“House that Whimsy Built” Over $60,000 in Fines Since 2010

I am fed up with the “House that Whimsy Built” at 501 2nd St, on the corner of 7th Avenue and 2nd St.   They now have signs saying they have “commercial space for rent.”  The hand painted garish banners are hung on the dilapidated scaffolding, at least on the parts of the structure that havent fallen off.  (Two large pieces of rotting plywood fell from the scaffolding in the last few months.)

I’m not sure what I find more galling, the complete insanity that the owner Dorothy Nash think anyone will rent in a building that is in such disrepair, or that the city has let it get to such a state. There is a “Stop Work Order” on the building because:

This is from January of 2010, since then the building had racked up over $60,000 in fines, yet nothing has changed.

Last week a rotting roll-up up gate fell from a store front on 5th Avenue in Park Slope, breaking a two year old’s leg in three places and giving his babysitter a sever head injury.   I don’t even want to consider what injuries would happen if the house of whimsy’s rotting scaffolding collapses. It is across the street from an elementary school and hundreds fo children walk under it every day.

I love the varying nature of the city landscape, from block to block, building to building, an expensive modern glass condo next to sunbleached green aluminum sided townhouse with lawn chairs in front.  It’s what makes Brooklyn Brooklyn.

But we should not call 501 2nd street whimsical. The pink brownstone on Garfield Place is whimsical, the building at the corner of 2nd St. and 7th Ave. is a disaster waiting to happen.


Happy Presidents’ Day- How Lincoln Place Got Its Name

There are a number of presidential associations in Park Slope. In 1883  Macomb Place was renamed Garfield Place after the assignation of President James Garfield (who interestingly enough also shared an affinity for lasagna with the cat of the same name), in 1892 President Grover Cleveland, the Justin Bieber of presidents, was besieged by admirers at the Montauk Club and of course there is President Street, the laziest street name ever.

But the most curious presidential connection in Park Slope is Lincoln Place. Lincoln Place seems innocuous enough, what town doesn’t have a street named after one of our greatest and most popular presidents?  The interesting part is why that street’s name was changed.

Degraw Street runs from Red Hook through Cobble Hill and Gowanus and into Park Slope, where at 5th Street it suddenly changes its name to Lincoln Place.  It was renamed in 1873 shortly after Kate Stoddard shot her lover, Charles Goodrich, 3 times in the head in his home at 731 Degraw Street (right across the street from where the Lincoln Playground is now.)  The murder was a tabloid sensation and property owners thought the macabre association would bring down property values and petitioned the name to be changed to Lincoln Place.

To me, t really amazing part about it was the murder took place on March 21, 1873 and the street was renamed by April 15th 1873, only 25 days later! Apparently the city bureaucracy was a bit faster back then.

Stop the Half-Spot Hoarder Tyanny!

Forget Babyccinos and bike lanes.  In today’s Brooklyn Paper I finally found a Park Slope controversy I can really sink my teeth into- The Montgomery Place Half-Spot Hoarders!

We’ve all been there, driving in concentric circles, looking for a spot. Up ahead you see what looks like a spot, but like a mirage it disappears as you get closer.  It’s the dreaded half-spot, not big-enough for a car, but an incredible waste of parking real estate.

Apparently at the doormen at 27 Prospect Park West, who park the cars for its tenants, intentionally create un-parkable “half spaces” on Montgomery Place to save spots.  So when a resident drives up, move one car forward and one care backward, and viola, a space appears out of thin air.

As someone who takes his parking very seriously, this kind of behavior infuriates me.  Technically it’s not illegal, but it should be, and a felony at that! Trust me if Dante had a car in Park Slope, he would have reserved a special circle in hell for the half-spot hoarder, right between the blasphemers and the sodomites.

After finding out about this parking fraud, I swallowed my bile in my throat, calmed down and decided to see if it was true.  A quick look at street view on Google maps showed an extraordinarily large amount of “half-spots.”

I urge everyone with SmartCars, Minis, scooters, rickshaws and any vehicle small enough for a half-spot, and park on Montgomery Place. This spot tyranny will not stand. It’s time to take back our spots!

Park Slope is Dead, God Save Park Slope!

The New Yorker recently had a story called “Park Slope is Dead,” which consists mostly of the co-owner of Southpaw, Matt Roff, bitching about how the neighborhood has changed. He is closing his 5th Avenue club Southpaw not for financial reasons but  because Park Slope isn’t what it used to be, yet somehow he neglects to mention the other thriving music venues in the neighborhood (The Bell House, Union Hall, Littlefield.)

