Housing + Development

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What’s Up With the Lower East Side Ferry?

(image: Tara Yarlagadda)

On a cloudy May morning, maintenance workers were busy prepping the launch pad of the Stuyvesant Cove/Town stop on the Lower East Side ferry route. But the boarding ramp connecting the East River Bikeway along FDR Drive with the ferry launch pad remained roped off. An older gentleman named Bruce Goldstein, passing by on his Citi Bike, halted to inquire about this still-closed stop. Keep Reading »

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City Seeks to Streamline Landmarking Process, But Public Doesn’t Want to Be Shut Out

(Sign provided by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission wants to speed up its approval of certain building modifications by eliminating public hearings, but preservationists argued yesterday that the move would silence New Yorkers concerned about the historic fabric of their neighborhoods. At a hearing replete with criticism, pleas, hissing, and head-shaking, the crowd spilled out into the hall, brandishing signs that read KEEP YOUR PRESERVATION HATS ON and DON’T CUT THE PUBLIC OUT OF THE PROCESS. Keep Reading »

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Williamsburg’s Dime Savings Bank Is a Newly Minted Landmark

(Photo via CharneyConstruction.com)

Williamsburg’s Dime Savings Bank has been declared a New York City landmark. The unanimous vote at a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing today was cast two weeks after a public hearing in which the historical designation was supported by individuals such as the property owner and City Council member Antonio Reynoso. As an LPC staff member noted, the building’s elegant design along with the history associated with Williamsburg’s historic financial center were significant reasons to justify the building as a landmark.  Keep Reading »

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Lawsuit Temporarily Halts Controversial Development at Pfizer Site in Williamsburg

The developer of a controversial project in South Williamsburg was hit with a restraining order yesterday that temporarily bars the construction of eight buildings on the former Pfizer site. The move came after several Brooklyn residents and activist groups filed a lawsuit claiming that the city failed to protect communities of color when it cleared the way for the new buildings in the Broadway Triangle area. Plaintiffs claim that the city and Mayor de Blasio ignored their obligations under federal law when they approved a rezoning for the project.

The plaintiffs, led by a coalition of churches in the Broadway Triangle area, argue that the Pfizer project will raise rents in the surrounding area, causing residents of color, and especially Latino families, to be pushed out. Three of the plaintiffs have already suffered landlord harassment and are in danger of losing their homes, the suit claims. Keep Reading »

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LES Landlord Sami Mahfar Settles Tenant Harassment Case

The State Attorney General has reached a settlement with Sassan “Sami” Mahfar, the embattled landlord accused of illegally harassing tenants of his Lower East Side buildings in an effort to displace them. As part of the $225,000 settlement, companies owned by Sassan “Sami” Mahfar and Sina Mahfar will pay $175,000 to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and its efforts to combat lead poisoning.

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Greenpoint’s Astral Apartments, a Tumultuous Refuge for the Working Class

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Astral’s Franklin Street exterior

The Astral in Greenpoint has status in the National Register of Historic Places and as a New York City landmark, but not for the murder and mayhem that has emanated from 184 Franklin Avenue since its completion as housing for Charles Pratt’s employees link 131 years ago, in 1886.

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3 Ways to Lend a Small but Helping Hand to those Impacted by Oakland Fire

Fire that killed dozens of people trapped inside the Ghost Ship, a DIY art space in Oakland December 3 2016 (Photo: Julianna Brown, via Wikipedia Commons, Flickr)

Fire that killed dozens of people trapped inside the Ghost Ship, a DIY art space in Oakland December 3 2016 (Photo: Julianna Brown, via Wikipedia Commons, Flickr)

Whenever someone compares Brooklyn to Oakland, an angel loses its wings, and is sent plunging straight down to hell where the sexless being is reborn as an enormous phallus– imagine, like, a hedge fund manager or,  in some cases, a real-estate developer.

That’s because the observation usually has to do with the proximity of a relatively much more prosperous place like Manhattan or San Fransisco (actually those are mostly just super fancy places no matter how you slice it) and based on dumb facts like that you can take a train between the two (the BART, the MTA respectively). Oh, and there’s also that whole gentrification thing– like parts of Brooklyn, Oakland has been declared fabulously “up-and-coming” (barf).

The truth is that, aside from stupid comparisons like these–usually found in real-estate ads, or grunted between high-five’ing bros–Oakland and our beloved borough actually do have some real stuff in common.

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Once a Home for Destitute Girls, Now Handsome Co-Ops Worth Millions

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

307 East 12th Street from across the street. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

307 East 12th Street from across the street. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

The commotion began as Gertrude Williams strolled home from her cashier job at an uptown restaurant. At Broadway and 39th, a strange man tried to strike up a conversation. Annoyed yet accustomed to such unwanted attentions, she ignored him. But he persisted. The New York Tribune described what happened next: “Raising her pugnacious right, she caught him square on the jaw.”

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How One Fraudulent Banking Temple in Brooklyn Found Faith in Orthodoxy

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Williamsburg Trust Company building, 2016. (Photo: Natasha Bluth)

The Williamsburg Trust Company building, 2016. Natasha Bluth

Buildings repurposed as churches always attracted the legendary writer Joseph Mitchell, including one particular Williamsburg building that never made it into his New Yorker columns. “I find myself standing in front of and looking up at [it] several times a year—I have never been able to figure out why,” he admitted in his unpublished memoirs. To Mitchell, the mystery of the old Williamsburg Trust Company on South Fifth Place between South Fifth Street and South Fourth Street was most alive in the summer dusk when it transformed into “the quarter of St. Petersburg in which Raskolnikov killed the old moneylender woman and her half sister.”

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Newly Signed Law Will Help Keep OId Folks Homes From Becoming Rich Folks Homes

(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

It’s too late to save Rivington House, the former HIV treatment facility that a non-profit nursing home operator unexpectedly flipped to a luxury developer after the city quietly lifted a deed restriction. But a bill signed into law today should do something to prevent buildings designated for community use from becoming luxury condos.

The new law requires the city to maintain a searchable online database of properties with deed restrictions, and forces developers who want to have them lifted to inform their local City Council member, community board, and borough president. The law requires the mayor, a specially formed committee, and the Department of City Planning to review any such requests, and approve them with the mayor’s personal sign-off only if they’re deemed to be in the city’s best interest. While there had been talk of requiring the city’s stringent Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in such scenarios, the new law stops short of that.

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Westminster Cares? Tenants of Trump Son-in-Law Jared Kushner Say Not So Much

One of Jared Kushner's buildings, 118 East 4th Street, where tenants have taken legal action against their landlord (Photo courtesy of Streeteasy)

One of Jared Kushner’s buildings, 118 East 4th Street, where tenants have taken legal action against their landlord (Photo courtesy of Streeteasy)

After months of pleading with Westminster City Living to restore cooking gas and address a litany of repairs in her aging East Village tenement building, Jennifer Hengen and other members of the 118 East 4th Street tenant association had reached their breaking point. “It was like waiting for Godot,” she recalled.

Not only had the building’s real-estate management company, headed by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, neglected to fix problems in her building, and many more across the neighborhood, but tenants felt as if the problems didn’t really matter to management. “We’re invisible to them because we’re not millionaires,” she said. “I just don’t think we’re taken very seriously– number one, because we’re not in one of the big, shiny buildings and, number two, because we are rent-stabilized.”

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