Past and Present: Times Plaza Hotel

1930's post card,

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, along with the beginnings of Third and Fourth Avenues, and all the named streets in the area, form the heart of downtown Brooklyn. As we all know from the Atlantic Yards controversies, this is a transit hub, and was once far more important as a commercial and business nexus, especially with the Long Island Railroad providing far reaching access to points outside of Brooklyn. The area was named Times Plaza after the Brooklyn Times-Union, one of the city’s daily newspapers in publication under a couple of different names from 1848 until 1937. Walt Whitman was one of its early reporters and was managing editor, after he left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1848. The paper was absorbed into the Eagle in 1937. The Times’ offices and presses in the area gave this intersection its name, which continues to this day, most notably in the form of the Times Plaza Post Office.

The Times Plaza Hotel, at 510 Atlantic Avenue, was designed by architect Murray Klein, in 1931. It is in the Art Deco style, and was built as an economy-priced residential hotel for men only. The Times Plaza was the first hotel of its kind in Brooklyn, and was comparable in price to the nearby YMCA. When it opened, it had a circulating library, a dining room and reception room. Along with the nearby NY Times printing plant on Third Avenue and Pacific Street, this hotel was lauded as one of the signs of progress in the economy in Brooklyn, hard hit by the Depression. The postcard shows the hotel alone on the street, with ground floor shops or restaurants. A perusal of articles in newspapers about the hotel, through the 1940’s and ‘50’s, show it to be a successful enterprise, and home to single, retired and working men of good standing. After that, the only mentions of the hotel consist of arrests and crimes that take place there, or have been perpetrated by its residents. The hotel descended into a long period of being a seedy, deteriorating, and rather dangerous SRO.

In 1995, the building was acquired by Lutheran Social Services, and was completely updated and remodeled. It is now the Muhlenberg Residence, a 201 unit dwelling for low-income, formerly homeless, and/or disabled men. It re-opened in 1999, and still functions as an SRO, but now, programs are in place there to help the residents cope with their challenges, and transition back into the larger community. GMAP

1930's post card,

Photo: Scott Bintner for Property Shark, 2007

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