Saturday, September 16, 2006

Stopped Making Scents

Well it's been almost a year since the Rojas Bakery was sold and then quickly demolished. All that remains of the original single story structure is its cement foundation slab still partially covered in terracotta tiles. Even the rats have moved on to greener pastures. It seems the property will not be part of The Armory Plaza's underground parking garage as no pilings have been installed within its old lot lines. One set of drawings show the bakery's lot as "auxiliary parking" with a curb cut, allowing for access to additional parking spaces behind the proposed building. I guess there will be no backyard garden space.

Recently, however, the sweet yeasty smell of bread baking has returned to our neighborhood. At first I assumed it was just some fanatical bread baking enthusiast, but then I began to have Proustian memory flashbacks. I remember that smell. It had been burned into my nostrils for more than a decade. Ahhhh, the smell of Mexican bread baking.
Don't worry reader. You won't find me unleashing a 3000 page torrent...Not even a tea soaked Conchinito could set that off.

Appearently the Bakery, like a cinnamon-sugar dusted phoenix has risen again. This time the Rojas family may have consolidated part of their business operations into the remaining mixed use three story building (404 15th) sandwiched between the two in-progress construction sites; the 400 and 406 15th Street condo projects. They have filed to install a fire suppression system. The Stop Work Order may be holding up their renovation plans for now. It may be too soon to tell, for the Rojas anyway, if it's possible to have your cake and eat it to.

We will have to wait and see how this last outpost of "commercial/mixed-use" goes over with the future residents of 15th Street. It has always been my belief that over the many years the "old" neighborhood had grown accustomed to the Bakery's odours, and even at their worst they were always tolerated. Certain fragrances define a place. Growing up in Milwaukee, there was always that funky, odiferous scent of cooking hops coming from the Miller Brewery to remind you what really matters in the world.

As for our place in Brooklyn, I always thought that since the Bakery was there first, we more or less inherited their sweet smells when we moved in. Like the roaring sound of the jet traffic heading to LaGuardia Airport, the smell of cinnamon on Sunday mornings became just another ingredient contributing to the neighborhoods overall flavor.

Future mortgage paying residents of both 400 and 406 15th Street may not agree with me. Looking back, selling the cinderblock building at 406 seemed to be a smart business decision. Facing a future deluge of quality of life complaints, inspections, violations, and fines, reopening the bakery might not be so wise. You never know when the smell of baking bread may become illegal.

As promissed, here's some more dusty video from the IMBY archives.

here to play a brief, edited video clip, part of the "Seeing is Believing" IMBY DVD SERIES I sent to Department of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster and to then Brooklyn DoB Com. Susan Hinkson to protest the unsafe manner in which the demo was performed. Ms. Hinkson and I exchanged phone calls for awhile. Afterwards I received a nice letter from her saying that they were aware of the contractors dangerous practices and she would be turning my complaint over to the B.E.S.T. Squad. I never did hear from the B.E.S.T. Squad. Shortly after, Ms. Hinkson left the Borough of Brooklyn for a new job as DoB Com. for Staten Island . Of course, like some pathetic jilted lover, I still have all the messages she left on my answering machine. I hear her mispronounce my last name every time I check my voice mail. My wife humors me and has agreed not to push the erase button until the wounds have been healed. I understand that she is now on the short-list to waive the checkered flag at any future NASCAR races.

What did I learn from all this? Well, if you want to make a stink at the DoB that sticks, you better be prepared to bring out your big guns. Ever been in the same room when your dogs anal sacs have been fearfully expressed? Ever have someone in your car pool projectile vomit directly into your dashboard heating vents? Ever move into a new apartment where Con Ed has shut off the power and the previous tenant (a Mr. Jeffrey Dahmer) never bothered to clean out the refridgerator? Ever wake up in a full bathtub grasping a 10lb half wheel of cheese wearing Courtney Love's stretch pants? I guess what I'm trying to say is, that It's going to take something more powerful than binge drinking with a slice of domestic limburger to get noticed.

Recently folks at the SouthSouthSlope Community group, neighborhood activists, and their legal representation, forced the developer Isaac Satan to scrap his plans for a 12 story sky craper after providing the Board of Standards and Appeals with, among other eye witness testimony, video footage showing the use of backhoes, ect. to perform what's called a mechanical demolition. For safety reasons, the use of heavy equipment requires a special permit which Katan did not have. The use of this equipment enabled Katan's construction crews the extra time needed to "beat the clock" before new, less generous, zoning regulation went into effect. After seeing these videos (Apparently the use of the video replay has never been used in this "game" before.) the BSA lost faith in the evidence provided by Katans legal eagle Howard Hornstein of the law firm Cozen O'Conner, and ruled in favor of the community and its desire that they now obey the R6B zoning laws. Appeals have been filed.

In my back yard, with the Stop Work Orders in place, for this week at least, everything smells peaceful.

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