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Nov. 11th, 2007

Murder, Manure, McKim, Mead, & White

Brooklyn's cultural attractions have had their share of shameful and dirty dealings (including the first American performance of a certain Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but let's not talk about that). Today, let us set our minds on a magnificent-half-mile of scandal and intrigue along Eastern Parkway.

The Brooklyn Museum was built by McKim, Mead, and White, notable architects of several beautiful-but-stuffy processional piles. In recent history, the museum is most famous for the "Sensation" exhibit of 1999.

"The Holy Virgin Mary" was a mixed media work picturing an elephant-crap Madonna surrounded by cherubim-like cutouts of the female anatomy. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared the show "insulting to Catholics," adding that there is "nothing in the First Amendment that supports horrible and disgusting projects."

The ongoing crap slinging (literally) raged and the cast of characters grew, involving no less than the Cardinal of St Patrick's Cathedral, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the ACLU, and PETA. Protesters outside the museum prayed, invoked the rosary, handed out vomit bags, and tossed manure in protest.

Speaking of scandal, next door, "The Palm House" and other structures at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden were also designed by the afore-mentioned eminent Victorian, Stanford White. One of the most prominent architects of the age, White was dead by 1906.

Harry K. Thaw - angry husband of White's underage lover, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit - fired three shots directly into White's face during a floorshow.

After the shots, laughter built – the audience thought it might be part of the performance. (Tough crowd.) In the poetic-justice department, Thaw blasted White on top of a building that White himself designed ... the first Madison Square Garden. And to further the irony, that building was crowned by (wait for it) a towering, golden, naked likeness of mistress Evelyn. If you care to pursue the life-as-art theme, you can see all of this portrayed in E.L. Doctrow's excellent novel (and movie, and musical), "Ragtime."

Evelyn (miraculously) settled down and stayed out of the papers for a while ... until she was was named in Brooklyn Supreme Court as one of the causes of a South First Street woman's request for divorce from her taxi-driving Williamsburg husband.

Here's to the "Sensation" exhibition! And here's to Evelyn, who provided entertainment not just for Stanford White, but for all of us.

brooklyn museum photo courtesy of apium's photostream at flickr.com
bam opera house photo courtesy of nancycz's photostream at flickr.com

Gentrifying the Gentrified?

I've been having trouble with some neighborhood terminology lately.

I've noticed a lot of jabber about Windsor Terrace being "the new Park Slope," along with the word "gentrification" getting tossed about.

Yes, the condo-construction sandboxes on the Southeast side are seeing a large infusion of "young, urban, professionals," however, Windsor Terrace remains a pretty diverse place (even among new home buyers), and a proud working class neighborhood.

WT's Wikipedia entry mentions "a recent influx of yuppies as a result of gentrification." What is there to gentrify? Who are these gentrifying yuppies? The bi-racial couple down the block who recently bought a house to raise their child? The gay working-class couples? The African-American family on the opposite side of the street? Our large home-owning Latino population? The ex-hippes? The tradesmen that have inherited their homes?

Although I can't speak for the sellers of the just-minutes-old listing pictured below, I suspect that all walks of life and ethnicities will continue to be welcome (and present) on our blocks. My neighbor and I are a few decades apart in age, differ majorly when it comes to politics, and are polar opposities on the liberal/conservative charts.

But as he says, "Everybody is welcome, as long as they're good neighbors."



Annon writes, "i agree - windsor terrace has been trashed by snobby perk slopers as "white trash" cuz some of the residents happen to be republicans, with flags on their homes, etc. and although i'm a proud liberal i actually prefer the diversity (ethnic, political, age, etc) that we have here...much more than being surrounded by a homogeneous super-lib, super-PC crowd a few blocks north/west, which many times comes off as pretty phony ... without sounding too corny, i think windsor terrace is a lot more "real" brooklyn than many other hoods, especially the ones that were only recently discovered."

Nov. 9th, 2007

Remembering Brooklyn

Modern-day Gotham tends to romanticize the Victorian era, fondly recalling the decades when opulence reigned, beautiful buildings were built, and Robber Barons ruled. Fact is, Victorian New York could be pretty dangerous. Mass rail travel was new, public spaces were lit by oil and gas, coal dust was everywhere, and danger was easy to find. Victorian and otherwise, Brooklyn has had its share of disaster and hard times.

