Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Remembering David Buckel, the Pioneering Lawyer Who Championed L.G.B.T. Rights (New Yorker)
Wolfson recounted the conversation to me over the phone on Sunday, the day after Buckel died after apparently setting himself on fire in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn. It was Wolfson who had been reading Buckel’s obituaries instead.
Minutes before Buckel killed himself, he sent an e-mail to the Times. “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” the message said, according to the paper. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” Buckel was sixty years old.

Fantastic news: Legendary Documentary Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s Movies Are Finally Available Online (Slate)
Wiseman’s movies, which have been shot in mental institutions and on military bases, in hospitals and public parks, comprise one of the most monumental bodies of work by a single artist, but despite being awarded a lifetime-achievement Oscar in 2016, he’s remained something of a cult figure. His movies, which run as long as six hours, defy the rules of traditional theatrical distribution, and apart from a single PBS broadcast apiece, they’ve rarely been available to a mass audience.
That all changed today. As of this afternoon, a whopping 40 of Wiseman’s movies—nearly everything he’s every directed—are available via the streaming service Kanopy, which can be accessed through many public libraries, universities, and other institutions of the kind Wiseman has devoted himself to exploring in his work.

Beyond the Map: Spikescapes and Wild Strawberries (Places Journal)
The maps of human and physical geography can seem overwhelming; the forces at work have become too unpredictable to be easily or neatly summarized. That’s why we need to attend to the hidden places, like the overlooked zone of anti-pedestrian cobbles and jagged paving that forms the spikescape of the modern city. And why odd little places — like a traffic island in my home city of Newcastle, cradled in the indifferent arms of grinding roads — have come to feel so important.

In William Blake’s Lambeth (Spitalfields Life)
If you wish to visit William Blake’s Lambeth, just turn left outside Waterloo Station, walk through the market in Lower Marsh, cross Westminster Bridge Rd and follow Carlisle Lane under the railway arches. Here beneath the main line into London was once the house and garden, where William & Catherine Blake were pleased to sit naked in their apple tree.
Yet in recent years, William Blake has returned to Lambeth. Within the railway arches leading off Carlisle Lane, a large gallery of mosaics based upon his designs has been installed, evoking his fiery visions in the place where he conjured them. Ten years work by hundreds of local people have resulted in dozens of finely-wrought mosaics bringing Blake’s images into the public realm, among the warehouses and factories where they may be discovered by the passerby, just as he might have wished.

Is it the End of the Road for London's Historic India Club? (The Wire)
“The property was home to the single most important organization campaigning for India’s independence in the 1940s,” William Gould, professor of Indian History at the University of Leeds, explains: “It was a meeting place for some of the country’s leading Indian intellectuals, publicists, writers, and politicians. It is therefore of huge significance and importance to both the South Asian communities in the UK and to some of the key moments of British decolonization in the mid 20th century.”

Monday in Parliament: MP David Lammy criticizing the Tory government's abhorrent treatment of "Windrush" generation residents who have lived in Britain since they were children.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


I like to get down to the canal when there's heavy rain.  I usually wear my old Hunter boots.  They're over thirty-five years old.  The rubber is a little thinner than it used to be, but the tread is still good & they haven't sprung a leak yet.  They date back to the time before Hunter became a fashion brand; the boots were mostly worn by farmers or some of those horsey Hoorah Henry Tatler types.  I was neither, but I did spend a spell of time with a lurcher dog, and later, worked with birds of prey, so life was a bit muddy.  The boots I have now are actually my second pair.  I gave the first ones to my mother, though I'm not sure she actually wore them much.  The Hunter green back then was more of an olive colour, rather than the darker green you see in (here at least) the stores today.  Mine have faded, I think (does rubber fade?).  They're kind of an antique shade.  I don't wear them often - I'm slightly worried that they'll finally conk out - but they're just as likely to kick the bucket in a dry closet, cooped up with the out-of-season shoes & boots, the clothes I always mean to wear some day, but hardly ever do, & the Chinese delivery raincoat I got at the 99c store.  So I might as well let them have at it.

