Borough Tales

Meet New York City's Borough Historians

This summer, WNYC will introduce you to New York City's five historians. They'll let us in on some of the secrets of their 'hoods and answer the questions you've always wanted to ask about your borough.

Recently in Borough Tales

Remembering Harlem's Finest: Bud Powell

Friday, August 20, 2010

If you ever want to hear a piano laugh, listen to Bud Powell. And when you want to hear that same piano get deeply sentimental or sound like its catching fire, stick with Bud Powell.


Greater New York: How Five Boroughs Became One City

Friday, August 20, 2010

All this summer, we've been catching up with the five keepers of the city’s past, the historians in charge of studying and preserving the stories of New York’s neighborhoods -- all for no pay. To conclude our series, here's a look at how the city of New York that we know today came into being in 1898, when the five boroughs were consolidated into "Greater New York."


Uptown and Downtown Scenes: The Manhattan Mixtape

Monday, August 16, 2010

The artists in our essential Manhattan mixtape were not necessarily born in the borough, but like so many residents, they came here to make it.


Comments [2]

Michael Miscione: Investigating Manhattan's History

Monday, August 16, 2010


All this summer, we've been catching up with the five keepers of the city’s past, the historians in charge of studying and preserving the stories of New York’s neighborhoods, all for no pay. This week, in our final installment, WNYC's Kathleen Horan catches up with Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione on the Upper East Side.

Comments [4]

Ask the Historian: Post Your Manhattan Questions

Monday, August 16, 2010

All this week, WNYC is collecting your questions about Manhattan and posing them to borough historian Michael Miscione.

Comments [34]

Ask the Historian: Post Your Staten Island Questions

Monday, August 09, 2010

Ever heard of the Pig, Peach or Whisky Wars? Do you know where the British massed their troops while preparing to attack New York City during the American Revolution?

Comments [31]

Cricket Lives On at Staten Island's Walker Park

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bring up the borough of Staten Island and several things come to mind: a ferry ride, the Fresh Kills Landfill or maybe the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. But few people think of Staten Island as synonymous with a 22-yard pitch of sand in the borough's Walker Park, home to the oldest running cricket club in the U.S.

Comments [1]

Studying Staten Island: From Sea Home to Secession

Monday, August 09, 2010

All this summer, we've been catching up with the five keepers of the city’s past, the borough historians, who are in charge of studying and preserving the stories of New York’s neighborhoods, and all for no pay. This week, in our fourth installment, WNYC's Kathleen Horan takes the ferry to Staten Island.

Comments [3]

A Garden Grows in the Bronx: The New York Botanical Garden, From Farmland to Orchid Shows

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In the mid-1890s, a botanist from Columbia University, Nathaniel Lord Britton, toured three locations in the Bronx. He visited land which is now Van Cortland Park and the Bronx Zoo, but he was not satisfied. When Britton saw the exposed rock outcroppings, large hills and deep valleys populated with Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maples, Gum trees and Conifer and Hardwood trees at the New York Botanical Garden’s current location, he knew he’d found the perfect spot.


Born to Study the Bronx

Monday, August 02, 2010

Here's a way to get to know your city: Ask the borough historian. All this summer, we've been catching up with the five men in charge of preserving and studying New York neighborhoods. This week, WNYC's Kathleen Horan takes us to the Bronx.

Comments [9]

Bronx by the Books, Blogs and Newspapers

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Bronx's best known literary titan is probably Edgar Allan Poe, who lived in the borough from 1846 until his death in 1849. But the queen of suspense, Mary Higgins Clark, also hails from the borough, and even the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks conducted research and worked at a local hospitals there. Below is a list of essential literature about the Bronx and by Bronx authors as well as must-read blogs and newspapers from the borough.


Ask the Historian: Post Your Questions About the Bronx

Monday, August 02, 2010

Curious to know how the Bronx Zoo kept the American bison from going extinct or how hip-hop got started in the Bronx?

Comments [77]

A Bronx Life: Photographing the Borough for Over 30 Years

Monday, August 02, 2010

Joe Conzo Jr., 47, was in the first graduating class of South Bronx High School and had the fortune to count among his classmates the legends and pioneers of hip-hop culture, including members of the Cold Crush Brothers, Afrika Bambatta and DJ Kool Herc, among other.


The Boogie-Down Mixtape

Monday, August 02, 2010

New York City’s northern-most borough isn’t called the Boogie-Down Bronx for nothing. From hip-hop to salsa to funk to doo wop to rock to folk, the borough is packed with musical talent. We had to make some serious calls about which BX-born musicians would make the cut for our “Boogie-Down Mixtape."

Comments [7]

'Buried in Bureaucracy': A Look at Hart Island, the City's Cemetery

Monday, August 02, 2010

For more than 140 years, Hart Island, part of the Bronx, has served as Potter’s Field for New York, the city cemetery where the indigent, and others, are buried. Covering 101 acres in at the western end of Long Island Sound, the site is the final resting place for more than 800,000 souls and is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. New York City’s Department of Correction runs the island, and visitation is restricted to those who can document that a family member is buried there. Inmates from Rikers Island perform the work of clearing fields and burying the dead.

Artist Melinda Hunt has studied and chronicled the island for nearly 20 years, producing a book of photographs, a film documentary and a series of drawings of the dead, among other works. She has also used New York’s Freedom of Information Law to get public burial records from 1985 to 2007 and has made them available on The Hart Island Project website. WNYC spoke with Hunt about the history and mysteries of the island. An edited transcript:

Comments [6]

The South Bronx: Where Hip-Hop Was Born

Monday, August 02, 2010

Hip-hop's foundations were being laid in the 1970s, brick by brick, by DJs in the South Bronx, sometimes even in burnt out or deteriorating buildings. These pioneers invented sampling (isolating one sound and reusing it in another song) and hip-hop's other key elements through trial and error, mostly by fooling around with records at home.

Comments [8]

Brooklyn Bridge: Granite and Steel, Poetry and Radio

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of Brooklyn's most recognizable landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge is not just a static monument to innovation in the borough. It continues to undergo developments and WNYC has been following the recent, $508 million renovation project. But we've also been looking at its early beginnings.

Comments [1]

Collecting the History of Brooklyn

Monday, July 26, 2010

They promote landmark preservation, give tours and track down hundred-year-old documents. Their positions are mandated by state law...  but they don't make a penny for their work. They're the five city historians -- one for each borough. This summer, we'll be meeting them and finding out secret knowledge about their respective 'hoods.

Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger has been training all his life for this position.

Comments [5]