Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn
Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina
July, 2013, NYC –
An article called “10 Cities in the Western Hemisphere that Feel Cooler Than NYC Right Now” mentioned Death Valley… The week-long inferno peaked out at about 103 degrees, with matching humidity. Everyone has a glazed look in their eye, and walk stiffly to minimize any motion that does not involve keeping cool. The sort of heat that gives you chills – if this was the temperature of inside your body, you’d be laid in bed with fever, taking antibiotics
Engulfed by concrete and brick; a pizza oven.
This is that “just 10 degrees warmer please” time of year, when the long, gray drudgery of March starts to crack into early Spring. People are sick of it – you know it’s April in New York when it gets just a hair above 60 degrees, and the sidewalk cafes are packed with bundled-up diners pretending not to shiver. But as the flowers begin to appear, first tentatively, then explosively, we know sweet May is not long off.
These are some photos tracing the end of Winter and the first baby steps of Spring. Near the bottom are pictures of the almost-complete 1 World Trade Center
This past week, NYC news-blog Gothamist picked up one of my pics:
A couple other of my Gothamist “appearances”:
The Brooklyn Navy Yard dates to 1801, but the site was used for ship building since before the Revolution. Many a famous ship was born from the dry-docks here.
During World War II, when tens of thousands worked here around the clock, the Yard
was one of the mightiest forges of American naval power.
Its strategic importance was such that, in order to prevent covert surveillance from above, the sides of the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges were shrouded, – and the proposed Brooklyn-Battery Bridge was turned into a Tunnel.
Today it’s a vast industrial semi-wasteland- a desolate complex dotted with rusting warehouses and random junk …
This part of Brooklyn totally defies the iconic urbanity that is generally associated with the borough. Near Floyd Bennett Field (the City’s first airport), lies a shallow bay, that during the 19th century, was surrounded by five glue rendering plants. Glue-spent discards of the used horses would be tossed in the water.
When the plants shut down about a century ago, the City of New York found the bay a suitable place to dump some of its garbage. Today, in a random and enticing collection, refuse spanning the decades is regularly regurgitated from the shallows- pieces of dishes, glass bottles of all types, logos of extinct companies, irons, toilets, etc, etc, etc, etc.
Gazing around at the landscape, one sees nothing at all that resembles a city. But in a weird way, the bay is very much connected to the City. The discards of everyday life are tiny intimate fragmented memoirs of those who once called this giant metropolis home.
“It’s fantastic to think that most New Yorkers rarely remember that they live on a few islands, by the ocean, by rivers and bays, whose outskirts have served from the beginning as dumping grounds out-of-sight of the millions and millions who’ve crowded around this small, salt-water estuary in the last few centuries. And that hundreds of years of building, refuse, graves and foundations lie beneath their feet. The imprint of Mankind on this city is so deep that nearly all forget the land around them that was there before and will remain when this little town is no more. “ – Tristan Lowery
These vintage signs were spotted on a recent walk along Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As far as I know all these businesses are still operating.
Incidentally, Havemeyer was the name of a 19th family that dealt in manufactured sugar products, a Williamsburg tradition largely forgotten, except for the massive Domino plant along the river.
Of course, one of the best things about the city is stumbling upon the unexpected. Brooklyn is rife with random finds. Among many other chance encounters, I’ve ran into raging warehouse parties, and even costumed “headless” horsemen trotting down dark residential streets.
This past Saturday, on an afternoon wander through Park Slope, we came upon an open garage on 17th Street that was adorned with the art of James Leonard, an exhibition entitled “927 Days at Sea”
Later on, in the refreshingly clear early-autumn night, there was a dance performance, “if you look up”, by Anna Azrieli. A modest audience gathered on the sidewalk in front of the garage, which was a beacon of light along an otherwise dark block overlooking the Prospect Expressway. The piece was serene and silent, focused on exploring the relationship between the subtle and strong energies of movement. Most of the performers moved softly and expectantly while a lone dancer became increasingly drawn into confident and broad motion.
There is something rare and amazing that sometimes happens in these moments. Everyone was completely quiet, from the kids sitting on the ground to the rest of us drinking beer, and in this humble garage on this dark street, with the hum of the nearby highway, there was a certain unspoken coming-together.
The Open Source Gallery hosts a multitude of performances and exhibitions and has been on the Brooklyn scene since 2008. Remarkably, the community surrounding the gallery has rebounded from a fire which last November completely destroyed their original home.
Check them out here: http://open-source-gallery.org/
Vayable is a great way to discover new places and find unique experiences. They operate all over the world and connect people with guides that have expert knowledge of a particular area or activity.
Brooklyn is more spread-out than Manhattan, and is more off-the-radar. This can cause a visitor to feel intimated by the borough. These tours are a great way to discover some of the most dynamic neighborhoods in New York City, and are a wonderful way to orient oneself for further exploration.
These tours are NOT just for visitors! Locals too can learn more about own their neighborhoods and what makes them truly unique.
If Brooklyn were separate from the 5 boroughs, it would be the 4th largest city in the U.S.. Cast off the glitz of Manhattan and check it out!
There’s a story to this –
A friend of mine owned a great place called Stain Bar on Grand Street in Williamsburg. I drank there, had amazing conversations there, saw the night come to morning there, sang and played guitar there, had many shows there, barbecued there – saw summer and winter pass there. beneath the steeple of the nearby church.
One day in March, 2005, I met a singer/banjoplayer/accordionist with whom I collaborated and played – warehouse parties in the industrial backwaters of Brooklyn, etc. The experience re-awakened my passion for playing cello.
I played an outdoor show in the backyard, and my sister came. The next day I drove a good friend to an early JFK flight to PDX. – before the last day at a job.
I met my wife there. At an open mic night in an oppressive July.
This sculpture was in the backyard of Stain Bar. When they shut down I never knew what happened to it. I was pretty much sure I’d never see this again. But this past Saturday, I went into the backyard of a Mexican place in Greenpoint and there it was before me!
By chance, I bump into people I know about every six weeks, either on the street or the subway. But never before have I run into a sculpture at random.
I don’t know the name of the artist responsible. If you know, please let me know.