…is HUGE. And diverse. We took the ferry over and walked around the ruins near the terminal. Then a short bus ride to an old theater that is currently under restoration. The St. George is beautiful and crusty, with a vaguely nautical theme as evidenced by the gold maidens jutting from the high walls near the balcony. Next, we took a bus up into a typical neighborhood of the outer boroughs with bungalow style houses all in a row decorated with bathtub Jesus and Marys and shell embellishments. At the end of Hylan Boulevard stands the Alice Austen House. She was a photographer of the late 19th century and of recent renown. She was a bicycle-riding, always socializing photographer who lived with a woman and didn’t care who knew it – a rarity in the barely post Victorian era. The house is lovely and situated for maximum viewage of the Verrazano Bridge (which, of course didn’t exist in the house’s heyday) and lower Manhattan. Alice photographed mostly family and friends, occasionally venturing into Manhattan for some street photography. She developed her 8 x 10 negatives in a closet-sized room upstairs and had to trudge downstairs and out into the garden to wash her negatives. The house contains several binders of her contact prints, passable, but in need of TLC.
We boarded the bus and headed back to the ferry terminal. I would like to return by car to drive to South Beach and check out the boardwalk, to explore the ship graveyard at Arthur Kill, and Castleton – the last stop on the underground railroad after New Jersey. More photos will follow in a week or so.
Coney Island speaks for herself. I was surprised to experience difficulty capturing the spirit of this area – I thought it would be a piece of cake. The color, the people, the sheer beauty of individualism on the boardwalk. But the color was too bright shiny new, and didn’t resemble the Coney Island of my memories. The boardwalk was a little empty – though it was a beautiful spring day – and as for the wild, eclectic crowd? Come back on the weekend.
Some of the icons of the famous boardwalk still exist, albeit despite the overhauling of the neighborhood in recent years by certain “developers”. Watch the following documentary on how Coney Island has been dismantled and cobbled back together again, leaving residents and long-time workers out in the cold:
I walked the boardwalk, ventured a few blocks inland to the concessions, walked the pier, still I didn’t feel I could really capture or even put my finger on the essence of this place. Like many of the neighborhoods I’ve been shooting Coney Island is in transition. But something has stalled. It’s trying to hang on to its heritage after being gutted from the inside out. What remains leaves room for regrowth, but how? Astroland cannot be regenerated. Displaced residents can’t come back. But there is a strong undercurrent of Coney Island’s unique identity, perhaps just lying low a bit until the development wave washes over it.
LIC sits against the 59th Street Bridge, Newtown Creek and the rail lines. The little triangle consists of upscale residences, old tenement buildings, Silvercup Studios, myriad taxi garages and a vibrant warehouse area feeding a variety of business concerns. You can see Roosevelt Island and the FDR Memorial from its waterfront.
This area is in such a state of transition that it’s very difficult to define. I guess the theme is “change”. Recently a neighborhood of immigrants, LIC still hugs Astoria – a neighborhood so diverse that my school’s religion class takes an annual field trip there to be able to visit a Hindu temple, a mosque, a Greek Orthadox church, a Buddhist temple and a Jewish temple all in the course of a few hours, with time to spare for lunch at a Chinese buffet. But in its very recent history LIC has become the next stop for the Millenial spread from Brooklyn. And the addition of several towering condo buildings and the development of the waterfront signal the financial success of those just a few years advanced in the quest for the great American dream. The death of 5Pointz was a blow to the community and signaled a changing demographic. So while there still exists some of the character of a more typical middle class neighborhood in the boroughs, that seems to be diminishing quickly as prosperity spreads.
Let’s check back in in about ten years and see who can recognize the neighborhood.