Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stuyvesant Heights Brownstone Saved

An interesting story from today's New York Times about Stuyvesant Heights where I wandered one day during the winter (and where I decided that winter walks weren't worth it):

See my blog entry from January 13:

It was a very nice neighborhood and should be looking nice right around now with the spring flowers and trees in bloom.

In this picture, which is the same one that appears in the Jan. 13 entry, I think the brownstone mentioned in the article is one of those first two or three in the background, framed in the crook of the tree.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


And . . . It's . . . About . . . Time!!!

Vernal equinox . . . 1:32 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

And as the sun was slipping across the celestial equator from south to north, I was slipping through a warm and sunny Brooklyn marveling at the soft curtain of green that is beginning to appear on the tree branches, the spring bulbs that had managed to shove their way up through the soul, and the flowering trees and bushes that had suddenly burst forth. YES!

Just some random shots from a walk to the library through Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights . . .

The tips of the branches just starting to bud . . .

I love watching day to day as the soft spring blur on the trees transforms itself into the green barrier of summer . . .

Because there are so many things the trees of summer are good at hiding . . .

Each year when I see the forsythia I take a deep breath because I know we've made it through once again . . .

Shorts and tees out of the closet . . .

But we all know there is only one absolutely and positively reliable signal of the coming of spring . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

As I Was Saying Last Night

And today turned out even nicer than Saturday and Sunday. And where was I? In an office, slogging through manuscripts, galleys, and what not. Oh, well. Back to Cooper Park, which I've been looking for an excuse to talk about since I discovered it last summer. The new building around there gives me my opening.

Cooper Park is tucked away at the far end of Williamsburg. To the east are the swamps of Maspeth, to the south is industrial Bushwick and to the north the BQE and a wedge of Greenpoint along Dutch Kills or Newtown Creek or whatever name it goes by. I can't say that no one knows about it, there is a project nearby and houses bordering the park and along Maspeth Avenue, and Metropolitan Avenue is nearby, but it's on the way to virtually nowhere so you would more or less have to know it was there to go there, or else stumble on it by chance as I did. To give you an example, a friend of mine said her boyfriend had lived within a few blocks of the park for several years, blissfully unaware of its existence.

I wanted to get the feel of the park here when it's at its prettiest so I am adding photos from last June, not from this past weekend. That's the view from Maspeth Avenue above. Below is a shot of the other side, Sharon Street, where the park is lined by small brick attached houses with a few faux Tudor touches, some of them almost smothered in foliage.

It's hard to believe, when you are strolling around the park, or sitting on a bench watching a soccer game, or the dogs in the dog run, or just reading a book, that Metropolitan Avenue is only a short block away.

But even here (et in Arcadia ego) there are some hints of breaches in the walls . . .

Now there is nothing at all exceptional about this row of small red brick dwellings except the way they all relate to each other and the park. It makes a very satisfying whole. But even these small intrusions are nothing after you look at the Maspeth Avenue and Olive Street corner of the park . . .

I have to admit that by the time I discovered Cooper Park that enormous building on the corner was already a fact on the ground so I don't know what it replaced. I always suspected it was something similar to the small brick apartment buildig to its left. If anyone knows or has a photo, I wouldn't mind knowing.

The street leading to the park from Metroplitan Avenue is called Orient Avenue and has what I like to think of as its own version of the Bates Motel.

It is just about time to call it a night once again, but I wanted to slip in a couple of map images here to give you an overview of Cooper Park and to show how close Maspeth Avenue, for example, is to Orient Avenue. Then I want to show you what Maspeth Avenue now looks like.

Looking down Maspeth toward it's intersection with Metropolitan Avenue at Bushwick Avenue.

Those trees at the far end are Cooper Park.

Colorful anyway.

The developers have already pushed themselves around the corner to one end of the park. Will they keep going; who's to stop them?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nice day, nice day

Nice day, nice day (that's one each for Saturday and Sunday); who could believe that only a week or so ago, this was Williamsburg local color (OK, I'm cheating a little, the bottom photo is Prospect Hts.):


And yesterday it was in the mid-50°s (!!) and I was walking around practically in shirtsleeves. And, a friend of mine reminded me that Daylight Savings Time begins next weekend. Cause to celebrate and get out in the sun like these folks wandering the sun-washed streets of Williamsburg . . .

Lately, when I walk around Williamsburg I have the feeling that I’ve stumbled onto a huge film set under construction (or maybe even abandoned) where the set designer was given the script for a few movies all jumbled together: Alphaville (make it big and sleek and silver), The Bird Cagetoo pastel, it’s Brooklyn, keep it sober), some early Fellini (lots of vacant land, dirt, no vegetation), with a little dash of Mon Oncle (sleek and silver and futuristic). Try to make it big, at least make it stand out, dominate the neighbors. (South Beachy but not

I was thinking a bit about this again lately because of a story I read last week in the New York Times that I may give a link to later on. It makes life interesting anyway; you don’t know from one week or month to another what’s going to shoot up around the corner or down the block.

I thought this weekend was a good opportunity to walk around and see what’s cooking. Not all these building are recent by any means but they’ll give you a pretty good idea of what’s been ‘abuilding in these parts; a Williamsburg architectural style, if there is one. I’ll try to suspend judgment on them if I can, though I don’t know how successful I’ll be. And it’s not that I particularly dislike many of them, but at times they do seem wildly out of place.

I don't want to be repetitive, either, but I may drop in several pictures of a building or street from different angles just to give a general idea of the street and put a particular building in perspective, like Skillman Avenue above, not untypical of the Italian section of east Williamsburg, mostly unpretentious two story row houses with a few taller ones thrown in here and there.

Five floors isn't exceptionally tall, but it does stand out among the others. Maybe it's that solid unrelieved black, unlike the one below of mellow red brick.

A block further on is Leonard Street, similar to Skillman in the types of houses . . .

Until you reach the end of the block at Conselyea St. . . .

Then back to Skillman Avenue . . .

Those are just a tad . . . imposing.

Now, to be fair, there is an old paint factory on the street that is also pretty large, though I didn't get that midtown Manhattan feel when I walked by; I didn't have the feeling of a cliff looming above me. Then again, maybe I'm not very objective about it.

Skillman Avenue near Graham Avenue. At least the colors match . . .

Before I head over toward Cooper Park there is one more image I have to put in here. I actually took this photo last June when I was wandering around there for the first time. I know I said that I would suspend judgment but for me this is the poster child for incongruity. It is on Humboldt Street between Frost and Withers Street.

Which is not to take away at all from the striking appearance of the building. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure but that of all the contemporary buildings dropped down into that neighborhood, this could be my favorite. It's just that where it is does no justice to either it or the block it's on.

Now as you get further north or east or whatever, you start to leave the cozy blocks of two story family homes. Kingsland Avenue, which comes to a screeching halt at Maspeth Avenue, is more commercial with a housing project nearby, and Maspeth Avenue itself, after it skirts Cooper Park, heads out into the industrial wasteland of factories and salvage yards along the Brooklyn-Queens border.

So, you could even say that these blocks add a welcome splash of color to otherwise drab surroundings . . .

But then there is Maspeth Avenue and Cooper Park. But I have to deal with that later because it is late. I hadn't intended to start this post tonight after switching the blog back here to the old host, but I did and now it's too late to finish. More later . . .

Not Migrating After All

It turns out that the blog host I intended to switch to was much less "user friendly" . . . at least for me . . . than this host. I decided that, in the end, it wasn't worth my trouble. I was spending too much time trying to format the posts when I should have been writing and uploading my images. I think it was great for someone who knows HTML well, but it wasn't for me.

I had hoped to get a post uploaded about the past weekend but it will have to wait a bit now. It's time to hit the sack.