Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rally to Save Bishop Ford

Also on April 28th, a 1:00 p.m. rally at Bishop Ford High School, to help save it from closure in June.

Bishop Ford High School to Close (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Coming to PBS this Month

Great news.  Word from director Amy Nicholson that Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride, which ran at the IFC last summer, will be airing on PBS on April 28th:

"The Bloomberg administration’s many large-scale rezonings have completely transformed neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn, Chelsea and Williamsburg, leaving many New Yorkers wondering how they ended up living in a luxury city full of glass towers and national retail chains. Megaprojects like Hudson Yards and Willets Point promise more of the same.

A story about greed, politics and the land grab of the century, ZIPPER chronicles the battle over one of the last bastions of an unfettered New York. On a small rented lot in the heart of Coney Island’s gritty amusement district, Eddie Miranda proudly operates a 38-year-old carnival contraption called the Zipper. When a real estate battle brews between an opportunistic developer and the Bloomberg administration, Eddie and his ride - along with many of Coney Island’s eclectic small businesses - are forced to leave.

 Through interviews with top-level city officials, famed developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities, and the carnies themselves, Zipper examines the high-stakes power struggle that plays out in the media for over four years. The billionaires at the center of the conflict lock horns when the City denounces the developer’s glitzy vision of condos and shopping and, ironically, hatches its own grand scheme to transform the area with the promise of housing and retail.

Can a reinvented Coney Island remain “The People’s Playground?” With a new city administration now in place, will the affordable housing that was a central argument for change ever get built? Does the selling of Coney Island as a brand ultimately sanitize its spirit? Be it an affront to history or simply the path of progress, ZIPPER examines the high cost of economic development. In an increasingly corporate landscape where authenticity is often sacrificed in the interest of growth, the Zipper may be just the beginning of what is lost."

Do take time to watch it, and tell your family & friends to see it too. Like many other viewers, I'll be catching it for the second time, and carrying thoughts of it with me when I head on down to the boardwalk over the coming months. The film's an insistent reminder of what matters, and what's all too easily lost.

ZIPPER: CONEY ISLAND'S LAST WILD RIDE airs Monday, April 28th at 10:00pm (Cablevision 13/713, Time Warner 13/713, Comcast (NJ) 240 (CT) 237, RCN 613, Patriot Media 165, and Verizon Fios 513.)

Living at the P.O.?

I was walking along Fourth Avenue yesterday, approaching 15th Street, when I saw a building detail I'd never noticed before.  In a row of three brick apartment houses, all of similar construction, the central building, 542, seemed to have had its cornice replaced by this:

Perhaps the Post Office inscription is a little hard to make out.  But what is it doing here?  I've found no mention of a post office ever existing at this address, only a couple of references to an accidental fall and a "trifling" fire in 1909,  and a resident a decade earlier delinquent in the payment of club fees.  Could it be just be an incongruous replacement for a lost original? Just a handy P.O. relic filling in? I suspect that could be it.  Oh for some research lackeys to put to work.  This one will have to wait for a while.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Customers line up outside the Fifth Avenue Polish store Jubilat Provisions.

Further north, the congregation of Holy Family & St. Thomas Aquinas make the Stations of the Cross, with prayers spoken in Spanish, English and Polish.


Better by far these rabbits in the window of Sahadi's than the ones I saw at El Badia Halal Live Poultry (Second at 40th).

Nose to the glass, I saw a crate crammed with twenty or more hopeful creatures in new spring coats, all twitches and bright stares & clambers for top spot. Babies all.  Below them, a mass of hens were hunkered down in witless resignation.   I tried not to focus on the dim shapes further back,  As per live-market usual, a man came out to rail against photographs, so all I have is these bales of hay on an icy sidewalk.  Just as well, just as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cleaning Out (Atlantic)

Closeout Heaven

A trio of old & new(ish) products here: Cougar, closeouts, coffee.  41st between Second & Third.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Venting Spleen

This is an amateur's blog, with a small but loyal readership.  A rattle bag.  I don't have any pretensions about its value, and I generally try to avoid topics covered by others.  In fact I take an almost perverse pleasure in finding subject matter no one else is much interested in.  Everything is important in some way, however trivial it might seem to others.  I celebrate the unconsidered! Sometimes I do look at aspects of bigger stories, especially if they relate to local history, or to local development.  And it shocks me (naive as I am) that there isn't more of an online uproar about development issues close to home. With the exception of a couple of hardy & uber-informed independent voices, who voice serious concern about the blight of shoddy & out-of-scale construction around the neighborhood, it's pretty quiet. The most commercial & widely read local blogs, tied as they are to business concerns, are too tight-lipped ever to criticize the gods of real estate.  It's a shame.
When I do cross into territory others sites cover, I'll credit sources, and I'm especially careful to do so if there's one particular place I find an item of interest or inspiration.  I've probably lapsed sometimes, but I try to act decently.  So I find it sad when any of the commercial guys, maybe short of an item for the day, don't act in kind. 
OK - rant over!

