Williamsburg

Stroll down Leonard Street and see a slice of East Williamsburg

July 18, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Williamsburg's Lorimer Street is a visitor magnet. This is its intersection with Metropolitan Avenue, outside a subway station entrance. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Eye on Real Estate

Could you give a visitor directions to Leonard Street without using your smart phone?

Probably not, unless you live there.

North Brooklyn is where you go to find this fascinating residential street.

It slices through non-landmarked sections of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. Stroll this street with us, and you’ll find varied forms of housing: Historic wood-frame houses, old-fashioned multifamily buildings, recently constructed apartment buildings, New York City Housing Authority projects and a vast Mitchell-Lama complex.

Last week we showed you the end of Leonard Street that runs through Greenpoint. This week we’re headed to the East Williamsburg end of Leonard Street.

We love Lorimer Street. Everybody loves Lorimer Street.

It’s a go-to spot in East Williamsburg for dining, drinking and walking around.

One of our favorite murals is there, on the corner of Lorimer Street and Metropolitan Avenue, above the entrance to the L and G train station.

Today, though, we’re going to expand our horizons.

Come with us as we exit this subway stop and head one block east so we can stroll down Leonard Street. This will give us a slightly different perspective on the neighborhood.

The first thing we notice is the unusual sidewalk kiddie ride outside Metropolitan Fish Market on the corner of Leonard Street and Metropolitan Avenue.

We think coin-operated pony rides are nostalgia-inducing. They always catch our eye. They can be found on many retail corridors in Brooklyn neighborhoods. Sometimes, instead of steeds, the rides are donkeys that look like Shrek’s friend in the film series. Sometimes, the rides are space ships.

The market at 635 Metropolitan Ave. is only place we’ve ever seen whose sidewalk kiddie ride is a giant fish wearing a saddle and floating on a blue wave.

 

A fine new facade and a Carnegie library

The first block of our stroll is Leonard Street between Metropolitan Avenue and Devoe Street. There, a rowhouse with a handsome architectural-wood facade catches our eye. The unpainted wood runs vertically down the facade rather than horizontally like clapboard planks.   

Previously, the house at 288 Leonard St. was covered with tar-paper shingles, old Google Maps photos indicate.

The owner of the two-family house renovated it after buying it for $1.3 million in 2015, city Buildings Department and Finance Department records indicate.

On the corner of Leonard and Devoe streets, we find one of the Brooklyn Library’s Carnegie branches.

More than a century ago, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was the richest man in the world.

He donated money to build public libraries throughout New York City. Brooklyn’s portion of that funding was $1.6 million.

Architect William B. Tubby designed the red-brick Leonard Library at 81 Devoe St., which was built in 1908, a posting by the Historic Districts Council says. As is typical of so-called “suburban” Carnegie libraries, it’s a free-standing building surrounded by a lawn.

 

Wood-frame rowhouses and a Lipka Tatar mosque

As we continue down Leonard Street, old-fashioned wood-frame rowhouses charm our eye. There are especially nice ones as we turn the corner onto Ainslie Street.

By the way, a shop called Ben’s Books at 145 Ainslie St. looks intriguing.

An eye-catching cluster of frame houses can be found at 234-238 Leonard St. on the corner of Powers Street.

Around the corner, there’s an austerely beautiful building at 104-108 Powers St. It’s clad in pale-green wood and topped by a small octagonal minaret with a crescent moon above it.  

The Powers Street property has served for the past century as a mosque for Lipka Tatar immigrants and their descendants.

“Lipka” is the Crimean word for “Lithuania.” The Lipka Tatars are Turkic Muslims from Central Asia who settled in the 14th century in what is now Lithuania, Poland and Belarus.

An article about the mosque in Trumplandia says the building was constructed in 1885 as the Second Methodist Episcopal Church. It was later used as the headquarters and clubhouse of the Thirteenth Assembly District Democratic Club.

Trumplandia is a magazine created by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism students.

Alyssa Ratkewitch, the youngest member of the mosque’s governing board, spoke in the Trumplandia story about plans to restore the Powers Street building and draw visitors to it with yoga and Tatar cooking classes.

A 2016 article published on Public Radio International’s website also detailed Ratkewitch’s hopes for revitalizing the mosque, whose congregation has been dwindling in size since the 1950s. Her grandfather had been an imam at the mosque.

Old and new developments

The corner of Leonard and Grand streets has classic brick rowhouses.

After that, Leonard Street serves as a boundary of a super-block that extends from Maujer Street to Scholes Street where the Williamsburg Houses are located.

The New York City Housing Authority complex was constructed in the 1930s and funded by the Depression-era Public Works Administration.

On the corner of Meserole Street, there’s a rental-apartment building developer Yoel Goldman constructed a couple years ago. Its address is 125 Leonard St.

On the next Leonard Street corner, there’s another new rental-apartment building  — 73 Montrose Ave. Developer Yidel Hirsch constructed this five-story, 40-unit property on a site he bought for $4.1 million through an LLC, Finance Department records indicate.

 

Traces of the area’s industrial past

Right next door to this apartment house, there’s a slim four-story brick building at 71 Montrose Ave. that has business names of the past painted on its facade.

“Home of Korbro Salad Oil” is the largest, most legible slogan. “Montrose Smoked Fish” is another.

The third name on the building is “Korchin,” which a posting on website Eating in Translation says “has the most celebrated legacy” of the three businesses. The posting provides a link to a 1984 New York Times story about Marshall Smoked Fish Co., whose president at that time was Mortimer Korchin. His father had started the company in 1909, the story says.

Mortimer Korchin’s 2009 obituary says Marshall Smoked Fish Co. was sold in 1998.

Later, successor company Homarus/Marshall Smoked Fish was sold to a conglomerate called Sea Specialties — which filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

In 2006, a Florida bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Homarus/Marshall Smoked Fish to Banner Smoked Fish.

Coney Island-based Banner Smoked Fish’s website indicates that it has kept both the Marshall and Homarus brands alive.

But more about 71 Montrose Ave.

In 1990, 71 Montrose Ave. Corp., whose president is Andre van Hoek, bought the building for $75,000, Finance Department records indicate.

 Part of Mitchell-Lama complex Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative is at the intersection of Leonard and Boerum streets.

Funky, funky Broadway

Further down Leonard Street, there’s seven-building Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative, an affordable-housing Mitchell-Lama complex.

In January, its former board president was sentenced to prison for her role in a kickback scheme that involved padding apartment-repair bills, the Brooklyn Downtown Star reported.  

Leonard Street ends at Broadway — where you can find an entrance to the elevated Lorimer Street J train station.

 

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