New York Tales from Curious Borough Dwellers

003 : Lorraine Martindale in the parking lot of a mysterious building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Born 1969 in California, USA. Lorraine Martindale currently works as a freelance writer and editor (and graduate student). Why New York? She moved here 13 years ago to work in publishing. She digs the following Gotham bits: On Korean row, the dumplings made in the window from Mandoo Bar; the view of Brooklyn Bridge from the window of the Q train; at dusk, the fountain by Lincoln Center; drinking vinho verde & stoop sitting in Fort Greene; movies during the weekday at Film Forum. She is, however, a bit miffed by the high-rises going up everywhere, uptown, downtown; the looming, leering ads in Soho; the crowded downtown bars that have turned into frats; the creeping theme-park nature of the city, overdevelopment in general—can you see a theme here? For more info on Lorraine Martindale you should send an email.

image: Stewart Butterfield

“The parking lot gate was open, and we ran in with the skateboard.”

One evening as we drank our second bottle of wine on our stoop in Fort Greene my husband decided he wanted to teach me how to skateboard. The rain had stopped, and the light of summer had turned a deep gold against the sycamore trees. We have lived in our apartment together for five years, and though dust of renovated brownstones is in the air, generations of families remain on the block, which is unusual. It’s the first place I’ve lived where I know my neighbors well. The escalating real estate drove me out of Manhattan, where I dwelt among artists and social workers until the city began to change and my building filled with transient business types. I’ve seen friends come and go, through the city’s revolving door, all in search of the rare commodity of space.

As my husband skated down our street I ran alongside him, passing the one dilapidated building with graffiti that we call the crackhouse. I’ll admit it’s a little weird for a white person to call a building a crackhouse in a racially mixed neighborhood, but it is an eyesore.  In any case, it’s not a crackhouse—the owners, two sisters, are in a legal dispute over whether to save or sell it. The years have not been kind to this house. It looks broken. Cockroaches and rodents roam the stairs. Yet realtors walk by and gaze at it with longing. It’s a prime spot of real estate. It’s refused to change, to improve, to gentrify. Kids sit on this stoop and smoke cigarettes, appearing tough and guilty. But they are neither – one word from their parents and they would stand at attention and skulk inside.

This night, the street was empty, and drops of rain from the trees dampened our hair. 

At the end of our block, past Fulton Street, and a gas station, a parking lot is attached to a mysterious building.  The gate is usually locked. Only a few cars park there during the day. We’ve often wondered what goes on inside—nobody seems to know.  I imagine the entire building is filled with old typewriters and abandoned desks. The gray and black building lined with windows probably lost its importance a few decades ago. Moguls will soon turn it into something useful, I’m sure. It’s close to the proposed Atlantic Yards site[1]. A neighbor (who is prone to exaggeration) said it sold for 41 million and will soon be demolished.

The parking lot gate was open, and we ran in with the skateboard. As I whipped around while holding my husband’s hand and he showed me how to ollie[2], I was filled with the freedom I felt when I first moved to the city; the fact that everything could be found on such a small island. Anything could happen on any given day. For I had loved New York back then—the city was mine. Now I know it’s a shifting, fickle entity. But that evening, no matter what happened in years to come, the parking lot belonged to us.

referenced works

  1. If you happen to live in the "Atlantic Yards" area, here's your handy guide to watching the demolitions.
  2. You, too, can ollie. Check these step-by-step directions.

location information


  1. paul thinks: nostalgic, even for us newbies!

017That's when I knew I wanted to live in New York: in the midst of those fragile bralets and bodysuits.— Ling Ma

016The guns, we tell the police later, were black like ice.— Tara Deal

015...my own talisman against the folly of my youth.— Andrea Jarrell

014Y'all in a band'r somethin'?— Abraham

013Perhaps it was the lanky teenager with the bright red book-bag that made me think I saw Adam.— Carrie Teicher

012I remember flattening myself against the streaky windows of the PATH train like an insect.— Erin Fisher

011I glanced up to see another shape hit the sand.— Ken H. Judy

010Vibrating almost imperceptibly in the breeze like a woody tuning fork.— Rob Giampietro

009Then the jazz stopped and the radio said the war had started in the Middle East. — Roland Kelts

008Shirtless Boris Yeltsin’s skin reddens as he reads a book.— Michael Maiello

007Port Authority was there with open, non-judging arms.— Khoi Vinh

006His almost-loss was my almost- nonexistence.— Matthew Rand

005On the cold hard floor of the orphanage, I sang, longing for the day that they would come and rescue me.— Jen Egan

004He was a lawyer, after all.— Kristin Gardner

003The parking lot gate was open, and we ran in with the skateboard.— Lorraine Martindale

002We arrived on completely Russian streets, with Russian signs and a familiar rudeness.— Kseniya Melnik

001...the hourly clicking of Oxfords and high heels across the parking lot.— Tam Nomgum


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