In preparing for my Williamsburg tour Sunday (via the Municipal Art Society), I noticed the spiffy, six-story loft building 573 Metropolitan, which StreetEasy (and the building web site) tells me is "Williamsburg’s newest luxury loft building!" One-bedroom units rent for more than $3,000.
I've spent enough time in Williamsburg to know there's a lot more to the story--and there is. As with more than a few luxury lofts, 573 Metropolitan Avenue housed humble manufacturing businesses, and for at least some of the time could have been called a sweatshop.
The first reference to that address I could find, in the 1914 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, identified the location as a factory. But that had to be a predecessor building, since StreetEasy dates the building to 1920, a time of the area's growth, just 17 years after the Williamsburg Bridge started pouring people into the neighborhood from the Lower East Side and four years before the subway (now the L train) opened up nearby at Lorimer Street. (The G train stop didn't come until 1937.)
Perusing the Daily Eagle, I saw a 1937 advertisement for canvassers to sell floor lamps, a 1940 business opportunity to buy a 5,000 square foot garment factory (one floor?), a 1948 ad seeking operators for ladies coats, and a 1950 ad seeking operators for Jo-Ann Sportswear.
In 1942, according to the Daily Eagle, the Metropolitan Cloak Company at that location was enjoined by the court for wage and hour violations. In 1957, labor racketeering charges were filed involving a bogus garment workers union and the Vogue Knitwear company, according to the New York Times.
As of 1982, the D&L Dress Co. still operated at 573 Metropolitan. Fast forward to 2001, where when a New York Post article explained how "18 members of the The Mexican Boys gang were arrested last night on weapons and unlawful-assembly charges after a raid in Brooklyn" at a laundromat at 573 Metropolitan Avenue. (Surely that's an adjacent structure, with the same address.)
Then came the "art center and studio/co-working space 3rd Ward," as described by Hyperallergic's Mostafa Hedday, which leased 573 Metropolitan in 2005, and saw it shut down on Oct. 15, 2010 for code violations, three years before 3rd Ward itself crashed and burned.
Free Williamsburg described the shutdown, quoting a former tenant and employee of 3rd Ward as describing it as a "converted sweatshop" that had not been properly and safely converted. (The then-owner of the building, who has sold it to an LLC he may--or may not--control, also came in for criticism.)
Last June, the Times announced an 18-month lease, at $24/square foot, for State Senator Martin M. Dilan "for 2,000 square feet on the lower level of this six-story building, which was gut renovated in 2011." And this area around the second L stop in Williamsburg is home to a new wave of development. The factory jobs? They've either moved deeper into industrial Brooklyn or, more likely, gone completely. For the current building's status, see 573Metropolitan.com.
I lead a number Dyker Heights holiday lights tour each season: a bus tour or two, one or two large group walking tours, and several smaller group tours, using a limo or public transit. For the first time, last night, a client booked me for Christmas Eve.
The three were a lot of fun, and open to seeing more: I told them that we could go there directly, but if they had the time/inclination, we should make a few stops and see more on the way.
So, after meeting in Manhattan, we went first to DUMBO, and walked around there and then Brooklyn Heights. We took the subway to Brooklyn's Chinatown in Sunset Park, which was buzzing, as expected. We had an astoundingly inexpensive quick dinner at the estimable Yun Nan Flavour Garden.
Then a quick bus ride to Borough Park, home to Brooklyn's largest Orthodox/Hasidic Jewish population, which bustled, unfazed by Christmas Eve. Then a short subway ride to the edge of Dyker, and a walk to the first set of highlights. Then a quick bus ride, and a stop at the fantastic, frenetic but still open Tasty Pastry.
Then we walked through the heart of the Dyker lights, and it was mobbed, even without the regular bus tour groups. I and others had wondered: would any of the lights be off on Christmas Eve? Answer: I noticed two houses with major installations that were off, but that detracted only very slightly from the overall experience.
Interestingly enough, a large number of the visitors were Chinese (likely Buddhist?) and Muslim (women in headscarves; families could be Middle Eastern or Bangladeshi). That makes sense; more traditional Christmas celebrants would be in church or at home.
But it just goes to show how the Dyker Lights are a very ecumenical attraction. (OK, no Orthodox Jews in attendance.)
We caught a quick bus to Bay Ridge and took the subway back north. A very well-spent five hours!
For the record: four subway trips (plus two internal transfers), three bus rides, and some very good transit karma, with short waits for nearly all. But only four total fares, given free transfers.
Touring Brooklyn Blog
Observations and ephemera related to my tours and Brooklyn. Comments and questions are welcome--and moderated.