Sunday, May 28, 2017

Old Cars in Brooklyn

An exhibition at the OS Cafe, on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, closes at the end of the month. The title of Christian Linsey's show is self-explanatory, but the series of photographs explores something more intangible - those hazy spots of time where past and present intersect. The small size and the faded gaudy colors of the pictures gives them a snapshot feel that fits the vintage of the cars themselves. Though the settings are contemporary, some of them show buildings that must have looked much the same when the cars were brand new.  Others show building sites and scaffolding more obviously modern.  Many of the pictures are taken locally - a special pleasure.  I'm hopelessly drawn to muscle cars and Cadillacs myself, and can hardly ever pass one without taking out my camera, so I found these little images compulsive.  This is a modest and affordable collection; you can easily afford to buy one of these pictures and carry it home in a pocket.  Find a simple spot for it - a shelf above your desk, a blank space in a hallway - and watch how often it'll catch your eye.  You'll be surprised.

The show closes on May 31st.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Be Moved by Love

I caught this a month after it first appeared, but it's destined to stick around.  With the community garden right on the corner, and the block's beautiful mixed stock of buildings, the U.Santini moving company art murals just add to 15th's good spirit.

"The company commissioned local artist Tara Dixon to create a piece of art to be painted on the gates of the business with the goal of inspiring the community and neighbors alike.  The mural on the gates will be colorful flowers in the spirit of Earth Day that local residents and those who want to participate can paint.  The main gate will have the message BE MOVED BY LOVE painted in gold to motivate all who view the artwork."

... "It is an honor to be a part of this project and I'm excited to work with the community, " said artist Tara Dixon.  "These murals will hopefully be a reminder of love, and how it is a vehicle for positive change.  As people walk by they can pick up a brush and add a bloom to the garden.  We protect what we love, and this can happen block by block.  I think this is a great message for Earth Day and every day."

U. Santini was established in 1930, by current owner Daniel Menchini's grandfather Peter.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mad Max on 9th Street

It was raining, and I only had my little camera.  You can't see the details here, but the cab's festooned with chains and skulls, and the metal work is crazy with detail. This is some fortress. I guess the guy who owns the rig this is used to the star treatment - at the lights on Third, he got a small crowd of admirers, and one photographer chased the lights along the avenue, trying to get a better shot.


Around Fulton, the streets are pock-marked by building sites.  I don't think I've come across a greater concentration of green plywood fencing - no mean achievement in today's NYC.  Whole stretches of storefronts are shuttered.  The group of frame buildings between Fulton and DeKalb won't be around much longer, and I figured I should stop by Mr Fulton and the giant toothbrush of Atlantic Dental before they turned to dust.

Stur-Dee, the health food store on Livingston, closed a year ago. The building's staying put, but like all the other smaller buildings here, it's hemmed in by new construction.  Sturd-Dee was founded in 1932 by "hardy little" Leo Kerpen.  In addition to his nearby processing plant, Austrian-born Kerpen ran a store and restaurant. In 1952 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described Kerpen's health business as the biggest in the country:

"Which proves we're not fooling folks about this health food.  Would we now have 15,000 accounts in Brooklyn alone?  Would I have 50 in help, need a whole four-story building ... ship products all over the world?"


A couple more views,

and a photograph from 2009 that shows the site of the Albee Square Mall, later replaced by City Point.  Look how prominent the Williamsburg Bank building still was, just a few years ago.

(Brooklyn Paper)

Miss Kitty, did you see it all coming?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


With both storefronts now empty, they've been re-positioned for 2017.  The rent is not exorbitant in today's market, and I hope someone can find this the place to build a small, honest business, but you have to wonder what's next.

Amazing opportunity for restaurateur, yoga/pilates studio, spa/tanning salon, dog boarding, party planning, recording studio, office space, and open to other suggestions .

Some address confusion here, but the buildings are unmistakable

I love this old block, with the buildings on the south side crammed right up next to the viaduct.  If you wanted to play the game of historical significance, I'd place it over any handsome brownstone row. Here, perched near canal and factory, is a block less vaunted for its architectural merit, less lauded for the lives and labors of its residents.  History here's a rougher, dirtier, less conformist creature, awarded less attention.  Some of the street's wooden frame houses have vanished over the decades, but there are still plenty of them left.  A couple of them hide under stucco or brick-face, and others are by now fragile with age and hard use. Several that remain are clearly mid-nineteenth-century, including yes, oh yes, that house of my dreams a few doors up from (the former) Henry's barber shop. Ninth is a busy, noisy corridor, all too prone to flooding, and maybe the noise and the water and its mixed-use status have kept it from changing, at least on the surface, as quickly as other nearby streets.  It doesn't announce itself yet.  I'm always waiting for the obvious tipping point - the house popped up and out and painted all in black and grays, the small insouciant bistro. They'll be here soon enough.

The block in 1973, with many more frame houses (and a couple of small apartment buildings) on the south side.  Screen shot from the movie Shamus.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Scenes from the Beach

The newly-renovated Childs Restaurant, now part of the Ford Amphitheater complex, is a grand confection - all fondant wedding curlicues. When I went by the building was closed for a private function.  Right next to it, by the VIP entrances, there's a Sandy tile memorial created in 2013 by local senior citizens and artist Jennifer Wade.  Here's everything to love about the Coney Island waterfront on bathroom 4" X 4"s.   The shades of sun-soaked summer days predominate; the blues and tans of ocean, sky and sand, are home to mermaids, seabirds, bathers and rides. It's bliss.

And then there's this one.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Unseasonably Warm

We're down to the beach early enough to catch a Ruby's table right before the regulars take up their stations.  This makes for beer on the early side, but the spot's worth it.  Then a walk along the boardwalk.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


And he's back ... Adam America is in talks to buy the Church of the Redeemer site at 24 Fourth Avenue. On the cards: mixed development set to include 72 condos.  Closer to home, Adam America has new buildings under construction at Fourth & 15th, and Fourth and 11th.  The A.A. sites at 15th & 11th have appeared on this blog quite a lot before - maybe we'll throw in a few links down the line.
(The Real Deal)

Updates on the Weir greenhouse construction, including a brand new copper dome (Brooklyn Eagle)

CityView: As They Rally Around Rezonings, Planners Often ‘Plansplain’ (City Limits)
... the “Friends of the BQX”—a developer-led lobbying group pushing the city to build a streetcar along a route that maps closely with their real estate holdings—held a walking tour called “Connecting Brooklyn and Queens.” This event was part of the Municipal Arts Society’s annual “Jane’s Walk,” a series of walking tours held around the world in honor of Jane Jacobs. In response, groups like UPROSE, Queens Is Not For Sale and the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project protested the event, calling it “Robert Moses’ walk.” In this case, the plansplainers lost—the protests garnered far more attention than the project, and the walk turned into a depressed “happy hour” instead.

Hear the Voices of Brooklyn’s Diverse Past Through a New Digitization Project
The Brooklyn Historical Society’s oral historian discusses the museum’s new online platform for audio. (Hyperallergic)

Neighborhood Slice looks at Sunset Park

Protest & Politics - This project, Protest & Politics, will be the world’s first map of the sounds of protest, demonstration and politics – with artists recomposing and reimagining these recordings to reflect their own experiences and lives.
We need your help to make it happen: do you have a field recording of a protest, demonstration or any kind of political activity somewhere in the world?
Send it to us and be part of a global collaborative project to record and celebrate how the sounds of protest and politics can unite us all, and will not be silenced.  (Cities and Memory)

MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal
Reporter Leslie Albrecht's last story for DNAinfo  - a fine piece of journalism.  Thanks, Leslie, for your great local coverage.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

American Gods

Well yes, this is the third bus in a row.  I do have a bit of an obsession with them, especially the ones like this, resting on quiet avenues. How potent their giant ads become in this off-kilter setting - sending some dark, subverted message to the passerby.  The territory isn't safe at all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Kite Flyer in the Meadow, 1975  © Larry Racioppo

The Other Side of the Park - Larry Racioppo's photographs & memories of Prospect Park (Brooklynology)

On Staten Island, community activists push for a High Line-style park - the latest Camera Obscura photo-essay by Nathan Kensinger
Community members argue that the abandoned North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railway is rife for a reinvention  (Curbed New York)

Brooklynites want to fix the Gowanus Expressway - by burying it (Crain's)

Red Hook Food Trucks See Sales Dive as Contaminated Ballfields Stay Closed (DNAinfo)

Crowdfunding to save the Mermaid Parade (DNAinfo)

Hare Krishna Lunch: Govinda is Feeding the Soul of Brooklyn | BK Stories  (BRICTV)

"Neo-liberal politics at street level"?  Against Little Free Libraries (CityLab)

Tuesday, May 16: Todd Webb's New YorkA panel of authors and curators examines the world of street photography in the 1940s and 50s -- and Webb’s legacy within it. Presented in conjunction with A City Seen: Todd Webb's Post War New York, 1945-1960 (Museum of the City of New York)

The latest update on the Tompkins Square Park hawks - look out for that severed head!  (Laura Goggin Photography)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


If it's deserted, which it usually is, the dog gets to hop on a bench here and eat a biscuit.  Sometimes a couple of kids are playing ball, or a couple of people are sitting around eating lunch.  There's an occasional small child.  The playground's getting a $2.5 M renovation soon.  This seems like an awful lot of money, but I have no idea how much playgrounds cost.  I'd resurface the courts, put in a sprinkler and some climbing equipment, & let the kids go at it.

I like it here. The next-door sanitation garage is something of a draw, along with all the businesses nearby - the tile and marble cutters, the ironworks, the pen factory, the auto shops, that bedding warehouse that's a hit with African shoppers, where groups of elegant women pore over sheet sets and sometimes you'll find a group of men at prayer on the sidewalk.  I like the ladies of a certain age hanging out at Nelson's Hawg House - tough but friendly cookies all made up in black.  I like the parking lots at Lowe's and Pathmark (RIP), where the canal's all your own.  I like Big J  Liquors, where the price is nice. Viaduct and expressway views, a couple of tucked away houses that I covet out of all proportion.  It's all a nice quick hop down from home.  With a good old low level landscape (remember when it used to be that way farther east?), the skies are top notch, especially early in the morning or at day's end.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fifth & 9th

This was a bit of a shocker.  At first I thought the store might be done for, but happily, it's still open. The sign was a recent victim of strong winds.

Here's the store a couple of years ago,

and here it is in 2011, with that good-looking canvas awning.

It's really got a pared-down facade now. I'll miss the Musical Instruments & Stereo Components, the Sheet Music, and the ghostly 8 Track Cassettes.  Will they stage a comeback?  The store's still hanging on, regardless. It's been on Fifth since 1965, and right here at 9th - a good spot - since 1971. It almost lost its lease in 2009, and for the last several years has been surviving on a month-to-month basis.  A shaky situation, but this place has grit.