Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Broken Angel Update

Time to look again, for a moment, at the state of things with our favorite threatened Clinton Hill landmark, Broken Angel. In a word, the situation remains confused and Broken Angel is by no means out of the woods.

To recap: On October 10, there was a fire at the top of the structure. This drew attention to the building, which was in violation of a raft of New York City building codes. The elderly creator was told to vacate the property. On October 18, the police moved in and led him away in handcuffs in a situation that one person called "a Clinton Hill Waco." By the following week, the city was threatening to demolish the structure, which is not unlike the Watts Towers in Los Angeles in the sense that it is has been crafted bit by bit from odd-and-ends by its artistic creator. Meanwhile, a local architectural firm volunteered some services and there was another meeting with the city last week.

The owner's son, Chris Wood, offers up the following comments:
Broken Angel has been an active project of construction by my family beginning in 1979. Major construction was finished in 2002, and all work done thereafter has been for the purpose of maintaining the building. The fire brought the attention of the Department of Buildings (DOB), previous interactions had occurred in 1986, and 2002 with no action taken against the building. During the course of building and maintaining the structure there have been no accidents or complaints. Compared with most modern construction projects, such as the Time Warner building in NYC, this is an excellent record. It raises questions as to why large developers are allowed to continue construction when they pose a risk to the community, whereas Broken Angel, which has no history of construction problems, has been singled out as a danger.
Of the subsequent walk through with the architect, Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture, he writes:
On Thursday (10/26/06) an engineer from the DOB toured the structure, and the next day the DOB released a different story. A DOB spokesperson recently commented to the Daily News (10/27/06) that any demolition orders, if warranted will take approximately 3 months to begin.
What the architect told the paper, of course, is that much of the structure can be saved but that it's a matter of "time, labor and money." Which, means, of course, that Broken Angel's future is as endangered as ever, even if there has been a hint of progress and a slightly bigger timeframe before the city might order in wrecking balls.

A little history is helpful here. Those familiar with the saga of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers (pictured above and to the left) might recall that Rodia's work was condemned by the City of Los Angeles and threatened with demolition too, until a coalition of actors, artists and community activitists stepped in to save them. They were later declared a national landmark. Broken Angel may not be the Watts Towers in form, exactly, but in spirit and--increasingly in story--they are closely related.

The photo at top is courtesy of onebadapple on flickr. For those that are interested, he has posted a superb Broken Angel photoset, which can be viewed by clicking this link.

Related Posts:

Coney Island Death Watch Halloween Edition: New Renderings

Today's NY Post lays some new renderings of Thor Equities Coney Island plans on us, and we're not sure what to make of the psychedelic drawing. They bear a vague similarity to drawings that surfaced during the summer that were later disowned as not being for public consumption. Similar features include miniature Parachute Jumps. This is what the Post has to say:Architectural renderings obtained by The Post show a grand vision of the famed summer amusement area's rundown streets being transformed into a glitzy year-round playground and public attraction.In one image, Stillwell Avenue becomes a fantasy-filled boulevard marked by larger-than-life street furniture, such as a mermaid swimming in a martini glass and a gigantic tattooed elephant.

The landmark Cyclone roller coaster can still be seen from down Bowery Street - which itself is reinvented as a permanent festival and sideshow area.

Thor Equities has purchased 10 acres of boardwalk land in the hope of building a $1.5 billion entertainment destination. The project is awaiting city approval, but the company hopes to break ground in 18 months and wrap up in about five years.We're not sure what that tall glass looking thing is, although the elephant (shades of an earlier era and Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ) is a nice touch. (It's small, but do you notice the halloween touch on the mermaid's rear end in the top rendering?) The description of Bowery Street as "a permanent festival and sideshow area" is encouraging. The five-year construction timeframe is sobering, to say the least. Interesting that they surface now after some of the bad press Thor got last week for the early evictions of current tenants.

Related Posts:
Coney Island Death Watch: Big Eviction Story, Continued
Turning Down the Glam Rock and Pumping Up the Elevator Music


Brooklinks: Tuesday Halloween Edition

Park Slope Decorations

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

Not Halloween:

"Something to Renew Your Faith in People"

So, a blogger who does a blog called Rajbot lost his wallet in Park Slope, got it back and was so pleasantly shocked that he wrote about it. We figured we'd help pass it along too, given that we read so much about people doing nasty stuff, not to mention crime and mayhem.

Here's some of the blogger's story:
I casually reached into my pocket and was shocked to find it empty. No wallet! Oy...I first turned the apartment upside down looking but to no avail. It didn't help that the apartment was a mess.

I'd only visited two places earlier that day. I'd been to Watana to meet helpful Violet at a favorite Thai restaurant called Watana on 7th avenue and 14th in Brooklyn. I'd also gone to Prospect Park in the afternoon where we'd found a comfortable bench not too far from the entrance where I laid down and took a nap for about 30 minutes or so. Shortly after, we walked the 5 minutes to get back home.

We called the restaurant, and while they recognized us - they had no wallet to speak of. We also went back to the park being careful to follow my previous footsteps. Of course, no luck there.

I went ahead and called my credit card agency and had my card put on hold. About an hour later I got a call from Capital One. The CSR said, that the wallet was with the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn. A couple apparently found my wallet and returned it - money and all.

