lunes, 29 de diciembre de 2014

City Living: Canarsie serves up Caribbean spice with a quiet waterfront

Houses at 9405, 9407 Farragut Rd. in Canarsie,

Backyards, space, friendly neighbors and cultural diversity are just some things that make Canarsie residents proud of their southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood.
The area is known for its suburban feel with large yard space, well-kept lawns and tree-lined blocks.
These features are what convinced Pate Felix to buy here.
“When I was looking for a home, I heard about Canarsie as far as it being family friendly, but I was really looking for a backyard,” she said. “I didn’t want a square. When the realtor showed me the house, as soon as I saw the [backyard] I was sold.”
She, her husband, Fred, and two sons, have lived in Canarsie for 14 years. Both say the best thing about the nabe is its quiet atmosphere and the sense of community.
“The key to any neighborhood is the people; and we’ve met great people here,” Fred Felix said.
For Anthony Gallina who was born and raised and still lives in Canarsie, it’s also the convenience that keeps him here with his wife, Jessica.
“A reason why immigrants move to Canarsie is because it reminds them of home,” he said. “The neighbors here are nice and people stay for generations.” He likes that the residents, old and new, take time to interact with each other. “I know all the people in the corner stores, my neighbors; the residents look out for each other,” he said.
In addition to its suburban qualities, Canarsie is accessible by the L train, which takes residents into Manhattan in 30 minutes. Local buses run frequently. Most residents own cars but often park near the L train station to go to work. But many also take the express buses into the city.
According to “The Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition,” edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, Lisa Keller and Nancy Flood, Canarsie is situated within the former Dutch town of Flatlands. It was named after the Canarsie Indians who inhabited the land at the time of European settlement. The book states that the area was popular for fishing and farming for much of the 18th century. 
By the 1920s the area was inhabited by Italian and Jewish immigrants. In the 1980s it attracted a heavy Caribbean population from Trinidad, Barbados, Haiti, Guyana and Jamaica.
Now, restaurants serving up Caribbean cuisine like Dougie’s Jamaican Cuisine, Bamboo Garden and Sally’s West Indian Restaurant, dot the main thoroughfares and coexist with older establishments like Armando’s Pizza and Original Pizza.
“It’s a growing and thriving neighborhood. There is a lot of community involvement here and tight-knit families,” said real estate agent Paul Schwartz of Fillmore Realty on Avenue L. “It’s a neighborhood where people settle down and stay.”
According to Schwartz, Flatlands Avenue separates “old Canarsie,” to the north, from “new Canarsie,” with homes built in the ’50s and ’60s to the south.
The other main corridors, Rockaway Parkway, Ralph and Remsen avenues, and Avenue L offer mom-and-pop stores selling apparel, electronics and furniture.
But residents also frequent the Gateway Center in nearby Spring Creek which houses big box stores like Target. Others head to the Brooklyn Terminal Market on Foster Avenue for foodstuffs.
Outdoor recreation is also big here. The Canarsie Pier gives residents a chance to relax or go fishing, and Canarsie Seaview Park is popular for picnics in the warm months.
“In that sense it is a bit under-served,” Schwartz said of indoor activities. “Every neighborhood should have a place where families can relax and get to easily.”
But he insists this is still a great place to live.
“The perception of Canarsie from some people is that it’s not as good of a neighborhood but that’s because there isn’t money being poured into development here,” he said. “This neighborhood has survived over 100 years and it is rich in history and culture.”
Gallina and Pate Felix said they have also encountered misconceptions about the area but added that much of it is still left over from when it had racial tensions.
“When people hear that you live in Canarsie the preconception is that of the past and it doesn't change unless they come here or know someone who lives here; that’s when they say, ‘OK, it’s nice here,” Felix said. “On the other hand, I think not enough people pay attention to us. But I don’t mind that – it’s like our little secret.”


