Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Heavy Metal Backlash in Carroll Gardens


That sound you hear at the on Smith Street near the Carroll Street subway stop? It's the noise of the community organizing to try to seriously change a building planned for Smith Street and Second Place. The image above is a rendering someone in the neighborhood created and put on a flyer showing how what we've called the Heavy Metal Building might look. A resident also emailed us to say:
Word on the street here is this largely Italian-American and professional/Wall Street Community wants to take a postion that "yes, we know development is going to happen, but let's aim for sane/sound architecture based on sane/sound architectural and city planning principles not just put up a big ole metal box that makes some greedy developer with no conscience or sense of style the quickest buck possible before he hightails it out of here on his way to ruin some other innocent Brooklyn block. Sure to be at issue are the height of the building as well as the beloved PLAZA in front of the train where in fact many people love to hang out while they wait for the train upstairs in the air and sunlight!
The photo below is the mural that appears to have gone up on a wall in the little plaza at the entrance to the subway station. It was sent to us by a reader late last night, and could be Brooklyn's first Robert Scarano-related mural. (Mr. Scarano's firm has designed the proposed building.)

Still developing.

Smith Street Mural

Related Posts:
Smith Street Revolt Brewing Over Shiny New Building?
Smith Street Could Get Very, Very Shiny

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New Gowanus Signage: Toll Ahead

Toll Ahead

No, not the bridge & tunnel kind of toll. This kind of Toll. A Gowanus resident sent along this photo of signage that has appeared on Bond Street and First Street, which would be close to the epicenter of the roughly 400-unit luxe development the Toll Brothers would like to build on the shores of our favorite South Brooklyn waterway. The structure on property you see in the distance on the right was demolished over the winter. There is some interest in landmarking the property on the far left, which also fall in the Toll Zone. The battle discussion continues this evening with another public session involving Community Board 6, the City Planning Department and local residents. Any irony in the above photo with "Toll" and "Dead End" in the same frame is entirely accidental.

Related Post:
Bond Street Residents Unhappy About Toll Brothers Project
Gowanus Groundwork Laid for Toll Brothers in "Subarea B"?

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The Smell of Coney Island: 'Tangy and Citrusy'

This is just too good to pass up, particularly since the official launch of Bond No. 9's Coney Island fragrance is Friday. To us, Coney Island on a hot summer day is one part ocean, one part fried food, one part assorted suncreens and tanning products and one part trash marinating in the sun. Bond No. 9's take, on the other hand, is 'tangy and citrusy," which is kind of funny, because the only citrus in sight at Coney Island is what some of the vendors use to make fruit drinks. In any case, clearly we spend a lot more time writing about Brooklyn than about scents, because we're not sure we'd make a good fragrance reviewer. Here's one review of Coney Island from the Perfume Smellin' Things Blog:
The start of the scent is a tangy citrusy blend. I smell lemons, limes and even oranges. They smell a little candied, but not overwhelmingly sweet at all, bringing to mind a refreshing, only slighly boozy drink served in a glass with sugared rim. For a while there, I smell a slight melon note, but just when I start to think that scent might go a fruity route, it changes the direction drastically. It grows warmer, "thicker", more "solid" in feel, the vanilla becomes very apparent as does the cinnamon note. At this point, I like the Coney Island quite a lot. It has the kind of soft, not too obvious gourmandness that I always appreciate. I don't smell chocolate or caramel, the middle stage is all about sweetly piquant cinnamon and fluffy vanilla on me. If the scent stayed that way, it might have even ended up on my wish list for summer...The drydown, however, was disappointing for me. After the joyful, colorful robustness of the top and heart notes, the composition suddenly looses all its oomph and becomes rather pale and unexciting. The base has an aquatic note that bothers me and an overall understated, neutral feel of a typically fresh unisex scent. I very much wish that the bright, happily inebriated, indeed carnival-like feel of the first two thirds of the scent stayed till the end.
Oh, God, say it ain't so. We think that means the blogger doesn't like Coney Island once you've been wearing it for a bit. Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Related Post:
Get Your Coney Island Fragrance from Bond No. 9


Manhattan Chocolate Building Getting Ready to Go Bye Bye

Manhattan Chocolate

Back in March we posted about major changes coming to Union Avenue between Havemeyer Street and Richardson Streets around N. 9th and N. 10th Streets. Change is definitely in the air, as can be seen in the photo taken by our favorite Brooklyn advice blogger dabbing in real estate development news, Bad Advice. She writes:
Maybe they're just fixing the roof. Could be they're just refurbishing an old building and making it into something useful, like a methadone clinic or halfway house for the tragically hip. But this morning as I left my house, I saw these guys on the roof of the chocolate factory (much sweeter smelling than the cabbage factory, FYI) and got the distinct feeling that I was staring at some demolition in preparation for some new construction. Can't wait. What Williamsburg definitely needs is more luxury housing.
We've added the rendering of what is to come at the location of the old Manhattan Chocolate factory, which is at 580 Union Avenue, to the her photo of the workers. Permits are in process, so whatever the nice gentlemen in the work gear were checking out on the roof, it was clearly in anticipation of getting the Green Light for demolition. If you're into wall murals, of which the building has a whole bunch, get out there while you can.

Related Post:
Union Avenue About to Change Big Time


Bay Ridge Blogger Doesn't Dig Brooklyn Museum Feminist Art

Judy Chicago

This post over at the Bay Ridge Blog jumped out at us because it raises the always-provacative issue of museums and the art they display. The museum in question is the Brooklyn Museum and the blogger takes issues with the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. There is background here. The blogger had almost joined the museum in 1999, but opted not to after the Virgin Mary art issue in the Sensation exhibition. So, when he went back to join up recently he found the Sackler Center and opted not to join again. He writes:
What the hell is "feminist art"? It sounds like something joyless, thin-lipped, and political. Wiki describes it this art movement as referring to "the efforts and accomplishments of feminists internationally to bring more visibility to women within art history and art practice. Corresponding with general developments within feminism, the movement began in the 1960s, flourished throughout the 1970s, and the effects of it continue to the present. " That's the positive spin. But this is a separatist and exclusionary strand in the artistic universe. I don't think its particularly interesting to men --or women. And this is to be a permanent collection, sharing the museum with the art of ancient Egypt?

