Monday, December 31, 2007

GL's Best & Worst of Brooklyn 2007

Here's a very random "Best & Worst" of Brooklyn list that is probably more notable for what we've left out than what we've included. In any case, here's our take on the obligatory end of the year list:

Achievement in Hellish Construction/Demolition
1) 143 Huron Street. This building appeared to have been virtually above the law.
2) 525 Union. They were on the job virtually every weekend and DOB never saw a thing.
3) 5 Roebling. This nightmarish demolition job and the fact that no one could seem to get a handle on it is Brooklyn's best symbol of why the entire buildings system is a vital municipal system that is terminally ill and a threat to the quality of life of every Brooklynite.

Adventures in Rebranding
It started the year as an oily mess you could smell a block a way and ended the year as Warehouse 11 or W-11. Here's hoping that luxe condo buyers don't look at online pictures.

Community Groups of the Year
1) CORD. They are loud. They are insistent. They have made enemies. But good community groups are supposed to do all those things.
2) Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights. Major props to this group. It's hard for anyone in the South Slope or Greenwood Heights to slip anything past them.
3) DDDB. The model of long-term commitment to a cause they have created will be followed by groups in the future.

Bright Ideas of the Year
1) The proposed ban on listening to an MP3 player while walking, brought to you by State. Sen. Carl Kruger. Yes, that Sen. Kruger. Much more to come in '08 as well, as the State Senator appears ready to the be leader of the anti-Bloomberg plan group.
2) The proposed ban on feeding pigeons, brought to you by City Council Member Simcha Felder.

The Nevermind Award
The Department of Transportation's short lived one-way proposal for streets in Park Slope. Didn't go over too well.

Participatory Democracy Award, Checkbook Version
The busloads of Coney Island meeting "protestors" paid for by Sen. Carl Kruger with campaign funds. Is political theater legitimate campaign spending?

Participatory Democracy Award, Genuine Version
1) The Carroll Gardens Development Moratorium movement. It started with opposition to a single building and became a neighborhood-wide cause.
2) The F Train Express Effort. A lot of people signed the online petition. Of course, by the end off the year the MTA was not only saying "no way" until 2012, give or take, it dropped the bomb that it was shutting the Smith-9th Street Station for repairs.

Ugliest New Buildings
1) Northside Piers. Even if the building was shorter, it would still be one of the ugliest new tall buildings in New York City. And what's with the college dorm-looking brick crap in front?
2) Oro. One could say that, well, it's only on Flatbush Avenue and that anything would have to be better than the car washes and other stuff that's been demolished, but Oro makes a car wash look kind of pretty.
3) 525 Union Avenue. The ugliest Karl Fisher building on the planet?
4) Novo Park Slope. Mental institution or college dorm? You decide.

Ain't Nature Grand
1) The Bay Ridge Tornado. Here's hoping it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
2) Gowanus Canal Clap. Seriously.
3) Sludgie the Whale. Gave us hope, then crushed our spirit.
4) Brooklyn Parrots. They are spreading to new neighborhoods and we hope the poaching problem is finished.

Saved by the Bell
227 Duffield. We're not sure that it will really matter in the end, but it was still nice to see one of the Underground Railroad Buildings saved.

Developer of the Year (aka the Foot in Mouth Award)
Joe Sitt/Thor Equities. Rarely have we seen a developer alienate just about everyone through a series of unfortunate public statements, miscalculations and PR disasters. One by one, even those who had been relatively supportive or open minded about Mr. Sitt's Coney Island plan became opponents. Then, the big bomb dropped. Not pretty.

Community Spirit Medal (aka the Ektorp)
Ikea. It's not that Ikea is coming to Red Hook. That has been a forgone conclusion for years now. It's Ikea's attitude about things like filling a valuable Graving Dock and chopping up piers that could prove useful in the future and its refusal to even pretend to care about many community concerns that have made the Swedish retailer a class act.

Mean Idea Award
The Parks Department for threatening our beloved vendors. Their future is still up in the air. Shame on callous bureaucrats behind this boneheaded move.

Williamsburg Overdevelopment Trophy
Williamsburg, of course. Is it a neighborhood or a construction site?

Best New Brooklyn Blogs of 07
1) Brooklyn Junction. We look forward to a lot more intelligent coverage of Flatbush.
2) The Bay Ridge Three. We'd fill all our slots with these new Bay Ridge blogs so, instead, we'll cop out and name them all here: Bay Ridge Blog, The Bay Ridge Rover and Right in Bay Ridge.
3) Icky in Brooklyn. A bright new voice from Windsor Terrace. A lot more to come in 2008.
4) Bed-Stuy Banana. Started in the second half of '07 and made an impression.
5) Brooklyn 11211. They're paying attention to development and land use issue in Williamsburg, which need all the attention they can get.

Video of the Year
Going Postal at the Kensington Post Office, of course.

GL's 2008 Brooklyn Coming Attractions

We took a look back at 2007 on Friday, now here is a look ahead at some stories that we think will make news or that will keep making news in 2008:

1) Coney Island. If the city is committed to it audacious Coney strategy--rezoning, buying out developer Joe Sitt in the amusement district and/or doing some land swaps--2008 will be an eventful year. If there isn't much progress next year, stick a fork in the new plan and wait for the new mayor.

