Nostrand Avenue odyssey, part 2: A stroll from East Flatbush to Crown Heights
Eye on Real Estate
Looking for a route for an urban hike? Nostrand Avenue is an excellent choice.
The busy north-south thoroughfare slices through several fascinating neighborhoods in the center of Brooklyn, from the Sheepshead Bay shoreline to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s northern border.
It’s entertaining to walk the entire eight-mile length of Nostrand Avenue in a single day, and take in all the architectural variety in one fell swoop.
But if you want to snap lots of photos, you’ll run out of daylight before you finish this trek.
So we’ve split the Nostrand Avenue odyssey into three segments, starting at the south end of the avenue and heading north. That way, the sun won’t be in your eyes — or your camera lens — as you stroll.
Part 1 of the trip was recently published. It takes you from Sheepshead Bay’s Emmons Avenue to the Target store in the Flatbush Nostrand Junction area.
Now, join us on the second leg of the journey up Nostrand Avenue, through East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights.
In many spots on this route, there are rowhouses built in the late 19th century or the early 20th century. This old-fashioned architectural eye candy is interspersed with development sites and recently constructed residential and office buildings.
Lions stand guard at the Kings County Savings Bank
Before we head to the starting point of today’s stroll, let’s take a momentary detour to the corner of Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights to see our favorite building on today’s itinerary.
It’s the landmarked Kings County Savings Bank, a Neo-Romanesque limestone and granite building at 539 Eastern Parkway. It was constructed in 1929 and 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression.
It’s very grand, and has all kinds of sculpted decorations on its exterior. These include sharp-clawed lions that serve as pedestals for columns flanking the bank’s doors and windows.
The lions look a lot like the ones outside the Williamsburgh Savings Bank clocktower at One Hanson Place in the Brooklyn Cultural District — and with good reason. The two banks were designed by the same architectural firm, namely Halsey, McCormack & Helmer.
An inscription carved in stone over the Kings County Savings Bank’s front door says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.” Who knew that Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s saying was popular with Brooklyn architects nine decades ago?
The current occupant of the building is Popular Community Bank, which formerly owned the building as well.
Banco Popular North America, as it was then called, sold 539 Eastern Parkway to Urban-Scape LLC for $2 million in 2006, city Finance Department records indicate. Aslan Bawabeh is the president of an entity that serves as Urban-Scape LLC’s managing member, Finance Department records show.
According to these records, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, which was the financial institution’s earlier name, had purchased the historic property for $579,000 in 1992. In that transaction, the seller was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC had taken ownership of the building as the receiver for American Savings Bank of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.
Readers with good memories will recall that Bawabeh’s Urban-Scape LLC also owns the building at 1117 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, which Popular Community Bank occupies.
The property at 1117 Eastern Parkway was designated as an individual city landmark in 2016. It originally was an East New York Savings Bank branch.
Urban-Scape LLC owns several buildings in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens that it bought from Banco Popular North America, Finance Department records show.
Eye-catching East Flatbush rowhouses and a church that looks like a castle
Now let’s head to the starting point for our walk, which is Flatbush Nostrand Junction near Brooklyn College.
* North of the intersection of Farragut Road, Nostrand Avenue switches from being a two-way street to a one-way street. The one-way traffic flows south.
* In late September, the city Buildings Department approved the emergency demolition of a house at 2001 Nostrand Ave. The wood-frame house’s interior has partially collapsed, Buildings Department filings indicate.
The house is located on the block between Farragut Road and Foster Avenue.
In September, the New Testament Church of God of Nostrand Avenue, also known as the Brooklyn Cathedral of Praise Church of God, sold 2001 Nostrand Ave. for $2.2 million, Finance Department records indicate. The buyer was The Edge Developers LLC, with Mark Weinberger as a member, the Finance Department records show.
Weinberger is with a firm called the Sterling Group.
* St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church, on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Newkirk Avenue, looks like a castle. The rectory on the corner of Newkirk Avenue and East 29th Street has turrets that call to mind a castle as well.
The parish’s mailing address is 2900 Newkirk Ave.
* A block east of Nostrand Avenue, there’s an eye-catching row of Renaissance Revival-style limestone houses on East 31st Street at the corner of Cortelyou Road. They were built around 1905.
Prairie grasses seen through a construction fence
* At 1580 Nostrand Ave. there’s an enormous development site with frontage on Nostrand Avenue, Albemarle Road and East 29th Street.
When we looked through one of the windows in the construction fence there the other day, we saw a vast vacant lot with prairie grasses growing on it. There wasn’t any construction going on, or any site prep.
According to Finance Department records, the owner of the site, Hello Nostrand LLC with Eli Karp as a managing member, purchased it for $13.129 million in 2014.
Karp is the founder and CEO of a development firm called Hello Living. Its website refers to the planned project as Hello Nostrand and says it will have 132 rental apartments and 50,000 square feet of community facility space.
By the way, the seller of the site, Venetian Management LLC with Mehran Cohen as its sole member, had purchased it from Verizon New York Inc. for $4 million in 2012.
* Six blocks away, Hello Living is constructing an apartment tower at 271 Lenox Road near the corner of Nostrand Avenue.
According to the firm’s website, there will be 56 rental apartments at Hello Lenox, as this development is called.
Karp’s firm assembled this development site by buying properties from two different owners. It paid $1.59 million for 271 Lenox Road in 2013 and purchased 279 Lenox Road for $2 million in 2014, Finance Department records indicate.
An Israeli restaurant and a Baroque Revival-style landmark
* In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, there’s a Renaissance Revival-style Catholic church at 319 Maple St. on the corner of Nostrand Avenue. It was built in 1913.
It’s called St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise Parish.
It’s got nifty outdoor religious statues.
* Empire Boulevard is the boundary between Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights. At that intersection, there’s an eye-catching cluster of old-fashioned red-brick buildings at 985-1007 Nostrand Ave.
The property’s long-time owner is Saran & Associates Inc., whose president is Rajnarine Rasmaran, Finance Department records indicate.
* At 887 Nostrand Ave., a classic apartment building at the intersection of Crown Street, the corner retail space has been rebuilt for a new tenant.
The tenant is an Israeli restaurant called Alenbi run by a chef named Elior Balbul.
The building belongs to 281-291 Crown LLC with Jacob Hager as a managing member, Finance Department records indicate. He’s an executive at Hager Management.
* There’s preservationist eye candy at 713 Nostrand Ave.
The landmarked low-rise commercial building on the corner of Sterling Place was designed in Baroque Revival style by architect Isaac Kallich and built around 1929. It has lots of terra cotta ornamentation.
Its original owner was the Sterling Bowling and Billiard Academy.
* Today’s Nostrand Avenue walk ends at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue, which is the border of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy.
A couple blocks before that, there’s the Bedford Central Presbyterian Church at 1200 Dean St. on the corner of Nostrand Avenue.
It was built in 1910, and has an eye-catching, old-fashioned design.
Part 3 of the Nostrand Avenue odyssey will be posted soon.
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