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Sunset at North South Lake

Ask an upstater to direct you to the nearest swimming hole, and you might get an answer. Or, your request might be met with stony silence. Upstaters are notoriously secretive about their swimming holes, even though a quick search on the Internet will lead you to a wide selection of places to take a dip.

Still, when you stumble upon an undiscovered swimming hole that you can enjoy all to yourself, the last thing you want to do is blow it up. The good news is, there are plenty of places to swim in the Hudson Valley and Catskills that don’t require a compass, hip-waders, a head-lamp, or a weathered map with a giant X marking the spot.

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Does historic preservation create “special rich people neighborhoods”? Not according to Brownstoner commenter fiordiligi, who shared his experience in Tuesday’s post about preservation and elitism. We thought his comment had an interesting perspective and is worth a closer look:

Homeowners in landmarked neighborhoods are not by definition “rich.” For example, I own a house in a landmarked neighborhood. I bought it in 1988 when there was almost no market for houses in this area despite the fact that it was landmarked. I bought it because after saving up for a down payment for many years, it was what I could afford; because I thought the neighborhood was beautiful; and because it had decent access to public transportation. I wasn’t rich then, and I’m not now — aside from the fact that the building has appreciated considerably. But I certainly never expected it to do so. And the building’s value means little to me at this point aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford to live in NYC if I hadn’t bought it when I did. And I am just as entitled as rich people to enjoy historic architecture — as are my tenants. My mortgage is paid off, and for me, this house IS affordable housing. Besides, the percentage of landmarked areas in NYC is too small to impact affordable housing in any case; and developers’ efforts to blame landmarking for their own greed in failing to build more affordable housing is nothing but laughable. Did they want to build in landmarked areas before rents and condo prices went through the roof? No, they cared nothing about landmarking. But now, suddenly, landmarking is a villain? Give me a break. Preservation of historic architecture is just as important as preservation of historic artwork — and that’s not an elitist statement. Human life is too short not to enable new generations to learn about, and appreciate, the history of architecture.

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After nearly 13 years of planning, one of Brooklyn’s most interesting new towers is finally on the rise. Construction is now up to the third floor at Fort Greene’s 286 Ashland Place, better known as BAM South, where developer Two Trees and architect Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos are creating a mix of cultural programming, affordable housing, market rate apartments, and landscaped public outdoor space.

In 2008, Two Trees replaced a previous developer and plans for a seven-story building, as readers will recall. The 32-story mixed-use development will bring 384 apartments, 21,000-square-feet of retail, and 45,000 square feet of cultural space. Of the apartments, 77 will be affordable.

A branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will occupy a space at the podium. There will also be elevated public plazas, echoing elements of the previous design from 2002. (more…)

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Dar gitane  — “home” in Arabic plus “gypsy” in French — is both the name of Alina Preciado’s online home goods business and interior design practice, and also shorthand for her life story.

Born in California, Preciado took off for Europe at the earliest opportunity, studying architecture and design in Spain and woodworking in Denmark, where she learned “the culture of simplicity,” as she puts it. “There, even simple things are well thought-out, beautiful and functional.”

And she traveled the continents, collecting artisans’ contacts as she went. (She eventually got a Masters in Industrial Design from Brooklyn’s own Pratt Institute.)

About 15 years ago, Preciado rented a 2,000-square-foot loft near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on the seventh floor of a poured concrete building originally used as a textile mill and then by the military during WWII. She put considerable energy into making the raw space habitable.

“Whatever is here, I’ve put in over the years,” she says, including plumbing, wiring, a bathroom with a claw-foot tub, and the unfitted, farmhouse-style kitchen. (more…)

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Residents of the Vendome building at 363 Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill have filed a lawsuit against the city and building owner Azad Ali in an effort to protect a decades-old agreement enabling tenants to purchase their apartments.

Built in 1887, the Vendome is Brooklyn’s oldest multi-family apartment building. Gutted by a fire in 1980, the building was slated for demolition in 1987. The Vendome was landmarked in 1981 — when the Clinton Hill Historic District was established — and community members lobbied to save it.

At the time, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development created a preservation plan for the site, which included keeping the Vendome as an affordable rental building for 15 years, after which tenants would have the ability to buy their units as coops or condos, according to Legal Services NYC — the organization legally representing the Vendome tenants. Tenants claim that the then-landlord signed agreements guaranteeing these terms in exchange for subsidized loans. (more…)

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Left to right: Panelists Fedak, Powell Harris, Lodhi and Brady

Is historic preservation elitist? It depends who you ask. Six experts and a very well informed audience — many of them professional or grassroots preservationists — convened Monday night at the Museum of the City of New York to ponder the question. Here are the answers:

Sometimes. But the bigger problem is it doesn’t help housing.
Even the two pro-development speakers didn’t exactly argue that preservation is elitist. Nikolai Fedak, founder of pro-development website New York YIMBY (it stands for “yes in my backyard”), blamed zoning restrictions for the affordable housing crisis.

