Five Boroughs in 48 Hours

written by:
photos by:
February 15, 2011

When Dwell proposed that I undertake a design writing variant of Supermarket Sweep—visiting five projects in five boroughs in two days—I had a single thought: Why me?

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  The New York City subway crisscrosses the five boroughs, linking all but Staten Island.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    The New York City subway crisscrosses the five boroughs, linking all but Staten Island.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Despite the economic downturn, the city is still booming with construction—as evidenced by the fleet of cranes on the horizon.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Despite the economic downturn, the city is still booming with construction—as evidenced by the fleet of cranes on the horizon.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Another view from a subway car.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Another view from a subway car.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A subway rider takes a rest.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A subway rider takes a rest.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  One of the pleasures of New York City is people-watching, especially in the golden glow of late afternoon.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    One of the pleasures of New York City is people-watching, especially in the golden glow of late afternoon.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A sidewalk view.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A sidewalk view.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A view from a subway car.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A view from a subway car.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Bill Ryall at home in Harlem. "When I first thought of moving to Harlem, I looked at a map. The island's about 210 blocks long, I'm near 110th Street—I thought, 'It's right in the center of Manhattan.'"  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Bill Ryall at home in Harlem. "When I first thought of moving to Harlem, I looked at a map. The island's about 210 blocks long, I'm near 110th Street—I thought, 'It's right in the center of Manhattan.'"

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Ryall installed vertical circulation elements, opening an unobstructed 47-foot-long view from front to back, and kept the ceiling beams exposed to create a loftlike environment.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Ryall installed vertical circulation elements, opening an unobstructed 47-foot-long view from front to back, and kept the ceiling beams exposed to create a loftlike environment.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Ryall's only so-called extravagances in the inexpensive renovation were the weather- and sound-resistant windows and central air-conditioning system.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Ryall's only so-called extravagances in the inexpensive renovation were the weather- and sound-resistant windows and central air-conditioning system.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A close-up in the kitchen of the Ryall residence.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A close-up in the kitchen of the Ryall residence.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Lunch time.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Lunch time.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A street vendor has watches for sale.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A street vendor has watches for sale.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Downtown Flushing has the city's second-largest Chinatown, and third-busiest intersection.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Downtown Flushing has the city's second-largest Chinatown, and third-busiest intersection.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  With its orderly rope-covered ceiling and sleek bars of light, Minnis Shabu Shabu, John Hsu's restaurant, is purposely at odds with Flushing's aesthetic.  Photo by: Jake StangelCourtesy of: c 2010 Jake Stangel
    With its orderly rope-covered ceiling and sleek bars of light, Minnis Shabu Shabu, John Hsu's restaurant, is purposely at odds with Flushing's aesthetic.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

    Courtesy of: c 2010 Jake Stangel

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  John Hsu's house is a concrete modernist box nestled amid “suburban eclectica,” as architect Drew Lang characterizes the neighborhood’s prevailing style.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    John Hsu's house is a concrete modernist box nestled amid “suburban eclectica,” as architect Drew Lang characterizes the neighborhood’s prevailing style.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  When the Hsus found themselves expecting a third child, they engaged Lang to enclose the upper part of their double-height living room to create a fourth bedroom and playroom-study upstairs. Additionally, Lang resurfaced the fireplace wall with massive slabs of filled silver travertine marble­. The slabs were so large that one of them broke an adjoining floor-to-ceiling glass pane during installation.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    When the Hsus found themselves expecting a third child, they engaged Lang to enclose the upper part of their double-height living room to create a fourth bedroom and playroom-study upstairs. Additionally, Lang resurfaced the fireplace wall with massive slabs of filled silver travertine marble­. The slabs were so large that one of them broke an adjoining floor-to-ceiling glass pane during installation.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Cinematographer Wilmot Kidd sweeps the roof of the Red Hook industrial building that contains his home.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Cinematographer Wilmot Kidd sweeps the roof of the Red Hook industrial building that contains his home.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  In a former shipping and receiving room, Kidd's design-builder Eric Wolf inserted a custom-crafted freestanding stair.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    In a former shipping and receiving room, Kidd's design-builder Eric Wolf inserted a custom-crafted freestanding stair.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Wolf also enlarged the 16-by-30-foot space's single window.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Wolf also enlarged the 16-by-30-foot space's single window.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  The sleeping loft is fitted with mahogany rails.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    The sleeping loft is fitted with mahogany rails.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Wolf mounted a platform for Kidd's video projector.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Wolf mounted a platform for Kidd's video projector.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  The Brook, a supportive housing building in the Bronx, occupies what had, for years, been a vacant lot. The green roof, pictured here, is one of a number of LEED-driven elements.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    The Brook, a supportive housing building in the Bronx, occupies what had, for years, been a vacant lot. The green roof, pictured here, is one of a number of LEED-driven elements.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  “Do you really like your building?” the Brook’s director, Paul Pavon, was asked by an acquaintance, who compared the appearance of the 90,000- square-foot supportive housing development in New York’s famously blighted South Bronx to that of the Tetris video game. Indeed he does: “If you walk around this neighborhood, not too many buildings look like this. So there’s some kind of pride when the tenants come home.”  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    “Do you really like your building?” the Brook’s director, Paul Pavon, was asked by an acquaintance, who compared the appearance of the 90,000- square-foot supportive housing development in New York’s famously blighted South Bronx to that of the Tetris video game. Indeed he does: “If you walk around this neighborhood, not too many buildings look like this. So there’s some kind of pride when the tenants come home.”

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  A wider view of the Brook, in the context of the neighborhood.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    A wider view of the Brook, in the context of the neighborhood.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Over the past 15 years, Groundswell Community Mural Project has developed hundreds of murals around New York City that give voice to otherwise underrepresented ideas and perspectives, and beautify neighborhoods that are rarely the focus of public art initiatives. Here's one example.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Over the past 15 years, Groundswell Community Mural Project has developed hundreds of murals around New York City that give voice to otherwise underrepresented ideas and perspectives, and beautify neighborhoods that are rarely the focus of public art initiatives. Here's one example.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  On the ferry, en route to Staten Island.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    On the ferry, en route to Staten Island.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  The Statue of Liberty in the distance.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    The Statue of Liberty in the distance.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  The tall vegetation surrounding Carrie Grassi, Freshkills Park land-use and outreach manager, grows atop what was formerly the world’s largest landfill: 150 million tons of (mostly) garbage, accumulated over more than half a century.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    The tall vegetation surrounding Carrie Grassi, Freshkills Park land-use and outreach manager, grows atop what was formerly the world’s largest landfill: 150 million tons of (mostly) garbage, accumulated over more than half a century.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  In 1948, when filling began, Fresh Kills’ “marshy, low-lying wetlands weren’t prized—people thought they were breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Grassi says.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    In 1948, when filling began, Fresh Kills’ “marshy, low-lying wetlands weren’t prized—people thought they were breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Grassi says.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Development over the next several years will focus on public access and showcasing the site’s unusual combination of natural and engineered beauty.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Development over the next several years will focus on public access and showcasing the site’s unusual combination of natural and engineered beauty.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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  Phase One includes opening up 21 acres in North Park and a 20-acre swath of South Park that will incorporate ball fields, a bike loop, and natural habitats.  Photo by: Jake Stangel
    Phase One includes opening up 21 acres in North Park and a 20-acre swath of South Park that will incorporate ball fields, a bike loop, and natural habitats.

    Photo by: Jake Stangel

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