Thursday, August 30, 2018

Midday, Fifth and 9th

Waiting at the food truck in a scrap of shade. A couple of portly DSNY guys ahead of me on line.  "Too much salad," one of them laments, as his styrofoam container is heaped with green. "It'll clean yer out though," the other chuckles.  As I walk home a woman hands me a scripture pamphlet, The Way to God.  The earth was perfect when God gave it to man. Read this booklet to find out what happened.  A kid on a bike rolls by; his t-shirt reads, in big bold capitals, Paradise.


Another birthday.  Let's roll back the clock to 1961, when the future was a blank slate. 
Dressed in standard gabardine & bobble hat, I examine a goldfish.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


John Akomfrah at the New Museum (NY Times)
What’s most notable about this show — beyond the weight of history and the creation of new cultural vocabularies, or the identifying of overlooked ones — is Mr. Akomfrah’s facility in working with moving images on multiple screens. This method of presentation allows him to create works whose nonlinear development echoes newly evolving ideas about history and culture in philosophy and postmodern and postcolonial theory. “The Unfinished Conversation” (2012) is a brilliant example of this, a three-channel work that takes as its subject the Jamaican-born intellectual Stuart Hall, who says in the film that “identities are formed at the unstable point where personal lives meet the narrative of history,” adding, “Identity is an ever-unfinished conversation.”

A late-in-the-game Times review.  The exhibition is only around for one more week.  It's a must.

Nine years of wonderful Spitalfields Life - the annual review (Spitalfields Life)
When I began nine years ago, my ambition was to write celebrating the people of the East End. More than three thousand stories later, this undertaking has proven an education. In learning of the extraordinary resilience of East Enders, equally I have become aware of their struggles.

New home for Hanks!  We'll miss the Third/Atlantic corner, with its Mohawk ironworker/Doray Tavern history, but just as was the case for the Subway Inn, the chance of a second life is a fine thing.  I believe Hank's is open at its current spot through the end of the year, but be on the safe side. Go raise a glass to the old place while the door's still open.

A Real-Time Map Tracks the Building Frenzy That’s Transforming New York
(NY Times)
The new map gives an overview of the frenzy of construction that has transformed blocks and entire neighborhoods. The buildings department issued 168,233 construction permits in 2017, its most ever — up from 125,579 construction permits in 2007. The largest chunk of those permits, 73,489, was, not surprisingly, for buildings in Manhattan, followed by Brooklyn (42,830) and Queens (32,401). The permits cover both new projects and multiyear projects that require annual permit renewals.
The map pinpoints the largest construction projects — typically new buildings and conversions — with blue dots that can be clicked for detailed information about each project, including its contractor, property history and any violations.

Gowanus ‘Mudbreaking’ Held For Ennis Playground Renovation (Bklyner)
The future of the Gowanus neighborhood is getting increased attention lately with the recent announcement of a neighborhood rezoning framework and the EPA’s dredging of the infamous Superfund site. Ennis Playground sits at the edge of the bleak** Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), where warehouses and manufacturers hug the polluted canal—away from residential Gowanus, which may be why the no-frills park was considered so quiet**.

*Not bleak, just industrial.  ** It certainly needs resurfacing & some freshening up, but its location, next to the busy Sanitation Garage and other industrial warehouses, has never been a great one for a playground. As a playground it might be better suited for teens or adults (fitness/ball courts/skateboards) than for little kids.

Ken Russell Photographs Teddy Girls (Flashbak)
Ken Russell came and asked if there were any Teddy girls there to photograph. There weren’t many Teds in my area, just a few of us so we turned heads. You would walk past people on the street and hear them saying ‘Oh god, look at what they are wearing!’ Which made me chuckle. The photos were taken where I lived in Canning Town, this area was called the Docklands Settlement. I lived at home with my parents and older sister and brother, it was a prosperous working class area because of the docks on the River Thames. In 1955 I left school and went to work with my sister in a factory. At the time I was happy to leave, thought it was marvellous. But then after a little while I wished I has still been in school, work was so boring.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Saved No More

"No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
                                                 from  Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions - John Donne

Sometimes you have to get Donne & a TV sit-com together.

