Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rear Extension, 124 First Place, Carroll Gardens

Is the rear extension at 124 First Place legal under the new Carroll Gardens Narrow Street / Wide Street Zoning Text Amendment?

As background info, the extension on 122 First Place was legal under the former wide-street rules in the NYC Zoning Text, and 126 First Place received a variance to continue their renovation under the old wide-street ruling, after the new Carroll Gardens Narrow Street/Wide Street Zoning Text Amendment rules went into affect.

I was on my roof today and noticed that 124 First Place was building a rear extension. I assume that they are balconies, but to my untrained eye, the structure looks more like a room addition than balconies? The balconies on 126 First Place (taller building in the background) are more what I would call a balcony - but I am no engineer or architect - so am looking for an expert's opinion to see if this is legal under the new text amendment regulation.

I also realize that it is hard to cantilever a balcony on to an old brownstone building, and that an outside structure may have been needed, but I have a problem with this, because a condo owner could easily fill in these structures, thus making an ad hoc rear building extension. Furthermore this structure is massive, and it goes out into the rear yard as far as what was formerly permitted under the old wide-street zoning regulations!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gowanus Canal Bridges

The Gowanus Canal bisects the communities of Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, and Redhook, and extends 1.8-miles from to the Gowanus Bay Channel in the New York Harbor. Five east-west movable-bridges cross the canal starting with Union Street, Carroll Street, Third Street, 9th Street and Hamilton Avenue. The Gowanus Expressway (Interstate 278) and the IND Culver Line of the New York City Subway, an above ground section of the original Independent Subway Systems, pass overhead.

The oldest bridge that crosses the canal is the Carroll Street Bridge that was built in 1887 and is one of the few remaining examples of retractable bridges in the U.S. The Ninth Street Bridge opened in 1903, and two more bridges appeared in 1905: the Union Street Bridge (rehabilitated 1962) and the Third Street Bridge (rehabilitated 1954). These bridges were originally built as bascule-type of draw bridges. The Ninth Street Bridge was replaced with a vertical lift bridge in 2000.

The IND Culver Line Viaduct, the 91-foot-tall cement railroad bridge that crosses the canal, was built for the Smith and Ninth Street and 4th Avenue subway stations. It is the highest bridge in the subway system, due to now-antiquated navigation rules for tall-mast shipping in the Gowanus Creek under the stations. It wasn’t until the construction of the Gowanus Expressway (I-278) in the early 1940s that the last two bridges over the canal were built. The Expressway spans over the canal and the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, the first canal crossing north of the Gowanus Bay. It was opened to traffic on August 27, 1942, and consists of two pair of bascule spans, each carrying four lanes of one-way traffic (one northbound and one southbound) and a pedestrian sidewalk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bergen Hill

The pinnacle of Bergen Hill was located at present day Court Street and First Place. (1)

At about 1800 the area was settled by the Dutch, and predominantly the Bergen family. Jacob I Bergen (2) built a farm house at Hoyt and Sackett Street. He and his family opened up the area ..The area consisted of large tracts of hills, woods, streams, creeks swamps and land which was turned into open fields. The property which was developed by Jacob I Bergen and his family extended from Hoyt and Sackett Street along Sackett Street to Smith Street , then it turned down Smith Street to about Third Street , then East to the Bond Street , then North along Bond Street to Sackett Street then west back to the house on Hoyt and Sackett Street.. These limits are not exact since the system of metes and bounds was not used to plot the land. Jacob Bergen’s son Iassac E Bergen .was born at the house on Sackett and Hoyt in 1810. Iassac Bergen grew up to follow his father an became a farmer.. Later Isaac moved and brought his own land on Shore Road near Bay Ridge.. Isaac E. Bergen passed away on September 5, 1898 (3)

In 1810 the area of Jacob Bergen’s farm occupied much of the land then known as Gowanus. This name is believed to have been derived by the early Dutch settlers from the name of a local Indian Chief named Gouwnaee. He was the leader or Sachem of a tribe of Lenape Indians who hunted and fished in the woods, creeks and marsh land known today as the Gowanus (4). In the 1830s , Court Street was graded and flagged for the convenience of the members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Bergen Hill, was capped by woods. It was locally known as a poplar resort for sport and mischief.