There's nothing like the gleam of the streets after the rain has stopped.

Monday, April 16, 2018


The woman was sitting, lost in thought, oblivious to a poem I'd glimpsed the first line of as I got on the train.  I didn't get the chance to read the rest of it until I got back home & Googled it.  It's a good poem to commute with.


Every morning I forget how it is.
I watch the smoke mount
In great strides above the city.
I belong to no one.

Then, I remember my shoes,
How I have to put them on,
How bending over to tie them up
I will look into the earth.

                           Charles Simic

When I think of Simic it's always "Empire of Dreams" that comes back to me.  It's not a poem for kids, but the ten or eleven-year-olds I worked with drank it right up as a model to write from - the book & the mask & the sideways logic of dreams.  Though they couldn't know the context of Simic's poem - his childhood years in war-torn Belgrade -  they knew dreams as well as any adult.  Probably better.
The first line of "Empire of Dreams" is seductive to a writer of any age.  Try using it yourself.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Moving Pauses

  “One day, in a positive geyser of confidence, he gave me an account of one of these 'moving pauses'. He had a strong weakness for oxymoron. In the same way he over-indulged in gin and tonic-water.
  Not the least charm of this pure blank movement, this 'gress' or 'gression', was its aptness to receive with or without the approval of the subject, in all their integrity the faint inscriptions of the outer world.  Exempt from destination, it had not to shun the unforeseen nor turn aside from the agreeable odds and ends of vaudeville that are liable to crop up.”

                                                             from More Pricks than Kicks - Samuel Beckett

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Be Safe

Earlier this year I started a half-assed job of trying to put thousands of old photographs in some sort of order.  It's not finished yet.  There's a lot of tedium involved with this sort of task, and also jolts of pleasure when pics. I'd completely forgotten about turn up.  Here's a sign in the window of the Ridge Paint Hardware Co., on Third Avenue.  A relic from a 20th Century Gotham.  Everything about the sound of the phrase "jimmy proof locks" makes me happy.

2011.  The store closed in 2015.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


De Blasio administration may ditch planned streetcar along Brooklyn-Queens waterfront (Daily News)
The Mayor denies it, & trashes the News.  Federal aid may be sought for the project.  Chuck Schumer, a "huge fan" of the BQX, just happens to be the father of Jessica Schumer, executive director of the Friends of the BQX.

"We FOILed the infamous BQX Feasibility Study that showed the project planned to use so-called value capture to pay for itself and was not financially viable. BilldeBlasio's office said we would have to wait a year before a determination was made." (Queens Anti-Gentrification Project)

E-bikes could soon get legal OK, mayor says. Citi Bike applauds change in rules that would make pedal-assist bicycles ready to roll. (Crains)
But we still need those throttle-bikes legalized ...

Poorer New Yorkers would get half-price MetroCards under City Council’s budget plan (Daily News)

2018-19 Engaging Artists Fellowship
This 1 year Fellowship provides an infrastructure and laboratory for emerging and underrepresented artists to gain a deeper understanding of the history of public art, incubate and present their work, collaborate with communities in shaping society, and build sustainable careers.
Applications due April 20th.

Not a Nice Girl: On Berenice Abbott (Paris Review)
Introspective all her life, Berenice was never so forthcoming as when she mused, in 1922, “Just as a city weaves unceremoniously its design, as one form spins out of another, so a small life is governed by impressions of environments according to the degree of sensitive receptiveness.” In Nightview she has handed us the key to her self-image and inner life. The creative contradictions she harbored so productively—between classicism and romanticism, science and intuition, description and essence—are evident in that single enduring work. “The photographer cannot miss that picture of himself,” she wrote in 1964. “It is his stamp and map, his footprint and his cry.”

A Digital History of NYC Trash, by Jaime Ding
A History of Trash in Sight” takes you through digital reconstructions of New York City public trash cans and their contents from 1930-1960. Each decade’s trash can contains a turning point about “public trash,” along with ideas about cleanliness and control that still resonate in our understanding of trash today.
Take a closer look at what New York City trash was by looking through it. Click on the images of real things and listen to real sounds from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Learn what those unwanted things can show about people, power, and what it means to be a part of the public.

The Limits of the Livable City: From Homo Sapiens to Homo Cappuccino (Avery Review)
What then does livability hold for Homo cappuccino? We can interpret the livable city as a tangible complement to platform capitalism, where the social is produced under the guise of a hygge urbanism.47 Livability appears so seductive to municipalities around the world because it promises to facilitate an atmosphere of urbanity, conveying a spontaneously unfolding everyday urban life. Such an approach is embraced as more ethical, because it is ostensibly less about maximizing returns on investment and more about appreciating the stock value of their respective cities, a docile norm conforming to the body of Homo Cappuccino.

30,000 Hidden Images Reveal the World of a Soviet-Era Photographer (Atlas Obscura)
Masha Ivashintsova was born in Russia, in 1942. At 18 she started taking photographs, and became involved the underground arts movement in St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. She shot prolifically on the streets of the city, with either her Leica IIIc or Rolleiflex. But she never showed her work to anyone—some of it she didn’t even develop. When she died, in 2000, she left 30,000 photographs—in the form of negatives and undeveloped film—in a box, where they remained, untouched, for 17 years.
Late last year, while working on a renovation, Ivashintsova’s daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan and her husband discovered the box in their attic. Slowly they began to explore this archive, and saw what Ivashintsova had seen, created, and then hidden.

Ninety-Nine Years At Syd’s Coffee Stall (Spitalfields Life)
Syd’s Coffee Stall is a piece of our social history that does not draw attention to itself, yet deserves to be celebrated. Syd senior might not have survived the trenches in 1919, or he might have gambled away this stall as he did the others, or the bomb might have fallen differently in 1944. Any number of permutations of fate could have led to Syd’s Coffee Stall not being here today. Yet by a miracle of fortune, and thanks to the hard work of the Tothill family we can enjoy London’s oldest Coffee Stall here in our neighbourhood. We must cherish it now, because the story of Syd’s Coffee Stall teaches us that there is a point at which serving a humble cup of tea transcends catering and approaches heroism.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Papinta, Theodore C. Marceau (1860-1922).  NYPL Digital Collections

These vaudeville & burlesque photographs are great fun to look at.  Here's Papinta, the Flame Dancer.  Papinta performed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  She died on stage in Germany, in 1907.  Her Flame Dance was captured on film by Thomas Edison, and she danced in the first electrified stage performance in 1897.  She did her own choreography, and her dances featured the use of voluminous lengths of fabric. Other dances she was known for include the Danse Serpentine, the Mirror Dance, the Dream of Light & the Study in Red. The photograph is beautifully hand colored, giving it a dreamy, painterly effect.

Papinta was a favorite on the New York Stage. In October of 1902, one audience must have been disappointed.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Monday, April 9, 2018


Houses are sagging and leaning all over the city.  Sometimes you'll be fooled by an upright facade, only to find that the inside floors & stairs are tilting like a ship on the ocean.  If you live in a place like that, after a while you'll get your sea legs, and forget that it ever tilted at all.  Other houses fool nobody.  They could be brick. There's one near me with such a sag in the middle it looks like it's been sat on; the brickwork's cracked and the windows pitch to the center. No-one seems to care - I pointed it out to a passing firefighter once & he just shrugged.  More of the leaners are wooden though; frame has a flexibility that allows it to flout gravity altogether.  Wood is giving.  And a row of houses can offer each other support; you'll come across a run of half a dozen holding each other up like drunks heading home from a night on the town.  They may look past it, but they can still hold their liquor. With a little help.

I've a fondness for frame's tenacity.  Before the price of houses round here boomed, people were more inclined to live with the way their homes had settled in.  Sure, they could get some extra support to hold a slide in check, but that was about it.  A bit of a slump was acceptable. In affluent times, a frame that isn't even renovated can easily sell for a couple of million or more, & a full-scale gut with all the works is in order.  The result is pretty but often jarring.  How did a time-scarred old three-family reemerge as a Stepford wife?

