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Then and Now Thursday: December 16, 1960

Fifty years ago today, when two airplanes collided over Staten Island, sending one crashing down in a field and the other by the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place, the shockwaves were felt throughout the entire country. This was history's first major passenger airline disaster, and the sudden death of 136 people not only helped shed air travel's glamorous image, it inspired a revolution in radar and airline safety, and tested the mettle of the fledgling TV news industry.

In the ensuing years the crash was all but forgotten. The wreckage was cleared away, the damaged buildings demolished and eventually replaced by new apartments. Those who were there got older, and those who came after never learned about the crash (there's no marker on the site, after all). Thankfully, fifty years later, this tragedy is once again entering the public consciousness. A memorial to those who died was unveiled this morning in Green-Wood Cemetery, and New York Times City Room has published articles every day this week exploring every detail of the disaster, from the state of the neighborhood ("in transition") to the scene in the cockpit, to the media response, to the story of Steven Baltz, the 11-year old who survived the crash only to die the next day. 

Here are some photos of the scene of the Park Slope crash, both then and now. 

Looking north up Seventh, towards Sterling.

Looking east on Sterling, towards Seventh. The 1887 Lillian Ward Mansion (r.) emerged unscathed.

North side of Sterling, looking east towards Seventh. Note the distinctive fence (l.)

The wing tore a gash through 126 Sterling Place before crashing into the church across the street.

Seventh and Sterling, looking west

Seventh and Sterling, looking northeast

Seventh and Sterling, looking northwest

North side of Sterling, looking towards Seventh, 1961

Looking south on Seventh, towards Sterling, 1961

View east up Sterling, towards Seventh

If you're looking for any trace of the crash on this corner, you're not going to find any aside from the new corner buildings and 126 Sterling's missing cornice (those corner sites remained vacant lots until very recently). However, if you look carefully you may notice one remaining relic of the Pillar of Fire Church, the ironically-named epicenter of the crash. Some of its distinctive iron railing (noted in the photo above), with its squiggle pattern meant to symbolize fire, was salvaged from the wreckage and can now be found guarding the ground-floor windows of 109 Sterling Place.


Something Up at 63 Fifth

63 Fifth Avenue (at St. Marks), most recently home to the beloved but completely unnecessary bakery for dogs Buttercup's Paw-tisserie, has gotten a paint job and the windows have been papered over. Work is going on inside, and the permit on the door provides for the installation of a wall partition, sinks, and a counter, as well as a hot water heater in the basement. Could this mean a restaurant is on its way? Judging by recent trends, it'll either be an upscale pizza place or cafe.


Memorial to 1960 Plane Crash Victims to be Unveiled Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, on the 50th anniversary of the plane collision over Miller Field in Staten Island that killed 134 people and rained debris down over Park Slope, a memorial to those who lost their lives will finally be unveiled.

Green-Wood Cemetery will dedicate the eight-foot granite monument at 10 AM, and it'll stand right next to the gravesite where unidentified remains of the victims have been buried. If you're planning on attending, meet at the cemetery's main entrance at 25th and 5th at 9:45 AM, and be sure to RSVP with Isabella Vlacci first at 718-210-3024.

Photo via NY Times


OTBKB Announces 2010's "Park Slope 100"

Every year for the past five years, Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn has assembled an exhaustive list of "100 people, places and things that make Park Slope such a special place to live," and this year's list was unveiled this morning. If you have a few minutes, be sure to check it out. Great stories about the fascinating people and places that make Park Slope the best neighborhood in the city.


Business of the Week: Mega Glass & Sashes, 51 Fifth Avenue

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That philosophy just about sums up Mega Glass, the store and workshop on Fifth between St. Marks and Bergen. If that's not apparent after seeing the 25-year old handmade sign, it'll certainly be by the time you walk through the original doorway. It's truly a portal to an earlier time, as well as last remaining glass store in the area.

Owners Freddy and Gladys Garrastegui
It's astounding how long this store has been there. Before it was taken over in January of 1985 by Freddy Garrastegui and his wife Gladys (whose nephews built the sign), it was operated for 13 years by Freddy's father, Manuel. Before that, the store was called Swir Glass, and was owned and operated by the Swir family for sixty years. Do the math, and that means the shop opened its doors for the first time in 1912

Business is still good after all these years; if anything it increased as competition dwindled. It's patronized by a steady stream of contractors and building managers, and they still use the same glasscutting tools as always; the only evidence of new technology is a telephone, a small television and a laptop.

"This violin's never been touched by either me or my father," said Freddie.

Mega Glass & Sashes Co. Inc. 51 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-638-7511.