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NYC cinemas to re-open in March, Alamo Drafthouse a little later

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Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the thumbs up for cinemas in New York City to re-open on March 5th at 25% capacity. It’s been nearly a full year since they (and everything else) shut down.

It might, however, be a bit longer before Downtown Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse is open again. The Baltimore Sun reached out to a spokesperson:

We don’t believe we’ll make it by March 5th — there’s a lot to do — but we look forward to reopening City Point [in Brooklyn] as soon as possible, and we’ll make plenty of noise when we do.

I miss the Alamo Drafthouse. I can’t say I’d personally be comfortable sitting in a theater as soon as March, but it feels like that time is getting closer and closer. Maybe this year? I guess it all depends on the vaccine rollout. And of course how all these variants play out.

Our Alamo Drafthouse was in the middle of a huge expansion, and I haven’t heard anything about the status of that project. Was it delayed due to the shutdown, or did they get everything finished? I guess only time will tell.

Passing Moments: Monday, February 22nd, 2021

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Sunset from Downtown Brooklyn
Monday, February 22nd, 2021. Sunset from Downtown BK. Photo by nyknicks16.

Gage & Tollner now open for pickup & delivery!

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Gage & Tollner Window

Gage & Tollner was one of the sadder Downtown Brooklyn stories, with the grand re-opening scheduled for just days after the city shut down due to the Coronavirus in March 2020. Seriously: March 12th was my (and many other’s) last day working in an office, and their opening was scheduled for March 15th. Oof.

Prior to that, there had been a lot of well-deserved hype around the re-opening. Gage & Tollner is one of Brooklyn’s original fancy restaurants, and had operated for more than a hundred years before shutting down in the mid-90’s.

The space was purchased by some well-known restauranteurs, who wanted to restore it to it’s former glory, as the building is now landmarked and much of the interior was left intact despite several transient tenants in the mean time.

The main restaurant was to be an oyster and chop house, joined with a tropical-themed cocktail bar. Which is pretty badass.

With so many restaurants disappearing, I was worried that Gage & Tollner wouldn’t make it. Which is why I was so excited to get an email from them announcing the launch of pickup and takeout! This new hype isn’t just coming from me, the New York Times is also getting the word out.

Gage & Tollner pickup and delivery sign

From the founders St. John, Ben, and Sohui:

As you know, off-site dining was not part of our original concept. We wanted every Gage & Tollner meal to take place in our landmarked dining room. But the world has changed, and demands that we change with it. We truly believe that our new delivery concepts carry the original spirit of Gage & Tollner into the pandemic age, and we hope you agree.

Ordering is available online from both the chop house and the Sunken Harbor Club. Food prices from the Tiki bar are about what you’d expect if you’ve been running up that Doordash bill this past year. Most dishes are between $10 and $20, and cocktails are $15.

But what’s really speaking to me are the “At-Home Dining Experiences” from Gage & Tollner proper — meal kits designed to feed entire families. For $180 you can feed four to six people a Braised Heritage Pork Dinner.

Gage & Tollner's Braised Heritage Pork Dinner
Photo from Gage & Tollner

Currently, my household is just two (my wife and me) so I don’t think we’ll be ordering one of these experiences. But I may have to splurge on a cocktail or two for my upcoming birthday at the end of March. Hooray for a second pandemic birthday!

Gage & Tollner Storefront Gage & Tollner sign

Gage & Tollner, 372 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker art installation at Albee Square

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Sarula Bao’s Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker installation

You may have noticed some really cool artwork in the windows of the former Century 21 (RIP). Award-winning artist Sarula Bao is a Chinese American illustrator and graphic novelist based in Brooklyn, and her Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker installation will be on display through the end of March.

From Brooklyn Paper:

The installation will feature twelve images from Bao’s Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker 2021 calendar as a tribute to the Lunar Year.

I wonder will will end up happening to the giant retail space that’s now sitting empty after Century 21 shut down. My biggest fantasy is that it will become a bowling alley. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Sarula Bao’s Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker installation Sarula Bao’s Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker installation Sarula Bao’s Hanfu x Chunky Sneaker installation

Former “Cafeteria” signage peeks through on Fulton Mall

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Waldorf Cafeteria Old Sign

It’s always cool when a piece of the past pokes through to the present.

I noticed the half-sign a few weeks ago when walking past with my wife, but didn’t know what I was looking at, at the time. Thanks to Brooklyn Paper, I now know that it’s the site of a former Waldorf Cafeteria that operated at the corner of Fulton and Jay street.

With the removal of an old Metropolitan Dental Associates banner, the vintage “TERIA” (part of “CAFETERIA”) as well as most of an apple logo is now showing.

Removed dental associates sign
Old sign that was removed to expose history.

A jump into the NYC tax photo archives gives us a few of what this block looked like back in 1940, when the Waldorf Cafeteria lived next to a very prominent Bond Clothes suit store (now Ann Taylor).

Fulton and Jay in the 1940s

That cross street intersection is full of history that pokes through to the present, as diagonally across the street is the historic Gage & Tollner restaurant, although that’s a much sadder story. First opened at that location in 1892, Gage & Tollner was the restaurant in Brooklyn for decades. It started struggling in the 1970s, battling against a changing city, and eventually closed in 1994. A few unsuccessful tenants moved in (T.G.I. Friday’s, Arby’s, and a costume jewelry store to name a few) before it was finally purchased by three restauranteurs with a plan to restore it to its former glory. There was a wildly successful marketing campaign (starting with a crowdfunding campaign and resulting in tons of press coverage).

Gage & Tollner was poised to re-open as a restaurant about a week after the pandemic lockdown started, and as a result never got to open their doors. I even had reservations for my birthday at the end of March that never ended up materializing.

There’s still hope of Gage & Tollner re-opening after the pandemic, and I certainly hope it does. As for the re-opening of the Waldorf Cafeteria, I’m much less optimistic.

Close up old Cafeteria sign

Waldorf Cafeteria across the street

Some optimism for the future of DoBro

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9 Dekalb construction over City Point

Bklyner has an optimistic view for the future of Downtown Brooklyn, as well as an outstanding look at how we got to be here:

Brooklyn’s historic central business district also suffered during the pandemic. But the area’s boosters and developers believe its location, open spaces, and large residential population could give it a leg up over Manhattan as the post-pandemic recovery finally begins.

I didn’t know much about the neighborhood before moving here from Flatbush in 2016. The only bit of knowledge I had was that the neighborhood was re-zoned in 2004, the results of which were just starting to bloom. And that the spot with all the stores in the colorful shipping containers was now a mall (City Point).

The full story of Downtown Brooklyn is as much about the recovery after 9/11 as it is anything else. One avenue of thought about the re-zoning was an effort to decentralize office buildings, which were mostly clustered in the Financial District and Midtown at the time.

The Downtown Brooklyn re-zoning wasn’t totally successful though, as it was meant to give us a ton of office space but instead it’s just housing, housing, and more expensive housing. But that new construction also allowed for a lot of new Affordable Housing opportunities in new buildings, as the companies behind the construction wanted the tax breaks.

9 Dekalb construction over Dime Savings Bank

My apartment window has a direct view at a new office building that’s currently under construction. When the pandemic hit and the stage officially went on PAUSE, all construction stopped.

Eventually, after what felt like forever but was actually just weeks, construction started up again. I met a friend that works in commercial real estate at Fort Greene Park around that time. The future felt very uncertain at the time (I think May? June?) but he said his company was shifting resources from residential to commercial in the short term. It was taking the bet that offices would come back, but with remote work being more flexible, housing rentals might be soft.

Seems like the opposite of what’s being proposed in Midtown Manhattan, with office space potentially being converted into apartments. But Downtown Brooklyn is not Manhattan, and almost all available inventory is residential already.