The funny thing is though, it's hard to get a photograph to show the full effect of a leaning building.  Well, in my pictures at least.  They always seem to minimize the disparate angles, as if the houses resist the camera.  I've tried a bunch of times to photograph a group of wooden buildings on Sixth, but I never could capture the way they looked to the eye.  I've deleted countless attempts.  In March I saw that one of the group - a lounger that seemed to be resting back on its heels with its pals - was getting its exterior plumb again.  It will be flush with the brick veneered building two doors over.

Here's a shot taken later in the month. The light captures the angles a bit better.

And here are a couple of shots from the other day, as work has moved along.  Again, the angles aren't done justice here. 

By Columbus Park

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Love is like a faucet

Late Billie - 1957 - but even in frail health, the music is impeccable.  Her timing is as sweet as ever, and the band is fine & mellow. Look at Billie's reactions to those solos. She wrote the song, & recorded it in 1939.  You can hear a '39 recording here, & compare the two. They're both great, but this later one is sublime, about as raw & loose a version as you can get.  Hard living and musical genius make magic.

The '57 recording is from a TV special, The Sound of Jazz.  Here's the line up of the band - jazz royalty. The first six are listed in order of their solos.

Ben Webster – tenor saxophone
Lester Young – tenor saxophone
Vic Dickenson – trombone
Gerry Mulligan – baritone saxophone
Coleman Hawkins – tenor saxophone
Roy Eldridge – trumpet
Doc Cheatham – trumpet
Danny Barker – guitar
Milt Hinton – double bass
Mal Waldron – piano
Osie Johnson – drums

Happy birthday Billie. 

And from "The Day Lady Died", of course:

... and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and   
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue   
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and   
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Off Fourth

Friday, April 6, 2018

Sub-Collection: Vaudeville & Burlesque Dancers

"Marie Girard with 'Speedy Steppers' at the Gayety, Bkln, wk. of April 27" (year unknown)
Photograph by A. Bert, NYPL Digital Collections

555 Back on the Market


That didn't take long.  At the end of 2015, 555 Fifth, the handsome corner building at Fifth & 15th, was sold for $5.25M.  The several small businesses that occupied the space were displaced and the building underwent a lengthy renovation.  A Crunch gym opened last year, occupying the basement, the upper floor, and part of the first floor.  A Sherwin-Williams paint store opened earlier this year in another of the ground floor spaces.  The third ground floor space is still up for lease.

555 is now back on the market for $27M, with the marketing touting its air rights, upcoming tax abatement, prime location, and in-place tenants.  And talking of tenants, the marketing brochure lets us see what rents they're paying.  Crunch has a fifteen-year lease, increasingly incrementally from its current yearly rate of $750,000 per year to just under $1M in 2032.  Sherwin-Williams has a ten-year lease - $300,000 in years 1-5, and $336,000 in years 6-10.  That's a lot of memberships and cans of paint to sell.

Is there any chance of the owners getting this sky-high price for the building?   Retail vacancies abound throughout the city, and in Manhattan at least, both retail rents and property sales have started to soften.  I've no idea how pricing works, but this one appears unrealistic.

Various earlier posts on 555 include this one, with some links back.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

At the Bank

Some drama at Chase the other Sunday.  There was a turf war of sorts as Connie arrived to find a man in a wheelchair asleep in the bank, spoiling her regular weekend panhandling routine.  Well, I think he was asleep; perhaps he was keeping his head down to try and stay out of trouble. Connie berated the quasi-slumbering figure.  "You can't stay in here.  You have to leave!  I can't talk with you here - there are things I say to people!"  Connie does have a great line in sassy repartee, along with a repertoire of flattery and tart insults.  It's just about the wittiest talk on Fifth, an avenue hardly known for bons mots.

