Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bill Cunningham Remembered

I've been thinking about Bill Cunningham, who died last weekend.  Here's a post from 2011, which I wrote after seeing the documentary on him.  The original's here.

Get over to Film Forum for the documentary on street and society photographer Bill Cunningham.  I went to an afternoon showing, and the house was packed.  It's a beautiful tribute to Cunningham, set against the background of a declining garment industry and the eviction of tenants (including Cunningham) from the Carnegie Hall apartments.  In a fashion world not known for modesty, Cunningham comes across as genuinely unpretentious, consumed not by by a love of status or money, but by fashion itself.  Little is told of his personal life, and his reaction to the couple of candid questions posed towards the end of the film will make you squirm.  The film looks back to Cunningham's early career as a milliner, and to his 1980's work for Details magazine.  It covers a trip to a Paris fashion show (he calls Paris a mandatory twice a year re-education ) and his acceptance of the Legion D'honneur.  Much of the footage shows the then 80 year old on wheels, biking through heavy city traffic (scary stuff) in pursuit of street shots, or en route to the next charity dinner.  The film is very funny, especially when it demonstrates his kindly but sharp discrimination about who is or isn't wearing something of significance (watch out Catherine Deneuve!), shows his blithe disregard for space wasters like kitchens or bathrooms, and presents style mavericks like Iris Apfel, Patrick McDonald, and Shail Upadhya.  It's also extremely sad, as we see artists-in-residence like Cunningham, and the fabulous Editta Sherman, about to be displaced.  Late in the film there's a gorgeous clip from an Andy Warhol film, with a younger, full figured Sherman, dancing the Dying Swan en pointe, and it seems like an elegy for a vanished culture.

The film gave me a great post-screening buzz, and out on Sixth Avenue I found myself nervously elated, dartingly appraising the fashion sense of those I passed. Much of what I saw was pretty tame.  Coming home on the train, my carriage was half empty: a swath of vacant seats surrounded a small, elderly lady and her collection of garbage bags.  I sat a little closer than most, and noticed her bright fuschia skirt, zebra patterned blanket shawl, and the thin fuschia ribbons tied around her long, grey braids.  As the train lumbered along, she drew out a pair of pink gloves, and, shifting the bags slightly, revealed long white knee socks and bright pink slippers. She had far more style than anyone else in sight, and I wanted to take a photograph then and there, but I was too shy and it seemed intrusive.  Still, when she got off at Atlantic, so did I, and I took a quick shot from behind.  Here it is.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

La Boulangerie Lopez up for Sale?

There's a Business for Sale sign in the window at popular bakery/restaurant La Boulangerie Lopez. Apparently there was a change of hands in the works at Lopez in recent months, with a second generation taking the helm, but I don't know what's behind the sale.  Lopez has been in the Slope since 2005, first at Fifth and 8th, and at their current location for six years.  There are a number of vacancies along this stretch of Fifth, including the Roosters restaurant for sale just two doors down.

Worstward Ho?

Try Again, Fail Better 

A little Beckett overlooking the Expressway. How long has this been here, & does it still light up at night?

The foliage could do with a bit of a trim.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Mr Softee silences copycat jingle used by rival ice cream truck in Brooklyn Court (Daily News)

Scenes from 1970's Brooklyn - work by phototographer Peter Bellamy (PSWB Portraiture & Brownstoner)

Historic Brooklyn cemetery uses social media to promote gun control (Crain's)

Gowanus Canal Bridge Replacement On Hold Until After Cleanup. Officials Say (DNAinfo)

Sunset Park Residents Call De Blasio's $2.5 Billion Streetcar "An Insult To Our Intelligence" (Gothamist)

Protecting the Soul of Flushing, and Beyond (Tarry Hum, Gothamist)

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Man, or, Distracting Myself from Today's News

 It's too much to take in, and certainly impossible to write about. We'll turn to waste.

 A couple of months back I noticed the best possible name for a water main & sewer business.

I'm going for the Staple Singers here, but if you were so inclined you could opt for the Ramones, T. Rex, or even Cher!

And then there's this one.  I saw the truck as I was crossing Fourth & Pacific, and only got a picture as it sped into the distance.

Cesspool Man.  It doesn't have much of a groove to it.  He wouldn't get a song from Marc or Mavis, but he does make a pretty nice Broad Channel superhero.


 "One Call Pumps It All"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Meanwhile, at the Station

It's hard to tell what's going on at the Fourth & 9th subway station.  Repairs at the station have ground to a halt, with the southbound F platform partly boarded up, and the station retail spaces sitting vacant.  As I passed through the station yesterday, I asked a worker there about the situation.  I wasn't expecting much of a response but the guy was in a chatty mood, and answered my questions readily (much more helpful than this MTA correspondent of several years ago). He didn't see any likelihood of progress soon, and said the stores were in no way ready for prospective tenants. They were just shells, with none of the utilities set up yet.  As for the platform, he said there was no timeline that he knew of for completing the work, and claimed that there was fire damage behind the boarded-up section by the archway.  Perhaps this damage is connected to a fire at the station back in 2014?

This isn't an official progress report of course, but it doesn't sound too promising.  The worker I spoke to was an all-around nice guy - a pleasure to talk to.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Pearl

I was in the Financial District, and happened to pass along Pearl.  Resisting the diner is simply impossible, so I headed on in for a late lunch breakfast.  The middle-of-the-day crowd had thinned, and I snagged the front booth, right by the cashier's booth & offering views of both street & diners. The same old order: eggs-over-easy, hash & home fries, whole wheat toast & coffee. To hell with the diet - some things in life are way more important.  I order the eggs that way to celebrate again my first days in the city, and thirty years or more on I still savor the pleasure of saying those three words out loud.  Eggs. Over. Easy.  As good as ever.

There was no rush by now - a statuesque lady, dining alone, lingered long beyond the check's arrival. Other diners, meals over, dawdled & spun out their time at the cashier's station. The purple-lipped cashier was cute. After the her shift ended, the owner took her spot & talked at length about the nightmare of Sandy damage, and the practical pointlessness of insurance.  His words brought back memories. Quite by chance, I had eaten here the first day after the diner reopened, in February, 2013.

The Pearl Diner is one of those institutions that restores the anxious New Yorker's confidence in the city.  Everything's right again.  The seasoned staff, the looks of the place- the counter, the booths, the glorious vertical neon sign. The cramped comfort of a small space & the pleasing regularity of menu.  And the customers - a motley assembly of singles, couples, office workers.  Nobody glamorous or especially attractive, many middle-aged or elderly, some decidedly wilted by the summer heat, but everybody beautiful.   This is the company I'd keep.

Ask Me

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What's up at ...?

The tiny spot at 524A Fifth, last occupied by Accurate Photo, which moved down the avenue a year ago, finally has a new tenant.  So what's on the way?  Macarons, mayonnaise, a pourover coffee mecca?  No high-end thrills for this little space.  Another cell phone store is on the way.

Update, June 29:

And here's the name of the new business.

Make Music NY

Shelly Knight at Freddy's, on Fifth - 1:45 PM


Yes, I know, enough, enough of the ice cream sagas, but they're almost impossible to ignore.  Not a great spot for the cart under Eagle Provisions scaffolding, but Mister Softee had seized the regular corner.  The air was gritty, given the work going on, but the ices were still summer-sweet. 

Developer Plans to install tree-filled dumpsters in Gowanus parking spaces (Brooklyn Paper)
Effective flooding deterrent or PR bait from Alloy, a company that eyes Gowanus as the next DUMBO & sold a condo for $8.8M last year?

A century of fire hydrants cooling New York kids (Ephemeral New York)

Make Music New York - locations for today's outdoor music on Fifth Avenue.  Various locations, from Flatbush to 17th,11AM to 9PM

Sunset Park Community Discussion on the BQX Connector - tonight from 6 - 8 PM, Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Notre Dame Hall, 552 59th Street (Eventbrite)

Check out the Ska Girls & the Islington Twins! - lovely Janette Beckman photographs of 70's 80's musical subcultures (Guardian)

On the new 53rd Street library (NY Times):
"(There is a Building Blocks column to be written about secretive plutocrats buying investment aeries in the sky while public institutions are relegated to basements. Some other day.)"

Friday, June 17, 2016

Wild West

Mister Softee, Master Softee (RIP), M.ster Softi M.ster Soft.  The high-stakes, 
low-end world of ice cream continues to fascinate.  This truck, seen off Fifth, across from a more upscale frozen yogurt shop, seems to have no name at all, unless it's the rather wan Soft Ice Cream. Appears to be playing it safe.

In another street turf division, I noticed one of the Bright Lights hauling trucks roaring up the street last night - this one was Staten Island Carting. You can see an, er, promotional video (of sorts) here.

9th Street

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Fonts

Another little trip back in time on the avenue to the 1980's.  You can get completely sucked into this - here are just a few below 9th Street.  The bookends here are still around, but the others are long gone.

Rainbow (532)

Platt's (501)

Different (518)

Lady Fair (520)

Buster Brown (490)

Natural (472)

and one we still love.  Thirty years ago its font was a natural fit among its neighboring storefronts.

Garry (474)


Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Ah, the arcane world of ice cream.  The New York Times just ran a story about the midtown turf war between Mister Softee & New York Ice Cream.  I much preferred New York Ice Cream's original choice of business name before it was forced to change it - the cap-doffing Master Softee! - and find the new one depressingly mundane.  But there are other pretenders still plying their trade on city streets, playing the dangerous name game.  M.ster (Ice Cream) Softi has been around since at least 2011, when I spotted two Softee trucks trailing a Softi on Fifth. I noticed a M.ster ice cream truck doing the rounds today, and took a picture of it.  It looked much like one I'd photographed five years ago, except for a small but significant change. Now it was plain old M.ster (Ice Cream) Soft.

A final vowel can be much too much trouble to hang onto.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Unity Vigil at Grand Army Plaza tonight

On Tuesday, June 14th at 7:30PM in Grand Army Plaza, please join Public Advocate Tish James, U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Senator Kevin Parker, Assemblymember Walter Mosley, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Brooklyn Pride, Inc., Muslim Community Network, South Asian Fund for Education,scholarship &training - safest, South Asian American Voice, LGBT, Muslim, Hispanic, and anti-gun violence groups for a unity vigil to honor the lives lost in Orlando. (LAMBDA Independent Democrats of Brooklyn)

Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade draws thousands (Brooklyn Daily)

City plans to demolish landmarked Sunset Park Station House for new school? (Brooklyn Paper)

Detail on the police house at Fourth & 43rd  

Inside the underground economy propping up New York City's food carts (Crain's)

NYCHA Red Hook East Houses have thousands of apartments with lead paint — the most of any public housing project in the city (Daily News)

Fly West Young Hawk! - watch one of the new TSP hawks take flight! (Laura Goggin Photography)

In a Queens Park, Reclaiming an Urban Wetland - The once-polluted Alley Creek is slowly but surely making a comeback. (Curbed)  Another beautiful photo essay by Nathan Kensinger.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando & Brooklyn - Showing Local Help & Support

The Brooklyn Paper reports today on the tragic death of Bed-Stuy resident Enrique Rios, who was killed in the mass-shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub.  Rios' family are raising money to bring his body home from Florida, and to help pay for funeral expenses.  You can support the family's efforts here. The paper also announces that Slope bar Excelsior (563 Fifth) will be holding a candlelight vigil for Orlando victims tonight, at 8:00 pm.

The Brooklyn Community Pride Center, in Downtown Brooklyn, is offering support for those who need help in dealing with the Orlando tragedy .  More info & links here.

Owner Selling Vegas Auto Spa

Just over a year ago the carwasheros at Vegas Auto Spa (19th & Seventh) celebrated a huge victory after they won the right to unionize & were able to secure contracts that included pay raises, paid overtime and protections for immigrant workers.  The victory was won after a long, hard fight, which included workers picketing outside the car wash over the course of a brutally harsh winter. Vegas Auto Spa became the first unionized car wash in Brooklyn.

The car wash, along with the adjacent beer store is now being listed for sale for $499,999.

The entire Inventory, equipment, fixtures and furniture are included in the price totaling $435,000. 
Make your entire investment back in less than 2 years!!!
The owner Must sell, it is his loss at this price. 

Rally at Vegas Auto Spa
Support the Striking Workers at Vegas Auto Spa

Store for Rent Sign at Marleey's

Just three months after opening, Caribbean restaurant Marleey's, at Fifth & 22nd, appears to have closed its shutters for good.  Marleey's took a long time getting off the ground, and after it finally opened its doors it kept irregular hours.  Price point, a seeming demographic lack of interest in Caribbean food, and the sheer costs of running a restaurant in the city may have been contributing factors to its short run.  Nearby Caribbean restaurant Roosters also had a hard time filling seats & also closed recently.  I never got to Marleey's, but the food at Rooster's (and now closed Breadfruit Tree Cafe) was pretty good.  Pitching a restaurant concept in the city's a delicate business these days, & a huge financial gamble.  This end of Fifth's a far cry from the more expensive dining scene to the north, I'm happy to say, and we're still blessed with local, cheaper restaurants offering an abundance of good, fairly priced food.   Let's continue to support them in tough small business times.

Another Development Corner up for Grabs

Another development site on Fourth.  Corners are disappearing fast on the avenue, pushing new construction ever farther south.  737- 47 Fourth, on the north-east corner of 25th Street, is currently occupied by a drive-through Dunkin' Donuts, and the property is now on the market for $19,800,000.  Corcoran is handling the sale.

Currently NNN leased to Dunkin' Donuts and expiring shortly, the 150ft x 100ft parcel of land offers the development opportunity typically traded off-market. Neighboring tenants include Subway, MetroPCS and a Best Western Plus with this portion of 4th Avenue heavily trafficked by commuters between Park Slope and Sunset Park. 
This is a rare opportunity to acquire a prime development lot in Brooklyn. The property is less than one block from the R 25th Street subway station which is only four stops from the Atlantic Terminal/Barclays Center with access to the D,N,B,Q,2,3,4,5 Trains plus the LIRR, making the commute in and out of Manhattan only 23 minutes.

Shrinking Eagle

As work continues on the Eagle Provisions building, at Fifth & 18th, it's starting to lose its upper floors. Here's the rendering of the new expansion.

and here's the building yesterday, looking somewhat shorter than expected.  How low will it go before it's built up again?