Photo Of The Day: Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn

Today’s Photo of The Day is a photo shot from the rear-view mirror of a car in the elusive Greenwood Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which borders Gowanus. Along the industrial 2nd Ave. that borders the waters of the Gowanus Bay, abandoned lofts and factories are sandwiched between those that are still in use. A fenced parking lot houses for-sale cars. Semi-trucks sweep in and out of the area for deliveries. I walked down to the water in this neighborhood shortly before Hurricane Sandy struck; I watched the powerful wind churn up rough waves within the normally stagnant puddles on the street. It’s a ghostly area, flush with industrialism and views of the Manhattan skyline. This photo was taken by Ben Britz. If you’d like to contribute a photo to our Photo of the Day, just upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool.

[Photo Credit: Ben Britz]

Brooklyn's Finest (Threads)

Green-Wood Cemetery: I Know Why The Free Bird Sings

After spending two years in Austin, I moved back to New York City in October and into the relatively elusive neighborhood of Green-Wood Heights Brooklyn, directly across from the Green-Wood Cemetery. My first thought was, “At least the neighbors are quiet.”

I spent my days walking past the cemetery and looked onto a sparkling pond beyond the iron gates nearly every day. I admired the Gothic Revival style gates at the main entrance every time that they were in view. During Hurricane Sandy, I took some comfort in the fact that the highest point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill, is within this cemetery. I suppose I thought I would simply sit atop the hill if my street flooded and wait for the waters to recede. I listened to stories about an urban colony of parakeets that live within the cemetery. I once lived in an apartment in Brooklyn alongside an industrious little parakeet named Handsome who flew away one late summer morning. I awoke to an odd silence that prompted me out of bed and wandered sleepily through the halls until I discovered an open window and an empty cage. Although I thought the stories of born again birds to be folklore, I privately hoped them to be true. I sometimes catch myself wondering how Handsome adjusted to his first outdoor winter when he found a permanent home within the immortal gates of Green-Wood Cemetery.

%Gallery-187199%This designated netherworld was a major tourist attraction in the 1850s. Many affluent and famous New Yorkers who passed during this time are buried here. Green-Wood’s eternal guest list includes Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, William Livingston, Samuel Morse, Henry Steinway and many members of the Roosevelt family. Inventors buried there brought contraptions like the safety pin and sewing machine to fruition. Unidentified victims of the 1876 Brooklyn Theater Fire, 103 in total, are buried together in the cemetery. The Wizard from “The Wizard of Oz,” Frank Morgan, rests here and I can’t help but wonder if his visitors ever utter pleas for advice beneath their breath at his tomb. The cemetery’s rich history, remarkable architecture and scenery snowballed into one massively compelling landmark of a neighbor for me.

It was gray and drizzling on Easter Sunday, but I decided to finally explore the grounds. As I climbed the hill that leads to the ornate, umbrella entrance gate, I heard the parakeets before I saw them.

“Aren’t the birds just lovely?” an older woman who was on her way out asked me.

I looked around for an image of the birds she referenced.

“You’re taking pictures of them, right?”

She was pointing toward the points of the gate. I had been taking pictures of them, but I hadn’t noticed them in my frame. The rumors were true and the evidence was before my eyes: a colony of parakeets do inhabit this cemetery and several nests lie within the crevices of the gate itself. These birds are said to have descended from monk parakeets that once escaped during transit. Of course, as my imagination would have it, the current colony warmly embraces any newcomers to their community, including rather ordinary, escaped apartment birds. Like an orchestra comprised entirely of flutes and piccolos, their soprano notes sound like hurried footsteps or bouncing raindrops. I envision them swooping down to me in unison and adorning me with ribbons. What I mean is: walking through a towering gate like this one all while the sonic wave of a wild parakeet choir crashes over me is a surreal experience in and of itself, but in the context of New York, it seems like an acid trip.

Now on the other side of the gate, I head toward the direction of Battle Hill, eager to see whatever elevated sights there are to see from such a height. At the top I see the Manhattan skyline from an unfamiliar vantage point. I continue walking and see tombs far more elaborate and likely expensive than any home I could ever hope to afford. One is shaped like an Egyptian pyramid. Another is accented with Roman columns. I pass a gravestone topped with a statue of a dog whose skeleton I presume to be buried beneath. Immaculately landscaped, each winding path in the cemetery seems like a shaded and enchanted trail toward a secret garden. Even in the midst of bare-boned and fruitless trees, I feel as though I am in a forest.

This is my 10th year living in this city and yet I never noted the existence of the cemetery until moving into an apartment on a street beside it. I wonder how this happened, how a site like this slipped beneath my radar. But it’s just as well, I think. Part of the charm of a place like this in New York City is that it isn’t overflowing with crowds. The sky is open and there’s room to breathe. The quiet that accompanies respect for the dead blankets the grounds and the only voices raised belong to the birds and I think I know why the free bird sings. Its song is a carol of joy and glee in a place where endings are engraved and for that, life is all the more sweet.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Elmwood Cemetery Offers Living History Lessons

New York City Street Art

Living in a small town gave me an affinity for any and every sign of urbanity as a child. I didn’t care what it was so long as it signaled that many people from many different places were living within one area and generating ideas together, or at least in the midst of one another. Having been born in Baltimore and raised in the country in Ohio, my family took frequent trips back to the East Coast while I was growing up. I always knew we were in the city when I saw graffiti. And sometimes I was lucky and spotted more than just graffiti – bona fide street art. Street art has appealed to me in this nostalgic way ever since. And because we don’t necessarily expect it to be good, it takes us especially by surprise when it is.

%Gallery-187109%The art form has always been poignant to me, representing a phenomenon that I envied lustfully while growing up: the city. When I moved to New York City at age 18, street art was one of the few things I would stop and look at almost every single time, so long as I had the time. You can’t make allowances like these often while living in NYC. If you were to stop and reflect on every creative, cool or crazy thing on the streets of this city, your path would form a constellation of zero destinations; a spider web of unfulfilled plans and missed meetings.

The first few years I spent in NYC were captured only with spontaneous disposable cameras containing film, which I didn’t always develop. When I got my first digital camera, I carried it around with me everywhere I went. But it was clunky and inconvenient and most certainly not always in my hands. I didn’t truly begin documenting the art I see on the streets of NYC until the last year or so, thanks to finally having an iPhone. I’ve been back in New York since October now and without even consciously meaning to, I’ve collected images of exposed public art, some blatantly advanced and others simply iconic. It always amazes me, the way creativity oozes out of every brick on every corner here; the dark of alleyways or unsuspecting buildings. Vandalism and general destruction of property are not things that I condone. Needless to say, these expressions more often than not come at the expense of another person or company, but there’s more to a discussion on street art than its legality.

There’s something special about a job well done, executed with expertise and available for all to see for a limited time only. Street art is fleeting and maybe that’s one of the things I like most about it. When you come across something great covering the walls of some otherwise unmemorable building, it’s difficult to feel as if you hadn’t just had an intimate moment with the place and the artist. The art is painted over or removed; there’s never any promise that any one image will become permanent public domain. Beautiful street art exists as a moment in time – not the past, not the future. It is what it is and it only is for now, just like the rest of us. It helps us to see the cracks in societies, the cracks in buildings. I don’t know what it is that inspires some artists to take to the streets instead of canvas, but no matter the reason, every once in a while I feel overfilled with gratitude for the opportunity to see art for the sake of itself, without a name or price tag attached. It exists for itself in this way while still managing to exist for all of us who are interested enough to stop and look.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Off Book: Street Art

Photo Of The Day: New York City From Staten Island Ferry

I had the privilege of escorting photographer Keith Pennington around New York City last week. During his trip, we embarked on a short journey to Staten Island via the free ferry. As it turns out, this ride provides panoramic views of iconic New York City fixtures, like the Statue of Liberty. I could see the park near my house raising its head above the rest of Brooklyn while we were on the boat. The Verrazano Bridge and the beautiful walkway beneath it were in clear view. The buildings in lower Manhattan and on Governors Island were all visible on this bright and sunny day. Pennington managed to capture much of what was to see in this single shot. If you have a photo you would like to contribute to Photo of The Day, upload it to the Gadling Flickr pool or connect with us on Instagram.

[Photo Credit: Keith Pennington]

Consider Traveling To New York City: Travel With Hawkeye

Photo Of The Day: Festival Of Colors NYC

The Festival of Colors celebration in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn last week was a vibrant Holi celebration. In Hindu tradition, all of the festivalgoers were asked to toss their multicolored powder into the air before the sun completely set and in doing so, the little daylight left alongside the stage lights set the blending colors of powder aglow. I had been looking forward to the festival for weeks after reading about it online. The location, which was simply a fenced parking lot in the middle of East Flatbush, one mile from the nearest train, wasn’t announced until a few days before the festival. Once I knew where to go, I took photographer Ben Britz with me and he snapped this photo. The night was filled with dancing, drinking and conversations with strangers – the kinds of conversations that are bound to occur when you’re all united in an effort to (harmlessly) ruin each other’s clothing and spread cheer.

Visit the Holi Festival in India