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Day 1252




Asser Levy was "the first champion of Jewish rights among the early American colonies" and "probably the first Jewish landowner in North America".

The bandshell in his namesake Coney Island park was for many years the site of the popular Seaside Summer Concert Series put on by former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The concerts gave locals the chance to see some big-name (if perhaps past their prime) musical acts for little or no money — admission to the seating area was $5, while a spot on the lawn was free. But in 2011, a group of local residents, upset by Markowitz's plan to replace the aging bandshell with a large amphitheater, managed to force the shows out of the park altogether. (Some residents are now lamenting the bandshell's decline, as the Parks Department has removed its canopy and is no longer maintaining it as a performance space.)

After a couple of years of holding the Seaside concerts in a parking lot on the east side of the old Childs Restaurant on the boardwalk, Markowitz announced plans in 2013 — his last year as borough president — for the construction of a new amphitheater on the west side of the Childs building, with the stage located inside the to-be-renovated building. The concert series was put on hold in 2014, but should be back on track once the amphitheater is completed.

UPDATE: The Seaside concerts returned in 2015, in the form of a three-day festival held at the Brooklyn Cyclones' ballpark.

UPDATE: The new amphitheater is open for summer 2016 and has a full slate of shows lined up. Of the six concerts that are part of the Seaside series, three are completely free, while the other three are full-price shows with a limited number of free tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis at the box office on the boardwalk starting two days before the show.

Day 1252

Gambrinus

June 4th, 2015





This over-the-top pirate-themed Russian restaurant and beer hall is an homage to a long-standing establishment of the same name in Odessa, Ukraine. The place in Odessa took its name from the legendary beer icon Gambrinus, whom I first learned about when I walked by a big "Gambrinus, King of Beer" statue outside the City Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin (also home to the "World's Largest Six Pack") back in 2010.

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Best known these days for its basketball program, Lincoln boasts a long and diverse list of notable alumni. Among those who attended the school: Nobel-winning scientists (Arthur Kornberg, Paul Berg, Jerome Karle), Academy Award-winning/nominated actors (Lou Gossett Jr., Harvey Keitel), writers whose work you read in high school (Arthur Miller, Joseph Heller), famous musicians named Neil (Diamond, Sedaka), ethically challenged businesspeople (Leona Helmsley, "Crazy Eddie" Antar), the youngest Congresswoman in history until recently (Elizabeth Holtzman), the father of the album cover (Alex Steinweiss), and the architect of cinema's preeminent fart scene (Mel Brooks, who went to Lincoln for his freshman year).

UPDATE: My dad has informed me that his dad, my beloved grandpa Ira, also went to Lincoln! And here's a nice coincidence: Back in 1999, when Ira was really sick near the end of his life, my dad sat down with him and popped Blazing Saddles in the VCR. Ira's mind was going, and he was mostly silent and withdrawn, gazing blankly at the TV screen. He had always been a notorious jokester, but now humor, along with so much else, seemed to elude him. But when the famous eating-beans-around-the-campfire scene (see above) came on, he suddenly lit up — one of the last moments of genuine laughter in a life that had been full of them.

Day 1252




It turns out that this well-coiffed column is a vent for a sewage pumping station located beneath the street. From here, the wastewater heads west toward the largest pumping station in the city, which is housed in a "jewel-like" neo-Classical building at Avenue V and West 11th Street.

Day 1252

This guy again!

June 4th, 2015



Looks like Mr. Electric Skateboard is headed to the laundromat this time.

Day 1252

Congregation Shaare Zion

June 4th, 2015



Shaare Zion is the largest synagogue in the "SY Empire" of Brooklyn.

Day 1252

Ahaba Ve Ahva

June 4th, 2015





Ahaba Ve Ahva is a congregation of Egyptian Jews. That much I know. The details get a little confusing, though. A panel to the left of the entrance states that the congregation was established in 1928 in Cairo. The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, an organization formed at the congregation's old synagogue, claims that Ahaba Ve Ahva was established in 1963 in Brooklyn and was the first congregation of Egyptian Jews in the US (scroll down). The congregation's own website says that it was founded in 1979, although that may refer to the year that the congregation first acquired its own building.

