Saturday, June 30, 2018

City of Wax

This one wins my vote for a good looking company truck: Crusaders Candle Co. ("They Burn Better"). It was parked in front of the Universal Botanica on Fifth.  The company, on Nevins Street, has been around a while.

Established in 1946.
Crusader Candle Co., has been providing quality candles since 1946. Our candle company is a family owned company, providing work for local residents. We try to provide the best quality wax, colors, wick, scents and glass. We are respected in our industry and one of the leaders. You will always know our candles by looking for the Lucky Horseshoe on the bottom of the glass.
Our factory has been blessed with a sign from our Lady of Guadalupe 8 years ago and the company maintains her image to honor her with flowers and candles in our production area.

I wonder how far these candles make their way throughout the city.  Boxed up at Nevins & off they go along the highways & throughout the boroughs to groceries and botanicas, & up apartment stairs to living rooms or bedrooms, finding a sacred space at a corner shrine or a dresser altar space.  So many journeys, so many dreams of salvation.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Sign the Petition to Landmark 99 Ryerson Street

When I wrote about Whitman's 199th birthday a few days ago I neglected to link to the petition to landmark 99 Ryerson Street, the house he lived in when the first edition of Leaves of Grass was published, in 1855.  You can help protect it by signing the petition here.  You can also catch up with Whitman news & events at the Walt Whitman Initiative, an organization that celebrates his legacy and advocates for its protection. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Meanwhile, back on Fifth, local chain store Fabco will be closing soon.  This is one of the bigger retail spaces on this part of Fifth, & Fabco is one of the last lower price shoe/clothing stores on the avenue.  Rainbow is still hanging on, while the store is advertised for rent; otherwise it's just Payless, DII (Deals & Discounts) & Mandees.  DII, with a great spot at Fifth & 9th, is still bustling, but at Mandees, in the old Michael's building, things are on the quiet side.

Down the avenue at 24th a former auto repair shop is transforming into Tribeca Pediatrics, and the laundromat at 11th (after a brief life as a medical benefits center) is turning into Chu Tea - Tea, Espresso, We Build Smiles.  Bit of a dentist's line in the billing here, but we'll reserve judgment.

There are still a lot of empty stores on Fifth, from the high-end space below the Crunch gym to the small spot at 12th where the ill-fated Salzy's comedy bar lasted for about a year.  Some have been vacant for well over a year.

Over on Fourth Avenue Bar Salumi, the restaurant co-owned by chef Adam Harvey, has shuttered. The closure came soon after Harvey was accused of poisoning a Windsor Terrace next-door neighbor's tree to get better sun exposure for his solar-paneled rooftop.  Bar Salumi opened in April of this year, after previously operating under the same ownership as "mixed-concept " butcher/cafe/restaurant A&E Supply Co.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Looking Back

Scenes from my grandfather's sketchbook.  I can't identify the locations, but they're obviously East Anglia.  My mother grew up in Lowestoft, and I'm guessing these ink drawings are from the 1930s.  I don't have the book itself, only half a dozen thin pages.  

Even a confirmed city dweller is flooded with homesickness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ansonia Pharmacy Closes

I ran into John Ferrandino at the Post Office yesterday.  Ferrandino, co-owner of Ansonia Chemist, at Seventh & 11th, told me that Ansonia closed last week, after thirty-four years in business.  This is a real loss to the pharmacy's customers, who've appreciated the care and community the staff at Ansonia have dispensed over the decades.  While the chain pharmacies don't help businesses like these, Ansonia has always kept a loyal customer base; it's the insurance and reimbursement payments that put the biggest pressures on small pharmacies today.  Our health care system doesn't just screw the patient, it screws the guy behind the counter too.

I don't get up to Seventh that often - I'm more likely to be on Fifth.  If I do, it's about as far as 8th or so.  The donut diner, the copy shop, the discount fruit & veg, the Italian deli, the pharmacy.  A handful of others too, but these are ones I'm especially fond of.  Apart from Mr Lime, they've been on the avenue long enough to see your kids grow up.  If you're running a fever, or working up a résumé, if you need a nice fat sandwich or a pick-me up breakfast, they're always there for you.  Nothing exotic, just the real stuff that counts.  They're priceless.

Many thanks to owners John, & Dennis Desimone and all the staff that have worked at Ansonia over the years.  You always made us feel better.  Here's to still seeing you around the neighborhood.

Monday, June 25, 2018


New York Today: Graduating From a Graveyard (Times)
As classrooms around the city empty out for summer, we learned about a group of students who recently completed a more unorthodox curriculum: tending to a local graveyard.
The landmark Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn hosted 10 apprentices for a monthslong masonry restoration program, teaching the art of repairing and preserving historic monuments and buildings. After finishing the course, which began in March and was supported by the World Monuments Fund, the graduates are now adept at nursing old structures made of marble, granite, brownstone and brick.

De Blasio attacks the Daily News, claiming 'bad analysis' of his possible conflict of interest (Daily News)
The mayor has owed Kramer Levin hundreds of thousands of dollars for more than a year for representing him during multiple investigations of his fund-raising tactics. No charges were filed against de Blasio, but prosecutors found he violated the spirit of campaign finance laws and intervened on behalf of some of his donors.

They Started School Afraid of the Water. Now They Are Saving Lives. (Times)
The lifeguard trainees at Grover Cleveland are predominantly students of color, about half of them male and half of them female, and most are immigrants or children of immigrants. Most enter high school as non-swimmers, fearful of the water. But within two years, most are swimming at competitive speeds and can qualify for, and pass, the rigorous training course offered by New York City to become a lifeguard at a city pool or beach.

Warhol at the Whitney: From Myth to Man (Times)
“Warhol was a myth when he was alive, and he’s even more of a myth now,” said Donna De Salvo, deputy director and senior curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. “To humanize Warhol and get people to actually look at what he made is not as easy as it might sound.”
Now Ms. De Salvo is tackling that challenge in “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again,” the first Warhol retrospective organized by a United States museum since 1989, opening on Nov. 12.

Arsenal Gallery Exhibition: A Collective Utterance (NYC Parks)
With black and brown artists, writers, culture workers, and thinkers positioned centrally in each image, the exhibition spans green spaces throughout New York City—such as Riverside Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Central Park—as well as select sites across the United States.
With each photograph, Green offers a statement of quietude, solace, insistence, and strength, making visible a community purportedly relegated to the margins, yet who critically inform dominant tastes and trends. These gentle, nuanced compositions are particularly urgent within the context of seemingly interminable sociopolitical crisis, where black and brown bodies are continually imaged as sites of violence and trauma. Within the framework of A Collective Utterance, each individual is left to be—in all of their tenderness, complexities, and intricacies.

Staten Island Wilderness, Going, Going, Gone? (Curbed)
In 1956, New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell published his now legendary story, “Mr. Hunter’s Grave,” about one of the oldest survivors of a 19th-century village of black oystermen on Staten Island. That world was endangered back then. Sixty-two years later, that world is mostly gone.
For Curbed, photographeer Nathan Kensinger travels to Staten Island to document Sharrotts Shoreline, a patch of land he calls “a remote wilderness” that’s threatened by development. It’s hard to imagine any place in the five boroughs qualifying as remote wilderness, but this section of southern Staten Island is highly inaccessible, and neglect has allowed native plants and animals to thrive among the dumped cars and old spare tires.

The NHS, Windrush and the debt we owe to immigration (Guardian)
The outcry over the treatment of the Windrush generation last month shows that we are capable of both appreciating the contributions that immigrants make and protesting against the capricious and cruel state harassment that can be meted out to them. It has yet to fully sink in that what was wrong for the Windrush generation is wrong for all immigrants, and that when we argue for a more humane and less hostile environment for immigrants we do so not just for the sake of foreigners. We do it for ourselves. Our health depends on it. Seventy years after Windrush docked and the NHS was created, we should have learned by now. If we don’t watch out, our xenophobia will literally be the death of us.

