Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview people involved in real estate, architecture, development and design. In honor of the Brooklyn Building Awards, we talked with Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the awards at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tonight.

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?

Carlo Scissura: I currently live in Bensonhurst, the neighborhood I grew up in! I just bought a house in Dyker Heights and will be moving there in the fall. I chose Dyker because it is close to where I grew up, it’s a great community, lots of mom and pop businesses, open space, and close to transportation. It’s a classic New York City neighborhood, with a mix of old and new.


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview people involved in real estate, architecture, development and design. Introducing Ofer Cohen, founder and president of TerraCRG, a commercial brokerage devoted to Brooklyn properties. 

Brownstoner: Can you talk about how you first started TerraCRG?

Ofer Cohen: Melissa DiBella and I started the company in January of 2008, and little did we know this would be the greatest recession since the Depression six or seven months later. But really I felt the need to start a company that would focus only on commercial transactions and only on Brooklyn.

A few months after we started, the recession hit, Leman Brothers crashed, and we had to really make what we could out of that period — which for us, was concentration on distressed assets and stalled development sites. When the market started to recover, we were already well positioned to take advantage of that recovery. Early in the recession, we realized the biggest stress was in development. Banks stopped funding construction loans, and a lot of developers couldn’t finish their projects or couldn’t start. It was how we cut our teeth in this development market. We were fortunate to develop a lot of great relationships with banks and developers, and really learn the Brooklyn market from that. Since coming out of the recession, we’ve sold over 1,600,000 buildable square feet in Brooklyn. And we believe it was a result of our experience during the recession.


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview people involved in real estate, architecture, development and design. Introducing Jamie Courville and Chris Reynolds, a filmmaking team working on a documentary about the rapid changes in Gowanus. Their film, Gowanus Current, will chronicle the development of the neighborhood over the course of this year and incorporate the voices of people who live and work there. They’ve set up a phone line where anyone can call and record their thoughts about what’s happening in Gowanus. You can listen to some of the calls here.

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?

Jamie: We live in Gowanus. We’ve lived in different neighborhoods and had some bad luck with apartments. We lived in one place we fixed up a lot, and we had one rental that kept flooding with raw sewage. We lived in another place where the landlord thought he was a master fixer-upper: he wanted to tear a hole in the wall to build a deck, and we decided not to live with an open wall. And now we’ve lived here five years. We’re on 3rd Avenue toward the dead end of the canal. During Sandy, the water was pretty deep on Nevins one block down, but because of the slope we didn’t have any flooding. We’re not in Zone A.

BS: What first drew you to Gowanus, and why did you decide to start filming Gowanus Current?

Jamie: I didn’t know much about this neighborhood before, but I’ve grown to very much love it.

Chris: [We decided to start filming] because it was changing really quickly. A lot of large scale moving in and lots of longtime residents and business moving out. We’re both professional filmmakers and media producers, so it seemed only natural to do that about what we were seeing in our own neighborhood.

After the jump, Jamie and Chris talk about the future of Gowanus, the proposed Historic District, Whole Foods and the demolition of the Burns Brothers coal silos…


Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Justin La Mort, the Chair of Events and a Steering Committee Member at the North Brooklyn Boat Club. The club enables and advocates for human-powered boating on the waterways bordering Greenpoint and Williamsburg. To wrap up its season, the group is holding a benefit concert next week, promised to be “the best Superfund dance party of the season.”

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?
Justin La Mort: I started out in a warehouse loft off the Williamsburg waterfront but once the condos went up so did the rent. Next I ended up being one of the first tenants in a Bushwick development on the site of the ribbon factory in a “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” then finished the North Brooklyn trifecta with a great old house in Greenpoint near McCarren Park. As of two weeks ago I’ve moved to Windsor Terrace so my girlfriend and I could shorten our commutes to South Brooklyn and enjoy all the green scenery without abandoning our love affair with the G train.

BS: How did the North Brooklyn Boat Club come to be? How did you get involved?
JLM: The North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) was the brain child of local filmmaker Dewey Thompson, Christine Holowacz of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP), and too many other great people to name here. North Brooklyn is in dire need of more open space and our city with hundreds of miles of shoreline only has a handful of access points into the water. NBBC was this DIY movement to open up not just the waterfront to the people but the waterways themselves. The idea quickly spread and with an outpouring of community support NBBC was awarded money from an environmental legal settlement that will one day fund the Greenpoint Boathouse.

After the jump, Justin explains why the NBBC picked Newtown Creek for its headquarters, what’s in the future for the club, and his favorite spots on the water…


Welcome to The Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, and the like. Introducing David Colley and Elizabeth Keegin Colley, the authors of recently released “Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece.” The book is a detailed, visual look at the history of Brooklyn’s best park. (Check out a trailer for the book here.) The authors will speak about the book Saturday, September 21 at 2 pm at the Dweck Center of the Brooklyn Public Library as part of a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event. Park landscape architect Christian Zimmerman will lead a park tour after the presentations.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
David Colley and Elizabeth Keegin Colley: While working on the book we were staying in a beautifully located apartment near the library, the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanic Garden. It was a wonderful neighborhood and convenient to Prospect Park so that Mary Liz [Elizabeth Keegin Colley, the book’s photographer] could be out at all times of day and night and in all seasons capturing the moods of the park.

BS: What first drew you to Prospect Park, and why did you decide to write the book?
DC + EKC: With backgrounds in city planning, park boards and a shade tree commission, we have always loved parks. When traveling, we go to museums, take long walks, but spend inordinate amounts of time in public parks. When we heard the Prospect Park Alliance was looking for proposals for a history we responded immediately as a writer/photographer team. We have often worked together but this was a terrific opportunity and the first time we both started with just the germ of an idea and continued to publication. It has enriched our lives tremendously.

After the jump, the many joys of photographing Prospect Park, what the park was like in the ’70s and ’80s, and some little-known facts about Olmsted and Vaux’s masterpiece.


Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks in real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Amy Nicholson, the director of Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride. The documentary focuses on the fight between Zipper operator Eddie Miranda, Coney Island real estate developers, and the City of New York. The film begins its theatrical run today, August 9, at the IFC Center. UPDATE: The IFC has extended Zipper with an additional week on a matinee schedule – 2:15 pm daily starting Friday, August 16th and going through next Thursday, August 22nd.

Brownstoner: Where do you live, and how did you end up there?
Amy Nicholson: I live on West 12th Street in the Village. I got here by way of Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, New York (Soho), Minneapolis, and San Francisco again before I got back here. Once I figured out that this was place I really wanted to live, I hunkered in on West 12th Street. I will leave when I am an old lady.

BS: What first drew you to Coney Island and how did you decide to start filming there?
AN: Well, I grew up in Baltimore and spent my summers at the county and state fairs and also going to local carnivals. There was always a Zipper. It was a mean ride and it was my favorite. I also lived in Ocean City, M.D., during the summers as a teenager and the same beach/carnival culture combination exists there as it does in Coney Island. So the Zipper represents my entire childhood – before computers and iPads there were black light posters, Wacky Packages and rides like the Zipper. When I read in the Daily News back in 2006 that the Zipper was leaving Coney Island, my heart sank. I had to do something.

After the jump, Amy discusses the controversy over Joe Sitt, her thoughts on the redevelopment of Coney, and her favorite moment shooting the film.


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development, and the like. Introducing Corrin Arasa, the founder and creative director at Patina Vintage Rentals, a furniture rental showroom and studio in Bushwick.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Corrin Arasa: The Patina studio is in Bushwick. I live in Forest Hills and have for ten years. We moved there because it’s a great place to raise a family and it’s one of the prettiest spots in the city. Plus it’s only 10 minutes away from Bushwick — which is great.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of the company, and how you got into vintage furniture?
CA: I’ve always been into vintage furniture and décor. I’ve always loved finding hidden treasures at flea markets and estate sales. My mom used to drag us to yard sales all of the time growing up, so I guess the thrill of the hunt is long ingrained. I started an event-marketing agency ten years ago. Many of my clients needed something different from anything that was offered for events, so I started pulling from my own collection and scouting and creating custom pieces for them. As my inventory and sources grew, so did my company. Now I have an inventory of hundreds of pieces which led to the launch of Patina Rentals last summer.

After the jump, Corrin talks about finding a 5,000-square-foot space in Bushwick, what’s happening with Brooklyn design, and the craziest event she provided furniture for…


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, the Director of the Brownsville Partnership. The Brownsville Partnership is a part of Community Solutions, a national not-for-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities to end homelessness.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Rasmia Kirmani-Frye: I live in Fort Greene. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about 20 years, and have lived all over. I started in Windsor Terrace, and then Sunset Park, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, and back to Fort Greene. I ended up in Fort Greene the first time when I came back from my PhD fieldwork on the West Coast and needed a roommate and somewhere to live – I totally lucked out on both! When my husband and I got married we needed to find a place and ended up two blocks away from where I was living the first time in Fort Greene – we love it. And I should add, my husband grew up in Bed-Stuy, on Putnam and Throop.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of the Brownsville Partnership, and how you became involved?
RKF: The Brownsville Partnership – an initiative of Community Solutions, a New York-based national not for profit – was launched in 2008 by Rosanne Haggerty. She and a team started working in Brownsville in 2005 doing community organizing. Rosanne met Brownsville’s unofficial “mayor” Greg “Jocko” Jackson – lifelong resident and agent of hope in Brownsville – and the Brownsville Partnership was born with Greg as the founding director. He passed away last May, but it’s his legacy of hope-in-action that we are carrying out [that] lives on. Prior to working at the BP, I was a community organizer in Brooklyn, and then consulted with community-based organizations in Brooklyn for the past 15 years. I became involved in January 2008. My long-time mentor, and founding president of the Times Square BID, Gretchen Dykstra, was working with Rosanne to conceptualize the work in Brownsville and, knowing that I have a long term love of Brownsville, she suggested I talk to Rosanne. I did and I met Greg, and I was totally inspired by both of them, and that was it. Love.

