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Archive for the 'New York City' Category

Friday, January 30th, 2015

The Fate of Black and Latino Politicians in New York City — Frederick Douglass Opie

Frederick Douglass Opie, Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office

As suggested by the subtitle, in Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City From Protest to Public Office, Frederick Douglass’s book tracks the rise of Black and Latino politicians, which in some ways reached its apex with the 1989 election of David Dinkins as the first African American mayor of the city. He was also the last New York City mayor of color.

In the conclusion to the book, Opie considers why gaining citywide or statewide offices has proven so difficult for Black and Latino politicians and what can be done:

There were a number of Black-Latino Progressive coalitions that waged bat­tles before the creation of Latinos for Dinkins. David Dinkins’s campaign victory and his administration’s support for the political reapportionment and increase in the number of seats in the City Council from thirty-five to fifty-one have ensured that blacks and Latinos are today well represented among New York City elected officials. But representation in higher citywide or statewide offices still remains elusive, largely because of racial fragmenta­tion within the Democratic Party.

A number of problems remain among black and Latino elected officials in Albany. They need to clearly articulate issues relevant to the communities they represent, but, most of all, their efforts and reputations have been seri­ously hampered by the rampant corruption in Albany. Officials have to do a better job investigating allegations of improprieties among elected officials. For example, just as the 2013 New York mayoral election began to rev up, corruption scandals and the arrest of black and Latino legislators from New York City rocked Albany. “You have a better chance” of being led out of the Assembly or the Senate in Albany in “handcuffs than you do being voted out of office,” says Ken Lovett, Albany bureau chief for the Daily News.

In order to regain the strength that had helped Dinkins into office, black and Latino elected officials need to mobilize around issues important to Progressives in the same way that labor leaders did in hospitals in the 1950s and 1960s, as student activists did on college campuses in the late 1960s, as activists did on the streets and in tenements in the 1960s through the 1980s, and as various groups did in 2012 (under the aegis of Occupy movements that first began in New York City).

The demands of black and Latino Progressive coalitions from 1959 to 1989 were consistent and remain important concerns today: a living wage in which to provide better housing, health care, food, and educational opportunities for them and their families; the end of police brutality; and greater black and Latino representation among elected officials. On the question of ending police brutality, Progressive coalitions have been engaged in a campaign for almost two decades to end the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk crime-prevention pro­gram. It is viewed as a civil rights violation, which police officers most often carry out against male youth in black and Latino communities across the city. In fact, stop-and-frisk remained a constant part of the debate among candi­dates vying for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

The Role of Black and Latino Students in the 1968 Takeover of Columbia University — Frederick Douglass Opie

Student activism and revolt in the 1960s were crucial in developing Black-Latino coalitions during the decade. On campuses such as CCNY and Columbia, student organizations successfully lobbied for new curricula that would include Black and Latino studies and worked with local communities to stop the expansion of their institutions.

In the following excerpt from Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office and in the video below, Frederick Douglass Opie discusses the role of Black and Latino students and student organizations during the takeover at Columbia in 1968:

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Interview with Frederick Douglass Opie, author of “Upsetting the Apple Cart”

Upsetting the Apple Cart, Frederick Douglass Opie

Upsetting the Apple Cart reveals how when the NYPD talks about the death of Eric Garner, they view it as an incident or a moment; Black and Brown folks who support the Black Lives Matter movement talk about it as history.”—Frederick Douglass Opie

The following is an interview with Frederick Douglass Opie, author of Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office

Question: How did you get interested in the project?

Frederick Douglass Opie: While working on my first book Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, I came across a set of Works Progress Administration records in the New York City Municipal Archives that described blacks and Latinos in Harlem in the 1930s eating in the same restaurants, frequenting the same nightclubs and theaters, and intermarrying. This was during the summer of 2005, and I was struck by these descriptions given the degree of separation I observed between contemporary blacks and Latinos (Ecuadorians, Dominicans, and some Puerto Ricans and Cubans) in Westchester County, just north of New York City, where I was living at the time. The contrast inspired me to explore the dynamics of African American-Latino coalitions.

Q: What are some of the distinct moments recounted in Upsetting the Apple Cart?

FDO: It tells the story about the first time that Malcolm X, at the height of his popularity in 1962, supported a labor union and the first time as Elijah Muhammad’s principal spokesman for the Nation of Islam that he joined a multiethnic coalition. The book traces the history of when large numbers of Dominicans who migrated to New York began to turn their attention away from the Dominican Republic becoming political mobilized behind African American candidate David Dinkins in 1989. It’s seasoned with recipes because throughout this history people used food to help activists do the necessary work at strategy meetings and protests to advance a cause.

Q: What role did unions play in forging alliance between Blacks and Latinos?

FDO: Labor unions helped Blacks and Latinos develop strong bonds as workers who shared a common political goal, employer, or class status. For example, Black and Latino members of Local DC 37 mobilized against President Ronald Reagan’s plan to cut spending to programs for the urban poor in order to increase spending on weapons systems and military interventions abroad. DC 37 supported the electoral campaigns of Mario Cuomo and others whose platforms addressed Reagan cuts. In addition, DC 37 participated in protest including acts of civil disobedience in their objection to the Reagan administration’s tacit support for the apartheid regime in South Africa and explicit support for authoritarian dictatorships in Central America. For many young workers this served as their foray into public protesting.

(more…)

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Food, Unions, and Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City — Frederick Douglass Opie

Upsetting the Apple Cart, Frederick Douglass Opie

One of the earliest coalitions among Blacks and Latinos in New York City was among hospital workers at Montefiore hospital in the Bronx. In the following excerpt from Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office, Fred Opie explores the importance of food in organizing workers and also includes a recipe for a dish that sustained union members:

Organizing Workers, 1957-1959

The first real break in the organizing drive came when the hospital administration decided to end a long-standing meal plan. Historically, Montefiore had allowed workers to eat in the cafeteria and then deducted the cost of these “free meals” from workers’ pay checks. When the hospital hired Jacques Bloch to lead its new food service department in 1954, he reorganized the department, opened a new cafeteria, and ended the free food policy within three years. Fink and Greenberg argue that the decision “increased the amount of take-home pay for workers but still triggered resentments.” That may be true, but the real issue seems to have been that the quality and quantity of food provided by the hospital was greater than what workers could procure independently with their slightly increased take-home pay. In addition, the hospital cafeteria served as a de facto restaurant for many workers who could not afford to eat out, giving it great cultural and social significance. Ken Downs, who worked on the lunch line, was the first to recognize that this change could be the thing to galvanize workers. He told Godoff to start an aggressive organizing movement.

Food played an important role in these first efforts to reach out to workers. “We had a party [at my apartment],” says Downs, “and I cooked chicken and rice and peas.” As mentioned, the migration of large numbers of blacks from the southern United States and the Caribbean during World War I and II contributed to the introduction of Caribbean and Southern foods and dishes in New York City. Over many years immigrants from these two regions have made an indelible mark on New York culture, particularly in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx where jazz, reggae, and later hip hop became popular forms of musical expression, and fried chicken and fried plantains, meat patties, jerked and curried meats and poultry, and rice and beans dishes became part of the local cuisine. Historically every region of the U. S. South and the Caribbean has had a different take on rice and bean dishes like Downs’s Barbadian rice and peas.

Barbadian Rice and Peas

Ingredients
8 oz. dried pigeon peas 1 cup rice
3-4 dried bay leaves
Water
¼ -½ lb. smoked turkey, salt beef, or salt pork
Or use 1 cup of vegetable broth for meatless rice
Small onion, peeled, and 3 whole cloves
2 celery stalks
Bajan spice mix: Bajan seasoning is a blend of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, spring onions, onions, garlic, parsley, basil, and scotch bonnet pepper with spices such as clove, black pepper, paprika, and salt.
4-5 whole peppercorns

Directions
Cover peas with water, add seasoning, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Add rice, onion, and oil, stirring well. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed or grains are soft and fluffy—approximately 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office

This week our featured book is Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office, by Frederick Douglass Opie

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Upsetting the Apple Cart to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, January 30 at 1:00 pm.

“A valuable contribution to the study of the mid- to late-twentieth-century history of New York City….[P]rovides the reader with a detailed, almost blow-by-blow account of the various attempts by African Americans and Latinos to find a common political cause and build lasting coalitions.”—Xavier F. Totti, Lehman College

Read the introduction to “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Coney Island in Winter — Louis Parascandola

Coney Island in Winter

The following post is by Louis Parascandola, the co-editor of A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion.

The Acknowledgments to A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion point out that the book that I edited with my brother John was created out of a great sorrow in our lives. We had lost both of our parents in the few years preceding the book, and both of our sisters were enduring life-threatening illnesses. While we were writing the book, one sister, Maryann, died of lung cancer. Now, just as the book has been published, we have lost our other sister, Judy, to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Thus the book, which was meant to serve as a celebration of our family, now serves more as a memorial. Life, much like Coney Island, seldom conforms to what we expect, let alone want, it to be. Still, Coney is able to provide comfort even at dark moments in life and even during its off season.

Most people do not imagine visiting Coney during the winter months, something I have had the opportunity to do several times. There is a somber chill in the air. One wonders, as in Sara Teasdale’s poem “Coney Island,” why we are here, out where “The winter winds blow” with “no shelter near.” However, there is comfort here. As one walks along the boardwalk, one can see activity going on. There are people walking; there are joggers; there are the dog walkers; there may even be a few intrepid bathers. There are also people working all year round fixing the rides and preparing for the spring. Along Surf Avenue, there is also activity. Though many of the stores are closed, a few remain open for the die-hards. It is still possible to get a hot dog at Nathan’s, pizza at Grimaldi’s, and candy from a couple of vendors. One realizes that though Coney may slow down, it never completely closes. Life here never really ends.

The appeal of the off-season is apparent in several of the works in our anthology, including the above-mentioned poem by Teasdale as well as Stephen Crane’s story “Coney Island’s Failing Days,” Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem “Landscape of a Vomiting Multitude (Dusk at Coney Island”), and Bernard Malamud’s story “My Son the Murderer.” Perhaps the piece that best captures the feeling, however, is by Pulitzer Prize winner, Josephine W. Johnson, “Coney Island in November.” In this poignant story, a woman recalls her somewhat distant relationship with her now deceased father as she walks along the desolate beach at Coney. At this time of year, Coney returns to what it once was and will always remain, a seaside, natural resort. Its endless beach and eternal tide allow for contemplation that one cannot achieve on a crowded summer day. It is while walking along this beach that the woman is able to come to terms with her sorrow and gain a sense of closure with her father. This sense of serenity is an aspect not always connected with Coney, with its hurly burly. Coney is forever linked with summer fun, but the pleasure and knowledge that can be gained in its off-season is not something to be overlooked.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Coney Island in Song

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion edited by Louis and John Parascandola includes some of the best work of fiction and poetry on Coney Island from Walt Whitman and Federico García Lorca to Djuna Barnes and Colson Whitehead.

Of course, Coney Island has also been the subject of many songs. A Coney Island Reader includes a very helpful appendix of Coney Island-related songs by artists and song writers, including John Philip Sousa, Cole Porter, and Woody Guthrie.

Here are some other more recent songs that mention Coney Island or are about the neighborhood:

“Coney Island Baby,” Lou Reed (1975)

“Oh Oh I Lover Her So,” The Ramones (1977). Punk-rock love at Coney Island.

