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: