Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Prominent Promenade Pressman Calls It Quits

(Photo: Henrik Krogius, courtesy Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
Henrik Krogius, editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press for 22 years, retired this month. Krogius is a journalist and longtime chronicler of the Promenade that sits atop the BQE and affords unmatched views of the New York Harbor, Governors Island, parts of Staten Island, the Brooklyn Bridge--and, oh yes, Manhattan. That's his photo above from the construction of the BQE in 1953.

He published a book earlier this year called The Brooklyn Heights Promenade. He said he wrote the book to "solidify my claim to be the historian of the Promenade." Nicely done, Krogius, now get to work on the BQE!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Flying V

A precious family heirloom was uncovered during the holidays. The "Vega 2300" nameplate is all that remains from one of the family's few non-Dodge or Plymouth vehicles. That is back in the days when "Subaru" would most likely elicit a "God bless you."

The Chevy Vega, as some will remember, was a GM subcompact produced from 1970-77, notorious for problems with its engineering, reliability, safety, and propensity to rust. They stopped using the "2300" nameplates in 1973 (opting for the simpler "Vega"). Since this car came into the family motor pool after the Dodge Demon's departure, I am guessing we acquired ours around '81 or '82. It was promptly christened "The Flying V." The car itself didn't last long but the nameplate was hung with kitschy sincerity on the family Christmas tree for many years.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa's Back!

Penn Station, 2012
Merry Christmas from the entire Be the BQE Staff and the Research Bureau Too!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sky Lanes

A couple weeks ago, driving through Brooklyn westbound on the BQE I saw these parallel vapor trails. Spellbound, anyone?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypse Lite

I don't believe the world is ending today but I'm holding off on buying my monthly MetroCard just in case.
(Photo from Moda Polska)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Kind of Alaska?

The vintage Darts and Scamp in the previous post reside on Alaska Street in Port Richmond on the Kill Van Kull in Staten Island. Several miles away, mid-Island in a newer neighborhood called New Springville, you'll find Nome Street and Klondike Avenue. What's the Staten Island-Alaska connection? I'm turning the subject over to the Research Bureau. Watch this space for its report.
Nome St.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scamps Like Us

An arbitrary turn off Richmond Terrace reveals a veritable Slant 6 Museum.

The lineup...
The money shot...
And the artsy shot...

Monday, December 10, 2012


Late afternoon on the BQE. On opposite sides of the WTC Towers silhouette, "We'll Never || Forget 9.11.01."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Library Local at Local Library

I guess it's been a while since I returned a book to my local library branch. What I found there astonished me. After I placed my volume barcode-side down on the scanner, it was whisked onto a roller trolley line, made a perfect righthand turn and was deposited into a laundry cart. Of course, I didn't have the wherewithal to photograph that, so I skulked around until another patron put his book through the paces. One of our books was The Hoarder in You. Reader, you be the judge.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bus Trip to the Karpathy

A documentary trailer for the feature film Brothers by Ukrainian director,  Victoria Trofimenko. The singer (and harmonium player) Mariana Sadovska.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

El Camino Real

Chevy Pride
Royal Road. Royal Blue. Just off the King's Road that is the Staten Island Expressway.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


You can find the bouncy little show called Y?O!G...A in the second-floor gallery of The Kitchen, the art and performance space at 512 W. 19th St. The show features pieces in different media by Matt Keegan and Eileen Quinlan. Many use yoga mats, that ubiquitous artifact of our urban reality. My attention, though, was drawn to a projection on the wall, roughly the size of a computer monitor. At first I took it to be a digital photograph of Greenpoint or Williamsburg, with the Freedom Tower in the background.
Freedom Tower, Eileen Quinlan
Looking closer, I detected a slight movement in the upper right quadrant. A car, then a truck flashed between the houses, behind the telephone pole. I realized that this is a video. And that it was taken facing the BQE. The checklist of exhibited work tells us that it is titled Freedom Tower, and that it is 210 minutes long. I watched for about 5 minutes. Mesmerizing.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Was Abba Sweden's answer to Fleetwood Mac? If so, which one is meant to be Christine and which one Stevie? Which one Mick and which one Lindsey? It's easier to understand why, by this point, Peter Green was digging graves for a living. Is there something vaguely Romneyesque about all this? Watch this video from 1978 at your peril.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dig That Hat!

Maybe it's the gas lines, maybe it's all the disparaging references to Jimmy Carter during the recently completed election, maybe it's the release of a great Fleetwood Mac tribute CD (right), but I've had 1979 on my mind a lot these last few weeks. I was pretty dismissive of Mac in those days. In my first review as arts editor for the mighty Red & White (high school newspaper), I chose Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps over the long, long-awaited Tusk. I stand by my decision. Rust has aged much better than Tusk. While Tusk has great hits ("Sara," "Rhiannon"), it can't touch "Powderfinger" or "Thrasher" for songwriting. There's too much filler on the double-LP "Tusk." But one song that kills, never released as a single, and covered beautifully by Marianne Faithful on the tribute CD, is Stevie Nick's "Angel." I never thought of Stevie as much of a rocker, but this video changed my mind. 1979, of course.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Have logo, will travel
Tonight I saw signs on the BQE for ferry service from Great Kills Park, Staten Island, to two locations in Manhattan. It's a temporary move to ease the commute of hard hit South Shore residents. (That's a photo I took in nearby New Dorp below.) A similar service will run from the Rockaways. SI City Council member James Oddo sums it up well, in impeccable Staten Islandese, "We all are all too familiar with the shortcoming of being an island, but using our waterfront in this manner makes sense, and I hope the Bloomberg Administration's initiative provides much needed relief to some Island residents." Here, here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Earth Movers

The other cliff
Not hit as hard as parts of the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, or the Rockaways, the beaches of Westerly, RI, took quite a pounding. Tons of sand were carried off of the beaches of Watch Hill ("Little Newport") and transported down the coast a bit to make an inland desert of Misquamicut. That's East Beach in the photo above, below the reconstructed Ocean House hotel. In the photo below, bulldozers restore sand to Napatree Point side of the peninsula.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Indian Takes the Subway

MetroCard Wampum?
For the last two days, Jackson Heights has been overrun by a tribe of construction-paper head-dressed Indians. It's touching to see this low-tech Thanksgiving tradition passed on to another generation, in this case one made up largely of new immigrants.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Best family crest on the BQE?

Wait for it...

Sorry, that's the best shot I've got.

Happy Thanks-for-not-Mitt-ing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be the BBT

Andy Cuomo and Joe Lhota talk tunnel (Courtesy WPIX)
The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is open again (no trucks). Thank you DOT. I don't take the BBT (or Hugh L. Carey Tunnel) very often. I just don't like sharing my BQE with the drivers who would normally exit the highway to Manhattan via the tunnel. One night last week, I decided to avoid Merge-fest and jump off the Gowanus at 38th Street. No rush, I thought, I'll just work my way back through Sunset Park, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Fort Greene--the old stomping grounds.

Everything worked pretty well until I got to around 9th St. in Park Slope, where it all ground to a halt. No problem: When one avenue stalls, I'll just jump over to the next: Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth. Nothing helped. All chock-a-block. Prospect Park West was fine, except it's one way the wrong way (I guess I never drove when I lived around here). Eventually I crossed the Rubicon of Flatbush Ave. and made it to Vanderbilt Avenue. After that, I was home free. "Never get off the boat," Martin Sheen says in Apocalypse Now, "Absolutely, goddamn right."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gorillas in the Storm

Happier days
I've been keeping a hopeful eye out on my eastbound commutes. But it seems the big blue gorilla that graces the Hamilton Avenue Auto Auction ("#1 Auto Auction in Brooklyn") was a casualty to Sandy. It's come back from deflation before so maybe there's still reason to hope. What's FEMA's policy on inflatable mascots?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beating Obama

Yesterday morning I woke to the news that President Obama would be on Staten Island to tour the storm damage, meet with families and officials, in short, the usual post-tragic storm show and tell. He would be touching down at JFK at 11:30 a.m. Expect street closures. Imagining conditions on the Gowanus and BQE with the Verrazano shut down or restricted to one lane for the presidential motorcade, I jumped out of bed, shoved a piece of toast in my mouth, swigged a cup of coffee, and hit the road. I threw in the double-CD reissue of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass--but that's just a good idea for any situation.