The Brooklyn Theater Fire

On the evening of December 5, 1876, over 300 people perished in a fire that overtook the Brooklyn Theatre on Johnson Street. Started by an oil lamp, the fire spread to the ceiling, engulfing the auditorium. The theatre had no fire escapes and only 5 narrow exits. A monument stands today in Greenwood Cemetery, and this disaster led to the passing of laws that led to our modern standards for fire prevention.

The Malbone Street Wreck

On Friday, November 1, 1918, a five-car BRT subway train was speeding with a rush hour crowd to make up lost time on its way from Park Row to Coney Island, when it jumped the track approaching a sharp curve near Malbone Street, at one corner of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The first cars were completely crushed, and by 11pm, eighty-five bodies had been taken from the wreckage. The series of crashes that demolished the train were heard from several blocks away.The street and subway stop name became so associated with the disaster that both names were later changed to Empire Boulevard.

The Park Slope Plane Crash

On December 16, 1960, United Flight 826 crashed onto the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope. One hundred thirty-five people were killed, including five on the ground. The only surviving passenger was an 11-year-old, Stephen Baltz, who died days later at Methodist Hospital. The crash destroyed a church and over ten brownstones were set on fire. Two of the homes were demolished, leaving a bare corner for decades until a very recent 22-unit condominium was built, with another building going up across the street.

There's been some recent buzz about the fact that the developer made no special provisions for remembrance - that the crash might soon be forgotten without the empty lots to remind us. Perhaps we underestimate ourselves.

Most South Brooklyn folks who passed that empty lot (for almost fifty years) speak reverently of the 1960 disaster, and a few local shops even have mentions of the crash on the walls. A monument to the lives lost in the Brooklyn Theatre Fire stands in Green-wood Cemetery.

We Brooklynites may be tough, but we're a sentimental lot; and generally we remember what needs to be remembered.

malbone street photo courtesy of pbs.org

Nov. 8th, 2007

The Brooklyn Paper Sends Sausage

The Icky Inbox recently began receiving emails full of (amusingly named) "hot links" from a Mr. Ross at The Brooklyn Paper.

Considering this blog's opinion of The Brooklyn Paper (had Mr. Ross bothered to actually read this blog), and considering this blog's support of others who feel the same, the arrival of his friendly mass email was more than a little surprising. A little bit like walking into Yankee Stadium and shouting "Go, Red Sox!"

Take a look at this blog's October 29th entry, Mr. Ross. It's just a few posts down the page.

We're not fond of cutesy-pie third person names, we're not into your paper's shiny suburban agenda, and we don't want your "hot links." Stop spamming us. The email address listed on this page is not a link. It's text. Therefore, Mr. Ross, you went to some trouble to pointedly add us to your list. We're happy that you deem us so worthy of your award-winning time, but honestly, we don't like you. So stop it.

You'd think you would have learned your lesson over at Miss Heather's.

beef hot links image courtesy of holylandbrand.com
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Nov. 7th, 2007

Windsor Terrace, You're Grounded.

And no, you can't go to the dance with Park Slope.

The NYC Dept of Education recently graded each of its own individual schools - each school's performance receiving a mark, A through F, just like its students. The bad news? Windsor Terrace's PS 154 is pretty near flunking.

The Times reports that grading is complicated, and that these things are, to a degree, subjective. However, most schools in the city received As and Bs. PS 154 received a D. As our parents might have been heard to say, "If you got a D, I'm sure you did something to deserve it."

That's it, young man. No more condo sales until your grades improve! And I don't want to catch you hanging out with Tribeca. Her grades are good, but she's a slut.


SOME GREAT COMMENTS, from other folks in the area ...

The NYC board of Ed screws up pretty much everything it touches. Now they've come up with this grading system that by their own admission is difficult to explain and complex and we're supposed to believe they've gotten it exactly right and these scores are an accurate assessment of a school's merit. Nonsense. I'm sure that if the "grading process" were looked at carefully and thoroughly, it would be found to be the flawed mess we're used to from the B of E. OTOH, maybe the bad grade will scare away all the displaced Park Slopers and I'll actually be able to afford an apartment here again.


