Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Saint Vlad's?

Rector Street BMT station (October, 2013)
"The Need for a Great Hospital Doesn't Stop South of 14th Street... Blood Manor."

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Roosevelt Runners

Roosevelt Avenue in the 80s may be known for many things, not all of them legal or savory, as a recent Daily News editorial testifies. Alacrity is not one of them. Especially on weekend afternoons when families from South and Central America are out for a stroll. So what explains the occasional young woman running flat out, weaving between the strollers (and strollers)? I finally figured it out. There are three athletic shoe stores in three blocks between 82nd and 85th streets. They must have the same owner or else they cooperate in some wau. The girls ferry shoes from one to another when a particular size or color or style is called for. And they do it rápidamente.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Slushfest '78

Photo courtesy Providence Journal
In case you missed Sunday's Providence Journal Cars section, this photo shows Bill Greer waiting for help atop his chariot in the slushy mess that preceded the big blizzard that shut down New England  in January 1978. A strange choice to commemorate on this anniversary of Sandy? Perhaps, but still a great shot. And great cars! (For Providence wonks, it was taken in Randall Square.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou's on the Boulevard

Sad news. Lou Reed died today of complications from a liver transplant. There'll be plenty of better informed tributes out there but here's a nice video of Lou performing "Dirty Boulevard" at Farm Aid in 1990 (thus the denim jacket). "Dirty Boulevard" was actually a hit for him in 1989, though he had to tone down the language on the single. According to Rolling Stone: "the words 'piss' and 'suck' were dropped. 'I did the blipping,' Reed told Rolling Stone. 'I didn't want other people to feel defeated before they ever went in.' Asked if the compromise bothered him, he replied, 'It would bother me if the other version didn't exist.' All the words are here:

Unlikely Pair?

Chapel St., October 2013
New Haven celebrates its own: Robert Moses and Karen Carpenter. One couldn't get enough and the other couldn't get too little.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rinocerului! Emancipata! Trofeelor!

Saul Steinberg, Milano via Pasoli in 1936,
Do we suffer from a poverty of street names in New York? This passage from Norman Manea's memoir, recounting a conversation about Bucharest with fellow Romanian exile Saul Steinberg, suggests we do:

The site of the magic circle was not far from where I am [visiting Budapest]. It had been swept away by the dictator's bulldozers and is now in New York, living on only in the memory of the old artist [Saul Steinberg] living on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I can hear his melodious voice as he recites the archaic names: "Palas Street, Antim, Rinocerului, Labirint, Gentilă Street, Concordiei, and right next to it, Discordiei! Here we have Trofeelor, Olimpului, Emancipata. Listen to this, Emancipata! Isn't it wonderful? And Rinocerului, Labirint, Gentilă, Gentle Street! And Cuțitul de Argint, Puțul cu apă and Tutitul de Argint--the Water Well and the Silver Knife!"

-The Hooligan's Return, Norman Manea (tr. Angela Jianu)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gowanus Morning

One more shot from the X10 bus.

(Who needs filters on your camera when  you have bus windows?)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From a Magic Bus

Narrows Road South, Staten Island (Oct. 2013)
"The night's circus requires magic," the ghost whispers, "and you have never been any good at magic."

-Norman Manea, quoting Romanian countryman and fellow exile, Emil Cioran, in his memoir, The Hooligan's Return.
Off- and on-ramps, SIE (Oct. 2013)

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Have Seen the Futurama

I have seen I Have Seen the Future, the exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York dedicated to Norman Bel Geddes. Bel Geddes was interested in everything design could affect: gas ranges, vacuum cleaners, cocktail shakers, theater sets, houses (with and without walls), and, of course, cars.

Model Car 9 (1939)
Not only cars, but highways. NBG's vision for the "motorway" of the future is preserved in the 23- minute film "To New Horizons," made by General Motors for its Futurama exhibit at the New York World's Fair in 1939-40.

From the film's narration:

And now we see an enlarged section of 1960's express motorway. Along the ledge of this beautiful precipice, traffic moves at unreduced rates of speed. Safe distance between cars is maintained by automatic radio control. Curved sides assist the driver in keeping his car in the proper lane under all circumstances. The keynote of this motorway: safety. Safety with increased speed.

