Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Greetings

Brooklyn Visual Heritage

"View of six children standing on a stage and dressed in costumes. Two are dressed as bears, two as rabbits, and the other two, whose faces can be seen, are wearing unidentifiable costumes covered with feathers. It is assumed that this event is taking place at the Gregg Chapel, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church's mission to the Italians of Gowanus in the early years of the 20th century, located at 190 4th Avenue. The image is not dated."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


What's with those blue tarps on the Barclays Center roof?   I've seen them up there for a few weeks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Children's Room, Pacific Library

I still can't get over the fact that a BPL official referred to this room as prison-like. It's a gem of a children's room, loved by children, parents & librarians alike.  A bright lived-in space, separate from the adults, with well-stocked shelves, pictures on the walls, and a minimum of tech-ware. This is part of a library now being presented as "antiquated and poorly suited for modern library service". And what will replace this antiquated library (the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn, with the first Carnegie Children's Room)?

"Two Trees Management Company, a Brooklyn-based real estate developer, is currently building a multiuse cultural and housing complex at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Ashland Place, two blocks from the existing Pacific branch. BPL has an exciting opportunity to build a new, 16,500-square-foot branch to replace the current aging facility. ...BPL plans to sell the existing Pacific branch and use the proceeds generated by the sale to pay for the fit out of the new Pacific branch. Fit out costs include new collections, technology, furniture and fittings."

Two blocks away across the divide of an insanely busy Flatbush Avenue, a real barrier when most of the users live south of Flatbush.  And if the fit out at the Park Slope branch is anything to go by, "new collections" will mean out with the old & fewer new books to replace them - part of a transition, it seems, to books stored in distant repositories rather than available on the shelves of your local library. A fit out means a library where the virtual trumps the physical, & the space has all the charm of a hotel lobby. No crayoned pictures on these walls, please.

Here's the library in 1958:

Brooklyn Visual Heritage

and here's a look at the interior from the library's early days:

The Brooklyn Collection, BPL

Thursday, March 21, 2013

End of the Day Gleaming

I love to go out as the sun dips down. At around five, I was ambling down to Second, against a crowd of people heading up from the train. The liberty of opposites! I like to do a loop of a walk, from Fifth down several avenues, maybe heading south or north a few blocks, just catching the light for an hour or so. As the days get longer, I can do this even on workdays, and it makes the weekday grind a whole lot easier to bear.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CB6 meeting: Libraries on the Agenda

At a CB 6 meeting tonight, one of the items on the agenda.

Presentation and discussion with representatives for the Brooklyn Public Library on the range of services and programs throughout the boroughwide library system with specific highlights on local services available at our district's four branch libraries, namely, Carroll Gardens, Pacific, Park Slope and Red Hook.  

78th Police Precinct
65 6th Avenue, Court Room
(between Bergen/Dean Streets)

The fate of the Pacific branch will certainly dominate the discussion, so if you can, go & support the efforts to keep the library at its current site.  This afternoon the BPL Vice President of Government & Community Relations, Josh Nachowitz (previously at the city's Economic Development Corporation), was at Pacific, camera in hand.  Gathering evidence, it seems, of  the building's purported dire shape.

Yes, it has a few run-down spots, and I certainly have no architectural knowledge. but its condition looks far better than the BPL development folks would have us believe.  It also has something a brand new "state of the art" facility at another location may struggle to acquire, and that is spirit of place.  Its scale, its shape, its vantage-points.  The feeling that you're one of a succession of readers, over a century, sharing the same space.   That you're part of a long-standing democratic tradition: the free access to knowledge, for all citizens. I'm a little romantic, but I'd rather read in a library with a history than a glorified office space in a high-rise. 

I had a brief conversation with Mr. Nachowitz.  He was very civil, but kept to a familiar script in defense of the library's closure & relocation.  We clearly had different views about libraries.  I saw the children's room here as a snug & inviting retreat, but he saw it as prison-like.  I was saddened that these days revamped libraries had fewer books on the shelves.  He maintained that people didn't browse any more, and were more likely to use inter-library loans.  Libraries didn't need the kinds of individual collections they once had.  An economically useful argument perhaps, but hardly one designed to encourage breadth of reading.   How do you know what you might want to order if you haven't had exposure to a good selection of books in the first place?

I guess the real problem is the leadership, and in a better world, a large public library system would always be led by a qualified librarian.  Maybe a librarian who would protect it, not sell it off.  Maybe a librarian who could reach out & gain the support of a borough of readers to fight together for adequate funds from the city.  I think there are plenty of us who'd step up.

