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24 May 2019

Mayor de Blasio Calls for Probe of Community Board SUV Purchase [✜]

The Council was proud to provide community boards across the city with additional funding for the first time in years so they could better serve their neighborhoods

Presumably CB1 will better serve the community by driving them places.

Brooklyn Community Board Roils Over $26,000 SUV Splurge [✜]

The City (which is killing it in general) exposes CB1's not-so-secret decision to take the car behind door #1.

TL;DR - CB1 decided to use a City Council grant intended to promote community outreach and engagement to buy $26,000 RAV4 SUV.

Henry Miller’s Williamsburg Fantasy

Author Henry Miller spent the first decade of his life living at 662 Driggs Avenue. Geoff Cobb, writing in Greenpointers, recently took a look at an article Miller wrote in 1971 about his childhood home:

Though he had been away for five decades, Miller had a crystal clear memory, recalling many fascinating stories from that vanished world of his childhood.

Actually, Miller’s memory about Williamsburg was pretty shitty. He might have sent Pastor John Wells, a “rather pompous and aristocratic minister one of my first pieces of writing from Paris”, but Wells – who died in 1903 – certainly didn’t get it. Wells’ son, who inherited his father’s pastorate at the South Third Street Presbyterian Church, also wasn’t the recipient (Wells fils died in 1929, a year before Miller went to Paris).

The Wells’ church also never became a synagogue (the congregation exists to this day).

And Miller is certainly confused about where he went to high school – “I decided that I would go to Eastern District High School, which at that time was situated in McCaddin Hall on Berry Street or Wythe AVenue, I forget which. There was an Annex to it Situated on Driggs Avenue and South Third Street, just opposite the old Presbyterian Church”.

Eastern District High School was on Division Avenue back then (the building still stands, and is now a yeshiva). The “annex” that he refers to is probably John D. Wells Elementary School, at South 3rd and Driggs.

For more eloquent reminiscences, Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn yields this snippet about Fillmore Place:

It was the most enchanting street I have ever seen in all my life. It was the ideal street – for a boy, a lover, a maniac, a drunkard, a crook, a lecher, a thug, an astronomer, a musician, a poet, a tailor, a shoemaker, a politician. In fact this is just the sort of street it was, containing just such representative of the human race, each one a world unto himself and all living together harmoniously and inharmoniously, but together, a solid corporation, a close knit human spore which would not disintegrate unless the street itself disintegrated.


3 April 2019

City Hall's $369 Million Riverboat Gamble on Ferries [✜]

From the newly-minted local news site The City - how the City (of New York) got to the point of owning a fleet of ferry boats for its new public-private partnership with Hornblower. From what the article describes, the city's Economic Development Corporation passed over local operators with local experience and their own fleet of boats in favor of an out-of-town outfit that was able to offload the purchase of new boats to the city (not even EDC). It sure sounds like the locals got screwed in the bidding process, too.

1 April 2019

MTA Shuts Down Independent Review Of L Train Unshutdown Plan [✜]

I missed this Gothamist article last week. Despite repeated promises by the head of the MTA ("I have stated a number of times already in this meeting that a third party team will be engaged to report to the board and me, all of us, on what the best path forward is", Fredy Ferrer - January 2019), the MTA is NOT hiring a third-party consultant to review Governor Cuomo's L train tunnel plan. In a Trumpian twist, Ferrer now says that was all fake news, and the third-party consultant was only meant to monitor safety and environmental issues DURING construction ("the consultant was never [meant] to come back to the board with a comparison", Ferrer - March, 2019).

Maybe the consultants first job can be to tell us why all the MTA employees at the Bedford Avenue station are wearing dust masks all the time, but the air is safe to breathe for commuters.

29 March 2019

Goodbye Beautiful: Celebrity Stylist Ditches Williamsburg [✜]

"I don’t like it here anymore. I just don’t."

From the Mini Mall to Metropolitan Avenue to Bushwick - 20 years of Williamsburg retail encapsulated.

Gowanus Waterfront Activists Can Learn from Past Rezoning Failures [✜]

Specifically, "failed" waterfront designs in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. As the article points out, despite a 2009 City Planning text amendment to encourage more creative designs for the required waterfront open spaces, very few developers have actually done so.

Domino being the exception in terms of creativity, and control - but they are fast becoming the rule. I have seen at least three recent waterfront proposals that significantly break from the esplanade-and-railing approach to waterfront design (what Greenpoint Landing is being criticized for in the article and in the Greenpoint community). Developers are starting to recognize the value in creating quality open spaces on the water, and in providing direct access to the water (something Domino does not do, but for site-specific reasons).

So why weren't developers more creative before? I suspect that part of the reason is that the vast majority of the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront constructed to date was done so under the old rules. That is the case for Northside Piers, The Edge (pretty sure) and The Greenpoint. I don't know what Greenpoint Landing's excuse is, though.

(Sidenote - 15 years in, it is kind of remarkable that only these four waterfront developments have been built as part of the 2005 rezoning. And only two are actually complete. Greenpoint - get ready...)

22 March 2019

Hampshire Picks Up Williamsburg Waterfront Site for $50M [✜]

The "other" Con Ed site in Williamsburg has apparently sold. This is the former BRT Power Plant site, on the south side of Division Avenue on Wallabout Creek. An important site, and pretty much the southern terminus of a potential continuous waterfront open space extending from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek.

22 February 2019

Measles Cases In Brooklyn Jump To Ninety [✜]

15 new cases in Williamsburg. I have not heard that the outbreak has extended beyond the Orthodox population, but am curious as to how much of the rest of the North Brooklyn is unvaccinated and therefore vulnerable.

Greenpoint is Over

“MarieBelle’s flagship store [is] in New York’s famous Soho District […and it] has a rustic-style Cacao Market in trendy Greenpoint, Brooklyn”.

Based on this press release, I think that we can put February 19, 2019 down in the calendar as the date that Greenpoint officially jumped the gentrification shark.