Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Frankel's - on Sunset Park's Third Avenue since 1890 -  is packing up and moving to New Jersey (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

Before work clothes, Frankel's specialized in western wear. Cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Marty would put horse manure in the dressing rooms to give the place that country aroma. Before that it was Timberland boots and "ethnic clothes," snakeskin pants and Italian knit sweaters, bandannas in gang colors. He shows a photo of customers Method Man and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan. Before that, going back to when Frankel's began, they outfitted the seamen coming in off the big ships at port. But they sold more than just clothing...

My Fares - The people Joseph Rodriguez saw through the windshield (New York Magazine)

(Park Slope-based) Joseph Rodriguez drove a cab from 1977 to 1985, and in the last two of those years, he was studying to be a photographer. He lost his first set of gear in a classic ’70s New York stabbing and mugging, but with a new camera, he documented what he saw on the job.

Agnès Varda’s Ecological Conscience (The Paris Review)

Varda enlarges the concept of the glâneur to include people like the artist Louis Pons, whose work is assembled from trash, from forgotten things, from pens, empty spools, wires, cans, cages, bits of boats, cars, musical instruments: “He composes,” Varda says, “with chance.” Or to Bodan Litnianski, the Ukrainian retired brickmason-turned-artist who built his house (which he calls “Le palais idéal”) from scraps he found in dumps—dolls, many dolls, and toy trucks and trains and hoses and baskets and plastic fronds—effectively brickmasoned into place. “C’est solide, eh.” Litnianski died in 2005, but there’s a corresponding figure in Faces Places who made me sit up in recognition.

H Is for Hawk:  A New Chapter premieres nationwide Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 8 p.m. (Nature, Channel 13)

After the unexpected death of her photojournalist father, Helen Macdonald overcame her grief by training an adult goshawk, one of nature’s most notoriously wild and free-spirited birds of prey. As she explains in the film, “I ran towards things of death and difficulty:  spooky, pale-eyed feathered ghosts that lived and killed in woodland thickets. I ran towards goshawks.” She had trained birds before, but never this raptor which she named Mabel. Macdonald found healing in that cathartic experience which became the basis for her 2014 international best-selling memoir H Is for Hawk.

Now, 10 years after she trained Mabel (who died of untreatable infection just before the author finished writing her book), Macdonald is ready to take on the challenge again ...

Love Tokens from the Thames (Spitalfields Life)

The magical potential of throwing a coin into the water has been recognised by different cultures in different times with all kinds of meanings. Yet since we can never ask those who threw these tokens why they did it, we can only surmise that engraving your beloved’s name upon a coin and throwing it into the water was a gesture to attract good fortune. It was a wish.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween, 1974 - 78: The Photographs of Larry Racioppo

(With Halloween almost upon us, let's return to a post from last October, which takes its own trip back to the trick-or-treat kids of 1970's Park Slope and South Brooklyn.  Simply beautiful to look at these photographs again.)

A couple of days ago, on a whim, I typed "Halloween" into the search box of the New York Public Library Digital Collections online website. The first few images that appeared were holiday postcards from the early 1900's.  One of them showed a pursed-lipped pumpkin that bore a troubling resemblance to Donald Trump.  Apart from this one, they were charming enough, but as I scrolled down, the search results transitioned to a set of black and white photographs that jumped right off the screen.   Kids from a bygone decade, in Halloween costumes, posed against a background of frame and brick buildings.  How they caught my eye - these devils, these superheroes, brides and ghosts, their futures undetermined - facing the camera with all the sudden sense of power a costume brings, and sometimes (surprisingly) revealed without their masks in all the tenderness of childhood. The pictures summoned up the pure magic of Halloween, when, for one day & night at least, you could step out of your day-to-day life and reveal your deeper, darker, bolder self. That brief time when the world shifted balance. The pictures were almost entirely adult-free, giving the suggestion of greater liberty for a kid on the streets of the city back then & they invested these miniature angels & demons with tremendous dignity, gravity & sweetness.  They also felt like the work of someone who understood children, could talk to them, and take them seriously.  I couldn't stop looking at the pictures, and the more I looked, the more the low-scale landscape looked familiar.  I supposed it could be one of a number of neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Queens, but yes, it really was close to home - South Brooklyn in the teens and twenties blocks.  By the expressway on Sixth, looking up 19th from Sixth to Seventh, snippets of schools & spires, doorways & chain-linking fencing, flashes of a past that was still recognizable today.

