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.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sound & Vision

I used to post songs from time to time, and the mood is upon me again. When I was 13, I ran into David (Spiders in tow) at a hotel in England where my family was staying for my brother's wedding. I guess they were in the middle of a Ziggy tour. This was a huge deal to an awkward, introverted teenager. I got to talk to him briefly - he was very, very kind. It's a bit of a cliché to look back & say an event was a life-changer. But for a kid exiled to a dull provincial town, it was a life-saver. The songs are always with you.



Screenshots from The Seafarers (1953), directed by Stanley Kubrick

How nice it is to report on Brooklyn native Virginia Maksymowicz's reunion with a mermaid. Two years ago Maksymowicz, an artist and art professor currently living in Philadelphia, wrote in and described fond memories of the Seafarers International Union headquarters on Fourth Avenue (now the Al Noor School) where her father Hank tended bar. The bar, the Port O' Call, was something quite out of the ordinary.

My father, Henry "Hank" Maksymowicz, a former USN Chief Petty Officer, was the bartender at the Seafarer's Union when it was at 675 Fourth Avenue. 
Sometimes, when I was a little girl, he would take me to the bar on Saturday mornings when he would have to take inventory. I remember that the bar itself was in the shape of a boat, with a mermaid in the front. He would make me a "Shirley Temple," which I would sip while looking up at that mermaid. I also remember how he "tricked" me at Christmastime. Rather than mailing my letter to Santa and risk its getting lost by the USPS, he convinced me to hand it directly to him. He said that one of his seafarer friends sailed to the North Pole on an icebreaker every November; he would hand-deliver it for me! 
He died from lung cancer on January 6, 1965. When the funeral procession left St. Patrick's Church, on its way to the National Cemetery on Long Island, it made a slow pass in front of the Seafarer's Union.

With a little digging around, I found a film about the Union headquarters, directed by none other than Stanley Kubrick.  The union-sponsored documentary, The Seafarers, is hardly one of Kubrick's great art works, but it gives a fascinating picture of the place, shortly after its lavish refitting, and reflects a time when the waterfront piers were still active with ships, sailors and longshoremen.  Best of all, the film reveals the Port O' Call in its glory days.

Screenshots from The Seafarers (1953), directed by Stanley Kubrick

In the early 1990's the Union moved a block north to smaller premises at Fourth & 19th Street, where it remained until 2014, when the building was sold.  The Seafarer's Union moved to New Jersey. We wondered what had happened to the bar during this time. Was it still intact, and most important, what had become of the mermaid?

While Virginia was working on figuring this out, she sent me a picture from 1964. Here she is in the bar (at left).  Her father took the photograph.

Shortly after this she sent me good news, a letter from Mark A. Clements, the Content Curator of the Seafarers International Union. Here's part of it:

I had a hunch as to the correct answer to your question, but I just needed to confirm it: the figurehead was relocated in 1984 to the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center(for Maritime training)in Piney Point, Maryland. It can still be found there today, at the Mooney Pub/Anchor Bar located in the Center’s hotel. As with its original placement in Brooklyn, it’s on the prow of a boat-shaped bar.

When she sent me this, two years ago, I kidded about a road trip to Maryland, and lo & behold, it finally happened!  Last week she wrote to me again:

A few weeks ago, my husband and I made a visit to Piney Point, MD and visited the mermaid!
Needless to say, I got a bit teary-eyed, since I hadn’t seen her since my father died. One of the seafarers told me that they had disassembled the bar in Brooklyn and moved it to Paul Hall. Amazingly, it was impossible to find any evidence to that effect. Everything, including the mermaid, looked great!

Over fifty years later, another picture with the mermaid.

Thank you so much, Virginia, for writing in and keeping me up to date with the story as it evolved. It's a beautiful one, and I'm so glad to have been able to share it - a piece of personal history, and a piece of the history of the neighborhood. This kind of story is one of the best rewards of keeping a blog.

Of course, one story leads to another, and a year later a reader from Texas sought my help with another Seafarers mystery.  You can read about it here.  Right now I'm involved in yet another local detective story.  More to follow (I hope).

A Shirt I'd Like to Own

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Candy Says

Back by popular demand because I always come back to this. I mean it's only been on here twice before so let's just do it again.  Anohni & Lou Reed?  A match made in heaven.

