Walks in New York and elsewhere

My comments on buildings, shops, restaurants that catch my eye as I wander around New York City and other places.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vernon Boulevard, 5

We're now at the Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, (1901-1908, Gustav Lindenthal, engineer, and Palmer & Hornbostel, architects) made famous by Paul Simon. The NYC Landmarks Commission designated it in 1974. A trolley used to cross the bridge and one could get to Roosevelt Island (then Welfare Island) by descending from it by elevator. The trolley station on the Manhattan side was preserved, more precisely, not destroyed and was moved to Roosevelt Island, where it will undergo restoration and serve as a visitor's center, or so rumor has it. IMG_1692 (Small)

A dodgy-looking motel near the bridge is undergoing enlargement, and possibly, transformation. I will keep my eye on this and report back if anything interesting develops. The motel is directly opposite the promised Silvercup Studio site; is there a connection? A nice motel/hotel right here might be an affordable alternative to much more expensive lodgings across the river. IMG_1689 (Small)

To the north of the bridge is Queensbridge Houses, IMG_1691 (Small) a New York City public housing project that was once the country's largest such development. Across the street is a lovely amenity, IMG_1690 (Small) Queensbridge Park. If the weather is warm, you can almost be guaranteed an enticing smell of grilled meats.

The next stretch of Vernon Boulevard is not as interesting as Hunter's Point, unless you have a taste for power of a certain kind. This is Ravenswood, home to a sprawling generating plant, including "Big Allis" on the west side of the boulevard IMG_1697 (Small)

and one-story industrial building of various kinds on the eastern side.
IMG_1700 (Small) IMG_1698 (Small) IMG_1701 (Small) IMG_1702 (Small)
The gray building may have started out as a stable.

At 36th Avenue, in the midst of the industrial landscape, is the Roosevelt Island Bridge.
IMG_1705 (Small)
It is long overdue for a painting, but it was a riot of of reds, blues and purples at one time. The center span of the bridge is an elevator that rises to allow tall ships to pass underneath, not used very often nowadays. Here is Big Allis, (Allis-Chalmers) with the 59th Street Bridge in the background, seen from the Roosevelt Island Bridge. IMG_1748 (Small)

Opposite the Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tenement similar to many in the East Village. IMG_1703 (Small) but, most of the housing along this section are more like this IMG_1707 (Small) although there are signs of change just a bit farther north. IMG_1733 (Small)

A neon sign fabricator has been here for ages. IMG_1709 (Small) Years ago, I thought about having a sign made for my kitchen that advertised, "Mom's Eats."

Rainey Park has a view of the Octagon on Roosevelt Island. IMG_1711 (Small) This is a recently restored designated landmark (called Octagon Tower) that is the only remaining part of the New York Lunatic Asylum, A.J. Davis, 1835-39. It now houses a fitness center for one of the newer residential buildings on the island. The complex recalls the original configuration of the A.J. Davis structure, two wings extending from the octagon, at right angles to each other.

The Noguchi Museum houses the work of the prominent sculptor in a building designed by Shogi Sazao in 1985 and recently renovated. IMG_1714 (Small)

Those more interested in commerce than in art can visit Costco instead. IMG_1715 (Small)

Socrates Sculpture Park was founded by Mark Di Suvero, with sweat equity from local artists. It is now a city park. At the time of my walk, preparations were being made for a new installation IMG_1717 (Small)
and many of the familiar pieces I had expected to see were tucked away IMG_1718 (Small)

Looking over the park is the former Sohmer Piano Company factory. (Steinway Pianos are still made not far from here.) IMG_1725 (Small)
The building was constructed in 1886, designed by Berger & Baylies, but the clock tower and mansard roof were added in 1910. IMG_1732 (Small)

Don't mistake this painted metal fence for graffiti. IMG_1731 (Small)
It's a palette knife!

Many of the clients of metal fabricators here are artists. IMG_1734 (Small)
And some fabricators think they are artistic, too. IMG_1738 (Small)

And what's this? The Jersey shore? IMG_1736 (Small)

Well, no. There's the Manhttan skyline from Hallett's Point, at the northern end of Vernon Boulevard.
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Monday, May 08, 2006

Vernon Boulevard, 4

Long Island City is still more industrial than any other part of the New York City, and that shows on the next stretch of Vernon Boulevard.

This big green building is the home of Paragon Paints. IMG_1655 (Small) It used to be salmon pink and blue.

From 45th Avenue there is a good view of Citicorp Tower, to the west, in Manhattan, designed by Hugh Stebbins & Assocs, 1978
IMG_1658 (Small)

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and, to the east, the tallest building in New York City outside of Manhattan, the Citicorp back offices, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1989

An unusally attractive traffic island is named Gordon Triangle, for a local boy who was a World War I casualty. IMG_1662 (Small)

The red brick building beyond is in the process of being re-developed for residential use, according to Department of Buildings permits in a lower window. That is not to say that people haven't been living there for some time. It's the zoning that is being changed. Artists have long been permitted to live in loft buildings zoned for manufacturing in certain areas. Residential zoning will allow a wider range of tenants, cooperators or owners. There are some ghost signs remaining on the building from its earlier uses. IMG_1668 (Small) The earliest alteration noted by the buildings department dates from 1900; it was registered as an interim dwelling (loft) in 1995.

Not quite on Vernon Boulevard, but hard to miss is IMG_1670 (Small) Manhattan Cabinetry, manufacturers of many a paneled Park Avenue library.

Back on Vernon Boulevard is a large building with an art moderne feeling, dating from 1935-38. It’s a storage facility for the City of New York IMG_1671 (Small)
.

If you look down, you'll see that the Cambridge Paving Stones company has set samples in the sidewalk. IMG_1818 (Small)

Across the river, there's a view of the Manhattan skyline with both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in one frame. IMG_1673 (Small)

The Con Ed Learning Center is a campus, of sorts, on the west side of Vernon.

On the east side is an ivy-covered building, dating from the mid-19th century, with the old street names incised in stone. It is enjoying an adaptive re-use with food-related business on the Vernon Boulevard side.
IMG_1680 (Small) IMG_1681 (Small) IMG_1682 (Small) IMG_1683 (Small)

A ghost sign, mostly covered by ivy this time of year, shows that Mayflower ice cream (available on subway platforms) used to be manufactured here. Tom Cat Bakery was located in this building for a number of years.

In the back is an event space with a name that recalls the building's original function. IMG_1815 (Small)

The Taxi Depot IMG_1816 (Small)
rents out taxis for film production.

There are a number of studios nearby, including Silvercup, (named after the bread that used to be baked in its quarters.) Silvercup will be expanding into space just south of the 59th Street Bridge. The neo-Tudor headquarters of the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Company, a designated NYC landmark, occupies part of the site.
IMG_1684 (Small) The building was designed by Francis Kimball, 1892, to serve as a three-dimensional advertisement for the company's wares. Some of the ornament was removed and put into storage; some was covered up. Silvercup plans to restore the building as part of its expansion. Since the head of Silvercup is married to a member of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, I am actually hopeful that it will happen. Take a look at the chimney pots. IMG_1685 (Small)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Vernon Boulevard, 3

IMG_1626 (Small) Restaurant row continues a couple of blocks north of 48th Avenue, with excellent pizza at Bella Via,

IMG_1632 (Small) Masso, whose pedestrian Italian-American food doesn't live up to the restoration of the building, although the bar seems to have some appeal,

and Lounge 47, which offers a far more interesting menu of imaginative, well-prepared sandwiches and salads, as well as some American bistro specialities that can be enjoyed in its pleasant garden. IMG_1636 (Small) I learned here that cider served the Irish way, over ice, is a good accompaniment to a grilled lamb sandwich on Tom Cat bread.

IMG_1637 (Small) Communitea, an even more casual place, offers a wide selection of teas and coffees to youngish people who look like relative newcomers to the neighborhood. It's a Wi-Fi zone and many patrons bring their laptops and sit for a long time. A notice on the window tells a lot about the attitude of the owners, explaining how they turned some unexpungeable graffitti on the window into permanent artwork. IMG_1639 (Small) The NYC buildings department records show that new building permits were issued in 1924 and in 1926, but also that an alteration permit was issued in 1907. There is no demolition permit in the record. The building looks older than 1924-26 to me. Perusal of maps and deeds might better pinpoint the date of construction.

The northernmost outpost of the Hunter's Point restaurant row is L.I.C.Bar. sometimes known as "Draughts and Cordials" to those who read the signs on the windows. (Ok, it took me a while to figure out what the bar's real name was.)IMG_1821 (Small) IMG_1652 (Small)

Some of the old places remain. IMG_1627 (Small)

It's not only bars and restaurants. An upscale florist has opened. IMG_1630 (Small)
Because of the reflections, it's hard to see the orchid plants, but, believe me, they are there.

Even the exterminator has made an effort to be appealing. IMG_1633 (Small)
Those are wire sculptures of insects in the window.

Across the street from Communitea, a sign in the window announces that Hunter's Point Wines and Spirits will be opening on the ground floor of a recently renovated four-story building, originally, a one-story woodshop, built in 1923. IMG_1827 (Small)

From 47th Avenue, there is a good view of the Chrysler Building. IMG_1642 (Small)

Many artists live in this part of Queens, and the Art-O-Mat offers them an exhibition space, as well as a venue for lectures, poetry readings and workshops. IMG_1643 (Small)

IMG_1648 (Small) IMG_1646 (Small) It's well worth dropping in.

There is more art at the northern end of Vernon Boulevard, but before we get to it, we'll see a lot more industry.