Sunday, October 29, 2006

Intelligent Design; 10 questions to ask your foundation contractor about evolution.

For Immediate Release:

IMBY LABS, with generous financial support from those fine people at The Franklin Mint, announce the successful redesign of the best the foundation engineering world has to offer, the IMT AF-Series Drilling Rig. The new rigs design consolidates gigantic, domesticated, mutant sea lamprey with the same dependable, high quality engineering one comes to depend on from Industria Meccanica Trivelle and Caterpillar.

These monstrous creatures will latch on to the face of the earth and suck the living daylights out of anything in its path without the usual noise and vibration found in our competitors rigs.

Although considered an invasive predator, all of our domesticated lamprey are recent graduates of the Institut Villa Pierrefeus, having successfully completed courses in international etiquette, protocol, and savoir-vivre. IMBY LABS and the IVP together, have over 50 years experience providing young mutant lamprey with the kind of Complete Finishing School Education expected from Switzerland and the rest of the engineering world.

In order to raise necessary capital, commemorative chotchkies honoring the discovery are to be issued to the public in an unlimited supply starting next month, in time for the holidays.

"The fortuitous meeting of an IMT AF-80 Drilling Rig and a Gigantic, Mutant, Sea Lamprey in a Brooklyn Sandbox."

If my son were a few years older, no doubt he would challenge me with hypothetical engineering questions like, "Dad, what's better...A giant, iron, robotic sea lamprey or, a giant, mutant, flesh and bone, living, breathing, sea lamprey, when it comes to installing 60' steel foundation pilings in residential neighborhoods."
I would of course scratch my chin first, and then answer his question with another question in a way that corrects his small factual error without hurting his feelings.

"Son...I would say, this giant sea lamprey, would it be fastened somehow to the Kelly Bar of a drilling rig, cause I don't believe you could use a pile driver. Sea Lamprey don't have any actual bones to speak of, just soft flexible cartilage."

My son would be impressed by my off the cuff, improvisational knowledge of sea lamprey anatomy. For those of you who know me and my mind intimately, you will agree that my brain functions like a well oiled piece of brain-shaped chicken wire, sifting through this "grand litter box of a universe", separating out crucial nuggets of truth from inconsequential, everyday detritus. for use at some later time. If you don't mind adding an additional metaphor into the mix, my brain is a Venus Fly Trap where tiny thoughts are held captive, bathed in acidic juices until they can be enzymatically digested over a period of 5 to 12 days.

Most of my recent reasonin' skills have been forged in the fiery-furnaces of the 9th Street Playground. More specifically the sandbox. That's where I do my best thinking. (The big curly-que slide is no place for daydreamers like me.) The sandbox is good place to settle all manner of what-ifs. OK, maybe not settle, but you could at least hash out all the details.
Note to parents of small children: Please don't allow your no-neck monsters to bring their "good toys" to the sand box. Leave them at home. Use the left over lost and found toys. It's disruptive and brings a kind of Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of balance atmosphere to the sand box that throws off my concentration. Especially that kid with the brand-new plastic shovel and pail with the word "MINE" written on the sides. It's not easy for two year olds to find out that sharing is not always caring.

"So this giant mechanical sea lamprey, it would have some system of checks and balances?"
"Would it be able to learn from its mistakes?" "Would it be remote controlled or have an internal driver?" I'd ask.

By this time, my Son would already know I'm favoring the idea of using an actual living, giant mutant, domesticated, sea lamprey. "You would never need to worry about 'down time' spent searching for non existing replacement parts. There really isn't any great need for 'aftermarket' lamprey robotic repair parts in the United States, just yet, Son."

I see nothing but headaches with the mechanical lamprey plan. Of course you may be able to reverse engineer one in China and then after a few years smuggle it back through Bayonne, NJ in several boxes labeled "Farm Implements".

"Fish one right out of the Gowanus Canal"
, I'd say. "What could be easier than that."

Compromises and win/win scenarios.

So my Son and I decide maybe the best route to take would be to use technology recently stolen from the Borg to combine fish flesh with the super strength of Ginsu steel--- To recombine a lamprey's mouth parts with that of off-the-self drill bits available at most heavy duty construction stores. We would of coarse need some kind of retro-fitted proprietary bracket that hooks up to the already existing mast of the very reliable IMT AF-Series drilling rig. Those details could be worked out at a later date. It' s now past dinner time and we have got to get home and take our hypothetical baths.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

South Slopes Got Wood

Message on the side of a home improvement contractors van: "Good as new is easy. Good as old takes real talent."

