09/13/13 12:00pm


Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Justin La Mort, the Chair of Events and a Steering Committee Member at the North Brooklyn Boat Club. The club enables and advocates for human-powered boating on the waterways bordering Greenpoint and Williamsburg. To wrap up its season, the group is holding a benefit concert next week, promised to be “the best Superfund dance party of the season.”

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?
Justin La Mort: I started out in a warehouse loft off the Williamsburg waterfront but once the condos went up so did the rent. Next I ended up being one of the first tenants in a Bushwick development on the site of the ribbon factory in a “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” then finished the North Brooklyn trifecta with a great old house in Greenpoint near McCarren Park. As of two weeks ago I’ve moved to Windsor Terrace so my girlfriend and I could shorten our commutes to South Brooklyn and enjoy all the green scenery without abandoning our love affair with the G train.

BS: How did the North Brooklyn Boat Club come to be? How did you get involved?
JLM: The North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) was the brain child of local filmmaker Dewey Thompson, Christine Holowacz of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP), and too many other great people to name here. North Brooklyn is in dire need of more open space and our city with hundreds of miles of shoreline only has a handful of access points into the water. NBBC was this DIY movement to open up not just the waterfront to the people but the waterways themselves. The idea quickly spread and with an outpouring of community support NBBC was awarded money from an environmental legal settlement that will one day fund the Greenpoint Boathouse.

After the jump, Justin explains why the NBBC picked Newtown Creek for its headquarters, what’s in the future for the club, and his favorite spots on the water… (more…)

09/06/13 12:00pm


Welcome to The Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, and the like. Introducing David Colley and Elizabeth Keegin Colley, the authors of recently released “Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece.” The book is a detailed, visual look at the history of Brooklyn’s best park. (Check out a trailer for the book here.) The authors will speak about the book Saturday, September 21 at 2 pm at the Dweck Center of the Brooklyn Public Library as part of a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event. Park landscape architect Christian Zimmerman will lead a park tour after the presentations.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
David Colley and Elizabeth Keegin Colley: While working on the book we were staying in a beautifully located apartment near the library, the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanic Garden. It was a wonderful neighborhood and convenient to Prospect Park so that Mary Liz [Elizabeth Keegin Colley, the book's photographer] could be out at all times of day and night and in all seasons capturing the moods of the park.

BS: What first drew you to Prospect Park, and why did you decide to write the book?
DC + EKC: With backgrounds in city planning, park boards and a shade tree commission, we have always loved parks. When traveling, we go to museums, take long walks, but spend inordinate amounts of time in public parks. When we heard the Prospect Park Alliance was looking for proposals for a history we responded immediately as a writer/photographer team. We have often worked together but this was a terrific opportunity and the first time we both started with just the germ of an idea and continued to publication. It has enriched our lives tremendously.

After the jump, the many joys of photographing Prospect Park, what the park was like in the ’70s and ’80s, and some little-known facts about Olmsted and Vaux’s masterpiece. (more…)

08/09/13 12:00pm

Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks in real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Amy Nicholson, the director of Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride. The documentary focuses on the fight between Zipper operator Eddie Miranda, Coney Island real estate developers, and the City of New York. The film begins its theatrical run today, August 9, at the IFC Center. UPDATE: The IFC has extended Zipper with an additional week on a matinee schedule – 2:15 pm daily starting Friday, August 16th and going through next Thursday, August 22nd.

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?
Amy Nicholson: I live on West 12th Street in the Village. I got here by way of Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, New York (Soho), Minneapolis, and San Francisco again before I got back here. Once I figured out that this was place I really wanted to live, I hunkered in on West 12th Street. I will leave when I am an old lady.

BS: What first drew you to Coney Island and how did you decide to start filming there?
AN: Well, I grew up in Baltimore and spent my summers at the county and state fairs and also going to local carnivals. There was always a Zipper. It was a mean ride and it was my favorite. I also lived in Ocean City, M.D., during the summers as a teenager and the same beach/carnival culture combination exists there as it does in Coney Island. So the Zipper represents my entire childhood – before computers and iPads there were black light posters, Wacky Packages and rides like the Zipper. When I read in the Daily News back in 2006 that the Zipper was leaving Coney Island, my heart sank. I had to do something.

