How One Block On Smith Street In Carroll Gardens Became Such An Eye Sore

Smith Street looking towards President Street
Rite Aid at 320 Smith Street at  President Street
Same block, looking towards Union Street

Just a few days ago, I received the following email from a PMFA reader:
"I want to suggest you do a post on the abandonded lot next to Rite Aid on Smith Street. I am shocked at how much garbage has accumulated there and how nobody seems to be raising a stink about how ugly this whole block looks. Does Rite Aid own this lot? If not who does and could you find out their contact information? They should just tear down that fence or market it to someone who could do something creative with the space (as long as they fix it up)."
Agreed.  The block between President Street and Union Streets on Smith Street is a real disgrace.  I had ment to write something about the situation for a while, but the email finally prompted me to take the photos above and to research the history of that particular block a bit further.

The way this block appeared in 1928
The view from Smith Street from President Street to Union Street in 1928 with the original buildings
The corner of Smith Street and President Street  and the original #320 Smith Street.
Smith bet Union and Pres
Middle of the block 302 to 320 Smith Street, looking towards Union Street in 1928

From the later part of the1800's to the 1930's this stretch of Smith Street between President and Court Street held a few two- and three- brownstones with storefronts on the ground floor, very much like the buildings that still exist across the street.  Behind them, on President Street across Carroll Park was the old St. Marin Church.   All the houses, including the church, were taken down when the subway tunnel was built underneath Smith Street in the '30's.
The resulting empty lot was used by La Scala Motors for decades.  In 1998, the land was sold to a Mr. Robert Ull of  Ulltra Car Park, Inc., who operated a parking lot on that spot for just a bit over a year.
Shortly afterwards, in 1999, the community was informed that Mr. Ull,  together with John Genovese, was planning to build a Genovese drug store on that site.  The architect for the project was Joel Miele.
Excavation work began in May 1999,  before proper permits were in place . Almost immediately, a stop-work order was issued by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to give the MTA time to examine the developer's plans.
From a Community Notice circulated from that time:
"The original proposal was designed to rest over the MTA subway tunnel along Smith Street.  It was to consist of a 10,000 square foot rental store for genovese Drugs and two or three much smaller stores occupying the narrow Union Street end.  One proposal was to include two floors of rental units to be built over the Union Street portion.
The MTA rejected a proposal for cantilevering the structure over the subway tunnel.  The developer Robert Ull, decided that the only cost-effective way of constructing the building was to move the front wall back from the subway easement along Smith Street.  He reconfigured the floor plan to give Genovese the 10,000 square feet.  He could not build the smaller stores on the Union Street end at all, since without the MTA easement he would have only ten feet from the building behind.
Instead, he added a second story to the main building to be used for five rental apartments, accessed from President Street.
Since the single lot at the corner of Union Street and Smith Street will not be built on, Mr.  Ull is planning to find use for it as a garden nursery, or some other such commercial use as would not require the construction of a permanent building."
The Genovese store with 5 apartments was completed in 2001.  Shortly afterwards, Genovese was sold to the Florida-based Eckerd Corporation, which in turn was sold to Rite Aid in 2007.
The narrow strip at Union and Smith Street was left untended.  In the mid-2000, a few metal booths and a tent were placed at that corner.  The Brooklyn Indie Market operated a week-end and holiday market there until 2010.
These days,   Rite Aid seems to be using the ripped tent to store old shelving and empty cans.
The metal booths have slowly rusted away and have been graffitied. Trash has steadily accumulated along the entire strip, including in the tree pits in front of Rite Aid.

It is hard to determine who is to blame, the drug store or the owner(s) of the property.  One thing is for sure: it would not take much to ameliorate the situation.  The community should certainly push for the tent and the booths to be removed if they will no longer be used.
I love the original idea of having a nursery there. What about you?

Below are two proposals for the development from 1999, including the originally planned stores for the strip close to Union Street.

Please click through to the comment page for contact information provided by readers.  It would help if we all make a few telephone calls. 
And if you receive a response, please forward it to me so that I can let everyone know.