Browsing Tag

New York City


TBT: Neil Sedaka, "Stairway to Heaven"

March 12, 2015

Long before there was Led Zeppelin, even before there were Yardbirds, there was Neil Sedaka. Brooklyn born and raised (his father was a cab driver) and trained to play classical piano in Julliard’s preparatory school program, Sedaka found his true love in pop music as a teenager. He and lyricist Howard Greenfield, a boyhood friend, became one of the songwriting teams–along with Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman–who had offices in the Brill Building, a 1931 vintage office building at Broadway and 49th Street with an elaborate art deco entrance (photo). Producers Don Kirshner, George “Shadow” Morton, and Phil Spector also had offices there.
Sedaka, like Carole King, was a singer as well as a songwriter. His recording career began in 1957 with “Laura Lee” on the Decca label. His first song to chart was “The Diary,” on RCA, for which he continued to record through the remainder of the 1950s and ’60s. He cracked the top ten in 1959 with “Oh! Carol,” which made it to number nine. In the summer of 1960 “Stairway to Heaven,” which apart from its title bears no relationship to the later Led Zeppelin hit, also reached nine on the hit parade.

I remember “Stairway” fondly because it was one of the songs that I heard many times on the car radio, along with Roy Orbison’s enthralling “Only the Lonely,” the Hollywood Argyles’ hilarious “Alley Oop,” and Ray Peterson’s bathetic “Tell Laura I Love Her,” when my parents and I went from Tampa to visit my mother’s relatives in Pennsylvania and my father’s in Indiana during the summer between my eighth and ninth grade years. I always enjoyed these road trips, and music I heard on them got engraved on my memory. An intriguing feature of “Stairway” is the rising “Bwaaaaah!” sound at the end of each chorus. The musicians credited on the song include Irving Faberman on timpani; this sound is likely produced by pedaling the drum. There’s also a sax bridge by the then almost ubiquitous King Curtis.

Sedaka continued to have hits for RCA through 1961 and ’62, when he reached the top of the chart with “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” His slow ballad version of that song, released on the Rocket label, reached number eight in 1975, but topped the “easy listening” chart, giving Sedaka the distinction of being the only artist to have topped charts twice with different versions of the same song.

Neil Sedaka will celebrate his 76th birthday tomorrow, March 13, 2015.

Brill Building photo: San Francisco Public Library.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Around Brooklyn, Bloggers

432 Park Avenue: Harry Macklowe flips off New York City

December 28, 2014

432 Park Avenue (center in the photo above) claims the title of tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, and second tallest building (after the new One World Trade Center) in New York City, but if measured by roof height the tallest. It’s described by its architect, Rafael Viñoly, as designed around “the purest geometric form: the square.” Not only is the building’s horizontal cross section a square, but all the windows are squares.  It dominates the midtown skyline with the grace of a colossal headless Pez dispenser, or upraised middle finger (the photo above was taken from Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park). Aaron Betsky admires its “relentlessness”; I demur. Betsky also celebrates how 432 Park “represents the transformation of this and every other city into a place for the wealthy to live and play” as if driving out struggling artists and other relatively impecunious but creative people, and the inexpensive infrastructure that supports them, constitutes progress.

With bad luck, we may be subjected to more Viñoly designs, like 125 Greenwich Street, all of which will end up being pieds a terre for billionaires, with perhaps a few lower floor, smaller apartments going to mere multi-millionaires.

Viñoly discusses his design philosophy in this video. He plays piano well.

The developers of 432 Park are CIM Group and Macklowe Properties. Harry Macklowe is a developer whose company was once fined two million dollars for reckless endangerment resulting from the rapid night-time demolition of two buildings. Macklowe compares 432 Park to the Mona Lisa.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Photos from a "Hidden Harbor" Tour

July 23, 2014
A few weeks ago my wife and I went on one of the Hidden Harbor tours presented by the Working Harbor Committee. These tours, which use chartered Circle Line boats, take one into parts of New York harbor one doesn’t usually see closely unless one works in the maritime industry. Our tour departed from the Circle Line pier, near the foot of Manhattan’s West 43rd Street. As the boat backed out into the Hudson River, we could see Norwegian Gem docked at the nearby cruise ship terminal. A now retired Concorde SST is on display at the end of the pier that is home to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
As we moved away from the dock, we got a good view of the World War Two veteran aircraft carrier Intrepid.
Heading downriver, we passed the retired, now privately owned fire boat John J. Harvey and the also privately owned lightship Frying Pan. Six years ago I was on a cruise on the tugboat Cornell when we were called on to pull Harvey, then stuck on a mudbank, free. I recorded the incident on video. The large structure behind Frying Pan is the Starrett-Lehigh Building, (Cory & Cory, Yasuo Matsui; 1931), a striking adaptation of some elements of art deco architecture, such as rounded corners, continuous horizontal strip windows, and varying brick colors, to an industrial and warehouse structure.
Continuing down the Hudson, we saw another former government vessel now in private hands, the lightship tender Lilac. Behind her is the Borough of Manhattan Community College and the towers of the Independence Plaza housing complex.
Passing the tip of lower Manhattan we saw a skyline dominated by the new One World Trade Center (David Childs/SOM; completion expected later this year) and the newly opened Four World Trade Center (Fumihiko Maki, 2013). The low, white building on the shoreline below One WTC is City Pier A, built in the 1880s and expanded in 1900 and 1919. It was used at different times for police and fire boats, lay derelict for many years, and is now being rehabilitated as a venue for restaurants.
Looking up the East River, we could see the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as the sightseeing boat Robert Fulton went by.
We headed through the Buttermilk Channel, which lies between Brooklyn and Governors Island. The retired harbor tanker Mary A. Whalen, purchased and restored by PortSide New York, is docked at a pier on the Brooklyn side. In the background, above Mary’s wheelhouse, is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building (Halsey, McCormack and Helmer, 1929), for many years Brooklyn’s tallest.
A double-crested cormorant was perched atop a buoy.
Heading across the harbor, we passed the ferry terminal on Staten Island and the ferry Spirit of America.
Entering the Kill Van Kull, which lies between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey, we passed the tug Brian Nicholas pushing two barges, one loaded and one empty, lashed side-by-side.
The tanker Skopelos was docked on the Bayonne side. In the background, to the right, is a wind turbine; an effort to reduce the demand for the fossil fuel tankers carry.
King Duncan, another tanker, was berthed just beyond Skopelos.
The World War Two veteran destroyer escort U.S.S. Slater was undergoing maintenance at Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Company, Inc. on the Staten Island side. There’s an article about Slater’s stay at Cadell’s, ending with a photo showing her after completion, sporting her bold camouflage, here. Slater is now back in Albany, where she serves as a floating museum.
A short way past Caddell’s we passed under the Bayonne Bridge, which is being raised to allow the gargantuan container ships now going into service to pass under it. The project is being done in stages, so as to keep the bridge open to traffic except during late night hours. Photo by my wife.
After the bridge, we turned into Newark Bay, and passed the outbound container ship MSC Arushi R., escorted by the tug Miriam Moran.

