Blizzard of 88, Bklyn Hts, BPL 1

The advent of a potential blizzard causes me to pause my story of the Musica family. They’ll be back on Thursday. Meanwhile, please consider the following:

Whenever anyone talks about snowstorms in New York City, the Great Blizzard of 1888 is always mentioned. The photographs of Victorian era folk standing next to eight foot snowdrifts are iconic pieces of New York City history. We’ve had snowstorms that have dumped more snow down on us in a single storm than that one did, we’ve had plenty that managed to shut down the city, several of them in the last ten or so years. But the storm of 1888 remains legendary. It was known as the Storm of the Century, the Great White Hurricane, and it brought not only huge piles of snow, but also death, destruction, property damage, and propelled the cities of the East Coast into the modern age.

The storm caused so much damage because of the amounts of snow and the heavy winds that blew it into tall mountains that covered everything. It was a classic Nor’easter that roared ferociously up the coast and vented its fury on Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and on up into Boston, the rest of New England and beyond, catching every town and city on its northeastern path to Canada. These were the days before Doppler radar, storm tracking equipment and 24/7 weather alerts. It was also not a typical winter storm. Winter was almost over, you see, and the people in the Mid-Atlantic States were getting ready for the arrival of spring. After all, it was March 12th, 1888. (more…)

Trolley, Accident Nostrand Putnam. Brooklyn Memories 1931

If you go on line to the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Eagle archives and enter “trolley accidents,” in the search function, there are 644 entries under that topic, from 1891 to 1950. Granted, not all of them are about trolley accidents in Brooklyn, and some of them are repeated stories about the same incidents. Some are just general mentions or stories about changes needed or implemented, but no matter how you want to cut it, trolley accidents were a rather common occurrence.

Like any mass transit conveyance, trolley cars had mechanical failures and human failures. People were often careless; ordinary citizens of all ages, and employees alike. The trolley companies, and there were a lot of them, all were trying to make a profit, and corners were sometimes cut. In the days before stringent safety laws and strong labor unions, all kinds of things went wrong, often maiming and killing people in the process.

I could tell stories about all kinds of accidents and tragedies that took place in the course of the trolley’s long history in Brooklyn, but I find the period when the trolley and the car had to share the road to be the most interesting. As a transportation of the past literally collided with the transportation of the future, we can reach some insight into our present day transportation situations. (more…)

Trolley,WB trolleys, 1907 postcard

Public transportation in Brooklyn began with stage coaches, called omnibuses. They ran along the major streets, and had fixed routes. They began running around 1827, and helped expand the borders of the bustling town of Brooklyn by taking passengers outwards away from the harbor and Heights. They were pretty reliable, but small. The average omnibus could only hold 15 passengers, and that’s with several of them hanging on to the sides and riding on top or with the driver. A passenger would signal the driver to stop by pulling a cord which was attached to the driver’s leg. Could this be one of the origins of the phrase “pulling my leg?”

As demand for better and larger forms of public transportation, other than trains, grew, the horse drawn trolley cars were developed. Some bright entrepreneur looked at a railroad car, the track, and the poor horse, and put them all together: enter the horsecar. Brooklyn’s network of horsecars began in 1854. They were already running over in Manhattan, and had been since 1832. Since the cars ran on metal wheels along a fixed track, and not bumpy cobblestone streets or muddy side streets, it was much easier for the horse to pull a larger load. This was a great improvement over the omnibuses.

There were limitations, of course. The horses were still pulling heavy loads, and most only lasted about five years before they were done and broken. They needed a lot of food and water to fuel them, and so added to the pollution on the streets and had to be cleaned up after. And they were slow – at best clopping along at a human’s fast walk. Still, they allowed people to commute from places like the town of Bedford, in Central Brooklyn, for example, to the ferry in a reasonable time. This created a commuter class that could live further and further away from Brooklyn Heights and downtown, and still work in Lower Manhattan. (more…)


A look back at the biggest stories of 2014, in no particular order:

1. Property prices and rents continue to climb and surpass the highs of 2007, with prices in “prime” Brooklyn now exceeding $1,000 per square foot. The Pierhouse condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park, pictured above, sets records with average prices per square foot (in contract) at $1,850. A four-bedroom penthouse there is in contract for $11,180,000. The median for all types of homes in the borough stands at $587,515 at the end of the third quarter, a 4 percent increase over the year before and a record for Brooklyn, according to Douglas Elliman. It is also 8.8 percent above the high before the financial crisis — and Brooklyn is the only borough where sale prices are now higher than they were before the crash. At the same time, a lot of high priced houses (asking over $10,000,000) FAIL to sell. (Truman Capote’s old rental, 70 Willow Street, continues to hold the record for priciest townhouse at $12,500,000, set in 2012.)

