Friday, September 12, 2008

Rorschach Pt.2: C.S.I.

The Genovese crime scene is located in Kew Gardens, a quite pleasant community in eastern Queens. Exiting the subway at the Kew Gardens stop on the E line, you find yourself on a wide busy street, like so many others in the area. We asked for directions to Austin St., where her apartment had been, and headed into a really nice neighborhood with detached homes with yards front-and-back. They were the first of their kind that we'd seen in NYC. After a few blocks we got on track and eventually found the charming Tudor-style building on the corner of Austin and Lefferts St. where Kitty lived and died.

Not my photo, but it looks a lot like this still. Her building is on the left

I had read some of the articles linked, and seen some pictures. I had the pertinent address jotted down, but hadn't taken extensive notes. I walked along the front of the building and took photographs. I noted the street lamp on the sidewalk in the middle of the building--perfect, I'd imagined the scene lit by streetlamps. But I didn't see any entrances to the apartments above the shops on the bottom floor. I had forgotten or not paid attention to part of what made the story as originally reported doubtful: Kitty's apartment entrance and the scene of her death were in the rear of the building.

So we walked around to the back of the building, using the same path she staggered around. She then slowly made her way along the mews behind the building, intending most likely to escape to her apartment and lock the door.

And there they were, the single doorways to the floor of apartments. There were two doors of note: 82-62 and 82-70. She was attacked again and died just inside the entrance of the former, but lived in the latter a few good feet further down. I didn't know which would serve as my background, but I knew that I wanted the crime scene I portrayed to be the real deal. I took photos of both, because it was evening and wanted to see details. But what interested me most were photos at night, when the crime happened, when Rorschach would be about, perhaps to pay a visit....

After taking a stroll through the neighborhood, buying some farmer's cheese from a Russian shopkeeper, and eating some Cuban food, it was night and we headed back. The first thing that disappointed me was how dark the alley was. Aha--I had been imagining the scene lit with street lamps, since of course so many people witnessed the nighttime murder and I had assumed this was because it was well-enough lit. I took some photos of the entrances again, and noticed that above the entrance to each door was now mounted a rather modern-looking lamp. Surely they were not there in 1964. I noted that, and realized that if I were going to portray the scene, it would be that much darker. In fact, the only light in the mews at the time would've been that which came from the entrance hall behind the doors, and a small lamp that existed at the time that was just about across from her actual apartment door. Not much. The doubts about the original reports were making more and more sense. There are no tall buildings behind the scene for some distance, because the rail lines run right behind the apartments. There were not many places where one could witness the worst of the crime from except for: neighboring windows of other apartments above, and only if you craned your neck out, and a taller building some 100 feet away on the opposite end of the train station parking lot. I snapped more photos, considered all these things and what they might mean for my picture, and left.

One point of note: it was closed that late in the evening, but on the back end of the building, if you continue up the stairs at the end of the mews and make a left around the back corner, you'll find Comic Den. I would've asked, but I am quite sure the placement was not random....