Friday, April 28, 2006

Chicago Bans Foie Gras. Is New York Next?

The Chicago City Council voted unanimously yesterday to ban the sale of foie gras as reported in an amusingly written story in the Sun Times and related by A Full Belly. If the "City of broad shoulders! Hog butcher to the world!" can do it, can the Five Boroughs be far behind?

This is significant in that New York State is one of two states in the U.S. with farms that feed ducks and geese to produce foie gras and New York City is one of the nation's centers of foie gras consumption. There are two farms in New York and one in California. Animal rights activists really dislike foie gras because ducks and geese are force fed (with very nasty looking long plastic tubes) to enlarge their livers. Bills that would ban the industry have been introduced and died in Albany. (The anti-foie gras line is available at, and others.)

While only a handful of retaurants in Chicago, the city of stockyards and steak houses, dish out foie gras, New York City boasts one of the longest lists of foie gras serving restaurants in the U.S. There are at least 29 restaurants in New York offering foie gras, according to, which apparently keeps track. The list includes some of the best known restaurants in town, including 5 Ninth, 71 Clinton Fresh Food, Alain Ducasse and Per Se.

Midtown (no surprise) leads the list, with 7 foie gras serving restaurants. Tribeca, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side are tied for second place with three each. Brooklyn comes in third, with two restaurants--Moutarde on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, which offers Sauteed Duck Foie Gras with Xeres Vinegar & Prune Compote, and River Cafe on Water Street, which serves Terrine of French Foie Gras with Port and ginger poached plum, cracked pepper brittle and brioche melba toast. (Does Marty Markowitz know?)

Two centers of duck and goose torment emerge, with multiple pins on a google map (foie gras and New York City map mashup, anyone?): West 58th Street and, yes, the Time-Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

Mayor Richard M. Daley's reaction to the Chicago ordinance, which he opposed: “We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers. We have real issues here in this city. And we’re dealing with foie gras?" Hizzoner also said he didn't want City Council members reaching into his fish tank for sushi. "That would really bother us," the Mayor told the Sun Times.

No word on where Mike and Christine Quinn stand on the issue, or whether Chicago's Aldermen will next move to ban veal.

Cafe Steinhof on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope take note: We know all about your Wiener Schnitzel.

Williamsburg Graffiti Moment

This carefully scrawled artistic angst in the Burg is written near the landmarked-delandmarked-relandmarked-delandmarked Austin Nichols and Co. Warehouse building designed by Cass Gilbert at 184 Kent Avenue. You know, the one that is about to be converted to condos. "I'm just a guy with paint on my coat," the graffito writer writes.

With construction starting on the thousands of waterfront and other luxury condos units already zoned and approved, the only people splattered with paint at some point in the not too distant future could be the ones painting walls in the million dollar condos.

A few minutes after I shot this photo, as I was taking pictures of 184 Kent, a Hasidic man going into the building saw me and asked, in a friendly way, "So, you like the area?"

It was the third time in less than a year that different Hasidic men in Williamsburg had asked me the exact same question when they saw me shooting pictures. (Although one also asked if I shot portraits because he needed some done and another seemed concerned that I might be looking for evidence of construction permit violations.) Is this the Hasidic Williamsburg equivalent of, "So, you like the weather?" Or, having hit the real estate jackpot, are they trying to reassure themselves that people really are paying a million dollars for apartments in Williamsburg?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spring in Williamsburg

Spring in Williamsburg, originally uploaded by rsguskind.

This is the tagged up Secret Project Robot van parked next to a tagged up industrial building under a blossoming tree on Metropolitan between Kent and River St. Curbed featured this photo from my flickr stream today as part of its ongoing "Spring" series, and Lockhart Steele called it "Dejeuner sur L'herbe." If you are into poster art and enjoy the way indie-produced posters make the Brooklyn streetscape more interesting, there are three days left to check out Secret Project Robot's Brooklyn Poster Show at Monster Island (210 Kent). It closes Sunday, April 30. Open from 2-8 PM on Friday and Saturday. Noon-5 PM on Sunday. All those blossoms are pretty much done soon too, the weekend Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden notwithstanding.

Welcome to the Gowanus Lounge, Meet Our Mascot

Brooklyn's Amsterdam, originally uploaded by rsguskind.

Welcome to the Gownanus Lounge (Beta). Gowanus Lounge is the culmination of months of rumination, if not planning. It will seek to cover, through words and pictures, whatever moves me, with a particular focus on New York City as it is today and is becoming. The focus will be Brooklyn--and particularly Gowanus, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Williamsburg and Dumbo--with frequent excursions into Queens, especially Long Island City. Manhattan, too.

Up front: While I am a realist about what cities need in order to survive and thrive, I am not a fan of what is happening in our communities, and particularly of the looming Manhattanization of Brooklyn and of the ongoing Theme Parkization of Manhattan. The blog side of Gowanus Lounge will be joined, some months down the road, by a literary magazine intended to feature the work, especially, of Brooklyn-based writers, and stories that feature a strong sense of place.

At least, that is the plan.

For now, Gowanus Lounge is in its beta version. I put it up with the intention of getting feedback from my girlfriend and friends, but it is together enough for those who click a link or stumble upon it. Hopefully, you'll be curious enough to come back.

Although I've got plenty of mainstream journalism experience under my belt, I've edged into blogging, learning from my some of my favorite blogs and sites: Curbed, Gothamist, City Rag, Daily Slope and others. Ironically, my photography and my postings on flickr, which were turning into an ersatz photoblog, nudged me into finally taking the plunge.

For many years, I worked at National Journal in Washington, writing serious policy and political stories before life took me in a different direction. I learned at the side of Neal R. Peirce, the founder of the Citistates Group and one of the great urban writers of our time. Neal is the smartest and most thoughtful person writing about planning and development issues that I know.

These days, I run a small community newspaper, and write short fiction which appears monthly at Cherrybleeds and creative non-fiction drawn from a previous chapter of my life, also monthly at Underground Voices. I also take a lot of pictures. If I were to spend time with a writing psychiatrist, he or she would likely tell me that I have several personalities and that they are not well integrated.

I don't take myself as seriously as all this might make it sound.

The Second Place Photo in the design*sponge Bklyn Designs Photo Contest

bob, originally uploaded by designsponge.

This photo of the Cherry Bomb tattoo and piercing shop in Greenpoint was selected by design*sponge as the second place winner in its Bklyn Designs photo contest. Cool round rolling stool from Small Factory Design to come. Thanks to Grace Bonney for picking this photo, which is really not a lot more than a capture of the streetscape slightly post-processed to notch up the colors.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Affordable Furnished Williamsburg Studio--Perfect for Spring/Summer!

Gigantic, Huge, Sunny, Airy and Spacious are just a few of the words to describe this furnished Williamsburg studio. Decorated with cutting-edge street art, unbelievably high ceiling, ground floor (no climbing!), exposed brick, FULL of light, unlimited living space, almost like living in the country! Excellent, hip and artsy ambience. Right in the thick of things. Just two blocks west of the Lorimer L and immediately adjacent to the cozy, dry BQE overpass. Immediate occupancy. Aggressive, fearless cats welcome (purr). Short- or long-term lease. Under $1,000!!!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The "Brooklyn Robot Parade"

The Brooklyn Robot Parade attracted more photographers (self, for instance), writers (self, again) and bloggers (yup, as of now) than robots. A shame because judging by the two human robots and one dog (with minimal robot costume), a big turnout would have been visually interesting. In any case, a good opportunity to photograph people photographing and interviewing "robots."