New York is the city that never sleeps. But this renowned insomnia would not be possible without the more than 200,000 men and women who work the nightshift – the fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors and cab hacks, cops, docs, and fishmongers selling cod by the crate. Inverting the natural rhythm of life, they keep the city running as it slows but never stops.

In our book, NIGHTSHIFT NYC, we tell the stories of New York City nightshift workers. This ethnography of the night investigates familiar sites, such as diners, delis and taxis, as well as some unexpected corners of the night, such as a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan and a fishing boat out of Brooklyn. We show how the nightshift is more than simply out of phase, it is another social space altogether, highly structured, inherently subversive, and shot through with inequalities of power. NIGHTSHIFT NYC presents the narratives of those who sleep too little and work too much, revealing the soul of a city hidden in the graveyard shift of 24-hour commerce when the sun goes down and the lights come up.

But there is more to the story than found its way into the pages of the book. Here you'll find more stories of the night in New York City and around the country. And we hope you will add your own stories and comments in the months to come. Stay tuned and check back often...

Monday, June 9, 2008


About 2 a.m. one night in October, 2006, Peter leaves JFK International Airport Terminal 4. He's a US customs border protection officer. He concedes drawbacks but focuses instead on the benefits of the nightshift: going to school days, a tight community of coworkers, and being paid a night differential. Peter walks rapidly to his car in the garage. He stops abruptly and smiles. "You know how people bring their pets with them everywhere? Well, people bring their cats, and sometimes these cats’ cages fall and they open and they scurry off." As he speaks, a half dozen cats dart in and out of the concrete support columns of the parking garage. Some nibble on cat food left in large plastic containers just outside their lair. "A whole community of them developed here," Peter explains. "Somebody who works here actually feeds them.”

The New York Times first reported on these feral cats in October, 2007. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, citing risk to aircraft and passengers, began trapping and removing them. Animal rescue organizations, who'd worked to spay and neuter them, responded that this "removal" meant certain death for the cats. They protested, calling instead for a strategy known as trap, neuter and release (T.N.R.). Some airline workers joined the protests.

Protests stalled things until Memorial Day when the Humane Society received a call that the round-up would resume on June 1. Last Tuesday, June 3, the Times reported the subsequent protest outside Port Authority offices in Union Square. The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals urges T.N.R.

Some animal lovers argue that the cats can be adopted. Others say having them there hurts the bird population. Still another group of airport workers says it's sad but too unsafe to have them on an airfield.

The articles:

Oct 26, 2007 NY Times
Oct 29, 2007 NY Times
June 3, 2008 NY Times

Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

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