A walk around New York’s Lower East Side and East Village never disappoints. Surprises abound. Perhaps the most surprising for me during a recent walk there is that in the midst of constant change, gentrification and “progress”, there are some locals clearly on a quest to remain the same. Old New York lives on through their businesses–this is no easy task in our city.
In addition the places shown below, my quest took me to a Polish butcher shop, two antiques stores and past an old Dairy Restaurant, so named for it’s adherence to Kosher provisions regarding serving dairy and meat products in the same area.
Of New York City’s five boroughs, The Bronx often seems to get the short end of the stick. Brooklyn once rivaled it for grit and swagger but today has become rather like an extension of Manhattan, hip, glamorous and a burg of widening extremes. This summer I decided to make only my third trip up there to walk the borough’s grandest Avenue: the Grand Concourse.
The Concourse, designed to be a self-contained residential and commercial hub, did not disappoint. In reading about it before my visit, I learned that the number of Art Deco buildings still standing along the Grand Concourse is rivaled only by Miami Beach. I also remembered that of all of New York’s boroughs, The Bronx has the most parkland and also the City’s largest park, Van Cortlandt.
My walk took me near Yankee Stadium, past three small parks, grand Art Deco government buildings and apartment houses, into the Bronx Museum of the Arts (it’s free!) and past a large shopping mall.
In response to the Daily Post prompt for July 30th, I immediately thought about creativity. I admire this quality because it doesn’t require money, material goods, or specialized education. All it takes to be creative is to challenge oneself to be expressive, to solve a problem or to see something in a new light.
At the same time, social media reminded me that I was in Buenos Aires nine years ago this month. It was my second trip to the city, the first being the year before, when the Argentine summer brought music and dance out in to the streets from noon to well past dusk. This time it was winter, and although it was chilly and grey and the city was suffering from the great recession, creativity still managed to crop up around nearly every street corner in the city center. Here are some of my favorite photos from that trip. The streets were alive with creativity!
My trusty mobile phone has recorded some of my summer adventures to date this year. They are grouped by borough, first up are images from Manhattan, then Queens and Brooklyn. I hope that they begin to convey the diversity of activities that New York City has to offer in the warmer months.
Performers at the Rubin Museum’s Block Party
A New Mural on 6th Avenue
The Rubin Museum drew large crowds for its Block Party and open house
Dancing on a Pier in the West Village
And Now Dancing in Long Island City Queens
Dancers with Manhattan as a Backdrop
Sundown as seen from Long Island City
A Thunderstorm Looms Over Queens
The Rose Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Cooling Off at a Brooklyn Beach
Weekend Fireworks at Coney Island
Americana Glore at a Brooklyn Cyclones Game
Enjoying a Sea Lion Show at the New York Aquarium, Coney Island
While waiting for the train yesterday yesterday, my boredom was interrupted by an unfamiliar sound, a different sort of chugging noise. I looked up to see a vintage subway train riding along the track across from me, full of smiling people sticking their heads through the large open windows. My curiosity was piqued, so I googled “vintage subway” and “2016” and found that the New York City Transit Museum was running historic trains in celebration of their 40th anniversary.
The MTA New York City Transit agency is more than 100 years old and made up of the amalgamation of what were once several different lines, some elevated, some underground, some travelling between boroughs and some running more local routes. In this post I will take you on a photographic replay of the trip I made through the Brighton Beach/Coney Island area on two vintage trains, one built in the late 1920s and one built in 1915.
The advertising in the cars was quite interesting, there was everything from 5 cent soap to corned beef in a can and Liberty Bonds for sale.
Interior, 100 Year Old Car
I couldn’t end this post without a comment on the view. I travel this route frequently, although at higher speeds and without the benefit of open windows. The scenery, while not beautiful or even remarkable, does comment on this story. The tight blocks with their facades of varying ages and views of the long-storied Brighton and Manhattan Beaches are players in this saga, just like the vintage trains themselves. Time marches on
The magic of the annual Dance Parade lies in its diversity and inclusiveness. Performers of dance traditions from around the world travel from all corners of the USA to troop their colors and celebrate their traditions with New Yorkers. A large swath of downtown yields to this colorful onslaught of energy and spirit.
In my humble opinion, the parade is a national treasure, the best free entertainment available and a means of opening the eyes of thousands to new cultures.
Here are some shots of children dancing down Union Square West in the Parade.
Demonstrating that men dance too, here are some powerful male performers.
Strong, beautiful women of all kinds shined as well.
Long live the New York City Dance Parade and Festival!
I am not a portrait-taker. Despite the fact that I am usually attuned to scenes and cityscapes as subjects for my photos, sometimes faces find their way in in meaningful ways. In response to WordPress’s photo challenge this week, I have chosen these few shots to honor the faces in the crowd.
