Harlem Halloween

October 31, 2008

In Harlem, when Halloween comes around, hundreds of trick or treaters head to 125th Street, the neighborhood’s legendary “Main Street.”

Starting at 3:00, when school is out, shops and restaurants open their doors and fill waiting goody bags with cookies and candies. Ghosts and goblins, witches and vampires wander in and out, up and down, gathering treats and attention. Passersby sometimes stop and drop change into the bulging goody bags.

Downtown, in Greenwich Village, there is an enormous Halloween Parade going on, with elaborate floats, corporate sponsors and lots of adults in racy costumes. But today in Harlem, the day is all about making sure that the kids (even the “fur kids”) have a safe and happy Halloween.

Painted pit bull


Purple pussy cat

Lamb and princess

Handman with toolbelt

Viking girl

Father and son psycho killers

Kitty cat girls

Elmo and Dora the Explorer

Scooby-Doo enjoying a treat

Pumpkin dog and police cat in stroller

Prisoner brothers

Mobster girl


Mom witch and princess daughter

Clerk outside a clothing store


Princess and her brothers


Police officer


Ninja in front of shoe store

Fairy princess

Trick or treaters emerge from a drug store

Family group

Three ninja piggies

Evil doctor

Snow White and Tinkerbell

This store is all out of candy
Time for the little monsters to go home

The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

October 30, 2008

This is the final week of the art installation known as The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. Located in a former shop in Greenwich Village, the exhibit by secretive UK artist Banksy provides an original view of pets, food and the ways they intersect.

At first glace, it seems that the space is outfitted like a standard pet shop: the walls are lined with tanks and cages, rows of cat food and dog treats. But a closer look reveals that the Village Pet Store contains no live animals.

Instead, there are fish sticks swimming in a bowl, animatronic Chicken McNuggets dipping themselves into a cup of barbecue sauce, sausages wriggling beside a bowl of olives, a rabbit at a vanity applying makeup, and a rhesus monkey, remote control clutched in his paw, transfixed by a television program about gorillas.

View from the street

Sign in the front window

Fish sticks swimming in a bowl

Chicken McNuggets dip into cup of sauce

Merchandise displayed on wall

Menu above front windows

Leopardskin coat lounging on a branch

Sausages with toothpicks

Sliced salami with bowl of olives

Hot dog with bottle of mustard

White rabbit with makeup

Monkey watching television

Monkey and observer

Molting bird in a cage

The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill
NY Times: Where Fish Sticks Swim Free and Chicken Nuggets Self-Dip

Collected Poems

October 27, 2008

One of the most honored poets in the United States, John Ashbery has won nearly every major American poetry award. He has been compared to T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens and remains, at the age of 81, both creative and controversial.

The Library of America has just published the first volume of Ashbery’s Collected Poems and tonight he read from the volume at the 92nd Street Y. Anyone who thinks Americans don’t appreciate poetry would have been proved wrong tonight, as the sellout crowd swarmed from the packed auditorium to the lobby, where they snatched up books of Ashbery’s works, then stood on line for hours, patiently waiting for the old poet to inscribe them.

My Erotic Double

He says he doesn’t feel like working today.
It’s just as well. Here in the shade
Behind the house, protected from street noises,
One can go over all kinds of old feeling,
Throw some away, keep others.
The wordplay
Between us gets very intense when there are
Fewer feelings around to confuse things.
Another go-round? No, but the last things
You always find to say are charming, and rescue me
Before the night does. We are afloat
On our dreams as on a barge made of ice,
Shot through with questions and fissures of starlight
That keep us awake, thinking about the dreams
As they are happening. Some occurrence. You said it.

I said it but I can hide it. But I choose not to.
Thank you. You are a very pleasant person.
Thank you. You are too.
Copyright (c) 1981, 2005, John Ashbery, all rights reserved.

Ashbery onstage

Signing books for fans

Ashbury autographs his book

Collected Poems, 1956-1987
Poets: John Ashbery
Wikipedia: John Ashbery
Ashbery Resource Center
92nd Street Y

The Howl-o-Ween Parade

October 26, 2008

Once again, Brooklyn is the site of the annual Howl-o-Ween Dog Parade and Contest. Organized by the owners of animal accessory and grooming shop Perfect Paws, the parade is a fund raiser for several animal charities (Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC), Friends of Hillside Dog Park, Blue Rider Stables and Animal Kind) and a source of amusement to the residents of Brooklyn Heights.

The procession of the animals (and owners) in Halloween costumes began on the Brooklyn Promenade at Remsen Street, where it attracted the attention of astonished tourists, proceeded north, and ended at the judges’ table outside the Harry Chapin Playground at Columbia Heights and Middagh Street.

The parade, now in its sixth year, continues to grow larger and attract more attention. Today’s gathering drew several local reporters, most of them fascinated by the two dogs — accompanied by humans dressed as moose — disguised as Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. While I’m no expert on fashion, I’m guessing that the doggy Sarahs’ wardrobes cost way less than the human Sarah’s, and generated far less controversy, too.

Judges review a contestant

NY Giant appeals to the judges

Greyhound dressed as a greyhound

I bark for Barack

Dog disguised as a bumblebee

Pug in a butterfly suit

Super hero

Alice in Wonderland

Scuba dog

Scuba dog with family

Chinese dragon

French maid guards the prizes

Spider dog

Babushka lady

Neurosurgeon and patient

Sanitation worker picks up trash

In a lion suit

Dog dragon … or maybe dinosaur

Wonder Woman

Matching dog and girl ballerinas

Girl who matches dog ballerina

Poodle as ballerina

Chinese dragon with family

Pirate dog of the Caribbean

Cow dog and milk carton

Dog pimp held by “hooker”

Austin Powers

Cat flower – the sole feline entrant

Pirate dog

Moose holding Sarah Palin

Moose with Sarah Palin

NY Post: Dog Day for Halloween
Perfect Paws
Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC)
Friends of Hillside Dog Park
Animal Kind

The Honeymoon Never Ends

October 24, 2008

One of the most successful programs in the history of American television, The Honeymooners debuted in 1955 and has rarely been off the air. The half-hour series focused on two working class couples in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn: Ralph Cramden and his wife Alice, and their upstairs neighbors, Ed Norton and his wife Trixie. Ralph was a bus driver, Ed was a sewer worker and, typical for the era, the women stayed at home.

The story of the two couples has inspired countless spin-offs and adaptations, including The Flintstones, The King of Queens, and a theatrical film starring Cedric the Entertainer. The characters of Ralph, Alice, Ed and Trixie have evolved into pop culture icons.

So, why talk about this old series? Today I stopped in a McDonald’s restaurant on Columbus Avenue for a cup of coffee to go. While I was waiting for my order, I noticed that the teen aged clerks were flocking to another customer. I didn’t glance over, though, until I heard one of them asking for an autograph.

I turned and saw a woman signing a slip of paper from the cash register with the name Joyce Randolph. The actress, who has lived on the Upper West Side for decades, graciously posed for photos with the adoring fans who were calling her Trixie — the role she played when she starred on the show 50 years ago.

Now in her 80s, Randolph is the last surviving member of the cast. She may have retired years ago, but for those who have enjoyed watching her crack wise with co-stars Audrey Meadows, Jackie Gleason and Art Carney (who played her television husband Ed), the honeymoon will never end.

Joyce Randolph signing an autograph

Still glamorous, the actress poses with fans

Wikipedia: The Honeymooners
IMBD: Joyce Randolph

A Writer Reflects on Brooklyn

October 21, 2008

In a recent issue celebrating its 40th anniversary, New York magazine asked some of its past contributors to reflect on the city they love and the changes they’ve seen over the last 40 years. Here is what Brooklyn-born author Pete Hamill had to say.

In Brooklyn, the visitor, whether native son or total stranger, can experience a very special sense of beauty. Much of it derives from a simple fact: Manhattan is a vertical city, and Brooklyn is horizontal. In a preface to a collection of his short stories, John Cheever once talked about Manhattan when it “was still filled with a river light … and when almost everybody wore a hat.” Hats are making a minor comeback, but in Manhattan, the river light is gone forever.

The reason: the soaring scale of most Manhattan buildings blocks the light. But Brooklyn is still the wide, low borough of light, bouncing off the harbor and the ocean (out by Coney Island), a place of big skies, a place where you can see weather, not simply defend against it. Clouds move swiftly, driven by the wind, or hang in lazy stupor. Storms can be tracked visually, as the immense dark clouds make their tours.

At dawn the sun begins to pass over Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, then all the way to the Verrazano Bridge, the start of its long day’s journey into the New Jersey night. The light is immanent, muted, a promise. Along the way, every neighborhood is given fresh clarity, every building assumes the kind of volume that depends upon shade as well as light.

In Brooklyn, most building is on a human scale and so the sun can do its work of gilding every surface. You walk for the morning paper, and total strangers say, “Beautiful day.” And you must assent.

I think he’s right, and that his words are too good not to share.

Pete Hamill in Brooklyn, September 2008

New York Magazine: Brooklyn Revisited

Koons on the Roof

October 15, 2008

What to do on an unseasonably warm day? How about going up to the roof?

While nearly everyone knows that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a vast and wonderful collection, fewer visitors are familiar with its roof garden. Opened to the public in 1987, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden offers a spectacular view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline and generally displays the work of a single artist.

The current show puts the spotlight on controversial American artist Jeff Koons, featuring three works that have never before been on public display. The sculptures, all created in the 1990s, are Sacred Heart, Balloon Dog (Yellow) and Coloring Book.

All three pieces are made of high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating and are set in the dazzlingly dramatic space atop the museum. If you can go on a sunny day, do it. Weather permitting, the exhibit will be on display through October 26, 2008.

Sign and brochures near the elevator to the roof

The group on the roof

Work entitled Balloon Dog

It is called Sacred Heart

Tourists taking photos of themselves beside Sacred Heart

The title is Coloring Book

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jeff Koons on the Roof
Jeff Koons

OHNY: 7 World Trade Center

October 4, 2008

Since it opened in 2006, the lights of 7 World Trade Center have been one of its most remarkable features. Glowing beacons in the night, they bathe the surrounding area in dramatic tones of blue, white and red.

Tonight, as part of Open House New York Weekend, Michael Hennes, the designer who worked on the lighting project, took visitors around the building and into the lobby. He displayed some rejected sketches, explained the rationale behind the design, and showed how and why the lights work as they do (including some malfunctions that have occurred).

It was an (ahem) illuminating experience. I’ve walked by these lights dozens of times, and I’ll never view them the same way again.

Illumination of 7 WTC
250 Greenwich St, Barclay St, New York
Sat:7:30 pm tour with lighting designer.
building date: 2006
architect: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

Michael Hennes of Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design will talk about the color-changing lighting within the lobby ceiling, exterior podium screen wall and 80-foot-height parapet changes from the white light of day to a vivid blue at night, while an interactive motion detection system triggers a deeper blue stripe of light that “follows” pedestrians as they walk along the sidewalk.

Everything around the building is bathed in blue light

This Jeff Koons sculpture is bright red; the lights make it appear violet

Side view from Barclay Street

In the lobby, Hennes has the lights adjusted

The crowd listens to Hennes

The building was constructed by Silverstein Properties

Animated Jenny Holzer art installation in the lobby

The white lights come up

Red lights flood the lobby

Flowers on the desk turn red

Blue lights start to come back

Looking at the elevator banks

Elevators are controlled by the user’s ID cards

Frosted glass interior of elevator car

Unmarked doorway in the corridor

Open House New York Weekend
Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Jenny Holzer
Metropolis Magazine: Ground Zero’s Saving Grace

OHNY: Radio City Music Hall

October 4, 2008

Created by oil mogul John D. Rockefeller in 1929, Rockefeller Center is an enormous complex of office buildings, shops, theaters, cafes, restaurants, recreation facilities, attractions and underground passageways. It spans a gigantic space in the heart of midtown, stretching east to west from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue and north to south from 50th Street down to 47th. Almost 300,000 people work in or visit this Art Deco masterpiece every day, many of them heading straight to Radio City Music Hall, the city’s largest and most notable theater.

In 1999, to mark its 70th birthday, Radio City Music Hall underwent an enormous restoration effort aimed at updating the infrastructure and returning the structure to its past glory. The project was led by architect Hugh Hardy, who, as part of Open House New York Weekend, led visitors through the refurbished space and described how he made it sparkle again.

The scope of work was massive and the budget, originally estimated at $25,000,000, eventually topped $70,000,000. Removing seven decades of smoke and grime and repairing wear and tear was just the beginning. Some of the most demanding aspects of the project involved undoing the damage done by inept restorers and un-doing misguided attempts to “modernize” the theater.

During the project, hundreds of workmen and artisans swarmed over the building and stripped away the varnish and dirt that obscured dozens of murals, reupholstered furniture, re-silvered mirrors, installed state of the art lighting, video and audio systems, replaced damaged plasterwork, installed acres of new, custom designed carpets and hung specially woven silk curtains.

Hardy escorted the OHNY visitors upstairs and down: to a private booth high above the theater (“Please, no photos of the stage!,” he ordered), into the men’s and women’s restrooms, across the mezzanine and through the lobby, past the bar and around the sculptures until Radio City employees chased us from the premises so that they could open the doors for the next performance. The show must go on!

The view from the street

Plaque of the Rockettes on the facade


The carpet features 12 musical instruments

A bar in the lobby

Stuart Davis mural in men’s room

In the men’s room
A cathedral of urinals

Where the men go

Inside the ladies’ room

The mural is called The History of Cosmetics

Hugh Hardy and associate lead visitors in ladies’ room

Sinks in ladies’ room

Visitors in a rest room

Crouching Panther by Henry Billings, a men’s room mural

Untitled ladies’ room mural by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (repainted by Yohnnes Aynalem)

Gazing down at balcony bar

Statue in an upstairs corridor

Dressing tables inside a ladies’ room

View from balcony

Another lobby view

Hugh Hardy in Radio City Music Hall

Open House New York Weekend
Radio City Music Hall
NY Times: Piece by Piece, a Faded Icon Regains Its Art Deco Glow
Hugh Hardy

OHNY: Brooklyn Lyceum

October 4, 2008

Today, this structure, which is almost entirely hidden by scaffolding, contains an enterprise known as the Brooklyn Lyceum. Located at the corner of 4th and President Streets, it offers patrons an unusual mixture of dining and entertainment, including a small cafe with Internet access, live music, dance and theater performances, open-mike nights, film screenings and “an occasional restaurant.”

But once upon a time, this building was New York City Public Bathhouse #7. When the bathhouse opened in 1908, many homes in the city lacked adequate indoor plumbing. Back then, residents of an entire tenement building would share a single backyard outhouse, mothers bathed their babies in washtubs, and children squatted in filthy, flooded gutters to cool off during the sweltering summer months. Vermin and disease, including cholera and typhoid epidemics, ravaged the city’s impoverished neighborhoods.

New York’s municipal bathhouses were part of a public health effort to improve conditions for the poor, and provided the city’s most crowded quarters with much-needed sanitary facilities. The first such structure, the Baruch Bathhouse, opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1901. As they went up, the bathhouses became larger and more elaborate, some of them modeled on ancient Roman baths.

This building, #7, designed by Raymond F. Almirall, was the largest and the last bathhouse constructed. For three decades, it gave the 150,000 residents of this area, then known as South Brooklyn’s “Little Italy,” access to extensive, sparkling-clean bathing and dressing facilites, two gyms and a swimming pool. The city finally closed the bathhouse in 1937.

After a renovation effort during which the swimming pool was filled in and half the showers eliminated, the bathhouse reopened in 1942 as a city-run gymnasium. Closed once again in the early seventies, it was sold to a local businessman who used it as a warehouse for his nearby transmission repair business.

When he moved his business away, the building went through several more owners, none of whom used it. The former bathhouse stood unused and unmaintained for decades. Leaks were unrepaired, broken window panes unreplaced, holes opened in the roof and stonework chipped off. Eventually, the empty structure was vandalized and stripped of all of the original decorative elements. Even the tiles, pipes, water fountains and plasterwork were carried off or destroyed while the building crumbled.

In the late 1980s, the bathhouse reverted to city ownership and a local community group, which leased it for $1.00 a year, briefly used it as a recreation center before it closed again. By the early 1990s, the bathhouse was considered a neighborhood blight, and there were cries for it to be demolished. Instead, in 1994, the city held an auction where it was purchased by Eric Richmond, who had long wished for a theater space of his own.

Today, as part of Open House New York, Richmond greeted visitors, explained the history of the building and escorted them on a short tour of the space. He explained that not only are the original decorative elements gone, the city lost the original drawings and he has been unable to locate any photographs of the original interior. As visitors gazed at the bare brick walls and looked at the dance troupe rehearsing in the basement, music boomed from above, where the top floor had been rented out for a bar mitzvah party.

A bar mitzvah in a bathhouse? Only in Brooklyn.

The view from the street

One of the last original elements: the name

The doorway

Inside the cafe

View from cafe to basement theater

Basement performance space

Basement restroom

A peek at the bar mitzvah

The owner

Brooklyn Lyceum
All About Jazz: Brooklyn Lyceum
The Brooklyn Paper: Lyceum Site Under Construction
Forgotten NY: A Lost Opportunity
NYC: Asser Levy Recreation Center
The Villager: Don’t Let LaGuardia Bathhouse Go Down the Drain

OHNY: Tom Otterness’s Studio

October 4, 2008

Once again, the organization known as Open House New York has planned a weekend-long celebration of the city’s architectural wonders. Places that are normally off-limits (or at least, very difficult for most people to enter) throw open their doors and allow curious visitors inside.

This is the sixth year of Open House New York Weekend, and each year the number of people and places participating grows. While many sites allow visitors to wander in and out, quite a few require advance reservations. Spaces are few and they fill up quickly, so I considered myself extremely fortunate to nab a spot on the visit to Tom Otterness’s studio.

It would be fair to call Tom Otterness New York’s favorite sculptor. While his name might not be familiar, his work is displayed in public and private spaces around the city. Depending on your point of view, you might consider them whimsical or political, witty or simplistic.

In Manhattan, many of his cartoon-like figures, particularly those in the 14th Street subway station, have been embraced and fondled by so many admirers that their dull finish has become a polished gleam. They also scamper around the Hilton Hotel in Times Square, public schools and parks in Manhattan and a children’s hospital in the Bronx. In Brooklyn, his depiction of an alligator escaping from a sewer is a centerpiece of the MetroTech business complex.

Today, he began greeting visitors to his cavernous Brooklyn studio shortly after 10:00 a.m. The artist showed works in progress, projects still in the planning stages, commissions that were cancelled and completed sculptures. He fielded questions, explained his creative process from initial clay model to finished bronze, sold miniatures and posters of his work, signed autographs and posed for photos with admirers.

Works at different stages

Plaster caked clamps on a studio wall

Sketches and model

Boy inspecting statue

A corner is filled with work by friends, this by John Ahearn

Tom Otterness speaks to OHNY participants

Rendering of a public project

Drawings and model for playground

Castings in progress

Vistor and plaster cast

Model of the balloon he created for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Small figures and pennies are recurring themes

Otterness’s Frog and Bee at NYC’s Public School 234

Otterness’s alligator coming out of a sewer at Brooklyn MetroTech

Open House New York
Tom Otterness

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