Spider-Man, We Know Where You Live
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Today we’ll look at letters to Spider-Man that were sent to a real address in Queens. They’ve now been donated to a museum. We’ll also find out about Mayor Eric Adams’s decision to lift the vaccine mandate for city employees.
Credit…via Pamela Parker
They are letters to someone who — sorry to break this to you — was not real. This sets them apart from famous letters to real people, like the one from an 11-year-old girl that motivated Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard.
These letters were written to the comic-book superhero Spider-Man and sent to his alter ego’s real address in Forest Hills, Queens, decades ago. Now — without a thwip! or a thwak! or a whoonk! — they are on display at the City Reliquary, a tiny storefront museum in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“Some of them are more like letters to Santa, asking for Spider-Man stuff,” said Pamela Parker, who grew up in the house at 20 Ingram Street. Yes, the family that lived there from 1974 to 2007 had the same surname as the Spider-Man guy in the comic books, Peter Parker. The real-life Parkers saved the letters.
One 3-old correspondent, who probably had help, considering the perfect spelling and penmanship, reported that she often dressed “as you to kill all the badies.” She wanted to know if Spider-Man planned to visit Europe.
Another letter — written in more childlike handwriting, with spelling to match — invited him to Kentucky. “Whould you like to come to our house some time in summer?” it asked. “When you come to our house can you put on your costume? After that what would you like to do? Do you play basset ball and football?”
Clay Langston, a 9-year-old from Corinth, Miss., implored Spider-Man to “please right back.” He didn’t. The real-life Parkers had decided not to answer the letters, Pamela Parker said. The website Hell Gate, which reported on the letters late last month, tracked down Langston, now a student at the University of Tennessee. He was amused by the “sloppy writing” and said that Spider-Man had “helped me cope through the hard times as a kid.”
Junk mail addressed to Peter Parker also landed in the Parkers’ mailbox, like the missive telling him to “call today to activate your Discover card!”
Dave Herman, the founder and curator of the City Reliquary, said the letters — the ones from children, anyway — have “a tactile, genuine quality” and showed how Spider-Man had exported New York to the nation and the world.
People outside New York “knew about the ticker-tape parades” in Manhattan, he said, “but they might not have known about Forest Hills, so he brought to the broader audience a better understanding of New York City. Those giant canyons are more relatable from this character who came from the small town within the big New York City, one of those pockets in the five boroughs where you can get that small-town feeling like you’d get in the Midwest.”
Comic-book readers knew the neighborhood before the Ingram Street address appeared on a change-of-address form in Peter Parker’s jacket that the villain Venom got hold of in 1989. There were some letters through the 1990s, Pamela Parker said, but more when the action-movie “Spider-Man” was released in 2002.
“She and her family were not avid readers of Spider-Man,” Herman said. “They knew him the way a layman might, but the hard-core fans are looking at details, zooming in with a magnifying glass.” The real-life Parkers on Ingram Street did not realize that they were living in a comic book landmark until the letters started coming.
They sold the house 16 years ago, and now it is on the market again, for $2.138 million. Gigi Malek, the real estate agent for the owners, said the Spider-Man connection was a selling point. “During the open house, we always say this was the Spider-Man residence,” she said.
“My son wore a Spider-Man suit for, like, six years in a row,” she said. “We had to duct-tape the ends of the sleeves, they were fraying so badly. He refused any new Spider-Man outfit with the muscles, the padding, anything. He wanted the same old Spider-Man costume he had gotten the first time because he believed that was from Spider-Man.”
Her own house in Forest Hills is also on the market, she said, and on walk-throughs, prospective buyers marvel at his room, still a shrine to comic book heroes, Spider-Man first and foremost.
“They go, ‘How old is your son?’” she said. “They think he’s a 12-year-old. No, he’s 25. Spider-Man influenced a lot of the kids in Forest Hills that way.”
Enjoy an increasingly cloudy day, with temperatures in the low 40s. At night, a chance of rain, with temps near 40.
In effect until Monday (Lincoln’s Birthday).
The latest Metro news
State of the Union guest: Representative George Santos, the Long Island Republican facing scrutiny over false claims that included a family connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, invited a former firefighter who did rescue work at ground zero to be his guest at the State of the Union.
The pet charity: F.B.I. agents are apparently looking into some of Santos’s work with Friends of Pets United, which he has said he “founded and ran” from 2013 to 2018. Several people have questioned the way it handled funds raised to benefit animals.
More local news
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García Luna corruption trial: Jurors at the trial of Genaro García Luna in Brooklyn have heard about murders, kidnappings, drug shipments and accusations of bribes paid by the Sinaloa drug cartel. Here are key takeaways from last week’s testimony.
‘This is the right moment,’ Adams says as he ends the vaccine requirement for city workers
It is yet another milestone as officials press for the pandemic to recede in the rearview mirror: New York City is ending its aggressive but contentious vaccine mandates for municipal workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers.
The vaccination rules, among the toughest in the nation when they were imposed in October 2021 by Mayor Eric Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, are credited with driving the vaccination rate among city employees to 96 percent. They also prompted hundreds of dismissals and a series of lawsuits.
Adams said that starting Friday, vaccination would be optional for current and prospective municipal employees. People who visit city schools will no longer have to show that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine before they can enter.
Adams’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said on Monday that the vaccine requirements had been an important tool that “were absolutely necessary to meet the moment.” But the city is moving out of the “emergency phase of the pandemic,” he said. Adams added in a statement that “this is the right moment for this decision.”
Still, many New Yorkers have been infected with Covid-19 over the winter, some for a second or third time. More than 1,900 people in the city were hospitalized with the virus in January, according to state data; about 965 people are hospitalized now. There are about 15 deaths a day.
Walking across town
I knew it was going to be a tough week. To settle my nerves before arriving at my desk, my book and my never-ending writing date with my dissertation, I decided to walk across town from home and then up to Columbia that Monday morning.
I left the apartment feeling edgy and down in the mouth. I stared at the pavement as I walked. But as I had expected, the fresh air and bright sunshine of that fall day helped lessen my burden. Before long, I had lifted my eyes.
I noticed a doorman on the north side of East 96th Street up ahead. It was pretty early, and he was hosing down the sidewalk in front of his building before the residents started rushing off to work and school and other obligations.
When he saw me approaching, he redirected the hose from the sidewalk to the street so I could pass without getting wet, and then shut it off.
Once I had passed, he quickly turned it on again full blast and arced the spray above the moving traffic toward the sidewalk on the south side of the street. I joined him in watching the water as it rose and fell.
A doorman standing front of the building on the south side of the street jumped quickly as if to dodge the unexpected downpour.
“Don’t worry,” my water-hurling Dennis the Menace said. “We’re good friends.”
— Cindy Wiltshire
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Corey Kilgannon and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].