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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crown Heights, a tale of two cities at least

Thanks to Facebook I've learned of an episode of gunfire in Crown Heights on Crown St. near Utica Avenue which makes it the Eastern side of Crown Heights to some or as long term residents would recognize the part of Crown Heights furthest from the warm glow of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Yesterday I learned from reading the IloveFranklinAve blog of a shooting that wounded a man on Franklin Ave & St Johns Place.

Two shootings in one area in less than a week may very well provoke the worn conversation among new comers of whether Crown Heights is "going back" to something dangerous and negative. I hate that conversation. it's simplistic, reactionary not supported by facts and I hate the what it implies and what the conversation omits, namely that for some crown heights residents hard times never ended.

Crown Heights is a large area. It measures two miles long by a mile. Part of it is seeing a boom of new activity shops that were redundant are having their rents raised by their owners in the hopes of attracting the next artisanally prepared cash cow. Vacant spaces are being cleaned up for the same in the areas around Franklin, Bedford & Nostrand Avenues. Personally I think the new consumer options are great and the process by which their made unfortunate and sometimes unfair.

This past weekend while enjoying the sun and sounds of teens playing in Brower Park on Brooklyn Avenue near Prospect Place I noticed across the street on the wall of a school annex a mural created in 2009 by high school students and the non-profit Groundswell dedicated to the problem of gun-violence. Gun violence never stopped being a problem for many in Crown Heights.

Despite all the fuss about things of relative little consequence like bike parking spaces, there are people in Crown Heights who are working class, and spend much of their time trying to make ends meet in a section of the neighborhood that doesn't get the New York Times and New York Magazine coverage so generously bestowed on the Crown Heights just one mile west.  

Meanwhile on commercial strips like Kingston and Utica Avenues (between St. Johns & Atlantic) there is nearly the opposite situation with some addresses looking ready to collapse under the weight of time and disregard.

It's nearly a tale of two cities. Go ahead, google "Crown Heights Shooting" see which comes up first and which has more listings. The Franklin Ave shooting barely comes up. I doubt that's the story anyone wants to tell of gentrified Franklin Ave. The story of the shooting near Utica Ave is hard to miss.

You have one Crown Heights where owners decide to unleash building improvements and investment spurring increases in city services, police protection, beautification, bike racks and the other where many commercial and rental owners haven't made investment possibly because they're waiting for a community different from the current one, to take root. This is a big part of why it's destructive and simplistic to sub-divide Brooklyn neighborhoods as has been commonly done and at a hyper rate for the last ten years. Once there was Crown Heights. Now there is Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and there appears to be attempts at making distinctions between West & East Crown Heights. Before I drag out my soap box to shout about the past when a resident didn't need geographical distinctions to the name of their neighborhood, because they knew their neighborhood, I'll bring up what I think the bigger issue is. Changing the name of the "improved" part of a neighborhood only increases the likelihood that the "unimproved" part of the neighborhood won't get better.

Imagine braking your leg and rather than give aid to it, you cut it off. That's what happens if points East of Kingston Avenue (to pick a street) become unhinged from Washington, Classon & media daring Franklin Avenues. Separating one part of Crown Heights from the other means separating the stories that are told of those places, and those stories become the public realities. So shooting on Franklin get's a certain type of media attention if for no other reason than it's contrary to the expectations now existing (and reported) for Franklin Avenue. While a shooting near Utica is reported as the same old song.

The conversation I've heard after almost every violent crime is committed in this neighborhood of over 150,000 people is "Is it going back?!?" The reality is there are a lot of people who never got to go forward.

Crown Heights will have occasional violent episodes, just like most New York City does. Those tragedies when they occur will less a harbinger of new comer doom than a sign that long term residents are still struggling in crisis.

Friday, April 26, 2013

THIS WEEKEND - Cherry Blossom Festival/Sakura Matsui @ Bklyn Botanic Garden

BBG Sakura Matsuri 2013 by BklynBorn - 01 
Spring brings blossoms and none more cherry that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's.