“I Remember Coney Island,” The Lounge Lizards (1981)

“Coney Island,” Death Cab for Cutie (2001)

“Coney Island Baby,” Tom Waits (2002)

“Coney Island Winter,” Garland Jeffreys (2011)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

A Coney Island Reader — The Warriors

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion, edited by Louis and John Parascandola, includes numerous portraits of the area that celebrate its beach, sense of fun, and as a respite from the hectic city. The flip side, of course, is that Coney Island as a “Sodom by the Sea,” where garishness and menace run amuck.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the decay of Coney Island mirrored the decay of New York City. This sense of Coney Island is perhaps most famously captured in Sol Yurnick’s The Warriors (1965) which was made into a 1979 film by Walter Roy Hill.

Below is a clip from the film in which The Warriors return to their Coney Island home after a night of fighting and running from other gangs. Below that is an excerpt from the book in which the same scene treated somewhat differently.

July 5th, 5:20–6:00 a.m.

Before going home, Hinton led The Junior and Dewey down the street to­ward the beach. They followed him; he had become the Father. The morn­ing wind was coming at them from the sea. It was still hot, but every step took them into cooler and cooler areas. It was lighter above the housetops, but still dark below.

They walked toward the boardwalk. When they came to the last block, Hinton halted them before crossing the street. He stood, hand raised, look­ing up and down. Nothing there but a garbage truck, grinding refuse, yel­lower than the murky light coming down from the overcast sunrise. The street lights were paling; they had blue, fluorescent edges. Hinton waved his hand the way patrol leaders did; they crossed the street, walking cool, alert for surprises. Far up the street a Headbuster patrolled, his back to­ward them. They were on their territory now; everything had a tremendous and comforting familiarity. They knew it to its confines, six short blocks by four long blocks. They could cover it in a short time—each brick was com­pletely known, each stain, each sign, each gunmark on the concrete side­walks, each hiding place. It was like knowing an endless and soul-freeing space where there could be no real threat. There wasn’t as much space in the rest of the whole city. They drank it all in, everything from the cracked asphalt to the strutty rise of the roller coaster over the houses. It was there. There. Comforting after their night. They began to walk along the last block before coming to the boardwalk.

(more…)

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “A Coney Island Reader”

This week our featured book is A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of A Coney Island Reader to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, December 12 at 1:00 pm.

“A timely, important addition to anthologies of New York writing. A Coney Island Reader will be welcomed by urban historians and a general public that continues to be fascinated by Coney Island’s ramshackle roller coaster of a history” — Bryan Waterman, New York University

Read Kevin Baker’s foreword to A Coney Island Reader

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Doughnuts as Thanksgiving Food and the Early History of the Holiday in NYC

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

As many of us begin to prepare our turkeys and other fixings, we turn to a surprising chapter in the history of Thanksgiving food when doughnuts made an appearance on the holiday plate:

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role both George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday-school students.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Best Business Writing, Coney Island, and More!

The Best Business Writing 2014Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

The Best Business Writing 2014
Edited by Dean Starkman, Martha M. Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion
Edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola

Inheriting Dance: An Invitation from Pina
Edited by Marc Wagenbach and The Pina Bausch Foundation

Art/Commerce: The Convergence of Art and Marketing in Contemporary Culture
Maria A. Slowinska

The Intelligible Metropolis: Urban Mentality in Contemporary London Novels
Nora Pleßke

Studying Early and Silent Cinema
Keith Withall

Talk Radio, the Mainstream Press, and Public Opinion in Hong Kong
Francis L. F. Lee

Understanding South Asian Minorities in Hong Kong
John Nguyet Erni and Lisa Yuk-ming Leung

Exploring Lung Fu Shan: A Nature Guide
Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Will New York City Remain the Capital of Capital?

