Friday, June 28, 2013

Mermaid Parade 2013: A Photo Diary

Parade-goers await the F Train in Coney Island

It started when we boarded an unusually crowded F car in downtown Brooklyn, and grew with each stop. Purple wigs, sequined pants, body glitter, outlandish suits, almost-birthday suits. When a resplendent group of twenty-somethings broke into a boisterous sing-a-long of "Build Me Up Buttercup," we knew we were on our way... to Coney Island, USA.

Last Saturday marked the 30th Anniversary of Coney Island's beloved Mermaid Parade, an annual tradition celebrating the Summer solstice, which invokes the festive and uninhibited spirit of Mardi Gras. In this, my seventh summer in New York, I finally made the leap with Maura to witness the revelry firsthand. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, this year's parade was nearly cancelled. Thanks in no small part to the fundraising efforts of 2013's King Neptune, Judah Friedlander, the show went on. Come along for a vicarious thrill ride...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

State of Decay: Interview with an Artist

Teddi Rogers: Angela's Lines (2013). Rose petals and cheese cloth on wood panel.
As you may or may not know, I'm currently acting as a curator for the FXFOWLE art gallery. The latest exhibition--running for two more weeks--features the work of Teddi Rogers, a New York artist who uses a variety of organic materials to deal with themes of loss and decay. I recently interviewed Teddi for the FXFOWLE blog, where you can find our discussion.

"SKINNED", an exhibition of Teddi Rogers' mixed-media "Skin Series," will be on display in the FXFOWLE Gallery through Friday, July 12, 2013. The gallery is located at 22 West 19th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm or by appointment.

You can see more of Teddi's work at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Public Pianos of Sing For Hope: Jessica Browne-White in Greeley Square

Sing for Hope Piano in Greeley Square by Jessica Browne-White

For a few more days, the five boroughs will play host to the third incarnation of a delightful public art project imagined by Sing for Hope, a nonprofit established to mobilize artists as agents of change in communities in need. Through Sunday, 88 pianos--each transformed by a different artist--are enlivening streets, parks, plazas and sidewalks throughout the city. Once the citywide exhibition runs its course, the pianos will find permanent homes in an assortment of schools, community centers and healthcare facilities. A map of pianos can be found on the organization's website. Take a look and take a walk--you never know when you might catch lightning in a bottle. Passersby of all stripes are prone to take a seat and take a shot--students, children, tourists. Anthony Tommasini, the New York Times' classical music critic, took it upon himself to sample several around the city, documenting his experiences in this enjoyable piece (with accompanying video) a few days ago.

Passing through Greeley Square (near Macy's) yesterday, I caught a glimpse of one of the pianos in action, witnessing the tail end of a performance by what appeared to be a group of Sing for Hope volunteers.

Today I returned with a sack lunch to examine Jessica Browne-White's vibrant contribution to the public art project. The three-dimensional painted "dreamscape" incorporates several faces cast from participants in an after-school Shakespeare program in Brooklyn. The figures swim across and emerge from the composition, equal parts optimism and despair, depending on one's frame of mind--or perhaps dependent on whether the piece stands in stoic isolation or surrounded by gleeful teenagers. A closer look at Browne-White's creation...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rockaway Recovery, Part 2: Eat More Tacos!

About a month ago, Rockaway Taco--one of the best taco stands in the city, and a Rockaway mainstay since its debut five years ago--reopened for the first time since Superstorm Sandy hit the beachfront community. When we visited on Memorial Day, the patio was alight with families fresh from the holiday parade as well as interlopers from the other boroughs (ahem), all eager to participate in the return of the Rockaways, and all enjoying delectable fish tacos, elote (corn) and fried plantains. Summer has arrived, and if you've never been, there's no better time than now. And if you haven't been since Sandy, there's no better time than now. Without further ado, a look into the wonderful shanty world of taco town...

Clockwise from top left: Elote, Watermelon Juice, Guacamole, Fried Plantains, Fish Taco

As it turns out, Blue is apparently a big fan of plantains, too.

Rockaway Taco is located at 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens, NY.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rockaway Recovery, Part 1: Head to the Beach!

It's been seven months since Sandy destroyed much of the Queens shoreline, and fire decimated Breezy Point. Foundations are all that remain of many homes, as the debris has long since disappeared. Sheets of sand cover traces of driveways and front yards, and blue tarps still stitch together gaping roofs.

Sandy's waterline is still visible throughout the beachfront community.
But rebirth and recovery are the prevalent themes everywhere you look. Rebuilding proceeds apace, and the streets are dotted with contractors' placards and wooden "Stars of Hope," sent by well-wishers around the country and nailed to telephone poles.

"Star of Hope" in Breezy Point, Queens

Rockaway Beach is back, trailed ever so slightly by a very new--and very sturdy--concrete boardwalk, handsomely detailed with crushed glass aggregate of blues and greens.

A utilitarian, but cheerily-painted, brick concession stand sits on the upland edge of the boardwalk, evidently still under construction. Undoubtedly the Rockaway Beach Club vendors are anxiously tracking its progress in the hopes of soon returning.

Opposite the concession stands, a galvanized steel structure has been erected, still adorned in shrink wrap and awaiting the rest of the sun shades that have begun to form a canopy.

Along the east end of the boardwalk, we stumbled upon two exquisite alien life forms... a couple of modular beach structures designed by DUMBO's Garrison Architects. Merely a half year ago, NYC selected Garrison to design and build 37 such buildings as part of the reconstruction of the city's beaches most damaged by the storm. They will be used as lifeguard stations, comfort stations and offices, all easily accessible by ramp from the boardwalks. The prefabricated buildings were sized to travel to their sites on the backs of flat bed trucks. Once there, they were fastened to a series of concrete piles, ensuring that the stations would be elevated above FEMA storm surge levels. As further defense against the elements, the buildings are constructed with a galvanized steel super frame, bolted to the concrete piles, and clad with high-grade stainless steel and glass-fiber reinforced concrete (what looks like wood siding in the photos below). Reported to be net-zero energy users, the stations feature rain screens and double-ventilated roofs, natural lighting through clerestories, skylights and reflective louvers, natural ventilation, and photovoltaic solar arrays to offset energy consumption.

A corrugated stainless steel outer skin is perforated at the roof, providing thermally-efficient ventilation of the enclosure. In the second photo below, you can see that the sheathing--which will eventually continue across the underside of the building--is attached to the structure with steel zee-clips.

The corrugated metal sheathing traces the edge of the galvanized steel super frame.
Detail of lower corner, with glass-fiber-reinforced concrete siding, galvanized frame, and corrugated cladding
View of concrete piles anchored to the shore
Though we traveled by car, the subway lines have recently reopened to Rockaway Beach. To get there, take the A Train to Far Rockaway/Mott Avenue. At the last stop, transfer to the S line, taking it towards Rockaway Park/Beach 116th Street. Get out at Beach 98th Street, and walk south towards the beach.