Monday, August 31, 2015

Hair Fair by Alberto

Good to see that long-standing Fifth Avenue business Hair Fair by Alberto is now open at 681 Fifth Avenue, across the street from its old location.   The new salon has been given a very nice look, though looking through the window, what did I spy but the old sign, sitting in the yard at the back of the store?  This was not an illusion - the sign has been brought over from 684, and is getting a clean-up.  I don't know what the plans are for the sign - maybe it'll go on an inside wall - but it's great that it hasn't been left behind.  It's a beaut.

Good luck to the new incarnation of Hair Fair!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pathmark to Close

I first heard news of our local Pathmark's closure in a South Slope Community Group e-mail, and the news was confirmed during a visit to the supermarket yesterday.  The 12th Street store will be closing shop in November.  Last month the A&P company filed for bankruptcy, and announced impending sales & closures of their 296 supermarkets.  These include forty-two Pathmark stores in the New York area.  On August 11th,  the UFCW Local 1500 released tables showing the status of the 42 Pathmarks, though any sales listed there will not be finalized until auctions are held late next month. As you can see below, 1-37 12th Street is listed as unsold. Unclaimed stores will be sold at public auction at the end of October.

Let's hope that the Gowanus store remains a supermarket.  Nothing too fancy & nothing too expensive.  And preferably not a Key Food, if current union negotiations with Key Food concerning the planned acquisition of 17 A&P markets are anything to go by.

Although our priority and our first concern is for our members to continue to work without any loss, it is Local 1500, Local 342 and Local 338’s position that if Key Food was allowed to reduce pay by $5 per hour, reduce hours from 40 to 35 hours per week, and reduce health coverage from family plans to single that the damage would be catastrophic. Clearly our members would have a very hard time, and shouldn't have to exist under those conditions. 
The proposed pay and hour cuts would equate to well over $250 per week in lost wages and the difference between a single and family medical plan could be as much as $600 to $700 per month. If that’s not enough, the company also has the arrogance to demand our members begin making a weekly contribution into this new inferior healthcare plan. 
These terms are simply unacceptable. We are now more aggressively seeking other companies that are willing to purchase these same stores.

What a difference nine blocks make in Supermarket World.   The proverbial tale of two
(New York) cities. Both Pathmark & Whole Foods sit right on the Gowanus, but their ambiance & customer base couldn't be farther apart.  Whole Foods makes its situation part of its appeal - exactly the setting for the couple pictured right on the cover of this week's New Yorker.  A perfectly tamed industrial chic. You'll feel you've really made it here!  Farther south, in the Pathway parking lot, you might find be the only one admiring the views.  All the better. The landscape's unsuffused with self-congratulation.

Expressway looms above, and water's gazed at through a gap in the chain-link fence.

Working and middle-class families shop at Pathmark.  Here the reality of budget trumps the charms of food lifestyle.  Here the art of stretching a dollar.  This is how most of the city shops.  At Whole Foods, by contrast, money appears to be no object. I'll admit that I buy a few things there occasionally - mostly from their store brands, which are not a bad deal, even if the rest of the prices there are sky-high.  But I'm strictly a small-basket, handful-of-items shopper. Most of my food is bought elsewhere.  I can't conceive how much it would cost to feed a family at Whole Foods alone, and I gaze with wonder at the heaped shopping carts in the check-out lines.

We need our staple food stores.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Mermaid Lives!

Good news.  Reader Virginia Maksymowicz, whose father Henry "Hank" Maksymowicz once tended bar in the Seafarers Union building at 675 Fourth, has been investigating the fate of the boat-shaped bar at the Union's Port-O-Call bar, after the Union headquarters moved, first to 635 Fourth, and more recently to New Jersey, and has come up trumps. In a recent e-mail, she included a letter from Mark A. Clements, the Content Curator of the Seafarers International Union. Here's part of it:

 I had a hunch as to the correct answer to your question, but I just needed to confirm it: the figurehead was relocated in 1984 to the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center (for Maritime training) in Piney Point, Maryland. It can still be found there today, at the Mooney Pub/Anchor Bar located in the Center’s hotel. As with its original placement in Brooklyn, it’s on the prow of a boat-shaped bar

Thanks, Virginia, for tracking down the mermaid!  How good to know that she wasn't destroyed in the move to 635, and is still at the center of bar & seafaring culture. Perhaps a road trip to Maryland beckons ...

The Port-of-Call
Back at The Port-of Call

Drivers Wanted

Time Travel




And some 30-odd years earlier ...

A woman on this block told me a while back that when she was growing up Park Slope extended right down into 30s. This neighborhood name/neighborhood boundary thing never gets resolved though, and is largely dictated by age and the number of years lived in the neighborhood. Certainly my purely anecdotal evidence suggests that longtime residents see the Slope extending south much farther than newer inhabitants do. This is even referenced in a rap song from 2003. Rapper Pumpkinhead, who grew up in the Slope, and died earlier this summer, makes reference to the neighborhood going "all the way to the 20s" (3:00 mark) in the song Park Slope.  Different days, different names, different borders, different homes.  DNAinfo ran a piece earlier this month about Pumpkinhead ((Robert Diaz), and the online petition to name the block at Degraw & Fifth after him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Together Again on 31st Drive



Links: Across the Boroughs

Socrates Sculpture Park

Fastest Selling Neighborhoods in Brooklyn & Manhattan?  
LES, Park Slope & ... Sunset Park (StreetEasy)

Tourists Have Landed in Queens.  They're Staying (so very New York Times)

5 Reasons We Love The Bronx (Commercial Observer)
"Multifamily Housing: The Bronx is ripe for the picking and investors and residents are taking advantage of the remaining affordability the borough has to offer."

Socrates Sculpture Park

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

April in August

Finally! Designer Creates Kidswear Inspired by the Park Slope Food Co-op (Brooklyn Paper)

Sloper Sophie Demenge of earthy Gowanus kidswear company Oeuf (8th Street) was surveying the Park Slope Food Co-op’s healthy spread on one of her regular outings to the market, when she was struck with the idea to knit the organic goods into sweaters and hats for tots, according to a spokesperson... 

... The collection, called Foodilicious, serves up a cuddly buffet of egg berets ($70), eggplant pants ($104), carrot hats ($60), asparagus scarves ($100), and sweaters emblazoned with the word “kale” ($110), many hand-knitted with wool shorn from baby alpacas, according to the company.


The latest New Yorker cover - Gowanus-style

Sales at Fairway Suffering at the Hands of Whole Foods & the Like? (Gothamist)

Inside H.P.Lovecraft's Hatred for Brooklyn (Bowery Boys)
A look at the author's racist & obsessive loathing of the Brooklyn waterfront & its inhabitants:

"As for Red Hook—it is always the same. Suydam came and went; a terror gathered and faded; but the evil spirit of darkness and squalor broods on amongst the mongrels in the old brick houses, and prowling bands still parade on unknown errands past windows where lights and twisted faces unaccountably appear and disappear. Age-old horror is a hydra with a thousand heads, and the cults of darkness are rooted in blasphemies deeper than the well of Democritus. The soul of the beast is omnipresent and triumphant, and Red Hook’s legions of blear-eyed, pockmarked youths still chant and curse and howl as they file from abyss to abyss, none knows whence or whither, pushed on by blind laws of biology which they may never understand. As of old, more people enter Red Hook than leave it on the landward side, and there are already rumours of new canals running underground to certain centres of traffic in liquor and less mentionable things."

from The Horror at Red Hook

DA seeking money from estate of Brooklyn 'Cherry King' ... (Daily News)

Grand Opening

In case you thought (off) Fifth was nothing but macarons ...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Surfish Bistro II

