50 Favorite Places #18
Okay, so it’s not a “place,” exactly. It’s many places, scattered across the borough. Perhaps it’s better described as a style, a statement, even a culture. But the creative things that Brooklynites do with their tiny front yards deserve a shout out. For instance, I’m not sure why the folks in the Park Slope building depicted at the top of this post turned their yard into an amusement park, but I’m glad they did. If I had the ability to embed video, you’d see those sparkly rainbow pinwheels spinning wildly and it would be guaranteed to make you smile.
In fact, many tiny Brooklyn yards seem calculated to make you smile, like the one below, in the Gowanus section. (“They must be Italian!” was the reaction of an Italian-Canadian friend.)
Third St entrance to the Coignet Building, circa February 2020
50 Favorite Places #7
Even at its most ruined, the Coignet building was striking. And also strange: marooned on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street, facing the former American Can factory complex and a fenced-off Verizon lot and, these days, bumping up against Whole Foods, it has always projected faded elegance. It’s like an aging dowager fallen on hard times, querulous and irrelevant and no doubt an incorrigible reactionary, but dangling the promise of interesting stories (some of which might even be true).
For years, I assumed the boarded-up building with the Italianate facade had once been a grand mansion, the seat of the Coignet family. I imagined the Coignets hobnobbing with the Litchfields and the Pratts and the rest of Brooklyn’s Gilded Age elite. Continue reading
50 Favorite Places #5
The first thing you notice about the Carroll St bridge is its bright blue paint job. The second thing, at least if you’re approaching from the west, is the sign that hangs from its exceedingly modest central tower:
ORDINANCE of the CITY
Any Person Driving over
this Bridge Faster than
a Walk will be Subject to
a Penalty of Five Dollars
For Each Offense Continue reading
50 Favorite Places #4
Bond St in Manhattan runs for two picturesque, Belgian block-paved blocks in NoHo. It’s lined with artful boutiques, luxury apartments and expensive restaurants, and is beloved by Instagrammers.
This is not about that Bond St.
Bond St in Brooklyn runs for roughly a mile, starting at 4th St in the Gowanus neighborhood, cutting through Boerum Hill and across Atlantic Avenue, eventually making a hard right in Downtown Brooklyn and becoming Dekalb. Sections of it have long been part of several of my standard running routes (e.g., my short Gowanus loop, my over-the-Brooklyn-Bridge 10 miler, and my Damascus-Bakery-is-calling-me ata’if route, among others). So I’ve watched the street change over the years, for good and bad and “it depends,” but until I decided to write about it here, I’d never traversed its full length in one go.
Come along with me, then, and explore Bond St from south to north. (If you’re not a runner, don’t worry – I’m currently injured, so we’ll be moving at an easy walking pace.) Continue reading
I’ve posted several times about the unknown artist(s) whose sardonic observations are pasted on walls around the borough – most recently here. Over the past year, I’ve watched their sayings fade, rip and generally deteriorate, with no new contributions..
Until this week, when the piece at the top of this post appeared on Union St in Park Slope. I’m including it here for the record . . . and in hopes that Brooklyn-based readers may respond with their own sightings.
(“Back at it” also refers to me and this blog. I’m planning a new focus for 2020, so stay tuned.)
. . .
While photographing the Smith-9th station in mid-January, I found this:
And, while running through Gowanus (6th St between Second and Third avenues) in early February, this:
Today’s look at Brooklyn street art focuses on street art that’s not only aware of itself as street art, it demands that you be aware of it, too.
Like this late, great piece in Gowanus, dripping with irony as well as gold.
Then there’s this contribution, which can still be seen in Bed Stuy.
And this from Bushwick, with extra irony courtesy of a passerby.
But my hands-down favorite is the piece at the top of this post, found in Sunset Park. I like the fact that there’s nothing ironic about it. It’s clever, sure, but it’s cleverness that celebrates creativity, not the other way around.
In honor of women’s history month (a thing only in the United States, where we like to declare months to compensate for our neglect the rest of the year) and International Women’s Day, coming up on Friday, this week’s street art post focuses on images of strong, beautiful women and girls around Brooklyn. The spectacular mural at the top of this post can be found at Nostrand and Greene Av in Bed Stuy. It celebrates women who’ve changed the world for the better, including Shirley Chisholm (on horseback, armored for battle), Audre Lorde, Dolores Huerta, Clara Lemlich, Dorothy Day, and many others.
If you don’t know who any of these women are, you should. Continue reading
The street artist who pastes cryptic sayings on walls around the city is back at it. And how better to dip my toe back into the world of blogging than to post these two additions to this blog’s coverage of his/her work? (You can see previous examples here and here.)
The photo at the top of this post is from the “build it green” re-use center on 9th St between Second Av and the Gowanus Canal. The one below is from the exterior of the defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum at Third Av and 7th St.
And yes – the fact that I’m once again posting snapshots of things seen on the run around Brooklyn means I’m, well, back to running around Brooklyn. It’s been a long and tedious recovery from my elbow fracture, but I now have more-or-less full use of both arms, which means: more running! more birding! more two-fisted eating!
And more blogging, too.
(In the meantime – if you see more examples of these posters, please: pass ’em along.)
Louie Estrada’s Cuban spot is now mine, too
What does it take to rouse this blog from its slumbers? What it takes, evidently, is a jolt of sugar and caffeine, followed by a sharp slash of yellow mustard. Sour orange juice, garlic, salt and pork help, too.
Which is to say . . . I had lunch at this counter in Gowanus, and just had to write about it. My initial plan was to include it in my annual NYC marathon course round-up (yes, installment #3 will be arriving soon), but (a) My Cuban Spot is closed on Sundays and (b) it really deserves its own post. (UPDATE: the restaurant is now *open* on Sundays starting at noon. It’s closed Mondays.) Continue reading
One of my first posts when I started this blog three years ago was a tribute to the Kentile Floors sign that once graced the Gowanus skyline, rising above Second Avenue at 8th Street. The last letters disappeared in early July of 2014; coming home on the F train hasn’t been the same since.
The sign is gone, and Kentile floor coverings themselves are even longer gone, but you can still buy a “Mens Kentile Floors T Shirt in Rust Orange” from Livepoultry designs for $28 on Etsy. Or, for $20, a DIY model kit made from chipboard (“a 100% recycled material”) by Boundless Brooklyn.
Or you can seek out tributes on walls around the borough – from the walls of the luxury condo developments that have replaced manufacturing enterprises, to walls shadowed by public housing projects where former manufacturing workers and their children and grandchildren, employed in other sectors or not at all, live. Continue reading