Sunday, January 31, 2016

Amazing Variety

At a corner of Fifth a couple of couples were complaining about their Fresh Direct service, but at 542 there was happiness.
We were sad to see the closure of the 99c store last month &equally sorry to hear that across the avenue at 555, Sky Discount was heading for closure.  The owners of Sky were planning a move to Queens, but instead they managed to get the lease for 542, & Amazing Variety opened up there today.  Of course, the previous store was forced out, and of course, the folks from Sky are paying more rent for a smaller place, but that's the way life operates in NY retail.  Harder & harder to survive. Still, Amazing Variety was hopping today, & many, many customers were wishing the owners good luck. The lady next to me in line hugged me, she was so delighted that Sky (as was) is back.
Neither Sky nor Amazing are much on looks - one vinyl awning exchanged for another - but here it's the nature of the business that's the thing.  Plenty of people living round here (despite what the brokers and the neighborhood image-makers would have you believe) are still on a hunt for a day-to-day bargain.
Welcome back!


Saturday, January 30, 2016


30th Street, looking west to Third.  At right rear: U.S. Navy Fleet Supply Base, Warehouse No. 1 (now the Metropolitan Detention Center).  1991, Rob Tucher,  Library of Congress

Jennifer Sun on progress on the Sunset Park waterfront (Waterfront Alliance)

"NYCEDC released a Request for Proposals for long-term activation of SBMT on November 30th and responses are due on March 4th. As a result of working with a Sunset Park task force of local businesses, community organizations, and elected officials, we established shared City and community priorities for reactivating SBMT to help ensure that Sunset Park’s working waterfront thrives as a hub for industrial activity and quality jobs that are accessible to local residents, and to strive for maritime operations to be environmentally sustainable."

Artists Told to Leave South Slope Building after Developer Buys Property (DNAinfo)

“New York has always been a changing city, but I’m on the wrong side of the wave right now,” Conan said. “There’s a sense of doom and exodus." 
He added, "It makes you wonder about the role of the artist in our society — it seems like the only role of the artist in New York City is to be at the vanguard of the real estate community."

Water leaks at Fourth Ave. luxury rental building (DNAinfo)

Massive-new look rental development in Stapleton, Staten Island (Curbed)

The units —studios, one, and two-bedrooms will be spread out over several buildings on the site, according to a PR representative for the development. Dutch architectural firm, Concrete worked on this residential behemoth. The property also includes 35,000 square feet of retail space, and so far coffee chain Coffeed has signed up for a space there. 
There are amenities galore at this development, or should we say, "specially curated social spaces." These include an on-site farm, a communal kitchen with a resident chef, 300 parking spots, and a green waterfront esplanade.

Jeff Persily Recalls Family's Coney Island Years after Sale of Property to Thor Equities
(Amusing the Zillion)

“I will never forget the great times I had there. Competing with our neighbors for customers on the Bowery till 5:00 A.M. and then reopening at noon the next day. We owned the Cavalcade Bumping Cars on Surf Ave. till we sold it to the Handwerker family in the early seventies. I hated working that ride, the dust from the metal floor used to get into our lungs and we always sneezed black. On my wife’s 18th Birthday at 12:01 a.m. we were working the bumper cars, and one of our fondest memories is of us giving everyone a free ride in her honor.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Left Behind

Danny's repair shop (formerly Luis) was forced out in 2014 when they lost their lease.  The building was for sale at the time, and it finally sold a year ago for $4,500,000.  Since then the store has stayed empty, with its beautiful hand-painted signs a sad reminder of another fine small business lost to greed & indifference.  What a waste.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Replacement

Back in the fall I was walking at Flatbush & Fifth, and I noticed that the storefront at 41 Fifth was getting a makeover.  It looked like a new business would be moving in.

What a shame. Paul's with its hand painted sign, striped canvas awning & shelves of produce out front, was just the right fit for this elderly wooden building.  They were perfect together.  There'd been a vegetable store at 41 since at least the 1920's.

Next to the former O'Connor's, 2013

Here's the new look.

The horn of plenty's now replaced by a thin offering of salads, sandwiches, panini, and a name as empty of spirit as you could conceive.  Brooklyn Market & Deli.

