A few weeks ago I went to Brooklyn Bridge Park to take photos of the East River water front from the Brooklyn side perspective. When I had exited the #4 train at Borough Hall I had a bit of a walk toward the pier, but since I was in the beautiful neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights the walk was enjoyable. I made a mental note to come back in the fall to photograph this charming neighborhood and its incredible Brownstone homes, old mansions, restaurants and cafes.
I started my walk along Joralemon Street but then made a detour to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade which over looks piers 2 & 3 with wide open vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island to the left. The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges to the right and South Street Seaport and lower Manhattan straight ahead of you, with Brooklyn Bridge Park down below. The park is still under construction especially piers 2 & 3 so I had the best of both worlds urban photography wise, with the typical tourist views of the Manhattan skyline combined with my favorite grungy industrial stuff.
I wanted to make sure that the composition included the new construction as the forefront to the bridges, seaports and the East River. I also wanted to zoom in on the construction bits too since when one is on the street level a site is usually blocked by covered fencing with maybe one or two peep holes. But, from up above I could photograph the red dump trucks, yellow digging trucks, orange cherry pickers, green dumpsters, and a myriad of other construction accoutrements I have no names for but made for great images. Peeking out of the water’s edge were the remnants of the old piers mutely watching as a new 21st century world was going up around them.
As I looked left toward the completed sections of piers 5 & 6 in the distance I could see blue umbrellas, and tables, soccer fields and hordes of bicyclists gearing up for a ride through the park. I took the last of the photos from above and hurried down making my way back to Joralemon street and finally into the park itself.
When I got there it was just teeming with people barbecuing, picnicking, walking, running, fishing, tanning, reading, painting, playing, and like me just taking in the views and marveling at this wonder of urban “parchitecture.” The park has grassy knolls and tree-lined trails, which were little oasis of cool comfort on a hot summer’s day. I followed the crowd as we wended our way through temporary alleyways around the construction toward Pier 1 and the Brooklyn Bridge.
By this time I was hot and looking for a place to have a bite to eat and something to drink, when I spied a creamy sanctuary sitting under the bridge; The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Hurrah!!! I made a mad dash through the doors and entered into a world of frozen sweet treats and many happy faces. I had a double scoop strawberry cone and sat outside in the shade licking the drips from my fingers as I watched the tourist disembark from the New York Water Taxis.
There was a restaurant right next to the ferry landing with a very enticing deeply rusted old fence which I had to take a few photos of. After that I decided to make my way back and walked through the land side of the park through the many shady paths and wide open lawns surrounded by plants and wooden benches. I followed a trail that led across a foot bridge that crossed over the highway and took you to Squibb Park and back into the streets of Brooklyn Heights to catch the train back home.
This past Sunday I went meandering around Long Island City looking to add to my urban grunge photo collection and happened upon the “southern” waterfront of the East River at the end of 5th Street and 46th Avenue. I was immediately attracted to the old rusting barges and rundown warehouses and made a bee line to the water’s edge to spend a few happy minutes photographing these old river relics.
When I had finished taking photos of the old boats I noticed brightly colored kayaks along the side of the dock. These belonged to LicBoathouse.org. I spoke with one of the representatives of this organization and I was told they provide kayaking tours of the East River. I was absolutely fascinated and was given a tour of the boathouse, which is in an old meat smoking factory now owned by a company called PLAXALL. The original old company logo of a bull’s head and a large letter F can still be seen on the corner-stone of the building. This building also houses a bicycle re-”cycling” center , another terrific ”green” gem in Long Island City.
Once inside the boathouse head quarters I spoke with the people who lead the kayaking groups and took a few photos of the kayaks, life jackets and other equipment and of course the now empty huge meat smoking chambers. Apparently kayaking the East River is very popular with adults as well as children who enjoy this type of riparian adventure. What makes these tours so special besides the great learning experience and fantastic views of New York City is that they are absolutely FREE! Can’t get any better than that!
