Friday, September 23, 2016

End of the Road

West 28th Street in Brooklyn deadends at the Coney Island Boardwalk.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A.N. Headwear

This Orchard Street hat shop has been run by a Greek emigre named Mr. Aristotle for over four decades. It's a very tiny storefront, crammed full of hats, with barely enough room for the proprietor himself. It seemed to be doing fairly steady business the day I sat and drew it, including an Australian man who visits the shop every time he's in the U.S.  Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine that this store and businesses like it will be found in the area for much longer.

Also, this is surely the most hats I've ever drawn at once, maybe more than I've ever drawn cumulatively!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cleft Ridge Span

The Cleft Ridge Arch in Prospect Park. Built in 1871-72, it was the last of five arches constructed in the park. The arches were a key feature of the design of Prospect Park, serving as pedestrian underpasses, allowing visitors on foot to avoid the bridle paths and carriage drive. This archway connects the Concert Grove with the Boathouse area. It is constructed of a type of molded concrete called Beton Coignet, and was one of the first commercial uses of concrete. I was surprised to learn this, since when I think of concrete construction, I think of big, ugly grey slabs ad blocks.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

To Boldy Go

The original Star Trek debuted fifty years ago today.

When I was a kid watching Star Trek in reruns, I liked it because it had spaceships and aliens. But it also confused me, because it was more cerebral than I was used to from my sci fi. My Trekkiness reached its peak with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard is my favorite captain, and I probably agree with those who say that Deep Space Nine was the best series. I like the new cast just fine, and rather liked Star Trek Beyond. But still, it's the original series that's the real deal.

Live Long And Prosper.

Monday, September 5, 2016


This water pipe, called a Post Indicator Valve, or PIV for short, stands askew in the grass outside the Music Hall building at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island.

A PIV is a valve used to control the water supply to fire protection systems in large buildings. It's the connection and control between the private and the public water system. One of the things I enjoy doing with these urban sketches is the subsequent research, either to discover the history of a particular building, or just what the heck it is that I drew, like these random water pipes sticking out of the ground. Very often, I come across some website that tells you more than you ever wanted of needed to know about the subject at hand. Like this site, which not only tells you all you need to know about Post Indicator Valves, but about fire hydrants in general, and even about the history of the Kennedy Valve Manufacturing Company, which is still in the hydrant business in Elmira, NY. So now I not only know what a Post Indicator Valve is, but that this one  is a P027 Model 541.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Seville Studios

This may look like it's someplace in Spain, but it's in Greenwich Village, on Cornelia Street.

It has a plaque on the façade which reads "Seville Studios," but that's just a marketing gimmick. The building was built in 1850, and was a tenement building at the turn of the century. The façade of the lower two floors was redesigned by architect James H. Galloway to reflect a Hispanophile trend in the culture at the time. Residences, businesses, and products were given European names and faux-European design in order to convey a sense of Old World elegance and sophistication. In fact, a 1928 New York Times advertisement for this building promised "Old World atmosphere, New World conveniences."

The renovation of this building was part of the revival of Greenwich Village, during the late 1920s into the '30s, which yielded the charming and famous neighborhood it is now. Old, decaying brownstones were renovated, or "upgraded," and reimagined with Spanish-like stucco fronts and tiled roofs, or other European motifs.

In the process, a community of actual Spanish immigrants was displaced, as well as many bohemian-type artists and other minorities and ethnic groups. For example, the 1910 census shows 11 residents in this building, all of whom had ;blue-collar and working class jobs, and 9 of whom were listed as "colored." The 1930 census - after it had been transformed into "Seville Studios" - listed a college professor, an ad salesman, and an aviation draftsman, all of whom were white. I don't think the term "gentrification" had been coined at that time, but the pattern should seem familiar to anyone living in most cities today.

Research on this building from NY Times: "Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?" and Espanyu: "Eleven Cornelia Street: Too Spanish for Spaniards?"