Monday, July 31, 2006

Life's a Beach


Imnotsayin screened "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea" Saturday at Anthology Film Archives' Rural Route Film Festival. The tragically humorous documentary chronicals the history and current state of misery that surrounds California's largest (and least-celebrated) lake. The area, once known as "California's Riviera" has devolved into "one of America’s worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, coughing up dead fish and birds by the thousands." While currently only showing on the festival circuit, the award-winning documentary will inevitably make it into limited-release (and DVD), and is a must-see when it does.

The film's best moments are its numerous interviews with local residents, including several realtors, who unanimously predict an imminent and staggering turnaround. Meanwhile, thousands of undeveloped suburban lots - complete with city sewer and water service - can be had for $3,500 cash, making the Salton Sea one of America's true real estate bargains, sort-of.

The film got us thinking about other real estate giveaways. More on cheap property tomorrow...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Getting Out of Dodge


Having traveled out to the wiles of Long Island the past two weekends, and sitting here pondering the madness that must be the L.I.E. on this sweltering summer Friday (at the height of rush hour, in a raging thunderstorm) we couldn't help being distracted by the seaplane that lands and departs from the East River at 23rd Street every couple hours.

After watching and wondering for two summers now, we finally investigated. It turns out that the plane is actually the fastest way from Midtown to the Hamptons, for those of us with an extra $790 (per-person, round-trip) jingling around in our pocket.

We're certain that someone will (correctly) point out some turbojet helicopter service from East 34th Street, but frankly, the Donald Trumps and Rupert Murdochs that inhabit the steady stream of robochoppers aren't really humans; they're more like Montgomery Burns - lovable, evil cartoon characters there for our entertainment. So the 'copters don't count, ok?

But we digress. The seaplane service is operated by Shoreline Aviation, whose website also offers "Other Seaplane Flights from 23rd Street to any lake, river, harbor or airport in the Northeast." The nine-passenger planes get you to Easthampton in a brisk (though hardly neck-snapping) 45 minutes, and baggage is limited to 20 lbs. per person. So you'll need to have your assistant haul your dozen pairs of shoes and Dean Koontz hardcovers out there in the Mercedes SUV - which you'll need for backing over those annoying clubgoers at the Conscience Point Inn, anyway.

Great 2003 post from profiling the pilots and occupational hazards

Thursday, July 27, 2006

North 6th Wall Mystery Solved

mystery wall

Those of you who live or play (or frequent Tops Supermarket) on North 6th Street in Williamsburg may have noticed a mysterious barn-like plank facade has been added to the otherwise unremarkable blue building at Wythe Avenue and North 6th.

The dark brown boards nearly conceal the building's only entrance, a windowless door, leading imjustsayin to speculate that...well frankly we had no idea what would motivate the unconventional facelift.

Go ahead and exhale; a quick Google revealed that 77 North 6th Corp applied for a liquor license back in April, and a friendly construction worker confirmed that the building will become a Japanese restaurant (all three floors, and presumably the garden abutting Tops) "sometime next month".


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Marketing that Barges Right In

Dow barge banner ad

We've been known to dabble in unconventional marketing strategies (hey, it pays better than blogging, k?) so we're always on the lookout for virgin territory for plastering up a good tagline or corporate logo.

Dow Chemical, the friendly folks who brought you Bhopal, napalm, and breast implants, obliged us with the first barge-based ad we've seen. Our formerly promotion-free view of the East River was finally brought up to snuff today by this smallish (by barge standards) floating billboard featuring Dow's "Human Element" campaign tagline.

The tug and barge combo - readable by land-lubbing consumers with high-powered lenses - made several passes, competing with Starbucks' annoying Tangerine Frappuccino banner plane (which can be read by the naked eye).

