Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
                                                                                         Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855

Sunset Park Links

The new Downtown party spot (Rihanna et al.), a food writers diverts his attention from high-end badass food to laud "the Deli & Grocery bodega," an upcoming comic book on gentrification, and a lovely program at the local library

Sunset Park: The Latest Party Spot in Brooklyn (NY Times)

Also last month, Club Lust, a high-energy strip club on 47th Street surrounded by beverage distribution centers and welding supply companies, hosted a party for Fool’s Gold Records, a label that has released music by Kid Cudi and Danny Brown. Amid a sea of ricocheting colored lights and quivering flesh, 700 visitors paid $20 at the door to hear D. J.s like Sonny Digital, while dancers in thongs ascended poles and Alexander Wang (again) made it rain dollar bills.

... Persuading the downtown crowd to undertake the odyssey to this outlying patch of Kings County is often the first challenge. On Google Maps, Sunset Park looks like the other side of the moon. But the rise of Uber, Lyft and other car services has made far-flung locations less intimidating. Chasing livery cabs through deserted streets is no longer a ritualistic hazard of getting home.

Food Writers and Critics Pick their Favorite Meals of the Year (Eater)

Kenzi Wilbur, Food 52 managing editor — Can I have two? One: The single bite of mackerel sushi at Ko. I could taste every grain of rice. I washed it down with a Painkiller, because Jordan Salcito is a fucking badass. Two: The carnitas tacos from the back of the Deli and Grocery bodega in Sunset Park. I understand fully that I am late to this party, but I care more about shouting my love for those tacos from the rooftops than looking like I knew what I was doing in 2009. I did not know what I was doing in 2009.

Coming in 2016: Ron Wimberly's Sunset Park (Paste)

Something’s up in Sunset Park, and it ain’t just the rent. Are Brooklyn’s gentrifiers more than just economic vampires? A cartoonist draws a macabre story from a collection of notes, journals, movies and other ephemera he finds boxed, abandoned in the studio he’s recently rented along the latest frontline in gentrification’s relentless march over Brooklyn in SUNSET PARK.

Dancing the Tango in the Sunset Park Library (Next Avenue)

“We started out with 20 people registered,” says Luz Acevedo, office manager for the Services for Older Adults at the Brooklyn Public Library, “but the turnout weekly is more like 30.” 

The artist/instructor, Walter Perez, who hails, appropriately, from Argentina begins each class with a warm-up. People then partner up, and he teaches the steps — no mean feat considering some of the participants use walkers or canes. Perez also has taught some steps with the participants forming a circle so they could support fellow learners with balance problems. The class began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted two hours, with a break in the middle.

At the Prospect

Those gnomic wheat-pastings seen about the place, on side street walls or expressway overpasses, are starting to get a little dishevelled. I have to admit that I've wasted idle moments coming up with uncharitable rewrites I might add underneath the originals.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fruits & Vegetables

Underneath the 555 Deli, on Fifth, an earlier sign has emerged.

Here's a Percy Loomis Sperr photo of this part of Fifth in 1941 (NYPL Digital Collections)

It's a little hard to make out (the resolution's better in the link), but you can see the Alp Tavern (with a sign for a Harlem Revue), a shoe repair store, luncheonettes, a liquor store, & Michael's at 13th. Above So. Brooklyn Carpets, brides gaze out from the windows of the photo studio.  On the side of 557, Children Cry for Chas. H. Fletcher's Castoria.  The Please erotica store occupies the 557 ground floor today.  The 555 corner (soon to be a Crunch gym) has signs for ice cream, luncheons and sandwiches.

In somewhat related news, I'm happy to announce that the store cat at 542 Fifth has found a new home.


The rodent-baiting signs presage imminent action.

Farewell to the Villa Lillian Long
Update on 316 12th

Stingray at Prestige

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Demolition underway at Fourth & 15th

Demolition is underway at the corner of Fourth & 15th, the first step in the removal of eight three-story apartment buildings.  More luxury housing is on the way. Uneeda see a nice old fading, soda cracker sign?  Enjoy it right now - it'll be rubble any day now.   For earlier posts on the story, follow links here.


The mall-style stores are on their way to Sunset Park:

Brooklyn Really is Getting a Saks Off Fifth as Hudson's Bay Signs Sunset Park Deal (Commercial Observer)

Bed Bath & Beyond signed a lease for 120,000 square feet, or the majority of the second floor, at Liberty View Industrial Plaza. When it opens at the same time as Saks Off Fifth, Bed Bath & Beyond will house four brands under one roof, for the first time in the company’s history, Mr. King said. They are Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby, Cost Plus World Market, & Harmon Face Values ...
... “It is remarkable how a 100-year-old warehouse building is being lovingly restored and modernized to create this unique retail destination,” Mr. King said.

Readers may remember that an Amazon distribution center is also coming to the Plaza, which is right next door to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center.

Little Syria: New York preservationists fight for remains of historic cultural hub (Guardian)

Oscar for Charlotte Rampling!
Count me on board with the informal Oscar for Charlotte Rampling campaign, for her beautiful performance in the film 45 Years.  The IFC, one of the cinemas where the film is currently showing, will be playing an eight-movie retrospective of Rampling's work, beginning next month.  Details here.

There's a wonderful new essay by Romy Ashby at Walkers in the City.  Not to be missed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On the Avenue

Almost a year ago we learned of plans to open a daycare center at 511 Fifth.  The opening of the daycare, Christofer Bear Advanced Early Learning Center, initially projected for the summer of '15, seemed plagued by delays, and in September South Slope News reported that landlord and licensing issues were causing problems for the new business owner.  It seems that the problems were not resolved.  All signs of the center's presence are gone from the storefront, and Ideal Properties, who brokered the ten-year daycare lease in January, have recently re-listed the space.  The listing's photographs still show the store as it was when occupied by the previous tenant, Malik Sportswear. It's listed at $10,000 per month - a Perfect Space for a New Eatery: Storefront in Park Slope!!

2,000 SF of very well kept commercial storefront on Park Slope`s busy 5th Avenue. A pair of national tenants on the same block exemplifies the caliber of foot traffic here.

I'm assuming the national tenants referred to here are Edible Arrangements, and Capital One.  Save our souls.

There'll be more changes on the block soon, what with next-door 513 on the market, and the empty 499 likely to see action.  Can we avoid more chains on this part of Fifth in 2016?  And please, can we once-and-for-all enact a national ban of the dreadful word eatery?  We live in (faint) hope.

Sad but not unexpected word from that Milan's, the Slovak restaurant at Fifth and 22nd, will be closing around the end of the year, another victim of raised rent and changing demographics.  Milan has been on Fifth for twenty years.

Bye Bye Bigos
Tatra on Fifth

One of Milan's painted windows

Choice on Fifth

There's one last bargain left at the 99c store at 542 Fifth - a chance to give a home to the store's cat. Signs of an impending closure went up in the summer, but the store lingered on until Christmas.  The rent went up - too much .  The space is now for lease at $9,500 per month:

2,300 Square foot Store Front plus 1,500 square foot basement, in Prime 5th Avenue location. 
Large space and heavy foot traffic makes this ideal for any type of food service, bar, restaurant or retail establishment. This is one of the best locations in the South Slope.

At what precise point in time did we get to prime?  It still sounds ridiculous to me.

Across the avenue at 555, where a Crunch gym is on the way, it's now confirmed that the Sky Discount Store, the last of the businesses still open at that address, will be closing soon. The store owners will be relocating to Queens.  I've heard the new owners at 555 may be intending to build up above the building, but no plans have been filed.

Santa from another season - 542 Fifth.

Holiday Leftovers (Sunday)

At Brian, Jo & Joseph's Key Food, trees are still on sale,

while outside the closed-up Eagle Provisions, a seasonally decorated shopping cart, apparently abandoned, holds a small haul of empties.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Waste & Glory

Forsyth Street, down by the Manhattan Bridge.  A beautiful stretch of the old city.

Along with the names on the private waste trucks, I've come to notice the names on dumpsters too. Often they're the same. There are more than ever dumpsters on the streets these days, with demolition a constant. You'll see Jerusalem all over New York, and Avid (above) is found at many a curbside. Shades of Blake haunt the metropolis.

A couple more collection business names caught the eye recently: Metropolitan Recycling - Striving Towards a Cleaner Tomorrow! - and PM Waste, which, inadvertently I'm sure, can't help but remind one of other, earlier, disposal routines.  The night soil rounds.

(Annual Report of the Board of Health of the Health Department of the City of New York, Volume 4, 1874)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Business as Usual Links:

Festive on 10th

SL Green, Bank of China loan for Industry City grows to $403M (The Real Deal)

The Bank of China and SL Green increased their loan for the massive Sunset Park complex Industry City to $403 million, up from $220 million, as part of the owners’ planned makeover. 
... Jamestown and Angelo teamed up with Belvedere Capital and Schron’s Cammeby’s International for a redevelopment of the complex aimed at creative, manufacturing and TAMI tenants. The $1 billion overhaul is largely contingent on the city providing funding and approving a rezoning.

Developers close deal that allows Brooklyn's tallest tower (Crain's)

Bob Knakal, Cushman & Wakefield's chairman of investment sales, along with colleagues James Nelson and Stephen Palmese, handled the sale for JPMorgan Chase. >
"This transaction is indicative of the strength of both the retail and development markets in Brooklyn," Knakal said. "It paves the way for an iconic structure that will forever impact the Brooklyn skyline."

Industry real estate players celebrates their fabulous year:

More than 1,000 people gathered at the Top of the Standard + Le Bain for an evening of nibbles, cocktails and showboating. Variations of  “it’s unreal how much business we did this year,” were heard throughout the party, which stretched well past midnight as guests, taking advantage of the unusually warm December evening, moved upstairs to puff on cigars and smoke hookahs with the hosts, Josh Zegen, Brian Shatz and Adam Tantleff. (The Real Deal)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Off Hamilton

Manila Nylon Sisal . Wire . Rope Chain

I'm particularly fond of this building at 14th & Hamilton. It's set on a small, triangular lot, & the location & building combine a lot of the features I enjoy in an urban landscape: some classic signage, the presence of the garbage truck fleet (sanitation garage just up the block), the Bruno sign in the background, some appealing graffiti, and the ever-photogenic expressway. And most recently, the Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station. I'm in my element. I'd have been down there today for a few more shots, but my camera was in the shop, and I had to head over to Chinatown this afternoon to pick it up. We must rely on our old friend Google.

24 12th is now for up for sale, at $2,250,000

Over the last decade, Gowanus has been transforming from a heavy industrial neighborhood to a revitalized office, retail, restaurant and residential destination. While parts of the neighborhood sit within the proposed rezoning area, this property is protected from any future residential rezoning and would remain commercial. Within walking distance to this property are a number of national and local retailers and restaurants such as Lowe's Home Improvement, Harbor Freight Tools, Pathmark, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Checkers, Surfish Bistro, Lowlands Car and LaQuinta Inn & Suites.

Bar, not Car, but an easy enough mistake, given the location.  No Pathmark, alas, but there is a new under-expressway pizza experience nearby.  Who knows what will appear next on this forlorn yet strangely enigmatic plot?

A block away, the same brokers list 84 14th for sale at three million.  The blurb is similar, though this one's being marketed as (another) possible fitness location.  In between 24 & 84, on the corner of Second, you can see what may be the last (former) residential house on the avenue.   You can see it, along with plenty of 1930's & 40's Percy Loomis Sperr photographs, right here.


