Friday, September 30, 2016


Westbeth Artists Community.These buildings were originally the Bell Telephone Laboratories, the largest industrial research complex in the U.S., where technology including television, talking movies, radar, was developed. It was also part of the Manhattan Project. It closed as a research facility in 1966, and was transformed into subsidized low-to-middle income housing for artists. I think such a project would be inconceivable in today's New York City.

Below, a lamp mounted to one of the Westbeth buildings on Bank St.

Monday, September 26, 2016

M. Schames & Son

M. Schames & Son was Mendel Schames and his son, Leo. They immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in 1914, and purchased this building in 1927. The builidng itself, located at 3 Essex Street, dates back to 1909 according to official NYC records, but materials and construction techniques uncovered suggest that it is much older, possibly dating back to the early 1800s.

In 2010, the DOB declared the adjacent building unfit for habitation and it was demolished, which subsequently rendered Number 3 unstable. The paint and hardware store, still family-owned by the fourth generation of Schameses, relocated to Delancey St., where they are still in business. A developer now owns both lots, having purchased them for a total of $6 million, but nothing has been done with the properties in these six years.

I don't know much about how the real estate business works, but I can never figure out how developers are able to maintain these vacant buildings and lots for years on end. They aren't receiving any revenue stream from them, and aren't they still paying property tax on them? Is the eventual, inevitable condo with high-priced retail on the ground floor so lucrative that they can absorb the cost of years of inactivity?


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.