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BrooklynBornThis blog started in my head when I listened in the 90's to friends who feared Brooklyn and newcomers who blogged about BK as if it barely existed before they arrived. Brooklyn as Tabula Rasa. My blog satisfies my need to hear and air feelings of B'klyn from the people whose life experience was born here. Also I hope to provide balance to some of the revisionist historical musings I've seen how Brooklyn and her residents used to be, we're still here. If we can all live as best possible while appreciating the past and neighbors we've inherited that would be great too.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Church To It's Knees

This story from Peter Duffy of the NYT is of a the 100 year old church whose presence reps the last vestiges of the once thriving Italian-American community the flourished in Ocean Hill/Brownsville. The church Roman Catholic "Our Lady of Loreto" at the corner of Sackman and Pacific Streets, is set to be demolished to make way for...wait for it...affordable housing.


Photo by Kirsten Luce from The New York Times 12/30/08
(above:Barbara Anne Lepak, center, with her mother, Susan Pascucci, left, and her daughter, Laura Andrews, are trying to save Our Lady of Loreto from demolition.)

A clear conflict of communities and histories. Basically most of the former Italian-American neighborhood has moved on and the church which was served them now has very low attendance. So the Diocese of Brooklyn is trying to save money, etc and that's why the church is closing. The building was proposed for landmark status which is still under review reminding me of this story on the LPC's slow pace to landmark. But considering this other recent announced church closings like this one in Bed-Stuy it's not easy to be happy for the affordable housing that's taking the church's place especially when you have these personal accounts that just breaks ya heart:
Theresa Harrison, 80, one of the few Italian-Americans to remain in the neighborhood, said she felt terrible about the impending demolition. “To me, it’s a sentimental thing,” she said. Ms. Harrison, whose maiden name was Pennine, still lives in the home where she was born on Jardine Place. “I was baptized there. First communion. Confirmation. I was married there.”
Then I read this quote:
“It’s the last thing we have left that we can hold onto and pass on to our grandchildren,” said Mr. Mondelli."
and couldn't help but think that unlike current communities in NYC struggling to not be run over and pushed out, this community (albeit for some understandable reasons) left. If the community wanted to preserve the church, the time for that was long ago and could probably only have happened if they forged ties to newcomers rather than just peeling out (message!).

Personally while I acknowledge Brownsville as being better than it's 80's self, it's still not on my list of Brooklyn neighborhoods to visit willingly and while the Italian-American Brownsville of days gone by sounds like a great place in it's time (I'd like to have eaten at "Carlucci’s Restaurant" or "Ariola Bakery" as mentioned in the Times piece) if I did traverse the hood during that time would I have felt any safer there than I do in the current neighborhood? I wonder...

Anyway it's an interesting turn on the "history of a neighborhood torn down for new stuff" saga that I often rail about. Plus I realized I do very few Brownsville-Stories of which I have a few, but for now this story will have to do. Equal time.

(Update I remembered a story about this area, click here)

Update: Another Church To It's Knees

So the article about the closing of Our Lady of Loreto church out I just posted about led me to this link, which led to pictures of the neighborhood surrounding the church as it once was. After a few pics it hit me, I totally have a personal recognition of this church, back in 2003 I worked a few blocks away at a sweatlodge of an office/factory. The church sat as a large part of the blurry unremarkable background shapes that made my view of the area. Until one day I focused in.

Now I totally gotta make with the storytelling.

Before I get to the story check out the pictures. What I see is a quaint little neighborhood, that is punctuated in the background by relatively gigantic residential developments. I wonder what effect they had on the neighbors when construction began and doesn't that remind you of several places in today's nyc like this.

Anyways, the story is simple. I'm riding the A or the L out to Broadway Junction to the sweat-lodge I worked in, and I happened to have a stack of comic books (don't ask) which I had no use for (mostly) as the ride out to the far reaches of Brownsville and East New York went on I noticed a kid, one of two, catching random hell from their mom, who looked youngish to me. I asked the mom and offered the kids the comics (mostly).

The comics had that magically pacifying influence that is their true worth. The kids sekkled down, so did the mom since her boy's were distracted. And I felt like cool on ice. The comic magic seemed to extend further than I expected, after speaking briefly to the kids, their faces buried in ink lines and primary colors, the only other passenger on the train, a tall 6 foot plus, elder, white haired man of euro-amero features walked over toward me. I was in that corner two seat so he couldn't have been coming over to anything else except to exit the car or pea out the door. He did neither. Instead he small talked with a thin waxy coating of nostalgia, about comic books from when he was a boy. In true protective new yorker style I wondered at first how many comics I was going to have to part with. But the tall elder man seemed happy to just talk and actually seemed interested to tell his perspective.

That was when I stopped being self focused and actually became aware of the man. He was clearly over 65 maybe over 75. Tall yes, but I could imagine the "youth toughs" of any NYC era making short work of him. When I overlaid that consideration with the fact that in my 15 years of coming to Brownsville I never saw a white skinned person in the area save for teachers, cops and the workers in the outpost-sweat-lodge I was headed to, I began to really wonder what this man's story was and where could he possibly be going? I asked what stop he was getting off at and he said either Broadway Junction or Atlantic Avenue, most of the Atlantic Avenue station was still in use then before more of the formerly massive connecting station was torn down in 2004, but even then the platforms and stairs were rickety at best, so Broadway Junction seems right. Anyway, that raised more questions which I asked and the story i remember was this, he was raised in the neighborhood from the age of five or eight as I recall. Doing some loose math and knowing that the vertical landscape of projects in Brownsville were mostly built post war I began to imagine his view, but before I got carried away in my imagination I asked him. and he verified he remembered when they were built, he called the neighborhood "small" before the large scale residences. he talked about never having left the neighborhood which i simply can't imagine considering the dive it took from the 50's to the 90's and how far down some areas still are today.

We chatted almost idly. He remarked about some of what had been in the area, more about how many people lived there, busy it was. "It was some neighborhood" he added, but there was no deeper definition. I asked him about family, and he mentioned a daughter outside the city and his desire not to his home.

For the remaining stops I kept wanting him to paint a picture of the neighborhood as it was to some how satisfy my sense of logic. But I tried not to press him into service as my personal historian. As we approached our stop the subway climbed the elevated tracks arching slightly over Atlantic Avenue I thought this place couldn't have always been desolate garages, creaky frame houses and car strewn lots. Then I looked at the church steeples sliding into view from behind less impressive structures and rooftops. I'd noticed the church towers from time to time and when I did I wondered who still went there. Contrasting them to the distant apartment complexes I started to see something else.

After twice hearing myself ask the tall elder man the same,"what was it like?" question with a different set of words, I decided to relax myself. He had already done enough for me by giving me an image of the neighbor as alive and basically pleasant as anyplace you'd want to be. Since then whenever I pass out that East New York way his simple descriptions enhance my visions of the place. Anyway, like I said he got off at his stop and I don't remember which- wait. I remember now, it was Atlantic Av, because I remember now watching him walk away, incredulous to me, along side that midday desolate heavily trafficked street with cars tearing through toward and away from JFK. Non pulsed he casually strode along Atlantic, into a tatter old neighborhood, and coincidentally in the direction of that church, Our Lady of Loreto.

Get your scream on: Public Fare Increase Hearings Jan '09

B'klyn NYC Subway
"So, is the train coming or has it already left the station?"

Hey I'm trying to keep it optimistic as we slowly turn over into this new year. Matter o' fact I plan to prosper in '09 despite all the forecasts and real tight times ahead. But it's hard brother, hard to keep the glass half full when MTA keeps pouring money down the drain and asking me and you for a refill.

The basics of the next year's proposed transit fare increase are these:

Option #1 raise the cost for single rides and cash fares to $3.00 a 50% increase while raising Metrocard fares by about 25%. (I'm sure this is intended to fail)

Option #2 raise all fares to $2.50. If option 2 sounds better it's not in my opinion, it's really a more complete slap to everyone's faces because it removes pricing discounts that are built into (what are now discounted) Metrocard purchases.

I found specifics of the plan on NY1's site.

The public hearings will be held around the city.
The Brooklyn edition of which will be held
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at:
NY Marriott at the B'klyn Bridge
333 Adams St, Brooklyn


Bring a loud friend.


View Larger Map

It reminds me of an old joke that my family told to much laughter one holiday season long ago. It's war time, and the men are dug in on the front lines in the cold and snow without supplies for weeks. It's wet, there's not shelter and no facilities. One day the Sargent passes the word of good news about supplies. All the men get excited one thing they all can use more than anything is new gear, especially clothing.

The Sargent gathers the men in the largest foxhole and announces,"there's a little good news! you'll all be switching to new underwear!" The men let out a joyous cheer! The Sargent continues saying,"that's right! so all of you take off your drawers and switch with the guy next to you!"

That's how I feel, but I'm staying positive.

Keep that in mind in '09, somebody's gotta get lucky right?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Update to the Clinton Hill manhole explosion post

Update: A press conference was held regarding the Clinton Hill manhole explosion and new pics.

PhotoWednesdayXmas Eve 08 Edition
(Ho Ho Ho & a cake full'a rum)

I'm not big on Christmas. There. Smite me down oh jolly elf of western commerce! Go on fat man, make your move!! um ready for you, elfin magic is no substitute for street skillz!!

What I am big on (as my three point five devoted readers can attest) is telling stories about the spirit of Brooklyn past.

This Wednesday's photo was taken on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn at what was once the Abraham & Straus department store, which is now a Macy's.
Is there even a store in Brooklyn for kids to go to and see Santa anymore? And is he progressively multicultural like this one was in the mid 70's? Granted given my politics today, I doubt I'd want to expose my phantom children to the big red hoax but it's such a cute scene, no wonder parents cave.

The look on my face is me staring at his hat, (I was fascinated by the faux fur, in drawings I imagined it was like a white tire around his head, I was weird) but most of my time on Afro-Santa's knee was spent telling him he wasn't Santa cause he was black. Hopefully somewhere in the coming Obama age there's a Mexican kid trying to negotiate a Korean Santa thus demonstrating how far we've really come.

"A&S" as it was referred to for years, to understate, was a major store, rivaling all others of it's day. Real old Brooklynites will remember it as the big name on a Fulton Street crowded with stores like Korvette's, McCory's, Mays (not to be confused with Macy's) and Woolworths. All those stores are gone, no sadness, things change. But the A&S building still stands, it's a great grand Art Deco structure and worth it to check out even if you don't need to shop and if you want to get some history check the wiki entry for it here. Even better the NYTimes goes into architectural detail here.

All that to say I remember the photo, the day, being a kid and not really being excited to go see santa as much as I was excited to be outside, to see all the people shopping, walk thru that huge A&S first floor, take the ancient escalators, or even better, the elevators each had operators with that according fold gate they'd manually shut. I remember that experience and my family most of all. My grandmother took me have the photo taken. As we were leaving the apt my uncle, about 18 at the time insisted on coming and kept telling me what to do during the photo (that's his head from the left).

I remember that and more, all good times. I'm skimping on the story because the point is I hope these next days will bring you peace, warmth and if nothing else memories to love.

Monday, December 22, 2008

release from Clinton Hill manhole explosion, press conference

A press conference on the underground explosion that ripped open the sidewalk at Washington Av and Lafayette Av in Clinton Hill was held to address the lack of information released in the incident involving Con Ed equipment.

Details are below as well as these photos from the Clinton Hill blog which first reported the accident.

Photo from Clinton Hill Blog
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 22, 2008

Manhole explosion in Clinton Hill this past Friday

Council Member Letitia James, elected officials, and residents will come together to discuss the manhole explosion in Clinton Hill, at the site of this dangerous incident on Washington Ave. at corner of Lafayette Ave., this Tuesday, Dec. 23rd, at 2:45 pm

Brooklyn, NY - The blast that occurred in the heart of Clinton Hill could be heard and felt across the neighborhood this past Friday evening / Saturday morning. The explosion was loud and frightening, and numerous fire trucks lined Washington Avenue immediately following the explosion.

Although the sidewalk was destroyed and possible damage caused to the Underwood Playground located near this site, as well as two residences that lost power, fortunately, no injuries were recorded. The lack of communication from Con Edison with elected officials and residents about the explosion is unacceptable (aside from residents whose homes had to be searched because of the blast, and the 23 people temporarily evacuated that night). Also, improved coordination with Con Edison and the Department of Sanitation should be made a top priority as this holiday season begins.

The winter season is prime time for incidents like this to happen – specifically post snowstorm. Manhole fires and explosions are caused by salty runoff from the streets that leak into the manholes and transformer vaults. The salt eats the insulation producing an explosive/flammable gas; the wires short out and spark, which then becomes the source of the ignition. If the manhole covers are older, the blast may put up enough pressure to turn them into cast iron Frisbees (newer manhole covers are made with vents to release pressure from harmful/explosive gases). Lastly, fire and carbon monoxide can make its way into nearby properties, specifically if the building’s electric service enters through an underground conduit.

WHAT: Press conference to discuss manhole explosions and improved coordination by Con Edison
WHEN: Tuesday, December 23rd, at 2:45 pm
WHERE: Washington Avenue at the corner of Lafayette Avenue


***** End of Release *******

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Local MSM KaBlew It (or) If something blows up in B'Klyn and it isn't reported does it make difference?

How appropriate that NYC's shortest days of the calendar year have resembled high noon at the Arctic Circle. Not even the brightness found in the eyes of Veep-to-be Biden's new puppy could have cleared up the overcast skies that keep many non-breeders like me'sef in doors for the last 24hrs.

Was I alone the only citizen in early hiber-nation? Perhaps not. Maybe that's why all of a sudden something can blow up in NYC limits and (almost) nobody seems to care (almost).

Maybe the local MSM was still marveling at the fact that Caroline Kennedy, who has a history of not answering reporters' questions, doesn't actually give very deep answers when she does (gasp!) Maybe that's why they didn't report that a Brooklyn street corner basically exploded. Fortunately Robin Lester's Clinton Hill Blog and readers did.

Last night (after I finally stopped playing FB Dominos and went out) I snapped this pics of the aftermath on Washington and Lafayette Avenues:
IMG_8136_r
IMG_8137_r
IMG_8133_r
Most of those slabs of concrete were scattered like puzzle pieces. Imagine the force
it takes to do that and what it would mean to be standing there when it happened.

IMG_8134_r
It looks like the aftermath of a Max Sennett scene that would have ended up with
Buster Keaton reaching escape velocity in route to the Moon.


Well it's no ponzi scheme, but unlike ponzi this is very relevant to me as I frequently walk on sidewalks and don't wish to be blown up like an Iraqi translator.

Seriously folks, I know it was late at night and my pics are not suck free (did I mention FB Dominoes are really addictive as well as time consuming?) but if anyone was standing on that corner, when that explosion came through with enough force to toss sidewalk slabs like lunch trays. It would've been the kind of sad tragedy we all hate to hear about.

To help you get a sense of where this intersection lays, check these pictures I took on the same corner during the Marathon (in Nov). In both pics I stood basically where the explosion happened.

The first is looking north on Washington Av:
NYC Marathon 2008 Bed-Stuy Clinton Hill Style NYC Marathon 2008 Bed-Stuy Clinton Hill Style
The second is looking west on Lafayette Av.

This is a well traveled street with a subway station, bus stop nearby and a popular and frequently used neighborhood playground at the corner as well.

The explosion seems to have been caused by Con Ed equipment going supernova just feet below our feet. Hmm Con Ed equipment exploding, how bad can that be? Oh. Oh. Oh. Ohh yeah.. Well.. it's not like the winter weather increases the risk of malfunctions right? ohh. Oh.Eww and as we all know we can't count on Con Ed to be forthright in these accidents.

The Clinton Hill blog (at the time of this posting) is the only place I've found any reporting on it all, I frequent that area and was on my cell when the big boom bang happened, several commenters on the Clinton Hill blog reported hearing it as well. Based on comments the explosion was audible in a radius throughout Clinton Hill and parts of Fort Greene. (on the gmap below people who heard it are marked by the red icon) which I made for your viewing pleasure and because I have cabin fever. (Holy Jeebus when will the sun god return) If not for CHB's reporting we'd all still be wondering what happened or worse not knowing at all.

Bottom line we know NYC is excitingly random enough, we don't need to add "Sudden Explosive Death" to the list of unexpected slices of Big Apple life. Much as I hate the soap boxy but we can't accept this, we all pay for this service let's spread the story voice our frustration and work at getting this fixed. nuff SED.


View Larger Map

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The obligatory snowfall post

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Here's an outsidah' brooklyn post made more interesting since when I entered the subway in Bk there was no snow on the ground and when I exited, I beheld the scene above.

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I've been trekkin out to 23rd street recently, for reasons reason obvious to fans of discount dentistry, to begin the next major urban renewal project, my bridgework.
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The pics are from Madison Square Park and since I know you know (and I'm too lazy to research) what are those treehouses all about?
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IMG_8116

Anyway I took these, as testament to the beautiful of fresh snow and to proclaim that while I have close to no idea what a picture my camera takes will look like (since the spill to concrete it suffered) it does in fact take pictures. The element of the unknown is kind of cool in a retro-("ohmygawd did i get it??", "did i get it?!?!?)annoying sort of way. It's basically like taking pics with an old 110 point and shoot. wow. that's the sound of me dating myself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fulton St. goes both ways!

For today's PhotoWednesday installment see here.

Announcement:

City Councilwoman Letitia James was considerate enough to send this statement to the BrooklynBornBlog regarding the reconstruction on Fulton Street and the concerns regarding the plan to create a B.I.D. (Business Improvement District) from Rockwell (Downtown) to Classon Av.

Councilwoman James said in a statement:

Fulton Street will be restored to a two way street, and I will coordinate with MTA to restore bus service shortly thereafter.

