seton Hall University, as we explore the role of local knowledge and aesthetic practices as sources for creativity and meaning in the lives of Italian-Americans. Panelists will discuss everyday cultural practices in order to challenge stereotypes and superficial perceptions.
9/11, Part II: How We Remember 9/11
November 17, 2011
Ten years on, we will look at what is being commemorated and what has already been erased from the public memory. Who protected us? How did we respond on the streets and in our communities in the immediate aftermath? How did the response of the mainstream and the government reflect or repress our memory of 9/11? What could we have done differently? Please join panelists including Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell, artist Ruth Sergel, creator of Voices of 9/11, and artist Brian Tolle, creator of the Irish Hunger Memorial, for a frank discussion of our experiences of 9/11.
Tony Schwartz and the Sounds of His City
November 9, 2011
Beginning in the 1940s, Tony Schwartz made tens of thousands of recordings of the sounds and people of NYC. These "endangered sounds" were included in numerous WNYC radio broadbcasts and record albums over the years, and in 2007 the Library of Congress (LOC) acquired the Schwartz collection. Join Matthew Barton, Curator of Recorded Sound at the LOC, for an illustrated audio-visual tour of Schwartz's work in a field that he largely created: audio verite.
Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land
October 5, 2011
Join contributors and friends of this new comic exploration of the history, literature, music and current revival of Yiddishkeit. Yiddish is everywhere. We hear words like nosh, chutzpah, and schlep all the time, but how did these words come to pepper American English? Through illustrations, comics arts, and a full-length play, four major themes are explored in this new book edited by Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar: culture, performance, assimilation, and the revival of the language. The last fully realized work by Pekar, this book is a thoughtful compilation that reveals the far-reaching influences of Yiddish. Panelists include playright/actor Allen Lewis Rickman, National Yiddish Book Center founder Aaron Lansky, artists Danny Fingeroth and Sabrina Jones, and Jewish Currents editors Larry Bush and Paul Buhle.
Mystery Fiction and New York City History
September 26, 2011
Join novelists Lyndsay Faye, Joseph Wallace, and Edgar winner Stefanie Pintoff as they discuss the use of history in their novels; issues of gender, race and ethnicity in early NYC; and how these have changed over time.
9/11 Part I: A People's Response
September 21, 2011
On September 11, the digital age was just emerging. Before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, communities sought out ways to witness and share experience. Join Steve Brier of the 9/11 Digital Archive, Ruth Sergel and Pamela Griffiths of Voices of 9/11, and Mary Marshall Clark of Columbia University's Oral History Program for a discussion of how those people responded to this event.
Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center: A Film Premiere
May 18, 2011
In its heyday, the Garment Center was a thriving, vibrant "village" of sorts; a gathering place where business was often carried out in the backrooms of restaurants and bars; where entrepreneurial types could get into the game with a designer and a few bucks. The postwar era saw a primarily Jewish industry challenge the hegemony of Paris and turn fashion into something distinctly American. The documentary film Dressing America tells the story of how an industry was created through the rough and tumble efforts of an interesting assortment of "characters." They conspired to beg, borrow and steal fashion in order to create a ready-to-wear business that grew by leaps and bounds, nurturing a legion of designers like Anne Klein, Liz Claiborne and Ralph Lauren. Followed by Q&A with film makers Phyllis Dillon, Joe Sucher and Steve Fischler.
A Moment in the Sun: Book Launch
May 4, 2011
John Sayles's monumental new novel is set at the turn of the 20th century, as America is struggling to define itself in a rapidly changing world. It is a time that sees the contentious dawn of U.S. imperialism in Cuba and the Philippines, the last desperate stand of Reconstruction in the American South, and the development of mass media, especially motion pictures, as the lens through which the public will increasingly interpret world events. Traveling from the Yukon gold fields, to New York's bustling Newspaper Row, to Wilmington's deadly racial coup of 1898, to the bitter triumph at San Juan Hill in Cuba, and to war zones in the Philippines, A Moment in the Sun is a book as big as its subject: history rediscovered through the lives of the people who made it happen. Sayles is currently on a multi-city tour. The Gotham Center will be his only NYC stop. Listen here.
On the Bowery: A Film Screening
April 14, 2011
LESFilm critic Manohla Dargis wrote about Lionel Rogosin's 1956 classic quasi-documentary film On the Bowery, "The old days don't look terribly good... but they do look astonishing." While some scenes were staged, the rest of the film was shot in an early cinema verite style, recording the action on the streets and in the bars and Bowery flophouses. It garnered the Grand Prize for Documentary at the 1956 Venice Film Festival, the British Award for Best Documentary and nomination for an Oscar as best documentary. Newly restored by Milestone Films, it had a sell-out run at Film Forum last year. Historians Robert Snyder, Marci Reaven and Suzanne Wasserman will offer comments following the screening.
Public and Cooperative Housing
March 29, 2011
Join historians Peter Eisenstadt, Fritz Umbach and Nicholas Bloom as they examine two aspects of mid-to-late 20th century housing in NYC — the forgotten history of community policing in New York City's public housing, and Rochdale Village in Queens, the largest housing cooperative in the world when it opened in 1963.Eisenstadt traces Rochdale's history -- from its opening as a large-scale effort to create an integrated community through the end of the 1970s when few white families remained. Peter's book on the subject is the winner of the 2010 New York Society Library award. Umbach explores the rise and fall of the New York City Housing Authority Police Department's community-based strategy, while questioning its tactical effectiveness.
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration
March 24, 2011
March 25, 2011 is the Centennial of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, located one block east of Washington Square Park. The tragic fire took the lives of 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, and became a rallying cry for the international labor movement. Many of our fire safety laws were created in response to this tragic event. Join historians Rich Greenwald, Annelise Orleck, Ellen Todd, Jennifer Guglielmo, writer David Von Drehle and artist and organizer of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition Ruth Sergel for a panel discussion about the event and its aftermath. Listen here. Watch here.
More New York Stories
March 9, 2011
What do Jonathan Rosen, Dorothy Gallagher, Jennifer Gilmore, Suketu Mehta and David Hajdu have in common? Each suffers from an incurable love affair with the Big Apple, and each contributed to the canon of writing this city has inspired by way of the New York Times City Section, a part of the paper that once defined Sunday afternoon leisure for the denizens of the five boroughs. In More New York Stories, former City Section editor Constance Rosenblum has again culled a diverse cast of voices that brought to vivid life our metropolis through those pages in this follow-up to the publication New York Stories.
Black Gotham: Book Launch
February 23, 2011
Black Gotham is a fascinating look at a little-known segment of American history: African-American elites in New York City in the 19th century. In her quest to reconstruct the lives of her ancestors, Carla Peterson illuminates this forgotten world, sharing their stories and those of their friends, neighbors, and business associates.