Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Greetings From the Neighborhood!

Time to get out and about to enjoy the Christmas decorations.  I realized today how sparsely decorated our block is these days.  In years past apartment windows were blasts of color, strung with lights running rapid sequences of red, blue, green, red, blue, green.  Creche figures and fat plastic soldiers & choirboys took their annual stations in front yards.  Now polite restraint is the order of the day.  But walk around a bit & you'll still find some happy exceptions!  We'll celebrate a few of them this week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas on Fifth

Our local Santa values (dubious) style over convention.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking Back

Let's revisit a little old house on 11th Street.  I pass by this one most days.  Back in June, I saw that 147, tucked between Second & Third, was on the market (RE/MAX brokers) at a mind-boggling $1,899,000.  A development-site pitch here, given the property's much-coveted twenty-five foot width. What I hadn't realized was that a month earlier Fillmore had listed the 147 for an even wilder $2,250,000.  As summer turned to fall, the price shifted down, to $1,299,000 (July) to the current $899,000 (September).
There's been a stop-work full-vacate order in place since May (before it was listed by Fillmore at over two million), apparently related to fire damage.


Save New York - join in the fight to save the city's small businesses in a climate of soaring rents, and chain store proliferation (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

The Life of Juanita Castro (Walkers in the City)

In Twist, Tenant Who Was Forced Out Will Replace One Who Moved In (New York Times)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Home Sweet Home

The rabbits of Third Avenue continue to work on their own development projects and are now able to disappear completely into several of the holes they're excavating.  Back of the tire shop there are hutches provided for them, seen here from an adjoining MTA lot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Familiar Tale on Fourth

Another corner on Fourth is heading for Development And Conversion.  575-581, at Prospect Avenue, is under contract, according to CPEX, the brokers handling the sale.  The businesses currently at this corner are Prospect Auto Glass, a tire repair shop, and a check-cashing center.  Next door to this parcel of properties, at 573, a carriage-house was recently demolished to make way for a skinny nine-storey (plus obligatory penthouse).



Goodbye auto shops, and hello expressway views from your terrace!

Ranchero on 13th

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Across the Street on 16th

The now vanished two-storey building at 98 16th (see the building site below), sold in May for $780,000.  96 sold in August for $1,200,000, ten months after it changed hands for $885,000.

On a street where many of the houses sit well below street level the Lilliputian number 90 (far right, above), looks lowest of them all. Underneath that brickface there may be an early wooden building predating anything else on the block. There are a number of small, detached houses like this, almost subterranean, still left in the teens & twenties streets around here. The scale of building size shown here, with high-rise towering over modest nineteenth & early twentieth-century housing, is a familiar sight on the blocks directly off Fourth Avenue.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Open House

December 13, 2014.  Both 115 & 117 sport identical No Littering signs in their windows.  
Will the sign at 115 come down before today's Open House?

One of the properties listed this week in the South Slope News Open House Roundup is a single-family house at 115 16th Street, on the market for $1,149,000 (recently reduced from $1,200,000)  I was interested in this one, as I've often photographed this little house and its next door neighbor, at 117.  They're nice little houses, but have been neglected over the years.  They're 14 feet wide and 22 feet deep.  According to Corcoran floorplans, 115 has a small, seven foot wide extension & its square footage is given online as 795 sq. ft.  The lot size is listed as 565 sq. ft.  The Corcoran website for this property mentions a garden, but doesn't show one on the floorplan.  Maybe there's four or five feet out back at most.

117 (2010)

115 & 117 (2011)

You can see the two houses, complete with awnings, in a 1930 Percy Loomis Sperr photograph.

NYPL Visual Gallery

The finances on these properties look murky.  One Ebanks Carlyle bought both houses from the same owner in 2006  - 115 for $445,000 and 117 for $435,000.  Ebanks resold 117 just months later for $625,000 to an Althea Winston, but he was still listed in mortgage transactions in 2012. Winston transferred the deed later in 2006 to 450 Carlton & Prospect LLC. This spring the property changed hands again for $20,000, to Aota LLC.  115 was put on the market several times in 2006 and 2013 but did not sell.  Ebanks held on to it until a year ago, when he sold it to Magab Inc. for $320,000 - a rather surprising price given property appreciation in the six years since he bought it.  For what it's worth, Ebanks was convicted of in 2010 of second-degree grand-larceny and multiple counts of falsifying business records in 2010 through his involvement in a straw buyer scheme.

117's condition looks particularly dire, and the DOB site reveals this discouraging (open ) violation:


If you had a million-dollars-plus to buy yourself a piece of hot Gowanus, you might just think twice about buying next-door to a house in such dire condition.  You might take a serious look at the condition of the freshly renovated "sweet and cozy" 115.  You might look across at the demolition site across the street and consider what splendid building will be coming in there soon. You might think twice about living anywhere close to a prime corner lot on Fourth Avenue, which is doubtless lusted after by any number of real-estate developers, You might wonder at the price-tags realtors are putting on houses like this.

This stuff is unreal

Saturday, December 13, 2014

By Leaps & Bounds

Yesterday, right after breakfast, I got a text informing me that the archway windows at the station were now opened up from inside.  Getting this text confirmed my fears that I have become something of a station anorak. So be it.

The windows have only been uncovered from the northern side, but I guess the other side will be unveiled soon.  I was disappointed to find that the glass is opaque, so there's no chance of any moody staring up or down the avenue.  But the falling light here, patterned by archway gridwork, makes for a fine place to start a journey, and after years of construction barriers, and steadily increasing ridership, it's great to get a wide platform back again.

Strangely, this picture makes the renovation look more like an architectural rendering than the real thing.

Downstairs, under the bridge, I saw that the last of the subway signs (east side) was up, and both signs here were now lit.

East: in between a stretch limo & the B103, the sign above the station entrance

On the opposite side.

Friday, December 12, 2014


An 1870s frame rowhouse on 12th Street sold last month for $1,600,000.

On the Big Screen

"An indolent American princeling (Beau Bridges) purchases a dilapidated row house in a black, but changing, Brooklyn neighborhood ... (Park Slope) ... learning something about race and what would be called "gentrification" before retreating back into his money.

This mock bildungsroman, directed by Hal Ashby from Bill Gunn's adaptation of Kristin Hunter's novel, is at once broad and nuanced in its characterizations. (Gunn was also responsible for scripting The Angel Levine's kindred fable of racial tension in a New York tenement.) The Landlord received mixed reviews, in part because of its shifts in tone, from the screwball antics of Bridges's idiotic family to the pathos of Diane Sands's career performance as the tenant with whom the landlord becomes most involved."    
                                                               J. Hoberman - The Slums of Park Slope (Village Voice)

In my part of the (South) Slope, the 70s would bring instead Shamus (1973), starring Burt Reynolds as a Brooklyn private eye, hired to recover a cache of stolen diamonds.  It may not be as critically significant as The Landlord, but it has terrific location shots of my part of town forty years ago.  Look, there's Burt, heading down Fifth past Timboo's. And there's Burt clambering on the banks of the Gowanus, right where Whole Foods stands today.  And according to Mary Ann Pietanza, a Brooklyn native writing in the Red Hook Star, Burt was a stand-up guy with on-location spectators, friendly, & happy to chat and sign autographs.  I wish this film was available on Youtube too, but we'll have to be content here with a trailer and a coupla stills.

Burt's Fifth Ave. apartment, around 16th Street

By the Canal (Getty Images)