While many people's attention has been focused on the recent invasion of new "Fedders Style" condo buildings going up all over Brooklyn, some South Park Slope owners of modest two and three story, wood frame homes have been busy creating a kind of mini-restoration movement with a more traditional architectural aesthetic in mind.

Webster Place, nice...

In the last couple of years, real estate speculators, prospecting for any under utilized F.A.R. (floor area ratio) have been buying up these old wood buildings with the intention of tearing them down. Their offers to homeowners have been generous in some cases. Sometimes the deal depends on your adjacent neighbors selling as well. A kind of domino effect happens; First one house goes, then the next. No one really wants to be the last house left standing, sandwiched in on all sides by 5 story brick walls. For these speculators, the value is not in the house, but in the land the house sits on. Yes it's true, some of these homes have been neglected for so long and are in such disrepair that demolition seems like the only humanitarian thing left to do. I am not trying to start an argument against modern fire-proof construction. A small handfull of these new condos are vast improvements over what existed before.

Location, location, location...
A group of home owners has resisted these hyperinflated offers to sell, instead choosing to stay and rebuild. For these folks, the real treasure is hidden beneath layers of old asphalt shingles, faux-stone and aluminum siding.

So for those of you who believe the past should be part of our future, sit back and enjoy the IMBY South South Slope "Got Wood" 2006 House Tour. You can find all these houses in an area south of 9th Street, below 8th Avenue, above 4th Avenue, and north to Windsor Place.

A slice of 16th Street.

Side by side comparisons.

Scaffolding and Tyvek house wrap; the possibility for rebirth.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mexican Bread and Circuses

This post is for Lost in Brooklyn, and Brownstoner, proud members of the mutual admiration society. XXX OOO

ometimes people ask me how The Crusade is going. " You should post more stories about squirrels," they say supportively.

Ok. A squirrel story. So when I was in the 5th grade, I had these two buddies I would always walk home from school with, Richard Kanishka and Glen McKinnley. Individually we were law abiding citizens, but together we were at best, accidents waiting to happen. Most of our conversations began with the words, "I bet you can't" and ended with "Watch this!". Famous last words I was sure would end up on one of our tombstones. For one example, there was the time I crawled 100 yards in pitch black darkness through a flood drainage tunnel on my hands and knees during recess. The concrete tunnel filled with all manner of debris (stagnant water, broken glass, and raccoons) was no more than 36 inches in diameter and passed underground directly beneath the school. Thinking back, I don't remember if my mom was more angry at the time because I got expelled for three days or because I ruined a good pair of dress-leather school shoes that day. Then there was the time we convinced Glen to let us turn him into a human snow ball...

Getting blogged down.

Readers have asked why I have not yet enabled the comments section on the blog. It's not that I don't want to hear what you have to say.............

Ok honestly, it
is because I don't want to hear what you have to say. Unless it's to tell me how well I just vlogged you, and then in that case, a dozen long-stemmed roses, the color of which I will leave up to you, can be sent to the IMBY Corporate Offices. The address of which I will E-mail to you only after a thorough background check is completed. (Ms. Ryder, we haven't forgotten about you. We are just waiting for the results of your Urine Test and then we will be sending out that E-mail, asap.)
When I first started this blog back in the 70's, "she" was, more or less, simply for the documentation of the events surrounding the construction of a run-of-the-mill residential building as it progressed over time. At best, I thought, she would serve as a kind of insurance policy if anything ever went wrong. A "Knowledge Replaces Fear" kind of insurance thing-a-ma-bob. It has self-actualized into something much more... involved.

"Isn't this Crusade turning into an unhealthy obsession?"

A better question might be to ask us, (Imby and me) how long can we continue to refuse antipsychotic medications before NY State intrudes and forces us against our will, to seek chemically induced therapy. "Maybe another ice water enema would snap you out of it", my mother chimes in. I tell her that's the reason I started blogging in the first place.

