Friday, November 17, 2017

Maintenance Art

What a delight to get my copy signed by Mierle Laderman Ukeles at the City Reliquary Trash! exhibition.  I'll treasure it all the more.

New Plans Filed for 643-5 Fifth

New plans have been filed for a six-story mixed-use building at 643-5 Fifth Avenue.  Nine residential units are included. The properties were acquired in '14 by 5th Ave Condos LLC for $4,250,000, and later put back on the market for $7,000,000, but apparently there were no takers.  Plans for a seven-story building were disapproved in spring of '16. 


Here's a picture of the 18th/19th block of Fifth, taken in 1941 by Percy Loomis Sperr (NYPL Digital Collections).  You can see 643-45 with their original woodwork, and farther down, the original matching looks of the Hutwelker building and the 657 Fifth furniture warehouse.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Produce, Boots ,& Automobiles

In recent years Sunset Park's Third Avenue has seen a rapid overturn of property. Especially on the northern stretch of Third, close to the waterfront, land is hot.

Recent arrivals and newly sold holdings along the water include the Lafarge Cement Terminal, the Sunset Industrial Park, the SIMS Municipal Recycling Center, the Liberty View Industrial Plaza, and Industry City (part of the original Bush Terminal, now being developed by major shareholder Jamestown Properties).  The Ferrara Brothers concrete company will be moving here from its Hoyt Street location in two or three years (right at the spot pictured above), after decades of leasing the land it once owned, which was seized by eminent domain in the '70's.  
                                                                                                              (One More Folded Sunset)

Smaller businesses are shifting too.  The warehouse at Third & 26th, home to Rossman Farms, is on the market, to be delivered empty, or with the storage basement leased to the current owners.  The discount fruit & vegetable store, known for its unbeatable budget prices, has been open on Third since 1990, with the building used purely for wholesale storage prior to that. The owners have another store on Avenue M.

Rossman's from under the Gowanus (2014)

A couple of blocks north of Rossman's, a corner lot currently occupied by the Lopez Byway autoshop is also up for sale:

Amazing Development Opportunity. This 110 Ft X 25 Ft Lot Is Currently Being Used As A Car Repair Shop And Garage, But Will Be Delivered Completely Vacant, And Without Equipment. You Can Build An Office Building, A Hotel, A Warehouse, Or A Residential Building. Drive By There, Check Out The Site. Please Don’t Speak To Workers Inside The Repair Shop. 

As the sign attests, Lopez has been on Third for decades.

Another sub-Gowanus view (2014)

A little farther south on Third, at 40th, the legendary shoe and work-clothes outfitters Frankel's will be gone by the end of the month, relocating closer to the owner's home in Jersey.  Frankel's hopped over the avenue to its current location when Robert Moses put the Parkway in, but it's been around since 1890 - an impressive run.  Third-generation owner Marty Frankel will be holding on to the building, but at 76, it's time to leave Sunset Park.

More and more, old-time locals come in and tell him their landlord has sold their building and they're getting evicted, moving to Pennsylvania or some other state. The neighborhood is changing again. A nearby Costco has taken a bite out of Frankel's -- "It hurts. Costco gets all the deals" -- and the newcomers to the neighborhood haven't helped.
"Hipsters ...They try on twenty pairs of shoes, but they won't buy here because the store doesn't look nice. They like to take pictures of my barcodes, though, and then buy the shoes online."  
                                                                                                       (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)


Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I've been trying to wrangle my past into submission. I have a rag-taggle collection of photographs, documents, letters and other ephemera - carelessly curated & hardly amounting to much.  Other than a good number of books, the sum of my early years is on the thin side.  Recently I came across a shot from a Carte D'Assistance, circa 1983, and the person who looked out from the photograph was barely recognizable.  Was that really me? Where had the decades gone? I spent the rest of the day purging my closet of useless garments, dying my hair, and buying a (s/h) men's winter jacket. Hooded, sturdy, and well-equipped with pockets, it will see me through all but the coldest winter days. That thick, extra skin will come in handy.


If you grew up, as I did, with parents who had lived through the Depression, you took it as a given that everything you had could be mended or reused: socks darned, stock boiled, fat rendered, remnants of fabric quilted, slivers of soap reconstituted, worn woolens unraveled and re-knitted, food composted or fed to the chickens and pigs, shoes resoled, appliances mended until they finally, for you at least, gave up the ghost.  As a child, I lived on the cusp of change; the age of disposability was dawning, bright, shiny and plastic-wrapped, while at the same time, the rag and bone man still rode the streets with his horse and cart, and Gypsies called by to sharpen knives, mend pots and pans, and take the metal even my parents no longer found a function for.  Even as a child I was torn between the pleasure of the old ways and the lure of the New Advertised World.  I sometimes chafed at my older parents’ thrift, finding it excessive and even embarrassing.  Today they'd be domestic recycling role models.