2) New Domino. Any project as big as the New Domino is not going to be a slam dunk, so count on it generating some noise in 2008 as the plans move forward.

3) Gowanus Rezoning. The city will pick a development team for the toxic Public Place site in 2008. Will the Bloomberg Administration ram through the high density residential rezoning that developers like the Toll Brothers want?

4) Carroll Gardens Development. Residents are getting increasingly testy about out-of-context development and appear ready to fight every big development announced in the neighborhood. We don't think 2008 will be a quiet year as newly energized neighborhood activists aren't going to give up without a huge fight.

5) Red Hook Gridlock. Of course, there's a chance that everything will go smoothly when the Ikea opens on Beard Street next year. We could be wrong, but we think there's going to be major traffic chaos as up to 50,000 cars a week pour into Red Hook. It's going to be ugly.

6) Developer Bloodletting. As the residential market softens, look for a lot of marginal Brooklyn condos, especially smaller ones in Williamsburg and the South Slope, to turn into white elephants. We're seeing major price cuts, buildings going rental and the possibility of bankruptcies among developers without deep pockets.

7) Subprime Pox Spreads. While buyers in affluent Brooklyn neighborhoods aren't being hit, parts of low income neighborhoods that were epicenters of the subprime mortgage market are being decimated. More awfulness to come in 2008.

8) Dock Street. Dumbo developers David and Jed Walentas have hired lobbyists and battle lines are hardening over the 18-story Dock Street development that Two Trees wants to build near the Brooklyn Bridge. They've intimated that they can build a 35-story hotel on the property without getting anyone's approval. It could get very ugly.

9) Ratner-Renzo Tower. Mr. Ratner's bold plan for a Renzo Piano-designed building that would be Brooklyn's tallest, will not continue to fly under the radar.

10) Admirals Row. Will these historic buildings be creatively reused or turned into a parking lot for a supermarket? 2008 should provide answers.

11) Bushwick Inlet Park. Will the city's big new park plan for the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront move forward? Or will there be some eminent domain-related wrenches thrown into the works?

Our Weird Predictions for 2008:
1) Whole Foods Throws in Gowanus Towel. What's up at the Gowanus Whole Foods site? Is the grocery chain backing away from developing a below ground grocery on a site with toxic issues that is in a flood plain? If nothing happens by the middle of next year, it might be time to rethink this one. The grocer wouldn't opt for a Sunset Park location or go to Williamsburg first, would they? Eh, this will probably look like a stupid prediction by February. Or not.

2) Williamsburg Waterfront Slowdown. There are odd rumblings along Kent Avenue that could indicate the waterfront boom will not be going ahead with the speed that was originally anticipated. Does it mean delays for additional Toll Brothers towers? Will The Edge be a little less sharp? We're sensing less unbridled optimism than in the past.

Gowanus Whole Foods Year End Special: Come On In

Gowanus Whole Foods Fence 1230

The abandoned Gowanus Whole Foods site closes out the year the way it spent much of the last half of 2007: wide open to visitors that want to check it out. The environmentally-challenged site got some attention in November when Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and others criticized the grocer for maintaining a public hazard. Well, attention from public officials can have a very short half life. The site was closed up for a couple of weeks, but the shoddy fence has been more open than closed ever since. (A reader notes that even the portable toilets on the site have been removed, which we suppose is one way of economizing.) Advice to the grocer that own the toxic property that gets many, many, many visits: invest in a work crew, buy some new wood, get a lot of nails, install a sturdy new fence around the property & keep an eye on it. Will Brooklyn's biggest toxic playground remain to entertain in 2008? Keep watching. We will.

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Park Slope Crest Improves Fouth Ave. Streetscape

Crest One

The fencing around The Crest in Park Slope has come down. The mindboggling results are above. We will refrain from a long diatribe about how such architecture is the equivalent of saying "screw you" to the streetscape and how people that design residential buildings this way should be held up to professional ridicule for designing walls at street level. (Though we love the big vent effect.) We simply can't understand why anyone would make the entire first floor of a condo being pitched to a high end market into a wall. Ironically, it is across the street from this gem at the Con Ed building, which we called "The Great Wall of Gowanus." It looks like Brooklyn's "Park Avenue" is off to a shaky start architecturally speaking.

Crest Two

Crest Three

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Bklink: "Brooklyn Under Seige"

From the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Best & Worst of 2007 list comes "Brooklyn Under Seige." Needless to say, Brooklyn is included on the "worst" list. Topics covered include Ikea, Coney Island and Ward Bakery.--Preservation Nation via No Land Grab

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Brand New: The Tear Down & Build Up Gallery

The year is ending and the new year beginning in Greenwood Heights in much the same way that 2007 did: with residents keeping an eye on a new development in their neighborhood and creating an interesting model for other neighborhoods. The Greenwood Heights crew used YouTube vids documenting construction issues on development to great effect this year. In this case, it's the demolition of a 1900 two-story home on 23rd Street and construction of new condo that is being chronicled by Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights. The "Tear Down & Build Up Gallery" is online. From the email we got:
As many of you know, in July of 2007, our neighbor at 312 23rd Street, Brooklyn, NY sold his circa 1900's wood frame 2 story home to a local developer. In a nutshell, tear down the old, build up with the new. Here's to a slightly biased documentation of the demolition of the "old" 312 23rd Street and construction of the "new" 312 23rd Street condos...AND, have photos of your own? Send them to us, and we'll add them...And as always, if you see something fishy at 312, CALL 311, take a snapshot and let us know asap. We hope this new development site's documentation will be a treasure to remember and not an bad-boy to forget. So far so good.
There are already a lot of photos of the process online.