2. The price gap between “emerging” and “prime” Brooklyn narrows. A narrow but nicely renovated house at 242 Gates Avenue in Bed Stuy, not far from the Clinton Hill border at Classon, sells for $3,000,000, topping the previous record of $2,250,000 (22 Arlington) by $750,000, while equivalent townhouses in Park Slope continue to sell for between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000. The median sale price of a townhouse in Crown Heights, Bed Stuy, Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Bushwick leaps 86 percent in one year to $1,850,000, according to a third quarter market report from Corcoran.

3. The construction boom that took off last year advances to Bed Stuy, Bushwick, PLG, and Flatbush. Brookland Capital leads the pack — in sheer number of projects with more than 40 in the pipeline.  Walks through Bushwick over the summer and fall reveals two or three construction or renovation projects on just about every block.

4. National retailers and other big firms replace mom and pops in Williamsburg. Apple finally inks a lease for its first Brooklyn outpost, on Bedford Avenue. Starbucks, J.Crew, Madewell, Urban Outfitters open; Dumont, Moon River Chattel, and Northside Pharmacy close. Glasslands and Death by Audio prepare for their last shows. (more…)

flower in front of bed stuy church anthony fine

Who’ll Be the First to Buy This J.Crew Williamsburg Tote? [B+B]
Construction Watch: Two City Point Residential Towers Will Top out by Year’s End [Curbed]
Concord Hill Is Now Open in Former Home of Williamsburg’s Sel de Mer [Free Williamsburg]
Hundreds Gather on Coney Island Avenue for Vigil After Peshawar School Attack [Kensington BK]
Eight Local Diners to Satisfy Your Burger Binges After El Greco’s Closing [Sheepshead Bites]
Brooklyn Dollar Vans Offer Free Rides This Saturday [DNA]

Photo by Anthony Fine

christmas decorations 122014 eugene gannon

Eight-Story Karl Fischer Project to Replace Freestanding Victorian in Flatbush [NYY]
Eight-Story Building Planned for Former Movie Studios in Midwood [Sheepshead Bites]
86th Street Chevrolet to Be Torn Down [Bensonhurst Bean]
Lincoln Park Tavern to Move? [Q Parkside]
Bartel-Pritchard Greenmarket Now Open Through the Winter [South Slope News]
NYPD: Woman Arrested After Attempting to Shoplift, Biting Employee at Foodtown [Kensington BK]

Photo by Eugene Gannon

bushwick avenue barrel front multi family 122014

This Is What’s Left of the Domino Sugar Factory [Animal]
Up, Up and Away [Q Parkside]
Wild Animal Mural Near Prospect Park Needs Protective Coating, Artist Says [DNA]
“30 Rock” Star Kevin Brown Hosts Bed Stuy Tree Lighting [DNA]
Borough Pres Seeks to Replace Brighton Beach Parking With Affordable Housing [Sheepshead Bites]
Yet Another Williamsburg Music Venue to Close [Greenpointers]
This $900,000 Pink House in Gravesend Is Tackiness Incarnate [Curbed]
Don’t Forget the Tree Lighting in Carroll Park Tonight [PMFA]
Annual Community Clothing Swap and Coat Drive at P.S. 139 Is This Sunday [DPC]
Another Crown Heights Listing Over $2 Million: 1193 Bergen Street [BK to the Fullest]
Claire and Mike’s Park Slope Kitchen Renovation [Sweeten]
A 134-Year-Old Italian Gelateria Is Coming to Williamsburg to Serve Salmon Sorbet [B+B]

cherry street mitch waxman

Security Ramps up at Crown Heights Precinct After Officer’s Car Is Burned [DNA]
Seeds of Love: A Small New Neighborhood Coffee Spot at 421 Court Street [PMFA]
NYC Is Bringing Even More Fashion Initiatives to Sunset Park [Racked]
Barclays Center Forms Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Advisory Board [Eagle]
Local NYPD Precincts Join Social Media, Tweet First Tweets [Bensonhurst Bean]
Demolition Nears for 100-Year-Old Storefront to Make Way for 30-Story Tower [Sheepshead Bites]
Pete’s Waterfront Ale House Is Changing Ownership, Adding Pizza to the Menu [BHB]
Flatbush Artists to Hold Their Holiday Exhibit This Weekend [Kensington BK]
Brookly Diocsese Introduces “Creeper Jesus” to Woo Millennials [Brokelyn]

