Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summertime blues

Oh, summer heat and humidity, you just couldn't stay away!  I know, I know, I complained last year about 400 days of clouds and rain, but the punishment inflicted this year has gone on way too long.  I have learned my lesson.  I love you and forgive you, but really, show some mercy...let's part ways with fond memories, not unpleasant sweaty ones.

It's my own fault for living on a concrete and steel island which functions as a fantastic hot plate, but that doesn't mean I can't escape once in a while or, at least, dream of bluer places I'd rather be...

Like Jersey!

Sailing on the Hudson
Hudson River

Or, Ellis Island and it's abandoned hospital.

Sailing on the Hudson
NY Harbor

Things are more peaceful as you travel north on the Hudson...

Hudson River at Saugerties
Saugerties, NY

Even better yet...

A quiet day at the beach
Zihuatanejo, Mexico


3rd St & Ave A
Kenkeleba Sculpture Garden, East Village

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Selective memory

Well, here we are, nearly at the end of August and I have no idea where Summer went.  It seemed to start without as much as a courteous knock on the door in March (was there ever a Spring?) and then blazed ahead with relentless heat and humidity for what seemed like hundreds of days. 

What heaven to sleep with the window open last night, rain gently tapping the window sills along the air shaft, lulling me to dream of green grass and fresh air...it's only been a couple of days of cooler weather, but how quick and easy it is to forget the sweaty misery that's defined Summer 2010.

As Eric Weiss so aptly put it, "How we capture the last rays of the summer and put it in a jar and look back at it in October or November on a slate gray day and think... Summer was 100 years ago..."

A month from now, we will only remember those moments of pleasure.

Hudson River at Saugerties

Monday, August 23, 2010

The morning after

Monday morning...another robotic work week begun. 

Coffee simmering, copier humming, a pile of reports to tackle before the end of the day. 

But, memories of weekend adventures would not dissipate so easily...the electricity sparked from that moment they shared would buzz in his mind for days...

Someone on his mind

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RIP Darius

It's the little things that go missing that bother me.  Buildings come and go, people drift in and out, but it's the little markers along my daily paths that keep me anchored in the here-and-now.  And today, another one has disappeared.

For several years now, I've been walking the stretch of Great Jones Street between Bowery and Lafayette at least twice a day.  In the morning, the sun streams straight down the street, the mechanic on the NE corner hoses down the sidewalk, and employees at the Great Jones Cafe are just opening up for the day.  It's a relatively quiet but active block - stores still closed, but the sidewalks populated with commuters and workers.  By evening, the light and crowd changes - the south side of the street is in shadow, the sidewalk cafe open and the firemen loiter in their open garage doorway, waiting for the call.

These things happen with regularity, but it's the sideways paste-up of a head above the door at #47 that has always returned my gaze when ever I walk by:

Guess Where?

The artist is Darius.  I took this photo in 2006 and I have no idea how long the head had been there before that.  I do know, however, that some time in the last few days, the head has been removed and the window and door of #47 scrubbed and cleaned as if it had never existed.

What I liked most about this block was it's seemingly immunity to the swift and dramatic gentrification of the Bowery.  Things eventually began to change, though, and I count the 2008 white-washing of this building, a few doors to the east, to be the beginning of the end:

Great Jones & Bowery

And I loved to visit the dog who lived there:

Dog Days

The once eye-catching red building is now a dead shade of beige, and #47 now joins its neighbor in the new generation of faceless, stale streetfronts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cafe Colonial and Keith Haring

As usual, I was looking through some old photos, searching for something else, when I came across one I'd totally forgotten.

This is - er, was - Cafe Colonial, on the SE corner of Houston and Elizabeth Streets.  Reflected in the window is a Keith Haring mural which was up briefly in the Fall of 2008.  Both are now gone.

Cafe Colonial

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Saving our community gardens follow-up

It was a great turn-out for the public hearing to preserve NYC's community gardens yesterday. So many people spoke up in defense of these green spaces, testifying before the Parks Department as to why our public gardens need permanent protection.

Many argued that in some neighborhoods, there are no public parks and no easy access to fresh food, so community gardens serve to not only beautify the area, but also to grow vegetables, fruit and teach sustainable living. Many gardens function as educational and recycling centers. For a wonderful example of this, check out the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Time's Up organized a rally before the hearings and provided some positive tunes and dancing before the serious business got underway...

Saving our community gardens

I loved this ladybug costume.

Saving our community gardens

Here is some crappy video (sorry, I don't have a real video camera) of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn testifying before the Parks Department in defense of the gardens:

And, here's video of Councilwoman Rosie Mendez doing the same:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Save our community gardens!

One of NYC's most unique and valuable assets is its Community Gardens. There are approximately 35 in the East Village alone, providing open air, greenery, relaxation, beauty and a social network for the neighborhood. The East Village gardens sprung out of a time of poverty and violence, when the area was a dumping ground and haven for drug use and crime. All but abandoned by the city, it was the residents who took action, reclaiming vacant lots and crumbling buildings from junkies and homeless, uniting and working together to create clean, friendly places that were safe for children to play, adults to rest and where anyone and everyone could grow fresh food and flowers.

These community gardens are now in danger of being bulldozed this September when an order of protection expires. Gardens not currently protected by the Parks Department could be auctioned off to developers to build more glass condos.

Hope Garden
Hope Garden
More photos of the Hope Garden.

From an article in the NY Times:
Since 2002, community gardens have been regulated by an agreement that designated about 150 gardens for development but preserved or increased protections for about 500 others. That agreement, which was reached after the state attorney general sued the city to block the sale of gardens to developers, will expire in September. Although city officials have said they have no plans to develop gardens, rules proposed by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development do not include any guarantees of preservation.
There will be a public hearing tomorrow - Tuesday, August 10, 11am at the Chelsea Recreation Center at 430 W. 25th Street - where you can speak out and show your support. Come join the rally at 10:30am and let your voice be heard.

This is New york - BE LOUD!

Here is another article discussing the proposed rules.

Kenkeleba Garden

Thanks to Jill who turned me on to the book, Community Gardens of the East Village, by Grace Tankersley. A local resident, Tankersley devotes a page to each garden and includes interviews with the gardeners as well as provides the histories of each garden and its relationship to the neighborhood. She does a wonderful job documenting the East Village's transformation from burned-out hell hole to serene and community-driven neighborhood.

With her book in hand as a guide, I ventured out recently to visit each garden and take some photographs. Each has it's own distinct personality and story. I greatly encourage everyone to stop in at any garden as they are open to the public and meant to be enjoyed by all.

The one that started them all, the Liz Christy Garden
Liz Christy Garden

Liz Christy Garden
More photos of the Liz Christy Garden.

Albert's Garden
Albert's Garden
More photos of Albert's Garden.

Kenkeleba Sculpture Garden
3rd St & Ave B
More photos of the Kenkeleba Sculpture Garden.

Peach Tree Garden
Peach Tree Garden
More photos of the Peach Tree Garden.

Jardin Los Amigos
Jardin Los Amigos

Jardin Los Amigos
More photos of Jardin Los Amigos.

Brisas Del Caribe
Brisas Del Caribe
More photos of Brisas Del Caribe.

Miracle Garden
Miracle Garden
More photos of the Miracle Garden.

Generation X Garden
Generation X Garden
More photos of the Generation X Garden.

Orchard Alley
Orchard Alley
More photos of Orchard Alley.

El Jardin Del Paraiso
El Jardin Del Paraiso

El Jardin Del Paraiso

El Jardin Del Paraiso
More photos of El Jardin Del Paraiso.

Fireman's Memorial Garden
Fireman's Memorial Garden
More photos of the Fireman's Memorial Garden.

Gilbert's Sculpture Garden
Gilbert's Sculpture Garden

Gilbert's Sculpture Garden
More photos of Gilbert's Sculpture Garden.

Many more photos of Urban Greenscapes can be found here.


Things you can do:

1. Call and write the Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, 311 or 212-639-9675, fax 212-312-0700.

2. Email the Mayor (http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html) and your City Council member and tell him/her to "preserve our community gardens - make them permanent." For complete City Council Member contact information, visit: http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml

3. Attend the Public Hearing of the Department of Parks & Recreation and Department of Housing Preservation and Development's Proposed Rules governing Green Thumb Community Gardens at the Chelsea Recreation Center at 11 a.m. on August 10, 2010 at Chelsea Recreation Center at 430 West 25th Street in Manhattan at 11:00 a.m.

4. Join the pre-hearing rally outside the Rec Center at 10:30 am, organized by Time's Up!.

**This post is dedicated to my mom, an avid gardener and lover of all things green.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This weekend at the Hester Street Fair

We'll be selling prints and cards at the Hester Street Fair this Saturday, August 7, 10am - 6pm. 

The weather looks to be great - low humidity, sunshine and a breeze, so come out and join us for a perfect summer day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Earth Art

I recently had the chance to visit Opus 40, a mind-boggling landscape sculpture a few miles outside of Saugerties, New York.  The piece is the life work of Harvey Fite, a sculptor and instructor at Bard College in the mid 20th century.

Beginning in 1938, Fite quarried, transported, carved and laid out his own stone all by himself.  The central tower is 9 tons and, incredibly, he lifted it on his own by building a wooden structure of Egyptian design and lowering the monolith into place.

At just about every turn, around every corner, I was blown away.  How could one person build this?  Was this man insane?

From what I can gather, no.  He was, however, inspired.  And, after climbing on, in, around and through Opus 40, all the while surrounded by mountains, trees and sky, I can see how one person could be struck by the beauty and precision of Nature so much that creativity takes over completely.

Fite had a 40-year plan for the sculpture, but was tragically killed at the site 37 years into the project.  These pictures do not do it justice...if you ever have the opportunity to experience this truly unique and individual work of art, it's worth the trip.

Opus 40

Fite's house, which he also built by hand.

Opus 40

Fite carved all the sculptures on the grounds.  Opus 40 was originally intended to showpiece them, but as it took on an identity of its own, the sculptures were shifted from the central focal-point.

Opus 40

I loved the color contrast between the stones, plants and trees.  As the light changed, so did the tones.

Opus 40

Opus 40

I took these pictures on an incredibly hot and humid day.  It was overcast, about 95 degrees with a slight drizzle.  Descending into this crevasse, I could feel the temperature drop about 20 degrees and I didn't want to resurface.

Opus 40

Opus 40

No mortar was used in any of the construction.  The entire structure is held together by the careful placement of stones and its own weight.

Opus 40

Opus 40

See more photos here.