Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall Foliage in Bed-Stuy




Despite the semi-hurricane, Bedford-Stuyvesant was looking beautiful today in its autumn colors. The first shot is from Franklin Ave around Willoughby, with a balcony-built sukkah (the temporary huts erected for the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot) overlooking that easily-recognized natural symbol of fall, the fiery orange tree.

The others are from the Marcy Playground, at the south end of of the Marcy Houses on Myrtle and Marcy. Le Courbosier, Howard, and the other advocates of towers amidst greenery don't have many defenders these days (both because they failed to understand the value of neighborhood continuity in 'slums' and because big-city bosses saw projects as a containment mechanism for specific classes and races, and treated them accordingly), but their vision at least delivers the outwardly pleasing appearance when executed properly. Maybe that was their problem--they were looking and thinking from too far away. Take a satellite view of Brooklyn from Gmaps, and the projects are clearly visible as blotches of green. There are good, clear arguments that this green space failed because it was inaccessible, dividing people and forcing them into tiny apartments in the towers instead of inviting them out onto the grass beneath the trees. Still, for the faraway observer, the city planner in his helicopter or penthouse (or the passerby kid with his digital camera), these spaces can look surprisingly gorgeous, given what we're used to associating with projects.

The playground begs a question that anyone who came of age in the mid-90s would ask--is it the namesake for Marcy Playground, the band that did "Sex and Candy"? The answer, sadly, is no: the band was named for a playground at the Marcy Open grade school in Minneapolis. However, they now call NYC home, which gives them a similar heritage to Brooklyn-based, Twin-Cities bred rockers the Hold Steady (local shows in a couple of weeks). I say sadly because the towers behind the trees housed a young Sean Carter (whose own stage name is, at least partially, a reference to the local el lines). If the playground had really fostered both Marcy Playground and Jay-Z, I'd feel justified calling Danger Mouse or Girl Talk to demand a "Sex and Candy/Two of Brooklyn's Finest" mashup. And frankly, I think that'd be pretty cool.

History buffs, NB: The houses and playground were named for 19th century New York Governor and US Senator William Learned Marcy.

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