Saturday, October 25, 2014

Forth on Fourth Day of Action: Faux Stores & Pretend Street Furniture Promised

Is the Fourth & 9th Street subway station "Brooklyn's ugliest"?  Park Slope Civic Council's Forth on Fourth Avenue committee thinks so, and is planning a day of action on November 21st, in order to foster improved conditions at the station.

We will host a "pop-up" event to reignite neighborhood imagination about rider amenities and street-level improvements at the 4th Ave/9th St Station transit hub. In a one-day action in November, we’ll set up a fantasy shadow station, using props - temporary lighting, wayfinding signage, discussion boards, big visuals, and pretend “street furniture” - to play with and capture improvement ideas.

And tucked into this bizarre description of the day's activities, we find the dreaded wayfinding signage phrase again.  Wayfinding has been hijacked by urban planners, and in the process, lost its navigational romance.  Gone the association of travel by map and compass, or nighttime travel by the stars, and in its place the prosaic means of finding one's way around a bus station.  That signage add-on really finishes it off.  Something about this turn-of-phrase when applied to an easily navigated location (the subway station here, the Atlantic Avenue underpass there) seems to suggest that the average pedestrian has the directional skills of a two year-old.  But maybe that's the case.  How about the wayfinding maps installed on city streets last year?

Even with smartphone maps, a waffle iron street grid and numbered streets in most of Manhattan, too many pedestrians are getting lost in New York City according to the NYC Department of Transportation. The solution, or part of it, will begin rolling out in March: maps. Lots of them. Designed just for pedestrians to be placed on sidewalks and eventually on bike share stations all around the five boroughs.
... The sidewalk signage will show pedestrians where they are and which way they are facing -- a study last year found that&many New Yorkers couldn't point to north when asked. Transit, local attractions, and businesses are placed on a large map of the local street grid with  circles indicating where you can reach with a five minute walk, and how long it will take to get to other attractions. Like countdown clocks in subways, knowing the time and effort involved in a trip can make it more appealing. The signs, the DOT hopes, will encourage more walking. (WNYC)

In the meantime, I'll hold onto wayfaring, which seems to have been left alone thus far, and is, of course, the stuff of rich literary tradition;  I think of Borrow:

... who inspired the surge in path-following and old-way romance that occurred in mid-nineteenth century England and America, the effects of which are with us still.  Borrow took to tramping in the 1820s, and he followed paths for thousands of miles through England and Wales, across the Channel into France, Spain, Portugal and Russia, as well as south to Morocco, coming to know the cultures and peoples of the road: the Romanies, the nomads, the tramps, the guildsmen, the shepherds, the farmers and the innkeepers.  
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - Robert MacFarlane (Penguin, 2012)

or of Chapter Nine in The Wind in the Willows, Wayfarers All, when Ratty, disturbed by his fellow creatures' turn-of-the-season restlessness, meets a a"lean and keen-featured" seafaring cousin,  who fills Ratty's head with tales of his journeys and tempts him to join him:

And you, you will come too young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still 
waits for you.  Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! 'Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new

or, of course, of Whitman:

I tramp a perpetual journey,
My signs are a rain-proof coat and good shoes and a
staff cut from the woods;
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, nor church, nor philosophy;
I lead no man to a dinner-table or library or exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a 
My left hand hooks you around the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and
a plain public road.

Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you
You must travel it for yourself.

Wayfaring is an untamed activity, whether rural or urban.  It lacks schedule or logic; it pauses, circles, detours, changes its mind and acts on a whim.  It embraces chance, and distraction.  It requires an open heart and an open mind.  It can tolerate solitude, and is always curious. It stops to talk to those it meets along the road.  Wayfaring is not a commuter figuring out how to get from the F to the R.   A Brooklyn wayfarer would surely be familiar with many of the borough's subway stations  and a good portion of the borough's streets, and have walked the platforms of stations grimmer and uglier than poor old Fourth and 9th. 

I'm all for prodding the wretched MTA.  Let's see the renovations finished, the stores open, a decent PA system running, and by all means more signs, as long as the lovely old Manhattan & Coney Island tiles are kept intact.  And a station good scrub down wouldn't hurt.  But we don't need anything too fancy here.  There are far more pressing issues on Fourth than station beautification:  the blight of luxury development, and the attendant loss of small businesses and affordable housing. These are the real problems here on the avenue.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Two Corners

At Third & 7th

NW: Morbid Anatomy Museum
Pale & slender twenty-somethings linger at coffee tables.  Emanate funereal high purpose.
Sip from a black plastic cup.  Buy yourself a $150 Day of the Dead sugar skull linen pillow.

