New York City has plenty of secrets hiding behind the walls of its buildings and in its marshy areas where you usually don’t feel too much like venturing in deeply. For one weekend a year, Open House New York allows you to peek behind the walls and learn about some of the city’s most interesting buildings and landmarks. There are plenty of tours to see around the city on October 17 and 18, and plenty to see in Brooklyn, but you only have so much time. So, here are the tours we think look most interesting right here in BK (tours that require $5 reservations, which open October 7 at 11am, are noted as needing them).
Coffey Street Residence
It’s always cool to a peek inside other people’s houses, especially when that house is a townhouse built with maximum open spaces in mind. Since the odds are none of us will ever get to own a Red Hook townhouse with a secret garden, a sunken living room with built in seating and a not one but two sweet roof decks with views of the water and Staten Island, you may as well wander around this house and pretend like you own it, even for just a little while.
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
Since they opened in 2010, the Newtown Creek treatment plant “eggs” have been a local landmark, a source of curiosity for city residents and most confusingly, a Valentine’s Day hot spot. Why wait until that Hallmark holiday for your chance to get a peek at what goes on in the city’s most artistic sewage plant though, especially since this tour is less likely to have couples simultaneously hugging each other close and holding each other’s noses in a romantic gesture. (Reservation required)
Maybe you’ve been curious about the Kings Theatre renovation since it reopened, but haven’t been to keen on paying big bucks for the privilege of looking around inside. This is the tour for you then, as you can get a look at the lovingly restored 20th century movie house on a self-guided tour, and ask the staff on hand any questions you might have about the theatre.
Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype
As much as we’d rather it not happen, some terrible disaster like another hurricane or maybe an alien invasion will hit New York again. Get a look at the prototype housing replacement the city is working on to help people whose homes are destroyed in the next calamity to affect us, both because it’s interesting and because it never hurts to get familiar with something you might need in the future. (Reservation required)
Brooklyn Army Terminal
Before it was a thriving industrial center the Brooklyn Army Terminal was a military supply center built in World War I, designed by Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Woolworth Building. It was also the largest concrete structure ever built at the time it was constructed, which is just one of the facts you can learn about this unique building on the tour.
The Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch has an impressive building from the outside, but didn’t you ever wonder what goes on in places other than the areas where the librarians are shushing you? Now you can, with this tour that will bring you places like the Trustees’ Room (which apparently has a great view of Grand Army Plaza) and give you an explanation of the characters found on the library’s entranceway. If you take the reservation-required behind the scenes tour, you’ll get all that PLUS a look at the library’s underground stacks.
Maspeth Avenue Plank Road at Newtown Creek
Beyond your knowledge that Newtown Creek is a hellish nightmare body of water you wouldn’t even want to fall into, what else do you really know about it? Did you know, for instance, that it used to have a charming wood bridge connecting Maspeth to a polluted hellscape factory island? Now you can get a look at the area near this bridge and learn what activists are doing to clean up and restore the creek so that you might one day just have a laugh if you a push a friend in, instead of caching an “Unusual and horrible assault in the second degree” charge. BONUS: there will also be a barbecue with complimentary hot dogs and sodas on this tour. (Reservation required)
GBX – Gowanus Bay Terminal
Ever go down to Red Hook and stare at the seemingly abandoned huge industrial building on the waterfront? Turns out that it’s no abandoned at all, and is in fact a shipping and industrial center that’s still in use. The Gowanus Bay Terminal is now home to a company that recycles slag to use in place of concrete and another one that creates Manufactured Concrete Aggregate in place of quarried stone, among other environmentally responsible businesses. (Reservation required)