"Please dont spread the myth that these "grades" mean that 154 is doing bad. It is a deceptive grading system.

This is how the school grades generally worked:

Improving School: Year 1 - Kids score: 40 out of 100 on a standardized test (meaning they are doing horrible) Year 2 - Kids score: 50 out of 100 on standarized test (meaning kids had 25% improvement - but of course are still doing horrible) School gets an A for the 25% improvement (ignoring the fact that the kids are doing horrible)

Already Good School: Year 1 - Kids score: 85 out of 100 on a standardized test (meaning they are doing pretty good) Year 2 - Kids score: 90 out of 100 on standarized test (meaning kids had 6% improvement - but of course are still doing very good) School gets an B for the 6% improvement (ignoring the fact that the kids are doing really well)"

The Subway Circuit

Back in the day (as they say) The New York Times described Fulton and Flatbush as "a regional attraction to rival Times Square." There at one of the city's major entertainment meccas, the great Albee Theater stood, with the world-famous Paramount nearby.

The mighty Flatbush on Church Avenue, and the Oceana in Brighton Beach, featured live theatre as well as film, as part of "The Subway Circuit." Pre-1950, Broadway shows frequently played the season, and then closed for the Summer. Brooklyn often got shows during the Summer months or after their Broadway runs, sometimes with members of the original cast. Circuit tours developed new audiences and provided affordable tickets to those who couldn't afford 44th Street.

In the 1940s, Brooklyn rooftops began sprouting antennas, and folks started to stay home. The 1950s exodus to the suburbs eliminated more ticket-buyers. The Brandt family owned the Subway Circuit theaters (and others on 42nd Street), and produced the circuit tours. However, by 1951 costs had risen too high and audiences had ebbed too low. The 1950s generation of Brandt theater owners stopped producing plays and musicals, and their theaters began showing (increasingly fleshy) films exclusively, including the 42nd Street houses.

Too bad the Brandts didn't hang on - Broadway is big business nowadays. A ticket to a musical in 1950 cost $7.20 (tops). Adjusted for inflation, that $7.20 ticket should have set you back $58.85 in 2006. Instead, it cost $115. Broadway ticket prices have doubled inflation. In response to (or as a result of) this, the number of new shows has decreased. In 1926-27 (the pinnacle season), 264 shows opened on Broadway. During the 1965-66 season there were 76 new shows. In 2005-06, 39 shows opened. Only 20 of them even lasted until June 1.

In a near miracle, Brighton Beach's Oceana has been de-multiplexed and survives as a Russian nightclub/dinner theatre. The Paramount is now the gym of Long Island University. The Albee was torn down to build a mall, which is conversely being torn down to build a highrise. The Flatbush's stage is a carpet store.

And Broadway theatre, headed the way of opera, has outpriced itself; a museum piece reserved for an elite clientele.

images courtesy of the brooklyn public libarary, brooklyn collection
42nd street image courtesy of 42ndstreetmemories via photobucket.com

Nov. 6th, 2007

Brooklyn Cultural Calendar, 1902

Cultural items of note from 6 November 1902, as reported by the Brooklyn Eagle.

(In rather small type), an announcement appears concerning a play that will be opening the following week - a 24 year-old George. M. Cohan (still performing with the family act), will be at the Grand Opera House. As Cohan's fame grew (shortly after this ad), although always providing for his parents and family, he became notoriously difficult. Sort of a Yankee Doodle Egomaniac.

The Brooklyn Institute at 174 Montague was a concert and lecture venue sponsored by the organization that once encompassed the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. (Now THAT is a cultural group!) The site of the venue on Montague is now occupied by an Irish pub and a Hallmark Store. In 1902, the old digs got a posh makeover.

Abraham & Strauss stores (that little mall at Herald Square in Manhattan used to be called A&S Plaza) provided ready-to-wear fashion (as opposed to couture or custom-tailored). Many of the department stores maintained small Buyers' offices in Paris and London. By the 1920s, top designers had jumped on board and were selling designs to these guys in the ready-to-wear market for large scale production ... making fashion affordable for the middle-class masses, and hugely increasing the number sweat-shops.

