Friday, September 12, 2008

reason number 59345 that i love brooklyn

this article comes from the new york sun and discusses the drastic changes taking place on franklin avenue:

"A main thoroughfare in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood, an increasingly powerful magnet for recent college graduates and young professionals seeking affordable rent and access to mass transit, is undergoing a transformation. The bodegas, hair salons, and fast-food restaurants lining the section of Franklin Avenue that runs between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue, on the western boundary of Crown Heights, are slowly being replaced by organic markets, cafés, and clothing boutiques.
'Williamsburg has moved over here,' Anthony Fisher, whose family has owned Fisher's Supermarket on the corner of Lincoln Place and Franklin Avenue since 1981, said recently. The market has begun stocking organic produce, and even organic beer, to satisfy the growing demand from health-conscious residents.

As rental prices rise in other areas of Brooklyn, such as Williamsburg and Prospect Heights, young New Yorkers are moving eastward into Crown Heights in search of more affordable homes, according to a sales agent at Lang Realty, Joseph Brikman. 'The same thing you'd find in Prospect Heights, the same amenities, you can get for at least $300 cheaper in Crown Heights,' he said. On average, a one-bedroom in the neighborhood is about $1,200 a month, compared with as much as $1,700 a month in Prospect Heights.

Retail rents are also cheaper on Franklin Avenue than other Brooklyn shopping streets. To rent a storefront on the Crown Heights thoroughfare costs about $2.50 a square foot. In comparison, retail rents in Prospect Heights range between $3.50 and $4.50 a square foot, according to a commercial broker at Woodbury Real Estate Solutions, Sonni Woodbury.

'Over the next five years, it's going to become like Boerum Hill's Smith Street or Park Slope's Fifth Avenue,' the co-owner of a recently opened beer garden in the neighborhood, Matthew Roff, said of Franklin Avenue. The beer garden, Franklin Park, launched in April on St. John's Place, and is now a popular gathering place for newcomers, longtime West Indian residents, and chasidim, who mingle around picnic tables in the leafy, brick-walled courtyard. Mr. Roff is planning to eventually double the 2,000-square-foot space that once was a garage with a litter-strewn yard.

Around the corner, the Point de Couture boutique features up-and-coming designers. 'I wanted to bring a little SoHo to this area,' the owner, Emanuelle Christian, said. She opened the space last year in a storefront that was being vacated by a tax accountant.

Chadon Bell launched his tattoo parlor, Brooklyn Ink Spot, at Franklin Avenue and Park Place in 2006. 'I'm into the culture of ink, and people moving into the neighborhood are obviously into it,' he said, adding that the business is seeing its sales increase by about $2,000 a month. Over the last two years, Mr. Bell said, police patrols and sweeps of drug dens have encouraged merchants to open more stores in the area.

While the retail scene is rapidly changing, there is also a transformation in the residential market. A shopkeeper who owned a variety store at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin Avenue for 21 years, Eli Mazon, is now developing the building into an eight floor, 62-unit rental building. The project, which is set for completion in the spring 2010, will include studios, and one and two bedrooms, in addition to commercial office space. While the rents have not yet been finalized, the development, which will also boast a garage, gym, and doorman, will range from $2,000 a month to $3,500 a month.

'There's a massive change on Franklin now and I wanted to be part of that,' the owner of Bristen's Eatery, Carleen Haughton, said. The café, on Franklin Avenue and Sterling Place, serves salads and paninis named for local streets and boasts a spacious backyard, where Ms. Haughton, who moved from Clinton Hill in March, hosts outdoor concerts."

for all those who aren't aware, eastern parkway and franklin avenue was a notorious drug corner. crown heights has seen its share of riots, violence, gangs, and drug dealings in the past, but is slowly turning into a good residential area.

i live at that intersection and have never seen anything suspicious, aside from random men using the construction border as their own personal urinals.

but that's beside the point. i am trying to finagle rent down in the basement unit of my building, so arthur and i can live there and not pay an arm and a leg. i rather enjoy having four limbs. not to mention the basement unit is much smaller and not as nice. on the plus side, it does have access to the "backyard" aka broken glass receptacle. we're trying to offer our handiwork in exchange for a rent reduction. we emailed a proposal to the management company, saying we will gladly landscape the front and backyards, finish the floors, paint the walls in like colors, etc. at this rate, however, we're not so sure the landlord is going to go for it.

