You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Flatbush Avenue’ tag.

LEAVE BROOKLYN FOR A LITTLE WHILE, you come back and find new things happening left and right. Reacquainting myself with my neighborhood after some months spent mostly out on the East End of Long Island, I’m aware of a definite and positive buzz.

Railroad tracks running along Atlantic Avenue near the newly opened Barclay’s Center. The building on the left is one of many vintage warehouses being developed as office space

Some of it has to do with the newly opened Barclay’s Center, below, long dreaded and much reviled in advance. My surprising assessment, now that it’s here: not bad. I was never enthused about the idea of a basketball arena at the intersection of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Prospect Heights, fearing that with Bruce Ratner as developer, it would turn out something like the bland horror that is Madison Square Garden — especially when Frank Gehry dropped out as architect. But neither was I unutterably opposed to the project, since the area was already blighted, made up mostly of railroad yards that added nothing to the surrounding district, and it threatened to remain like that forever if planned projects kept failing to launch.

Photo: artinfo.com

The surprising thing is that I don’t mind the architecture, by the Manhattan-based firm SHoP. It’s a rusty hulk, not necessarily in a bad way. It’s interestingly articulated and pleasing at night, when light shines through slots in the steel cladding.  There’s a swooping marquee with a keyhole open to the sky that is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and a new subway entrance with a sedum-planted roof. I find it less objectionable than expected at worst, exciting at best.

A new mural has appeared since I last looked on the side of the Mark Morris dance studio, part of the BAM Cultural District

Traffic is whizzing along Flatbush Avenue like never before, thanks to new lanes and personnel. There are complaints by neighbors, to be sure, about arena patrons peeing in the bushes of surrounding brownstone blocks. If urine is the worst problem, I’d say it’s been worth it for the economic engine this thing is likely to be. Vacant storefronts on the avenue are fewer. The Fulton Street corridor in Fort Greene is packed with newish restaurants and shops of a decidedly gentrified nature. Fulton Street! If I could tell you how inconceivable it was in 1979, when we bought an 1830s row house nearby for $36,000, that the neighborhood would ever be — not only desirable, but the essence of hip. We stepped over bums (that’s what we used to call them) on our stoop daily, couldn’t get Manhattan friends to visit, and traveled by bus to shop in Brooklyn Heights. Of course that was 33 years ago; but that’s how long it can take for a neighborhood to turn fully around.

It’s turned. The other night, my sister and I met at No. 7, a bar/restaurant that comes by its retro feel honestly; it’s part of a great row of old wooden storefronts where Greene Avenue meets Fulton. After a fancy gin cocktail — muddled blueberries and elderflower liquer, don’t ya know — we repaired to the cozy Cafe Lafayette around the corner, where I had a very satisfying couscous dish for a few dollars. Then we hied over to the newest performance space at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (above, the main Opera House), the BAM Fisher, below, a 1928 building refurbished and expanded to accommodate more of BAM’s uncompromisingly avant garde productions. We saw ‘Elsewhere,’ part of the New Wave Festival, billed as a cello opera. All I knew going in was that it was about women, and the tickets were $20. It was both exhilarating and disturbing, a combination of movement, sound, spoken word, projections, performance art, and bizarre imagery. The good news: it was only 70 minutes long and we left laughing.

The high-rise development of lower Flatbush Avenue, near the Manhattan Bridge, is creeping northward. A sliver of skyscraper at #29 Flatbush, below, is still crane-topped but already very tall.

Soon the 1929 Williamsburgh Savings Bank, below, for decades the tallest building in Brooklyn at 29 stories, will be eclipsed by many others. So it goes. As long as the architecture of the brownstone neighborhoods is protected (and for the most part, it is), I’m generally in favor of what seems like real progress. Where the Barclay’s Center is concerned, I may never go to a Nets or Islanders game, and I’m not one for huge arena concerts, but so far, I’m a fan.

DSCN0111

Mansard roof with dormer windows, Prospect Place. You can see them in the row of brownstones on the left in the second vintage photo, below.

IF I COULD HOP into a time machine and go back to Brooklyn in 1914, I would. I’m not sure how long I’d stay; I’d want an open return ticket, just in case I missed some things about the 21st century.

But old photographs, like the ones in this post from the site Brooklynpix, which claims the most comprehensive collection of vintage Brooklyn photos anywhere, are sure a balm for eyes tired of bad contemporary architecture, ugly cars, brash advertising signs, and lately, heaps of garbage on dirty snow.

pheights205

Above, an undated view of Flatbush Avenue looking north (toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan) from Prospect Place. The buildings are crisp and uniform, the signage tasteful. Of course, it was all relatively new back then, this area having been developed mostly in the 1870s and ’80s. Below, the same block today. Ugh.

DSC_0026

Prospect Place in 1914, looking east from Flatbush Avenue, below, had trees and lovely striped window awnings. The turreted building on the right, once a real estate office, is now a burrito place (one I’m kind of scared to go into).

pheights206

Below, the same block as it looks today (I couldn’t get exactly the same angle as in the vintage shot without standing right in the middle of Flatbush Avenue, which would be foolhardy). The six-window-wide brownstone, third from the left in the contemporary shot, below, is the one in the left foreground of the view above.

DSC_0028

It’s easy to match up the red building with the Romanesque arches in the picture, above, with the same one in the 1914 picture below, a slightly different angle on the same block.

pheights209

If I’m not mistaken, the shop with the barber pole in front, above, is now a hairdresser’s. Some things never change.

DSC_0001

BET YOU CAN’T GUESS — unless you noticed the tags– the location of that rustic-looking barn, above. Well, I’ll tell ya. It’s the Prospect Park Zoo here in Brooklyn. I went there yesterday for the first time in years (first time ever without children in tow).

DSC_0027

I was in search of a subject for a photography workshop I’m taking at the new 92Y Tribeca. The assignment: to take an animal portrait that captures “something essential” about the subject, ideally a “magic moment” — and to try and get beyond the “awwww…how cute” factor.

DSC_0032

That is almost impossible when you’re dealing with alpacas, like the pair above. For purposes of the class, I had to reduce the final number of images to three (all of one animal), from about 100 shots I took of sea lions — fast shutter speed required — and various other creatures.

DSC_0016

African pygmy goat (didn’t get his name)

Ultimately, I zeroed in on Bonnie the Cotswold sheep, below. I had to eliminate many shots of her for my class presentation, because the awww factor was just too great.

DSC_0043

DSC_0056

Fortunately, I have this blog, so even though it’s off-topic, please indulge my sharing a few of my ‘extra’ shots. And do get over to the Prospect Park Zoo. You’ll probably feel, as I do, that you’ve made a lot of new friends.

DSCN0383

I NEVER MIND A GOOD SNOW DAY. It’s a guilt-free chance to stay home and make soup, clean closets, go through old photos — all of which I did yesterday. But by Snow Day 2, I get antsy. Come on, Mayor Bloomberg!! Would you believe that the streets of my Brooklyn neighborhood, Prospect Heights, are still not plowed two days after the storm?

DSCN0376

Even the mighty Flatbush Avenue, above, was unplowed yesterday afternoon, when I ventured around the unshoveled corner for juice and magazines.

DSCN0386

Mounds of snow have such a pretty way of emphasizing the graceful lines and details of brownstone architecture. That’s my block, below.

DSCN0388

On Park Slope’s Sixth Avenue, below, as on most of the area’s streets, it was like the 19th century, but without the horses.

DSCN0381

Now this fellow had the right idea…

DSCN0372

DSCN0180

I’M STILL HAPPILY DISCOVERING my new neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s been too cold to walk around just for fun. I’ve seen only the blocks immediately adjacent to mine, and the main avenues, where I shop, eat, and do my errands.

I’m starting to appreciate Flatbush Avenue. Along this stretch of it, leading up to Prospect Park, there are large brick apartment buildings that must have been quite elegant in their late 19th century day. Today’s tacky stores detract from the street level, but if you look up, you see a bit of history. The date, the building’s name, and the cornice detail, top, suggest the Prospect View must have been a very desirable address.

DSCN0204

The square turret on the late Victorian building, above, is like something out of Peter Pan, which is not atypical of the area.

DSCN0235

The former carriage house, above, however bastardized, is a reminder that Flatbush Avenue was once the main route for horse-drawn vehicles, first carriages called omnibuses, then horsecars, which ran on tracks. They carried the residents of the developing areas around Prospect Park, which opened in 1873, down to Fulton Ferry landing where they could catch one of 1,200 boats a day to Manhattan.

DSCN0184

Plaza Street rims Grand Army Plaza, a majestic traffic circle with an unoriginal triumphal arch and an extraordinary 1932 fountain with figures of Neptune and the Tritons (best photographed in spring, when the water’s on). On Plaza Street, pre- and post-war apartment buildings, above, alternate.

DSCN0187

The controversy has died down over Richard Meier’s 1 Grand Army Plaza, above, a glazed behemoth that is a century newer than any other building in the area. When modern architcture is good, and this assured, subtly complex building is very good, it’s welcome in my book.

DSCN0190

The main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, above, is apparently considered one of the most important Art Deco buildings in America. It has a concave facade designed to fit around Grand Army Plaza’s oval contours. Ground was broken in 1912 for a Beaux Arts building similar in style to the nearby Brooklyn Museum, but costs and city politics slowed construction (so what else is new?) By the time construction recommenced in 1938, styles had changed and new architects were commissioned. It opened to acclaim in 1941.

Between the grand portals, below, with gilded figures from history and myth, and the inscription

Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide, the magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that has never died

the library is an inspiring destination on a bitter cold day.

DSCN0194

After a day of local errands, I like to stop into Pequena, below, a colorful and high-spirited Mexican restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue. I assume the festive lights are seasonal, but maybe they’re a year-round fixture. How should I know? I’m new in town.

DSCN0222

Enter your email address below (no spam, promise)

Join 406 other followers

CATEGORIES

ARCHIVES

Blog Stats

  • 926,514 views
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 406 other followers

%d bloggers like this: