As a lifelong Lower East Sider, there are swaths of northern Manhattan that were once undiscovered to me, like the 35-acre City College of New York campus in Hamilton Heights. I had read that the college’s Gothic revival buildings were filled with gargoyles and grotesques that evoke a “Noo Yawk” version of Oxbridge, where even Harry Potter might feel at home. It was long on my New York bucket list.
Recently, Untapped Cities was offered a glimpse into many of the secrets of the Hamilton Heights campus, including forgotten tunnels and bell towers. On a simmering weekday evening in July when students were out of session, we were greeted by the 138th Street and Amsterdam Avenue gate by 25-year-old Dalton Whiteside, a cheery City College alum and enthusiast, in a straw hat and snappy outfit that suggested he was a time traveler from another century.
Continue reading at Untapped Cities
The Oldest Woman in the Room: A Feminist Life Lesson from my Mother
Back in the Stone Age of the early 1980s when people still relied on landlines, I was a latchkey kid who often answered the phone for my parents before they got home from work. A six p.m. call was always for my people-person workaholic mom—never for my dad, a workaholic in the computer field with the social grace of Attila the Hun.
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My second piece for The New Yorker is about a mod 13-year-old named Alice de Rivera who took on Stuyvesant High in 1969. She’s as awesome at 63 as she was at 13. There’s even a Jimi Hendrix cameo!
Check it out at NewYorker.com
The Little Mayors of the Lower East Side
My ninety-seven-year-old father Julius recently amazed me by describing how, when he was hungry during the Great Depression, he would get an occasional free slice of salami from Izzy Pinkowitz, the “official” mayor of East Broadway, who happened to own the Hebrew National sausage factory on his Lower East Side block. How official? “Back then it was official,” he answered, after finishing his favorite old-fashioned cookie, the chocolate-covered Mallomar. “Look into it if you are so curious. The old street mayors of New York would make a good story.”
Father knows best. It is a good story.
Read the full story at Lapham’s Quarterly
How an Author Used the Polar Archives in Ohio to Write about an Antarctic Stowaway
A few months after I began to research The Stowaway, my narrative non-fiction book about the teen stowaway on Byrd’s first expedition, I thought I had enough material to write my book. In March of 2013, I had stumbled upon the story while researching the history of St. Stanislaus Church in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which is the first Polish Catholic church in all five boroughs of the Big Apple. The stowaway, William “Billy” Gawronski, and his family were parishioners there, and I located the records of Billy’s celebration by the church.
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I have a read up today at Aeon that looks at the long history and appeal of stowing away — from Balboa, to Shackleton’s stowaway Blackborow, to interplanetary stowaways of the future. (Think Mars.) Hope you’ll give it a read! Not long! (This picture is of stowaway Perce Blackborow and Mrs. Chippy aboard Shackleton’s Endurance.)
Read the article at Aeon
The Man Who Made Violins Out of New York City Buildings
In the 1940s, luthier Samuel Stochek created stunning instruments from the wood of demolished houses.
Read the full article at Atlas Obscura
The Stowaway Craze
In the roaring twenties, sneaking on board a ship became a way to go viral.
Read the full piece on newyorker.com
Image courtesy Gizela Gawronski / The Pilsudski Institute of America
The online version of my recent print piece at New York is up. 91-year-old Ben Heller looks back at his legendary apartment and art collection that even he can’t believe he owned. In collecting Jackson Pollock he became best friends with him. These photos have never been seen by the public before.
Read now at New York Magazine