Saturday, April 29, 2017


In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away, 
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
                                                                             Stevie Smith

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Song of Myself

"Welcome to Whitman, Alabama

This is an experiment in using documentary and poetry to reveal the threads that tie us together - as people, as states, and as a nation.

For two years, filmmaker Jennifer Crandall has crisscrossed this deep Southern state, inviting people to look into a camera and share a part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More of Same on Fourth: SWO and corner sale

There's an SWO posted at 581 Fourth, the vast construction site at Fourth & Prospect Avenues.  The date is a little unclear, either the 21st or 24th April, and strangely, there's no record of the SWO on the DOB website.  It could be related to complaints of excavation undermining an adjacent building.  The site was flipped by the Rabsky Group to the Daten Group in 2015, and plans switched from rental to condo units.  No inclusionary housing here.

At the northern end of the Fourth Avenue block, at 561, a corner building and adjacent property on 16th - a pretty looking carriage house - are listed for sale for $4,600,000 with "lots of opportunity for additional development."  The storefronts at 561 and 563 have been shuttered for several years.

On Second

Unless Frederic Wiseman is working down here (a glorious but unlikely prospect), the title of this project does not inspire enthusiasm.

Monday, April 24, 2017



I very much enjoy talking to Ronald, who has a regular spot panhandling near the Bagel Hole.  He's both arch and gloomy - a kind of citified, discriminating Eeyore..  At Easter he upped his normal casual game and stepped out in a really sharp suit and tie, and a lady ran across the street to greet him: "Ronald! Is that really you?  You look amazing!"  We're all for the mix-and-match of bargain buys and used clothes paired with something fancy.  We talk dresses (though neither of us wears them as far as I know) and the rakish angle of hats.  I've promised to buy him a London t-shirt when I visit this summer, and though he hardly needs the size he wants it extra large.  He makes me laugh about as much as anyone I come across on Seventh, which is not generally known for drollery and sartorial taste.  He's a charmer.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Think for Yourself

“If you go to some Manhattan schools or places where the families have a higher income, you don’t see the recruiters there,” said Ebony Thurman, 18, who was once approached by recruiters at the Atlantic Avenue subway station. “But if you’re in Brooklyn or in lower income neighborhoods, that’s where you really find them trying to recruit people."  (NY Times) 

There's been a Groundswell mural up at Third and 23rd since 2008.  It was painted by a group of young women who wanted to draw attention to military recruitment practices in lower income neighborhoods.  As with other murals painted through the Groundswell Community Mural Project, it promotes collaborative youth empowerment, and highlights an issue pertinent to under-served communities. And it involved research. For this project, this meant talking with female veterans about their service, and researching the laws surrounding recruiters' access to high schools, high school students & their families. The women also studied the use of military propaganda.

According to the NY Times story, the mural was designed with its location in mind.  The top portion, visible to expressway traffic, offers a broader, more immediate impact, while the street-level portion is more detailed.

The Times article generated a lively, mixed response from readers, and Amy (Amy Sananman, the then Groundswell director?) stressed that the project was designed to encourage informed decision making,

The Groundswell murals are a familiar presence in the neighborhood.  Nearby sites include Sixth and 18th (at PS 295), 25th and Fourth (at the C-Town supermarket), and Fourth and 38th (at PS 24),

Saturday, April 22, 2017



Yesterday was as traffic clogged a day in the city as I can remember.  If you're stuck in the middle of it all, with little hope of moving, the only silver lining (such as it is) is being able to roll down the windows and take in the elevated views of the familiar.  Had I noticed the Bell Fire Extinguishers Saved by the Bell slogan before?  I don't think so.

Friday, April 21, 2017


I was down on Third around five or so & after a gray sort of day the sun was beautiful.  A couple of guys were sitting on milk crates outside the live market.  They were eating oranges. A woman was walking a Highland Terrier, and a man passing by was asking her advice on dog toys.  A truck held up at a light was blasting Albert King nice and loud. After the truck took off Born under a Bad Sign stuck around or a few blocks more.  An older man was sluicing down a sidewalk

I came up from Third Avenue to Fourth, just as a bunch of schoolgirls was leaving Al Noor. There was a woman leaving the building too.  She was carrying a tote bag on which was written NO PHOTOGRAPHS PLEASE.  I wondered if this was a slogan or an actual request.  I guessed it was the latter, and that sounded awful.

On a 20th Street lamppost, there was a weather-beaten sign for a movie shoot.  It was an indie film. The title seemed a little grandiose.

Up to Fifth and home.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wear it Well


20th Street between Fourth and Fifth is really getting hammered by new development.  There are three construction sites on the north side of the block, and with 228 and 230 set for demolition, it looks like there'll be a fourth soon. In 1880 the block was mostly empty lots, with only a cluster of wooden buildings at the top of the block, and two more houses farther down (one wooden, one brick). 228 and 230 were there, along with a row of wooden houses on the other side.  228 & 230 got stucco jobs that make it hard to make out what was underneath, but across the block, you still get a jolt of time travel.  Typically-sized at the time of their construction, this little group of frame buildings seems only to get smaller as the bigger buildings rise around it.  Houses like these wear their age modestly, but they wear it well; they've toughed it through a century and a half, and need no period recreation to show off their looks.  The beauty's in the living.