A digression: sometime in the late 1950s, as my dad and I were tooling around the port of Tampa in our little Carter Craft runabout, I saw what struck me as a most ungainly and un-aesthetic ship, Pan Atlantic Steamship Company’s Gateway City. It was a standard C-2 type freighter that had had its hull above the waterline extended in beam, so that it looked like the awkward offspring of a cargo ship and an aircraft carrier. Instead of graceful masts and booms, it had massive gantry cranes straddling its decks, and it listed noticeably landward when the cranes carried containers off the ship to deposit them on the dock. You can see a photo of Gateway City here (scroll down to 1957) and read about how she came to be here. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was witnessing the beginning of a revolution in marine transportation.
After MSC Arushir came Don Jon Marine’s Caitlin Ann, pushing an empty barge.
Maersk Pittsburgh was docked at Port Elizabeth.
Another Don Jon tug, Mary Alice, was headed up Newark Bay.
Ital Laguna was docked at Maher Terminals, Port Elizabeth. The First Watchung Mountain can be seen in the distance.
Elizabeth McAllister was also heading up the Bay,
Endurance, docked at Port Newark, is a rarity these days; a large civilian cargo ship flying the U.S. flag. She is a RO-RO (Roll On-Roll Off) ship, and is used to transport equipment and supplies to U.S. forces abroad.
Heading back toward the Kill Van Kull, we passed Ellen McAllister. The tug’s low profile suggests she may sometimes be used on inland waterways with low clearances.
MSC Bruxelles was docked at Port Newark.
As we came alongside Maersk Pittsburgh we saw St. Andrews, the tug that had brought the barge from which Pittsburgh was taking on fuel. Note the scrape marks on the ship’s hull.
Another view of the Bayonne Bridge as we headed back toward the Kill Van Kull.
The tug Houma passed us just before we reached the bridge.
We passed the Moran tug fleet’s Staten Island home port. Laura K. Moran and two other tugs were docked there.
A little farther along was the Reinauer dock, where Dean Reinauer and Kristy Ann Reinauer waited for their next assignments.
Traffic was heavy on the Kill Van Kull as we headed out. Ahead of us was Northstar Marine’s barge Northstar 140, towed by Reliable.
Here’s a better view of Reliable as we overtook the tug and her tow.
With the New York City skyline as a background, Bouchard’s B.No.280, escorted by Charles D. McAllister, headed up the Kill Van Kull.
Power behind B.No.280 was supplied by Ellen S. Bouchard.
Then came Manhasset Bay…
which was easily overtaking Paul Andrew pushing a barge.
We encountered three tugs in succession towing barges “on the hip”; first Brooklyn,
…then Sassafras,
…then Gulf Dawn.
We almost overtook MSC Arushi R., which we had passed earlier as we entered Newark Bay, as she left the Kill Van Kull headed for the Narrows and the Atlantic.
As we left the Kill Van Kull and rounded Constable Hook, we passed the Bayonne Golf Club, with its faux lighthouse club building (2006). The Scottish style links were built atop what previously was a waste disposal landfill. 
The container ship Positano, sitting light with no visible cargo, was docked at Bayonne’s Military Ocean Terminal.
Just past Positano was the U.S. Naval Ship Watkins, undergoing maintenance work at the Bayonne Dry Dock & Repair Corporation’s graving dock.
The cruise ship Explorer of the Seas was moored at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne. The Kirby tug Lincoln Sea and a barge were docked at the end of the pier.
After passing Bayonne, we saw the majestic skyline of … Jersey City, with Lady Liberty in the middle.
Hearing a droning noise overhead, I looked up and saw a World War Two vintage B-17 flying by. 
The Colgate Clock, on the Jersey City shoreline, is a memory from my childhood, when I passed it several times on ships leaving from or arriving at New York. The building on which it once sat has been demolished; fortunately, the clock (Seth Thomas, 1924) has been preserved.  We were right on time; our cruse started at 11:00 a.m. and was scheduled to last two hours.
As we approached our dock, I saw kayaks near Intrepid’s stern.
There will be more of these tours, including one this Saturday, July 26.  You may get tickets here for it or future tours.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web


Ken Radnofsky and Damien Francouer-Krzyzek play the third movement, "Christopher Street," of David Amram’s Greenwich Village Portraits.

March 24, 2014

I’ve been fortunate to know David Amram since my Bells of Hell and Lion’s Head days. Last month he presented a performance of his recent works at Le Poisson Rouge, a performance venue that occupies the space once belonging to Art d’Lugoff’s Village Gate. My wife and I attended, along with a good number of other Lion’s Head alums. One of the compositions on the program was Greenwich Village Portraits, with three movements dedicated, respectively, to Arthur Miller, Odetta, and Frank McCourt. The last of these, titled “Christopher Street,” evokes the memory of the Lion’s Head, which was Frank’s favorite bar. It was performed by saxophonist Ken Radnofsky and by Damien Francouer-Krzyzek on piano. I made the video above from our table, some distance from the stage, which explains the people walking past and the unfortunate clattering of flatware. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised that the sound came through as well as it did.

