Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brookvids: The Domino Sugar Plant

We love the old Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg and would miss its brooding presence if it were to be demolished. Some of the buildings have wonderful old architectural detail if you take the time to look at them. Music here is Radio 4. To watch click on this link or simply click the embed.

Brooklinks: Saturday Very Visual Edition

Then it Hit Me

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related articles, blog items and, especially on weekends, images.

Atlantic Yards Words:
Other Words:

WPA Festival This Weekend in Williamsburg

WPA Free Fest

Check out the WPA Free Fest in Williamsburg today (9/30) and tomorrow (10/1). The WPA Free Fest is put on by the Williamsburg Performance Alliance--which is a nod to a different WPA, the Depression-era Works Progress Administration--and offered free of charge at different venues in Williamsburg. Click here for the full schedule. Performers include ABADACA CAPOIERA, Abby Bender & Schmantze Theater’s ZOO, Anabelle Lenzu, Andrew Dickerson/Cirque This, Audrey Crabtree, Bryon Carr, Cassie Terman, Cate McNider, Danyon Davis, Dirty Steve, Eric Davis, Everything Smaller, Fly-by-Night Dance Theatre, Gillian Chadsey, Groove Mama, Heather Harpham, Heather McArdle, Hilary Grubb, Jackie Moynahan, Jessica Gaynor, Julie Kline, Juliette Mapp, Leigh Evans, Marisa Beatty, Marisa Grunberg, Noel Mac Duffie Dance, Phil Alexander, SIX CHARACTERS, Stephanie Sleeper, Tanya Calamoneri, The South Wing, Vanessa Paige Dance, Victoria McNichol Kelly, Will Rawls, The Bitter Poet, Cole Kazdin, Trav S.D., Debby Schwartz, Jonathan Latiano, Chris Harcum and Michele Carlo.

Gowanus Lounge Photo Du Jour: No Smoking Please

No Smoking Please
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Gowanus Lounge Saturday Curbed Wrap Up

Friday, September 29, 2006

Beware the Gowanus Canal Shit Storm

Dirty Gowanus Water

Read the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement section on sewage, as we did, and you would think that a miracle has been wrought. Reduced to a few words, the report says that Atlantic Yards and all its 15,000-18,000 new residents and toilets would produce an itty-bitty problem here and there (ie, untreated sewage overflows into local waters),but that on the whole, there would be no major negative impact.

The report, for instance, says there would be less crap going into the Gowanus Canal with Atlantic Yards than without it. Come again? It claims that all of the efforts to reduce and hold Atlantic Yards sewage in storage tanks would result in less flowing into the canal than the current system.

Given that today is the last day for public comments to the Empire State Development Corporation and that there is an analysis of Biblical Proportions coming from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods that will say that the DEIS is so full of errors that it shouldn't be approved, this is as good a day as any to take another look at the testimony offered by Marilyn Oliva, representing Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG). According to Oliva, who knows a little bit about sewage and the Gowanus, the report uses 1988 statistics for its predictions.

At issue are the wonderful events known as CSO's or "Combined Sewage Outflows." To you and me, that means so much rain overwhelming the sewage system that, well, shit, et. al. flows into the Gowanus and the East River (where Atlantic Yards crap would go). In the case of Gowanus, on a really bad day, it means sewage geyers erupting in the streets, basements flooding with unspeakable substance and the like. This is what happens in Gowanus during really bad rainstorms. This is also why sometimes, after it rains, the Gowanus smells, well, like shit. The funky smell is there because Brooklynites literally flush their toilets right into the Big G when it rains.

We were particularly taken by the description offered by Christopher Ketcham in an excellent New York Press article that was otherwise about the roof dogs of Gowanus:
The sewer streams underground run down to the old swampland and surface in the storm eye into scuddable foam, two and sometimes three feet deep...Manholes pop open and dash in the stream like discuses, and from them white-brown geysers frolic, four feet in the air, and around the geysers the water bashes in boiling waves, pauses in eddies, and shoots off in a tomato-colored stream west, making for the waterfalls on the banks of the canal, which speeds in its ebb to the sea.
Poetic, no?

What does this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Pretty much everything. Oliva argues that these Old Faithfuls of Shit will be far more common sights when Atlantic Yards is built, and that the DEIS is, well, a crock of you know what because consultants used 1988 data that doesn't take into account changing weather patterns:
The model used to arrive at this conclusion, InfoWorks, uses the year 1988 as an average for both rainfall and storm intensity, both of which contribute to CSO’s. As all local residents know, 1988 does not adequately represent either average rainfall or storm intensity, both of which have been much greater in the past 10 years, both of which are projected to be greater still as we enter a 30-year cycle of more rain and more severe storms. Any model using this average and the results it produces then is flawed and should be reconsidered with more accurate data.

Perhaps even more significant: the InfoWorks model indicates that under the best circumstances, 2 more CSO’s would occur with between 15 and 18,000 more people flushing toilets into the Canal which “would not affect the quality of the water in the Canal.” We would like to point out that…The currently permitted CSO’s in the Gowanus Canal make it the single biggest contributor of high levels of pathogens to the New York Harbor; even two more of these events would then have a significant impact on the quality of water in the Canal, and in the Harbor. Permitting only two more of these events will thus have a significant affect on the waterways.

Residents from Ft Greene to Park Slope have to deal with sewage flooding their basements because the current sewage system and the Gowanus watershed cannot handle the rainfall and sewage we already produce. Antiquated sewer lines and an over-taxed watershed mean that rain and wastewater often never make it to the Red Hook or Owl’s Head Water Treatment Plants; they spill out of the system causing unlicensed CSO’s.

Vague promises of system upgrades do not sufficiently address the real health and safety issues that will arise with between 15 to 18,00 more residents flushing toilets into an already overtaxed system.

Just one of the thousands of issues associated with Atlantic Yards that may, or may not, be addressed by the Empire State Development Corporation that will impact life in Brooklyn.

Related Post:

Brooklyn Week in Review

We're road testing a new weekly feature--an end of the week Brooklyn wrap-up called "Brooklyn Week in Review," which will highlight some of the particularly important, interesting or amusing stories of the week.

Highlights of the week of September 25, 2006

The BrooklynSpeaks group, which some Atlantic Yards opponents immediately started referring to as BS, made its debut online. Its supporters offered an explanation of why they did it, but it was not welcomed with enthusiasm by longtime Atlantic Yards activists, some of whom suggest the group was actually a closet supporter of the arena. Some argued that they were ignoring all of the blogs and groups that have been covering the Atlantic Yards story, some for years. The City Planning Commission, meanwhile, called for reducing Atlantic the size it was in the original proposal, before nearly a million square feet were added by the developer. And Forest City Ratner agreed.

With the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement closing today (9/29), the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, which was funded by the City Council to review the DEIS, planned to submit a report at 1:00 citing the "profound...errors and shortcomings" and saying the DEIS should not be approved. The Empire State Development Corporation, meanwhile, continued to stonewall Freedom of Information Law requests for Atlantic Yard fiscal impact and other information.

The Greenpoint Oil Spill is still raising concerns about the neighborhood's case of explosive gas and why the poisoning of residents has dragged on for decades without a cleanup, but most residents don't want to let officials near the homes for testing. Is this mess why a church is conducting Sunday services and Praising the Lord in the back of Cafe Grumpy on Meserole Avenue? In South Williamsburg, they don't need espresso with their worship, because a synogogue went up in two weeks, stop-work order notwithstanding.

Regardless, keep your head down during the Park Slope-Cobble Hill Coffee War.

Want to convert your Prospect Heights property to luxury housing? Well, brick in the last remaining tenant. Or, you can just surround a building with a construction site, like on Eighth Avenue in the South Slope, and drive out the tenants by cracking the building in half. On the other hand, being bricked in or having your building collapse around you is nothing compared to how nasty it can be to live in "supportive housing" in Brooklyn or in the "dorm from hell" at Long Island University in Brooklyn. For Richard Meier's new glass building at Grand Army Plaza, on the other hand, expect to pay $790K to $6 million, but you probably won't have to worry about horror movie-sized bedbugs.

Oh, and we found out that some Park Slope restaurants, like Sette, won't help out a mommy who needs to warm her baby bottle, which can't be a good reputation to develop in the Slope. Wonder how they feel about breast feeding?

And, finally, you really know summer's over when they turn the lights out on the Parachute Jump so that migratory birds don't fly into it and cease to migrate. Fly south, little friends. Fly south.

Brooklinks: Friday End of Public Comment Period Edition

Van Brunt Street-Kentler

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn related articles, blog entries and images.


No Comment:

Attention Atlantic Yards Shoppers: A Template to Beat 5:30 Public Comment Deadline

Despite a variety of prostest and appeals that the Atlantic Yards public comment period be extended, the Empire State Development Corporation is hewing to its deadline, which is today at 5:30 PM. (The deadine was slightly extended to handle the legal requirements of adding a third public forum.)

While the entire review, hearing and comment process may very well be headed to court, that's another days legal fun. Today, the issue is submitting comments.

No Land Grab has thoughtfully offered up some last minute commenting help for the proscrastinating Brooklyn resident. If you want to voice your opinion, you can download and fill out a template in PDF format or even in MS Word format. (Clicking those links will open the documents.)

Of course, the documents can be hand delivered, but they can also be emailed. Click here to e-mail them to the Empire State Development Corporation. No Land Grab suggests you enable that annoying delivery receipt option for this e-mail.

Greenpoint's Land of a Dozen Fingers

Greenpoint Finger Map

Needless to say, we were a little surprised in one of our periodic wanderings around Greenpoint when we actually counted the number of new and tall buildings going up in a particular corner of the neighborhood. It's the oddly shaped patch in the map above that we have dubbed The Land of a Dozen Fingers because so many buildings between five and ten stories are going up there at once. The Finger Building, of course, is the notorious high rise slowly going up on N. 8th Street in Williamsburg that's had a huge crane towering over it for more than a year now.

There are nearly a dozen of these mini-fingers, if you will, in the area bounded by McGuinnes Boulevard, Bayard Street, Manhattan Avenue and Driggs Avenue. The biggest concentration of Greenpoint Fingers is around Eckford Street and Engert Avenue. (This excludes what we call Karl Fischer Row and environs on Bayard Street, east of McCarren Park, which flips North Brooklyn the biggest birds of them all).