The nut of his argument is that if restrictions were eased, and developers could build higher and more densely throughout New York City, we would have enough units to meet demand, and prices would fall.

Nope. But it should be used sparingly.
Real estate trade association Real Estate Board of New York favors landmarking but in moderation. Only worthy buildings should be designated, said REBNY Vice President for Urban Planning Paimaan Lodhi, who was previously a district manager for a community board in Manhattan.

Irresponsible landmarking — such as of empty lots and gas stations — restricts development, he said. (REBNY has supported recent designations, including Chester Court in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.) (more…)

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One of Crown Heights’ most important houses is about to begin its new life as affordable housing.

The John and Elizabeth Truslow House at 96 Brooklyn Avenue was originally built for a brilliantly wealthy family who made a fortune in stove manufacturing. But after it moldered in obscurity, affordable housing developers NIA JV and ELH Management swooped in to brighten its future.

Restoration on the home — which began in 2013 — is visibly nearing completion on the outside. When Brownstoner visited on Sunday, the exterior was notably spruced up and, we presume, all the holes and leaks fixed. When it’s done, its seven renovated apartments will be occupied by families making $36,680 to $120,240 a year. (more…)

This post courtesy of Explore Brooklyn, an all-inclusive guide to the businesses, neighborhoods, and attractions that make Brooklyn great.

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Before Brooklyn was a cultural and arts destination, it was first a Dutch settlement known as Breuckelen — named after the town of Breukelen in the Netherlands. The Dutch colonized what is now present-day Brooklyn in 1646, establishing six different towns with defined borders. These original towns eventually became English settlements, and then the settlements were consolidated to create the City of Brooklyn. (Brooklyn wasn’t incorporated into greater New York City until 1898.)

The original six Brooklyn towns that would become Brooklyn were Bushwick, Brooklyn, Flatlands, Gravesend, New Utrecht and Flatbush. Present-day Brooklyn neighborhoods bearing these names are located roughly in the center of each of these original towns. Here are a few details of those six original towns, when Brooklyn looked a whole lot different than it does today.

Map of Brooklyn towns via Ephemeral New York. (more…)

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In one of the oldest parts of Brooklyn are the remnants of a now mostly forgotten colonnade row — not the famous one in Brooklyn Heights but another one in what is now Williamsburg.

In the 1830s, ’40s and ’50s, Greek Revival was the fashion, and all over the U.S. people were throwing up facsimiles of Greek temples, even if behind the impressive facades were perfectly ordinary, even humble rooms. An unknown builder here erected a row of houses on Humboldt Street — we can’t say exactly when or even how many — all with tall Doric columns running two stories, from rooftop to porch, over a low basement.

The houses were wood frame, covered in clapboard, and their large windows and doors were topped by impressive triangular neo-classical pediments. (more…)

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Northwest corner from Pierrepont Street

New construction is flourishing in Brooklyn, but developers are also finding value in restoring and converting some of the borough’s historic gems. One such example is the Brooklyn Trust Company Building in Brooklyn Heights. The building’s developer, the Stahl Organization, has nearly completed its residential conversion.

The six-story building at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton was constructed in 1913 and designed by York and Sawyer in the Italian High Renaissance style. (more…)

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Co-living is having a moment. Common, the co-living startup founded by General Assembly cofounder Brad Hargreaves announced this morning that they raised $7,350,000 in Series A funding for operating costs and business growth.

While shared living arrangements are not new, a successful business model hasn’t yet emerged. Campus, a once-burgeoning co-living company with 30 locations across the country (including one in Park Slope), announced in June that it would close its doors. “[W]e were unable to make Campus into an economically viable business,” says a statement on their website.

But Common’s model is different. The company will cleverly use investor assets — Brooklyn brownstones — through a sharing model.

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With Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson no longer prosecuting minor marijuana offenses, and Downtown Brooklyn about to get its first pot dispensary, the borough is on the verge of returning to its pot-growing roots.

Before the 1950s, pot was cultivated pretty freely in the city. Just imagine the summer of ’51 — the Dodgers were leading the National League, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was campaigning for hundreds of miles of urban freeways, and downtown Brooklyn was home to an enormous field of marijuana. (more…)