Thursday, February 23, 2017

Washington Lobbyist Paul Manafort Sends Crew To Remove Debris From Front Yard Of His Carroll Gardens Brownstone

 377 Union Street between Smith and Hoyt Streets in Carroll Gardens
The front garden of 377 Union Street with construction debris. 
Photo taken on February 16, 2017
 Clean-up in process at 377 Union Street earlier today
Last week, PMFA posted about 377 Union Street, a somewhat neglected brownstone in Carroll Gardens that happens to belong to Paul J. Manafort, Junior, the veteran Republican strategist and former national chairman to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

A renovation on this property was started in 2013, but was halted a year-and-a-half ago and ever since, building materials, like rusty i-beams and cinderblocks, have been stored in the front yard.  A stop-work order has been taped to the front yard by the NYC Department of Buildings and neighbors have been complaining that no one ever shoveled the snow or sweeps the sidewalk in front of the home.

After PMFA posted about the neglect, several other web sites picked up the story. The New York Post even contacted Mr. Manafort. He told the Post that he had hired a new architect and that he was expecting “ to complete construction by the end of the year.”

Just today, a few workers did indeed show up at 377 Union Street and were cleaning up. A local resident who sent us several photos, was told by the crew that the rusted beams will be gone by tomorrow.  "Thank heavens!", the local resident told us.

However, that is only part of the story of 377 Union Street. There is, of course, a more troubling issue regarding the financing of this property.  Manafort bought the building under an L.L.C. in 2012 for $2,995,000. Just recently, the property was transferred from the LLC to Manafort.  Over the past several years, he has been able to secure financing that seems highly risky and rather questionable.  By now, the loans surpass the value of the home by several millions.

After spending some time confirming the records on ACRIS, PMFA posted some of the documentation on February 16. Others started to take a closer look, including attorneys Julian Russo and Matthew Termine. Just two days ago, they published their findings here:
The information on the website is quite fascinating and seems to indicate that there may be something quite unusual with Manafort's Carroll Gardens investment property.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Greetings From Austin, The Brooklyn Of Texas

South Austin Central Fire Station on a balmy night in Texas

Dear Readers,
This week, I am exploring Austin, Texas.  Of course, I have my camera with me, so I will post photos of my impressions.  Will be back in Brooklyn soon.
Cheers, Katia

PS: do you have any recommendations?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Picture Of The Day: At Los Paisanos

Supporting locally owned stores. 
Los Paisanos Market on Smith Street in Boerum Hill. Family owned 'for generations.'

Brooklyn Workshop Gallery On Hoyt Street Is Having An Art Sale (And A Bit Of A Fundraiser) This Week

(photo credit: Brooklyn Workshop Gallery)
For the past few years, the Brooklyn Workshop Gallery, a semi-collective atelier space at 393 Hoyt Street, has been an oasis for creative adults and children here in Carroll Gardens. The community is quite lucky to have such a wonderful space and arts programing right here in the neighborhood.
If you have never visited the gallery, may we suggest that you do so this week?

Currently, Brooklyn Workshop Gallery is having a sale (as well as a bit of a fundraiser) and is open every day this week.  From director Martine Bisagni:

It's that time of year when we clean out the drawers and raise monies for operating funds and our free programs. We invite you to come by, see the art and consider a purchase. There's so much that is so very beautiful. The artists and the children have made so much beautiful work. Fund-raising is to ensure that we can continue to offer free art days through the remainder of our time here.

Some of you are aware that it is most likely our last year in Brooklyn as our Hoyt Street lease ends late summer. We've started quite a few things we would like to finish and somethings we just want to continue that we know work so well (like free art days).

This spring we are hoping to sponsor a residency for a master basket weaver, our continued weaving open studio
as well as outreach and off-site art days.

Please consider a donation to one of our projects. You can donate through our website
or you can come and talk to me about which project we do that you value the most.

Among other projects, we offer free art afternoons on Saturday for OPEN STUDIO and

Do contact us if you are interested in helping. If you have ideas about how we could or should continue, we welcome hearing from you.

This is our first appeal for public donations. Should you be interested in donating, you may do so on our web-site through PayPal. Please know our appreciation for your time, your purchase or donation. There is so much we would like to do before we leave, so much that we would like to continue...