The most recent mural coming in at Fourth & 32nd,

and a nearby face or two

Monday, April 17, 2017


A Few Good Names

Still fixtures on Astoria Boulevard, some businesses that, either in name, or looks, or both, are working an earlier commercial appeal.

The City Sliquors, and the Spin City laundromat, are still banking on a 90's era corny charm, though maybe they're not quite as good as Hanna and her Sisters Nails, on (still Astoria) Broadway.  Other old favorites on the stretch between 21st and 31st include the best looking realtors' office in the city.

I'll take this over the any of the softly whispering Hearths and Collectives and Compasses. And even Zealestate.  Millionaire is kidding no-one here. Let's spell it out - it's all in the money isn't it? Though in fact it looks like something of a budget operation, which makes its name even better. Whenever I walk by, I'm always glad that all of the letters, and the little yellow house and the old Astoria phone exchange are still intact.

I'm not too sure about that sign in the upper window though.

Farther along, there's a block where the signs get manic - a riot of stop signs, foreclosures and bugs. The size of the bedbug and the cockroach will get you feeling queasy, and if you're like me (be glad you're not), the Pest Control/Beyond Pest Control dichotomy will play in a loop inside your head far longer than is good for your health.

In quite another stretch of Astoria Boulevard, some charismatic signs from a while back.  They were taken in - what? - 2014.  It only seems a minute ago.   Are any of them still there?  I hardly have the heart to check.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bridges not Walls: New Studio Space at Fifth & 21st

I was wondering what was happening to the empty store after the Z & T deli closed recently. Today I found out, from a notice in the window, and the news is good.

La Bodega Studios offers affordable studio space to artists, as well as a storefront gallery, community classes, and various artistic events. Centrally located between Sunset Park and Park Slope, La Bodega seeks to build bridges (not walls!) and we hope it will bring people together in our Brooklyn community and beyond. 

You can check out owner & head artist Miguel Ayuso's website here:

Miguel Ayuso is a Brooklyn based graphic artist and illustrator originally from Oaxaca, Mexico. His art takes many forms and has appeared in the Mexican Museum of Design in Mexico City, The Institute of European Design in Barcelona and The Brooklyn Children’s Museum in NY. At the foundation of his process is an incessant desire to play, re-invent and create whimsical imagery. When he’s not designing, he’s out riding his bike, playing with his two kids or finding another colorful poncho to add to his growing collection. 

If you've been to nearby Baba's deli, you'll see a mural of Ayuso's in the back yard.  La Bodega Studios will be participating in the South Slope Open Studios (April 29, 30) & its grand opening will follow on Cinco de Mayo.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Keeping Cool

At twenty degrees hotter than normal for April 11th, I sat outside at Canal & Division.  The traffic of the sidewalk was (maybe) half Chinese, and half twenty-something hipster-riche. The warm weather brought out bleached-blonde waifs in sheer white lace, and dozens of tattooed arms and legs pale in the '17 sun.  In the little park triangle, a shouting match was going on between a bunch of skateboarders and a couple of park-sitters, pissed at the invasion of their space.  You couldn't really blame the sitters; the skateboarders had placed a bench for stunt performing right in the middle of the park.  One of the sitters, a bare-chested white guy who was drunk or high or something got to his feet and paced around the triangle screaming, and a woman in his company called the cops.  No-one was really handling things well and the noise brought a crowd of onlookers. But the bench got moved, the bare-chested guy sat down again and the skateboarders drifted away. By the time the cops arrived all was quiet again.  All throughout this mini-drama the elderly man next to me, a picture of refinement, played on.

For Two

Second Avenue

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Stella looking out from her window spot at Court Jewelry.  You couldn't find a silkier-coated sweetheart of a dog, though she doesn't take her duties lightly.  Behind the counter, checking out the customers entering the store, or through the curtain and into the window, watching the street with a keen eye, she's on top of things. We took some jewelry in for repairs yesterday, & were happy to meet with her approval.  We knew this was our kind of a store.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Evening sky on Third Avenue, Thursday

Spring bird migration in the East Village (Laura Goggin Photography)

Meet The Bird Man Of Prospect Park (Village Voice)

Frederick Wiseman: The Filmmaker Who Shows Us Ourselves (NY Times)

Chicken Delicious: A Piano Man of Many Faces, and Some Stranger Stories (NY Times)

Celebrate 150 Years of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with 19th-Century Stereograms (Hyperallergic)

Chelsea Hotel History: View exhibition of Stanley Bard's art collection at Chelsea gallery before mid-May auction (Artnet)

Hunting for treasure at low tide: London's Thames mudlarkers  (BBC)

The grammar vigilante of Bristol (BBC)
For years, it has been rumoured that somebody has been going out late at night, correcting bad punctuation on Bristol shop fronts.
The self-proclaimed "grammar vigilante" goes out undercover in the dead of night correcting street signs and shop fronts where the apostrophes are in the wrong place.

Today, all day, The Billie Holiday Birthday Broadcast on WKCR 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Adoration of the Magi

I'm a big fan of seasonal scenes & decorations that remain in place year-round.  Finding
one, two, (almost three) cats taking part in an April Nativity tableau vivant was a special delight

Van Brunt Street