Month: May 2014

Fire Boat Haus of Manhattan Bend

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(The Fire Boat Haus of Manhattan Bend, New York, New York. May 29, 2014. Image by Greg Gordon Canaras)

The Fire Boat Haus of Manhattan Bend in the East River Park occupies a space in our Urban memory which harkens back to the beginnings of the Park and its connection to its maritime days, when the Lower East Side was a patrolled dockland. This small relic, a construction dated to 1941 when it was the home to the Lower East Side Fireboat Company, now serves as the home of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, providing community based recycling programs across The City; A function which continues the tradition of this building as a service building for the public good.

Firehouse 1

(View From The Fire Boat Haus Esplanade, May 29, 2014. Image by Greg Gordon Canaras)

Fire Boat Haus stands guardian at The Rivers edge, home to the once bustling maritime trading ports and rowdy sailor seaports of our Urban Past which are no more. Within the fabric of our changing Urban Geography, it is always a pleasure to give nod to the smaller places which connect the dots of our interconnected histories. This structure has stood guardian at the rivers bend for over 70 years, not a huge lifespan compared to some of the older structures of The City, but a noble one in its duty. A small building with a prow pointing upward to the sky; a nautical nod to the passing ships on the tip of Manhattan Bend.

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(Silhouette of Fire Boat Haus against the Williamsburg Bridge. May 29, 2014)

Links of Relatable Note can be found Here:

Map Locator for Fire Boat Haus

East River Park history with references to the Historic Fire Boat Haus

Lower East Side Ecology Center Webpage

Lower East Side Ecology Center’s Facebook Page

History of New York City Fire Department (an Excerpt from The Bowery Boys)

Murder Alley, Chinatown

Murder Alley

(Doyers Street, aka “Murder Alley”, Chinatown, New York)

A curious bend in the street at The Lower East Side’s most infamous spot, Murder Alley, lives on in history and in the imagination. If you are visiting The City, this is a place that is not in the tourist books, but perhaps is one of the most quintessentially New York locations. It sparks the wandering travelers’ interest as it is raw, ungentrified (a rare trait in Manhattan these days) and very much a working street for the neighborhood.

Doyers Street has a storied history. It is one of the few which bends in such a tight radius within a short distance. The moniker “Murder Alley” was bestowed upon the place because, in the early Century, this location was ruled by the Chinatown Gangs and the blood flowed freely. Apparently the bend in the street invited questionable activity due to its secrecy, but these days one can walk in relative safety amongst the jewelry and pawn shops.

Doyers Map

(Doyers Street in the Heart of Chinatown, Lower East Side)

In The Contrasting City, The Gentrifying City, not too far away, Oyster Bars co-mingle with Yoga Studios and Art Galleries (an exemplar is Freeman Alley). These juxtapositions against The Older City create what is inherently the essence of New York. There are less impressive imposters which can be seen amongst the storefronts, also gracing the Lower End of Manhattan. Cigar Shops and Shoe Shops, the basis of neighborhood trade, are now replaced by Subway Shops and sterile windowed banks. A certain spirit which used to drive the character of these neighborhoods is seemingly in flux. It is within this context of continual change that one can only hope that the last bastions of The City’s grittier history, like Murder Alley, are not commodified and relegated to our Urban Past.

Links of Relatable Note can be Found Here:

You Tube link to a (rather comedic) take on the history of Murder Alley, Chinatown

Doyers Street History on Jeremiah’s New York (A very nice writeup)

A Trip Down Doyers from Scouting New York

Freeman Alley and The Urban Wanderer, From Gordon’s Urban Morphology

1930’s New York, A Video Interlude

 

A visual treat of Manhattan streetlife in 1934 (Click the timeline to 1:45 and watch to 5:20) and a glimpse into the City of yesteryear. New York was in the throes of The Depression, but alas was teeming with activity. Notice the details. The decor of the streetlamps, the elevated train, peddlers and pantaloons amongst the throngs of the bustling crowd. This blog tries to address The City of change, The City in flux, but sometimes it’s fun to just watch and remember The Past.

Jenga Box, Rising

Jenga Box

(Jenga Box, 56 Leonard Street, New York, NY. May, 2014. Photo by Greg Gordon Canaras)

The Urban Critic: Urban Morphology evolves at a continual pace and “The Image of The Tower” evolves along with it, lock step with the cultural affectations of its Time. The projection of a unique image is rising in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York. The silhouette of The Jenga Box, jagged and shifting to the observer, stands in stark contrast to the monolithic skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline. It’s uniqueness in profile can be seen as a commentary on the traditional skyscrapers of the Past, as this building calls into question the qualities of proper Proportion and Mass; rules when traditionally executed, resulted in objects of Beauty. As a Nontraditional Tower, in an Unconventional City, The Jenga Box begs the question: Where will this object of Beauty, if the moniker of Beauty is bestowed upon it, gain credibility in its own Formal logic?

Jenga B&W_Blog

(Fragmented Realism, New York, NY. May 2014)

The answer appears to be in Fragmentation. Fragmentation in the form of the Cantilevered Tower has become a trend in The City as architects develop methods of constructing buildings over adjacent parcels of land. These cantilevers become, in essence, an Architectural tool of expression; perhaps in the appearance of The Chaotic City? This suggestion feels a bit empty though.

Fragmentation has its roots in Deconstruction and Deconstructivist theories which pervaded Architecture in the 1980’s. Fragmentation was the basis of these theories, which were further broken down into investigations of Semiotics (meaning making) and language structures. When Deconstructivist theories were applied to the rule book of building making, they sought to break down and dislocate the Form, Appearance and Structure of a building into disparate parts. It was essentially a game of Linguistics applied to Rational Science.

 

 

This new form of “Fragmented Realism” in the image of this tower, appears to be a refinement of these theories from the past. Perhaps this reasoning is justified by the sophistication of todays Cultural Consumer? This building, in essence, is being purchased as a commodity, and Fragmentation, in this case, is a reflection of its inhabitants’ desire for self-expression in the ever-changing and Chaotic City. This rationale is a bit empty, but not as much.

Shifting at the base, the building climbs in a regular manner in its middle, then bursts apart at the top. The animation suggests that this structure is a composite of many parts of the universe uniting; A compilation of disparate fragments crashing together in magical alignment. An object of creation. This building, so it seems, is not like any of the others. It teeters on the edge of the intangible; and begs another question: Is it half full or half empty? One piece pulled out and the whole thing might come tumbling down.

Links of Relatable Note Can Be Found Here:

Map Locator to 56 Leonard St, New York, NY. (Jenga Box)

Link to Deconstruction and the Theories of Deconstructivism