The MTA rolled out dark blue, accordion-style articulated buses equipped with wi-fi a couple months ago and already I've seen themall over the Bronx, Brooklyn and Northern Manhattan. They look better than the older white ones and they can fit more people, but change – especially in urban design – scares people because of what it represents. To at least one guy I met today, the bus, it seems, is a symbol for a city changing too fast and leaving people like him behind.Read More
Broadway, Manhattan's longest street, traverses the entire length of the island. Its varied religious sites reflect the character, culture and history of the diverse people and neighborhoods all smushed together inside the world's greatest city.
From Inwood at Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the Bronx, the famous street heads south through Washington Heights and Harlem before pivoting east at the tip of Central Park, cutting through Times Square (briefly becoming the Great White Way) and terminating near Wall Street and the Staten Island Ferry.
I recently walked South along Broadway to document the religious sites as a way to represent neighborhood change and demographics. Some sites, like the imposing Downtown churches, reflect the city's colonial history, while others, like the storefront iglesias and botanicas, represent the city's Spanish-speaking residents. The African Burial Ground National Monument honors the men, women and children subjugated and oppressed even as they built this new society. Even the Atheist stencial in SoHo captures some smart-ass New York rebellious.
There are several religious sites – including mosques, temples and churches – on side streets right off Broadway. I chose to focus on the 28 sites accessible from Broadway.Read More
How do we know if a building fits the aesthetic and culture of a neighborhood? Who's to say? Seems like it's up to the people of the neighborhood. Not some developer who trumpets hollow talking points about abstract cultural influences. Not the new arrivals for whom the building was built and who, yeah, might think a building fits the area's aesthetic because it fits the only aesthetic they've ever known – they didn't experience the brick townhouses before the introduction of glassy prefab slabs. They have no memory and little stake.
In neighborhoods choked and sabotaged by derelict governments and ignored by private investors, we hail modern, somewhat radical buildings that serve the community – for example, some of the funkier supportive housing developments for formerly homeless adults and families like Breaking Ground's Boston Road. The new apartments feature foreign colors and materials or tower above the old, but people tend to consider them progressive and as indicators of investment (which they are).Read More
For almost ninety-years, a wedge in the uptown grid at the quirky intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue, designated a park by the Board of Estimate in 1909, sat misused, abused or neglected.
Initially, the triangle contained a gas station until the Parks Department discovered its rights to the rare patch of land and razed the pumps there in 1985. A group of neighbors then developed the first iteration of Convent Garden, but after the city uprooted their landscaping to remove the underground gas tanks, weeds grew and trash accumulated in the triangle. The chain link fence around the perimeter began to collapse and police officers from the nearby 30th Precinct commandeered the lot to stash seized vehicles or park their own cars.
In 1998, Juliette Davis, who lives on the fourth floor of a building across the street and who neighbors call Miami, decided to rejuvenate the so-called garden. Today, the .13-acre park, full of flowers, trees, a gazebo and an assortment of decorations donated by friends and neighbors, stands out as a colorful oasis amid the Sugar Hill brownstones and a testament to Davis’ determination.
“You can sit around and wait for days and months and years for somebody to do something for you and never get it done, but maybe with a little knowledge you can do it,” Davis said as she sat in the shade beneath a rosebud tree near the garden gate and reflected on the history of Convent Garden and her neighborhood. “I just started doing the work. I started cleaning the place up and doing things myself. I cleaned off this entire lot because my first thought was, ‘I want grass.’ It was like the wilderness here. Garbage. Weeds growing up above your head.”Read More