Today the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons opened at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. It’s a 5,500-square-foot space full of technology available for public use. That means 25 workstations with desktop computers, seven private meeting rooms with electronic whiteboards, a recording studio, a wireless learning lab, and seating and outlets for 70 laptop users. This is the first “information commons” in any New York City public library, and the idea is to provide library users with technology-rich resources, accompanied by private areas for collaborative thinking. The library will also host workshops and classes in the learning lab; several are already planned for the next few weeks. BRIC Media will also offer classes in digital photography, podcasting and video. As Anthony Crowell, the chairman of the Brooklyn Public Library Board of Trustees, told the crowd this morning, “This is a hallmark project that will showcase the power of public libraries.” He called the design, which was handled by architect Toshiko Mori, “fun, challenging, and collaborative.” The library’s CEO Linda Johnson, Marty Markowitz, and donor Shelby White also spoke. White was responsible for the $3.25 million donation that made this space possible. She grew up in Brooklyn herself and attended this branch as a kid. “I hope this is a gathering place for those who want the latest technology and resources, and for those who just want to read a good book,” she said. We think the focus on media creation, in addition to research and information access, is interesting. Sign of the times. Click through for tons more pics of the space. (more…)
The Communication Workers of America last week released a report condemning Cablevision’s Internet service in Brooklyn. In many Brooklyn neighborhoods, Cablevision is the only option for cable Internet service. Cablevision’s approximately 300 technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn are members of the CWA. The report contends that service in Brooklyn is significantly slower than Cablevision’s service in the Bronx, based on testing data, and that Brooklyn is dotted with faulty and outmoded equipment. The report claims Cablevision is purposefully “leaving Brooklyn behind” to break the union. Above, a photo purportedly showing some broken cable equipment held together with duct tape and hanging no higher than six feet off the ground at 2022 Jerome Avenue in Brooklyn, according to CWA. In December, before the report came out, Cablevision sued CWA for defamation, saying the union was making false claims about the speed and quality of its service in Brooklyn, New York Business Journal reported.
Photo by CWA
Did you know that more oil has leaked into the Newtown Creek, the waterway separating Brooklyn and Queens, than was spilled from the Exxon Valdez? Yup. The Valdez dumped 11 million gallons into the ocean while somewhere between 17 and 30 million gallons have seeped into the four-mile-long creek in recent decades. The impact is more subtle than in the gulf, Phillip Musegaas, a lawyer with the environmental group Riverkeeper that sued ExxonMobil in 2004, told The Times. The spill is unseen, and it’s in an area that was industrialized and already polluted. But the waterway is severely stressed, and it’s not a functioning ecosystem anymore. As a result, the federal government is considering placing the creek in the Superfund programâ€”just like it did the Gowanus Canalâ€”as soon as next month. Bloomberg supports the Newtown one, and there are no major real estate developments that would be derailed by the estimated ten-year clean-up.
Between Queens and Brooklyn, an Oil Spill’s Legacy [NY Times]
Photo by astoria4u
Tina Roth Eisenberg, who designs and blogs under the company name Swissmiss, is a Swiss designer gone NYC. She and her family live in Boerum Hill, and her blog is an interesting pastiche of very modern product design and graphic arts. Recently, she posted photos and a link to this Swiss manufacturer of the coolest modern fireplaces I’ve ever seen. Check out her site, as well as the site for Rutz Feuerstellen. Now all I need is some serious Euros, and some Brooklyn loft space.
According to The Times, there’s only one store left in New York City devoted exclusively to pressed-tin ceilings. AA Abingdon Affiliates, now located on Utica Avenue in Flatbush, has been around for eight decades. When Joseph Punn, the grandfather of current owner Sheldon Gruber, began lugging his samples around pre-Depression Era New York, tin ceilings had already been in use for 60 years. (Though we doubt they are original, the ceiling of the back of our parlor floor and ceiling in the hallway of our top floor both have pressed tin ceilings.) One version of history has it that the pressed ceiling originated from European immigrants who stamped sheets of tin with repeating ornamental patterns to recreate the look of molded plaster ceilings like the ones back home. Abingdon currently has 41 ceiling designs (along with 15 cornice designs) that cost as much as $12.50 a square foot. We’re curious to hear whether anyone has ever bought anything there?
Tales Told in Tin [NY Times]
Gearing up to start work on our yard, we drove out to Bracci Fence at 1440 Utica Avenue last weekend in the hopes of finding something off-the-rack that would make us happy. The closest thing to what we’re envisioning is pictured at right. It was going to be about $1,500 in materials alone so we’ve decided to look into having someone custom build the fence. Even though we’re on a tight budget, we think the fence is not something we should skimp on. If it’s done right it’ll be there for a long, long time and, though we’ve got no scientific evidence to this effect, we suspect it will more than pay for itself if and when we ever decide to sell the place. Do others agree with that rationale?
