Monday, April 30, 2007

Urban Green

urban green sales center
urban green 2
not color-corrected. we swear.

We'd been holding off on this one, figuring it was so obvious, someone would beat us to it...(apologies if they did and we missed it).

Last week, over at 125 North 6th in Williamsburg, Northside Tower Realty's Urban Green sales center was either freshly open for business, or darn close. It's cinder block façade glowed with a fresh coat of eco-riffic green latex that says "Buy me! I'm the sustainable condo you've always* dreamed of!"

Meanwhile, across the street at 142 North 6th, past the stop-work-order-riddled, often-unlocked security fence, the actual excavation for the 47 unit complex's foundation sported a slowly-draining pond, wearing the exact same shade of (maybe not so) eco-riffic green as the sales center, the building's website, and all of its marketing materials.

We haven't seen marketing and production that color-coordinated in a long, long time.

*at least since late '06

Surf's Up at Urban Green! [Gowanus Lounge]

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shiny New Trucks


We didn't mention it in last week's roundup of the action at Williamsburg's Edge development, but one thing in particular struck us as almost surreal on Day One of the big dig. The dozen or fifteen huge dump trucks hauling earth away from the site at an unbelievable pace were all brand-spanking, fix your hair in the chrome bumpers new. Click the link to the original photo above: the three trucks we randomly shot Tuesday morning are numbered 103, 104 and 105; not a scratch or a smudge on 'em. And a dozen more just out of frame, fresh off the assembly line.

Happy Time Trucking indeed...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

McCarren Park Pool To Be Converted To, Well, a Swimming Pool

the national
The Infinity Pool, National Hotel, South Beach [Flickr/imjustsayin]

An article in today's NY Times digs deep into Mayor Bloomberg's 25-year plan for greening New York to unearth a couple of items that didn't make it into Sunday's Earth Day press conference.

Besides reopening the city's oldest bridge - the 1848 High Bridge pedestrian bridge connecting upper Manhattan to the Bronx over the Hell Gate section of the East River - the proposal calls for spending $50 Million to rehab the Northside Williamsburg's McCarren Park swimming pool, which has been closed since 1984. According to the Times, the Mayor's plan would downsize the pool by one third to an Olympic-sized venue. Renovations would begin this summer, and the pool would reopen for swimming in a "couple years".

No word yet from JellyNYC or Clear Channel on how the plan might affect this summer's anticipated concert series'.

In Park Plan, a New Life for Spaces Long Closed [NY Times]

PLANYC 2030 - Download the Bloomberg Administration's Plan

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Signs of Things to Come

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

Tuesday morning Kent Avenue was festooned with a forest of new signage, all of it foreshadowing the state of things to come:

Workmen fastened signage to the new fence surrounding Douglaston's The Edge construction site at Kent and North 6th in compliance with NYC Department of Building regulations. A handy guide should imnotsayin staff witness any unsafe conditions at this site.

A second crew closed off parking at the dead end of North 6th at the river. Last week a foreman had assured us that "it would be a few weeks until they had the authority to close it down for good." This morning, when pressed, the heavies admitted the rope treatment was just temporary, while Con Ed crews run power to the job site.

Finally, a good sign: we were misinformed by Brooklyn's Finest Sunday evening. The East River State Park did open for a few hours on Sunday, as the "Earth Day" signage predicted. We'll dig in to what "we will be officially open soon" means and report back. Until then, we'll bask in the memories of a beautiful weekend on the Williamsburg waterfront...

LIC 5 Pointz Complex: A Perfect 10 for Street Artists


Imnotsayin ventured north to Long Island City Sunday to check out a building that we'd noticed from a distance because its absolutely slathered in bright, beautiful street art.

5 Pointz is actually a complex of old warehouses - at least one of which has been converted to artists' lofts - which hosts a community program which allows street artists to legally paint on the buildings' walls (with a permit). The concept at that location dates back to 1994, when it was born as the Phun Factory - created by a local businessman who made his living cleaning graffiti off neighborhood homes and businesses.

After a bit of controversy and a change in management in 2001, the Phun Factory became 5 Pointz, and the program lives on. This article on Spanish art blog Subaquatica goes into some detail on the building's history, its current program that hosts 15 to 20 youths each Sunday, teaching them spray painting techniques (don't try this at home?!), and more.

5 Pointz is located at Jackson Avenue and Crane Street in Long Island City, one block north of MOMA's PS1, and right across from the MTA 45th Road/Court House Square subway station (G,E,V,7).

5 Pointz Photoset [Flickr]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

East River State Park: Soft Opening or Happy Mistake?

East River State Park: Open for Business?

From a distance Saturday, it appeared the big moment had finally happened: a small group of people strolling along the East River shoreline between North 7th and North 9th Streets, signaling the long-awaited grand opening of East River State Park. Imnotsayin saddled up the camera and went to document the momentous occasion.

