Working platform for catwalk on the Verrazano Bridge, 12-27-62. Photo by Lenox Studios. Courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive

Prominent journalists Gay Talese and Sam Roberts are coming to the Transit Museum this Thursday to discuss the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which turns 50 next week, and Talese’s book, “The Bridge.” Published in 1964, Talese’s work explores the bridge’s construction, engineering, and the political drama that played out in Bay Ridge before ground was even broken for the 13,700-foot-long structure.

Before construction began, 5,000 homes and businesses had to be demolished, and Talese, then a reporter for the Times, covered residents’ impassioned protests against the bridge. Joe Spratt, an ironworker whose grandfather helped build the Verrazano, will join Talese and Roberts for the discussion. The talk will take place on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Transit Museum, and tickets are free.

Photo via the Transit Museum, Courtesy of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Archive

Fort Lafayette, Verr Bridge composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

When we look at New York City’s beautiful harbor, it’s hard to remember that this great seaport city needed defending. All of the city’s boroughs once held fortifications that were necessary to protect the harbor and the city from invading forces. Some of those fortifications were necessary and active, if not in our lifetimes, then certainly in most of our parents’ lifetimes.

After America gained its independence from Great Britain, we had a few rocky decades getting started. Our ability to trade through shipping was one of the great successes of the new nation, and that was one of the many factors that led to the War of 1812. We were trading partners with France, which was at war with England at the time. We also had a merchant navy with a lot of former British sailors, who had become Americans. England needed sailors for their navy, did not recognize the change of nationality and allegiance, and wanted them back. They raided ships and took them. There were plenty of other reasons for the war, as well. (more…)

230 ovington avenue bay ridge 102014

This unusual 40-foot-wide brownstone in Bay Ridge has a rental over a duplex, all with over-the-top original and new details. The bathrooms, for example, are lined in onyx and marble. There are three cast-iron stoves, a sauna, and original Minton style tiles on the mantels.

The mechanicals were upgraded in 2009. And although it has a center hall stair, because of the width of the house, all the levels are private.

It was an Open House Pick in June, and the ask is $1,599,000. Has anyone seen it in person?

230 Ovington Avenue [Brown Harris Stevens] GMAP

475 bay ridge parkway bay ridge 92014

On the face of it, $779,000 is a nice price for a one-family townhouse in move-in condition in Bay Ridge. Plus, 475 Bay Ridge Parkway is also cute, and there’s parking. Problem is, the house is tiny. It’s only two rooms deep and the ground floor has been given over to the garage. Though one could park in the front yard and use the garage for storage, as the listing suggests. The listing looks really good online, but we’re wondering if there is enough house here to justify the ask?

475 Bay Ridge Parkway [Halstead] GMAP

Behind the demure limestone facade of 85 73rd Street in Bay Ridge is a stunner of a home. The Victorian Renaissance Revival meets Arts and Crafts one-family has all the bells and whistles one would expect and then some.

There are wood mantels with luxurious stone surrounds, elaborate plaster ceilings, parquet and inlaid floors, and a panelled dining room with a stained glass ceiling. There is also a wet bar in a niche in the center hall parlor, obviously a later addition, but it seems to work, as does the spa master bath. There are some quirks we don’t like as much, such as baseboard heating and what seems to be a split-level bedroom. The furnishings are also charming, although presumably they’re not included.

Since it’s a fairly late house, it has a modern layout — the kitchen and entertaining rooms are all on one floor and the bedrooms above. What do you think of it and the asking price of $1,400,000?

85 73rd Street [Stribling] GMAP

8220-narrows-avenue-051414

Bay Ridge’s Gingerbread House is back on the market with a new agent (Corcoran), new photos and a new price, as Curbed was the first to note. The new ask is $10,500,000, a drop of half a million from the price tag of $11,000,000 last year. In 2009, the sellers wanted $12,000,000.

Click through to the listing to see the photos in high res. Given the way the market has been moving lately, do you think the new ask will get the deal done? What do you think the house is worth?

8220 Narrows Avenue Listing [Corcoran]
House of the Day: 8200 Narrows Avenue [Brownstoner]
Photo by Corcoran

Shore Road Hospital, 9000 Shore Rd, Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

There are lots of great postcards depicting Bay Ridge’s famous Shore Road; it has long been a popular tourist attraction. Without a doubt, from the earliest Native Americans on down to today’s day trippers, people have appreciated the amazing natural beauty of this shoreline. When Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton became desirable suburban and summer retreats for the wealthy towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, fine mansions and summer homes began popping up all along the prime waterfront.

