the flock east new york flyer 102014

An arts and crafts market called “The Flock” is taking over a newly opened park on Pitkin Avenue in East New York this Saturday, giving more than 20 local vendors a space to sell their work. Visitors will be able to buy clothing, ceramics, paintings and jewelry, as well as food and drinks.

There will also be live painting, music, an interactive community mural, face painting and art workshops for children and adults. The market will take place from 1 to 6 pm on October 11 at Mi Tierra, located at 2501 Pitkin Avenue. Community groups worked to transform the vacant 10,000-square-foot plot at Pitkin and Berriman into a park, which opened in mid-August.

gateway-center-east-new-york-081114

Grocer Shoprite has opened a huge store in Gateway Center in East New York, joining Staples, Old Navy, Babies R Us, and other big box retailers. The 90,000-square-foot store will add 350 jobs and fresh produce and seafood, said a story in The New York Daily News. The store is the ninth grocer to open as part of the city’s healthy supermarket program, Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program. Another big opening at Gateway Center is slated for Wednesday: Nordstrom Rack. The center, located at 501 Gateway Drive, also has Target, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Home Depot and JC Penney.

Shoprite Opens Massive Store in Brooklyn’s Gateway Shopping Center [NY Daily News]
Photo by Jimmy Legs

2840 Atlantic Ave, Borden's Plant, NS, PS

Here’s another entry from the Montrose archives. If you’ve traveled along Atlantic Avenue in East New York, you’ll recognize this building:

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Borden’s Diary Factory
Address: 2840 Atlantic Avenue
Cross Streets: Barbey and Schenck Streets
Neighborhood: East New York
Year Built: 1914-1915
Architectural Style: Very simplified Medieval German-inspired factory building
Architect: Otto Strack
Other Works by Architect: E.W. Browning Company Building, 11 W. 17th St, Manhattan; Pabst Theater, Kalvelage House, both in Milwaukee
Landmarked: No

The story: When we think of important landmarks that should be preserved, we think of buildings like Grand Central Station, or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, or Gracie Mansion. If we really appreciate architecture, we may expand our list to buildings like the Eagle Warehouse in DUMBO, or the Riverside Apartments in Brooklyn Heights. It’s not very often that we consider factories on these lists, because factories are usually utilitarian, no-nonsense kinds of buildings that aren’t usually known for their architectural or even historical worth. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and East New York’s Borden Dairy Factory is one. (more…)

805-east-new-york-ave-affordable

The mayor’s affordable housing and rezoning plan seems to be causing real estate speculation, which could make the plan difficult to carry out. Land prices for development properties in East New York have nearly tripled in one year, from $32 a square foot to $93 a square foot, reported The Wall Street Journal. (Though a careful look at the Journal’s accompanying graphic seems to show an unexplained spike in 2011.) The sample size was very small, as both the Journal and Gothamist pointed out, but affordable housing developers said land is already too expensive for them. Even if affordable housing is built, it could have unintended consequences, according to the story.

“The de Blasio administration wants to create significant new development in East New York but without price increases that push out existing residents. That could be hard to do. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment has risen 10% to more than $1,200 a month from $1,082 a month in 2012, according to Nancy Packes, a development consultant.”

Higher Land Prices Test Affordable-Housing Plan [WSJ]
City’s East New York Study Included Only Five Properties [Gothamist]

broadway-junction-station-092414

The area around the massive Broadway Junction transit hub in East New York is desolate and dangerous. For the neighborhood to flourish, it needs more people on the street, according to yet another report on the area calling for its redevelopment.

Specific recommendations include:

*Create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
*Close some roads.
*Consolidate land ownership.
*Repurpose the empty Long Island Rail Road substation into manufacturing and office space for “creative” companies a la Industry City in Sunset Park.
*Spur mixed-use development.

Redevelopment of the area would help the de Blasio administration meet its affordable housing goals, according to the report. Crain’s was the first to write about the report and its recommendations.

The document was authored by Urban Land Institute New York, a chapter of a D.C. think tank, and sponsored by the New York City Department of City Planning. The report stemmed from ULINY panels held over the summer.

Do you think this will work? And if it does work, who will benefit?

Broadway Junction Report [ULINY]
Dismal Bronx, Brooklyn Areas Have Potential [Crain's]

gateway-center-east-new-york-081114

JCPenney is prepping for opening day, August 29, in Gateway Center, the mall in East New York where Walmart had once hoped to locate. The store, JCPenney’s first in Brooklyn, will have a few “Brooklyn-centric touches, including murals of borough landmarks,” said a story in The New York Daily News.

JCPenney will be anchoring Phase II of the big, surburgan-style mall, developed by Related Companies. It joins Target, Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Best Buy, Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among other retailers. (more…)

east-new-york-plan-061614

Mayor de Blasio’s plans to redevelop East New York — a test case for his affordable housing plans for all of New York City — are fatally flawed, according to a report from Newsday. De Blasio wants to rezone the area to encourage mixed-use high-rise development with 50 percent market rate, 30 percent middle income and 20 percent low income apartments and retail on the bottom level. But income levels and rents in the area now are too low to attract developers, middle class residents or retailers, according to developers and others quoted in the story. (more…)

monuments-broadway-junction-081913

Once again, East New York is in the news as the ground zero for Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan. If we read this article in Crain’s correctly, the formula seems to be: Rezone Atlantic Avenue from Euclid Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. Inject public and private dollars into developing office, retail and manufacturing space around the Broadway Junction transit hub. This, the thinking goes, will spur development of 50-30-20 high-rise housing in East New York, which will help assuage the city’s affordability problem. (more…)

Howard House Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Howard’s Woods was a farm tract established by William Howard, the eldest of seven brothers who came to the Flatbush area in the late 1600s from England. They settled on land that was part of the “New Lots” opened up to Flatbush settlers looking for more room. As time went by, new neighbors came to the area; a pretty remote spot near the Jamaica Bay. Around 1700, William Howard turned his large Dutch style farm house into an inn and tavern.

