"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gowanus Landmarking Coalition Gets Support From Councilman Menchaca To Help Save Historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse Along The Gowanus Canal

Council Member Menchaca at press conference todayUntitled
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council
Since 1886, the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse at 595 Smith Street has been standing at the edge between Red Hook and Gowanus, on the shores of the Gowanus Canal. It is a vestige of the neighborhood's history and of its once-thriving shipping industry.

The building is of such historic import that it was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as part of a Gowanus Historic District in 2017.
The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition  has also asked the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission [LPC] to declare  the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse as a landmark.

Though it has stood empty for several decades, the solid brick warehouse could easily be repurposed for a number of  adaptive re-uses to serve future generations in Red Hook/Gowanus.
Repurposing the building is obviously not the plan of real estate developer Meyer Chetrit. His firm Chetrit Group wants to rezone the site from manufacturing to residential and plans on building apartment buildings.  The warehouse, therefore is in the way and seems to be in danger of being demolished.

In May 2018, local residents reported illegal demolition work on the site. In June 2018, a fire broke out in the night, burning a good portion of the roof.
Though the NYC Fire Department deemed  the fire suspicious and is still investigating it as arson, the NYC Buildings Department inexplicably issued a full demolition permit for the structure in February 2019.  A stop-work order was imposed by the Buildings Department in March, but crews were seen violating it this past week.

This morning at 9 AM, the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition, PortSide New York, and community members in Red Hook and Gowanus held a press conference opposing demolition of the historic warehouse. They were joined bu Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

From a press release issued by the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition:
"Many questions wreathe the site surrounding the building. The site is currently zoned for manufacturing and it is not clear what the owner intends to build on the site. Nor is it clear why demolition of one historic building is necessary on such a large site. It is also not clear who started the 2018 fire; the investigation remains ongoing.

The building was deemed eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2011, and the Society for Industrial Archaeology formally requested that the building be landmarked by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission a decade ago in 2009. Speakers at the press conference will highlight examples of adaptive reuse along the endangered historic Brooklyn waterfront that could serve as models for a repurposed Bowne Storehouse. It is still possible to retain an example of the community’s maritime heritage and activate it with zoning-appropriate, water-dependent m-zone and maritime uses."

Council Member Menchaca agreed and made the following statement:

"As of yesterday afternoon, the Department of Buildings says their borough attorney is commencing a process to issue a criminal court summons based on repeated violations
We are still trying to get clarity on what that enforcement timeline looks like. Until then, we must not relent until demolition stops and preservation commences.
The FDNY asserted last year that the fire appeared to be intentionally set. And despite stop work orders, demo crews have been active. This is highly suspicious.
The FDNY must be allowed to complete its investigation. But it has also been several months since it started. We cannot wait to preserve a building of such historic importance.
The SW Bowne Warehouse is part of the IBZ and should remain an industrial and manufacturing property.
I pledge to do everything possible to preserve this building and ask that my elected colleagues join us. I applaud my fellow neighbors and the media for acting quickly to show proof of continued demolition.

Your activism is what keeps elected officials like myself accountable and on the right side of issues."

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

When The Carroll Park Bocce Guys Played In Carroll Park

From left to right:
Angelo Licata, Ralph Lubrono, Giovani Romano, Mario Feola, Nuncio Illiano and Giuseppe Coppola
Carroll Park, 2011

Years ago, just like clockwork, the Italian bocce guys of Carroll Park would re-appear on the first nice spring days in the neighborhood, just as dependably as the daffodils and the ice cream truck.
They would spend hours meticulously grooming the court before the first game of the season, play and argue over the score, and then spend the rest of the afternoon chatting away.

The photos above where taken in April 2011, on one of those first warmer days, after what seemed an unending winter. Angelo Licata, Ralph Lubrono, Giovani Romano, Mario Feola, Nuncio Illiano and Giuseppe Coppola were kind enough to pose for me when I asked them if I could take their photo.

Sadly, these last few years, the bocce courts have remained empty as the older generation has passed away and many of Carroll Gardens' next  Italian/American generation has moved away. 
I  was reminded of these lovely Italian gentlemen when someone stumbled onto the photos recently and reposted them on Facebook.

Though some Carroll Gardeners newcomers sometimes play bocce or  p├ętanque, its French equivalent, in our neighborhood park, spring just hasn't been quite the same these past few years.

