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 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.

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.

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.

The Evolution Store

The Evolution Store in SoHo is one of the weirdest, intriguing, and most unique stores I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping at. It’s a store filled with science collectibles, natural hard-to-find artifacts from the depths of this earth, human skulls and other anatomical structures. It’s the kind of store I immediately told myself I’d be coming back to in the near future. Not only is it neatly packed with crystals, preserved animals and million year-old fossils for sale, but the employees are passionate and enthusiastic about their products, and are happy to teach potentials buyers the meaning or history of any given item. I can confirm that the skulls are real human skulls, and I almost cracked when I came seconds away from buying a handful of meteorite shards and moon rock (a sci-fi nerd’s dream purchase). Being in this store really feels like an adventure, and to think that this small store has both terrestrial and extraterrestrial objects just sitting on its shelves is really fascinating. It’s hard to give such a special store due credit in the form of words and images, so I highly suggest you spend a weekend downtown to stop by The Evolution Store, but here are a few images if what’s in store for your future visit.

The First Home of the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

The concept of the Whitney Museum was birthed by a woman by the name of Gertrude Vanderbilt, aunt and adoptive mother of Gloria Vanderbilt who is the mother of Anderson Cooper. She was born into fame on January 9, 1875. With her lavish life, she financially wanted for nothing. But as she grew, she fell in love for the first time; with art. She loved sculptures and began to make her own. But a woman sculpting three-dimensional human figures was a radical concept in that era. Regardless of popular conception she studied at the Art Students League of New York, which was a prominent school for artists, in order to further develop her sculptural technique.

She married her Husband, Harry Whitney, on August 25, 1896. She was only 21 years old at the time. She wanted to marry someone that came from a wealthy family since that was the only way she would be certain that her spouse was not only in the relationship for her money. Harry Whitney was a descendant to Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. He was also a lawyer, horse-breeder, and heir to his family’s estate. The Whitney’s eventually had three children, biologically, within their time together until he unfortunately died in 1930; he was only 58 years old.

In 1914 the Whitney’s bought a studio which now resides in Greenwich Village. She, along with other artists, worked on their art and lived within those walls. The Rowhouses were built in the year of 1838 and then renovated into one big studio/residence by Auguste L. Noel. They commissioned him to merge three town-homes into one, giving respective spaces to each artist. In 1918 they also commissioned Robert Winthrop Chanler to redesign the interior of the building. He was responsible for a very artistic approach to a studio that had stained glass adorning the windows, a fireplace that was blazoned with bronze wispy flames that crept 20 feet up the wall touching the ceiling which was filled with mystical characters. It was a part of the Greenwich Village Historic District which was established in 1969 and it was later acknowledged as a National Historical Landmark in 1992 which ultimately saved it from being demolished.

The Whitney Museum moved four times in the concept’s lifetime, consecutively outgrowing itself. Tune in next week to see the next home that housed this beautiful and innovative idea of Art.

The ceiling in one of the studios. One can see deer and other creatures in this photograph.

A fireplace sculpted to resemble fire. The twirls and fury of the flames creep all the way up the chimney and extinguishes onto the ceiling.

The art selection is from the later works of artist, Wilbur Niewald.

Canarsie Pier

My family wasn’t exceedingly rich throughout my childhood, we were a standard middle class household living in an urban environment, much like most of New York City. Whenever we wanted to treat ourselves to a different atmosphere, we would begin to explore as far as our feet would take us. We used to walk miles in the summer breeze, in a vying attempt to escape the heat of the city and the pier was one our most popular destinations. This was before it became a renowned spot for community fellowship, back when the pavement was cracked and broken and we’d vanish between the thick trees in order to reach the sandy clearing of Jamaica Bay. We would watch numerous sunsets/sunrises there; to my young mind, it was the most beautiful, mesmerizing, and magical thing I had ever witnessed.

Approximately 600 years ago the Mohican and Delaware Indians were living in the New York area. Long Island/Brooklyn housed 13 tribes, the Canarsee tribe being one. From the Native Americans is where the name derives (along with many of Long Island’s counties). They called Long Island, which includes part of Brooklyn, Seaawanhacy which translates to “Land of Shells”. It is not entirely clear as to how Canarsie got its particular name, but there are two theories. The first is that, as the French invaded the Native American’s land they named the land after “Canarde” which means duck in the French language (referring to the wildlife),  the name, then, morphed into “Canarsee” which follows the Native American dialect. The second theory is that “Canarsee” which can mean fort or fence was used in reference to the surrounding environment working as a natural barrier.

