Posts by benhelmer:

Bill Cunningham Facades-NY Historical Society-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer--6Editta Sherman on the Train to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, ca 1972.

Bill Cunningham is a beloved icon of New York. With little more than a bicycle and his camera, he’s been photographing fashion for the New York Times for over 35 years, taking pictures of every-day people, and discovering the “fashion show on the street.”

His love of fashion is a widely known obsession. At a young age, his family was already aware of his focus: “I think they were worried I was becoming too interested in women’s dresses… I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.”  (more…)

One Times Square-Midtown Manhattan-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-4786

When Lehman Brothers purchased One Times Square in 1995, they envisioned a new kind of tenant: advertisers. Instead of renting the offices inside the 25 floor building, they began retrofitting the facade with billboards. By 1997, the profits were up 400%, and the inside was empty. The New York Times reported: “The building is vacant and, aside from a possible theme restaurant in its base, is likely to remain mostly empty, continuing to serve as little more than a gigantic billboard.”


Squash Tournament-Grand Central-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-5172

Now that Bryant Park’s Winter Village has closed it shops, you’d think we’d passed the season of pop-ups. Yet just down the street, in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall, another unusual event extends the season. In fact, a 20 foot giant glass squash court has been sitting in the hallowed terminal for the last week for the JP Morgan Chase’s Tournament of Champions, an annual event every January since 1995.


New Years Ball-Times Square-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-3778

One year or another, you’ve no doubt become aquatinted with this Manhattan resident, occupying the roof of 1 Times Square since 1907. But that’s only one night of every 365. For the rest, we forget about this permanent Broadway fixture. While most jaded New Yorkers might be cynical toward anything Times Square, several minds were changed during last week’s Atlas Obscura Tour. The ball, normally seen from afar, was other-worldly up close.


Penn Station-Ron Ziel-Photoshop-Then and Now-NYCImage by Ron Ziel

While picking up a friend from Penn Station in 2001, playwright Justin Rivers was drawn to framed photos of a grand train station hanging on the wall. “Oh my god,” he exclaimed, “this must be some place in Europe.” It was at that moment he moved in closer, reading the words “Pennsylvania Station.”

The outrage of this demolition isn’t news to most of us in New York, although the exact picture of this bygone structure might be. The 1963 destruction became the focus for Justin as he began writing The Eternal Space. Photography faded across the screen during Wednesday night’s performance, bringing a face to the ghost left behind by this infamous event.


Pumpkin Impaled Fence-Cobble Hill-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-2540

“This is your last year, right?” Three costumed boys walked by Jane Greengold’s creation: impaled pumpkins atop an old iron fence. Halloween is a tradition in Cobble Hill, and Jane’s 274 spike fence is the talk of the neighborhood. But this is just the beginning. Over the next weeks, these pumpkins will remain in place, allowed to slowly decay. Last year they stayed until Christmas.