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Brooklyn’s lost world

The Brooklyn Paper

Exploring the dark corners of the abandoned Domino Sugar factory and then canoeing down the East River in search of hidden, decaying spots on the shore is a typical weekend for Nathan Austin.

Austin is an urban explorer. The 31-year-old intrepidly enters abandoned buildings and cordoned off nooks and crannies around Brooklyn, hoping to find places to get a little-seen perspective on the city.

Austin has been exploring like this since he was a boy.

“When I was a little kid, I was always climbing on top of buildings to see what was on the roof or seeing what kind of strange machinery was buried in the basement,” he said. “Every kid has that curiosity. I never lost it as I grew up.”

Now, Austin is sharing his expertise and insights on urban exploration in Brooklyn.

“It’s about the use of space. Who’s space is this? How is it being used? It’s about the channel we flow in,” said Austin. “I want to encourage people to see the city in a way that’s different from how they are told to see it.”

Austin’s explorations are not always planned. Sometimes he’ll just come across an interesting place to check out while walking down the street. Maybe he’ll notice an opening into an abandoned building or an unused opening to a subway station. Once he determines that it’s safe, it’s hard to keep him out.

In his upcoming lecture on urban exploring, Austin plans to discuss the logistics and ethics of sneaking into spaces one is not supposed to be. Some of the logistics are common sense: wear practical shoes, bring gloves, don’t explore while drunk, don’t break into people’s homes.

But there are also more delicate issues. For example, if Austin is exploring and runs into homeless people, he will back off and go find another spot to check out.

“They’ve made a home there and that’s worthy of respect,” said Austin. “I want to encourage people to explore, but I want them to do it respectfully.”

Nathan Austin’s “How To Trespass: An Illustrated Lecture on the Logistics and Ethics of Trespassing” at the Observatory (543 Union St. at Nevins in Gowanus, observatoryroom.org). Jan. 8, 8 pm, $10 includes a cocktail.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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Reader Feedback

diehipster from Non-gentrified Brooklyn says:
LOL. Another 'urban explorer'. Complete with ye old moustache and 1912 paperboy hat. Don't forget 'canoeing' down the river. He says he's been doing this since he was a kid - I'm gonna guess that was in a flyover state only 5 years ago. Dear Nasal Austin: may a factory collapse on you as you trespass like a child. I'll see you at your 'trespassing class' where I'll pay $10 to hear you teach me about NYC.
Jan. 7, 2013, 11:19 am
middle-aged Mary from 11211 says:
The biggest difference between hipsters and every other generation of young, pop culture conformists of days gone by is that the other generations weren't interested in broadcasting the information for attention. What was cool was to only share it amongst your closest friends, so only a select few were "in the know" and you away from prying eyes. The intent was to not draw attention to yourself. Social media and over night stardom on Youtube has forever changed that. This perplexing, pathetic exhibitionism is the new dream job for many. The street art tour guide. Beats working.
Jan. 7, 2013, 11:38 am
gypsy from carroll gard. says:
Is pay the 10$ just for all the entertainment & laughs I'm gonna have w.friends. Totally worth the $
Jan. 7, 2013, 11:57 am
Greenly from Bushwick says:
I love it. I lived near a papermill as a kid. We used to break in and smash beer bottles and take pictures of ourselves smoking pot. It was fun and really cool looking in there. There was broken rusty stuff everywhere to climb on. I would pay 10 bucks to get some lessons from this guy on trespassing do's and don'ts. Great idea.
Jan. 7, 2013, 12:02 pm
Will from Downtown says:
Wow! It only took one guy 45 minutes to (4 times in a row) re-log in, change names, and post comments on this!

Why did it take you so long? Learning curve?
Jan. 7, 2013, 12:18 pm
Austin's mom from Minnesota says:
gypsy and Greenly are one and the same, but Die Hipster is definitely still just Die Hipster , and you are still Austin's bff. Congratulations.
Jan. 7, 2013, 1:03 pm
PeterPan from Woodhaven says:
I remember once this past summer, I saw one of these douchsters try to climb the Brooklyn Bridge at 10pm on a work night. I dialed 911 as soon as I saw him go past the blocking gate on the suspension. He went all the way to the top of the Brooklyn side tower. Long story short, kid was arrested for criminal trespass and reckless endangerment. Huge waste of police resources to have to deal with idiots like this (He easily could have fallen off the cable into traffic below). So two lessons here: One: People like me WILL call 911 if we see you douchsters trespass where you arent suppose to be and TWO: If you dont like these douchsters and see them hop a fence, wall, etc, call 911 immediately. Also, showing up to a $10 event on how to commit a crime sounds like a trap to anyone with half a witt.
Jan. 7, 2013, 3:05 pm
Transplant from Here to stay says:
Looks like the trolls have scattered like rats from a construction site since DieHipster closed down his blog. I guess he finally found out that most of his readers were basement dwellers and Internet "tough guys" from the various flyover lands that he despises. It's really sad. Word on the street is that SwampYankee has been drinking his sorrows away at Luciano's in MetroTech ever since.
Jan. 7, 2013, 5:22 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
I wonder if quirky, post modern Nathan lectures on things like first aid, long term disability when you fall from a catwalk (and your 12 foot scarf gets caught on a pipe hanger and breaks your neck)or through a roof or how to blow your rape whistle when a bunch of crack addicts find your ass
and give you a locally sourced beatdown.

