The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development recently finished an affordable housing development on the site of a former Catholic church in Brownsville called the Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta apartments. The $18,000,000 development on Atlantic between Eastern Parkway and Sackman Street consists of eight four-story buildings that house 64 units. The apartments, mostly one- and two-bedrooms, were rented through a lottery process run by the city. Rents range from $597 to $860 a month for a family making a maximum of $49,800, according to a chart from the city’s Housing Preservation and Development Department. Also, eight units were set aside as Section 8 housing for very low-income tenants. RTKB Architects designed the buildings, and Community Preservation Corporation Resources (CPCR) was the developer.
Before construction began last year, the site had been home to the 100-year-old Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Church and school, an architectural gem that preservationists struggled to protect. The church closed its doors in 2009 due to low attendance. Within two years, the Brooklyn diocese sold the land to the city, which preserved the original church building and built the development next to it.
Community arts organization Groundswell Mural Project unveiled a new mural yesterday called “Intersections Humanized” in Brownsville. Fifteen young people, some with a history of court involvement, collaborated with artists Chris Soria and Don Christian Jones to design and paint a 35-foot-high and 55-foot-wide mural on the side of a Lane Bryant store at 1550 Pitkin Avenue. The piece depicts a “central constellation of individual portraits” that “highlight the strength and diversity present in Brownsville, while creating a positive shared identity for the neighborhood’s 116,000 residents,” according to Groundswell.
The city is also awarding a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to Groundswell for a larger mural project in Brownsville called “Transform/Restore: Brownsville,” which will involve high-risk young adults, local businesses, and community members. As many as forty young people on probation will interview community members and then paint five murals inspired by Brownsville’s strengths along vandalized parts of Pitkin Avenue. GMAP
The Pitkin Avenue BID is hosting its 5th Annual Summer Plaza weekends again this year. The first event was held last Sunday and the next two are scheduled for Sunday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 29th. All the events, which are free of charge, go from 11am to 5pm. They include face painting, games for children, educational activities, health screenings, music and live entertainment. According to the BID, “The events are an opportunity for Brownsville’s retail businesses to celebrate their customers.” Check out photos from last Sunday’s event at the Pitkin BID Facebook page. Photo via Facebook
When the 625-unit, low-income housing complex Marcus Garvey Village opened in Brownsville in the mid-’70s, hopes were high that the low-density housing with separate entrances for each family would give its occupants a sense of ownership and pride and help to reduce poverty and crime. That has not happened, alas, as The New York Times noted, and the idea that architecture can create social change has been largely abandoned. After all, bigger forces than architecture affect the poverty rate, which has risen from 29 percent to nearly 40 percent in the area since the complex opened. However, the article notes, courtyard areas in the Village became an important link in the drug trade of the ’80s and ’90s because they were shielded from public view. So it seems as though architecture and design, as Jane Jacobs so clearly saw, has an effect after all. A Housing Solution Gone Awry [NY Times] Photo by Kate Leonova for PropertyShark
The use of controversial police tactic stop and frisk has decreased in the City after coming under increased scrutiny and a lawsuit, but spiked in select areas of Brooklyn, The New York Daily News reported. Specifically, stop and frisk was up 66 percent in Brownsville and 45 percent in East New York from 2011 to 2012. Its use in Bed Stuy increased 6 percent, 3 percent in Greenpoint and 2 percent in Bensonhurst, while it dropped precipitously in Williamsburg — by 44 percent. As has been the case for years, very few of those stops found actual law breaking: 89 percent of stops did not result in an arrest or summons, the Daily News reported. Those that did were mostly for marijuana; 12.6 percent of those stopped were carrying a gun or other weapon. Interpretations of the change in policing varied widely. “We are seeing the next chapter,” said John Jay College professor and former officer Eugene O’Donnell. “Good stop-and-frisk should be targeted. They’ve identified a pattern, a spike in crime, and they are throwing resources at it.” And, on the other side: “The Police Department continues, against any possible rational analysis of the data, to insist that the stop and frisk program is both necessary and effective, and to target young black and Latino New Yorkers, who are so innocent of any wrongdoing that they walk away without a summons,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. What do you think? Is stop and frisk effective and constitutional, or are the police just harassing law abiding citizens who happen to live in the poorest parts of Brooklyn? Stop and Frisk Is up in Brooklyn [NY Daily News] Photo by jag9889
