Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halsey Street Reno: Garden Level Part II

Working With Raw Spaces

After a few years of renovating old homes, I have to say that the garden floor of our Halsey Street brownstone is the hardest job I've ever done. Why was it so hard? Because I basically started with a raw space.

Starting with a raw space can have some pluses: you have the option of making additions, like adding bedrooms. Of course I tried to turn the garden into a two bedroom apartment, but after consulting with Mrs. Renovation, some relatives and my contractors, we decided that it looked too tight as a two bedroom.

We also figured that a potential tenant would enjoy a more open one-bedroom instead of a tight two-bedroom.
So, we got our mason R., on the job. Two and a half months later, we had a nice, sparkly, spacious one bedroom that was rented two weeks after we began showing it.

Halsey Street Reno: Garden Level Kitchen

Like I mentioned before, the garden floor of our Halsey Street brownstone was a challenge. Fortunately, it was easy to renovate the kitchen, because the former owner left the appliances and cabinets intact, giving us a pretty good idea of how the kitchen should be designed. Mrs. Reno thought that we should keep a similar layout, but that we should extend the cabinet space across the length of the kitchen wall and add more top cabinets. Our mason, R., came through to spruce up the walls with a skim coat and some new paint. Three weeks later, voila! We had new walls and a new leash on the kitchen. Our cabinets came from Bratchi out on Foster in East Flabush. Their cabinets never fail to make a lasting impression on potential tenants.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Foreclosures Hit NYC's Minority Communities

According to WNYC, "Homeowners in New York are defaulting on their mortgages in record numbers as the nationwide housing crisis has hit the city harder than anyone predicted. Data suggests that foreclosures will reach at least 15,000 by the end of the year, more than double those filed in the city in 2005 as the number of new cases continues to increase."

The stats also show that most of the foreclosures are in the heavily Black and Latino communities of Brooklyn: Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, East New York and Flatbush lead the city in foreclosures.

Data provided by Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, "shows a disturbing trend among victims of the housing crisis in New York. Many of them are elderly or disabled, and the majority are African American or Latino."

According to the report, "these newly vulnerable areas have traditionally been the backbone of New York’s middle class minority communities. But for decades they have been underserved by traditional banking institutions, which opened the door to independent brokers and loan sharks."
Will this crisis erode the thriving middle class of Brooklyn in these areas? Some experts would argue that without a middle class, these communities may not be able to survive the onslaught of gentrification. Time will tell.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Crown Heights Video Tour

"There are many worlds and cultures in Crown Heights and somehow, they all manage to get along. Take a tour of Crown Heights, Brooklyn."

Video from

Friday, October 19, 2007

PLG Stoop Sale (Sterling Street)

Come support Sterling Street at the last stoop sale of the year. Drinks will be served.

100 Sterling Block Association Stoop Sale
Location: Sterling Street
Btwn: Bedford and Rogers Aves
Time: 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Bed-Stuy Is Alive

"Come Home to Bed-Stuy" 29th House Tour

The Brownstoners of Bedford Stuyvesant, Inc., presents their Annual House Tour, Saturday October 20, 2007.

Now in its 29th year, the Brownstoners will once again showcase a collection of the community’s finest brownstones and limestones. The self-guided tour will begin at the historic “Old Boys” High School, located at 832 Marcy Avenue, near the corner of Putnam Avenue, from 11 A.M.-4P.M., rain or shine.

Contacts: Ava Barnett, Vice President of Planning, The Brownstoners of Bedford Stuyvesant, Inc., Tel: 347 661 5026;

Bed-Stuy Repost: Kitchen Reno

Some before and after shots of our Putnam Avenue kitchen Renovation. The former owner actually built the cabinets we wound up taking out. he had a thing for wood panneling too. Ick.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bed-Stuy Reno Repost: 3rd Floor Livingroom

Garden Level Kitchen Transformation

There was only one word that would describe this garben level kitchen: tacky. Since renovationg on the cheap is our motto, we used the existing space and reused as many appliances and materials as possible.

To save money we did not replace the floor and stove backsplash tiles or the stove, instead, we bought a stainless steel refrigerator and replaced the cabinets, with gently used cabinets given to us.

The Mulching

After chopping down weeds, clearing out garbage and leveling the dirt, we're finally ready to mulch.

For us the hardest part was leveling the backyard. Initially the flagstone walkway was buried under dirt and weeds. Finding it was pure accident; we mistakenly dug to far down on one side and discover that there was flagstone about 2 feet below ground. So we excavated the walkway area which forced us to shuffle most of the dirt to the center and back of the yard. We had to throw away at least ten bags of dirt.

In this case we are using the mulch as a form of weed control. After leveling the yard, we added a fiber membrane on top of the soil to keep weeds from growing through the mulch.


• Protects the soil from erosion
• Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains
• Conserves moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering
• Maintains a more even soil temperature
• Prevents weed growth
• Keeps fruits and vegetables clean
• Keeps feet clean, allowing access to garden even when damp
• Provides a "finished" look to the garden

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Taming The Wild

This backyard was so wild we didn't think it could be tamed. This plot of land was overrun by weeds, mosquitoes and garbage. We could only work in it 15 minutes at a time because that’s how long it took for the mosquitoes to attack me after the OFF spray dissipated.

We excavated a train, a large bone, ceramic and vinyl tiles, pipes, you name it. Working on this yard was so hard it took a year. It had to be done in steps.
First Step: involved cleaning, weed and garbage removal.
Second Step: we leveled the ground. That took about 4 hours.
Third Step: we did more leveling after the dirt settled from step 2.
Fourth Step: we mulched and planted

Next Episode: "The Mulching"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Repair Squeaky Floors

Creaking floors in your home need not indicate either a defect in the structure or ghosts lurking about the premises. If your floors squeak, don't be alarmed: merely follow this simple recipe.

Click here to read more.