Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sleigh Bells

While it's still the Christmas season, let's head over to 10th & Third, where a quartet of houses collaborate on decorations.  My favorite's the one farthest east.  If you're like me, however long you've been riding the F train, you still like to stand near the doors for the stretch between Carroll & Fourth, and look out at the views.  Thirty years on I'm still not tired of them, despite the relentless softening of the landscape .  Right before you hit Fourth, you can look right down and see the reindeers running on the rooftop of this narrow frame house, but it's more or less impossible to get a picture from up high; the trees always manage to get in the way.  I've always willed Train Traffic Ahead to stop the car just at the point where I might get a chance at a shot, but it's never happened. Still, I like the view from the ground too.  How nice to see a string of lights right across the four buildings, and another across the street between two trees.  I'm not much on the Santa-flying- into-tree routine (a variation on a Halloween theme) but everything else looks good, and the Viaduct makes a perfect background.  The Oldsmobile is a plus too.  I'd rather see decorations like this than the Renovated-Gray-House-syndrome spare and symmetrical lights and bows.  Any day. Money doesn't buy cheer.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


I went back to Dyker Heights this week to visit John & Marie Miniero, and to see John's presepe all complete and lit up.  It looks beautiful.  Thanks again to John & Marie for their hospitality.

Visit the presepe at 14th Avenue & 79th Street.  You can't miss it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Found in a pot on the mantlepiece while cleaning up for Christmas: a gold paper star, a box of German matches, my lucky hare, a broken watch, a Rosca de Reyes Jesus, a pair of dice, an anniversary pin for St Vartan, a 2008 Obama pin, several Russian medals, a silver box and a grey plastic hatchet.

Mapping Affordable Housing Supported by the 421-a Tax Exemption Program (NYU Furman Center)

Of the residential properties in New York City that currently benefit from a 421-a tax exemption, we find that 14.8% have at least some on-site affordable units and another 4.4% supported off-site affordable housing. These properties house 50.9% of units currently in the 421-a program. Buildings receiving a 421-a exemption but not subject to an affordable housing requirement comprise 78.5% of 421a buildings but account for only 46.8% total units in the program.

Here's a look at a portion of the map:

'Tis the Season for Resistance (UPROSE) Read, and donate ...

It is the holiday season -- but a season like we have not seen in recent memory. We were hoping to provide you a year in review to highlight the milestones, celebrations, memories, and achievements that 2016 has brought. But we find ourselves in a troubling political climate, not just nationally, but locally as well. In the midst of all our work to address climate change and advance a Just Transition, we are again forced to focus on local proposals that threaten to undermine our community's stability and well-being.

Tenants Need Protection from Landlords in Gowanus Rezoning, Advocates Say (DNAinfo)

The Costs Of Rezoning—A Cautionary Tale: Gowanus: As the city considers new rules for development, neighbors worry about what happened on Fourth Avenue (The Brooklyn Ink)

Daylighting the Saw Mill River: Efforts to bring back a natural Yonkers waterway are changing the city (Nathan Kensinger - Curbed)

Before the Tents Folded - The Last Days of the Big Apple Circus (NY Times)

The Hug at the White House - Transit Museum program honored (Manhattan News)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In Passing

Something about the sight of a listing staircase, glimpsed for a moment through an open door, or lit up, through a window at night. Sometimes you might have predicted the shift, but at other times its looks come as a surprise, a secret hidden behind its building's prim, upright facade. There's something intimate in catching it like this, dressed in linoleum & settling into old age, and I'm filled with affection. This city of ours.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

At 341 10th: a few Stellar facts, figures & tenant complaints

From a recent report: Tracking Evictions and Rent Stabilization in NYC (ProPublica):
341 10th Street (Prospect Towers)  - 78 eviction cases filed from January 2013 to June 2016.

In 2011, the Appellate Division ruled that tenants in pre-Mitchell Lama buildings like 341 10th (Prospect Towers), built prior to 1974, would be protected from large rent increases:

Tenants whose landlords took their pre-1974 buildings out of the Mitchell-Lama program are celebrating a big win. On Dec. 28, the Appellate Division, the state’s mid-level court, unanimously upheld the state housing agency’s regulation that says simply leaving Mitchell-Lama is not a “unique or peculiar circumstance” (“U or P”) that justifies a huge rent increase.
The decision protects tenants in some 19,000 apartments in current and former Mitchell-Lamas built before 1974. It keeps things as they are: The owners cannot get big increases based solely on taking the building out of Mitchell-Lama...
The definition of “unique or peculiar” is the problem. Landlords have claimed that just leaving Mitchell-Lama qualifies as such a circumstance. The courts have disagreed, saying that “unique or peculiar” means what it says: It applies to a few units with unusual circumstances, not to every apartment in every pre-1974 buildings coming out of the program.
Owners such as Laurence Gluck of Stellar Management have used the “U or P” claim to ask for increases of as much as five times the previous rent in some Manhattan buildings they took out of Mitchell-Lama.

