How New York Harbor Pilots Master These Treacherous Waters

Shayla Love, writing for Gothamist:

He was tall for 13, but lanky. The burly crewmen dwarfed him. The captain offered the pair black coffee and Blake accepted, to feel like one of the grown-ups. The ship was transporting molasses and the air had a thick sweet smell, overpowering enough that when Blake steps on a molasses ship today, he is immediately taken back to that moment: the bitter black coffee, and the warm, sickly smell of sugar.

“That was not a good night,” Blake said. “But when my father walked up on the bridge of the ship, it was like he was king. He’s in charge. Ever since then, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a pilot.”

I happen to be very good friends with a Sandy Hook harbor pilot and I can vouch for the article; everything he has explained to me about the job over the years really is that fucking crazy.


Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves

Nina Bernstein, writing for The New York Times:

New York is unique among American cities in the way it disposes of the dead it considers unclaimed: interment on a lonely island, off-limits to the public, by a crew of inmates. Buried by the score in wide, deep pits, the Hart Island dead seem to vanish — and so does any explanation for how they came to be there.

To reclaim their stories from erasure is to confront the unnoticed heartbreak inherent in a great metropolis, in the striving and missed chances of so many lives gone by. Bad childhoods, bad choices or just bad luck — the chronic calamities of the human condition figure in many of these narratives. Here are the harshest consequences of mental illness, addiction or families scattered or distracted by their own misfortunes.

But if Hart Island hides individual tragedies, it also obscures systemic failings, ones that stack the odds against people too poor, too old or too isolated to defend themselves. In the face of an end-of-life industry that can drain the resources of the most prudent, these people are especially vulnerable.

Indeed, this graveyard of last resort hides wrongdoing by some of the very individuals and institutions charged with protecting New Yorkers, including court-appointed guardians and nursing homes. And at a time when many still fear a potter’s field as the ultimate indignity, the secrecy that shrouds Hart Island’s dead also veils the city’s haphazard treatment of their remains.

These cases are among hundreds unearthed through an investigation by The New York Times that draws on a database of people buried on the island since 1980. The records make it possible for the first time to trace the lives of the dead, revealing the many paths that led New Yorkers to a common grave.

Matched with other public records, including guardianship proceedings, court dockets and hundreds of pages of unclaimed cadaver records obtained from the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, the database becomes a road map to unlocking Hart Island’s secrets.

When I got my tattoo of a basic map of the Bronx, I made sure to include Hart Island.


Ted Cruz Visit to Bronx High School Canceled After Students Threaten a Walkout

Chauncey Alcorn & Leonard Greene, writing for The New York Daily News:

Cruz was scheduled to speak at Bronx Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy until students wrote a letter to the principal asking her not to let Cruz come, prompting staffers to cancel the appearance.

New York Value #1,954: Telling chumps: fuck outta here.

I've never been prouder to sport a tattoo of the Bronx.


For Transgender New Yorkers, a Center of Their Own in the Bronx

Winnie Hu, writing for The New York Times:

The Bronx Trans Collective, the new drop-in center near Yankee Stadium, will aim to bring together people who are often overlooked or disconnected even in New York City, which is considered to be the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. The center will help transgender people get surgeries, hormone treatments, mental health counseling and assistance with legal name changes and job searches, among other services. It will also host regular support groups, youth counseling, meditation and yoga classes and cookouts on its back terrace.

It's pretty great to see this kind of support and acceptance happening in the Bronx.


DreamYard—A Community Project in the Bronx Where Art Saves the World

Ian Frazier, writing for The New Yorker:

The DreamYard Project has a patriotic attachment to the Bronx. Two young actors, Jason Duchin and Tim Lord, founded it, twenty-one years ago, to teach public-school kids in grades K through twelve by using the arts. The idea was to recruit teachers from among working artists of Duchin’s and Lord’s acquaintance in New York and match them with schools whose funding for arts education had been cut. Through a few changes, that has been DreamYard’s basic mission from the start. For some years, the teaching program was in several boroughs, but today it’s only in the Bronx, where DreamYard-sponsored artists in forty-five schools teach about ten thousand students.

DreamYard also holds poetry contests between local kids and kids in other countries via Skype, makes posters for political protests, supplies art work for parks and other public spaces, holds acting workshops for adults, helps to paint designs on local apartment-building rooftops in heat-reflecting paint, and runs arts festivals. It believes that art can save the world.

What an amazing story. I wish I could accurately describe the pride I felt reading this. As someone who spent 20+ years growing up in the Bronx, and has written two novels about the borough, my goal in 2016 is to figure out some way to help with DreamYard.


The Hard-Working Italian Origins of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Jim Dwyer, writing for The New York Times:

Dressed in overalls and jackets, wearing work boots and hats, the men lined up five dozen strong on Christmas Eve 1931 for that week’s pay at a Midtown Manhattan construction site.

Behind them stood a fine Christmas tree. It had been mounted by the men and draped with the traditional cranberry strings and garlands.

They also decorated it with the foil wrappers from blasting caps, a tool of their trade: dynamiting ancient rock to make way for the modern city.

The rubbled ground where they stood would become Rockefeller Center. Two years later, after 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened, the annual lighting of a giant Christmas tree became the five-star, traffic-stopping pageant that will unfold again on Wednesday.

Now that’s a Christmas story that I can sink my teeth into.

(Also—good thing the politicians weren’t hellbent on keeping out immigrants back then, eh?)


The Many Lives of St. Mark’s Place

Ada Calhoun, writing for The New Yorker:

Of course, the sentimentalists are right: I did miss a lot. My parents have lived in their top-floor walk-up on St. Marks Place since 1973. By the time I was born, in 1976, many of the street’s most defining eras had passed. Gone were the days of Thelonious Monk playing the Five Spot jazz club, Andy Warhol hosting the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and the New York Dolls ambling down the street in hot pants. The poet W. H. Auden, who once lived at No. 77 and promenaded to St. Mark’s Church each Sunday wearing his slippers, died in Vienna the same week my parents moved onto his old block.

But the history of St. Marks Place is more complex than even many of its cheerleaders realize.

I remember the first time I went into The City (what everyone in the other four boroughs calls Manhattan) by myself. I headed straight for St. Mark’s.


Lox, Neon, and Russ and Daughters

Sky Dylan-Robbins:

This year, Russ & Daughters, the acclaimed appetizing institution on the Lower East Side, turns a hundred years old. To celebrate the occasion, the fourth-generation co-owners, Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper, are giving customers a place to sit.

High quality video of old school neon tube bending and translucent slices of salmon? Just press play.


‘New York was a very different place in the 1980s.’


Richard Conway, writing for TIME Lightbox:

Over a six-month period in 1981, Morris embedded himself in the world below, sometimes riding the trains alone, other times riding with the Guardian Angels volunteer anti-crime group. He’d hang out with groups of teens riding trains at night, and show up in the early morning to catch work-bound commuters.

Using ektachrome film and a magenta filter to offset the florescent lights, Morris found interesting subjects in the relatively safe commuting space of midtown Manhattan, further north in the Bronx, and the eastern wilds of Brooklyn.

The photos are amazing. The NYC captured in them is unrecognizable from the NYC of today.

/via Daring Fireball