The height of Bergen Hill had to be cut down by a 130 feet in order to bring it down to grade with Court Street. After 1850 this area , including the area known today as Carroll Gardens , became known as South Brooklyn. This included all the land south of Atlantic Avenue. It was also part of the 6th Ward. It was a very different place. The area was very rural. It was a densely woody hilly area and had many open lots.

In 1846 the firm of Stranahan and Carmichael took the contract to cut away the hill . The section from Harrison Street (now Kane Street) to Hamilton Avenue including Columbia street was filled in with the material from Bergen Hill. V.J.F.

(1) The Columbia Historical Portrait of New York by John A Kouwenhoven p, 123. The view is entitled “View from (Gowanus) Heights near Brooklyn “ published in 1823. The engraving was done by John Hill from a watercolor by William G. Wall. The view was made from Bergen Hill since leveled and is near present day Carroll Park.

The houses of several members of the Bergen family made their homes in the area of Bergen Hill. the “The residence of Cornelius Bergen , a farmer, and Jacob Bergen, a surrogate of Kings County, were located at 108 and 110 First Place. These buildings still. exist. The area was known as Bergen Hill which was part of Bergen property”; South Brooklyn , Then and Now; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr 16, 1886 p. 13 “ These buildings were finished in 1851 “ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr 16, 1886 p. 14 …”Old Brooklyn Farm Lands”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle , July 19,1896 p. 20

(2) Jacob I Bergen was a descendent .of Hans Hensen Bergen.. He was originally from Bergen Norway. Hans was a shipwright or ship’s carpenter who moved from Norway to Holland. He arrived at Fort Amsterdam in April of 1638 with Wouter Van Twiler the Second Director General of the colony in the fleet of West India’s Company’s vessels the Salt Mountain, the Caravel St. Martyn and the vessel the Hope. In 1639 Hans Hensen Bergen married Sarah Rapalie, the first European women born in the colony. They started a family . Descendants of this family married and moved throughout the new colony. Many made homes in various parts of the colony including New Amsterdam, Long Island, New Jersey and the lower Connecticut valley; Uncle Tune; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 25, 1881 p 4 .

(3) Death of Isaac E. Bergen; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 6, 1898 p. 1

(4) The Lenape Indians were nomadic indians who inhabited much of the lower Hudson River valley from the Nyack valley to Long Island. The Lenape Indians were a subset of the Canarsee Indians. This tribe hunted and fished and foraged much of the area of Long Island.. The Canarsee Indians were a subset or part of the larger Delaware Indian nation.

Recently the Staten Island Advance newspaper reported that than an artifact of a stone head of Lenape Indians origin was discovered on Staten Island and dated as at least 10,000 years old. (Staten Island Advance; Feb. 2009); The artifact is located in the Staten Island Museum .

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carroll Park

Carroll Park
Carroll Street between Court and Smith Streets

Brooklyn’s third oldest park is named for Charles Carroll (1737-1832), an American Revolutionary leader and signer of the Declaration of Independence, for whom Carroll Street is also named. The land for the park, laid out as private gardens in the late 1840s, was secured through an act of the New York State legislature in 1850, but was not built until 1867. The 1.874-acres park is one of the significant features of the neighborhood, occupying a city block bordered by Carroll, Court, President and Smith Streets.

On September 10, 1993, after nearly a 20-year effort by local resident and elected official to upgrade the park, a newly refurbished park opened to the delight of neighborhood children. The $1.3 million park renovation was funded by Borough President Howard Golden and included reconfiguring two new play equipment areas – one for toddlers and another for older children, a children’s water spray in the form of a compass where distances are marked off to the North and South Poles and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The historic character of the park was enhanced with decorative cast iron gates and fencing that echoes the fences of neighborhood brownstones.

