All the bricks are gone from the Navy Yard’s Timber Shed, one of the two historic buildings slated for preservation amidst the supermarket development here. The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation began removing the bricks this spring (the bricks will be preserved) and the developer, Blumfield Development Group, is tasked with actually reinforcing the structure. In the picture after the jump, you can see how the ceiling frame is sinking in. This extensive restoration will be done to national preservation standards — no word on how long it’ll actually take.
Work on the Timber Shed Ramps Up [Brownstoner] (more…)
Work began last Friday on the Timber Shed, one of two Admiral’s Row buildings that were slated to be preserved under a 2009 agreement between the federal government and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. (The other nine historic buildings are heading for the scrap heap.) After being reinforced back in 2011, the historic structure lay fallow while plans for a large adjacent supermarket fell apart under a cloud of scandal and got put back together again. More recently, there have been some questions about whether the shed was beyond repair. Andrew Kimball, president of the Navy Yard, assures us, however, that it will be preserved and the removal of bricks is just a part of the stabilization process. The stabilized structure will ultimately be handed over to the developer, Blumenfeld Development Group, who will perform the restoration to national preservation standards that will make them potentially eligible for historic tax credits.
To many New Yorkers, Bloomberg is known as the developer-friendly guy who upzoned much of New York City, paving the way for Atlantic Yards, skyscrapers in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City, and tons more developments. But to the Wall Street Journal, he’s the Mayor of Preservation: Under his appointee, Chairman of Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert Tierney, the City has landmarked 41 areas, more than any of his predecessors. (And to be fair, as Bloomberg upzoned, he also downzoned, limiting building to preserve the character of some residential areas.) Some of those landmarkings were not based on historic merit but driven strictly by a desire to control development, claimed Michael Slattery, Research Associate of the Real Estate Board of New York. Take, for example, the controversy over extending the Bed Stuy historic districts. “This is a very old-fashioned sort of neighborhood where everybody says hello, where people sit on the stoop,” said Claudette Brady of the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation. “A lot of it was about new buildings — three-story things that were set back two feet or three feet from the street. Just god-ugly things.” Is the Mayor unfair to developers? Or could it be that the LPC is finally getting around to its backlog of requests going back many years? What do you think?
Mayor of Preservation [WSJ]
Image by Stuyvesant East Preservation League
This week the Historic Districts Council is hosting Preservation Now!, its 19th annual conference on preservation throughout New York City. The keynote and opening night reception are scheduled for this Friday, March 1, and the weekend is full of panels and walking tours. Architectural historian Francis Morrone will take folks through Downtown Brooklyn’s Historic Skyscraper District on Sunday. And a panel scheduled for Saturday, called “Preservation Campaigns and Neighborhoods,” will take on the Williamsburg and Greenpoint rezoning. Students, seniors and friends of HDC get discounts on tickets, which you can purchase right here.
Heath Ceramics has some interesting interiors pictured on its site, including, above, a house in Sausalito. For those not familiar, Heath Ceramics is a longstanding California maker of pottery and tile founded in the 1940s. The second and third interiors show an organic modern kitchen and a teens or 1920s home, all of which fit in with the Heath aesthetic. (more…)
Brownstoner commenter, filmmaker and historic decor consultant Reno Dakota sent us photos of his latest project, revamping his cellar hatch, coal chute and cellar window wells. Originally, the hatch to the cellar of his Bed Stuy brownstone — you may remember the fabulous interiors from this New York Times feature — looked like any other, and the coal chute had been a “crumbling mess” for years. Also in need of attention were the window wells at the rear of the cellar, where the wood beams that span the opening and hold up the brick wall above “were rotten and bug-chewed down to nearly nothing,” as he put it. Reno designed an historically inspired hatch door, which Mario Metals fabricated and installed for $2,000, using hinges and handles from a catalog. Meanwhile, M. Hamid Construction tuck pointed the coal chute and the window wells and replaced the beam at the rear of the house for $1,500. (Above, one of the window wells with its joints scraped out.) Reno and M. Hamid have worked together on many projects, including restoring Reno’s brownstone facade, hardscaping in the garden, and a client project in the West Village a few years ago. You may also know Reno for his historic preservation work: He has spearheaded the effort to landmark Bed Stuy East. Click through for more photos, including the custom hatch door.
