simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: May 2008
2 ... 2 ...

Friday, 30 May 2008

Model for Decorum

Gothic meets drugs, sex and rock and roll. Not such an unusual mix actually, it's just that we generally don't think gothic church. This place has actually been a neighborhood problem and has had a sordid history. It has been a night club since 1983, when it opened as The Limelight, owned by Peter Gatien and designed by Ari Bahat. Gatien owned a number of Limelight nightcubs - read about it here. And you can visit their website here.
The space benefits of course from the incredible architecture - huge rooms, soaring ceilings, stained glass widows and a labyrinth of chambers.
In 1996, club attendee Michael Alig was arrested and later convicted for the killing and dismemberment of Angel Melendez, a drug dealer based at The Limelight - you can read about Alig here. Opened and closed in the 1990s for drug trafficking, it was reincarnated in 2003 as the club Avalon.
The brownstone structure, at 47 W. 20th Street and 6th Avenue, was built in 1846 as the Church of the Holy Communion for an Episcopalian congregation. It was designed by renowned architect Richard Upjohn, cofounder and first president of the AIA (American Institute of Architects). Upjohn, a British immigrant, was most well known for his gothic revival churches. Trinity Church is one of his best known works.
This church building was saved in the 1960s when it became designated as a landmark. It was subsequently sold and used as a drug rehabilitation center.
It's not the idea of a church being converted to a den of debauchery that is so disappointing, it's the state of decay that graces the exterior. I thought the lone figure of an older woman eating her lunch on the steps of the church was an appropriate statement.
Its such a shame for an important historic structure to deteriorate this way. But then, a rock and roll club can't be expected to be a model for decorum ...

Thursday, 29 May 2008

View of the World

I hate to use the phrase de rigueur again, but if there ever was a need for it, this is a prime example. Because familiarity with this image, View of the World from 9th Avenue, is de rigueur for every New Yorker and anyone who wants to understand this city's people. This really is how many of us see New York City. I actually visualize the world much like this at times - when I first saw this work, I was stunned as to how close it was to my mind's perspective of the world.
Note how inconsequential things outside the city are depicted. Ironically, the area of Manhattan shown is itself one of the least important, yet it still looms large over other cities, states and countries.
The density of people and services is so great here that it really is possible to go quite some time without leaving - many Greenwich Village residents joke about how they never go north of 14th street for months or even years at a time. Manhattan is literally a world unto to itself and center for a myriad of industries. It is very easy to adopt a world view not too far from this work of art.
The image itself is a New Yorker magazine cover from March 29, 1976, , created by Saul Steinberg, who did 85 covers and 1,200 drawings for the magazine. The photo was taken of a poster hanging in a shop in the Village. I didn't even have to go to 9th Avenue, seek out the original or step inside a shop - my view of the world from 9th avenue was had from the comfort of my own neighborhood in a gallery window. Now that's a New Yorker :)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Sea of Yellow

What was most remarkable about my journey in this vehicle was the comment my friend Joey made while driving me uptown - he referred to what we saw as a "sea of yellow" - that is exactly the phrase I have used many times and what was in my mind as we crept through slow moving traffic. I shot a number of photos "blind" by raising the camera through his open sunroof. The evening light really enhanced the already yellow hue of the taxis.
Taxis are part of the fabric of this city. Perhaps fabric is too flattering and some would prefer background noise. But in either case, there are many times, as seen in this photo, where yellow dominates the street and rules the eye.
When I was a college student, I drove a taxi for about a year and a half. Those were rough times and it was the wild west. It was exciting, though and I learned more about the city more quickly than any other way. It was like orientation on steroids. Although driving is brutal and stressful, it is immediate cash money, so for the student or individual who is living hand to mouth, it can be a good source of income. But it is not for the faint of heart. One of my most popular images in the last two years of doing this photo site is of a taxi crash into a post - see it here.
Driving a taxi is a competitive sport - jockeying for position, cursing other players, fighting for that passenger fare. There are winners and losers. And if you don't score, just pick yourself up and keep running ...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I am not the type of man who reads about military technology, Soldiers of Fortune magazine or wears camouflage clothing. And I never forget that like a gun, instruments of war are just that. I think many men frequently look at weaponry divorced from their real function, which should be understood and respected. Armed forces should be honored, but weaponry should not be glamorized.
That said, military technology is impressive. Virtually unlimited sums of money are available to develop extremely sophisticated weaponry, ships, aircraft, vehicles and support systems. Costs play a much smaller role - expense never has to be justified as it would in a business venture.
The ship in the photo, shot at sunset on the pier at west 48th street, is the USS Kearsarge LHD3. The size is remarkable and is absolutely amazing when seen in a place so unexpected, i.e. New York City. There is a lot to know about this wasp-class amphibious assault ship. You can read about it here.
The ship was part of Fleet Week, a really unique event where not only does the crew get to explore the city, but civilians get to board and tour the ship. Lines were huge of course compounded by the fact it was a holiday weekend with good weather ...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Men In Uniform

I was particularly shocked many years ago when a woman friend, who was not that conservative, commented that she loved men in uniform. Any uniform. I have learned that there is an element of appeal for many women even with police officers. There is an element of authority and masculinity in the design and wear of men's uniforms.
As to be expected, the internet has fueled this interest. I found that there are dating sites specifically for those in uniform and those who desire someone in uniform -,,,
The appeal of men in uniform always passes through my mind whenever I see officers/sailors like these three gentlemen who were headed back to the Kearsarge battleship which is docked in NYC harbor as part of Fleet Week. Sailors could be seen throughout the city in the last few days, but unsuccessful in getting the photo I wanted, I found myself making a pilgrimage uptown to the west side piers (the location of the ships), where certainly I would find the men I was looking for. And there were thousands, coming and going to the Times Square area - just a short stroll from their berth at West 48th Street.
Some attribute the cache of men in uniform to have been significantly enhanced by the film Officer and a Gentleman starring Richard Gere. The title of the film uses a phrase from the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice which makes reference to being charged with "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."
On this Memorial Day, 2008, we commemorate those Men in Uniform who gave their lives in service to their country ...

Friday, 23 May 2008


It's been raining a lot this spring. Personally I hate the rain, but it does set a mood and has its merits. And in the big city, one perk is quiet.
There are places and times where there is little opportunity for quietude or a place to sit. Like a well located park bench on a sunny day.
So to see a bench like this, with flower petals undisturbed is unusual - this is something one can see perhaps in the early morning, off hours, in remote out of the way places or in inclement weather - like the rain.
I am a social person. I love people and that is one of the great things about living in New York City - eight million people from every corner of the globe. Today I will meet a woman from French Polynesia to do a photo tour - I look forward to meeting her.
But there are times when I yearn for a moment when I can be alone. When there are no people.
Days when I've had enough and want to take that quiet side street, alley or obscure path in Central Park - where I can't see a person or building. Walk by a solitary neon sign in front of an empty restaurant. And then there are sunny days when I just want to walk right down Fifth Avenue and rub shoulders with humanity. :)

Thursday, 22 May 2008


New York is an international magnet. It's like the whole world is on a tilt and anyone not tied down ends up in the city at one time or another. And for most musicians and performers, working in NYC it is a right of passage.
For a brass band from Marseille, I guess it would be de rigueur.
On the same day that I met renowned Will Galison (see posting here) we had this brass band from Marseille only a few hundred feet away. They called themselves Samenakoa and used a number of unique devices including a megaphone for the singer.
We are so spoiled in this city. We have one cultural tour de force after another - even on the streets we have extraordinary talent and in some cases, people who work professionally on stages worldwide. I have seen Philippe Petit (who walked between the twin towers), David Blaine and a plethora of others.
The streets are a good training ground for performers. Unlike a theater, you do not a have a captive audience - they need to be gathered and held. A tough job in a city with so many distractions and so much talent. If your act is not immediately compelling, most will just walk away.
Performers I have known who honed their craft this way have become extraordinary performers - not just showmen, but true entertainers. People like Penn and Teller. On the streets, an astute performer can easily ascertain what works and what doesn't. That which doesn't work is discarded. It's liking working with a sieve, sifting for the nuggets of gold that remain after discarding the sand. Separating wheat from chaff.
All those nuggets of gold and kernels of wheat - that's why I love this city.

Related Postings: Artiste Extraordinaire, One Man Band, Drowned Alive, The Naked Cowboy, Street Revival, Reverend Billy, Missionaries Meet Their Match, FĂȘte de la Musique, Palehorse Productions.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Very Practical

I once had a customer from Sweden who made a comment that had a lasting impression. I have many international customers and I am frequently curious about their impressions of the city. So when I asked "What do you think of New York," there was a pause and I could see that he was looking for a very diplomatic answer. "Very practical" was his response.
Now I knew immediately what he meant. My mind's eye raced around the city streets as I visualized those things that could be best described as "very practical" looking - our trash cans, lampposts, heavy chains around bikes, steel-reinforced concrete curbstones, roll down gates - so many things where function triumphs and utilitarian is the operative word.
Virtually everything on the city streets of New York is designed with the lowest common denominator in mind and in the biggest city in America, that denominator is very low. The key concerns that define the design and construction of most things accessible on the streets are vandalism and theft (not to mention heavy wear and tear). Don't be misled by articles and statistics on low crime rates in NYC. Much of this is not due to any inherent improvement in the goodness of people, but rather by the actions of law enforcement and protective measures by individuals and businesses. Also, the general increase in costs of living in the city has changed the demographic - where's a heroin addict to live?
One big thing that we residents tend to overlook is not so much what is as what is not - decorative elements and architectural details. These are found primarily in those things which benefit from historical treatment. This can be easily seen if one compares post war and prewar buildings. With enough time spent here, these decorative deficits and the triumph of the utilitarian become so inculcated that it takes a fresh eye to really notice.
I found the tree guard in the photo to be one of the most hideous examples of the practical I have ever seen. Even more surprising, it is located in central SoHo, one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the United States. But the tree needs protection. The solution may not be attractive but it is very practical ....

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Do it in the Road

We do it in the road. We have a real street life in NYC. The street is our front yard, backyard, driveway and secondary sidewalk. We eat in the streets, walk in the streets, fix our car in the streets. Children play in the streets, we have fairs and parades in the streets. We make movies and commercials in the streets - where else is there? Last night on the way to dinner on Christopher Street in the West Village, I ran across a movie set. They were filming Motherhood with Uma Thurman - for a sneak peak at here, see photos here.
These occurrences appear suddenly and are quite common - the crowd watching was surprisingly small. Paparazzi with telephoto lenses were on hand. But we are jaded in NYC and the novelty wears off quickly. Most onlookers only spend a short time observing - catch a celebrity and move on. And most don't even bother to do that. They just walk and navigate the street, slightly annoyed with the congestion, simultaneously avoiding the traffic. Cars and buses are a nuisance really - they just get in our way ...

Monday, 19 May 2008

Veggie Pride

Sunday was the first Veggie Pride Parade in America. Ironically it started in the meatpacking district and ended in Washington Square Park, with various activities and speakers. The world's first was held in paris in 2001 - a surprise coming from the country that brought us foie gras. Marchers donned a variety of vegetable and fruit-inspired costumes. I am somewhat sympathetic to the cause, having been a vegetarian for decades, and now only adding fish to my diet.
A very interesting aspect of this movement are the various semi-vegetarian practices which for many are seen as types of vegetarianism. Many individuals now add certain flesh and animal foods to their diet, like poultry, fish, eggs or dairy. So we have terms like: pollo vegetarianism, semi-vegetarianism, flexitarian, pescetarianism, pesce-pollotarianism, ovo-vegetarianism, lacto vegetarianism and lacto-ovo vegetarianism.
And of course there are the hard core adherents who consider many of these terms misnomers and abstain from any animal products. At the extreme end of the spectrum, we have vegans, fruitarians, natural hygienists and raw foodists. Macrobiotic followers may or may not be strict vegetarians.
The motivations also vary. People are vegetarians for a number of reasons: religious, ethical/ animal rights, cultural, economic, and environmental. For an overview of vegetarianism - see here.
A number of us found one odd thing about the participants; the large number present who wore tattoos, piercings and other manifestations some might consider out of character with a natural, vegetarian lifestyle (including a loud hard-rock band) - one gets the feeling that for some, vegetarianism is more a faddish, style driven choice. I wrote about this in my posting, Vegan Chic.
But overall, I think the message of reduction of meat is a useful one - over consumption of food in the USA is a general problem and the reduction of red meat is a laudable goal for many, including members of the medical community ...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Little Burnt Out

Want to feel special? Be the focus of a school field trip with 28 kids. Judy, a previous employee who has gone on to become a school teacher, came to visit me yesterday with her class of 2nd graders from elementary school PS 124 in Chinatown.
This was a real eye opener for me and I quickly saw the rewards and joys of teaching children. Certainly a handful of work of course, but I had it good - like a grandparent. Judy and her associates did all the work of managing the kids - I had all the fun.
There were squeals, giggles and screams at every opportunity. And I was the center of attraction as they toured my facility, attentive to my every word and demonstration. They asked questions of me and vice versa. Every one of our staff was quite charmed.
What is particularly interesting is how kids absorb things. I was asked if I still juggle and I responded that I enjoyed many aspects of the business but I was a little burnt out after 33 years. I proceeded to explain what "burnt out" meant. I thought it would be over their heads. I later learned that one of the kids said to the principle of the school, in response to a comment she made, that perhaps she was burnt out and should consider retiring :)

Thursday, 15 May 2008


When I was a young boy, I couldn't stay away from fire - there is some allure for boys. Playing with fire is not a metaphor, but a real activity. We got matches, we tried rubbing sticks, we lit grass clumps from mowed lawns with magnifying glasses. And I became a Boy Scout - one of the benefits was that it legitimized using fire - what's camping without a campfire? We were just mesmerized by fire and flames.
The photo was taken on Carmine Street in the Village. It was a practice session involving members of CERT - Community Emergency Response Team - neighborhood and community-based volunteers that undergo an intensive, 11-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic response skills. Volunteers took turns putting out a small fire. The billowing flames in the evening light was quite a spectacle.
But, regardless of the merits of the program, everyone observing was drawn by the mesmerizing effect of those flames.
Whenever I see firemen, I always feel that somewhere in there is a little boy who never outgrew his interest in fire; just transmuted it into a profession. Good for all concerned, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Mary Celeste

I have been frequently asked by visitors, "where do you get gas in the city? - I don't see any gas stations." Or, "are there any supermarkets?"
Blinded by the oversaturation of stimuli and the plethora of all things manmade, the last thing noticed in the city are the mundane, particularly those places that provide basic services. But all the basic services do exist, tucked away here and there, perhaps in atypical and unlikely places. Laundry, dry cleaning, shoe repair, auto repair shops, street level doctors' offices, hardware, paint supplies, plumbing supplies, lumberyards, gas stations, supermarkets, schools and palygrounds. The number of many of these has declined substantially as the real estate market has heated up, but they all can still be found.
One of the most mysterious things to me is the public and private schools. Virtually invisible, yet there are 1,400 schools in the five boroughs.
And children need to play. Here, at one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan, Houston Street and 6th Avenue, we have the Playground of the Americas. But you never really notice it. In fact, I have walked by this playground for years and this is the first time I have really looked at it.
Due to my daily work schedule, I rarely see school children in action in the city, so schools and playgrounds are like the ghost ship Mary Celeste to me - cigarettes still burning in the ashtrays and food still cooking in the stove, but the crew and passengers have vanished ...

Note: The story of the Mary Celeste is a fascinating tale - see story here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Left for Dead

The Segway was heralded by inventor and design engineer Dean Kamen as a transport device that "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy." Go here if you are not familiar with Kamen or the Segway.
There was tremendous buzz and speculation before its release - Steve Jobs claimed that it would be "as big a deal as the PC." After the product release and its grandiose claims, I had a gut feeling it would be a failure at least in urban areas like NYC for many reasons - cost ($5000), regulations, traffic, weight and parking - where would you put this thing? I even emailed Kamen himself, addressing all the problems I saw, along with the biggest issue of all - VANDALISM
Kamen spoke of all the sophisticated security devices to prevent theft, but in my opinion, he missed the problem of vandalism, not theft. Perhaps he doesn't know New York. Why would someone vandalize something they could not steal? For many reasons (like taking parts) and perhaps one reason not understandable to outsiders: because they can.
I'm sure people will take parts they do not know they have use for, because they are there.
Manhattan is a graveyard for abandoned bicycles, like the one in today's photo taken on Spring Street. Many bikes are stolen, even with special locks like the Kryptonite, and if they can't steal the bike, they will steal unlocked parts - yes there are ways of locking individual components, e.g. like seats.
When you arrive to see your bike stripped like that in the photo, I imagine it is rather disheartening. What's the point in taking the frame and where will you dispose of it anyway?
In 2005, sculptor David Shapiro did an outdoor exhibit, Left for Dead, at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. A melange of twisted abandoned bikes in various states were salvaged from the streets of the city. In the exhibit, Shapiro attached them to sign posts, embedded in the ground. And a thief was found to attempted to steal a seat from an exhibited bike.
The whole scenario starts to resemble soldiers who stole gold fillings from corpses in times of war. Even the dead are not safe ...

Monday, 12 May 2008

Soho Treasures

This shop is nearly sensory overload - the visual impact alone is what compelled me to take photos for this article. Started four years ago by Joseph Pauletich, SoHo Treasures at 123 Mercer Street, specializes in mid-century furniture and articles, acquired through estate sales and auctions. The articles are sometimes reupholstered or refinished. The store sells to retail clients along with designers, shop owners and others who may utilize the items as props in stores, various environments, TV or film.
Originally, the store made acquisitions through locker room sales - some of these sales were made where the entire contents were sold as a lot. In these cases, bidders are not allowed to enter a locker or touch the contents before bidding - they can only attempt to assess the value via a view from the doorway of the storage room.
This is one of those unique NYC spots that you wont find elsewhere. I put SoHo Treasures on a list with ABC Carpet and Home as a place for the visitor or resident to check out if you are interested in home furnishings or perhaps a stroll through a menagerie of one-of--kind items - furniture, art, bars, display cases, jewelry, lighting, mirrors. Go here to visit their website.

Note about the photo - the individual reflected in the mirror is photographer friend Bill who has been mentioned a number of times on this blog.

Friday, 9 May 2008


I once knew a woman who made a blanket condemnation of the way many Americans dress. I frequently reflect on this, because I am a rather casual dresser myself, and had I the motivation for this domestic pursuit, I wouldn't mind being a better dresser. Like this young women in the photo.
There is merit to the idea that many Americans could do better in this regard - in fact the situation spawned a TV show - Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a TV show where 5 gay men do makeovers of men in dire need of improvement by redoing his wardrobe, redecorating, and advising on grooming, lifestyle, and food.
There are many manifestations of the badly dressed American. When I used to travel to the Caribbean, guides warned visitors not go to town in shorts -it was considered inappropriate. And in Europe, it is easy to spot many Americans based on wardrobe alone - very frequently with garish running sneakers and other heinous articles of clothing. We are a nation where sneakers, jeans and oversize T-Shirts rule the day.
As I have written of before, the size and style of NYC is one that really tolerates and embraces the eccentric - see the related postings below for some of the more outrageous. It also is a great place for one to dress in a stylish way that is perhaps a little unusual, like the quasi-retro look of the woman in today's photo.
Obviously there is plenty of style and good dressers in the USA. It's just that the bad ones really are a blight to the landscape and tar the image of people here in general.
One of my favorite quotes was from a real estate broker I was dealing with at one time. We were discussing this exact subject and he said: "One day I hope to wake up and find that all the people with taste have money and all the people with money have taste."

Related Postings: Out There, Fashion Forward, Spike, Narcissism Gone Wild, Color Brigade.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


Seems like I am on a strange and lucky roll recently. If you read my posting on the Chess Shop, you know how I just happened to pick the optimum day with the original owner playing chess outside and the current owner inside. And then the story of running into a renowned harmonica virtuoso, Will Galison, just hanging out in the park.
Tratoria Spagehtto at 232 Bleecker and Carmine Street is in one of the mostly highest traffic and touristy areas in the city. Certainly not the little hideaway tucked in on a quiet sidestreet. So one might be inclined to avoid it - I certainly did for most of my time living in the city. But I finally gave it a try and find the food to be very good Italian fare - a number of my friends now go there regularly and we all like it. The prices are inexpensive and the ambiance is extremely nice, particularly given the price range. There is also outdoor seating.
So as I sat one night, I found myself eavesdropping on two gentlemen who have very heavy Italian accents. I get the sense that they may be neighborhood residents, so I think this is a good opportunity to get an opinion from locals, to use as background for this posting. I ask if they live in the neighborhood. By now you have guessed - I have accidentally bumped into the owner, Donato DiSaverio. He was friendly and charming. He spoke of his restaurant, where he was born in Italy etc. I learned that he has a factory in Queens and makes all his own pasta for the restaurant.
It is the perfect place to take a group of people with different tastes - you can never go wrong with Italian :)

