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An interesting prediction from The Big Picture about banks choosing to abandon foreclosed low-value homes, rather than pay taxes and assume responsibility for the ever-increasing inventory…

And I just read about the newly-minted phenomenon of “jingle mail” where homeowners find it easier to abandon their homes than to declare bankruptcy or get out of credit card debt.

I’ve been researching and exploring hollowed-out cities, failed amusement parks and other ventures for a few years now — and always wondered what it would take for the quick-built sprawling suburb to similarly fall out of favor. Looks like the time is now, thanks to rising oil prices and the housing crash.

Phoenix

Phoenix Trotting Park, a race track that closed almost as quickly as it opened in the 1960s when the price tag to complete it soared from an estimated $3 million to $10 million, effectively bankrupting its east coast builder. Other factors helped lead to its demise, however, including cold temperatures, flooding, and the long, 20-mile trek (at the time) from Phoenix. — photo and caption by Scott Haefner

Link to Flickr Set

After only four days in Detroit, I became attached to certain spots. The formerly grand row of mansions leading up to the bridge to Belle Isle (a circa 1848 island park, complete with abandoned zoo, Tudor aquarium and greenhouses, boat club and Art Deco lighthouse). The big neon sign across the Museum of Contemporary Art:

The crumbling 2-story 20s buildings of Del Ray, festooned with angels. And of course the enormous hulking landmarks — the Michigan Central Depot and the Packard Plant (where some friends had to dodge a fire set in the stairwell they’d entered by…)

This Harper’s article from last July shares some great history and context, and some hope for the future – mostly in urban farming. Rebecca Solnit is right — a city full of empty buildings (firehouses, commercial, castles, churches) looks pretty good to a bunch of space-starved artists from New York City.

One of the most remarkable people I met there was the proprietor of the Temple Bar, an Art Deco bar that his father and uncle built and ran together until the late 60s. The bar served the nearby Masonic Temple until they built their own inside. George works with the Cass Corridor Local Development Corporation — a nonprofit that provides affordable housing while preserving buildings in that area, the former estate of Lewis Cass. It was really wonderful to run into someone so active and interested in his community and neighborhood — while he served us $3 cocktails during karaoke night!


Today I’m posting from the sunny foyer of one of the old silk mills of Paterson, NJ. It’s now a museum in the Great Falls Historic District, which is just jammed with amazing brick buildings dating back to the early and mid-1800s. Paterson produced half of the silk made in America — hence the nickname Silk City — until labor disputes around the turn of the century such as the Silk Strike of 1913, which gave us the 8-hour workday.

I’m leading a walking tour of what’s left of these old mills (the Colt Gun Mill, pictured above, is another biggie that is mostly gone, what is left is actually crated and marked for reassembly!) today at 1pm. A lot of amazing things happened here — the first submarine was launched into the Passaic River right above the Great Falls, the first revolver was made here, and a whole lot of sailcloth was produced.


Industrialists like Catholina Lambert prospered — he built a castle on the mountain and filled it with art — a Citizen Kane-like persona. Seven of his eight children predeceased him, as did his wife Isabella (who the castle was originally named after, Belle Vista), and also her widowed sister, who Catholina married after his wife’s death. He continued to live in the castle until his death in 1923.


Unfortunately, Shuli Sade had a family emergency and had to leave the country. That means I’ll be pinch-hitting to lead the industrial archeology tour of Paterson, as part of Flux Factory’s Paterson Project, this Saturday at 1p.

The tour is free and we meet at the Paterson Museum, which is a ten-minute walk from the bus station.

download Bus Schedule here, you want the 190 express from Port Authority ($11 roundtrip).

Paterson is the first planned industrial city, centered around its Great Falls. There were 200 mills feeding off the power and electricity generated by the river. Come explore a few with me.

Bring your camera and comfortable shoes.


Check out these amazing mansions built by drug runners in Afghanistan courtesy of Monocle magazine.

I have to disagree somewhat with their tone — while preserving medieval buildings is important, I think these fantastical structures are pretty special. And who’s to say that Afghani people should still live in mud dwellings? Europeans have certainly moved on from their medieval huts.

Today there’s a great show down at the Grand Street Ferry Park, from 2-8p, with lots of local Brooklyn bands including the punk marching band nearest and dearest to my heart, the Hungry March Band.

It’s free and in support of saving this gorgeous and important piece of our industrial history.


from Curbed.

Yesterday I headed out to Paterson, NJ to begin my part of the Flux Factory residency there. I took the bus from Port Authority with my friend Dana, a native whose family hails from Paterson for several generations. Her mother actually used to work in the factory which now houses the Paterson Museum, and for the next six weeks, our project. So, we have a little local cred and if I stand next to her, maybe it rubs off on me.

We went through Rutherford, Clifton and Passaic and I was stunned at the sheer diversity, mostly expressed via food, of course. Peruvian, Middle Eastern/Turkish, Italian, all cheek by jowl. I definitely want to eat somewhere different each time I visit. We also saw some hangouts like the S.S. Napoli Club, with plaster statues for decor and some older fellows hanging out around the front door on a hot day, glaring sternly at us and everybody else passing by.

