1084 bergen street crown heights 2006

Crown Heights was once home to the city’s first black-owned gay club – the Starlite Lounge at 1084 Bergen Street, on the corner of Nostrand Avenue. Filmmaker Kate Kunath set out to chronicle the bar’s 50-year legacy in “We Came to Sweat,” which premiered last year and will screen tomorrow at the Queens World Film Festival in Jackson Heights. She told Vice the film began as an effort to save the bar, “the oldest black-owned, non-discriminating club,” which was sold in 2009 and finally shuttered for good in 2010. The whole interview is worth reading, but one quote in particular caught our eye:

“There was this unspoken common ground of the patrons, which was their willingness to say ‘f*ck the establishment!’ — whether that was over politics, religion, sexual shame, or social norms. And the energy of that was intoxicating. But what I took away from the plight is that nothing is permanent, progress is not a straight line and losing space is losing ground in the bigger picture.”

“We Came to Sweat” is screening tomorrow at 10 pm at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, Queens. Tickets are $12 or $9 for seniors and students, and available here. Pictured is the building in 2006, before the bar closed. It still stands, but a deli and dollar store have moved into the Starlite’s old space.

“We Came to Sweat” Tells the Story of New York City’s First Black-Owned Gay Club [Vice]
Starlite Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Gregg Snodgrass for PropertyShark


The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is getting pushback from employees and pols over growth plans they say are cutting out longtime local, black supporters — in particular, its plan to open an outpost in One John Street, one of the very swanky new condo buildings going up in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Higher admission fees (they have nearly doubled, from $5 to $9) are also unpopular, reported The New York Times, and the racial diversity of the staff has declined dramatically, among other things. Here’s a sample snippet:

“How are you going to service there when you can barely staff your own building?” said Anne Smith, a former public relations manager at the museum. “Why has there never been a satellite office for black communities, Hispanic communities?” Ms. Smith complained that an administrator had lamented that events at the museum had too much of a “local feel,” and asserted that managers wanted to market to predominantly white, upscale Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

The Crown Heights museum, over 100 years old, was hard hit by the downturn in 2008 and is trying to fix its balance sheet. Meanwhile, the demographics in the area are changing, according to census data: From 2000 to 2010, the last year it’s available, whites increased 89 percent while blacks decreased 15 percent, the story said. What do you think the museum should do?

With Expansion, Brooklyn Children’s Museum Is Accused of Forsaking Its Community [NY Times]


It’s the money shot of the home design world: The pale gray marble mantel with the arch-topped firebox clad in a black iron summer cover. It’s a classic brownstone Brooklyn look, typical of the Italianate brownstones of the 1860s and 1870s that dominate highly desirable Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods such as the Heights, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill.

The arched marble fireplace first started appearing with regularity as a fetish object — a sign that its owner had made it and had the whole brownstone as well as the lifestyle to go with it — in Domino magazine some years ago.

This year, The New York Times reports, the Brooklyn brownstone “is on track to become the aspirational space of the year,” thanks to its appearance in catalogs, ads, and TV shows such as “Girls.” The Times writes:

The Brooklyn brownstone has been fetishized in so many catalogs, ads and television shows, including Design Within Reach, Target and Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” to name a fraction, that location scouts like Andrea Raisfeld of Bedford, N.Y., say it has become the bulk of their business. After rattling off the addresses of seven of her “cash cows,” as she described her most-requested Brooklyn brownstones, Ms. Raisfeld, who has 100 Brooklyn properties in her portfolio, recalled how in the 1990s it was Westport, Conn. — Martha Stewart country — that beckoned.

Do you agree with the Times? What do you think of the interiors they show? Click through to the story to see some really stunning photographs of these covetable spaces, including a magnificently proportioned Clinton Hill Italianate whose frothy yet bold white marble mantel and ornate ceilings make a jaw dropping contrast with inlaid parquet floors and a modern kitchen.

It’s That Brownstone. Again. [NY Times]


Over on the Brooklynian, there is an interesting thread about a mural on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Park Place in Crown Heights. The mural, painted on the side of a bodega, documents the lives and deaths of about 50 people from the neighborhood from the 1990s to about 2006. Most were young men, most died before the age of 25 though some were decades older and some, sadly, were much younger. The writer believes that most were the victims of the violence and turf wars that accompanied the drug trade. Such murals are common throughout Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights, though most celebrate the life and mourn the death of a single person or a few people. The mural is right alongside the entrance to a daycare. Though there is no indication that the mural is slated to be painted over or that the building or business is changing hands, the commenters are debating whether such a mural, documenting a far different, more violent time in the neighborhood’s history, serves a purpose anymore. Should it remain as a warning of past ills, a marker of the neighborhood’s history? Or, has its time come and gone? Would the neighborhood be better off if the mural were painted over and such past violence forgotten. What do you think? Do these murals have a place and serve a purpose in neighborhoods that are nearly a decade removed from their most crime-ridden eras? Is it disrespectful or arrogant to want to wipe out such history and the names of those who once lived and died here?