The photographs were taken by acclaimed photographer Larry Racioppo, between the years of 1974 and 1978.  The kids in the pictures would be in their forties and fifties today.  Racioppo, son of a longshoreman, grew up in the area, and one of the buildings he lived in, at Sixth and 17th, was torn down to make way for the Prospect Expressway.  His parents later moved to Sunset Park, but the hub of his Italian-American family life remained nearby, on 18th Street, and he has stayed closed to his old neighborhood.  After a spell in California in the late 60's, Racioppo returned to live in Park Slope, and with no formal training, decided to become a photographer.  He supported himself by various means, as a cab driver, bartender, & construction worker.  He also worked under the auspices of CETA, a federal jobs program, which was created in the 70's as an heir to the WPA program. Some of the 70's Halloween photographs were taken during his time with CETA. Eventually Racioppo found work with the City, as a photographer for the Department of Housing Preservation & Development, which offered him the opportunity to further develop his art while earning an income, and to travel all over the city with his camera.  Today he lives in Rockaway.


Racioppo's work has captured many aspects of city life, including the myriad faces of religious observance, the vernacular of street basketball, the grandeur of abandoned movie theaters, and the rituals of the Williamsburg Giglio.  His photographs are in the collections of many institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, El Museo Del Barrio, The New York Historical Society & the Schomberg Center. Multiple honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, & awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Racioppo continues to be fascinated by Halloween, and is always out with his camera on October 31st.  The 70's Halloween pictures appeared in an eponymous book, published by Scribner in 1980, and The Word on the Street: The Photographs of Larry Racioppo, was published by the Museum of Biblical Art in 2007.  His work is currently on view in the exhibition Five Cents to Dreamland: A Trip to Coney Island, at The New York Transit Museum, & will appear next week in a group show, Sanctuary, at the Tabla Rasa gallery in Sunset Park.

To Halloween again. To the plump-cheeked cowboy pointing a pistol at the camera. To the slender girl in a anti-hero Chapulin Colorado t-shirt & a fragile-looking pair of tin foil wings.  To the three boys with tears painted on their cheeks, one quite formally dressed in a broad collared shirt & jacket, the second with a head-turned hint of a sneer, and the third strumming a tiny toy guitar. To Bambi, the Bionic Woman, & Cinderella, masks on & off.  To the Rubber Devil, whose mask seems as much a part of the animal world painted on the wall behind him as of a block in Brooklyn. To the Bride of Frankenstein, who looks far too beatific for any remotely horrific deeds . To the ghost, in street clothes except for a veil of what looks like net curtain scooped up and fastened under his chin. To the kid in the black mask, hands on hips & exploring machismo, & to the shaving cream fighters, in no need of costumes to assert their presence.  To little, beaming  Lucy and her larger, scowling companions, who look as severe & repressive as Sendak's elderly aunts or grandmothers.  To Doctor Zaius, revealed as a bit of a wise guy, & to Superman, half-smiling, with his plastic cape rising in the breeze, which seems to arrive right on cue.  To short figures with large, masked heads, that look like creatures out of latter-day Grimms.  To inexpensive costumes & home made touches, as powerfully affecting as anything fancy.  To dressing up, hitting the streets, and being your heart's desire.

Many thanks to Larry, for giving me permission to include his photographs here, and for taking the time to talk.  For more information on his work, read here.

