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A real estate firm named JEMB Realty bought a parking lot in downtown Brooklyn for $38,464,188. If that seems like a staggering amount to pay for a parking lot, well, it’s located at 420-428 Albee Square, right across the street from City Point. It’s got 185,000 buildable square feet, The Real Deal reported.

That works out to be $205 per buildable square foot. No word yet on what is planned, but we’re guessing a mixed-use building. The deal closed March 26.

Morris Bailey’s JEMB Buys Brooklyn Lot for $38.5 Million [TRD]
Photo by Scott Bintner for PropertyShark

Kings County Penitentiary, 1906

On a chilly day in late November, 1905, thirty-six year old Benjamin F. Chadsey was taken to the Raymond Street Jail in Brooklyn. He had been brought back to New York from Indiana after being on the run for two years. In 1903, he faked his suicide, and disappeared on the evening before he was to go to trial on a charge of grand larceny. Chadsey had been one of Brooklyn’s up and coming legal talents, an aggressive and arrogant pitbull of a lawyer who loved his fancy clothes and his diamond jewelry. That was all showmanship, because he was also highly efficient and had a large private practice with a lot of clients. He was also a rising star in the jungle of Brooklyn politics, and was called upon often to stir up the Republican faithful with his gifts of oratory and persuasion. Benjamin Chadsey was the last person anyone would expect to be dishonest, or to run from his troubles. But here he was.

The man who had once sported bespoke suits with diamond stickpins and fingers glittering with diamond rings was now standing in handcuffs before a judge, surrounded by the police and District Attorneys who had to go out to the suburbs of South Bend Indiana to get him. The private detective, J. Edward Orr, who had tracked Chadsey down once before in San Francisco had found him again. But this was not the old Chadsey they knew. The man standing before them was sickly looking, emaciated and gaunt. He had shaved his signature moustache and would have looked years younger, had he not been looking over his shoulder for the last two years.

The judge stared down on him without a lot of pity. The charges against Chadsey were serious, but had he not skipped bail and disappeared, he probably would have been let off easy. Wealthy and well-connected men convicted of much larger thefts usually did not suffer the same consequences as those of lesser breeding. But faking your death, and thumbing your nose at the same authorities you once ate dinner with and invited to your home makes for bad feelings, and Brooklyn’s legal world was more than happy to throw the book at Chadsey. For the time being, though, they tossed him back in jail. (more…)

04/17/14 10:00am

After noticing some trendy restaurants and a rise in development sales in Bay Ridge, DNAinfo wonders if it could be the next hip neighborhood with a real estate boom. Bay Ridge had 20 percent of the new development sales in the first quarter of 2014,  the most of any neighborhood, according to MNS’ latest report. However, MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas pointed out that the hood’s 14 transactions mainly illustrate the lack of inventory in other neighborhoods.

The median price per square foot rose 7.4 percent over the past year, from $517 to $558, and the median home price increased 14.5 percent, from $560,037 to to $655,498. One realtor told DNAinfo that new condo buyers in developments like 185 Battery Avenue, pictured above, were transplants from Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg looking for more affordable options.

While the neighborhood isn’t going to have $2,000,000 condos anytime soon, it has seen a slew of new upscale restaurants and coffee shops, like Italian grocery A.L Coluccio, farm-to-table restaurant Brooklyn Beet Company, a craft beer bar and sausage joint called Lock Yard, and the Coffee Lab.

Is Bay Ridge Poised to Become the New Williamsburg? [DNAinfo]
Photo of 185 Battery Avenue via Dorsa Property Group

04/17/14 9:30am

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J.Crew plans to open a store in a warehouse on Wythe Avenue and North 4th Street in Williamsburg, above, according to sources quoted in Crain’s. So Williamsburg may end up being the brand’s first Brooklyn store after all. Last year, it said it planned to open at 151 Court Street in Cobble Hill early this year, replacing neighborhood grocer Pacific Green, but that didn’t happen.

The space at 234-236 Wythe Avenue is a 6,000-square-foot red brick warehouse. It’s close to Gant Rugger, American Apparel, the new Urban Outfitters store, and on the way to the Brooklyn Flea. For years, J.Crew was rumored to be eyeing space on Bedford near where Whole Foods is supposedly opening. Apple is still supposedly looking in the neighborhood, most recently at 242 Bedford Avenue, according to the story.

J.Crew is also planning to open a store in Park Slope, according to Racked, which quoted a story in Women’s Wear Daily today. Both stores are supposed to be open by August, said Racked. Meanwhile, a Madewell store is also “in the works” for Williamsburg.

