Tag Archives: civic center

Posterized Photos

This gallery is just for fun – posterized versions of images used elsewhere in this site. These images all started out normally – sets of bracketed exposures. Then I used Photomatix software to apply color shifts and luminosity effects with the “Grunge” preset. (See NewYorkitecture.com Photography Technique for more information about this technique.)

The images in the gallery are of buildings in the Chelsea, Soho, Ladies Mile, Civic Center, Astor Plaza and Flatiron districts.

Downtown Brooklyn (Civic Center)

Brooklyn has some amazing architecture, as these photos will attest. After all, Brooklyn was the second-largest city in America at the time that it joined New York City – so Brooklyn’s civic architecture was as impressive as New York City’s. (That Brooklyn even joined New York City is a surprise – why would it want to give up its identity?)

The Civic Center extends roughly from High Street south to Atlantic Avenue, and Cadman Plaza West/Court Street east to Flatbush Avenue Extension. The neighborhood is surrounded by equally historic districts: Fulton Ferry, DUMBO, and Vinegar Hill to the north; Brooklyn Heights to the west; Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill to the south; Fort Greene/Clinton Hill to the east. (Google Map of area)

In 2011, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated a tiny area (21 buildings in an area of about 2-1/2 blocks) the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District. The Commission’s 63-page designation report includes a history of Brooklyn’s development; Brooklyn fans will enjoy it. Eleven individual buildings outside this district were (earlier) designated NYC landmarks.

While taxpayer-sponsored grandiose architecture makes up a large portion of the photos in this gallery, schools are also well represented. NYU’s Polytechnic Institute, Long Island University Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Law School, and City University have major contributions. MetroTech – a quasi-public commercial development – is a modern intrusion in the area.

Several commercial and civic landmarks – most notably 75 Livingston Street and 110 Livingston Street – have been converted to residential use. A few striking new apartment towers have been erected – I’ve taken the liberty of dubbing a trio the “Three Sisters,” and gave them their own gallery.

Downtown Brooklyn Suggested Reading

Google Map of area

Ahrens Building

Ahrens Building is an early example of Romanesque Revival adapted to a steel-frame building, designed by George H. Griebel. Its design blends polychrome brick, terra cotta and metal over a limestone base (though the limestone is largely obscured by the current storefront).

Small by today’s standards, the Ahrens Building was just over the six-story height common for the day, and included an elevator.

Herman F. Ahrens, the owner, was a liquor merchant who had his own store – and later a saloon – on the ground floor; offices occupied the upper floors.

The Ahrens Building is surrounded by the much larger L-shaped Hungerford Building (now NYU’s Lafayette Hall), built in 1914.

Ahrens Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 70 Lafayette Street at Franklin Street
  • Year completed: 1896
  • Architect: George H. Griebel
  • Floors: 7
  • Style: Romanesque Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1992
Ahrens Building Suggested Reading

Google Map

Health, Hospitals, and Sanitation Building

The Health, Hospitals, and Sanitation Building (formerly NYC Department of Health Building) overlooks Thomas Paine Park and Foley Square, surrounded by the federal, state and city courts of Manhattan’s Civic Center. It’s a restrained Art Deco granite cube, 10 stories high, pierced on the Leonard Street side by a light court above the third floor.

The principal decorations are bronze grillwork and torcheres, and health-themed medallions on the sides of the building by Oscar Bach, whose work also adorns Radio City Music Hall, the Woolworth, Chrysler, and Empire State Buildings – among other landmarks.

The joy is in the details.

Health, Hospitals, and Sanitation Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 125 Worth Street, between Lafayette and Centre Streets
  • Year completed: 1935
  • Architect: Charles B. Meyers
  • Floors: 10
  • Style: Art Deco
Health, Hospitals, and Sanitation Building Suggested Reading
  • Department of Citywide Administrative Services listing
  • Emporis database
  • Ephemeral New York blog
  • Eating in Translation blog

Google Map

Lafayette Hall

Lafayette Hall (originally Hallenbeck-Hungerford Building) is an attractive neo-Gothic industrial building built to accommodate heavy equipment such as printing presses. It was converted in 1999 to a residence hall for NYU students. The L-shaped building wraps around the seven-story landmark Ahrens Building.

There are interesting grotesques in the upper stories – including headless characters on the 13th floor. Unlucky for them.

Lafayette Hall Vital Statistics
  • Location: 80 Lafayette Street between Franklin and White Streets
  • Year completed: 1915
  • Architect: William E. Austin
  • Floors: 16
  • Style: Neo-Gothic
Lafayette Hall Suggested Reading

Google Map

Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse

The Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse (originally United States Courthouse, Foley Square) was the last building designed by the famed Cass Gilbert, who died before the project’s completion. His son, Cass Gilbert, Jr., supervised the structure’s completion.

The 37-story skyscraper design marked a significant departure from other federal government buildings, which until then were all horizontal. The sprawling six-story base, however, blends in with surrounding landmarks.

The base and tower are faced in granite from Gilbert’s home state of Minnesota; the pyramidal roof is clad in gilded terra cotta.

The building was renamed Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in August 2001, honoring the first African American Supreme Court Justice, who had worked at the courthouse from 1961 to 1965 as a judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The building completed a modernization project in 1992; at this writing (December 2012) it is going through a renovation/restoration that was supposed to have been completed in 2009, but seems to be never-ending.

Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse Vital Statistics
  • Location: 40 Centre Street at Foley Square
  • Year completed: 1936
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert
  • Floors: 37
  • Style: Classic Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1975
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1987
Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse Suggested Reading

Google Map

Main Brooklyn Post Office

Main Brooklyn Post Office, aka Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse, is one of downtown Brooklyn’s architectural gems. The four-story (plus tower) granite structure is boldly detailed Romanesque Revival. The building originally included federal courtrooms – but the courts have now pushed the original post office functions into the addition, built in 1933.

Both the original building and the annex were restored, inside and out, from 1996 through 2013. But prior to the restoration, the Federal Government wanted to demolish the annex to build a 415-foot-high courthouse tower – a structure that would dwarf the original building.

As The New York Times reported in 1992, “Deirdre Carson, a vice president for land use for the Brooklyn Heights Association, said that the 1891 building was one of the classic architectural structures in downtown Brooklyn and that putting a large building next to it would ruin its visual impact. ‘We’re trading two years of jobs for generations of ugliness,’ she said.” (full story)

Main Brooklyn Post Office Vital Statistics
Main Brooklyn Post Office Recommended Reading

Google Map