Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mixed Use Rental Building for Fourth & 32nd

“We’re very inspired by the renaissance in the neighborhood, especially the work done by Industry City,” Moskovits said. “We believe that there’s a need for additional housing.”

Yes, more of the old IC/RE gentrification symbiosis.

Heritage Equity Partners have recently acquired 861-881 Fourth Avenue (32nd/33rd), last occupied by a gas station & convenience mart, for $19.8M.  According to the Commercial Observer, Heritage is planning a "150-unit rental building with a gym, pool and “high-end finishes.” As yet, no building plans have been filed, but Heritage president Toby Moskovits intends 30% of the units to be set aside for affordable housing, which will allow the developers increased building density. 

Without even getting into the issues of affordability bands & quotas, there's something essentially galling about this kind of project, when new inclusionary housing units come wedded to a (larger) number of new high-end, high-rent ones.  Inevitably, the balance of affordable units gained in a community is set unfavorably against the number of affordable units lost as high-end development proliferates, making housing in the neighborhood at large more & more expensive.  Certainly it's better to have a portion of inclusionary units in a new development rather than none at all, but the game has a stink about it, and we know the long-term outcome.

And who'll get the use of the pool?

Update, 7/30.  Plans for the eight-story building have now been filed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In Style

"I don't want shows you come out of like you had Sunday lunch, I want you to be repulsed or exhilarated," the man said. "If you leave without emotion, I'm not doing my job properly."
                                                                                                     (Alexander McQueen)

I rather like the uniform approach to dressing.  For most of the summer I've been wearing a sleeveless black shirt, knee-length dark grey shorts, & flat black sandals.  There's nothing particularly special about this, but it does the job, and it makes life simple.  If there's something that works, simply repeat.

High street fashions bore me, & are too much money.  I go second-hand.  In my dream life I'd splash a lot of cash on a McQueen - so dark, raw, primal & transformative.  It being a dream of course, I'd pull one off.  They're not fashion - fashion's a bore.  They're a second skin.

In a time of terror it was a good retreat to go & watch the documentary in the afternoon.  It was busier than the average matinée, & I had to move to another seat because of the heads in front of me.  I was two seats away from a couple of badly-dressed matrons and after the film was done they stayed, chatting.  The credits rolled, every other row was emptied out & the cleaning man came in to get the trash.  I wasn't in a hurry, but I was standing up looking at them, waiting to see if they'd notice me. I waited & waited but they didn't budge.  In the end I had to ask to get by, which pissed me off, especially as they didn't shift an inch when I squeezed past.  I wish I'd kicked them in the shins.

For every pair of snotty East-siders there's another pair that fills your heart with joy.  Later that day I came across a couple of seventy-somethings sorting out their shopping bags in front of Housing Works.  They were all matched up in red & black.  He had a rustic looking tree-limb of a walking stick & she wore shades with scarlet frames.  Her hat was magnificent.  I had to cross the street to compliment them on their style & so did a tall guy who declared them seriously wavy.  "We always thrift shop,"the woman said, beaming.  "You don't have to spend to look good." She was right.

It's not in the money.  You have it or you don't. The dresses Lee McQueen made for a tenner on the dole had the same energetic brilliance as the ones he made as a French couturier.  All of them dazzled & seethed. 

Lately I've come to think that everything you are or you become is pre-determined in the light & dark shades of your first few years.  The rest's just how you learn to live with them

Monday, July 23, 2018

Soon All This Will Be Picturesque Ruins

Soon All This Will be Picturesque Ruins: The Installations of David Wojnarowicz is currently showing at P.P.O.W.  The exhibition is running concurrently with History Keeps Me Awake at Night - the Wojnarowicz retrospective at the Whitney, and The Unflinching Eye: The Symbols of David Wojnarowicz, at NYU's Mamdouha Bobst Gallery

"I think of him as being something like the Angel of History, as imagined by the philosopher Walter Benjamin, an omniscient being who looks back to the human disasters of the past and sees them repeating themselves in the present and future, which is exactly what’s happening in this country right now.

Who would want to stick around to watch this dispiriting spectacle? A rightly and righteously angry angel might. And the Angel of History has no choice. The winds of change, constant and strong, force his wings open but won’t let him fly. It’s his job, which is an artist’s job, to stay. So forward, with purpose and something like love, he goes."   Holland Cotter, NY Times

Saturday, July 21, 2018

I Was There

I was in the crowd in 1977 when Jimmy Carter came to Newcastle.  I remember a friend of mine was there too, somewhere or other. He had his arm in a sling & was searched by the Secret Service for weapons. His arm was in a sling because he broke it when he was hit by a car while crossing a highway on an acid trip. But that's another story. In general the security for Carter's visit was low key, and the mood of the crowd was buoyant. Carter was friendly, relaxed, and even though his Geordie accent wasn't the best, he was instantly likeable. A far cry from 2018. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer Hours

Midsummer heat ushers in indolence.  Daily schedules falter, sputter out entirely.  We spend less time on computer screens and more in the pages of books.  We head to the river or the shore, or the cool darkness of a movie theater, or lie in backyards drinking gin with plenty of ice and a leaf or two of verbena.  Even the words in our head take shape sluggishly.  We're our own part-time employees.

However hot it gets we'll still enjoy the slight.  My favorite intersection in the city right now is the one where Jamesie's Place is diagonal partner to Aida & Rocio's Place (Beauty Salon).  You can't do better than that.  Aida & Rocio's got blinded out by sunlight, but here's Jamesie's.

Monday, July 9, 2018


A.G. Underwood Announces Settlement With Brooklyn Auto Dealer Over Deceptive Practices That Targeted Non-English Speakers
BROOKLYN – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced a settlement requiring Bay Ridge Honda of Brooklyn to reform its business practices and pay over $423,000 in restitution and penalties, after the office received dozens of complaints from New Yorkers about unwanted charges and fraudulent sales tactics that targeted non-English speakers. Many of the consumers who complained were Mandarin and Cantonese speakers who negotiated their sales or lease contracts in Chinese, but were only provided English documents that they later discovered contained different terms and unwanted and costly aftermarket items in their bills.

The Black and White Cookie at the End of the World: Saying goodbye to Glaser’s Bake Shop (Village Voice)
Even though we’d still have another forty-five minutes to wait, the atmosphere was giddy once we turned the corner onto First Avenue, in front of a hardware store advertising a discount for Glaser’s customers, and in sight of both the bakery’s retro mint-green facade and the massage parlor next door. Herb Glaser’s brownie recipe was posted in the window; hopeful customers craned forward to snap photos on their phones. “This is a Seinfeld episode,” the editor said, and he was not wrong. The Ping-Pong instructor pledged to return the next morning, early enough to get in line before the bakery opened, if there were indeed no more black and whites. At least two radio reporters circulated through the crowd. “Why?” 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria asked a man who said he’d driven in from Jersey that morning. “Why not?” he replied.

‘Up to Lexington, One, Two, Five’: Camilo José Vergara takes his camera to the intersection Lou Reed sang about in 1967 (CityLab)
I ask myself why I feel so attracted to this messy crossroads. At Lexington Avenue and 125th Street I feel fully engaged, watching several dramas taking place simultaneously. Nowhere else have I seen a neighborhood so vigorously pulling in opposite directions at the same time

Dead of AIDS and Forgotten in Potter’s Field (NY Times)
Trying to pin down the precise number of those with AIDS buried on Hart Island is difficult. A longstanding stigma about the island and criticism that the burial practices are crude and outdated have made city officials reluctant to provide many details. Officials at several city agencies involved in the burials refused interview requests to discuss the issue and insisted that no data or any other information was available on AIDS burials.
But piecing together an estimate is possible by surveying the many hospitals that treated AIDS patients during the epidemic and sent bodies to potter’s field. By that accounting, the number of AIDS burials on Hart Island could reach into the thousands, making it perhaps the single largest burial ground in the country for people with AIDS.

Hairdressers of 1980s London (A London Inheritance)
For this week’s post, I bring you a collection of photos taken in 1985 and 1986 that focus on the Hairdressers of east and central London. These show a type of business that whilst providing the same function, has changed over the years and provides a snapshot of London streets in the recent past. Many have long since disappeared, but good to see that a couple still survive maintaining a continuity of business across many decades.

The Massala Grill (Doreen Fletcher)
With an eye on the current Football World Cup and the England team hanging on in there (at least at the time of my writing this), one cannot help but notice the plethora of St George flags that seem to crop up in the oddest of places… not only displayed on cars, taxis and pubs; but also scaffolding, cranes and even pets. It all had me thinking about my painting, Massala Grill where a lone cyclist is depicted during the last, unsuccessful tournament, cycling with a St George flag protruding from his satchel whilst biking under the railway arch in Parnham Street.

Gareth Southgate’s England team reflect the best of us. It feels good to embrace them.(Guardian)
Underestimated and until now overshadowed by the “golden generation” that preceded them, they are a team who exhibit none of the swaggering entitlement that previous England teams were – wrongly or rightly – accused of. In this, the manager leads by example. Arrogance is the last charge one could raise against Southgate. Composure, humility, integrity and intellect are the words that have been most commonly attached to him during this tournament.

Talking of earlier generations, we can't resist ...

Friday, July 6, 2018

America (the beautiful)

An application has been filed for demolition at 276 & 278 20th Street.  The properties were sold in April for $3.3M.  276 (above right) is pre-1880, and originally there was a house of similar age next door.  In 1878 John Burke's liquor store operated there. The house numbers are a little confusing, and maybe fluid, as there's also a record of a wagon shed built at 278 in 1909, when the owner was M.A.Farrell.  Edward J. Farrell and his family lived at 278 between the late 1870s and early 1900s.  Edward worked for forty years at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, later known as the grocery chain A&P.  The Farrells and their tenants (German, Polish, Italian) appear a number of times in the Eagle, in the usual records of marriage, birth & death. The usual mix of duty, petty larceny & mishap is here too. Farrell men went to war. John Farrell, Edward's son, was accused of robbing a man of seven dollars and a silver watch.  John Hoffmeyer, who worked as a driver at Mason's furniture store (Fifth & 17th) broke his arm after a fall in a manure pit.

