Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Virtual Tour" of a Brooklyn Apartment


Our friends at Poland Korea Relations -- the Polish guy and his Korean girlfriend that periodically produce urban life videos and postings from an interesting perspective -- are at it again with a "virtual tour" of their Brooklyn apartment. You can see it by clicking on over to polandkorearelations or go directly to it by clicking this link.

Let's go to the words:
I am subletting this apartment from a 79 year old Polish man who is away in Poland. This apartment has not been renovated in 40 years and some of its fixtures may even be a hundred years old. For instance, my bathtub is right in my kitchen, right next to the door to the apartment. Everything else is very old too, including the antique furniture and the stove. This is just a very dingy place and it’s so hard to keep clean since it looks dirty to begin with.

But anyways, I love this apartment, and I decided to make a virtual tour/walkthrough of it so you too can experience it. This “Brooklyn Apartment” is a drama art-piece. In each episode there will be more places to explore starting from my apartment, and more scenes which will clue you in to the unfolding story. Watch the drama unfold in this one of a kind interactive art piece. Next episode is coming on October 1st.
Why so long, we don't know.

Question of the day: Do they live like this? Or is it part of the "interactive art piece"?

A Taste of the (Original) Robert Moses to Close Out August

If you read Gowanus Lounge, you know we often cite Robert Moses and use his name as a pejorative, frequently to refer to the arrogant planning process surrounding Atlantic Yards and the community-violating nature of some of other big projects going up in Brooklyn. The superb Brooklyn Heights Blog offers up some wonderful background on Moses in an item called Heights History: Nabe vs Robert Moses. We'll share some excerpts:
Among his accomplishments, Moses built the Belt Parkway and replaced Brooklyn's shorefront towns with horrific high-rise apartments worthy of the Eastern Bloc.

His 1947 master plan for the BQE would have cut through Brooklyn in a manner similar to his borough hacking construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway proposed at about the same time.

Moses succeeded in destroying a portion of Hicks Street by laying down his 6 lane highway through Red Hook. He met with little opposition from the poor, immigrant Italian community there who feared retaliation — or worse, deportation — from City Hall if they protested...Here in Brooklyn Heights, more affluent and influential residents were able to persuade Moses to accept a compromise — one with roots dating back to Hezekiah Pierrepont’s plan in the 1820s to build a vista point near the water to rival Manhattan's Battery...The "Power Broker" came to an agreement with the community, resulting in the construction of a two-tiered highway and the creation of the Brooklyn Promenade. Both opened in 1954. Reconstruction of this section of the BQE is scheduled to begin next year.
You can find more about Big Bob at Wikipedia and, of course, by reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, which ascribes virtually everything that is wrong with New York to him.

8th Annual Waterfront Festival in Sunset Park

[Photo courtesy soupflower/flickr]

Via Community Board 7 comes notice of its 8th Annual Waterfront Festival, which will be taking place on Saturday, September 16th from 11:00AM-6PM on the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier at 1st Ave. and 58th Street. The festival, dubbed "Celebrating our Success" will highlight Sunset Park HS, the proposed waterfront park, downzoning and the refurbishing of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. It's billed as, "the biggest event ever with featured dance and music performances representing the different cultures of Sunset Park; a Petting Zoo; NYC Police and Fire Department Demonstrations including the "Smokehouse" ; vintage MTA busses; a treasure hunt; and many CBO's will be on hand with information about services for Sunset Park." Call Community Board 7 at 718-854-0003 for more information.

Brooklinks: Thursday Fare Thee Well August Edition

Williamsburg-Greenpoint Rezoning Send Up

We found "Rezoned So You Can Own" while trawling around on You Tube, and it's definitely worth a few minutes of spare time, if only for its funny bitterness about the entire issue and its take on gentrification in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Click on the embedded video or on this link. The vid comes from Null Set Films.

Old Time Gowanus Canal: "The Lavender Lake"

Lavender Lake
Of all the pages on the wonderful Forgotten New York site, one of the closest to GL's heart is "The Lavender Lake," which provides much detail and a lot of photos of our namesake Big G. Here, you'll find tons of info, like the following on the South Brooklyn Seine's history:
It was created in 1849 (finished in the 1860s) by narrowing its predecessor, the Gowanus Creek, into a one and a half mile long commercial waterway to provide commercial access to Gowanus Bay. Developer Edwin Litchfield formed the Brooklyn Improvement Company for the express purpose of dredging the Gowanus Creek, then a fresh stream, and making it navigable. With the creation of the new waterway, barges brought in sandstone from New Jersey that was used to build the beautiful brownstones that today still line the streets of surrounding Boerum Hill and park Slope. Unfortunately the buildup of the area contributed to the pollution of the canal, which would go on for over a century: the surrounding area's raw sewage would be pumped directly into the canal, and the new gasworks, coal yards and soap factories along the canal's length also dropped tons of pollutants directly into it as the years went by. As early as the 1880s the canal was foul and miasmic and its color had changed to a dark Pepto-Bismol shade, prompting locals to call it "Lavender Lake."
So, now, you know, in case you didn't.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lola Staar Founder Talks About Coney Island

[Photo courtesy of Coney Island Shortcakes]

Coney Island fashion designer and boutique owner Dianna Carlin is the subject of a fascinating new Q&A conducted by Jonathan Bowles, the Executive Director of the Center for an Urban Future. In the interview, the owner of the Lola Staar boutique on the Coney Island boardwalk talks about her business, obstacles she faced setting up shop on the boardwalk, the neighborhood and her insights and opinions about the Coney rebuilding plans.