All photographs © Larry Racioppo

From November 2nd, 2017, Larry's work will be featured in the City Reliquary's exhibition NYC Trash! Past, Present & Future.  More on the show shortly.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

On the Move

The full-size skeleton is de rigueur this fall.  I've never seen so many. Skeletons on stoops, skeletons on skateboards, biker skeletons in chains and leathers astride motorbikes. A kid skeleton in a bicycle seat, a dog skeleton tethered to a lamppost.  It's like a cemetery's worth arose from their Green-Wood graves and set off to lark about in local streets.

The Dawn of Greenwood?

A side view here, taken from 21st Street

The condo development at Sixth and 21st now has sales listings online.  Hello to The Stanton!

Ideally situated just south of Park Slope, Stanton on Sixth symbolizes the dawn of Greenwood, Brooklyn's next most desirable residential destination. Greenwood is Brooklyns best-kept secret, and Stanton on Sixth is located just on the edge of Park Slope and primed to become an extension of Brooklyns most desirable neighborhood. 
As one of the first luxury residential collections to be developed in the area, Stanton on Sixth is a unique opportunity for the perceptive few. residence at Stanton on Sixth is luxury as it is meant to be gorgeous, lavish, light-filled and pristine... 

StreetEasy listings range from $690,000 to $1,540,000.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Staple

Lunch in Squires diner, in Lower Manhattan's Southbridge Tower housing complex, is an altogether happy experience.  Squires hasn't got what you'd call period charm in way of looks, but the customers are old New York in spades. Old literally too. Here in a booth, working on my toasted bagel and my bowl of minestrone, I'm young again!  Longtime retirees predominate, though there's a fair sprinkling of middle-aged-and-under types too. The service is brisk and friendly, and something about the place gives you a sense of utter relaxation. Here you can exhale, melt right into the vinyl. Here's the city we thought we'd gone and lost.

I guess you wouldn't call Southbridge pretty, but I like its boxy construction and succession of courtyards.  Architecturally, it reminds me of British public buildings of the period, so maybe that's why I find it so appealing.  With a diner and a supermarket right on site, I could get old here too.  But Mitchell-Lama Southbridge Towers went market-rate three years ago; now a three-bedroom will cost you close to two million. Today's middle-class must look farther afield.  Squires is worth a trip though. A solid choice in a sold-out city.

That swing set playgroundette looks like the same vintage as the buildings.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fifth & 10th

Let there be ever more gyms & fitness studios? A new gym will have its Grand Opening on November 4th. This one, Beast Fitness Evolved, is aiming for a cooler vibe than the area norm.

Park Slope Patch got the details back in May:

A new gym coming to Fifth Avenue in Park Slope will offer high-intensity classes set to DJ music and surrounded by works from local artists...
... "We're really harping on the Brooklyn aspect," said (owner Nik) Barricelli, who was born in Park Slope. "We're going to have a lot of pop culture icons born and raised in Brooklyn on the walls. A lot of local artists. I want to use local DJs as well. We want to keep it very Brooklyn."

The Beast website describes the the gym as Brooklyn's "first home-grown boutique fitness center in the heart of Park Slope," "sewn into the fabric" of the community.  There's a clothing & accessories online store, and a promo video, some of which is shot in the Slope, around GAP and the Fourth subway station. No membership prices listed on the site as yet - you'll have to "join the pack."

Round Third

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What I Didn't Photograph

A girl of seven or eight, in a froth of white net and organza, veil swept back, stands at the door of the wooden apartment house. Top of the stoop, she's as solemn and nervous as any bride, and her mother, waiting below on the sidewalk, keeps glancing up the street.  Finally the van pulls up, all ribbons and balloons, and flowers. The girl looks over to where we're watching, breaks into a grin, rewards us with a big, bold, bouncy wave. And off she goes.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fifth & 9th

Neergaard's Noel Suarez was all dressed up and ready for some Halloween frights outside the pharmacy on Friday.  His seasonal displays bring adults & kids alike up to the windows, noses pressed to glass.  The epic scenes are bliss. Halloween is Neergaard window prime time.  In this pic., though, Noel is in front of the regular pharmacy supplies; the scary stuff is one window over.  We'll get back there on the 31st.
Neergaard's has been in business on Fifth since 1901.
A couple of years ago James Bruffee filmed a tribute to Suarez.

