Sunday, January 22, 2012
Down the block at Metropolitan Ave. there is a large storage (?)/showroom building owned by Puccio, one of our long-time local businesses (Puccio Marble & Onyx). It was a big white concrete box with plywood covered window openings scattered around the two sides facing the street.
It wasn't the prettiest building around but was at least suitable to its purpose and had no pretensions to anything else. Not the worst building in our neighborhood, either.
Then, one day at the end of last May, the usual wooden barricades appeared along the surrounding sidewalks that herald either a major transformation or, worse, a demolition.
I'm happy to say that someone made the right decision and the building was transformed rather than demolished, possibly because Puccio may still be using the ground floor. One of their stone yards still sits at the far end of the building. I am thinking this because the large garage doors were left, but perhaps it's now parking for the apartments above.
They made the right choice because I'm sure that if it had been demolished we would have been saddled with another example of Williamsburgh Moderne. All colored glass and cute little Plexiglas balconies.
It's still pretty unpretentious but it's better than inflicting a gash on the neighborhood. And they even saved the trees (with luck they may plant a few more along the Driggs Ave. side).
Over the weekend I watched the (original) 1974 production of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Not only was it a slight shock to be reminded that the subway fare at the time was only 35¢, but the ransom demanded by the hijackers was only $1 million, and even that was split four ways! For $250,000 you probably can't even buy a co-op in Bed-Stuy these days. I haven't seen the remake but I wonder what Travolta demanded from Denzel.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Back at the start of April, the owners of the Williamsburg Bank at Broadway and Driggs Ave. began some work on the building. At that time it appeared that all they were doing was removing most of an addition that was added on to the bank years after it was first built.
That 3-story addition was swathed in white sheeting and was supposed to be reduced to one story (if it was not part of George B. Post's original design of 1870, why keep any of it?).
Since then, the entire building has been encased in scaffolding from the ground up to the base of the dome. It appears, according to the work permit issued by the city (see below, click on it to enlarge it enough to read), that they are intent on restoring the entire building, which can only be a very good thing for the neighborhood.
I look forward to the completely restored building.
Further north on Driggs at Grand St., our presumed movie theater is making progress slowly; they've been working on it since the end of June. What puzzles me a little is the story that was going around the neighborhood for years about the high water table there that prevented anyone from digging a foundation. Periodically, people would come by to make test bores in the soil and go away disappointed. Supposedly, one could only put up a small structure there because it would have to rest on nothing more than a concrete slab. But these folks don't seem to have trouble excavating a fairly deep foundation. Go figure. The latest word I heard is that it is to be a 6-screen multiplex, and the thought of that just chills me. That part of Williamsburg has already grown so much to resemble midtown, I shudder to think of Grand Street with a 6-screen movie house.
And directly across the street they are approaching the end of another enormous project. The only thing I can say is that it doesn't look quite as bad as I thought it would, but that's not much of a compliment.
And down by the river on lower Broadway, we are losing a little bit of a nice view. Compare the two photos below, one taken last May, the other taken last week.
Ironically, the photos were taken in front of a building called . . .
So, winter creeps in, and life goes on, and the dog must be walked.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I did not intend to return to this blog since I am doing little in the way of wandering Brooklyn like I did once. But . . . some things require no more than a walk down the block or a glance right and left as I head for the L train. As a matter of fact, forget about the rest of Brooklyn, just charting the Deconstruction of the City of Williamsburg could be a full-time job, 24-7.
I won't pretend that the empty lot at the corner of Driggs Ave. and Grand St. was ever anything like a lush, refreshing summer meadow. We're not talking Heidi or The Sound of Music here. It's previous incarnation some ten years ago was as a dirt and gravel parking lot, which you can make out on the Microsoft Virtual Earth map below. The red building across the street from the lot was old and there was graffiti on the walls but it was also only one story high, maybe a story and a half, and didn't block the sky (compare it to the last photo in this post).
I don't claim to know what happened but I'll take an educated guess. When the neighborhood began to take off around that time, the owner of the lot may have decided to cash in and get what probably seemed like a great price for it at the time. The buyer no doubt thought he, too, got a great deal with a large empty lot, certain to appreciate in value, in what was becoming ground zero for trendy Williamsburg.
We were sure we'd shortly be seeing another monument in the New York Developer Moderne style.
