Sunday, June 27, 2010


I originally started this site with the intention of recording a particular street corner - 2nd Avenue and 1st Street - each morning.  The inspiration came from the man I found there every morning sitting in the sun in front of Mars Bar, reading the paper or doing the crossword.  He was my constant - as the wall behind him changed almost daily, the man remained the same.  I took it for granted that he'd be there every morning, thinking as long as Mars Bar stood, he'd be there, too.

Mars Bar in the Morning VII

Mars Bar in the Morning V

Mars Bar in the Morning III

Mars Bar in the Morning I

Mars Bar in the Morning II

Mars Bar in the Morning X

Mars Bar at Mid-day II

Mars Bar in the Morning VI

Mars Bar BBQ


Related post: Is there life after Mars?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now you see it...

Swirly Door, originally uploaded by Goggla.
...and now it's GONE. I can't believe it - this door on E 5th Street is one of my favorites and it was inexplicably replaced by a generic glass convenience store-style door yesterday. Maybe the swirls were moved and put on another building...? If anyone has any info, please let me know. Such a shame.

UPDATE:  The swirls have returned!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guess where?

One of my favorite pastimes is trawling the streets, looking for cool stuff.  So, it's only logical that I'd be addicted to the Guess Where NYC game on Flickr.  People post photos and invite others to guess their location.  Some are easy, some are hard, but it's all in good fun and I'm hooked.

I've submitted many photos over the years and most have been guessed, but I still have a few that, for one reason or another, no one has claimed.  I thought I'd post a few of my unguessed pictures here and see what happens.  I'm sure there are people out there who know where these things are, especially some East Villagers.

First up, my favorite sculpture:

Guess Where?
I originally posted this in May 2007 and can't believe no one has named the location.  The sculpture is still very much there, staring creepily, and is hard to miss.  Really.  You can't escape that zombie stare.  Bonus points to anyone can provide the background story on this thing.

Next up, we have this super-spooky house:

Two hours til midnight
Only, it's not so spooky by day.  In fact, it's very full of life...

Anyone out there missing a giant upper plate?

Paul Bunyan's top plate?
I have to admit I've not checked on this, uh, creation, in quite a while, so it could be hidden by shrubs by now...or eaten away by cavities.

This one is a little more difficult, but it still exists and looks pretty much as it does in this 2007 photo:

Cast Iron
Hint:  it's cast-iron and is in an area known for its elaborate and magnetic facades.

Last, but not least:

Guess Where?

The clue here is in the decoration just below the water tower.  Also, I took this looking north, from the 14th floor.

So, let's make things fun...the first one to guess all 5 will receive a surprise and you'll have to hunt all over town to find it.  Kidding.  But, that could be fun, too...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cup o' Heaven

There are a lot of great cups of coffee around, but none compare to those I found at the new Caffetteria Soho on Sullivan Street.  When I find a restaurant, bar or shop I like, I usually keep it a secret for fear it will be overrun with crowds and ruined, but I cannot keep this one to myself.  The coffee here is already becoming known as local magic.

The shop just opened this last weekend and is run by Bryan and Aaron, two very friendly and talented brewers.  Their beans are fresh from Blue Bottle Coffee Company of Williamsburg and are used to make some fabulous concoctions such as the Kyoto style drip:

The concoction that blew me away, however, was the New Orleans Iced, shown below on the left (a sample size of the straight black Kyoto is on the right).

Upon taking my first sip, I knew it was amazing, unlike anything I've had before.  The roasted chicory flavor is rich and intense, almost like drinking a piece of semi-sweet black forest cake.

If you're looking for something to guzzle down on your way to a meeting with your parole officer, this is not for you, as it's not cheap.  Ranging from $2.50 for an espresso or drip, up to $3.50 for cappuccino or iced, it's pricier than most.    For a truly wonderful experience, however, this is it.  I sipped my New Orleans Iced all morning, savoring every drop of it, and spent the rest of the day walking around with a smile on my face.  A variety of beans is also available at $8-$12 for an 8oz bag.

This one is worth the splurge...and it's nice to see a small, independent shop open up in a great neighborhood with so much promise.