Mysteriously, both the Kent Avenue park gates were still padlocked. On further investigation, the crowd had trickled in through a small gate at the very foot of North 7th Street, near our favorite MTA Fan Plant. Inside the park, a pair of fashion models vogued for a photographer, leading us to believe it was the photo shoot that had bought their way into the long-padlocked park, and that passersby, noticing the open gate, had helped themselves to the opportunity. No one we spoke to knew what to make of it - but after more than a year of waiting, no one was complaining either.

Hours later, dozens of locals witnessed their first breathtaking sunset from the new park. A pair of Precinct 94 officers sat in their cruiser on the North 7th dead end, watching folks come and go from the park - but for the first time in memory neither chasing them away nor ticketing them for trespass.

We asked if the park was officially open, and their response was an unceremonious, sympathetic shrug. "We have no idea. But the gate's open, so why should we stop them?"

Now that the illicit riverfront access at North 5th to North 7th is effectively gone (crawl through the fence now and The Edge's security guard will chase you away), the neighborhood needs East River State Park more than ever. And as the only giveback to the community to come out of the 2005 upzoning - riverfront parkland for the neighborhood - ERSP is long overdue.

Whether the gate was left open accidentally or intentionally, the neighborhood had a wonderful taste of things to come Saturday. We hope NY State Parks sees fit to throw open the gates once and for all.

Sunday Evening Update: Despite the optomistic pronouncement of a pair of senior Polish men "It will open when they get here...around one or two o'clock" and a couple of leggy brunettes, sprawled in beach chairs at the foot of North 7th, waiting patiently, the park didn't open on Sunday. A new chain and padlock secured the entrance, and tonight's patrolmen had no information: the official line from the sandwich-wielding officer parked in the cul-e-sac was "we have no idea".

Update Updated: We stand corrected...our sandwich-wielding source gave us bad info. According to readers (and corroborated by new park signage), ERSP was open on Sunday, from some time after 11 am until around 5 pm - for Earth Day, naturally.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finger Brickin' Good

finger brickin' good

Workers began installing a skin of brick-colored tiles on Williamsburg's notorious Finger Building this week. And we just couldn't resist the headline.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kent Avenue Fence-Out


Oh the times, they are a changin' over at the Kent Avenue site of the Edge mega-development, on the East River between North 5th and North 7th.

Following a couple of sneaky 4 AM trailer drops last week, work has begun in earnest to transform the former B.E.D.T. site to a 1,000-unit waterfront highrise complex. By Friday morning, four trailers and five bulldozers were on-scene; the concrete foundation and pad at North 6th Street had been jackhammered, and crews were seen sniffing the freshly-turned and suspiciously black soil for signs of...?

On Wednesday, crews removed the metal wall along the North 7th dead-end, and began erecting a ten foot cyclone fence that will stretch from the L-Train fan plant at the foot of North 7th Street, around the corner and south along Kent Avenue to the North 5th Street entrance of the Northside Piers site. The towering fence gobbles up the entire sidewalk width, meaning no walking (or parking?) on the west side of Kent from North 4th to North 7th anytime soon.

It also portends the imminent demise of two iconic hipster icons:

1. The folk-artsy mural of hipsters sitting on benches that's adorned the metal fence at Kent and North Seventh for years.

2. The North 6th Dead End, which workers say will remain open until the developer "gets the authority to close it". The stub of road currently bisects the Edge's future campus.

The notoriously popular North 6th Dead End will be sorely missed - if its possible to mourn the passing of a trash-strewn, weed-infested, partially-flooded road to nowhere. Besides serving as the de-facto free parking lot for the imnotsayin offices for the past couple of years (no alternate side rule!), the block was the gallery for a local found-materials artist (the often photographed Wall of Bags), and a quiet spot for neighborhood dogs to perform their morning duties.

The beloved cul-de-sac was a sort of outdoor hipster green room. As the closest dependable parking to North Six and Galapagos, we witnessed dozens of young rockers, many on their first national tours, park their ubiquitous white tour vans down there and chill out before their shows. What skanky club dressing room could compete with the Dead End's sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline for T-shirt tearing, smoking some gange, and kicking back with a forty of St. Ides before a set?

North 6th Dead End (and weird wall mural), take care. We'll miss ya - but we won't forget ya.

Wall Mural, Dead End and Construction Pics [Flickr]

Monday, April 09, 2007

Northside Piers: Topping Out

Northside Piers: topping-out

In a bit of architectural synchronicity, just as their future neighbor The Edge begins scratching around the back yard, appearing to break ground on its first building, the crew that's been on a tear next door on Kent Avenue over at Northside Piers, today began placing the forms that will hold the concrete for that building's roof. Not bad, considering the first piles were driven just 11 months ago.

While not as dramatic as the topping out of a steel-framed structure: the hoisting of a ceremonially-painted and autographed steel beam, the potted evergreen that symbolizes "this is the top" (what's up with that, by the way?), nevertheless this is a big moment in the saga of Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning.

If we're not missing something, this is the tallest structure between Dumbo and Long Island City, and all eyes will be on it this Fall, waiting to see how fast it sells.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Gif-tastic Timemorphosis: 133 Kent Avenue Then and Now

We came across a March 1929 picture of the little Federal-style house at the northeast corner of North 6th, and couldn't resist throwing it in the Pixelicious Timeshiftator, which uses animated GIF technology - originally developed by 15-year-old girls to create cool MySpace icons - to show how the location has (or amazingly hasn't) changed in the past 78 years.

Notice the fire alarm box on the corner remains today. There appears to be a restaurant operating in the first floor of 131 Kent Avenue at left (the shingle reads either "Lounge" or "Lunch" - maybe a predecessor of George's from the mid-1950s?). And the wall of the building at right appears to have a huge advertisement painted on it (H.O. Oats?).

Saturday Eye Candy: Home Depot, Guatemala Style

hardware stall

Hardware for sale, Chichicastenango Market, Quiché, Guatemala.

More photos from Chichicastenango Market on Flickr

Friday, April 06, 2007

Groundbreaking? Or Just Feeling a Little On-Edge?

digging in

In a ceremony that struck us as being a bit tenuous for the start of a 900-unit residential complex, The Edge apparently broke ground this week on the Williamsburg waterfront. At least that's what we concluded after reading a Curbed piece we'd missed last week. The March 27th item, "The Edge Is Very, Very Alive in Williamsburg" revealed that the project had finally been issued a building permit, and proclaimed that "earth moving equipment should be reporting for duty in the near future".

Still, when the backhoe showed up, two things struck us as strange:

1. The Process:

a. Backhoe from Intercoastal Foundations & Shoring shows up at the North 7th and Kent Avenue lot, with an operator and a second worker.

b. Worker guy picks a seemingly random spot in the lot, and tells the backhoe guy to dig a hole there.

c. Backhoe guy digs a 12-foot-deep hole while worker guy cranes over to see what's down there.

d. Worker guy makes a phone call to someone, presumably describing what's down in the hole, while backhoe guy waits.

e. Worker guy instructs backhoe guy to fill the hole back in, which he does, sort of.

f. Repeat three times, then leave.

2. We've Seen This Before:

This happened before - about a month ago, before there was any permit. Then the backhoe went away. We restrained ourselves, having already misreported the project start about half a dozen times.

That said, maybe the developer, having read Gowanus Lounge's extensive coverage of the Roebling Oil Field Follies, is worried about what's under his property...

Or maybe he's looking for artifacts from Raynor's Regatta Pavilion, and the Pleasure Railway...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Orange Signs Mark Greenpoint Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone

ibz sign

On our return to the Brooklyn office, we were greeted by a number of these cheery orange street signs, declaring about 15 blocks of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront part of the "Greenpoint Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone". The zone covers the area roughly bounded by Kent Avenue, Dobbin Street, Berry Street, and North Ninth, encircling the Bushwick Inlet.

We followed the signs' handy url to the "Mayor's Office for Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses" and read through the rhetoric (so you don't have to):

Turns out, the Greenpoint Williamsburg IBZ is one of sixteen designated zones spread throughout the five boros, where the Bloomberg administration has created "safe havens" for industrial and manufacturing concerns, in light of skyrocketing rents, residential rezones, and the general perception that New York is a difficult place to locate and operate a manufacturing business. By creating various incentives, and concentrating businesses that are perhaps 'less than compatible' with residential needs, the Mayor figures its a win-win situation.

Finally, no Williamsburg zoning piece is complete without a dramatic back-story followed by massive compromise to residential mega-developers.

Specifically, businesses relocating to these zones can qualify for:

1. A $1,000 tax credit per employee - up to $100,000 total.

2. Free business assistance from a designated "Industrial Business Solutions Provider" who can offer "free, quick and reliable answers to a broad range of business questions" - in other words, a Fixer - in theory someone with an 18 volt cordless red tape cutter and two spare batteries.

The second benefit is offered to selected lots contained in a much larger "Ombudsman Area" that surrounds some of the IBZs.

Additionally, the site promotes the following additional benefits:

- Planning Studies: the city will look into revising the area's parking, so Joe, the lathe operator, doesn't have to shut down the line to move his car every day at 10 am; and encouraging similar industries to locate near each other, i.e. garment industries in the Garment District IBZ...

- "Creating Real Estate Certainty": The site suggests (depending on which page you read), that the Bloomberg administration either "guarantees it will prohibit any new residential development" or "guaranteed not to support the rezoning of industrial property for residential use".

Copy editing like that has certainty written all over it. We think.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tuesday Eye Candy: Not Williamsburg Edition

chichicastenango market

If there were any regular readers of this blog, they might have noticed that we haven't posted in a week. We were actually working out of our Guatemala office since last Tuesday, and that office, unfortunately, is not equipped with a web connection. We know...a responsible blog organization would have notified its readership in advance. Suffice it to say, we're somewhat less than responsible.

We are happy to report however, that the week of field reporting was well documented with still photography, which we'll be linking to shortly.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress...