Category Archives: brooklyn

Blue Sky Bakery

Brooklyn Cafe: Blue Sky Bakery


During the last blizzard – that turned out to not be a blizzard — schools shut down, people “worked from home”, and generally holed up in their habitats. I was planning on doing the same when my midtown appointment suggested that “since we both live on this side of the bridge … ” why not just meet here?” YES, I agreed. And then she suggested a place she describe as having “the most delicious muffins EVER”. Tall order indeed. I’ve had my share of muffins, coffees, the whole bakery thing, and my standards were pretty finicky. Plus I’ve never been partial to muffins, since I never eat the bottom half, and sometimes just annoyingly nibble around the “top” eating only the crust but never the “cakey” part. But She hadn’t steered me wrong thus far, so I was optimistic.

Blue Sky Bakery is a sliver of a bakery, long and lean, it manages to pack quite the quaint, retro, quirky punch, complete with a shoebox diorama! And true to my friend’s word they served up just about the most delicious muffins I’ve tasted. Not only was baked to perfection, but the bottom part is also crusty! For the first time, I didn’t just nimble around the top. I actually finished the entire muffin and wanted more. It was a crustly, fluffy, velvety delight. And I can’t wait to go back.

96 S Oxford

Brooklyn Real Estate: 96 South Portland Avenue

I didn’t want to like this place. Really. I’m a fan of new developments in a big way. But I liked this place the minute my eyes clapped on its rustic entrance. With its ambling path leading to a bricked entry, surrounded by aimless vines, it’s like something straight out of my child hood coloring book. Somehow, the signs of its age didn’t bother me, instead I found them charming. The chandelier and the paneled doorway of the entrance punctuated its charm. Not even the garbage / recyclables tucked around the corner detracted me, nor did the stairs leading to the unit — usually a red flag in my “strongly prefer new developments” book, but not today.

Upon entering, it pretty much is what you’d expect from a prewar co-op. The floors sag here and sigh there, I briefly wondered what happened to the floors but decided to be happy  that they seem like they’re in decent shape after (what looks like) 100+ years of wear. There are odd “mini-steps” separating each room, which perhaps was my biggest pet peeve with this place since it meant I was constantly looking down anticipating a surprise step.  The unit gets plenty of light, which the owner has expertly highlighted with their choice of flowy white curtains in the living room. The agent mentioned that the new owner could probably open up the already lengthy living room and put a direct archway to the kitchen. This would create the feeling of additional space, maybe even enough to section out a small second bedroom (from the living room), and make this place into a “charming” two bedroom. It might work.

The master bedroom was not so well decorated, it looked dark, dreary and grim. The agent later mentioned the owners (a couple) were getting a divorce. Not surprising. But it had good space, light (when the curtains aren’t dark grey and drawn), and nice bones. The one bathroom was a bit odd, it looked like the owners had started a renovation, but then changed their minds. So the shower area has modern looking glass panels, but the rest of it looks old. The kitchen, optimizes the space nicely, but it’s probably worth revisiting the look.

The location is excellent. Practically in the heart of all the places you want to visit in Fort Greene, and near enough subways to make it accessible. The unit’s view in fact looks out into some prime Fort Greene real estate. All that said, I’m not a fan of the price. $399k seems to be a tad too high for a unit that clearly has age. But the $649 in monthly maintenance is what really sets it apart, given there are no amenities or common areas to speak of, it’s tough to justify the high monthly charge.

Interestingly enough, other units in the condo are up for grabs too, units #8 and #5 both are selling for a higher price tag, and probably have more stairs to traverse, but (based on their photos) seem to be more updated. That would have to be weighed against what are probably very motivated sellers for unit #1. Yet, I can’t help but want to check those out as well … maybe next week.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

163 Wash

Brooklyn Real Estate: 163 Washington

Those of us in the neighborhood have been watching 163 Washington go up for some time. It’s been slowly dominating an otherwise remarkably flat skyline.  The press has been unclear about this building, what with the website — alarmingly comic-inspired (Lichtenstein) and sparse on the building details (i.e. no amenities listed) I half expected a repeat of 96 Rockwell. But I was wrong. There are agents there, and they were very friendly, even better, they were knowledgable — what kind of wood was used (ash), the finishes, the neighborhood and how much wiggle room there is in the prices.

The first 2 BD/2BA unit (8C) was ~966 sqft with a nice 40 sqft balcony off the living room. The view from the balcony is a non-descript Brooklyn view, but having been balcony free now for ~ 3 years I sorely miss it, and this one was nice. The lay out of the unit isn’t great, the bedrooms are railroaded together, a detail you might almost miss thanks to the snazzy  interior design of the model unit, and the finishes are pretty strong. I noticed the custom cabinets, Liebherr fridge, Faber range hood, and spa-like bathroom. Too bad the unsightly air unit is also strong. There’s one in the living room, and each of the bedrooms, not great.  8C wasn’t actually on the listing — but the unit just below it (7C) was at $545k, with $310 common charges. Not a bad price.