Sorry, I won't support this.

The museum's a fine space, despite the amateurish turns they've taken over the past decade. I do want to visit soon. Target Stores hosts a free "First Saturdays" program once a month. I may visit next weekend. If they ask me for a contribution, I'll say "no". Go ask Elizabeth Sackler!
Our own issue with the museum is that its collection tends to be too eclectic to cohere and that it tries to show to much in too little space, drawing attention away from some genuinely important work in its collection. We rather like the Sackler Collection ourselves and we love Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party."


Quadriad: From Williamsburg to a Neighborhood Near You

Quadriad Development, which is building on the block bounded by Bedford Avenue, Berry, N. 3rd and N. 4th Streets in Williamsburg, made a presentation to Community Board 1 this week and fleshed out a bit of its vision for the parcel. It confirmed that it wants to build a 24-story tower at the corner of N. 3rd and Berry in addition to a five-story building with 75 units of housing that have already been announced. Interestingly, Quadriad intends to make the Williamsburg development--which uses affordable housing and other amenities as the carrot to entice zoning concessions for buildings far beyond what existing zoning allows--a model for its projects citywide. It is called "Community Incentive Zoning." The Williamsbug block on which Quadriad wishes to build was downzoned as part of the overall Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning. The developers have targeted a large number of other Williamsburg projects for highrise/lowrise housing and commercial developments.

"Coming soon to a neighborhood near you," remarked Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo.

Related Post:
Paperwork is in on the Bedford Avenue Quadriad Site
Double Speak of the Week: Community Incentive Zoning

Brooklinks: Thursday Garden Variety Edition

Vinegar Hill Garden

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images:


Another Important Gowanus Planning Meeting Tonight

Gowanus Canoe

The next meeting in the series of community sessions leading up to rezoning proposals for Gowanus takes place tonight against the background of a purge of nine CB6 members that is believed to have been, in part, motivated by a desire to diminish opposition to allowing taller, bigger buildings in the neighborhood. The Community Board 6 Land Use Committee meeting will be held at 6:00PM at P.S. 32, which is located at 317 Hoyt Street between Union and President Streets. Representatives of the Department of City Planning will be on hand.

In the meantime, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) sent along some observations from a previous Gowanus planning meeting, at which a list of goals "to be used as a framework for discussions about the future of the Gowanus Canal corridor" was presented. FROGG writes that "These goals were arrived at in previous meetings the agency had with Community Board 6. They were presented in a circular diagram assigning no specific order or priority and the agency seeks to strike a balance among them. They are to be the jumping off point for the next phase of the neighborhood outreach meetings."

FROGG ordered the list of goals in terms of "priorities that FROGG would like to suggest addresses the community’s concerns." Here they are:
1) Support environmental cleanup
a) Brownfield land cleanup and remediation
b) Aquatic brownfield cleanup: with attention to storm water management and CSO events
2) Maintain continued industrial and commercial activities
a) Recognition that industrial and commercial activities are distinct from each other and have different needs
b) Provide a supportive environment for the existing jobs, and encourage the use of union labor in any new construction
c) Encourage opportunities for creative and new technology work places
3) Address neighborhood context and character
a) Limit height and density conditions to preserve the unique quality of the corridor, especially its open space and sky views
b) Maintain the height and density restrictions that apply to adjoining neighborhoods
c) Open green space
4) Encourage mix of uses where appropriate and possible
a) Allow and encourage creative reuse of existing structures
5) Achieve waterfront public access at Canal’s edge
a) Recreational open spaces adjacent to the Canal could provide a pleasant green conduit through the area: South Brooklyn has playgrounds and ball fields but lacks open green spaces
6) Promote affordable housing opportunities
a) Both land and aquatic brownfield cleanups to enable this possibility
Related Post:
Burden Calls Gowanus "Great, Unique Opportunity" at Polite Gowanus Rezoning Meeting

GL Analysis: Will the City's Huge Building Scandal be Addressed?

1638 Eighth Avenue

We won't for a minute claim that the problems with the building and development industry and the violence it inflicts on the quality of life of Brooklyn residents from Sheepshead Bay and the South Slope to Williamsburg and Greenpoint are anything new. Corruption, malfeasance, the development industry and city government have all fit together like hand and glove for generations. Yet, there is something about the excesses of the current building boom and the lack of municipal oversight that have taken problems to new levels. This week, the Daily News ran the kind of series that draws attention to the kind of scandalous nonperformance of city government that imperils quality of life. The series covered outrages in the South Slope, abuse of immigrant workers, the disgusting big picture and more.

None of this comes as news to anyone that lives in neighborhood where buildings are going up on every block or who's spent more than five minutes walking around any number of Brooklyn neighborhoods. For a sense of the scope of the problem, consider that the Buildings Department was called on to conduct 413,844 inspections last year with a 350-member inspection force, which works out to 1,182 inspections per person. No wonder builders and developers can get away with everything from undermining neighboring buildings to working illegal hours and doing dangerous work and ignoring Stop Work Orders. The conduct of the Bloomberg Administration on this front--and before it, the Guiliani Administration--has been grossly negligent.

They even seem to vaguely realize it now that they've been publicly shamed. Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff told the news that Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster had met with the mayor about improving standards and enforcement. He admitted that the Department might be "more reactive than it should be" and said, "We are running to catch up in the face of a spectacular building boom." The News reported:
Doctoroff said Bloomberg inherited an understaffed and inefficient Buildings Department rife with corruption. "We have made substantial progress," he insisted.

