Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunset Parker Killed in Hit and Run

I happened to be walking by shortly after this occurred at around 3:30 PM. I had no clue at the time how serious it was. I saw the man laying on the ground as I passed by on my van and construction workers who were working on the nearby fire house were directing traffic. I parked the van a block away and went on about my business. I should have suspected something was up when police were still at the intersection hours later guarding the spot where it happened.

On waking up this morning and reading the papers I had a sick feeling more than I normally would. I suppose it was the fact that I had actually seen it. The stories are covered in the various New York papers and outlets. In the Daily News, Newsday and 7 Online. It is really a sad way to end the year.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Investment Opportunities in Sunset Park?

Over at the recently launched nrv lowdown blog they have a short article on the Sunset Park real estate market. And while the article takes note of the dismal situation in Mortgages as it notes; The neighborhood is also being hit hard by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, so real estate values there are changing quickly with the economy.

While it makes passing note of the Gentrification that is encroaching the neighborhood from both sides, North and South it paints a rather flowery picture that I think at this point in time is too optimistic. While no doubt there are investment opportunities to be had. The adds it links to on the bottom show a number of properties that by any standard are clearly over priced.The first offering is the 3 family brownstone on the right at 56th street. 2700 square feet on a 2000 square foot lot. It gives scant information or other details. The asking price? $990,000 . Now you might have gotten away with that a year ago. In today's market I don't think so. I suspect that house will be on the market for a long time until and if the owner takes a more realistic stock and lowers the price by about 200k.

Another offering by the same real estate agent is the modest townhouse below a wood frame house on 49th street for which they are asking $715,000. I think the people selling these properties are overly optimistic. While I agree that Sunset Park is improving I do not see it as being immune to the economic downturn in the real estate industry and until that is resolved at these prices investment opportunities they are not.
Why buy something at a high price when you know that prices are falling? Most homes are not investment opportunities. Usually the home you live in is a non-performing asset. Especially one family homes. When you take into account inflation and amortization costs most people just about break even.

So, do you think the city will lower our real estate taxes when it does the next round of appraisals? No, I don't think so.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Sunset Park Company's software helps deaf people

While scouring the Internet I came across this piece in the Daily News about a software company that has developed patented software to help deaf people communicate by turning spoken english into text and sign language. People may not think it, but there is a lot going on on the other side of the Gowanus Expressway in those warehouses and of course in the old Army terminal. Who would have thought that Sunset Park is on the cutting edge of technology.

Steve Bruner shows off the iCommunicator; Daniel Feldman (below) displays footcare products made by a sister company.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas day at Green-Wood

Every year on Christmas day when I can, I go to visit my parents resting place At Green-Wood Cemetery. This year it turned out to be a good day weather wise so I walked there. I had my camera with me so I took some shots. Green-Wood Cemetery is an important feature of Sunset Park and there are quite a few Sunset Parkers who find their final resting place there.

Out in the center of this shot is an obelisk gravestone with a Christmas wreath on it.

The Hillside Mausoleum. Some people call them condos for the deceased. However on bad weather days it makes paying respects to the departed bearable.

An oasis of green shrubbery amongst the barren tress of winter.

After the cemetery I took in Christmas mid day mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Located a mere four blocks from the cemetery on East 2nd street and Fort Hamilton Parkway. It is the first church I attended on arriving to The United States in 1962.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Borders of Sunset Park Part 2

Over at I seem to have opened up a hornet's nest by my publishing the map of Sunset Park. The blog having been picked up by NY Magazine for the same reason. It seems that some posters were umbraged at the mere notion that they might be in Sunset park instead of the fancier sounding Greenwood Heights or South Slope. Of course there are two sides to this. Some posters were obviously from the Slope proper and insist that it ends at 9th street, obviously these folks are newcomers who probably moved into their nabe two weeks ago. Then there is also another group that claims Sunset Park begins at 39th street. They also probably moved here two weeks ago. Both victims of some unscrupulous real estate agent who knew he could con the guys of an extra 30 or 5o grand if he could claim that their property were not were they were. Part of it also has to do with snobbishness and probably outright bigotry. It is really a shame.

