Reading Gowanus, 2017


“North Gowanus is an old, sleepy, shabby neighborhood that lies between the head of the Gowanus Canal and the Borough Hall shopping district. There are factories in it, and coal tipples and junk yards, but it is primarily residential, and red-brick tenements and brownstone apartment houses are most numerous. The Caughnawagas all live within ten blocks of each other […]”


“In New York City, the Caughnawagas work mostly for the big companies–Bethlehem, American Bridge, the Lehigh Structural Steel Company, and the Harris Structural Steel Company. Among the structures in and around the city on which they worked in numbers are the R.C.A. Building, the Cities Service Building, the Empire State Building, the Daily News Building, the Chanin Building, the Bank of the Manhattan Company Building, the City Bank Farmers Trust Building, the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, the Passaic River Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, the Little Hell Gate Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Marine Parkway Bridge, the Pulaski Skyway, the West Side Highway, the Waldorf-Astoria, London Terrace, and Knickerbocker Village.”


“When they talk about the men that built this country, one of the men they mean is me.” Mr. Diablo owns a house and thirty-three acres of farmland on the reservation. He inherited the farmland and rents it to a French Canadian. Soon after he quit work, his wife, who had lived in North Gowanus off and off for almost twenty years but never liked it, went back to the reservation. She tried to get him to go along, but he decided to stay on awhile and rented a room in the apartment of a cousin. “I enjoy New York,” he says.

Quotes from: Mitchell, Joseph (1949). “The Mohawks in High Steel.” in Wilson, Edmund (1959). Apologies to the Iroquois, New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy.

Jail incarceration in Lackawanna County, PA

I wrote a brief article about jail and deindustrialization in Scranton, PA, for the Vera Institute’s Human Toll of Jail series. As I wrote in the piece, the incarceration rates in Lackawanna County are extremely high, but Scranton is by no means an anomaly. There are small cities and towns all over rural Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, and the remainder of the Rust Belt that look very similar to Scranton, in terms of both the physical and carceral landscape.

If you are interested in exploring the incarceration data for your own county, or for any other county in the United States from the 1970s until now, the Incarceration Trends tool from the Vera Institute will probably be the best place to begin.

Research Methods (1)

Menlo smiled with a touch of sadness. “I must say you remove the romance most utterly from all this. I had been setting myself in quite dramatic terms. The defecting policeman, meeting out poetic justice to the embezzler by depriving him of his ill-gotten gains, then disappearing again, quite forever, an enigma to all who seek him. But now I find I am merely a participant in a dreary and pedestrian series of quite normal activities–opening doors, driving automobiles, sitting in motel rooms.” He shrugged and spread his hands (page 92).

Stark, R. (1963). The Mourner. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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Batavia, NY

Prisons in New York State’s 45th Senate District

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year reading and writing about the expansion of the prison system in the Northern Adirondacks during the 1980s and 90s. Some of this work will be published very soon by Routledge, in an volume edited by Karin Morin and Dominique Moran. Here’s a map that I created to help explain and describe the place where I grew up.


Land Use Interpretation

I attended the American Studies Association Annual meeting a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles and heard some interesting and inspiring research. I was part of a great panel on prison expansion, sponsored by the Critical Prison Studies Caucus of the ASA, and I presented some of my work on political machines in New York State and on the infrastructure of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. More on that later.

I took some pictures from the plane.