Should the Shrine at Nostrand and Park Place R.I.P.? [Brooklynian]

This Sunday our own Montrose Morris and regular commenter Amzi Hill, aka Morgan Munsey, are hosting a tour through the Stuyvesant Heights Expansion District. The Landmarks Preservation Commission just designated the expansion this spring, enlarging the original district created in 1971. They’ll tour through both districts, covering residential, civic and sacred architecture as well as cultural highlights. The tour is hosted by the Municipal Arts Society; tickets are $20, or $15 for MAS members.
Photo via Historic Districts Council

metrotech-summer-festival-050313All summer long, there will be sports, movies, music, and other free events at the MetroTech Commons, Forest City Ratner Companies announced yesterday. It’s part of a new summer festival called Summer@MetroTech that kicks off May 17 with a rooftop film. Other events include a Bastille Day celebration, lunchtime sports broadcasts, a science festival, and live music at noon and in the evenings. BAM’s R&B Festival, the BEAT Festival and Rooftop Films are part of the lineup. For a full calendar, go here.
Photo by Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

id-brooklyn-042413Some designers, artists, professors and branding experts are attempting to crowdsource the graphic identity of Brooklyn via Kickstarter and the Web, as FIPS pointed out. Here’s how they put it on their Kickstarter page:

In recent years Brooklyn’s culture has received national and international attention due to its booming arts and maker cultures juxtaposed with its historical significance in the United States. As Brooklynites and Brooklyn-lovers, we want tap into the borough´s pulse and make it the world’s first community branded by participatory design. We, a micro-collective of award-winning artists and branding experts, have designed a four-part project that allows Brooklynites and people from around the world to contribute to the cultural identity of this borough. (more…)

A Carroll Gardens resident recently helped launch the website CourseHorse, a site that centralizes the different types of classes offered in New York City. Here’s an aggregated list of all the classes available in Brooklyn, and you can filter by neighborhood, price range, and types of class. Right now many of the website’s users live in Brooklyn and are posting about classes at Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn Art Space, BKC Brooklyn Central, Painting Lounge, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and more. Here’s an adult ceramics class, DIY Printmaking, Culinary Bootcamp, and Pickling with Rick’s Picks. There are really tons of options to choose from, so go check it out here.
The Brooklyn Kitchen via Coursehorse

new-development-BAM-area-031513The massive redevelopment under way in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene is drawing comparisons to Lincoln Center in the ’90s, reports The Real Deal. It’s all part of rapid change in downtown and nearby areas, including Barclays Center, that will transform the borough in the next few years. Since a rezoning in 2004, New York City has spent more than $100 million in the BAM Cultural District, the story said. “People will look back at this and say it’s a truly remarkable renaissance,” said developer Douglas Steiner, who is building a 720-unit rental tower at Flatbush Avenue and Schermerhorn Street known as the Hub. New residential buildings and businesses began to spring up following the 2004 rezoning. Demand for housing is outpacing availability, and rents have increased, reaching an average of $3,254 for a one-bedroom in January, according to real estate firm MNS. Retail is also in demand, with commercial rents doubling or tripling since 2004. Meanwhile, the City is encouraging cultural spaces and programming. Within the next four years, the area will boast about 40 arts and cultural organizations, the story said. “We like to think of this as a cultural district that caters to everyone — not just the New York elite,” said Tucker Reed, president of the nonprofit Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
The BAM Cultural District: The Next Lincoln Center? [TRD]

The long-anticipated Williamsburg Cinemas on the corner of Grand Street and Driggs is set to open any day now, probably in early December, according to DNAinfo. The seven-screen theater, which will show a mix of indie and mainstream first-run films, was on track to open early this month, but Hurricane Sandy delayed the final inspections by city agencies. Owner Harvey Elgart also owns Cobble Hill Cinemas and Kew Gardens Cinemas. Until recently, there were no movie theaters in Williamsburg, but now the neighborhood has quite a few, including Nitehawk Cinema, Spectacle Theater and indiScreen.
Williamsburg Cinemas Ready for December Opening [DNAinfo]
Williamsburg Cinemas Won’t Make Summer Opening [Brownstoner]
Rendering by Williamsburg Cinemas via DNAinfo GMAP

The screening of the On My Block neighborhood filmmaking challenge takes place tomorrow evening in Dumbo. Fifteen films made in all five boroughs using only residents of the filmmaker’s block as cast and crew will be shown. Films range from one to five minutes in length and can be narrative or documentaries. Awards will be presented for Best Narrative Film, Best Documentary Film and Best In Show. The contest provides an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other better through a collaborative process. “The finished films will live on past the festival end date as a source of community pride, and as a living map of the world’s most creative city,” said the organizers. The reception starts at 7 pm at the White Wave John Ryan Theater at 25 Jay Street. Tickets are $7 in advance or $9 at the door.