This is the ninth episode of Public Seminar’s podcast, Exiles on 12th Street. If you like it, go to iTunesSpotifyStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe.

The future of New York has been thrown into question by COVID-19, as the pandemic has taken a massive physical and economic toll on the city. However, it is not the first time the city has been brought to a near standstill. The ninth episode of Exiles on 12th Street examines the systems that have kept the city running resiliently for decades, including architecture, subways and most importantly, essential workers. Join the Exiles as we explore the past and present of New York’s infrastructure, and envision a sustainable future with our guests: historian Kim Phillips-Fein, architect Paul Goldberger, urban ecologist Timon McPhearson, and photographer William Wegman. The episode is presented by your host, Claire Potter, co-executive editor of Public Seminar and professor of history at The New School for Social Research.

Here are some links and references mentioned in this podcast:

  • Claire mentions President Gerald Ford’s refusal to aid New York amidst the financial crisis in 1975 and the infamous Daily News story, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”
  • Kim and Claire discuss the collapse of the West Side Elevated Highway, which remained abandoned for years after the fact.
  • Claire references several ideological clashes over infrastructure including Jesse Gray’s housing rights activism, the 1969 garbage strikes organized by The Young Lords, and the standoff between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo over subway funding
  • Architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who has written for both the New Yorker and the New York Times, mentions city planner Robert Moses and urban activist Jane Jacobs’ conflicting visions for the city.
  • Timon McPhearson, an urban ecology professor recently appointed by Mayor de Blasio to the Fourth New York City Panel on Climate Change envisions the future of New York City and discusses the meaning of the term “sustainability.”  
  • Claire notes that Edith Wharton’s novels provide a vivid glimpse into the infrastructure of the city. The excerpt performed by Paul Hecht is from Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
  • Claire visits artist William Wegman and his Weimaraner pups to discuss Stationary Figures, an installation of 11 mosaic murals at the 23rd Street subway station commissioned by the MTA Arts & Design. The colorful murals depict dogs dressed up like New York City commuters.
  • The episode image of the art in the 23rd Street/Sixth Avenue station in New York City was taken by Ryan Ng and is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.