The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Lower Manhattan

creaking or thumping

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The old part of town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, specifically the Open House NY weekend event, resulted in one getting invited to a “site hosts” reception over in lower Manhattan last week. I’ll show you where that took place tomorrow, but as always, half the fun of going anywhere is the trip itself. The event invitation was for six in the evening, but since I didn’t have much else to do that afternoon it was decided to “make a day of it” and go wandering with the camera. After laying out food and water for the dog, I left Astoria and began my meandering path, one which ultimately found me in LIC boarding an East River Ferry bound for Pier 11/Wall Street that deposited me in the financial district. That’s the “House of Moses” flying around the Brooklyn Bidge, right at the corner of Dover and South Street, in the shot above.

My destination was on the east side of Chinatown, a section of Manhattan which offers a series of particularly interesting artifacts dating back to the early 19th century that somehow survived the “urban renewal” and “slum clearance” era of the middle 20th century. You can spot all three historic types of tenements in this neighborhood “pre,” “old,” and “new” law structures. It’s also a bustling section – crowded, messy, and full of different cultures bumping up against each other.

from wikipedia

Originally named East River Drive, FDR Drive was later renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The roadway was designed by Robert Moses. He faced the difficulties of building a parkway/boulevard combination along the East River while minimizing disruptions to residents. The section from 125th Street to 92nd Street is the original 1934 construction, while sections from 92nd Street down to Battery Park (with the exception of a section from 42nd to 49th streets) were built as a boulevard, an arterial highway running at street level. Future reconstruction designs from 1948 to 1966 converted FDR Drive into the full parkway that is in use today.

The section of highway from 23rd Street to 34th Street was built on wartime rubble dumped by cargo ships returning from Bristol, England, during World War II. The German Luftwaffe bombed Bristol heavily. After delivering war supplies to the British, the ships’ crews loaded rubble onto the ships for ballast, then sailed back to New York, where construction crews made use of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can take the boy away from his beloved Newtown Creek, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still fascinated by sewers. This non standard drain was spotted just to the southeast of the footings of the Manhattan Bridge. It was maybe 16 inches across, and clearly an artifact of the early city. My moles inside the modern day DEP tell me that the sewers in Chinatown are amongst the worst ones for them to maintain. Partially this is due to the density of the local population and their particular propensity for dumping greasy materials into the street drains, but it’s mainly due to the age of the local system and the limitations of 19th century engineering. I seem to recall that this was shot along Monroe Street, possibly at the corner of Market, but I didn’t jot down where I found it at the time.

Supposedly, there’s a few sewers down in these parts that are lined with lumber rather than concrete. Famously, the DEP was doing repairs on a water main at Beekman Street (and on Chambers) a few years back and they happened on colonial era water pipes that were constructed of hollowed out wooden logs.

from nyc.gov

Log water pipe discoveries are not without precedent. Archaeologists expect to find historical infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, wells, cisterns and foundations in locations where early New Yorkers lived and worked. In fact, reports of wood water pipe discoveries south of Chambers Street date back at least 100 years. The unique thing about the Beekman Street discovery is that the wood pipes were discovered nearly intact – one pipe is missing its tapered end. What’s even more remarkable is that the pipes were still connected when they were found and form a contiguous section of New York City’s first water distribution infrastructure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

86 Madison Street caught my eye while I was wandering about. Luckily, it also drew the scholarly attention of a person from the University of Delaware named Zachary J. Violette back in 2012, who produced an interesting dissertation comparing the tenements of NYC and Boston – check it out here.

from sites.udel.edu

Alexander Stake tenement, 86 Madison Street, New York, 1889. Alexander Finkle, architect. A heavily-ornamented New York tenement, this immigrant-built and designed building shows the use of belt courses, pilasters and window support elaboration. The ornate stamped-metal cornice bears the name “Lincoln”, a reference to the president and a typical invocation of power through the use of ornament.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the facade work, the date of its manufacture, and a hundred other little details obvious to those of us who have learned how to “read” the City, the Lincoln building and its neighbors are “Old Law” tenements. As to the demographics of these parts, this neighborhood was predominantly Catholic (German and Irish, mainly) and a little bit Jewish (according to Jakob Riis – “Jewtown,” or the “Ghetto,” or as my grandmother called it – “The Shtetl”) was mainly on the east side of Delancey Street back in 1889 when these tenement buildings went up. The Chinese began to arrive in NYC in great numbers during the 1870’s, but their original “zone” of occupation was closer to Doyers Street, near Chatham Square, on the west side of the Bowery. When the Germans and Irish began to evacuate this area east of Bowery, the Chinese moved in.