I’m back from an invigorating week spent in London at the dawn of spring. My first reflection on the trip attempts to capture my perception of a sense of ambition I felt throughout the city. On my first visits there, in the mid ’90’s, I was struck most by London’s long history and its apparent veneration of that rich past. Of course I am now 20 years older, and so is the city, so perhaps what I noticed on this visit was due to my own changes in perception. Or, because I’m a New Yorker now and I wasn’t then, I appreciate the energy with which large cities continually reinvent themselves.
Half a day spent in the East End around Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market on a rare sunny morning first lead me to think about the city’s aspirations and to draw direct parallels to my own city, in particular the Lower East Side.
In all four of these shots, old vs. new plays a part. The street painter’s stunning image is covering countless others that preceded it on a building that has been there for 200 years or more. Even more ephemeral is the What if art ruled the World? scrawl just down the block, as the building itself shows signs of multiple reconfigurations. Walking through Liverpool Street station it was clear to me that this was a place reinvented, but I did not know at the time the station had overcome 3 distinct explosions over a 60 year period. Finally, the Jamme Masjid Mosque which resides in a building that was a church in the 18th century, a synagogue in the 19th and then became a mosque in the 20th, sends its gleaming, 21st century minaret skyward.
A three-story bird painted on Brick Lane made me wonder if the artist also had worked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a neighborhood with cultural parallels to the Spitalfields area of London, and another place that seems to be constantly evolving. Both the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the East End of London are gentrifying or have gentrified, but clearly neither neighborhood has lost its spirit.
Update: I’ve decided to go with these two themes for my upcoming photographic journey to London. They seem apropos given the state of our world, with economic and refugee crises abounding.
Decay vs. Decadence and Foreign vs. Local
I’m sure that I can parallel images to shoot here in New York when I return. Stay tuned!
My camera and I are London-bound soon for a week’s worth of rest and recreation. I have always wanted to do a side-by-side story about two different cities. It has never worked out- I lacked central ideas to hold it together. So, instead, I’ve done series, which definitely have their merits, but I want to take it further this time. The first time I went to London years ago, I shot a series of Pubs!
I’m thinking of these themes, for which I will shoot new images in London and will draw from my personal collection of NYC images to make the comparison.
Glaring examples of old vs. new
Decay vs. Decadence
Foreign vs. Local
Creativity vs. banality
If you have other ideas, I’d really love to hear them! I leave you with a mini series- Urban Chinatowns!
I already knew that there was an order to the apparent chaos when it comes to New York City neighborhoods. Within each borough, there are five: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx; there are many neighborhoods. Even within these neighborhoods, there can be divisions, “the North Slope” meaning the northern part of the Park Slope area, for example, or “Little India” versus “Latin town” if you’re referring to a single neighborhood in Queens.
However, I think it was a week spent in Berlin last spring that led me to reflect seriously upon what makes up a NYC neighborhood. In the Kurfurstendamm neighborhood (within the “burg”of Charlottenburg) of that city, I felt right at home. I found myself comparing it to Brooklyn’s Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights, or to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In an easily walkable stretch, there was world-class shopping, numerous coffee shops and bakeries, small but worthy cultural institutions, convenience, liquor and tobacco shops, drug stores and small groceries, and of course, small restaurants that catered primarily to neighborhood residents. There was a sidewalk florist, a few small churches and even a cinema.
So, what is the skeleton of a NYC neighborhood? At the head are the residents. In many cases, residents are not just those that live there, but those that spend many hours a week working in the neighborhood.
The residents drive commerce, therefore,the arms of the neighborhood are: retail and food.
One of several potential spines holding NYC neighborhoods together are the streets themselves, and the cultures of the people and businesses inhabiting them. Without an understanding, a sort of “we’re all in this together” mentality, we would not have a neighborhood, just an area.
The legs of any good NYC ‘hood have to do with access. As oddly provincial as we city dwellers can be, we still have to venture out of our work and home neighborhoods from time to time. A proper NYC neighborhood must have transit options.
We’ve come to the feet now. At the base of any neighborhood, in NYC or elsewhere, is what came before. Even in a seemingly constantly changing metropolis, there are clues to the inhabitants that lived in the same blocks years earlier. While many of these clues are too deeply buried to go into here, others are more obvious. Take these images taken in Manhattan’s trendy and very expensive West Village. Not everything has changed!
I’ve come to the end of my cursory postmortem of a New York City neighborhood. This is my tribute to all of the bodegas, mom-and-pop stores, grass roots cultural organizations, spirited people and historical references that are occasionally overshadowed by the new, large and glitzy.
I’ll leave you with three shots of Berlin. In this vibrant city, I saw many parallels to my own.