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

On a Roll

Success begets success. Much of business success is built on momentum - no one wants to go into an empty restaurant. Certainly there has to be a level of quality to prime the pump, but once things get going, people will beat a path to your door.
You see this in the arts all the time. A tiny percentage prosper and the rest starve. And I don't believe that there is a direct correlation between financial success in the arts and talent. There are many in an art genre that are as talented or nearly as talented as those at the very top, but just don't get the accolades, for a variety of reasons - the disparities between talent and income can be huge. Success is a package deal - talent, promotion, image, connections, buzz, whim and some luck. When those elements work together, momentum builds. The more underlying quality you have, the better your chance of long term success. Everyone wants the hot thing, not the second hottest thing. It's like Google search results - most click the first result; not too many go to page two.
Kidrobot seems to be one of those places. They have an extremely engaging product line - very creative ideas and well executed. Everyone seems to love those little figures. See their website here. Kidrobot currently has stores located in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto and their products can also be found at many boutique retailers around the world. Founded by designer Paul Budnitz in 2002, Kidrobot is a designer and retailer of limited edition art toys and apparel. They merge urban street trends, fashion, and pop art. Products feature unique collaborations with top international artists with backgrounds as diverse as graffiti, fine art, fashion, industrial design, graphic design, illustration, and music.
Many of their artists attain celebrity status - you see evidence of this with frequent crowds at the shop when they have guest artist signings. The event in the photo was a reopening from one store location to their new location at 118 prince in SoHo. I recommend a visit if you are in the area.
When momentum builds, you're on a roll. Kidrobot does not need any promotion from me - these guys are on a roll ...

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Only in New York

Wow. That's all I can say. I'm in the park watching these two guys play guitar. I learn that the person on the left is a harmonica player. I love blues harmonica, so I volunteer a couple of big names - he says he knows them.
Someone pulls me aside and says "Can I give you a tip about this guy"? I say sure. He also knows harmonica players and says this guy is famous. Now coming from someone in the park I do not know, I take this with a grain of salt. My informant tells me he is probably one of the 2 best players on the planet. He says he has played with the likes of Barbra Streisand. He doesn't look like Barbra Streisand material to me. But I have met many successful individuals in NYC who do not look the part, especially in casual attire. Plus he is a musician and this is New York.
I get his card and introduce myself. His name is Will Galison. So this morning I do an online search. I find this man is much more accomplished than I ever imagined. Everything my informant said is true and more. This man has a several page entry in wikipedia. He has worked with a range of musicians including Carly Simon, Sting, Chaka Khan and Astrud Gilberto. He has also recorded soundtracks for Academy Award nominated films. He can be heard on a Sesame Street theme. He has performed at various New York City venues including The Village Gate, The Blue Note and the Lone Star Cafe with jazz musicians Jaco Pastorius and Jaki Byard. He has worked on Saturday Night Live. See his website here.
At one point he tried his hand at the lap steel guitar which he had never played before - undaunted, he appeared to pick it up with ease. Easy for natural and someone trained at the Berklee School of Music.
And there he was, with four of us as audience. No one anywhere around suspecting. Only in New York ...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Good Fortune

