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Archive for the ‘Urban Affairs’ Category

“Despite a six-day-a-week work schedule, Derr always makes time to take pictures. His images of DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Brooklyn Heights can be seen on Flickr — and purchased through Imagekind — and have appeared in the Gothamist, the New York Times, and Brooklyn Heights blog. They’ve also been published on dumbonyc.com and used in the promotional materials of Arts at St. Ann’s and the DUMBO Neighborhood Association. . . .

“‘DUMBO was rough when I arrived,’ he begins. ‘There is a building complex on Sand Street that is owned by The Watchtower where about 900 staff live. When I first moved in, the area was not as refined as it is now, with galleries, shops, and brand name stores. Before, there were art collectives and there was more of an artist presence in the community. Right up the street there was the Between the Bridges Bar, which looked like a dive. I guess something was lost, and something gained.’

“Among the losses, Derr says, is DUMBO’s once-gritty feel—the abandoned warehouses and factories, broken concrete, and glass shards that used to litter the ground. He is saddened, he says, by the destruction of numerous art deco structures, one of which, the Purchase Building, was knocked down to create a parking lot that now houses the Brooklyn Flea each Sunday.” (more @ The Brooklyn Rail, via Dumbo NYC)

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“TOMORROW, the seventh annual show of designs created in Brooklyn — Bklyn Designs — will open in Dumbo, drawing renewed attention to this neighborhood of former factories and warehouses, and its vibrant design scene.

“Over the last six years, the juried show, which features contemporary furnishings, lighting and accessories designed, and in most cases made, in Brooklyn, has grown from a Chamber of Commerce exercise in borough boosterism into a high-profile event and an effective springboard for local designers. This year, it has 45 exhibitors and is attracting attendees from as far away as Milan, the Netherlands and Japan.

“The show in Dumbo offers a good place to begin exploring what Brooklyn offers in the way of home furnishings. Just as the borough has become a center for locally produced, handcrafted food, it has also developed a broad population of independent, often artisanal designers.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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dock_street_two_trees“The City Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly to support a controversial tower next to the Brooklyn Bridge — though the building’s 18-story wing will be shaved by one story.

“In addition, Jed Walentas’s 325-unit Dock Street proposal — which features a ‘green’ design, plus 65 below-market-rate rentals and a public middle school — would lose two to three stories from the part [sic] its 10-story wing closest to the bridge.

“The vote to rezone Walentas’s lot from manufacturing to residential was 11-2, but despite the landslide, Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden described the proposal as ‘the most difficult to come before the commission in many years.’ . . .

“In ordering a height reduction and the cut-out section from the mid-rise portion of the building, the Commission seemed to at least be partially swayed by a late push by Brooklyn Bridge historian David McCullough, who visited the fabled span this month to call for the Walentas proposal to not only be halted, but for other buildings around the bridge to be demolished for a national park.” (more @ The Brooklyn Paper)

Even so, celebrity opposition to the project continues to grow. Dumbo NYC reports:

“We received word from [Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance (DNA)] that in addition to David McCullough, several celebrities will be starring in supporting roles in their grass roots campaign. Gabriel Byrne of The Usual Suspects and HBO’s In Treatment, Helen Hunt of As Good as It Gets and Mad About You, Gary Sinise of The Green Mile and Forrest Gump, Ana Gasteyer of  Saturday Night Live and Mean Girls, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns of Brooklyn Bridge and The Civil War fame and Skipp Sudduth of Third Watch and Law & Order have all added their support to the opposition of the proposed 18-story building.” (more @ Dumbo NYC)

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hopper-new-york-restaurantJoseph Epstein on why New York food is so good:

“Manhattan must have 300, perhaps 400, splendid restaurants. I estimate that Chicago has, at the outside, 30, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., respectively probably not more than that. Why is this? How to account for this plentitude of good restaurant food in Manhattan?

“Demand has a lot to do with it. By this I don’t mean demand as in the old economists’ formula of supply and demand. What I mean is that New Yorkers are, and always have been, more demanding than any other Americans when it comes to what they eat. . . .

