Evil Birds, Ghost Ads, Forgotten Alleys…

Every Friday, I try to put together a post of random tidbits from my week in scouting. Enjoy!

While scouting in Tribeca earlier in the week, I was glad to see that my favorite Manhattan ghost ad (a sign, billboard or painting advertising something long gone) is still in decent shape…


Located at the corner of West Broadway and Reade are these two great paintings on the stone.


The ad reads: “Brush Up Business With Paint, Paste, Paper & Push.”


Beside it is this great painting of a hand holding a brush.


What does it mean? According to a 1994 NY Times Letter to the Editor, this is an advertisement for advertising! The push in this case refers to a sell. Or, in other words, with paint, paste, and paper, you can push your product. No one seems to know when this came into existence. It was definitely not around in a 1940’s photograph of the building (though it was clearly designed to look early 1900’s), and some speculate it might just be a movie set decoration from the 1970’s.

12th Ave up in Harlem is one of New York’s most iconic roadways, passing beneath the gorgeous arches of Riverside Drive. Note the alley on the left…


As I’ve said numerous times, Manhattan only has a handful off alleys, and every year another seems to disappear. Recently, I wrote about the demise of Theatre Alley; now I’m starting to fear for the dead-ended alley at West 134th Street off of 12th Ave.


These iron posts have been set into the cement on both sides. The buildings in the background are all part of the Manhattan Mini-Storage above…Could they be shutting this one down for good with an ugly orange gate? Fingers crossed this is just some sort of temporary scaffolding…


Great old sign on Canal Street. With all the renovations tearing through Chinatown’s most touristed thruway, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s gone in a few months.


Really interesting decoration on an otherwise unremarkable building in the 30’s…


Lining the upper windows is this row of birds:


For some reason, these things look evil to me.


Finally, a question for you readers. I often get on the BQE at the Greenpoint ramp, passing this oil tank.


Right next to the oil tank is a long pipe sticking out of the ground, on top of which burns a large flame (really hard to see in this picture, sorry!). Can someone explain why that is? I’ve seen a similar pipe at the JFK airport near their oil tank.


Have a great weekend!


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  1. Yon flaming pipe is a “Gas Flare”. It serves as a relief / safety valve.


  2. Cecelia beat me to it. I have an old friend who repairs and installs gas tanks and stations. I’d always head out on calls with him for the hell of it and we were driving out by JFK once and I asked him. He said it’s a gas flare used as a safety valve for the tank. I didn’t question it at the time but everytime I drive by Greenpoint I think of him. I guess that’s not much of a compliment to him…

  3. Really enjoying the blog, especially the appellate courthouse post. that building is so interesting. I pointed it out to my wife who works in the area. Anyway, wondered if you could do a little investigation on the building housing the M&T Bank at 29th and Madison. It seems to be a Deco building with great detailing including some gargoyles.

  4. I love that area, too, of 12th Avenue above 125th Street. Really interesting. Also love that 125th St. runs into 129th St at 12 Ave. Outside of the Village, you don’t often see streets acting crazy like that. Rebels. You know, defying the grid.

  5. oh my gosh! i remember that pipe and flames coming out of it. the last time i saw that was 10 or 8 years ago and i thought how weird is that? asked a friend in the car what it was and they thought it might be an exhaust of some sort for leveraging the pressure of gas. whatever. but man if you find out please do tell…how wild
    and on the paint, brush sign? are those two metal stars part of the ad or pre-existing?

  6. Have ever walked into that alley and taken a big whiff? It smells so bad there. I hope they shut it. It’s toxic.

  7. Interesting to know what it is, depressing to learn that it is bad for the environment and that there are better ways to cope with the gas.

  8. Just re-watched The Amazing Spiderman this weekend and I am pretty sure they used that small alley in Harlem for a scene where someone in the community paints his logo on the wall to show that they are fans. It’s not clear but this is a pic of the scene in question: http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–8mHEHU7k–/c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/18loq6xeh1119jpg.jpg