I heart DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY

Lazy Sunday morning; in bed, watching music videos on my Archos G9 tablet (not an Ipad). One of the most oft-repeated songs on my playlist is the Café Del Mar N O W Remix of Letting the Cables Sleep by BUSH, though today I happened upon the music video for the original version of the song and found myself rewinding & relistening… Was the band’s lead singer, Gavin Rossdale, walking down one of the railroad-tracked cobblestoned streets of DUMBO? Was that the Manhattan Bridge, at the end of one of the neighbourhood’s streets, about 15 seconds into the clip? I couldn’t confirm it while trying to research the video’s filming location on the Net (I did learn that Joel Schumacher directed the video) but it didn’t matter. It was enough to inspire me (and my husband, after some coaxing) to drive to DUMBO for an early afternoon coffee… and to take some photos of the ‘hood… again.

Manhattan Bridge in the background

Railroads and cobblestones

We’ve had coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company a number of times, and I’ve taken photos of DUMBO many a time too; I just never tire of doing either. Give me any excuse, and I am there ~ I can wholeheartedly say that I love visiting DUMBO. If it suited my budget, we would have moved here after relocating from the West Coast. And yet, judging by the recent real estate valuations, this just isn’t going to happen anytime soon either. This is the third most expensive neighbourhood in New York; a place where it’s pricier to look at Manhattan than to live in Manhattan.

<Property Shark runs updates on NYC’s most expensive neighborhoods and in Q3 2012 Dumbo came in 3rd place with a median sale price of $1,460,000.>

Brooklyn Roasting Company on Jay Street

Doughnut Plant donut and almond latte at Brooklyn Roasting Company

Mopeds are the new bicycle...

DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Every time I come here, I think of the scene in Bladerunner, when Harrison Ford’s character is having noodles in Chinatown. Now, many people may think otherwise – my husband-the-movie-aficionado included – but for me, the streets here conjure up the same feelings as those when I watch that part of the movie: mystery, darkness, cutting edge. Alot of DUMBO’s life happens under the Manhattan Bridge – it casts a shadow over the neighbourhood’s streets; the sound of the subway that rambles along it can be heard periodically overhead.

Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Life under the Bridge

In the late 1800’s, it was primarily a manufacturing district, housing warehouses and factories including Arbuckle Brothers (coffee and sugar), J.W. Masury & Son (paint), Robert Gair (paper boxes), E.W. Bliss (machinery) and Brillo (soap pads). With deindustrialization, it began becoming primarily residential, when artists and other young homesteaders seeking relatively large and inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes began moving there in the late 1970s.The acronym Dumbo arose in 1978, when new residents coined it in the belief such an unattractive name would help deter developers.*

The developers do not seem deterred at all.

Residences, businesses and a Con Edison power plant exist, side by side

New loft developments ~ living in a magazine?

Water tower as real estate advertising

The vista from the westernmost part of DUMBO, along the East River, is of downtown Manhattan; the neighbourhood is flanked by the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, yet not overrun with yuppies and fleeing Manhattanites, who still seem to be headed in the direction of Williamsburg – a place I also love (it’s where I Iive) though one that is busting with people, especially around Sunday brunch.

Brooklyn Bridge in background, Manhattan - in foreground.

JANE’S CAROUSEL:

Located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges at Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, the carousel is a ‘new’ piece of history in the industrial neighbourhood (cannot be seen in image above) ~ it was opened in September 2011 and costs $2 per ride.

The carousel was built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, based in Hatfield Pennsylvania. It was used in Idora Park, a private amusement park in Youngston, Ohio, until the early 1980s. In 1984, Walentas, a New Jersey native, traveled to Ohio to save the carousel from being taken apart and sold off in pieces.

She and her husband purchased it for $385,000.

Todd Goings, who specializes in carousel restorations, put the carousel back together for its opening. It is a three-row machine with 48 horses and two chariots.

Two Trees Management Company, LLC, a company her husband David Walentas founded, constructed the building in which the carousel is now housed on Water and Old Dock streets in DUMBO. The construction of the building cost $8 million.

The Walentases commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel, to design the building, which is essentially an encasement that allows the carousel to operate year-round. The 72×72-foot acrylic building provides framed views of the nearby bridges as well as the Manhattan skyline.**

Jane's Carousel - looking at the Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge through the panes enclosing Jane's Carousel

DUMBO also has a thriving arts community ~ street art is intermittent yet frequently visible; a few galleries can be found here; and, St Ann’s Warehouse, a respected theatre, is located on Water Street.

Since 1980, [St. Ann’s Warehouse] has been putting on cutting-edge music, dance and puppetry productions…[Their] signature programming is just as enticing as ever… (Time Out)

Mural on Water Street

More street art on Water Street

On December 18, 2007, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the Dumbo section of Brooklyn as the city’s 90th historic district.*

Brooklyn Bridge, seen through a window of The Tobacco Warehouse.

THE TOBACCO WAREHOUSE:

It’s hard to miss this now-roofless, 25,000 square foot warehouse, which is situated directly under the Brooklyn Bridge Overpass in close proximity to Jane’s Carousel. It was constructed in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, saved from demolition in 1998 and, repaired and stabilized by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 2002.

Intersected: Brooklyn Bridge and The Tobacco Warehouse

The streets may seem deserted in parts, and many of the buildings devoid of any activity, yet the cafes, bookstores, retailers (yes, Bang&Olufsen and West Elm have set up shop here) and the parks are full of life. Maybe that’s what I like so much about it – you can be alone, yet the neighbourhood isn’t a lonely one. And now that it has been decided to repurpose the Con Edison power plant along the East River, Gavin Rossdale will be right on the money with Letting the Cables Sleep.

Arched beauty

Streetscapes reflected

How to get to DUMBO: Walk – accessible via Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge; car – via BQE; ferry – East River ferry; subway – A and C trains; bus – B25, B67, B69.

*Wikipedia **Brooklyn Downtown Star – Jane’s Carousel

Gated Abandonment on Bowery ~ downtown NYC

A Lower East Side building has haunted me for a while. From under layers of graffiti, a Gilded Age stone design hints at a former glory; its elaborate iron fixtures are rusty and unkempt. Located on the corner of Spring Street, this building, Number 190 Bowery, is surrounded by restaurant supply shops, the New Museum, cafes, and restaurants.

Doorway

Lonely intercom

Let me put it this way: In a city as densely populated as New York City, where space is prized, this is prime real estate. So how can such a gorgeous building stand seemingly empty?

I’m not the only one wondering. When I visited earlier this month to take photos of its street art, the homeless guys sitting nearby were asking me this question. I hadn’t a clue how to respond… and so, after a bit of research, I discovered the story behind it all.

<It would have helped had I paid attention to one (now obvious) sign…>

This Bowery building was constructed in 1898. It used to be the Germania Bank to a neighbourhood made up of the German working class.

By 1966, the bank was abandoned and put up for sale. Along came artist and photographer Jay Maisel. In the market for a studio space, he was shown this building by broker, Jack Klein. In those days, Maisel was paying $125 a month for a 2,500-square-foot studio at 122 Second Avenue, though an unexpected $50 rent hike had thrown him off kilter.

Klein convinced Maisel he could raise the money to buy the abandoned bank. That was the easy part. Then he moved in. The main floor was knee-deep in garbage and coated in soot. “I had to shovel shit against the tide,” says Maisel. He wasn’t getting a lot of support either; the Bowery was where people ended up, not where they aspired to live. “My parents cried,” he says. “Every single thing that can come out of a human body has been left on my doorstep. But it was more disgusting than dangerous. (NY Magazine.)

Maisel’s name is right on the door…

An unused entrance

Today, Maisel, along with his wife and daughter, still live in this six-story space by themselves. Maisel claims the building contains 72 rooms over 35,000 square feet. These values are yet to be confirmed as Maisel allows neither agent walk-throughs nor real estate valuations. Some food for thought: in 1966, Maisel purchased the former bank for $102,000. In 2008, its value was estimated between $30 to $70 million. Maisel has no plans to sell.

