Monday, August 13, 2018

Rain, Rain

Everything's damp.  People on the street with sweaty brows & limp clothes.  My morning paper, still readable if I catch it in time, but soft and frail & handled with care.  Anything taken from fridge to table rapidly generates a pool of water.  Every so often I head down to the basement & check for leaks, but it's performing valiantly. Though the house is watertight I'm still on duty opening & shutting windows, what with the heat and the intermittent waves of rain. It's a cycle of insanity, running up and down the stairs, and consulting the forecast every time I leave the home. The air outside is fetid, and the sky uneasy, livid, sour. There's some sort of message here. A patch of cement out front has turned a mossy green, and some of the tomatoes are dappled with brown spots.

With the temperature lower today, I briefly entertain the notion of putting on jeans instead of shorts, but as soon as I get them on I take them off again. UPS mode still applies.  Endurance matters.

In August of 1899, a hurricane struck the city, causing massive flooding and destruction.  The Eagle reported extensively on the hurricane's damage, and also (slightly facetiously?) noted a by-product the kids enjoyed.  Some party.

Rowhouse Demolition (2012)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


John V. Lindsay diving into a swimming pool.
Katrina Thomas, 1965 (Museum of the City of New York)

The weather's going to my head. Yesterday I was wasting the day, beating the heat, by searching for photos of John Lindsay. Yes, he had a checkered run as mayor, but let's face it, the man had style, and was more than willing to hit the streets, roll up his sleeves and engage with his constituents. There he was, canvasing in Queens with a young Liza Minnelli in tow, carried shoulder-high by a jubilant crowd at the opening of Flatlands Industrial Park, strolling through Central Park, rugged in plaid.  And the man could seriously rock a raincoat. How the camera loved him.  At 6' 4" Lindsay was only an inch shorter than the current mayor, but unlike de Blasio he wore his height with grace, and a loose, easy physicality.  He could have been a model.

Mayor John V. Lindsay walking in Times Square.
Katrina Thomas, 1966 (Museum of the City of New York)

But I'm getting carried away.  Let's see things from more seasoned eyes.  Back in the summer of '69, Jimmy Breslin wrote a beaut of a piece for New York Magazine: "Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?"  The title's pertinent fifty years on.  And it's classic Breslin - so sweet and tough & soaked in the brine of city life you have the hardest time trying to lift a quote & in the end you give up trying. Go read it all.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

August Haul

 "August haul--In the shadow of Brooklyn Federal Building, one block north of Tillary St., a new crop of marijuana is cut down by sanitation workers. Inspector Frank Creto, left, Sanitation Department, and Deputy Inspector Peter E. Terranova, Police Department, survey the operation, latest in joint efforts by the two departments to rid the city of the weed."

                                        Al Lampert, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 21, 1952 (BPL)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Community Plumbing: How the hardware store orders things, neighborhoods, and material worlds (Places Journal)
 ... growing up in that environment impressed upon me that pretty much everything can be made and fixed by regular people. It helped me appreciate how the world hangs together — how a building stands up, how electricity gets to the outlet, how water gets in the kitchen sink and out of a flooded basement. Triangle offered an elegant geometry. You could buy frames and fasteners for fixing material things, and you could access a social infrastructure that gave shape to the community. The world was built from the stuff on its shelves.

The Death of a Once Great City: The fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence (Harper's)
Yes, the rich will be with us always. But New York should be a city of workers and eccentrics as well as visionaries and billionaires; a place of schoolteachers and garbagemen and janitors, or people who wear buttons reading is it fascism yet?—as one woman in my neighborhood has for decades, even as she grows steadily grayer and more stooped. A city of people who sell books on the street—and in their own shops. A city of street photographers, and immigrant vendors, and bus drivers with attitudes, and even driven businessmen and hedge fund operators. All helped to get along a little better, out of gratitude for all that they do to keep everything running, and to keep New York remarkable.

Chuck Schumer’s Actions on the National Stage Get Little Scrutiny From His Local Press (Fair)
In the heyday of the tabloid wars of the late 20th century, many NYC politicians feared the wrath of influential columnists like Jimmy Breslin, Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill. But today’s leading columnists seem willing to give Schumer a free pass.

On the Night Bus (Huck)
There is something about people in transit, they are off guard, vulnerable, staring, thinking, glassy eyed. I felt I was seeing people in a private moment but in a public place. It is a rare situation to candidly observe a stranger so intimately but the glass window and the dark night facilitated these close glimpses into another person’s day.

