A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
New York City is, by and large, built on the ruins of its past. If left to the powerful real estate concerns of this city, there probably would only be a handful of old buildings around, the iconic masterpieces, and everything else would periodically be razed in order to build anew. The city has been like that since the Dutch landed. New Yorkers like new, newer, newest. Brooklyn is a little different; her history always more residential and tied to the land, but even here, the progression from Dutch farmhouse, to wood framed buildings, to masonry structures, to modern glass and steel can be found in just about every neighborhood. So with that in mind, when I saw the photograph of the wood framed house, with a family on the porch, I was quite certain this house was long gone. I was very wrong.
First of all, it is rare to have an address to work with. Many of the photographs in the collections of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Museum are unmarked, and their locations unknown, unless there is a very recognizable landmark in the photo. But this one came to the Brooklyn Museum with an address, the corner of Parkside and Nostrand Avenues, in Flatbush. Today, we’d consider this the outer reaches of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, or perhaps Wingate. The photograph itself gives us some clues as to the general year it was taken, and when you go to the maps, which I love to do, the mysteries begin to unravel. (more…)
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Flatbush Station, U.S. Post Office
Address: 2273 Church Avenue
Cross Streets: Flatbush and Bedford Avenues
Year Built: 1935-1936
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: Lorimer Rich, for the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury.
Other work by architect: seven Post Office buildings in New York City, including Kensington. Also Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery
Landmarked: No, but on National Register of Historic Places (1988)
The story: This post office branch is not a marble-columned monument to the rather lofty and unattainable unofficial Postal Code: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” But in the 1930s, this was what the new post offices built in many parts of the city looked like – well built, simple classic Georgian-style buildings that were constructed to move the mail, not the senses. Even as the Great Depression raged on, New York City was still growing, and needed more post offices to service still expanding neighborhoods. The federal government also needed to put people to work, and so began a program of building public government structures, accomplishing two goals at once: providing work for unemployed men, and new post office facilities. This occurred all over the state, not just in New York City.
Lorimer Rich, the architect of at least seven of the post office branches built in New York City at this time, was a consulting architect with the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, in Washington, D.C. The supervising architect was able to sub out work to consulting architects, some of whom he gave great leeway in design, and others who had far less freedom. Rich was one of the few to have almost total autonomy. (more…)
Inhabitat has renderings for the new addition at the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, the city’s oldest structure, now a museum. The plans seem quite different from what we had envisioned when we first wrote about the addition. Strikingly modern, the new space is completely separate from the old house and based on old farm outbuildings on the property. It is strategically placed between the Wyckoff House and the street to shield the 1652 structure from its now-urban surroundings. Designed by nARCHITECTS, the new build will house administrative offices as well as museum activities and displays. The grounds are also due for new landscaping with native plants. Construction will start later this year. GMAP
New York City’s Oldest House Getting a Bright New Addition [Inhabitat]
New Visitors Center Coming to Flatbush’s Wyckoff House [Brownstoner]
Rendering by nARCHITECTS via Inhabitat
Now there is no money in the state budget for SUNY Downstate, the Central Brooklyn parent of Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital, which SUNY Downstate officials just last week voted to shutter. “The state’s new budget — which the Senate began adopting Sunday — contains no new funds for the ailing Brooklyn hospital…SUNY officials…must submit a restructuring plan for the hospital by June,” said The New York Daily News. SUNY Downstate, located in East Flatbush, is the only academic medical center in Brooklyn and the borough’s fourth largest employer. SUNY Downstate is just the latest of Brooklyn medical centers to experience financial difficulties recently: Also troubled are Interfaith Medical Center in Bed Stuy and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Bushwick. Meanwhile, the Daily News reports, developers are salivating to get their hands on the prime Cobble Hill waterfront site currently occupied by SUNY Downstate’s Long Island College Hospital, and SUNY officials admitted real estate played a role in their decision to sell off the property. What do you think is ailing Brooklyn’s hospitals, and will we have enough to support the growing number of Brooklyn residents?
