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Thread: Brooklyn neighborhoods

  1. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by billyblancoNYC
    Indeed, crack viles and boarded up windows rule...
    See that's more along the lines of what I'd *expect* to hear... and of course obnoxiously WRONG.

    I would, however, rather see crack vials than another wannabe Park Slope neighborhood with NO flavor.

    Thanks to those who didn't judge my comment - I appreciate it.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by jennifer
    See that's more along the lines of what I'd *expect* to hear... and of course obnoxiously WRONG.

    I would, however, rather see crack vials than another wannabe Park Slope neighborhood with NO flavor.

    Thanks to those who didn't judge my comment - I appreciate it.
    Park Slope checking in here, Jennifer. Why is it that Shadenfrau and I agree on so many issues and you have to pick on my neighborhood from the get go?

    The Slope is no "Yuppie Hellhole" and if you'd read up on it you might find that in THIS neighborhood residents actually took action to maintain the socio-economic mix - including but not limited to passing new zoning rules along 4th Ave, creating and supporting a residential zone where long-time lower income residents would be protected from "gentrification" displacement, the creation of the Fifth Avenue Committee (one of the earliest proponents of inclusionary housing and inclusionary housing credits).

    Park Slope is rated as the THE most liberal neighborhood in the city and is often called the Berkeley of the East. The neighnorhood voted 98% Democrat and or Working Families Parties in 2004 election with the other 2% going to Green Party and Socialist Candidates. We have managed to block nearly every major sweat labor retailer from our business district and Starbucks fought its way in with only ONE location about three years ago. We have two chain stores: Barnes & Noble and Rite Aid. That is it. We support Mom & Pop operations. This neighborhood has evolved slowly. I'm here for 8 years now and it is still evolving. Fifth Avenue has only tranformed in the last four years or so.

    So, don't make me come up there and spank you Jennifer.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by jennifer
    See that's more along the lines of what I'd *expect* to hear... and of course obnoxiously WRONG.

    I would, however, rather see crack vials than another wannabe Park Slope neighborhood with NO flavor.

    Thanks to those who didn't judge my comment - I appreciate it.
    How am I wrong? And you're a fool to want crime and decay over development and safety. That whole "edgy, urban grit" stuff is simply to try and make a shitty situation seem ok.

    Do you live in Brownsville? East NY?

  4. #34

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    A lack of gentrification doesn't necessarily mean "crime and decay", BillyBlanco. There is a balance between a Starbucks and a crack house.

    Also, did someone invent a time tunnel back to 1987? That's probably the last time boarded-up crack houses were a pressing issue for the city.

  5. #35
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    Contrary to my personal political beliefs, I think I fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to gentrification. The issue seems to have been polarized through overstated "fightin words" like much of our political discourse into an over-simplified issues. Starbucks vs. Crack House. Cities (and neighborhoods) are (and have always been) constantly evolving entities so a complete resistance to change seems a bit self-serving to me (as in, I don't want my neighborhood to change because I don't want my rent to increase). Beating the mindless drum of development at any cost seems no more appealing and is probably even more self-serving (profit, profit, profit).

    It's a distraction from talking about what smart development could be in this city, which I think involves more questions than pat answers. How can we promote small, nyc-based businesses and provide mixed income housing? How can the poorest neighborhoods be improved without forcing out long-term populations? How can ethnic neighborhoods be preserved?

  6. #36
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    If the Bronx follows the pattern similar to Brooklyn, you will see more local developers jumping into the mix - rather than the big Manhattan developers. It does make for a more natural feel to the evolution. Also, if there is such truly overwhelming concern for what might become of the area, attend community board meetings. But there a drug infested area can only benefit from improvement and socio-economic strata can be accommodated if they are willing to engage in the process rather than simply (1) giving up or (2) remaining silent.
    Last edited by BrooklynRider; July 11th, 2005 at 10:35 AM. Reason: typo

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schadenfrau
    A lack of gentrification doesn't necessarily mean "crime and decay", BillyBlanco. There is a balance between a Starbucks and a crack house.

    Also, did someone invent a time tunnel back to 1987? That's probably the last time boarded-up crack houses were a pressing issue for the city.
    Well, that is not 100% true. In fact, I'm sure there are still some areas that have some boarded up buildings today. They may not be a "pressing" issue, but it's not gone.

    As far as crime and decay, show me a low income area, with only low income residents, that is very well maintained and low in crime. If you can, that would be great and I would stand corrected, to a point.

