Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Back to life drawing. I can't remember the last time I went. It felt great to be back at it. The model's name was Jaquelyn. I was back at Minerva's Studio. This place has been around forever, and is a great place to draw. But like many small outfits in this city, it's struggling to survive, financially. They have a Go Fund Me page which is a very worthwhile cause.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Kittery Maine Wharf

I recently spent a weekend in Kittery, Maine, working with the dance company The Bang Group. In my downtime, I spent some time down on the wharf doing some drawings. I've spent most of the year at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was great, but I was excited to work someplace different. Of course, it turned out to be more boats and maritime stuff, including another Navy Yard!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Evening Light

The tugboat Evening Light being serviced in Dry Dock 1 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Built in 1975, by Halter Marine Incorporated of New Orleans, Louisiana (hull #437) as the Frederick E. Bouchard for the Bouchard Transportation Company of Melville, New York. In 2015, the Bouchard Transportation Company renamed the tug as the Evening Light. Powered by two, sixteen cylinder, General Motors EMD diesel engines. She is a twin screw tug, rated at 3,900 horsepower. Her electrical serviced is provided by two, 99kW generator sets. The tug's capacities are 79,515 gallons of fuel.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Railroad Transfer Bridge

At the northeast edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, at the edge of Wallabout Basin, stands this hulking, rusting ruin, Structure 713. It's a railroad transfer bridge, or float bridge.

These structures were used for transporting freight trains across rivers. There would be a floating pontoon bridge - secured to land on one end, and floating on the other - with train tracks on it. A barge carrying freight cars would be ferried across the water where they could be lifted or roll directly onto the tracks. This system was developed in the mid 1800s in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and soon spread to other cities along the Eastern Seaboard.

It may seem labor-intensive to load a railroad car onto a barge and then back onto land, but consider that in New York, a freight train in Hoboken, NJ would have to travel north along the Hudson River nearly to Albany to cross a bridge to the east side to get to New York City. It could take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours to make a journey that modern commuter trains make in 20 minutes. This route was known as "The Selkirk Hurdle," Selkirk being the location of the nearest Hudson River rail crossing, some 130 miles north of NYC. Float bridges significantly reduced this time, being especially useful for transporting perishable products like fruit and vegetables.

The Williamsburg Bridge in the background

The Navy Yard Transfer Bridge was built in 1941. After the Navy Yard was demilitarized, a private company called Seatrain Lines took over use of the bridge and operated it from 1969 until it went out of business in 1983. It was last used in 1995 by a subway car rebuilder.

The pontoons holding the railroad tracks have long sunk and the whole structure is in decay. Float bridges are not in common use any more, though there is one still operating near the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. Another one very similar to the Navy Yard bridge sits on the Hudson River at 69th St., protected by Landmark Status but similarly rusting away. And there is one in Long Island City, also inactive but preserved and refurbished at Gantry State Park.

One of the things I've discovered since starting to write and research for this blog is that no matter how particular or obscure the subject matter, there is almost always someone out there who has done obsessively detailed research on the subject and built a website or message board devoted to it. The Trainweb site has an extensive history of the BNY rail system here, a list of all NYC-area float bridges here, and a glossary of terms that explains all the technical elements of these systems here.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Brooklyn Grange

Twelve stories above the streets and docks of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is something unexpected . . . a farm.

Brooklyn Grange is a commercial urban farm, covering 65,000 square feet (about an acre and a half) of the roof of Building 3. They have another rooftop farm in Long Island City. The farm grows a variety of crops - over 50,000 lbs of produce a year - which are are sold at greenmarkets, to restaurants, and through a CSA. There is even an apiary and a chicken coop!

You can take tours and hold events there. There's great views of the Navy Yard and Brooklyn.

Thanks to Brooklyn Grange Office Manager Stephanie Diaz for letting me hang out for awhile.

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.