Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sixth & 21st

695-705 6th Avenue, at 6th Avenue & 21st Street, is a bit of a mystery property, with no signs identifying the nature of its business.  Since the sixties it has been home to a medical research laboratory, a ladies' garments manufacturer, and most recently (since the 90s) it has had a C of O to operate as an early childhood daycare center.  But it certainly hasn't been a daycare center in recent years, and there's an open violation for use contrary to C of O. Instead, the site has operated as the Yeshiva Machzikei Hadas, a yeshiva for older students.  The yeshiva keeps a low profile, but there are two other schools operating in Borough Park under the same name.  ACRIS records reveal a contract of sale last April (no money involved) between the Congregation & Yeshiva Machikei Hadas and 695 Realty LLC, and an online search brings up the realty LLC, with an address in Rosedale, Queens.

This is a large & valuable parcel.  Any bets on what will (sooner or later) replace the light industry warehouse/school?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No-Blizzard Links (Up &Down)


Carwasheros at Vegas Auto Spa vote to join Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (Daily News)

The Brooklyn workers have been on strike, calling for the right to unionize, since last November — and plan to continue until a contract is signed.
 “We are hoping for more protection, like gloves and glasses,” said Angel Rebolledo, 53, who has worked at Vegas for eight years, shampooing, vacuuming and washing cars. “We want to be paid according to the law.” 
 The workers sued their boss Marat Leshehinsky last fall, alleging he paid them less than the minimum wage, with no overtime.

Great news.  Now maybe they'll get more than four dollars an hour ...

Gowanus Rabbits Seized by Police (Daily News)

“The rabbits were in imminent danger from a severe blizzard headed for New York City,” said a spokeswoman for the ASPCA, which assisted cops in retrieving the animals. 
 The woman who owned the rabbits wasn’t charged because she was “reluctantly cooperative” in gathering up the animals Monday night, a police source said.

The bunny police  triumph ...



Monday, January 26, 2015

At 4:00 p.m.

The blizzard's wrath is still a long way off, and the snow is underwhelming.  But it's nice to walk on quieter streets, and a what's-up visit to the sanitation garage seems appropriate.  The garage itself is almost empty, but there are lines of empty snowplow-ready vehicles parked outside.  White, grey, orange, brown.   An F chugs by over the viaduct, and a lone worker sits idly at the wheel of his truck - a flash of lime green -  waiting for a call to action.

A Brief Run?

No golden touch for Golden Mens Wear, which opened last fall as a replacement for the Dreamy Mattress store, with (to the casual observer) the same management in place.  The store is now up for rent, and the property is listed for sale online.  As mentioned here previously, 480 Fifth was on and off the market in 2013 for a heady $6,200,000, without selling, and in 2014 for $6,500,000, with similar results.  It went back on the market a couple of months ago for the 6.5 price again.

"Location Location. Steps away from the subway. On the most popular avenue in Brooklyn right now" (my italics). "Blocks (23) away from Barclays Center.  Corner property with 6 apartments plus a store front. Store front has 2800sqft.1400 sq ft upper level 1400 sq ft basement. Perfect location for a large department store, medical office, or restaurant. A rare opportunity for investment and/or use."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fittingly Enough

Across from the cemetery & out with the trash, a poster of a (bad, bad) poem for Jim Morrison: A New Epitaph for Pere Lachaise. Rock is not Dead!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Support the Striking Workers at Vegas Auto Spa

Striking workers at the Vegas Auto Spa Wash (7th & 19th) are rallying again today for their right to form a union and in protest against low wages, unpaid overtime & unsafe working conditions.

Hernan Lopez, who has worked at Vegas since 2009, said: “We are fighting for our rights. We want the owner to accept the union so we can go back to work. We only want to be treated fairly and paid honestly for the work we do.” 
Eight workers at Vegas Auto Spa sued owner Marat Leshehinsky in Brooklyn Federal Court on Oct. 7, 2014, alleging wage theft of at least $600,000 and perhaps more than $1 million through wage and hour violations. 
They claim they were sometimes paid less than the minimum wage and worked as many as 90 hours a week without overtime. They went on strike November 19, 2014, demanding to be allowed to join the union of their choice, the RWDSU. The owner is refusing to recognize the union and is trying to block the workers from voting on whether to unionize.

                                                           News - Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (12/14)

A worker outside the car wash this morning told me that there will be a vigil around 4:30 this afternoon.  Please show up and offer your support.

More information here about how you can help.

The Geek is Gone

The Brooklyn Geek, a small, independent computer repair & diagnosis business, has closed shop at Fourth Avenue & 8th Street. The business was originally based on 1st Street (I remember us lugging our larger, heavier PCs there in earlier years) and moved to Fourth in 2008. Over the years it garnered a reputation for accurate, fairly-priced and friendly service.  And you always felt you were leaving your vulnerable information in honest hands.  In addition to repairs & other computer services such as data retrieval, upgrades, virus removal etc, the Geek ran computer classes, and more recently had a sideline in Italian ices.