“New Yorkers tend to order food as if they are spoiled children dining in their mothers’ kitchens. They demand excellent service, which includes accommodation for their idiosyncrasies (that pickle on the separate plate). If they do not get what they want, they howl, return food, do not return to the restaurant, and verbally torch the place. If you open a restaurant in New York, you had better be good, or you will soon be gone.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

[Thanks, John.]

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housingworksOn Saturday, May 2nd, “The Millions.com” will lead their first annual “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores.” The 11-stop itinerary begins in the East Village, continues through NoLita and SOHO, crosses the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO, and ends after 4 or so hours of walking and book-browsing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The complete, 11-stop  itinerary includes: 

Additional information on the event can be found here.

A full-size Google map of the tour, with walking directions, can be found here.

RelatedLiterary DUMBO: An Afternoon Walk Under the Bridges in Search of Books

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“As the national economic crisis has deepened and social services have become casualties of budget cuts, libraries have come to fill a void for more people, particularly job-seekers and those who have fallen on hard times. Libraries across the country are seeing double-digit increases in patronage, often from 10 percent to 30 percent, over previous years.

“But in some cities, this new popularity — some would call it overtaxing — is pushing libraries in directions not seen before, with librarians dealing with stresses that go far beyond overdue fines and misshelved books. Many say they feel ill-equipped for the newfound demands of the job, the result of working with anxious and often depressed patrons who say they have nowhere else to go.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedIt Has Computers, Gives Advice and Is Free

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“In the latest chapter of a hot dispute over the building of a proposed tower near the Brooklyn Bridge, the historian and Brooklyn Bridge expert David McCullough is voicing his opposition to the plan.

“At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. McCullough spoke to a crowd of more than 50 local advocates and politicians about why he opposed plans by the developer Two Trees Management to construct a tower called Dock Street Dumbo, so close to the Brooklyn Bridge.

“While Mr. McCullough lives in Maine, he used to live near the bridge, and also spent extensive amounts of time near the site of the bridge when researching the Battle of Brooklyn for his book ‘1776′ and the bridge itself for ‘The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.’ He also worked with Ken Burns on a documentary of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“‘It’s one of the most important structures in our country,’ he said. The construction of the proposed tower is ‘upstaging what should not be upstaged. The magic of the bridge’s image is diminished. It’s wrecked.'” (more @ NY Times)

letter from McCullough to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz opposing the Dock Street Project, penned in January, 2009, can be found here. 

A video of McCullough calling for a halt to construction plans near the Brooklyn Bridge, which he says would obscure the monument and damage a forgotten historical site nearby, can be found here.

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“Over the last four decades, Powell’s Books has swelled into the largest bookstore in North America — a capacious monument to reading that occupies a full square block of this often-drizzly city [Portland, Oregon]. But this year, growth has given way to anxiety.

“Michael Powell, the store’s owner, recently dropped plans for a $5 million expansion. An architect had already prepared the drawings. His bankers had signaled that financing was available. But the project no longer looked prudent, Mr. Powell concluded — not with sales down nearly 5 percent, stock markets extinguishing savings, home prices plunging and jobs disappearing.

“‘It’s going to take a period of time to recover,’ Mr. Powell said. ‘Whether it’s 2 years or 10 years I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be quick. People are nervous.'” (more @ NY Times)

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On the same day the New York Times reported that the city’s yellow cab industry is being spared from the worst effects of the recession by allowing riders to pay by credit card, the MTA announced major fare hikes for public transportation commuters:

“After a fiery hearing Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted 12 to 1 to approve subway, bus and commuter train fare hikes from 25% to 30% and impose severe service cuts, including elimination of two subway lines and 21 local bus routes. . . .

“Starting May 31, the monthly MetroCard, now $81, will cost $103 and a weekly MetroCard, now $25, will cost $31. The one-way bus and subway fare will rise from $2 to $2.50, a whopping 25% increase.

“Commuter train fares rise June 1, while MTA bridge and tunnel tolls jump July 11. Service cuts also include longer gaps between trains and the closure of a few stations overnight.” (more @ The Daily News)

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Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, on New York’s two new baseball stadiums, “the first time that two major-league stadiums have opened in the same city at the same time”:

“A stadium is a stage set as sure as anything on Broadway, and it determines the tone of the dramas within. Citi Field suggests a team that wants to be liked, even to the point of claiming some history that isn’t its own. Yankee Stadium, however, reflects an organization that is in the business of being admired, and is built to serve as a backdrop for the image of the Yankees, at once connected to the city and rising grandly above it.” (more @ The New Yorker)

RelatedTwo New Baseball Palaces, One Stoic, One Scrappy

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“While Times Square is not known for star gazing — the celestial kind, that is — and few people would normally venture onto a pitch-black ball field in Inwood to see the constellations, two unrelated, if not unlikely, projects hope to turn the city’s night eyes skyward.

Jason Kendall, an amateur astronomer, and Katja Aglert, a Swedish installation artist, want to turn out the lights in different parts of Manhattan and, weather permitting, illuminate the night sky. . . .

“Mr. Kendall and Ms. Aglert, 38 — who do not know each other — face daunting challenges to realize their visions.

“He must persuade the city’s parks department to darken Inwood’s Dyckman Fields, which run north for about 15 blocks from Dyckman Street, on April 3 and April 4.

“She has to persuade landlords and billboard owners in Times Square to cut their lights for one minute sometime this spring. . . .

“On the nights in April that Mr. Kendall wants Dyckman Fields darkened, the moon will rise early, and astronomy enthusiasts around the world are signifying the occurrence to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first recorded use of a telescope. . . .

“Ms. Aglert, who was awarded $21,000 from the Swedish government and given office space by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to pursue her project, faces fewer government hurdles than Mr. Kendall. Since she is not proposing to turn off traffic signals, street lamps and other city lights, she does not need official approval, though the Buildings Department said she had to submit a proposal.” (more @ NY Times)

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bobguskindBob Guskind, the legendary Brooklyn blogger and founder of Gowanus Lounge, has died:

“After days of speculation inside and outside the blogosphere, much-liked journalist Robert Guskind died on Wednesday, the city Medical Examiner confirmed this morning. . . .

“In his prime, Guskind’s blog focussed a keen eye on city development projects with an objectivity and a level of reporting rare in the blog world.” (via The Brooklyn Paper)

The following video of Bob Guskind is via newyorkshitty, a blog about Greenpoint, Brooklyn:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Memorials to Guskind on other Brooklyn blogs can be found at: Dumbo NYC, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Guskind’s “flikr” photostream, featuring numerous sets of Brooklyn neighborhoods, can be found here.

Flatbush Gardener is maintaining a running list of online tributes to Guskind. The list gets longer by the hour.

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dumbodockstreet“The Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, has jumped into a contentious debate over a proposed development near the Brooklyn Bridge, saying that he supports the project but would like to see it modified.

“In a letter to the Department of City Planning, Mr. Markowitz wrote that he supported the proposed tower, called Dock Street Dumbo, which would include shops, rental apartments and a new middle school, but wants to make sure that the tower did not affect the public views of the bridge.” (via NY Times)

The New York Times article, which was posted on DumboNYC.com, also reported that Markowitz suggested the developer, Two Trees Management Company, make the tower taller — 25 stories instead of 18 — but Markowitz contacted the Dumbo blogger to correct the record, noting that his recommendation is not necessarily to build higher, but that as of right, Two Trees can build up to 25 stories on the site.

Markowitz’s office released a statement recommending that the City Planning Commission and the City Council support the multi-use concept proposed by Two Trees Management while rejecting the building as currently configured. Markowitz’s full statement can be found here (.pdf).

[It has not escaped notice by Dumbo locals that just last night, the borough president kicked off his re-election campaign at an art space in Dumbo owned by the Dock Street developer. Presumably cake was served at the event, which Markowitz worked hard both to have and eat.]

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marijuana11“Could Cannabis sativa be a salvation for California’s fiscal misfortunes? Can the state get a better budget grip by taxing what some folks toke?

“[Assemblyman Tom Ammiano] from San Francisco announced legislation Monday to do just that: make California the first state in the nation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.” (via LA Times)

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Updates

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The Gates, an installation along 23 miles of Central Park pathways, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, February, 2005

(Full photo)

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As reported in a New York Magazine article still much-discussed by DUMBO locals, Steven Kaplan, a Professor of European History at Cornell University and the “world’s preeminent French-bread scholar,” after a blind tasting of 13 of New York City’s finest baguettes, chose Almondine Bakery‘s eponymous baguette as the city’s best.