Sakura Matsuri translates to Cherry Blossom Festival (but you knew that all ready) and the weekend event features all day events. You can witness and participate in everything from Japanese Tea Services, a custom of the Cherry Blossom festivals, to music and botanical presentations.

Sakura Matsuri at BBG is a great melange of nature lovers taking in the spring blossoms, expat spouses uplifting their traditional culture for their kids while adorable to over the top Costplayers ignore the tea and go straight for living out their Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleached, Little Monstered fantasies.

The Cherry Trees have been in bloom for little more than a week now (as you'll see in the slide show below) and right on time for this weekends mega Sakura Matsuri Festival.

It's also a great opportunity to see all the additions the BBG has made in the past few years like the new, beautifully designed modern entrance and visitor's center pictured above.

BBG Sakura Matsuri 2013 by BklynBorn - 18
One of three entrances is at 200 Washington Avenue, accessible by the Prospect Park Q,B,S station and from the Eastern Parkway 2,3 (The Franklin ave 2,3,4,5 will also get you to the Botanic Garden but it adds an extra block of walking)

  BBG Sakura Matsuri 2013 by BklynBorn - 19

Friday, April 19, 2013

Finally Friday

Been a long week, and I've yet to post about the positive community meeting regarding rezoning and landmarking proposals in Crown Hts or the many new businesses blooming on Franklin Avenue or the hundreds of bike share docks popping up all over northern Brooklyn but that's what's on my mind. Here's some pics in the meantime:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Crown Hts Landmark & Rezoning Meeting TONIGHT

A major proposal for landmarking and Rezoning in Crown Heights is happening tonight (Tuesday) at St Teresa's Church 563 Sterling Place, corner of Classon Av.

The meeting is to discuss the proposals submitted by the Community Board.

All are invited especially folks living and working in Crown Heights.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend One-Liners 4/13-4/14 - Happenings to Check this weekend in Brooklyn

Weekend One-Liners! 4/13-4/14

Habana Outpost's Big Annual Earthday Re-Opening Event happens this weekend! "Corn & Cuban" Sandwiches! Eco-Friendly info and the happy swarm of neo-Buppies, Yuppies, Hipsters and young dudes hanging on the corner trying mack are back! I still love this place now in it's eighth year. even though it can be a trend-trafficjam. I can't wait! Check for more info check cafehabanablog

Smorgasburg while open to it's second weekend of 2013, I arrived last week round 2p and couldn't get through to some of the good looking vittles, this week I'm ampted to be early. For more info check

Saturday & Sunday The Brooklyn Children's Museum has a slate of events including "Superhero Science" and Block Parties:

Superhero Science! 11:00, for 4 and up, Bend light, get x-ray vision, and discover optical illusions with Cyclops. It’s a new super science adventure every week!"

Block Party11:30, for All ages Let your imagination soar to new heights while you explore a unique assortment of blocks to play with. Build an imaginary castle with foam blocks, map out a new neighborhood with wooded ones, or use cardboard blocks to create whimsical patterns. "

And this is not a weekend event but next Tuesday 4/16 there will be a major meeting by the Crown Heights Community Boards to discuss rezoning efforts intended to improve the structure and preserve the positive history of the neighborhood. I'll post more about it next week but get a head start and check for more info.

Got a Brooklyn weekend event you want posted? Email us at umbrooklynborn @

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fort Greene Park History Open to the Public, Bring the Kids!

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 01

Remember when the week was sunny and lovely? That all ended Wednesday. I ran the bike through some errands and came upon Fort Greene Park.

Fort Greene Park in addition to being Brooklyn's first official park & one of the larger islands of nature in the city, is a historical landmark. If you've lived in or around Brooklyn long enough you likely know something of that history. Between the Sailor's & Soldier Martyrs crypt, it's location in an historic neighborhood, it's monumental tower, once again lit each night Fort Greene Park history is hard to miss.

The first time I rode to the top I was about 17 and the city emerged upward as I climbed the park's summit. It was a cinematic reveal. This past Wednesday's sky was full of blue and warm with light, I wanted to experience the city that way, as a wide vista. The metal, glass and panorama of the city is different now but the view didn't disappoint.