After the jump, Amy discusses the controversy over Joe Sitt, her thoughts on the redevelopment of Coney, and her favorite moment shooting the film. (more…)

06/07/13 12:00pm

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Ellen Honigstock, one of the founders of Solarize Brooklyn. Solarize Brooklyn is a nonprofit focused on bringing solar power into Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Ellen Honigstock: I live with my family on the border of Kensington and Windsor Terrace. I met my husband in July of 2000 on the day after he closed on his Ocean Parkway apartment, and after we got married, I moved in. One day when my now 9-year-old was a baby, we were out walking him around the neighborhood on the other side of the highway and we passed a great but fairly run-down house for sale next to a beautiful community garden on East 4th Street. We weren’t even looking to move at the time but we loved the location and as an architect, the multitude of problems the house had didn’t scare us.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of Solarize Brooklyn and how you got involved?
EH: On New Year’s Day, we decided this was going to be the year to add solar to our home! We had already weatherized our house and we wanted to take advantage of the incentives around solar before they started to disappear. I asked a neighbor to see if she wanted me to get her a price quote also and when she responded with an enthusiastic “yes,” I thought that perhaps more of our neighbors would be interested too so I posted the question to our local listserve and got 37 responses. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I responded with a request to help put together a community purchasing program and very quickly, several knowledgeable and enthusiastic neighbors stepped up. We then met with Max Joel from Solar One, a nonprofit green energy, arts and education center, who quickly became our Trusted Advisor and helped us put together a request for proposal for solar PV (electric) and solar thermal (hot water) systems. Since then we have selected the providers and put together several educational sessions to tell community members about the program. We will have at least three more sessions before June 30, the close of the joining date. You can see locations and details here.

After the jump, how to get involved with the program, why Brooklyn is a good place for these initiatives, and what’s in the future for Solarize Brooklyn… (more…)

05/17/13 12:00pm

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development, and the like. Introducing Corrin Arasa, the founder and creative director at Patina Vintage Rentals, a furniture rental showroom and studio in Bushwick.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Corrin Arasa: The Patina studio is in Bushwick. I live in Forest Hills and have for ten years. We moved there because it’s a great place to raise a family and it’s one of the prettiest spots in the city. Plus it’s only 10 minutes away from Bushwick — which is great.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of the company, and how you got into vintage furniture?
CA: I’ve always been into vintage furniture and décor. I’ve always loved finding hidden treasures at flea markets and estate sales. My mom used to drag us to yard sales all of the time growing up, so I guess the thrill of the hunt is long ingrained. I started an event-marketing agency ten years ago. Many of my clients needed something different from anything that was offered for events, so I started pulling from my own collection and scouting and creating custom pieces for them. As my inventory and sources grew, so did my company. Now I have an inventory of hundreds of pieces which led to the launch of Patina Rentals last summer.

After the jump, Corrin talks about finding a 5,000-square-foot space in Bushwick, what’s happening with Brooklyn design, and the craziest event she provided furniture for… (more…)

04/26/13 12:00pm

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, the Director of the Brownsville Partnership. The Brownsville Partnership is a part of Community Solutions, a national not-for-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities to end homelessness.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Rasmia Kirmani-Frye: I live in Fort Greene. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about 20 years, and have lived all over. I started in Windsor Terrace, and then Sunset Park, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, and back to Fort Greene. I ended up in Fort Greene the first time when I came back from my PhD fieldwork on the West Coast and needed a roommate and somewhere to live – I totally lucked out on both! When my husband and I got married we needed to find a place and ended up two blocks away from where I was living the first time in Fort Greene – we love it. And I should add, my husband grew up in Bed-Stuy, on Putnam and Throop.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of the Brownsville Partnership, and how you became involved?
RKF: The Brownsville Partnership – an initiative of Community Solutions, a New York-based national not for profit – was launched in 2008 by Rosanne Haggerty. She and a team started working in Brownsville in 2005 doing community organizing. Rosanne met Brownsville’s unofficial “mayor” Greg “Jocko” Jackson – lifelong resident and agent of hope in Brownsville – and the Brownsville Partnership was born with Greg as the founding director. He passed away last May, but it’s his legacy of hope-in-action that we are carrying out [that] lives on. Prior to working at the BP, I was a community organizer in Brooklyn, and then consulted with community-based organizations in Brooklyn for the past 15 years. I became involved in January 2008. My long-time mentor, and founding president of the Times Square BID, Gretchen Dykstra, was working with Rosanne to conceptualize the work in Brownsville and, knowing that I have a long term love of Brownsville, she suggested I talk to Rosanne. I did and I met Greg, and I was totally inspired by both of them, and that was it. Love.

