Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day 220 - Queens Roller Derby

To promote (and raise money for) the first-annual Tour de Queens in June, the Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee (of which I am an at-large member) hosted a fundraiser tonight at The Creek & Cave in Long Island City.

There were the usual drink specials and auction items. But the highlight was probably the bike racing competitions we held--inside the bar.

Thanks to Dave Perry of Bike Works NYC, we were able to use several of his Barelli competition rollers to let supporters of the Tour de Queens race against the clock--and each other. We even held a face-off between representatives of the advocacy world and the Department of Transportation.

The event was a smashing success. Sadly, no one got video of me trying the rollers. I got the hang of it, but it's harder than it looks!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Day 214 - The NYC Civic Three-fer

I did it! On a visit to the Brooklyn Public Library today, I completed the civic trifecta and now possess a library card from each of New York City's three public library systems: Brooklyn, Queens and the New York Public Library serving The Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. Brooklyn's and Queens's systems predate the consolidation of New York City in 1898 and remained as separate institutions afterward.

I accomplished this fun feat at the BPL's paean to early 1950s modernism--their main branch on Eastern Parkway. This is one of several civic edifices in Brooklyn built around this time and in this style, celebrating the public good. (I'm thinking much of Cadman Plaza, especially the Brooklyn Heights branch of the library and the criminal courts building there.

I took some time to poke around and appreciate some more of its architecture, including finding what is possibly New York City's most pristine telephone booth!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Day 213 - Williamsburg's Ethnic Arc

My friend Shelby and I took a wonderful stroll through an arc of ever-changing Williamsburg today.

We started out at Pratt in Fort Greene and wended our way north through the Hasidic neighborhoods in South Williamsburg. Incredibly, I don't think I'd ever really been through this area before on foot--at least not the eastern sections in Broadway Triangle that appeared more like a shtetl than a Brooklyn neighborhood. It was an incredible sight: every sign in Hebrew or Yiddish and every single person I passed a member of the Hasidim. I don't know why I was so naive about this, but it was exhilarating to walk through.

North of Broadway, we stopped in at the Moore St. Market which is one of the dozen or so public markets created during the LaGuardia administration in the 1930s to round up and put all of the pushcart peddlers under one roof. The goal was primarily to make streets less congested. But corralling the vendors also made it easier for inspectors to check their scales and ensure that they weren't shorting customers. The market is the source of some community consternation lately. Vendors, mostly of religious and cultural knick-knacks and a handful of purveyors of produce of questionable quality, feel pressured by the City's Economic Development Corporation to move out. EDC, at the same time, is working to improve the breadth of offerings at the market. Always in this neighborhood, change is viewed suspiciously as gentrification--as catering to a younger, whiter, more affluent group of newcomers at the expense of current residents.

After some malta, we set out on a route that took us north through old Italian Williamsburg along Manhattan, Grand and Metropolitan Avenues. These are areas like I grew up in--at least in terms of the demography. I was actually surprised to see as much as is still left. I assumed they were all hipsters at this point!

Here are some shots of old store signs and the odd architectural or street scene curiosity.