321A Jefferson Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn in 1983 was certainly not the Brooklyn of today. That’s a mixed blessing, if you ask me. My mother and I found a one family brownstone for rent in Bedford Stuyvesant through the Amsterdam News. We ran out from the Bronx to see it, and impressed the landlady and got the place. The house had only been purchased by the owner a few months before, and had belonged to the last little old white lady on the block.

We loved the house. It was a three and a half story Neo-Grec brownstone. Our house was one of a group of five smaller houses amidst larger four story buildings. The house was an old house lover’s dream come true – an untouched one family house, complete with just all of the original features. About the only thing that had been done to the house since it was built had been the installation of electricity and central heat. Even that was pretty old. Some of the wiring was still cloth covered cording, and the pan and glass fixtures from the early 20th century were all either on pull chains or operated with push button switches. There were only two outlets in each room. (more…)

Gilbertsville, NY 1

This week is a celebration of Brownstoner’s 10th anniversary. Ten years! How time does fly! Instead of a story about a historic Brooklyn place or person, this week’s two Walkabouts are about old houses, brownstones, fixer-uppers and my Brownstoner journey.

I grew up in an old house. I spent 17 years in an old Italianate farmhouse in a small town in upstate New York called Gilbertsville, population 400. The house was built in the 1850s or 1860s, a vernacular Victorian farmhouse with a wraparound porch overlooking a beautiful valley. We moved upstate from Queens when I was six, and I can still remember the first time we walked into the house. My parents had bought the property, which came with 254 acres, pretty much sight unseen, on the recommendation of my paternal grandmother, who for some never explained reason, had moved up there from Harlem some years before. They paid $10,000 for it. On a mortgage, of course. (more…)

Cumberland front

A tipster let us know about a truly bizarre problem in their Fort Greene apartment building. Apparently someone in the building at 301 Cumberland Street has been dumping trash bags full of urine down the garbage chute. And these are not tiny trash bags, they are the kind used in kitchen garbage cans and they are half full of urine–yes we have a picture of the offending bags after the jump.

According to the tipster this has been going on since about November of 2013 with bag after pee-filled bag bursting at the bottom of the chute or leaking after it lands. The basement now reeks of urine and is becoming unusable. Unfortunately the building’s laundry room is also located in the basement. “Our basement has become a truly foul place to go,” said the tipster. (more…)

ps261trash

PS 261 in Boerum Hill has a garbage problem, say local residents who are getting tired of seeing, and, this time of year, smelling, trash strewn in front of the school. According to DNAinfo, the school, at 314 Pacific Street, has been leaving piles of garbage bags out on the sidewalk for years. One 21 year-old woman the reporter spoke to remembers avoiding the stacks of refuse on school’s side of the street when she was just 9 years old. (more…)

apartments-park-slope-042314

Average rents rose 77 percent in Brooklyn while city wide real median income fell 4.8 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to a report out from the city comptroller described in The New York Post. The increases were the largest in any borough.

A story in the Times implied that meeting Mayor de Blasio’s stated goal of keeping or creating 200,000 affordable units will not fix the problem:

In an interview, Mr. Stringer said numeric goals were not enough. He noted that the Bloomberg administration spent $5.3 billion of city money and leveraged another $18.3 billion to both create new affordable units and preserve existing housing — for a total of 165,000 units over 12 years — yet the city today is still grappling with record homelessness and the loss of low-rent housing.

A separate story in the Post described a young woman paying only $1,256 a month in rent for a spacious two-bedroom rent stabilized in Crown Heights — on the face of it, an excellent deal. But, with a salary of only $30,000 a year before taxes for her retail sales job, she can barely afford it. Her landlord has offered her money to move, but she didn’t take it, knowing she would not be able to find a lower rent elsewhere.

Rents are going up and wages are falling everywhere, not just in New York City. “In the rest of the nation, rents rose by 50.1 percent over the same period — hitting an average of $773 per month,” said the Post.