If you can get those tenants out though, you can push up the prices.  Stellar Management, who took over Prospect Towers in 2007, has current online listings for 341 10th Street that show rents for 3-bedroom apartments advertised at close to 4K.

Hopefully, for tenants who have manged to hang onto their apartments, things have improved since 2014.  Here are a few lodged complaints on the DOB site:

Christmas Trees


Friday, December 16, 2016

Four Corners

I headed back up from Third & 15th.  Lo and behold, at the SE corner of Fourth, 541-555 had pretty much gone.

On the SW corner, excavation work is underway:

And the other corners? NW:


There's a remnant on the SE site that catches the eye though. Look, the laundry pole still casts its shadow at the end of the day.


Thursday, December 15, 2016


My President Was Black: A history of the first African American White House—and of what came next by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic)

On the BQX presentation at this week's CB7 meeting:
In Sunset Park, Proposed Waterfront Street Car Meets Most Vocal Rejection Yet (Sunset Park Patch)
Sunset Park Residents Loudly Denounce de Blasio's Streetcar: 'This Is Not Park Slope' (Village Voice)
Railroaded! Streetcar’s promo video misquotes activist (Brooklyn Paper)
Developers with projects along de Blasio's planned Brooklyn-Queens streetcar route throw cash at mayor's nonprofit campaign (Daily News)

Struggling Owner of Park Slope Staple Ruthie’s Neighborhood Barber Shop Seeks Community Assistance (Bklyner)

4 Injured When Car Jumps Curb in Park Slope, FDNY Says (DNAinfo)

National Grid Wants to Raise Heat Bills to Pay for Gowanus Canal Cleanup (DNAinfo)

Gowanus Getting $10M to Combat Flooding as Neighborhood Faces Rezoning (DNA)

Environmental Concerns Mix With Housing Worries in Debate Over Gowanus Rezoning (City Limits)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

™ It

In February I took a quick look at the condo conversion approved for the Hutwelker building (655 Fifth) and the building next to it at 251 19th.

Last month the NY State Attorney General approved a condo conversion at 655 Fifth/251 19th Street. The corner building, 655, is known to many locals & architectural enthusiasts by its official title, the Hutwelker Building, and in earlier years it was used as a furniture warehouse.  251 was also used for light manufacturing, and a C of O issued in 1920 refers to the packing and storage of talcum powder. The two buildings have made their way into The Real Deal's Top 10 most expensive by offering price conversions for January. 655/251 have been operating as residential loft rentals since 2000 and were acquired by Time Equities for $8.1 million in 2013. Though earlier Real Deal articles situated 655/251 in Greenwood Heights, the newest article (2/8) puts them in another, dubiously referenced neighborhood:

"Did you know Sunset Park, the off-the-condo’d-path land of beef tongue and dim sum, is getting condos from major Manhattan developer Time Equities?"

Yes, we notice that fluidity of neighborhood nomenclature (throw in Park Slope & South Brooklyn if you're over fifty or so).  Current marketing for the condos highlights the presence of the Art-in-Buildings program on site. The program, established by Time Equities CEO and art collector Francis Greenburger in 2000, brings art into the public spaces of its residential and commercial developments, "bringing emerging and mid-career artists to non-traditional exhibition spaces." This appears to have been a very successful program, offering exhibition space and publicity to many artists, but it is also an example of that unholy art/real estate alliance. You can argue, successfully, that art patronage is nothing new, and that many artists rely on it, but there's still something uncomfortable about its use as a marketing tool, and we see far too many instances where art is pimped out as a stop-gap or a sweetener in development encroachment. The current exhibition at the Brooklyn Lofts, Remnants, created by Israeli artist Inbar Shiryon, was commissioned specifically for the condo buildings:

Remnants is a commissioned installation inspired by the building's history as a furniture factory. Constructed from repurposed components of old furniture and cabinetry, each sculpture is imbued with layers of history. The stored pasts ingrained in each piece of wood come together in the sculptures, creating a collection of memories in this contemporary reinterpretation of traditional cabinetry. The repurposed wooden remnants act as a reference to the repurposed factory, which has been transformed into a vibrant living space.

The Brooklyn Lofts website describes the South Slope neighborhood as  "rapidly becoming one of the most exciting areas in Brooklyn" (a shade exaggerated, surely?) and in a variant on the common term for getting more expensive, "bourgeoning."  We like the Freudian slip immensely, and would love to trademark it.  It fits the process perfectly.

P.L. Sperr, 1941 


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cinema Style

I was walking along Court this week and had to stop and look at the movie house.  I think I've grown to take its looks and presence for granted over the years.  We're pretty lucky with this one.