Thursday, March 23, 2017


Survive and Thrive:Towards a Justice-Focused Gowanus Neighborhood (Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice)

From the report:

MTA Gave Scant Notice of Long-Term R Train Station Closures, Critics Say (DNAinfo)

Though the MTA has been planning the closure for more than a year now, transit officials only sent out an official press release with the closure start dates on Wednesday, five days before the 53rd Street station will close for service in both directions starting Monday.
The Bay Ridge Avenue station is scheduled to close next Wednesday, and the Prospect Avenue station is scheduled to close June 5.

DOT Aims To Make Brooklyn's 4th Avenue Less Horrifying For Cyclists, Everyone (Village Voice)

Archeologists to examine pre-k site for bones of Maryland 400 (Brooklyn Paper)

The city is currently in negotiations to purchase the empty Ninth Street lot between Third and Fourth avenues, after Council voted in December to acquire the site for a 180-seat pre-kindergarten school.
But before it can start construction, the state’s historic preservation agency requires the city to contract archeologists to spend a few days excavating the property to determine its cultural value.

Is the Garment District about to unravel?

The mayor's plan to move fashion workers to Brooklyn could signal the end of fashion manufacturing in Midtown (Crain's)

Why Robert Moses Keeps Rising From an Unquiet Grave (New York Times)                  

Breslin: Trump, 'Junior With a Big Ego,' said he'd buy the paper — I wanted out (Daily News)

The remnants of Dead Horse Bay, formerly a NYC landfill, are being explored in an UrbanGlass exhibit (Untapped Cities)

Creative Time Will Stage 25-Year Sophie Calle Project at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (Art News)

A New Documentary Explores the Wild Life and Tragic Death of Lee Morgan (Village Voice)

Greatest Love of All - still time to catch the Whitney Houston Biennial

Two Years On

Happy Anniversary 657-665 Fifth Avenue. The SWO has been in effect for two years this month, all works permits have expired and the lower portion of the property, on the Fifth side, remains open to the elements.  No-one's expecting any action anytime soon.


Monday, March 20, 2017


"It is that, in wandering purposelessly through the streets rather than pursuing a direct, purposeful path through them, he (the speaker) resists the commercial organization of the city.  'Improvement makes strait roads', Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell at the beginning of the 1790s, 'but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius'...

'I wander thro' each charter'd street.'  Something that is chartered is mapped and measured as well as licensed.  Someone who wanders, inscribing him- or herself on the city, scribbles over these ordered, logical lines."


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Waiting for Spring

De luxe in Sunset Park (the realtors rub their hands)

Wave of Luxury Real Estate Coming to Sunset Park, Experts Say (DNAinfo)

“Sunset Park is continually one of the more talked-about neighborhoods in Brooklyn and maybe all of New York City, said John Brennan, of Marcus & Millichap, who specializes in investment real estate assets in Southern Brooklyn ...
Brennan anticipates a surge of residential and retail development in and around the waterfront’s manufacturing area.
“I’ve already seen an increase in residential development slated along Fourth Avenue,” he said. “You’ll probably start seeing a lot of new projects in the next 12 to 24 months.”

One of the developments featured in the article involves a couple of apartment buildings opposite Green-Wood Cemetery, between 33rd & 34th street.  816A/816 & 817A/817,which between them comprised eight modest apartments, are set to become four townhouses, priced for sale "for about $2 million each," according to a Compass broker.  We've watched the action on this block since 2014, and back then I assumed 816-817 would be replaced by condos. I hadn't guessed the townhouse route. I noticed the small plaques on the two buildings which identified them as Welsh Court, but couldn't find out anything about how they got the name.  I thought the block might once have shared a common courtyard to the rear, especially given its proximity to Woodrow & Roosevelt Courts, which share central courtyards.

Here's a picture of the block taken in January.

You can see 816 and 817 rising in all their fabulous glory.  They've just been slapped with SWOs though, as the engineer/expediter Scott Schnall has had his filing license revoked:

" DOB took the extraordinary step of revoking Scott Schnall’s filing privileges after observing a long pattern of false statements made to the Department, affecting multiple projects across New York City. In numerous cases, it was shown that Mr. Schnall regularly used his professional filing privileges to deliberately circumvent the Zoning Resolution and Construction Codes. "

This DOB statement was quoted in a Brownstoner story about Schnall posted earlier this month. The story has since been removed from the Brownstoner site.

On the same block, 814A/814 and 815A/815 Fifth are going to be demolished, with plans filed at 814 for the standard four-story-plus-penthouse.

The DNAinfo article notes that a $2 million dollar townhouse on 36th Street, "hitting all of the high notes of Brooklyn rustic-luxe chic," was recently purchased by a couple from the Red Hook/Columbia waterfront area, one of whom works at Industry City.  Clearly IC is a mover and shaker in the gentrification of Sunset Park, and if the BQX, contrary to the wishes of many Sunset Park residents, actually arrives on Third, it will aid and abet the process.  Displacement full steam (or glide?) ahead.

Maybe it's because of its English connotations that I've always despised the word townhouse as applied in the States. Its idiot sibling townhome is no better.  The two reek with toney affectation. Just call them houses, rowhouses, brownstones, frames, whatever.   Just call them homes.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fifth & Prospect

In 1940, photographer P.L.Sperr found this enclosed exterior staircase unusual enough to comment on.  Almost eighty years later, it's still around.

New York Public Library


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On their Way?

147 and 149 14th Street were sold last month to developers with a Mill Basin address.  The garages are set for demolition, and one assumes that the houses will suffer the same fate.  The houses are shown on 1880 maps of the area, and were built as semi-detached pairs.  147 (left) is missing its partner (now a vacant lot), but 149 has its twin, albeit hidden under a front extension.  You can see a portion of 151's original roof in the picture above.  Up the block 153 and 155 still have their original configuration,   It's a little hard to make out, but an aerial view shows the two-and-a-half pairs with their matching rooftops.  Unlike the later brownstone & brick developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, farther north & east, the buildings round here - mostly wooden and of earlier construction - arrived in piecemeal fashion, in isolation or in clusters.  I like them all the better for their lack of conformity.

In 1894, police officer Patrick Devoy was living at 147, "a modest two story and basement frame house." A Brooklyn Eagle article from that year describes his years of service, including twenty years as a detective at the Astor house, from 1849 to 1869.  According to the Eagle, the Astor was "the principal hotel in New York" in those years, and its prominent guests included Abraham Lincoln. It was also rife with petty crime, and the article crackles with lively accounts of pilfering and fraud. Here's a meat caper.