from wikipedia

Old Law Tenements are tenements built in New York City after the Tenement House Act of 1879 and before the New York State Tenement House Act (“New Law”) of 1901. The 1879 law required that every inhabitable room have a window opening to plain air, a requirement that was met by including air shafts between adjacent buildings. Old Law Tenements are commonly called “dumbbell tenements” after the shape of the building footprint: the air shaft gives each tenement the narrow-waisted shape of a dumbbell, wide facing the street and backyard, narrowed in between to create the air corridor. They were built in great numbers to accommodate waves of immigrating Europeans. The early 21st century side streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side are still lined with numerous dumbbell structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My intended destination still awaited me, but I was having a pretty nice time wandering around Chinatown. Hungry, there was a particular meal, available in these parts, which I sought out.

Now, this is one of those stories… When my Dad used to force me to work with him on one of his Saturday jobs – he was a house painter who would pick up extra cash on the weekends – it would often be in Manhattan. We’d stop off at a Chinese bakery on the west side of Chinatown at the corner of Walker and Mulberry to get a box of “pork buns” and a couple of those ultra strong and ultra hot cups of black coffee commonly offered by such establishments. Whenever I eat this particular meal, I always think of the old man.

The “pork buns” are called “Bao” and whereas Chinese bakeries do indeed produce sweet cakes like the more familiar western ones do, they also manufacture incredibly flavorful and savory fare as well. There’s all sorts of variants on these, some are steamed, some filled with custard or dried pork, but a personal preference for the baked ones with the savory roast pork inside is offered. I procured a couple of the baked Roast Pork “Bao” and a cup of that super hot coffee, and then proceeded to sit down on a tenement stoop for a quick dinner before heading off to my eventual destination – which will be described in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

must each dwarf

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“They rob, kill and plunder all under the deceiving name of Roman Rule. They make a desert and call it peace” – Tacitus

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving through lower Manhattan, the long time New Yorker cannot help but notice the changes to the area beneath the FDR drive. One remembers a day when this area was used for parking, and also served as a camp for homeless folks. My mental picture of this spot – a dank, dark, dripping waterfront mess infested with dangerous, and often addled or demented, primates – was forged in the 1980’s, so admittedly – it’s thirty years out of date. I also remember a day when Carvel Ice Cream shops were ubiquitous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’ve got down here in modernity is a very well used “sort of” park or public space. There’s “model chicks” jogging around in yoga pants, “stock broker” guys leading tiny dogs around on leads, and lots of people lounging about. Pier 11 has become a sort of commuter hub these days, and there are hot dog carts and other vendors set up under the highway who charge $4 or more for a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea. CitiBike has one of its bike share racks in the area, and South Street has accordingly had bike lanes deducted from it. Al Smith would hardly recognize the street he grew up on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In contrast, there’s Queens. This is the 7 elevated subway pictured above, as it leaves Court Square toward Hunters Point in LIC. Now, this is the same block which 5ptz once occupied, and one wonders if – when the luxury condos which will replace the art institution open – some future version of myself will say that they remember an earlier iteration of reality. Of course, many have told me that I watch too many movies, but I’d really love to be able to see the future as well as the past.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, October 25th, Glittering Realms
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

dusk comes

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The Union guys hate it when I start shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies offered to all the hapless workers I’ve photographed over the years, but damn it all, they do cool things. To wit, I spotted this crew over at South Street Seaport attacking the street with esoteric machinery the other day and one could just not resist the temptation. I mean… a giant saw? Yes, please.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The saw operator noticed me, but didn’t really give a crap about being photographed as he went around his business. His colleagues on the other hand, were staring me down as if I was pointing a rifle at him. I guess that they’re hassled by cameras as they move about the city. Fair enough, who likes having a stranger show up at your job and start waving a camera about?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound that this machinery created was tooth shatteringly loud, a screaming and high pitched tone which sounded somewhat demonic. In the war of spinning steel versus masonry, the Belgian blocks which composed the so called “cobble stone” pavement were no match for the spinning blades.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

luminous aether

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maritime Sunday is suspended this week in honor of St. Patrick’s day. Last week, I had an opportunity to wave my camera around at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan, and was allowed to photograph the Irish Language Mass they were conducting. Here’s what I saw…

from oldcathedral.org

Designed by architect Joseph Francois Mangin, St. Patrick’s has great dignity and character in its restrained simplicity. Her sidewalls rise to a height of 75 feet, and the inner vault is 85 feet high. The church is over 120 feet long and 80 feet wide. Near the west wall stands the huge marble altar surrounded by an ornately carved, gold leaf reredos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, these shots are a combination of tripod and handheld. It’s not that bright in the cathedral, but it is lit like a movie set by the interaction of sunlight and stained glass which is augmented by well placed electrical fixtures. Sculptural elements and motifs are plentiful, and it is easy to get lost in photographing small details.

from wikipedia

In 1836, the cathedral was the subject of an attempted sack after tensions between Irish Catholics and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing nativists led to a number of riots and other physical confrontations. The situation worsened when a brain-injured young woman wrote a book telling her “true” story – a Protestant girl who converted to Catholicism, and was then forced by nuns to have sex with priests, with the resulting children being baptized then killed horribly. Despite the book being debunked by a mildly anti-Catholic magazine editor, nativist anger at the story resulted in a decision to attack the cathedral. Loopholes were cut in the church’s outer walls, which had just recently been built, and the building was defended from the rioters with muskets

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one enjoyed the pursuit of photographing ritual spaces of all kinds around the City of New York, but fascination with the era surrounding this cathedral lent a certain nervous excitement to my task. This was the “House of Dagger John“, after all, and its connections with Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek have given it a special status in my eyes.

from wikipedia

John Joseph Hughes (June 24, 1797 – January 3, 1864), was an Irish-born clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the fourth Bishop and first Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, serving between 1842 and his death in 1864.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plan for the service (and one must remember that a humble narrator was raised in the Hebrew faith as I stumble through this part- I’m not being vague, sarcastic, or anti anything- rather I’m Jewish and have no real idea what the meshuggenah goyem do) was for the Mass to be vocalized in the Irish Language. There was an Organist and a Cantor performing music, and the adherents stood up and sat back down a couple of times while the Priests said things (in Irish).

from wikipedia

Irish was the predominant language of the Irish people for most of their recorded history, and they brought their Gaelic speech with them to other countries, notably Scotland and the Isle of Man, where it gave rise to Scottish Gaelic and Manx. It has the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe. In the Elizabethan era the Gaelic language was viewed as something barbarian and as a threat to all things English in Ireland. Consequently, it began to decline under English and British rule after the seventeenth century. The nineteenth century saw a dramatic decrease in the number of speakers especially after the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (where Ireland lost 20–25% of its population either to emigration or death). Irish-speaking areas were especially hit hard. By the end of British rule, the language was spoken by less than 15% of the national population. Since then, Irish speakers have been in the minority except in areas collectively known as the Gaeltacht.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I met the fellow on the left earlier in the day, one Msgr. Donald Sakano, who was a very nice fellow. He and the other Priests performed several actions while saying things which I’m sure would be familiar to adherents of the Roman Catholic Church, or at least Irish speakers, but not to this Jewish kid from Brooklyn.

The gaps in my knowledge just astound sometimes, actually, how can I not know every single detail of this altar ceremony?

from urbanomnibus.net

Monsignor Donald Sakano is one of those urbanists who certainly possesses a singular perspective, forged from his work at the intersection of ministry, social work and affordable housing development and policy.

For the past four years, as Pastor of the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, he has presided over the restoration and transformation of Old Saint Patrick’s buildings — which include The Old Cathedral, the school, the Parish House, St. Michael’s Chapel, the Youth Center and the iconic wall — into a series of community facilities available for outreach, assembly and cultural events, such as our benefit event, which will begin at the St. Patrick’s Youth Center at 268 Mulberry Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s funny, as I can bore you to death about Arius, Origen, or Loyola. Want to talk about the Renaissance, Reformation, or Second Great Awakening- I’m all in. Recognizing the common tools and long practiced performance of catholic mass?

No.