I haven’t been inside, but have read that a few levels are dedicated to Maisel’s photo and art galleries, and workshops. One can even take a week long photography workshop with the artist inside his home for $5,000 (includes full board). This would anyone one step ahead of those brokers, who are clamouring for a floor plan.

The fourth floor, which Maisel once rented out to Roy Lichtenstein, is a work-in-progress. But there have been no major changes to the interior. It’s essentially unchanged from the Germania Bank that architect Robert Maynicke designed for the then-bourgeois neighborhood (it cost $200,000 to build). The original safe-deposit vault, still in the basement, is the size of a generous studio apartment; the marks on the main floor where the teller booths once stood are still clearly visible. (NY Mag)

Air conditioning is expensive, so Maisel makes his own shades to keep out the sun

The ground level of this building is available for rent. Interested? Go to: http://190thebowery.com/

Now, about those graffiti-covered walls… I’ve seen a slew of mosaics, paste ups, stickers, graffiti ,and stencils.

“We’re responsible for the sidewalks in front of our building… The city wants the exterior graffiti-free, but it’s impossible: 190 Bowery is a mecca for street artists”… Maisel tried scrubbing the building every week, but “it was like I was providing a fresh canvas for them.” Keith Haring used to cover the exterior in chalk babies, says Maisel, and that he liked, both for the spirit of the images and because they washed off so easily.

Alas – mystery solved! Neither haunted nor abandoned, for now all we can do is admire the building from the outside and wonder what will become of it, and its tenants, in the future.

Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line

Manhattan works 24/7, without a break. It’s where things happen; it’s the world’s muse. Its avenues are well-trodden, meaning the roads are in continual need of repair. It is where the hot dog and pretzel stands are as ubiquitous as the yellow cabs. But, sometimes all of this hubbub gets too much to deal, and that’s when I head to Manhattan’s High Line.

The High Line

The Standard Hotel

Elevated city view

I first read about the High Line in a travel magazine a few years ago and remember thinking how great it was make something new from something old. Here, 30-foot high abandoned railway tracks have been converted into usable public green space, which is named the High Line. The railway tracks faced demolition in 1999, and this gave rise to a community group  – Friends of the High Line – who came to the rescue with the High Line proposition. The project was approved by the City of New York.

The Standard Hotel

Autumnal colours against the Hudson

Birch trees and grass

The park opened in two phases. The first phase (2009) spanned the area between the Meatpacking District, by Gansevoort Street, and up to 20th Street. Phase two opened this year, in 2011, and extends the walkway to 30th Street. The final phase, between 30th and 34th streets, called High Line at the West Side Rail Yards, is being construction.

Iin October 2011, the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, founded by the fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, and her husband, Barry Diller, made a $20 million commitment to the High Line. This is the largest single private contribution to a public park in New York City’s history and will be put towards this final stretch of the project.

Factories and warehouses hug the High Line

Undercover windows

Fragments of the past

Just when you thought New York was packed to the rafters, up goes the Standard Hotel and a new few condominiums by the High Line. With Hudson River views to one side, and city views from elsewhere, it’s a great spot to buy some real estate, which also comes with a 1.45-mile garden.

Frank Gehry’s IAC building (left); condos (right)

Condos…..

… and more condos.

In addition to making the walk from uptown to downtown more pleasurable, the High Line hosts interactive public art installations, performances, open air film screenings and exhibits.

Art

The success of the High Line has been two-fold: it has not only drawn two million visitors annually, but it has also inspired another green space project dubbed the “Low Line.” The Low Line hopes to restore a former trolley terminal under Delancey Street (Lower East Side), into an underground park. Read more here: NYTimes.com

The High Line has rehabilitated and preserved an essential part of New York’s history. Influenced by its Parisian predecessor, the Promenade Plantée – an elevated park built around a similar rail viaduct and inaugurated in 1993 – Manhattan’s High Line has furthered interest for industrial restoration closer to home. Similar projects are in early stages in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Chicago.

A linear view

Hudson River views

A great blog about Promenade Plantée can be found here:

Paris’ Promenade Plantée: The original High Line park | On the Luce.