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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I’ve been working on this book, a reflection of this blog. Go to the site, take a look, and feel free to purchase!

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http://www.blurb.com/b/6388844-nyc-outside-the-lines

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Staten Island

…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.

Click on the photos below to see the full image:

Roosevelt Island

I used to come here fairly frequently when we lived on 59th Street in Manhattan near the bridge. It’s changed a great deal in the last 30 years. There’s a beautiful church that used to stand in a field but is now tightly surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings. The Smallpox hospital at the south end of the island was once a prime destination for urban explorers. Now it stands, nearly demolished, embraced by a chain link fence. It’s future is uncertain. At the very far south end of the island is the new Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a truly stunning memorial/green space with spectacular views down the length and width of the East River.

Roosevelt Island sits in the East River between Manhattan and Astoria, Queens. You can get there by a bridge from Queens, or the subway. You can also get there by tram. Tram? This is a truly unique feature of this spot.

The island is within spitting distance of either shore, but it has a character all its own.

There’s a tame, suburban quality to the vibe of the place, lots of tourists. There was a film crew lunching between takes at the top of the island when we stopped by to look at the lighthouse. That’s a story in itself – it stands near the former “lunatic asylum” and a resident of said institution apparently built a sea wall to connect Roosevelt Island to a tiny island off its northernmost shore sometime in the 19th century. He claimed responsibility for the lighthouse as well.

The island is rich with history, as are many of the islands that form the archipelago that is our city. Well worth a visit.

Street Photography in Manhattan

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I don’t usually shoot people so this was a bit of a challenge for me. I took these photos as part of a workshop with Eric Kim, aka the Street Photo Guru. I started off in midtown then a buddy suggested we go to Chinatown for the color. It was a blast, if challenging. The rain compounded the challenge and opened my eyes to shooting in conditions other than bright sunlight – my usual milieu. It’s always good to step outside of the comfort zone – lesson learned. Again.

One More Snow on City Island

This has been a rough winter, and we have not escaped it, despite our island status. The neighborhood is quiet during the winter, one of the charms of living here. But it can also become claustrophobic. The wind howls across the water, making it difficult to venture outside. Boats are brought up into dry-dock and block our views to the open water. Gates to the street beaches are locked; even if you could walk through them the beach is covered with washed-up icebergs this year. No quiet reflection at water’s edge for now. Walking the sidewalks can be treacherous with months of hardened ice and heaved-up concrete from the bitter cold and snow.

City Islanders celebrate the holidays with whimsy and good cheer. The Christmas decorations were a bright spot in this dreary winter, and brought smiles to my face as I tromped around in the sub-freezing weather looking for signs of life. Today is the first day of spring; it’s snowing mightily.

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Perhaps this is the last gasp?

Orchard Beach Parking Lot

I came upon this surreal scene when I drove over to the beach to take a walk. The parking lot is huge. It’s a dumping ground for plowed snow from all over this part of the Bronx. I walked into the fog and photographed this other-worldly landscape just as the sky began to clear in the very late afternoon. The last two images were taken on the beach: they show High Island and City Island in the distance, through the mist.

Corona Park, Queens

I’ve been to the site of the 1964 World’s Fair a number of times over the years, but it’s been quite a while. On this trip I spent hours walking through the park and realized that it’s much bigger than I remembered. Crossing over the BQE I found the Queens Zoo and the site of a former “state of the art” restaurant experience. I’m drawn to these iconic structures that, now firmly rooted in the past, looked toward a future with such great hope.

Red Hook, Brooklyn

Lynda and I visited Red Hook a few days before Halloween. We discovered a quiet neighborhood bordered by a looming ikea complex, several warehouse buildings and New York Harbor. This is a neighborhood in transition, already sprinkled with boutiques and trendy little cafes. But Red Hook retains its personality through visible backyards, community gardens and street art. These are just a few of the scenes that touched me as we walked through the neighborhood.