What a fortuitous occasion. I have waited 2 years for the right day for shooting this chess shop. Chess is special to me - I played on a chess team in high school and spent many Sundays over the years watching masters and grandmasters playing in Washington Square Park - chess legend Bobby Fisher himself was a habitue at one time. I have posted previously the Marshall Chess Club - see it here.
When I took this photo, I had no idea one of the players was the original owner, George Frohlinde (the white haired player in the photo). When I went inside to discuss my intentions for this blog, I coincidentally met and spoke with the new owner, Lawrence Nash, Frohlinde's nephew.
We spoke of real estate and the precarious position a place like this is in. And, he confided, this place may not be around much longer. I have done many stories that I consider part of a an "end of an era" series. Unfortunately, the Village Chess Shop may be added to the fatality list some time in the not so distant future. I found Lawrence extremely likable and sensible. We both agreed that the problem is market forces as a result of the tremendous improvement and desirability of NYC and not, as is frequently alleged, any overt conspiracy by landlords. Most landlords do ask for market rents which do force many tenants out, but some landlords, as is the case in the Chess Shop, do give preferential rents to long term tenants. But it is still very challenging for a small niche business like this to survive, even with undermarket rent.
The Chess Shop was opened in 1972 by George Frohlinde. In the 1960s, he ran a shop owned by International Grandmaster Nicholas Rossolino. At the time, there were a number of chess shops in this area. Sometimes referred to as the "Chess District", only two shops remain - the Chess Shop at 230 Thompson Street and a new competitor across the street, the Chess Forum. The Chess Shop is opened 365 days from 11AM to midnight and provides a place for playing at a nominal hourly fee. They also are known for their selection of a myriad of unique themed chess sets, many of which can be seen in their windows - eyestoppers for most passersby. See them and learn more about the shop at their website. I suggest you visit soon ...

Friday, 2 May 2008


I have spoken many times of pearls unseen right under my nose, but this is one of the biggest finds yet. I pass 101 Spring Street every day, frequently twice - a building scaffolded and in serious need of renovation. On August 14th, 2007, I wrote of a homeless girl, Stephanie, who was camped out in front of this building for some time. In fact, the posting struck a chord - it was one my most commented. See it here.
Ironically, we are back again. I have observed this mysterious stack of bricks for years, the only occupants of the ground floor of 101 Spring - in one of the most expensive neighborhoods of New York City. See second photo here.
But if one looks carefully at the side window, in small red lettering you will see Judd Foundation. Ahhh - now the mystery is easily solved. The building is Donald Judd's previous home. Judd, a renowned sculptor and influential artist, was an early pioneer in SoHo. He purchased the building in 1968 for $70,000, where he lived and worked on and off until his death from lymphoma in 1994.
The building serves as a house museum with works of Judd and other minimalists. The whole story is fascinating - I recommend this New York Times article.
How do they do it, i.e. how is this place supported? In 2006, the Donald Judd Foundation decided to auction 36 Judd sculptures at Christie's and raise a $20 million dollar endowment.

Oh, and the stack of eight Empire bricks? This is the work of Carl Andre - the piece is known as Manifest Destiny.

Explanation of the photo. This exposure was taken from the street through the window - with a mixture of interior objects and reflected objects from the street. Note the outside sidewalk superimposed on the interior white wall. The dark braces are reflections of the supports for scaffolding being used in the exterior renovation work. The interior wood floor abuts the reflected image of cobblestone from Mercer street. See second photo here.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


I recently served jury duty. I was not pleased but it is my civic obligation. This is New York Daily Photo - if you come here to see this great city and truly know it, I feel I have some responsibilities and you do too - like learning about the city's architecture and perhaps what that building is in the photo. And if you commit a crime, there are consequences. We all must take our medicine when needed.
So here at 60 Center Street is where obligations, responsibilities and consequences meet. A rather serious matter and not the type of characterizations compelling to the tourist or visitor. I think courthouses connote obligations, responsibilities and consequences more than justice.
This is the New York County Courthouse, aka the New York State Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street. It was designed by Guy Lowell and completed in 1926. The 10 granite Corinthian columns support a portico where the words of George Washington are engraved: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government."
One of the outstanding features of this edifice is the 100-foot wide staircase. There is a great article by Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for the New York Times. In it, Goldberger bemoans the fact that great staircases will no longer be built: "... equal access for the handicapped and the elderly has become a determining factor in architecture. If everyone cannot partake equally in an architectural event, the argument goes, it should not exist at all. No one can argue with this goal, of course, but it is unfortunate that so much has been lost in its pursuit." So, with new construction, everything is being flattened for equal access - it is our responsibility ...

Photo note: the vista here is from Thomas Paine Park at Foley Square. A unique feature of this building is that is that it is hexagonal, something best seen from above.