Does this little chalk talk include free consultations with attorneys (dressed like Atticus Finch, no doubt) when the ownerof said property calls the cops and has your ass thrown in jail for trespassing.

But most important - is that ridiculous cap from a Brooklyn based manufacturer?

Jes' askin'
Jan. 7, 2013, 5:52 pm
JAY from NYC says:
this is another non-article article, he likes his little canoe and peeping in things, and? Find anything? Take pictures and put em in a gallery? Anything? Al Capone's vault? Jimmy Hofa's body? Sheesh must be a sloooow day in Brooklyn if this is consider a story
Jan. 7, 2013, 6:37 pm
Don B. from Ex-Brooklyn says:
Sad. Those in Urbex keep their sites and tactics close to the hip.

This guy is a tool.
Jan. 7, 2013, 6:45 pm
regular person from east village says:
It's funny, the vitriol some people have for those who take risks to explore something interesting. How is it possible to feel so much hatred for people who, um, climb stuff?

As for PeterPan (who ironically sounds like a crotchety old man shaking his fist at kids playing ball), YOU are the one who went and wasted everyone's time by calling 911. Did you really care if he fell? No. Maybe you just don't like people doing things that make you feel like the lazy boring slob that you are. Urban explorers (do you even know any?) are inquisitive, somewhat fearless, and usually pretty intelligent. And they DO things - besides eat doritos in a dim room getting pissed at the exploits of others.

To diehipster: yes, everybody hates poseurs, whether they're 'aware' hipster-type poseurs, art poseurs of some other kind, punk poseurs, or cowboy poseurs. They are annoying and image-oriented, yes, but the only people who can spend so much time on something so unimportant are those who aren't doing much else. And you should do a little traveling. Hating everything between the coasts shows profound ignorance, as well as a need to have everyone know that YOU'RE the Real New Yorker. Everyone else is full of crap, except you, the Real Deal, the Most Authentic, the freakin Fonz. People are people, you douche, and there are redneck ignorant ——s who drink 40s and watch 6 hours of tv a day in Brooklyn who you might call *real* New Yorkers, and badass open-minded hard-working folks who put out fires or do metalwork or whatever other worthwhile stuff in the midwest.

The issue isn't how someone dresses or shaves, but if he or she DOES something, and takes consideration of others affected into account when doing so.

Are you already forming your image of me to hate? Well I'm clean shaven, work, grew up LI, in NYC 22 years, have lived in a squat, done demolition AND media sales, make art, eat meat, love trees, do martial arts, and have traveled all over the world - one of many NYers who doesn't fit in any of your simple categories. And yes, I've done some urban exploring BECAUSE IT'S INTERESTING. So if someone wants to share with others why that is, and how to do it, great! Thanks for putting it on! (middle aged mary pissed she never had the privilege of busting her ass to be self-employed? Oh yes, that is a dumb assumption, just like hers about the dude doing the presentation)

And Pat, you just keep watching tv or youtube or something. you seem to very scared of heights, crack addicts, and not doing what every sign tells you. Just leave dealing with that stuff to people with callouses on their hands and a desire to do something else with their evenings than spend endless hours watching people play with balls, or the made-up lives of others.

This is maybe the second time I've ever entered Troll World, and I don't think I'll ever return. But you people made me want to puke.
Jan. 7, 2013, 8:10 pm
diehipster from Non-gentrified Brooklyn says:
Transplant :

One day........one day you'll argue on the Internet on a regular basis, one day.....one day. As for now your name speaks for yourself. Your jizz stains are still on my site. LOL!
Jan. 7, 2013, 8:33 pm
diehipster from Non-gentrified Brooklyn says:
Regular Person:

Careful there; you almost tried to prove yourself to the internet like the "fonz guy" diehipster. Phew, that was close.
Jan. 7, 2013, 8:39 pm
old time brookly from slope says:
locally sourced beatdown - good one (used to be the boys from 13th ave)

but in all fairness most guys at a certain age explore where they shouldnt be (and we arent talking up her skirt) - we used to regularly break into cabs off the junction to have a place to hang out, smoke weed and listen to the radio on nights when cabs and cops were not out due to weather. even banged a gf in a church at 3am in the sanctuary - it was a protestant church so no issue - even went into some bell towers in the land of flatbush. going into some areas by yourself can be foolish indeed but isnt it exploration that got us here and to the monn (though granted the indians got more fooked than eastern europe at yalta)

mazel tov
Jan. 7, 2013, 10:16 pm
Liz from 11222 says:
I wish they could replace Two Broke Girls with a show called Die Hipster that is a reality show.
Jan. 7, 2013, 11:16 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
if they fook mazel tov - dont deny the men
Jan. 7, 2013, 11:40 pm
Mickey Shea from Greenpoint says:
LOL...does he use the Ye Olde Brooklyne Lantern I see
advertised on TV ?
Jan. 9, 2013, 11:37 am
HEY ADMINISTRATOR from OF THIS SITE says:
It clearly states in your terms:
"You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site."

So start banning diehipster, Beverly, and the rest of the continually abusive trolls before your lack of action gets discussed with the authorities and your owners!
Jan. 10, 2013, 10:56 am

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