simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: August 2007
2 ... 2 ...

Friday, 31 August 2007

South Street Seaport

The South Street Seaport historic district in lower Manhattan is NYC's offering as a real tourist area, resembling other marketplaces such as the Harborplace of Baltimore, Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, Market East in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 6th Street Marketplace in Richmond, Virginia, Portside Festival Marketplace in Toledo, Ohio, and Bayside Marketplace in Miami, Florida. The cloned look of the aforementioned is not a coincidence. They were all done by the Rouse Company, a pioneer in the development of shopping malls and marketplaces since 1956. Although substantial efforts have been made to restore South Street to its original condition and feeling of its past, Pier 17, adjoining Fulton Street and the Fulton Market Building really define the area as a tourist oriented shopping district. Pier 17 itself was converted into a 3-story enclosed mall with shops and a food court. However, for those willing to eschew the commercial, it is easy to find much to enjoy in this area. To start with, the vistas alone are reason enough to visit, as one can see in the photo, taken from one of the wrap around outdoor decks at Pier 17. Also, the maritime past really can be felt just strolling through the area. The area has streets of restored buildings, most notably Schermerhorn Row and numerous galleries and moored ships. At Pier 16 seen in the photo, one can find a number of ships, some permanently moored and available for boarding: the Peking (1911), Wavertree (1885), and Ambrose (1908) - the Peking and Wavertree are two of the largest masted ships in existence. The training vessels the Pioneer (1885), Lettie G. Howard (1893) and W.O. Decker (1930) offer sail training, public sails and charter opportunities. The South Street Seaport Museum (207 front Street) was established in 1967. Start on Front Street: 207 (Visitors' Center), 209 (Museum Charts and Book Store), 211 (Print Shop) and 213-215 (the Seaport Gallery) ...

Thursday, 30 August 2007

La Rentrée

That back-to-school feeling is in the air and one can certainly see and feel it at NYU - the country's largest private university with over 40,000 students (click on any of the six links for previous postings involving NYU: Grad Alley, Cloud Appreciation, Light on Bobst, Waterworld, Offerings and A Tale of Two Colors). New students and their parents are being welcomed and oriented. There's the unloading of belongings from cars in front of dormitories. For most of us, regardless of age or whether one is a student or has children, this time of year brings back feelings of getting back to business - summer and summer vacations are over. Labor Day is here as summer's last hurrah. In France, where education is a national fever, this time of year is referred to as La Rentrée "a phrase which alludes to the end of vacations, the return to normal discipline, and a certain obligation to demonstrate that everybody still means business" (from the expatica website - click here to read more about this French phenomenon). The first day of school is actually referred to as "J" (for "jour"); there is a countdown of days before school which starts at J-10 (ten days before). Of course, there as here, feeling about school's start is mixed - a time of celebration or one of dread. In NYC, the weather has cooled, the sun is setting earlier and the march towards fall semester is unmistakable ...
Note: The photo was taken at NYU's Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Rats Gone Wild

Meet Oscar at work. Oscar is a Miniature Schnauzer who lives in the Village. Unfortunately, we have a quite visible rat population in Washington Square Park, particularly at night. They are frequently seen even out in the open, near people, away from bushes, skittering about. The numbers of rats fluctuates, largely depending on the Parks Department's efforts at baiting and picking up trash, which is a big attraction to rats. Trash pickup is never adequate - click here for Garbage a la Mode. Oscar goes crazy when set loose in the shrubbery of the park - he has caught and killed as many as 10-20 rats in one evening. He will chase them, dig for them, track them around trash cans - he is relentless, tireless and tenacious in ferreting them out. However, rats are quite astute and can hear him coming. His owner, Andrea, has at times experimented by removing his tags - he then becomes a formidable stealth ratter and his success rate soars. Schnauzers were originally bred in Germany in the 1800s as "ratters" to keep down the vermin around farms. Miniature Schnauzers are the result of crossbreeding of the Standard Schnauzer to produce a smaller version that could live more easily as a house pet but still hunt vermin. This breed is the 10th most popular in the United States and is well suited to city apartment living. Imagine Oscar at the Karni Mata temple in Deshnoke, Rajasthan, India where rats are worshipped and 20,000 or so run loose. The temple pays tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. Click here for an extensive article. I don't really recommend it, but if you have the stomach for it, see a video here ...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Watchtower

The Watchtower sign on the Brooklyn waterfront is a site nearly every New Yorker knows has seen - it's visible from many vantage points. And most of us know that this is headquarters for the Jehovah's Witnesses and their publication - Watchtower Magazine. The term Watchtower is a shortened version of the official name of the corporate entity in use by the religious organization and publishing division: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The offices at 25 Columbia Street (where the sign is located) is not only the New York bethel, but world headquarters. The corporate entity is one of the 40 largest companies in NYC with annual revenues of nearly 1 billion dollars. New Yorkers have also heard over the years that the religious organization owns much property in Brooklyn Heights - the subject of much controversy and covered in many articles over the years. As it turns out, this is true - they have been in the neighborhood since 1909 and own 18 properties there. They also own 12 properties in nearby Dumbo - click here for a posting on Dumbo and links to several others. In 2004, they started divesting and selling off properties (they are selling 6 of the 18) including the Standish Arms Hotel on Columbia Heights and 360 Furman St., a former Bible shipping facility (sold for $205 million) and being developed into luxury condos, One Brooklyn Bridge Park. The printing business has been consolidated to their Walkill, NY facility. Click here for a photo tour through the properties showing their printing facilities, residences (members live in a number of corporate owned buildings), the laundry building, etc. The religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses are quite a unique departure from mainstream Christianity. Only 144,000 will be chosen for immortal life. The wicked will be destroyed; the rest of mankind will live in earthly paradise during the Millennium ...

Monday, 27 August 2007

Charlie Parker Jazz Fest

The 15th annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival took place this weekend on Saturday, August 25 at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, and Sunday, August 26 at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, in the neighborhoods where Parker lived and worked. There is, of course, a plethora of information on and offline about renowned jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920 - 1955) - click here for his official website. From the website of City Parks Foundation who sponsored the festival: "The festival assembles some of the finest musicians in the world who reflect on Parker's musical individuality and genius, to promote appreciation for this highly influential and world-renowned artist." I attended part of the concert at Tompkins Square Park. I'm not particularly familiar with the jazz world, but I have it on good authority that the performers who celebrated this event were indeed world class: Chico Hamilton, Todd Williams and Maurice Brown. Abbey Lincoln was scheduled but unable to perform - a surprise visit was made by Cassandra Wilson who sang in her place. The afternoon concerts were well attended with an estimated 5000 at Tompkins Square Park. The thunderstorms which were predicted never came to pass - the day cleared, the afternoon's weather became quite nice. Many took to the lawns and spread out to relax. There's nothing like an outdoor summer concert in perfect weather. This was a nice way for jazz fans to usher out the summer ...

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Dead to the World

No he's not dead, just dead to the world - an old expression my mother used to characterize someone so deeply asleep they really were oblivious to anything or anyone around them. I spotted this homeless man in the South Street Seaport area at the end of Water Street where it intersects Dover Street, essentially under the Brooklyn Bridge. His cozy looking residence was a narrow space wedged between a chain link fence on the Dover Street side and a wall between abutments under a bridge ramp. Click here for a map of the exact location. I have done a number of postings involving the homeless - click on any of the six following links: The Art of Kissing, Homeless Art Scene, Extreme Camping, Caravan of Dreams, Aspiration and most recently Stephanie. It's amazing to reflect on the horrific problems some people have with insomnia and how this man can sleep so comfortably outdoors, in the city, under a bridge, across from a busy cafe, in broad daylight and plain view, while being photographed ...

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Audubon Center

Famed landscape architects Olmsted and Vaux, who designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn where this building is located, built the original Boathouse in 1876 as a rustic canopied structure on piers straddling the north end of the Lullwater. In 1905, it was replaced with the current Beaux Arts structure seen in the photo. Its design was inspired by the lower story of Sansovino's Library of St. Mark, built in 16th-century Venice. The white matte-glazed terra cotta facade is adorned with Tuscan columns capped with a balustrade. The building was relocated to the Lullwater's eastern edge to provide a vantage point for sunset views over the water. Targeted for demolition in the 1960s, the building was saved through community protest. The City of New York granted it landmark status in 1968, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The building underwent a four year, five million dollar renovation and opened as the nation's first urban Audubon Center on April 26, 2002, the birthdate of both John James Audubon and Frederick Law Olmsted. The center is the first of 1,000 nature education facilities to be built across the country by the year 2020, with a goal of reaching one in four schoolchildren nationwide ...

Friday, 24 August 2007


I enjoy finding those bucolic settings, atypical of the big city. Spots of country in New York City. They do exist - places like St. Lukes Garden, the bend in Commerce Street (where the Cherry Lane Theater and 39 & 41 Commerce are), that amazing house at 121 Charles Street, Time Landscape, the many community gardens in the city, the beaches or waterways and of course the more well known: Central Park, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where one can find many spots where there is virtually no sense being in the city - like The Ramble in Central Park. Last night, while walking with a friend, we were surprised to find these grapes growing in the LaGuardia Corner Gardens - a community garden established over 25 years ago at the corner of LaGuardia Place and Bleecker Street (open at various times to the public). According to the garden caretakers, this is the first season for grapes there. They were not sure of the variety, but I did sample some and they were very good. I once had a conversation with a friend who commented on similar meanderings of mine and responded: "you need to get a country house." A valid point, but one doesn't always want to deal with travel, traffic, costs etc. for respite. The process can be more stressful than its worth, especially for a short break. So for now, when I want to get away for just a little while, I find those spots of country and when I emerge, all the city's amenities, conveniences and culture are right there ...

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Gehry in Gotham

I am not going to condense the writings of architecture critics or critique their criticism of Frank Gehry. I am not qualified to do so and much has already been written on Gehry, this building in particular and its relationship to his other work. Gehry is an internationally known starchitect and this is his first (long awaited) commission in NYC - click here photos of the entire building. A quick visual review of his work will immediately tell you what all the controversy is about (such as the concert hall for Disney or this Dancing House). The recently completed IAC building shown in the photo is located in Chelsea at 19th Street and 11th Avenue and serves as world headquarters for media and internet empire of Barry Diller. This work is rather tame by comparison to Gehry's other work, typically very sculptural and characterized by warped, curved surfaces. His most well known work is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain. In spite of the critics, many do feel that works like Gehry's are much needed in NYC, which has been plagued by essentially very conservative, bland, utilitarian office buildings. I have written of a handful of other "starchitects" and their works in the city - click on the various links: Richard Meier and his residential towers in the West Village, David Rockwell and his renovation work at the W Hotel Union Square and at the Carlton, Philip Johnson and his Urban Glass House and Charles Gwathmey and his 21 story glass residential condo at Astor Place. There are new projects by Santiago Calatrava and Jean Nouvel ...

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Out There

Oh yes, this person is way out there. An infrequent regular to Washington Square Park, I caught him styling through one morning. Those of us who spend some time in the neighborhood have caught him in a variety of wardrobes, always walking tall and proud - no shy demeanor or closet behavior here. I know nothing about him. This is the latest in a series of exhibitionistic regulars and other flagrant and unusual acts I have documented in this park - click on any of the following links: Spike, Narcissism Gone Wild, Water Sprites, Wood Nymph, War and Peace, Spring Madness, The Dance Parade, The Krishna Fest, PDA, Dyke March, Singing Bowls, Spinning, Twelve Tribes, Penny Farthing, Homeless Art, Superheroes, Snake Charmer, Circus Amok. There are many I have not documented: the 911 Mysteries group who believe that 911 was a the result of a controlled demolition; Wednesday nights we have the Christians preaching and giving out free food; Mennonites singing and preaching to passersby (one of the most startling contrasts is to see wholesome religious folk in their classic attire in Manhattan); the ritual sacrifice of a chicken on 6/6/06. And we have a stable of regulars who are genuinely askew. We sometimes jokingly refer to the place as an asylum ...

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Spiegelworld is a traveling venue currently installed on Pier 17 at South Street Seaport, running the summer through the end of September. Click here more photos, taken during daylight. This is a small European-styled circus meets burlesque/cabaret with acts that span the spectrum of variety arts entertainment at its best. I hate to use the word "circus" since this connotes many things to different people - and most likely nothing like the two shows currently running - Absinthe and La Vie. The shows are quite edgy and erotic with a a fair amount of sexual content - implicit and explicit as well as some nudity, however I found none of it gratuitous. There are hand balancing acts, an amazing diabolo act, various aerial acts, contortionists, cabaret singing, comedy, juggling. In addition to the two shows mentioned, Spiegelworld features live music acts, dance parties (with DJs), an outdoor restaurant, and bar (with tents for inclement weather) - click here for their website. The main shows are held in the antique Spiegeltent, the Salon Perdu, with its opulent decor of mirrors and brocade and intimate setting (only 350 seats). All with spectacular vistas of the cityscape, the East River and the bridges. I attended with a friend for her birthday - we saw both shows back to back. I was thoroughly impressed - the shows were well choreographed, the acts are solid, the talent and skill level was outstanding. The two shows are quite different - I wouldn't want to chose between them. La Vie is performed by Montreal's circus company The 7 Fingers. The acts are woven together with a story line involving death and purgatory. Absinthe resembles more closely a variety arts show. What is most remarkable about both of these shows is the depth and breadth of talents of the cast members, many of whom perform in different acts atypical in a age of specialization. Don't miss these shows - see them both ...

Monday, 20 August 2007


The Spiegeltent is a traveling European mirror tent. These are hand-hewn pavilions built of wood, mirrors, canvas, leaded glass and detailed in velvet and brocade. They have been used as traveling dance halls, bars and entertainment salons since they were created in the early 20th century in Belgium. One of the last remaining Belgian Spiegeltents is The Famous Spiegeltent, which travels around the world to various venues such as the Edinburgh Fringe, the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Belfast Festival at Queen's and Just for Laughs in Montreal, Canada. The Famous Spiegeltent was built in 1920 by master craftsmen Oscar Mols Dom and Loius Goor. Marlene Dietrich sang ‘Falling In love Again’ on its stage in the 1930’s. There are only a few remaining spiegeltents worldwide at this time (one of the largest is the Grand Spiegeltent) - read more here about Siegeltents here. The one in the photo is located at South Street Seaport as part of Spiegelworld. In tomorrow's posting, I will tell of the spectacular shows I saw there with exterior shots of the tent and environment they have created ...