Let us go back in time to circa 1960. Those were different times then. You could buy a decent one family for 20k in Bay Ridge and around 15k in what is now Sunset Park. Of course in those days, money was real money. Robert F. Wagner, Jr. was the mayor of New York. The are we now know as Sunset Park was by that time becoming heavily Hispanic from the area South of the Prospect Expressway to around 65th street. In those days it was mostly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans moving into the nabe. It became so saturated that by that time around 70% of the hood was Hispanic. Well, this did not sit well with the folks in the rest of Bay Ridge and Park Slope. Bay Ridge at that time ran North to approximately 45th street and Park Slope ran South to approximately 25th street. The area in between was generally know as South Brooklyn. Sunset Park? Well, it was just a park then. It was also a time were people were pushing for a charter revision to reapportion powers in the city and redraw the borders of neighborhoods. The people in Bay Ridge at that time south of 65th street, mostly white, Scandinavian, Italian, Irish etc. did not want to be associated with "those People" north of 65th street. Part of the reason was bigotry, mixed in with the fact that crime was going up north of 65th street and it was also reflecting on real estate values south of 65th street. After all people in other areas did not distinguish North Ridge from South. The same was true in Park Slope were people wanted a divorce south of 9th street. In any case, the powers that be, mostly local politicians who had pull redrew the borders and created Sunset Park as part of the charter revision of 1964. The new nabe was to be called Sunset Park after the park and would comprise the area south of Prospect Expressway till 65th street and east to 9th avenue south of the cemetery and east to 7th avenue in the north. This pissed off a lot of non Hispanics in the new nabe as they felt betrayed and some never got over it. Things deteriorated after that with many old residents beginning to move out of the nabe in droves. This also created opportunities as housing got ever so cheaper in the nabe. Things were not doing well until about the early 1980's. Sunset Park had a severe crime problem, gangs were everywhere. The DEA was always on 4th avenue making arrests and raiding places. And people south of the Expressway knew they were in Sunset Park.

The first Chinese families started to move into the neighborhood in around 1980. Nobody really took notice then. Hong Kong was soon to be turned over to back to Mainland China and our relations with the People's Republic were increasingly getting better. Although emmigration was just a trickle by the mid 90's it became a flood. The demographics were also changing. Second generation Puerto Ricans were moving out of the hood. Replaced by Mexicans, Dominicans and Salvadorians and others. A different type of Hispanic with an entrepreneurial spirit and outlook. Crime began to plummet as policing in the nabe got serious in the 68th, 66th and 72 precincts beginning with the Giulianni years in office.
One could write a dissertation on this subject. But fast forward to the present and the change is startling. To this day some of the negative history and reputation of Sunset Park still lingers on in the subconscious of many. To many newcomers who moved into the neighborhood from either Manhattan or the Midwest the horrid stories they had heard embellished by shady real estate agents looking to make a buck led to an old marketing technique. They began renaming areas on the fringe something else so they could spike up prices.
Having been here for almost 40 years I have seen things come and go and was around to hear people's stories of what the nabe was before I got here. I kind of resent the snobbishness and in some cases the outright bigotry expressed by some people who refer to others as "those people" whether they be Hispanics or Chinese and somehow don't want to be associated with the nabe. I have a solution for those folks. You van always move out, don't rename the nabe and pretend it's somewhere else. Wishing it were so, does not make it so. And for those apprehensive about the future, I can tell you that having neighbors who are Hispanic, Chinese, Italian and Scandinavian will teach you that people come in all varieties. You will find nice people in all shades as well as pricks. So I think it's time to get over yourselves if you want to live in Beverly Hills. Otherwise, pull up a chair and enjoy the show. Sunset Park at this point has nowhere else to go but up and it will be interesting to watch.

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Art Deco Condos of Sunset Park

It seems that the Chinese architects building new condos on 7th avenue prefer the art deco/bauhaus style of design. The buildings seems to take one back to the thirties in look and design. I have always had a liking for art deco since I came to New York. Preferring the Chrysler building to the Empire State. In any case, at least these buildings are not the drab soviet style buildings that one would find in old Beijing or North Korea or even the square drab buildings that they built in the 40's and 50's which are typical of many of the co ops one finds in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.


This example can be found on the corner of 50th and 7th avenues.


This one can be seen on the corner of 55th and 7th across the street from the Bay Ridge Post Office.