The Blind Junkie

I tried to find out some more about the community garden that used to be on Fourth (see Tuesday), but I came up empty-handed.  In my search though, I did come up with another story of earlier years, just a couple of blocks away on Sixth.  It first caught my attention in a New York magazine from August, 1972 (cover headline: 58 Killings in One Week).  Across from one listing for the Chateau Madrid (Lexington &  48th), where Tito Puente & his orchestra were performing, and above another for a Kitchen performance of The Continuing Story of Helen and Ferd - "a closed-circuit, multiple-image, video piece about pornography, sexual identity, the institution of marriage and the effects of living too close to an electronic medium" - is a listing for "a new rock opera," The Blind Junkie, by Peter Copani, playing free at Sixth Avenue & 12th Street.

The Blind Junkie?  Performed a year earlier at the Lincoln Theater street theater festival, the play was described by Newsweek's Jack Kroll as:

... perhaps the sharpest possibility of street theater in the festival…“The Blind Junkie,” a powerful, witty piece by Peter Copani, performed by a horde of kids of all ages, acting, singing, and dancing up a storm in their jeans, shirt-sleeves, tight dresses and sunglasses, and driven by a great soul-rock score… This show, with its bitterness, humor, and absolute wisdom about ghetto realities from cops to drugs to sex to welfare ...

Pellegrino D'Acierno's Italian American Heritage quotes a '73 NY Times reference to Copani as "the leading playwright of the streets," & mentions an earlier Copani play, the one act musical, Street Jesus, as being specifically geared towards this neighborhood:

A former junkie who had lived on the streets, he confronted, in generating Street Jesus, the warring Italian & Puerto Rican gangs of Park Slope, Brooklyn ... (and)  courageously sought to show the aggressive neighborhood youths how to siphon off their hostilities through dramatic expression and to transform their factionalism into theatrical collaboration.

It's hard to think of Sixth & 12th today -with three of its sedate corners occupied by restaurants & coffee shops (Soigne, anyone?) - as ever having been a stage for political theater, and many of today's Slope residents are unaware that like the rest of the city, the Slope suffered its share of racial tension, with documented incidents of rioting at John Jay High School and on Fifth in the 60's & 70's.  Like the rest of the city, drugs and crime were rampant too, and were a steady presence at the edges of the gentrified brownstone Park Slope "heartland" for decades after.  Up to the early 80's, Sixth was drawn as a dividing line below which many prospective (white) residents were advised not to settle, especially in the southern part of the Slope.  Borders shifted south & west as years went by, until today even Gowanus (Gowanus!) is a mecca for the new, moneyed creative classes.  Who the hell would ever have imagined?

Peter Copani is still around, working in theater and also as a life-healer and inspirational speaker.  It's too bad we can't see footage of the Sixth Ave show, but here's a song from another performance.


It's hard to get a feel of the show from a brief clip, but it's definitely a child of its era.  I'd love to have seen it on Sixth in '72.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bag Man

Sock Man, Bag Man, Common Man. The disappearing city demographic.

No More Tip Top

After a lingering Everything Must Go, the shutters are down at Tip Top Gift, the martial arts & sundries store that held down a spot next to Smith's for thirty-five years.  It's another piece of the Fifth I got to know when I first moved to Brooklyn, thirty years ago.  The era of those 1980's tax photos! Fifth to me back then meant bargain stores & cheap boutiques, bakeries with cozy cafe con leche counters & brightly decorated cake-filled windows.  It meant Glasgow's, Timboo's & the OTB. O'Neil's, Classico Man, Capri Fashions & Queen-in-Bazaar. Farther down the avenue, others - Stavenhagen pawnshop, Eagle Provisions, & Morisi's pasta.  Too many more to remember.  Whenever I walk on Fifth in Sunset Park, I get flashbacks to my piece of the avenue back in the 80's.  I miss it.

We all look back to the city we knew when we were younger, the city we arrived in.  I live with a New Yorker who trumps my 80's Manhattan & Brooklyn with apocryphal tales of a 70's East Village, checker-cab driving adventures, concerts at the Fillmore East, and a Soho dark & desolate at night.  I wish I had that New York decade tucked in my mind.  And of course, I envy those whose city memories go far, far farther back in time.  Oh, to have seen the city then.

But we've been lucky.

Glasgow's - 198-?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Years on, 46th Street tenants continue to suffer from landlord mistreatment (Gothamist)
Charlie Sahadi is handing over the store to the next generation (Observer)
Can't imagine the place without Charlie - one of the classiest guys around
Little House on 18th Street (Vanishing New York)
Chelsea house photographed by Berenice Abbott will soon be replaced by condos
Top Chef Contestant Brings Restaurant, Butcher & Coffee Shop to Gowanus (DNAinfo)
The business will open at 7 a.m. to serve artisanal coffee and pastries to commuters and stay open until midnight serving dinner and drinks at a 50-seat restaurant, Harvey told Brooklyn Community Board 6 on Monday. 
During the day, shoppers will be able to browse for humanely-raised meat from grass-fed animals and fine cheeses from around the world. 
“We’re looking to deliver to the community a set of services that they don't have and we want to do it awesomely,” Harvey told DNAinfo New York. 
No comment.

More Flip Dreams on Fifth

643 & 645 Fifth Avenue got their marching orders last year, and with rodent bait notices now on the buildings, it looks like they'll be gone pronto.  The properties were acquired in '14 by 5th Ave Condos LLC for $4,250,000 & are now being marketed for $7,000,000.

The property consists of two adjacent lots currently occupied by mixed-use buildings. It has a proposed plan for mixed-use development that contains 8 parking spaces on site, ground floor retail, and 13 residential units. This property is located one block away from the Prospect Avenue [R] train station. Steps away from Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery Park.
The property is three blocks from the Prospect Av [R] train station and within walking distance of Prospect Park and the [F,G] trains.

Plans were filed for the seven-story building yesterday. The owner is RR Woods Holdings 24 LLC, with Ofer Prager listed as the managing member. The architect on record is Robert Bianchini. of Arc Architecture + Design Studio. Here's a rendering.

Well there's a different looking Fifth.

Along the Avenue
Two More Fifth Ave. Buildings Leaving Soon
RE Links

This Garden

Work at the 4th & 12th construction site, future home to Mercy sheltered housing, proceeds at an extra-slow snail's pace.  When I walked by today though, I did notice something interesting.  At the edge of the site, on the brick wall of an adjacent house on Fourth, some old signs have been revealed. They date back to the time when a playground & community garden occupied the lot. I'm not sure when the garden opened, but I remember it active in the 80s.  It closed due to soil contamination issues from the site's earlier, gas-station days, and the City turned the property over to Mercy Housing in 2011.  The signs have a sweet, bucolic charm.


with illustrations of the elements a garden needs to grow - sunshine, water, care.

It's nice to think that sooner or later, another community will grow here.

So What's Going on at?
Finally Some Action at 487?
Fourth & 12th 
Permits Posted at Fourth & 12th 
Rendering for New Mercy Residence

Monday, January 25, 2016


39th Street

Last September, it was announced that real-estate investment firm Hampshire Companies was putting a pair of warehouses in Sunset Park on the market, with Cushman & Wakefield as brokers.  341-353 39th Street, primarily occupied by garment trade industries, was marketed as office space, or (re-zoning permitted) residential conversion.  The warehouses are still on the market today, with a listed price of $40 million.  Hampshire bought the buildings in 2013 for $18,500,000.  In customary fashion these days, proximity to Industry City is a highlight of the sales pitch, along with new amenities in the neighborhood.

The buildings boast large open floor plates and soaring ceiling heights that provide a blank canvas for an office use or a potential multifamily conversion. The property will be delivered fully vacant, allowing a purchaser to immediately implement a renovation strategy to transform the property into a premier facility in the heart of one of the most booming submarkets in the borough.
... Overall, the outlook for both residential and commercial office space in the Sunset Park neighborhood is extremely positive. The supply of space remains tight, as existing product continues to be taken offline for residential conversion in response to the unprecedented demand for apartments in the area. Additionally, there has been a significant influx of new amenities in the neighborhood that have helped spur overall interest from businesses. 

Positive for whom, we wonder? For the small business owners & garment workers to be replaced by offices or high-income residential tenants? For the other small businesses & residents on this mixed-use block?  The Sunset Park "re-purposing" continues.

341 39th (from 38th Street),  2014 


Next Time

That fabulous snowfall!  But while first day walks & sidewalk shoveling were easy enough, I balked at next-day struggles with street-corner snow mountains, as the prospect of screwing up a healing fracture was just not worth the risk.  I can't describe my disappointment.  Better get another blizzard soon.

I did, however, get some pictures from a roaming correspondent on the Queens waterfront.  Here's one of them.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Around the Viaduct


There & Back from a Portrait of Jason

A guy on the train is selling bootleg Star Wars DVDs - "You'll need them when there's two feet tomorrow!" No takers - just a chubby adolescent who wants to talk sci-fi.  He's hardly a customer at all.  A rapper in the car's getting more of the looks, with money & some loud applause right around Jay.  At 34th, through an open door, the platform's a medieval court for an instant, with Friday night strains of implausible lute.  And then they're gone. At 59th, a kid is playing superfast rhythms on a couple of buckets, and hours later, back at the same station, there's the kid again plus a whole brigade of other bucket players, right next to a group of middle aged ladies just happening to be singing while they're waiting for a downtown A.  At Times Square a wild-faced man who may or may not have Tourettes lurches into the car & lets off a stream of fucks and cunts & groans.  A station later, a guy I recognize joins the car, and takes our attention from the wild-faced man.   This is a guy I see all the time, on trains & platforms, and out on the street.  He's often right around Fourth & 9th. He's a latter day Visgoth, a giant, bear of a man dressed in blankets. His head's a mass of long, unkempt hair, & his voice is deep, almost operatic. He recites his sing-song appeal for money loudly but courteously. Today his bare legs are red with cold.  I switch to the F, & grab a seat.  Soon the handles of the door at the end of the car are rattling furiously.  They open & look, the Visgoth barges in.  He's changed trains too.
By the time it's my stop the Visgoth is gone, in another car somewhere, farther down the train.  It's started to snow.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Protect our Working Waterfront - a video from Sunset Park's community group, Uprose. This year Uprose is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Protect Our Working Waterfront from Uprose Brooklyn on Vimeo.

The Asian Communities in Bensonhurst - Wednesday, Jan 27 (Brooklyn Historical Society)
Bensonhurst is home to one of the fastest growing Chinese populations in New York City, increasing by 57% between 2000 and 2010. But what does this mean for the city’s political landscape? Join Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor of City Limits, as he explores this trend with Paul Mak, President of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association; Peter Kwong, Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and Professor of Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center; and Brooklyn City Councilmember Mark Treyger, whose District 47 includes Bensonhurst.

Meanwhile, for some of those other Brooklyn (& LIC) residents

FreshDirect Launches 1-Hour Delivery in Brooklyn & LIC (DNAinfo)
FreshDirect is launching a new one-hour delivery service providing Brooklynites with curated meals, suggestions, ingredients and drinks through a phone app.

My Little Pony convention at Grand Prospect (DNAinfo)
Ponycon will feature a wide array of programming, from panel discussions about the psychology of brony-ism, to live drawing demonstrations, dance lessons and Q&A sessions with key figures in My Little Pony history. Bonnie Zacherle, the woman who created the original My Little Pony toy in the 1980s will be there, and so will voice actors from "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and show creator Lauren Faust.

Empty Lot


The demolition of the Church of the Redeemer, at Fourth & Pacific, must have been completed at the end of last year.  I guess I hadn't walked by there for a couple of months, so it was quite something to see the empty lot yesterday.  Despite community efforts to save the building, the church, which had fallen upon hard times, with a declining congregation, and lacking in the necessary funds to keep it in repair, was sold to the Jackson Group in 2014, for twenty million.  No plans have been filed for new construction.

A year after the Civil War ended, an Episcopal church opened on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn to serve waves of immigrants arriving from England. 
More than a century later, the stately Church of the Redeemer served a different population of immigrants: from the Caribbean and West Indies. “We had 16 to 18 flags for different islands…Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia,” said Anderson Holder, who moved to Brooklyn from Barbados 30 years ago and attended the church for seven years. “There were all different countries coming to the Church of the Redeemer.” 
 ...Parishioners and neighborhood groups struggled for years to save Church of the Redeemer.
 “It was heartbreaking to leave that church,” said member Dian Duke. “It was our sanctuary and we loved it.”  (Wall Street Journal)

Hanks, cheering our hearts on Atlantic

By some sweet miracle, still holding down the corner at Atlantic & Third.  May the fires keep burning.