bay ridge

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, 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,, 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.

She Talked. This Happened.

Posted by Steve on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 7:45pm

Next up in my "Meet The Neighbors" series is one of the largest buildings in NYC, the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It's not large in vertical terms but as far as the footprint goes, there are few NYC buildings to match it.

BAT is located four blocks north of me. Surprisingly, for a complex of its imposing size few people around here know much about it. About the only information I could glean from the locals was, "The Army used to own it. It's something else now."

With its Pentagon-like utilitarian bulk, the closed-to-the-public perimeter security, the NYPD K-9 facility on premises and its roof cluttered with high-tech satellite dishes, the rumor was that it contained some super-secret CIA/NSA/Men In Black facility. I thought there might be something to that.

On 9/11, barely 90 minutes after the towers were hit, Doc Karen was summoned to work triage at Lutheran Hospital just down the street. As I drove her past BAT I was amazed to see that the entrances to the complex had been blocked by sand-filled DOT dump trucks. Wow, that was quick. What were they protecting? Not satisfied with these impressions though, I did some research.

Can This Be This?

Posted by Steve on Tue, 08/26/2008 - 6:56pm

This past Saturday I went pedaling around the neighborhood with my digital camera. I've been wanting to do a series of articles about the neighborhood so I needed to stock up on bad pictures. I'm from the Grateful Dead jam school of photography: just keep snapping crap and sooner or later you'll stumble on something almost interesting.

I live just south of one of NYC's oldest and most dilapidated industrial sprawls, on the western edge of an area called Sunset Park. I know, the name sounds like sipping Mai Tais on the veranda while watching the ocean swallow up the last fading rays of daylight. Well, in a way, the metaphor fits. The sun set on this place about 75 years ago. I'll get more into that later.

I Wanna Drive

Posted by Steve on Fri, 08/15/2008 - 10:42am

Last year, NYC DOT repaved several Brooklyn avenues. Last month, they began ripping up some cross streets, mine included. Even though my street was in good condition, people who have lived on the block for 40 years can't remember the last it was repaved. I figured this might make a good photo archive moment for my planned neighborhood blog.

When I saw the yellow signs pop up all over the street I thought it was going to be yet another annoying film shoot. Over the past couple of years Brooklyn has gotten to be a hot location with Hollywood.

You might even see me in the background of an Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz flick, "What Happens In Vegas", which was shot earlier this spring in the park down the block. I guess they wanted someone walking dogs so the PA pulled me out of the crowd of rubbernecks and told me to walk slowly and not look at the camera. I obeyed but Auggie became obsessed with a squirrel and caused a scene so we probably got left for dead on the cutting room floor.

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.

I actually do have house stuff to blog about

Posted by Steve on Fri, 05/18/2007 - 11:53pm

After all, it's been almost two weeks since my last blog post. However, I like to accompany my renovation articles with photos and the bedroom is currently an eyesore while I reorganize closets and get rid of clothes I've had since my disco show band days. No way am I posting photos of it now.

Brooklyn wildlife

Posted by Steve on Fri, 03/16/2007 - 1:01am

No, I'm not talking about the street scene around here. I mean actual wildlife living in the shadow of downtown Manhattan. Rural folks are surprised to hear that we have something other than rats and pigeons here. But it's a fact.

I was walking Jack and Auggie last night around 1am when Auggie spotted something in my neighbor's garden.  He charged. I heard a hiss and caught a flash of white fur as something flew up a large bush. A cat? Then I saw the skinny tail and the lethal-looking teeth. It was a possum.

Restless natives

Posted by Steve on Sat, 03/10/2007 - 10:20pm

There's a no more contentious issue with Bay Ridge residents than parking, or rather the lack thereof. It's actually easier to find street parking in Manhattan than it is in many Brooklyn bedroom neighborhoods, including here.

When I composed my list of requirements for house hunting, a garage was at the very top. No kidding, I would have bought a house without a roof before one with no garage. The last thing I wanted to do was to play car hockey on alternate side day or to come home dead tired at 2am and have to park six blocks away. I also had several nice, theftable motorcycles to protect.

Lately, Brooklyn driveways have become a hot issue. Rather, the proliferation of illegal ones, which have always been a sore point with the locals, have come under fire from politicians.


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