I called down at the precinct and the police officer said 'yes! come and pick it up!' Her eagerness was funny to me. Apparently if they have to keep things overnight it requires additional paperwork. I explained that it was late, but I could come by in the morning before work. She finally said that she'd have an officer drop it off. About a hour later, sure enough, an officer came by to hand me the wallet.

I'm not really sure how to pay these good deeds forward but I definitely won't be making any more jokes about the police or snide remarks about Park Slope yuppies for some time.

I don't recommend losing your wallet if you can help it. If you do, maybe you'll get lucky too.
The NYPD delivered the wallet? For real? That's almost enough to undermine the credibility of the story.

This reminds us, in a small way, of the time a couple of years ago we were walking down the boardwalk in Coney Island when we heard someone shouting behind us, "Excuse me! Excuse me!" It turns out they were trying to get our attention. We had somehow dropped a ten dollar bill and they were running after us to give it back. Not quite like a wallet, but it just goes to show that an awful lot of us, given the opportunity, will do the right thing.

BONUS: Having delivered the happy news, we did note that there has been an epidemic of pickpocketing at the Park Slope Food Coop recently. It was reported in the Brooklyn Papers this week. (Sorry, the story isn't online, so there's no link to it.) Suffice to say that one of the thieves was caught via the Coop going to its security video tapes and giving them to the NYPD. One of the thieves was busted, a second is still at larger. Neither Mr. Sticky Fingers One or Mr. Sticky Fingers Two are said to Coop members, which deprives us of the opportunity to crack many, many, many jokes.

Halloween or Christmas? You Decide

Graham and Metropolitan

When we first noticed holiday decorations on Flatbush Avenue last weekend, it came as a shock. When we noticed them on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, we still shook our heads. When we saw them on Steinway Street in Astoria, though, we didn't even bother to take a picture, being resigned ourselves to seeing them everywhere in the next week or so. No snowflakes up on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope yet or decorations on Fifth Avenue, but we assume that's only because workers have been busy in places like this and Astoria. (There were a ton of stories yesterday about the aptly named "Christmas Creep," the phenomenon of Christmas coming earlier and earlier every year as retailers try to squeeze every last dime out of the season. You can sample the stories here and here.) In any case, the photo above is the view on Halloween on Graham Avenue and Metropolitan in Williamsburg. No boos. Just ho, ho, ho's.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Anyone Want to Save an Adorable, Sweet Dog's Life Today???

buck and king

This isn't something we normally post, but someone sent an email about these two dogs and it just tugged at us. They're in a "kill shelter" and have 48 hours to live and need new homes. The one on the left is Buck, described as "a mush face 10 month old who does not deserve to die. Great with kids!" The one on the right is King, called "a gentle 8 year old black shepherd-great with kids, older folks, other animals." The Brooklyn Animal Foster Network put a post up about them on Craigslist. They'll deliver the dog(s) to you. Call Laurie at 917 754-3537 for more information or respond to lbleier (at) nyc.rr.com. These cuties have 48 hours to find a new home. You get a boatload of good karma for helping them out, plus a whole lotta' love.

Gowanus Lounge in Metro Today Talking About Brooklyn's "Growing Pains"

Greenpoint FourIn the shameless self-promotion department, we're pointing out that the Blogorithms column in today's Metro has a Q&A with Gowanus Lounge about "Brooklyn's Growing Pains." It's written by Paul Berger, who covers NYC blogs for the paper, and also produces his own excellent blog, Englishman in New York. In any case, you can find the article here, but since it's about us, we're going to copy and paste it for your reading pleasure:
With so much development going on in the city, how are New Yorkers supposed to separate the good from the bad? Robert Guskind, an editor and journalist, has a passionate interest in Brooklyn development. He blogs at The Gowanus Lounge (gowanuslounge.blogspot.com).

What inspired you to start blogging?

I grew weary of just talking about issues I really cared about like quality of life and development in Brooklyn.

Is current development in Brooklyn generally a good thing or a bad thing?

I have concerns about development that’s going on throughout the borough. I think there are significant issues about scale and density and the impact it’s going to have on quality of life, especially with an overburdened infrastructure.

For example?

If you look at the waterfront developments in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which are some of the larger developments going on, they are taking place in parts of the borough where mass transit is already at breaking point and there’s no transportation plan to make it better.

Can you think of a good development?

The Richard Meier building at Grand Army Plaza. It’s a new development, but it respects the scale of the neighborhood and it looks like it will be beautiful.

A poll found that 78 percent of people had not been following news about the Atlantic Yards project. Why?

People switch off because it’s a complicated issue. It gets down to abstract things like scale and density, and legal issues like eminent domain. But I don’t think it’s unique to Atlantic Yards. It’s the same with all major initiatives and projects. Like the rebuilding at Ground Zero, for example.

How are people to know what’s going on?

That’s where local blogs come in. There are a lot of people out there doing great work, consuming and filtering a tremendous amount of information. But yes, frankly, it is difficult because of the sheer volume of development going on all over.

Brookvid: The Final Days of Williamsburg's Old Dutch Mustard

It is painful to watch the Old Dutch Mustard Company building on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg being demolished by Steiner Equities to make way for a new development. To us, Old Dutch was one of the nicer industrial buildings in Williamsburg. A chimp could have looked at it and understood how it could have been renovated. Instead, the developer is perpetrating an act that is nothing short of cultural vandalism and a sad obliteration of history.

