Social Studies Education Student, Duane Bailey-Castro, Rediscovers a True New York Wonder
For many people visiting New York City, walking or cycling across our grand bridges is on the top of their to-do list. Strolling along the quaint brownstone-lined neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights or taking in the sweeping views of lower Manhattan are added bonuses if visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. For those seeking a new view of the city, New York City Parks and Partnership for Parks recently reopened the city’s oldest bridge, the High Bridge, located in the Bronx and overlooking the Harlem River.
Duane Bailey-Castro, a Teachers College student and Social Studies teacher, grew up in the Bronx near the High Bridge, and was recently featured in a photography exhibition, along with two other photographers, Nathan Kensinger and Wes Tarca. The exhibition, High Bridge: Rebirth of the Harlem River, opened in July to celebrate the community and the history of the bridge itself.
“Before 2007 I really hadn’t thought much about the waterfront or the landscape of my neighborhood. I knew it was there but I didn’t really give it much attention or went out to explore it — I took it for granted. And then this one beautiful day I was walking across the Harlem River, from the Bronx into Manhattan, and I said, ‘Wow. It’s interesting and different and it [took on] a new meaning that morning sparking my curiosity,” says Mr. Bailey-Castro.
Now in his second year of the Social Studies Education program, Mr. Bailey-Castro also teaches middle school Social Studies full-time in Manhattan. Mr. Bailey-Castro had already earned an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies prior to coming to Teachers College, but after seven years of teaching, decided he wanted to give himself the pedagogical background and the certification the degree leads towards.
When not teaching Social Studies, he finds photography is a new way to interact with the historical wonders around New York. For Mr. Bailey-Castro, photography has been a passion for him since taking free classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in high school. “Since 2007 I’ve been photographing the Harlem River, which separates the Bronx and Manhattan, and I live in the Bronx where I fell in love with the waterfront and the river itself and the bridges across it,” he said.
The High Bridge, built in 1848, had been closed for the last four decades. In an effort to bring more publicity to the bridge reopening, Mr. Bailey-Castro says, “The Parks Department reached out to the community seeking support to help bring awareness about the reopened bridge and its history through the arts. I was approached with the idea of an art exhibit, which thankfully worked out,” he said.
Since the bridge reopened, Mr. Bailey-Castro says it offers a very different perspective of the city compared to the more popular Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges. When he considers how he tries to teach his own students to consider multiple perspectives in history, the High Bridge resonates with him. “When it comes to education, of course, an important question we, teachers, need to ask ourselves is how do we democratize the perspectives that we teach about a place or a subject? Rather than the common Manhattan-centric perspective of the city, you’re getting a new view of the city from up here, from the Bronx, from the High Bridge.”
Mr. Bailey-Castro says that the bridge is now receiving some much deserved attention, and the community it serves can now take pride in the positive attention streaming their way.
The exhibition was open for most of the month of July, but for those who would still like to visit (and Mr. Bailey-Castro hopes you do), the High Bridge is always there, waiting to be rediscovered.
Click here to hear Duane Bailey-Castro and fellow photographer, Wes Tarca, discuss the High Bridge.
Nori Kato is a Staff Writer and Office Assistant for the Department of Arts and Humanities. She is also a second year M.A. student in the International Educational Development program at Teachers College.