More food is on the way to Third, at the southern pre-expressway-Gowanus border.  A note is posted for a liquor license at 550.  Surfish Bistro, a Peruvian restaurant on Fifth, opened in 2011, to positive reviews, and it looks like the owners are opening a second place at Third & 14th.  Will they be using that roof deck? The restaurant will sit in a quintessentially Gowanus-of-today landscape, in between Rico high-end art & furniture design store & a Subway/Checkers/Dunkin Donuts fast food trio. On the same side of the block you'll find a couple of auto body shops, including Prestige Auto Restoration, with gas pumps out front.  Prestige is prime car-spotting territory -  you can be sure of finding all kinds of old or smashed-up classics outside, awaiting the miracles of surgery.  Across the avenue: the Iglesia de Dios Pentacostal M.I. Roca de Seguridad storefront church, Lowlands bar, Crop to Cup cafe, Scala Contracting, Splats & Squiggles kids'art studio, and La Quinta Inn.

Farther down the avenue it's still mostly construction trade business - fencing, plumbing, tool rental, woodworking, glass & the like.  Still, if a macaron bakery (Woops!) can open south of the expressway on Fifth, & condos abut the expressway on Fourth, I'm sure some niche retail will fill in the gap here soon.

On Broadway (The Beauty Reigns)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lost Prospect

Here's another look at the north side of  Prospect Avenue - between Third & Second - a block that vanished with the construction of the Prospect Expressway, around 1941.  The pictures, taken in 1940, document a block's last stand.

Percy Loomis Sperr, 1940 (NYPL Digital Collection)

You can see a bar down at the corner where Prospect meets Hamilton (89 Prospect), and the building right next to it (91 - 93) is indicated on early maps as a metal works (1903), and Siphon Head gas manufacturers (1904), and is later reported as housing a paper company.  It's hard to make out what business is in place in 1940. 103, the smaller, white building, at center (top), once housed a blacksmith's shop, and Alexander Barnett's shop at 107 (marine supplies, scrap metal, manila rope), which has made an appearance on this blog before, can be seen second from the right in the same picture.  On the 1880 Bromley map, the block faces the Heisenfuttel & Nelson Coal Yard, and the South Brooklyn Saw Mill, situated close to the point where bay meets canal.  By 1903, there's an iron works nearby, & right on the bay, the huge Buckley, Woodhull & Burns Lumber Yard.

E.B. Hyde Atlas of the Borough of Brooklyn, 1903 (NYPL)

Press reports summon brief, flickering moments of Prospect life from earlier centuries: the theft of a diamond ring at no.89, the vagrant found dead in the yard at 93, the resident hero at 99 who saved a group of children from a runaway horse.  A fall from a window.  A bite from a dog.

In 1909  two twelve-year old boys, John O'Brien &  Nicholas Solzone, both of Sixteenth Street, made a futile attempt to extort two hundred dollars from harness maker Morris Rosenfeld (no. 89 again).

Mr Rosenfeld:
     I want $200, or your house will be blown up at midnight.     BLACK HANDS
     I want the money down the Bricks on Hamilton av. and 2nd. av. 

It did not specify just when he was to pay the $200, nor just what hole it was to be put in, except that he was to pay out his cash down by the brickyard at the junction of the two avenues, down by the gloomy shores of the Gowanus Canal.  (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Fourth & 19th

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Trading in yet again on the name of poor Walt, here's a little broker pitch for 232 Adelphi, the converted Carlton Mews Church in Fort Greene.  Shall you be inspired?

"I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it..." 
                                                                           Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

"Following in the footsteps of the great Walt Whitman, Fort Greene's arguably most famous of former residents, this converted Gothic Revival former house of worship shall inspire you to build your own legacy and craft your own history. 
Every unit has been meticulously renovated to offer the exquisite, once-in-a-lifetime rental experience, a unique treat to come home to every day. Soaring scalloped ceilings and jeweled-glass windows will enchant the lover of architecture in you to no end.
Living will be easy and comfortable with a number of amenities throughout the building, from central heating and air conditioning, thermostats remotely programmable from your office/car, top-of-the-line appliances, complimentary laundry facility, bike storage, and shared green. This space is sure to make it difficult to leave your home."

