Category Archives: brooklyn

Admiral’s Row

A few weekends ago, I checked out Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Second Empire mansions were built between 1864 and 1901, and the block used to be home to high ranking military officers and their families, such as  Commodore Matthew Perry, who encouraged the opening of Japan to the West. Now Admiral’s Row is abandoned, the buildings in disrepair, the stately iron gates and brick walls now keeping out trespassers rather than serving as a barrier between the wealthy oasis and the busy street.

Although Admiral’s Row has been entirely abandoned only since the 1970s, the homes have deteriorated significantly. Looking through broken windows, I could seem that entire floors had fallen and roofs had caved in.

I read that there is a tennis court, and also a greenhouse, on the Admiral’s Row grounds, but I didn’t spot them from the sidewalk. There is little foot traffic going by them, but they are not at all hidden or cut off from the rest of the city. I can’t think of anywhere else in New York that is so plainly abandoned, forgotten, in plain sight. Tangible ghosts of a past that has mostly been bulldozed over.

So what is the fate of Admiral’s Row? The site is owned by the National Guard, and the city has plans to raze the buildings and put in a grocery store.  But there has been a strong effort to get the buildings restored, and preserving a structure called the Timber Shed that was used to store ship masts is part of the city’s development plan, although there was a threat it would collapse from the snow. There has been a strong effort for landmarking, but considering what has happened recently with Coney Island and New York’s history of destroying to build rather than rehabilitating its existing buildings, I’m not optimistic. And yet, if people keep documenting the fragile, decaying beauty of Admiral’s Row, maybe there will be enough interest to bring back some of its grandeur.

Marian Spore

My neighborhood isn’t known for being an art center, but if you make an effort to seek it out, there are some very creative things happening in the South Slope/Greenwood Heights/Sunset Park area. On Friday night, I walked down to Marian Spore, an art space in the huge Bush Terminal. The building is one of the largest complexes of the industrial landscape that lines the water’s edge of Brooklyn. At one time the 200 acre Bush Terminal employed 25,000 people in its docks and warehouses. Marian Spore is named for the wife of its founder, Irving T. Bush. A surrealist painter, she claimed to be inspired by her communions with dead artists. The “accumulative museum of contemporary art” is in a 16,000 square foot space and aims to add a new piece each month to its collection of installations.

On Friday, there was a party to celebrate the addition of two new works. One was a video installation called Paradoxical Sleep by Marina Zurkow that had clusters of screens hanging from the ceiling showing an animated flood in Bush Terminal and the Marian Spore gallery. Another by an artist who goes by The Plug was an installation involving light. Actually, all the pieces involved light in some way, which made them beacons in the dark space. A red neon sign by Graham Parker hangs over a puddle of water that is constantly replenished, and a video is projected on one of the white walls.  The centerpiece of the gallery is definitely the Float! ThinkTank 21 by Thom Kubil. The coffin-like capsule has a hatch that opens to allow one visitor to enter the egg-shaped space and rest in its flotation tank. Inside, there is a sound composition and books that reference the idea of weightlessness. The waiting list is apparently quite long for the 50 minute sensory deprivation experience of the art casket.

Marian Spore has limited hours on the weekend, but it is definitely worth a visit. And if you get to enter the ThinkTank, please let me know. I plan to visit Marian Spore again sometime soon to see their new pieces in their ongoing acquisition project. Perhaps someday the warehouses of Sunset Park will be like those of DUMBO, packed with studios and galleries. No matter what the area has in its future, I think it is awesome that I am walking distance to something as cool and bizarre as the ThinkTank.