For four years now, I have been buying my Christmas tree from the same pop-up shop on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. Did you ever wonder where all these trees come from? I did. Turns out they are Canadian imports! At least the ones on Bedford. I discovered that the tree-logging-team is from Montreal. They work for a tree farm in Nova Scotia, and spend 5 weeks a year selling tress on the streets of New York City. The most intriguing part to me is that they live in their vans. Naturally, given this is New York, they sell trees 24 hours a day. 4AM on Bedford tends to be peak time for them, as those that imbibed too freely find themselves spending too freely. I asked them where they freshened up. The team on Bedford uses the facilities at the Williamsburg Metropolitan Pool, across the street from their van. Occasionally they meet a friend or two in the city, on their time off, and get to enjoy the warmth of a real home. There are always 2-3 people in the van. One person always selling, the other resting, and the third on stand-by should things get busy. Oh, the things that make this city-go-round…
“New York was a city where you could be frozen to death in the midst of a busy street and nobody would notice.”
– Bob Dylan
For the past two summers we have had a special park just down the block from our apartment, overlooking one of the most breathtaking views of the Williamsburg Bridge. Havemeyer Park, a temporary haven in what remains one of the last pieces of undeveloped land along the East River Waterfront. The park is open only on limited days, but always accessible on the weekends.
There are free public grills, picnic tables, and plenty of space to spread a blanket out on and relax for the day. In the evenings, you can even arrange to host small parties with live music, for a small fee. There is a dirt bike course hosted by Ride Brooklyn. There is a flourishing urban farm, which opens as a farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I’ve heard the “Havemeyer team” will even cook you a farm-to-table meal for your party, if that fits your fancy. How special is this gem? Oh, and did I mention the tipi/teepee?
When it first opened, I was so excited that there was a yet undiscovered park right down the street from me! Only recently did I realize its impermanence. As soon as the construction begins to tear down the Domino Sugar Factory, Havemeyer Park goes with it. I had to put my fantasies of hosting the welcome”rehearsal dinner” event for my wedding next year at Havemeyer to rest. I suppose the natural evolution of a city is to grow, tear down, and grow bigger.
The book I’m reading right now takes place in New York in the 70’s. There was a paragraph that really stuck with me. The author describes how New York is a city of present moment. It is a place where the past is disregarded, constantly overwritten. I’m heartbroken that Havemeyer Park won’t be around next summer, but I’m thankful that it is part of my present.
And until then, I always make a point to stop by the park every weekend… to take in one more inspiring image of the Williamsburg Bridge and the glimmering city behind it.
Every year we checkout the annual art installation on the Met Rooftop. This year, we went with good friends of ours after a long work week, and watched the sunset while sipping martini’s over Central Park. This year’s exhibit, by Dan Graham, felt like a continuation of the city’s green forest below.
366.8°F, the Melting Point of table sugar.
I live up the street from the old Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The factory and its iconic yellow sign (which, I guess is 40 feet tall) have become a bit of landmark in my trek home from Manhattan. I often bike to home from work, and just as I cross the mid-way point on the Williamsburg Bridge heading into Brooklyn, I look up and think, “almost home”. I realize that the old abandoned factory symbolizes much beyond my selfish desire to return home after a long day, but I mention it because it is part of my life. Simple and subtle, but it is there.
It has been known for a few years now that the old Refinery was nearing its end – slowly hitting its melting point, its point of decomposition. Sadly, in gentrifying neighborhoods, large useless (albeit historic) structures scream “monetize me”. The city has great plans to place a high-rise building with 2,200 apartments right in its slot, rising over 50 stories high. The waterfront and skyline of Brooklyn will forever be changed.
There is a live exhibit going on inside the desolate structure this summer, Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety”. I made the time to go. An exclusive entrance into this massive structure I have gazed at and beyond so many times is impossible to pass up. All of her art is formed out of sugar. You step into the building and are instantly hit with the scent of sweet molasses, a wave of boiling sugar.
“…an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.“
The colossal Sugar Baby structure is mesmerizing, clearly larger than life. The contrast of her white figure with the black and rotted wooden walls of the structure is breathtaking. This baby is not melting.
I feel lucky to have lived in Williamsburg during the time of Domino.
For those equally intrigued by observing movement, there isn’t a better place to spend an evening in New York then at the Metropolitan Opera House watching the American Ballet Theater company perform. I recently saw Don Quixote a playful and engaging ballet accompanied by a tremendous display of athletic talent from the dancers.
The opera house is something else. We sat on the Dress Circle level, which had reasonably priced seats for such an event. We were C121 and C123, and found the view to still be spectacular. We had a great birds eye view of the Orchestra as well.
As far as dress atire at the ballet, it can really range. We saw men in tuxes and ladies in ball gowns, but we figured they were distinguished donors or of that sort. We also saw tourists in jeans and shirts, seemingly just off the street. I suggest comfortable, yet business casual attire. If you’re on the Dress Circle level, most of your fellow spectators will be in dresses and button down shirts, but nothing too fancy.
Lincoln Center has recently remodeled the entire entrance to the main opera house, and it just looks spectacular. Get there early for photos before sunset. It is New York’s most beautiful open plaza, by far.