New York/Brothers


© Brian Rose

MAJOR UPDATE BELOW

I did not know until a few days ago that Mark Epstein, former chairman of the Cooper Union board of trustees, is the brother of Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile, who was arrested by the FBI on Saturday. I also did not know that Jeffrey attended Cooper for two years, studied math and science – I assume admitted to the engineering school – and dropped out in 1971.

Mark also attended Cooper in the art school graduating in 1976 just before I got there in 1977. I knew that Mark was in NYC real estate, owning buildings in Hudson Square and elsewhere. What I found out today was that he owns a building on the Upper East Side that is connected to his brother Jeffrey’s activities.

Mark Epstein was one of the key villains of Cooper Union’s recent history. As Felix Salmon wrote in Reuters in 2013: “Epstein… was intimately involved in most of Cooper Union’s worst decisions,” the most major of which was the $175 million mortgage to build the New Academic Building, a move that almost bankrupted the school, necessitating the imposition of tuition for the first time since its founding by Peter Cooper in 1859. He then publicly blamed the alumni for not doing enough, comparing Cooper’s alumni giving numbers unfavorably with Princeton University, an institution of vastly different scale and purpose.

I became involved with the Cooper Union alumni association at that time and wrote frequently on my blog and on Facebook about the existential crisis consuming the school. At one point, I received an anonymous comment on my blog from an individual who noted that many of the most vocal critics of the board and administration had not previously been financial supporters of the school. Suggesting that we had no business complaining. With a little internet sleuthing I was able to trace the comment to Mark Epstein. So, the chairman of the board of trustees was anonymously trolling an outspoken alumnus. Epstein’s pettiness was a minor event, but indicative of a downward spiral that eventually led to the alumni association being kicked off the campus by school president Jamshed Bharucha.

The Bharucha/Epstein reign of terror was short lived, however. There were student protests, a lawsuit, the intercession of the state Attorney General, and as a result, Bharucha, Epstein and other board members left the school under a cloud of opprobrium. Things have turned around positively at Cooper since their departure with the college now looking to a return to free tuition in the foreseeable future, and I hadn’t heard Mark Epstein’s name in a long time.

Until yesterday’s Crain’s business magazine. The article by Will Bredderman begins, “The epicenter of the scandal engulfing wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein is his mansion on East 71st Street, but real estate records show he also has been involved in his billionaire neighbor’s house and another East Side property belonging to his brother.” It gets complicated, but it appears that the company set up as owner of Jeffrey’s mansion has its mailing address in a building owned by his brother Mark.

The article continues: “On the deed, the Nine East 71st Street Corp. listed as its address unit 10F at 301 E. 66th St. Both the unit and the building, records show, belong to 301/66 Owners Corp, an affiliate of Ossa Properties—the real estate company belonging to Mark Epstein, formerly the board chairman at Cooper Union. Numerous news reports have identified Mark as Jeffrey Epstein’s brother, including a 2009 New York Post article that quoted an attorney for several of the underage girls who accused the financier of sexual assault. The lawyer, Brad Edwards, asserted at the time that Jeffrey Epstein had rented apartments at 301 E. 66th St. for the accusers.”

In other words, as this article and the Post article suggest, the two brothers may have colluded in providing housing for underage girls who were part of Jeffrey’s horrific rape and sex trafficking scheme. The Post article from 2009 quotes Jeffrey’s lawyer saying, “Jeffrey rents several apartments there where he keeps his girls, alleged models for the MC2 agency he owns,” Edwards said. “But Mark acts like he doesn’t even know his brother. He was extremely angry and rude and cursed me out.”

That same year — 2009 — Mark Epstein was named chairman of the Cooper Union board of trustees. In 2013 at the end of his term, Epstein was granted the honorific Chairman Emeritus. He continued as a board member until his resignation in 2015 when the Attorney General imposed a settlement stemming from the lawsuit brought against the board by students, faculty, and alumni.

Given the rebirth of Cooper Union since that time, it is unfortunate that the school is now tainted by an association with the Epstein brothers. But the stench of the Epstein scandal has seeped into our body politic, and while the full extent of the rot remains unknown, it is embodied no less than by the pestilent figure now occupying the White House.

UPDATE

An article in the NY Times in 1993 mentions Ossa Properties and two partners in the firm, Jonathan and Anthony Barrett. There is no mention in the article of Mark Epstein, but Epstein’s LinkedIn page indicates that he was owner of Ossa from 1992 to the present. In a 2004 document related to the Harlem Charter School Barrett is listed as a proposed trustee of the school, and his bio states the following:

“…he spent four years at NYC based investment management firm, J Epstein & Co. (Wexner Investment Company) and Ossa Properties, an affiliated NYC real estate investment company.”

