Monday, May 21, 2018

In the Sun

27th Avenue, no. 805, Astoria, Long Island City, Queens
Berenice Abbott - May, 1937 (NYPL)

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Russo demo crew at 217 9th


Bella Donna, 2011

Brooklyn home collapse rattles neighbors, sparks evacuations (Daily News)

Former CB6 Manager Forged Papers To Give Himself Raises, DA Says (Patch)
The former district manager for Community Board 6, who resigned last year after being accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend, is now facing charges that he forged signatures of board members to give himself unauthorized pay raises.
Craig Hammerman, 53, was hit with a 17-count indictment on Monday for giving himself more than $38,000 in raises over a two year period by forging his manager's approval on documents, Brooklyn's District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced.

NYC’s ‘participatory budgeting’ procedure doles out millions, though few actually vote (Eagle)
Voting was conducted over nine days during the spring at sites overseen by trained poll workers. Voters could also make their selections online or through LinkNYC sidewalk kiosks after verifying their identity.
Nonetheless, the program suffers from low voter turnout.
In Lander’s District 39, which includes the relatively well-educated and empowered citizens of Cobble Hill, Gowanus and Park Slope, just 6,000 residents voted out of roughly 127,650 eligible voters over the age of 10. That’s a turnout rate of just 4.7 percent — compatred to a low 8 percent in the 2016 federal primary election, 35 percent in the presidential primary, and 62 percent in the November General Election, according to Gotham Gazette.

In Staten Island, a remote wilderness is threatened by encroaching development: Touring the urban wilds of the Sharrotts Shoreline on Staten Island’s southern end (Nathan Kensinger at Curbed)
On the South Shore of Staten Island, where Tappen’s Creek flows into the Arthur Kill, a remote wilderness has taken root on forgotten land. Deer and woodchucks wander through forests filled with abandoned cars; geese and ducks paddle around marshlands littered with engine blocks; and ospreys nest in a boat graveyard.
This is the Sharrotts Shoreline, a unique maritime habitat that has somehow managed to thrive, even after decades of neglect. Isolated and almost inaccessible, the secluded coastline here is part of the rural neighborhood of Charleston, where the narrow roads are lined with Victorian homes, ancient cemeteries, and active horse stables. There are no signs or public paths connecting this community to its shoreline, which is perhaps one reason why the wildlife here has flourished.

Foamland Security: Ferry Riders Say de Blasio’s Subsidies Spare Them Subway Trauma (Voice)
Each of the existing SBS routes carries more passengers alone than the ferry system in total. Some individual SBS routes, such as the Bx12 (15,576,377 annual riders) or the M15 (14,128,504) carry orders of magnitude more New Yorkers per year than the entire ferry system.

The Gentrification of Canal Street (NY Times) Re-edited after publication, with a fresh title, but still a read & wince Times piece ...
“Personally, I love the grittiness of it,” said Ms. Standefer, who likened Canal Street to the area around NoMad, where she and Mr. Alesch designed the Ace Hotel. “Both have this thriving, high-low energy.”

Beloved Street-Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham Is Getting a Career-Spanning Museum Retrospective (artnet)
The show will be on view (at The New York Historical Society) from June through September, drawing to a close just in time for New York Fashion Week and the highly anticipated publication of Cunningham’s secret memoir, Fashion Climbing, discovered by his loved ones after his death.

Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford – review (Guardian)
Gayford deploys Bacon’s voice to brilliant effect, and you hang on to every word, from his conviction that he wanted his pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, leaving a trace of human presence “as a snail leaves its slime”, to his sudden, hungry observation, made one sunny day in Soho, that a horizontal shadow “eats into the figure, like a disease”.

Hamlet, thy name is woman: Why Michelle Terry's Globe is staging post-gender Shakespeare (Guardian)
“We have at our disposal a canon and a body of work that is essentially about the human being,” explains Terry, summing up her approach to the plays and to the casting of them. “There are no character descriptions in Shakespeare. There is nothing prescriptive about who can and should play what. Our job as actors is to offer up the impression of a person’s character in all its complexities and ambiguities.”
This then offers up the possibility of alternative ways of looking at the world. “For me,” Terry says, “that is what Shakespeare was doing within the limiting constraints that he was writing in. We don’t have those constraints anymore.

The Last Derelict House In Spitalfields (Spitalfields Life)
Of all the old houses in Spitalfields I know, this is the one that has most retained its soul. The house holds its own silence and the din of the contemporary world is drowned out by it.

Friday, May 18, 2018

On 9th Street

Here are some shots of 217 9th Street.  Amongst the crowd of burly men assessing the scene, or simply schmoozing on the sidewalk, we think we spotted a lone woman, familiar figure on the demolition scene Marie Grasso.  If not her 'twas her doppelganger.  Bystanders, including myself, were transfixed by the scene, & all of us hoping the demo would get done good & quick, to let the people on either side to get back in their buildings.  A DOB honcho was keeping the timeline for this on a strictly "no comment" level.

Building Collapse at 217 9th

Updated 5/18:

Demolition plans were filed for 217 9th Street a week ago. On Thursday night, the building partially collapsed.  Fortunately the building was vacant and there were no injuries, but a number of nearby neighbors have been evacuated from their homes. More to follow.

By coincidence, I wrote a post on the house yesterday, which was posted today. It references an earlier post from 2015, which included the following:

The building last changed hands almost twenty years ago, and is being developed by its longtime owner. According to a story in The Daily News, in 2010 Mr. Singh and his wife, Thackoordai, were indicted on fraud charges. 

 A couple who own $12 million worth of real estate conned Medicaid into accepting their application and received $9,000 in free medical care, the Brooklyn district attorney charged Wednesday. 
Praim (Roger) Singh, 55, and his wife, Thackoordai Singh, 55, who own 16 properties in Brooklyn, face a minimum of seven years in prison. 
They are charged with falsifying their Medicaid applications - claiming they did not own any property, businesses or bank accounts and subsisted solely on Praim Singh's $225weekly salary.                                                                                                                                          (Daily News)

In recent years, Mr. Singh appears to have sold at least some of his many properties.

The post I wrote yesterday:

Back in 2015 plans were filed for a new building at 217 9th, one of the last grand wooden houses on 9th Street between Third & Fifth Avenues. The plans were disapproved and the old house remained.  Now a demolition application has been processed, so it looks like new building plans are may be on the way again.

Since 2015, the north side of the block has seen some changes.  Houses at 227-233 9th (two brick, two frame) were demolished, and a seven-story apartment building is currently under construction.  Closer to Third, a rental building has risen.  There's that de rigueur Kentile sign again.

Another Supermarket Gone

At the end of last year I noticed that the Bravo supermarket space was up for lease.  Bravo has remained open since then, but will be closing at the end of the month. The owner of the store is retiring, and there's no word on what business will be coming in next.  I doubt it will be a supermarket.

Bravo is a New York-based company. Most of its stores are in the New York area (especially Brooklyn & Queens) and in Florida. It caters especially to Latino shoppers. There are a couple of other Bravos not too far away in Sunset Park.  But with the area ever more wealthy and white, with rents increasing and land turned over for development, this kind of mid-sized market is vanishing.  Emporium, at Fifth & 7th, is still around, and has shifted a little to cater to newer shoppers; the hot lunch table has gone and some of the items are slightly more upmarket.  But it's still a regular, unpretentious kind of store, still skewed towards an older, less affluent, residential base.

The shelves are starting to empty at Bravo.  All the packaged items are selling at a 50% discount - an excellent deal for thrifty shoppers and those on a budget.  But you'll carry your bargains home with a heavy heart.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Plans filed on 23rd

Update on 303-305 23rd Street.

