Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Park Place & Flatbush

Last month, One More Folded Sunset alerted us to the imminent closures of a group of old-school businesses at Park Place and Flatbush in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The landlord has sent letters of eviction, giving them weeks to vacate.

The Dominican restaurant El Gran Castillo de Jagua has been on the corner for nearly four decades, according to a Daily News piece on the closures. “We’ve lost our business,” 63-year-old Sergio Olivio told the paper, while holding back tears.

As of today, the restaurant is still there, but not for long. I went into El Gran Castillo de Jagua for lunch recently. It was some of the best food I have ever tasted. Chicken, plantains, avocados, rice and beans, washed down with Morir Sonando--"to die dreaming." All made perfectly, tasting fresh and clean.

El Gran Castillo de Jagua has a large dining room in the back, as well as a small lunch counter with swivel stools. People come and go, sit on the stools, wait for their take-out meals. The atmosphere is warm and friendly.

Coconut cakes sit on pedestals looking like ghosts from the past.

Next door, the Benoit barbershop has been there for over 40 years. I peeked in. I was not in need of a haircut, but wished I was. The barber dozed in a chair, his feet up. Music played from a radio. The smell coming out was that wonderful barber-shop smell--Clubman talc, osage aftershave, the works.

“I feel helpless,” Sylvain Benoit, the 62-year-old owner of barber shop, told the Daily News. “It just seems like there is nothing we can do about it. Only people who have the money make the law. There is just nobody to talk to for help. You work your whole life in one place, and then one day the landlord comes and just kicks you out on to the sidewalk.

This can happen easily in New York because there is no rent control for businesses, and no laws in place that would regulate how a landlord can negotiate rent increases and lease extensions.

Also to be evicted is Benoit's neighbor Little Miss Muffin 'N' Her Stuffin', a Trinidadian patty and muffin shop that One More Folded Sunset says has been serving some of the best patties in the city for 20 years. Miss Muffin has luckily found a new location, though in a less desirable spot.

Folded Sunset writes, "the whole deal here stinks--another story of small, family businesses pushed aside, replaced by the unremarkable, the unaffordable, the unspeakable. The true wealth of the city counts for nothing."


ish said...

What a loss! When I lived in Prospect Heights that was the perfect place to stop for some take-out on the way home. The best Cuban sandwiches ever! Sad to see Brooklyn go the way of lower Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

These businesses are going to be replaced with an urgent care medical clinic, which will pay top dollar. Apparently medical facilities can sign longer leases, and landlords favor them because they can always make rent, and they don't have to worry about the business failing. So sad because these are/were all thriving businesses.

Anonymous said...

Tell the mayor and city council.

Ivan said...

Oh dear God, this is horrible news. What is that corner of Flatbush Ave. going to look like?!?
And I grew up with this eatery! Years might have passed between eatings, but I still tied on the feedbag there semi-regular. Sigh... I would've preferred if a gas truck had crashed into the block and blew it up.
This is depressing. (And watch, the chrome-&-glass monstrosity they put up in Cagua's place will be so reflective, it increases accidents at that busy corner...)
Thanks Jeremiah for the hard work (if saddening news),

Anonymous said...

Oh God! An urgent care medical clinic? The one down the street on Flatbush and Sterling is such an eyesore. Isn't one enough? Talk about destroying the culture of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

If any small business thinks they are going to stay within striking distance of the Barclay Center they have been living under a rock for the past 5+ years.

laura r. said...

jeremiah please correct your post. you mean "rent stabilization" NOT "rent control" there is a big difference. stabilization means that rent goes up each time the lease is renewed, but only a %. im not sure how it is applied to commerical rentals. rent control is keeping the same rent for 40 years, there are people in NYC who live in 6 room apts & pay $500. its rent STABILIZED that is the correct term.

laura r. said...

her we go again. no place to eat, no haircuts. btw, i love your food pictures. besides reviving my appetite, i get ideas for cooking. what will happen w/out these nice cozy home cooked meals? will everyone be eatting fast food?

in a quandary said...

Que tristeza!

Here's Park Slope said...

The urgent medical care clinic is opening in the building next door.

I spoke to the owner of Gran Castillo and he said that if they have to close they've already worked out a deal to move into an empty storefront less than a block away.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I had my 79th birthday party atEl Gran Castila de Jagua. My friends hung out with me and had lots of that great food. I have been going to this restaurant for decades and have never been disappointed with the food. I am going to visit again before it closes and then I'll have to cry every time I pass this spot.

Anonymous said...

@Laura R, that's not true about rent control, rent control can still be increased based on fuel costs, there are very few rent control units and some have very high rents, tenants are actually better off in rent stabilized housing because there is a cap on the increases, fuel cost increases can be very high. commercial spaces are unregulated but there should really be some kind of regulations to help small businesses

Ken Mac said...

Thanks for the memories.