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  1. #46

    Default Tower Buildings in Brooklyn

    Streetscapes | Tower Buildings in Brooklyn

    Architectural Wealth, Built for the Poor

    Brooklyn Historical Society (left); Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    AIR OF COMMAND Alfred Tredway White was the developer of the Tower Buildings, which went up in 1879, at Hicks and Baltic Streets in Cobble Hill, to house workingclass tenants.

    Published: October 10, 2008

    BUILT in 1879 as a group of model tenements, the Tower Buildings, at Hicks and Baltic Streets in Cobble Hill, were rescued in the 1970s by Frank Farella, a local developer who for years kept the Brooklyn complex as a low-rent paradise. Now Mr. Farella has taken on a partner, the Hudson Companies, and their collaboration may bring substantial changes.

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    The complex is known as a place with lower rents, but its owner has taken on a partner, and things may soon change.

    Alfred Tredway White.

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    The developer of the Tower Buildings was Alfred Tredway White, who was born into wealth and who was asked by his Unitarian pastor to investigate the housing of the poor.

    Moved by the awful conditions in working-class tenements, in 1877 he finished a nine-building complex, somewhat dour and barrackslike, called the Home Buildings. Two years later, just across the street, Mr. White built a more architecturally pleasing group of nine, fleshing out his ideas for model housing. This second, more imposing group became known as the Tower Buildings because of two picturesque ornamental peaks on either end.

    To reduce interior corridors and fire hazards in the Tower project, Mr. White and his architect, William Field & Son, used a system of open stairways.

    Compared with the typical sanitary accommodations, Mr. White’s were luxurious: a toilet in each apartment, instead of a bank of outhouses outside. There was also a chute on each floor, in which tenants were supposed to place garbage first burnt in the kitchen stove — although in 1887 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that watermelon rinds were unburnable and had to be put out separately. Mr. White provided hoisting tackle, as the coal box in each living room could hold a quarter ton.

    The 76 three- and four-room apartments in the Tower Buildings each rented for $1.50 to $2 a week, and the 1880 census lists tenant occupations like coppersmith, typesetter and tailoress.

    There were usually four or five people to an apartment: Edward Monroe, 52, a laborer, lived in one with his three siblings, including George, 47, whose occupation was listed as “paralyzed — never earned a cent.”

    Mr. White brought a missionary zeal to housing reform. Selling liquor was prohibited, and in 1876 The New York Times, describing the projects at the outset, said that success would be guaranteed by “a strict moral and police supervision under a faithful janitor.”

    Mr. White and Mr. Field made a particular feature of the open iron galleries across the front, which are pierced with decorative designs. Although the rear is plain, it surrounds a broad courtyard.

    Mr. White said the Tower enterprise returned 6 percent on his investment, and in 1880 The New York Times reported the Tower Buildings had demonstrated to commercial builders that model tenements could be made to pay. But the real estate industry resisted such reasoning — indeed many disputed its accuracy — and kept to established models.

    Little change came to the Tower Buildings until the 1940s, when the White family sold the project, and the 1950s, when the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway cut a swath to the west.

    In the 1970s. Mr. Farella was a real estate broker. “My fuel oil man told me they were for sale,” he said of the Tower and Home complexes, adding, “In 1975 no one wanted these buildings, with 11 burnt-out apartments.” In addition, one-third of the apartments were vacant. Mr. Farella paid about $450,000 for both projects, and the architects Maitland, Strauss & Behr began a gut renovation, which was not finished until 1986.

    Mr. Farella has now taken a private developer, the Hudson Companies, as a partner. David Kramer, a principal, says rents are still low, citing a one-bedroom apartment with “killer views” of New York Harbor and the financial district that costs $1,335 per month. He says the owners are considering a co-op conversion for both complexes.

    Unlike much of Cobble Hill, the Tower Buildings are not spiffed up. The exterior staircases give them a charming, but still Dickensian air, and there are broken panes of glass. The exterior brick has been long painted a flat red; you can see the original warm orangey-red, rich in natural variation, on the rear walls. The plantings are a bit ragged; the trash bins, though neat, are kept in the courtyard; and lines of bikes are chained to the railings.

    Still, the garden is a welcome relief from the hurricane of the B.Q.E. on the other side, and it is outsize by normal courtyard standards. Anyone can walk in or out the unlocked gates on either side. This gives the complex a comfortable, old-time air. The Tower Buildings are simple, decent places to live, just as Mr. White intended 129 years ago.


    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  2. #47

    Default Flatbush, Brooklyn.

    Flatbush Journal

    Beyond the Gate, an Oasis of Tennis Thrives Once Again

    Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
    A view of the Knickerbocker Field Club in Flatbush from atop a neighboring building. Todd Snyder gave lessons recently.

    Published: October 31, 2008

    Past the goat tacos sizzling on a food-stand grill, the man selling $3 watches to gypsy-cab passengers and the line of people waiting for salt fish at the Exquisite Restaurant and Bakery, the sign for the private tennis club is nearly out of sight atop a roll-down metal gate.

    Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
    Matches are often punctuated by the roar of the subway and a man in a nearby building who yells out his window.

    Many people who live in this part of Flatbush, Brooklyn, have never seen the sign. The shoppers from Church Avenue walk right by, unaware that beyond the gate and around a corner are five green clay tennis courts at the Knickerbocker Field Club, open on East 18th Street since before the turn of the last century.

    It is an oasis in the city and an apparition. Behind apartment blocks, a verandah-like clubhouse for the players sits on a manicured lawn. Subway tracks cut through the property but are underground, meaning that thousands of people who take the Q train every day might never notice the courts.

