A lot of local history is quickly disappearing, but one place that is holding strong is Brooklyn Label (180 Franklin St.) and the historic building it calls home. French Greenpointer Robert Arbor, proprietor of Le Gamin (108 Franklin St.) re-opened Brooklyn Label in the historic Astral Building. The former management did little to recognize the amazing history of the space, something that Arbor has dedicated himself to changing.
The Astral Apartments are not only landmarked, but the building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Arbor and his manager, Alex Russell, are determined to honor the building’s rich history and its patron philanthropist Charles Pratt, the oil baron and the richest man in 19th century Brooklyn.
Completed in 1883, the Astral Apartments were unique in their day: Unlike the flimsy tenement buildings that sprang up all around the city without basic amenities, the Astral was a kind of gift to the Greenpoint community and a solidly built showcase.
In contrast to tenements, Pratt’s building had plenty of natural light, air and even indoor plumbing, unheard of luxuries for most tenement dwellers. And the building was stunningly beautiful too!
The philanthropist hired famed architects Hugh Lamb and Charles A. Rich who also designed his stately Pratt Institute campus. Pratt commissioned them to design the Astral as a model for worker housing. Lamb & Rich based the Astral design on innovative tenement housing built by American philanthropist George Peabody in London who was a personal friend of Pratt’s.
Perhaps there is no person in the long history of Greenpoint who had a bigger effect on our area than Charles Pratt. Pratt’s legacy, though is a mixed one: a philanthropist, Pratt felt a duty to use his wealth to give back to the community, but he is also heavily responsible for the massive local pollution that is a result of his business in oil refining. One thing though is sure, more than a hundred and twenty years after his death; Pratt’s long shadow still hangs over Greenpoint. Continue reading →
While the city is still 11 acres away from fulfilling its promise to deliver all 28 acres of Bushwick Inlet Park, it took a 7 acre step in the right direction this year by purchasing the remaining parcel of the Bayside Fuel Property. With it came ten 50ft tall cylindrical iron fuel containers and a three story brick building, which the city intends to demolish in favor of flat open space. But will that be an end of an opportunity to repurpose these structures and integrate them into the landscaping of the park? The founders of Maker Park think so and want to start a conversation with the wider-community about adaptively reusing these structures in a way that serves the creative ethos of North Brooklyn.
To Maker Park, their vision can potentially support anything from aquaponics to woodworking, while maintaining the same square footage of green-space. There can be a programmed community space for a variety of uses like art exhibitions or workshops that can also serve as a means to help finance its maintenance and operation. There are a number of possibilities and a finite period of time to share ideas and revisit the city’s plans that were created over 10 years ago. This Thursday, July 14th (7-9PM) at ROOT BKN (131 North 14th) Maker Park is hosting a public brainstorming meeting to present and seek feedback on their preliminary plans.Continue reading →
John Reardon is getting ready to tattoo a woman in her mid-twenties when I arrive early at the Greenpoint Tattoo Company for our interview. It is a Saturday afternoon, and a cheery song by Of Montreal is playing over the speakers. The walls are covered in framed prints of tattoos, and a book by Reardon on the subject rests near a stack of Vice magazines. The woman has brought along a guy friend for moral support, but the process goes so quickly that she doesn’t even have time to grimace.
After a few moments, the woman gets up to check her arm in the mirror, proclaims the tattoo to be “awesome,” and leaves to meet friends for brunch at Slick Willie a few blocks away. Since John’s schedule is packed today, with another appointment in fifteen minutes, I turn on my recorder and we dive right into the questions. Continue reading →