Saturday, January 20, 2018

January Reservoir

On Gyms

"The gym is the interior space that compensates for the disappearance of outside and a stopgap measure in the erosion of bodies.  The gym is a factory for the production of muscles or of fitness, and most of them look like factories: the stark industrial space, the gleam of metal machines, the isolated figures each absorbed in his or her own repetitive task ... The industrial revolution institutionalized and fragmented labor; the gym is now doing the same thing, often in the same place, for leisure."

"The treadmill (allows) travel to be measured entirely by time, bodily exertion and mechanical motion.  Space - as landscape, terrain, spectacle, experience - has vanished."

                                                                       Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust  (2000)

Friday, January 19, 2018

The One Dimension

“From Brooklyn Boulders, Brooklyn Aikikai and Court 16 to Gotham Archery and the Brooklyn Fencing Center among others, Gowanus is quickly becoming the Brooklyn playground for those living an active lifestyle,” Shannon Eidman of Compass, who handled the deal for developer Serabjit Singh of 304, LLC, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen an increased demand in fitness destinations in the neighborhood, and are excited to deliver that with Gowanus CrossFit both as an amenity for the future tenants of the building as well as to the general public.” (Commercial Observer)

And let's not forget the ax-throwing.  CrossFit will be a part of the five-building "repositioning" at Third between 12th and 13th. The Yard co-working space on 13th, a part of the complex, opened last year.

What strange sensation as building by building, block by block, the streets themselves turn into flat, glossy renderings. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Still Life

I didn't grow up in Newcastle, but I was there for half a dozen years, right around the time photographer Tish Murtha was documenting her neighborhood, Elswick.  I lived in a flat just off the Westgate Road in Elswick, in the late 70's.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


"Eagle photo,"April 18, 1935 (Brooklyn Public Library)

"Police Commissioner Louis Valentine demolishing roulette wheels used in crime-related gambling. The location, presumably Brooklyn, is unknown." (Brooklyn Public Library)

It looks to me as if the photograph was taken on the Sunset Park waterfront, with Bush Terminal Building 19 (on 39th Street) in the background.  At this angle it's hard to tell that the central part of the building is recessed, but the ornamentation, the window count, and the water tower (at center) make it a good match.

Here's Building 19 in 1957,

Museum of the City of New York

and here's a Google pics from 2007.

The facade of the building has been altered over the last couple of years.  It's not Bush Terminal any more; this is Industry City.  The Brooklyn Nets have their training center here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Selma to Montgomery

Selma to Montgomery, March, 1965, directed by the late Stefan Sharff, close family friend over generations.


Plans for been filed for a two-story vertical extension and five-family residence on the existing structure at 379 13th Street, which is situated just below Seventh Avenue.  The ground floor of the current building has belonged to the Iglesia Evangelica Pentecostal for over forty years, though there's been a partial vacate on the building since early 2015.  ACRIS shows no sale on record, but the owner listed on the plan application is Segev Nachom, and the business name is listed as 379 13 Street LLC.  The architect on record for the conversion is Woody Chen, who is active in Brooklyn.  Some of his creations can be seen in the neighborhood.

A few doors down, there's still an empty lot where a fine old wooden house used to stand.  371 13th was torn down in 2015.  Plans for a new building have yet to be approved.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


An Easy Way to Give East New York a New Subway Stop (Urban Omnibus)
Imagine there were the possibility for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend a subway line to a major concentration of new affordable housing — and a neighborhood with some of the longest commutes in the city — without building a single foot of new subway track.

The Man Who’s Been Sent to Rikers 100 Times (Village Voice)
A long-ago drug plea deal has left a Brooklyn homeless man on an endless shuttle to jail

Opioid Addiction Knows No Color, but Its Treatment Does (NY Times)
On a street lined with garbage trucks, in an industrial edge of Brooklyn, dozens of people started filing into an unmarked building before the winter sun rose. Patients gather here every day to visit the Vincent Dole Clinic, where they are promised relief from their cravings and from the constant search for heroin on the streets.

Barren Island’s Treasure Trove (New Yorker)
Robert Moses levelled a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the nineteen-fifties. Debris is still washing ashore.

So Long, Arthur Of Arthur’s Cafe (Spitalfields Life)
Even at ninety years old, Arthur was still running around his magnificent shining cafe, taking orders and serving customers with sprightly efficiency. Possessing the grace, good manners and handsome features of a young Trevor Howard, he was a charismatic figure, venerated in Dalston and throughout the East End.

A sound-portrait of a personal favourite - Bethnal Green's E. Pellicci.  Just listen!

Coney Island Creek: A Kayak Tour by Charles Denson
A circumnavigation of Coney Island Creek at high tide.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mod New York

Costumes worn at Truman Capote's 1966 Black and White Ball

The Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip exhibition, at the Museum of the City of New York, left me disappointed.  I guess I was envisioning more of an English version of mod, or rather my English version of mod, but this was another mod entirely.  Encompassing a wider time-frame, and a broader range of cultural trends, this Mod felt faded and inert. Fossilized. Granted I was a small kid during the English mod heyday, with a child's distorted sense of things, but even in the primary school playground I felt the excitement of the era.  Older kids would corner you and demand to know if you were a mod or a rocker (at six or seven years old I knew my camp).  The crackly sound of Radio Caroline buzzed from my older siblings' transistor radios, and in the early to mid-60's, an hour away from Liverpool, those of us young enough to get it basked in the glow of the city's reputation.  Yes there was a world of high-end fashion and art, high-end clubs and juicy tabloid scandals somewhere in the distance, but even as a kid I knew mod was really lived in the music & the street culture of towns and cities all over the country.

So this mostly 1% couture version of Mod had none of the bite or the fun or the energy I'd hoped for, and most of the clothes & designers and celebrities in no way met my biased expectations.  Jackie O.? Audrey Hepburn, Oleg Cassini, Adolfo?  Mod?  Oh come now. The parameters were all wrong. And even the Campbells & Op-Art minis lost their zing in this fusty gathering.  It might have been something to do with the presentation - the dimly lit space and the blank-faced mannequins, or maybe the lack of any music to liven things up but really, I think it was the smell of money.

Still, I had to enjoy the Black & White Ball clothes, especially that Halston rabbit ensemble worn by Candice Bergen, who later expressed regret that she had attended the party "while there was war and suffering in the world."  Also the bolder, fresher African Jazz Art Society and Studios Grandassa Models photographed by Kwame Braithwaite in 1962.

But there were surprisingly few things to covet.  Visiting the Alexander McQueen show several years back, I was wild for his clothes' grand, savage beauty, but this was tamer stuff by far.  If I had to pick something I guess it would be the Courrèges Paris Hyperbole, a slinky looking crinkly vinyl on cotton & spandex in black.  It had a faint edge.

Despite my negative views, I love the MCNY.  Right now I'd recommend another show there: Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Farewell

Yes, I know this picture doesn't show the number of years Sam Batrouni had been in business at Fifth & 24th, but suffice it to say it's been over forty.  His auto-repair business got consistently good reviews from his loyal customers, and the occasional conversations I had with him were always delightful.  The business closed at the end of last year. The property has been for sale since late 2016, and though it's still listed, I'm assuming a deal is in the works.  The lot has M1-1D zoning, so there's the possibility of residential construction here.  A good number of auto business corners round here have been snapped up by buyers for rental or condo development.

As the sign on the fence states, there'll be some continuity for customers, whatever happens to the lot:

Please be assured that you will still be receiving honest service next door at 745 5th Avenue from my current manager Mohammed, who will be running the business with George and Zuhair, also from Batrouni Service Station.

If you read the whole thing, you'll see what a gracious note of farewell this is - the proper way to do it.  Best wishes to you Sir, a happy retirement, and I hope you land some good catches.

E. 103rd

I've been wanting to catch this stoop for a while.  I had my chance yesterday, but didn't have a decent camera on me.  Still - what a pair they make, these old gods of the city.