Saturday, September 29, 2012

Third & Atlantic: Thursday Night with Friends

Ominously close to Barclay's Center, on ever-swankier Atlantic (despite the re-opened House of Detention), Hank's is still hanging around for a little longer.  The building has been sold, along with adjacent property (that prime corner is too sweet a development spot to miss), but the bar has managed to get its lease renewed for three years, albeit, of course, at a higher rent. Hanks is looking for help to deal with bills, & a fundraiser is planned.
Though I generally hate the term dive-bar, which now seems to include hipster hangouts that have been around for hmm, maybe six months, Hank's Saloon - dim-lit, cement-floored & still frequented by a real mix of drinkers - is a dive of the best order.  Once the Doray Tavern, second/third home to the Mohawk ironworkers who lived in the neighborhood, it's also a piece of city history. With three years left before the old place meets the wrecker's ball, I intend to be there as often as possible.

See also:
The building in the 80's
The Doray Tavern in the late 70s

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pacific Street

News came over the summer that the Church of the Redeemer, at Fourth & Pacific, was slated for demolition. Community efforts are underway to try & save the historic Gothic Revival church. Until yesterday, I had no idea that the church's name is set in gold, in the tiles of the Pacific  St. subway station, just steps underground from the building itself. I guess I usually exit at the eastern side of Fourth, and miss this altogether.  What other city churches are recognized this way?


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

19th & Fifth

I've photographed this building plenty of times before.  Here it is, on a snowy day, in an 80s tax-photo shot

and here it is in 2012, with nearby Nets promo:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fourth & 15th

A ghost staircase at the edge of the development site at 15th & Fourth:

Here's what's coming at this corner:

Adjacent to the site, this little house at 139 15th, long-empty, is soon to be replaced by a four-storey-plus penthouse building:

Monday, September 24, 2012


Fire at Fifth Avenue Has Beans Cafe (South Slope News)
Hope they get things back together soon.  A nice place.

Available on 12th

Ground was broken for this building back in 2008, and work has limped along ever since. I've been watching its slow, sorry progress for years, and have posted about it here from time to time. It's been hampered by structural issues (an illegal mezzanine at one point), flooding problems, and a run-of-the-mill litany of complaints & violations, several of which remain open. Notable, perhaps for its visual mediocrity (that "Juliet" balcony, the grim looking entrance, that strange recessed upper floor), there's not much to love here. But if you have been hankering for a piece all (!) of it, I'm pleased to announce that the whole building is now on the market, for the modest sum of $4,200,000. From the realtor's site ( disclaimer at the bottom of the listing) :
"Nestled on one of Park Slopes’prettiest tree lined streets, 314 12th Street is a brand new,6 unit townhouse that offers a level of quality and luxury unmatched in the market."
So many surprises in one sentence!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saturday Morning, Fifth & Seventh

It's nice before the brunch crowds descend upon the avenue.

Sister marches resolutely on, past the fiery flames of Rachel's Taqueria, towards Paws in Paradise.


One more morning at Jackie's. And even though I've walked this block thousands of times, I never noticed until today the rows of red slippers (?) in the windows of the tae kwon do school up on the second floor.

A female warrior around the corner.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Who's Bloomberg?

Though Ed Koch may be getting on in years, & technically twenty three years out of office, it's nice to see that in some corners of the city he's still the man. This sign is on a lamppost at Broadway and 37th Street, Astoria, and with Norman Steisel listed as Sanitation Commissioner, it must date from between '79 and '86. Not bad at all. I like the range of stickers adorning it, especially the Croatian hero atop the soda can.   Astoria is rife with Balkan mystery.  
Many thanks to the reader who sent this in.  This is a great find!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reading Lite

The Park Slope BPL branch re-opened last Thursday, after a three year restoration project costing more than six million dollars. Renovations included structural work, new access for the handicapped, restoration of the historic, interior space, and upgraded technology. Oh and some books. Well, actually 20,000 new books. I thought that sounded like a good injection of reading material, but when I visited today I found the shelves half empty. The library was buzzing with vistors, but the books were in disarray. They leaned together in small, unsteady clusters, and some shelves were completely bare. A cheery librarian was hovering around and I asked her when the rest of the books would be brought in. She smiled, and explained that the books were all there. When a library is renovated, she said, the old stock is either thrown away or re-circulated to other branches. This was it. But surely, I said, there weren't actually very many books? Well, she beamed, they'd had quite a run on them, what with the re-opening and all.

Sleek and denuded, the place felt a little dispiriting.  I do understand the need for free technology access (even the tots get iPads here), but I'm sorry that the book as real, physical object gets such short shrift.  Clearly, a branch library can only offer a limited selection, but let's fill it the best we can. Let's cram the place with books old and new, let's hear the humming of voices from the volumes in the stacks.  Let's allow for chance discoveries that change a reader's life. Let's feel that reading is important, mysterious, sacred.

Instead of this branch, I'd rather head over to the one at Pacific, the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn and a real beaut. Though smaller and more worn around the edges than its Park Slope peer, it's a far more welcoming space.  And the shelves are filled.

The Pacific branch:

And just to add a few more books to this post, here are some of my own:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Third & 23rd

Last week the Brooklyn Historical Society blog posted a picture of the Tebo Yacht Basin, off Third & 23rd Street, described by the Brooklyn Eagle as “a Brooklyn hospital for disabled vessels and a famous wintering place for the aristocracy of the sea.” The Tebo Basin, in operation in the nineteenth century, was taken over by Todd Shipyards around 1916, and in addition to its luxury yacht business, was contracted to repair Navy vessels.  Tebo Yacht Basin had its own football (soccer) club, from 1918 to 1921, at which point it was merged with the Brooklyn Robins Dry Dock club to become Todd's Shipyards F.C. A 1928 aerial view shows the basin teeming with vessels, and the ghostly spectre of the Williamsburg bank building (almost completed?), a giant in the low-lying Brooklyn lansdscape. An undated Library of Congress shot shows the basin from a pier's end view:

The basin is considerably quieter today. I walked down to the water (carwash on one side, cement works & NYPA gas turbine facility the other), through an open chainlink fence, past an empty checkpoint booth and a number of security signs. I stood, under blue September skies, gazing at the grand ruins of the Grain Terminal across the bay.  Later a middle-aged couple appeared and we chatted. They were recent Greenwood transplants from Manhattan, having decamped from the Village, after a longer time in the C/D East Village of the 70s/80s. Nice people, and the meeting seemed one more sign of the odd mosaic of neighborhood change.  But too fine a day to go down that road for long.  Enjoy the moment!  The air seemed fresh and clear (even with that gas turbine facility close at hand?).  The water gleamed.  A stretch of shoreline was briefly mine.  I loved the city immoderately.

Note: The link to the Todd Shipyards picture is no longer working - I'll try to put in another one shortly.


More ads on city transportation (NY Times):

"In the next month or two, subway and bus riders will find advertising where they have never seen it before: on the face of their MetroCards, always with them and inescapable — at least for that moment they pay their fare.
The front of the MetroCard is not the only new territory being given over to commerce. This year, for the first time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began allowing ads to cover passenger windows on buses. Calvin Klein and Broadway producers embraced the spot."

Kelly Anderson's My Brooklyn, showing at the Grand Army Plaza BPL is the first film screening in the Brooklyn Collection fall program (Brooklynology).  Wednesday, September 19th, at 7:00 p.m.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Turn or Burn

On a prime South Slope block, between Sixth & Seventh, 340 and 342 14th Street are clear anomalies.  As the houses around them gain luster and value, this pair of buildings stay boarded up and half gutted. Just three apartment windows shows evidence of life, and at 340 the word of God prevails.  Last time I passed I heard hymns, and the faint sound of an accompanying voice.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Before it was called Prospect Avenue, the street between 16th and 17th was Middle Street.  Opened in the 1850s, it extended from the Gowanus Bay up to the Flatbush city line.  The Times, reporting in 1867 on the founding of a German Protestant Church on Middle, between Fifth & Sixth, refers to the block as being in Gowanus - beyond today's generally accepted Fourth Avenue boundary.  The 1867 church was a wooden building, but its replacement is still there, up from the Grand Prospect Hall:

Down the hill, around Fourth, between Middle & 16th, the Vigilant and the E Pluribus Unum clubs played ballgames in the 1850s. This would have been somewhere around here:


And on November 19, 1868, right around this corner, the Times recorded an ugly incident:

Last evening, while James Boss, a colored man, residing in Fourth Avenue near sixteenth Street, was cleaning his employer's horse in the stable in Middle Street,near Fourth Avenue, he was assailed by two rowdies who beat him about the head until he was insensible. After recovering, he went home and said nothing about it, but subsequently feeling worse he complained and told the story. His recovery is now regarded as doubtful.

Middle Street was only around for one more year.  In 1869, Middle between Hamilton Av. and the city line was widened, & it became Prospect Avenue.  Eighty or so years later, the Expressway arrived:

Prospect Avenue at Fourth

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friday Opening at Fourth & 10th

The new Slope Cafe, at Fourth & 10th, will open on Friday.   According to one of the staff, this will be an early-hours place, serving customers from 5:30 a.m. until around 11:00 p.m.  I will be rising at ungodly hours for at least several more seasons, so I'll be happy to have a new option on my route to work. As I mentioned earlier on the blog, there'll be Caribbean dishes on offer, along with some standard cafe staples.  I'm looking forward to stopping by & checking it out.

Update (9/15): So I went today, & the only West Indian offering was Jamaican gravy to go with the buffalo wings!  So far it's a disappointingly straight-up soup, sandwich, smoothies style cafe, with an everything organic pitch.  They did say there'd be lunch & dinner meals coming in a few days.  I don't know though. Dreaming, only dreaming, of oxtail, jerk chicken, rice and peas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Cultural Revolution Continues

 A new boutique, Impeccable Attire, has opened on Fifth (HPS). One of the partners, Wayne Fortune, was interviewed about the venture:

"We all have backgrounds in music, the arts, and street culture, so we wanted to create something we'd want to wear ourselves, something mature and fashionable," said Fortune. "It's adult-oriented and classy, something you can wear in the evening ...
The flagship item is a ($40) t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Brooklyn Bloke," a nod to both Wayne's heritage and the borough that's embraced him. "It's about recognizing my fellow man in Brooklyn," he said. "It's part of a cultural revolution, and it's been good to me."

Too mature & classy for me, I'm afraid.

The Tilting House of 16th Street

A shifting house is nothing new, but this one's drunken lurch, as seen from Fifth, is quite pronounced.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Construction Links

Worker dies in Fort Greene construction collapse (NY Times
Professional Grade Construction, erecting the apartment building at the Carlton Avenue site, is the same company working on the 7th Street site I've been watching over the last few months.

Merchant's House Museum threatened by planned hotel next door (EV Grieve).  Help support its protection from development.

House shift on Union Street as excavation proceeds (PMFA)

Sunday, September 9, 2012


What mighty energies lie slumbering at this moment in the brains of the school-children of Brooklyn?
                                                                                                                                 Walt Whitman

About sixteen years ago, inspired by the work of the poet Kenneth Koch, I started doing some writing workshops with elementary schoolkids.  Mostly I was at one school, but the last year I did the workshops, in the summer of '01, a friend and I took to the road & travelled all over Brooklyn, from Red Hook to Marine Park, Flatbush to Brownsville, working with children as they wrote about walking in the city, talking to animals, & the sheer multiplicities of selfhood.  We read Whitman, O'Hara & Delmore Schwartz. We asked a lot of crazy questions, and told the kids not to use rhyme.  They wrote bold, blazing, shy, tender, mysterious poems.  We felt a little guilty at how easy it was to set them off.  