Each NBG sub-shaped car or bus barrels along it its own curved track, like a ball in roulette wheel or a luge. There doesn't appear to be any provision for exits or on-ramps. Who needs 'em? (It would certainly solve the driving while texting problem.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waiting for the Bus is the Same Everywhere

Meeting at a Bus Stop (Sandu Mendrea)
One afternoon, well after the bus had passed by on its way from the Kolinda forest to Sinistra, a man came ambling across those snow-patched, crocus-dotted mountain meadows.... On reaching the road he paused, hesitating: He just leaned out over the paved surface, as if worried that its current would sweep him in one direction or the other. For a while he stood about, looking puzzled until he turned his head toward the creaking bus-stop sign. He then crouched on the ground, planting himself at its foot: a wayfarer waiting for the bus.

From The Sinistra Zone by Ádám Bodor (tr. Paul Olchváry)

Finally, an English translation of Hungarian writer Ádám Bodor's beautiful and grotesque stories (or novel) set in the remote Sinistra Zone, with its the Mountain Infantrymen, bear keepers, "Gray Ganders" (official watchers), and roadworker and sometime "assistant corpse watcher" Andrei Bodor (or so he is called). (An earlier post featured a film based on Ádám Bodor' work.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Manor Chair

Once the X10 crosses the Verrazano Narrows Bridge it dips off and onto the Staten Island Expressway in order to be able to make local stops. Narrows Road North becomes Little Clove Road. The stops are mostly undistinguished: a green pole flying the standard bus route number sign. At Manor Road however, a charitable homeowner has placed a plastic chair outside their fence at the bus stop.

"Begob, here's me bus. Cheers!" as Myles na gCopaleen (aka, Flann O'Brien) would say (and did, many times).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Unsnug Harbor

Reader, as you know, when it comes to getting to work I am a driver. But there are times that call for leaving the cart in the barn and joining the throng on public transportation. I call these X10-uating circumstances. One that occurred earlier this week had to do with a playoff game, a cousin, and beer. So, I found myself on Wednesday morning on that corner of Fifth Avenue and 40th Street dedicated to Staten Island. From there, weary exiles catch the express buses to Port Richmond (X10, X14), Mariners Harbor (X12, X42), and bucolic Arden Heights (X17).

Fast times in Little Richmond

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Geometry Lessons

Back to Rockville (and the 70s)
"School is school; everyone knows what goes on there." Shame by Salman Rushdie.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Fun on Fingerboard

Fan mail from some flounder or a postcard from Fingerboard Road? This one comes courtesy of the Ape Shall Not Kill Ape blog, a crucial source for North Shore (Staten Island) goodies. According to Ape, the card probably dates from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. It shows the intersection of Fingerboard and Tompkins. The beautiful towered building was taken down in 1963. The bridge in the foreground is for the old South Beach Railroad.

In case you are wondering, there is at least one other Fingerboard Road on the planet. In Miriam Vale, Queensland, Australia, the "unsealed" Fingerboard Road connects with the Miriam Vale Baffle Creek Road, the Round Hill Road, and Tableland Road. Very close to the town of Anges Water and the Eurimbula National Park on the Coral Sea.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fun on Fingerboard

Coming into downtown Brooklyn on the BQE one day last week, drivers were met with the overhead warning: "Construction at I-278 and Fingerboard Road." Expect delays. Nothing new there. But where? If you guessed Staten Island, you are correct.
Assemblyman Lou Tobacco, press conference on
Fingerboard Road overpass to SIE 2009 (Staten Island Advance)
Fingerboard Road passes over the Staten Island Expressway just after you pass through the toll plaza at the foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. According to the invaluable Forgotten New York website's entry on the Rosebank neighborhood of SI, Fingerboard Road and West Fingerboard Road "show up on Staten Island maps by 1880. The roads were not named for any string instrument players; according to legend, a large, finger- shaped wood sign pointing the way to the Richmond County Courthouse, then located at the end of Richmond Road in Richmondtown, was installed someplace on the road."