Have any hipsters been sighted on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville? No. But it won’t be long, according to the New York Observer. The evidence: “East Bushwick” is “again heating up,” and during the last boom, developers made it out as far as the Halsey Street L train stop. Plus, there was that DNAinfo story Friday about renters searching for more space and lower rents along the Crown Heights-Brownsville border. (That’s Pitkin Avenue above, which in the 1950s was one of Brooklyn’s biggest shopping districts, and the recently revamped Pitkin Theater, now Brownsville Ascend Charter School.) FWIW, our two cents: We live one stop away from Brownsville’s Broadway Junction, and plenty of “hipsters” or whatever you want to call them have moved here in the last year or so. So, yeah. Closing in on Brownsville: Brooklyn Gentrification Nears the Final Frontier [Observer]
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…)
An unusual, tree-house-inspired playground is going into an existing park in Brownsville, the Architzer blog reported. It’s called the Imagination Playground, and its central feature is big building blocks made of blue foam, designed to encourage children to play creatively on their own. A similar playground already exists in Manhattan at the South Street Seaport, and others have been springing up around the country; the playgrounds and the blocks were designed and donated by architectural firm Rockwell Group. The multi-level space at Brownsville’s Betsy Head Park will incorporate sand and water, and a long, winding play ramp will weave through the surrounding trees, said the blog. (more…)
This week Community Board 16 approved the DOT’s proposal for bike lanes in Brownsville. A representative at the nonprofit Community Solutions, which works in the neighborhood, said, “We have been working with the DOT and partner orgs for two years on this and we are thrilled that this is finally happening. It is another step forward as we work to create a safer, healthier and more prosperous Brownsville.” Streetsblog reported that 15 miles of Brownsville streets will get the green paint, including New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and a north/south lane pair on Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. Expect installation to happen this spring. The DOT will also install 600 bike racks around the neighborhood. Bike Lanes Come to Brownsville [Community Solutions] Brownsville Will Get Bike Lanes After Supportive Vote From CB 16 [Streetsblog] Photo by the NYC DOT via Streetsblog
The Brownsville Partnership and the Municipal Art Society are hosting the first annual Brownsville HOPE Summit on Saturday, February 23rd. The summit kicks of a yearlong initiative that will engage residents in creating a safer, healthier and more prosperous neighborhood through local ideas and action. At the summit residents will have access to markers, flip charts, maps and photographs to identify underutilized neighborhood resources, troubled spots and opportunities for short-term improvements and long-term development. The idea is to come up with a blueprint that guides local initiatives for the rest of the year. You can check out all the details about the reception and the actual summit right here. The Brownsville Partnership, which is spearheading this event, is a network of residents, city and non-profit partners based in the neighborhood.
A parking lot on Mother Gaston Boulevard in Brownsville will be transformed into a 12-story apartment building with low-income and supportive housing, the New York City Housing Authority has announced. CAMBA Housing Ventures is the developer of the project. Above is a rendering of the building, known as the Van Dyke Supportive Housing Project, which will be located between Dumont and Livonia Avenues. The development will include 100 apartments consisting of 44 one-bedrooms and 56 two-bedrooms. At least 30 percent of the units will go to homeless families or those at risk for homelessness. A quarter will be set aside for NYCHA residents, and the rest will go to low-income families earning as much as 60 percent of the area median income, or $51,540 a year for a family of four. Also on site will be a mental health clinic, community space, and employment training. Nonprofit CAMBA, an affiliate of the developer, operates job training programs and plans to train NYCHA residents to apply for construction jobs on the project. CAMBA Housing Ventures has developed 396 units of housing in Brooklyn and has 459 more in development. Construction should wrap in the summer of 2014. Rendering via CAMBA Housing Ventures
Name: Former Loew’s Pitkin Avenue Theater, now Brownsville Ascend Charter School, and retail Address: 1501 Pitkin Avenue Cross Streets: Corner Saratoga Avenue Neighborhood: Brownsville Year Built: 1929-30, rebuilt 2010-12 Architectural Style: Art Deco with Mayan and Art Nouveau touches. Interior “Hispanic-Mooresque” Architect: Thomas Lamb. Renovation: Kitchens & Associates and Anderson-Miller Designs Other Work by Architect: Over 180 theaters across U.S., Canada and world. In Brooklyn: Loew’s Metropolitan, Loew’s Gates, RKO Bushwick, Strand, among others. Landmarked: No
The story: The age of the great movie palaces is over. In the teens and into the 1930s, they were built to provide an escape into the fantasy world of live theater follies and Hollywood motion pictures, with exciting stories of beautiful leading ladies and handsome leading men. For your average person, the theater itself would be an escape, a fantasy building with exotic décor, padded and plush sets, gilded surfaces and bright lights. These palaces were everything a local dull, coldwater flat was not, an escape into another world. And no one built a fantasy theater like Thomas Lamb.
He was the best of a handful of theater architects and designers who made magic. Lamb was born in Scotland, and came to the U.S. as a child of 12. He got his architectural training at Cooper Union, and set his office up on 40th Street in the theater district. His first theater was for film mogul William Fox, in 1909. He would go on to be the architect of choice for the Loew’s, Fox, and RKO chains. His theater designs would grace cities around the world, with almost 50 here in New York, and theaters from Philadelphia to Toronto, Jakarta to London, Cleveland to Johannesburg. (more…)