Coney Island Boardwalk

The sun is shining, waves are glistening and are frantically running into the sand before breaking on the shore and rocks. Deep breath in, seawater fill my nostrils and mouth, coating my tastebuds. My skin bevels in a grid-like pattern, chills sprinting up my arms. All these sounds, crashing waves, laughter emanating children, screams echoing of amusement, cries of seagulls, and the loudly mellow roar of rides at work; all of it drowns into nothingness. Silence until a low snap starts to create the first sound I remember hearing in what feels like hours. The rhythm beats against my eardrums. Violins start to carry out a melody as my ears piece together an old song my grandmother used to play. Reminiscence is in my smile as I walk along the boardwalk with my bare feet; feeling everything I possibly can. The song continues, The Drifters harmonizing in throaty whispers about something happening under the boardwalk. I finally close my eyes, reveling in everything that is Brooklyn and the richness that is Coney Island.

Even Though Summer ends tomorrow, I will attempt to keep the season alive for the next few weeks with an adventure into Coney Island. I will tell the stories of the richest pinnacles of the Island and what became of them. But this week I will start with an introduction to the story of Coney Island Boardwalk.

According to nyc.gov the essence of the boardwalk has been around since the 1820’s. Back then, it was just a house that people used to host parties or to just be close to the ocean. It’s amazing to think about how many generations has past since then but the mentality of this magnetic pull to the ocean never faded or shifted in any way, shape, or form. The spot gradually became a more populated area; restaurants, hotels, halls, and more popping up along Coney Island Beach to aid people in a retreat from the city. By May 15, 1924 Coney Island Boardwalk opened to the public for the first time, giving all New Yorkers a chance to release and find fun-filled memories at such a magical place. The boardwalk was originally called Riegelmann Boardwalk in respect of the Brooklyn borough President of the time, Edward Riegelmann. He oversaw the three million dollar renovation to make this popular spot suitable for the large sum of people that would spend long hot summer days on the beach. This new boardwalk lined amusement park rides, food vendors, games, and most importantly the ocean.

Although the boardwalk has been fully renovated throughout the years due to natural environmental weathering, the purpose still stays the same. Thousands of people flock the old Coney Island Boardwalk to be close with each other and even closer to the ocean; it connects us with one another and in some ways connects us to the world.

Tune in next week for the next installment, as I introduce you to the historical side of Coney Island.

Fulton Mall

Along Fulton street is the seemingly never-ending string of stores. From jewelry and clothes to fast food and phone carriers; this place has everything you could ever need in a mall but I always tend to ask myself “is it really a mall?” it didn’t look like a the average American mall that we all saw portrayed on television. It also didn’t look like an outlet mall either; since I always had this connotation that a mall should be more cohesive but detached from everywhere else, like it was proving its exclusivity to its customers. Fulton Mall was different, like the term “mall” was born and raised there due to popular demand. There was something so natural and beautiful about it, similar to the beauty of an overgrown tree wrapping itself onto the side of a building. I still get goosebumps whenever I go to Fulton Mall; partly because of how powerful and overwhelming it can feel and it also reminds me of back-to-school shopping.

I have spent countless hours at the old mall in my childhood, toting around my mother’s shopping bags, quietly sighing to myself because she had said the “…. Just one more store.” line three too many times. Exhausted and bored, I never stopped to fully analyze all that the dreaded mall was; all I knew was how badly I wanted to go home and forget the preparation for the imminent and brooding fall semester.

The name Fulton derives from a man named Robert Fulton who was responsible for creating the steamboat in 1814. He pioneered such a great connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn long before any bridges were in place. The long street of Fulton became known to many, due to the steamboat connection and is the main reason why there is a Fulton street in both Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Similar to a previous post on Union Square, by 1900 Fulton Mall had become a popular shopping hub for New York City, gaining foot traffic like the stores and boutiques in Manhattan.

There is now 130+ shops along the Fulton Mall strip. Storefronts and even more stores above; the small shops brave all types of financial storms just to please their customers. 

Beautifully growing and everlastingly changing, Fulton mall has the transportation hub and mass of Times Square and Union Square but also obtains those deep cultured roots of Brooklyn.

The Oculus

The start of a new month has begun; September, bringing forth days of cooler temperatures and fall foliage. For many New Yorkers it also brings retrospective thoughts of the tragedy that happened on September 11, 2001. It, surprisingly, has been sixteen years since the disaster took place but New Yorkers still vividly remember its havoc that struck us so deeply. As the memorial approaches, I thought it would be nice to pay homage to a piece of architecture that subtly reminds us of this terrible day, honors the strong survivors and first responders, and supports the loved ones subjected to an overwhelming loss.

