356 Fulton St. CapOneBank, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Downtown Brooklyn is full of wonderful old 19th century buildings of all kinds. It also has a small collection of more modern bank buildings, most of them built in the 1960s and ’70s. Here’s one of them.

Name: Former Equitable Federal Savings and Loan, now Capital One Bank
Address: 356 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Red Hook Lane
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1967-1968
Architectural Style: Neo-Formalism (perhaps stretching it a bit)
Architect: Goldberg-Epstein Associates
Other works by architect: Lincoln Savings Bank in Gravesend, public housing
Landmarked: No

Downtown Brooklyn is layered with architectural history, making it one of Brooklyn’s more interesting neighborhoods. A single block can span the distance between the years before the Civil War up until the present.

This bank building is a bit of mid-20th century suburbia right in the heart of the city.

Mid-20th Century Neo-Formalism

Adolf Goldberg and his firm, Goldberg-Epstein Associates, built suburban banks like this, as well as more anonymous-looking housing developments and other buildings. Goldberg retired in 1967, so this is one of his last buildings. (more…)

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There has been steady progress at The Hub, aka 333 Schermerhorn Street, the 53-story rental tower from developer Douglas Steiner of Steiner Studios. One of the current crop of tall towers going up in downtown Brooklyn, the 581-unit building has reached the half way mark of its 577-foot final height.

Along with the progress in height, installation of the red brick cladding and windows for the tower has begun as well. When we last checked in, the tower portion of the development has risen to about the fifth floor. (more…)

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Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

Downtown Brooklyn will soon get a thoroughly modern Macy’s. The department store and commercial real estate firm Tishman Speyer announced a $270,000,000 deal Wednesday that will let Macy’s downsize, remodel and take cash out of its antiquated real estate holdings downtown.

Thankfully, the historic building at 422 Fulton Street will not be sporting a giant condo tower on its roof anytime soon. And Macy’s will continue to own and operate the first four floors and the lower level as a store.

(more…)

117-119 Livingston St. Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

New York City changes so rapidly. Buildings can literally be here today and gone tomorrow. We pass sites that are either big holes in the ground or construction sites, and think “What was here before?”

I was downtown only a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see the corner of Red Hook Lane and Livingston Street had lost its buildings. I especially remember the corner building, festooned for the past number of years with the map-like artwork of artist Steve Powers.

Red Hook Lane is the last remnant of one of Brooklyn’s oldest roads. Like many of Brooklyn’s original streets, it was a trail used by the Canarsee people who lived here centuries before the Dutch and English showed up.

In Colonial times, Red Hook Lane connected the town of Brooklyn to the shores of Red Hook. It was a major transportation road, one used by both the Continental Army and the British during the American Revolution.

By the end of the 19th century, there wasn’t much left of the Lane, only a one block oddity allowing people to take a shortcut to Fulton Street.

People lived here, especially in the days when Livingston was still a quasi-residential street. (more…)

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As of Monday, applications are now being taken for 200 affordable units in the first City Point tower, now under construction in Downtown Brooklyn. Brick Underground was the first to notice that the lottery had opened through NYC Housing Connect.

The least expensive units are studios for $500 a month for those earning between $18,515 and $24,200 a year. One-bedroom units range from $538 a month to $2,038 a month depending on income levels.

The most expensive units are two-bedroom units for $2,455 a month for those earning between $85,612 a year and, at the top end, $142,395 a year. City Point’s website has full list of income requirements or it can be viewed as a PDF here.

Half of the units will go to those already residing within Brooklyn’s Community Board 2, and 5 percent will be set aside for municipal employees. Another 5 percent will be set aside for mobility impaired applicants and 2 percent will be set aside for those with visual or hearing impairments.

(more…)

235 Duffield, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 235 Duffield Street
Cross Streets: Fulton and Willoughby Streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Early 20th century
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Like all of Downtown Brooklyn’s side streets, Duffield Street was once mostly residential. It was lined first with wood-framed row houses, and later, brick and mortar row houses and small tenements.

This lot used to have one of those wood-framed row houses on it, part of a group which included the neighboring house. These houses have evidence of use as safe houses and escape routes on the Underground Railroad.

This building replaced one of the frame houses, and was built sometime in the early 20th century. It is first mentioned in the papers in 1906.

It was constructed as the block was rapidly transitioning from mixed use residential to commercial, and was probably built with the two storefronts on the bottom two floors.

This white brick Renaissance Revival building is somewhat a rarity in the neighborhood. Most of the row houses are much earlier, dating from either before or just after the Civil War. They were made of wood or brownstone.

This would have been considered quite a modern building for its day, as innovative as one of the modern glass buildings that are rapidly replacing its neighbors.

This was the building that hair built. In the beginning, it was known as the Gem. (more…)

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Mon dieu. As we teased in our recent post on Paris Baguette, Downtown Brooklyn is about to get another French bakery. Maison Kayser, the artisanal “authentic Parisian” boulangerie, will open at 57 Court Street — the last vacant retail space at the base of the Brooklyn Municipal Building — in late September.

Brownstoner has the first renderings of the interior of the store, which will feature a 108-seat cafe “reminiscent of a Parisian bistro” in addition to a bakery counter with a selection of to-go items. Kayser’s famous bread will be hand-kneaded, shaped and baked on site.

