Search the archives of this Brooklyn Born Blog!


More about this blog

Brooklyn Born Blog Subjects

Friday, December 20, 2013

NYTimes posts a used-to-love letter to 5Ptz

The New York Times posted what I'm coining a "I used-to-love letter" to the subject of the erased murals on the 5ptz building in its Friday, Dec 20th, 2013 online edition.

I noticed a small headline and link reading "A Beginning For 5Ptz not the End" whose title conceit inspired me to read it since last word and image from 5ptz, the iconic mural and graffiti coated building in Long Island City, Queens, was of all it's art, tags and massive murals, some of it a decade old had been destroyed in gut wrenching fashion and the middle of the night by the land owner and developer.

Immediately after I read the letter which was posted in the City Diary section and who's message seems to be telling us, to borrow a movie line,"nothing to see here move along" I wondered if any vested real estate interests help blow this bit of prose up the grey lady's skirt. And if so how much?

For you I present my interpretation of the letter, the article to the actual is at the end.

Dear Diary,

I used to love, a boy, he was cool, an artist, with a cool name. I'm giving you the superficial details because I have a word count to watch and there really wasnt much more depth to my interest than that.

It wasn't my fault but I missed out on the New York of lore, fortunately thanks to my crush-love I was granted access into a sliver of that world and a chance to sight-see. It was great. My crush, wrote me in small letters into a world of characters, among them; self-proclaiming types, and a  disappearing/reappearing tabby cat(Cheshire, duh). Finally I surfed on the edge of inclusion. From the roof, I watched the sunset on this world and it's magic.

Long after I got a fb message from my crush-love (who by now I realized, I didn't really love anyway) he showed me the art work of that world was taken away. Interestingly he didn't care much.  Since he's of that world and willing to see the developer's middle-night white out of all it's artwork (including my non-crush's artwork (ephemeral, duh)) I know what happened doesn't matter, and I clearly should not see it as a big deal that the art work was destroyed without any attempt to save even one mural.

My erased-crush thinks it's like a blank canvas for new art to grow, like say the uniqueness of the edifying edifices of luxury high-rise condos. My once-crush is giving me permission not to see the developer's actions as an insult, an example of the excessive greed and ego that has dictated much of the gentrification of the city in the last ten years, or a symbol of petty vengeance by a sore winner/developer with a desire to take an eraser to a world renown aspect of New York City.

So like an online fling we should just move along and be happy there still pictures somewhere on the internet to look at.

P.S.: No word on the tabby, I'm sure he'll pop up somewhere else, maybe he'll just appear in one of the new luxury condos because that's how magic works.


The City Roll Diary article refered to can be found here:  

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Photo Wednesday 121813 : Brooklyn Gang Land Edition

My intended post isnt ready, and I'm saving the holiday thoughts for next Photo Wednesday, it being Christ day and all. So here's some picts I came across of gang bangers in Brooklyn, of the 1950's.

Bruce Davidson is a photographer, now 80 he lives out of state, but once upon a day, he made his home in Brooklyn, and chose to photograph gang members after hearing news of gang fights in the city.

The UK's Daily Mail published this piece written by Lizzie Edmonds:

"These extraordinary photographs document the fascinating lives of a teen gang living in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1950s.

The images are part of a collection called Brooklyn Gang, and were taken by renowned photographer Bruce Davidson, 80, who has dedicated his career to documenting New York City life and culture.
This collection is especially interesting as it follows a group of teens, who called themselves the Jokers, who lived in the city in 1959."


And here's more info on Photographer Bruce Davidson.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Whole Foods opens in Brooklyn

The lonnng awaited and debated Brooklyn Whole Foods opened in Gowanus, eight years after it was first proposed.  The open was a few hours ago and according to third hand reporting, it's awash in hipsters clambering for vinyl records and all that's organic, twee, trend and probably more expensive than Trader Joe's and Fairway. 

Gothamist and NY Times' Vivian Yee (@VivianHYee) has more deets.

Wonder if this will ease crowding at the other two? 

And does this switch Gowanus off the local track to full on gentrification and express renewal?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Crow Hill Assoc meeting Tomorrow & All your decoration are belong to us!

Neighborhood events and doings to mention, the Crow Hill Community Association is having a meeting tomorrow:

Tuesday, December 17, 7:30 PM
The Gospel Tabernacle Church
725 Franklin Ave
Between Park Pl. and Sterling Pl.

They ask that we join them for the last CHCA meeting of the year! They'll have updates from the community and nominations for 2014 board member candidates will be accepted.

"The election for new board members will take place at the January meeting in 2014. All nominations must be received by December 31, 2013. You can make nominations in person or via email to"

Also as we are nearing Christmas & Kwanzaa (I know plenty who celebrate both) I'd like to share your gift of garland (as well as preventing this blog from looking like Whoville after the Grinch) so If you have a holiday decorations you'd like to share with the world, feel free to send an jpg with your name, and other information you feel (street name, years in the neighborhood, occupation, etc) to:

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Knocked-Out; Big gestures obscure the subtle wind-up

This blog post is about the criminal assaults that have been highlighted in recent months and described as "Knockout Games"

Most of you reading this are not likely to be knocked out by a gang of "savage" urban youth, (which often is code for brown-skinned youth) and there are many reasons statistical and circumstantial why you reading this aren't likely to be randomly assaulted.

Have you ever punched someone? If so, was he or she a stranger? You have to be a little stupid to hit a stranger, it's terrifying for the sane mind, especially when you the potential attacker are not being threatened.

I know this because I've assaulted a person.

When I was a kid I participated in what is being categorized by children and news media as "knockout or knockout games", I'm serious and I'm not proud of it.

I and the group of other teens I was with, hit two separate other boys, on separate occasions in different places. But the situation was the same, a large group of boys (if you asked us if we were a gang, only the most desperate for attention in the motley crew would have said "yes") against a smaller group or single boy.  We didn't have any title for this other than childhood.  One assault happened in the streets after being let out of Junior High School, once was in my high school.  When we attacked the other kids or kid, punches were thrown. I hit a kid whose name I didn't even know. Bruised we left the kid and went on to similar trouble. In our teenaged minds, this was just what you did. Structural it's what you felt you had to do when your more alpha "friends" started an action, you left or you followed.  Since leaving usually marked you as a future target you stayed.  I was also assaulted on separate occasions, three times with a different friends, and when I was alone, I was robbed about five times in the Brooklyn streets.  Twice I witnessed people within 50 feet of me being robbed at gun-point.  Most everyone involved was under the age of 20 I'm nearly certain. That's life in an area where youth crime isn't controlled.