I stayed out of the stand-off, and left with the situation unresolved. I knew who'd win though. I felt a little sorry for the guy in the wheelchair.  It was a cold day, and you could hardly blame him for seeking shelter.  But Connie had a point - this was her Sunday salon, and this was business.  Connie has a loyal group of followers who pop in to use the ATM & slip her a dollar or two, or more.  Many, like me, will drop in anyway, whether we need to take out money or not.  I like a quick chat, and I like to watch her in action.  Still stylish in her seventies, she's tough, and smart & impossibly funny.  No-one works the customers as well as she does, and no-one leaves them in such good spirits.  It's an art.  I'll admit it - I fall for the game always.  I'm in her thrall.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On the Water

I always enjoy the views at Hamilton Plaza - all part of that Hamilton to Smith Street infrastructure overload.  A visual assault.  The bridge was up yesterday, and the push tug Sarah Ann was lined up right in front of the open fence. A fine sight. Just why the fence is left open is a good question, but it's good luck for me.  I thought of going beyond its edge to get a better view, and I tested the bank with a cautious foot, but the ground was spongy.  And I've learned my lesson here.  I used to like to hang out at the bottom of the Lowe's parking lot, right about where a section of the bulkhead fell in the canal last May.  I still shudder when I go by there.  I suppose it might be poetic, but I've no desire to end my days in the dark waters.

Monday, April 2, 2018


Pushing the Limits of NYC’s Periphery at the Southeast Queens Biennial (Hyperallergic)
"Geography is a funny thing, especially when you find yourself on the margins. Edges, lines, borders, barriers — they all masquerade as discrete, immutable facts. But in truth, they are all relational and thus changeable, shifting in space and time often right in front of your eyes, whether you see it or not. The inaugural Southeast Queens Biennial questions how we define these margins by presenting the work of local 18 artists, all of who call the eastern edge of New York City’s largest borough home."

Here’s why that new chain store just landed on your Brooklyn block (Brooklyn Eagle)
"Last year, Brooklyn saw the biggest percentage increase in the number of chain stores of all the city’s boroughs, with 1,587 locations, a 3.1% increase from the previous year, according to a December report from Center for an Urban Future. The greatest concentration of these stores is in zip code 11201 (Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn), which has 145 national retailer locations including City Point’s Target, Fulton Street’s H&M, and Sephora on Joralemon Street. Dunkin’ Donuts has the largest number of chain locations in Brooklyn, with 139, followed closely by prepaid wireless service MetroPCS, with 138.
While it’s happening most quickly in prospering Brooklyn, the trend is epic and citywide..."

De Blasio Planning Appointee Becomes Ardent Foe (Gotham Gazette)
"Michelle de la Uz was first appointed to the powerful City Planning Commission in 2012, by then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, then re-appointed in 2017 by the current Public Advocate, Letitia James. Over the course of time, and with de Blasio now in his fifth year as mayor, de la Uz has become the most consistent and often lone dissenter on the 13-member commission, voting against a variety of de Blasio’s land use plans."

When Gentrification Is a Mental Health Issue (City Limits)
"Gentrification can be hazardous to your health, according to a team of New York City researchers. Their recently published study finds that hospitalization rates for mental illness—including schizophrenia and mood disorders—are two times as high in displaced people versus those who remain in their neighborhood. It is one of the first U.S. studies to quantify the hidden mental health consequences of gentrification."

New York Just Passed A Bill Banning Cops From Having Sex With People In Custody (BuzzFeed)
"State lawmakers in New York passed a bill Thursday to prohibit cops from having sex with people in custody, closing a legal loophole that has let police avoid sexual assault convictions by claiming sex with detainees was consensual. The bill was introduced in response to allegations that two on-duty New York City Police Department officers raped a handcuffed woman in their police van in September.
In February, BuzzFeed News reported that New York was one of 35 states that do not explicitly deem encounters between cops and those in their custody as sexual assault. In the weeks since, legislators in at least six states have introduced or begun drafting bills to change these statutes."

Concrete New York Map (Jason R. Woods, Architectural Geography)
"Last October, Blue Crow Media released its Concrete New York Map, a fold-out map highlighting new and old architecture throughout the five boroughs made with everyone’s favorite material: concrete.  It was edited by Allison C. Meier and designed by Supergroup Studios.  I was fortunate enough to make the photographs for the map back in August, and below are some of my favorite picks from the guide."

Loved To Bits: Portraits Of My Teddy (Flashbak!)
"I know it sounds funny, but it felt like they were communicating with me and that we collaborated together on the shoot. There was a beginning, middle, and an end to each session, some took longer than others, so it didn’t feel that much different to what I always do, which is start with a nervous feeling that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, go through a process and arrive at the end with images I’m happy with to some degree. It began as a still life project, not something I usually do, but it changed into portraiture very quickly."

To Throw Away Unopened, a new memoir by musician and writer Viv Albertine (Guardian)
“Oh my God, I still have that attitude,” she says, laughing, when I mention this, “I’m still angry at so much – class, gender, society, the way we are constantly mentally coerced into behaving a certain way without us even knowing it. I feel so oppressed by the weight of it all that I just want to blow a hole in it all.” She pauses for a breath as if to still her emotions, and continues calmly. “Some people will say that I’m bitter and twisted, but so what? I’m 63 and I’ve been an outsider as far back as junior school. When you’ve fought and fought to keep positive and to keep creative even though there was not a space to be creative, well, you show me any human who is not angry after 60 years of that.”

The Widow’s Buns at Bow (Spitalfields Life)
"On Good Friday, what could be more appropriate to the equivocal nature of the day than an event which involves both celebration of Hot Cross Buns and the remembrance of the departed in a single custom – such is the ceremony of the Widow’s Buns at Bow.
A net of Hot Cross Buns hangs above the bar at The Widow’s Son in Bromley by Bow, and each year a sailor comes to add another bun to the collection. And this year I was there to witness it for myself, though – before you make any assumption based on your knowledge of my passion for buns  - I must clarify that no Hot Cross Buns are eaten in the ceremony, they are purely for symbolic purposes. Left to dry out and gather dust and hang in the net for eternity, London’s oldest buns exist as metaphors to represent the passing years and talismans to bring good luck but, more than this, they tell a story."

Another verse from the Whitman, Alabama project.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring & All

... Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter.  All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf ...

     from  Spring and All (By the road to the contagious hospital) - William Carlos Williams

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Under the Tracks


In the 1940's, when Ann Greco and her older sister Fran were growing up on 10th Street, they used to play in a park across the street from their house. 

 ''Oh, it was beautiful,'' Ms. Greco recalled. ''We had handball in front, we had shuffleboard, we had horseshoes, we had basketball and swings, we had monkey bars and slides. There was a park house on a mound, and a fellow that took care of the park.''  (NY Times)

I just noticed a new sign at Third and 10th Street, the site of the old Under the Tracks playground.  It was closed in the 1990's after debris fell from the viaduct, and the ground was declared unstable.  In 1996, Under the Tracks was renamed in memory of Fran Brady.  Brady, a local resident, fought long and hard to maintain the neglected playground and eventually won capital funding to upgrade it.  Sadly, she did not live long enough to see her dreams realized. Despite her tireless efforts, plans to re-open the playground were delayed by the pace of MTA repair work at the site.  The site has languished for years.

In 2000, the NY Times ran a story on the playground.  At that time there was a budget of almost $1M earmarked to rehabilitate the park, and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern declared the project to be "still on track."

Under the Tracks remained closed.

In 2011, after fierce community opposition, CB6 rejected the Lower East Side Ecology Center's plan to turn the playground site into a temporary compost mixing center.  A reasonable-enough plan, it seems, but residents feared the compost center might become a permanent project.

