Wednesday, January 31, 2018


A couple of shots from the 80's:  Pathmark & part of the parking lot now used by Lowe's.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Updated - More details on the Two Trees Sales, and ... Drones, Anyone?

An updated Real Deal piece on the Two Trees acquisitions with more information on the deal.  Including (my italics):

"The seller (Hamilton Plaza Associates), a joint venture between Meral Property Group and Joyland Group, bought the property for $35 million in 2016."

"The second site, at 118 Second Avenue, is owned by the U.S. Postal Service and Forest City Ratner held the leasehold after entering a 99-year agreement with the postal service in 2003. The nine-acre property is currently home to a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, whose 20-year lease will expire in 2023."

And a possible use for the properties?

"... with last-mile delivery centers increasingly in demand, many developers are making plays for industrial space, especially in urban centers like Brooklyn"

Further Reading:
Portfolio Sales of Smaller Industrial Properties Surging as Institutional Investors Jump On 'Last Mile' Logistics Bandwagon

"Given how e-commerce has managed to reverse the fortune of these previously overlooked and under-valued warehouse properties, perhaps other down-and-out real estate can be repurposed.
Anyone interested in turning abandoned malls into drone delivery centers for flying packages to online shoppers in surrounding neighborhoods? "

Monday, January 29, 2018

Two Trees Buys Hamilton Plaza

Earlier today Crain's revealed  that the new owner of Hamilton Plaza is none other than Two Trees Management.

Two Trees is buying one of the properties, a 70,000-square-foot building formerly anchored by a Pathmark grocery store with an attached 100,000-square-foot parking lot, for around $65 million from Hamilton Plaza Associates. It also purchased from Forest City Ratner a long-term ground lease of a neighboring 9-acre property that houses a Lowe’s Home Improvement store and its expansive parking lot. It wasn’t immediately clear what the company agreed to pay for that site, but several sources with knowledge of both deals put the total transaction above $100 million.

Two Trees founder David Walentas is best known for the acquisition and 're-invention' of the waterfront neighborhood of Dumbo  His son Jed Walentas, who now heads Two Trees, has had a hand in many other development projects beyond Dumbo, including the conversion of the Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg. He got his start in the real estate business with the Trump Organization.

Joyland LLC purchased the lease on Hamilton Plaza in 2015, and bought it outright, for $35M, in 2016.  Most of the space is currently empty. The main tenant, a large Pathmark supermarket, closed in 2016, and most of the smaller, older businesses are gone.  A couple of newer tenants - a gym and a distillery, have newer, longer leases, though it's not known if they'll be staying.  There's a methadone clinic there too; it keeps a low key presence.  The Plaza is in an Industrial Business Zone, and is zoned M 1-2, which allows for warehouse, commercial or office space.  It's a block away from the Sanitation Garage, and an overflow fleet of trucks and plows line the nearby streets.  Little Ennis Playground, right next to the Garage, has always seemed to me an unlikely spot for little kids. It's getting a makeover soon, but that won't change its location.  Will people get sniffy about all those garbage trucks as the area upgrades?  I certainly hope not.

According to Gowanus rezoning studies, this part of the neighborhood will not be rezoned to include new (flood-zone) housing; it will remain industrial.  And a good thing too.  Though Two Trees has something of a knack for winning contentious rezoning battles. So you never know.

But given that the M 1-2 rezoning stays in effect at Hamilton Plaza and at Lowe's, what can we expect down at the bottom of 12th Street?  With the booming re-invention of Gowanus, and the Two Trees track record, another supermarket catering to low and middle-income shoppers, which many of the Pathmark shoppers hoped for, certainly won't be part of the package.  More likely we'll be getting high-end 'maker spaces' & 'creative' office quarters ("the single biggest thing we learned when we did Dumbo was how important the office component was to creating a real neighborhood") along with some lavish retail amenities. Two Trees will surely put in some sweetener upmarket landscaping features, and this will look pretty, but the overall effect will be to simply accelerate the inflation of leases and property values in the area.  Pretty isn't beautiful until everyone's included.

Given the location of the Plaza and the Lowes site, a Two Trees acquisition will mean more developer promotion of the BQX, and likely some streetcar-related pressure when it comes to the total package of rezoning Gowanus. The BQX is beloved by the Mayor & his developer pals, but local Council Member Brad Lander has been rather quiet about it.  We'd like less fence-sitting, and more straight talk.

