Monday, April 30, 2007

How to Make Coney Island "Year Round": Build an Ocean Dome


So, here's the "year-round" Coney Island solution, though it does look like it takes up a lot of real estate. It comes from Japan, from whence a lot of interesting land use, planning and architectural ideas originate. (Dubai is an excellent source as well.) This came to our attention in the context of someone circulating it as a joke vis a vis McCarren Pool, but we know a unique Coney Island concept when we see one. It's part of the Phoenix SeaGaia Resort in Miyazaki.

Check out this description of the Ocean Dome and, then, tell us it doesn't rock:
Perched upon a towel, stretched out on an immaculate white beach, I have turquoise sea in front of me and a cloudless sky overhead. Not a bee, sand fly or mosquito can be seen. The weather is perfect. It’s warm enough for swimming in the inviting sea, but there is no danger of sunburn. A cold drink lays close at hand, along with a thick, juicy novel.

Suddenly, a strange haze drifts into view. Smoke envelops the top of a nearby mountain, which begins spitting out sparks of fire. Eruptions can be most annoying, but not here, not in paradise. As the volcano stirs to life, I don’t even bother. Checking my watch, I see it’s only the half-hour eruption. Returning to my book, I savor a smile. There is still another 30 minutes before the mountain blows its top.

Paradise proceeds with clockwork precision inside Ocean Dome, Japan’s unique, sometimes surrealistic, but utterly updated version of the Garden of Eden. Inside a huge dome that could house six football pitches, the world’s largest artificial sea washes over the biggest indoor beach, fringed with fake palm trees and other eye-popping innovations that have given a holiday make-over to old Mother Nature.

This evocative 21st Century resort shows that even paradise has room for improvement. In Ocean Dome, once every hour, on the hour, the surf is always up. Every afternoon is a carnival. Mechanized parrots squawk from branches of the dome’s ingenious rain forest, which remain lush and tropical without rainfall or humidity. Best of all, in Ocean Dome, you can lull for hours on crushed marble pebbles without a worry about beach vendors, bugs or sun burns.

Instead, perfectly-timed waves whip equally well-groomed surfers along in 28-degree, chlorinated, salt-free water to the sanitized shore where they drip-dry in Ocean Dome’s perfect climate, which remains a delightful 30 degrees, day and night, 365.25 days each year.
Note to Thor Equities: This one's a winner. It could be the Bellaggio of Water Parks.



Related Post:
Lord Foster's Kazakhstan Plan Would Make Coney Year-Round Attraction
Sitt Hires a Coney Island Design Consultant

Labels: ,

Sakura Matsuri: The Slideshow

glitter graphic myspace at
myspace graphics

A little slideshow from the Sakura Matsuri Festival this weekend at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. If this doesn't work for you, you can head over to our flickr slideshow by clicking here.


Atlantic Yards on a Map in Under Ten Years

Here's a mashup of an Atlantic Yards map with projected completion dates of buildings through 2016. Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder, who posts this today, notes of the completion dates that "time will tell whether it's a valid reference or a fantasy." Estimates of the timeline for the full project range up to 15-20 years, which would put the completion dates in "Phase II" well past 2016, into the 2020s. If the 20-year estimate is accurate, children born on the day of the parapet collapse last week will be in college before a building is ever built on the site. Put another way, blocks of what used to be Prospect Heights will sit as "interim surface parking" for almost two decades. The graphic was created by Abby Weissman at


Don't Forget the Brooklyn Blogfest, Now with Cool Poster

The Second Annual Brooklyn Blogfest is next week, on May 10th at 8 p.m. at the Old Stone House in JJ Byrne Park. OTBKB, which is organizing the event, has posted this cool poster, which should be appearing in some different spots around Brooklyn. The poster was created by blogger, Lisa Di Liberto of Urban Seashell. For more info on the Blogfest, click over to the blog that OTBKB has created for it.


Brooklinks: Monday Happy Bee Edition

Happy Bee

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


New Brooklyn Blog: Walksbklyn

[Photo courtesy of Walksbklyn]

A GL reader who got in touch some time ago as he was moving to Gowanus, emailed to let us know that he's started a new blog. It's called Walkbklyn and the blogger respectfuly acknowledges that the name "was delicately lifted and then modified from Runs Brooklyn...I just don't have the stamina to actually run Brooklyn." In any case, Walksbklyn features the bloggers walks around the neighborhood with his dog, which gets at three of our very favorite things: information about Gowanus and environs, cool neighborhood photos and cute dog pics. How can you possibly go wrong? There have been 37 posts so far in April, so blogger and dog (Chester) have already covered some territory. We are told, however, that Chester is in Boston for a couple of weeks and his "parents" are traveling a bit, so enjoy the April posts and look for more upon everyone's return to Gowanus.


Greenpoint Oil Spill TV Redux

Any coverage of the awful Exxon-Mobil Greenpoint Oil Spill is to be applauded, and so we were interested to get an email from WNET announcing a definite Tivo moment: an episode of New York Voices on the Greenpoint Oil Spill this Friday, May 4 at 10 PM.

The email about the show says:
For over 50 years, residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, have been living on top of an astonishing 17 million gallon oil spill that contaminated the waters of Newtown Creek, left behind from the oil refinery industry in the 40's and 50's, and seeped into the surrounding land. Many residents are claiming that they and the people around them are sick with cancer as a result of the spill, yet little has been done to rectify this situation...

New York Voices joins chief investigator Basil Seggos from RiverKeeper, an environmental watch group, on a tour of Newtown Creek. Seggos discusses the damage caused by the 17 million gallons of oil (50 percent more than the amount that saturated Alaska's coast from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill), and the danger this kind of pollution poses to the surrounding areas, homes, businesses and people of Brooklyn and Queens. Riverkeeper is suing ExxonMobil, among others, to hold the corporation responsible for the spill and enforce a long over-due clean-up.

Greenpoint residents are frustrated with the lack of attention given to the spill. They believe there is a strong connection to the alarming trend among family members and neighbors who are sick with cancer and the oil vapors and toxic soil found under their homes. The New York Health Department has known about the spill since 1978 but they have never conducted an official health study...
Should be interesting viewing. Speaking of which, if you didn't catch the superb series on environmental issues in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, make sure you watch the seven episodes of Toxic Brooklyn. Knowledge may not change anything, but at least, you know.


Interesting Vid: Williamsburg Under Construction

Check out this video of "Williamsburg Under Construction." Even though it will come up as being quite long, the vid itself is a little more than a minute. The rest is the Hot Hot Heat track used under the visuals.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

More Sakura Matsuri!


Here's a little more from the Sakura Matsuri festival yesterday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As we noted yesterday, the blossom scene leaves a little to be desired this year due to some trees that have already bloomed and lost their blossoms and a whole bunch of trees that won't be at full bloom for a few more days. However, there's excellent people watching to be had (example above and yesterday's post). Meantime, some blossom photos below. More photos and some video, tomorrow.

Blossoms One

Blossoms Three

Blossoms Two

Related Post:
Sakura Matsuri: Not Many Blossoms, but Good People Watching


Have a Look at Gowanus, Washington Park Remnants Included

[Photo courtesy of Yanksfan v. Soxfan]

The blog Yanksfan vs. Soxfan is an unexpected place to find a long and interesting post about Gowanus, nonetheless they posted one yesterday. It's actually about "New York's Oldest Extant Ballpark," which is Washington Park, one of whose walls still exists on Third Avenue. We'll let them explain:
Extant is actually a stretch. The retaining wall pictured above is the last standing vestige of Washington Park, home to the NL's Brooklyn franchise from 1898 to 1913. That wall, which now encloses a Con-Ed facility, runs along Third avanue between Third and Fourth streets in Gowanus, an amorphous industrial neigborhood sandwiched between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. The ballpark that once occupied the site was a lovely affair, with a covered grandstand and seating for nearly 20,000. A previous Washington Park, just a block away, had been home to that same Brooklyn team in its earlier affiliations...the boys were occssionally referred to as "Gowanucians." Fans came from the surrounding neigborhoods, the area was known generally as "South Brooklyn" back then, and from Manhattan, an easy commute across the then-new Brooklyn Bridge.
Click over to the full post as it's got some nice shots of our favorite neighborhood.

Related Post:
Rays of Light and Hope for Gowanucians


GL Sunday Brooklyn TV

Some new selections for a Sunday from the YouTube, including a couple of pieces on the Greenpoint Oil Spill and some just-posted vids of "UFOs" over Brooklyn. Click here if the player doesn't cooperate.


GL's Weekend Curbed Roundup

On the Sofa: GL Reader Comments

Blight Me: Is Developer Blight a New Brooklyn Tactic? "What was done in Edgemere and neighboring Arverne was criminal. For many, many years there were thriving summer bungalow colonies on the beach blocks of Rockaway stretching from the Beach 60s to the Beach 40s which were torn down for the supposed 'development' in the mid-1960s." [Richard]

Good News & Bad News on Withers Street. "I can see this monstrosity right outside my kitchen window. I hope the mold grows to engulf the whole thing and suck it back into the ground." [Anonymous]

Gowanus Lounge Turns One. "You sure are quite a sophisticated 1 year old! Looking forward to Gowanus Lounge's terrible two's." [IMBY]


Brooklinks: Sunday Day of Rest Edition

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: We Buy Gold

We Buy Gold
Bushwick, Brooklyn


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sakura Matsuri: Not Many Blossoms, but Good People Watching

Up in Tree

Let's just say that because of timing and nature, there's better people watching this year at the BBG's Cherry Blossom Festival than there is blossom watching. (Some blossoms that were out have already fallen, and a lot of trees are about to bloom, but those blossoms look like they'll be at peak mid- to late in the week.) We'll have a ton of pics and some vids coming up. Meantime, here are some teasers. Sakura Matsuri continues Sunday from 10AM-6PM, but be warned: Unless everything blossoms overnight, the blossom scene itself is a little disappointing compared to the last few years. (Everyone with a camera is jockeying to pose in front of the handful of trees that are in full bloom.) So, go and enjoy the riveting people scene and the entertainment instead.

Under the Blossoms

In Front of Blossoms

Hat Dance


Red Hook Ikea Topped Out

[Photo courtesy of Keylime Steve/flickr]

Keylime Steve, who captures some interesting shots of Red Hook, posted this image on flickr of the steel framework of the massive Red Hook Ikea as seen from the water. It has now been topped out. Steve writes:
In a tradition going back possibly as far as the late 1800's, iron workers signify the completion of their phase of construction by Topping Out (raising the American flag) the the framework to the future home of IKEA.

It amazes me how new construction like this can (apparently) apply for and receive DEC approval for sheet-piling and bulkhead restoration, whereas others who are trying to preserve and keep much of the city's historic structures (specifically Pier 41 and the Beard Street pier) from falling into the harbor can get mired in political and legal hoop-jumping for years.
Interesting how that happens, isn't it?

Time to Get Your Sakura Matsuri On, If You Dare

Cherry Blossom Map

Not that it needs any introduction or promotion, given the huge crowds that show up every year, but the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Cherry Blossom Festival takes place today and tomorrow from 10AM-6PM. There are usually long lines to get in (and this year the BBG is actually doing advance ticket sales) but one does get to enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of people with cameras crowding around trees for shots of those ephemeral and beautiful blossoms. On the other hand, by the look of the map, which shows the most current conditions, the blossoms should be around on Monday and Tuesday too. We'd highly recommend a visit, then, if you can manage it, which most people can't, which is why we'll probably bump lenses over the weekend.


Brooklinks: Saturday Very Visual Edition

[Jellybeans on the L courtesy of Martha Martha Martha/flickr]

Other Stuff:


Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: The Pepto Bismal Building

The Pepto Bismal Building
Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Labels: ,

Fun Vid: Rocketboom Goes to Coney Island

Here's a nicely produced video of a visit to Coney Island posted by Rocketboom. Very cool.


The GL Spring Fling Series: Bushwick Edition

Bushwick Blossoms
Bushwick, Brooklyn

Friday, April 27, 2007

PM Update: Ratner Workers Call Cops & Keep Working

The Prospect Heights demolitions being done by Forest City Ratner and the falling parapet situation at the Ward Bakery Building continue to be interesting today.

1) This morning the ESDC called a halt to demolition activities, but apparently, the call was ignored, at least as late as 3:00PM when workers were reported to still be working at 191 and 193 Flatbush Avenue near 5th Avenue. DDDB has had its eyes on the properties and asks, "Suspend means suspend, no?" Apparently not.

2) Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder called the ESDC, and the agency's Errol Cockfield says more oversight is coming. "There have been exhaustive plans under way for some time to provide increased oversight for the Atlantic Yards project," he told AYR.

3) Forest City Ratner demolition personnel apparently called the police on a press conference today. No Land Grab reports:
Forest City Ratner contractors doing god-knows-what at the Ward Bakery building called the police to report that a demonstration without a permit was in progress. Officers, as promised, responded to the scene midway through the press conference. CBN Co-Chair Candace Carponter told the officers that the "demonstration" was in fact a press conference, and that approximately half the "protesters" were actually reporters. Officers left the scene without making any arrests.
To think, it otherwise would have been a dull and dreary Friday.

Labels: ,

Breaking: ESDC Halts Atlantic Yards Demolitions

The Empire State Development Corp. has temporarily halted the demolitions on the Atlantic Yards site following yesterday's "parapet collapse" at Ward Bakery. Curbed reported the development a few minutes ago, and a release from the ESDC is now circulating. Here's the text of the release:
The partial collapse Thursday at the Ward Bakery building created serious disruptions. We’re thankful that no one was hurt and we recognize the need for the Atlantic Yards project to continue to progress safely, without causing disorder in the lives of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

To that end, the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner have agreed that the developer will temporarily suspend all abatement and demolition activities until the City’s Department of Buildings concludes its preliminary investigation or the City directs us otherwise.

This incident requires a reassurance to the community of the buildings’ soundness before work can proceed at the site. We are in frequent contact with the developer and various city agencies to make sure that we have fully addressed all safety concerns before activities resume. The State remains committed to the project and to its timeline for completion.
No word on the length of the investigation and whether the delay will be for a day, a week or a month.

Labels: , ,

Fun With Parapets: Ward Bakery, Before & After

Wards Before and After

Truth be told, we hadn't thought much about parapets before 10:15 yesterday morning, nor had much opportunity to use the word in our writing. Ever. In any case, here's a little Ward Bakery before and after comparison, to give an indication of just how much parapet would have landed on your head had you had the misfortune to have been on Pacific Street around 9:50AM yesterday morning. We are certain that if you had been, your sacrifice via Ratner Parapet would not have been in vain.

Labels: , ,

Last Brooklyn Neighborhood to Be Rezoned, Turn Out the Lights

How many Brooklyn neighborhoods are being downzoned, upzoned or just-plain-rezoned? A lot. In fact, the list of neighborhoods that haven't been rezoned recently, aren't currently being rezoned and aren't scheduled for rezoning may be shorter than the list of ones that were/are/will be.

Zoning is generally something that is only of interest to hardcore planning and neighborhood types, but the battles over the future of Brooklyn are being decided in these technical discussions about uses, density, FARs and the like. Everything that comes after the zoning decisions is just decoration on the tree. The tree itself is determined during the rezone.

Why do we bring this up? Only because when we were looking at the Fort Greene-Clinton Hill rezoning story the other day, it struck us that we're also dealing with make-or-break rezonings in Gowanus and Coney Island, and will likely be looking at downzonings in Dyker Heights and Sunset Park.

We've also recently seen major rezonings Downtown Brooklyn in 2004 and Park Slope in 2003, including the Fourth Avenue Corridor, which was upzoned and is now in the middle of building boom. The South Slope, meanwhile, was downzoned in 2005. Midwood was also both downzoned and upzoned in 2006, depending on the part of the neighborhood. Bensonhurst was rezoned in 2005 and a small part of Sheepshead Bay was rezoned in 2006. And, of course, there's the Mother of All Recent Rezonings, the Greenpoint and Williamsburg rezoning of 2005, which is currently bearing fruit in the crop of 30- and 40-story highrises rising on the waterfront. And, we know we're leaving a number of others in Brooklyn from the list.

Related Post:
Burden Calls Gowanus "Great, Unique" Opportunity at Polite Rezoning Meeting

Labels: ,

Brooklyn Nibbles: Red Hook Ballfields Food Opening Delayed!

Attention Brooklyn foodies: If you've been waiting for the increasingly well-known food stands at the Red Hook Ball Fields to open you are going to have to wait another weekend. The stands were supposed to open tomorrow (4/28), but the opening has been pushed back to May 5. The food blog Pork Chop Express got an email from organizers saying, "administrative issues beyond our control have forced us to push this date to May 5th...We are very excited to set-up shop (or rather... shacks!) and begin our season as soon as possible." There were reports of some booths being open last weekend, so there might be some food action this weekend too. In the meantime, the organizers report they'll soon have a website, It's not live yet, though. What will become of the some of the best Mexican and Latino food in all of New York City next year when Red Hook becomes an access corridor for the waterfront Ikea a couple of blocks away is anyone's guess. For now, though, eat up, starting Saturday, May 5.


Ward Bakery Crumbles a Little, Linkage Included

[Photo courtesy of Brit in Brooklyn]

We don't know if the collapse of a parapet at the Ward Bakery--which is being demolished by Forest City Ratner in its effort to clear blocks of property in Prospect Heights--was a harbinger of things to come or not. What we do know is that (a). it's fortunate no one was hurt except for some cars, (b). 350 people that live near the building--in particular residents of a shelter--were displaced and (c). there is continuing reaction from those concerned with the demolitions (which only began on Monday) and with the impact of the project on the community if it goes forward.

Here are links to some of the Ward's Parapet Collapse coverage:

Labels: , ,

McCarren Pool Might Be a Pool Sooner Than You Think

McCarren water five copy

Yesterday, we started to crack a joke about how McCarren Pool would become a swimming pool again around 2030. Boy, were we wrong. The Waterfront Preservation Alliance of Greenpoint and Williamsburg is reporting that money for recreating McCarren as a pool could be available sooner rather than later:
...the Mayor's FY2008 (begins July, 2007) budget includes $3.85 million for planning and design development. In addition, the City has promised $46.2 million in FY2010 (begins July, 2009) for the restoration of the pool. That means that honest-to-goodness planning could start as soon as this July, and that the construction budget would be part of Bloomberg's last budget.

Word from Community Board #1's District Manager Gerry Esposito is that the plan the City is working on is to rebuild the pool as an Olympic-sized pool. We'll reserve judgment on the plan itself until we see the details, and for now applaud the fact that the McCarren Pool might soon have water.
An Olympic-sized pool would only be about one-third of the size of the former pool, which already seems to be causing some handwringing in the neighborhood.

Labels: ,

Is It Still a Coney Island Whitefish If It's In the Gowanus?

Earlier this week, we posted an excerpt of an email from the Urban Divers about last weekend's Gowanus Canal cleanup. It mentioned that a lot of "sanitary items" were in the canal after the recent Nor'easter. Ariella Cohen fills in some of the detail in this week's Brooklyn Paper. Apparently the, um, sanitary items included a lot of condoms. In fact, "a record number of condoms." We're not sure who keeps this record or how, but we'll assume Ms. Cohen is correct in describing Ms. Cohen explains that "the explosion in the population of 'Coney Island whitefish.'"

So, our question is, if it's in the Gowanus Canal is it still a Coney Island Whitefish or is it a Gowanus Canal Whitefish?

Related Post:
Volunteers Fish Crap from the Gowanus

[Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Paper]


Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Holding Noon Press Conference at Ward Bakery

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is holding a noon press conference today at Ward Bakery, which suffered that parapet collapse yesterday, to call for a halt to demolitions for the Atlantic Yards development in Prospect Heights. The group wants an immediate suspension of activity until a "thorough investigation as to the cause of the collapse can be conducted," safeguards are put in place to prevent similar incidents and there is "appropriate oversight" to monitor demolition and construction. Members of the group include the Fort Greene Association, Society for Clinton Hill, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Friends of Greater Gowanus (FROGG), Boerum Hill Association, Park Slope Neighbors, Prospect Height Action Coalition, Council Member Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Reverend Dennis Dillon of Brooklyn Christian Center and others.

Labels: , ,

What's That Thing on Top? Dumbo Edition

53 Bridge Street

A reader reminded us about 53 Bridge Street, pictured above, whose yellow growth has graced the Vinegar Hill/Dumbo skyline for some time. The building is owned and is being developed by Joshua Gutman, whose name you might recall from the Greenpoint Terminal Market conflagration. The architect is the Brooklyn King of the Thing on Top, Robert Scarano, although no final renderings present themselves. (Call it Tumortecture?) 53 Bridge has pretty much looked like this for about a year, and when we walked bye this weekend we found a relatievely new Stop Work Order taped to the door. So, for now, the Big Yellow Thing on Top will stay big and yellow. Joy!

Labels: ,

Brooklinks: Friday Former Baked Goods Edition

Park Slope Kids with Little Green Legs

We suspend any attitudes momentarily and give it up for the kids at PS 321 in Park Slope who did this little earth day walkathon for three green-oriented nonprofits, including Transportation Alternatives. This is a Street Films production and we found it on Streets Blog, of course.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

PM Update: Ward Bakery Collapse Aftermath

It's been a busy day on the Atlantic Yards demolition--or shall we say, building self-demolition--front. This morning a parapet on the Ward Bakery building, which is being demolished by Forest City Ratner, collapsed onto the sidewalk and street below. Fortunately, no one was injured, although a number of cars were damaged. In addition, 350 people from nearby buildings have been evacuated.

Reaction has been ongoing:

1) No Land Grab--...shame on you Bruce Ratner. Also, we'd like to send shout outs to Atlantic Yards Development Group President James P. Stuckey, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor Eliot Spitzer, the entire cast of "The Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office" (currently running on 6th Ave), Community Benefits Agreement Environmental Compliance Czar Delia Hunley-Adossa, and "Joey From Cobble Hill" DePlasco, who we expect to hear from shortly. [NLG]

2) City Council Member Letitia James--"In light of what happened at 800 Pacific Street this morning, and other incidents, I have asked Empire State Development Corporation, who is acting as the lead agency in this project, to halt all work at the "Atlantic Yards" site until this morning's occurrence can be fully investigated, and until there is a monitoring body to oversee all proposed demolition and construction at the site." [Via No Land Grab]

3) Assem. Hakeem Jeffries--"This incident further highlights the need to proceed with extreme caution as the developer moves forward the Atlantic Yards project." [Via No Land Grab]

4) Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn--Can the neighborhood look forward to this quality of work from Forest City Ratner for the next 20 - 40 years? Can the neighborhood survive this quality of work by Ratner and his contractors, and this complete lack of governement oversight? [DDDB]

UPDATE: Atlantic Yards Report has posted the Empire State Development Corp. response, which says that it has sent "representatives to the scene to assess the situation." The statement adds that "Safety is our utmost concern and we’re very thankful no one was injured. Our team is conferring with the developer, the City, and various government agencies to find out exactly what happened and to help coordinate a thorough response. We’re also awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the city’s Department of Buildings so we can take any necessary action."

Breaking: Part of Wards Bakery Collapses on to Pacific St.

Curbed is reporting via a tip and digital photo that a chunk of Wards Bakery, which is being demolished by Forest City Ratner, collapsed on to Pacific Street within the last hour. No one was injured (except for several cars), but there is significant Fire Department and NYPD presence on the scene. Apparently a parapet came crashing down from the building. 7online has since reported that some nearby buildings have been evacuated.

Blight Me: Is "Developer Blight" a New Brooklyn Tactic?

The other day, protesters were out on Flatbush Avenue to speak out against the "premature demolition" of buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint by Forest City Ratner. On Sunday, we gazed at the big lot at Bedford Avenue and N. 3rd Street in Williamsburg that is half empty and has had a half-demolished building for almost a year. On Saturday, we were wandering around Coney Island, shooting photos of a huge fence erected by Thor Equities.

Frequently, we wonder: Is manufactured blight the urban development paradigm of the 2000s? Is it a new development tool in Brooklyn?

Quite possibly.

Just as urban renewal in the 1960s devastated communities by literally demolishing entire neighborhoods far in advance of hideous urban renewal schemes or highways that sometimes never materialized, today's Brooklyn development heavyweights are busy tearing down structures--some of them centrally located--far in advance of ever driving a pile or erecting a beam of steel. (Onnyturf recently took a look around and came to the same conclusion.) The implications for communities are as alarming as the clearance efforts that were popular nearly 40 years ago. Those efforts left communities wringing their hands 25 and 35 years later about how to mend the wounds caused by government-driven demolition and projects that either (a). never materialized or (b). were killed by lawsuits or political opposition. (If you want a local look at the results of Old School Developer Blight, check out Edgemere in the Rockways where miles of beachfront property were cleared out by Robert Moses and Mayor John Lindsey. It became one America's most stunning bits of deliberate urban devastation.)

Today, the players are different. They are generally private developers like Forest City Ratner, Thor Equities and Quadriad Development. Generally, (except for Forest City Ratner) they are working on a smaller scale than the urban renewalists of the 20th Century. (And, then, of course, there are massive waterfront conflagrations started by drunks looking for copper wire just as efforts to historically preserve big complexes are underway.) Yet, the impact on neighborhoods--should their schemes fail to come to fruition, will be just as devastating to communities. Imagine Prospect Heights should the courts kill Atlantic Yards. Or, even if you don't believe this is likely, picture entire blocks of Prospect Heights turned into vacant wastelands ten or fifteen years before any stucture is ever built on the land. Or picture, if you will, Coney Island, if Thor Equities follows through on its plans to lay waste to 2/3 of the amusement district and if (a). it can't get its project approved, (b). it takes four or five years before construction can start or (c). it can't get financing or make the project work for investors.