He said a new city construction code, expected to be implemented by year's end, will increase penalties for violations and reform aspects of the much-abused honor system that allows architects to certify plans without verification.
In neighborhoods like the South Slope where resident pressure and blog coverage has embarrased the Buildings Department, residents say there have been improvements. In other neighborhoods, problems like slow response and inaction persist. Of course, right now, we are only talking about construction-related problem, not the environmental horrors all over North and South Brooklyn to which both the state and the city are turning a blind eye as toxic sites are developed for housing with virtually no proactive public oversight, no information that buyers can access easily and with a kind of environmental clean-up honor system for developers.

More oversight is needed on all fronts. And it needs to be put in place quickly.


Looking Around Red Hook

Abandoned Building

Historian and tour guide Francis Morrone offers some tips for those unfamiliar with Red Hook in today's Sun. Here's a sample:
For the curious, here's what I suggest. Begin at Carroll and Van Brunt streets. It's a few blocks from the Carroll Street station of the F and G trains. You can also get there via the B63 bus from Brooklyn's Borough Hall. You're near the southern end of the Red Hook Containerport, one of only two such facilities in the city. Containerization, with its bigger ships and need for vast open lots, spelled the end of Manhattan's and Brooklyn's freight shipping industries after World War II. Since freight shipping was what Red Hook was all about, the area declined. Then the city announced it was going to condemn a great deal of land to build a big container port in Red Hook. This ramped up the exodus. When the city scaled back its plans, much of Red Hook was like a ghost town.
It's a fun thumbnail to the neighborhood, if you're not familiar with it and worth a read.


The Downtown Brooklyn Landrush

Duffield Street Hotel Site

We're a day late and a dollar short in getting to this, but it's worth noting that in this week's Village Voice, Neil deMause deals with the mega-development in the making called Downtown Brooklyn and the collateral damage in the form of people being evicted to make way for the new development. It is not a pretty picture, and it is a story that has been overshadowed by Atlantic Yards and other development-related issues. A couple of copy and pastes from the story:
While Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject and the insta-towers popping up across Williamsburg have gotten more attention, an equally big land rush is stalking downtown Brooklyn in the wake of a rezoning approved by the city in 2004. Around the corner from...Willoughby West, the city is planning to raze a half-block of buildings to make way for a public plaza and underground parking garage for a Sheraton hotel already under construction across the street....

Another block east, Albee Square Mall merchants wait anxiously for word of their fate after its owner (and would-be Coney Island condo builder) Joe Sitt of Thor Equities sold the property to a consortium with rumored plans for a 60-story tower of condos, offices, and shops.
It is a long article with a lot of detail and definitely worth adding to this week's information consumption list.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Smith Street Revolt Brewing Over Shiny New Building?


That building that could rise at Smith Street and Second Place in Carroll Gardens has, um, struck quite a chord in the neighborhood. First, we got an email from our original tipster noting common ownership of the lot at 360 Smith Street where the eight-story Heavy Metal Building designed by architect Robert Scarano would go and of the neighboring school. It also noted that apparently the building has been changed from shiny silver to more of a red brick design. Another email arrived to note that the MTA, above whose stop the building would rise, has apparently signed off on the project.

Then, someone emailed us to note that a large number of flyers had been taped up around the entrance to the Carroll Street subway stop. We stopped by to check on them yesterday evening and found two flyers--one of them reproducing our post from the other day and another calling for neighborhood action to change the plans for the building. Our emailer wrote:
Tonite I saw flyers all over the subway entrance at smith st and carroll street (entrance where the newstand is).....there is sure to be opposition to this project as it is massive and ugly!...PS the flyer is pretty hilarious :) and is signed by "Athena Lloyd Wright" (the great grand daughter of Frank Lloyd Wright's first cousin by marriage). Below I quote the flyer:

Yes we all know it’s coming (“progress” in our Beloved Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods). But does it have to be massive, over-scaled and disrespectful to our existing scale and style of architecture and to the quality of our environment and way of life??? Hmmmmm

(This is a no-brainer here)…There is a better way! Let’s all work together to find it!

Please Please Please get involved ASAP! Time is of the essence!! There are many options not only one, e.g.:

1) Attend the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association Meeting June 11 at 7:30 PM at Buddy Scottos’ Funeral Parlor to discuss the 360 Smith Street Building Project.

2) Contact CB 6. Vanessa Twyford is our new CB 6 member. Congratulations Vanessa! (Twyford Realty Court Street). The other massive development project on the table this week: Smith Street between Fifth and Ninth Streets……

3) Blog away! Where? At Gowanus;; and several others. Let your views be known

4) Write to the local and daily newpapers

5) Contact your local politicians

6) Drop two thousand flyers by airplane

7) Make the “Manhattanization of Brooklyn into a hit reality TV show

8) Cry (you only get ten minutes, sorry)

9) Invent your own action!

Sincerely yours,
Athena Lloyd Wright
The great grand daughter of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first cousin by marriage
The flyer is pictured below. We don't think we've heard the last of this by a longshot.


Related Post:
Smith Street Could Get Very, Very Shiny

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Potential Coney Island Circus Has Had Animal Abuse Issues

You know the circus that Thor Equities and developer Joe Sitt want say they are bringing to Coney Island this summer? Yesterday, we were going to crack a joke about how animal rights activists would complain. Well, the circus that will be coming is Cole Bros. and animal rights activists have complained bitterly about its alleged abuse of animals; the circus was even investigated by the Federal government for its treatment of its elephants. (It stopped using elephants in 2004.) A 2003 Sarasota Herald-Tribune article was headlined, "Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus facing animal cruelty charges."