And finally, the more things change, the more they stay the same - Construction drama in the Fulton Street business district. 105 years ago, a meeting was organized to minimize the inconvenience of the excavation of our main business district, Fulton Street. Looks like Mr. A of "A&S" was in attendance.

brooklyn eagle clippings courtesy
of the brooklyn public library, brooklyn collection

Nov. 5th, 2007

Those Pesky Baths

I was just thinking, my youths would probably last a lot longer if they were waterproofed.

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Nov. 1st, 2007

Ambulance Chasers, The New Breed

As I took a morning walk today, I noticed a shirt-and-tie guy standing talking to a few of the old-timers about real estate. (That was all I caught.) On my way back and around the corner, another shirt-and-tie was talking to a different old-timer around the block. I heard things like, "Oh, this house is going to my kids," and then, "Well if you ever change your mind," with a card being handed.

I think they have figured out that the older folks hang out on the stoops in the morning. Are we being invaded by obituary-reading-row-house-chasers?! Ah well, let's bring down our blood pressure with some of the more serene sights and sounds of the neighborhood from this week.

Oct. 30th, 2007

The Windsor Terrace Halloween Hike

Happy Halloween from Terrifying Windsor Terrace!

A few of these beasts have told me their bigger
and more-frightening twins lived over in Greenpoint.
Seriously scary, and wicked cool. Check out the coverage
in my pal Miss Heather's 'hood.
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The Windsor Terrace Hollywood Tour

Would you believe that Alanis Morissette, Al Pacino, Madonna, Ed Harris, Lily Tomlin, and Michael J. Fox have all spent significant time in Windsor Terrace?

In the spirit of dressing-up, fun, and a good ol' fashioned Brooklyn Halloween, we proudly present - the Windsor Terrace Hollywood Tour.

Sydney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon" was shot on Prospect Park West between 17th & 18th Streets. It centers around a bank robbery, based on actual events. The real-life bank was located at 450 Avenue P. However, the now-condo building on Prospect Park West - once a mattress factory - stood in for the Al Pacino film.

CORRECTION - A neighbor tells us - "I love your pix of the neighborhood... one minor correction, the building between 17th and 18th street on PPW, now condos, was an old paint factory, not a mattress factory. Love your blog!"

If you check the movie out, you can catch a few shots looking South on Prospect Park West, with Bishop Ford High School and the Expressway bridge, telltale in the background.

The Jack Nicholson/Helen Hunt film, "As Good as it Gets" was a more recent Windsor Terrace claim to big-screen fame. The pub shots were done at the one-and-only Farrell's, a Windsor Terrace institution since 1933. Farrell's was also featured in the Ed Harris film "Pollock."

The early morning bakery scene was done out on the corner of the Avenue, the mob of kids running down the street to catch the cab was a group of third-graders from Holy Name, and a supporting character was played by a very solid actor that any respectable WT resident knows well, at least on sight ... Helen Hunt's house was played by my favorite house in the neighborhood, pictured here in 1928, and 2007.

Harvey Keitel, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Lily Tomlin, and a long list of 1990s and perennial stars headlined "Blue in the Face" and "Smoke," both partially filmed at the recently defunct Western Union on Prospect Park West.

In the music department, Alanis Morissette filmed her 1995 video for "One Hand In My Pocket" right on the strip - Prospect Park West between Windsor and 16th. It features the neighborhood pretty well (and tired or not, I like the song.)

Not bad for a sleepy little neighborhood where nothing happens, eh?

1928 photo courtesy of the brooklyn public library, brooklyn collection
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Oct. 29th, 2007

What Would Mary Poppins Do?

I stopped over at The Brooklyn Paper today to follow the hubbub on Chalkgate.

So silly. Maybe the city should outlaw "Mary Poppins," and other similarly incendiary chalk-drawing influenced childrens' films. Stop that bad influence right in its tracks. There's much good reporting on this - Check it out on the excellently reported Gowanus Lounge. But, I digress. This is actually not what I found odd about the report in the Brooklyn Paper.

I came across this nugget in Editor Gersh Kunztman's story about the recent chalk artist arrest: "While we’re not surprised that the sergeant was reading Brooklyn’s real newspaper ..." And then I noticed that another employee of The Brooklyn Paper was referring to it as "Brooklyn's Real Paper" elsewhere.

You mean just like "The Daily News" is Manhattan's "actual" paper, or The New York Times is midtown's "absolute" paper? Way to promote the McBranding of Brooklyn. As for surreptitiously demeaning the other papers - really bad form.

Brooklyn's "real" newspaper?

As Poppins might say, "That's a piecrust promise. Easily made, easily broken."

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On-Air On 17th Street

In 1953, A & S Department Store sponsored a Junior Angler Fishing Contest in Prospect Park - a pretty big deal in its day.

In the photo below, young Windsor Terrace and park-area residents discuss their technique on the popular "Youth Talks It Out" radio program on (still kicking) WNYC. The young lady at left is Geraldine, and she lived with her family in Windsor Terrace on 17th Street near Prospect Park West. Their home still stands today. Pretty cool little house - I imagine much the same in character as it was in 1953.

junior anglers photo courtesy of the brooklyn public library, brooklyn collection

Oct. 24th, 2007

Mmmmm. Pie.

Signs are up in the windows of the old Western Union space on Prospect Park West ... no toddler emporiums or McRestaurants are headed this way just yet. Both are local businesses, and both look pretty interesting.

The corner space is going to be occupied by Down Under Bakery (Dub) Pies. Their original store is in Redhook at 193 Columbia Street. Their website mentions they were established 2003 and are "proud to be the first specialty bakery to bring the authentic New Zealand-Australian experience — the culturally iconic meat pie — to New York City." Looks like they will also be offering coffee and desserts ... both of which make me very happy.

The space next door will be occupied by a tailor, and the shop is already being set up, complete with a dress in the window. Pretty cool. The building has been painted a more pleasing green, and we're looking forward to the grand openings. Welcome to the neighborhood!

By the way, I wonder what ever happened to Enzo's? We've been looking for this place to open since the end of August.

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Yesterday's Cheers Have a Very Short Echo

Izzy Grove, a 1920s top middleweight contender, said that "Yesterday's cheers have a very short echo."

Preservation is a tough issue, and certainly, some Brooklyn neighborhoods have more of a tendency to busy-body than others. We want our "original" buildings "in tact." We don't want our homespun quaintness messed with. It can sometimes become a sort of architectural not-in-my-backyard.

There was recently a stink over the sale of Bay Ridge United Methodist's beautiful stone building, selling for $12.5 million. The developer's plans were for a tear-down and condos. Community outrage. Attempts to block the sale. Yes, its destruction would be a near architectural crime; but was the city willing to pony up the change to save this neighborhood treasure? I think not. The congregation had dwindled. Upkeep is expensive. It is a stunning building, and a great historic loss. But the fact is, the Methodists own it. Hell, they built it.

In Park Slope, a forlorn little Presbyterian church on 8th Avenue recently sold its 50x100' churchyard (one of the only un-built-ever sites in Park Slope) for almost $4 million. Like many churches today, membership is small and times are tough. Community outrage. Attempts to block the sale. Yet, curiously, there were no private offers to selflessly pony up the $4 mil to create a park.

We often shout pretty loud in Brooklyn, but how quickly we forget. I doubt the new post-20th century residents are too put-out about the 1990s. Remember? That Seventh Avenue Barnes & Noble, Rite Aid, and parking garage replaced a previous block. Flea Market or not, who would be willing to sacrifice Seventh Avenue's PS 321 for a row of former saloons and milliners?

I can't imagine Windsor Terrace wishing away Bishop Ford High School for the old-fashioned romance of the trolley barns, or Park Slope residents dreaming their way back to to the 1940s to erase the presence of the Seventh Avenue Key Foods. (Yep, it really is that old. Maybe we should landmark it.)

