brooklyn

The High Price for Cheap Rent

Posted by Steve on Sun, 11/15/2009 - 11:57pm


On a nearby street, a line of ugly, cheaply built, 1980s-vintage row houses stand on a plot of land where there was once a neglected old Victorian. The six houses share a communal front "yard" -- a quarter-acre concrete pad that gives the place all the charm of a New Jersey strip mall. To complete that grim visual, cars are illegally parked on it, usually double wide, often obstructing the sidewalk.

In fact, there are more cars than one would expect from six single-family homes. A couple of months ago, I deduced why that was when I saw a small "For Rent" sign hanging from the railing in front of one of those row houses. The answer: because they've also got illegal apartments. A visit to the Department of Buildings' information system confirmed that all of those houses lack a Certificate of Occupancy to permit rental apartments.

Troubles for the Prodigal Key Food?

Posted by Steve on Sat, 12/27/2008 - 12:48pm


Ever since the residents of north Bay Ridge lost their only convenient supermarket several years ago, the poorly managed Waldbaum's at 4th Ave and Senator Street, the neighborhood has been anxious for a store to replace it. Then last spring Key Food announced that it was closing its 95th St store which would leave Bay Ridge even more desperate for supermarket options.

But shortly after that disappointing Key Food announcement, there was a brighter one. Bensonhurst Key Food owner, Sammy Abed, announced that he would be opening a new Key Food in north Bay Ridge on the site of the old Harry's furniture stores on 69th Street off Third Ave.

There was much public and political celebration over the news. Finally, Bay Ridge would get another supermarket, and with convenient parking as well.

The "Coming Soon" banners went up along with the building permits and instructions for home delivery from Abed's Bensonhurst store. Although no official announcement was made, the grand opening was supposed to be early 2009.

But since then, there's been very little visible progress on the property.

In September I got a quick peek inside and saw that trenches had been cut in the concrete floor, probably to accommodate wiring and plumbing for refrigeration.

In November I got another quick look inside and saw that it looked exactly the same. Although I've seen one or two workers going into the place it seemed like nothing substantial was happening with the property besides more graffiti on the facade.

No Night for Dog Walkers

Posted by Steve on Sun, 12/21/2008 - 11:02pm


It's treacherous out there. After two wet snows since Friday and a day in the upper thirties, the temps crashed after sundown, almost instantly freezing any standing water on the sidewalk and stoops.

It's nights like this that I wish I hadn't housebroken my dogs so well. They'd sooner cut their own throats than mess in the house. Worse, I can't even push them out the door to do their business in the back yard. They just sit by the back door looking miserable.

It's also nights like this that I'd like to see public flogging of thoughtless home and apartment house owners who don't shovel their walks. Fifteen years ago, while walking my dog Paco, I broke my right wrist (both bones) on the slippery, unshoveled sidewalk outside a low-end clothing store on lower Broadway. So I've got no tolerance for this laziness.


What lines?

Posted by Steve on Tue, 11/04/2008 - 5:00pm


I took the dogs out for their walk this morning and decided to cruise my local polling place (the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Sciences... and, no, I don't have a clue what they teach there) to get an idea of how long my wait was gonna be. I figured it would probably be somewhere between the aggravation of the checkout line at the Hamilton Ave Home Depot and Zep reunion tickets.

Found my orginal C of O!

Posted by Steve on Tue, 10/14/2008 - 12:46am


NYC didn't start requiring habitable buildings to have a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) until 1938. Since my house was built in 1906... actually the city recently re-evaluated its records and moved this back to 1901 so I guess I've gotta change my banner here... it was very possible it didn't have a CO.

Even though NYC law requires either a valid CO certificate or a "Letter of No Objection" from the Dept of Buildings to be submitted at closing, I never saw one. A housing court judge was quoted as saying, "it is more likely that you will see a yeti crossing the West Shore Expressway wearing a Mets hat than a final certificate of occupancy at a closing."