    The Knickerbocker sits between two worlds. On one side are the stately homes of Prospect Park South, where many of the club’s members once lived; on the other side is a thriving neighborhood of with many Caribbean immigrants.

    “It’s like a mirage,” said Jimmy Devlin, 63, a furniture reupholsterer whose clients have included the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. In his three years as a member, Mr. Devlin has played with a judge, a doctor, a lawyer and a police officer. He took up tennis in his 50s, but learned fast, winning one of the club singles titles. Mr. Devlin is among the more devoted fans of the club, which is referred to fondly by members as the Knick.

    “Sprinkle my ashes on the court,” Mr. Devlin said.

    Generations ago, members mingled in the clapboard, Colonial-revival clubhouse with the long porch, a ballroom and a bowling alley.
    On a 1909 postcard, the road leading to the club is a leafy cul-de-sac fronted by brick gateposts. After World War I, the mansions were replaced with apartment blocks. For a time, the Knick was a severed appendage, an exclusively white club in an increasingly diverse neighborhood. The club began to integrate in the 1970s, several members said.

    By 1988, when the clubhouse was badly damaged by arson, there were only about 60 members. And beginning in 1990, Church Avenue, near the Knickerbocker, was a focal point of racial tension when black residents boycotted two Korean stores.

    Today, the Knick is resurgent, said Ray Habib, the club president. Where the old mansion burned, a new open-air clubhouse sits, and there are 144 members and a waiting list for new ones.

    While the club still feels like an enclave, the membership is more diverse, and a summer program for children from the surrounding neighborhood is in its fifth year.

    On a Saturday morning in October, Dr. Jeremiah Gelles waited for Samir Debs to stretch before their game. Mr. Debs, who plays a few times a week, oversaw the rebuilding of the clubhouse. The men met through the Knick, and Mr. Debs became a patient of Dr. Gelles.

    Oasis or not, this is city tennis, with matches punctuated by the intermittent roar of the subway, and the man in a nearby building who occasionally opens his window and starts yelling.

    Mr. Debs’s wife, Adrienne, stood on the porch. She grew up nearby, on Caton Avenue, when it was more Irish and Jewish and the Knick was more of a social club, “with Champagne brunches,” she said. Now, the clubhouse has vending machines and a flat-screen television.

    Francis Salinas, 66, the manager, had a room in the clubhouse that burned. He has worked at the Knick since 1985, when he moved here from Trinidad. He lives alone in a cramped trailer on the grounds, where the walls are lined with photographs of his family. A collection of horse-betting books sit in a stack near a couch.

    In years past, Mr. Salinas cooked Trinidadian dishes for club members.

    Every morning, he sweeps, rolls and lines the clay courts. He spends his spare time with his adult grandson, who often visits the club. Mr. Salinas said he planned to keep working, as long as he was “healthy and strong.”

    “A lot of people don’t know this place exists,” Mr. Salinas said. His grandson, Clint Lopez, disagreed: They know it exists, he said, but they can’t afford it. But Mr. Habib pointed out that with annual dues of about $600, the club is cheaper than most gyms.

    In small ways, a synergy seems to have developed between the club and its surroundings. Ed Haynes, 50, lives in a building next to the Knick. “It keeps the neighborhood lively,” he said. “You can hear the fellows
    screaming when they hit a good shot.”

    He said that the tennis balls that escape the club are sometimes used in cricket matches on the streets outside.

    Other residents said they enjoyed the sound of tennis in the morning, the rhythmic thwacking in the backyard.

    Amy Pimentel, 24, catches it from her fifth-floor window. On that Saturday morning, elsewhere in her building, someone blasted the Caribbean gospel song “My Jesus I Love You.”

    Seen from the apartment buildings of Flatbush, the club was something like a clearing in the woods. “It’s kind of peaceful, actually,” Ms. Pimentel said.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  3. #48

    Default Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


    Hiding in Plain Sight

    Christian Hansen for The New York Times
    OperaOggiNY will move into a long overlooked 600 seat auditorium in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

    Published: October 30, 2008

    THOMAS LAWRENCE TOSCANO, artistic director of the fledgling OperaOggiNY, lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for 12 years starting in 1993, and has been in nearby Williamsburg since then. Over the years, he became well acquainted with the local churches; he stages performances in churches all the time.

    “It’s much easier than trying to get into theaters,” Mr. Toscano, who has long gray hair and a bushy beard, said the other day. “Plus, we don’t have any budget.”

    Over the summer, Mr. Toscano was casting around for a space for the company’s latest production, Franco Leoni’s “L’Oracolo,” when his inquiries led him to the Rev. Richard Beuther, the pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church on South Second Street.

    “Father Rick said, ‘You have to come and look at what we have,’ ” Mr. Toscano recalled. The response struck him as strange; he had seen the church many times. What more was there?

    When the two men finally met, the pastor led Mr. Toscano not inside the church but around the corner, to the parish’s dormant former school on Berry Street. Mr. Toscano, who had been walking past the building for years, knew that structure, too — at least he thought he did. But when Father Beuther took him up a flight of back stairs, past chipping paint and though a metal fire door, Mr. Toscano could scarcely believe what he saw.

    At his feet was a 50-foot-wide stage, tilted forward in the Shakespearean style and topped by an intricately detailed proscenium arch. Stretching out before him was enough space to accommodate 600 people, including a rear balcony filled with hundred-year-old seats. The condition of the space was rough; there were cracks in the ornamental plaster, most of the seats had been removed, and an area under the balcony was walled off with red plywood. But all Mr. Toscano saw was potential.

    “I said: ‘This is enormous! This is unbelievable!’ ” Mr. Toscano recalled. “You can’t build a theater like this these days. Who’s got a billion dollars?”