Plans have been filed for a four-story, eleven unit building, with a 303 23rd Street address.  The architect on record is Manhattan based Marin Architects.  The 50 ft. tall, 20,000 sq. ft. building, standing on a 78 ft. lot, will, according to NY YIMBY, include car & bicycle parking, & a recreation room.

Bliss Street

I like taking pictures through windows too.  It's always a gamble, so the pleasure's all the sweeter when the smear of the glass is just fine for that one bright moment passing Bliss Street on a summer afternoon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Road Trip

I don't know much about Walter Silver (1923 - 1998) other than that he taught at The School of Visual Arts, and also worked as a commercial photographer.  The New York Public Library has over a thousand of his photographs in its digital collection.

The bulk of the photographs date from the 1950s - mostly pictures taken in New York, but also shots of London, Barcelona & Paris.  The New York pictures reveal a life lived at the center of the New York art world: casual, familiar pictures of studios, apartments & galleries, & the artists & writers who lived & worked in them. De Koonings, Rauschenberg, Frankenthaler, Rivers, Hartigan, Schuyler, O'Hara, Koch, et al.  The Downtown streets are represented too - clusters of street kids, dozing cats, men in hats at restaurant counters, laborers on building sites, elderly women - carefully dressed - sitting alone on sidewalk benches, waiting. 

70s pictures show billboards & graffiti, and a group from the 80s - maybe my favorites - suddenly leap into color. These color pictures are taken during bus trips.

Some of them are urban shots & others quit the city for the highway, passing tattoo parlors, parking lots, railroad cars & hitchhikers, fields & sunsets.  There's a transient beauty in this kind of photograph, taken at a light, in a jam, or on a pit stop.  You could be right there on the bus yourself, looking out the window, watching the miles go by.  The country comes right through.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018



The grey house at 197 23rd Street disappeared a couple of years ago.  There's a three-story plus penthouse there today.  Now it's the turn of 199 (at right).  On the filed demolitions at the DOB, the same owner is listed for both buildings.  199 looks pretty much the same today, minus its larger awning.  Both the buildings above were/are wooden, with stone & brick veneers, though 199 only got its front done.   In 1913 a resident of 199, Michael Parella, claimed to have been robbed in a nearby saloon.

Monday, May 14, 2018


I'd stood upon the elevated platform at Astoria Boulevard heaps of times but never saw the narrow slice of landscape where the bridge appears until the other day. And I wouldn't have seen it then unless it was pointed out to me.  There it was, in faint blue, wedged in with traffic lanes, three rowhousess, a strip of modern windows & a brick red fire escape.  It's easy to miss with all the visual mayhem going on - the limbs & skywards arrow, & the APE APE APE. And loudest of all the Realty 2000 T .  You're a kid on a sugar rush as your eyes zoom around the canvas, but if you can slow things down you can look more peacefully at ducts and vents and chimney tops and the soothing side of the apartment building -soft and brown and restful.  And then you're on the move again.    

Friday, May 11, 2018



How Riders Won the Fight for Better Buses in New York City (CitiLab)
After years of ringing the alarms, it looks as if engaged riders have convinced this massive transit agency to dedicate serious resources to a failing system. Now they’ll be waiting, and fighting, to see the results.

Mayor's BQX streetcar left out of city budget - omission of Brooklyn-Queens project pushes it back a year amid questions about feasibility (Crain's)
A 16-mile streetcar service proposed for the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront is unfunded in the Economic Development Corp.'s proposed budget, suggesting that preliminary planning might not begin for at least a year—should the city ever move forward with the project.

Anthology Film Archives – 2018 Village Awardee (Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)
There is simply nothing like Anthology Film Archives (AFA) in NYC or anywhere else in the world in terms of its sole focus on the art and culture of avant-garde film. It was founded in 1970 when Lithuanian émigré and artist Jonas Mekas and four other film devotees envisioned a permanent home for independent films. The organization’s original home was at The Public Theater. Three moves later, in 1988, it arrived at its present Second Avenue location. This building was a municipal courthouse and jail designed by architect Alfred Hopkins, built 1917-19 in the Renaissance Revival style. As Manhattan’s 3rd District courthouse, it was known as the Essex Market Courthouse.

