Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday Links: A Trip to the Islands

BOULDER, Colorado -- We are a little New York City-heavy this week with links, but I am preparing for a trip there next week, and I have just spent the past several days pouring over historical maps and reading about the various unvisited islands of the lower Hudson archipelago - places like Shooters Island, which was at one time a major shipyard, or Hoffman Island, a bit of landfill plopped into the lower harbor to protect the city from invasion. I can't wait to slip my canoe into the teeming waters of the East River and get a view of the city that few do.

Bring me your poor, your prisoners, your dead babies, your missiles. The Hart Island Project is an organization that is trying to document the history and ongoing story of one of New York's most fascinating yet invisible landmarks. The island is the city's Potters Field, a mass grave for the indigent, the unclaimed, and the stillborn, and over 850,000 New Yorkers are interred there. It is completely closed to the public and is owned by the city's bureau of prisons. People are still buried there, their graves dug by inmates from Riker's Island to the southwest. The founder of this project, Malinda Hunt, has made a documentary about the island which you can watch on the site, and she has been compiling a list of names of the forgotten thousands buried there.

Wired New York: An apartment in the Hudson River. This article was originally written in 2004 by Jim Rasenberger and posted on Wired New York, but Itchy just recently pointed it out to me. It's about some of the fantastical proposed projects for New York City that were never built, like Gustav Lindenthal's futurist masterpiece - a suspension bridge over the Hudson who's towers were massive apartment blocks - or Harvey Wiley Corbett's plan to turn Midtown into a three-dimensional grid of raised sidewalks. As Itchy just posted, it is still important to think big.

WSJ: Your tax dollars at work. Three of the most expensive sports stadiums ever built are set to open this year, and they all received huge subsidies from taxpayers who are rapidly slipping into poverty. Too bad they will never be able to afford a ticket to see a game in the new Texas Stadium, the new Yankee Stadium, or the Mets' Citi Park, soon to be renamed Zombie Bank Park, or perhaps after the Chinese conglomerate that swoops in to feats on the remains of the toppled behemoth. Perhaps as an homage to the bandbox stadiums of old, the new park in the Bronx will have obstructed-view seats; the view from the $5 bleachers will be blocked by a giant glass-encased luxury bar. Fuck you, working people! Watch the game on the jumbotron if you can't see.

Take a look around. Take the Handle Daily columnist Chris Walters is apparently trying to walk down every single street and alley in New York City; he's got his work cut out for him, but the effort is commendable, and the results are worth reading. His weekly column, Corner by Corner, is his effort to learn as much as he can about the fascinating city that surrounds him. I think we should all take a lesson from that no matter where we live.

Our language isn't dead, it's just sleeping. The Living Tounges Institute for Endangered Languages works all over the world to try and at least bear witness to the disappearance of indigenous languages and knowledge. Their website is packed with information they have collected on endangered languages from southern Siberia to West Africa to the Pacific Northwest, including audio recordings, online dictionaries, and academic papers.

[Photo credit: Claire Yaffa, Hart Island Project]

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