In 1859, a commission was formed by the New York State Legislature, charged with finding locations for parks in the rapidly expanding city of Brooklyn. James S. T. Stranahan, a wealthy Brooklyn businessman, was president of this Brooklyn Board of Park Commissioners. Washington Park, in Fort Greene, was the city’s first park, but the city needed more. They wanted the equivalent of Central Park, the enormous greensward which had just been completed across the river in Manhattan. The commission wanted something big, and after looking at six different locations, they thought they had just the place for it.
The glacier that cut through Long Island millennia before had left a terminal moraine that sliced through central Brooklyn, creating its highest points. One of them was Mount Prospect, the site of the city’s main reservoir and its water supply. Nearby was Battle Pass, the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, during the Revolutionary War. What a great place for a park for the people, a landscaped reserve that would protect and celebrate these important locations. The park would also protect the reservoir from being surrounded by too much development. The eastern portion of the park, surrounding Battle Pass, would be perfect for attracting wealthy people to a new upscale neighborhood that could be built for them. It was perfect. (more…)
A larger than anticipated crowd of over 200 people showed up to discuss their concerns and wishes and help plan the future of Gowanus development Monday night at The Children’s School on Carroll Street. The meeting was the first of a series of public planning forums called Bridging Gowanus convened by local politicians about the ongoing development of and cleanup plan for Gowanus. The Pratt Center for Community Development moderated and presented findings from previous invitation-only meetings held over the summer.
City Council Member Brad Lander remarked that with the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site and the impending transition at City Hall, it’s an important moment for the community to come together and establish a shared vision for the infrastructure of the low-lying and industrially polluted Gowanus area before planning begins. The consensus of the crowd was that every effort should be made to preserve the area’s socioeconomic diversity and keep it affordable for the mixed uses (manufacturing, residential, commercial, artistic) that currently exist. A number of local artists in attendance expressed fears of gentrification and said they felt threatened by the diminishing affordability of studio space. In brief, locals called for a rezoning to preserve affordability and Gowanus’ eclectic identity as a community with vibrant street life and activity.
Other issues raised included the need for a permanent protection plan against coastal disasters; it was noted that the current recovery infrastructure is insufficient to handle even regular rain. The group also said another priority is more schools and suitable health care facilities to accommodate the area’s growing residential population. They would also like the canal to be opened up as a recreational public waterway.
A series of followup meetings will be held early in 2014. In the meantime, anyone interested in joining a working group can contact info@BridgingGowanus.org.
The United States Postal Service and Community Board Two hosted a public hearing on Thursday evening about the relocation of two post offices: the Pratt Station Post office at 524 Myrtle Avenue and the Times Plaza Station Post Office at 542 Atlantic Avenue. Each location’s lease agreement will soon expire, at which point both property owners have other plans for the buildings.
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery voiced concern over the relocation of Myrtle Avenue’s post office, as its current location is convenient for many area residents. She said she would like to work with the post office through a committee to help find a suitable new location.
USPS Real Estate Specialist Joseph Mulvey said every attempt will be made to keep retail services and carrier operations together in the new locations. However, if a large enough space cannot be found — 8,600 square feet — the services may have to be separated, he said.
The post office will take written comments on the move for the next 15 days (by mail). After that, the post office will outline its plan for conducting the search in a letter to the borough president, mayor, and the community board.
After this, any member of the community will have up to 30 days to appeal the decision. Once a decision is made, the search for suitable properties will continue. The borough president and community boards will be notified of proposed new locations, and then another round of feedback and comment will start.
The post office has engaged CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate firm, to help with the search. They’re already in preliminary talks with property owners, he added.
Home renovation matchmaking and blog site Sweeten has mapped every residential renovation project filed with the New York City Department of Buildings over the past 10 years. They pulled some data for us that shows Brooklynites filed 6,776 home renovations in the first six months of the year, and $77,710 was the average cost of those alterations. The biggest job during that time cost $7,000,000, based on self reported costs at filing. If you click on one of the mapped dots, it will tell you the name of the owner and the architect (if there was one). Sweet.
After decades of mostly mom and pop retail, chain stores are moving to Brooklyn. The borough had the biggest increase in chain stores of any in New York, an increase of 2.8 percent in 2013, bringing the total number of chain stores in Brooklyn to 1,511, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future. Capital New York was the first to cover the report.
Dunkin Donuts has the most stores of any chain in Brooklyn, with a total of 123. Its October opening at the corner of Bedford and North 7th in Williamsburg, above, got a lot of attention. Other retailers gaining in Brooklyn include Subway, Metro PCS, 7 Eleven, Family Dollar, Auntie Anne’s, Popeye’s and T Mobile. The transformation of downtown’s Fulton Mall by national and global retailers such as H&M, Century 21 and T.J. Maxx has been widely noted. Do you think it’s high time Brooklyn got some attention from big retailers, or do you prefer local stores?