Wednesday, October 31, 2018


HPD Releases "Speculation Watch List" to Fight Displacement in NYC Neighborhoods
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) joined Council Member Ritchie Torres and the Stabilizing NYC Coalition to announce the release of the “Speculation Watch List,” which identifies recently sold rent-regulated buildings where potentially predatory investment may put tenants at risk. The City is making this information available so that tenants and tenant advocates can see another indication of where tenant harassment may occur. The list was announced as part of the Predatory Equity bill, which was signed into law earlier this year.

I'm still confused about 237 11th Street's presence on the list.  A new, high-end, rental building, with no affordable housing units, where 2BR apartments are listed for $4-5K per month?

We’re Partnering With ProPublica On Election Coverage – Let’s Tell The Stories (Bklyner)
We have partnered with ProPublica on our election issues coverage, leading up and throughout the day on election day, to report on any irregularities. We’ve already covered electioneering in the Senate race, potential issues with Ballots being two separate pages, and the fact that translation services will yet again be stationed behind the 100-foot electioneering line, affecting those most in need of help.

The Home Reporter To Make Epic Endorsement For Golden (Bklyner)
The Home Reporter, for the first time in more than six decades, is throwing their support behind a local political candidate and they’re siding with the boss’ friend — State Sen. Marty Golden.
Charles “Chuck” F. Otey, long-time Southern Brooklynite and Golden associate, was crowned the new Executive Editor of the paper during a meeting last night, according to sources. Those sources say Otey suggested the publication break with tradition and endorse Golden.

Exploring the wilds of the Bronx’s Hutchinson River (Curbed)
There are only about a dozen places in the Bronx where the public could, if it wanted to, reach the banks of the Hutchinson River. Most of these access points involve pushing through a hole in a fence, or bushwhacking down overgrown paths, or trekking through flooded salt marshes. Perhaps because of its isolation, the Hutchinson River is now facing several existential threats.

The hills have eyes (Rag-Picking History)
The hills that encircle Greater Manchester on two sides are the city’s implacable edges; indeed, the boundaries of the urban region extend, in places, right up to their summit ridges – the highest point, at 472m, being Blackstone Edge above Littleborough. By day, walkers leave the city in search of succour; at night, from their summits, the city seems like a fairyland, a twinkling paradise of promise. Those hills are also places where the city’s more unpleasant realities are consigned to oblivion – unseen because out here we feel distanced from them. Yet, as flood and fire show us, those hills are still very much connected to the urban region – ramparts that return both succour and savagery to the city at their feet.

‘Inventing New Ways to Be’ (New York Review of Books)
Although Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) never considered herself an epic poet, it’s hard to think of a more apposite definition of her vast and varied oeuvre than the phrase with which Ezra Pound summed up his concept of the modernist epic (speaking, in his case, of The Cantos): “a poem containing history.” Scholars looking to chart the development of America in the six decades spanned by Rich’s career will discover in her work an intermeshing of poetry and history more extensive and searching than that to be found in any of her contemporaries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Home Sweet Home

I like to get out to see what's going on with Halloween decorations.  I realize that what I like about them best is the context.  It's the yards and porches where the ghosts and monsters do their stuff that pull the whole thing off. 

On every street, the ghoulish and domestic worlds co-mingle.

Monday, October 29, 2018

South from 14th, on Fourth




The fence is up at 257 13th, along with a rendering of a new four-family.  The house was sold in March for $2.25M. There are no approved construction plans on record at the DOB as yet.  A man who was passing by as I took photographs told me there'd been two fires at the building recently.  I hadn't heard about this, though I remembered in the summer there'd been two fires in the space of a few weeks at a house on 11th.  Whatever the circumstances, the house had lost its aluminum siding, You could catch a glimpse of the clapboards behind the (is this what you call them?) furring strips.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

If There is a Scheme

By the Waters of Manhattan (New Directions, 1962)