(Photo: Getty Images)
In the end, traffic moved along at a normal Thursday morning crawl. Obama's helicopter (duh!), Marine One, landed at Miller Field near New Dorp Beach at 1:15 p.m.

In the picture at right, Obama meets with residents in nearby neighborhoods devastated by the storm. Inexplicably, one man carries a "No standing-Bus Stop" sign under his arm. For the best and worst of Staten Islanders' response to the visit, check out the comments to this Staten Island Advance story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Miron Images

I passed this colorful truck on a gray BQE morning and it put me in mind of the great, oddball Polish poet Miron Białoszewski (1922-83). Here's a timely one to celebrate the return of our staircase at 82nd St. It cheers me up. How about you?

A Ballad of Going Down to the Store

First I went down to the street
by means of the stairs,
just imagine it
by means of the stairs.

Then people known to people unknown
passed me by and I passed them by
That you did not see
how people walk,

I entered a complete store:
lamps of glass were glowing.
I saw somebody - he sat down -
and what did I hear? what did I hear?
rustling of bags and human talk.

And indeed,
I returned.

(transl. Czeslaw Milosz)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stairway Redux

With no fanfare, no politicos cutting ribbons, after about a month and half, the subway stairway on the southwest corner of 82nd St. and Roosevelt Ave. reopens. We're back to full (i.e., three quarters) capacity. Yogurberries all around!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


A few nights ago, beginning on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, continuing along the Gowanus Expressway and then the BQE, I observed no fewer than four convoys. How many kinds of convoys could there be? Reader, take your best guess. The answer will follow this Youtube video of the 1975 C.W. McCall classic, "Convoy," with scenes from the 1978 film it inspired. Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine, and the immortal Burt Young (as "Pig Pen"). The story is ludicrous but it looks great. Why not? Sam Peckinpah made it.

The answers:
#1) About a dozen National Guard trucks including some heavy-duty earth moving machines. Headed to the Rockaways?
#2) 5 Verizon vans with yellow lights flashing.
#3) 4 NYC buses--all "not in service."
#4) 4 NYC PD tow trucks.

Catch you on the flip flop, good buddy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Odd Days

Shift into "L" for limbo
This morning, following the example of New Jersey, gas rationing goes into affect in New York City and on Long Island. So knowing whether your plate ends in an odd or even number or letter (I've always felt "K" is the oddest letter), joins other long forgotten or repressed gas-crisis habits: paying close attention to which gas stations are open and which are closed; checking your wallet to make sure you've got a goodly supply of cash; and driving in ways that (you believe) use less gas. Yesterday, as I crept along on the BQE, I found myself slipping the transmission into neutral when a slight downhill allowed me to maintain speed. Am I saving any gas? Who knows? But I've got that 1979 feeling all over again. (I can still tell the exact location of the Lehigh station in North Stonington, Conn., where I had good luck filling up.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eye Before the Storm

This shot is from a pre-Sandy BQE. You see a lot of graffiti on trucks. And the finger scrawl in the dirt on the back panel "Wash me!" is pretty common. But the artistry that went into this one is pretty rare. How would you describe the medium? "De-griming?" "Etched-in-eww?"

Listen to the Boss

In the end, it came down to Bruce Springsteen or Kid Rock. Not much of a contest.

Here's the Boss's video for "Atlantic City." Beautiful black and white images of AC, all the more poignant after the storm.

Monday, November 5, 2012


"It's like North Korea," Harald Tremmer of Hanover, Germany, was quoted in this morning's The New York Times. Tremmer was running in an impromptu marathon yesterday, which followed the course of the canceled official version. That meant the runners passed many gas stations with many people waiting in line to buy gas.
Thanks, Yanks (and Brits)
Well, nobody ever accused the Germans of subtlety. Harald might have thought of an example closer to home: Berlin, 1948. After the Soviets sought to cut off the part of the city controlled by the Western powers, American and British planes flew in food, supplies, and, yes, fuel--as many as 1500 flights a day. Maybe, it's time to reciprocate. Chancellor Merkel, how about sending some of that German largesse to Rockaway Beach or New Dorp?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Somewhat Upset Max

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Central Library in Jamaica. Everything worked. The F was running local, but it often does on weekends, and I was able to stop off at Ben's Best in Rego Park for a pastrami sandwich and Cel-Ray soda. The library was open (I'd checked on the web since branches in Broad Channel and the Rockaways are closed indefinitely). I only had to wait a few minutes for my book to come up from the stacks (the library is undergoing heavy renovation). Buses coursed in and out of the Jamaica station across from the library (above).

Outside the library, I saw a man with empty plastic gas containers upset because he couldn't find an open station. On the way back to the subway, I walked across the parking lot of a gas station on Hillside Avenue with its pumps wrapped in yellow tape. The reports of fights in gas lines are already coming out. It will be sad if the massive effort to get the city and region on its feet again becomes a real life parody of Mad Max.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Someone Left the Cake Out

Three days after Halloween, the nightmare of Hoboken goes on: streets flooded with water, sewerage, fuel oil, and god knows what else. People trapped in apartments with no power, heat, or water. National Guard troops maneuvering its narrow streets to help. I lived in Hoboken, very briefly, in the very early 80's. In fact, I lived in a house on Harrison Street, as far south and west as you could go before running into the palisades of Jersey City Heights. Even a moderate rain would flood the streets--we'd sit on the stoop and watch as drivers determined to drive through the monster puddles or just give up and turn back.
(Courtesy World Maps on Line)
Reason: Much of Hoboken is below sea level. This illustrated map from 1881 gives you a good idea of the situation. In the foreground are the ferry terminal and docks on the Hudson River. As you head inland the city slopes down until it runs up against those palisades. All those empty lots waiting to be built up should by rights be arable farmland or marshes. That's where the water should go. But the helter skelter of development was upon us even then. And the price is being paid today, mostly by the poorest who live in the projects and crappy housing of the backside of the city. Good luck to them. Good luck to us in learning a lesson from Sandy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MTA Appreciation Day

Walking tall
The MTA, and specifically the subways division, has come in for a fair amount of criticism on this blog. Sure the stairway at 82nd St. that was supposed to be repaired by Oct. 21 is still boxed up... Sure, I've nicknamed the 7 the "4 1/2" based on how many days a week it runs... Sure, sure, sure. But when I read today on the Daily News site that subway service would resume on Thursday, just three days after the monumental devastation of Sandy... Well, helmets off to the men and women of the MTA for all the hard, dirty work that must have cost--and will cost for days or weeks ahead. It's limited service, to be sure, and it goes without saying that the 7 is not among the lines that will be restarted tomorrow. Still, we can't wait for the screeching wheels, the stinky cars (oh, just imagine the ones that have been flooded), the conductors yelling at us to pull our bags in. Bring it all on!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Better for the BQE?

Point blank
With Sandy bearing down, it will be a quiet day on the BQE. A good time to catch up with politics. Reader, you've probably been wondering which of the candidates for president would be better for the BQE and our nation's aging, not to say failing, transportation infrastructure. Today, I offer BTB's coveted endorsement for President.

An analysis of the candidates' positions by Architectural Record summed it up this way:

"The current administration encourages cities and states to spend federal money on projects that enhance the public realm....  Romney’s domestic agenda has essentially one goal: spend less money.... If you speak with advocates for cities, transportation spending, or smart growth, you will often hear a hopeful refrain: that if Romney wins he may govern as the moderate former governor, not the conservative who ran for president. But Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, author of a budget plan more extreme than his own, as his running mate is not an encouraging sign for urbanists."

The Duke
Romney's oft cited record of spending money on public transportation when he was governor of Massachusetts is belied in a fiery and entertaining interview with Matt Dellinger from Transportation Nation with his predecessor, Mike Dukakis. (The interview is worth reading for several reasons. First, he sounds tougher on Romney than Obama. Second, we learn about the Duke courting Kitty in a little yellow Rambler.)

Dellinger: I agree that where money is appropriated, to what mode, is a very key factor in determining outcome. And when I looked into Romney’s budget, he did seem to put his dollars where his mouth was. 

Dukakis: Just couldn’t execute. That was his problem. Couldn’t execute.
Dellinger: That sounds so subjective, though. What exactly does that mean? 
Dukakis: He couldn’t get it done.
Dellinger: His DOT couldn’t get things done… on time?
Dukakis: He just wasn’t engaged. I mean that’s Romney. He’s kind of out there someplace. He just doesn’t get into it. 
Without hesitation, Be the BQE's first-ever endorsement goes to former Governor Michael Dukakis!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mind the What Now?

