Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Before It's Gone: Kosciuszko Bridge

The old Kosciuszko Bridge, with the new Kosciuszko Bridge behind it. It spans the Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens. The old bridge was built in 1939, and has been over-capacity for decades, no longer meets infrastructure standards, and is generally about to fall down. The new span just opened, and the old one will be replaced by a second span.

Everyone was excited because today was the day that the old bridge was going to be demolished. Lots of people, including myself, planned to go watch them blow it up. Two things, though: 1) It's not being demolished today; the date is still TBD. 2) They're not going to blow it up. They're going to dismantle it and lower the span onto barges. I guess it doesn't make sense that they would blow up a bridge that's right next to a brand-new bridge, and over a body of water. But I would've liked to have seen that.

The bridge was named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish volunteer in the American Revolution who served as a general. I wonder if anyone would name a public project after a foreign national in today's climate?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Deutsch-Amerikansche Schützen Gesellschaft

This building on St. Mark's Place is a remnant of Kleindeutschland, or "Little Germany." In the late 19th century, the Lower East Side was home to a huge German immigrant community. At its height, it was the third largest German population center in the world, after Berlin and Vienna.

This building, built in 1888, was one of architect William C. Frohne's first major commissions, and housed the Deutsch-Amerikansche Schützen Gesellschaft, or German-American Shooting Society, an umbrella group for two dozen shooting clubs. There was a shooting range on site, though most of the actual shooting happened in Queens, including the annual shooting contest called Schuetzenfest. It also housed a bowling alley, a saloon, and lodging, and a meeting hall, which was frequently used by unions and labor groups. The slogan at the top - "Einigkeit Macht Stark" - means "Unity Makes Strong." I find it interesting that this facade remained intact through two world wars with Germany, considering how many Americans currently regard immigrant communities.

The German-American Shooting Society owned the building until 1920, by which time Little Germany had largely dissipated. It was subsequently used as a homeless shelter, a Polish community center and then a Ukrainian one, and the original site of St. Mark's Bookshop. Today it houses a vegan Latin restaurant on the ground floor, and a yoga studio above.

For more history of the shooting society and Little Germany, see:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Before It's Gone: S. Beckenstein

I've started to do an ongoing series of drawings of buildings and places around the city that are either about to be torn down or altered, or are in danger of it. First up is the S. Beckenstein building, at 130 Orchard St. in the Lower East Side.

I first took notice of this building last winter, but it was too cold for me to sit out there and draw it, so I filed it away in my mental "to draw" list. A few months ago, I saw a posting that construction was beginning on it, so I rushed out to get it down. The building had been purchased years ago by a developer for $28 million. When I got there, the ground floor had been turned into a high-end art gallery. What had been old-school garment shops had been replaced by a totally blank, black facade; so I skipped sketching the ground floor. I'm unclear if the gallery is going to occupy the entire building, or if they plan on retaining the old facade on the upper floors.

Samuel Beckenstein was a Polish immigrant who arrived in New York City in 1910. He began his business selling rags from a pushcart and eventually built a retail store for clothing, draperies and upholstery. The business survived the Great Depression by providing custom trousers "matched and made to order." People who could not afford new suits could purchase pants that matched their suits to replace their worn-out trousers. Beckenstein occupied this building, which was originally a telephone company switch exchange, from 1945 to 1999.

The business is still owned by the fourth generation of the family. It relocated to the Garment District. Fabric businesses there have been being displaced in recent years, and there is a "Save The Garment District" campaign underway. Hopefully this historic business is able to survive.

More history of S. Beckenstein can be found here and here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars at 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. I actually don't remember the first time I saw that movie, or how many times I've seen it since, but I can pretty much recite it line for line. I think Empire Strikes Back is better than Star Wars, and Rogue One is probably a better movie, too. But the original will always have a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

USS Intrepid

I didn't draw this specifically for Fleet Week, but since it is Fleet Week, I figured this is a good time to post this one.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Water Street Pipes

A pair of pipes in front of a building on Water Street in DUMBO. I don't know what these pipes are for; pumping something in or pumping something out? They reminded me of a pair of drunk buddies, staggering home.