If there is a scheme,
perhaps this too is in the scheme,
as when a subway car turns on a switch,
the wheels screeching against the rails,
and the lights go out—
but are on again in a moment. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Before & After

Girls in First Communion Dresses, 15th Street, 1975

Often, before we began "house calls" (as he called them), Dr. Williams was quick to tell his young listener to "look around, let your eyes take in the neighborhood - the homes, the stores, the people and places, there waiting to tell you, show you something." It was as if to this traveling and now talking "doc" (as he wanted to be called by the "folks" in whose homes he came - "Doc Bill" or often "Doc W." not Doctor Williams) there were voices out there, in buildings as well as individuals, having their available say, if only "we passers-by" would willingly "give them a hear, let them get to you."

                                                             House Calls with William Carlos Williams - Robert Coles

I've had my copy of Larry Racioppo's  Brooklyn Before for several weeks now. It's a beautiful book, and I keep returning to it to look at the photographs again.  There are plenty of things in it that  I remember, but I wasn't a part of the time-frame. From 1971 - 1983 I was mostly living in the North of England. I got to this part of Brooklyn three years later, in my late twenties.

It's hard to believe that the earliest photographs were taken almost fifty years ago.  It's strange to think I've been here a while myself, though thirty years is nothing in the scheme of things.  A spit in the ocean.  I look at the photographs and see a landscape shift through time: on the page, just when it met the lens, in my head, the way it was my first years of living here, and just as it looks today. It feels like a flip book you had as a kid, your fingers flickering a transformation.

Growing up in the neighborhood, Racioppo documents it as an insider. The photographs in Brooklyn Before radiate from his own family life, from shots in living rooms, doorsteps and backyards out into the street life of the wider community.  The work is set in the context of the Catholic calendar: Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.  You can count Halloween in there too.  It witnesses first communions, a bride to-be, and privacy intact, a funeral.

Conga Players, 7th Avenue, 1977

It observes other communions, at a time when life was lived more fully on the sidewalk, in  gatherings of families, elderly men, teenagers, kids.  The sound of drums or saxophone, or maybe a boombox, drifts. Everything's less virtual. The street itself, mercifully lighter in traffic then, is not yet out of bounds; ball games abound.  When did the ball games disappear, I ask myself when looking at a photograph?  Somewhere in the 90s, I seem to recall.  The century wrapped up a lot of things like that.

Boys Playing Handball, 21st Street, 1975

Everything about the photos fascinates. The grid's intact, the familiar streets and landmarks of church, school, expressway, make navigation easy, but other, small but significant landmarks have vanished. I find myself playing photograph detective. The location of that diamond-patterned corner store in 1976 is easily identified as another grocery today - Junior's at Eighth, in the spirit of things.  Some places are harder to trace- a bar I never knew on Sixth is now a private residence, and a pillared entrance of a corner luncheonette is squared off & sealed under brick.  No entrance here.  There are boarded up buildings, walls overlaid with an anthropologist's trove of graffiti, and the old facades of asphalt shingles have seen better days. The chain link fences guarding empty lots provide no boundary to kids with an imagination. Every inch is lived in.

The landscape back then - almost entirely low level, with little higher than four or five stories - is now disrupted by taller, newer, boxy buildings. Parishes consolidate; the old parochial schools go condo. Today the kids round here aren't shinning fences; you'll find them supervised in after-school robotic labs or signed up for The League of Young Inventors.

Kitty and Lucky in Their Doorway, 6th Avenue, 1972

Racioppo's photographs are loving, but unsentimental.  The closest, family portraits generate warmth.  Take aunt and uncle Kitty & Lucky, caught on the doorstep in summer's heat.  Kitty, slightly off-guard, is smiling broadly.  One of her hands rests loosely in Lucky's, while the other moves instinctively to straighten her hair.  Lucky, bare-chested, with belt undone, looks calm, affectionate, implacable.  There's a gentle, honest, intimacy here.

