2115 Benson Ave, CongSonsofIsrael, KL, PS, 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Congregation Sons of Israel
Address: 2115 Benson Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner 21st Avenue
Neighborhood: Bensonhurst
Year Built: 1918
Architectural Style: Neo-Classical
Architect: Emery Roth
Other Buildings by Architect: In Manhattan-El Dorado, Beresford, San Remo, Ardsley and Normandy Apartment buildings, among many others. In Brooklyn-1930s tower wing of St. George Hotel
Landmarked: No

The story: Bath Beach’s Congregation Sons of Israel was founded in 1896, by 60 Orthodox Jewish families who had settled in southern Brooklyn to build a community and family. They first met in rented spaces for services, and sometimes at members’ homes. Funds were immediately raised for their own worship space, and a year later, the cornerstone of a new synagogue was laid. The first Congregation Sons of Israel was located at Bay 22nd Street, near 86th and Benson Avenues. Even though the building was not totally completed, they had a roof over their head and enough done to welcome in the Jewish New Year with Rosh Hashanah services in 1898. (more…)


Bensonhurst, a middle class Italian enclave for generations, is booming with Chinese immigrants. A similar transformation occurred in Manhattan’s Little Italy decades earlier. Bensonhurst is now officially 36 percent Asian, although informal estimates put it even higher, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Signs for businesses along 73rd and 74th streets reflect the changing demographics. “At the Sciacca Social Club, a large poster celebrates Italy’s 2006 World Cup win, while a few doors down, signs for both the Brooklyn Center for Musical Arts and C&K Art Center are written in both English and Chinese characters,” said the story.

Chinese are increasingly drawn to the area as they are priced out of Sunset Park. Real estate prices in the area are rising, driven “in part” by demand from Chinese buyers, according to brokers interviewed by the Journal. About 13 percent of the locals are Hispanic and 49 percent are white, according to Census data. Interestingly, the Asian influx is fairly recent, with the population “growing 57 percent between 2000 and 2010,” said the Journal.

The median sale price for homes is $699,000, which is 17 percent higher than the median for all of Brooklyn. The commute to midtown is about an hour on the subway.

The quality of life in the neighborhood is good, the streets are clean, and politicians listen to the locals, said the story. A BJ’s Wholesale Club plans to open in mid-September in a new shopping center on Shore Parkway and 24th Avenue.

One development residents are not so happy about, though, is a garbage-processing facility on Shore Parkway. Construction is supposed to start before the fall, and end in mid-2017. Locals say they are concerned about increased pollution from the plant.

Although not mentioned in the story, the area does have some older housing stock, including turn-of-the-last-century brick row houses and early 20th century apartment buildings. Would you consider living in Bensonhurst?

Signs Denote Changing Times in Bensonhurst [WSJ]
Photo by David Tan

Benson Chevrolet,composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Cars were pretty cool looking in 1933. Think Chicago mobster cars, Bonnie and Clyde, sedans with serious running boards, headlamps that were really lamps, tires with spokes and the spare attached to the side of the car; those kinds of cars, some of which were Chevrolets. They remain some of American’s best loved and most classic cars.

Chevrolet was founded way back in 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant as direct competition to General Motors. Durant had founded and run General Motors in 1908, but had been kicked off the board of his own corporation two years later. He used his new Chevrolet Motor Car Company to get back on the board, something he accomplished by making the Chevrolet so popular that he was able to buy enough GM stock to put himself back in charge in 1916. He brought Chevrolet with him, and it was soon GM’s most profitable car line.