A demolition permit is in place for the one-story building at 135 Prospect Avenue, just up from Third & facing the expressway.  The zoning for the lot is R6B - General Residence - with a C2-4 commercial overlay, meaning that any new construction on the site could be residential, commercial or mixed-use.  You could hardly find a less-auspicious spot for a residential building, but hey, this is Gowanus.  The owner on file for 135 Prospect is Yechil M. Landau, of Brooklyn Plaza 1 LLC, a company with a Brooklyn address. Is Yechil a variant of Yechiel? We can't say, though name variations are common in business transactions. Brooklyn real estate developer Yechiel Landau's projects have included affordable housing construction in the South Bronx, but in other business areas Landau has come under some scrutiny. Take his work as one of Assemblyman Dov Hikind's "community liaison" employees.

Landau also maintains a job as a $9,500-a-year, part-time "community liaison" in the office of veteran Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind. The lawmaker is a longtime close friend of Landau who has received $9,000 in campaign contributions from the developer.
While the pay is a drop in the bucket for Landau, such part-time gigs in the Legislature can come with a major perk: access for the employee and their family to New York government's generous, subsidized health benefit packages, which are collectively worth vastly more than a $9,500 salary.  (Times Union)
In addition to his other business activities, Landau is involved in home care and nursing home investments.  In 2010 State Senator John Sampson was alleged to have suppressed negative testimony in regard to the granting of a license for a home care agency. The agency, Shining Star, was co-owned by his sister and Landau.

Henriquez’s relationship with Sampson was not disclosed on the state application or at public hearings. Some members of committees that have voted on Shining Star’s application were unaware that she is his sister. Sampson did not comment by press time.
Shining Star’s majority owner, Yechiel Landau, a Brooklyn real estate executive and owner of YTM Development and Construction, has contributed about $20,000 to city and state political campaigns. He has a net worth of $8.4 million, according to the application.
If approved, Shining Star would get much of its funding from the state through Medicaid. (Crain's)

In 2015, Sampson was convicted of obstruction and lying to federal agents and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Landau was also named as one of the out-of-state co-investors in a Vermont nursing home that closed late last year.

The White River Junction nursing home’s out-of-state owners decided to close the facility after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced plans to stop making payments to Brookside as a result of Brookside’s failure to adequately address a series of health and safety violations.
... When the Green Mountain Care Board, or GMCB, approved the (2015) sale of  Brookside and the 73-bed Green Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation in Colchester, Vt., from the Rice family to the New York investors, board members expressed concerns that the quality of care provided could decline under the new owners’ management.
“Notwithstanding the applicants’ stated intention to maintain or improve the quality of care at the Vermont facilities, we express our concern, in light of low CMS quality ratings at Mosholu and Silverbrook — facilities with which one or more of the applicants have been affiliated — that quality ratings for patient care at Brookside and Green Mountain will also decline,” the board wrote in its Aug. 27, 2015, decision.  (Valley News)

We'll update when we find out what's being planned for 135.  

Update: 9/26
Yes, at this gorgeous location, the junction of the Prospect & Gowanus Expressways, there are plans afoot for a four-story plus penthouse/cellar residential building.  The air & the steady grind of vehicular traffic jams should be divine!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

City of Dreams (29th & Sixth)

Final Touch, Dream Trader, NY New Land, Big Bobby's, Golden Age, Stony NY, Epoch 

-A-R -----S
---% --MA-  HA---

Thursday, August 16, 2018


From table to table all along the Mall you could hear Aretha.  All day there were fitting tributes in the media, and you could go online & search out decades of marvelous concert clips.  Fulton was maybe the best though. It's on the street in a communal mood of love and sadness when the music swells your heart the most, and Fulton, even a Fulton diminished in vibrancy in recent years, was a fine place to be. I remembered when Sinatra died, twenty years ago.  I happened to be in Carroll Gardens that day, and from Smith to Court to Clinton, Henry, from open storefront doors and upper floor windows you could hear him.  Today, in a handful of blocks I moved through Respect to Say a Little Prayer to Chain of Fools to Natural Woman.  And then I turned around and walked right back again.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rain, Rain

Everything's damp.  People on the street with sweaty brows & limp clothes.  My morning paper, still readable if I catch it in time, but soft and frail & handled with care.  Anything taken from fridge to table rapidly generates a pool of water.  Every so often I head down to the basement & check for leaks, but it's performing valiantly. Though the house is watertight I'm still on duty opening & shutting windows, what with the heat and the intermittent waves of rain. It's a cycle of insanity, running up and down the stairs, and consulting the forecast every time I leave the home. The air outside is fetid, and the sky uneasy, livid, sour. There's some sort of message here. A patch of cement out front has turned a mossy green, and some of the tomatoes are dappled with brown spots.

