WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11 am.

rustic-modern row house

SOMETIMES A GUT JOB is the only answer, as was the case with this 15-by-44-foot four-story row house in Bed Stuy. It had been ripped apart by a developer and then abandoned during the recession, even becoming home to squatters for a time.

“It was a total wreck. There was nothing at all worth saving,” says Gitta Robinson of Brooklyn-based Robinson + Grisaru Architecture, the firm hired by new owners to transform a shell into a home.

Brick party walls and wood joists were practically all that remained. At least the joists were in decent shape.

The architects decided to keep them uncovered on the two lower floors, to add ceiling height, and painted them white. Exposed brick was likewise kept exposed.

“There was a debate on whether it would stay natural or be painted white,” Robinson recalls. Natural won.

Where a chimney breast was removed in the dining area at the rear of the parlor floor, above, the void was patched in with mortar. The homeowners — he is a graphic designer and she a landscape designer — loved the effect and kept it, even matching the mortar treatment on the rear wall of the parlor floor.

In a bold design stroke, the architects removed 2.5 feet of flooring at the rear of the parlor level, creating an open two-story slot that connects the garden and parlor floor acoustically and lets in extra light. Ideally, the architects and homeowners would have liked to replace the whole back wall on the two lower stories with glass, but a tight budget prevented it. (more…)


We were interested to see this renovation in progress at 66 South 3rd Street in Williamsburg when we passed by a few weeks ago. The Italianate row house has been peeled and stripped back to its elemental parts, revealing layers and the structure underneath.

There is brick (which looks like it might be missing some mortar), brownstone details around the windows, and a carved wood door surround. An addition with a setback is rising on the roof.

Most interesting of all, the back wall was completely gone when we stopped by. You could see straight through the house from the front windows to the yard behind. (more…)

Editor’s note: Brownstoner plans to run more features on topics we have always covered, including restaurants, retail, and renovation, and maybe on some new subjects as well. We hope you enjoy this look at one of Brooklyn’s specialties, the pastrami sandwich.

When it comes to pastrami, that old world meat that is a staple of Jewish deli food and a hallmark of New York City’s culinary tradition, Brooklyn has an embarrassment of riches spread throughout the borough. Sure, Katz’s on the Lower East side gets all the attention — and don’t get us wrong, despite the tourists and the crowds they make a darn good sandwich — but for a tender, salty, juicy, stacked-high pastrami sandwich, you’re better off staying in Brooklyn. Here are a few of our favorites, including a few nontraditional takes on this most traditional of deli foods.

David's Brisket House2Photo by Lex X. via Yelp

David’s Brisket House and Deli (Bed Stuy and Bay Ridge)
Halal pastrami may not be typical but at David’s Brisket House, it’s the key ingredient in one of the best sandwiches in the borough. The deli is over 50 years old and the store as well as the recipes have been passed down from one owner to the next over the years. According to a detailed story in Grub Street, “the original Dave was a Russian Jew who sold the deli to a Romanian Jew, who inherited the name.” He ran off with a Columbian woman, leaving two new partners to take over the operation — they were from Yemen, one Jewish and one Muslim. The Jewish partner died of a heart attack, leaving his Muslim partner with the deli. The pastrami, pictured above, is as good as you’ll find anywhere in Brooklyn. (more…)


After years of no work at all or minute changes to the existing steel frame at the site of Williamsburg’s future Whole Foods at 242 Bedford Avenue, suddenly there is real, visible progress. The glassy facade is up on the two-story structure on Bedford Avenue, pictured above, and along about three-quarters of the side at North 4th Street.

As the previously published rendering below shows, the glassy rectangle will be bookended by more traditional looking red brick sections on Bedford and Driggs Berry, somewhat like the industrial building that was on this site originally.

It looks like more of the building will be glass than is indicated on the previously published rendering below. (more…)

2527 Church Avenue

Development could be coming soon to this modest three-story building and adjacent vacant lot in Flatbush. Both lots sold to an LLC for $600,000 in November.

Now the parcel is for sale as a development site, and the new owner is asking $2,029,000 — quite an increase in just a few months. Epic Commercial Realty is the agent. (more…)


Lottery applications are now being accepted for 20 subsidized apartments in Bedford Stuyvesant, which will be ready for tenants by summer’s end. The two-bedroom units will rent for $573 a month.

