Bushwick Photo du Jour: Himrod Street

January 31, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Many are the civil servants who shoulder the onerous responsibility of protecting and serving us New Yorkers. I have issues with most of them, but there is one institution I have the utmost respect for: New York’s Bravest. Not only do these men and women risk life and limb in situations beyond my comprehension, they also have a wonderful sense of humor.

Case in point: Ladder 124 in Bushwick

Adder 1

They’re Tonka tough with Tonka Trucks

FDNY: TONKA TOUGH

and have mad Scrabble skills to boot!

I wonder if the windows qualify as double word scores?

Miss Heather

Bushwick Photo du Jour: Morgan Avenue

January 30, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Morgan Avenue Pig

I found this pretty little porker outside the Morgan Avenue stop of the L recently.

Pig closeup

Not only is he (?) beautifully rendered, but I was relieved to see that (unlike his unfortunate brother on Central Avenue) his head is still firmly attached to the rest of his body.

Miss Heather

Bushwick Photo du Jour: The Stockholm Gnome

January 29, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick, Greenpoint Magic 

I love garden gnomes.

Gnome 1

I love them while suspended.

William Jefferson Clinton on Franklin

I love them with Billary’s tool extended.

I love garden gnomes, yes I do. Now I’d like to introduce this garden gnome to you.

He’s from Stockholm…

Stockholm Gnome

STREET, that is. This winsome little guy sure looks happy. Wait. I just made knee-jerk assessment about this gnome’s gender. As a Greenpointer I should know better: in the Garden Spot we have bearded she-gnomes and/or he-gnomes that wear guyliner*.

Bearded Lady

They all live happily together too, painstakingly maintained eyebrows, beaded necklaces and all.

ET and the Lemur reconcile

Just ask E.T. and his formerly estranged lemur. Even Mickey Mouse and the Incredible Hulk give this couple two enthusiastic fists up!

Miss Heather

*And look like Jared Leto.

Bushwick Photo du Jour: Speak Softly And Carry a Big Stick

January 28, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

I found this beautiful relic of Brooklyn’s autonomous past recently on Wilson Avenue.

Seal, City of Brooklyn

Being a bit of a history nerd, I could not resist doing a little research. Here is very concise synopsis about its origin and iconography.

Een Dracht Mackt Maght was inspired by the motto of the United Dutch Provinces and means “In unity there is strength”. The rather frightening looking axe this young woman is wielding is called a fasces. Opinions as to what this symbolizes seem to be both varied and contentious, follows is what Wikipedia has to say about it. Draw your own conclusions:

Symbolic interpretation of the fasces suggests that the rods represent the authority to punish citizens whereas the axe represents the authority to execute them: an important concept in the concerns of a Roman ruler, whose authority over such matters carried greater consequences than typically in modern societies concerning capital punishment. For example Cicero, in his condemnation of Catiline and the others supposedly involved in the floridly exaggerated (or perhaps fabricated) “conspiracy“, lost his chances of further consulship for his act of executing Roman citizens without trial. Thus the one wielding the “axe”, ( meaning the power to execute) remained liable to the “rods” of his fellows.

Inventive moderns have also suggested that instead, rods in a bundle become simply harder to break, or harder for the axe to cut. While still a valid outlook, this tends to mislead one into thinking that that symbolism conveys a banal message like that of “united we stand”. The fasces served as the ultimate symbol of executive power and vulnerability in Republican Rome: more akin to the concept of “checks and balances”.

Numerous governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces as a symbol of power since the end of the Roman Empire. Italian fascism, which derives its name from the fasces, arguably used this symbolism the most in the 20th century. The British Union of Fascists also used it in the 1930s. However, unlike (for example) the swastika, the fasces, as a widespread and long-established symbol in the West, have avoided the stigma associated with fascist symbolism, and many authorities continue to display them.

Either way you cut this find is pretty damned neat. Methinks there should be an Idiotarod team next year comprised of  women dressed like our fair maiden of the county of Kings. We’ll cross the Pulaski Bridge and show those uppity folks in Long Island City what Brooklyn women are made of. Een dracht macht maght!

In closing (and for those who might be curious) this lovely lady is still with us. Both on the Brooklyn Borough flag and at City Municipal Hall.

Borough ot Booklyn

Anyone up for a toga party?

Miss Heather

Bushwick Photo du Jour: Mum’s The Word

January 26, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Mum’s the Word

My lips are sealed as to where this photograph was taken, but I’ll give you a hint: it’s located very close to the Myrtle Avenue Stop of the J/M/Z.

Anybody out there care to guess the street?

Miss Heather

Bushwick Pay Phone du Jour: Irving Avenue

January 25, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Irving Avenue Payphones

I am going to go out on a limb here and state that someone who resides on or near the intersection of Irving Avenue and Stanhope Street harbors a great deal of contempt towards public pay phones. Or someone’s receiver collection just got two new additions.

Damn.

Miss Heather

Bushwick Photo du Jour: Medici Meets Knickerbocker

January 24, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Loans

I recently found this wonderful remnant of a bygone era at the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Stockholm Street. As I took the above photograph a pair of women stopped and asked me what I found so interesting. I pointed out the symbol gracing the top of this building and told them a pawnbroker once operated a business here.

pawnbrokerdetail

When I got home later I realized that although I recognized the pawnbroker symbol instantly, I did not know (or more likely— forgot) its origins. Being a fan of this kind of worthless knowledge I thought it would be fun to find out. Most of what I found online was more or less the same. Here is Wikipedia’s take:

The pawnbroker’s symbol is three spheres suspended from a bar. The three sphere symbol is attributed to the Medici Family of Florence, Italy, owing to its symbolic meaning of Lombard. This refers to the Italian province of Lombardy, where pawn shop banking originated under the name of Lombard banking. The three golden spheres were originally the symbol which medieval Lombard merchants hung in front of their houses, and not the arms of the Medici family. It has been conjectured that the golden spheres were originally three flat yellow effigies of byzants, or gold coins, laid heraldically upon a sable field, but that they were converted into spheres to better attract attention.

Most European towns called the pawn shop the “Lombard”. The House of Lombard was a banking family in medieval London, England. According to legend, a Medici employed by Charles the Great slew a giant using three bags of rocks. The three ball symbol became the family crest. Since the Medicis were so successful in the financial, banking, and money lending industries, other families also adopted the symbol. Throughout the Middle Ages, coats of arms bore three balls, orbs, plates, discs, coins and more as symbols of monetary success. Pawnbrokers (and their detractors) joke that the three balls mean “Two to one, you won’t get your stuff back”.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers. The symbol has also been attributed to the story of Nicholas and the three bags of gold.

I for one find the location of this building rather serendipitous. As it would happen, an avenue bearing the name “St. Nicholas” is only three blocks away.

Miss Heather

Introducing the Envers

January 24, 2008 ·
Filed under: Articles of Fedderization, Bushwick, Williamsburg 

Today I have a very special treat to share with you, dear readers: the first installment of the Enver Hoxha Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Architecture, or “The Envers” for short. Who is Enver Hoxha and what does he have to do with architecture, you ask? Read on and learn for yourself!

Enver Hoxha (per Wikipedia):

…was the leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Communist Albanian Party of Labour. He was also Prime Minister of Albania from 1944 to 1954 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1946 to 1953. Hoxha’s rule was characterized by isolation from the rest of Europe and his proclaimed firm adherence to anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninism, which has been dubbed “Hoxhaism”. Albania’s government of the time projected the image that it had emerged from semi-feudalism to become an industrialized state…

And lest we forget, the following are without argument Mr. Hoxha’s most lasting contributions to the field of architecture:

Albania Bunkers Small

Hoxha’s legacy also included a complex of over 600,000 one-man concrete bunkers across a country of 3 million inhabitants, to act as look-outs and gun emplacements. The bunkers were built strong and mobile, with the intention that they could be easily placed by a crane or a helicopter in a previously dug hole. The types of bunkers vary from machine gun pillboxes, beach bunkers, to naval underground facilities, and even Air Force Mountain and underground bunkers. There were over 700,000 pillboxes built and around 500,000 pillboxes were reported to still be in good condition and ready to serve in case of war.

