This week, get to know Untapped Cities contributor Eden Arielle Gordon. Eden grew up just outside of the city but only began exploring it when she started school at Barnard College, where she studies English and creative writing. She moonlights as a singer-songwriter and is a fan of tracing places where artists spent time in the city, travel, and coffee.
What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?
I’ve always been partial to the Chelsea Hotel and Coney Island, and I’ve become pretty fond of the Rose Garden in Prospect Park. But this summer I really fell for, ironically enough, the area in Nolita where the Untapped offices are. I love the Elizabeth Street Garden, which is this kind of astoundingly beautiful green area full of antique sculptures and benches that suddenly interrupts a row of storefronts just a little ways away. I also love the bookstores McNally Jackson and Housing Works, and the way the streets zig-zag and wind into each other. If you walk just a block away, you find a whole other world.
Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped:
One of my favorites is the piece I recently wrote about the secrets of the Rockaways. I’d been intrigued by the idea of a distant beachside land at the end of the line for a while, but when I found out that there’s a mostly abandoned ex-nuclear fort by the ocean, I knew I had to check it out. I visited the Rockaways on the dreariest, rainiest day, but that just made it feel more surreal. I thought the juxtaposition between the natural powers of the ocean and the manmade abandoned train factories and bathhouses was so moving and melancholy.
I also am pretty proud of my piece ‘10 Famous Poets and their Adventures in NYC,’ partly because it got shared by Patti Smith (one of my idols and favorite writers) herself on Facebook. One of my friends later on shared the article from Patti’s page without knowing I’d written it. It was a pretty wild moment.
What’s the most memorable thing that happened while writing for Untapped Cities?
I’ll never forget the first time I went on the Hard Hat tour of the Contagious Diseases Hospital at Ellis Island. It felt like there was something magical on the air that whole day. I met two lovely New York tourists on the ferry over, and then later on was recruited by a South Korean cult (long story). But the most magical thing of all was the hospital itself. There was one moment where I was back at the end of the group and we lost sight of the front and for a few minutes I found myself transported back in time; it was like we were completely disconnected from reality, lost in this alien place full of broken chairs and tangled ivy.
I’ve also had some great memories with some of my amazing coworkers, who I’m so lucky to call my friends.
What’s the most surprising and/or valuable thing you’ve learned while at Untapped Cities?
I’m continuously inspired by how much people care about their city. Each landmark and location that Untapped Cities covers exists, more likely than not, because at least one person truly loves it and has dedicated a lot of themselves to preserving or creating it. Everything has a story, and that became so clear to me while writing this summer.
I think there’s a current of apathy that can be really pervasive in modern society, but it’s not as present in New York. I think everyone cares so much here, whether they admit it or not, and that comes through when you see how knowledgeable and passionate people are about their beloved boroughs and landmarks.
What’s your favorite Untapped place you’ve visited while traveling? Where do you want to visit next?
One of the places that inspired me to start writing for Untapped Cities was what turned out to be the abandoned Bennett School for Girls in Millbrook, New York. I randomly came across it on a road trip upstate, immediately pulled over, and stared at it for about an hour. I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever—it was a grey, cloudy day and there were literal bats swirling all around its broken spires and rotting roof, and it looked like just about the most haunted place in the world.
It made me realize really acutely that if you keep your eyes open and look beyond your own time period and beyond our contemporary ideals about beauty, there are amazing, awe-inspiring things everywhere. I love how Untapped Cities covers places like that, places sometimes forgotten by a world that prioritizes the sparkling and new—old and broken things can be just as and often more beautiful.
What’s your favorite obscure fact about your city?
Allegedly, the entire world’s population could fit into the state of Texas if it were as densely populated as New York City. That density is definitely a big part of what gives the city its character. It’s kind of like a kaleidoscope, and everywhere you look there’s another portal or black hole to fall into.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
One time, when I was in South Africa, I jumped from the highest bungee jump in the world.