With my final final ever (ever) never again apartment renovation at last complete, I took pics of the entire deal Sunday… which I shall post soon, with all the melodramatic before & after picolas. In the meantime, how apropos to post this—on the left, within a month of moving into my new Brooklyn Heights digs, with so much promise—and today, some 12 years later, five renovations later, with that promise… delivered!
Pals Suzanne & Ralph joined me at 6:30 p.m., for the first shift, and stayed until about 8:30… just as bud Tracy and her San Fran bestie Christine arrived.
They headed out around 10:30 as the news started to slow down about the electoral count… and within 15 minutes, I decided to head home… I walked in the door, kissed Abby & Spencer, turned on my muse Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and within 60 seconds heard the words, “We’re calling the election. With Obama winning the state of Ohio, he has earned a second term as the 44th President of the United States.”
I simply couldn’t believe it, expecting—like most of us—that the election might not be settled until the wee hours of the morn. At that point, I rushed in to give the doggies another kiss, made a sizable bowl of ice cream and proceeded to watch MSNBC coverage until 3:30 a.m. Ouch!
This morning, I was stunned to see that my home state of Virginia rallied for Obama a second time… It was too close to call when I at last retired… while Maryland, Washington and Maine won same-sex marriage referendums when put up to a public vote, after 32 successive failures in other states.
This afternoon, learning that the youth vote leaned heavily toward Obama (60% to 37%), I am thankful that the next generation of voters is strongly in favor of leading this nation forward, recognizing that equality matters as much as the economy. It may be snowing outside, but the future looks so very bright. *
In my 17 years as a New Yorker, I don’t think I’ve ever been frightened by a weather phenomenon… until Monday night. While the rain in Brooklyn Heights was tepid, at best, the wind gusts that blew down Montague Street in front of my apartment building felt like they were going to shake down this 150-year-old building… as I envisioned trees being uprooted and flying up the street like a scene from The Wizard of Oz.
I was one of the lucky ones. Last night in the 9 o’clock hour, a Con Ed transformer exploded in Lower Manhattan. I was actually on the phone right when it happened with Ayhan—who lives next door to a power plant on Avenue C—and he said it looked like the world had caught on fire.
At that moment, power went out in the majority of Downtown New York, with 300,000+ residents still without electricity as of Tuesday morning for god knows how long.
As the wind whipped in Brooklyn Heights, the lights continued to flicker, but while I lost cable and Internet overnight, thankfully, my power remained.
This morning I was up at 5:30 a.m. and out the door at the crack of 6 to survey damage in the nabe. Looking across the Brooklyn Heights Promenade pre-dawn and seeing total darkness—except for lights surround the WTC (ironic, indeed)—was eerie as hell.
I walked from one end to the other of Montague Street in the Heights, and was relieved to see that the damage was minimal: The worst was a lighted TD Bank sign that blew down. Leaves are everywhere, the sidewalks are sopping wet and newspaper boxes were blown about like cardboard… but otherwise no downed trees or major catastrophes.
Throughout the tree-lined neighborhood, there are reports of downed limbs and a few trees—including a major limb right in front of the Hotel St. George entrance to the subway—but all in all, I think this neighborhood made it through the rain… Today, Abby & Spencer and I are just trying to stay warm… and be thankful for our good fortune… lights, heat, food… and life. *
Taking a walk up Brooklyn Height’s primary business corridor Monday afternoon, a vast majority of restaurants and retailers along Montague Street were good and shuttered for the day. Even Starbucks was closed—as are all of its shops in NYC.
A sprinkling remained open: bar Custom House, coffee shop Connecticut Muffin, fast foodie Subway, full-service delis Lassen & Hennig, Heights Deli & Convenience and Montague Street Bagels, eatery Le Pain Quotidien, and, uh (WTF?), Verizon Wireless. Local grocery Key Food was also open, with a looong line out the door as customers were methodically let in.
Several businesses had taped their windows in anticipation of potential 80 mph winds, which as of 4 p.m., we have yet to see. So far, intermittent rain, occasional gusts of wind, a lot of leaves strewn about… and the threat of the worst to come after dark tonight around 8. The only damage seen… so far… was a toppled newspaper box at one street corner and a few random branches on the street. Stay tuned for more pics as the adventure continues. *
Oh, what a difference a week makes… Since the renovation in my apartment living room began last Tuesday, I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress my Brooklyn-Italian contractor Angelo Palumbo has made. By Friday, he completed installation of a spanking new ceiling, replacing the ever-curious ugly as sin bubble-tin overhang that I’ve lived with for the past 12 years…
Meanwhile, all the “decorative” trim around the walls was taken down, originally with the idea that everything would then be skimmed smooth.