The launch of my photo project was a success, I think — I gave out something like 12 cameras out of 27, and hopefully I can distribute the rest this week. The remainder are at the Paterson Museum, so pick one up if you go there.

Everyone who I approached was excited about it and really friendly. A disproportionate number actually identified themselves as photographers! So my show might be somewhat stocked with ringers, though the criterion for participation is only that you must shoot in Paterson and of Paterson, not that you must be an amateur…

I also had the pleasure of meeting Shuli Sade, a photographer who is leading the industrial archaeology tour on June 30th. We immediately geeked out over a shared love of ruins and grain elevators…go look at her site! It’s Flash-based so I can’t pull pictures, but definitely worth a peruse. She has had amazing access to many places all over the world, in fact, to bring this all back around — she was telling me that she was the last person to document the interior of Domino Sugar…

This Saturday, June 2nd, at 4pm we are celebrating the opening of the Paterson Project, at the Paterson Museum in (you guessed it) Paterson, NJ.

The Flux Factory (an arts collective) will be in residency for six weeks, holding town meetings, group readings of the William Carlos Williams poem Paterson, and otherwise researching and investigating the place. The objective is to create a new monument to Paterson.

I am starting a small community outreach photo project, where I will be giving away disposable cameras to Paterson residents, and displaying the results in the museum as a visual representation of their own Paterson. I’ve found some really great similar projects out there:
The Cameo Project
and
Phototag.org — both tracking disposable cameras as they are handed off on journeys around the world. I love it.

Paterson:
an artistic collaboration between Flux Factory and an entire city

June 2-July 14

At the opening: meet the participants, eat some food, hear about the project, and most importantly…come to Paterson!

For further information, including a schedule of our summer events in Paterson visit:
http://www.fluxfactory.org/paterson

Phone: 718-707-3362
Email contact: Stefany Anne Golberg, info@fluxfactory.org

Flux Factory is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization
_________________________________________________________________________________
PATERSON PARTICIPANTS
Jean Barberis, Mikey Barringer, Angela Beallor, Jason David Brown, Christine Conforti, Joseph Costa, Giacomo De Stefano, Peter Duyan, Alita Edgar, eteam, Neil Freeman, Dana Gramp, The Ivanhoe Artists Mosaic of Paterson, Suzanne Joelson, Joe Milutis, The Paterson Museum, Leonora Retsas, Joe Ruffilo, Shuli Sade, Ruth Stanford
*Conceived and Organized by Stefany Anne Golberg and Morgan Meis*


IMG_0103.JPG

Originally uploaded by Reversible Skirt.

An H.H. Richardson building that was one of the era of huge state-run mental hospitals, that were closed in the 1970s among scandals of abuse…

The building has had many wings added on and sits right in the middle of a college campus. How strange that they couldn’t invest in maintaining it, and use it for dorms (maybe too haunted for that!) or any of the other needs of a college. It is a national landmark.

Today it’s surrounded by trees that were damaged in the big snowstorm last winter, and has a few crumbling spots, but is mostly sealed up pretty tightly.


This photo on Curbed.com reminded me, I felt a little bit of outlaw glee today on passing by ReFresh, the new juice bar(?) replacing hamburger stand Coney’s on my block, and noticing that someone had tagged their brand new glass door — and they haven’t even opened yet. Let me back up.

See, we don’t know if the place is going to be a juice bar or what. I poked my head in a few weeks ago while they were working on the interior to ask, in a friendly way, what kind of establishment was moving in about three doors down from me. “Porn shop,” goes the gruff older guy.

“Haha. Ok, no seriously, what is it?” I ask, totally game. “Porn shop,” again, plus a glare. So, I guess it is a secret? Also, I thought that was a hostile choice of joke. I don’t take well to hostility, especially before noon.

I was friendly with the Coney’s guys, they would hold my keys for the catsitter when I left town, they hired my friend to build a bench for them, etc. And now I get Porn Shop Guy.

A few days later – “They’re taking down that huge tacky awning! Finally.” The next day – “Oh. To replace it with another tacky awning, just lime green instead of striped.”

A week later, they had a construction dumpster out front and were carrying out fixtures and trash. I salvaged the enormous Coney’s menu chalkboard from the pile. Later, my neighbor tells me that they stole our trashcan to haul debris.

After another week of our entire building piling trashbags in the hall, I step back in to ask when we could expect our trashcan back. There’s an open hardware store across the street, we could go buy it together. The workers deny that the dumpster was theirs, at which point I tell them that I actually wasn’t born yesterday and there was Coney’s stuff in it, and then they deny that they ever saw a trashcan, or met anyone putting things into the dumpster. The entire storefront is about 400 sq ft, by the way. They would have basically been standing on top of the dumpster guys, if they were not themselves the dumpster guys.

They tell me to ask the building owner, who is “a gray-haired man who is here sometimes.” Oh. Who is the business owner, who will soon be ReFreshing South Williamsburg? Nobody knows his name (that would be their boss presumably).

No wonder I was happy to stroll by and see a big fat silver tag across their door. Welcome to the neighborhood, jerks.