Monday, December 27, 2010

Scenes from a blizzard

Bedford Ave. and Grand St.

Pretty snowy out there today. A lot of streets in our part of Williamsburg (the Northside) had not been touched by midday.

Bedford Ave. Grand St. to Metropolitan Ave.

Not just the side streets but Driggs Avenue, a major thoroughfare and the route of the B62 bus from Queens Plaza to downtown Brooklyn, had not seen a plow at all.

Driggs Ave. near North 5th St.

But I saw that a bus had broken down during the storm and had been abandoned on Driggs Ave. near North 9th St., so a plow couldn't have gotten through anyway until the bus was towed away.

Driggs Ave. near North 8th St.

Actually it was sort of fun if you were walking and were dressed for it. There were lots of places where the sidewalks hadn't been cleared; mostly on the side streets and over on Driggs.

Bedford Av. at North 3rd St.

The walks on Bedford were pretty good. But even where most of the sidewalk was clear, the corners were generally impassable so many people were sticking to the middle of the street.

North 4th St. at Bedford Ave.

Whenever I saw cars coming down Bedford or across Grand Street or Metropolitan Ave., I thought of that World War II slogan from England: Is Your Trip Necessary?

North 5th St. at Bedford Ave.

Maybe some people had a good reason to be out on the road but I think there were people out driving for the sake of driving or at least not for a really urgent reason.

Bedford Ave. bet. North 5th & 6th Sts.

It didn't make a lot of sense because you'd never know whether a road you needed to take would be open or not.

Bedford Ave. near North 1st St.

The owner of our Local bakery, La Villita, played it safe and walked over from his home with his son, and I think they live over in Ridgewood or close to it, so that was a pretty good trek.

Bedford Ave. and Grand St.

Driggs Ave. near North 5th St.

And even a blizzard couldn't keep some kids away from a playground.

Grand St. near Berry St.

And I'm glad I'm not the one who has to dig out cars like this one.

Grand St. near Wythe Ave.

Driggs Ave. bet. North 7th & 8th Sts.

Driggs Ave. at Metropolitan Ave.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yup . . . Closed

Yes, I was right. HSBC did close the branch at Broadway and Driggs Avenue. The flashy new branch in the trendy Northside has replaced it.

I also satisfied myself that the bank has been landmarked, both interior and exterior, which does make sense.

I glanced at some of the signage guidelines that the Landmarks Preservation Commission provides and HSBC could get away with those garish signs as long as they did not permanently mar the building itself.

So, it can't be demolished and even on the inside, attention must be paid!

I just hope to hell it doesn't stand derelict. As a matter of fact, that could be an interesting few blocks there along Broadway, as there are several other landmarked buildings nearby and some nice older buildings that have no chance of being landmarked but help with the general atmosphere.

Monday, December 13, 2010

HSBC Does the Right Thing

Only, I'm not sure they did it because it was right or because it was just expedient or convenient.

(I am almost back in business. I have a new PC but too many of my old photos are on the old PC. A friend said he could probably rescue them, so I am hopeful.)

I don't keep track of bank mergers and acquisitions so I don't know when it happened, but at some point the Williamsburgh Savings Bank became part of HSBC. And HSBC at that point did what all banks do under the circumstances and obliterated any evidence of the former bank's existence.

That's not a big deal if you're taking over branches that have been built only in the last ten or twenty or thirty or whatever years. Modern branches in modern buildings. A bright new logo replaces a bright old logo and no one can tell the difference.

But it's different if the building was thrown up at the end of the 19th century as was the original headquarters of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

I would have thought that with all the photos I have been taking around Brooklyn, and especially around Williamsburg, I would have a lot of this bank at Driggs Ave. and Broadway. And I think I do . . . on the conked out hard drive of the old computer. Still, I was able to drag up the photos here from various dates from another source.

Since that was the way the bank looked when I first moved over here, I must have assumed they just threw up those red and white signs wherever it seemed convenient: over doors, over windows, on windows, on the roof, wherever.

Now, that's no way to treat a beautiful building. I always thought that if they cared, they could have found a way to keep their name on the bank without vandalizing it, which is close to what it amounted to in my mind. But that would have taken more time and thought than they may have wanted to give to it.

This past Saturday on my regular weekly trek to the library at Grand Army Plaza, I walked past the bank and thought that something was wrong, a bit off. It turned out that something was right but it took me a few moments to realize what had happened.