Photographic evidence is below.

Greenpoint Three
Manhattan Avenue and Engert.

Greenpoint Six
Engert Avenue.

Greenpoint One
The Finger of Newton Street.

Related Posts:
The De-Industrialization of Williamsburg

Chile Pepper Fiesta at Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday

To judge by the crowds that have shown up for it in recent years, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden doesn't need us to promote it's annual Chile Pepper Festival. But, it's worth nothing that the fest takes place on Saturday (9/30) and that it's full of activities and performances. (The BBG even has a little blog associated with the fiesta about the joys of hot food and related topics.) Us, we're going to get kidnapped by the day job to do photography on Saturday, so we're going to miss this year's shindig. In the past, however, we've found that the fiesta food is okay, but not outstanding and certainly not super-hot, although self-disclosure requires us to say that we have an asbestos palate and that our threshold for "hot" is set a lot higher than most people's.

The fest starts at Noon and the food is served up until 5:30. It can be a fun time, especially for children, but beware the crowds because it's a very well-known and promoted event. If you're looking for a peaceful day to enjoy the BBG and don't care about the Fiesta, you might want to go to on Sunday instead. If you don't mind the extra crowd and you want to check out the Fiesta, then Saturday's your day.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Park Slope Pig or Fort Greene Pig?

One sure way to catch our attention is a story about an animal, almost any kind of animal. We're especially into urban wildlife stories, but also enjoy more run-of-the-mill creatures like dogs. In any case, we noticed on the Park Slope Forum that people are discussing a pig that has been spotted being walked down Seventh Avenue on a leash. The first report was posted on Monday and there have been a number of follow ups. Does this mean that Park Slope has its own pet pig? Or is it Emmett, the somewhat famous Fort Greene pig, about whom much has been written? (Our money is on Emmett, because how many pet pigs can Brooklyn have?)

[Photo of Emmett courtesy of lesterhead on flickr]

Atlantic Yards as Seen from Across the Pond: "A Project Recalls Mistakes of the Past"

From a story in the new Economist headlined "Up in Arms About the Yards: A project recalls mistakes of the past," comes a very interesting take on Atlantic Yards. We're going to excerpt some of the story here:
The Atlantic Yards, in the heart of Brooklyn, are now nothing more than a sunken set of tracks where trains are cleaned. But if all goes as planned, the yards and the blocks around will be reborn as 16 glittering towers, with an arena as their crown jewel. The $4.2-billion scheme is one of the most ambitious in New York's history, and one of the most controversial.

Supporters—including George Pataki, the governor, and Michael Bloomberg, the mayor—say this is a model project, both for its fine design and for its civic-mindedness. Others are less enthralled. Community groups, scrambling to make their point before a period of public comment ends on September 29th, want the project either changed radically or stopped altogether.

Urban renewal in New York has a turbulent history. Under Robert Moses, the “master-builder” who shaped the city from the 1930s to the 1960s, urban renewal became voracious, often using eminent domain to snatch private property and replace lively neighbourhoods with self-contained housing projects that became barren and dangerous. A backlash against Moses ushered in the next era of urban planning, which aimed to improve the existing community rather than replace it.

Bruce Ratner, of Forest City Ratner Companies, hopes to create a new, dazzling model of development with the Atlantic Yards. He is being encouraged by Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, New York's most ambitious planner since Moses. The city and state have promised to chip in $100m each and provide a host of tax breaks, possibly worth more than $1 billion...Mr Ratner is working...with the Empire State Development Agency (ESDC), a state body that can sponsor projects without consulting local governments. After two perfunctory public hearings, the ESDC will draw up a final plan for approval by the governor and the speakers of the state Senate and Assembly.

Opponents are not giving up. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a coalition of 21 community groups, plans to challenge the state's use of eminent domain, although a Supreme Court decision last year allows condemnation in the name of economic development. Others, resigned to Mr Ratner's scheme, are turning to Eliot Spitzer, the attorney-general and likely next governor, to ask him to curb the power of the ESDC, which is backing other big plans in the city. New York is being reshaped; the question is how.
We've cut out some detail, so it's worth going to the full article. We're particular amused by the writer's introduction of Robert Moses into the story and the point he makes about how Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is the city's "most ambitious planner since Moses." Of course, depending on how one chooses to read this, it's either a tremendous compliment or as nasty slap in the face.

We've made the analogy many times, in the sense that Doctoroff has certainly hatched some of the biggest development schemes in seen in several generations and will be responsible for pushing projects in New York, and particularly Brooklyn, that will work dramatic changes. Whether they are superb changes or nightmarish ones, of course, depends on one's point of view. But, if one comes back and look at Brooklyn 25 year from now, many of the most dramatic changes that one will see--like a dense, highrise core in Brooklyn and a redeveloped waterfront peppered with highrises stretching from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park and, ultimately, to Coney Island--will be the result of Doctoroff's machinations.

Brooklinks: Thursday Accent on Food Edition


Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images.

Trans Fats:
Other Food:
Not Food:

Recycle Your Computers & Donate Clothing

The city's computer recycling effort is coming to Brooklyn on Saturday (9/30), and it's especially convenient if you live in the South Slope. The recycling drop spot is the plaza in front of Prospect Park across from Bartel Pritchard Square (Prospect Park West and Prospect Park Southwest). Following are accepted: computers & laptops, monitors & printers, scanners, keyboards & mice, TVs and cell phones. There's a limit of five pieces per person. The city's website says that
All dropped off items will be recycled through contracted vendors and all data on hard drives will be destroyed; no scavenging will be permitted and no tax-deduction receipts will be given out. The first 100 people to drop off electronics at each event will receive a $5 Best Buy Gift Card.

While safe to use, electronics contain hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Recycling your unwanted electronic equipment keeps these hazardous materials out of the waste stream and the environment.
Donations of used clothing and linens are also being accepted, and tax-deduction receipts will be available from either Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Hours are from 8AM-2PM.

Thanks to Neil Feldman's superb Not Only Brooklyn e-newsletter for the heads up about this.

Hipsters and Church at Greenpoint's Cafe Grumpy

We've dig Cafe Grumpy on Meserole Ave. in Greenpoint, but haven't been there on any Sunday nights, so we didn't know that it's serving up faith in addition to espresso. The Daily News scores with a fun story today about the congregation that's been having services there since July. We'll let writers David Freedlander and Melissa Grace explain:
While Greenpoint hipsters sip lattes and leaf through the Sunday papers at Café Grumpy on Meserole Ave., a fervent group of young neighborhood churchgoers prays behind them.

"I am evil, born in sin," chant worshipers in the newly established Williamsburg Church.

Since July, a congregation of 15 has been gathering on Sunday nights in a nook in the back of the cafe, an area that operates as an art gallery the rest of the week.

"A church isn't a building, it's a people," said pastor Robert Elkin, who moved to Brooklyn six months ago to open the church.

Elkin is a member of the Heritage Bible Church, a 1,400-person evangelical group based in Greer, S.C. The born-again missionaries hope to open churches across the country, particularly in areas where religion isn't at the top of people's to-do lists.

"It's a ripe environment, but it's a challenge," said Elkin, who sees "hedonism" in Williamsburg and Greenpoint's youth culture.

The group's target audience is hip, young New Yorkers who have ignored God for too long - and have been overlooked by God's messengers.

The community-oriented, nondenominational flavor of the coffee-shop church has appealed to local artists.
The church rents the space at Cafe Grumpy, which is at 193 Meserole Ave. They make a good espresso.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Public Peeing and the Park Slope Mom


Every now and then in our wanderings, we come across something unexpected and, um, interesting. So it is with this next item, which caught the attention of the adolescent side of our brain with the title "Pop a Squat." It's from a myspace entry posted by someone named Jenny. Here goes (verbatim):
So on my way home from work the other day I saw something rather disturbing. I was walking down Smith Street and I saw a typical looking park slope Mom and her two young girls standing on the side of the street. As i came closer to them I saw the mom standing over her little girl who was probably around 2/3. The little girl was sitting on a bucket with a plastic bag in it trying to pee! The mom said to her other little daughter, who was wandering away a bit, come here honey Julie is going to go pee pee! I was extremely uncomfortable with this. I mean maybe I'm being too critical but to pull out a port-o-potty on the street (a crowd main street no less) so you're daughter can pee seems wrong to me. Is this what happens when you potty train kids? I feel like if it was an emergency she could have walked into any of the restaurants on the street and they would have let her use their bathroom. I mean already feel weird about dogs pissing all over the streets now we have little kids doing it too.
Interesting questions. While we're always happy to poke fun at Park Slope Moms, how do we know the mom whose child was peeing in a bucket on Smith Street was a Sloper? Maybe we don't know the telltale signs, but to us, a Park Slope Mom and a Carroll Gardens Mom and a Cobble Hill Mom on Smith Street would all have a kind of similar look. Which leaves the question of children peeing in the street, regardless of neighborhood of origin.

A Short Greenpoint Oil Spill Primer


Since the "Community Update" on the Greenpoint Oil Spill and the testing confirming benezene, methane and other fun things under the ground is tonight (Wed. 9/27), we thought this would be a nice day to rehash some facts about the spill so large it makes the Exxon Valdez spill look on the small side. The Greenpoint spill left at least 17 million gallons of "petroleum products" (and some say as many as 30 million gallons) beneath Greenpoint. The spill dates back to the 1950s, though it was only "discovered" in 1978 when the oily sheen was noticed on Newtown Creek, the body of water that separates Brooklyn and Queens. The original tanks that leaked belonged to companies that are now Exxon Mobil, BP and Chevron Texaco. The trouble dates to a time when 23,000 gallons a day of gasoline and other products were refined along the banks of Newtown Creek.

For nearly two decades, nothing was done while the toxic plume--containing carcinogenic benzene, explosive methane and other substances--spread under Greenpoint. Since 1995, Exxon has removed about half the spilled oil, but at the current pace, it will take another two decades to clean up the rest of the spill. The current furor dates to the revelations about the 20-year time frame for the cleanup that was made public earlier this year.