I can describe the effects of nearly all the known forms of kryptonite, however.

from wikipedia

The Roman Missal contains the prayers, antiphons and rubrics of the Mass. Earlier editions also contained the Scripture readings, which were then fewer in number. The latest edition of the Roman Missal gives the normal (“ordinary”) form of Mass in the Roman Rite. But, in accordance with the conditions laid down in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007, the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, the latest of the editions that give what is known as the Tridentine Mass, may be used as an extraordinary form of celebrating the Roman Rite Mass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ceremony continued, and I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be that terrible to get lost in some of that architectural detail for a frame or two, and opened up the shutter for a long exposure. The big difficulty encountered, of course, were the dichotomous ambient conditions whose luminous contrast stretched into narrow bands of shadow and light.

from wikipedia

The Eucharistic Prayer, “the centre and high point of the entire celebration”, then begins with a dialogue between priest and people. This dialogue opens with the normal liturgical greeting, “The Lord be with you”, but in view of the special solemnity of the rite now beginning, the priest then exhorts the people: “Lift up your hearts.” The people respond with: “We lift them up to the Lord.” The priest then introduces the great theme of the Eucharist, a word originating in the Greek word for giving thanks: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God,” he says. The congregation joins in this sentiment, saying: “It is right and just.”

The priest then continues with one of many Eucharistic Prayer prefaces, which lead to the Sanctus acclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Following the moment depicted above, the three priests dispersed to the heads of the aisles, whereupon celebrants of the faith formed lines whose reward seemed to be a small cookie or cracker. One presumes that this is “the host” which figures so prominently in the Catholic Mass.

How am I supposed to know, I’m Jewish- by me it’s a cookie.

Happy St. Patrick’s day- and thanks to Jim Garrity and Msgr. Sakano for allowing so poor a specimen as myself to spend the day with them.

from wikipedia

The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick. chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. This hagiographic theme draws on the mythography of the staff of the prophet Moses. In Exodus 7:8–7:13, Moses and Aaron use their staffs in their struggle with Pharaoh’s sorcerers, the staffs of each side morphing into snakes. Aaron’s snake-staff prevails by consuming the other snakes.

particular lepidodendron

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent obligations called for me to enter the sense shattering psychic cauldron which is the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, obligations which I was actually quite happy to perform- mind you- but… most of the City is too young to have any ghosts in it. This isn’t the case down on William, once Rose, street. This lane has been known to those of European descent since before the great fire of London.

Buried beneath the despicable and bland veneers of modern day oligarchy lurks an occluded world.

from wikipedia

William Street is a city street in the Financial District of lower Manhattan in New York City in the United States of America. It is one of the oldest streets in Manhattan and can be seen in the 1660 Castello Plan of New Amsterdam. It runs generally southwest to northeast, crossing Wall Street and terminating at Broad Street and Spruce Street, respectively.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was in the neighborhood for the plainest of reasons, to practice my craft and photograph a party thrown by colleagues and friends and to capture the ceremonial awarding of a plaque to an honoree. In accordance with my custom, an early arrival was sought, but the MTA had other plans. It was lightly raining, and as always the darkness of Lower Manhattan was a palpable and lurking presence. Physical darkness, that is, not spiritual.

There is plenty of the latter in Manhattan, for my part at least, but it was literally a “dark and stormy night.”

from wikipedia

Broadway is a street in the U.S. state of New York. Perhaps best known for the portion that runs through the borough of Manhattan in New York City, it actually runs 15 mi (24 km) through Manhattan and The Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 18 mi (29 km) through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County. It is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in New York City, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement. The name Broadway is the English literal translation of the Dutch name, Breede weg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst on William Street, the location of a Delmonico’s restaurant was crossed. Having just a moment or two before I was needed at the event, some fiddling around with the camera settings allowed me to capture the above shot. Normally, this is the sort of thing which you’d clearly use a tripod for, but this shot was handheld.

Always plagued by a timorous constitution and tremulous hands, one has been studying the training techniques espoused by the Great Houdini himself over the winter months, in an attempt to develop a steadier grip on both camera and reality.

from wikipedia

In 1929, Oscar Tucci opened a “Delmonico’s” popularly called “Oscar’s Delmonico’s” at the former Delmonico’s location at 2 South William Street (sometimes listed as 56 Beaver Street) in New York. The Tucci incarnation adopted the original menus and recipes, and became distinguished in its own right, continuing to attract prominent politicians and celebrities. It was open continuously until it closed in 1977.

In 1981, a new Delmonico’s was opened at the location by Ed Huber, which operated until 1992.