Here's a sample of what Carlin said she's had to endure, which certainly was a bit of an eye opener for Gowanus Lounge:
I don’t even know how my business has survived through six years, because there are tremendous obstacles here. I know firsthand from my experience here that there are some really corrupt, crazy things going on here. And those just have to be moved out in order for any small business like myself, for anything positive to open up here. I’ve had tremendous problems. Every year, there’s somebody threatening me, trying to extort money out of me, people putting glue in my locks. Every year, there’s something. And it’s because people here feel threatened by me, because I’m new and I’m a woman and I’m not from Coney Island.

The people that own businesses here don’t want to see anything new. They see this newness and this change as something that’s going to threaten their businesses, which have sold the same products, as charming as they are. I mean, I love Coney Island and I love what’s here, despite everything. Coney Island has always had that dichotomy between the bright, circus lights and the dark, seedy underside. There’s been corruption—Sodom by the Sea has been its name since the beginning. There’s always been that element here. And that’s part of what attracted me to it. But I know for sure that if new businesses are going to open up here, there are many things that need to change.
Carlin's comments about Coney redevelopment and why she is basically supportive of the Coney Island Development Corporation and Thor Equities plans for Coney are very much worth reading.

As for the Center for an Urban Future, if you're not familiar with their work, they're absolutely worth getting to know as they do some of the most perceptive and interesting research around about important New York City planning, community and quaility of life issues. The organization's most recent study took a hard look at New York City street fairs, concluding that they are seriously lacking because a handful of firms have a stranglehold on them. The Q&A with Carlin is actually part of an ongoing series of interviews.

If you're in Coney check out Lola Staar, then head over to see our friends Dan and Kalene at Coney Island Shortcakes, who continue selling their excellent shortcakes and putting words and photos up on their always-fun blog. In fact, they have an item and some photos right now on their blog (from which we borrowed the one above) about Lola Staar, who is one of their neighbors.


Atlantic Yards Wednesday #2: Planned Shrinkage End Game?

Of all the fascinating things swirling around the hyper-controversial Atlantic Yards project in the days since last week's public hearing, the most interesting is the discussion about a possible scaling back of the project before it goes to the Empire State Development Corporation's board for a certain vote of approval.

Is the talk of shrinkage a spontaneous move on the part of public officials who have heard the drumbeat of opposition in Brooklyn? Or is it calculated ploy by the same powerbrokers so they can say they listened to the public while, in reality, simply cutting fat that was pre-built into project plans in anticipation of this day?

Most likely it's the latter, but the volume and staying power of opponents has no doubt made an impression on both the public officials that have steadfastly supported Atlantic Yards and those that have supported it but have raised some questions about the top-down, unresponsive nature of the planning and approval process (either because they're genuinely troubled by spectre of Robert Moses hovering over the process or because they find it politically expedient to make it look like they are).

Most curious, of course, are the comments of Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has been Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief while voicing vague concerns about the project's density. Markowitz used the public hearing to declare that some of the buildings need to be scaled back, that Miss Brooklyn shouldn't exceed the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower in height and that transportation planning has been seriously flawed.

Forest City Ratner officials including Jim Stuckey reacted by laughing, according to community activist Philip DePaolo who was sitting behind Mr. Stuckey and took note of the fact they found the Borough President's remarks funny. One can only conclude that (a). Ratner's people knew ahead of time that Markowitz would be making these remarks in order to do some damage control or (b). They thought that Markowitz's modest suggestions were, well, laughable or (c). They find Markowitz himself a joke. (Note to Marty: You should ask Ratner staff people not to laugh at you in public. Or, at least, not to laugh when you're not telling jokes. It looks bad.)

For the record, Gowanus Lounge believes there are many, many things wrong with Atlantic Yards as currently proposed, and the height of several of the buildings is just one of them. This is why the project needed a locally-based planning process and why we find the ram-it-down-their-throats approach of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Pataki Administration offensive.

Others, including City Council Member David Yassky, are suggesting a scaleback of up to 50 percent. (Yassky, for instance, told Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder that a scaling back of 50 percent might be in order.)

Of course, it is worth pointing out that the project has grown since it was first proposed, perhaps in order to find ways to make it look like it is being shrunk without actually shrinking it. To a many observers, the project is so huge that cutting it by half will still leave Brooklyn with an oversized and far too dense project. In his Atlantic Yards Report today, for example, Mr. Oder engages in a perceptive discussion about a 50 percent scaleback, saying "there's a certain ridiculousness to the exercise--a reduction in scale wouldn't be accomplished by shrinking the buildings; it would be accomplished by various forms of surgery. Had the project proceeded via the city's land use planning process, a ceiling would have been set by zoning at the start."