That's why I was semi-thrilled to find the original CO for this place. I wasn't expecting to find it in the city archives but there it is. Apparently, even though COs weren't mandated at the time, if you did any work to a building which required a building permit, your CO came with the successful inspection report.

Synchronicity, flashbacks and old photos

Posted by Steve on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 5:37pm


Yesterday was one of those strange "theme" days we all experience from time to time. It began with my neighbor, Betsy, and me taking a trip to an art store on 3rd Ave to get some old Brooklyn photos framed that I'd collected over the past year.

The centerpiece was something I'd bought from shorpy.com, which I'd discovered on the recommendation of a forum regular on Old House Web. It's a shot of a freezing cold, February day in Brooklyn Heights circa 1908 with the Manhattan Bridge under construction in the distance. The detail on the photo was mesmerizing (click here to see what I mean).

I bought a large copy of it. My intent was to frame it myself. After all, if I can construct cabinets and stained glass, how difficult could it be? However, as I started researching the techniques online I kept seeing comments recommending a web site, http://www.customframesolutions.com/, which would build the frames for you for about the same price as stick building them. You provide the dimensions and they ship it to you in two to four business days. I priced out a nice frame, matte and foam board for around a hundred bucks. Pretty good deal.


This would make an awesome train set.

Posted by Steve on Fri, 08/29/2008 - 9:42pm


My older brother was the model train buff. Me, I always liked the real thing. As a little kid growing up in Japan, my friends and I used to sneak across the mulberry fields and sit by the train tracks to Yokohama. But the local koban police always took notice of the little white kids and hauled us back home with a stern warning never to do it again. As if.

Bay Ridge is in south Brooklyn, on lower New York Harbor. One the benefits of living here is dozing off to fog horns and big ship engines in the harbor. But I was always curious about one horn I'd hear occasionally that sounded like a locomotive. It was months before I realized that I had a small rail yard only three blocks away. In my defense, you have to climb up on a cement wall on a bridge overpass to get this shot.

This yard is between me and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. During WW2, 85% of the soldiers bound for Europe arrived on trains in this rail yard before being processed at BAT and boarding ships in the harbor beyond.

In the olden days, Brooklyn had lots of small railroads: the Sea Beach and Coney Island Railroad, the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railroad, the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad... it seemed like every Brooklyn neighborhood had its own rail line. After 1896, most were assimilated into the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Corporation (BRT). The NYC subway system would eventually make dinosaurs of most of them.

Bay Ridge Hum

Posted by Steve on Tue, 11/06/2007 - 9:52pm


Out-worlders would probably expect Brooklyn to sound like inner-city traffic, police sirens and "Yo! Vinnie! T'row me down some money fa a' egg cream!" Actually, it's pretty quiet down here by the harbor, except for the low-flying NYPD helicopters.

Nevertheless, I have two "bizarre noise" stories. I'll talk about the most public one first and, if I can keep it short, I'll tell the other one.

In late 2005, I was at the dog run when an obviously exhausted woman told me that she was kept awake all night by a loud hum outside. She lives only three blocks from me so she asked if I'd heard it too. I told her I was sorry but I hadn't heard a thing. She bore on, telling me that it sounded like a low engine rumble, almost like a fog horn, except it was non-stop. I thought there might be a simple explanation: she was nuts.

A Tree Blows Down in Brooklyn

Posted by Steve on Wed, 08/08/2007 - 9:04pm


About 5:30am this morning I was suddenly awake. I'm not sure if it was the threatening thunder approaching from the northwest or my shivering, hundred-pound Newfoundland desperately trying to crawl under the covers with me.

Outside, it was like War of the Worlds... real Wrath of God stuff. Lightning was flashing like a paparazzi frenzy and the thunder was getting progressively angrier. I heard the rain starting. Within minutes it was coming down in buckets. Seriously, that's what it sounded like: someone dropping buckets on my roof.


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