Capital of Capital

“Ultimately, the question asked today is the same one raised in the 1790s, the 1830s, the 1890s, the 1910s, and the 1930s: how can the city and the nation balance their own needs with those of a banking system that they cannot afford to be without?”—from Capital of Capital

As noted in Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012, according to the Z/Yen Group’s Global Financial Centres Index, New York City has slipped from its top position as the leading financial center, replaced by London. Here are the top 10 cities:

1. London
2. New York City
3. Hong Kong
4. Singapore
5. Tokyo
6. Zurich
7. Chicago
8. Shanghai
9. Seoul
10. Toronto

Will New York City reclaim its top position or slip further down as emerging economies become even bigger players in the global economy? In the conclusion to Capital of Capital, authors Lautin and Jaffe explore the challenges faced by New York City as the Capital of Capital as well as the city’s resiliency as a leading financial center:

If, despite traumas and changes, New York City endured as the nation’s financial headquarters, its identity as the world’s banking hub, a role it had played for decades, faced serious challenges in the new century. In the early 2000s, even before the meltdown, the city seemed to be losing out to global financial centers like Hong Kong, Singapore, and London. Press stories pointed to startling statistics: in 2007, less than 15 percent of the world’s new initial public offerings of stock shares were brought to market on one of the New York exchanges. As recently as the 1990s, that figure had topped 74 percent. And even though today most of the world’s biggest banks are located in Europe (the largest American bank, JPMorgan Chase, was number nine on that list in 2012), by 2050 the emerging economies of the developing world are expected to overtake the industrialized nations.

(more…)

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Images from Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City

Capital of Capital

The following are some examples of the extraordinary images and historical documents from Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012, by Steven H. Jaffe and Jessica Lautin:

New York One-Cent Note
New Yorkers were familiar with paper money before the founding of the Bank of New-York in 1784. In the early republic, the issuing of paper money would become the province of private, state-chartered banks such as the Bank of New-York. City governments and even private businesses also issued notes in payment to employees or vendors.

Greenback
Recognizing that the Northern economy needed a more ample and liquid money supply in order to win the war, Secretary of Treasury Samuel Chase resorted to a radical new plan in 1862 and 1863. The secretary now pressed Congress to authorize the Treasury to issue a new paper currency “bearing a common impression.” These greenbacks as they became known , would enter the economy as the government paid soldiers, sailors, and war contractors with them; as banks made loans and cashed checks for customers; and as citizens exchanged notes from state banks for the federal money.

Women's Banking
The divided spaces of Beaux-Arts banks reflected the diversified operations and activities of Gilded Age banking. Clerks, tellers, and cashiers were separated from the public by elaborate brass grillwork, and female customers were segregated. Responding to the fast-growing population of women depositors while adhering to Victorian gender norms, banks provided women with their own teller windows and maid service.

Depression
Albert Potter evoked the despair of the depression years in New York with the figure of a beggar; Death hovers above.

(more…)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

New York City as the Capital of Capital — Steven Jaffe and Jessica Lautin on The Brian Lehrer Show

Today, we offer another interview with the authors of Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012.

Steven H. Jaffe and Jessica Lautin recently appeared on The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the book and the frequently contentious history of banks in New York City. Among other issues, Jaffe and Lautin discussed why New York City became the “capital of capital,” surpassing Philadelphia and other cities; how New York City became not only the center of banking but also the center of protests against capitalism from the union movement to Occupy Wall Street; how immigration gave rise to savings banks; and whether or not New York City will remain the “capital of capital”

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Interview with Jessica Lautin, Co-Author of Capital of Capital

Capital of Capital “Banks are not a monolith; and their functions have been extraordinarily diverse—worthy of both ire and praise.”—Jessica Lautin

The following is an interview with Jessica Lautin, co-author of Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012

Question: What is Capital of Capital about?

Jessica Lautin: Capital of Capital examines how New York’s banks became central first to the city’s, then the nation’s, and ultimately the world’s economy. And it’s about the symbiotic relationship between the development of New York’s banks and the city itself.

Q: Why is it important?

