Greenpointer Hosts Tours About NYC’s History of Espionage
New York is known as the ultimate city for countless things: fashion, finance, art, Instagrammable food trends – the list is longer than the line at a Supreme drop in Soho. When it comes to espionage, however, the city doesn’t necessarily come to mind the way Moscow or Washington, DC (especially as of late) might. Lucie Levine, a native Manhattanite turned Greenpointer, makes a strong case for her hometown as the ultimate spy city with Archive On Parade, her new tour and event company that reveals NYC’s fascinating history of espionage.
“What makes New York special is that it is the capital of so many industries, with more goods coming into NY harbor by 1900 than anywhere on Earth, and people always moving here from all over the world,” Lucie shares. “For a spy, that means a larger array of possible disguises and aliases, because anybody can be here doing any trade. Nothing seems out of place.”
Archive On Parade launched in February with two distinct walking tours, one in Lower Manhattan following the footsteps of Washington’s Revolutionary War spies and the other in Midtown covering espionage sights during both World Wars. Lucie, a self-proclaimed “history nerd,” does all of the writing, research, and tour guiding. Prior to starting her own business, she gave guided tours on the double decker red buses you see jam-packed with tourists.
Lucie is a wealth of knowledge on espionage across the city’s history, but she is especially passionate about its underappreciated role in the American Revolution. It is true that NYC is often forgotten in favor of cities with more overtly “olde” vibes, like Philly and Boston, in telling the story of America’s founding.
“I really love the revolutionary spies because this city gets a little passed over during that period. A lot of people think that Philadelphia was our nation’s first capital, but actually it wasn’t – it was NYC,” Lucie explains. “I think it’s so cool that the people we think of as the Founding Fathers were really the first spies. Washington, Hamilton, James Jay – they were all in it together.”
Archive On Parade is not limited to walking tours. Lucie also hosts trivia nights and immersive history parties, as well as lectures at some of the city’s most esteemed institutions, like the New York Public Library and 92nd Street Y. Her immersive history parties are held at Archestratus Books & Foods (160 Huron St) right here in Greenpoint. Paige Lipari, the owner of Archestratus and a “fabulous cook,” provides the period-appropriate dinner menu while Lucie provides the history lesson. The next party—Revolutionary Feasts: The Saloon Agitators—is slated for June 14th, and the theme is anarchist revolution on the Lower East Side.
“We create the theme through food and decoration, revealing who were these people, what were they doing, and of course, what were they eating,” Lucie says. “The anarchist movement on the Lower East Side in the early 1870s through WWI was like anarchy of the heart and soul. They used to throw a bunch of wild masquerade parties at Webster Hall with dancers and everybody would get really drunk.”
Sounds like a good ol’ anti-establishment time!
Lucie’s research in espionage does not deal with Greenpoint directly – she is not aware of the neighborhood having a notable history of professional spy activity – but she does do extensive research on Brooklyn’s industrial past. Greenpoint, once a hub of industry from shipbuilding to sugar refinement, is unsurprisingly a perfect subject of study.
“Researching industrial history is a similar process of uncovering a bygone era and bygone time, and thinking about something we don’t see in the environment. As much as we don’t see covert ops, we also don’t see the bare bones of our industrial neighborhood,” Lucie says.
Espionage, often called “the world’s second oldest profession,” seems especially relevant these days in politics. Lucie doesn’t plan to kick off tours of Trump’s NYC hotspots anytime soon, however.
“Espionage is so timely and it’s everywhere. It’s really interesting to look at what’s happening with Comey and the Russians,” Lucie says. “But it’s all too harrowing, too visceral. History is a story, after all, and to be able to create that story you need a beginning, middle, and end.”
When we do finally know the end of today’s scandals (hopefully sooner rather than later), there’s no doubt Archive On Parade would give a kick-ass tour. For more details on upcoming events and to book tours online, click here.