Seeking Storage, Finding Brooklyn


THE SITUATION IS DIRE: 11 cartons and 8 plastic bins, holding a lifetime’s worth of family photos, children’s artwork, published and unpublished writing, already pared down to what I consider essentials. Sitting out on the floor of my bedroom in piles, they do not attractive decor make.

And on the other side of the room…


Unless I get some kind of giant credenza, armoire, cabinet, or other closed storage piece –– and I have a 6-1/2-foot wide alcove just waiting to receive one — there’s no point even painting the walls (just as well, since I haven’t decided what color to paint them).


Here’s where I’ve looked:

  • IKEA, where I tried to get my head around the ultra-sleek cabinet, above, ultimately deciding to honor my vow not to buy anything made of particle board
  • Find, a Gowanus warehouse documented in a previous post, where I considered and decided against several rustic pieces imported from India, mainly because nothing was quite the right size for the space
  • Hip and Humble on Atlantic Avenue, which had an armoire approximately the right size and shape, but with cutesy floral carving I couldn’t abide
  • A just-opened and potentially fabulous resource, Film Biz Recycling on President Street near 4th Avenue, a repository for film-set leftovers that just re-located this week from Queens — but I wasn’t parked legally so I just ran in long enough to ascertain there weren’t any armoires in stock


Today, nearing my wit’s end, I checked out a place I’d read about somewhere: Trailer Park, on Sterling Place near 6th Avenue in Park Slope, above, which sells vintage furniture as well as custom pieces made of reclaimed barn wood. The place is so full of the very stuff I used to collect — ’50s lamps, vintage tablecloths, American art pottery — I couldn’t believe I’d never known about it. I brightly asked the fellow in the shop, “How long have you been here?” thinking surely he’d reply, “We just opened last month.” He said, “Oh, about thirteen years.” And I thought I knew Brooklyn!


I admired the 1970s German science posters ($150) and checked out the other offerings closely, but the pieces made of recycled barn lumber by Amish woodworkers, above, were too plain and stolid for me, and the large armoires more than I wanted to spend (about $1,600) — and they didn’t happen to have any vintage ones on hand.

So on I went to Re-Pop on Washington Avenue near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, first perusing their website and zeroing in on a couple of mid-20th century credenzas — not a style I was tending toward, I’m pretty done with that — although in my present circumstances, the main thing is to get something that fits, dammit, so I can start unpacking these boxes before my lease is up.


It was also my first-ever visit to Re-Pop, above, which has been in business about four years, and my first time in that area — Clinton Hill East? — in ages. So it was a revelation to see that the proximity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is no longer a deal-breaker when it comes to luxury apartments. 275 Park Avenue, right under the BQE, is a converted 19th century chocolate factory, a distinguished brick building that now houses an organic market, Fresh Fanatic, below, and a Mexican restaurant, Mojito, on the ground floor. I can’t tell you how incongruous I find the gentrification of these blocks in the shadow of the BQE. I once considered them irredeemable — but I was wrong about that, too, apparently.


Re-Pop is stuffed with vintage modern furniture at good prices, chosen with a keen eye for mostly non-pedigreed but stylish designs. They have a load of kitschy ’50s lamps, all with original shades. I seriously considered two pieces, each under $600: a long, low credenza of good shape and size, but I didn’t love it as a piece of furniture, and an unusual blonde wood 9-drawer dresser, but I don’t need a 9-drawer dresser.

So I came away without that vital storage piece, but not empty-handed. See my new lamp, below. It works beautifully in the living room, and actually provides enough illumination for reading.


The Last Time I Saw Brooklyn


….was on Sunday, when I began my search for a pied-a-terre (I think I’ve already found something, but it’s not a done deal so I’m not going to jinx it by blabbing). It had been many months since I really looked and walked around the old nabe, and in my whirlwind half-day visit, I found that much has changed. Some things for the better. Some for the worse.

As I strolled around Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights with my friend Nancy, I was reminded of how my daughter would return from summer camp and run around the house to make sure everything was as she remembered it and take note of anything new.

First, the bad news. On the corner of Smith and Pacific, there once was a funky restaurant that went through a rapid series of playful name and menu changes, including Trout Shack, Gravy, and many more. (Prior to all that, it was a produce market that sold gigantic, unfamiliar root vegetables.) Whatever the restaurant’s incarnation, there was always a lively bar and a cheering fireplace in winter. Now the original, diner-like structure has been torn down, and there’s an ugly brick shoebox on that corner, as if someone asked, What’s the cheapest thing we can possibly build here? It’s soon to become a chain store selling stationery, wrapping papers, and the like. Vital addition to the neighborhood NOT, especially since there’s at least one independently-owned such business nearby.


On the plus side, there’s the newly opened Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Finally, access to the waterfront, 20 years in the making. There are several acres of state-of-the-art playgrounds, above, billowing grasses, and happy children, where once all was bleak and industrial — a vast improvement over the days when you had to crawl through a hole in a chain-link fence if you wanted to get near the water. And Pier 1, near the Brooklyn Bridge, is now spectacular rolling lawn, though I didn’t make it that far on Sunday.


Instead, we walked along Columbia Place, which used to be isolated and deserted. Now — a direct result of the new park — there’s a cute cafe called Iris, above, packed with young people (to me, the whole world seems packed with young people these days).


I wanted to check out Willow Place and an extraordinary row of Greek Revival houses, above and top, joined by a colonnade of columns, unlike any in Brooklyn. The row had been dilapidated, but now all is uniformly spit and polish, with fresh paint on columns and porches, and gleaming front doors.


We stepped into a year-old shop called Holler & Squall on lower Atlantic, above, where taxidermied bulls’ heads, rusted metal objects, and trendily distressed wares of the early industrial age are artfully arrayed. It’s on the last block before the water, next to the famously old-school bar Montero’s, no doubt soon to be joined by other upscale shops as work on the park continues.

This part of Brooklyn thrived in the 19th century when there was a ferry landing at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, then sat moribund for decades, with many empty storefronts (blame it on Robert Moses, who cut off the waterfront in the 1950s with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). New signs of life are all to the good.