Are we ranting? Perhaps. Are we overreacting? Not at all. Destroying the Old Dutch Mustard building is the cultural equivalent of an act of violence, and symbolic of what is happening to Williamsburg as a whole. (We rarely toss around shrill statements like these, but Old Dutch is a demolition that has crossed the line in our eyes.)

If you are interested in what's left of Old Dutch, you can click on this link or check out the embed below. We shot the vid yesterday in the howling wind, so there's no sound.

Breaking Wind: Quadriad Development Williamsburg Site Has Another Bad Day

Williamsburgh Square Fence One

When last we ran a photo of the Quadriad Development site in Williamsburg between N. 3rd and N. 4th Streets and Bedford Avenue and Berry, it was also after some wind. Then, the fencing along Bedford Avenue blew down opening the vast building for visits. Yesterday, the fencing along Berry and N. 4th blew down, again making the huge building (which has been in slow motion demolition since spring) open to the public. (Including the excellent basement crapper pictured below.) You might remember that this is the proposed site of monstrous high rise development (that would require changing last year's rezoning) Quadriad has suggest putting up 28 buildings from 12 to 40 stories in the area between Bedford and Kent Avenues from N. 3rd to N. 6th Streets. If you don't, you can check out the details here.

We know. Picky. Picky. Especially the two-by-fours with rusty nails sticking out of them (see below). (For the record, a lot of construction sites in Williamsburg that we saw had issues with the wind. However, the Quadriad site was by far the worst we saw and the most wide-open demolition site in the neighborhood.)

Williamsburgh Square Fence Two

Williamsburg Square Three

Coney Island: Sunk by Thor Global Warming

It's bad enough that developer Thor Equities is shutting down rides and throwing people out long before it ever moves a shovel of dirt or has its Coney Island plan approved. But, imagine that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when we tripped across the following headline Global Warming + Hurricane = Goodbye Coney Island. It comes from xinhuanet.com, which is Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, and we found it thanks to a blog called Weather News, which is produced by Elaine Meinel Supkis. Here's a taste of the Xinhua story:
A new computer model using data collected from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Hurricane Center reveals a substantial rise in sea levels during the next century caused by global warming, combined with a hurricane, and New Yorkers could kiss Coney Island goodbye.

Researchers also said the Rockaways, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island, from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge could be submerged.

Sea level around the city could climb 15 to 19 inches by 2050 and by more than three feet by 2080, according to the model. "With sea levels at these higher levels, flooding by major storms would inundate many low-lying neighborhoods and shut down the entire metropolitan transportation system with much greater frequency," said study team member Vivien Gornitz of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University in New York.
This is really an extension of a story we posted on Friday about hurricanes and rising sea levels--and, of course, the writer's in the People's Republic don't know that some people are already kissing Coney Island goodbye--but it's still interesting to note Thor's new luxury condo highrises could be in the water rather than waterfront at some point in the not unspeakably distant future. (Nature always gets the last laugh.)

The blog from which this all came goes on to describe in some detail the history of erosion in Coney and environs, including relating the story of the Brighton Beach Hotel, which was moved on rails away from the shoreline to prevent it from being swallowed up by the sea.


Brooklinks: Monday Pre-Halloween Edition

Domino's "Brooklyn Pizza" Ad: You Be the Judge

Z. Madison, a blog we always enjoy, emailed us to note that she had posted this Domino's ad for "Brooklyn Pizza." The ad was posted on youtube (where else?). It is both totally offensive on one level and deeply amusing on another. We'd never post a commercial, but if someone is trying to sell a "Brooklyn Pizza" using Brooklyn and Italian stereotypes, what can you do? The "Brooklyn Pizza," as far as we can tell, features "extra large" sausage (dear God) or pepperoni. Go over to Z. Madison to watch it (you should go there, anyway) or click on this link or click on the embed below. Us, we'd rather eat discarded pizza from the curb outside Grimaldi's than call Domino's--this is Brooklyn, after all, and we have more pizza choices than you can shake a stick at--but what do we know?

Walking Tour of Atlantic Yards Footprint with Norman Oder

If you're interested in gettting a handle on the proposed mega-project called Atlantic Yards and learning about the community which it will erase or impact deeply, your moment has arrived. Norman Oder, the man behind Atlantic Yards Report, will be offering a walking tour of the "footprint" on Saturday, Nov. 4. Mr. Oder's coverage of the proposal and the controversy is easily the most comprehensive and intelligent of any journalist or blogger, so getting a tour of the area from him will be an opportunity to learn a tremendous amount about the project.

The tour will be offered on Saturday, November 4, at 1:30 p.m. The cost is $15/person. The rain date is Sunday November 12 at 1:30 p.m. Given that Mr. Oder does not give Atlantic Yards thumbnail treatment, the tour will last 2-2.5 hours. Meet up point is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Hanson Place at Flatbush Avenue. More information is available in Mr. Oder's post about the walking tour or by clicking here for his New York Like a Native tours site.

There are few guarantees in life, but one of them is that you will know a lot more about Atlantic Yards and its impact after you spend some time with Mr. Oder.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Coney Island Death Watch: The Eyewitness News Report

We found this embed, from a few days ago, on Kinetic Carnival, our favorite Coney Island news source. We didn't see it when it aired--it's the TV version of all the Coney eviction stories--so we figured we'd post it. It's worth a watch, as it offers the interesting perspective of some of the ride operators and business people being evicted.

