Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Disappearing World

This was the Eagle sign on Tuesday. Across Fourth the condo buildings lord above a rowhouse block, taking away light and any sense of proportion.


As I took pictures, I got chatting to one of the owners of Superior Tinsmith, a multi-generation business that is immediate neighbor to one of the giants. A familiar tale of property damage, insurance company dropping coverage, and sheer frustration, with a city that has absolutely no regard for the rights of the individual. How did our lives as long-standing residents, property owners, small business owners, become as nothing?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Playing in August

“Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” - directed by Charlie Ahearn


BAM Rose Cinemas - Opens Aug. 2

Zipper:Coney Island's Last Wild Ride - directed by Amy Nicholson

"A new documentary that chronicles the contentious rezoning of the world famous Coney Island amusement district, told through the lens of Eddie Miranda, his crew of operators and his beloved Zipper ... the film is first and foremost an examination of the Bloomberg Administration’s economic development policies, and their impact on small businesses, communities and their sense of place."

One Week Engagement at IFC Center - Opens Friday August 9

Community is key to both of these very different films - the beauty of street life, a city where all its people are celebrated & valued, a city rich in idiosyncrasy. But none of this is of much account in today's development onslaught.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
                                           Jane Jacobs

Brief Appearance

I'm a bit worn down by all this construction site nonsense, which has kept me largely confined to home.  I do manage to shuffle to Fifth though, and yesterday noticed that the old Hair by Julie store, about to become a wine store soon (see here and here) was showing its old tin ceilings.  I missed, though, the lovely old signage that South Slope News spotted recently: butter, cheese, eggs & the like. Sadly, it was not evident this morning, but maybe it has been saved?

Here's an old 80s tax photo of the store, two along from Glasgow's:

Builded Here?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Afternoon

Shortly after this kind of activity

a piece of our back yard disappeared

leaving a gap about two feet in at its widest, and stretching along the width of the planter, which now hung over a deep drop. The space next to this was my best vantage point for seeing what was going on, but I don't think it's too safe to stand there right now. Even the workers seemed a bit taken aback, and some sort of temporary support was put in place. I had a bit of trouble calling in my complaint. The first 311 person insisted on 911ing it, when I really just wanted an DOB inspection.  This led to a ridiculous police visit.  The second one said there was no category for my DOB complaint (I didn't have the codes in front of me to help her)so I had to give up. The third person, with a soothing voice reminding me of Sonia Sotomayor, was calmly efficient, so we should have someone visiting the site in within 1.5 days.

More of the Same

Down in the dirt, it's cement pouring time again. I know nothing about the properties of cement, but this batch looked worryingly on the thin side.

Here's the view looking down from our side:

Ye Wide Gate

At the Park Slope Community Church on 12th:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Life on the Edge.

A dull week in terms of pictures. The sick compulsion of sticking my head over the fence to watch the pit deepening has kept me from straying too far. I really don't want to watch what's going on, but I sort of have to - partly out of common sense (I should keep an eye on things) and partly because it is strangely addictive. And how close - much too close - to the scene of the action I am. Today was a three vehicle day: caterpillar digger, dump truck & cement mixer. A frantic scene, with maximum noise, and plenty of sweaty guys toiling in the dirt. Only one of them wearing a hardhat. When the pitbull across the way barked at the scene, one of the men kept barking back, and this little game went on for some time. 

There's no escaping it. Even when I'm not at home, I'm thinking of digging & teetering timbers. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving On

Earlier this week South Slope News posted a profile of Jennifer Kahrs, who has been running the Shadowbox framing shop since spring of '11.  Before Shadowbox, 491 Sixth housed the Henington Press, in operation from 1912 to 2009.  Kahrs is moving shortly, as the building is up for condo conversion. It will be a shame to see her go, and I hope she finds a more permanent home for her work.  I imagine this will be the end of craftsman/artist tenants here, one in place three years shy of a century, the other for a two year blink of time.   491 is listed as having sold in 2009 for 2 million, and I thought it had already been converted last year, but I must have been mixing it up with 489, which had two bedroom condos listed at $1,350,000.  Both 489 and 491 were built in 1890 as the Milton Apartments, model housing for Gowanus factory workers.

For more on the history of these buildings, read Ephemeral New York's post on the Milton Apartments, and Jeremiah's Vanishing New York on the Henington Press.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meanwhile, Living on the Edge of a Dirt Pit ...

Machines are back.  Foundation work begins, and involves removing the fill hurriedly dumped in the basement of the old house, left as an open (violation-worthy) pit for some time.  This was work for our Grasso friends again, who brought fill that was more boulder/cement chunk than dirt.

Happily, today's workers have been able to recycle the chunks again as no-parking materials. Build it green(ish).

It is alarming watching the bucket, heavy with rock, swinging around to the Mack truck. From the backyard it looks horribly close to our flimsy side wall, and you imagine one wrong move could rip right through it. I hope the operator and this guy sitting on top of the truck are paying close attention.

The day's work did reveal one interesting find. Not interesting enough to justify the misery of this godawful mess, but something. Beyond the house footprint, and the range of the small shed extension, you can now see a masonry-lined hole full of water. Is this a cistern? A privy? A dry well? I know there are urban archaeologists who explore these sites, and come up with all kinds of nineteenth century artifacts, but I doubt our condo developers have much time for this kind of treasure. Too bad.  Though I guess our sister-house has one of these too?

Monday, July 15, 2013

John Doe at the Deegan

A reader has just sent me pictures taken from the Major Deegan. 

Can anyone shed any light on this scene of dismemberment?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Beauty Beauty Feelings

Bay Ridge day spas have been much in the news of late, but these kinds of businesses are booming all over the city.  I can think of four just within a couple of blocks of home, tucked away on side streets or sleepier avenues: Beauty Beauty Feelings, Rain Forest Relaxation,  Rain Forest Relaxation Center II, & the more prosaic Body Work Health Center.  There are probably more within that two block range, but I haven't ever bothered with a thorough inventory. Most of them have curtained windows, though Oasis Therapy, farther north, goes one better by having no windows at all.  None of them compare in looks to Nice and Necessary, the "herbal treatment" center on Fourth.  Love that green.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Balconies Out of Bounds

Balconies Unsafe at New Fourth Ave Condo Building, City Says (DNA Info)

"Residents in a new high-rise condo where apartments sell in the $800,000s are being warned to stay off their balconies after inspectors discovered cracks on several terraces recently, a Department of Buildings spokeswoman said. The DOB ordered residents at 500 Fourth Ave. not to go onto their balconies — a selling point in the 12-story building — because inspectors found "deterioration in the concrete" and pieces in danger of falling, according to DOB records.

... A 311 caller complained July 7 about "shaking/vibrating/structural stability" at the building, a spokesman for the city's 311 program said. The complaint was routed to the DOB for assessment.

Building workers on site did not respond to questions or provide contact information for property management."


There'll be another mammoth building going up one block north before too long. And any day now, with the permits in place, and the demolition sign-offs mysteriously resolved (adequately weatherproofing the side of our house no longer an issue!), construction for a four-storey-plus-penthouse-million-plus-per-apartment building will begin next door.  Let the fun begin.

In Sleep & Dreams

Walking to work this morning, I noticed a couple of changes coming on Fifth between 11th & 12th.  It always amused me that the block's sentinels were Sleepy's on 12th & Dreamy's on 11th.  Though I never bought mattresses at either store, and they could hardly be called attractive, the names alone seemed to fit the craziness of neighborhood transition.  There's no sense in this little world. Well, Dreamy's is up for rent, and I doubt the next business will keep poetic symmetry.  I do wonder if Dreamy's demise will mean a brief return of the Queen in Bazaar, sign, an old favorite of mine.
The other change is that we are soon to get a wine store, a replacement for Hair Designs by Julie, whose sullen window ladies are still missed.  Here they are a couple of years back.  Will the new wine store will be going for a high end market?  I think it'll still be the six buck deals at Bay River Liquors for me.


At work, the air conditioning is broken in half the building, and may be out for weeks.  Opening my office window is a Herculean task (the frame is warped from water damage).  The fan puts up a brave effort, but fails to cool.  Shuffling back to the train the other day I was mildly consoled by the sight of a Circus-Man ice cream truck on Hillside.  I'd never seen one of these before, and it made a nice change from Mr. Softee.  According to Long Island Business News though, Circus-Man, founded by Blaise & Vincent Graziano in 1958, closed last year ( "Circus-Man Folds its Tent"), so maybe the truck now carries altogether different goods.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Food Service Money Mints

Space for lease at the old Catene's. From the Ideal Properties listing:

"Sat right off the corner of 4th Ave and 9th Street, a major Park Slope subway stop, this unit is begging for the next food service money mint to install a fresh idea."

Meanwhile, at Mezini's - a month in business on Fifth & looking on the quiet side - an old idea to whip up custom:

Monday, July 8, 2013

18th Ave.

I like this stretch of 18th Ave., just off McDonald. I seem to have been collecting quite a few of these clusters of stores recently. Discovering individual older businesses is always interesting, but when you get a group of them together, that haven't much changed in thirty or more years, you can stand across the street, block out the modern vehicles, and feel you've left 2013 entirely. Liquor store, Europa Custom Tailors, Peter's Barber Shop, and the Brooklyn Driving School (founded 1981), with a website that itself looks pretty vintage. The school's specialty is motorbike instruction:

"Always ahead of his time, it was Donato (Pinto) who created the method of Motorcycle Instruction (with the radio's and the speakers in the helmets) that we still use today. We are the first and only school ever to teach using this method! Through the years, it has proven to be THE BEST way to effectively teach people how to safely ride a motorcycle. Accordingly, he taught himself how to use computers and managed to develop the first computerized 5 Hour Class presentation. "

Or on the other side of McDonald, still on 18th, look at this grouping. The fabric store - half its sign gone - with torn aluminum siding that almost matches the only garment in the window. What ruins of romance in the lonely yellow dress and its dark veil. Two stores down, Yussel's Housewares, no stranger to fabric either, with a classic striped awning.

It was tempting to follow 18th all the way to the shore, through Borough Park and into Bensonhurst, but this would have to wait for milder weather. So I walked as far as the shuttered kosher bakery at 51st, and back past Herbst Mehadrin Meats, which had a steady buzz of customers.  An old striped awning here too, along with the peeling emblems of the trade: a chicken underneath the butcher's block, and a mosaic of neatly divided cuts of beef.