State Nixes Bailout for Ailing SUNY Brooklyn Hospital [NY Daily News]
Developers Licking Chop Over Cobble Hill’s LICH Site [NY Daily News]
Photo by Jim.henderson via Wikimedia Commons
A new 16-unit rental building at 113 Kenilworth Place in Flatbush is for sale for
$3,995,000. The building started out as condos but turned rental after the units failed to sell in 2011, said Massey Knakal, which has the listing. Brooklyn College is one block away. Eight of the 16 residential units are two-bedrooms, two baths, and eight are one bedrooms with one bath each. The projected monthly income for the building, which also contains two commercial spaces, both vacant, is $30,430.
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark
After a peaceful vigil Tuesday, police and protesters clashed Wednesday in East Flatbush over the killing Saturday of 16-year-old Kimani Gray by police. Reportedly an officer was hit in the head with a brick, a police car windshield was smashed, and dozens of protesters were arrested. Unconfirmed reports online said NYPD had declared the area a “frozen zone,” meaning transit was shut down and no one was allowed in. The autopsy results also came through Wednesday, revealing Gray was shot seven times. Police said Gray aimed a pistol at them Saturday before they shot him; witnesses said he was fiddling with his waistband but did not see a gun; the boy’s family said he did not have a gun. Gray had an arrest record, but reports he was a member of a gang were not confirmed.
Anger in East Flatbush Persists Over Teenager’s Killing by the Police [NY Times]
Officer Smashed in Face With Brick, 50 Arrested in Brooklyn Protest [NY Post]
Flatbush Teen Kimani Gray Died From Gunshot Wounds [NY Post]
Dozens Arrested as Protesters Clash With Police at Rally for Shot Teen [DNAinfo]
Photo by DNAinfo
Almost 60 small business owners along a 25-block stretch of Church Avenue in Flatbush have shuttered their gates rather than risk more violence and looting after 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot and killed by police here Saturday night, The New York Post reported. “I want to close the store. I want to lock the door. I’m terrified,” said a worker at K & S Fruit on Church, which closed early. Police shot Gray when he allegedly pulled a gun out of his pants; his family says he did not have a gun. Monday night, a protest and a vigil turned violent as some in the crowd trashed a nearby produce store and attacked a manager at Rite Aid. Another vigil planned for Tuesday was postponed. Council Member Jumaane Williams attended the protest Monday and warned Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a budget meeting to expect more violence unless something is done to improve the relationship between the police and Flatbush area residents. “There’s a lot of anger here,” the Daily News quoted Williams as saying. “This isn’t just from one particular shooting. A whole community has not been heard for far too long.” Williams’ district includes the riot zone. In another, unrelated incident of alleged police brutality in the area, a landlord was shackled to a hospital bed for 17 days after cops broke her leg during a wrongful arrest in the hallway of her building in Flatbush in April, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
Photo by boneszooted
Riot-Wary Flatbush Turns Into Ghost Town [NY Post]
Top Cop Tangles With Pol Over Riot Sparked by Police Shooting [NY Daily News]
Councilman Warns of More Violence After Vigil for Teen Killed by Cops [DNAinfo]
Vigil for Kimani Gray Postponed After Night of Violence [DNAinfo]
Vigil for 16-Year-Old Shot and Killed by NYPD Cops Turns Violent [Huff Po]
Today at noon Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and other officials will attend the ceremonial groundbreaking for the $93 million restoration of the Loew’s Kings Theatre. The theater, which opened in 1929 and closed in 1978, has been in disrepair for decades. The start of these renovations have been a long time coming. Back in 2006 we wrote about the Economic Development Corporation’s request for expression of interest in renovating the theater. Three years ago the city decided to work with Houston-based ACE Theatrical Group, which has restored a number of historic theaters around the country. The new theater, when open, will host 250 performances and community events each year. The restoration is expected to be completed in late 2014.
B’klyn to get ‘the Next Apollo’ [NY Post] GMAP
Loew’s King Theater to be Restored [Brownstoner]
Developer Save the Kings [Brownstoner]
A Chance to Bring Back an Old Brooklyn Gem [Brownstoner]
Photo by tony10036
Pigtown was a part of Flatbush back in the late 19th century, and the name lasted well into the 1950s, even as the borders of the neighborhood expanded and contracted. Development and progress replaced dire poverty, and ethnic pride overcame prejudice, but Pigtown’s story still has chapters to tell. Please see Part One for Pigtown’s beginnings.
Today we call the general Pigtown neighborhood “Wingate,” a part of East Flatbush tucked between Crown Heights South and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Originally, Pigtown had been named “Oaklands,” a much nicer name for developers and for neighborhood identity, but the name never took. Unlike most developing areas, this part of Flatbush was not developed in a timely fashion, so blocks of laid-out row houses sat next to wood-framed shanties even in the 1920s. The streets were laid out, but not paved, leaving muddy dirt roads and blocks of scrub filled land filling up with garbage dumped from this and other neighborhoods. In much of Pigtown, poverty sat waiting for progress. (more…)
Neighborhoods can get saddled with names because of location, like Brooklyn Heights, or Park Slope. They can get fancy acronyms like Dumbo or Soho, or they can be named after famous people or early residents, like Bensonhurst and Boerum Hill. Sometimes the names are reminders of far-away homelands, like New Utrecht, and sometimes the names just sound good and real estate-y, like Crown Heights. And then you get Pigtown. There was no attempt to prettify this name, it was derogatory, and everyone knew it. Yet like many derogatory names that are embraced in pride, they become a badge of honor of sorts. “I’m from Hell’s Kitchen, I’m from Crow Hill, I’m from Pigtown. You got a problem with that?” (more…)
A reader sent in this photo wondering what’s up at the Caledonian Hospital conversion at 100 Parkside Avenue, a project we haven’t checked up on since developers announced plans here last spring. According to city records, developer Joseph Chetrit and architect Karl Fischer are still on the project. Since then, our tipster reports, they’ve added a two-story addition and have blown out most of the walls. But it’s hard to gather a scope of the plans from Department of Building records alone. The DOB approved the two-story addition and the conversion into 122 residential units in January 2012. (In 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that there would be 270 rental and condo units here.) And in August of 2011, the DOB approved the full demolition of a portion of the hospital building, referred to as “Building D.” Then the developers filed plans this summer to put up a new eight-story residential building on the Building D site. That building would have 133 units, bringing the total units in the development to 255. The DOB, however, disapproved those plans. So as far as we can gather, the actual building conversion is moving along, but the new building addition is currently held up. Looks like it may take awhile before this one hits the market.
Details on the Caledonian Hospital Conversion [Brownstoner]
Caledonian Hospital Conversion Moving Forward [Brownstoner] GMAP
Hold the jokes about the plastic-covered furniture and floor-to-ceiling mirrors because this two-bedroom co-op at 416 Ocean Avenue in
Kensington Prospect Park South Flatbush has some real prewar cred. Sure, a second bathroom would be nice, but the apartment is laid out sensibly enough that you can easily get away with one. Throw in the beamed ceilings, parquet floors and beautiful lobby and this place is looking pretty good. Asking price: $395,000.
416 Ocean Avenue #58 [Corcoran] GMAP P*Shark
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Flatbush was a growing and bustling part of Brooklyn. Much of it developed as suburbs, but as the century continued, the major streets, especially Flatbush Avenue, soon lost their small town look and became busy urban centers of commerce and public activity. The houses, some of them quite large, were replaced by stores, office buildings, apartment buildings, theaters, banks and libraries. By the end of the 20th century, Flatbush Avenue was still a bustling urban street, but many of the buildings, some once quite impressive, had either changed or were gone altogether. The southeast corner of Flatbush Avenue and Linden Boulevard is a prime example.