He was near a crossroads where the Jamaica Plank Road that led to Long Island was met by other local roads, including what would become Atlantic Avenue, the perfect place for a tavern. His customers were farmers, merchants and others making their way back and forth to Brooklyn and Long Island. He called his inn Howard House.

Howard House soon became a way station for stage coaches, and a tourist destination for those heading further out on Long Island, or to Manhattan via Brooklyn, and William Howard was a busy man. In the old tradition of English pubs and inns, he always kept a key on a hook outside so that anyone could enter after all were asleep and take shelter. Howard knew his customers were honest and would settle up later. On August 27th, 1776, Howard House was visited by a man who used that key and came into the inn at two in the morning.

The American colonies were flexing their muscles toward independence from England. The Declaration of Independence had been signed, and war was in the air. General George Washington and the Continental Army was in Brooklyn, in the Gowanus and Brooklyn Heights area, and even out in New Lots, people were wondering what would happen next. Many people, like William Howard, were English themselves, but had committed themselves to the cause of American liberty.

So when the British gentleman who entered the inn at two in the morning woke William Howard and his son up, they had no idea what was going on. Even though it was in the middle of summer, the man had a coat on, and a cap on his head. He was accompanied by several other men, and they called for a round of drinks for themselves. After downing their ale, the leader of the group announced to Howard and his teenage son that they were his prisoners. He was Lord William Howe, the commander of the British forces. The tavern soon found itself surrounded by red-coated British troops who came out of the woods in huge numbers. (more…)

hoop house

If you’re involved with a community garden or happen to have a sizable backyard, you might want to learn how to build a hoophouse, a simple, low-cost type of greenhouse. Citizens Committee for New York City is hosting a hands-on workshop next weekend in East New York that will lead participants through the basics of building one.

Hoophouses can be made of wood, metal or plastic and will help extend the growing season of plants by protecting them year round. The workshop takes place Saturday, June 28, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm at an as-yet-undisclosed location in East New York. To RSVP and find out more, head over to Citizens Committee and download the flyer.

Photo via Little House on the Urban Prairie

east-new-york-plan-061614

As the city contemplates rezoning in East New York and elsewhere, City Planning has released a study that recommends increasing density along major thoroughfares there while keeping residential side streets as they are — not unlike the rezonings along 4th Avenue or in Crown Heights.

The report bills itself as a study of how to increase safety, jobs and affordable housing in East New York, rather than being a guide to upzoning. The report notes that “the area’s existing rowhouses and small apartment buildings, located on the residential side streets between the neighborhood’s retail corridors, have been a source of stability” for the neighborhood. The report recommends “contextual zoning” to retain and promote these buildings and to “ensure that new infill development complements the existing built residential character.”

Meanwhile, the report recommends new, mixed-income housing and mixed-use development “along key transit corridors,” especially Atlantic Avenue. Vacant, derelict and under-used sites there are ripe for development, according to the report:

Provide opportunities for thousands of new housing units as well as for jobs on vacant or underutilized sites along key transit corridors in East New York. Atlantic Avenue offers the greatest potential for higher-density, mixed-use development with several large strategic sites. New housing and neighborhood stores could also be supported by the existing transit lines along Pitkin Avenue and Fulton Street. A wide range of resources, including housing subsidies and zoning mechanisms, could ensure that this new housing would be affordable to households at a range of income levels.

The City Planning Department also wants to bring jobs and higher-density housing to Broadway Junction. It hopes to increase safety on the streets for pedestrians with better sidewalks, traffic lights and other improvements. NY YIMBY was the first to cover the report; it recommended more density than City Planning calls for.

Do you think a rezoning and more density is the key to improving the quality of life in East New York?

Image by City Planning

broadway-junction-050714

The New York Times spoke to a few people in the areas most likely to be affected by Mayor de Blasio’s plan to upzone Brooklyn to construct more affordable housing. The gist of it is that people welcome new buildings if they are truly affordable, create jobs and are a reasonable height — four stories, not 40.

New housing should not overwhelm the neighborhood’s character, one resident, Tommy Smiling, said as he stood outside a bodega on Pitkin Avenue. In swiftly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn like Clinton Hill, where Mr. Smiling’s son lives, “it’s all brownstones, and then you have this skyscraper,” he said. “I’m not into that. Four stories? O.K., that’s not bad.”

Pardon Me for Asking Blogger Katia Kelly believes the plan is a giveaway to developers under the guise of affordable housing. “It’s, ‘The developers want to build — let’s tack on a couple of apartments here that are affordable,’” she said. Most interviewed said construction must be accompanied by appropriate increases in transportation, schools and sewers. The de Blasio plan allows for that, according to the Times.

For our part, we are concerned the plan could Manhattanize the outer boroughs without making a dent in affordability. Rezonings could produce a ton of ultra-expensive high-rise housing that will vastly increase housing costs in ungentrified areas such as along Atlantic Avenue and Broadway from Barclays Center and the BQE into East New York. (Above, Broadway Junction, where Broadway, Fulton and Atlantic intersect on the borders of Bushwick, Ocean Hill, Brownsville and East New York.) With no set proportion of affordable units, there could be opportunities for abuse and corruption. There’s also a practicality issue: How will the city have time to review every as-of-right development?

What’s your opinion?

With Caution, a Poor Corner of Brooklyn Welcomes an Affordable Housing Plan [NY Times]