Brooklyn Life

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Flowers, Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo by Brownstoner
Backyard Furnishings Changing Colors [WSJ]
Negotiable Commissions [NY Times]
Selling a Music-Filled House [NY Times]
Residential Sales [NY Times]
McCarren Park Getting Grass? [NY Times]
The Not-so-Great Divide [NY Times]
Queens Smokestacks Coming Down [NY Post]
Automated Subway Delayed [NY Daily News]
Brookln Cement Co. Guilty of Dumping [NY Newsday]
Brooklyn Bridge Bomb Scare [Gothamist]

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Over at Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, they’re riffing on the mots du jour–Contextual Development:

The word of the moment is CONTEXTUAL. And I am loving it. I understand it to mean that development should never be indifferent to the historical and residential context that already exists. Bulldozing through a neighborhood and changing its architectual and social character is a sure no no. To be contextual means to proceed with development in a way that compliments and improves what is already there…Brooklyn is so hot right now that greenbacks seem to be burning holes in the pockets of developers and politicians. Overdevelopment could quite possibly destroy what makes this borough such a livable place. Development that takes into consideration the context and the history of place will be much easier to bear.

Contextual Development [OTBKB]

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40-year mortgages, which currently account for less than 1% of all outstanding mortgage debt, will soon get a boost soon from Fannie Mae. The company announced last week that it plans to make the extra-long term instrument a standard product. We’re not sure why there will be much demand, as a 40-year borrower only saves about $30 per month per $100,000 of balance (the 40-year tends to carry about a quarter-point rate premium over the 30-year). As far as we know, no one on his death bed has ever wished he’d taken out an extra ten years on his mortgage.
Fannie Mae Plans to Increase Buying of 40-Year Mortages [WSJ]

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On Saturday, June 4, from 1-5 pm New York City College of Technology will be offering a continuing ed class caled “Anatomy of a Brownstone.” For $35, you get to hear faculty from the Technology Architecture department as well as local artisans and construction experts. The focus will be on the art and science of restoring, renovating and living in Brooklyn brownstones. The session is designed to be a balance of scholarly and practical information. For more information, call 718-552-1166 or email pokeefe@citytech.cuny.edu.

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Q. I have a big pile of old bricks at my house in the Catskills, many stamped Hutton. Are they worth anything? Who would buy them? Would a purchaser come to pick them up?

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 mail@oldegoodthings.com, or call (888) 233-9678.

Old Bricks, Anyone? [NY Times, 2nd Item]

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Photo from archive of the Bridge and Tunnel Club

Designed in 1869 by architect Russell Sturgis (who also designed Farnham Hall at Yale University), the Dean Sage House at 839 St. Mark’s Avenue is an excellent example of the kind of “solid, comfortable villas” built in the Northern section of Crown Heights in the post-Civil War years, writes Francis Morrone in “An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn”. The house is constructed with rough brownstone and sports a polygonal tower with pointed-arch windows on the rear of the house. The highlight of the house for Morrone is the “art Nouveau-seeming” ironwork of the transom. We just wonder whether some lucky folks still have the place to themselves. Anyone know?
Morrone’s Books [Francis Morrone]

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According to a real estate industry publication called Real Trends, the average commission on a residential sale fell to 5.1% last year from 6% in the early 1990s. Given the rise in prices however, there’s no fear of brokers going hungry. (The National Association of Realtors reported that the medain income for its members last year was $52,000.) The Wall Street Journal notes that the public’s frustration with high commissions is resulting in the creation of some alternative business models:
* An accountant in Durham, North Carolina recently started a company that offers to list and market a property for 1% plus whatever the seller is willing to pay the buyer’s agent;
* Lendingtree.com and Realestate.com hook agents up with buyers in return for an average kickback of 30%;
* A national company called Help-U-Sell Real Estate charges sellers a flat fee of $2,950 to market their homes in newspapers, online and via direct mail; a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary recently launched a similar service on a trial basis in Iowa.
Realtor Commissions Face New Pressure [Wall Street Journal]