Crisp NY day, along the Hudson in RSD Park at abt 100th St. Shiny steel gray river, 78 blocks from great gray bridge. pic.twitter.com/PB70uZiL3a
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) October 20, 2014
October 21st, 2014
October 15th, 2014
As a New Yorker who walks, bikes, and occasionally gets around in the city by taxi, I have been alarmed by the dangers on our streets and the numerous fatal encounters among pedestrians, bikers and cars. In August, I attended a public meeting held by NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal, announcing potential changes to the local streets, designed by the Dept of Transportation to minimize these dangers, and “calm” vehicular traffic, as the planners put it. In the weeks since that meeting, West End Avenue has been freshly paved, and now new lane markers have been painted, which I hope will fundamentally alter the traffic flow, and improve the safety of all local residents. Please examine the screenshots below to see for yourself, or all the photos and charts via this link, which reveal the new design in its entirety. A key part of the plan boils down to dividing the 60-foot wide avenue differently than it’s been configured for many years. Rather than the avenue being divided in to six lanes each ten feet wide (with two of those lanes reserved for parking, and four lanes reserved for northbound and southbound traffic), the plan (view PDF here) will see the parking lanes on each side of the avenue widened to thirteen feet, the traffic lanes widened to eleven feet, and the creation of a center turning lane to allow for safer turns on to the neighborhood’s side streets. At some intersections, no turns from or on to side streets will be permitted.href=”http://philipsturner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SaferStreets-WEA.jpg”>
Now that the new lanes have been painted, I hope the city will quickly put in place public education and new signage, to make clear to drivers, pedestrians, and bikers how the new configuration is supposed to work. I am concerned that in the short term, the new markings will befuddle many people, leading to dangerous impatience and confusion. If you are an upper west sider, and want to know more about the efforts of Council Member Rosenthal and the DoT to improve safety, you may visit Rosenthal’s website, where you can submit your own suggestions. At Rosenthal’s site, you can also join her email list, to receive the many communications they forward from the DoT.
October 13th, 2014
Brisk winds and the aftermath of a rainy Friday night didn’t dampen the fun at the 22nd annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival this past Saturday, held on the grounds under the George Washington Bridge, aka the great gray bridge, near the Little Red Lighthouse, the last beacon light to shine in Manhattan. I have written about the landmark several times in recent years, including after I attended last year’s fall festival. The Parks Dept opens the lighthouse to visitors on these occasions, allowing New Yorkers to fully appreciate this splendid example of maritime architecture. After I toured the lighthouse last year, I wrote about its history and the children’s book that improbably helped to keep it standing on the shore of the Hudson:
“If you’ve never had a close-up view of [the George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse] and aren’t certain where they are or how to see them for yourself, we’re talking about upper Manhattan on the island’s west side roughly level with what would be West 178th Street and the Hudson River. I get there on my bike, pedaling on good pavement alongside the river most of the way from my neighborhood around West 100th Street and Riverside Drive. The area can also be reached from Washington Heights, near 181st Street, and in both cases it’s accessible to walkers as well as cyclists. The forty-foot tall lighthouse–whose exterior is dotted with porthole windows and decked out in bright red enameled paint with a white cone and clear glass at the top–sits below the lower deck of the bridge, close to the monumental steel foot of the span’s eastern arch. According to a NYC Parks Dept web page, the two structures became most indelibly linked in the public imagination in the early 1940s, and even earlier in the city’s maritime history. Here’s a lightly edited version of the Parks Dept. article:
‘In the early 20th century, barge captains carrying goods up and down the Hudson demanded a brighter beacon. The [lighthouse] had been erected on Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1880, where it used a 1,000 pound fog signal and flashing red light to guide ships through the night. It became obsolete and was dismantled [but not destroyed or discarded] in 1917. In 1921, the U.S. Coast Guard reconstructed this lighthouse on Jeffrey’s Hook [future site of the George Washington Bridge] in an attempt to improve navigational aids on the Hudson River. Run by a part-time keeper and furnished with a battery-powered lamp and a fog bell, the lighthouse, then known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse [the name since the early 1800s for the shelf of Manhattan schist that juts out in to the river right there], was an important guide to river travelers for ten years. The George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, and the brighter lights of the bridge again made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, and its lamp was extinguished.
‘The Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but an outpouring of support for the beacon helped save it. The outcry from the public was prompted by the children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, written by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward in 1942. In the popular book, the Little Red Lighthouse is happy and content until a great bridge is built over it. In the end, the lighthouse learns that it still has an important job to do and that there is still a place in the world for an old lighthouse. The classic tale captured the imaginations of children and adults, many of whom wrote letters and sent money to help save the icon from the auction block.’