One word: Edgemere.

It's not hard to imagine that one of these orgies of premature demolition won't leave beind a wasteland that an urban writer who is in pre-school today won't be writing about in, say, 2027.

[Photos courtesy of Forgotten NY, which offers excellent background on Edgemere.]

Related Post:
Sitt's Demolition Underway, Coney Island Looks Like Hell

Labels: , ,

Gag Reflex: At Least One Coney Gag Rule Isn't Legal

Coney Island Arcade

At least one Coney Island gag provision in a lease (though not the one that Thor Equities forced most tenants to sign as a condition of renewing their leases for the 2007 season) has been found illegal. The saga of the Coney Island Arcade is detailed in Time Out New York. Yesterday, Dianna Carlin (Lola Staar) sent out an email about the latest development that said:
Jeff Persily, a land owner in Coney Island, forced his tenants to sign the exact same Confidentiality Clause that Thor Equities forced down their tenants' throats. It is speculated that Jeff Persily is partnering with Thor in their scheme to build Condos within the Amusement District. Manny Cohen has owned the Coney Island Arcade and has been Persily's tenant for roughly 20 years. Manny refused to sign his 2007 Agreement due to this Confidentiality Clause. Persily took him to court to evict him yesterday. At this court date, the judge ruled that the Confidentiality Clause in the Agreement was not legal. The judge told Persily's lawyer that they had to negotiate a fair Agreement and that the Confidentiality Clause was not fair. This is a very significant ruling because most of the Coney Island businesses have been forced this very same Clause...

Today Manny plans to unveil a large tomb stone on the corner of the Bowery and 12th Street. This tomb stone reads Coney Island RIP and accuses Joe Sitt and Jeff Persily of being dictators. It also includes a copy of the illegal Confidentiality Clause that the two land owners have forced their tenants to sign.
Did someone suggest that Ms. Carlin was going to roll over and play dead after her lease (without a gag order) was renewed by Mr. Sitt following the Save Coney Island demonstration and a ton of bad press? Not looking like it.

Related Posts:
Gag Me: Why Do Mr. Sitt and Mr. Ratner Like Silence?
Legal Gag Removed, Coney Island's Lola Staar Speaks

UPDATE: Mr. Cohen's landlord writes to say: "As Mr. Cohen's landlord I can assure that the judge made no such ruling in reagrd to an unfair or unjust 'gag rule.' Mr Cohen was taken to court only because of his continuing failure to tender his rent which in fact is still owing from last season. If such a ruling was made by a judge surely it would be in the public domain, nobody can or will find it because it is fictional and does not exist. If Mr. Cohen pays his rent he can stay if he doesn't he will be evicted. Can we hold ourselves to a higher standard and at least attempt to print what is actual and true. No that would never be as controversial or interesting, just continue to conjure up and fabricate more nonsense about the big bad landowners."

Labels: ,

Brooklyn Subway #2: Excuse Me, How About The F'ing F Train?

Does your day begin and/or end with the F Train? The other day, the Kensington Brooklyn blog mentioned that F Train service kind of sucks and solicited opinions on same, noting that something called the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation is due to begin later this year. In any case, ee're certain that many people will be offering opinions about it, as subway service and postal service are two things guaranteed to elicit a response from most Brooklynites. (That and the B61, if you're one of the ones blessed with having to depend on it.) Regardless this is all an exceptionally long-winded way of sharing the following exchange, which we witnessed during a recent morning rush hour commute, between Bergen Street and Jay Street-Borough Hall:
Woman Near Door: You didn't say excuse me.
Woman That Just Entered: Excuse me?
WND: You did not say excuse me.
WND: You bumped into me.
WTJE: I brushed you.
WND: You got to say excuse me.
WTJE: Whatever.
WND: Your mother didn't raise you with manners.
(Nearby passengers were now rolling eyes, making rare, meaningful eye contact with each other.)
Guy Nearby to Girlfriend: Excuse me.
Girlfriend: Sorry.
WND: See, they said excuse me.
WTJE: You expect everyone in New York City to say excuse me?
WND: Yes, I do.
WTJE: We're in the middle of New York City. You can't excuse me to everybody.
WND: I do.
Guy Near Door: Come on, now.
WND: You mind your own business.
GND: But it's early in the morning.
WND: I don't care. She didn't say excuse me.
At least the train was on time.


McCarren Pool to be Restored as a Pool?


We were amused to be thumbing through the Open Space section of the PlaNYC 2030 document and to find the following verbiage on Page Six:
Opened in 1936, then closed in 1984 due to the deterioration of its systems, McCarren Pool will finally be rebuilt as both an outdoor Olympic-size pool and a year-round recreation center serving the people of north Brooklyn.
No dates or details are given. Today's New York Times has a full story on all the unused spaces that would be rehabbed and returned to use if the money and political will are found. (The Times story has the work starting this summer and being finished in "a couple of years.")

Labels: ,

Brooklyn Subway #1: Ode to Smith-Ninth St.


Those who ride the F or (God Bless You) the G train in South Brooklyn know the glories of the Smith-9th Street Station, which at about ten stories, is the highest station in the New York City system. And, if you don't know what it is, and have glimpsed it, you've probably asked, "What the hell is that?" It's simply that (a) awful or (b) impressive, depending on how you view it. In any case, we found the following verbiage on a blog called Faith in Fiction. We think it's pretty cool, so we're doing some copying and pasteage of an excerpt:
White ceramic pieces are set against square aquamarine tiles. These tiles make the station logo. It reads SMITH 9TH ST. More tiles, these ones rectangular and mint green, border the sign. Parts of the mosaic are chipped, as if bullets hit them, and the glaze on some of the lower tiles is peeling off like the kind of nail polish I used to get at the toy store, in those safe-for-kids cosmetic kits.

The cast iron platform is rusting, and the whole thing might look better if the weather would just finish stripping the white paint off of it. The electrical piping is rusting; the white chain link around the otherwise open, glassless windows is rusting. Even I’m rusting, just standing here, waiting for the train.

You’d think with the Ikea store that just opened in Red Hook (sic), this old train station would get a little bit of love. But I guess that’s not how things work. Maybe if Brooks Brothers and Saks and Cartier decided Red Hook was the place to be and moved their stores to this old shipping section of Brooklyn, maybe then this station would get a scrub-down.

But if that happened, the locals would gripe. We don’t mind the hike to the station, or the two flights of stairs and two escalators from the mezzanine to the platform. We don’t care that these long, almost-abandoned platforms feel as if they’ll tumble like Jericho if the right wind comes off New York Harbor. We all belong to this station, and this station belongs to us.

This stretch of the IND, all the way down to Coney Island, is aboveground, but it’s considered the subway. This station is 91 feet above street-level, and is the highest point on the IND. It was built in the 30s. The reason it’s so high up is because the Gowanus Canal passes under it, and the Gowanus Canal is a tall-mast shipping route. The Gowanus Canal stinks to the highest of heavens because the sewer treatment plant overflows on a regular basis, and the combined sewer outlets, when overworked, pour into the canal. One of my friends grew up down here, and in the summers, when the heat made the stink stink so bad that his breakfast threatened to make an encore appearance all over his secondhand Air Jordans, he would run as fast as he could to get from one side of the canal to the other without inhaling.

I’ve learned to breathe out of my mouth when I’m up here, and I don’t really remember what the canal smells like. Just that it’s awful.

You feel the train before you hear it, and you hear it before you see it. And the big, lit F with a circle around it screeches its brakes and you wonder if the train ever wishes it had wings so it could flap backwards the way big birds do when they’re landing too fast...
It's a fun piece, definitely to be read in its entirety.


Brooklinks: Thursday Feel the Love Edition

Love Chapel

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


Good News & Bad News on Withers Street

219 Withers

First, the good news: This building at 219 Withers, which we'd last seen in its construction phase, turns out to look pretty nice with the landscaping out front. (Although it does have the same feel as all of Tahoe Development's Greenpoint and Williamsburg buildings.) The apartments themselves have humongous floor to ceiling windows.

Now, the bad news: Curbed passes on comments from a tipster who noted that some righteous molds seems to be growing in the basement. He writes that "The apartments were O.K., 100 square feet too small and 100k too expensive. Great finishes though, in both style and quality. The story is down in the 'Recreation Room' where the mold I first noticed as black spots, was in fact full, three-dimensional growth. I didn't know whether to put on a respirator, or make a salad."

Nice landscaping, though.

The GL Spring Fling Series: East Williamsburg Edition

Bushwick Blossoming Tree
East Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gowanus Lounge Turns One Today

First Post

Today is GL's first birthday. During our first year we posted 2,200 items, the first of which is pictured above. We hope we've made a small contribution toward adding to the flow of information in Brooklyn and to shedding some light on the things that we cover. You may agree with us on some issues or disagree strongly with us on others, but if you think we've added a little something to the discussion about Brooklyn's present and future, then we've been doing what we set out to do.

What motivates us is simple: to share information so that less happens in Brooklyn when no one is looking or has to wait a week to read about it. We know we can't get it all, but if we get a little and someone else gets a bit more, pretty soon a lot more information is available.

GL has been a labor of love, and the product of very long work days and very sore feet as we make our way around Brooklyn with a bag of photo gear slung over our shoulders. We have made many friends in the process, which is the nicest part about doing all of this.

We want to especially extend our thanks to Curbed founder Lockhart Steele, whose support and encouragement have been invaluable. Without Lockhart there might not even be a GL. Others have encouraged us too, particularly Gothamist founder Jake Dobkin, whose kind words have meant a lot, No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley, who has been a good friend, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn's Louise Crawford, who was supportive from Day One, and Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder, whose dedication and intellect are inspiring. The sites that link to us regularly are too numerous to mention. You know who you are and we appreciate the fact that you find our stories worth mentioning. To the hundreds of thousands of visitors that have stopped in: Thank You. To our readers that have passed along valuable information, and to the particularly valued readers that have practically become contributors: Thank You. Thank You.

Our goals for the next year are simple: Bigger. Better. Faster. Smarter. Different. More.