Behind the Glass from JamesBruffee on Vimeo.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Do it Right with Union Labor


The Rainbow budget clothing store at Fifth & 14th is up for lease. The New York chain was founded in the 1930's, and later went national.  There are around sixty Rainbow stores in the city today. This part of Fifth, like Fifth in Sunset Park today, had plenty of discount chain stores in the 80's and 90's, along with the smaller family mom and pops.  Most of these chains were local to the New York area. Today the chains along here are mostly national banks and gyms.  Close to Rainbow, Mandee, Fabco, and Petland Discount, all chains with New York origins, are still around.  The co-founder of Mandees, Bernard Mandelbaum, grew up in Park Slope, where his mother ran a candy store. 

Shopping patterns, and economic demographics have shifted considerably round here in the last couple of decades. The ad for the Rainbow space describes the location as a "well-established growing shopping district." For more on the chain, including some early 1940s pics. of a Rainbow store, read here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Nov. 12: Opening Reception for NYC Trash! Past, Present, & Future (City Reliquary)
The exhibition includes the work of:
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, whose projects Touch Sanitation Performance, The Social Mirror, and Landing highlight overlooked social aspects of trash disposal
Larry Racioppo, NYC 2016 Best Unknown Photographer, whose work focuses on the urban landscape
Hack:Trash:NYC, aims for zero waste sent to NYC landfills by 2030. Their 2017 hackathon invites creative solutions to waste management.
Industrial/Organic, dedicated to converting organic food waste to high-value resources
Lower East Side Ecology Center, a nonprofit that collects electronic waste and separates it for reuse and recycling
Materials for the Arts, a nonprofit that collects and distributes art supplies and materials to nonprofit organizations with arts programming and public schools
RISE Products, a tech company that turns spent grains from breweries into flour

“A gift and a strong social conscience”: Ella Murtha on her mother’s astoundingly truthful photography
Truthful, emotive and highly personal, the work of photographer Tish Murtha captured the social landscape of 1980s northern England with astounding honesty. (It's Nice That)

A Life of Service Ends in Puerto Rico, but Lives On in the Bronx (NY Times)
“Some good has to come of this,” Mr. Conzo said. “She died on the island she loved so much. The island that she fought for, along with her community in the Bronx. She gave her life for her community.” (NY Times)

‘A Soulless Coward’: Coach Gregg Popovich Responds to Trump (The Nation)
“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.

Me, Too: Assault and Battery, Attempted Rape (Susan Strasser)
Supposedly this scenario — Little Red overtaken in the forest by the big bad wolf/man — is every woman’s nightmare. It had never been mine. If I thought about it at all, I thought I was formidable in my walk, my carriage, my body language; while men might harass me or expose themselves (and strangers did both, on my solo rambles), I never really feared that one would try to rape me. In my first four decades, none did. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Donations Still Welcomed at Danny's Rim & Tire Shop

I went down to drop off some donations at Danny's Rim & Tire Shop.  Here are some new notices, with info about what you can drop off.  You can also ask for addresses in Puerto Rico to which you can mail packages yourself.  You should be able to drop off supplies for the next couple of weeks.  The number to call if you have questions: 718 965 4831. Danny's is at 482 Fourth Avenue, between 11th & 12th.


An analyst would have a field-day with my trash obsession.

