USA | NYC
 


Day 1915

Still at it!

March 28th, 2017


I'm still walking and regularly posting — I'm just working through a big backlog of photos right now. See below for the latest posts. (The dates on the posts are the dates I took the pictures.)

Day 1315

Cough Triangle

August 6th, 2015



According to the Parks Department:

Cough Triangle is not, as some residents joke, named for pollution from the BQE, but after the streets that surround it. The C-O-U come from Court Street, which was named for the Kings County Courthouse, built in 1861 and designed by architects Gemaliel King and Herman Teckritz. The building was demolished in 1961. The G comes from Garnet Street, and the H comes from Hamilton Avenue, which was named after Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804).
Only former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern could have come up with such a weird name in such a weird way. (And, indeed, the Parks webpage quoted above confirms that this tiny triangle was turned into a green space in 2000, during Mr. Stern's second stint as commissioner.)

Having a good feel for his wacky and mordant sense of humor at this point, I feel comfortable saying, despite the Parks Department's claim to the contrary, that Mr. Stern was almost certainly thinking about the air pollution from the adjacent, traffic-clogged Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) when he named Cough Triangle.

I can picture it now: He's looking at the triangle on a map, trying to come up with an interesting name. (He's never been one to settle for a run-of-the-mill appellation, not even for a minuscule piece of parkland like this.) After noting the site's proximity to the exhaust-spewing BQE and the "miasmic, fetid" Gowanus Canal, he turns his focus to the names of the surrounding streets, a common source of inspiration for him. Court, Garnet, Hamilton. Court, Garnet, Hamilton. And then, to his great delight, it hits him. Five simple letters that are not only an authentic product of the local street nomenclature, but also an oblique jab at the area's questionable air quality. COUGH! Chalk another one up for the maestro.

Day 1315

Happy Hookers

August 6th, 2015



The companies stationed at this Red Hook firehouse, Engine 279 and Ladder 131, have long referred to themselves as the Happy Hookers (Red Hook, hook and ladder — get it?). But the FDNY ordered them to drop the name in 2005, part of a department-wide push to clean up company nicknames following a pair of ugly incidents — a sex scandal and a firehouse brawl — involving companies nicknamed Animal House and Southern Comfort, respectively. (Other "unbecoming" company nicknames called out by a 2005 Department of Investigation report: the Nut House, the Harlem Zoo, 90 Proof, Clown College, and First at the Bush.)

Despite the FDNY's demands, the Happy Hookers refused to remove their nickname from their firehouse door. The name remained there (photo) until 2008, when the FDNY reportedly sent someone out to paint over it. It was long gone by the time I first walked by in 2012; not knowing the companies' nickname, I was puzzled by the accompanying image of two suggestively posed firefighters that remained (and still remains) on the door.

I don't know if the FDNY has loosened up in recent years or if the firehouse just decided to defy the higher-ups once again, but, as you can see, the Happy Hookers name is now prominently painted on the street in front of the firehouse, and it also appears on a pair of plaques honoring the 2013 centennials of Engine 279 and Ladder 131.

(Also visible above, near the middle of the photo, is 9/11 memorial #73.)

Day 1315

9/11 memorial #256

August 6th, 2015



The same images are painted on the other side of the entrance as well.

Day 1315

Red Hook grain elevator

August 6th, 2015



The hulking structure looming above, blackened with age, is a two-million-bushel grain elevator opened here on the Henry Street Basin in 1922 as part of the New York State Barge Canal's Gowanus Bay terminal. The elevator was built to facilitate the transfer of grain from barges (arriving via the canal system) to ocean-going steamships.

While the canal system and the elevator were "magnificent works of engineering", according to an expert quoted by the NY Times's Christopher Gray in his piece about the elevator, they were also "magnificent boondoggles" that failed in their attempt to recapture grain and other freight traffic that had been lost to railroads in the years since 1880. The elevator was deactivated in 1965 and has been vacant for half a century now.

You can see an old photo of the elevator and its since-demolished conveyor structures here, and you can check out some current-day images of the abandoned interior here.

(Visible in the background [zoom in] is the city's first large-scale wind turbine, which generates power for the Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Sunset Park.)

UPDATE (Mar. 14, 2017): R.I.P. Christopher Gray, "the David Letterman of architectural history". Your Streetscapes column has long been an invaluable source of information and inspiration. Thank you for all that you've done!

Day 1315

R.I.P. Angel

August 6th, 2015


Day 1315




A feral cat condo on Hicks Street

Day 1315

1964-68 Sunbeam

August 6th, 2015



This is either a Sunbeam Alpine or a Sunbeam Tiger (the V8 version of the Alpine). I had never heard of these cars before, but they've had some impressive movie and television roles. The first James Bond car, as seen in 1962's Dr. No, was a blue early-'60s Alpine, and Maxwell Smart drove a red '65 Tiger during the first four seasons of the TV series Get Smart, including at the beginning of the opening credits for the first two seasons. An Alpine apparently had to stand in for the Tiger on Get Smart in some instances; because of its smaller engine, only the Alpine had enough room under the hood to accommodate the car's pop-up machine gun.

Day 1315

Found on the ground

August 6th, 2015



Note the loop attached to the end. Was someone trying to turn this shell casing into jewelry?

Day 1315

Merchant Stores

August 6th, 2015



Built in 1873, these two handsome brick warehouses on Pier 41 in Red Hook are known as the Merchant Stores. They once served as "a bottling plant for the Morgan Soda (later White Rock Beverage) Company", according to the AIA Guide to New York City, and are now home to such enterprises as a winery, a glass-bending shop, and a coffee-roasting collective.

Down at the far end, in what was previously used as the residence for the cast of MTV's The Real World: Brooklyn, is an event space called the Liberty Warehouse, presumably named for its proximity to, and view of, the Statue of Liberty. I took a look at the "Information" page of the venue's website and found this absurd claim: "The Liberty Warehouse is the only location in all of New York where the Statue of Liberty is face front as she looks on to France."

1) There is nothing special about the Liberty Warehouse's location in relation to the direction the statue faces. While you can certainly see her face from the warehouse, you're not particularly close to looking at her dead-on: the warehouse is angled more than 23 degrees off the centerline of her gaze. (This fact is conveniently illustrated by the big photo of the statue, presumably taken from the warehouse, that can be found alongside the text on the "Information" page.) If you want a direct look at the statue's face from the waterfront, you'll have to head over to the foot of 42nd Street in Sunset Park, about a mile and a half away as the crow flies.

2) While Lady Liberty was a gift from the French, she was not positioned to look toward France. In fact, she faces more than 90 degrees away from Paris. In search of another way to express how erroneous the website's claim is, I decided to figure out what country she actually is staring at across the ocean. Brazil? South Africa? Whatever it is, it would surely help drive home the fact that she's not looking anywhere near France. So I pulled up a map, plugged some coordinates into these handy tools, and discovered that after crossing the Atlantic, her gaze makes landfall in the nation of... France. Not the mainland in Europe, of course, but the overseas department of French Guiana in South America. So I suppose the "looks on to France" part of the website's claim is technically correct. Damn!

(The "Information" page mentioned above also claims that the warehouse was "constructed in the pre-Civil War 1850’s". I'm no expert on the subject myself, but I'd say the AIA Guide, which provided the 1873 date I gave above and specifically states that the Merchant Stores and other similar warehouses in the area were built after the Civil War, is a far more trustworthy source on the matter than the Liberty Warehouse people.)

Day 1315

Red Hook’s twin towers

August 6th, 2015



As indicated on this 1929 map, these side-by-side structures once supported water tanks. The tanks are visible in the center of this 1966 aerial image, but appear to have been removed by 1980. (I had to stare at those images for a long time before I was able to understand what I was seeing.)

Day 1315




Old, exposed Belgian block pavement is a fairly common sight in this part of western Red Hook. The stones are usually laid out simply in straight lines, but a more elaborate pattern of intersecting arcs (seen much more clearly in Street View) can be found here on Van Dyke Street. This is apparently known as a bogen layout.

Day 1315

Sidewalk drainage channel

August 6th, 2015



One of three on the block

Day 1315

Ferris Street mural

August 6th, 2015



You can check out the entire block-long painting in Street View.

Day 1315

FIRE

August 6th, 2015



I'd never seen a manhole cover labeled "FIRE" before, but there are at least three in the immediate vicinity of the former Lidgerwood factory in Red Hook. As this 1916 map shows (look for the 12-inch high pressure line on Dikeman Street between Ferris Street and the water), the manholes are remnants of an old network of high-pressure water mains and hydrants installed in the early 1900s to improve firefighting capabilities in and around Downtown Brooklyn. Similar systems were also built in Coney Island and Manhattan.

Pumper trucks eventually eliminated the need for the high-pressure hydrants, which spent their last couple of decades operating like standard hydrants before being taken out of service altogether around 1980. Even though they were just useless relics from that point on, the city continued issuing tickets to vehicles parked in front of them.

Finally, in the mid-1990s, the city began getting rid of the old high-pressure hydrants. The associated manhole covers were removed as well, which explains why I've never noticed one before. I imagine the cover pictured above and the neighboring one — as well as the F handhole cover pictured above — were left in place because the block they're on is now a private street. (I don't know why the third, newer-looking FIRE cover a block away on Coffey Street wouldn't have been removed, however.)