How you feel about all this probably depends on how you feel about things like elephants having been abused with bullhooks, tiger cubs that died after being taken from their mother and allegations of inadequate veterinary care. We won't even get into the clown convicted of sexually abusing a teenage assistant because it's too creepy to contemplate.

We take absolutely no pleasure whatsoever in relating any of this and will note that many of the allegations are several years old. Charges of cruelty, etc. have been made against virtually every circus, particularly Ringling Bros. However, here's a sample of verbiage from, which is affilated with PETA:
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In April 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) filed formal charges of AWA violations against Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. because the elephants showed signs of being abused with sharp metal bullhooks. They were charged with animal cruelty in August 1999 by a New Jersey humane society for overloading and overworking an elephant. Two elephants, who were described as malnourished and neglected, died suddenly within a two-week period in August 1999.
Apparently, the same circus has set up during the summer in Marine Park. A poster on the Coney Island Message Board mentions that they had some, um, problems a while back in a park in Queens when one of their tigers got loose and, uh, wandered around a bit and also had an upset elephant-related issue. Someone else writes:
They are also one of the worst offenders of animal abuse in the world of circus animals and it's amazing they have not been shut down yet. Seemingly appropriate that Thor Equities would choose such a group to perform on that property.
While we're not animal rights activists, but we love animals a lot, and it makes us sad to know that creatures are imprisoned and abused for our entertainment. Frankly, we liked the Coney Island Go-Karts and Batting Cages better.

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The Crack Problem in Greenpoint

131 meserole crack with arrows

Just in case you were thinking that the South Slope is the only place in Brooklyn with a crack problem, we can verify that Greenpoint has one too. What you are looking at is a photo of 131 Meserole Avenue, which was submitted by our intrepid and very focused Greenpoint correspondent. The problem would appear to have been caused by construction next door at 133-135 Meserole, unless 131 was doing crack for a long time before digging started. (The developer of Armory Plaza in the South Slope contends, for instance, that the notorious crack building at Eighth Avenue and 15th Street was cracked out before the project began and that the gaping hole next door has absolutely nothing to do with neighboring buildings being undermined.) Regardless, 133-135 is under Ye Olde Stope Work Order because it is "undermining adjacent property" and because of "holes found" in the foundation of cracked out 131. The photo below, by the way, is the front of the building that's on crack.

131 meserole crackhouse 500

Related Post:
Celebrating Two Years of Crack with More Crack

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Sixty Seconds in (Dog-Free) East River State Park

For those of you curious about the new East River State Park in Williamsburg, we've got sixty seconds of video for you, available by clicking the embed below. We also understand that there is a petition going around in Williamsburg asking the state park managers to put an end to the "No Dogs" policy in the new park. That didn't take very long.

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Dig Le Gowanus View Le Bleu

view from le bleu small

[Photo courtesy of Real Deal]

Hotel Le Bleu is coming to Gowanus and, along with it, Le View of the Gowanus. Gabby Warshawer reports on the Real Deal that Le Bleu will open on July 1:
"Brooklyn's first boutique hotel," according to developer Dominic Tonacchio. Rooms at the Andres Escobar-designed Hotel Le Bleu at 370 Fourth Avenue will have iPod docking stations, glass-walled showers and 42-inch plasma TVs. Rates will run between $149 and $249 a night at the property, which is scheduled to open July 1st.
The 48-room hotel is sandwiched between a taxi depot and an outpatient dialysis facility. Le Bleu's elements of high design--which also include a lobby enclosed in blue glass and a rooftop restaurant and lounge--seem somewhat incongruous on a Brooklyn avenue primarily known for its truck traffic and fast food joints.
Finally, hotel rooms with Gowanus vistas.

Related Posts:
Le Bleu is Coming: Glass-Walled Gowanus View Shower Included

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Brooklyn Nibbles: Williamsburg & Greenpoint Edition

Flea Market

A few food and retail developments to report on the North Brooklyn front:

1) It looks like there will be a plethora of new pizza choices (well, at least two new ones) in Williamsburg soon. We've previously noted the impending coming of La Nonna at 237 Bedford. The always watchful Will Femia takes note of yet another place on his Test of Will blog, the Fratelli Brick Pizza Joint at 159 Grand. Of course, you've also go the Brick Oven Gallery on Havemeyer, Fornino on Bedford, some good pizzas coming out of the oven at Baci & Abbracci on Grand and others.

2) The spot on N. 12th Street across from McCarren Park that was a very short lived Amazon Cafe and then was supposed to be Patisserie Lafayette now sports a chalkboard saying that it will have sushi and Japanese cuisine. A restaurant storefront of death in the making?

3) If the signage is correct, a new flea market on N. 6th Street will be opening this weekend (Saturday, June 2, to be exact). It's on an empty lot between Wythe and Kent sort of across the street from Galapagos. Of course, you've already got the ersatz flea market every weekend on the sidewalks on Bedford.

4) We haven't ventured down there yet, but New York Magazine notes that the new Greenpoint outpost of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory on Commercial Street is open. Now, the opportunity to get some of that ice cream without waiting on the insanely long lines at the waterfront branch is something about which to be happy.


Williamsburg Marketing Fun Update: The Radical Chic Ad

We haven't seen these ads for 20 Bayard, which is one of the Karl Fischer Row buildings on Bayard Street along McCarren Park. The blog Copyranter has, though, and in addition to posting the photo seen above, has this to say:
Stupidly Idiotic. Idiotically Stupid. I have given NYC real estate ads a rest lately, because all NYC real estate ads are fucking moronic. But when Twenty Bayard, "Williamburg's premier parkfront condominiums," sticks the above sort-of Warhol knockoff in front of my face on the A train, I gotta dig out my camera. Who are those people? Did you do a photoshoot? Are they friends of yours? Models? Do they all live in Williamsburg? Who cares, right? With four succinct words, you've perfectly captured the essence of New York City's hipster enclave. And what an attractive building you've designed! Neighbors are thrilled, I'm sure.
A. Freaking. Mazing.