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Lotos Club

I was fortunate yesterday to be able to attend a function (the wedding of a friend) at the Lotos Club, one of the oldest literary clubs in the US. This private club is located at 5 East 66th Steet in a brick and limestone French Renaissance building, designed by Richard Howland Hunt and built in 1900 by the daughter of William H. Vanderbilt. The club dates back to 1870 when a group of young New York journalists met in the office of the New York Leader. These men were De Witt Van Buren of the Leader (the first president), Andrew C. Wheeler of the Daily World, George W. Hows of the Evening Express, F. A. Schwab of the Daily Times, W. L. Alden of the Citizen, and J. H. Elliot of the Home Journal. Previous failures at creating a strictly literary organization had demonstrated that this was not viable, so membership to a broader group was decided upon. The stated primary object of the club was "to promote social intercourse among journalists, literary men, artists, and members of the theatrical profession." The club has a long list of well known members, such as Mark Twain. It has had a number of locations - from its first home at 2 Irving Place off 14th Street to its current location at 5 East 66th Street.
NOTE: The selection of the name The Lotos Club was to convey "an idea of rest and harmony" - the spelling of Lotos comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, The Lotos Eaters, two lines of which were selected as the motto of the club:

In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon

The endless afternoon setting provided the ideal atmosphere to indulge in creative and stimulating thought and conversation ...

Saturday, 18 August 2007

17 Monitors

I really wanted to try and grab all these monitors and find homes for them, but their time on the street (outside an NYU office) was short - they were being loaded on a truck for recycling. I spoke to one of the truckers and asked about their condition. He was fairly vague and non-specific. My gut feel, though, was that these were being tossed and replaced by flat screen LCD monitors, a common scenario nowadays. After all, what is the likelihood of 17 virtually identical monitors failing at the same time or failing over time and being stored? I have acquired many CRT monitors recently for free including high end graphics models - many excellent quality monitors are being given away or being sold very cheaply (check out craigslist in your area) as people replace them with more compact LCDs. Disposal of electronics in NYC is a huge problem. In my office it took us at least a year to find a way to dispose of our computers, printers etc.. Our first choice was to donate the working items for reuse (many of the items still functioned.) No luck at all - our computers were even rejected by an agency that donates computers to the underprivileged in Africa - our computers were too old for them to accept. When the reuse approach was clearly not viable, we decided to recycle them. We still had difficulty - we tried non-profit organizations and private for-profit companies. The city does have a recycling program - it requires dropping off, has infrequent recycling days and limits individuals to one item at a time - impractical for a business with many items to dispose of. We finally found a wonderful non-profit organization to work with (Per Scholas) that even arranged to pick up. However, we did have to pay per component to get them recycled ...

Friday, 17 August 2007

Gang Wars

Between 1823 (with the formation of the New York Gas Light Company), and 1877 there were six competing gas companies in NYC - at times employees literally battling for customers in the streets - leading to the term "gas house gangs." Add to this brew Edison's invention of the electric light bulb in 1879 and the creation of Equitable Gas, backed by Rockefeller. The competing gas companies were forced to remarket and promote gas for other purposes. In 1884 came the inevitable merger of the six companies forming the Consolidated Gas Company of New York. Offices were established at 4 Irving Place (where the current offices and tower are located) at the home of the Manhattan Gas Light Company in an Italianate brownstone. Acquisitions of various electric companies were made including the New York Edison Company. In 1936, the name was changed to the Consolidated Edison Company. ConEd is the product of acquisitions and mergers of more than 170 companies. The office buildings of ConEd are a assemblage of structures built at different times, starting with a 12 story building designed by Henry Hardenbergh in 1910 at 15th and Irving, culminating in the 26 story building (seen in the photo) designed by Warren and Wetmore, known for their Beaux Arts work such as Grand Central. The limestone clad building is quite prominent in the night skyline of NYC with its numerous illuminated features: a 3-story tower with Doric colonnade, four clock faces and a 38 foot bronze lantern. This is one of a handful of iconic Manhattan buildings which can be seen from many vantage points along with the Met Life Tower, the New York Life Tower, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Zeckendorf Towers ... Please learn your illuminated buildings - there will be a quiz :)

Thursday, 16 August 2007

High Line Portrait Project

I ran across this display unexpectedly while carousing Chelsea on 10th Avenue near the High Line - a 1.45 mile elevated rail structure running through the Westside of Manhattan from the Meatpacking District all the way to 30th Street. Click here to see a short film. This rail line was originally built in the 1930s to elevate trains from the city streets. The line, which has been unused since 1980 and leaving an abandoned elevated structure overgrown with weeds, is being converted to a huge park to open in 2008. Until recently, the High Line has been unknown to many New Yorkers and visitors but this unique project promises to be a major contribution to parkland and quality of life in the city. It can be easily seen overhead on 10th Avenue in Chelsea. From the projects website: "The High Line Portrait Project was inspired by the many High Line supporters who have helped bring the project from an unlikely dream to a reality. When Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999, the High Line was a rusty industrial relic under threat of demolition. Now construction is underway to transform the structure into a one-of-a-kind public open space, the first section of which is expected to open in 2008. Photographer Tom Kletecka created portraits of more than 800 High Line supporters in front of a backdrop by Joel Sternfeld. Each participant was asked to share his or her dream." Click here to go to their site to view the photos ...

