On Untapped Cities, Julia Vitullo-Martin has posted some remarkable interior photos of the Domino Sugar refinery. And she talked with Two Trees developer Jed Walentas about some of the challenges he’ll face transforming the empty industrial site into his vision for a residential and office complex. One of the real challenges will be converting the main brick building. She writes: “For one thing, it has no real floors and no real internal structure, but is instead ‘just a weird labyrinthine of equipment, much of which is completely integrated with the structure of the building,’ says Walentas. Massively big equipment will have to be removed and new space constructed within the empty shell of the building.” See a picture of some of that equipment after the jump and lots more on the Untapped Cities site.
There is a new wrinkle to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to put massive storage tanks under the Thomas Greene Playground and Douglass Degraw Pool in Gowanus. Not only are neighbors up in arms but the City agrees. The agency wants to install the 8-million-gallon tanks to handle the massive sewage overflow that can run into the Gowanus canal following a heavy rain — as it infamously did when it was caught on video in 2010. The overflow would then be pumped to treatment plants, reducing the wastewater flow into the canal by as much as 78 percent. Residents are against the plan because of the possible lengthy closure of the pool and park and concern about little ones cavorting over massive storage tanks full of raw sewage. But, according to The Brooklyn Paper, the City contends that raw sewage isn’t the canal’s main problem (that is one polluted site when raw sewage isn’t the main problem). (more…)
Our columnist’s computer problems are not quite fixed yet so we are republishing a Building of the Day from a few years ago. We expect to have new columns from Montrose tomorrow.
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Brooklyn Museum of Art, built as Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science
Address: 200 Eastern Parkway, corner of Washington Avenue
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Year Built: 1893-1915, new entry pavilion and plaza: 2004
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts Classical
Architects: McKim, Mead & White, new entry pavilion and plaza: Arata Isosaki/Polshek Partnership
Other buildings by architects: MM&W: Municipal Building, Farley Post Office, Old Penn Station, entrance to Prospect Park. Polshek Partnership: Rose Center for Earth and Space/Hayden Planetarium, New Academic Building, Medgar Evers College.
The story: In honor of the FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the BOTD, I give you Brooklyn’s masterpiece of civic architecture, the Brooklyn Museum. The story of how the museum came about, from humble beginnings as a library, to what we have today, was told here, here, and here. Charles Follen McKim, who is often overshadowed in reputation by his flashier partner, Stanford White, actually designed the museum. He was a master of the classical elements of the Beaux-Arts School. He purposely designed the building in quadrants, so each section could be built at different times, without leaving the building looking unfinished. The building, as many know, was never finished. Had all four quadrants been built, the Brooklyn Institute would have been the largest museum of its kind in the world, housing not only its vast art collections, but painting and sculpting schools, and centers for the study of various branches of science, mathematics, architecture and technology. When the plans were drawn up, Brooklyn was an independent city. By the time the first quarter of the building was finished, Brooklyn was part of greater New York City, and the powers that be were not willing to keep funding such a project for a borough, fearing it would eclipse the Met, and Manhattan in general. OK, there was more to it than that, but that was certainly a big factor. Another reason why the Big Mistake still reverberates in some corners. (more…)
This three story Bed Stuy brownstone has a lot to recommend it. The garden level renovation includes some very housing bubbly high-end features like a Viking range and refrigerator and a Bosch dishwasher. The ceiling, with plaster between the joists, gives the space a rustic feel and adds little height to the living space. And the owners certainly spent some money on the bathroom renovation. This is a really nice tree-lined block of Macon Street, but the ask of $949,000 for a three story house east of Malcolm X seems a bit, well, housing bubbly. What do you think? Has eastern Bed Stuy come this far in pricing?
643 Macon Street [Core NYC] GMAP P*Shark
Unfortunately our columnist’s computer problems are continuing today so we are republishing a Walkabout from a few years ago.
Photo: First AME Zion Church, McDonough at Tompkins. Bedford Stuyvesant. Home of this congregation since 1947.
