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 City Lore                                                                October, 2010  


Support City Lore Steel Worker Tribute
Triangle Shirtwaist Memorial Mona Lisa at the Met
NYC Trivia Contest Inside Eateries Three Kings Day


Dear Citylorists,

Please enjoy our Tours and Tales November-December , 2010 e-letter!

Hidden New York cover
One of the premiums City Lore offers.

Support City Lore (Please!) Most New Yorkers recognize—and even the tourists know—that the heart of New York is not at the Met or Lincoln Center, but in the hustle and bustle, the cacophonous mix of ethnic groups, social classes, and the arts that makes this city great. Increasingly, we are aware of the pressures that are forcing new immigrants, artists, and working people out of the city and making it more difficult for them to express their traditions, culture, and art. The magic is in the mix. We hope that you will support City Lore this year to ensure that there is a group willing to fight the uphill battle to keep it that way. We hope you’ll continue to make City Lore possible by joining online! Or, you can print out a membership form and mail it in. We’ve posted our People’s City Report Card, assessing the city’s record this year on supporting ten elements of grassroots cultural expression that keep the city vibrant and distinctive.

In addition to supporting our advocacy efforts, your support enables us to reach thousands of students in the public schools with cultural arts programs (even in the face of funding cutbacks). You also receive Caitlin Van Dusen’s lyrical Sense & the City Blog, City Lore Tours and Tales, and the Place of the Week. This year, your support will make possible the poemobile, partially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, that will tour New York City’s ethnic neighborhoods, projecting poems from the local cultures on the sides of buildings. You may also choose from a variety of wonderful premiums.

Mr. Brad Bonaparte
Mr. Brad Joseph Bonaparte

Tribute to Mohawk High Steel Worker Brad Bonaparte This month, City of Memory takes off its hat to Brad Bonaparte, an artist, storyteller, educator, Mohawk high steel worker, first responder, and friend of City Lore’s who passed away earlier this year. He spent three months in the smoke and debris of Ground Zero torching steel beams, and died of esophageal cancer as a result.

In 2007, Brad spoke to a class of 4th graders at PS 78 as part of a City Lore arts residency. He told of his experiences working high steel in Manhattan. He described walking on long steel trusses that when "that thing gets going, whoosh, whoosh. It swings back and forth. And that’s a little freaky to walk on. . . . You have to try to get the rhythm of the wave. . . You’ve got to be able to catch the wave, as it’s going back and forth." The students asked how he kept his balance, and if he put his arms out. "Once in a blue moon, you’ll see somebody put their arms out. But everybody really rips on them if they go across like that. You don’t want to do that. There little things you can do that aren’t written in any books. You don’t learn them in a class. You learn them by experience." The students asked him about the scariest thing that happened to him, and he described a fall working on a building at 6th Avenue and 60th Street, highlighted on our featured City of Memory tour, a tribute to Brad Bonaparte and other high steel workers who helped construct our cityscape.

Asch Building, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire memorial
Photo by Martha Cooper

A Century of Commemorations of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 Marking the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Factory Fire—New York City’s largest workplace disaster before 9/11—Art, Memory, Place: Commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, co-curated by City Lore’s Dr. Marci Reaven and Dr. Lucy Oakley along with NYU students, traces 100 years of the fire’s memorializations. Opening on January 11, 2011, the exhibit explores both historic and contemporary efforts to document the tragedy in which 146 young garment workers, mostly daughters of Jewish and Italian families from the nearby Lower East Side, lost their lives. The fire broke out on March 25, 1911, in the Asch Building—now named the Brown Building and part of NYU’s Silver Center complex (which is also home to the Grey Art Gallery). It quickly spread throughout the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors, which were home to the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. With many of the stairways blocked, only some of the workers managed to escape; others climbed out the windows, leaping to their deaths, or perished on the factory floor.

Art/Memory/Place is divided into four sections. Beginning with the ladies’ garment workers’ strike of 1909, Section One chronicles the fire itself, the display of bodies at the morgue, and the funeral processions—via photographs, magazine and newspaper illustrations, memorial sculptures, and even sheet music. Tracing the fire’s legacy from 1920 to 1945, Section Two ranges from a 1938 issue of Life Magazine profiling the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which references the fire, to documentation of Ernest Fiene’s striking but little-known 65-foot-long mural of 1938–40 in the auditorium of the High School of Fashion Industries (formerly Central High School of Needle Trades) on West 24th Street. Commissioned by the ILGWU, Fiene’s mural casts the fire as a touchstone of the union movement. Section Three explores activities surrounding the fire’s fiftieth anniversary in 1961, including memorial ceremonies, the publication of Leon Stein’s landmark book, The Triangle Fire (1962), and the Brown Building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Demonstrating the renewed vitality of interest in the fire today, Section Four documents annual memorial activities, both on site and in various New York City cemeteries where the victims are buried; includes contemporary mural, performance, and installation art—as well as novels, poems, and children’s books—addressing the fire’s legacy; and displays the winning proposal in a competition to design a permanent memorial to victims of the fire being sponsored by the Remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Coalition. City Lore participated in the successful effort to landmark the building, and is the fiscal sponsor for a wide range of programs coordinated by artist Ruth Sergel for the centennial.

When: January 11 – March 26, 2011, and April 12 to July 9, 2011
Where: NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square East, Manhattan
Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 11 am–6 pm; OPEN LATE Wednesday: 11 am–8 pm; Saturday: 11 am–5 pm.
For more information: 212-998-6780, or
Admission: Suggested donation: $3; NYU students, faculty, and staff: free of charge

Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa at the Met City Lore is all about the city’s grassroots culture, but we also love stories that demonstrate the way landmark works of fine art figure into people’s daily lives. In this audio story contributed to City of Memory by Ben Lebowitz, his mother Maryann Lebowitz describes seeing the Mona Lisa on its one and only voyage to the Met back in 1963.

Writing New York Stories Reads Again & NYC Trivia Contest On Sunday, January 9th at the Bowery Poetry Club (corner of Bowery & Bleecker), Writing New York Stories Reads! This is the culminating performance from the popular writing workshop taught by yours truly, a celebration of New York City in poetry and prose. Current current and former students share their tales of local characters, subway catastrophes, vanishing occupations, sex, humor and violence New-York-City-style. This was one of the best classes ever, and readers include Ariella Foss, Cristina Baldassarra, Dan Shlieben, Eli Shapiro, Glynnis Eldridge, Max Sarinsky, Meral Agish, Riley Minjung Kim, Roz Gregor, Thomas Rigney, Tracy Hanfling, and Virginia Randall. My next Writing New York Stories class runs from February 3 – April 7 on Thursdays from 6:30–9:30 pm. Call 212-353-4195 at Cooper Union to sign up.

The reading will include a special "New York City Entrance Exam," a trivia contest devised by one of the students, master trivia host Virginia Randall. See if you know what every New Yorker - native or adoptive – should know!

When: January 9, 2011, 2 pm–4 pm
Where: Bowery Poetry Club (Bowery & Bleecker, Manhattan)
For more information: 212-529-1955, x 301

Photo by Wijinanda Deroo

Inside Eateries If you’re anything like me, selecting a restaurant in New York is as much about the atmosphere as the food. In that light, you may enjoy the exhibit at the Robert Mann Gallery (210 11th Avenue, # 1002) – or simply peruse the images on the web.

"Continuing her long-term exploration of the architectural interior as a genre of photographic investigation, artist Wijnanda Deroo has scoured New York’s five boroughs documenting the full spectrum of the city’s culinary institutions. From Café des Artistes to Papaya Dog, the Russian Tea Room to Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, Deroo’s viewfinder alights on diverse sites (and sights) where we New Yorkers sit (or stand) to consume our daily bread. . . With recently shuttered institutions like Tavern on the Green in Central Park or Relish Diner in Williamsburg, there is also an nostalgic quality to the series, testament to inevitable economic cycles and the cutthroat nature of the high-powered New York restaurant industry. And yet, many of these cafes are durable, perennial favorites, trans-generational in their appeal simultaneously indicative of a cross-section of aesthetic and historical moments. How many thousands have sidled up to the Grand Central Oyster Bar (established 1913) at the end of an arduous day?"

Three Kings Day at SEA, 2009
Courtesy of SEA

Happy Holidays! However you celebrate the holidays, we celebrate you! You can get in the spirit listening to and watching the City’s two Carillonneurs at Riverside Church and St. Martins on City of Memory. If you have kids, consider bringing them to join the Three Kings Day celebration on the afternoon on Thursday, January 6, and receive a gift from the kings, with music by Los Pleneros de la 21, at one of our partnering organizations, Teatro SEA at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center.

When: January 6, 2011, 3 pm–5 pm
Where: Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 107 Suffolk Street, Manhattan.
For more information: 212-529-1545

Please forward this email to your friends and encourage them to join the City Lore’s email list!

Enjoy the City!


City of Memory is sponsored by City Lore and Local Projects.  It was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore is part of a cultural coalition called CATCH, to promote the City’s cultural heritage. Check out the web sites of our wonderful partners, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Latino Children’s Theater, SEA, and the World Music Institute.

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