Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Move

In a row of useful businesses, a shuffle is in process.  The Park Slope Veterinary Center is hopping from one side of Leopoldi's hardware to the other, to a building which had been stalled mid renovation for years.  No indication what's coming in at 413.  Vet center, hardware, supermarket, housewares store - all solid, functional stuff.  I miss the office stationary store that used to be on this block: a treasure house of ledger book, envelope, hanging folder, ink pad, office stamp, graphing paper, and stack upon stack of lined notebooks in a vast assortment of size and pleasingly humdrum shades.  The smell was intoxicating. It was replaced by a cardio vascular imaging center.  Leopoldi's has always been our go-to hardware store for many years & the guys there are the best.

Real Estate Monday

While we're on the block looking at a Pontiac, let's stick around for today's listing.  194 9th went on the market early last year, with Ideal Properties acting as the brokers. Over the course of the year the price bounced around between $1.699 & $1.499 million.  A few days ago the Ideal sign came down and I figured it was sold.  I was a bit sad, because I've always had a hankering for this place.  It hadn't sold though.  It's now a multiple broker listing, back again at $1.499, Sadly, the current reduction does not make my purchase of this property any more likely.

194, between Second & Third, is fronted by a hot dog store  The tiny store was formerly an auto repair shop, and the building it housed contains living space today.  This structure, I think, dates from the 30s.  I've often dropped by for a hot dog here and dreamed about quitting my normal work routine & setting up behind the counter.  The real draw when I stop though, is the older back house behind it.  You can see it if you look through the side gate & down the alleyway.  From pictures on the brokers' sites, it looks like any traces of original detail inside the house are long gone, perhaps the result of work in the 90s.   The Ideal photos show this clearly, but even the sorry looking newer shots don't put me off.  I can still use my imagination.

Imagination won't buy a house though. Another issue might be the lot next door, currently used for parking, but surely a prime development target.

Here's 194 fifty five years ago, when the auto shop was still around, and when it was bordered by buildings on both sides.

Photograph by John Morrell - Brooklyn Historical Society (Brooklyn Visual Heritage)

And across the street, a beautiful old wooden house.

This is one of my all-time favorite houses close to home.  I'd take it over an up-the-slope grandee brownstone any time.  It looks as if it's stood on 9th for a good while, maybe from the mid 1800s, certainly well before those park block lots were filled in.  It's practically under the viaduct, and you'll see it from above when you ride the train between Fourth & Smith.  It seems to have survived eighty years of Culver vibrations quite nicely.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

(Etc.) Construction: 15th Street

The apartment building across from the empty Strauss Auto Center has filled in since I last looked at it, and sports a For Lease sign (Ideal Properties).

I wanted to see if the frame house next to it on 15th was still standing. Just about.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Real Estate Monday

The listing bills this Sixth Avenue home as a "dwelling" & the term implies perhaps a certain creativity in its design.  Take a look at the photos & the floor plan, and you'll see its intriguing features.   At 26" wide, the lot meets the width requirement for new development.  Listed at $1,659,000 it went into contract within a month or so.

See below (center):

Long Island City

Across from the All American Cafe, at 37th Avenue & 36th Street, we discovered the food cart hospital. On the sidewalk, a cart that had seen many winters was bare save for a yellowing ad for egg sandwiches.  It was waiting - along with other whole carts and a cluster of vital components - for its spot in the emergency OR.  Inside, a team of surgeons worked with steely concentration.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Corner Store

I walked by the Estevez grocery store (Sixth & 10th) recently, and saw that it had closed down. I don't know the cause of the closure, but I do know the place was loved by its regulars, even in quiet times. There used to be plenty of grocery stores along Sixth, but now there are none in a twenty three block stretch between Sterling & 16th.  The blocks between 9th and 11th, for example, had a regular shopping strip once, and my old neighbor Sal told me you could get all the basics there.  When I arrived in the 80s, the only functioning food shops on these two blocks were Estevez's & another, a corner south, where I bought the daily paper and various supplies from the gloomiest of shopkeepers. The latter is now a favorite local eating spot of our current mayor.  Across the avenue, there was still a leftover painted sign above one store window, for "fancy sandwiches" and I was sorry I never got to try one.  As the neighborhood around Sixth changed (the avenue no longer a real estate boundary dividing the eastern Slope from a geographic "no go" west), with a younger and more affluent population predominant, the right-round-the-corner grocery store fell into decline.   People walked up or down to Seventh or Fifth, or bought their groceries weekly in one fell swoop, and there were less people around in the day for small, regular shopping errands.  And grocery needs became more upscale - more along Union Market lines.  Stores became corner bistros, or nursery schools, or converted to residential use.
461 Sixth is up for rent at $4,100 per month.  Will it stay a grocery store, or will it assume a new identity?  I guess we'll find out soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

4:15, Long Island City

I like riding the train, but at this time of the year the long trek home on the F is loathsome.  It sends me nodding off to sleep like a child.  I'd been breaking up the F ride with a quick above-ground intermission, but this week I took more extreme measures: F to E, to G, with a coffee at Court Square along the way.
Late March, & by four the afternoon light flatters everything it falls upon.  I walked by Five Pointz.  Despite the savage whiteout, smudges of color still leaked through.