The Map Of Shoreditch In Dreams (Spitalfields Life)
“I’d been thinking about how Shoreditch existed in people’s imaginations and subconscious and how I could render that visually,” explained Adam, “So I went to a lecture at the Jungian Society in Hampstead on the subject of ‘Collective Dreaming.’ It turned out to be a circle of people sitting in a room with a ‘dominatrix’ holding a clipboard – bobbed hair, German spectacles and pencil skirt – and she asked people to describe their dreams, with a view to explore common themes that might point to a collective unconscious. It was very embarrassing because people were revealing things about themselves that if they were aware of the language of psychoanalysis they would have kept mum.” He added later in qualification, “I wasn’t using ‘mum’ in a Freudian sense.”

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Following the path of an elevated line is a walker's pleasure.  The light & the structure of columns & girders slice & frame & flatter.  They wake up your eyes.  Look this way, look that.  Take nothing for granted.

I was walking in a hurry & I only had my phone, but my eye was drawn to this two-story house across 31st.  With its tiled rooftops & blue-green walls it could be on a hillside over the ocean.  There's even a beach umbrella!  No Mediterranean here though, just Ns & Ws.  Add to the villa the chain-link fences, aluminum awnings & graffiti & it goes freestyle.  Everything's always in the mix.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


I hopped on the F in the afternoon to go to Coney Island.  I couldn't take any more news.  A man on the train was screaming at his lover on the phone, all down the line from Fourth to Stillwell Avenue.  It was a wild ride. We all sat silent in the car, careful not to stare.  We tried to tune him out, but despite ourselves were drawn in to the details of their sexual and domestic woes. The sea air came as a relief.

I got a drink & fries at Ruby's, & sat behind the usual guys while the music stalled in Rat Pack mode. It got a bit much & I took a walk. The weather was perfect.  It was busy enough, but low key.  Along the pier a man drew a gleaming sea robin out of the water, & told me it was only good raw.  "Sushi," he repeated several times. 

I'm always a people watcher & Coney's still the place for Everyman & Woman, but today it was Every Child that mattered most.  I looked at the parents, sluicing the sand off the kids in their swimsuits or queuing up to get them sodas.  Kids rode on shoulders. Kids took rides. A kid at the water's edge was playing alone, while a mother farther back was busy with an older child.  The mother's shirt read Too Tired to Care but exhausted or not you knew her third eye was operating fine.  Another mother had a pair of toddlers with her.  Over & over they tested their boundaries & ran away from her, slowed by the sand, stumbling & falling, & laughing, picking themselves up again, & turning around to check she was still there.  Of course.  Of course she was.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I love the excitement when the World Cup swings around.  All over the city our hearts fly back to our countries of origin.  A mixture of homesickness and national pride courses through our blood; in bars and living rooms & at workplace lunches we're fierce with excitement.  Here we all are, with one foot in the city & the other back There, & aren't our multitudes of dual identities the grandest thing?  And don't we do it well, these double lives we lead, miraculously (more or less) harmonious and tolerant?  And aren't we the best of the country, here in our city state, as the nation slips, day by day, deeper into hatred and isolation?

Still, I wasn't expecting this one, on Fifth.  Russia 3, Egypt 1.  It tested my sentimental mood. Given my own team's lackluster chances (1966 was long, long ago) I'll be ready to cheer on plenty of other teams, especially the favorites in the neighborhood. But there are exceptions.

The New Yorker saw the game..

It was reported before kickoff that the disgraced former FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, who is banned from soccer for six years and widely seen as a symbol of its institutional corruption, would watch as Putin’s guest. During the game, video footage shared on Twitter seemed to show Blatter arriving in Moscow, his twinkly smirk undiminished by exile. The globe is burning, authoritarianism is unchecked everywhere, and Putin may be the first world leader in history to project imperial power primarily through trolling. The Russian team may still be exposed in the knockout rounds, which it is all but certain to reach. But for now, regardless of the outside world and regardless of the future, the Russian players are just having fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

En el Séptimo Día

En el Séptimo Día carefully observes the men’s world in realistic details, pausing to appreciate what we might only half pay attention to if we were living this. As José prays in church, his teammates prep for their next game: Shirts are ironed on the table, banda music blares in the background, soccer cleats are wiped clean, and old water bottles are refilled, then tossed into a cooler. At the field, the camera wanders away from the players and focuses on onlookers’ faces reacting to the game. To drive home its documentary-like style, onscreen text sets up the time and place of the story: “Sunset Park, Brooklyn, U.S.A. — Verano/Summer, 2016.” (VillageVoice)

Monday, June 18, 2018


Eagle, 1941

Photographing (and Singing) at a Brooklyn Karaoke Bar (NY Times)
Reuben Radding doesn’t do halfhearted. As a kid, he immersed himself in punk and rock music (perhaps rebelling against his classically trained parents). As a bassist, he threw himself into his music, eventually making a name for himself in the avant-garde jazz scene. Then, entranced by photography, he started taking pictures of — naturally — other musicians.
Now, you’re likely to find him at karaoke night at a Brooklyn bar (Freddy's) where he enthusiastically sings with the likes of regular performers like Badda-Bing Crosby, Be-Bob Deluxe and H-Bomb. And yes, he is taking pictures.

Saying goodbye to the old Essex Street Market (Nathan Kensinger at Curbed)
For now, a stroll through the Essex Street Market is still a comforting visit to an older Manhattan, one not driven mad by the latest food fads, or obsessed with glossy new food halls. Most of the vendors here offer up a mix of favorite local ingredients, sold at refreshingly affordable prices, ranging from guanabana and cassava to porgies and pata de res. While some outsiders have described the market as unlovely, utilitarian, and Plain Jane, for the vendors who call it home, and their many loyal customers, it contains a lifetime of memories.

Industry, NYCHA and Flooding are Areas of Concern as Gowanus Moves Toward 
Rezoning (City Limits)
The de Blasio administration’s Gowanus planning framework released this month contained few surprises for most of the stakeholders who worked closely with the city to bring the document into fruition. But its lack of detail on the commitment of city resources, the needs of local NYCHA developments and the future of industrial firms has raised concerns among some involved in the process.

How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable (ProPublica)
"I think that it would have been a story about how Donald Trump was running for autocrat. I think at that point there should have been a big journalistic break with American exceptionalism and that's where we would have gone to other countries to look at what has happened to other countries when politicians have run in democratic elections for autocrat. It's happened many times and it's succeeded many times."  Masha Gessen
Julius Mendes Price’s London Types (Spitalfields Life)
It is my greatest delight to show these examples of London Types, designed and written by the celebrated war artist Julius Mendes Price and issued with Carreras Black Cat Cigarettes in 1919. After months of searching, these are the latest acquisition in my ever-growing collection of London  Street Cries down through the ages. Some of these images – such as the cats’ meat man – are barely changed from earlier centuries, yet others – such as the telephone girl – are undeniably part of the modern world.

“Joe Strummer’s London Calling”: All 8 Episodes of Strummer’s UK Radio Show Free Online
(Open Culture)
Strummer was the kind of rock star who could renounce fame and mean it, who escaped the London punk scene with integrity and health intact, and who was a larger-than-life humanitarian, yet also an approachable everyman.  It’s all these qualities and, of course, the songwriting, the distinctive mumble and growl, the indelible image, and the writing and acting cred that have endeared him to a few generations of loyal admirers. In addition to all of the above, Joe Strummer was also a free-form radio DJ, playing an eclectic mix of classic punk, reggae, folk, jazz, afrobeat, and about a dozen other genres, all sequenced perfectly and introduced in his distinctive, asphalt baritone.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Visitor Ralph

I was walking on Hamilton Avenue the other day & saw this mysterious sign attached to an Expressway pillar.  I guess 2022 must be the expiration not the issue date.  The sign is probably related to contractor parking.  But in my head the functional is never far from the romantic.  I imagine an honorific, almost-impossible to gain Walker's Permit, allowing special passage throughout the city, with small paper permit signs pasted randomly along the streets and avenues. The permit would serve no purpose other than the Walker's pleasure - out of the blue - at coming across a sign from time to time.

I'd like that a lot.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Demolition at Fourth & 9th

The building at the SE corner of Fourth Avenue & 9th Street is to be demolished.  It was last occupied by Good Shepherd Services, & was apparently sold earlier this year, though no sale is evident on ACRIS.  437-441 Fourth was built in 1875 by George L.Morse, whose work includes the landmarked Old First Brooklyn Reformed Church. The Fourth Avenue building operated as the clubhouse for the Democrats of the 22nd Ward:

Judge John Delmar was the patron saint of this Democratic Ward club. He was a very influential ward “boss” ostensibly under the control of the powerful Democratic Boss of Brooklyn at the time, Hugh McLaughlin. He controlled not only the 22nd Ward, but also the 8th, and had enough independence and nerve to buck McLaughlin whenever possible; defying him at every turn, until McLaughlin finally shut him up by making him County Clerk, the third highest position in the city. Delmar used his appointment to get rich and then retired to Manhattan to live the good life. But while he was still a powerful figure in the 22nd Ward, his followers named their club after him.
                                                            Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris) - Brownstoner

Spellen describes the club's lavish accommodation, which included a banqueting hall, library and game rooms.  The property was later sold to St Thomas Aquinas, and then occupied by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.  For the entire Spellen piece on its history, read here.

No plans for a new building have been filed as yet.  The owner is listed as Joseph Banda/Vibes of One LLC, with a Borough Park address.

Update - 8/22:  The building was sold for $15.5 million, and plans have been filed for an eleven-story, mixed-use building with 63 residential units. No provision for inclusionary housing is indicated in the plans but a library, recreation space & bicycle storage are on the cards.  You can read more about the sale & plans here.

I'm sorry to see Good Shepherd Services leave Fourth & 9th. You can't blame them for making a financially expedient decision, but when an area gets too expensive to sustain a diverse range of social programming & a diverse range of residents, community at every level suffers.  Supportive housing or condos?  I know which I'd prefer. I hope the money from the sale can be put to good use in the agency's other valuable programs, several of which operate nearby, in Park Slope, Red Hook & Gowanus.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

This Climate of the Nerves

"What a strange, what a fantastic city ... there was something here that one experienced nowhere else on earth.  Something one loved intensely.  What was it?  Crossing the streets - standing on the street corners with the crowds: what was it that induced this special climate of the nerves ... a peculiar sense of intimacy, friendliness, being here with all these people and in this strange place ... They touched one's heart with tenderness and you felt yourself a part of the real flight and flutter - searching their faces, speculating about their dooms and destinies."

                                           Mary B. Miller, quoted in Vivian Gornick's memoir The Odd Woman and the City

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Merely to Be

Just a couple of days left to see the Summer of '78 exhibition at the Central Park Arsenal Gallery at Fifth Avenue at 64th Street.  It's worth every second of the hike over.

Look at the images.  Soak in their sun.  Watch our 70's selves. However they group themselves, in laughing crowds, in couples, or daydreaming alone, life is improvisation, and the ragged state of the parks, in full city slump, is no barrier to pleasure.  Summer is always liberation, from school, from clothes, the weekday grind.  Summer on a dime in '78 is even sweeter; even the parks themselves - some identified, others lost in time - have given up on order and responsibility.  Relax, make do, enjoy.  Life's free-form; the landscape reflects a state of mind.  An overgrown meadow in summer haze is a child's Eden.  Untethered from texts and calls and online personas, the body and soul rest purely in the elements.  Who's freer now?

Monday, June 11, 2018


Puerto Rico Is a “Playground for the Privileged”: Investors Move In as Homes Foreclose & Schools Close (Democracy Now)
While healthcare, the public school system and infrastructure in Puerto Rico are flailing nine months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, wealthy investors have descended on the island to turn a profit. We speak with Naomi Klein, author, journalist and a senior correspondent for The Intercept. Her new book is titled “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists.” We also speak with Katia Avilés-Vázquez, a Puerto Rican environmental activist and member of Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, and Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance.

Celebrity chef Adam Harvey arrested for poisoning seven-story maple tree blocking his solar panels (Daily News)
Adam Harvey, 33, was arrested in May after neighbors spotted him drilling 11 holes into the trunk of the seven-story tree and filling it with herbicide, prosecutors say. The former “Top Chef” contestant, who owns the Gowanus restaurant Bar Salumi (Fourth Avenue & 15th), was arraigned on May 15 with two misdemeanors charges: criminal mischief and criminal trespass. A judge also issued an order of protection against the foliage fiend, barring him from going near the tree’s owner.

At Freddy's, June 17th - From Dublin to Brooklyn: A Cabaret of Words with Nicole Rourke and Rosie Schaap 
Nicole Rourke and Rosie Schaap met at a protest in Dublin in 1991. Since then, Nicole has distinguished herself as a spoken word artist, monologist, and milonguera (a master of tango), and Rosie as author of the acclaimed memoir Drinking With Men and “Drink” columnist for The New York Times Magazine. Now that Nicole is finally setting foot on New York City soil, they will join forces for a performance of drama, poetry, and story.

What the Kiki Ballroom Scene Looks Like Now: A Family Photo Album (W)
Ballroom culture can be traced back to Harlem in the '20s, where drag balls explored both racial taboos and gender nonconformity, and the House system's roots can traced to the late 1980s, where Houses emerged as a call to action for HIV/AIDS and STD prevention. The Kiki scene was born in 2003, as a collaboration between members of the larger ballroom scene and HIV and STD prevention workers—many of whom are also House members—and still flourishes today. Before Pose, there was of course Jennie Livingston’s famous 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, and the ballroom scene has influenced and been ripped off by pop culture in countless ways—Madonna’s “Vogue” video is an oft-cited example—but rarely do the young black and Latino members of the scene get proper representation or acknowledgement in mainstream media. With The Kiki Yearbook, Matthes celebrates and illuminates those lives and families. Meet them here.

On Publication Day For Adam Dant (Spitalfields Life)
... Unlike a photograph or a topographic view, which records a location in a moment in time, a map is a representation of a place where we continue to extend the threads of physical history even if these are no longer visible due to being buried or trodden underfoot.
Even when the buildings remain, the sites of our daily engagements and our cherished urban nooks and crannies are constantly being refashioned and repurposed until they disappear. The layout of our streets are dug up, rationalised and reordered. Consequently, our cities get transformed beyond recognition. Yet even when they are razed to the ground, all the places where we walk are essentially constant. In the widest and most profound sense, they part of a cosmic cartography that is eternal, infinite and immutable. As long as we live, they live in whatever form we care to imagine them.

Preventable Tragedies (New Yorker)
My psychoanalyst said that he had never before had every one of his patients discuss national politics repeatedly, in session after session. Now there is a continuous strain of anxiety and fear from one side, and brutality from the other. Hatred is depressing—it is of course depressing to be hated, but it is also depressing to hate. The erosion of the social safety net means that more and more people are at a sudden breaking point, and there are few messages of authentic comfort to offer them in these pitiless times. One is done in by disease, by isolation and despair, and by life crisis. At the moment, many people’s vulnerability is exacerbated by the unkindness manifest in each day’s headlines. We feel both our own anguish and the world’s. There is a dearth of empathy, even of kindness, in the national conversation, and those deficits turn ordinary neurosis into actionable despair.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

On Sixth

Midtown has still got a few grubby strips in the 30's. They're one of the things I like best about Midtown.  They're mostly on the side streets, where you could be a couple of decades out of sync, but the avenues have moments too, in between the Starbucks and the Banks of China & the mediocre chain hotels.  Remaindered fabric stores & down-at-heel gift shops linger.  Fragile looking businesses bear names that make you root for their success: Pinkies and Fun Beads and Gossip Accessories - such sweet, hopeful dissonance.  And never forget to look up.  Among the tailors & the loan shops, & the body rubs, next to the Epic barber shop, a vinyl banner for the New York Garden Church beckons. Blessings on them all.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Back at 26th

The corner building at Third & 26th Street is up for lease.  This troubles me on at least three levels.

1. The thought that two good businesses, the Safety King workers' equipment store & a longtime picture framing business may be leaving. 2. The wonderful symmetry of Safety King - its mannequin figures clad in helmets, reflective vests and harnesses & ropes - and the ladies en déshabillé over at the 24 hr. X video store on the other corner.  Maybe there were harnesses & ropes there too. I never checked.  I always thought these sets of mannequins should get together - they were made for each other - but now there'll be no fun at all with this sort of idle conjecture.

On a more serious note, 3.  I think I may be the only person in Brooklyn that knows or at least cares that this building, which stretches well up 26th Street, is the slightly truncated 1850's stable for the horse-drawn Brooklyn City Railroad Company, a beautiful old building that really ought to be preserved.  Well actually, I've mentioned its presence online before, and told a few people about it in person, but that still leaves the knowledge & the caring at a minimal level.

The building has been listed for lease before (see top pic., above), and Safety King did stick around, but we'll have to see what happens next.  Nothing's safe any more.  Today the place is getting touted as a great location for an internet cafe (what?), restaurant, "flex space," showroom, bar, or fitness center.

The streets go all prosaic on you block by block.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Visions of Gowanus Dance in My Head

View north from the 3rd Street bridge

You can read the new Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study here

It's a given that Gowanus will continue to change its character, and continue to become an increasingly wealthy neighborhood, with or without rezoning.  And with or without rezoning, its traditional, industrial base will continue to transition to lighter (or liter) forms of manufacturing.

Rezoning will certainly accelerate the change.  With rezoning, Gowanus will see a massive increase in housing, much of it luxury development, albeit with a higher, much welcomed, MIH component. Personally, if there's going to be new housing, I'd like to see it all affordable, but this is an unrealistic dream these days.  In the planning study, it's proposed that Fourth Avenue will be upzoned, along with (at last) MIH requirements.  Fourth Avenue has changed beyond recognition in the last decade, so in some sense upzoning makes little difference now, but oh what a lost opportunity in that decade, with a mere handful of new affordable apartments on Fourth thus far.  There should have been hundreds, thousands.  You can't help despairing over a city that to most of us seems like it functions only in the pocket of developers. There is one piece of housing good news though. On city-owned land at Smith & 5th - site of the old Slab City shanty town  - there will be mixed-use construction with 100% affordable housing.  Also good is the emphasis on improving public housing facilities & resources, tenant protection, transportation, and climate resiliency.  But when you think about it, these kinds of improvements should be taking place irrespective of any rezoning.  Esssential services are padding here.

And of course, Gowanus sits in a flood zone, and a highly polluted one at that.  Does it really makes sense to build new housing here?  And with rezoning, what's the balance of what's gained and what's lost?  I'd like to see increased quotas of affordability in any new housing. I'd also like to see specific requirements for the protection of existing industrial jobs and the development of new ones, with fair wage blue-collar jobs in skilled manufacturing trades.

Renderings are by nature bland affairs, but the one above, with its little retail & canal-side plazas,  is particularly chilly.  It's a tame, controlled, vision of the future. How sad it looks. There may be a canal - just look at its Caribbean-blue waters -  but Gowanus has vanished entirely.  I'd like the place to keep its older, wilder style, its watery dead ends & its ragged lots, its low streets and big skies, its warehouse industries of glass and tile and scrap. But we're well past the tipping point by now.  Where does it go next, and at what speed?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Weir is Back

The work on the Green-Wood Cemetery visitor building is certainly taking its time, but I see the sign is back on top of the renovated greenhouse dome.  No McGovern here, as in recent years,

but just the Weir.  Complete with weather-vane, it looks just like the one P.L.Sperr photographed in 1941.

Monday, June 4, 2018


The Department of Traffic lasted from 1950 through 1977.  This model of push button, from the 1960s, was discontinued in the '80s, but you can still find it scattered throughout the city. The one here is at 31st Drive & 21st Street, in Queens.

Hell on Wheels: Fatal accidents, off-the-books workers, a union once run by a mobster. The rogue world of one of New York’s major trash haulers  (ProPublica)
The building’s basement is the domain of the men who work in neon reflective gear. Each night the workers, most of them black or Hispanic, descend the steps to sign in and get their assignments. The supervisors make sure everyone has the printout from the Squitieris: “Do your job or get written up.”
From the basement, the workers head to the trucks out in the yard. Once on their routes, the drivers and their helpers often pick up young men on the street as additional hands, everyone sprinting through fatigue and red lights to finish nightly routes of 1,000 stops or more.

Taking On Climate Change: Trying to solve the problems that are affecting our world, and believing that they can make a difference (NY Times)
Elizabeth Yeampierre, a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, did not plan on being an environmental justice activist.
When she became the leader of Uprose, a Latino community-based organization in Brooklyn, she began by listening to what the community wanted: clean air; more green space; no new power plants in their neighborhood.
In the process of fighting for these things and others, Ms. Yeampierre found herself at the helm of what has become one of the country’s most successful community-based climate and environmental justice groups.

Can the Gowanus Canal’s industrial past be saved?  (Curbed)
 ...once the rezoning of the Gowanus is passed and the floodgates of development are opened, there will be no stopping the wholesale destruction of the neighborhood’s warehouses. Aside from the immense profits that will be made by real estate developers, however, it is not clear why there such a rush to rezone the area’s toxic land.
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States, with the federal Superfund cleanup expected to take at least a decade or more to complete. The remediation of the numerous toxic brownfields along its banks will also take many years. Meanwhile, the streets here flood on a regular basis during rainstorms, and the area is expected to be inundated by rising sea levels.

Really want to fix local journalism, Mayor de Blasio? Here's how. (Daily News)
The mayor says the media is stuck in the 70s and 80s. Journalism wasn’t perfect then either, of course. Yes, we can find the roots of a snarky and shallow tabloidism that went on to infect our national conversation. But the dominant fact of local journalism back then is that there was a lot of it. Hundreds of reporters competed with each other. The News had whole offices working seven days a week and late into the evening in Brooklyn and Queens. In Queens alone, The News had two education reporters, and two more in Brooklyn.

A story of survival: New York’s last remaining independent bookshops (Guardian)
On certain nights Seidenberg, who exudes a maverick ingenuousness, might open up his treasure cave for late-night salons where a bottle of whiskey is generally understood to be the entrance fee. Perhaps a couple of books will be exchanged for a few dollars (I once bought a bright green, 1969 first edition of Renata Adler’s Toward a Radical Middle from him for about five bucks) but sales aren’t really the point. In a city like New York, a place increasingly beholden to money, it’s good to be reminded that there are other forms of currency. Not just the civility of a bottle of bourbon, but those other, priceless currencies, too, the ones that New Yorkers don’t like to invoke because they all sound embarrassingly earnest: community, human connection and the preservation of knowledge and ideas.

“Frog and Toad”: An Amphibious Celebration of Same-Sex Love (New Yorker)
When reading children’s books as children, we get to experience an author’s fictional world removed from the very real one he or she inhabits. But knowing the strains of sadness in Lobel's life story gives his simple and elegant stories new poignancies. On the final page of “Alone,” Frog and Toad, having cleared up their misunderstanding, sit contently on the island looking into the distance, each with his arm around the other. Beneath the drawing, Lobel writes, “They were two close friends, sitting alone together.”

What Resulted When a Photographer Gave Rural Children Cameras (New Yorker)
Every photographer has a give-and-take relationship with her subjects. Wendy Ewald has more give than most. Since 1975, the American artist has been entwining photography, activism, and education in a series of collaborations that upend our prevailing ideas of authorship and authority. For months, even years, at a time, she has moved into rural communities around the world—from Mexico and Morocco to India and the Netherlands—to teach local children how to use cameras. The resulting black-and-white photographs are credited to both Ewald and her students, who are quoted and named in the titles. (This started twenty years before the term “socially engaged art” entered the lexicon.)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dancing in the Street

June has appeared. The heat is here in fits and starts.  It's time for a re-run of 21st Street's 1982 block party. Enjoy.

Block Party (4)

More of the party here, here, and here

Friday, June 1, 2018

Local Produce Mini Festival This Weekend

Spoke the Hub has been around in Brooklyn since 1979, with arts spaces in both Gowanus & Park Slope.  In the early 1980s, its Living Room Performance Space was located on 9th Street.  This Saturday the 25th Annual Local Produce Mini Festival will take place on Union Street, between Fifth & Sixth Avenues. The festival will include dance & theater workshops & performances, street games, painting, fashion, and evening comedy.  Koko NYC, the youth division of Open Source Gallery, will be inviting volunteers to Build-A-Treehouse (without the tree) in the middle of the street. The festival runs from noon to 11:00 pm.  More information here.