Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We Deliver Confidence

On a clear day, for a couple of minutes, the camera insisted we were in a pea-souper.  Hotel rising at Third & 6th.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Another house.  No longer residential, there's something to like in the way its door & windows, enclosed in metal, match the shutters of the buildings it sits between, and there's a brutal charm in the hard-edged lines of its wall-hugging stoop, leading to a padlocked entry. Do the top shutters slide open horizontally? It looks like it.
The use of metal seems especially appropriate here. 413-421 20th Street appear on the E.B.Hyde Brooklyn map of 1903 as a complex of stables, along with the wooden house pictured above, but by 1915 the buildings are housing a cornice-making business, Craig & Brown Incorporated.  Not just any old small-time business either. In 1914, Craig & Brown were responsible for sheet metal work on the 39th Street municipal ferry building, & the work was described in detail in the splendidly named journal, Sanitary & Heated Age.  A year later, Sheet Metal lauded their copper sheathing work on the City Hall Elevated Station, "A Contract Requiring Seventeen Tons of Copper for Siding, Cornices, Gutters and Downspouts."  In 1921 George Brown & two other partners founded the Munson Roofing Tile Company, which operated at this address.  By the 40s, the buildings housed a paint company & today, I believe, General Coatings manufactures chemical & paint products.

The bottom picture - Google Earth in black & white

Update 9/30/15: South Slope News  reports on the 20th Street site today, with news that 415 20th Street is up for sale ($4,500,000), with TerraCRG as the broker. I spend far too much time trawling the murky waters of local commercial real estate listings, but I missed this one. From the Terra site:

The property is ideal as-is for manufacturing/warehousing or can be converted into office, art studio, restaurant, event space and other creative commercial uses. The M1-1 zoned property features 11,400 SF of ground floor space with an additional 3,650 SF of office and mezzanine space. There are two drive-in doors, one with access to the interior of the building and the other provides access to outdoor space. 
Over the last decade Greenwood Heights has seen new residential buildings, retail shops and restaurants open to satisfy the demand for the new residents and businesses in the neighborhood. The area went through a rezoning that resulted in a number of new residential developments while preserving the historic character of the neighborhood and while some parts of the neighborhood remain commercially zoned, these areas have transformed from primarily traditional industrial uses to more creative uses such as outdoor beer halls, offices and hotels.

Personally, I think we have more than enough beer halls in the vicinity, and who needs another hotel, what with plenty of them farther west, and a whole rash of them in Sunset Park?  I'd prefer another manufacturing business that offers skilled jobs to local residents, but who knows what will come in? It's not clear from the listing if the whole of the 413 - 21 property is up for sale, but it seems likely.

Monday, September 28, 2015


John Street

MAP: 13 High-Rises Will Add 895 Market-Rate Apartments to Fourth Avenue (DNAinfo)

In Brooklyn, a Protest Mural Draws Its Own Protest (NY Times)

We Asked You to Draw Your Own Neighborhood Map: Here Are the Results (DNAinfo)
An interesting project, but I doubt it reached a good deal of older local residents, who don't spend much (or any) time online, but would have valuable information to add.  In the case of Park Slope, an on-the-street survey conducted below 16th Street might offer up quite different results.  Older Park Slope once stretched farther than many would imagine. The 1939 WPA Guide to New York City maps it as extending all the way down to 39th Street.  I don't expect many people today see it as going that far south, but I'm sure a good number of old time residents still believe it goes well into the twenties, at least, or even a little farther south.

In Bushwick, the Wes Anderson-themed yarn mural continues to draw fire:
Anarchists Protest Brooklyn Flea And "The Brutality Represented By This Crocheted Artwork" (Gothamist)

The Daily News Layoffs and Digital Shift May Signal the Tabloid Era's End (NY Times)
“All that corny stuff about The News — how it’s the voice of the working people, the heart of New York — it’s all basically true,” Mr. Daly, the former columnist, said. “Every day it would prove that the common man and common woman weren’t so common. That actually, commonness is found more often among the rich and that distinction was found more often among the people who would buy The Daily News.”