City Living: Surf, sand and change in Coney Island

Nathan's Famous in Coney Island Brooklyn, on August

t’s more than “The People’s Playground” for residents of Coney Island.
Within the acclaimed amusement park, world-famous boardwalk and spirited Surf Avenue, a community of informed and engaged Coney Islanders reside, and they say the waterfront neighborhood, despite some challenges, is one they won’t leave.
“It’s my neighborhood; I love the people out here. If I stand outside for five minutes I see people I know, people my kids grew up with. It has that homey feeling,” said Evangelean Pugh, a resident of 21 years and a member of the People’s Coalition of Coney Island who moved there because of the beach. “I can go out by myself on a Friday night and run into someone I know, and we can go to karaoke or catch the fireworks. You just get to know people.”
Eddie Mark, a resident and former chairman of Community Board 13, said residents help each other out here.
“There’s a bond here. You can call somebody down the block and tell them come over and have a barbeque or get a group of people that want to go and catch the fireworks or catch a movie on the boardwalk,” he said. “There’s always something to do in Coney Island.”
He worked in Coney Island before deciding to move in.
“I saw the neighborhood changing at that time and said it might not be a bad place to set my roots,” he said. That was 19 years ago. “When they put in a $220-million [Coney Island Stillwell Avenue Station] renovation at Stillwell Avenue I knew something was coming and to see what it is now, it’s going in the right direction.”
Completed in 2004, the renovation of the 76,000-square-foot train station at Surf and Stillwell avenues restored its eight train tracks and added photovoltaic, or solar electric panels, on its glass roof making it more energy efficient. A 370-foot glass-brick wall showcasing the people and activities of Coney Island was also put up.
That isn’t the only recent update to the southwestern Brooklyn enclave. The renewal and new additions of amusement park rides, like the newly-opened Thunderbolt at Luna Park, reclaims its glory of the 1930s and 1940s. The MCU Stadium, home to the baseball minor league team The Brooklyn Cyclones also experienced some rejuvenation. And development projects aim to revamp the residential side.
The amusement area is now radiating a fresh feel and the influx of chain establishments like It’s Sugar, Applebee’s and a soon-to-come Johnny Rockets says Coney Island is once again a place to be.
“Let’s say you moved out of New York 20 years ago and came back, you wouldn’t recognize what’s going on,” said Citi Habitats real estate agent Mark Martov. “It’s a night and day transformation.”
Take a stroll down the boardwalk or Surf Avenue and in addition to the nautical fragrance of the nostalgic ocean-side haunt, you will come upon long-time seaside spots like Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Williams Candy, known for their cotton candy and red candy apples, The Original Nathan’s and the quirky Lola Star Boardwalk Boutique that offers Coney Island collectables.
The hotspot is also abuzz with new bars, blending in with the old joints, including Margarita Island and one of the newest biker bars in the scene, Coney Island Bar and Grill.
According to Mark, the former Community Board 13 chair, many single-family homes were built in the last 30 years bringing new blood to the nabe and adding diversity to the predominantly apartment and public housing real estate stock.
“A mix of people -- ‘the pioneers,’ I call them -- took a chance to come here. They chose to raise their families here and 30 years later remain,” he said.
According to Martov, rentals often go quickly in the area. The median price of a one-bedroom on desired streets like West Fifth and West 12th is $1,400 per month, while a two-bedroom can go for $1,800 to $2,200 per month.
In terms of sales, he noted that a two-bedroom condo or co-op's average price is $350,000 to $400,000.
Last year a YMCA opened on Surf Avenue with Coney Island Commons, a mixed-use complex with 195 affordable housing units, situated above it. The revamping also went further north as improvements at Kaiser Park on Neptune Avenue gave residents hope that the neighborhood will improve even more.
But some, like Pugh, believe Coney Island – largely a working- and middle-class area which, according to, is comprised of a majority of African Americans in addition to Latinos, older generation Italians and a new influx of Russians – still needs a lot more development.
Locals don’t want their neighborhood to get left behind as nearby areas like Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach experience a commercial and residential development boom.
“People think it’s all fun and games and forget that people live here,” Pugh, who is also on Community Board 13, said, describing the residential portion as left out. “The improvement shouldn’t end with the rides.”
She noted that north of Surf Avenue could use more retail.
“We want to see businesses come out here,” she said, adding that right now “we have to leave the island to shop.”
Both she and Mark said an anchor store like Target or The Gap would make Coney Island more than a summer destination and help make activity here consistent.
“We don’t leave once the amusement closes, we’re still here in the winter months,” Mark said, noting that residents also want to see a community/training center that offers more job skills and opportunities.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mark said that many storefronts on Mermaid Avenue were forced to shut and weren’t able to reopen.
“We used to have [sneaker store] V.I.M. on West 23rd Street and Mermaid [Avenue] but they left after Sandy. Something needs to fill the gap there,” he said. “Now is the time to entice people to come back. Everyone is looking for the next big thing, Coney Island can be that.”

By LISA FRASER August 6, 2014

City Living: Greenpoint has charm and neighborliness

While some say Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood as up-and-coming, others insist Greenpoint has already arrived.
Historically a home to a large community of Polish families and industrial warehouses, its proximity to Manhattan and the trendy neighborhoods of Long Island City and Williamsburg of which it borders have made Greenpoint a desirable place for an increasing number of businesses to set up shop.
“Twelve years ago I used to describe this as New York City’s best-kept secret. The rent used to be low – but when you create a great neighborhood the demand to live here goes up,” said Joe Haines, 36, who works at Coco 66, a music venue on Greenpoint Avenue.
He also previously lived in Greenpoint for more than 10 years.
A great bar scene and international cuisines are what Haines attributes to the noticeable increase in “foot traffic” on the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares, such as Greenpoint and Manhattan avenues.
The quiet waterfront blocks in the west end of the neighborhood are increasingly coveted by real estate developers. Stunning views of the city’s skyline are offered from places like Transmitter Park at West and Kent streets.
Palin Enterprises, for example, recently announced plans to construct a 39-story tower at 145-155 West Street. A nearby development site was purchased by UK-based private equity firm Quandram Global for $45.5 million with plans to build at 161 West Street.
Other locals, like Andrew Orlowicz, 28, a writer, appreciate Greenpoint for its integrity and the charm it retained despite changes in the neighborhood over the last few years.
“I still love the feeling of transportation I get when I walk down Manhattan Avenue and don’t hear a word of English,” said Orlowicz, who moved onto a block “inhabited almost exclusively by Polish families” two years ago by chance.
“Of course I also love all of the great restaurants and bars which don’t get quite as mobbed as the ones just a few blocks south in Williamsburg,” he said. Trendy new bars, like Ramona at 113 Franklin St., have opened in parts of the neighborhood removed from the Williamsburg border.
Haines also describes Greenpoint as being less “saturated” with people than other parts of Brooklyn. “Here there is still breathing room.”
According to Citi Habitats real estate broker Eugene Litvak, who sells frequently in both Williamsburg and Greenpoint, that concept of “breathing room” makes the neighborhood increasingly desirable.
“There aren’t a ton of high rises,” Litvak said, adding that an abundance of privately owned shops and an absence of franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts helps Greenpoint retain “a very nice neighborhood feel.”
To partake in it, renters are looking at about $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom walk-up, and double that for a two-bedroom, according to Litvak. He advised that those interested in purchasing real estate to act quickly: Last month two apartments on Kingsland Avenue sold for 33% higher than what they were purchased for two years ago.
Though locals expect the neighborhood to endure further changes as its potential is fully realized, they say today it is comprised of a happy mix of new-comers and old-timers.

