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Navel Gazing

A Hell Gate Field Guide to Hell Gate

We look back at a Year in Blogs.

11:31 AM EDT on July 18, 2023

Hell Gate Sticker on a LES Lamppost

(Hell Gate)

This week marks one year since we launched the official, we're-really-doing-this, subscription-and-paywall version of Hell Gate, and in honor of that anniversary, we're looking back and taking stock of everything we've published in the last year. It's a lot—800 stories and counting!

We already gave you a list of our staff's personal favorite posts back in May, but we thought it might be useful for people new to Hell Gate (and our day one, ride-or-die supporters, too) a more general look back at Hell Gate's Year in Blogs.

If you're thinking of pitching us, or thinking of subscribing, or thinking of making an annually recurring five-figure donation to ensure the future of local New York City journalism, or if you're just looking for some beach reading about our great cosmopolis, the stories in this post will give you a decent sense of what Hell Gate has been up to for the past year. 

Like smut in the eyes of a Supreme Court justice, a great Hell Gate story resists easy definition—we know it when we see it. We publish all kinds of weird stories that might not find a home anywhere else. 

There are some broad categories that describe much of our work, though: We're interested in how New York is governed, from City Hall power struggles to fights over the state budget. We're fascinated by our mayor. We love a good labor fight.

We're interested in the country's biggest police department, a political power center unto itself, and the neverending struggle to introduce accountability and lawfulness to how it operates. We're interested in the jails in which people are kept in unconstitutional conditions in our name, in the people who suffer and die there, and in the prospects for reform.

We're interested in the characters who make up this city, from the guy who rides his bike around balancing things on his head to the Subway DJ to the Knicks post-game superfan to the city's most dedicated pigeon rescuer. We're interested in the non-human characters with whom we share this city, from falcons and eagles to flying squirrels and wild turkeys and horny horseshoe crabs and allegedly violent bodega cats

We're interested, broadly, in New York City as a place where culture happens, and where it happens because of, in spite of, or at the very least in the shadow of enormous concentrations of money and power. We are also a well-regarded journal of commercial semiotics and graphic design trends.

We like long investigations with lots of twists and turns. We like mysteries. Nobody covers big New York real estate deals like us. Nobody covers presidential arraignments remotely like us.

Then there are our recurring columns: $20 Dinner is a weekly exploration of the astonishing, satisfying, richly varied meals you can find in this city without breaking the bank. Porcelain New York reviews NYC's public restrooms. Some are amazing! Some are…not. Every two weeks, Leave Your Apartment asks a cool person deeply embedded in one of this city's four million scenes what cool stuff is happening soon that we should go see. And of course, the great big shimmering thrashing catch itself, Esther Wang's wide-ranging urban fishing column, OnlyFins.

We're also very proud of the Hell Gate Podcast, which in our objective determination is the best podcast in existence covering New York City. We had a lot of fun across the 16 episodes of our first season: We got the inside story of how the rental market works from a real estate broker, and we (against all advice and our better judgment) actually went in the kitchen and made a "brieghetti pie" from one of those deranged subway ad recipes. We interviewed policy experts and journalists and historians about state and City government, we went bowling and gambling and smoked government weed on a fact-finding mission to determine whether it is sufficiently dank.

As a subscriber-based publication, we're not overly obsessed with traffic numbers. No Big Board looms over the Hell Gate newsroom. Nevertheless, it's interesting to us—and maybe to you?—to get a sense of which stories particularly resonate with readers. As it turns out, this list of our top 20 most-read stories from our first year is a decent representation of the kinds of stories we publish: some by freelancers, many by staff; stories that dig into housing and real estate, the criminal legal system, transit, and the media industry, but also stories that defy easy categorization beyond "what it feels like to live in New York City right now."

  1. Some Guy Bought the Flatiron Building and Didn’t Pay for It
  2. Confusion, Shock, and the Bystander Effect on the Train Where Jordan Neely Was Killed
  3. Why Does a Plastic-Wrapped Turkey Sandwich Cost $15 at the Airport?
  4. New York Times Writers Call Out the Paper’s Anti-Trans Onslaught
  5. A Very Moynihan Train Hall Thanksgiving: ‘Wow, I Can’t Even Sit Down?’
  6. Inside the Cancellation of WNYC’s ‘The Takeaway’
  7. NYPD Arrests and Jails Cyclist For Fixing Driver’s Illegally Obscured License Plate
  8. Saturday Morning With the Park Slope Panthers
  9. It’s Not Just You: NYC Has a Serious Dungeon Master Shortage
  10. Bruce Springsteen’s Diehard Fans Feel Betrayed by ‘Mortgage Payment’ Ticket Prices: ‘I Feel Like I Lost a Family Member’
  11. The NYPD Took This Dog Into Custody Because His Owner Filmed the Police
  12. Here’s Why You’re Seeing Gross Viral Recipes on Your Subway Commute
  13. A Brief Guide to Encountering a Weeping Person in Public in NYC
  14. Why Is Paying for the JFK Airport AirTrain Such a Huge Pain in the Ass?
  15. ‘It’s Dangerous To Sign A Full-Time Lease’: These Airbnb Hosts Don’t Want People Living in Their NYC Apartments
  16. Lower Manhattan’s Internet Is Down
  17. The NYPD Messed With the Wrong Cyclist: License Plate Vigilante Beats Case, Vows to Sue Police
  18. Peeing Is Believing: These Renovated MTA Bathrooms Are Spectacular
  19. Epstein Killed Himself, With the Help of a Broken and Neglectful Federal Prison System
  20. NYC Has Left People With Long COVID Behind

What a year!

As for the coming year? Stay tuned. We've got some projects in the works that we're very excited about.

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