Thursday, November 8, 2018

Brooklyn Roasting Company

I got to spend some time at the factory floor of the Brooklyn Roasting Company at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during Open House New York a few weekends ago.

The roaster, here roasting huge bags of sumatra.

This machine seals cans of coffee. It's called "The Panama," built by the Continental Canning Company, circa 1905. They can about 10,000 lbs. of coffee per week with this thing.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Small Boats at Work

In addition to the large ships unloading at the Lehigh Concrete Distribution center, and the ships in dry dock at GMD Shipyard, there is a variety of small craft doing various work on the waterfront at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The New York Harbor School is a college-prepatory program that trains young people for maritime careers. They're based on Governor's Island, but this day I found them doing maintenance on a boat on Pier G.

They also run the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to replenish the oyster reefs of New York Harbor. The waters of New York once teemed with oyster life, but they were destroyed by overfishing and pollution by the beginning of the 20th century. Decades after the passage of the Clean Water Act, the harbor is finally clean enough to support the return of marine life, and this plan aims to seed a billion oysters by 2035. Here their boat is moored at the end of the Wallabout Basin, near the Clymer Street entrance.

The NYC Ferry has its home port at the Yard. In the future, they plan to operate a stop there, but for now they just park their fleet there.

At the end of Pier G, the Fire Department has FDNY Marine 6. They have a bunch of boats there. I'd done these three drawings and was working on a fourth when a fireman came out and told me I wasn't allowed. I didn't think that was true, but I wasn't 100% sure that there isn't some law against recording images of emergency services facilities or something, and at any rate it's probably wasn't a fight I was going to win. I didn't point out that it was unlikely that a terrorist surveying the site would be unlikely to do so with a sketchbook, or that I'd already spent hours over two days drawing their boats, as well as taking dozens of reference photos, so if there really was a legitimate security concern, well, that ship had sailed. All I ask is that if you are looking at these drawings, please do not use them for nefarious purposes.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Big Ships at Work

One of the cool things about having access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard is being able to get relatively close to working docks. Most of the docks are occupied by GMD Shipyard, which services and repairs ships, but one part that is used for off-loading cargo is Piers J and K, at the northern end of the yard. It is the location of the distribution center for the Lehigh Hanson Cement Company. Pretty regularly, you find large cargo ships delivering product to the huge mountains of cement on the dock. Some do it with large cranes, and some, like the Alice Oldendorff, pump it out through these huge hoses and pipes.

I also drew this large barge at Dry Dock 3. I don't know if it's under repair, or just docked there. It's been there awhile.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Kings County Distillery

Building 121, or the Paymaster Building, was the bank and administrative offices for the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was built between 1899 and 1905, and originally was located about 100 yards from its current location. The entire building was moved in 1907. Later, it housed a manufacturer of shrouds for Orthodox Jewish funerals.

The building is now occupied by Kings County Distillery. Founded in 2010. the distillery makes award-winning craft bourbons, whiskeys, and moonshine. Originally based in Williamsburg, they moved into the Paymaster Building in 2012.

I'd been wanting to get inside to do some sketching, and thanks to the staff, I got to spend some time drawing the factory floor during Open House NY Weekend.


Copper Stripping Still

New still that will replace the one in the previous drawing. The cat is named Jessie.

I forget what this tank is for.

Upstairs is the "Boozeum," showing the history of whiskey at the Navy Yard and Brooklyn in general. These two moonshine stills are on display, though they aren't as old as they appear. The tall vertical one was owned by a moonshiner who lived in Windsor Terrace until 2012, and was built by a Civil War renenactor.

They offer regular tours, and you can enjoy their product at the Gatehouses, the restrored Sands Street entrance, which happened to be the first of these Navy Yard drawings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

More Abu Dhabi

The final batch of drawings from Abu Dhabi.

The Corniche is an eight-kilometer stretch of beaches, parks, and walkways that wraps around the Western edge of the city. I inadvertently wound up walking about half of it. I'd intended to go to the northern end, where the dhows of my last post are moored. One takes cabs to get around Abu Dhabi, but the cab drivers don't know streets, just landmarks. Which is a problem if you don't know what a good landmark is. This cab driver took me about two miles in the wrong direction before I stopped him to let me out. Normally, a two mile walk wouldn't phase me, but this was in 100+ degree heart. Fortunately, about every half mile there were shaded rest stops like this.

The waterfront was virtually empty, except for a few immigrant laborers doing landscape and construction, a few overheated tourists like me, and the lifeguards - men in long-sleeved shirts and pants and women in full hajib - lifeguarding the empty beaches. Late in the day, as the sun goes down and the temperatures drop to the mere 90s, the beaches and parks are packed.

Masdar City is a planned community about 45 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi. It is intended to be an energy self-sufficient city, powered entirely by solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, with electric driverless cars and advanced green technology. Only a portion is completed, really just a small corporate campus housing some green tech companies. There are some residential buildings, like this one, but it was unclear to me if anyone is living in them. The architecture is interesting and beautiful, but it was late in the day when I arrived, so I only had time to draw this one.

One of the most striking characteristics of Abu Dhabi is the almost complete lack of a sense of memory or history. This building was originally a bus station, constructed in 1986, making it practically historic. It was constructed by a Soviet-era Bulgarian firm called Technoexportstroy, which built hundreds of structures in the Middle East during the 1980s. In this article, Deborah Bentley, the former Abu Dhabi representative for the Royal Institute of British Architects, rather grandly describes this building: 

"The Al Bateen Mall represents a period in history when transportation was celebrated. The parabolic main structure with the sweeping cantilevered canopies, not only resemble a bird in flight but also show the influence to the early structures of the Italian architect and engineer, Peir Luiji Nervi . . .  The celebration of space and the combination of the environmental awareness, by providing shaded canopies when boarding the bus, create a beautiful symphony in architecture that is rarely seen for ancillary bus terminals anywhere in the world."

Some time in the 1990s, it was turned into a shopping center. Today it houses a small grocery store, a little restaurant, and a Baskin Robbins.

Another defining characteristic of the region is that the traffic circles have large, monumental statues in them. This one was a few blocks from my hotel. Most of the traffic circle was closed off due to the ubiquitous construction and street work. Apparently, it's a fountain; I saw some photos of it spewing multiple streams of water. 

On one of my last nights in Abu Dhabi, I came across this, a blocks-long plaza full of giant sculptures. It's called Ittihad Square. It's a local landmark, and at one time one of the main tourist atttractions, but now it seems like a leftover oddity. The sculptures represent symbols of Emerati culture. The coffee pot in the forefront, called a dallah, is also apparently a fountain, but like one in the traffic circle, it was not functioning. There had also been a cannon, but that was removed a few years ago for some reason, perhaps because it no longer fits in with the image the country wants to project.

In the upper left, you see a reddish dot. It's Mars, I think, which seemed to always be in the sky, every night, even though you couldn't see any stars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Abu Dhabi Dhows

I found Abu Dhabi to be a strange place. Everything is so new, and there is construction everywhere, with new development replacing buildings that are only a few years old. There is virtually no sense of history or memory of the place.

One exception is the dhows. These are sturdy sailing vessels common to the Gulf and Indian Ocean. You can see them lining the harbor as you near the end of the Corniche, a walkway park curving around the Western side of Abu Dhabi.

Many of the dhows you see there are no longer functioning fishing boats, but have been converted into tourist cruise ships, of which this is an example.

On the other side of the harbor is Al Mina, where the fish market is located. I found this, a legit fishing dhow, pulled up onto the ground. The crew was attending to various maintenance tasks. They are probably Indian; nearly the entire workforce in general are immigrants, and certainly hard labor like this are. This article is an interesting profile of the lives of these men.

After spending some time on the Corniche and the Mina Fish Market, I paid a visit to Warehouse421, a cultural arts center on the outskirts of the city, in a warehouse district. When I read about a 'cultural hub' in a warehouse district, I thought, "Oh, it must be like DUMBO." Nope! The warehouse district is a bunch of warehouses, along with the saddest, emptiest mall in the world, one of which is an art space. Across the street, is a dhow graveyard. Eight or more of these boats discarded in this huge lot. Strangely, it was perhaps the most authentic place I encountered over there.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Abu Dhabi Mosques

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with the theater company Elevator Repair Service. I'd never been to that part of the world. It sure is hot! 100+ degrees Fahrenheit every day; even at night it was in the 90s. This made it difficult to do my usual walkabout exploring, and it's not a very pedestrian-oriented city anyway. But I still was able to get out and produce several drawings. Here's the first batch: mosques.

We went on a city tour, and the main stop is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This 30-acre mosque was built between 1996 and 2007 by Sheikh Zayed, founder and president of the UAE for 33 years. It is enormous, capable of accommodating up to 41,000 worshipers at once.

We were told that photography was allowed, so I figured I would have no troubles sketching the exterior. But then a security guard came up and asked me what I was doing, and said, "Actually, I don't know if that's allowed or not, but, please, come with me." I thought, 'Oh, shit, I'm being detained in an Islamic country!' He brought me to an information desk, and the guy there said, "Uh, let me check." He came back and said it was fine. The whole thing was over in five minutes. I resumed drawing, but the security guard kept passing by, checking out what I was doing. Sometimes people see you sitting with a sketchbook and just don't like the look of it.

This one is in the central, 'downtown' area, near the shopping district where the traditional souks used to be located. Those marketplaces were raised to build a mall, and now there is a 'souk section' of the mall.

Sultan Bin Yousef Mosque in an area called Al Bateen. You could do nothing but draw mosques if you wanted. There are more than 4,800 mosques in the UAE, and Abu Dhabi regulations require a mosque to be located within 350 meters of every home, that being the distance that can be covered in the five minutes between the sounding of the call to prayer and the start of prayers.

On my last night there, I walked from Al Bateen towards the Corniche, and encountered this mosque, its tower turned golden by the setting sun.