With the temperature lower today, I briefly entertain the notion of putting on jeans instead of shorts, but as soon as I get them on I take them off again. UPS mode still applies.  Endurance matters.

In August of 1899, a hurricane struck the city, causing massive flooding and destruction.  The Eagle reported extensively on the hurricane's damage, and also (slightly facetiously?) noted a by-product the kids enjoyed.  Some party.

Rowhouse Demolition (2012)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


John V. Lindsay diving into a swimming pool.
Katrina Thomas, 1965 (Museum of the City of New York)

The weather's going to my head. Yesterday I was wasting the day, beating the heat, by searching for photos of John Lindsay. Yes, he had a checkered run as mayor, but let's face it, the man had style, and was more than willing to hit the streets, roll up his sleeves and engage with his constituents. There he was, canvasing in Queens with a young Liza Minnelli in tow, carried shoulder-high by a jubilant crowd at the opening of Flatlands Industrial Park, strolling through Central Park, rugged in plaid.  And the man could seriously rock a raincoat. How the camera loved him.  At 6' 4" Lindsay was only an inch shorter than the current mayor, but unlike de Blasio he wore his height with grace, and a loose, easy physicality.  He could have been a model.

Mayor John V. Lindsay walking in Times Square.
Katrina Thomas, 1966 (Museum of the City of New York)

But I'm getting carried away.  Let's see things from more seasoned eyes.  Back in the summer of '69, Jimmy Breslin wrote a beaut of a piece for New York Magazine: "Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?"  The title's pertinent fifty years on.  And it's classic Breslin - so sweet and tough & soaked in the brine of city life you have the hardest time trying to lift a quote & in the end you give up trying. Go read it all.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

August Haul

 "August haul--In the shadow of Brooklyn Federal Building, one block north of Tillary St., a new crop of marijuana is cut down by sanitation workers. Inspector Frank Creto, left, Sanitation Department, and Deputy Inspector Peter E. Terranova, Police Department, survey the operation, latest in joint efforts by the two departments to rid the city of the weed."

                                        Al Lampert, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 21, 1952 (BPL)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Community Plumbing: How the hardware store orders things, neighborhoods, and material worlds (Places Journal)
 ... growing up in that environment impressed upon me that pretty much everything can be made and fixed by regular people. It helped me appreciate how the world hangs together — how a building stands up, how electricity gets to the outlet, how water gets in the kitchen sink and out of a flooded basement. Triangle offered an elegant geometry. You could buy frames and fasteners for fixing material things, and you could access a social infrastructure that gave shape to the community. The world was built from the stuff on its shelves.

The Death of a Once Great City: The fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence (Harper's)
Yes, the rich will be with us always. But New York should be a city of workers and eccentrics as well as visionaries and billionaires; a place of schoolteachers and garbagemen and janitors, or people who wear buttons reading is it fascism yet?—as one woman in my neighborhood has for decades, even as she grows steadily grayer and more stooped. A city of people who sell books on the street—and in their own shops. A city of street photographers, and immigrant vendors, and bus drivers with attitudes, and even driven businessmen and hedge fund operators. All helped to get along a little better, out of gratitude for all that they do to keep everything running, and to keep New York remarkable.

Chuck Schumer’s Actions on the National Stage Get Little Scrutiny From His Local Press (Fair)
In the heyday of the tabloid wars of the late 20th century, many NYC politicians feared the wrath of influential columnists like Jimmy Breslin, Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill. But today’s leading columnists seem willing to give Schumer a free pass.

On the Night Bus (Huck)
There is something about people in transit, they are off guard, vulnerable, staring, thinking, glassy eyed. I felt I was seeing people in a private moment but in a public place. It is a rare situation to candidly observe a stranger so intimately but the glass window and the dark night facilitated these close glimpses into another person’s day.

Peter Mitchell’s photographs of Leeds from 1979 (It's Nice That)
Peter’s series A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission displays the photographer’s affection and care towards capturing a city he holds dear with a unique narrative. The series follows the concept that “an alien has landed from Mars and is wandering around Leeds with a degree of surprise and puzzlement”. Featuring both landscape and portrait photography, the images first shown in 1979 act as essential documentation of not only Leeds but colour photography. “In the Earthly vernacular these photographs are of Nowheresville. Yet, for some people they are the centre of the universe. Usually they call it home.”