I also urge everyone to support the Fulton Street BID application and ask affected businesses to do the same. A BID will assist the community in revitalizing Fulton Street with the coordination of services including, but not limited to, beautification, marketing, security and sanitation.

I cannot invest public funds in an unincorporated loosely held group of commercial businesses. We currently have two successful BIDS in the community, North Flatbush Ave and Myrtle Avenue BIDS that are recipient of public dollars for the same purpose.


Sounds reasonable, I wonder if this sway the debate about the B.I.D.?

I noticed today that Fulton Street has been reopened as a two way street after the completion of a years long reconstruction project, some of which I detailed in pictures here. Fulton slices across the north third of Brooklyn from the Downtown shopping district through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant before coming to rest in East New York under the Broadway Junction train station near the Queens border for those who don't know. It's a long important street with many vital commercial strips, and it's even longer if you imagine it once connected to old Fulton St down at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Among the improvements the BID hopes to bring about are increased security and beautifying elements like adding flower boxes. I wonder considering how long shopkeepers have gone without, will that be enough to sway them to join? we'll see...

After 146 Years, Brooklyn Convent to Close [NYT]

Long time New York reporter David Gonzales has the story of The Sister's of Mercy, whose building will close after 146 years.

(Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times)

The building whose interior is shown in the picture above from the times is on Willoughby Av. in Fort Greene.

Monday, December 15, 2008

good grief

This could have been the "Photo Wednesday" feature,
but I could never wait to open presents either:
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This is from Prospect Heights.t'was the 1st Deco I saw tis season.

I'm posting this now because of my original plan gone awry, which was to go to all the neighborhoods that I remember as throwing up the best Holiday Decos and posting one a day until the shopping I mean, holiday season is over.

But my camera took a nasty spill a few days back and neither it nor I have recovered. It's amazing how much a camera that don't take pictures feels just like a lump of coal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hap'nins Sat-Sun 12/13-12/14

A few random cultural hap'nins this weekend in B'Klyn

SMART BROOKLYN GALLERY HOP
[from MONICA DRAKE,NYTimes]
On Sunday the smART Brooklyn Gallery Hop will include four bus routes crisscrossing the borough and linking many neighborhoods usually segregated by subway lines. A sampling from the Gold Loop offers a snapshot of new art as well as the waterfront’s transformation from its industrial past: Smack Mellon (above) in Dumbo has placed contemporary art in a space that at one point was a boiler house for a paper-box company, and the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition is holding its holiday art sale in its 19th-century warehouse.

Other routes on the gallery hop veer farther off the beaten path, both physically and conceptually. The Brooklynite Gallery, a storefront in Bedford-Stuyvesant, represents and exhibits street artists like the Kuildoosh collective and Aiko; Proteus Gowanus bases its exhibitions of art, artifacts and books on a single theme that changes once a year; and Tabla Rasa Gallery’s originality lies in its location, in Sunset Park. Or maybe, in the spirit of that other gallery district, we should start calling it SuPa. (Buses depart various locations on the hour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; routes are at brooklyn-usa.org; 718-802-3530 or smart@visitbrooklyn.org to register; free.)


Heart of Brooklyn:
A free regular transportation to the HOB cultural campus from select neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Serving Red Hook on the third Saturday of the month, the shuttle makes its way to the main entrances of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library, Prospect Park and Prospect Park Zoo.

Passengers can hop on the free shuttle back to Red Hook or choose to spend an evening in central Brooklyn.
url:http://visitbrooklyn.org/redirect.php?urli=www.heartofbrooklyn.org/connection

Saturday @ Brooklyn College: Christmas in the Caribbean with the University Singers
[site]

Performing Arts
Jamaica’s cultural ambassadors return to Brooklyn Center with a program of traditional and Caribbean holiday music.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
8:00pm to 10:00pm
Walt Whitman Theatre, Brooklyn College Campus [map]
Box Office, 718-951-4500
$25-$40
Brooklyn College faculty, staff, and alumni get a $5 discount off full priced tickets. Brooklyn College students admitted free beginning one hour before curtain (student ID required, limit one ticket per ID).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Notorious B.I.D. "Battles" on Fulton St.

Nice Signage
"We Meen Bizness"

The Daily News has this report about the debate (they subtly call it a "war") between merchants on Fulton St. regarding the Business Improvement District that is proposed to go from Rockwell Place (near Flatbush Av) to Bedford Classon Avenue.

The Daily News reports:

But Atchudta Barkr, 28, owner of Sister's Community Hardware near Washington Ave., questioned the value of those services.

"We're paying for someone to sweep and someone to call the police?" she said. "We can call the police ourselves. ... It won't benefit us."

The plan has been approved by the City Planning Commission and will go into effect unless 51% of property owners file their objections by Saturday.

I mentioned a hint of this on an earlier post but I had to add that photo taken yesterday of the Met Supermarket mentioned in the article. Fun.

GhostBikes on the movement

I was out in Fort Greene one night last week, sitting in the fortress that is my dude's SUV when suddenly a spectral object rolled by nearly glowing in the darkness. I recognized the shining skeletal bike immediately and went over.

Ghost Bike in Ft. Greene

Many of you will recognize the thin ten speed bike painted white from top to tires as part of the GhostBike project. Ghostbikes for those who don't know are created by volunteers and in several cities placed near the scene of a cyclist's death, usually with a plaque or sign detailing the accident. I find them appropriately reverent and spooky.

This text from their site describes the project:
The first ghost bikes were created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003, and they have since appeared in at least 72 cities throughout the world. For those who create and install the memorials, the death of a fellow bicyclist hits home. We all travel the same unsafe streets and face the same risks; it could just as easily be any one of us. Each time we say we hope to never have to do it again -- but we remain committed to making these memorials as long as they are needed.
I felt all ghoulish asking where the bike was to be placed and the duo (clad all in black, mighty like ninjas) told me that bike was headed to Harlem, (Update: here's the bike installed in Harlem) and that they lived in Inwood. I mentioned I hadn't heard of any accidents around Fort Greene so I was surprised to see the bike at all. They then let me know that unfortunately there had been an fatal cycling accident on Nevins near Livingston (Downtown) and that they intended to place a GhostBike memorial there for a child who was killed while riding his bike with his father. That accident involved a postal truck, and the way the story was told to me it seemed just to be a terrible faultless happenstance. Sad indeed.


