Open Wide, Baby Coua! We Want to Look In Your Mouth

Some of the most interesting animal stuff at the zoo goes on behind the scenes. Today’s (non-)exhibit: a baby crested coua, born last month and being hand-reared out of public view at the Central Park Zoo.

Check out the crazy markings inside its mouth. The zoo has not been selling ad space to Target on its animals’ bodies (though that might be a good revenue generator). Rather, the zoo says, the markings, different for each coua chick, are believed to be used by parents for identification or to visually remind them where to put the food. They fade as the bird matures.

The coua is a kind of cuckoo native to Madagascar. The Central Park Zoo says it is only the fourth American zoo to have successfully reared a coua chick. The zoo’s couas are currently off-exhibit for the winter; officials said they did not know when, or if, this one would go on display.

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At a Church Downtown, Two Revolutions Intersect

Descendants of an old American revolution crossed paths on Sunday with some people who fancy themselves as progenitors of a new one. The first revolution was fought long ago by men who took up arms. This latest one, if it can even be called a revolution without distorting the meaning of that word beyond recognition, is conducted by men and women who take up sidewalk space.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

We have a pretty good idea which insurgency will prove the more enduring.

First, let’s go back in time, to the Battle of Saratoga in upstate New York. There, in 1777, revolutionary forces defeated the British and made it possible for the Americans to believe they just might emerge from the war with a country to call their own.

The commanding general in northern New York was Horatio Gates, whose name would grace Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and Horatio Street in Greenwich Village. Gates died in 1806, and was buried in the Trinity Church graveyard, off Wall Street. For reasons obscured by the gauze of time, his grave is unmarked. But people versed in these matters are certain that he is there, somewhere.

Gates is a controversial figure on several counts, including whether he deserved the credit at Saratoga. Some historians are more inclined to shower huzzahs on Benedict Arnold, who unlike Gates was a field commander. Obviously, this was before Arnold’s name became synonymous with treason.

One person who feels strongly that Gates never got his due is James Kaplan, who conducts tours of historic New York sites when he is not at his day job as a tax lawyer with the Herzfeld & Rubin firm in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Kaplan became convinced years ago that Gates had been given short shrift, a slight that he said “has never ceased to amaze me.”

That failing was corrected at the Trinity churchyard on Sunday with the dedication of a granite plaque honoring Gates and proclaiming him unflinchingly as “victor at Saratoga.” A half-hour ceremony was held under the aegis of the New York State Organization of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Mr. Kaplan had piqued the interest of Denise Doring VanBuren, who is regent, or chief officer, of the New York organization. Ms. VanBuren wrote to Trinity and to national officers of her own group. One thing led to another, with the result that about 150 people, dozens of them descendants of Revolutionary era figures, gathered in the churchyard for Sunday’s ceremony.

They passed protesters who have camped outside Trinity Church for the past four months. These people consider themselves an extension of Occupy Wall Street, which likes to think it has led a revolution of its own in regard to American concepts of economic and social justice.

Trinity became a target because it didn’t accept the occupiers’ insistence on their right to plop down wherever they felt like. After protesters were evicted from Zuccotti Park last year, church leaders declined to forgive them their trespasses by yielding to their insistence on taking over an empty lot belonging to the church.

That led to an encampment of sleeping bags outside Trinity’s front gate. It has become a constant in that part of town. About 20 protesters were there on Sunday, some referring to themselves as Occupy Trinity. Frankly, it was hard to distinguish them from any collection of vagrants you might stumble upon. Their principal activity seems to be to lie on the sidewalk, often asleep.

We seem to be breeding unusual strains of self-styled freedom fighters.

On Saturday, hundreds of skateboarders sped down Broadway to the financial district, thumbing their collective nose at a state judge who had declared their race to be unlawful — and, city officials added, dangerous. “This is no longer a race,” one defiant skateboarder told a reporter for The New York Times. “This is a demonstration for our freedom.”

Right, freedom. One had to wonder what Gandhi or Dr. King would have thought about civil disobedience in the name of skateboarder self-absorption.

As for the sleeping bag contingent, nobody is suggesting that they imitate General Gates and his brethren by taking up arms. But one might well ask if their doing little more than taking up space on the sidewalk all day truly qualifies as having accomplished something.


E-mail Clyde Haberman: [email protected]

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Goodbye, Satisfying Lever Pull

Dear Diary:

Late in the day on Sept. 13, I took my 7-year-old daughter, Emma, with me to vote in the primary. I explained to her that while there were not many races to vote on — actually only one in my district — I rarely miss a vote because I consider it my duty as a citizen and a privilege that too many in this country take for granted.

My daughter has accompanied me when I have voted in most instances since she was 3, and so understood the experience and was excited to go. But I was nonetheless surprised when, as we walked into the school that serves as our polling place, she asked if she could pull the lever inside the booth.

And then it dawned on me: she represents the last generation of New Yorkers who will know what that was like. Not surprisingly, even she felt a little disappointed at the seeming lack of gravitas of filling in a circle and scanning the form.

“That was it?” she asked.

Yep, that was it. Guess we all need to adjust to new systems.


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A Revolutionary War General Escapes History’s Margins

Mention “the Victor at Saratoga” and people may think that you are talking about a horse. Yet that so-called victor, Gen. Horatio Gates, the commander of the American forces at the Battle of Saratoga, played a crucial role in the triumph there over the British forces of Gen. John Burgoyne in October 1777.

Though other figures of the War of Independence are still widely revered and studied, Gates faded from the national memory. He died in New York in 1806 and was buried at Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan. Precisely where is not known.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 150 people gathered at the cemetery just off Wall Street to celebrate the installation of a marker that will serve as his gravestone and to highlight his long-neglected role in American history.

“This is a great day in my point of view in the history of the city of New York,” James S. Kaplan said in an address to the gathering, made up mostly of members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The story of Gates’s recent escape from history’s margins began with Mr. Kaplan, a New York tax lawyer who discovered the general’s legacy during a visit to the Saratoga National Historical Park upstate two decades ago. For the past 16 years, he has conducted an early-morning walking tour of Lower Manhattan on the Fourth of July, with Gates’s story as the centerpiece.

Make that very early morning: It begins at 2 a.m. and ends at 6.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people have said, ‘It’s a great time of day for a tour, because I’m not doing anything then,’” Mr. Kaplan said.

According to Mr. Kaplan, Gates was a perpetual underdog who believed that men should advance in life through merit, not wealth.

Gates was born in England and became a soldier. After several frustrating years trying to advance, he left the British Army and sailed to the colonies, becoming a farmer in Virginia. When the Revolution broke out, he volunteered for the colonial forces. In this army, he rose rapidly through the ranks, perhaps largely because he had a deep understanding of the enemy.

By August 1777, the British and American forces were at a standoff in New York. Gates was placed at the head of the Northern Army. Within a month of taking control, his force grew to be equal in size to that of the British. Eventually he amassed an army of 17,000 men. “People kept coming in,” Mr. Kaplan said. “It was like Woodstock.”

In September, British and American troops clashed at Saratoga, and the Americans were defeated. Some of the officers serving under Gates — including Benedict Arnold — urged an immediate counterattack, but he called for restraint and told them to wait for a British offensive. Sure enough, a British attack failed, allowing American forces to encircle and defeat the British on Oct. 7.

While it was Gates’s strategy that achieved victory, it was Arnold who led that final attack. That is why Arnold, not Gates, is often credited with the victory. “It was his strategy that was successful,” said Mr. Kaplan, referring to Gates. Saratoga was a decisive moment, spurring the French to enter the war on the side of the Americans, which helped secure eventual victory.

“Many people today,” Mr. Kaplan said, would say that “Benedict Arnold won it.

“I say it’s bunk,” he continued. “The whole thing was over before Arnold even jumped in.”

Yet Gates might have helped put himself on the path to relative obscurity. He had a falling out with George Washington. And in 1780, his forces were defeated at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina.

The New York chapter of the D.A.R. decided his memory was worthy of revival. After Mr. Kaplan wrote an article about the general, the organization’s New York State regent, Denise Doring VanBuren, made a commitment to raise $2,200 for a marble marker on the south side of the Trinity cemetery.

On Sunday afternoon, members of the organization, some of whom had traveled from as far as Florida and Kansas, gathered by the plaque. With the cemetery’s soft green ground treacherous for high heels, they listened as Mr. Kaplan spoke of the general, who was in his 50s at the time of Saratoga and was called “Granny Gates,” by his peers.

“I thought it was such a wonderful historic opportunity to be here,” said Rhoda Justice Garcia, 63, of Tampa, Fla., a descendant of Brig. Gen. Silas Newcomb, another Revolutionary War leader. “I knew about Gates, but now I will look up more.”

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A Revolutionary War General’s Reputation Is Dusted Off

Mention the Victor at Saratoga and many people might think that you’re talking about a horse. Yet that so called victor, Gen. Horatio Gates, the commander of the American forces at the Battle of Saratoga, played a crucial role in the triumph there over the British forces of Gen. John Burgoyne in October 1777.

Though other figures of the War of Independence are still widely revered and studied, Gates faded from the national memory. He died in New York in 1806 and was buried at Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan. (It is not known precisely where he is buried.)

On Sunday afternoon, though, more than 150 people gathered at the cemetery just off Wall Street to celebrate the installation of a plaque that will serve as his gravestone and to highlight his long neglected role in American history.

“This is a great day in my point of view in the history of the City of New York,” James S. Kaplan said in an address to the gathering, made up mostly of members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The story of Gates’ recent escape from history’s margins began with Mr. Kaplan, a New York tax lawyer who discovered Gates’ legacy during a visit to the Saratoga National Historical Park two decades ago. For the past 16 years, he has conducted an early-morning walking tour of Lower Manhattan on July 4th, with Gates’ story as the centerpiece.

Make that very early morning: It begins at 2 a.m. and ends at 6.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people have said, ‘It’s a great time of day for a tour, because I’m not doing anything then,’” Mr. Kaplan said.

According to Mr. Kaplan, Gates was a perpetual underdog who believed that men should advance in life through merit, not wealth.

Gates was born in England and became a soldier. After several frustrating years trying to advance, he left the army and sailed to the colonies, becoming a farmer in Virginia. When the Revolution broke out, he volunteered for the colonial forces. In this army, he rose rapidly through the ranks, largely perhaps because he had a deep understanding of the enemy.

By August 1777, the British and American forces were at a standoff in New York. Gates was placed at the head of the Northern Army. Within a month of taking control, his force grew to be equal in size to that of the British. Eventually he amassed an army of 17,000 men. “People kept coming in,” Mr. Kaplan said. “It was like Woodstock.”

In September, British and American troops clashed at Saratoga, and the Americans were defeated. Some of the officers serving under Gates — including Benedict Arnold — urged an immediate counterattack, but he called for restraint and told them to wait for a British offensive. Sure enough, a British attack failed, allowing American forces to encircle and defeat the British on Oct. 7.

While it was Gates’ strategy that achieved victory, it was Arnold who led that final attack. That is why Arnold, not Gates, is often credited with victory at Saratoga. “It was his strategy that was successful,” said Mr. Kaplan, referring to Gates.

Saratoga was a decisive moment, spurring the French to enter the war on the side of the Americans, which helped secure eventual victory. “Many people today,” Mr. Kaplan said, would say that “Benedict Arnold won it.”

“I say it’s bunk,” he continued. “The whole thing was over before Arnold even jumped in.”

Yet Gates may have helped put himself on the path to relative obscurity. He had a falling out with George Washington. And in 1780, his forces were defeated at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina.

The New York chapter of the D.A.R. decided his memory was worthy of revival. After Mr. Kaplan wrote an article about the general, the D.A.R.’s New York State regent, Denise Doring VanBuren, made a commitment to raise $2,200 for a plaque on the south side of the Trinity cemetery.

On Sunday afternoon, members of the organization, some of whom had traveled from as far as Florida and Kansas, gathered by the plaque. With the cemetery’s soft green ground treacherous for high heels, they listened as Mr. Kaplan spoke of the general, who was in his 50s at the time of the Battle of Saratoga and was called “Granny Gates,” by his peers.

“I thought it was such a wonderful historic opportunity to be here,” said Rhoda Justice Garcia, 63, of Tampa, Fla., a descendant of of Brig. Gen. Silas Newcomb, another Revolutionary War leader. “I knew about Gates, but now I will look up more.”

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