Southern Brooklyn

Open Thread Mondays: Blown Up


Yikes. I wasn’t prepared for the slew of e-mails, texts and phone calls I received “congratulating” me for getting quoted in the Daily News this weekend. If you haven’t seen it yet, they did a story about the Corbin Place house I blasted last week for being out-of-character. And I’m not so happy with the story.

It’s not a critique about the reporter. It’s just that I didn’t think the story merited citywide attention (though the issue does), and thought her efforts would be better spent elsewhere. I also didn’t realize we were speaking for quotation – I thought the reporter wanted background – but that’s more my fault than hers.

Honestly, though, my problem with the story is that I felt for the family whose home it is. I spent most of my conversation with the reporter trying to convince her that it wasn’t worth it to put this family in the spotlight. Apparently I failed.

Yes, it’s an ugly house and scars the block, in my opinion. But I highlighted it to spark discussion about the larger issue (the absence of aesthetic considerations in zoning laws), not to shame the family. And yes, I threw a barb their way for humor’s sake, but I do wish them the best of luck.

So, this is my open thread today – sharing my regret that the story brought so much attention to a family just trying to enjoy their home. So, if they’re reading this, I apologize. I do hope we, as a community, can have this conversation. But the vitriol and the spotlight shouldn’t be pointed at you.

Comment policy


  1. I just had a look at PayPaul’s photostream and it is a shining example of how truly outstanding, high-quality photographs can be made using a point and shoot digital. I am shamed and humbled by his work.

  2. It’s a Hybrid SLR, the Kodak Z1015 IS. Thank you very much for the compliment. It’s about the photographer after all not simply the camera. Though I would take donations for a Nikon D90. I can imagine what I’d do with some good glass.

  3. I use a D90 (used to shoot with a Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro, which only has an ISO range of 100-1600) and, fantastic as the Nikon is, I have shot some monumentally crummy photographs with it. Like you say, it is all about the photographer, and good glass. I am in the market now for the Tamron 70-200 1:2.8). The D90, I believe, is going off market and will ultimately be replaced by its successor, the D7000.

    BTW…that Corbin Place building / house…OY! Hey, God bless…it’s their dream, they’re not hurting anyone, and not everything in life is pretty. I live across the street from a bit of an eyesore and not really anything I can do about it, so I don’t stare out the window.


  4. Photography, for me, is all about the composition. That is, the angles and placement of elements in the corners matter a lot to me. I took a lot of shots of the Dead Fish In The Bay and while some of them were blurred to the point of uselessness, the 3 I’ve put up I’m very satisfied with. The beauty of digital is I can indulge in my propensity to take tons of shots to get what I’m looking for. I’m attempting to work more with shadow qualities and more subtleties.

    The builder is more responsible for hurting the people living to either side of that Corbin Place house. It blocks the sun from the porches of the residents by it’s jutting out from the placement of the rest of them. What went on in the minds of the buyers we can only speculate upon.

  5. Getting back to the subject, I also find the house ugly as sin. A lot of that is because I prefer to see the architecture of a neighborhoods kept consistent. But as Emerson wrote, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” So, I must remind myself that everyone doesn’t appreciate the same things.

    I would hate to see everyone eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, driving the same cars, etc. Likewise, I must embrace what they admire in architecture.

  6. I think your apology is sincere, but what did you expect? You trashed the house. You brought attention to this one family and now others are joining in. I think you are being a bit naive to expect the story not to be picked up by other media outlets. If you wanted a discussion on the zoning laws or aesthetics, you should have put up more than one example of homes or buildings that stick out. There are many to be had in the neighborhood.

    Frankly, I think most of the buildings in Sheepshead Bay, and NYC should be scrapped. Keep the significant but get rid of the rest. Where’s all the energy efficient, sleek and modern buildings of the 21st century we were promised in our youth? Didn’t anyone else watch the Jetsons?

  7. Scrapping houses is not energy efficient. Making existing houses energy efficient is. Think of all resources involved in demolition on a wide scale. And afterwards replacing these structures.

    Additionally, there’s no evidence that many of these modern houses are energy efficient? This house was an in your face act. I can’t assume that someone who must have that some of the neighbors would be offended by the result is going to be energy conscious in planning this.

    This is an example of imposing on the landscape something so out of context that it is noticeable, yes, but not in a positive way. That it is ugly really isn’t the point. It is disruptive. And inconsiderate to an extreme.

  8. You’re right. I am naive about what stories get picked up by other media outlets. You see, I would think stories about the Belt Parkway being washed away, landlords forcing out businesses, major development issues and important local conflicts would get picked up. Not one-offs about ugly houses and screwed up traffic signs. But I guess I should be more aware that editors are looking for the inane and inconsequential rather than issues with substance.

    Regarding this house, there really aren’t many others I can point to that are so grossly out of character at the one- or two-family home level, and even fewer on streets where there is architectural uniformity. Sheepshead Bay’s streets are largely a hodgepodge, and something like this would be, well, still ugly, but less offensive on a street of unmatched detached houses. Corbin is different, and I think it’s one of the prettiest blocks in the area (btw, everyone saying these are old houses that are falling apart are way off. Most have been gutted, and I find them admirable inside and out.)

    Otherwise, I agree with Lisanne that scrapping is not an efficient means of development. Never was, never will be. There’s no arguing that, really.

  9. “It is disruptive. And inconsiderate to an extreme” They said the same about the Guggenheim museums. The quality of this house is no where near that of the Guggenheim, but architecture should be moving things forward and unfortunately that means imposing on the landscape.

    Most of the buildings around here were built to serve the way people lived 60,70, 80 or even 100 years ago. People have changed, needs change, aesthetics change. Let them go.

  10. Gutting vs scrapping or Toe-may-toe vs. toe-mat-toe. It’s basically the same thing. Maybe the exterior walls remain in a gutting, but usually not much more than that.

    As for media outlets picking up the inane, you only have to look at all the media devoted to celebrities to understand what “mainstream” media wants.

  11. A comparison with the Guggenheim (or the Whitney, for that matter) is definitely not relevant. Both these museums were groundbreaking in their design. They didn’t violate the principles of architecture, they created new ones.

    No new principles at work here, Just a glass adorned block based upon the working principles of rectilinear, unadorned, ascetic corporate architecture. With some “pseudo modernistic” touches thrown in without rhyme or reason.

    Houses built a hundred years ago were designed to accommodate future changes. Subsequent houses were often built to make firs home ownership possible. These houses were most often improved upon by their original owners, often from necessity. Some managed to do this while maintaining the basic integrity of the house.

    Many of these houses were built with better materials. This is especially true of interiors. Materials that have been replaced with synthetics or poorly grade substitutes.

    The other houses on Corbin Place are not great examples of inspired design. They are most utilitarian. And that’s fine, houses should be functional. And their uniformity is comforting in a sense. Had these people worked with the basic design and made improvements there would be no discussion here.

    It’s really not about changing a house, but how the house is changed in relations to its surroundings.

  12. They did see the passion this story created and probably decided that this is something that would involve the reader. This is happening everywhere, and not just in NYC.

  13. REWARD. $50 For a series of pictures with the S.O.B. who gets out of his car with his big”brindle” dog (off the leash) and lets it poop all over Ave.W to Neck Rd.and 18 Street to Ave X and 19 st. Mostly before dawn or after dusk. Might be a silver or gray car.

  14. The house looks so out of place that the Daily News picture actually looks Photoshopped, rather than a real picture.

  15. He’s the kind of fellow who will end up putting up another “Lost Dog” sign. I see a lot of people with these little tiny dogs and some of them unleashed and wonder: “What are they thinking?”.


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