In keeping with his Soviet comrades counterparts, Mr. Hoxha’s bunker fetish spilled over into the civilian sector. The effects of this concrete chic ranged anywhere from a hodgepodge of disharmonious architectural elements…

Hoxha House taken by Jim Rees

to rustic rusting institutional…

Albanian apartment building taken by Jim Rees

and last, but hardly least: downright hideous.

Enver’s pyramid taken by Jim Rees

Now that we have had a primer in Albanian Communist Dictators and reviewed some breathtaking examples of Albanian architecture, let’s get down to business. My criteria for assessing the “Enverness” of a given building are as follows:

  1. The visual aesthetics of said building are in keeping with the Soviet era.
  2. The construction quality of said building is akin to something built during the cold war. Extensive use of cement is a plus.
  3. A combination of architectural styles employed in a manner whose end product is anything but pleasing to the eyes. BIG PLUS.

In addition, I will be featuring a rating system called “the bunkers”. On a scale of one to five (with five being full-blown Tirana), the more bunkers a building gets, the more Enver-like are its qualities.

The previous all having been said, let us proceed with today’s Enver Award for Outstanding Achievement in Architecture:

58 Ten Eyck Street

58 Ten Eyck

This splendid example of the International style (and by this I mean Communist International style) is a proletarian paradise.

58 Ten Eyck detail

Mismatched paint, a masterful knowledge of the manifold shades of gray, windowless sheet metal doors and only five stops from Manhattan?!? That’s like living behind the iron curtain but without all the fuss. You can live in a rusting hulk of Soviet caliber crap and wear your Yankee blue jeans at the same time. What a concept!

58 Ten Eyck fence

The fence polishes off this gulag nicely. I wonder if its underlying intent is to keep people out of this property or to keep them in? If it is the latter, I guess today the prisoners got a furlough.

All in all, this is pretty damned Enveresque. I will, however, have to knock off a point for the relative kemptness of the balconies and effort made to conceal the satellite dishes on the roof. All in all, I give 58 Ten Eyck four bunkers.

4 bunkers

Stay tuned, there are even more cold war beauties awaiting an Enver nod from the very same block!

Miss Heather

Photo Credits: All Albanian photographs save the bunker, Jim Rees.
Albanian Bunker, Wikipedia.

Homeland Security

January 23, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

The one thing that continues to fascinate me about the real estate industry is the lengths agents will go to spin an unattractive property in an unappealing location. And as I learned on Stanhope Street recently, they are not above throwing in a bit patriotism for good measure.

Homeland Realty

Note the name: Homeland Realty. I am supposing this is designed to convey a sense of security to the potential buyer. I for one find this tactic to be ill-founded. The biggest selling point for this property, in actuality, resides right across the street!

Stanhope Street Window

Nothing says “gracious home” like a couple of skulls, a disembodied ass (wearing a thong, no less) and a homemade mace. Those drapes look familiar. I wonder if they bought them at Ikea?

Miss Heather

P.S.: Oh yeah, after you move into your new home you might want to make the acquaintance of another neighbor who lives around the corner on Evergreen Avenue.

Evergreen Avenue Head

I can’t wait to see what kind of housewarming casserole these folks whip up.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

January 23, 2008 ·
Filed under: Bushwick 

Myrtle Avenue Fedders Special

Let’s pretend you are the landlord of the above property. How would you add value to an otherwise drab building situated only a bong-toss away from the J/M/Z subway line?

Hubcap City

Hang some hubcaps in it. Duh!

hubcaps and tire

In fact, why not throw in a tire for good measure?

Hubcaps and electrical meter

Inasmuch as it pains me to say it, the hubcaps actually do make this mess of electrical meters more attractive.

Miss Heather

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