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Ocean Hill

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The city is finally redeveloping the long-vacant Prospect Plaza housing project in Ocean Hill, a massive ghost town where it has been promising to tear down the existing buildings and build new ones for 14 years. In 2000, NYCHA relocated all 1,500 tenants from the 368-unit public housing development, which consisted of four buildings spread across a 4.53-acre complex. However, NYCHA filed new building applications last week for 1765 Prospect Place, detailing plans for a four-story, 32-unit residential building with 107,551 square feet of space. It also filed demolition applications in August for two of the Prospect Plaza high rises.

The housing agency had originally planned to renovate Prospect Plaza with $21,000,000 it received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1999. But as delays piled up and years passed, the 40-year-old buildings have become too dilapidated and expensive to save. The new plan is to raze all four of the towers and build 360 units, including 80 public housing apartments and 280 affordable housing units, according to a presentation given to Community Board 16 in September.

The affordable housing units will target tenants with up to 60 percent of the city’s median income, which is still more than double what the average public housing tenant makes, as The New York Daily News points out. There will also be ground-floor retail that will likely become a supermarket and 10,000 square feet of community space. GMAP

 

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached brick houses
Address: 897-901 Herkimer Street
Cross Streets: Buffalo and Ralph avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant (Ocean Hill)
Year Built: Before 1880
Architectural Style: Vernacular Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Brooklyn can be like an archeological dig sometimes. Hidden on side streets, far from modern development and often neglected by progress, are hidden historic gems. Sometimes it’s an old mansion, a church or school, or sometimes it’s just an interesting building that has been passed over in time. Sometimes they are big, but like here, often they are quite small. The great thing is that these buildings are still there, the sad thing is that there is often little or no information about them. But they are a fascinating look at what life was like in Brooklyn for many people. These houses are a mystery, and I like mysteries.

Nos. 897 and 901 Herkimer Street are located in the part of Bedford Stuyvesant called Ocean Hill. The name’s been around a long time, since 1890. When it was settled, this part of Bedford had hills, and being very, very central Brooklyn, perhaps someone stood on this landlocked piece of town and joked about seeing the ocean. The hills made a good dividing line between the community of Stuyvesant Heights and Ocean Hill. Some parts of Ocean Hill, a bit farther north, were developed in the 1890s and early 1900s with attractive middle class row houses, some one-family, but mostly two-family houses. Here, a working man could buy a house, and have rental income, as well, to help him afford it.

Herkimer Street is an anomaly to this neighborhood history, in a lot of ways. Geographically, Fulton, Herkimer and Atlantic Avenue branch off sideways, off the rest of the neighborhood grid. Herkimer is a residential street, sandwiched between two commercial streets, and is often forgotten or overlooked. This is true all along its length, but never as true as in Ocean Hill.

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This gut renovated apartment in Bed-Stuy/Ocean Hill offers a lot of space for the money. There are three bedrooms and two bathroooms, not to mention lots of closets. The raised tile apron outside the kitchen and bathroom looks silly, and the placement of the kitchen outlets over the contrast tile on the backsplash is sloppy, but these are quibbles as long as they plan to hook up the radiators and fix the dangling wires in the kitchen. How do you like it for $2,000 a month?

455 Chauncey Street, #4 [Corcoran] GMAP

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Built as the Bushwick Hospital, now Ella McQueen Reception Center for Boys and Girls.
Address: 41 Howard Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Putnam Avenue
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant/Ocean Hill
Year Built: 1912
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Harde & Short
Other works by architect: Kismet Temple, now Friendship Baptist Church, Herkimer Street, Bed Stuy. Several theaters in Brooklyn, as well as Alwyn Court Apartments and other Upper West Side apartment buildings in Manhattan
Landmarked: No

The story: The Bushwick Hospital was founded in 1891, and for the first years of its life, was located in a large wood framed building on the corner of Howard Avenue and Broadway. In 1900, the hospital merged with the Central Hospital and Polyclinic to form the Bushwick Central Hospital, which soon became the Bushwick Hospital. Their mission was the medical and surgical care of the sick. The hospital was small, with only three doctors associated with it, of which two were also officers. They cared for anyone who came to their door, regardless of their ability to pay. In 1906, that year alone, they had treated over six hundred patients, of which only a quarter were indigent.

By the end of that decade, it was obvious that they needed to expand. Public and private funds were raised, and the architectural firm of Harde & Short was commissioned to design a new hospital building, not all that far from the old one, on the corner of Howard and Putnam Avenues. The five story building was begun in 1912.

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This is one of three nicely preserved wood frame houses around the corner from us. We have to admit we were surprised to see it for sale — but even more surprised to hear it’s undergoing a “quality gut renovation” and by the asking price, which is $675,000. We’re guessing the inspiration for the price was the rush to contract at 534 Decatur Street, a special property on a brownstone block not far from here. (This block is mostly tenements.) Unfortunately, there are no interior photos, so we’ll have to take Corcoran’s word on the quality of the renovation. The listing says “expansive loft like open feel,” which doesn’t sound likely to go with the style of the house, but we shall see.
770 MacDonough Street [Corcoran] GMAP P*Shark

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former St. Benedict’s Parochial School, now Head Start program of Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ
Address: 933 Herkimer Street
Cross Streets: Buffalo and Ralph Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant (Ocean Hill)
Year Built: 1894
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: F. J. Berlenbach, Jr.
Other buildings by architect: Berlenbach house and Convent of St. Dominic and Annunciation School, Williamsburg; St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Prospect Heights.
Landmarked: No

The story: The neighborhood of Ocean Hill was established as long ago as 1890, and became a micro-neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant. Named for its hilly terrain, it was always a modest middle class neighborhood, unlike more upscale Stuyvesant Heights, with blocks of smaller homes, most dating from around the time the neighborhood got its name. Over on Herkimer Street, where part of the neighborhood is located next to the end of Crown Heights, the village of Weeksville, and out to Brownsville, the neighborhood is even more modest, with blocks of wood framed houses and small brick buildings. This whole neighborhood was predominantly Italian by the beginning of the 20th century, and well into the first half of the century.