Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Brooklyn Flea Market in Winter


It seems everybody who visits New York wants to move there, and I'm no exception; I've missed the city almost constantly since visiting. It occurred to me today that I could relive the experience by putting some photographs on this blog, and I thought I'd start with the Brooklyn Flea Market, which is definitely the best market I've ever visited (and miles better than the Paris puces, which are more stress than fun).



In winter, the Brooklyn Flea Market takes place in the Old Williamsburgh Savings Bank, which is beautiful. I've heard the market is bigger in summer, but it's big enough in winter, spreading across the balconies, through the basement and sprawling out over the cavernous, cathedral-like mezzanine floor.


I won't dwell on the history of this beautiful building, but it's the sort of place that makes architectural history students weak at the knees. Built in 1929 by Halsey, McCormack and Helmer, the main banking hall is nineteen meters high, faced with limestone and marble. The windows have detailed iron cutouts and a huge central map mosaic, sparkling, dominates the space -the vestibule also has a mosaic ceiling, blue with gold stars. There's also charmingly bank appropriate imagery carved into the building, such as squirrels spiriting away nuts to store for the winter and lions guarding the door.


On the exterior, it steps gracefully upward toward a four-sided clocktower and a gold capped dome. It's remarkably light-hearted for such a powerful building, almost dainty (though hard to photograph due to the size).


Food and drink stands are located in the basement, with all sorts of amazing things to eat and drink and tables with checked tablecloths to sit down at. It's worth visiting just for the food vendors! Everything I tried was delicious and everything I didn't have space to sample looked and smelt delicious.



I also loved how beautifully everything was displayed at the Brooklyn Flea Market. I don't know why everything looked so appealing, but it all really did. It was as if the haphazard casualty of the flea market was fastidiously choreographed, bright patterns clashing just enough, books falling open on precisely the right page, Santa standing a few feet from Saint Sebastian. 

Of course, it could be in part due to the light filtering through the Williamsburg Savings Bank's beautiful windows and bouncing off the walls.



In general, though, what I loved about the market is what I loved about New York City more generally,  an energy that's hard to capture in words or images, something that's partially about the city's wide footpaths and bright colours and that particular light which means they can't replicate New York streets  when filming on LA backlots. I can't figure it out, but I love it and miss it and want to go back.

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