Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Archive for August, 2012

Photo of the day: HIP FLOP

HIP FLOP: Hip Hop Clothing, 6-8 West 28th Street. Wholesale, Retail. All name brands.
Telephone: 212-213-4261…has been disconnected.

From the gallery: WEST SIDE STORY

WEST SIDE STORY: The cast iron district of Manhattan also known as NoHo and Soho, features some of the most wonderful cast iron buildings in the world. The idea of building with cast iron revolutionized the building process from 1840 – 1880, you didn’t have to stack all those thousands of little bricks. All the parts were shipped to the building site. The door frames, windowsills, columns, staircases, beams, windows and doors, skylights, turrets, ornamentations, etc. Like a giant Tinkertoy or Lego set. Now all you had to do was install the interior walls and the floors and the building was finished in one third the time of a conventional mortar and brick building. The two neighborhoods have the largest collection of all or part cast iron buildings in the world, 250, and . . . if you have a magnet on you it will stick to about every third building in the area.
The best time to walk the streets is just before sunset and you see these wonderful dramatic shadows cast by one of the quintessential items of New York – the cast iron fire escapes. Film noir drama.
Here I tinted the photo red to accent the angles and recreate the feel and look of the original graphics of “West Side Story.”

Photo of the day: MOSTLY MOZART

MOSTLY MOZART: I am walking through the common walkways of Sunnyside Gardens and I come across this cat sitting in the middle of the walkway. He is incessantly meowing. Non-stop. Coming out of the windows of the house to the right is a lovely afternoon classical music concert, broadcast by WQXR. I am concerned that the cat is meowing so much. Out comes my neighbor from his house:

Me: I think your cat is hungry.
Neighbor: Oh no, he is just singing along to the music
Me: Oh really?
Neighbor: Yes, he loves these afternoon concerts.
Me: What kind of music does he like best?
Neighbor: Mostly Mozart.

From the gallery: DOWNHILL RACER

DOWNHILL RACER: The Summer Streets Program of New York City closes down nearly seven miles of main thoroughfares 3 Saturdays in a row each August. It is one of the best people watching events in town. Everyone from toddlers to grandparents come out to enjoy places like Park Avenue free of traffic.
One of the best spots to view people is in the Park Avenue viaduct underneath the Helmsley building adjacent to Grand Central Station. You enter on 40th Street and rise up the ‘bridge’ to approach Grand Central Station looming above you, circle around and then enter the Park Avenue viaduct underneath the Helmsley building as it empties out onto the ritziest part of Park Avenue and it’s 1960’s architectural marvels followed by the ‘well to do of upper Park Avenue’.
You turn the corner and zoom downhill ‘towards the light’.
So I parked myself there along the curb for a while and photographed the reactions of the people marveling at the view and speeding up as they rapidly descend down the ramp. Bicyclists, joggers, bicycles-built-for-two, strollers, scooters, unicycles, tricycles, skateboards, roller skaters, race walkers, stilt walkers pass by – and then she came around the corner. This Edie Beale like figure from Grey Gardens in her wheelchair, stoically racing downhill. My day was made.

Photo of the day: 1 BERRY BURST, 1 MALIBU BAY BREEZE

1 BERRY BURST, 1 MALIBU BAY BREEZE: It’s Friday night, dad is letting the little one stay out late. ‘Where are we goinggggg?!’.  Ahhhh, the answer is a secret. Tucked away at  144 East 24th St, between Lexington and Third Avenues, in the middle of an almost all residential block, is this little Italian Ice treasure. “Ralph’s” doesn’t feature just ordinary flavors – oh no, he has such delights as Strawberry Margarita,  Cherry Cola, Cotton Candy and Root Beer.
The little ‘stand’ is on the ground floor of an old apartment building. The neon lights are quite unexpected on this street, but their retro glow draws you in from afar. All of a sudden you feel like you’re on Mulberry Street in Little Italy or on the boardwalk at Coney Island, right here in the Kips Bay section of New York.
Dad hands the ices to the eager awaiting hands, eyes growing wider, awaiting the first lick of 1 Berry Burst and 1 Malibu Bay Breeze!


