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Thursday, July 31, 2008

PhotoWedns: 7/30/08 It's (STILL) a guessing game!

Where am I? Two more days! Keep guessing!

Above is last week's photo wednesday pic... the answer has been postponed due to a tremor in the Force, the results of which have yet to be revealed but may ultimately alter my reality. Umm... yeah I used to dig starwars, so what.


While the answer to this continuing PhotoWedns photo guessing challenge entry will be presented on Friday, the next guessing challenge will be revealed next wednesday.

Keep those guess coming, btw, it's not the corner of Nostrand and Fulton, but in another hint, there is a subway station at the location pictured above

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"When Gentrification Attacks...(tough questions)!"

This Sunday's New York has a piece about Bedford-Stuyvesant and gentrification.

"It's sad that money can change a neighborhood" says Roy Vanasco, owner of All Appliance Refrigerator on Myrtle Av where developers have sought to buy him out. (source/credit: Ruby Washington NY Times)

I followed the Times article to the blog of one of the people profiled, the aptly named new Brooklynite and subsequent gentrifyer, Dakota Blair creator of the blog

The reading inspired me to create another edition of the feature I started a few weeks back "When Gentrification Attacks" about my desire to discuss "what privileges does money as opposed to history, afford individuals."

My intention was to talk about what I see as a debate over who matters more new-comers with money, or the people who've weathered the neighborhood storms and in some cause maintained enough of the neighborhood to allow there to be something worth gentrifying in the first place.

But the Times article and especially a question raised by Blair on his blog led me to another part of the gentrification discussion: How willing are people to acknowledge the influence their presence has on longstanding communities? And does that acknowledgment affect how we live together?

Yes there are positive and negative aspects to gentrification. But I think it's hard for people to associate themselves with the negative aspects of it. Which I think affects what (if anything) we decide to do adjust those negative aspects of gentrification.

Blair writes on his blog:

"Concerning crime rates, apparently the police presence around this area was increased significantly once we moved in. Where was that heat coming from? Why would the police suddenly decide this block was worth policing? It’s a question which might have answers that many would like to ignore. Heck, I’d like to ignore it because it’s quite uncomfortable to think that I am being given special treatment just because I’m new. But I will not. I cannot. Now that I’ve worded the question, I need to find its answer, or at least acknowledge it. I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe they were already going to do it. Maybe it was, as someone else told me, all for the Jews."

From the blog 7/22/08

Dakota I give you credit for asking the question despite the fact that toward the end you try backing out of the spotlight you're casting. But that's the tough part, right? It's gotta be hard flashing the light in your own eyes. Most of us want a better more equal world but it gets all complicated when we're in the middle of it.

Which is one of the reasons things don't get better or get better at a glacial pace. Because it's hard for us to look at a problem that we might be complicit in.

It seems to me that people don't want to see the reality; that anyone who can gentrify can create negative consequences for long-term less influential residents. I can think of two general reasons for this:

1) Nobody wants to be perceived as part of an unsavory situation, especially if all you're looking to do is get a break on rent or mortgage, and kick back with a nice Shiraz, not trample on a community.

2) I've heard some on blogs and in public express the philosophy, "everyone who wants to earn, can earn. So if I get better treatment it's not given to me, it's earned, I earned it." So for people who think that way, giving credence to the idea that there are inequities in how gentrification plays out, undercuts that argument and ends the discussion.

As a result we get half-hearted questions like Dakota's above. I don't pretend to know what Mr. Blair thinks his influence in Bedford-Stuyvesant is, but I wrote my two cents (posted below) on his blog which was basically to say,"yes! anyone who moves into a low-income area and can afford to pay for a condo or NYC market rents and above is a game changer for that area."

If you're part of the gentrification of an area (in this case northern Bedford-Stuyvesant) on the upside you may attract dynamic new businesses that will grow the area and on the downside, in addition to raising prices faster than the incomes of long-term residents it also means the city will promptly direct services to you that are not directed at or worse may be diverted from long-time lower-income residents.

I recall about two years ago one of the new downtown Brooklyn condos was advertising on the subway. The ads boasted great views, gym facilities, yadda yadda, starting at just $250,000. Yah. On the subway car, in Brooklyn where the median income is $32,135. So if you're a commuter who makes 32k a year and can barely afford to make ends meet, how does that make you feel to look at that ad?

Does it make you think you are at the bottom of the heap? Does it make you think there is a reality occurring right next to you that you'll never be part of? These questions and others can really demoralize a person, whether you are the one struggling with finances or you're the one coming to terms with being able to do what other hard working people can't. But that's the reality isn't it?

Rather than being embarrassed by the financial realities, that having more money in a capitalist society makes you preferred, I think we should try to find a way to interact with our new and old communities in ways that might lead to more equity between new and old over time.

What do you think?


*Brooklyn median income source wikipedia (2000 census)
-- (below is my response to Mr Blair posting on his blog) --

You seem to be looking for opinions so I'll offer mine.

I'll assume based on the way you formed your question that you are the kind of person who doesn't want to perceived as receiving "special attention" but the reality is you do.

Anyone who matches the template that can probably be drawn from you:

that of a financially able person whose youth could translate into a long-term residence, with a desire to invest in new developments, and yes, a person who is "white" (which is as much of a code for upward progress in many minds as low-income is a code for downward progress in many minds)

Anyone who fits that outline, as you seem to, is going to get more police protection.

You probably realize that, and it may make you uncomfortable to do so, but simply this is all more about wealth and lack there of than anything else. Unfortunately we make snap judgments about those qualities, who has and who doesn't based on what people look like and what they can seemingly afford.

The reason Bedford-Stuyvesant and neighborhoods like it are moving the way they are, having zoning laws relaxed to allow outscaled developments for example, is also due to another financial realty, one the city has a larger stake in.

People who can afford at market and above market rates grow the tax-base. Which of course benefits the city and it ultimately has the potential to directly benefit local government more than people who for the moment need assistance.

Residents like yourself grow the population in areas that have room to grow which can affect representation, and residents like yourself are more likely to increase the valuation of the neighborhood, as measured in financial terms.

Cops lets face it protect the city structure and finance as much, if not more the citizenry.

You may friend and anyone like you, are considered a resource for these reasons and as such you are afforded more protection. As well as better services, which may be less than what you are accustomed to (depending of course on your experience) but are probably better levels of service than they had been before you got there.

This is where my disappointment with the state of redevelopment in areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant comes in. Because in my opinion, based of over 30 years in Brooklyn, there are and were people in these neighborhoods already, homeowners and financially able renters, who could have redeveloped the neighborhood as it is happening now. But their numbers have plummeted in the last two decades because in my view those people were not viewed with a favorable superficial lens. The black and latino residents of the past who could built a new upwardly mobile community were left without the policing you receive without asking for it. The loan allowances that allowed so many to come into Bedford-Stuyvestant and Harlem in the last eight years wasn't as readily available to the previous generation of renters, owners and potential buyers. Yes there were drugs and crime devastating these neighborhoods in the 1980s, however it takes a complicit governance to let things go to the level they did.

So to summarize, a person who is new relatively young, able to afford at or above market prices, and who has the superficial look of financial solvency is going to be treated better, and will receive benefits in neighborhoods even while the longtime locals with lesser finances go without.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PhotoWedns: 7/23/08 It's a guessing game

Where am I?

I've been looking to expand the scope and function of this blog just a little. All five of you who read this blog will notice I've managed to deliver reports with pics and my perspectives of the current events and great random happenstances that I happen upon. But I want to do more to show off more of the 70.61 sq miles that make up Brooklyn.

