Shoe Leather

Shoe Leather is produced collaboratively by students at Columbia Journalism School, overseen by faculty member Joanne Faryon.

Shoe Leather is an investigative podcast that goes behind the scenes of forgotten stories that shaped New York City. Go along with the team as they knock on doors and track down the people who were at the center of the news.

In season two, New York Drop Dead, reporters step back into the 1970s. They go beyond the bell bottoms and disco to explore what made this decade notorious in New York’s history. A decade in which the Big Apple went by a far more sinister nickname — Fear City. The city was broken and broke. And when city officials asked the federal government for a bailout — President Gerald Ford told them they were on their own. The next day the New York Daily News ran the now infamous front page headline–  Ford to City: Drop Dead.


Recent Podcasts

Nasty Weather May 11, 2021 - On March 6, 1970, a townhouse in New York City’s Greenwich Village blew up. After unearthing large quantities of dynamite in the wreckage, local officials determined that the townhouse’s basement had been used as a makeshift bomb factory. Three people died in the explosion and the two women who survived would be on the run for the rest of the decade. They were all white, upper class twenty-somethings, who demonstrated in peaceful AntiWar protests only a few years before. What drove them to start building bombs in the basement of a Greenwich Village townhouse? [...]

Read More...

Keep Your Mouth Shut May 11, 2021 - On the night of July 13, 1977, a citywide power failure plunged New York's ten million residents into darkness. Chaos ensued. There was looting in every borough, with hundreds of fires set and thousands of arrests — but just one murder. The victim was 17-year-old Brooklyn native Dominick Ciscone. Over 40 years later, the Ciscone case is still unsolved, despite multiple witnesses, decades of police attention, and even some anonymous tips. Because that murder might not have been part of the Blackout’s chaos at all — it might have been planned, not by someone who anticipated the power going out, but by someone who saw an opportunity to kill in the dark. [...]

Read More...

The Legend of Guy Fisher and the Apollo Theater May 10, 2021 - The Apollo Theater — the venue that shaped 20th-century Black music more than any other — shut its doors in the mid-1970s and stayed closed for years. It almost disappeared for good. But a mysterious buyer purchased the theater and reopened it in 1978. According to unofficial histories of the Apollo, the new owner was a man named Guy Fisher, one of the biggest heroin kingpins New York City has ever seen. The official history of the Apollo doesn’t ever mention Guy Fisher, and we wanted to know why. Our investigation uncovered a story of ambition. Of a love triangle. Of violence. And of redemption. [...]

Read More...

The Indian Godfather May 14, 2020 - In the 1990s, in the shadow of the FBI’s large-scale takedown of New York’s most infamous mafia family, an Indian immigrant was quietly building his own criminal organization. Gurmeet Singh Dhinsa came to the United States from the Punjab region of India with little to his name. He quickly built a multi-million dollar gasoline empire using bribery, intimidation and violence. For over a decade he terrorized the Sikh community in Brooklyn and Queens with his deadly enterprise. So how did police finally catch the Indian Godfather? [...]

Read More...

The Baby Napping May 13, 2020 - In the late afternoon of February 3, 1990, two-day-old Steven Lyons was kidnapped from a Brooklyn hospital— a feat that seems nearly impossible with hospital security measures in 2020. Now, 30 years later, Shoe Leather reporters, Rachel and Elize, follow in the footsteps of the brazen baby-napper with the help of news archives, child abduction experts, and social media. [...]

Read More...

The Accident May 13, 2020 - What caused one of New York City's most destructive riots? A car accident. In this episode, we go back in time to a collision that changed the city forever.  [...]

Read More...

The Abortion Pill May 8, 2020 - In the 1990’s, one organization dedicated a decade of work to gain FDA approval of a drug that promised to revolutionize abortion in America. Shoe Leather: the Abortion Pill follows the Population Council’s effort to bring mifepristone – and medical abortion – to the United States. Three decades later, we’ll relive the fight alongside those who were in the center of the ring and explore why some are still waiting for that revolution to arrive. [...]

Read More...

A Renaissance of Mysterious Circumstances May 7, 2020 - In 1990, thieves stole four paintings in a span of five days. Nearly thirty years later, one of the recovered paintings made history at a Sotheby’s auction. This is the story of those thefts—and one artist’s revival. [...]

Read More...

Happy Land May 7, 2020 - On March 25, 1990 eighty-seven people died when the Happy Land Social Club burned. After Julio Gonzalez argued with his girlfriend he bought a gallon of gasoline and set the club on fire. Until the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 the Happy Land fire was the deadliest mass murder in US history. Though the tragedy has mostly slipped through the cracks of collective consciousness, for those who lost loved ones in the fire, it remains a part of their lives. This is a story of community, loss, memory, and resilience. This is Happy Land. [...]

Read More...

The Murder of Bruce Bailey May 7, 2020 - Bruce Bailey was a tenants rights activist who dedicated his life to fighting landlords on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He was a husband, a father, a graduate of Columbia College, and in June of 1989, he was brutally murdered. His dismembered body was found in trash bags on a street corner in the South Bronx. And his case was never solved. We set out to find the story behind Bailey’s killing. What could have motivated someone to murder and mutilate an activist? How has this case stayed cold for three decades? And what is Bruce Bailey’s legacy, thirty years after his death? [...]

Read More...