Jessica Leigh Hester

Jessica Leigh Hester

Jessica Leigh Hester is a senior associate editor at CityLab, covering culture, hyperlocal history, and sustainability. Previously, she was a contributing editor at Modern Farmer. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, New York Times, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.

A sign reading "quiet please"

The Art of Complaining About Noise

A new trove of correspondence with his upstairs neighbors reveals Marcel Proust’s charming but desperate pleas for quiet.

A kid with a Mohawk hairdo travels on the subway line number 2 in Shanghai

Would You Give Up Your Subway Seat to a Kid?

Readers (and riders) respond to a recent CityLab essay about who deserves to sit.

Books on a shelf of the Brooklyn Public Library's Bedford branch

Helping Homeless New Yorkers by the Books

With a new resident social worker, the Brooklyn Public Library is pushing staff and patrons toward a culture of inclusivity.

The price of bananas is displayed on a digital price tag at a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store.

The Past and Future of Urban Grocery Shopping

In his new book, Michael Ruhlman charts the overlap of food, commerce, and identity.

Kamau Ware and a handful of tour-goers on the streets of the Financial District in New York

Retracing Black Gotham

A walking tour and graphic novel series memorialize Manhattan’s earliest African residents.

Museum visitors standing in a padded gallery wearing big headphones and closing their eyes

The Art of Noise

A new exhibition highlights the curious potential of sounds that are tempting to ignore.

Food court workers sift out scraps at a mall.

Does It Matter What We Do?

A new podcast and documentary take stock of individual choices against the backdrop of immense, looming threats.

A kid stands among shelves full of chips, cereal, and bread, all made out of felt.

The World's Most Charming, Useless Bodega

In an uneasy critique of independent stores’ vanishing footprint, this art installation sells toilet paper, tins of fish, and tubs of ice cream, all made out of felt.

A young boy in front of plane at an airport

What Family Photos Reveal About National Identity

The Royal Ontario Museum is staging an exhibition devoted to snapshots—and what it means to be Canadian.

A man holds a backpack and reusable shopping bag full of food from a pantry.

Rural America Is Hungry

Food insecurity is most prevalent in rural, southern counties—which often lack robust networks to meet the need.

A girl stoops to leave a hand-written thank-you note at Susan B. Anthony's grave.

Driving Through New York State's Human-Rights History

The state’s latest tourism campaign makes a point to focus on sites at the center of the LGBT movement and the push for abolition and women’s suffrage.

A Brief History of Music Festival Fails

To avoid the next Fyre Festival-style debacle, organizers should heed these five lessons.  

A black-and-white illustration of a shore, hill, forests, and clouds lets users concentrate on the sounds

Here's What Manhattan Sounded Like in 1609

A new virtual reality project reconstructs the city’s historic soundscape.

A photograph of a clunky, rusted wall-mounted surveillance camera

How to Disappear

Is it possible to move through a smart city undetected?

Riders on the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island

The Rituals of Coney Island's Opening Day

For locals, the urban amusement park season starts months before summer’s peak.

A chef prepares meals at one of Food for Soul's refettorios

These Sleek Soup Kitchens Fight Hunger and Loneliness

Chef Massimo Bottura’s Refettorios will soon land in U.S. cities to fight food waste and isolation, thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

A women collects air quality data in a trash-strewn parking lot full of cars and in West Oakland, California.

Citizen Science in the Age of the Cloud

A new documentary series celebrates regular folks interacting with data, but leaves some big questions answered.

When Your City Is Gone

A new book invites Seattle residents to conjure the haunts that have vanished.

Refugees Around the Table

A new campaign is hosting dinner parties around the world to build communities and strengthen networks.

Sense and the City

How did 18th-century urban dwellers make sense of their loud and stinky worlds? Historian Carolyn Purnell explains.