Category Archives: Neighborhoods

5Pointz: Developers > World Famous Public Street Art

Joni Mitchell wrote : “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone / They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”  Well in this case, they’re tearing down paradise to put up a 1,000 unit high-rise.  And paradise is located in Long Island City, Queens.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

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5Pointz, the seemingly doomed graffiti art mecca

Bordering a Long Island Railroad rail yard and partially shadowed by the elevated subway tracks is 5Pointz, a collection of warehouses that would seem nondescript, were the facades not covered entirely in spectacular murals.  This breathtaking display is the result of an ongoing collaboration with over 100 artists who come from far and wide to leave their mark on New York’s most famous graffiti destination.

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Tourists too, flock to 5Pointz. On my bike tours, I have watched the delight of countless visitors as they unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a colossal outdoor art gallery.

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Part of the appeal of the site is its visibility–riders on the 7 train get an excellent bird’s-eye view of the complex. Mets fans on their way to Citi Field know to look out for 5Pointz soon after exiting the tunnel from Manhattan.

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5Points is located directly across the street from PS1, the contemporary art and outdoor concert venue of the Museum of Modern Art. The presence of both have contributed to Long Island City’s rapidly rising trendiness and real estate values.

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Artists contact the curator, MeresOne, well in advance before painting at 5Pointz. A friend of mine is a muralist in Ecuador and she planned an entire trip to New York around an invitation to paint here.

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Each time I go with a bike group, the art at the ground-level has changed

This obscure piece may be a work of Banksy, the world's most famous street artist

This obscure piece resembles the work of Banksy, the world’s most famous street artist…is it his?

For over a decade the art community and the owners of the property have peacefully coexisted, the result of an agreement allowing free and legal painting to take place on the facade.  However, with the Long Island City real estate market booming, the owners have decided it is high-time to demolish the site in favor of luxury condos.  The City Council quickly gave the projects two thumbs up, eager to bring in construction jobs, a public park and 210 affordable units.

To their credit, the developers have offered up 10,000 square feet of surfaces for artists to graffiti on the new construction.  But this is miniscule compared to the space they use right now.  And whether the community and its curator even want to be part of the new project is a different question.  As of right now, the defenders of 5Pointz are on their last stand.  If their final round of litigation fails, the historic warehouses will see the wrecking ball in a matter of weeks.  Joni Mitchell might be the first to say: “I told you so.”

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Citi Tower, Queens’ tallest building watches over the painted warehouses

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Knowing that its days might be numbered, I took my family to 5Pointz recently. "Let's take a photo," my Dad said. "It's now or never"

Knowing that its days might be numbered, I took my family to 5Pointz recently. “Let’s take a photo,” my Dad said. “It’s now or never”

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Filed under Landmarks, Museums, Neighborhoods, New York, Photography, Queens

Ray’s Brooklyn, Forgotten No More

One of the best parts of my job is how much I get to explore.  Last year I centered my wanderings mostly on Manhattan since that is where the lion’s share of this city’s tours take place.  This season, however, I have been making a concerted effort to specialize in Brooklyn–my home and the part of New York I love most.

I created my original Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO Walking Tour, now my most popular tour, and listed myself on Brooklyn’s TripAdvisor site.  Soon I plan to roll out a number of new Brooklyn tours focusing on neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Williamsburg.  Someday I hope even give a tour of the neighborhood that is nearest and dearest to me: my home, Flatbush/Ditmas Park.

As I explore, I take photos with my cell phone, point-and-shoot or digital SLR camera, depending on what I felt like lugging around on any given day.  Here are 10 of my favorite “Forgotten Brooklyn” photos of back alleys, hidden vistas and urban curiosities.  Click to enlarge…and enjoy!

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Greenpoint Graffiti

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Dog walkers on hidden College Place – Brooklyn Heights

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This must be the Joad’s old truck! – Vinegar Hill

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Thrift Store – Ditmas Park

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That’s my train! – Ditmas Park     

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Quarters A: the one-time home of the Commandant of the navy – Vinegar Hill

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Just a couple days of rain in the fall will bring these guys out – Ditmas Park

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The last trolley I know of in Brooklyn – Red Hook

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The commanding Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument, from below! – Fort Greene

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Mikey and the street art of DUMBO

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Filed under Brooklyn, General, Neighborhoods, Photography

Ray gets trailed by the Paparazzi!

Last month, my friend and fellow Carleton-grad Teddy Wolff joined a tour of mine with the intent of documenting the experience photographically.  Teddy works as a professional photographer and he recently published the resulting photo series–Lower East Side Tour with Ray–on his website.  You can view the full suite of photos as well as a number of other excellent albums on Teddy’s Website.  Below are my favorites, with my captions added.

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The tour begins

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The breathtaking Eldridge Street Synagogue, the subject of an earlier blog post of mine

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Preparing to enter the sanctuary

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Passionate words being delivered in front of the walnut ark

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Describing the 21st century addition to the synagogue–the new stained glass window

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The synagogue interior has been masterfully restored

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The illuminated rose window

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Hey!

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Looking up for a hidden sign of immigrants past

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Ginger Ale! Note one of NYC’s rare L-shaped buildings

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Hot bialys, straight from the oven!

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These guys RUN the pickle shop…you can’t sneak anything by them!

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Willy Wonka-style candy shop, anyone?

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What a great tour! Thank you Teddy Wolff for the photos.

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Filed under Neighborhoods, New York, Photography, Religious Spaces, Tours

The High Line in winter and spring – A photo essay

In the past 6 months, I’ve had the pleasure of taking two visits to the High Line specifically to spend time with family and take photos.  Right away, a visitor realizes how photo-friendly of a place it is.  Modern art emerges from verdant gardens; original locomotive rails weave in and out of the pedestrian walkway—all with the distinct urban backdrop of the city.  Here are a number of my favorite photos—watch as the season changes!

The Standard Hotel looks proudly down on the High Line.

The Standard Hotel looks proudly down on the High Line.

Creepy looking guy...

Creepy looking guy…

My cousin Hanna checks out Tenth Avenue Square

My cousin Hannah checks out Tenth Avenue Square

Frank Gehry's IAC building...playfully known as "the Iceberg"

Frank Gehry’s IAC building…playfully known as “the Iceberg.”  In the background: Jean Nouvel’s geometrically-striking “100-11th” apartment building.

Jean Nouvel's geometrically striking "100-11th" apartment building.

Squares and rectangles

Even in winter, splashes of color are to be found

Even in winter, splashes of color are to be found

High Line shoes

High Line shoes

Welcome to Chelsea

Chelsea

One of the few grassy lawns to be found in all of Manhattan

One of the few grassy lawns to be found in all of Manhattan

Busy as ever

Busy as ever

Spring color splash

Spring color splash

 

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Filed under Neighborhoods, New York, Parks, Photography

September Heritage Parades

Last month, I stopped by to check out two heritage parades: the West Indian Day Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and the African-American Day Parade in Harlem.  All parades are fun but sharp contrasts set these two apart.

Emerging from the subway on Eastern Parkway for the West Indian Day Parade, a visitor is confronted with a wild scene on the street.  18-wheelers with speaker systems blast Caribbean music as thousands of people dance in time.  The sidewalks and smaller streets that flank the parkway are choked with spectators, food vendors and police vehicles.

Eastern Parkway on Labor Day

The first thing the eye catches is the flags.  Thousands of flags of every West Indian nation twirl in the air along with the music—flag bandanas, shredded flag t-shirts, flag capes and the traditional flags poking up from the crowd. DJs from local radio stations perched atop the trucks yell through the amplifiers, competing with similar sound systems on tractor trailers immediately in front and behind.

And then you notice the costumes.  Women in 10-foot high peacock feathers and leopard skin; men dressed with black-painted skulls and rags like the undead sailors in Pirates of the Caribbean. 

She let us take a photo with her….I think I’m in love.

And of course, the food was not to be missed. We chowed on some jerk chicken with deep-fried plantains, ox tails and collard greens.  All and all, the West Indian Day Parade was extremely memorable—a dramatic taste of the Caribbean moving through the heart of Brooklyn.

The 43rd African American Day Parade on September 16th was unquestionably tamer.  Floats moved lazily up Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard punctuated by marching bands and African drum circles.  From my perch at 125th St, neither the number of spectators and participants nor their intensity seemed to rival the free-for-all of the West Indian parade.  But this relative calmness can certainly be appealing, especially as far as family friendliness is concerned.

The NYPD marching band in the African American Day Parade.

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Filed under Events, Neighborhoods

Strivers’ Row

While participating in a walking tour of Harlem by fellow guide Matt Baker, I came upon one of the all-time great blocks of New York: Strivers’ Row.  Located at W 138th and 139th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Ave) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (8th Ave), these magnificent row houses tell the story of the changing perceptions and demographics of New York’s most notorious neighborhood.

The dark brick Italian Renaissance houses of Strivers' Row designed by McKim, Mead and White on W 139th St.

Like much of northern Manhattan, Harlem remained rural and relatively isolated well into the 19th century.  Not until midcentury did the neighborhood began to attract its first urban residents—Irish and German immigrants who settled in shantytowns.

The construction of elevated railroads in 1880 precipitated land speculation.  Block after block of rowhouses was constructed in anticipation of new waves of affluent, white residents.  Grandest of them all were the properties on 138th and 139th streets by developer David H. King in 1891.

The yellow brick with terra-cotta and limestone trim of Strivers' Row at W 138th St., designed by Bruce Prince.

To increase the attractiveness of his homes, King hired 3 sets of prominent architects to design a stretch of the row each.  Most noteworthy was the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, already commissioned at this point to design the Arch in Washington Square Park

[caption id=”attachment_274″ align=”aligncenter” width=”225″ caption=”Unlike the vast majority of the homes in New York, Strivers' Row was designed with  a private back alley for carriage houses. Today the entrance still reads: “Walk Your Horses

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Filed under Landmarks, Neighborhoods

TriBeCa

What Manhattan neighborhood boasts cobblestoned streets, factory lofts-gone-residential, an international film festival and the firehouse from Ghostbusters?  Why TriBeCa, of course!

A Recent History

In the 1970s, TriBeCa, short for the Triangle Below Canal St., became one of Lower Manhattan’s first manufacturing neighborhoods to be renamed and rezoned for residential use.   The decades before had seen an exodus of industrial and commercial tenants and the area, then known as Washington Market, or simply the Lower West Side, had fallen into disuse.

With the 80s arrived artists and families, spurring urban renewal which has since characterized Manhattan’s west side.

TriBeCa Revitalized

Today, in classic New York form, TriBeCa’s gritty exterior conceals some of the most expensive apartments.  In fact, TriBeCa is second only to SoHo in terms of real estate value in the city, ranking as the country’s 7th most expensive zip code, according to Forbes Magazine.[1]

Hidden on Harrison St. is a lone row of 18th century Federal-Style Townhouses built by John McComb Jr., who designed City Hall

A walk through Tribeca reveals a unique mix of historic and modern, grungy and chic.  New development, such as the Washington Market Park, the TriBeCa Grand Hotel, and countless Zagat-rated restaurants only add to the neighborhood’s appeal.

The storefronts that once sold dairy as an extension of the 19th Century Washington Market now converted to upscale furniture and antiques stores. The roofs above the storefronts used to shade eggs and butter from sunlight in the absence of refrigeration.

Best times to visit TriBeCa in 2012

  • April 18-29 – The 11th Annual TriBeCa Film Festival, created by Robert Di Nero to revitalize the neighborhood after 9/11
  • April 27-30 – The 16th Annual TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour, a weekend of free, public, self-guided tours through 40 studios showcasing the work of over 100 artists
  • Whenever the weather is nice! – Especially to enjoy  Hudson River Park Pier 25 and its beach volleyball courts, mini golf, and great views of the Hudson

The view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Pier 25, just across West St. from TriBeCa.

 


[1] America’s Most Expensive Zip Codes 2011. Forbes. Retrieved 25 Jan 2012.

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Filed under Neighborhoods