Category Archives: Long Island City

New York/Twin Towers

borden_twin_towers
Borden Avenue, Queens — © Brian Rose (digital camera)

Several months ago I spotted a 9/11 mural in an obscure location underneath the Long Island Expressway in Queens. I was driving back from one of my son’s baseball tournaments on Long Island. It took me a while to get back there — in fact, re-finding it was a difficult. But thanks to Google maps I was able to track down the spot.

Using an app on my phone called Helios, I was able to determine exactly what time the light would be best on the mural. So, I went out early in the morning with my view camera, and walked about 15 minutes from the closest station on the #7 line in Long Island City. I couldn’t quite make out the signature at the base of the mural, painted on the side of an auto body shop in this gritty industrial part of Queens. Trucks thundered by as I set up my 4×5 camera under the elevated LIE. (The image above was taken with my digital camera.)

Although I have been calling my World Trade Center book project complete for some time, this seemed like a worthwhile addition to the series. A ghostlike rendering of the Twin Towers surrounded by calligraphic tags. The inscription says: “Dedicated to all the victims of September 11, 2001.” There are, or were, many such murals around the city, but they are gradually fading away.

It’s time to get this book published.

New York/Roosevelt Island


Long Island City from Roosevelt Island — © Brian Rose

On Sunday I took a tour of Four Freedoms Park, a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, currently under construction on Roosevelt Island. The island is located in the East River opposite Midtown and the Upper East Side. It is accessible by aerial tram and subway, and by a bridge from Queens. In the past, the island was primarily used for prisons and hospitals, a convenient location to keep separate from society certain people–notably the mentally ill, small pox patients, and victims of polio. In the 1970s a planned community of high rises was built for middle income residents, and more recently, market rate housing.

It was damp, foggy morning, and I joined about 25 other Cooper Union alumni for the hour-long tour at the far southern end of the island. The memorial was originally designed by Louis Kahn in 1973, but it was not built because of the city’s fiscal problems. The project was resurrected a few years ago and is now going forward using the Kahn design. I snapped pictures of the construction site as well as views across the East River and historic structures on the island.


FDR Four Freedoms Park under construction — © Brian Rose

The memorial culminates in a granite enclosed “room” at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island opening onto a vista of the river and the adjacent United Nations complex in Manhattan–enveloped in fog above.

The complete series of ten photographs can be seen here.

The park website is here.

New York/Long Island City

I went to PS1 in Long Island City to the New York Art Book Fair, an immense bazaar of independent publishers and self publishers. It was overwhelming. Thousands of books and a crowd exuding off-the-charts coolness. I felt I was in some parallel universe, a self-contained world of hyper-awareness and solipsism. Lots of great stuff I’m sure, but it all began to diminish before me, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope, smaller and smaller and smaller.

So, I did what I always do when confronted with such situations–I took pictures. First a security guard leaning against a glass wall. Then out the window, the Citibank tower aglow. Then in the courtyard, a concrete wall and rosy sky. Through the museum entrance and into the street I followed the last shards of sunlight bursting in a kaleidoscope of graffiti painted walls, I walked home toward the G train past a contructivist mashup of shapes and letters.


© Brian Rose


© Brian Rose


© Brian Rose


© Brian Rose


© Brian Rose


© Brian Rose

New York/Long Island City


P.S.1, Long Island City — © Brian Rose

Coming out of P.S.1, the Long Island City art museum, I pressed my camera up against the wall and did an almost sharp time exposure. In the foreground are metal tubes left over from an earlier installation. Having just seen Robert Bergman’s haunted and hollowed out faces at the museum I find myself in a rather somber mood as the 00’s come to an end.


Robert Bergman photograph at P.S. 1 — © Brian Rose

Bergman’s photographs are beautiful, disturbingly so. But I don’t subscribe to Toni Morrison’s description of his pictures that they assert “community, the unextinguishable sacredness of the human race.” It has become obligatory to find redemptive qualities where none exists. Not that the people in Bergman’s photos lack human tenacity–of course they do–but their faces express the damage of surviving on the margins of society, held in the amber glow of Bergman’s light and color. They are roadside totems–mute, unidentified–storied eyes that suggest hard wisdom. But most of us would recoil from these quite likely rambling, chaotic, figures in the flesh.


Robert Bergman photograph at P.S. 1 — © Brian Rose

The beauty found belies a cruelty, one of the central dichotomies of photography, that people and things must be “sacrificed” on the altar of art. The redemption, if there is any, is that Bergman succeeds at street portraiture where so many other photographers fail, and with these gravely intense images, the end justifies the means.

Washington Post article here.

New York/Long Island City


Long Island City

I wasn’t familiar with the French designer/architect Jean Prouvé until several years ago when I photographed an auction house in New York that was selling some of his furniture. He is well-known in France, less so over here. When I read that his Maison Tropicale, a metal kit house, was on display in Queens, I organized a family outing, and off we went through the wilds of Long Island City.

Con Ed and Midtown skyline

LIC is the neighborhood just across the East River from the United Nations. It’s a hodgepodge of factories, lofts, single family houses, and a new high rise enclave known as Queens West. PS 1, the former school turned modern museum is in LIC as is the Citigroup tower that pokes skyward above everything.


Con Ed and 59th Street Bridge

Bridge and hotel under construction

We took the 7 train over and began walking north toward the 59th Street Bridge. I took lots of pictures of the crazy quilt landscape along the way. Chain link, slabs of concrete, poles, trucks, auto body shops. On the left was a Con Ed power plant with the Midtown skyline as backdrop. Some sort of electrical shed was disguised as a clapboard house complete with slanted roof and window. Just at the bridge, a hotel–looking like a ruin–was, apparently, nearing completion.


Silvercup poster

As we entered the fenced in area where the Prouvé house was displayed, we passed a poster advertising the upcoming Silvercup development, designed by Richard Rodgers, soon to go up on the site. Just over a rise, toward the river, the little metal house stood beneath the towering stone and steel bridge.


Maison Tropicale


Maison Tropicale

A steady stream of visitors found their way to the site by foot, car, and bicycle. It was a sophisticated looking bunch. Foreign languages. Everyone taking pictures. Inside the house, book were on sale, and the porthole windows in the sliding doors cast a blue glow. Christies is expecting 4 to 6 million for the house, but it could go higher. So says someone quoted in the paper. The house will undoubtedly be fabulous on someone’s estate, or in a museum courtyard, but it will never be seen better than here in Long Island City.


Maison Tropicale