When I was a kid in the prehistoric 1980's this was childhood.  I'm willing to bet you can find instances of the same or very similar behavior in the 1970's 60's 50's, 40's 30's… etc in Brooklyn, the five boroughs and on farms, reservations and tundra across the country.  I know hard nosed italian descended kids who occasionally randomly violent attacked other kids during the 70's around Fort Hamilton and New Utrecht, I've heard stories from old gnarled characters of irish kids doing the same decades earlier. 

For me the mixture of guilt, shame, fear of being a life-failure and arrest, grown out of a very law-abiding up-bringing (constant attempts by guardians and care-takers to keep my on a straight path) and my personal character eventually convinced me to avoid criminal acts.  I had vision of my future, and I wanted to make sure I was around to get there.

Today there are internet video sites and apps, some essentially as organized as TV channels twenty years ago, that have entire compilations of the relatively small amounts of heinous random crime that happens around the country.  There's a mixture of causes, sensational promotion of violence and criminal action heavy among them, that many frustrated youth if given an unsupervised opportunity, will be aroused by. 

Instead of addressing the mixture of causes relevant in the New York City assaults, most media  reports blare widely of "knockout games", because it causes incendiary sparks like a spectacular lightning bolt.  the reports have lit fires under local politicians and reporters and of course the hot bacteria of argument has sent the virus round and round. 

There are obvious reasons why this story is so hot and viral.  no one wants to randomly attacked, and yet it's probably the biggest fear of any long term and especially new coming new york resident.  we can't prepare for the random, so when we hear of these types of attacks, we have to consider we might be a future victim.  that isn't necessarily true and I'll explain why in a moment but first since we all can't keep from looking at a story we think relates to us, we put our eyes on TV, and into newspapers and definitely online, an web hits go up, and paper sales go up and local TV ratings improve and that of course guarantees even more stories about the subject which makes us near certain it's an epidemic.

I live in Crown Heights.  I've seen the footage of teens and young adults randomly punching stranger. I recognize the streets, I've known them for over thirty years.  Yet when I wander the streets late at night with writers' block or an under done bit of potatoe to work out, I don't see roving bands of criminal intent youth.  When I stand on Kingston, Nostrand, (definitely not Franklin) Eastern Parkway, and Utica, I don't see these supposed ubiquitous menaces.  Probably because as horrible an act of uncivilized criminality as it is, it isn ubiquitous.  It's street crime which has generally gone down every few years since the mid 1990's.  It's not a new game that going on, it's a mugging same as it ever was.

Mobile Devices with cameras.  Security Cameras. Red light cameras.  Cameras.  Did kittens become amazingly more cute and entertaining in the last 13 years or do we have more cameras.  It's easy to over blow a phenomena when you have multiple cameras recording multiple angles of solitary actions.

So the story is hot and viral because we haven't gotten over the fear that embedded itself deep in us since the World Trade Center attack in 2001, 2003 blackout, 2008 financial meltdown, and most recently the 2012 hurricane.  We expect some bad new thing can be coming and its not hard to feed that subconscious fear. 

I also suggest there's another thing at play here; whats the hottest local political issue in New York City, is it not Stop & Frisk? After years of popular opinion in favor of abolishing the practice, those in favor of violating civil rights in the name of policing haven't had a leg to stand on.  Nothing to show their contention that there is an extreme threat in the streets requiring extreme measures.  nothing to strike fear in the hearts of fair-minded people and turn away their eyes from the deer like visage of the incoming Mayor's congenially Afro'd son.  Until now.  If you are fair minded and you don't think there are people who see "Knockout" games as simply the other side of "Stop & Frisk" ("Stop & Frisk" thank god we have popular media to boil complex ideas down into marquee titles) then meet me on Roebling tonight with your debit card, I have a bridge to show you.

Between story that makes news media money primarily off of yours (and their) fears, and an opposition to public policy finally finding suitable (and witless) messengers, the story of Roaming gangs playing Knock-Out Games is here.

With colder temperatures and higher concentrated policing the reports will taper off soon, but just after the drop in tax season stories next April, the moment there is a street crime resembling it, knock-out stories will be back up off the canvas.

In 2012 there were less than 700 reported assaults/robberies in New York City.  Presume that's half the total and there may have been for the sake of argument 1500 hundred assaults in New York City in 2012, most of these happened in the same areas, most happened among people in the same peer groups. Terrible if you're a victim but you in a city of 8 million the odds are against most of people being attacked, depending of course on the neighborhood.

What gets under reported is that most of the crimes, happen in the same crime-likely areas. Many of the unfortunate victims seen in video footage, though not all, were like many of us, unaware of their surroundings, making them easier targets, and unaware they were being targeted.  And my experience in the streets leads me to believe many people including myself are assaulted in a big urban environment when we are in the company of frustrated violent people who see we are not on-guard.  In a city of 8 million people, millions of the people who pass us by could have some ill-intent.  Our personal vigilance, our choice of street, often, thought not always, casts us as unappealing choices for assault.  Is it your fault if someone attacks you, of course not. But we have a responsibility to ourselves to recognize when someone is a danger to us.

If you find yourself in an area that is unsettling to you, and a group approaches you, and then seem to be remotely aware of you, you need to walk away.  is it your fault there are people in the world who cause problems, no, but it is your responsibility to be aware of your surrounds, so when you see people who are going to cause problems you can get your self clear of it.  That means, not being so engrossed in your phone call, or words with friends, that you don't see a punch coming.

That suggestion comes from my experiences and the experiences of people I've grown up with in New York City.  Each time I've been assaulted I was a teen, or more recently too unaware of my surrounds to realize I'd walked into a bad situation.  There have been many more times where I feel confident, on a subway, a dark street, the person or persons walking toward me was looking to see what might happen, and a dry, but an unwelcoming stare from me, made me unappealing.

When crime happens in new york city, some of us like to engage in what I like to call crime victim fantasy role-play, "will it be me", or "I was just on the street" is the type of prattle I hear in local conversations after a crime happens. Understandable reaction to shock, but so what.  Besides an opportunity to unleash our narcissism these crimes allow us to demonize the other, because its easy and if we are the hero of our story of course, the nebulous generic black/urban attacker is the villain.  This to me is a lesser but still tragic by product of these stories.

What gets lost in the news media's sensationalizing, the local politician's ham fisted attempts to explain, and the citizens narcissism, is that most of these violent acts are committed by children.  12, 15, 18 lets be realistic.  if they are roaming the streets in a group on a school night, and stupid enough to choose punching a stranger, committing a crime, recording, sending it to the world, they are clearly children who have yet to mature, and they've possibly been clear of the mechanisms of maturation, school, consistent goal oriented parenting, positive organization membership)  for years.  that is not an excuse, but it is important to realize because, possibly, they are not totally lost as potential contributing members of our society, and most likely, despite the type of opinions found in the comment sections of the new york post, these kids aren't going to "kill them selves off" they will however, if they don't change course, continue to be a social, economic and potentially criminal drain on themselves, and the rest of the city. 