Monday, I continued my urban grunge sojourn in Astoria visiting Socrates Sculpture Park an outdoor museum, and finally Hallet’s Cove both adjacent to each other on Vernon Boulevard. I was in my element with plenty of industrial detritus to photograph. The park did not have any current exhibits on view at this time but there are a few permanent pieces like Curtain, a project conceived by architects Jerome Haferd and K Brandt Knapp. This piece is a combination of architectural structural framing with plastic chain link partitions and enclosures. It reminded me of a white chain link weeping willow and I just loved walking around and through it taking off angle photos. Just as you enter the park there are three sculptures of young African American teenagers in life style poses. My favorite was the basketball player; I could have sworn he was real. I had the good fortune to meet artist, Chanq-Jin Lee preparing for the installation of her piece called Floating Echo a giant inflatable Buddha which will be on exhibit on September 9th. I took a few photos of her team loading a floating platform that will be transformed into a Lotus flower that the Buddha will sit upon in the calm waters of Hallet’s Cove.
The park as well as Hallet’s Cove are on the East River facing Roosevelt Island and Manhattan. As usual my attention was drawn to the shoreline and to all of the old debris from forgotten docks, piers, railroads and warehouses that line this part of Western Queens. A small new dock sits among the remains of the old docks where a little pea green boat was tied up and is used for people who want to take a row on the water (weekends only.) On the tiny beach at Hallet’s Cove I found myself walking the few feet of sandy “beach” taking shots of twisted rusted metal sticking out from large tumbled pieces of concrete that at one time were part of a pier. I left the beach and I walked along Vernon Boulevard to the promenade of a housing project to capture the park and the cove at a wide angle distance with the dilapidated piers reflecting in the water.
I hope this blog motivates you to kayak the East River or make a visit to Astoria Queens to wander through an outdoor museum or sit and relax in Hallet’s Cove on the shore of the East River. Enjoy the photos below.
Saturday, I bounded out of the apartment at 7:00am camera in hand and off for a morning of photography in Astoria Park to fill my expanding portfolio and for an upcoming submission to BORO magazine.
When I enter Astoria Park it is usually from the corner of Ditmars and Shore Boulevards walking south along the shore line of the East River and stop when I get to the heart of the park near the running track. This time I walked down to the end of Shore Boulevard to Astoria Park South, where the park technically ends. I always thought that was the furthest you could go but I noticed an opening in the fencing that marks off the park from the Shore Tower apartment complex. There was no sign that said “keep off or private property” so I ventured in and found myself on a wide expanse of a concrete promenade with unobstructed views of the East River north and south, Randall’s/Wards Island and Manhattan to the west.
What intrigued me the most being an urban industrial photographer were the old and decaying wooden pylons left over from a time when there must have been a boardwalk or pier running along the shore line. The pylons were worn, splintered and tired looking from years of seasonal mayhem and salt water and just fired my imagination, wondering what they were doing there. I’m assuming it had to have been an industrial pier, because there was also the shell of an old warehouse and factory that I could only view from this vantage point; the entrance to the old warehouse was closed off to the public much to my dismay. This area is known as Ravenswood which is a residential and commercial area and has been since the mid 1800′s.
I spent a few hours in the wind and sun taking shot after shot of the abandoned warehouse’s ivy and weed covered facade, cracked windows and two lovely old brick and mosaic tipped factory smoke stacks. I wonder if they were from the old Terra Cotta company? The aged wooden pylons provided an interesting foreground to these photos, a reminder of an old era of commerce and industry in this once productive neighborhood. On the very edge of this portion of the shoreline were school buses parked there for reasons I do not know but added a needed touch of bright yellow to the image composition.
The East River that morning was very busy with maritime traffic. Walking north along the shore line I would stop and takes shots of the busy burly tug boats pushing container barges up towards the Long Island Sound or down to Lower Manhattan passing under the Hellgate and Triboro bridges. Fortunately, the tide was low so I was able to get striking images of the rocky sandy shore line with large protruding boulders that are usually hidden under the rushing turbulent waters of this tidal strait. A fun and productive day along the shore of the East River.
Enjoy the images below.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. I had a blast; beach on Sunday (yes, the sun paid NYC a visit and stayed all weekend) and a delicious BBQ on Saturday. I’m over my “phunk” and spent all day Friday shooting the historic neighborhood of lower Manhattan (Wall Street) and South Street Seaport all decked out for the 4th of July. Despite all of the trendy tourist traps that have now become part of this landscape there is still the feel and sense of the old New York of 200 years ago. I think my photos have done it justice. Enjoy.
Stay in focus,
Cate – www.photobycate.com