Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Prospect Heights is bounded to the south by Eastern Parkway, to the east by Washington Ave. or further to Bedford Ave., to the north by Atlantic Ave., and to the west by Flatbush Ave. It is best known for the iconic row of buildings, reminiscent of Manhattan's 5th Ave. "Museum Mile," including the immense Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Mount Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Public Library, and Grand Army Plaza on the south side of Olmsted and Vaux's Eastern Parkway, which in many ways forms the heart of Brooklyn.

The neighborhood is characterized by quiet tree-lined streets shading 1890s-vintage Italianate and neo-Grec brownstone row-houses. Blocks like Lincoln Pl. and St. John's Pl. include multi-unit apartment buildings (photo, with large Siberian Elm tree). Tom's Diner (photo), made famous by Suzanne Vega's song of the same name is at the corner of Washington Ave. and Sterling Pl.

Some of the more off-the-beaten-path features include an original Studebaker showroom (see logo on top of building) on Bedford Ave. and Sterling Pl., a gigantic 1892 armory between Pacific St., and Atlantic Ave. facing Bedford Ave., and grand chateau-like apartment buildings (The Imperial) between Pacific St. and Dean St.

An upscale, glass high-rise residential building designed by the architect Richard Meier and located off of Grand Army Plaza was completed in 2008. In the north, the Vanderbilt Railyards have become ground zero for the controversial (due to planned high rise buildings and other out-of-scale architecture) Atlantic Yards project, where arena construction has begun for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. Grassroots efforts to block development included the formation in 2009 of the Landmarks Commission-approved Prospect Heights Historic District, which covers an area roughly bounded by Flatbush Ave., Sterling Pl., Washington Ave., and St. Marks Ave., though a section of the historic district extends as far north as Pacific Street. This district was earlier listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Fort Jay, Governors Island, Manhattan, New York

Colonel's Row, Governors Island, Manhattan, New York

Governors Island, Manhattan, New York

Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Queens, New York

Friday, June 24, 2011

Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt Island was known as Welfare Island from 1921 - 1973 and lies in the East River between the island of Manhattan and Queens. Although the Queensboro Bridge (1909) massively traverses the island, there is no longer any access for cars to enter the island. Until 1955, there existed an Elevator Storehouse attached to the bridge. Since construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (1955), traffic can only enter from Astoria, Queens. Alternately, the Roosevelt Island Tramway (photo), built in 1976, runs continuously. The subway (F train) finally arrived in 1989, the deepest in NYC subway system (photo shows huge escalators).

There exist fascinating architectural treasures, including the restored Octagon (designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1839 as part of the Lunatic Asylum). The ruins of the 1856 Smallpox Hospital (designed by James Renwick) are at the southern tip of the island. The Blackwell Island Light (1872) Gothic-style lighthouse was built by convict labor. Interesting and run down Coler-Goldwater Hospital (1939)exhibits some oddball international style architecture, with chevron-shaped wings, canted back to face the river, like the conning towers on Arizona-type battleships (Christopher Gray, NYT, Feb 12, 2012).

Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, Queens, New York

Socrates Sculpture Park is an outdoor sculpture park located in Long Island City on the East River. It is the only site in the New York Metropolitan area specifically dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to create and exhibit large-scale work in a unique environment that encourages strong interaction between artists, artworks and the public. It was an abandoned riverside landfill and illegal dumpsite until 1986 when a coalition of artists and community members, under the leadership of American sculptor Mark di Suvero, transformed it into an open studio and exhibition space. Go to for events.