LIGHT POLE DEDICATION: A dedication ceremony for the historic Bishop’s Crook light poles that the Department of Transportation has put up on the blocks in Willowtown and nearby took place late Monday afternoon, June 30, on Willow Place. Our member of the U.S. House, Nydia Velazquez, spoke along with Heights preservationist Otis Pearsall. He oversaw this project on behalf of the Brooklyn Heights Association.
GOOD-BYE TO LICH: The long struggle for the survival of Long Island College Hospital ended in June when the Fortis Property Group agreed to buy the 20-building LICH complex for $240 million from the State University of New York (SUNY), its operator for the past three years. Forced by community pressure and the judicial process to issue Request for Proposals a second time, SUNY did so. With community input, the submitted proposals were then ranked. SUNY rejected the first and second choices. Fortis was the third. It was SUNY’s choice among the proposals submitted in the first round. Much of the complex is to be turned into market-rate condos. The medical dimensions are to be an urgent care center, a so-called free-standing emergency room and offices.
HDC GRASSROOTS PRESERVATION AWARDS: "Your agreeing to serve as a co-sponsor of the Historic District Council’s 24th annual preservation party featuring the annual Grassroots Preservation awards is much appreciated and a symbol that our work preserving the city’s neighborhoods benefits from the support and active participation of a broad constituency of community organizations and advocates," HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff said in acknowledging the Willowtown Association’s first-time involvement in this event. It took place Wednesday evening, June 4, in the newly renovated Grace Church. Our association’s three officers attended. The awards were presented to Michael Perlman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council in Queens and the 730 Riverside Drive Tenants Association, the First Avenue Estate Coalition and the Multi-Board Task Force on Midtown East, all in Manhattan. HDC’s "Friend From the Media" award went to The Lo-Down and its "Friend in High Places" award to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
FUNDING OF THE PIER 6 GATEWAY PROJECT: On Friday, June 6, Executive Director Josef Szende of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District testified before the New York City Council to ask for three annual allocations of $800,000 during the three coming fiscal years to fund the Pier 6 Gateway Project. It is focused on the stretch of Atlantic Avenue from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park to Hicks Street, the southern border of Willowtown. Among the project’s stakeholders Szende cited was the Willowtown Association. The project’s components include enhanced plantings on the berms on each side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway access ramp, new sidewalk paving, additional street furniture, color treatment of the underpass walls and floodlights to match.
APRIL NEWS REPORT: The struggle of more than a year to save Long Island College Hospital took a decisive turn on Thursday, April 3, with the selection of the newly formed, minority-owned business Brooklyn Health Partners to become LICH’s new owner. As demanded by community and union groups, the $250 million transaction promises the continuation of a full service hospital of up to 400 beds with parts of the property turned into apartments and commercial spaces. Brooklyn Health Partners said that the hospital would be managed by the company Quorum Health Resources and that as many LICH employees as possible would be hired. The choice was made by a panel representing six community groups, one being the Riverside Tenants Association, and the State University of New York. SUNY took over the hospital three years ago and subsequently worked to close it.
“Hospitals and Health Care” and “Streets and Transportation” are among the various issues to be discussed at the 26th State Senate District community convention being held by Sen. Daniel Squadron on Sunday afternoon, April 27, from 2 to 5 o’clock at the Seward Park Educational Campus, 350 Grand Street on the Lower East Side. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by email at, squadron.nysenate.gov, or by calling the senator’s Manhattan office at 212-298-5565.
The March edition of the website Forgotten New York ran a feature on “Brooklyn Heights’ Willow Place” with the photos illustrating how this “tight-knit,” single block contains “a microcosm of the Heights.” The buildings shown were Nos. 4-8 known for the “Davisean” panels uniting the second and third floors; No. 21, a former carriage house; No. 26, the A.T. White Center; Nos. 43-49, a rare “colonnade row”; No. 46 across the street, a less pristine survivor of another such row hemmed in, to quote the copy, by “modern monstrosities”; and the parking garage at the south end, noting the original neon sign.
As part of the 20th annual preservation conference of the Historic Districts Council the first weekend of March, architect Jonathan Marvel of 25 Willow Place was one of three recipients of the HDC’s inaugural Design Award. He was recognized for his rehabilitation in 2012 of Brooklyn’s landmark McCarren Pool and Bathhouse. After operating from 1936 to 1983, the facility was vacated until its now becoming a year-round recreation and community center.