Part of my inspiration is the syndrome I've decided to call "where am I-tius"
I've noticed with increasing regularity that quite a few people exit train stations in Brooklyn (particularly and of course NYC in general) and seem to be lost. Over and again I've watched people stop short after walking up the stairs and just look around seemingly baffled, like Dorothy exiting a house in Oz. (I've helped those in need when asked. It's usually pretty easy, frequently those in question are standing on the street they seek.) Most people I've witnessed, scan the area at the top of the subway stairs, with an eyes that would give eagles envy, before desperately digging out the cellphone. But really it seems people could use a hand, so I figured maybe this is what can I do to increase Brooklyn visual awareness.

So to make this happen I'm experimenting with my "Photo Wednesday" feature by making it a guessing a game.

Next week Tuesday I'll tell where this picture comes from a tell a little bit about it's surrounding area. And then next PhotoWedns will feature another Brooklyn locale.

Till then if you think you know where the photo places you, click on the comment link and leave your guesses!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cake Man Raven Celebration in Fort Greene

So this past weekend I felt the pull of summer sun and wandered down Fulton Street...

And as I am likely to do, I walked right into the middle of a big ol' something.
The details are below, check out the pics and video:

My approach and discovery...

Battle of the Bands!

Cake Man Celebration Ft. Green Brooklyn - 6
A view of the parading Marching Band "The Approaching Storm"

Cake Man Celebration Ft. Green Brooklyn - 13
The "Brooklyn Steppers" set up to "The Approaching Storm" and the battle is joined!

Cake Man Celebration Ft. Green Brooklyn - 4
A Brooklyn Honoree shares the stage with Boro Pres. Marty Markowitz,
Cake Man Raven & Councilwoman Leticia James

I'd forgotten that it was the day of the celebration and block party in honor of neighborhood residents and Fort Green's own "Cake Man Raven" shop on it's 8th anniversary.

So as I walked to the Habana Outpost or as friends and I call it "the lunch room"I came upon an overflowing sea of people, traffic being redirected, and the sights and sounds of marching band battle.

In the midst of the pomp and circumstance there was Borough Pres. Marty and Fort Green Councilwoman Leticia James, as well as of course the Cake Man Raven.

And to my surprise and delight one of those marching bands was none other than "The Approaching Storm" who I first ran into a few weeks back as they played an impromptu midnight set on the Streets of Bed-Stuy. They in the blue uniforms were joined in a band battle with the yellow-clad "Brooklyn Steppers"

Now I have to confess, though I am "BrooklynBorn" and have lived in Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy and Prospect and Crown Heights among other bk neighborhoods for over three decades, I did at one point think I had experienced much of what there was to Brooklyn, and I left the country. Not too extreme, right?

That was in 2000 which was when the Cake Man Raven set up shop, so to this day I am a little behind on my Cake Man knowledge. To improve that I basically try to eat as much Cake Man Raven Red Velvet cake as I can (to see if it improves my historical awareness) but the only thing getting bigger is this Brooklyn Born belly of mine.

I pulled from the Cake Man's website and found that among many culinary accomplishments the Cake Man Raven is originally from Harlem, (Uptown, Uptown!) and has won awards all over South Carolina and additionally he's created confections for the Grammy Awards and Patti LaBelle.

It was really amazing to see the intersection of Hanson and South Oxford transformed with a full stage and attendant audience. My mind started to wander back to the days when a carnival used to be held on the land that is now Atlantic Commons. All those newly built homes on either side of Cumberland were only built around 1994 prior to that the entire area was an open barren field most of the time, except in the late summer when the carnival came. That's probably a story I should get into deeper someday. My mind also drifted to the opening or re-opening of Cuyler Gore park, that tiny little triangle of parkland between Green Av., Fulton St. and Carlton Av. There was a big rededication when that park was restored which I remember because it was about 1981 and I was a Cub Scout whose troop was part of ceremony. We were told Mayor Koch was supposed to come for the open and he never did. I guess pols today have a better appreciation for how an appearance or lack-there-of can form memories.

I didn't stay distracted for long. The music, people, pageantry, warm weather and sunshine snapped me right back and if that weren't enough, some young brothers came by with free Red Velvet cupcakes. And ya know what? Just as the box came my way a group of old ladies bum-rushed and all I got was a good look. But a good look it was.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PhotoWedns: 7/16/08 "Signs"

It's Photo Wednesday and this week's take comes from the resurfacing of a streeet in Clinton Hill(aka Bedford-Stuyvestant)
It makes me think of a Mel Brooks line: "Soothsayer! Sayeth some sooth!"

