Last Friday, April 22, was Earth Day, recognized since 1970 as a day to agitate for environmental consciousness and protection. In honor of that, Episode 01 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main tackles one of the most pressing topics shaping Brooklyn’s past and future: waste. With the help of guests historian Elizabeth Pillsbury and artist Barry Rosenthal, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia dive into the trash, sewage, and general yuckiness that is produced by a densely-populated urban center like Brooklyn.
Julie and Zaheer learn how Brooklyn’s sewer system prompted the demise of the oyster industry in Brooklyn, and discuss trash as a symbol of inequity for 1960s Civil Rights activists. Zaheer shares clips from BHS’s Pfizer Brooklyn Oral History collection. Finally, Julie checks in with photographer Barry Rosenthal to learn more about his process creating art out of found trash.
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Explore documents, interviews, and pertinent links from Flatbush + Main Episode 01: Histories of Waste in Brooklyn.
Segment 1: Histories and Ideas
BHS’s amazing map collection includes several depicting the building of sewerage lines. Here is one of Julie (and Beth Pillsbury’s) favorites. You can see two outflow lines (in brown) emptying right into Jamaica Bay (on the right side of the map).
Segment 2: Into the Archives
Here are images of the Civil Rights-era documents and images that Zaheer and Julie discussed. All are from the Arnie Goldwag Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality collection (ARC.002). Learn more about visiting BHS’s Othmer Library and researching in this collection here.
Bonus for educators: here’s a great classroom exercise using the “Operation Cleansweep” flyer.
Zaheer and Julie recommend Brian Purnell’s book Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn. It’s also available in the BHS library.
Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn
Here are the full oral histories of Mike Palisoc and Roslyn Sheer. Both are from the Pfizer Brooklyn Oral History collection.
Below are two of Julie and Zaheer’s favorite pieces from Barry Rosenthal’s “Found in Nature” series. Check out all of Barry’s work at barryrosenthal.com.
Did you know that a judge struck down New York City’s ban on polystyrene containers (featured prominently in Barry’s piece, “The Wall”) only a few months ago? Read about it here.
Segment 4: At Brooklyn Historical Society
Julie endorsed “If These Walls Could Talk: A House History Primer” (at BHS on Sunday, May 15 at 2pm). Librarian Elizabeth Call (formerly BHS’s Head of Reference) leads an intensive workshop on how to unlock the history of your home.
Zaheer endorsed “Book Talk: Democracy Now!” featuring Amy Goodman, independent media icon and host of the radio show, “Democracy Now!” She’s joined by co-author David Goodman (at BHS on Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30pm).