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
Gaswizard’s photostream on Flickr is a treasure trove of old photos and documents depicting Victorian-era gas lighting and just old photos in general. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to know what interiors of the time really looked like. Above, an 1890s gas light with vaseline glass shades. (more…)
At one time, most of Bushwick and other eastern parts of Brooklyn were covered in fanciful late-19th-century painted ladies just like San Francisco, only minus the bay windows. Now it’s rare to see a wood-frame house that hasn’t lost its gingerbread to vinyl siding, and the area looks like Queens circa 1950. Our house is one of these. Above, our dilapidated current exterior with Permastone on the first floor and vinyl siding and replacement windows. Click through to the jump below to see how it looked when it was built. The difference is shocking, and sad. (more…)
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
One of our very favorite old-house blogs, Big Old Houses, written by Halstead agent John Foreman, looks at Newburgh, N.Y., one of our favorite places because of its variety of old buildings and perch overlooking the Hudson. He gives a tour of the inside of the Crawford mansion, an unusually baroque example of Federal-Greek Revival architecture that the local historic society is restoring. Click through for tons of amazing photos. (more…)
A reader sent in this photo of the repair work ongoing at Christ Church in Cobble Hill, where lightning struck on July 26, damaging the tower and killing local resident state Assistant Attorney General Richard Schwartz. Traffic at the corner of Kane and Clinton remains completely blocked with the intersection closed to all, our tipster said. No one is allowed on the south side of the sidewalk. Two large cranes remain on the scene.
Christ Church Steeples to Come Down [Brownstoner] GMAP
Lightning Kills Man, Damages Church in Cobble Hill [Brownstoner]
Lightning Hit Brooklyn Last Night, Caused One Fatality [Brownstoner]
The Art Deco Pitkin Theater in Brownsville, abandoned and disintegrating for many years, has been restored and is now home to the Brownsville Ascend Charter School and, soon, big-box retailers. Borough President Marty Markowitz and a festively dressed crowd of proud and excited parents and execs turned out Thursday afternoon to celebrate the ribbon cutting of this symbol of the past and the future of the neighorhood. Markowitz spoke about the dramatic changes in Brownsville, which he personally experienced, having worked down the block when he was a boy at the auto supply company AID when Pitkin Avenue was one of the busiest commercial strips in all of New York City. ”With Ascend, I do hope the culture of violence will disappear from our streets,” he said. “I hope the day will come soon when it is easier to buy a book on Pitkin Avenue than to buy a gun.” (more…)
The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project and the Historic Wallabout Association will release the Wallabout Homeowner’s Preservation Manual at a community reception and informational meeting at Building 92 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 7 pm to 9 pm tonight. The 90-page manual, focusing on wood-frame and masonry homes found in the Wallabout Historic District, will cover basic maintenance, large-scale restorations, tax credits and financing programs in a landmarked district, improving a building’s energy efficiency, and more. Representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office and the New York Landmarks Conservancy will be at the meeting to answer questions about living in a historic district. For anyone living in Wallabout, the manual is free. For those who live outside the district, the manual can be purchased with a $10 donation. If you are interested in the manual or in attending tonight’s meeting, get in touch with MARP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-230-1689.
Due to an unforeseeable personal emergency (I’m fine), I’m reprinting one of my earliest Walkabouts, from April 2009. If you weren’t a Brownstoner reader back then, then this is new material. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, here’s another chance to look at some of the great ironwork in our fair city. Enjoy!
The traditions of ironworking go back to the beginnings of many cultures, on many continents. The growth of travel and trade to all parts of the world opened up the world of design for the Victorian age. We already had a strong ironworking tradition in Colonial American; the forge has long been a staple of American lore. These ironworkers created great beauty from manipulating iron, and the ironwork of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and other early neighborhoods reflects that great talent.
Starting in 1860s, the Aesthetic Movement and, concurrently, the Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, introduced the growing middle and upper classes on both continents to the design elements of the Middle East, India and East Asia, which were all then added to the existent catalog of medieval, Renaissance, Celtic and naturalistic patterns. Designers and craftspeople in many different media took these themes and created products for the fashionable Victorian home: fabrics, tile work, wallpaper, ceramics, furniture, lighting, stained glass, and wrought and cast iron. (more…)
The New York Times profiles two Bed Stuy residents who have spent $150,000 and seven years restoring their 1895 brownstone to create the impression that “some old person had lived here for a long time and we just walked in.” That, of course, is not actually the case, explained Reno Dakota, a set designer who works full time on the house as carpenter and historical restoration expert while partner Kei Yip, a sportswear designer, handles the mortgage payments. A giant clown face from Dakota’s past as a nightclub decorator — yes, he is that Reno Dakota in the Magnetic Fields’ song “Reno Dakota” — adorns the entry hall ceiling. Otherwise, the look is strictly old school, with an emphasis on historic wallpaper and what Dakota jokingly refers to as “our collection of dreary landscapes.” Meanwhile, Dakota has also led the campaign to designate Stuyvesant East as a historic district. Check out the original article for lots of fun photos.
In Brooklyn, a Strict Victorian Brownstone [NY Times]
This week Community Board 2 held its last board meeting before summer recess at Clinton Hill’s Brown Memorial Church, which has received a lot of attention as of late. The board took a tour of the sanctuary and heard about its impressive renovation project. Renovations completed include repainting all the walls (we were told the congregation scraped off an awful blue paint in preparation), refinishing the wood banisters, designing the chandeliers (reproduced from the originals), and stabilizing the roof which was close to falling down. The reno, however, isn’t complete, and the latest project will be restoring the Tiffany stained glass windows. There are twelve windows in all, two large and ten small. The church just received a $200,000 Partners in Preservation grant to help them along, and expect to finish the restoration within two years. Click through for more photographs of the fantastic interior. GMAP (more…)
On May 29, 2012 Christina Gough from the Society for the Architecture of the City gave the keynote speech at the Cobble Hill Association General Meeting. Her talk was called “Can Cobble Hill Avoid Manhattanization?” (though presumably her remarks apply to much of Brownstone Brooklyn). Carroll Gardens Patch reprinted the entire speech yesterday and we’ve followed suit on the jump. (The Brooklyn Eagle also has a summary here.) For those with shorter attention spans, however, we’ve excerpted one paragraph up front.
How do you Manhattanize an old town house? First, you pay a seven or eight figure price to buy it. Then you destroy it—except, of course, for the street front, if it is in an historic district. You gut it. Your toss any Federal or Greek Revival woodwork into the convenient garbage scow outside the front door. You cut in new windows. You tear out the lower back wall. You change the floor levels. You remove some floors altogether to create double height rooms. That, your architect triumphantly explains, reduces your Floor Area Ratio! You expand the back with a rear yard addition; you expand the top with a rooftop addition; you expand underneath with new underground levels, which may include a swimming pool, a dog-grooming-room and other such essentials. If the swimming pool is of Olympic dimensions, you may ask to excavate the entire rear yard as well, turning the existing garden into a roof terrace. Your landscape architect and his arborist will testify that this will have no impact on the neighbors, because the roof of an Olympic-style swimming pool can be incredibly verdant and beautiful, when planted with trees with shallow root systems, such as crab apples! Or bamboo, perhaps. And your engineer will explain that of course there is no danger; excavation will be painstakingly monitored and the shoring will be state of the art!