The building was vacant until 1998, when the Bice Group acquired the property and again opened a Delmonico’s, with Gian Pietro Branchi as executive chef. In 1999, the restaurant was sold to the Ocinomled partnership, which continues to operate Delmonico’s at the South William Street location. The current website lists the address as 56 Beaver Street.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 5, 2013 at 12:15 am

Project Firebox 32

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

This poor bastard has been standing out in the weather across the street from the Brooklyn Bridge for a long, long time with no relief. It’s not the outrageous fortune of having been stationed in the land that time forgot, a relict section of centuries old buildings long since relegated to “gentrification”, it’s the ignominy of being adorned with fey missives and ironic graffiti tags by the so called gentry that inhabits the neighborhood which just burns. Protected from nearby construction, it nevertheless fears the worst and is ready to summon the city guard should trouble strike.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

unnumbered crimes

with 5 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

note: despite the title, this a “just the facts” brand posting

Cortlandt Alley is a vestigial connection between Franklin and Canal Streets in Manhattan, crossing White and Walker on its path. If it looks familiar, it should, as many commercial photographers utilize the location for its noir aesthetics and patois of urban decay. One may often observe a shoot going on here, a sharp contrast to the sort of lurid business which one might have seen on this street a mere twenty years ago (which discouraged the presence of cameras).

Today, my focus turns to an enigmatic structure on the corner of Walker Street and Cortlandt Alley.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the best sources I could find, Walker Street was scratched onto the maps of New York sometime in 1810. Pavement came along in 1819, and by the 1870’s a street railway connected the area (via West Broadway) to the far distant East River. This was considered a near suburb in those hoary days of the early middle 19th century, and this was fairly close to if not the actual border of the Bloody Sixth Ward (I’ve seen conflicting accounts describing the borders of the 6th ward).

All accounts agree that this area, known as “Tribeca Historic District” in modernity, served the city as a mercantile center which took advantage of the ample docks on the nearby North (Hudson) River for the importation of foreign goods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The intriguing (and officially Landmarked) Latimer Building was raised sometime between 1860 and 1862 for developers Barret Ames and E.D. Hunter. Municipal sources indicate that it stands on land once occupied by a part of the legendary Florence’s Hotel, whose main address was on the confluence of the North side of Walker with Broadway. Supposition is also offered by these selfsame governmental entities that the “Latimer” indicated by the cornice art would have been a fellow named Edward Latimer, a SOHO merchant- although I haven’t been able to confirm this independently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The modern occupants of the building follow a historical pattern of tenancy by garment manufacturers, book publishers, and building trade jobbers. A “jobber” is a company or individual who imports and resells manufactured goods, and offers installation and delivery services for the materials they handle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occupying 72-76 Walker Street, the Latimer is a relict and vestige of New York’s industrial past. Single floor factory operations and garment assembly shops- sweat shops as they were and are known- once provided occupation and employment for large numbers of immigrant poor. In my own family, certain individuals who enjoyed an exalted peer status and exhibited financial success were “pattern cutters” and “dock foremen” and employed nearby, while others (like my own grandmother) were “sewers”. One of my Aunts actually worked at Triangle Shirtwaist.

Back then, this was an overwhelmingly jewish industry. Modern day economics seems to favor the presence of Asian and Latino work forces, as the earlier ethnic laborers have moved on to explore other synergies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Cortlandt Alley side of the Latimer exhibits the “fireproof window doors” once common in the days before sprinkler fire suppression systems became mandatory in such structures. Additionally, iron rails and reinforced concrete still extant point out that there was once a loading dock on the Alley side which has disappeared sometime in the intervening decades since the completion of the building in 1860. The fire escapes are a later addition, of course, which were mandated by the precursor of the FDNY sometime in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grand appearance of the building is somewhat muted at street level, and it blends into the dark melange of relict buildings and ancient tenements which typify the parts of Manhattan just North and West of “Chinatown”. The age of Walker Street is betrayed by not just by its narrow bed, but by belgian blocks bursting through modern asphalt and the occasional stone curbs which still line it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The charming ambience of the “old days” has rendered many of these former industrial spaces into mixed use buildings- and  many of them are now the exclusive and dearly held apartments of millionaire dilettantes. According to one Forbes magazine report in 2006, this was the most expensive section of New York City in which one might seek domestic housing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

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