From the gallery: LITTLE DOT

LITTLE DOT: She is known as the ‘dot lady’. She reminds me of a 1950’s Harvey comic book character by the same name.  She haunts Greenwich Village around 6th Avenue near 8th Street. ‘Dot’ will rummage through the local garbage to find any in tact items she can and then obsessively paints dots on the things she finds…including herself.
Her ‘paint’? Diluted Pepto-Bismol! At night she tries to sell her ‘art’, but in the day time – I was told not to get too close to her, or she’ll get angry and dash off. . .

Photo of the day: PRICELESS

PRICELESS:  Morandi Italian Restaurant, 211 Waverly Place, Greenwich Village.

Insalata Di Zucchine E Menta – raw summer squash with green chilies & ricotta salata $13.

Costa Di Maiale Con I Fichi – Grilled pork chop with figs and crispy polenta $27.

Broccoli Di Rapa $8.

Tiramisù – mascarpone, espresso & savoiardi $10.

Getting away from it all – Priceless

Morandi Italian Restaurant

Morandi Italian Restuarant


“TIMES SQUARE HAS BECOME A THIRD RATE SHOPPING MALL”: This is Broadway actress and living legend Patti Lupone’s reaction to being asked what she thinks of today’s “new” Times Square. The photo seems appropriate since today it was announced by co-owner Richard Turk, to everyone’s shock and dismay, that COLONY RECORDS in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway (at W. 49th St.) is closing after 64 years. “Give me the porno theatres back!”, Patti exclaimed during a February 6. 2011 interview at the 92nd Street ‘Y’.
There is not one place left where you can buy a DVD, CD, book, sheet music or any form of entertainment anymore – but you can buy a bra in Times Square! A bra. Many small theatres (The Helen Hayes, The Morosco, the Bijou) were torn down to make room for mega hotels, rather than building over and or around the theatres. Bette Midler on opening night of her 1975 hit show “Clams on the Half Shell”, took one look at the new bland Minskof theatre and said to the audience “This place has all the charm of a Ramada Inn!”.
 People spend millions of dollars to replicate vintage diners – yet we tore down Howard Johnson’s in 2005 (a knife in my NY heart) to make room for an American Eagle store. Virgin records  closed in 2009 with it’s towering DJ booth. If you liked your Broadway performer’s singing in the show you just saw, you could spend all night hunting for recordings by them and other related shows while listening to the DJ as he spun the latest songs. Perversely and ironically Planet Hollywood just shut down this year  too in Times Square. The chain is having financial difficulty, but to close the one in the east coast epicenter of entertainment?? (Where are the bus loads of out of towners to eat?) And now, unbelievably, Colony Records is closing in approximately six weeks- where are the performers to buy their sheet music and do their research? ‘On line’ is the almost ‘Fahrenheit 451’-like answer.
“What’s a Barnes & Noble?” ask vapid teens as they walk dazed under the huge neon signs advertising names of stores they can shop in just as well at home. “But it’s the Times Square American Eagle, Sephora, Forever 21, Gap and Footlocker!” they insist. Times Square has lost it’s soul. Shows are being dumbed down for the out of town audiences (in order to make a profit), so we have The Exorcist coming to Broadway this fall (starring Brooke Shields???) after the musical version of the movie Ghost failed and closed. I sink my head in my hands as Patti does, “Times Square has become a third rate shopping mall.”

Photo of the day: TURNING THE PAGE

TURNING THE PAGE: The N train is noisy. Some restless teens on the other end of the subway car are loud as can be. The day is miserable, the temperature is in the 90’s, the humidity just as high, non-stop rain. The train just sits, we’re going nowhere. There are garbled train delays feebly announced over the trains pa system. None of it seems to matter, as they turn the page . . .
I find it wonderful that in this day and age of iPods, iPhones, and E-books, that something as old fashioned as a coffee table book, a treasure found at The Strand book store, carefully shielded  from the rain, has so peacefully and totally captivated this young couple.

From the gallery: EMPIRE TWILIGHT

EMPIRE TWILIGHT: The Empire State building is one of the jewels of Manhattan. It can be seen from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey.  At night if you look up and stare at the building for a few minutes, you will see all these little  white flashes of light going off – those are the tourist’s cameras, it’s a funny and wonderful sight. In the daytime tourists try to  find spots on Fifth Avenue to get just the right angle. At night tour guides will take their guests to special spots to view this 1931 art deco marvel. But every once in a while, as you busily scurry through a neighborhood to and from an appointment, like here on West 28th Street, you get a wonderful surprise from one of the scarce empty lots we have left in Manhattan.  Look up and marvel!