    Since the school closed in 2002, the hall, which actually takes up most of the building, though it is practically invisible from the outside, had been used mostly for the church’s annual Christmas pageant.

    But the space had a long history. Opened in 1898 and christened McCaddin Memorial Hall, it thrived as a space for political rallies and speeches, but was soon converted to house a school.

    As for the hall itself, “I mostly remember playing basketball there,” said Esteban Duran, a local community board member who grew up in the neighborhood and who introduced Mr. Toscano to Father Beuther.

    As it happened, the pastor had been thinking about doing something new with the space. After some quick talks with Mr. Toscano, it was settled: “L’Oracolo” would be staged there. As for the future, both sides would keep an open mind.

    That was in September, and Mr. Toscano has been busy ever since, researching the hall’s history, patching holes in the stage, putting new bulbs into the chandelier and the footlight systems (both still work) and trying to persuade potential investors that the space can be restored.

    The opera, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin its three-day run on Thursday.

    Last Wednesday afternoon, as workmen were trundling a rented piano up the stairs, Mr. Toscano was still marveling that the hall, unknown to much of Williamsburg’s cultural community, had been hiding under his nose.

    “There’s a phrase in Portuguese: ‘The saint that you live with doesn’t really make miracles,’ ” he said. “Basically, that’s what happened here. They don’t understand what they have. This is not something I’m saying in criticism; it’s human nature.”

    What they have, he said, is a hall that is hungry for music.

    “You want to hear something incredible?” Mr. Toscano said. He pounded out a chord on the piano and gazed up at the rafters, wide-eyed and grinning, as the sound echoed.

    “This is an instrument,” he said later, gesturing to the space around him.

    “And that’s what’s amazing about my experience in this theater the last two months. The instrument is coming back to life. Sitting here, the sun goes down, it starts to get dark, and you start to feel the theater. The walls begin to wake up, and it begins to remember what it’s here for.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  4. #49
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Bay Ridge: Bridges, culture merge in fashion on Brooklyn's quiet coast

    by Lynne Miller

    Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is full of contradictions. Quiet and lively, urban yet suburban, all-American but international — it’s all of these things at once that attract residents and visitors from around the city and world to this out-of-the-way waterfront neighborhood.

    Walking these streets, it’s easy to see what makes Bay Ridge appealing. The tree-lined residential blocks in this southwestern Brooklyn neighborhood are full of well-maintained one- and two-family homes in a mix of styles. The avenues bustle with commerce, ethnic restaurants and bakeries, live music venues and retail choices that line Third and Fifth Aves.

    If you’ve never been to Bay Ridge, you may not know that it’s one of the city’s top shopping areas. Home to New York’s original Century 21 department store, 86th St. also has several specialty chain shops. A community theater, an art gallery, eight-screen movie theater and good public and private schools are all nearby.

    But it’s outdoor space that makes the neighborhood special. In the northwest corner, you can see New York Harbor from Owl’s Head Park, a green oasis set on 27 hilly acres with lots of open space for picnics and a playground, skateboarding area and basketball court. Nearby, bike riders, sunbathers and fishermen hang out on a sunny afternoon at the American Veterans Memorial Pier where the Statue of Liberty and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge loom near. Sailboats and barges drift along the water.

    Local couples go there to kiss, and it’s a famous spot for many scenes from “Saturday Night Fever,” the John Travolta film that immortalized the local disco scene and enshrined the Bay Ridge of the 1970s as quintessential Brooklyn.

    Historically, the community was known centuries ago as Yellow Hook, named for the yellow clay that leached from the shore into the water. Local leaders decided the name sounded sickly — too close to yellow fever — so in 1853, the neighborhood was renamed.

    Many Bay *Ridgers stay in the area as they grow up, and as a result it has a high percentage of elderly residents. While Bay Ridge still boasts a heavy concentration of Norwegians, Greeks, Italians and Irish-Americans, newer residents migrating from nearby Sunset Park have roots in Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern countries, as well as Eastern Europe. A large Muslim population calls Bay Ridge home.

    “It makes dining interesting,” says Victoria Hofmo, a local preservationist who spent many happy days playing hopscotch and other games on the sidewalks and streets in the 1960s and ’70s. “In the past, you’d see one group come in, in large numbers. Today everybody’s coming in, and not just from other countries, but all over this country.”

    At least 12 languages are spoken here, says Josephine Beckmann, district manager for Brooklyn Community Board 10, which includes Bay Ridge.

    The different ethnic groups seem to get along. That’s what Manny Saviolakis sees behind the gleaming wood counter at Anopoli Ice Cream Parlor, an old-fashioned Third Ave. restaurant that’s been around for more than 100 years. Saviolakis and his father, Steve, bought it 13 years ago.
    “It’s like 100,000 nationalities here,” says Saviolakis, who moved to Bay Ridge when he was 5 years old. “It’s nice seeing people in mixed groups.”

    Saviolakis has noticed another group of newcomers moving in — young professionals from Park Slope, Williamsburg and even Manhattan. Coming for a unique housing stock that includes Victorian houses, brick apartment buildings and odd-shaped single-family homes near the water, the newcomers are good for business.

    Jason Daniels and his family needed more space, so they left Park Slope and moved to Bay Ridge in 2003. Daniels, his wife, Renee, and their two kids live in a rented duplex. Daniels thinks he’s got the best of both worlds, since he gets to live in a peaceful neighborhood and work in Park Slope, where they both drive to jobs at a health club.

    Bay Ridge is a friendly melting pot, says Daniels, who is African-American.

    He points to one of his regular stops, a little grocery store on Third Ave. where he and his daughter Eve, 11, have learned a few Arabic phrases from the store clerk.

    “It’s very community-oriented,” says Daniels. “Anything you need you can get in Bay Ridge.”

    When Catherine Johnson and her family couldn’t afford to live in Park Slope almost three years ago, they sold their co-op and moved to Bay Ridge. Johnson didn’t know much about the area, but its diversity and friendliness took her by surprise. Norwegians, Middle Easteners and Koreans live on her block. Two weeks after moving in, Johnson recalls, a neighbor probably saved her from a parking ticket by reminding her of the alternate-side parking rule.

    “It’s an amazing mix of people,” says Johnson, who was walking her dog in Owl’s Head Park one recent morning. “It’s been a good surprise.”
    Compared to Park Slope and other trendy areas, housing in Bay Ridge is almost a bargain. One-bedroom apartments in rent-stabilized buildings can be had for $1,200 a month.

    There are a handful of doormen buildings on Shore Road, and many people also rent apartments in private homes, though they tend to be larger than one-bedrooms. The rare one-bedroom in a house rents for about $1,300 while two- and three-bedrooms start at about $1,600, says Eva Valenti, a real estate salesperson with Velsor Realty.

    You can find Park Slope-style brownstones and limestones on the market for well under $800,000.

    It’s the million-dollar homes near the waterfront that make you forget you’re still in Brooklyn. Sprawling Victorians, Southern-style mansions, center-hall Colonials and other large detached homes with front porches, columns, driveways, generous frontage and manicured shrubs line the blocks west of Third Ave.

    Built in 1916-17, an Arts and Crafts-style mansion known locally as the “Gingerbread House,” at Narrows Ave. and 83rd St., looks like something out of a fairy tale. Made of boulders and surrounded by a fencepost made from the same rock, the house is set on a huge shady lot full of trees and foliage. It’s a national landmark.

    If there’s one thing that could make Bay Ridge better, it’s public transportation. The R train is the only subway line serving the neighborhood and it can take an hour to get from Bay Ridge to midtown Manhattan.

    Beckmann from Brooklyn Community Board 10 hears complaints from many residents frustrated by the length of time they spend on the R train and the condition of local stations. Commuters can shave some time by taking the R train north to 59th St. in Sunset Park and transferring to the N, an express train that goes into Manhattan, says Beckmann.

    “I love the N,” she says. “It’s a secret jewel.”

    Furthermore, there are $5 express buses to the city. A community group is also working on restoring ferry service from 69th St. to lower Manhattan.

    Bay Ridge’s neighborly feeling, its convenience and relative affordability will continue to entice New Yorkers from other neighborhoods as well as residents from other states. That’s what Kathleen McCall sees happening.

    McCall, a broker at Velsor who lives in the area, is optimistic about the future based on recent sales activity and the number of calls she’s getting from people looking for a place to live.

    “To me, Bay Ridge has small-town warmth,” says McCall, who moved from rural Pennsylvania to be near her grandparents who live in the neighborhood. “It’s always had a wonderful family feel.”

  5. #50
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002

    Default Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

    Living In | Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

    Subway Lines Galore, but Who’s Leaving?


    AFTER 37 years in their house on Dean Street in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, Norman and Roselyn Kopit decided last summer that it was finally time for a change of scene.

    Their children had moved out, and work had just finished on their living-room ceiling, so the time seemed right. They had bought the house for $43,000; when their broker now priced it at $2.495 million, they smiled.
    After the sale, they could have gone somewhere far from the sleepy, tree-canopied streets of their old neighborhood.

    Instead they relocated five blocks away. On State Street, an easy distance from all their friends and favorite restaurants, they found a roomy duplex condominium with a kitchen bigger than their old one.

    Leaving the area that they had helped bring back from the dead was never really considered.

    “Why would I want to move?” asked Ms. Kopit, 65, who used to manage the office at BusinessWeek magazine. “I’ve invested a lot into this neighborhood.”
    Their investment, part of the countless hours of community effort to transform Boerum Hill from a place of rooming houses, drugs and prostitution to an elegant, family-friendly enclave, has paid off.

    The Kopits’ block of Dean Street was the one described in “The Fortress of Solitude,” Jonathan Lethem’s novel about the area in the 1970s, which described ruined row houses sheltering creepy boarders, and a pervasive feeling of decay.

    That Boerum Hill is long gone; today it is clean slate sidewalks, self-conscious cafes and neighbors who do more than merely say hello.
    “I love the fact that people just drop in,” said Stephen Antonson, an artist who lives with his wife, Kathleen Hackett, and their two young boys in a house on Pacific Street.

    “When you have a life where people just come over and knock on your door, there’s something about that I really, really like.”

    The improvements continue. On almost any block in Boerum Hill, you can find a stoop railing being replaced, a garden being dug up, a crew hauling in a new Viking range.

    And at the edges of the neighborhood, where zoning allows, developers have put up buildings not always in sync with the local town house vibe.

    The neighborhood’s boisterous thoroughfare is Atlantic Avenue; it carries a significant amount of traffic and is home to the Brooklyn House of Detention, whose future has been known to generate cacophonous debate. (Bail bondsmen still do business in the area.)

    But save for that noisy artery, the renovation noises and the conversation of neighbors, the streets are largely quiet — a cool calm that has lately attracted a variety of independent boutiques and restaurants.

    In the past, the Kopits would have packed the family into the car and driven to Manhattan to find stuff to do.

    “Now, we don’t have to drive anywhere to find interesting places,” Ms. Kopit said. “We just start walking.”


    Even by brownstone Brooklyn standards, Boerum Hill is small. It has roughly 20,000 people, according to a 2005 neighborhood association study. The exact street boundaries can be a subject of local disagreement, but the surrounding areas are Cobble Hill, downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and Gowanus.

