A Stunning East Village Day

A few weeks ago my Dad was in town and he is a bad influence. While I want to obsess about real estate transactions, real estate transactions, sports, my fitness, and real estate transactions, he wants to talk about history, eat good food, and waste time with so called interesting people.

To mollify him we went to my Barber Jay, and then to B&H Dairy, which this week was notable in that it did not explode.

So another time we will talk about B&H and my Dad, and his telling of the Jewish history of Second Ave, the East Village, the LES. My Dad is an NYC Jew, just like myself, my sister Yoshi, and B&H Dairy, the best place for blintzes, whose tagline is CHALLAH! por favor. This is important to point out. To me- hearing about my ancestors struggles and immigrant experience, has always been a source of pride – and it is a heritage that is inquisitive, open minded, and appreciative of diversity.

I sell a lot of real estate in the East Village. Josh Rubin and I are among the top selling agents in the neighborhood. It’s notable because the apartments are quirky, and have certain idiosyncrasies that make sense if you have a sense of the history of the neighborhood. As a matter of fact in 2 weeks I will be releasing a PH (walk-up) One Bed with a private roof deck asking $700,000. Email me to see it first.

So this week, on the day that three buildings exploded, on Second Avenue, I was closing on an apartment at 347 E 5th St PHA where I represented the seller and buyer. It was a weird transaction in a weird building. Shout out to Michael Bensimon at Sterling National Bank for getting the loan done, despite 60% of the building being rentals.

On the day of the closing, we do the walk through, and there is evidence of a roof leak. This leads to conflict, negotiation, etc… Then on the way to the closing the Second Ave explosion happens so we are stuck in traffic. So we get to the closing late. But you know what – in the end we got the building to repaint the apartment (they had already patched the leak) and buyer and seller ended a curt business deal with more smiles that had been evident than at any point prior.

Then I go and check out something I have been meaning to see for quite some time, a jewel of the East Village, the art show Polar Opposites currently at NOoSPHERE ARTS at 251 East Houston St. Now, mind you, I didn’t actually know about the explosion and the fire. So while I am getting a private tour of the show, an infantry of fire trucks is going past me on Houston St. Later on I would catch wind of the news. Dramatic to say the least. And sad.

The art show was very dramatic in its own right. In fact with all the bullshit, traffic, leaks, nags, sirens, etc… that plague our New York lives, being able to see incredible creativity is one nice thing we can enjoy.

The show is made up of three artists, two photographers and a painter. As an artist myself, I am a harsh critic. I am also a loving critic. I really liked all the artists.

Here is what to look for when you go to the show (open now until 4/12.)

Kordan

Daniel Kordan: Thomas Kincaid-ish…. I hope that’s not a dig. Kordan is a magician. His idyllic Arctic Circle villages do remind me of Kincaid’s paintings though (which is like the kiss of death for an NYC artist, but it shouldn’t be.) Anyway Mr. Kordan is from Moscow (like most Brooklynites – jk/lol.) His use of exposure and surface really is evocative – in a way Kincaid is not. The juxtaposition of light, ice, and flowing water are painterly, luscious, and beautiful. These images are not ashamed of bold composition and clear moments of interest. A renaissance of the beautiful landscape emerges.

Christine Kjelsmark: the lone painter in the show, her work is plein-air meets street art, meets the Faro Islands. She has a fun style and includes legion birds doing cute things in their Mountain River Arctic Oasis as the clouds roll along. Her artwork shows a connection to the splendor of green and character of white and ice that only a Northern artist would be sensitive to.

Jeff Orlowski: Jeff’s photos are a bit political (sadly) and are an outgrowth of his Academy Award nominated film, Chasing Ice, chronicling the melting of the glaciers. Jeff identifies himself as a photographer and a filmmaker, and his work is cinematic and rich. Lively icebergs on Mountains give way to a feeling of adventure, and almost magical fantasy, made richer by the understanding this is documented majesty, not photoshopped fiction.

I want to thank Kirsten Wildfang for arranging for me to see the show, and I really recommend it if you want something new to do in the East Village / Lower East Side. Like all historic moments, it won’t be around forever.

A Quiet War On The Water

I am leaving The Domino Sugar Factory. I have just been observing something so striking that once you witness it, you will never unwitness it.

As I drive myself urgently to the Upper East Side to show a listing, I marvel while sitting in traffic on the Pulaski Bridge of the amazing scope of monuments that New York Real Estate presents. Each skyscraping building is a singular masterpiece of finance, labor, architecture, technology, and a body politic that nurtures and preserves the presence of each one. However, the City isn’t about its buildings, the Apple is made sweet by its soul.

A hilarious stand-up comic friend, Drew Dowdy, who I grew up with in Park Slope, wrote on Facebook the other day “You Are Not From The Same Brooklyn I Am.” There is and has been among the City’s middle class a feeling the City has lost something almost irretrievable in the past 10 years. What has eroded are the artisans and artists, and blue collar workers, who used to have some legal protections.

I don’t mean to get heavy on you, BUT THE 50 TON AFRICAN AMERICAN SPHINX MADE OUT OF SUGAR. I just checked out makes no sense without making these specific background points. The art work was just presented to us by two persons, one from the team at Creative Time (an amazing not-for-profit Arts Organization that IS the needle in the City,) and one of the fabricators of the project, an alum of the NYU Museum Studies Department where my Stepmother Josephine Gear teaches.

Domino-Sugar-Factory-Williamsburg-Brooklyn

The artwork on its own is one of a kind. I have travelled the world seeing art and architecture. This is a local wonder of the world. It’s the only must-see I have ever known about in the history of New York City. Go see it.
The artist, Kara Walker, along with Creative Time and the team that have created the installation sure have their finger on the pulse. Kara is a 2D artist primarily, and worked from inspirations that included stereotypical depictions of sugar worker dolls and other imagery (on the site) to create the Sphinx and her processional (out of actual sugar, with foam and resin) as a statement of strength in the face of persecution.

Our host makes the point that the Sphinx was not only a guardian, but also a huntress. Of course, most people don’t need an Art History course as to why Ms. Walker created this symbol of strength at Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar Factory. It is a beautiful historical building being torn down.

Once the sight of local industry, it is now the site of private development, obscuring the river view (owned by the public) for the enjoyment of the few who will rent there. The building will be a high priced rental developed and managed by Two Trees. No one else will be able to live there without Two Tree’s permission, at the rents they set, etc… The public won’t get to trade them as condos, the City won’t get to preserve the site as a school or as affordable public housing, or a museum or Park. The mill of progress will grind away history to make way for a singular, narrow, and precariously high priced inflated vision for the benefit of one incredibly lucky landlord.

As I am leaving the Domino Sugar Factory, Hannah from Creative Time is walking me to the locked gate to let me off the property. I am gushing over the Sphinx, Creative Time, etc.. In the distance the soulless glass golems of 440 Kent St tower. Hannah says to me, “What do you do?” “I’m a real estate agent.” “Ah…”

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