Thursday, April 24, 2008


Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?
The answer’s pretty obvious!...

Ask, what’s behind Grant’s Tomb? ...and it’s a mystery question to most.

For the curious among you I encourage a trip to Riverside Drive and 122nd Street. Just slip by the Tomb’s monumental entry stairs to the shady plaza that lies behind, there, you’ll come upon a delightful surprise.


Wrapping the plaza’s perimeter wall, like an extended Chinese dragon, is a 400 ft long serpentine bench, covered with colorful mosaic images ranging from General Grant and Smoky the Bear to flowers, serpents and Flamenco dancers.

Executed as a project of CITYarts, the benches were commissioned in 1972 by the National Park Service to commemorate the centennial of Grant’s signing the legislation designating Yellowstone as the world’s first national park. Construction continued over three summers under the design direction of artist Pedro Silva, working with artists Nelson Mercardo, Warren Fox and Alan Okada, and ably assisted by the labor of hundreds of community participants. Silva, a teacher in Harlem's 1960’s HARYOU-ACT Art program, which fostered community self-help and included artists Norman Lewis and John Steptoe, saw the park site and its mosaic project as an opportunity for community empowerment through art.

Reminiscent of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi’s work, the benches also represent a unique architectural manifestation of 1970s rebellion and confrontation, with their vivid contrast in form and color to the tomb’s neo-classical architecture. With each mosaic image one can sense the hand of neighborhood “folks” and the empowering energy those 1970s summers must have offered!

Article First Published in
The Studio Museum in Harlem Magazine / Summer 2006
Text and Photographs
by John T. Reddick

John T. Reddick works on architectural preservation, planning and public art in New York City. He has served on Community Board #9 in Manhattan and is the Associate Vice President for Education & Programming at The Central Park Conservancy.

Restoring Grant's Tomb Mosaic Benches

Come Volunteer!
Now through Tuesday, September 30, 2008 official website

  • CITYarts' volunteers are working with artist Pedro Silva and his son Anthony Silva to restore the Rolling Benches of Grant's Tomb. Over the next three months of July, August, and September 2008, teams will chip away broken tiles and fit new ones with cement. A brochure that will discuss the 36 year old history of the benches is in the works.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ed Koch's Uptown Plot
Plans To Sleep With Aububon & Ellison!

Ed Koch's
Swan Song

Detail, American Swan
John James Audubon, 1843

Mayor Edward I. Koch

Koch, Resolved to Spend Eternity in Manhattan, Buys a Cemetery Plot

Published: April 22, 2008/New York Times

Former Mayor Edward I. Koch said on Monday that he planned to stay in Manhattan — for good.

Mr. Koch, who turned 83 in December, said that he had purchased a burial plot in Trinity Church Cemetery.

“The idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me,” said Mr. Koch, who represented the East Side in the City Council and
in Congress before being elected to the first of three terms as mayor in 1977.

Trinity Church, part of the
Episcopal Diocese of New York, operates a nondenominational cemetery at Broadway and
155th Street.

Trinity describes the uptown cemetery as the only active cemetery in Manhattan that is still accepting burials.

Mr. Koch also said he had ordered a tombstone to “adorn my grave upon my death, which I hope won’t be for another 8 to 10 years.”

Carved on the tombstone is the most important prayer in Judaism, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” in English, Hebrew and a transliteration, and the last words of the journalist Daniel Pearl before he was murdered by Islamic terrorists: “My father is Jewish; my mother is Jewish; I am Jewish.”

Mr. Koch wrote about the inscriptions in his regular online commentary on Monday and elaborated about his burial plans in an interview.

He said he had recently paid $20,000 for the plot, a good investment, he explained, because the stock market, unlike the price of cemetery space, had since gone down.

The cemetery is on the site of one of the fiercest battles of the American Revolution. Trinity describes it as a grassy retreat, dotted by century-old elms and oaks, and “a special place of peace and tranquillity far from the chrome and glass towers of central Manhattan.”

Those buried include Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas”; the artist and naturalist John James Audubon; the actor Jerry Orbach; and Mayor Fernando Wood, who proposed that the city secede from the Union during the Civil War and was later elected to Congress, where his colleagues censured him for intemperate remarks.

Trinity also operated the burial grounds of Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, which include the graves of many historic figures.

Mr. Koch said he learned that space was available from Carl Weisbrod, who worked in his administration and is now president of Trinity Church’s real estate division.

A mausoleum at the cemetery offers above-ground niches and crypts, but only a few below-ground burial plots remain vacant. Cemetery officials said they were reserved for special citizens.

Mr. Koch chose a plot on what he described as a “small mountain” overlooking Amsterdam Avenue, and he researched the propriety of being buried in a non-Jewish cemetery.

“I called a number of rabbis to see if this was doable,” he said. “I was going to do it anyway, but it would be nice if it were doable traditionally.”

He said he had been advised to request that the gate nearest his plot be inscribed as “the gate for the Jews,” and the cemetery agreed.

He was also instructed to have rails installed around his plot, so he ordered them.

Being buried in Manhattan, Mr. Koch said, would also make it easier for former constituents to visit.

“I’m extending an open invitation,” he said.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Beat on the Street:
Harlem, A Pedestrian's Life ....

This week has seen not only the blossoming of nature in New York City, but also a blossoming of public life and activity, particularly in Harlem.

Flesh, energy and vibrant self-expression are returning to public view after months of hibernation. HarlemOneStop has collected a cross-section of online footage in an effort to present a flowering glimpse Harlem's of pedestrian vitality.


The Rhythm of the Street...

Night View, Central Harlem and Morningside Heights

Elevated Station, Broadway IRT at 125th Street

On Broadway, 125th Street below Elevated Broadway IRT

Street Preacher, Lenox Avenue

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time

Hydrant Spray, LaSalle Street and Broadway

Harlem Fire, Malcolm X Boulevard at 116th Street

The Dance of the Street...

Swing, Jazzmobile - 135th Street

Drum Circle, Marcus Garvey Park

Harlem DJ, Wagner Houses

Wagner Day, Wagner House Dance Party

Sunday Jazz, Harlem Meer, Central Park
The Sons of Thunder

Sunday, April 13, 2008

S. C. Madison, Charismatic Clergyman,
Dies at 86

Bishop S. C. Madison at a mass baptism in 2000 in New York

Public Viewing of Bishop Madison

  • Saturday, April 12
    United House of Prayer for All People
    2320 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY
    7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Final Public Viewing of Bishop Madison

  • Sunday, April 13
    United House of Prayer for All People
    601 M Street, NW, Washington, DC
    5:00 pm – 9:00 pm


  • Monday, April 14
    601 M Street, NW, Washington, DC
    12:00 Noon

Published: April 9, 2008/New York Times

Bishop S. C. Madison, who was known to the faithful of the United House of Prayer for All People as Daddy and who was the driving force in expanding his church’s influence over the last decade, partly through a sweeping building program, died on Saturday at his home in Washington. He was 86.

Apostle Wilbert Swaringer, a church spokesman, confirmed the death.

Bishop Madison’s achievements included building or renovating 123 houses of prayer, as well as many apartment buildings, homes for the elderly, parsonages, houses and stores. He borrowed no money to do all this, relying entirely on members’ contributions.

He started a scholarship program for youths and rejuvenated the church’s spiritual practices, including healing rituals.

The House of Prayer emerged in the 1920s and 30s as part of what came to be called black holiness churches, characterized by their energetic services and charismatic leaders. As rural blacks moved to cities, these churches became refuges not only from white racism, but also from discrimination by urban black denominations put off by the newcomers’ country ways.

Services at House of Prayer congregations include speaking in tongues, music from exuberant brass bands and baptisms of thousands of people at once, sometimes with fire hoses. The church has also become known for the high-quality soul food and low prices of its cafeterias. It has 1.2 million active members at 150 branches in 24 states. (Estimates of the number of people attending services range far higher.)

Bishop Madison was the third charismatic leader of the church, all of whom had shoulder-length gray hair. Charles Manuel Grace, an immigrant from the Cape Verde Islands, was the first. A railroad cook and cranberry picker, he built the denomination’s first church in 1919 in West Wareham, Mass., with his own hands; he incorporated his new denomination in Washington in 1927.

He became known to his followers as a miraculous healer and adopted the name Sweet Daddy Grace. The New York Times reported in 1995 that he often told parishioners: “Salvation is by Grace only. Grace has given God a vacation.”

His followers showered him with love offerings as he paraded into churches, a phalanx of women waving large fans as he took his place on a red throne.

When Bishop Grace died in 1960, he left $25 million and a major fight over succession. After a court fight and two elections, Walter McCollough became the new Daddy.

After Bishop McCollough’s death in 1991, another succession fight erupted, pitting his son, Charles, against Bishop Madison, then a senior pastor. Again, there were lawsuits, and some dissidents noisily left the church after Bishop Madison won the job.

Bishop Madison prevailed in the suits, with judges generally ruling that the courts should not get involved in church affairs.

The new bishop became known as Precious Daddy, or just Daddy, and at a service described by The Washington City Paper in 2003, was hailed as “C.E.O., prophet and king.” In 1996, an article in The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., quoted a church official saying that members did not equate Bishop Madison with Jesus when they called him “savior.”

“The bishop is a savior in that he preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Apostle Stanley Guy said.

Samuel C. Madison was born on Feb. 24, 1922 in Greenville, S.C., and attended local public schools. He joined the United House of Prayer at 8, and in his youth was a boy scout, musician and deacon. In 1939, he had a profound religious experience, a church biography said.

He was ordained as a minister at 17. He served in a variety of churches before being assigned to God’s White House, the denomination’s headquarters in Washington, in 1969. At 23, be joined the church’s highest ecclesiastical body, the General Council. He was promoted to higher posts until being named bishop in 1991.

Bishop Madison’s first wife, the former Lucille Wynn, died in 1975. The next year, he married Elizabeth D. Beal of Washington, who is his only survivor.

When Bishop McCollough died, many followers were reluctant to accept his mortality, The Washington Post reported in 1996. Bishop Madison’s death will probably have the same effect.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What's Drawing Andre to Manattanville?

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

New York Observed
Her Drawings With André

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Published: April 6, 2008/New York Times

From the concrete steps in front of Riverside Beer and Soda Distributors, you can look south across 133rd Street to the M.T.A. bus lot, and west through the steel vaults of the abandoned 12th Avenue subway line past the Fairway Supermarket to the Hudson River.

Tara Geer has had her studio there for nine years, and there’s something about the approach to it — the buses that she was drawing from at one period, the bare elevated tracks, the combined feeling of vigor and abandonment — that makes me feel I am in a certain era of the city’s life. It’s the same era you sense in the films and theater projects of the director André Gregory, who takes drawing lessons with Tara, and who has been doing my portrait now and again, which is the reason I was standing there on the steps on a recent Thursday.

On the door of the building are a number of buzzers — a dozen artists work above the beer distributor — but none of them reach Tara’s studio. I stand under the third-floor window and call: “Tara! André! Sorry I’m late!”

When you enter the studio, Tara’s drawings are on the long wall on the left. On the right, between the two windows, is André’s portrait gallery.

Two years ago, at age 71, André decided that he would like to take drawing lessons, and having moved rapidly through drawings of cups, cotton plants and wonderful, wonky typewriters, he has, for the last six months, been inviting people he knows to come to Tara’s studio to be drawn.

Among those portrayed, one sees actors, novelists, graphic artists and theater producers: a small gray man both confident and timid; a woman whose nose, forehead and hair all make a single, angular form; a woman trying to live up to her beautifully charcoaled scarf.

André has an eye for peculiar detail, and the people themselves seem both of New York and as if they had all met at a pawnshop in Dickens. Once, asked to describe André’s work, Tara thought for a moment and said, “Demented realism.”

When I arrived the other day, the two of them were standing in front of Tara’s 15-foot-high drawing “The Big Sock.” In this work, apparently abstract details, originally gleaned from close renderings, possibly of a sock or of the buses across the street, had been inverted, layered, textured, magnified, and made to float upward in black, white and gray. After 35 minutes of looking at it one afternoon, I had learned to see in it as many ideas of space as there are in the view from the front steps of the studio.