Chronicling America

It's the smallest houses that draw my attention. 147 11th went on the market in May of last year, for $2,250,000, and with a switch in realtor, it slid down in price to $899,000.  An In Contract sign was up outside the house for months, and was still there a few days ago. An online realty site lists the fire-damaged property as having sold earlier this month for $999,000, though there's no ACRIS record on file as yet.  The building has had a Full Vacate in place for over a year, though I've noticed lights on inside.  Passing by the house today, I saw a new sign. Looks like it's ready for a flip.

Lewis Hine was just up the block from 147 in 1912, visiting a family of brush makers at 151, but what forgotten moments in the history of 147 are on record?  In 1888, 19 year-old resident Joseph Besosa wins a full scholarship to Cornell , & a few years later, a W.Kane at the same address is recruiting for a children's baseball team. In 1905, a Miss May Cray appears, in a Chronicling America ad, endorsing Peruna, a 18% grain alcohol tonic.

Miss May Cray, 147 11th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., writes:
For more than five years I suffered from rheumatic pain in my joints, and in damp or stormy weather I was obliged to stay indoors. 
Medicine seemed to be of no use until I started using Peruna. I took twelve bottles in all, although it is six months ago since I stopped. 
I have had no return of my old complaint, in spite of the fact that I have been out in all kinds of weather during the severe winter.

And what a delight, there's Miss Cray herself, surrounded by her fair companions.  Watch her for a second, before she fades quietly back from view.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eats & Drinks

The new restaurant at Fourth & 12th now has a name. Barrel & Fare is in soft-opening mode right now, with a formal debut coming in a couple of weeks. Until the formal date, you can check by on a day-to-day basis.  If they're open that day, service will start at six, with a limited menu of food, along with beer, wine, and a couple of sample cocktails. Soft-opening prices are in effect. The tentative menu down the line will include a raw bar, salads, a charcuterie board, appetizers (including mini lobster rolls, short rib empanadas, scallop ceviche wraps), & entrees mostly in the twenty-dollars range (risotto, steak, pasta, fish, chicken, burgers & more).

Barrel & Fare is across the avenue from French bistro Olivier, which opened in 2013.  Unlike nearby Breadfruit Tree Cafe, with a menu that caters to a diverse, quick-moving, daytime crowd, these two restaurants bring a higher-end, casual-chic dining experience to Fourth below 9th. Though they took a little longer to get here than you might have expected, their arrival was inevitable.  Look at the change of the avenue's demographics. Two bistros on one block might well be the tipping point for food culture on this stretch of Fourth, accelerating changes farther south. Tamales or truffle fries? Place your bets.

1920 Richmond Bar Inc. has applied for a liquor license at 273 13th, formerly home to the Brooklyn Voodoo Lounge, and before that the metal bar Lucky 13 Saloon  The bar's name will be Paddy's of Park Slope.

For anyone missing the restaurant Mezini, there may be good news! The other day I came across three burly men in front of the restaurant, and one of them (the owner) told me the place would be reopening soon "a little differently."  On that tantalizing note, we'll conclude.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Off-Off Broadway Play Explores Windsor Terrace Gentrification (DNAinfo)
As a teen growing up in Windsor Terrace, Pat Fenton watched more than 1,200 families move out of the neighborhood to make way for the construction of the Prospect Expressway.
Today that piece of history seems as lost as the 400 houses that were bulldozed to build the Robert Moses-designed expressway, but Fenton has brought it back to life in his play "Stoopdreamer." 
The play, now showing at the Cell Theater in Chelsea, centers on three characters reminiscing over drinks at — where else? — the 82-year-old neighborhood bar Farrell's. 
"It's about the displacement of people and the sheer destruction," Fenton said. "The other part is about the change going on there now, the gentrification."