Sidney L. Painter was a well-known Negro band leader in turn of the 20th century Brooklyn. He hailed from the Wichita, Kansas area, but when he died in February of 1905; his funeral took place at the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Fleet Street, in downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s had several large African-American communities, as Brooklyn has always had African-American residents, and at this time, one of the largest communities was centered in the area of downtown Brooklyn near Fleet and Concord Streets, near Hudson and Myrtle Avenues, in the area now occupied by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and the northern part of MetroTech. The black community there had a long history of religious participation, and several of modern day Brooklyn’s largest black churches got their start in this community.
The First AME Zion Church on Fleet Street had originally been built as the Fleet Street Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1849. It was a large two story wooden structure with a gabled roof, but no steeple. Inside, it had a large open downstairs room that was used for Sunday school classes and church events, and upstairs was the church sanctuary, with two aisles, and three rows of benches. In order to get upstairs, people had to go up one of two stairways on the left and right of a hallway. These stairs were narrow, and about halfway up, turned on themselves, before continuing upstairs. The church had been sold to the black congregation about twenty years before, and was one of the more important houses of worship in this downtown black community. A celebrity like Sidney Painter would bring out a large crowd for his funeral. Unfortunately, death would be there to claim more than Mr. Painter that day. (more…)
This 1920 home in Bay Ridge that has been abandoned for decades is slated for demolition. We wrote about this house in 2010 when neighbors contacted us after starting a Facebook page to pressure the city to do something. Even then, they said the house had, “standing water, holes in the roof, a second floor that has collapsed into the ground, raccoons that inhabit this house, and bulging walls that show this house is ready fall at any moment.” According to The Daily News, the house was deserted in the 1980s after the owner, Frank Landy, and his wife divorced. The home is scheduled to meet the wrecking ball any day and residents are glad that the breeding ground for rats and racoons will finally be gone. The tax photo of the once-attractive home is after the jump.
This morning a new kind of manufacturing center will open at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The space, called New Lab, is designed to bring together creative people who will be able to share equipment like three dimensional printers and laser cutters that would be too expensive for them to access otherwise. The project’s developer told the New York Times that New Lab should do for manufacturers what MIT’s Media Lab has done for technology. Already the lab is home to people designing furniture, projects for the MOMA Design Store and a motorcycle chassis. The small beta space that is opening today already has a waiting list. In mid 2014 the entire 84,000 square foot facility is expected to open and provide a space for up to 350 jobs. Work on the buildings is expected to cost about $60 million with another $20 million to outfit them. Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in Brooklyn for decades but now that is starting to change. In the last three years 39 manufacturing jobs were added here, the only borough where such jobs were not lost.
Photo by MACRO-SEA
The Brooklyn Navy Yard is large, and hard to get a peek at as much of it is fenced off and faces the water. We all hear a lot about new manufacturing going on there, but few ever get to see it. Well, the exhibition and visitors center BLDG 92 at the Navy Yard is changing that. Starting February 22, it will begin a series of tours of factories in the complex for the public. According to BLDG 92′s website, “Factory Tours explore the Yard’s development today as a model of sustainable urban industry, and visitors gain a unique opportunity to witness a resurgence of new and traditional manufacturing.” The first tour is of IceStone, a company that transforms glass from landfills into countertops. The tour costs $15. You can read more about factory tours here and the IceStone tour here.
Photo by Kristin Brenneman Eno
A new report out digs not only into rental trends in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, but also looks at employment trends as well. Since the kinds of jobs and the level of compensation employees receive is fundamental to how much people can afford to pay for rent, this analysis may provide a bit more insight than the simple rents are up or rents are down number crunching. The Mid-Year Triboro Rental Report from StreetEasy and leasing and tenant screening firm On-Site.com, authored by real estate consultant Nancy Packes, finds that some of the larger employment trends favor the outer boroughs’ more economical rents. The share of financial services employees in the city has been falling for years. In 2006, 58 percent of new renters worked in financial services, according to the report, but that fell to 44 percent in 2012. At the same time, the number of new renters employed by tech firms and the broad category of creative jobs has grown from 16 percent to 26 percent. And these people earn less than those in financial services. With less money to spend, these people are looking away from Manhattan in ever greater numbers. As a result, Manhattan rents have seen sluggish growth. Rents in Brooklyn, on the other hand, have been on the rise (though other reports have found slow growth here in recent quarters too). This report, which only examines rents through the first half of 2012, found that rents on studios in buildings with a doorman were up 16 percent over the previous year. Two-bedrooms in doorman buildings were up 22 percent in the year. And, the report concludes, there is plenty of room for rents to go even higher. “Looking at a renter’s ability to spend, there appears to be further capacity to push rents. Why? Over the last five years, salaries have not decreased, yet today’s income spent toward rent rests at its five-year average, having dropped 20% perent from its 2007 peak.” And it’s the creatives who spend the highest proportion of their incomes on rent.
Creative Workers Drive Down Rents [WSJ]
After our post last week about a massive development site for sale in Eastern Bushwick, it was interesting to find that there are a large number of new projects planned in that neck of the neighborhood — primarily along the J and M trains. Wyckoff Heights noted in its real estate roundup last week that there were applications for six developments (visible on the map above) all in outer Bushwick. They range in size from a proposed 37-unit building at 39 Suydam Street between Broadway and Bushwick near the Myrtle Avenue JMZ stop and several four-story, eight-unit buildings like those with applications in at 1355 and 1359 Myrtle Avenue near the Central Avenue M to a more modest three family house at 229 Cornelia Street. In total, if all plans are approved, this could add 110 units of housing to the area–hopefully they won’t all be various iterations of Fedders buildings.
Real Estate Round-up [Wyckoff Heights]
Buyers at 659 Bergen Street (or at least the people that have signed contracts and hope to be buyers) continue to be stalled in their efforts to close on their apartments and finally occupy their homes. Many of these deals were signed in 2011 and buyers have been waiting over a year to get in. A tipster tells us that the developer of the Prospect Heights project, Boaz Gilad, has been saying that they will get the Certificate of Occupancy soon for well over a year now but it has yet to happen. On January 11, the realtor marketing the units, Aguayo Huebener, sent signers an email indicating that the building had passed all inspections and that they should start scheduling their own inspections and prepare for closing. Unfortunately, it turns out, the building had one more inspection to go. A few weeks later the building failed its gas system inspection on nine separate points. The realtor then forwarded questions from the signers to Gilad and emailed them his responses (which the tipster provided to us). He complained that the inspector with the buildings department (which he calls the plumbing department) “decided he wants to check all the plumbing again, and ALTHOUGH it was approved, he didn’t like the hot water system. We have no power to stop him from failing us…” The building failed the inspection primarily due to the venting of hot water heaters.
Several frustrated buyers have reported to DOB that somebody (the tipster says Gilad himself) has actually moved into the building despite the lack of a C of O. Several complaints (here, here and here) have been filed with the DOB on this point and though inspectors have visited the building they have been unable to gain access and therefore no action has been taken. The gas inspector also noted in his report that he was unable to access the fifth floor, the unit that is allegedly being occupied. In addition to all of this, our tipster says a few signers have been allowed to backed out of their contracts–but not to flip them for current market values. Instead, the units have been getting relisted for quite a bit more than the original asking price and our tipster says some have gone back into contract. For example, our tipster tells us, and Street Easy appears to confirm, that Unit 2D went into contract when the asking price was $369,000 in 2011 and was in contract again in December when the asking price was $449,000. Our tipster says it went into contract for $460,000.
Gilad is out of town and could not be reached for comment, however a representative from the marketer’s firm did say that the developer very much wants to obtain the C of O and close on the sales, that he is trying hard to make that happen and that there is no advantage to not closing on the properties. See a picture of the top unit with the lights on after the jump.