Kids are everywhere. They own the place.  Responses to the camera differ, especially as adolescence sets in. When surrounded by a gaggle of their peers the kids are at ease in front of the lens; preening & goofing around, the thing's a game.  Older, or alone, self-consciousness seeps in.  This is the way of things.  Sometimes the effect is humorous; a couple of those first communion boys have all the awkward staidness of middle-aged men.  It's partly the suits and the occasion I guess.  Sometimes we see the strange, unknowable gulf between child and adult.  Boy with Toy Rocket and Leaves is like thatThat wary look in the kid's eyes & the purposeful arrangement of the grasses suggest a special, ritual world we've aged out of.

Boy with Toy Rocket and Leaves, 12th Street, 1975

In Brooklyn Before, time moves more slowly.  Curtains wave through open windows, and laundry dries on endless Brooklyn lines.  Youths lounge in basements.  The afternoon TV plays on.

It's not an Eden.  Like elsewhere in the city there are all the problems & tensions of the period: the grip of drugs, abandoned buildings, the steady ebb of jobs that fed a family, & racial tensions. Some of the graffiti on the buildings is bluster, some of the phrases are vicious.  Back in the 80s I spoke to a guy who belonged to the first Puerto Rican family to move to a 16th Street block in the 60s.  He'd never wish those years back again, he told me, laughing bitterly.  But school, and church, and street life also helped kids and teens & young adults cross boundaries, make connections.

Building for Sale Across the Street, 15th Street, 1974

I walk these streets endlessly.  The other day, on 15th, I passed a building Racioppo photographed when he lived on the block. A dog days hangout on the fire escape & a woman, leaning on a sill, looking up the street, belong to a time before air conditioners and security cameras, and keeping tabs by cell phones.  The eyes of the block saw everything.  The sale sign, of course, presages a time when a building like this would cost millions.  Who'd have guessed?  The building still stands, though it's changed hands several times since 1974.  And apart from a shell of aluminium siding it looks pretty much the same.  I spoke to a tenant there who'd been around for decades.  He missed the vitality of earlier years, with kids in the street and parties all around.  You could hear them everywhere.  There are too many permits for everything today, he said, and too many complaints called in from neighbors.  He remembered everything, he said emphatically.

Everything does change, so what do you do?  Resist it, accommodate yourself, move on?  You may well have no choice.  And where do you go next?  Sticking around, you have to be open-minded, always resist a rush to judge the new.  You were a newcomer once yourself, remember.  Everything takes time to settle in.  It is different though.  The money involved, the Fresh Direct trucks idling on the night-time streets, the realtor hype.  I'm not a Before but neither by the standards of the present am I After.  I'm somewhere in-between.

When I arrived on my block, the nearby brownstone Park Slope pioneers were well entrenched, but below 9th and west of Sixth, the scarcity of co-ops and the shift of housing stock from brick to frame made for a slower transition.  Change was still coming though, pushing inexorably south.  Stretching down into the teens & twenties, with boundaries uncertain & hotly contested, the name of the area's defined by the time you got here: South Brooklyn, Park Slope, Sunset Park, South Slope, Greenwood Heights.  Whatever street divide or name you pledge allegiance to, it's an older Brooklyn.  This is not brownstone history, the domestic province of burghers and wealthy industrialists.  It goes deeper than that. The yellow markers on the property and Sanborn maps show its early wooden houses set in islands of blank space.  The grid fills in, piecemeal, as semi-rural Brooklyn gets urban. This is the blue-collar history of the immigrants who lived here, who did the hands-on work to build the borough.  The story's still here, beneath the vinyl, aluminum, perma-stone, shingled asphalt, wood.

Rents & housing prices rose steadily here, though it would take another decade or so before the physical look of the place started to alter dramatically.  Back then it was still just wooden rowhouses interspersed with small or mid-sized frame or brick apartment buildings.  When we moved in, in the 80s, we were part of the change but the decade's new arrivals, on my block at least, were a far more diverse bunch than you'd find arriving on the scene today.  Taxi drivers, schoolteachers, church deacons & transit employees moved in along with the social workers & college professors: Irish, Haitian, Puerto Rican, African American, Dominican, white.  That didn't last much longer.

Girl with Cotton Candy at a Street Fair, 4th Avenue, 1974

Brooklyn Before was still in the air.  The street life, the ball games, the parties, the laundry lines. Today I have the block's's last laundry pole; I'm English - the habit dies hard. The street was, for the main part, Irish, Italian & Puerto Rican, but it also included newer Mexican and Central American immigrants.  It was a vital mix.  On one side of us, our elderly Italian neighbors Connie & Carmine - retired from the Navy Yard - who'd moved here from Red Hook in the 60s.  On the other, Puerto Rican Manny & his brother David, who moved in a year or two before us, from a flood-prone house on 9th near Second Avenue.  I couldn't ask for better neighbors.  It wasn't a pretty or sedate block back then.  It was louder.  Its attitude to laws & regulations was more casual.  It was a narrower world in a way, but its stories were wilder.  They were better stories.  It was harder, and funnier. There was a kindness to it, and a tolerance for the frail or the misfit.  The block wasn't pretty or desirable; it was well-used.

An Irish family lived in the house before we did.  Eight kids, two sets of twins.  The kids had all slept at the top of the house in a partitioned attic. Boys on one side, girls on the other.  The kids grew up and most of them moved out.  When their elderly mother died the house was sold.  We still have the rosary and the print of the Last Supper that was left behind.  Clearing a boarded up fireplace, we found traces of earlier residents: soot-stained pages of the Eagle funnies, and Johanna Popp's fourth grade Holy Name schoolbook.

The neighborhood is wealthier today, and whiter.  Corner bodegas become reborn as restaurants.  Functional businesses go niche. To newer residents today, Brooklyn Before might be a foreign country.  For those who've been here long enough, the book's a joy, conjuring up a tight-knit community life that was lighter on material goods, but rich in spirit.  I'm lucky to have caught a glimpse. There's also a sadness there; it shows us the racial and economic diversity we've lost, not just in this strip of Brooklyn but all over the city. 

Two shots stick in my mind. You turn the page to find them with a jolt.  These are the wide-angle shots of Good Friday Processions, one on 21st Street, outside St. John's, and the other at Fifth & 15th - Penitentes, Herod and Other Participants, Good Friday Procession, 5th Avenue, 1981.  Look at the second one.  You can spend some time on the retail of course, with the fruit and vegetables, and fabric stores and the Key Food supermarket long gone.  Little thoughts come into your head - I shopped for vegetables right at that corner, there's the liquor store, still around. You can slot in the higher-end replacements - the gym that rents for a million bucks a year. But it's the people that matter.  The photo's so raw it's not just the day of the year, it's a whole neighborhood marching to confront whoever's looking at them now. This was us, they seem to say, this was ours once.  You have to know it.

Penitentes, Herod, and Other Participants, Good Friday Procession, 5th Avenue, 1981

All photographs © Larry Racioppo

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Times

The Real Deal recently announced the sale of a 28-property portfolio, consisting mostly of buildings in Brooklyn.  Delshah Capital has bought the properties from Silvershore Properties for $102 M.

The priciest of the buildings was 219 13th Street, which was sold for $11M.  Silvershore acquired the building for $5.25M in 2013, and put it up for sale again in 2016.  Here's a 2016 look at Silvershore's tenure at 219:

In March of 2013 Silvershore Properties bought 219 13th Street, a 25-unit building between Fourth & Fifth, for $5.25M.  In November of the same year it was listed by TerraCRG for $12.95M:

"There is considerable upside in the offering as the seven rent-stabilized units pay an average of $811 per month for two and three bedroom apartments worth approximately $2900 and $3900 per month. This property also presents a near-term opportunity for condo conversion as eighteen of the twenty-five units will be destabilized by the end of 2013. "

By all appearances it didn't sell, but it's currently listed by Cushman & Wakefield for the same price, down from $13.5M.  