The comptroller’s report recommended that affordable housing in New York City should focus on the poorest, not middle income New Yorkers. What do you think should be done?

New York City Housing Push Should Aim at Poorest, Report Says [NY Times]
NYC Rents Skyrocket as Incomes Lag [NY Post]
As Rents Rise, Some Stuck in Affordable Homes With Moving Too Costly [NY Post]

For its latest “Living In” column, the New York Times took a look at what it is like to live in Carroll Gardens, from the neighborhood’s Italian roots to today’s expensive brownstones and condo developments. The number of Italian Americans living there declined from 52 percent in 1980 to 22 percent in 2012, as the median household income rose to $95,600 from $40,663.

And the Sackett Union development has altered the low-rise feel of Court Street, bringing a 32-unit condo building to Court and 11 townhouses to Sackett and Union, said the story. The paper interviewed blogger Katia Kelly of Pardon Me For Asking, who noted the neighborhood rallied around downzoning building heights in 2009 to protect Carroll Gardens’ small-town atmosphere.

How do readers living in the area feel about the neighborhood?

Living in: New Roots in Carroll Gardens [NY Times]
Photo by Joseph A

housing-data-021114

Nearly everyone in New York City is unhappy with the ever-rising cost of housing, but Bed Stuy residents are among the most unhappy in the city with their situations, according to a report from HR&A Advisors sponsored by a wide range of charitable organizations. As housing costs rise, the economy is getting worse, as is crime in the neighborhood, according to those surveyed.

“Residents of Bed Stuy feel strongly that they are unable to lead the life they want in their neighborhood, and that state of affairs is getting worse,” said the report. “The most pressing issue, as with all neighborhoods, is the affordability of housing, but 57 percent of residents also say that a range of issues related to jobs and the economy are bad in their neighborhood, with 53 percent saying they are getting significantly worse. Public safety and law enforcement is the third most-pressing issue in the neighborhood, with a majority of residents saying that the city’s services are bad, and 47 percent saying that the situation is trending worse.”

Just a few miles over in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, people expressed satisfaction with the way things are going, with 50 percent saying “life in the neighborhood is good” and 40 percent saying “it is getting significantly better.” Note the median household income in the Park Slope/Carroll Gardens area is $86,401, vs. $34,314 in Bed Stuy.

The wide ranging survey of nearly 53,000 people covered a wide variety of topics, including employment, housing, education, culture, safety, parks and transportation. The Daily News and Gothamist also covered the report.

How are things going where you live and what do you think can be done to improve the quality of life in your neighborhood?

Talking Transition Data Project [Neil Donnelly]
Graphic by Neil Donnelly

pitkin-avenue-013114

At the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brownsville yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced the city would drop its appeal of lawsuits over stop and frisk. The location of the announcement was significant because an eight-block area of Brownsville had the highest concentration of stop and frisks in the city, according to a 2010 New York Times report. Above, Brownsville’s main thoroughfare, Pitkin Avenue, in September 2012.

Police Commissioner Bratton was on hand and said in a prepared statement: “We will not break the law to enforce the law. That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.”

In a separate but related development, Bratton said the department will no longer send rookies out to blanket high crime areas such as Brownsville, Ocean Hill and Bushwick as part of Operation Impact, where they are liable to make mistakes. Instead, they will send more experienced officers.

In Brownsville, Mayor Announces Settlement of Stop and Frisk [NY Times]
Bratton Tells Chiefs He’ll Stop Sending Rookies to High-Crime Areas [NY Times]

blind-barber-drink-ad-091213

Community Board 1, which covers Williamsburg and Greenpoint, has received a staggering 106 applications for liquor licenses in September alone, DNAinfo reported. As is typical for this area, applications were not only from bars and restaurants but also from retailers such as Urban Outfitters and barber shop Blind Barber. (That’s their ad for a “drink of the week,” above.) Not every application was for a new business: 37 were for new licenses, 10 were alterations, and the rest were for renewals, which are required every few years. New businesses seeking licenses included a bar named Our Wicked Lady and a Korean restaurant called Dotory.