Gowanus Lounge will go out on a limb and predict a 25-33 percent reduction in density from what it currently is on paper. Call us crusty and cynical, but that's probably in the neighborhood of the "shrinkage" everyone had in mind from the very beginning. That way, the developer still has a project that will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in pure profit. And the public officials like Markowitz and Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg who've been the project's biggest supporters can say they listened to the public and took heroic steps to get the developer to make the project smaller and better.

Just a hunch, of course.

Yassky Almost Publicly Gets in Bed with Architect, Then Blinks

Maybe it was the bad press from Brownstoner and The Politicker that did it? Or the call from the Daily News?

First, Brownstoner reported that Congressional candidate and City Council Member David Yassky would be holding a fundraiser with Robert Scarano, the controversial Brooklyn architect who recently gave up the right to self-certify his work after a number of complaints about odd things about some of his buildings were filed with the Department of Buildings. Then, The Politicker reported that the event was cancelled. Specifically: "The fundraiser which had been tentatively scheduled for tonight has been cancelled because the campaign didn't think it was appropriate."

"Tentatively scheduled"? There was nothing "tentative" about the invitation quoted by Brownstoner, which called Yassky the "Council's most accomplished, progressive legislator... We need to help him now since he is a supporter of our industry." (Emphasis added.) Among the industry supporters of Yassky are Moishe Kestenbaum, the owner of 184 Kent in Williamsburg, whose de-landmarking Yassky championed, and Joshua Guttman, owner of the ill-fated Greenpoint Terminal Market.

Candidate Chris Owens told the Daily News that the fundraiser and its abrupt cancellation is indicative of "Yassky campaign games with developers, and playing games with people who are willing to cut corners to make money."

Brooklinks: Wednesday Midweek Edition

Atlantic Yards Wednesday #1: New Flyer in the Mail

Flyer 4

A new Atlantic Yards flyer (Number Four in the series) is now in the mail, according to No Land Grab, which has posted images from the promotional document. The new effort to win over more Brooklynites to the Atlantic Yards side trumpets the endorsements of the project by the New York Times, New York Daily News and the New York Post.

No Land Grab calls the brochure "the latest 'liar flyer'" and continues by saying, "Forest City Ratner has dropped another bundle of dough on a fourth direct mailer, trying to convince residents of Brooklyn, with a mere four pages, that Atlantic Yards isn't as bad as they think. This time Ratner lets the daily papers do most of the talking...The joke is that Ratner didn't include any pictures of tall buildings... again."

If you live in Brooklyn, it will be arriving in your mailbox soon.

Brooklyn Video: Wonderful Brooklyn

Here are Brooklyn scenes, mainly from Greenpoint (including the Greenpoint Terminal Market before the conflagration) and Dumbo, with music by Sparklehorse. Click on the embedded video or on this link.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pitching Muni Bonds Via Bizarre Gowanus Canal Boat Ride

This gem, which features the Gowanus Canal, may qualify as one of the stranger videos we've seen recently. It is from municipal bond salesman Jim Lebenthal, who functions as the pitchman for the Gowanus both onshore and on a boat crusing the canal with a classical music backdrop. Lebenthal, apparently, wants to sell tax-free bonds to finance Gowanus redevelopment. The video is called "Coming Clean on the Gowanus Canal" and is part of a series of NYC and other videos that Lebenthal has posted on You Tube, and we sort of stumbled upon it. It's a definite four-star vid, if only for the unintended oddness and humor. Watch by clicking on the embedded video or on this link.

Incredible Photos of Red Hook Sugar Refinery

Sweet, originally uploaded by Soupflowers.

If you want to see some photos of the old Revere Sugar refinery in Red Hook the way you've rarely seen it, then head on over to Soupflower's new photos of the domed structure taken from inside the property. We found them because the Brooklyn Record featured one of the photos in Monday's Blog Wrap. The photos are part of her Brooklyn 2006 photoset, which itself is worth a close look. Photographer f. trainer also has some inside shots of the Revere Sugar refinery in all of its magnificent decay from a few months ago. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Make Levees Not War

Make Levees Not War

Brooklinks: Tuesday Planned Shrinkage Edition

Greenpoint Rooftop Living

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images.

Shrinkage Strategy:
No Strategy, Shrinkage or Otherwise:

Blogger Gets a Ticket for Being Too Far to the Right


onNYTurf mastermind Will James was busted ticketed during the Friday night Critical Mass bike ride (which featured, among other things, about 100 cyclist and 90 cops, making for a nearly one-to-one cop to cyclist ratio). The ticket was for not being far left enough. We will copy and paste some of Mr. James' narrative of the ticketing:
Officer 757 asked me if I had ID, and I said sure and handed him my drivers license. I asked him if I was being stopped for something and he didn't really answer. He was giving some direction to other police, so he must have been a more senior bike harassment. At this point I could only imagine the sense of pride he must feel having gone to the academy to fight crime and protect the public and after probably ten+ years on the force he has now graduated to lieutenant of bike busters. But I digress. We moved to the curb and he told me I was being ticketed for not being far left enough. Oh, he must be very proud I thought!

"Not far left enough?" I said, "I was left of the car lane waiting at the light." Top bike buster 757 said I was not far left enough. I wasn't really clear on this far left enough, I mean did he want me to ride against the curb, two feet from the curb, two feet from the parking lane? I decided to try a curve ball and I said there was another cyclist to my left. He said, then you can't be there, he then said some flim flam about that I had to ride in single file. Which IS flim flam and not what the law says.
While Gowanus Lounge is ambivalent about Critical Mass, we are less ambivalent about the incredible amount of police resources that dedicated to hunting down and busting the bicyclists. (We also oppose the effort to impose new regulations that would make it easier to selectively target and ticket or arrest bicyclists, pedestrians and protestors.) It is worth noting that at the same time onNYTurf and other cyclists were being ticketed, two people were run down not very far way (one was killed) by a hit-and-run driver. Just some food for thought.

Coming Soon: Forgotten New York--Views of a Lost Metropolis

If you dig the Forgotten New York website and its exhaustive information and photos of New York City neighborhoods and places--many of which no longer exist--then the publication of Kenneth Walsh's Forgotten New York book (Harper Collins) should provide some good reading. This may be old news to some that pay attention to Walsh's excellent work, but it's the first time we've noticed it. We haven't seen a copy of the book yet--and the official publication date is October 1--but it should be interesting.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Second Atlantic Yards "Community Forum" Added

AYSitePlan706bNo Land Grab, which keeps tabs on the Empire State Development Corporation's website, is reporting that a second Community Forum on Atlantic Yards has been added. The new forum is slated for Monday, September 18, 2006, from 4:30 pm–8 pm at the New York City College of Technology (Klitgord Auditorium), 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn. The previously scheduled forum will be held on Tuesday, September 12 at the same location and the same times.

The ESDC website says the session was added "as a result of the significant turnout" at the August 23 Public Hearing "and numerous comments received from the public." About 470 people registered to speak at the "raucous" hearing on Aug. 23, without about 100 actually snagging some mike time. Registered speakers that didn't speak will be given priority for the forums.

It was widely reported that Atlantic Yards supporters brought in busloads of people for the public hearing and dominated the early stages of the meetings.

Does the additional "community forum" mean that ESDC has felt some heat from prominent local and New York State officials that have asked for more time for public comments and analysis of the massive Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project?

Gowanus Lounge would suggest that they've felt it enough to try to create an appearance of sensitivity to the depth of sentiment in Brooklyn both for and against the project without actually altering the fundamentally top-down, anti-democratic nature of the decision making process. But, yes, it would appear that even the ESDC is anxious to avoid a process that looks more like Moscow circa 1986 than New York City circa 2006. In the end, though, unless the fundamental dynamics of the process are altered to allow genuine community input and a deliberate process that allows for full and honest analysis of the benefits and negative impacts of Atlantic Yards, then the ESDC's review and "vote" will still have a distinctly Soviet smell about it with a touch of Robert Moses mixed in.

A Mosaic Grows in Red Hook

Red Hook Mosaic

The Van Brunt Street scenery in Red Hook is getting a little brighter with the installation of a "Red Hook themed mosaic" at 349 Van Brunt, which is between the Hope & Anchor and Atlantis antiques. Mosaic artist Max Airborne from Oakland created the work, pictured here, which she is installing this week. "We wanted to give the neighborhood something to enjoy and share," says Deb Malkin, a co-owner of the building. Those familiar with the nabe might know the door's previous message, "Vote," which had been painted for the 2004 election.

Not Loving Gowanus Holiday Inn's Cousin in the Bronx

Holiday InnWhat's good for Gowanus isn't good for the Bronx. The Norwood News reports that some Bronx residents are up in arms about plans by the same developers that built the Holiday Inn Express on Union Street in Gowanus to open a 42-room, five-story Comfort Inn on Webster Avenue in the Bronx.

While Brooklynites might dig the hotel boomlet taking place in South Brooklyn, Bronx residents say they don't need a hotel and/or motel. According to the Norwood News, they say the Comfort Inn:
will become a 'hot sheet' motel and a breeding ground for illegal and unsavory activity, including prostitution and drug abuse. Across the Bronx River in Wakefield there are already a dozen such motels, which offer hourly rates and no questions asked. Opponents are especially concerned about the location of the planned motel, which is a half block from a school, PS/MS 20, and will neighbor private residences.
Comfort Inn, meanwhile, says it has no intention of opening a "hot sheet" hotel and won't offer "short stay" or hourly room rentals. The hotel developer, McSam LLC, has 30 hotels in the works in the New York metro area. The firm built the Gowanus lodging that opened recently.

Community leaders say that while Brooklyn might be getting enough tourists for new hotels, the Bronx doesn't, and they're worried about what will happen if the developer and the hotel chain don't get enough guests and decide to sell the hotel.

Bushwick Inlet Park Plan Previewed

The Parks Department showed its preliminary Master Plan for a 25-acre Bushwick Inlet Park in Greenpoint and Williamsburg to Community Board 1 last week. The ambitious plan would involve acquiring waterfront land from five private owners, including a parcel that was once the proposed site of a highly controversial power plant. The plan would include a waterfront esplanade, ball fields, a boathouse, a performance area and other amenities. It would also include a USS Monitor museum and memorial plaza. (The Monitor was built in Greenpoint during the Civil War.) The New York Post published one of the Parks Department's drawings of the plan (reproduced here) yesterday. Photos of the Master Plan slide presentation are available in justiNYC flickr photoset.

One of the current uses of the space is the Bayside Fuel tanks, which will be removed. The performance space would be in the footprint of the tanks.

Brooklinks: Big Last Monday of August Edition

Photo Shoot2

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news articles, blog items and images.

Everything Else:

Brooklyn Video: Coney Island Landmarks

Here's an interesting little video from a report on Coney Landmarks that aired on Channel Two. You can watch by clicking on the embedded video below or by clicking on this link.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

"A Fish Called Sheepshead"

Forgotten NY--Sheepshead Bay

Sheepshead Bay is not called "Sheepshead" because it's shaped like a sheep's head. It got its name, rather, from a fish called a Sheepshead that was once found in local waters, but is no longer. Now you know, in case you didn't previously, which is one reason why you might want to click on over to Forgotten New York. The Sheephead Bay page is full of interesting photos and historical information.

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, Part II: Holyland Auto Repair

Holyland Auto Repair
Union Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn

Brooklinks: Quiet August Sunday Edition

Atlantic Sunset

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related articles, blog items and images, except the photo above, which is last night's sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, captured at a location somewhat distant from our favorite borough.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Chinese Musician Restaurant

Chinese Musician Restaurant
Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Random Queens Video: Home Movie of 1939 NY World's Fair

Among the many odd subjects that fascinate Gowanus Lounge are the two World's Fairs held in Flushing Meadow in 1939-40 and 1964-65. Here's a random home movie we found of the '39 event that you can watch by clicking on the video below or by clicking this link.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Eminent Domain Rally in Downtown Brooklyn

No Land Grab notes that there will be a rally today (8/26) from 3-6PM at 227 Duffield Street between Fulton and Willoughby at the Underground Railroad slave safehouse the city would destroy to create parking. The engineering firm involved in the project is the same one being used by Forest City Ratner and the New York Yankees.

"The rally is being hosted by one of our great community activists, Joy Chatel, and FUREE, a group that has been vocally defending the rights of public housing residents and other issues of economic racism," No Land Grab writes. Tours of the historic site are included and there will be food and dancing in addition to some speeches.

Brooklinks: Saturday Very Visual Edition

New York Pizza

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog entries and, particularly on weekends, images. Except, for the photo above, which is nonetheless, laden with meaning.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, Part II: Gowanus Ends

End of Gowanus
Gowanus, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Bicycling a la Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Video: As Seen From the Gowanus Expressway

Driven the Gowanus Expressway lately? Here's a view out a car window at the passing Brooklyn scenery. You can click on the vid below or on this link. There are other short Gowanus Expressway vids here and here.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Williamsburg's East River State Park Opening Delayed

East River State Park Gate

Williamsburg blogger i'm not sayin, i'm just sayin (INSIJS, for short) is reporting that Williamsburg's East River State Park won't be opening for the summer season. INSIJS, who has been communicating with New York State Park officials, writes that "the infrequent yet often torrential rainstorms this spring and summer caused the newly-seeded grass to not take root well enough to withstand the hundreds of hipster hooves that will inevitably pack the park."

INSIJS quotes a state official's email:
The main concept behind our beginning level of park improvements is the integration of natural succession, through native meadow type planting and grasses, with the existing historic remnants on site...We are planning remedial seeding and replacement of some plants and trees during the fall planting season. Since this part of the work depends a lot on Mother Nature, I am reluctant to give a projected opening date estimate.

I understand everybody’s desire to get onto the site. We pushed ahead with this beginning level of improvements to get the public on site as soon as we could. We expect it to be a very popular spot once it does open. That is why we are taking the added time and precaution of giving the meadow a better chance to get established before we do open. We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience in the meanwhile.
We thank INSIJS for keeping us post all spring and summer on the progress of the waterfront green space. Meantime, everyone's attention has shifted to the waterfront construction work and the fact that developers of The Edge will soon be marketing their condos out of a storefront at Bedford Avenue and N. 6th Street. East River State Park, by the way, figures prominently in the weird promotional brochure for the project.

Trouble in Boymelgreen Land

Given developer Shaya Boymelgreen's plans for Gowanus and presence in Park Slope, Dumbo and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, we've long been fascinated by news of his doings. In this week's Brooklyn Papers, Ariella Cohen reports at length on Boymelgreen's latest trouble: an investigation by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into claims by 200 construction workers that they've been denied overtime pay for three years. (Note the inflatable rat, which is somewhat visible in the photo here, that's been parked in front of Boymelgreen's 75 Smith building for some time noting the missing overtime pay issue.)

Cohen also reports that Spitzer’s office is "arbitrating complaints from Park Slope condo owners who bought Boymelgreen apartments only to discover that the windows didn’t keep out the rain, walls weren’t properly insulated and bad engineering meant moldy cellars."

A little more from Cohen's excellent article:

The developer has been banking on the market power of Brooklyn’s stroller revolution since the late 1990s, snapping up gritty residential blocks and remaking them. With Park Slope Estates and two other bucolically named condo developments on Second and Third streets between Fourth and Fifth avenues, he introduced bigger, luxury-styled condos to what was then a fringe of Park Slope.

This year, he expects to finish construction on the 12-story luxury Park Slope Tower on Fourth Avenue at Fifth Street as well as another apartment tower on Second Street and Fourth Avenue, and a condo-hotel at 75 Smith St., at Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. Over the next decade, he plans to bring the same family friendly luxury living to a four-acre parcel he owns on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. And he’s a big player in DUMBO, where his 23-story Beacon Tower and a 12-story building a few blocks away would add 135 units of luxury housing to the hot neighborhood one subway stop from Manhattan.

He’s been the target of protest by labor unions that have demonstrated near his sites with an inflatable rat. Now, not only construction workers are paying attention.

Cohen's article also contains sidebard detailing Boymelgreen's projects, problems and partnerships that is absolute required reading.

We've previously reported on the breakup between Boymelgreen and Israeli industrialist Lev Leviev, as well as Boymelgreen's sell off of property in Miami. So, the rich detail that Cohen provides only intensifies our interest in whether Boymelgreen will remain a significant Brooklyn presence or whether his interest is already shifting to Israel, India and other countries.

Brooklinks: Friday End of the Week Edition

Equipment and Bridge

Brooklinks is our daily roundup of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog entries and images.

More Atlantic Yards:
Not Atlantic Yards:
Food and Fun:

More on the Food Fest at the Red Hook Soccer Fields


[Photo of Lainez Salvadoran papusas courtesy Porkchop Express]

Nevermind the fact that the New York Times discovered the Red Hook Soccer Fields this week. Porkchop Express, the superb food blog that offers up so much more than swine, is still busy eating up a storm at Red Hook's Latino sidewalk restaurants. The net result is a complete--and we mean thorough--guide to virtually every stand that you will find at this wonderful weekend food festival. Porkchop has done a superb job producing the ultimate guide to the sidewalk eateries.

Porkchop's write ups include in-depth information about the food by way of explanation, detailed reviews, background on the owners and more.

Consider this excerpt from Porkchop's review of the ceviche mixto at Rojas Ecuadorian:
It's a generous, welcoming assortment. Lime, onion, and fresh herbs greet the nose, while plump rosy shrimp urge the eyes to get the brain to tell the hand to have some already...I experimented with a little fresh lime (not necessary) and extra salt (ditto), but really enjoyed dashes of their hotsauce. The thick puree of green chilis and scallions added a little zing to the schwing, without detracting from the delicate flavor of the seafood. And no matter how we tampered, one thing was clear: this was a winner.
Fresh, recent reviews from Porkchop include:
Consider it the ultimate Red Hook soccer fields dining guide.

SHERBERT: Brought to You by the Coney Island Shortcakes Crew

When we stopped by to get a shortcake at Coney Island recently and to see Dan Weise and Kalene Rivers at their stand in front of Cha Cha's, we also scored a copy of the new issue of SHERBERT, the excellent literary, art and photography magazine that they produce. Issue 6, the "Personal Space" issue, has been out for a couple of weeks. It clocks in at 64 pages and comes with a hand printed, hand numbered cover. The limited press run is 1,000 copies. The mag comes with a 6" wooden ruler to determine Social Distance, a mix CD from Nobot media, a design it yourself postcard from Smiling Disease. One of the treats about going to Coney Island this year has been getting a great strawberry shortcakes and spending some time talking with Dan and Kalene, but we don't want you to get the idea that they're just about shortcake. They are both graphic designers who are behind Thundercut and are the editors of SHERBERT. Stop by and say hello, get a shortcakes and, even better, get a copy of the magazine, which is produced with love, right here in Brooklyn.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Atlantic Yards Hearing in a Word: Raucous

"Raucous" is having its day in the sun. There are no less than four headlines today (so far) about the Atlantic Yards hearing that use the word "raucous"--as in "Raucous Meeting" or "Raucous Hearing" or "Raucous Crowd." A Google News search of "Raucous" turns up a dozen results, all of them articles about last night's big public hearing on Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, not counting AP's account which was published in multiple newspapers. (In addition to calling it "raucous," the Star Ledger said it was like "open mike night at a mud slinging contest.")

All of the comments about the, well, raucous nature of the hearing and the crowd aside, one begins to sniff the end game in the making--the trimming of the project that is likely to occur so that prominent backers like Borough President Marty Markowitz can be big supporters while saying their efforts led to a somewhat smaller project. Markowitz suggested that the Williamsburgh Savings Bank should remain Brooklyn’s tallest building rather than losing its status to Frank Gehry’s 620-foot “Miss Brooklyn.” He also said some fo the buildings nearest Prospect Heights had to be smaller and that traffic and parking solutions are needed. Even the Regional Plan Association's surprising quasi-endorsement of the project yesterday contained important caveats about taking a hard look at the "second phase" of the development and a slap at project planners for their failure to plan for transit and transportation improvements.

Our awe of the day is reserved for Norman Oder's superb and thorough coverage of last night's events, which trumps all the other coverage. Mr. Oder has produced what is clearly the definitive report of the day about the seven-hour-long hearing and one which, by virtue of his fetish for detail and accuracy, is likely the most trustworthy account of events. If you read one account of the hearing, make it his Atlantic Yards Report article.

Tough Doing Business on Third Avenue in Gowanus?

Coffee Lounge

If you know Third Avenue in Gowanus around 9th Street, you will understand why this item has a sad ring to it, especially because the area can be a little desolate. We will let the reader who emailed pick up the narrative:
I live on 10th St between 3rd & 4th, so I'm always interested in the state of 3rd Ave. As rents rise on 5th Ave, stores start to trickle downhill. I was excited to see 3rd Ave's first cafe open around the beginning of the summer, between 8th & 9th St, in what had been a closed tattoo shop. I've been gone most of the summer and didn't get there until yesterday. It's a cozy little spot with couches and wifi, but the owner said he's closing at the end of the month, because he gets no business. He was very friendly, but pretty bummed out.

I felt so bad for the guy. He was obviously trying for a mix of the Yemeni & Muslim pocket (it's a hookah bar, too) and Powerplay moms & dads. But there's not much foot traffic, and he thought the prostitutes were scaring away customers.

I would love to see a 3rd Ave that can support more than auto repair and building supplies. The Waterloo Bridge theater didn't make it, and I have yet to see Lemurplex actually be open (or the gallery on 11th).

The reason there's no foot traffic is because there's nothing to go to. This guy was not tuned in to what will work on 3rd Ave. here and now, and it's sad to see him fail.

So long live auto repair and building supplies, I guess. It could be a lot worse.
Lemurplex's website lists evening classes that have been going on and says that a fall performance schedule is coming.

Getting Clean: Upscale Soap Maker Opening in Red Hook

Chalk up another interesting business for Red Hook. Boutique soap maker Saipua, orginally of the Hudson Valley, which makes all natural olive oil soap, is opening a retail outlet at 392 Van Brunt on August 26, its first NYC retail space. The 250 square foot boutique will feature Saipua's soaps, plus flowers and some other products. According to Soap Wire, the Red Hook location "will serve as the hub for Saipua’s wholesale business while offering a location for retail customers to peruse the large selection of soaps in person and consult on custom soap orders. The storefront-lab will operate thematically and change with the seasons. The shop’s launch will focus on the owners’ Finnish heritage and sauna obsession."

"Sauna obsession"? In any case, Saipua soaps are made off food-grade vegetable oils, butters, herbs and extracts. Each bar is hand cut, cured, and wrapped in hand-stamped papers. Saipua products are currently sold in small boutiques across the US. Saipua is a mother-daughter-boyfriend and sometimes father and sister team. The word is derived from the Finnish word for soap.

Sud's up, Red Hook.

Brooklinks: Thursday Public Hearing Edition


[Photo mashup created by Jonathan Barkey. An entire series is available at Pbase. Mr. Barkey testified at the Atlantic Yards hearing last night.]

Atlantic Yard Hearing:
Not Atlantic Yards Hearing:

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Remsen Street

Remsen Street
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Video: Coney Island 2006

If you can't get enough of that Coney Island goodness, then check out this nicely done vid from a website called, which is a bloggy sort of site that takes a look at "two views" of things. The article that goes with the video features Coney Island and Barcelona. There's another on Red Hook and Park Slope. These are not insidery views in a lot of case, but still fun. You can watch the Coney vid--which has U2's "It's a Beautiful Day" as soundtrack, so leave it on or turn the sound off depending on your taste--by clicking on the embedded vid below or on this link.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Edge Developers Offer Up A Very Scary Map

For those that have missed previous posts and maps, we offer up the beauty below, which is way more frightening than anything Gowanus Lounge ever managed. Douglaston Development, which is creating "The Edge," a mega-highrise project on the Williamsburg waterfront, has prepared this eye-grabbing map and brochure of Future Williamsburg. Call it the graphic evidence of The End of the funky, hipster neighborhood that everyone knew and loved. The map, in all its glory--note the 1.5 million square feet of space (about 100,000 of it retail) the project will include--is reproduced below. (The good news: Another Water Taxi stop!) Pile driving is in full swing on the two-square-block parcel between Kent Avenue and the East River.

Today's news is that the developer is opening a sales office at Bedford and N. 6th in the retail space where Spacial used to be, whose current asking rent is in the $8,000 per month range. Gaze and weep.

Brooklinks: Wednesday Atlantic Yards Hearing Day Edition

[Image created by Jonathan Barkey and reproduced in a series showing the mass of the Atlantic Yards project in Atlantic Yards Report. The full set of renderings is available here on the photographer's pbase space.]

Special GL Questions of the Day:
How early will people start lining up for the Atlantic Yards Public Hearing? Did anyone camp out overnight? How many people will be turned away?

Atlantic Yards:
Non-Atlantic Yards:

Return to McCarren Pool: More From Pool-Aid

Pool Aid

As far as Gowanus Lounge is concerned, you can never have too much information about McCarren Pool. It's one of the places in Brooklyn about which we're a little obsessed. As you might recall, there has been no lack of discussion and controversy about the pool's future, particularly after the series of big shows produced by Live Nation were announced.

In any case, we hadn't heard much from Pool-Aid in a couple of weeks, so we went looking and found that their website is up and running. It has information about what they're doing and some very interesting photos and history about the pool. Pool-Aid is just one of many groups that have worked to try to bring the pool back as part of the community, including Park Moms, GWAPP, NAG, McCarren Park Conservancy and the Independent Friends of McCarren Park.

Pool-Aid's Manifesto:
  • As long as the pool is a performance venue, it should showcase a diversity of cheap or free programming.
  • We don’t want Live Nation swimming in our pool. They already have hundreds of venues they can hold profit-making concerts in: why do they need a public park? Let the other kids play.
  • The community should control the pool, dealing with day-to-day operations and the long-term vision for the space.
Pool-Aid's Solutions:
  • Ensure that Live Nation doesn't get an exclusive contract for the pool.
  • Transfer the control of the pool to the neighborhood, book cheap or free programming reflective of our community in the space, and to gather community consensus to determine the long-term use of the space.
You can also contribute to Pool-Aid and get addresses and numbers to call and write about this historic pool's future. There are other groups doing a lot of heavy lifting trying to determine McCarren Pool's future, such as Independent Friends of McCarren Park, which are involved in this effort.

As for Pool-Aid, they're having, um, letter writing happy hours at Union Pool on Mondays and Pool-Aid Man made an appearance at Sunday's Pool Party at McCarren Pool.

Brooklyn Video: McCarren Pool Dodgeball

One of the fun parts of the free shows at McCarren Pool this summer is the dodgeball game. Take a quick look by clicking on the embedded video below or on this link.

Interesting Brooklyn Website: Coney Island Oral History Project

Coney Island Voices Banner

If you read Gowanus Lounge from time to time, you know we dig Coney Island. One of the more interesting Coney websites/undertakings belongs to the Coney Island History Project. The organization is putting together oral histories of Coney Island through the Coney Island Voices project. Voices is an oral history archive that preserves the stories and memories of people who visited or lived and worked in Brooklyn's famous playground. The project's founders are Carol and Jerry Albert, who own and operate Astroland and the Cyclone roller coaster. The executive director is Charles Denson, a Coney Island native and author of the award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found.

Check out the site and listen to recordings of people like concessioneer Arthur Melnick and 1932 Coney Island fire survivor Goldie Durlester.

The group has an oral history booth set up at the Brooklyn Public Library through October for those that have Coney stories to record.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More About Atlantic Yards Impacts and Problems


A number of organizations and individuals have been doing heroic work dissecting the huge Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will be the subject of a public hearing tomorrow night. One major theme has already emerged: As massive as the document is, the consultants that prepared seem to have seriously skewed their analysis to ignore very significant impacts the big project at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues will have on Brooklyn (or to, at least, underestimate some very unpleasant impacts).

Both Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the consultants hired by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) point out that New York City's own zoning prohibits an arena within 200 feet of a residential district. The reason, as noted by DDDB: "some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use." According to the consultants commissioned by the CBN, whose critiques are extensively referenced in Norman Oder's Atlantic Yard's Report:
In order to understand the true effect of an urban arena, other examples from different cities should be referenced in the DEIS. Based on preliminary analysis, there are no urban arenas 200 ft or less from residential neighborhoods that are positive examples.
Of course, having the ability to skirt NYC zoning, city regulations and the local review process could be among the reasons that the project was turned over to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Meanwhile, some of the conclusions of the CBN's consultants make for very compelling reading about the very selective and skewed nature of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will be the subject of tomorrow's public hearing. (Read their latest bulletin, released yesterday, here.) For a very chilling example of why the DEIS could allege such minimal impacts from the project, consider the following:
The DEIS assumes less than half (47%) of the development that is underway or approved in the study area, resulting in an underestimation of all impacts, dramatically under-reporting traffic and transit impacts and virtually all issues....In general, traffic volumes for baseline 2006 appear lower than reported for 2002 for the Downtown Brooklyn Redevelopment Plan EIS. This seems like an underestimation of impact.
If ever there were a project that needed a full public examination and a local review process, Atlantic Yards is it.

Greenpoint's Sci-Fi Landscape

Sewage One

One of the more visually interesting elements of America's most polluted waterway--AKA Newtown Creek--is the sci-fi Greenpoint landscape that has been under construction for several years. Theses strange looking structures that look they could be part of Epcot Center or a World's Fair, if not for the industrial surroundings, are part of the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. Those egg-type structures are huge devices that, in effect, treat sewerage. The current upgrade to the sprawling 53 acre plant is part of a $2.2 billion, 13-year project. Work on the facility has been underway since 2003. What we want to know is: Why did they build that big stepped landing on Newtown Creek? Is it a design flourish that no one but a handful of workers at the plant and some barge captains will ever see? Is it future waterfront public access? Or did someone have grand visions of greeting visiting dignitaries who row up in their gondolas? The big plant did have its own landscape architect, by the way.

Sewage Two

Sewage Three

Sewage Four

Brooklinks: Tuesday Mixed Bag Edition

Get Your Burg TV On

One of the more amusing internet TV series is The Burg, the hipster series set in Williamsburg. Episode Four: The Project, has been up for a bit now and features an attempt to convert a frat type of guy into a hipster, plus some fun drug copping behavior. The Williamsburg scenery is also a plus: there's footage of some of our favorite Williamsburg buildings like the Domino refinery, the Old Dutch Mustard Building and others. Check it out.