The 50th Annual Turkey Bowl

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. Today we’ll find out about a Thanksgiving ritual — a touch football game in the Bronx that is entering its 50th year. We’ll also get details on a city program to give homeowners up to $400,000 if they build an apartment in their attic, backyard or basement.

Credit…via Douglas Simon

Thanksgiving is about rituals: Turkey, or “turkie,” as the colonists in Massachusetts spelled it. Spectating, as parade floats go by. And for 20 or so high school buddies from the Bronx, scrimmaging, as they have done every Thanksgiving weekend since 1974.

They will take the field for the 50th time on Saturday, grayer, heavier and slower, perhaps, but still as determined as when they were teenagers. “We still have the drive to do this,” said Nathan Schlanger, an accountant who is 66 — even if “our football skills are weaker.” They call their annual face-off the Turkey Bowl.

Off the field, they have survived marriages, divorces, cross-country moves, career changes and, lately, retirements. One now lives in Minneapolis. Others are scattered across New York and New Jersey. Two of the original players have died.

On the field, said Gerry Gartenberg, a former consumer reporter on television who is now a psychotherapist, the competition is “in line with our hormone levels” — it was more pronounced in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Now, he said, the game is “an ongoing reminder of friendship, its fabulousness and its fragility.”

Sometimes the game is also a reminder of physical fragility. Jon Asher, a retired marketing research executive, said the injuries over the years had included a broken collarbone, a broken finger, a broken leg, a broken nose, a broken rib and some torn cartilage.

“Not a lot of injuries, when you think about it,” Asher said, “but it’s two-hand touch. When you think about it, there really shouldn’t be any injuries.”

The broken nose was his, from a collision several years ago with Schlanger’s daughter’s then-boyfriend, who had joined the game.

“It’s not even like they were on different teams,” Schlanger said. “They were on the same team.” Now the nose-breaker, Garrett Frank, is Schlanger’s son-in-law — he married Marcie Schlanger just last week. Bygones are bygones: Asher attended the wedding.

At least one player will go into Saturday’s game hurt. Douglas Simon, who has taken part in 43 Turkey Bowls, said he was nursing a foot injured in pickleball. He said he would strap on a boot and play at least one series of plays. “That’s my hope, anyway,” he said.

Credit…via Douglas Simon

The original players were teenagers who had attended DeWitt Clinton High School or the Bronx High School of Science. For college, some went to the State University of New York at Binghamton (which now uses the name Binghamton University), while others attended one of the City University of New York campuses. They divided themselves into SUNY and CUNY teams for the first game. Later they invited friends to join the game — and later still, children and grandchildren began playing with them.

One of their classmates at DeWitt Clinton was Butch Lee, who was named the Associated Press college basketball player of the year in 1978 and later played for the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Asher said the Turkey Bowl players were never at his level. “None of us was going to play for a high school team or a college team,” he said, “but you could feel like you were a good athlete” when playing with friends.

Some things have changed at the Turkey Bowl: Schlanger no longer sends in cheerleaders (they were employees from a store he owned until 2007). Some players now need hot baths after the game.

The Turkey Bowl is not the only long-running game of its kind. The Swine Bowl — a post-Thanksgiving game that began the way the Turkey Bowl did, when friends from high school got together as college freshmen — was played for 64 years. But when the players gathered in Central Park in 2018, they said it was for their last game.

Schlanger said there had been no talk of calling off the Turkey Bowl now that they are sexagenarians.

“We keep doing it because it makes us feel youthful,” Schlanger said. “I look at these guys and I see them the way they were 20 years ago, 30 years ago. They look the same to me. We’ve changed dramatically. But when we play the game and do all these silly things, we feel youthful.”


Prepare for wind gusts and more rain early, with temperatures dropping from around 60 to the mid-40s at night.


In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day).

The latest Metro news

Credit…José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Living in the city

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  • Five migrants navigating their new home: More than 200,000 migrants have come to New York in the last 18 months. Some of them told us how they have found shelter, earned money and looked for legal ways to stay here.

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  • New Jersey mayor charged: The mayor of Clark, N.J., who was recorded four years ago using racial slurs, was charged with two unrelated crimes linked to his private landscaping business.

  • New director for the Guggenheim: Mariët Westermann, the vice chancellor of N.Y.U.’s Abu Dhabi campus, will come to New York to run the museum complex as it prepares to open Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Up to $400,000 to build an apartment in your backyard

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Fifteen New Yorkers with single-family homes could get nearly $400,000 to put apartments in their garages, attics or backyards.

My colleague Mihir Zaveri writes that it’s a way of addressing a big problem — New York’s housing shortage — with a relatively small-scale project.

Recipients will be restricted by income — the ceiling for a family of four will be $232,980, with priority given to lower incomes — and those interested can apply on the city’s website. Rents in the new apartments would also be capped, at around $2,600 for a one-bedroom apartment, for example. The program will target areas where current codes allow homeowners to add another unit.

Making it easier to build basements, cottages and other extra units has become an attractive way to encourage development in other places where housing costs are high. Supporters say the model helps homeowners earn money and can be great for older people trying to find affordable places near their families, which is why the units are often called “granny flats.”

But city regulations make building and maintaining them expensive — at least legally, said Howard Slatkin, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Housing and Planning Council. An estimated 100,000 New Yorkers live in illegal basement

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