And non-Brooklyn related, three other fall plays to consider:
Playing now, through October 18:  Fondly, Colette Richland, by Sibyl Kempson, at the New York Theater Workshop.  Created & performed by Elevator Repair Service
Also at NYTW, from November 18 to December 27: Lazarus, by David Bowie & Enda Walsh, directed by Ivo van Hove
And at Playwrights Horizons, from October 16 to November 29: Hir, by Taylor Mac, directed by Niegel Smith

Back to the borough, & a sordid situation at 17th & Sixth: Human Poop Dumpers Menace Brooklyn Block (DNAinfo)

Coming in November at the Brooklyn Museum -  Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 
This exhibition charts shifts in artistic styles and national moods through approximately 140 objects. Included are paintings of the Coney Island shore in the 1870s by William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman; modernist depictions of the amusement park by Joseph Stella; Depression-era scenes of cheap thrills by Reginald Marsh; photographs by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Weegee, and Bruce Davidson; Coney Island carousel animals and sideshow ephemera; and contemporary works by Daze and Swoon.

No Pathmarks here - Six Brooklyn Destination Grocery Stores: Which Has the Best Prices? (Brownstoner)
And yes, with or without irony, kale is on the list of products.

E & H Goodies

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Building on 13th

At 371 13th Street, where this lovely old frame house used to stand, a five-storey, three unit building is planned (NY YIMBY).

Across the Street on 16th II

Across from the little houses at 115 & 117 16th Street, a four-unit, energy efficient condo building is in the works.  According to NY YIMBY, the designer/developer is Jorge Mastropietro. 96 16th sold for $1,200,000 in 2014.

This one's way more stylish & high-end than the standard four-storey-plus-penthouse number plunked down around here.  Hello Boutique 16th (Fourth/Third)!  It will look rather out of context, perhaps, towering over its small, immediate neighbors. Oh, but wait, one of them is gone already, & another is likely to disappear too, leaving just two homes to crouch in its shadows.  Next door, at 98, construction of a three unit building (another Boaz Gilad project) has stalled, with a partial stop-order in place for failure to maintain safety at the site.  98 also sold in 2014, for $780,000. And next door to that one, 100 16th Street, on the market for $889,000, is in contract.  The low-scale streetscape shrinks, lot by lot.  And yes, maybe these houses aren't what you'd call beautiful, but they were homes, and they had stories. With each one that disappears, another piece of the area's working-class history is gone.

July, 2015


The Google pic above distorts the size of 92 16th.  Even the photograph below appears to magnify its size. Set back on its lot and well below grade, it's likely an early building on the block.

Just this week I struck up a conversation with a 16th St. resident who's lived on this block for almost half a century. She fumed about the loss of affordable housing in the area, about neighbors forced out by rising rents, & elderly owners lured into selling their homes at under-market prices. She felt she'd been sold out by developer & politician alike.

Earlier: Across the street on 16th


D & D, by day (Second & 8th)

I'm on the night shift for dog walking.  I can't say I always approach this job with enthusiasm, but usually, once we're out of the house, I enjoy it.  Most nights, I'll see a commercial garbage truck or two roaring through a route, guys hanging off the back, the kings of trash.  I've tried to get photographs, but so far they've been duds.  Photos of carting trucks by day are all well & good, but the glamour's absent.  I love seeing all the trucks at night but this M & G '97 Mack's my favorite. Usually it's blazing, lit up like a fairground ride, but here in the video, as the owner explains in a comment, it's not at its absolute best.  Still pretty fabulous though.


 M & G, by night (Smith & 9th) 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


A new pie for the 50th anniversary of Di Fara's  (Daily News)
Brooklyn Cherry Business to Plead Guilty Over Pollution and Marijuana (NY Times)
Daddy Cool! Band creates new hipster market for rock dads (Brooklyn Paper)
Ferreira said he also wanted to create an “alternative mall” for local youngsters — harkening back to the halcyon days of his suburban childhood, when kids spent weekends at a one-stop wonderland where they could shop, catch a movie, and skateboard. 
“My reason to get out of bed was that on Saturday my mother would let me chill at the mall,” he said. “That culture doesn’t really exist in Bushwick.”

And with graffiti - the yarn kind, at least - so topical right now, let's go back to September '07 for a couple of graffiti & protest posts from the late, great, much-missed, Gowanus Lounge.
Graffiti & Crime in Park Slope
The Williamsburg Anti-Development Poster Collection

Sandwiched Below Fifth

Sales will launch and listings will go up this week for four luxury homes in South Slope’s 192 15th Street, Compass listing agent Gabriele Sewtz told Brownstoner. The newly constructed walk-up building is sandwiched by the area’s traditional crop of historic wood frame and brick houses. Units have 11-foot ceilings and four-inch-wide oak plank floors. 
The loft-like homes will range in price from $1,495,000 to $2,295,000, she said. Luxury features include central A/C, heated bathroom floors, oversized showers and tubs, and Pella windows.