The organization would have operated under the oversight of the Parks Department, which has said the agreement would be just one year. Board member Pauline Blake said the area has suffered a host of problems, and should not be expected to warmly accept the mixing facility. From crime to rats, Blake said, this section of Park Slope has had enough. “To take the playground away from them for any ecological project would be criminal,” Blake said. Member Anthony Pugliese put it this way, saying, “Parks [are] at stake here. This is a business…this is not people saving the world here.”

Under the Tracks stayed shut.  Occasionally you might have glimpsed a rabbit there, snuffling in the dirt and weeds, an escapee from the colony back of the next-door tire shop.  The rabbits and their owner were removed, the tire shop changed its name (Mexico became AM), and still the playground awaited its rebirth.  New Gowanus residents could never have guessed a playground had ever existed in such an unlikely location, though it was one of many slivers of parks and playground that came into being during the city's massive infrastructure changes of the Moses era.  It was an older cousin of the finger parks that line the Prospect Expressway.

In the last couple of years there's been talk of bringing the playground back, and even installing those old Kentile letters there.  Maintenance work on the viaduct itself appears to be complete, and recently there's been work going on underneath it, all the way from Fourth to Second, but as yet (like the station itself) it's unfinished.  Perhaps the new sign heralds some real playground action?  The timing seems right, what with the rezoning process cranking into full gear.  Strategic sweetener or not (and possibly I'm just too cynical), how nice it would be to see Fran Brady's tireless efforts finally rewarded.  Let the children play!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fiber-Optic Sidewalk Santa


Too many.  I've fallen far behind in trying to account for the wooden houses that are disappearing round here.  It's strictly the luck of the draw these days.  257 13th, just below Fifth Avenue, has just received its marching orders, with no indication yet of what's to take its place.  It's a pre-1880 building.  In its early days, news of its inhabitants indicate a genteel residence.  "Progressive euchre" card parties & birthday celebrations get mentions in the Eagle.  A recital notice appears in 1891,


and in August of 1893 we learn that the same Professor Simpson is vacationing in "the Orange Mountains."  A Simpson with a different first name writes in to the Eagle a couple of years later to express his thanks to neighbors who took his family in when a fire broke out on nearby Fifth Avenue.

A rental listing from 1901 suggests quiet tenants are required.

It's not clear how long the Simpsons lived at 257. There's a doctor's office at the house by the 1930's.  In 1938 an ad is placed in the Eagle for a white housekeeper (sleep-in).  A sour note.  Around this time there's a beauty parlor on site as well.  A good name & a job title here, and a frisson of allure.

In 1944 a doctor at this address is suspended for involvement in a Workers' Comp. kickback racket.  Perhaps the propriety is fraying at the edges.

Monday, March 26, 2018


'Women Who Walked Ahead' at Green-Wood Cemetery (Brooklyn Eagle)
The cemetery will host a special trolley tour on March 31 called “Women Who Walked Ahead” and will visit the graves, both marked and unmarked, of the forgotten women who hold notable places in New York City’s history.
The tour will feature women pioneers in science, arts and activism who led inspiring lives, according to the tour’s leader Allison Meier. Despite their influence, many of these women’s stories may not be found in history books.

Rendering Revealed For New Development Replacing Historic 4th Ave Church (Bklyner)
The Church of the Redeemer stood at the site for 150 years until it closed in 2010 when its owner, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, decided it was too pricey to repair the deteriorating structure. The Church was purchased by the Jackson Group for $20 million in 2014 and demolished in 2016.
Adam America Real Estate purchased the site from the Jackson Group for $36 million in 2017. YIMBY estimates units will be priced at approximately $1M to $3M for units measuring about 1,000 square feet.

She-Weld, a Woman-Owned Metal Shop, Reopens in Red Hook After Original Location Flooded by  Sandy (NY1)
A woman-owned welding studio in Brooklyn teaches its students all about metalwork.
Marsha Tratten doesn't only teach classes at She-Weld, but also creates sculptures, kitchen accessories, and trashcans used on some of the streets of Red Hook.
This studio is a new location for She-Weld, after their previous location was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.
"We're really excited to have this new place," said owner Marsha Trattner. "We're doing workshops, we're doing school visual arts classes, we're making commission work, so it's a really full service."
Classes at She-Weld are open to anyone, with or without experience.