Author Talk:"When Brooklyn Was Queer" with Hugh Ryan (BPL)
In this illuminating talk, journalist and curator Hugh Ryan will discuss the ways in which, for more than a century, the waterfront spaces in Brooklyn supported Brooklyn's queer community - providing work, entertainment, and anonymity.  From Coney Island to Red Hook - the Navy Yard to Brooklyn Heights, these areas offered a sense of freedom and belonging not found anywhere else in the borough.

Paul Gardner’s Collection (Spitalfields Life)
You will recall that I have written about Paul Gardner, the fourth generation paper bag seller, quite a few times in these pages. Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen is the longest established family business in Spitalfields, trading in the same building for one hundred and forty years, and acquiring a unique assembly of heirlooms.
... Paul told me that if he were a paper bag, he would be a brown paper bag because they are his bestsellers – multi-purpose bags, and the ones he has made most money out of over the years. So it is entirely appropriate that when Spitalfields Life Contributing Artist Lucinda Rogers drew her portrait of Paul in his shop a few years back, she drew it on brown paper. Now it hangs in pride of place high up on the wall behind the counter.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Replacement Hardware

It's always a comfort to slip into Julius Knipl territory.  Even on busy West 17th a business can defy the decades. Barry Supply Company: Replacement Hardware Specialists - music to my ears.  Look at that blue & candy colored lettering, with types of parts supplied inside lined up in jaunty slant formation.  Hardware poetry: kitchen drawer guides, shower door rollers, window balances, obsolete parts.  The parts themselves, serviceably illustrated, are a little obscure to those outside the trade, and this is as it should be.  There's nothing I like better than the arcane languages of specialized businesses & amateur (or scholarly) obsessions.  You have to be in the know.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

From the Train

Senior graffiti or the hand of a transit obsessive?  Or both.  Or neither.  But even if it's pure coincidence, a nice touch at the Astoria-Ditmars station, which served both the IRT/BRT (BMT) lines until 1949, when IRT service was discontinued.  There are other details to enjoy here too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


I just missed a shot of the Food Nation truck.  While some spot birds, it seems my fate's to look up to the sky & catch Food Nation as it slogs along the BQE/Gowanus, & here it was again, but this time on the Triborough, almost at eye-level.  Was there a message here?

Back on Randall's Island I took perverse delight in catching a glimpse of the Moses lair.

With his power, Robert Moses built himself an empire.
     The capital of this empire was out of public sight - a squat gray building crouching so unobtrusively below the Randall's Island toll plaza of the Triborough Bridge that most of the motorists who drove through the toll booths never even knew that the building existed.  And most of them were ignorant also of the existence of the empire.
     But those whose interest in geography centered on the map of power knew of its existence very well. They realized that although theoretically it was only a creature of the city, it had in fact become an autonomous sovereign state.
                                                                           Robert Caro, The Power Broker

This week's New Yorker Radio Hour features Colm Tóibín interviewing Caro.  It's a superb interview with Tóibín urbane & insightful, & Caro discussing his two biographical subjects - Moses & Lyndon B. Johnson - with a storyteller's art.  Caro's pleasure here is evident - "best interview I've ever had," he remarks at the end.  A big part of the listener's pleasure lies in Caro's voice.  For me it's the voice of the city itself. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

What Playground?

Well that was short-lived.  The recently installed playground signs under the Culvert Viaduct, at Third & 10th, have vanished!

Late March


We'll see if the Parks Department has an answer ...

Update - 5/11:

"Thank you for writing to NYC Parks regarding the property formerly designated as Fran Brady Under the Tracks Playground.

