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City of Complaint: Two Centuries of New Yorkers’ Grievances

museum of compalint letters large

Artist and editor of the new book The New York City Museum of Complaint Matthew Bakkom and Tamara Coombs of MAS take us on a nostalgic, yet grumpy, journey through New York City’s archives looking at letters of complaint to the Mayor from 1751 to 1969.

Ranging in subject from the removal of dead animals to lost baseballs to accusations of corruption, the book’s 132 letters not only chronicle issues affecting New Yorkers through the ages but also the development of their voice as citizens.

Join us on Tuesday, December 1, at 7:00 p.m. when Bakkom will be joined by director of the NYC Municipal Archives Kenneth Cobb and celebrated writer, poet and native New Yorker Philip Lopate who will read from selected letters from the book. Reservations and prepayment are recommended. Purchase tickets online or call 212-935-2075. A reception will follow the program during which signed copies of the book will be available from the MAS bookstore, Urban Center Books.

phillip lopate

Phillip Lopate is best known as an essayist, including three collections of his personal essays: Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, and Portrait of My Body. Many New Yorkers also know his walking meditation, Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan. Lopate selected the letters he’ll read, including a complaint about the travails of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge wearing a top hat and an acerbic 1919 letter concerning the soon-to-visit Prince of Wales, “this representative of one of the few remaining autocracies on earth…”.