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New York City Wild Life

Some think that pigeons, rats and cockroaches are the only creatures that make New York City’s wildlife. And perhaps they are right if they look for nature in trash cans or the subway system. But the rivers, lakes, shoreline and the 1,700 public parks in New York are home to thousands of other creatures. Over 280 species of birds have been sighted over Central Park alone in the past few years.

The New York Public Library has undertaken the effort to remind New Yorkers that diverse wildlife exists in this city. Its newest exhibition Urban Neighbors: Images of New York City Wildlife, which opens October 11, consists of photographs, illustrated books, hand-colored engravings, maps and lithographs featuring 250 species that inhabit - or used to inhabit - New York. Although most of the items presented are contemporary, some, like a bronze replica of the first official seal of the city featuring a beaver, date from the mid-17th century.

"The goal of the exhibition is to introduce to the public the great resources that New York has," said Miriam T. Gross, Natural History Specialist in the General Research Division and the show’s curator. By resources she indicated animals.

Each of the eight sections of the exhibition is devoted to a different group of ‘neighbors,’ which range from furred to scaled creatures that make New York their home. Street and Backyard Neighbors presents artwork depicting robins, butterflies and squirrels, and illustrations of peregrines nesting on two New York City’s skyscrapers. Shore and Wetlands Neighbors presents lithographs and images of waterfowl, shorebirds, turtles and crabs and features plates from a landmark book by Mark Catesby, an 18th century British-born naturalist and artist. Occasional and Unexpected Neighbors shows images of New York’s ‘visiting’ animals, including foxes, coyotes and Monk Parakeets that occasionally glimpsed in the city in the past.

Picture Language of the City

Posters of an upside-down martini glass are not displayed in the Lower East Side just to cover up the molded brick walls. They actually convey a message: no yuppies wanted.

The martini glass poster is just one of the items that will be presented at the New-York Historical Society’s Picture Language of the City, a discussion led by Kathleen Hulser and a tour of the museum’s posters, signs, graffiti, and images.

In New York, where English has thousands of dialects and non-native speakers often have to repeat themselves several times before they are actually understood, images play an important role in effective communication. People throughout the history of this city have used imagery to express their opinions, ideas or feelings and oftentimes managed to influence trends and even policies.

"Images speak louder than words because people actually put a lot of imagination into them," said Hulser. "Images hit emotions first, not the intellect. They are a way we talk to each other in public places."

During the discussion Hulser will give some historical background of old advertisements and theater posters. She will also talk about cigar store Indian who in the past was admired as a folk art creation and symbolized the popularity of American tobacco.

The event will take place in the Henry Lucy Center for the Study of American Culture at the New York Historical Society on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Home of the Free

Dozens of seventh and eighth graders from schools across New York, Long Island and New Jersey visited firehouses, universities and city halls in September with a single mission in mind: to photograph local public servants at work.

From hundreds of images captured by the students, 60 were selected for the Home of the Free exhibition, which opens on October 29 at the New-York Historical Society.

The students photographed mayors, city council members, governors, police officers, meat inspectors, school principals, subway employees and sanitation workers. Over 100 schools participated in the project and each was granted a $500 honorarium and a Canon G4 digital camera.

Each student team was assigned a "media mentor," local newspaper photo editor who visited classes to speak about photojournalism, conducted tours of newsrooms and advised students on how to best capture public servants at work. Washington Mutual assisted with the project by giving time off to their employees to drive the student teams to appointments and help them process their photos.

The Home of the Free project, sponsored by Washington Mutual and the New-York Historical Society, was inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist David Hume Kennerly.

The Home of the Free exhibition will run through January 19, 2003. Photographs not included in the presentation are on display at Washington Mutual financial centers throughout the region.


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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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