Friday, July 28, 2006

Heat Wave: Which Borough to Lose Power This Weekend?

It looks like it’s going to be another scorcher. After a power outage for over a week in Queens, and an outage in Staten Island on Thursday affecting 10,000 people, it seems like a safe bet that the power’s going to go this weekend in one borough or another. This morning, NY1's poll showed that 94% of people responding thought another power outage was a sure thing. By this afternoon, the optimists gained a foothold, with 9% crossing their fingers that the power would stay on. If it does go out, Con Ed representatives can expect an earful from the City Council - the first hearing on the recent outages is scheduled on Monday. Meanwhile, Governor Pataki is seeking federal disaster funds for Queens businesses and residents.
(Poll from NY1)

Cambodian Food in NYC?

New York has almost every type of food under the sun. Cambodian, however, is one type that is sorely lacking. And with the demise of Cambodian Cuisine in Fort Greene, New York may have lost its only Cambodian restaurant.

I had heard rumblings on Chowhound of a small Cambodian neighborhood in the Bronx, but everyone's search for restaurants seemd to come to nought. The map at right is my attempt to map the centers of Bronx Cambodian life - mostly temples and community centers. My guess is that if there are any restaurants to be found, they'll be on Fordham Road between Sedgwick and the Grand Concourse, perhaps centered around the 4 or D subway stops. It may be that this is a community that is still too small, and still picking up the pieces after a devastating war, to be interested in opening restaurants. But, if there's one to be found, this is where I think it'll be.

If anyone has any leads, or wants to go on a culinary exploration, let me know. Brooklyn Ramblings is always up for an adventure. I'm going to be up in the neighborhood a lot more in September, so I'll definitely do some nosing around then and will report back if I find anything.

NYPD to Peds: Two People is a Parade

The NYPD is trying to get a new rule passed that would limit how many people could legally walk down the sidewalk or ride their bikes together. Under the new rule, if two or more people ride or even walk in a way that doesn’t follow every traffic law, they would be a “parade” and would have been required to get a permit before setting out. Civil rights attorney Norman Siegal notes that this means a family out for a bike ride would be considered lawbreakers and subject to arrest. Cyclists say new rules ride roughshod on liberties [The Villager]

Transportation Alternatives points out that these new rules would mean that anyone who walks to the park with their child, friend or neighbor and jaywalks could be arrested; school teachers who walk their classes to the park would have to get parade permits; any two cyclists who do not have bells on their bikes, do not ride in bike lanes or take their feet off the pedals (violating NYS VTL 1232) could be arrested. I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

In a really disgusting measure of who supports the NYPD's new rule, New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy says “The cops have finally gotten the go- ahead to bust the political pedal pushers who under the radar call themselves Critical Mass and arrogantly claim they own our roads. But the cops aren't going far enough.” Dunleavy urges the city's cab riders and motorists to throw open their car doors in front of "pedal punks" riding their "maiming machines" and "take back the streets" from bike-commuting "kamikaze jerks." [NY Post]
Inebriated Columnist Issues Fatwa Against Kamikaze Jerks: Response and fact-checking of Dunleavy’s rant [Streets Blog]

What can you do? There is a public hearing on August 23rd at 6pm at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan. Go to it and make your voice heard, or write them a letter. Read the text of the proposed rule. More on this from Time’s Up and TransAlt.

NYPD Bridge Dragnet Targets Bicyclers

In the latest round of NYPD versus bicyclists, Sunset Parker reports that the NYPD has put up a bike ambush on either side of the Brooklyn Bridge to catch bikers who - god forbid - ride across the bridge. If riders don’t dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge, they get hit with a summons and a $60.00 ticket. Sunset Parker wisely point out that there’s been a portion of the bridge designated for bikes for 123 years, which you can see from the clearly marked bike path and outline of a bicycle painted every thirty feet or so. [Very Big, Very Bad News for Brooklyn Bikers, Sunset Parker]

When I say this is an ambush, I mean it - signage is poorly lacking, meaning that riders have no notice that they face a ticket. Although the tickets are probably legally insufficient, since you need to have notice that you're breaking the law in order to be liable, the NYPD has long known that legality is beside the point. Plenty of people won't bother or don't have the time to contest the ticket, so it's sufficient for their purposes to flood bicyclists with tickets, even if the tickets wouldn't ultimately stand up in court.

Every so often, the NYPD embarks on a massive campaign to ticket bikers, usually ignoring far more dangerous driver behavior like speeding and reckless driving. Bike advocates and riders around the city have tried for years to educate the NYPD and the City, yet they persist in these indiscriminate quota-driven campaigns. [TransAlt]

It appears that this latest dragnet was spurred by the death of a pedestrian who collided with a biker on the bridge. Although this is tragic, and we all bear the responsibility to bike safely, these occurrences are so rare that the NYPD should really be focusing on the real problems: the risk to bikers and drivers from driver misconduct. Charles Komanoff, president of the pedestrian rights organization Right Of Way conducted a study finding that between 1994 and 1997, motorists killed 1,020 pedestrians and cyclists - comprising 56% of all traffic fatalities. Of these, the vast majority were pedestrians. An analysis of fatal bicycle crashes with car found that most were caused by traffic-law violations by motorists. The primary types of driver misconduct were (1) driver passing cyclist unsafely or aggressively; (2) driver turning into cyclist’s path; (3) driver speeding; (4) driver running red light or stop sign.

(Correction - According to the Brooklyn Record, the ticket is for failing to dismount on the Manhattan side near the stairs to the 6 train. Brooklyn Ramblings has ridden across the bridge countless times, yet I have no idea where these stairs are, and therefore where I'm now expected to get off my bike. But ok, I guess I'm allowed to ride across, until the gotcha at the end. Thanks, NYPD.)

More coverage of this story:
Brooklyn Bridge Bikers Beware [Bay Ridge Conservative]
Cops on the Bridges [Bike Blog]
Into Our Town the NYPD Came [Streets Blog]
Photo of burning citation from Bay Ridge Conserative.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mess in the Middle East - A Cheat Sheet

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that you’ve spent the last few weeks feeling guilty about not really knowing what’s going on in Lebanon. Not Brooklyn Ramblings, of course. I'm just saying.

But really, how you even start keeping all the players straight in the Middle East? To the rescue comes a set of great graphics.

The New York Times made a map of all of the major and minor conflicts in the Middle East, along with the intensity of the conflict (war, deep suspicion, sworn enemies, etc.). Their second map shows how Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States compete for power and influence in the Middle East, by showing who receives aid from each of these countries. Click through to see it larger.

The second one I think is really good is by Christopher Beam and Noam Rudnick over at Slate. They put out a cheat sheet to who likes who, who are bitter enemies, and which groups are more or less okay with each other, until tomorrow comes, and than all bets are off.

Useful stuff, people. It's like being back in school, except it's the real world.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I’m in The Gnostic

Shameless self-promotion time. I have a photo in the current issue of The Gnostic, which is an on-line art and literary magazine. Its goal is to integrate philosophy and the arts into everyday life, outside of academia. It’s a pretty new magazine - this is issue two - and I’m excited to be included.

My photo, Lower East Side (at right), is part of a series of building dreamscapes that I’ve been working on.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The State of the Blogosphere

I've been spending some time over at David Sifry's site (he runs Technorati). He's got some beautiful graphs that do exactly what graphs at their best do - marshall information in a clear way that makes intuitive sense.

Some of his observations: the blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months, meaning that it's now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago. So, in April 2006, 75,000 blogs were created a day. That's every day, people. About 3.9 million bloggers update their blogs at least weekly, and about 55% are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created. The rate of posting shows a similar steep upward trend, but doesn't appear to show the exponential growth that the size of the blogosphere does. Any predictions for the future? Continued exponential growth? Leveling off? Guesses welcome.

Sifry also found that the blogosphere is multilingual, and deeply international. If you check out the bar graph at bottom right, it shows that English isn't the biggest language of the blogosphere anymore. The plateau of the last few months is probably too short to project that language usage is stablizing. I'm curious to see how language trends will play out over the next few years.

Welcome to the Long Tail

"the Long Tail can leave us feeling like cavemen looking at a map of the world for the first time" [Slate review]

Everybody's heard of The Long Tail by now - the power curve explanation for product demand originated by Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief at Wired. It's a very elegant way to describe how there are a few big dogs in each entertainment industry, but all of us living in our little niches can collectively add up to something big. Slate's got a review today that thinks Anderson has overreached in trying to apply the theory to industries where it doesn't work, but still praises him for what is overall a genius theory.

I like the theory because, really, this is the sandbox where most of us bloggers play. And far from belittling that, the long tail recognizes the power that can come even if you don't have as many readers as, say, Boing Boing.

NYC Comptroller Tries to Save Graving Dock

NYC Comptroller William Thompson wrote this letter to the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding in support of preserving the Erie Basin Graving Dock in Red Hook. For more background, see my previous post about PortSide NewYork's meeting this upcoming Thursday about saving the Graving Dock.

Red Hook Graving Dock Update

This Thursday July 27th from 6 to 8 pm, the Save the Graving Dock Committee in Red Hook will host a community meeting about the fight to save the Erie Basin Graving Dock. What’s a graving dock? It’s a very big ship repair facility in which the water is drained out so people can work on the ship. The Erie Basin graving dock was in operation until 2005 until the land was bought by IKEA.

The Brooklyn Eagle reports that IKEA plans to fill in part of the graving dock to construct a parking lot, while preserving the rest as a historical marker. Graving dock advocates, however, point out that the number of such facilities in the New York area is declining rapidly, thus putting the shipping industry at a hardship. For example, the cost to NYC to repair DEP sludge boats that move partially treated wastewater has gone up 25% since the Erie Basin Graving Dock closed.

The discussion will be moderated by Carolina Salguero, PortSide NewYork’s founder and director. PortSide NewYork hopes to convince IKEA to keep the graving dock in operation on site with their new store. They say “we believe we can have a big box store AND keep an essential piece of maritime infrastructure working.”

Also, in a shameless plug, some of you may remember that Brooklyn Ramblings has been working on a photo series in and around the graving dock. Part of the graving dock area was used by trucks to load shipments from the docked boats for the next leg of their journey. Marshland has crept up around the trucks’ concrete blocks, with stands of reeds sprouting between concrete and metal pilings. Sea birds alight on the small marshy pond in the middle of the shipyard. The concrete blocks have become museum walls for some of the best graffiti artists in the city.

Trying to get to PortSide for the meeting? It’s right next to Fairway.
Waterfront Museum Barge
Foot of Conover Street [map] -- it shares an entrance with the new public garden.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Map of US Placenames

Regional distribution of placenames ending in Branch, Run, or Brook

Pfly is a geographer who was inspired by a 1945 book on toponymy (placenaming) to map the regional differences in place names across the United States. To make these maps, Pfly downloaded data from the United States Geological Society and then mapped the data using GIS. His description of some of the regional differences in placenaming and his speculation about how they developed is fascinating.

Some of the other things he mapped were streams with names that end either in Brook or Creek; placenames ending in Lake or Pond; many names for “small valley” such as hollow, cove, gulch, hole, or dale; and placenames with Salmon, Possum, Alligator, and Moose.

Summer Series: Abstract Edition

Urban Aquarelle by sonofsteppe. This blue wash abstract was taken in Újpalota, Budapest.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rainy Weekend

With the third day of rain in a row, Brooklyn Ramblings wants to take refuge in a good movie.

It's also perfect weather for losing yourself in a big museum. The Brooklyn Museum is still showing Graffiti, which is a retrospective about the early years of graffiti, along with a beautiful contemporary piece by Swoon. The Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson show has gotten less publicity but is, I think, an even better show. Also: On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag is at the Met, and the Dada show at MOMA is supposed to be great.

For those of you who are hard-core, there's a ton of cool outdoor stuff going on (check first to make sure it hasn't been canceled): beach ride with Times Up // City Sol concert // Pretty Girls Make Graves at the McCarren Pool // Summerstage // Dance.

Photo: Shelter in the Rain by Ramperto

Friday, July 21, 2006

"O" is for Ontology

Annulla at Blather From Brooklyn has captured an alphabet that someone painted on a construction site barrier in downtown Manhattan. It's very New York - from K for Krishna to U for Ulterior motive.

I say it's high time someone updated those old-fashioned alphabet books that used rural icons for letters. No one lives on a farm anymore. Nice work, anonymous alphabet scrawler. Actually, I shouldn't say scrawler - they have very nice penmanship. Their second grade teacher would be proud.

Gowanus Canal Redevelopment Plan Released

Urban planning graduate students at NYU’s Wagner School have just released a study proposing a redevelopment plan for a contaminated 6.5 acre site on the Gowanus Canal, bounded by Smith, Hoyt, and 5th Streets. The students spent the last year interviewing stakeholders in the community, conducting a survey of residents and workers in the area, and understanding the history of the site to identify issues and develop a plan for the site.

The site, known as Public Place, was the site of a manufactured gas plant operated by Brooklyn Union Gas, the predecessor to KeySpan. Today, the site is highly contaminated, mostly vacant and underutilized. It is, however, in a central location between residential uses to the north and west, and industrial uses to the south and east, and is close to mass transit. It is one of the larger, mostly vacant, city-owned sites remaining in New York City.

The group solicited survey responses from anyone living or working within ½ mile of the canal. In addition, they interviewed representatives of city and state agencies, elected officials, community advocates, local artists, and advocates for issues such as the environment, industrial retention, affordable housing, and open space.

Not surprisingly, there were many competing interests among the stakeholders. As a local politician stated: “Gowanus is like the Balkans.” However, the study was able to identify some broad areas of agreement. The major themes identified by the survey are:
  1. Open space and outdoor recreation/park are strongly preferred.
  2. Community facilities and work space for artists are preferred.
  3. Support for residential and retail uses exists.
  4. If the site includes retail, community support for a grocery store is strong.
  5. Mixed-use redevelopment is preferred.
  6. Support for affordable housing is strong.
  7. Industrial and manufacturing facilities and commercial offices are not preferred.
  8. The community seeks a range of waterfront and public park amenities.
  9. Buildings on the site should be 3–5 stories tall.
Most respondents agreed that Public Place should include some waterfront access and open space. There was general agreement that the ground floor of any development should be open to the public. Stakeholders for the most part supported the inclusion of affordable space for artists, seniors, or low- to middle-income residents. Finally, there was wide recognition of the canal as a community asset and a desire to leverage the waterway as a community amenity.

The group created four scenarios in order to identify the optimal combination of height, residential units, and affordable housing units. The four scenarios all have the same building footprint of 128,100 square feet, a 3-acre park with a waterfront esplanade, and a 23,100-square-foot community facility.

The scenario that the research group believes strikes the best balance between providing affordable housing, adhering to neighborhood context and architectural character, and generating the maximum economic impact to the city is the one shown above. It envisions a three-acre park, a 35-foot waterfront esplanade and a boat launch, a 23,100-square-foot community and cultural facility, and a mixed-use development incorporating a combination of retail and artisan work spaces on the ground floor and three to five stories of residential units above.

The research group also made recommendations as to the short-, medium-, and long-term steps that will need to be accomplished in order to make the most of the Gowanus site. The crucial short-term goal is to develop a remediation plan in collaboration with KeySpan, and clean up the environmental problems both on the site and in the canal. Next, they suggest that the city work with the community to develop a Request for Proposals that it can issue to the development community. The city should then choose a developer and have the site rezoned. An environmental review culminating in an Environmental Impact Statement will be necessary.

Congratulations are in order to Wagner for this extremely thorough study. They’ve done an excellent job of reaching out to community members and incorporating their recommendations. The Public Place site has been an unutilized blight for a number of years, and it has the potential to become a significant boon to the neighborhood.

Guide to Bánh Mì

The admirably obsessed J. Slab over at Porkchop Express has compiled a quick reference guide entitled Bánh Mì-bonics which tells you everything you need to know about ordering the Vietnamese sandwiches known as Bánh Mì. This is just awesome.

My boring just-the-facts-ma'am Bánh Mì description: it's got thinly sliced, pickled carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro, and your choice of barbecued pork, paté, or chicken.

Porkchop Express's gotta-get-it-now description: "You probably don’t want this, it has three types of pork each more delicious than the last. ... I’d let you try some, but it’ll party in your mouth, and I know you already partied too hard at breakfast with Farmer Jones and that Jimmy Dean kid.”

Once armed with your pocket guide, peruse Porkchop Express's numerous reviews of pretty much every bánh mì shop in the five boroughs.

Map of the Day: Highway Numbering Explained

Graphic of the Day: Road and exit numbering,
New York Times, February 10, 2002, page 4-2,
accompanying article on the renumbering of California exits.

Debating methods of exit numbering, one trucker relates that he "vastly preferred the systems that related the exit numbering to the distance from the western or southern border of the state. The states and turnpikes which numbered in sequence seemed interminable to traverse instead of having a clear sense of where I was and how far to the next state. Instead of being able to make driving decisions and exit strategies based on a clear idea about how far the next exit might be relative to the last, and also in relation to the mile markers that simplified planning, the appearance of exits numbered sequentially often seemed surprising. Also, post-original numbering of exit additions could place exit 13B some distance from exit 13 and make its arrival particularly mysterious."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Proselytizing "Jews" for Jesus Invade Brooklyn

An annual summer occurrence, like humidity and mosquitos, is the return of the Jews for Jesus. As if those other aggravations weren't bad enough, anyone walking through Cadman Plaza is liable to be approached by J4Js handing out pamphlets. Proselytizing religions usually go on missions to non-Western countries, where they try to save the noble savages from themselves. Not the Jews for Jesus - they stay right here in America, and they have the balls to go right to the Jewish center of the country to ply their wares. They hand out kitchy cartoon pamphlets to try to get Jews to accept Christ, and they even have teenagers out beating the street.

In this month-long campaign targeting New York City, the more than 150 J4Js have handed out 650,000 pamphlets and have spent $1.4 million on subway ads reading "Jews for Jesus" and "Jesus for Jews." They are specifically targeting Russian-speaking Jews, Israelis, and Hassidim.

Not surprisingly, many New Yorkers have not been receptive. J4J dismisses Jewish anger at their attempts to convert Jews to Christianity as "avoiding the issue." Susan Perlman, associate executive director of J4J, says "If [those who oppose us] knew what we know about who Jesus is and that He's the promised Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world, they'd be joining us out on the streets handing out pamphlets."

I've long been convinced that they see themselves as martyrs, and that angry reactions only make them feel more holy. One of their pamphlets sums it up. Responding to the typical reaction they get on the street, it says: "Okay, okay, so if I had half a brain, I'd get a real job instead of passing out these cockamamie pamphlets. Okay, okay, so I ought to be ashamed of myself... so I'm a disgrace... so I'm an insult to your intelligence." Then comes the kicker: "Now that we've established what a no-goodnik I am, what do you say we talk about the real issue - that Jesus really is the Messiah for Jews and Gentiles alike."

The Commission of Religious Leaders of New York City calls their deception "tantamount to coerced conversions." In response, the Spiritual Deception Prevention Project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York has its own ad campaign and is posting volunteers near J4J posts to counter the J4J message.

The Daily News summed it up better and with less expletives than I might use.
"They're not like anybody else," says Ruth Guggenheim, spokeswoman for the anti-cult group Jews for Judaism. "Most evangelical Christians are straightforward, they come to the door and say they want you to become a Christian. They're honest." ... While they, too, want Jews to embrace Christ, they only call this becoming a more "fulfilled" or "completed" Jew. And to make it look, well, kosher, they dress it up with Jewish symbols. ... "Someone is trying to get you to betray not just your religion, but your parents and your grandparents," says Prof. Berger. "And these people are using Jewish symbols."
Oy. When are they leaving?

Top photo by
Lorcan Otway.

Banksy on the West Bank

Banksy, a British graffiti artist / prankster who calls himself an "art terrorist," painted these and other images on the separation wall in the West Bank in 2005. He described the wall as "the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers."

Conversation with a soldier:
Soldier: What the f*** are you doing?
Banksy: You'll have to wait until it's finished.
Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off.

Conversation with an elderly Palestinian:
Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.
Banksy: Thanks.
Old man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.

Anti-War Art Meets Museum Prankster

From New Art via NEWSgrist comes this Banksy piece, which he managed to get exhibited at the Museum of Natural History by [ahem] just walking in and glueing the frame to the wall. Banksy is known for this kind of museum prank. Accounts of his exploits at Britian's Daily Telegraph and the New York Times. More on Banksy to come - stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cooling Off

In a summer heat wave, Brooklyn Ramblings' thoughts turn to quiet, cool lakes. Photo of Gibsonburg, Ohio kiddie swim area by Douglas Thayer.

Heat Round-Up: It's not the heat, it's...

All together now, say it... it's the humidity.

The Morning News reports that New York is currently panting, just to see if it works. I tried it - it doesn't.

The heat index is supposed to go up to 102 today, but will hopefully break with the thunderstorms tonight. Tomorrow should only be up around 85. Yesterday's high of 98 degrees broke the 1997 record by one degree.

Service is currently out on the 1, 2, and 3 trains, but the A train is back in service after having broken down in the Rockaways yesterday. At least riders were near the beach. The City has opened cooling centers in senior centers and other communities centers. City pools will be kept open until 8pm to help you beat the heat.

Pics: today's weather courtesy of NY1; average temperature & humidity graphs from City-data goes off-line frequently to update its stats, so if you don't see the graphic, check back later.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Road Trip Weekend

It's going to be hotter than hell this weekend. That means it's time for a roadtrip. Here are my top picks for road food, seafood and ice cream along the way.

Road Food
Super Duper Weinee, 306 Black Rock Tpke, Fairfield CT (just before Bridgeport, off 95).
Glenwood Drive In, 2538 Whitney Ave, Hamden, CT. Great hot dogs, onion rings, other road food
Shady Glen Dairy Stores, 840 Middle Tpke E, Manchester, CT. Spectacular cheeseburgers.

Rom's, 179 Main St, Sturbridge, CT. Hot dog and fried-clam roadside stand.
Harry's, 149 Turnpike Rd, Westborough. MA. "Drive-In: Ice Cream Fried Clams" - the consummate American roadside diner.
The Clam Box, 246 High St, Ipswitch MA. "This is the place to eat the best fried clams on the North Shore; and since the North Shore is home of the best fried clams anywhere, these are the best fried clams in the universe."
Chauncey Creek, 16 Chauncey Creek Rd, Kittery Point, ME.16 Chauncey Creek Rd, Kittery Point, ME. "Choose your own lobster from the tank, commandeer a brightly colored picnic table on the dock (or, if it's a buggy evening, on the screened deck), and wait for your order while the river drifts by."
The Clam Shack, Dock Sq, Kennebunkport, ME. "Grab a pint and head over to the bridge railing, next door. Eating clams and watching the gulls and the boat traffic on the river... Al fresco dining at its best."
Red's Eats, Water St @ Main St, Wiscasset, ME. "Not Maine's cheapest lobster roll, but Maine's best."
Susan's Fish & Chips, 1135 Forest Ave, Portland, ME. Voted Best Meal Under $10 and Tastiest Fried Clams by Portland Press Herald.

Ice cream
Bedford Farms, 18 North Road, Bedford, MA. "Some of the best ice cream in the Boston area."
Bubbling Brook Restaurant, 1652 High Street (Route 109), Westwood, MA 02090, (617) 762-9860. "The ice cream is the thing here. Lounging on the picnic tables next to Bubbling Brook while enjoying an ice cream cone on a Sunday afternoon is always a memorable experience here."
Brown's, 232 Nubble Rd, York ME. By the famed Nubble Lighthouse, consistantly on top 10 lists.

For addresses, reviews, and a bigger list of options:
MyMaps at

Red Hook's New York Dock Company

The New York Dock Company's imposing twin buildings stand as sentinals marking the entrance to Red Hook's waterfront - two of the few remains of Brooklyn's once-vibrant port and shipping industry.

Built in 1911 or 1913, the WPA Guide to New York City reports that these New York Dock Company buildings were "part of the two and one-half miles of Brooklyn waterfront owned by the New York Dock Company whose railroad sheds, warehouses, and massive gray loft buildings extend between the water front and the marginal streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Red Hook." The New York Dock Company operated in Red Hook from around 1901 to 1955, and owned almost all of the south and downtown Brooklyn waterfront, including 180 buildings and 32 piers.

The Dock Company building at 160 Imlay Street is shrouded in black netting and is in the process of being gutted to be converted into a 153-unit condo with nine floors. The project has been beset with much controversy and litigation. Most recently, the court sent the developer back to the Board to get approval again.

Its counterpart at 162 Imlay, seen below, is still intact, though the developer has expressed interest in trying to convert it into a similar luxury residential building or hotel. It's worth a trip down to Red Hook to check out this late-modernist beauty before it too gets a black Christo covering.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Photo of the Day: The Wilds of Red Hook

The guard dog (um, guard-bobcat?) we all need. New York is rough, yo. Click to see it larger.

Is Matamoros Closing?

I was walking by Matamoros, the Mexican grocery store on Bedford near N.7th that has a small restaurant in the back, when I saw signs in the window that said "store for sale." Does anyone know the story on this? Their food is one of the few places you can get good Mexican food outside of Sunset Park, so for my stomach's sake, I hope it's not true. I may regret saying this, but Williamsburg hipsters: your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to give them so much business they can't afford to close.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Today: NYC = Stonehenge

Today is one of two nights of the year when the sunset is directly aligned with the Manhattan street grid, allowing anyone looking down an east-west street to get the setting sun clear in their cross-hairs. My recommendation: if the rain holds off (unlikely), go have a picnic in Union Square or Bryant Park. Sunset is at 7:27. (NASA, via BoingBoing)

Bushwick: The Beer Capital of the Northeast (circa 1877)

Williamsburg may be today’s Brooklyn beer capital (see Brooklyn Record’s excellent round-up of places to slake your thirst this summer), but back in the day, it was all about Bushwick, which was known as the beer capital of the Northeast.

It turns out we owe much of this brewing history to Long Island. The Germans responsible for opening the breweries first settled in Bushwick following the 1776 Battle of Long Island. About a century later, Brooklyn began obtaining water from Long Island lakes that was ideal for brewing. By 1890, there were 14 breweries in Bushwick. The new money brewers constructed mansions along Bushwick Avenue that you can still see today. The breweries began to close following World War II, and were all gone by 1976.

If you’d been alive then, though, what fun you could have had. From Brooklyn Geneology comes this 1877 report of a stabbing in a “Dutchtown” Saloon:

Two Men Badly Cut in am Inn which was Kept Open in Defiance of the Excise Law- The Scene of the Occurrence Near the Locality of the BETZ Homicide. The region of the "Swamp" in Dutchtown, has an unenviable reputation as a locality where serious brawls occur. Scarcely a night passes but a tenement house or barroom quarrel takes place, and the "Swamp" and "Pickieville" furnish more work for Captain Worth, his officers, and Justice Guck than another portion of the Sixth Precinct. Early this morning a serious affray occurred in the saloon of Jacob Mohr, corner of Humboldt and Debevoise streets, but a few blocks away from the scene of the BETZ homicide. The "Inn" it appears, had been open all night, in violation of the Excise law, and at four o'clock this morning the place was doing a rushing business, the proprietor having all he could do to attend to the wants of his butleusly inclined customers, who filled the "hotel". Suddenly a quarrel arose, no one concerned seeming to know the cause, and a number of men were seen leaning over one Lorenz JACKERS, of 236 Varet street, and taking a knife from his band. When the man JACKERS had been turned out of the saloon, it was found that Michael SULUMANN , of 38 Montrose avenue, had received a severe cut on his cheek extending from his left eye to his ear and laying bare the cheek bone. His brother, Andrew SULLIVAN also received a severe cut on his left cheek.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Five Years Later, United States to Finally Follow the Geneva Conventions

The New York Times reported this morning that the Pentagon has finally decided that it will treat all detainees in compliance with the minimum standards of the Geneva conventions. This follows last week’s Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that terror suspects are “armed combatants” who are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Back in 2002, President Bush declared that members of Al Qaeda and other terror suspects seized during the invasion of Afghanistan were “illegal combatants,’’ and so didn’t fall within the Geneva conventions. Lest we think the Geneva conventions promises terrorists outrageously cushy protections, these are the relevant requirements of Article 3:
The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Some of the strongest voices in support of according detainees a level of rights that would be respected internationally have been from the military leadership. Admiral Donald J. Guter, a senior military judge advocates general (JAG) commented to the New York Times that “it’s a matter of defending what we always thought was the rule of law and proper behavior for civilized nations.”

If we don't follow the Geneva conventions, how can we ever expect anyone to do the same for us? As Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, a retired officer who was the chief uniformed lawyer for the Marine Corps said to the Times, “We don’t want someone saying they’ve got our folks as captives and we’re going to do to them exactly what you’ve done because we no longer hold any moral high ground.” And does anyone doubt that other countries are watching how we treat detainees? The cartoon at right was published in Omayya, Al-Hayat on 5/2/04, and republished by The Arabic says "The Geneva Conventions is screaming for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US-UK soldiers."

The Democrats couldn’t resist getting a few digs in. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. commented to the Times, “I find it difficult for us to buy in to the notion that let’s just trust the president’s judgment. God love him, his judgment has been terrible.’’

Read the Pentagon memo here.

Where It's at on Monday Nights: L&B Spumoni Gardens

Biked out to Bensonhurst last night with my buddy Anna to check out L&B Spumoni Gardens. It was packed with families, teenagers on dates, and more than one youth baseball team. It was a pretty wild scene. L&B is famous for its Sicilian square slices, which they make with a sweet sauce that they put on top of the cheese. I subscribe to the thin crust pizza temple, but this pizza really wowed me. Anna's comment - "I'm coming back for this every week."

The spumoni, which has an even better reputation than the pizza, I found disappointing. It comes in chocolate, vanilla, and pistastio. I got chocolate & vanilla and spent the whole time thinking I must have picked up someone else's by accident because I couldn't even tell what flavor it was. Vanilla, that happens, but chocolate? Next time I'm trying the ice cream.

Afterwards we still had a little room, and we needed to stay awake for the 10 miles back, so we stopped around the corner on Avenue U at an Italian cafe we'd passed earlier (Extra Bar Caffe No. 2, 125 Ave. U). The espresso tasted like Italy - the only things that told me we were in the States were the pictures of the Sopranos and Sylvester Stallone behind the counter. Excellent.

My total: 2 slices (one edge, one middle), 1 spumoni, 1 espresso, $7 (seriously), 20 miles.

Photos by Youngna (top), Slice (bottom)

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Stroll Down Henry Street

Snippets of some great old storefronts on my last amble down Henry Street. Henry is still a little bit off the beaten path of the Smith and Court St scene. There are old guys sitting out in front of the barber shops, American and Italian flags flying (especially since it's World Cup season), and storefronts dating from the 1950s or earlier. Check 'em out before they get torn down.

John Curtin's on Atlantic near Henry. Starting in 1869, back when Atlantic Ave was a major port, Curtin's store made sails and sold canvas goods. The lettering on the sign was touched up about a year ago.
The Long Island Restaurant on Henry & Atlantic, which opened in 1951. Note the Art Deco neon lettering.
G&D Television, at 329 Henry.
Got an old tv lying around? They do repairs. This building was built around 1915 and was designated a landmark in 1970 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Tony's Deli Grocery, 331 Henry. This building was built around 1915 and was designated a landmark in 1970 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Lana's Barber Shop, 523 Henry. I love this old pop-on lettering. The building was built around 1900.
A very patriotic household