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Gotham Center In the News - CUNY Matters October, 2001

First City History Festival Presented by Gotham Center

Gotham, 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 will debate such matters and many myths and realities of New York, from New Netherland to the present. (New York City History Week is planned to follow, October 8-14.)

The Gotham History Festival is presented by CUNY's recently founded Gotham Center for New York City History, in cooperation with virtually every history-oriented institution in the five boroughs. It Is intended to celebrate New York City's magniflcent but underappreciated historical resources by drawing together a broad variety of participants—buffs 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 Center's historic former B. Altman Building.

"Finally, 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, we're going to showcase the city's amazing stories, demonstrating history's power to entertain and illuminate. Then, in two years time, we'll 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 will host 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.

One topic explored will be 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 city's most notorious neighborhood. On Saturday at 7:00 p.m. film-maker Martin Scorsese will talk 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 York—More than a Movie."

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