Upcoming: Prospect Park New Year's Eve Fireworks

New Years Eve Fireworks 2007

The New Year's Firework are GL's favorite Brooklyn New Year's thing.

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Brooklinks: Monday Last Day of 2007 Edition

Dancer 2008

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images. Happy New Year to all. May all be well in the 365 days to come.


Street Couch Series: Noble Seating

Noble Street Seat

Our latest Street Couch Series installment is more of a van seat than a sofa, but it is, nonetheless, street seating. This specimen, from Noble Street in Greenpoint, comes to us courtesy of our Greenpoint correspondent.


Will a Parking Lot Foil City's Coney Plan?


Politics makes strange bedfellows, and the most bizarre of all may turn out to be the odd alliances forged by the Bloomberg's Coney redevelopment plan and its effort to dislodge developer Joe Sitt from the amusement district and to swap the parking lot next to KeySpan Park for the developer's property. The rub, of course, is that the KeySpan lot (and the Abe Stark Ice Rink) are defined as parkland. The parkland has to be be "alienated" (or de-parked) in order for it to be transfered. And so, on the last day of the week after Christmas, State Sen. Carl Kruger held forth on the need for a lengthy environmental review before that can happen. As it turned out, New Yorkers for Parks, had asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation for an advisory opinion, which Sen. Kruger used. The city wants to swap 9.6 acres of land (the bulk of which is a parking lot but that is defined as parkland) for 10 acres of land Mr. Sitt owns in the amusement district. The land swap requires legislative approval. Of the involvement of New Yorkers for Parks, the Times reports:
Christian DiPalermo, executive director of the nonprofit group New Yorkers for Parks, asked for the advisory opinion to ensure that the public had more chance to comment before parkland is lost. Mr. DiPalermo said his group was not opposed to the Coney Island plan as long as the proper environmental procedures were followed.
Will an extensive environmental review process be required over a parking lot (an an ice rink that the city's plans show will be replaced)? Will pro-parks groups and environmental organizations align themselves those trying to slow or stop the city's plan? One sensed many possible legal and bureaucratic fights when the city's plan was announced. All it will take is a couple of legal challenges, and the city's plan could be effectively halted for the duration of the Bloomberg Administration.


Say What--Alternate Side Down

Say What--Alternate Side Down 2

From Roebling Street in Williamsburg comes one of Brooklyn's many, many violated alternate side parking signs. Oops.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Coney News: Lola Staar's New Shop and Roller Rink (?) + Carl Kruger's Parking Lot Fight

Things may be literally quiet in Coney Island except for the barking of guard dogs, but there is activity to report. Entrepreneur Lola Staar, who was almost forced from her boardwalk shop last year by developer Joe Sitt, has sent out an email announcement saying that she will be opening a "new boutique in Coney Island this spring! Our second Coney Island shop will be located inside the sparkling new, fabulously renovated Stillwell Avenue Subway station!" The fascinating part of Ms. Staar's email however is this:
Another, even more exciting dream is in the works for 2008. A preliminary manifestation of Lola's dream to build a Roller Rink in Coney Island may take place this summer! We will keep you updated as Lola's exciting dream unfolds!
A "preliminary manifestation" that "may take place this summer"? We understand that to mean a temporary roller skating facility for the summer. Will it be on city-owned property? On the land that Mr. Sitt cleared last winter that it now sitting unused and vacant? In the meantime, State Sen. Carl Kruger held a press conference on Friday to say that there would have to be a long environmental review process before the city could "alienate" (or de-park) 9.6 acres of land next to KeySpan Park that currently is classified as a park. (In reality, it's a parking lot, plus the ugly and underused Abe Stark Ice Rink.) More thoughts on whether an environmental impact study will be needed to change the status of a baseball stadium parking lot from "park" to land for development, tomorrow.

[Image courtesy of Lola Staar]


Disconnected in Brooklyn on Craigslist: Bocce Balled

It's Sunday, so we turn again to our Brooklyn Craigslist Missed Connection. This week we not only have our first Bocce Missed Connection, but our first Bocce Injury Missed Connection. Here it is:
Hit in the face with a bocci ball? - m4w - 24

We were at a bar on union street in brooklyn, sunday night. ran into you in the bathroom.. wanted to talk to you later on. as i was making my attempt BAM!! you were struck by a whizzing bocci ball in the face. karma? not sure. but i still can't believe it happend. hope your healing and able to enjoy all the goodness over the holidays.. merry christmas!


Bklink: 2007 New Year's Eve Guide

For a nice guide to New Year's possibilities in Brooklyn, have a look at this thoughtful compilation. You might just get an idea or two.--About Brooklyn

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Brooklinks: Sunday Lite Edition

On the Sofa: GL Reader Comments

Once a week, we take a look at some comments left by GL readers during the previous seven days. This week, a post relating a local professor's experience at Central Booking in Brooklyn generated a huge number of comments.