Day 1252

1640 Ocean Parkway

June 4th, 2015



On the morning of January 24, 1929, Raymond B. King, a 30-something-year-old resident of this apartment building, reported to the police that he and his wife had just been robbed in their car in Canarsie. In addition to the vehicle, he said, the perpetrators had stolen around $13,650 worth of money and valuables from the couple.

When he fingered the alleged robbers and tried to press charges, however, his poorly executed scheme quickly crumbled.

Here's what appears to have really happened. Having "squandered" $2,700 that his wealthy father had sent him for business purposes, Mr. King was in need of a story to account for the missing money. So he arranged for two acquaintances from his building, Edward J. Little and Joseph Fitzsimmons, to pretend to rob him while he was out for a drive in a car borrowed from Mr. Little's sister. He brought along a young woman he had met, Mildred Reed, but didn't tell her about the plan, presumably figuring that she could then "honestly" back up his account of the robbery. An added bonus was that, in the course of the holdup, he and his partners could recover the $10 he had given Ms. Reed as a gift earlier in the evening.

Everything went more or less according to plan during the fake holdup. For the sake of authenticity, Mr. King gave the "robbers" $152 and two checks. A frightened Ms. Reed handed over her pocketbook with the $10 in it, and she also threw off her fur coat.

When he reported the robbery to the police, the married Mr. King claimed that Ms. Reed was his wife, and that the bandits had taken $2,450 worth of jewelry and an $1,100 fur coat from her. He also told the cops that, in addition to his "expensive roadster", the men had stolen $2,700 in cash and $7,400 in checks from him.

I suppose the scheme had a chance of working at this point, even though Mr. King was quickly forced to admit that Ms. Reed was not actually his wife. (Did he really think the cops wouldn't find that out?)

But for some reason, while being questioned about the robbers, Mr. King decided to provide the detectives with enough identifying information for them to easily find and arrest Mr. Little and Mr. Fitzsimmons, the last two people you'd think he'd want the cops interrogating. Did he not think pressing charges against his co-conspirators would cause them to turn on him? Did he just assume the police would believe his word without question? And what did he even have to gain here by screwing over his partners — did he think the police would make them give him all their money?

Upon being arrested, of course, Mr. Little and Mr. Fitzsimmons promptly spilled the beans on the whole charade. And then, when the police found the purported $1,100 fur coat that Ms. Reed had been wearing, they discovered it was actually a shabby imitation fur coat, worth no more than $25. Buckling under the weight of his lies, Mr. King folded and admitted the whole thing was a ruse.

So after all that, with their names embarrassingly splashed across the newspapers, the three men ended up arraigned on charges of robbery for stealing $10 and a ragged fake fur coat from Mr. King's fake wife.

Presumably wanting nothing to do with these nogoodniks, Ms. Reed never bothered to appear in court to prosecute them, and so they were turned free. I'm sure Mr. King's real wife was thrilled to see him.

Day 1252




Stones like this one just south of Avenue P were once stationed every half mile on Ocean Parkway, marking the distance along the road's original 5.5-mile route from Prospect Park to the beach at Coney Island. (3M means 3 miles from Prospect Park.) They were probably installed around 1876, the year the parkway was completed.

After the 5M marker was removed several years ago — sometime between November 2007 and September 2009, during which time new concrete was laid over the area where it stood — the 3M stone became the final survivor. It was temporarily removed for restoration while the Ocean Parkway Malls in this area were being reconstructed in 2014, but now it's back home and is even accompanied by a tablet explaining its significance.

In the old days, milestones could be found along a number of prominent thoroughfares in what is now NYC. (You can see a nice collection of photos in this extensive paper on the subject.) Many of the stones have long since vanished, while many others have been relocated to historical institutions for safekeeping (like the one that once stood in Milestone Park). As far as I know, this Ocean Parkway stone is the last one in the city still standing more or less in its original location.