There it is. Wexner was Jeffrey Epstein’s principle client — or only known client. Ossa, Mark’s company, was affiliated with Wexner/Jeffrey. That’s where his money came from. 

Cooper Union should have known this. 



© Brian Rose

 

 

New York/West Side Highway


West Side Highway at 59th Street, 1985 — © Brian Rose

Two new scanned images from around 1985 when I roamed up the west side of Manhattan. The West Side Highway was torn down after a collapse of one section of the elevated viaduct. I remember walking it during the late 70s. I have a few 35mm slides taken from it. Only a few of the Art Deco details of the structure were saved when it was torn down.


West Side Highway remnants, 2009 — © Brian Rose

A few years ago, I discovered a couple of discarded concrete pieces of the highway behind some fencing in lower Manhattan.


George Washington Bridge, 1985 — © Brian Rose

I remember doing this photograph as part of an assignment having to do with the George Washington Bridge. Not exactly a classic view of the bridge, but the image does give a sense of the beautifully wild, if forbidding, urban landscape of the time period.

Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

I returned to the scene of the crime the other day — Atlantic City that is — where I documented the legacy of Donald Trump’s failed casinos. The city skyline can be seen at a distance from the Garden State Parkway, a row of towers hovering above Absecon Bay. At a glance, it could be Miami Beach, but one swiftly becomes aware of the difference once over the bridge and onto the ragged streets of the city.


Susan Wallner, producer, on the street in Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

I was traveling with a TV crew doing a piece about my book for a show called State of the Arts, which looks at creative life in New Jersey and airs on public television. As a photographer, I am usually looking through the camera, but having done a lot of interviews and presentations in recent years, I’m not too uncomfortable on the subject side of the camera. We visited various locations around Atlantic City where my book images were made, wheeling around a little cart containing camera gear, and occasionally jumping into an SUV when the distances were too far to walk.


Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

On this bright sunny day in mid-May, Atlantic City appeared, at first, rather upbeat compared to the mood of the pictures in my book. But that cheeriness soon was dissipated by a rather threatening individual, tall and muscular and obviously high as a kite, who wanted to make sure we weren’t photographing him. And then a man came up who said he was running for city council, pointing to a storefront with his name displayed on it, and I asked him about the current mayor who recently got into a fistfight at 2 am in the parking garage of one of the casinos. He said he was a crook who had to go. Which reminded me that Atlantic City’s history has been rife with various kinds of crooks at all levels, from drug addicts to mayors, from numbers runners to mafioso, from party bosses to casino tycoons. That’s why were here. The biggest conman of them all, Donald Trump, had come and gone, and was now scamming the entire country.


The White House Sub Shop celebrity wall — © Brian Rose

We went to lunch at The White House Sub Shop, which features a portrait of Donald Trump on its celebrity wall with an inscription and signature in gold ink. It’s a younger, somewhat raffish Donald in the photo, and one is reminded that Trump was the most important figure in this town for more than two decades. The White House website has a menu for its outlet in the Hard Rock Casino, which took over the Trump Taj Mahal, stripping off the onion domes and minarets, replacing the faux Indian/Russian theme with electric guitars. If you click on the link for the Hard Rock White House, you go to a menu that still says Trump Taj Mahal. It’s been several years since the final departure of Trump from Atlantic City, but his ghost still haunts the place.


The White House menu/Hard Rock Casino — © Brian Rose


Trump Plaza — © Brian Rose

Just a block from the White House there’s a vast expanse of blank wall festooned with a golden cartouche, which was once accompanied by a giant red Trump Plaza sign. All the Trump logos have been removed, but you can still just make out the letters for Trump Plaza formed by the brackets embedded in the wall. I call it Trump’s wall.


Caesars parking structure — © Brian Rose

Next to the abandoned Trump Plaza is Caesars, which is still going strong among the casinos that front the boardwalk. I’m often asked in interviews what has changed in Atlantic City since I finished making the photographs for the book, and I have to remind them that the most recent images were done only last year. Not much has changed since I started the project in November of 2016, just a few weeks after Trump’s election.

The official boosters of Atlantic City have been touting the city’s comeback now that the Trump Taj Mahal and the Revel have reopened under new owners. But the reality is that Atlantic City remains a one-industry town, and the basic equation between the glitzy casinos and the impoverished city remains unchanged. I liken the gargantuan out-of-scale casinos to the steel mills that used to hover over rowhouses in old factory towns. The casinos are an extreme example of the industrialization of tourism. The steel of yesteryear built America’s infrastructure, which is now crumbling, while the casinos offer entertainment, and the money gets shipped straight to Wall Street. Or into the pockets of grifters like Donald Trump.

 

Atlantic City/An Update


Atlantic City in the Tate Modern bookstore

An update on my book Atlantic City. I’ve gotten a number of excellent articles, and most recently a review by Blake Andrews in Photo-Eye. I am expecting a couple of more reviews to appear soon, and I just did a podcast interview on Monocle, an online magazine.

Here are links to the various articles, interviews, and podcasts:


Monocle – Podcast


Photo-Eye – Review


Route 40 Article


The Guardian – Article


Wired – Article


Untapped Cities – Article


Based On A True Story… – Review


Fast Company – Article

New York/God Bless America

Smith Street, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

I always knew there was a problem with Kate Smith and her campy version of “God Bless America” imposed upon us during the 7th inning stretch at every Yankee home game. I always knew that it was George Steinbrenner, the former Yankee owner, who demanded that it be played after the 911 attacks. Kate Smith’s recording of it had, for him, the desired jingoistic flavor. And I also knew that Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” as a reaction to the patriotic treacle of Irving Berlin’s song. Berlin, of course, was a Jewish Russian immigrant, and the song was written in 1918 during World War I, and it was revived by Kate Smith in 1938 as war loomed once again in Europe.


Mount Vernon, Virginia — © Brian Rose

It all gets complicated, really. Berlin wrote numerous enduring Broadway classics, and Guthrie wrote as many enduring songs of protest and social commentary. But there’s something about the way Kate Smith sang “God Bless America” that epitomized a certain kind of patriotism — the sort of patriotism that reeked of an uncritical sense of cultural superiority. So, I was not surprised when it was revealed that Kate Smith had also recorded the racist classics “That’s Why Darkies were Born” and “Pickaninny Heaven.”


Wiliamsburg, Virginia — © Brian Rose

There’s a video on YouTube of Irving Berlin himself singing “God Bless America.” It starts off with him alone on the stage, his wavering voice just barely able to reach the high notes, and I thought, okay, I can live with this. But then the curtains behind him open, the music swells, and a uniformed choir of boy scouts and girl scouts takes over in full-throated fervor, turning what started as a sentimental hymn to America into a bombastic, almost militaristic anthem. This performance was on the Ed Sullivan Show in May of 1968, the year of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the Prague Spring uprising in Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Robert Kennedy,  and the wave of riots that swept across American cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, let us just say that “God Bless America” has a certain history, and it is not a safe, uncontroversial, paean to mountains and prairies. Kate Smith’s contralto, after 18 years of residence, is no longer welcome at Yankee Stadium. Good riddance.


Coney Island, New York — © Brian Rose

New York/1985


West 51st Street and the Westside Highway, 1985 — © Brian Rose


West 28th Street and 11th Avenue, 1985 — © Brian Rose

Two images of the west side of Manhattan in 1985 with Empire State Building. Today, the ESB has lost its primacy on the skyline, though not its architectural presence. For me, it will always be New York’s greatest skyscraper.

New York/Atlantic City

Atlantic Casino — © Brian Rose

A few outtakes from Atlantic City. Pictures that for one reason or another did not make the cut. The main reason being that I wanted a really tight series of pictures without too many digressions or repetitions. You can purchase Atlantic City here.


Atlantic Avenue — © Brian Rose

Hotel on the boardwalk — © Brian Rose

Atlantic City boardwalk — © Brian RoseFormer Trump Taj Mahal — © Brian Rose

The Trump Taj Mahal was stripped of its faux Indian/Russian onion domes and minarets, and the new owner, Hard Rock International, pasted on their guitars. The picture above catches things in between. Although there are still the traditional hand-pushed rolling carts on the boardwalk, there are now a number of these little buses that take tourists up and down the beach.

You can purchase Atlantic City here.

New York/Atlantic City

Now available on Amazon and in selected bookshops.

I haven’t said much about this to my friends, but in the middle of producing my book, Atlantic City, I was struggling more and more with seeing what I was doing. I visited an ophthalmologist, and was told I had cataracts that were fairly advanced. I had the surgery right away and had multi-focal lenses implanted.