Houses like these continued to welcome new arrivals to New York for another century or so, as Puerto Rican and Mexican families found homes in the neighborhood.  This is the real America, caught in the dip of stairway steps worn down by generations, and in floors layered in wood & linoleum and tile.  Its DNA is all bound up with those who inhabited it, more precious than any flag or anthem.  You want the beautiful?  This is it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


The Broadway stop was closed for renovation, so I got off at 30th & back on again at 36th.  It was quiet & still. The only lingerers out on the street were a couple of workers in front of a car shop & a man asleep on a plastic chair, one foot soaking in a bucket of water.

I loved-hated the heat. It wrapped itself around you. The sun was so relentless it dictated your pace. Moving automatically, you hardly had to think at all.

Look, there was the tiled house again, this time in close up.

Farther along, a summer parking lot.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Take a Photo Here (NY Times)
Photography on social media, if you know where to look, can astonish with its hypnotic stream of inexact repetitions. We think we are moving through the world, while the whole time the world is pulling us along, telling us where to walk, where to stop, where to take a photo.  Teju Cole

Directions (Places Journal)
How are you supposed to feel? This strikes me as one of the most incisive questions that can be asked about all the places to which one might be directed in and around Brooklyn, or indeed about any place in the midst of rapid transition. It’s not the sort of question that is addressed in planning reports or development proposals, or that is factored into the data of administrators or investors. It’s not a question that’s raised when the city is being run as a business or marketed as a brand.
What’s the distance from old Brooklyn to new Brooklyn, if your measure is not proximity but public investment and collective benefit?Yet it seems to me a crucial question if we’re to understand the directions in which we’re headed, in the cities that we now champion as success stories. And it’s crucial if we are to understand not just directions but also distances.

At $31.8B, NYCHA's unmet capital needs dwarf government allocations (Politico)
More than $25 billion is needed within one year, yet most of the buildings' crumbling conditions will continue to go unfunded without a major shift in course, according to previously undisclosed findings obtained by POLITICO.
Those are the main conclusions of a mandated study the city conducted in 2016 and 2017 to assess the physical needs of its aging public housing stock — 2,413 buildings across 325 complexes. It is nearly double the five-year need of $16.8 billion from a similar study in 2011 and more than quadruple a 2006 analysis. The findings, which were confirmed by city officials, highlight the lopsided finances of an authority that relies on federal, state and municipal funds: Nearly $25 billion of the five-year need is not accounted for by any public subsidy.

Can Andy Byford Save the Subways? (New Yorker)
In other cities, mayors tend to be heavily involved in mass transit, even hysterical about its deficiencies. Not in New York. Byford has not heard from de Blasio since his arrival, in January. “Bit weird. I should ring him up,” Byford said.

Boost to Local BID Has Some Inwood Rezoning Skeptics Worried (City Limits)
Schaller says that in Washington, D.C., BIDs played a key role in the transformation of neighborhoods. “From my perspective, BIDs there oiled the gentrification machine. I think the questions to ask here are, ‘Who gets to form BIDs and in what context, and who gains from organizing a BID?’ And, ultimately, ‘Who gets to make decisions on the activities they pursue?’” Schaller asks. “They are by design vehicles that are primarily run by landlords because at least a majority of the board has to be property owners. That means from my perspective, they have a democratic deficit that is already built into them.”

Review: A Young Orphan Finds a New Home in ‘Summer 1993’ (NY Times)
Filmed in the locations where the director lived at that age, “Summer 1993” is movingly understated and beautifully acted. The colors are muted and the style is naturalistic; swimming ponds and poultry and heat-languid vegetables enable the children’s games, and the cinematographer, Santiago Racaj, crouches down to toddler height to watch. Through his lens, we see an entirely new family being born.
Playing at several locations, including Cinema Village. Go see it.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Hit-and-Run on 21st

A driver was arrested after a hit-and-run accident on 21st Street on Saturday night in which a co-worker was crushed and killed.

Leonel Ortega-Flores was nabbed at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday and charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a license, police said.
Investigators believe Ortega-Flores, 35, was trying to park his 2004 GMC van on 21st St. near Fourth Ave. in Greenwood Heights when he lurched onto the sidewalk and crushed Cardoso, of Staten Island, against an Inner City Electrical Contractors building just after 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Ortega-Flores fled on foot as several workers tried to save Cardoso. Medics rushed him to New York Methodist Hospital, where he died.
Cardoso and his wife, Guillermina Alonzo, 28, had two daughters, ages 2 and 6. Alonzo said that her husband was on the job when he was struck.  (Daily News)