“We wanted to bring the Maison Kayser experience to Brooklyn, a community rich with artisans and an appreciation of authentic cuisine,” a spokesperson for Maison Kayser told Brownstoner. (more…)

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LED skyscraper: It sounds like an electronica group from the ’00s. But it’s actually a shorthand description of a 28-story tower with an unusual nighttime lighting scheme planned for a Downtown Brooklyn development site at 16 Nevins Street.

As we told you last year, Williamsburg-based developer Bushburg Properties was planning to put up 149 rentals here, along with some ground-level stores. Now subsequent investor-owners are flipping the property to Adam America Real Estate and Slate Property Group, who plan condos instead of rentals, according to a story in The Real Deal. They’re in contract for more than $50,000,000.

The buildings on the site were demolished in April, as we reported at the time, and plans for the skyscraper were approved the same month. However, a full permit has not yet been issued, slightly increasing the possibility the new owners might commission a new design. The applicant of record on the new-building application is the Stephen Jacobs Group, a large and award winning firm best known in Brooklyn for designing The Edge on the Williamsburg waterfront. (more…)

KC Courthouse and Muni Bldg. undated 1

In Part 1, we met Clarence R. Van Buskirk – architect, engineer, preacher’s kid, and well-regarded Assistant Engineer for the Brooklyn Department of Highways. He would one day be the architect of Brooklyn’s most iconic structure: Ebbets Field Stadium. But before that, he needed to get out of deep trouble. In 1907, the Department of Highways was on the hit list of a local politician looking to make a name for himself by rooting out corruption. And he had Van Buskirk in his sights.

Bird S. Coler was the Borough President of Brooklyn, coming into office in the fall of 1905. But he had higher political ambitions, and was consumed with a fanatic’s zeal to weed out corruption in the borough. If it happened to further his political ambitions? Well, all the better.

Self-serving or not, he did have a point.

At the time, all of New York City was a hotbed of corruption of one kind or another, some forms more blatantly corrupt than others. Over at Brooklyn’s Department of Highways, where Coler first set his sights, the head of the department, Frank Ulrich, had continued a long-standing tradition.

He bloated his department with patronage jobs, played favorites with certain inspectors, accepted kickbacks, and hugely overbilled utilities like Edison Electric Company and Brooklyn Union Gas.

Ulrich overstepped and got caught accepting payoffs in exchange for jobs. He was indicted, arrested, and let out on bail awaiting trial. He submitted his resignation towards the end of 1906.

Coler called for a Grand Jury to determine if charges could be filed against anyone else in the department, especially Ulrich’s junior staff, which included Clarence Van Buskirk.

Investigators came to the offices and boxed up billing and other records pertaining to the utilities, and put them under lock and key, intending to remove them for review.

But in the early hours of February 25, 1907, at least two men entered the Department offices on the top floor of the old Municipal Building, broke into the locked desk which held the keys, and made off with the records. (more…)

146-148 Lawrence St. Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Downtown Brooklyn has probably physically changed more than any other neighborhood in Brooklyn. That makes sense, since it has been the center of Brooklyn’s civic, retail, and entertainment life for much of the last century and a half.

Because of all of the changes, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what the streets looked like before the big stores came and cemented in many minds the idea that Downtown has always been a shopping hub.

It wasn’t always that way. The shopping district supplanted a residential neighborhood, one that had started to develop by the 1840s, as Brooklyn’s homes began to spread eastward, away from the harbor and the ferry.

This history has been easiest to see on the side streets. Gold, Duffield, Bridge and Lawrence streets between Fulton and Willoughby were all residential originally, and these blocks used to be the place to find many of the surviving remainders of this early residential enclave. But many of these buildings are now giving way to new mega-towers.

Today’s Past and Present highlights the few surviving buildings on Lawrence Street. (more…)

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After years of drama and controversy, the rent-regulated apartments at 406 Albee Square downtown stand empty, ready for the bulldozers. They were acquired by the city as part of a bigger package for $40,000,000 and will be turned into a park, as per the downtown rezoning plan established over a decade ago, in 2004.

The tenements, which have seen more than 100 years of humanity pass through its doors, occupy a clearing in the middle of high-rise development downtown. Directly across the street is the City Point mega-project, where towers as high as 60 stories will eventually be built. Behind it, on the next block over, the 35-story Ava DoBro is under construction at 100 Willoughby Street. (more…)

C.R. Van Buskirk, Ebbetts Field composite

Some of Brooklyn’s greatest architectural treasures were designed by people whose names we either never knew or can’t remember. Most people don’t really care about architecture anyway, but in spite of that, a few names become part of the cultural conversation.

Some of them we manage to remember: the Brooklyn Bridge – that Roebling guy. He died.

The Brooklyn Museum – um, oh yeah, McKim, Mead & White. White was the guy who had the mistress on the red swing in his private playroom and her husband shot him. That’s easy to remember. Unfortunately it’s less easy to remember that White didn’t actually design the museum, McKim did. But still, not bad.

So what about one of Brooklyn’s most famous icons? What about the ballpark with the name that can cause a native Brooklynite of a certain age to get teary and wax nostalgic? We know the name of the team and the exploits of the players in that temple of baseball. Their names are whispered the way one speaks of a saint in church.

But who was the architect of this sacred space? Who designed Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers?

Clarence R. Van Buskirk, that’s who. Well, maybe. More on that later. But first, who?  (more…)