Phil On Fire: More Fire House Closings

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By Phil DePaolo 

Spring is in the air. So are FDNY Engine closings. Mayor Bloomberg announced the closing of 16 more Engine companies on Friday, May 1st in his budget proposal. This includes full closure of Engine 271, which is a little over two miles from Engine 209, closed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2003. Engine 271 is in the district of City Council Member Diana Reyna who is now facing a cruel fate that she could have helped prevent. In 2003, when the Mayor closed Engine Company 212, I was involved in lobbying members of the City Council. The goal was to convince the Council not to pass a budget that included Engine closings. One of my pleas to Council Members was that if you allow the Mayor to do this, he will do it again. In the end, Engine 212 was closed along with five other Engine companies, including Engine 209 in Council Member Reyna’s district. Reyna and fellow Council Member David Yassky both backed down and supported the Council speaker and the Mayor and voted to pass the budget.

I was informed by the late City Council Member James Davis, that the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, threatened to withhold discretionary funds (a.k.a. “political pork”) from any Council Member that did not pass the budget. Fast forward to 2009 and Reyna faces the loss of another Engine company in her district. I hate to see what the Mayor would do to her (a Democrat) if she had not crossed party lines and endorsed him for reelection in 2005, as well as recently help lead the charge for the Mayor and herself to run for a third term. Now that’s gratitude!

Speaking of Council Member Reyna, it seems the competition is not running from her incumbency. Longtime Community Board #1 district manager, Gerry Esposito, thought he was running for her open seat when he declared he was running for City Council. But despite Reyna’s decision to give herself the opportunity to run for a third term, Esposito has decided to stay in the race. Also, Maritza Davila, a Vito Lopez protégé, decided to join the fray. Many political insiders say this could be the race to watch. Stay tuned.

Happy spring, Still on Fire

Phil

Future of Domino Could Be Its Past

Local Group Sues Landmarks Commission

By Reid Pillifant

For months, it seemed the last hurdle in the massive makeover of the former Domino Sugar factory would be the series of public meetings that mark the final stages of the re-zoning process.  But in late March, a local group launched a pre-emptive strike against those plans, filing a lawsuit that claims the entire site should be protected as a historic landmark.

Williamsburg Independent People (WIP) sued the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for failing to properly review the property for historic landmark status, and for not adequately reporting how it arrived at its decision. “Landmarks didn’t get it right.  They just didn’t do their job,” said WIP member Stephanie Eisenberg. “This site shows the progression of industry from the 1860s to the 1960s.”

In 2007, the LPC protected three of the buildings on the site, which together form the brawny red brick building that defines the waterfront property. But the building also contains several smaller structures—an old boiler house, powerhouse and warehouse—which were not designated as landmarks.

Last summer, when WIP asked the LPC to consider those three buildings, LPC indicated they had been evaluated along with the remainder of the site. WIP then filed suit, claiming the secretive nature of LPC’s process makes it impossible to tell whether the buildings were properly evaluated. The suit also argues that the commission’s chairman, Robert Tierney, has too much individual discretion in determining which buildings receive public hearings.

“We have received the official papers recently and are in the process of responding to them. We believe there is no merit to the case and are prepared to vigorously defend the matter,” said a spokesperson for the city’s law department, which is representing LPC in the litigation.

A 25-page report on the property, issued by LPC after the public hearing in 2007, contains a lengthy history of the main structure—known as the Pan, Filter & Finishing House—and the refinery’s significance to the industrial history of the neighborhood and the borough. (When it was built, the 150-foot building was the tallest structure on the Brooklyn waterfront, equaling the new skyscrapers in Manhattan’s financial district.)

The report makes only passing mention of the other buildings. Summarizing the public hearing held in June 2007, it says, “Some speakers requested that the site be expanded to include related structures, while others insisted that designation should not interfere with the creation of affordable housing.”

Designating the buildings would seem to require significant changes to the proposed plans for the site. The property’s owner, CPC Resources, envisions four new towers on the property—two rising to 30 stories and two rising as high as 40 stories—but preserving the remaining buildings would confine the amount of available building space.  Currently, the project calls for 2,400 residential units, with a goal to make 30 percent of the units available as affordable housing.  CPC Resources is not named in the suit, but declined to comment on pending litigation.

WIP would like to see the site used for a cultural center, and often invokes the Tate Modern in London, which transformed a defunct power station into a modern art museum.

The suit by WIP follows an earlier lawsuit by another preservation group—the Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation—that used much of the same legal reasoning.  In November, a judge ruled that the LPC must report all its recommendations to the full committee. 

LPC has appealed the ruling, and in the past, it has argued that all requests are considered by a five-person committee, with the opportunity for commissioner input, before the chairman decides whether the property should advance. LPC claims that asking the full commission to hear every case would create an unworkable burden for its staff.

The CECPP case may hinge on the organization’s legal standing—since the suit included properties throughout the city, not necessarily close to where the plaintiffs live. WIP’s suit would seem to solve the standing issue—even if the CECCP decision was invalidated—because WIP’s members all live in the vicinity of the Domino Sugar factory. The lead plaintiff named by WIP is Ceal Holzman, who has lived in the area for 30 years.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Holzman said of the LPC decision. “They want to keep one building, and tear out one of the main buildings.  It’s all a unit.  We’re not trying to keep a little postage stamp and say this is what it was.”

 

Anavaa Kisasa Summer Store Hours

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Still wearing Fall clothes!?  Have no fear, at Anavaa Kisasa we will put you in the mood to pull out your bathing suit, slip on your flip flops and head to the beach!  But wait! hold up, you can’t go dressed like that!  Come on down to Anavaa Kisasa—The Frugal Fashionista’s Boutique and we will outfit you in the freshest, latest, dopest, hottest (you get the picture) gear!  Stop by Tuesdays through Fridays from 12 to 8pm. On Saturdays we will be at The Brooklyn Flea!  Come visit us there too!  We are so happy to be outside that we are giving away the clothes!  Okay let’s not get crazy, but we are offering some GREAT discounts.  Don’t miss out!                                    

Anavaa Kisasa

555 Metropolitan Ave

(718) 384-2679

www.theakstyle.com

 

Post-Memorial Day Morning Links + Photo

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Photo: Fancy Lad

A wonderful annotated take-down of the press release for 44 Berry. [Brooklyn11211]  

Zagat says Fette Sau is Number 1 in New York barbecue. [NY1

At least one Yeshiva in Williamsburg has temporarily closed on account of swine flu — more on the way? [VIN News

Gizmodo buys an original ’84 Mac on the streets of W’Burg, wants suggestions for what to do with it… [Gizmodo]

The Great Out Doors

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Graffiti as a form of public art can often be more eye opening than viewing artwork in a gallery. The unpredictability and displacement can surprise a passerby, provoking a reaction from revelation to revulsion. As a medium for street art, the door functions as a frame to enclose an image, but a show at Artbreak Gallery at 195 Grand Street in Williamsburg shows the door can be much more than that when it’s brought inside.

 

Street artist Billi Kid and street art photographer Luna Park curated the show, comprised of 27 doors by celebrated street artists.   The artists used their doors as a canvas, executing artwork without worrying about the usual hindrances street artists encounter when they pour out their inspiration onto a public surface.  More > >

Weekend Round-up

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Photo: Paul McGeiver

Apologies for the lack of action yesterday — we had some technical difficulties that should be resolved now. Without further ado, some weekend news and events:

Ninth annual Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade starts Sunday at 9 am at the St. Stanislaus American Legion Post. [Brooklyn Paper]

The Brooklyn Brewery leads a BBQ parade through Greenpoint today from 3 -8 pm today.  FREE! [link]

Find out what a Colombian Cholado at Cafecito Bogota (1015 Manattan Ave. in Greenpoint). First 50 people get one FREE, starting at 1 pm today. [no link for you]

Lokal adds a take-out window for juice and coffee: [Eater NY]

Grandma Rose’s Barely Ever Closes

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When I saw the pizza ovens in the window and the sign saying “Grandma Rose’s,” I let out a yelp of joy.  We’re going to have to rename Graham Avenue Pizzeria Row. John Ricco, the man bringing us Rose’s, hopes to open in about three weeks.  And he plans to stay open late.  Rose’s won’t close until 11pm Monday through Wednesday, 1am on Thursdays, and until the just-pre-dawn hour of 5am on Friday and Saturday nights — a godsend for those off the Graham L stop who have ever been plagued with post-party hunger.  More > >

Beneath the Undulating Strands

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At Cameo, the still-somewhat-new miniature ballroom and art gallery in the back of The Lovin’ Cup Cafe on North 6th, there is a curious installation of glossy, undulating strands of white rope that hangs above the stage like a mammoth’s head. Last Thursday night, I ventured over to Cameo to check out four bands: Sisters, Joe and the Flying Spoons, Pursesnatchers, and Acrylics.  More > >