We are 2016 Graham Foundation Grantees!


We are beyond thrilled to announce that A City Traced is a recipient of the the Graham Foundation’s 2016 Grants to Individuals!

Founded in 1956, the Chicago-based Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts “makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, who were and society.”

A City Traced was one of the 59 projects selected out of a pool of 640 submissions from individuals representing 42 countries. It is an honor to be in a grantee circle of architects, designers, curators, filmmakers, visual artists, musicians, and writers from around the world.

ACT in 2015

There have been some mild shake-ups in the A City Traced world – Will moved himself to the wild and beautiful land of Oregon and Prudence (who is writing this blog post) has been working as a researcher on the funky finances of New York political campaigns. But, thanks to the help of old and new friends, ACT is well on its way to become a complete and awesome film and we can’t wait for what 2016 will bring!

Since the summer, we have been working with the amazing editor and film-maker Yuki Kokubo. She is relentless on guiding our story and we look forward to one day sharing the fruits of her labor! We cannot recommend enough her film, KASAMAYAKI (MADE IN KASAMA), a beautiful and mediative work on creativity and family after Japan’s 2011 tsunami:

Also, we have continued to shoot in Willets Point.. even on the night of Halloween aka Game Four of the World Series of the Mets vs the Royals. You can’t beat that hometeam exuberance!

Martyna Starosta has been amazing as our go-to cinematographer and I also had the pleasure to work with both artist Raoul Anchondo and artist/musician Raphael Peterson with sound. You can see Martyna and Raphael getting the roaring crowd at the end of the above Mets video. Check out some more production shots below:

Raoul Anchondo (sound) and Martyna Starosta (camera) in Willets Point in September 2015

Raoul Anchondo (sound) and Martyna Starosta (camera) in Willets Point in September 2015

Willets Point is still very much open! Come by and get your vehicle fixed.

Willets Point is still very much open! Come by and get your vehicle fixed.

Getting in close!

Getting in close!

Martyna Starosta (camera) and Raphael Peterson (sound) on Halloween/Mets World Series night!

Martyna Starosta (camera) and Raphael Peterson (sound) on Halloween/Mets World Series night!

Martyna and Raphael, at the 7 Train Willets Point station, capturing all of the pent-up fan excitement.

Martyna and Raphael, at the 7 Train Willets Point station, capturing all of the pent-up fan excitement.

I think I mentioned that Raphael is a musician, but did you know he also recently dropped a single? Take us out ShapeKing!

Happy 2015 and a Happy New Year from the A City Traced team!

Development Springing Forward

Spring in the city! The trash glaciers are starting to shrink and soon New York City will be awash in new, green buds. But, that’s not all that is popping up. According to a recent New York Times article, the city is seeing an explosive construction boom  – perhaps a bit too rapid:

It took just three years for balconies to crack and concrete to flake from the facade of one Brooklyn condominium. Another building was prone to flooding, because the storm drainage system was never connected to the sewage system. With buildings rising at a pace not seen in years, some fear that shoddy construction could be making a comeback, too.

As developers feverishly break ground on projects to cash in on soaring property values, lawyers, architects and engineers say they are fielding more calls from residents complaining of structural defects in newly built homes. There is growing concern that some developers are repeating the mistakes of the last housing boom and delivering substandard product. As more residents settle into new buildings, the trickle of calls could soon turn into a flood.

Watch out for falling balconies! Meanwhile, northern Queens is seeing developments of its own as the Queens Times Ledger reports:

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) covered a lot of ground in her State of the District Address last week. Among the significant developments in District 21 are the groundbreaking of the first affordable senior housing development, the relocation of the Willets Point auto shops, the establishment of a higher education and health care institution and the future of the Jackson Heights BID extension into Corona.

But, unfortunately, only a small fraction of the nearly three hundred displaced Willets Point shops have been relocated, and many of those promised relocation by the city are still waiting after well over a year.

Spring 2015 will be tough for many of the Willets Point families who were displaced by the city. Why are they being displaced? Take a look at this advocacy video that we made in late 2013 to catch up:

Radio Row Memories

Last Sunday, we had the pleasure to interview Ed Schneck about his memories of “Radio Row,” the neighborhood of electronics shops that existed in Lower Manhattan before the construction of the World Trade Center. His father, H.L. Schneck, opened up the first radio parts store on Cortland street in 1921. It was wonderful to hear about his father’s forays into the wild west of early radio and to also learn about the cornucopia of stores that existed in Lower Manhattan that reveled not only in technological innovation but fierce competition as well.

Here you can see Will wrangling audio cables while Ed Schneck patiently waits.

Setting up the interview

Every sit-down interview needs to be carefully set up and lit– the whole process usually takes an hour or more! Thank you to the amazing Patrick Brooks for your cinematographic expertise on the day’s shoot.

The Radio Row neighborhood’s original footprint was quite large:

A 1924 arial composite of the Radio Row neighborhood  with the footprint of the World Trade Center

This Radio Diaries audio piece gives a good feel for the sounds of the vanished neighborhood. There description states that:

in the early 1920’s, radio was a novelty. But within a few years, hundreds of radio stores popped up around Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan. There was Leotone Radio, Cantor the Cabinet King, Blan the Radio Man…The neighborhood became a bazaar of knobs, antenna kits, and radio tubes. It was the largest collection of radio and electronics stores in the world. But when developers planned the World Trade Center, Radio Row had to go.


And if your appetite has been whetted for more cacophonies of old New York, then this New York City in the 1920’s website is just what the doctor ordered as it is an “interactive exploration of the historical soundscape of New York City.”  Enjoy!

A New Year’s Tour of a Changing Queens

Happy 2015!

Last Sunday, Will, Dan and Prudence documented a walking tour given by Jack Eichenbaum in Willets Point, Queens. The weather was cold, but the sun was out and it was interesting to hear the story of Queens’ agragian past as we strolled through the manicured Flushing Meadows Park and potholed and flooded concrete of Willets Point Avenue. The tour was part of the opening day of the Queens Museum’s Reviewing Renewal, a series of events, organized by 596 Acres, that examines the impact of past and current Urban Renewal plans on New York City.


A more robust description of the tour can be found in “A Look At Willets Point Before Demolition & Redevelopment,” a report by Curbed reporter Evan Bindelglass. Mr. Bindelglass also took copious photographic documentation, including images of our crew in action!

For example, the intrepid Dan can be seen crouched dangerously close to an ice-pothole in the left foreground (the towel is draped so he can see the screen of the video camera):

Photo by Evan Bindelglass / Curbed

Meanwhile, Will stood tall with the monopod as the rest of the tour group did their best with the “walking” part of the tour:

Photo by Evan Bindelglass / Curbed

After the shoot, the crew gathered at the Queens Museum cafe to recoup and download footage. Our Co-Producer, Claire, was very helpful with the transferring process. Here you can see Will, Claire, and Dan troubleshooting while the Unisphere looks on:

Transferring footage after a shoot with the Unisphere gazing on, Queens Museum

On the whole, a good time was had by all! And the ride back on the 7 train was a wonderful finale.

Riding the 7 train back from Willets Point, Queens

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

The parade may have passed, but for those who missed it, here’s a bite-sized serving that Will shot and edited in 2009:

A New Year and a Look Back

Happy New Year! The last half of 2013 was quite busy for ACT – we interviewed several planners, workers, urban historians, business people, social theorists, and others who have an influential role in shaping New York City.  Thanks to our entire production team who have made all of these amazing shoots possible!

While we still have a few more shoots to go before we wrap production, we’ve been gearing up for editing in these early weeks of 2014 and we can’t wait to delve into our trove of material!  An exciting part of this process will be digging through the many photo and video archives of the city, which will help bring the stories we are weaving to life – especially because we are in conversation with animators!

Here is a look back on some moments, made possible by our awesome crew, from the last six months of 2013:


Will adjusts the camera angle while Tunisia Mitchell, our Production Assistant, sits in for our interviewee, Mr. Felix Rohatyn. June 2013 at Rockefeller Center.


Dan Fridman adjusts the boom stand while Will temporarily sits in for our interviewee, lawyer Stanley Geller. We put mylar film over each window pane so that the outside buildings wouldn’t be blown out from over-exposure. August 2013


Prudence slates the beginning of the interview with the Queens Borough Office Director of Planning and Development, Irving Poy. September 2013

Martyna Starosta focuses in on some City Council action. September 2013

Martyna Starosta focuses in on some City Council action. September 2013


What the interviewee sees: Will and Fivel Rothberg set up a shot at Good Jobs New York in Lower Manhattan. October 2013

Dan Fridman works his lighting magic on a drop-down ceiling in preparation for our Seth Pinsky interview. December 2013

Dan Fridman works his lighting magic on a drop-down ceiling in preparation for our Seth Pinsky interview. October 2013


Seth Pinsky, former head of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, is interviewed by Prudence in a conference room generously lent by the Cooper Union’s Alumni department. October 2013

Abe Ariel adjusts the camera for our David Harvey interview. December 2013

Abe Ariel gives us that sweet shot for our David Harvey interview. November 2013


Prudence at the New York City Economic Development Corporation Office, in Lower Manhattan, after a Industrial Development Administration hearing. December 2013

Recording the sounds of the city, with a DIY belt clip


Martyna and Douglas capture the moving image; Will reaches in for that sweet, sweet sound

In order to extend our audio range as we do more and more shooting outside of our more controlled interview setups, we recently started using a boom attached to an external audio recorder, in this case the Tascam DR100 mkII.

Not having any kind of belt clip, our first time out it sat in a bag, along with the mic cables.  We quickly learned that this was not the way to go, since you couldn’t read any of the panels, and the gain knobs were easily shifted when coming in and out of the bag.  So, we came up with a down and dirty, yet functional solution: we fashioned a belt clip out of materials scrounged from the miscellaneous tray of our toolbox: a 1/4″ screw used to stabilize the motor of a ceiling fan during shipping, a steel bracket, a key ring, and a small carabiner.

Turned out to work pretty well–quick access to meters and controls, with the cables hanging nice and easy!Tascam Clip

Video Profile: Juan Francisco Useche – Irca Metal Spinning


One of the goals of A City Traced is to highlight some of the manufacturing businesses that make up New York City’s diverse economy. Juan Francisco Useche founded Irca Metal Spinning 35 years ago and is still creating lighting fixtures for the city to this day.

We wanted to excerpt some longer takes from the day we spent filming with him and this short video was born. I hope that you enjoy his spinning as much as we did!

Thank you to Dan Fridman and Martyna Starosta for filming.

Springtime in the Archives

We’ve spent the past few days researching at Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in beautiful, misty Ithaca. Our eyeballs and fingers have gone over boxes upon boxes of early planning ephemera, notes, letters, and schemes.

Here’s an example of a 1920’s glass negative: a photo of the majestic Woolworth Building (with the colors inverted in photoshop). You can see the East River, and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge behind.