    Nor is it uniformly full of brownstones. Many blocks have unbroken walls of tall red-brick houses with the occasional outlier, like the artist Susan Gardner’s bejeweled facade on Wyckoff Street. In 1973, a small historic district was created; some would like to see it expand.

    As for the sometimes fast-paced Atlantic Avenue, it has become an unlikely haven for independent shops and boutiques. Hip retailers have helped create a quirky shopping district, like Jonathan Adler, the home store; Blue Marble, the Hudson Valley ice creamery; and Omala, an active-wear dealer that recently advertised an item called “Zen pants.” Between Third and Fourth Avenues, Atlantic is home to Middle Eastern commerce, at Fertile Crescent Middle Eastern Groceries and Makkah Islamic Books and Clothing.

    There is shopping elsewhere, too. Boerum Hill claims a trendy stretch of Smith Street as its own, and small cafes and stores are dotted throughout the neighborhood’s interior, like the restaurant Building on Bond and the Brooklyn Circus boutique. On Fourth Avenue, bars like Cherry Tree and Pacific Standard have sprung up. There are also two Vietnamese sandwich shops.

    Just outside the neighborhood are new developments — or at least they are promised, on handsome banners. Dean Street alone has at least five construction projects finished or under way. On State Street, a long row of unadorned new town houses has been occupied for a few years now; a project of six more called Ensemble, at prices reportedly ranging from $3.5 million to $4 million, is being considered. Taller projects have arrived north of Atlantic Avenue as well. On Smith, opposite the House of Detention, the Nu Hotel has opened within a new residential tower, with nightly rates starting above $300.


    Those new condominiums don’t come cheap, but they are still inexpensive compared with similar properties in Manhattan. At the “eco-luxury” building Green on Dean, for example, two-bedroom two-bath units with private balconies and 1,150 square feet of space range from $695,000 to $799,000.

    The meat and potatoes of Boerum Hill real estate will always be town houses, and while they are still selling, prices have come down.

    “Whatever you could sell for $2.3 million at least two years ago, you’d be lucky to get $1.9 million for now,” said Allen Barcelon, a broker at Boerum Hill Realty. At the same time, down payment requirements have gone up, Mr. Barcelon said; 20 to 25 percent is now the norm, versus 10 percent in the boom years. Making purchases these days definitely has its challenges.

    But houses are still changing hands. Sue Wolfe and James Crow, brokers at the Corcoran Group, have sold several town houses this year and have another in contract. A one-family house on Dean Street, which hadn’t had any improvements in 20 years and which sold as part of an estate, went for $1.725 million. A two-family house on Wyckoff Street that had been renovated and used by one family sold for $1.5 million.

    Co-ops are not plentiful, but can still be found carved out of town houses or occasionally in apartment buildings. In the elevator building at 422 State Street, for example, Mr. Crow and Ms. Wolfe have listed a two-bedroom co-op with one and a half baths for $599,000.

    Rental prices here have dipped as of late, but transactions still move quickly, Mr. Barcelon said; studios average $1,300 a month, one-bedrooms $1,900, and two-bedrooms $2,300.


    The 35th annual Atlantic Antic, a sort of supersize street fair, takes place Sunday along Atlantic, with 10 stages of free music, lots of food, pony rides, belly dancing and other amusements.

    As for more permanent distractions beyond shopping and dining, there are two movie theaters just outside the area in Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. Prospect and Fort Greene Parks are a short walk (or bike ride) away.


    Of the 478 students at Public School 38 on Pacific Street, 67 percent of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders met city English standards last year; 86 percent were proficient in math. At the Math and Science Exploratory School, a middle school on Dean Street, scores have improved in recent years, with 97 percent of all students meeting standards on math tests and 90 percent in English.

    SAT averages last year at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts, also on Dean Street, were 439 in reading, 438 in math and 435 in writing. Citywide averages were 435, 459 and 432.


    Given its size, Boerum Hill is spoiled with choices of public transit into Manhattan. Ten subway lines stop at the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street station at the eastern end of the neighborhood; and six come into the Borough Hall/Court Street station, a few blocks north of State Street. The F and G trains stop at the Bergen Street station, providing another travel option into Midtown (or, via the G, into Queens).


    There once was an actual hill called Boerum, used strategically during the Revolutionary War, but it was razed. As Brooklyn grew up, the neighborhood was part of an amalgam simply called South Brooklyn. The population grew after the Atlantic Avenue train tunnel was built in 1844. The area was developed by Charles Hoyt and Russell Nevins; two streets now bear their names. With the Brooklyn Bridge and trolleys came even more newcomers, many of them immigrants.

    After World War II, disrepair and squalor seeped in, only to be shaken off by renovation-happy brownstoners — who persevere to this day.

  6. #51

    Default Brooklyn neighborhoods

    Can someone point me to a coded map of Brooklyn neighborhoods, if you happen to know of a good one? I am trying to create an imaginary geography since I haven't been to most of these places -- e.g. Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Red Hook etc. -- like to know where one ends and the next begins, according to general consensus.


  7. #52
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Is this any good, hbcat?

    Or if you're prepared to buy a book, Neighborhoods of Brooklyn has very good maps of each neighborhood with details of boundaries.

    Edit: This map is great!
    Last edited by Merry; November 12th, 2009 at 05:17 AM.

  8. #53


    Thanks much, Merry. The first link is a good start. Unfortunately, I get a "403 Forbidden" message when I try to view the second map you recommend. I don't know if my server is blocking it (from or why this would be so). I'll give it another go from my office tomorrow.

    The book looks like a fun read. I will put it on my list.


  9. #54
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Living In | Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

    Moved for the Space; Stayed for the Food


    Victorian home on Stratford Road

    THE house that Michael and Lori Hiller planned to buy in South Park Slope, Brooklyn, was a good size for the neighborhood, and on a pleasant block. But then a problem developed with the building’s certificate of occupancy.

    Since Mrs. Hiller had been the bigger fan of Park Slope, it was Mr. Hiller who had more zest for a new search. He found himself smitten by Ditmas Park, a leafy area of Victorian houses, south of Prospect Park. Eventually, he struck gold, with a 4,000-square-foot six-bedroom house with a finished basement, a backyard and a four-car driveway.

    The Hillers saw it on a Sunday, made an offer on Tuesday, and were in contract by week’s end. They paid $1.26 million — $10,000 less than they had planned to pay for the house in Park Slope, which was about half the size.

    A year and a half later, Mr. Hiller said, they are thrilled, partly for the reasons people have always liked Ditmas Park: the grand Victorians, the trees, the big yards and the suburban atmosphere. “It’s just such a great thing to come home and see your kids outside playing,” he said.

    But some of what keeps the Hillers excited about the neighborhood is new. In recent years, a string of popular restaurants have opened on Cortelyou Road, the main business district. These places, among them the Farm on Adderley, Mimi’s Hummus and a pioneering cafe called Vox Pop, have drawn visitors to what Time Out New York calls one of the city’s best neighborhoods for food.

    And not only prepared foods, it turns out: the Flatbush Food Co-op, a fixture on Cortelyou, is thriving after its 2008 move into a larger space, and a Sunday farmers’ market is also doing well.

    Brokers say that word of mouth has made a difference. “They read about it and they say, ‘Well, where is that neighborhood?’ ” said Mary Kay Gallagher, a broker who specializes in the area’s Victorian houses, and who sold the Hillers their house. “And then they go on the Internet, and they find me.”

    Web surfers also find a dedicated blog,, and an Internet group, the Flatbush Family Network, for area parents.

    One result of all the change has been a reinvigorated co-op market, according to Jan Rosenberg, a real estate broker at Brooklyn Hearth Realty.

    Stefanie Zadravec, a playwright, moved with her husband, Michael McWatters, a freelance Web designer, to a large two-bedroom on Argyle Road days after giving birth to twins. The giant houses are out of their price range, she said, but are wonderful to look at.

    She had lived in Chelsea, in Manhattan, since 1991, but says her family’s new place is bigger than they ever could have afforded there. Also, out on the street, she is constantly running into friends. “They’re the kind of people I had stopped meeting in Manhattan,” Ms. Zadravec said.

    Through all the change, residents say, the vibes remain positive. “The older residents of the neighborhood are very excited about the young people who have moved into the neighborhood,” said Alvin M. Berk, the chairman of Community Board 14, which covers the area. “It brings the neighborhood vitality. Everybody loves looking at beautiful babies in a baby carriage.”


    Ditmas Park is a relatively narrow landmark district bounded by Dorchester Road to the north, Ocean Avenue to the east, Newkirk Avenue to the south and East 16th Street to the west. Yet when most nonpurists refer to Ditmas Park, they are talking about a wider chunk of Victorian Flatbush — stretching north to Beverley Road, west to Coney Island Avenue and east to Ocean Avenue — that includes the subsections Ditmas Park West, Beverley Square East and Beverley Square West.

    What these sections all have in common, besides the loosely applied Ditmas Park name, is Cortelyou Road.

    “One of the exciting things for me about Cortelyou developing is that it holds together a lot,” said Ms. Rosenberg, also a founder of the civic group Friends of Cortelyou. “People think of it as the heart of the neighborhood.”

    Many of the area’s co-op buildings are concentrated in the blocks immediately south of Cortelyou. The grander houses, mostly single-family, with five or six bedrooms, stretch to the north and south on streets with Anglophile names like Marlborough, Argyle and Westminster. Much of the area was rezoned this summer, Mr. Berk said, to curb out-of-scale construction that had begun to creep up on the area’s western edge near Coney Island Avenue.

    In the interior are a few new buildings, but most of the co-op and rental buildings are decades old, some prewar. The blocks full of houses, with their front porches, large yards and driveways, could easily be mistaken for some other, less urban place. Ms. Rosenberg, who has shown the neighborhood to countless newcomers, has heard comparisons to Pittsburgh or Minneapolis.

    “What they’re saying is, ‘Gee, it doesn’t really feel like New York,’ ” she said. “And it doesn’t. For a lot of people it feels like home.”


    When Ms. Gallagher used to talk about Victorian house prices early this decade, she spoke of the approach to the million-dollar mark. That barrier has long since been leapfrogged, and prices for Victorians are now routinely $900,000 and up, she said.

    Still, Aviva Sucher, a broker at Brooklyn Dwellings, says that in the softer economy, there are relative bargains.

    “There are houses as low as $800,000,” she said. “We haven’t seen these kinds of numbers in, I’d say, well over 10 years. Right now, there are very well-priced homes for buyers who would not have been able to come into the area.”

    For co-ops, Ms. Rosenberg said buyers should expect to pay $250,000 to $320,000 for a one-bedroom — occasionally less. Two-bedrooms, she said, range from around $300,000 to $450,000 for very large units like Ms. Zadravec’s, which also includes an office. There are almost no three-bedroom co-ops, Ms. Rosenberg said, and few condos of any size.

    Rentals can be hard to come by. Units in detached houses are priced unpredictably, with some sprawling apartments over $2,000 a month, and tighter attic spaces well below that. In apartment buildings, one-bedrooms rent for around $1,400, while two-bedrooms are in the $1,700 range.


    There are two public elementary schools. Public School 139, on Rugby Road just north of Cortelyou, has around 1,100 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. It received an A on its most recent city progress report, with 68.1 percent of students meeting standards in English language arts and 88.8 percent in math. P.S. 217 on Newkirk Avenue also serves prekindergarten through fifth grade, and has around 1,200 students. It, too, got an A on its progress report, with 76.9 percent of students meeting standards in language arts and 94.1 percent in math.

    Mr. Berk said both schools had so far been able to accommodate their swelling numbers, although P.S. 217 had to build an annex. Both, he said, have active parents’ associations.

    The neighborhood’s middle-schoolers attend Junior High School 62, which has around 1,100 students, on Cortelyou Road in nearby Kensington. The school received an A on its city progress report, with 59.1 percent testing at or above grade level in language arts, and 70.3 percent in math.

    A nearby high school, Midwood High, is a few blocks south of the neighborhood at Brooklyn College. The former Erasmus Hall High School, which was broken up into four smaller schools in 1994, is a few blocks north of the neighborhood on Flatbush Avenue.


    Neighborhood life is sedate and suburban. The Parade Grounds at the southern tip of Prospect Park are within walking distance, as is the park’s running and cycling loop. At night, the restaurants on Cortelyou — and off, in the case of Pomme de Terre, a newer place on Newkirk Avenue — are popular destinations. Residents trade gossip on just-opened and soon-to-open restaurants and bars, and on Sundays head to the farmers’ market and playground.

    It gives Cortelyou Road a “village square feel on Sunday morning,” Mr. Berk said. “People get together and meet each other and buy rutabaga.”


    The Q train runs through the middle of the neighborhood, stopping at Beverley Road, Cortelyou Road and Newkirk Avenue. The B train, which runs express through Brooklyn, also stops at Newkirk. The Q becomes an express train once it enters Manhattan, making the trip into Midtown a relatively quick one, considering the distance. If you time the trains right, Mr. Hiller said, you can be there in half an hour.


    Ditmas Park, like the rest of Victorian Flatbush, was developed early in the 20th century. In 1908, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City, the Ditmas Park Association was formed, and enacted zoning to preserve the neighborhood. The Ditmas Park Historic District was created in the 1980s.

  10. #55


    But what are the taxes like...

  11. #56
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Did you have any luck with that map, hbcat?

    Can you see this link, which is of Bedford-Stuyvesant?

    The map includes boundaries of the neighborhoods, plus links to photos of various locations marked on the map, and has a basic axonometric view of buildings. A search function includes neighborhoods and specific addresses. There is also a link to display designated landmarks and historic districts (a "work in progress").

  12. #57


    Thanks, yes, Merry. I tried it this morning while in the office and it does work through that connection, but now I am back home and for some reason my residential server isn't allowed to connect (or doesn't allow me to connect) to the site, so I cannot see this new feature you mean to show me. I'll look again tomorrow.

    There's really a great wealth of info on NY (duh) in this forum. I am grateful for all the knowledge you and others bring here and share.

    Cheers again,

  13. #58


    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    There is also a link to display designated landmarks and historic districts (a "work in progress").
    Nice feature. Yes, I can view it easily from my office connection.

    I found another Brooklyn neighborhood map on Wikipedia, although it doesn't have the interactive features of those at

  14. #59

    Default Brooklyn Independent Television

    Just found this collection of vids, with a variety of stories about Brooklyn and several "Neighborhood Beat" segments.

    Have a look:

  15. #60
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002

    Default Midwood, Brooklyn

    Living In | Midwood, Brooklyn

    Where Prosperity Breeds Proximity


    A two-family house on Ocean Avenue between Avenues L and M is listed at $939,000 ()

    Avenue K between East 19th Street and Ocean Avenue

    Avenue L between East Seventh and East Eighth Streets

    Corner of East 15th Street

    Yeshiva of Flatbush

    Edward R. Murrow High School

    More Photos >

    MANY blocks in Midwood, with its rows of orderly detached homes and private driveways, give the feeling of a carefully planned suburb — a serene surprise after turning off a thoroughfare like Coney Island Avenue or Ocean Parkway.

    But closer inspection reveals that the landscape has, in fact, been altered: on virtually every block, at least one or two homes have been significantly expanded — built up, built out, even built down.

    The larger homes blend in as best they can with their smaller neighbors, but their oversized shadows are hard to miss: they are evidence of the wealth and the larger families that a thriving Orthodox Jewish population has brought to Midwood in recent years.

    “Midwood has always been Jewish, but it wasn’t always Orthodox,” said David Maryl, a broker at Jacob Gold Realty. “Now for every family that’s moving out, it’s an Orthodox family moving in.”

    Brooklyn’s Community Board 14, which covers the eastern half of Midwood, fields several home expansion requests each month from the area, said Alvin M. Berk, the board’s chairman.

    He said the board first noted the steady trickle of requests about eight years ago and now handles about 30 a year. “This seems to be a fairly high rate of building expansion,” he said. “But there’s generally no opposition — maybe just some concerns about a proposed enlargement reducing a neighbor’s light and air.” But applicants often make concessions to ease those concerns, he added.

    Rather than building a larger home, Bill and Diana Spiegel bought one. They’ve moved about a mile east. “We love the area,” Mr. Spiegel said.

    They walk more than a mile each way to attend the synagogue in their old area, because “we have a little separation anxiety,” he said. But on their way, they probably pass more than a dozen synagogues; they will probably switch to one nearby once the weather turns cold. “It seems like there’s a real sense of community here, and they welcome you,” Mr. Spiegel said.

    Brokers say that Orthodox families first moved into Midwood about 25 years ago as they were priced out of Borough Park, a better established Orthodox neighborhood to the west. Nowadays, Midwood is “very sought after, because people want to be near family and friends, a yeshiva or a synagogue affiliation,” said Sora David, a broker with Eisberg Lenz Real Estate. Being within walking distance of a synagogue is critical for those who observe Orthodox Jewish laws forbidding driving and other activities on the Sabbath.

    There are dozens of synagogues and many yeshivas scattered throughout Midwood. Some Hasidic synagogues, known as shtibls, are in single-family homes where the rabbi might live upstairs and the congregation might meet on the first floor.

    Mr. Berk says synagogues are allowed as of right in any residential zone.

    But many of them have growing congregations that eventually require more space. He said that the community board had fielded and helped approve many applications for variances to turn houses into larger synagogues.


    Midwood lies south of Flatbush and Brooklyn College, and north of Marine Park. Its eastern and western borders have expanded in recent years, pushing out to McDonald Avenue on the west and Flatbush Avenue on the east. “As people have moved in, they’ve expanded the boundaries,” said Raizy Brisman, the owner of Brisman Realty.

    Between Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues, younger Orthodox families first moved into the East 30s about five years ago; prices were lower there than in the East 20s and East 10s, she said. That area used to be considered part of Flatbush or East Flatbush, she said, “but it’s all semantics. It’s called Midwood now, because if you called it East Flatbush, the value for it would be less.”

    Most homes sit on 40-by-100-foot lots and were built in the early part of the 20th century. The vast majority are detached single-family homes, but there are some two-families, as well as some semiattached and attached houses. There are also some rental and co-op buildings along parts of Avenue K and Ocean Parkway.

    Brokers refer to an exclusive pocket between East Seventh and East Ninth Streets, running from Avenue I to Avenue K, as Midwood Manor. Many of its homes are on larger lots, and “it’s more manicured and very sought after,” said Abraham Steinmetz, the owner of Steinmetz Real Estate. “But there’s very little available there. You’re lucky to see one or two houses available in a year.”

    The neighborhoods known as Midwood Park, West Midwood and South Midwood are all actually north of Midwood proper and were developed as parts of Victorian Flatbush.

    During the recent building boom, developers tore down some single-family homes along Ocean Avenue and off Ocean Parkway and replaced them with six-unit condominiums. But brokers say that because the condos are primarily made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments, they do not appeal to large Orthodox families and have not sold well, although some units have sold to Russian immigrants.

    The area is mostly residential, with a few commercial streets. Yeshivas and synagogues often blend right in — in unassuming converted office buildings or on strictly residential streets.


    Brokers say that prices in Midwood have dropped 10 to 15 percent in the last year. Homes tend to sell by word of mouth, and at any given time, there are only about 40 homes on the market.

    An attached home on a busy street can sell for $400,000 to $500,000, but detached homes start at $600,000 and run over $2 million, depending on its size. Most houses in the East 20s, considered the oldest part of Midwood, are detached, with three to five bedrooms and private driveways, and sell for over $1 million.

    The larger homes in Midwood Manor start at about $2 million and run above $5 million.

    Along Ocean Parkway, one-bedroom co-ops sell for less then $200,000, two-bedrooms for about $250,000. On Ocean Avenue, one-bedroom condos sell for about $275,000, two-bedrooms $400,000.


    Most Orthodox children attend local yeshivas. The Yeshiva of Flatbush is perhaps the best known, with classes from preschool through high school.

    At Public School 193, on Avenue L, known as the Gil Hodges School, 86 percent of fifth-graders met state English standards in 2007-8, and 93 percent met math standards.

    At Intermediate School 240, on Nostrand Avenue, 58 percent of eighth graders met English standards, 71 percent met math standards, and 79 percent met science standards.

    Edward R. Murrow High School, on Avenue L, emphasizes a college preparatory curriculum and has selective music, art and theater programs for which students must audition. SAT averages there last year were 476 in reading, 507 in math and 481 in writing, versus 435, 459 and 432 citywide.
    Midwood High School is north of Midwood, opposite Brooklyn College.


    Midwood’s appeal is its quiet residential quality. On school days, yellow buses fill the streets, ferrying children to and from their different yeshivas. Traffic along the shopping strips on Avenues J and M can be downright dangerous, as drivers double-park to get their shopping done. But the streets grow quiet at sundown on Friday, with the start of the Sabbath, and most stores stay shuttered until Sunday.

    Avenue J’s commercial strip, between Coney Island Avenue and East 16th Street, is filled with kosher restaurants, delis and bakeries. Di Fara Pizza, at East 15th Street, harks back to Midwood’s more Italian past. It’s known for its $5 slice, handmade with imported ingredients by the pizzeria’s septuagenarian founder, Domenico DeMarco.

    Avenue M’s shops run from Ocean Avenue to Ocean Parkway. In addition to kosher pizzerias and kosher and Russian supermarkets, the street has discount stores and chains like Godiva.

    Coney Island Avenue, a much wider thoroughfare, has a range from auto repair shops and carwashes to ladies’ wig shops, Judaica stores and kosher restaurants. Among these are Schnitzi, a schnitzel bar; and Carlos and Gabby’s, a Mexican grill. Food bloggers compare Pomegranate, a gleaming new kosher supermarket, to Whole Foods.


    The Q and B lines, both of them express, bisect Midwood along East 16th Street, providing a relatively easy 40-minute commute to Midtown.
    The F train, which makes many more stops, runs along the western edge of Midwood on McDonald Avenue.


    Settled in the mid-1600s, the area was forested and got its name from the Dutch for “middle woods.” Subways arrived in the early 1900s.

    Famous residents include Woody Allen, who graduated from Midwood High School; Marisa Tomei, a Murrow High graduate; and Gil Hodges, a first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s and a manager of the Mets.

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