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The City Concealed, Uncovered

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
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Inside Thirteen Blogger: Tom Vigliotta, producer, The City Concealed

I’m fascinated by the physical remnants of human activity, particularly relics that are hidden in plain sight. New York is one of the oldest cities in America, with a rich, storied history. As one era has turned to the next, leftovers have survived. Unfortunately, many of the most interesting sites in NYC are visible from afar, but getting to them is often difficult-to-impossible. The City Concealed is my attempt to document some of these historical gems in video.


old warehouses along Newtown Creek’s ‘banks’

Some locations, like the subject of our debut installment, Newtown Creek, are technically accessible to anyone. Anyone on a boat, that is. And without a guide, you’re not likely to know what you’re looking at, just a number of old and new factories and warehouses. Similarly, Green-Wood Cemetery, the subject of our upcoming second piece, is open to the public (though it hasn’t always been that way), but several areas are only accessible on rare occasions.

The biggest triumph of our initial set of episodes is our tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The story of how we ended up filming at the Yard begins with beer:

Being a resident of Brooklyn, I have, on a few occasions, had the pleasure of enjoying the wares of her namesake brewery. Some years ago, I took a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg and I loved the building. I suspected that there might be more to the Brewery than public tours reveal. I reached out to owner Steve Hindy to ask about the structures. As it turns out, Thirteen had already done a tour of the Brewery’s old warehouse in Bushwick a few years before.

But Steve pointed me in the direction of Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC). A few phone conversations later, and we were booked to shoot at the Navy Yard and (of particular interest to me) the Hospital Campus, which is currently unused and off-limits to the public. BNYDC’s excellent archivist, Daniella Romano, took us around the grounds and showed us amazing old structures which are awaiting new use (like the pre-Civil War Naval Hospital) as well as the buildings that have been successfully redeveloped.

BNYDC’s openness and willingness to share the story of the Navy Yard’s past, present and future was refreshing. I believe they are successfully preserving the historical integrity of the site, while putting it to use for the New York City of today and beyond.

While covering the Navy Yards, we met the amazing Rubena Ross, who worked at the Yard in the 1940s making flags for the ships being built and serviced at the Yard. She used her salary to raise several lovely daughters, buy two brownstones, AND retire early.

I’m looking forward to bringing you the rest of our stories and I hope you enjoy watching them as we have enjoyed making them. Tell us where we should go next! Please drop us a line (http://www.thirteen.org/thecityconcealed/share-your-ideas-now), we’d love to hear from you.

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