There will be a memorial ride on January 4th to raise awareness for cyclist's rights and safety, for details check their site: http://www.ghostbikes.org/node/364

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Photo Wednesday 12/10/08 Fulton road work jogs memories

Rebuilding Fulton St.
Putting in work: It's about what isn't there and searching for it

Regardless of what people say, one of the things that I think makes me a lovable sort of curmudgeon is that I grew up in the 70's and 80's version of New York. A moment full of resilient holdover artifacts of bygone eras which populated my childhood and color the stories I lived and tell and occasionally go on at length about.(which I insist is a reason to love me more, dammit)

Today I noticed the near end of the three year long (not-so) extreme makeover (no new trees, I suspect because of the shallow depth of the A/C subway line) of Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill originally budgeted $4.8 million and reported as $8.5 million and 18 month's late by the Brooklyn Paper.
Apparently there's a debate going between store owners who don't want to be part of the Fulton St. B.I.D. that will be built around this construction. For those who don't care to read about a B.I.D...

Here's some Constructo-Porn-Pics for this Photo Wednesday, followed by a story (yay!):

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(above and below) was the view back in October. The last photo is as of Mon Dec 8th

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Rebuilding Fulton St.
That rectangular outline is for the bus stop, an encouraging sign that the rerouted
Fulton St. bus would be back, and the street would again be a two-way.


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Rebuilding Fulton St.
Fulton Street makeover
New layers put down to be covered by new layers put down to be covered by.....
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Yesterday's foot falls forever frozen, never to be seen again
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Signed sealed delivered
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That contraption laying the gravel and belching the steam, always makes me think of Richard Scarry even more than Dr. Suess.

Fulton Street makeover IMG_7991
By sun down this too was paved, meaning the entire stretch of road has now be rebuilt. All that remains is the painting. By rush hour traffic was moving (one way) alone the road freely, although some people decided it was already a two-way.

So yesterday as I watched the road work happening on Fulton Street I thought of one of those Brooklyn artifacts (that was still going strong in the 80's).

The artifact that came to mind was a game called Skelly as seen in the photo below.


If you don't know about this classic game played on Brooklyn streets, sidewalks and parks check the detailed history of this site (streetplay.com) for rules and pictures.

As games go, Skelly was conversely simple and intricate in terms of rules, strategies and techniques. It was basically like combining backgammon, marbles and "Sorry" all in one, which was more than challenging enough to keep kids occupied until about age 13. Using your fingers, you'd tap your game piece (a bottle cap usually) from the starting line and try to successfully navigate to the game board's center and back before everyone else.

All we needed to play was a piece of chalk, a bottle cap, and hopefully some wax. If there were no kids out when you wanted to play, you went to everyone's door and rang apartment bells until you had a group together. Imagine it like a pre-teen call to arms.

The Skelly Cap
The game piece of choice for most kids on my block was the 80's era tops from plastic gallon containers of milk. They basically looked like a cheaper plastic version of a Milton-Bradley checker piece, but hallow and open on one side. Acquiring those caps was step one. Step two was candles and crayons. The wax from either of those sources was like the difference between playing football with and without a helmet.

An example of how the wax mattered is clear in an element of the game called "blasting", at least that's what we called it. "Blasting" was when you used your cap to knock another players cap with as much force as possible so their cap was at least pushed out of your way and if possible sent into another dimension.

To work the wax in, the older kids, generally 10 and up, had a different method than younger kids (me). By nature of their age the older kids were natural pyromaniacs and generally had matches lighters and the like, despite the fact that none of us smoked at that time. They'd use their lighters and matches to melt crayons or burn candle wax into their caps, patting it down as tightly as possible. Being younger I learned to place scavenged crayon shards into my lid, I used a Tropicana lid from the glass bottle (does Tropicana still make a glass bottle?) or a jar lid like from Mott's Apple Sauce then I'd place the metal lid and crayon shards on the stove and turn the burner on, within seconds the die was cast so to speak. Oh and least I get scream'pt on by ol'skool players, most all us kids placed a penny or nickle in the bottom of the cap before the wax, for extra heft. This also helped knock other caps farther and made your cap more immovable.

Making the board was a big deal, there were two configurations on our block, each consisting of a square board with square sections placed at the corners and in the center. Depending on how boxes were placed and divided there could be as many as 13 boxes, or bases, which you had to navigate two from a starting point, and back again.

The games could be over in ten minutes or go on for an hour. In ridiculous acts of game sanctioned cruelty our parents and the elders on the block would look at as like we had three noses and no brains for being all alone half a block from the other kids slowly tapping a wax filled bottle cap back toward the skelly board. Why? because on our block and I assume most others there was the "kicksies" rule. If any cap, was hit and began to role on its side like a wheel, somebody, often everybody would yell "kicksies" and everybody but the cap owner, would charge and try to kick the cap as far from the board as humanly possible, hopefully into another dimension.

Those were the times when you didn't want the giant target that was a tropicana bottle cap as your cap.
I'm gonna cut this short for now because honestly I can go on and on about Skelly, but here's my basic recollection as well as a great post I found from the now defunct supernegro blog that has his personal account of the street game he (and many) knew and loved.

I think it's interesting that this dude was a kid in Vanderveer (a housing development in Flatbush near the Midwood section and Brooklyn College) or the 'Veer' as it was spoken of with awe and menace, and yet he and a commenter to his blog ran the same schedule as kids I grew up with in Prospect Heights, it was on Saturdays mostly, right after cartoons. You'd go out with your cap, good players on our block had one, a favorite, the lil' kids had several for reasons that will soon be clear.

So as I watched yesterday, the new solid smooth as baby bottom asphalt laid on Fulton Street, I immediately began to wonder where I could score some chalk and crayons.

