Monday, June 27, 2011

Going . . . going . . .

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 Mod
erne 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.