Matt says, “My folks came (to Park Slope) in the seventies and it was rough, dude. Just bodegas and stuff, and this wave of ex-hippies buying houses for twenty thousand dollars.” He is just keepin’ it real. Except that it was his parents who were the gentrifiers, at least in the eyes of the people they were pushing out.

Park Slope has become the punchline of jokes about yuppie parents, and overprotected children on a diet of pastured free range chicken and organic kale. The common wisdom among the blogs is that that yuppie families have killed Brooklyn, or at least Park Slope. In the last few years they have forced out the minorities and are destroying the fabric of this neighborhood with their gourmet coffee and cookies, and the neighborhood is now overrun with breeders and their double-wide strollers!

This is, of course, nonsense! Sure, gentrification is going on in Park Slope, but it started in the late ’60s when the middle class were being priced out of Manhattan, and they found they could afford brownstones in the blue collar Park Slope.

The Brooklyn lifers thought the people moving in were nuts, ”I couldn’t understand why a nice couple like that would buy into a neighborhood like this,” said a long time resident when the first “pioneers” moved in in the late ’60s.

But by the early 80’s the “post-pioneers” were complaining about new interlopers moving in and driving up the price of real estate.  They had to create an “other” to blame their problems on,  “lawyers from Manhattan,” ”People don’t know their neighbors. It isn’t families coming in any more.”

Can you believe that, people were complaining that there were not ENOUGH families in Park Slope?  They even had a name for them, “DINKs,” dual income, no kids.

Of course, people who moved in the 80’s complained about the people who were moving in in the ’90s and so on.  The moral of this is unless you were neighbors of Gil Hodges, you should probably not complain about gentrification.

POST SCRIPT- I’d like to correct one misconception in the newyorker article about Park Slope not being cool anymore. It is impossible for Park Slope to not be cool anymore, because PARK SLOPE WAS NEVER COOL!  It was always a bedroom community with a few nice restaurants and bars.  It was never the “It” neighborhood that Williamsburg, Dumbo, and Brooklyn Heights were. It was always the also-ran where you moved because you weren’t cool enough to live in “Greenpoint”.

For Rent Signs on The Shame of 7th Avenue

I just saw “For Rent” signs and a half-ass paint job on the retail shops on 2nd St.,  connected to the derelict building on 187 7th Ave.  This may be in connection with the report that CB 6 is finally trying to do something about the abandoned eyesore. This follows the space being used as for a art gallery for a couple of weeks. But my guess is that the owner, Dorthy Nash, is once again just buying time by trying to make it look like she is working on improving the wreck, but without actually doing anything.  Like when she put up the scaffolding, but did no work on the building.  Or when she put the building for sale, but at such a high price, and with crazy stipulations that no one would buy it.

I am generally of the mind that a property holder has the right to do whatever they want with their real estate, within reason.  But the Shame of 7th Avenue is not just ugly, its falling apart and someone is going to eventually get hurt when the scaffolding falls, or  plywood and broken glass falling from the windows hits someone (which has already happen once), or a wall collapses due to years of neglect.  And I don’t even want to talk about the vermin that infest that dump.

If you aren’t familiar with 187 7th Ave, its quite a story.  Its been called The House of Whimsy by the NY Times and an “ugly mess” by others.  It use to be a quirky bar called Landmark.  The Bar was known more for its collection of children’s toys and opening at random hours than it was for its libations.  It is owned by Mrs. Nash and her two daughters,  (aspiring) fashion designer/socialites“, and they have a bit of a Grey Garden-esque reputation in Brooklyn.  Depending on who you ask the building is being made into a media/art space by the owner or the sale and development of the building is being held up due to legal issues, with someone claiming to have a 100 year lease on the property.

There is no confirmations to the rumors that it will be turned into the 6th burger joint on 7th Ave.

(And for more details than you probably need about the Nashes, there is a LONG thread on Brooklynian)

And here is a little background on the building, and the whole block of buildings, designed by John Deery in 1891.

What Makes You a New Yorker?