Available units list from $5,950 (1 BR) to $9,975 (2.5 BR).  No love of walking or the common man required.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Attracting those "creative types" (we love the somewhat Freudian vocabulary slip):

For the love of art : Residential developers increasingly add art to buildings to boost cache (sic) — and prices  (The Real Deal)

Brokers have long used loaned art to stage new development apartments, but these days developers are increasingly incorporating art into the public spaces of residential projects, much like commercial developers have done for decades. The move to “art-up” is being driven by several factors, from upping a building’s cultural cache (sic) to helping push up prices.
“A fabulously designed lobby by some well-known interior designer or artist is going to demand a higher rent,” said Adam Courtney, an associate director at commercial brokerage Lee & Associates, who holds a master’s degree in public art from the University of Southern California.

Brooklyn May Get 22,000 New Apartments by 2019, But It Won’t Get More Affordable

And the Game-Changer?

The other day I was thinking how quiet it seemed at the old Frost warehouse. I couldn't recall when I'd last seen any actual construction work going on there. In fact, as I later found out, work stopped in March, when sprinkler & gas violations were issued.

At 657-59 Fifth/240-246 19th, a Stop Work Order:


At 665, a Stop Work Order partially rescinded only for the provision of guard rails & lighting, & the removal of debris:


657 - 665 were sold in September, 2013 for $8,500,000, and plans were filed last year for a 30-apartment residential/retail conversion. At the time of the sale, CPEX's Sean Kelly called the sale a potential "focal point for the South Slope market."

“There is not much left of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope-proper and the natural progression is south ... The buildings are in excellent condition, and there is not another 10,000 square foot footprint available for at least 10 blocks...This project will be a game changer for the neighborhood.”

 The managing member of the LLC that purchased the building is Chaskiel Strulovitch, lauded by Crain's New York back in 2011 as a pioneer - one of "Brooklyn's Miracle Makers" in the early development of Williamsburg:

Mr. Strulovitch is one of a handful of people who laid the groundwork for the transformation of a gritty, postindustrial wasteland in the city into a thriving residential oasis chockablock with towers and hipster hangouts.

Earlier: New Look for Old

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sandy's - Closing, & Re-opening Soon

A few days ago I noticed that Sandy's Cafe was shuttered, and hoped that this was just a vacation closure. Sadly, that's not the case. Today I spoke to workers outside the store, who told me that Gigi & Neil, who took over from the lovely Elia Adame early this year, had closed their business. This is a real shame - they're a great couple, and were offering nice selection of coffee, pastries and savory items, including the famous tamales, a specialty at Sandy's. It's hard running a business on a side street, and I'm sorry they didn't get a bigger crowd of customers. The good news is that Sandy's will be re-opening, hopefully later this week, albeit in a slightly different format. Apparently the new people running it are connected to the original owners, & the new Sandy's will be more of a deli than a cafe. Tamales will still be available, along with a wider selection of Mexican food, and the deli-standard bagels & the like.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Sandy's III -get out there and show some support!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

And Mezini?

Is it really the end of the line for the restaurant at 492 Fifth?   A storeowner on the block told me it had closed down, & it certainly looks that way.  Mezini Restaurant Corporation leased the store space there back in 2010, but didn't actually open the restaurant until 2013, with a rather fancy, seafood/raw bar focus.  As time went by the menu altered, the hookahs arrived,

January, 2014

and the restaurant's hours got later.  Its storefront curtains were more often than not closed, even in its open hours.  Earlier this year, a note on the door intrigued.

Even from the beginning, Mezini never seemed busy, and many of us wondered just how the Latvian-owned business was managing to stay afloat.  There were many idle theories.
I walk by the restaurant most days, and can't recall when I last saw it open.  The potted shrubs out front, long dead, have recently been removed, which might (or might not) be construed as significant. All's quiet.