Related Post:
More Williamsburg Marketing Fun: Is 20 Bayard Radical?

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Here's the Water Slide Thor Says It Will Put Up in Coney Island


In case you're curious, the image above is the Hippo inflatable water slide that developer Joe Sitt says he's going to put up somewhere on the Coney Island property that he made vacant this winter and that is currently surrounded by plywood fences. You can check out the slide here on the manufacturer's website. If you've demolished anything and want one of your own for your empty property, you should know they take American Express. The big water slide is 36 feet tall, 47 feet wide and 168 feet long. The top platform is three stories high and it's a 40 degree drop. The manufacturer estimates gross revenue of about $29,000 a week. Most operators charge $2-$4 for a single ride, about $10-$15 for an hourly pass or $20-$30 for a full day pass. It takes about 6 hours to set up and comes with three days of training. One of the slogans on the website is, "When it comes to attracting thousands of families to your location, size does matter."

Related Post:
Coney Island Mega-Focus #3: Circus Coming to Town?

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Brooklinks: Wednesday Can You Believe It Already Edition

Faile Wall

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images.


Say What?: Alternate Side Parking Edition

We continue our series on signs that have been rendered odd or hard to read by construction, graffiti or other issues with this specimen from Williamsburg, which has a whole lot of compromised signage.

Say What--Parking

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coney Island Mega-Focus #4: Memorial Day 2007 Photos

graphic love myspace at

If fewer people are going to Coney Island this year, as some have claimed, it would have been impossible to tell yesterday, when the place was jammed. If you don't like the slideshow above, you can go over to the flickr set here.


Markowitz to CB6 Purge Victims: You Never Call, You Never Write

The CB6 story reverberates today with Borough President Marty Markowitz's first official statement since he, Council Member David Yassky and Council Member Bill de Blasio purged nine members over (a). their votes on Atlantic Yards or (b). the upcoming Gowanus rezoning. Jotham Sederstrom has Mr. Markowitz's comments in today's Daily News:
You can cross Marty Markowitz if you want, but give him a courtesy call first.

Following a week of public scrutiny for his decision not to reappoint nine Community Board 6 members, the borough president vehemently denied his actions were in retaliation for their opposition to aspects of the Atlantic Yards project.

"I was not given the courtesy by the members of this board to contact me -- as the person who appoints them -- and say, 'Marty, we want to vote against Atlantic Yards,'" Markowitz said.

He goes on to say, "If my intention was to be vindictive, and to make sure that everyone that voted against Atlantic Yards was to be removed, you understand I had the power to do that."

He also says: "I'm not going to say I don't have a temper every now and then, but overwhelmingly I don't. But I was not happy about the community board's vote. I've made no pretention about that.
Well, that clears things up.

[Photo of Mr. Markowitz at the BWAC show in Red Hook courtesy Gowanus/flickr]


Coney Island Mega-Focus #3: Circus Coming to Town?

Stillwell Fence

Are Coney Island developer Joe Sitt and Thor Equities trying to put a kinder, gentler face on their Coney Island project and dampen some of the controversy it has generated? Could be. Today, they send word via the New York Post that one of the big parcels of land that they cleared over the winter and that is now surrounded by a big plywood fence, will be reanimated a bit during the summer. The Post reports that land on Stillwell Avenue will be getting a giant inflatable water slide and a 2,000-seat big-top circus tent. The circus will perform up to three times a day, but only from July 30 through August 5. There will also be a 40-foot-high by 120-foot-long water slide called "The Hippo," open from June 23 through Labor Day. Movies will also be shown on a big outdoor screen from Monday, July 9 through August 27.

If you want to see more photos of what the area looks like right now, click here. Yesterday, there was a police car stationed on Stillwell next to the big fence watching the crowd, dumpsters overflowing with trash bags sat on the boardwalk end of the street, a few vendors sold bottle water, and a Mr. Softee Truck was doing a good business selling ice cream.

Related Post:
Coney Island Looking Like Sitt for Memorial Day


A Look at Williamsburg's New East River State Park

myspace graphics at

East River State Park finally opened this weekend and we like it. It is wonderful to finally have open space on the water that can be accessed without climbing through or over fences. While the site has an interesting environmental legacy--as does neighboring land to the south where those luxury condo towers are going up and land to the north where a Manufactured Gas Plant was once located, plus the Astral Oil Works--it creates 7.5 acres of new parkland in Williamsburg. If you don't like the slideshow above, you can go over to the flickr set by clicking here.

Related Post:
New Williamsburg Park's Opening Day

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Coney Island Mega-Focus #2: Good & Bad News on Trash and Developer Blight

Sitt-Not Sitt

The busy Memorial Day weekend found good news, and bad, on the trash and developer blight front in Coney Island.

First, the good news: It appears the city has learned how to pick up trash on the Coney Island boardwalk. Overflowing trash cans were not in evidence yesterday and the boardwalk was not particularly strewn with garbage. Trash cans were actually emptied into trash bags, although we didn't see who was doing it.

Now, the bad news: The property owned by Thor Equities, and surrounded by that huge plywood fence erected by developer Joe Sitt was, to put it politely, a little rough around the edges. Hopefully, some positive change is coming by the end of June in the form of a circus and a water slide. In the meantime, perhaps Thor could hire someone to maintain its big fence and clean up?

Sitt Stillwell Avenue


All in a Day's Development: Black Markets, Damage, Scams, Death, Etc.