Click through to read the entire text of the speech…
We received the following email in our inbox this morning: “Hello Friends of Mr. Everett Ortner — With sadness, I am informing you of Mr. Ortner’s passing on Tuesday, May 22. Kindly inform your organization. Thank you for your friendship and for your promotion of Brooklyn causes. Please view [above] photo by Mr. Levi Stolove.” Here is part of a write-up about Mr. Ortner via Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: “Since 1963, when he and his wife, Evelyn, bought a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, he has been a missionary for the brownstone-revival movement in New York City, and for urban revival nationally. He was a leader in the early days of the revival movement in Park Slope, a photographer and public-relations man for the Park Slope Civic Council, and a founder, with Joe Ferris, of the Park Slope Betterment Committee, which organized many series of particularized house tours (hard-selling houses that needed work). With Ken Patton as chairman, he was a co-founder and first president (1968) of the Brownstone Revival Committee of New York, now the Brownstone Revival Coalition–a citywide organization devoted to the promotion and preservation of New York City’s older communities. He is currently its Chairman Emeritus. The BRC publishes a newsletter, ‘The Brownstoner,’ sponsors lectures and workshops on architectural history and preservation topics, and acts frequently as the voice of New York’s brownstone communities. He continues to write for and edit ‘The Brownstoner.’” Rest in peace, Mr. Ortner.
Everett H. Ortner [DDDB]
Today the City Council’s land-use committee held a meeting to discuss a number of bills involving Landmarks Preservation Commission operations, including some that preservationists believe could severely damage the very essence of the city’s Landmarks Law. The meeting involved a great deal of political theater, as at least 20 Councilmembers made appearances, and several spoke on the bills that they had sponsored. Near the beginning of the meeting, which lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, the Landmarks Preservation Commission released an official statement on a number of the bills, which read, in part: “[T]hese bills, taken together, would significantly alter the discretionary, flexible and nuanced process that the Charter and the Landmarks Law left in the hands of a capable and expert agency. Establishing rigid timelines and processes with respect to RFEs [Requests for Evaluations] would make it extremely difficult for the Commission to address changing conditions, set and adjust priorities and respond to true emergency situations.” And after that, the fun began! On the jump, commentary given by several of the Councilmembers introducing the bills, including a snipe from Councilmember Jessica Lappin asking the LPC, “how is that going to overwhelm you?” (more…)
At a 10 a.m. meeting tomorrow, the City Council’s committee on land use will be considering several bills related to landmarking, including some that have been gathering dust for years and a couple new ones. The Historic Districts Council, which has sent out several emails about the bills, notes two of them as being of particular interest:
1. “creates a 21/33 month maximum timeline for landmark and historic district designations. These bills would seem to answer the longtime community complaints about lack of attention to community requests. In truth, if these bills are adopted in tandem as written, they would risk overwhelming the LPC scant resources and could result in thousands of potential buildings in dozens of historic districts being rejected out of hand.”
2. “mandates City Planning Commission to analyze economic impact of designation on the development potential of proposed landmark and instructs City Council to strongly regard this analysis in their deliberations. The bill also requires the LPC to issue very detailed draft designation reports early in the public hearing process and promulgate rules for historic districts immediately after designation. This is a deliberate attack on the Landmarks Law , which was intended by its drafters to “stabilize and improve property value; protect and enhance the city’s attractions to tourists and visitors and the support and stimulus to business and industry thereby provided; and strengthen the economy of the city”. This is how Landmark designation worked in 1965, and it’s how Landmark designation works today.”
We’ve spoken to a number of preservationists about these bills, and it’s worth noting that concentrated attempts to weaken the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s power come into play every four or five years. Often they go nowhere. It’s also worth noting that about 3 percent of the city is landmarked, and none of these bills offers quid pro quo: If the LPC is going to do more work, it’s not going to be getting any more money to do that work. Landmarking helps keep New York unique, and it brings in tourist revenue by preserving our city’s past. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is not commenting on the matter at present.
What the City Council Proposals Really Mean [HDC]
Dear Chair Tierney,
The Lefferts Place Historic District has a great number of architectural significant homes and row houses that represent various parts of our community’s rich history. While many of the homes and buildings on this street have been largely unchanged, since 2007 we have been experiencing increasing pressure from developers to either demolish existing buildings or build structures that are out of context. At present a developer has a valid permit from the New York City Department of Buildings to demolish a building on Lefferts Place which is one of the last remaining suburban villas in Brooklyn that dates back to the 1830s. The property was originally owned by Rem and Maria Lefferts and was most likely part of a larger farm that formed the cornerstone of our block. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to protect our community’s rich architectural and historical history. Therefore we urge you to save Lefferts Place by landmarking the Lefferts Place Historic District.