The movement begins with a sprightly Irish jig tune, the name of which escapes me (perhaps a reader can help) announced on piano, then developed in variations on sax. At 2:40, the piano announces the second theme, based on “Wild Mountain Thyme (Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?),” picked up by the sax at 3:50. At 4:59, Radnofsky begins a variation at turns happy and mournful, but at 6:00 this gives way to a lively development that resolves back briefly to “Wild Mountain Thyme” at 7:50 before ending joyously.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” was a traditional closing song at the Lion’s Head. The video above is of David playing it, and assembled Lion’s Head veterans joining in voice, at the Cornelia Street Cafe two years ago.

Addendum: David offers the following news about future events:

They are presenting an evening of my chamber music, performed by members of the New York Philharmonic,  The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Boston Symphony April 29th. Woody Guthrie’s daughter , Nora Guthrie will also be there to speak about the   formal release of my new CD THIS LAND: Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, which I conducted with the Colorado Symphony, based on her father’s iconic song, and the evening will be dedicated in memory of Pete Seeger, with whom Amram often collaborated with for the past half century.

The opening event will be April 26th with a screening of Lawrence Kraman’s new documentary film “David Amram:The First 80 Years”.

following the Q.and A. after the screening, there will be an urban hike through the Upper West Side, where I will revisit many of the places where I have collaborated musically over the last  60 years with a great variety of gifted people

We’ll begin our hike by visiting The Lincoln Center itself, where Leonard Bernstein appointed me as the New York Philharmonic’s first-ever composer -in-residence, and go the the park outside near the fountains where i did concerts of every variety for years. 

We’ll go to the old site where  Birdland once stood, as the final remaining landmark from the golden days of 52nd street, where i played with the jazz greats during the 1950s.

We will see some of the Broadway theaters where I composed incidental music for fifteen dramatic productions

We will walk by  Thelonious Monk’s old dwelling (which now is landmarked by the city), where he took me under his wing and mentored me in the early 50s, when i was playing with Charles Mingus at night and studying composition at Manhattan school of /music during the day.

We will take a stroll to the old site where Shakespeare in the Park had their first season, before the Delecourt Theater was built, where Joseph Papp had me as the festival’s first composer and musical director for 12 seasons, where i composed  scores for 30+ productions,

We will visit  the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater where i worked with Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan as their first composer for three years, while the building was being completed and many other venues in the neighborhood  where i conducted free out of doors Symphony concerts, played jazz.folk and world music concerts, performed for peace gatherings, political campaigns, jazz/poetry readings and all kinds of events. 

Programs, photographs, articles and videos of all of these endeavors are now documented in my archive which the Lincoln Center Library has acquired.

 I hope these activities and viewing of the archive itself  will be of value to young people who may come to any of the events this April and then check out the archive.

Hopefully it will make them feel that everyone of us can have a great life if we work hard, stay the course, refuse to accept career councilor’s advice (which is usually to give up pursuing your path before you are even sure what that path is) and just go out start all over every day with renewed energy, share what blessings we have with others, show respect for every person who crosses our path, try to always do better than is expected and ENJOY life!!

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Bloggers, DUMBO

Karl Junkersfeld’s "A Tale of Two Bridges"

August 10, 2013

A Tale Of Two Bridges from Karl Junkersfeld on Vimeo.

My Brooklyn Heights Blog colleague made this video. He gave it the title “A Tale of Two Bridges” because it includes scenes of and on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, but it concentrates on the latter, lesser known span. Lesser known, that is, until recently, according to this New York Times article. The Times piece attributes its new found popularity on the fact that its Brooklyn anchorage is next to DUMBO (“Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”), a neighborhood that has undergone roughly the same evolution that SOHO in Manhattan did starting about two decades earlier: from decaying industrial area to place where artists could occupy cheap if not yet quite legal loft spaces to trendy Bohemian neighborhood to pricey place for the rich but hip, combined with office space for tech companies.

I have a particular affection for the Manhattan Bridge: it was my first crossing of any of the East River bridges. This happened in 1954, when I was eight years old.  My parents and I had just returned from England, where my dad, a U.S. Air Force officer, had been stationed for three years. We came by ship, and debarked at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. There we boarded a bus to Penn Station that took us by way of Flatbush Avenue (when we turned onto this broad thoroughfare my dad, an Indiana native who had spent some time in New York City early in World War Two, said “This is Flatbush”: noticing some low-lying shrubbery in a planter box on the median, I thought I knew what he meant) to the Manhattan Bridge, where I was thrilled by the view of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and East River traffic.

The  Manhattan Bridge was the last of four East River bridges–the others, in order of completion, are the Brooklyn (1883), the Williamsburg (1903), the Queensboro (now officially the “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge”; also known as the 59th Street Bridge and as such immortalized by Simon & Garfunkel; March, 1909)–to be completed. The Manhattan Bridge was partially opened late in 1909, but not fully opened until 1912. It was designed by Leon Moisseiff, who was also involved in the design of the Golden gate Bridge and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, but whose reputation was blotted by his having been the principal designer of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a.k.a. “Galloping Gertie” (caution: the linked video may give you nightmares, though it may also warm the hearts of dog lovers).

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Could this year’s Mets rival those of 1962?

May 28, 2013

A bright start to this season led me to some very qualified optimism. The Mets managed to stay at or above .500 for most of April, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Last week I got to wondering how this year’s team compares to the notorious 1962 first edition, which set a Major League 20th century record by losing 120 games. This year’s Mets have played 48 games and have a record of 19-29, for a winning percentage of about .388. The ’62 Mets didn’t get to game 48 until June 6 because the season started later. At that point, their record was 12-36, putting them at .250. So the 2013 Mets are, at this moment in the season, decidedly ahead of the ’62 gang. With 162 games in the current season, if today’s Mets keep to roughly the same performance level, they should lose about 100 games. Should they get worse, they could challenge the 120 loss record.

The video above tells me a lot about why I love the Mets. One commenter complains that it’s unfair to “Marvelous Marv” Throneberry who, apart from his mishaps in fielding and base running, managed to smack 16 homers for the Amazins in ’62. I think Throneberry has his revenge in the banner shown at 3:10: “Cranberry, Strawberry, we still love Throneberry.”

I started to write this post last week. Since then, the Mets avoided a sweep by the Braves, then won the opening game of their four game series with the Yankees. From this I know two things: the Mets this season can occasionally beat their traditional nemeisis in the NL East, and their season record with the Bronx Bullies won’t be 0-4. I’m keeping my enthusiasm in check.

Update: Mets score a second 2-1 victory over the hated Yanks, thereby sweeping the home end of their four game series. The remaining two games are in enemy territory, but at least we’re assured of an even split of the season’s series. I’m trying very hard not to get too enthusiastic.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

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Holiday Lionel Train layout at NYC Transit Museum Annex, Grand Central

December 8, 2012

Here’s this year’s version (see last year’s here) of the Lionel Train display at the New York City Transit Museum’s annex and gift shop in Grand Central Terminal. The basic layout is the same as last year’s, with the addition of a model of Grand Central’s underground platforms, which you see at the beginning of the video, and of a model New York City subway train consisting of vintage “redbird” cars. Other trains include a New York Central passenger hotshot pulled by a first generation General Motors E-type diesel, the seasonal favorite “Polar Express” with a steam loco, and a two car New York Central freight powered by what looks like an Alco RS-3.

Source: Self-Absorbed Boomer

From the Web