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Then & Now Thursday: Eighth Street

Two-story brownstones completely dominate the north side of Eighth Street between Seventh and Eighth in this photo from 1949. 

The view today may be slightly blocked by trees (look how that odd tree in the middle with the two tall branches is still there!), but other than the addition of more cars, the view is still completely the same. The top photo could have very easily been taken in Midtown Manhattan in the early 1900s, but that streetscape would be completely gone today.


What's Up With Artesana and El Milagro?

Artesana, the 12-year old exotic rug and housewares store on Seventh Avenue and First Street, has been saying that they'd be closing for good and merging with sister store El Milagro "at the end of the month" since October. In December they even had a daily countdown on their window, but after getting down to "One," by the next day it was back up to "31." They'd been able to negotiate lease extensions, apparently, but it's been confirmed now that they will in fact be shutting down on January 31st, for good. 

So it came as a bit of a surprise to notice that now El Milagro's windows have been papered over. Could the store Artesana had been planning on consolidating with close up unexpectedly as well?

After a little digging, the answer to that question is no, thankfully. In anticipation of the merger, El Milagro's owners are completely renovating the store (on Seventh Ave and 11th Street), necessitating the window-papering. When it re-opens next month, it'll still sell jewelry, along with the rugs, furniture and housewares from Artesana.


Can Councilman Lander Save the Day for South Slopers?

As the huddled masses brave the cold to line up for access to the temporary Smith/9th Street F/G platform, other Brooklyn residents have been far more inconvenienced by the rehabilitation of the nearby Culver Viaduct, which has completely shut down Manhattan-bound service from the 15th Street/ Prospect Park West station in Park Slope and the adjacent Fort Hamilton station in Windsor Terrace until May. Councilman Brad Lander has come up with a fix, though: just extend the B68 bus route!

Lander, who's recent credits include trying to get something done about those idling ships polluting the air in Red Hook, has collected 500 signatures on his petition and has also written a letter to MTA Chairman Jay Walder begging that something be done to stop the insanity, which adds about 20 minutes onto local residents' commute. "What we are asking the MTA is very reasonable," Lander told WNYC. "We aren't seeking new shuttle buses, or changes in routing, or even changes in their construction schedule. Just a short, simple extension of the existing B68 Bus route, that now terminates at a closed station, up just a few minutes more to the next open station. It would not cost much, or disrupt service. But it would make a big difference to a lot of people."

MTA officials are, of course, against the idea, suggesting that riders just take the B67/B69, which links Park Slope to Windsor Terrace, or the B61, which runs along Ninth Street up to Prospect Park West. Another option? Backtracking, or riding a couple stops in the opposite direction before transferring over to the other side of the platform. 

Lander also accuses the MTA of not listening to the needs of the community, many of whom are quite pissed. "'I have a little child at home, so now we have to get him to day care faster," local Don Lynaugh told WNYC. "It sets everything back, obviously." Tom Chin was slightly more candid. "I'm just filled with expletives," he told The Daily News. "I'm not happy. It's just a huge inconvenience."

This article originally appeared in Gothamist.


The Strangest Car in The Slope?

This funky specimen has been parked in front of my apartment for about the past week. I can't believe it's even street legal. 

It's decked out with various NYC cityscapes, and is topped with a towering Empire State Building. There's a light on top, as well as on the Godzilla perched on the roof. The Hoff is also represented.

And as for the exhaust pipe? The Holland Tunnel, of course.


Business of the Week: 200 Fifth

There's something to be said for a true sports bar. They may get a little fratty at times, sure, but when a big game is on and you have a craving to watch it with tons of other crazed fans in a setting where you can also get a burger, wings, and beer, and be surrounded by TVs in every direction, 200 Fifth sure hits the spot. 

Bensonhurst native Mark Gerbush opened the restaurant, on Fifth Avenue near Union Street, in 1987, when Fifth Avenue was a restaurant wasteland. It became a success, and soon he was able to buy the building. 

If you decide to watch a big game there, be warned: It'll be crowded. If you get there early enough and grab a seat at the bar or at one of the many (slightly awkwardly arranged) booths, though, one thing will be certain: you won't have to crane your neck to get a view of a TV. There are so many that they could probably tack a "Personal TV" charge onto your bill. 40 beers on tap also keep the selection diverse. An insider tip: If you're planning on ordering top shelf or brand name booze in your drink, make sure you watch them make it; they've been known to reach for the bottom shelf when no one's looking.

If you're not there to watch a game, you'll probably find yourself a lot more comfortable on the other side of the restaurant, which has a far less fratty feel. The spacious dining area still retains several details of the restaurant's former life as a hardware store, and service is consistently good. The menu's best items are the burgers and bar snacks, but pricier items like pork chops, ribs, and steaks tend to be surprisingly good as well. Salads and sandwiches are also worthwhile, and theme nights like Tuesday Soul Food Night help to mix things up. 

The restaurant side
If you're a fan of the traditional NYC Drunk Brunch, you'll be happy to know that 10 bucks will buy you unlimited "champagne" with your meal. And I don't mean having to flag down a harried waiter for your begrudging refill: it's delivered in liter carafes, and is usually refreshed automatically as you're approaching the bottom. Caveat emptor!

200 Fifth is the kind of restaurant that tries to be everything to all people, and generally meets with success. Rowdy sports bar, fine dining, leisurely brunch spot, it's got all the bases covered, for better or worse.

They're open until very late every night, and deliver into the wee hours as well. If you're going to order delivery, though, be prepared for a relatively frustrating ordering experience, as every small detail needs to be entered into the computer. 

200 Fifth, 200 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-638-2925.