Meantime, here another comment left on the Coney Island Message Board by someone with some local roots:
I know that condos are coming and there will be decibel noise ordinances passed because of it. Kiss the days of rising the Wonder Wheel at 2am goodbye in the near future. You'll see 10 or 11pm closings to accomodate the millionaires who move in.

I get a kick out of the cheerleaders here for big development. They could care less about any of you unless you are putting big money in their pockets, not nickle and dime nonsense. The fact that they want Hendersons torn down shows you how they have no respect for its past. I remember seeing Sitt in some news piece waxing poetic about bringing back Coney to its glory days and that he's a Brooklyn boy and all of this public face crap. The guys a money hungry phoney just like all of them. I don't buy any of it...
Check out the vid clip below if you didn't see it when it aired.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, Part Three: Sunset with Relics

We usually don't run this many photos in one day, but this is another sunset photo from yesterday evening, shot at the future East River State Park on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. The railroad tracks in the foreground are remnants of the time when a large part of the waterfront in Williamsburg was the Eastern District Terminal.

After Storm Sunset

Brooklinks: Sunday with Wind Edition

Orange Sunset

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn related news stories, blog items and images. (The photo above is last night's sunset as seen from Kent Avenue in Williamsburg on the site of the someday-to-open East River State Park.)

If You Need a Reminder:

Apology (Again) on Behalf of Dysfunctional Blogger Server

Here we go again. GL--and every other blog hosted on Blogger--will update at some point today, whenever blogger gets around to solving the exact same technical glitch that afflicted it yesterday. We're updating very early today for a Sunday morning, thanks to the time change, but the posts will appear when Blogger allows them to appear--maybe in ten minutes, maybe in two hours, maybe in six hours.

We apologize, again, for the "technical difficulties." This reminds us, though, that we have got to follow up on our long-delayed plan to switch to our own server and domain and to kiss this little corner of the Google empire goodbye.

Although, we do, again, enjoy the excuse to run a funny image. Thanks for the laugh, at least, Blogger.

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, Part Two: Halloweenish Two

P. Slope Halloween
Park Slope, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Halloweenish

Williamsburg Decoration
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Disconnected in Brooklyn on Craigslist

It's the weekend, and time for that exercise in pathos, frustration and comedy called Missed Connections on Craigslist. This week, we abandon our usual haunt--the subway--for a gem that comes from a bar in Williamsburg. We found this one so, um, compelling and--sorry, Mr. Writer--such a freaking scream, that we can't pass it up. We almost think it's made up, but the scary part is that it might not be. Here it is:
Fork in the Road of Williamsburg - m4w - 28
Let me refresh your recollection of the evening. Me with my posse of Wall Street buds enjoying some brews in your hood while listening to some tunes. You there with your irritating hipster friends. I could see that you were all alone, surrounded by those pencil neck geeks and troll-like women. Our eyes met. Your mouth opened, you smiled, and you nodded in my direction. But then that Zelda with you began cock blocking me, and your group left. Mine stayed to catch the game.

I want you, Hipster Girl. I want to show you my loft in cutting - edge SoHo, which is where the real artists live. I want you to have a taste, just a taste, of the espresso that I am. I want you to ride the rocket that is my life. It's pretty sweet.

Ditch the dorks and meet me, Hipster Girl of Williamsburg. Apart, we grow cold, but together we can make a wonderful beat on the bongo of my life. (Please do not write back if you have an STD.)
We have nothing to add to that.

Honorable Mention:
missed connection with vegan/vegetarian thanksgiving - 23

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, Part II: Number 59

Number 59
Willamsburg, Brooklyn

Apology on Behalf of Melted Down Blogger

Our apologies for the late update of GL today. Blogger, which we use for Gowanus Lounge, was in major meltdown for most of the day, causing us to be unable to update GL in a timely way for the first time since we started it.

We're sorry for their lame performance,--and for the fact that it's not the first time in the last couple of weeks that we've encounted it--although it does provides with an excuse to run the nifty image to the right.

Brooklinks: Saturday Very Visual Edition

Williamsburg Wall

Brooklilnks is a daily selection of Brooklyn related news stories, blog items and, especially on weekends, images.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Seeing the Light

Seeing the Light
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Saturday Curbed Wrap Up

Friday, October 27, 2006

OMG: The Most Frightening Williamsburg Photo. Ever.

There is no way to understate our horror at finding this photo of a graffiti removal van in Williamsburg. We are so shocked, we're putting it up as a late afternoon posting. We came across it while scouting for photos for tomorrow's links on A Test of Will.

Graffiti removal in Williamsburg. What diabolical thing will they think of next?



We Dodged the Hurricane Bullet This Year, But Dig This....

Sure, hurricane season officially runs through Nov. 30, but we're more likely to get hit by snow than a hurricane between now and then. All of which makes the dire warnings about how New York City was ripe to get slammed by a hurricane and submerged seem like alarmism. Or not. The fact that there were only nine named Atlantic storms this year and none that hit the mainland U.S. is being chalked up to an El Nino that has developed faster than expected.

In other words, wait until next year. Or, the year after, depending on how El Nino plays out.

That having been said, check NASA's predictions in an article run on physorg.com about global warming and what hurricanes will do to New York--and especially to Brooklyn--once sea levels start to rise. (Which they are projected to do in a serious way by about 2050.) So, go ahead and laugh it all off if you want, but when a hurricane hits, and especially long-term, we're screwed:
With sea level rise, New York City faces an increased risk of hurricane storm surge. Storm surge is an above normal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane. Hurricanes are categorized on the Saffir-Simpson scale, from 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest and most destructive. The scale is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf and the shape of the coastline, in the landfall region.

A recent study by Rosenzweig and Gornitz in 2005 and 2006 using the GISS Atmosphere-Ocean Model global climate model for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a sea level rise of 15 to 19 inches by the 2050s in New York City. Adding as little as 1.5 feet of sea level rise by the 2050s to the surge for a category 3 hurricane on a worst-case track would cause extensive flooding in many parts of the city. Areas potentially under water include the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge.
Of course, you can look at this two ways. The blue on the map above shows flooding in a Category Three storm with current sea levels. So, you see, increased sea levels won't make things that much worse! We feel better about 2050 already.

Coney Island Deathwatch: The Big Eviction Story, Continued

Coney From Tower

There was much attention paid yesterday to the impending clean out of Coney Island by developer Thor Equities, with a Daily News story and a Post story hitting the same day. Gothamist covered the story. As did Real Deal and others. One of our favorite summaries came from Metadish, which wrote:
Don't be surprised next summer when you show up to Coney Island and find your favorite ride is just a memory.

The bumper cars, batting cages, the Zipper and a slew of carny games are among some of the long time tenants who have been ordered out by owner, developer Thor Equities, when their lease is up in December. It's all part of Coney Island's redevelopment makeover to make it more respectable...

In other words, the effort to recapture Coney Island's past glory starts with erasing it's past. Get it?

To add new material to the story, there's some sense that evictions took everyone, including the city, by surprise and that there may be pressure to give the tenants another years. Meanwhile, here's what someone who is apparently one of those being evicted has to say over on the Coney Message Board where this topic has generated much conversation:
I DO love Coney Island, and I am happy that someone finally wants to do something, but, "I" have a great attraction, and "I" wanted to STAY and be part of the NEW Coney Island, and have been told that just wouldnt be possible, we dont fit in with what they want to do.

If its entertainment and amusement, WHY wouldnt my ride fit in?

Its very well maintained, and has something people love! Actually, it combines a few well liked elements!

Get it now? "I" want to stay and be part of it! I dont want to go, I DO want new and marvelous things, but NOT condos.
To recap: In a week's time, we've discovered that nearly two blocks of Coney Island will be a ghost town next summer. What will Thor do with the properties? Demolish everything? Use them for parking?

Perhaps, there will be a reprieve for the 2007 summer season if the city forces it. Emptiness or another year to live--it's a very bad omen of the way Thor intends to treat Coney.


Brooklyn Week in Review

This fourth week of October in Brooklyn was dominated by stories about things that are ending or about to come to an end, many of them via demolition.

The evictions at Coney Island made everyone stand up and take notice that an era appears to be coming to an end. The Henderson's Building, one of the spots being cleared, looks destinated for demolition. It's not that we had any particular love for the Go-Karts or the Zipper or the Batting Cages, all of which are also getting kicked out, but they are part of the Coney Island landscape and there is no reason we can fathom that one would toss them out at least a year in advance of any redevelopment project breaking ground. (Apparently, the evictions ticked off the city, so there could be a last minute reprieve for a year.) What is coming is most likely a shrinkage of the amusement area in Coney Island so that it will be limited to Astroland and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. The rest of Coney? Condos, a hotel and a shopping mall type of thing.

Whereas the Coney story saddened us, the steady progress toward demolishing Admirals Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard so that a supermarket can be built made us sick to our stomach, particularly the matter-of-fact spin that officials put on the story. It also led some normally even tempered people to voice a great deal of hostility toward a number of elected officials, particularly the Mayor and Borough President Marty Markowitz, who seem to have their hands on the controls of the wrecking ball. Or is it all about going shopping rather than history?

There were inklings of progress on saving Clinton Hill's Broken Angel, with an architect donating services, but the entire issue of paying for changes needs to be resolved before anyone pops open the champagne.

Of course, there was a beginning too, of sorts, to try to prevent the wrecking ball from taking bigger whacks out of Prospect Heights: the big eminent domain lawsuit against Atlantic Yards was filed on Thursday. The Bruce, though, expects final approval of Atlantic Yards by the Empire State Development Corporation sometime in November followed quickly by the Public Authorities Control Board. The Mayor, apparently is not a fan of the Control Board's "three men in a room," except for Atlantic Yards, of course.

On other fronts, it is going to get somewhat easier to cross Grand Army Plaza without being run down and killed by a car. Although Atlantic Avenue looks like it's destined to get a lot worse before it gets better. It might take a while, because people have been trying to "calm" its traffic for a long, long time. Maybe it would help to have a Richard Meier building with apartments starting at $1M like Grand Army Plaza does? On the other hand, maybe they should keep Grand Army as a Death Race against cars because a whole bunch of Brooklynites can use the exercise.

Oh, and did we mention that Williamsburg is so screwed it isn't funny? Now, go soothe any upset you feel by buying some wine and cheese on Bedford Avenue.

Yum. Yum.