Sorry to say, there's no sign of the fingerboard sign today. But there was no delay either.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Q: Can I find parking in Dumbo on a Sunday evening?
(Under the BQE)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apocalypse Nus

Sunset on the Gowanus Canal viaduct. The kind of sunset that had people standing in groups on overpasses looking west, pointing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Ideas in Minicars

Long one today, but the boys and girls down in the Research Bureau are pretty excited about a document they've got their hands on recently: A Minicar Transportation System in an Urban Low Income Group. It's a 1972 report by the Minicar Project Transportation Planning Group of the Transportation Studies Center, Center for Urban Research and Experiment, University of Pennsylvania.

The group's goal was to create a transportation alternative for people in Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods, those least served by public transportation. It would address the high unemployment rates in these neighborhoods by making transportation to the Central Business District (CBD), where the jobs were, more feasible. According to the report, travel from the neighborhoods studied to the CBD, on average, took twice as long as a comparable trip by auto would, and often involved "extensive walking."

The system it describes was visionary: "a fleet of [gasoline-electric hybrid] minicars, centrally controlled by a business management, that can be picked up by qualified drivers from a number of terminals, driven to a desired destination or another terminal and be paid [for] according to the length of time of the trip and/or the time spent. "The whole system would depend on personal coded Minicards that could be used to calculate usage and start the cars. Citibike, Zipcars, and the Prius all rolled into one!

Here's a sample trip from a low income area (LIA) terminal: to the CBD:
-->Exit from LIA Terminal: 10¢
-->Entry CBD Terminal: 15¢
-->2 miles at 5¢ per mile: 10¢
-->16 minutes at 1/2¢ per minute: 8¢
Total cost of the One-Way Trip: 43¢

Even with these figures, the system was designed to be fiscally self-sustaining. (When did "¢" symbol disappear from keyboards?)

But what about the minicars themselves? Have look:

Here are the specs from the report:
Size: At nine fee long, half the length of a full-size car (in 1972, that is). Yet at six feet wide, it can comfortably accommodate three adults abreast (Read: No back seat!).
Style: For a functional car, it offers exceptional comfort and appearance. It has attractive styling, excellent enamel and trim, tailored doors, automatic transmission, and combined heating and air-conditioning controls. (No mention of radio or 8-track tapedeck.)
Performance: At city speeds--up to 30 m.p.h.--the Minicar offers exceptionally good acceleration. At higher speeds, the rate of acceleration decreases significantly. At all speeds, breaking and agility are superior to the average American car.
Pollution: Low exhaust emissions in normal operation and none whatsoever of distances up to 11 miles are made possible by its hybrid gasoline-electric motor.

As far as the RB can determine, no prototype was ever developed. Pity.

(This post dedicated to my nephew, Thomas, fan of minicars and the Cardvark, aka, the Cardvaark.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Bought a Badass Car

(Alas, not this one)
I bought a car this summer. Test drove a sensible subcompact with excellent fuel economy and solid reviews on Consumer Reports. In the end, went for a lightly used sports coupe with 200+ horsepower and a 6-speed manual transmission. Fun to drive!

After I bought the car, I started to look at owner websites and video reviews. It became startlingly clear the target audience for this car is men between, say, 16 and 34. Why hadn't I seen this? I mean, look at the rims for god's sake. I took off the decals hyping the "iV-tech" engine but couldn't shake the taint of "M-LC" (mid-life crisis).

I took it to the carwash for this first time. One of the kids toweling it off looked up at me and said, "Nice car." All I ever wanted.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mustang vs Charger

Possibly the most riveting rearview mirror shot in all of film. Steve McQueen's Mustang appears in the rearview of the baddie's Charger. They'd been tailing him. It's all been speed-limit stuff to this point--hair-raising enough in the San Francisco hills. Now the chase begins.
Bullitt, of course. Watch the "prelude" to the chase here:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SS vs SS

Use all your mirrors. A gorgeous 70s Chevelle SS and Rolls Royce Silver Shadow from the same era cheek by jowl on the viaduct over the Gowanus Canal. Behind me, but not for long. And I thought I had a badass car.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Se Renta Cuarto

Here the symbol for the 7 train is a triangle.

Here a stop sign.

"Room for rent. For a couple. Close to 7 train."
And here there's none.