No one even knows the full extent fo the spread of the plume, according to Riverkeeper, which filed a suit against Exxon Mobil in 2004 to force a faster cleanup. It is believed the plume is migrating in the general direction of Long Island City, and oil is still leaking into Newtown Creek. The recent testing that confirmed the presence of benzene and explosive methane was done as a result of the Riverkeep lawsuit.

A half-century after the original spill, Brooklyn's equivalent of Love Canal has also gained enough traction in the press to finally attract the attention of a multitude of state officials. Excellent background stories on the full extent of the mess and the decades of inaction are available via a Block Magazine article, a nice summary story in the Brooklyn Rail and another good roundup from this spring in the Village Voice. There is a good, well-maintained directory of major news articles about the spill here at And, if you're interested in tons of original documents and PDFs, the Department of Environmental Conservation has a massive "Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project" website.

Tonight's meeting is at 7:00 at the Princess Manor at 92 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint.

Meantime, here's our food for thought of the day: How is it that a 17 million gallon oil spill that happened 50 years ago is only half cleaned up and that testing of toxic vapors in people's homes is only being done today?

Note the containment boom in the photo below, which was taken on Newtown Creek near the original site of the spill.
Oil Spill

Brooklyn Runner Hits First Milestone


We've been terrible about linking to Gary Jarvis, AKA Runs Brooklyn, who is one of our favorite Brooklyn bloggers. Gary, you might remember, set the ambitious goal of running every street in our borough and has been blogging about it since Spring while taking excellent photos of nabe highlights during his runs.

While we were comatose, Gary hit the one-quarter mark last week and published his "Quarterly Report." Congratulations!

Gary writes:
Over the last few months I've really seen a lot of Brooklyn. I've been through most neighborhoods at least once (though I haven't yet run in some of the micro-neighborhoods near downtown like DUMBO or Vinegar Hill, nor have I been to the gated community of Seagate, which is on the western tip of Coney Island), and there are several -- Gravesend, Bath Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Marine Park -- which I'm within a couple of runs of finishing up. I have, thus far, concentrated on the southern third or so of the borough, which explains why I've seen so much of Gravesend and so little of, say, Clinton Hill. As I've noted here before, this is a pretty deliberate move which means a lot of long subway rides now, but which I'm hoping will begin to pay dividends in the winter, when I can start piling on the miles a lot closer to home.
So far, Gary has done 54 runs for a total of 476.91 miles or 436.57 "unique miles" as he counts them.

His runs are outlined above in orange on the map, which is available in larger size on his blog.

Brooklinks: Wednesday Mixed Bag Edition

Still Life with Bike and Eggs

Brooklinks is a daily selection of news stories, blog items and images.

Why We Love Red Hook

Red Hook One

We love Red Hook, and one of the things we truly like about the nabe is that it retains some of its flavor despite the encroachment of some popular restaurants and, of course, the big Fairway. We posted the top photo over at Curbed yesterday, but figured we'd share here too, along with this bottom photo, which is a sign a few feet down the street tacked up by the same person. We were told the sign has been ripped down by either city workers or Con Ed, but that a new one was put right back up. The fort that was once in Red Hook was called Fort Defiance, after all.

Red Hook Sign Two

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Memo to Atlantic Yards Opponents: Can We All Get Along?


To: Atlantic Yards Opponents
From: Gowanus Lounge
RE: Appearance of Split in the Opposition

Just thought we'd say a few words, because we've noticed that the debut of BrooklynSpeaks has raised a few hackles in the anti-Atlantic Yards camp. We're guessing that this has made for a couple of ha-ha's around the water cooler at Forest City Ratner.

We only have one thing to say: Can't we all just get along?

Not that you need us to tell you, but one of the most politically and financially powerful groups of politicians, developers and business leaders we've seen in recent years is pushing the Atlantic Yards project through before anyone can do anything to stop or change it. Relatively speaking, those fighting to block or change the project are doing so with comparatively few resources and almost no powerful friends in the political establishment. Perhaps you noticed that the City Planning Commission only called for a modest 8 percent reduction in the project yesterday and is okay with the height of Miss Brooklyn? Division in the ranks is the last thing that Brooklyn needs right now. As for you, BrooklynSpeaks, we'd take you to task for jumping in so late in the process and introducing extra confusion, but you've already done so, so what's the point?

We personally respect and admire all of those trying to work changes in Atlantic Yards. Some of you are personally courageous in standing up for your beliefs. In a world in which principles are often disposable, we have deep resepct for that kind of dedication. Some of you have deep neighborhood roots and a burning concern for the direction in which Brooklyn is going. Still others, have had an impact on mulitple public issues and a role in protecting quality of life around New York City.

The truth is, we're depressed that you didn't try to work this out privately and didn't come up with a division of labor, at it were, on Atlantic Yards before this all went public. But, it's not too late. It would be for the best if everyone involved in trying to shape the outcome of this fight were to hash out their differences and divide up the work.

How? Well, BrooklynSpeaks ought to acknowledge that eminent domain is not an appropriate tool for developing Atlantic Yards, even if it's politically simpler to ignore the issue. Legal action to block Atlantic Yards on the basis of eminent domain and other issues is entirely appropriate and BrooklynSpeaks ought to support those efforts. That turf, however, is best left to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its supporters.