And now I gonna jump on soap box:

Yea native Brooklynites talk a lot of shit about what was and what ain't. Clearly, I'm no different. But I direct these next thoughts to the newly come Brooklyn bitchers and moaners, much like the type who bicker on brownstoner, those who leave snide comments asking why we're so fond of our "old" Brooklyn/New York City. If you don't know now you know, I luvs yous guys and I wrote this answer to you, "here it comes khan";

In my opinion the nostalgia we hold isn't for dodging bullets and scattered crack vials. It's for the richness that existed when we were younger, incredulous yet useful things like the sharpening truck that would ride through the neighborhood well into the 80's providing old fashion services, vacant lots that used to be transformed into carnivals rather than be left fallow, knowing a majority of the people on our block, and speaking with them, dude's walking around with cardboard to drop and start breakdancing at a moment's notice, it's for the rough edged but simple childhood reality of laying on the warm summer sidewalk playing an intricate game of skelly literally made out of our blocks and our imaginations. This is what our reminisces calls to. It just happened unfortunately for us, that both warm and deadly cold things existed together in our Brooklyn lives. How lucky for you that much of those days are past and yet many of you still moan and groan about the place you've put money down to live because you've noticed you're money isn't enough to make eyesores melt and broken lives invisible. Generally I'm happy for the renewal that is sweeping much of Brooklyn.

Personally I've been waiting for it since the 70's when I lived for few years with my mother out near the Utica Av 3/4 station and I first experienced burnt out buildings that were never repaired. Today I imagine the day when I'll walk my kids through Brooklyn streets and I'm happy that their chances of getting gunned down have faded away dramatically from the "Bucktown" days but my still relevant question is while it's great to have the new and be rid of the bad ol', did the good ol days, have to fade away as well? It's a complex question and I think that's also why Brooklynites keep talking about it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Plaxico's comedy ripples still going

Who doesn't want to be clever? So when there's a story with a built in punchline like the somewhat still relevant Plaxico Burress saga I find the hardest thing is to be funny without beating the proverbial dead horse. These guys do it right. Not a Brooklyn thang per se; but have a look:

The weekend that was...

From Targét 1st Saturday's dance party at the Brooklyn Museum:

Outside:
1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season
Inside:
1st Sat B'Klyn Museum 12/06

1st Sat B'Klyn Museum 12/06

and a glimpse at the inevitable avalanche of humanity that falls into Soda afterward...

Soda Bar 12/6

Soda Bar 12/6

Soda Bar 12/6

Soda Bar

Sunday, December 7, 2008

1st B'klyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season
One hit? I wonder...

Ah... I love nature's ability to read our minds and translate our thoughts into weather events, don't you? The way it rains incessantly when your team loses the championship or the gentle rainbow arching across the sky after a funeral. Or do I have those reversed?

Whatever. As I was about to write a post 'xplaing how much last night's 1st snow is nothing but a memory, wacky moms-nature decided to shake more snow in front of me than at a south beach coffee table, even more snow than this;


An how about that, as I finished that paragraph so have the snow flurries stopped. "licky boom boom" indeed, whatever that means.

And without further delay here's last night's first snow pics:

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

1st Bklyn Snow 08/09 season

Friday, December 5, 2008

Got Unemployment Records? Let's Dance!


Here's your chance

So yeh we got the USofA ringing up the largest one month job losses since 1974.

And for once MTV perma-lancers can laugh at someone as Viacom laid off 850 and NBC Universal laid of 500, which was this week alone and says nothing about the total 533,000 jobs let go in November.

Whatcha gonna do, cry? Yeh? Maybe, just a bit?

Well don't cry. Dry your eyes, cause if you have no kids, no spouse, no sick relatives, pets, or roommates, than you my friend are officially, on vacation.

Yeh, of course you'll be looking for a job, just like O.J.'s latest antics were an elaborate attempt to look for the real killers; from jail. O.J. golfed while looking, you mah man and mah woman, you're the flyer muthers that are gonna dance. Dance I said.

So make that unemployment claim, chuck that alarm clock, eat a loaf of bread (for a variety of reasons, among them, that it will soon be your staple food) and do to your inhibitions what your job did to you; let it go baby, let it go.


Here's a list courtesy of the Herbert Hollar, from DJ Herbert himself. (Thank me later Herbet, whenever we actually get introduced)

Tonight and every fri - the freedom party!!! - canal room (285 west broadway+canal) DJ Herbert holler + cosi + marc smooth
classic rap/classic r&b/classic reggae/classic house/80s/soul/funk/disco
music videos on big screen - the lowest cover in nyc - no attitude!!!!!
(NO baseball caps/durags/jerseys/shorts/hoodies/big baggy jeans+shirts)
11to4 - gals$7/guys$10/g.a.$15/

