04/22/14 3:00pm

142-144 Decatur St, The Decatur, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: The Decatur
Address: 142-144 Decatur Street
Cross Streets: Corner Marcus Garvey Boulevard
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1888
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: George L. Morse
Other work by architect: Temple Bar Building – Court Street, Franklin Trust – Montague Street, Abraham & Straus annex – Livingston Street, as well as many more row houses, flats buildings, churches, and office buildings.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Stuyvesant Heights Expansion, Stuyvesant Heights HD (2013)

The story:
While the developers of our brownstone blocks were busy filling them with rows of houses, the avenues in our neighborhoods were receiving attention, as well. It was on these streets that the city allowed commercial and civic buildings, and where churches and temples often stood, as well as rows of flats buildings, many with storefronts on the ground floors.

The formal concept of zoning didn’t come into existence until the early 20th century, but Victorian city planners already had a pretty good idea how to create mixed income and purposed neighborhoods. Sensible planning could provide everyone in those neighborhoods with the amenities and services they would need to be able to live, shop, worship, and perhaps even work, within easy walking distance. That is one of the strongest reasons why today these neighborhoods are still so desirable.

The mixed use flats buildings on the corners of blocks provided excellent opportunities for special buildings. These buildings anchored the block, and were visual gateways to the homes that lay beyond them, so it isn’t surprising that very often the fine architects who designed the houses also were called on to design many of these corner buildings. Very often, if a developer could get the desired lots, he would have an architect design the corner flats building, and then tie the design into the houses as they turned the corner. Many of Stuyvesant Heights’ blocks were designed in this manner. (more…)

04/22/14 10:30am

Turn of the century Wall Street, LOC 1

There have always been laws regarding stealing from other people, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, those laws were in full effect in the courts. The jails and prisons were full of thieves. More and more, it seemed like the ranks of those who helped themselves to other people’s money and possessions were not just from the expected lower classes, but were their so-called “betters.” One could no longer believe that the thief in the night always came from poverty and the slums; in these dangerous days, it seemed that the biggest and boldest thieves sat next to you at the opera, in church, or smiled at you from across a desk.

For some reason, an upscale apartment building on Decatur Street in Stuyvesant Heights became home to three men who became the wolves among the sheep of Brooklyn society’s pasture. 88 Decatur Street was home to J. Edgar Anthony, Benjamin F. Chadsey and Charles A. Bliven. They never lived there at the same time, but there must have been larceny in the water, because all three of them, the first two lawyers, the other a stock broker, made the news for all the wrong reasons. Although the circumstances of their cases were different, all three men were guilty of the same offence: they all coveted clients’ money, and siphoned some off for their own use. And then they all got caught.

Please see the links below for the first episodes of the story. Today’s tale is about our last miscreant, broker Charles A. Bliven. The first two men hailed originally from upstate New York, but unlike the other two men, Mr. Bliven’s life story was not told to the papers. Anthony was from the Utica area, Chadsey from near Albany. From a cursory look at family research and the proliferation of stories on this case in upstate papers, Bliven was an upstater too. There seemed to have been a great deal of Bliven family members in the Capital District/Mohawk Valley area. And the mark, in this case, was from Troy. It really was a small world. (more…)

163-ralph-avenue-042114

Sweet Lee’s Desserts was getting ready to open this week at 163 Ralph Avenue when we happened to walk by Sunday. The bakery and cafe will be serving its own made-from-scratch cupcakes, cake and pies, as well as coffee and tea.

Cupcake flavors will change daily and include pina colada, snickerdoodle and salted caramel, according to the bakery’s website. Cakes include german chocolate, red velvet, caramel, lemon and Brooklyn Blackout. The many flavors of pie include blueberry, sweet potato and peach. Everything is made with butter and without preservatives.

The owner, Raymond Williams, named the bakery after his grandmother. He has been in the food business for more than a decade and plans to add espresso drinks over the summer, he said. This should be a welcome addition to this side of Bed Stuy, which doesn’t have a bakery. GMAP

04/21/14 1:30pm

38 new york avenue bed stuy 42014

Unexpectedly located in Bed Stuy near Atlantic Avenue is this classic Italianate brownstone, replete with the typical arched marble mantels, arched parlor pocket doors, and staircase coffin niche of the period. The two-family at 38 New York Avenue is updated and in good condition, according to the listing.

And call us crazy, but we love the zany ombre pink tile in the ’60s-era (?) bathroom. Looks-wise, about the only thing we could see doing to this place is upgrading some of the newer floors with better quality wood. It’s currently set up as a rental over an owner’s duplex. What do you think of it and the ask of $999,999?