For the problem of youth violence and apathy, there should be easier access and greater awareness of organizations in the community where decent level headed parents, aunts, uncles and or grandparents can go to say, make no mistake there are plenty of broken families in poor neighborhoods in our city, and they require more effort than just a phone number or a meeting. 

If we as a city, and in these neighborhoods want to address the local crisis of idle youth turning to uncivilized criminal actions, then we need to create an enormous effort.  we need to devote time in meeting, planning and doing.  we need to give the families, of these children a clear sign that we will work with them to turn a situation out of hand back into a reasonable direction.  because if we don't police ourselves, from within, we will be policed, without the compassion that comes from community understanding.  if we don't steer our community's kids in prosperous civil direction, our kids will be policed from a perspective of an unforgiving criminal justice system.  No matter how tall, arrogant, frightening our community's children seem to others and salacious news reports, they are children.  If our children encounter the criminal justice system out there in the streets as a result of their ignorance, they are lost and our future parents, home-owners, community leaders are lost and then we're all gone.


I didn't want to post this blog not due to the subject, but because I felt I hadn't made enough writing passes to be sure my point was clear.  It's important how I present these posts because I want them to communicate effectively.  I started this post over the weekend after a frustrating thought about how much control and power and organization we allow unstructured chaotic elements in our society to have over our mindset, often because of a mix of our personal fear and societal bias.  My reason for being resistant to posting has everything to due with a sudden tragedy I learned about last night Tuesday just about 15 hours ago.  The the youngest member of my immediate family, a baby, was murdered. 

I can't understand it.  I can't really understand what I wrote in that sentence.  The baby's killing had noting to do with viral trends, or this thing some call "knockout", it didn't even happen in this state.  But it has shocked me in a way that I thought a life time of serious tragedies had steeled me against. 

There does seem to me to be a relation between this current trend and the crime against a child so young I never met them, a pattern of poor, unguided, ill-conceived judgements, cultivated through a life that wasn't never challenged to do more.  In my family there is a stunned grieving parent.  My relative is totally innocent of the crime, however my opinion is choices made by my relative, choices of social circle, choices of lifestyle, choices of how much responsibility to apply to that life, contributed to our personal tragedy.  I feel firmly that we need to punish the incorrigible and give a hand to those drowning, even in their own turbulent sea, not just cast the entire lot off hoping those who are misguided sinking to the bottom of their troubles and out of sight. 

To paraphrase what until that horrible news last night had been the end of this post, If our children encounter crisis in their lives at an early age that result in lack of guidance, apathy, little effort on their part, giving up on a positive direction as a result of their ignorance, and then our easy dismissal,  instead of presuming they can be better, then the become the that. It's a lock as soon as we presume no hope and give up on those who still have time to improve. That's what most people under twenty, not all, have, time. If we all in one way or another embrace their failures as normal,  they are lost and our future parents, home-owners, community leaders are lost and then we're all gone. 

Sometimes sooner and closer than we expect.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Photo Wednesday 112713 : New Prospect & Produce on Bedford Av Edition

(Above produce and cheese(!) among other rarified items)

There's a new market selling what seems to be the same type of upscale and higher quality produce and goods gentrifying neighborhoods have come to expect. It opened yesterday but as I was passing Monday night, peering through the mint condition glass windows, the manager invited me in for a chat and look around. More on that later. First, a little from Spike Lee.

Among people I know, one of many famous lines we are prone to recite form the 1991 Malcolm X film is, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock, landed, on us!" The line a turning point in the character Malcolm X's orator ability to speak to the disenfranchised African-Americans of that moment, spoken by Denzel Washington with his characteristic and halting fire delivery.

The initiation of development in neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, usually by developers and land owners who'd ignored the neighborhood or provided minimal service obviously brought in folks and trends, which we all messily blanket with the title gentrification. So much of that gentrification being so culturally, economically and visibly different from what had been in those and other areas of New York City, I personally think of that movie line often.

Sometimes gentrification's not so bad. Having something seem to come from out of the blue, and land, or pop up, in your neighborhood space, something the neighborhood was lacking, for example commercial variety, lifestyle options and the neighborhood self-sufficiency it had, can be the upside. Like everything there's trade offs, but despite the fact that we (myself loudly at times complain about it's ills) gentrification can often give as much as it takes. That's a vague paragraph (and I left it grey in my first draft) but I'll add this distinction. Who gentrification gives to is often where the problems spike.

As I've mentioned all over this blog, I was born in Crown Heights, (until I was born in Prospect Heights, which many seem to only recently realize is in fact still Crown Heights) except that real estate dictates, as well as two decades and landmark preservation have more sharply defined what Prospect Heights is. Anyway, I've seen a lot. For example, my father learned in business school the value of reading the New York Times each Sunday. He was the only person in the family who did this. My Grandfather to name one, was more than happy with the New York Post, but hey, he voted Republican. My dad on the other hand was one of the few, if not only people on Prospect Place between Vanderbilt and Underhill to read the Times at all. This was partially because of how hard it was to get the Times. No one sold it anywhere east of Flatbush Avenue, okay maybe a rare few bodegas had less than ten copies but it was never consistent which ones had it. My father would take me out on Sunday to walk over to Park Slope's cornered edge, Grand Army Plaza and Flatbush Av where the newsstand had nearly a bunker made of stacked New York Times bundles. I've lived the same story of walking a distance sometimes long, sometimes shorter, for reliable meats, produce, cheese, and hardware supplies (despite Mayday being very well stocked) to name a few needs and no it doesnt make my life instantly better to have fresher hamburger, munster, fine grit sandpaper and the sunday classifies, but it helps.

I have a label for posts called, "Gentrification I Can Believe In" for that reason.

There are certain basic things that neighborhoods have, that Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant had which were lost, in some cases, referring specific to shopping needs, replaced for a generation with owner apathy and bare shelves.

I always wanted my neighborhood to come back. I was too young to know about how great Brooklyn was in the 40's & 50's, how much neighborhoods then were solvent and self-sufficient, but the little good I had know from my elementary school days, that little bit that had dried up and flaked off by the cracked out late 80's and early 90's, I wanted at least that much back.

I always knew it could come back, and little things like the rebuilt park on Prospect and Underhill, or the rebuilt Franklin Shuttle and it's stations, or the rebuilt Brooklyn Museum facade, always seemed to suggest a rebirth was moments away. After all, there's a thousand reasons why Crown Heights, and frankly all longstanding neighborhoods in Brooklyn should be thriving. Central of those reasons in my mind is the fact that the basic infrastructure for those neighborhoods, water, power, transportation, roads are here and have been, though they may require extreme upkeep in some situations. Frequently the other key elements; schools, decent residences, (structurally at least) are existing too. So I always knew a thriving Brooklyn could and I believed would come back. What I an afro-caribbean-latino Crown Heights born Brooklynite never expected is that "we", the people in my life, on my block, in my family wouldn't be the stars of the spectacular comeback I knew was coming. Today, frequently, to look at bars, town halls, l'artisanal food markets and (Ha!) New York Times articles about the neighborhood, we're not.