Big J's liquor store will be gone come March.  The prices are good - time to stock up.

(Further reading: that great DNA piece on the Property Players along the canal.  How we miss DNAinfo and DNA alum Leslie Albrecht.)

Setting the River on Fire

"There's no one else I can quite talk to with confidence and abandon and delicacy," Lowell wrote.  "I think of you daily and feel anxious lest we lose our old backward and forward flow that always seems to open me up and bring color and peace." Bishop expressed a similar indebtedness: "Dearest Cal," she wrote. "Please never stop writing me letters - they always manage to make me feel like my higher self." During a dark time in her life, she wrote to him, she had felt "just the faintest glimmer" that she would "get out of this somehow, alive.  Meanwhile - your letter has helped tremendously - like being handed a lantern, or a spiked walking stick." They handed off lanterns for twenty-five years.

                                                                              Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire - Kay Redfield Jamison

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Boardwalk

Off to Coney Island again, where a mild winter's day meant a fair turnout of habitual walkers. The old guard.

While I was there my camera went wonky on me.  Most of the shots emerged with a blur that suggested years of shaky memories, even though the images were freshly minted.

On the pier, a group of men were listening to a drummer and a boombox.  A couple in furs played chess.  There was a lot of dyed red hair and this made me happy.  Surely, I thought, this is the city's red hair capital!

The sky was starting to get a little red too.  A man was feeding boardwalk cats, and a woman in a wheelchair was luring seagulls for photo ops.  After she'd gone, the gulls fell into formation on the beach, lined up on ridges formed by the tide.  A jogger on the beach with the body of a boxer fist pumped as she passed me by.  As I made my way back from the Sea Gate end I followed an old woman for a while. I suppose I was tailing her - something about her shuffle, her stockings bunched around her ankles, and her hair so white in the gloaming.  Those stockings - the pink of fabric bandages.  Those skinny, bandy legs.  Before I could take a shot she stopped & turned right round. Her sixth sense shamed me.

Back at Stillwell a man on a bench took off his shoes and wriggled his feet, laughing.  He shouted to a couple of acquaintances crossing woozily on red.  "You still got my number, right?  Don't forget!"  The trains were up to their weekend tricks, but working in my favor for once.  Car's almost empty, N goes local, & gets me home so quickly I've barely been away.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Mind in the Hand

Brooch from The Mind in the Hand Series, 2007 - Esther Knobel
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Friday, January 26, 2018

One More

Day by day.
The moon gains on me.
Day by day.
The moon gains on me.
Purchased pair of flabby wings.
I took to doing some HOVERING.
Here is a list of incorrect things.
HOVERED mid-air outside a study.
An academic kneaded his chin,
sent in the dust of some cheap magazines.
His academic rust, could not burn them up.
Recruited some gremlins.
To get me clear of the airline routes.
I paid them off with stuffing from my wings.
They had some fun with those cheapo airline snobs.
The stuffing loss made me hit a timelock.
I ended up in the eighteen sixties.
I've been there for one hundred and twenty five years.
A small alteration of the past. Can turn time into space.
Ended up under Ardwick Bridge.
With some veterans from the U.S. Civil War.
They were under Irish patronage.
We shot dead a stupid sergeant,
but I got hit in the crossfire.
The lucky hit made me hit a time lock.
But, when I got back.
The place I made the purchase, no longer exists
I'd erased it under the bridge.
Day by day.
The moon came towards me
By such things.
The moon came towards me.
So now I sleep in ditches.
And hide away from nosey kids.
The wings rot and feather under me.
The wings rot and curl right under me.
A small alteration of the past.
Can turn time into space.
Small touches can alter more than a mere decade.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Visiting 10 historic NYC buildings slated for demolition (Nathan Kensinger, Curbed)
Walking out into the bleak midwinter, it felt like no neighborhood institution in New York was safe from the wrecking ball. The beloved (Sunshine) theater’s building has stood on East Houston Street for 173 years, serving as a church, a boxing club, a Yiddish theater, and a doorknob warehouse, but it will soon be knocked down and replaced by a glass office tower.
Just a few blocks away, demolition crews were busy bulldozing part of the 78-year-old Essex Street Market; down the street, the final pieces of the 168-year-old Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue—recently ravaged by fire, an apparent arson—were almost gone.
As another year begins, the destruction of the city’s many historic places continues unabated.

