The Astral

Brooklyn Label: Rediscovering the Astral’s Legacy

The Astral (Pratt Institute archives)

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.

Astral Kindergarten (Pratt Institute archives)
(Pratt Institute archives)

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Category: (Not)Forgotten Greenpoint, Culture, Historical Greenpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading List: 8 Books Set in North Brooklyn

If you’re looking for some new reads this year, why not start with a novel that centralizes around Greenpoint? Or Williamsburg. Bushwick, even! These eight novels focus on the lens of human experience while living in Brooklyn.
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Forgotten Greenpoint: The Astral

The Astral © Greenpointers

The Astral is undoubtedly one of Greenpoint’s most iconic edifices. So much so, it even inspired it’s own novel. It sure is a purdy old pile o’ bricks, straight out of Victorian London, and with a great history to boot. While you may not know the fascinating story of the Astral, you’ve likely been inside the building while brunching at Brooklyn Label, or maybe you have noticed its picturesque brickwork while exiting Dandelion Wine shop, bottle (or two) in hand. So what makes this historic building distinctive enough to be designated both a city and a national landmark? Well, as mama always told you, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Continue reading

Category: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Astral

As many of you know I live in The Astral and now it’s a NOVEL. Yep. Kate Christensen’s latest book is titled The Astral, with a picture of – you guessed it! – The Astral on the cover.

The Astral is a huge, rose-colored old pile of an apartment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it has been the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, a nurse; and their two children, Karina, now a fervant freegan, and Hector, who has fallen into the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But when Luz finds (and destroys) some poems of Harry’s that ignite her long-simmering suspicions of infidelity, she summarily kicks him out. Suddenly he must reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, financial, and parental failures and find his way forward—and back to Luz’s good graces.

You can check her out her book launch party (and buy the book!) tonight at Word.

Launch Party for The Astral by Kate Christensen
Tuesday June 14th, 2011 at 7pm
Word Bookstore
126 Franklin Street

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Smallest World Ever

*image by Vidiot

So I get an email yesterday from a fellow blogger and wouldn’t you know it – she was the previous tenant in my exact apartment. How fucking random is that?

Here are her woes as an Astral tenant.

Seems she had the same issue as I did with the bathroom ceiling collapse. Apparently they “fixed” it before I moved in but as I know it wasn’t really fixed then since it fell when I moved in. And they were going to just do another patch job before I pointed out that there was an actual steady leak causing it. For the record, it was fixed in September and no problems since.

It also seems she too had bedbugs like so many other tenants. I had bedbugs and I had Tommy do a couple of treatments, threw away my wood bedframe and have not seen or been bitten in two months. It helped that I use an air mattress and don’t have much furniture. The place is only two rooms and I’m not looking to entertain in 200 sq feet of space. Bedbugs are a real issue in the city and well, if I have the possibility of dealing with them pretty much anywhere, I may as well deal with them in a rent stabilized place exactly where I want to live.

I also really want to express that Tommy has been nothing but helpful and on the ball when it comes to problems in my apartment. The ceiling collapse, the bedbug issue, the time I got locked inside my apartment with my boyfriend on the other side. He always says hello, is very helpful and is a good guy.

Tommy’s told me about the young people who move to the building with nothing but a suitcase and the next month they have an apartment full of furniture – off the street and out of the thrift shops. I have to say I agree with him. They’re hanging out on Williamsburg bar couches and bringing home critters from whatever previous hipster from McKibbens brought with ’em. And then they infest the building so people like me, Emily and Stella have to deal with the shit.

I luckily was not infested with them. If I was I might be singing a different tune. I live pretty sparingly and they really don’t have anywhere to hang considering I’m not one to leave clothes around, have an airbed and no rugs or anything. A little bit of poison every few months and those bastards stay away.

Maybe I have a thicker skin being that I’m born and raised here, but there’s no fucking way I’m letting some glorified mosquitoes of the night get me to move.

Category: Community | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Bedbugs Make The List

Renting out the Astral just got (even) more difficult.

I just spied this ‘ad’ on Craigslist.

“This is a warning: two former tenants of the astral (the large beautiful building in greenpoint on the corner of java and franklin) have moved out due to a BEDBUG infestation, and it is rumored that the entire floor is moving out because of the same problem.

Make sure that you discuss this with your realtor/potential roomate before moving in!

This is a serious posting, not a prank–I thought it was something people should know before moving in, to protect themselves! I would want to know.

Best of luck.”

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It’s Raining Production Assistants

Something has been pissing me off since I’ve moved in. I feel horrible even complaining about it considering other residents are dealing with bedbugs and toxic molds, but it just drives me nuts.

The people who live upstairs from me – the same people who allow a bathroom leak to get so bad that it caves my bathroom ceiling in – throw stuff out the window. Actually they pour stuff out the window. I have no idea what it is, but it pisses me off to no end. Why would you need to throw any liquid out of a window is beyond me, but they do so at least twice a day. I hope and pray that it’s water.

Yesterday it sounded as if they were moving furniture, actually a lot of the last week it’s sounded like that. The Super had mentioned he thought they were moving out. Then last night in the courtyard there was a ruckus, people down there doing God knows what. Drilling going on upstairs at midnight. Then it all started up again at 6am.

Then this morning I left for work only to see a dozen people and a breakfast buffet outside my front door. They’re filming something. This happens a lot around here. At least once a month there’s some sort of crew right on my block. And more often than that I see some sort of movie, television or student production going on somewhere in the hood.

I’ve yet to see anyone famous but I also don’t look too hard. I’m sure if I hung around these locales, I’d be able to spot a celeb or two. But ya know, as a New Yorker you gotta be cool and act like you can’t be bothered.

I wonder if they’re filming in the courtyard or maybe doing something in the apartment upstairs. Doubtful, but as long as they don’t throw liquid out the window, they’re ok with me.

Category: News | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Home Sweet Home

Here I thought that Bloomberg coming to The Point this Thursday would be the highlight news of the day for the ‘hood. But oh, how wrong could I have been? The best news is happening right here in my own little architectural landmark delight apartment complex. Even Curbed picked up the drama.

It’s no new news that The Astrals are infested with bedbugs. I, luckily, am not living in 74 or 76 India which appear to be where the known problem is. Hey, if you’re looking to move in there’s a two bedroom available right now right in the center of the critter kingdom!

I feel awful for this girl. What a horrible ordeal for her to have to go through. Toxic mold nonetheless, too! Ugh. It’s disgusting and a travesty. And it definitely gets me worried. How long will it be before the buggers reach the other end of the buildings? I know it seems damn near impossible to deal with the bedbug issue that is happening in New York right now. I can’t imagine being an owner of a cluster of buildings this size and even knowing where to begin to fix this situation. But it seems like they’re not even trying, which is just unacceptable.

I’m no newcomer to the problems in the building. A month after I moved in my bathroom ceiling collapsed, but in all fairness, the leak and my ceiling were fixed pretty promptly. The Super has been nothing but helpful and nice to me, so I can’t complain or badmouth the guy personally.

Plus, his MySpace page is pretty hot, no?

Category: News | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments