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.


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

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?


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 or 718-312-9430. Any other gold-leafing resources that people can recommend?


A reader turned us on to this manufacturer of ceramic tiles. According to the company’s website, American Restoration Tile’s philosophy is that “If it has been made before, then we can make it again.” Our reader used ART to source some hexagonal tile for her bathroom. “I just got off the phone with them, ” she enthuses, “and they were sooo helpful!” We’ve already got our tiles, but sounds like a great resource for others.
Welcome [American Restoration Tile]


Back in the Fall when we were still planning the renovation we let our excitement get the better of us an we went out and spent more money than we really could afford on a couple of beautiful lights from Phil Watson’s Vintage Lighting. As we’ve discovered, picking lighting is very difficult. We’ve covered a lot of ground on the Internet getting a handle on all the options and out there and have to say that this is our favorite site by far.
Nickel Plated Wall Lights [PW Vintage Lighting]