Saturday, August 23, 2014

In The Development Pipeline

We live surrounded by construction sites.  On the home front it's been twenty months since work began next door.  It's still ongoing.  And on block after block after block you'll see a demolition site, an empty lot, a dumpster, an excavator, a cement block monster rising slowly above low-rise brick or wooden houses.

Fifth Avenue in the teens and twenties is a whirlwind of activity.  Corners are prime.  Between Prospect Avenue and 25th, I counted eleven corners where there are either construction/excavation/repair activities (some of them stalled), permits posted for work, or property either recently sold or currently for sale. And of course there's plenty more activity mid-blocks.

Walking home the other day, I saw that fences were up at the corner of Fifth and 24th (in front of the S. Batrouni Auto Service station, and next to the Citgo gas station) with a permit in place for tank removal and shoring.  Does this presage bigger plans?  A block south, a smaller auto repair business, at 732 Fifth, is on the market.

"732 5th Avenue features 25' of frontage on 5th Avenue. This site is zoned R6A with a 3.0 FAR. Under the current zoning a developer could build approximately 7,500 square feet as-of-right. There is an Inclusionary Housing bonus which would allow additional square footage. There is an existing 2,500 SF industrial building on the property that will be delivered vacant. The property is located along in the highly desirable Park Slope South neighborhood, with many new construction projects in the development pipeline. "

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Septet of Churches

Even in the borough of churches, seven within three blocks seems like pretty good going.  At 5205 Fourth near 53rd,  the Templo de La Alabanza, formerly the Coliseum movie theater (see Montrose Morris's Brownstoner piece on the theater).  The Coliseum closed in 1992.

At the north-west corner of Fourth & 54th, two churches sit side by side.  These are the Sunset Park Community Church and the Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Deo de Bay Ridge.

The Community Church came into being in 1996, when Christ to the Community combined with Salem Gospel Tabernacle (formerly the Salem Scandinavian Pentecostal Assembly).  The Salem congregation moved to its current address, formerly home to B'nai Jacob, in the 40s.
Across the street from these two churches on the NE corner is the Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo, and south of them, below 54th, St. Jacobi Evangelican Lutheran.  St. Jacobi's congregation was originally German, and founded a church at this site in 1909.  Today its congregation is primarily English, Spanish and Chinese speaking. St. Jacobi offered significant space for Occupy Sandy relief efforts.


At 55th Street, just west of Fourth, the Emmanuel Pentacostal Church.

and on 55th east of Fourth, in a small brick building, Manna.

At 56th & Fourth, the Bethelship Norwegian United Methodist Church (founded as the Mariners' Methodist Episcopal Church in 1874), which moved to this spot in 1949, via Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.  Prior to the establishment of the church, the Bethel Ship mission, moored at Pier 11, in Brooklyn, ministered in an evangelical and social mission capacity to sailors and newly arrived immigrants, from the 1840s to the 1870s.  Sunset Park is well known for its Scandinavian roots, but you can read an interesting article about the Scandinavian waterfront communities farther north in Brooklyn in this Carroll Gardens Patch article written in 2011.

Bethelship Norwegian United Methodist

Musical Chairs: Store Move Update

Last week I noticed that Hair Fair by Alberto was leaving its spot at 684 Fifth for premises across the street.  Turns out they're moving to 681 Fifth, where the current tenants are Danny's Tailoring & Dry Cleaning.  The note in Danny's window had me worried, because this is a great business, terrific for repairs & alterations.  One of the ladies inside told me that they would be staying in the neighborhood, though the details seemed uncertain.  I hope this works out - Danny's is just the kind of family business we need to keep around here.

A Hair Fair sign in Danny's window yesterday.  Danny's own sign above the store is already gone.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Now You See It

With a sleight of hand only the MTA can master, work is done & undone in an instant.  The subway sign put up on Tuesday

has been and gone, as if it were merely a figment of the imagination!



Pacific Street Library Handicapped by Lack of Funds - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sounds like more PR for another run to sell the historic Carnegie library, with the usual doom-laden picture of the building's condition.  If the BPL could restore the Park Slope branch, which serves a significantly higher-income population, they should be able to fix some of the (often exaggerated) issues at Pacific. See more of the pitch here.

And on a disturbing development that includes the privatization of library space, (including a bid to take over 25% of the Red Hook branch), read this piece on the "non profit real estate organization" Spaceworks:
Spaceworks and its Privatizing Grab of the Libraries - Noticing New York

Our library trustees ought to be on guard to protect our libraries as institutions.  Shouldn’t they be fending off dismantling of the institution?  One thing the Mayor, the Comptroller, the Speaker of the City Council and the Borough Presidents can all do ... is appoint representatives to the library boards who, leveling a critical and discerning eye, will shun no-bid contracts with the likes of Spaceworks and will send packing this Bloomberg-created privatefirm that is spending public money to privatize public space.

If you haven't already done so, join in and sign the most recent Citizens Defending Libraries petition to save our libraries from development greed.  Before it's too late.


Second Avenue/53rd St.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Other Way Around

Ah - the beautiful water views from the Brooklyn Bridge Park!  And there I was, perversely, watching the trucks go by.

Back on High Street, a Mercedes competes with a Hatzolah Moments bus with painted-over windows.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Many thanks to for posting about a Voices of New York article on CUNY professor Tarry Hum, and her recently published book,  Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park.  From the English translation of the article:

In Hum’s view, gentrification brought on by the robust real estate market is the biggest problem Sunset Park is facing. It has started to squeeze out the Latino and Chinese working families who cannot afford to rent in the neighborhood, let alone buy a home. Small businesses are also moving out because of quickly increasing property taxes and commercial rents. “It is similar to what’s happening in Manhattan’s Chinatown,” she said.
Hum has concerns about the scorching real estate market in recent years, especially the projects launched by Chinese developers. She said the high-rise buildings and sprawling projects will turn Sunset Park into another Flushing, and they don’t fit in the working class-dominated neighborhood.  “Rezoning for real estate developers to build high-rise buildings will further boost prices. It may be a good thing for business people. But for the working families living here, it means losing another neighborhood they call home. Neighborhoods that are affordable for the working class are fewer and fewer in the city,” said Hum.
Going west to Sunset Park's waterfront, here's a Fast Company piece on the Industry City Mister Sunday parties, and the business forces behind the carousing:
In New York City, parties like Mister Sunday, along with upscale flea markets, artisanal food events like Smorgasburg, and art events have long signaled the coming wave of gentrification to once-crumbling industrial backwaters like Williamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City, Gowanus, and now, Sunset Park. A hip, young set willing to push the boundaries into once-unloved neighborhoods (my bold print) in search of bigger spaces, creative freedom, and ultimately cheaper rent is always part of the equation of gentrification. But so are the savvy real-estate developers who follow their every move, ready to pour accelerant on the process...
(Industry City developer) Kimball makes no bones that he’s leveraging artists and their events to create a savvy buzz around the development in a way that no printed marketing material or ad buys ever could. 

Good Signs

Renovation work at 4th & 9th St is still chugging along, past the (latest) MTA official completion date, but there's one good piece of news to report today.  The old illuminated obelisk IND signs are repaired, and going back up above the Fourth Avenue & 10th Street entrances.  The ones on the avenue were in particularly bad shape.  These are lovely details of the original 1930s construction, and should look beautiful at night.  Rays of light in the tortuous saga of the station's makeover.

Here are a couple of pictures from several years ago.

10th Street (western side), 2010

4th Avenue (eastern side), 2012

I'm pretty sure I have a couple of better pictures of the signs, but will have to do some digging around.

Gissel's Beauty Salon

53rd Street, Sunset Park

Monday, August 18, 2014

Real Estate Monday

Real Estate Monday faded quietly away over the summer, occasionally appearing as Real Estate Tuesday, and then absent altogether.  I guess it's due to a change in my day-to-day schedule, and a dog appearing around the place, gradually finding its hairy place in the household.  New routines are not yet in place.  Much as I've enjoyed the summer, I always look forward to September, which feels like the real, organized, start of the year.  So with fall on the horizon, Real Estate Monday is back, casting an amateurish eye on the mysteries of Brooklyn property sales.