I noticed something in all the hubbub about the Prospect Park West bike lanes, blog commenters frequently feel the need to state they were born in New York City, and how long they have lived there. Somehow because they exited their mother’s womb in the confines of the Five Boroughs, it entitles them to more credibility. They often refer  to non-native New Yorkers as “transplants”, and these “transplants” are usually  complicit in the destruction of the fabric of new york.  And the craziest thing is the so-called “transplants” buy into this malarkey and often allow them selves to be cowed buy these native-son-of-a -guns.

So let me clear up what makes you a New Yorker:

You were born and raised in Midwood, Brooklyn?  Congratulations, you are a New Yorker!

You moved to New York City last month from Chillicothe, Ohio (and you managed to find a job and a place to live)? Congratulations, you are a New Yorker!

How much of one’s vested interest in their community is based on birthplace?  I see plenty of “native” New Yorkers treat their city like a garbage dump.  In fact, I think it is longtime New York residents make change (even for the better) more difficult.  The “born and raised” are often overly tolerant of Gotham’s daily assaults (crime, pollution, rotting infrastructure.)  B & Rs often haven’t lived anywhere else, so they do not know any different way.

And because of that they a very quick to defend any on the city’s deficiencies with statements like:

“If you can’t take it, move back to Iowa!”

“Yea, but we got [some great thing about New York]”

“Only in New York”

(I love this city, but I’m sorry, “only in New York” doesn’t cut it as a response to someone complaining that a homeless person is using their foyer as a bathroom.)

So let’s give the “transplants” the benefit of the doubt.  Coming to New York with a different point of view is what keeps the city vibrant. Transplants often give a dying body new life.

Here is a list of a few New York Transplants who made New York what it is and
Patti Smith – Born in Chicago, moved to New York from Deptford Township, New Jersey
Sarah Jessica Parker – Was born and raised in Ohio.
Jane Jacobs – Moved to New York City from Scranton, PA.
Bob Dylan – Born in Duluth, Minnesota
John Lennon – Born in Liverpool, England
Andy Warhol – Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

(fwiw- I was born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and moved to Long Island before elementary school.  I went to college in upstate New York and since I’ve lived in Hoboken, NJ, the Upper East Side, Williamsbug, the West Village, and Park Slope.)

17 Prospect Park West Manision Renovation Finished!

The Park Slope Patch has heavily staged pics of the much hoopla-ed renovation of the 17 Prospect Park West Victorian mansion.  Formerly the abode of movie stars Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, it was bought in 2009 by a Google engineer, and locals and the blogerati were worried that the new owners would gut the “old world charm.” I’ve always admired this beautiful limestone townhouse, and when I saw scaffolding surrounding the place for a year, I thought they would do a down-to-the-studs renovation.  But it looks like they kept a lot of the original detail (and stuffed it with a lot of velvet furniture, even in the children’s room!  Maybe “Google-raised” kids aren’t constantly covered in jam and syrup like my kids.)  It really does look beautiful, but why do modern refurbs feel compelled to make bathrooms look like they are in a nightclub?


Dining area

Perfect for the kids to bust out the magic markers on a play-date


Who doesn’t keep a wide array of melons and gourds splayed on their kitchen table?

Family room

I know its hard to take your eyes off the Danish/caveman club chair, but notice the high-chair?
Adult furniture from the future, children’s furniture from Amish country.

Child's room

The boots and blocks say, “we have a toddler.” The pink velvet chair says, “we can afford to have it re-upholstered”

Kitchen-level bath

I can practically hear “In Da Club” blastin’!

New York Times Discovers Babies in Brooklyn!

NEWS FLASH! "Families are moving to Brooklyn!"

How is this a story in the “paper of record”?

The NY Times article “An Apartment Building Where Babies Reign” talks about a building in Brooklyn where four of the six new buyers had babies when they closed on their apartments.   I assumed there would be some interesting sub-context or a twist in the article. Maybe the area has great public elementary school (it has two, PS 146 and PS 129) or that the neighborhood, along with Park Slope,  has grown into a magnet for families in recent years (it has), or at least say that the building owner had a fetish for pregnant ladies or something (I can’t confirm that one).  But no, the best we get from nearly a thousand words in the New York Times is, that’s a lot of diapers. Couldn’t they have at least said that the building was built on the remains of an ancient Indian playground?  Throw me a friggin’ bone here, other than stating the obvious, there are a lot of babies in Brooklyn!

News flash, a lot of new parents are moving to the 718! In other news “Traffic Terrible at Rush Hour” and “New Study Finds People Think Weekends Go By Too Fast.”  This is not a news story.

(Hat-tip to Juliet.)