Monday - Friday 1 - 8
Saturday and Sunday 12 - 7

A Taste Of Spring In February: Carroll Gardens Begins To Bloom

Of course, we all know that there is something quite unsettling about 60 degree weather in February, but it sure feels good walking around without a heavy coat.  The warmer temperature of the past few days has coaxed daffodils, crocii and snowdrops out of the ground here in Carroll Gardens. Witch hazel is in bloom, magnolias, roses and hydrangeas are budding, and a cherry tree in a form yard in Boerum Hill was in flower.
It will probably get colder again before the official start of spring, but for now, it  makes sense to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
How are you enjoying this sunny long week-end?

Books Are Magic: An Independently Owned Bookstore To Open On Smith Street

By now, everyone in the neighborhood has probably heard the wonderful news that an independent bookstore will be opening on Smith Street at the corner of Butler Street. Judging by the number of emails PMFA about this over the last week, the community is super excited.

Emma Straub,  author and former employee of Book Court, the beloved book store that recently closed after decades in Cobble Hill, will be opening Books Are Magic at 225 Smith Street.
Work on the storefront has already begun and it appears that that it will open this spring.

From Emma Straub's website:
"A neighborhood without an independent bookstore is a body without a heart. And so we’re building a new heart.

We’ve spent the last few months looking at spaces, getting our math together, and thinking about light fixtures. We have secured initial funding and crossed our fingers. And so, dear Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Columbia Waterfront, and beyond…you won’t be lonely for long. Books are magic, and we want to make sure that this neighborhood is positively coated in bookish fairydust for decades to come.

We feel really lucky to know so many bookstore owners and booksellers and writers and publishers, and to already feel the support of our community. We are working hard to make sure that our children (and yours) have new corners to claim as their own. Let us know if you have ideas to share, hands to lend, or some magic of your own to add to the mix
You can sign up for to the store's mailing list for updates here. Find Books Are Magic on twitter:@booksaremagicbk or instagram: @booksaremagicbk

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Conversation With Gloria Steinem At Hannah Senesh Community Day School

Hannah Senesh Community Day School at 342 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens is launching its new
Steinhardt Speaker Series on Monday, March 27th at 7pm.Gloria Steinem, the writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer, will be its inaugural speaker. the conversation will be moderated by Virginia Heffernan, Brooklyn journalist and Senesh parent.

Tickets will go on sale today at noon on the school's website:
The ticket price is $36.

From Hannah Senesh:
"With the support of Mr. Steinhardt, the eminent philanthropist, Senesh is launching the series to highlight the strong connection between timeless Jewish values and modern achievement that continue to improve the world. Gloria Steinem’s lifetime of campaigning for gender equality and human rights epitomizes that connection and echoes the School’s mission to foster a modern, meaningful and joyful approach to Jewish thinking and learning

“Gloria Steinem’s work as a feminist, activist and writer closely aligns with our School’s core values of Responsibility and Perseverance,” says Nicole Nash, Hannah Senesh Head of School. “It is especially meaningful to connect Ms. Steinem’s accomplishments to her underlying Jewish values and the work we do at Senesh.”

The evening will be moderated by journalist Virginia Heffernan, parent of two Senesh students and author of the highly acclaimed Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art, about the cultural potential and societal impact of the Internet."

This is bound to be a very interesting evening, so don't wait to get your ticket.

Well, that was fast! Tickets have sold out for this event, but Hannah Senesh will be offering a Facebook livestream on the event page:
So mark your calendars.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Picture(s) Of The Day: A Hawk's Snowy Lunch

(photo credit: Linda Mariano)

Today's picture of the day was taken by my very good friend Linda.  She happened to look out of her rear window today and was surprised to see a hawk consuming what looked like a pigeon in her snowy back yard.  That surely does not happen every day.

I first thought this was a peregrine falcon, but was quickly corrected by some readers who identified it as a hawk.

Thanks Linda for sharing.

Important Public Meeting On PS 32 Annex Construction In Carroll Garden

Now that the Department of City Planning has officially launched its Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study process, it behoves the community to push for better infrastructure and services to support the additional high rise residential developments that surely loom in our future.

