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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

PhotoWednesday 052813 : City Boy, Citi Bikes Edition

Brooklyn kid improvs on Citibike
(Photo by: Jason Scott Jones)

Today's Photo Wednesday today comes from a the Dance Africa Street Fair outside of BAM which had a new visitor this year, the sometimes ubiquitous CitiBikes of the new and endlessly photographed BikeShare program. My first impression upon encountering the bikes was about the same as the kid above, glee.

Immediately I thought myself brilliant for thinking the bikes are a ride unto themselves, "hell they're a flash-spin-class waiting to happen!", I thought. "Geez, I'm clever" I mused, wearing my shoulder joint out from my back slaps. Then I saw this:

So... ah, yah. I guess at least it means for at least one brief provable moment, the erudite minds behind the NewYorker and I aligned. Seriously though, who's down for the flash spin class? 

I never considered that a city full of stationary bikes (for those not willing to plunk down for the ride) could be so much fun. I expect video to follow from all corners of the bike sharing city. Maybe even my own..

For what it's worth I noticed this is my 400 post and the blog has been going from 6 years which is slightly more math than I'm willing to average out but yeh, theres that. Enjoy your May, it's soon to part.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day 2013: Dance Africa - Coney Island & Silverlinings

After several Summer starter weekends (Alliteration!) the Grand Opening is here and it's gonna be a bright sunn- hey wtf?!

Ah it's gonna be a dank gloomy overcast affair. Wheee.

 The Cyclone

So while the views may not be all fun and the sun like Memorial Day weekends past (above) Coney Island will be open, the rides will be churning and considering the damage wrecked on the shores after Sandy, this is still a time to get out and celebrate. If you need any more encouragement (you people..) There are many of the same weekend festivals goings on, Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Flea, The Lewis Avenue Flea in Bed-Stuy, and of course that annual favorites of Brooklyn culture:

Here's some pics from the Dance Africa Festival of years past:


 For those who don't know the yearly festival features a series of musical, theatrical, and all around dynamic events at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and this weekend will be complimented by street vendors of everything from clothing to home furnishings to some of the best Pan-African-Caribbean-American food you'll find in New York City.

From the website: "Created by Chuck Davis in 1977, DanceAfrica—the nation’s largest festival dedicated to African dance—brings together dance, music, film, and an array of community events for an exhilarating celebration of culture from Africa and its diaspora."

So here's my silver-lining take away; I'm counting on the less than perfect weather to shorten all those foodlines from WillyB to Brooklyn Academy of Music. Yum! Plus a Birthday Party for DJ "Uncle" Ralph McDaniels, can't be a certain type of Brooklynite and miss that!

Check BAM for more details. Running May 17- May 27th 

Drawer Dropping - Mr Weiner, please, holster that Mayoral bid.

Sigh, look at the headline up there.

Is that what brought you here? Is that all it takes to titillate our minds, motivate our hands, get us to the box, the ballot box? Mr. Weiner, I think you're hoping so.

Anthony, you've disgraced yourself. How can seriously run for Mayor as anything other than a testament to the enduring chutzpah of a born and bred New Yorker?

Mayor. Mayor? No.

Can I see you as flaunter of the deadly duo, collective amnesia/public apathy? Yes. Poster child for Fuggedabout it? Good God, Yes!

Look at that headline. You've knocked off any other reference to "weiner" from google's image search. Doesn't that tell you something? All press isn't actually good press.

Ya know, I'd much rather be blogging about setting the waters of the Gowanus Canal ablaze as luxury hotels are built on it's banks. But you Sir demand my attention and I say, serious Mayoral candidate? GTFOHWTBS!

Brother Weiner, as a man, the urge to introduce and master your Johnson, on-toward the young female masses, is one I struggle with everyday. Every, day. But c'mon man, you went so far across the red line, yours must have looked like a traffic cone. You successfully diverted progress (albeit temporarily) from national political discourse with your package displaying scandal. Then your handling of it, the dodging, the lies, the righteousness, made it worse by a factor of at least two.

