Animal New York, a site that’s spent the last 12 years trespassing, agitating, and chronicling the weirder side of the city, published its last post today. New York City and the internet will be worse off without it.
When Animal’s redoubtable founder Bucky Turco started the site, it was essentially a personal blog, but it grew to include a small staff in recent years. (Briefly, it was a print magazine.) If you knew Animal at all—the audience was never huge—you may have known it as a graffiti and street art site, but in my opinion it was at its best when it was pulling stunts, needling the city’s elite, and imitating Bucky himself. That is to say, when it was being a mischievous, chatty, aggressive, and unapologetic New Yorker.
I should mention right away that I worked for Animal for two years as a staff writer before coming to Gawker, and that Bucky is a friend and sometime mentor to me, though I’d never say the word “mentor” in front of him. I started at Animal as an intern, and it was my first steady job as a writer. About a month after I got there, I was assigned to spend the night in Battery Park for a story, in a hut made of plywood and metal pipes. I’m pretty sure the whole thing was illegal, which meant it was a perfect introduction to Animal’s storytelling ethos.
Bucky compiled a list of Animal’s greatest hits in his goodbye post, and I’ll add a few here: there was the time a set of photos published on the site inspired a scolding press conference from NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, there was the time we disseminated a fake apology letter for the New York Post’s horrible Boston bombing coverage on behalf of Post honcho Col Allan, there was Marina Galperina’s early championing of internet-based art, there’s the story by Animal’s fearless photographer Aymann Ismail about getting his camera stolen and getting nearly killed in Tahrir Square. There was the time, just months ago, when every real estate reporter in New York was wondering what 190 Bowery looked like inside, and Bucky simply snuck in and took pictures.
Animal is owned by a media company called Woven Digital, which bought the site in 2013 and raised $18 million in funding in December of last year. It was always an odd fit for Woven’s fratty stable of sites, which also includes Uproxx and Brobible, and according to the company’s own numbers, its monthly traffic was less than one percent of Uproxx’s. Woven CEO Scott Grimes said that the site may eventually reemerge in an “evolved” form—one which would presumably not include Turco or the rest of the staff, all of whom were terminated this month.
“While AnimalNY has developed a niche following in New York, we have made the decision to temporarily suspend its publishing as we evaluate opportunities to expand its presence nationally,” Grimes wrote in an email. “We thank the AnimalNY team for their contributions over the last 2 years as part of Woven, as well as the 10 years prior. We look forward to sharing the evolution soon.”
Bucky confirmed to me that it was Woven’s call, and not his, to sunset Animal, but declined to mention why on the record. “It was sudden, but the timing was great,” he added somewhat cryptically. For now, he said, he’s “working on projects” for Ratter.com, the site founded by former Gawker editor and longtime friend-of-ANIMAL A.J. Daulerio, but ultimately a free agent. He said that it’s possible that Woven will keep the Animal brand alive and use it as a vertical on Uproxx.
Animal has survived several staff turnovers and ownership changes in its 12 years, but it’s hard to imagine it lasting long without Bucky.