fri(05): bronx museum - eli efi/live musicians - global rhythms - 6pm-10
fri(05): guggenheim - the rub!!! - rap/80s/disco/soul/more - 6pm to 10pm
fri(05): santos - q tip/rich medina/gravy - rap/soul/disco/rock/afrobeat/reggae
fri(05): bam cafe/bk - dj true/wax poetics - global soul/brazilian jazz - 8 to 12
fri(05): imperial - roxy cottontail/guests - electro/rap/rock/electronic ish
fri(05): roseland - paul van dyk/jason jollins - house/electro/techno
fri(05): sullivan room - dj true/guests - samba/house/salsa/afrobeat/latin/soul
fri(05): apollo - chrisette michelle/ryan leslie - live r&b and soul
fri(05): arrow - redlox - soul/funk/classic rap/old school/more
fri(05): deity/bk - obah - soul/funk/global soul/rap/r&b/disco/80s/more
fri(05): strata - dj self/kaos - rap/r&b/reggae/olskool
fri(05): sutra - dj center/guests - rap/soul/80s/olskool/r&b/disco
fri(05): prime - bobby trends/big ben/kast one - rap/r&b/reggae/pop
fri(05): 169 bar - chew rocks - soul/classics/latin/rock/electro/afrobeat
fri(05): afterwork/lq - jinx paul/guests - rap/latin/house/classics
fri(05): afterwork/katra - dj hud - rap/r&b/reggae/classics
fri(05): philly/afterwork/world cafe - zenmystic - soul/classics/global
fri(05): denver/wish - dj sky nellor - rap/rock/80s/pop/mashups
fri(05): istanbul/babylon - nickodemus/nappy g - house/global soul
fri(05): mantova/italy/club moxa - kevin hedge - soulful house
sat(06): pacha - martinez brothers/true/brian coxx/kervyn mark/kamala - house/global soul
sat(06): southpaw/bk - cosmo baker - baby loves disco - 6 months + up!
sat(06): brookyn museum - obah/cato - global soul - 9pm to 11pm
sat(06): southpaw/bk - eleven/cosmo baker/ayres - rap/disco/80s/reggae/more - the rub!!!
sat(06): sullivan room - mark farina - downtempo/dub/west coast house
sat(06): drom - cato/lucha/live brazilian band - world music/global soul
sat(06): le poisson rouge - team facelift/aaron la crate/guests - rap/electro
sat(06): hiro - guest djs - rap/r&b/pop/80s
sat(06): highline ballroom - guest djs - rap/r&b/80s/pop/electro
sat(06): vault - marc smooth/cosi/jon quick - rap/r&b/reggae/classics
sat(06): canal room - young guru/guests - rap/r&b/reggae/classics - HU afterparty!
sat(06): imperial - ody rock - rap/r&b/pop/rock/80s
sat(06): sob's - guest djs/live bands - brazilian dance music
sat(06): fr.og - commish - rap/r&b/reggae/olskool
sat(06): strata - big ben/guests - rap/r&b/reggae/olskool/latin
sat(06): black betty/bk - emskee - disco/soul/rap/house/80s/more
sat(06): santos - david bowie ball - all kinds of glam rock stuff
sat(06): sapphire - jazzy nice - latin/house/soul/rap/reggae/classics
sat(06): bb king's - self/norie - rap/r&b/reggae - snl!!!!!
sat(06): providence - guest djs - rap/r&b/reggae/pop/80s
sat(06): bucharest/mashitup - nickodemus/nappy g - house/global soul
sun(07): santos - danny krivit - soulful house/club classics - 6pm-12am
sun(07): drom - tony touch/guests - undrgrnd house/global soul
sun(07): pyramid - mc open mic/freestyle battles - end of the weak!!
sun(07): the eldridge - m.o.s. - pop/electro/mashups - big pocket pimpin!
sun(07): suzy wong - guest djs - rap/r&b/reggae/old school/pop
sun(07): guest house - goldfinger - rap/r&b/reggae/olskool/80s
sun(07): home - soul/guests - rap/r&b/reggae/80s/olskool/latin
sun(07): santos - nicky siano!!!!!/neil aline!!!!! - house/disco/soul/80s
sun(07): bk/langston's - cameron da dj/guests - house/club classics
sun(07): bk/tamboril - mary mac - classics/rap/soul/more
sun(07): room service - will/triple x - rap/r&b/reggae/classics/olskool
sun(07): l.a./lax - steve aoki/guests - electro/80s/rap/rock/pop
sun(07): l.a./vanguard - marques wyatt/guests - house/global ish
mon(08): santos - epmd live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!
mon(08): sob's - kindred family soul - www.sobs.com
mon(08): cielo - francois k/guests - deep soulful set from #1 dj vet
mon(08): tillman's - dj op - soul + funk instrumentals + live artists!!!
mon(08): st nick's pub - live incredible jazz - legendary!!!!
mon(08): sway - guest djs - rap/80s/reggae/electro/rock/remixes
mon(08): home/guesthouse - mixx/will/guests - rap/r&b/reggae
mon(08): barcelona/sidecar - nickodemus/wagner/andyloop - house/electro
tue(09): socialista - dj soul/guests - authentic ill ish!!!!!
tue(09): greenhouse - dj reach/guests - rap/pop/80s/mashups
tue(09): apollo - musiq soulchild - live r&b/soul
tue(09): sutra - tony touch/friends - rap/latin/soul/disco/rock/more
tue(09): marquee - guest djs - rap/r&b/reggae/pop/80s
tue(09): sapphire - eman/lola/spider - deep, soulful house/minimal
tue(09): union square lounge - kamala - deep house
tue(09): tillman's - dj center - soul/funk/global soul/jazz/classics/rap
tue(09): afterwork/crunch/fulton st/bk - sweets - soul/funk/house/rap

Targét 1st Saturday Tomorrow @ B'klyn Museum

Cropped Adj BK Museum
Here's a release with details of tomorrow's goings on:
Love Your World at Brooklyn Museum's

Target First Saturday on December 6th 2008

The Brooklyn Museum's Target First Saturdays event, now in its tenth season, attracts thousands of visitors to free programs of art and entertainment each month. December's event is a celebration of creative social change and artistic communities around the world. Highlights include live music by the Brian Jackson Quartet; a poetry jam set to music by the Welfare Poets; a screening of the film Born into Brothels; and a dance party featuring the Manjinga Party's DJs, live percussion, and host.

DECEMBER 6th SCHEDULE OF PROGRAMS

5–7 p.m. Music: The Welfare Poets set their socially conscious lyrics to rhythms from Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the South Bronx.

6–8 p.m. Film: Born into Brothels (Briski and Kauffman, 2005, 85 min., NR). A poignant look at the lives of children growing up in an Indian red-light district. A question-and-answer session with the director, Ross Kaufman, follows. Free tickets available at the Visitor Center at 5 p.m.

6-7 p.m. Discussion: A representative from the international organization MADRE discusses its work focusing on women and H.I.V./A.I.D.S. Free tickets available at the Visitor Center at 5 p.m.

6:30–8:30 p.m. Hands-On Art: Participants use the Museum's contemporary art collection as inspiration for
constructing sculptural works from found materials. Free timed tickets available at the Visitor Center at 5:30 p.m.

7 p.m. Artist Talk: Stephen Sollins discusses his work on view in the exhibition Burning Down the House.
Free tickets available at the Visitor Center at 5 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Artist Talk: Photographer/Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders discusses the exhibition The Black
List Project.