Third Avenue

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Brooklyn Garden Apartments

725 Fourth Avenue 

"Serving the neighborhood as a rental community for over 85 years, The Brooklyn Garden Apartments once housed tenants for as little as $35/month. Since then, new ownership has beautifully renovated and refurbished every corner of this stalwart Gens D'Arme to afford today's tenants with generous and comfortable homes at similarly reasonable prices. A place of tranquility awaits you within the bustle of Greenwood Heights. Step inside a beautifully maintained property and into a peaceful courtyard that sounds as if it were a bird sanctuary. The songbirds have found this jewel and now you will have too. "  (Ideal Properties)

Ideal Properties are now marketing rentals for the Brooklyn Garden Apartments at Fourth Avenue (23rd/24th), in that gray geographical area known as Park Slope/South Slope/Greenwood Heights/Sunset Park.  Take your pick.  Wherever it is, the marketing pitch for the apartments is certainly quite er, florid.

The Brooklyn Garden Apartments were built in 1929, their construction a part of of the 20's post-war housing boom.  Between 1920 and 1929 some 420,000 new apartments became available in New York City, and 43,000 old-law tenements were removed from city housing stock.  The very term "tenament," as it describes a newly constructed building, fades out of use in the 1920's; the exclusive use of the word "apartment" from this point on reflects not only an improved model of housing, but also an aspiration on the part of would-be tenants for a more middle class standard of living.  The production of moderate-sized, moderate-to-middle-class apartment buildings in the 1920's was especially high in the outer boroughs, where land values were comparatively low, and most buildings were four to six stories in height, in order for developers to avoid more stringent construction requirements (under six stories, only one or two floors of a building were required to be fireproof).   In the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, the garden apartment model, with an interior courtyard promising improved light and ventilation, also proved to be financially attractive to developers, as lower-density "garden" housing on low-cost land, with simplified construction methods, could actually prove to be more profitable.  The garden portion of the developments varied considerably both in scope and use, and clearly some buildings, like the larger, grander, garden buildings in Jackson Heights. were designed for better-off residents.  The Brooklyn Garden Apartments was not one of these buildings.

The garden apartment development was as important for philanthropy as for the private marketplace. In fact it was innovation in social welfare, in combination with the garden apartment form, which provided the most powerful exemplars of the type. The notion of medium-density living, tempered by a garden, fit well into the well-established reform ideology which saw the reduction of building coverage as an inevitable consequence of innovation.  With the completion of the subway, the older philanthropic companies looked to the advantages of the outer boroughs, just as did the private developers. 
(Richard Plunz - A History of Housing in New York City: Dwelling Tyoe and Social Change in the American Metropolis, Columbia University Press, 1990))

During this time a number of labor and philanthropic organizations developed co-operative housing projects - most common in the Bronx and the Lower East Side.  These offered tenants an economically advantageous combination of stock investment and rental payment, or co-operative ownership, and also promoted community life within buildings, offering libraries, clubs, educational classes and even summer camps.

The Brooklyn Garden Apartments, at Fourth Avenue (1929) and Carlton Avenue, Wallabout (1930), more modest in scale than many other cooperative developments, were a limited-partnership developed by Louis Pink, a prominent advocate of housing for the poor who was instrumental in the formation of the NYCHA.  In 1930 the Brooklyn Eagle ran a full-page feature on the Fourth Avenue apartments: Model Apartments Solve Housing: People Who Have Small Incomes May Now Live in Finest Homes.

The article describes the building's 165 modestly-sized apartments as a vast improvement over the old-law tenament units, with their real kitchens (windowed), front & rear ventilation, community room, club-room, and courtyard garden/playground space. Co-operative owners are in the minority here, with most residents paying rent of around around $11 per room along with a stock investment.