SE: Back to John's Deli
Open early closed early hours.  Workers streaming in and out from auto shop or truck company, metal shop or lumber yard, grab breakfast sandwiches or hot food lunches.
Sit in the window seat.  Eat well and heartily.  Look out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Metal Man

Third & 13th

Stop Order

I overlooked this one until yesterday, though I'd noticed that the building site seemed quiet.  There's a full stop order at 724 Fifth, site of the old White Eagle Tavern, with an excavation violation listed, and the second violation as follows.

Complaint at:  724 5 AVENUE BIN: 3009551 Borough: BROOKLYN  ZIP: 11232


DOB District: N/A

Assigned To: EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM Priority:  A    
Received from FDNY
Received:  10/08/2014   12:56  Block:  649 Lot:  33 Community Board:  307

Last Inspection:  10/08/2014 - - BY BADGE # 2414
Disposition:  10/08/2014 - A3 - FULL STOP WORK ORDER SERVED
DOB Violation #:  100814ER07SP01-02-03-04
ECB Violation #s : 35111329P    35111330M

724 was sold a year ago for $1,650,000, and work at the site (enlargement & conversion) has been slow and shoddy.  Last month there was giant crane activity

and subsequently some rather dubious flyers went up claiming that the block would be closed for an entire month for more of the same.

Dubious flyers are nothing new at this address. Here's a No Parking one put up in late August, ostensibly issued by the NYPD/DoT,  The no parking dates in question are listed for May.

This one's been a dangerous eyesore for far too long.

The White Eagle Tavern has appeared countless times here, including
Another Glimpse of the White Eagle Tavern
Falling, Closing, Moving
Real Estate Monday
Fifth and 23rd
Wedding Parties
23rd and Fifth
Through the salt-stained windows of the B63
This is Fake

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carriage House Down

Just around the corner from Prospect, on Fourth, a carriage house is going down.  It's right next to Prospect Auto Glass, and abuts the five/six building parcel I mentioned in my last post.  I'm always sad to see a fine old building like this one turn first into a shell, and then disappear entirely.

573 sold four years ago for $900,000, and it's taken a long time to get this project going, but it looks like things are finally moving along for a nine-storey plus penthouse replacement building. You can see a plan here, which shows the scale of a tall and skinny structure on a 22 foot lot, towering high above its neighbors.

CPCC Management

Interior design pics here.

Another sign of our ever onward-and-upward Fourth.  October, 2014.

Excellent Location & Views

Pick any street around here & you'll find a hive of realtors at work.  How about buying a house on Prospect Avenue (known until 1869 as Middle Street) ?  A stroll down Prospect, between Fifth and Third, reveals several possibilities.

207A Prospect Avenue - $1,700,000

Massey Knakal Realty Services is proud to offer this three story brick townhouse situated in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This unique opportunity allows your creative design to complete to your own specifications and offers tremendous flexibility for your fabulous dream home, high income producing investment property, or customized conversion opportunity. Situated on a large lot measuring 20’ wide and 107.75’ deep, towering and offering breathtaking views of Manhattan, this 3,200 sq. ft. spectacle makes for a wonderful opportunity to own in an excellent location next to the F, G and R lines, along with close proximity to all of the exciting retail shops, organic grocery stores, including the new Whole Foods Market, restaurants, nightlife, and all of the best amenities that Park Slope and Brooklyn offers. (Massey Knakal)

MK neglects to mention the fabulous views of the Prospect Expressway merging into the Gowanus, and the steady roar of traffic at your doorway.  

It's not verdant, but at least the trucks are trying.

207 Prospect Avenue - $1,900,000

This one's renovated.

This open plan design with acacia plank flooring, exposed beams and brick, is beautifully complimented by the perfect light from the large windows at the front and back of the house. The kitchen with soapstone counter and rich wood cabinets comes with stainless steel appliances by Fisher / Paykel, GE Profile Stove, and LG washer/dryer. On the next level in the large second bedroom you find the original marble mantel, a feature echoed in the whole house. The master bedroom with soaring ceilings has an en suite windowed bathroom with Lacava, Grohe and Duravit fixtures, these are also found in the equally stunning garden floor bathroom. Central air, an integrated home audio system with two wall mounted Samsung TVs, Sonos distributed audio zones, and in-wall /ceiling surround sound, have all been professionally installed to enhance the owners lifestyle.

189 - 195 Prospect Avenue?  - ?

I'm not sure what the story is here.  In early 2013 189 - 195 Prospect Avenue, a parcel of six buildings, was listed on the market for $6,950,000, but it appears to have been taken off the market by the end of the year.  Corcoran was handling the sale back then:

Rare opportunity for developers and investors in Park Slope! 189-195 Prospect Avenue are two lots (with the configuration of six) that are ideal for a new construction or condo development in this booming Park Slope market. Zoned for both residential and commercial use, the total lot area is 15,628 square feet with 46,402 square feet of allowable floor area. The property is currently comprised of two carriage houses (both two stories), two residential two-family houses, wide open parking lots, and two enclosed garages. This property is conveniently located directly across the street from the R train station at Prospect Avenue. 