All the garish HSBC signs had been removed and the building was back to as close as it could be to the time it was built, barring a good scrub.

Although, the building itself really isn't that dirty. It may not gleam the way it did originally, but it ain't bad. But if a local philanthropist wanted to underwrite a good cleaning, it would be a great contribution toward making life in Williamsburg just that much more pleasant.

And I do hope they plan to get rid of the iron frame in front of the dome. A dome that always seemed to me to be a kind of riff on the Duomo in Florence.

I have no idea whether the building has been landmarked; it would surprise me if it hasn't been. But if it hasn't been, it could see even worse if HSBC gets rid of it. If they plan to stay there, why remove the signage? Thinking about it, if they were able to erect all those HSBC signs, maybe the building isn't landmarked.

It truly is a remarkable building.

But it has a deserted and abandoned look about it now, especially at night. In some other city, this building would be floodlighted and and a use would be found for it that would make the most of its special qualities; the light below is from the high intensity street lamp, around front it's black as pitch. In Brooklyn, circa 2011, some lean and hungry developer probably has his eye on it even now wondering how many floors he can get away with in a nice green glass and steel box in that location.

One clue could be the new HSBC branch just dropped into the Northside, next door to the infamous Duane-Reade, at North 3rd street and Bedford Ave. At first I thought this was a small branch but it could well be replacing Broadway and Driggs. Strange to close it, when other banks are opening out on Broadway.

I took the not-so-hot nighttime shot below several weeks ago before the HSBC signs were completed. It's giving us a further taste of midtown Manhattan with its bright lights-big city air.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Forget Duane-Reade . . .

. . . You know that you're just an ordinary neighborhood after all when the nail salons begin moving in. Haha!

That's down near the L train station on Bedford Ave. Not a great picture but I took it on a whim one evening walking home. Same with the shot below.

The now notorious Duane-Reade up on Bedford Ave. near North 3rd Street that opened last week.

As usual, the New York Times aims to put it all in perspective for you . . .

Williamsburg and the Chain Stores

Some random thoughts:

I am not a big Duane-Reade fan at all. There's nothing wrong with their products except that they're usually a little more "white bread" than I like. What annoys the hell out of me is that they aim to monopolize the drug store business in New York City.

It's like the old Model T, you could have any color car you wanted . . . as long as it was black.

You can go to any drug store you want, no one is stopping you . . . as long as it's a Duane-Reade.

There is a Duane-Reade three blocks away on Kent Avenue. People need a D-R on each corner?

Also, I like Anthony at King's; he's a nice, friendly guy who makes you feel like you're really appreciated as a customer.

Yes, we could use another supermarket in the neighborhood to balance C-Town and Tops, but Food Emporium is hardly the low cost chain I would welcome. Instead of two pricey supermarkets, we would have three.

We're only a couple of stops from Union Square on the L. Food Emporium, Trader Joes, Whole Food, Garden of Eden, and scads of other places. Nor are we that far from all the stores of Greenpoint and the Greenmarket in McCarren Park, so we don't lack for variety, just variety right around the corner.

Now let me go and check out that Facebook page!

The Boycott Duane-Reade Facebook page is interesting because there is a lot of give and take there about those wanting to boycott Duane-Reade maybe being not a hell of a lot better than anyone else; wanting to keep the high end little food shops and boutiques, and having displaced the old neighborhood residents and caused higher rents just as newcomers are supposed to be doing now.

It reminds me about all the brouhaha over Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village going co-op and pushing the longtime middle class renters out in favor of the newly rich who can afford higher prices; but no one remembers that ST-PCV themselves displaced a lot of lower-income people when blocks of housing were condemned and demolished to make room for the middle class renters.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Lately, I've been feeling a bit like Old Mr. Grace; I don't get around much anymore. Between my plantar fasciitis (it wasn't a bone spur after all), which is improving with the new sneakers I bought, and the, apparently irremediable, breakdown of my PC, my blog hasn't been doing too well lately.

A lot of photos are stuck on the hard drive of the PC. I hope I can rescue them when I get the new PC but that remains to be seen.

At least I didn't have to walk too far to watch the marathon pass through Williamsburg, just a block. And I was able to download some photos and videos to a friend's laptop, burn them to a CD, and take them to my office Mac to upload at lunchtime. A roundabout way of doing things but better than nothing.

So here are some random photos and videos of the NYC Marathon as it passed Grand Street and Bedford Avenue yesterday morning. I think my friend with the laptop took much better photos (he has a much better camera) that I may add later.

That bakery in the background of the video (and the top photo), La Villita, is the best little bakery in the neighborhood, owned and operated by a bunch of wonderful people.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just to keep my hand in

A cute Brooklyn story that only requires a link, not anything from my computer:

The Diva's Ashes

Wednesday, October 6, 2010



A blog already plagued by fits and starts because of the laziness of blogger may have just received something akin to a death blow: my PC stopped working last week. Right now, I have no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it and I don’t foresee continuing this blog for some time since all of my photos are on the PC.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stalled in Fort Greeneton Hill

Before I dredge up a few more summer memories and continue my walk to Bay Ridge . . . that vegetative church tower in Bed-Stuy prompted me to keep my eyes peeled for more of the same and, sure enough, I found another one nearby here in Williamsburg,

North 6th St, between Driggs and Bedford Aves.

This is, or was, the Church of St. Vincent de Paul on North 6th Street in Williamsburg, but I don't know for how long.

The front of the church is already blocked off with scaffolding and wire fencing and the omens do not appear favorable. Maybe the congregation is just preparing to repair the church fabric but this being what you might call ground zero of the glass box co-op building, it seems more likely that another old church will make the ultimate sacrifice that the trenderatti might live and prosper. But I hope not; maybe they can find another income-producing use for it.

So where was I a few weeks ago? Wandering Clinton Hill, I guess.

I don't generally take a lot of pictures in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene despite being through there so much. Sometimes I think the place is so damn picturesque that I just want to buy some postcards and have done with it. If I started taking pictures I'd never stop, there would always be "just one more." And even though they are two separate neighborhoods and had separate histories, today they really form one large super historic and photogenic neighborhood . . . Fort Greeneton Hill or something.

These photos were not all taken on the day of the walk to Bay Ridge but over the course of the spring and summer from late May through July.

Washington Ave. near Greene Ave.

You could spend a lot of time going through Clinton Hill and taking note of all the different styles of architecture from different periods and matching different houses with various well-known capitalists from Brooklyn's past who lived in them, but that's more than I want to take on at the moment. I just enjoy walking through the area and looking.

Washington Ave. near Greene Ave.

Clifton Place at St. James Place; Adelphi Academy

Adelphi Academy was founded by Charles Pratt who also founded Pratt Institute.

Clifton Place at St. James Place

It is now part of Pratt Institute.

Clifton Place at St. James Place

I didn't quite get Clifton Place included on the map below. Toward the bottom right, just off St. James Place you can see a capital C, that's Clifton Place; what looks like a large, gray capital I on that corner is the Adelphi Academy.

Another college in that neighborhood is St. Joseph's, centered on Clinton Ave. The following buildings don't all belong to St. Joseph's (one belongs to Pratt) but they are all part of a fairly cohesive few blocks from, maybe, Myrtle Ave. to Lafayette Ave. (And beyond; after crossing Lafayette going toward Fulton St. the homes are equally attractive, I just don't happen to have any photos handy to drop in here.) Most of these are between Willoughby and DeKalb Avenues.

Part of St. Joseph's College

Part of Pratt

This one,
I think, is the residence of the bishop of Brooklyn (Rom. Cath.)

Those above belong to Pratt Institute.

This little beauty (
below) is around the corner at Vanderbilt Ave. and Lafayette Ave.

Paul Robeson Theater, Greene Ave. bet. Adelphi St. & Carlton Ave.

Paul Robeson Theater, Greene Ave. bet. Adelphi St. & Carlton Ave.

Some other older frame houses . . . when the living was easy . . .

South Oxford St. bet. Fulton St. & Atlantic Ave.

Cumberland St. bet. Lafayette Ave. and Greene Ave.

Cumberland St. bet. Lafayette Ave. and Greene Ave.

Adelphi St. bet. Lafayette Ave. & Greene Ave.

Lafayette Ave. bet. Adelphi St. & Clermont Ave.

And to end for tonight . . .

Clermont Ave. bet. De Kalb Ave. & Willoughby Ave.

Clermont Ave. bet. De Kalb Ave. & Willoughby Ave.

Willoughby Ave. bet. Clermont Ave. & Vanderbilt Ave.

And to all a good night!