After the jump, how rapid gentrification in Brooklyn is changing Brownsville, hopes for the community in ten years, and Ras’s favorite spot in the neighborhood…


Welcome to the Hot Seat, in which we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, development, architecture and the like. Introducing Linnaea Tillett, an environmental psychologist and lighting designer. She is the principal of Tillett Lighting, lighting consultants for waterfront landscapes, infrastructure, parks, public art and private interiors. In Brooklyn, she designed lighting for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Visitor and Exhibit Center and the Brooklyn Public Library Leon Levy Information Commons, among other spaces.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Linnaea Tillett: I live in Brooklyn Heights. I moved temporarily to Dumbo (from Manhattan) to work on an art/wayfinding project under the Brooklyn Bridge called “This Way.” Most days and nights I would roam around Brooklyn Heights while I was waiting for this or that piece of work to be done on the site. One night I wandered up Columbia Heights and thought to myself, “I could live here!” So when “This Way” had opened and I had a choice to go back to Manhattan or live nearer my office in Williamsburg, I completely denied how awkward the commute to work would be, and found an apartment to fall in love with.

BS: How did you get into lighting design, and what does your firm currently do now?
Coming from a family of designers (textiles, clothing, tableware — actually every single thing in the house I grew up with), I was used to looking at the world and wondering what I was supposed to design. One summer, my sister-in-law, a costume designer, asked me to help her out on a theatre production. Nobody was available to work on the lighting, so they gave me a script, a mass of tangled dusty cables, a pile of rusted light fixtures and some bits of cracked colored gel. I read the script, made some choices, and hung the lights with bits of color in front of them. When I turned on the lights, I was stunned that a bunch of wires and rusted tin cans organized along the emotional lines of a script could have such an expressive force. And I was hooked. Not on theatre, but on light as a creative tool.

Now I own Tillett Lighting Design. We light infrastructure, landscape, public art and interiors. Each is a one-of-a-kind project that requires attention and sensitivity to the emotional dynamics of the space.

After the jump, details and photographs of Linnaea’s projects in Brooklyn, her advice in lighting a small apartment, and her favorite interior and exterior spaces in New York City.


Welcome to The Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved with Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Leah Archibald, the Executive Director of the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, an organization that promotes the development and retention of production, manufacturing and industrial service in North Brooklyn. Her photo is by Marc Koch.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Leah Archibald: I live in South Slope and have since my family and I relocated to New York City from Los Angeles in 1998. My two closest friends from my hometown (Buffalo) live in Windsor Terrace and Carroll Gardens respectively, so South Slope seemed geographically equidistant. Also, we could afford it. I was working for a meager wage for a local elected official and going to grad school full time, and my husband had just completed his PhD in History and was not yet working. Out of total desperation we first moved into a complete piece of garbage apartment on 15th Street between 4th and 5th avenues — way, way too small for my husband and daughter and me. And it was next door to a creepy anti-Semite with a million dogs. The block was really awful—there was always nasty medical waste and the like illegally dumped in front of where that Harbor Fitness is right now. Of course this block is totally different now. The rum distillery and old church are now huge condo complexes.

BS: Can you explain the goals of EWVIDCO and your role there?
LA: I am the Executive Director of EWVIDCO, which is the local development corporation that serves the business community in industrial North Brooklyn. We provide a huge range of services to help local businesses grow so we can retain high-quality, working-class jobs in our community. Our tremendous staff helps businesses get financing, find qualified employees, find real estate and understand and take advantage of public incentive programs. We have recently expanded programming designed to help the many fledgling, small food manufacturers in our community continue to grow. Additionally, we advocate for the needs of industrial firms, both individually (like helping someone get a loading zone from DOT) and for the community as a whole (on shared issues like truck routes and the Newtown Creek Superfund designation). It’s my job to keep the ship moving in the right direction (along with our awesome Board of Directors), make sure that my team has the resources it needs to get the job done (fundraising!) and to manage administration, policy development and communications for the organization.

After the jump, why manufacturing is so important in North Brooklyn, looking back at the 2005 rezoning, the problem with illegal loft living and Leah’s favorite funeral home.