Call for Proposals: Urban Wild Writer Residency (Urban Omnibus)
Urban Omnibus announces a new opportunity for an Urban Wild Writer in partnership with NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance. Thoreau explored wilderness in earshot of a commuter train and walking distance from his mother’s house. Rachel Carson plumbed the biodiversity of suburbia. We seek a writer to explore and interpret the contemporary urban landscape where highways meet gas wells, herons, and kayakers.

Left in the Dark: How the MTA Is Failing to Keep Up With New York City’s Changing Economy (Office of NYC City Comptroller Scott Stringer)
Nurses and home health aides. Bank tellers and baristas. Shopkeepers and cashiers. Security guards and janitors. Waiters and cooks. Concierges and tour guides. Barbers and tailors. Musicians and actors. Ushers and ticket takers. Freight and dock workers.
For many of New York’s service sector workers, the traditional Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 work week holds little bearing.  While others are just rolling out of bed, they are opening up shops, loading and unloading goods, staffing front desks, or caring for patients. Later in the evenings—long after others have gone home—they are locking up stores and restaurants, vacuuming and dishwashing, and finishing up in the dressing room.

Ann Lovett: Death of a ‘strong, kick-ass girl’(Irish Times)
“I remember being outside the church when the hearse arrived . . . I remember when they were taking the coffin out of the hearse, there was a collective gasp . . . Usually at a removal, you’d hear a mumble of people talking. But apart from that gasp, there was silence. What could anyone say?”
Nuala Ledwith, who lived three miles outside Granard, Co Longford, at the time, is talking about the removal of Ann Lovett and her stillborn son to St Mary’s Church in Granard on Thursday, February 2nd, 1984. Two days previously, Ann Lovett had died after giving birth in the grotto adjoining St Mary’s. She was 15. The repercussions of her death continue to resonate powerfully in Irish society, more than three decades later.

A Walk Through Time In Spitalfields Market (Spitalfields Life)
In Adam Tuck’s composites, the people in the present inhabit the same space as those of the past, making occasional surreal visual connections as if they sense each others presence or as if the monochrome images were memories fading from sight. For the most part – according to the logic of these images – the market workers are too absorbed in their work to be concerned with time travellers from the future, while many of the shoppers and office workers cast their eyes around aimlessly, unaware of the spectres from the past that surround them. Yet most telling are comparisons in demeanour, which speak of self-possession and purpose – and, in this comparison, those in the past are seen to inhabit the place while those in the present are merely passing through.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Coming Soon

Condo marketing has commenced at 225 14th Street. Let's remember that common caveat, the legal disclaimer:

"Square footage exceeds the usable floor area ... The unit layout, square footage and dimensions are approximate and subject to normal construction variances and tolerances ... " And so on.

The bells and whistles are in place - Bosch appliances, Bardiglio marble, Watermark fixtures, Duravit baths & sinks. TBH, plebeian that I am, I only recognize Bosch here.  Amenities include a fitness studio, a lobby lounge, a cyber doorman, and - a new one to me - a "children's creativity room." Poor creativity, how it toils in the service of capital.

Starting price for the three and four bedroom boutique apartments is $1.67M.

Renderings & more info here.

Below: the buildings replaced by condos - 225-229 14th Street.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Along the Hard Crest of the Snowdrift

Along the hard crest of the snowdrift
to my white, mysterious house,
both of us quiet now,
keeping silent as we walk.
And sweeter than any song
this dream we now complete—
the trembling of branches we brush against,
the soft ringing of your spurs.

            Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), translated by Jane Kenyon

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Just came across several old snaps of Coney Island.  Taken either 1984 or '85.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hyatt Street

Courtside, down from Empire Bail Bonds & the Not Guilty Deli & Luncheonette - the Gavel Grill, and Hyatt Cards and Gift.  Stationeries, film, and paperback books.