But we all still need provisions.

On the corner of Prospect Place and Bedford avenue there was an auto supply shop, from what I recall it was the kind of place you'd find cans of motor oil, heavy plastic formed jugs of anti-freeze and racks of fan belts plus more. My guess is the store was a hold over from the day when Bedford Ave was all about cars, their showrooms and that industry. After moving back to Crown Heights from Clinton Hill I noticed this retail spot was a bodega in the classically depressing urban sense of the word. Wide isles, bare shelves and low nutritional values seemed to be their stock and trade. Along with loosies and what else I could only speculate. 

My long frequent walks pass this store headed for greener produce inspired me to write a long post about it, other retail spaces on Bedford and Franklin that I felt could use some of that damn gentrifying. But you know, the good ones. Life and the fact that nothing offers less return on my investment than this blog kept that long series of "Gentrification I Can Believe In" posts from being written, and then Franklin, frankly, exploded with gentry. Okay it hasn't gotten pass Prospect place going north and something that I think is unseen and goes beyond simple explanation is keeping gentrification's appetites for rare cheese from flowing south on Franklin from Eastern Parkway. However on a certain highly publicized stretch of Franklin Avenue, there is more pomp and cheese then anyone could have guessed at and there's more on the way.

Meanwhile Bedford one block away, hadn't seen much commercial development until early last year when a bodega on Sterling started getting a make over. Till now the biggest thing to happen on Bedford commercially was the opening of Catfish, between Park Place and Prospect Place, the Creole themed bar and restaurant which full disclosure I am a huge fan of. Yes, there is Brooklyn Exposure a lovingly inviting spot that seems to have the market cornered on every form of respectable nightlife from dinning to comedy shows to full on musical performances. Brooklyn Exposure seems to be powered by love as much as anything, I've been once and the people so great I imagined them to all be family. But Catfish is still the biggest point of interest from Atlantic to Empire Blvd.

The issue for Bedford is partially it's a very wide two-way street. I have a theory that you need a higher density of thriving businesses for streets larger than one lane one-ways. Which in my mind is part of why Williamsburg's end of Bedford Av flourished so easily. Brooklyn Exposure is just a block away from Catfish but it feels like a trek at night. Catfish's great food and drinking selections plus a warm wide inviting space have kept it humming with people since last year, but their red neon sign might as well say "City Limits" for it's solitary standing on Bedford Av. I'll grant Cafe Rux Dix opened on the corner of Park Place this year, a fine french inspired cafe, but it's subdued lighting and vibe don't light up the corner it's on, probably by design. Beyond these three outposts, there are also many condos and recently built or rebuilt apartments on Bedford, two at the intersection of Bedford and Prospect, one more up the block on the lots that had been home to a community garden that was found to be unofficial but dense with trees. Despite that there still hasn't been much else in the way of commercial action on Bedford. Until yesterday.

I was almost face to glass, trying to make out the brands on the densly packed market shelves when the manager came toward me. I admit I wasn't in the mood to be waved off, they'd been constructing whatever this business was, I thought, "...for months and I'm sure they're not finished". I made it a few feet from the entrance when the same manger came out and invited me back in. 

The new market on Bedford and Prospect place is not large enough to be a supermarket, but it is in-line scale-wise with "Bob & Betty's" that well lit, well stocked, often organic market on Franklin and Lincoln. The manager of this new market on Bedford and Prospect, Reuben, told me the building owner (who somehow got all of their tenants out and remodeled the corner apartment building above, with raised rents and all new occupants less than a year ago) contacted him because he manages another market in Williamsburg where the building owner lives. Reuben looks and sounds like a Brooklynite to me and he claimed he was.

The easiest way to describe the zeal with which he should me around the market, would be proud father. The market is open but still being stocked he boasted through an excited smile that never left his face. "We're getting all local produce in this section, most of our produce will be locally sourced" Reuben exclaimed through un-checked excitement.

Reuben told me he'd submitted a business plan for the space, and couldn't understand what the previous store manager did in the previous desperate space. Now the shelves are lined with a variety of items you'd find easily in Park Slope or Fairway. Fine crackers and cheesy selections (which I do enjoy by the way, love them crackers and the cheese that goes with) along with virgin olive oils, imported pastas, hummus, sarabeth jams and… you get the idea.

There will be custom coffee selections and fine meats in the weeks to come, between all Reuben described, what I'd seen of the new layout, new floors, fixures and food, I think this space is going to light up a lot more of the neighborhood.

The new well stocked food market on 1426 Bedford Av at the corner of Prospect Pl. is called "Brooklyn Born Mini Market". It was written on a flyer Reuben handed to me as I was leaving. I had nothing to do with it. But I like it and it seems about time.

I'll check in on the market, reporting what I see on this blog, because I'm curious and well I'm tired of having to walk away from my neighborhood.

As of Dec 15th the store seems much more stocked than on day one, however the juice bar and coffee isn't set up yet. This hasn't stopped me from shopping there three times, and giving back minutes and miles for not having to walk to franklin for basic provisions. 

I continue shopping happily at Brooklyn Born Mini-Market into 2014 and I've noticed more and more people each time, though not yet any crowds. I still think it's all great except I wish the lights weren't such cold fluorescents but hey it was dark and suspect for year on Bedford so little steps. One other thing I've noticed since the market opened is voiced displeasure from people I presume to be new-comers to the neighborhood. In one case a couple discussed as they walked pass and I was exiting. I heard the male say,"what do you mean bougie?" His female friend replied with a sneering exhalation of  what I guess was disgust. "It's, It's not REAL" she said, as I watched them walk away.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The End of 5Ptz, a vibrant piece of New York City

I've been wanting to post about last month's Banksy NYC residency and it's impact, but life happened as it does, and then this happened.

(all photographs by Tiernan Morgan for Hyperallergic

EVIL. i dislike when "evil" is tossed around as a cause or a label, but this is straight evil, malicious, petty, intended to do nothing really more than wound and disrespect. The 5ptz building, which most of you know is an otherwise unremarkable industrial building at LIC Queen's eastern edge, made otherworldly and beautiful by the artwork it's been dressed in for over a decade has been defiled by it's owners who last night sent in workers to cruelly paint over as much of the artwork, as they could.

(all photographs by Tiernan Morgan for Hyperallergic

The owners recently won the right, after many appeals, to turn the land into a new development. The plans they show, make no usage of the existing structure, so why paint over this building that is scheduled to be torn down? They did it simply to be evil soulless monsters.

(all photographs by Tiernan Morgan for Hyperallergic

The buffing and over painting in this way is a physical, premeditated undeniable attack on art, which is an attack on the human heart. And why? To prove ownership? To forcibly demonstrate power to Meres who has been custodian and curator of the building and leader of the fight to preserve it as artists mecca and landmark? Did they cover the art to look away from the artists who've committed beauty to modern blight? Or are they like Oedipus realizing that they've screwed that which put them on the map and made the building (and to a large degree the neighborhood) a place where people would even consider WANTING to be? Did the fight over the right to make statements with paint leave them secretly longing to up their own sloppy tag, to say "fuck you we're somebody too" and at the same time physically blind themselves to the art that birthed their opportunity, attempting blind us in the process along with them?

Who cares their motivation, my desire to know why doesn't explain or excuse their desire to obscure creation, expression from the public space and the lotus-esque ways in which our spirits rebirth value out of human despair. 

I can't help but recall the transition of 11 Spring in Soho from public graf board and tag mecca to it's current luxury condo status.  I shot and produced a simple video with the help and support of Marc Schiller and the Wooster Collective, interviewing the artists and talking about the significance of that building. The owners sought out Marc to invite artists to tag up 11 Spring, dozens of them, each with their own styles, background, celebrity levels and politics were granted the time to demonstrate what that building had become, there public came, a moment was made and I believe the value of art it's inspiration to commerce were reinforced in an enriching experience. Granted there many were differences of opinion at 11 Spring, but ultimately recognition was given to the place art had made in giving that building such value that it was able to capitalize monetarily and as a result take what had become a public space for the exchange of ideas and friendships and political and personal discontent, through art, away from the public. New York City has always been a confluence of commerce, since the native Lenape came down to the rivers to trade, but there a ways to do business on a human level that add value to the transaction and the active. 

Disrespect is not only evil, it's unnecessary. 

So I'm hoping we all keep our eyes and ears open for how we as intentional and accidental members of this moment's nyc artistic community respond and when necessary participate in response to the evil disrespect of human heart that took place last night at 5Ptz. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Brooklyn elects it's first Mayor since 1892, Bill deBlasio!

I'm happy to report what you already know, Bill deBlasio is our new Mayor of New York City.

I didn't hate Bloomberg, (Hell I've actually go a photo of he and I shaking hands) but I often disagreed with his managerial style as it was too macro&micro view for me. Blanket policies worked in my opinion on bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, but failed to consider basic human rights as in "Stop & Frisk". So thanks to democracy we get to try a new way.

I've expected Mr. deBlasio to be our Mayor since this past August. But as recently as April I would have been stunned at yesterday's election result. I expected Speaker Quinn to be a stronger more able candidate. Nobody say Weiner coming. And what he did beside remarkably demonstrating it was possible to sink his public persona lower than it was after he disgraced himself out of congress, is remind optimistic liberals that we actually had a choice other than Ms. Quinn who many such as myself saw as a Bloomberg reboot. I think it's possible without Weiner entering, we could have just as easily had a Mayor Thompson or Quinn as deBlasio.

But we got what I and 72% of voting New Yorkers wanted, a clean break, a new guy, a new day.

I also find it very fascinating, (and someone who gets paid to write and explore these topics we'll surely pick up on this) that Brooklyn largely voted this Mayor in. A Brooklyn local, diBlasio's strong showing in Brooklyn during the primary provided protection against the wide field of candidates against him. Liu took most Asian neighborhoods, Quinn took most of Manhattan below Central Park, Thompson did well in Manhattan above as well as in Queens, and Carrion diluted the vote in the Bronx. But none of those groups could overcome the Brooklyn base that came out for diBlasio.

In yesterday's voting diBlasio continued to carry Brooklyn winning over 80% of the Kings County vote.

So much is appropriately and stupidly attributed to Brooklyn. The yawn-going conversation about whether we're the "New Manhattan" or whether someplace hundreds of miles away is the "New Brooklyn" (I'm looking at you Dutchess County, give it a rest) never seems accurately describe the actual impact Brooklyn has as an incubator of new city culture, and vault for treasured NYC tradition. but in this moment when Brooklyn is so central that we rate a Presidential visit, it seems spot on that Brooklyn has elected it's first Mayor* since 1892 and the time of Brooklyn Mayor Frederick W. Wurster.

(*btw I know Giuliani was born in Brooklyn, but Staten Island voted him in the first time. I ain't claiming him and I doubt I'm alone.)

Not to be out done, another Brooklynite, Councilwoman Leticia "Tish" James has quietly become the 1st African-American woman elected to city-wide office in New York City and by her position as the new Public Advocate, she becomes 2nd in line for Mayor of New York. Fantastic!

And last but by no means least, the vote for Brooklyn District Attorney. Who's going to police the police and prosecute those who break laws, you can argue it hasn't been out going Bklyn DA Hynes (who thought he was so nice we had to vote him out twice) but going forward it's no question, our new Brooklyn District Attorney is Ken Thompson and I believe he will work hard for the benefit and protection of law abiding Brooklynites.

"Manhattan keeps on making it, Brooklyn keeps on taking it"

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Photo Wednesday 103013 Sandy Revisited Edition

One year today Hurricane Sandy hit and this is just some of the fallen trees, damaged buildings and aftermath of flooding I saw: The Lower Manhattan being a silhoutted outline of black, the lower East River Bridges being half illuminated, the then flooded Battery Park underpass, (not to mention the south ferry subways station and the river tunnels) old steakhouse in the meat packing district cooking their inventory outside as to not let it go bad in the blackout that followed. Incredible. We survived lower Manhattan and subway tunnels flooding, and explosion at one of our main electric power stations. I remember mine and the neighborhood's lights flickering as a result. I knew that was bad but when my lights stayed on I thought the city had gotten by unscathed, little did I know Manhattan south of 28th street was suddenly and near totally dark and would remain so for days. I enjoy complaining like a lot of New Yorkers, but it really is amazing that the city got itself back together as much as it did so quickly.

Friday, October 25, 2013


So yeh. I'm excited. I like the President, and I write a blog about Brooklyn. So if the 1st African-American President of the United States comes to Brooklyn (to the P-Tech High School on Albany Avenue in Crown Heights), just a few blocks from where I was born and I didn't have something to show for his visit, this site would be useless.

So without wasting more time, here's video of President Barack Obama landing in Prospect Park (which I am all down for)

And a photoslide show (who loves ya baby!)
(PS I just heard the President and our soon to be Mayor Bill DeBlasio are eating cheesecake downtown at Juniors) What's your Brookyn/Obama sighting?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Missed it Monday : Brooklyn Art Bounty

Art is making it's presence know in New York in many ways that go beyond Banksy's current October "New York Residency" although few give and get the attention as easily Banksy's. I'll get more into Banksy in a piece to be posted soon.

This past weekend in Brooklyn was a great example of the abundance of art to be found.

The Brooklyn Museum has been in deliciously demonstrative form recently opening an exhibition of Wangechi Mutu's work appropriately entitled, "A Fantastic Journey". 

The works are to be seen, not described. But you should know Wangechi's work is as layered in thought as they are in process and equally balanced between beauty and filth in a way that to my eyes is perfect and enlightening. All the aspects of Wangechi's work I saw are like that. Including a video of filmed and animated elements featuring the equally dynamic and surprising recording artist Santigold (who like Wangechi makes her home in Brooklyn).

On Thursday the museum threw a party not only around Wangechi's work but inclusive of the larger tribe of creative Brooklynites including the fierce singer-songwriter and dynamic performer Wunmi, the deceptively powerful DJ Reborn supplying seductive and demanding dance music from half way around the globe and back. As they worked the dance space the 3rd floor had become, opposite the stage were an array of fashions, essentially wearable art being sold by Ngozi Odita of HAE Harriet's Alter-Ego fame), and AFRIKA21. The common thread between all these creative peoples is that travel similar physical and conceptual paths as Wangechi and each of these artists have made Brooklyn their homebase.

Wangechi Mutu's "A Fantastic Journey" is open now through March 9th, but see it soon because when you look at her work thinking you know what you're looking at, prepared to give credit for it's ingenuity, you'll likely find more subtle detail of thought and action to make freeze you in place with wonder. So yeh, you'll need to see it more than once.

Also collaborating with the Brooklyn Museum as well as Creative Time is artist Suzanne Lacy, whom I confess I've never heard of in my life, not even in my art life.

Suzanne's work became physically apparent as I was on the way to the opening of Wangechi's show at the Brooklyn Museum. The side steps of the Museum (one of the genius touches of the museums facade renovation nine years ago) have become a stoop in every way that is Brooklyn. On these steps you'll find families together enjoy the frolicking of their young while parents sit and catch their breathe, a few feet away a couple is likely meeting on their first date.

Suzanne's work in this space was to dress the front facing side of the steps in bands her signature process yellow color with text that asked questions related to gender issues.

Unfortunately for me this didn't inspire me to investigate and I nearly missed the broader work of Ms. Lacy that the stoop dressing was meant to direct viewers to, a full street of stoop conversations near by in Prospect Heights. As the universe would have it, a few days later friend told me she was participating in an art event nearby and when I came to see, it was in fact the entire block of Park Place between Underhill and Vanderbilt that was full with people sharing and trading personal reflections on issues of gender, sexuality, race and society in general.

It was a great time. Art aside the event reminded me of how far Brooklyn has come not simply in terms of cool factor, or gentrification (although those things have lifted Brooklyn's appeal with outsiders and new comers that increases the success of events like these) but in the overall willingness of residents, many new, some long-term who have now allow Brooklyn's public spaces to be party to these types of events. To put that succinctly, I couldn't help but think of all the resident's who gave up their parking spaces that day for the street to be shutdown, which any New Yorker knows is tantamount to giving your baby to a stranger.

I'll post video of the crowds on at Suzanne Lacy's event on Park Place later today.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wangechi Mutu, DJ Reborn, Wunmi, Party! Brooklyn Museum: TONIGHT

Tonight if you are out anywhere in Brooklyn, you ought to be at the Brooklyn Museum where there will not only be a rare Thursday night dance party spun by the beautiful talented and renown DJ Reborn, Venus X & Wunmi (with her internationally known sassy musical funk) but it'll be the first event held during Wangechi Mutu's Exhibition: Fantastic Journey which opened last week.

As if that isn't enough there will be dance performances by Afro-Mosaic Soul and fashions on sale in a pop-up shop by Ngozi Odia of Society HAE (Harriet's Alter-Ego if ya' didn't know) and AFRIKA21.

Today Thursday Oct 17, 6:30 - 9:30
Beaux-Arts Court, 3rd Floor

Seeya there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Vote Today, NYC for Public Advocate!

This October 1st has no shortage of activity. Between the House Republicans  refusing to fund the federal government's operations, the start of national enrollment for what we call Obamacare and the today being the run-off election for NYC Public Advocate, there's going to be a lot stories fighting for attention.

Those three events have a common theme, government's responsibility to act in the best interest of the citizenry. When politics trump the need of the people you get a shutdown. When the people's needs are put first you get a national healthcare reform. 
Here at home I hope out eyes are wide open and we're ready to vote for a new Public Advocate.

The primary election resulted in Letitia "Tish" James receiving 36% of the vote which forced today's run-off election and I believe we need Tish elected our next Public Advocate.  By design, the office of Public Advocate is the overseer of city government and a general watchdog against government mismanagement.The office of Public Advocate has the power to submit policy changes based on the needs and will of the people. 

Here in Brooklyn Tish has been a tireless advocate for the needs of the entire community, whether it's long time native New Yorkers, or new comers, young old and all backgrounds. She's helped bring the need for affordable housing to the forefront and has worked to help bring many actual units of affordable housing to Brooklyn.

She is quick to respond to the community and unexpected events such as helping to activate city resources to help cleanup damage after Hurricane Sandy and she's work on these issues and more for a decade in the city council where she currently chairs the Economic Development and Sanitation Committees, and serves on the committees for Parks & Recreation, Small Business, Technology in Government, Veteran Affairs, and Women's Issues.

Like many people in community I've met Tish at events and political rallies working for the will of the people and often having the pleasure of hearing Tish speak truth to the powerful.

This is why of the two candidates I'm totally in support of Council Member Letitia "Tish" James in the run-off election for Public Advocate. She's one of us, a New Yorker, a Brooklynite and a defender. She's got our back and this Election Day I hope we'll elect Letitia "Tish" James, Public Advocate so she can continue fighting and winning for us all.

Update: as of 10:30pm NY1 is calling the election for Tish! Link

Friday, September 27, 2013

Whoa. Mystery traffic accident nearly wipes out new cafe

"I heard a tire screech I thought was the sound of breaks being applied and then "wham!"."

About 1:30p Friday (today as of 9/27) A Benz sedan rest angled into a parked black car and a group of onlookers stood around. The sedan had a sizable dent behind the driver side door. On the street a trail of skid marks arching suddenly from the Benz and out into the Bedford avenue at the intersection of park place.

I thought the Benz was hit into the driver until a passerby told me it had suddenly accelerated and then took a sharp left turn off Bedford into Parl place. The passerby said the driver seemed to be accelerating and not breaking.

The good news is there seem to be no one injured. This is amazing considering had the turn been less by half, it would have easily plowed directly into the new corner cafe on Park & Bedford.

The bad is the parked car the Benz hit has heavy damage to its rear and side, and an owner who only found out about the hit when he came out to drive to work.

The driver of the Benz left the scene it seems. My speculation is the Benz was stolen by a non-driver who lost control.

Police are on the scene investigating at this moment.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Photo Wednesday 092513 : Just Kiosks Me Edition

Kiosks are being erected all around the west end of Crown Heights (and I'm presuming the rest of Trending Brooklyn) evidenced by the two I saw rise up on Franklin, one by the subway stop, the other by my fave Chinese spot. Clearly both get a lot of foot traffic.

As usual in New York some folks are against it. Some friends even, wish the kiosks (which really aren't traditional kiosksthese only have a map in a radius around the monolith's location) weren't here.

One friend felt the kiosks make the neighborhood feel like Times Square. My response, compared to what it once was, it kinda is. With all the (illegal?) airbnb action around the way, we in Crown Heights really could give midtown a run for its foreign money. Thrown in all the newcomers and short stay (soon to turn over) renters and there's valid reason to have a map every six blocks in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is huge physically. Combine that with the never ending tug of war on what name denotes which hood and you have a need for neighborhood maps.

Personally I was initially surprised that our residential area should get such official treatment but then I saw that the maps accurately depict the neighborhood as "Crown Heights" and I was won over.

More housekeeping happening in the hood, this time along Washington Avenue where a number of trees were pruned for what I'd say was the first time in 20 years at least. I'm betting the Sandy storm aftermath has something to do with this preventative mantainance. 

Also for months now the road work on Nostrand Av has been resurfacing that long neglected road and it looks like work  between Atlantic and Eastern Parkway is nearing completion.

What changes have you noticed?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Photo Wednesday 090413 : Grand Army Edition

Not too many beautiful blue days like today left so enjoy it when/if you can!

Next week is primary time and somehow Bill Thompson got into my building to leave campaign lit. 

Speaking of the primary I hope all you independent minded folk realize you won't be effectively be able to vote for mayor since NYC is a party only primary.

That's right, and since turnout is expected to be low, and we're. Dem-Ind heavy city it's likely approximately 10% of the voting public will be the ones to choose our next mayor.

How ya like dem apples?

Monday, September 2, 2013

PAH-TEE DUN!? Does The Earlier Ending West Indian Parade Change The Culture?

After some weeks away I'm back today on deh pahkweh and u can't believe it really shuts down at 4pm.

Judging by how many people were still lining the parade route after it was done, I'm not alone.

The ruling passed a few years back curtailing city parades to 4pm meant almost nothing for most parades but the West Indian Day Parade is the big exception.

Years gone by would see the parade last well into 7p recent decades brought the end time to 6.

The opinion of whether the earlier ending is good or bad is divided by culture and straddled by race. One thing seems clear based on the piles of still simmering food trays and still burning cook fires, food vendors are still coming loaded for hours of sales. I wonder how they made out

Thursday, August 1, 2013

PhotoWed 07/31/13 : Gooney Williamsburg Edition

It's Summer. Personally it's been mostly grand and happily gooney especially when watching The Goonies in Williamsburg with hundreds of strangers reliving (or prolonging) their childhood.

Co-Sponsored by 55DSL, Adult Swim and ringed but tasty food vendors and trucks, the concert park ground was barely visible for hipster quilt to which I gladly contributed a swatch.

Anywhoo that was yesterday and here's the pic of a sky befitting idealistic dreams and the sunbeams to reach them.
After all:
"Don't you realize? The next time you see sky, it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket." -Mikey Walsh (Actor Sean Astin)
Never say "Die" and never "Ride up Troy's bucket".

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

PhotoWeds 072413 : Weiner GagReflex Edition

Today's photo for Wednesday comes courtesy of CNN and that silly Weiner.

So uhh...

(oh wait! Press play on the youtube link, trust me)

Ah.. Better.

(image from photo by Kathy Willens)

So Weiner, out in the news, again. Didn't we do this dance (yes?) Didn't I already write this post? (pretty much) So with as little humility and modesty as our attempted Weiner of a Mayor I'm reposting everything I wrote already last May about this Weiner attempting to act as if his character flaws aren't present or an issue.

Because as the Weiner is attempting to demonstrate, Phoning it in has become status quo for many. (and keep that song going, "...round and round, round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows...")


Click the image or this link for the original unwanted weiner post.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Photo Wednesday 07/03/13 : Independence Edition

Biggggg past week and weekend saw the closing of throwback hole in the wall venue, BPMStudio.


Pride and pageantry and Ru Paul thousands more proud folks floated down 5th ave in the City


And a new cafe emerges on Bedford Ave and Park Place taking over my brief beloved burger spot.

ruecafe2_DSC0371 Clearly we're free to do what we want, (?) whether we're being watched, eh, who can say.

Have a Happy and safe Fourth of July!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

StudioBPM last night Yah! & Grove Alley Happened, Meh.

Grove Alley a heavily promoted street that dead end's behind part of Downtown Brooklyn no one knew existed was given a party, a dose of hip and college try. The food trucks were faves, the crowd was young, trepidatious with notes of lascivious and the vendors showed their goodies. I wasn't moved but I did get this great shot:

Definitely a lot of potenial for the space and I'm sure the powers that be in real estate will make another swing since the alley is in the nexus of several literally up and coming condos downtown. For my tastes I'd need a little less Hooser hooser_DSC1691 Meanwhile Studio BPM avoided the whimper choosing instead to go with the musical bang ala jam session. studioBPM_jam_web_DSC1831 It was crowded, cozy, loud, rapturous a little drunken and everything else the hole in the wall music venue has been for ten years, if it had to close it went out hard. studiobpm-jam-web_DSC1902 StudioBPM-jam-web_DSC1860 StudioBPM_Web_guyphoto_DSC1899

Friday, June 28, 2013

Studio BPM Bye Bye Party TONIGHT

burning bright
(Photo © Jason Scott Jones)

I blame the years and first impressions. Sometimes the reality that the neighborhood formally known (In my mind) as Williamsburg is not a river hugging no-man's land between a wet and a hard place. That union workers don't process sugar in the cross hatched shadow of the bridge anymore. Supposedly religious men don't troll for underage fair along the underlit south streets. Blue flickering broadcasts don't illuminate the retired and retiring working class couples front windows like they used to. And Kent Avenue isn't the more western of two parallel and nearly always desolate blocks, lined with yesterday's industry. I forget about today.

Today is the last night StudioBPM will be open on Kent Avenye. It's a classic and literally hole in the wall were local and far a field musicians have grooved for over ten years ago by some not as young as they used to be folk from the land of the rising sun.

The space is sweet, not being a musician I speak from the peanut gallery which works because it's got a gallery's boxy fit coyly suggesting hidden sonic treasures to be found and it's smallness floor level stage make you feel like your in the coolest living room being treated just because life can be good.

All the players of the last ten years and more in the undiscovered (often widely "discovered" soon after though) crowd has played there, Apollo Heights, TV on The Radio, Dub Nomads, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble and many more. Set lists were discarded or non-existant, videos accompanied, enhanced or distracted, Dub was plentiful by Rock, Soul and various experimental sonic cocktails had their nights and a good time was had by all.

The first time I got to know StudioBPM was shortly after they opened in 2002. The entrance was just some doorway with a guy standing there, he didnt ask me for anything and his sole presence on the block gave me a little confidence that this non-descript one level light industrial building was what I was lookign for. Shortly after entering the door I felt I was going to some combination of dungeon, level of Hell, Wizard chamber, which on a given not it could be. From the entrance you'd quickly descend some stairs and endup walking threw dirt (or mud if it had rained) and as soon as you reached this short trip to the pit, you were walking right back up again in to the narrow lounge space the preceded the venue. It was trippy the definition of grit, weird, disconcerting, exciting, bold. Perfect. Nightlife like New York City used to exude on the regular. That it was 2002, post Millenium, Post the dark day in September, post "Hipster" in the lexicon, made it all the more wonderful to the native New Yorker I am.

A few weeks back I attended a gathering and performance of "The Brunt Sugar Arkestra Chamber" who were honoring member and Saxophonist "Moist" Paula Henderson of "Moisturizer" & "Rev. Vince and the Love Choir" fame. The performance made me woozy in that feel good took me away and showed me the sights kinda style. And it was then (late) I learned that the forces of real estate in WillyB were forcing them to shut there doors.

I asked one of the staff, part of the fantastically warm and charitable Japanese crew behind Studio Bpm and this guy in particular of the fantastic type uber laid back to the point of stand-slumber Japanese dudes I'd known and cherished in Tokyo, if they were really closing and he nodded. "What's next?" my slack-jaw asked, his laid back posture, held, levitated and then laid forward, just a bit as he replied,"I dunno. Umm. Condo?"

Internally I thought,"How the fuck can you put a condo in a place like.." was the point where my mind caught on and up to the day we're in. Zoning laws had changed, much begat a change in positioning for a new not-so-hipster newcomer, which unleashing a waterfront flood not much different than Sandy for a lot of people. I left the staffer, the electric spark of funk soul and improvisation still with me courtesy of the generous musicians, but when I did the "v" stairs and exited the building I noticed, for the first time, despite being a new Williamsburg visitor, the condos, across the street, up and down the block, I'd come out of a time warp and and like many before me ran out of time.

Tonight's the StudioBPM Bye-Bye. Make it or miss it. 237 Kent Avenue btw Grand & N1st  9pm until

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Photo Wednesday 062613 : Boysen Berry Late Edition

I'm sick. argh. Either too much airconditioning and 90 degree days or a little too close to a old flemish gent but either way I'm at about %50 potency.

But it is Wednesday and I have a Photographic mission.

This weeks Photos for Wednesdays are of a subject I've wanted to write about for a while now.
The Boysenberry. Untitled Each year, late into Spring, after trees have sprouted leaves and sweaters all but disappeared a curious berry appears dotting certain Brooklyn streetscapes. Equally curious is how the berry buds suddenly appear first leaf green then red and finally a mixture of color spanning the blackberry to raspberry spectrum.

That's appropriate but more on that later. As with most things on this blog I have a personal remembrance on the subject. Each school year my child mind full of the impending ever important summer vacation, I'd be startled from my distraction by the berry sight of trees with low hanging fruit. So much fruit in fact that the tree branches would bend generously toward the street below, graciously offer a sweet flavorful break in the day.

Untitled Almost more fun than plucking grape sized fruit and popping them direct to my mouth, was the horrified looks I'd get from passersby, 3rd and 4th generation urban dwellers who were likely without the benefit of a weird year spent on a farm as I'd had, or random trips to the Caribbean as were often orchestrated by family, or maybe the people which with terror and my berry red lips just had no expectation that anything nourishing could come from a Brooklyn street.

Since then, I've looked forward (and up) to the trees impending blossoms. This year is the latest bloom I can recall, I blame climate change, and the berries don't disappoint.

You'd think with all the locally sourced fervor taking over Brooklyn in the last few years there'd be no end to the appearances and usages of Boysenberries on tony tables but nope all that hype is saved for rhubarb and ramps. (Ramps? really?)

A few years ago I brought up the berry topic with a friend and fellow native brooklynite. I called them Mulberries. He insisted they were Boysenberries. A wiki search proved him correct, much to my dismay. The same wiki page informed me not only that these Berries were Boysen, but that there were white variations of the same.
Of course a week or two later, the moon lighting my bike path home, I came across two men on the sidewalk, standing the dark shade of a broad tree. They were in a curious discussion and I slowed. Surrounding them on the concrete ground was a familiar stipple pattern of small dark stains. Weary, it is still Bk after all I got within earshot and just as I overheard them they noticed me, one motioning me over saying, "you know what these are?" "They're berries. Not just any berries, the mythic white ones I'd recently learned of. "You can EAT them." the night stranger offered. The Alice Carrol-esque element of his enthusiastic suggestion aside I joined them, not in the eating, too soon and too late to be eating from trees with strangers. But we chatted as they chewed and before I was on my way.

Speaking of that tell-tale pattern of berry stains on the ground; I'd always presumed it was the result of fallen fruit from the wind blowing or perhaps the juicy fruit was simply too heavy for it's spindly stem but as I was taking the photos featured here, I got my answer. Fruit was falling like late August rain, in uneven in large and small droplets all while I took photos. Finally I felt the urge to look up to where many berries were falling from and I came eye to eye with this guy, the culprit.

That squirrel seems to be enamored with his territory and I don't blame him, it's not on every block that you find Boysen. I have a memorized few streets where the easily accessible fruit treats can be reliably found. One is the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington. Another is in front of the church (St. Teresa's) on Classon near Sterling Place. And there's a few more in people's yards but I'm keeping those on the hush.

I've since learned the Boysenberry is in fact a hybrid man made fruit. A combination of such fruits as Raspberries, Blackberries and currants. Made by one Rudolph Boysen, who started the work before it eventually became the concern of the same Walter Knott for whom Knott's Berry Farm is named.

The fruit was cultivated in the 1920's which may explain why it's so plentiful in brooklyn front yards as a large number of homeowners especially brownstone owners were planting fruit trees of various climate friendly varieties.

For years I've meant to do a full on harvest ending in a juice or a pie but this year the fruit came on later than expected and I'm a little slow today so get a start on next year and grab them while you can. Hurry the squirrels and pigeons have ganged up!