38 New York Avenue [Fillmore] GMAP

04/21/14 12:15pm

This three-bedroom, 1.5-bath lower duplex in Bed Stuy is big and full of lovely details. The garden and parlor floor apartment has mirrored wood mantels, wood panelling and original moldings around the doors and windows, and a few stained glass windows.

The 1,800-square-foot pad also has an eat-in kitchen, washer/dryer, and a deck with stairs on the parlor floor that offers access to the garden. And the apartment has enough rooms to be used as a four-bedroom, according to the listing. Do you think it will rent for $4,500 a month?

274 Hancock Street, #1 [Citi Habitats] GMAP

232-238 Bainbridge St. composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Since wooden houses are in the Brownstoner news lately, today’s Past and Present shows some that are no more. They were lovely little frame houses on Bainbridge Street, between Malcolm X Boulevard (formerly Reid Avenue) and Sumner Avenue. These houses were from this eastern part of Bedford’s early development, back when the neighborhood’s streets were sparsely developed, and mostly had small groups of frame houses on rather odd shaped lots.

The lots are the legacy of the Dutch families who owned this land beginning in the late 1600s. By the beginning of the 19th century, most of the land that makes up Bedford belonged to the Lefferts family and their relatives by birth or marriage. It didn’t take clairvoyance for them to see that urban development was in the future, and when the city incorporated in 1834, and began planning outward expansion from downtown, the family began parceling off their land, and selling to developers and individuals.

The house in the photograph was probably built in the late 1700s or early 1800s. Back then, it would have been surrounded by fields, and the land bought from, or leased from old Lefferts Lefferts, the family patriarch himself. It’s a classic gambrel-roofed Dutch farmhouse. We can’t really tell now, but the small addition on the right may even be the original house, and the larger structure built on to it later, as the family fortunes got better. Such is the case with several of our remaining Dutch houses in Brooklyn and Queens, which look exactly like this. (more…)

Kings County Penitentiary, 1906

On a chilly day in late November, 1905, thirty-six year old Benjamin F. Chadsey was taken to the Raymond Street Jail in Brooklyn. He had been brought back to New York from Indiana after being on the run for two years. In 1903, he faked his suicide, and disappeared on the evening before he was to go to trial on a charge of grand larceny. Chadsey had been one of Brooklyn’s up and coming legal talents, an aggressive and arrogant pitbull of a lawyer who loved his fancy clothes and his diamond jewelry. That was all showmanship, because he was also highly efficient and had a large private practice with a lot of clients. He was also a rising star in the jungle of Brooklyn politics, and was called upon often to stir up the Republican faithful with his gifts of oratory and persuasion. Benjamin Chadsey was the last person anyone would expect to be dishonest, or to run from his troubles. But here he was.

The man who had once sported bespoke suits with diamond stickpins and fingers glittering with diamond rings was now standing in handcuffs before a judge, surrounded by the police and District Attorneys who had to go out to the suburbs of South Bend Indiana to get him. The private detective, J. Edward Orr, who had tracked Chadsey down once before in San Francisco had found him again. But this was not the old Chadsey they knew. The man standing before them was sickly looking, emaciated and gaunt. He had shaved his signature moustache and would have looked years younger, had he not been looking over his shoulder for the last two years.

The judge stared down on him without a lot of pity. The charges against Chadsey were serious, but had he not skipped bail and disappeared, he probably would have been let off easy. Wealthy and well-connected men convicted of much larger thefts usually did not suffer the same consequences as those of lesser breeding. But faking your death, and thumbing your nose at the same authorities you once ate dinner with and invited to your home makes for bad feelings, and Brooklyn’s legal world was more than happy to throw the book at Chadsey. For the time being, though, they tossed him back in jail. (more…)

04/16/14 10:00am

A mixed-use development is in the works for part of a very large empty site on Myrtle Avenue across from the Marcy Houses in Bed Stuy, New York NIMBY reported.

Architect Charles Mallea filed a new building application Monday for an eight-story, 46-unit building at 802-806 Myrtle Avenue. The street frontage will cover three of 15 contiguous empty lots, all 25 feet wide, on the block.

The 31,125-square-foot building will include 23 bike storage spots, a shared roof deck and 76 square feet of commercial space in the basement. The building will be 94 feet high, so “ceiling heights will be surprisingly generous compared to typical new developments in the neighborhood,” said YIMBY.

South Williamsburg-based developer Bright Villas LLC bought the 7,500-square-foot piece of land in a series of transfers in 2012 totaling $1,750,000; the properties were originally owned by a church called Mt. Zion Church of Christ Disciples, according to public records. DOB permits indicate the ramshackle three-story church was demolished in 2010. HPD owns the 12 empty lots next door.

“Positive changes are gradually occurring across the entire neighborhood, and developments like 802 Myrtle will go a long ways towards bettering the area’s reputation, which has typically revolved around the negative press surrounding its public housing,” said YIMBY. What do you think?

Permits Filed: 802 Myrtle Avenue [YIMBY] GMAP
Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

323-franklin-avenue-041514

Popular Crown Heights eatery Mayfield plans to open a bar with backyard garden and taco truck at 323 Franklin Avenue, according to DNAinfo. There will be tacos, tortas and weekly specials such as roast pig and pozole.

There will also be movie nights for kids with films projected on the rear wall. Community Board 3 plans to support the restaurant’s application for a liquor license.

Electronic dance music label Dub-Stuy Records recently vacated the space due to rising rents, but is still in business while it searches for a permanent location, said DNAinfo. It’s also going to participate in Do or Dine’s annual Memorial Day celebration. 

Bed-Stuy Record Label to be Replaced by Taco Truck and Bar [DNAinfo] GMAP

04/15/14 12:15pm

This large one-bedroom, two-bath duplex loft in Bed Stuy seems perfect for a couple and could be workable for roommates. It’s 1,300 square feet but appears to have a completely open layout, meaning that roommates would probably want to build out separate bedrooms. Those 25-foot ceilings and the private terrace are highlights, as is the walk-in closet.

And the kitchen is equipped with a dishwasher and a washer/dryer. The unit is located in a 10-year-old condo building a block from the G at Myrtle-Willoughby and four blocks from the J/M at Flushing. Do you think it’s worth $2,200 a month?

895 Myrtle Avenue, #4A [Charles Rutenberg] GMAP

19th century steamship, hasselisland.org 1As the cynical and world-weary people we can be today in 2014, it doesn’t really surprise us when those who are entrusted with much, or are held up as paragons, fail spectacularly. Sadly, we see it almost every day. But 100 years ago, life was simpler. Back then, (and now, as well, to be honest), people expected certain criminal activities like thievery and dishonesty from the classes and groups they felt were beneath them. But they held the upper classes to a higher standard, one of dignity and success through hard work and privilege. Therefore, when one of their own was suspected of, or caught doing wrong, the stories fascinated the newspaper reporters and their editors, as well as the general public. The fall of a prominent lawyer, or a banker, was news for days.

We met Benjamin F. Chadsey last time, the scion of an important Albany area family, and an up and coming lawyer here in Brooklyn at the beginning of the 20th century. He lived here in Brooklyn with his wife at 88 Decatur Street, in an upscale apartment building in Stuyvesant Heights. Like another occupant of the same apartment house, J. Edgar Anthony, the topic of our first story from this building, young Chadsey was also an attorney who worked in estates, wills and trusts. Mr. Chadsey had a fine reputation in the law, and was a rising star in the world of Brooklyn Republican politics. Benjamin Chadsey, it was said, could persuade you to vote for anyone, and his silver tongue was put to use at political rallies all across the city. He was soon on a first name basis with some of New York’s most important Republican political figures.

Unfortunately, Chadsey was arrogant enough to think that he knew best in the matters of his clients, as well as the voters, and had been playing loose with some of his client’s money. He had been administering the estate of Daniel M. Collins, a wealthy Brooklyn Heights jeweler. The deceased Mr. Collins’ wife suspected that her brother-in-law and Chadsey had conspired to cheat her out of her inheritance, and that Chadsey had grossly overbilled her for services rendered. The widow retained another lawyer, and filed suit. A judge agreed, and had chastised Mr. Chadsey, and ordered him to pay back about $900 in overcharged fees. That may not seem like much in today’s money, but in 1902 it was around $20,000 worth, certainly enough for most of us to file suit. (more…)

A La Quinta Inn is coming to 1229 Atlantic Avenue near Nostrand, where excavation and foundation work recently began at the large, now vacant lot on the Crown Heights/Bed Stuy border. We found this schematic on the fence after leaving the post office next door. The hotel will rise seven stories with 102 rooms, according to new building permits approved in February.

The 34,902-square-foot building will also feature four off-street parking spaces, a recreation room, lounge, meeting and conference rooms. Hotel plans have been in the works since May 2012, when an LLC snagged the 8,440-square-foot property for $1,600,000 and filed initial new building applications. Askon Architects P.C. is designing the building. The La Quinta will join a few other hotels nearby on Atlantic, including a Best Western on the other side of Nostrand, the Hotel Luxe and the Atlantic Motor Inn.

See what’s behind the fence after the jump. GMAP

(more…)