No matter how iDeviced-Zombized we are, all it takes it one finger swipe to bring it all back.

Mr. Weiner, I enjoyed you as a Congressmen. I liked that tenacity was an understatement in describing you. You were the Democratic pit-bull, barking loudly and intelligently on the Sunday talk shows. Not only unafraid to snarl, spew, and spit at the Bush administration, but you communicated the clear sense that if you were loosed from your chain you'd bite the shit of him and take out Cheney with your last growl.

But friend, let us be reasonable. You're not getting elected. Part of your reintroduction came with the self-admitted ticking time bomb that in the days to come "women may come forward with more emails, photos, DMs". Really.

I get it. You and some consultants ran a poll that says the current Mayoral candidates are weak. Duh hard to be strong when one guy sucks the air out of the office for twelve years. Now you want to suck up much oxygen from the candidates. Some whom, I'd really like to see have a clean shot at the office (Bill De Blasio). So you yours did some math that says you can get a run-off and worm your way in. You won't. You will distract from serious questions I have about Speaker Quinn (three terms eh, okay...) and you won't get elected.

You already felt so embowered to do what you want that you besmirched a woman who besides being wholly in your corner; wife, mother, partner, is highly intelligent (how did you get her?) and dare I say it, pretty darn foxy (TO SAY THE LEAST). You felt so embolden that in the face of your lies you chose to circle the wagons and ignore your party's (polite at first) calls for you to resign. And now you feel so singular that after all that you want to distract New York City away from more suitable candidates. I get it, you are an island.

Okay big shot, run as an independent. Clearly you think you're a hot-dog.

Happy Memorial Day weekend all, and enjoy your weiner roasts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Photo Wednesday 05/22/13 : Belove! Beware! CitiBike Share Edition!

By now if you live in Manhattan or northern Brooklyn (that's Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, D.U.M.B.O., Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, for the noobs : )'ve probably heard or seen the Bike Share docks provided by Citibank.

The Bike Share program starts next week for those members who've signed up for the annual program.

CitiBikes in Brooklyn (Installation Crew)

The program in short allows a user to take one of the hundreds of bikes available at sites the aforementioned areas and ride as result of a pre-paid membership or one the spot payment. The idea is to share, not hang on to, so the bikes have no lock, you're expected park the bike the bike share dock closest to your destination. Members can hop on a bike an bring it back as many times as like during the span of their rental, be it a week or a year.

I caught the Bike Share-Elves in action last month as they were installing the docks and I'm blown away with how many docks there are and how much coverage there is in the initial neighborhoods.

Of course this being New York, and the subject being related to Bikes people wouldn't feel complete without complaints. Mostly from people who see the program as being a clear sign that the Four Horsemen will be wearing helmets and navigating Bike Lanes.

Fueling some complaints I've heard and read is the fact that no one loves Citibank. Let's face it, they're fairly unlovable. But in this case I don't see any effective other way than for a corporation in need of loving to fund the startup costs. So far to my eyes, it's working, I've counted six bike rental stations, with at least 20 docks within one mile in Fort Greene & Clinton Hill. I've seen more over in midtown and financial district, so if you just consider commuting there's seems to be a potential for a lot of usage.

The other big complaint is that the bike docks are taking away from the city, in terms of culture and (heaven-forbid) parking spaces. People said the same thing about cars taking spaces from horses. I've witnessed a few places where I wish the bike docs weren't on the sidewalk (Lafayette Av between Hanson and Fort Greene Pl) but overall we're in a transforming city and world. Parking spaces are not a right, (which we all know living in New York) and I'd pick a bunch of bikes over a bunch of cars in most cases.

Regarding the parking spaces, I can't understand when people who don't even have a license to drive complain about parking, but hey we're New Yorkers. When I asked those complaining they said it's the cost of revenue from those parking spaces that they were upset about. So even though that only makes sense for spaces with parking meters,  I checked with some people in the bike-share know, and they informed me that Citibank is paying the city for the use of the parking spaces. There, happy? 

Besides the number of bike docks that have gone up in less than a month's time, I'm impressed by the bike itself (above), which looks just all purpose enough to be a good ride for most, and sturdy on the streets. citibike's site has details on the bikes the docks and all the membership options.

The rental bikes come with a bell and front and rear lights that work without batteries (the motion of the wheels power them) so you'll be street legal. In case you didn't know an under reported law was passed a few years back making it illegal for an adult to ride a bike in NYC without a bell and lights. Here's a link to additional rules for bike riding in NYC.

At first I found it surprising that there are no bikes in the massive bike parking lot behind the Barclays Center, then it hit me, Barclays is a bank too. Funny I thought they all colluded.

So I can't wait for the Bike Share to kick-off next week. I'll be rocking my t-shirt (special for early joiners) and ready to roll. I'm sure there will be hiccups, shortages of bikes in some areas, just like when all the cabs are in one section of the city, and yes, someone will steal a bike, probably several. All that aside the gains for the city (and the Citi) far out weight the negatives, at least until a bike dock threatens the life of your loved one, but no matter what The NYPost says, that didn't happen.

So NYC you got a ticket to ride?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Brooklyn: It Ain't Where Ya From It's Where Ya At.

"It's funny how money changes situations."

That line (which is opening lyric of Lauren Hill's) doesnt really express what I meant, what I'm thinking is it's funny when diverse sides of issues get broken down into their extreme aspects and then those extreme aspects are positioned against each other.

"Can it be that it was all so simple?"

Brooklyn was simple (wasn't it) just twenty years ago. It was the sample place it is now, rich with history (the Revolutionary War and Brooklyn Dodgers had still happened here, despite it being the Brooklyn of twenty years ago) but back then Brooklyn was so simple to peg into a whole.

It was full of beauty, Brownstones and Botanic Gardens, and danger; Brownsville shootings, beef fed beat-downs and random robberies at best. Taxi's? No, never. Had no restaurants. This was of course a judgement made by the Manhattan minded and dwelling. So did we have restaurants? By those standards nope. The restaurants in the borough went largely unseen and those visible from across the river (River Cafe & Peter Luger's) didn't belong to the Brooklyn geography they occupied (hell River Cafe is ON the river) a Micheline starred restaurant may brush up against Brooklyn suggestively in those days, but occupy, heavens no. If you wanted cheap rent and long commute and the implied danger from topics listed above, you went to Brooklyn. Once in a while a concert grew in Brooklyn that non-Brooklynites and some locals would be needlessly be nervous about attending. There was a college, somewhere, that was decent for art, or music, or science or occasionally an NCAA Basketball bracket. Which is how people I spoke with described Pratt, Brooklyn College & LIU respectively.

Basically Brooklyn was simply thought of back in the day. It wasn't a simple place it just conjured simple impressions, which lead usually to simplistic and short conversations.

Today much real estate, printed, virtual, and physical is given to the great discussion of Brooklyn, and what that means, should me, did mean, will mean. Damn B your therapy bills must be crazy.

New York Magazine ran this article with the cover copy "Brooklyn is Finished" written by Mark Jacobson back in Autumn and I wanted to tack on my comments to the piece, in this blog. It didnt bother me that I never got to it because the article in my opinion didn't need my two cents or anything it stands in my mind as the best expression of what Brooklyn was through differing eras, what it became, where it is now, and what stays unique and constent about this place.

A friend sent me this article "The Ins and Outs" written (I presume) by some of the many talented and encamped J-School grads that are easy to find around Frankin Avenue's Crown Heights these days. It's a good micro focused piece reflecting the dynamic causality and impact of large scale gentrification in the short period of time that has passed. It's very good too.