This time I wore a flowered scarf. When I sit for André, I look at a seam along the left shoulder of his shirt, usually a blue denim Carhartt. I had just spent a week in Paris looking at Cézannes and Poussins with a magnifying glass, but this time I noticed the four lines in André’s seam because in Tara’s studio you feel encouraged to look at things closely for a long time.

“The hardest thing about drawing is nothing technical in your hand; the hardest thing about drawing is looking.” Tara has said this often enough in their lessons that now André sometimes says it, too. Of course it’s quite close to André’s own philosophy of directing.

“André Gregory,” I sometimes explain to people. “You’ve seen ‘My Dinner With André.’ That’s André. He directed that beautiful ‘Uncle Vanya,’ too, that became the movie.”

André’s process is famous for its extensiveness (he has been rehearsing Beckett’s “Endgame” in his living room with the same actors for 30 years), and during much of a rehearsal he just sits, watching encouragingly.

WHEN André asked me if I could recommend a drawing teacher, I thought that he and Tara, whom I’d met six years ago at the MacDowell Colony, would have something in common.
“Tara Geer,” I said. “She does large-scale drawings, sort of between Cy Twombly and Joan Mitchell and Arshile Gorky. I kind of think they might be among the great drawings of our time.
“Anyway, she got her M.F.A. at Columbia, and she used to teach there, and she says that anyone can be taught to draw.”

André goes up to the studio three times a week, and drawing, like all the things he devotes himself to, has turned out to be an activity of great joy and discovery. Sometimes he talks about rehearsing and drawing together: “You spend months going down a blind alley, and then in sheer desperation you try something that seems likely to be stupid, and suddenly you see the relationship between two characters, two lines.”

Tara, who sees this awareness in his art, says: “André is an unbelievably fine instrument. His perceptions of people are so acute. A woman will come in to sit, and she’ll seem very firm and even a little angry, and you’ll think, ‘There’s something else in her face; she’s fighting against something’ — and then you’ll see that it’s sadness. And when the portrait is done, somehow André will have gotten that sadness.

“Of course, the woman won’t like her portrait.”

There is something particular to the city in the work Tara and André make; maybe it’s not so much of an era as it is of a rare but perpetually recurring atmosphere. In the 1950s, I think you could have found something similar at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village, where the Abstract Expressionists hung out and where there was no door to the bathroom — “Jackson tore it off,” the bartender would explain. When people come to be drawn at Tara’s studio, they feel that sense of art: raw and vital and patiently tended.

Next year the M.T.A. bus lot on 133rd Street is supposed to be taken over as part of the expansion of Columbia University. The artists across the street expect to be priced out of their building and are preparing to scatter. Just now, though, when you enter Tara’s studio, you still walk into a world in pencil, chalk, ink, charcoal, gouache, a world where on paper are the visages, the strange turning spaces of an almost familiar New York.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Happy Birthday "Lady Day" Billie Holiday!
April 7, 1915

Eleanora Fagan
American Jazz Singer and Songwriter
1915 - 1959

In celebration...
Columbia University's Radio Station
WKCR 88.9 FM
will broadacast 24hrs of Billie Holiday recordings,
starting midnight Sunday, April 6th until midnight Monday, April 7th.

"Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married.
He was eighteen, she was sixteen and
I was three."


"I never had a chance to play with dolls like other kids. I started working when I was six years old."

"I hate straight singing.
I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know."

"Singing songs like 'The Man I Love' or 'Porgy'
is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck."

"People don't understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it."

"Somebody once said we never know
what is enough
until we know
what's more than enough."

"I never hurt nobody but myself
and that's nobody's business but my own."

Billie Holiday, 1954
Performing: Fine and Mellow

Harlem Sites Associated with Billie Holiday:

288 Lenox Avenue
near 125th Street
Phone: 212-427-0253

APOLLO Theater
253 W 125th Street
between 7th and Lenox Avenues
Phone: 212-531-5300