Don't worry my loyal vloggees. For that uneven baker's dozen who tune in on a regular basis, I promise to keep it up. I promise that we (Imby and I) are involuntarily committed to following this horse race to it's inevitable conclusion...The rendering plant that is "In My Back Yard".

So for Glen and Richard..."Watch this!"

So here's our daily decadent dose of Mexican Bread and Circuses. Please keep in mind while viewing this clip, that these responsible, safety conscience individuals, are part of the same crew who will begin excavating a 100'x 100' x 50' deep hole in the ground in the near future. FYI, the building on the left is 404 15th, Rojas Bakery. So without any further delay, for our devoted fanboys and fangirls, (13 total?) who mostly like to look at the pretty pictures, Imby Films, in association with The IMBY Archives, presents for your viewing pleasure, the next video installment from our "Shooting Fish in a Barrel" fine DIY metaphysical-educational mail order training courses...Ladies and gentlemen... The fully released, "Unloading..."

Parental Discretion is Advised

Friday, October 13, 2006

White Squirrel Claims He's a Pioneer.

What some Brooklyn rodents are claiming as the first wave of an inevitable invasion, a single White Squirrel has been spotted recently in Prospect Park's Harmony Playground.

Long time residents of the area, Gray and Brown Squirrel, say this "trend" has been a long time in the making. After years of neglect, the playground and surrounding picnic areas have finally been renovated, bringing with it a more affluent, pattisserie patronizing clientele of human, that leaves behind plenty of crumbs. Others say it has more to do with the recent enforcement of canine leash laws than with a never ending supply of bakery, that brings White Squirrel to the 'hood.

"Try taking your family out for a stroll some Saturday morning in the Long Meadow before 9am, it's mad scary. It wasn't always called "Harmony". Back in the day, you could lose your entire offspring even here in this playground. You never see dogs inside the gates now, it's much safer foraging. After all these years things start looking up, and all of a sudden White Squirrel moves in like he's discovered the place. " -Gray Squirrel

Everyone in the Park agrees on one thing. The woods are not going to stay the same forever. Brown Squirrel points out that affordable housing is urgently needed. Nest and burrow prices have more than tripled in our neck of the woods. More and more multi-family trees are being converted to single family burrows. Long time residents are being displaced, forced out into less desirable meadows. "Just try and get a place inside the Botanical Gardens," adds Brown Squirrel.

What does White Squirrel have to say about the controversy?
"Other Squirrels are saying lots of things, I like my new leafy nest by the playground. Sure you got Connecticut Muffin and the Two Hens but I won't eat that bakery out of the garbage cans... there's plenty of organic nuts at the co op. I moved here because I like the gritty vibe. I'm really a pioneer, the first of his kind"

The intense demand focused on just a few attractive wooded areas has brought out the big developers. Forrest City Rodent has begun to buy up most of the trees directly along side the playground, forcing some squirrels to take opposing sides. Two rival rodent groups have come out for and against the F.C.R. plan. Citizens for the Revitalization of Urban Mammal Society (C.R.U.M.S.) is opposed while A.C.O.R.N. has publicly sided with the developer. For now, both sides are digging in for the approaching winter.

Two family trees, like this one near the play ground, have tripled in price.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lost: Sense of Humor

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis, Triage, Statim! or, Unarmed Thornless Honey Locust, quickly, tell me where it hurts!

In less time than it took to grab the phone and dial 311, the contractors had peeled off the branches from the second of two street trees located inside the 406-408 construction site. A repeat performance of last weeks arborcide.

"All I remember was the sound of the backhoe's engine rev...The sound of the engine strain as the hydraulics kicked-in to lift the bucket-arm...And then the sound of wood crackling and splintered limbs falling to the ground... Two sucker-punches to the back of the head and the irreversible damage was done."

Last night's heavy rain has left some of the 60' deep steel tube piles completely filled with water.

I got a chance to see the damage done to the first floor apartments in 1504 8th Avenue today. The sheetrock is actually being pulled apart at the seams. One can only guess at what the brick walls look like behind the drywall. Judging by how wide the crack is getting from the outside, you may actually be able to see all the way through to the interior in a short while. Many of the door jams are now out of plumb so you can't close the doors. The floors in the back bedrooms are sagging in the direction of the back yard. Rumors have it that the building may already be too damaged to be saved and will have to be demolished. The owner has installed plywood "drapes" over the vacant apartment's windows. Not a good sign.

