The city of New York is known to have some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. Yet that water came at a very high price to people living in the Catskill Mountains a hundred miles north. Thousands of families lost their homes. The construction bulldozed towns, erased farms, churches, and schools, and even upturned cemeteries.
Radical Joy for Hard Times decided to create a social media campaign in which New York City residents would “raise a glass” of their drinking water in gratitude to the people of the Catskills. The resulting photographs reflect the beautiful diversity of the city. They included “water toasts” of subway workers taking a lunch break; people from a local bookstore, parking garage, and hair dresser; religious leaders; artists; athletes; and even a puppet!
Because 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the taps of Catskill water in all five boroughs of New York, Catskill Watershed Corporation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection had commissioned Arm-of-the-Sea Theater to create an updated version of their City that Drinks the Mountain Sky, a puppet/mask show that playfully chronicles the history of the city’s relations with upstate communities to meet its water needs. On the day of the performance Catskills resident and RadJoy board chair Polly Howells presented the album of photos to Sheldon Boice and Florence Giuliano, descendants of two families who had been displaced. When she was asked after the performance whether the tribute had made a difference to families who still remember the trauma of the past. Giuliano answered, “I think it does.”