I’ve found at least five different postcards of this intersection because it once held two buildings that were quite important to the area. Only one remains today, and that one has changed with the times as well. This corner was home to a Carnegie library, on Linden, and the Flatbush Trust bank on Flatbush Avenue. The actual corner of the block was a grassy lawn, enabling one to see both important buildings from the corner. (more…)
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
Maybe it’s the former performer in me, but I love theater buildings. I find them fascinating as architecture, and as measures of culture and history. At a time when large scale entertainment could not be experienced in the home, for most people, the theater was a necessary part of life. No matter if the venue was serious classical drama, opera, vaudeville, farce or, later, motion pictures, the theater building was a very important part of any community, and most communities were happy to have one nearby.
Of course, the motion picture industry cemented the movie theater in American culture, and as early as the ’teens, most theaters began showing movies, even if they had been built for theatrical productions. Some very fine architects began specializing in theaters, and even architects who built other kinds of buildings soon found that theaters were good money, and steady work. R. Thomas Short was one of those architects. He designed the Rialto, and would also design other theaters for the same owner. He’s most well-known for the Alywn Court apartment building in Manhattan and, locally, the Kismet Temple, aka the Shriner’s Arabian Nights headquarters in Bedford Stuyvesant. Both are very intricate and beautiful buildings. (more…)
Police investigators are touring church groups with slide shows and lectures to warn parents of the latest threat to their children: violent youth gangs who throw luxurious parties, sport trendy bracelets and post photos of their exploits on social media for all to see, the New York Daily News reported. Police investigators have made slide shows “filled with disturbing photos of punks holding up guns, wads of cash, and bags of drugs.” The images, such as the party scene above, are taken from social networking sites such as Instagram and Google Plus. Police and pastors said the photos show violent gang members, but others disputed their claims. Stephen “Ill” Edwards, founder of Illflix.com, said the kids depicted are part of rap groups with music videos on YouTube and thousands of Twitter followers. “Why is it when urban kids get together it is a gang?” Edwards said. (more…)
Here’s an entire house for rent at 708 East 19th Street, in the Fiske Terrace neighborhood of Flatbush. As you would guess, there’s plenty of space with five bedrooms, a driveway, yard and front porch. It comes in cheap at $4,000 a month. Worth it?
807 East 19th Street [Mary Kay Gallagher] GMAP P*Shark
This week the tenants of Flatbush Gardens (previously the Vanderveer Estates), whose poor building conditions are very well documented, filed a lawsuit against the building owners, Renaissance Management, to demand immediate action to address repairs. Tenants documented conditions like water damage, leaking ceilings, rodent infestation and raw sewage in basements and are demanding timely repairs and not just patch-up jobs. Tenants filed another lawsuit one year ago accusing the building owner David Bistricer of a breach of contract. As the NY Daily News notes, this is the first time tenants have banded together to sue for building repairs. Yesterday, residents gathered with Assembly Member Rhoda Jacobs, Assembly Member Nick Perry, and Council Member Jumaane Williams on the issue. Council Member Williams told the crowd: “Flatbush Gardens has suffered at the hands of David Bistricer for far too long. His inaction has resulted in unsanitary, unsafe and unsatisfactory conditions for thousands of tenants. Renaissance Equity Holding has had ample opportunities to respond, and they have failed.”
Flatbush Gardens Racks Up 8,100 Violation Points [Brownstoner]
A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.
What’s the big deal about a tennis court? Well, this isn’t about the game, per se, but about a “court”, another word for a street, an enclave, or neighborhood. Tennis Court was a clever play on words that heralded the beginning of the suburban development of Flatbush. Before there was a Prospect Park South, a Ditmas Park, or Caton Park, or the Beverley Squares East and West, there was Tennis Court. Yet this neighborhood is not on the list of desirable suburban enclaves lauded by real estate agents. Most people have never heard of a neighborhood called Tennis Court. And for good reason, because although the street is still there, the exclusive enclave of fine houses no longer exists. (more…)