04/21/14 10:00am


The passive-house affordable apartment building at 424 Melrose Street wrapped in February and 22 of the building’s 24 units are already filled, reported The New York Daily News. A joint project of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Mennonite Church, which owned the land, it was paid for by private bank loans, a federal tax credit and the New York State’s Housing Trust Fund.

Rents range from $400 to $1,100 for a studio to a three-bedroom. Eight units are for low-income residents and 15 are for handicapped. Interior photos in the Daily News show beautiful long windows and tiny radiators. There are two small boilers on the roof and 16 thermal solar panels. The 28,000-square-foot building cost $8,500,000 to construct and uses about 10 percent of the energy of most buildings of its size, according to the story. The architect is Chris Benedict.

Construction caused evacuation of nearby buildings in 2012, as we reported at the time.

The finished building looks different from the rendering, but we like it. The beige and white color scheme is not particularly inspiring, but we like the rhythm and pattern created by the grouping of the passive-house windows, whose look too often detracts from older buildings. This is one of many affordable projects in Brooklyn with admirable architecture, including a number spearheaded by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. Another passive building with 24 units at 803 Knickerbocker Avenue is scheduled to finish this summer.

Click through to the Daily News article to see the finished building. What do you think of the design?

Inside the Country’s First Multi-Family Affordable Passive House Apartments [NY Daily News]
Bushwick Buildings Evacuated After Cracks Appear [Brownstoner]
Rendering by Chris Benedict via Inhabitat

04/16/14 9:00am


Crazy weather — although this is not the latest it has snowed in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times. That was May 9, in 1977. We hope this doesn’t wreck our tulips, which were just about to bloom today. (You can see their tiny heads at the far end of our yard, in front of the holly bushes, above.)

Some quotes from Twitter:

“My Farmer’s Almanac did not predict snow with a side of fireworks in Brooklyn in mid-April.” — Elizabeth Spiers

“Ugh, surprise snow overnight in Brooklyn, killed all the cherry blossoms in the back yard.” — Gregory Pattillo

“Did it snow tonight in Brooklyn or am I crazy and wasn’t it like 80 degrees yesterday hey God what are you doing.” — bay res

Two former Brooklyn Nets are partnering with PricewaterhouseCoopers to give away trees at P.S. 188 in Coney Island tomorrow. The giveaway is part of a Nets program called Trees for Threes, which will give away a tree for every three-pointer the team scores this season.

Former Nets players Kerry Kittles and Albert King will be on hand to give away the trees to local residents, along with volunteers from PwC, the Nets mascot, members of the Brooklynettes and students from P.S. 188 Michael E. Berdy School. The trees will be planted in community gardens, at schools and in yards. The event will happen Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm in the schoolyard at 3314 Neptune Avenue.

Photo via NYC.gov

03/28/14 9:30am

The antidote to sky-high electrical bills in new construction condos may be architect Robert Scarano’s green condo project at 67 Brighton 1 Lane in Brighton Beach. The building will sell energy back to the grid, and residents should have very low or no utility bills, as we wrote in November. There will also be composting toilets and a hot tub, said a story today in The New York Daily News.

In November, we wrote that marketing had started for the building, with six units priced from $295,000 for a studio to $795,000 for a two-bedroom loft with outdoor space. The New York Daily News says sales will start in April, with prices slightly higher than they were in November. Prices will start at $325,000 for a studio and go up to $850,000 for a two-bedroom with two baths. The building does not yet have its certificate of occupancy and no listings have gone up yet.

The development cost about $600 per square foot to build, or about two times the average in New York City, according to the Daily News.

Arcihitect Robert Scarano Is Back With Brighton Beach Green Building [NY Daily News]  GMAP
Scarano’s Green Condos Hit the Market [Brownstoner]
Images via Bright n’ Green and Sheepshead Bites

03/07/14 9:30am

newtown creek mitch

The end of North Henry Street will be transformed into a public shoreline, thanks to the first round of grants from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund. The group announced funding for 18 small-grant projects yesterday. The Newtown Creek Alliance will get $25,000 for its shoreline project, DNAinfo reported. (Above, Newtown Creek flowing into the East River.)

The New York City Audubon Society will receive about $50,000 for a habitation project with two schools to attract birds in McGolrick Park. A grant of $12,500 will go to Build It Green! to study the feasibility of a community compost site in the area.

$400K in Environmental Grants Awarded Through Greenpoint Oil Spill Fund [DNAinfo]

Photo by Mitch Waxman

03/05/14 9:00am


The Brooklyn Recovery Fund has issued an impressive report on the state of Brooklyn more than a year after Hurricane Sandy. The report, issued a little over a month ago, found:

“While systems are back online and homes are mucked out, coastal communities continue to struggle. Home and business owners have spent down their life savings and built up debt. Many are barely making mortgage payments, and live in fear of foreclosure. Tenants face new and increasing landlord issues, including ongoing repair needs and rent hikes, and many have been forced to start over in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Storm drains remain clogged, temporary boilers create the random loss of heat, and mold persists in homes — threatening the health of our families. These needs require the utmost attention and commitment from local and city-wide decision-makers and government agencies, and beg the cooperation of all those involved to ensure that our communities recover to be better and stronger than ever before.”

The report has specific recommendations for each neighborhood in the five areas of housing, health, business and jobs, immigrant and undocumented communities and infrastructure. All the recommendations are backed up with studies and data. Some of the findings: (more…)

03/04/14 11:30am


The settlement fund for the Greenpoint oil spill has received 96 proposals for improving the environment in Greenpoint, The New York Times reported. The fund has $19,500,000 to give away. The projects include:

*A $7,000,000 request from the New York City parks department and the City Parks Foundation to plant trees on the street and in Greenpoint parks, improve Box Street Park and buy a 7.5-acre plot to turn into a park.

*A $304,750 proposal by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to create curbside gardens to filter storm water and help clean Newtown Creek. The department also applied for $288,465 to study how to use floating wetlands to decrease pollution.

*Audubon New York proposes to restore plantings to attract native bird species in Monsignor McGolrick Park. The habitation project would be carried out with students at P.S. 110 and St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy.

*Residents and environmental groups request almost $1,000,000 to map disease clusters and toxic sites in the area, as we reported earlier.

The Times story also noted that ExxonMobil has recovered about 12 million gallons from the oil spill to date, using 21 wells throughout the area. Sales of the recycled oil is bring in about $60,000 a year, and the money is donated to Greenpoint schools and organizations. Above, a boom to contain oil set out on Newtown Creek.

Which of the 96 proposals do you support and why?

Variety of Projects Vying for Grants From $19.5 Million Oil Spill Fund [NY Times]
Photo by Newtown Creek Alliance

02/27/14 9:30am

A friend who lives in Kensington sent us these photos last night and told us that around 10 pm, she got home and found her water contaminated with gasoline. A fireman she spoke to said that someone may have dumped it into the sewers. Firetrucks came to her block as well (see a photo after the jump), near Dahill Road and Clara Street. Is anyone else who lives in Kensington having this problem?

UPDATE: A spokesman from NYC Department of Environmental Protection tells us that it’s not possible for anything in the sewers to end up in the drinking water, because the water supply is a closed, pressurized system that carries clean drinking water from the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers. He added that the fastest way to get rid of any discolored water is to run your taps. The water may be discolored because of a change in the flow, or because firefighters were running a firehose. The DEP plans to send someone to the area to investigate the water. Our tipster who lives on the block said the water smelled like gasoline, as did the block.


02/18/14 9:00am


A story in the New York Times about how the severe winter weather is breaking the budgets and pipes of cities and states in the Northeast, South and Midwest got us thinking about what it’s doing to property owners and renters here in Brooklyn.

Our oil bill for January was $1,203.57. Normally it would be about $600. The unusual mix of ice, heavy snow, and torrential rain Thursday somehow penetrated our mudroom ceiling and dumped a ton of water into the room. The room is still wet, even though the roof and the drainpipe are brand new, and we anticipate we’re going to have to rip out the ceiling and walls and do mold cleanup soon.

What about you? Has the severe weather done a number on your heating or home repair bills?

01/27/14 9:30am

newtown creek

Community advocates and environmental experts want to map disease and toxic sites in Greenpoint. They are seeking nearly $1 million from a $19.5 million environmental fund set aside in a 2010 settlement of the massive ExxonMobil oil spill in Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek to search out clusters of asthma, cancer, heart disease and birth defects in the 11222 ZIP code, the New York Post reported.

Lifelong Greenpoint resident Laura Hofmann told the Post she has an autoimmune disease that she thinks was triggered by pollution, and her family has suffered from several different diseases.

Greenpoint’s industrial past includes somewhere between 17 and 30 million gallons of oil spilled into Newtown Creek (pictured above), toxic vapors concentrated underground from former dry cleaners and metal companies, and toxic chemicals that have seeped from underground tanks at the Nuhart Plastics Factory.

Plans to Map Greenpoint’s Toxic Chemical Sites Proposed [NY Post]

Photo by Pixonomy