Archive for January 2008

Avenue B and Avenue C in Alphabet City

January 26, 2008

Avenue B has the nickname “Charlie Parker Place”. The jazz great lived very near Tompkins Square Park back in the days that living near there didn’t have any cache at all. The street itself is quite pleasant nowadays.

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I was going on 7th Street and subsequently ran into Avenue C and found it…perfectly normal.

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In honesty, I expected it to look perfectly normal.  This isn’t the 80s and NYC is really nice.  I couldn’t help thinking about what I had been told:  if you get to Ave C, you’re crazy.  Nothing crazy about this…except for me sightseeing in the cold of the day.

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If you look closely, you’ll see a NYC rarity:  a two-way north-south street.  There are a few, but most are two-way for only a distance.  I didn’t get below 7th Street at this point, but I think it held true for all of Alphabet City.

-H

Graffiti Church in Alphabet City

January 25, 2008

During my Alphabet City tour I saw a bit of graffiti, but nothing as big as Graffiti Church.  It’s located on 7th Street between Avenue B and Avenue C.

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It’s actually a Baptist Church and the website looks interesting.  At some point, I’ll probably attend services, but I think I’ll let it warm up a bit first.

The building isn’t all that big, but it is relatively nice.

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No graffiti on the church itself, but there is a little bit on the building to the right.

-H

Sam and Sadie Koenig Garden

January 24, 2008

In my recent wanderings of Alphabet City (part of the Lower East Side and also called the East Village), I ran into a number of vacant lots that had been converted into community gardens.  One identical link between them:  all seemed about the width of a former building that had been removed.  Maybe by being too derelict, or maybe they were destroyed in the bad old days and just needed to have the rubble removed.  Another link:  the imaginative use of the space by those that turned such an open area into something rather nice.

On 7th Street between Avenue C and Avenue D is one of those places:  the Sam and Sadie Koenig Garden.  I don’t know anything about Sam and Sadie, but they’ve got a nice community garden.

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Maybe this is a representation of Sadie?  Probably not, but maybe in a poetical/artistic sense.

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A sign on the fence says it is open Saturday and Sundays from 11am to 4pm or “whenever the gate is open.”  Ya gotta love that.  Being winter, it’s a bit sparse, but I don’t really think it’s a huge source of greenery at any time of year.  (Look at the shadows.)  And the next picture shows how very thin the place is.

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Yeah, it’s about as wide as the truck is long.  But in NYC, you take your green spaces where you can find them.  And I really like the statuary and the little winding path.

-H

Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 3

January 23, 2008

If you’re in the Lower East Side (“LES”), remember you’re in an odd and funky land.

There’s a “holy tree” in Tompkins Square Park.  Got one in your local park?

I kid you not.  Notice the garland. 

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Here’s a closeup of the garland in case it doesn’t show well.

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There are also flowers on the ground as you’ll note.

At least it’s an elm.  It’d be a little ridiculous for a non-majestic tree to be holy, wouldn’t it?

The tree is the site where the Hare Krishna religion was first taught in the United States in 1966.  The devotees (and there are still a bunch in NYC) honor the spot.

I thought I’d read that the City had put a plaque there in commemoration, but none was in sight.  I guess the devotees show up regularly to replenish the flowers and (maybe) get rid of the old.

But, to be honest, that’s not the strangest part of the park.  To me, it ain’t even close.

Remember 9/11?  The biggest disaster in NYC history.  It took place in 2001.  Any idea of the 2nd biggest disaster?  It was the burning of the General Slocum that happened in 1904.  The Slocum was a paddleboat that was carrying 1,300 passengers from the “Little Germany” section of NYC; now known as the Lower East Side.  Most of the passengers were women and children escaping the poverty and filth of the LES on a Church-sponsored daytrip on the boat to a picnic area.  It was going up the East River and burned around 90th Street.  Over 1,000 of the 1,300 died because of virtually zero safety features.  How 1,000 could die just off 90th Street is a testament to how bad the safety features were.  (Wikipedia says that the life preservers actually had iron weights in them to meet the “weight requirements” of life preservers.)

There was almost no punishment for those responsible for the disaster and, I’m told, the inhabitants of Little Germany were so distraught and angered by the follow-up (and cover-up) that the entire community essentially was scattered to the wind as people left NYC.

Well, there’s one (count it) memorial to those victims.  Here it is:

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And here’s the amazing thing:  there’s no text on the memorial; it’s unmarked.  Not only that, but it is in a kid’s area and can’t be reached by anyone without children (no “unaccompanied adults” are allowed in the area).

Remember it when you hear stories about a monument to 9/11.

-H

Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 2

January 22, 2008

One part of Tompkins Square Park that the locals are very proud of is the dog run.  From what I understand, Dog Fancy magazine has rated it very high on their list of dog runs.  If the concept is a little alien:  NYC has very strict leash laws and virtually no open areas where you can let your dog be free.  In answer to that, many parks have set aside enclosed areas where dogs can run wild and free.  Well, at least to the extent that the owners are there with them.  You can’t just drop off the dog and wander away.

Actually, the rules are pretty extensive:  no dogs without people (and vice versa), no dog toys, neutered dogs only (puppies can be intact), you’ve gotta clean up after ’em, no barking/digging, no aggression, no dogs in heat, must be properly licensed, collars must be unspiked, and under 23 pounds.

I’ve see runs with few dogs and with lots of dogs.  I’ve seen big ‘uns (way over 23 pounds) and tiny ones.  I’ve seen all sorts of owners with them.  But the one thing I’ve never seen in a dog run is grass.  And it sure isn’t here either.

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As dog runs go, this one is larger than the others that I’ve seen, but I imagine the real attraction is other dog owners.

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The types of owners that would be in Tompkins Square Park are probably about as strange and as interesting as any you might find in the City.

That’s an allusion to the allure of the LES for funky and weird people in general.  Not that they would necessarily be in Alphabet City, but St. Mark’s Place is right next to the park and that place is a real throwback and I’ll be posting on it soon.

-H