Monthly Archives: November 2006

Waverly Storefront

storefront on waverly aveThis old storefront sits on Waverly Ave. between Greene and Gates. I assume it was, at one time, a retail storefront. Now, it seems to be used as a residence.

Sad, since the window gates are kind of ugly and the windows are shoddily papered up. Though I suppose with almost zero foot traffic, how could it return to being a store?

Wonder what would flourish here…

[Ed. — A 24-hour pizza place!]

Stonehome: Mixed Reviews

I’re recently discovered The L Magazine blog, which to my surprise covers cool stuff all around the BK and NYC. I assumed that it was just a Williamsburg thing based on the name- doh.

Anyhow, they’ve recently checked out Fort Greene’s Stonehome Wine Bar, giving them mixed grades.

I’ve always had pleasant experiences there, but have not yet stopped in to experience the full dinner menu. Also humorous is the L’s description of the patrons as “elderly” — mid-late 30s.

Broken Angel: Update from Chris Wood

Received this update from Chris today:

Update 11/28/06
The Wood family is very thankful for the support we have received in our attempt to rescue Broken Angel. However the building is far from saved and time is running out. Broken Angel is a legally built architectural sculpture, which my father would love to transform into a home for the arts. Broken Angel is viewed by thousands of people who come to see it every year. If this quirky and original structure disappears, Quincy and Downing streets will again become a forgotten corner of Brooklyn. My name is Christopher Wood; I am the son of the creators of Broken Angel. I have lived my entire life in Brooklyn. I have grown up and continue to be enmeshed in a world of art. I am a stone carver and photographer. I have restored many of New York’s cherished landmarks including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, Grace Church, the Tweed Court house, and currently the main branch of the New York City Public Library. I call on Brooklyn to support and help us restore Broken Angel. Please email or write your local politicians to show your support and help us block the demolition of Broken Angel. If you are a legal professional, we desperately need help fighting the Department of Buildings in court. Additionally those who are willing and able can purchase paintings by my father or my photographs of Broken Angel at Artez’n at 444 Atlantic Ave. Works of art for sale can also be obtained online at http://www.artezn.com/. I guarantee that a work of art bought this holiday season will retain its value better than a Play Station 3. Please help us and show the developers who want to turn Brooklyn into another skyline of giant buildings that we will not go gently into the shadows of greed and over development. I can be contacted at chriswood718@yahoo.com
My restoration work http://www.bandhartinarch.com/
Thanks, Chris, for keeping us all updated.

CHB Interviews: Steve Wacksman, on the reno of his St. James Place home

Turns out one of my best tipsters and new neighborhood friends owns one of the gorgeously-renovated homes next to that dumpy house I’d love to buy on St. James Place! I asked him a bunch of questions on how he came to own on my favorite street.

dscn8849.jpg 101_2078_1.jpg

1. By now you know I am obsessed with your house. Who was the first to buy one of these and renovate?

Our next door neighbors at 156 did the first renovation. We were not living here at the time, but to hear them tell it it was an unsightly mess: fake stone stucco all the way up the facade. The parlor door was intact but the stairs had long since been removed or collapsed and only the garden floor door was accessible. They got a tax photo from which to work and, since it was small and grainy, improvised a bit on the details. Many of the details were salvaged from other buildings, etc. They won an award from the Clinton Hill Association for their renovation which was well deserved.

2. When did you move to the nabe, and what brought you here? Where did you live before the Hill?
We moved here in 2002. My wife and I had both lived in Manhattan previously and we were typical Manhattan snobs- I blew off more invitations to visit friends in Brooklyn than i can count, simply because it was ‘too much trouble’ to get here! I’d lived in the East Village since 1987 and was accustomed to living in what was essentially a rabbit hutch, but after we got married the Missus had had enough and put her foot down. I didn’t think we’d find anything we could afford, but within 12 hours she found us a luxurious large one-bedroom in the Financial District. Maybe this isn’t relevant here, but as an aside I wholly endorse the Financial District as a place to live- it’s like a city within the city and there’s so much to discover there; I loved living there for the most part.
Anyhow, we were there for 2 years when she announced that we would own our next home; our days as renters were over. And again, I didn’t think we’d be able to afford anything we’d actually want to live in. And after seeing a handful of tiny, dark apartments with high common charges, the prognosis was pretty grim.
Finally I begrudgingly cast my nets wider and included Brooklyn in the search. And I found a house in Williamsburg with 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths and a backyard for just about 20% more than we were looking to spend on a broom closet in Manhattan. Initially it seemed like it would be out of reach, but when I looked at the numbers, certain things made it more realistic: 10% down (vs the 20% all the Manhattan coops required), no common charges, and low taxes. All told, the monthly hit would be about the same!
We lost that one, but the hunt began at that point for a HOUSE in Brooklyn. We saw a couple of dumps in Greenpoint before I found this open house listed. We pulled up as a young couple was exiting – the young woman rolled her eyes and declared the house ‘interesting’ with obvious sarcasm. It WAS interesting, too in as many good ways as bad. Sofie was taking stock of the hideous purple and yellow color scheme that dominated the majority of the interior,the broken windows and creaking stairs when I whispered to her excitedly “We have to buy this house”. And so we did. We knew next to nothing about Clinton Hill – we’d never even heard of it before attending the open house. I went to art school and I applied to Pratt – I declined because too many people told me that the neighborhood was unlivable and a warzone and I’d be unceremoniously beaten and mugged and scalped and would be returned to my grief-stricken mother in a box. Ironic, then, that we bought our house here and proudly call Clinton Hill home.
cimg1474.jpg cimg1574.jpg

3. Is it true that The Notorious B.I.G. grew up on your street? If so, do you know which house?

I have indeed heard this rumor though I can’t claim to be an authority on the subject. An unreliable source pointed to a house on the next block (bet Gates and Fulton).

4. Biggest challenge during renovation:
There were many challenges, though none ever seemed insurmountable. We were flying blind for the most part and were lucky that we worked with trustworthy contractors and architects. One of the most sticky issues was with the Landmarks commission, who required us to match our next-door-neighbor’s facade exactly. The neighbors were upset because they felt their facade reflected many personal design choices and we should follow suit and design our own house. But Landmarks considered their now existing facade a precedent that we were required to follow. Tempers flared and, unfortunately, relations were never fully repaired.
Living in a house that’s having extensive work done to it is not something I’d recommend to anyone- it’s just taxing as hell on the nerves.

cimg1618.jpg cimg1867.jpg cimg1646.jpg

5. Your dog is enormous! What kind is it?
Okie is a French mastiff called a Dogue de Bordeaux. They are fairly rare, but were admitted into the AKC last year in the Miscellaneous class so in time I’m sure they’ll be more common. He’s just turned one year old last week- he has a lot of growing yet to do. He’ll likely be somewhere around 140 lbs when he’s done. He’s great fun and as gentle as a lamb, but he DOES snore and drool. A lot. (LH NOTE: yesterday in the park, I was talking to Steve when Okie shook her head, and her drool flew right into my mouth.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our other dog, The Veal. She’s a Boxer- 10.5 years old. I can’t say enough good things about her and her breed in general; if anyone is looking for an athletic, fun-loving, good-natured, easy-keeping companion, think about a Boxer. Check out www.boxerrescue.com or www.secondchanceboxer.com
okie_veal.jpg 101_3702.jpg

6. Favorite place to eat in the neighborhood:

I’d probably go with Smoke Joint- the BBQ is excellent and the owners are great guys who know how to make you feel welcome and appreciated. Same goes for Cafe Martino on Myrtle- we go there for breakfast on the weekends and the owners treat us like old friends. I can’t overstate how much that makes a difference to me- good,friendly service. We find many places treat us like they’re doing us a favor by serving us; they rarely get a second chance.

We also like the food and atmosphere at Luz and we take-out from Los Pollitos ands Castros pretty frequently.

We went to Bonita this weekend and it was very good as well; I’m sure we’ll be back.

7. What do you most wish would open in the area?
I could fill a book, but the short list is: Grocery with fresh produce and baked goods- not necessarily a ‘gourmet’ place, but a decent, clean greengrocer. I know the wife wants fresh cut flowers, too. Would love a gym- we joined Fitness Academy just weeks before it closed. Crunch is a bit of a hike…
Also, I dream about a restaurant – a simple place, maybe just slightly more ‘upmarket’ than an average diner – I’m thinking about the equivalent of an EJ’s or Veselka, maybe. Someplace to sit and have a burger or something after 8 PM. What gives with the only diners in this neighborhood closing so early?

