The Great War and NYC: Prospect Park

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World War One Memorial in Prospect Park, erected 1921

April 6, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the First World War. America’s involvement was comparatively brief, yet the war had massive impacts on American society. This year, we will be posting a series of articles about the ways in which the war affected the sites where we work in New York City.


War has played an integral part in the history of Prospect Park. In August 1776, the future site of the Park was a battleground, as American troops tried to stop the British advance in the epochal Battle of Brooklyn. Originally conceived in 1861, the Civil War intervened; this turned out to be a blessing, as the pause gave the Park’s commissioners reason to reconsider the original design – with Flatbush Avenue coursing through the middle of the proposed park – and instead hire the visionary team of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. 50 years into its life, World War I would arrive to alter the Park’s landscape yet again. (more…)


Summer 2016: Brooklyn Navy Yard Photo Contest

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Thanks to all the photographers who joined our summer installment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Photography Tour. This season, the winning photographs will be selected by an artist based in the Yard, Tatiana Arocha.

Over the course of the summer, we got to know Tatiana and her work well, as she led a series of workshops for students in Pratt PreCollege, the summer school for high schoolers at nearby Pratt Institute. Through a discussion of her portfolio and a hands-on activity using some of her own artistic techniques, she helped this group of aspiring artists, designers, engineers, and architects better understand the skills and pathways they might need to succeed in their chosen field. (more…)


Homing Pigeons Return to Brooklyn Navy Yard After 115-Year Absence with “Fly By Night”

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A rare Navy  hero pigeon, who saved a British air crew in 1918

After a hiatus of 115 years, a vast squadron of homing pigeons has returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

This weekend marks the opening of Fly By Night, an ambitious performance piece by artist Duke Riley and produced by Creative Time. On the deck of the decommissioned naval vessel Baylander, Riley and his team have erected a pigeon coop and assembled some 1,800 birds. After weeks of training and preparations, performances will begin on May 7 and run for six weeks, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at dusk. Each evening, this flock will be released as the sun begins to set, each bearing an LED light on its foot to create a swirling, winged light show above the East River. (more…)


Noah Chesnin of NY Aquarium Joins Brooklyn Waterfront Tour August 22

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We are now three weeks in to our Brooklyn Waterfront Past & Present Tour series, and our guest speakers so far have been spectacular. Nate Kensinger was able to recall how almost every inch of the Brooklyn, Greenpoint, and Newtown Creek waterfronts have changed over the 10 years that he has been photographing, filming, and researching New York City’s industrial edges. Emily Manley helped us understand why the Gowanus Canal is so troubled, and how the state, federal, and local regulatory agencies work together to clean up the site, and hopefully there are now a few more readers of the New York Environment Report.

For week three, we are again heading north up the East River and the Newtown Creek with Noah Chesnin, Policy Program Manager for the New York Seascape Program at Coney Island’s New York Aquarium, who will share with us his work in conservation, education, and policy connected to the marine wildlife and habitats of the greater New York region. (more…)


Extraordinary Journey to Bring Camels to US Began at Brooklyn Navy Yard

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"Camels secured for a gale," by Gwinn Harris Heap, from Information Respecting the Purchase of Camels for the Purposes of Military Transportation, 1857

This past weekend, I was perusing the US Naval Institute website (probably one of my favorite websites), when I came across an article, “Unique Ships of the U.S. Navy.” Featured in the article were seafaring oddities like the world’s smallest nuclear sub, a concrete-hulled refrigerated barge used to supply sailors with ice cream in World War II, and the Navy’s “smallest aircraft carrier,” the USS Baylander, which is now a resident of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Another one of the vessels on this list caught my eye: the USS Supply, which in 1855–57 embarked on one of the most unusual journeys in American military history. Its mission was to travel to the Middle East to procure for the US Army an experimental caravan of camels to be used for military operations in the arid Southwest. The project itself was remarkable – and has been written about extensively – but it drew my attention because of its close connections to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (more…)


From USS Wrangell to Turnstile Tours, “The Saga of Salty Sam” Continues

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Salty the Dog.

Last month, we at Turnstile Tours had the pleasure of adding a new member to our team – Salty. She is an Australian Cattle Dog mix (we think), and we adopted her from our nearby shelter, Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

Little is known about her past life (she is about two years old), and she did not respond to the name given to her in the shelter, so we decided to giver her a new name to go with her new home. As is our want, we decided to find a name that would both fit her personality but also have some local historical significance. (more…)


Groundhog Day in NYC: All Politics is Local

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Chris talks to Chuck. He says, "Lower the fines!"

For the fourth year in a row, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and made the trek over the Verrazano Bridge to see New York City’s only weather predicting rodent, Staten Island Chuck.

Usually it is Mayor Michael Bloomberg who listens to Chuck and decodes his Groundhogese, and for the previous three years, the translation has been an early end to winter.  In 2009, Chuck gained national notoriety for truculently biting Bloomberg on the finger, and the incident has been a seemingly bottomless well of jokes for politicians ever since – and today was no exception.  In 2010, Bloomberg was gifted a pair of boxing gloves at the ceremony; this year, someone made mention of Chuck’s diet of “mayoral fingers.” (more…)