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


There are many secret worlds in New York City and rooftop houses are one of them. I am sure having a private little shangri-la in the city is a fantasy that many have had, but few realize that these pied-à-aires have been actualized by a fortunate few. I was somewhat surprised to find out how little information is available on this phenomenon - one would not expect a lot in print, allowing for the fact that photographing these properties is going to be difficult without an invitation, but typically one would expect a few feature articles - I found none (I do recall an article many years ago about a rooftop cabin). The gabled structure in the photo is not strictly a rooftop house - it is an extension of an top floor apartment. It sits atop the building at 203 East 13th Street on the corner of 3rd Avenue in the East Village. The building itself was built in 1910 and converted to condominiums in 1986. In the early 90s, the owner of the top floor apartment built the cedar-shingled structure. Originally a spiral staircase led to a small rooftop room - this was torn down and replaced with the rooftop complex which includes a master bedroom and bath, a small greenhouse, a darkroom, a hot tub, outdoor decks and plantings. I wish I had closeups and interior photos of the property but alas, I could not find any ...

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


Stephanie Green is a homeless woman who reads voraciously. That is what intrigued me most about her - she is nearly always reading - quality books, including classics, most given to her by various people who have made her acquaintance. For the last year, I have seen her at this spot nearly every day, living in front of a vacant store in SOHO, partially sheltered by overhead scaffolding. Click here for more photos. She wears jewelry and and at times I have seen her put on makeup. I had naively thought that this would be the first story I would write based entirely on a personal interview. I spoke to her on a few occasions - the first to ask if she would be willing to talk about herself and be photographed for this website - she agreed. However, the "interview" was extremely awkward and she was not as forthcoming as I had hoped. I did learn that she was from Santa Monica, California, born 2/5/1980. She has not had contact with her family. She occasionally stays in homeless shelters. I did not learn much else - how did she become homeless, does she have any hopes, does she bathe and where, does she have drug problems, do any of her belongings get stolen when she leaves them? In addition to her own efforts at collecting money, she did tell me she has a boyfriend (also homeless) who scavenges for food and money which they share. When I asked if anyone else had taken photos of her, she showed me some color printouts from pbase (an online photo site) - click here. She recently moved - I saw her in the Village on University Place. So it was time for these photos to be posted ...

Monday, 13 August 2007

FishBridge Garden

Fishbridge Garden is REALLY off the beaten path - I did not find it in any secret or hidden New York sites or guides. Online you will find a description on the Parks Department website - click here. A friend and I stumbled into this place while walking the South Street Seaport area on Front Street. At the Fulton Street end you have shops, the Pier 17 complex and ships - all well known to tourists. This area was the home of the Fulton Fish Market, one of the country's (and world's) largest. It was also one of the last working areas of the Manhattan waterfront and one of the last of the city’s outdoor wholesale markets. Six days a week, from midnight until about 9 a.m., the Fulton Fish Market was a dynamic bedlam of rubber-booted workers cleaning, boning, icing, unpacking, and repacking fish from throughout the world. Walking away from Fulton Street along Front Street towards the Brooklyn Bridge, one is treated with impeccably restored buildings of the neighborhood - one can see many signs of former fish dealers. Some may find the area over-gentrified and too many nationally known retailers at the street level. But we chose to enjoy the architecture of this area on a beautiful day and leave the nay saying at home. At the end of Front Street at Dover Street one will find a tiny Park/Garden running a short block to Water Street. Click here for more photos. This park/garden was built between 1990 and 1992 on the site of a former parking lot and rat-infested garbage dump. Local volunteers cleaned up the site and built a garden children’s play area, barbecue, and dog run. Unfortunately the Garden was closed when we got there, so we only go to peer through the fence. Next time ...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Jet Ski

It may come as a surprise to see these watercraft in the waters on NYC, but along with canoeing and kayaking, the city is seeing more water related activites in the rivers as they become cleaner. Jet Skis, Waverunners, Sea Doos, water scooters, personal watercraft, "thrill craft" - whatever the name, these vehicles are controversial. Many communities and locales have bans and the watercraft industry lobbies to keep them legal. They have been banned in National Parks. The issues are obvious to anyone who has observed them in action - noise pollution, water pollution and danger. These vehicles can travel at 70 miles per hour. Canoers and Kayakers generally dislike any powered craft, not just because of the noise but also the wake they create, making capsizing a risk. Accidental deaths have occurred with personal watercraft and in 2006 a teen killed another teen in Brooklyn and was charged with manslaughter - a first for a NYC boating accident - click here for article. The industry, however, has made efforts to design cleaner, quieter and safer craft. Of course I imagine from the point of view of the Jet Skiers, being out on the East River on a beautiful summer afternoon, one might see things differently - the exhilaration, the vistas, the water ...