This one on 58th and 7th is nearing completion and is only missing the usual stainless steel balcony accoutrement.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Borders of Sunset Park

It seems to me on speaking to many people that many are not sure what the borders of Sunset Park are. The map below published by the New York Times is a fairly accurate approximation. There is also the Wikipedia article on Sunset Park which describes the borders of the nabe and gives a brief history. The only difference between our map and the Wikipedia article is that the article extends the east border to 9th Avenue. Some people may not like the way the borders are structured. Old timers in what used to be Northern Bay Ridge until 1964 may want to be back in Bay Ridge. People who live in what used to be Southern Park Slope wish they were in Park Slope. The evolution of the neighborhoods in the last 40 years would make people feel that way. Some areas that were nothing to brag about 40 years ago have changed drastically for the better and being part of those neighborhoods would certainly drive up property values. Go to the northern part of the nabe in what used to be Southern Park Slope and people will insist they don't live in Sunset Park but in something called Greenwood Heights. Perhaps at some point in the future the borders will be redrawn. I suspect the wave of gentrification spilling over from the Slope southward might have something to do with it. The irony is that most of these people moved into Sunset Park because the property values were cheaper. Now they want to be part of the slope so their properties will be worth a slight bit more. I actually think that we haven't seen the end of the rise of Sunset Park nor it's evolution. Go back a mere twenty years and this neighborhood is totally different from what it was then.

In any case, borders are what borders are. At the moment, they are what they are and there is little we can do about it until another city charter revision comes along. But as things evolve, I suspect more and more people will want to be identified with Sunset Park even if they live in the nabe. When I moved here in 1970 Sunset Park was almost a drug infested ghetto and Sunset Park (the park itself) had already earned it's reputation and name as "needle Park". No decent person wanted to be associated with the nabe. What a difference 37 years make. We have one of the highest employment rates in the city, property values are among the highest, we're getting a new high school and so much more. Yep, I think we finally have things to brag about in the nabe.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

A litlle snipet of Sunset Park's Demographics.

Over at the blog of the Newspaper of record, The New York Times they had a little piece on the demographics of Sunset Park which I found a bit fascinating. Having lived through all the changes in the last thirty years here I can probably say without reservation that we will probably see more of the same, change that is. Thanks to Mike Rose wherever you are for asking the question.


As a Sunset Park resident, I’m fascinated by the combination of Latino and Asian communities in the neighborhood. Are there other NYC neighborhoods with the same juxtaposition of cultures?

Mike Rose


Even in Sunset Park, there are discrete pockets, with the Eighth Avenue side more Chinese and the Fifth Avenue side more Latino. A report by the city’s Department of Planning, ‘’The Newest New Yorkers 2000,'’ said that Sunset Park along Brooklyn’s western waterfront was among the city’s most polyglot, with 49.2 percent, or 59,209, of its 120,464 residents born abroad. Of those, 19,451 were born in China, 8,408 in Mexico, 7,512 in the Dominican Republic, 3,261 in Ecuador and 1,545 in Poland.

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Bay Ridge is 154?

Over at the Right in Bay ridge Blog they are celebrating the 154th birthday of the neighborhood to our South. Southern Sunset Park was once part of the Ridge. We in Sunset Park are much younger, the neighborhood having been established in 1964 by cobbling together Northern Bay Ridge, Southern Park Slope and everything in between. The oddity is that the Post Office named for Bay Ridge is still located in Sunset Park on the corner of 7th Ave. and 55th street. I frankly think it's about time that the postal Service appropriately find a Post Office in Bay Ridge to name The Bay Ridge Post Office. But, I am not in charge of such things. In any case, I think it appropriate to wish all those folks in Bar Ridge a hearty Happy Birthday!! How about a slice of cake?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our Pacificana Ranked number 1 by the Voice

Roving culinary explorer of the Village Voice, Robert Sietsema has Ranked our very own Pacificana Restaurant to be an unparalleled dinner destination. Heck we could have told him that. His review is apparently the result of having crashed a Cantonese wedding. If only to prove that Pacificana serves a lot more than just Dim Sum.