Everyone liked Chevrolet, it was one of the “people’s cars” along with Ford and later, the Chrysler spin-off, Plymouth. They were called the “low price three.” In 1933, Chevrolet introduced the Standard Six, which was the cheapest six-cylinder car on the market. That same year, Benson Chevrolet opened up for business on 86th Street in Bensonhurst. (more…)

2425-2427 86St. Eng.253, Bhurst, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Engine Company 253, FDNY
Address: 2425-2427 86th Street
Cross Streets: 24th and 25th avenues
Neighborhood: Bensonhurst
Year Built: 1895-1896
Architectural Style: Dutch Renaissance Revival
Architect: Parfitt Brothers
Other works by architect: Berkeley, Grosvenor and Montague apartments in Brooklyn Heights, Truslow mansion in Crown Heights North, St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, Grace Methodist Church in Park Slope
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1998)

The story: In 1887, developer James D. Lynch approached the Benson family in New Utrecht with offers to buy their farms, which had been in the family for over 200 years. They initially were not interested, but Lynch upped the pot, and also promised to preserve the Benson family homestead, and to name his new development “Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea.” That sealed the deal, and Lynch proceeded to build a new upscale suburb along the lines of Tennis Court and the other planned suburban enclaves of Flatbush. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1893 put a severe crimp in his plans, as did resistance to investing in New Utrecht, which at the time was outside of the border of the City of Brooklyn. It was annexed in 1894, but never was as successful as had been planned. It wasn’t until 1914, when the 4th Avenue subway arrived, that the area began to pick up. Full development occurred after World War I.

Brooklyn’s fire department began as a volunteer organization, with independent fire houses in the towns and villages that made up Kings County. In 1869, with pressure from the public, as well as insurance companies, a professional firefighting department was established in Brooklyn. The effect of this bill closed many volunteer companies, but also caused new firehouses to be built or old ones repaired, and for more modern equipment to be bought. It also reduced the number of firemen to a force of only 235 men by 1880.

But Brooklyn was growing fast, and the more far-flung towns in the county, like Flatlands, New Utrecht, Flatbush and Gravesend were becoming interesting to developers, men like James Lynch. At that time, even though there was now a professional city Fire Department, the outlying agrarian areas were not well represented, if at all, and depended still on local volunteers for fire protection. In the 1890s, the city started remedying this, hiring first class architects to design firehouses for an expanding city, and allocating funds to expand the fire department, to buy modern equipment and hire more men. In 1895 alone, four new companies were organized and 18 new firehouses were built or under construction. (more…)

Haxtun Cottage site,composite

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Someone wise once said that you can judge a society by how they care for their children. One might also add to that statement by adding how a society cares for the crippled and disabled children and adults, as well. Long before there were government agencies, legal protection or safety nets for the most powerless people in our society, there were still those whose hearts and hands were opened to help. Late 19th century Brooklyn was much like today, with a great many upwardly mobile and wealthy people spread across most of the city. There was a respectable middle class, the working poor, and a large population of destitute and desperate people.

Among the wealthier sets, charity was tied up with faith and community. There were those who gave because they wanted to impress their peers and the rest of the world, and those who gave because it was an expected duty. And then there were those who truly believed that their wealth, position, and often their faith, mandated that they not only give generously, but be active as well, taking the time to be on committees, fund raise, visit the poor, and give magnanimously of their time and money. The Victorians set up a number of important charities during this period, and many of them are still with us today. One of these was the Children’s Aid Society. (more…)

1. WILLIAMSBURG $1,210,190.13
22 North 6th Street, #19D + storage GMAP P*Shark
Not much info on this Edge sale, except that it came with a storage unit! Entered into contract on 9/9/11; closed on 10/14/11; deed recorded on 11/10/2011.

2. DUMBO $1,150,000
70 Washington Street, #5A GMAP P*Shark
This is a one bed plus home office. According to the listing, it comes in at “a sprawling 1342 SF.” Entered into contract on 5/13/11; closed on 5/13/11; deed recorded on 11/09/2011.

3. BENSONHURST $1,142,500
130 Bay 10th Street GMAP P*Shark
This is a one to two family home sold with an attached garage. Entered into contract on 7/13/11; closed on 9/19/11; deed recorded on 11/07/2011.

4. BAY RIDGE $1,010,000
132 98th Street GMAP P*Shark
A one-family home at 2,819 square feet. Entered into contract on 7/6/11; closed on 10/5/11; deed recorded on 11/10/2011.

5. COBBLE HILL $905,000
86 Congress Street, #208 + parking space GMAP P*Shark
This is the first time in a long time we can remember the biggest sales dropping below the $1M mark. This unit at 86 Congress Street came with a parking space. This is definitely not the highest closing price for the condo building, a double unit sold there for $1,400,000. Entered into contract on 7/15/11; closed on 9/6/11; deed recorded on 11/09/2011.

