About

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

Archive for the 'New York City' Category

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.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Steven Cohen on the Lessons of Superstorm of Sandy

Steven Cohen, Superstorm Sunday

“In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.”—Steven Cohen

In an essay for The Huffington Post , Steven Cohen, author of Sustainability Management: Lessons from and for New York City, America, and the Planet and executive director of The Earth Institute, examines what has been and what should be learned a year after Superstorm Sandy.

Cohen begins by recognizing the extraordinary efforts of both first responders and ordinary citizens in banding together to help those in need. The effort to bring relief to those affected by the storm even brought New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie and Barack Obama together in a rare example of bipartisanship. Cohen writes, “One key lesson learned: [America] is a place capable of enormous generosity and humanity.”

New York and New Jersey have also installed plans to help protect their shore communities in the case of another superstorm, which, according to Cohen is likely to happen due to global warming. Building codes have been changed and dunes, engineered barriers, and green infrastructure are being put into place which will absorb the energy from the next storm.

However, more needs to be done. Cohen argues we need to better prepared. Generators must be at the ready, underwater tunnels need to be closed, and power lines need to be shored up. Moreover, a kind of trust fund needs to be created to avoid having to pass legislation to provide emergency relief. Too many people, particularly those in the middle- or working-classes, have had to wait to have their houses rebuilt. Cohen argues:

It remains obvious that we need to develop a new national tax to create a trust fund exclusively devoted to community reconstruction after natural or human-made disasters. Funding must be provided to everyone meeting specific, predetermined, criteria. We need to end the degrading and disgusting spectacle of Congress struggling to pass a new funding bill after every disaster… With climate change, increased urbanization and increased population, we are going to see more frequent, intense, and destructive storms. This is a new situation that requires a new funding stream—a new tax—to handle it.

Climate change, Cohen warns, means more storms like Sandy necessitating that we must find ways of adapting. He concludes by writing:

Sandy was a transformative event that changed our view of how the world works. We now have a mental model of what can happen when our shoreline defenses are overwhelmed. The next time we are tracking a storm on the Weather Channel, we’ll know what we need to do if the eye of the storm is aimed at us. Moreover, we know that the reason this is happening is because our planet is getting warmer and the probability of more intense and frequent storms is growing. In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Cake and Immigration: A Recap of the Launch for Nancy Foner’s “One Out of Three”

Nancy Foner Cake

The above cake was part of last night’s celebration at the Tenement Museum for the launch of One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Nancy Foner. In addition to the delicious cake which featured the book’s wonderful cover, the event also included talks by some of the contributors to the book about immigrant life in twenty-first century New York City.

The evening however, began with a talk by Sukethu Mehta, himself an immigrant from India, who talked about his own experiences growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, as well as the successes of immigrants and the challenges confronting them in the future. He pointed to the incredible mixture of immigrants in the city, often bringing together groups, such as Indians and Pakistanis, who might not like each other back home or even behind closed doors but find a way to work and live with each other in their daily lives in New York City. However, Mehta also expressed concern about New York City’s ability to continue to support a healthy immigrant community as the city becomes more expensive and stratified.

Nancy Foner, the book’s editor, considered the emergence of new groups from West Africa and Bangladesh, who are changing the composition of New York City’s immigrant population. In addition, traditional immigrant groups are now establishing communities in different parts in the city: Dominicans settling in the Bronx, Chinese in Brooklyn and Queens, and Russians in Queens. As new immigrants continue to play a large role in city life as small business owners, they are likely to expand their influence as they become more involved in city politics.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Jonathan Soffer on the Many Legacies of Ed Koch

“It was clear to most New Yorkers that Koch had a deep abiding love for his city. That reputation, that started when he was in public office, was solidified because he stayed in the public eye. He would exert political power, but it always seemed to be because he wanted to continue helping New York.”—Jonathan Soffer

Never is a biographer’s perspective more relevant (or sought after) than when their subject is finally laid to rest. Since the passing of larger-than-life former NYC mayor Ed Koch on Friday, Jonathan Soffer, author of Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, has been a central voice in the debate on what shape Koch’s legacy should take. In the following post, we bring you an amalgamation of Soffer’s latest commentary on Koch, one that highlights the author’s argument that the “King of New York” will be a man of many legacies.

A Legacy of Free (and Colorful) Speech

Koch was sometimes honest about his politics to a fault. I think, more than any other reason, he lost his chances for re-election to a fourth term when he said that Jews would have to be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson. He could not be deterred from saying things that were just excruciating. But paradoxically, it gave him a reputation for honesty.

~ From Soffer’s interview with TIME Magazine, for more click here.

(more…)

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City — Jonathan Soffer and the Legacy of Ed Koch

In his book Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, Jonathan Soffer offers a critique of Ed Koch’s complicated legacy for New York City. Soffer argues Ed Koch was instrument in leading New York City’s recovery from bankruptcy. Businesses and financial confidence returned to the city and Koch also brought new housing to thousands of low-income housing. At the same time, racial animosity was seemingly a constant in the city during his administrations and many social services were cut back.

In this video from the 92nd Street Y , Ed Koch discusses Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City with Jonathan Soffer. (While not an “authorized” biography, Koch did participate in interviews for it, and, not surprisingly, helped to promote it.)

For more on the book, there is an interview with Jonathan Soffer and here is a video trailer for Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City:

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Doughnuts for Thanksgiving: A New York City Tradition, Apparently

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

We continue 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.