Back to 635

Yesterday's post concerned 635 Fourth, home to the Seafarers International Union and currently listed for sale at $24,500,000, with approved development plans in place.  I neglected to mention that 635 4th Avenue Holdings LLC bought the property from the Seafarers Union just four months earlier, for a trifling $10,000,000.   Quite a bump.

I was looking around for picture of 635 in earlier days, and struck gold.  From a series of 1910 photographs chronicling the Fourth Ave. subway construction, this one, from 19th Street looking north, shows 635 (at right) in statelier days.

Brooklyn Visual Gallery

And here's 635 today:

In the sixties  farmworker Ed Chiera passed this way, sent East to New York by Cesar Chavez to gather support for a national boycott of California grapes:

So, in February 1968, we left Delano for New York in a caravan of a few beat up cars, circa
1950s, and an old donated yellow school bus, which ran okay but lacked a heater to keep us
warm in the winter ride across the country. Stopping each night at cities along the way, we
rode for seven days, wrapped in blankets, eating cold sandwiches of salami, cheese, and
peanut butter and jelly, yelling ¡Viva la Huelga! ¡Viva César Chávez!, and singing many rounds
of De Colores and Huelga en General to keep us warm. Cesar had sent Fred ahead of us via air
to make arrangements for the organizers to live at the Seafarers International Union
headquarters and dormitory in Brooklyn.

However, Chiera didn't stay at 635.  SIU sources seem to indicate 675 Fourth (20th/21st) as the original union headquarters, & ACRIS records suggest a move two blocks south in the early 90s.  675 is (was) a much grander building.  Here's another picture from 1910.

The Seafarers Union was founded in 1938, so the building (at left) clearly pre-dates union presence.  It also looks very much like a school building, so its transition is mysterious.  Anyhow, it's a school now - Al-Noor -- and like 635, it lost its looks over the years.

As a side-note, if you happen to be passing this way, drop in at the great Al-Noor Halal Deli across the avenue. The deli name is a little misleading: it's really a diner, especially busy at lunchtime when it caters to a (mostly male) crowd of nearby workers. The food is cheap, the servings big, and the atmosphere friendly.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Real Estate Monday

A cool $24,500,000 price tag for a development lot at 635 Fourth Avenue (19th Street) - home to a branch of the Seafarers International Union of North America - with approved plans in place for an 89,500 buildable sq. ft. site.  This translates into a 12 storey building of up to 91 units, with parking, commercial & a small community space & 6 - 12 units of affordable housing.

Ideally situated just south of Park Slope, Greenwood Heights shares many of the same amenities while representing its own unique character and sense of community. The R subway line is 2 blocks away at Prospect Avenue with direct access to the Barclays Center, Downtown Brooklyn in 10 minutes. In the immediate area, you will find Industry City, with their creative work space and big box retail and 5th Avenue, with its café’s, restaurants and boutique stores. With rents exceeding $50/SF this offering represents a significant and clear point of entry into the ever-growing Brooklyn market. (Massey Knakal)

And talking of the Barclays Center, here are the dismal remains of Bergen Tile on Flatbush, glimpsed through construction fencing. The arena looms over the site, and the old yellow house to the rear appear in an optical illusion to be perched on a pile of rubble.  Not an illusion really.

Next door to the wooden house, a couple are up on the roof, legs dangling, enjoying the spring sun.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Around 38th & 39th, three buildings that caught my eye.

The NYC Transit Authority Maintenance of Way Shop and Crew Quarters, at 465 38th Street, just below Fifth Avenue, & close to the 38th Street Yard :

The 38th Street Yard is located between Fifth and Seventh Avenues in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, adjacent to the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot. This yard is not normally used for revenue-service train maintenance. Its primary function is to store diesel and electrically powered maintenance-of-way and other non-revenue service rolling stock. It is also used to transfer trash from garbage collector trains to trucks via platforms inside the yard just south of 37th Street. This southern part of the yard was formerly the center of the South Brooklyn Railway, which extended from Bush Terminal through the north part of the yard, then down Gravesend Avenue and into the Coney Island Yard. The yard is entirely equipped with hand-operated switches. Only Fresh Pond Yard and East New York Yard share this characteristic. (wiki transiTalk)

The brickwork repairs look mismatched, but the building  facade remains handsome.

At 39th & Third, opposite the Rose Quartz Lounge, a radical paneling/stucco job (or something!), combined with a lively color choice.  The furniture warehouse is bigger than it looks, having a broad frontage on Third.  The makeover is shockingly heavy-handed (covered over entrances?), but not, at least, humdrum.  Why though, would you cover up anywhere in such a strange fashion?   Looks like a minimum expenditure maximum speed plan.

t Yard is located between Fifth and Seventh Avenues in Sunset Park, 

Also on 39th, up between 7th and 8th.

The windows inside the windows were not a great upgrade, but otherwise I kinda like the look here.