The second unit 9A was head and shoulders better. Approximately 1,154 sq feet the added 188 sqft allowed it that much more room to have a very compelling layout, and it’s got two balconies giving it 80 sqft of outdoor space. Plus, this unit had small touches like a pillar here and there, detailed tile work in the bathrooms, HIS and HERS shower heads, and a window in the master bathroom — all yum! Best of all, it’s got a Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn view! It’s a stunning unit, and at $650k and $386 in CCs yes … I’m a little jealous.

The building’s common areas are not not finished but seems to have promise:  a 5,000 SF “yard”, a 530 SF zen garden, gym, and a lounge / common area with a fire place. What it won’t have, is a door man. Which you might not miss since this neighborhood (despite what you may have read on the various threads) is a heartbeat away from Pratt, hardly dangerous grounds. It is however, hopelessly far from any subway station, even the dreaded G.  Still, with FHA loans approved, and a 15 year tax abatement in the works, maybe a bus-to-subway lifestyle isn’t half bad.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

Grocery

Catching up with the Riviera on NYE

NYE Flatbush Riviera

Some new developments and on-going events for denizens of the Flatbush Riviera. First and most exciting, Toren appears to have found a new retail client for its lobby floor — a grocery. Rumor has it that it’s the same grocery that was originally scheduled to open and after much negotiation have reached a new agreement with the sponsor. At last the long road to Trader Joes / Pathmark  may be coming to an end. A grocery along with the upcoming CVS would certainly spice up the neighborhood, putting DoBro well on track to becoming a residential neighborhood.

On the ever busy Fulton Mall, we not only had the usual NYE odd characters but massive sales. Newcomer Aeropostale posted sales of up to 70% off, and there was a verifiable line waiting for Macy’s to open its doors. A stampede of ornery shoppers seemed impending when we passed this morning.

Aeropostale Macy's

Photo from NY Daily News

The Blizzard

Photo from NY Daily News

After soaking in tropical paradise where the only worry I had was where my next Pina Colada was coming from — we came home to snow. And not just any snow but the word on everyone’s lips “blizzard”. I was surprised, after all NYC has seen it’s fair share of blizzards, even if this was purported to be the 6th largest in recorded history, we were built for bad weather, how could a blizzard shut us down? But it did.

Streets in Brooklyn remained unplowed until all of yesterday — and not just side streets but big ones like Ocean Avenue. This left not only residents stranded but I’ve heard reports of buses stranded too.  The sentiment around the water cooler was that seemingly only Manhattan got its streets cleaned, the rest of us were persona non grata on Bloomberg’s priority  list.

Some interesting coverage on 2010′s blizzard.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/nyregion/31outrage.html?ref=nyregion

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/bloomberg-says-plows-have-hit-every-street/?hp

Motorino

Brooklyn Restaurant: Motorino

Motorino

Everywhere you look people have been talking about Motorino, everyone from NY1, NYMag,  Rachel Ray, even the venerable NYTimes has gone so far as to crown Motorino as the best pizza in NYC. Fighting words indeed.  My husband being the fiendish pizza connoisseur of course has had this place on his hit list for quite some time. We went there well into the evening, so unfortunately the photos don’t do this place justice, you’ll have to take my word for it. The hunger-creating smells entice you well over a block away. The ambiance is simple, with a real wood burning over as its centerpiece. Overall it creates an atmosphere of simple pleasures, letting its patrons focus on the task at hand, eating the pizza.

We decided to start off with the Margherita DOC and the Pugliese, thinking that 2 pizzas between the 4 of us would be enough. We finished off the two in record time, and were still hunched over our tables, hoping one more slice would magically appear — if we looked hard enough. We talked  ravenously about the cheese to crust ratio, the freshness of the basil on Margherita and the richness of conflicting flavors in the Pugliese. It didn’t matter that our breaths were laced with so much garlic that we would’ve killed every character from Twilight — it is impossible NOT to bond over this pizza.

How could it be that good? It is. And like all good things, it leaves you wanting more. We ordered a third. True story.

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Fulton Mall

Brooklyn Neighborhood: Fulton Mall

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I remember the first time I beheld the Fulton Mall, nearly 10 years ago. I hadn’t earned my Brooklyn legs yet, so I and a friend of mine decided to venture to Brooklyn together, using the tried and true Manhattan reasoning of “in the case we get stranded, at least I’m not alone”. We took a wrong turn (of course), and ended up on Fulton, and if you think it looks bad now … well we quickly realized our mistake and did the world’s fastest 180, and it wasn’t the abundance of 99-cent-like stores that tipped us off.

Fast forward almost 10 years later and I’m house hunting, being lured by Belltel and her space. The only problem is, the neighborhood is clearly still developing, and while the Fulton Mall no longer keeps me up at night, I’m not sold that it’s going to change any more than it already has. And it has gone through a lot of change. Josh’s grand parents  reminisce about how this was the place for shopping back in the day, anchored by some fine stores like Abraham and Strauss. But somewhere along the line it fell out of favor. The “nice” retail stores shifted to the suburbs, and while Fulton Mall was still purporting to be “third most commercially successful” retail street you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The city had spent millions trying to revitalize it, giving its corners more lights, removing the bus shelters that operated as homeless shelters, all to marginal avail it didn’t seem perceptibly THAT much better. The stores were the same, sneakers, cell phones, 99-cent-junk and thrift stores that also sold expired grocery. Yuck.

