550-4th-avenue-082714

Brookland Capital has at least 46 developments in the works in Brooklyn right now — all condos — but most of them are in less prominent spots than the one the firm has just scooped up for $7,400,000 on 4th Avenue. The very active developer, whose private sources of capital have allowed it to build condos when most in Brooklyn could develop only rentals, is planning a 13-story building with 45 apartments plus ground-floor shops at 550-554 4th Avenue, The New York Observer reported. (more…)

4th avenue 9th street

The MTA announced last week that the lengthy renovation of the 4th Avenue – 9th Street subway station will continue with the closure of the northbound R train stairway on the northeast corner for three months, beginning September 1. It’s going to replace the staircase. After that work finishes, the MTA will close the southbound R train entrance on the northwest corner, in order to replace that staircase.

Councilmember Brad Lander released a statement about it today, chastising the MTA for blowing all of its deadlines and not communicating with the community about construction plans.“While I am glad that the MTA is making necessary investments in our public infrastructure, I am disappointed that the delays plaguing the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation will now cause more commuters to regularly traverse a construction zone,” Lander said in the press release.

Photo by Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons

626 4th Ave, Max Huncke Chem. composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

A look through the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Collection revealed this picture of an attractive factory building on the Gowanus/Park Slope border. Today it’s the site of one of 4th Avenue’s many automobile service stations. Tomorrow it will probably be a condo tower, but 85 years ago, this was the home of the Max Huncke Chemical Company. There are chemical companies and there are chemical companies. This one specialized in chemicals for embalming. It turns out that chemist Max Huncke was the grandfather of the modern embalming process. (more…)

Ragpickers, NYC, thehistorybox.com 1

Today, we are used to seeing the people who somehow manage to make a living recycling cans and bottles. We hardly notice them as they root through trash cans looking for those precious five-cent drink containers. Perhaps we even separate them out for them, and hang the cans on the fence, so they won’t disrupt the garbage. The people who are really serious about this occupation can be seen pushing grocery carts heaped high with bags of cans, often on their way to a recycling facility, where if they have been diligent, they can make $25 or $30 a day. It’s certainly not an easy life, but as the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Their collecting cousins are the guys with an old pickup truck who roam around picking up all kinds of metal for the scrap dealer. They are experts on metal, and can tell you how much is being paid for iron, copper, brass and steel. Finding a large amount of copper is like finding the mother lode – money in the pocket. In many cities with a lot of abandoned buildings, copper pipes don’t last long. For that matter, neither do radiators, iron pipe, or any kind of metal. My house in Troy, which had been empty for a number of years before we got it, was stripped of everything metal including the doorknobs, which were literally ripped out, leaving ragged holes in the wood. We had to replace everything. (more…)

Ragpickers, NYC, 1896. Alice Austen 1

The story of Brooklyn is a story of immigrant success. Beginning with the Dutch in the 17th century, Europeans have come here, worked hard to carve lives for themselves and families, and most have prospered and thrived. Some groups did better than others. Some groups were wanted, others were not. All in all, a complicated mixture of nationality, drive, skills, language, bigotry, religion, acceptance, political opportunity and a dash of luck have resulted in the polyglot mosaic that makes up the American experience.

Unfortunately, human society is built on class and caste, no matter how egalitarian we may boast of being, and someone is always going to be on the bottom. For centuries the bottom was reserved for black people who were brought here as slaves. The end of slavery meant menial work for most, and equality for very few. It would take many more centuries to change that impression, and the job still isn’t done. When large amounts of Europeans began immigrating to the US, room had to be made on the bottom for new groups. (more…)

kentile-floors-sign-video-073114

Over the course of the last two months, the owner of the former Kentile Floors factory in Gowanus has slowly dismantled its iconic red sign. And now an enterprising Vine user has made a heartbreaking four-second time lapse video of its demolition, which we found via Gothamist.

Image by Martin Pavely

193-195 9th St. KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally row houses, then Our Saviour’s Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, now American Legion Post 1636
Address: 193-195 9th Street
Cross Streets: 3rd and 4th avenues
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: 1860s, remodeled as a church in 1885, more alterations, 1928
Architectural Style: Italianate under it all
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: As Gowanus grew as an industrial area, the thousands of workers who worked in the factories, warehouses and piers needed homes for themselves and their families. By the dawn of the Civil War, in 1860, a row of small two story Italianate row houses was built here on the eastern side of 9th Street, part of the effort to meet local housing needs. They weren’t fancy or grand; they were utilitarian houses for the working class. Most of them were probably subdivided into apartments or rented out as boarding house rooms. There were not too many people here who could afford an entire house.

As the war began in earnest, most people here were probably not aware that they lived on top of a battlefield themselves. This entire area was the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, where the newly minted Continental Army was almost destroyed at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War, in 1776. The British had far superior forces, training and guns, and the Americans soon found themselves retreating towards the harbor. (more…)

399 4th avenue gowanus schematic 72014

We found this schematic for a hotel on the fence at 3rd Avenue and 6th Street, a block from Whole Foods in Gowanus. Globiwest Hospitality is building the six-story boutique hotel at 399 Third Avenue, as DNAinfo reported last year. It will have 58 rooms spread across 19,127 square feet, as well as four parking spaces, an exercise room and a meeting room, according to new building permits filed a year ago. Michael Kang Architect is the architect of record.

(more…)

gowanus-canal-092513

“Lander’s whole process was rigged to create a forced consensus to give the developers a green light to go forward,” said an 11-year resident of Gowanus at the Take Back Gowanus meeting Wednesday, referring to Councilman Brad Lander’s series of public meetings earlier this year.

Proposals from speakers at the meeting were wide ranging. Some mentioned in a story in the Brooklyn Eagle:

*An end to residential development on the banks of the canal.
*Designating the first few floors of any new residential building as manufacturing.
*Upgrading infrastructure, whether tied to new development or not.

Some of the proposals aimed to reform the political process: (more…)