The Decisive Atlantic Yards Battle Begins: Critical Eminent Domain Lawsuit Filed

[Photo courtesy threecee/flickr]

It's on. What will be the decisive lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards proposal was filed in Federal court yesterday by eleven property owners and tenants within the big footprint of the proposed Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project. The suit was filed in the Eastern District and seeks to stop New York State from taking property for "the developer’s private benefit" via eminent domain. The suit says that the use of eminent domain for the project is unconstitutional.

Defendant in the suit include Governor George Pataki, FCR President Bruce Ratner, Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, Forest City Ratner Companies, Forest City Enterprises and others.

The text of the press release is available here and you can download a PDF of the filing by clicking here.

The lead attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff calls the case "a textbook example of what the Fifth Amendment expressly prohibits: the taking of one citizen’s property in order to benefit a powerful and influential private citizen." The legal case is complicated, but the property owners and tenants argue that use of eminent domain in this case "is precisely what was forbidden by the majority in last year’s controversial Supreme Court Case -- Kelo v. New London."

Stand by for a great deal of litigation.

Brooklinks: Friday Lawsuit , Halloween and Fall Edition

Fall Prospect Park One

The Lawsuit Has Arrived:
Halloween is Coming:
None of the Above:

Huge Lists of Brooklyn Halloween Activities

So, it's Halloween weekend and that means that there are, like, dozens of Halloween-related things to do in Brooklyn alone. (Let alone all the parties.) Excellent lists of official events are available through About Brooklyn and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. If you've got kids, the Number One activities are in Prospect Park on Saturday (10/28) and Sunday (10/29). They include the Haunted Walk and Carnival on Saturday from Noon-3PM. (UPDATE: Unfortunately, as of Noon on Friday, the event has been canceled because of expected bad weather; other park events are still on, though.) Plus, on Saturday and Sunday there is the Haunted Carousel from 12 – 5 PM. ($1.50 per spin.) Scary stories at Lefferts Historic House from 2:00PM-3:00PM. And something described as "a critter-fest in Prospect Park with lots of spiders, worms, and other creepy creatures that are sure to make your skin crawl! Creepy crafts, live critters and hands-on experiments" at the Audubon Center from Noon-5:00PM. Also, there are special activities at the Zoo, including a "legendary haunted barn."

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn
has posted a very detailed listing of events that is absolutely worth checking out. There is also a long and comprehensive list of Halloween events that's a little more adult-oriented, in addition to covering the kiddie landscape, at About Brooklyn. It, too, is another must click.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Coney Island Death Watch: Brand New Wednesday Evictions

Coney Death Watch

Thor Equities is continuing to evict tenants from the property it owns in Coney Island, well ahead of any approved plans to redevelop the property. On Tuesday, we noted that the bedraggled, but historic Henderson's Building on Surf Avenue was being cleared of tenants and will likely get wrecking ball treatment. Today's Daily News has an excellent Jotham Sederstrom story with detail about the Henderson's clear out. He writes, in part:
Eight renters received notice last week from their properties' new owner, developer Thor Equities, telling them to be out when their leases expire Dec. 31...Norman Kaufman sees a downside to the changes. Kaufman, who owns batting cages, go-cart tracks, a boat ride and a rock climbing attraction on Stillwell, said he won't be able to relocate anywhere nearby.

"We're talking about losing one-third of Coney Island," said Kaufman, who has operated in the area for 50 years. "They purchased most of the usable area. I couldn't go into Coney Island if I wanted to."

Yesterday (Wednesday), several more Thor tenants, including the Go Kart track on Henderson Walk, got the boot. Now, you might not bemoan the loss of batting cages or go karts, but what's interesting is that the evictions mean that a significant part of Coney will be devoid of life during the next summer season.

While Thor's plans for Coney haven't been announced, it is widely believed that they will not be replacing any of the lost amusements and will instead be building retail and residential properties. Coney's short-term future is crystal clear: 2-4 years of vacancy and construction, starting in 2007.

Related Post:
Developer Starting to Clear Out Its Coney Properties?


Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Lawsuit to be Filed

The first shot in the decisive battle over Atlantic Yards will be fired today, not in Brooklyn, but on the steps of City Hall. There will be a 1:00PM news conference to announce that Brooklyn property owners and tenants are filing a lawsuit against the use of eminent domain and the taking of their properties by New York State for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development proposal in Prospect Heights. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent out a press release yesterday afternoon announcing the briefing.

With Atlantic Yards Report noting that the developer is hoping for final approval of the project very soon by both the Empire State Development Corporation and the Public Authorities Control Board, the success of the eminent domain lawsuit will determine the final outcome of the development. Opponents of the Forest City Ratner plan, which requires use of eminent domain, are confident they can prevail in in such a suit.

Brooklinks: Thursday Focus on Food Edition

Cubana Cafe

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images. On Thursday, we focus on food.

Not Food:

Ray of Hope for Broken Angel?

We don't know what this will amount to, but there is a meeting today between the city, the owner of Broken Angel and an architect who says he is "partnering with neighborhood artist Arthur Wood, 75, to save the unique building known as Broken Angel in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn." The name of the firm is Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture. We reported on the meeting yesterday over at Curbed, which heard from the architect.

