Friday, February 22, 2013

Kentile Sign 2

Last week, on a tip from Thomas Rinaldi at New York Neon, I shared the rumor that the great Kentile Floors sign was coming down. The rumor stirred up panic and was soon, thankfully, debunked. Today the New York Times follows up with a full profile of the sign, its history, and possible future.



Writes Joseph Berger,  "It is savored by connoisseurs of a forgotten New York and a generation of young Brooklynites with a consciously defiant preference for urban grit — water towers, latticework bridges, faded wall advertisements — over more manicured scenery. These aficionados were startled recently by an Internet rumor that the sign would be torn down."

I spoke to the reporter about how the sign is an important artifact of Brooklyn's lost industrial heritage and I talked about the beauty of the sign, but the only quote from me that made it in was something about hipsters and their lack of authenticity. I said it but, out of context, it makes me sound sour about the sign, which I am definitely not. I also said something about how there's a general hunger for the authentic in postmodern society.

Sorry, Kentile Floors sign, you know I love you just as much as the hipsters do. (I also have come very close to buying that Kentile sign t-shirt from Live Poultry. I might still do it.)




17 comments:

Elwood D Pennypacker said...

The writer was very selective in what he used because what you say is used as a sort-of set-up to the Ohio transplant who, at the end of the piece, says she moved to Brooklyn "BECAUSE" of the sign?!?!?!
Shouldn't she, as scion of a Youngstown steel mill, stayed there to help keep or create jobs? Instead she moved BECAUSE of the sign? BECAUSE of?
And then she quotes "a Joni Mitchell song" like "Big Yellow Taxi" isn't some well known song but some b-side...is this woman a reject from the Lena Dunham show?

My wife and I talked about this piece this morning. We determined it is really just another in the New York Times' on-going fascination with Brooklyn and we surmised that the Old Gray Lady lives on E 68th St between 2nd and 3rd in the city and her sister moved to Michigan some 40 years ago, married an Ohio man, and then her sister's granddaughter decided to move to Brooklyn a few years ago "just because" and now the Old Lady is fascinated by Brooklyn but is still scared to visit, so she gets a phone call from her grand-niece every now and then...

...articles like this one are those phone calls.

Jeremiah Moss said...

that's hilarious. and you're making me feel better about my dumb quote.

Anonymous said...

I think we should also always remember what the sign represents. Kentile made asbestos floors. The sign should serve as a reminder that safety regulations and scientific studies serve a purpose. As the NYT puts it, an "implicit message about the hubris that often accompanies ambitious ventures." The sign might as well be a cross from which hang the scores killed by unregulated capitalism.

Brendan said...

No one sounds good in newspaper articles. The Ohio lady was probably misrepresented just as badly.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the hipster quote, out of context or not, I didn't get the impression that you were sour on the sign at all. I thought it was a pretty accurate take on hipsters though, so bravo.

Will Simari said...

The Old Gray Lady certainly has taken a great interest in Brooklyn lately, hasn't she? I passed the Kentile sign about billion times on my way to work, school, the DMV. Back then the Times didn't consider Brooklyn of much value except perhaps as a source of amusement and was conspicuously ignored on all fronts, except perhaps in back page crime stories about obscure Mob hits. How interesting that every once-forgotten corner of the north side of this borough is now considered hallowed ground. Makes you wonder where all those detached, urbane Times writers have taken up residence these days.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'm glad to hear i don't sound sour on the sign, thank you. i have mixed feelings about criticizing hipsters because i fear i might be one of them. or at least that i share many similarities. which makes me uneasy.

laura said...

this hipster thing is still confusing me. its something you are not supposed to be, or its uncool to be. NY magazine had an artical on hipsters, very academic. sounds to me its just a term used for younger people who are up on the latest trends: food politics decorating music tech fashion habits what ever. the artical was full of deep analysis. these articals were the same for hippies slackers generationx what ever i cant keep up w/it all. (all b.s.) guess we are no longer individuals, but part of some media speak. so what AM I? a "baby boomer"? woodstock generation? dont make me sick. i fit into a baby boomer stat as much as "J" fits into a "hipster" stat. "J", keep being yourself, & forget the outside labels.

mch said...

I read the article avidly, waiting for a reference to you, Mr. Moss (I could feel it coming). When it came, it felt half-off. You're not that hard on "hipsters" -- you're much more nuanced. But what you were quoted as saying didn't seem anti-neon-sign, to me. (Maybe that's just because I already knew you weren't -- you, of all people!)

I confess to growing up thinking NYC = Manhattan (and the Bronx, too). Brooklyn was simply another world -- an interesting one, but another world. I'm beginning to think I grew up in a world that was better for Brooklyn (a Brooklyn I now treasure). This NYT interest in Brooklyn, and even your own blog's reasons for attending to that burough -- Bloomberg et al.'s tentacles extending southeast.... Robert Moses redux.

Sam Orr said...

