Tuesday, July 7, 2015

More Buildings Acquired at Fourth & 15th, Onward the Boulevard

The prospect of development at all four corners of Fourth and 15th gets ever more likely as buyouts at the south east corner of the intersection fall into place.  When I last checked in, six buildings on Fourth Avenue - a straight run from 543 to 553 - had changed hands in 2014, sold to the same owners, and I figured the corner building wouldn't be far behind.   Indeed. ACRIS records show that 541 sold last month for $2,700,000, and that 555, the other end of the run, sold in May for $2,200,000.  That makes eight out of the ten multifamily/mixed use buildings between 15th and 16th, almost an entire block of low density, lower income housing to be turned to rubble. Goodbye skies, hello our future whiter, wealthier neighbors.

The faded Uneeda Biscuit sign, at 15th & Fourth (541), soon to disappear completely

Back at The Port-of-Call

If it hadn't been for reader Virginia Maksymowicz, I'd never have known about The Port-of-Call, the boat-shaped bar at the Seafarers International Union headquarters at 575 Fourth Avenue. She wrote in a few weeks ago, in response to a post in which I'd mentioned the building (now a school), to tell me about her father, former Chief Petty Officer Henry "Hank" Maksymowicz, who'd tended bar there, and about her memories of visiting the place as a child.  Shortly after she wrote in, inspired by her words to find out more about the bar, I came across a Stanley Kubrick documentary from the 50s, The Seafarers, in which the Port-of-Call can be seen in all its glory.
And now there's more.  Just last week Maksymowicz sent in a photograph, taken by her father in the Port-of-Call in '64 or '65, showing her (at left) with a childhood friend, Joyce.  They stand on either side of the mermaid, the bar's voluptuous, carved wooden figurehead.
Beautiful.  Many thanks!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The End of the Avenue

Walter Albertin, 1951 (Library of Congress) 

I'm sorry I never got to visit the 13th Avenue Retail Market when it was still an active scene.  Fiorello LaGuardia created a number of these indoor retail markets, in the late 30s and 40s, in an effort to eliminate pushcart traders from the streets of the city. This one, opened in 1939, was one of the first.

Though the market signs remain etched into the walls outside, these days the inside space is filled by a giant Gourmet Glatt supermarket. I looked along the aisles, but was rather overwhelmed by its size. It was too warm a day to buy groceries I'd have to lug around outside for any amount of time, so I left empty-handed.  There's a kind of shabby, in-between quality here at the end of 13th, as the neighborhood hovers between Borough Park and Kensington, and I found the same, confused border identity farther south at 60th, just beyond the railway tracks where Dyker Heights meets Borough Park.  I'm drawn to these vague, shifting territories, but sometimes they'll sap your spirit, and they're often easy prey to watchful developers.

Back in April, I had almost met my goal of walking every block in Sunset Park - a beautiful experience to that point - with just a handful of streets left to go, when a stretch of Fort Hamilton Parkway near 36th (Borough Park meets Sunset Park meets Kensington), caught on a gray, blustery morning, felt utterly lost and cheerless. Three months on, I'm yet to complete the walk.  I will, I will.

At the end of 13th, at 36th, I turned around and headed back to 40th.  At Morrito's Cafe, I polished off a plate of pupusas (revueltos) .  Dense and earthy, rich with pork and beans and cheese, and just oily enough for complete dining bliss.  The best of their kind.

Friday, July 3, 2015

More 70s, more Shamus

While engaged in my unlikely Burt-in-Brooklyn research endeavors, I came across a '73 documentary, TV News: Behind the Scenes, a day in the life of a local, WABC news production team.  Events of the day include a water main break, anti-war demonstrations (a youthful Geraldo Rivera on the scene!), and the ever-dapper Mayor Lindsay doing his bit for city film making, at a promo appearance for Shamus.  The interview snippets with the actors make for some strange viewing. Cannon perfects a icily glazed insincerity, and the female reporter assigned to the story is clearly, er, thrown off balance by the gum-chewing flirtiness and intimate proximity of trench-coat clad Reynolds.  Catch the Shamus-themed action around 4:17.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Late last year, in late night TV junk land (Grit!), I ran into the 70s Burt Reynolds movie, Shamus, I'm no Burt fan, but this one had a local setting, with Burt as a private eye whose base of operations was a pool hall on Fifth.  I didn't get to see the whole thing, and looking for it later, could only find the film available on dubious looking online sites.  Weighing the prospect of more Burt on Fifth against the likelihood of computer viruses, sanity prevailed.  But I wanted to see the whole thing, and finally found it for sale on Amazon in a four movie package: two Burts, a Sean Connery and a Charles Bronson.  Six bucks!  I watched it today, and yes, it was something of a clunker, but there we were, albeit briefly, on '73 Fifth, and Third, and Second, and even a dud of a movie set in New York forty years back quickens the heart.
Here are a few screenshots.

Fifth looking south from 11th.  Timboo's!

Walking to the billiard hall at Fifth and 11th, above O'Neil's card and gift shop (now a bank) Burt is lost in thought.

Heading inside

Later in the movie Burt sets off to investigate the shady Riveredge Exports company. Its warehouse sits on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.  Whole Foods here?  Who'd go for that one in 1973?

Burt hops the fence.  Ah, the Kentile sign ...

Trouble in the warehouse. Exit Burt.

Watched fondly by love interest Dyan Cannon, our hero steals a car from a hapless driver, and heads east up 9th Street, from 2nd Avenue.

I know (at least I think I know) that this is 9th Street - with the large apartment building in sight up the hill it can't be anywhere else - but the block has certainly changed a lot since the 70s.  Many of the houses on the southern side are gone, replaced by small-scale warehouses, or left as empty lots.

There are a couple of locations in the film that I just can't place.  They look familiar, but don't quite seem to fit the landscape.  I'll put them up here later in the week and maybe someone else can solve the puzzle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


The Tasty Pastry, at 84th, has a fabulous array of baked goods, and even though it seemed a little heavy for late June, I had to walk away with a prosciutto loaf.  There are plenty of other bakeries on 13th, so how to choose from all the riches?  Here are two that demand attention, simply by virtue of their looks and names alone.  Mona Lisa, with the lady herself emblazoned above the store and Aunt Butchie's.  Aunt Butchie? Now that sounds like the sort of character you'd want to avoid offending.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Now You See It

From the B61 this week a blurry, almost ghostly, summer shot of the corner building where the Botanica de la Milagrosa used to be.  Botanicas are thinner on the ground these days.  Whenever I pass the corner, I look to see if the old signs are there, expecting to see some higher-end replacement business.  Present still, they resonate - symbols of another, lost order.

537 was sold a year ago, and the retail space is for lease.   At the Massey Knakal website, the image is crisper altogether than my smudgy through-the-window bus-ride shot.  Botanica shopped clean away.