Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat: Cracked Walls, Pits & Crappy Fences in Greenwood Heights

300 20th Street

For a moment when we saw these photos, we thought we were looking at a site we'd missed in Williamsburg or Greenpoint. Actually, it's at 300 20th Street in Greenwood Heights. Brownstoner noted the mess yesterday morning and there's now a Stop Work Order on the project for both undermining the property and building next door and for "failure to maintain," which has to do with having a lousy fence. Aaron Brashear of Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights wrote:
As of last night the job site was open to the public and a mess. Barely any remediation. Called the situation into DOB and they showed up this morn to issue more citations for access to the site and to make sure the "new" contractor hired for the remediation does his job. Follow up inspections pending.
Unlike North Brooklyn, where blatant violations of regulations and threats to public safety seem to go unchecked at dozens of sites, in this case, the system actually appears to (sort of) have worked, albeit in a very belated fashion:
DOB [did] a pro-active surprise inspection of the site to find inadequate underpinning of the corer property at 472 6th Avenue (K&H Deli) and unsafe excavation which lead to the partial collapse of the back slab of the property and foundation wall. 472 6th Avenue rear extension is vacated. According to DOB (who did inspections on Saturday and this morning) "Rear extension is to vacated until made safe."
Neighborhood groups applied intense pressure to the Department of Buildings over the last two years after a series of major problems with individual projects and it seems to have produced more responsiveness than has been the case in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

300 20th Hole

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Happy Halloween from GL

Happy Halloween from GL. Here are a couple of houses in Williamsburg that are always done up, both for Halloween and for Christmas.


Karl Fischer N. 8 & Roebling Updates & Revealed


We've been watching the building on the site of the former Tribeca Oven in Williamsburg at N. 8 and Roebling since the builders dug a very shallow foundation and started building up. We have no idea why this building, which is a mere two blocks from the Roebling Oil Field, has no basement. We're guessing that each unit has washer/dryers and that parking beneath the building was deemed a frill. Regardless, the rendering of 229 N. 8th Street has finally been revealed and it makes for an interesting juxaposition against the building as it currently stands, not to mention the yellow Porsche in the rendering vs. the yellow cab in reality.


Bklink: Carroll Gardens is Like a New West Village

"So Carroll Gardens is quaint, and for those in love with the West Village but who simply can't afford to live there, it will do. The tree-lined streets with well-kept brownstones, little cafes and restaurants, and independent boutiques are all that's required of a charming neighborhood. As rents rise, it's only bound to grow nicer (better hop on the G train before it's too late)."--Gridskipper


Landmark Tuesday: Eberhard Faber Approved, Dumbo Goes "Astonishingly Well"

Yesterday was a good day for a couple of possible Brooklyn landmark districts. The Eberhard Faber District in Greenpoint was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and appears headed for final approval by the City Council. Meanwhile, the hearing on the Dumbo Historic District "went astonishingly well," according to the Historic Districts Council Newsstand blog. Here's an excerpt:
...over 30 people spoke in favor - including Jed Walentas. The BID, who had been problematic about the designation , spoke in vague support - mostly to ask the LPC to make sure that the area's Belgian block streets were protected (and restored) and asking that LPC be lenient to ground floor retail...LPC is is keeping the record open for a week, but it feels like the designation is definitely fast-tracked.
The Eberhard Faber District includes a number--but not all--of the buildings that were once the home of the Eberhard Faber pencil factory in Greenpoint. The landmarking vote was nearly reported in real time yesterday by Brownstoner. Several buildings are already being redeveloped, so preservationists consider a district to be a significant victory. The old buildings are among the most significant major surviving industrial buildings in Greenpoint, particularly after last year's Terminal Market Fire destroyed those structures before they could be landmarked.

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Exploring Coney Island Creek

It looks like a number of local photographers and bloggers went to the wilds of Coney Island Creek, known for the ghosts of its sunken boats, and came back with photos and tales of sinking into (possibly toxic) muck. Photos posted so far include those put up by the wonderful photographer Elizabeth Weinberg on Burnt Sienna and by the excellent photographer & blogger & writer Jake Dobkin on Blue Jake. Photos should also be forthcoming on several other sites, as photographer and blogger Nate Kensinger was involved as was Food of the Future. We'll edit the post to add links or do an entirely new item as photos are posted.

[Photo courtesy of Burnt Sienna]


Tis the Season: Barfing Pumpkin

Hurling on Humboldt Crop

This comes from Humboldt Street, from the camera of our Greenpoint correspondent who notes--of the hurling Halloween decoration that it's "Proof positive anything Williamsburg does, Greenpoint does better." Indeed.


Brooklinks: Wednesday Halloween Edition


Brooklinks is a daily selection of Brooklyn-related information and images. Happy Halloween.


Hint of Controversy Over Carroll Gardens "Town Hall" Meeting?

Carroll Gardens is never a dull place, at least, not in terms of development issues and community meetings. As we noted last week, another Town Hall Meeting is coming up on November 19. The one in late August was so well attended that it's been moved to a larger venue--the auditorium at PS 58. An email is already circulating via the Carroll Gardens Association Mailing List that suggests it's going to be far from dull:
There will be a CGNA meeting on Monday, November 19, from 6:30-8:30 at PS 58. The major theme of the meeting will be re-zoning and landmarking of Carroll Gardens - up to 100 feet west of Bond Street. Questions will be written on cards and a panel of "experts" will try to answer them.

There is a push on the part of some members of CGNA to limit the questions narrowly to the two themes. I strongly urge a large presence and a strong attempt to ask the questions which need some answers.
Given the array of issues and questions in the neighborhood--ranging from rezoning to the expansion of the tiny Carroll Gardens Historic District and individual developments--the meeting should be an interesting one.


Help Keep the Port Authority from Killing the JFK Cats

Our friends at Slope Street Cats sent out an "action alert" about what people can do to stop the possible extermination of the feral cat colony by the Port Authority at JFK Airport. We understand that in a world full of horrors and deprivation, the fate a few hundred cats at an airport aren't world news, yet, there is something heartbreaking about a public agency slaughtering cats. (This is not hyperbole. The odds are very good that the cats will be euthanized as the vast majority are not adoptable.) You can check Slope Street Cat's blog post for info about what to do or check here at Neighborhood Cats. We've also reproduced some of the info below in case anyone is interested. If you care about animals, take 90 seconds of your time today to tell the Port Authority what you think about a policy that amounts to killing cats. Here is the info:
Phone, fax and email the people listed below and demand Port Authority suspend the trapping immediately and meet with representatives of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative and the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals to come up with a humane, effective feral cat management plan. The people contacted on Friday refuse to meet, so now let's talk to their bosses. Please review the three talking points at the end of this letter so you know how to respond to their PR dept's fabrications.


Anthony Shorris
Executive Director
Port Authority of NY and NJ
(212) 435-7271

Stephen Sigmund
Chief, Public and Government Affairs
Port Authority of NY and NJ

Port Authority Corporate Headquarters
(212) 435-7000 (get a live person on the line and demand to speak to someone about the JFK situation)

Susan Baer
General Manager, JFK Airport

Shawn Laurenti, Director
Government and Community Relations Dept.
Port Authority of NY and NJ
(212) 435-6903
If you love cats and animals, please help.


Bklink: Man Bites Ghost in Greenpoint

From an edition of the New York Times in 1923 comes the following headline: "Man Bites a Ghost and Upsets Seance." The subhead is: "Spirit Voices Stop Suddenly and Woman Medium Flees Cabinet in a Bathrobe." The details of this Greenpoint story that was deemed news that was fit to print in 1923 demand to be read.--New York Shitty


Upcoming: Klezmatics Fundraiser for DDDB

The legal battle against the massive Atlantic Yards continues and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has led the long fight is hosting a benefit with the grammy-winning band klezmer band the Klezmatics at the Brooklyn Lyceum on November 8. Kakande and the Demolition String Band, will also perform. Money raised by the concert will help pay expenses associated with DDDB's state lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards project's environmental review and approval and the federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain. Doors open at 7PM. The Lyceum is located at 227 4th Avenue. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Click here to purchase tickets online.

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Say What--One Way Bondage

Say What--One Way Bondage

We have to say that this is first such specimen that we seen and, for that, we thank our Greenpoint correspondent. Naturally, it comes from Greenpoint.

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Bklink: The Bushwick Ice Cave

The Bushwick apartment called "The Lair" must be seen to be believed, if only for the photos. Let's just say it's the only dwelling we've ever seen with an "Ice Cave."--Curbed


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Meet the Burg's Newest Bike Sales Shop: N. 7th & Bedford

Bike for Sale One

Psst. Want to buy a bike? Then, it would behoove one to check out the new-ish bike parking racks installed by the city at N. 7th and Bedford. Often in life, things find unintended uses once they are built or installed. Such is the case with the bike racks that were created by removing some parking spaces and widening the sidewalk. Some examples of the merchandise available is pictured here, including the bottom example, provided by someone with a sense of irony.

Bike for Sale Two

Bike for Sale Three

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Red Hook Waterfront Looking Like a Parking Lot

Ikea Parking Lot

How one feels about this depends on how one feels about old shipyards and, say, graving docks that have been filled in versus huge parking lots. We will note that Ikea opted not build a parking garage at its Red Hook site, preferring the cheaper solution of paving over acres of prime waterfront land and filling in a working ship repair facility that could have been saved. Regardless, the Red Hook Waterfront Parking Lot is coming along quite nicely, with acres of blacktop being laid down and light poles starting to sprout. Also, as one can see below, they've repainted the big cranes that used to be used to repair ships from blue to gray. When all is said and done, however, the color of the (now decorative) cranes is a detail.

Gray Ikea Crane

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Dumbo Landmarking Hearing Today

Dumbo Historic District

[Map from the Landmarks Commission via Dumbo NYC]

The hearing on creating a Dumbo Historic District takes place before the Landmarks Preservation Commission today. It's an important step on the road to creating a Dumbo Historic District, which is widely expected to occur. Dumbo NYC has very thorough coverage of the issue as does the Dumbo Neighborhood Association, which has been one of the major advocates of creating the district.

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Bklink: Park Slope is the Next Chelsea

"When my broker said 'Park Slope is the next Chelsea,' and I said 'but what about the Park Slope Restaurant?' she waved her and dismissively and said 'the days of that place and the cheesy dollar stores that go along with it are numbered.' I hope so. I'm growing impatient."--Gawker


Eminent Domain Redux: Downtown Hearings Held (Again)

The city held another hearing yesterday on its plans to seize property for development--including the Underground Railroad homes on Duffield Street--via eminent domain. The repeat hearing was held because the city had to withdraw its original findings because it "mistakenly" failed to enter a blight study into the public record during original an original hearing held in May. In addition to the controversial seizure and planned demolition of homes believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad, the city would also evict 40 families living in rent-stabilized apartments, business with 100 employees, an arts venue and a parking lot. In all, 21 properties are involved on three different blocks.

The epicenter of the controversy is the block on Duffield Street where the Underground Railroad homes would be leveled for an underground garage for 700 cars and a street-level park and plaza known as Willoughby Square. Several major hotels are planned for the block including a 500-room Aloft Hotel and Sheraton and a 22-story hotel called the Indigo. The massive Albee Square development with at least 900 units of housing would also be nearby.

Of the hearing, Sarah Ryley wrote in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that:
City Councilwoman Letitia James said after the hearing, which she called “just procedural in nature,” that she suspected the blight study was created recently as the result of a legal challenge to first ruling in favor of eminent domain. “I did not see a blighted study in 2003,” she said, referring to when City Council was given the opportunity to consider the Downtown Brooklyn plan, including the use of eminent domain to realize that vision.
The new public comment period on the use of eminent domain runs through November 5.

