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Beloved abolitionist Landmark finally getting much-needed stabilization work

Stabilization work at abolitionist 227 Duffield Street
Photo by Susan De Vries

Downtown Brooklyn played an important role in the underground railroad and the larger abolitionist movement. Most of those relevant neighborhood locations have been torn down (many in the past decade). But there’s one building that survived — 227 Duffield Street — and has since been granted landmark status and promised some much-needed stabilization work. Brownstoner recently spotted some construction workers at the site, meaning that work may be moving forward:

Workers were busy at the beleaguered former home of 19th century abolitionists in Downtown Brooklyn when Brownstoner stopped by Monday — a possible sign that stabilization of the landmarked but neglected building might be inching forward.

With all the history of this building (and the street), I’m happy that at least one location will remain standing amongst all the new construction.

The Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood has changed so much over the past decade and a half, and Duffield Street is one of the most striking illustrations of that change.

If you’re not familiar with the how this neighborhood used to be, you should take a step back in time to 2009 using Google Street View. Take a look around at block full of Brownstones and (relatively) short buildings. Then travel through the years using the navigation panel in the top left to watch it transform into the street we know today.

Duffield Street in 2009 from Google Street View
Photo via Google Street View

I’m looking forward to the day when we can finally see a clear view of 227 Duffield Street, unblocked from all the construction work. Much like the remnants of the old “Cafeteria” sign on Fulton, this building will be a singular glimpse into the past in a neighborhood that’s otherwise unrecognizable.

Aerial view of the Dekalb/Fulton/Flatbush triangle


Demolition at Dekalb, Flatbush, and Fulton

I discussed the demotion that’s happening at the triangle between Flatbush Ave, Fulton Street, and Dekalb Ave in a prior post, but didn’t have this super-cool aerial view at the time.

I know that Redsky Capital own the lot that’s at the bottom of hte photo, closer to Albee Square, but I’m not sure about the lot along Flatbush Ave. I assume they own that, too?

If both lots are owned by the same company, I imagine there are quite a few stories about trying to purchase that middle section that’s still in-use.

I’m super curious about what’s going to happen here. I really like how open Albee Square feels without any building there, but I imagine that we’ll get another skyscraper in there soon enough.

It’s a good lot own, since the old Dime Savings Bank (the dome you see in the bottom left of the picture) is landmarked, so air rights are already protected.

Dekalb/Fulton/Flatbush triangle with labeled streets

New York City takes top honors for most car-congested city

Brooklyn Queens Expressway Traffic
Photo by Rachid H

From the New York Post:

New York City roads also accounted for the second, third and fourth most congested in the country, according to INRIX’s analysis — with the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from I-145 to Tillary Street, the Cross Bronx Expressway west of the Bronx River Parkway, and the BQE between 38th Street and Downtown Brooklyn taking the dubious honors.

We win!

But seriously, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. An obscene number of people got cars during the pandemic. We’re going to feel that for years.

Tallest Office in DoBro set to open amidst uncertain rental market

One Willoughby Square office building
Photo from

One Willoughby Square is certainly impressive. The architecture so striking that the architecture firm that designed is has leased three floors in the building. So far, they’re the only tenants.

But the fact that the firm that designed the building is leasing space is definitely part of the marketing story for the building. In fact, the New York Post has a full story on that fact.

FXCollaborative, previously known as FXFowle, is the anchor tenant at JEMB Realty’s nearly-finished One Willoughby Square in Downtown Brooklyn. The 34-story, 500,000 square-foot structure next to the DeKalb Avenue subway hub is the borough’s tallest new office building and scheduled to open later this year.

“We’re not just the tallest in the borough but the best-in-class asset in Brooklyn,” JEMB principal Jacob Jerome cheerfully boasted.

The entrance to the building is on Albee Street, right across from the entrance to City Point, providing easy access to Target, Trader Joes, and the Alamo Drafthouse (someday…). The location is also right next to the future Willoughby Square Park, which will exist someday, right?

Downtown Brooklyn was originally conceived as an office hub, similar to the Financial District in Manhattan. At least that was the original vision when the neighborhood was re-zoned. Instead, residential after residential building has popped up instead. One Willoughby Square is the first big new office complex (aside from Jay Street Metrotech, which has existed for a while).

The neighborhood is idea for commuting, with nine subway lines nearby, many of which are a single stop or two out of Manhattan.

But the Post buries what I feel is the real lead:

FXCollaborative is the only office lease so far.

Oof. I may be misremembering, but I think that lease deal was in place before the pandemic started.

I think a lot of people are just waiting. Waiting to see how this all shakes out. With more and more companies telling their employees to work from home indefinitely, even the companies that want a “home base” are waiting to see how things shake out.

Will offices of the future look like offices of the past? Will people only come into the office a couple days a week? If so, how will offices change to adapt?

Office leases, unlike apartment leases, are usually for 5+ years or more. They also involve working with contractors to design the ideal layout for your business. Whenever everything about working in an office is up in the air, it’s no wonder the market is soft.

I’m personally optimistic for office working, and for One Willoughby Square. I love working in an office. But not everyone is of the same opinion. And we’ll have to see how things shake out.


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


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.

Former “Cafeteria” signage peeks through on Fulton Mall


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


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?

A second blizzard this winter, after years without real snow


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

Underground Railroad House Downtown Brooklyn
File photo by Susan De Vries


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?


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