Massey Knakal is handling leasing for the Wythe Avenue warehouse, which is asking $50,000 per month, or $100 a square foot.

J.Crew Eyes Williamsburg Outpost, Apple May Follow [Crain's]
J. Crew and Madewell to Take Over Brooklyn [Racked]
Photo by Massey Knakal

04/17/14 9:00am

Brooklyn is slated to lose a number of its wood frame houses to development this year. Often these houses are some of the oldest in the borough, although they may not look like much, at least from the outside.

Just like so many other aging wood frames in Brooklyn, this little house on Chauncey Street in Bed Stuy, above, is meeting the wrecking ball soon. Demo applications were filed last week to knock down the two-story home at 201 Chauncey, as well as a shed and row of garages on the property. We don’t know the home’s exact age, but our columnist Montrose Morris noted that it is at least as old as 1880, but probably older, in this Building of the Day post. There’s no word on what will replace the house, but we’re betting it will be an apartment building. An LLC bought the 50 by 108.5 foot lot in February for $1,400,000 — seven times its last sale price in 2004.

Now that warmer weather has set in (apart from yesterday, of course), the applications for demo permits have ticked up in the building department. A large number of the houses marked for demo are wood frames.

We wondered if that’s because they tend to be in worse condition or less expensive than their brick and stone counterparts. Preservationist Elizabeth Finkelstein of The Wooden House Project attributed the trend to rising real estate values in working-class neighborhoods, some of which happen to have a large concentration of frame houses.

“I think the wooden houses right now are especially vulnerable because of the trend in people moving to places like Bushwick and Greenwood Heights,” she said. “People can’t afford to buy in Brownstone Brooklyn anymore, so they’re moving to frame-heavy neighborhoods. Developers follow. While Park Slope and Cobble Hill have been expensive for a long time, homeowners in Bushwick have only recently been able to cash out. I think they’re taking advantage of the market, at the expense of some of these houses.”

A few examples we have covered recently are 111 Clarkson and 50-54 Clarkson Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, 664 Jefferson Avenue and 447 Decatur in Bed Stuy, and, of course, the six 19th-century wood frames at 233-301 11th Street in Gowanus, which will be replaced by a large apartment building at 470 4th Avenue.

Next up are houses from Crown Heights to Bushwick, including: 1480 Pacific Street, 1168 Greene Avenue, 45 Cedar Street, 726 Monroe Street, 341 Sackett Street, 539 Van Buren and 1255 Decatur Street. The house at 1480 Pacific, which was a Building of the Day in February, is part of the proposed Crown Heights North III Historic District expansion.

With the notable exception of Brooklyn Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the first to be landmarked, Landmarks has not typically designated areas with a lots of wood frame houses, although some were included in the historic districts of Greenpoint and Wallabout, which are both primarily wood-house neighborhoods. Partly this is because wood frames tend to be highly altered and covered in siding, which can make them ineligible. But there is hope, said Finkelstein.

“Greenpoint is an interesting example of a neighborhood that was landmarked while much of it was still covered in siding (I’m actually surprised the LPC did this). Many of the houses still are, but you can see the positive effect landmarking has had on some of the wooden houses on Milton & Noble Streets.” Although, she adds, the LPC focused on the most brick-heavy part of Greenpoint and called that the historic district. “So while the historic district does contain some wooden houses, they still brought their brick bias with them.”

Another possible explanation for the demise of wood frame houses: They are sitting on more land and have more FAR. This is certainly the case with 201 Chauncey Street.

– Cate Corcoran and Rebecca Baird-Remba

Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

04/17/14 8:30am

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Suburbs Try to Prevent Exodus as Young Adults Move to Cities and Stay [NY Times]
City Investigating Nonprofit Run by Brooklyn President’s Aide [NY Post]
Historians Restore Grave of a Pioneering Brooklyn Baseball Pitcher [WSJ]
Brooklynites Fund Schools, Libraries, Gardens in Participatory Budgeting Vote [Brooklyn Eagle]
Folks, This Is Not Sustainable [Q at Parkside]
Brief Panic in Bushwick Over “Suspicious Package” at Myrtle/Wyckoff [Gothamist]
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Cherry Blossoms Unscathed by Snow [DNAinfo]