We’ve highlighted some of NY Magazine’s picks for ’06 that may be particularly useful to the Brooklyn homeowners out there:
Chimney Service Homestead Chimney 908-735-7708
Upholstery Cleaners A. Scott Drapers Cleaning 718-891-4315
Facade & Roofing Preserv Building Restoration 718-768-3600
Plasterer Frank J. Mangione 845-247-9248
Tub Reglazer Custome Spraying and Reglazing 718-556-5996
A brownstone owner and enthusiast emailed us this picture of the new lettering over his front door. “A gold leaf address over your door really makes a stoop shine,” he writes. Looks good to us. Who’s artist behind the job? Aimee German. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-312-9430. Any other gold-leafing resources that people can recommend?
Welcome [American Restoration Tile]
For those who thought the bathroom tiles we chose were too white and boring, the Times offers up some bolder ideas for jazzing up your inner sanctum.
Bold Bathroom Tiles [NY Times]
Nickel Plated Wall Lights [PW Vintage Lighting]
For all of you fretting over outsized construction costs, perhaps you should take a page out of obsessive restorer Craig and Yvonne’s book whose cost-cutting tips include recruiting able-bodied relatives such as Yvonne’s mother (pictured). Says Craig: “Give this lady a heat gun and a box of scraping tools, and you just can’t get rid of her!”
Mother-in-law At Work [Our Victorian House]
Nick Ferrone [Corcoran]
A. Bricks are one of those “if someone needs them, then they’re worth something” items. You could try selling them through a classified ad, or you could look for an architectural salvage company online or in the yellow pages, keeping in mind that these companies are often looking for tens of thousands of bricks at a time. One company, Olde Good Things (oldegoodthings.com), with branches in New York, Pennsylvania and California, told me it would consider bricks like yours (and most other salvageable material) and might even pick them up. But first, send a photograph and as much information as you can gather to email@example.com, or call (888) 233-9678.
After reading about building material recycler Build It Green NYC on Apartment Therapy a couple of weeks ago, we swung by its Long Island City warehouse to check it out. Yesterday’s post on the Services blog reminded us that we hadn’t written it up yesterday. When we visited, Justin was still overseeing the build-out of the vast space and the inventory level was modest. We’d say only about 20% of what they had on hand at the time had any historic charm, but we were still able to walk away with an old arched, paned window for $10. There were some old doors we liked and several old radiators for $20 a pop too. There’s already plenty of standard, charmless stuff like doors, windows, cabinets, etc for very cheap. Bottom line: BIG is still ramping up its operations, but it is still well worth the visit at this point. We hope it will become an invaluable resource in a city where most “salvage” shops are increasingly unaffordable.
Build It Green [Website]
Cheap Building Materials [Brownstoner Services]
Build It Green! NYC [Apartment Therapy]
A fellow Brownstoner wrote to us looking to find a good home for this mirrored mantel. (He’s keeping the lower fireplace portion.) He had been considering putting it on ebay but, but decided he wanted it to stay in Brooklyn. It’s probably about 100 years old (the house was built in 1889) and in very good shape. Dimensions are 53″ wide, 39″ high and 8 & 1/2″ deep. Please note, that while the picture shows the entire fireplace, it is only the mirrored mantel top that he’s looking to sell. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
A reader wrote in to us with some recommendations for good plasterers. Of his first recommendation he wrote, “Nice work, original craftsmen.”
SALDARINI & PUCCI INCORPORATED
196 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
More suggestions after the jump… (more…)
Hot off the press on the Services blog:
“How difficult is it to change the C of O from single family to 2 family? We’re thinking of bidding on a 4-story townhouse, a legal single family with a finished apartment on the garden level. The current owners rented the garden apartment to friends. Should we anticipate any problems making it a legal 2 family? The boiler is also located on the garden level, as there is no basement. Thanks for any thoughts.”
Other recent posts include finding a stair builder and using interior windows. Your input is requested on the Services blog. Merci.
Changing C of O [Services Blog]
Our friends at Apartment Therapy tipped us off to this…
Building Materials Reuse Workshop
Time: Saturday February 19, 2 pm
Cost: $20 (proceeds go to Green Workers Cooperative)
Location: 217 Butler Street, Brooklyn
If you’re a designer who’s always done a little salvage on the side and wondered how to incorporate your street scores into your work, this workshop will give you ideas on how. We’ll highlight a range of salvaged construction materials — from windows to wood flooring — and show how they can be used in new designs and remodels. Everyone knows you can make a lamp out of anything, but we’ll look at lots of other stuff: classic doorways, tin ceilings, street barriers, and more. You’ll get unique materials and original designs, and you’ll help make a dent in the amount of construction waste–40 percent!–in local landfills.
Dumpster Diving 301 [Apartment Therapy]
Classes [Madagascar Institute]