Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Millinery Center Synagogue, NYC

 NYC has continued to evolve in a direction that I find disturbing... an extended shopping mall/amusement park/food court...hell disguised as a clown with bright plastic facades and flashing neon lights hawking bland franchise food in contrived predictably faux exotic settings that appeal to the lowest common denominator...families...that have contributed to the dumbing down of NYC and Broadway theatre to nothing but Disnoid live TV spectaculars with songs that has done little more than extend the comfort zone of the suburban mall to 42nd Street.   A city that has left the redefinition of its architectural integrity to the lowest bidder, Donald Turnip, a bland, crass man, devoid of character or any visible redeeming qualities who has been allowed to redefine the NYC skyline in his own featureless image.  Welcome to the new New York.

It is against this backdrop, that I find myself lost, disoriented, and searching the streets for sanctuary.  Places that have maintained an authenticity that link me to the past, and this little architectural gem of a Millinery Center Synagogue on 6th Avenue between 38th and 39th streets is one such place in which I find peace.  Built in the 1940's so garment workers could find a minion during the week, when they worked long hard hours and such things mattered, it had its origin many years before when orthodox Jewish garment workers worked here, producing things (in this case hats) and gathered in lofts to pray in the morning and afternoons until they could raise the money to build this lovely building.  Most of our clothes are made in China now, and the garment district is mostly gone now, as is the raison de etre for the synagogue, which is largely forgotten and easily overlooked.  A footnote and a reminder of a different and forgotten city lovingly cared for by Rabbi Hayim Wahrman (seen below), it has become a refuge for displaced persons such as myself and other easily recognizable wandering lost souls.

Until recently that is...
During the unusually cold winter of 2014, a pipe burst, flooding the place, leaving the floors warped and twisted, the walls stained and sagging, prayer books soaked, and the odor of mold and rot in the air.  When I was just there the place was dark and empty but for one sad soul sleeping on a bench.  Its future is tenuous in this voracious city where only the strong survive and developers see only opportunity in the misfortune of others. 

Monday through Friday you can find Cantor Tuvia Yamnik selling sheets and dry goods in front of the building and talking to anyone and everyone who will listen and who will sing for if you even hint of the need for spiritual uplifting.  A joyous man made for the streets on New York. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

An architectural post script...

I revel in the architectural exuberance exhibited in years gone by when people often built buildings that were is some way an expression of themselves, and were meant to make a statement.  Followers of this blog know that I am particularly attracted to buildings that have something to say.  They may have  been utilitarian in their time, but have aged well and have a story to tell, even if you have to make up the story yourself.  Occasionally examples of this architectural elan, buildings that are much more wonderful than they needed to be, turn up in unexpected places and continue to amaze.

The exuberance of buildings like the now abandoned Field Bros Service Station in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, has been replaced by the expedient, utilitarian boxes that how clutter our landscape at every intersection and exit ramp, selling everything from gas to books to burgers to hardware to pet food ad nausem.  These dispensable expedient structures are cheap and easy to build and just as cheap and easy to dismantle when needed to be replaced by another uber monstrosity housing a Walmart/Dollar General et al...selling cheap and easily discarded shit from China to people who they've convinced need it.  In the end we are leaving no architectural heritage of our own, unless bland and ubiquitous are the new art deco.  

Did not feel the need to provide any comparison photos.  Just look out your window, or drive down the Central Ave in your town to the Mobile gas stations Holiday Inn Expresses and the big box stores littering the access roads at the edge of town.