Peter Mitchell’s photographs of Leeds from 1979 (It's Nice That)
Peter’s series A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission displays the photographer’s affection and care towards capturing a city he holds dear with a unique narrative. The series follows the concept that “an alien has landed from Mars and is wandering around Leeds with a degree of surprise and puzzlement”. Featuring both landscape and portrait photography, the images first shown in 1979 act as essential documentation of not only Leeds but colour photography. “In the Earthly vernacular these photographs are of Nowheresville. Yet, for some people they are the centre of the universe. Usually they call it home.”

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mixed Use Rental Building for Fourth & 32nd

“We’re very inspired by the renaissance in the neighborhood, especially the work done by Industry City,” Moskovits said. “We believe that there’s a need for additional housing.”

Yes, more of the old IC/RE gentrification symbiosis.

Heritage Equity Partners have recently acquired 861-881 Fourth Avenue (32nd/33rd), last occupied by a gas station & convenience mart, for $19.8M.  According to the Commercial Observer, Heritage is planning a "150-unit rental building with a gym, pool and “high-end finishes.” As yet, no building plans have been filed, but Heritage president Toby Moskovits intends 30% of the units to be set aside for affordable housing, which will allow the developers increased building density. 

Without even getting into the issues of affordability bands & quotas, there's something essentially galling about this kind of project, when new inclusionary housing units come wedded to a (larger) number of new high-end, high-rent ones.  Inevitably, the balance of affordable units gained in a community is set unfavorably against the number of affordable units lost as high-end development proliferates, making housing in the neighborhood at large more & more expensive.  Certainly it's better to have a portion of inclusionary units in a new development rather than none at all, but the game has a stink about it, and we know the long-term outcome.

And who'll get the use of the pool?

Update, 7/30.  Plans for the eight-story building have now been filed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In Style

"I don't want shows you come out of like you had Sunday lunch, I want you to be repulsed or exhilarated," the man said. "If you leave without emotion, I'm not doing my job properly."
                                                                                                     (Alexander McQueen)

I rather like the uniform approach to dressing.  For most of the summer I've been wearing a sleeveless black shirt, knee-length dark grey shorts, & flat black sandals.  There's nothing particularly special about this, but it does the job, and it makes life simple.  If there's something that works, simply repeat.

High street fashions bore me, & are too much money.  I go second-hand.  In my dream life I'd splash a lot of cash on a McQueen - so dark, raw, primal & transformative.  It being a dream of course, I'd pull one off.  They're not fashion - fashion's a bore.  They're a second skin.

In a time of terror it was a good retreat to go & watch the documentary in the afternoon.  It was busier than the average matinĂ©e, & I had to move to another seat because of the heads in front of me.  I was two seats away from a couple of badly-dressed matrons and after the film was done they stayed, chatting.  The credits rolled, every other row was emptied out & the cleaning man came in to get the trash.  I wasn't in a hurry, but I was standing up looking at them, waiting to see if they'd notice me. I waited & waited but they didn't budge.  In the end I had to ask to get by, which pissed me off, especially as they didn't shift an inch when I squeezed past.  I wish I'd kicked them in the shins.

For every pair of snotty East-siders there's another pair that fills your heart with joy.  Later that day I came across a couple of seventy-somethings sorting out their shopping bags in front of Housing Works.  They were all matched up in red & black.  He had a rustic looking tree-limb of a walking stick & she wore shades with scarlet frames.  Her hat was magnificent.  I had to cross the street to compliment them on their style & so did a tall guy who declared them seriously wavy.  "We always thrift shop,"the woman said, beaming.  "You don't have to spend to look good." She was right.

It's not in the money.  You have it or you don't. The dresses Lee McQueen made for a tenner on the dole had the same energetic brilliance as the ones he made as a French couturier.  All of them dazzled & seethed. 

Lately I've come to think that everything you are or you become is pre-determined in the light & dark shades of your first few years.  The rest's just how you learn to live with them

Monday, July 23, 2018

Soon All This Will Be Picturesque Ruins

Soon All This Will be Picturesque Ruins: The Installations of David Wojnarowicz is currently showing at P.P.O.W.  The exhibition is running concurrently with History Keeps Me Awake at Night - the Wojnarowicz retrospective at the Whitney, and The Unflinching Eye: The Symbols of David Wojnarowicz, at NYU's Mamdouha Bobst Gallery

"I think of him as being something like the Angel of History, as imagined by the philosopher Walter Benjamin, an omniscient being who looks back to the human disasters of the past and sees them repeating themselves in the present and future, which is exactly what’s happening in this country right now.

Who would want to stick around to watch this dispiriting spectacle? A rightly and righteously angry angel might. And the Angel of History has no choice. The winds of change, constant and strong, force his wings open but won’t let him fly. It’s his job, which is an artist’s job, to stay. So forward, with purpose and something like love, he goes."   Holland Cotter, NY Times