Three single-family, four-story townhouses will soon rise on the next to last vacant site in Willowtown, the former Catholic Charities parking lot at 295 Hicks Street. The one remaining vacant site is at 33 Joralemon. The developer of the new townhouses is SDS Procida, which bought the property in 2012 for $4.325 million. The architect is Nikolai Katz, who also did the modern six-family condo at 322-324 Hicks Street.
Exactly when the contractor engaged by the Department of Transportation to replace the present street lights on the blocks in Willowtown and nearby with 60 historic Bishop’s Crook poles will begin this work is not yet known. It is the fulfillment of a project the Brooklyn Heights Association launched in 2007. Up until 1960 all of the Heights had only Bishop’s Crook poles. They were then replaced by the present Cobra lights. The light values are reportedly the same. The shorter Bishop’s Crook’s, which cost $13,000 each, might make the streets lighter since they will shine from under the leafy tree canopies rather than above and through the tree branches. Concerns raised by Willow Place residents Jonathan Marvel and Joe Merz that the historic poles have “a retro look incongruous to the rugged integrity and variety of architectural gems that cohabit Willow Place” were resolved in conversations and email messages between them and BHA Executive Director Judy Stanton and Heights preservationist Otis Pearsall.
The north side of Atlantic Avenue between Hicks Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which is the southern boundary of Willowtown, is slated for “street-scape improvements” being done by the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District or BID in concert with the New York Tree Trust of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The improvements include the installation of tree guards, the enlargement of tree pits, the addition of more pits, mulching them and planting new trees.
WILLOWTOWN SUPPORTS PUSH FOR NEW BBP FUNDING DISCUSSION:
April 15, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York NY 10007
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
Willowtown is a wonderful and beloved neighborhood in the southwest corner of Brooklyn Heights extending from Joralemon Street to Atlantic Avenue between Hicks and Furman streets. Our neighborhood is just across the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway from the condominium known as One Brooklyn Bridge Park. This condo, as you no doubt know, is in the park and the first to be plugged into its maintenance funding scheme.
Ever since being formed in 1953 the Willowtown Association has addressed and sought solutions to preservation and current issues. Among them is the development of the ever more popular Brooklyn Bridge Park literally at our doorsteps. Our association has long pushed for a park maintenance scheme that does not rely entirely on housing in the park for its funding. Thus we want to add our support to the April 7 request made by five of our elected officials for a new discussion of possible funding alternatives vis-a-vis the final two designated development sites at Pier 6 in the park.
We realize and accept that the park must be self-sustaining. We know that the Pier 6 sites are expected to provide a meaningful percentage of the needed funding. As the Willowtown Association’s representative, I have served on the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council since its beginning in October 2010 and chair the CAC Committee on Design and Construction. Thus I am aware that the Request-for-Proposals process for these sites has begun and of its timetable and the CAC’s expected role. As a matter of fairness to us as well as the park’s staff and our not wasting time, I urge prompt action on the discussion of funding alternatives called for by our officials. Certainly you and your appointee as chair of the BBP Corp. board, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, should see that this happens.
The other day I stood at the corner of Columbia Place and State Street in Willowtown and looked toward the One Brooklyn Bridge Park building that has marked this view for many years previously as a waterfront facility of the New York Dock Company. To think of 31- and 15-story towers rising there, blocking light and creating even more of a wall, came across as surreal. Hopefully this will not happen.
If the conclusion of the new discussion is that, yes, construction of housing is to go forward on the Pier 6 sites, may it be reduced to a scale that is appropriate to the surroundings. And may creative minds come up with other ways to make up the difference in the needed maintenance funding.
A CAC member regularly reminds us that Brooklyn Bridge Park is forever. Personally I feel honored to have a small role in making it the best park possible. This task is truly a sacred trust.
Ben Bankson, President
NEWS 12 INTERVIEWS LINDA DEROSA: Linda Derosa speaks to the pedestrianization of Joralemon Street. April 17, 2014. Willowtown Association wants to block the area where Joralemon & Furman streets meet due to pedestrian safety concerns. The one-way cobblestone street connects the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood directly with the park. The Willowtown Association and other neighbors say many cars speed through the residential area, and as the weather warms, they are concerned about accidents.