A Fabled Sign Returns to the Brooklyn Waterfront
Good morning. It’s Wednesday. What’s big and yellow and high above the Brooklyn waterfront? Half of a famed sign. We’ll find out which half — and when the other half will join it. We’ll also see what streets around Rockefeller Center are being closed, and when, to “pedestrianize” the area for holiday crowds that want to oooh and ahhh at the tree and the nearby holiday windows.
Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times
“It feels like we’re reviving the icon,” Brian Ingrassia said. This was after the word “sugar” was in place, spelled out in yellow letters nine feet seven inches tall.
But the icon, a sign that was an industrial totem along the Brooklyn waterfront for generations, is only half revived. The other half, six letters spelling out “Domino,” still has to be hoisted above “sugar.”
Ingrassia said that would happen next week. “Sugar” will remain dark until then: He said the sign would not be switched on until “Domino” was also in position.
The two-word sign was designed to look as familiar as ever, but it is an LED replica, not the original neon sign that for more than 80 years was a fixture of a huge sugar refinery — by some accounts, the largest refinery in the world in its heyday. At the end of the 19th century, the refinery produced 5,000 barrels of sugar a day. By the end of World War I, 4,500 workers were on the payroll.
The number declined after World War II as corn syrup and other sweeteners gained popularity. By the 1990s only liquid sugar was refined there.
The plant closed in the early 2000s, and much of the 11-acre site it occupied was cleared to make way for new apartments and offices, including two apartment towers that opened before the pandemic, along with the six-acre Domino Park. The replica of the sign was put on a building that was not demolished, next to where the original sign long stood.
“It’s exciting to have a sign back,” said Ward Dennis, a former community board member who said he had prepared historical studies on the refinery complex before much of it was demolished. “Everybody going up and down the F.D.R. Drive remembers seeing it. Coming across the Williamsburg Bridge, there was always that Domino’s sign to welcome you home.”
The new sign will provide a higher-wattage welcome. Ingrassia, a project superintendent for Two Trees Management, the developer behind the construction at the refinery site, said the new sign would be brighter and more energy efficient than the sign it is supplanting. The aluminum housing for the new letters made them lighter than the originals.
Once the “Domino” half of the sign is in place, it will rejoin other industrial signs that are geographic landmarks along the East River — the Silvercup Studios and the Pepsi Cola signs in Long Island City. But Ingrassia, who grew up in Brooklyn Heights, made clear that the Domino’s sign had worked its way into Brooklyn’s consciousness in a singularly effective way.
“I’ll say this,” he declared. “I can’t name another sugar brand.”
Expect a sunny day with temperatures around the low 50s. The evening will be clear, with temps dropping near the high 30s.
In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day).
The latest New York news
Housing: The New York City Council approved the Innovation Queens project, a $2 billion housing development, in a sign that elected officials are increasingly willing to work with the real estate industry to address the city’s housing crisis.
Rikers Island: A report tracking violence at the troubled jail complex will be kept secret so that it is not taken out of “context,” a federal judge ruled.
More local news
Child welfare: A report on New York City’s child welfare agency has revealed a “predatory system that specifically targets Black and brown parents.”
Uncovering a synagogue plot: Early signs of a threat to attack a Manhattan synagogue were detected by an online security analyst from a Jewish group.
Arrest in window-smashings at a gay bar: The attacks, four within a month, had created a deep sense of anxiety in Hell’s Kitchen — a feeling compounded on Saturday by a deadly assault on a gay bar in Colorado.
Ethics inquiry after Met Gala ticket: Representative Carolyn Maloney’s invitation to the Met Gala in 2016 may have violated House ethics rules, according to an investigative referral.
Arts & Culture
A New York Philharmonic milestone:For the first time in its 180-year history, women in the orchestra outnumber men, 45 to 44.
Collapse of a merger: The deal to acquire Simon & Schuster would have made Penguin Random House even larger and reduced the number of big publishers in the U.S. to four.
Meet two museum curators: MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, Ann Temkin, and Naomi Beckwith, the first Black deputy director and chief curator at the Guggenheim last year, discuss how they are navigating the new thorny museum terrain.
An animal nonprofit’s research project: A farm sanctuary is probing the inner lives of cows, pigs and chickens, allowing the animals to choose whether or not to participate in an effort to demonstrate that animals have minds of their own.
Closing Midtown streets to make more room for crowds
The message from City Hall sounded like an update of a traffic sign from the 1980s — don’t even THINK of driving near Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan as the end-of-the-year holidays draw near.
The city announced plans to “pedestrianize” much of the area, starting next Wednesday, the day of the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting. Here are the details:
West 49th Street and West 50th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas will be open only to pedestrians — read: closed to traffic — between 11 a.m. and midnight daily. Those are the blocks north and south of the tree, as well as the skating rink, the Channel Gardens, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the buildings at 620 and 610 Fifth Avenue and Radio City Music Hall.
On three Sundays — Dec. 4, 11 and 18 — even more streets will be off limits to cars. An 11-block stretch of Fifth Avenue, from 48th Street to 57th Street, will be open only to pedestrians from noon to 6 p.m. on those days.
On other days, one lane of Fifth Avenue between 48th Street and 52nd Street will be blocked to traffic and opened to pedestrians on weekday afternoons and weekend mornings. Crews will move barriers into position as dividers to keep cars and people apart, and cars will not be allowed to turn right from Fifth Avenue onto three westbound streets — 47th Street, 49th Street and 51st Street.
The Avenue of the Americas — Sixth Avenue — will lose one lane of traffic to create a wider walkway between 48th Street and 52nd Street. City Hall said the police would “conduct round-the-clock monitoring” and would stand ready to reposition lane barriers as dictated by crowd patterns.
To keep buses from tying up traffic, they will bypass the stops on Fifth Avenue between 48th Street and 52nd Street and, on the three Sundays, they will bypass Fifth Avenue altogether, heading south on other avenues. Crosstown buses will be rerouted during pedestrian-only times.
The goal of the changes is to ease the crush of people straining to see the Rockefeller Center tree and the store windows along Fifth Avenue. Ydanis Rodriguez, the transportation commissioner, said the city expected the largest crowds since the pandemic began.
The Sunday closings are under the Open Streets program, which began during the pandemic. The city released a report last month that said that restaurants and bars on Open Streets blocks, where traffic is barred at certain times and restaurants can set up tables beyond their sidewalk structures, reported stronger sales than those on similar streets with unrestricted traffic. Some restaurants on Open Streets blocks even fared better than they did before the pandemic, according to the report.
Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that the Midtown pedestrianizing “is the kind of bold, creative thinking that we need to ensure the city’s comeback is strong, equitable and inclusive.”
“And to those coming in from out of town,” he added, “I have only two messages: Happy holidays and spend money.”
Thursday night on Rockaway Beach
red sky full moon
the beach our backs
to the dunes we had
seltzer and sandwiches
watching two girls
playing in the surf
until a ranger made
them stop he should
have let them shriek me
too cold shy afraid of
the Atlantic so many
reasons to stay on the sand
on a bright moon night at the
end of summer I wish I’d
joined them been reckless
enough long enough
to dive in and
scream with joy.
— Adria Quiñones
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. I’m going to take a couple of days off. Happy Thanksgiving, and see you again on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Sadiba Hasan and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at email@example.com.