The Parks’ web page adds that in 1951 the Coast Guard gave the lighthouse and grounds to the City, and in 1979 the Little Red Lighthouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places. Refurbishments took place in 1986, when on the 65th anniversary the concrete foundation was restored, and in 2000 when it was repainted, true to its original shade of red.
In a real sense, the persistence of the lighthouse on the Manhattan shoreline is a product of one of the first episodes of “historic preservation” in the modern history of New York City. Too often, the city and posterity have been the loser in those battles, such as what occurred in 1963, when–unaccountably to current-day New Yorkers–the old Penn Station was torn down.”
I will add that it’s a great time for parks and historic sites in New York City, with such projects as the ongoing restoration of High Bridge, the footbridge that’s connected the Bronx and Manhattan since 1842, though it’s been derelict and off-limits to hikers for many years. Also heartening was the news last week that more than $130 million will be spent to upgrade and renovate thirty-five NYC parks that have historically been neglected, even while better known parks, like Central Park and Prospect Park, garner lots of resources.
I didn’t enter the Little Red Lighthouse on Saturday, as the line was long and I was glad to let others see it for the first time. I was just happy to walk the grounds and stop at the booths of several upper Manhattan organizations and businesses. Among these was the NYC Parks Dept, which sent several urban rangers to staff an information table; Summer on the Hudson, @summeronthehudson on Twitter, whose director Zhen Heinemann was on hand making sure everything ran smoothly; Word Up Books, “a completely volunteer run community bookshop, and arts space in Washington Heights,” on Amsterdam Ave at 165th Street, near the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest wooden structure in Manhattan, built in 1765; graphic artist Norman Ibarra, who was selling a handsome poster he’s designed, printed on quality paper, that shows the seven lighthouses along the Hudson River, upstate from Athens and Saugerties south toward Manhattan and Jersey City; the National Lighthouse Museum, near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, whose representatives told me about the hoped-for restoration of the Old Orchard Beach lighthouse, wrecked during Hurricane Sandy; and Anthi’s Greek Specialities, a food vendor that was selling tasty spinach pie and baklava. Along with the above Facebook post I sent out that afternoon, I took lots of pictures during the festivities. Here are the best of them.
September 20th, 2014
Had an enjoyable time last night at “Dark and Pretty Flat,” a dance performance and multimedia presentation put on by Esmé Boyce Dance. The series of eight linked pieces flowed seamlessly from one to the next against a rolling video backdrop, of wooded roadsides and watery depths; atmospheric guitar playing, both live and looped; and spoken word poetry. The four dancers, in costumes that bore a wood grain texture in gray and peach hues, were sometimes on the floor all together, in pairs, or solo. Carving space with their articulate arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes, they supplely shifted their weight in to rolls across the floor and shoulder tucks that brought them in to very near proximity with their own torsos, or those of fellow dancers. It was a world premiere, with all the pieces choreographed by Esmé Boyce. Beside directing her eponymous company, she collaborates with the Satellite Collective and is a member of Janis Brenner & Dancers. Other collaborators were: video artist Cody Boyce, Esmé’s brother, music and poetry; actor Ted Levine, reader; architectural designer Chat Travieso, set designer; artist Sue Julien, the two Boyce’s mother, costume designer—she chose the wood grain fabric, and cut the costumes as supplely as the dancers moved.
The performance was at a lower east side combined theater and bar venue Dixon Place, a new one to me. Entering at 161A Chrystie St, between Rivington and Delancey, you walk in on a narrow bar, while small tables, chairs and sofas and a tiny stage are in the back. In that rear area is a stairway down to the basement where there’s a large theater, with upwards of 50 seats in banked rows. As a New Yorker for nearly thirty years, it still fascinates me to discover spaces like this, caverns tucked away beneath the rumbling streets and subways, renovated and built out for creative endeavors. The establishment has a great vibe, whether upstairs or down. It was particularly nice to see Kit Boyce, friend of many years, husband of Sue Julien, father to Esmé and Cody, friends who I first met in Chicago, in the years I regularly went there to visit Franconia College classmate Robert Henry Adams.
After the dances, the full house walked back up the stairs for an instant after party in the bar and seating area. Bouquets were presented to the dancers—Esmé’s mates were Giulla Carotenuto, Kit McDaniel, and Christopher Ralph—and toasts were offered all ’round. I hadn’t been to a dance performance in years, and I found it an aesthetic pleasure to see movement, color, fabric, sound, and light all played to such intriguing effect. There’s one more performance of “Dark and Pretty Flat” tonight. I recommend it highly, or take yourself out to some dance soon.