Before I was born my father had a run-in with the dustmen, whose cart smashed into the front wall of our garden one morning, as it made its way up the narrow, rutted track to our house.  After this accident, I'm told, my father ditched the council service and started his own: a rubbish pit he dug at the bottom of the orchard.  In those days, with less packaging, frugal ways, a compost heap, and lots of home-grown food, I suppose our dustbins filled slowly, but in retrospect, it seems like a nutty venture to go off-grid.  As a child I thought it was perfectly normal.

I remember the rubbish pit, not that far from the vegetable garden. I remember my father there, active with a spade. There was a lot of digging going on down there, what with the pit and the carrots and potatoes and onions.  It's somewhere in my mind that there could have been a second or a third pit dug as the rubbish accumulated.

I hadn't thought about the rubbish pit in years.  What an all-too obvious metaphor. If I still lived there I could undertake a little home-style excavation, see what still remained under the dirt, but the house, a continent away, was sold half a century ago.  I was born in that house, and deep in my heart, I'm as close to it as ever.

Here in Greenpoint, three carting companies observe the Sabbath.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Union Demands Jobs Restored and Fair Wages at Luxury Rental on 11th

The Rat was Back at 237 11th yesterday, during Open House hours for would-be renters at the new Adam/America/Slate apartment building on Fourth Avenue.  Members of 32BJ Services Employees International Union CLC were there to protest the recent dismissal of Luis Torres and Ivan Fajardo, who had worked as doormen at the building.  According to the union, Torres and Fajardo were fired shortly after delivering a petition demanding the right to state-mandated wages, and benefits:

Two years ago, the rats were present at another union protest:

The inflatable rats are out at 470 Fourth Avenue, the Adam America development at Fourth & 11th, where union members are campaigning on behalf of laborers at the site in their drive to unionize.  Laborers report low wages, unfair dismissals, harassment & unsafe working conditions while working for the Red Hook Construction Group, builders at the site.  Since laborers at 470 threatened to unionize, RHCG has allegedly raised their pay, and offered a 401K plan, & sick days, but workers still feel vulnerable & poorly represented without union support.  They will be voting to join LiUNA Local 79 (Construction & General Building Laborers) tomorrow, at the RHCG yard at 121 12th Street, from 4:30 am to 6:30 am, and from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. 
(One More Folded Sunset)

237 11th is winsomely described on the building's website as "tucked away in the cool backwinds of Prospect Park."  A Streeteasy/Citi Limits listing blurb describes it as a place where "culture and accessibility converge."  The rents for units currently available on Streeteasy range from $2,246 for a studio to $6,646 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Adam America/Slate are active developers on Fourth, and have also bought smaller multi-family buildings in the neighborhood.  The construction at a nearby rental building at 535 Fourth has been stalled by building violations, which necessitated the removal of several floors.  Last year debris fell from the building during heavy winds.  There is still a partial SWO in place at 535.  Directly south of this site, at 541, the developers assembled a parcel of eight contiguous three-story three-family apartment buildings, which they are replacing with a 130-unit luxury rental building. Other projects on Fourth include a condo building at 24 Fourth (formerly home to the Church of the Redeemer) and a condo building at 251 First, which was completed in 2016. The Real Deal has also noted that Adam America/Slate were involved in the controversial purchase of the Rivington House nursing home:

Slate and Adam America are among Brooklyn’s most active residential developers. One of the pair’s recent acquisitions, the Rivington House, made headlines after the city and the state began investigating seller Allure Group for allegedly misleading the city over the lifting of a deed restriction.

310 12th Street, a small, 20-unit apartment building was purchased by Slate Properties in 2014 for $5.75M.  The building was the subject of an investigation by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Violations issued at the building during 2014 and 2015 included material false statements concerning rent-stabilized apartments.  Slate sold the building in 2016 for $9.2M.

Culture converging?  Here at the borders of south Park Slope, Gowanus, and Sunset Park, we've grown all-too accustomed to the steady erosion of culture, diversity, and affordability.

Luis Torres and Ivan Fajardo deserve their jobs back, along with fair wages.  Contact your local politicians about the situation, and ask them to support the rights of local workers.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Tangled Web ...