Does this really look so bad?

Monday, March 18, 2013


The space that housed Filfila (it closed last month) is now revealed as Fusion City. The guys at S&P were half right: yes, it will serve Chinese food, but Indian food is on the menu too. My favorite Chinese place is in Sunset Park where a dumpling/noodles meal for two can be had for six or seven dollars, so anything round here seems exorbitantly priced, but I'm always happy to get more Indian food nearby.

Going Down Nearby

At 359 7th Street, demo will begin soon. A new two-family will go up, possibly looking something like its future neighbor:

359 was sold as a teardown at $1,250,000, so if built for a quick resale you could imagine the new place being sold for well into the two to three million range. I've always had a soft spot for the old house. Something about those long, narrow, parlor floor windows, its attic under the eaves, and the peeling paint on the double front doors.    I used to imagine sitting on the stoop there, on a summer evening, in aimless, easy contentment.  The sun lit that red house right up at the end of the day. This would have been a fine place to live in, and all the better for its weathered ways. 

I grew up in an old house.  Its windows leaked in heavy rain,  and a bucket in the bedroom caught the drip, drip, drip, of water from the roof.  It was heated by coal fires, & in winter you jumped into bed clutching a hot water bottle.  There was no refrigerator; we kept our bottles of milk in a cool, dark cellar.  There was an orchard, a henhouse, a family of half-wild barn cats, and a wide front door with etched glass panes.  A local herd of cows often broke out of their field & came grazing on our garden flowers, much to my mother's consternation.  In front of the house was a wych elm tree (I always thought it was "witch elm"), a tree known for magical associations.  When I was six or so, my mother drew a portrait of me sitting underneath it, surrounded by woodland spirits.  I believed in toadstool circles, was nervous of something wicked that might just lurk at the bottom of the orchard, and wanted to leave home with the gypsies who arrived each summer.  It was a golden childhood.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Along Third

I ended up walking this way home from Flatbush, as fat wet snowflakes drifted down. Just by the old school building at State & Third (Brooklyn Boys Boarding School (1840), & a Civil War infirmary), a bunch of black balloons shot into the air.

At Pacific, The Brooklyn New York Times Printing Plant (1929): testament to an age when print mattered.  A place where passers by could look right in & see a newspaper take shape.

St. Marks Place. By now the snow just a whisper of flakes. The Yeya grocery's fading red/blue/yellows a part of the city's history as much as any grand structure.  On the window: Newports, Crazy Stallion Malt Liquor, Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus (what??) lemonade, Joltin' Joe (DiMaggio), morose emblem of Arizona Espresso.  I Heart Big Cans.. Meat Market up top. 

More newspaper relics at Third & Douglass. The former Daily News Brooklyn Garage (1919), with its New York's Picture Newspaper camera right in the center of things.

Up Douglass: Marble Tile, Terazzo & Granite Corps, with columns bearing the owner's initials:  C. A. - Carlo Amato.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

80s Ruby's

The Brooklyn Historical Society's Photo of the Week: Ruby's Bar, 1985, by Anders Goldfarb

"Coney Island’s many shades have been well-documented by a host of great photographers throughout its history. This comes from another great series by Anders Goldfarb, often seen bespectacled and bicycling throughout Williamsburg and Greenpoint with a 35mm SLR slung across his chest. He shoots film and film only. His prints are lovingly developed in bins of aromatic chemicals and have a hearty silvery sheen to them. Anders entire series of Coney Island photographs may be viewed on our image catalog where his grainy style aptly represents his subjects."

And here's another Goldfarb photograph of the bar, taken in 1984.  Photograph courtesy of Brooklyn Visual Heritage.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


There are now over 8,000 names on the Petition to save New York Libraries from Bloomberg Developer Destruction.  If you haven't already done so, sign it now.  To keep informed on the latest developments in the campaign to stop library destruction, Noticing New York & Citizens Defending Libraries will keep you abreast of things, and link to a perfect quote from Keith:

When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the Church, which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
Keith Richards
Check out part of a NYPL interview with Keith Richards from 2010.  At the beginning of the interview, he talks about the importance of the library.

"It was always like the center of things ... and so it should be."

Handball by the Shore

The sun and stars that float in the open air . . . . the appleshaped earth and we upon it . . . . surely the drift of them is something grand;
I do not know what it is except that it is grand, and that it is happiness ..
                                                                                                                             Whitman - Leaves of Grass (1855)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kings Highway Guys & Gals

Quite exciting to see some men!  They're a bit disconcerting though, especially the one with the chalky complexion & the casually knotted scarf.  Looks like he's stuck in a Marceau time-warp.  The guy on the left looks kinda sleazy, but the other three are clearly tortured souls.  

Monday, March 11, 2013


Krausz General Merchandise (Store For Sale) is right across from the Kings Highway Cinema, the last (gay) porn theater in Brooklyn.  Though shuttered, you can still see some sad-eyed mannequin heads, who have nothing else to do but gaze out at the shifty procession of gray-haired men slipping quietly through the cinema doors.  Shows are unmarked in the entranceway.  What incongruity in this last-of-the-species theater (the old Jewel Box) hanging on in such a devout & seemly Jewish enclave.
There are floral dusters hanging in Krausz's window too.  Connie, my next door neighbor, wore one always, but I guess they're strictly for the seventies and older set.   Housecoats & movie theater porn, the oddest of odd-couples.  Watch them as they slowly fade away.

The R Word

The rat epidemic has not hit home yet (we trust), but they seem to be on the march, having appeared in at least a couple of homes on the block, and engaging in brazen street partying.  We think that recent neighborhood construction may have drawn them out, and also wonder if our newish corner market, with its sidewalk food displays, is a ready source of snacks.  Sandy has also been blamed for flushing them into closer contact. I have to try & treat this with aplomb, but will seriously freak out if I find one in the house.
Oh & we have a raccoon hanging out next door.  I've seen plenty here over the years, but like the rats, their numbers are growing.  This one's a big guy, apparently.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Turning Season

Barely a breeze on the boardwalk, & time to bask in almost-spring rays.  Among silent rides, Cyclone cars thundered the tracks, in trial run.  People stopped to chat.

"I got to 63, and everything suddenly went to shit!"

"This man is from Krakow. The best kielbasa in all of Poland!"

"No no, let her pet the dog. She musn't grow up in fear. No, she's not a dancing dog now. She got too fat for that."

Everyone wanted to make music, and the music was just right.  A band of perma-tanned regulars, some in Occupy Coney Island shirts, played "Here Comes the Sun".  For a bearded guitarist - "You Can't Always Get What You Want".   A middle aged Russian & her leggy, adolescent son, walked arm-in-arm, his head on her shoulder, in sweet, unabashed intimacy.   They murmured softly in Russian, then broke into "God Bless America", stretching the final notes as far far out as they could go, then kissed each other on the cheek in celebration.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fins on Fourth (& Candy)

Taking another of those surreal walks along Fourth Avenue,  I spied something appealing.  Fins!

A 1962 Cadillac Sedan Deville. Let's give it a little color.

In the second picture, you can see a store sign over to the right.  Sam's Candy Land.   Late last month there were reports of an "artisanal candy shop" coming to 315 Fourth (3rd and 2nd), but this (non artisanal) one has been quietly open for a couple of months at the corner of 7th.  Candy Land carries a broad selection of old favorites (sours, gumballs, jelly fish, loose candies in jars, brittle, classic bars, novelties, etc.) & an assortment of more upscale chocolate.  For kids whose parents don't restrict them to vegan bon-bons, this could be heaven.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Goodbye Aves. I to J

Our last look at McDonald & Avenue I.  I could have shown you the party venue Kids N Action, but I'm still wincing from memories of a visit there maybe eighteen years or so back.  Something to do with complicated game tickets, crying children, & crowded birthday rooms.  And a ride home with a very bad driver.  Also, I felt a bit shifty taking pictures of kids going in & out of there, so I decided to give it a miss.  Instead, let's look across the street briefly, to the cheery maidens of the GSA King Tomato Farm, a vast wholesale/retail fruit & veg emporium, next to Banya Spa.

A little farther south on that side, a gloomier scene. I don't know what goes on in here, but it doesn't look good to me. Let's hop back over the avenue quickly.

I like the way the elevated tracks cast strips of diagonal light straight along a block, and a passing train plunges the storefronts briefly in & out of shade. The effect is beautiful.

At the south end of the block, actually at J, the Starlite Lounge. Nothing like the Starlight Lounge in Crown Heights, which closed, sadly, in 2011. This looks like more of a Timboos (also closed), and has something of a reputation as an old-time dive. Who could resist the faintly painted melody, slight, twinkling stars, and bubbles rising from the clinking glasses?

Back at the station, a hand-written direction points the way,

And it's onto the train.