But as with most old buildings, nothing is as simple as it seems. It turns out that the detailing was so embedded in the plaster that it literally started to crumble away as the moldings came out. New plan: Drywall over the plaster, which will not only make the walls brand new, but prevent future cracks as this 200+ year-old building continues to settle.
And Monday’s coup of coups… As with all five(!) of the renovations I’ve endured, a good contractor is always helping the client consider ways to improve upon the original plan as surprises are uncovered (and believe me, cool cats, they always are). Today, Angelo suggested we chip away the plaster on the accent wall above the fireplace… and sure enough, it revealed beautiful original brick from 200+ years ago.
Of course, this is every NYC apartment owner’s ultimate dream… brick, brick, brick! And once it’s cleaned, scraped and varnished, this will become the ultimate focal point of the room. I am utterly thrilled. Who the hell needs a 60-inch plasma TV there? I’ll just sit and stare and the wall 24/7. In addition, also to come: a spanking new fireplace with custom hearth… and for the first time, uh, a damper. Hopefully that will cut down on the winter breeze I’ve been living with every winter for a dozen years. All things in good time. *
Let the games begin! In 2000, I bought my humble (dumpy) 940-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn Heights, knowing that I had no choice but to renovate it room by room. Twelve years later, at last, I am preparing to complete a makeover in the final room of the joint: the living room, starting on Tuesday.
2001: When I moved in, the apartment’s kitchen had plywood cabinets, vinyl flooring and appliances from the ’70s. That gut reno entailed blue tile flooring, all new electrical, cherry red cabinets, granite countertops and a rebuilt pantry, along with all new appliances. Love it to this day (though I still need a stainless steel microwave).
2004: A biggie. The tiny second bedroom and long hallway of my railroad apartment were gutted, and after seeing the space, I decided to leave the room open as an office, building a half wall to separate it from the hall. To this day, I think it was a primo decision. It changed the entire texture of a dark apartment, opening up the office into the rest of the space.
2011: Appearing on HGTV’s “Dear Genevieve” allowed an out-of-this-world gift to have a bedroom makeover, deluxe, all over the course of five days. Pristine, perfect and not only great memories attached, but a damn TV show, to boot.
And now, at last, as 2012 begins to fade away… the grand finale. On Tuesday, I begin the renovation of the living room, comprising getting rid of the last of the hideous dark green indoor-outdoor carpet that once pervaded the entire apartment. I tell you, just pulling up pieces here and there seems to have made the (dark) room a bit brighter. Plus: all new hardwood floors, fresh moldings, skimmed walls and a raised fireplace hearth. Stay tuned to The Smoking Nun for regular updates on all the good clean fun. *
While I was down the street selling everything I could heave down from my apartment during ourbuilding’s annual $idewalk $ale, the local Brooklyn Heights Assn. held its 2012 Dog Show amid the fall Summer Space festival on Montague Street. The event included music, games, dance, and restaurant & retailer goodies. During a lull in sales mid-afernoon, I charged up the avenue to shoot some pics for the Brooklyn Heights Blog, and was astonished at the turnout: some 300+ folks and dozens and dozens of pooches.
The Dog Show included some 63 pooches entered in the contest and offered prizes in nine cute categories: Best Treat Catcher, Best Tail Wagger, Best Hairdo, Coolest Ears, Best Trick, Cutest Medium-Big Dog, Most Affectionate, Cutest Small Dog, Dog Who Most Likes The Judges and Best in Show. “Finn” won in three categories: Best In Show, Treat Catcher and Trick.
Brooklyn Heights’ beautiful Bossert Hotel on Montague Street currently serves as boarding for missionaries from all over the nation who are members of Jehovah’s Witnesses—whose giant Watchtower complex is based here in the neighborhood. The historic landmarked hotel was recently sold, as the religious group pawns off all of its local properties, to move upstate.
Now, the Bossert is supposedly going to be returned to its original grandeur as a high-end 300-suite hotel. It was once known as “the Waldorf Astoria of Brooklyn.”