The low-income units are part of a new facility to be run by the social service group The Bridge, which broke ground on the 53-unit building, at 437 Herkimer Street, in December 2012. The Herkimer Street Residence is an “integrated” facility, which in addition to the apartments up for lottery will contain housing for 40 people with mental-health conditions, including 20 homeless adults and and 20 young adults aging out of state residential treatment facilities for youths.

As reported by DNAinfo this week, the six-story building — which during the planning stages was opposed by neighbors worried about an influx of tenants with mental-health issues — will have round-the-clock front-desk assistance, a community room, and social services available to all tenants. (more…)

257 S 5th street

The Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh has put its Williamsburg headquarters up for sale. The huge parcel of lots in South Williamsburg includes the historic 1908 Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh building and is being marketed as a development site by real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield. The parcel could, theoretically, be worth a rather mind boggling $55,000,000 or so.

The site is a roughly 50,000 square foot group of lots for sale includes 257 and 275 South 5th Street and 146 and 150 Marcy Avenue as well as 262 South 4th Street and 209 Havemeyer Street.

According to the broker the buyer could create a mixed-use development of about 230,500 square feet with 125,000 square feet of parking. Apparently the 1908 Dime Savings Bank building is not in danger of being torn down.

The firm is taking bids; no price has been set, although the bank has an undisclosed reserve price. The average price per buildable square foot for development sites in north Brooklyn was $241 in January, according to The Real Deal. If it sold at the average, that would work out to be $55,550,500. (more…)


Finally: Renderings for the retail development under construction at the former Salvation Army site at the corner of Bedford and North 7th Street has been posted on the fence. The high-profile retail development site, on what is arguably the most trafficked corner in red-hot Williamsburg, has been under construction for years. The store closed in 2012.

The design is traditional with patterned brick in pale colors and large multi-paned windows. The top of the building looks like it could have been built in the 1940s or so. It should fit in very well with the mix of old residential and industrial buildings in the area, we think. (more…)


The two landmarked and formerly crumbling twin houses at 578 and 580 Carlton Avenue in Prospect Heights have come a long way since we last checked in February. The house on the left, No. 580, now has a fully rebuilt cornice. Meanwhile, No. 578, on the right, is being wrapped in insulation prior to getting a new facade. (more…)


The end is nigh for Boerum Hill’s mid-19th-century Church of the Redeemer, despite efforts to save it. Yesterday Demolition Depot sent out a notice that the 4th Avenue church’s historic artifacts and architectural details are for sale and that demolition will start “next month.”

Included in the sale are stained glass windows, large amounts of elaborate Victorian encaustic cement tile, neo-Gothic light fixtures, a crucifix, Gothic-style doors, statuary, pews, radiators, and exterior iron fencing. All the items for sale can be seen on Demolition Depot’s website. (more…)


We caught the foundation in progress at 51 South 4th Street in Williamsburg, better known as the Townhouses of Wythe Lane, when we passed by recently. One of six townhouses planned here went on the market in October, priced at $3,995,000. The townhouse, whose address is 4 Wythe Lane, is in contract.

They are situated at the corner of Wythe Avenue and South 4th Street, next to Domino Site E, Domino’s first building project, and the former site of the temporary Havemeyer Park. (more…)

417 Grand Avenue1

This unusual Clinton Hill house at 417 Grand Avenue is Colonial Revival and dates from 1909. It is part of a group of three designed by John J. Petit of Kirby, Petit & Greene, who is well known for his Japanese, Swiss, Spanish Colonial and other themed houses in Prospect Park South.

The landmarked house is very grand on the inside, with impressive proportions and a combination of Renaissance Revival and Colonial Revival details. It is 25 by 70 feet wide with five stories, according to PropertyShark, which would put the whole thing at 8,750 square feet. In fact, the listing calls the building “The Grandeur,” which seems fitting.

Unfortunately, there are not many photos and no floor plan. Although it’s been a two-family since 1975, it was chopped into 14 units in 1953, according to the certificates of occupancy. There are amazing details in the photos of the rooms shown, but it looks like it probably needs a lot of work.

We see herringbone floors and a near-original kitchen with impressive cabinetry and subway tile walls. There are six fireplaces and six bathrooms, plus plenty of fancy wood work, paneling and columns.

It was a Building of the Day last year and, incidentally, the site of a drug raid that same week, according to our own report at the time. The listing suggests it would work well as rentals or condos.

It last sold in January to an LLC for $2,500,000. Now the asking price is $3,999,000. What do you make of it? Has anyone seen this place in person?

417 Grand Avenue [Corcoran] GMAP
Photos by Corcoran (more…)