September 18th, 2014
The Ontario trio Elliott BROOD played a great set of new songs for a 7pm set at Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s lower east side last night. The early hour meant light was still pouring in the windows off Allen Street as they hit their first downbeat, but the vibe quickly turned funky for the crowd of about twenty-five, for as I wrote about this band after I first heard their live show in 2012:
“The trio’s gritty sound feels as if it’s been imported from the early days of sound recording. More raw than roots, it’s a sonic stew of acoustic guitar, banjo, reverb-ed Fender Stratocaster, harmonica, and thumping drums.”
Rockwood has excellent acoustics, whether the room is crammed or not. Last night, the mix was great and all instruments could be heard well. They played six new songs from their forthcoming album, “Work & Love” (Paperbag Records), and a couple older ones. They announced it was the first time they were playing the new songs for a live audience. Dressed all in white, Casey Laforet (electric and acoustic guitars, and an array of foot pedals he played in sock-clad feet); Mark Sasso (acoustic guitar, harmonica, banjo); and Steve Pitkin (drums and a keyboard set up next to his kit) charmed all with light banter and interesting song reveals. Casey, a still-new parent, introduced one new song, “Each Other’s Kids,” by explaining they wrote it after realizing how much people in their world universally rely on one another to take care of their young children.
I had met them in 2012, so it was good to re-visit afterward, and introduce all three to my wife Kyle Gallup, and our friend, Mike Fitzgerald. I caught up on all the news with Casey, and learned he and his wife are about to have their second child. Steve appreciated I remembered his last name correctly, something I can relate to, since people tend to spell my first name with two lls, though it only has one. I told Mark he had been in good voice, though he said he actually felt like he might be getting a cold. I gave them the card for my blog Honourary Canadian, which I began after I met them the first time. They began packing up for a show tonight at the Black Cat in D.C., then they’re moving on to Bristol, Tennessee—said to be “the birthplace of country music in the USA”—where they’ll be playing the Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival.
Last night’s only flaw was that the new album isn’t out yet–after hearing the new songs for the 1st time, I’m keen to hear them again. But it will be available Oct 21, and though it would’ve been nice to get a copy right from the hands of band member, I’ll also be glad to purchase it from the great Canadian indie music website, zunior.com, a seller I highly recommend.
September 14th, 2014
September 12th, 2014
I had a great time at the Elephant Stone show at Mercury Lounge Tuesday night. It was the third time I’ve heard the Montreal band (I earlier wrote about them here), and they were in great form, with frontman Rishi Dhir and his crew really getting down on several psychedelic and funk jams. As cool as Rishi’s sitar playing is, he’s also a really great bassist, and plays it like a solo instrument. Meantime, bandmate Gabriel Lambert is a wizard on 12-string electric guitar. The result is the band’s signature blend of soaring psychedelia, bright pop harmonies, thumping funk, and chiming guitar. If you’d like rock n’ roll that sounds like the Byrds crossed with Indian influences check them out. Frontman Dhir (shown at right) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ I hear echoes of the Byrds and the Beatles, though more psychedelic-ized than either of those giant groups. I got a copy of their new album The Three Poisons after the show. Also in the house was Mike Renaud, aka “Parkside,” of Hidden Pony Records, which handles several of my favorite acts (like Rah Rah, Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale, and Imaginary Cities) and Tyler Bancroft of the aforementioned Said the Whale, who was in NYC for a few days, then leaving to meet his bandmates for a StW show in Calgary. Parkside, Tyler, myself, and some new friends, Jillian Bordeaux and Michael, a colleague of hers from Caroline—a company that works with many indie music labels—went out for beers afterward.
Elephant Stone’s current US tour continues tonight in Philadelphia, and tomorrow in Asbury Park, NJ, Sept 12 and 13. Details here.
Here are more pictures from the fun night.
September 8th, 2014
I’m eager to hear the great sitar-inflected psychedelic band from Montreal, Elephant Stone Tuesday nite at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. They’ll be playing songs from their new album “The Three Poisons.” I’ve heard them play before and really enjoyed their blend of psychedelic sounds and bright pop harmonies. Come hear them if you think you’d like rock music that sounds like the Byrds crossed with an Indian influence. For his part, frontman Rishi Dhir (shown here on sitar) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ Below are the details on their tour of the US Northeast.
MON 09/08 Burlington, VT | The Monkey House
TUE 09/09 NYC, NY | Mercury Lounge
WED 09/10 Washington, DC | Black Cat
THU 09/11 Brooklyn, NY | Rock Shop
FRI 09/12 Philadelphia, PA | Milk Boy
SAT 09/13 Asbury Park, NJ |The Saint
Publishing Consultant, Curator & Writer at The Great Gray Bridge & Honourary CanadianCurator, writer, editor, blogger—amplifying my enthusiasms for many audiences.
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