That's some pricey filling.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ideal Properties?

Familiar faces.  Little 115 16th Street & its twin, 117, surviving (just about) in frenzied times, seemed likely to end up razed for new construction, but maybe the size of their lots would save them?  Bounced around for years, victims of many a dubious deal, they were recently on the market for $2,500,000.  Last month records of recent activity appeared on ACRIS. 117 sold for $655,000 & 115 was transferred by deed (no price recorded). Same owner for both properties. 115, one of those curious properties with no DOB history whatsoever, was fixed, cosmetically at least, some time last year, but adjoining 117 is in perilous shape.


A little worrying to live next to, I'd say.  But if this sort of thing doesn't bother you, you'll be pleased to know that 115 is now available to rent, at a piddling $4,500 per month!  

Unit features: Dishwasher, Garden (Private Space), Pets Accepted (On approval), Washer/Dryer (In unit)

The broker, Ideal Properties, doesn't give a floorplan of the property, but here's one it from a while back, on Streeteasy:

It's a small house, as you can see.  I'm curious about the mention of a garden space, because according to the floor plan, there doesn't seem to be any access to a garden,  & the lot (565 sq. ft.) seems too small to include one. Maybe the "garden" is the deck - 7' x 10' or so at most - accessed through the kitchen on the first floor.  Oh, how I'd love to show that deck here, but loathe to offend, I can only offer a link.  Let's just say that it's enclosed. There are several pictures of the deck included in the listing, but the aerial shot has to be be my favorite!  It's the sixth picture in the sequence.

Amazing?  Maybe so, maybe so.  Strangely enough, there's also a Postlets listing floating around online for 117 (the house with a third of its roof missing).. The pictures show the 115 interior, and the price is also $4,500.  The square footage of the house is given as smaller than 115.  117 actually has a bigger lot than 115 (right behind 115), but no garden is listed - only a patio.

I love transparency.


Update: In the interest of fairness, here are more recent pictures of the houses. There's a charming looking Fujitsu at 115, and some dinky looking gutter work at 117,  There's also been some minor cosmetic facade work at 117,

but if you take a closer look, it doesn't seem that promising.


Saturday, September 19, 2015


When I saw the Sandy's sign disappear on 16th Street, I thought the new management had changed its mind about the name, but no, a new Sandy's sign will be up there soon.  I dropped by yesterday, for the cafe's reopening, and chatted to Elia Adames, who opened Sandy's in the late 90s, and will still be checking in regularly.  She will be also still be making the wonderful tamales that the cafe is famous for. Along with bagels, paninis, and other lunch & breakfast items, you'll be able to get a broad selection of Mexican food - be sure to ask what's available.  The cafe's nicely set up, with plenty of seating in the side room, and tables out front, on the sidewalk.
For me, Sandy's, and other small, family-run businesses nearby, make up a big part of what I have always loved about my neighborhood.  Amidst all the changes of recent years, they remain constant, & they remain affordable.  Go over to 16th soon - say hi to Blanca, Alberto, José & Benjamín. Grab a coffee, a bagel, a taco longaniza.  Sit at a table for a while.  You'll feel right at home.


Yarn in the news!

Bushwick Native Says Crochet Graffiti is "A Small Piece of a Much Larger Social Epidemic." (Gothamist)

Wes Anderson inspired crochet graffiti - Gothamist

Not that kind of rapper?

Park Slope Rapper Pumpkinhead Street Renaming Gets Initial OK (DNAinfo)

The effort to rename a local street after an underground rapper who grew up in Park Slope got initial approval from the Community Board 6 transportation committee Thursday night after a passionate appeal by family and friends of the hip-hop artist. The street renaming must be approved by the full board and by the City Council to move forward. 
... Committee member S.J. Avery  said Thursday she was skeptical at first when she heard about the effort to honor Diaz. "My first reaction was, 'Rapper — yech,'" Avery said. "But he wasn't that kind of rapper." 
She added, "As Park Slope changes, I think it's important to remember who was there and that we have a tradition that's longer than the new condos that are there now."

Yes, well ...  Let's hope the street renaming makes its way through the rest of the approval process ASAP.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Also Rising

And here's another one, courtesy of prolific developer Boaz Gilad (Brookland Capital).  Plans have been filed for a new, six-storey building at 734-6 Fifth Avenue (24th Street).  The site, last occupied by J&A Contractors Corps., was sold in May for $3,350,000.  Those who follow local development activities in the neighborhood may recall that Gilad/Brookland are planning an 11-storey condo building at the south-west corner of Fourth & 15th (rendering here).

Back in July, I took a look at the florist & monument businesses clustered around Greenwood Cemetery a century ago. 734-6 Fifth were once part of the J. Condon florist business, there from at least as early as 1903 (probably earlier) & still on the avenue in 1941.  The Condon greenhouses are long gone, but the building at the corner still stands on Fifth.  It looks like the auto repair shop lot at 732 Fifth was once part of Condon's (half a greenhouse?), and it too was recently sold.  No change in usage indicated there as yet..

P.L. Sperr, & er, Google

First Day

Girasol re-opened yesterday lunchtime. I had a late breakfast there, and watched a steady stream of regulars returning after the month-long renovation. A happy scene. I had no thought of taking out my camera. Though I'll confess to liking the look of the place just the way it was before , it's now very bright and open, with room for a few tables. You can pull up a stool to sit at the counter at right, and watch the griddle action (my favorite kind of spot), or perch at a counter at back of the bakery. There are smaller, less sociable, ledges to sit at by the wall on the other side of the room, & taking up most of the wall there, there's a bold, beautiful, traditional mural.
Still open 24 hours. Still a menu to love. Still a pleasure to visit.  We're lucky to have it still around. Welcome back.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Surprise, Surprise, New Development at Fourth & 15th

It's been a while in the works, but today The Real Deal reports plans filed for a 12 storey, 100,000 square feet building at Fourth & 15th Street, with ground floor retail at 541 Fourth.

The building is slated to contain 125 residential units, according to plans filed with the city Thursday. They’ll occupy the third through 12th floors of the building, which will house 10 to 14 apartments apiece. 
The two commercial spaces on the ground level of the new building will total 10,800 square feet. The building will have a 26-car garage and storage space for 59 bicycles. The developers are planning to have a pet spa on the cellar level. Recreation rooms for residents are also planned for the cellar, first and second floors. 
The units will be rentals, and the developers hope to start construction in December, said Karl Fischer, the architect of record. 
Brooklyn-based developers Aaron Karpen and Anshel Friedman assembled the nearly-block-long, eight-parcel site last year, paying $16.5 million. 

As the readers of this blog might know, we've been following this buy-up for the last year, watching as bit by bit, three-storey apartment building by three-storey apartment building, the parcel of properties was acquired.  You can follow the trail here. This completes a sad quartet of development at each corner of the Fourth & 15th intersection.  All corners taken.

Rendering for New Mercy Residence

Here's a rendering of the new Mercy Community Residence, planned for the corner of Fourth & 12th. The address for the residence is 220 12th Street, but as we noted earlier, you'll only find DOB info if you type in 215 12th, a now defunct address between Fourth & Third.  

The rendering doesn't give very much away, but seems to the suggest at least part of the building will sit directly on the property line,  Is this view at Fourth or 12th?  No prizes for looks, that's for sure, but hopefully bright & comfortable inside for its future residents.  There are no other pictures on the Nativo site right now.

Union Protest at Adam America Construction Site

The inflatable rats are out at 470 Fourth Avenue, the Adam America development at Fourth & 11th, where union members are campaigning on behalf of laborers at the site in their drive to unionize.  Laborers report low wages, unfair dismissals, harassment & unsafe working conditions while working for the Red Hook Construction Group, builders at the site.  Since laborers at 470 threatened to unionize, RHCG has allegedly raised their pay, and offered a 401K plan, & sick days, but workers still feel vulnerable & poorly represented without union support.  They will be voting to join LiUNA Local 79 (Construction & General Building Laborers) tomorrow, at the RHCG yard at 121 12th Street, from 4:30 am to 6:30 am, and from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Let's hope our elected officials will support the laborers.  This could also be a campaign for the yarn-bombing, woollen-graffiti-crafting Forth on Fourth committee to get involved with.  How about it?