 

Something most don’t know about the after effects of 9/11, is how determined and reactive New York was to rebuild. By 2002, many proposals had flooded New York City from all around the world, in the hopes of helping with the process of rebuilding. Something that was not a part of the overall plan was the remastering of the the PATH train station. But in 2004 the city concocted a plan with Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, to create a partial above and below ground transportation hub. He soon proposed a project named the “Oculus” which was supposed to embody “… the release of a bird from a child’s hand…” Calatrava named it the Oculus since on September 11th the skylight is supposed to be exactly positioned for a bright beam of sunlight to shine through the hub; similar to the Pantheon’s oculus in Rome. This sentimental effect takes place from 8:00 to 10:28; the time that the World Trade Center was struck.

Once the proposition was accepted, its progress and popularity only went downhill. The budget was exceeded by large proportions and constant variance of financial obstruction and waste was brutally thrown at the project; making the construction near impossible. Hurricane Sandy in 2012, alone, eradicated millions of dollars worth of material and other structural elements. The overall design was constantly amended to save money and time. A major change being how the extended columns were supposed to be automated and move with the available sunlight; the tight budget kept this feature from coming into fruition.

After years of dedication, amendments, and withstanding negative media from disbelieving New Yorkers, The Oculus was completed and opened to the public on March 4, 2016; taking about 12 years to produce. The opinions were very mixed about the transportation hub since some were amazed by the respectful design, it’s potential for bringing tourist/revenue, and the methodology of transporting people from one place to another. Contrastly, others thought it was a waste of additional money and didn’t quite see the beauty in the hub.

I, personally, think Calatrava’s Oculus is beautiful and is a great way to show respect for that critical day of New York City history. The pure white wings extends 96 feet in the air from where the unfortunate rubble once laid. Delicately and valiantly, it rises; gracing its viewers with a glance before it releases itself to Freedom Tower. At night, its light illuminates between the columns making the Oculus visible from great lengths which shows us how important it is to let the light and positivity shine through our streets, course through our veins, and beat ever so heavily in our hearts because it is our duty, as New Yorkers, to prevail over any type of circumstance.

The New Museum

Hello CityTech, welcome back to campus! I hope everyone’s summer was as unforgettable as mine was.

Now I return to this semester of blogging with a revised initiative, which is not only tethered to historical forms of architecture within the five boroughs but has been broadened to include both contemporary forms of architecture and art.

Surprisingly, I will start off this semester with a museum that opened its doors to the public for the first time, on December 1, 2007; called The New Museum. The museum was started by woman by the name of Marcia Tucker on January 1, 1977, the small collection was held in The New School for Social Research and the exhibitions were housed there until 1997 when the museum moved to the Astor Building in SoHo (South of Houston). This new location had more space overall, giving the museum a chance to expand. After receiving funding, the New Museum for contemporary art made it’s latest move to its new location on Bowery, which is still in SoHo.

This new building was created by architects, Sanaa. The structure is eight stories high and consists of over fifty thousand square feet of usable space. The eighth floor is designated mechanical space and is not open to the public but the floor below it is the exact opposite. The seventh floor is also called “The Sky Box” since it is paneled with large viewing windows, which frames SoHo like a picturesque landscape. The room is also wrapped with an outside deck which gives the public a quiet urban oasis. From this deck it is easier to see the aluminum facade that webs and weaves around the entire museum making the staggered boxes more cohesive with each other. Further down the building are the exhibits, offices, cafe, and auditorium; each of these spaces occupy the boxes that can be seen from the exterior. The boxes all vary in size which makes each floor have a different ceiling height and method of maneuvering around the large room.

The New Museum only costs $12 for a student to buy a ticket and is well worth the visit. Art enthusiasts, architecture fiends, and those who enjoy a good view, would really enjoy this museum.

Plan your visit here.

To The New York City College of Technology 2017 Graduates….

“What is that sound?” I mutter to myself, quietly. I ponder what it is as I reluctantly pull myself out of my short slumber. My eyes slowly open as I immediately wish that they would close but I force them to remain wide, awake, and alive. With sleep casted on my eyes, I blindly reach for my phone. “Snooze or Dismiss?” I ask, as if it were an actual question. It’s 5:30 am and I know that my day won’t be done until ten o’clock at night so I continue to debate with myself for a few more seconds upon what I should choose. By default my phone snoozes and I know that I have five whole minutes to dismiss the alarm before the annoying sound reoccurs. There I sit at the edge of my bed waiting for some mystical inspiration to strike me and make me feel one hundred times more energized than I currently feel but it doesn’t. So I conclude that I won’t go to class since I’m too tired and have too many tasks to complete today. I lay back down until I realize that I NEED to go to class today so I sit back up and ponder my thoughts once more before the alarm rings again and I realize that I just wasted five extra minutes of sleep fighting with myself whether to get out of bed today.