A lot more.

Here's to Year Two.

Gowanus Groundwork Laid for Toll Brothers in "Subarea B"?

Subarea B

What you're looking at above is part of the Gowanus "Land Use Framework" map in which the neighborhood has been divided into "subareas." Despite the civil tone of last week's neighborhood planning session, there remains strong opposition in the community to allowing residential development along the canal. One of the battlegrounds is going to be "Subarea B," which includes the land on which the Toll Brothers want to develop hundreds of units of housing as well as the Bayside Fuel facility north of Union Street. (The later is likely horrendously polluted and appears to be the source of the oil which coats the surface of the canal.)

In any case, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) sent out an email yesterday that highlights some of the likely points of contention. FROGG writes:
In Thursday’s April 19th meeting NY City Planning held with the Gowanus community, was anyone listening to anyone? The community was busy talking about whether housing should be allowed anywhere along the water’s edge while the Department of City Planning was trying to get us to talk about how high housing should be at the waters edge and how much parking should be included in such housing developments. It didn’t seem that anyone in the community even embraced housing or parking as a redevelopment goal or necessity.

But it seems clear from the meeting that the groundwork is paved for handing Toll Brothers the zoning change they have been demanding. Somewhere along the line, before holding these community-planning meetings, decisions were made. It is now obvious why City Planning first presented us with the new five Subareas, Subarea B is slated to be handed over for residential development ASAP!

There has been no discussion as whether Subarea B (Toll Brother’s and Bayside proposed residential development sites) should be residential or continue to act as a protective buffer zone for the “existing residential use a short block away”. There has been no discussion about how this area might be better utilized under existing zoning, or green rezoning under it present use. There has been no community discussion about how this stretch of land sits along the section of Gowanus that receives the greatest volume of sewage. There has been no community discussion about the limited reduction in sewage the Gowanus will receive under the DEP Pumping Tunnel reconstruction plan (especially with predicted raise in rainfall volume). There has been no community assurance that the new Flushing Tunnel will do little more that shift the pathogen center from the head of the canal to a few blocks south as tides and sea level push higher in from the harbor over the next 50 years.

The Department of City Planning has presented no reasoned argument to the people of this community as to why Subarea B should be granted a zoning change to residential use...City Planning needs to do more homework here.
Look for the discussion about Gowanus' future--which will be decided by the zoning decisions--to be spirited, to say the least.

Related Post:
Burden Calls Gowanus "Great, Unique Opportunity" at Polite Rezoning Meeting

Labels: ,

Coney Island #2: The Lola Staar Controversy

Don't look now, but Lola Staar's return to the boardwalk has prompted a bit of a controversy among the regulars at the Coney Island Message Board. Words like "sell out" are being used to suggest that Dianna Carlin (aka Lola) used the Save Coney Island protest to get her store back after she'd been evicted by Thor Equities developer Joe Sitt. Ms. Carlin, for her part, sent out a press release yesterday saying that "I intend to continue with the Save Coney Island Organization and to stand up for my beliefs about how Coney Island should be redeveloped." She did not have to sign a "gag rule" as part of her lease, an objection to which led to her eviction in the first place.

The objections to Ms. Carlin's return to the boardwalk seem to range from everything from the fact that she is not a "real" Brooklynite (and that, as someone that wasn't born and raised in the borough, she has no right to hold and voice opinions about Brooklyn) to the fact that she caters to "hipsters." Ms. Carlin, who despite her cheerful demeanor seems quite capable of giving as good as she gets (just ask Mr. Sitt), has fired back with her own responses. Ms. Carlin writes:
I started Save Coney Island (which now has over 1,200 members) and organized the "No Condos in Coney" demonstration on the steps of City Hall. My goal for Save Coney Island was to create an organization which would spread information about the redevelopment, give people the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions and ideas about Coney Island, and to organize events which would publicly express these opinions and convictions about the redevelopment. Mr. Sitt was frightened by the negative press and the growing resistance against his plan. This caused him contact me. I agree that Mr. Sitt's decision to evict me and to offer me my store back were very contrived decisions which he ultimately hoped would work to his advantage. Regardless, it is positive that it has open up a dialogue about his plan.
We believe the issues of Ms. Carlin's store and her position on Coney Island redevelopment are very different ones. We were thrilled to find her back and, frankly, found the prospect of the boardwalk without her and her merchandise depressing. When we first talked to Ms. Carlin several months ago, she had lost the heart of her business. When we saw her on Saturday, she was happy and smiling. No one deserves to lose their livelihood because they want to speak their mind or to have to make a choice between a business and free speech (although we're aware that people make these choices every day). We are very happy for her.

As for "Save Coney Island," there is nothing wrong with sitting down with a gentleman who potentially holds Coney Island's future in the palm of his hand. We frankly wish that Mr. Sitt and his team would reach out more broadly to those with an interest in a place with such a rich history. Building consensus is important, and Thor has not done a very good job of creating bridges.

We have talked and corresponded a great deal with Ms. Carlin. We don't think she will let Mr. Sitt off the hook or stop voicing her opinions about Coney Island because she has a lease.

You go, Lola.

Related Posts:
"Coney Island Miracle"? Lola Staar is Back

Labels: ,