Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Topping Out

The place is flush with red white blue & gray. Gray's the default for upscale flip-job brick three-families, & closer to the sky the flags are flying from construction sites. Sometimes the two merge.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Dance

I spent the day at the shore.  I went to a Russian supermarket and bought candy & disturbing mini sausages called TV Sticks.  On the avenue sidewalk, right in front of Starbucks, a man was passed out. Someone called an ambulance & a woman knelt to comfort him.  A crowd gathered. The EMS guys knew him as a regular.  Their faces were weary but they weren't unkind.  As they led him to the ambulance, someone shouted, "His hat! his hat!" & they picked it from the ground, dusted it off a bit, & jammed it on his head.  It was drink, the crowd nodded, looking important.  A man who couldn't speak tried to explain more about the situation.  His gestures were grand, and very exciting, but almost impossible to understand.  The sidewalk outside Starbucks stank, the crowd observed, & several of us wrinkled our noses. The drama over & the stench unbearable, the crowd dispersed. How stupidly we gather sometimes. Just down the street a couple were sitting at the curb between two parked cars.  The woman got up, unsteadily, and crouching over in the street, tried to get her partner's boots back onto his sockless feet. He was laughing and this wasn't helping much. The woman was pissed. There were panhandlers on the sidewalk all the way along Brighton Beach Avenue.  Some of them looked in desperate shape. 

Up on the boardwalk the sun was dipping & everything was sentimental.  It got you too easily, you knew, it suckered you in, but who could resist it?  At least the boardwalk didn't deal in age discrimination.  It gilded us all.  An elderly woman in a dripping swimsuit was toweling herself; her dimpled thighs pink with cold.  There were ocean gazers and boardwalk shufflers and a cute little kid in a plastic pushcar holding an ice cream, just starting out.  A couple selling Christian books and frilly dolls and flip flops were dancing together in front of their stand. Middle-aged teenagers. They made me think of the Leonard Cohen song, & of Miss Coney Island, dancing on demand & always reminding us. Don't Postpone Joy.

Friday, September 14, 2018

BQE Discount

Whenever we're at Humboldt & Meeker, crossing to McGuinness, there's a moment of suspense.  Will the little shingled house with the BQE Liquor sign (the liquor store itself is round the corner) still be standing?  I haven't seen it for several months, but fingers crossed it's made it into fall.   I wanted to get an elevated shot (the only good thing about the BQE are views) but the best I could get was a Google vintage 2014 & the angle I was hoping for was hidden by this damn truck. It's not such a bad truck really, especially when set in front of New York's Finest needs all of New York's finest (we're still hoping for them), & the French Products add a certain frisson to the scene. 

Here's the blurry best I could manage.

And from the ground, several years earlier. 

Cheers to the old place. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

City for Sale

It's a bitter night, with snow on the way.  It's quiet in the grocery store, just one customer at a table. Up front, two little girls are standing at a shelf, facing a candle wrapped in cellophane. They're playing birthdays.  It's a sweet little game, and they sing so softly, then all of a sudden their interest vanishes. The game is a dull old thing.  It's time to run, & they hit the aisles, screaming with pleasure.  It's fun to watch them letting off steam, but oh, now they've gone too far.  It's time to leave, and they're sent to the back, each with a concha and a cup of milky coffee in hand.

719 & 720-722 Fifth are currently listed for sale for $10.95M. 720-722 were previously occupied by the Guerrero Food Center. The space was divided into two in 2014, and since then it's been occupied by Danny's Tailoring (which moved from 681, two blocks north)) and the Puebla de Los Angeles grocery store.  I've had countless clothes altered or repaired at Danny's, and often stop by to place an order at the grocery store. The food's good. These two define the essence of a family business.  I always like seeing the kids around the place, and have sometimes lingered there, drawing pictures with a restless store-bound toddler, or, (on request & with permission), taken pictures of the schoolgirls playing outside.  This part of Fifth is still peaceful, hospitable to children chalking on the sidewalk, or lost in a game with a doll or a superhero.  Jane Jacobs would recognize it with a smile. It's quiet enough for little kids to play out front alone, with a store door open & someone nearby keeping a watchful eye.  The sidewalk isn't a means of getting from A to B; the sidewalk's home.

This is the city we love.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Breaking Through

I love these cigarette-card ciclistas, staring down time with sturdy bare limbs and a jaunty contempt for the camera.  How easily duped we are by the stiff poses of history, by a slow shutter leaving the subject far behind, inscrutable and out of reach.  "Old-fashioned". These girls have made it to the twenty-first century intact, as fresh and insolent now as then.  Look how alive they are in mind and body, altogether of the moment, brimming with health.  Nothing will hold them back.

Arents Cigarette Cards (NYPL Digital Collections)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Prospect Expressway Study Envisions New Redevelopment Possibilities (Bklyner)
And here's one of them ...
The Prospect Expressway was constructed according to best practices in the mid-20th century, which included wide shoulders on either side of the roadway that slope upwards towards street level. These areas, although owned and maintained by NYSDOT, are not landscaped and provide limited utility to the community today. A feasibility study would need to be completed in conjunction with NYSDOT to determine if these underutilized spaces could be leveraged for real estate development whereby buildings are constructed on a pedestal or other elevated structure to be level with the street. New buildings constructed in this manner, particularly along 18th and 19th Streets, could provide community amenities, commercial development opportunities, or even new housing units.

