neighborhood

What will $11 mil get me in Brooklyn?

Posted by Steve on Fri, 05/03/2013 - 2:18pm


It's a question that probably doesn't get asked very often, but here's an answer ready for it: the locally revered landmark "Gingerbread House" at 8820 Narrows Avenue in Bay Ridge, about a mile south of Brooklyn Row House.  Not for nothing but this is a bargain compared to the unanswered 2009 asking price of $12 million.  Nevertheless, it's quite a bit more than the "under $1 milliion" that the current owners paid for it in 1985, which should give an indication of property valuations in this neck of Brooklyn over the past 20 years.

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/piece-brooklyn-storybo...
 


Guess what I found hibernating under my kitchen extension?

Posted by Steve on Sun, 02/03/2013 - 12:28pm


I've posted a few articles about Brooklyn wildlife here over the years.  Now I apparently have one of them as a roomate.

Last week I broke a tile on my bathroom vanity and decided that today was a good day to fix it.  I keep my spare tiles in a barely heated shed under my kitchen extension.

As soon as I opened the door to the shed and the gamey smell hit my nose I knew that something wild was living in there.  I assumed it was a feral cat or two until I saw a bunch of straw nesting material falling out of a large bag of potting soil.  Cats don't do that so I picked up a lawn torch, gently opened the bag and look what I found.  Petey Possum!

I wasn't all that surprised by this because I see possums late at night at least once a week.  The dogs have become so accustomed to them that I can tell from their reaction when they've picked up the scent a hundred feet away.  They're fairly aromatic animals.

Not sure what to do here.  On the one hand, I'm not going to do what one of my neighbors did and kill him.  Any wild animal that manages to survive on the streets of Brooklyn has my profound respect.  My concern with the nesting material however is that this is really Penelope Possum and that she's about to bring more of these critters  into the world.  Whatever, I need to replace the missing brick in the side of the extension in the spring.

Local lore says that opossums took a foothold in Brooklyn about seven years ago when some genius at one of the Brooklyn community boards thought they would be an excellent solution to keeping the rat population in check.  They're very versatile animals and aren't shy about killing prey, including rats.  Problem is, that same versatility means that they're happy to live on the same garbage as rats.  So the rats survived, the possums survived and here we are.

Possums are fearsome looking animals but they're actually pretty passive towards larger animals, hence the "playing possum" thing.  I rummaged around in the extension for about five minutes looking for my tile and its only reaction was an occasional hiss.
 


Bay Ridge to get our own Jersey Shore reality show. Lucky us.

Posted by Steve on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 5:41pm


If you ask anyone on the streets of Bay Ridge about Oxygen Network's upcoming Brooklyn 11223 reality show you'll get a blank stare.  Nobody's heard of it.  While it's been filming around Bay Ridge since last September, there have been a lot of Hollywood crews around here lately, from the TV shows Pan Am, Blue Bloods and Law & Order SVU to feature films like White Irish Drinkers and Cop Out.  It was easy for it to get lost in the crowd of bigger budget productions.

But when you tell those folks what the show is about, guess what?  Same blank stare.  Nobody really cares, except for the politicians and community leaders that is.  For them, this show is an affront to Bay Ridge and what The Sopranos was to Italian-Americans.  I can't believe the backlash against it, which has even reached the pages of Huffington Post.  I haven't seen outrage like this since William Friedkin's gay serial killer movie, Cruising, back in the 1980s.  Local bloggers are swinging at shadows, protests have been organized by community groups, advertiser boycotts have been threatened... all of which, of course, serve only to increase the buzz for a low-budget show on a lightly-watched network.  To my knowledge, nobody has actually seen the show.

Premiering on Oxygen on Monday, March 26 at 11PM ET/PT, Brooklyn 11223 is supposed be a "voyeuristic look" into the lives of a group of vapid twentysomething girls whose once rock-solid friendships have been torn apart by betrayal. From the early PR sheet, it "follows the story of two groups of girls fighting a turf war to rule Bay Ridge. Who will win is uncertain, but the stakes have never been higher."  Priceless.


My 15ms Of Fame

Posted by Steve on Sat, 02/25/2012 - 12:29am


At the end of August last year, there were reports of the Google Street Views car being seen around the neighborhood.  For the half dozen or so people on the planet who don't know what Street View is, it's a terrific value-added feature that the Google Maps folks created by photographing many if not most of the primary and secondary streets around the world.  Using Street View you can not only see a satellite view of your location but actual cached photos.

It's also rather hard to miss the Google car as it's about as subtle as a Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.

Besides a paint job that looks like a cross between a Peter Max-themed commune bus and a parted-out Toyota Prius Hybrid it's got a six foot mast on its roof with a device on top that looks like it came from War of the Worlds.   It's actually a high-definition camera with 15 lenses and a Class 1 laser range finding device.

Anyway, I was leaving the Owls Head Park dog run with the pooches one morning when I saw the Google car cruising down 68th St in Brooklyn.  I assumed that it would probably hit my street in the next 15 minutes so I hustled home to sit on the stoop and see it close up.  I was trying to think of some clever goof I could do for the camera.   Over the years, Street View's cameras have captured everything from rennaissance sword fights and naked people to arrests in progress and even dead bodies.   It would be hard to top that so I figured I would just bow to it as it passed.  Something completely lame like that.

The dogs and I waited on my stoop for 15 minutes before my ADD kicked in and I decided to change the oil in my motorcycle in the garage instead. 

As I was warming up the engine, an elderly lady stopped on the sidewalk and extended pleasantries with me.  With the motorcycle still idling, I grabbed the leaf blower and started sweeping the sidewalk.   With a 700+ pound motorcycle, I like maximum traction with the sidewalk as I pull that monster out of the garage.

And that was the moment that the Google car chose to arrive.  I gave it a quick wave, but was a little too late I'm afraid.  But she didn't miss it.


DOT sidewalk inspection scam?

Posted by Steve on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:40pm


My doorbell rang this afternoon. It was my cheerful postman, Kevin, and he had a certified letter for me.  Certified letters are almost always buzzkillers.  I could see from the envelope that this one was from the NYC Dept of Transportation so I knew it wasn't congratulations from Publishers Clearinghouse.

Kevin said that every house on the block, except one, got certified letters from DOT. What the hell, I've got nothing to be concerned about  My sidewalk and curb are in excellent condition.  I signed for the letter and opened it up.

Inside was a Notice of Violation that my sidewalk had been inspected and was found to have a "trip hazard". The notice said that I needed to replace ten square feet of sidewalk. There was a graphic indicating this general section of my sidewalk.

In NYC -- and I presume that this is the case in most large cities -- the building owner is responsible for the condition of his sidewalk.  If a sidewalk falls out of repair it's the homeowner's job to repair it, just as it's his job to keep it clean and clear of snow.

However, enforcement has typically been limited to third party complaints, not proactive inspections.   I'm told the city is named in tens thousands of predatory civil suits every year related to substandard sidewalks, some of them pretty funny... like the guy who tried to sue my neighbor for "loss of marital congress" after he allegedly tripped on a crack on the sidewalk and broke his pinkie finger.  I swear I'm not making this up.

Last year around this time, a non-DOT crew, which I presumed to be an independent contractor, was tearing up and replacing sidewalks all over the neighborhood.  It was the same sort of thing: an anonymous inspector had run around the neighborhood tagging damaged sidewalks for repair. 

Certified letters were sent to homeowners with vague indications of the nature of the violation.   They were given 45 days to either apply for a permit and get the job done by a licensed contractor or the city would do the job @ $9+ square foot and bill the homeowner.

The thing is, I walked those sidewalks several times a day.  While a few of them did have some issues with tree roots, most of the sidewalks that were replaced I remember as being in fine shape.  At least, I never saw an issue with them.  The entire process struck me at the time as being somewhat arbitrary, which is to say fishy.  And now here we are again.

Can anyone spot this "trip hazard"? Bear in mind that my sidewalk is everything below where that stoop starts at the left side of the photo.  The questionable piece of sidewalk is on the lower right, immediately adjacent to the white painted curb cut up to the first vertical seam.   Here, let's zoom in on that section of sidewalk and see if we can spot that dangerous "trip hazard"...


"This time for sure!"

Posted by Steve on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 2:48pm


The old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show had a series of interstitials with Bullwinkle attempting, and failing, to pull a rabbit out of a hat and Rocky increasingly skeptical that he would ever succeed.