"The building consists of 25 residential units of which 13 are FM, 4 are RS, and 8 are currently vacant. The FM units were recently renovated and feature hardwood floors, large closets, full-size stainless steel appliances, and excellent light from windows in nearly every room. Five of the units are three-bedrooms and the rest are two-bedrooms, two of which may be converted to three-bedrooms... This is a rare opportunity to acquire a low maintenance, high cash flowing multi-family building in the heart of Park Slope, one of Brooklyn's fastest growing neighborhoods"

The building or its owners don't appear on Tish James' most recent worst landlord list, but a look at the DOB open violations for 219 13th shows a sorry picture, with Failure to Maintain, material false statements as to rent controlled/stabilized units in the building, & unsafe wiring. All open violations were issued after Silvershore bought the property.  This is not the first indication of dubious practices by these owners.  In 2014 Bushwick longtime tenants of a Silvershore building faced eviction from their apartments, despite alleged assurances from the previous landlord that they would be able to stay.   Earlier this year Silvershore was accused of "predatory" behavior by purposely neglecting a property in Ridgewood to displace Section 8 tenants:

In a protest outside the Ridgewood building on Tuesday, (Councilman Antonio) Reynoso accused the company of purposely failing to maintain the residential units in an effort to fail building inspections and lose the Section 8 subsidy — which covers the difference between how much the tenant can afford to pay toward rent and the rent itself — it receives from the federal government.
Once Washington cuts ties with Silvershore, the lawmaker said the residents would effectively be evicted, as they couldn’t afford to pay the full rent.
And once they’re out, the company could repair the units and lease them at far higher rates, leading to dramatically higher profits.

Silvershore has amassed a large portfolio of multifamily buildings throught the city - almost a hundred according to a Real Deal article published last month.  In 2014, Norman Oder, writing for City Limits, covered the Massey-Knakal Real Estate Summit, in which Silvershore principal David Shorenstein participated.  Shorenstein described recent company activity:

Silvershore Properties has purchased more than 60 buildings in Brooklyn, including in Crown Heights and Bushwick. “We discovered some lower-cost buildings in Brooklyn,” principal David Shorenstein said, observing that there are “so many different neighborhoods that haven’t yet been established,” at least from the perspective of the real-estate investor.
His company, Shorenstein said, invests to improve buildings with amenities like granite countertops, Shaker cabinets, and quasi-spa showers: “You have to spend a lot of money to get those quality tenants.”
Those tenants are often newcomers with parental guarantors. Some 85 percent of those renting 200 apartments from his company in the last eight months showed out-of-state drivers’ licenses, he said.

Michael Shah, the head of Delshah Capital has plans too. He "previously revealed in a filing with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that he plans to upgrade the buildings to raise the collective rent by 31 percent in two years."

At the Ballgame

"Refreshment peddlers, selling ice cream and pops at a baseball game, at Clinton Street near Gowanus River, Brooklyn."
                                                               P.L.Sperr, August 5, 1934 (NYPL Digital Collections)

The photograph was taken in Red Hook.  Two of the photographs show the John F. Mckenna saw mill, on at the foot of Court Street.  The bottom photograph shows the Grain Elevator Terminal, at the Henry Street Basin.

Friday, October 19, 2018


Over 300 Artists’ Studios Will Participate in This Year’s Gowanus Open Studios (Hyperallergic)
Gowanus Open Studios will take place Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21, noon to 6 pm. The weekend event is open and free to the public.

Community Workshop for Public Place
The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development invites you to a Community Workshop for Public Place on Thursday, November 1, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at P.S. 32, located at 317 Hoyt St. and Union St.
Public Place is a six acre city-owned site located at the corner of Smith St and 5th St. next to the Gowanus Canal. In 2008, a development team of the Hudson Companies, Jonathan Rose, Fifth Avenue Committee, and the Bluestone Organization was selected to develop the site for affordable housing, community facilities, retail, and open space. The Gowanus Canal was designated as an EPA Superfund site in 2010, and all development on Public Place was paused for clean up and remediation.