Sunset Park Nixed From de Blasio’s Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar Fantasy (StreetsBlog)
The streetcar that nobody asked for is the brainchild of real estate developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, whose real estate investments along the route would benefit from its construction.
The route would serve fewer than 40,000 people — in line with the city’s busiest bus routes, many of which are begging for upgrades that would cost far less money than the BQX.
It is unclear why Sunset Park was dropped from the route. Neighborhood group UPROSE strongly opposed the project, and Council Member Carlos Menchaca had wavered in his support. Then again, Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee is a supporter.
The city plans to reveal the proposed route tomorrow, the source said. The mayor has changed the path significantly from previous renderings — but then again he has also abandoned the promise that the bus-on-rails would pay for itself through rising property values along the route.


Brooklyn-Queens streetcar changes course, will cost more (Curbed)
The cost of the project has now gone up from $2.5 billion to $2.73 billion, and the construction timeline has also been pushed back to start in 2024 and end sometime in 2029, long after Mayor de Blasio has left office. The city will also need about $1 billion in federal funds to ensure that the project moves forward.

Developers seek greater density along Gowanus Canal (Crain's)
The preliminary plan reserved the greatest density for Fourth Avenue, a wide thoroughfare that has already seen a boom of apartment construction in recent years, allowing buildings 12 to 17 stories in height and stating that the city would support buildings of 22 or more stories "where appropriate."
... Some planning experts ... believe the city is aiming to allow developers to build four times a site's floor area on the western side of the canal and five times on sites along the east side. The group of developers is hoping to persuade the city to raise that to six times a site's floor area.
Another complicating factor is a likely requirement for some new developments to include light manufacturing space for artists, artisans and makers ...That space is considered less lucrative than residential use and a further burden on developers' bottom lines.

Embattled Garbage Hauler Co-Owns Dump With Person Expelled From Trash Industry, Records Show (ProPublica)
Bronx politicians Jeff Klein, Mark Gjonaj, Nathalia Fernandez and Michael Benedetto submitted a letter of support for the temporary restraining order and a reinstatement of Sanitation Salvage’s license.
“Sanitation Salvage has been an exemplary example of a good corporate citizen,” they wrote.
According to a ProPublica review of state campaign finance records, since 2007, the Squitieri family, along with their companies and a web of realty corporations and LLCs, has given over $120,000 to Klein. Gjonaj has received more than $40,000 from the Squitieris as well.

Here’s how much NY AG candidates are hauling in from real estate donors - Sean Patrick Maloney has raised the most; Tish James’ contributors include broker for “Worst Landlord” Ved Parkash (The Real Deal)
Public Advocate Letitia James and Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney have combined raised more than $700,000 from New York City real estate interests in their bids to become the next AG. 

The Village Voice, a New York Icon, Closes (NY Times)
Tom Robbins, a former longtime investigative journalist at The Voice, said, “It’s astonishing that this is happening in New York, the biggest media town in America.”
Now on the faculty at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, Mr. Robbins added, “I think it really helped so many people sort of figure out everything they wanted to know, from where to find an apartment to what show to see to what scandal they wanted to dig into.”

The Most Famous Lesbian Photographer You’ve Never Heard of — Until Now (NY Times)
“Brave, Beautiful Outlaws” focuses on her early work, during the time of her most intense political activism. Ms. Bright identifies Ms. Gottschalk as a “talented and sensitive visual storyteller,” whose work comprises a “vital contribution to the historical record.” Part autobiography, part ethnography, Ms. Gottschalk’s work counters the gross elision of the lesbian in the annals of queer history. Hers is a community of the socially and politically marginalized, fellow “freaks” and “outcasts” — many of whom were first cast out of their families of origin — those invisible to or rejected by the mainstream.

A story from the NY Post on a local figure in the neighborhood.
This NYC panhandler only accepts high-quality food (Post)
Ronald, who seemed confused about the nature of the attention he'd originally received from the reporter, and was subsequently anxious about the prospect of appearing in a newspaper, was terribly upset when I spoke to him today. He feels he's been ridiculed. Park Slope, and the exorbitantly priced Union Market are fair game in the press, but making fun of a panhandler is not.  Ronald is a well-liked figure, and puts no pressure on passers-by to buy him food or give him money. Maybe he has quite particular tastes, but don't we all?  And why not choose an opportune spot to look for a donation?
Ronald is something of a character, but he harms no-one.  And isn't character something to relish?  At Christmas Ronald likes to buy small presents for those who've helped him. We're all in this together - kindness is always the best response.

Earlier this year I posted Helena Appio's film, A Portrait of Mr. Pink, a lovely tribute to a Windrush-generation Lewisham resident and his extraordinary home.

Now you can read more about the making of the film, and the amazing response it received.

Mr Pink bought the house on Loampit Hill in 1967 and lived there until he died last year. He seems to have shared it with his wife and eight children, most of whom had left by the time the film was made.
He devoted much of his time to putting his stamp on the place. “I like beauty and I like prettiness,” he says in the film. “When I just bought it, well, it was not beautiful. But since I take it over and added myself towards it, I developed it to have a lightness. My additions make a difference, brighten it up."
“I’ve created a part of Jamaica here. Some like this house and some may not like it, I don’t know. But I know a lot of people like it and I like it myself.”