The empty bocce court as I walked through Carroll Park today


Monday, March 11, 2019

Dedication of 'Giselle McGee Way' In Carroll Gardens To Honor Beloved PS58 Principal

Giselle Gault McGee
(photo courtesy of the McGee family)

On Monday, April 1 2019, friends and colleagues of Giselle Gault McGee, the much loved former principal at P.S.58, will be holding a tribute to her.  The event coincides with Giselle's birthday and will include a ceremonial co-naming of Carroll Street between Court Street and Smith Street as "Giselle McGee Way".

More about Giselle by PS 58 Parent Coordinator Joan Bredthauer:

Giselle Gault McGee was a dedicated educator who pioneered French-English language programs in NYC schools. Her warm leadership as Principal of PS 58 The Carroll School from 2006 to 2014 created an environment of positivity and collegiality that welcomed new ideas and encouraged meaningful parent engagement.

Shortly before her planned retirement, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The news was devastating to our school community. She died in December of 2017.

In 2006, Giselle was appointed principal at P.S. 58, The Carroll School, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn by former Chancellor Carmen Farina. Giselle believed strongly in the importance of arts programming and experiential learning in daily curriculum. She gave countless Carroll Gardens children a unique school experience by providing school-wide enrichment, including ballroom dance, chess, story-telling through ballet, opera, and even special “wildlife” visits from birds of prey, small mammals and reptiles, to name a few of the programs Giselle brought to her students.

Giselle was one of only three forerunners in the NYDOE to launch a French-English Dual Language Program and grew the school from 330 to more than 800 students. On the last day of school 2006, Chancellor Joel Klein visited Giselle's school and was quoted in the Daily News saying, "You've got a great new leader in here who really has united this community."

Principal Giselle Gault McGee was made a Knight in the Order of Academic Palms in 2009 by French Ambassador Pierre Vimont for her work with the French-English Dual Language Program. She also received the Label FrancEducation, a prestigious award, given by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a formal recognition and accreditation to schools providing a French bilingual program. At the time, only eight schools worldwide had received the award, including two New York recipients.

Giselle was a true people person, who bought a smile and compassion to everyone who crossed her path. 

Here are some additional details about the ceremony:
Wear Orange!
On this special day, we’ll remember Giselle’s incredible positivity of spirit and generosity. Giselle was a ray of sunshine in our lives. Her favorite color was sunny ORANGE, and we invite you to wear orange in her honor.

Cookie Swap
The dedication ceremony will be followed by a cookie swap. I know you all remember Giselle’s incredible hospitality and, of course, her amazing baking skills. She never attended a meeting or gathering without bringing a delectable homemade treat with her to share. Please help us celebrate this particular memory by signing up to bring a batch of individually wrapped cookies for the swap, or to help us set up and serve them to our guests.

Photos and Remembrances
We also encourage you to bring photos and written notes of remembrance for a display, which we will present to Giselle’s family. 

Date: Monday, April 1st (Giselle’s birthday)
Time: 4:00 PM
Where: Corner of Carroll Street and Court Street

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Yesterday's News, Everyone's Favorite Antiques And Collectables Store In Carroll Gardens, Is Expanding

Since 2001, Yesterday's News, the corner store at Court Street and 2nd Place in Carroll Gardens has been selling fun antiques and collectables at very reasonable prices.  Whether one is in the market for a mid-century teak dining set, a vintage dresser, garden planters with a nice antique patina, a funky piece of custom jewelry, or simply an old postcard, there is something for everyone here.

So it is a real pleasure to report that Yesterday's News is expanding into the storefront next door, which was recently vacated by Try Rae's First.

Combining its existing commercial space at 428 Court Street with 430 Court Street will give Yesterday's News the opportunity to not only sell more inventory, but to stay open during inclement weather.   Currently, a lot of their  merchandise is displayed on the sidewalk. It all needs to be moved inside at night and when it rains. On wet days, the store remains closed because one cannot move amidst the larger pieces of furniture.

We hope that the expansion means that Yesterday's News will be part of the Carroll Gardens community for many more years.

What do you shop for when you go in to this store.  what kind of fun items have you found here lately?

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Svendale Brewing Company Opens Tasting Room On Court Street

Amidst the many businesses closings in Carroll Gardens, there are some openings to report.

Svendale Brewing Company, a Hudson Valley-based craft brewery has recently taken over a small retail space at 486 Court Street between Luquer Street and 4th Place here in Carroll Gardens.
It hosts the brewery's tasting room, which opened its doors this past February.

The tasting room features 16 taps, serving selections of Svendale's brews such as "Born Too Loose Lager", "White Strawberry Saison", "Blueberry Imperial Stout", "White Plum Saison" and Oatmeal Stout, just to name a few.  All beers are made at the brewery in Millerton, New York.

Have you stopped by yet?

The space was previously occupied by Acorn Real Estate.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Feel Betrayed By Councilman Brad Lander Yet Regarding The Proposed Gowanus Rezoning? We Do!

Community Board 6's Chair Peter Fleming
CB6's Land Use Committee Chair Mark Shames
NYC Department of City Planning's Gowanus Project Manager Jonathan KellerUntitled
NYCHA resident and Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition For Justice member Karen BlondelUntitled
One of the local residents addressing concerns about rezoning

Representatives of New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)'s Brooklyn office presenting the Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal to Community Board 6's Land Use Committee last night.
The entire meeting and presentation can be accessed on You Tube here.

Dear Neighbors,
Do you remember back in 2008, when the Department of City Planning worked on the first Gowanus rezoning study?  Back then, the City was pushing for buildings that rose approximately as high as the Lightstone development at 363-365 Bond Street adjacent to the canal, which moved ahead under a special spot rezoning from manufacturing to mixed-use, though the overall rezoning of the area was halted when the EPA declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site in 2010.

To many in the neighborhood, the Lighstone development is all wrong for this FEMA Flood Zone evacuation area.  Shortly after Hurricane Sandy flooded basement and streets in Gowanus in 2012,   Councilmember Brad Lander urged the developer Lightstone Group to withdraw its plans to build its complex.
In a December 2012 letter to David Lichtenstein, the CEO of Lightstone, our Councilman wrote:
“I believe it would be a serious mistake for you to proceed as though nothing had happened, without reconsidering or altering your plans, and putting over 1,000 new residents in harm’s way the next time an event of this magnitude occurs.”

Yet the 700-unit Lightstone complex, which rises to 12 stories was built, hundreds of residents moved in, and in the past few years, Brad Lander has been pushing for the Gowanus rezoning to resume.
In 2013, together with several other local elected officials, Lander's office launched Bridging Gowanus, "a community planning process to shape a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the Gowanus neighborhood-in the face of ongoing change, the Superfund clean-up, and real estate pressure."

Over a few years, hundreds of community stakeholders gave hundreds of hours of their time to take part in Bridging Gowanus on the promise that this visioning process would provide them with a real chance to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood and would inform the NYC Planning Department of the wishes of the community.

Many were shocked when the final 'visioning' report falsely claimed that the community was open to high rises from 8 to 18 stories to achieve the goals set forth by Bridging Gowanus.  In reality, most residents thought that the worse case scenario for the neighborhood were more 12-story buildings like Lighstone.

To Lander, higher buildings are a trade off for providing more parkland, more schools, more affordable housing and protection of manufacturing zones in Gowanus.  "We did ask people to think hard of the tradeoffs that are necessary," Brad Lander commented. "These kinds of investments and achieving the level of preservation we just talked about costs a lot of money."

By the time the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) was commissioned to create a framework for a 'sustainable, inclusive, mixed-use neighborhood", the building density in the area had increased again. Along 4th Avenue, the framework called for 22 story buildings, though thankfully, it called for a "moderate" scale" along the canal.

That was not enough for investors and developers, who immediately cried foul. The density mentioned in the Framework did not "allow enough density along the canal to offset what they say will be the high cost of building on those sites," despite the fact that most landowners have or will clean up their polluted parcels under the New York State Brownfield Clean-up Program, which offers highly lucrative tax  breaks and tax credits, which are paid by taxpayers.

It appears that real estate pressure did have a huge influence on City Planning.
Last night, DCP's Project Manager for the Gowanus rezoning, Jonathan Keller, presented the agency's  recently released Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal to the community.
The proposal now calls for approximately 22 story buildings along the canal,  and close to 30 stories on Public Place, the City-owned site along Smith Street near 5th Street.

Councilman Lander's response to the ever increasing proposed density?
I know that not everyone is excited about the idea of new residential and commercial development at heights taller than the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods, but I genuinely believe we are on the way to getting the balance right.”  (Brooklyn Eagle)

Most residents seemed shocked last night. This proposal almost doubles the density of what had been planned for the area in 2008.  Despite the participation of local residents in the Bridging Gowanus visioning process, this re-zoning plan guarantees few of the things that the community really cared about: artists lofts, maker spaces and parks.
How exactly the area will accommodate thousands of new residents when our infrastructure is already at a breaking point remains unclear.
The plan offers no contract with the community that would truly guarantee us new schools, new investments in our sewers, or increased subway service.
It does guarantee years of construction and a radical change to Gowanus and surrounding neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

Many in the community gave Brad Lander the benefit of the doubt when he promised us a better, more inclusive planning process, one that would lead to a better rezoning.
Instead, it is leading us to one that seems driven by developers and politicians, which in this City is business as usual.

I hope people will remember as he prepares to run for New York City Comptroller in the 2021 election.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

"The Gowanus Is Dirty": New Web Site Highlights Why Neighborhood Rezoning Is Dirty Politics

A new informative web site with the clever address www.thegowanusisdirty.com  just went live and if you live in Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Park Slope, you should check it out.
The web site's aim seems to be to keep the community in the loop on the proposed rezoning that will line the Gowanus Canal area with 22-story buildings and will bring an approximate 20,000 new residents to the area.
The so far- anonymous owners of the site call the rezoning "dirty politics' and back up the claim with several facts:

Fact 1: from The Gowanus Is Dirty::
As part of the New York State’s brownfields program, developers who build apartment towers along the canal, on Bond and Nevins streets, will not only be reimbursed for the price to clean up the toxic land, but they’ll also be handed taxpayer dollars to cover at least 10% of their building costs, up to $35 million dollars each.

The developer of the luxury towers on Bond between Carroll and 1st streets has already been given over $7 million dollars of taxpayer funds. And because of NYC’s 421a, the developers themselves won’t have to pay any property tax for 10 years.

Fact 2:
The rezoning plan will allow for at least 10 new residential towers to be built along Bond and Nevins St., each up to 22 stories high, with four times as many expensive luxury apartments as affordable ones. These towers will likely bring at least 20,000 new residents to our neighborhood, DOUBLING the population of Gowanus, destroying the liveable neighborhood we know and love forever.

Fact 3:
When the City first presented their Gowanus Rezoning plan, in June of 2018, the new residential towers along the canal were limited to being 14 stories high. But the developers wanted more—much, much more— and so they “lobbied” (gave money to) our electeds. And guess what? In February, a new plan was presented that allows for towers up to 22 stories high on almost all of the rezoned blocks around the canal. So who are our electeds working for, anyway?

The Gowanus Is Dirty site also provides pdfs for the fact sheets along with a protest poster.
Our protest poster has already been printed out and will be hung in the window shortly.

And as a reminder:
The Dept of City Planning Presents its Gowanus Rezoning Plan tonight:
Thursday, Feb 28 at 6pm
PS 133, 610 Baltic St at 4th Ave

Be There!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Carroll Gardeners Discuss A New Design For Carroll Park At Visioning Session

Brooklyn Parks Chief of Staff Marty Maher addressing Carroll Gardeners
The below report on last night's community visioning session was written by Glenn Kelly, member of Friends of Carroll Park and the Chair of Community Board 6's Parks Committee.)

Last night was the beginning of the next Carroll Park.
Almost 150 people, young and old, filled the cafeteria at PS58 to hear a brief presentation of the history of Carroll Park and to make suggestions and discuss options for a new design. The Brooklyn Parks department staff and representatives from Starr Whitehouse (the consultant hired to manage and process the results) organized the attendees into 8 groups of 10-15 people around tables and facilitated the collection of ideas which were then shared with the entire group. As Marty Maher, the commissioner of the Brooklyn Park department explained, these ideas will be considered and transformed into a conceptual design or designs which will be submitted to the Parks department for evaluation of feasibility. Once a design is deemed feasible (for safety, durability and usefulness), it will be presented to the community through the Park / Recreation committee of Community Board 6. This will allow the community to visualize what is possible, to estimate the costs involved and to understand how construction might be staged and how long it may take.
Remember that all of this is just a first step and there will be ongoing opportunities for discussion and modifications to the design. It will take some time to secure funding and to reach consensus on a final design.
The Friends of Carroll Park have a commitment from Brooklyn Parks to continue community outreach and discussion so please make sure to keep an eye on the park notice boards and to sign up for the mailing list so that your ideas can be considered and incorporated.
Last night was a success and we are thankful to following:
- Councilman Brad Lander for providing funding for this visioning process.
- Brooklyn Parks for their agreeing to take the unusual step of committing resources to design an unfunded park.
- The Friends of Carroll Park for taking the lead on this project and caring for our park over nearly three decades.
- PS58 for hosting the event.
Hopefully the result will also be a success and produce a design which our community can embrace. Fingers crossed !