There are four other milestones I'm aware of that are located outdoors in the five boroughs and accessible to the public:

1) A milestone from the Kingsbridge Road (today's Broadway) can be found embedded in a retaining wall at the edge of Isham Park in Inwood. Likely dating from 1813, the timeworn stone once read "12 Miles from N. York".

2) Another Kingsbridge Road stone is on display outside the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights. It too likely dates from 1813, and it once read "11 Miles from N. York".

3) A circa 1860 milestone from Jackson Avenue (today's Northern Boulevard) stands outside the Queens Historical Society in Flushing. It bears two inscriptions: "5 MILES TO 34TH STREET FERRY" and "1 MILE TO FLUSHING BRIDGE".

4) A stone reading "6 Miles to N. York F." — 6 miles to New York ferry — is located in front of the Third County Courthouse in Staten Island's Historic Richmond Town. It turns out that this stone is a replica, however. In a phone conversation, the chief curator at Historic Richmond Town told me that it was created in the 1980s and was based on two original milestones that once stood on Richmond Turnpike (today's Victory Boulevard).

Day 1252




I think this color would best be described as "concentrated urine".

Day 1252

9/11 memorial #254

June 4th, 2015




Day 1252

A unique headstone(s)

June 4th, 2015



in Washington Cemetery

Day 1252

690 Ocean Parkway

June 4th, 2015



Three items of note from a search for this address in the newspaper archives:

1) 1941: A photo shows Zalman Asher Dunn, a resident of the building and a "tennis star of the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy" (a real athletic powerhouse, I'm sure), providing a woman with "some first-hand information on how to grip a tennis racket".

2) 1945: Vilma Sperling, a 16-year-old professional dancer who lived in the building with her mother, ran off to marry a "wealthy" 36-year-old taxi driver (his mother owned a fleet of cabs). A few hours after their wedding, however, the police arrested the couple at their hotel. Vilma was charged with being a wayward minor, while her husband was charged with abduction and marrying a minor. At his hearing, Vilma testified that she was "terribly" in love with her husband — "who deposited $2,500 in a bank for her and gave her a ring and a fur coat" — and that her mother had demanded a payment of $5,000 if they wanted her consent for the marriage. The charges against the couple were eventually dropped, and while Vilma's mother sought to have the union annulled, Vilma's husband was looking toward the future, telling the press: "No more show business for [Vilma]. She's going to be a real little wife and we'll have lots of kiddies."

3) 1956: George J. Wald, a 34-year-old high school art teacher from the building who had been married twice before, was charged with abduction and rape after eloping with a 17-year-old former student. The girl's parents had him arrested, but her father later relented and asked for the charges to be withdrawn after the couple agreed not to see each other until she turned 18. The district attorney said he would still "submit the matter to the grand jury, but he also indicated that he did not want to stand in the way of 'true love.' "

Day 1252

Red, white, and blue

June 4th, 2015


Day 1252

1305 Albemarle Road

June 4th, 2015





(The lower photo above is from a visit to the neighborhood in 2012 when there were fewer leaves on the trees.)

Here's the architectural historian Christopher Gray's take on this structure:

The most unusual of these dwellings [on Albemarle Road in Prospect Park South] is the one built in 1905 for George E. Gale at 1305 Albemarle, at the northeast corner of Argyle Road, in white clapboard with a colossal two-story Ionic portico. Designed by an architect known only as H. B. Moore, the Gale house has a striking assortment of windows, among them roof dormers with a kind of webbed sash, topped by ebullient broken pediments. On the second floor, there are spider-web-type windows with Gothic-style sashes, and on the rear are leaded glass windows.

Mr. Moore ran copper cresting in the form of anthemion leaves around the top of a bay window on the side of the house, and he put low, curved eyebrow dormers on either side of the third-floor gable. The Gale house is worth a special trip.