10/22/13 10:45am

David Ruggles, composite

David Ruggles had taken down some of the toughest slave holders and their fugitive slave kidnapping lackeys in the business. This slightly built, rather sickly, bespectacled African-American writer and anti-slavery activist was one of the most hated men in late 1830s New York. His life was a series of “firsts” – owner of the first black bookstore and library in New York, publisher of the first black periodical, and more. He and his activist associates, both black and white, formed the New York Committee of Vigilance.

They had taken anti-slavery opposition beyond the genteel outrage of the meeting hall and the broadsheet, and were doing their best to physically liberate any slave brought to New York City by a Southern master. They also worked with the legal system to free those captured by slave catchers and tossed in prison while awaiting extradition to Southern shores. These activities had earned him the hatred of those who profited from the slave trade, as well as the ire of his abolitionist peers, many of whom thought he went too far, too fast.

David Ruggles’ story can be found in the previous chapters of this story, linked below. When we left him last time, he had lost most of his money, his home, and his job. He had also found out that the cause of righteousness could be much more complicated than he thought. Like many dedicated activists to a cause, he had made several broad leaps into complicated situations without seeing all sides first, and had suffered the consequences to his livelihood and his reputation. His activities had also taken their toll on his health. (more…)

09/26/12 4:00pm


Open House New York is back for another weekend of site tours! This evening OHNY will announce the 300 spaces open to the public on the weekend of Oct. 6 and 7. Registration begins for some of the tours tomorrow morning at 10 am. A press release sent out today offered a sneak peak of the many sites. Brooklyn spots include the Wythe Hotel (pictured), Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, Lakeside at Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the Visitor Center at Newtown Creek, and neighborhood tours of Victorian Flatbush and Wallabout. Private residencies and new housing developments will also be open for exploring. You can read about the nine new sites this year over at Curbed. And the Open House New York website will have all the event details you’re interested in.

08/21/12 9:30am


Court cases stemming from violence in the Sunset Park rent strike are moving forward. A Brooklyn judge ordered building superintendent Israel Espinoza to vacate the embattled Sunset Park building where he lives and works by 4 pm yesterday, issued two orders of protection, and upgraded assault charges against him, according to a press release from the Sunset Park rent strike. The super allegedly assaulted 65-year-old rent striker Francisca Ixtilico last month, sending her to the hospital for several days with cerebral bleeding. Meanwhile, the court has postponed hearings in the case against Occupy Sunset Park activist Dennis Flores to Sept. 12 because of lost paperwork. Last month, police arrested and charged both Flores and Espinoza with third-degree assault and a misdemeanor for fighting each other, according to the document. Yesterday, the rent strikers and two reverends from nearby Trinity Lutheran Church called for the court to charge Espinoza with felony second-degree assault. Building tenants at 553, 545, and 557 46th Street began a rent strike on July 5 to protest ongoing problems with hazardous wiring, vermin and garbage, and say they fear unsafe wiring will cause an electrical fire. The building has many violations and is in foreclosure. Tenants have asked Felix Ortiz, a New York State assemblyman representing Sunset Park, to take action. If repairs are not made immediately, tenants said, they plan to make emergency repairs themselves.
Occupy Sunset Park Press Release [Facebook]
Judge Bounces Super out of Building After Brawl With Tenant [NY Daily News]
Tenant Punched, Arrests in Sunset Park Rent Strike [Brownstoner]
Sunset Park Rent Strike This Thursday [Brownstoner]
Photo by bogieharmond

08/20/12 9:00am


New York’s Citi Bike bike share program has been delayed until March, numerous outlets reported. The city’s vendors split with their technology partner and are now writing their own software from scratch, said The Wall Street Journal. The program will launch with 7,000 bikes, eventually growing to 10,000. The delay will not cost taxpayers because the program is being largely funded by Citigroup Inc. and MasterCard Inc. Meanwhile, two startups are creating their own bike-share programs, according to The New York Times. Spinlister lets renters coordinate with owners to share; the cost is only about $20 a day. About 80 bikes are already listed in New York. Social Bicycles is more like the Citi Bike share program, but instead of riders having to pick up and drop off bikes at custom racks located throughout New York, the bikes are equipped with GPS and built-in locks. A smart phone app tells renters where to find a bike, and it can be unlocked by entering a code on the bike.
Bike-Share Racked as Tech Woes Continue [WSJ]
There’s More Than One Way to Share a Bike [NY Times]
BHA Protests Bike Share Locations, Issues Survey [Brownstoner]
Photo by Gothamist

05/07/12 12:00pm

Via the Behind the Scenes blog of the New York Historical Society we get this treat in advance of an upcoming exhibit called “BE SURE! BE SAFE! GET VACCINATED! Smallpox, Vaccination and Civil Liberties in New York.” The blog post notes: “The film is based on the real-life story of the 1947 smallpox scare in New York City. An American businessman returning from Mexico was the first to die from the disease, though he was misdiagnosed as having bronchitis. Two others were diagnosed as having smallpox soon after, and all who came in contact with them were required to be vaccinated. The New York City Health Commissioner recommended vaccination to all New Yorkers, and the city provided vaccines for free across the city. Through propaganda and public education the program became incredibly effective, all without encroaching on personal civil liberties, which wouldn’t have been the case had the city instituted mandatory vaccination. Over six million New Yorkers were immunized within a few weeks; according to CNN, ‘Doctors immunized residents at a rate of eight injections per minute – 500,000 in one day. The feared smallpox epidemic was averted.’ The last naturally-occurring case of smallpox was in 1977.”
The Horror of Smallpox! Disease and Film Noir [Behind the Scenes]