Tag Archives: New York City

Faces of New York Copyright 2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Weeks 21-22, the Keys to the Castle, er, Garden

Revisiting one of my favorite little spots in my neighborhood in this edition of Faces of New York. Today we have the white terra-cotta façade of 36 Gramercy Park East adjacent the dark, shaded sandstone of number 34. Both buildings are residential blocks, and are, according to Wikipedia, among the first apartment buildings in the city. They have both played home to the rich and famous, most recently Jimmy Fallon in number 34. Such greats as James Cagney and Gregory Peck also lived in number 34, and to go along with the circus that is New York, Alfred Ringling (one of 7 Ringling Brothers) used to reside in number 36 (where they have chambers in lieu of bedrooms).

Number 34 is supposedly the oldest cooperative condominium building in the city. If you aren’t from New York and are from a part of the country with sane and affordable property norms, you’ve heard of a co-op. A farmer’s co-op. A cooperative grocery store. This is not the same thing as a New York co-op. In New York and a few other places, a co-op is a residential building made up of condominiums, flats, apartments, etc., where there is a co-op board. Sound familiar? Think of the most restrictive, nit-picky and asinine neighborhood association or condo board and you’ll get close to some of the co-op horror stories out there. As the saying goes, you can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. Or your neighbors, if you live in a co-op.

Rather, they get to pick you.

Then your neighbors can approve your purchase… and your paint colors, and any renovation that may affect the other units’ listing prices. So, Mrs. Smith, let’s say, has a lot of pull on the board, and she’s not a fan of brown. Mrs. Smith gets to naysay a young couple’s modern, classy paint scheme because, well, too much brown. So sorry.

Where in other cities, renters look for apartments on Craigslist and condos are a dime a dozen, New Yorkers will often lay out thousands for a broker just to rent a place, or go through a co-op board for the privilege of paying millions of dollars to buy the (tiny, tiny) home of their dreams. At 34 or 36 Gramercy Park East, you may have paid millions for your pad, but at least the views are nice. And you do get a much-sought-after key to Gramercy Park.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 15: Gargle Goyles on Irving Place

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy PhotographyWelcome to the sunny, steamy, sultry second week of July on Faces of New York. It’s a great time of year to be an occasional photoshop creative type because that usually means both getting outside and returning to air conditioning. Computers, like their users, work best in climate controlled environments. This week, I took a short jog down to Irving Place just south of Grammercy Park in Manhattan. It’s a funny little street that gets blissfully little attention, and is one of the only truly local roads on the island because it only runs for 5 blocks north-south. It starts at Grammercy Park, and has the dubious honor of ending adjacent the former meeting site of Tammany Hall. The old tigers have gone north with the property values, their original headquarters is replaced, and it’s quite the sweet spot today.

My charge this week is 81 Irving Place, an Italianate co-op building constructed in 1929 based on designs by prolific Manhattan architect George Pelham, home today to 102 apartments and a dentist’s office. This building has been on my radar since the inception of this project because it is really close to my favorite coffee shop in New York, 71 Irving Place. It’s my favorite mostly because it is on a quiet street and has outdoor seating that is, unfortunately and this time of year especially, almost always full. So in a way, it’s my favorite coffee house that I can never get in to. Sort of like a general message from the City to her denizens: “Hello! Welcome! I have many nice things for all to enjoy! The food is amazing! The coffee just finished roasting! Now, please wait in this line…” New Yorkers, I should add, and though we do it often, don’t wait well in lines.

I hope you enjoy the gargoyles, plaques, friezes and sundry statuary that dot this fine old residential building as much as I have, in passing, for the past year. And if your teeth are feeling fuzzy, brush please, and then stop on by the dentist while you wait for your coffee. And while you wait in that line, walk around the corner and you might just hear the door-lintil dragon screaming “Atreeeyuuuu!”



Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 12: Ludlow Double Trouble

Welcome to Week 12 of the Faces of New York. While shooting down at Babycakes for last week’s edition, I came across an interesting set of faces on Ludlow Street. Twice. Once at the Babycakes location, the side of which building is 81 Ludlow Street, and earlier, on my way down, at 109 Ludlow Street two blocks north and across Delancey Street. Two blocks north from there will get to you Katz’s Delicatessen, where the carnivores out there can get more corned beef and pastrami for you buck than anyone has a right to eat in one sitting. This is not a place where one has to ask where the beef is.

Both of today’s buildings share the same stone grotesques as keystones in their window arches and have similar façade designs, but have different color bricks for their construction. The paler brick at the 81 Ludlow does not offer the contrast with the limestone carving that the darker red brick at the 109 Ludlow location does. The smaller building at 109 offers more detailed carvings for the lower window arches themselves, including stylized classical dolphins (near the man’s face) and contrasting-color brick for the upper women’s faces. I was tickled to notice the sharp similarities between these two buidlings, not but a few minutes’ walk separating them, and hope that other people make the same connection too. While, hopefully, not knocking into their fellow pedestrians, or getting hit by cars.


Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York Weeks 8, 9 and 10: Hat Tricks

May turned out to be a busy little month with lots of flying and local goings-on. As a result, this week’s submission includes the last three weeks worth of the Faces of New York. The bulk of these are from Greenwich Village and the rest from SoHo. The ‘Village photos are from around the NYU campus, two of which (the medallions and the limestone grotesques) abut the east edge of Washington Square Park. The lions are on 14 West 4th Street, two blocks east of the park. Down in SoHo you’ll find the Stoic near Mercer at Houston, and finally the red sandstone grotesques, snakes, and gryphons are down at 284 Broome Street in SoHo. Trust me when I say, if you have a strong aversion to car horns and vehicles brimming with angry New Yorkers, you’ll want to avoid that part of town around rush hour (It’s on the approach to the Holland Tunnel).

There is more to come in June as the weather heats up, the parks become full and the available, open lawns of grass become happily trampled. Happily for the stamping multitudes of feet, not for the poor trodden sod.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York Week 7: Webster Hall

Panem et circenses!

For as long as there have been people, once we ceased fighting to survive, we have sought entertainment to tickle our brains and spark interest outside of the drudgery of mere survival. Rome had their bread and circuses, we have table-service movie theaters and professional sports. For the uninitiated, New York City is home to thousands and thousands of restaurants, hundreds of bars, dozens of nightclubs and concert venues galore and more than a few Starbucks. Featured this week in Faces of New York: East Village’s Webster Hall, which serves as a little bit nightclub, a little bit rock and roll venue. The hall is situated just south of Union Square and north of St Mark’s Place, a short stumble from the dining and drinking heart of the young, hopping East Village.

The day I shot these was bright and sunny, with great mid-afternoon shadows and high contrast lighting. As a result there are a few High-Dynamic-Range (HDR) photos included in the bunch to show details otherwise lost in shadow or overexposed highlights. I mentioned briefly in an earlier post how HDR is accomplished but felt a little more in-depth explanation was merited since I am using it more and more frequently.Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

HDR photography consists of taking multiple different exposures of the same scene and combining them to make a composite photo that includes details that would otherwise be hidden because of the circumstances of light in the shot. This technique can be achieved through in-camera HDR functions–e.g. HDR modes for the iPhone and several offerings from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Casio, Sony et al. The standard HDR photo composites together three photos, with exposure values (EV) of “0” for the baseline, and then at least an “EV -1” and “EV +1” (in terms of whole f-stops darker or brighter) to bring out highlights and shadows respectively. Exposure Value is explained here. When I’m shooting around town I usually eschew the tripod; as a result all of my photos are hand-held. HDR requires that all the photos be precisely the same: shaky hands, moving body- or machine-parts or other artifacts distort the final image and ruin the effect.

I use two methods to combat this: first is to use auto exposure-bracketing to take a normal exposure and automatically shoot one shot over exposed and one under–all with one steady press of the shutter button. This still takes three shutter cycles, giving me plenty of time to add some distorting camera- or even SLR mirror-shake exacerbated by the long telephoto lens I frequently use for the Faces of New York project. The second method is to take one picture, properly exposed, in an uncompressed RAW file format. Shooting in RAW keeps all the raw, untouched photo sensor data available from the time of the shot rather than processing a final, compressed image. The files are massive–my camera averages 21-30MB per photo. However, this extra data allows the photographer to tweak exposures, contrast, white balance and a few other key settings well after the fact to create a more usable image or to save a shot that looked fine on the small camera screen but failed muster on the monitor.

What’s great about this technique is that I can take a photo that is a normal exposure and, with a little luck, create my EV +/-1 or even +/-2 shots in Aperture from duplicates of the original and merge these in Photoshop to effect a high-dynamic-range photo without having to carry a tripod.

This leaves hands free for carrying other very important things, like coffee.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York Week 6: L-stop Interest

One of my favorite train stops is the 14th Street and 3rd Avenue “L” stop, either to head across town for coffee and board games or to jaunt into Brooklyn with all the funkily dressed young hip cats. This stop has stairs that drop one either on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 14th Street or headed toward 2nd Ave. The neighborhood is just on the border of the East Village where it meets with Gramercy Park to the north and is convenient for those walking down to the train from uptown, or for Brooklynites or Villagers wanting to hit the bar scene wherever the trendy bar scene is these days.

Outside and above the east-facing westbound (cross-Manhattan) steps lies this fancy red brick façade. The style fits in well with the neighborhood in general–classily dilapidated, brick, old–but contrasts oddly with some of the neighboring co-ops and condo buildings. It was, for the most part, here first, so it isn’t the full of this aged beauty’s architect. From the Google Earth view you can see that it is in fact two apartment buildings with a unified front. Some of the statuary pieces, damaged by age or vandalism or both, have been carelessly repaired; though better a speedily wielded mortar trowel that covered up or torn down altogether! All told, the various nymphs, cherubs, chimera and the winged-glory centerpiece make it a particularly striking building worthy of notice.

…Which it would be, if anybody cared or dared to look up when they walk out of the subway. In practice this would be dangerous. I recommend not falling down the steep stairs or knocking over passers by while admiring architectural details. Awe may have been inspired, but the fast-walking suited person’s $6 skinny soy venti latte spilled in the pursuit of such awe will be, at best, an unappreciated sacrifice.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York Week 5: The Old Man

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy PhotographyIn the obscurity of the village window, the old man looks on. Years of toil, and love, and heartbreak drift by his silent gaze. As he stares, weatherbeaten and ancient, fading into the earth, his surroundings shift from licentiousness, to hope, from despair, to rejuvenation.

Facing him now on a tree, a young tree, a tree used to vandals, to disrespect, flowers bud greenly in the sun. In the light, his face casts a dark, inky shadow, his deep set eyes and dissolving brow bear the pitting of ages. His neighbors nearly gone, he stands vigil over the lusty juvenescence filling the former den of penury.

Generations have come, have lived, have gone. The old man endures, steadfast but himself diminishing to the cadence of time. Imminent dissolution does not thwart his unremitting scrutiny of those who stride by. Those, over whom he remains sentinel, rarely perceiving his abiding stoic glare, pass now carefree, unmolested by the assailants of old. He remains, watches, melts away.

©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Good Day, Sunshine

In addition to the Faces of New York post this week, I snapped a few pics down in the East Village to celebrate what has to have been the prettiest day of 2013 in New York City. The sun was warm, the sky was cloudless and the temperature in the sunlight perfectly comfortable. Perfect weather for some HDR photography! In keeping with the faces theme, here is a part of a future feature building I saw right next to my oft-visited 14th street and 3rd Ave “L” train stop.


Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York, Week 4

Howdy, and thank you again for stopping by. Today I wanted to take a look at a building on across town and to try out a new piece of equipment in the process. In my past life, what feels like eons ago but is merely two years past, photography was a huge part of my day-to-day routine. Returning to full-time flying status has caused a sharp drop-off in the amount of time and energy I am able to devote to one of my favorite creative outlets. Fittingly, I haven’t needed to acquire almost any new photography gear lately since my current rig is quite satisfactory. Still, after looking at one off and on for several years I found a great deal today on a 2x teleconverter that takes my Canon 70-200mm lens and bumps it out to 140-400mm. For the non-technophiles out there, this is a good amount of optical reach, and will help out immensely in the pursuit of this project.

So! On to the faces for this week. This building is on the northwest corner of 8th Avenue and 37th Street, and has several what are possibly Lucifer or snarling Bacchus faces. There are the requisite ram’s horns, the scowling façade pieces, and the apparently forked-tongues of the larger faces on the columns–to me these suggest a devilish leaning. This could, however, simply be an embellishment by the artist. Hard to say. What I find truly confounding about the building is the repeated, written-in-stone date: 1889. I went through some of the internet-accessible public records for this property and found the construction date of record for this building to be 1915. Why the discrepancy? Did someone have an affinity for the year 1889 when the building was built? Does it relate to the original builder’s birth year, or perhaps the year a family came to the United States? Was there a demolished, original building on this site built first in 1889?

Maybe the faces on this structure are part of a newer renovation, perhaps an atavist’s very, very roundabout declaration of love for late 1980’s music, specifically INXS. Either way, it’s going to be the first of several devilishly interesting buildings I’ve spotted around New York City.