Fighting the tides of change in Red Hook
Market pressures are threatening to wipe Brooklyn's working waterfront off the map (Crain's)
“People move into the industrial neighborhoods because they are ‘cool’ and then want to change them to suit their needs,” DiMarino said. “You can’t preserve the look if you don’t preserve the businesses.”

‘Waterfront’ multimedia exhibition opens at Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO (Brooklyn Eagle)
On Jan. 20 Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) will open “Waterfront,” an immersive, multimedia exhibition that brings to life the vibrant history of Brooklyn’s coastline through interwoven stories of workers, industries, activists, innovators, families, neighborhoods and ecosystems.  

New York City in 10 Boats (Waterfront Alliance)
How would we tell the story of the city through its boats? Over the coming months, Waterwire is going to find out. We’re inviting historians, planners, and people from across the maritime world and beyond to share their versions of “New York City in 10 Boats.”

In Practice: KoKo NYC Teaching Artist Exhibition (Open Source Gallery)
January 27-February 17, 2018
Opening Reception: February 1, 7-9pm
Performance by Cook Thugless: February 7, 8:30pm (Freddy’s Bar, 627 5th Ave, Brooklyn)
Gallery open by appointment. Contact to visit.

Open Source Gallery presents In Practice, our first annual teaching artists group show. This exhibition will focus on the work of teaching artists from our arts education branch, KoKo NYC.
Supporting arts education has been a cornerstone of Open Source Gallery’s mission since the beginning. In 2007, executive director Monika Wuhrer began Open Source along with the arts education after school program, KoKo NYC. One of the unique draws of this program is that all classes are taught by a diverse group of teaching artists living and working in New York City. The integration of art and education is a focal point in all aspects of Open Source and KoKo combined. Our teaching artists come from a variety of personal and artistic backgrounds and we are proud to showcase their work in this exciting group show.

Monday used to be laundry day in New York City (Ephemeral New York)

Veselka honored for its workday practices with employees over the age of 50 (EV Grieve)
Honestly hiring and retaining an older work force isn’t something that we’ve done consciously or as a matter of policy. When I first started working at Veselka in the late 1960s, the small staff was comprised almost entirely of older Eastern European women who lived in the neighborhood. They were incredibly hard working and very reliable. 
When I took over the business in the mid 1970s, I just naturally continued to seek and hire similar type people, many of whom came to us through word-of-mouth from the existing staff. In general, we’ve found that older people are more reliable, more stable and more loyal to their workplace so they tend to stay for longer periods. 

To Be, or Not to Be (NY Review of Books)
The topic of my talk was determined by today’s date. Thirty-nine years ago my parents took a package of documents to an office in Moscow. This was our application for an exit visa to leave the Soviet Union. More than two years would pass before the visa was granted, but from that day on I have felt a sense of precariousness wherever I have been, along with a sense of opportunity. They are a pair. (Masha Gessen)

How Design for One Turns Into Design for All - (New York Times)
It turns out that one out of five adults in the United States has some disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — one out of 20 children. That’s a demographic and economic motivator. But we also know that when people feel better about themselves, medical outcomes improve.

Open Call - Sound Photography (Cities & Memory)
The project examines the relationships between photography, images and sound by inviting sound artists to create a composition based on photographs submitted from around the world.
Photographers will submit images from their portfolio, which will be presented to sound artists and musicians to create a sonic response to the image they see before them.
The result will be a global, multimedia collaboration between photographers and sound artists, and between images and sound.
The deadline is Sunday 11 February. 

Black Men Walking: a hilly hike through 500 years of black British history (Guardian)
Dawn Walton started Eclipse in Sheffield after moving there from the south. “We’re a northern company,” she says, “a Yorkshire company, and I’m very proud. We’re black and Yorkshire, y’know what I mean?” Founded in 2010, Eclipse is the foremost black-led touring company in the UK. Three years ago, it launched Revolution Mix, a “movement” that aims to tell stories of black British history. “Every time a black artist is in a costume drama,” says Walton, “people kick off. I don’t know why. Like many of us, I’m very aware of the history – the erasure, actually – of black British people. Researching the last 500 years, it’s a pretty rich scene. And guess what – no one’s told those stories. So that’s my playing field.”

Wapping Stairs (Spitalfields Life)
I need to keep reminding myself of the river. Rarely a week goes by without some purpose to go down there but, if no such reason occurs, I often take a walk simply to pay my respects to the Thames.

The Pointe Shoe Makers of Hackney (Spitalfields Life)
Contributing Photographer Patricia Niven and Novelist Sarah Winman visited the Freed of London factory in Well St to create these portraits of the Pointe Shoe Makers, an elite band of highly-skilled craftsmen who make the satin slippers worn by the world’s greatest ballerinas.

There is something inaccessible and mysterious about this world – from the Makers’ symbols, to the language of the shoe, to the exclusive world of the finished product. And yet, I found the Makers to be a pragmatic group of men, into football not dance, who have become blasé about praise and who all refer to the making of these shoes as a job, irrespective of the beauty, the artistry of the finished product. They live in a world of chiaroscuro, where prima ballerinas, surrounded by bodyguards, turn up in limousines to applaud them whilst they stand at their benches six days a week producing nearly forty shoes a day, a quarter of a million shoes a year.

Totally Wired

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Last Post?

At the VFW on 22nd. The building changed hands a couple of times in 2016, and was advertised for sale again last year. I didn't want to intrude, but I had to take a couple of quick pictures.  Look at the tilting glasses and the bottle embossed on the bar.

What's stranger than a building stripped bare, with all the air gone out of it?

Earlier ...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The New York School

The short cut to your business; full course or any speciality; prices reasonable; terms arranged. 596 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn NEVins 6502 (Brooklyn Eagle, April 9th, 1930)

The New York Beauty School started out across from the LIRR, where P.C. Richards is (for now) today.  It opened in 1929, and was soon billed as Brooklyn's oldest beauty school. From the beginning it offered discounts - special fall and summer rates, $250 courses reduced to $100, then slashed to $59.  In 1941 its rates were the "lowest in history." A course in beauty culture was described as "the surest way to independence;" positions at the school, first "guaranteed," were later "recommended." 

In 1942 the director answered career questions.

When did the New York Beauty School move above the Post Office (itself closed & moved across the street)? And where is it today?  There's a school of the same name listed at a private address in Dyker Heights, but maybe it's a red herring  We hope the original school has still got a corner of the city to call its own.  The more Beauty the better.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Phantom Thread

While Reynolds Woodcock was flinching at the sounds of Alma buttering and eating her toast, I was being driven to distraction by the woman behind me rustling her chips bag and crunch, crunch, crunching.  I could barely restrain myself from turning round and telling her to shut the fuck up..  It was crowded at the Union Square Regal ($17 a ticket), and the crowd was noisy.  I like my movies quiet. I like a matinee scene that gives you rows of seats all to yourself.  I hate to get distracted.

Woodcock's diction is particular - at the same time fussy and vicieuse.  He's used to a household geared to soothe and protect his tender nerves and keep the dressmaking business ticking.  It's claustrophobic in the House of Woodcock;  Reynolds and his sister Cyril are bound tight by routine. When Alma is brought in as the latest disposable ingenue, the latest artistic muse, she proves to be an unexpected match for the siblings, shifting the balance of power until she finds the means to win a masochist's lasting devotion.

The film is rich in sensory detail. Food. Clothes. Flesh. The secret tokens sewn into the fabric of the gowns. Couture as devotion, beauty, art ("fuck the new chic"). Bodies prodded, fitted and appraised.  A giant of a standard British breakfast ordered with erotic precision (fuck oysters!). The rush of disgust as a gown is disgraced by a rich, fat bride; it has to be stripped from her hungover body. Throughout, while the acid play of words is exchanged at breakfast, show or dinner party table, the rhythm of the seamstresses at work, the flashes of scissors and needles cutting and stitching, and into the night, mending the tears in the fabric. At the end of the film, the mess of eggs falling into an omelette pan, viscous, yellow, deadly.

