Skip to main content

Census of Places that Matter, art opening, and the (upcoming) "vanished site" of Freddy's

Someone asked me if Freddy's Bar & Backroom, fated for demolition after a court approved eminent domain, could be landmarked, and the answer is, of course, no: it's not a building of particularly architectural merit inside or out and, if the terra cotta Ward Bakery couldn't be landmarked, Freddy's sure can't.

But Freddy's, which in its Backroom last night held an opening for an art retrospective over 13 years, does deserve a spot--anyone can enter it--in the Census of Places that Matter, the very democratic list published as part of the Place Matters project created by the cultural organization City Lore and the Municipal Art Society, a design/planning organization.

(Photos by Steve Soblick. Most of the pieces in the collection are not related to Freddy's, but these two--a photo by Dan Sagarin at left and a mixed-media piece by Steve de Seve--do portray Freddy's.)

Origins of the Census

The project came out of a 1997 conference called History Happened Here, organized at the Museum of the City of New York by City Lore and the Municipal Art Society:
We learned from the conference that many people shared our concerns about the places of value disappearing around us. Since few strategies existed for promoting or protecting such places, our two organizations decided it was time to mount an initiative dedicated to such aims.

The Place Matters mission is to foster the conservation of New York City's historically and culturally significant places. These are places that hold memories and anchor traditions for individuals and communities, and that help tell the history of the city as a whole. We are convinced that such places promote the well being of New York's many communities in ways that too often go unrecognized.
At the HDC conference

I was reminded of the census on Saturday at the annual preservation conference of the Historic Districts Council, this year focusing on the next generation.

At one panel Mariana Mogilevich, of Place Matters, discussed the concept of cultural landmarks. The census, she said, may seem arbitrary; rather than scientific, it is humanistic.

The census includes places that matter to history and tradition, but are not necessarily architecturally distinguished, she said. Given that anyone can nominate a place, with no firm criteria, "the result is a really big, bottom-up survey."

The census, however, is just that, and it recognizes some places that no longer exist and would have been hard to preserve. "How can we landmark lunch, or ice cream, or hanging out?" Mogilevich asked. "It's a really difficult question, not only for us."

But if Freddy's is reestablished, as its manager hopes ("I think Freddy's is an idea, not an address"), then the some of the spirit can move, too.

(Money clearly isn't the only motivation at the bar. More than once I've asked bartenders--who don't know me--for a club soda and they refused my cash. Arena prices are a tad higher.)

In Prospect Heights

I checked the Census to see if any place in the AY footprint had been entered. Freddy's was absent, but someone had written up 24 Sixth Avenue:
This was the former factory of the Spalding Company, where they used to make spaldeens, the pink rubber balls that were an iconic presence in urban America. Everywhere kids used to play games like stickball with spaldeens. Anyone who grew up in New York up to the mid-80s probably remembers them. There's a Spalding banner painted around the building along with words like football, basketball, etc.
That banner was removed when the building was renovated into loft condos earlier this decade--and now the sturdy handsome building is also slated for the wrecking ball.

Vanished sites

So the Spalding Building and Freddy's (should it be entered) seem fated for a category known as vanished sites.

(At left, a photo of a poster in the Backroom that asks, "Are You Cuff Enough for the Freddy's Eviction Day Chain-In?" a reference to the planned resistance.)

One place in that vanished category is Nkiru Books, the oldest black-oriented bookstore in Brooklyn, once on St. Marks Avenue in Park Slope.

That space is now Flatbush Farm, but the Nkiru Center for Education and Culture was reestablished in Prospect Heights (though its web site is down).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…