Friday, March 31, 2017

Park Slope Tree Pit Castle

13th (Seventh/Eighth), by the Ansonia Clock Factory apartments.

On Fifth

Barista alert.  Another cafe in the works at Fifth & 16th, in the space previously occupied by Monk's. Are there ever enough cafes and nail spas and gyms?

Apparently not.

On a more useful note, there's still time to donate goods for the St.John the Evangelist-St. Rocco food drive.  You can drop off food at the Kearny Bank (Fifth and 21st) until Tuesday, April 4th.  See below for items to donate.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


EPA: Gowanus Canal cleanup fund nearly depleted, Trump won’t help (Brooklyn Eagle)

CityViews: Rent-Burdened Seniors Deserve Better from NY State (City Limits)

De Blasio's “Two Cities” – One with Transportation and One Without (NYSlant)

New York Spends $1.2 Billion a Year on Homelessness and yet the problem is only getting worse (New York Magazine)
I’m from right here — this neighborhood [Gowanus], all my life. I spent the first ten or 11 years on Union Street, on Garfield Place. That was the best part of my childhood — stickball, cocolevio. And then, for like 32 years, we lived on Butler Street. In my father’s house, there were nine of us. My parents come from Puerto Rico. I remember when the Puerto Ricans and the Italians were fighting on Fifth Avenue. I remember when Fifth Avenue was mostly abandoned from, let’s say, Barclays to Flatbush, all of Fifth Avenue, all of the buildings were abandoned.

Avery Hall closes on Park Slope grocery store site for $45.6 million (The Real Deal)

The Art of Broker-Speak?? - $2M 15th Street condo a "modern version of Narnia" (NY Times)

Getting to Zero: Recyclables (Open House New York)

MTA Bags Experiment of Removing Trash Cans from Platforms (NY1)

The Life and Death of (trumpet player) Lee Morgan (WNYC)

Volunteer Hike at Freshkills Park on April 9th (Freshkills Park Alliance)

Early Spring Bird Walk - Jamaica Bay, NY - Sat Apr 1st 10:00am - 1:00pm (American Littoral Society)

Weather permitting, Ruby's will be open noon-8 pm April 1 & 2. See you on the boardwalk! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Back to 139 15th. If you search for references to this address in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives, most often they appear in the Wanted-Situations-Female ads. The newspapers are full of these anonymous young women, looking for work - many of them new immigrants.  Here are four of them, placed between 1876 and 1905.





Though it didn't have as many as in neighboring Sunset Park, this part of Brooklyn once had a good number of Scandinavian residents. While the women commonly toiled on land, many of the men worked along the Brooklyn waterfront.  There was also a community of Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders around the South Brooklyn waterfront. Both of these groups were often referred to as "blue noses," In the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City:

Prospect Park West is an equally fine neighborhood, which west of Sixth Avenue changes into an area of seedy houses, industrial plants, and warehouses. In the latter section dwells a small colony of Newfoundlanders, known to the neighborhood as "blue noses" or "fish," who gain a livelihood on the fishing smacks that go down to the sea from Sheepshead Bay.

Seedy or not (we won't go into that here), the workers who lived in these houses close to the water are heroic for their labor and endurance.

139 & next-door 137 were real favorites of mine. 139 was demolished last year, but its next-door neighbor is still hanging on.

139 sold for $330,000 in 2010. Plans were filed for a new building back in 2011, and amended in '13. Now plans have been filed again, with the same architect as before.  The same old four-story-plus penthouse model too.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Sold on Fifth

499 Fifth, last home to Mexican restaurant Camelia, was recently bought by Breeaad Slope LLC, c/o the Botsaris Morris Realty Group, for just over $2M.  The space has been long vacant. Botsaris Morris purchased 555 Fifth (15th) in 2014; a Crunch gym & several other retail businesses will be opening at 555 shortly.

If you're interested in this sort of thing, here's a Botsaris Morris story from 2014, about an Astoria floral business forced to relocate after 92 years at the same address.

Astoria Flower Shop Forced to Move after 92 Years (Queens Courier)

At least 499 is empty already ...

On View

New additions to the 14th Street window: a paper dove attached to a child-sized crucifixion t-shirt. Turn or Burn remains.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On the Canal

A grey day. Looking through a window at the Smith & 9th platform, I spotted Gowanus Man.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Survive and Thrive:Towards a Justice-Focused Gowanus Neighborhood (Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice)

From the report:

MTA Gave Scant Notice of Long-Term R Train Station Closures, Critics Say (DNAinfo)

Though the MTA has been planning the closure for more than a year now, transit officials only sent out an official press release with the closure start dates on Wednesday, five days before the 53rd Street station will close for service in both directions starting Monday.
The Bay Ridge Avenue station is scheduled to close next Wednesday, and the Prospect Avenue station is scheduled to close June 5.

DOT Aims To Make Brooklyn's 4th Avenue Less Horrifying For Cyclists, Everyone (Village Voice)

Archeologists to examine pre-k site for bones of Maryland 400 (Brooklyn Paper)

The city is currently in negotiations to purchase the empty Ninth Street lot between Third and Fourth avenues, after Council voted in December to acquire the site for a 180-seat pre-kindergarten school.
But before it can start construction, the state’s historic preservation agency requires the city to contract archeologists to spend a few days excavating the property to determine its cultural value.

