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


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, 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


04/14/14 3:00pm

267 Lewis Avenue, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 267 Lewis Avenue
Cross Streets: Madison and Monroe Streets
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: Sometime between 1882 and 1888
Architectural Style: High Victorian Gothic
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story:
When I first started this column, it was a paragraph or two about a building. As time went on, and also as more on-line resources became available for researching, I was able to get more info, and the columns grew. But sometimes there are great buildings in Brooklyn that just don’t have a lot of info available on them. But there they are; often anomalies in the middle of a block, a building that I think is unusual, or spectacular, or just eye catching for some reason. Some research into its architect, date, occupants or events turns up nothing much. But still there is a great building there, and sometimes we just have to call attention to them because at the rate Brooklyn is changing, they may not be here the next time you pass.

I saw this house on my way out of Brooklyn last week, as I rolled down Lewis towards the parking lot that is the BQE. I did not have time to stop and take pictures, except from the side, at the light. The bay that juts out is quite eye catching, even from a car, and the brickwork at the top caught my attention. The building looks as if it could be a school or some kind of institution, but it’s not, it’s “just” a house. (more…)


Last week, a reader spotted an ad on Fillmore for Manny’s asking $240,000 for the business. “Fully equipped turnkey French style cafe business for sale,” said the ad. The price would include taking over the 10-year lease as well as all the interior fittings and equipment of the cafe, above, which the owners had beautifully decorated with wood panelling and a vintage mantel.

Manny’s opened at 212 Patchen Avenue in Bed Stuy in October of 2012 and closed about a year later, promising to reopen after they put in gas service. They opened as a cafe serving a variety of sandwiches and baked goods from sister businesses Choice Market and Dough but the intention was always to be a full-service restaurant.

Meanwhile, over at Choice Greene, the mini-empire’s grocery store at 214 Greene Avenue in Clinton Hill, the store is now almost empty of goods and fixtures except for one person in the back preparing bagels, another reader tells us. In February, we reported that their sign had come down and they were advertising a “close-out sale” but were not going out of business, according to one of the workers at the counter.

We reached out to the owner for comment and to see if he could share with us his plans for Choice Greene, but have not yet heard back. In the meantime, the ad for Manny’s has disappeared off the Fillmore site. We hope that means they’ve found a buyer, but in any case, we have enjoyed all their businesses (we’re eating a Dough doughnut right now) and wish them well in everything they do.

04/11/14 11:00am

Townhouses in Bed Stuy east of Malcolm X are starting to see the same kind of rapid price appreciation that kicked off in the west end of the neighborhood close to Clinton Hill in the summer and fall of 2011 and then spread to Stuyvesant Heights in 2012.

A townhouse at 732 Macon Street, which was a House of the Day in March, just closed for the asking price of $1,225,000 in an all-cash deal, Halstead agent Morgan Munsey, who handled the sale, told us. It is a probable record for the area, where a few townhouse sales have recently closed for just under $1 million. The purchasers are not investors and intend to live in the house.

A four-story double duplex two-family, the house is in good condition with recently updated mechanicals and systems but also has lots of original details as well as fairly generic renovated kitchens and baths. This sale, as well as 417A Halsey, 333 MacDonough Street and others, clearly shows that townhouse buyers in the area prefer renovated houses with details and that these types of houses set price records, which are then followed by flip jobs with no interior details and, last, by fixer-uppers.

The price history of 732 Macon over the years perfectly reflects what is happening in the neighborhood. It sold for $560,000 in 2006, then was on the market again for $790,000 in 2011 but did not sell. (It was also a House of the Day in 2011.)

Built in 1891 by architects Cornell and Barnes, it’s in the proposed Stuyvesant East Historic District and close to Saratoga Park.

We also hear the house next door, at 730A Macon, is in contract for the ask, which is $1,100,000.

The overall record for a townhouse sale in all of Bed Stuy is still the Parfitt Brothers-designed Queen Anne townhouse at 254 Gates Avenue, which sold for $2,200,000 in January of 2013.


04/10/14 3:30pm

Editor’s note: In honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Pratt Area Community Council, we are pleased to feature historic buildings PACC has redeveloped as our Building of the Day for four consecutive days. PACC is a community development corporation that preserves and develops affordable housing in central Brooklyn. Brownstoner is a proud media sponsor of PACC’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which takes place April 23.

218 Gates Ave,Gibb Mansion,  sspellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: John Gibb Mansion
Address: 218 Gates Avenue
Cross Streets: Franklin and Classon Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: late 1860s
Architectural Style: Second Empire
Architect: Unknown. 2003 Exterior restoration – Kaitsen Woo. Additional housing and interior architecture by Beth Cooper Lawrence Architect PC.
Landmarked: No

The story: The Gibb Mansion is one of the great storied houses of Brooklyn. Built for a millionaire merchant, it remained in the news long after its original owners had died or family members moved elsewhere. The house went from fine mansion to hot pillow hotel over the course of its 150 plus year history, and could have met the wrecking ball a couple of times, but survived and is now thriving. Much of its history has involved helping those in need, so it’s fitting that its current incarnation is continuing this grand tradition. Here’s the story:

Scottish-born John Gibb was a very successful lace merchant, by 1865, a partner in the firm Wells & Gibb, in Manhattan. They were the largest importers and wholesalers of lace goods in New York, with a large warehouse on the corner of Broadway and Grand, in what is now Soho. Today that building now holds the International (formerly French) Culinary Institute of America, among other tenants. It’s a huge building, giving one an idea of the size and success of Gibb’s company.

Like many wealthy merchants, John Gibb lived in Brooklyn, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce, first living in Fort Greene, and then moving to a home he had commissioned, sometime after 1865. Gibb bought a great deal of land in Bedford, near the growing Clinton Hill neighborhood, and had his house built right in the middle of it. For many years after the house was built, there were no buildings between the mansion and Classon Avenue. John Gibb did not want to be crowded. Or bothered, but that comes later.

The Gibb mansion is a very large Second Empire brick house, with a mansard roof and a grand front porch. The house has several bays and rear extensions, and in his day had a grand parlor and receiving rooms, a large dining room in the rear extension, two bathrooms, and plenty of bedrooms. The Gibb family needed all the room they could get, as John and his first wife Harriet had eleven children. Harriet died in 1878, her funeral taking place in the house. Four years later, John Gibb remarried, and his second wife, Sarah bore him two more children. (more…)

04/10/14 1:30pm

If the price for one of Bed Stuy’s most elaborate Renaissance Revival houses seems low, that’s probably because it comes with two rent stabilized tenants. We don’t know who the architect of 65 Macon Street is, but wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear it’s Axel Hedman.

The exterior has two cartouches and carved relief work over the door. There aren’t many photos of the inside, but they and the listing description indicate the house is dripping with luxurious original details, including an elaborate entry and staircase with fretwork, screens, pier mirrors, mantels, shutters and decorative plasterwork, as well as a particularly fancy example of the built-in hardwood cabinets one typically finds in the rear parlor of these Renaissance Revival homes.

It’s on a Gold Coast block, between Nostrand and Marcy, in the proposed Bedford Historic District. The listing doesn’t indicate the condition of the mechanicals. The agent is an occasional Brownstoner commenter, by the way. Considering the two tenants, both on the third floor, do you think the ask of $1,290,000 is reasonable?

65 Macon Street [Housebywe LLC] GMAP

Update: The house was built in 1893 and the architect is Isaac D. Reynolds & Son, according to Morgan Munsey.