The property has always been owned by the MTA, although Parks was allowed to use it up until the 1990s as a playground. When the MTA began work on the F-train viaduct, its use as parkland was ended and it is no longer under Parks’ jurisdiction, nor will it be in the future. The MTA-owned site has been used for storage and in their operations.

Any signage that staff may have temporarily affixed to the perimeter of this property was provided in error.

Best regards,

NYC Help"

Friday, May 4, 2018



De Blasio Moves to Bring Safe Injection Sites to New York City (Daily News)
If the plan proceeds, sites would open as a one-year pilot program in up to four locations — Gowanus in Brooklyn, Midtown West and Washington Heights in Manhattan, and Longwood in the Bronx. There are currently needle exchanges at each proposed site. The injection facilities would be run by the nonprofit Research for a Safer New York, and would not get city money.

Cash Cash or Lights Out (Walkers in the City)
In her book, she (Viv Albertine) talks a lot about her mother, who was born in 1919, and about the ladies of her mother’s age and the limitations they had to live with even as smart people who wanted to live life to the brim. She wrote about how after her mother divorced her father, just not having to do all his laundry and cook for him felt like tremendous luxuries to her. And how, when Viv was a kid, her mother would take her and her sister to the seaside for a whole day and let them do everything they wanted with all the money she’d saved for it, and then tell them that they’d had so much fun that they’d actually managed to cram a whole two-week vacation into that day, and she was so convincing that they believed her. Reading that, I thought, yes, that way of thinking is really the secret, isn’t it.

Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78 (NY Times)
Like the starlight that travels millions of years before we see it, the four little boys stand in their underpants at Coney Island on an August day in 1978, and it is only now, in a found photograph, that we behold them.  The ocean has not quite left their hair. Four decades later, they are still flexing their muscles, still just about 10-going-on-11.
... Until now, none of these images have ever been displayed or published. A selection of them are here and in a special print section. More will be on view from May 3 through June 14 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, 830 Fifth Avenue, near 64th Street.

Can Cities Make Us Better Citizens? (New Yorker)
Sennett likes “grim.” He also likes “difficulty,” “complexity,” and “friction.” His critique of the effect of digital devices on the city, apart from the fact that they are “individualizing machines,” is that apps like Google Maps make the city too user-friendly, too “friction-free.” If you think that the role of a designer, whether of software or of city streets, is to make those things easier to use, Sennett would disagree. He sees “encounters with resistance” as crucial to learning any craft, even the craft of dwelling. Getting lost is how we learn.

100 Years Ago: France in the Final Year of World War I (The Atlantic)
The American photographer Lewis Hine is perhaps most famous for his compelling images of child labor across the United States in the early 20th century. In 1918, Hine was hired by the American Red Cross to document their work in Europe, as they provided aid to wounded soldiers and refugees affected by World War I. The photographs were also intended to drum up support for the Red Cross, and appeal to an American audience back home who had grown weary of the war, even as it crawled toward a close. Hine traveled across France, photographing refugee families, orphaned children, wounded and shell-shocked soldiers, the nurses and volunteers who cared for them all, the ruined buildings they fled, and the temporary homes they filled.

This Film Series Undercuts the Macho Mythology of Seventies Moviemaking in America (Village Voice)
Men like Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Schrader are constantly credited with defining a generation of rebellious auteurs who broke free of the studio system to revitalize cinema in Seventies America. But BAM (the programmer is Jesse Trussell) is countering this narrative, bringing into focus the era’s sidelined female trailblazers through 42 of their titles. Their work stands against the brand of macho bravado in which such New Hollywood classics as Easy Rider reveled — and is all the more subversive for it. It’s fascinating, too, to discover their influence on much-beloved scenes of the future, whether it’s the fake-orgasms banter of 1977’s First Love, predating the iconic comic fodder of When Harry Met Sally, or the struggling artist–meets–awkward moments shtick that Girlfriends nailed way before the likes of Girls and Frances Ha.

