Editor’s Note: This article is written by Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author and filmmaker. Shapiro’s first non-fiction book (about a teen stowaway who swam the Hudson River to join Commander Byrd’s famous 1928 expedition to Antarctica) is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in late 2016. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.
Not every New Yorker wants to head to the Hudson River and join a flotilla at 5 a.m., but there’s a certain breed of enthusiastic types that would rejoice in the opportunity. Full disclosure: I’m one of them.
Mr. First awaiting the opening of the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. Image via northjersey.com
Brooklyn-born Omero C. Catan died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the age of 82 on October 19, 1996. Most probably don’t recognize that name. Other than a profile in The New York Times published only a year before his death, there is little about him that has made it into common knowledge. Decades ago, however, he was known by New Yorkers as Mr. First. The name is quite literal. Simply put, in a career that began in 1928, Catan has been the first person present at more than 500 historic opening days across the east coast.
The New York City Dîner en Blanc, the pop-up white dinner for thousands is returning to a new surprise location in just two weeks. With previous appearances at Bryant Park, Lincoln Center (check out our timelapse video of the event), Nelson A. Rockefeller Park and the World Financial Center, this fifth edition of the flash mob dinner will be the largest yet with 5000 guests. While the Paris Dîner en Blanc, most recently taking place at the Palais Royal, now counts up to 15,000 guests, the New York City dinner is catching up–and with a 35,000 person waitlist. The New York City dinner, unsurprisingly, also comes with some star power.
Image via evgrieve.com
It’s refreshing to know that New York is finally putting its foot down in dealing with the millions of tourists roaming the streets this summer. In an official memo from the city’s Department of Pedestrian Etiquette (we know it’s real because it’s printed on the official city stationery, heh heh) posted on the front door of an East 7th Street building, “all new residents and visitors to New York City over the age of 16 will be required to take a mandatory training session on Proper Etiquette for navigating the sidewalks and streets of the greater metropolitan area.”
Upon completing the training, the NYC DPE is further mandating an oral and practical exam on successfully and efficiently using the city sidewalks, after which passing citizens will receive the Pedestrian Permit. Failure will result in a year-long ban from entering the city.
The Draft Riots of 1863 are regarded as the deadliest racially incensed insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War. Image via history.com
A number of factors led to the worst series of street riots in American History. With the Civil War well underway and the Union army strapped for supplies and soldiers, draft officers were forced to make a difficult decision in New York, whose economy was still tightly connected with the South and whose population contained a large number of working class Irish citizens and families who resented the laws that allowed wealthier men to circumvent the upcoming drafts. What followed the second drawing of the Union Army draft in New York was four days of destruction cutting a swathe across the entire island, ending only when President Abraham Lincoln ordered military force against it.
The riots reached far and wide throughout 19th century Manhattan; here are seven notable spots, famous now for their fighting, or their surprising lack of fighting.
Image via joonbug.com
Just ten days after our own Independence Day fireworks spectacular, France is gearing up for a country-wide light show of its own. July 14th, otherwise known as Bastille Day or ‘La Fête Nationale,’ marks the anniversary of the peoples’ storming of the Bastille, a prison-fortress in Paris whose eventual surrender led to the abolition of Feudalism in France and the spark of the French Revolution. And though a French holiday, it’s no surprise that across the pond in multi-national New York, Bastille Day will be celebrated as well. Here are a few ways to feel a little French in the next few days.