Scoring a 14.65 (on a scale of 21), the Almondine baguette, said Kaplan, “has a nice look, nice resonance, and a nice song . . . It has a little bit of fruit, a peachy, buttery quality in its nose . . . [and] achieves a good marriage of crust and crumb.”

almondineBut before Almondine’s now famous dough could rise, the abandoned four-story warehouse and pepper factory now occupied by the bakery had to be gutted, rehabilitated and adapted for commercial and residential use.  In 2003, Bob Vila, late of the This Old House home improvement and repair television series, devoted the entire season of his Home Again series to the transformation of this c. 1850s building unused since the 1950s.  

More than just a chronicle of a single restoration project, the videos from the DUMBO series (clips from all 13 episodes can be found here) offer some of the best footage available of the development of the Brooklyn neighborhood that in the past several years has become a must-see destination on the New York City tourist circuit.

Update: Best of New York: Eating: Best Bakery (via “2009 Best of New York” issue of New York Magazine)

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“The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?”

(via The Atlantic)

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savethebrooklynbridge1In a recent editorial, “A Con Grows In B’klyn,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, like The Brooklyn Paper before it, voiced its support for the controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school that opponents argue will forever block views of the historic Brooklyn Bridge.  But unlike The Brooklyn Paper, which published a measured, point-by-point rebuttal to critics of the project, Post writer Steve Cuozzo reveled in denouncing what he called the “farcical arguments” and “blatantly bogus claims” of the “cranky opposition.”

Singled out for particular abuse were City Councilman David Yassky, the New York Times, and the organization “Save the Brooklyn Bridge” which Cuozzo accused of printing and distributing misleading and “fake” images of the planned tower.

[The best and most up-to-date chronicling of the DUMBO Dock Street Project, including local opinion (pro and con), can be found at DumboNYC.com.]

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earthourIt’s been a good news/bad news year so far for Shepard Fairey, the “street artist” who created the iconic image of Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential Election that recently entered the permanent collection of Presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

First, the good news:

Fairey has been chosen to create the artwork for this year’s “Earth Hour” campaign.

Scheduled for 8:30 PM on March 28th, “The lights out initiative, which began in Sydney in 2007 as a one-city environmental campaign, has evolved into a grassroots action that has captured the attention of the citizens of the world. In 2008, 371 cities across 35 countries turned their lights out in a united call for action on climate change.

Now, with almost two months still remaining before Earth Hour 2009, that number has already been eclipsed, with 377 cities across 74 countries now committed to turning off their lights for one hour.”

Now the bad news:

Last week, on the eve of the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Fairey was arrested in Boston on graffiti-related charges – he is accused of defacing public property by posting stencils of the professional wrestler Andre the Giant and the word “Obey.”

fairleyartwork

And this past Monday, Fairey filed a lawsuit against The Associated Press – his lawyers are asking a federal judge to shield Fairey from copyright infringement claims in his use of the news photograph as the basis for his poster image of President Obama. “According to the suit, A.P. officials contacted Mr. Fairey’s studio late last month demanding payment for the use of the photo and a portion of any money he makes from it.”

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Update

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While the completion of the final 670-mile stretch of security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to be slowed by political and engineering issues, across the more than 600 miles of fence already completed (“a hodge-podge of metal panels, wire mesh and steel posts”) “drug smugglers . . . continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs. The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.”

Teddy Cruz, reporting for “The Nation,” writes that “no matter how high and long the post-9/11 border wall becomes, it will never stop the migrating populations and the relentless flows of goods and services back and forth across the formidable barrier that seeks to exclude them.” Yet from the southward flow of materials something remarkable is being created – “while human flow mobilizes northbound in search of dollars, the urban waste of San Diego moves in the opposite direction . . . The leftover parts of San Diego’s older subdivisions — standard framing, joists, connectors, plywood, aluminum windows, garage doors — are being disassembled and recombined just across the border. A few miles south, in Tijuana, new informal suburbs — some call them slums — spring up from one day to another. This river of urban waste flows across the Tijuana-San Diego [sic] to make something dramatically new.”

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