I’m pretty sure they never once said the word “recycling” though.  The art of re-use was simply a reflex.  The number of things you had was smaller, and you knew its value, both for yourself and your family, and when you’d exhausted an object’s use, it moved on to those who could still make a living by it.  In the world of material karma, second, third, or fourth lives abounded.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

As then, so now

"The ragpicker requires little capital, so his name is legion. A basket and stick with a thin end are his implements; the whole vast city his field of operations; liberty his license; the wastefulness of humanity his opportunity." 
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 13th, 1888)

Sunday, November 12, 2017


The cold hits. The best of all patties & curry goat roti. Tequila. Kojak reruns.
The reruns stand up remarkably well.  Telly Savalas has still got class, and the dialog is still snappy.

Last Rites for a Dead Priest (1973)

Well, look, I know you longer than he did, and I never met a man on this island that didn't need a million dollars.
And the way he tried was to talk you into turnin' yourself in.
Which got me three years in the joint instead of five.
Was that nothin'? You try it one time.
Look, if you wanna go back to being an altar boy, do it.
But do it after tomorrow, huh? I mean, at least be a rich altar boy.
Hey, come on.
This is Gabe, huh? You know, I seen you nights when Father Ambrosio wouldn't have recognized you.
Huh? [Siren Wailing] Lieutenant, what brings you out on a night like this? Would you believe I missed you? I wanna know why a small-time pickpocket was killed.
Well, it was nothing he had on him.
He had 18 bucks, five wristwatches, a solid gold cigarette lighter, and would you believe it 34 stolen credit cards.
Yeah, I believe it.
You know, 20 years ago, he had the fastest hands on Broadway.
I was proud of him.
Choo-Choo would go into Madison Square Garden.
He'd empty every pocket, and still catch the main event.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Plans Filed for Charter School at 17th Street

Plans have been filed for an eight-story charter school at 156 17th Street (Third/Fourth)
The lease has been signed by Prospect Charter School,with the address listed the Fort Hamilton Parkway location of the Windsor Terrace Middle School & Brooklyn Prospect High School.  Prospect Charter is a consortium of four Brooklyn charter schools, with another in the works in Danbury, Connecticut. The new school will be replacing a marble & granite business.

Without wading into the whole charter school question, this seems like a lousy location for a school. 17th is an especially busy traffic corridor, with a constant stream of traffic connecting to the Prospect Expressway one block up.  In terms of pedestrian safety, and the inevitable additional congestion, it's an especially poor choice.


NYC Trash: Past, Present and Future - photographer Larry Racioppo shares a glimpse of his work photographing "Trash" in Brooklyn and NYC (Brooklyn Public Library)

Mel Rosenthal, Photographer Who Captured the Bronx, Dies at 77 (NY Times)

At the Museum of the City of New York: New exhibit explores 50 years of public art in New York City (Architects Newspaper)

What will it take to bring Spring Creek back to life? Looking at the past and future of a denigrated waterway on Brooklyn’s outer edge (Nathan Kensinger at Curbed)

Brooklyn Jury Finds 5Pointz Developer Illegally Destroyed Graffiti (NY Times)

Joseph Rodriguez’s El Barrio in the ’80s (NY Times)

Green Point Projects Debuts an Exhibition of Two Polish Modernists, Abakanowicz and Markowski (Hyperallergic)

Cracks in the city: Manchester alleyways (Rag-Picking History)

Upon The Fear Of Reptilian Creatures (Spitalfields Life)

Terence Davies’s Liverpool (Psychogeographic Review)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Closed stops and service maintenance are the bane of the weekend rider. Getting somewhere fast, you're screwed. A simple trip from A to B will likely mean a forward or a backward shunt on D or E or F.  Elevated, with no deadline to meet, I'm in heaven. The N's so slow the views are narcotic and the dullness of the glass on the windows and the doors makes the colors of the outside world placid and restrained.  The edge is off the city. Each rooftop takes its own sweet time arriving and departing. Each piece of the sky lingers in my head longer.  I could dream up here til Monday.