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Back in the day before gentrification had fully hit Crown Heights and sent rents up 17.5 percent and townhouse prices soaring 86 percent in one year — that is, way back in 2010 — Crown Heights residents were upset to learn a pawn shop would be opening on Franklin Avenue. The pawn shop would “degrade the atmosphere of the street” and was a “recipe for disaster,” according to a petition circulated by the Crow Hill Community Association at the time.

After numerous protests, the shop opened as a jewelry store, not a pawn shop — and the most amazing mural appeared on the side of the building. We diplomatically said, “We have no idea what to think of the mural that’s gone up to promote the place. That is one lucky baby.”

Less than three years later, the store was out of business and has since been replaced by literary bookshop Hullabaloo Books.

Literary Book Store Replaces Pawn Shop [Brownstoner]
Crown Heights Pawn Shop is Back [Brownstoner]
Protests Against a Pawn Shop on Franklin [Brownstoner]

Locals in Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens would like to see the long-empty Bedford-Union Armory turned into affordable housing or a fitness center with a swimming pool and basketball court, or possibly a skating rink, they told the city at a planning meeting Sunday. Another public meeting will take place tonight at 671 Prospect Place from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

After years of delays, the City issued a request for proposals from developers late last year, as already reported, and is now going through a process of public hearings, to be followed by a formal land-use review process. The armory, one of two in Crown Heights, is located at 1555 Bedford Avenue between Union and President.

“They’re getting input on community priorities, and they will take that information back to the developers they’ve selected to compete, and they will see what they can make work economically,” Community Board 9 First Chair Laura Imperiale told us.

The city presented various scenarios developers had proposed, including turning the armory into a hotel, which locals objected to, according to a story in DNAinfo.

The building was completed in 1907. It was designed by architecture firm Pilcher and Tachau.

Bedford-Union Armory Coverage [Brownstoner]
Postcard via Brooklyn Public Library

1750 Bedford Ave, Firestone, composite

In recognition of 10 years of Brownstoner, here’s one of my favorite Past and Presents. It showcases a rare example of an interesting slice of life and culture that is still standing and has its original use.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Bedford Avenue is the longest street in Brooklyn, stretching from Greenpoint to Sheepshead Bay. Because it was such an important north/south corridor, it was a natural location for the development of the automobile industry, in the early 20th century. Much of the street between Bedford and Flatbush was undeveloped, so what better place than a street that cuts through so many neighborhoods, to place automobile showrooms, garages, service stations and other related businesses? The fact that Bedford and Flatbush were affluent neighborhoods didn’t hurt, either.

By 1912, there were already twenty-five auto establishments on this section of Bedford, between Fulton and Empire Blvd, called Malbone Street until 1918. By 1929, the traffic along Bedford was so thick that the police had to erect a traffic station at Grant Square to control it all. (more…)

121 NY Ave, NYMethChurch, SSPellen 4

Here is the second in my celebration of important Brooklyn buildings covered over the years in Brownstoner. Happy 10th anniversary.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally New York Avenue Methodist Church, now Union United Methodist
Address: 121 New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Dean and Bergen Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1891
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Josiah Cleveland Cady
Other Buildings by Architect: Manhattan: Old Metropolitan Opera House (demolished) 77th St. southern wing of the Museum of Natural History. In Brooklyn – 1290 Pacific Street in Crown Heights North, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Williamsburg.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase I of Crown Heights North HD (2007)

The story: This church is the embodiment of the hymn “A mighty fortress is our God.” It’s a massive brick masterpiece of seven connected masses stretching the entire block, consisting of the entrance porch, vestibule, auditorium, tower, Sunday school, parlor and rectory. Depending on which way you approach the building, it’s a visual treat, and a marvel of design, materials and construction. (more…)

1037 sterling place crown heights 102014

This floor-through two-bedroom in Crown Heights offers tons of space and attractive prewar details. There are decorative mantels, built-in dressers and cabinets, pier mirrors and stained glass windows. The $2,600 rent seems a little high for a two-bedroom in this part of Crown Heights, but there’s a windowed office that could be used a third bedroom, knocking the rent down to $866 a bedroom. The apartment is a block from Brower Park and three blocks from the 3 train stop at Kingston Avenue. What do you think of it?

1037 Sterling Place, #2 [Warren Lewis Sotheby's] GMAP

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A one-bedroom condo resale in a relatively new construction building in Crown Heights has gone for more than $1,000 a square foot, quite a high price for these parts and possibly a record for a condo sale in the neighborhood. The for-sale-by-owner apartment, Unit 3C at 823 Classon Avenue, closed August 15 for $675,000, almost double what it sold for in 2011 ($350,000).