In the early 1900’s Canarsie was claimed to be a popular area for recreation. The in-coming Italian and Jewish immigrants found housing by the water and it quickly became the ideal area of the City due to avenues dedicated to hotels, casinos, and other social halls. By the time of the roaring ‘20’s the once lucrative commercial fishing port was deemed unfit for consumption due to an overgrowing amount of pollution in the water; killing off a large sum of Jamaica Bay’s fish and oysters.

By the time of 1926, the City commissioned the manufacturing of a pier that would extend 600 feet out of the main land. This was the last attempt at making Jamaica Bay marketable by building a seaport; this plan was, unfortunately, never fully executed, leaving behind the pier that we all came to know and love today. Then, in 1973 it was taken over by the National Park Service which, consequently, became the main contributor in the enhancement of the overall environment of Canarsie Pier/Jamaica Bay. Now,  if you go to the pier on any day you will see people fishing for Blue Fish in the clean waters.

So many memories reside within those welcoming gates; summer evenings of picnicking, birdwatching, and most of all exploring. Since my childhood, Canarsie Pier has gotten more activities that you can enjoy (especially in the summer) that ranges from hiking to kayaking.

The High Line

The High Line, many people know about it and some of its history but it’s more than an old railroad, it’s an elevated public park overlooking Manhattan’s gems of the city. Apart from that amazing futuristic outlook of space, it is also very ecologically sustainable since it is essentially a recycled use of space which is the most eco-friendly aspect of the entire park. Since Manhattan is severely structurally dense the thought of having a public park elevated using air space instead of land space is a simple and clever way to resourcefully utilize New York City’s space.

In the year of 1929 the idea of a central railroad on the west side of Manhattan along with the West Side highway was proposed by Robert Moses. The costly project was carried out and by 1934 freight trains began to use the railway. The route was essentially tailored for heavy deliveries to major factories and such; like the NABISCO factory (which is now Chelsea Market, that I had mentioned last week). By the mid 1980’s, trains stopped using the railway entirely; it had served its purpose for 46 years, throughout the depression and the departure of the NABISCO company (also as I stated last week). At this point in time, the High Line faced the risk of being demolished; it wasn’t being used anymore and was a waste of much needed space. In 1999 the Friends of the High Line formed and started fundraising to rebuild the line as a park; its purpose became apparent as drought-resistant weeds and other plants began to sprout, taking over the railroad. After getting the railway disconnected from the main railroad, they began landscaping it in 2006 with the help of James Corner’s Field Operations, re-building it with help from architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and garden design from Piet Oudolf. Many more helped with this project as it opened in parts; Phase I opened in 2009, Phase II opened in 2011, and Phase III opened in 2014, the High Line in entirety opened in 2015.

Currently the park sustains different parts of life in New York City; it contributes as homes for animals and other nature, it is a tourist attraction, and the park’s infamous qualities and heavy foot traffic easily makes it the focal point of establishments or residential housing that reside alongside the railway. Along the way I saw a plethora of cafes, hotels, and other eateries advertising themselves with the High Line; like Highline Pizzeria, Underline Coffee, and The High Line Hotel. There are also major architectural developments that are taking and have taken place juxtaposed the High Line, giving the people inside the building a view of the High Line and the park-goers a view inside the architectural world of that person’s office or dwelling. If you have been on the High Line, you’ve probably seen the Neil Denari apartment building; through the windows you can see how the residents made the apartment a home by decorating the windows with “kid drawings”.  Another new structure that is in the process of being built is a building by infamous female architect, Zaha Hadid. Seeing it in person for the first time shocked me. I had forgotten about the construction of her first residential building in New York City. The building is very close to being completed. Although, Hadid will not be able to see it due to her unfortunate death last year, I feel like it enriches the High Line and vice versa.

If you are ever up for a 1.5 mile walk try out the High Line. Take in the nature and the surroundings; green space is highly valued in New York City since we rarely see it.

Neil Denari’s Residence building is framed within other buildings (pictured towards the back).

Zaha Hadid’s High Line Condominium