The 18th Avenue Feast/Feast of Santa Rosalia has been canceled this year after a more than 30-year run, according to Bensonhurst Bean. Joe LaMotta, one of the festival’s organizers, says the permit for the event from the mayor’s office took a long time to come through, which means it wasn’t possible to get vendors in place. Other sources tell the blog that the mayor’s office isn’t necessarily to blame because the festival’s organizers took a long time to submit necessary paperwork to the city, while “a high-ranking political source” says some of the organizers were arrested as part of a big mafia bust in January. There’s a possibility the event won’t ever make a comeback since the city hasn’t been keen on issuing new permits for street festivals.
18th Avenue Feast Is Cancelled! [Bensonhurst Bean]
Photo by lina-chen.com.

Forgotten NY had a fun post this weekend about the 46th Street Rock Palace in Bensonhurst, a one-time destination spot of touring bands. What particularly caught our attention, as one of those people who cares perhaps a little too much about this kind of thing, was mention of a string of dates back in late 1970 when, just months before their legendary run at the Fillmore East in April of ’71, the Grateful Dead took the stage to a less-than-capacity crowd. (According to this blog, Hot Tuna was also on the bill.) Here’s a first-person account that FNY dug up:

This was possibly one of the weirdest shows I ever saw (but enjoyable nevertheless). It took place on a Weds about 2:30 [PM] ..the theater was basically deserted. We sat in the third row…we were literally half of the audience until a few songs in when a whole group of senior citizens (at least 20) filed in and sat a few rows behind us (not your usual dead crowd!). The 10+ of us noticed them, but didn’t know what to make of their presence, so we just carried on as usual (if you know what I mean). Bur for years I wondered what drew them to see the Dead? A few years ago, still wondering, I told this story to a Deadhead who grew up in Brooklyn and he knew the answer. They were from a local senior citizen home and they were on an outing. They had no idea what they were walking into, but the theater had a package deal with the home to get them out and about, and that must have been one of the days they were scheduled to go to that theater to see a movie. They didn’t come to see the Dead, (but I wonder what they made of them). By the way, the show was pretty good. It must have been because the old folks stayed for the whole thing (or else, weird as it must have been to them, it was better than going back to the home).

For anyone who’s curious, you can listen to one of the shows here but be warned that the sound quality is pretty poor. Cinema Treasures also has a profile of the building here.

PropertyShark put together a list of the top commercial deals in Brooklyn in the second quarter of the year, and the biggest sales were in Williamsburg and Clinton Hill. The most money paid for a building this spring was $27.2 million for the Williamsburg rental 44 Berry Street, which ING Clarion Partners purchased. The second-biggest buy was a group of investors’ purchase of the Clinton Hill development 163 Washington Avenue for $22 million; the building has since been launched as a rental. Rounding out the top five: 268 Bay 38th Street, a 140-unit Bensonhurst rental, sold for $20.5 million; 350 Hicks Street, a garage Continuum Health Partners owned while it operated LICH went to SUNY Downstate for $17.2 million; and a 113-unit apartment building at 2440 East 29th Street in Sheepshead Bay fetched $16.3 million.

Both the Brooklyn Paper and the Post have stories about how Walmart might be interested in leasing a big property on Gravesend Bay. The broker marketing the site, which is on Shore Parkway off of 24th Avenue, says Walmart has expressed interest in it. The parcels in question are adjacent to a property where developer Joe Sitt wants to build a big retail complex that includes a BJ’s and in an area where there are already large chain stores like a Kohl’s and Best Buy. The Post quotes Councilmember Domenic Recchia Jr. as saying that a Walmart wouldn’t work on the site because it’s not big enough and it would overwhelm the area with traffic. Until now, the buzz about Walmart making an entry into Brooklyn has centered on the company opening a location at the Gateway shopping center in East New York.
Walmart Eyes Gravesend Bay Waterfront [Brooklyn Paper]
Walmart Eyes Bensonhurst [NY Post] GMAP