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Norman Mailer for Mayor of New York, 1969

As friends and family paid respects to Norman Mailer at his wake in Provincetown, Massachusetts, yesterday, we decided to dig up our part of one of Mailer's most colorful personal stories: when he ran for mayor in 1969. "I am paying my debt to society," he told Time that summer. "That is why I am running." He ran alongside newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who ran for City Council president. They began their campaign at the urging of friends like Gloria Steinem and Jack Newfield, at a time when they saw the city as a wounded place in need of healing. Breslin recounted his experience of running, and how Mailer convinced him to do it, in a May 1969 New York cover story. Click below to read. MAILER-BRESLIN: Seriously? [NYM, pdf]

New Conservative Worry: Save George Washington High!

How lovely it must be for conservatives today; how triumphantly they must have achieved all their goals. How else to explain the existence of the recent "Civic Report" we stumbled across on the Manhattan Institute's Website, in which that bastion of urbane conservatism exposes a horrifying trend: Apparently there’s been a precipitous decline in the naming of public schools in the U.S. after presidents and other notables. Egad!

An Underground Railroad

Did you know there's a 150-year-old, defunct subway tunnel under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn? It runs from Boerum Place to Hicks Street, was built in seven months around the time of the Civil War, and was lost until 1981, when a dude named Bob Diamond found it. He gives tours of the thing, and the blogger behind McBrooklyn went spelunking with him yesterday. There are some more pics at McBrooklyn, plus a (frankly sort of boring) video. Neat, huh? Brooklyn Spelunking: Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tours Return [McBrooklyn]

Brooklyn: Now With More Endangerment!

In a waterfront ceremony in Dumbo today, Brooklyn's industrial waterfront was named one of America's eleven most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Places. The designation doesn't actually do anything to protect the endangered places, other than give them some press. Indeed: Construction continues all along the waterfront, endangering history by building Ikeas and knocking down sugar factories and all that. After the ceremony, the dignitaries went for a boat ride.

Meatpacking Makes History

The meatpacking district has joined the state and national registries of historic places, proudly taking its place alongside lesser Manhattan peers like Trinity Church and the Dakota. That's right, the whole club-infested, beer-drenched, hair-gel-slicked shebang — not just the formerly cute cobblestone square at Gansevoort and Ninth but all the way from Hudson Street to Washington and from Horatio Street to West 15th — is now historic. In state officials' defense, the district was nominated for the designation in 2001, when it was slightly less repulsive. And historic status is good news inasmuch as it means the neighborhood's safe from more new megaconstruction. It also means tax breaks for the area building owners (Soho House has got to be hurting for one) and state-funded renovation-rehabilitation grants. We'd like some money to rehab the Hotel Gansevoort into something resembling presentability. Meatpacking District Is Now Historic [NYP]

Second Avenue Groundbreaking: Fifth Time's the Charm

As the Second Avenue Subway's now-it's-for-real-we- promise groundbreaking looms, the Times takes a wary walk down memory lane to recall three similar ceremonies in the seventies. A Willie Neuman–narrated video revisits the consecutive groundbreakings at 103rd Street (1972), Canal Street (1973), and 2nd Street (1974). "The line had at least three groundbreakings," says the author. Oh, at the very least. As Greg Sargent reported in New York three years ago, the first mayoral pickax swing over the star-crossed project occurred way back in 1925, when the mayor was John Hylan. The next time the line came close to reality was 1950, when voters approved a $500 million bond issue to finance it. No pickax action that time: The MTA quietly funneled the money into repairs of existing lines instead. Ten years later, Nelson Rockefeller got involved, which eventually led to the seventies rash of groundbreakings with similar non-results. In a bit of ready-made symbolism, Mayor John Lindsay's swing failed to crack the asphalt in 1972. We'll see how Spitzer does on Thursday. Is That Finally the Sound of a 2nd Ave. Subway? [NYT] The Line That Time Forgot [NYM]

A (Conservative) People's History of New York City

"A website founded by US religious activists aims to counter what they claim is 'liberal bias' on Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia which has become one of the most popular sites on the web. The founders of Conservapedia.com say their site offers a 'much-needed alternative' to Wikipedia, which they say is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American.'" —The Guardian, London, March 2
New York City (also Gotham, Sodom, Gomorrah, The Big Apple, Satan's Condom) is the headquarters of the elitist East Coast liberal empire [1] and the world's largest sustained experiment in secular humanism.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, New York Historian

Here's a nice change of pace: A legendary sports figure has come out of retirement to write a book about the past, and this time we're pleased about it. No, it's not O.J.'s scribblings; instead, legendarily goggled Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has published a work of history. On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance hit the shelves yesterday, according to an NPR report. It's full of fascinating details about upper-Manhattan athletics in the age of the Cotton Club — like that the Cotton Club's main competitor, the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom, hosted its own basketball team, the Harlem Rens. At the Renaissance, the dance floor doubled as a basketball court, and a Rens game reportedly featured the first interracial jump ball in basketball history. But Abdul-Jabbar has harsh words for another rival, Harlem Globetrotters, whose clowning around he associates with the Cotton Club's tradition of catering to a white audience. You can only imagine what he must have to say about the Washington Generals. The Harlem Renaissance, On and Off the Court [NPR]