Culture

“Bath Haus” Renderings of the Under Construction Huron Street Bathhouse

The Bathaus (courtesy of Perkins Eastman)

Sales have officially launched along with the release of new renderings of the”Bath Haus” condo development by Caro Enterprises. The luxury development is currently under construction at 139 Huron St. with 9 units hitting the market ranging in price from $750,000 to $3,300,000. The architectural firm Perkins Eastman is behind the redesign and have a global portfolio spanning the Hilton Lagos in Nigeria and the Abu Dhabi Court Complex in the UAE.

139 Huron St. in 1940 (Courtesy of NYC tax photo archives)

A state mandate in 1895 required the construction of public baths in cities with more than 50,000 residents. The city’s poor were previously given access to floating baths off the shores of the East River, but they fell out of favor due to unsanitary pollution.

Greenpoint’s former Huron Street Bathhouse was built 1903, opened 1904 and closed 1960, it’s completion was a result of the City Beautiful Movement, which inspired ‘beautiful’ public architecture and increased municipal amenities to improve the living conditions of the city’s poorest residents.

The Bathaus (courtesy of Perkins Eastman)

25 baths were built in the Classical Revival Style around NYC with seven constructed in Brooklyn. All were based on the baths of ancient Rome. Continue reading

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Greenery Unlimited Pushes Botanic Design to New Heights

There was no trace of the blustery snow falling outside of the new bountiful, tropical-feeling retail space of Greenery NYC, a Greenpoint-based botanic design company whose first brick and mortar store, Greenery Unlimited, celebrated its grand opening last week at 91 West St. near the entrance to Transmitter Park.

Outside Greenery Unlimited

Owners Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer based Greenery Unlimited on the concept of the beneficial interaction between humans and plants known as Biophilia. The space is overflowing with plants, and the store’s setup allows for the discovery of charming nooks accented by greenery, despite the geometric shape of the floor.

Inside Greenery Unlimited

Greenery Unlimited’s sister company Greenery NYC (195 Dupont St.) has been around for approximately nine years, offering large scale design, installation and maintenance services mostly for interior gardens. The online store opened three years ago shipping plants nationwide and delivering large plants in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The retail space features plant installations built into and on top of the walls and store fixtures, fed with automatic drip irrigation, grow lights and natural sunlight, along with a mist machine that sprays a relaxing fog of water droplets to the leaves below.

A green wall behind the office/desk space

“We really want to set people up for success and make sure that what we’re installing is reasonable,” employee Madeline Sachs said. “Even though it is automatic, there’s irrigation involved; there’s still maintenance, and I think it happens more often in office spaces where people get to enjoy it,” she said explaining that the green wall installation near the desk area in the store is more common for office settings than for residential.

Custom designed plant installation at Greenery Unlimited

A custom designed plant installation is displayed in one of the front windows of the space with an industrial aesthetic and wooden planter boxes, similar in design to the Etsy office installation. For customers seeking something smaller in scale, Greenery Unlimited’s stock spans all budgets;  a baby ponytail palm tree costs $30 while a full-grown version sells for $1300 without a planter.

The large ponytail palm tree for sale at Greenery Unlimited

“We really want anyone to be able to walk in and buy a plant; anything from a little tiny fern to this large ponytail,” Sachs said. “The problem in New York is people struggle with light in their apartments,” she said, adding that beginner plants that require minimal maintenance are a wise choice for people just starting out with plant care.

Greenery Unlimited is open Wed.- Sat. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and by appointment Mon. – Tue.

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Will Eisner: Williamsburg’s Father of The Graphic Novel and Legendary Comic Artist

Will Eisner at the 2004 San Diego Comic Con. (Photograph by Patty Mooney)

North Brooklyn has produced a slew of creative geniuses in many fields, but Will Eisner created a new genre of art. A gifted and innovative comic artist, Eisner was the first to realize that comics were literature, and the first to coin the term ‘graphic novel.’ Wizard magazine named Eisner “the most influential comic artist of all time” and one of the comic industry’s most prestigious awards, The Eisner Award, is named after him.

Recognized as the ‘Oscars’ of the American comic book business, the Eisners are presented annually before a packed ballroom at Comic-Con International in San Diego, America’s largest comics convention. In a career that spanned nearly 70 years and eight decades — from the dawn of the comic book to the advent of digital comics, Eisner truly dominated his field and by the end of his life had become a living legend. He broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics and was the creator of such famous comics as “The Spirit,” “John Law,” “Lady Luck,” “Mr. Mystic,” “Uncle Sam,” “Blackhawk,” “Sheena” and countless others.

