Friday, October 31, 2014

It Wouldn't be Halloween ...

Without a trip to C-Town,

but the lines can be maddening.

More Circuity

64th between Seventh & 8th is Sunset/Borough borderland, composed of mostly healthcare building & warehouse.  I walked by some low, baited & asbestos posted warehouse buildings, which sold in the spring for seven million, and are destined to be razed for an ambulatory care center.  There's plenty of development round here, with an Eighth Avenue mega mall in the works at Eighth & 62nd, and a big, glassy medical building planned for Eighth & 55th.   I'm sure there'll be plenty more to come.

The next block up is dominated by the Fei Long Food Court & Market, which takes up all of Eighth from 64th to 63rd & extends back almost all the way to Ninth.  I've walked by here plenty of times, and stupidly, never checked it out.  Next time I will..

Back on Seventh, over the rail tracks north of 64th Street, there's a road safety mural. The man passing the delivery truck, is, I believe, headed for 62nd.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Velsigne Denne Hjem

You can't walk directly along the low 60s streets from Fifth to Ninth Avenues, because of the train tracks running through.  Because of this I kept making detours, and lost all sense of sequence.  So I'm abandoning order here, and offering a random assortment of observations.
From the foot traffic, and the decorations that adorn the houses here, property around here seems mostly Chinese-occupied these days.

There are plenty of the same style barrel-fronted rowhouses we met on the other side of Fifth, but 61st between Fifth & Seventh .comes as quite a surprise.  Look at these houses with their brightly tiled rooftops, and their railing balconies.  These ones are semi-detached,

but mostly they're rowhouses, with brick-pillared porches. The cornices and tiles make a standard enough rowhouse design something special, though the recently-added hi-security steel doors and fences spoil the good looks.

At one of these houses (no steel here), a front door sign reveals older neighborhood roots:

Velsigne Denne Hjem (Danish): Bless This Home

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Once More, to Key Food

Yes, it's back to the compelling mystery of Jo, Brian & Joseph's Key Food, which is still closed, purportedly owing to a power issue of some kind.  Today, though the shutters were down, the store doors were wide open.  They stayed that way all day. This seemed like a strange way to leave the place for any length of time.  It also helped one identify the source of the odors wafting at the corner.  Eau de rodent?  Attar of forgotten broccoli?  Something is rotten in the supermarket kingdom



One of the many, many pleasures of Sunset Park is the good number of small, independent retailers that operate along the avenues.  This is what helps to keep a neighborhood vibrant, distinct in character from other parts of the city.  This is what keeps a neighborhood local.  But with a rush of new industry & business activity at its western & eastern borders (good if it brings more local jobs), and with soaring real estate prices changing the area's demographics, this puts more and more pressure on the current small businesses to survive.  More expensive housing brings more expensive retail rents too, which means out with the local & in with the chain stores in (hello, newest Checkers), and inevitably, down the line, the upscale wine stores and boutiques.  Retailers who own their own property are able to survive change more easily, of course, but the city has to find a way to rein in the savage rent hikes that many business owners (& residents) will increasingly face.  Change is inevitable, but rapid change that takes no account of the people and businesses already there, who have few safeguards to protect their homes or livelihoods, is a brutal thing.

As I've walked along Fifth Avenue recently, I've seen more and more shuttered stores, sometimes a few on just one block, like 39th to 40th.  The inside of this store (40th & Fifth) is currently being gutted.

It's sad, too, to see the hand-painted store-signs, always more beautiful than vinyl awnings, disappearing one by one. There are plenty still in Sunset Park, but mostly on older businesses, some of which are simply aging out after a long run. I wish this art could be revived.

Time for the dumpster at the insurance shop

On a positive note, here's Sam's, looking as lovely as ever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Love Faith Hope

Seventh & 64th 


Brownstoner reported yesterday on the (record?) sale of the 359 7th Street lot for $1,860,000.
Here's a picture of the house that used to be at 359.  I thought it was a fine old house.  It was sold for $1,250,000 in August of 2012 and torn down the following March.  Condos coming soon.


Not one, but two new bike stores on Fifth Avenue.  At 610, Behind Bars Brooklyn, which bills itself as "a full service repair shop and bike accessories studio with decades of experience in the bicycle industry".  Is this related to the Minneapolis Behind Bars?

And a couple of blocks south, at 645, Tong Lida, which looks like it's concentrating more on nifty city bikes than the needs of high-end racers. So presumably, these shops will attract quite different kinds of customers.

The psychic's studio next door - Readings by Katherine - is still empty, as is the ill-fated I Want a Breast Pump premises next door, & next to that, the old Torres tattoo store (they moved).  I like seeing the vertical Selena Bakery & Botanica signs still lingering above the storefronts, and the painted Torres shutters at 643.

December 2013 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stop Work Order

In the last year or so Slate Property Group & Adam America were involved in three big development deals that will bring yet more rental high-rises to Fourth Avenue: 470 Fourth (105 unit residential & retail property), 535 Fourth (141 unit residential & retail property) & at 275 Fourth (75 unit residential & retail property).  470 & 535 have appeared on this blog before, & were mentioned here yesterday.

Slate, a newish spin-off from Silverstone Property Group, is also busy buying up multi-family rental & mixed use buildings in Brooklyn & Manhattan.  A Real Deal article in April referred to a two-year, half-billion dollar strategy of acquisition. One of these acquisitions is 310 12th Street (also mentioned here before), a twenty unit rental building acquired in April for $5,750,000, with a business plan of "Value Add /Reposition / Unit Conversion".  They certainly don't seem to be wasting any time in their efforts to turn units over, with little concern for longstanding tenants, and nothing on offer for new renters of moderate means. New rents have increased dramatically, though apartments seem to be renting more slowly than they'd hoped. A three bedroom apartment initially listed in August at $3,850 per month was listed for rent at $3,195 by October, and a two bedroom rental was reduced from $3,550 to $3,183.  Of course these are "net effective" rental prices, offered with one or more months free, so the real monthly prices are three hundred dollars or so higher.

Right now there's a stop work order in place, for work contrary to plans. There are permits in place for work on two apartments in the building, but plans submitted in July for remodeling a third, ground floor apartment & connecting it to basement space were disapproved.  What the hell though, a lack of a permit didn't matter, and work at 1Lwent ahead anyway.  Time is money and money is all that matters.

The feeding frenzy continues.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Around 15th

Back in the summer I read an interesting comment on a South Slope News post about development at 470 Fourth.  It concerned rumors of a twelve story building in the works for Fourth Avenue five blocks farther south.  Apparently this would involve the demolition of six of the ten buildings that comprise the block between 15th and 16th Streets.  By June, when I learned about the news, three buildings (553, 551, 547) had been recently sold.  Looking online today, I saw that two more - 543 and 545 - were sold in September for $1,975,00 and $2,100,000.  If this really is a six building parcel, then 549 will be the last piece of the puzzle, though maybe they'll hold out for 541, and the south-east corner of 15th.

With development in the works at the former Strauss Auto site on the north-east corner of 15th (539), to include 141 rental apartments, a nine-storey rental building in place at the north-west corner of 15th (548), and a thirteen-storey building to rise at the south-west corner of 15th ( 550 - 554) where the now-closed Brooklyn's Finest supermarket stands), this is a hellish concentration of new construction.  I'm a naive soul, but the sheer scale of neighborhood destruction, year after year, block after block, still takes my breath away.

Two-bedroom apartments at 548 Fourth start at $3,800.  The Ideal Properties listing for the building is quite something.  One struggles to adequately describe it.  Here's an extract.

548 4th, the most eagerly anticipated rentals from your favorite local developer passionately committed to sustainable building practices... are finally here. . ..Reaching higher by several stories than its neighbors, 548 4th has made a wonderful bedfellow of that glorious, brilliant ball in the sky. A calm dawn will accentuate breathtaking panoramas of the Brooklyn Manhattan skylines reflected of the surface of the East River and Brooklyn Harbor. One struggles to adequately describe the sunsets with just words in a gorgeous living environment where polarized shades are a must. ...Amenity packed and stress-free Brooklyn living with a rock-star worthy view.  Come and see for yourself how moonlight plays off of the new Freedom Tower and make 584 Fourth Ave, Park Slope Brooklyn your new home.

Around the corner, 139 15th Street, a favorite of mine, is still standing, though there are permits in place for a 4+ Penthouse number.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Forth on Fourth Day of Action: Faux Stores & Pretend Street Furniture Promised

Is the Fourth & 9th Street subway station "Brooklyn's ugliest"?  Park Slope Civic Council's Forth on Fourth Avenue committee thinks so, and is planning a day of action on November 21st, in order to foster improved conditions at the station.

We will host a "pop-up" event to reignite neighborhood imagination about rider amenities and street-level improvements at the 4th Ave/9th St Station transit hub. In a one-day action in November, we’ll set up a fantasy shadow station, using props - temporary lighting, wayfinding signage, discussion boards, big visuals, and pretend “street furniture” - to play with and capture improvement ideas.

And tucked into this bizarre description of the day's activities, we find the dreaded wayfinding signage phrase again.  Wayfinding has been hijacked by urban planners, and in the process, lost its navigational romance.  Gone the association of travel by map and compass, or nighttime travel by the stars, and in its place the prosaic means of finding one's way around a bus station.  That signage add-on really finishes it off.  Something about this turn-of-phrase when applied to an easily navigated location (the subway station here, the Atlantic Avenue underpass there) seems to suggest that the average pedestrian has the directional skills of a two year-old.  But maybe that's the case.  How about the wayfinding maps installed on city streets last year?

Even with smartphone maps, a waffle iron street grid and numbered streets in most of Manhattan, too many pedestrians are getting lost in New York City according to the NYC Department of Transportation. The solution, or part of it, will begin rolling out in March: maps. Lots of them. Designed just for pedestrians to be placed on sidewalks and eventually on bike share stations all around the five boroughs.
... The sidewalk signage will show pedestrians where they are and which way they are facing -- a study last year found that&many New Yorkers couldn't point to north when asked. Transit, local attractions, and businesses are placed on a large map of the local street grid with  circles indicating where you can reach with a five minute walk, and how long it will take to get to other attractions. Like countdown clocks in subways, knowing the time and effort involved in a trip can make it more appealing. The signs, the DOT hopes, will encourage more walking. (WNYC)

In the meantime, I'll hold onto wayfaring, which seems to have been left alone thus far, and is, of course, the stuff of rich literary tradition;  I think of Borrow:

... who inspired the surge in path-following and old-way romance that occurred in mid-nineteenth century England and America, the effects of which are with us still.  Borrow took to tramping in the 1820s, and he followed paths for thousands of miles through England and Wales, across the Channel into France, Spain, Portugal and Russia, as well as south to Morocco, coming to know the cultures and peoples of the road: the Romanies, the nomads, the tramps, the guildsmen, the shepherds, the farmers and the innkeepers.  
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - Robert MacFarlane (Penguin, 2012)

or of Chapter Nine in The Wind in the Willows, Wayfarers All, when Ratty, disturbed by his fellow creatures' turn-of-the-season restlessness, meets a a"lean and keen-featured" seafaring cousin,  who fills Ratty's head with tales of his journeys and tempts him to join him:

And you, you will come too young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still 
waits for you.  Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! 'Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new

or, of course, of Whitman:

I tramp a perpetual journey,
My signs are a rain-proof coat and good shoes and a
staff cut from the woods;
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, nor church, nor philosophy;
I lead no man to a dinner-table or library or exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a 
My left hand hooks you around the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and
a plain public road.

Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you
You must travel it for yourself.

Wayfaring is an untamed activity, whether rural or urban.  It lacks schedule or logic; it pauses, circles, detours, changes its mind and acts on a whim.  It embraces chance, and distraction.  It requires an open heart and an open mind.  It can tolerate solitude, and is always curious. It stops to talk to those it meets along the road.  Wayfaring is not a commuter figuring out how to get from the F to the R.   A Brooklyn wayfarer would surely be familiar with many of the borough's subway stations  and a good portion of the borough's streets, and have walked the platforms of stations grimmer and uglier than poor old Fourth and 9th. 

I'm all for prodding the wretched MTA.  Let's see the renovations finished, the stores open, a decent PA system running, and by all means more signs, as long as the lovely old Manhattan & Coney Island tiles are kept intact.  And a station good scrub down wouldn't hurt.  But we don't need anything too fancy here.  There are far more pressing issues on Fourth than station beautification:  the blight of luxury development, and the attendant loss of small businesses and affordable housing. These are the real problems here on the avenue.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Two Corners

At Third & 7th

NW: Morbid Anatomy Museum
Pale & slender twenty-somethings linger at coffee tables.  Emanate funereal high purpose.
Sip from a black plastic cup.  Buy yourself a $150 Day of the Dead sugar skull linen pillow.

SE: Back to John's Deli
Open early closed early hours.  Workers streaming in and out from auto shop or truck company, metal shop or lumber yard, grab breakfast sandwiches or hot food lunches.
Sit in the window seat.  Eat well and heartily.  Look out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Metal Man

Third & 13th

Stop Order

I overlooked this one until yesterday, though I'd noticed that the building site seemed quiet.  There's a full stop order at 724 Fifth, site of the old White Eagle Tavern, with an excavation violation listed, and the second violation as follows.

Complaint at:  724 5 AVENUE BIN: 3009551 Borough: BROOKLYN  ZIP: 11232


DOB District: N/A

Assigned To: EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM Priority:  A    
Received from FDNY
Received:  10/08/2014   12:56  Block:  649 Lot:  33 Community Board:  307

Last Inspection:  10/08/2014 - - BY BADGE # 2414
Disposition:  10/08/2014 - A3 - FULL STOP WORK ORDER SERVED
DOB Violation #:  100814ER07SP01-02-03-04
ECB Violation #s : 35111329P    35111330M

724 was sold a year ago for $1,650,000, and work at the site (enlargement & conversion) has been slow and shoddy.  Last month there was giant crane activity

and subsequently some rather dubious flyers went up claiming that the block would be closed for an entire month for more of the same.

Dubious flyers are nothing new at this address. Here's a No Parking one put up in late August, ostensibly issued by the NYPD/DoT,  The no parking dates in question are listed for May.

This one's been a dangerous eyesore for far too long.

The White Eagle Tavern has appeared countless times here, including
Another Glimpse of the White Eagle Tavern
Falling, Closing, Moving
Real Estate Monday
Fifth and 23rd
Wedding Parties
23rd and Fifth
Through the salt-stained windows of the B63
This is Fake

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carriage House Down

Just around the corner from Prospect, on Fourth, a carriage house is going down.  It's right next to Prospect Auto Glass, and abuts the five/six building parcel I mentioned in my last post.  I'm always sad to see a fine old building like this one turn first into a shell, and then disappear entirely.

573 sold four years ago for $900,000, and it's taken a long time to get this project going, but it looks like things are finally moving along for a nine-storey plus penthouse replacement building. You can see a plan here, which shows the scale of a tall and skinny structure on a 22 foot lot, towering high above its neighbors.

CPCC Management

Interior design pics here.

Another sign of our ever onward-and-upward Fourth.  October, 2014.

Excellent Location & Views

Pick any street around here & you'll find a hive of realtors at work.  How about buying a house on Prospect Avenue (known until 1869 as Middle Street) ?  A stroll down Prospect, between Fifth and Third, reveals several possibilities.

207A Prospect Avenue - $1,700,000

Massey Knakal Realty Services is proud to offer this three story brick townhouse situated in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This unique opportunity allows your creative design to complete to your own specifications and offers tremendous flexibility for your fabulous dream home, high income producing investment property, or customized conversion opportunity. Situated on a large lot measuring 20’ wide and 107.75’ deep, towering and offering breathtaking views of Manhattan, this 3,200 sq. ft. spectacle makes for a wonderful opportunity to own in an excellent location next to the F, G and R lines, along with close proximity to all of the exciting retail shops, organic grocery stores, including the new Whole Foods Market, restaurants, nightlife, and all of the best amenities that Park Slope and Brooklyn offers. (Massey Knakal)

MK neglects to mention the fabulous views of the Prospect Expressway merging into the Gowanus, and the steady roar of traffic at your doorway.  

It's not verdant, but at least the trucks are trying.

207 Prospect Avenue - $1,900,000

This one's renovated.

This open plan design with acacia plank flooring, exposed beams and brick, is beautifully complimented by the perfect light from the large windows at the front and back of the house. The kitchen with soapstone counter and rich wood cabinets comes with stainless steel appliances by Fisher / Paykel, GE Profile Stove, and LG washer/dryer. On the next level in the large second bedroom you find the original marble mantel, a feature echoed in the whole house. The master bedroom with soaring ceilings has an en suite windowed bathroom with Lacava, Grohe and Duravit fixtures, these are also found in the equally stunning garden floor bathroom. Central air, an integrated home audio system with two wall mounted Samsung TVs, Sonos distributed audio zones, and in-wall /ceiling surround sound, have all been professionally installed to enhance the owners lifestyle.

189 - 195 Prospect Avenue?  - ?

