Thursday, July 27, 2017

It's Football

I returned from Manchester to find the New York weather had gone all English on me - sullen grey skies followed by mild sunshine. Someone up there was sympathetic. Such a brief time away, but I always like that brief dislocation when you're back in place physically but your head still has some catching up to do.

Though I only went inside the National Football Museum to use the restroom, I did notice photographs of George Best and Brian Clough, and seeing the old heroes up on a wall made me think of Saturday afternoons on the Deepdale terraces, watching the Preston games with my sister. Outside the museum, there was a little training routine set up for kids. They were a cute group. The instructor was cute too.

When you go back you never use "restroom" or"cute," words that once were foreign but now lurk in your vocabulary, only to jump out unannounced.  Here though, you manage to rein them in.  In Britain there are any number of names & euphemisms for visits to the pisser, and they all betray class. W.C, lavatory, the lav, the lavvy, toilet, bog, the Ladies, the Gents. Spending a penny, using the facilities, a wee, a tinkle, a poo, a slash,   And so on.

The words are easy, but the accent, oh the accent.  Even though you make an instinctive shift back to old intonations and old vowel sounds, and sort of get it half-right at least, to a native, you'll always give the game away.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On Market Street

This is Connor. At 14, his voice is older by far - bleak and raw and laced with accusation. That's his sister standing nearby. The kid doesn't cover songs - he takes them over completely.  He's got the heart, the technique, the presence to stop you dead in your tracks. I've heard nothing like him.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Goodbye Cup & Saucer

The diner sits just off the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge along the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, at the corner of Eldridge and Canal Streets. It opened in the early 1940s, when the area was dominated by immigrant families and businesses. It has had three sets of owners, Mr. Vasilopoulos said.
Both he and Mr. Tragaras are from Greece and immigrated in their youth. Mr. Vasilopoulos’s brother is married to Mr. Tragaras’s sister. They now live in Astoria, Queens, “with the other Greeks,” Mr. Vasilopoulos said.
Through it all, the diner, including the décor, has remained reliably the same.
“Do you see the cup and saucer on the floor, and the stools?” Mr. Vasilopoulos asked, pointing to an image on the tiles and faded mustard spinning stools. “They’re original.” (NY Times)

The very recent closure of the Cup & Saucer diner, on Canal Street,  has been covered in numerous New York papers, online journals and blogs.  With the diner's rent raised from $8,000 per month to an impossible $15,000, the owners were unable to keep the business open, though they're considering re-opening in another location.

I don't have anything of consequence to add to all the Cup & Saucer eulogies, except to say that anytime I was on that part of Canal it lifted my spirits to see the Cup & Saucer still there.  Over the last few years there were rumors of the building's sale, and I was always a little worried if I hadn't been by for a while.  But there it always was.  When I eat in a diner my choices mostly boil down to a) hash & eggs, b) a BLT (light on the mayo), or c) a very occasional burger & fries.  I like the burgers at Joe Juniors, and if I'm in a Polish diner I might just go for a d) or an e) or even an f), but elsewhere I mostly choose breakfast.  Even though I've lived in the city for over thirty years, I still get a here-I-am-in-New York! kick out of ordering eggs sunny side up or over easy.  I might have just arrived I'm so absurdly pleased in trotting out the words.  At the Cup & Saucer it was strictly hash & eggs at the counter.

The old-school diners are in decline - The Stage on Second was another real loss -  at the mercy of rapacious landlords and changing demographics.  I still have some favorites though, and every so often I'll discover an (old) new diner home.  Apart from an occasional splurge, I'm not much one for high-end dining, and I hate wasting money on indifferent, over-priced food in bland, flavor-of-the-moment settings.  I'd rather eat Portuguese in Jamaica, family-style Greek in Astoria, or a bowl of marag on Atlantic.  I'd rather cram into the Pearl and join a lunchtime democracy of hungry eaters. It's the company you keep that's part of the pleasure, that reminds you of all that's good about New York, of the places that welcome & absorb all of us, new in town or regulars, in a busy booth, or seated alone.  We can't believe our luck to be a part of it all.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Washington Cemetery

Riding past here the other day I snapped a picture out of the window.

There's a great article on Washington Cemetery in the late & much-missed online journal Bklynr. What's in the future for a city cemetery when the all available space is taken?

I'm no architecture expert, but I'd say the main part of the administrative building is Second Empire? I like the contrast between the the original structure & the extension.  Juxtaposition always makes life interesting.

Monday, July 17, 2017

20th Street - Superior and Muñoz

For Sale on 22nd

I just saw a sales listing for 222 22nd Street, which is home to the Parisi-Torre VFW Post 8903.  The listing describes the property as a "vacant re-development site."  It's also described as a brick building (stucco-covered frame always confuses realtors) close to the W subway line (Whitehall Street isn't that far away).

Earlier this year photographer Larry Racioppo and I collaborated on a piece about another local VFW Post, the Edward F. Lukoski VFW 7096, on Third.  In the piece, Larry fondly recalls family parties at Parisi-Torre, and shares photographs of family celebrations.  You can see them here.

If anyone has any updates on #8903, I'd very much appreciate the information.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What we noticed after we bought a new TV

Down by the Caesar's Bay Shopping Center, a man was rinsing greens in the seawater. The rocks were slippery.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Starbucks Arrives on Fourth

The Adam America building at 470 Fourth is nearing completion.  Hardly surprising, I guess, but still jarring to see its first commercial tenant.  A Starbucks. With coffee shops and corner grocery stores close to the station (Regular, Olivier, Lucky 7 et al.), it's hardly a caffeine desert here.  Let's hope this one doesn't suck all the business from its smaller neighbors.  Residents who've been here just a few years might remember the great little coffee, soup and tamale place that used to be right at the NW corner.  A lovely place.  Meanwhile, the retail spaces at the Fourth Avenue station, which would, in an ideal world, attract small, local businesses, remain shuttered, with renovation work at the station suspended indefinitely.

Selected earlier Adam America info (w. links back):

Adam America pays $36M for Boerum Hill dev site (The Real Deal - July '17)

Links (OMFS - October '16)

Laborers protesting at Adam America Construction Site (OMFS - September '15)


Wednesday, July 12, 2017


If you have to get stalled by 'train traffic ahead,' the Culver Viaduct is always a fine place to linger between stations.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dog about Town

The Dog Parker has arrived at the Jo, Brian & Joseph grocery store at Fifth & 12th. According to the Dog Parker website, the fee for use of a house is 20c a minute ($12 per hour) and a house can be used for up to 90 minutes, three hours max. per day. The membership fee is $25 per year. If you should lackadaisically leave your dog inside a Dog Parker house for more than 90 minutes, your dog will be removed to a boarding kennel, and you will be billed $200. The houses are, apparently, temperature controlled, and regularly cleaned.

Well, it's not for our dog.  But who knows, maybe it's catching on with those who need help with "doggie logistics?" The Dog Parker website's map indicates another house nearby, at Steve's C-Town, and plenty of others on the way. Two are coming to Bay Ridge, but the others, either currently installed or soon to arrive, are clustered farther north, in Park Slope above 9th, and in Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, Prospect Lefferts, Dumbo, Vinegar Hill, and Williamsburg.  No surprises with the target demographic here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


By the time these girls posed for the photograph they'd asked for the rainbow was disappearing fast. But it was still beautiful on Fifth

Friday, July 7, 2017


"Wined and dined--'Maggie,' company mascot of the Garrett Company [a winery located at 882 Third Avenue], prepares for a feast of cat food and will wash it down with a glass of Virginia Dare red wine .." (Brooklyn Eagle, 1952, Brooklyn Collection)

There's no longer any Virginia Dare red at 882 Third. The sweet wine was still popular in the mid-twentieth century, but later fell out of favor. The company headquarters, which were originally situated in North Carolina, were moved to Brooklyn in the early 1900's and then to California. Eventually the Virginia Dare wine brand expired. It was revived by filmmaker/winemaker Francis Ford Coppola in 2011.

When Francis Ford Coppola was a boy, he never saw a dinner table that didn't have a bottle of wine on it. And so he was very interested in all the wine companies of the day, and one in particular. A gracefully curved and embossed bottle with the image of a lovely woman who looked like a fairy tale princess. And he remembered the song on the radio that sung about Virginia Dare, the classic American wine that featured her image.

During Prohibition, the Garrett Company made their wine alcohol-free and began to produce alcohol-based fruit extracts. This expansion proved enormously successful. While the wine company is long gone from Third, the Virginia Dare Extract Company stayed on at the Brooklyn address.  It's been there since 1923, which makes it another Third Avenue veteran.  Today its better known specialty extracts include coffee, tea, vanilla and cocoa.  While its headquarters remain in Brooklyn, the company also owns a manufacturing center in Shanghai. In 2016 the company 're-tooled' its brand identity.

“Consumers want products that offer health benefits without compromising taste,” said Michael Springsteen, Vice President of Business and Product Development. “Whether it’s removing an off-note with a masking solution or enhancing sweetness without adding sugar, our Taste Collaborations™ promote better taste without compromising clean labels.”
Combining its substantial knowledge of sourcing and producing natural flavors with its formulation expertise, Virginia Dare brings together science, market insights, and sourcing to create business advantages for its partners. The company’s refreshed brand will more effectively tell that story to better demonstrate its value to the food and beverage industry.  (Business Wire)

Virginia Dare herself was born in today's North Carolina, in 1587. Her parents were members of the "Lost" Roanoke Colony, and Virginia was reputedly the first English child born in North America. Dare has had something of a brand evolution too, and her name continues to resonate with all the mixed associations of purity, tradition and pioneer spirit.  Her image is a pliable one. She's a well-known folkloric figure in North Carolina, and a boon to the tourist trade. She's been adopted as a feminist icon, but her name has also been invoked in anti-suffrage causes rooted in racism. She continues, as the purported 'first white child in America,' to serve as a figurehead in white supremacist movements. Her name is currently used at the website VDARE, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as "an anti-immigration hate website" which "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites."

Friday, June 30, 2017


(In the latest of our visits to Third Avenue we visit the 3rd Avenue Junk Shop. All photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are by Larry Racioppo.  You can also find this post on Brooklynology, the Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Collection blog.)

The volume of business at the yard varies. On some days the scrap comes in as soon as the shutters roll up, and the place remains busy until closing. On others, things are quieter. Business is "spotty," says owner Dominick Palmiotto.

Business here boomed from the 30's to the 70's, when the shipyards on the waterfront were still active. In those days Palmiotto’s would send trucks down to the piers to pick up an abundance of metals. Todd’s, Bush Terminal, and Bethlehem Steel were all humming. Now the scrap is brought to the yard.

Most of the metal comes from licensed electricians, plumbers and roofers. Sometimes you’ll see guys along Third, on foot, or bicycle, hauling loads of scrap in supermarket shopping carts. Their metal isn't taken here. They're usually heading toward the Gowanus Canal, for 6th Street Scrap or Benson Scrap on Smith Street. Larry Racioppo has been photographing individual scrappers along 3rd Avenue for several years. Here are two images from his city-wide photography project. (You can see more here )



Palmiotto is still involved with the cart work, though he’s keeping it lighter these days.  At 83, he’s an active presence, and as sharp as they come.

At quieter times of the day, Palmiotto is holed up in his office, a metal shed inside the warehouse. Often he's in there with his younger partner, Johnny Giardina, but much of the time he's alone. Time hangs heavy these days, after the death earlier in the year of his wife, Jadwiga.  They were married fifty-one years, and Palmiotto describes her lovingly - "a real doll," "a natural redhead." He brings out a photo; you can see she was a beauty.  He tells me how they got together; they'd met once before, but the real start of things was a chance sighting through a Manhattan restaurant window – Palmiotto on the sidewalk & Jadwiga, working as a waitress, inside.  Their eyes met, they got to talking, and the waitress got off duty right after the lunch rush.  That was it.

The warehouse was built by Palmiotto’s father, in 1948, but the business is older than that.  It was first located across the avenue, at 21st, and dealt in metal, rags and paper.  In those days there were a couple of scrap or junk yards on every block of Third, Palmiotto says. His father set up shop in 1935, but several years later the place was seized by eminent domain, to make way for the Gowanus Parkway.  Palmiotto has worked in scrap since he was a kid, helping his dad.  A stint in the forces during the Korea War led to training in air conditioning and refrigeration, courtesy of the G.I. Bill, but he stayed active in the family business. He took it over in 1986.  Altogether, he’s put in 67 years here. Today he comes in to the business from a home in Midwood, but he's lived in a cluster of Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, and Kings Highway.  He's a shrewd businessman, and owns a number of properties.  You’d guess he doesn’t really need to put the hours and the physical effort into working here on Third, but it keeps him in the game, and he’s not one for idling.  He reads widely, and has traveled.  He's studied lexicography, and can speak four languages, five if you include the disappearing tongue of early twentieth-century Brooklynese.

Johnny (photograph by One More Folded Sunset)

Johnny Giardina is a longtimer too.  He’s been at the junk yard since he was twenty-four, and before that he worked at his uncle’s auto-salvage business right next door.  He started there at sixteen.  The business, long closed, is remembered by all the old-timers on the avenue.  It was featured in a 1980 documentary, Jon Alpert’s Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive, which looked at the 1970’s Third Avenues of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan.  The three Brooklyn scenes in the film feature Sonny and Eddie, father and son at the auto salvage, the Lopez family in Sunset Park and the societal gulf between the religiously observant factory worker father and his streetwise kids, and the Pascones, an elderly Gowanus couple trying to decide whether to sell up and leave their home and barber shop.  Sonny’s son, Eddie, and his brother-in-law Michael demonstrate the wilder side of the salvage/chop shop business, and are shown cruising the streets at night for cars.  A later scene shows Eddie entering the prison system.

Johnny recalls a very different Third when he was young, with tractor trailers idling in a whole lane of traffic as they waited to get to onto the piers.

Department of Finance 1980's tax photograph

Like Palmiotto, Johnny’s old enough to remember the myriad of auto and scrap businesses that thrived on the avenue, along with the attendant bars and restaurants that served the waterfront workers: the Gold Mine, Marine Tavern, Hatch 5, Moscarella’s, The Riverboat, and many others.  And also a busy prostitution scene ("all kinds").  “Everything’s gone now,” he says, and it’s true, the older businesses are thin on the ground.  Farther south, there’s Frankel’s shoe and clothing store, which must set the record for longevity, having been on Third Avenue since an astonishing 1890, but Palmiotto is the elder statesman on this stretch.  I’d give anything to see the avenue he saw as a child in the 1930’s.  This was a real industry city.

James "Duke" Baines came to work here after the closure of the iron foundry at Third and 24th, which stood right by the site of Viking Iron, also torn down by Moses in the late '30's.  He’s been with Palmiotto for a decade. He says the scrap business is slower these days, due to a soft Chinese market.  The price of copper has dipped.  It's solitary work much of the time, but Duke says he likes it that way.  He grew up in East New York and Brownsville, and left the city for a while to live upstate, in Binghamton. He says a lot of his neighbors are moving there, and to other areas outside the city - it's just too expensive here these days.  He said the scene in Binghamton had gotten a little crazy, and anyway, he missed New York, so he was glad to come home.

The metals most often bought are copper, brass and aluminum, all of them non-ferrous. Sometimes there's monel, a mixture of copper and nickel

Copper's the prize though.  A box of copper wiring Duke has stripped lies in a heap ready for resale. It’s straw to gold.



The shop's a Vulcan's cave of metal and grease. Heaped on the floor are the spoils of industry: ducts and cables, cogs and spools, guttering and beaten drums. Ducts and cables coil loosely among them or hang from beams along with rope and shovels.  At the heart of the shop, there’s a scale that's borne decades of scrap, and with it, weighed the history of waterfront manufacturing.

At the end of a day's business, the carts lie empty.  Their frames are bent, and their canvas is shredded and sagging, like the rigging and sails of a fleet that has seen hard use.

Each stain and tear and dent transforms the carts. Over the decades of loading and unloading, they become raw sculptural forms. On one, the pattern of oil dapples the canvas.  On another, it saturates vast areas of fabric.  Each cart, listing this way and that, has taken a different kind of beating.  This is the art of endurance.