His innovative storytelling, layouts, and drawings in his newspaper series “The Spirit” inspired a generation of cartoonists, and his creation of a heralded series of graphic novels, beginning in 1978 with “A Contract with God,” helped create the form. Like many other Williamsburg creative geniuses, Eisner was born into a poor Eastern European Jewish family. His boyhood was full of struggles on many fronts. Eisner was born on the Southside in 1917. His family, like many other local families, had crossed the Williamsburg Bridge in hopes of finding a better life in Brooklyn than in the crowded Manhattan tenements.

Young Eisner was subject both to bullying and to anti-semitic taunting as a boy. Eisner became addicted to pulp fiction magazines and film, even avant-garde films. To his mother’s disappointment, Eisner inherited his father’s love of art, and his father encouraged him by buying him art supplies. Eisner’s mother was angry about their impoverished circumstances and frequently berated his father for not providing the family a more comfortable life, as he went from one job to another. The family experienced particularly hard times during the Great Depression and In 1930, the family situation was so desperate that Eisner’s mother insisted that the 13-year-old Eisner work. Eisner began selling newspapers on street corners, but again became the victim of bullies who wanted to take the best corners for themselves.

High school helped him find his talent. Eisner attended DeWitt Clinton High School where he drew for the school newspaper (The Clintonian), the literary magazine and the yearbook, and did stage design, leading him to a career as an artist. After graduation, he studied under Canadian artist George Brandt Bridgman for a year at the Art Students League of New York, which led him to a position as an advertising writer-cartoonist for the New York American newspaper. Eisner also drew $10-a-page illustrations for pulp magazines, including “Western Sheriffs and Outlaws.”

In 1936, high-school friend and fellow cartoonist Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, suggested that the 19-year-old Eisner try selling cartoons to the new comic book “Wow, What A Magazine!” Wow Editor Jerry Iger published an Eisner comic strip called “Captain Scott Dalton,” a hero who traveled the world after rare artifacts. Eisner subsequently wrote and drew the pirate strip “The Flame” and the secret agent strip “Harry Karry” for Wow as well.

Wow folded and Iger and Eisner formed a partnership, producing and selling original comics material, which were in short supply because the depression killed so many magazines. Their partnership prospered and by age 22 Eisner had made a considerable fortune.

In 1939, Eisner wrote and drew the first issue of Wonder comics with a hero who was similar to Superman. The following year a newspaper syndicate approached him about creating comics for newspapers that would appear across the country. Eisner accepted the offer and reluctantly broke up his partnership with Iger. His syndicated creation, “The Spirit,” became a major success that lasted until the 1950s. In 1971, Eisner was inducted into the Comics Hall of Fame, but he still had other achievements to realize. In the late 70s, Eisner brought out the first of many graphic novels. Although he was a rich man and had no need to earn money teaching, Eisner began teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he published Will Eisner’s Gallery, a collection of work by his students and wrote two books based on these lectures, “Comics and Sequential Art” and “Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative,” which are still widely used by students of cartooning.

In 2005, Eisner passed away. One of his fellow comic artists, Scott McCloud, the author of “Understanding Comics” summarized what many other comic artists and fans felt about the boy from Williamsburg stating, “Will Eisner is the heart and mind of American comics.”

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Williamsburg’s Forgotten Great Abolitionist Editor: Willis Hodges

(The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, 1891)

Last week I spoke about Brooklyn’s great poet Walt Whitman who served as the editor of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Daily News in the late 1850s, but I also mentioned the name of another important Williamsburg newspaper editor whom few in the audience had ever heard of. With the 200th birthday of Whitman approaching in May, Brooklynites are celebrating the author of “Leaves of Grass” and the one-time editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle , however, African-American editor and abolitionist Willis Hodges was an equally amazing character whose life and unique achievements deserve recognition.

If it were not true, Willis Hodges’ amazing life would seem contrived. Born free to unenslaved African-American parents in Virginia in 1815, Hodges learned to read and write at a time when many whites were illiterate and only a handful of African-Americans could read and write. The family prospered, living on a huge farm, but Nat Turner’s rebellion cast a shadow over the Hodges family when his older brother was falsely accused of and imprisoned for abetting Tuner in his slave revolt. Hodges’ older brother escaped the jail and headed to Canada, so When Incensed whites took vengeance on Hodges’ family, nearly blinding his mother and killing all the family livestock, Hodges knew he had to leave Virginia.