And on Friday the Grey Lady herself dedicated much space and writing talent to this piece, titled Brooklyn, the Remix: A Hip Hop Tour. Also a great piece which seems in part inspired by this art piece (in which a variant of street artist, fabricated faux street signs with classic location specific hiphop lyrics written on then, and then the artists mounts those street signs on existing poles in the name-checked neighborhoods and streets. Many of those streets have since dramatically changed often for the lifestyle betterment of some, so there is an added contrast & impact of the installations.

Personally I want to imagine a creative coup within the Grey Lady led by writers who live in the borough and had grown weary of under-informed pieces written about Brooklyn, published in her name, I'm looking at you Real Estate section. But I digress.

The New York Times piece covers various Hip Hop landmarks and emotional sign posts of their own,  around the Borough. There's mention of old Sarah J. Hale nicknamed Sarah Jail because of it's often less than civil students, which is on a stretch of dean street that is now tony and gentrified. There's a reference to the Plaza movie theater on Flatbush near Park Place which became the Plaza Twin, then the Pavilion and finally now, an American Apparel store. In the article the person who invokes the movie theater reflects with irony that he say "Do The Right Thing" in that spot.

It's a testiment to the lightning rod that Franklin Avenue has become, the 180ยบ turn around it's undergoinf that all three pieces make references to Franklin in the case of the New York Mag article it was where the writter's grandmother lived some 50 years before code words like "Craft Beer" & "Artisanal" became synonymous with Franklin.

I was sucked into the online New York Times comments following their article. One comment by a reader going by "IRS" seemed to whine a lament, writing:
I am getting sick of articles like these. I understand the nostalgia with how life "used to be" in NYC. My neighborhood is the epicenter for some of my favorite hip hop. I get it. What people fail to acknowledge is that their NYC of the past is just a blip on the overall story of the city as a whole. This city has changed EVERY DAY, since its inception hundreds of years ago, and that is what makes it so beautiful.

People need to stop complaining and holding on to some rosy memory of what NYC "was," because "it" isn't coming back... Furthermore, those same people clamoring for the city to go back to its "gritty" days, that so many yearn for, are the same people who will complain the most when all of the street crime returns right along with it and they're afraid to walk down the street without looking over their shoulders.

It is time NYC to get over it and move on. Our city will be better for it.
I find that comment interesting because I hear it alot. It's one thing to say the past does and doesn't matter, but I'm impressed by the amount of residents ( I presume them to be new) who think it's time for people to stop having reminiseces. What an intersting suggestion, thought policing.

The conversation of this moment's Brooklyn is only halfway finished. Obviously the borough, city, country and much of the world will go on changing whether we like it, want it or not.

I think the impetus for all the dialogue is most eras take longer to switch and show visible signs. I myself often write that all these changes clearly started back in the late 70's right after the smoke cleared from the looting aftermath of 77's blackout. But the speed of change in Brooklyn, has been blinding and that's why we can't stop talking about it, besides all the other details that go into the conversation. The way a magic trick or lightning is fascinating and elicits fascinated analysis is partially because in the blink of an eye it's so dynamically different. And in Brooklyn the focus and who different groups are impacted is so extreme. There really was no breather before or after the crack era. Brooklyn was not much different that the rest of the city in 1970. By 1980 there were more extreme differences. By 1990 more so and by 2003 you could wallpaper your studio apartment with articles proclaiming Brooklyn the new Manhattan. By 2013 on some streets it is.

It's the change, its the speed, it's the cultural and socially effected and disconnected.

Basically, no one cared enough to think as deeply and consistently as people do now about Brooklyn. But I thought the NY Mag article and the NY Times HipHop remix article does a great job of pointing out a key detail of the neverending Brooklyn discussion. It's not that we want to go back to the gritty days specifically, its not that we want to close the artisanal cheese shops, its that we dont want to be resigned to the past, and a negative one at that, while we continue to live here. We who were in Brooklyn lived and exprienced like everyone else and in some cases we mined and polished social and culutral riches that are exploited and enjoyed today, in our borough and we wonder if the way we were generally ignored back then isn't happening now.