Photo by Mitch Waxman

south williamsburg juni safont
Cream Doughnuts Makes Its Debut in Bay Ridge [BK Based]
Windsor Terrace Is One Step Closer to Becoming Park Slope [FIPS]
Amira’s Is Closed “Until Further Notice” [South Slope News]
Tsob-Tsobe! Restaurant Replaces Back to USSR on Coney Island Avenue [Sheepshead Bites]
Q & A with Greenpointer Eric Weiner of the Wild Honey Pie [Greenpointers]
Neighbor: Vacant Building in Brooklyn Heights Is Trespasser Magnet [BK Paper]
Catch a Ride on the Nostalgia Train [Bensonhurst Bean]
Space Robot Company Lands in Brooklyn Navy Yard [DNA]
Christmastown Brings Artist-Created Christmas Village to Bushwick [BK Daily]
Checking in at 626 Flatbush [Q Parkside]

Photo by Juni Safont

Max Levy, Professor Mac Levy. Brooklyn Eagle, 1903

On New Year’s Day, 1897, Brooklyn’s premiere physical culturist, Professor Mac Levy, received a late holiday gift from the fitness gods. That evening he was at the Union League Club, on Dean and Bedford Avenues, giving the membership a lecture and demonstration of his journey from a consumptive and puny teenager to a fit and super strong modern day Hercules. Afterwards, he had planned to join friends downtown for some New Year’s Day cheer. They all met near the Elks Club on Schermerhorn Street, after which Mac Levy was headed for the trolley that would take him to his home on Union Street.

Because it was New Year’s Day, and because it was cold and miserable out, the trolley was nowhere to be found. The Professor was no longer in a good mood. He was walking up Court Street and had almost reached Union when two men stepped out from behind a building and demanded his money. It was late, and cold, and the police patrol was nowhere around, and he had been made to walk home. The old Max Levy would have handed his money over, and prayed he got home in one piece. Professor Mac Levy, the “young Hercules” whispered a prayer of thanks for this gift, and got busy. (more…)

Strongmen, 1

We have been trying to improve the human body since we became aware of its strength and beauty. Mankind has been exercising for a very long time. We may have started with “run for your life” being a literal cry to escape predators, but in the centuries that followed our trip from the cave to the city, that mantra is still popular, although perhaps “run for life” is more accurate. The ancient Greeks and other civilizations glorified the perfect physical body, after all, they established the Olympics, and left an artistic record of their pursuit of the body beautiful, an ideal many still strive to reach. The Romans incorporated that ideal into their civilization, as they did so many of the ideals of their conquered foes.

The Dark Ages in Europe obliterated that Greco-Roman philosophy. Between plagues and religious zealotry regarding the sinfulness of the human body, physical perfection took a rest of a few centuries. But the Renaissance restored the glorification of the body human, and as nations rose and fell, so too did the idea of fitness. Of course, the lower classes utilized physical strength much more than the upper classes, so those above were getting weak, compared to those below. That did not go without notice, and over the course of the next few hundred years, various programs of physical fitness were delineated and put into practice in different countries and communities. (more…)

under the piers ig edit

Is It Time to Ban Tourists From the Brooklyn Bridge? [Brokelyn]
Vomit Town USA: SantaCon 2014 Is Coming to Bushwick [Bushwick Daily]
City to Invest $140 Million in Brooklyn Navy Yard [Crain's]
Lightstone Group to Provide Info on Construction Activity for Gowanus Project [PMFA]
On Church Avenue, Finding a Sense of Community That Is Stronger Than Ever [DPC]
Dance Party Funeral for Williamsburg Coming to Glasslands [Free Williamsburg]
Nail Salon Coming to Long-Vacant 92 7th Avenue [Here's Park Slope]