Saturday, September 30, 2017

Bayside Oil - Former Astral Oil Works in Greenpoint

Historic bird's eye lithograph of the Astral Oil works showing buildings, smoke stacks, boat landing and former Bushwick Creek.
Birds Eye View of Astral Oil Works (Source: Novelty Theater)
Historic lithograph of gasoline still and manufacturing area at the Astral Oil Works plant
Gasoline Still at Astral Oil Works (Source: Novelty Theater)
Heating oil storage tanks with Bayside logo and some graffiti
Heating Oil Storage Tank - Bayside Oil
Neighborhood: Border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg
Address: Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

The Bayside Oil site on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg was first developed by Charles Pratt as part of the Astral Oil Works in the 1860s. Pratt’s facility was used to manufacture kerosene and other oil products. For some time, more oil was refined in Greenpoint than anywhere else, in part due to Astral Oil Works. Those who live in Greenpoint will probably recognize the Astral moniker from the landmarked Astral Apartments that were built to house Astral Oil Works employees. Pratt was forced to sell Astral Oil to John D. Rockefeller and his company was assimilated into Standard Oil. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil once owned most of the refineries along Newtown Creek. Standard Oil used the Astral Oil Works site for refining and storage until the 1940s before it was transferred to the Bayside Company.

Bayside Oil three story industrial building and empty asphalt truck lot
Bayside Industrial Building
Oil works pipes and truck stalls with weeds growing in pavement cracks
Oil Works Pipes
Gas pump at stall at Bayside Oil plant in Greenpoint
Gas Pump

Sergio Allegretti started the Bayside Heating Oil Corporation. The company has its roots in the ice carting business of the early 20th century. With the advent and expansion of refrigeration the business evolved into a one-truck coal company. Then, when oil became the dominant fuel source they began hauling oil. Although the oil enterprise began as a one-truck oil dealership, Sergio’s son Alfred convinced his father to expand the company and establish a terminal on the Gowanus before expanding further to include terminals in Bensonhurst and Williamsburg. As of 2001 the company employed more than 270 people and included 100 trucks that moved 300 million gallons of heating oil a year.

Like many other waterfront enterprises, Bayside once had a connection to the mafia. Former mob capo Joseph Corrao once worked as a salesman for the company. Although, it isn’t clear how involved the mob was in the business, Bayside lost a city contract due to its affiliation with Corrao.

Former Bayside Oil garage and shop with graffiti on it
Garage & Workshop
The Greenpoint site was slated for purchase by the city for inclusion in Bushwick Inlet Park as part of deal with the community for rezoning the local waterfront. Until a year or so ago, the 8-acre parcel was still full of oil trucks; however, the facility hasn’t stored oil at the location for several years now. As promised, the city purchased the land in March of 2016 for $53 million. Another recent use of the site worth noting is that it was a set in the film A Most Violent Year and was used to shoot the violent finale.


  1. Martin, Douglas "Alfred Allegretti, 65, Heating Oil Executive" New York Times 26 January, 2001
  2. Hobbs, Allegra "Striking Oil: City Buys Bayside Depot, Expands Bushwick Inlet Park" Brooklyn Paper 11 March, 2016
  3. Friend, Tad "Oil Man" The New Yorker 5 January, 2015
  4. "Cleaning Up Bushwick Inlet Park" Brooklyn 11211 20 July, 2016
  5. "Astral Oil Works" Novelty Theater


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brooklyn Heights Orphanage

Old four story tall red brick building.
Brooklyn Heights Orphanage
Facade of old, historic four story tall red brick building.
Brooklyn Heights Orphanage
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Address: 57 Poplar Street

This beautiful Brooklyn Heights building was once an orphanage. Designed by architect Marshall Morrill, the red brick Victorian Gothic Style building featured arched windows and a French mansard roof, first popularized during the Baroque period, punctuated by dormers. The 60’ x 100’ building is 4 stories plus an attic and basement. Housed within it were a dining room, kitchen, bathrooms, gymnasium, offices, classrooms, reading room, parlor and bedrooms. It was built in 1883 to replace a building that was too small to meet the needs of the facility.

Dormers in mansard roof of old, historic red brick building.
The building was the headquarters for the Brooklyn Children’s Aid Society. The Aid Society was known for establishing a home for newsboys or newsies. The newsies were young boys, many of them orphaned and homeless whom hocked the city’s newspapers on the street. The boys were between five and fifteen years old and included bootblacks and messengers in addition to those who sold newspapers. When the Society first took in the newsboys it was in a more modest building that occupied the site of 61 Poplar Street. An influx of boys quickly filled that building necessitating the larger home.

Narrow arched windows in building facade.
In addition to feeding and housing the orphaned boys, the new home was used to run classes for manual labor skills, drawing and military drills. Although the institution was a boy’s home, sewing classes were offered to boys and girls and in 1888 a cooking class for girls was instituted. The cooking class taught girls to bake bread, as well as cook meat, vegetables and deserts. An added benefit to the cooking class was that the girls were allowed to take whatever they made home.

Main building entrance.
Sometime around 1911 the building was converted to studio apartments. Then, it was used as a machine shop prior to being abandoned. By the mid 1970s the orphanage and adjacent historic buildings were badly deteriorated. The structure was supposed to be renovated and converted into 30 residential units in 1976. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the former orphanage and adjacent buildings were connected and converted into luxury condos by David Hirsch and firm Wids de le Coeur.

  1. Vehslage, Ann “A Bone of Contention” Brooklyn Heights Press 12 February, 1976
  2. Spellen, Suzanne "Building of the Day: 57 Poplar Street" Brownstoner 12 May, 2011