Willis arrived in Williamsburg in 1836. He soon bought land, becoming a deacon in a local black church and also one of the founders of Colored School #2 in Williamsburg where black children were taught to read and write. Willis also quickly joined the local abolitionist movement and became a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: 8/11/1864

Angered by a pro-slavery editorial in a New York newspaper, Hodges paid to print a rebuttal, but his article was stuck in the back of the paper where no one would see it. When he confronted the publisher, the man told Hodges to start his own newspaper which he did, starting publishing the weekly Ram’s Horn in 1840, which features articles by Fredrick Douglass and John Brown, the future leader of the unsuccessful attack on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal. Douglass urged Hodges to “blow away” on his horn, predicting that its “wild, rough, uncultivated notes may grate on the ear of the refined,” but would “be pleasurable to the slave, and terrible to the slaveholder.” Continue reading

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A Fruit Salad More Than a Decade in the Making

Mr. Berry in Greenpoint (via Google Maps)

His first day in Brooklyn, Joon Yoon was baptized in true New York City fashion—with bird poop. While others would consider this an ill omen, Joon saw his unexpected baptism as a harbinger of success. “Some people say it is good luck if you get pooped on,” he explained matter-of-factly over email.

His optimism was warranted. More than two decades since his 1997 arrival in New York from South Korea, Yoon—along with his brother, Jun Yoon—now manages a small green-grocery empire. The brothers own 11 stores (including two in Greenpoint), all of which are a gentlemanly variation on the original store’s name, Mr. Kiwi at 957 Broadway in Brooklyn. They have even expanded into Queens, opening Mr. Avo this year in Long Island City.

Although now bonafide American entrepreneurs, the Yoons originally lived in a provincial capital of middling size in South Korea. Rootless and with financial difficulties, they moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, knowing no one in the New York area. When Joon first arrived at age 23, he began working in grocery stores from the Bronx to Queens at an exhausting pace—seven days a week at 14 to 18 hours a day.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

In 2006, he was faced with a choice. The Woodside grocery he worked at was closing, soon leaving him without work. Joon and his family decided to take a leap and open Mr. Kiwi, the idiosyncratic name chosen spontaneously during a road trip. In the beginning, it was hard to gain traction. “They didn’t come with a lot of money or anything… When you don’t have money, there is no one who will give you money. So, they had to start with very little product in the store. Literally, maybe a one-item-per-shelf situation,” explained Jae Lim, their office manager, over the phone.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

The brother-and-father team operated the store 24 hours a day, working in shifts. Junseok Yoon, their cousin, came soon after and became an integral part of the operation. Customers appreciated the cheap produce—sourced from Hunts Point Market—and generous portions from their juice bar, detailed Lim.

13 years later, one store became 11. And Mr. Kiwi was joined by Mr. Coco, Mr. Piña, Mr. Melon, Mr. Lime, Mr. Berry, Mr. Mango, Mr. Lemon, Mr. Plum, and Mr. Avo. The Yoon family has even recently opened a salad bar in Bushwick. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Director Dina Vovsi

Dina Vovsi

When we discuss the art scene in Greenpoint, we often focus on the Pencil Factory’s many inhabitants or the other visual artists working out of their studios, homes, and even in our neighborhood parks. But North Brooklyn has always been teeming with artists of many different stripes, including versatile theatermakers like director Dina Vovsi. Dina has worked in collegiate and Off-Broadway theaters, crafted plays centering on immigrant experiences, and created immersive experiences in outdoor settings. Below, we get to know the Greenpoint-based director while discussing her career, the importance of affordable housing, and — of course — her dog Bruce.

Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Greenpoint, and what brought you here? 

Dina Vovsi: I’ve lived in Greenpoint for about two and a half years. Before moving here, my partner and I were in Kensington for a year, and before that, I lived in Williamsburg for six years, so I’ve spent a lot of time in North Brooklyn. I am super lucky — my name was drawn in the affordable housing lottery for an apartment in a brand-new, mixed-income building, which has made being an artist significantly more possible over the past couple of years. It’s been a financial game-changer, and I can’t stress enough how everyone needs to be submitting for these buildings on NYC Housing Connect; I know quite a few people who have been selected recently, so it’s really not as impossible as legend says. We live in the quieter, north end of the neighborhood, and I love being near the water and walking our dog, Bruce, to Transmitter Park and Greenpoint Landing. More people know his name than mine, which I’m totally fine with. Continue reading

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The Unlikley Story Behind Williamsburg’s Washington Statue

(Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives)

These last bone-chilling, frigid days have been hard to bear, but these freezing days have reminded me of the horrible cold the Continental Army endured during the darkest moments of the revolution and of a unique local statue that captures Washington’s suffering during that freezing winter. Situated in Continental Army Plaza, right near Roebling Street’s entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, the Equestrian Statue of George Washington at Valley Forge is decidedly the most impressive piece of public sculpture in North Brooklyn. Perhaps the only thing that can rival the awe the statue inspires is the incredible story of how an honest politician (that rare breed indeed) gifted it to the city.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives

The statue was dedicated in 1906, and presented to the City by local Congressman James R. Howe and the Committee of Supervision and Construction. It was sculpted by Henry Mervin Shrady, a New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, who was commissioned to make his first major public work after winning a design competition in 1901. The huge statue was cast at Roman Bronze Works on Green Street in our area and is anchored to a granite base designed by Lord and Hewlett.

Image courtesy of Ephemeral New York

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Lucas Lucas to Present New Birth-Inspired Exhibit, “Magna Chroma”

by Darcy Lauren Briks

Lucas Lucas (57 Conselyea Street) will soon present Magna Chroma, the first solo show by Darcy Lauren Briks. The new exhibit opens Feb 21 and will be in the East Williamsburg gallery’s space through March 23.

The body of work began after the birth of Briks’ first child and completed after her second was born. Each piece is born from an intentional meditation; each an abstract exploration of a current issue, whether personal, political or global. Often reflecting on global or political overarching themes, Briks — who attended Mass Art post graduate before embarking on a career in graphic design and ultimately launching her own agency — found an entire new breadth of inspiration in marriage and motherhood.

Although Briks does not intend on forcing anything onto the viewer she conscientiously aims to set a positive spin on the subject, no matter how daring the subject of her meditation.

“I’m excited to see these works, my largest and boldest to date, displayed in the gallery together and look forward to the viewer interpreting their own objective feelings from the abstract shapes and color combinations, especially the pairs in the Magna Series,” Briks said.

The show is curated by Stacie Lucas. Lucas Lucas is located right off the Lorimer L/Metropolitan G stop in Williamsburg and operates by walk-in and appointment. All work will be available to purchase online here starting February 21.

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Dance Along With Kendra Morris and Love Always at Greenpointers Vintage Rose Valentine’s Market (2/10)

The musical guests are sure to warm your heart and liven up your soul at the Greenpointers Vintage Rose Valentine’s Market this Sunday, February 10 from 1-7pm.

Super fun Brooklyn-based supergroup Love Always crafts sunny musical vibes with Jamaican/roots, rocksteady, reggae and lovers rock influences.

Love Always will perform two sets on Sunday at 2pm and 3pm.

Patricia Verdolino (vocals), Michael O’Connor (guitar), and Andy Shaw (bass) are original members of 90s Ska band Metro Stylee. Shaw also plays bass in the popular Brooklyn band Bikini Carwash, while drummer Ron Salvo plays with .357 Lover and keyboardist Jeannie Oliver played in Si Se. Checkout a clip from their performance at our Polar Vortex Holiday Market last December.

Kendra Morris (Credit: Taylor Ballantyne)

With powerful vocals and a passion for 60s and 70s funk and soul developed through her parents’ record collection Kendra Morris began recording songs by herself in the closet of her bushwick loft.

Morris released the album Banshee (2012) on Wax Poetics Records and in 2013 returned with the covers album Mockingbird. She released new music in 2018 with her first single “Nothing” off of an upcoming record and the second single “Playing Games” following close behind in April 2018 along with a Greg Nice of Nice & Smooth on the Break Up Mix and her cover “Virgin” with DâM-FunK playing shoulder synth on the breakdown.

Kendra Morris takes the stage with her band at 4pm.

 

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St. Amour Jazz Collective Brings Unique Vibrancy to FourFiveSix

St. Amour Jazz Collective by Gabi Light

If I could spend the next six weeks of winter in one spot, it would be tucked in a cozy corner of FourFiveSix (199 Richardson Street) surrounded by the eclectic decor and art, absorbing the rhythmic musical stylings of the St. Amour Jazz Collective. On Sunday evening, the collective performed at the popular neighborhood jazz bar, offering a carefree alternative to Super Bowl festivities.

The St. Amour Jazz Collective features Jim St. Amour on the vibraphone, Luke Markham on drums, and Alex Heigl on bass guitar. It’s St. Amour’s passion project: a percussionist of 35 years, he made a natural transition to the vibraphone to start composing his own works.

“As a composer, I am inspired by the drum n’ bass and neo-soul genres of music. The vibraphone is a beautiful instrument, and its range and percussive tonal characteristics really fit nicely with the harmony and melody of both styles of music,” St. Amour said. He integrated the drums and bass guitar into his compositions, thus shaping the group’s unique sound.

Markham has been a drummer for 19 years. He is well-versed in various genres and plays with a number of groups. When he plays, the drumsticks seem like extensions of his own arms. Both he and St. Amour also teach. Heigl was 15 when he started on the bass guitar. His initial genre was punk before classically training with a jazz bassist soon after. This was the groundwork for his success as an independent bassist. As a group, this trio feeds off each other’s energy, talent, and love of music in an authentic way that makes for a spirited and contemporary live performance.

by Gabi Light

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