Christopher Bianchi has only been in Greenport since August of 2022, but you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d lived here forever. 

As the reference and local history librarian at Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library, his local knowledge runs deep, and his new podcast series for the library interviewing Greenport residents has become the talk of the town.

Raised in New Orleans, and initially trained as an artist, Mr. Bianchi’s path to Greenport was a circuitous one. 

During the pandemic, when he began to really feel the weight of trying to make it as a full-time artist, he took an inventory of his interests.

“I loved libraries, the historical part, and archiving,” he said, deciding to get an online Masters Degree in Library Science during the pandemic lockdown. His parents were originally from Long Island, and he spent a year in Junior High School in East Moriches after his family evacuated from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, so this place wasn’t new to him.

“Coming back is full circle for me. This is where my parents grew up,” he said. “During the interview for the job at the library, they gave me a heads up about the cost of living here, but I was able to find a rental in Greenport.”

Mr. Bianchi, 32, began volunteering at Greenport’s Stirling Historical Society during his first year here, where he was regaled with stories not only about centuries past but about the lived histories of other volunteers there, including Carlos deJesus and Gene Austin. He’s now a member of the historical society’s board.

At work, he began organizing and making room for visitors in the library’s basement local history room, and realized the space would make a great podcast studio to use to capture the recollections of the people he was meeting in town.

Ian Fleury, the technology specialist at the library, helped him put together the equipment to make the studio a reality, and he found an online platform, Spotify for Podcasters, to use to distribute the Floyd Memorial Library Podcast through widespread podcast channels.

Library Director Ellen Nasto, who has made it her mision to support innovative staff projects when she began her job there last year, loved the idea as soon as they broached it with her.

“That’s what I’m here for — to give them the space and support to do what they want,” she said.

The podcast launched at the start of the year with an interview with the village’s new mayor, Kevin Stuessi, and by early April Mr. Bianchi had released 25 episodes, interviewing village officials, artists, historians, chefs, architects, retirees who came here after illustrious careers, and people engaged in all types of ways with the life of the village, and of the North Fork at large. He was in the process of editing 20 more episodes when he sat for an interview with The Beacon in early April.

“I wanted to focus on a wide range of people, of different ages and ethnicities,” said Mr. Bianchi. “I structure the questions in a way that’s not traditional oral history in the way an archivist might. I bring in the present and the future. It has a narrative.”

He added that he works hard to make his subjects feel comfortable, giving them questions ahead of time and letting them play a role in how they want their story told.

“I try to keep it as raw and uncut as possible,” he said. “The conversations seem very one on one and cosy — you can forget you put them out into the world. I want them to be natural, flowing and engaging.”

His list of potential subjects continues to grow — people have begun calling the library, asking to be interviewed, and many interviewees suggest other people, most of whom have been receptive to the project.

“I think it’s delightful,” said Ms. Nasto of the public response to the podcast. “The thing about libraries these days is people come to us for connection, not just for books. I think that’s especially true in a place like greenport, a small town were people know each other.”

Mr. Bianchi has noticed several common and very universal themes throughout the interviews, including housing unaffordability and climate change.

“A lot of people are worried about losing community, and worrying about it looking like everywhere else on Long Island,” he said. “They’re concerned about making sure Greenport still stays a seaport village.”

“People talk about climate change a lot, about what’s the plan, down the line,” he added. As someone who left New Orleans with just his school bookbag before Katrina and didn’t return to his childhood home, it’s a subject he understands deeply.

His family ultimately settled in Texas, where he went to high school, before moving to Montreal to study studio arts at Concordia University.

“New Orleans is below sea level, and as a child, I had to evacuate a lot,” he said. “This area, it’s definitely something you have to think about — ‘do I really want to be by the water?’ I think we’re going to see more refugees, people moving within the country. I think it’s something to just keep in mind. A lot of people who left New Orleans went to Texas. It’s about being ok with starting fresh. We lost everything, and we moved forward.”

Mr. Bianchi’s most recent move, from Portland, Maine, where he’d been trying to make a career as a visual artist, also reminded him of the universality of trends facing the North Fork.

“There are similar issues in Portland, with keeping the working waterfront and housing prices,” he said. “A lot of people had moved there.”

“It was an adjustment coming to a smaller place, and meeting new people. I was used to bigger cities, and I noticed, walking around town, that I started to recognize people,” said Mr. Bianchi of the move to Greenport. While he’s put his own painting, drawing and film projects on hold due to a tight personal budget, he’s finding joy in devoting himself to the podcast.

“I do feel the podcast has been a form of creativity for me — editing, talking with people and creating an archive,” he said. “You can look at it as a form of artwork, a time capsule. And you can see the stories and information preserved.”

The Floyd Memorial Library Podcast can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, NPR Podcasts and most everywhere podcasts are found.

— Beth Young


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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