Having lived in this neighborhood since 1970 I remember when the food fare here was rather limited to a few Spanish restaurants along 5th and a a few diners. The explosion of culinary diversity in Sunset Park in the last 15 years is something to behold. The diversity of cuisine is not limited to just Chinese. Back in the 70's most of Brooklyn was devoid of good restaurants with the exception of a few established old houses. If you wanted something good to eat, you would trek over to Bay Ridge or take the train to Manhattan. If anything, the explosion of restaurants in Sunset Park and their variety is a sign, at least to me, that Sunset Park has finally arrived.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Tourism for Sunset Park?

The following story just broke at the AP.

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese citizens flush with cash from their booming economy will find it easier to vacation in the U.S. following a long-awaited agreement that the American travel industry hopes will bring in billions of dollars.

The deal, signed Tuesday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Beijing, will allow Chinese travel agencies to market packaged leisure tours to American destinations, and it will permit U.S. destinations to advertise directly to the Chinese public.

I would suppose that with the coming of so many Hotels into the Sunset Park area we can expect some of that tourism dollar to be dropping into the nabe. Do we need all this attention? What will it do to the neighborhood. And, while other areas are experiencing a building slump it appears our neighborhood does not appear to be a victim of it. At least not yet. Part of the explanation is that the areas where building is continuing is being driven by either Chinese or perhaps Arab money. Both groups that are culturally loath to borrow money and prefer paying cash so they are not influenced by the mortgage crunch.

It should be interesting to see, all these tourists in shorts with Hawaiian shirts snapping pics of the locals. Will the Chinese tourists be just the first wave? With the cheap dollar and the Euro priced so high maybe the Europeans may follow suit. OK so it's all a fantasy, or is it?


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Filming in Sunset Park!





While walking on 8th Avenue by 44th street. I stumbled on a group of French Film students shooting a scene for a short film entitled "Playground". When it will be out, I have no clue. One of the starring actors in it is a guy named William Otterson. They are in fine company. Sunset Park has been the scene of many a film shoot. Off the top of my head I can think of many episodes of "Hill Street Blues" that were shot here as well as most recently, "The Honeymooners", "Crocodile Dundee", "Sunset Park" that I can remember off the top of my head. I am sure some out there can come up with more films that have been shot in the nabe.

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Verrazano Bridge is still Brooklyn cool!

While visiting John Paul Jones Park in Bay Ridge I stumbled on this scene that begged "shoot me, shoot me!" So I did. It was a typical winter contrast of the bridge, the post fall leaves on the ground and an overcast day. The Verrazano is still an awesome sight to behold. Ok so it's not in Sunset Park, sue me. We gotta give the neighbors to our south a break every now and then. Another good reason to always carry a small pocket camera.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

All Decked out for Christmas!





Some shots of Sunset Park getting ready for "That Holiday". As the days get nearer more people light up their houses. Nothing like what they do in Dyker Heights or Bay Ridge. But some of the lights here ain't shabby either.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Forgotten New York?

Over at the Gowanus Lounge while I was looking around I came accross this link to a post at Forgotten New York about Sunset Park which I thought would be good to promote here. It is full of some interesting if yet familiar photographs. In addition the author did a little bit of homework on the subjects he photographs and included some facts that even I, a resident here since 1970 did not know. Definitely worth taking a look at, whether you are a resident of the nabe or not.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Save the Ferry?

Our local paper has a story that the Sunset Park Ferry that leaves from the 59th street terminal is in danger of being discontinued due to low ridership. Do people in Sunset Park actually know that it's there? I happen not to work in Manhattan so I have never had occasion to use it. However, I would be willing to bet that if you ask most residents of Sunset Park about the ferry most would tell you they didn't know it existed.
Oh, occasionally it makes the local paper The Sunset News our local free publication that prints 30,000 copies. But probably maybe 10% get read. The paper is also not widely distributed outside of a small stretch of 5th avenue from the 39th street to roughly 60ths street.
In any case, the ferry would probably get more ridership if people actually knew it was there and if they also knew that there is plenty of parking on the pier where you can leave your car for the duration of your work day. As it is, if the Ferry wants more riders they should make sure that more people know about it and that is a matter of marketing.
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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Construction of New Hotel?

Rumor has it among the people living nearby that this building under construction is possibly a new hotel on 39th street. If so it would be the third such hotel in the hood that is being planned. Located between 9th and 8th avenues it is ideally situated since you can take the D train at the 9th avenue station and be in midtown Manhattan in under 40 minutes.

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