Happily, the owners, Patty & Gabe Feliciano, still have an online business, serving customers in Brooklyn & Staten Island.  They'll provide tutoring (seniors a specialty), make house calls by appointment, & offer free pick-up and delivery.  Contact details are available at their website.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Update on construction at the Lightstone Group's Gowanus Construction (Pardon Me for Asking)

"Though only a fraction of the Lightstone Group development has gone up so far,  it has become all too clear to most local residents that it will change the nature of Gowanus forever."

City to sue owner of crumbling 68th Precinct House & Stables on Sunset Park's Fourth  (Brooklyn Paper)

Atlantic Ave. P.O. moving to Flatbush Ave.  (Brownstoner)

"The Boerum Hill post office is relocating from 542 Atlantic Avenue to 290 Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, according to the Atlantic Yards Report. Last we heard, the post office was going to move into a newly renovated warehouse at 594 Dean Street, across the street from a big piece of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. But a few weeks ago, Crain’sreported that a coworking company, Industrious, had signed a lease for a 19,000 square foot space at the Dean Street warehouse. 
So what happened to the post office? Rob Perris, District Manager for Community Board 2, told AYR the postal service switched plans because it “discovered belatedly that the proposed location isn’t in 11217.” (Seems kind of strange the post office didn’t know the zip code.) The new space is a former Chase bank branch in the ground floor of a condo building between Prospect Place and Park Place, above."

A Real Charmer

The building facade is now in place at 540 Fifth

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Revealed & Hidden on Fifth

The scaffolding is finally coming down at the Hellenic Classical Charter School (18th). "It looks like a college!" a passer-by exclaimed.

The (Pablito's) Taqueria sign is up (23rd) but the restaurant doesn't appear to be open yet.

At Fifth & 25th renovations at the old McGovern-Weir greenhouse (purchased by Greenwood Cemeter for use as a visitor center), have reached a tented stage.

Nearby, at the S. Batrouni Auto Service Center, this one's been under wraps for a while. Any guesses as to what model's underneath?

Monday, January 19, 2015

They're Back?

Just when you think the saga of Jo, Brian & Joseph is over, a new twist in the tale emerges!  A J,B & J worker, present at Fifth & 12th today, told me today that they were "taking everything out" and "renovating" the store...  The taking out part sounds likely, but the renovating part not so much.  Still, we must suspend our cynicism!  Even after more than three months closed, and apparently owing over $30,000 in rent, a new act is always possible.

The J,B& J story, & and some bonus block trivia of earlier years here

Moving Along

Excavation has begun at 470 Fourth.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Underworld Plaza

Looking down from the 62nd Street Station

I've passed by here plenty of times, but this time I got off the train to dawdle on the platform.  I've always loved the name - perfect for a lingerie store underneath the tracks.  Maybe Eurydice is somewhere inside, getting a fitting from a no-nonsense saleswoman, or maybe there are figures in the shadows of the parking lot, whispering deals on girdles and slips.  Anything might happen here...

Or maybe not.  At wedding planners website Chosson & Kallah, the place is listed as "one stop shopping" for kallahs, though some Yelp reviewers remember the terrors of adolescent visits.

I had nightmares after visiting this place the first time.  Rows and rows of bras.  And underwear. And fat pants.  I had nightmares about suffocating in undergarments...

As a child a visit to Underworld Plaza was traumatizing.  Strangers touching me, feeling me up, estimating size and fit - could there be anything worse for an awkward adolescent?  As an adult I must admit that their selection is remarkable, their salespeople knowledgeable, and their prices more than fair...

Discounted deals abound, apparently, though largely aimed, perhaps, at the matronly customer rather than the fashion-seeker.

Who likes Victoria"s Secret, this store not for You. In store are big selection minimizers,full figure classic bras, night gowns, robs and girdles for discounted prices. I shop in the store few times a year with my girls. Sales ladies are very helpful.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Great news - Bonnie Slotnick's cooking bookshop's new, East Village location is confirmed. (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)
Gowanus Parole Center downscaling for a minimum of two years, with satellite parole centers planned throughout the borough (DNAinfo)
Close-up BQE views for guests at a "tenement-turned-commercial" hotel conversion on Sunset Park's Third Avenue (YIMBY)
Buy a two-bedroom "boutique" condo in Carroll Gardens for a trifling three million dollars ... (NY Times)

Miles or Continents?

Where are we, & how far have we travelled?  This strip of land, bounded by Fort Hamilton Parkway, New Utrecht Avenue & 43rd Street, is the Sunny Triangle.  At least that's the name of the Exxon station here, though you won't find it anywhere around the site.  Only online, as a listed business, or in territories charted by Google maps. Around its borders, a matzoh bakery, a donut shop, a carniceria, and close by, the Bartek Polish deli, Mrs K - Better Apparel for Ladies & Teens, & the American Association of Crimean Turks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ride the Train

Time to escape cold weather inertia and go for a quick ride on the D.  We all (well some of us) lament the endless Brooklyn branding, & the precious fetishizing of increasing swathes of the borough. If you live within the hot zone, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the money and the hype, but a trip on the elevated tracks, over the old city line, will put things back in perspective.  The shuffle past cornices, and sagging-curtained windows, the lost movie theater - a Renaissance citadel on New Utrecht Avenue, the broad flat vistas, with row upon row of houses, stores and warehouses laid out as if on purpose for the pleasure of the train voyeur.  Graffiti-pockmarked rooftops and tiny backyard fiefdoms.  The views both grand and utterly domestic.  And there's still enough sky to go around.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Crash Scene

Clearing up after the early morning accident at 121 12th Street, where a garbage truck collided with a wall of the Red Hook Construction Group's premises (PIX 11).  This is between Second & Third Avenues, right next to the Ennis playground.

Boutique Living!

The picture's a little out of date. It was taken a couple of years back, when 314 12th was about to hit the market. The exterior of the building was tidied up somewhat by the time the apartments were put on the market, in February '13, but the general look's essentially the same. In 2013, 314 was listed as "Park Slope's newest boutique condominium" and units for sale included a three- bedroom apartment listed at $1,495,000, and a "one bedroom" (#1) at $769,000.  Apartment #1 is currently listed at $789,000, dropped in price from an earlier $825,000 in November '14.   The listing description seems to be frozen in time.

"Nestled on a beautiful tree-lined block, this 956 square foot flexible duplex residence with 1.5 baths and private deeded rooftop terrace space is offered for sale in Park Slopes newest boutique condominium. 314 Twelfth Street is a newly constructed, 25 foot wide townhouse containing only 6 homes located very close to 5th and 6th Avenues."

Ah, but today's buyer should always be wary of the word "flexible" - all too often euphemistic for a housing arrangement that's awkwardly laid out, or somewhat creatively billed.  Though it's listed as a one-bedroom, Apartment #1 has a first floor living space facing the street (its two "oversized" windows can be seen above) and a windowless basement (well, cellar, technically), shown on the floorplan as a rec room, and contravening building code if used as a bedroom.

What is a “bedroom”? (Source: NYC Administrative Code § 27-2004, -2076, -2058; MDL § 1-4-18)
• Definition: A bedroom is a living room used for sleeping purposes.
• Size requirements: Generally, a bedroom must have minimum dimensions of 8 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet. A bedroom
must also have a minimum floor space of 80 square feet, and must be six feet wide at its narrowest part.
However, if the apartment contains three or more bedrooms, half of the bedrooms may have minimum
dimensions of 7 feet x 7 feet x 7 feet.
• Lighting Requirements: All bedrooms must have at least one window that opens to a street, yard, or court on the
same lot.
o The window may also open to a balcony that opens on a street, yard, or court.
o The total area of the windows in the room must at least be one-tenth the floor area of the room. All

required windows must be at least twelve square feet in area.

What are “basements” and “cellars,” and when may they be occupied as apartments? (Source: NYC
Administrative Code §§ 27-2004, -2082, -2083, -2086-87)

• Definition: A basement is an enclosed space partly below curb level, but having more than one-half its height above curb level. A cellar is an enclosed space having more than one-half its height below curb level.
• Occupancy requirements: Units in basements and cellars of multi-family dwellings have complicated requirements regarding their dimensions, lighting, and ventilation, and whether they may be occupied. In addition, no room in the cellar of a one- or two-family dwelling shall be rented and no member of the family or families occupying the dwelling shall use such room for sleeping.

So really this is a $789,000 studio plus cellar space.

With developers desperate to max out every possible square inch of footage, this kind of real estate offering is all too common.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Across the Prospect to Greenwood

Heading south with the dog, crossing the expressway's a done deal, and more than likely, you'll find yourself at one edge or other of the cemetery's borders.

On the other side of the bridge, at the corner of Tenth & 20th, I lifted my pocket camera to take a picture of a building I'd seen in a tax photo, where a business, Aunt Annie's Farm, once operated.  Shot taken, a squirrel appeared, the dog lunged, and the camera made a sickening arc, up, up in the air before hitting the sidewalk with a sharp crack.

The shutter strains to open, and occasionally makes it, but mostly shakes furiously.  The handful of images that manage to appear are grainy blurs .  It's a goner!