Nobody wants to be forgotten or ignored, especially not while we're still here.

And now I found what I was tying to say through the poetry often born of these Brooklyn streets.

Planet, Earth, was my place of birth
Born to be the soul controller of the universe
Besides the part of the map I hit first
Any environment I can adapt when it gets worst
The rough gets goin, the goin gets rough
When I start flowin, the mic might bust
The next state I shake from the power I generate
People in Cali used to think it was earthquakes
Cause times was hard on the Boulevard
So I vote God and never get scarred and gauled
But it seems like I'm locked in hell
Lookin over the edge but the R never fell
A trip to slip cause my Nikes got grip
Stand on my own two feet and come equipped
Any stage I'm seen on, or mic I fiend on
I stand alone and need nothin to lean on
Going for self with a long way to go
So much to say but I still flow slow
I come correct and I won't look back
Cause it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at
Even the (ghetto)


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Community Board 8 (Crown Heights) Meeting tonight 6:30 Topic: Rezoning!

UPDATE The community board 8 has voted unanimously to approve the current rezoning proposal, however its important to note that the current propsoal is essentially a draft and changes can be made to it.
One of the main changes requested by the residents who spoke is that the voluntary option included in the current plan (allowing developers to decide whether or not to provide affordable housing) be changed to mandatory.
Also during the meeting the new Commanding Officer of the 77th Precinct was introduced, he and his family are long term residents of Crown Heights which is covered by the 77th.

Additional issues discussed during the meeting included permissions for new and existing food establishments and votes for board positions.

My twitter feed @BklynBornBlog has details posted as the rezoning issue was being discussed.

Posted at 6p (prior to voting)

I'm positing exactly the text from the I Love Franklin Avenue Blog just to spread the word quickly about tonight's community board meeting to discuss rezoning in Crown Heights.
I wanted to write a detailed post about the pros and cons of the discussion, but here's my super-condensed opinion. Landmarking is good for Crown Heights. It will promote more of what long term residents truly want in the neighborhood, while being less invasive a process than some long time residents seemed to believe (based on the community meeting I attended, held on April 16th).
Come on out if you're in the hood. Speak up, make your voice heard.

UPDATE After attending the meeting, I came to the belief that the plan should be adjusted to make developers requirement to provide affordable housing mandatory instead of voluntary.

Crown Heights has proven itself to be a desired money maker for developers. In my opinion and in light of the facts that voluntary inclusion options provide very poor results, I believe developers don't need incentives to build they need restrictions to keep them from excluding exactly the type of working class taxpayers that have been the heart of Crown Heights for decades.

From I Love Franklin ave Blog:
Community Board 8 holds its public hearing on the proposed rezoning of "Crown Heights West" tonight at 7pm. Complete info is copied from their website below.

The Crown Heights West Rezoning proposal will be discussed for the third time at CB 8's Housing/ULURP Committee meeting on Thursday May 2, 2013, 6:30 p.m. at CenterLight Health Systems/CNR, 727 Classon Ave @ Park Place.
Written comments are invited and can be faxed ahead to the Board office at 718-778-2979, or emailed to
The Public Hearing on the proposal will be held Thursday, May 9, 2013 during the regularly scheduled full Board meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. The meeting willl be held at Berean Missionary Baptist Church, 1635 Bergen Street, corner of Rochester Avenue.

The Department of City Planning announced on March 18, 2013 that it is moving ahead with the process to contextually rezone a portion of western Crown Heights, at the request of Community Board 8. The proposed rezoning will encompass 55 blocks with the aim of preserving their historic character, promoting affordable housing and improving retail in the area. The goal of zoning will establish limits for building height and commercial areas; it will also offer incentives for affordable housing development along Franklin and Bedford avenues. ”The rezoning of western Crown Heights builds on our commitment to protecting the character of Brooklyn’s distinctive residential neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Amanda Burden in a prepared statement.

“This comprehensive rezoning proposal, developed in close consultation with the community and elected officials, will reinforce the neighborhood’s historic brownstone and row house blocks. It will also ensure new development is appropriately scaled along the area’s transit rich corridors and provides opportunities for affordable housing in select locations.” Community Board 8 has 60 days to review the proposal. Then it goes on to other City agencies. A map of the proposed rezoning is on the jump below, or you can view it on the City Planning website. To view the entire presentation and not just the overview of the project, click here.
To also download the Environmental Assessment Statement, and get additional information on the Crown Heights West Re-zoning Proposal, you can view it here. (Please note that it is a large document that takes a while to load.)

Crown Heights Rezoning Overview [NYC City Planning]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Photo Wednesday 5/8/13 : CosPlay Edition

It's fun that CosPlay has found an annual home in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Sakura Matsuri Festival.

I have so many great pics from that day I can fill a year of Wednesdays with them.

Costumed escapism can be so much fun.

How are YOU not like yourself?

Via Flickr:
BBG Sakura Matsuri 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Soul of Brooklyn 2013 Begins with Brooklyn adoptees Les Nubians & Blitz The Ambassador

LesNubian 0542013 SoulofBklyn_FultonPark_0975
Les Nubians @ Fulton Park in Brooklyn Sat May 4th, 2013 Photo: BrooklynBorn

"Soul of Brooklyn" 2013 a cultural program of the of MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts) began with a Afropolitan Block Party in Bedford-Stuyvesant concluding Saturday night with a free live concert by international recording artists Les Nubians and Ghanian recording artist, Hip-Hop lyricist and nearly one man band Blitz The Ambassador. All recent residents of Brooklyn. They were backed by a dynamite actual band of brass and musical brawn. 

Despite some technical hiccups which set back the start of the show (the well worn soundcheck phrase "HeyYup" offered often through the troubleshooting by a man wearing a "M.I.T." sweatshirt was both titillating, tedious and will ring in some parts of ears forever.)

LesNubian+Blitz-adj_DSC0952 Blitz led the concert, taking the assembled hundreds on a "flight" through his personal African Diaspora view through family gatherings, and governmental collapse. The sound-expedition was interwoven with bombastic lyrics, familial recollections and pan-genre musicality.

LesNubian_0542013 SoulofBklyn_FultonPark_0995 
Les Nubians' set flowed from a song with Blitz. Stepping out from the collaboration Les Nubian offered to take the crown on a cultural journey through their brand of soulful R&B which made them international chart climbers with hits like "Makeba". Blitz took back to the stage amping an already swaying crowd into full on celebration and a good ol' fashion three count dance lesson.

Blitz_TheAmbassador_0961Blitz The Ambassador @ Fulton Park in Brooklyn Sat May 4th, 2013 Photo: BrooklynBorn

Under the Blitz's influence hundreds swayed left, right and left again turning one of Bed-Stuy's most accessible parks (being bracketed by the Utica A/C station) into a classic house party stirring the chilly Spring night with the homegrown social warmth renown throughout the Diaspora.

SoulOFBrooklyn_May42013_FultonPark_0913The concert & cultural season is just starting so check with Soul of Brooklyn, Celebrate Brooklyn & SummerStage to stay in the know!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Photo Wednesday 05/01/13: Plant Sale Edition!


May 1st and April's showers, delivered!

Today's Photo Wednesday comes courtesy of the very photogenic Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I couldn't stop taking pics of the tulips, they're amazing!

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is also having a PLANT SALE TODAY & TOMORROW 5/2 so don't delay get on down and get some of the best most beautiful flora from the experts.


 Untitled  Untitled

There's also a LOT of cherry blossoms and early roses in bloom too. Enjoy!