What the email didn't address is the issue of money. While threatening to demolish Broken Angel (an act we personally view as tantamount to municipal vandalism), the city has also said it would work to bring the building up to code and, then, put a lien on it, essentially taking it from the owner. What the release says is that:
JPDA is working to develop a strategic master plan to not only bring the building up to code, but to fully realize Mr. Wood's dream to turn the site into a museum, atelier and vibrant cultural resource for the whole community.
So, the saga continues, but we hope this represents some positive movement to save Brooklyn's equivalent of the Watts Towers.

UPDATE: Chris Wood, the owner's son, reports that they are working with JPDA on a plan for the saving the building. However, the architect told the Daily News on Friday (10/27) that saving Broken Angel will come down to "time, labor and money." The city, meanwhile, is still speaking in terms of possible demolition, although the timeframe for a decision seems to have from three weeks to three months.

[Photo courtesy silk cut/flickr]

Related Post:
City Threatening to Demolish Broken Angel

Into "the Bowels" of Brooklyn

Attention Park Slopers: You are living in "the bowels of Brooklyn."

At this point, we're tempted to say, no shit. Or to ask: If Park Slope is "the bowels" what in God's name is Mill Basin? But we won't. Instead, we'll say that we're always amused to see how non-Brooklynites treat a trip to Brooklyn and also note that we've taken "The Bowels" thing completely out of context. We came across this colonic reference to Park Slope in post on blog called Petite Style. The blog entry is actually called "Fieldtrip to Brooklyn." Here's a taste:
On Monday night, my roommate Vic and I went over the bridge and into the bowels of Brooklyn…Park Slope. Okay so Park Slope is a lot closer to Manhattan than say Red Hook or Coney Island but any area that requires a subway going above ground to get there is pretty damn far.

We went to go meet our lovely friend Sabs and her boyfriend from out of town Tobi for dinner at Blue Ribbon. I was so surprised to see how gentrified this area had become. About 4 years ago, I used to date a guy who lived on 5th ave in Park Slope and the dining options were limited to bodegas and Chinese takeout joints with neon signs and pictures of the entrees posted on the window. When I was walking down 5th ave to look for the restaurant, I barely recognized the old neighborhood until I saw Loki bar on the corner. This was the only bar we’d go to because it was basically the only bar in the neighborhood at the time. Gone are the guys in leather jackets and drinking Old English out of brown paper bags. They’ve been replaced by a New York Sports Club, sushi restaurants, and a Commerce bank. I guess a tree really does grow in Brooklyn.
Always interesting to see how non-Brooklynites view the borough.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Home for Coney Island Sideshow and Museum?

Coney Sideshow

In looking around for information about the Coney Island businesses that apparently are being evicted by Thor Equities well in advance of any Coney makeover, we came across a couple of related posts on the Coney Island Bulletin Board over at coneyisland.com. The most interesting bit of news, as we understand it, is that Coney Island USA, aka the Coney Island Museum, whose lease is expiring, looks like it will be getting a new home courtesy of New York City. We noticed this because one of the comments addressed to Coney Island USA's Dick Zigun (who also joined the board of the Coney Island Development Corp. this year) says:
Dick, how would you be feeling and talking right now IF, the city hadnt been the one to buy the building your in right now, and trade it to Thor for the Grasshorn building on Jones Walk and Surf Av, and put you in that building on the corner?
So, eventually, Mr. Zigun's museum and related enterprises will be moving? Meanwhile, Mr. Zigun himself writes as part of an ongoing discussion about the Thor evictions:
If you remember, eleven years ago I WAS KICKED OUT of the building I rented by a heartless landlord. I PICKED MYSELF UP BY MY OWN BOOTSTRAPS...rented another space...and re-established my business at a higher rent and struggled many many years to get back on track!

Yes, I AM LUCKY this time around and I am on the CIDC. Since we cannot successfully fight capitalism and the American way of private property...I have no intent of even trying.

What I CAN DO is get the best deal out of the NEW Coney Island that I can. The city is listening to my staff about landmarking suggestions generally. Design suggestions, etc. The city has saved the B&B and Child's on the Boardwalk and the sideshow and by the time we are done a few more landmark structures at the beach.

I cannot change the fact that old well established landlords whose families were in Coney for GENERATIONS are the people who have taken Thor's $ and sold out the old amusements. That is not my fault but it is a reality the members of the CIDC have to deal with simply because it is the new reality....After 26 years of hard work the city has indeed given me a break I might actually deserve for service already well done. I am not taking the money and running out of the neighborhood. I am staying and getting the best deal I can for the new Coney which is coming soon whether or not either of us wants it.
While we wonder about appearances in this case, Mr. Zigun and his operation helped hold the fort when Coney was down. It's refreshing to see an entity that isn't a huge development outfit actually benefit for a change. It is also heartening that someone is standing up for the amusement industry and for Coney landmarks in the face of pressure to bulldoze and build highrise luxury condos on and near the boardwalk.

Related Post:
Developer Starting to Empty Out Its Coney Properties?


Time Drawing Near to Kiss Admirals Row Goodbye?

Looks like the days of the Brooklyn Navy Yard's historic Admirals Row are numbered. There was an event yesterday to announce new developments on the Navy Yard property that will total 401,900 square feet of industrial space. Plus, a 60,000-square-foot supermarket. Today, Melissa Grace writes in the Daily News that officials--including Mayor Bloomberg, those from the Navy Yard Development Corp. and Borough President Marty Markowitz--are saying there's no way to preserve the historic buildings and that a supermarket would "better serve" the community.