The test of a film is the little spell it casts on the outside world as you leave the theater.  It's as good as the film itself, this little rush that makes everything brighter and sharper and every so slightly alien.  It doesn't last long.  Long enough to walk down 8th, the block that used to be my Street of Shoes, and stop to give a dollar to a woman swaddled in coats and shawls.  Long enough to pass the styles of Fantasy Tattoos & Parties, the peekaboo ladies and the men in chains.  Long enough to listen to Bach on the platform sweet and pure, next to a man with a New York bobble hat slumped on a bench, resting his head on a carry-on suitcase.  On the train the spell fades, but the film is still a shiny bauble in your head, catching the light as it spins and turns, holding your secret attention in the crowd.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January Reservoir

On Gyms

"The gym is the interior space that compensates for the disappearance of outside and a stopgap measure in the erosion of bodies.  The gym is a factory for the production of muscles or of fitness, and most of them look like factories: the stark industrial space, the gleam of metal machines, the isolated figures each absorbed in his or her own repetitive task ... The industrial revolution institutionalized and fragmented labor; the gym is now doing the same thing, often in the same place, for leisure."

"The treadmill (allows) travel to be measured entirely by time, bodily exertion and mechanical motion.  Space - as landscape, terrain, spectacle, experience - has vanished."

                                                                       Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust  (2000)

Friday, January 19, 2018

The One Dimension

“From Brooklyn Boulders, Brooklyn Aikikai and Court 16 to Gotham Archery and the Brooklyn Fencing Center among others, Gowanus is quickly becoming the Brooklyn playground for those living an active lifestyle,” Shannon Eidman of Compass, who handled the deal for developer Serabjit Singh of 304, LLC, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen an increased demand in fitness destinations in the neighborhood, and are excited to deliver that with Gowanus CrossFit both as an amenity for the future tenants of the building as well as to the general public.” (Commercial Observer)

And let's not forget the ax-throwing.  CrossFit will be a part of the five-building "repositioning" at Third between 12th and 13th. The Yard co-working space on 13th, a part of the complex, opened last year.

What strange sensation as building by building, block by block, the streets themselves turn into flat, glossy renderings. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Still Life

I didn't grow up in Newcastle, but I was there for half a dozen years, right around the time photographer Tish Murtha was documenting her neighborhood, Elswick.  I lived in a flat just off the Westgate Road in Elswick, in the late 70's.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


"Eagle photo,"April 18, 1935 (Brooklyn Public Library)

"Police Commissioner Louis Valentine demolishing roulette wheels used in crime-related gambling. The location, presumably Brooklyn, is unknown." (Brooklyn Public Library)

It looks to me as if the photograph was taken on the Sunset Park waterfront, with Bush Terminal Building 19 (on 39th Street) in the background.  At this angle it's hard to tell that the central part of the building is recessed, but the ornamentation, the window count, and the water tower (at center) make it a good match.

Here's Building 19 in 1957,

Museum of the City of New York

and here's a Google pics from 2007.

The facade of the building has been altered over the last couple of years.  It's not Bush Terminal any more; this is Industry City.  The Brooklyn Nets have their training center here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Selma to Montgomery

Selma to Montgomery, March, 1965, directed by the late Stefan Sharff, close family friend over generations.


Plans for been filed for a two-story vertical extension and five-family residence on the existing structure at 379 13th Street, which is situated just below Seventh Avenue.  The ground floor of the current building has belonged to the Iglesia Evangelica Pentecostal for over forty years, though there's been a partial vacate on the building since early 2015.  ACRIS shows no sale on record, but the owner listed on the plan application is Segev Nachom, and the business name is listed as 379 13 Street LLC.  The architect on record for the conversion is Woody Chen, who is active in Brooklyn.  Some of his creations can be seen in the neighborhood.

A few doors down, there's still an empty lot where a fine old wooden house used to stand.  371 13th was torn down in 2015.  Plans for a new building have yet to be approved.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


An Easy Way to Give East New York a New Subway Stop (Urban Omnibus)
Imagine there were the possibility for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend a subway line to a major concentration of new affordable housing — and a neighborhood with some of the longest commutes in the city — without building a single foot of new subway track.

The Man Who’s Been Sent to Rikers 100 Times (Village Voice)
A long-ago drug plea deal has left a Brooklyn homeless man on an endless shuttle to jail

Opioid Addiction Knows No Color, but Its Treatment Does (NY Times)
On a street lined with garbage trucks, in an industrial edge of Brooklyn, dozens of people started filing into an unmarked building before the winter sun rose. Patients gather here every day to visit the Vincent Dole Clinic, where they are promised relief from their cravings and from the constant search for heroin on the streets.