Brooklyn Jail Nightmare: One Woman's Story:

"Brooklyn Central Booking is manned and maintained by the NYPD. Their are no "guards" involved in the process. The"guards" who work as Correction Officers in the NY DOC man Queens and Manhattan Central Booking. Ask anyone who has had the misfortune to have been through either of those facilites that in all honesty those facilities are kept as clean as possible. I'll tell you why. I recently retired from one of those places and I refused to work in filthy conditions. I was locked in with the pre-arraignment prisoners for 8 to 16 hours. Yes people got sick. Yes we gave out bologna sandwiches that I would not eat. When people got sick we called the NYPD so that they could come and get their prisoner and take them to get medical care. If they didn't show up in a timely fashion we bucked it up to our supervisors who would them get on the phone with the NYPD supervisors. Only in an extreme emergency would we be allowed (due to NYPD-NYDOC policy) to take a prisoner to get medical care. I could not give out food that I did not have but I would check the sandwiches to make sure that they were not stale or moldy before I gave them to anyone. The bread does get hard quickly because its made on Rikers and doesn't contain preservatives. The Department rarely gave us cheese sandwiches. I can't say that I enjoyed my job but I did meet hundreds of young men and women who I hope my talking with them as I processed them made a difference for them. It didn't matter to me if they were accused of raping a baby or jumping the turnstile everyone had my ear for the five minutes or so that it took to process them. I know that Brooklyn Central Booking is the pits and I can't apologize for the filth because there is no excuse but unlike the Correction Officers who see Central Booking as a preferred command, the NYPD see it as punishment. Many of the cops assigned their work the "rubber gun squad" meaning they are pending Departmental charges and may end losing their jobs anyway. I don't have the answer except that it takes money to staff it with people who want to be there like CO's who would otherwise be on Rikers. Most people of course would vote for more school or hospital funding rather than funding to improve conditions for people who they perceive to be low lifes." [COnoMO]

"it's not about the cops, but about the conditions. In my case, I let someone walk through the turnstile with me (her Metrocard said 'just used', as in she paid the fare but the turnstile didn't work). Just inside, an undercover cop stopped is. She got a ticket but I -- as I still had an out -of-state drivers license -- was cuffed, walked on a daisy chain THROUGH A SUBWAY STATION AT RUSH HOUR and taken to central booking. It was all very much as described (except there were no sanitary pads for the men). Even still, we had the same sandwiches scattered all over the floor, especially around the toilet. After about 9 hours of people urinating all over them, another batch of people were brought into the cell. One of them immediately got down on all floors and started eating the piss-soaked bread like there was no tomorrow." [Anonymous]

"That sounds similar to my experience, except I also had the fun of having the police lose my fingerprints for two days and a woman die in our holding cell. We were left alone the night she died for more than twelve hours with no water, food or guards. She was screaming for help for about half that time. None came. In the morning she was dead. We were all questioned, but I think they ruled it a drug overdose. I'm not sure, because at that point they let me go. Kudos to you for writing about this, after my experience I was too shaken up to do so." [Anonymous]

Petition to Stop Eviction of Court Street Tailor/Cleaner. "That dry cleaners is as old as dirt. And I'm amazed the sign has lasted. It's the same one I remember from 1970. In the 1950s, that location was a grocery/sandwich shop called Sullivan's. A lot of their business was selling hero sandwiches to the students from St. Francis College, which was on Baltic St. till 1960." [Ex-Warren Street Denizen]


Upcoming: Prospect Park New Year's Eve Fun Run

We've posted about this a while ago, but now that New Year's is upon us: the 2007-2008 New Years Fun Run will be happening tomorrow night (12/31) at 11:15PM Prospect Park. The start and finish line of the 3.3 mile race is the park's Grand Army Plaza entrance. It's sponsored by the Brooklyn Road Runners Club and Slope Sports and the entry fees are as follows: $15 for Brooklyn Road Runners Club members and $20 for non-members before December 30. (We're not clear if today counts or not, so check with the sponsors.) Race Day registration is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. One can register or pick up numbers at Slope Sports, which is at 70 Seventh Avenue, between Lincoln & Berkeley, in Park Slope. The telephone number is 718-230-4686. Registration hours are: Sun. Dec. 30th, 12PM-5PM, Race Day, Mon., Dec 31st, 11AM-5PM. There is also on-site registration from 10:30PM-11:00PM on New Year's Eve. All the info is at the Slope Sports site. Louise Crawford of OTBKB is thinking about running in the race, and has also posted info about it. Give her a wave and a big thank you for all the great work she's done this year if you see her.

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GL Sunday TV: Prospect Park Fireworks

A few vids of fireworks in Prospect Park, in honor of tomorrow night's annual show.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coney Island at the Close of 2007


In contrast to last winter, when developer Joe Sitt's bulldozers were working to demolish a square block of the amusement district, Coney Island is very, very quiet this winter. The land that Mr. Sitt cleared last winter is empty and surrounded by a blue fence. Several of the buildings he owns remain boarded up, adding an air of added rot. A broken pipe in one of Mr. Sitt's buildings continues to spew water, as it's been doing for weeks. The dogs guarding the kiddie rides that remain on the developer's land continue to growl and bark at passersby as they do every winter. The cross placed atop the Wonder Wheel for the holidays is there. Yesterday was a warm day, so quite a few people were out on the boardwalk, which remains as decrepit as always and a danger to life and limb. Enjoy our slideshow below.


Carroll Gardens Activists and Democracy Wall on Local TV Today

losinghtesky2 007

Some of the founders of the CORD group, which established itself as a voice in Carroll Gardens development issues after it coalesced around the controversial 360 Smith Street building, will be on News 12 this evening. Group members were interviewed at the Carroll Gardens Democracy Wall in the plaza at the Carroll Street subway stop. The report will include the role the space we named the Democracy Wall has played in getting messages out in the community. It's actually the second News 12 segment on the wall and 360 Smith Street development. The tentative first air time for the segment is 5:30PM.

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Bklink: The Last Donut

"The classic corrugated signage which read "Donuts Coffee Shop" had been taken down and all that was left was the broad white background. The woman behind the counter said someone had bought it and taken it down the previous day. There was a good crowd inside. About three-quarters of the stools were occupied. A photographer from Brooklyn Paper was there clicking away. A few donuts remained in the racks. I asked for a plain and a coffee ($1.50)." Read the full post.--Lost City

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Brooklinks: Saturday Nearing the End Edition

[Photo courtesy of Flatbush Gardener/flickr]

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


Upcoming: Electronics Recycling in Flatbush

Have some old or (newly made old by holiday gifts) electronics devices? Well, here's another opportunity to get rid of them in an environmentally friendly way: Sustainable Flatbush's Post-Holiday E-Waste Recycling Event. It will take place on Saturday, January 5 and on Sunday, January 6 fromm 1PM to 5PM. The location wil be 462 Marlborough Road, which is between Ditmas and Dorchester in Flatbush. Among the devices being accepted are computers (laptop & desktop), monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers, networking devices, keyborards, hard drives, power supplies, TVs, VCRs, DVD player, cell phones and more. However, they can't take household appliances like microwaves and toasters. Media such as disks and tapes goes to, through which one can also directly send media for recycling. Materials will be recycled via the Lower East Side Ecology Center's partnership with BuildItGreen. Sustainable Flatbush is a sponsor of this event.

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Bklink: Water Taxi Revolt

The suspension of East River service by New York Water Taxi is not sitting well with others. There's a meeting this morning at Schaeffer Landing in Williamsburg to talk about getting some service restored before May 1, 2008.--Brooklyn 111211

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Say What--Curvy One Way Sign

Say What -- Roebling Street One Way Sign

Our Greenpoint correspondent found and submitted this exceptional specimen, which comes from Roebling Street in the center of compromised signs, Williamsburg. Doesn't look like a turning truck did violence to this one, does it?

Update: The sign is the work of artist Brad Downey, who has installed some very cool things around Brooklyn and Queens.

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Fun Vid: Check Out Coney Island Memory Drops

A couple of old timers recall Coney Island. Totally worth watching.


Friday, December 28, 2007

GL's 15 Top Brooklyn Stories of 2007

There were many big stories in Brooklyn this year, but there was less drama in 2007, particularly with so many critical and controversial decisions having been made in 2006. Clearly, the Coney Island drama was the top development story of '07, but it was followed closely by the continuing saga of Atlantic Yards, which could still end up as a very different project than the one announced four years ago. Last year, we said that 2006 was symbolically as important as 1957 when the Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets field. This year, we will say that 2007 was more like 1958--the year that reality started to set in. For instance, an entirely new Williamsburg--which currently resembles a construction hell more than a neighborhood in places--started to emerge and Fourth Avenue between Park Slope and Gowanus started sprouting a series of condos. There was certainly less drama in 2007--there were no Greenpoint Terminal Market infernos or caustic and divisive public meetings about Atlantic Yards--but the change that continued to wash over our borough has been no less dramatic and will alter the very fabric of Brooklyn for many decades to life.

1) Coney Island. The year started with developer Joe Sitt sending in bulldozers to clear land, but by year's end, Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff had declared that Mr. Sitt was toast in terms of Coney's amusement district. The Brooklyn story of 2007 shows every sign that it could be the story of '08 too as a huge battle shapes up.

2) Atlantic Yards. If 2006 was the year that this mega-project created deep divisions in Brooklyn, 2007 was the year of delays, new questions and construction prep work. Will 2008 be the year that ground is officially broken on the project that will change Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene and environs forever? Or will a court decision, credit crisis-related issues and a softening real estate market throw more curve balls at this development? Stay tuned.

3) The Rebranding of Williamsburg. The Next Wave of change in Williamsburg, from hipster enclave to Luxury Condo Outpost continued went full speed in '07 and along with it came more embarrassing marketing efforts to sell Williamsburg to an entirely different demographic. More to come in 2008 as more of the unnamed developments under construction start coming to market.

4) The Brooklyn Construction Crisis. From South Brooklyn to North Brooklyn and everywhere in between, the Number One quality of life story in 2007 was the collateral damage of the Brooklyn Building Boom and the Department of Building's inability or unwillingness to do anything to police the process in any meaningful way. While the Department claimed to make strides, it was outgunned and outsmarted at every turn by an onslaught of development that turned the borough into a Darwinian land of survival of the fittest if the construction and demolition contractors got to work on one's block.

5) Landmarking. After 2006 saw the destruction of landmarks like the Greenpoint Terminal Market, Red Hook's Todd Shipyard and Williamsburg's Old Dutch Mustard Factory, preservationists could finally point to some important wins and buildings saved from the wrecking ball. In Williamsburg, several important buildings of the old Domino Sugar Plant (although not all significant historic structures) were landmarked as was McCarren Pool. Significant new landmark districts were also created around the borough in Dumbo, Greenpoint and Crown Heights to name a few.

6) The New Domino. The year started with concerns about the demolition of the historic Domino Plant in Williamsburg. By early summer, developers trotted out plans for the New Domino, with 2,400 apartments and towers up to 30-40 stories tall. It would be the second biggest new development in Brooklyn after Atlantic Yards and would add up to 4,000 residents to Williamsburg.

7) The Flatbush Corridor Boom. No longer the stuff of renderings, the Flatbush Corridor/Downtown boom started in earnest in 2007, with major new buildings breaking ground or underway. The towers will be rising in 2008, forever changing the looking of Flatbush Avenue and surroundings.

8) The Remaking of Red Hook. Anyone who hasn't been on Beard Street in a couple of years will be forgiven for thinking they're in Elizabeth, NJ. Ikea has risen. The Revere Plant is gone. And, the odds are better than 50-50 that quiet Red Hook will be home to endless traffic jams at this time next year.

9) The Carroll Gardens Development Revolt. The plan to build at 360 Smith Street sparked a serious movement to put the downzoning of the entire neighborhood on the fast track. This one isn't over by a long shot.

10) Toxic Brooklyn. From the hideous Exxon-Mobil Oil Spill in Greepoint to smaller problems like the Roebling Oil Field and the horrors underfoot in Gowanus, there were a myriad of environmental issues attached to booming residential development in formerly industrial neighborhoods with relatively lax regulatory supervision. How many developers will strike oil in Williamsburg in 2008? Will buyers be interested in luxury condos on sites with questionable environmental pasts as the market softens? So many questions.

11) The Hotel Boom. From almost nothing to thousands of rooms in development, 2007 will go down in history as the year thousands of Brooklynites began to think about being able to find mom and dad a room right in place like Gowanus.

12) Starrett City. Call it the Stuy Town Effect, but Starrett City residents found themselves on the winning end of a battle to preserve affordable housing at the huge rental complex. Opponents torpedoed the sale of the complex, although 2008 will determine whether it was a temporary reprieve or a real save.

13) The Rise of Fourth Avenue. It may not be the new Park Avenue, but with new condos and demolitions everywhere you look (or may not want to look, given how ugly some are), it's definitely not the old Fourth Avenue.

14) No Way to One Way. Rarely have Park Slope residents gotten as riled up as when the Department of Transportation floated a proposal to make Sixth and Seventh Avenues one-way streets. The Slope said shove it, and DOT did.

15) Sludgie the Whale. RIP brave little friend.

80 Metropolitan Claiming More Williamsburg Territory

80 Met Continued

The huge 80 Metropolitan complex in Williamsburg, which will cover most of a city block, is marching forward. Workers are currently at the corner of Metropolitan and Kent Avenue putting scaffolding up around 215 and 211 Kent Avnue, which is officially known as 56 Metropolitan. The buildings are adjacent to Steiner Equities 80 Metropolitan, which includes the site of the demolished Old Dutch Mustard Building. Permits have been issued for 56 Metropolitan, which also comes from Greenberg Farrow and is a seven-story building with 50 units. 80 Metropolitan, meanwhile, is a six-story building with 123 units. The boxy Steiner block, which reminds us more of something one would find in Washington, DC rather than Brooklyn, will also include some "town homes" for individual buyers. The site has been the location of a variety of anti-condo scrawls.


Burg's Fart Cloud Building Mess To "Get a Lot Worse"

5 Roebling Repairs

We swung by the atrocious demolition site at 5 Roebling Street in Williamsburg formerly known as the Giant Fart Cloud Building and found a busy situation. Workers were patching a wall of a neighboring building that had been damaged during demolition. We watched a huge trailer pull in and hoist a dumpster until it stood nearly two stories in the air and then drop it with such force that the ground shook across the street. All in a day's work, allowed to continue with a wink and a nod, we suppose. We got the following email from blogger Bad Advice, who has chronicled much of the awfulness of living next to a Wild West demolition site. It concerns a visit from a DOB inspector. The good news is that the DOB cared enough about the situation to send someone. The bad news is that he basically told her that she and her neighbors are screwed. Here it is:
So yesterday I'm home and my buzzer rings. I go downstairs to answer the door and it's a Department of Buildings inspector! I was so excited! Christmas came late, but that's okay. Or not. He tells me he has a report of the building shaking, cracks in the wall and apartments filled with dust. I try to get him into my two first-floor neighbors' apartments, but neither are home, so I tell him what happened. Anyway, I'm so excited to see someone from the DOB that I told him all we've been going through, how horrible it's been and how MMG [the demolition contractor] is doing all this illegal stuff and nobody seems to care.

He says there's no proof of that. I tell him that I have video of them using a backhoe for demolition. He starts to back away, obviously not wanting to deal. I remind him that video is proof and he's welcome to it. He tells me that I should look on the website and maybe there's somewhere there that'll tell me where to send it because it's no good to him. He needs proof.

I ask him if there's anything we can do when they're working at night or on weekends or jeopardizing our building's structure. He seriously advises me to call 311. WTF? So I just start laughing and ask him how effective that is when they send an inspector four days after the fact and refuse to even look at any proof of wrongdoing. The guy is acting like I'm a mental case! I need to point out that I was completely pleasant and was more amused at his obvious discomfort at actually having to do his job than anything approaching anger.

So I look on the DOB website today and all the complaints are marked as resolved. His parting comment to me was, "It's going to get a LOT worse."
Therein is the crux of the conundrum. DOB requires "proof" of illegal work or violations. Yet, they lack the resources to develop such "proof." Hence, developers and contractors, in effect, are granted carte blanche to violate laws and regulations at will, because lacking an inspector on site during work hours and unable to respond to anything but complaints involving threats to safety and building stability in a timely way, there is never "proof." Catch 22, anyone?

If it's going to get "a lot worse," we'll be doing a lot of writing about what we will probably dub the "Williamsburg Building from Hell" in 2008, unless the DOB takes action and refuses to issue permits for a site that its own inspector indicates will "get a lot worse" in terms of doing serious violence to the quality of life of neighbors.

5 Roebling Dumpster

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Bklink: Donald Trump + David Yassky + Radiac = The Irridium

If you read one thing today, make it this tongue-in-cheek prediction about a new Trump Condo that will be announced next year for the Radiac site on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg: "In November 2008, Donald Trump and Councilman David Yassky announced Trump's first Brooklyn venture: the Trump Irridium, a 29-story residential tower to be built at Kent Avenue and Grand Street in Williamsburg....At a Kent Avenue press conference, a radiant Yassky explained the historic compromise that involves preserving the iconic stucco structure by building the residential tower atop it, and demolishing the neighboring block of historic commercial buildings." Affordable housing where the waste used to be stored, friends. It could work.--INSIJS

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Roebling Oil Building Now Has Warehouse 11 Banners

We could hardly contain our joy at finding banners officially proclaiming the Roebling Oil Building at the former Roebling Oil Field site at N. 11th and Roebling Streets in Williamsburg as Warehouse 11 (or W11 for short). This means the marketing and sales push are full speed ahead in 2008 for the luxe condo that has risen on the formerly contaminated site adjacent to a "localized oil plume." As luck would have it, we reached into the hard drive archive, which has hundreds of weekly shots showing the site when it was just-plain-foul-and-polluted, and selected one taken exactly a year before the shot on top. Ah, digital memories.

Roebling Oil 12-26-06-07

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Brooklinks: Friday End of Year Buzz Edition

Bklink: Strong Place Church Conversion, Updated

Early last year, the Strong Place Church conversion to condos got under way. Work is going forward, albeit slowly. "The conversion’s protracted construction schedule probably has a lot to with the developer’s pledge to be extremely preservation-conscious, though we’re wondering how it’s sitting with nearby residents."--Brownstoner

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The Original Carroll Street Bridge Garfields Revealed

Carroll St Bridge Garfields

A couple of weeks ago, we posted some photos of the Garfields on the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal. Then, we heard from the person that placed the Garfields there, which is a tale worth reading in and of itself. The Garfields have been greatly diminished in number, presumably being taken by people that wanted a stuffed Garfield. In any case, the photo below is one of several sent to us by the person that placed the Gowanus Garfields. There were originally, as one can see, a very large group of them.

Carroll Street Garfields

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Bklink: New Coney History Website

Check out a new website produced by College of William & Mary students called Coney Island and the Modernization of America. "The website is a great source for those interested in leaning about the history of Coney Island. Their sources page is probably the only Internet site where one can find most books and articles written on Coney's future in one place."--Kinetic Carnival

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The GL Street Couch Series: Kent and Metropolitan Edition

Kent and Metropolitan Street Sofa

Although winter is not prime outdoor couch season, we bring back our Street Couch Series today with this specimen, which was located at Kent and Metropolitan Avenues, facing 184 Kent and Northside Piers.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Brooklyn Jail Nightmare: One Woman's Story

Let's say you have an unpaid summons for having your dog off its leash that was dismissed, but never recorded properly in the system. Let's also say that circumstances lead you to make a questionable choice and go through a subway turnstile without paying. Here's what happened to a person with the dog issue who went through the turnstile. The art professor at a respected Manhattan-based institution and Brooklyn resident that relates this was locked up for more than 24 hours on a Saturday nearly two weeks ago. She wrote GL because she was horrified at the conditions at the Brooklyn Central Booking on Schermerhorn Street between Smith and Boerum Place. (It is next to the Brooklyn Detention Center and basically across the street from the 75 Smith condo and future Smith Hotel.) Here is her story:
I was going to see a student in Manhattan. I went to the Nevins Street 4/5 station. The Metrocard machine did not take my ATM card and was not accepting bills! No one was in the booth, but the place was lit up and seemingly occupied. I thought that was odd. So, I decided to pass through turnstile. I heard someone on the platform below, a cop was there with the token booth worker! I wondered if this was a ticket quota trap.

He was just going to let me go when he punched in my info and it came up that there was a warrant out for my arrest. A squad car was called. They cuffed me and brought me to the precinct in the Hoyt Jay station where they found that my warrant was for an unpaid off leash summons. I had tried to pay the summons, but they had dismissed everyone at the Schermerhorn sc court that day because of a Building Dept. hearing that had backed up the whole day. Obviously, the dismissal was not processed through the system.

So, I was locked up for three hours in a cell. No matter how absurd my case was, when they begin the process of inquiry or arrest, they cannot reverse it. After 3 hours of paperwork and sitting in a precinct cell, no water working phone in precinct office(?), they asked me if i had drugs on me! The only thing i had was a New Yorker and almonds. They brought me over to Central Booking. Same thing--cuffs and car. Central Booking is appalling. The cell is 12 x 24 foot, no windows, open toilet, 3 gym mats on the flloor covered with dirt, half eaten sandwiches, an old pair of pants, spilled old milk, a small bench running the length of the room that was barely wide enough to sit on. Greasy walls, florescent lights 24 hours, noise, screaming, a pay phone, 6 woman were in there when i went in. It was "a slow night" and in the cell across the way there were 8 woman. By the end of the night , they had put in 8 more woman in my cell. We were sleeping on top of each other on the floor. If you look up on the wall, about 9 feet up, there are signs that say don't expect to be out before 24 hours, water available upon request, meal time hours (that's when they throw boxes of cereal through the bars) and sanitary pads available upon request. 24 hours before you can even hope to be out of there!!!!!

There was a 16 year old girl that had been in there for 2 and a half days, she had been taken in because one of the men that had been in a car with her (been pulled over for a broken headlight) had a gun on him. She was young, clueless, frantic and couldn't stop crying. There is no available water. The prison guards crank the radio up in the hall so we couldn't sleep. (A lot of the women in there are crack addicts, so they were throwing up and getting sick.) They occasionally come by to toss some frosted flakes or bologna sandwiches into the cells. You cannot ask anyone a question about anything because there is no one to ask. I have long arms, so I stuck my arm out of the cell and reached to the sink out side of the cell to get some water--no one wanted any because of were it came from--plus it took me 5 calls to the guard to get cups. Needless to say the guards are assholes. Everyone pees and throws up in the open.

They cleared out the cell across from us because there were mice in there. I slept with my head facing the toilet. I couldn't breath because the disinfectant smell was so strong but nothing was clean. At 9 in the morning my lawyer came in. He commented that this facility was worse than the men's Tombs in Manhattan. My case was about 10 cases away from being heard. That would be 6 hours later and there was nothing to do but wait.

There seemed to be a giant amount of racial profiling going on -- alot of woman in the cell were just picked up wrongly and booked for supposed violations. (Open bottle of alcohol.) It seemed that they wanted to put as many black folk in the system as possible. I grew up in brooklyn in the 70s . My dad grew up here. I am not a naive, knucklehead from a transferred suburban bubble. This "pick up anyone for anything and process them for it" as my lawyer informed me, was a Guiliani mandate. It is racist. It has divided this city and it is making this place a plasticized suburb that I don't think I have the heart to remain in. It is disturbing to watch these rich kids prance around Smith Street, when 2 blocks away, there is a cell where you are held without communication, water, food and logic. The judge threw my case out in 2 seconds and was visibly irritated that i was locked up for a day for an offleash summons.

When I left the building 25 hours later, I realized that just one block away, there are $3 million townhouses. PS: the 16 year old that was in the cell for 2 and a half days...her case was also dismissed.
The contrast between the ugliness inside and privilege outside will be even stronger if the city goes ahead with plans to reopen the bigger jail complex and add luxe condos and retail.

[Photo courtesy of Property Shark]

Check Out the Gowanus Project

Gowanus Project

Writer Matt Sollars emailed us to bring our attention to a fascinating site about Gowanus and the Gowanus Canal that he put together as part of work on a Masters Degree at the CUNY Journalism School. It includes some interesting vids about different Gowanus issues, including a particularly fascinating one about the Ferrara Brothers concrete operation. The plant has been there since 1969, but the land was taken by the city via eminent domain in 1974. Now, the plant would have to go as part of the Public Place development plant, although the owners have appealed to the city to have a place in the "new" Gowanus. (At one community meeting, we heard the owner make his case directly to Planning Director Amanda Burden.) The concrete it provides is key to a large number of downtown Manhattan building projects, including redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. The Gowanus location is key as there is a "ninety minute rule" in the concrete business that means the product has ninety minutes to make it to a construction site before it's rendered useless. The are other interesting vids too, including one on a sweater manufacturer that is becoming shared space for artists, one on Public Place and Gowanus artists, one on the general plan for Public Place and an interview with Buddy Scotto about his belief in a Riverwalk-type development the need for higher density in Gowanus.

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Bklink: Last Minute Donations

Sure, you're finished with holiday giving. But might you need a tax deduction for 2007? Here's a list of Brooklyn and NYC nonprofits where you can make a donation by Dec. 31 and get that deduction.--Green Brooklyn


Construction Site Du Jour: 568 Union Avenue

568 Union Fence

In contrast to most site around Williamsburg yesterday, which were buzzing with weekday construction work, 568 Union Avenue was quiet. (This is slightly ironic in that when demolition was going on some neighbors stuck "No Weekend Work" stickers on the fence.) That was then, however, and this is now. For now, 568 Union is quiet. (To see the future Chocolate, click here.) It only has a fence that is open enough to allow access to the site and that is so shoddy that it appears ready to fall over on the sidewalk. The Department of Buildings, on a recent visit, noted that the "fence has holes and is in danger of collapse." Several violations, the most recent on December 21, have been written on the former Manhattan Chocolate Building. The collapsing, open fence now has a violation notice taped to it.

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Brooklinks: Thursday Post-Christmas, Pre-New Years Edition