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Vanderbilt Avenue & Lafayette Avenue

29 Jan

So far, I have to say, I’ve been pretty good about keeping my winter promises – well, except for the whole New York City Charter, Multiple Dwelling Law, and broadcast tv thing. Though to be fair, I tried! but there are actually several “movie” channels on broadcast television (the old rabbit ears) and I wasn’t sure just where to start. Also, each one was already half way through when I turned them on. It’s intimidating! I mean, these are some seriously random movies and I’m not exaggerating when I say you’d probably be a more interesting person if you watched them all the time (though you’d probably have nobody to talk about them with at work). Actually, I kind of think that you could write a novel about somebody who does that. (I promise you I won’t.) So anyway, let’s stick to some other promises instead and continue systematically looking back at some older posts. Like this one, on the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, written way back when I used to actually go to shows. I haven’t been to the Masonic Temple since, though I have to say, looking at it now, I don’t find it quite as unremarkable as I seemed to find it then. It’s actually a pretty arresting building. Ah well, that’s part of getting older right? (Besides not going to shows.) Appreciating things you didn’t get the first time?

Now that wasn’t the case with the nearby Steele House of course, one block away on Vanderbilt and Lafayette. Like everyone, I’m sure, I thought that it was pretty remarkable the moment that I saw it. Maybe that’s because, in the words of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, “it is so situated that its noble proportions can be viewed advantageously from the other corners of the intersection.” Or maybe it’s because it has, “the unique distinction of being unequaled in its style, in Kings County, as an example of clapboard Greek Revival architecture.” (Oh man, I just thought of another promise, reading every Landmarks designation report I can get my hands on.)

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Well, I get how it can be viewed advantageously – the place definitely stops you in your tracks as you go by it – but I’m not sure what makes this specifically Greek Revival architecture, as opposed to, let’s say, Federal (though it’s wood frame, so yes, I get the clapboard part). Not because I doubt it is Greek Revival, you understand, but because I actually don’t know what makes that the case; the Landmarks Commission doesn’t specify exactly. Let’s see, they do mention the pilastered doorway (those flattened columns on the side), supporting a fine entablature (the rectangle thing above the door) with a modillioned cornice (that is, a cornice, having those same spaced blocks that you see on the actual, larger, cornice of the house). And they mention how the front windows are all pedimented (those triangles above them). So I guess it probably has to do with that stuff. So shit, now we know how to build a Greek Revival House!

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No one seems certain when the house was built exactly, beyond saying the second quarter of the 19th century, so 1825-1850, and no one knows the architect either. They can say that whenever it was built, the cupola (that octagonal room on top) would have afforded views of the fields of Brooklyn rolling off towards downtown and the harbor, back when most of this area was still farmland, or close to it, I guess. And in fact that smaller wing on the side might be even older still, perhaps moved from elsewhere on the property and joined to the Steele House at some later date, though its style is essentially the same (you know: entablature, pediments, a cornice (not modillioned I think)). They also know that Joseph Steele, a resident of Brooklyn Heights, from which the house takes its name, sold it in 1853 to Joseph K. Brick. By then, or soon after, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill was becoming an upscale residential neighborhood: what historian Harold C. Syrett (care of the AIA Guide) referred to as “Brooklyn’s other fine residential district, the Hill; its position was not unlike that of the Heights; but its elegant residences were fewer in number and their owners slightly further removed from the traditions of genteel respectability.”

I’m not sure if Joseph K. Brick was genteel and respectable, but I imagine that he was.  He was apparently the first president of the Brooklyn Union Gas Company and co-owner of the Brooklyn Clay Retort and Fire Brick Works, based in Red Hook. The Brooklyn Union Gas Company was established in 1825, as the Brooklyn Gas Light Company, and it’s actually not entirely clear if it was ever called the Brooklyn Union Gas Company in Brick’s day – he seemingly died in the 1860s and Brooklyn Gas Light didn’t change its name to Brooklyn Union Gas until a series of mergers in 1895. Their old headquarters still stands in Brooklyn Heights, though it’s been the Saint Francis College art building since the 1960s. Incidentally, Brooklyn Union Gas merged with Long Island Lighting Company in 1998 to become KeySpan – the fifth largest distributor of natural gas in the United States. Until 2006, at least, when it was purchased by National Grid USA, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of the British National Grid plc – the 20th largest company on the London stock exchange. So anyway, that all happened. Sorry! I didn’t mean to jump down this kind of corporate history rabbit hole but it can be hard to stop once you start digging. Not that you even really have to dig – it’s kind of always the same story right? All the small ones get bought up by the bigger ones, or else buy up the other ones themselves as they get bigger. It’s part of why we like looking at these old houses right? They seem much simpler. Slapping triangles and rectangles and pillars on shit – dreaming about Greece.

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Leonard Street & Maujer Street (Williamsburg Houses)

11 Mar

There’s more I want to say about public housing.  Well actually, what I really want to do is to go through all the NYCHA developments in chronological order – but then, I want to do a lot of things. I guess I’ll just add it to the list of all the other lists I want to get around to someday: skyscrapers, churches, oldest buildings in New York, tangents related to President John Tyler (and yes, I have some really wild weekends).

But in thinking about whether public housing is a failure or not – or maybe I mean to say in rethinking the idea that public housing is implicitly a failure – I keep thinking how desperately private developers in gentrifying neighborhoods must want to get rid of them.  They’re impossible to gentrify! (Well maybe not impossible – the whole nefarious practice of selling open NYCHA land to private developers is a step in that direction, though one for the time being that’s perhaps been halted).  But still, when public housing is torn down – as it has been in numerous American cities besides New York – it’s almost never replaced by brand new 100% affordable housing.  Of course not! 100% affordable housing is terrible for people who want to make a lot of money….and kind of hand in hand with that, who hate “excessive” government involvement.  It sets a really bad precedent – a precedent that these people have been trying to kill for a long time (and quite successfully).  In these public housing replacements there’s always a mix – and often a majority mix – of market rate buildings and apartments.  There’s almost always a loss in the net total of affordable units.  Well of course again! That’s the whole point of getting rid of public housing.

So give New York its credit: it wasn’t just the first builder of public housing, it’s also been good about not tearing its public housing down.  Hell, some of it is landmarked even – including First Houses that we talked about last time.  Another one is the Williamsburg Houses – made up of 20 four-story buildings covering 12 city blocks between Maujer and Scholes Street and Leonard Street and Bushwick Avenue.  Williamsburg Houses were begun in 1936 – just one year after the first tenants moved into First Houses – and opened in 1938, making them some of the earliest public housing projects in New York.  Unlike First Houses however, Williamsburg Houses weren’t built by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) alone, but instead were a collaboration with the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration (PWA).  It wasn’t until 1957, almost 20 years after opening, that the project was turned over to NYCHA’s full jurisdiction and ownership.

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It’s worth noting this distinction for a moment, because it points in part towards why public housing really isn’t built anymore.  The PWA – the  builder of Williamsburg Houses – was a federal program; this was federal money building affordable housing.  What made the PWA especially unique is that it wasn’t just federal money (ie. financing) but actual direct involvement of the federal government in the planning and construction of public housing.  This was something new entirely.  Prior to the PWA the first federal agency to involve itself with housing was the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC).  The RFC was created in 1932 to (among many other things) provide low-interest loans to limited-dividend housing corporations.  It only made 2 such loans though during the first two years of its existence.  So when the PWA, and its housing division especially, with its more robust involvement, came along in 1933 (as part of FDR’s New Deal – and originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, until 1935) it represented a pretty big change. In the scheme of things its housing program was actually pretty short-lived, but in a 3 and half year period (starting in 1933) it collaborated on the construction of some 51 projects in 36 cities (though as its critics (it’s critics on the left I mean) would point out, that apparently only created some 29,000 units).  The Housing Act of 1937 (aka the Wagner-Steagall Bill), while strengthening the federal government’s commitment to housing, began to shift greater control to local authorities – returning the government’s role to essentially that of financing.

Maybe it was PWA’s influence, or maybe it was just the excitement of the early days of NYCHA but when it came time to design the Williamsburg Houses it seems they went all in.  NYCHA had a 5 person architectural board, including Richmond H. Shreve – a partner in Harmon, Lamb and Shreve of Empire State Building fame – and William Lescaze, considered one of the pioneers of modernism in American architecture.  Shreve appointed Lescaze as the chief designer for the Williamsburg Houses.  He opted for 4 “super” blocks, turned at 15 degree angles to the street grid – oriented to the sun and prevailing winds (prevailing winds?!) – and featuring a number of large and small courts that would flow into a large public space in the center of each block.  The facades were light-colored, in tan brick and exposed concrete, with entrances marked by blue tiles and stainless steel canopies.  The whole thing, though controversial at the time for its use of the “super” block, its breaking from the street grid, and its use of tan instead of red brick, was praised upon completion and has since been called by AIA, “the best public housing project ever built in New York.”

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I don’t know – I don’t really see it, and I feel like most people would probably agree.  But maybe that’s just because I’ve successfully internalized the fact that housing projects equal bad.  I mean, these look like housing projects, ya know? (Though I have to say, they do look better in black in white – nostalgia?)  But hey, 25,000 New Yorkers applied for the 1,622 available apartments when they first opened.  That’s actually a much better ratio than the 58,832 New Yorkers who applied for the 105 “affordable” units in a new development on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint last year (which, of course is mainly composed of market-rate apartments – figure that those 105 “affordable” units make up 20% of the total).  So who cares what Williamsburg Houses look like – these were 1,622 affordable units built all at once.  That’s equal to 15 luxury developments that include 105 “affordable” units but otherwise drive up the rents everywhere around them every place they go up.  And that are also also ugly.  I mean personally, if I have to choose, I’ll take ugly affordable any day.  Who’s with me?

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Franklin Street & Noble Street (American Playground)

22 Aug

All right, I wanted to stay close to home for this one, I’ll admit it.  I work right around the block, on West Street and Noble, and of late there’s been a lot of construction activity going around.  The two old industrial buildings on either side of Noble and West are finally getting renovated, and I imagine in a year (or months? or longer?) from now they’ll probably be rented out to somebody (and by the way, just because I say finally doesn’t mean I’m necessarily happy about it).  Oh also, the Brooklyn Expo Center is coming – whatever the hell that is – across the street from American Playground.  So yeah, this strip is changing for sure (but aren’t they always?).  I’ve been trying to find out what exactly is coming into those two old industrial buildings – 56 and 60 West Street – but it’s hard to tell; according to the Department of Buildings for example 56 West Street has a work permit for conversion to commercial space and a work permit for sprinkler installation for a residential building.  So go figure.  It’s cool I guess that these old industrial buildings are being renovated at least, regardless of what it’s for, as opposed to being torn down and replaced by boring condos.  Although you have to assume that the open lots and old industrial buildings on the other side of West Street, along the East River (including where I work), will be torn down eventually and replaced by really tall and probably boring condo towers.  Why?  Because the zoning allows it.  And if the zoning allows it someones probably gonna build it someday.  Why?  Because the higher the zoning the more money to be made, so why would you ever build anything else?

Although those really tall and probably boring condos will likely include affordable housing, so that’s something going for them.  And assuming those old industrial buildings are being turned into condos themselves I’d say there’s no chance that they will, so that’s a strike against them for sure.  This whole area is included in the Inclusionary Housing Program, which means – as it currently stands – that if developers choose to include affordable housing, to the tune of 20% of their floor area, they can build an additional 33% of floor area on top of what the zoning allows.  You know, the whole incentivize public good by rewarding with private profit thing.  It’s the same idea as all the new waterfront parks that run along the front yards of the new condos – privately funded and not managed by the NYC Parks Department – and ostensibly created to fill the public desire for new parks and waterfront access.  Which they do – kind of – they’re also, ya know, the front yards of the new condos: an extra little selling piece.  And they all look the same!  When the really tall and probably boring condos do come they’ll bring their parks with them and it will essentially be a new neighborhood grafted onto the edge of this one.  Now, will I still try to live in the affordable housing? Maybe!

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But the neighborhood won’t look like this anymore, that’s all I’m saying.  Though hell, it doesn’t look like this anymore right now either, so why should I complain (56 West Street – the building to the right with the metal structure on top – is the only building in this picture that still stands – you can just see it in the picture below on the left).  This whole area has a storied industrial past (as I’ve mentioned before), going back to the shipbuilding days of the 1850s and seeing in its time such highlights as the launching of the first caisson for the Brooklyn Bridge and the building of the Civil War ironclad The Monitor.  Around 1890 the American Manufacturing Company began operations and quickly grew; at their peak before the First World War their factories and warehouses encompassed some 14 acres, 16 buildings and 6 city blocks, employing just shy of 2,500 men in what was supposedly the largest rope manufacturer in the world.  At some point the lot that is now American Playground must have become unnecessary, because American Manufacturing started renting it out to the city for park use, at the price of $1, paid every third year when the lease was renewed.  In 1955 it was presumably bought outright, because that year it was assigned to Parks Department control (still under the administration of the first-ever Parks Commissioner Robert Moses by the way) and officially named American Playground in honor of the American Manufacturing Company and their generosity.

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By then you have to assume the end was close to nigh for the company – if it hadn’t come already.  I’m not sure exactly when they closed up shop but for decades, running right up to today, their old buildings stood essentially vacant – American Playground one small spot of activity amongst the ruins.  It isn’t much to look at, as playgrounds go, but it’s got swings and jungle gyms and sprinklers, handball courts and basketball and they’re all used and used well.  So honestly what more do you need?  And it’s publicly owned – being run by the Parks Department and whatnot.  That matters to me for some reason.  And that’s also of course probably one reason why it ain’t so pretty.  But again, what more do you need?  I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to say here: I mean it’s a good thing that these old abandoned buildings are being used again but I guess I just wonder why we have to make it all look so pretty.  Like, who are these new grafted neighborhoods and parks supposed to be for?  I guess they’re supposed to be for people who think American Playground isn’t good enough.  But what more do they need?

 

 

Warren Place

25 Nov

Time, my friends! You know what I’m saying? There’s not enough of it…..or else I mean to say, it passes. But what can you do? That’s the entire medium we live our lives in right, time passing – like what water is to the fishies or mayonnaise to an egg-salad sandwich. I mean, nothing would happen without time passing. So I guess we should enjoy it. And I do! Most of the time. It’s just that I have all these things I want to write about and I kind of try to keep a list about them even and stay on top of things but then time keeps passing and I can’t even begin to keep it up. I was going to try to blame it on the Red Sox winning the World Series but damn, even that was a long time ago! Still, there’s some kind of lesson there about time passing too, right? In baseball, I mean: the drama of each anticipatory moment becoming reality a few seconds later, a reality that can never be undone. Actually, that’s kind of what the game is all about. Maybe it’s just cause I’m the last true American (no pressure though) but I pretty much enjoy watching playoff baseball more than anything in life. Well, my sons pretty cool too I guess. And you know, my parents. Oh yeah, and my wife. Hi honey!

But back to those lists. Cobble Hill was on there at some point, though it’s getting on a ways. I remember that I was wearing a t-shirt when I walked through here and thought about it, and it seems the t-shirt days are long behind us. I’m a little embarrassed  to say this (being the last true American and all) but I’ve only just gotten around to finally knowing the difference between Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill and (here’s the embarrassing part especially) Clinton Hill, but now I’ve finally gotten it straightened. But even having it straightened I was unprepared for how arresting the streetscape of Cobble Hill is. I don’t know 19th century Philadelphia too well, but it reminded me of that: narrow streets and close set, squat brick houses. It’s beautiful but it’s not beautiful like Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope I guess, is what I mean to say. I don’t know, maybe someone who knows it better might disagree.

But here’s a pretty damn good example: the Workingmen’s Cottages on Warren Place. I can’t think of an equivalent anywhere in the city.  These 34 “cottages” run along the private Warren Place, gated at both ends. They’re all 3-stories tall and 11 feet wide and included a total of 6 rooms in their original iteration, as well as a rear alley in the back that it seems have now been turned into private patios. As the name implies they were built as affordable housing: one-family homes for low and middle income tenants, and they all included private toilets – quite a treat at the time. The time by the way was 1879, when most “affordable housing” didn’t look like this. Of course most affordable housing doesn’t look like this now. (And yeah, I’ll just go ahead and mention that one of these sold for $1.3 million in June…are you surprised though?)

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The houses were built by Alfred Tredway White, who was apparently known as “the great heart and mastermind of Brooklyn’s better self,” (they don’t make nicknames like they used to) and who was responsible for a number of highly lauded affordable housing projects in the late 19th century. White was a Brooklyn native, coming from what you could call good (wealthy) Brooklyn stock; he married one of the granddaughters of former mayor – of both Brooklyn and then New York City – Seth Low, which is pretty good stock too. And it seems he was a pretty good guy – “heart and mastermind of Brooklyn’s better self” and all. He was the superintendent of Brooklyn’s First Unitarian Church’s settlement school for something like 50 years, and through his experience with the homes of his poorer pupils he became involved in building innovative affordable housing. Right next door to his cottages he built the Tower Buildings (1879) and the Home Buildings (1877), also for the working classes. His motto was “philanthropy plus 5%” encapsulating his belief that work for the public good could still return a decent investment. That’s all around a better motto than what you might find in action today isn’t it – which I guess I’d describe as  “tax breaks and as much profit as I can get.” It’s cool though you know? I mean, time passes, it doesn’t always have to be this way.

67 West Street – Greenpoint

17 Oct

(For Robbie & Rachel’s Wedding)

The spot we’re standing in now more or less marks the place from which Greenpoint took its name.  Before there were event spaces or performance spaces or artisanal ice cream studios or warehouses, factories, shipyards, cobblestones, dirt roads or farms, there was a pretty little spit of land covered in green sticking out into the East River, washed back and forth by the changing tides.  The Dutch would notice it as they sailed by looking for furs to trade and so they named the area Greenpoint.  Greenpoint was a quiet, low-rent neighborhood back then, inhabited mainly by the Keskachague Indians.  The Dutch weren’t really like the hipsters but they did begin the gentrification of the area with the introduction of their new invention capitalism.  New Amsterdam was laid out on the southern tip of Manhattan, and since we hadn’t invented suburbs yet, Greenpoint was pretty much all farmland.

It stayed that way until about the 1850s, when, like a lot of the Northeast, it became industrialized very quickly – largely as a shipbuilding center, again happening more or less beneath our feet.  By the 1890s the building we’re in was built – part of a complex totaling 14 acres in size and stretching 6 city blocks.  The streets outside must of felt very different then, back when Brooklyn was a huge manufacturing center, this building alone housing some 2,500 workers in what was the largest rope factory in the world. Then, like a lot of the U.S. in general, the industry left – though not before this building served as storage for items as varied as coffee, cocoa, diamonds and gold.  We live the present on the remnants of the past; though some feeling of it always remains.  Rumor has it that you can still find coffee beans in some of the nooks and crannies of this building.

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Greenpoint perseveres of course, through the changes.  At some point a lot of Polish people moved into the area.  They’re pretty cool.  At a more recent point a lot of what you could call, “white, non-native, college graduates” moved into the area too, and we’re pretty cool also.  We found that it was nice to live within walking distance of each other.  We found that we could meet at each others houses, or at parks, or coffee shops or bars, or maybe nicest of all just bump into each other on the street – recognizing that home can be a place much bigger than the walls of your apartment.  We could watch the sun hit the buildings at different angles as the seasons came, complain about the neighborhood changing, celebrate the neighborhood changing, wonder about the neighborhood changing; how long we might stay to see it change, might our children somebody stay to see it change?  Making our own remnants of the past to live our changes on.

What we can say with some certainty is that at some point, none of us will be living here anymore.  Who knows but by then the neighborhood might look very different.  Maybe by then they’ll be flying apartment buildings, or you know, like hovering apartment buildings, or maybe we’ll have gone back to nature – living in some kind of earthen mounds – or maybe Greenpoint will look more or less the same, with just some subtle changes that only the truly committed would recognize, even if we, the truly committed, won’t be here to see it.

Something of the love will still remain though.

150 Calyer Street

28 Aug

The building is a four-story walk-up with green vinyl siding.  It sways noticeably in the wind.  One time the front window in the living room fell out – it got pretty chilly in there for awhile.  One time the gas line to the stove broke and was too expensive for the landlord to repair.  We used a hot plate for at least six months, but we took money off the rent at least, and there were three of us living in the place at that point so the price was good.  But weren’t there always at least three of us living in the place, if you factor in the long-term guests?  I was sleeping on the living room floor then: we were still in disarray because of the bed bugs.  Someone would place a pink urinal puck by the radiator in the first floor hallway as an air freshener and they would replace it too when it fell apart.  It couldn’t have been the landlord – that was more work than he was capable of.  He would call us begging for rent in advance, in cash. His hands were covered in scabs or scales or some kind of skin disease and even though he was Polish he would say “mamma mia” when he got desperate, which I really enjoyed.  I enjoyed so many things there.

Somehow this ugly building is land marked – it falls within the Greenpoint historic district – and there are 9 open violations on it, which seems surprisingly small.  The earliest city account on record is a 1901 plumbing repair, so the place was probably built before the 20th century.

It’s where I spent a lot of my twenties.  It’s where a lot of my friends spent a lot of their twenties.  It’s okay to celebrate that, right?  I’m turning 30 in a few days, like most people do at some point.  No lesson learned or anything like that, don’t worry.  There was a great little blurb in the paper the other day that said most people feel pretty good about themselves at age 18, then start feeling steadily worse until age 50, when they turn it around.  By age 85 they feel even better than they did at 18.  I hope that hasn’t been your experience.  Although how you relate to the past is up to you.  One nice thing about the present is that you can use it to redeem as much heartbreak as you like; you’re the writer.   The best title for an autobiography I’ve ever heard is Goodbye to All That.  For sure!  But also, see you in my memories.  Forever.  That’s kind of wonderful.

Kenneth Koch has a poem, “To my Twenties,” that yeah, is inherently cheesy, but also fantastic and tough to shy away from.

How lucky that I ran into you

When everything was possible

For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart

And so happy to see any woman–

O woman! O my twentieth year!

Basking in you, you

Oasis from both growing and decay

Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis

A palm tree, hey! And then another

And another–and water!

I’m still very impressed by you.

And much more from there.  It seems the entirely correct relation when looking backwards.  I think it will be more and more difficult to get embarrassed.  Some mornings I wake up and I can remember what it felt like to wake up at different points in my life and I feel sad because those points are over with forever.  I miss a lot of things.  We had a boom box in our refrigerator that played reggae music every time you opened it.  I really enjoyed that.  One time I was cooking a hamburger (cheeseburger!) at 11am with the window open and my shirt off and I was smoking a joint.  Man, that was awesome.

I don’t know: thanks to everyone I ever shared my life with there.  We did pretty good I think.  I seem to recall it pretty fondly.  You live not just a life but also a lifestyle, and maybe you don’t even know it and then in subtle ways it changes and is gone.  What were we up to?  Who knows, but thanks again for all of it.  I’d also like to thank my marked lack of ambition – you’ve never let me down old buddy.  What a ride.

(Originally posted June 11th, 2010 on Takethehandle.com)

Beadel Street & Porter Avenue

16 Jul

I kind of want to start a column about the weather. Not a weather forecast but a weather “aft” cast – looking back (of course, the past!) on what the weather was on any given day or week. A sort of summary of highs and lows and sunlight. The ultimate idea being to see if one can find the weather “mood” of any certain stretch of time. What did a week of this type of weather feel like? And when we imagine that feeling, do the days themselves, as they actually were, suffice to stand in as the image of that feeling, or can we think of something else that’s better? It’s fairly easy with the extremes: a string of 95 degree days can more or less represent themselves, as their own image, but what about a string of 39 degree days? Especially as compared to, let’s say, a few days of 34 degrees?

Luckily this past week is pretty easy – because we had a blizzard! Remember? Remember what it felt like? You knew ahead of time what it would feel like, right? Did it feel like what it should have felt like? For me it felt like what it should have felt like, and so I was happy, because my mood was already there in preparation, waiting for the blizzard to come – to come and confirm my mood. There was a wonderful amount of purple in the air as the night came on, and the snow never really let go of it. Turn off all the lights in your house and lie down on the floor – this color doesn’t exist any other time of year.

That’s the great thing about a lot of snow: you can’t pretend (like we inevitably have to the majority of the time) that a snow day is just another day, the same as any other day and interchangeable. That’s generally why when you know that it’s supposed to snow you want it to really snow. The schedule we place upon reality is shown up by reality. Rampant capitalism* wants to imagine that there’s no difference between this place and any other place, they’re all simply the market. And it wants to make that imagining come true. Well sorry rampant capitalism, not today, it’s snowing out!

Yeah, so I didn’t do too much; I let the snow provide a break from my normal routine. I did take a nice walk with my gal-pal, around the edges of Newtown Creek and the BQE, any street where ours would be the first footprints of the day. I usually equate this industrial landscape with the summertime, a humid pause in the shade of some sheet metal, but it can stand in so nicely for the wintertime as well. The snow whites out the rest of the city and you’re left certain that you’re standing on the fringe of things. Porter Avenue runs right along Keyspan’s giant property in East Williamsburg, or maybe along a barren farm in Kansas – on a day like Wednesday it can be hard to tell. So turning from that view onto Beadel Street made it feel like that much more of an arrival.

Beadel Street is a perfectly intact residential block of two story brick buildings – most of them two family houses by the look of things. It’s a beautiful street and it’s significant in that it’s the only completely residential block any where around here. The fact that it’s as far east as you can get without being in total industry, and that it’s made up of all small buildings, only adds to its perfection. Turning onto this street, I wasn’t home yet, but that’s pretty much the emotion it imparted. All the lots and warehouses and trucks that surround it serve a similar purpose to the falling snow – they blanket and cushion and make the space you’ve chosen to live in that much more defined. All right, maybe they’re noisy and ugly most of the time; there’s an oil-spill right underneath you, and to actually live here you’re basically cut off from everything else. But what are the chances you’re actually going to live here? You can pretty much only live in one place at a time. You can dream anywhere though.

*No affiliation with Rampant Sipping

(Originally posted Feb. 12th, 2010 on Takethehandle.com)