By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn lost a tireless chronicler early Tuesday morning as Henrik Krogius – world traveler, Emmy-award winning NBC news producer and editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press and Cobble-Hill News for 22 of Brooklyn’s most transformative years – passed away at the age of 87.
Krogius had been struggling with prostate cancer, according to his wife Elaine Taylor Krogius.
Krogius served for 27 years as a writer and producer for NBC News and its New York affiliate and was for some eight years the producer of the 11 O’Clock News in New York. His work brought him into contact with such broadcast luminaries as Mike Wallace, Frank McGee, Edwin Newman, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Tom Brokaw and Chuck Scarborough.
In 1977, he won an Emmy Award in the category “Best Local News Program” for his work on the 11 O’Clock News.
In his later career at the helm of the 79-year-old Heights Press, Krogius chronicled his neighborhood’s change from an “insular, Manhattan-oriented world” to its present day as part of a transformed Brownstone and Downtown Brooklyn. His award-winning photography, insightful editorial comment and a deep working knowledge of Brooklyn’s history made the paper a must-read for residents of the Heights.
During Krogius’ watch, Bruce Ratner’s Metrotech, David Walentas’ repurposed DUMBO, Joshua Muss’ Brooklyn hotels, gentrification, Harvey Lichtenstein’s vision around the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards arena all became grist for the paper’s reporting and comment.
Along the way, Krogius wrote several books filled with his remarkable photography: “New York, You're a Wonderful Town! Fifty-Plus Years of Chronicling Gotham” in 2003; “The Brooklyn Heights Promenade” in 2011 and the just-published “Brooklyn Bridge Park: A Dying Waterfront Transformed” (Fordham University Press).
In “Brooklyn Bridge Park: A Dying Waterfront Transformed,” Krogius and lawyer and park leader Joanne Witty told the story of the transformation of a maritime “wasteland” into an urban treasure.
Krogius’ colleagues at the Brooklyn Eagle and Heights Press had warm memories of their time working with him.
Krogius was “the greatest master of photography that I knew in person,” said former Eagle Production Manager Artur Ramus. Ramus said Krogius “taught me that the eye of photographer and how to frame the photograph are the most important tools of the reporter — not the camera with its bells and whistles and its price.”
Krogius was “always a gentleman to me and a professional reporter with a huge knowledge of human nature and predictions for the future to come,” Ramus added. “He was upset about malicious things and unfairness in the world around him, and he had the same attitude to people who were just starting, like me in the office, as he did to the people seasoned in the business.”
Krogius was always was willing to poke fun at himself, but, “on a somber note, I saw firsthand albums of photos that he took after WWII when he was in Europe as reporter,” Ramus said. “Seeing the ruins of whole cities and countries had a huge impact on me, even though I saw photos like this in books and albums back home. He showed me this in completely different light.”
"Henrik rarely let a day go by where he wouldn't come take a seat near my desk and chat about the state of sports here in Downtown Brooklyn,” said John Torenli, sports editor at the Eagle since 1999. “I know he was an avid tennis fan and quite the outdoorsman. His compliments regarding my copy meant the most to me because of his vast experience in the field of both print and television journalism. I'm very proud to call him a mentor and colleague."
“He was an incredibly supportive colleague and encouraged and influenced my photography in so many ways,” said reporter Mary Frost. “Henrik instantly zoomed in on something in photos that I would have overlooked. He was unstinting in his quest for achieving the greatest product artistically and journalistically that he could produce, week after week. And he knew the players and the issues intimately.”
“Henrik was the consummate gentleman and the consummate journalist,” said reporter Paula Katinas. “I always admired his writing talent. He could make any story lively and interesting. He was a pro.”
“Henrik and I first met when I was a rookie reporter at the Heights Press back in 1983,” said Religion Editor Francesca Norsen Tate. “He brought to my attention an error in the headline of my story about the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Harry Kruener, then-senior minister of Plymouth Church. I had made the common rookie mistake of saying that Dr. Kruener had preached his ‘final sermon’ at Plymouth instead of his ‘farewell’ sermon. Henrik pointed this out to me with great gentleness and even a humorous twinkle in his eye.”
“Henrik was a true gentleman and will be missed immensely,” said Alice Peters, business manager at the Eagle.
Fascination with the Promenade
While still with NBC, Krogius began to research the somewhat mysterious origins of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and its cantilevered deck, which was built in 1951. He received three grants to study the possibilities for a better relationship between urban highways and pedestrians -– but found nothing equal to the Promenade, which he called “the most remarkable, unusual segment of any highway maybe anywhere.”
In 1953, while on leave from the Air Force, he wrote to Robert Moses, New York’s all-powerful “master builder,” to voice his disagreement with an unpopular plan to build 70-foot warehouses on Furman Street, effectively blocking the view from the Promenade.
He received a personal, two-page reply, beginning “Dear Lieutenant,” which contended that Krogius simply didn’t understand the complications of zoning. (The warehouses, however, were never built.)
Krogius was also a leader in the campaign to create Poxabogue County Park, which led to the Long Pond Greenbelt, an interconnected expanse of ponds, woods and wetlands that stretches from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack in Long Island.
A Poxabogue summer resident since 1965, Krogius and his wife Elaine lobbied town and county legislators, eventually resulting in the purchase of land by condemnation by the county. Krogius later served for several years on the board for the Group for the East End and he and his wife were honored as the first Champions of the Greenbelt by the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt in 2008.
Born in Finland, Krogius came to New York in 1939 at the age of 10 and spent his teen years in Brooklyn Heights. He studied architecture at Harvard and journalism at Columbia. From Columbia, he received a Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship that formed the basis of his travel and freelance reportage from Europe, Asia and Africa in 1954-56, travels that were extended by another photography prize.
Journalism was in his blood. “My mother’s parents ran a newspaper for Swedish-speaking Finns [Finska Amerikanaren] from Sunset Park in the late 1800s or early 1900s,” he said. His mother attended Columbia Journalism School. “It was the first mother-son combination to have gone to Columbia Journalism School,” he told this paper.
At the end of 1990, Heights Press publisher J. Dozier Hasty invited Krogius to be the paper’s editor. “Following the development that led to Brooklyn Bridge Park has to be the biggest single story we followed during those years,” Krogius said in a past interview.
Besides his wife Elaine Taylor Krogius, a retired arts librarian, Krogius leaves two sons, Sven and Tor Krogius; his brother Tristan Krogius; and two grandchildren: Max Krogius, Tor’s son, and Emma Halper, Tor’s daughter.
A memorial service will be held at Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights on November 5 at 10 a.m.