Henrik Krogius – world traveler, Emmy-award winning news producer and editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press for 22 of Brooklyn’s most transformative years -- has announced his retirement.
“My career has gone through many changes, from movie house newsreels to early-days black-and-white television, to color television and satellite transmissions, and back to the traditional weekly newspaper,” he writes in his farewell editorial (see below). “I’ve sometimes felt I was a living anachronism, watching obsolescence take over everything I was involved in. Perhaps it’s time for something more restful, or, in any case, some project not bound to the insistent wheel of progress, or ‘progress.’”
At the helm of the 75-year-old Brooklyn Heights Press and Cobble-Hill News weekly, Krogius chronicled his neighborhood’s change from a “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.
Along the way, Krogius wrote several books: “New York, You're a Wonderful Town!: Fifty-Plus Years of Chronicling Gotham,” in 2003; and his latest, “The Brooklyn Heights Promenade” in 2011.
“I’m looking for a new project but I haven’t decided what it will be yet,” he told this paper on Wednesday. “Come the new year, after the holidays, I’ll start thinking about it seriously.”
Before he joined the Heights Press, Krogius worked for 27 years as a writer, editor and news producer at NBC, including a stint as editor of the Huntley-Brinkley Report. In 1977, he won an Emmy award in the category “Best Local News Program” for his work as producer of the 11 O’clock News.
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 calls “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.
As reported in this paper, 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. (Read more about this at brooklynheightspress.wordpress.com)
Born in Finland, Krogius came to New York in 1939 at the age of ten 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 travel and freelance reportage from Europe, Asia and Africa in 1954-56, travels that were extended by another photography prize.
Journalism is 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.”
At the end of 1990, J. Dozier Hasty, publisher of the Brooklyn Heights Press and Cobble Hill News 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.
Even before he became editor of the Heights Press, Krogius wrote about the movement to transform the Heights’ waterfront into a park. “It started in 1985; I wrote about the first meeting to start Brooklyn Bridge Park,” he said.
Two years ago he compiled the research he conducted in the ’70s and ’80s — his interviews, correspondences and conclusions — into his book, “The Brooklyn Heights Promenade.” It contains several dozen black-and-white photos taken by Krogius and others over the lifespan of the Promenade, a nostalgic record of a special place.
“I wanted to write it to solidify my claim to be the historian of the Promenade,” Krogius told this paper last year.
Krogius is married to Elaine Taylor Krogius, a retired arts librarian. They have two sons and two grandchildren.
An Editor’s Farewell
By Henrik Krogius
Twenty-two years ago, in a chance meeting on Montague Street, publisher Dozier Hasty asked me if I would want to spend two days a week editing the Brooklyn Heights Press. I had taken early retirement from NBC News two years before to pursue grant-funded studies on prospects for a better integration of highways into the urban fabric – a project that grew out my research into how the Brooklyn Heights Promenade came to be built on top of the BQE. While still at NBC I had written several articles for the Press as I picked up new bits of information about that story (finally culminating in my 2011 book, The Brooklyn Heights Promenade).
Well, two days a week turned into more like three-and-a-half. While my broader project bore little fruit (Promenade opportunities proved too rare), the work for the Press became most stimulating. Brooklyn Heights itself had stabilized after its historic district designation in 1965 – significant change had become rare except for the constant flux of retail space changing hands on Montague Street – but a whole new Brooklyn was a-borning on its edges, and the struggles to create a park along its waterfront from which merchant shipping had vanished would become our single biggest running story.
What had been the rather insular, Manhattan-oriented world of Brooklyn Heights changed as a changing Brooklyn beckoned, and the Press quickly reflected a whole new environment. Bruce Ratner’s Metrotech, David Walentas’s repurposed DUMBO, Joshua Muss’s bringing back the possibility of Brooklyn hotels people would want to stay in, Harvey Lichtenstein’s vision of a new cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music – and, finally, Ratner’s Atlantic Yards dream and the actuality of bringing a major-league sports franchise to an imposing new Brooklyn arena – all these, with the differences of opinion that attended all of them, became grist for our reporting and comment. And, in addition to such specific projects, there was the growing gentrification spreading beyond the Heights and Cobble Hill to neighborhoods like Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and Gowanus, among others.
Brooklyn, from being dismissed as a sad has-been, something of a national joke, was turning into a desirable international brand. The world’s perhaps most famous soccer player and his celebrity wife named their son Brooklyn, and the Beckhams were not alone (Brooklyn became a girl’s name, as well). The Brooklyn “renaissance,” as it became dubbed, had an incomparable interpreter and champion in Dennis Holt, with whom it was my great privilege to work for some fifteen years up to his tragic death last spring. We conferred daily on stories and commentary we were doing for the Heights Press.
With the loss of Dennis, a very considerable part of my joy in the Press enterprise was also lost. Which is to take nothing away from the other skilled, dedicated and amiable staffers Dozier Hasty had assembled to put together not just the Press but also the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and additional weekly publications. We have had an excellent team. But technological change – the coming of blogs and digital social networks – has had its economic impact on such things as weekly newspapers. The Heights Press in its earlier guise is evidently no longer viable. My career has gone through many changes, from movie house newsreels to early-days black-and-white television, to color television and satellite transmissions, and back to the traditional weekly newspaper. I’ve sometimes felt I was a living anachronism, watching obsolescence take over everything I was involved in. Perhaps it’s time for something more restful, or, in any case, some project not bound to the insistent wheel of progress, or “progress.”