The full article from Bklyner goes into way more detail, and is well worth the read.

What do you think about the future of Downtown Brooklyn?

Huzzah! Year of the Ox celebration coming to Albee Square

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Albee Square, Downtown Brooklyn

Q: Will there be a traditional lion dance?
A: Hell yeah, there’s going to be a traditional lion dance!

Come and celebrate the Year of the Ox at Albee Square on Saturday, February 13th between 1:30pm and 3pm. There will be a traditional lion dance and a “selfie-station,” which honestly sounds like a fantastic reason to get outside and keep the days from all blending together due to the pandemic.

In terms of the lion dance performance, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership website claims (emphasis mine):

Tradition says that a good lion dance performance brings one good luck and happiness!

Note that they do not mention of what a bad lion dance performance brings. Crossing my fingers that the performance is good…

If you selfie-and-share (at a safe social distance, of course) you’ll get a traditional red envelope containing a small prize. The biggest of the small prizes is a gift card for food at Dekalb Market.

A second blizzard this winter, after years without real snow

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Sure, we’ve gotten a little bit of snow in the past few years, but there hasn’t been a huge storm in New York City since January 23rd, 2016. I had pretty much given up hope that we’d ever get a big storm here again, especially after New York City was re-classified as subtropical.

But here we are, two decent snow storms in one winter (so far). Here’s a few pictures from Jay Street Metrotech in the snow.

Jay Street Metrotech in the snow Jay Street Metrotech in the snow Jay Street Metrotech in the snow Jay Street Metrotech in the snow

DoBro Underground Railroad house officially landmarked

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Underground Railroad House Downtown Brooklyn
File photo by Susan De Vries

Via AMNY:

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant landmark status to the Downtown Brooklyn house where prominent abolitionists Harriet and Thomas Truesdell lived during the 19th century — marking a long-awaited victory for local history buffs and activists alike.

Some really interesting history here. It’s fantastic to see it landmarked.

Now that that’s settled, let’s also rename the upcoming Willoughby Square Park to Abolitionist Place Park. Has a great ring to it.

Demolition means progress, but what’s the plan?

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Demolition from Albee Square

There’s still very little known about the future of the block adjacent to Albee Square, where Dekalb Ave curves to meet Fulton Street and becomes Bond Street. But progress is being made, in the form of demolition. Pretty much everything east of Duane Reade has been razed.

Businesses in buildings that previously occupied that space have been closing over the past several years, pre-dating the pandemic. Behind the scenes, RedSky Capital was purchasing lots (apparently 14 total) for some undisclosed project. Its website only lists a Fulton Mall project as “coming soon,” overlay on top of a fairly generic picture of a high rise).

Redsky Capital Fulton Mall Coming Soon

It’s a great location, right next to the beautiful Dime Savings Bank that’s becoming part of the lobby to 9 Dekalb. There’s a rumor, too, that there could be some public retail in the old bank lobby as well.

But the real question that I have right now is if the market can support another residential (or even commercial) high rise project like this. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of real estate pandemic fallout. Will the residential rental market remain soft? For how long? How many businesses will stick around? What will commercial rents be like? Will fewer people move to Brooklyn? Will more people?

On top of all these unknowns, RedSky Capital was having their own issues even prior to the pandemic. According to Brownstoner:

RedSky, which owns property all over the borough and wooed Apple to Brooklyn, appears to have fallen on hard times before the pandemic. They handed back to a lender in lieu of foreclosure part of their portfolio in Williamsburg, a combined 14 properties near North 6th Street and Bedford Avenue, valued at $145 million.

With all that said, the world continues to march forward, and progress is made even when it’s in the form of demolition. If they’re optimistic enough to move forward with whatever plans they have here, then I’ll be optimistic with them.

I do, however, sort of like all the free space we have there now. I supposed I’ll have to enjoy it while it lasts.

Empty lot near Albee Square