Friday re-post

Friday afternoon, originally uploaded by Goggla.
I've posted this before, but this is how I feel today...

I'd also like to welcome Ray back to Mars.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Boys on my beat

When I think of the NYPD, my mind immediately flies to Hal Linden and Abe Vigoda in Barney Miller, but that's just me.  My interaction with the police is minimal, but I do like to capture them doing normal everyday things... resting sore feet in Chelsea

On an afternoon horse ride on Lower Broadway
Summer in the city

Ordering sausages at one of the billions of summer street fairs
Festival of San Gennaro

Guarding suspicious cones on 8th Avenue

Taking notes at a political lecture
Talk to the hand

Writing a 'thank-you note' for that long-awaited package (ha!)

Conducting a possible murder investigation on the beach at Coney Island
NYPD investigates

More sausages!
Coney Island

...and, of course...
"Sprinkles or no sprinkles?"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Remembering the General Slocum

Until the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, the most devastating catastrophe to affect New York City was that of the General Slocum Disaster on June 15, 1904.  Of the 1021 people killed, most were women and children, and the majority of them were from the East Village or, what was known then as Little Germany.

It was to be a fun day of sailing up the East River and picnicking on Long Island for over 1300 members of  St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church on E. 6th Street.  But, what began as a sunny and promising day turned to ruin and utter heartbreak when (allegedly) a carelessly tossed match set the ship ablaze.  Although the Slocum was one of the most popular passenger vessels, there were never any fire drills, the lifeboats were painted to the decks and the life vests (made of cork) had been allowed to rot.  A lot has been written about who was at fault, but in short, the Captain was blamed and jailed.

One account tells of the Kircher family with three children, the youngest of whom could not swim.  Little Elsie was given the one life vest they had and her mother dropped into the water.  Mr Kircher relates what happened next:
"Thinking that the little girl would be perfectly safe with the preserver on, she lifted her and dropped her over the side. She waited for Elsie to come up.  But the child never appeared.  She had sunk as though a stone were tied to her."

Image from NYPL.

As bodies were collected, they were laid out, identified and embalmed in a temporary morgue on the pier at 26th Street.

Image from NYPL.

There were some heroes who rushed to save as many as they could.  At the same time - and I was shocked to discover this - the Slocum's sister ship, the Grand Republic, sailed right up to the wreckage at North Brother Island as divers searched for bodies, a lively crowd on board cheering and playing music.
". . . the Grand Republic was spotted coming up the river.  She was loaded to the guards with passengers, her flags were flying gayly, and the strains of music from her band floated lightly over the waters.
The grapplers for bodies paused in their work, hardly believing that they saw and heard alright.  It looked like the ghost of the Slocum coming over the same horror-strewn course."
The Grand Republic's captain apparently ignored all orders from the police to stop, and kept on at full speed.
". . . just as the spot was being passed where the Slocum was beached, the excursionists waived their handkerchiefs and set up a cheer that echoed far out over the island and was heard on the New York shore, where a mournful knot of people, still hoping to hear something from missing ones, were gathered."
 A police inspector who was standing onshore, yelling at the pilot to slow his engines, said, "I thought I knew human nature, but people are more callous than even I thought them."

Perhaps karma came back to bite the Grand Republic when, six years later, it also caught fire

Some of the Slocum's victims were never recovered and, due to the fire and water, many bodies were never identified.  Dynamite was used to try and dredge the river bottom and bring up those who had sunk, but the blasting seemed to only be effective for shocking fish.  Among the many heart-wrenching accounts of the disaster, I cam across this article which describes identifying people by their jewelry:
"From the hand of a ten-year-old girl was taken a ring with one pearl and four green stones, a second ring set with a blue stone, and a third ring set with a red stone.  In addition there were taken from this body a pair of red stone earrings, a silver medal marked "first prize," and a neck chain with a heart attached."
It's difficult for me to fathom to the loss.  Not only were entire families wiped out, but the whole neighborhood was emotionally destroyed.  This amazing photo shows a funeral procession on Avenue A and 6th Street for unidentified victims.  I think the photographer is atop the buildings on the NE corner, looking SW at what is now Benny's Burritos.

