Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Avenue J

I've always had a soft spot for the children's rides you find outside stores. About a year ago, I took a tour of the Fifth Avenue rides in Sunset Park, and I still have my eye out for these veterans.   The ones with the old fashioned music are the best - tunes that sound as though they were not new fifty years back, summoning up all sweet sadness of lost childhood. Today, I caught sight of this yellow horse, frozen mid-gallop outside Meir's Hemishe Bakery. Even from across the street she looked a little special, and when I got to look at her up close I was not disappointed.

This might be the queen of all rides.  Look at the noble profile.  Look at the pink of the nostril. Look at the traces of blue left on the bridle. Above all, look at the long curled lashes above the bashful eye!  There's real beauty here.    

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Less Folded Sunset?

I'd been wondering about the west side of Fourth between 10th & 11th. With a couple of stores empty or close to it, and containing some small one or two storey structures, it seemed an irresistible development target. Yes, indeed.  Today South Slope News reported the closure of the 474 coffee shop (tomorrow's their last day), & its purchase by the Fourth Eleventh Development LLC. But I found out this afternoon that it's not just the little building at 474 disappearing.   The whole strip from the corner up to the Borisal liquor store is to be razed. Seems like we'll be needing all the liquor we can get.

Along with 474, the laundromat, and Ana's Style/Imagen Unisex (with its pre 9/11 awning & neon comb & scissors) will be gone. I liked 474, a convenient & friendly stop-off en route to the train, but I liked even more the business it replaced. It was more of a shed-like structure then, and you could buy hot, fragrant home made soup and tamales. I'm just so sad that this block is destined for a 500 Fourth-like behemoth, a wall of condos (prime views on the other side), blocking our light, and bringing us nothing but more wealthy residents and some shitty medical office space.
It's seems so monstrously injust to lose more and more of the sky, sold to the highest bidder.  And to see more and more small businesses lost. 
There's one small piece of good news though.  I spoke to one of the guys from Danny's Rim & Tires, out walking Scooby, the dog you usually see sitting out front of the shop.  Scooby's getting on now (sixteen) and not as spry as he used to be.  Anyway, despite pressures to sell out,  Danny's is staying put, for the foreseeable future.  There were plans to rent out the corner storefront, but nothing is happening there immediately.  They're planning to spiff the business up a bit, and stick around. 

Update (4/2/13): I'm happy to report that that I was wrong about the size of the development parcel. Ana's is not part of it, & will be staying in business at this address.  A nugget of good news!

Library Link

Patience and Fortitude - on our jeopardized libraries, at Romy Ashby's Walkers in the City

Early Spring on Sackett

Monday, February 25, 2013

314 Goes Boutique!

Yes, according to Corcoran, 314 12th Street is now Park Slope's "newest boutique condominium."  Its neighbors are slightly surprised to know that they live on a "beautiful tree-lined block."  Is it the still burned-out building at the end of the block that gives it a certain aesthetic glow?  Is it the demolition site?  Or maybe some of the other new constructions giving it a little oomph in the beauty department?  It's a fine block, with that nice, random assortment of frame, brick, small & medium sized apartment building, but surely not beautiful.  Its very lack of beauty, and more modest housing stock kept it from changing as quickly as prettier, brickier streets.  And that was just fine.

Anyhow, if you're in the market for a new apartment, there's a 3 bed. at 314 going for $1,495,000.  And if you want to read the DOB property profile, you can do so here, and check out the 38 complaints, 13 DOB violations, and 10 ECB (DOB) violations accrued over the course of demolition, excavation & construction.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Show & Tell

So here's next door's demo notice. Strangely enough, some unknown hand (not mine!) has supplied a little extra information, in what was formerly an empty space in the center of the bill. Along with Best Buy, The Notorious MMG, headed by Construction Supervisor Marie Grasso,  also has a hand in the operations. I'm not going to catalog the doings of Ms Grasso. You can find a litany of articles about her work on Brownstoner, IMBY, New York Shitty, & the late Bob Guskind's Gowanus Lounge, amongst others. But I will draw your attention to a Daily News story from 2009:

Marie Grasso may be the city's ultimate home-wrecker. The Staten Island demolition company owner is No. 1 on the list of building code scofflaws. Grasso has run up more than $1 million in fines by routinely violating building code safety rules, permitting conditions that injured workers and undermined the stability of adjacent properties. Yet the city continues to award her permits to knock down more buildings.

Read the rest of the article for more sordid details.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Seated in Style

A happy stretch on 14th Street: Fama Party Center, Angelo's Shoe Repair, & (barely in sight) Lisa LoBue Salon.   Oh those fabulous chairs!   This takes me back to older Fifth Avenue days.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

St. Marks

Only three letters (AS & N) left on the Fourth Avenue side, but here on St. Marks, the sign looks good. From Sackett to Flatbush, there are plenty of shuttered businesses, but this one's still hanging around.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Excitement at the Corner

Filfila falafel, just down 9th from the newly modernised S & P newsstand, opened in summer of 2011, and has just closed.   Apparently Chinese food is on the way.  The place was once home to Dee Dee Donuts, until Dunkin' came in next door.

Pearl Diner Re-opened Today

I had no idea whether the Pearl Diner had reopened yet when I headed that way, but hurrah, the lights were on, & bunches of balloons promised good news. Yes!   Today was their first day back in business since Sandy struck, and the place was flooded out: seawater throughout the basement & up to a foot or more in the restaurant area.   It was a nice scene today, with regulars coming back to hug the staff, & an air of happy disbelief that the diner had pulled through such tough times.

Ladies' Mile

Monday, February 18, 2013


I recently discovered the 1938 HOLC (Housing Ownership Loan Corporation) map of Brooklyn, available in digitalized form at Urban Oasis . This is one of the infamous security maps, demarcating the state-sponsored financially & racially segregated areas of the city. Redlining. You can find similar maps for Queens, Manhattan & the Bronx, along with those of other urban centers, at the same website.

I'm the sort of person who can spend hours poring over maps, and it's interesting looking at this one, to see how the economic status of some neighborhoods is radically different today (those red, fourth- grade swaths of Carroll Gardens, Boerum & Cobble Hill now some of the priciest in the city) & other, blue (second grade) areas like the choicest strips of Brooklyn Heights & park block prime Slope, essentially unchanged. There's only one small green (first grade) patch on the map, and that's a sliver of Bay Ridge, hugging the shoreline from 99th to Bay Ridge Avenue. Our house falls within a large stretch of red (well, I guess it's pink, really), connecting the afore-mentioned Carroll/Cobble/Boerum area, along with Red Hook (undivided from Carroll Gardens), with Gowanus and the westerly part of Park Slope (mostly beyond Fourth or Fifth Avenues, but in its southern stretch west of Seventh Avenue), with the part of Windsor Terrace nearer to the cemetery, & with South Park Slope/Green-Wood down to 36th Street. Sunset Park is a solid yellow (third-grade), except for a block-wide strip between Third & Second Avenues extending all the way down to Bay Ridge.

If you look at the pieces of the Slope west of Fifth Avenue, and below 10th Street, (where the red area is wider & extends east to Seventh Avenue), and walk that neighborhood today, you can see how the red separates brownstone & brick from streets that are more typically a mix of smaller brick and frame buildings, and the architecture of that economic divide is still apparent.  It was apparent in demographics too, not so very long ago, but these days even a (fancily renovated) wooden house can sell for more two million dollars or more.  These streets of older, more modest houses, many freestanding, don't have the have the handsome, comfortable sturdiness of brick & brownstone blocks, but I like their lack of stodgy conformity.  They present an anarchic array of style, age, and materials, with surprises tucked away on every street.  And they hearken back to a much earlier borough.

Today the red line around here also more or less divides the streets ravaged by construction frenzy from those that, even if not land-marked, contain valuable enough housing stock to remain largely intact.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fourth & 15th

Back in September, I noticed the development site at this corner, and the little frame house next to it.  The frame house was slated for demolition, with ubiquitous four storey & penthouse promised to replace it.  At the corner today, you can see the taller condo building rising, but the frame is just about still there, with fairy lights still hanging from the porch. Now that the building plans are approved though, its days are numbered.  Those rodent signs are a sure sign of imminent destruction, for dwelling rather than for crafty rats.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fourth Ave.