8 p.m. Panel Discussion: Martha Diaz, President of the Hip-Hop Association, leads a panel of socially conscious New York City entrepreneurs. Free tickets available at the Visitor Center at 7 p.m.

8:30 p.m. Young Voices Talk: Student Guides discuss the exhibition The Black List Project.

8:30 p.m. Music: The Brian Jackson Quartet presents a mix of jazz, hip-hop, and soul, featuring bassist Diallo House, drummer Ismail Lawal, and a special guest.

9–11 p.m. Dance Party: The Manjinga party's premier DJs and live percussionist present an eclectic selection of world, hip-hop, classic reggae, and funk.

For more information, please visit www.brooklynmuseum.org.

Renewal Friday

Ugh. It's Friday and I wanted to lead off on a less ugh note, yet there it is. My bad, I shouldn't have read the news before posting. Btw today's ugh and yesterday's rant it's time to purge I think. A few years back I started surrounding myself as much as possible with images of spring more and more as winter approached and during the winter itself. So for your pleasure and mine here's an example:



I like the contrast between this video from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the Fall Photo Series I've been putting up. Maybe that should be my Friday feature, chase the grey away Fridays. I've been meaning to express a little more about the Fall Photos, more on that later.

And of course the weekend is starting and I'll be posting happ'nings later today.

Peace out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crime. WTF peoples?!?


"Bailout by Shank" The now negotiation tool on the streets. bitch.

Generally aside from things happening at the moment, I have no interest in writing about violence and crime in the city. Not out of disinterest, but simply because we're nearly ten million people, mostly in tight spaces and close proximity and crime is very likely. No matter how many of us dance in the streets after an election, there's always the chance of that one dick, still hanging in the bar, who's digging through strewn coats looking for their idea of change.

Crime happens, and while we should work toward it being a thing of the past like Bloomberg and superblocks, until we do away with crime, it shouldn't surprise us. I mean not for nothing but in a city of this size and circumstance you got personal beefs, financial fall-outs, road rages, idiot athletes, then toss in the amount of drunken partying potential crime victims teetering through the night and top it all off with the fact that this city has the highest disparity between wealthy and poor who live in the closest proximity (less than a mile separates Housing Projects and Luxury Condos on Park Av in the Manhattan) and it's a wonder any of us make it home at all. In fact those of us who do make it home should encounter rats, pigeons and fat raccoons sitting on our futons and Murphy beds, watching our Mac enabled netflix and ordering soy sausages from fresh direct while quizzically asking us what we're still doing here. So crime, even in post 9/11, post gentrified, post Obama NYC, shouldn't surprise us.

Unless it's happening more often.

Maybe it's those last two items in my rant, the financial crisis and proximity (not the rats or fresh direct) that are the catalyst. But even to my jaded eye, people are seeming extra desperate and foul these days. I don't claim to know how much current events are affecting the minds and pockets of New Yorkers, maybe it's the suggestion of financial crisis, if not the real thing that has seeped into the minds of the weak and not well off.

How else do you explain this story "Man, 55, Is Shot to Death Delivering Meals for Charity" [NYT]. This is an old story, (from Nov10th) I don't know why I just noticed it today but I'm outraged just the same.

Basically the story is a man goes to a housing project in Brownsville to DELIVER FOOD TO THE HUNGRY, and he's shot dead?!? REALLY??

So it's not safe to volunteer?!? Somebody tell Obama!

No, we can't accept this. Fuck outta here with that, whoever did that shit is a depraved animal. straight up barbarism. No excuse.

Which makes me ask out loud, WTF is going on lately? In the last week you have a holiday shopper stampede at Wal-Mart resulting in some poor temp getting trampled to death, and reports say it was instigated by a shouting argument about who was "cutting in line" That was the cause? Arguing about who cut the line? Like when you were trying to buy the last pack of "Butter Crunch" cookies from the Junior High School cafeteria?

People?! are we people?!?

Then in Bedford-Stuyvestant you got the equally sad and depraved:
I-can't-get-no-transfer-for-free?-okay-umma-punch-you-and-leav---no-wait-umma-shank-you-like-an-extra-on-Oz-to-get-my-angst-out mentality.

Stabbing the bus driver who let you ride free, because after your free ride, he wouldn't give you a $2 transfer, essential paying you for your theft of service? What street was this mad man from, wall street? Really, was the assailant from a hedge fund? That's some really insane profit taking. Is this the point we're at, Bailout by Shank?

In Fort Greene, in October a broad day light gun battle between three people spilled into a beauty parlor around the corner from the James E. Davis building (although for what it's worth, this story sounded less random than the others and more like like no honor among thieves)

James E. Davis who was a community organizer that held rallies in Brooklyn against gun violence (and crime in general) was later elected to city council and months after gunned down by a rival in the council chamber. In November stray shots rang out on Hanson and South Portland, around the corner from the aforementioned shootout, and while it seems nobody was hit and the two incidents aren't related (it was late) the wild gunfire hit the James Davis building on corner shattering the windows of the museum, Mocada located on the first floor. That of all buildings this one is hit by random gunfire makes it even more of an affront.

This isn't what I intended to write about and I accept it's become a rant but that story about the guy delivering food just did it for me, especially when I've read so many stories recently about how food banks are struggling to help communities in need, many in Brooklyn and the like, and then this, fuck man I dunno...

I'm not writing to prophesy doom, or divide and disdain but really man, I wanna know what the fuck is this? These people regardless of what motivates them, are harboring some animalistic tendencies. Which frankly I hate admitting, because the preps might be young men or woman of color and we know how forces will leap on the chance to cast all of us in the same hole as the worse of us. But maybe we can do it now, maybe with an Obama in office, with something as attractive in our society as that we can get over whatever stigma maybe, wade through the stank of "dirty laundry", look at this ugliness and have a louder conversation to deal with what is happening to segments of our community.

So is this all a reality? Besides an increase in rambling blogs, are people acting out in more publicly aggravated ways?

Really, what the fuck, people?