    I'm not saying Starbucks is great. I personally hate Starbucks and chains, etc, and don't think there should be a sushi joint on each block, but people in this city love to romanticize the bad old days...like in Times Square for example. Well, the 70's and 80's and early 90s weren't all that great in a lot of ways.

  8. #38

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    Port Morris has less crime than Williamsburg and is located in what's famously the poorest congressional district in the United States.

    I think you're confusing the outward trappings of prosperity with actual progress.

  9. #39

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    We have two chain stores: Barnes & Noble and Rite Aid. That is it.
    There's no Duane Reade in Park Slope!?!?!? Unbelievable.

  10. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by czsz
    There's no Duane Reade in Park Slope!?!?!? Unbelievable.
    Duane Reade JUST moved into Bay Ridge. There used to be an A&P there so we lost our grocery store which really sucks. But we already had RiteAid and Eckerd. Most of the neighborhood goes to Lowens, a family owned pharmacy that's been here a long time. And I like that.

    There's a rite aid on 69th st and 4th ave, and 64th street and 4th ave. WHY???

  11. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by czsz
    There's no Duane Reade in Park Slope!?!?!? Unbelievable.
    The claim that Park Slope is "Chain-Free" is ridiculous.

    There's a Duane Reade right on Flatbush near Seventh Avenue. There's another chain drug store (CVS?) on Seventh Avenue near Methodist Hospital and a third (Rite Aid?) on Fifth Avenue and Ninth Streets. Other Park Slope chains are Citibank, Chase, Staples, NY Sports Club, Whole Foods (coming soon), Dunkin Donuts, Haagen Dazs, McDonalds (2 of them), etc.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by ASchwarz
    The claim that Park Slope is "Chain-Free" is ridiculous.

    There's a Duane Reade right on Flatbush near Seventh Avenue. There's another chain drug store (CVS?) on Seventh Avenue near Methodist Hospital and a third (Rite Aid?) on Fifth Avenue and Ninth Streets. Other Park Slope chains are Citibank, Chase, Staples, NY Sports Club, Whole Foods (coming soon), Dunkin Donuts, Haagen Dazs, McDonalds (2 of them), etc.
    Thank you for clarifying that. Yes, there is a Duane Read on FLATBUSH Avenue not in the middle of Park Slope. The Staples and McDonalds are on FOURTH AVE - an area full of car washes and auto shops - again an area not associated with "Park Slope" living. Whole Foods is actually being built in Gowanus - not Park Slope and I don't consider banks "chain stores".

    And while this consistent pattern of simply being contrary has become transparent, let's acknowlegde those three BIGGIES you added to the list: Haagen Daaz, Dunkin Donuts and NYC Sports Club. Oh, yes, we are inundated with chain stores <shudder>.

    Other Park Slope residents will understand where I'm coming from. We've been forunate to maintain a largely mom and pop shopping district on the two main commercial arteries: Seventh Ave and Sixth Ave.

    Post Note: This is a response to yet another post by ASchwarz which he prefaces with the snide remark of "ridiculous". Keep an eye out for this grating, yet amusing tendency.
    Last edited by BrooklynRider; July 13th, 2005 at 08:18 PM.

  13. #43

    Default Albemarle Road, Prospect Park South.

    Streetscapes | Albemarle Road

    Brooklyn’s Stately Esplanade

    Office for Metropolitan History
    NO FENCES Albemarle Road in 1909, 10 years after the sale of lots started for “people of intelligence.” More Photos >

    By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
    Published: June 22, 2008

    GRANDEST of all the streets in Prospect Park South is Albemarle Road, a broad, esplanaded boulevard of stately neo-Classical, Queen Anne and Colonial style mansions. In fact, for the three blocks from Argyle to Buckingham Roads, Albemarle is one of the grandest residential streets in the whole city, even with some dings and dents.

    Multimedia

    Slide Show Boulevard Beautiful

    The visionary of the development was Dean Alvord. He came to Brooklyn from Rochester in 1892, and in the late 1890s bought a large tract south of Prospect Park, laying out streets for what would become his Prospect Park South development, about 10 blocks. He began selling lots in 1899.
    His goal was to create a suburb for “people of intelligence and good breeding,” according to his original prospectus, as quoted in the 1975 “History of Prospect Park South,” by Margery Nathanson, Gloria Fischer and Mary Kay Gallagher.

    By carefully controlling the design of the houses and the arrangement of the streets, Mr. Alvord sought an environment “where a wife and children, in going to and fro, are not subjected to the annoyance of contact with the undesirable elements of society.”

    Mr. Alvord created Albemarle Road as his main boulevard, with a planted strip down the middle and a dozen imposing houses east of Argyle Road, most built from 1899 to 1910. They created a most unusual place and were made grander by his main requirement — that no fences, hedges or plantings extend beyond the house lines, so the front yards combine into a unified majestic sweep.

    The most unusual of these dwellings is the one built in 1905 for George E. Gale at 1305 Albemarle, at the northeast corner of Argyle Road, in white clapboard with a colossal two-story Ionic portico. Designed by an architect known only as H. B. Moore, the Gale house has a striking assortment of windows, among them roof dormers with a kind of webbed sash, topped by ebullient broken pediments. On the second floor, there are spider-web-type windows with Gothic-style sashes, and on the rear are leaded glass windows.

    Mr. Moore ran copper cresting in the form of anthemion leaves around the top of a bay window on the side of the house, and he put low, curved eyebrow dormers on either side of the third-floor gable. The Gale house is worth a special trip.

    Directly across the street in 1905, Mr. Alvord’s regular architect, John J. Petit, did a picturesque house with a corner turret for John S. Eakins, a dye manufacturer. It is less inventive but more expansive than its neighbor, surrounded by a porch the size of a small two-bedroom apartment. The outside has aluminum siding installed by the previous owners just before landmark designation came in 1979. “None of us could persuade them not to,” said Ms. Gallagher, a real estate broker and longtime Prospect Park South stalwart.

    But the inside has a straight 50-foot run through the dining, music and sitting rooms — with the woodwork changing in each room from quartered oak to mahogany to painted. The dining room has the original inset tapestry panels, with cabinetwork fitted to the oval plan. Susan Cleary has owned the house for 13 years and moved there from Brooklyn Heights because “it seemed like Westchester.” Now her three children are almost out of the house, but “we’ve still got eight bedrooms,” she said.

    Mrs. Cleary has the property on the market for $2.35 million; there are interior photographs of the house posted at Ms. Gallagher’s Web site,
    marykayg.com/html/0499.html.

    As for the Colonial revival at 1440 Albemarle, at Marlborough Road, the owner, Mary Ballestros, says her family bought it in 1957. It has a huge temple front, along with Doric columns and unusual carving.

    But it also has a layer of asphalt siding in gray, green and tan. Configured to look like random stones, the siding will offend the architectural purist, but there is a very human, vernacular charm to this addition. When Ms. Ballestros’s parents bought the house, the exterior had deteriorated and was leaking air; the asphalt siding, at a nominal cost, cured these problems very nicely. Now, she says, the asphalt is beginning to fail, and of course matching material is no longer available.

    Ms. Ballestros says she has thought about restoring the original siding, but the cost would be great. Perhaps the asphalt will remain, a mote in the eye of current preservation sensibility.

    The street ends with 1510 Albemarle, built in 1900 for Mr. Alvord, again by Mr. Petit, and later owned by Capt. James P. McAllister of the McAllister Brothers tugboat firm. Here Mr. Petit produced a chaste white box with a simple, impressive temple front. Its owner, Albert H. Garner, an investment banker who works in Midtown, said he was attracted to it a decade ago because “I grew up in Tennessee, and there’s no other place in New York so much like home.”

    Things are far from perfect on Albemarle Road. The gem of the street, the Gale house, sorely needs paint, and several houses even in the best stretch are battered and decayed. But it is still an imposing streetscape, unlike any other you are likely to see in New York.

    E-mail: streetscapes@nytimes.com

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/re...ref=realestate

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  14. #44

    Default Gravesend, Brooklyn

    Living In | Gravesend, Brooklyn

    A Neighborhood Both Insular and Diverse

    Kate Glicksberg for The New York Times
    WIDE RANGE Homes in the Sephardic area of Gravesend tend to be the largest, with elaborate hedges and porches. Outside of this zone, demand for homes is less intense and the neighborhood’s quiet hominess is more affordable. More Photos >

    By JAKE MOONEY
    Published: August 8, 2008

    ITSIK ZEITOUNI, a young man with big ambitions, was living in the Homecrest section of southern Brooklyn early last year, but his thoughts were elsewhere — just a little to the west, in fact, in the adjacent neighborhood of Gravesend. There, the Sephardic Jewish population was in the midst of a population boom that was ratcheting up prices for houses — and empty lots.

    Slide Show Living in Gravesend, Brooklyn



    Mr. Zeitouni, who just turned 30, is a Sephardic Jew and a real estate agent, and the growth was something he wanted a piece of. He even had a place in mind: a two-family house on East Second Street, its owner a “very nice Italian man” who was ready to move to Florida and spend his time fishing. The only obstacle was the price: a hefty $800,000, which reflected the same upward market forces that Mr. Zeitouni sought to capitalize on.

    Enter an aunt, Frida Tarrab. Persuaded by her nephew’s predictions for the neighborhood, she dug into her savings and helped him buy the house. Mr. Zeitouni, who now lives there, has told Ms. Tarrab, who now lives in Israel, that one day she will thank him for the investment advice.

    His confidence, he said recently, is based in part on the values of his religious community: People are willing to pay more to live near their relatives — children typically remain with their parents until they are married — and within walking distance of a synagogue. Such is the importance of community and location, he wrote in an e-mail message, that “Sephardic Jews would rather pay a million dollars for a 2,000-square-foot lot in Gravesend than pay $500,000 for a 4,000-square-foot lot elsewhere.”

    The story of the Sephardic community, made up largely of people from Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, is a familiar one in the history of Gravesend, an area more than a mile and a half square that is one of the oldest settlements in Brooklyn.

    Howard Feuer, district manager of Community Board 11, which represents part of the area, says it has always been a place for middle-class immigrants to settle. In the past, most were Italians, and they still have a strong presence in the neighborhood. In recent years, according to Mr. Feuer, there have been growing populations of Chinese, Mexicans and especially Russians. The overall population is about 67,000, according to 2000 census figures.

    The cycle continues, he said: “People move out, different people move in, and the housing stock is still pretty good.”

    Joe DiFiore, an associate broker at Century 21 Calabrese who grew up in the area, takes a similar view. Only the nationalities have changed, he said. “We grew up, Jewish kids playing with Italian kids and Irish kids,” he recalled (revealing that “Crazy Eddie” Antar, a Syrian-American electronics merchant known for his series of frenetic television commercials, was once a tenant in his mother’s downstairs apartment). The neighborhood nowadays, Mr. DiFiore added, is a “minestrone soup” — a jumbled-up mix of ingredients that somehow fit together.

    The insularity of the Sephardim, and the size of some of the houses they have built on the sites of more modest teardowns, have raised eyebrows elsewhere in the neighborhood. But outside the predominantly Sephardic area, in sections where demand is less intense, Gravesend’s quiet hominess is much more moderately priced.

    “The beauty is that you can afford to get in at $600,000, and you also have beautiful mansion-type homes that go for $5 million or more,” said Vera Capozucca, a broker at Fillmore.com. “That’s how diverse this community is.”


    WHAT YOU’LL FIND

    The Sephardic area, with the largest houses and most elaborate hedges and porches, is centered on two thoroughfares: Avenue T and Ocean Parkway. The latter, lined with trees and benches, is a popular place for an evening stroll.

    To the west, the area north of the main commercial district on Avenue U has row upon row of one- and two-family houses, many of them brick, with covered porches. There are also six- and seven-story brick co-op and condominium buildings, most generally closer to the southern avenues and Ocean Parkway.

    Just north of the Coney Island subway train yard, the historic Old Gravesend Cemetery, on Village Road South by Van Sicklen Street, dates back to the 1600s, when the settlement was the only one in Kings County to be English rather than Dutch.


    WHAT YOU’LL PAY

    Prices east of McDonald Avenue and north of Avenue U can be unpredictable, Mr. DiFiore said, because of the strong demand among the Sephardim. He recently sold a small house on the east side of the neighborhood, between Avenues U and T, for $1.4 million, he said.
    Outside of that area, the average one-family house might cost $500,000 to $700,000, a two-family $650,000 to $850,000.

    According to Delton Cheng, Mr. Zeitouni’s boss at Century 21 Homefront, lots 40 or 50 feet wide are the most highly prized in the neighborhood, whether they have houses on them or not. Often, he said, people will buy only to “knock down a house to build a minimansion.”

    Single-family houses on relatively rare large lots, being in greater demand, have sold recently for as much as $5.075 million, Mr. Cheng said.