What has been easy to overlook for me at least is a structure at the top of the park less monumental but vital and packed with historical artifacts. It's the comfort station, that has become the Fort Greene Park Visitor's Center. Before making off to the next errand it dawned on me nature was calling and the public restrooms in the Visitor's Center were the reason I was there.

The Visitors Center a neoclassical structure that was built in 1908 with the Monument. I'm embarrassed to say I only know it as the best free bathroom in Fort Greene. But to get to the bathrooms you need to enter and pass through the Visitor's Center and then Wednesday for the first time I really looked around and found over 200 years of history just waiting for me to notice it.

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 06 Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 07 American Revolutionary period flags hang prominently from the ceiling.

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 12 Muskets and their small metal ammo are in cases around the park house, and very interesting is that many of the artifacts like the musket rounds were found in the park some as recently as in 2005.

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 03
This canon was used by the British Army during revolutionary times.

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 04 
 The map above shows the 1873 park layout along side today's layout.

I gained all this knowledge from the Parks Department workers who were friendly hosts and happy to share the park's history. Even going so far as to show me the park turtle (he's been under the weather) and the pelt of a squirrel.
  Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 13
I won't lie, I thought the squirrel hide was gross, but interesting in that once upon a time in this very city that hide would be a form of currency.

Fort Greene Park Visitors Center - 05 Do yourself, a favor and stop on by the Fort Greene Visitor's Center it'd add to your perspective and possibly an even greater appreciation of Brooklyn.

For more information on Fort Greene Park and it's year long schedule of events check the Fort Greene Park Conservancy's website at

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Photo Wednesday 04/10/13 : Spring Sunkist Edition

Before tonight's deluge there was sun and warmth. And during these last few days of warmth I snapped this photo of two people basking in the warming glow of the sun and each other.

Despite the occasional rain, spring is in the air.

Bedtime for Brooklyn Bars?

Last Call? (probably not the last time that's used in the relation to this story, let's make it a drinking game!)

No one likes a drunk, except other drunks trying to score with the drunk. Bartenders don't even like drunks, they're often literally more trouble than their worth. So if forcing bars to close at midnight on weekdays as Community Boards in Prospect Heights, Crown Heights (same thing) Williamsburg & Bushwich are reported (by Gothamist and DNAinfo) to be trying to do, would reduce the disruptive drunk population in our streets, then by all means Community Boards, save us from this scourge.

Community Boards in my opinion are trying to have a say in what has been a fairly one way action of new businesses, many of them bars in communities that were without new and especially outside the community businesses.  The bars understandably want to and say they need to stay open on otherwise slow week day nights to be in business. Bar owners also cite the fact that throughout the city bars are open until 2-4am. Speaking as usual for myself, hasn't Freddy's (one of the bars cited in the Gothamist article) suffered enough already after having their decades old bar demolished to become a bike parking lot for the Barclays Center?

Seems like community board push back to me. Most if not all of the bars mentioned in the articles are on commercial streets that have a level of noise and business that comes from traffic, 24hr stores and other shops, are the bars that big a problem? Are bars infringing on Brooklyn's bedroom communities?

What do you think?

Monday, April 8, 2013

The warmest day since October

Hope you had or have a chance to enjoy today's beautiful warmth and sunshine.

These folks did.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Live Blogging from Smorgasburg

Decided to check out the Smorg in person and against my better judgement I came here hungry.

I can report that as of 2:45p it's beautiful out, and packed with foodie and sun-lovers

But of the well known and desired food tents, most have serious lines.

Also I won't call anybody out but $4 Croissants & $7 tamales are not my thing.

3:10p finally scored!! Takoyake Balls!! and they are tasty! I'm used to the traditional method of a fried dough ball with a bit of octopus in the center, topped with ginger and bonito flakes. These from "Teriyaki Balls" have three styles: filled with Shrimp, Country Sausage and one I can't remember because I didn't try it.

The shrimp was very good but the country sausage turned a familiar favorite of mine into a delicious new experience which sounds corny but it's true they had optional toppings of corn and almond flakes which were surprisingly good. I ate it so fast I took no pictures.