We do think it's valuable to push for signficant changes in the project, including a redesign with significant public input, as a fallback. This is necessary for the public good, should the legal strategy not stop the development. To do otherwise, will be to leave Brooklyn with a massive, unchanged project. Atlantic Yards will or won't be built. If it is built--because the political and judicial decks were stacked--Brooklyn will be somewhat less of a nightmare with a five million square foot project than an eight million square foot one, and Miss Brooklyn will be less offensive vis a vis Prospect Heights if it's 15 stories less tall.

Who are we to say any of this? Just a dumb blogger with a somewhat informed opinion who finds the squabbling at this late date and at this critical juncture a little demoralizing. It's late in the fourth quarter, the two-minute warning's sounded, you're behind 17-14 and you need a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. This is not the time for the quarterbacks to get into a fistfight on the sidelines over who's playing on the next drive.

Please sit down and work this out, and come out with a united front.

Checking Back in on Brooklyn Bridge Park

When last we heard from Brooklyn Bridge Park it was summer and Sen. Hillary Clinton had said she opposed the building of luxury condos in conjunction with the proposed development, then beat a hasty retreat. In late summer, the very respected Project for Public Spaces, put the project in its Hall of Shame and placed a scathing critique on its website, calling it "a suburban-style park catering mainly to upscale residents of adjacent Brooklyn Heights and ceding control to new residents of the precendent setting, private, residential development inside the public park." Such drama has made Brooklyn Bridge Park--which is a big waterfront open space project financed by luxury condos--one of the most controversial park developments to come along in any of New York City's boroughs in a long time.

Yesterday, the always engaging streetsblog, passed on word of a press release announcing a transportation study aimed at examining "potential future means of providing access to Brooklyn Bridge Park, with an aim to reduce reliance on personal vehicles." $1 million for the study is coming from Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, who also got funding for the development of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Initiative. There will be a public meeting about access issues for the proposed development at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 4 at the auditorium at St. Francis College.

Litigation over the highrise condos proposed for the site continues, but if the development goes forward, there could eventually be a light rail line or shuttle buses or other ways for large numbers of people to get to it without cars.

Related Posts:

Brooklinks: Tuesday Brooklyn's Still Speaking Edition

Geek Mafia

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news stories, blog items and images.

Still Speaking:
Still Considering:
Still Reading:

Ghang Thai Kitchen Now Open on Smith Street

Ghang Thai

Ghang Thai Kitchen has opened in the space on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens formerly occupied by Tuk Tuk. The latter was, once upon a time (2002-03ish) a fairly decent Thai eatery (for Brooklyn), but had gone way down hill. It got a frighteningly bad score from the Health Department not long before it went to the big restaurant graveyard in the sky. Ghang Thai, meanwhile, was previously noted for having a pre-opening sign in the window that said, "Ghang Thai Kitchen Serve Thai Food."

In any case, the new restaurant looks nice and the menu is solid. It doesn't break any new ground, but offers an assortment of the dishes one would expect--pad kra prow, pad prik khing, all the basic curries, etc. All dishes are available with chicken, pork, beef, squid, shrimp, vegetarian duck and vegetables and tofu. In its favor, is the fact that there's nothing too cutesy on the menu.

We await the reviews.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Brooklyn Speaks," But Who Will Listen?

Well, the BrooklynSpeaks website--which is dedicated to trying to make changes in the Atlantic Yards proposal--went live last night. At first glance, it certainly covers the ground that one would expect including the out-size scale of the development and the top-down process that has gone forward without meaningful local input. It takes some tough stands and is highly critical of the process thus far, although it takes it as a given that the arena will be built and is really there to offer guidelines to mitigate its impact.

The groups behind BrooklynSpeaks are Atlantic Avenue LDC, Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Fifth Avenue Committee, Municipal Art Society, Park Slope Civic Council, Pratt Area Community Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

While we have respect for these entities, and particularly for the role that the Municipal Art Society has taken citywide over many decades, we must note some signficant omissions from the list. Despite the "wide net" sounding name, BrooklynSpeaks does not speak for many concerned Brooklynites. We also note the possibility that BrooklynSpeaks will lead to division in the opposition to Atlantic Yards or that it will be seen as such, which will be damaging. By adding another level of nuance and set of opinions to those already on the table, it could also serve to confuse what is already a terribly confusing issue for the average resident.

There is too much to get into here, but basic principles listed on the BrooklynSpeaks site are:
1. Respect and integrate with surrounding neighborhoods
2. Include a transportation plan that works
3. Include affordable housing that meets the community’s needs
4. Involve the public in a meaningful way
(Norman Oder offers his usual thoughtful and complete analysis over at Atlantic Yards Report.)

On the pressing issue of scale, the group says that the project needs to be "substantially reduced" and says that substantial reductions "might be" from 1/3 to 1/2. The group also calls for a greater proportion of genuine affordable housing and it is critical of the public process so far, calling it "deeply troubling":
The Atlantic Yards proposal was conceived by the developer and the political decision-makers behind closed doors and has moved forward with no significant input from New Yorkers. No Brooklyn official will get to vote on the project.
Overall, it calls the proposal "deeply flawed." The group calls for "a redesign with public input."

That statement aside, our first impression is that the site takes a tougher stand on some issues than we might have expected, but also pulls some punches and uses some soft words like "might." The group mentions eminent domain as an issue, but does not take a stand on it and, in effect, accepts that it will be used, which is certain to alienate some of the Brooklynites that have been fighting the project.

Develop Don't Destroy's Daniel Goldstein points out that the BrooklynSpeaks groups "support eminent domain and support the arena" or, at the very least, "accept" both. In point of fact, the website section on "superblocks" shows property that would have to be taken by eminent domain as part of the project.

Sponsors are holding a press conference about the site at 3:30 this afternoon.

And so, some very respected groups have decided that it's advantageous to steer their own course on Atlantic Yards at this point. The more important questions, however, are: Who will listen and will it matter?

UPDATE: Early this afternoon, Develop Don't Destroy posted an item on its website saying that it "welcomes more voices" in the Atlantic Yards discussion but that "they have failed to hear the voice of the community on the issues of the arena, eminent domain abuse, city oversight of the proposal, the unknown public cost, the severe environmental impacts, and the lack of affordable housing guarantees." The item says that their position on some issues, like eminent domain, "is not immediately apparent to someone who browses their website" and that it might result in some people "unwittingly signing on to their principles."

It says: "We call for the BrooklynSpeaks group to be forthright and clear on their position on eminent domain and the arena, and so that individuals who sign onto their 'principles' understand that by doing so, they are explicitly endorsing the arena and implicitly endorsing use of eminent domain."

A Crash Course on 33 Million Refugee Surrounded by Park Slope Affluence

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Five

Gowanus Lounge made a point of stopping by the "refugee camp" set up by Doctors Without Borders in Prospect Park and spent an hour getting a tour of the facility from a Canadian nurse named Christine Nadori. The "camp" was set up from Sept. 20-24 and drew thousands of visitors. The experience was depressing and enlightening at the same time, bringing us back to the war zones we've been in and serving as a weird counterpoint to the affluence of Park Slope and to the carefree play going on in the park just 30 yards away.

No snarky remarks or jokes in this item.

The camp was set up to draw attention to the plight of 33 million refugees and "internally displaced persons" around the world and to the conditions in which they live and the challenges they face. Ms. Nadori has worked to save lives in Afghanistan, Burundi, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Sudan among other war torn spots.

"Setting up a refugee camp is like the ultimate NIMBY," Ms. Nadori said about a problem that most governments are loathe to deal with.

Among the things we learned are that 75 percent of all refugees are women and that, of course, they are at risk of every form of exploitation and violence that you can imagine. We were introduced to such things as BP5, a horrendous looking basic nutrient, and to the term "shitting field," which is what they call the outdoor bathroom area in a refugee camp before enough hole for latrines can be dug. We learned about health care in refugeee camps and that there are different kinds of malnutrition and that nurses use bands to measure middle upper arm circumference to judge the degree of a child's malnutrition. We learned that cholera is entirely survivable as long as proper hydration is available and that "cholera beds" are cots with a hole cut in them and a bucket underneath.

The camp has been touring around. If it comes back to New York again, we highly suggest a visit. A few more photos are below.

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Three

Tourguide Christine Nadori

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Four

BP-5, basic nutrition.

Prospect Park Refugee Camp One

Cholera tent with bed.

Brooklinks: Monday Brooklyn Speaking Edition

Pink Car

Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related news articles, blog items and images.

Brooklyn Speaking/Atlantic Yards:
Everything Else:

Williamsburg Goes to the Hipster Dogs: The Brookvids Video

Here's the video version of our coverage of the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition's Dog Show and Parade in Williamsburg yesterday. It was a fun event, featuring the Giglio band from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Williamsburg, the Hungry March Band, floats and a whole bunch of people and their dogs. To watch click on this link or just click the embedded video.

Williamsburg Goes to the Hipster Dogs: BARC Dog Parade


We did the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition Dog Show & Parade in Williamsburg today. We're putting a few photos here and have a full flickr photoset with 56 pics. Also, you can click here to get the slideshow. Or, simply watch the embedded slide show at the bottom of the post. Cute as hell. BARC also has its own item up and links to photos.




Sunday, September 24, 2006

Brooklyn Speaks Remains Mute

We've checked back on the Brooklyn Speaks website a few times since its announcement--they were supposed to go live yesterday--if only because we're curious to see what they're up to. As of nine o'clock this morning (Sunday), they're still mute. Although the site's been updated to say they're going live today. (Whether this is because they're still getting their act together or they want to make the Monday morning papers, we don't know.)

Why the interest? Why does it matter? It's always interesting and it always matters when a player enters the game in the fourth quarter, especially one that might be angling to negotiate a change in the rules. Particularly one that claims the name "Brooklyn Speaks," which would seem to include a lot of people who might not want Brooklyn Speaks to speak for them. Which is why we're anxious to see what they're saying.

In this case, we're especially interested in seeing what Brooklyn Speaks is saying and to what extent the groups that are hopping on the bandwagon are repudiating stands they have taken earlier or picking fights with other community groups. Of clear interest here is the group's apparent desire to avoid the messy issue of eminent domain and to, de facto, endorse the end run of the local planning process by vesting control of the project in Albany.