Is the Garment District about to unravel?

The mayor's plan to move fashion workers to Brooklyn could signal the end of fashion manufacturing in Midtown (Crain's)

Why Robert Moses Keeps Rising From an Unquiet Grave (New York Times)                  

Breslin: Trump, 'Junior With a Big Ego,' said he'd buy the paper — I wanted out (Daily News)

The remnants of Dead Horse Bay, formerly a NYC landfill, are being explored in an UrbanGlass exhibit (Untapped Cities)

Creative Time Will Stage 25-Year Sophie Calle Project at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (Art News)

A New Documentary Explores the Wild Life and Tragic Death of Lee Morgan (Village Voice)

Greatest Love of All - still time to catch the Whitney Houston Biennial

Two Years On

Happy Anniversary 657-665 Fifth Avenue. The SWO has been in effect for two years this month, all works permits have expired and the lower portion of the property, on the Fifth side, remains open to the elements.  No-one's expecting any action anytime soon.


Monday, March 20, 2017


"It is that, in wandering purposelessly through the streets rather than pursuing a direct, purposeful path through them, he (the speaker) resists the commercial organization of the city.  'Improvement makes strait roads', Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell at the beginning of the 1790s, 'but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius'...

'I wander thro' each charter'd street.'  Something that is chartered is mapped and measured as well as licensed.  Someone who wanders, inscribing him- or herself on the city, scribbles over these ordered, logical lines."


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Waiting for Spring

De luxe in Sunset Park (the realtors rub their hands)

Wave of Luxury Real Estate Coming to Sunset Park, Experts Say (DNAinfo)

“Sunset Park is continually one of the more talked-about neighborhoods in Brooklyn and maybe all of New York City, said John Brennan, of Marcus & Millichap, who specializes in investment real estate assets in Southern Brooklyn ...
Brennan anticipates a surge of residential and retail development in and around the waterfront’s manufacturing area.
“I’ve already seen an increase in residential development slated along Fourth Avenue,” he said. “You’ll probably start seeing a lot of new projects in the next 12 to 24 months.”

One of the developments featured in the article involves a couple of apartment buildings opposite Green-Wood Cemetery, between 33rd & 34th street.  816A/816 & 817A/817,which between them comprised eight modest apartments, are set to become four townhouses, priced for sale "for about $2 million each," according to a Compass broker.  We've watched the action on this block since 2014, and back then I assumed 816-817 would be replaced by condos. I hadn't guessed the townhouse route. I noticed the small plaques on the two buildings which identified them as Welsh Court, but couldn't find out anything about how they got the name.  I thought the block might once have shared a common courtyard to the rear, especially given its proximity to Woodrow & Roosevelt Courts, which share central courtyards.

Here's a picture of the block taken in January.

You can see 816 and 817 rising in all their fabulous glory.  They've just been slapped with SWOs though, as the engineer/expediter Scott Schnall has had his filing license revoked:

" DOB took the extraordinary step of revoking Scott Schnall’s filing privileges after observing a long pattern of false statements made to the Department, affecting multiple projects across New York City. In numerous cases, it was shown that Mr. Schnall regularly used his professional filing privileges to deliberately circumvent the Zoning Resolution and Construction Codes. "

This DOB statement was quoted in a Brownstoner story about Schnall posted earlier this month. The story has since been removed from the Brownstoner site.

On the same block, 814A/814 and 815A/815 Fifth are going to be demolished, with plans filed at 814 for the standard four-story-plus-penthouse.

The DNAinfo article notes that a $2 million dollar townhouse on 36th Street, "hitting all of the high notes of Brooklyn rustic-luxe chic," was recently purchased by a couple from the Red Hook/Columbia waterfront area, one of whom works at Industry City.  Clearly IC is a mover and shaker in the gentrification of Sunset Park, and if the BQX, contrary to the wishes of many Sunset Park residents, actually arrives on Third, it will aid and abet the process.  Displacement full steam (or glide?) ahead.

Maybe it's because of its English connotations that I've always despised the word townhouse as applied in the States. Its idiot sibling townhome is no better.  The two reek with toney affectation. Just call them houses, rowhouses, brownstones, frames, whatever.   Just call them homes.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fifth & Prospect

In 1940, photographer P.L.Sperr found this enclosed exterior staircase unusual enough to comment on.  Almost eighty years later, it's still around.

New York Public Library


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On their Way?

147 and 149 14th Street were sold last month to developers with a Mill Basin address.  The garages are set for demolition, and one assumes that the houses will suffer the same fate.  The houses are shown on 1880 maps of the area, and were built as semi-detached pairs.  147 (left) is missing its partner (now a vacant lot), but 149 has its twin, albeit hidden under a front extension.  You can see a portion of 151's original roof in the picture above.  Up the block 153 and 155 still have their original configuration,   It's a little hard to make out, but an aerial view shows the two-and-a-half pairs with their matching rooftops.  Unlike the later brownstone & brick developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, farther north & east, the buildings round here - mostly wooden and of earlier construction - arrived in piecemeal fashion, in isolation or in clusters.  I like them all the better for their lack of conformity.

In 1894, police officer Patrick Devoy was living at 147, "a modest two story and basement frame house." A Brooklyn Eagle article from that year describes his years of service, including twenty years as a detective at the Astor house, from 1849 to 1869.  According to the Eagle, the Astor was "the principal hotel in New York" in those years, and its prominent guests included Abraham Lincoln. It was also rife with petty crime, and the article crackles with lively accounts of pilfering and fraud. Here's a meat caper.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To Sea

We'll be out and about exploring the snow today, but in the meantime here are a couple of pictures from several years back.  My photographs are horribly disorganized, and one of these years I have to sort them out.  These revealed themselves by chance yesterday. They remind me that I ought to see if I can still get access to the water here.  19th as far as you can get, 2013.

Ignore the No Trespassing sign at Vintage Foods and you're right at the water.  Here canal meets bay ...Gulls cry, waters offer limpid, glowing reflections, and before you all the glories of sea, sky, expressway, viaduct, crane, container rusted into dark gold, hulking grain terminal. In the distance, a boat, the Hunting Creek (Baltimore, MD), slips slowly towards the sun-dipped horizon.

Coming to Fourth

The Rosa Unisex salon & Good Fortune Chinese restaurant were cleared out from their Fourth Avenue spaces (13th/14th) last year, and now their successor is revealed: La Bella Vita wood-fired pizza, beer & wine bar.  There's a trickle of restaurants creeping down Fourth below 9th now, with Olivier, Barrel & Fare, & most recently the A & S Supply Co. at 16th. the latter praised as "the gold standard for the neighborhood" (Yelp, or Gulp). It's all comes down to taste, I guess.  I was quite partial to Rosa's fierce gaze.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Kirchheimer Docs.

I went to see Manfred Kirchheimer's new documentary Canners yesterday.  Here's the trailer for it. You can catch it through Thursday at the newish Metrograph cinema, on Ludlow Street (if you can brave the weather). The Metrograph has a bit of an affected vibe going on, but the programming is great, and I've got used to the indulgence of reserving seats.  I'll take their airs.
Kirchheimer's classic Stations of the Elevated (1981) was screened in a retrospective I saw fairly recently.  Here's the trailer for that one too.


It's a bitter night, with snow on the way.  It's quiet in the grocery store, just one customer at a table. Up front, two little girls are standing at a shelf, facing a candle wrapped in cellophane. They're playing birthdays.  It's a sweet little game, and they sing so softly, then all of a sudden their interest vanishes. The game is a dull old thing.  It's time to run, & they hit the aisles, screaming with pleasure.  It's fun to watch them letting off steam, but oh, now they've gone too far.  It's time to leave, and they're sent to the back, each with a concha and a cup of milky coffee in hand.

I think I was given tea around their age.  Weak, and sugared (with a ginger nut for dipping), it was a pale imitation of adulthood, but it felt important.  Sip by sip, you knew you were on your way somewhere different.

Stay Warm

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Our Lady of Czestochowa (from Fourth)

Getting to Zero: New York + Waste - an Open House New York series
Getting to Zero is inspired by the New York City Department of Sanitation’s 0x30 campaign, which aims to eliminate the 3,000,000 tons of residential waste that the city sends to landfills each year. Through tours of infrastructure facilities; lectures and conferences with leading architects and environmentalists; and other programming, Getting to Zero will raise public awareness about the architecture and infrastructure of waste and about collaborative possibilities for designing a better, more sustainable future.

NYC Books through Bars - the all-volunteer-run group that sends free, donated books to incarcerated people across the nation

Joe Ricketts, local news publisher and Trump backer, acquires Gothamist websites (Politico)
DNAinfo, a local news company owned by the Republican mega-donor and Trump backer Joe Ricketts ... has reached an agreement to buy Gothamist, which publishes a network of websites in cities from New York to Washington to L.A.

Gowanus Batcave To Be Transformed into Artist & Manufacturing Space, The Powerhouse Workshop (Untapped Cities)
The project will be designed by the renown Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, most well-known for the Tate Modern in London but whose Jenga-like skyscraper in Tribeca, 56 Leonard, is probably their most recognizable New York City work.

DOB revokes expediter/engineer Scott Schnall's filing privileges, leaves hundreds of sites in limbo (Brownstoner)
" DOB took the extraordinary step of revoking Scott Schnall’s filing privileges after observing a long pattern of false statements made to the Department, affecting multiple projects across New York City. In numerous cases, it was shown that Mr. Schnall regularly used his professional filing privileges to deliberately circumvent the Zoning Resolution and Construction Codes. "

The Brooklyn Museum Looks at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Style (Hyperallergic)

From 2016, but it's almost Spring, so once more: The Godfather of Brooklyn’s Feral Parrot Colony (Narratively)

And talking of Spring - The new & improved NYU Hawk Cam is back ...

Quad Cinema reopening in April (Gothamist)