Brooklyn redevelopment faces Underground Railroad conflict [amNY]
City Gives Downtown Brooklyn Eminent Domain Hearing Another Try [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

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Major Bed-Stuy South Rezone Approved


The City Council approved a major rezoning of Bedford-Stuyvesant yesterday. The rezone covers 206 blocks. It downzones brownstone residential blocks and upzones the commercial spine on Fulton Street. The rezone covers the southern portion of Bed-Stuy, bounded by Quincy Street and Saratoga, Atlantic and Classon Avenues. A rezone for the northern part of the neighborhood is also planned.

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Brooklinks: Tuesday Pre-Halloween Edition

Credit Card Muni-Meters Slowly Coming to Brooklyn

Joy: Muni-Meters that take credit cards are slowly coming to Brooklyn. There was a major installation of them in Bensonhurst last week, along the 86th Street shopping street between Bay 14gth Street and 21st Avenue. The Daily News reports 58 muni-meters that take credit cards took the place of 330 traditional meters. Also, there are 39 muni-meters on Atlantic Ave. between Hicks St. and Fourth Ave. and 13 on Bay Parkway between 63rd and 72nd Sts.

[Photo via Daily News]


Say What--Brooklyn Bus Edition

Say What--Bus Edition

It's not the most dramatically damaged sign we've ever seen. Not even the most tagged up bus sign we've seen in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, this is the first one we've seen sitting on the sidewalk. We found it on Lorimer Street, not far from McCarren Pool and Park.

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Bklink: We'll Take the Terrier Dressed as the G

Check out some pics and a rundown of the Great Pupkin in Fort Greene. Some of the favorites include a Chi dressed as the devil, a dog in PJ with slippers and a Boston Terrier dressed as the G Train.--Clinton Hill Blog


Tis the Season, Part II: Hanging Around

Williamsburg Jack O Lantern
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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Bklink: Soviet Nostalgia at Smith St. Rite-Aid

Check out all the empty shelves at the Smith Street Rite-Aid. You would have thought the reviled chain drug store would improve after switch over from being an Eckerd, but this?--Pardon Me for Asking


Tis the Season, Part I: Happy in Straw

Park Slope Happy Halloween
Park Slope, Brooklyn


Bklink: Blowing Chunks on Bedford

Fun with Miss Heather (and Mr. Heather) on a weekend. It begins with hunger and ends (sort of) with Mr. H doing the old heave on Bedford Ave.--New York Shitty


Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Construction Awards #2: Patricia Lancaster Award for Open Door Excellence

N10-N9 Fences copy

Rarely has a construction site been so open and so dangerous so many times as 199-211 N. 9th Street, 208 N. 10th Street and 489 Driggs. For this reason we are giving it a Patricia Lancaster Award for Open Door Excellence. (This is not to be confused with the Bedford Avenue Door of Death, which hasn't left open consistently enough to qualify, even though it presents and even more dramatic, unregulated public safety threat.) We've already named this a Construction Site Du Jour, not once, but twice. Even better, we identified it as a public safety menace. Yesterday, the fence around the demolition site had a huge gap on N. 10th Street and was open in two places on N. 9th Street and in one place on Driggs Avenue. You can judge for yourself be the photos of the site to which the public has full access as to whether the project is deserving of a Patty. We believe that it is. By the way, the building that will go here will be a seven-story structure with 170 units.