Here's some of the flavor:
The "Admirals Row" mansions are so badly deteriorated they cannot be saved, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. President and CEO Andrew Kimball said yesterday.

"The buildings are not preservable," Kimball said after announcing a massive construction project, including the supermarket, in the Brooklyn waterfront's industrial park.

"We have no option," Kimball said of the decision to tear down the structures, which were built on Flushing Ave. between 1858 and 1901.

Officials maintain that preserving the homes - which they say would cost at least $30 million - is too expensive, and insisted the community would be better served by a supermarket.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed the mansions are not salvageable - but some preservationists disagreed.

"It's definitely doable and worth doing," said New York Landmarks Conservancy official Alex Herrera. "They're really a part of Brooklyn and Brooklyn's history."

The row of once-elegant homes, with their grand staircases and spacious gardens, housed senior officers and their families until the 1970s, when the Navy moved out of the Navy Yard.

Some of them were designed by architect Thomas Walter, who designed Washington's Capitol building dome...At the press conference, local elected officials and Mayor Bloomberg backed the plan for a supermarket, saying the 10,000 residents in three nearby city-run housing projects desperately need access to fresh produce.

"A crucial community resource must take priority over preservation at Admirals Row," said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

We can only think of a few supermarket chains that would open a 60,000 square foot grocery store. So, what's the mystery grocery chain?

Moral of the story: Lettuce trumps history, nine point five times out of ten.

Williamsburg Part II: More Evidence the Burg is Toast


We are not going to devote a lot of verbiage to this--because the visuals speak for themselves. These images are screencaps from the Northside Piers website, which has just been expanded. (Northside Piers is the Toll Brothers development going up on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg adjacent to 184 Kent at N. 5th Street.) There's an invite only cocktail reception to kick off sales tonight in Manhattan. In any case, we offer this in order to simply say: Williamsburg as we know it, is toast. Of course, we realize there are those who lived there for decades who would say that it was toast when the first wave of gentrification happened. But what's about to occur is something of an entirely different magnitude.



Brooklinks: Wednesday Midweek Edition

Fort Greene Fall

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

Holy Crap, We Are Not Making This Up:
Regular Stuff:

Williamsburg Part I: Demolition Porn Voyeurism Edition

Demolition Voyeurism

The photo above, and the one below, are two shots from the last few days in Williamsburg, where the demolition activity is going on faster than you can keep track of it. The picture above is the site of the former zipper factory at N. 10th and Berry that came down over the last few weeks. The shot below is the current demolition that distresses us most--the Old Dutch Mustard factory.

Old Dutch

Cool Stuff: outside.in Launches


If you read Gowanus Lounge regularly (and huge thanks if you do), you might remember a website called outside.in that we posted about a month or so ago. We had found it after noticing some readers coming our way through it. We put up a post about it, then took it down after creator Stephen Johnson emailed to say we wandered in through a door that wasn't supposed to be open and that he'd passworded the site. No point in the post at that point. As a consolation, he gave us a user id and password so we could privately poke around the site until it went live.

The site is now up and open and it's quite interesting. The gist of outside.in is that it allows you to view blog posts by typing in a zip code or by simply moving around a Google map. Since its creators live in Brooklyn, the startup is pre-stocked with Brooklyn content. The trick is that users can add items and tag them, so that the site should be very cool and very useful after a while.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Developer Starting to Empty Out Its Coney Properties?

Henderson Building

Our favorite Coney Island news source, Kinetic Carnival, is reporting that developer Thor Equities, which owns a huge block of property that it plans to turn into a Times Squarish retail and entertainment complex by the sea, may have started kicking out existing tenants. Kinetic writes:
First structure to possibly go to make way for the new Coney is the Henderson building on the corner of Stillwell Ave./Henderson Walk & Surf Ave to the Bowery. The property now owned by Thor Equities, which as early as last week assured their tenants not to worry about being evicted for the next year has now turned around and handed most of its tenants a 90 day notice to vacate the premises...Thor's tenants on the Boardwalk including Ruby's and Cha-Cha's and Ocean Grill House were not given notice. And Norman Kaufman says he was not given any notice for his miniature golf or batting cage or go-karts.

With that, [Coney Island USA's and Coney Island Development Corp. Board Member Dick] Zigun confirms that Thor has given notice to most of their newly acquired tenants in the Henderson's building and beyond! Those include owner and operator of the Zipper and Spider rides on West 12th, McCullough's Kiddie Park at Bowery & West 12th, Caesar's games on the Bowery, and Slim who operates Balloon Racing game on the Bowery.

Regardless, of who has been given notices as of yet. This is just the beginning of Thor clearing its land up for the zone that will mark the first construction site towards the revitalization of the New Coney.
The building in question currently is home to a Popeye's and a variety of amusements and may be familiar to some as the building with the "Surf Hotel" sign. Regardless of what sort of plan Thor comes up with--worthy of Coney or worthy of suburban Jersey shopping mall on Prozac--several empty and construction-filled years are ahead for Good Old Coney.

Huge props to Kinetic Carnival for getting this story and for the excellent reporting.

(The map below showing the Henderson Building's location is from Kinetic Carnival).


Related Post:
Coney Plans: Turning Down the "Glam Rock" and Pumping Up the Elevator Music