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Exploring NYC

Crossing Divides

Member Newsletter • October 2020

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One of our core missions as an organization is to "foster connections and understanding between people," and we strive to build a community where people can learn together. Next month, we as a country will have to navigate a contentious and divisive election, and we hope that some of our programming will provide opportunities to take break from the news and work to build bridges to new places, communities, and ideas. In some cases, we're talking about literal bridges – later today we'll be learning about the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge from fellow member Don Lotz, and next week we're exploring the East River as a transport hub of New York City. In other cases, we're talking metaphorically – for Veterans Day, we will be exploring oral history collections and thinking about the military-civilian divide and the dichotomy of the home front and battlefront in times of war. We will also be connecting you with Queens street vendors to celebrate International Street Vendor Day (Nov 14) and taking a virtual visit to Siberia's Lake Baikal. And in this newsletter, we've included an explanation of where our membership titles came from as we grappled to create a system that would connect our many varied programs.

We also want to welcome all of our new members and again thank all of your for your support, which makes this work possible. The generosity and encouragement of this community has been truly amazing, and we are thankful we have been able to connect with all of you.
  • Member Happy Hour Trivia // Wed, Nov 4, 5pm
  • Program Series // Thai Food / Veterans Day / Working Waterfront
  • Upcoming Programs
  • The Meaning Behind Our Memberships

Member Happy Hour:
Turnstile Trivia, Vol. 2
Wed, Nov 4, 5pm

Take a break from election news and join our monthly member happy hour! This month, we're going to play some Turnstile Trivia on our new quiz platform. We also want to hear your feedback on programs and what you'd like to see this coming winter.

Program Series

Become a Master of Thai Cooking

Last week we wrapped up our six-part series, Thai Food in America, in which we (virtually) travelled the country interviewing some of the best Thai chefs and learning about the complexity and diversity of Thai cuisine. You can catch up on the complete series, or you can just watch the incredible cooking demonstrations to learn to cook dishes like Larb Isan, Sukhothai Noodle Soup, Lobster Tom Yum, and, of course, Pad Thai.

Veterans Day Commemorations

We have three programs on and around Veterans Day, including a special free program co-hosted with the Center for Brooklyn History to examine their recently-digitized Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection. On November 10, we're marking the US Marine Corps birthday by looking at the Corps' long history at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and on November 11, we will be walking through Prospect Park to see the many memorials to World War I and discuss how the war shaped the park.

Working Harbor Exploration

We have a number of exciting upcoming programs that explore the working harbor, including our virtual guided tour of the Astoria ferry route along the East River (Nov 5), a conversation with noted ship photographer Jonathan Atkin (Nov 17), and a presentation from Don Lotz about the project that brought freight rail back to Staten Island (Oct 30).

Prospect Park Tours Are Back!

If you didn't catch it in our previous newsletters, we are back to giving live, in-person tours of Prospect Park on a limited basis. Tours are capped at 10 people, and masks and social distancing are required. We have upcoming tours on Oct 31, Nov 7, and Nov 21, but as those fill up, we will be adding more dates to the calendar. Use your membership for discounts, and stay tuned for the re-launch of more tours!

Upcoming Programs

From the Member Archive

As members, you have access to our library of 150+ recorded programs. While Quartermasters have access to the full library, we rotate new programs into the Apprentice and Steward collections on the 1st of every month. If there's a past program that you'd like to see in those collections, let us know, and we will try include it in the next month. Check out some archive highlights for all members, including our 3-part Navy shipbuilding series, our conversation with Bien Hecho woodworkers, and our food photography tutorial with Clay Williams.

The Meaning Behind Our Memberships

When we devised our membership system over the summer, one of the challenges we faced was coming up with something that encompassed the wide diversity of our programming and partnerships – from manufacturing to ecology, food systems to the military. Obviously our maritime and military programs lend themselves to hierarchies, but we didn't want our membership levels to just ape military ranks, so we looked for terms with multiple meanings that embodied service, learning, and labor. Here's a brief explainer of each one.


Exploring the past and present of the industrial sector is a central part of our programming, and we share stories about workforce development, craftsmanship, and labor. In skilled trades and manufacturing, apprenticeships are an essential part of training, yet apprenticeship programs have been devalued, leading to major skills gaps in American
industry. When we look at a place like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, its history represents 200 years of accumulated knowledge, as master shipfitters and mechanics passed their knowledge on to the next generation. Today, New York City's industry is powered by skilled metalworkers, tradespeople, filmmakers, architects, chefs, and more introducing young people to their professions, and programs like the Brooklyn Navy Yard STEAM Center career and technical high school and the ApprenticeNYC at the Brooklyn Army Terminal build pipelines to new skills and good-paying jobs. We consider ourselves to be lifelong learners, so we wanted to celebrate that learning and intergenerational exchange.


Stewards, by definition, serve, and our mission is to promote stewardship and public service. This term has historic resonance, especially at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where steward was a long-standing enlisted Navy rating, and shop stewards represented the civilian workers to the various unions. Navy stewards cooked, cleaned, and served as valets
to officers on ships. In short, they kept everyone fed with little fanfare or recognition, like the street vendors we work with. For decades, steward ratings were the only jobs available to Black and Asian sailors. One of the most celebrated American sailors of World War II, Doris Miller, who earned then Navy Cross at Pearl Harbor, was in the Steward Branch – and soon he will have a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named for him (as a side note, read this story we recently uncovered about Miller). But we want the meaning of steward to also encompass stewardship of our communities and of our public lands by creating programming that promotes sustainable use of public resources. Places like Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and our public markets are all held in public trust, and we feel a strong responsibility to inform and engage the public about their management.


While the other two categories are obviously informed by our work with military sites, this one is more explicitly so. It was hard to find a title that encompassed both the Army and the Navy, yet quartermaster does, if confusingly. On the Army side, the Quartermaster Corps is one of the oldest branches of the military, responsible for supply.
In 1918, the task of managing the construction and operation of the Brooklyn Army Terminal was handed to the Quartermaster Corps, and we love to celebrate the often-unheralded role of civilian and military logistics in making our city work, in peace and in war. Turning to the Navy, quartermaster is another enlisted rating (we decided to eschew captains, admirals, commodores, etc in our ranks) and a very important one – they're the ones that drive the ship (in the Coast Guard they're now called boatswain's mates, and we got to interview one on a virtual program). So both kinds of quartermasters hold a special place of honor for us.

Managing Your Membership

If you want to check the status of your membership, just visit the My Membership page, scroll to the bottom and click "Subscriptions." Here you can see your expiration date, update payment information, and adjust your subscription level. Please visit our FAQ page or contact us any time if you have a question or are having trouble accessing programs and content.

If you purchased your membership as an add-on to a virtual program ticket, just remember that that was a one-time purchase, so if you would like to renew your membership or set up a recurring subscription, you just have to re-enter your payment information on the My Membership page.
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