    Multifamilies are more common and not as sought-after; at the time of one recent search, he added, 55 two- and three-family houses were on the market, 12 with asking prices over $1 million. “Not too many people are paying right now, $2 million in this market,” Mr. Cheng said.

    In the co-op buildings, he added, one-bedrooms are usually about $200,000, two-bedrooms $300,000. The neighborhood, he said, is one of the more expensive in southern Brooklyn.

    Rentals are not as common. One-bedrooms typically rent for $1,000 to $1,200 a month (though there are units on the market for as low as $900). Two-bedrooms range from $1,400 to $2,000 or more, for a unit in a new building.


    WHAT TO DO

    Gravesend is a short bus or train ride from the beach at Coney Island. It has several small parks with handball courts and paved baseball diamonds; McDonald Park, on McDonald Avenue near Avenue T, has three tennis courts.

    Avenue U has several Italian specialty stores, including the Bari Pork Store, which describes itself as “King of the Sausage,” and Joe’s of Avenue U, featuring Sicilian foods.


    THE SCHOOLS

    There are five public elementary schools, among them Public School 95 on Van Sicklen Street, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade. Of fourth graders tested last year, 56 percent scored at or above grade level in English, 75.6 percent in math.

    The area has three public middle schools. At Intermediate School 228, which scored a D on its most recent city report card, 55 percent of eighth graders met standards in English, 63.6 in math. At Intermediate School 303, which received an A on the report card, the scores were 60.3 in English and 76.2 in math. Intermediate School 281 got a B from the city; its proficiency scores were 54.1 percent in English and 69.7 percent in math.

    At John Dewey High School on Avenue X, which also got a B rating, SAT averages in 2007 were 432 in reading, 482 in math and 426 in writing, versus 441, 462 and 433 citywide.

    Among a variety of religious schools in the area are Our Lady of Grace School, on Avenue W, which teaches nursery school through eighth grade, and the Magen David Yeshivah, which includes Isaac Shalom Elementary School on McDonald Avenue and Celia Esses High School on Bay Parkway.


    THE COMMUTE

    For a neighborhood relatively distant from Manhattan, Gravesend has good public transportation options. The elevated F train bisects the area along McDonald Avenue; to the west are the N and D trains, both of which run express through much of Brooklyn on the way to Gravesend. Subway commuting time to Midtown is an hour or more.

    The Belt Parkway runs along the southern edge of the neighborhood.


    THE HISTORY

    The town of Gravesend was founded in 1645 by Lady Deborah Moody, a religious dissenter who designed a street system still in place today near the center of the neighborhood. Brooklyn annexed the community in 1894.

    According to the Encyclopedia of New York City, the area was mostly farmland until the 1870s, when three race tracks and the Coney Island resort opened nearby. Around the same time, Ocean Parkway, a thoroughfare designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, was built along the neighborhood’s eastern edge.

    Electric rail service arrived at the end of the 19th century, bringing residential development.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/re...ref=realestate

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  15. #45

    Default Brooklyn Heights

    Brooklyn’s Home to the Gentry and the Not-So

    By JOHN STRAUSBAUGH
    Published: October 2, 2008

    WITH its sedate, leafy streets, fine old homes and churches, lush gardens and lofty harbor views, Brooklyn Heights feels like a staid patrician neighborhood where time has stood still since the 1800s. But more has gone on there than its quiet streets and house-proud gentry let on. “The myth of the white-gloved ladies is that this was always a genteel neighborhood,” Jim Schmitt, an avid student of local history who has lived in Brooklyn Heights since 1976, said as we walked around there recently. “Absolutely not.”

    Ruby Washington/The New York Times
    Stone work on the exterior of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

    Multimedia

    Interactive Feature Weekend Explorer


    There is also a VIDEO on this page of the article.

    Ruby Washington/The New York Times
    Truman Capote lived in the basement of 70 Willow Street, above. Arthur Miller also lived on Willow for a time.

    The Heights, roughly from the Brooklyn Bridge down to Atlantic Avenue and from the riverfront over to Cadman Plaza West and Court Street, has been home to immigrant and itinerant workers, hookers and muggers, artists and eccentrics, a prominent Communist, a comic-book superhero and a famous burlesque queen.

    Now, it’s a few minutes from Manhattan by subway, or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, or by water taxi to Fulton Ferry Landing.

    Brooklyn Heights was farmland before Robert Fulton’s regular steam ferry service at that landing made commuting to Manhattan easy in 1814. Soon after, enterprising Heights property owners (remembered today in street names like Pierrepont, Remsen, Hicks and Middagh) began to sell off plots for new homes, advertising the area to Manhattan’s wealthy as “the nearest country retreat.” The oldest houses still standing date from the 1820s, including 24 and 56 Middagh Street and 25 Cranberry Street. Over the following decades well-to-do businessmen and professionals lined the grid of new streets with homes and mansions of brick and stone in all the popular 19th-century styles.

    The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, and the advent of subway service in the 1900s, ended the neighborhood’s gilded age of exclusivity. With the docks below it and the Navy Yard to the north, a lot of streets, especially in the north Heights, were given over to rooming houses, storefronts, machine shops and factories. An El rumbled over Fulton Street (now Cadman Plaza West), where trolleys also ran past rows of tenements. Waves of working-class immigrants poured in, with a healthy sprinkling of bohemians.

    Many of the old patrician families fled. Their large homes were subdivided into apartments, boarding houses or pocket hotels. The magnificent Herman Behr mansion at 82 Pierrepont Street, for example, has been the Palm Hotel, a bordello and housing for Franciscan monks. Bars and rowdy taverns crowded the streets, prowled by sailors and ruffians from down by the water.

    Mr. Schmitt, the superintendent for several buildings in the Heights, has lived at 58 Middagh Street for 32 years. The plain brick structure, now apartments, was built in the 1890s as “a workingman’s boarding house, which is what today is called an S.R.O. hotel,” he explained, standing on the front steps. “It was itinerant dockworkers, ship workers, laborers, factory workers, mostly single men and a good deal of them with criminal records,” he said, which placed the house on the 84th Precinct’s list of troublesome addresses.

    Frank Santos, a retired woodworker, has lived in the north Heights all of his 80 years. He was born and raised in a 16-family tenement at 8 Hicks Street, on a block later demolished to make way for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. His father was a cabinetmaker from Spain. Their neighbors were Italian, black, Greek, Jewish, Irish, Chinese. Many worked in nearby factories, including the large Squibb pharmaceutical plant (now with a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower sign); the Brillo factory and Robert Gair box factory in Dumbo; and the Peaks Mason Mints factory at Middagh and Henry Streets.

    “My mother used to get up on a chair to light the gas lights in the kitchen,” he recalled. “For the other rooms we used candles. Who the heck was going to go climbing over beds and all that to light the gas?”

    The tenement had only cold running water. “In the wintertime you took a bath once a week on Saturday night to go to church on Sunday,” he said. “In the summertime the Fire Department used to bring out these sprinklers. You brought your soap and towel and took a shower right in the street.”

    Mr. Santos attended the Assumption Roman Catholic elementary school, which was in the quaint redbrick schoolhouse (originally built as P.S. 8) next door to the Peaks Mason Mints factory. “My mother-in-law used to work at the factory,” he said. “At break time we used to go out in the yard, and they would throw candy down. Mason Mints, Dots, Black Crows.” Both buildings are now residential.

    Starting in the first decade of the 20th century the neighborhood also became the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They bought numerous properties in the Heights in addition to the Squibb building, including the lavish Hotel Bossert at Montague and Hicks Streets; the Venetian-looking Leverich Towers at Clark and Willow Streets; and the Standish Arms (at 169 Columbia Heights), fictional home of Clark Kent (in Metropolis) and the setting for Willy Loman’s adulterous affair in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” (Miller lived in several places in the Heights, including 31 Grace Court, which he sold to W. E. B. Du Bois, and 155 Willow Street, with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe.) Recently, the Witnesses have begun to sell some holdings.


    In midcentury Truman Capote, who had a basement apartment in the big yellow house at 70 Willow Street, described the decrepit fringe of the neighborhood as an area where “seedy hangouts, beer-sour bars and bitter candy stores mingle among the eroding houses.” The city planner Robert Moses declared much of Brooklyn Heights a slum in the 1940s and proposed to obliterate it by laying his new Brooklyn- Queens Expressway straight through the middle of it. The Brooklyn Heights Association of homeowners, hanging onto the old elegance in the neighborhood’s core, fought for an ingenious compromise. The expressway was built in two tiers along the cliff facing the water, and its pedestrian esplanade, known as the promenade, opened in 1950 above it. Norman Mailer, who had a walkup at 142 Columbia Heights until his death in 2007, took in the sweeping views of New York harbor from the promenade.