What do the sign tell us? Could this be a harbinger of things to come? Could the "Road Ahead" indicate the economy, housing market and or our upcoming elections? Or could it be that I chose the depth equivolent of a "Ziggy" cartoon to quickly fulfill my PhotoWednesday obligations?
It's all a sign.

(added 8/11/08- No joke just two weeks after this posting I got some not great news that has tossed the salad of my future a bit more than I would have interesting life is, and all it's signage..)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Listen Mac...

So yeh, despite my previous bravado, yesterday's iphone 3G launch came and went without one getting in my pocket. I continued the hunt for a wait free chance at getting one today saturday, but no dice.

while I was canvasing the city in search of...

A concert was staged in Fort Green Park as part of the Afro Punk festival.
Tomorrow is the end of the Afro Punk festivities and it goes down with a block party in Clinton Hill (formerly known as Bedford-Stuyvesant) on Clinton Av btw Myrtle and Willoughby. Sure to be a good look.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This weekend Hap'nins Thu-Sun 7/10-7/13

Brooklyn Born: Hap'nins Thu-Sun 7/10-7/13

Local Boy Makes Good! (really!)

Ignoring my actual job I blog now for the third time today to tell you this:

I just read the story of Anthony Hewitt (pictured) a young man from Brooklyn who's not only been signed to play baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies, 1.38 millions signing bonus! He's also got as part of the deal received four years paid at Vanderbilt college where he'll study business.

The young ballplayer grew up in Crown Heights, lived on Eastern Parkway and went to PS9 among other schools.

The Daily News goes on to say Hewitt idolized A-Rod as a kid...(you're all so quick on this, there's no point to add)

A Phillies player?!? oh, it's Brooklyn phenom Anthony Hewitt. okay.

Sports hasn't really been a major component of this "UBB" blog but maybe I'll have to post a stories of the other Brooklyn born athletes who've made it to the big leagues.

Here's an example Willie Randolph the Hall of Fame bound World Series winning player and coach (shamelessly fired last month by the Mets. punks.) Not only played High School ball at Samuel J. Tilden in East Flatbush, but when I was there on the baseball team in the 80s his uniform (from 1972) was still in use. Trivia! Feel the enlightenment!

Anyway congrats Anthony Hewitt, wishing much success to you, keep Brooklyn in your heart and you'll be fine.

Hap'nins Thu-Sun 7/10-7/13

Last weekend's 4day sabbatical has me in a mood so I present suggests for the weekend of 7/10 - 7/13

Thurs 7/10
„INOPERAbLE in Nü York"
10th, 6pm-1am,
Alphabeta, 70 Greenpoint ave. Brooklyn

Basically this event is happening at Alphabeta a new supply store catering almost exclusively to the needs of spray paint artists. The store has been condemned by an attention deprived politician which of course means everyone will be enticed to check it out. Plus free paint!
more details:

Friday 7/11 (an iPhone WILL be mine!)
Artist's Reception @RE*POP
68 Washington Avenue (near Navy Yard)
7:30 - 11pm

(also Friday)
Celebrate Brooklyn
Prospect Park Bandshell
Music by "Brazilian Girls" "Chicha Libre" - "Ticklah" - 7pm (Free)

Note* Despite the band's name actual brazilian girls are not promised to appear.
yeh that disclaimer is part of all the band's press since I met them years ago at nublu, but it's no less fun a reminder than;
"There's no sex in the champane room"

Saturday 7/12
Second to Last day to catch the Murakami Retrospective
@ Brooklyn Museum
(without the funky first saturday crowds *ahh*)

Sunday 7/13
Movie outdoor night at Habaña Outpost
(I don't know which movie is playing, but haven't I've helped enough?)


Slow Down

Atlantic Av Motorcyclist accident aftermath
This morning (Wed) on the way to the office a chance encounter with a friend revealed that a motorcyclist had wiped out on Atlantic Av where South Portland becomes 6th Avenue.
Atlantic Av Motorcyclist accident aftermath
By the time I got there the bike (as you can see) and first responders were all that remainded. Firefighters were hosing down the street, hopefully to clear motor and not bodily fluids.
Atlantic Av Motorcyclist accident aftermath
Tonight on the way back from the office at around 10pm also walking down Atlantic Avenue, I heard a deep screech and watched as a guy skidded for at least 60 rain slicked feet clipping the rear end of a yellow cab. The cabbie took off (reminding me of what it was like as a kid in brooklyn when my mom would threaten that if I broke my neck, she would kick my ass) I guess his taxi mom has the same policy, regardless the cabbie barely slowed before peeling out. The driver of the skidded car swerved left and right before resting next to the sidewalk.
The driver was at fault and at this moment is probably still waiting for a tow truck since even from my view a half block away I could see his grill was smashed and dangling. Unlike the typical case the cabbie had the right of way, turning north on Vanderbilt from Atlantic and wasn't even going that fast when speed racer plowed through the intersection. Nobody else was hit in the crash from what I saw.

Driver Dude: if you ever read this and recognize yourself, WTF??,
you were going at least 40 with a solid orange light in front of you and wet streets below...
Atlantic Av Motorcyclist accident aftermath
I hate being preachy but you had to see how needless this smashup was and how easily it could have been avoided. It's okay though, we can all slow down, right?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When Worlds Collide, Kevin Powell stays Real

So as promised last July 4th weekend was intoxicating and as a result I'm still not quite up to divulging and the funtastic details, but an email I just got reminded me of one moment from the weekend that was.
Afro Punk Skate Park
(Above AfroPunk Skaters from the "5Boro" team which is this wed's photo selection)

I slid on into the AfroPunk skate park built in downtown Brooklyn
for the annual Afro Punk festival (til July 13th) where seemingly
disparate worlds were merging in the ways that only Brooklyn can offer.

On the one hand you had unadorned skaters grinding and into the air and on the other you had helmeted Grammy winners (Vernon Reid) feet coolly on the ground and in between it all, none other than candidate for congress, Kevin Powell.

Afro Punk Skate ParkKevin PowellAfro Punk Skate Park
Congressional candidate Kevin Powell (center) Keeping it Real between worlds of Brooklyn

I've noticed that Kevin Powell (yeh I can't help but refer to him with both names)
is a regular presence in the neighborhood as well as in local community affairs.

Kevin Powell and Vernon were rappin (ol'skool definition) and so rather than step in I waited to test him on the issues. He was cool enough to give me a pound and ask how I was doing in a totally believable manner, ( I skipped the part about my childhood traumas ) and before I knew it he was seemingly answering the "what are you doing here?" question by revealing that he was digging the skate demos and that he had been a skater as a kid. I admitted the same, and in our shared moment of realization, that we each were two of a handful of urban black skaters in the early 80's, we embraced and launched into bluesy rendition of "Kick, Push" which swayed me toward voting for him. Okay we didn't but in my imagination we did and Vernon laced the track.
Afro Punk Skate Park
Kevin Powell did share (in addition to his skater cred) his opposition to the current Atlantic Yards project. Making my vote for him more likely although it would be great if anyone had been asked to vote on Atlantic Yards at all.

Finally I couldn't help but ask what he thought of the upcoming "Real World: Brooklyn Edition." Kevin of course was an original cast member as all us ol' folks remember from the mythic 90's and according to reports the next time the world gets "Real" it will happen just a few blocks from where we were standing. Kevin Powell tolerated my question which for him (he's a noted author and columnist) has to be the same as:

Photo: Theo Wargo/
Takeshi Murakami being asked what he thinks of being Kanye's "album cover artist".

Without missing a beat Kevin Powell responds "Hey... Brooklyn's where it's at!" Indeed, Brooklyn is where it's at, I couldn't agree more. And with that natural and diplomatic answer, um sold.

So yeh, based on this thorough vetting and the fact that in my three BK decades I've never even seen my current Congressman (but I seem to run into Kevin Powell in the neighborhood on the regular) I have to officially throw the full weight of the "UBB" blog behind his candidacy and implore you the readers to do the same.

Afro Punk Skate Park
The race is on...

Hopefully that means all five of you will remember to vote this Fall for Kevin Powell, and of course any other cool African-American community activists you find on the ballot.

skate or vote but don't just die!

Btw if you want to see the man in person and contribute to his cause check below:

27 West 24th St bsetween 6th Ave and Broadway
***$50 young professionals under 30***
$100 general admission
$1000 VIP admission to hang w/Chappelle & Powell
$2300 VIP reception & photo w/Chappelle
visit www. kevinpowellforcongress. org/contribute to RSVP
featuring a live performance by
w/ DJ REBORN spinning (***Yay Reborn!***)

(FOLLOW UP: Added Thu 7/10)

So the idea of actual support for Kevin Powell's campaign led me to pay to attend the fund raiser listed above. I really wanna support the brother, but the event was a mess and hopefully not reflective of him. After a long wait I had a short stay and left before the night really went downhill. For more check Gawker, I'm gonna go look for Dave Chappelle.

Monday, July 7, 2008

"When Gentrification Attacks" A new feature!

Photo credit: Andrew Henderson/The New York Times

Just saw in a NYTimes article that the residents of a newly built condo in Harlem want local drummers( who have congregated to play across the street in Marcus Garvey Park for over 30 years) to leave because of the "noise" from their playing.

One unhappy resident had this to say;
“Everything, after four hours — even if it’s Mozart — is pure, unadulterated noise,” said a resident of a building on the park who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The community is right: The drummers have been doing this for more than 30 years. But no one told me there would be unremitting noise every Saturday for the rest of my life.”

And this has inspired to me create a new feature here at your friendly neighborhood "Brooklyn Born" Blog. The feature will be called:

"When Gentrification Attacks"

The point is, although I am against the evil that gentrification frequently spawns, I admit there are concrete benefits as well, which include general improvement of neighborhood services. However since developers and those who support scorched earth gentrification always make a big deal about these positive aspects, I will focus on the negatives that are often under reported by the mainstream.

I'd like to hear what you all think of what is usually the main question in this and most cases of gentrification conflict which is;

"what privileges does money as opposed to history afford individuals."

Any thoughts?

Here's the Times' story:

July 4th Weekend 2008

Had a great weekend of the 4th in Brooklyn, details to come, for now enjoy the pics.

Macy's Fireworks from BK
July 4th 2008 Fireworks NYC
Firework Wookie(above)

July 4th 2008 Fireworks NYC

July 4th 2008 Fireworks NYC

Int'l African Street Festival
Int'l African Street Fair (B'klyn)

Afro Punk Weekend (they set up a skate/BMX park)

Afro Punk Skate Park


Afro Punk Skate Park


Afro Punk Skate Park

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Photo Wednesday 7/2/08

Well it's photo wednesday again, oh how the time flies...
and I'm drunk. yeah whut of it... umbrooklyn born and I'm a holiday-weekend-o-holic...
so in preparation for i what i promise will be a forgotten Fourth of July weekend
(btw Fireworks this year will launch from Brooklyn in addition to 34th Street in the East River so, this year you can get to BK for the best views!- map below...)
as I was saying in preparation for the weekend I am already liquored up, and so to draw a straighter line than I can walk between these tangents I present today's Photo (for) Wednesday.
African Street Fair in B'klyn
it comes from the last holiday weekend, Memorial Day and it features the one the only:
"B-Polite" (he's the tall brother in a skull mask) this was at the African street festival and it was a great weekend. Here's wishing you all the best for fun and safety this weekend of independence in America. How bout that when I driink I turn patriot....

(Fireworks Viewing Locations)