Support the Workers at DNAinfo & Gothamist

I'm used to regularly checking my email and online for the latest DNAinfo & Gothamist stories, so it's a shock to be without them since the sites were suddenly closed down earlier this week.  Especially DNAinfo, often the only source for truly local & reliable news.  With both the Times and the News having reduced local coverage in recent years, we're really heading into darkness.  If you're as concerned as I am about the loss of DNAinfo, and the darker implications of dwindlng local press coverage, please join a rally of support tomorrow, in City Hall Park.

When billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shut down the sites, the archives disappeared too.  Fortunately they've been restored.  You can find the DNAinfo archives here.


I usually get down to Fourth for the marathon, and really, it's the people watching that catch my attention more than the runners..  We'll see what, or who, the day brings.  In the meantime, a picture from 2011.

Friday, November 3, 2017


There aren't many public benches on this part of Fifth -  only the spartan metal bus stop seats dispensed by the city with a certain sadistic benevolence.  But the regulars know where they're welcome to stop a while - the merchants' benches where they're free to break up the day, spot an acquaintance, chat to a stranger, escape the confinement of a lonely apartment. In front of a laundromat, outside of a grocery, they find a little solace in a fast world.

The Bagel Factory has the best bench sitters.  It isn't one of those old, much-loved businesses that garners attention; it's one of a chain and only arrived on the avenue three years ago.  And my bagel allegiance lies elsewhere. But it slipped in seamlessly, and its management is especially kind to those that use the seats outside.  A place on one of the benches doesn't necessitate a Factory purchase.

These benches are a haven in times of displacement.  A number of the sitters keep a daily schedule. Others attend sporadically. A jury of retired men are there most mornings, conversing in Spanish and staring impassively at passers by.  I've often seen an oldish woman there, pampering an oldish dog in matching clothes.  Yesterday I talked to a woman who'd grown up on Third, and was now in a sheltered apartment in Chelsea.  She came back every so often to see her adult daughter (seated right next to her), but longed to be living back in Brooklyn again.  The daughter had nothing to say; the mother was chatty. She pointed out a spot where a butcher's shop had been - the place where the new Beast gym was coming in. The butcher had been kind to her mother, she said; each week he'd slipped an extra cut of meat into the paper parcel.

I could have kept talking to her, but I had things to do, and went on my way.  She and her daughter were still there when I swung back along the avenue. By this time, on the second bench, the sitters had changed guard several times.  A leggy trans woman and a friend, deep in quiet conversation. Two middle-aged women discussing their surgeries, and laughing: "Thank God the scar left a smile on my belly. I said to the doctor, 'At least you didn't give me a fucking frown!' "A nondescript guy in sweats, quietly, to a nondescript friend: "I'm sticking with eyeliner and lipstick. For now."

Perhaps there were benches all over the city where disparate characters like these gathered. Perhaps you could make a Venn diagram.  Perhaps you could determine that overlap where there were shared stories, shared laughter, shared economies, shared memories, shared fears.  You loved those Factory benches, but you couldn't quite pinpoint what it was that made them so special.

A couple of years back I found a surprise acquaintance on a Factory bench: a shy, wallflower neighbor of mine, who'd just lost his sister, which meant he was also going to lose his home. I'll call him Walter. He was the least likely person I'd expect to find on a bench.  In fact I hadn't ever seen him sitting down in thirty years.  He was a busy man, chipper in a gentle sort of way, and always in a hurry.  Now, grief and instability had pulled him here.  He didn't look at ease exactly, but the company must have been something of a solace.  I saw him there a few times, and then he disappeared completely.

Collapsible Girls

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NYC Trash! Past, Present, & Future

The City Reliquary's NYC Trash! exhibition opens today; it runs through April 29th.  There'll be an opening reception on Sunday, November 12th, at 12 p.m.

"This exhibition at The City Reliquary will present the stories behind New York’s
solid waste–from “one man’s garbage is another man’s gold” to the inventive ways
New Yorkers are reusing and recycling. It will trace the trajectory of waste
management in New York, from its early period with the squalid
nineteenth-century tenements documented by Jacob K. Riis, the landfill of Dead
Horse Bay, and the beginnings of the NYC Department of Sanitation, to the
mid-century landfill of Fresh Kills in Staten Island.
The exhibition culminates in profiles of seven artists and nonprofit organizations
that present innovating ways of considering waste management now and in the

The show offers a broad range of perspectives on issues of labor, value and use related to "waste" and recycling.  Artists involved include the pioneering Mierle Laderman Ukeles, artist-in-residence to the New York Sanitation Department for forty years, and New York photographer Larry Racioppo, whose body of work includes images of scrappers, junk, and scrap yards throughout the city.  Retired sanman Nelson Molina is represented here with objects from his famous "mongo" collection at the M11 Garage in East Harlem.  Also featured - organizations involved in the creative re-use of materials, such as Materials for the Arts, the Lower East Side Ecology Center E-Waste Warehouse, and Industrial/Organic.

Ceremonial Arch Honoring Service Workers - Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Maintenance Art, (Queens Museum, 2016)
Photo: One More Folded Sunset

Cutting Tanks, Kent Avenue, Brooklyn.  Photo: Larry Racioppo

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween on Fifth

Sadly I'm barely out of the point-&-shoot camp, but I'm not too bothered.  It's the same with writing really.  I'm all for slapping things down on the page or screen, and not worrying about the end result.  My goals are minimal.  Just record.

I love to head out to Fifth before it gets dark, when the kids are out with their parents and their candy bags. These days, Halloween is a far more supervised affair than in earlier decades, but it's still fun to see.  The parents are usually just as into the excitement as their kids are, and the candy-givers are buzzed too.  Something about the little gods of the day, self-conscious in their new identities, the mothers beaming with pride, and the crowded candy rush assault upon the stores just makes the avenue a blast.  The scariest night of the year?  This afternoon it's all love.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Frankel's - on Sunset Park's Third Avenue since 1890 -  is packing up and moving to New Jersey (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

Before work clothes, Frankel's specialized in western wear. Cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Marty would put horse manure in the dressing rooms to give the place that country aroma. Before that it was Timberland boots and "ethnic clothes," snakeskin pants and Italian knit sweaters, bandannas in gang colors. He shows a photo of customers Method Man and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan. Before that, going back to when Frankel's began, they outfitted the seamen coming in off the big ships at port. But they sold more than just clothing...

My Fares - The people Joseph Rodriguez saw through the windshield (New York Magazine)

(Park Slope-based) Joseph Rodriguez drove a cab from 1977 to 1985, and in the last two of those years, he was studying to be a photographer. He lost his first set of gear in a classic ’70s New York stabbing and mugging, but with a new camera, he documented what he saw on the job.

Agnès Varda’s Ecological Conscience (The Paris Review)

Varda enlarges the concept of the glâneur to include people like the artist Louis Pons, whose work is assembled from trash, from forgotten things, from pens, empty spools, wires, cans, cages, bits of boats, cars, musical instruments: “He composes,” Varda says, “with chance.” Or to Bodan Litnianski, the Ukrainian retired brickmason-turned-artist who built his house (which he calls “Le palais idéal”) from scraps he found in dumps—dolls, many dolls, and toy trucks and trains and hoses and baskets and plastic fronds—effectively brickmasoned into place. “C’est solide, eh.” Litnianski died in 2005, but there’s a corresponding figure in Faces Places who made me sit up in recognition.

H Is for Hawk:  A New Chapter premieres nationwide Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 8 p.m. (Nature, Channel 13)

After the unexpected death of her photojournalist father, Helen Macdonald overcame her grief by training an adult goshawk, one of nature’s most notoriously wild and free-spirited birds of prey. As she explains in the film, “I ran towards things of death and difficulty:  spooky, pale-eyed feathered ghosts that lived and killed in woodland thickets. I ran towards goshawks.” She had trained birds before, but never this raptor which she named Mabel. Macdonald found healing in that cathartic experience which became the basis for her 2014 international best-selling memoir H Is for Hawk.

Now, 10 years after she trained Mabel (who died of untreatable infection just before the author finished writing her book), Macdonald is ready to take on the challenge again ...

Love Tokens from the Thames (Spitalfields Life)

The magical potential of throwing a coin into the water has been recognised by different cultures in different times with all kinds of meanings. Yet since we can never ask those who threw these tokens why they did it, we can only surmise that engraving your beloved’s name upon a coin and throwing it into the water was a gesture to attract good fortune. It was a wish.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween, 1974 - 78: The Photographs of Larry Racioppo

(With Halloween almost upon us, let's return to a post from last October, which takes its own trip back to the trick-or-treat kids of 1970's Park Slope and South Brooklyn.  Simply beautiful to look at these photographs again.)

