Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What's My Name? No Not Terminator X, Some Architect

I haven't said much of late about my own neighbourhood, not because I've left it, but because I've moved location within it, and it's altered my perception of what matters. I spent, along with the too-long absent from this space Mrs Cutesome, most of the year trying to find somewhere to buy. We were very aware of the state of the market, and the heights that valuations in the area have reached. But, we wanted to have full control of our own living environment, and we really flipping hated paying rent to our landlord (all that needs saying about the man is that he thinks that the greatest problem facing the neighbourhood is litter. Not crime, overdevelopment, eminent domain, Marty Markowitz, air quality, gentrification, the democratic party, education. Litter).

So, we spent about five months looking at apartments in an area bounded roughly by Prospect Park/Underhill Avenue in the East, Fourth Avenue in the West, Bergen Street in the North and 3rd Street in the South. And we were quite the goldilocks about it, looking for a decent two-bed, two bath, with maybe a bit of outdoor space, modern fixtures (no time to renovate), and probably a wee bit over 1000 square feet.

We made an offer on a place back in April in the northern part of the above-described box, and weren't prepared to increase it as part of a bidding war. The apartment, while absolutely lovely, was a little too close to the Atlantic Yards project, about which you can find rants of varying degrees of coherence scattered around this blog like phlegm on a colonel's wife's face. Wasn't the noise from construction (about which more later) that bothered me, so much as the nagging feeling that vast, empty, badly-designed developments have unpredictable effects on their neighbours. There was also the worry that the neighbourhood's best amenity, Freddie's, is under imminent/eminent threat of demolition. Or, to put it more directly, and crassly, fun and future property values.

Please excuse the flippancy, and I have really loved living in about three different locations around the centre of the Atlantic Yards, but its very hard to put down roots in an area, and become either a force for good or bad there, if the entire neighbourhood has been dumped in the hands of a myopic property developer with a failed vision and not enough equity at stake in the deal to make sure it isn't awful. It's now his to uplift or, more likely, recreate Metrotech

So we upped sticks for a centre slope condo building, not one of the ones directly on fourth avenue, but one close nearby, and of, I should note with shame, not a gigantic amount of architectural merit. But it's light, comfortable, the neighbours are pretty nice, and the nearby bars and restaurants on fifth are pretty good.

It is, though, pretty close to the heart of the boom in condo construction on Fourth Avenue. The cat finds the constant activity enormously entertaining, and while the area may eventually become the "Park Avenue of Brooklyn" several commentators would like it to be, right now its just a bunch of scaffolding wrapped shells thrown up with varying degrees of enthusasim.

Take the new development going up round the corner from me on Carroll and Fourth. Kind of a stop-start one, not helped by the recent change in architect. Indeed someone claiming to be the previous artchitect linked the troubles at the site to his replacement, though the project seemed to have succumed to an order to stop work before said architect was replaced. The reason he's not being mentioned by name, though you will find his name by following the first link this paragraph, is that he's an inveterate self-googler and I don't have time to deal with his missives.

Here's a picture of the sign with the name of the new architect at the site, though I'll note that since then there has been a fair amount of new ground work at the site.

I guess what I'm driving at is that this little boom is manageable because it's relatively small-scale, short-term, and only has the potential to scar a corner of one block at a time, rather than a whole neighbourhood. Not sure Mr. Ratner could say that - guess that's why they call it Develop Don't Destroy. Tain't so much the condos as the thoughtless vandalism on a massive scale.

Oh well, just another tired and unfocused missive from an unreprentant gentrifier. Still smug about the neighbourhood, though


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