By seven, the Queens side is thronged with commuters. Few though, are bound for Coney Island.   I often dream of skipping work, and heading for the beach in an empty car. As daylight hours grow, the early morning platform is golden.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Opposite the Arena & Close to Home

This block is almost entirely shuttered, but there will be a second Brooklyn Shake Shack coming in a few doors down from this store. And next to our own maison, we're getting an apartment building, complete with de rigueur penthouse. Let's hope we survive those development-style shakes...

I Didn't Know Until Today that The Brooklyn Public Library ...

... was the title of a poem (and collection of writing) by Edgar Oliver. You can read the poem here and buy the beautiful looking collection here. I just ordered a copy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Petition to Save New York City Libraries

Brooklynology, the Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Collection blog, had a lovely post last week about the recent archive discovery of 70s and 80s videocassettes containing childrens' library raps, animations & book commercials, all of which are now available on youtube.

"Both the Library Raps from Crown Heights, and the Cortelyou Book Commericals were produced by Brooklyn Public Library's very own A/V Department. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s this department, now a thing of the past, did valuable work capturing life in Brooklyn and at the library. Sometimes it's easy to forget that the library is not just a place for preserving culture, but also for contributing to and fostering it. Free, open, and dynamic... the library, as one of our young rappers puts it, is "where all the young ladies scream and shout/ and everybody knows what the library is about."

But this freedom, for all New Yorkers, regardless of income & geographical location, is under threat.  The library systems have become caught up in the tangled web of real estate development, and as victims of city government underfunding, are being coerced into selling off and downsizing facilities.

As part of a systemwide shakeup, BPL has said it may move, downsize or consolidate an undetermined number of branches that it considers underutilized, with the system shifting from books to digital media and services.  (Daily Eagle)

To get a thorough analysis of the extent to which "demolition by neglect" (Michael Kimmelman, NY Times) and rampant development threaten our city libraries, take the time to read the excellent series of posts written by Michael D D White at Noticing New York.

January 31st

February 1st

February 3rd

February 9th

It's sordid stuff. Take, for example the fate of the Pacific Branch, pawn in the plans of both Forest City Ratner (to use the site as an extension of the Yards empire) and Walentas Two Trees, who, as a means to get zoning approval for an expansion to their development site near BAM, throw in a relocated library as part of the deal. From Noticing New York (February 1):

"The city wants to close the Pacific branch library . . And what is envisioned as the plan whereby the public can get that library back? The public will have to approve greater density for a new Walentas Two Trees development building that will include such a library. Here is the developer’s public spiel as to why they should get greater density for their proposed project (nearly double the number of apartments currently permissible) with a zoning change in order to give the library back to the public (emphasis supplied):
"The development company claims putting about 300,000 square feet of apartments above 50,000 square feet of commercial space and cultural offerings — including three Brooklyn Academy of Music theaters, a new home for the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a rehearsal space managed by 651 Arts — is a far better proposal than the tallest possible structure it could build without a zoning change, which would set aside about 152,000 square feet for arts and commercial tenants and 171,000 square feet for housing. (Brooklyn Paper) "  "

The Brooklyn Heights Association holds its annual meeting at St. Francis College tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., at 180 Remsen Street, in the Founders Hall auditorium. With their input into Community Board 2 decision making, they could affect the board's decision on the Walentas expansion.  This decision will secure or damn the future of the Brooklyn's first Carnegie library over at Fourth & Pacific.  If you can, go to the meeting.

Even if you can't attend meetings, you can contribute to the library debate with your signature. If you care about the future of our city's libraries, and if you are appalled to see them as "hostages for development", please join the Petition to Save New York City Libraries from Bloomberg Developer Destruction, and encourage your friends to do likewise.  Sign it for freedom of opportunity for ALL New Yorkers.

Church of the Redeemer (Pacific & Fourth)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Early Snow, 7:00 a.m.

Links with Italics

Improving the BQE underpass at Atlantic?  (Brownstoner)

"The Atlantic Avenue BID released a Request for Proposal to envision a safer, re-designed space along Atlantic Avenue underneath the BQE. According to the organization, “we are interested in what can be done to make this space a meaningful transition zone (my italics) and gateway to both Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Avenue. On either side of the highway are really wonderful destinations and this underpass is truly serving as an unpleasant barrier.”