Last Stop Coney Island is an independent feature documentary about the life & and work of the American photographer Harold Feinstein. (DOC NYC)
Harold Feinstein was born in Coney Island in 1931. When he passed away in 2015 the New York Times declared him: “One of the most accomplished recorders of the American experience.”
He began his photography career in 1946 at age 15. Within four short years, Edward Steichen, an early supporter, had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
He joined the Photo League at 17 and became a prominent figure of the early New York City street photography scene and one of the original inhabitants of the legendary “jazz loft”.
(Harold Feinstein)
Wed Nov 14, 2018, 7:30 PM | Cinepolis Chelsea

When Brooklyn was Queer, by Hugh Ryan
Coming out March 5th, 2019 from St. Martin’s Press
When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the  LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the  1850s up through the women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during  World War II, and beyond. No other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this sweeping story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the  shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and  Harlem, but there has also been a systematic erasure of its queer  history―a great forgetting.

Kavanaugh Dresses for Success (Hyperallergic)
El Greco painted this portrait of recent Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in one of his prior archetypal incarnations in the year 1600: Fernando Niño de Guevara, who was appointed Grand Inquisitor of Spain. According to Wikipedia, “During his tenure as Grand Inquisitor, the Spanish Inquisition burned 240 heretics, plus 96 in effigy. 1,628 other individuals were found guilty and subjected to lesser penalties.”
While Cardinal de Guevara was probably more interested in forcibly converting Jews to Catholicism and molesting altar boys than practicing rape techniques on unsuspecting teenage girls, the themes of punishment, entitlement, and preserving the right of the religious to do anything they want under cover of “textual” sanction, remains a constant.

Stream 50 tracks compiled by Paul Gilroy that chart the development of black music in Britain over the last 70 years, from calypso to grime (Wire)

British-Nigerian filmmaker Adeyemi Michael: All immigrants are conquerors
British-Nigerian Filmmaker Adeyemi Michael tells BBC Africa about the inspiration behind his short film, Entitled, which he describes as a "fantasy documentary" re-imagining the first-generation immigrant experience.
The film has attracted attention for its traffic-stopping sequence featuring Adeyemi's own mother, dressed in full Yoruba finery, riding a stallion along a South London high street. 

See below, but better view here.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Open House NYC (2)

Examining votive objects—often created to fulfill a vow or as a pledge and placed at a sacred space or site of communal memory—Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place looks at the things humans choose to offer in their votive transactions and strives to uncover the most intimate moments in the lives of humans, revealing how our dreams and hopes, as well as our fears and anxieties, find form in votive offerings. 
                        Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place - Bard Graduate Center Gallery

Left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Dear Ed,

It's taken 22 years to get the courage but I finally made it.  There hasn't been one day in those 22 years that I haven't thought about you - talked to you, loved and missed you! 

I've seen pictures of the wall and all the things people were leaving - letters - medals - pictures - etc,. just about anything you could think of.  I wanted to bring something so I brought "Worry".  I remember how you laughed when you saw me making that rag-tag doll out of an old sock.  I also remember how you finally helped me finish it, and how it became our mascot.  I always put it on my pillow after I made-up my bunk each morning.  I even remember the night I threw it at you as you were leaving one night after we had a spat and how you laughed.  "Worry" was baptized with a thousand gallons of tears the day you went down.  When Art came by and told me you had "augured in" I went fucking crazy.  I remember waking up the next morning clutching "Worry" to my chest like a kid clutching it's security blanket.

Somehow I feel "Worry" will be closer to you here than packed away in my trunk of Viet Nam memories.  So here it is, tear soaked, red Viet Nam dirt and all.  I'm keeping your coffee mug and flight suit (Zips) as we use to call them.  It still smells like you I have never washed them.  Everything turned to shit when you went down.  Rainwater and John De Bock augured in, everyone was spooked.  I asked for and got a transfer up north in October, couldn't stand the memories any longer ...