04/16/14 4:30pm

Postcard: Beware the Sea Monster of Gerritsen Beach [Sheepshead Bites]
Bed Stuy Development Site at 265-267 Malcolm X Boulevard Is Asking $3.5 Million [BuzzBuzzHome]
Shuttered Greenpoint Catholic Schools Are Resurrected as Apartment Houses [Brooklyn Eagle]
Coignet Building Will Emerge as White Butterfly After Renovation [Brooklyn Eagle]
Brooklyn Navy Yard to Host Whiskey Tasting, Photography, Performance Art [DNAinfo]
Work on Utica Avenue Line Will Be Completed in Early May, MTA Says [DNAinfo]
Sushi and Noodles Opens on Troutman Avenue [Bushwick Daily]
Before and After: A Greenpoint Roof Deck Transformation [Apartment Therapy]
350 DeGraw Street: The Story Behind a Façade Without a Building [PMFA]
Duane Reade Store in Brooklyn Heights Appears to Be Getting Mega Makeover [BHB]

Photo by Chaya Selzer

04/16/14 4:00pm

Next weekend, the third annual Brooklyn Zine Fest returns to the Brooklyn Historical Society with panels and a wide variety of publishers, artists and writers selling their wares. Panels will discuss topics like queer and trans zine writers, zine collecting and publishing zines anonymously.

And over 150 zine enthusiasts will be selling self-published magazines on everything under the sun: art, comedy, graffiti, comics, environmentalism, food, film, local history and much more. Check out the full lineup and the panel schedule for the festival, which will take place April 26 and 27 from 11 am to 6 pm at 128 Pierrepont Street.

Photo by Seth McFarland for Brooklyn Zine Fest

04/16/14 3:00pm

245 Front St. SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 245 Front Street
Cross Streets: Bridge and Gold Streets
Neighborhood: Vinegar Hill
Year Built: 1852-55
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Architect: Unknown.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Vinegar Hill HD (1997)

The story: Like stumbling upon Brigadoon, Vinegar Hill is hidden from most people’s view, tucked away between Dumbo and the Navy Yard, cut off from Downtown Brooklyn by the ramps of the BQE and the approaches to the Manhattan Bridge. The residential buildings of Vinegar Hill were built at the same time as parts of Brooklyn Heights, share architectural styles and features. But the distance of a mile, and the development of the Navy Yard made all the difference in the histories of these neighborhoods.

Shipbuilder John Jackson purchased a large parcel of land after the Revolutionary War, and opened a shipyard on Wallabout Bay. He built his shipyard at the base of Hudson Street, and then built homes nearby for his workers. In 1801, he sold 40 acres of his waterfront land to the United States government for the Navy Yard. He then built more houses, and called the area “Vinegar Hill” in honor of the last major battle between the Irish and English, in 1798.

Meanwhile, the Sands family, brothers Comfort and Joshua, were buying up land like crazy. At one point they owned most of Dumbo, all of the land to the west of Jackson’s holdings. They were very wealthy land speculators and merchants. Comfort Sands was one of the founders of the Bank of New York, and Joshua was one of the members of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Brooklyn. They parceled their land off into lots very early, in 1787, but did not build in the Vinegar Hill area until the 1830s.

By the late 1830s, early 1840s, the descendants of John Jackson had sold off all his remaining Hudson Street plots. The Greek Revival homes built here date from the late 1840s, early 1850s, and represent the boom years for Vinegar Hill as a neighborhood of shops, businesses and homes. Most of the residents were Irish, giving the neighborhood the nickname of “Irishtown,” although many others also lived here as well. Most of the people here, no matter what their ethnicity, worked at the Navy Yard, the waterfront, or for industries that supplied both. (more…)

04/16/14 2:00pm

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A convention center is planning to open at 79 Franklin Street in Greenpoint later this year, possibly in October, according to DNAinfo. Currently under construction, the Brooklyn Expo Center will have 28,000 square feet of space for exhibitions and meetings. There will also be a cafeteria and parking.

A reader who lives nearby said it looks like the building is about a quarter done. GMAP

Rendering by Brooklyn Expo Center

04/16/14 1:30pm

Although obviously in need of work to turn it into living space, this has got to be one of the coolest properties for sale we’ve ever seen. There’s tons of curb appeal (or will be, pending a fresh paint job), beamed ceilings, arched windows and doors, diagonal floors and three skylights in this seemingly untouched Fort Greene carriage house.

It’s commercial property with no residential certificate of occupancy, and it may have been vacant for many years. There was a vacate order in 1986, and it appears to have been owned by the City for more than two decades. The title passed to a bank in 2010; we wouldn’t be surprised to find there was a sale so recent it hasn’t yet hit public records.

The price was recently reduced from $1,900,000 to $1,700,000. (That’s about $809 a square foot.) We think it would make a great restaurant — or a home. What would you do with this place if it were yours?

10 St. Felix Street [Corcoran] GMAP