New York City

The Creative Life of San Juan Hill

I’m on an upcoming panel about the creative activity of the neighborhood that was demolished in the building of Lincoln Center. Come! Thursday, November 9, 7pm, Sidewalk Studio of David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center; it’s free–reservations and info here.

The Ground Beneath West Side Story

I was asked to write an essay for the Legacies of San Juan Hill website that Lincoln Center has created to interrogate and explore the history of its site. My contribution comes just as the New York Philharmonic plays the score of the latest (Spielberg) movie version of West Side Story. I ask: “Inspiration is a ground from which to imagine. What happens when inspiration abets ignoring? Erasure? Appropriation? Among the legacies of San Juan Hill, West Side Story leaves us grappling still with these questions.” Still.

San Juan Hill: A New York Story

The jazz trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles has written a composition on the neighborhood that preceded Lincoln Center. And I provided some historical notes. He commissioned this mural by the Ex-Vandals at 2605 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and his composition premieres at part of the re-opening of Geffen Hall on October 8, 2022. Check out a video of the complete mural here. What a brilliant mural and effort!

Realizing The New School: Lessons From the Past

A collection of essays marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of The New School, in 1919. Essays look at the role of the city in the school and the school in the city; the influence of women on the school; the importance of adults and the arts in shaping the school; and what it means to be considered a progressive institution. With Mark Larrimore.

Published as a freely available e-book in 2020; download here.

Festival Trucks, etc.

A year ago, I visited the archives at Yale to look at the papers of John Lindsay, the mayor of New York City from 1966-73. I’ve recently gone back to the documents, conjuring a city fifty years ago that faced growing racial tensions and fiscal constraints (minus a pandemic).

Read more…

For the Love of Strangers

My pandemic ode to New York (Public Seminar)

I teach courses about New York and often begin the semester’s conversation by asking students to share a personal anecdote that best describes their city. Invariably, the anecdotes are about encounters with strangers, often on the subway. It’s about help offered, anonymity made comforting, aloneness-yet-connection amid others. 

Read more…

Greenwich Village: Dying since 1960?

I chaired a panel at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History conference this past weekend that considered the state of Greenwich Village in the 1950s-60s. Artists such as Judith Malina of the Living Theater insisted that the Village at that time was “the center of the universe!,” while others thought the increase in residential and commercial rent values, the expansion of New York University, and the influx of tourists to the Washington Square area were indications of imminent death. The East Village and SoHo began to claim the mantle of edginess and bohemianism in the 1960s, suggesting that sites of experimentation had moved east and south.

Read more…

Contested City

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani has written a fascinating book about the long, dispiriting, and complicated history of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) on the Lower East Side of New York. She uses art and pedagogy as intervention and gives me hope that another future for the city is possible. Our conversation here.

Critic’s Pick: “How solid is this show…”

So says the New York Times about the Robbins exhibition (full review here)! There was also an article in The Times of Israel; a clip on WABC-7 with Sandy Kenyon (also appearing in 6000 cabs!); another on CUNY-TV’s Arts in the City; an Instagram story with New York City Ballet’s Adrian Danchig-Waring; and a poignant account of remembering a beloved dance instructor–and former dancer in West Side Story–through the exhibition.