Have You Seen a Giant Penis on the G?

Some days, the CHB inbox cracks me up.  Here's a recent note:

To Whom it may concern:

Pratt student David Livingston has been performing his absurdist art piece Big Dick in the city for the past sever months. The artist wears a 6' long flaccid felt penis that he sewed and stuffed with sofa upholstery. All of his video art pieces thus far have taken place in various New York City neighborhoods. This time he rides the Brooklyn G train and the A train into Manhattan.

I have to admit, the video is pretty funny.

Free Bike Helmet Giveaway a Pratt's Green Week

Every year Pratt Institute holds its annual Green Week celebration, promoting green design, sustainable living, and environmentally conscious community.  As part of Green Week and for the last three years in a row, student group Envirolution has invited the Department of Transportation to give away FREE bicycle helmets.  This event is free and open to the public, as with all of this year's Green Week events. The details:

DOT Free Helmet Giveaway Next Tuesday March 30th 11am - 3pm Center of Pratt Campus ** In the Student Union in case of rain A parent or legal guardians must come with children under 18 to receive a free helmet

For more information about Green Week and the DOT Free Helmet giveaway - please take a look at www.sustainablepratt.org/greenweek/

Helmets can be expensive, and this event is a great all-ages stop for a free helmet and some cycling safety tips.

Pratt Access: Restricted?

From a reader: In the last few days I've see notices on the Pratt campus saying that access to campus by non faculty and students would be prohibited until further notice, due to ongoing construction.  I wonder if this is a temporary change or, as I've heard rumored, as the fist step in barring the general public from entering campus ground.

This struck me as worrisome, since I've been a visitor to the campus grounds for ten years now, and use it as a pleasant walk to Myrtle, as a convenient Bicycle cut-through, to use the Sovereign bank ATM back before there were other ATM locations in the neighborhood, and most recently, as a lush spot to take my 11-month-old daughter.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the Union Carpenters protesting at the Dekalb Ave gates, or if this is the first step towards a new access policy.

What has the all-knowing all-seeing neighborhood blog heard?

Sadly, the all-knowing all-see blog has not heard a peep, but I do deeply hope this is construction-related.  I can't imagine the school would want to restrict their well-loved sculpture garden from the neighborhood at large and I am a firm believer of campuses and their student and faculty communities being well-integrated into the neighborhoods they inhabit.  I can understand security concerns in the evening, but it would be a real shame to close the gates all day.

Has the campus always been accessible to the community? pratt sculprure garden

Public Space Planning Report

This recap is a bit late, as it happened a few weeks ago, but better late than never! The charette was indeed a planning workshop for the cobblestone area on Lafayette at St. James, and the meeting was held in Pratt's architecture school (the cool-looking one with the glowing mid-section on St. James.  The project will be a NYC Greenstreet, supported by the Dept of Parks and Recreation, the Dept of Transportation, Pratt and Councilwoman James.  The Greenstreet program "carves out new landscapes from the left over spaces of our dense system of urban roadways."

In answer to the question of ownership posed in my original post about this area, the space belongs to the city of NY and NOT the buildings it sits in front of.  However, the buildings' residents are still concerned about liability in the space and on the sidewalk that sits in front of it next to Lafayette Ave. (Apparently, who is responsible for the sidewalk and injuries it may cause is a contentious issue.  It was once thought to be the responsibility of the property owner, but recent lawsuits have left the city responsible.  I can see owners having to shovel and salt sidewalks in freezing, snowy weather, but major repair seems as though it should be the city's responsibility.  My two cents.)

During a slideshow presentation, attendees were shown different options regarding how to use and design the space, based on examples from Manhattan.  These included various bench arrangements, different types of greenery and the creation of small "rooms" using benches and planters that allow small groups of people to sit and visit, with some seats in the shade and some in the sun.  The presenters said they hoped to dedicate 30% of the space to gardens and include at least three benches in the new design.

We broke up into small groups and played around with tracing paper over diagrams of the space.  I had to leave for another engagement before the event was finished, so I wasn't able to see what the other groups had come up with (or what the event's conclusion was).  The ideas that my group came up with included: - opening up and extending the existing playground area into the space - dog run - art alley with lighting, here as well as up St. James to create a visual connection up to the main Pratt campus - benches in L-shapes or across from each other to allow for better conversation - invite local groups to host events in the space - for example, Sunday morning coffee with the adjacent church - community garden - recycle cobblestones to create pedestal for sculpture* - special programming, ie. have a debut reception when the sculpture is changed


The event was filled mostly with Pratt reps, current and former students, and reps from Ms. James' office.  There were also a handful of co-op board reps from te buildings adjacent to the space.  They were enthusiastic but also very concerned about potential liability.  Because I left early, I didn't get to meet everyone.  However, I may have been the only regular neighbor there who was not involved with Pratt, Ms. James or the building.  Would more people have come if the outreach had been better?

What do YOU want to see in that space?  Implementation is planned for fall 09.

(And those planters I lamented as being filled with weeds?  They're movable and will likely be taken out of the space for its facelift.)

* Yes, a few commenters were correct that there was once a sculpture in the space, and the plan is to bring art back to the front corner.  It will be a rotating sculpture display - sculptures will be changed out regularly

Meeting on New Public Space

Received this notice a few days ago: Dear Friends of Clinton Hill: Council Member James and Dr. Schutte of Pratt Institute are working with NYC’s Department of Transportation and Department of Parks and Recreation to create a new public space at the corner of St. James Place and Lafayette Avenue.

You are invited to attend a design charette this Saturday, March 14, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall South, Room 111.

This meeting will be held to gather the thoughts and ideas of stakeholders in the surrounding community regarding the proposed Greenstreet site at Lafayette Ave. and St. James Place.





-DPR Guidelines

Precedent Sites

Stakeholder Design Session

Stakeholder Presentations

We hope you can attend.

For more information, or any questions you might have, please call:

Alfred A. Chiodo

Urban Affairs Director

Office of Council Member Letitia James

District Office: 718-260-9191

I wonder if they are talking about the cobblestoned section of Lafayette that I blogged about months ago, wondering if it was destined for urban prairie status!  I plan on attending and will take notes and report back.

The Pratt Steam Whistles

Even though I moved here over two years ago, I still think of myself as the new kid – and I’m still learning the neighborhood and its history. And that history is in more places than you’d think.  Take the steam whistles at Pratt – this was the first New Year’s Eve I saw them, and I got a huge kick out of sounding a couple of them.  A couple days later, though, I wondered where those whistles had come from.  As it turns out, one of them had quite a history before Pratt’s Chief Engineer Conrad Milster got his hands on it; it was the steam whistle for the ocean liner S.S. Normandie..

In her day, the Normandie was the largest and fastest ship in the world, and still holds the record for the most powerful steam-powered passenger ship ever built.  The French build her to take advantage of American tourism – the financial boom of the 1920’s gave more Americans than ever the money to afford luxury travel, and European countries were building lavish transatlantic cruise ships to cater to the craze.  On her maiden voyage transatlantic voyage in 1935, the Normandie proved sailed from Normandy, France to New York City in only four days, setting a new record for fastest transatlantic voyage.

But the Normandie wasn’t just fast – she was gorgeous.  Passengers enjoyed an outdoor and indoor pool, chapel, theater, moviehouse, and even a garden.  Some rooms even came with private dining rooms and music rooms complete with baby grand pianos.  French artist Jean de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the elephant, was personally commissioned for a series of Babar murals in the childrens’ areas.  The first class dining hall – almost the length of a football field – seated 700 diners and was lit with lamps encased in huge glass pillars, earning the Normandie the nickname “Ship of Light”. The luxury attracted passengers like Ernest Hemingway, Noël Coward, Fred Astaire, Walt Disney, James Stewart, and even the von Trapp family Singers.

Sadly, the Normandie’s life on the sea was short –World War II caught her in New York, and the U.S. Navy took her over as a troopship.  While she was being refitted for combat, sparks from a welding torch set fire to a stack of life preservers in the first-class dining hall.  The ship’s sprinkler system had been disconnected, and firefighters were unable to contain the blaze.  She finally capsized and sank onto her side in the Hudson, remaining there until she was sold for salvage in 1946.

Some of the interior décor had been saved and sold at a special auction beforehand, though – the lighted pillars, some of the furniture, and several statues and other art pieces which decorated the ship.  Another bit of the Normandie is elsewhere in Brooklyn; the church doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, in Brooklyn Heights, used to be the doors to the first class dining room.

And the whistle ended up here in Clinton Hill, sounding off again every New Year’s Eve.

Neighborhood News from B'Stoner

CH resident Brownstoner is able to blog full-time (lucky duck). Rather than repeat his scoops after the fact, here are some quick summaries and links from his site:

Archiculture Trailer Debuts

The documentary currently being filmed at Pratt is having its trailer debut tomorrow evening! ARCHICULTURE TRAILER DEBUT PARTY Friday March 14 2008 5pm - 8pm Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

Tapping their feet and chewing pencils, five students nervously await the outcome of five tumultuous years of intense labor. In moments, they will hear from their committee of professors as to the final decision of their senior thesis projects. The documentary Archiculture follows these five students and their struggles over the course of their final semester at a university to complete their thesis projects, which are the manifestations of years of hard work, stress and, ultimately, success...

Come join us to celebrate the debut of our trailer for the feature length documentary Archiculture, which is currently being shot in New York at Pratt Institute. We will have a brief introduction to the project, a few guest speakers, and a short presentation by the film's creators and filmmakers followed by a Q&A session. Food and drink will be provided.