After the jump, how rapid gentrification in Brooklyn is changing Brownsville, hopes for the community in ten years, and Ras’s favorite spot in the neighborhood… (more…)

03/29/13 11:30am

Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, development, architecture and the like. Introducing Linnaea Tillett, an environmental psychologist and lighting designer. She is the principal of Tillett Lighting, lighting consultants for waterfront landscapes, infrastructure, parks, public art and private interiors. In Brooklyn, she designed lighting for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Visitor and Exhibit Center and the Brooklyn Public Library Leon Levy Information Commons, among other spaces.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Linnaea Tillett: I live in Brooklyn Heights. I moved temporarily to Dumbo (from Manhattan) to work on an art/wayfinding project under the Brooklyn Bridge called “This Way.” Most days and nights I would roam around Brooklyn Heights while I was waiting for this or that piece of work to be done on the site. One night I wandered up Columbia Heights and thought to myself, “I could live here!” So when “This Way” had opened and I had a choice to go back to Manhattan or live nearer my office in Williamsburg, I completely denied how awkward the commute to work would be, and found an apartment to fall in love with.

BS: How did you get into lighting design, and what does your firm currently do now?
Coming from a family of designers (textiles, clothing, tableware — actually every single thing in the house I grew up with), I was used to looking at the world and wondering what I was supposed to design. One summer, my sister-in-law, a costume designer, asked me to help her out on a theatre production. Nobody was available to work on the lighting, so they gave me a script, a mass of tangled dusty cables, a pile of rusted light fixtures and some bits of cracked colored gel. I read the script, made some choices, and hung the lights with bits of color in front of them. When I turned on the lights, I was stunned that a bunch of wires and rusted tin cans organized along the emotional lines of a script could have such an expressive force. And I was hooked. Not on theatre, but on light as a creative tool.

Now I own Tillett Lighting Design. We light infrastructure, landscape, public art and interiors. Each is a one-of-a-kind project that requires attention and sensitivity to the emotional dynamics of the space.

After the jump, details and photographs of Linnaea’s projects in Brooklyn, her advice in lighting a small apartment, and her favorite interior and exterior spaces in New York City. (more…)

03/15/13 11:30am

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Jennifer Johnsen, the new executive director of sales for real estate firm MNS. Jennifer oversees the sales and rental divisions at MNS and will open a new office for MNS in Williamsburg this spring.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Jennifer Johnsen: I currently live in Williamsburg. It was a day trip that turned into a new home. My kids and I went over from the city one weekend to check out the Smorgasburg and fell in love with the neighborhood. Two weeks later we leased an apartment and made the move.

BS: You’re opening up an MNS office in Williamsburg this spring, the second for the firm in the neighborhood. Why did it feel important to be in this particular neighborhood?
JJ: The Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhood is the hottest submarket in Brooklyn. MNS has had incredible success with our new development projects along the waterfront and surrounding neighborhood; we have a great presence in this area combined with a large group of very loyal and important clients. We do a lot of resale business in Williamsburg and have outgrown our space on Bedford Avenue.

After the jump, Jennifer discusses the market boom in Williamsburg, how to balance gentrification in a growing neighborhood, and the projects MNS is tackling in Brooklyn now… (more…)

03/08/13 11:30am

Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Su Friedrich, the filmmaker behind Gut Renovation. Gut Renovation chronicles Su getting priced out of Williamsburg after the 2005 rezoning. The film is now showing at Film Forum in Manhattan.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Su Friedrich: I currently live in Bed Stuy. We moved from Williamsburg in June 2009 after an eight month search through various neighborhoods. We ended up in Bed Stuy because the loft in which we had lived for 20 years in Williamsburg became totally unaffordable due to the 2005 rezoning of the neighborhood. In other words, I’m happy to have found a nice home, and I think Bed Stuy has a lot to offer, and we’ve gotten very involved with our neighbors and our block association, but it isn’t where I would be living (nor is any other place…) if I hadn’t been forced out of the loft, and the neighborhood, which I had grown to love so much.

BS: Can you talk about the premise of your film, and what inspired you to start shooting?
SF: My film is a record “from the inside” of what happened to Williamsburg in the five years following the rezoning. It isn’t a conventional, objective documentary. Instead, it creates a more visceral experience as one witnesses the experiences that I had, and which I shared with countless other residents, when we found ourselves invaded by developers and engulfed by demolition and construction. The rezoning was announced in May 2005. Within a short time, the invasion began, and within a few months after that, I started recording what was going on, and continued filming until 2009.

After the jump, Su gets into the specifics of the rezoning, the presence of artists in gentrifying neighborhoods, and her favorite business and building that survived the redevelopment of Williamsburg… (more…)

01/25/13 11:30am

Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved with Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Leah Archibald, the Executive Director of the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, an organization that promotes the development and retention of production, manufacturing and industrial service in North Brooklyn. Her photo is by Marc Koch.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Leah Archibald: I live in South Slope and have since my family and I relocated to New York City from Los Angeles in 1998. My two closest friends from my hometown (Buffalo) live in Windsor Terrace and Carroll Gardens respectively, so South Slope seemed geographically equidistant. Also, we could afford it. I was working for a meager wage for a local elected official and going to grad school full time, and my husband had just completed his PhD in History and was not yet working. Out of total desperation we first moved into a complete piece of garbage apartment on 15th Street between 4th and 5th avenues — way, way too small for my husband and daughter and me. And it was next door to a creepy anti-Semite with a million dogs. The block was really awful—there was always nasty medical waste and the like illegally dumped in front of where that Harbor Fitness is right now. Of course this block is totally different now. The rum distillery and old church are now huge condo complexes.

BS: Can you explain the goals of EWVIDCO and your role there?
LA: I am the Executive Director of EWVIDCO, which is the local development corporation that serves the business community in industrial North Brooklyn. We provide a huge range of services to help local businesses grow so we can retain high-quality, working-class jobs in our community. Our tremendous staff helps businesses get financing, find qualified employees, find real estate and understand and take advantage of public incentive programs. We have recently expanded programming designed to help the many fledgling, small food manufacturers in our community continue to grow. Additionally, we advocate for the needs of industrial firms, both individually (like helping someone get a loading zone from DOT) and for the community as a whole (on shared issues like truck routes and the Newtown Creek Superfund designation). It’s my job to keep the ship moving in the right direction (along with our awesome Board of Directors), make sure that my team has the resources it needs to get the job done (fundraising!) and to manage administration, policy development and communications for the organization.

After the jump, why manufacturing is so important in North Brooklyn, looking back at the 2005 rezoning, the problem with illegal loft living and Leah’s favorite funeral home. (more…)

12/14/12 11:30am

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing the ladies of Egg Collective: Crystal Ellis, Stephanie Beamer and Hillary Petrie. Egg Collective is a Brooklyn-based design company that builds furniture and home objects.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Egg Collective: Our shop and studio are outside of the Navy Yard in Clinton Hill. We wanted to be within walking distance of work, so we all live in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of your firm, and the initial concept and goals of Egg Collective?
EC: We started designing together when we graduated from Architecture School at Washington University in St. Louis in 2006. We met over Tuesday night dinners as a way to keep our creative minds stimulated. Our goals have evolved from having a creative outlet to establishing a company that builds on the ethics and skill sets we have gathered over the years. Egg Collective was officially formed in 2011 with the intention of designing and producing contemporary heirloom quality furniture that is made in America.

After the jump, the design scene in Brooklyn, Egg Collective’s latest work, and tips to maximize a small space… (more…)

11/30/12 11:30am

Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Sam Holleran and Clara Amenyo, both involved with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, better known as CUP. Amenyo is a program manager; Holleran is communications coordinator. CUP is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that uses design and art to improve civic engagement in New York. 
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
CUP: CUP lives in the Old American Can Factory right next to the Gowanus Canal — we were, very thankfully, spared any Sandy-related flooding. We were lucky to get a space here, among other individuals and organizations working in different areas of cultural production.

BS: Can you explain how CUP was founded and what its mission is now?
CUP: We’re a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement, particularly for historically under-represented communities. CUP projects demystify the urban policy and planning issues that impact our communities, so that more individuals can better participate in shaping them. We believe that increasing understanding of how these systems work is the first step to better and more diverse community participation.

CUP projects are collaborations of art and design professionals, community-based advocates and policymakers, and our staff. Together we take on complex issues—from the juvenile justice system to zoning law to food access—and break them down into simple, accessible, visual explanations. The tools we create are used by organizers and educators all over New York City and beyond to help their constituents better advocate for their own community needs.

After the jump, how CUP picks its initiatives, its work with students, and what they’re doing in Brooklyn right now… (more…)