Another bocce ball court was built, and the park was completely re-landscaped and new parkscape elements were added including decorative lighting, World Fair benches, signature park hexagon pavers, and game tables. The bronze and granite of the Soldier and Sailors World War I Monument (1920), by sculptor Eugene H. Morahan, was conserved under the same project.

A tall granite shaft, with four bronze plaques done by Eugene H. Morahan, is dated 1920, and stands in Carroll Park, President and Court Streets. It is dedicated to the memory of the men from the district who gave their lives in the War. 187 names are engraved on two side tablets. The front tablet represents a soldier in a cemetery, and the back, a sailor on the deck of a ship. Erected by the Eighth Assembly district memorial Committee, June 1921.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Michael Moran

10 First Place. Founder of the Moran Tugboat Company, which has been in business for more than 150 years. Now based in Connecticut, the company has one of the largest tug boat operations on the East Coast, with 96 tugs and 30 barges. The tugs are distinguished by a large white M on their black smokestacks. Although publicly held. the business is still family operated.


Michael Moran, President of the Moran Towing and Transportation Company, died yesterday at his home, 10 First Place Brooklyn, New York. He came to this country with his parents. At the age of 9, he worked as a driver on the Erie Canal. He later became the owner of a canal boat. In 1860, he started the towboat company. He was known as the “Commodore”. He was a member of the Maritime Exchange and the National Board of Steam Navigation. and the Association for the Protection of Commerce. He leaves 2 sons and a daughter. Funeral – June 30, 1907 at St.Stephens R.C. Church, Hicks and Summit Street.

Brooklyn Daily Standard Union

June 29, 1907

Sunday, February 15, 2009

James S.T. Stranahan

283 Union Street. Member of Congress; Trustee of Brooklyn Parks Commission, 1860; President of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company 1885. PS 142 named in his honor; there is a large bronze statute of Mr. Stranahan in Prospect Park. Died Sept 3, 1898.

Peter R. Kissam

76 First Place. Brother-in-law to William Henry Vanderbilt. Banker and Financier. Office at 19 New Street New York City. Building exists today.
The Vanderbilt's and the Story of their Fortune by W.A. Croffut pg 181, 182.

NOTE: William Henry Vanderbilt, once the richest man in the world, was married to Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt. She had three brothers, Benjamin, Samuel, and Peter. All lived in fashionable South Brooklyn, now called Carroll Gardens. Maria also had a sister who lived at 102 First Place. Portrait of Maria hangs in Vanderbilt Hall at Vanderbilt University.

Samuel H. Kissam

249 Carroll Street. Brother-in-law to William Henry Vanderbilt, senior partner of banking house of Kissam and Whitney managed the financial matters for New York Central Railroad. Member of the Board of Governors of the NYSE. Building exists today.
New York Times, April 18, 1915;
The Vanderbilt's and the Story of their Fortune by W.A. Croffut pg 181, 182.

Benjamin P. Kissam

73 First Place. Brother-in-law to William Henry Vanderbilt. New York Central RR , Partner of Kissam and Whitney, 36 Wall Street. Managed financial affairs of The New York Central Railroad. Building exists today.
The Vanderbilt's and the Story of their Fortune by W.A. Croffut pg 181, 182.

Thomas Kensella

430 Clinton Street - Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, 1864 to 1882. Member of Congress. Married and had five daughters. Buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. House, which exists today, sold at an estate sale. Detailed description of the contents in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1882 Obituary.

Jacob Bergen

108 First Place - Owner of the original plot of land named Bergen's Hill and is now First Place. Both buildings still exists today.
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle - 1898)

Cornelius Bergen

110 First Place - son of Jacob Bergen, owner of Bergen's farm which occupied most of present day Carroll Gardens.
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle - 1898}