Olivia Laing: 'There's no book I love more than Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature' (Guardian)
I can’t remember now how Jarman entered our world. A late-night TV screening of Edward II? Kitty was immediately obsessed. She’d watch and rewatch his films in her room, his most unlikely and fervent fan, bewitched in particular by the scene of Gaveston and Edward dancing together in their prison, two boys in pyjamas moving to the sound of Annie Lennox singing “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”.
It was the books that did it for me. Returning to Modern Nature recently I was astounded to see how thoroughly my adult life was founded in its pages. It was here I developed a sense of what it meant to be an artist, to be political, even how to plant a garden (playfully, stubbornly, ignoring boundaries, collaborating freely).

Charles Chusseau-Flaviens, Photographer (Spitalfields Life)
Photographer Charles Chusseau-Flaviens came to London from Paris and took these pictures, reproduced courtesy of George Eastman House, before the First World War – mostly likely in 1911. This date is suggested by his photograph of the proclamation of the coronation of George V which took place in that year. Very little is known of Chusseau-Flaviens except he founded one of the world’s first picture agencies, located at 46 Rue Bayen,  and he operated through the last decade of the nineteenth and first decade of the twentieth century. Although their origin is an enigma, Chusseau-Flaviens’ photographs of London and especially of Petticoat Lane constitute a rare and surprisingly intimate vision of a lost world.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bowing Out on 15th

The Hopkins Detailed Estate & Old Farm Line Atlas of the City of Brooklyn (1880) shows two houses here.  It's easy to make this out, but today the building is listed as a two-family.  Not much longer, as plans for demolition have been filed. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Lost Lunches

I walked by La Flor Del Paraiso yesterday, to find a man cutting the padlocks on the shuttered store.  When did it close?  A couple of guys stopped to watch the action; neither of them knew why the restaurant had closed.  This was a solid place - good, Mexican/Dominican food, with a great line in roast chicken and pernil.  It was popular with nearby workers and residents alike.  It was one of a number of local restaurants & bodegas that rely on the blue-collar breakfast & lunch trade, and grow quieter (or close shop) by the mid-afternoon.

This part of Gowanus is in the Industrial Business Zone. It's supposed to be excluded from the proposed Gowanus rezoning, but it's still under development pressure. Around the corner from La Flor Del Paraiso, most of the industrial businesses on the northern side of 12th from Third down to Hamilton 'Walentas' Plaza are either for sale or up for rent.  And the area is is nudging into industry-lite. At the edge of the business zone, diagonally across from the restaurant, on the NE corner of Third & 12th, a six-story, mixed-use apartment building is going up, and across from La Flor an industrial building conversion is underway, with The Yard co-working portion of it already open & a CrossFit gym one of the future amenities.  Well within the business zone, on 14th between Third & Second, a large office building is rising.  On Third, retail spaces continue to go steadily upscale.  If you walk this part of Third today you're as likely to find a petal-strewn sidewalk or a pair of vintage jodhpurs as a flat fix shop or a grocery store.

It remains to be seen if Jed Walentas is aiming to get the Hamilton Plaza/Lowes properties rezoned residential.  In a recent Brooklyn Eagle article, an (unnamed) real estate exec suggested that this was likely.  Brad Lander's response was emphatic.

Not so fast, said City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Gowanus), who told the Eagle that he would fight Two Trees if it seeks a zoning change to allow for residential development.
“As long as I am Councilmember, there will be no residential zoning in Gowanus’ Industrial Business Zone,” said Lander, who won’t be in office after 2021, thanks to term limits.
Lander said he has been “crystal-clear with all stakeholders” that he opposes residential development in the Industrial Business Zone, though he said he is open to a “job-generating project” on its property, especially one that creates manufacturing and light industrial jobs.

If Walentas/Two Trees has other plans for the canal-side properties, such as a last-mile delivery center (Amazon-style), will this be an appropriate project? We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.

In the meantime, a song.