3:40 about to get my lamb-burger on from "Landhaus" along with a mint lemonade.

Got the burger, very good! Nice bit of feta shiracha and a medium rare lamb patty. Very nice.

Also I guess people are getting their fill
(or food is running down?) cause the lines are running shorter.

Also can anyone in here say "excuse me" rather pushing their way through a crowd? Yeesh.
I wanted to try the "people's pops" but I was full up on mint lemonade, next time... 

Rhubarb seems like an easy sell, few can really say what it's supposed to taste like so if its sweet and refreshing you're golden.

Hipster styling in full effect (remember this year knit hats are to be worn like Smurfs, or like you're a Be-Boy from 1982

Maple Bacon on a Stick!!! Courtesy of Landhau. I really wanted some of this, Landhau will shall meat again.

Yes there's alot of Landhau picks, cause there's a lot I loved.

I admit it, the name and its turn on a phrase, turned me off. Though I love big ribs and I can not lie.

As I recall Handsome Hanks was the fish stand everyone was waiting in line for.

How green is grilling again?

Great name, plus points for the country table cloth pattern. Next time my soon to be friends....

Another proud Wolverine.

So all in all I now see why Smorgasburg is the event it is. If you've got a squad of friends it's definitely worth hitting it off if for no other reason than to extend your comfort foodie zone. And with offerings like Rhubarb, Cornflakes on Country Sausage stuffed Teriyaki Balls and more there's definitely room to expand mind and body.

I'll be back next week with more full mouthed opinions.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Take a bite out of gentrification! Some Spring Weekend Events in Brooklyn

The first big weekend of Spring 2013 begins!

Tomorrow my eyes and ears will be fixed on the Brooklyn Museum & Targét's 1st Saturday!

There was a moment back in the Fall when it seemed some sort of local grinchery had conspired to end the 1st Saturday's citing too much foot traffic. Ironic since a major goal of 1st Saturdays when they were started was to draw foot traffic to the Museum. Anywhoo. It seems smarter heads prevailed.
Film Screening, Music, Dance Party, Curator Talks (not necessarily in that order) will be going.
Check Brooklyn Museum for details.

Also tomorrow Smorgasburg is back! 

I confess I spent most of last year missing it and rueing the delicious stories I heard from friends and the bloggie-verse. But I plans to rectify that tomorrow. And you should too if you like food and acting out Portlandia skits. Sat in Williamsburg, Sun in D.U.M.B.O. 11a-6p Details at

Throw your arms around foodie-ism and artisanl everything! Take a bite out of gentrification!

This is by no means a complete list of what's happening this weekend. If you have an event you'd like to post here, feel free to leave a comment or email me direct at umbrooklynborn @ gmail.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Photo Wednesday 4/3/13 Affordable Housing Edition

I tend to rail against condo developments for their usually high prices relative to local incomes so in the name of balance here's a large residential building nearly complete on Putnam near Classon Av (old Bedford-Stuyvestant-new Clinton Hill). It's called, appropriately, "Putnam Court"

According to the information on posted at the construction site, there are (or at one time were) 24 studio apartments as part of the development available for people who make under $28k annually.

The development on Rockwell Pl. (Near the Downtown McDonald's on Fulton) also a similar affordable housing allocation.

How many people who could really benefit from these deals, do you think know about them?I'll do some more research and see how this information becomes available to the public and publicized.

I very much like the design of the building and its attempts to match the surrounding architecture in a modern way. Frankly I'd love a lot more of the new and recently new Brooklyn condos and rentals if they blended as nicely as Putnam Court.

The project was built by Dunn Developers and details are also on the NY Times local CH/FG blog. 

In addition to providing housing to an a lot that previously was dilapidated and under used, part of the building sits on what had been a vacant lot there for decades) the development is a block away from the Clinton Hill Food Co-op, also on Putnam Ave.

So I just did some quick googling for more info about this project, and boy Brownstowner and I are really in sync lately, they just posted an article about this yesterday. From their article I find that the low rent for the studios translates to $618 per month income dependent.

Additionally I found this page on about affordable housing lotteries. Try your luck!