The huge number of bars operating in Williamsburg and, outside CB1, Bushwick, has been controversial; some residents would like to see quieter streets late at night. Do you think the community boards should try to limit the number of licenses overall or approve them for responsible establishments? Do you approve of the proliferation of licenses for businesses that aren’t bars or restaurants?

106 Businesses Seek Liquor Licenses This Month in North Brooklyn [DNAinfo]
Image by Blind Barber

8504032147_6bbc531afb_z-1

Dumbo had its Graffiti Garage, Long Island City has the street art Mecca, 5Pointz, at least for a while longer. But Greenpoint appears to be stuck with some downright untalented street artists. According to an article in the Times, the neighborhood is covered in scrawl. It’s on trees and buildings, signs and statues, and, for the most part, its hardly the internationally recognized work by Banksy, Shepard Fairey or the New York-based collective Faile. The Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $25,000 since November painting it over. The chamber’s president told the Times, “the conventional wisdom was that most of the graffiti drawers were local, but there is another theory. Call it graffiti tourism. ‘People from the Midwest come here just to do graffiti’ and then post pictures online, he said. ‘I’ve heard that.’” Speculation aside, have you seen a an increase in graffiti in Greenpoint? Is the quality good or bad. Does it make a difference?

The Writing is on the Walls, and the Signs and the Trees [NY Times]

Photo: Treetop Mom

five leaves 5-6-12 williamsburg greenpoint war on brunch

Bonjour Brooklyn! That’s the name of a feature in this month’s Vogue that shows models who live in Brooklyn posing with their children in front of borough landmarks, such as Jane’s Carousel and the Bedford Cheese Shop. Here’s the intro: “Models, writers, actors, and artists have been flocking to New York’s Left Bank for its destination restaurants, bustling farmers’ markets, Parisian-style parks, and passionate dedication to l’art de vie. Welcome to the new bohemian chic.” (See Lily Aldridge wearing a matador style top and pants by Stella McCartney to eat at Rucola with her daughter, Dixie Pearl. Except for the children’s names, it’s just like Manhattan.) In another article in the same issue, about pearls making a comeback, the author remarks, “after all, it’s nearly impossible to turn a corner in Brooklyn without seeing some hip chick in Delettrez’s signature earrings — a solitary gold arc bookended by a pearl on one side and an enamel charm on the other.” Uh, what?

Coincidentally, The Atlantic has a story this week on the very same topic. It asks: “Is it still possible to be a bohemian in today’s New York City, where average rents now surpass $3,000 a month? Or are the rents just too damn high? And — if they are — what does this mean for the future of artists and intellectuals of the sort who have long been as much a part of the natural order of the city as pigeons and locust trees?”

Their piece was inspired by another story in literary magazine N+1 lamenting the sinking financial prospects of bohemian intellectuals. We remember just before N+1 launched going to a party where some of its founders lived in an inexpensive preserved-in-amber apartment off Broadway in South Williamsburg, back when it was a little bit scary to venture so far down Bedford after dark. This was in 2003 or so — a decade ago.

The Atlantic story ends with a very typical thought: Maybe if artists have to struggle financially, their art will be better. Well, they’re not all struggling. Artist Jack Pierson just bought a former knitting mill in Ridgewood. Oh wait, that’s Queens (the part that used to be Brooklyn). Do you think that if artists have to struggle financially, they’ll be too busy working at ad agencies and fancy restaurants to pay the rent (or the mortgage) to make any art?

Bonjour, Brooklyn: Why New Yorkers Are Flocking to the Borough [Vogue]
Everlasting Realities of the Bohemian Lifestyle [Atlantic]
Cultural Revolution [N+1]