Friday, April 26, 2013

Back in Service

Back on the platform after almost two years. Work on the station is ongoing, but it opened to the public today. While the bigwigs were making speeches inside, a small group of riders stood outside behind yellow tape. Excitement was mixed with exasperation. The entrance - with a curving metal deco look - pleased many, and one man said it used to be like an alleyway there before.  I thought privately that the new fa├žade looked way too shiny, and on the flimsy side.  Not, perhaps, designed to last.

There's no handicapped access to the station, as many had hoped. and several older onlookers grumbled about this. In fact, with new steps at the entrance (an anti-flooding measure?) it's actually harder for the disabled or elderly to navigate. Some had hoped for an elevator, others for a bathroom.  In general, there was a good deal of anti-Bloomberg sentiment.  An older woman, close by, said "Some people do nothing but complain," which made me wonder if I was one of those people.

After a while, Marty Markowitz emerged from within.  PR moment over, he had no Brooklyn-themed bons mots for the people, and strode quickly away with a sour expression.. When Joan Millman came out, a middle aged guy asked why the regular people were being kept waiting.  It was past opening time. He was not polite, and things were only running a few minutes behind schedule, and Millman got snappy.  The local pols. did not seem to be having a good day. Finally, the tape was removed, & despite our grievances, a thrill of excitement caught all of us.  We scurried in.

It's certainly a less desolate looking space inside.  This was a long-neglected subway stop, serving a largely lower-income rider demographic, but times have changed.  These days, the median household census income at this stop is just under $100,000, third highest of the Brooklyn F stations, after Seventh Avenue ($104,000) and York Street (a hefty $167,000, highest on the entire F line).   This part of Carroll & Gowanus has become decidedly more upscale.  Still, this station also serves a Red Hook Houses group of riders whose income has barely shifted, and these riders are the poorest served for public transportation in the borough.  After two years, the trek to a subway stop was shorter, and the place looked bright, and clean inside.  Up the first escalators, long-boarded windows showed new views, just a hint of the glories at the top. 


And the views are stunning. There was always the platform wonder, but now, at every level, you can look out at the landscape, at the multi-tiered array of house, canal, scrapyard, warehouse, highway, grain-terminal, bank building, postcard Manhattan in the distance.  It's such a hyper-detailed set of views there's too much to take in at once, and you want to see it again and again and again.  If ever I leave Brooklyn, this landscape, that I ride through almost every day, will be one of the things I miss the most.  Sometimes, though, it makes me wistful: industries faded or defunct,  once blue-collar districts ripe for those who can slap down all-cash multi-million payments on the table.  Gorgeous views of the unaffordable.  The new-look station gives us more views than ever, including more glimpses of the actual viaduct structure. While I was looking out, a man next to me said, "This'll bring in the tourists.  This place will be a destination."  The thought of a subway station as tourist mecca, (a mini High Line?) was a depressing one.  My spirits were dampened.

But I wasn't going to keep that thought in my mind today.  It was up to the top (still no escalator for the final leg, riders noted, with cynical chuckles).  I knew the platform views would be the same, but for two years, I'd been wondering if the boarded-up platform windows (seen gaping open when one bypassed through) would be opened up again for good.  They were, with just a grille for safety, and no glass to get in the way.  I got a little over-enthusiastic about those windows, and took too many pictures, and then I discovered that you can get in really close with a camera and bypass the barriers.  Both ways are good. 

Then I had enough of windows. On the Coney Island bound side, where it was quiet as it always is in the middle of the day, I had the front end of the platform to myself. I was the luckiest person in the city.  However New York might change, however the station might become a double-decker tour bus hotspot (absurd thought that it was), this patch of platform was all mine. It was a perfect spring day, no-one was in sight: nothing but sky, and landscape and tracks, with the F or the G train chugging through every few minutes. I was drunk on beauty.

Then I jumped on this F train, and took it one stop home.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

37th Ave & 80th Street

A rather glamorous sign.  I suppose it's the winning combination of Black Tie & French?  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Closures & Openings

Lost City reports on the closure of Adelman's, the famed deli of King's Highway.  Here's a photo from a visit I took last month, on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Also, some very good news - the planned reopening of Sunny's in June, and May fundraising (kicking off at the Bell House) to move things along (Gothamist):

"Restoring an historic bar is no easy task. Over the years, Sunny’s has done amazing things with little resources. We have been working relentlessly after the flood to piece things back together. There is new boiler, hot water-heater, new gas-line from the street, new electric service, new compressor, countless smaller repairs and incredible volunteer help. The Kick-starter campaign and other financial help paid for these expenses. We had no idea at the time of the scope of the work we are looking at now. We have the engineers' report to prove it. The work we need in the basement has already been surveyed and drawn. Our engineer is self-certifying to help speed up the process. As soon as we get the permit from the DOB, we'll start digging!"

To & From Work

Fifth & 9th, at the Deli & Smoke Shop: 6:40 a.m.

and at 4:40 p.m., business more open than ever

On Northern Boulevard

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

9th Street American Legion Link

"A Bensonhurst lounge, a Gowanus veterans’ hangout and a Borough Park karaoke joint topped the list of Brooklyn’s smoking speakeasies." (Daily News)

Pretzel Truck

Sunday evening, stuck in a jam at Queens Plaza, we spot a sight that lifts even the weariest of spirits.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The Dayspring Church ("full-gospel, multiracial, non-denominational, Holy Spirit filled") on Roosevelt Island was all locked up, but round the back I found a couple of felines enjoying the weather. The bigger one, with a black stripe running down his spine and tail, was a handsome toughie ( I wish he were mine) while the smaller guy looked a little less sturdy. But what about that food-filled shelter?

Grand stuff!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Goodbye Sun Bo Bo

A new sign, and new owners, at the old Sun Bo Bo, the Chinese restaurant I've weathered the last quarter century or more with here in the South Slope. There isn't much left from the strip I knew when I first moved onto my block. Goodbye Bo Bo, & hello the far less felicitous sounding Far East Restaurant, set to open in a couple of weeks. Hello too, to a new (rather standard) photo-style menu & a Coke machine. There are still a couple of old orange seats though, and I hope they stick around for old time's sake. As this is a no-frills re-fit, I'm guessing that the Bo Bo sign lingers under the vinyl too - a slightly cheering thought. I'll have to go back and check. The Far East guys were very welcoming when I dropped by. I wish them good luck.

Sun Bo Bo hung around this blog for nearly four years. Here are a couple of more recent posts.

On the Street

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Only Members Goal ...

This is a pretty low-grade photograph, but I had no intention of hanging outside the Only Members Goal Soccer Club with a camera for too long. I'm fond of the name of this Albanian establishment & am intrigued by whatever might go on behind the drapes.  31st St & 34th Avenue.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday's Rally

At the Citizens Defending Libraries rally outside the Pacific Branch on Saturday afternoon. A great turnout, with many local residents, passing along Fourth, horrified to hear of plans to sell the library, & keen to sign the petition to save it.  A young teen, thirteen or fourteen, listened to some of the public speakers, horrified.  "I can't believe it.  I've been coming here since I was a little kid."

Over in England, libraries are also under siege, perhaps nowhere more so than in Newcastle-on-Tyne (my home for a few years), where an incredible 10 out of 18 city libraries are set for closure.  You can read about the campaign against the Newcastle library closures here, and here's an extract from writer Lee Hall's open letter to the city council.  Closures.  Sale of premises.  Relocation with reduced services.  All these things, whether in New York City or the north-east of England, hurt the poorest citizens hardest of all:

       This notion that the library was central to our lives survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, Thatcher and any number of philistine administrations. If these closures go through on your watch I believe it will be a scar on your legacy you will regret for the rest of your political life. These are difficult times but they require much more canny solutions. Although removing the libraries will take away vital support for the poor and the elderly who use them as a daily resource (inevitably putting the strain on many of the council's other budgets) few people will actually die. But you will kill generation after generation of kids who, denied access to culture, science, business, technology or art, will not become the scientists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers or psychiatrists who will sustain the region, protect the vulnerable, kickstart the economy and provide a civilised environment for us all regardless of how economically underprivileged we are. You consign these individuals to a life of underachievement but you condemn the people of the City to decades of economic and cultural sclerosis which will be just as real and devastating.                                                

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lies & Cigars

I saw this a while ago, but didn't get around to taking a photograph, and only got back to Astoria this weekend.  The beautiful storefront sign at the Broadway station fell victim to Sandy, but at least the remaining section has been left up.  In a pleasant twist of fate, with the "school supp-" portion lost, the sign has gained an old-timey Runyonesque swagger.  You lose some, you win some.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


In Astoria, a sealed garbage incinerator, the use of which was outlawed twenty years ago:

Department of Environmental Protection
§3-01 Cessation of Operation and Removal and Sealing of Refuse Burning Equip- ment. (a) Prohibition. (1) Purusant to Local Law 39 of 1989, effective June 28, 1993, all owners of refuse burning equipment shall cease the operation of and remove and seal such refuse burning equipment. (2) Compliance with prohibition. All such owners shall comply with the prohibition set forth in subdivision (a)(1) by either removal of all auxiliary burners and sealing of all doors to refuse burning equipment, or by conversion of the charging chute for such refuse burning equipment to a refuse chute in accordance with all applicable Department of Buildings laws and rules. For the purposes of this paragraph "sealing" means the removal of incinerator grates and compliance with subdivision (e) of §24-01 of Chapter 24 of the Rules of Department of Buildings of the City of New York governing fireproofing.

I can catch a whiff of camphor balls just reading that notice.  Carpet sweepings.  Floor scrapings.  Oil soaked rags.  The very terms themselves residue from the life of mid-twentieth century apartment dwelling.  The humblest of scraps from a city's past.