Community

Hazardous Conditions Claimed by Rent Stabilized Greenpoint Tenants

97 – 99 Clay St. in Greenpoint

After 97 – 99 Clay St. was sold to developers in 2014, the 25 rent-stabilized tenants in the building reduced to five, following what current tenants claim has been a sustained effort by the new landlords to push them out through untenable demolition and construction conditions. “The first thing that happened is that they changed the locks on Christmas day and didn’t tell us,” said Gretchen, who wishes to withhold her last name and continues to live in a rent-stabilized studio at 97 Clay St. despite alleged harassment.”We live between a halfway house and two homeless shelters and there was no front door for two months,” she said adding that one of the other tenants is a wheel-chair bound senior citizen, making him especially vulnerable.

“They let everything get very run down and then started offering buyouts. They first offered me $4,000 and I said no.”

The new landlords originally planned to raze the building to make way for new construction, but with at least one tenant remaining in each of the buildings, the owners had to settle for renovations instead. Around February 2018, tenants say that demolition commenced and the living situation became increasingly hazardous. Complaints to the management company, Perfect Management, would simply result in a visit from the building’s super who tenants say has acted hostile toward their complaints. Perfect Management has not yet responded to Greenpointers.

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Rapid Change for Franklin Street Businesses

Manhattan Avenue isn’t the only Greenpoint shopping corridor experiencing a rapid change in its businesses. The stretch of Franklin Street from N. 15 Street to Commercial Street has seen a shakeup in the past year with the closings and openings of longtime and new businesses. Here’s the latest:

Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. (7 N. 15th St.) and Northern Territory (12 Franklin St.) share the same block that is soon-to-be-razed to make way for a new office building. Northern Territory is closed for the winter and will reopen for the final year at its current location this spring. Meanwhile, Greenpoint Beer celebrated its final night on New Year’s Eve at its current location and the owners are busy preparing their new 1150 Manhattan Ave. location for a tentative spring opening.

Just across the street from Northern Territory, the House of Vans (25 Franklin St.) concert venue and skate park opened in 2010 and closed last August with a goodbye set from NYC legends Interpol. The space is now on the market for $77,000 per month.

(Courtesy of House of Vans)
Shayz Lounge

Shayz Lounge (130 Franklin St.) announced on Thursday that January 20th will be the neighborhood bar’s final night of operation after spending a decade in Greenpoint on Franklin Street. Continue reading

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The Changing Face of Manhattan Avenue Stores

 

The former Manhattan Furrier in Greenpoint

Manhattan Avenue retail is in the midst of a rapid transition and very soon the avenue will be completely transformed into something totally different. Although there are some stores that have been on the avenue for my entire quarter-century in Greenpoint, a new breed of business is emerging, pushing out older established businesses and giving the avenue a new feel. As we reach the end of 2018, it is good to reflect on both what has remained unchanged, what has disappeared and what new businesses have taken root on the avenue.

There are a number of businesses that have deep roots, going back generations. Although the following list is not complete, Cato’s Army and Navy (654 Manhattan Ave.), Peter Pan Donut Shop (727 Manhattan Ave.), the Associated (802 Manhattan ave.) and C Town (953 Manhattan Ave.) supermarkets, McDonalds (904 Manhattan Ave.) and the Triple Decker (695 Manhattan Ave.) come immediately to mind as established institutions. Italy Pizza (788 Manhattan Ave.) and Russ’ Pizza (745 Manhattan Ave.) also have been serving great slices in the area for decades. Kiszka Meat Market (915 Manhattan ave.), Irene’s bar (623 Manhattan Ave.) and the Cafe Riviera (830 Manhattan ave.) are other examples of hardy Polish veterans that have changed little in the past 20 years.

The former Paris Shoe Store in Greenpoint

Then, there are those businesses that were once institutions but have vanished. I still miss Cheap Charlie’s (712 Manhattan Ave.) where you could buy just about anything. Gone are Radio Shack (760 Manhattan Ave.) and Off-Track Betting (756 Manhattan Ave.), which were once thriving businesses on the avenue. When I first walked down Manhattan Avenue Corwith Brothers, which had generations of real estate sales in Greenpoint was on the East side of the street and Trunz meat market was across the street from it. For years there was a very popular English language school, I believe called the Greenpoint English School and a popular Polish disco called Europa (now the Good Room) on the corner of Meserole. There seemed to be ubiquitous dollar stores, some of which still survive at least until the lease is up. There were actually very few chain stores and most of the businesses on the avenue were family-owned, mom and pop stores. The Joseph and Sons furniture store comes to mind as does Jam’s stationary, and the Paris Shoe Store. Continue reading

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Former Greenpoint Hospital Set for Redevelopment

Greenpoint Hospital main building (via Brooklyn Relics)

In a city critically short of both affordable housing and homeless shelters, the long-abandoned former Greenpoint hospital can help alleviate both severe shortages in North Brooklyn. Over a year ago, plans were finalized for the conversion of the site and soon the former hospital will serve the public in these critical areas. The Greenpoint Hospital served the community for 70 years and many locals were born in the hospital. Constructed of brick and limestone, the attractive main building includes elements of Romanesque Revival, Italianate and Neo-Classical architectural styles. After opening in 1914, the hospital closed in 1982 amidst much local anger.