JL: You can’t understand the growth of New York City without understanding the growth of its banks. There are excellent books and articles out there on specific periods in this great narrative—on Alexander Hamilton, the Gilded Age, the Depression, the fiscal crisis, and of course the Great Recession. But this book is the first to cover the full sweep. By looking at this long history you can see certain themes, trends and topics emerge: the cycles of booms and busts; the denial of and access to credit; the relationship between New York’s banks and government; the creation by New York’s banks of new financial instruments and strategies; and banks’ investment in the infrastructure of the city.

Q: The exhibition that preceded the book was on view at the Museum of the City of New York in 2012. Why did the City Museum decide to cover this topic at this time?

JL: Citigroup was interested in sponsoring an exhibition about the history of banking in Gotham to honor the 200th anniversary of the founding of the City Bank of New York in 1812. This idea dovetailed perfectly with the Museum’s mission to connect New York City’s past, present, and future. We began planning this exhibition when the city and nation were still reeling from the financial crisis and the Occupy Wall Street movement had just made the news. Everything was still so fresh that we wondered if the opening of the exhibition might even draw protestors. (It didn’t). All of the headlines echoed those that appeared in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries: outrage at the city’s banks and attacks on its wealthiest citizens; calls for tighter regulation; announcements of new forms of currency; concerns about banks leaving town. We covered this history in the exhibition while also leaving visitors with a question about the future: Would New York City continue to be the capital of global finance? Newly generated and designed infographics in the last section (that also appear in the book) helped visitors to come up with an answer—graphics on such topics as: banks and the labor force; assets of commercial banks; and loans by foreign bank branches. Then there was an opportunity to register an answer in a survey programmed on old ATMs.

Q: Banks today and throughout NYC’s history have been the frequent targets of criticism. How fair is this?

JL: It’s true that banks have been the target of vitriol since their founding. Like the Occupy Wall Street protestors, John Adams attacked them as corrupt and elitist, calling bankers “swindlers and thieves.” It makes sense, and yes, it’s fair, that Americans have always been suspicious of the institutions that pool, grow and distribute money and credit. There are many instances throughout the nearly 230 years when banks have willfully ignored excessive risk to themselves and their customers in the interest of profit. If in 2008 it was the packaging and selling of subprime mortgages, in 1857 it was speculation in railroad securities. Also, before legislation forced banks to change their lending and hiring policies in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, many banks systematically denied employment and credit to African Americans, women, gays and lesbians. And this denial of credit had profound and lasting effects, for example, on the segregation of neighborhoods. By subsidizing the building of single-family homes for whites in the suburbs while refusing home loans to blacks and Hispanics in poorer neighborhoods, banks perpetuated poverty and racism.

(more…)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Book Giveway!: Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City

Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012

This week our featured book is Capital of Capital: Money, Banking, and Power in New York City, 1784-2012, by Steven H. Jaffe and Jessica Lautin.

In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Capital of Capital to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, June at 1:00 pm.

From Revolutionary Era bank notes to the 2008 financial collapse, Capital of Capital explores how New York City gave rise to a banking industry that in turn made the American and world economies. The authors also examine the frequently contentious evolution of the banking business, its role in making New York City an international economic center, and its influence on America’s politics, society, and culture.

The following is an excerpt from the book:

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Nancy Foner on Immigration in Twenty-First Century New York City

Nancy Foner, author of One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century, recently appeared on City Talk to talk about immigration in New York City:

Monday, March 17th, 2014

When Was the First St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City?

St. Patrick's Day Parade

An increasingly controversial event, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has nevertheless been a staple of New York City life. But just how much of a staple is it? To answer that question, we turn to When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green?: And 101 Other Questions About New York City, edited by The Staff of the New-York Historical Society Library, Nina Nazionale, and Jean Ashton:

When was the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City?

This is a tough question, since a definitive answer hinges on whether a record of the event has actually survived. Addition­ally, the sources that do exist are not particularly explicit about the form the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations took.

That aside, the first allusion to something resembling a pa­rade appears in the March 20, 1766, issue of the New-York Gazette, or Weekly Post-Boy. The newspaper account notes the playing of fifes and drums at dawn—which we can reasonably interpret as a parade—and festivities later in the evening, both organized by Irishmen serving in the British army. Still, the first known reference to any commemoration of St. Patrick’s Day in New York City is a full decade earlier, in 1756. There is no specific mention of a parade or procession, but according to a brief notice in the New-York Gazette, or Weekly Post-Boy, the event was worthy of the governor’s attendance.

Regardless of the exact date of the first parade, these cele­brations differed notably from those of later generations. In this early period, organizers were Loyalists, proposing toasts not only to “The Day; and Prosperity of Ireland” but also to “the King and Royal House of Hanover,” “the glorious memory of King William,” and “the Protestant Interest.” The influx of Irish Catholics into New York in the nineteenth century, along with the appointment of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (an Irish Catholic fraternal organization) as the parade’s chief sponsor in the 1850s, signaled a swing to a more Catholic, na­tionalist tone.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Pete Seeger and the Hudson River

Pete Seeger

The recent death of Pete Seeger has produced not only an outpouring of tributes for his contributions to American music but also to his work in helping to clean and preserve the Hudson River. In the following passage from The Hudson: America’s River, Frances Dunwell recounts the beginnings of Seeger’s environmental activism and the role these efforts played in the creation of the first Clean Water Act:

This was not the end of the problems on the Hudson, however. Though Rockefel­ler had secured passage of a bond act to clean up the state’s rivers, it took time for sewage treatment plants to be built. The Hudson’s waters were still a “torrent of filth.” A few summers after the 1965 Pure Waters Bond Act passed, state biologists found zero oxygen in the Hudson around Albany and no living fish.

Folksinger Pete Seeger, in Beacon, New York, was one of those who decided this should change….

In 1969, Seeger proposed to a friend that they get a few hundred families together to build a replica of a Hudson River sloop. At first, it was to be just a boat for sailing, a loving tribute to the sleek and beautiful ships that crowded the Hudson during the age of sail. As Seeger later recounted: “It really seemed a frivolous idea. The world was full of agony; the Vietnam War was heating up. Money was needed for all sorts of life and death matters, and here we were raising money to build a sailboat.” However, the idea soon crystallized around building the boat to save the river, to have it be owned by its members, to be “everybody’s boat.” It would be called the Clearwater.

To help raise money, the Saunders family of Cold Spring and the Osborn family of Garrison offered their lawns for a series of song festivals where Seeger, Arlo Guth­rie, and others performed. The first concert drew 150 people and raised $167. Four months later, 700 people showed up—and by the end of the year, $5,000 was in the bank. By 1969, $140,000 in donations and loans were paid to the Gamage shipyard in South Bristol, Maine, which constructed the boat, and on June 27, the sloop Clearwater set sail down the Damiriscotta River and out to the Atlantic coast for its home port on the Hudson, piloted by a skilled captain and crewed by 11 talented musi­cians, including several who knew little about sailing. The boat stopped in Boston, where the crew sang to 10,000 people. A few days later, it sailed into Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport. In early September, it arrived in New York harbor and tied up in Manhattan at South Street Seaport, where brass bands played, and Mayor Lindsay gave his official greetings as press helicopters zoomed overhead. Soon photos of the sloop appeared in newspapers around the country, and the boat became a sym­bol for an emerging movement to clean up the nation’s waterways. The Clearwater organization’s membership grew to 2,500, and the sloop sailed up and down the Hudson, promoting a message of hope. Crowds joined in with Seeger to sing the re­frain of his 1961 song:

Sailing up my dirty stream,
Still I love it, and I’ll keep the dream,
That some day, though maybe not this year,
My Hudson River will once again run clear.

(more…)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Doughnuts? A Thanksgiving Tradition? Apparently So.

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

We culminate our week-long (or, at least short week) feature on Thanksgiving with a quick look at the holiday’s history in New York City.

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role both George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday- school students.