Buyers in Limbo at Prospect Heights Building [Brownstoner] (more…)
A recent article in Crain’s looked into efforts to change city regulations that might legalize as many as 35,000 basement rental units. The article points out that many of these basement units — those with windows but that are mostly underground — are now rented illegally. Other cities such as Santa Cruz, Ca and Orlando, Fl have changed their zoning rules to legalize more of these kinds of units. Here in New York, the Immigrant Housing Collaborative, a city coalition of housing groups, has pushed the concept and Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer has endorsed the idea. According to the article, his office released a report (see pg. 26) in December that, “predicted that such changes would bring these dwellings ‘out of the shadows.’ Doing so, the report concluded, would add tens of thousands of affordable units to the city’s legal housing stock and would spur economic growth by accommodating more young workers.” Others were critical, pointing out that legalizing illegally rented units does not actually add any housing and fire department officials were concerned that any changes take safety into account. Stringer’s report says that there are 100,000 of these units and about 35 percent of them could be made legal with small modifications existing regulations. Stringer’s report doesn’t identify exactly what changed he’d suggest, but he indicates that “sufficient light and air” would be part of the proposed change. What do you think? Should the city loosen up the rules on basement rental units? Would that change the value of homes that suddenly find themselves sitting on another legal rental unit?
Illegal Solution for More Housing? [Crain's]
Photo by Alex Siu for Property Shark
Yesterday The New York Times took a look at the Barclays Center five months after opening and finds that overall it has not had the negative impact on the neighborhood that many had feared. According to the story, most visitors arrive and leave relatively quickly and many do use public transportation: the four subway stations in the area had an average of 6,400 more riders on event nights than on other nights. The Long Island Rail Road reports that 3,300 more riders arrive and depart through Atlantic Terminal on event nights than before the arena opened. Crime has also not been a problem though more than a million people have attended the 93 events there since it opened. The 78th Precinct registered six “felony episodes” that were connected to the arena and 36 misdemeanors. While the story does acknowledge issues with parking, illegally parked limos, noise complaints, the fine for exceeding noise limits and the trees soon to fall on Pacific Street, it finds that overall the arena has hardly been the harbinger of doom many predicted. What do you think? Is the arena a good neighbor?
Smooth Debut for an Arena That Rocked Brooklyn [NY Times]
Residents Unhappy With Tree Removal Near Barclays [Brownstoner]
Barclays Center Fined for Noise Violations [Brownstoner]
Bars Near Barclays Center Booming, Others Not So Much [Brownstoner]
Photo by Kuyata
Over the weekend, the Times’ real estate section profiled a young couple looking for a two-family home in Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. And while we’re been reading about homes going for incredibly high prices, like 254 Gates Avenue in Bed-Stuy that topped $2 million, this pair looked at several houses, none of which was priced over $450,000. In the end they did far better than that, on price anyway. They were able to find a bank sale on the home pictured above — the one with the white peeling siding — for $190,000 on Hart Street in Bushwick, just a block and a half from the Central Avenue M train. Obviously this is no grand mansion, but it is a standing two-family home, and apparently in decent enough shape to be renovated. The home was listed quite a bit higher at $280,000. Their loan included an additional $145,000 for repairs. The couple are now renovating — their blog is here. What do you think? Is this a wise investment for the long haul, or an inexpensive initial purchase that may well turn into a never-ending money pit?
The Hunt: With an Income Stream in View [NY Times]
Photo By Nicholas Strini for Property Shark
The fire that broke out at Pratt Institute early Friday morning badly damaged the 1887 landmarked building at 200 Willoughby Avenue and destroyed student artwork housed in the 42 upper floor studios used by seniors. According to a statement from the school, “the six-story building’s roof and its sixth floor were gutted. The fifth floor was badly damaged by the fire and there is water damage throughout the building.” One student who lost all of her work just before her interview at Yale University’s graduate school of art told the Times, “‘My studio’s gone, everything I’ve made at Pratt is gone,’ Ms. De Los Angeles said, sobbing as she stood outside the student union near the site of the fire. ‘I don’t even think I have a pencil.’” The chief of fire operations told the paper, “‘inside there’s quite a bit of destruction. It’s all wood inside and the roof did collapse on the left side of the building on the top floor. There’s a lot of damage up there, and we have a lot of water damage.’” The fire caused minor injuries to three firefighters and one unidentified person and the blaze is under investigation. Classes that would normally take place in the building are being scheduled elsewhere.
Fire at Pratt Institute Destroys Studios and Artwork of Students [NY Times]
Fire Claims Student Artwork [NY Post]
Massive Fire at Pratt Damages Building [Brownstoner]
Photo via Fire Fighting News
This freestanding Cobble Hill Greek Revival mansion has set a neighborhood record. The property sold for $6.75 million to Rag & Bone co-founder Marcus Wainwright and his model wife Glenna Neece according to Curbed. The house has been on the market for years. It was a House of the Day back in 2010 when it was offered at $7 million but didn’t budge. It came back on the market in October for the same price (when it was a HoTD again) and apparently this time around the price looked right. The 35 x 50 foot free-standing mansion on a double wide lot has parking for four cars. There is an owner’s triplex with art studio space and two rentals with a separate entrance. This Building of the Day post details some of the home’s history.
Rag and Bone Founder Scoops up $6.75 Million Cobble Hill Mansion [Curbed]
House of the Day: 491 Henry Street [Brownstoner]
House of the Day: 491 Henry Street [Brownstoner]
Building of the Day: 491 Henry Street [Brownstoner] GMAP P*Shark
Yesterday Grub Street had a story up about how Brooklyn has become a kind of über brand in, of all places, Sweden. Early on the story offers up this observation: “‘Brooklyn is the center of cool for Swedes right now,’ a customer at the speakeasy-ish bar Kåken in Stockholm explained recently over sips of a Park Slope Collins. ‘People here think it’s the best place in the world.’” Yes, someone in Sweden has minted the Park Slope Collins. There is also a Bar Brooklyn and a Brooklyn-themed restaurant as well as a Brooklyn Boys Club cocktail. Swedes, apparently, are enamored with the artisanal, organic, local flavor of Brooklyn culture or at least those elements of the culture that are increasingly associated with the borough’s hipster mascot. Says another: “‘the desire for authenticity and a back-to-the basics attitude caught on in Sweden in particular,’ he says. ‘People started going fishing and making their own sausages. Many people associated these things with Brooklyn, which is an alternative to the luxury of Manhattan.”
Brooklyn Brewery is one business that has seen real monetary gains from this new-found Swedish affection. The beer is available in 21 countries and Sweden is its best market outside of New York and has been almost since the beer was introduced there in 2006. It is building its first overseas brewery in Stockholm. And by September Brooklyn Lager will be sold in all of the country’s state-run liquor stores (pictured above). And it is putting on its second annual “Brooklyn, Sweden” music festival which includes Brooklyn bands, food and art. Perhaps there is some leverage there for a great Brooklyn-Stockholm house swap this summer.
Photo by rxb
A tipster sent us this photo of the mural on the one-story warehouse at 55-57 Pearl Street in Dumbo that has been the recipient of a pretty serious paint job. According to our tipster painters started rolling over the mural on Wednesday and finished yesterday. The original mural went up in 2009 and was painted by the 303 Collectives which includes artist Craig Anthony Miller aka Cam. AJ Pires, executive vice president with Alloy, the firm that will be both designing and developing the townhouses on the site (and is also responsible for 192 Water Street and 182 Plymouth Street), confirms that his firm gave the building its new look. He points out that the wall will only be up for a few more months before demolition begins and says, “we wanted to put something up that spoke to the impact of CAM’s work over the past few years and also inserted some optimism at that particular spot. We view all our work as a contribution to the built environment, hopefully a positive one, and while certainly a change from the wall, we’re excited about what the townhouses might be able to add in this little pocket of DUMBO.” What do you think about the change? Will this become Dumbo’s bright garage before it becomes Dumbo’s townhouses?
New Building Proposed for Dumbo Graffiti Garage [Brownstoner]
Facade Proposal Revealed for 55-57 Pearl Street Townhouses [Brownstoner]
New Water Street Mural Sends Positive Message [DumboNYC]