The fact is, gentrification wants (needs?) convenience. Grocery stores and schools are a basic need, just as history is an invaluable important component in the fabric of Brooklyn. However, in our desire to keep our blocks pleasant, perhaps the burden of neighborhood character needs to be taken up with the buyers, not the sellers.


Bay Ridge United Methodist photo courtesy of amg2000's photostream photostream at flickr.com via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en-us

PS321 photo courtesy of albert_takes_photos at flickr.com via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en-us

Seventh Avenue photo courtesy of the brooklyn public library, brooklyn collection

Oct. 23rd, 2007

On This Day in 1902

from The Brooklyn Eagle, October 23, 1902
images courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Oct. 22nd, 2007

Local Color: Windsor Terrace Homes

Oct. 20th, 2007

Saturday Extra: Town Council Meeting


Oct. 18th, 2007

Windsor Terrace's Park Row

There is a series of small parks in Windsor Terrace along the South side of the Prospect Expressway. Some don't even have names, the chain usually being referred to as "the expressway parks" or "those skinny parks."

The tiny green spaces were clearly meant to ease neighborhood pain when blocks of homes were town down for the new highway in the 1950s. (I know, I know - I'm on a roll with the expressway thing lately.) Nonetheless, they are nice to have. They're almost comical - nearly hidden little green pockets sandwiched into odd spaces wherever they'll fit.

Starting from the West near Bishop Ford High School, our inaugural stop is also perhaps the most curious - a little art deco sitting area, looking decidedly pre-1950s and very WPA. It sticks out into the shoulder of the expressway. Seems as if the city went to a great deal of trouble to build around this vintage 1930s terrace, perhaps saved at the neighborhood's behest.

Thomas J. Cuite park (with columns echoing the deco theme?) is the next stop downhill, named for a Windsor Terrace resident who was vice-chairman and majority leader of the New York City Council. Cuite's corner includes a charming playground, and is particularly strong is the flora department.

A walkway heads downhill against the expressway, leading to a quiet street, and a very nice benches-and-ivy area near Seeley Street. It's surprisingly quiet, and there are a few cool old school signs and stolen views of old-fashioned backyards and alleys. The public space here is very well taken care of by residents and Parks staff alike.

On the same stretch, is the Little-Park-That-Cried. It doesn't serve much of a purpose. Nice to have the space, but it seems to exist mostly to connect its brother parks on either side. Poor little thing doesn't even have a name, just "Park."

Greenwood Playground features play equipment, basketball courts and softball fields, restrooms, and lots of sitting space. Greenwood is the largest in the band of parks that line the Prospect. This section first opened to the public on December 19, 1935, as one of hundreds of WPA-era playgrounds commissioned throughout the city. The monument at the park's entrance remembers 47 neighborhood men who died in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War I.

The Windsor Terrace Methodist Church (and Greenwood Avenue) bordered the park on the north side until 1954.

Oct. 17th, 2007

No Church This Sunday Due to Expressway Construction

The Windsor Terrace Methodist Church originally stood at Prospect and Greenwood Avenues. The 1950s brought the demolition of a large part of Windsor Terrace for Robert Moses' Prospect Expressway. The 61 year old church was demolished in 1954. The site is now occupied by a ramp to the pedestrian bridge. During its life, the congregation was also called "Prospect Avenue Methodist," and histories of the church (not uncommon in the old days) were written in 1911 and 1946.

Below is an article from the 1890s announcing the opening of the church building, a photo of the church as it originally appeared, and the site today.

Brooklyn Eagle clipping and vintage photograph
courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Oct. 16th, 2007

Windsor Terrace, Then and Now

b&w image courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Oct. 15th, 2007

Prospect Park West: The Twilight Zone

It's an unusual-day-in-the-neighborhood in Windsor Terrace.

The Sovereign Segways are out shilling for our newest neighborhood bank, manned by guys in identical red shirts, making the neighborhood look eerily like a Furturama episode. If you're not familiar with the Segway, it's a sort of self-propelled stand-on scooter. Our local genus is fitted with mini-billboards for Sovereign Bank, and carry uniformed guys armed with handouts.

As I turned away from the Segways and rounded the corner for home, a man in a butcher's apron asked if I wanted to buy some steaks. He called from across the intersection, apron-a-flapping in the Autumn wind, calling, "Hey, guy!" and following me across the street. No steaks were purchased.

My old-timer neighbor asked "Did he try to sell you steaks? It could be horse meat."
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The Lost Theaters of Windsor Terrace

In the days before television, and in Brooklyn especially, there was a theater (or five) in every neighborhood. Although the neighborhood South of Park Slope did not boast any 4,000 seat gems, when movies were King, Windsor Terrace had its share of smaller neighborhood venues.

The Venus Theater still stands, however battered, having just barely clearing the Prospect Expressway's wrecking ball. The building dates to 1906, but by 1957 the screen was down and the Venus served as an American Legion Hall. Later an Elk's Lodge, and finally racking up numerous violations, the building was recently for sale. Pictured is the Venus Theater in 2007, and a 1928 photo of Vanderbilt Street with the Venus visible at left.

265 Prospect Park West is rumored to have been a movie theater, but the anecdotal evidence is lost to the ages. I am doubtful, especially with a few much larger theatres a few blocks away. The building dates to 1914, and if not a proper theater, in the 1930s it is listed as a cabaret. By 1942 it had acquired a pool room. Today, it houses a church.

Just out of our Windsor Terrace purview, but nearby, the Minerva Theater stood at Seventh Avenue and Fourteenth Street. Built as the Palace, it then became the Armory Theater, and finally the Minerva. Pictured below, the building still stands today, as one of the weirdest buildings on Seventh Avenue.

1928's Sanders Theater is not really lost, and that's a good thing. It was re-opened as a multiplex in the 1990s. At Prospect Park West and Fifteenth Street, it is now the nine-screen "Pavilion." Knowing that it originally sat over one-thousand five hundred people, it feels a little silly to be sitting in the 56-seat version. But when you have a movie theater in the neighborhood, you don't complain too much. And the big space up in the old balcony is pretty cool. Pictured is the current incarnation, The Pavilion.

minerva photo courtesy of kencta's photostream at flickr.com
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Oct. 13th, 2007

East Side Story: Crossroads Cafe

Needing some snaps of Prospect Avenue for a post later in the week, I decided to combine pleasure with pleasure and check out Windsor Terrace's own Crossroads Cafe. (Prospect Ave & Reeve Pl, right above the Fort Hamilton stop on the F.) My destination was chosen partially out of culinary ennui ... I am growing weary of the food on Prospect Park West.

Crossroads is a great little coffee shop with a little bit of neighborhood grill thrown in. Cafe au lait and pastries are on the menu (and today, mushroom quiche), but egg-and-cheese-on-a-roll or a great ham-and-cheese (all made with quality goods) can be readily had. However, the thing that immediately stands out is the staff. I think I might have even had a religious experience. Here's why: In an ever-growing world of I-don't-care-if-you-shop-here-or-not, I have really come to appreciate a staff like Crossroads' - friendly, helpful, and genuinely interested.

If you're on the Holy Name end of the neighborhood, take a walk East. This place is great.

photo courtesy of www.cafe-crossroads.com
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Oct. 11th, 2007

Fashion Victim

Windsor Terrace loves to decorate for the holidays. The Halloween contenders are just starting to crawl out of WT basements ... like this awesome old-school scarecrow! Those are veggies on his shirt.


South Slope and the Worst Park Ever

The caption from the 1950s reads, "Where are we to go? One of the families yet to be relocated from the site of the Prospect Expressway is the DePrisco family. Mrs. Angie DePrisco and her three children, Geraldine, 7, Joan, 5, and Ralph, 2, stand in front of their cold water flat at 336 17th St."

The lower photo is the site of the DePrisco's home in 2007 - a disused, gated and locked Community Garden contained within a fairly barren park, in the South Slope. It's just off 7th Ave, edging the side of the Prospect Expressway. Funny thing is, much of the Prospect Expressway is lined with (sometimes nice, sometimes even really nice) vest-pocket parks, especially on the South side of Windsor Terrace. Many are tiny. This one is pretty big. Speaking in the vernacular of the day, "What a dump."

What would Mrs. DePrisco think?

1950s photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
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Oct. 10th, 2007

Ma Bell's Adaptive Reuse

I remember a world when you didn't have to dial 718, and I remember a world without 917. I do not, however, remember a world with lettered phone exchanges. (Such as the famous PEnnsylvania 6-5000 ... which really is the number of Manhattan's doomed Hotel Pennsylvania.)

image courtesy http://www.nationaltrust.org

It worked like this - The first two letters (PE) correspond to 7 and 3, making the number 736-5000. Lucy and Ricky were a "MUrray Hill-5." Conversant with America at mid-century, exchange names tended to be pretty bland and idyllic, even in little ol' New York.

Featuring status monikers such as "GRammercy," "PLaza," and "BUtterfield," Ma Bell evidently considered sobriquets like "HElls Kitchen-8" or "TEnement-6" out of the question. In most places, the lettered exchanges gasped their last in the 1960s (along with any personality the phone company ever had).

In the spirit of adaptive reuse, I propose we create new lettered exchanges and use them in our everyday lives. Print them on your business cards. Paint them on signs. The traditional Park Slope "499" could become HYperactive-9. Downtown Brooklyn's handle could read DOrmitory-9. Williamsburg could go by FUckyou-8.

The possibilities are endless.

Oct. 9th, 2007

I Don't Think This Means Free TV Dinners

No parking on Prospect Park West on Wednesday. Hungry-Man is coming.

According to Pinnacle Foods Group, "Prior to 1973 the frozen dinner consumer, particularly men, was faced with a dilemma. Frozen dinners offered convenient, great-tasting meals but the portions were too small for the hearty appetite ... With the help of NFL star Mean Joe Greene as a spokesman, Hungry-Man has become an American icon and an important part of America’s freezer for almost 35 years."

However, we must all set aside our visions of vintage 1970s commercials being filmed on the block. There's a new Hungry-Man in town, and Wednesday's lack of parking will come to us via "Hungry Man Inc.," a production company based in Manhattan. Previous projects have included spots for AOL, Gatorade, and Toyota. And why isn't there a permit number on this thing? It's been left blank.

What I wouldn't give for a Salisbury Steak Dinner right about now.

Hungry-Man image courtesy of Pinnacle Foods Group

Oct. 8th, 2007

Danny Did It


Oct. 5th, 2007

Atlantic Prospect Slopeawanus Heights

I always enjoy Atlantic Yards Report. It's a great blog, always smart and timely stuff.

I think of the Atlantic Yards Project as the last-dangerous-link-in-the-deadly-chain of an uber-gentrified super-neighborhood stretching from Brooklyn Heights, down Fulton and Atlantic through Prospect Heights, to Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, downhill through Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and back to the Heights. Featuring a Whole Foods, a Trader Joe's, two Targets, NYU Dorms, and the country's biggest Ikea. Brooklyn is the new Union Square.

Today AYP points out a great article by Sam Anderson in New York Magazine about the death of the Dodgers, and the loss of authentic Brooklyn. From Mr. Anderson's article ...

"At some point in the last decade, the borough scored its most lucrative contract since the Navy Yard closed: It became the main off-site production facility for Manhattan's hipness. But as any reflexively anti-Establishment blogger will tell you, what looks on paper like the dawn of a new Golden Era might actually be the death rattle of Brooklyn's authenticity.

Historically, Brooklyn has been the antithesis of everything Manhattanites value most: a handy bulwark against the voracious real-estate-industrial complex across the river. Now it's beginning to feel like an extension of Manhattan, the city's shabby-chic east wing. The colonizers' crimes against the spirit of Brooklyn are legion and heavily blogged.

Williamsburg is a hipster theme park soon to be augmented by luxury waterfront high-rises. Park Slope is a parody. There are $2.2 million brownstones in Fort Greene. The old Navy Yard now houses a film studio. Red Hook is now a dock for the world's largest cruise ship and will soon be home to the nation's largest Ikea ... we seem to have been left with the giant churning liver of gentrification, filtering out the toxins of poverty. We are witnessing the birth of post-mythic Brooklyn, an 81-square-mile metaphor for nothing."

Photo Courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

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