Speakers: David Krantz (co-Producer/Director); Ian Harris (co-Producer/Director); Pierce Cook (Editor) with special guest Fredric M. Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter, and others TBA Organized by: AIA New York Chapter, Center for Architecture Foundation, Arbuckle Industries Sponsored by: Center for Architecture Foundation Location: Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place Price: free More Info: www.archiculturefilm.com


Pratt Documentary

Pratt Institute will be the setting for a documentary film currently shooting called Archiculture. Filmmakers Ian Harris and David Krantz filled me in on the project a few weeks ago before the semester began... If you've ever known an architecture student, you'll have seen him or her practically living in the studio day and night for five years straight. You've probably wondered why on earth someone would subject himself to such an insane academic program. I know I have! The original title of the project was "Architorture" -- a term well-known to architecture students and professionals describing the rigors of the program and the stress of completing the final thesis project before graduation. Worried about the negative connotation of the term to outsiders, Harris and Krantz changed the title to reflect the passion felt by these driven students, as well as the "self-inflicted" nature of choosing the curriculum and sticking with it.

Architecture programs, unlike many other undergraduate majors, place students into small groups in which they remain for the next five years. For kids coming out of high school, these small groups produce intense group dynamics in which roles begin to form -- class superstar, faculty politics, etc.

Harris and Krantz are hoping to do justice to the story of the undergraduate architecture student, and looked high and low for the right setting. The duo narrowed down their options to 20 institutions and chose Pratt based on the diversity of its student population, the support of the program to their project and the ease of bringing a camera crew on campus. The documentary will follow a select group of students as they prepare to present their final thesis projects before graduation.

Harris and Krantz have assured me that Clinton Hill and its surrounding neighborhoods will play a role in the finished product. As Harris explained, "The story is very much one of coming-of-age. The neighborhood is the context -- Where do they live? Where are they walking to school?"

More updates to come as filming continues! library-6397.jpg

Midnight Steam Whistles

Each year, Pratt engineer Conrad Milster puts on an amazing steam whistle show on campus on New Year's Eve at midnight. For some reason, I've never heard them sound! I've seen the smoke from my window during test runs, but have yet to venture over for the official show. whistles.jpg

The steam whistles were installed in 1900 to power the campus. They remained in use until a few years ago (they were still operating two campus elevators!).

Milster has maintained the steam plant since 1965, and has been conducting the midnight show for years. The NYT listed it here, back in 1980 (last listing on page). Also check out this YouTube video of last year's presentation.

The steam plant at Pratt is still in its original condition, and was declared a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1977.

Check it out tonight!

Community Design Workshop: TONIGHT


Project is a collaboration between the Pratt Design Incubator and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

BROOKLYN, N.Y., November 13, 2007 – The Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, Pratt industrial design students, and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership will hold a community design workshop tonight, Tuesday, November 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall as part of the Myrtle Avenue Street Furniture Design Initiative. The workshop, during which designers will present preliminary concepts for seating, bike racks, tree guards, and other possible street elements, is open to the public and members of the community are encouraged to attend.

The Pratt Design Incubator, Pratt industrial design students, and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership are working together to design innovative and artistic street furniture elements for Myrtle Avenue. The workshop will introduce the background, goals, process, and timeline of the project, share preliminary design concepts, and invite participants to join topic tables to discuss and/or sketch concrete ideas as well as general topics. The goal is to create street furniture concepts over the next year that ultimately will lead to prototypes of off-the-shelf designs for artistic, sturdy, multipurpose, and cost-effective streetscape furniture and amenities. Prospective participants are asked to pay close attention to design elements in New York City streets, particularly Myrtle Avenue, in order to provide specific information in describing what works and what does not.

The Pratt Design Incubator is a cooperative of interdisciplinary designers committed to creative products and services that respect the environment and humanity. It is run by Deb Johnson, academic director of sustainability at Pratt, who organized a team of industrial design students to survey and study Myrtle Avenue’s existing conditions. The team is being led by research coordinator Samantha Razook-Murphy. The initiative started in September when the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project LDC hired the Pratt Design Incubator to develop street furniture designs. Funding for this initiative comes from an award from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District. The workshop will be held at Higgins Hall on the southeast corner of Lafayette at 61 St. James Place. Informational signs will direct participants to the workshop room. Please RSVP to Mr. Vaidila Kungys at vkungys@myrtleavenue.org or by phone at 718.230.1689

Gossip Roundup

Received this tip-filled email from a reader: I was at a town hall meeting with tish james and heard from the pres. of pratt that they have taken over the kentucky fried chicken spot!!! It is going to be a 6 (or more) story building with retail on the ground floor. The space is actually still owned by the person that owned the KFC, but pratt worked some deal where they get the land and the owner gets the building... Don't quote me on that, I'm super tired and I definitely didn't give them enough attention. : ) The other bit of gossip on this front is that the owner wants some kind of pharmacy on the ground floor. Although I really hate box store pharmacies, this is something that area does need.

More gossip...

The bodega on the corner of grand and clifton is interviewing chefs for a brick oven pizza joint! I will probably be close to a year till they open, but worth the wait.

Terri, of Choice fame, is on hold with the spot on greene bec. of permit issues. They hope to open in the next few months.

The 6-story building sounds promising and not too tall. It IS amazing how much unused space exists on Myrtle (more on this later).