Votive Painting of a Woman's Successful Operation - San Vincenzo alla Sanita, Naples, Italy (Rudolf Kriss Collection, Munich)

One of a collection of retablos votive paintings made by Mexican migrants to the United States (Durand-Arias Collection)

Six years ago, I saw an exhibition on votives & charms at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Work Left Undone

I was cleaning under the stove when I found the fortune.  It must have been there years.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Open House NYC (1)

I finally got to visit the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, on West 44th Street.  The Society has been at this address since 1899, when it acquired the recently built, Renaissance Revival building.  The building was subsequently redesigned in 1903 to integrate Beaux Arts design features. It hasn't changed much since then.

The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, was founded on November 17, 1785, by 22 men who gathered in Walter Heyer's public-house on Pine Street in Lower Manhattan. The aims of the General Society were to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen. The General Society during this early period celebrated the mutuality and centrality of the craft community. (Wikipedia)

Early in the nineteenth century the Society opened one of the city's first free schools, and in 1858 the Mechanics Institute began offering free vocational training in a variety of trades.  It still operates today, providing free training in plumbing, HVAC Systems, Electrical Tech, Construction Project Management & AutoCAD.  Andrew Dykes of local lumber yard Dykes studied here.

The Society library, founded in 1820, is the second oldest in the city.  It started out as the Apprentices' Library, and while it continues to provide vocational resources it also has an eclectic collection of general reading.  It holds fiction & non-fiction books - some surprisingly up-to-date material here -  and older, more arcane reading.  Its archives date back to the eighteenth-century.  The library, which might have one of the grandest reading rooms in the city, still has its old wooden card-file cabinets, though they serve only a historical function now.  It's open to the public, and a general $50 membership (less for students & seniors) offers borrowing privileges, archive access and various program discounts.  The layout of the library books is something of a mystery, with no signs indicating subject matter.  You need to be an old hand to figure it out, or a seasoned browser whose reading pleasures are fueled by chance as much as purpose.

The Society also has a lock collection, and runs a lecture series throughout the year.  Tuesday, October 30th: Why Unions Still Matter.

If you're in Midtown with time on your hands, drop in.  It's a beautiful building. There's definitely an institutional, preserved-in-aspic kind of feeling as you enter the building.  As you dust off a book that might last have been read a century ago. Nothing's simple though. Look at a picture of the graduating class, - a wonderfully diverse group, with a growing number of women in the class - & you see the present too.

By Hammer and Hand all Arts do Stand

(Open House New York)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Theme of the Week

I met more sewer men in the last ten days that I could ever have previously imagined. I asked them a lot of naive questions. I gained a great respect for the grueling work that sewer men perform. I got to look into the bowels of the street and see the infrastructure we take for granted.  I like that sort of thing. The infrastructure's perilously old.  I watched a camera travel down a sewer line; it creeps you out a bit, is far too like a colonoscopy for comfort.  I'm thinking more on what & how much of the what goes down the drain.  (The colonoscopy thing again, and the sheer waste.) Too many people asked us too often if we'd taken out utility insurance.  Reader, we did not. You should.

Monday, October 8, 2018


Fugitive’s plunge into toxic Gowanus Canal was a terrible decision (Post)
Once in Brooklyn, Stuart’s accused of robbing Bay Ridge shop Mist Tobacco while brandishing a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol on Oct. 1.
He allegedly made off with $50 cash and Newport cigarettes, and was spotted by a security guard at the Gowanus-area Whole Foods.
Cops found Stuart “sitting on a park bench” staring out over the oily waters, and approached.
But the spooked Stuart ran for the tainted channel, and was apprehended “in the canal,” court papers say.