That is if the building doesn't blow up first.
Keyspan was called to the building earlier in the week, narrowly averting disaster, after the next door neighbors smelled gas. The landlord claims the vibration from the drilling and the fact that his basement floor under his boiler is sinking may have caused the leak by straining the plumbing connections. It's scary when the people next door have to make the report. That's a pretty big leak.

Still two holdouts left in the building. Rogue contractors, crack addicted squatters, and natural gas leaks, and the last two tenants are still not ready to leave. I was under the impression that assisted suicide was illegal in this country. Someone needs to tell them that there are safer, easier, legal ways to hang onto your rent controlled apartment when it becomes uninhabitable. Leaving it to your next of kin is not one of them.

Sick-o Amateur Tree Crushing Video? No. My guess is that since they are currently being sued by the owner of the cracked-up 1504 8th Avenue, (a Mr. Arnold Rosenshein), the Armory Plaza Gang might be producing their own evidence showing the peaceful, all natural side of the IMT AF-80 drilling rig. Funny, that was the most quite I have ever heard that machine run as when they were filming it themselves. Did you know it's also possible to butter a saltine cracker with a chain saw? Answer to the puzzler next week.

Last but not least, Crack Monitoring Conspiracy Theorists are having a heyday over the possibility that the monitoring devices have been mysteriously falling off the wall, and for some, totally disappearing. Luckily not all the monitors have been "tampered" with. Only those indicating movement. The DoB has responded with a brand new effort using 21 century laser guided survey equipment and fluorescent spray paint to recheck the measurements. I'm a little worried about their penmanship.

P.S. There is a small reward for anyone who finds my sense of humor.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

DoB Technical Policy and Procedure Notice #10/88

Brooklyn's 14th Regiment Armory WWI Doughboy stands guard.

The Armory is a designated landmark that is within 90 feet of the current excavation/foundation work going on across the street at 406-408 15th Street and deserves the highest level of our protection, especially seeing that it is now undergoing a $16 million restoration. Vibration monitors must be installed as soon as possible. The Department of Buildings own Technical Policy and Procedure Notice #10/88 spells out exactly what is required and should be done to protect the Armory and the surrounding 100+ year old homes.

I have been told that these TPPN's are constantly being ammended over time. Anyone know whether this particular one is still in use? What damage/vibration/noise control are they currently using down at the World Trade Center site?

Quality of Life

Whipping posts, gallows, stretching ladder, knee screws, breast talons, heretic forks, guillotine, iron lock jaw, iron collars of thorns, chastity belts, thumb screws, head presses, pendulums, storks, three beamed harrow, barrel pillory, humiliation masks, wheels, garottes, tongs, interrogator`s chair, hanging cages, Judas scale, the rack, and last, but not least, the I.M.T. AF-80 Drilling Rig. Welcome to my nightmare.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Street Trees, run for your lives!

Crime scene photography provided by

Recent graduates of the The Paul Bunyan School for the Horticulturally Challenged set about demonstrating their various pruning techniques on two helpless street trees today. Just a few hours after the DoB rescinded the stop work order on the 406-408 15th Street site, the construction crew went to work, wasting no time clearing out any living thing that stood in their path. Using techniques learned in the Amazon, they slashed through old growth tree limbs making room for the drilling rigs tower.

Who will save the trees?
Surely Park Slope, with its abundance of celebrities will have someone willing to take up the fight and climb these defenseless trees in protest. Actress Daryl Hannah where are you when we really need you! Maggie Gyllenhaal, please!

Besides the limbs that were hacked off, the drilling rig most certainly wrecked havoc on the trees foundation, at least on one side of its root system.
Street trees typically have an unbalanced and restricted root distribution. Therefore, any root removal or damage during construction is often a more significant loss compared to trees growing in more open areas. Root loss not only affects the health of these trees but a more serious effect may be on their condition or stability. A street tree that experiences significant root loss will have a different center of gravity as a result. This shift in balance often results in less stable trees--especially the large, mature ones - and leaves them more vulnerable to toppling during severe weather.

Panic stricken, several small shrubs, and even a few hardy perennials fled the scene seeking sanctuary in the near by vacant 1504 8th Avenue.

Click on the photo below to enrage.

Hacked off limbs piled up like so much cord wood.