Sunday evening from my own rooftop, I observed a handful of Bossert visitors taking in the glorious sunset along the Hudson/East River skyline, from the hotel’s rooftop observation level. I hope one day, all residents of the neighborhood will be able to share the vista from the hotel’s peak. Altogether now: Amen! (Pics taken with my iPhone; not too shabby, eh?) *
Man, oh, man, what a difference. After two long, enduring, frustrating, irritating, maddening years (they weren’t so good), the scaffolding in front of my residence in Brooklyn Heights at last has come down.
It took a good week for crews to methodically deconstruct scaffolding from the rooftop & 10th floor down to street level—including the shed that has been outside my second-floor windows—but as of late Thursday afternoon, it was all good & gone at 62 Montague Street. And I said a little prayer of thanks that went like this: “Fuck, yeah!”
From 4 to 5 p.m., I kept cat-calling to the workers from my front window: “You’re gonna finish today, right? All of it, yes? Everything, yeah?” I was itchy that when the 5 o’clock whistle blew, they’d flee before finishing.
The 1880s’ Queen Anne coop, originally known as The Arlington, not only has the distinction of being a cornerstone to the entrance to Brooklyn Heights’ Promenade, but is the featured pic on Wikipedia’s Brooklyn Heights entry. The detailed, full-on facade rejuvenation at 62 Montague began almost exactly two years ago. And pretty she is. At last. Long last. After a near eternity. Get it?
That’s the pleasant news. Unfortunately… the massive eight-story residential building just two doors up, at 68 Montague Street, has now begun its own rooftop and parapet renovation, with scaffolding going up today that will likely be in place for the next year. Why the hell would you start a project with winter only a couple months away? So in essence, one set of unsightly scaffolding is supplanted for another. Sigh… *
Now here’s a switch. Instead of reporting pop culture news, I’m actually in the papers today! A story in Sunday’s New York Post (online and print) explores a blog post I wrote for the Brooklyn Heights Blog last weekend in which I noted that a hot dog vendor had set up shop along Montague Street near the BH Promenade.
At the end of the post, I wrote one innocent subjective word: “Nice.” At that point, the anonymous commenters on the blog tore me from limb to limb, spewing a kind of venom that makes me ashamed to live in a neighborhood that has no tolerance for anything that isn’t dipped in gold… In all, 54 comments voiced their precious opinions… Read on.
Get out, dirty dogs: B’klyn cart snobbery
By KATE BRIQUELET & NATASHA VELEZ
Every hot dog has its day — except in Brooklyn Heights. Snooty weenie meanies scared off a new hot dog vendor after he’d done only a few hours of business, slamming his street meat as “disgusting food.”
The brave cart-pusher parked on Montague Street near the promenade at 10:30 a.m. last Saturday. By that afternoon, so many locals had called the cops that an officer gave him a ticket and shooed him away.
“He was a nice young man trying to make a living, but in this neighborhood everything is a protest,” said a longtime resident who watched the scene unfold from Montague Terrace. “He said something like, ‘Well, this is life.’ He packed up his belongings and left.”
He hasn’t been back—but days later, anonymous neighborhood residents were still spewing their venom against him on the Brooklyn Heights Blog. “Ours is a quiet residential neighborhood,” wrote Prom Gal. “This is not the place for people looking for ‘street life.'”
Willow St. Neighbor chimed in: “What next? A big top? Circus animals? Clowns? Cotton Candy? What I would like to know is who authorized this? Why now?”
The reviews grew more scathing, with Heights Guy writing, “Disgusting food, served by disgusting people to disgusting people.” Gerry, another wiener whiner, gloated that the red-hot seller wouldn’t be back. “This is a lot of bull,” he said. “I have worked very hard to be able to afford to live on Montague Terrace and I do not need a hot dog vendor outside my window so he can make a few bucks. When and if this slob comes back, I will have him ejected—again by the NYPD.”
Chuck Taylor, a blog correspondent who welcomed the vendor in a controversial online post, couldn’t believe the piping hot reaction. After all, the Heights hasn’t seen a street vendor at the end of Montague Street for years.
“People need to step back and realize nobody owns a New York City neighborhood,” said Taylor, a 12-year resident of the Heights. “It is to be shared by all who call it home and all who visit. If something so minuscule as a hot dog vendor raises the ire of the neighborhood, that’s what I’d call snobbery.”
Mohamed Hmidat, who owns the permit for the cart, but doesn’t sell franks himself, said his employee will steer clear of the neighborhood. “If they don’t want him there, they don’t want him there,” Hmidat said. “He’ll just find a new spot.”