Sixteen Street Building

The Daily News is looking into the dark side of the development boom in Brooklyn and elsewhere around the city that has been chronicled by many bloggers, but which has gotten only fleeting attention in the mainstream press. What the paper finds comes as no surprise to residents whose quality of life has been violated and to those following the fallout of the Great Building Boom of the Early 2000s: myriad safety violations, developers and builders that ignore the law with impunity, residents whose homes are literally being undermined and a city government that is either (a) mindbogglingly incompetent, (b) stunningly disinterested or (c) frighteningly corrupt. Put every borough in the city together, and it could well be one of the bigger scandals in recent municipal history. Yet, the fact is that the problems associated with the Development Industrial Complex have barely caused a ripple in the print and broadcast media, other than occasional investigations by the News.

Overall, the News writes in the kickoff story, which ran on Sunday:
  • Low-rise middle class neighborhoods battered and overwhelmed by the construction of high-rise condos for the wealthy.
  • Residents forced to flee their homes or pay massive repair bills because of shoddy and dangerous construction - often performed by contractors working on projects next door or nearby.
  • Abuses by architects and engineers in the self-certification program, where they attest that regulations have been met without an independent inspection.
  • Developers who ignore fines and penalties, or treat them as the cost of doing business.
  • Workers forced to work in unsafe conditions while being cheated of their rightful wages.
Two articles, so far, have focused on the South Slope, which is one of citywide poster children for Battered Neighborhood Victims of Developer Abuse. One of the articles deals with the battle over the Katan Towers at 182 15th Street. Another article deals with damage caused by 226 16th Street, where two workers were also seriously injured. A third story deals with one of our favorite topics, the Armory Plaza, the development at 406-408 15th St., between Seventh and Eighth Aves., which has caused the widely chronicled crack problem in neighboring buildings. Of this hard-hit part of the South Slope, Brian Kates writes in the News:
Few areas of the city have been more hard-hit by building boondoggles than a small swath of Brooklyn known as south Park Slope. Here, in just four blocks on 15th St. and 16th St. between Fourth and Eighth Aves., irresponsible builders have damaged adjacent properties, forced families to evacuate and assaulted the neighborhood with demolition dust and construction noise for at least three years, a Daily News investigation shows.
Just in case anyone thought it was all in the imaginations of those that have been fighting to bring attention to the problems for a long time.

Related Post:
Celebrating Two Years of South Slope Crack With More Crack

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Testing for Toxics Under Gowanus Playground?

Thomas Green PlaygroundWe have reported a couple of times about the potentially toxic threat under the Thomas Greene Playground in Gowanus. Located at Third Avenue and Douglass Streets, the park sits atop the former site of a Manufactured Gas Plant (MGPs) of the Fulton Municipal Gas Company. The plant operated from 1879 to 1943. MGPs are notorious for leaving behind an underground toxic stew. (You can read our earlier story here.) The Public Place site in Gowanus, for instance, is the site of a former MGP.

In any case, the park has been proposed as the site of a new skate park and, now, some officials are saying that testing for toxics is in order. In fact, Craig Hammerman, District Manager for Community Board 6, told the Brooklyn Paper, "It would be foolhardy for the city to spend public money on a park only to have to come back some time later for a cleanup." Various consultants' studies and EPA testing have found that there are toxics sitting beneath the site, which is in keeping with the highly toxic legacy of MGPs. The Parks Department apparently says that toxins are too far underground to cause any threat. The main toxic leftover of MGPs is coal tar. It can migrate thousands of feet underground on the water table over time. Interestingly, nearby properties have recently been purchased for residential development in advance of a hoped-for Gowanus rezoning.

Related Post:
Are There Toxics Under This Gowanus Playground?

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Brooklinks: Tuesday After Memorial Day Edition

On the Boardwalk

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images.

Memorial Day-Related:
Coney Coverage:
None of the Above:


Coney Island Mega-Focus #1: Coney on the Cusp of Change Panel

The Cyclone

The Municipal Art Society is sponsoring a "Coney Island on the Cusp of Change" panel on Wednesday, June 6. It looks like they've put together an interesting lineup for the panel including: Coney Island Development Corp. President Lynn Kelly, Coney Island History Project President Dan Pisark, Aaron Beebe of Coney Island USA and Ari Shalam of Taconic Investment Partners. (We notice one fascinating omission, but don't know if that's because Thor Equities has declined to participate or hadn't confirmed.) The discussion will take place from 6PM-8PM at the Urban Center, 457 Madison Ave., Manhattan. MAS encourages reservations. You can RSVP via email at or call the MAS office at (212) 935-2075.


Upcoming Community Board 6 Meetings

Purges aside, Community Board 6 will be continuing its important work in the community. Here are some upcomings CB6 meetings and hearings. (You can always check out the full calendar of events here.):

May 31 Landmarks/Land Use Gowanus Hearing--Continued discussion with representatives of the Department of City Planning on topical issues for the future planning of the Gowanus Canal corridor. Topics to be addressed at this meeting include the prioritization of the Guiding Principals and how they relate to the land use framework. The meeting will take placed at P.S. 32, which is located at 317 Hoyt Street (Union & President Streets). The start time is 6PM.

June 11 Public Forum--On Gov. Eliot Spitzer's bill to amend the New York State domestic relations law in relation to the ability to marry, which would provide same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. CB6's Executive Committee will convene after the Public Hearing to formulate its recommendation. The meeting will take place at Park Slope United Methodist Church, which is located at 410 6th Avenue (between 7th/8th Streets). It starts at 6PM.

June 13 General Board Meeting--The General Board Meeting of CB6 will take place in the Auditorium at John Jay High School, which is located at 237 7th Avenue (between 4th & 5th Streets). The start time is 6:30 PM.


What Were They Thinking? Greenpoint Palace Edition

What Were They Thinking-Leonard

What can one say about this sort of palatial look, which was photographed for us by our Greenpoint correspondent, and all that Fedders action on Leonard Street in Greenpoint? The pink brick with the serious maroon decorative element? The ground-level garages with the metal doors? The only thing we can say is: What were they thinking?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Coney Island's Trip and Fall Boardwalk is Back for Another Season

Coney Boardwalk

If you head down to Coney Island today or any other day this summer, be careful where you walk. The dangerously deteriorated boardwalk is still nasty, with sagging and teetering boards, protruding bolts, holes in the wood, splintered edges and more. (A small stretch in front of Astroland and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park was replaced last year and is in great shape.) We wrote this same item last year, and while the boardwalk seems to be slightly less hazardous to your health this year, there are still ample opportunities to break your face or sprain an ankle and get a chance to meet one of the many nice and friendly NYPD officers patrolling the boardwalk as they call EMS to cart you away to the Emergency Room. We haven't seen any statistics, but it is our understanding that there were a large number of injuries last year and, to judge by the bad condition early in the season, this year probably won't disappoint. The city has cited the unusual wear and tear caused by the NYPD driving on the boardwalk as well as the fact that sand is directly underneath the boards and contributes to rot. What we don't understand, however, is how it is cheaper to settle trip and fall injury lawsuits than it is to fix the boardwalk. (Not to mention why it is okay to allow conditions to persist that allow people to become injured.)

The boardwalk is an embarrassment in its current condition and the city can certainly afford to fix it if it wants, but nothing will probably happen until Thor Equities or another developer asks that it be fixed because too many customers walk in bloody and bruised. In fact, if Thor and Taconic Investments and other would-be Coney developers had any civic spirit they would already have chipped in for a boardwalk overhaul rather than looking at Coney Island simply as an investment opportunity to be exploited.

Related Posts:
Coney Island Boardwalk Repair Mystery
Tripping (and Falling) in Coney Island

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Park Slope Tree Guards Multiply Quickly

Tree Guards

Workers have been toiling at installing these tree guards in Park Slope this spring, particularly along Prospect Park West, Eighth Avenue and, recently, Fifth and Sixth Streets. We don't know how many have been installed, or will be, but you'll know they're coming to a tree near you by the square boxes painted on the sidewalk around the trees long before the work is done. Some people are taking advantage of the new space around trees by doing mini-landscaping and planting. The one negative we'll note is that they take up an awful lot of sidewalk space, but we're sure that both the trees and the sidewalks will do better with them in place. Money for the tree guards comes through the Borough President's office.

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Memorial Day Weekend in Gerritsen Beach

[Photo courtesy]

The Kiddie Beach in Gerritsen Beach had its opening day yesterday and some great photos like the one above were posted by GerritsenBeach.Net, a blog we totally enjoy that brings news from that corner of Brooklyn. We love the photo above, so we figured we post it and direct your attention to another part of Brooklyn as it celebrated the start of the summer season and Memorial Day.


Some Memorial Day Tricky Dick

As a Brooklyn blogger, you don't often get the chance to toss up an image of Dick Nixon or to even write about Old Tricky. (For the record, we did a post about Nixon's old boat in December.) So, we want to make it perfectly clear that we're jumping on the opportunity this Memorial Day to share this image of this Faile poster of Richard M. Nixon that was recently wheat pasted up on N. 6th Street in Williamsburg.

Nixon Faile


Boymelgreen to Fulfill J.J. Byrne Park Responsibility?

In April, Community Board 6 voted to ask the Department of Buildings to withhold the Certificate of Occupancy for Boymelgreen Developers' Novo Park Slope building because the developer hadn't followed through on making, or paying for, nearly $1.6 million in repairs to J.J. Byrne Park on Fifth Avenue. The repairs were needed because the developer used part of the park during the construction of the luxury condo on Fourth Avenue. Now, a spokesperson for the developer says the improvements are coming very soon. The Park Slope Courier reports:
At neighboring J.J. Byrne Memorial Park, a handball court has been laid to ruin, and local residents have been wondering what Boymelgreen Developers, the company behind the 12-story building at 343 4th Avenue, is going to do about it...“Boymelgreen is committed to the renovation of the park,” said Shannon Lynch, a spokesperson for the developer, who is partnered with the Katan Group on the project.

The start of the $1.6 million renovations are “just a few weeks away,” Lynch promised.

“Working with the Parks Department, we’ve created a plan for the renovation of the park,” she added.

“We are looking forward to the park being a vital feature of the community,” she said.

Phil Abramson, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said improvements will include eight new handball courts, two basketball courts, a skate park and a dog run.
There is apparently no signed agreement, but the work which the developer had promised to do should begin shortly. There is no indication of whether the Building Department will abide by the Community Board's request to withhold the Certificate of Occupancy if the repairs don't take place.

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On the Sofa: GL Reader Comments

Here's a sampling of some of the comments left by GL readers over the last week:

Coney Island Looking Like Sitt for Memorial Day. "It is absolutely fantastic to see that the negotiations are not in the papers anymore and Coney development is being negotiated between the city and Thor. Its ridiculous for Thor to negotiate in the press and the net when you have total anti-development NIMBY blogs such as yours covering this." [Muscle13]

Smith Street Could Get Very, Very Shiny. "It is an awful design for that corner, and there's no way it's happening without a knock-down drag-out brawl. My sleeves are rolled up." [Gary]

Finally: East River State Park Opens This Weekend. "I though I read here or maybe in one of the other BK blogs that the Park site on Kent in Williamsburg is a brownfield how was it that the City was able to put a Park there? When did they do the clean up? Anyone in the neighborhood have the history on the Park site. Its nice to have green grass by the river but NOT if kids are gonna have risk of getting sick." [Anonymous]


Brooklinks: Monday Memorial Day Edition

Wonder Wheel and Flag

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images. Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Fun Post of the Day:
Other Items of the Day:


Coney Island Short Film: I Wonder

This short film won "Best Made in Coney Island" Film at the Coney Island Film Festival 2006. It stars Amanda Jencsik, Karlee Gabrielle Hoffer and Chris DePierro. Check it out.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour, II: Writing on the Sign

Nathans Sign
Coney Island, Brooklyn

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Coming Up: Transportation Alternatives Tour de Brooklyn

Tour de Brooklyn

Are you ready for the third annual Transportation Alternatives Tour de Brooklyn? The bike tour of Brooklyn neighborhoods, parks and the waterfront takes place on Sunday, June 3 and starts and finishes at Grand Army Plaza. It's an 8AM start and the event takes place rain or shine. You need to register online, which you can do at the Tour de Brooklyn website. The tour is described as follows:
This year’s tour gets underway at Grand Army Plaza, a National Historic Landmark at Prospect Park. This year’s 18 mile tour will feature Brooklyn’s southern neighborhoods along the waterfront like Sunset, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst and loops towards the heart of Brooklyn, Kensington and Prospect Park South to end at the Carousel.

If this is your first time to Brooklyn by bike don’t worry you can join our feeder ride, leaving from Cadman Plaza near Brooklyn Bridge. Ride will depart promptly at 7:45 am, arriving at Prospect Park 8:05 am. Safety Marshals will be provided to guide you to the GAP.

This is a family friendly ride at a leisurely pace, escorted by the police and safety marshals. There will be one rest stop along the way where you can take a break, stretch your legs and snack on some food.
It's a great chance to bicycle all over Brooklyn.


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: Writing on the Wall

Williamsburg Building
Williamsburg, Brooklyn


Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Williamsburg Park's Opening Day!

Park One

The new state park in Williamsburg opened yesterday. We stopped in yesterday evening, about fifteen minutes before the staff closed the gates a little after 7:30, and we've got to say that although it's a bit rustic as parks go, it is absolutely wonderful to finally have that kind of legitimate waterfront access in Williamsburg. The park's supervisor explained that once staff is added, the park will be open from 8AM until dusk, although it's unclear when that will happen and whether it will be a seven-day-a-week schedule. He said that staffers had been working long hours to get the park ready for its debut. For now, the park is open from 10AM-8PM. To judge by the turnout and happy vibe among visitors, it will be a very popular place. For more info on the opening check out Williamsburg blogger INSIJS, who was there at the opening bell. Oh, and the park supervisor said that barbecuing is allowed on the concrete parts of the park. The park will be open on Memorial Day.

Park Three

Park Two

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Disconnected in Brooklyn on Craigslist: Gaaaa & Urrrggg at Target

Of all the Brooklyn Craigslist Missed Connections we have seen, this is one of the longest. But, it is ooooooh sooooooo worth the read:
You Gave Me Your Cart at Target - w4m - 27

I was having a really bad day, I hate my job, I have to live with my mother right now, my cat just went in for surgery, and my hair is being combative. Target always makes me want to strangle someone. I should know better than to even go there in this condition, but goddammit I needed razors.

And kitty litter. Also a new life, but for now improvising with munchy snax because I am going to smoke a big fattie tonight.

So there I was struggling with the last two carts in the designated cart abandonment zone, the one Target provides because they (wisely) don't trust the clientele with their carts out the front door. The one there never seem to be any carts in because all the Target drones are busy wandering the store in packs, bein' all stylin' and jerking off instead of actually working. I know they make $7 an hour but I wish I got paid for an hour of what they actually do.

Anyway I couldn't get the carts apart and I was actually about to cry, not about the carts lest you think I'm a drippy doofus, but about the rest, when you glided up with your Red Basket of Chilvary.

"Here," you said. "Take mine."


I looked up and you had a smile to melt a bitch and piercing, really stabbing, eviscerating blue eyes. I sort of said "Gaaaaa" to which you riposted "I tried to get those carts apart when I came in, too." See!! Something in common already!!!

I was busy formulating an "Urrrrrgggg" when you reached into the cart and pulled out what looked like the heaviest tool bag I have ever seen, slung it over your shoulder, and with an extra hitch-up and smile, stepped away. Just an honest working man stoppin' by Target on the way home.

Fucking HOT.

Also? I totally checked out your butt as you walked away.

If you'd like to hear me say "gaaaa" and "urrrggg" sometime when I'm a little more together, perhaps we can arrange for a cup of coffee? After all, there's a Starbucks right in the goddamn Target. We could go to Chuck E. Cheese later, if the feeling is mutual.
We rest our case.


GL Sunday Brooklyn TV: Coney Island Memorial Day Weekend Selection

Here's a selection of Coney Island vids on the YouTube--including a number of vintage films--in honor of Memorial Day Weekend and the official start of the Summer Season.


Get Your WiFi On in City Parks

Park Wifi Map One

Those long promised WiFi hotspots spots are all active (more or less) in city parks, although it's always a good idea to check on status before you take your laptop out in the hope of sending some emails or doing some live blogging. City park WiFi comes in two forms: that which the city has installed in 17 parks (map and list, above) and that which NYCWireless, a nonprofit, has installed in a number of locations, including an additional 10 parks. (There are other NYCWireless hotspots that users have added, which you find on their map.) The Brooklyn locations are Prospect Park (at the Boat House and at the Picnic House), Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo (the city part of the park) and the Brooklyn Museum. The Prospect Park locations are city-installed. The Dumbo and Brooklyn Museum spots are courtesy of NYC Wireless. Our own experience is that coverage can be a bit spotty and the connections are kind of slow, so don't plan on a lot of heavy duty uploading and downloading. If you simply need to do some garden variety surfing and emailing, though, they definitely do the trick. (NYCWireless requires you to register to access the hotspot.)

That's the city map above, which you can find by clicking here. The NYCWireless Map is below, which you can find by clicking here. Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn has also thoughtfully posted the NYC city parks hotspot list, which you can find here.

Hot Spot Map Two