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 CUNYs 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 Citys magnificent but
under-appreciated historical resources by drawing together
a broad variety of participantsbuffs 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 Centers
historic former B. Altman Building.
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.
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, were going to showcase the citys amazing
stories, demonstrating historys power to entertain and
illuminate. Then, in two years time, well 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.
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 citys most notorious
neighborhood. On Saturday at 7:00 p.m., film-maker Martin
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 YorkMore than a
For more information on the Festival, visit www.gothamcenter.org.
massive New York: A Documentary Film reaches its climax on
PBS this fall, and among the experts seen on camera is CUNYs
venerable political scientist and cultural historian Marshall
Mayor Abe Beame, whose
archives reside at LaGuardia Community College, with a
stroke of headline-writing genius.
at City College, the Graduate Center, and the Center for Worker
Education for 30 years, Berman isthe author of The Politics
of Authenticity, All Thats 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.
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 Citys 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.