empty lot on Bedford/N1 in Williamsburg with the stuffed gorilla finally up for sale
The empty lot on the corner of Bedford and North 1st in Williamsburg, which has never had anything in it apart from junker cars, wild mint and, for the last seven or eight years, a popular ever-changing diorama of stuffed animals, is finally up for sale, as the giant sign that just went up let you know.
So much of Williamsburg has radically changed in the last 10 years, from epicenter of hipsterdom to shiny new condoland that's home to J Crews, MUJI stores and bankers, that lot has stayed the same. It was owned by Luis Rivera, who bought it in 1983 and ran an open-air car garage on the lot (and lived there too) and died in 2010. Ownership went to relatives, but upkeep went to Carmen Bonilla who has taken care of the stuffed animals. The NY Times did a profile in 2014:
Ms. Bonilla was a supervisor for one of the companies that place clothing donation bins on sidewalks, earning enough to buy, with her husband, a house on the south side of Williamsburg for just $11,000 in the early 1960s. She and Mr. Rivera struck up a friendship when she started bringing him some food, then coats in the winter, then insulin for his diabetes.
She was visiting her son upstate when she rescued a pair of stuffed gorillas on the verge of being dumped. They reminded her, she said, of a pet monkey she had growing up in Puerto Rico.
Mr. Rivera was already quietly collecting what he called a “museum” of stuffed animals, wooden owls, discarded computer desks and the like. His red sedan held a motley stash of tools, luggage and clothing he gave away to anyone who asked, accepting food and odds and ends in exchange.
The wall that bordered the south side of the lot was used as billboard space, including a few indie rock related ones, like for Pinback in 2013. I lived on that block for 18 years, till last summer. (I still live in the neighborhood.) It was bound to be sold, everyone knew the day would come, but as the years went by and it remained empty, it seemed like it might stay like that forever. It was still a shock to see the sign in the lot on the way home from last night's Liars show. Definitely the end of an era.
Watch Pinback's "Proceed to Memory" video which is a time-lapse of painters making the billboard on that lot: