Fourth in the “Building Strange Weather Blog” series by producer/engineer and studio owner Marc Alan Goodman. Click to start at Step 1: Finding A New Home; Step 2: Design; Step 3: Waiting For Permits (Part 1).
Williamsburg, Brooklyn: The building that’s going to house the new Strange Weather is an interesting beast. As far as I can find it was originally built in 1919 as a factory of some sort. The main structure is brick with ten-foot ceilings and nominal wooden joists (the ceiling and floor joists are actual inch measurements as opposed to dimensional lumber in which a 2 x 4 is really 1.5 x 3.25 inches).
There is part of a staircase in the basement that looks like it must have been for the factory. Then, at some point after that, two stories of apartments were built on top. These were built with dimensional lumber and to me look like they were probably intended initially as temporary housing for dock workers from the then newly constructed Williamsburg waterfront. Sometime after that, a hollow cinderblock addition was added to the first floor with slightly lower ceilings and no basement.
As far as the city is concerned, or at least as far as they would tell me, the building was put up in 1919 and a “shed for storing barrels” was added in 1925. There are no other records, no other plans. But in order to work with what we have it was necessary to do a lot of research. And by research I mean tearing open every wall I could find to see what’s going on in between. This brought a lot of both good and bad news.
Since the plans call for raising the ceiling on the rear structure where the new control room is going to sit, the first thing we needed to know is what kind of foundation, if any, was there. Which meant digging a hole. At the time, there was a 50 or so year old tree growing out of the rear wall of the building.
There was no internal damage but it seemed like the roots must be in the foundation, so the tree had to go. With the roots would hopefully come enough concrete and dirt to see what the foundation was like down there. I got six or seven estimates for the work, but one company cut me a really good deal because they were doing a job in the neighborhood and were going to have a truck there anyway.
They came in early the next morning, took the tree down and left the whole thing in my back yard. Plus they didn’t pull the stump up. The team that was supposed to come pick it up never showed, and their phone went out of service and website disappeared. All in all very strange, but they only got half of my money and it wasn’t even very much for the job so I figured something must be up.
A few weeks later I finally get a return phone call saying that one of the men had fallen out of a tree and they were out of commission for a week or two. Two weeks after that I got another call promising that they’d come take care of it as soon as possible as well as do some other work for free.
Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going — they still never showed. So after five weeks I hired Evergreen Tree Service to come in and finish the job. Then, after Evergreen were already on the way to my place, the first company calls and says they’ll be there at 9:30 the next morning. So I call Evergreen and apologize. The next day: again no show. Lesson learned. I called Evergreen back and they took care of it fast. Consider them highly recommended.
It turned out to be a really big job removing the stump, which is probably why the first company disappeared. The roots were not growing into the building as suspected, they were wrapped around a concrete bin and digging in about four feet away from the main growth of the tree. It looked like some crazy rain forest root. But since the whole tree was sitting on top of the concrete they couldn’t just take a chainsaw to it, and it took all day with a pick-axe to get the thing out.