Wednesday, June 8, 2011

[flo#4] - Long Island City

[flo#4] -LIC (click on images to enlarge)

In the summer of 2010 I had an exhibition my work at The Homefront, a gallery in Long Island City, Queens, New York. It's in a central location, right off Jackson Avenue very near the E,M, and 7 trains, close to the Sculpture Center, not too far from PS1, but also directly in the whirlwind of several HUGE construction sites for office buildings.

I began exploring the neighborhood in the direction of Queensboro Plaza (roughly north and west). This area is mostly huge construction sites, some waiting to be started, others slowly rising, but unlike Williamsburg (where I was shooting images of building sites for my series "Stalled") these sites are not all condos but primarily office buildings. Surrounding the area are a bunch of low rise commercial warehouse spaces, a few aging tenements, some loft condo warehouse conversions, and several overpasses from the Queensboro Bridge. It's like a dystopian novel where the office-y business people are gentrifying aliens, building huge glass cities in the midst of the native species' brick and mortar villages.

One thing that I honed in on was the proliferation of mark making. The streets are ripe with brightly colored shapes and lines, some freshly painted, all denoting a code that the transient construction workers can translate; they are foreign to the average passerby . Buildings, conversely, display identifiable vestiges of time, fading handmade signs warning of obsolete violations, worn metal doors to shuttered garages, house numbers scribbled in sharpie. Construction barricades contain and endless variety of "sidewalk closed" or "sidewalk" with an arrow texts.

here are some images of the neighborhood:

Some new buildings near the gallery (the tall Citibank building completed in 1990 has been there for quite awhile though)

Empty lot waiting to be developed

Typical LIC buildings

View towards Manhattan from near 5 Pointz, a building filled with legal graffitti




Friday, November 19, 2010

Bowery btwn 5th + 6th streets circa 2004

"Coming soon" site of the Cooper Square Hotel, 2004, often called "Dubai on the Bowery".

Same site circa 2007:

"Oh, It's Not What It Used to Be" - Bowery circa 2000

NY Times article circa 2000 about the Bowery, written by someone who spent a lot of time there as a child in the 60's probably.


"Today on the Bowery the tallest building -- other than the 1970's Confucius Plaza in Chatham Square -- is the 10-story Salvation Army Chinatown Corps, No. 225, near Rivington Street; most are three or four stories."

"Still seedy around the edges, the Bowery is not yet gentrified -- there's no Starbucks, no Gap -- and it's not clear whether it will soon look more like SoHo, to the west."

"Old-timers gape at a two-story terraced gray penthouse, recently erected atop a dark orange brick building." ---- (While there are other seemingly older penthouse structures visible, I think this one is the first real sign of the beginning of what the Bowery has become.)

Also, another mention of its unique street arrangement:

"The Bowery interrupts the city's straightforward grid. Streets like Prince, Spring and Bleecker on the west side, and Stanton, Rivington and First on the east, end -- or begin -- at the Bowery. In some cases, the names change: Delancey becomes Kenmare; Bond becomes East Second; Great Jones becomes East Third."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

EV Transitions: A.T. Stewart, John Wanamaker, the Great Fire, and the Great Flood (Part II)

The "new" Wanamaker building is where K-Mart is on Astor of my favorite buildings in NY, so well proportioned (1903 - Burnham).  This shows a film of the old building burning down.  Fascinating.

"This is where streets go to die" - Bowery circa 2003

This NY Times article titled "Palimpsest Street" from 2003 gives you a mini rundown of the the Bowery's history, and details some sensibility of its different manifestations.  Originally the article probably had pictures (I wish it still did). 

During this time period there was no way of knowing that the Bowery was on the precipice of massive change, just that things were generally shifting in a more upscale direction.  No one knew if it was sustainable at this point.

I like the author's hypothesis as to why the Bowery had essentially sat unchanged for so many decades:

"One answer is surely physical. Like most of New York, the Bowery is much cleaner than it used to be, but it is still an ungainly street, singularly devoid of shade. An informal survey counted only 19 trees, many of them little more than saplings. And in its northern reaches, particularly, the Bowery is almost as broad and as busy as a highway. Trucks rumble constantly up and down its six lanes, either serving the avenue's many wholesalers or on their way somewhere else. And if geography is destiny, then the Bowery will never change. This is where streets go to die. Prince and Spring Streets from the west; Rivington, Stanton and First Streets from the east. All come to dead ends here, creating the impression that the Bowery is somehow cosmically misaligned -- an ineluctable border area, permanently detached from any of the neighborhoods surrounding it.

Or perhaps there's a simpler reason that the Bowery has remained the Bowery. Modern cities developed for the most practical of reasons, as marketplaces of goods, services and ideas. It is only when the markets leave that cities and neighborhoods begin casting around existentially for reasons to exist. On the Bowery, neither the industrial markets nor the artists ever left. The street remained more or less content unto itself. In a way, the Bowery is the only part of the ''real'' city left in Manhattan."

You can check out some aerial photos taken from different time periods by using the interactive map feature (super cool).

Bowery and Houston circa 1924

Bowery and Houston circa 1996

Bowery and Houston circa 2008

Dive bars in NY circa 1996

I'm working on a big piece for a show I'm doing at La Mama Gallery in January (also showing Wil Ortega's work).  La Mama is located right off the Bowery, on 1st street, near the Liz Christy garden.  Also, I suppose I should mention its also nowadays sandwiched between one of the largest (luxury) housing developments built in recent times in the neighborhood, built by Avalon Bay, who previous to this complex on the Bowery had mostly build suburban apartment complexes in places like New Jersey. Anyway, if I can pull it off, my portion of the show will incorporate some of the last 20 years of history in terms of the Bowery - pretty much the time person when I would have traversed it as a Cooper Union student, then staff and faculty, and a general NYC downtown resident.

I have a lot of memories, but they tend to be a bit fuzzy.  Images are in my heads, but dates are uncertain.  I've started doing some research, mostly using the NY Times archive, which so far has been very helpful.  I typed in Bowery and Houston and a bunch of stuff popped up.  I was tryign to determine when the aforementioned housing development was proposed, because i remember seeing a rendering in a book in the Cooper Library circa 1999?  2000? and thinking "well, thats never going to happen".  And it didn't, at least as far as I can tell. Originally it was proposed as city housing.  Then it was sold to a private developer.  So, big difference there in terms of what it represents.  Still looking into finding that rendering. 

Anyway, from time to time I'm going to post some of the articles/images I find, and my thoughts here.  

Note the date.  This one is from 1996: