Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, October 31, 2014

Orange is the New Black Coffee

Pumpkin Spice Latte Season is almost over. But this orange beauty at a car lot across from Starbucks on Victory Boulevard caught my eye. A steal at $5000. But what is it? The tank and hoses suggest some kind of portable refueling station (and the inflammable sign on the back that it's not coffee).

The sign Israeli Flying Society on the side puzzled me at first. Then I recalled that the IFS was one of the organizations that donated time and manpower after Sandy (which struck just two years ago).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unlawful at Any Speed

The signs read, "Unlawful to Cross Solid Line on Your Side." But who would choose to cross the line here, the eastbound passing lane between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges? One of the trickiest segments of the BQE, with multiple on- and off-ramps causing all manner of lane confusion. Not to mention the westbound lanes just beyond and below those guardrails. If you cross the line here, you have more than the law to worry about.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Go East, Young Man

For a few weeks, there has been a crane tower off the eastbound side of the Kosciuszko Bridge. Could the long-awaited replacement project be underway? Seems possible. In May, Governor Cuomo announced that the design-build team had been selected for the $555M project and that work would begin this (past) summer. The DOT's website provides this somewhat terrifying projection of what travel across the new span will look like:
(Courtesy NYS DOT)
According to a DOT newsletter, Phase I, which includes construction of the eastbound span and removal of the existing bridge, is due to wrap up in the last quarter of 2017. Phase II, construction of the new westbound structure, is not due to be completed until 2018. Which begs the question, if only the eastbound lanes are constructed and the old bridge is gone, how will anybody travel west?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Parallel Lines

Looking across the eastbound travel lane of the BQE on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Tocanao, Chile. The sky is better here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

O, Rego Park, O, America

Up from the underground, between signs for a pawn shop and a barber shop. Welcome to Rego Park, Queens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ghost Busters?

I followed this van across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and through the toll gate. Fascinated not so much by the apparently unstable load above but by the ghostly shapes on the rear panels. Cookware? Art? Symbols? I caught a glimpse of the passenger side: More of same, with no English explanation. I prefer it that way. (But, hey, if you read Korean, feel free to clue me in.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pick Up Sticks (and Bones)

37th St. and BQE West on-ramp (Oct. 2014)
In mid-September, I reported on the installation of plastic lane dividers and paining of lines to recognize a de facto pedestrian crossing of the viaduct--and one of the busiest intersections in Queens, if not the city, where 37th Ave., Broadway, and both on- and off-ramps from the BQE come together.

(Source NYC DOT)
According to, the DOT has enlisted an artist and volunteers to make it pretty: "Late last week, the Department of Transportation and volunteers from New York Cares painted the concrete barriers along the pedestrian walkway at 37th Avenue and 69th Street. You can see the finished product — which stretches 150 feet — pictured above. The design is by the Greek artist Eirini Linardaki; she wanted to depict a game of pick up sticks. As the DOT stated last week in a press release, 'The artist aims to have the mural act as an illustration of the game, as a colorful abstraction, and as a New York City grid.'"

"Pick up sticks" seems an apt metaphor for the game of survival entailed in getting across the bridge alive. Art imitates life. (Thanks to Robyn Love for the highway art alert.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wile E. and Edge E.

I was stopped behind this sign company van on Victory Blvd. The graphic on the back doors caught my attention: Wile E. Coyote at a cactus payphone (sure) holding up a sign that reads "HELP." What other kind of a sign (or awning) would Wile E. need?
The kind that (he thinks) catches a Road Runner. In fact, signs of all kinds run wild in the Road Runner series, and plenty of other Looney Tunes cartoons. Check out Chariots of Fur from 1994 (7 mins.):

Friday, October 17, 2014

Special Deivery

In trying times like these, it's good to know the Wonton Specialist is on the job.

On the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights border.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oh, Baltimore

Early this afternoon, I spotted an Orioles cap in the middle lane of the viaduct over the Gowanus Canal. At that point, the O's were down 0-3 to the Royals in the playoffs; by the time I got home from work, they were eliminated. Congratulations, Saint Louis. As for always, Randy Newman says it best:

Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live.

Was it ever thus? Just take a look at the photograph above: Brooks Robinson, pitcher Dave McNally, and catcher Andy Etchebarren celebrate sweeping the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. Don't toss your cap.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steinberg Street

The Sculpture Center in Long Island City has a show called Puddle, pothole, portal. One room contains  five drawings by Saul Steinberg, as well as a mixed-media construction: a desk with various tools of his trade.
Saul Steinberg, Bauhaus (1966)
One of the drawings, Bauhaus, made me think of my walk from the N train at Queensboro Plaza to the museum: The absurdity of nouveau housing units sprouting among the weeds.

And the building next door to the Sculpture Center itself.
Purves Street
Another Steinberg piece, Bauhaus Street (1982), not in the show, could be a map of the neighborhood to come.
The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society, New York

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Second Hand Rant

From my favorite WFMU program, (More Than A Few) Exciting Moments with Frank O'Toole (September 29, 2014):

I told you about Henry Mancini and Jane Horrocks earlier, right? OK. My complaint, yeah. The electronic billboards. When I drive here, I take the highway to get different places to get there, to get here. And the billboards are now, it's sort of like, well, it's.... Everything's quick and it's [snaps fingers three or four times] what happened yesterday, what happened a couple minutes ago. And what happens is you'll see like a TV promo or a movie promo, and you're driving down and you're looking at the end of one of those things, the promo thing, and it goes from there into Lawyers, Inc., or something.
These different ... electronic billboards, it's getting on my nerves. It's sort of like what's happening on line with, you know, the Internet, as far as things are happening now and then it's over, as I speak. So the electronic billboards, I just feel like it's gonna to hurt somebody, somebody's going to drive off the cliff watching a TV show promo.

So I don't like the electronic billboards. I guess that's my thing. But if you stay, if you like basically pull over, you can watch all the different promos and the commericals you want, but then you're driving by so you won't get it. Everything's so quick, everything's so large fast.

Anyway that's me. This is a live webcast, a live playlist webcast at I said my name's Frank O'Toole doing my webcast here on a Monday. Live playlist as it's happening now. And so, send comments, that's all I can tell you. Next thing is something new but it's old by the Stroke Band, Stroke Band featuring Don Fleming. It's from 78, 79 era. And we will here Janie's Living in a Cell. So, we'll go for that now. And stay tuned, OK? Enjoy the webcast here at WFMU.ORG. [Music]

You can here the rant and also FXO's great music mix here (rant starts at about 39 minute mark).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Slices of Life

I was standing outside my favorite car wash on Victory Boulevard, waiting for my car to come out. I noticed the black SUV parked in the right turn lane for Richmond Avenue, hazard lights flashing. A minute later, a man crossed the street carrying a pizza box from Pizza D'Oro. He got into the SUV and, in no particular hurry, pulled out. Rather, he didn't have to pull out since he had parked in a traffic lane (not to mention one used by a number of buses).

My car came out. I ran some errands. Then I came back to the same intersection, parked in the roomy parking lot around the corner from Pizza D'Oro, and got myself a couple slices. I ate them in the car.
Psychic bus stop

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jurassic Parkway

Coming through Williamsburg, headed west on the BQE, I'm nearly always in the far left lane. So, it would be hard not to notice that something was different about one of the Jersey barriers.
What could account for this? Something very heavy falling on it? Or something huge taking a big bite out of it? Just be glad you were't there when it happened, whatever "it" was.

(The Jersey barrier gets its name from the site of its design, Steven Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, in the 1950s. It has saved countless lives--the penicillin of the highway.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Diamonds on My Windshield

I made this cellphone camera still (a "tellie"?) from an episode of Freaks and Geeks. I was doing some research on the cars the high schoolers drive, circa 1985: Kim Kelly's Gremlin, Daniel's Trans-Am, Nick's Maverick (see below). In this scene, Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) is pressured by her freak friends into "borrowing" her father's cherished station wagon to move their band gear. Here she is, just before she crashes Dad's car.

It reminded me of another image. I couldn't locate it until I was talking to a friend about an upcoming film at the NYFF with Juliette Binoche. Which led us to talk about a shared favorite, Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski's Blue. Of course, that film begins with a car crash.

A more typical picture of the freaks, minus Lindsay and Kim.

And one of the two-tone vans that have been haunting me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Suitable for Framing II

What is the protocol for carrying a full-lenght mirror on the subway? Facing out? Facing in? Sideways? Covered?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Suitable for Framing

A moment on the BQE, from a Flushing-bound 7 train. A Saturday or Sunday afternoon, a few weeks ago.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Orange is the New Gray

Container ship approaches the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

A tanker off St. George. Through a window of the Staten Island Ferry, Spirit of America.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Forest Ave., Staten Island
Lately, I've been seeing a lot of two-tone or three-tone vans. Brown on brown or white on brown. It's a 70s feeling, 70s lifestyle, even if the vans are a later vintage.
Gowanus Expressway
The past is catching up with us. Or, in this case, overtaking us.