In a plan that includes a new homeless shelter and affordable apartments for low-income residents, the Hudson Companies, St. Nicks Alliance, and Project Renewal were chosen by the city’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development to redevelop the former Greenpoint Hospital site at 288 Jackson Street.

Rendering of redeveloped Greenpoint Hospital (Magnusson Architecture and Planning)

Magnusson Architecture and Planning and the firm Architecture Outfit will jointly develop 512 new units of affordable housing that will be housed in four separate buildings. The development will include an attractive campus with 21,500 square feet of communal space with a resident lounge, dining facilities, and a workforce development center. Completion of the project will involve two phases. In the first phase, the existing 200-bed shelter at the site will be moved to the southern portion of the development site in a rehabbed building. The first phase will also include construction of a new building with 267 apartments.

The Greenpoint Hospital (Magnusson Architecture and Planning)

Phase two will redevelop the main hospital building, that will be converted to a senior home with 109 apartments. The building that houses the boiler will be demolished and a 136-unit apartment building is slated to replace it. 30 percent of the total apartments are reserved for the formerly homeless. Continue reading

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New Year, New Volunteer Opportunities in North Brooklyn

The Greenpoint Reformed Church (136 Milton St.)

With the end of the year approaching, you may be looking for ways to give back to the community during this holiday season. The local hunger-relief programs offer great opportunities to give back in North Brooklyn, either with a one-off session or on a weekly basis.

The Greenpoint Reformed Church Hunger Program serves dinner on Wednesdays and distributes groceries on Thursdays from 4-7 p.m. at 136 Milton St. View the upcoming schedule and volunteer here.

The hunger program is also currently hosting a crowdfunding campaign to provide essential hygiene products for young girls and women. The ‘fem-kits’ will be available at the food pantry and the campaign seeks to fund three months of supplies for 400 women.

The angel mobile serves up hot meals (photo via @brooklyncranksgiving)

The North Brooklyn Angels are a local nonprofit organization that started in the winter of 2016 and by the summer of 2017, launched the “Angelmobile,” a 40-foot mobile soup kitchen powered by volunteers, and started serving free meals on the streets of Brooklyn. NBA sends out bi-weekly emails with updates on the volunteer schedule. They also use social media (@northbrooklynangels) to post emergency volunteer opportunities. Signup for email updates here. Continue reading

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Learn About The Waterfront Zoning Process (12/18)

A public information session is being hosted by NYC Councilmember Stephen Levin regarding the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront zoning process this Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m., at the Dupont Senior Housing Center (80 Dupont St.).

Reps from the Department of City Planning and the Department of Parks and Recreation will be in attendance to answer questions on how water esplanades are designed and developed.

 

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Fish Fridays at Acme Fish

Acme smoked fish warehouse in Greenpoint at 30 Gem St.

On Friday mornings, especially during the holiday season, a long line of people magically appears Friday mornings at 30 Gem St, a typical industrial street of non-descript warehouses. You can observe a large diversity of people in the line and it is clear that many of the people in line are not locals. They wait stoically, even in the coldest weather, in lines that sometimes can include 50 or more customers.

There was something definitely fishy about the odor of smoked fish (pun intended) and this mysterious line of people so I had to check it out. What I learned is that the diverse group of people standing in the freezing weather had discovered the amazing open secret that is Acme Fish.

The rest of the week the Acme building functions as a long-established wholesale outlet selling smoked huge quantities of fish to some of New York’s finest shops, like Zebras and Barney Greengrass and to upscale restaurants. The legendary smokehouse at 30 Gem Street has been around for four generations; if Acme opened today the smokehouse would probably face huge licensing hurdles, but thankfully Acme predates smokehouse permits.

Although the business dates from 1954, about 25 years ago, Acme began opening its doors on Fridays to serve the general public at steeply discounted prices that range from 20 to 50 percent off the price of their products in retail stores. Acme does not advertise its Fish Fridays that run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but then again the business does not need to, as the line of customers outside the warehouse proves.

You wait in the nippy cold air impatiently, but finally, you reach the doors and enter. When you get inside the warehouse, you are aware that the temperature is still a brisk 45 degrees or so. The chilly temperatures are ideal for preserving the fish that you still cannot see. Then, at last, you pass through a plastic screen and finally spread out before you on wooden tables is a wondrous assortment of different kinds of fish, some pre-packaged, some fish in bottles and some smoked fish being sliced right in front of you. There is also an array of different kinds of fish: Salmon, white fish, herring and whiting, amongst others.

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Woordworking Is Greenpoint’s Oldest Craft

Saftuik furniture

The first Greenpointer was a woodworker: Norwegian immigrant, ship’s carpenter and master carpenter of the City of New Amsterdam, Dirck Volckertszen, built the first house here Near Franklin and Calyer Streets in 1645. Before settling locally, Volckertszen had often crossed the East River from Manhattan to cut local stands of timber used to build some of the first houses in New Amsterdam. Saftuik is a local woodworking shop that follows an old tradition in Greenpoint, but pioneers something new and socially responsible as well.

There is another connection between Volckertszen and Saftiuk- getting into trouble with the law. Volckertszen was often arrested and had multiple appearances in court; once for stabbing a man in the stomach in a bar brawl. He was also a reputed smuggler and might well have been a fugitive from European justice.

Saftuik furniture

Saftuik would warm the cockles of old Dirck’s heart because it trains formerly incarcerated people to create one-of-a kind- home furnishings from discarded wood and other reclaimed materials. Saftiuk is the brainchild of Sebastian Saftuik Paulson, who grew up in the very woodsy North of Michigan where he developed his talent for carpentry and a social conscience.

So how did Greenpoint get to be the woodworking capital of New York City anyway? It all goes back to wooden shipbuilding. In the 1850s, there were 12 shipyards that lined the East River waterfront, building clipper ships and schooners, as well as requiring tons of wood. Mountains of wood were floated into Greenpoint and the waterfront resounded all day long with the sounds of wood saws and hammers. Naturally, lumberyards became important businesses. Continue reading

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The Greenpointer Who Became a Taxidermy Legend

 

Brooklyn Taxidermy on Morgan Avenue

Greenpoint does not seem like a very likely place to have a tradition of taxidermy, but this is an area that is always full of surprises and it turns out that Greenpoint made a major contribution to taxidermy.

Taxidermy is defined as the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form. One of the finest practitioners of this art is Amber Maykut of Brooklyn Taxidermy (681 Morgan Avenue). Amber took lessons from George Dante and John Bollman, taxidermists for NYC’s American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.

At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Amber interned in the special exhibitions/fabrication department and studied the art of the diorama under Tom Doncourt. She also became certified in bird and mammal taxidermy. Brooklyn Taxidermy has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The LA Times, VICE Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Time Out NY, and many other publications, but Amber is neither the first nor the most famous, local taxidermist.

Greenpoint’s legendary taxidermist John Rowley created many of the great dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History and wrote two of the most important texts about Taxidermy.

I came across Rowley’s story in an old edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Old Timers Recollection series in which Greenpointer Alfred Preston in February of 1940 recalled growing up with Rowley. Information on Rowley’s youth in Greenpoint is sketchy, but it appears he was born in 1862 and was largely self-educated.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle – 02/18/1940

Taxidermy began to establish itself as a science and art form in the 1880s just as Rowley was reaching adulthood and New York’s American Museum of Natural History was being founded. One can surmise that he visited the museum, which first opened in 1871, as a boy and like millions of other children, was fascinated by the animals he saw there, but the state of taxidermy was primitive then. Animals were simply stuffed and they were not exhibited in the lifelike dioramas that have enthralled millions of visitors for decades, so creating realistic dioramas was one of the important early tasks of the museum. Continue reading

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Anella’s Triumphant Reopening Was a Communal Effort

Anella’s new interior

After Anella (222 Franklin St.) closed following a fire last summer, owner Blair Papagni made sure that her staff would land new jobs while the chaos of the situation settled.”The fire happened on a Saturday, the day after the fire, me, my two managers and my chef, we all went out to brunch, and we first and foremost made a list of every person that worked for us and where we thought we could employ them,” Papgani said. “And then we had a staff meeting a few days later and it was sorta like a job fair.” Anella reopened with much of its original staff in November following months of rebuilding.

Anella, after the fire. Photo: Megan Penmann
Anella, after the fire. Photo: Megan Penmann

Papagni signed a lease for Anella in December 2008, and attributes the restaurants’ staying power in part to her landlord. “I think that the experience of a lot of people, unfortunately, is that they have terrible landlords, and I actually have a really good relationship with my landlord and he’s made it possible that Anella will be able to be there for a really long time,” she said.

When it came to redesigning the fire-damaged restaurant, Papagni found a rare opportunity to reflect on what Anella’s strong points were. “I think that our mantra with reopening was to use the fire as an opportunity to fix things that maybe weren’t working so well for us and embrace the things that were,” she said.

Anella’s new interior

In a city where the restaurant industry is especially competitive, many dining establishments operate as turnover machines while treating their employees as disposable. Papagni takes great pride in the fact that Anella employees tend to stick with the business on a more longterm basis: “Our two managers that are on right now have been with me for seven years. My Chef, Mayo is his name, he started at Anella as the dishwasher when we opened in 2009, and he’s worked every position in the kitchen, and he worked his way up to chef,” she said Continue reading

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