Let's start with a recent sale, not in the prime brownstone heart of Park Slope, but on its less fancy fringes.  329 12th Street, inevitably listed by lazy brokers as built in 1901 but clearly evident on the 1886 Robinson Atlas (and probably built as early as the 1870s), has just sold for $1,790,000 (list price $1,995,000).  This is a modestly sized three-storey vinyl-clad house, originally quite shallow in depth (under 30 feet?), but extended somewhat in recent years.  In 2006 it sold for $680,000. Nearby 325 sold for $1.9 million early in the year (previously sold for $670,000 in 2011), and 321 has just come on the market at $1,690,000.

If you want something swishier, you could try a three bedroom condo on 21st Street , in the beautiful old St. John's parochial school, which is on the market for a mind-boggling $2,899,000.  What resident living around here even a few years ago would have envisioned a price like this?
For around the same price as the 21st Street condo, you could still buy a whole building, 260 8th Street which featured on a Real Estate Monday post last November!  It's come down (massively) in price since then, from $2,999,000 to $2,949,000, and has acquired a name, The Post House.  A perfect name considering its location next to the parking lot of the Van Brunt P.O. (McDonald's back yard nestles on the other side.)  Here's a shot taken in fall of '13.

Further south, on Fifth and 33rd, across from the Sylvan Waters of the cemetery, two adjacent properties are for sale. Most of the block between 33rd & 34th is taken up by semi-detached two-storey, two-family houses, and 816 and 817 are currently on the market for $1,275,000 each.

What's unusual about these, is that each lot contains two adjoined houses (816, 816A, & 817, 817A), In the street view above, the house on the corner gives you an idea of the buildings' shape.

 817 5th Avenue (Block 685 Lot 38) is a two family brick on a 25 x32 lot size / 20 x29 building size. It is comprised of 2 1 bedroom apartments. 817A 5th Avenue (Block 685 Lot 138) is a two family brick on a 25 x68 lot size / 20 x29 building size. It is comprised of 2 1 bedroom apartments. Combined the two buildings make up a 25 x100 lot and the building size is 20 x58 deep. There is one common boiler for both properties. All units are free market, month to month tenancy and may be delivered vacant at closing. The property is a short stroll to the 36th Street Express train, shopping and all amenities. R6B zoning allows for an additional 2,680 buildable square feet that may be added to the existing structure. 816 / 816a / 817 / 817a 5th Avenue may be sold as a package deal. The properties combined make up 8 residential units on a 50 x100 lot with 10,000 buildable square feet.

I've always been intrigued by these buildings, which are not too far from the lovely Woodrow & Roosevelt Courts.  But I imagine the combo deal here, with that 50 foot wide lot, will be an irresistible development magnet.


Lago Furniture

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Move on Fifth Avenue

684 Fifth (20th/21st) was put on the market last year at just under two million, with the option of a retail rental space delivered vacant. There's no record of a sale here, but the current longstanding tenant, Hair Fair by Alberto, is moving into a space across the avenue. It's nice to know they'll still be in the neighborhood.  I hope they can take that great sign with them, or come up with one just as good.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fifth & 25th

Since Greenwood Cemetery's purchase of the McGovern-Weir florists in early 2012, the beautiful and historic greenhouse buildings - already in a fragile state - have been clearly neglected, and allowed to deteriorate to a shocking degree. The Cemetery had announced plans to turn the greenhouses into a visitor center, while demolishing two of the other buildings onsite, but in the meantime has left the structures woefully unprotected. Finally, action of some sort. A permit is posted at the site for installation of a sidewalk shed for "remedial repairs," and the site is also posted for asbestos abatement. I hope that this bodes well for the future of the buildings, but remain a little sceptical. No other job actions are listed at the DOB website, so it doesn't look like they're moving ahead with any other plans right now.

Further reading here

Closing at 17th

Has Beans, at 620 Fifth Avenue, opened at a time when internet cafes were still a thing.  After 11 years, the business has quietly closed.  I saw this sign today, but I don't know when it actually went up.  I was in there a couple of weeks ago and have passed by since then, so I'm guessing it was within the past few days.  There aren't so many cafes of this kind nearby, apart from the very friendly Roots (which it has to be said, makes better coffee) and Has Beans came in before many of the hipper bars & restaurants moved to this part of Fifth.  But it seemed a little quiet of late.  Good luck to the owners with new ventures.

Man on Mack

A familiar sight on the summer streets