Making a Statement


Not on a rooftop, but at least in the neighborhood - Neck Face, 2010

Yesterday morning I was waiting for the F train on the Smith & 9th Street platform.  Even in an era when almost all travelers are clutching their smart-phones like babies with blankies, the platform views induce at least some riders to exchange their screens for another kind of hypnosis - some of the best views the city has to offer. I'm so obsessed with the views from the viaduct that, starved of its use for two years, in 2013 I took a day off work to be present at its grand re-opening.
You can never tire of being up there.  Yes, there's the Emerald City there in the distance, The View that developers crave, but I'm almost always focusing on things closer at hand, and marking the changes in almost thirty years of gazing.  Especially in recent years. The Kentile sign gone.  The Fourth apartment buildings, sprouting excrescences, spreading along the avenue.  The Whole Foods, manna for the affluent, & opposite, parole center, bane of same. The Bat Cave, with End Stop & Frisk its last (or so it seems) public statement.  Joan of Arc, no longer wielding her sword over basin waters.  Yesterday, for some reason,  I thought of the hairy-armed Neck Face graffiti that used to adorn the warehouse rooftops.  Wonderful work.
Later in the day, I read an announcement from The Park Slope Civic Council.  Forth on Fourth, its community group working to promote "well-being, safety & vitality" on Fourth Avenue, is partnering with other local organizations to "Yarn-Bomb" the avenue with hand-knitted textiles later this fall. The textiles will stay in place for two weeks.  The term yarn bombing is conveniently defined in the FOF public notice.

Urban knitting or graffiti knitting, a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitting or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk.  Yarn bombing was initially almost exclusively about reclaiming or personalizing sterile or cold public places.  Yarn installations are considered non-permanent, and unlike other forms of graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. 

What a perfectly Park Slopean form of graffiti.  Polite, wholesome, and knitted, with none of the expressive in-your-face rush of real graffiti art.  Etsy graffiti-lite. The aim is to bring "color, life and art to our neighborhood," and why not, indeed?  I'm all for that. But frankly, I 'd rather see some real graffiti on Fourth, graffiti that directs its aim at the luxury housing that mars our avenue, housing (with not even one affordable unit) that even Brad Lander admits to have been "largely a failure."  If there's coldness and sterility on Fourth, it's been brought about by high-rise development, and the steady decline of affordable housing.  The steady decline of a mixed-income neighborhood. I laud the FOF's aim to make traffic on Fourth safer, though I do think you have to maintain functioning traffic arteries like Fourth in our congested borough - you can't do without them.  And of course there's nothing wrong with making the avenue more beautiful - before the subway came in on Fourth the avenue was certainly a much grander affair.  But that's the frilly stuff, really.  The real deal's the housing.  One of the objectives of Forth on Fourth is to

  • Advocate for a greater diversity of housing options on or near Fourth Avenue;

  • but I haven't noticed much committee action on this issue in recent years.  I'd like to see housing at the top of the list.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2015

    Cause for Celebration, or, Let Someone Else Eat Macarons

    Two re-openings are just around the corner.  The plywood is down at Fifth Avenue favorite Girasol, & the bakery will be open for business tomorrow morning.  And on 16th, off Fifth, the Sandy's replacement, New York Bagels Coffee House, will be opening its doors on Friday.  The 16th Street deli will be serving standard American fare - bagels, sandwiches, panini, burgers & the like - along with the more enticing tortas, empanadas, tacos, flans & tamales.  I'm especially excited about the fin de semana barbacoa tacos.
    Get out there this week and show your support for both these businesses!