I'm not sure what the story is here.  In early 2013 189 - 195 Prospect Avenue, a parcel of six buildings, was listed on the market for $6,950,000, but it appears to have been taken off the market by the end of the year.  Corcoran was handling the sale back then:

Rare opportunity for developers and investors in Park Slope! 189-195 Prospect Avenue are two lots (with the configuration of six) that are ideal for a new construction or condo development in this booming Park Slope market. Zoned for both residential and commercial use, the total lot area is 15,628 square feet with 46,402 square feet of allowable floor area. The property is currently comprised of two carriage houses (both two stories), two residential two-family houses, wide open parking lots, and two enclosed garages. This property is conveniently located directly across the street from the R train station at Prospect Avenue. 

Six buildings?  Five buildings?  It's hard to configure this one, but it seems like the parcel is for sale again.  

Let's head to the next block.

173 Prospect Avenue - $950,000

Just off Fourth Avenue, next to an empty corner lot, and a towering apartment building, with an expressway rising in front of the house, 173's been on and off the market for several years

There's no purple prose for this one - just the basics.

169 Prospect Avenue - $1,299,000

Apparently this place has been in the same family for three generations. It looks like a home, rather than a showcase,  There's a laundry pole in the back.  But it's been on the market since the summer, and the price has been reduced.

The sad thing is that both these blocks of Prospect have some fine buildings, but when Moses slashed his way through, the once handsome-streets became half-blocks, losing their symmetry and natural vitality, stranded on the edge of a vehicular abyss.  Today, in our most perverse of markets, it's a landscape with a million dollar price-tag.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Signs on the Avenues

November?  A likely story.  Meanwhile, over on 4th & 10th the Breadfruit Tree Cafe, which has kept irregular hours in recent weeks, seems to be having its own repair issues:

Let's hope the cafe gets things sorted out and back in action.

The Sock Man, wending his weary way along 5th, approaches the shuttered Key Food.

Update: 10/22  Breadfruit back up and running today.   Good news.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Now Showing

Currently playing at BAM, through October 23rd, the 1981 film by Manfred Kirchheimer - Stations of the Elevated:

"The earliest filmed document of graffiti (shot in the late 70s), Manfred Kirchheimer’s richly chromatic 16mm city symphony sets images of northern Manhattan to a soundtrack that interweaves ambient city noises with the gutbucket gospel squall of jazz titan Charles Mingus."

Changing Tastes

Artisanal ice-cream, pastries & cookies.  Iced coffee with Boba toppings. Some of the staples offered these days to tenants in the food halls of Industry City.  Along the street, at the corner of 36th & Third, signs for The Hot & Cold Hero Champ.  A solid alternative.

Friday, October 17, 2014

To Concord

I took the train to Court Street to go to the market, but instead of getting out there, I decided to transfer to Clark Street.  Why?  Because I love this part of Henry, heading down towards Old Fulton, and the station, underneath the old Hotel St. George, has one of those ideal retail set-ups, with tailor, barber, florist, bakery, grocery and (?) sushi joint. And a shoe-shine stand.  Apart from the sushi, you could expect to have found a set-up like that fifty years ago or more.
I followed Henry for a while, then headed back on Cadman Plaza, but once I reached Tillary the October light was so golden it felt like a gift and I thought I'd head over to Concord instead.  There was no hurrying on a day like this. I'd been meaning to go there for ages, but the prospect of dealing with all that traffic was always off-putting.  If not now, when days like this were on the wane, I wouldn't bother again for a good while. Over the Plaza, Adams, Tillary & Flatbush Avenue Extension it was.  Then down left on Duffield and left again.  Here it was, a pocket of pre-civil war Brooklyn, surrounded by bridge-bound traffic, BQE, public housing, and a forest of high-rise. I'd passed here by car, in some tortuous expressway route, but never before on foot.

There's some speculation about the age of 167 Concord, but whether it's 1760s or 1820s, it's quite a survivor. The car outside it is a survivor too: a Didik Long Ranger, a hybrid gas/electric, modified from a 70s CitiCar/Commutacar. Apparently Frank Didik himself, designer and Trans-Global Highway visionary, lives right here at the house!

Of course, those urban explorers Montrose Morris & Kevin Walsh know this spot well, and you can read their posts on Concord at Brownstoner (2011) and Forgotten New York (2007). Frank Didik's design site is here.

On Duffield, back to Borough Hall