But nothing happened for ten years; the culprit being, I have been told, a series of underground springs in our section of Williamsburg that prevented a deep foundation with a basement being dug. So, we forgot about it and felt lucky that we had a few hundred feet of something that wasn't a bar.
From time to time people tried to grow things in there but since it was completely fenced in, that was a difficult feat. We had a few straggling plants near the fence.
But even without any cultivated plants, the wild growth by itself provided enough of a respite from the construction going on seemingly on every block in the neighborhood with stacks of lumber, steel girders, dumpsters, and construction scaffolding wherever you turned.
At least I never complained about the lack of a nice solid condo in that space.
This was the first summer in years that didn't see any flourishing growth in there. Except near the fence. Unless that old mattress counts as "wild growth."
Fast forward to Friday, June 24, when some building material appeared in the lot, and a small barrier appeared on the North 1st Street side. Uh-oh! Rumors about a movie theater had been percolating for a year or so and seemed stronger lately (fed, I think, by a New York Times story, the same one that wrote of a Starbucks soon to appear out on Bedford). It looked like our idyll was over. The theater, we were told, didn't need a basement but could be built on a flat concrete slab.
Came Monday morning and a truck showed up along with a large gray furry dog (but a friendly dog). And some construction worker types began fastening some new parking signs along all sides of the lot: No Parking Anytime / Temporary Construction Regulation.
By Monday evening, board ramparts had appeared almost completely surrounding the lot. I'm sure that by the time I get home from work tonight the lot will have disappeared behind a solid wooden barricade.
It's too bad if it is going to be a movie theater. Grand Street on a summer weekend now is like midtown Manhattan. Considering all the bars along the street, do we really need a few hundred more people congregating on one corner? Not really. Especially considering the behemoth rising directly across the street where that red brick shambles used to be, which will add a few hundred people all by itself.
And one other thing does bother me: One of those trees along the Grand Street side is inside the fence. Not to be too cynical but I doubt that the developer, builder, whoever is going to worry too much about keeping the tree when the supposed theater will probably go right to the building line.
There are other trees along there so it ain't the end of the world, but still . . . those trees are really striking for a couple of weeks at the start of each spring and I'd hate to lose even one of them. All things considered, if I had to choose between keeping a tree and losing a tree, I'd keep it. They take too long to replace.
Well, we can always hope for a really wet fall and winter with swollen underground springs exploding like the cemetery at the end of Poltergeist, and the movie house floating down Driggs Ave. to wash up in Greenpoint. I'd buy a ticket to see that.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
And now, let us begin
I feel sorry for the poor dog; around that lot and along North 1st St. where the big truck is used to be her favorite walking/sniffing/people watching spots. North 1st St. itself felt like a quiet backwater where few people ventured. No more.
A friend who lives further east out toward Bushwick told me she heard a story on NPR last week about a new movie theater going up in Williamsburg. The story, she said, was all about Williamsburg's "grave lack of cinema." Now that is a horrible situation. Grave, as they say. Living so far out of the city that you have to pack a box lunch if you want to struggle across mountains and rivers to a movie house in Manhattan is tough. The Angelika might as well be in Albany. I wondered what those torchlight parades down Bedford Avenue were with the milling hordes screaming "Movies NOW!" Now I know.
If someone wanted to march in support of a reasonably priced super market in the neighborhood, or even a Trader Joe's, that's a parade I could get behind easily.
Wednesday night, June 29, 2011
They had a busy day. The lot is completely fenced in, it's been painted blue (I actually preferred the natural look but then, I'm a contrarian), and (possibly just when I was mentioning the tree) the tree by the fence was cut down, but no surprise there. Probably had they left the fence a natural brown, I would have wanted it painted; still, a nice green would have been better than a dark blue.
The poor dog is completely disoriented. She has been used to rushing over to the fence each evening to sniff the grass along the whole length along three streets. Tonight, she couldn't figure out where the fence was, started whining and didn't even want one of her favorite treats. Very sad.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
We have a new dog at home . . . a puppy . . . and she's taking up most of my free time. The opportunities for me to wander Brooklyn have all but disappeared for the foreseeable future. So unless something extraordinary happens—like all the trendy bar hoppers deciding Williamsburg is passé and leaving us once again in peace—I won't be doing anything here for a while.