Readers of the blog might remember my curiosity about 657-665 Fifth, the former Frost furniture warehouse buildings, where development construction has been stalled for 2 1/2 years.  The property was bought by developer Cheskel Strulowitz in 2013, for $8.5 M, and the mixed retail/residential project was described as "a game-changer" for the neighborhood.  Frankly I became a little obsessed with this SWO, and decided I was spending too much time thinking about the site.  Still, right after its two-year "anniversary," I've recently discovered, The Real Deal reported that a group of investors who put up the money for a $20M property deal had accused Strulowitz of operating a Ponzi scheme that cost them $90M in damages.

“In order to deceive the individual plaintiffs, the individual defendants employed numerous scam tactics in the style of Bernie Madoff,” the suit claims.
Strulowitz, whose name is sometimes spelled Chaskiel Strulovich, has been operating in Brooklyn real estate for over a decade, often with his brother Moses Strulowitz. Together, they own a portfolio of at least 180 apartments in 12 buildings throughout the borough. One of Strulowitz’s bigger projects, a planned makeover of an industrial building at 665 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, for which the developer paid $8.5 million, is one of the properties bought with the investors' funds.

A Real Deal story yesterday revealed more Strulowitz/Strulovich trouble. The landlord/property developer is facing foreclosure on a portion of a 31 property portfolio in Brooklyn.

Maverick Real Estate Partners, which in March launched a $75 million private equity fund focused on acquiring distressed debt, purchased about $40 million worth of loans from Signature Bank in May backed by the 31 properties Strulowitz owns across Brooklyn, records filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court show.
Just a few days after acquiring the loans, Maverick sent Strulowitz notices informing him that the loans were in default, and the lender was requiring the balances to be immediately paid in full, court records show.
According to foreclosure documents Maverick’s attorneys filed earlier this week, Strulowitz went into default on the loans, in part, because he claimed to be the sole owner of the properties, but his own court filings say he owned less than 56 percent.

According to the Real Deal article, the properties facing foreclosure include several bought with the money of the investors accusing Strulowitz of the Ponzi scheme.  I'm not adept at exploring court records, and don't know if 657-665 is one of the properties facing foreclosure.  Will update if I can find out more on this.

Earlier: And the Game Changer?


Friday, October 13, 2017

Towards Halloween

It's about that time of year to look at some local Halloween displays.  The ones that merely act as chic accessories to costly house makeovers or new mega-structures are not what I seek. I like a bit of over-the-top home-made fun, along with the everyday commercial stuff that gains its own magic in our own everyday settings.  Usually my Halloween culminates with catching the scene around Fifth, where revelers, making the rounds from C-Town to Girasol to Princess Pizza, tilt the avenue into a whole new one-day-special blaze of beauty.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Good Neighbors

The great guys at Danny's Rim & Tire Shop, at 482 Fourth (11th), are taking donations for aid to Puerto Rico.  They'll be accepting goods for another three weeks or so, and welcome baby food & diapers, feminine hygiene products and first-aid kits.  All products should be in sealed containers/wrappers.  If you want more information about hours, or what other donations might be useful, stop by, or call 718-965-4831.

Danny's (2012)

Vehicle Wraps on Prospect

Monday, October 9, 2017


I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time underneath the Gowanus Expressway. You never know what you're going to find there. The other day it was a castle.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

More of Same

Thought about doing this a while back, but really have to get systematic.  I like them so much.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Faces Places (at The Quad)


I went over to the 4th Street basin to see the dredging.  This work is to allow access for the bigger EPA equipment to start the main removal of toxic sediment.  An engineer on site told me that this initial work will likely continue through next week, and then bulkheads will be repaired and reinforced.  The work at this section of the canal will act as a pilot study for the rest of the Superfund clean-up.  For more on the work, read here.

I could watch this kind of thing all day.