The campaign (FCB Chicago) "is about reconnecting the company with the faces and values of the people Dow touches in a positive way" and features images of "real
people rather than professional actors". Unfortunately for the real person whose face is on the barge, the real-world need to use blow-through vinyl mesh to keep the banner from being ripped apart by the wind means you can't really see him. Maybe Dow can whip something up in their lab?

closeup of the Good Ship Dow

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I've Seen the Future


and the future is, well, bright. And full of moms and little kids.

imjustsayin headed down Kent Avenue yesterday to inspect the new East River esplanade and Water Taxi landing behind the Shaefer Landing complex just south of the Williamsburg Bridge. Frankly I was generally impressed with the aesthetic - the waterfront access was a key aspect of the long-fought Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezone that took place last year and is enabling much of the present building boom in these parts.

The faux paving stone walk and modern street furniture is reminiscent of that found in its Husdon River Park cousin. A bit light on shade trees, but it is brand-spanking new so we'll be patient. I made two trips down there in the late afternoon, and both times found the walk crowded with Southside Moms and their kids, enjoying their first taste of neighborhood waterfront access.

By the way, there's a very subtle, brushed-aluminum plaque with a funky acquatic 'W' and a TEENY TINY "Department of City Planning" imprint installed near the entrance on Kent. You can see it in the linked Flickr set. Has anyone seen this logo anywhere else in the city?

Naturally, the upscale residential complex features its own - gated - courtyard, cleverly elevated above the public promenade so as to afford its residents their own, um, meditative river view.

The Water Taxi from 34th Street landed right on time, at the height of rush hour, and dropped one happy commuter off. The MTA can take heart; that's one less body on the L train...

imjustsayin's shaefer landing photo expedition

Monday, July 24, 2006



Sensing impending doom, I took a walk out to the end of the block Friday to explore the ruins of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal. My spider senses must be sharp, as this morning the surveyors and bulldozers set to work on breaking up the lot which fronts on much of what I photographed. Douglaston Development's 'The Edge' - a pair of 40-story residential towers - was slated to begin construction this past spring, and this is the first sign of a groundbreaking.

The BEDT was originated in 1875 as the East River Terminal by the Havemeyer & Elder Sugar Co. (later Domino Sugar) as a railyard that accepted freight cars delivered by float barges from terminals in New Jersey (remember, this predates all East River bridge and tunnel connections). The sugar refining, as well as hundreds of other manufacturing businesses in and around Williamsburg and Greenpoint - not to mention the Brooklyn Navy Yard - needed an efficient way to receive raw materials and ship out finished goods. With the bulk of domestic freight being moved by train in those days, there was a natural efficiency in moving loaded railcars by barge, rather than unloading them onto ships and standard freight barges.

The East River waterfront from North 3rd (including the recently landmarked, then un-landmarked Austin Nichols Warehouse) to North 10th was a bustling railyard from 1875 until August, 1983, when the decades-long decline in rail transportation (due primarily to the boom in interstate trucking) finally led the BEDT to cease operations.

There is a bit of a silver lining here. Those of you who know me are aware of my current obsession with the seemingly asymptotic East River State Park. The New York State Parks Department has held the parcel bounded by Kent Avenue, North 7th, North 9th and the East River for several years, and concurrent to all the contentious post-zoning-change Williamsburg development, has been quietly transforming the plot from a weed-choked dumping ground to a bucolic (er, somewhat rustic) bit of waterfront bliss. In the process, they've uncovered a number of BEDT trackbeds and concrete features that will - at least for the time being - be preserved to puzzle the inevitable legions of recreating hipsters likely to visit the park when it opens (hopefully in the next few weeks).

i'mjustsayin's BEDT photo expedition

Monday, July 10, 2006


So I came back from a week in California to find this unlikely bit of street décor had been added to the streetlight outside my window:

Now I understand that the Southside of Williamsburg is like Tel Aviv with trees and stoops, but I'm having a tough time picturing the furry-hatted Rabbi that shimmied up the thirty feet to neatly install this flag - note the black ZIP TIES. Add it to the other strangeness I've seen out that very window: the grown man in a sad-sack lion suit that jumped out of a vintage ambulance and pranced around in the weed patch on the dead-end, for example.