“Black Gotham” 19th Century African American New York

While many Americans are familiar with black slavery in the South, and its role in igniting one of the 19th century’s most brutal wars, less attention has been paid to the black experience in Northern cities like New York where many ex-slaves and “freedmen” lived.  A new book, Black Gotham by Carla Peterson, sheds some light on their story.


Posted in Americana, History, New York

Blue Collar Ground Zero

A Dateline report recorded about two months into 2002 with the work crews tasked with clearing the debris from Ground Zero, sorting through it for human remains, and making it ready to be put on barges to be floated for disposal in Fresh Kill. The stress, sadness and nobility of the men there were quite amazing.


Posted in Americana, New York, Oral History-oid, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , ,

Death n’ Stuff at the “New York Times” Obit Desk

After articles about the President and “dog bites man,” the obituaries are among the most popular articles the New York Times features. Part news story, part profile, obits attempt to sum up a person’s life and significance, and no more. Indeed, how many “column inches” a person is expected in the paper to get when he dies is closely guarded knowledge at the Times.  In this story,   I crash the gates of Hell, and spend some time with the people who make the Obit Section work, and their overseers. As with many of my stories, Chopin is included at no extra charge.


Posted in History, New York, Profile

Grassroots Group Helps Restore New York Estuary

Oysters may seem like humble shellfish, but ecologically, they tower above many other species. They are a tasty food source for a variety of creatures, including humans. But more importantly, oysters help to filter pollutants from coastal estuaries, places where fresh river waters and ocean salt waters co-mingle. Fourteen out of 20 of the world’s largest cities are built near estuaries, and urban pollution, development and other factors are now threatening these delicate ecosystems. In response, some grassroots groups, are using oyster beds to help restore and stabilize damaged estuaries. New York and New Jersey Baykeeper is one of them.

Original VOA posting of this story


Posted in History, New York, Science Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greenwich Village Chess Culture

It may have been even more true in the beatnik era, but chess continues to be the national sport of Greenwich Village.  This is a feature about one of the last remaining late night chess parlors in the city, and its habitues.


Posted in Americana, New York Tags: , , , , ,

Grieving New Yorkers Search for Their Loved Ones (VOA 9/14/01)

I was living in Washington at the time of the September 11th 2001 attacks, but was able to get the first train into Manhattan when the island opened on the morning of September 12th. I worked 17 hours a day in the week following, chronicling the human impact of the World Trade Center attacks on the city I love and have always loved. This story was one of several I filed in those first days.


Posted in Americana, History, New York, Oral History-oid, Person on the Street Interviews, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , , ,

Jewish Humor in America

A sound-rich look at the ways the Jews in America have influenced what Americans find funny, while expressing themselves and their take on life at the same time.


Posted in Americana, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, New York, Religion Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Labor Day: Everyday Americans Reflect on the Meaning of Work

Labor Day in America is a day most Americans associate with a three day weekend and a farewell to summertime. However, this national holiday is also a time to honor workers and the central place their labor has in our lives. For this report, Adam asked a range of New Yorkers about what “work” means to them.


Posted in Americana, History, Holidays-Season Specific, New York, Person on the Street Interviews

Mister Spoons: Big Apple Flatware Virtuoso

There are hundreds of musicians, good and bad, tooting and strumming and bowing and belting in the New York subway system, but Mr. Spoons is sui generis. Not only is he fantastic at playing the spoons, he has an outsize character to match. I spent some serious time with him, and filed this report for VOA.


Posted in Americana, Music, New York, Profile Tags: , , , , , ,

Nature and New Yorkers

There is nature IN New York, there is nature as TRANSMUTED through the sensibility of New Yorkers, and there is New Yorkers AS nature herself.  This piece explores them all.  Another love letter to my Gotham home.


Posted in Americana, New York, Uncategorized
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