The 611-square-foot apartment has a balcony and a parking spot, and the building has a roof deck and gym. The open house was well attended, and there were multiple offers in the 670s, according to a reader (not the owner) who tipped us off to the sale. The building was completed in 2010.

chika mexicana 814 nostrand 92014

Chika Mexicana is planning to open later this month at 814 Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights. When we stopped by earlier this week, the interiors looked partially finished and a worker was painting the exterior. Located about a block from Eastern Parkway between Lincoln and St. Johns, it looks like it’s going to be pretty casual. Northern Crown Heights also has Guero’s, Chavela’s and El Barrio Burritos on Franklin Avenue. Do you think the hood needs another Mexican joint? GMAP

Ebbets Field, composite

Today’s vacation entry is the much lamented Brooklyn Dodger’s own home ballpark: Ebbets Field.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

For many people of a certain generation, Brooklyn began and ended at the gates of Ebbets Field, where the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers played baseball. The years between 1913 and 1957 were the Golden Age of Brooklyn glory, especially in 1955, the year the Dodgers beat the hated Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series, score 2-0. The Dodgers were Brooklyn; proudly working class, with names like Campanella, Furillo, Snider, Hodges and Robinson. “Dem Bums” were the first team to integrate Negro players into the major leagues by hiring Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Ebbets Field stood at Bedford Avenue in the block bordered by Sullivan, McKeever and Montgomery Streets in what was called Flatbush then, and now considered to be part of Crown Heights South. Although it is now covered in nostalgia and glory like Camelot, the park was actually way too small by modern standards, and lacked parking and other facilities. (more…)

Hampton Place, SSpellen 1

Here’s another tale from the Montrose archives:

A developer, eager to capitalize on a building boom, a robust economy, and a hot neighborhood, takes a chance to build what he feels will be hugely successful and lucrative housing. But while everything seems to be in his favor, something happens, and the bottom falls out and bankruptcy looms. Will he succeed? Will the housing be built? More importantly, will it sell? What happens? Here on Brownstoner, we read about these situations every day, it seems. But this tale is not about Williamsburg or Park Slope in 2014. It’s about the St. Marks District, now called Crown Heights North, and the year is 1898.

At the end of the 19th century, the St. Marks District was one of the most fashionable areas of Brooklyn. As the mansions of the rich were going up on St. Marks Avenue, and adjacent streets, new blocks of more modest housing was going up all around the area. Most of this was speculative housing, and the developers of yesterday were doing much of what today’s developers are doing – trying to build in a popular neighborhood for those who could afford it. Sometimes this involved taking an innovative approach with a marketing hook. In this case, developing an exclusive enclave of two short blocks tucked in between two popular streets, and in between two busy avenues, all a block or two from a beautiful new park. (more…)

681 franklin avenue crown heights 92014

We’ve always wondered what would happen to the decaying, rat-infested brick low-rise at 681 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, and recently we noticed that the interior of the three-story building had been completely demolished. The brick facade is still standing, held up by scaffolding, but workers on site told us the rest of the building would come down too. It turns out the HPD ordered an emergency demolition of the long-abandoned structure in June.

But the forgotten property will have a new beginning. A construction supervisor showed us plans for a new three-story building, which he said will most likely be rentals. New building applications have not yet been filed.

The property sold to an LLC for $1,400,000 on September 15. As to why the building was neglected for so long, public records show a vacate order in 1985 and a transfer to a Florida-based estate in 2011 (when the absentee owner died, presumably). Boxes with x’s spray painted on the building show it was unsafe to enter. GMAP

834 nostrand avenue crown heights 92014

The T-Mobile store on the southwest corner of Nostrand and Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights will be demolished to make way for a seven-story apartment building, according to new building applications spotted by New York YIMBY. Developed by Helm Equities, 834 Nostrand Avenue will have 29 units, an automated parking garage with 18 spots, 5,582 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, about the same amount of community space, and a roof deck.

Shlomo Wygoda’s SWA Architects is designing the building, which will be 33,505 square feet when it’s finished. 

This busy corner on one of Crown Heights’ major thoroughfares is four blocks from 341 Eastern Parkway, which opened this summer with rents starting at $2,200. Although new, the building resembles an early 20th century commercial loft building. We hope SWA will design something equally contextual rather than the typical glass box.

Permits Filed: 834 Nostrand Avenue, on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights [NYY] GMAP

st gregory the great crown heights 82014

The Crown Heights North 7th Annual House Tour takes place this Saturday. Highlights include the Bedford Central Church on Nostrand and an original Kinko-style home built by the Kings and Westchester Land Company. Altogether there will be eight homes, two churches and the Bergen Community Garden.

The self-guided tour starts at 10:45 am on Saturday with a continental breakfast and opening ceremony at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church (pictured), on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and St. Johns Place. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the tour. They’re available on CHNA’s website, at Barbara’s Flowers at 1096 Bergen Street, or at Yanatiba at 714 Washington Avenue.