Wednesday, September 5, 2018

BNY Airplane Spotters

I spotted these odd structures at the end of Pier J, in the furthest corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I had no idea what they were until Alsace Patrone of the BNY Archives told me that they were airplane spotter towers, once located on the top of buildings.

During World War II, the government ran a program called the Army Air Forces Ground Observer Corps (GOC), which placed over 1,500,000 volunteers, largely women and teenagers, in observation posts across the country. Their mission was to scan the skies for aircraft and compare their silhouettes to a guide of enemy aircraft. Although not a part of the GOC, the Navy Yard program seems to have operated similarly, as evidenced by this description in the Navy Yard Shipworker, the company newsletter.

Thanks to Navy Yard archivist Elizabeth Mc Gorty, I was able to get a copy of the original drafting of these structures, dated 1942.

I've found two of these structures in the yard. I don't know if there are any others around, or how many there originally were, or exactly where they were located. They have moved around three times in the time I've been visiting the Yard, as though they don't want to junk these structures, but don't know exactly what to do with them. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Duke Chapel

Last two drawings from North Carolina, both from Duke Chapel.

First, an exterior passageway connecting the chapel to another building.

Second, the Benjamin N. Duke Mermorial Organ. It is one of three organs in the chapel, and was built by Dirk A. Flentrop of Holland. You would think it was very old, but in fact it only dates to 1979. It consists of 5,033 pipes, controlled by four manual keyboards.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

North Carolina

Some more drawings from my recent North Carolina trip.

The Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro. Originally built in 1881.

Just down the road from the courthouse was a huge parking lot, empty except for this little ice cream cart.

A concrete plant in Durham. I drove past it every day. There were some railroad cars parked there which I wanted to draw, but when I finally got the chance to stop there, they were gone! During the day, there were cement trucks constantly coming and going, but when I went after hours, it was empty. And also completely open . . . no gates or fences or anything. It felt kinda weird and slightly creepy.

A Post Indicator Valve, or PIV, at Duke Hospital. I've drawn once of these once before. I don't know why I find these things interesting; on this one I really liked the shadow.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Battle of Brooklyn

Quick sketches from The Battle of Brooklyn re-enactment and ceremony at Greenwood Cemetery yesterday. The battle was the first and largest engagement of the American Revolution, and was fought on this date 242 years ago. Although it is sometimes called the Battle of Long Island, it was in fact fought entirely in Brooklyn, including on the hills of what is now Greenwood Cemetery.

I don't know if there were really that many Scotsmen in the British Army, or if a lot of these guys just like wearing kilts.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


I had to go to North Carolina for a week, and fortuitously my visit coincided with the monthly meet-up of the Raleigh Urban Sketching Group, organized by Scott Renk, so I joined up with them at CAM Raleigh. The group headed over to the new Union Train Station for two hours of sketching. I'm rarely able to meet up with urban sketcher groups, so it was a nice change of pace.

The station just opened about a month ago. The building is a renovated warehouse, which once housed the Dillon Supply Co. Warehouse. Remnants of its warehouse past remain, like this truss and gantry crane.

From the observation deck, I drew this industrial remnant, as rainclouds blew in. I'm not sure what it is, a coal chute maybe?

After the meet-up, I wandered around and spotted this charming door.

A few days later, I stopped to draw this huge water tower, near the Raleigh Fairgrounds.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Changing Face of Downtown Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn is unrecognizable from when I first arrived in NY. Or rather, halfway unrecognizable. Many of the big old buildings still stand, and many still house low-price clothing stores, cell phone companies, bargain stores, and fast food chains. The grand buildings and architectural elements hint at a booming past, but the condition of the buildings tells of years of decline. Even the larger businesses that are still there, such as Macy's, are run down. But interspersed throughout the area are giant new developments, shiny new stores and tall skyscrapers that seem to spring up out of nowhere. The result is schizophrenic, old and new, high and low rent, right on top of each other.

At the intersection of Flatbush Ave. and Livingston St. stands this building. The ground floor houses High Image, a bargain clothing company, and Downtown Uniforms, a mom-and-pop business that sells scrubs for nurses. More low-rent and budget businesses line the street to the right of it; the giant retail store to its left is as yet unoccupied.

Looming behind it is 33 Bond Street, a 714-unit apartment building built by developer TF Cornerstone. Marketing for the building promises "a new breed of city living in Brooklyn" that is "in tune with a new generation of millennial professionals and entrepreneurs." This new breed of city living features amenities such as a private elevated park, a farm-to-table coffee shop, on-site co-working space, a screening room. This new breed of city living only costs $2,225/month for a studio, up to $5,170/month for a two-bedroom!

I'm really not one to romanticize run-down neighborhoods. I never had any love for this section of town. But I wonder what sort of neighborhood will exist once the entire area is occupied by towers like 33 Bond St. I suspect it will not be a neighborhood at all, but just acres of skyscrapers, occupied by people who can afford $2,000+ a month to rent a single room, but who never walk the streets below them.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bldg 128 Gantry Hook

Two views of gantry hook from building 128 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Formerly a machine shop, Building 128 now houses Crye Precision, which designs and manufactures garments and accessories for the military. Sort of strange to encounter a military contractor in Brooklyn, but a fitting tenant considering the history of the Yard.