Good morning. It’s Friday, and it’s almost Halloween. We’ll meet someone who is too busy carving pumpkins to go trick-or-treating with his kids. We’ll also find out why the famous Flatiron Building is becoming something it has never been — a place to live.
Credit…Maniac Pumpkin Carvers
The 305th day of the year — Nov. 1, the day after Halloween — cannot come soon enough for Marc Evan.
He is a professional pumpkin carver. He has put everything from BMWs and the IBM logo to the Vincent van Gogh masterpiece “Starry Night” on pumpkins. Maybe there are only 50 shades of gray, but Evan talks as if there are almost infinite hues of orange. “When you light it up,” he said, “the way the light passes through the pumpkin flesh can range from yellow to orange to pinks and reds.”
For Evan, this is high-pressure time, like mid-December at that workshop at the North Pole or the end of June at the fireworks factory. The same goes for Adam Bierton, who puts the snarly faces in pumpkins at the New York Botanical Garden. (Bierton once worked for Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, the company Evan runs with a partner, Chris Soria.)
“I’m getting hundreds of pumpkins brought into the studio every week — we really stopped counting,” Evan said. “Sometimes we’re delivering 50 pumpkins to one venue for their decorations, to dress it up and make a Halloween installation. Other times, we’re sending one pumpkin that’s going to go in somebody’s window or on their porch.”
Adding to the October rush is fall-themed advertising. “A lot of time, visible pumpkins don’t leave the studio,” he said. “We film the process or do a photo-shoot, and the end product is the digital files.”
Maniac Pumpkins has carved for the Whitney Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art, copying Magrittes, Picassos and Warhols onto pumpkins. “We’re not trying to capture the colors of the original painting so much as being faithful to the nuances, the brushstrokes, the details and the value range — the range from light to dark,” Evan said.
Working in pumpkin is not like chipping away at marble or like shaping clay. Pumpkin is “a perishable, ephemeral medium,” Evan said. “It’s something that’s meant to be enjoyed in the moment. It rots very quickly. Some people are horrified by the idea that we put so much work and love into something that is only going to last maybe a few days.”
Halloween and monsters have fascinated him and Soria since they were children on Long Island in the 1990s. They turned a wing of their high school into a haunted house, “totally terrifying all the kids,” he said.
Later still, working in bars and restaurants to pay their way through Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, they carved pumpkins “to help spook the places up.”
“The ones we were doing the first few years were gifts for the places we worked,” he said. But word spread, and in 2009 the Yankees hired them to carve 50 pumpkins for the skyboxes at Yankee Stadium before Game 1 of the World Series, he said.
“We had maybe done, tops, 20 pumpkins in a season,” he recalled. “We had about 36 hours to pull it together. We had never done anything like that. We were carving out of our Brooklyn basement apartment. There were pumpkins everywhere. We invited friends to help scoop the pumpkins out. It was like an assembly line.”
Now they have carvers who work as painters, illustrators and animators in the off-season. And they scout raw material. “We are hitting the pumpkin patches, often early in the morning before they’re open,” he said. “We have trucks coming from farms with pumpkins we can use for certain things.”
Then, unprompted, he offered some advice for do-it-yourself carvers.
“I always tell people to go to the farms and go to the pumpkin patches,” he said. “Don’t just buy from the grocery store or the hardware store. We love to support local agriculture, but you’re also getting the freshest possible pumpkin. When you grab a pumpkin from a hardware store, that might be OK in a last-minute pinch. But they’re not going to last as long, and they’re beat up and they don’t look as good.”
Enough about the pumpkins. Does he go trick-or-treating?
“Me and my partner both have young kids and don’t get to see them throughout the pumpkin season, he said. “Unfortunately, when you’re the child of a professional pumpkin carver, you don’t have your parents there to go trick-or-treating or do the family costume. My kids will definitely be missing that aspect of Halloween.”
A moment later he added: “They get to celebrate Halloween year-round. They miss us on the big day, but they get all that fun the rest of the year, too.”
Expect a mostly sunny day with highs in the upper 70s. In the evening, it will remain mostly clear with lows in the 60s.
In effect until Nov. 1 (All Saints’ Day).
The latest New York news
Brooklyn council race: A contest between two New York City councilmen, Justin Brannan and Ari Kagan, will measure how strong the rightward shift is in southern Brooklyn.
Tow truck death: A 7-year-old boy was killed in Brooklyn when a police tow truck hit him as he crossed the street with his mother.
Accuser arrested: The ex-girlfriend of the actor Jonathan Majors, who accused him of assaulting her in a car in March, was arrested on a countercomplaint he had filed against her. She will not face prosecution.
Arts and culture
Vintage show: At 18, Sofia Wallis was the youngest vendor at the Manhattan Vintage Show, a three-day event held recently at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, where vintage fashion enthusiasts gathered to socialize, shop and swoon over old clothes.
Fuchka craze: Fuchka, a Bengali snack largely unknown in New York City five years ago, spawned a glut of imitators, all within a one-block radius of one corner on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights.
What we’re watching: Sharon Otterman, a Metro reporter, discusses Israeli-Palestinian divisions on college campuses and how administrators are reacting, and Stefanos Chen, another Metro reporter, examines the city’s jobs rebound on “The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts.” The show airs on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. [CUNY TV].
Want to live in the Flatiron Building?
The Flatiron Building has been an office building since it opened 121 years ago. Now it is getting a second life as a luxury apartment building with roughly 40 units.
My colleague Matthew Haag says the Flatiron Building’s sole office tenant, Macmillan Publishers, moved out before the pandemic, and more recently its future seemed uncertain. A little-known buyer won a court-mandated auction for the building in March but dropped off the radar after missing the deadline for a $19 million deposit.
This week the Brodsky Organization, a residential developer, bought a stake in the 22-story tower on Fifth Avenue. Brodsky will lead the conversion, carving out apartments that will either be sold as condominiums or marketed as rentals. The project is expected to take about three years, the owners said.
The triangular shape of the Flatiron Building could present a challenge in repurposing it for apartments, and some major internal changes would be necessary: Stairs and elevators would need to be moved around and consolidated.
But Dean Amro, a principal at the Brodsky Organization, said the building’s many windows would make the switch to residences easier than in most office buildings. The exact layout has yet to be decided on.
Looking for a King
My husband and I were at a mattress store on Lexington Avenue, and I was at the register completing our purchase.
A woman who appeared to be in her late 60s walked in and said she was in a hurry.
The salesman we had been dealing with was the only employee in the store. He asked what size mattress she was looking for so he could direct her while he finished up with us.
“I’m looking for a king, but I don’t need anything fancy,” she said. “I’m not going to live long.”
Feeling badly for her, I told the salesman to help her first and then turned and encouraged her to get the best mattress in the store.
“Oh no,” she said, looking at me apologetically. “I’m not dying now.”
My husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, then turned back to the salesman and let her wait her turn.
— Susan Kravet
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Mathew Brownstein and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].