either way, i am so 100% happy with where i live, both building- and location-wise that we probably will end up just taking the apartment for the asking price if all else fails.

my wallet will hurt, but i think i'm due for a raise.

i can't imagine another year in brooklyn without walking kimchi down the tree-lined eastern parkway, grabbing hummus from fisher's, running in prospect park, enjoying a beer at franklin park, or getting breakfast at bristen's.

we've gone on a whirlwind tour of apartments in crown heights, prospect heights, clinton hill, fort greene, and bed-stuy, and none of them holds a candle to this place (walking 15 steps to the subway is probably the best part).

shh, don't tell anyone. in keeping with the "hipster olympics" theme, i would even go as far to say crown heights it's the new williamsburg. except it's not. it still has the ethnic vibe, and i'm hoping the neighborhood can co-exist peacefully while continuing the clean up to make it a safer place for families. i'll be pissed if it picks up that williamsburg pretension. plus it's affordable... though with just two of us living here, there will be a drastic increase in rent compared to what i'm paying now.

though i have to admit, the construction lot next door is worrisome. they are building an 8-story condo building, and rumor is a starbucks is going in the ground level along with some other retail shops. come 2010, i can kiss affordable rent goodbye.

keep your eyes, fingers, and toes crossed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

celebrity spottings #9 and 10 and other fun things

finally catching up with that growing pile of laundry in my closet, i find myself with an hour to kill before dooming myself to laundry folding hell.

what shall i blog about?

my thoughts on palin?

the whereabouts of the reclusive kim jong-il?
...not interesting enough

the most recent gossip girl cast spotting?
...why yes, of course!

blake lively and penn badgley were standing directly in front of the restaurant today, looking across hudson street. at first, i thought they were waiting to cross, until i noticed cameras all around. blake was standing behind penn, as if trying to hide from the cameras, while penn was busy "hailing" a taxi.

i assumed the cameras were paparazzi until a server at the restaurant explained that they were filming video (no audio), presumably for the show. this was my first chance to watch a celebrity from afar, so i wasn't at all ashamed to take a picture with my camera phone. i should be allowed a little celebrity indulgence every now and then.

and this brings my sightings to 9 and 10... a nice, round number for my first year in the city.

for all those wondering who else i've spied with my little eye, the list is as follows:

- anthony rapp
- catherine zeta-jones
- drea de matteo
- julia stiles
- heather graham
- alicia keyes
- cole haan
- eugene levy

half of these people have dined in the restaurant, the other half were just seen out and about in manhattan.

i would really like to believe that eugene levy was in fact eugene levy, because he was pretty awesome. i was was by myself, staring as he walked by, trying to figure out if it was really him. he kind of raised his eyebrows at me - not in that creepy old man way, but in the "i'm an awesome friendly guy" kind of way.

dang. that didn't take long at all to write. i still have twenty-five minutes to kill.

well, to save face from all that celebrity talk, i will now discuss... the merits of pop culture.

i recently finished reading everything bad is good for you.

generally, steven johnson explains that a lot of the things commonly thought to hinder people's intelligence (especially children) can quite often do just the opposite. video games, internet use, and popular tv shows have actually been advancing cognitive development when it comes to certain brain functions like problem-solving skills and understanding complex ideas. it's form, not content. people have been getting too hung up on the violence of the sopranos and not paying enough attention to how much the viewers have to use their brains to follow the complicated multi-thread stories. compared to the days of starsky and hutch, tv has gotten a lot more complex

i think where he won me over was in his epilogue, where he makes the clear point that everything in life is about a balance. video games and tv aren't necessarily harmful, but it's just as important to go out and play baseball or read books to be an overall healthy, intelligent person. pop culture can enhance some forms of intelligence, but knowledge and emotional intelligence must be obtained elsewhere. the clincher is that he and his wife decided that, for the sake of balance, they would raise their family near prospect park in brooklyn. this way, his kids can enjoy everything city life has to offer while still having access to nature. isn't prospect park wonderful?

and with that, it is time to do my laundry.