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October 2001

Campuses Mobilize After Terrorist Attack

CUNY's "Success Express" Highlights Grads
Freshman Enrollment Rises at CUNY
First Festival Presented by Gotham Center
CUNY TV enhances recruiting outreach
U.S. Cheers Poet Laureate: Prof. Billy Collins
A Dream of Food On Washington Mall
Navy League Award to Hunter Physicist
Nine Leading Scholars Named Distinguished Professors
Haitian First Lady, CCNY Alumna, Feted
Baruch College Opens Vertical Campus
Historic Matters
Baruch Center Confronts Quality of Urban Life
Hunter College Historian Communes with the Saints
A Displaced Person Discovers His Place on Campus
CUNY Students Vault into Poll Work
Double Play for CUNY Broadcasters
First City History Festival Presented by Gotham Center

colonial streetGotham, N.Y.— What was colonial New York really like? What was the hot dog cart of the 19th century? What site in Brooklyn recently divulged artifacts of slavery? At a first-ever Gotham History Festival at the Graduate Center on October 5-7, historians debate such matters and many myths and realities of New York, from New Netherland to the present. (New York City History Week, October 8-14.)

The Gotham History Festival was presented by CUNY’s recently founded Gotham Center for New York City History, in cooperation with virtually every history-oriented institution in the five boroughs. It celebrates New York City’s magnificent but under-appreciated historical resources by drawing together a broad variety of participants—buffs and teachers, preservationists and academics, historically-curious residents and visitors. Aptly, the site of the free three-day series of over 100 panels, papers, exhibits, and film screenings is the Graduate Center’s historic former B. Altman Building.

cononial stree
A street scene in colonial days; above, a fight about to break out in the rough-and-tumble Five Points section in 1827. At the Gotham History Festival, historians will debate myths and misunderstandings about New Netherland of yesterday and New York of today.

"Finally, our civic history fans will have a festival of their own,” said Mike Wallace, the Pulitzer-winning co-author of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 and Director of the Gotham Center, part of the Graduate Center of CUNY. “For ten days, we’re going to showcase the city’s amazing stories, demonstrating history’s power to entertain and illuminate. Then, in two years time, we’ll do it again: we intend to make the Gotham History Festival a biennial feature on the metropolitan scene.”

To open the Festival, film-maker Ric Burns hosted the showing of portions of the final segments of his PBS documentary New York: A Documentary Film (see sidebar). Also featured is a labor history exhibit, “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives,” a New York book fair, and a theatrical performance.

One topic explored was the gangs of Five Points, seen here in 1827. In the mid- 19th century, Five Points, today home to NYU dorms and the criminal court system, was the city’s most notorious neighborhood. On Saturday at 7:00 p.m., film-maker Martin Scorsese talked about re-creating Five Points for his forthcoming film "Gangs of New York." There will also be a panel discussion on Oct. 6 called “The Gangs of New York—More than a Movie.”

For more information on the Festival, visit

Ric Burns’s massive New York: A Documentary Film reaches its climax on PBS this fall, and among the experts seen on camera is CUNY’s venerable political scientist and cultural historian Marshall Berman.

Mayor Abe Beame, whose archives reside at LaGuardia Community College, with a stroke of headline-writing genius.

A teacher at City College, the Graduate Center, and the Center for Worker Education for 30 years, Berman isthe author of The Politics of Authenticity, All That’s Solid Melts into Air, and Adventures in Marxism. His current work-in-progress is One Hundred Years of Spectacle: The Metamorphosis of Times Square, to be published by Random House.

The final two segments of the epic tale of Gotham, totaling 4-1/2 hours and airing on September 30 and October 1, examine “The City of Tomorrow” (1929-1945) and “The City and the World” (1946 to the present).

A harrowing period in New York City’s history (and CUNY, in particular), the financial crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s is one of the events covered in the finale of the Ric Burns documentary.