This is just one instance of the many struggles of college life and throughout the long days and six hour lab classes for however many years, it is finally over. For the first time in a long time, you can finally feel stress free of homework assignments, midterms, finals, and all the exams/quizzes in between. So bask in the glory of completion because you deserve it. You’ve earned it through the years of non-stop work, last minute essays, the printers wearing themselves out after countless hours of continuous use, and moving through entire days without eating a substantial meal due to an excessive time crunch.

Graduating marks the end of an phase in life for some, in which you learned more than the lectures in class, readings from countless textbooks, and assignments that shaped your craft. In addition to all those wonderfully useful things that you learned, you also learned even more about yourself by proving to yourself that you are determined to get everything your heart desires.

As the next chapter in your life begins, rejoice in what you have done, plan what you do now, and enjoy everything that you do next.

So on behalf of the Buzz Team, congratulations to everyone who finished on a fixed income, came here from a different country, raised kids while getting a degree, worked part-time, worked full-time, worked two jobs, worked three jobs, had to care for family members, and everything in between. We are so proud of you and applaud your achievements.

We thank you for giving the students of New York City College of Technology inspiration they need so they can also reach their goals.

May greatness proceed…

Brooklyn City RailRoad

In the 1880’s a new roadway system was born for Brooklyn, it was called the Brooklyn City RailRoad (BCRR) and was the oldest and largest railway system of its time. The old headquarters resides on the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street and is still a prominent building although the line’s discontinuance in 1930. Now, the tracks are still partially visible through the cobblestone streets; showing what was there prior to the rise of other means of mass transit. Although the trolleys stopped running, the history of the archaic system remains engrained into the current culture of transit. Just by looking at the rails you see something more than random exposed metal. You are greeted by New York City, they tell you a story in this greeting. “We are strong and resilient,” they elucidate. “Regardless of the harsh winter blizzards, the extreme heat waves of the summer, the constant trampling by FedEx trucks, or people jay-walking passed us, here we lay, as we always did, with pride and tenacity. Like a weed that can never be plucked or a bird that will never cease to grace us with its musical whistle, we stay here to watch as life moves on around us.”

On July 3, 1854 the first route began its loop, the Myrtle Avenue Line ran from the Myrtle Station to a stop adjacent to the Fulton Ferry. The system started as a modified railway for the time; in that particular time space it was called a horseway since the trolleys were horse-drawn. This horsecar trolley ran along the same line that is now the B54 MTA bus. By 1867 there were twelve different routes and approximately twenty-two million people used the transit system. According to a 2015 government data overview, about twenty-two million people use the MTA in just two business days as opposed to the 1867 review. As time progressed, the use of horsecars slowly declined and the rise of streetcars prevailed. By 1897 there were 27 railways that were stationed in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn.

Because of the proximity of the railways, the BCRR headquarters resided along Fulton Street (or as we know it, Old Fulton Street). The building was built in the early 1860’s and controlled/managed the railways. Offices filled the walls, behind the red brick exterior. The molded cast-iron was styled in a neo-classical style, vying to portray the nobility, control, and power that it held in the community. Somewhere along the years of the Depression the business lost its control, commercial use, and patrons and the BCRR eventually declined in popularity to the public.

In 1975 the BCRR was used as a factory until architect, David C. Morton II, took on the project to make the space residential. As of 2009 the building was named a New York Landmark and is currently still used as dwellings.

Some of the rails are still visible through the cobblestones and concrete. If you are interested in seeing it for yourself take a walk down to the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street to see the headquarters, then walk to the corner of Main Street and Plymouth Place to see the old rails that sprout, bevel, and vine their way through the streets; just keep in mind that they are over 150 years old.

Union Square Park

When I was around the age of six, I picked out my very first favorite place in Manhattan. It was the first time that I can recall myself creating an instinctual memory of a place; that I knew how to get there from home and what it was called. It wasn’t so much of the architecture that made me like the space so greatly, it was this feeling of the surroundings; like everyone was important and we were all connected. Bias of race, gender, or culture played an inferior role in this particular environment; in fact, New Yorker’s differences were highly embraced and even emphasized. To my young mind the place was my own version of kid-heaven; pets, books, music, diverse cuisine, and other shops were all within walking distance from each other; it was fun, challenging, and I always went home with something new. Although I would loudly and quickly state that my architectural taste has gotten more refined from my childhood, somehow I always find myself in my old favorite spot, Union Square.

The origin of the name, “Union Square”, comes from the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. Which was a very detailed plan of the roads, streets, and avenues of Manhattan that we still use today. The plan was completed with the help of John Randel, a surveyor, who joined the project in June of 1808 and worked on the development for the next thirteen years. Throughout the years of observation, the creators of this plan coined the name by explaining the intersection of Broadway and Fourth Avenue (previously known as Bloomingdale Road and Bowery Road) which creates an irregular square that no one wanted to build upon so it was decided to make the space a public park. The area was then utilized for social assemblies and trading. The space was formerly called “Potter’s Field” and was later changed to better fit the social aspect of the area; making a union between both roads and people.

The Union Square Park that we know of, officially opened on July 19, 1839; the roads paved, paths created for foot traffic, and the landscape planted to suit the people.

By the 1870’s the Ladies’ Mile shopping district began to form which was a term to describe the long strip of commerce, art, and theater that lined the streets from Union Square Park to Madison Square Park that is on 23rd street (which I mentioned in a past post for the Flatiron Building that resides juxtaposed the Park).

Throughout history Union Square became a meeting space for people to voice their opinion; whether it be in the form of a speech, protest, or gathering. This is the place that people met with each other to show support and respect. In 1861 about two hundred-fifty thousand people gathered on the Square to show their respect after the fall of Fort Sumter (notable Civil War sea fort); this would be the largest gathering of its time. This aesthetic didn’t depart from New York approach. After 9/11, New Yorkers gathered here in response to the crisis; it showed a large caliber of support and condolences; for some time, it was known as a grieving area.

As I walk through Union Square Park now, I still feel the same vibe that I fell in love with as a child. Music, dance, and other artistic performances taking place on the regular; almost as if something is always happening and if you don’t experience it, you are destined to feel an acute absence of what could have been seen, felt, and cherished.

Morphous by Lionel Smit. A South African sculptor who got his piece to be displayed in Union Square from June 13, 2016 to April 30, 2017.

This Sculpture was made with bronze like the Statue of Liberty.

Rockaway Beach

I’m not sure if the tradition of observing Easter Sunday which is followed by a trip to Coney Island is just a Brooklyn ritual but this custom goes far back into the years before my birth. Over the break, I listened to my Grandmother talk about the favored trip to Coney Island like it was so ordinary and usual; “It was normal,” she said “go to church, then go to Coney Island.” She recalled, in a retrospective tone. “Or at least that’s what I did with my kids.” she said reminiscing  about my Mom and Aunt. As a kid I loved the beach; it was always sunny and the water was always cool, but after a while the easy accessible, Coney Island Beach got to be too dangerous. It was consistently polluted with garbage and debris; the worst thing possible to ruin a day at the beach would be to see an empty bag of potato chips pass you by as you wade in the water. For a stint of my childhood that was what Coney Island Beach reduced itself to. Although the beach is a lot cleaner now, whenever my family and I want to go to the beach we jump on the A line and take a short trip to Rockaway Beach.

I have spent years feeling like a bad Brooklynite for being enticed by the peacefulness and cleanliness of the prestigious Queens beach. Of course I have and will always love the Coney Island area, but when you are looking for a little piece of suburban life in the midst of the hustle and bustle of urban New York City, Rockaway Beach is the place to be.

Just as the Canarsie Pier, in the 1600’s the Rockaways were ruled by a Native American tribe until the Dutch exiled them in order to take over the land. Rockaway translates to “sandy place” or “place of our people” in their language. Although different wealthy people tried to proclaim the land as their own and name it after themselves, the term Rockaway reluctantly stuck and is what we call the area today. In the late 1800’s tracks were laid down for a steam railroad and is still used today for the Long Island Rail Road and the A/S MTA lines. The Rockaway Park station opened on August 26, 1880; it closed in 1955 and reopened in 1956 as Rockaway Park–Beach 116th Street.

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy stripped the publicly adored boardwalk which ultimately forced the concrete rebuild of the boardwalk. Although the new boardwalk is a masterpiece all in itself, no one can quite forget the feel of its wooden predecessor.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Holidays or just basked in the pleasant warm weather. As the good weather trend continues, try out Rockaway Beach for a trip away from the hectic New York life or go to Coney Island for family fun; both are amazing and are the best places for unforgettable memories.

