Posts Tagged 'Brooklyn'

Recap: OHNY Hidden Harbor Tour – Aug 16th, 2011

OHNY Volunteer Council member, Bob Moore, joined our volunteer crew last month for the Hidden Harbor Tour that was organized in partnership with the Working Harbor Committee. He recaps the evening and gives details about the harbor, landscapes and vistas that were seen during the two hour tour.

Despite the fact that the day dawned overcast and rainy, the clouds rolled back as the afternoon wore on an we were more than happy to see the sun begin to shine just in time for the OHNY/Hidden Harbor Boat Tour that took place on August 16th.  OHNY staff and passengers assembled at the Pier 16 dock at the South Street Seaport, all keenly waiting to board the Zephyr, a large three-deck tour boat.  We made it smoothly on board; all of us, that is, with the exception of one passenger who was seen making a mad dash down the pier and crossing the gangway just as it was about to be withdrawn!

passengers aboard the Zephyr

The ship backed out of the pier and proceeded a short distance up the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Our “hosts” for the evening were Captain Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee and Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association.  Both provided us with a continuously fascinating commentary on each site we passed in addition to a number of nautical and maritime facts.

Ed Kelly of the NY Maritime Association

The Zephyr then set course southwards towards Buttermilk Channel, a narrow stretch of water bordered by Governor’s Island to the west and Red Hook to the east.  Apparently Buttermilk Channel received it’s name in the early 19th century, when farmers were able to drive their cattle across when the channel dried out at low tide.

a full ship

We sailed onwards past the Brooklyn Passenger Terminal to the end of the Red Hook peninsula, where a Fairway supermarket and some art studios are now housed in the old brick warehouses.  Zephyr then entered the Erie Basin ,which has been transformed by the advent of IKEA. The once thriving shipyard has now been closed and our captains called our attention to the remnants of the old graving dock.  The basin is occupied by a large fleet of barges which operate short distances up and down the coast carrying oil fuel, cement and other commodities. These are important links on the transport chain.

colorful tugboat

We then proceeded out into the Red Hook Channel, past the Gowanus waterfront and the immense Brooklyn Army Terminal, the site of Elvis Presley’s  (the anniversary of whose death this day was) departure for Germany to carry out his military service. The Terminal is an enormous building which provided a gateway for much military equipment to be transported overseas to the war efforts in Europe.

making our way into the Kill van Kull

Heading westward, Zephyr passed the Statue of Liberty on its starboard side and proceeded towards the entrance of the Kill van Kull, another narrow strip of water which separates Staten Island from New Jersey.  Zephyr then passed under the Bayonne Bridge, a very picturesque bridge redolent of the Sydney Harbor bridge in Australia.  It is listed a s a National Historic Monument.  However, the distinctive bridge, with its parabolic arch and lower road bed, is now unfortunately causing a botttleneck in the port.  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has plans to raise the bridge by raising the height of the roadbed by 60 feet,  a very difficult job that  is not due to be completed for several years.  This could have a severe economic impact on the port.

passing under the Bayonne Bridge

After passing under the bridge, Zephyr rounded Bergen Point and swung up to the north-right to enter Newark Bay, home to the huge Port Elizabeth and Port Newark container ports.  We passed the large ‘Arthur Maersk’ container vessel, owned by the largest container shipping company in the world, AP Moller of Denmark.  Much has changed in the shipping industry over the last 30 years or so.  So many of the goods which we take for granted stocked in local stores come from overseas, and Ed Kelly pointed out that were an accident to occur in the Kill van Kull, blocking entry to the port, dramatic consequences would quickly impact the tri-State area.

the "Arthur Maersk" container vessel

As Zephyr turned and headed for home, the sun was setting over New Jersey, casting the Bayonne Bridge into a beautiful silhouette.  Swinging leftwards down the harbor, we passed Robbins Reef light house, in which legendary lighthouse keeper Kate Walker once lived (rowing her children to school everyday in a row boat to Staten Island).  We passed the Statue of Liberty just as the sun was making its final exit.  Once we made our way back to South Street Seaport the reaction from all who disembarked Zephyr was universally positive.

gorgeous sunset at the end of the tour

(Images courtesy of Mitch Waxman)


Field Trip Friday: Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center

Last Saturday, OHNY staffer Hae-In helped organize a tour of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC), with GMDC and the Fourth Arts Block, led by Project Manager Cassandra Smith. The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center is the premier nonprofit industrial developer in NYC and since its inception in 1992, GMDC has rehabilitated six North Brooklyn manufacturing buildings for occupancy by small manufacturing enterprises, artisans and artists. Currently GMDC owns and manages five of these properties, which together represent more than half a million square feet of space. These buildings are occupied by more than 100 businesses that together employ more than 500 people.

group outside the building

Cassandra started with the history of the building complex, which sits on an area created by landfill in 1858 and started as the Chelsea Fiber Mills in 1868, with just a few brick buildings along the Newtown Creek waterfront. Built by Standard Oil, the mill focused on manufacturing marine rope. More buildings were added and by 1891, eight buildings made up 366,000 square feet of industrial space and basement area.

artist Barbara Campise describes her studio

The Chelsea Fiber Mills employed many Greenpoint residents and supplied rope to the U.S. military throughout World War I and World War II. Activity began to decline during the second half of the 20th century and the facility shifted to textile producers and fabric dyeing mills until the early 1970s.

woodworking studio

The City of New York took over the building in a tax foreclosure in 1974. Although the City held title to the property, funding for maintenance was lacking and the building fell into non-code compliance: elevators, sprinklers, roofing, electricity, and water distribution systems were in disrepair. A group of artists set up studios anyway and the City gave them month-to-month leases.

pottery studio

In the mid 1980’s the City considered demolishing the complex because upgrading would be too costly and local businesses, community organizations, building tenants, and elected officials came together to shape a redevelopment plan that would convert the property into an arts and industry center. The North Brooklyn Economic Development Corportation got it for $1 and GMDC acquired the property and leveraged the public and private capital required to make it code compliant.

design studio

Today, 75 small business and artisan tenants utilize this building and 360 employees from adjacent communities work here. The spaces range from 1,000-5,000 square feet and leases are flexible and below market rate ($12-16 per square foot versus up to $30). Although GMDC’s main mission is economic development and jobs, there is also a preservationist angle and promotion of affordable, flexible production space to local artists and manufacturers. In order to finance these ventures, GMDC uses a combination of tax credits, grants, funding from city council members and bank loans.

cluster of 8 buildings

When tenants move in, they are basically given a vanilla box. There are no lights or furniture, and there are shared bathrooms but no plumbing within the studio (as this often leads to living there, which is prohibited). It was wonderful to hear the stories of the artists working here, ranging from a painter, clay potter, woodworker and a cnc design studio. Takeshi (scroll up for woodworking studio photo) told us about having studied architecture in Japan and working in construction in Tokyo. Twenty years ago, he moved to the United States and began apprenticing with a master cabinet maker and learning carpentry. He started by making cabinets and architectural models, and has now expanded to a wide array of simple but beautifully crafted furniture.

inside building 5

Cassandra also showed us the last empty space within the complex, known as building 5, which has not been developed yet. It was amazing to walk around the empty space– you could still see old furnaces through a crack in the wall– and imagine how much effort was put in to rehabilitate this complex!

Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center
1155-1205 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Field Trip Friday: 3rd Ward Member Group Show

Last Friday night, OHNY staffer Hae-In went to check out the 3rd Ward Member Group Show in Bushwick, Brooklyn and learn more about the space. The show highlighted work that is being produced by local artists, designers, woodworkers and photographers.

entering the party

3rd Ward is a member-based design center for creative professionals, an “incubator for innovation and possibility.” They offer a supportive community and access to creative resources. Its facilities include four photo studios, a media lab with Mac equipment, co-working space, a 10,000 sq. ft. fully equipped wood and metal shop, and shared and private office space for freelancers.

member show

3rd Ward was created by Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt to help allow artisans to create work and work affordably in New York City. After they moved to the city in 2004, they recognized the limitations of being an independent working artist here, with little access to the space and tools needed to develop your work.

sculptures and 3-D work

Named for the neighborhood’s district, the facility opened in May 2006, inspired by the facilities and atmosphere they had had as students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

wooden bench

3rd Ward is supported by its members, rather than receiving government funds or being controlled by a board, and has since become an art and design incubator.

handmade guitar

In addition to members who pay a fee for access to various spaces, the 3rd Ward offers a wide array of interdisciplinary courses, events and exhibitions for its members as well as the public. Classes are project-based and small in size, providing an ample amount of one-on-one instruction.

dogs like art, too

3rd Ward offers 100 classes a quarter, from woodwork and welding to digital and web design, illustration and fashion, painting, jewelry, audiovisual multimedia, photography, printmaking, screen printing, and urban ecology.


Whether you want to become a member or dabble in different classes, 3rd Ward has something for everyone.

3rd Ward
195 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237

Field Trip Friday: Kings County Distillery

Last Saturday afternoon, OHNY staffer Hae-In went on a tour of the Kings County Distillery, in Bushwick. The first distillery to operate within the borders of New York City since the Prohibition era, Kings County Distillery produces both corn and bourbon whiskey.

copper-lined stills

With the legacy of Prohibition, it used to be quite cost prohibitive to open a distillery. In 2002, New York launched the class D distilling permit, an inexpensive license that has made it much easier for small-scale liquor producers to make up to 35,000 proof-gallons of liquor per year. To boost New York’s agriculture industry, the law also requires that the majority of ingredients must come from New York farmers. Kings County Distillery gets their organic cracked corn, the main ingredient in both moonshine and bourbon, from the Finger Lakes region.


Although they did not have any prior distilling experience, Colin Spoelman and David Haskell got the operation (named after Brooklyn’s county) licensed in April 2010 and have been making small batches of moonshine and bourbon in the industrial building shared by graphic designers, photographers, recording studios and even a local jerky company. Although the moonshine is sold in about 20 or so liquor stores throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan, their bourbon is only available at their facility.

corn, malted barley and yeast fermenting

The tour, while short, was very informative and went through the different steps of making whiskey, starting with the cracked corn which gets boiled in a stockpot. When it reaches 165 degrees they add malted barley and the yeast goes in after reaching room temperature. There are only 5-6 strains of yeast that can be used to make whiskey. This mixture then goes into tubs to ferment before getting distilled.

making whiskey

The whiskey is distilled twice. The first transforms the liquid into “low wine” and then the second is when it forms into whiskey. The second distillation, or the “heart” of the run, is the trickiest part. Too early and it is toxic (and known to cause blindness) but wait too long and it is watery. After being tested at the right temperature and time, the resulting liquid is 73% alcohol and is either diluted to 40% and bottled as moonshine or diluted to 58% and aged in barrels. Kings County also bottles a distiller’s proof moonshine (at 70%) for mixing.

5 gallon oak barrels

Although bourbon and moonshine are made from the same ingredients, the moonshine is sold unaged while the bourbon is put in a charred oak wooden barrel, which adds color and flavors as it ages. Kings County uses five ten-gallon pot stills, small compared to larger distilleries like Jack Daniels, as well as small five-gallon white oak barrels. The smaller the barrel the faster bourbon matures, which means the bourbon is ready in eight months as opposed to several years.

bourbon aging

There are many kinds of whiskeys, depending on which grains you use and how and where you age them. In order to be considered bourbon, it must be produced in the United States and be made from a grain mixture that contains 51 percent corn. (Contrary to popular belief, it does not need to be produced in Bourbon County, Kentucky). The flavor develops throughout the aging process, influenced by the barrel, temperature, humidity and air quality.

moonshine and bourbon tasting

Visitors can sample the bourbon and their award-winning moonshine, which won “Best in Category” for unaged corn whiskey at the American Distilling Institute’s Craft Sprits Conference, beating out 20 other competitors. On Saturday there was also a special mint-infused moonshine and bourbon in honor of the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

Kings County bourbon

Produced on a small scale, Kings County has the advantage of flavor control, and with the increase of specialty cocktail and old-school speakeasy bars in Brooklyn, it is a good time to be part of this craft movement. Several restaurants and bars in the neighborhood also serve Kings County, including Marlow and Sons, Fette Sau and Hotel Delmano.

Kings County Distillery
35 Meadow Street, Brooklyn, New York

Field Trip Friday: Red Hook Carriage House

A few weeks ago OHNY staff went to visit Thomas Warnke’s renovated carriage house in Red Hook, also the home of his architecture studio space4a.

carriage house from the outside

Thomas showed us around the space, which took him three years to renovate. The exterior retains its original brick facade.

dining area

The interior has been re-done, with many furniture items found on Craigslist. Thomas utilized some original features, such as the ceiling beams, and re-purposed them as shelves.

showing us before photos

Thomas showed us before photos and images that documented the process.

living area

The fireplace is original, and he also put in floor to ceiling glass doors in the living area, the kind often used by restaurants to allow for open air dining, to create openness and a way to integrate the outdoors and indoors.


The stairs also use original wood as well, and lead up the the second floor office space and bedroom areas. He has recently created a roof garden for various fruits and vegetables, which he is experimenting with.

wood from trees on the property

The firewood in the entryway is from trees that were removed from the backyard when he put in the patio.

garden area

The back of the building has some original graffiti left. Thanks for letting us visit, Thomas!

Field Trip Friday: Pier Glass Studio

A recent adventure to Red Hook led OHNY to Pier Glass, an artisan glass studio and shop at the Beard Street Warehouse. Specializing in custom work and architectural glass design, Kevin Kutch and Mary Ellen Buxton run the full service studio that offers a diverse range of work. Some of their specialties include architectural glass design, lamp working, fusion and slumping, and metal work.

walking to Pier Glass

The husband and wife team, who are both originally from Colorado, met in college while studying art. Kutch later picked up glassblowing, which was an easy transition from his background in sculpture.  In 1991 the couple moved to Brooklyn when he became studio director of Urban Glass, a nonprofit studio.

In 1992, the Port Authority sold Red Hook’s deteriorated, Civil War era Beard Street Warehouse pier and after some repairs more than 40 businesses moved in, including Pier Glass.

studio window in Beard Street Pier

The warehouse is home to an exciting array of small businesses. Beard Street Pier has become an artist community, with glass blowing studios, woodworking shops, custom cabinetry makers, print makers, photographers, and artist’s workshops in the neighborhood.

The area has recently undergone new development, most notably the Brooklyn Ikea and it is now accessible via the water ferry from Pier 11 to Ikea’s dock in Red Hook.

inside the studio

In the studio, Kevin blows glass and Mary Ellen bends and fuses it. The couple also work on commissions for designers and architects, restoration and reproduction work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and art-glass display items for galleries across the country.

glass pieces

The beautiful, lustrous, and colorful pieces they create include beads, bowls, kiln-formed woven sculptures, holiday ornaments, perfume vials, and vases.

painted glass globes

Kevin also explained how the painted glass globes are created, above. After a glass sphere is created, the artist paints the outside with details, and then encases it in another layer of glass. She then paints that layer and keeps adding, until it forms a multi-layered image.

glass work

In addition to their own handiwork, the studio also offers classes like the “Glass Blowing Experience,” where participants are able to blow their own glass with guidance from the owners, which has gotten rave reviews.

The Pier Glass studio is not to be missed, with its awe-inspiring pieces and friendly owners!

Pier Glass
299 Van Brunt Street, Suite 2A
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Explore NYC’s Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts

Explore NYC’s Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts

Some cultural districts are planned as part of initiatives from institutions and cities, while others spring up more organically in the context of their neighborhoods. “Naturally occurring cultural districts” are self-organized through community action, and cultivated by a diverse range of artists, participants and audiences over time. Tapping into and strengthening community assets, local cultural clusters stimulate social, civic, and economic benefits within communities and across them.

Join OHNY and Fourth Arts Block and tour three different neighborhoods with local artists and organizations that have helped shape these distinct cultural communities. And get a discount on tickets when you attend all three!

Fourth Arts Block, East Village
Saturday April 30 at 1pm

Fourth Arts Block (FAB) is rooted in the Lower East Side’s long history of hosting community and cultural spaces that served marginalized immigrants, artists, and activists. In the 1960s and 70s, East 4th Street coalesced as a center for experimental theater and film.

Four decades later, the block’s cultural groups founded FAB to preserve and develop these historic arts spaces. Tour East 4th Street theaters and learn how FAB weaves the arts with neighboring small businesses to strengthen a distinctive East Village cultural and community identity.

Buy tickets here.

Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (Greenpoint)
Saturday May 21 at 1pm
The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center’s (GMDC) flagship project is a 300,000 square foot complex of buildings built between 1868 and 1910 for the textile industry. When the City wanted to close the building in the 1980s after taking it in tax foreclosure, a group of industrial business and artist tenants came together with community organizations and elected officials to shape a redevelopment plan that would convert the property into an arts and industry center, managed by the non-profit GMDC.

Today, the Manhattan Avenue complex has 75 small business and artisan tenants, and 350 employees from adjacent communities work here. Come tour the building and meet some of the artisanal businesses that call GMDC home.

Buy tickets here.

El Puente, South Williamsburg/Los Sures
Saturday June 18 at 1pm
El Puente is a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members (youth and adult) in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness & environmental action. As a place-based organization with deep roots in the neighborhood, El Puente’s six sites have grown into hubs of community action in multiple areas—in line with El Puente’s principle of Holistic learning.

Walk Los Sures (The Southside of Williamsburg) with us to experience the rich history of indigenous arts and culture that springs forth from self-determination. We honor the history and vibrancy of artists and artisans living & working in North Brooklyn by visiting local landmarks such as the beautiful outdoor murals of Los Muralsitas, our local community garden Espiritu Tierra, and the favorite haunts of El Puente CADRE (Community Artists’ Development & Resource Exchange) members.

Buy tickets here.

Download the report on Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts.



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