Barren Island’s Treasure Trove (New Yorker)
Robert Moses levelled a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the nineteen-fifties. Debris is still washing ashore.

So Long, Arthur Of Arthur’s Cafe (Spitalfields Life)
Even at ninety years old, Arthur was still running around his magnificent shining cafe, taking orders and serving customers with sprightly efficiency. Possessing the grace, good manners and handsome features of a young Trevor Howard, he was a charismatic figure, venerated in Dalston and throughout the East End.

A sound-portrait of a personal favourite - Bethnal Green's E. Pellicci.  Just listen!

Coney Island Creek: A Kayak Tour by Charles Denson
A circumnavigation of Coney Island Creek at high tide.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mod New York

Costumes worn at Truman Capote's 1966 Black and White Ball

The Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip exhibition, at the Museum of the City of New York, left me disappointed.  I guess I was envisioning more of an English version of mod, or rather my English version of mod, but this was another mod entirely.  Encompassing a wider time-frame, and a broader range of cultural trends, this Mod felt faded and inert. Fossilized. Granted I was a small kid during the English mod heyday, with a child's distorted sense of things, but even in the primary school playground I felt the excitement of the era.  Older kids would corner you and demand to know if you were a mod or a rocker (at six or seven years old I knew my camp).  The crackly sound of Radio Caroline buzzed from my older siblings' transistor radios, and in the early to mid-60's, an hour away from Liverpool, those of us young enough to get it basked in the glow of the city's reputation.  Yes there was a world of high-end fashion and art, high-end clubs and juicy tabloid scandals somewhere in the distance, but even as a kid I knew mod was really lived in the music & the street culture of towns and cities all over the country.

So this mostly 1% couture version of Mod had none of the bite or the fun or the energy I'd hoped for, and most of the clothes & designers and celebrities in no way met my biased expectations.  Jackie O.? Audrey Hepburn, Oleg Cassini, Adolfo?  Mod?  Oh come now. The parameters were all wrong. And even the Campbells & Op-Art minis lost their zing in this fusty gathering.  It might have been something to do with the presentation - the dimly lit space and the blank-faced mannequins, or maybe the lack of any music to liven things up but really, I think it was the smell of money.

Still, I had to enjoy the Black & White Ball clothes, especially that Halston rabbit ensemble worn by Candice Bergen, who later expressed regret that she had attended the party "while there was war and suffering in the world."  Also the bolder, fresher African Jazz Art Society and Studios Grandassa Models photographed by Kwame Brathwaite in 1962.

But there were surprisingly few things to covet.  Visiting the Alexander McQueen show several years back, I was wild for his clothes' grand, savage beauty, but this was tamer stuff by far.  If I had to pick something I guess it would be the Courrèges Paris Hyperbole, a slinky looking crinkly vinyl on cotton & spandex in black.  It had a faint edge.

Despite my negative views, I love the MCNY.  Right now I'd recommend another show there: Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Farewell

Yes, I know this picture doesn't show the number of years Sam Batrouni had been in business at Fifth & 24th, but suffice it to say it's been over forty.  His auto-repair business got consistently good reviews from his loyal customers, and the occasional conversations I had with him were always delightful.  The business closed at the end of last year. The property has been for sale since late 2016, and though it's still listed, I'm assuming a deal is in the works.  The lot has M1-1D zoning, so there's the possibility of residential construction here.  A good number of auto business corners round here have been snapped up by buyers for rental or condo development.

As the sign on the fence states, there'll be some continuity for customers, whatever happens to the lot:

Please be assured that you will still be receiving honest service next door at 745 5th Avenue from my current manager Mohammed, who will be running the business with George and Zuhair, also from Batrouni Service Station.

If you read the whole thing, you'll see what a gracious note of farewell this is - the proper way to do it.  Best wishes to you Sir, a happy retirement, and I hope you land some good catches.

E. 103rd

I've been wanting to catch this stoop for a while.  I had my chance yesterday, but didn't have a decent camera on me.  Still - what a pair they make, these old gods of the city.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Old & New

After 25 years at the corner of Fifth & Prospect Caesar's Carpet Center is moving across to the opposite side of the block.

Ofelia's salon has become Lina's.

No more drinks at Fifth & 23rd.  Well, maybe water. Mary's bar, around for four years or so, closed in 2016.  Older residents might remember the corner better as home to the Polish bar Smolen.  The next business coming in will be an animal clinic.

