Monday, April 13, 2009

This is Brooklyn - 2

Back to the eastern DUMBO Buddhist Temple mentioned earlier. This might be my favorite example of adaptive re-use, particularly in New York. What used to be a gas station is now a festive - if meek - Buddhist worship center. The CMU - walled-in site encloses a space that triples in function, from entry courtyard to small parking lot, to basketball court and play area.

On the day I was there, a well respected Bodhisattva was visiting from Asia to perform ceremonies that afternoon. Our tour guide explained that what looks like tattered flags one might see at a used car lot are actually a part of the tradition. They are prayer flags, hung in strands newly for special occasions and buddhist tradition prohibits them from being taken down. Over time, the old flags wear, and new flags are added. As breezes blow through the flags, it is said that the prayers from the center are sent out into the world...

A truly poetic concept, particularly with such a vibrant cultural center being located in such a dreary post-industrial area of the city.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This is Brooklyn - 1

A walking tour through Vinegar Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yards, just east of DUMBO shows some unexpected realities existing in Brooklyn.

Typical DUMBO - ever present new development (or halted new development in this case) over the old.
There is a Buddhist center in a most unsuspecting spot (more on this later).

Preserved (and now historically landmarked) brownstones.. few and far between.

The rest of the landmarked district (the only working class district to be landmarked in NYC) - a 1850s-1940s business district is now fully residential - living rooms function behind shaded storefronts.

Most unbelievable for the area, one particularly fortunate family lives in a mansion - the old Navy Commandants' home which is now private property. 28 rooms on 4 acres of land purchased in the early 90s for just $2 million. This is at the crest of Vinegar Hill, maybe 1/2 mile from the waterfront, with a view to lower Manhattan.

The other side of the Navy Yards show an easily missed hot debate topic in the preservation world. 10 + historic buildings formerly owned by the US Navy await their fates as developers consider their demolition for the purpose of providing a supermarket with a 350 car parking lot. The Municipal Arts Society is fighting for their restoration and rehabilitation.

These plastic flowers have been placed with care in the midst of the chaos of overgrowth, which has a powerful aesthetic all of it's own.