By all accounts the Garden Apartments continued to serve residents with modest incomes throughout the twentieth-century, and in the 50's tenants successfully challenged a landlord's attempt to illegally raise their rents.  At some point the building must have transitioned from a co-operative to a straight rental building. As the decades went by, the neighborhood suffered the effects of crime and drugs, and the building became less safe, and less well cared for. By the turn of the twenty-first century more changes were afoot. With the neighborhood beginning to gentrify, 725 began to attract younger, newer area residents, for whom the rents they agreed to pay - far higher than those of long-time residents -  seemed a comparative bargain.  A Gothamist article from 2014 centers on life in the building from the late 1990's, and the tactics used to remove long-term tenants.  By any means necessary.  It tells a familiar, though darker, story of displacement, common enough in multi-family buildings as area demographics change.  Don't we all know neighbors who've been approached with buy-out offers?

Today, 725 is apparently under new ownership, though the ACRIS records are not that revealing.  A year ago a deed of sale transferred from 725-4th Realty LLC (owners since at least 2001) to 725-4th Realty LLC (no amount recorded).  Addresses suggest owners in Borough Park.  Apparently the small apartments are "beautifully renovated," but no permits have been filed for interior work on apartments since 2014.  In fact there are no permits at all for interior apartment renovation for 725 in the online DOB records, which date back to 1994. There are outstanding violations though, and plenty of complaints.  And the courtyard. Who wouldn't want a to live in a building with a courtyard? - a wonderful amenity for apartment dwellers.  I've peered through the gates at it admiringly countless times - but describing its chain-linked partitioned area as jewel-like is, perhaps, a touch hyperbolic.

The current vacancies for apartments at 725 are listed at prices ranging from $2,150 to $2,950 for two and three-bedroom apartments.  A good deal for young professionals these days, I guess (the times we live in!) but not so much for the kind of tenants Louis Pink envisioned in the 1920's.  They'll have to look farther afield.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Taking their Leave

Here are some of the houses & other buildings gone, or ready to disappear, in 2015.  Most of these appeared on the blog, and most of the plans for their replacement have not yet been approved. Almost all of the plans are for luxury apartments. Of course, as per normal, many other lots in the neighborhood are busy right now with construction.  Dumpsters, excavated sites, and shells of new buildings abound.

Some of the buildings below kept their early looks largely intact, while others lost their period details, covered over time with stucco, vinyl, asphalt or aluminum. Some of them had second, back houses behind them. Most of the houses kept their shape, and could be identified as old.  Most of them bore witness to a booming, mid-to-late, nineteenth century borough, and housed workers active in the industries close by.  Each house contained histories.

196-204 19th Street (for apartment building)



197 22nd Street (three-story plus penthouse planned)

269 (fate unknown), 273 14th Street (four-story apartment building planned)

270 19th Street (four-story apartment building planned)

643, 645 Fifth Avenue (fate unknown)

721 Sixth (apartment building planned)

316 12th Street (four-story plus penthouse planned)

147 11th Street (currently zoned for manufacturing - fate unknown)

213, 215 20th Street (five-story residential planned)

205 12th Street (four-story plus penthouse building planned)

371 13th Street (residential building planned)

541-555 Fourth Avenue (9-story, mixed-use apartment building)

488 Fourth Avenue, second from left, below (ten-story, mixed use apartment building planned)

139 16th Street (still standing, fate unknown).  Owner is likely waiting to acquire next-door 137.

138, 140 15th Street (see below)

Also leaving:

550-554 Fourth Avenue, 138, 140 15th St. (11-story, 38-unit apartment building planned)

189,191,195 Prospect Avenue (65-unit apartment building, 5-story on Prospect & 12-story on Fourth)

Warehouses at:
142 33rd (for the third hotel on the block)
150 20th (replacement unknown),
695 -705 Sixth Avenue (three-story, 32-unit apartment building planned),
715-21 (five-story, 12-unit apartment building planned)
Shirley Chisholm Day Care Center at 333 14th (apartment building planned)