N10 Five

N10 Four

N 10 One

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Monday Construction Awards #1: Patricia Lancaster Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sunday Work

525 Union Sunday 1028

...And the winner is...525 Union Avenue in Williamsburg. We are rolling out a new feature today called the Patricia Lancaster Award, aka The Patty. It is named after the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings. We won't be handing out a lot of Patties, but will be saving them for sites that have truly impressed us, both in terms of the high level of achievement that they show in their respective fields (Sunday work, potential threat to public safety) and in the lack of action by the Department of Buildings itself. (The Gold Standard Patty Award building isn't even one we've personally covered. It's that atrocious situation in Sheepshead Bay where 18 different inspections failed to note that a building's foundation hadn't been finished and that the building shouldn't even have been under construction.) We digress, however. Our first Patty winner is 525 Union Avenue, which gets the nod for its perseverance in doing work on Sunday. Rare, in fact, is the Sunday on which we have not found work going on at 525 Union (examples include this, this, this, this, this, this and this.) DOB's website shows that one complaint about Sunday work was filed on June 15 and that an inspector showed up on August 12, a Sunday, and found no problem. (We were out of town on that particular Sunday, so we can't say one way or the other.) For those reasons and more, 525 Union gets a Patricia Lancaster Lifetime Achievement Award for Sunday Work.

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Williamsburg Bank Building Set Free of Sheathing

WillieB 1028

The priapic Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower has finally been set free of the scaffolding and netting that have surrounded it for a year. As of yesterday morning, however, the clock wasn't telling time properly.


Another Big Week for Brooklyn Landmarking: Dumbo & Eberhard Faber District


The Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting tomorrow (10/30) is going to feature a long agenda of designations and discussion. Among the two significant topics are the proposed Dumbo Historic District and the Eberhard Faber Historic District in Greenpoint. The Dumbo subject matter is an initial hearing. Eberhard Faber, however, is expected to be designated. The "Eberhard Faber District" includes many, although not all, of the buildings of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory in Greenpoint. (Some of the properties are already being developed. The WPA writes:
The Eberhard Faber Historic District will sit side by side with the larger Greenpoint Historic District and the Astral Apartments, and individual landmark. The former is comprised largely of 19th-century residential buildings for the managers and owners of Greenpoint's factories and businesses. The latter was constructed by Charles Pratt to house the workers of his Astral Oil Works. All in all, the three designations encompasses factories, businesses, houses of worship and housing - forming a very unique view of a close-knit 19th-century community.
Given how much Brooklyn history has been bulldozed or otherwise destroyed in the last few years, it is alway gratifying to see landmark protection advancing.

Related Post:
Greenpoint's Pencil Up for Landmarking

[Images courtesy of WPA]

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Bill de Blasio Running for Brooklyn Borough President

City Council Member Bill de Blasio made it official on Sunday: He is running for Brooklyn Borough President. Mr. de Blasio was widely expected to run. He joins Council Member Charles Barron in the race. Others, including Council Member Dominic Recchia are also expected to enter the race to replace Marty Markowitz. Mr. Markowitz, in turn, is expected to seek another office. Mr. de Blasio is barred from seeking another Council term because of term limits and Mr. Markowitz is barred from another term as Borough President. Mr. de Blasio was elected to the City Council in 2001. He was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager in 2000 and served in the Dinkins Administration.

de Blasio has been raising his profile in the borough this year. He made the work of architect Robert Scarano an issue in the context of the 360 Smith Street development, calling on the state to strip Mr. Scarano of his certification and has organized "town hall" meetings in Carroll Gardens. He has also sponsored an electronics recycling measure that would be a model nationally. Mr. de Blasio has held a series of meetings with Brooklyn bloggers and online journalists to discuss his position on issues.

During a meeting last month at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope, Mr. de Blasio answered questions ranging from rezoning Carroll Gardens to his support of Atlantic Yards. At the time, he said he was still "looking" into a run for Borough President. "A lot could be done with that position to try to bring an approach to development that would mediate these issues," he said of the Borough presidency and quality of life issues related to construction and development.

"I think the world has changed a lot since the day Marty came into office," he said. "It feels like it was decades ago. The next borough presidents is going to deal with increasing challenges."


Bklink: Is There Rush Hour Crowding on the G?

