The Gowanus Clean-up: Going, not Growing, Greener Every Day

Gowanus Cleanup 1 750w

Cleaning up the Gowanus and adjacent brownfields.

 

The clean-up and development of the Gowanus Canal and the adjacent properties has been a dream of city planners and real estate investors for decades. While plans and studies and tests and reports have been conducted and issued for years, there is much visible activity taking place, and that has increased significantly this past fall.

Two important developments have recently taken place, one very visible and one less so but no less important. One, but not first, the last cement factory, Ferrara Bros, has finally moved out of their long-time space at Fifth and Hoyt Streets, to a new parcel in Sunset Park. This follows by several years the reclaiming of the lots used by Concrete Manufacturing Co. on Smith Street. The orange trucks of Ferrara Bros. will no longer be chugging up Smith Street toward the Manhattan Bridge. The Ferrara factory lots have been cleared to the dirt and a green plywood fence now surrounds it.

Dredging Barge 350w

One of the dredgers, on a day off, used to clean out the bed of the Fourth Street turning basin in the Gowanus Canal.

Next to that is a large brownfield that used to support a manufactured gas plant, now being cleaned up by National Grid and the EPA. You can recognize it by the mountain of rubble sitting in the middle of it, a mound almost as high as the nearby Culver viaduct of the F/G lines.

Further down the canal, the former Concrete Mfg. Co. lot is now occupied by contractors of the EPA involved in the second big development in the clean-up of the canal, that being the dredging of the canal’s Fourth Street turning basin. Completed in November, the Fourth Street basin has recently been touted as being cleaner than it’s been in 100 years, 150 years. This is after the removal of sludge, commonly referred to as black mayonnaise, to a depth of more than ten feet, which was moved to an “exclusion zone” on the EPA site and compressed and packed in heavy plastic to prep it for safe removal to a remote treatment plant. Once the muck was excavated, the workers covered the bed of the turning basin with two feet of layers of sand, which is supposed to stop new muck from forming.

Canoeing the Gowanus 350W

There are those who venture out onto the canal in canoes from the Second Street dock. You can paddle all the way down into New York Harbor.

We’re not sure about how clean the basin is now. We can agree that the bottom of the basin is cleaner than its been in a century, but then there’s that water, still fetid, still on many days slick with a rainbow of oil. There’s also the little problem of the CSO that was/is a major source of the canal’s pollution. CSO stands for combined sewer overflow, which happens when heavy rains fill the neighborhood’s waste lines (combined sewers) to the point that water flows into overflow pipes that empty into the canal. That system remains in operation, and until changes are made there (and hold your nose rather than your breath waiting for that to happen) the canal will continue to be a repository for human waste and other unappealing flotsam.

The long-term plan for the Ferrara lot is an eight-building residential complex of upwards of 750 apartments, of which 70 percent are to be affordable housing units, a vague term that often means still too expensive for most people to buy or rent. At this point, groundbreaking on that development is five years away at the most optimistic estimate.

365BOND with Canal Park copy

Top: The 365 Bond apartment complex, the first new residential development on the canal, has certain environmental restrictions.         Bottom: From 365 Bond’s Web site, a photo promoting its Waterfront Park. Just please, please don’t dip your toes into the water.

Cleaning up other people’s old messes isn’t easy. Just ask the renters at the canal’s first completed project, 365 Bond Street, although actually, they may not know. The two acres on which that development sits have been certified as 100% clean by the State of New York, and yet…

Environmental laws prohibit using the ground water at 365 Bond for drinking and prohibit growing vegetables in the ground there. The mechanicals of the building include blowers that pull “contaminants” from the ground and…. Well, we’re not clear on exactly what those fans and vents do with those contaminants, but based on the description of the system, we’re not sure we want to know.

On a more positive note, tenants on the canal side get to look out onto the oily waterway and watch or join those brave coursers who use the canoe depot on the first floor of the building at the Second Street boat launch. Yes, intrepid canoers ply the length of the canal, from the head at DeGraw Street to the harbor (full disclosure: we’ve done it numerous times). But grow a few herbs? No way.

Welcome to the Gowanus Canal, going, not yet growing, greener every day.

 

Full View of Current State of Cleanup

The Gowanus Canal Clean-up sites in lots stretching from the Former Ferrara Bros. cement factory at 435 Hoyt Streets (top right) to 491 Smith Street, the former site of the Concrete Manufacturing Company (bottom, with parked buses).

 

 


 

If It’s December, It’s Dyker Time!

1 Blue Front Door LEAD 750w

The stunning light displays in Dyker Heights will be up until the end of the holiday season. It’s well worth a trip!

Dyker Heights has been an attractive neighborhood since its initial development in the late nineteenth century as a bedroom community for Manhattan’s business elite. Today, it’s a mix of modest yet comfortable semidetached homes and shockingly huge mansions, but it’s never more attractive than during the December holiday season, when the entire neighborhood lights up with a massive communal display of Christmas lights and decorations. If you’ve never taken a walk or ride during the holidays through Dyker, as it’s called locally (or Dyker Lights at this time of year), you must put it on your bucket list and get it crossed off soon, perhaps this season.

DH1

From angels to reindeer to toy soldiers and candy canes, everything’s lit up in Dyker in December.

Anyone who enjoys the festive atmosphere surrounding the holidays, and especially the lights, will have their cravings sated in Dyker. People come from all over the world to see the Manhattan window displays in the department stores, and people come from everywhere to marvel at the lawn and house displays in Dyker Heights.

To get there, you could take one of the tour buses that come from Manhattan, or drive, but we recommend the D train to 79th Street and a leisurely walk west along 83rd or 84th Street to 10th Avenue and back. There are spectacular displays throughout the neighborhood, but the most eye-popping are on 84th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues. If you find enchantment in Christmas décor and lights, you must get out to Dyker Heights and see the show.

But enough said. There’s no marvel in talking about it. This entry is about the lights, so the lights take over the page from here. We took a tour of this year’s displays, and our photos follow. We don’t claim to be professional photographers, but they should whet your appetite to see the show in person.

 

DH4

Not everything is bright and festive. This home has a definite flair for the dramatic.

 

DH2

 


 

Check it Out: The Brooklyn Public Library

Front Plaza, 750W

The plaza and portico of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza. This building is considered one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in America.

 

Every major city has a library system, and Brooklyn is no exception. Dating back to when Brooklyn was an independent city, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is the sixth largest library system in the country, with 59 branches throughout the borough. Almost everyone in Brooklyn lives no more than one-half mile from a library.

The BPL as an entity began as a private association with the merger in 1869 of two antecedent organizations, the Brooklyn Athenaeum and Reading Room and the Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn. In 1878 the merged organizations were renamed the Brooklyn Public Library, but as noted, at the time it was private, not free. The library was located on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.

Lobby, 1950s 350W

The inner lobby of the Central Branch, circa 1958, with the card catalogues on the left and information and checkout desks on the right.

The city of Brooklyn established the free Brooklyn Public Library in 1896, and today the system holds more than four million items. It welcomed just under eight million visitors last year and circulated over 14 million books and electronic media.

Between 1901 and 1923, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave the system $1.6 million to expand the system, and more than one-third of today’s total branches were built with those funds. Twenty-one of the system’s 59 branches are still referred to as Carnegie Libraries.

The main branch of the system, at Grand Army Plaza and officially called the Central Library, was considered for the predecessor organization in 1889, but no ground was broken until 1912. The original design was an ornate Beaux-Arts affair that, because of rough economic times during World War I and then the Great Depression, was abandoned after just one wing had been constructed but not finished. The site remained dormant until 1935, at which time a new design was commissioned in the then-current Art Deco style. Shaped like an open book, with the grand, 50-foot high entrance at the binder and the front and back covers fanned out along Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, respectively, the beautiful limestone building opened in 1941. The building is considered by experts as one of the shining stars of Art Deco design in the country.

Portico Images

Literary images in the portico of the Central Library, including Brer Rabbit, Natty Bumppo (The Deerslayer) , Walt Whitman, and Poe’s Raven.

Above the main entrance doors are arrayed fifteen bronze images representing characters and writers from the American literary canon, including Tom Sawyer, Rip Van Winkle, Hiawatha,

Walt Whitman, Winken, Blinken, and Nod, and animals including Poe’s Raven, Brer Rabbit, and Moby-Dick.

The library today is a major cultural element in Brooklyn, offering classes and programs for kids, teens, and adults, as well as seminars, talks, readings by authors and scholars on many subjects, movie screenings, and other events, all for the general public and all free. Check with your local branch for specific events.

In this age of digital images taking over from reading for many people, the library is as necessary today as it was one-hundred twenty years ago. And, in a nod to modernity, the library’s collection includes more than 700,000 digital items.

If you haven’t been to your local branch, go check it out. If you can get over to the central branch, go and check it out. And while you’re there, join the library, look through the racks, grab a book, and check it out.

Carnegie Libraies Hor Strip

Three of the twenty-one so-called Carnegie Libraries, built with money given by the industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Pictured L-R are the Macon Library in Bed-Stuy/Stuyvesant Heights, the Park Slope library, and the Arlington Library in Cypress Hills.

 


 

Fulton Ferry Landing

1280px-View_of_Brooklyn,_L.I._From_U.S._Hotel,_New_York_1845 750W

A view of the busy East River and Fulton Ferry Landing (far side) from Manhattan, 1845. A steamboat leaves the dock, center, as another out in the river approaches.

 

In 1814, Brooklyn was a small village on the Western tip of Long Island, across the East River from bustling New York City. At the time, the only way over the river was via commercial sailboat ferry, service of which had been in place since the 1630s, running from the foot of Joralemon Street in Brooklyn to Broad Street in Manhattan. Both landings were later moved, the Brooklyn side to what was then called Ferry Road. It was from here that George Washington’s Continental Army escaped the British to Manhattan during the Battle of Brooklyn. 

Ferry Ticket

A ticket for the Fulton Ferry cost four cents through the first half of the nineteenth century.

The sailboat ferries were not so reliable, as they were at the mercy of the winds, and thus were sometimes delayed by calm and sometimes blown way off course by blusters and gales. Everything changed in the crucial year 1814. That’s when, on May 8th, Robert Fulton, who since 1807 had been operating a steamboat in the North River (today commonly called the Hudson), launched his East River ferry service. The trip took less than twelve minutes, and suddenly it was fun rather than uncertain to take the ferry between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Manhattan became wide open to Brooklyn and Long Island residents and commerce, and Brooklyn was open to Manhattanites who wanted to get away from the hubbub of the city.

Eventually the landings and the roadways leading to them on both sides of the river were renamed to honor Fulton and his achievement. (Both boroughs also have nearby Nassau Streets, named after Fulton’s first East River ferryboat. And, Fulton’s North River boat, the Clermont, could have as its namesake the eponymous street in Fort Greene.)

Bargemusic-Frossard-night2 300W

Bargemusic, at Fulton Ferry Landing,  is performed on one of the many barges that once off-loaded coffee, cocoa, and tobacco at the nearby piers.

Fulton died the year after the ferry began, but the Fulton Ferry Company was a successful enterprise for more than one hundred years. The few competitors that sprung up were bullied or bought out of existence; bullied via drastic price cutting that only the Fulton Ferry Company could survive, or bought through mergers or acquisitions, one of which changed the name of the company to the New York and Brooklyn Union Ferry Company, popularly called Union Ferry.

The company’s fortunes began to wane with the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. People could now drive or walk across the river, or, beginning in 1898, take a trolley. Though its business slowed, Union Ferry remained profitable for another forty years, finally closing in 1924.

Through the years, the ferry landing area was industrial, being a dock not just for ferry service but busy with commercial vessels from all over the world. The area to the north, today known as DUMBO, was a thriving enclave of warehousing and manufacturing, as well as a center of coffee roasting for national distribution.

Brroklyn Bridge ParkFulton Ferry Vert Strip copy

Today, Brooklyn Bridge park offers many recreational activities on the refurbished formerly industrial piers.

The waterfront from the Navy Yard to Red Hook was a solid line of piers full of ocean-going ships loading and unloading massive amounts of grain, tobacco, coffee, and cocoa, all of which were shipped in large sacks that were stored in the nearby warehouses. Unfortunately, in the twentieth century shipping methods changed from using sacks to containers, and that heavily impacted the Brooklyn side of New York Harbor. The tight confines of Brooklyn’s downtown area couldn’t accept containers, and so much of what used to come to Brooklyn transferred over to the more wide-open ports of New Jersey. In the early 1980s, the Port Authority shut down all activity north of Atlantic Avenue.

By the time the piers closed, the landing’s future could already be envisioned. In 1977 both the River Café and Bargemusic began their separate operations at the foot of Old Fulton Street by the Brooklyn Bridge, and both continue to attract visitors hungry for good food and music today. From the eighties through the nineties and beyond, the somewhat bleak Empire-Fulton Ferry state park under the bridge was a site for summer sculpture installations and for TV shoots where the body or abandoned car was found. But not much else was going on, at least publicly.

Behind the scenes, planners were envisioning a new strategy for using the site, and today the Fulton Ferry Landing area has been transformed into a destination for fun and frolic. Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in sections beginning in 2010 and has since grown to its full size and potential. Covering 85 acres along more than a mile of waterfront from Jay Street at the north end south to Atlantic Avenue, the park straddles the landing itself, and the piers that remain are now covered in grass or artificial turf, with landscaped pathways and gardens, and include a carousel; picnic area; beaches; basketball, soccer, and roller skating open-air arenas; and much, much more.

Restored to a new glory, the Fulton Ferry Landing is abuzz with activity again.


How to get there: Access to the Fulton Ferry Landing area is via the F train at York Street station in DUMBO or the A or C trains at High Street station and 2/3 trains at Clark Street station, both in Brooklyn Heights. All are an easy walk from the landing.

Fulton Landing Empire Stores and State Park 750W

An aerial view of the former Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, today a part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, with the restored red brick Empire Stores warehouse building center, the Tobacco Warehouse, now home to the St. Ann’s Warehouse Theatre, to its right, and the Jane’s Carousel in front on the water’s edge. (From the Empire Stores Web site.)

 


 

Eastern Parkway: One of Brooklyn’s many Firsts

1897_Rand McNally Brooklyn_map 750W

The original route of Eastern Parkway, the world’s first, from Prospect Plaza on the West (left) and Ralph Avenue at the East end, from an 1897 Rand-McNally City of Brooklyn map,

 

In 1866, as Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead were planning the design and construction of Prospect Park, they smartly considered means of accessing the park. Most of the land surrounding the park was farmland then. The street grid had been planned in 1839, and laid out on paper, but not much area would be cut and divided until much closer to the twentieth century. The two landscape geniuses conceived of a grand road, broad and tree-lined, with little-to-no commercial activity allowed. A road that would be a pleasant, uplifting ride (this was well before the invention of the automobile) that would deliver those from outlying areas to the gates of the park and lead them home again afterwards.

Eastern Parkway pedestrian promenade 350 W

Eastern Parkway provides pedestrian promenades on both sides, and is lined with trees for its entire length.

The plan for the road, perhaps conceptually influenced somewhat by the Champs Elysees in Paris though by no means a copy of that route, was for a broad center roadway lined on each side with tress and a wide promenade, with narrower outer roadways for local traffic to the homes and apartment buildings that would line the street. Commercial activity was to be kept to an absolute minimum, a restriction the city of Brooklyn supported. Vaux and Olmstead coined the term parkway for their new road, and so Eastern Parkway is the first of the many, many parkways we now have throughout Brooklyn and worldwide.

At its opening, Eastern Parkway ran from Prospect Plaza (now Grand Army Plaza) at the north end of Prospect Park to Ralph Avenue, which at that time was the city line of Brooklyn. The route was chosen based on the terrain of this section of Brooklyn. During the ice age, glaciers pushing south crunched rocks and dirt and other debris together to form a moraine, or ridge, and Eastern parkway runs along the top of this ridge. This moraine also is the basis for the neighborhood’s current name, Crown Heights, and if you ever bike north-south through the area, you’ll realize that it’s harder to bike to Eastern Parkway on either side than it is to ride away from it. 

Caribbean Parade

The Parkway is perhaps best known as the route of the annual Labor Day Caribbean parade.

By 1897, Eastern Parkway by name had been extended through East New York out to the Queens county line, just past Conduit Avenue along what today is Pitkin Avenue. This portion of the road seems not to have been parkway, but a standard street with the glorified name and an elevated rail line running above much of the length of this section. We found a Rand McNally map from 1901 that shows the Pitkin Avenue name here and the parkway turn up along its current route and into Ridgewood, though it could be that the section north of Fulton Street was either a planned or still-under-construction route.

Today, Eastern Parkway maintains the beauty and feeling that Vaux and Olmstead wanted, except of course that traffic is now a nightmare, at least at rush hours.

Easern Parkway and Nostrand AVe., c 1919 300W

Eastern Parkway at Nostrand St., approx. 1919.

There is very little commercial activity, mainly at the corners of business-district avenues like Nostrand and Utica, and there are churches and synagogues, most notably the Chabad Lubavitch world headquarters at Kingston Avenue. There are also major cultural centers at the west end, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum, and the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. And then, of course, Prospect Park, the genesis of the idea for the world’s first parkway.

Eastern Parkway is probably best known today as the route of the annual Labor Day parade honoring the Caribbean population of Brooklyn. The parkway is one of the many gems and the many firsts that Brooklyn can claim, and another of the many, many reasons that Brooklyn is the best place in the world to live.

Eastern Parkway Map 750W

Eastern Parkway’s Route today.

 


Historic Green-wood Cemetery

Green-Wood-Cemetery-Main Gate 750w

The main gate into Green-wood Cemetery, at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Fifth Street.

 

One of Brooklyn’s most spectacular, naturally beautiful, and historically important spots and a big attraction for thousands of visitors annually is Green-wood Cemetery. (We won’t say it: people are dying to go there. Oops, we said it.) More famous people sleep at Green-wood than ever slept, lived, and/or died at the Hotel Chelsea; Green-wood is also forty-five years older than that Manhattan landmark.

As the mid-nineteenth century came into view, New York and Brooklyn were growing and becoming more urban. Green spaces were shrinking, and church yard cemeteries had graves reaching to the edges of their lots. The disposal of the departed began to become problematic. A new cemetery, Green-wood, was proposed by Brooklyn socialite Henry Pierrepont and laid out (no pun intended) after the then-current English style of cemetery having an informal park-like setting.

Minerva Statue 250w

Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom, is the main feature of the monument honoring the Revolutionary War dead.

Soon after Green-wood opened in 1838, it became a destination spot for Brooklynites and for many Manhattanites, later becoming a final destination for some of those visitors. Green-wood now holds the rich and famous from days long gone and days just gone by. A short list of celebs buried there includes:

The Famous
Leonard Bernstein, Composer, West Side Story, many others
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Artist
Henry Ward Beecher, Abolitionist
Kate Claxton, Actress
Horace Greeley, Newspaperman, Politician
Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, Engravers
Frederick Ebb, Lyricist
Frank Morgan, Actor, who portrayed the Wizard of Oz
Samuel B. Morse, inventor of Morse code

Statues at Civil War memorial 250 w

Statues of soldiers of all ranks grace the base of the Civil War memorial on Battle Hill in Green-wood Cemetery.

The Notable
Stanley Bosworth, Founder, St, Ann’s School, Brooklyn Heights
George Catlin, Painter
Henry Chadwick, Baseball Hall of Famer and inventor of the box score
DeWitt Clinton, Governor of and Senator from New York
Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union
Charles Ebbets, Owner, Brooklyn Dodgers
Mary Ellis Peltz, Theatre Critic
Eli Siegel, Philosopher
Emma Stebbins, Sculptor of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
Henry and William Steinway, father/son, Piano Makers

Our Drummer Boy 300w

“Our Drummer Boy” commemorates the life and death of twelve-year-old Clarence McKenzie, the first Brooklynite killed in the Civil War.

The Infamous
Albert Anastasia, noted mobster
William “Boss” Tweed, Politician

and many other artists, athletes, industrialists, murderers and the murdered, military men and women, politicians, socialites, and more.

The grounds are the site of some of the fiercest fighting that took place during the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. The highest point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill, is in the cemetery, and is graced with a monument to the battle in the form of a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, and one to the New Yorkers who died in the Civil War. Elsewhere on the grounds is a monument remembering twelve-year-old Clarence McKenzie, the first soldier from Brooklyn killed in the Civil War. Ironically, it was not in battle, but in camp that the youngster, in his tent, was hit by a stray bullet from other Union soldiers drilling nearby. His monument, entitled “Our Drummer Boy,” stands on what’s known as the Hill of Graves, surrounded by other soldiers who were killed or fought in the Civil War.

Crypts and monuments 300w

Crypts and monuments line this road and dot the entire grounds in Green-wood.

There are hundreds of mausoleums, obelisks, statues, and thousands and thousands of standard gravestones and markers of well-known and ordinary citizens across the cemetery’s 478 acres. Near the main entrance on Fifth Avenue is the monument to those lost in the Brooklyn Theatre Fire, atop a mound under which lie more than one hundred bodies of men, women, and children buried in a mass grave, the unidentifiable remains of victims of that historic, horrific conflagration. Far from being an historical relic, however, the cemetery is alive and vibrant, and continues to accept new residents. There’s room for many more.

Green-wood also continues its long history as a recreational destination, offering a slate of annual, monthly, and one-off events in every season. Many have to do with discussions and/or examinations of death. November includes a Day of the Dead Family Program; Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre; Border Crossings: This and Other Worlds (about death, not politics). 

Greenwood Cemetery, monuments, markers, fall 2018

A fall day at Green-wood Cemetery.

There are Twilight Tours, birding tours (including a search for the famous Green-wood parrots), Trolley Tours (perfect for the less mobile of us), and others with eclectic subjects, focusing on topics such as mushrooms, stained glass, and seances. One long-time annual event is the ISO Symphonic Band and Orchestra concert every Memorial Day. In addition, there are Revolutionary War reenactments, Green-wood at Night tours, and so many more all year round.

Green-wood Cemetery is a true treasure, and any Brooklynite who hasn’t been there should make a resolution to go in 2019. No matter what time of year, its beauty and its interest can’t be beat. Get to Green-wood Cemetery, while you can still walk out when you’re done.

Horizontal Composite copy

Some of the many hundreds of ornamented gravestones in Green-wood Cemetery.

 


 

Brooklyn Ranks High as a Strong Investment Market

18BROOKLYN-slide-AJNJ-superJumbo 750w

A rebuilt downtown Brooklyn, the hub of the borough’s building boom that has made Brooklyn one of the darlings of investors worldwide.

 

If you’re an investor in real estate, Brooklyn should be looking pretty good to you right now. Across the country, new home sales have flattened, and in many areas have begun to drift downward. That could be a worry for the economy as a whole, but experts and analysts that focus on the real estate sector continue to support Brooklyn as a place to invest. A just-issued report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute names Brooklyn the number-two Market to Watch for commercial investment. (The Dallas-Ft. Worth region was number one.)

PwC 2019 Markets to Watch 375 w

Brooklyn ranks number two in Overall Real Estate Prospects in the United States in a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report, called Emerging Trends in Real Estate: U.S. and Canada 2019, focuses on large-scale investment property, both residential and commercial, and in that area, one has only to look at Brooklyn’s ever-changing, ever-growing skyline to see that the residential building boom continues unabated. Various outlets predict that over 20,000 new condominiums will go on the market in the coming two years or so all over the borough. There is new construction going on in every neighborhood, including those historically ignored. Many are rental projects, and many  targeted for both sale and rental include “affordable” units, meaning offered at significantly less than full market rate, though falling well shy of what most people think of as affordable.

Industrial Brooklyn Three-Part Strip

Industrial buildings in Brooklyn are being renovated and refurbished for use by tenants requiring twenty-first century services and features.

Other than ground-up new construction, the PwC report notes that Brooklyn has a large stock of old industrial buildings that are underused or empty, and these have been and continue to be attractive both to developers and to buyers/renters who enjoy the look and solidity of these old brick-and-wood-beam structures. Many of these building have been modernized for twenty-first century business tenants in the tech sector and high-tech manufacturing, and some, like Industry City in Sunset Park, have been converted to retail/industrial properties, with stores and restaurants on the lower floors making the buildings destination sites for not just for neighbors, but for people from across the city and suburbs. In Greenpoint, the nonprofit organization The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC) has refurbished seven industrial buildings and leased them to small-scale manufacturers and artisans, helping to create jobs and maintain the vitality of the neighborhood.

In many of the markets that the report records or anticipates price fall-offs, the reasons noted are rising prices of construction materials, possibly due to the current international tariff cat-and-mouse games going on, and the rise in interest rates resulting from generally good economic news.

Beyond the booming large-scale commercial investment, Brooklyn remains attractive to smaller investors and home buyers scouting through the many single-family and two-to-five-family houses available in almost every residential neighborhood. Sales of these types of buildings have remained strong, and prices, though they’ve plateaued in the past six to twelve months, remain at or near the highest they’ve been.

We’re happy that Brooklyn remains a highly attractive real estate market. This is our home, and we welcome everyone. We do hope, however, that our borough remains a place where anyone who wants to live here can find a home that they can afford. It’s the greatest place on Earth to live. Just ask us who already do.

 


 

The Narrows Botanical Garden

 

NBG Plants from WEb site 750W

The Narrow Botanical Garden is a small, hidden gem at the northwest corner of Bay Ridge.

 

There are many, many hidden gems in Brooklyn, and one small outdoor wonder that’s unknown even to many of its neighbors is the Narrows Botanical Garden in Bay Ridge. Tucked between Shore Road and the Gowanus Expressway just below Owl’s Head Park, this small but lovely space, now known as the Jewel of Bay Ridge, has an open field, two tiny rose gardens, a natural area with water features and a turtle sanctuary, a monkey puzzle tree, and keeps bees that produce one of the best honeys we’ve ever tasted.

Narrows Bot Gdn Vertical Strip copy

The garden has several water features in and near the natural area.

The Narrows Botanical Gardens is today and always has been a labor of love by Bay Ridge volunteers who founded the garden in 1995 and others who maintain it today. The parkland that holds the garden was created when the Belt Parkway was built between 1934 and 1940. The park at this locale was little used for decades, and became derelict, with trash, car tires, and other detritus littering the area. Then, in 1995, two area residents, Joan Regan and James Johnson, waded into the park and began cleaning it up. Their efforts soon attracted others, and within a year, they had established the Narrows Botanical Garden.

It was a simple restored park at the start, but through the years various features have been added, including a greenhouse for plant propagation, a cactus garden, a lily pond, and the small rose gardens. Support comes from local businesses, local politicians, and the city Parks Department. That support helps with covering costs, but it’s the volunteer corps that operates and maintains the grounds that is the true lifeblood of the garden.

An early autumn visit to the garden found volunteers manning the gate to the natural garden. There is no admission, but, like all non-profits, donations are always gratefully accepted. Several other volunteers worked at various spots, digging and making minor repairs. One gardener had just collected a batch of honey from the onsite hives and offered some to anyone who happened by. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe the smoothness and taste of that golden nectar. The garden itself had peaked as far as most of the flowers go, but there were a few late-late-season roses in the two rose gardens, the koi pond in the natural area was active, and the small Chinese garden area is lovely at any time of year. And, we were delightfully surprised to see that monkey puzzle tree thriving in the ground not far from the entrance.

Narrows Botanical Gdn Logo 72dpiA taste of honey won’t be offered at every visit, but if you’re a garden aficionado and find yourself in the Bay Ridge area, a stop by the Narrows Botanical Garden should be on your to-do list.

 

https://www.narrowsbg.org/about_us

 

 


 

 

Gowanus Open Studios

970x250-banner

Summer’s over. Many of our favorite outdoor Brooklyn activities have wrapped for the year: the great season of Celebrate Brooklyn! is long over, the public pools are closed, and Smorgasburg shuts down for the season within weeks. There’s still enough warmth for a few more barbies in the park or in your own outdoor space (if you’re fortunate in that way), but it’s time to start thinking about indoor leisure-time events.

GOS+2018+Poster 325WOne of the most exciting of those each October is Gowanus Open Studios, when artists from Atlantic Avenue to the Prospect Expressway and from Court Street to Sixth Avenue open their studios and galleries to the public. The Gowanus area is packed with dozens and dozens of artists and galleries, many of whom (260 at last count) invite us all in to their spaces to see their work and talk about their ideas and techniques. It’s a great opportunity to experience the who, the how, and the what of artistic creation.

GOS 18 Vert Strip

Collage, sculpture, and photography are some of what you’ll see at Gowanus Open Studios. Works here by (top-bottom) Kate Fauvell, Timothy Corbett, and Konstantin Dimopoulos.

If you’re an artist, it’s a great time to see what others are doing, and perhaps grab a dose of inspiration. If you’re simply an art lover, you might just find a piece that’s perfect for an empty space in your home. The weekend is a great way for families to introduce the kids to life as an artist and experience an artist’s work area (most of which will look like nothing they’re allowed to do at home.) You’ll meet artists at different stages of their careers, and the work varies from grand scale to miniature, and from painting to pottery to sculpture to assemblage and many others types of work. It’s very exciting, and for those who want to experience it all, two days is barely enough time.