Image from NYPL

Those left in Little Germany couldn't bear to live there any longer and many left the neighborhood.  As Douglas Martin notes in this NY Times article, "The old place had become haunted with memories of black crepe on door after door and 200 hearses rolling slowly across the Williamsburg Bridge."

You can see a list of the victims sorted by address here.  Note how many were from the same household. 

At the one-year anniversary of the disaster, a memorial monument was unveiled by Adella Liebenow, who, at six months, was the youngest Slocum survivor.  She would go on to be the last living survivor as well, passing away at age 100.  The ceremony was an emotional one.  Charles Dersch, President of the Organization of the General Slocum Survivors, made a moving speech.
"For a year from this day we have known what it means to be without our loved ones.  They were taken from us by the greed of those who loved money more than lives.  The innocents died horrible deaths to fill the purses of the greedy."
Coroner William O'Gorman, Jr, also made some poignant remarks:
"This is the anniversary of the day of death - a beautiful day like this . . . The sky was as blue as it is to-day, and the hearts that have ceased to beat were filled with the hope of a happy day . . . the love of money caused the loss of life.  The steward tried to swim ashore with his pockets filled with heavy coin.  He was drowned."
The crew of the Slocum never bothered to have a fire drill. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Street of Dreams

One of my favorite shops in the East Village is Trash and Vaudeville on St Marks Place.  It's one of the last remaining businesses that harkens back to the neighborhood's rock 'n' roll heyday.  What I like most about it is its store manager, Jimmy Webb.  I am probably the furthest thing from a rock star, but he can sure make me feel like one.  And, no wonder.  Here is the man himself:

Photo credit:  Alex Remnick

I've bought many things from T&V over the years, but my favorite purchase has to be this dress:

A dress to go with the eye patch...priceless

It was a bright sunny day in June and I had just left the eye hospital after having surgery.  I was depressed to be wearing an eye patch, every third person on the street taunting me with "Yeeaarrg!" and not bothering to stop and wonder if maybe I was in pain.  So, feeling sorry for myself, I took a stroll down St Marks and decided to go into T&V, hoping they could give me an outfit to go with the patch.

Immediately upon walking through the door, my spirits returned.  No one looked at me like I was a freak.  In fact, I was greeted with smiles and hellos and Jimmy himself took me to the back to look at dresses.

The fitting area can be intimidating for anyone not used to being the center of attention.  There are no mirrors inside the changing stalls, so you have to come out and take the stage in the middle of the room in front of a giant floor-to-ceiling mirror.  On this day, Jimmy and several other people were standing around, watching, so I was a bit nervous.  In front of the mirror, he was all business, zipping me up, adjusting the straps, getting the fit right and offering advice.  When I saw myself, I had to laugh.  I loved it.  In fact, I loved it so much, I decided to wear the dress out of the store and walk all over town.

Homage to Al Stewart

I recently came upon this 1992 article by N.R. Kleinfield in the NY Times documenting the beginning of gentrification on St Marks.  Although the article was written almost 20 years ago, it relates some of the same concerns we hear today about the loss of neighborhood identity.

From the article:
"It is the street of dreamers and the dreamless, of people who sing of love and those who travel on the wings of drugs, of the irreverent and the irrelevant, the elusive and the elliptical . . . St. Marks Place remains a multifaceted world unto itself, with its own subcultures and its own strangeness. When you have spent some time there, you know you have been someplace to remember."
"It was an odd day when, in March 1988, a Gap store opened up in space once occupied by the St. Marks Cinema. People on St. Marks Place laughed. What, they wondered, did the Gap have to say to the anarchistic spirit of St. Marks Place? What was next, Bloomingdale's?"
The Gap is now gone, but things even more generic and bland have taken its place.   You'll be hard-pressed to find anything unique and special along this stretch, which is why T&V - and Jimmy - are such treasures.  They have survived the strip-mallification of the East Village and I hope they continue to rock on...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Monday at Milano's

Monday afternoon, originally uploaded by Goggla.

Monday, June 7, 2010


One thing I absolutely love about the East Village is its number of community gardens.  In such a densely populated city, open space is rare and highly prized.  When a developer can so easily plant a 30-story glass high-rise smack in the middle of a historic and residential block, it's wonderful to come upon a garden instead.  Even better, these gardens are free and open to everyone.

I've lost track of the number of gardens in the EV (last I checked, there were about 35), but they dot the neighborhoods east of 1st Avenue like little green oases.  Each has its own distinct personality and offers up a unique experience.  When ever I want a little quiet time to sit and read, or just enjoy the birds, flowers, fish, turtles and sun, I have a heap of gardens from which to choose.  If I want to hear live music and a little theater, there's a garden for that; if I want to loll around in a hammock out of sight, there's a garden for that; if I want to host a bbq with a few friends, there's a garden for that...and all of these within easy walking distance.

A few of my favorites include:

6BC Garden
Happy Cat
...with resident kitteh.

6BC Garden House
The lovely shed.

Beautiful basalt columns surrounding a fish pond.

Sara D Roosevelt Garden
Sara Delano Roosevelt Garden
Everything is big in NYC, including the insects!

Sara Delano Roosevelt Garden
Foxglove and roses.

La Plaza Cultural
La Plaza Cultural
Pretty in pink.

La Plaza Cultural
Home for birds.

A nice statue at the 6th Street Community Garden:
6th St Community Garden

Oranges at the Liz Christy Garden
Liz Christy Garden

Liz Christy Garden
I can't resist a cat sculpture.

El Sol Brillante
El Sol Brillante
Some of the many tangles of roses...

El Sol Brillante
And arbors...

This small sample of pictures really doesn't do justice to the beauty and calm these gardens bring to the neighborhood.  For many more garden photos, please see my Urban Greenscapes collection here.

Information on NYC's Greenthumb Program can be found here.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A little game I like to play while walking around the city is taking photos that seem to suggest utter desolation.  The joke is there are millions of people lurking just out of frame in these locations and, sometimes, a silent place may actually be quite noisy.

Take Battery Maritime Building, for example:

True, this building did sit quiet and lonely for a time, but on the day this photo was taken, it played host to the opening of a David Byrne art/music installation and it was teeming with people.  Not only that, but Mr Byrne's piece - Playing the Building - involved what can best be described as a pipe organ that made a booming, echoing sound.  Standing here felt like being inside the stomach of a whale.

One of my favorite (and all but dead) areas of the city is/was the Fulton Fish Market:
Fulton Fish

Until 9/11, this was a bustling business district, especially in the early dawn hours.  After it was suddenly shut down, the buildings remained, nearly unoccupied and slowly rotting.  All that is changing, though, as the Seaport has become a major tourist destination and old warehouses are being converted to luxury housing.  Runners, bikers and pedestrians use the path along the river 24/7.  When this photo was taken, there were probably 50 people around me, and the loud traffic on the FDR Drive overhead is never-ending.

Ooo, what is this?  The torture room in a Mob lair out by the abandoned docks?  Almost...


It's just an innocent chair in an innocent building that happens to be overrun with artists and construction workers.  Half of this floor was being remodeled, the other half serving as an art gallery.  Outside the windows is the raucous and smelly West Side Highway.

When visiting DUMBO these days, it's difficult to remember just how eerily empty it used to be, even though it wasn't that long ago.  I used to explore the area on weekends and felt I was the only person around for miles.  These days, I have difficulty finding any corner where I can stand alone.

Here we are in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.  And, at the time, I wondered who on earth would ever sit at that picnic table...try getting a private table on the lawn without a reservation now.


A friend once asked to accompany me one night on a photo-trek through Tribeca.  He wanted to see where I "find these places" that he, being a native New Yorker, had never found himself.  "They're everywhere!" I said.  You just have to look.

I took him down to Staple Street, one of the most well-known and photographed "secret" alleys in the city:

Night on Staple Street

Of course, this street is no secret at all and sits in the heart of a busy daytime business district and nighttime dining/cocktail scene.  We each took the same shot.  Mine is as you see here and I complained about the cars being in the way.  His not only included the cars, but several people as well.

Four eyes, two lenses, one street...endless possibilities.