8. As an artist, do you feel the neighborhood is conducive to creativity? Do you worry that artists will be forced to leave due to rising prices?
Well, the art school’s presence isn’t felt as strongly as I’d hoped it would be. But I do see creativity everywhere- that’s New York. I see it in handpainted shop signs and xeroxed yard sale flyers and graffiti. It’s everywhere and I derive inspiration from everything- at least i try to, but I’m an illustrator, which means I’m a ‘commercial artist’- I’m often most inspired by a paycheck and/or a deadline.
Since I moved to NY I’ve witnessed an increasing lack of interest in or sympathy for creatives – NY has become a playground for wealthy suburbanites who have done their best to reshape the city in their image. The small designers from Waukeegan who would move to NY and open a dress shop on the LES – who can do that anymore? Who can afford to when there’s always a Chuck E Cheese or Radio Shack looking to expand their empire? Ultimately, though, I dream NY’s inhospitable attitude toward the people that made it what it was will backfire and there will be a creative diaspora. Places like Kansas City and Dayton, OH will find more artists living in their midst while NYC is populated solely by bankers, entertainment lawyers and celebrity chefs.

9. Are you involved with SONYA? If so, how can a local artist align with the organization and participate in the annual SONYA Stroll?
I am not- as I mentioned above, I’m a commercial artist so most of my work is of little interest to art enthusiasts. To my discredit I’ve never taken the time to learn much about SONYA.

10.If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?

I had to enlist some help on this one. Sofie says: “Rocky Road, because you’ve got crispy bits and soft bits.” Long pause. “And you’re always sweet” Awww.

dscn8596.jpg 101_3076_1.jpg
Thanks, Steve!
Steve Wacksman

No New Cafe (YET) on St. James

A few months ago, I received a tip that a new cafe might be opening in a brownstone on St. James Place. I checked it out and didn’t see much aside from a demolished garden-level space.

I revisited this place a few days ago, and there’s still no cafe in sight.

no new cafe yet on st. james

However, the owners did put these criss-cross thingies on the windows. Um, is this 1979 Buffalo suburbs? Or Hansel and Gretel?

1979?

Mysterious Trash Can

This falls under the category “on the way to Clinton Hill!”

For those of you who switch trains at Hoyt-Schermerhorn every night like myself, you may have noticed a peculiar garbage can near the back end of the platform. For a few weeks, it was surrounded by yellow caution tape, and most recently it sits covered in a giant black plastic garbage bag. Of course, most people ignore the covering and toss their trash on top.

mysterious trash can

WTF is up with this trash can?? Why has it been covered up for so long?? If there’s something wrong with it, why can’t it be removed and replaced? What in the world could be inside? Yes, my first thought was along the lines of corpse, but that would be pretty stinky by now.

Seriously, this annoys me.

The BEST Scoop Yet!

A few weeks ago, a reader tipped me off to a new TV show he caught on HGTV called Hammered. On the episode he was watching, the show’s hosts were filmed walking into Sister’s Hardware on Fulton. He implored me to investigate, so I did.

I set the trusty DVR to record all episodes. After viewing a few, I saw the guys outside of what appeared to be Adelphi Station:

postoff
lol
sist
sist2
work

WOW. It seemed fairly likely that the DiRestas’ workshop was located in the area, but where??

After a few days of hard research, I made contact with Jimmy DiResta! And I was RIGHT: the workshop is located on Waverly between Fulton and Atlantic! And even more exciting: The DiRestas are going to do some interviews with us and fill us in on their new season, which begins taping in a few weeks.

Jimmy and John are both Brooklyn natives. Jimmy, an artist, designer and teacher, creates unique items tailored for their users. John, a former NYC transit cop, is a well-known stand-up comedian and actor, and has appeared in major movies as well as starred in his own UPN sitcom.
I wonder what they’ll make in their new season. This last season’s projects included an art table for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, a mailbox shaped like John DiResta and a giant birdhouse for wood ducks in Prospect Park. It’s cool enough that they work and film in the neighborhood, but even nicer that they’re making creative products to be used in the area!

Just Wondering…

Did anyone wait on line for a Jive Turkey turkey last week?  I saw a fairly long queue both Monday and Tuesday before I left town.  Can you not preorder or something?  And were those people just waiting for a fresh bird?  It seemed the boxes being unloaded from the truck were not-yet-prepared.

I may order a fried turkey for Christmas…

(PS- I AM SO EXCITED TO BE BACK IN TOWN!)

Kinera II Review!

(I’m headed upstate early Wednesday morning for the holiday, so things’ll be a bit quiet around here until Monday. Anyone wait on line at Jive Turkey today?)

I haven’t gotten around to checking out Kinera II on Myrtle yet, and have been slightly dissuaded by a less-than-favorable review I read on www.Clintonhill.us.

However, one of our neighborhood readers loves it, and typed up a superb review with a very positive spin. Thanks to “mizbrooklyn” for this contribution:
KINARA.
368 Myrtle Ave / Corner of Adelphi Street

It isn’t flashy, and it doesn’t have an interior decorator, but my husband and I were eagerly anticipating Kinara’s arrival anyway. We’d first discovered this tiny, design-challenged storefront when it opened up deep in Park Slope: it looked a bit gritty, but the Village Voice review taped to the window convinced us to give it a try …in the middle of summer…with no airconditioning. We loved it, and left with bellies full of chickpeas and samosa. So we literally counted the days until Kinara’s arrival in our neighborhood and ordered take-out that very week.

I’m happy to report that the wizardry in the kitchen hasn’t suffered under expansion. The best deal, doubtless, is the $11.95 dinner special, which includes an appetizer, an entree, naan, rice, and assorted raita and chutney. One order is really quite enough for two, but we always end up ordering a couple of combinations, for variety’s sake. I’m especially partial to the Aloo Papri (“snack w/ potatoes, chic peas, yogurt & chutney”): imagine a spicy chickpea salad…with fried, crispy potato-flour croutons…and two different dressings (a sweet/sour dressing, and a yogurt dressing). There’s a lot going on in a dish like that, and it tastes especially good in winter, when you want a “salad” that sticks to your ribs. As an entree, the Tikka Masala is the real winner: super-tender spiced chicken dunked in a decadent sauce that a more modest restaurant might drizzle. In the post-e. coli world I hesitate to recommend spinach, but the Saag Panir is another good standby. Unlike many other Indian places, Kinara uses fresh spinach in their recipe, making for a brighter, tastier dish. A word of caution: Kinara’s sweet and sour eggplant (an appetizer) may tempt you with the promise that “if you like eggplant – try this” — but, well, don’t. It is heavy and gooey and all around disappointing, both in Park Slope and Clinton Hill.

Sadly, when I walk down Myrtle, I often find Kinara mostly empty. I’m hoping business perks up soon – if not for sit-down service, than at least for Wednesday night takeout. Don’t expect reduction sauces or artful presentation – just bring your appetite.

Have a restful holiday! We have LOTS of cool stuff in the works, and I am psyched.

PS- Why can I not figure out how to edit font and color of text in this post?? Sorry it looks crappy 🙁

Meetings Tonight

1. Cases to be heard on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Everyone welcome. Sign in to testify. 1 Center St., Municipal Building, Manhattan, 9th floor. Go to www.nyc.gov/html/lpc to see complete schedule.

12 noon 447-449 Clinton Ave.
Application to add extension to Waverly Ave. Carriage House, excavate back yard and add iron work on roof of carriage house.

12:30 pm 173 St. James Place
Application to demolish existing 2-story 1850 house damaged by fire and replace it with a large 4-story building.

2:15 pm 473 Clinton Ave.
Application to modify work done without permits. Addition at top to be modified. Facade to be modified. Front yard/area way to be excavated to expose cellar door and wall.

2. Next 88th Precinct Council Meeting – Everyone welcome to meet with the police to discuss issues of crime and areas that need attention.

Tuesday, November 21, 7:30 pm, Seventh Day Adventist Church, 88 Hanson Place.