Brooklyn Archives - StoryCorps
Renew today to double your impact Renew by 4/30

At The Lesbian Switchboard, Empathy Was On The Other End of the Line

The Lesbian Switchboard was a helpline for queer women that operated from 1972 to 1997. Denise Tuite volunteered to spend hours at night sitting in the cramped offices of the Switchboard, taking calls from women with no one else to talk to about their sexuality.

Some of these calls were casual, asking where to meet women in NYC. Others were from people in need of advice and consolation.

But through all of them, Denise could recognize the same emotions she’d once felt..

At StoryCorps, Denise shared what brought her to the Lesbian Switchboard.

Originally aired December 15, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Top Photo: Denise Tuite at her StoryCorps interview in Tinton City, NJ on November 1, 2023. By James Eustace for StoryCorps.

In the Midst of a Shooting, Two Strangers Play an Important Role in Each Other’s Lives

 

In April of 2022, a gunman wearing a gas mask dropped smoke grenades on the floor of a New York City subway car and opened fire on the passengers, resulting in the injury of 29 people. As the car pulled into the next station, passengers fled, and chaos ensued.

Mayra Kalisch and Eric Acevedo, strangers who had never met despite living two blocks from each other, were there to witness the aftermath.

What happened in the next few minutes forged a special bond between them, but also sent them down different paths in the months that followed.

Top photo: Mayra Kalisch and Eric Acevedo at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on May 11, 2023. Courtesy of Brett Tubin.
Middle photo: Mayra Kalisch and Eric Acevedo pose at the 45th Street Station in Brooklyn, New York where they first met in 2022. Courtesy of Eric Acevedo.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired August 25th, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

 

 

A Family Built On The Dance Floor: Reflections From A Father And Daughter

The first time Carl Levine did contra dance, a type of folk dance similar to square dancing, he was a college freshman in the 1970s. He didn’t realize, then, the pivotal role that contra would play in his life.

Chloe E.W. Levine and Carl Levine at Camp Kinder Ring in Hopewell Junction, New York in 2009. Courtesy of the family.

It’s where he met his wife, and the couple raised their daughter, Chloe E.W. Levine, to dance from a young age. Carl and Chloe came to StoryCorps to reflect on a life on the dance floor.

Chloe E.W. Levine and Carl Levine at Pinewoods dance and music camp in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2021. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Bary.

 

Top Photo: Chloe E.W. Levine and Carl Levine at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on May 5, 2023. By Julia Kirschenbaum for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Originally aired July 21, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Two Bartenders Remember the Highs and Lows of Working at Brooklyn’s Historic Starlite Lounge

Sometimes a bar is more than just a business, it’s a part of history. These bars are places where cultures flourish, and often become a second home to devoted customers and a treasured landmark that neighbors proudly claim. For many years that was the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which was one of the first Black-owned gay bars in the city.

“It was the most welcoming place in the world,” Albert Johnson remembers.

Closing night at the Starlite Lounge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in summer 2010. Courtesy of Donna Cuthbert.

Albert tended bar at the Starlite for nine years, and in 2010 he came to StoryCorps with fellow bartender Donna Cuthbert to talk about their time working there; the nights of dancing, the beloved jukebox and the eccentric regulars—some of whom refused to go home.

That same year the property owner sold the building, and despite efforts by the local community it was last call for the Starlite. But its legacy as a gathering space for the gay Black community lives on in the memories of its former employees and patrons.

Originally aired December 30, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.

Donate

Hunny Reiken and Elliot Reiken

It was the summer of 1946 in the Catskills. Hunny Feller and her identical twin sister, Bunny, were waitresses at a hotel. Another set of identical twins, Elliot and Danny Reiken, worked as musicians in a band there.

At StoryCorps, Hunny and Elliot (below in 2010) remembered what happened when the twins met the twins.

ReikenFull

Originally broadcast May 28, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on May 6, 2022 on the same program.

Top photo: Danny and Bunny, and Hunny and Elliott, at their joint wedding. Courtesy of the Reiken family.
Bottom photo: Hunny and Elliott Reiken at their StoryCorps interview in New York City.

The Brooklyn EMT Who Saved A Life and Inspired A Nursing Career

In the summer of 1991, 7-year-old Bryan Lindsay was riding his bike in Brooklyn, New York when he was struck by a van and almost killed.

Rowan Allen was the paramedic who arrived on the scene. Almost 20 years later, he and Bryan came to StoryCorps to remember that day and the impact it had on both of their lives.

But Rowan and Bryan weren’t the only ones transformed by the accident. In 2021, Bryan’s mom, Dorothy Lindsay, sat down for a StoryCorps interview with Rowan to thank him for saving her son’s life, and to tell him how his actions inspired her to pursue a new line of work.

Top Photo: Bryan Lindsay, Dorothy Salmon-Lindsay and Rowan Allen at their StoryCorps interview on June 26th, 2013. By Eve Claxton for StoryCorps. 

Originally aired December 24th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Through Music, Father And Son DJs “Sow Love” And “Get Love Back”

Jo Vill first started DJing back in the 70s, eventually passing his passion on to his son, Chad. 

Chad, at around 2 years old, reaching for his dad’s turntable. Photo courtesy of Chad Vill.

But they never imagined that their shared love for music would bring their Brooklyn, New York neighborhood together, as the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping families apart.

During lockdown, many New Yorkers, including Jo’s wife, Gail, would join in a daily ritual of cheering for first responders. Jo and Chad were then inspired to put some speakers in the street and start playing songs for their neighbors. This quickly morphed into a daily block party, with hundreds of people flocking to their Clinton Hill street, St. James Place, to dance and connect with others during a time of isolation. They named the parties St. James Joy.

Neighbors dancing at a Saint James Joy block party in August of 2020. Photo by Niikai Wells.

Jo and Chad came to StoryCorps in May of 2021 — more than a year after they first started St. James Joy — to remember how it all began.

Top Photo: Jo Vill and Chad Vill in Brooklyn, NY, in June of 2021. By Nathan West.

Originally aired June 18, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

For the Love of Books: One Librarian Makes All the Difference

As a young father in Brooklyn, NY, Rich Jean wasn’t always sure how to keep his three year old daughter, Abigail, busy and happy. He decided to start taking her to their local library. Abigail was soon enrolled in one of their programs for young learners. That is where they met an aspiring librarian, Hasina Islam. Hasina was still an intern at that time, but immediately did everything she could to encourage Abigail in her love of books.

Four years after that first encounter, Rich, Abigail and Hasina came to StoryCorps to talk about how that chance meeting set them on a path to friendship.

Hasina Islam and Abigail Jean after their StoryCorps recording on April 25, 2021. Courtesy of Hasina Islam and Rich Jean. 

Five years later, while separated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasina and Abigail came back to StoryCorps to reconnect remotely with a second recording in 2021.

Top Photo: Rich Jean, Abigail Jean and Hasina Islam at their StoryCorps interview in Brooklyn, NY on November 5, 2016. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.
The 2016 interview was recorded in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and IMLS National Medal winner, Brooklyn Public Library.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 30, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Grandmother Gives Advice On Living Through “Crazy and Consequential Times”

As a young girl growing up during WWII, Jane Isay heard stories about how both of her grandparents had died during the 1918 influenza pandemic, leaving her mother an orphan from a young age. 

Now, as the United States contends with the COVID-19 pandemic, Jane made time to sit with her grandson, Tobey Isay, 11, to impart some of her hard earned wisdom. They recorded this conversation using StoryCorps Connect, not long after Tobey had contracted and recovered from COVID himself.

Editor’s note: Jane Isay is the mother of Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps. Tobey Isay is the son of Dave Isay.

Top Photo:  Jane Isay and Tobey Isay at their StoryCorps interview in Brooklyn, New York on April 11, 2020.
Middle Photo: Tobey Isay and Jane Isay. Photo courtesy of Jane Isay.

 

For Brooklyn’s Bianco Brothers, Keeping it Sharp is a Labor of Love

Small family businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re going to hear from one of them.

Bianco Brothers Instruments is owned by twin brothers Joe and Vinny Bianco. They took over the shop from their father, and now their sons are working beside them, expertly sharpening all types of tools. Over the years, their business has grown to include manufacturing a wide array of sharp instruments, from chefs knives to dental cement spatulas.

In a remote interview recorded through StoryCorps Connect, Joe and his son Peter reflected on their craft, and the legacy they are carrying forth in their Brooklyn storefront.

Top photo: Joe Bianco and Peter Bianco.Courtesy of Peter Bianco.
Bottom photo: Joe Bianco grinding at the wheel at the family shop in the 1980s. Courtesy of Joe Bianco.

Originally aired September 4, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.