Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Open House New York, Part II: Brooklyn Army Terminal

A long time coming, thanks to Sandy, here's part two of my look at Open House New York weekend in October. 

Concrete loading platforms in the atrium of Building B

At the western edge of Sunset Park stands a massive monument to American military might. The Brooklyn Army Terminal originally comprised 5 million square feet of space. At its peak during World War II, it employed 56,000 personnel who witnessed 3 million troops and 37 million tons of supplies pass through the complex. For a more in-depth look at its life as a military supply depot, visit TrainWeb, which presents a nice summary of the terminal's history, along with a great collection of archival photos.

In 1981, the City of New York purchased the facilities from the U.S. Government. Since then, NYC has restored approximately 60% of the terminal for office and light industrial use. According to the New York Times, The Army Terminal is one of a growing number of former manufacturing structures to be reconstituted for contemporary use, joining the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Industry City and Liberty View Industrial Plaza, among others. As always, you know something has been gestating for some time when the Times picks up on the trend.

The terminal was built in a mere seventeen months, completed in 1919 according to the designs of the famed New York architect Cass Gilbert. This was a bit surprising, as his reputation had been built on the backs of projects such as the Woolworth Building, the famous Neo-Gothic skyscraper.  In contrast, the terminal was decidedly modern with its reinforced concrete slabs, its delicate steel truss and glass skylight, its vast and sophisticated system of centrally-controlled elevators, its remarkably un-Gilbertesque lack of ornamentation, and its unquestionably functional design. On the other hand, maybe the kernels of this approach existed underneath the Woolworth's medieval skin, in the bones of the steel-structured skyscraper.

Exterior Details

Arcade connecting Administration Building (right) to Building A (left). View through arcade is to the harbor.
The most dramatic feature of the complex is the sun-drenched atrium of Building B, a beautiful testament to modern industrial efficiency. 66 feet wide and over 700 feet long, the atrium could hold up to 50 train cars at one time, split over two tracks. Once inside, the supply cars could be loaded and unloaded by three sky cranes running beneath the roof, 101 feet above the tracks. These cranes could deliver freight to and from the concrete loading balconies, which number several per floor. The atrium allowed work to proceed in natural light regardless of weather conditions.

View of glass skylight over atrium in Building B

Views of Building B's atrium

Three bridges span the atrium at the third floor, reemerging at the west facade to connect Building B to Building A. A track map posted on TrainWeb clearly illustrates the system of sky bridges, which at one time also extended to connect Building A to the now-defunct warehouses on the piers.

View of atrium in Building B, with bridge crossing at the 3rd Floor.

While the complex has been lovingly scrubbed of nearly a century of grime and decay, thankfully it still proudly displays its scars.

Detail of typical concrete loading platform. Note the diagonal steel reinforcement added for structural remediation.

Concrete pier at Building B ground floor loading platform
To visit the Brooklyn Army Terminal, take the N or R train to 59th Street, then walk west along 58th Street, under the BQE, towards the water front. The entrance is between 2nd and 1st Avenues.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leo Villareal at Madison Square Park

If you find yourself anywhere near Madison Square Park between now and February 1, do yourself a favor and check out Leo Villareal's beautiful BUCKYBALL sculpture. Based on the form of the Carbon 60 molecule, the two concentric spheres are comprised of 180 LED lights, constantly in motion and changing colors.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Photo of the Day: Under the Brooklyn Bridge

A few months back, workers spanned wood planks between the girders underneath the bridge where it anchors near Cadman Plaza. Although it's temporary for protection during repairs, I'll surely miss it when its gone. It smells beautiful--like a log cabin in the city.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Red Hook and Beyond, A Week and a Half On

Scenes from Red Hook and Carroll Gardens this morning, a week and a half after Sandy.

Storefront on Van Brunt Street
Service Station on Van Brunt
Temporary lighting provided by NYPD
Conover Street
Cleanup at Fairway Market
Kitchen equipment collected in Fairway's parking lot
Reed Street
Van Brunt Street
Coffey Park

Coffey Park
Outside Carroll Park, Carroll Street
Across Carroll Street from the tree above
Carroll Park

Thursday, November 8, 2012

And Then Came the Snow...

Last night's Nor'easter may not have seemed like much compared to last week's super storm, but for an already crippled region, it wasn't easy. New York is still working to recover from Sandy, and has made strides--resuming subway service, -restoring power (in much of the city), and enabling displaced citizens to vote at makeshift polling stations powered by generators. The snowstorm struck another blow, downing already vulnerable trees and causing further power outages. Today, the mayor imposed gas rationing on the city.

Tonight, tempatures will hover around freezing. Many New Yorkers still lack power and heat. On the bright side, New York Cares has begun its annual coat drive early. Please consider pitching in if you can.

Lower Manhattan, still partially powerless, as seen from Brooklyn

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sandy: One Week Later

Last night it looked like a few more buildings had power downtown, but many along the river still don't. And there's a Nor'easter coming tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Search of Light

Lower Manhattan continues its slow recovery, not yet fully illuminated as of last night. Our friends from Red Hook came over for dinner--their building (our old building) is still lacking power and heat, and it might not return until this weekend. Maura and I will be riding the subway into the city this morning for the first time in over a week. For us, business will resume, albeit not quite as usual. We have been incredibly lucky.

Others were not. According to the mayor, anywhere from 20- to 40,000 of the city's residents are now homeless. We can help in ways large and small. Close to us, the Red Hook Initiative has been working non-stop since the storm to assist the neighborhood's residents--many of whom are still living without power or heat. Donations are accepted through its website. Of course, you can also donate to the Red Cross' hurricane relief efforts. Treehugger has a more exhaustive list of ways to donate time or money.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Red Hook Needs Your Help!

There's still plenty of recovery to go in Red Hook. The great people at Red Hook Initiative have been doing fantastic work and can use help. Please check their Twitter feed for updates on what is needed: As you can see from the poster below, you can provide help in various ways.

via Red Hook Initiative

UPDATE: Maura and I stopped by Visitation Church a little while ago, just before they closed up shop for the night. Neighborhood residents were still there seeking assistance. It seemed they had plenty of food (for now). Huge needs at the moment are coats and blankets, as many people still have no heat and are using their ovens for warmth. Please stop by 98 Richards Street (at the corner of Richards and Verona) tomorrow with any donations.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Disappearance of Gas

This afternoon on Atlantic Avenue, police were directing traffic from a dedicated lane to the Shell station. The line was backed up nearly to the BQE. On the other side of the lot stood a line of pedestrians, maybe 20 long, with gas cans and buckets in hand. While I was watching, they ran out of gas. Welcome to the '70s.