A & E Supply Co, the coffee shop/butcher/cheesemonger/restaurant had something of a bumpy ride since its late '16 opening.  Issues with ConEd, a "guerilla marketing" campaign that ruffled local feathers, & possibly its choice of what the owners called a "desolate location" all hindered its success. The store is papered up and the owners are planning a new business model, re-opening "in a few months" as just a restaurant.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Looking Up

The steady drip, drip, drip of the city as the snow and ice started to melt away.  It was finally time to start shedding layers, but from an instinct acquired over the last fortnight, I still overdressed.  No matter.  How good it felt to walk, and to feel the blood pumping, thawing out my brain and waking me up after the deep freeze.  Instead of looking down, to better navigate the slushy, icy intersections, I found myself looking up, at small amendments to the streetscape, and at small, longtime markers I had either taken for granted or never noticed before.

A little glamor has disappeared at Fifth & 21st.  The old Tuxedo Den signs have gone, along with the astonishingly narrow-waisted dapper gent in top hat & tux.

In their place, there's a Marksman (We Do It All!) Construction sign.  Marksmen has new premises just down the block.

At Fourth & 23rd, across from the Jurek funeral home, I saw a detail at 722 that I hadn't paid attention to before - "Hanover" inscribed on top of the corner facade. It's hard to date the building precisely, but Hyde maps show it to have been built between 1898 and 1903, when the area's population was booming, and all around Fourth there was a rush of construction in anticipation of the BMT subway line. A lot of buildings from this era were given names - some vaguely baronial, like Hampton Court, and some sentimental, like Mildred and her sister Genevieve.  Hanover has a stout, burgher-ish ring to it.

I don't know what business occupied the ground floor of 722 originally.  A 1949 ad in the Brooklyn Eagle lists an ice cream parlor & luncheonette for sale, and just a couple of years later the paper shows the Clavin Funeral Home at this address.  There are still plenty of funeral homes round here, perhaps because of their proximity to Green-Wood cemetery.  In earlier times the area was also dense with monument works and florists.  Death was big business.

At Fourth and 22nd, no. 698 bears the name & year of its builder, P. Capo, 1921. At first I thought this was a brick building, but the sides of the building are aluminum or vinyl sided.  In 1916 it's shown as wooden, but I'm guessing the Capos added this facade. It certainly has a 20's look. The name up top shows a nice touch of family pride.

An Eagle search for 698 reveals the usual motley fragments of residential life.  In 1900 former tenants of the building were caught up in a love triangle, when George Crotty, an electrician, was shot to death by a fellow tenant, Edward Leasure, who Crotty believed was paying too much attention to his wife.  And in 1906 a midwife living at 698 was tried for performing a "criminal operation."

Other tenants in the building are seen looking for work. This ad suggests either a carefree or a desperate spirit.  I suspect the latter.

Young man, 22, wishes position at anything; first-class reference; willing to move away. S. Aleis (27 Feb, 1909)

Eventually the Capos make brief appearances. In 1928 Agnes Capo (45) and Marie Capo (25) are injured in a car accident.  Asunta Capo and Antonio Greco purchase a marriage license in 1937.  Then the family goes out of sight again.

You can walk a street or an avenue hundreds or even thousands of times without registering peripheral details.  It's all a question of light, angle, and level of attention. Had I really never noticed this faded ad past 20th Street?  Try as I might, I couldn't figure the sign out.  Here's a photo that I darkened to try and get the lettering into better focus.  It didn't help much.

Our random lives fade in and out of focus.  Who notices the clues we leave behind?

Monday, January 8, 2018


The winter sun is blinding if you walk in its path. There's nothing soft or sentimental with a winter sun; its beauty is as tart as a lemon.  How cleanly it separates light and shade. With newer, taller buildings on our low level-street, there's less sun all-round, but especially so in winter, when even a southern exposure means shadows shortly after noon. Over on the northern side, there's a point towards the end of the day, when the sun, reflected in the window of a house on the next block, sends its rays diagonally across backyards and lands them in our kitchen.  Its precision is a wonder - the rest of the room darkening, and just this fragment of light hitting cutting board, bottles, tea tin, wall.  Ten, fifteen minutes, and it's gone.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection (ProPublica)
Waste removal is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. On the darkened streets of New York City, it’s a race for survival.

Erica Garner, Daughter of Police-Brutality Victim Eric Garner, Dead at 27 (The Root)
Erica Garner was indeed a force to be reckoned with, occupying space and speaking out loudly against police brutality ever since her father’s July 2014 death. She was unafraid, unabashed and unapologetic about what it was she was fighting for.

The Wall of Love Outside a Jail (NY Times)
Maria stood outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, on a recent evening, looking up. The jail loomed above, a concrete bulwark more than a dozen stories high and lined in narrow windows. Behind one of them was her husband. (But NY Times, don't call the waterfront adjacent to Industry City an area "known as Industry City.")

550-Seat Restaurant Overlooking Gowanus Canal To Open In Spring (Gowanus Patch)
"I love the area and I think our canal should be Venice," said Alex Donskoi, a furniture company owner working on the restaurant. "It has all the potential to be there and it's going to get there. It's not that far away."

Medina Mohammed: From an East Flatbush Childhood to the Captain’s Seat (Waterfront Alliance)
Meet Medina Mohammed, a 27-year-old first officer with Hornblower Cruises and Events who hails from East Flatbush, Brooklyn. We caught up with Medina when she wasn’t out on the water to hear about her journey.

Taking Out the Trash? That’s Still a Man’s Job, Even for the Liberal Coastal Elite (NY Times)
Clearly not fitting this NY Times demographic, I'm proud to say I have no problem shoveling snow or taking out the trash.

Stories of the Nature of Cities 2099 - Prize for Urban Flash Fiction.  Entry details at The Nature of Cities
Let’s imagine. What are the stories of people and nature in cities in 2099? What will cities be like to live in? Are they lush and green, verdant and biodiverse? What will cities look like; be made of? How will they be designed and powered? Will they be tall, short, dense, under ground or under water? What of public spaces? Social organization? Mobility? Government? Sustainability and food? Wildlife? Climate change and resilience? Poverty, consumption, wealth, and justice? How will we interact and relate to one another and the natural world? What sort of stories can we tell about our communities and the spaces that will shape them?

Radio Trottoir (Walkers in the City)
My Dutch friend told me that something distinctive about New York is the way we all talk to each other. New York, unlike Amsterdam, she said, still has its Radio Trottoir—its pavement radio—meaning that we find out a lot from overhearing talk on the street. I had never thought about that, although it rang true as soon as she said it.

Nature's little sanitation engineer visits Tompkins Square (Laura Goggin Photography)
The big news around Tompkins Square recently has been this opossum, who mysteriously appeared in the park a couple of weeks ago...

Gerritsen Beach - Brooklyn's forgotten Levitown (CityLab)
Isolated on the edge of the metropolis, linked by a single bus line, Gerritsen Beach developed a social fabric as tightly knit as its streets. It had its own Chamber of Commerce, Civic Association, and Citizens Protective Committee, a Lily of the Valley Garden Club—even its own elected “unofficials,” including a mayor and commissioners of parks and public welfare. When the city failed to fix a massive sewage backup in Shellbank Creek, citizens organized a pick-and-shovel army to cut a channel across the Plum Island sandbar to Rockaway Inlet, allowing tidal action to flush the waters.

History of Fountain Avenue Landfill, site of Gov. Cuomo's proposed State Park. (Hidden Waters Blog)
In an unexpected start for 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday a proposal to create a 407-acre State Park in Brooklyn. My first reaction was in line with the city’s independent spirit: “Do we really need more State Parks, state troopers and state tourism road signs within the city’s borders?” My second reaction was, “Here we go again, the Governor and the Mayor’s rivalry is now a literal turf war with a State Park inside the city.” My third and final reaction was, “Where in Brooklyn is there a 407-acre expanse of undeveloped land that can become a park?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Deep and Crisp and Even

Almost deserted in the middle of the day.  The train runs though, and three B61s tail each other up the hill.  A couple of shovelers, an oil truck or two, and every so often a walker, hunched against the pelting snow.  Whenever you cross paths there's that awkward negotiation as to who has dibs on the narrow band of cleared snow or footprints and who gets to wait. The old familiar winter shuffle. And whenever I walk in fresh snow, a lifetime reflex kicks right in; before I know it there I am singing Good King Wenceslas again, as happy as a six-year old.  Fresh or dinted, king or page, I couldn't care less.  I'm in my element.