Take schools for example.  Our local Public Schools are already over capacity before an overall rezoning of Gowanus which is sure to bring more families to the community.
Just imagine the Gowanus Canal area lined with more towers 'à la Lightstone' and you get a general idea of the looming problem. (Incidentally, the 363 Bond Street and 365 Bond Street buildings are zoned for PS 32.)

There has been talk regarding building a more permanent annex at PS32, which is located on Hoyt Street between President Street and Union Street.  The New York School Construction Authority is now ready to present the design and plans for the new addition and will see with the community on.
Wednesday, March 1 at 6:30 pm.

If your property is zoned for PS 32, if you currently have children who attend the school, and/or if you happen to live right next to the school, you may want to attend this public meeting.

Washington Lobbyist And Trump Advisor Paul Manafort Owns Brownstone In Carroll Gardens

Pardon me for asking, but could it be that Paul J. Manafort, Junior, the veteran Republican strategist and former national chairman to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, owns a brownstone in Carroll Gardens?
I happened to walk on Union Street between Smith Street and Hoyt Street yesterday afternoon, when I noticed construction debris and several notices taped to the front door of the building at 377 Union Street.
Coincidentally,  I caught up with a local resident who was walking in the same direction.  After exchanging a few pleasantries, the resident asked:
"Did you know that Paul Manafort owns a house on this block?"
Surprised, I confirmed that we were talking about the same Paul Manafort, one of President Trump's high level advisors, whose name has been mentioned in the news for the past few months and especially in the past several days.
"That's the one!  He owns number 377 Union Street," the resident told me

Of course I was intrigued.  Following the information that I was given, I started looking at public records for the brownstone.
Here are the details:
In late 2012, 377 Union Street was sold to MC Brooklyn Holdings, LLC for $2,995,000.
By 2013, the NYC Department Of Buildings approved an application to turn the four story, two family building into a one family home at an estimated cost of $527,900.00.

The DoB application lists the owner of 377 Union Street as Paul Manafort. The telephone number on record is registered to Paul J Manafort Jr., 601 N Fairfax St Apt 405, Alexandria, Virginia.

Work on the house did begin shortly afterwards, but halted about a year and a half ago.  Since then, cinderblocks and rusting steel beams have been stored in the front yard.
A full Stop Work order was issued on February 1, 2017 by the DoB Brooklyn Commissioner due to "applicant withdrawal."

Interestingly enough, according to the New York City Department Of Finance,  the deed to the property was transferred from the holding company directly to Mr. Manafort on January 4, 2017.
Almost immediately afterwards, it would appear that three mortgages were taken under his name and that of his wife, Kathleen B. Manafort, and under MC Brooklyn Holdings.

According to ACRIS, by The Federal Savings Bank provided funds of $5,300,000 on the property on January 17, 2017.  (The amount needs to be repaid by January 2018).  An additional mortgage of  $1,200,000 by The Federal Savings Bank was issued on the same day.   Genesis Capital Master Fund II, LLC appears to have loaned another $303,750

The Federal Savings Bank prides itself on 'honoring those who have served' and according to its web site, is "owned and operated by veterans with a mission to help serve veterans. Most members of our executive leadership team and many of our employees have also served our country and know from experience that the transition from soldier to civilian means having a place to be able to call 'home'."

Even with home prices going up tremendously in Carroll Gardens in the past few years, one could say that the mortgage amount of $6,803,750 exceeds the current value of this house, especially in its current condition.

Who would have thought that this once solid Italian working class neighborhood would one day attract Hollywood celebrities as well as Washington lobbyists.

I don't know what to make of all of this. Maybe one of my readers can interpret these transactions?

 (From New York City DoB web site for 377 Union Street, Brooklyn)

 (from N.Y.C. DOB site for 377 Union Street, Brooklyn)

 (Information on 277 Union Street on Acris Site under Block 429 Lot 65)

Well, two attorneys dug a bit further into the records of 377 Union Street and Paul Manafort's many outstanding loans on this property.

Julian Russo and Matthew Termine published their well researched findings here:  It is a fascinating read and seems to confirm that the financial trail appears to be  more than unusual.
Let us know what you think.