I'm a frequent visitor to the city, and hearing about these things is gut-wrenching. There are so many things in NYC that are gone from the rest of the country. There's a diner in Astoria a few blocks from the Ditmar station (Family corner?). They're family run, and close for some time in the summer so they can go on vacation. Everywhere else, it seems, these kind of places are gone. When I travel through small towns that used to have their own diners, it's sad to see all the old guys having their coffee at McDonalds, and looking a bit lost. Are there any authentic diners still in Manhattan below the park?

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks mch. half-off seems not so bad.

Thomas Smitha said...

I have 2 photo books, NY in the 1930s and NY in the 1940s. Most of the businesses (but not all) no longer exist. A certain amount of change is inevitable. Hopefully we can prevent things like the loss of Penn Station & the Singer Building, and the smaller landmarks -- some of which have no protection.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there one a large "paint" sign there too; Dutch Boy, I think.

laura said...

when traveling in a foreign land: they ask me where i am from, i say "brooklyn". (i used to say new york, as it's impressive). you get a new found respect from young cab drivers when you say brookyn. it is known all over the 3rd world & all worlds. i remember when you were supposed to be ashamed of it. as for "j": see it as a good thing that hipsters like the sign. realize that most people of all ages live w/in their time frame, & forget about the past. there is no tradition no values.

Martin said...

Dear Jeremiah
Hello from London! Hilarious comment about Hipsters in the NYT; many would probably regard me as being of a somewhat hipster-ish disposition myself, but I thought it was a brilliant comment, bravo.
all the best
Martin Percy

DrBOP said...

Jeremiah.....I'm SHOCKED!!!

Who knew you were a closeted HIPSTER HATIN' HUSSY !!! :+)))


And about this whole "hipster" terminology.....I could probably do a 3000-word essay here (but I'm not obsessed or anything).... what it comes down to is that the term originally came from "being hip" to what was going on in society that was cool....cool meaning what was DIFFERENT from the white-bread, Al Jolson (later Ozzie & Harriet), "don't make waves" mainstream.....cool meaning finding out what the historical SOURCES were of the stuff that DID stand out/apart/swing/rock....

.....today's hipster almost the complete opposite.....more concerned about finding "it" FIRST, but also then what EVERYBODY else should do/have/consume (shaaaaring)....what/how can "it" become mainstream as QUICKLY as possible (VIRAL ring a bell?)..... with the tantalizing possibility of cashing in QUICKLY .....TOTALLY without regard to the historical signifigance/roots/consequences of their desires/purchases/attitudes/choices.

So, HATE ON brother! Self-loathing is ALWAYS good for the examined life :+)


(And J....sometimes these email thingys can deliver an unintended message....so just to make it clear here.....I did NOT get you hatin' on hipsters, neon signs OR yourself in that article.....but I DID get that the NYTimes is STILL havin' difficulty talkin' about Brooklyn.....it's hard to type quickly at the same time they're pinchin' their noses :+)

Pat said...

@laura: History runs in cycles and everything has its season. My mother and grandmother were both born in Brooklyn when Brooklyn was nothing to be ashamed of. I am old enough to remember "white flight" that happened in not only Brooklyn but urban areas generally. I used to love to go on the subway to Steeplechase Park in Coney Island with my mother, but when it closed down in 1964 I did not bat an eyelash. When the train, open windows because there was no A/C in the summer, went over the Gowanus, you really had to hold your nose. By then all the cool kids were taking the bus out of Port Authority to Palisades Park in New Jersey, for rides and rock concerts. In the late 60's I took the subway with my friend, who was from Cuba, to Coney and we blew some grass and rode the Cyclone. I remember thinking, there are no white people here. I was not to go back to Coney until the 90's, to see the Mermaid Parade. Of course there were always little ethnic enclaves of Italian, Polish, Irish and other people and most of the people there took the car if they wanted to travel. Remember Saturday Night Fever in the 70's? The John Travolta character wanted to leave his neighborhood where he was (almost) in a gang, with a dead-end job and parents who did not encourage him to rise above the status quo. Manhattan was the city of dreams. Now I take the subway from Manhattan into Brooklyn to explore because once again the tide has turned, as it always will. But now I cannot afford a lot of it. I am a tourist in my own city, traveling on the cheap, and my Brooklyn pedigree counts for nil. I am happy to be in a place that is safer and cleaner, but at what cost? Is the hipster who admires the Kentile sign the same one who pays too much for a coffee-flavored egg cream (the syrup comes from Rhode Island, they said proudly) at the Farmacy? And what of the street-smart, wise acre Brooklyn type that figured so prominently in the media. Isn't a lot of what is being marketed out of Brooklyn, and branded, as everything and everyone now must be branded, for suckers? For overeducated young-uns whose parents assist them when they move into their "starter apartments." I would rather have them instead of people who are dumb enough to burn down their own neighborhoods, but still, you can't go home again.