Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892

Morgan Library & Museum

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,  
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated
            yet part of the scheme, 
The similitudes of the past and those of the future, 
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street
            and the passage over the river, 
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away, 
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them, 
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.
                                                                                               (from  Crossing Brooklyn Ferry)

On a Sidewalk Plate

These guys?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Old Gowanus

The picture of 760 Third Avenue, seen above, was taken in 2012.  I was struck by its ornate looks, which seemed unusual on that stretch of Third, and I wondered what the views were like from the second floor.  It was on the market that year, and the listing for it made me curious.  From a post at that time:

According to TerraCRG brokerage, this building ($875,000), at Third & 25th, is ready to  be "repositioned for retail, warehousing, parking, storage or can be converted into an art studio, gallery, or office."
As an artist, you'd have interesting views.  From the back, sunset panoramas of city & ocean.  From the front, close-up scenes of traffic jams.  Imagine: the sour, grimacing faces of drivers, almost close enough to touch!  
"The building is highly visible from the BQE with over 130,000 vehicles passing per day and located on 3rd Avenue which has over 30,000 vehicles passing per day. Great opportunity for accessory signage. "

760 sold that year for $800,000.  In 2013 plans were approved for an Alt 2 building renovation, but an application to turn the mixed-use building (light industrial/one family) into a non-residential property was not green-lighted.  Apparently work went ahead anyway, and the residential unit was dismantled.  We can't know what the changes looked like on the inside, but the outside alteration was certainly dramatic.


An SWO was placed on the building in 2013, for work non-conforming to plans.  It remains in place.


Now 760 is back on the market, for an undisclosed price.

2,500 SF Ground Floor with 12' Ceilings " 1,750 SF 2nd Floor " Full Basement with 8' Ceilings " Current C. of O. for Light Manufacturing & One (1) Apartment " Highly Visible Building Signage from I-278 Gowanus Expressway with Over 150,000 Vehicles Per Day

It's a shame the period looks of the building vanished, and that the residential portion of the building was removed.  Whatever's left of the original building is not especially old; it was built in the 1890's, replacing a wooden building destroyed by fire.

An Overturned Lamp Causes Loss
A lamp was overturned last night in Stone Brothers' Tailor Shop at 760 Third Avenue, near Twenty-fifth Street, Brooklyn, and the one-story building was destroyed. Part of it was occupied by J.J. Nagle as a restaurant. The flames spread to 758 and partially destroyed a three-story frame building, owned and occupied by ex-Alderman Blohm.  The building at 762 was also damaged.  The loss to owners and tenants aggregated around $4,000, but all the losers held insurance policies.
                                                                                                                                                    (NY Times, March 7, 1891)

At the turn of the twentieth century, the brick 760 was still operating as a saloon/restaurant, and in 1909 a Thomas O'Rourke, listed at this address, was charged with violating the "dry Sunday" Excise Law, and "held in $1,000 bail, for examination."

The original, wooden building was smaller than the brick one that replaced it, and appears on the Bromley 1880 map as a stable.  But it must have had some other function by then, as in 1879 it was a polling address for the 5th District of the 8th Ward.  It stood right on the route of the old Gowanus road, which ran along the shore side of the property.  A couple of blocks south from here the Bennett/Schermerhorn house, originally built in 1636 & reconstructed after a fire in 1643, remained until the nineteenth century, and ten blocks farther south, "on the shore of Gowanus Cove" the De-Hart Bergen House, built in the 1670's and famously visited by the Labadist missionaries Danckaert & Sluyter in 1679-70, survived until its demolition in the 1880's.   The Gowanus Road itself was closed between the 1840's & 50's, but remained indicated on street maps until at least as late as 1916.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Condos at Fourth & 22nd

The Real Deal reports that Queens developer Steve Cheung is planning a 12 story, 81 unit condo/retail building at 685 Fourth Avenue (22nd Street).  The property was acquired for $11,800,000 in early 2015.  Plans filed for the new building show 16 units of affordable housing (20%), 6,400 feet of retail space, a rooftop recreation space, and parking for 18 cars.

There are no mandatory inclusionary housing requirements here, and only a handful of affordable units have been built on the Fourth since its 2003 upzoning, so the inclusion of 16 units is quite a surprise. It'll be interesting to see what the income bands for the apartments will be. Many of us who live close to Fourth would have been happy if the hulking apartment buildings dumped in our midst thus far had at least provided a serious number of affordable units for area residents.  There would then have been some justification for their presence. Instead we got "luxury" buildings - some of them riddled with serious construction problems -that only served to help drive up nearby rents, displace longtime residents, strain our schools and transit infrastructure, and erode the culture of the neighborhood.  We deserved better.  Developers made out like bandits and we got sod all.  Even Brad Lander has admitted that the 2003 rezoning on Fourth "was largely a failure."