Note: the photograph was taken at South Street Seaport, Pier 17, on the East River. The vista is looking Northeast towards the Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan Bridge behind it.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


Kiehl's Pharmacy is legendary. I will give only a brief synopsis here of this remarkable company, since their history is long with many details - I recommend you click here for an in depth article about Kiehl's and try to visit the original shop. This NYC institution was established in 1951 at its current location in the East Village at 109 Third Avenue as an apothecary by John Kiehl, selling a variety of herbal and homeopathic remedies. Irving Morse, the son of a Russian immigrant family, apprenticed to Kiehl and obtained a degree in pharmacology from Columbia University. He purchased the store in 1921. His son Aaron, also studied pharmacology at Columbia and in the 1950s became active in the business; in the 1960s he took over the business. In the 1960s the pharmacy was phased out and Kiehl's began developing it's own natural care products for which they are famous today. In time, Kiehl's began selling to upscale stores beginning with Neiman Marcus in 1975. In 1988, Aaron's daughter Jami took over with her husband, Olympic skier Klaus Heidegger. Kiehl's has a very distinct character going back to its inception. Historically, the focus has been on high quality, natural products with a lack of emphasis on packaging and marketing - they have had a virtual cult following of patrons, including many celebrities. In 2000, the company was purchased by L'Oreal. There are now stores worldwide. However, efforts have been made to maintain a commitment to Kiehl's roots and the imprint made by Aaron Morse and the family ...

Friday, 10 August 2007

Old Homestead

The neon signs and large cow mounted prominently over the entrance to the Old Homestead Steakhouse have been a NYC icon for ages. Located at 56 9th Avenue in the meat packing district on a major thoroughfare, most New Yorkers have seen this landmark many times traveling downtown - click here for photo. It is the city's oldest steakhouse and one of the oldest restaurants, dating back to 1868, with humbler origins as a popular place to eat for workers in the neighboring wholesale meat market. As you can see from their website and pricing, this is no longer the place for the common worker. The specialty here is Kobe steak, or more properly Kobe-style beef. Kobe beef was traditionally raised in the Kobe region of Japan from the Wagyu breed of cattle and is renowned for tenderness and flavor. It has a high degree of fat marbling, enhanced by the traditional secret methods of raising Kobe beef, including beer in the diet and massage. However, nearly all Kobe beef in the United States - known as Kobe-style beef, or American Kobe beef is raised domestically by ranchers who have crossbred Wagyu cattle with Angus cattle. To my understanding, any claims of beer in the diet or massaging cattle in this country is a myth - one that that restaurants do not necessarily try to dispel. In 2003, Old Homestead introduced the first Kobe burgers which will set you back $41. Most reports regarding the food seem to be still favorable, always a difficult feat to maintain when a place becomes a legend. Of course there are naysayers and the debate goes on regarding NYC's best steakhouse with many contenders: Peter Luger, Sparks, Palm, Smith and Wollensky, Keens ...

Thursday, 9 August 2007

More Air

Hot summer days are never a picnic in any big city, but yesterday, NYC was particularly nightmarish. Start with a torrential rainstorm overnight that dropped 3 inches of rain in an hour, causing massive flooding of roadways and the subway system where service was seriously disrupted - in some cases actually suspended, leaving many New Yorkers with essentially no way of getting to work. Resorting to auto transportation was not the best idea either. Traffic snarls were everywhere as seen in the photo looking down lower Broadway. A tornado (confirmed by the National Weather Service) hit Sunset Park and Bayridge areas of Brooklyn (the first there since 1950) ripping up building roofs and felling trees. Click here for the Gothamist's story of Wild Wednesday. As a result of the heavy rain, the combined sewer overflow (CSO) system (which I have previously written about - click here) dumped tons of sewage into the ocean and waterways around the city - there may be beach closings due to contamination. And we had blistering heat in the 90s with humidity typical of a hot, steamy, August day. It was stifling. More Air anyone?

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Night Out

Yesterday I attended NYC's participation in National Night Out in Father Demo Square in the Village, sponsored by the 6th precinct. The National Night Out campaign involves citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from over 10,000 communities across the country. The event is designed to heighten crime awareness, strengthen local anticrime programs and police-community partnerships. In NYC, the event has evolved to one where the focus in on officers who have lost their lives in the last five years. Among those in attendance at this event were Mayor Bloomberg, NYPD police commissioner Raymond Kelly, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and NYPD sixth precinct commander Theresa Shortell. David Gruber (see posting on the reopening of Father Demo Square) was on hand and introduced me to a number of attendees including the Borough President, Scott Stringer to whom I gave a New York Daily Photo card - I hope he visits this site. One block of Carmine Street was closed to traffic where the 6th precinct had a cookout (with free food) and tables of literature related to crime prevention. Although all the officials that were present have a record of public service, I must say that I have been extraordinarily impressed by police commissioner Raymond Kelly. A self made man of humble background (his father was a milkman), he has several academic degrees, is a former marine and has had numerous awards and citations. I would highly recommend a read of his bio - click here. Through his stewardship along with efforts of others like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the CompStat system (started in 1994 by Police Commissioner William Bratton and Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple) , crime is now the lowest it has been in NYC since 1963. I know Kelly is only human, but it's nice to see they come like this sometimes ...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Piercing Al Fresco

This photo is a footnote to yesterday's posting about the Police Riot Concert held in Washington Square Park. Click here for a photo collection and click here for a short video. When I told people, young and old, that I had photographed piercings being done outdoors on the ground, everyone had the same reaction - "outdoors, on the ground?" But I found it in keeping with the defiant spirit of the event. After all, I am not sure prudence, propriety and proper procedure apply to attendees of a punk rock concert. At first glance I was not sure why these people were sitting on the ground looking looking at something - closer examination revealed the object of interest to be a small zippered case opened to display body piercing jewelry, disposable rubber gloves (and I imagine the piercing tools themselves). Actually, it appeared that the piercer was operating as professionally as she could under the circumstances. Body piercing, of course, has an long history and large subculture. It's a world unto itself with many facets: the jewelry, the procedure and tools (sterilization, autoclaves, needles, cannula, scalpelling, dermal punching), healing and cleaning, allergic reactions, scarring, keloids, infections both bacterial and viral, where to pierce etc. Click here for a good overview ...

Monday, 6 August 2007

Police Riot Concert

This was an event that really caught me by surprise - no one I met was aware that it was to be held, apart from the many music fans. The annual Police Riot concert is typically held in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village - this year the concert was rescheduled for Washington Square. The concert, which featured Leftöver Crack (a group that has been been banned from several NYC venues), commemorated the 19th anniversary of the police riots of August 6-7, 1988 in Tompkins Square Park. The park at that time had essentially been taken over by drug dealers, skinheads and squatting homeless. The riot, which occurred on the day of a rally, protesting a recently enacted curfew, was seen as largely police incited as a result of mishandling on their part. Many complaints of police brutality were made along with public condemnations (such as in the New York Times) against the Police department and the commissioner Benjamin Ward. In addition to Leftöver Crack, groups performing were: False Prophets, World Inferno Friendship Society, Planned Collapse and Witch Hunt. There were guest speakers such as Norman Siegel (former ACLU director). Event appropriate books and zines were being sold. The concert was essentially punk rock, however more specifically there were elements of ska, hardcore, crust punk, and metal. The music was LOUD of course and spontaneous moshing occurred with stage diving. This event was a superb photo opportunity - the mohawks, hair colors, clothing, piercings, mosh pits and stage diving made great subjects in a perfect clear day's afternoon light. Click here for a short video of the concert. Click here for a photo set of the concert...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Spalding Gray

This tree and plaque in Washington Square Park is a relatively unknown memorial to Spalding Gray (1941-2004). If you are unfamiliar with Spalding and his work, I suggest you go to his website here. Spalding was an award winning monologist par excellence, although his work and life was certainly controversial. Gray wrote 18 monologues and appeared in many films. He is most well known for Swimming to Cambodia, the filming of one of his monologues based on his experiences in Southeast Asia while working in a small acting role in the film The Killing Fields. In January 2004, he was reported missing - read the article here. In March, 2004, Spalding's body was found in the East River. It is believed his death was a suicide and that he jumped into the river from the Staten Island Ferry. He had threatened to do this in a note to his wife in 2003 - click here for the entire story. He had previously attempted suicide in 2002 and his mother had also committed suicide. Spalding moved to NYC in 1967 and lived in the Village. In 1988 the New York Times ran an article where they asked 12 well known New Yorkers where they would go to show a visitor the real new York. In it Gray said: "And then there's Washington Square Park. I go there every day. It's a little carnival: the fire-breathing guy, the guy sitting on a little stool, giving out free advice. It's distinctively New York, not a Parisian thing, or a San Francisco thing. What I figured out in L.A. is, they've got lots of nature, like birds and trees, but no human nature. Here it's like a dance, everyone very aware of their own body space. The other night, I saw four people on a specially made bicycle for four. They had a generator that was lighting up four huge spheres, light bulbs on their heads, as they rode up Second Avenue. It takes a lot to catch an eye in New York, but they did, and I said, you know New York always redeems itself." ...

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Red Panda

This word was new to me - crepuscular - pertaining to twilight. In the case of an animal it means that it is active at twilight (dawn and dusk) as opposed to diurnal or nocturnal. The Red Panda in the photo is from the Central Park Zoo and an example of a mammal that is crepuscular. This perhaps explains not only his relaxed state in the photo, but also the reason that these fellows are difficult to spot moving around at the zoo habitat during exhibit hours. Red Panda's tend to be solitary and their habitat is the Himalayan foothills of southwestern China, Tibet, northern Myanmar, and Nepal in temperate forests at elevations of 4,900 to 13,000 feet. They are an endangered species and part of the Species Survival Plan - the Central Park Zoo has produced three cubs, a difficult feat in captivity. Their diet is almost entirely bamboo which is extremely high in indigestible fiber, making it difficult for red pandas to extract the nutrients they need. They need to eat large quantities of bamboo and spend long hours foraging. Their low energy diet does not lend itself to an active lifestyle, so they spend most of their time eating and sleeping (in tree branches or tree caves) - they may sleep half the day. I think this lifestyle would appeal to many ...