A couple of days ago, on a whim, I typed "Halloween" into the search box of the New York Public Library Digital Collections online website. The first few images that appeared were holiday postcards from the early 1900's.  One of them showed a pursed-lipped pumpkin that bore a troubling resemblance to Donald Trump.  Apart from this one, they were charming enough, but as I scrolled down, the search results transitioned to a set of black and white photographs that jumped right off the screen.   Kids from a bygone decade, in Halloween costumes, posed against a background of frame and brick buildings.  How they caught my eye - these devils, these superheroes, brides and ghosts, their futures undetermined - facing the camera with all the sudden sense of power a costume brings, and sometimes (surprisingly) revealed without their masks in all the tenderness of childhood. The pictures summoned up the pure magic of Halloween, when, for one day & night at least, you could step out of your day-to-day life and reveal your deeper, darker, bolder self. That brief time when the world shifted balance. The pictures were almost entirely adult-free, giving the suggestion of greater liberty for a kid on the streets of the city back then & they invested these miniature angels & demons with tremendous dignity, gravity & sweetness.  They also felt like the work of someone who understood children, could talk to them, and take them seriously.  I couldn't stop looking at the pictures, and the more I looked, the more the low-scale landscape looked familiar.  I supposed it could be one of a number of neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Queens, but yes, it really was close to home - South Brooklyn in the teens and twenties blocks.  By the expressway on Sixth, looking up 19th from Sixth to Seventh, snippets of schools & spires, doorways & chain-linking fencing, flashes of a past that was still recognizable today.

The photographs were taken by acclaimed photographer Larry Racioppo, between the years of 1974 and 1978.  The kids in the pictures would be in their forties and fifties today.  Racioppo, son of a longshoreman, grew up in the area, and one of the buildings he lived in, at Sixth and 17th, was torn down to make way for the Prospect Expressway.  His parents later moved to Sunset Park, but the hub of his Italian-American family life remained nearby, on 18th Street, and he has stayed closed to his old neighborhood.  After a spell in California in the late 60's, Racioppo returned to live in Park Slope, and with no formal training, decided to become a photographer.  He supported himself by various means, as a cab driver, bartender, & construction worker.  He also worked under the auspices of CETA, a federal jobs program, which was created in the 70's as an heir to the WPA program. Some of the 70's Halloween photographs were taken during his time with CETA. Eventually Racioppo found work with the City, as a photographer for the Department of Housing Preservation & Development, which offered him the opportunity to further develop his art while earning an income, and to travel all over the city with his camera.  Today he lives in Rockaway.


Racioppo's work has captured many aspects of city life, including the myriad faces of religious observance, the vernacular of street basketball, the grandeur of abandoned movie theaters, and the rituals of the Williamsburg Giglio.  His photographs are in the collections of many institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, El Museo Del Barrio, The New York Historical Society & the Schomberg Center. Multiple honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, & awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Racioppo continues to be fascinated by Halloween, and is always out with his camera on October 31st.  The 70's Halloween pictures appeared in an eponymous book, published by Scribner in 1980, and The Word on the Street: The Photographs of Larry Racioppo, was published by the Museum of Biblical Art in 2007.  His work is currently on view in the exhibition Five Cents to Dreamland: A Trip to Coney Island, at The New York Transit Museum, & will appear next week in a group show, Sanctuary, at the Tabla Rasa gallery in Sunset Park.

To Halloween again. To the plump-cheeked cowboy pointing a pistol at the camera. To the slender girl in a anti-hero Chapulin Colorado t-shirt & a fragile-looking pair of tin foil wings.  To the three boys with tears painted on their cheeks, one quite formally dressed in a broad collared shirt & jacket, the second with a head-turned hint of a sneer, and the third strumming a tiny toy guitar. To Bambi, the Bionic Woman, & Cinderella, masks on & off.  To the Rubber Devil, whose mask seems as much a part of the animal world painted on the wall behind him as of a block in Brooklyn. To the Bride of Frankenstein, who looks far too beatific for any remotely horrific deeds . To the ghost, in street clothes except for a veil of what looks like net curtain scooped up and fastened under his chin. To the kid in the black mask, hands on hips & exploring machismo, & to the shaving cream fighters, in no need of costumes to assert their presence.  To little, beaming  Lucy and her larger, scowling companions, who look as severe & repressive as Sendak's elderly aunts or grandmothers.  To Doctor Zaius, revealed as a bit of a wise guy, & to Superman, half-smiling, with his plastic cape rising in the breeze, which seems to arrive right on cue.  To short figures with large, masked heads, that look like creatures out of latter-day Grimms.  To inexpensive costumes & home made touches, as powerfully affecting as anything fancy.  To dressing up, hitting the streets, and being your heart's desire.

Many thanks to Larry, for giving me permission to include his photographs here, and for taking the time to talk.  For more information on his work, read here.

All photographs © Larry Racioppo

From November 2nd, 2017, Larry's work will be featured in the City Reliquary's exhibition NYC Trash! Past, Present & Future.  More on the show shortly.