Do you experience a crowded G Train? When? What station? Is it toward Court Square or Smith-9th? How crowded is it? Take our survey. We want to know.--Save the G


Hotel Le Jolie by the BQE Looking Ready

Le Jolie

Hotel Le Bleu's sister hotel, Le Jolie, on Meeker Avenue in an almost under the BQE location that on the fringes Williamsburg, is almost ready for action. There's no solid word on when the hotel will be open and it doesn't even have a website yet. But, the curtains are in the windows. A big address decal and decal that indicates Le Jolie is Smoke Free have been added to the front door. A big dumpster is in the front parking lot to cart off debris. No word on what the abandoned former gas station next door will be once the property is sold, but it should be an interesting topic of conversation among the parents of Williamsburg residents who stay at Le Jolie. We apologize for calling Le Jolie a "Hot Sheets for Hipsters" kind of place way back when we thought it was going to be a generic place rather than a $200-$300 a night property.

Le Jolie Front Door

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New Downtown Brooklyn Eminent Domain Hearing on Monday

There's another hearing today on the use of eminent domain in Downtown Brooklyn, including the taking of the Underground Railroad House on Duffield Street that advocates believe should be preserved. The hearings were announced very quietly, in a small ad in the New York Post on October 17, and Duffield Street Underground blog says that owners of the buildings on Duffield Street weren't even notified. The hearing is taking place because the Department of Housing Preservation and Development withdrew its original eminent domain findings earlier this month. Opponents of the seizure of the Duffield Street buildings and of their demolition are taking the opportunity to hold a press conference at 9:30 AM, before the 10:00 AM hearing at City Tech Auditorium, which is located at Jay Street and Tillary in Downtown Brooklyn. The press event will include Congresswoman Yvette Clark, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, City Council Members Charles Barron and Letitia James as well as "over 50 community members, preservationists and Black historians." Here's a bit from the press release we got in on our email:
As a result of legal challenges by Downtown Brooklyn advocates, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development withdrew its eminent domain findings for Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month. The City’s withdrawal was an acknowledgment that it had no basis in the record for its use of eminent domain. This abuse of the powers of eminent domain would have proceeded if the City hadn’t been sued...HPD announced the new hearing in a small ad in the NY Post on October 17, 2007, yet they scheduled this new hearing without notifying the owners of the condemned properties.
The full press release is available at Duffield Street Underground and at No Land Grab.

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Bklink: How About a Bus from Smith-9th to Manhattan?

What if they ran a bus to Manhattan through the Battery Tunnel while the Smith-9th Street Station is closed? Plus, some other off-the-wall ideas.--Cap'n Transit Rides Again


Brooklinks: Monday New Week Edition

Brooklyn Bridge Park Meeting Kicked to Late November

A public meeting that was supposed to be held tomorrow (10/30) to discuss programming plans for a future Brooklyn Bridge Park has been canceled. It is being rescheduled for November 26. The meeting is part of an effort to develop a strategic plan for the controversial park, which has been plagued by objections to the real estate development that will accompany it and by questions over its cost and budget. Among the questions that will be examined at the meeting is whether some of the programming at the park should be on a user fee basis. You can get full detail about the meeting, which is sponsored by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, by clicking here.

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Bklink: Huge Prospect Heights Film Shoot Was DeNiro & Pacino

That big film shoot in Prospect Heights at the end of last week? Here's a photo of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino outside the 78th Precinct on Sixth Avenue.--People


Support the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment with "Eco-Shopping"


We love the work that the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment does with education activities and tours for both adults and children about New York's natural and built environment. We found about through Sustainable Flatbush. The BCUE site provides links for businesses--most of them very eco-friendly--that will donate up to 25 percent of the proceeds of a sale to BCUE. iTunes and eBay on the list. It's definitely worth checking out.


Tis the Season: Monday Before Halloween Edition

Fifth Avenue Halloween
Park Slope, Brooklyn

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