City Living: Downtown Brooklyn is the new center of everything

If there is one word that could summarize Downtown Brooklyn it is transformation.
The northwestern Brooklyn neighborhood, known for many years as a place where people only worked and shopped, now boasts a burgeoning residential real estate market and is quickly becoming a 24/7 hub.
“What makes this area great is that it's its own city,” said Alan Washington, director of real estate and planning at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a not-for-profit local development corporation. “We have 11 subways, 16 bus lines and 11 colleges with over 60,000 students. And there is a strong retail presence.”
According to Washington, the 2004 rezoning of the neighborhood led to the boom in residential development. He noted that there were more than 5,000 residential units built in the first wave of the rezoning between 2004 and today. Now, 12,500 units are in the pipeline, 8,000 of which are set to break ground and be revealed within the next two to three years.
The residential growth is also transforming the nabe into more than a place of offices, courtrooms and clothiers; it’s quickly becoming a visitor destination. In recent years six new hotels settled into the area including the Nu Hotel on Smith Street and Hotel Indigo on Duffield Street.
“It's changing extravagantly,” said Jay Molishever, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats. “It's not a sleepy area; I would say it's similar to TriBeCa.”
He said some of its most striking residences are the high-rises such as the BellTel Lofts on Bridge Street, The Oro on Gold Street, and Be@Schermerhorn on Schermerhorn Street in addition to projects like The Hub, also on Schermerhorn Street, which is currently being constructed.
He noted that developers in the area are also restoring brownstones or performing ground-up construction of modern low-rise houses between four and eight stories high.
According to Molishever, a typical one-bedroom co-op in Downtown Brooklyn ranges anywhere between $550,000 and $700,000. A two-bedroom co-op runs from $700,000 to $900,000.
“What attracts people is the lively atmosphere and the mix of high-density and low-density housing, or the typical Brooklyn brownstone homes along State Street,” he said.
Downtown Brooklyn is home to a high concentration of higher learning institutions including Long Island University, City University of New York’s New York City College of Technology and the recent merge of Polytechnic Institute and New York University into the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
But it also boasts a variety of cultural institutions like Roulette, The New York Transit Museum and the acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which serves as Brooklyn’s Lincoln Center and anchors the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District.
Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, noted that an influx of higher-end retail establishments such as Nordstrom Rack and Armani Exchange, have added to the main shopping strip, Fulton Mall’s, allure.
During the day Downtown Brooklyn is alive with office workers lunching, students lounging, and tourists and shoppers mixed in with residents. At night the neighborhood's denizens head to the entertainment venues and to nearby neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Perris said.
But he also noted a distinct difference between the weekdays and weekend.
“On the weekend you really see the residential character come out,” he said. “You see much more families walking around going to destinations; they're not camouflaged by tourists or workers.”
But despite all the change, some misconceptions of Downtown Brooklyn remain.
“Some still think it’s unsafe or of it being only an office district,” Washington said. “But this is a 24/7 community, not one that closes at 5 p.m.”
Besides a small restaurant scene on Smith Street and a few eateries dashed along its quiet, tree-lined side roads, both Perris and Washington admit Downtown Brooklyn isn’t quite yet a food or nightlife hotspot.
“There isn’t a supermarket here either,” Perris said.
He noted that it’s a necessity for the neighborhood as it becomes more residential.
“We need more local nightlife destinations,” Washington said. “But those sort of things will come.”
Perris also noted that parents would like to see an elementary school within the neighborhood; another necessity as it becomes more livable.
Yet with those missing links, he said people are still interested moving to Downtown Brooklyn.
“What really makes it unique is how central it is. Other than midtown [Manhattan], name another neighborhood that’s better served with transportation,” he said. “People know exactly what they're getting and they're very excited to live here.”

jueves, 25 de diciembre de 2014

Navidad en Nueva York

Columbus Circle, NYC. Nueva York

No es tarea sencilla no caer en el tópico al hablar de la Navidad en Nueva York. Palabras cómo mágica o especial, se asocian invariablemente a lo que se publica sobre lo que significa esta época del año.
Lo cierto es, que la ciudad se vuelca cómo ninguna otra en sacar el máximo partido al espíritu navideño. Desde el momento en el que el abeto que decora Rockefeller Plaza desde hace más de ochenta años -el más emblemático de la ciudad, pero no el único-, llega a Nueva York y enciende sus luces tras la celebración de Thanksgiving -en unaceremonia que marca el comienzo oficial de la Navidad-, la ciudad es una pura exhibición navideña, empezando por los escaparates de sus grandes almacenes -una ruta imprescindible y gratuita que no debes perderte-, que alcanza su cenit en Times Square, el 31 de diciembre.
Y es que mercadillos navideños, cómo el de Columbus Circle, el de Union Square, o el Vanderlit Hall, dentro de Grand Central Station -y el único interior de la ciudad-, además de otros, cómo el Winter Garden que se instala en Bryant Park, y pistas de patinaje sobre hielo, cómo la que incluye este último, o las del Rockefeller Center y la que se encuentra en Central Park, te harán sentir aún más profundamente parte de las fiestas.
Hasta el Empire State -siempre presente en el skyline de la ciudad-, se encarga de poner su grano de arena para mejorar la puesta en escena, y desde ayer nos ofrece cada día a las 19:00 horas los cinco espectáculos de luces especiales de Navidad que ha preparado para 2014, y que pueden verse -especialmente bien- desde estos puntos de la ciudad.
Imposible no caer en el tópico, porque afortunadamente, por un vez, es verdad.

Vivienne Gucwa / Imagenes de New York

domingo, 21 de diciembre de 2014

El lunes final:

Día perfecto para acercarnos al último rascacielos chulo que nos quedaba por ver en Manhattan. Un clásico del cine: Chrysler Building. 
Con un día soleado, templadito de temperatura y sin una sola nube en el cielo cogimos la linea 5 y nos bajamos a la estación Grand Central Terminal, desde ella a cuatro pasos está este edifico imponente. 

Primera acercamiento.

Como no, patriotismo.

Lo único que se puede visitar del edificio es el hall. Y como no imponente:

El techo.

Debajo de Time.

Otro arbolito navideño para la colección.

Otra más del techo.

El equivalente a Correos.

Tiene cuatro pasillos como este. Con ocho ascensores en cada uno de los pasillos. En resumen 32 ascensores para que los trabajadores puedan ascender en su trabajo.

No hemos tenido opción de sacarlas tan de cerca por nosotros mismos, 
así pues una foto de otra foto.

En la guia recomiendan no olvidarse de los dos edificios de enfrente por el diseño de sus fachadas, y merece la pena dedicarles un rato a esas fachadas.

Justo enfrente.

En la otra esquina.

Las gárgolas desde las bajuras.

Ya en ruta hacia las Naciones Unidas nos cruzamos con esta torre, o más bien esta ciudad vertical.

Tudor City.

Desde Tudor City.


Terminando con esta calle aparecimos casi enfrente de la sede de Naciones Unidas, y como pasa siempre con las ópticas de las cámaras de la tele... parece más grande en televisión.

A contraluz.

Reflejos sobre Naciones Unidas.

Es curioso lo que se llega a reflejar en los cristales.

Otra imagen del Queensboro Bridge.

Una imagen con un grande de la carretera europea.

La ONU de nuevo.

Teníamos pendiente del otro día hacerle unas fotillos con un poco más de luz a la estación Gran Central Terminal por fuera, terminada la ONU y de camino a otro parque interesante hicimos una paradita para que posara para nosotros.

Una por dentro del reloj que esta en el mismo centro de las dos diagonales del 
rectángulo de la sala principal.

Desde fuera.

El parque que queríamos visitar está a la espalda de la biblioteca de Nueva York, es el Bryant Park. En esta época del año está plagado de puestecitos y una pista de hielo.

Y como no de otro arbolito.

Y de una fuente.

Y desde una de sus esquinas otro reflejo de uno de los pesados de la city.

Con esto el día no terminó, pero si en cuanto a fotos. Así que con este reflejo nos despedimos hasta la siguiente entrada.

Colombianos en Nueva York protestan por ley que les quita segunda curul

Plantón frente a las instalaciones del consulado de Colombia en New York en protesta por ley que quita la segunda curul a los colombianos del exterior. FOTO CORTESÍA @_JorgeMunoz
Plantón frente a las instalaciones del consulado de Colombia en New York en protesta por ley que quita la segunda curul a los colombianos del exterior. FOTO CORTESÍA @_JorgeMunoz

Un grupo de colombianos realizó un plantón frente a las instalaciones delconsulado de Colombia en New York en protesta por la ley que se tramita en elCongreso de la República que le quita la segunda curul a los colombianos del exterior para dársela a los raizales de San Andrés.
Tal y como informó El Colombiano hace dos días, esta movilización que incluía una marcha pacífica, fue convocada para este jueves, 18 de diciembre, frente al consulado en New York y otras legaciones diplomáticas en el mundo, paraprotestar, además del retiro de la segunda curul, por el pago de impuestos simultáneos, tanto en Colombia como en Estados Unidos, que propone la administración Santos para la comunidad colombiana en el exterior.
El tema había sido tratado por la congresista por el exterior, Ana Paola Agudelo, del Movimiento Mira, que el pasado 22 de noviembre se reunió en Nueva York con destacados dirigentes colombianos de distintas vertientes políticas.
A través de Twitter, integrantes de la diáspora colombiana, manifestaron su inconformismo con dicha medida, señalando que incluso para los 5 millones de colombiano que se calcula están en el exterior, no serían dos sino 13 las curules a las que tendrían derecho.