Reminders abound that the subway certainly is a dangerous place. This one of a Gumby-man slipping between track and train is an arresting one. It's even more disturbing upside down. Just don't stand on your head trying to read it:
(BTW: The Polish for upside down is do góry nogami, literally "to the (head) top with the legs.")

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Love Your Wall

Behind the Staten Island Mall. The fading advert reads: "Amour Estates - Real Family Homes" The neo-Bicentennial flag is a nice touch. Walk to Starbucks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ends in "00"

Two noughts
A quaint tradition that has outlasted Burma Shave signs is employing the sides of houses along the highway as virtual billboard space. This one peaks out from behind a tree in Sunset Park. Can't quite make out what's being advertised? Here's a hint: It begins with "Interstate..."

Saturday, October 20, 2012


In Polish, the word guma means "rubber." In Brooklyn it means an approved construction and demolition company. When you use the diminutive gumka ("little rubber') you are talking about an eraser, like the one on the end of a number two pencil or one of those bubble-gum pink blocks we used to use in school. Remember erasers?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Deal With It!

It's forge or flee...
On the stump, high on post-debate testosterone, President Obama teased the crowd: "You've heard of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal.... Well, Mitt Romney wants to give you..." Here it comes, I thought. Would it be the "Bum Deal"? "Sucker's Deal"? "Let's Make a Deal"? None of these, as it turns out. "Well Mitt Romney wants to give you the Sketchy Deal." Huh? Where's the allusive power in "sketchy deal"? Then it hit me, he's rhyming, at a distance, and some what clunkily, with the famous Romney "Etch-a-Sketch" moment. Mario Cuomo once said, "We campaign in poetry; we govern in prose." If this is the poetry, I'm afraid what the prose will sound like.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


(Photo: Dave Beckerman)
The New York Times reports that former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was taken from temporary custody in Lower Manhattan yesterday to testify at the State Supreme Court in the Bronx in a perjury case against two former cronies. Their perjury involved lying to the Feds about low-cost no-cost renovations to Kerik's apartment. While the Times did not specify the exact location, there's a good chance Bernie was staying at the Manhattan Detention Center, aka, "The Tombs," and briefly, the Bernard B. Kerik Complex. Yup, Mayor Giuliani had the buildings dedicated to his protege in 2001. Mayor Bloomberg changed the name in 2006 immediately after Kerik pleaded guilty to accepting $165,000 in home renovation work and another $28,000 in a loan from a real estate developer.

I wonder if Rudy dropped by to pay Bernie a visit?

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Case for The Cardvaark?

(Photo: The New York Times)
About a week ago, the MTA introduced MetroCards with advertisements on both sides. Today, we learn about the fare increases proposed for 2012, including the possibility that single rides may jump from $2.25 to $2.50 or the monthly unlimited card from $104 to $129. Looks like they're giving us the old one-two here.

In response to a story on the new advertising scheme, I wrote this letter to the New York Times. They didn't publish it--probably a case of professional jealousy--so I am presenting it here. Was there ever a time the MTA needed The Cardvaark more than now?

To the Editor:
The M.T.A.'s introduction this week of MetroCards with advertising on
front and back reminds us of how taken for granted the card itself has
become. When the M.T.A. first rolled out the MetroCard in 1993, it
worried that riders would not give up their beloved tokens and might
even quit the system altogether. They commissioned a Metropolitan
Marketing Plan, now buried in the M.T.A. archives in Brooklyn, which
envisioned all kinds of public events for the kick-off. The planners
even created a mascot for the new card, The Cardvaark, described in
the plan as a " high-tech, yet lovable creature who can 'sell' the
card." When Newsday's subway reporter ridiculed the creature as "a
dumb-looking, snout-nosed, big-eared, bug-eyed, round-cheeked,
pot-bellied, card-pitching mascot," M.T.A. chairman Peter Stangl
killed off The Cardvaark for good. As it turned out, the M.T.A. didn't
need to "sell" the MetroCard after all, and now the card is selling us
on health insurance and the Gap.

PS. Attached image is the sketch from the Metropolitan Marketing Plan.