But then in this perfect storm kind of way it just all fell together, and suddenly the nicer stuff WAS coming, not just “reporting to think about it”, but as soon as Aeropostale swung open its doors the rest are finally pitching a tent.  Aeropostale, then Shake Shack, and even health conscious Panera is joining the party — practically next door to it’s competitor,White Castle. There’s talk of others, some sound like real possibilities:H&M, Sephora, and Filene’s Basement, others are just delusions of having drunk too much Kool-Aid, the Apple store.  But even with just this development — I’m happy enough to not complain for at least a week. I may even start to brag about it, and join in on conversations that Park Slopers have about their 5th Avenue. Wait for it.

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Toren and Avalon

This week in DoBro: Skyscrapers, sandwiches and More!

Toren and Avalon

DoBro and its surrounding neighbors continues to get some snazzy highlights, some snippets below:

Skyscraper District – The Gothamist ran a post yesterday on how the Landmark Preservation Commission is considering the city’s first historic skyscraper district. But it won’t be where you’d expect to find skyscrapers (i.e. midtown, downtown or anywhere in Manhattan) but rather by Brooklyn’s own Borohall. Read More.

Panera is joining the recent restaurant boom in DoBro. I think we can all thank Brooklyn Fare and Shake Shack for the recent restaurant fever. The same article also mentions Sephora is en route —  I’m snapping my fingers but I’m not waking up from the dream. Read More.

The the Observer called Fulton Mall “gentrification defiant” a few weeks ago, but by the next month NY Times ran a story that indeed (much to everyone’s surprise)  gentrification is coming. I have to say. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.

Albee Sq. properties open auction at $4M. This isn’t so newsworthy until you actually see the photo of the place. I mean, it really is hard to look at, but I guess when you consider that the land you’re buying is contiguous and can be easily developed.  Read More.

27 Quincy

Brooklyn Real Estate: 27 Quincy

I spied 27 Quincy from streeteasy.com, it looked like they were offering some pretty attractive units at pretty affordable prices. Duplex 2 BD / 2BA at $499k in a new development, very tempting. It did have some initial red flags – it’s not that close to the subway, and the subway that is within walking distance is the G. It’s also right on the cusp between Clinton Hill and Bed Stuy, which might not be a big deal depending on the surrounding area. But the building has some nice amenities: super high ceilings (in duplexes), bike storage, FIOS hook-up, custom cabinetry, oak flooring, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. And did I mention they’ve made it very affordable, 15 year tax abatement and FHA loans that let you put down as little as 3.5%.

The lobby is well lit and nicely decorated, video intercom — but no doorman. The model unit that I visited was aesthetically pleasant and gave you a good feel for what you could do with the space. I’m always creeped out when I see the silent owner in the corner “observing”. In this case since these units were new, I’m not sure who the silent man was in the living room area looking out the balcony. But he didn’t seem that friendly and so I skirted around him — missing out on some details of the unit. But there was no denying the expansiveness of the ceilings in the living /dining room or the enormous windows that made the downstairs alone feel like the 1,000+ sqft. And the juliet balcony is a nice touch. I liked that the bedrooms are separated, one downstairs and one upstairs, so the downstairs could easily operate as a home office. I liked the downstairs bathroom fixtures especially since upstairs one with its small tiling, and unimaginative white –( which was already looking off white-ish) — left something to be desired.

Now, while the downstairs had everything going for it, the upstairs did not. It really just has medium sized master bedroom with a white-ish bathroom, and a rather obstructive air unit. I’m also not a huge fan of the precarious stairs. While it does have a dramatic look, it’s rather steep and it’s floating so children will be able to crawl through the steps.

Finally, the neighborhood … not great. Certainly not one of Clinton Hill’s most charming areas. It has an industrial surrounding, followed by the Salvation Army across the street — and little else in terms or residence. I also didn’t spy any convenient stores or restaurants nearby — though I suppose they could exist since I didn’t look too hard. It would feel like a long and lonely walk back from the subway.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

Cafe Lafayette

Brooklyn Restaurant: Cafe Lafayette

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Nothing spells charming quite like a French-ish cafe and this one is no different. It has a decided European feel in both its aesthetic and menu. I fell a little bit in love practically the moment I pressed open the door and saw the vintage kitchen scale. They spared no details in the decor, everywhere you look there’s something to oohh and ahh about. I didn’t even mind the small spacing of the place, it made it feel cozy and allowed me to over hear my neighbors speaking German, true story!

I had a tasty mozzarella panini with a side of green, my husband had the real treat smoke salmon and brie panini. The sandwich was unreal, it was perfectly mixed between the richness of the salmon and the creaminess of the brie. I watched in envy as he ate it. I would go back just for that sandwich alone. But throw in the ambiance, attentive service, and just-right coffee — I will definitely come back for seconds.

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