And don’t forget lunch! Or dinner! Besides artists’ studios and light industry, Gowanus has a ton of great restaurants and food outlets, including Pig Beach, Runner & Stone, Monte’s, Two Toms, Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, Freek’s Mill, Table 87, Michael & Ping’s, Bison & Bourbon, Ample Hills Creamery, and many more. And let’s not forget the local breweries, Three’s Brewing, Strong Rope, and Other Half, all with tap rooms open to the public, and all three open during the Open Studios event.

The Gowanus Open Studios weekend is organized by Arts Gowanus, a non-profit organization that supports the Gowanus artistic and industrial enclave with the intention of building and promoting “relationships between individual artists, arts organizations, and the broader community” in order to strengthen the bonds between them and to “connect the world to the Gowanus community.” The open studios weekend is their largest event of the year. It’s not to be missed!

So, mark your calendar for October 20th and 21st. Hours are noon – 6:00 p.m. both days. Best public transportation is the F and G trains to Fourth Avenue, the R train to 9th Street or Union Street, and any of the many lines that pass through Atlantic Terminal.

See you there!

GOS 18 Bottom Strip copy

Paintings and sculptures from (L-R) Joy Makon, Carol Adams, Christy Powers, Gerald Siciliano, and Joseph Burchfield, just a few of the artists you might meet at Gowanus Open Studios 2018.

 


 

Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg

Lead Image Smorgasburg

The shaded seating area at Smorgasburg Prospect Park, with vendor tents behind.

 

Who doesn’t like a good flea market? Gently used clothes, dishes, home furnishings, jewelry, art, antiques, and chatchkas offered by dozens of sellers at bargain prices. Who doesn’t like a fantastic food fest? Food to eat right now, with offerings from over one hundred vendors, all surrounding a large cluster of picnic tables. We all do, and Brooklyn is, as with so many things, a leader in both areas.

Brooklyn Flea offerings copy

From baseball gloves to African masks, vintage steel beer cans, and lettering, some of the many varied items for sale at the Brooklyn Flea.

Two great markets, Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, are provided by the Brooklyn Flea, a ten-year-old company that began with markets in Fort Greene and Williamsburg and has moved on to locations at Industry City, DUMBO, and Prospect Park, and is rated by numerous travel magazines and Web sites as one of the best open-air markets in the country and even the world.

We can remember the flea at both original locations, and we thought it was great then. We miss it still in Fort Greene, but have enjoyed the spiffy new surroundings at Industry City and the old architectural ingenuity evident under and around the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, long one of our favorite nabes.

The other big, regular event run by the Brooklyn Flea is the weekly Smorgasburg, a massive food event in the original East River State Park location in Williamsburg (Saturdays) and in Prospect Park (Sunday) on Well House Drive at Breeze Hill. For those who are just now checking out Brooklyn or those who somehow don’t know about this already, Smorgasburg is a monster food fair, with vendors selling an international mix of prepared dishes running the full gamut from poutine to vegan treats. A recent visit to the Prospect Park locale had us tasting delicious offerings from Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and ogling meats, sweets, and other delectables from many other vendors we noted down for next time. Everything is good, and it all tastes better sitting outside. But note that time is running out. Summer’s over, and Smorgasburg runs only through the end of this month. Miss it now and you’ll have to wait until April next year! (Dates below.)

Other important Smorgasburg notes: Pets are welcome, and at Prospect Park there’s a large area for parking bikes. We assume there’s bike parking at or near East River State Park.

Whether your passion is food or found treasures, weekends in Brooklyn can feed your individual frenzy for either or both. Visit the Flea and/or the Smorgasburg and satisfy your yearnings. You’ll have a great time doing it.

Brooklyn Flea
Saturdays, 10:00 – 5:00, Industry City, 241 37th St., Sunset Park
Sundays, 10:00 – 5:00, Manhattan Bridge Arch, 80 Pearl St., DUMBO

Smorgasburg
Saturdays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 27 this year (2018)),                                             East River State Park, Williamsburg, Kent Avenue at N. 7th Street.
Sundays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 21 this year (2018)),                                               Prospect Park Breeze Hill, off East Drive near Lincoln Road.

 

Bottom strip copy

Views from the Prospect Park Smorgasburg.