1. Jeff Coplon’s story about New York Times managing editor Gerald Boyd (“How Race Is Lived in America,” November 19) touched a nerve with many readers, some of whom responded with personal recollections of Boyd. Most memories were positive, but not all. A reader who identified himself as a “black NYT escapee” wrote that “Gerald was a decent man who had his faults, the most tragic of which was that he believed, with all of his heart, in the Great Gray Lie that is the New York Times.” Another reader wrote, “I’m a black journalist in my late thirties and had an internship at the Times the summer after my junior year of college. During my stint on the metro desk, Boyd was invisible to me—I didn’t meet him until we both happened to be at a reporter’s weekend party. I eagerly told him about an investigative story I was working on, and he said, ‘What do I need you to work on that for? I have reporters for stories like that.’ … So, I always thought of Gerald Boyd mainly as a jerk. Yet I respect his pioneering accomplishments, and I’m angry at the way he was railroaded in the Blair matter.” A journalism-school classmate of Boyd’s who “knew him but not well” wrote that “after we graduated, I watched for his articles … I’m sad to report that I always found his prose to be merely okay. As Dr. King encouraged me to do, I judged Gerald not on the color of his skin but on the content of his copy. And I found it lacking. Still, I took pride in the ascent of a classmate at the country’s most powerful newspaper. Great writers have been known to make lousy editors, and I hoped the reverse would be true in Gerald’s case. But when he was named managing editor and I saw his quote about hoping his promotion would help some ‘kid of color … dream just a little bigger dream,’ I was disturbed. I would have much preferred that he’d said something along the lines that his mission was to put out the best damn newspaper he could every single day. Period.” Another reader lambasted what he saw as the Times’ passive culture of political correctness: “What the current leadership fails to recognize is that white paternalism—a skill well-honed by the cadre of financially comfortable Upper West Side– and Park Slope–dwelling editors—is much more insidious than the outright racism of Abe Rosenthal and his predecessors.” Finally, there was this note from Ferne Horner, a former colleague of Boyd’s from the Times, who wanted to emphasize the better part of his nature: “Gerald Boyd was my best friend on the New York Times. I’m white, and I point that out because he tried to help me. His biggest faults were not realizing that everyone can’t be helped and all situations can’t be cured. Bless him for trying.”
2. Like the Boyd story, Steve Fishman’s account of Brooke Astor’s last days and the wrangling over her fortune (“Mrs. Astor’s Baby,” November 19) elicited a personal response. “I once applied to be her cook at her upstate mansion,” wrote one reader. “Her secretary, in her Park Avenue apartment, informed me of the salary and inquired if I would like to stay and meet Mrs. Astor after her yoga. I declined. The wage was well under $10 an hour. There is no experience like personal experience.” For most everybody else who weighed in, the irresistible urge was to take sides on the character of her son, Anthony Marshall, and whether he deserved the money. A couple thought he did—seeing him as “a loving son unfairly subjected to vicious allegations of ‘elder abuse’ that never existed”—while most others considered him “heartless and cruel.” Some merely wished to wash their hands of the whole lot: “I find all these people horrible … If this is any example, I think the upper crust would be quite comfortable in a small-town trailer park.”
3. A fierce debate over Adam Sternbergh’s story about Red Hook’s reversal of fortune (“The Embers of Gentrification,” November 19) erupted on the real-estate Website Curbed, which we’ve edited for space and clarity:
• The reason Red Hook never really caught on and never will is [that] even hipsters don’t want to live in a place that’s deserted day and night, a mile from the subway, and has only one barbecue joint to chow down in.
• Awwwww, sorry developers and hipsters. Having trouble turning another neighborhood into a latte-drinking, pseudo-intellectual amusement park? Good for you. Now de-gentrify the rest of Brooklyn.
• You don’t seem to understand that gentrification is the antithesis of what hipsters stand for. Keeping Red Hook gritty would only encourage hipsters to move there.
• Call me confused, but isn’t this a good article for the Red Hook residents? I mean, doesn’t this mean that we won’t have to suffer the indignities of chain stores, college gals and guys barfing in the streets, twelve Starbucks (been to Chelsea lately)?
Then it was suggested that, given the state of things here, we might as well all move to Chicago. Suddenly, the fractious Curbed community found common cause:
• Chicago is the ‘second city’ … always has [been] … always will [be]. The truth hurts.
• What bothers Chicagoans most is that we New Yorkers don’t give a shit about it. While people in Chicago seem obsessed with comparing themselves to NYC.
• Chicago? I think I flew over it once. People live there?