The results were stunning. My book arrived from the printer, and I could not believe what I was seeing. The colors were more vivid, the details sharper. And yet the book I had created in relative dimness was beautifully balanced, the colors true. My doctor said I had compensated. Now, as I hold my finished book, the world is brand new, and the future brighter.

New York/Kevin Roche


UN Plaza Hotel, 1984 — © Brian Rose

Architect Kevin Roche died on Friday at 96. I photographed several of his buildings including the Metropolitan’s Temple of Dendur. For me, the most interesting project was the UN Plaza Hotel with its precisely juxtaposed towers. The lobby interior was, perhaps, over the top, but it certainly embodies the time period, 1984, when New York was just beginning to emerge from near financial ruin.


UN Plaza Hotel, 1984 — © Brian Rose


UN Plaza Hotel, 1984 — © Brian Rose

The interiors of UN Plaza were officially landmarked two years ago, which was something of a breakthrough for preservationists who believe that recognition and protected status should extend to postmodern buildings along with mid-century modernism. I’m not sure that I especially like the glitzy mirrors of Roche’s hotel lobby, but I do not quarrel with the Landmark Commission’s decision. It would be a great loss to allow postmodernism, with all its hits and misses, to be erased from the cultural landscape.


Ford Foundation and UN Plaza, 1984 — © Brian Rose

The image above shows the Ford Foundation Building — arguably Roche’s finest building — with the UN Plaza. Difficult to get them both in, and probably not my best picture, but I remember going to a lot of trouble to get that vantage point.

 

New York/Atlantic City


Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

I drove down to Atlantic City to meet up with Bill Sprouse of the online news outlet Route 40. We walked around key locations and revisited some of the spots I photographed for my book.


Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City — Photo by William Sprouse

On Pacific Avenue behind Boardwalk Hall and next to Delilah’s Den, I walked into my original photograph. Everything felt and looked the same — the overcast sky, the slight chill in the air. But something was amiss. It was Bill who pointed out that the “Free Parking” sign had been vandalized, or removed, in any case.

New York/Westside


W
est 35th Street, 1985 — © Brian Rose

When I did my Meatpacking District photographs in 1985, I also walked up the westside through Chelsea, ending up in the 30s, the area now known as Hudson Yards. It was desolate in those days like many areas of Manhattan. In the picture above, only the tall buildings in the rear including the New Yorker hotel and the Empire State Building, remain standing.


39th Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 — © Brian Rose


From West 37th Street looking north, 1985 — © Brian Rose

West 36th Street and 11th Avenue — © Brian Rose

I didn’t include these pictures in my book, Metamorphosis, about the Meatpacking District, because I wanted a more focused book. I still think it was the right decision. But as I scanned this material, I realized that I had taken more photographs in Chelsea and the west side of Midtown than I thought. I’ve ben saying that the Meatpacking photographs were taken over a two or three day period in 1985, but looking at the number of images I have, and the various skies and weather conditions, I probably was out shooting 4 or 5 days, maybe more.


34th Street and 11th Avenue, 2019 — © Brian Rose

This is what the area looks like now. You come out of the new 7 train station into a maze of construction fencing, barriers, food carts, an inflated union rat with red eyes, and, all around, glass skyscrapers on the rise.

New York/Atlantic City

I received my first copy of Atlantic City from the publisher today. It is absolutely beautiful. A spare but powerful presentation of photographs and text. Kickstarter backers and pre-orders will get books as soon as I have them. You can still pre-order for a limited time at a discount. Official publishing date is March 1. Stay tuned!


New York/Chelsea 1985

West 20th and 10th Avenue 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

When I made my photographs of the Meatpacking District in 1985, I also walked up into Chelsea. I didn’t include those pictures in Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013, because I wanted a tighter, more focused, book. I scanned everything, however, but am just getting around to color correcting and posting those images on Instagram and here on my blog.


West 21st. Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Like the Meatpacking District, the area had greatly declined from it heyday as New York’s docklands. Both passenger and freight shipping once lined the Hudson River along the westside of Manhattan. Trains serviced the warehouse buildings and markets — some freight cars coming by barge across the river — others on the High Line, the elevated rail viaduct that threads its way between and even through the buildings. Prior to that, tracks ran directly down 10th Avenue — the avenue of death it was called — because so many people were killed by the trains.


London Terrace, 10th Avenue and 23rd Street, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


23rd and 11th Avenue, 1985 (4×5) — © Brian Rose


West 28th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


10th Avenue and West 23rd Street, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I made these photographs over several days in January and February 1985. It was time of transition for me, looking beyond Manhattan, which had been my photographic habitat for almost ten years. That summer I began photographing the Iron Curtain border — I went twice in 1985 — and that work became my primary focus for several years. After the wall came down, I have continued to follow developments in Berlin, returning every four or five years. So, 1985 was a busy year for me.


West 36th Street, New York, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


West 29th Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

 

New York/Amsterdam


I
 Amsterdam sign before removal — © Brian Rose

I used to live in Amsterdam back in 2004 when the city put up the “I Amsterdam” sign as part of a campaign to promote tourism. I hated it — being the highbrow urbanite that I am — but over the years it became an icon of the city, and even though I bemoaned the selfie taking riff raff — not sophisticated like me — I came to accept it begrudgingly. It was very, very, popular.

The city council of Amsterdam in a stunning act of cultural vandalism has removed the sign.

In a statement, reported by The Telegraph, (Councilwoman) Roosma said: “The message of ‘I amsterdam’ is that we are all individuals in the city. We want to show something different: diversity, tolerance, solidarity.”

“This slogan reduces the city to a background in a marketing story,” she added. “Amsterdammers want to regain their grip on the city.”

Let’s cut to the chase. This is exactly the opposite meaning of the sign. Anyone could stand up in front of those giant letters and say “I am Amsterdam.” I am a citizen of the world, I am white, black, yellow, it makes do difference, I am a local, I am a tourist, I am Amsterdam. We are Amsterdam, a cosmopolitan city that beckons to people of all races and creeds from around the globe.

Removing the sign is a pathetic attempt to return to a cozier past when Amsterdam could be enjoyed by its own (mostly white) citizens. Never mind the polyglot Amsterdam of the Golden Age. Never mind the 100,000 Jews who once lived in Amsterdam and were wiped off the face of the earth. Yes, let’s purge the city of outsiders, unless they are the right kind.

If that’s what people want, I am not Amsterdam.

New York/December 21


The Berlin Wall, December 1989 — © Brian Rose

Verona, Italy


Renee Schoonbeek, Verona, Italy — © Brian Rose

Renee and I traveled to Verona, Italy to be on press for the printing of my book Atlantic City. We spent a day walking around the city, a beautifully preserved architectural wonder.

On the second day we met up with David Jenkins of Circa Press and took a taxi to an industrial area on the outskirts of town. EBS is a world renowned printer of photo books, and it was a privilege to work with such skilled technicians.


EBS, Verona, Italy

Jonathan Bortolazzi of EBS, me, and David Jenkins of Circa Press looking at images just off the press.


EBS, Verona, Italy — © Brian Rose

Three giant presses ran almost continuously while I was there.


EBS, Verona, italy — © Brian Rose

A sheet with eight images and approval signature. The book has now been printed and the binding will be completed by mid-January.


Piazza Bra — © Brian Rose

New York/Alex Harsley


Alex Harsley — © Brian Rose

Alex Harsley, master photographer and oracle of 4th Street. I’ve known Alex since the late 1970s when I moved to the building next to his storefront gallery. Alex’s work spans multiple decades and multiple genres — photojournalism, street photography, portraiture, manipulated images, video. His pictures run up and down the walls of his tiny space at 67 East 4th Street, a crazy quilt installation of endless fascination and discovery. Stop in and chat with Alex. You won’t get this at any establishment museum — you have to seek it out yourself.


Alex Harsley photographs, portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat at left — © Brian Rose


Alex Harsley photograph — © Brian Rose

Scanning the walls of Alex’s gallery, I came across an image I hadn’t seen before of a group of men in front of a storefront somewhere in New York. It reads like a still from an unknown film noir movie shot on the streets of Spanish Harlem. Back when men regularly wore hats, jackets, and leather shoes. One can only speculate the relationships between the figures standing or walking through, the glances this way and that. The man is the foreground is particularly vivid with the patterned jacket, buttoned up white shirt, and mustache over pursed lips.


1679 Madison Avenue near 111th Street

I figured out where Alex’s photograph was taken — 1679 Madison Avenue near 111th Street on the east side of Manhattan. It’s the only building still standing on the block. In the 1950s when the picture was made. there was a thriving Latino community, but it eventually all came apart, like so many places in New York. A bland housing project now looms in the background.

This is but one of dozens of photographs on the walls Alex Harsley’s gallery.


Alex Harsley — © Brian Rose