Six buildings?  Five buildings?  It's hard to configure this one, but it seems like the parcel is for sale again.  

Let's head to the next block.

173 Prospect Avenue - $950,000

Just off Fourth Avenue, next to an empty corner lot, and a towering apartment building, with an expressway rising in front of the house, 173's been on and off the market for several years

There's no purple prose for this one - just the basics.

169 Prospect Avenue - $1,299,000

Apparently this place has been in the same family for three generations. It looks like a home, rather than a showcase,  There's a laundry pole in the back.  But it's been on the market since the summer, and the price has been reduced.

The sad thing is that both these blocks of Prospect have some fine buildings, but when Moses slashed his way through, the once handsome-streets became half-blocks, losing their symmetry and natural vitality, stranded on the edge of a vehicular abyss.  Today, in our most perverse of markets, it's a landscape with a million dollar price-tag.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Signs on the Avenues

November?  A likely story.  Meanwhile, over on 4th & 10th the Breadfruit Tree Cafe, which has kept irregular hours in recent weeks, seems to be having its own repair issues:

Let's hope the cafe gets things sorted out and back in action.

The Sock Man, wending his weary way along 5th, approaches the shuttered Key Food.

Update: 10/22  Breadfruit back up and running today.   Good news.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Now Showing

Currently playing at BAM, through October 23rd, the 1981 film by Manfred Kirchheimer - Stations of the Elevated:

"The earliest filmed document of graffiti (shot in the late 70s), Manfred Kirchheimer’s richly chromatic 16mm city symphony sets images of northern Manhattan to a soundtrack that interweaves ambient city noises with the gutbucket gospel squall of jazz titan Charles Mingus."

Changing Tastes

Artisanal ice-cream, pastries & cookies.  Iced coffee with Boba toppings. Some of the staples offered these days to tenants in the food halls of Industry City.  Along the street, at the corner of 36th & Third, only the signs for The Hot & Cold Hero Champ remain.

Friday, October 17, 2014

To Concord

I took the train to Court Street to go to the market, but instead of getting out there, I decided to transfer to Clark Street.  Why?  Because I love this part of Henry, heading down towards Old Fulton, and the station, underneath the old Hotel St. George, has one of those ideal retail set-ups, with tailor, barber, florist, bakery, grocery and (?) sushi joint. And a shoe-shine stand.  Apart from the sushi, you could expect to have found a set-up like that fifty years ago or more.
I followed Henry for a while, then headed back on Cadman Plaza, but once I reached Tillary the October light was so golden it felt like a gift and I thought I'd head over to Concord instead.  There was no hurrying on a day like this. I'd been meaning to go there for ages, but the prospect of dealing with all that traffic was always off-putting.  If not now, when days like this were on the wane, I wouldn't bother again for a good while. Over the Plaza, Adams, Tillary & Flatbush Avenue Extension it was.  Then down left on Duffield and left again.  Here it was, a pocket of pre-civil war Brooklyn, surrounded by bridge-bound traffic, BQE, public housing, and a forest of high-rise. I'd passed here by car, in some tortuous expressway route, but never before on foot.

There's some speculation about the age of 167 Concord, but whether it's 1760s or 1820s, it's quite a survivor. The car outside it is a survivor too: a Didik Long Ranger, a hybrid gas/electric, modified from a 70s CitiCar/Commutacar. Apparently Frank Didik himself, designer and Trans-Global Highway visionary, lives right here at the house!

Of course, those urban explorers Montrose Morris & Kevin Walsh know this spot well, and you can read their posts on Concord at Brownstoner (2011) and Forgotten New York (2007). Frank Didik's design site is here.

On Duffield, back to Borough Hall

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Italian Loaves Still Sitting Forlornly in Key Food Baskets

Two weeks on at Jo, Brian & Joseph's, and the er, "power problem" remains unfixed.  They have another store on Flatbush but I couldn't reach anyone at the number there.   Ominous signs.

Where are We?

Club Xstasy, at Fifth & 26th & across from the cemetery, opened earlier this year.  It replaced La Nortena nightclub.  Xstasy has audaciously billed itself as the first gay lounge in Brooklyn, and with even more territorial daring, as the first gay lounge in Park Slope.  On their Facebook page someone wrote, "Keep it real, the neighborhood is called Sunset Park."  No mention anywhere of Greenwood Heights.

Caution Hot Bread