Monday, March 25, 2019

A Far Cry from Brooklyn

It's hard to keep track of that elusive world traveler Carl Douglas, who every so often surprises us with a comment on the blog or photographs from distant parts.  Taken last week, El Paso: streets - & Wall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Freshness Guaranteed

The tail-end of winter is fickle.  Out today, at lunchtime, the weather had a bitter, blustery nip about it, and even in a coat & scarf I was cold.  Home & out again fifteen minutes later it was all spring all the time.  How did the sun pull it off?  The kids bursting out of middle school had spring fever all right.  Jackets off, they were loud, flirty and aching for liberty. 

Along the edge of the cemetery, the dog nosed in sidewalk piles of leaves.  I remember when there were junked cars and mounds of other garbage dumped at the perimeter.  It's a lot cleaner now, but still kind of trashy.  Delivery boxes, and takeout containers, tires and miniature liquor bottles, somebody's supermarket shopping cart and remnants of blown away gravestone flowers.

I've spent most of the last few months walking around without my better camera, relying instead on the phone. Weather & circumstances have conspired against me, and I never seem to be traveling light.  Spring, I hope, will free up the time to watch and wander. 

"Freshness guaranteed"

Monday, March 18, 2019

569 Sixth

Insurance maps of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century indicate extensions to the rear of the building and stables at the rear of the lot.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 1913

Brooklyn Daily Eagle,  August 1932

DOF Brooklyn Tax Photograph (1939-1941)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Coming Soon!

Curbed just ran a piece on new apartments coming on the market this spring.  Three of them are nearby.  119 units.  No inclusionary housing.

The Luna (Happy Living Development), at 225 9th Street, is just off Fourth, just down from the old Catene's deli. Thirty nine units, with amenities that include "a lounge, pet spa, outdoor terrace, and kid’s room."

575 Fourth (Daten Group), nestling up to the Prospect Expressway, with 70 apartments.

"There’s a ground-floor “backyard” with seating and a dog run, and a roof deck with its own private “villas” for residents."

This one's been in the works since 2015, with a change in developer along the way.

The Bentyn (Happy Living again!), at 488 Fourth, with ten apartments on offer, appears to be the closest to completion.

"Uniquely situated where the vibrant community of Gowanus and the classic beauty of Park Slope converge, Bentyn marries clean contemporary aesthetics with thoughtful, curated finishes."

You decide.

To heighten that feeling of "Brooklyn living from a fresh perspective,"the rendering on the Bentyn website has added a cornice and a snappy new entrance to the building next door (at left), and removed its current entrance along with the awning.  And sadly no glimpse of Danny's.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Blink and

A corner grocery at Fourth & 11th closed a while back, and now the space is getting a makeover.  With the vinyl awning of the last business gone, older grocery/delicatessen signs have emerged in the panels above the store's windows.

The building itself - a mixed-use apartment building with a corner store - was constructed at the end of the nineteenth-century, between 1888 and 1898, and is of conventional design for the period.  Buildings like these are solid, handsome staples of the city's streets, but we usually take them for granted.  They're functional.  We have priorities.  We're unlikely to glance at their exteriors as we hurry in for milk or beer or cigarettes.  And besides, many of their original features have long gone into hiding.  I'd passed this building many times before today, and admired the delicate decorations around the upper floor corner windows but I don't think I'd ever really looked at the outside of the store before today. The disappearance of the awning seemed to reveal not just the older window signs but also details of the entryway.  Or maybe the details were always there and I'd never noticed.

It's a funny business, the timing involved in catching a landscape's minor shifts & turns. They're there, they're gone again, in a week, a day, an hour.  We're onto them. We're looking the other way, or lost in thought, or staring at a stupid screen.  I like to think I'm observant - I'm greedy as a magpie for shiny details - but mostly it's luck.  I like it that way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Coming & Going

Coming.  A boxing club and a bar called Young Ethel's.

Going.  Far, far away, in the Center Slope on Seventh, the Clay Pot is closing. Founded in Park Slope's hippier, brownstone 'pioneering' years, the store originally sold the owners' hand-crafted pottery and later offered a broader range of high-end jewelry and gifts.  It had a loyal customer base over the decades. The Times ran an Amy Sohn take on the closure, inevitably designed to ruffle local feathers & generate comments.  I wasn't a Clay Pot shopper myself - I barely ever go up Seventh that far & it's not the kind of place for me anyway - but I read the comments with a certain interest.  They were a mixed bag: many expressing sadness and fond memories, a few more negative, and others weighing in on the neighborhood's history, its boundaries & the changing retail scene on Seventh.  One made me laugh a little:

"First Smith St, then 5th Ave, then Vanderbilt and Washington Aves and now Flatbush Ave have all changed dramatically - for the better - in that time. There is a edge, bustle and vibrancy on these streets that has driven out the grungy, rundown and scary feel they had in the past. The only part left like that now is 5th Ave below 9th St."

I'm not sure when this Times reader last ventured out on Fifth below 9th, but it's rather a drastic vision.  Bypassing the grungy & the rundown (I don't have the energy) to the scary: really? In 2019? I've lived around here over thirty years.  And as soon as I cross Fifth & 9th street heading south, I know I'm home.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Near Flatbush

Heading up Fifth on the B63 I passed the wooden building that used to be Paul's fruit & vegetable store. Paul's closed in 2015 to become the unremarkable Brooklyn Market & Deli, & I hadn't paid it much attention since then.  These days it's Lickers N Sniffers Pet Services, a doggy daycare/grooming/pet sitting/dog walking center.  A very of-the-moment urban service niche.


Here are a couple of views from several years ago.



The upper section of the facade has barely changed at all in recent decades, but it once sported a wall of glass windows upstairs, where the second-floor space was also used as retail.

The Department of Records tax photographs shown above, taken between 1939 and 1941, show Paul's as Stutmann and Grannemann's Scandinavian Food Center, a "certified delicatessen."On one side of the Food Center you can see O'Connors Bar and Grill (1931 - 2011) with a fancier facade than is evident in its Grill-less 1980s years. Was the original building was replaced or merely altered? O'Connor's - down at heel and infinitely charismatic at the end - was succeeded by the expanded sports bar McMahon's around 2014. On the other side of the Food Center the photograph shows a plumbing and roofing business.

A decade later the deli is Stutmann's alone & the roofing & plumbing business has been replaced by a fruit & vegetable store.  As always in the city, the streetscape is never static.  A part of the fruit and vegetable store's sign - "Mohawk" - is visible, reminding one that this part of Fifth was close to Little Caughnawaga, a thriving community of Mohawk ironworkers and their families from the 1920s to the 1970s.