The condo development at 685 will be next door to rental building 683 Fourth, described here in Ideal's purple prose:

... good luck getting any cooking or chores done with the entirety of Brooklyn’s harbor front and Manhattan’s skyline panorama posing right in front of you for your daily viewing pleasure. Melt off the stress of every single day’s work with sunsets caressing the Statue of Liberty and partake in the celebrations of our Nation’s birth with fireworks displays on the East River… all from the comfort of your living room couch. Floor-to-ceiling, double-paned, insulated windows let in streams of natural light while rebuffing any city noise. Granite and stainless kitchens shine in the reflection of the gleaming hardwood floors. Sip a cup of coffee over a scene of serenity from your rear balcony, overlooking the historic Greenwood Cemetery. Learn to love coming home from the bustle of the Big Apple.

There's little serenity down on the avenue.

South Brooklyn Moto

Friday, May 27, 2016


One of my favorite houses, tucked away half out-of-sight behind trees and prayer flags.  Its bold reds and yellows refuse to conform.  I also like the sound of this one, with court yard and piazzi, advertised to let in 1867.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle 

Thursday, May 26, 2016


City Council Passes Criminal Justice Reform Act (Gotham Gazette)

Co-working company The Yard, takes entire building at 13th & Third (Commercial Observer)
“We’re seeing constant needs for authentic, beautiful and community-driven work spaces in growing neighborhoods nationwide,” Mr. Beyda said in prepared remarks. “Members tell us that they choose The Yard for its sophisticated business space, elegant environment and amenities, and we want to be able to offer these options to thriving communities outside of the Manhattan epicenter.”

London's empty towers mark a very British form of corruption (Guardian)

Monthly coloring book sessions for adults at Koelner Bier Halle will "bring out the inner child." (Brooklyn Paper)

Moondog Centennial today

6/15 Green Community Garden

The garden in late spring

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No Radio Playing

Though not quite dating to the era of the beautiful old Record & Tape Center storefront signs, this MTA bus notice does seem to reference another musical era entirely.  Who plays radios on buses any more?  I sometimes see guys in their sixties with boomboxes: carried on the street, stationed on stoops, or fitted in milk crates on customized bikes.  There's a blast of time travel for you,  In an unlikely moment, not that long ago, I even saw a teenage boy walking on Fifth with a shower radio held to his ear - fantastic!   But these are rare exceptions in the smart world.  Gotta revise the prohibition.

Update:  Talking of boomboxes though, this looks great:

On Thursday, June 16 at 8 pm, the Brooklyn Museum will host a conversation with artist Tom Sachs and drummer, DJ, and music producer Questlove. Moderated by poet Tom Healy, the two will discuss sound systems, the intersections between art and science, and their mutual love of music from across the globe. 
From 6 to 8 pm, Brooklyn-based DJ Nemo Librizzi of KNOW-WAVE Radio and special guests pay homage to the streets of Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s on Tom Sachs’s boom boxes. The live DJ set will be in the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion and Lobby. The program is free as part of Brooklyn Museum’s Free Thursday Nights hosted by Squarespace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


All desires catered to these days.  At the south end of the Slope/Gowanus you can sign up to craft your own "recyclable& eco-friendly"glass dildo, while here in the north Slope, on Pacific, replacing Sena African Hair Braiding salon, you'll soon be able to explore all the fun of a claustrophobia escape room.  

Claustrophobia escape rooms are a fun, challenging, and fully immersive entertainment experience. Our professional set design will transport you to Medieval Europe in our realistic Dungeon, where you'll have to find clues and solve challenging puzzles to escape the room before the executioner comes back. Our escape rooms are focused on small groups of 2-4 teammates for maximum fun and the involvement of all players. No one will feel left out.

Well, why not?  Frankly, though, there's more than enough claustrophobia out on the street, where the nexus of high-rise Fourth/Pacific/Flatbush provides its own tortured sense of confinement. Today's escape was a turn round Pacific to the library, my favorite branch in Brooklyn, where as usual a fine selection of titles was on offer. Picked up Pat Barker's Noonday, Patti Smith's M Train, and was on my way.

Only Brooklyn

Yes, borough players, it's time to purchase your ($375 plus fee) tickets for this year's TerraCRG's Only Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, which will be held at BAM on June 1st.  Partners at this year's summit include David Schwartz (Slate), Jeffrey Mandel (Tishman Speyer), Joe Lhota (NYU Langone Medical Center), Susi Yu (Forest City Ratner), Tucker Reed (Downtown Brooklyn Partnership) Michael Rudin (Rudin Management) and David Belt (Macro Sea) - who some might remember for for bringing the dumpster swimming pool concept to Brooklyn. Sessions will include Downtown Brooklyn 2.0 - Live,Work, Shop & Play, Multifamily Buyers & Lenders Talk Shop, New Brooklyn Luxury, and the ever-topical Tenant Buyouts - For the Next Generation.

The Life of Balloons

Freshly inflated & off to the party!

Diminished in number, their luster lost, they droop from a traffic light the morning after.

A Glimpse of Green (11th Street)

Monday, May 23, 2016


Feds, DA probe de Blasio's $52M deal to turn library into condo (NY Post)
Sunset Park Library to Temporarily Move to Courthouse if Redeveloped (DNAinfo)
Gowanus Sewage Tank Location Public Comment Period Ending May 31 (DNAinfo)

BQX Streetcar Project: Red Hook Residents weigh in on mayor's plan (amNY)
Residents to city: Streetcar can't be amenity for rich, white yuppies (Brooklyn Paper)
City honchos admitted in February that riders may have to pay a second fare when switching from the tram to their forthcoming ferry service — as well as the state-controlled subway and bus system — and that many of the tram’s subway “transfers” will actually be up to a quarter-mile away.

Holly from F.L.A. is remembered on the L.E.S. (The Villager)
Spring Migration in Tompkins Square Park (Laura Goggin Photography)
The Lost Pirate's Cave of Sheridan Square (Untapped Cities)
Beautiful news: Veteran British filmmaker Ken Loach wins second Palme d'Or at Cannes (BBC)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

By Sleepy's

By the side of Sleepy's mattress store, some wag has parked placed a Kymco Like 50, ladened with a bunch of kiddie toys and a traffic cone, & all secured with parcel tape.  A half-removed label - something to do with"artisan sourced provisions"- remains on one side of the scooter, and "Pal of De Blazio's/De Blazzio's (sic) Don't Ticket" is scrawled about the vehicle in large letters.  Bernie's represented too, though I didn't catch all of that message.  No yuks or mayoral love from the traffic police - the orange paper's firmly in place.

Watching You

The Triborough stare

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Space Assured for Displaced "existing businesses"up for Rent at 555 Fifth

Two months ago Community Board 6 approved gym chain Crunch's lease of the retail space at 555 Fifth Avenue (15th Street).

At the end of last week Park Slope Patch reported on the CB6 green light for a Crunch gym at Fifth Avenue & 15th Street.  Readers might remember that we wrote about the sale of the 555 Fifth building late last year, and noted the leasing of the building to Crunch.  According to the Patch reporter, an attorney for Crunch, Michael Nacmias, told the community board that "the fitness center would take up part of the building’s first floor, as well as its entire basement and second floor, but wouldn't displace most of the existing businesses in the property," and the reporter noted that "those businesses, including a grocery store, were closed Friday" (March 25th).

As we noted at the time there were no "existing businesses" at the time of the CB6 meeting, as they had all been displaced by January of this year.  These businesses included a corner grocery, nail salon, discount store & Aikido & Bikram studios.  Now a sign has gone up for ground floor retail space for lease at 555, and one imagines the rents will be considerably higher than those the previous tenants paid. 

At Jubilat

This painting went up a couple of days ago. The artist was at work when I went by, and the owners seemed a little unsure of their new look. "You think it's good?" they asked. "Yes!" I replied, emphatically.  What better than a window full of hanging Polish sausages, hams & cheeses?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Floors to be Demolished at 535 Fourth

After strong winds blew down safety rails & form work at the Slate 535 Fourth Ave development site last month, the DOB stepped in and issued a partial SWO, with numerous Class One safety violations cited, along with work that did not conform to building plans.  Now, according to DOB records, the entire ninth & tenth floors of the building will be demolished, along with slab removal on lower floors & column installation.


Another fine job on Fourth!

Wind Causes Damage at 535 Construction Site
And a comprehensive report by DNAinfo: Park Slope Rentals Where Wind Toppled Roof Has History of Safety Violations 

O, for a Bite!

The retail space at 438 Sixth Avenue, which was last occupied by Bright Kids ("America's Premier Tutoring Company") is up for rent, and a notice in the window is soliciting suggestions.  In the 80's the store still had a sign up top for a a grocery of some kind, which promised ices and "Fancy Sandwiches."  It had closed by the time I first saw it, and I've often wondered just what constituted fancy on Sixth back then.

The 80s tax photo of 438 gives us the usual hazy image & the sign, like the sandwich, remains out of reach.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Being Alice

429 11th is on the market for a dollar shy of two million (more pics here). It's around 14 feet wide, and was originally about 20 feet deep on a short lot, though it's been extended. It was last sold in 2011, and seems to have had a rather lively renovation past.  This is the mayoral block, where another small (brick) house was pushed up and out & flipped for four million earlier this year.  Farther south, renovated houses at 16th (a wooden two-family, right across from the Leaning Tower of Webster Place)) & Sixth (steel facaded one-family plus guest house) ask in the mid-$3M range. We seem to have wandered into Wonderland.

297 16th Street (at left) 

Remember 429 11th five years ago?   A quintessential little old-time house, frozen in 50s asphalt siding & aluminum shutters.  Neglected and empty, & flanked by renovated neighbors, the house was guarded by Our Lady & attendant smaller figures.  I tried to cajole the workers at the site to let me take or buy one, but had no luck.

Three Ways of Looking at a Fire Alarm Box

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

F train express service coming in 2017

Prepare yourself for trains bypassing your station on your morning & evening commutes next year. Yes, the F is going express in 2017.  According to an article in the NY Daily News, the F will run express between Jay Street & Church Avenue during weekday rush hours, which will reduce commuting times ("6 to 7 minutes") for South Brooklyn riders, but mean a 50% reduction in service for riders at busy local stations that include Carroll, Smith & 9th, Fourth Ave. & 15th Street.  No additional trains are planned for the new service.
For an in-depth consideration of the pros & cons of F train express service (mostly cons), & other transit issues, read Benjamin Kabak's excellent 2nd Ave. Sagas.

Update: In a Gothamist piece, Council Member David Greenfield reveals that trial express service is set to begin this summer, with regular service to start in summer of '17.  Should be interesting to see if local politicians effect changes to the plan ...

Update Two (5/18)
On Wednesday, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz issued a statement to Crain's clarifying that Greenfield's assurances, based on a recommendation listed at the end of the aforementioned report, should be checked. "If we move forward with the F express," he said, "it will start in the fall of 2017." (Gothamist)

Up North

To a new visitor, Toronto's a mass of contradiction.  Victorian semis you'd more likely encounter in some demure English seaside town rub shoulders with the broad, blocky avenues of a mid-western city.  At the end of the leafy, Arts & Crafts street where you're staying, a couple of prostitutes still in their teens loiter by the 7-Eleven.  Convenience stores at corners, selling a random & paltry assortment of groceries, are decked out with gorgeous arrays of plants for sale, while down the block the medical marijuana dispensaries do a brisk trade.  Portugese bakeries and houses adorned with tiles of saints neighbor hipster coffee bars, upscale boutiques, and stores that sell Brazilian bikinis. You'll be struck by the kindness & unaffected friendliness of residents, and get a feel for the city's rich diversity.  You'll see many people sleeping rough. Tower blocks that litter the landscape show scant regard for urban design & you feel you might be in some far-flung Asian boom town.  It's hard to wrap your head around this place! It defies stereotype.

In the afternoon we walked along Jarvis Street, where clusters of homeless were gathered on the sidewalks. A man ran screaming past the Hand of God shelter, and farther along, a hooker in a hurry - giant platform shoes, a white floppy hat and shorts - rushed a much shorter customer down a side street & through a doorway.  The seams of her stockings were askew, and looked like maybe they were inked on bare legs.

Farther along, we turned a corner onto Yonge-Dundas Square, a gray fortress teeming with reptiles..

Monday, May 16, 2016


Bathurst & Bloor, Toronto 

The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector Board of Directors (DNAinfo)
Members include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Tishman Speyer, the Durst Organization, Industry City, NYU Langone Medical Center, DUMBO BID, Two Trees,  Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants, AGA Public Realm Strategies, and Union Square Ventures ("a thesis-driven venture capital firm").  The new Friends website, which includes those imaginative estimates of current travel times between proposed BQX neighborhoods, can be found here.

Inside the Counting House? Four & Twenty Blackbirds Plans New Pie Shop & Cafe in Prospect Height (DNAinfo)
The new 25-seat cafe at 634 Dean St. between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues will be located inside the headquarters for real estate company TerraCRG and sit directly across from the construction site of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

This weekend: the 10th Annual 23rd Street Mega Stoop Sale! (23rd between 6th & 7th) - Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Lots of stuff, reasonable prices, 15-plus households! Rain date - May 22, same hours.

Later on the 23rd block, on June 4th, the Battle Hill Block Party, with offerings including burlesque and requisite bouncy castle.  An interesting combo!

Only the Floors are Crooked

Bathurst St., Toronto

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016