SUNY trustees vote to close Long Island College Hospital (NY Times)

"SUNY officials also denied assertions by hospital workers that Downstate wanted to close the hospital so it could sell its real estate for cash, though given Downstate’s precarious financial position and LICH’s prime location, seeking a buyer would seem to be a logical move.
“The answer is no,” H. Carl McCall, SUNY’s chairman and a former state comptroller, said Thursday when pressed on the issue of selling the property. “There is no plan whatsoever (my italics) with respect to real estate.”

Before Skylark

Trudging home from C Town, where blizzard mania had set in, I noticed a trace of Timboo's. On 11th, the old awning still hangs over a side entrance.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In this week's New Yorker, the initial chapter of a planned memoir Joseph Mitchell never completed. Gold.

"What I really like to do is wander aimlessly in the city. I like to walk the streets by day and by night. It is more than a liking, a simple liking - it is an aberration. Every so often, for example, around nine in the morning, I climb out of the subway and head toward the office building in midtown Manhattan in which I work, but on the way a change takes place in me - in effect, I lose my sense of responsibility - and when I reach the entrance to the building I walk right on past it, as if I had never seen it before. I keep on walking, sometimes for only a couple of hours but sometimes until deep in the afternoon, and I often wind up a considerable distance away from midtown Manhattan - up in the Bronx Terminal Market maybe, or over on some tumbledown old sugar dock on the Brooklyn riverfront, or out in the weediest part of some weedy old cemetery in Queens."


How funereal these monstrous new buildings at Fourth Avenue and 6th Street appear.  Look too, at the rowhouses, tiny below them, robbed of western skies.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Florin had met Marty when he bought his very first pair of boots in 1989, shortly after moving to New York City, and he had been going to his store ever since. He liked Marty, and he liked the eclectic collection of goods he stocked. In addition to surplus military clothing and hunting equipment, Marty had numerous boxes of vintage Adidas that he was selling over the web to teenagers in Japan, and a pair of size 40 Timberland lace-ups that were said to have been specially made for Shaquille O'Neal ... As Florin browsed through the collection of surplus military supplies, it occured to him: in this country he now called home, he could probably buy everything a guerilla army needed."

from Be Not Afraid: for You Have Sons in America - How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the US into the Kosovo War, by Stacy Sullivan (Macmillan, 2004)

It's not surprising to find Marty in a book about intrigue & insurgency. I've never been in a store staffed by such a crew of raconteurs.  On a Saturday afternoon a steady stream of customers came into the store, and everyone took their time. You'll hear every accent in here, and returning customers are welcomed back like family.  The store caters mostly to blue-collar trade (construction & other outdoor occupations) but there are plenty of others in the know. There's no hurrying when you shop in Frankel's; they have four generations of retail experience and it shows: here the art of the deal and the art of storytelling are as one. The guys here are schmoozers. I only bought a pair of socks & I ended up in the store for almost an hour.  I spoke to Marty, to his son, and to salesman Juan. I saw photographs of Marty's mom (over a hundred), heard of family-owned jewelry factories in Vietnam & of time in the forces in England.  Of missing living in Brooklyn, & wanting to come home from Jersey.  How many languages do the guys here claim to speak?  It seemed incredulously impressive.  The stories jokey, burnished, slightly manic at times.  Retail performance art.  And what's with that tiny toy dog tied up by the entrance?  The one Juan takes to with a bat to rile the gullible passer-by?   It was all slightly unreal, in the best possible way.  Frankel's has been around since 1890, and is overlooked by the Gowanus Expressway. It 's two doors down from Golden DVD (with Preview Booths), one of the sex shops still scattered along Third. Is Frankel's the oldest business in Sunset Park? If not, it must come close.  If you need a pair of sturdy boots, and you want to be treated like a real person, if you want to escape the soulless experience of chainstore purchasing that the city offers with ever-greater frequency, this is your best option by far.  Head over.

3924 3rd ave.
Brooklyn NY 11232
Phone: (718) 768-9788