Join the conversation, What is your favorite beach in New York? What makes it your favorite?

*PLEASE SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK, AS LIFEGUARDS ARE NOT ON DUTY FOR THE SUMMER SEASON YET*

The Fourth Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

The most recent move that the Whitney Museum has endured is its latest escapade that started in the year of 2010 when Renzo Piano’s design began to be constructed. It resides next to the High Line and patrons from both places are visible to each other. This creates a non-verbal interaction between people; like an extreme version of people watching people. Regardless of its placement, being set among plenty of other larger buildings, it still somehow instills an interplay of inside and outside spaces. The museum is 200,000 square feet which is massive compared to the 82,000 square foot predecessor. The exterior is clad in blue-grey steel panels that reflect and mirror the sky. In the right time of day the building can blend in with its surroundings and become transparent against the sky.

Once you enter the building you are invited by the museum’s shop; which sells books, prints, pins, other kinds of tchotchkes, etc. The elevators are to side; raising people up to the top floor leaving them to walk their way down. I started on the eighth floor and watched as the sun gently poured in through large windows. The light filled the large room, inviting you to stay and observe the art while luring you to go outside. Regardless of the brisk cold air, I felt the need to stay on the terrace; as I took in the spring sun and the sculptures that decorate and live outside. I moved from terrace to terrace, people sprinkled on each level creating a comfortable foot traffic. I continued to navigate through the museum, weaving in and out of the indoor and outdoor spaces until I ultimately reached the end of all the exhibits.

Stairs that connect the terraces.

Sculpture that resides outside

The essence of Whitney’s museum still resides between those walls. The walls are splattered with colors and reminiscent figures; and sculptures gracefully display their physique in the terraces that hover above the building’s footprint. But it all still celebrates American art and what we have to offer the art world. This 107 year old concept has endured through popular despise, fire, four relocations, and some of the worst economic depressions. Only some of these art pioneers were able to see the validity in their work as America ceased its self-loathing period in the art industry. On a regular day you can see many visitors in the Whitney Museum; observing, sketching, reading, or just enjoying each other’s company while sharing their opinions. The art is valued by many and schools use the museum as a resource.

Personally, out of all three homes of the Whitney Museum I like Breuer’s rendition the most; something about massive brutalistic buildings piques my interest. Which was your favorite? What made it you like it?
If you liked the story of the Whitney Museum of American Art, visit the MET (Breuer) and Piano’s Whitney. Admission into the MET is a suggested donation for students, which can be anywhere between $1 to infinity. And the Whitney has reduced price for students.

The Second/Third Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

In 1954 the small studio was overtaken by art and Gertrude Whitney decided to move the pieces to a small space that was located behind the Museum of Modern Art (also known as MoMA) which was another museum, of few, that was created by women. Whitney-Vanderbilt and her students quickly filled and conquered this space and after an unfortunate fire in 1958, it forced the museum to move again. This time they commissioned Marcel Breuer, a famous European architect.

Breuer was a Hungarian native before moving to Germany to become one of the very few students of the Bauhaus, which was an infamous German college for fine arts and construction raised from the harsh conditions of World War II. the school of design operated from 1919-1933 as the program was shut down by the Nazis. This school was affiliated with some of the architectural greats like, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier. From this school, Breuer honed his craft; he nurtured his own style which was very brutalistic. His buildings were extremely weighted to the ground as he explored concrete. Breuer also continued his infatuation with concrete by placing it in an unexpected place like upper Manhattan, making it the third home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The project was completed in 1966 and was the Whitney Museum’s home for 49 years. He designed this building inside and out, from the intricate windows to the furnishings that reside in the museum (which are still fully functional after 51 years of use). The art flooded the walls and created its own atmosphere which was astonishing given the main aesthetic of the museum being American Art. in this era of time it was not a good thing to be an American artist since popular assumption was that all fine art came from Europe. Whitney felt differently than everyone else and thought that she and her students should take pride in their art: therefore she sent approximately five hundred pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, prior to the commissioning of their first independent museum built by Breuer. The prestigious museum denied every single admission since they perceived it as too American and unrefined. Because of this she made her own gallery, giving herself and her students the validity that they deserved. She celebrated American art, deeming it uniquely beautiful and important while everyone else thought differently.

It’s quite surprising to know that when the Whitney Museum outgrew this space as it did with the others, The Metropolitan art gallery is what occupied Breuer’s brutalist masterpiece that once housed the pieces that they denied as art.

Tune in next week to see the last installment of the Whitney Museum of American Art as we explore its latest home.

Marcel Breuer’s Bench specifically made for this project.