This project began around 2008 when an ad hoc committee of local artists formed to spruce up the neighborhood. A mix of residential and industrial, this corner of Astoria is an eclectic array of auto-body shops, single family homes, low-rise apartment buildings and the occasional hipster bistro. Sprinkled among the multiple murals are a number of cars in need of repair. This adds to the surreal nature of the neighborhood and stands as a reminder that, underneath the scratched surface of the vibrant street art, a culture of gritty labor-based commerce remains to support the community
We explored the neighborhood on a cloudy day – the light slipped away as the afternoon wore on. I’ll be back in the spring; there’s a lot to see here.
Frederick Johnson had a good deal to do with the development of this neighborhood in the late nineteenth century. Before it’s transition to a suburban development Dyker Heights was designated as farm land; crops included grains, fruits and vegetables. What began as a largely Anglican enclave evolved into an Italian neighborhood as those immigrants began pouring in during the first half of the twentieth century. Many of the homes were converted to Mediterranean style with notable statuary and topiary adorning their well-manicured yards. Sometime in the 1980’s the residents began outdoing each other with fabulous displays of light and color during the Christmas season. Now Dyker Heights is known as the number one destination for fans of Christmas light displays. I visited at dusk and was enthralled by the transformation as the sun set and the lights clicked on.
I’m looking forward to revisiting the area in the spring. The architecture is intriguing and the location of the neighborhood in the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge pulls at my curiosity to see what drives this neighborhood during the off-season
Last year I shot and posted a photograph of the sunset every day. Most of these were from the end of my street. We get beautiful sunsets here on the island. I still find it hard to believe that this is New York City. It is such a sight that inspired this blog.
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.
First, I was surprised to discover that this park is in Queens, not Brooklyn. Standing on the beach at Dead Horse Bay, you can look past the span of the Marine Parkway – Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge toward the Rockaways. On the other side of the buildings of the north shore of that spit of land lies the beach, its art deco bath house and numerous other buildings and landmarks – remnants of another Robert Moses project. This beach development was meant to attract lower income families early in the twentieth century. Moses chose this site because it was accessible by bus. Today, the beach looks deserted. Yes, it’s winter. But there’s a general atmosphere of disrepair along the boardwalk. There are no orange fences holding back the encroaching sand, which buries the steps from the beach to the boardwalk. Small buildings are in ruin; handball courts overgrown with weeds and beach grass. Still, there’s something alluring about this place. The buildings were designed to mean something. Attractions – tennis and basketball courts, mini golf – span the roadway running parallel to the boardwalk. It’s a good destination and I look forward to traveling there in season.
Fort Tilden lies just beyond Jacob Riis Park. It was an artillery base spanning the years between the start of our involvement in the first world war and the late 1970’s. At one time it was home to a nike missile base. At present time, the fort consists of a number of buildings that are in use by artist groups. There is a theater, an art gallery, a children’s art space and a community garden. Kind of nice to see this peaceful overhaul of a remnant of the cold war.
Close to the beach lie a number of abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. As a lover of street art, I see this as an extension of the more formal endeavors at the main site of the fort. I was able to photograph the interiors of most of the buildings before a park ranger shooed me away. Apparently the public is welcome to roam the area as long as we don’t enter the buildings – but this isn’t specified on any signage.
Mia and I returned to Dead Horse Bay. She got busy working on a mandala – gathering beach glass, shells, metal objects and sorting them by color. She then used an old piling to create
a compass, and drew a large circle, then a spiral, in the sand. The collected objects went into the piece and it was a pleasure to watch her creative process unfold. I constructed some small weavings in the woods near the site, but I was mostly captivated by the place that day. The tide was going out quickly and, with each passing few minutes, more discards were revealed at the tide line. I walked south to discover some metal structures and other ruins along the beach. I photographed everything, and still can’t get enough of the tarnished magic of this place.
Mia, Nelly and I traveled to Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn on November 8th to create an installation reflecting our responses to the site. Dead Horse Bay is a former landfill located across Flatbush Avenue from Floyd Bennett Field. I documented our installation at this unique New York City site. This tree has been a long-time ongoing art project and we were surprised to find it empty – stripped of the bottles and artifacts we’d seen hanging from the tree in the past. After Sandy the installation was damaged, but still visible, and it had been restored since the hurricane. It was curious to see that something or someone had removed the pieces, leaving the branches bare. We decided this would be the perfect place to create our weaving pieces. We used materials brought to the site and some materials found at the site. We also brought home some artifacts, completing the cycle of engaging with the environment.
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.