    RIP Mr Purple (EV Grieve, NY Times)
    New Mini New Yorks - more miniature building re-creations by Randy Hage (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)
    Kestrelmania 2015 - Gog in NYC's beautiful series on kestrels in the city
    Bid to Name Street (Degraw) After Rapper Pumpkinhead Goes to Community Board (DNAinfo)
    Inevitability: The Smorgasburg empire moves to Sunset Park's Industry City (Gothamist)


    In a happy coincidence, Montrose Morris, the truest voice on the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner, has a piece on the history of the Silas Dutcher school on the blog today.  You can read it here.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    There all the time?

    On the 1880 Bromley map of Brooklyn, Second Avenue between Hamilton & the Gowanus Canal is almost entirely empty of buildings.  Between Hamilton & 12th up to the gas plant, & 9th & 8th Streets before the avenue ends by Fifth,  land along the avenue is parceled into lots, but only a few of them are occupied: half a dozen frames between 15th and 14th (east), a solitary frame on the northwest corner of 14th, and a couple of brick buildings at the northwest corner of 9th Street.  To the south of Prospect and north of the canal, the saw mills & coal yards are indicated, and on either side of Second Avenue a smattering of businesses are shown.  The Doubleday cloth factory, the ammonia factory, and farther east by Third, the florists, the stone company, the photograph lithographer.  The side streets are starting to fill in, plot by plot.  There's some brick here, but wood predominates.

    By 1886, the lots from 15th to 12th on the east side of the avenue are all filled in with wooden buildings, and a few lots on the west side are occupied. At 9th to 8th the lots are partially filled in, and a trio of buildings have appeared at 10th.  A bagging factory appears. The Sanborn map of that year shows businesses unseen or unrecorded on maps of a few years earlier - a window screen factory, a stone carver's, Hobby & Doody's lumber yard. a lard & tallow oil works, sulphur & creosote companies, the Cream of Tartar & Tartaric Acid Works.  Just looking at the map you'll get heady from the fumes.

    By 1903 the Belcher Hyde map shows some of the wooden houses between 15th & 12th making way for bigger structures & industrial use.  Iron factories & galvanizing works appear on the avenue.  The area's exploding with activity & the densely-crammed Belcher Hyde map lays out the frenzy on paper.  Its Explanatory, key to the mysteries of road surface, building type, sewer pipes & trolley lines, is a map lover's dream.

    I'd love to see more early photographs of Second Avenue, particularly of those houses between 12th & 15th.  The avenue appears all brick warehouse now, and any residential buildings seem to have vanished in the second half of the twentieth century. The only images I've found are from the 30s & 40s, taken by Percy Loomis Sperr, an invaluable guide to the streetscapes of the borough between the wars.  All Sperr photographs are from the NYPL Digital Collections.

    13th Street, SW Corner, 1941 & 2015

    Second Avenue, looking north from 13th Street, 1941 & 2015

    From Second, looking west along 14th Street, 1941 & 2015

    Below, no houses, just an empty lot for sale at Second & 12th.  Here, as in the Sperr picture above, you can see storage structures belonging to the Metropolitan Gas Light Company.

    Northwest corner of Second Avenue & 12th Street, 1941 & 2015.  Today, Pathmark, Lowe's & Big J Liquors sit right on the site of the gas plant..

    My favorite Sperr picture is of two wooden houses at the NE corner of Second & 14th.  A 1935 streetscape straight out of the nineteenth century.  It's hard to make out, but the (grocery?) store seems to belong to someone by the name of Julius.  I'm assuming 175 - 179 were torn down & replaced by the brick building that stands there now.  The SRB nightclub operated there recently, until its closure last year.  I'm not sure what's taken its place.

    The Sperr picture glances the edge of the building across the street, but it lies in the shadows.
    Here it is, below, in 2015.

    I've walked past 181 countless times, but its brick facade fooled me into taking it for granted.  Could there be another, older structure hidden underneath, one of the first few buildings on this stretch of Second?  As I passed it the other day, I caught a glimpse of the back of the building.  It hinted at a classic cover-up job.

    Other things about the building suggest its age. Those doorways on 14th & Second, with the little side windows at the sides of the entrances.  And the placement of the side and rear windows up above.

    The long-standing business here is Ranieri F & Son Building Supplies, but the property is for now for lease.

    Update: Yes!  It is an old wooden house.  More here!