This summer, as next-door's demolition looms, I've determined that I should a) throw out a lot of the things I've accumulated over the years & b) put together a box of most-prized possessions (apart from the practical essentials) in case the building starts to buckle & we need to bolt.  Both these tasks are impossible. I'm not good at throwing stuff out, or narrowing collections down.   Getting rid of books is a torture.  Though I don't have a lot of clothes, the peacocks of the closet - wilder older garments I haven't worn in years -  are hard to abandon.  And what about the puppet theater made from a bed's headboard?  The sagging bears who have visited Paris, summered in New Orleans, and featured in tales of espionage & mayhem? It's just not possible.  The most I've managed is to put out a few cardboard boxes on the sidewalk. 

Still, looking in the attic for things I can't get rid of, I found all sorts of items I'd lost or forgotten about.  Look!  Pictures of a first trip to Coney Island - 1984 - in gaudy technicolour .  A scrolled membership to artist P.K.'s Oscar Wilde Appreciation Society, circa 1977.  A scrap from a front-page British tabloid - my old friend H. with a dart in his head, the victim of football-fan hatred (no permanent injury done). The childrens' poems were up there too, and it was strange to step back in time & listen to their voices again.  They'd be twenty-somethings now. I enjoyed them so much that I think I'll post one here every so often.  Here we go.

Me and my mongoose
went to the pond
and skipped rocks
in the water.
He told me
about his
lovely daughters
Everlasting, Destination and Forever.
They each said
that they will
never ever
marry a monkey.
They are stupid
like dull donkeys.
They cry,
Everlasting said,
and also they lie
while looking you straight
into your eyes.
Destination said
I don't like donkeys because
they cause too
much commotion
in the world.
Besides, my children
will have long hair,
like the Lord.
I said,
To me,
a donkey is fine,
if you don't pay them
too much
                                      A.C.  June, 2001



turns to fall

Friday, September 7, 2012


"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings"
                                        from The Walrus and the Carpenter -  Lewis Carroll

Next to a house-gutting, behold that rare species, the beverage-cup tree:

In front of the property, a discarded DVD:

Russian Imperial Palaces.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Crime Report

Having your purse snatched is a crime I would wish upon no-one, but the details of this one (& the contents of the purse) do validate that well-worn stereotype: the wealthy, young, numbed-out, Park Slope stroller-mom:

Purse in Stroller Heist

A crook stole a woman’s purse, with almost ten credit cards, her designer eyeglasses and medication inside, from her son’s stroller on 11th Street on Aug. 29.

The 35-year-old woman told police that her child walked away from the stroller, which was parked between Seventh and Eighth avenues, at around 6:30 p.m. She went to get her son, leaving her purse in the stroller. Within two minutes, someone stole her bag. The crook got away with seven credit cards, a driver’s license, designer prescription eyeglasses and a prescription bottle of painkillers. The woman cancelled her credit cards immediately.  (PS Patch)

Pain-killers.  Designer glasses. Seven ("almost ten"?) credit cards.    Oh motherhood, your travails are many.

La Fe (Fourth & 36th)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Out & About

More tax photo wandering. Here's a house on 22nd Street, just below Greenwood Cemetery. The photo is mid 80s, but the house looks true to its nineteenth century roots.

Here it is today (tucked away at the right), with a brickface veneer, porch gone, and cornice wrapped in siding. Next to it, a large apartment building.

A long time ago, a realtor on 9th St. (Royal Slope, now gone) was giving away reproduction maps from the 1886 Atlas of the City of Brooklyn, published by E. Robinson & Co.  I still have my map.  Looking at it, I can see that in '86 there were only four brick buildings on my block, apart from the three end buildings with avenue addresses.  On the southern side of 14th and the northern side of 15th, between Fifth & Sixth, not one brick building, and on the avenue ends of the blocks, only four brick buildings on Fifth. The map also shows just how many wooden buildings in South Slope/Greenwood Heights shared their lots with back-houses. There are still a number left, with or without their partners. Some of them are easy to catch glimpses of down alleyways, and some remain hidden by other buildings. There are also other older houses that, rather than built close to the street, were set deep into their lots.  I'd like to live in one of these anomalies. They seem to exist in a secret world quite out of kilter with convention.


These four houses on 19th Street seem to share (or have shared) one lot, & there still seems to be common access. At any rate, in 80s tax photos, they're bundled together as one.