NOTE: A friend informed me that the term crepuscular has also been used to describe works of artists, such as Albert Pinkham Ryder, Arthur Dove and Winslow Homer who depicted subjects with the light characteristic at that time of day.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Lunch Limbo

This is a trend for which I have been waiting a long time - better street food vendors. Hot dog and pretzel carts don't do the job anymore, certainly not for lunch. Most people I know of buy most of their lunches out. The plethora of options and convenience of delis and other takeout venues in NYC wears down one's resistance and soon the idea of bringing lunch to work becomes a charming notion and dim memory. But we get spoiled here and soon even the absolutely incredible selection of foods in a deli or green grocer is not enough - we still feel there is "nothing to eat" and one graduates to small takeout restaurants. But the best of these become quite expensive on a regular basis (sandwiches at $8-$10) and one is left in lunch limbo - what to eat. What we really want is a prepared, cooked MEAL that is excellent and inexpensive. Enter the high quality street food vendor, where $5 will go a long way. I wrote of this already in my posting of NY Dosas - a Vendy Award winning Sri Lankan food cart on Washington Square. But now we have a new problem - lines (I understand that NY Dosas gets as many as 60 people waiting in line). New Yorkers are suckers for "the best" and there are always many willing to wait in line to get that special thing, best thing, get something first (iPhone, Harry Potter book), blah blah blah. We tried Calexico yesterday, a Vendy Award finalist. We had been trying for some time, but unless you phone them in advance by 11:45 AM (they have a cellphone) or get there by noon, you're looking at huge lines. The food was good, but I'm not sure it was worth strategic planning in our office for a week to score a meal without waiting for an hour ...

NOTE: The cart in the photo is Speedy Gonzalez specializing in TexMex and is located on Broadway in SOHO - good food, no lines (the last time I was there).

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Picture New York

This photo is from the demonstration in Union Square on Friday, July 27, which was sponsored by Picture New York, accompanied by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, Critical Mass bike riders and Rev Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Click here for a photo of a demonstrator that was brandishing quite the T-Shirt. As I wrote in the posting on Reverend Billy (click here), there is pending legislation proposed by the Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting that would require a permit for photography and videography in New York city. Permits and $1 million in liability insurance would be needed for a group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than 30 minutes as well as a group of five or more people who would be using a tripod for more than ten minutes. According to a new York Times article, although officials have indicated that the rules are not intended to apply to amateurs or tourists, there is nothing in the proposed ruling that specifically exempts them. The fear is that this could lead to discriminatory enforcement. Many demonstrators were brandishing cardboard props modeled after a 16-millimeter Bolex camera - click here for photo. And in an interesting sidebar, this guy was arrested for riding his bike on the flag - click here. NOTE: The city is accepting public feedback until August 3 ...

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Radio City

This is Radio City Music Hall, one of NYC's best known attractions, top tourist destinations and part of the Rockefeller Center complex. It has a roster of film debuts and a history of stage shows with luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Bill Cosby, Liberace, Sammy Davis, Jr., Count Basie, Itzhak Perlman, Ray Charles and BB King etal. The music hall was created by John D.Rockefeller, Jr., impresario Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel, and RCA chairman David Sarnoff (the name "Radio City" is from RCA - Radio Corporation of America). Radio City opened in December, 1932. The structure was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone with the spectacular interior by Donald Deskey, winner of the design competition at that time. Deskey was a pioneer in industrial and packaging design with an impressive list of credits - Joy detergent bottle (1950), Cheer detergent box (1951), window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and exhibits at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Click here. The interior, designated as a Historic landmark in 1979, is an Art Deco masterpiece with one of the largest stages in the world. Ceilings reach 84 feet. The Great Stage, framed by a huge proscenium arch that measures 60 feet high and 100 feet wide, is an engineering marvel with a system of hydraulic elevators. The Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ houses its pipes in 11 different rooms. With "The Progress of Man" as Deskey's general theme, he created a stunning tribute to human achievement in art, science and industry. He made art an integral part of the design, engaging fine artists to create murals, wall coverings and sculpture; textile designers to develop draperies and carpets; craftsmen to make ceramics, wood panels and chandeliers. All manner of precious materials (including marble and gold foil) and industrial materials were used. In 1999 the facility underwent a massive $70 million dollar restoration. The music hall is home to the renowned Rockettes, a precision dance team, virtually synonymous with the theater itself, along with the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a tradition in NYC since 1933. It's impossible to give a real sense of this magnificent space in writing - I suggest you visit at least once in your life...