Brooklyn DA indicts 5 in asbestos and false permits scheme (The Real Deal)
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez indicted five New Yorkers on Wednesday in an alleged asbestos removal scheme at a luxury duplex renovation in the Greenwood neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The accused include expediter Scott Schnall, who was previously “banned for life” by the Department of Buildings, after it found Schnall had “regularly used his professional filing privileges to try to circumvent the zoning resolution and construction codes.”
According to the DA, Schnall and four others conspired to conceal the existence of asbestos at 816-817 Fifth Avenue before applying for construction work permits.

Pleasantries in Greenwood Heights (Corcoran)
There’s a palpable sense of community in Greenwood Heights; residents know one another by name and shop owners issue pleasantries at first glance. Once primarily residential, Greenwood Heights has evolved into an even more energetic space. Cute cafés and boutiques dot Sixth Avenue, where even the development of more and more businesses hasn’t quelled the intimate, close-knit community feel.
Greenwood Heights real estate is a burgeoning business due to the plentiful homes and apartments in development. Homebuyers will find that Greenwood Heights condos for sale are quite modern, and even luxurious. Although new, the developments fit in well with the area’s long-standing single and multi-family homes, and wooden-framed row houses. 

'I'm Doing My Workout,' Mayor Tells Homeless Woman Seeking Help (Park Slope Patch)
Mayor Bill de Blasio was stretched out in butterfly position at the Park Slope YMCA when a homeless woman asked him to provide more housing for people like her.
"I'm doing my workout," video shows de Blasio telling the 72-year-old woman before he stands up and walks away. "I can't do this now."

Checking in on NYC’s ambitious homeless shelter overhaul, 18 months later (Curbed)
The mayor promised to “turn the tide” on homelessness—but how successful has the initiative been?

Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners (Guardian)
According to some urban planning experts, Broadway was New York City’s earliest desire line, following as it does the Native American-made Wickquasgeck Path, which is thought to have been the shortest route between pre-colonial settlements in Manhattan that avoided swamps and hills. Broadway is the only remaining one path, according to Marini, that “wasn’t wiped out by the European grid being overlaid on it”.

Joginder Singh’s Boy (Spitalfields Life)
Spitalfields Life Books will be publishing A Modest Living, Memoirs of Cockney Sikh by Suresh Singh in October. Here is the fourth instalment and further excerpts will follow over coming weeks.
In this first London Sikh biography, Suresh tells the story of his family who have lived in their house in Princelet St for nearly seventy years, longer I believe than any other family in Spitalfields. In the book, chapters of biography are alternated with a series of Sikh recipes by Jagir Kaur, Suresh’s wife.

William Blake Illustrates Pioneering Feminist and Philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft’s Children’s Book of Moral Education (Brain Pickings)
Four years before she ignited the dawn of feminism with her epoch-making 1792 book Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the pioneering British philosopher and political theorist Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759–September 10, 1797) set out to change the fabric of society at the loom: She decided to write a children’s book of allegorical stories inviting young readers to contemplate questions of moral philosophy. At the heart of her vision was an insistence on the value of girls’ education as a counterpoint and challenge to Rousseau’s seminal 1762 book Émile, or Treatise on Education, which focused on the education of boys and reflected the era’s dominant ethos that women are to be educated only in order to make desirable wives and good conversation companions for their husbands.

Friday, October 5, 2018

At Abraham & Strauss

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 2, 1901

And at the Knickerbocker Theater, Broadway, October 1900

NYPL Digital Collections

Thursday, October 4, 2018

RIP Ms Colombia


Ms Colombia, a colorful and beloved figure in the Jackson Heights LGBT community, has been found dead, Council Member Daniel Dromm has announced.
Ms Colombia, whose birth name was Osvaldo Gomez, was found dead in the waters off Jacob Riis Park, Dromm’s office said. No foul play is currently suspected, although the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has yet to determine the cause of her death.  (Jackson Heights Post)

There will be a memorial vigil for Ms. Colombia tomorrow at 7 pm at the Jackson Heights Post Office, 37th Avenue & 78th Street