Nearby, these beautiful brutes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shalom Toy Company (32nd)

Right behind the BPM Hotel, this is where those street fair creatures spring to life!

Here at Shalom Toy, we offer a wide variety of toys to fit all of your carnival needs! Farm animals to jungle cats to teddy bears, we've got you covered!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Urban Spaces

Today at the Fourth & 11th demo site:

and this time last year.

The brick building went down in the last few days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On 33rd

33rd between Third & Fourth is home to the BPM hotel ("Where Music Meets Hospitality™"), seen at right,

and rather more mysteriously, this portal to the basement at 128.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Convenient Timing

Just a few weeks after returning from Budapest, I read in the Guardian that a new Hungarian civil code came into effect on March 15 (right before pivotal national elections) outlawing street photography without the prior permission of everyone appearing in each photograph.

Officials say expanding the law on consent to include the taking of photographs, in addition to their publication, merely codifies existing court practice. However, Hungary's photographers call the law vague and obstructive, saying it has left the country of Joseph Pulitzer andphotography legend Robert Capa out of step with Europe. 

... Márton Magócsi, senior photo editor at news website Origo, said "having to ask for permission beforehand is quite unrealistic in any reportage situation". ...

... "The real danger is that private security companies or the police will try to keep reporters and photojournalists out of certain areas, or prevent them and members of the public from taking photographs of their actions," he adds.

Robert Capa

Will this story surface in the US press?


Real Estate Monday?

Phooey to the $50,000 per month rehab spa approved by CB6 as a welcome amenity in Red Hook.  Today's Real Estate Monday Tuesday Times listing is for 4708 Third Avenue - a building housing both an alcohol & drug treatment center & Spice Adult Video.  Yes, slightly more budget conscious therapies. Expressway location, pizza, Halal Meats, Pharmacy, Auto Repair all close by.   The place is all yours for $900,000.  I've lost all sense of property value in this mad city, and have no idea what that price means.  It seems like quite a lot but who knows?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Everything Must Go

The retail space at 458 Fifth is still available at $13,7000 per month ("Join Astoria Federal, Dunkin Donuts, Chase Bank, Subway, D II, Sleepy’s, New York Commercial Bank, Payless Shoe Source and Rite Aid").  Currently a T Mobile store & The Bargain Stop II are tenants there.  No, wait, Bargain Stop is out & Dollar $ Plus (New Management: Lowest Prices Guarantee) is in!  Despite a regular cycle of liquidation signs, bargain stores always seem to find a home at this address .  Though I'm wondering if the current liquidation signs predate Dollar $ Plus, or if they mean the new place is already counting down the days!!  Things are really spiralling out of control here.

Watching the Clock at 71 Av.

No movement of any kind observed

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Two Years On

Quite by chance, here I was again on 21st Street, a few days before spring.  Two years ago this yard was packed with a hoard of cars & toys, & divers other items.  Even a boat.

How different the double lot looks now. It's bare but for the boat - the faint remains of Dock War painted on the side - and three remaining cars. The house is boarded up, & its small size, set against bigger buildings, is more apparent. The setting is almost rural.

While I was taking pictures a couple of lovely ladies came to see what I was doing.  They thought there might be some action happening at the site.  We chatted for a good while.  Well, one of the ladies talked, and the other was mostly quiet.  Apparently an elderly woman (not the owner) had been living in the basement of the house until a vacate order was served last fall.  My new acquaintance said the lot encouraged raccoons, coming over from the cemetery close by.  She was hoping it would get built on.
We talked about the changes in the neighborhood, and swapped block stories from earlier years.  It was quieter, safer now, but local dramas were always better than TV.  By far.  With no prompt from me, the topic of neighborhood names came up.  These days, the lady said, it was South Slope to 23rd, & Greenwood Heights to the mid 30s, but when she was growing up it was Park Slope straight to Sunset Park.  This was Park Slope.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Red Hook's New Clients

$50,000 per month rehab center opening in Red Hook (Brooklyn Paper)
“There is no other high-end rehab center on the East Coast,” said Community Board 6 member Suzanne Turet. “I think it’s the sort-of mixed-use thing that we want.”
Owners hope to open the drug treatment center in 2016 on Richards and Van Dyke streets, offering an abstinence-only program with such treatment options such as yoga, acupuncture, and music therapy. The facility will not accept health insurance or government assistance money.

Still waiting for approval from the city Board of Standards & Appeals (March 25), for-profit Basis Independent School, planning on building at a Red Hook industrial site, continues its advertising blitz:
etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
"Outside the United States most private schools, especially new private schools, are for-profit. The United States is an anomaly in this regard.
A for-profit independent school is a business. The school is owned by its investors and like any business, to thrive the school must satisfy its customers,  our parents and grandparents, who pay the tuition. Our objective as a business is simple: to offer an internationally-acclaimed learning experience at an exceptional value. "

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Signs on Fourth

I walked down 36th yesterday, and was sorry to see that the painted La Fe sign had gone from the corner restaurant.  Then,

and now.

The Old Brooklyn Real Estate sign sticks around in New Brooklyn real estate times.  North on Fourth, at 34th, the jewelry store signage remains, though the store itself was closed when I went by.

Everything's good about the signs here: the lights, the flourishes of script, & a nice dense display of specific information.  The vertical lettering along the duct is a nice touch too.  Treasures indeed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

St. Mary's Chapel

Cast out from Central Europe, back I must go to the borders of Greenwood/South Slope/Sunset Park.  I've skipped a couple of blocks in the long trek south, but will return to them shortly.  I wanted to head over to 34th Street (Fourth/Fifth), and the little church building facing the cemetery.  I'd say this really is Sunset Park by now. St. Mary's Chapel closed in 2000, though I don't know if it's been used for other purposes subsequently.  It's a wooden structure covered in brick veneer, with simple decoration (at least by now): some modest stained glass, and a couple of startled looking faces above the windows.  Right next to the church is a sign for the neighboring warehouse: De An's Pork Products.

When I first saw it, I thought maybe it was another Scandinavian church, but actually St. Mary's (in recent years at least) served a Rusyn/Slovak congregation.  I had a hard time finding much about it.  The only real source online was The Byzantine Forum - "For we can not but speak of what we have seen and heard" - & this proved to be extremely helpful .  A lively conversation on the number of Ruthenian parishes left in the city apparently strayed from forum guidelines & proved, to the outsider at least, somewhat arcane & waspish at times.  Enjoyably so. It made me think of Barbara Pym.

I thought St. Elias was Ruthenian. Wasn't St. Elias and St. Mary's Chapel closed by Bishop Andrew, and Frs. Hospodar and Malitz prior to Fr. Malitz (or should I say Fr. Terminator) being sent to Holy Trinity in Bridgport?

In the course of all that compulsive speaking (hurrah for its scriptural inspiration) reference was made to a story in the New Rusyn Times (Pittsburgh, 2004):

 Brooklyn has long been a focal point of Rusyn immigrant settlement... The latest wave began around 1989 and has continued to the present. Unlike previous waves, the latest wave describes itself as Slovak, but for the most part they continue to associate with the Rusyns from their villages who preceded them.

Of this newest wave, the churchgoers among them primarily became members of one of two parish communities in the city: St. Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church on East 10th Street in Manhattan (especially those from Orjabyna), and St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Chapel on 34th Street in Brooklyn (especially those from Litmanova and Kamjunka). Gradually these communities are changing due to the migration of some of the immigrants to New Jersey (especially around Manville, Whitehouse Station, and Flemington) with more recent immigrants taking their place, with many families in each parish having seen several generations baptized, married, and buried in the same parish.

St. Mary's Chapel was a beacon to the immigrant Rusyns: under the care of its longtime pastor, the Liturgy was served regularly in Church Slavonic, the homily was given in Rusyn, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Epistle and Gospel readings were actually in Rusyn vernacular, using the translations published in Slovakia by the well-known Rusyn spiritual leader, Father Frantiek Krajnjak of Medilabirci.

According to the article, when St Mary's closed in 2000, most of the congregation transferred to the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church on 19th Street, where they found a warm reception.  A service at the church is described in detail:

The first half of the Liturgy was sung entirely in Church Slavonic, and the Subcarpathian Rusyn chant (prostopinije) was sung just as I remembered from St. Mary's Chapel years before, in the distinctive melodies of northern Spi. The Ukrainian parishioners sang along, but the voices of the Rusyns (who were perhaps 75% or more of those in church) were unmistakably those of Litmanova and Kamjunka. I wondered how they might handle the Epistle and Gospel readings (which I expected would be in Ukrainian). Incredibly, a woman who appeared to be the cantor from the Slovak group opened the very Rusyn-language Epistles & Gospels book published by Father Krajnjak in Slovakia, and chanted the Epistle in Rusyn! For whatever Slovak identity they have assumed, their Rusyn spirit lives on-and thrives! in this otherwise Ukrainian environment.

I was quite surprised to learn of the 80s/90s recent wave of Rusyns in this part of Brooklyn, and happy to learn of the parish integration at St. Nick's.  While the fading markers of once strong Polish & Ukrainian communities are still evident around here, there's little to indicate Rusyn or Slovak strongholds, except perhaps, for Milan restaurant over on 5th & 22nd.  I hope that ten years on St. Nicholas is thriving, & I wonder what the future has in store for the Chapel.  I'd love to take a look inside.

Note:  I do have pictures of St. Nicholas, & will add them here.

Later on 3/11: St. Nicholas