FlyerAs tortured an analogy as that may be, it's how the Bay Ridge community has regarded announcements of the opening of the prodigal Key Food supermarket on Bay Ridge Ave (69th St).    It was almost two years ago that the neighborhood was buzzing with rumors that Key Food was negotiating to take over the two large buildings formerly owned by Harry's furniture store.  Yet, only a couple of months before that, Key Food announced that it was closing its well-patronized 95th St supermarket.  So this latest scuttlebutt left much to be skeptical about, especially when the new location wasn't exactly ideal for a large supermarket.

For one thing, there was no parking lot.  There was a single-story building across the street that was the old Harry's annex which at one point in its history might have served as a garage of some sort.  But with the pillar obstructions I remembered seeing in the old Harry's annex and the nonexistent driving skills of Bay Ridge SUV pilots, they couldn't honestly be thinking about letting soccer moms and cell phone jockeys park their own land barges in there.  It would be a day-long fender bender.  You could construct bleachers and sell tickets!

Then there was the issue of 69th Street itself: a narrow two-lane road that already has serious congestion issues from being forced to service avenue-level traffic.  Both local and express buses use 69th Street as do trucks and emergency vehicles.   Worse, there's a kitchen wholesale business on the block and their semis often stop traffic for several minutes while the driver threads the needle with his 18 wheeler and the narrow loading dock.


The Key Food Disconnect

Posted by Steve on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:26pm


In December, your wannabe Norm Abrams (me) tried a taste of old school investigative bloggerism and reported on the troubles with the construction of the new 69th Street Key Food supermarket. The local pols and press had been reporting that Key Food was on schedule for January opening. Problem is, I wasn't seeing any work being done on the place. Then the day after Christmas while walking the dogs by 244 Bay Ridge Avenue, I saw a stop work order from the Dept of Buildings plastered on the side of the building.

Everything must have worked itself out, or one would presume so, because on Feb 10, 2009, there was a post on City Councilman, Vincent Gentile's, blog announcing the long awaited completion date for the 69th Street Key Food Supermarket.
 

I want to update everyone with some good news: work on the site recently resumed, and the store is expected to open in the end of March. So in just a little over a month, Bay Ridge will have a new supermarket!

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.

Dreaming of a (non)White Christmas

Posted by Steve on Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:14pm


Judging by how prolific they've become in recent years a lot of people seem to like white Christmas lights. I know I'm gonna get mail about this.

I'm not real big on Christmas. I need to be coaxed (okay, dragged and beaten) into something resembling yuletide spirit. For me, white mini-lights just don't cut it. They have the holiday charm of a corporate office park or a South Beach mojito bar, and about as much comfort and joy as my 60-watt desk lamp. They don't say Christmas to me. They say, "Co-op Sales Office: Suite 300".

White Christmas lights tell me "Like, I was at Saks this weekend and they had the most totally delicious winter display of Ferragamo anaconda leather boots..."

White Christmas bulbs are the lighting equivalent of dropping "Merry Christmas" in favor of the PC generic, "Happy Holidays". Is this is how we celebrate the rich cultural diversity of our country during glad tidings season? With a soulless white light bulb?  By making our houses look like Tavern On The Green?


The Return of Tony Manero

Posted by Steve on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 9:55pm


You forty and fifty-somethings will undoubtedly remember the 1977 anthemic film about the disco era, Saturday Night Fever. What you may not know is that it put my neighborhood on the map. "Fever" was about the disco days and the lives of several blue collar kids in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

I love talking with my neighbors about those days. They say the movie was an accurate depiction of what life was like here, at least for the disco heads. In 1977, I was a hardcore jazz poser at Berklee College of Music in Boston so I missed it all, geographically and socially.

The disco portrayed in the movie, 2001 Odyssey, really existed and was only a few blocks from here. In fact, it didn't shut down until 2005, although by then it had become a seedy gay bar. But it still had that famous lighted dance floor.

After "Fever", Bay Ridge's glory as a nightlife destination gradually disappeared. Brooklyners began migrating to trendy gentrifying Manhattan neighborhoods for their late night fun at clubs like The World, Infinity, Kamikaze, Tunnel, Limelight, Danceteria and music venues like CBGBs, Mudd Club and The Ritz. I lived in the center of that though. We referred to those people (now, people like me) as "the bridge and tunnel crowd".

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