    Moses did lop off a large section of the neighborhood’s northwest corner for the expressway. Mr. Santos was a teenager when the city bought all the buildings on the last blocks of Hicks Street and demolished them. Where his family’s house stood is now a busy on-ramp.

    “You just had to get out,” he said. “Everyone scattered. It ruined the neighborhood.”

    The last block of Middagh Street was also razed, including No. 7, a house where W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, Paul and Jane Bowles and Gypsy Rose Lee lived together in various combinations in 1940-41. Among their guests were Salvador and Gala Dalí, Lotte Lenya, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. They mingled with rough characters from down on the waterfront, including a pimp named Snaggle-Tooth and a barrelhouse piano player called Ginger-Ale. When the group moved out, the novelist Richard Wright moved in.

    Other writers associated with the Heights include Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, the novelist James Purdy and horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, who described 169 Clinton Street, where he had an apartment in the 1920s, as “unwholesome” and “furtive.”

    Shakespeare and Dante’s sculptured heads adorn one of the neighborhood’s most handsome buildings, the 1881 brick and terra cotta home of the Long Island Historical Society, now the Brooklyn Historical Society, at Pierrepont and Clinton Streets. Its architect, George B. Post, incorporated modern steel pillars and suspension techniques he saw being used on the Brooklyn Bridge. But bowing to Victorian tastes, he hid the pillars behind ornate wood veneer, which still adorns the society’s beautiful research library.

    Now lined with stroller-mom cafes and lunch-crowd restaurants, nearby Montague Street gives no hint of its wilder side. Bertram D. Wolfe, a founder of the Communist Party of the United States of America, lived at 68 Montague Street in the 1930s. High up in No. 62, the painter and underground filmmaker Marie Menken and her husband, the poet Willard Maas, gave notoriously wild parties attended by Andy Warhol and Edward Albee. Kenneth Anger stayed there while making his seminal underground film “Scorpio Rising.” Menken played the mother in Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s 1966 film “Chelsea Girls.” Albee is said to have used Menken and Maas as his inspirations for the squabbling couple in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

    Today Montague Street is home to Joe Coleman, an artist who moved there in 1994 after 20 years in the East Village. A painter known for his meticulously detailed portraits of serial killers and other nightmarish imagery, Mr. Coleman and his wife, Whitney Ward, live in an apartment that he calls the Odditorium. Wax figures of Charles Manson and the serial killer Richard Speck, John Dillinger’s death mask, a bullet from Jack Ruby’s pistol and a letter from the cannibal Albert Fish share the Ripleyesque space with some of Mr. Coleman’s paintings.

    “The East Village that I came to know and love doesn’t exist anymore,” Mr. Coleman said. “I like it much better here. In the East Village they’re destroying all the beautiful old buildings. So escaping here seemed comforting.”

    From Montague and Court Streets it’s a brief walk up to the broad expanse of Cadman Plaza Park. In the early 1960s, despite local opposition, Robert Moses destroyed several square blocks of old buildings to create the park and line its western edge with high-rises. One of the demolished buildings, which stood near the stop of the A and C subway lines, was the shop where Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” was first printed in 1855.

    To ward off further destruction the neighborhood successfully lobbied to be designated the city’s first historic landmark district in 1965. Hundreds of old homes and other buildings were saved, and a process of regentrifying began.

    It didn’t happen overnight. The Hotel St. George complex, which at its height dominated the square block between Henry and Hicks Streets and Clark and Pineapple Streets, was originally renowned for its grand ballrooms and a huge salt-water swimming pool. By the 1970s it housed a topless bar called Wild Fyre, and its elderly residents were preyed on by muggers.

    “The crime was pretty bad back then,” Mr. Schmitt recalled. “For a long time it was kind of dicey walking around anywhere at night. Now you feel absolutely safe, but before the late ’80s you looked over your shoulder coming home from the subway.”

    Mr. Schmitt noted that as far back as the mid-1800s Whitman went to Middagh Street to meet sailors. In the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Schmitt recalled, muggers attacked gay prostitutes who met clients every night at the corner of Middagh and Columbia Heights.

    Now children play in the nearby Harry Chapin Playground, named for the songwriter who grew up in the Heights and died in 1981. There’s no brass plaque marking the spot where Auden, Snaggle-Tooth et al. once cavorted just across the street.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/ar...d=1&ref=travel

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
    Last edited by brianac; October 5th, 2008 at 03:02 PM.

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