The swanky Crescent Athletic Club built a clubhouse and fine boathouse on the shore, and the gently curving road and its footpaths became a promenade for nature and people watching. For the owners of the grand estates facing the water, the bay offered its beauty and a place for them to moor their yachts and pleasure boats. Many of Brooklyn’s movers and shakers lived here, even if just in the summer. One of them was William F. Kenny.

He was the son of Thomas A. Kenny, the Chief of the Third Battalion of the New York City Fire Department. Kenny was born in Manhattan in 1868, and grew up on the Lower East Side. His childhood best friend was Alfred E. Smith, who would later become the four term Governor of NY, and become the first Catholic to run for president of the United States.

At thirteen, Kenny ran away from home, ending up in Texas, where he became a cattle hand for three years. He also worked his way around the country on the railroads, usually as what he would later call a “pick and shovel foreman.” Eventually, he came back home to NYC and began working for the New York Edison Company. He married Mary E. Hickey in 1898, and the couple saved their money so that Kenny could open his own contracting company and hire workers. (more…)

After noticing some trendy restaurants and a rise in development sales in Bay Ridge, DNAinfo wonders if it could be the next hip neighborhood with a real estate boom. Bay Ridge had 20 percent of the new development sales in the first quarter of 2014,  the most of any neighborhood, according to MNS’ latest report. However, MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas pointed out that the hood’s 14 transactions mainly illustrate the lack of inventory in other neighborhoods.

The median price per square foot rose 7.4 percent over the past year, from $517 to $558, and the median home price increased 14.5 percent, from $560,037 to to $655,498. One realtor told DNAinfo that new condo buyers in developments like 185 Battery Avenue, pictured above, were transplants from Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg looking for more affordable options.

While the neighborhood isn’t going to have $2,000,000 condos anytime soon, it has seen a slew of new upscale restaurants and coffee shops, like Italian grocery A.L Coluccio, farm-to-table restaurant Brooklyn Beet Company, a craft beer bar and sausage joint called Lock Yard, and the Coffee Lab.

Is Bay Ridge Poised to Become the New Williamsburg? [DNAinfo]
Photo of 185 Battery Avenue via Dorsa Property Group

Park Slope
364 Butler Street
Broker: Corcoran
Price: $2,195,000
Sunday 1:30 – 2:30
GMAP

Columbia Street Waterfront
109 President Street
Broker: Corcoran
Price: $1,995,000
Sunday 12:00 – 2:00
GMAP

Bay Ridge
429 73rd Street
Broker: Warren Lewis Sotheby’s
Price: $1,795,000
Sunday 3:00 – 5:00
GMAP

Bushwick
1284 Putnam Avenue
Broker: Elliman
Price: $815,000
Sunday 12:00 – 1:30
GMAP

317-347, 318-370 Senator St. Wiki 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 317-347 Senator Street, also 318-370 Senator Street
Cross Streets: 3rd and 4th avenues
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge
Year Built: 1906-1912
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Fred Eisenla
Other buildings by architect: Row houses in Park Slope, specifically on 3rd St, between 7th and PPW. Also many similar houses in Sunset Park.
Landmarked: No, but on the National Register of Historic Places (2002)

The story: Bay Ridge’s Senator Street is named after Henry C. Murphy, one of Brooklyn’s larger than life characters. During his lifetime he was the Mayor of Brooklyn, Ambassador to the Netherlands, a U.S. Congressman, the owner of the Brooklyn Eagle, and a New York State Senator. His home in Bay Ridge was called Owl’s Head, site of today’s Owl’s Head Park, and overlooked the bay in baronial Victorian splendor. This was when Bay Ridge was a quiet and beautiful suburb, popular with the wealthy who built fabulous summer homes along the Shore Road overlooking the Narrows.

As Bay Ridge was developed as a residential neighborhood for people of more modest means, the housing stock became a mixture of freestanding suburban houses of various styles and apartment buildings. For some reason, brownstone row houses never caught on with developers here. There are very few blocks with row houses. This particular block of Senator Street represents the only block in Bay Ridge with brownstone row houses on both sides of the street, all 38 of them designed and built by one company.

The houses were designed by Fred Eisenla of Eisenla & Carlson, which had their offices nearby on 5th Avenue. The firm designed row houses in other neighborhoods, most notably in Park Slope, where their houses on 3rd Street, between 7th Avenue and Prospect Park West are quite nice, and help make this block shine. They also built similar houses to these in Sunset Park, which was developed during the same time period. The firm was described as “workaday builders and architects, not caring to be original, but skillful in exploiting the superb taste of today.” (Brooklyn Eagle) They were just that. (more…)