We have said it several times since word surfaced of this effort--which apparently was organized quietly, without letting all the groups working the Atlantic Yards fight in on the party: United fronts work best when opposing megaprojects. Conversely, a divide and conquer strategy works to the benefit of the opposition. When Jane Jacobs was fighting the expressway that Robert Moses would have built across Lower Manhattan, the opposition gathered traction through unity, not civil war. It's an imperfect analogy, at best, but manages to make the broader point.

Maybe, Brooklyn will decide to speak later today so we can see if what they're saying is a good thing. Or not.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gowanus Lounge Brookvids: The Carroll Street Bridge

Here's the fourth installment in our fledgling Gowanus Lounge Brookvids Series, a few minutes on the wonderful Carroll Street Bridge in Gowanus. The Carroll Street Bridge is one of our favorite offbeat spots in Brooklyn, one of those places that transports you from everyday NYC and puts you somewhere else entirely. It has always reminded us, for some reason, of Amsterdam. (Oddly, as a kind of fourth cousin, twice removed of the Magere Brug, the skinny bridge over the Amstel River. Okay, so go ahead and laugh.) In any case, music here is American Analog Set. To view, click on this link or, of course, just click on the embed.

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A Couple of Thoughts About "Brooklyn Speaks"

We're waiting to see what "Brooklyn Speaks," the new group that is trying to find a seat at the Atlantic Yards tables, has to say before assessing whether they are bringing useful and serious proposals to the discussion. Our initial assessment is that a divided opposition can play into the hands of project supporters. As of 10AM this morning, the BrooklynSpeaks website was still in template form, saying only, "Make Atlantic Yards Work for Brooklyn," and inviting visitors back.

For now, we will quote what No Land Grab has to say about the fourth-quarter players coming off the bench:
What is apparent is that both voices in the debate over how to respond to the project feel that the other side is gambling on a risky strategy. The individuals of the groups that secretly developed the Brooklyn Speaks campaign felt that relying upon a legal challenge would leave the neighborhoods surrounding the project with nothing to negotiate if the legal challenges were lost. The groups that have led the fight thus far are wondering if Brooklyn Speaks does not go far enough and has already set a course for negotiating for a scaled-down project that is already in the hopper. These groups have what Forest City Ratner needs most, that's Dan Goldstein's condo, without which Phase 1 of the project cannot be built.
For now we will only say that a lifetime of experience covering development and communities around America has taught us this: the battlefield is strewn with community opponents that ended up fighting each other instead of the project to which they objected. Time will tell.

Check Out the Hawks in Prospect Park

Our friends at Prospect Park send word that this is Hawk Weekend at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Specifically, you can "meet" trained, live hawks from Noon-4PM today (9/23 and tomorrow 9/24), join a wild hawk watch (12 – 3 PM each day), and take a Discover Tour hawk walk (3 – 4 PM each day). If you really dig birds or hawks there will also be an introduction to birdwatching walk (12 – 1:30 PM on Saturday), hawk mask making crafts (1 – 3 PM each day), face painting (1:30 – 3:30 PM each day) and a screening of a film about New York’s most famous hawk, Pale Male, (3:45 – 4:45 PM each day). The first two sailings of the park's cute little electric boat Independence on Saturday and Sunday will be birdwatching cruises with a special emphasis on hawk watching (departures at 12 PM and 1:15 PM).

And, if hawks aren't your thing, there's always the Harvest Fair at the Lefferts Historic House today and tomorrow from Noon-4PM. The Prospect Park people say you can "harvest potatoes in the garden of this circa 1783 Dutch-American farmhouse and cook them in an 18th century style hearth and brick oven. There will be plenty of sweet apple cider, demonstrations of linen cloth being made from flax using a spinning wheel and kids can learn to make musical instruments from dried gourds." Wonder if you get to keep what you harvest?

Finally, but definitely not least, the Doctors Without Borders Refugee Camp is in the park through Sunday, open from 9:00AM-6:30PM. This one's a definite on our list.

Click over the Prospect Park website for more information.

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Coney Beach Dusk

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Friday, September 22, 2006

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Coney with Dog
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De-Industrialization of Williamsburg Continues: GL Has the Demolition Porn

Allen Zipper

Another day, another Williamsburg demolition. Or two. Or three. Or four. There are entire blocks of Williamsburg, especially in North Williamburg closer to McCarren Park, that have been entirely cleared of their industrial buildings in the last 12 months. Some are now big empty lots; some are construction sites.

We recently wandered by the Allen Zipper Company at 70 Berry (pictured above) and found that it was not only no longer making zippers, but that the roof and part of the interior was gone. We also noticed that scaffolding had gone up around the Wonder Foods factory at N. 8th Street and Driggs, (below) which was notable for the wolf mural that had been painted on the side. (We actually remember when a lot of the factories and warehouses that are now being demolished were operating businesses.) We have no idea what particular project is destined for this site, but we know instinctively that it's bound to be a luxury condos or rentals.

Wonder Foods

Meanwhile the photo below offers an older demolition shot of what used to be at the corner of N. 11th and Roebling, and is now in the process of becoming a huge residential development. The sign outside says McCarren Park Mews (which probably has one or two old timers spinning in their graves), but there's no solid information about it.

McCarren Park Mews II