Thursday, March 30, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Brooklyn General Store

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So much yarn, so little time to knit all the wonderful projects I have in mind.
The Brooklyn General Store on Union Street.

Is Black Forest Brooklyn Planning A Beer Garden At 181 Smith Street in Boerum Hill?

 181 Smith Street when it was Tony's Hardware Store
Tony in his now closed hardware store in 2014
 More recently, 181 Smith Street when it was El Milagro
photo courtesy: Black Forest Brooklyn
181 Smith Street's New Tenant?
 Courtesy: Smith Hansen


Many in the neighborhood will remember #181 Smith Street as the former home of the beloved Tony's Hardware Store, which closed in 2015 after decades in business. It was briefly followed by El Milagro, a jewelry, gift, and home decor store, which lasted until this past fall, when it too, closed.

Local realty Smith Hanten has been marketing the 2,000 square foot retail space for $12,500 a month, noting that the space also includes a rather large 1,200 sqft outdoor lot, that has a separate access and 20ft frontage on Warren Street. The listing includes a plot diagram of this unusual L shaped property.

Apparently, the space has found a new tenant, according to a Smith Street resident, who reached out to PMFA to report that "a notice has been posted in the window of 181 Smith Street, noting that Black Forest Brooklyn is opening in this location and is applying for a full liquor license."
Black Forest Brooklyn already operates a "German Indoor Biergarten and Kaffeehaus" in Fort Greene. the business has just applied for a liquor license for 181 Smith Street.
" Obviously that raises concerns for neighbors, due to the prospect of a raucous outdoor beer hall atmosphere," the resident told us. "Also worth noting, the Cobble Hill School for American Studies is directly across from the back lot on Warren Street. The idea of a beer garden across from a public school is interesting to contemplate!"

The concern over the potential use of the outdoor space as a beer garden is certainly understandable given the fact that it is entirely surrounded by residential dwellings on Warren Street. Though commercial use is, of course, permitted facing Smith Street, the use of the backyard space may considerably impact the quality of life for those living nearby.

We all love a beer garden, but let us all remember that this is a residential neighborhood with a commercial overlay, intended to serve the community and should not, ideally, subtract from it.

Community Board 2's Health Committee will meet on April 5 for a preliminary discussion on this topic at Brooklyn Hospital, First Floor Dining Room; 121 DeKalb Avenue at St. Felix.
Community Board 2 contact info: (718) 596-5410 or cb2k@nyc.rr.com.


An Inspiring Evening With Gloria Steinem At Hannah Senesh Community School In Carroll Gardens

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Gloria Steinem and moderator Virginia Heffernan at Hannah Senesh
(photo courtesy of Hannah Senesh)

When Carroll Garden's Hannah Senesh Community Day School announced the inaugural guest of its new Steinhardt Speaker Series a few weeks ago, tickets were sold out almost immediately. No surprise! The speaker was Gloria Steinem, writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer.

This past Monday, March 27th in Senesh's auditorium, Gloria Steinem spoke on a variety of topics that included her Jewish heritage, the women who inspired and mentored her, and the importance of staying involved to bring about a more equal and just society.
Her casual conversation with moderator Virginia Heffernan was an absolute delight.

Steinem is inspiring, dynamic, and very funny. She credits her mother, a journalist, and her Suffragette paternal grand-mother, Pauline Perlmutter Steinem,. for paving the way to her becoming a feminist and reporter herself.
She also spoke of the influence early feminist like Bella Abzug and Esther M. Broner had on her early on. "I was lucky enough to be included in their circle," she told the audience.

Regarding the current political climate in this country, Steinem sees hopeful signs in many movements coming together in opposition to the Trump presidency. "I have never seen such energy in all my life. And it is not going away, she said."What we are seeing is a majority response to a perfect storm." She referred to the Women's March on the day after the inauguration in January "the biggest march in history and unabashedly feminist."

Asked by Virginia Heffernan to give one piece of advice, Steinem said without hesitation: "Don't listen to me. Every one of us can be effective in ways no one else can be effective. Listen to your own knowledge."


Monday, March 27, 2017

Is This A Practical Joke Or Something Weirder? Nails Propped Up Against Car Tires On Second Street In Carroll Gardens

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A resident of Carroll Gardens got quite a surprise when walking up to his car on Second Street yesterday.  Someone had strategically positioned nails around the tires of the vehicle to obviously cause a flat.  Of course, it could have caused more serious harm.

The resident reached out to PMFA to warn others in the neighborhood. Here is an account of what happened:
"At approximately 8 am on Sunday, March 26th, several nails were found surrounding both the rear tires of a grey Jeep Wrangler. The vehicle had been parked overnight in front of 13 2nd Street, between Smith and Hoyt.

The nails were positioned at 45 degrees in both front and back of each rear tire, in a way that any unassuming, hurried driver on their morning commute would have quickly punctured both.

The owner of the vehicle discovered the threatening set-up when checking the right rear tire, which was found to be low on air the previous afternoon.

A police report was filed, due to the nature of the harassment; the perpetrator seemed intent on causing harm to the owner's property, but also had complete disregard for the owner's personal safety behind the wheel."

Pardon me for asking, but is this someone's idea of a practical joke?  Is this about the lack of parking in the neighborhood?  Has anyone else experienced something similar?
Please reach out and let us know. And please spread the word.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Lunch Specials

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Seen on Smith Street on Thursday:
"Hunger Steak wiht mushed potato
Cesar salad wiht chicken"
Bon appétit!

After Years Of Construction, The New Building At 159 Smith Street Is Revealed, And It's....(Fill In The Blank)

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Original wood-clad house at 159 Smith Street before it was demo'ed in late 2013

The new building at 159 Smith Street in March 2017
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This is what a "proposed 2 story addition to an existing 3 story mixed-use building" looks like, according to the NYC's Department of Building.

PMFA has been following this particular construction ever since a green construction fence was erected along the original wood-clad building at 159 Smith Street, between Wycoff and Bergen Streets in Boerum Hill, in late 2013. A few days later, a demolition crew completely tore down the existing building.  More than three years later, a completely new building has taken its place.e

The original three-story mixed use structure was certainly in need of some attention. However, with its height, ornate cornice and window details, it fit perfectly between its two neighbors. Most importantly, it had probably stood there for almost a century.
The new building (and it is new from the ground up, regardless of what the permit says) is almost done now.  It seems massive next to the neighboring structures. Its façade is rather stark and modern.

Personally, I think it is horrendous, but would like to hear what you have to say.
How would you complete the sentence:
"The new 159 Smith Street is revealed, and its....(Fill In The Blank)"




Copy Cottage On Smith Street: A Great Local Resource

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Copy Cottage at 249 Smith Street is a real lifesaver for many in the neighborhood who are crunched for time and can't make the trek to either the Red Hook or Brooklyn Heights U.S. Post Offices for their mailing and shipping needs.

The locally owned business accepts and ships your packages, sells postage stamps, sends and receives your faxes, and covers all your printing needs. In addition, it sells packing and moving materials, offers mail boxes, and has a notary public on staff. Need business cards printed? They do that, too. Best of all, the store accepts your pre-paid return packages for a nominal fee.

The staff is always friendly and helpful and the convenience of having all these services in one place in an easily accessible location is great for all who work from home.

Copy Cottage may charge a bit more for certain services, but if you are like me,  the avoidance of standing in long lines at one of our post offices makes it worthwhile. Besides, your patronage supports a local business, not a national chain, which is always a good thing.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Attorney General Schneiderman During A Visit To The Gowanus Canal: EPA Budget Cuts Could "Easily Kneecap All Efforts To Clean Up This Canal"

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Councilman Brad Lander with  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in Gowanus on Tuesday.
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New York Attorney General addressing the Press on the shores of the Gowanus
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Brad Lander addressing Trump Administration's proposed EPA budget cuts

The number one question being asked by many Gowanus residents these days is: "Will the Superfund clean-up of the toxic Gowanus Canal be affected by the proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency?"

As we all know by now, the Environmental Protection Agency is the hardest-hit agency under President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposals. The budget would cut funding for the Agency by 31 percent from its current level, EPA’s staff could be cut by about 21 percent, and the Superfund program, responsible for cleanups of contaminated sites, would have its funding cut from about $1.1 billion to $762 million.

In addition, according to Inside EPA, the Agency's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently developing "a plan for consolidating its 10 regional offices into eight, a step being justified as a way to realize 'efficiencies' but which is already sparking concerns that it could spread an already strapped agency too thin to accomplish its mission. In addition, some state sources are concerned that cutting back on the number of regional offices could also limit support..."

Less money, less staff and cuts to the Superfund program?  Doesn't sound too promising for the Gowanus clean-up, does it?

This past Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, accompanied by Councilman Brad Lander, held a press conference on the shores of the Gowanus Canal to address the proposed cuts.
"We are here today because the Gowanus Canal is an example  of a successful effort to clean up a Superfund site...so far. We are facing now an unprecedented assault on the Superfund Program and other environmental programs by the Administration of President Trump. Last week, Trump released a budget that calls for extraordinary dangerous and extremely shortsighted cuts to nearly all federal programs to protect our environment, our health our economy and our future.  This is a cruel betrayal  of the American people and in particular, a cruel betrayal of fellow New Yorkers," Schneiderman told the press.

"The budget the President announced promises to unravel all of our gains und promises to send us back to the sad old days of choking smog and toxins in our rivers and streams," according to Schneiderman.  "There are 85 Superfund sites in New York State, all off them are now at risk. If Trump gets his way, funding for this critical program will be cut by 43%. A hollowed out EPA, with far fewer staff and an administrator who does not seem to care about environmental protection or believe in climate change could easily kneecap all efforts to clean up this canal and could have a devastating effect on Superfund sites where the clean-up hasn't even begun."

"The canal right behind us is a terrific example. It has taken decades of hard work and constant advocacy to finally put this canal on a path of clean-up. It is being cleaned up now as part of an extremely successful, cost effective program known as Superfund," Schneiderman said.

"The clean-up of the Gowanus Canal could be slowed by these cutbacks. The Administration could delay further proceedings. This is not necessary and this is something that we are going to fight against."  Schneiderman further said: "There is no rational basis for these damaging cuts. EPA represents about 2/10th of 1% of the Federal budget, yet it has a positive effect on the lives of every single American."

"If Donald Trump and [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruit think that they can get away with the massive rollback of programs that are critical of the health and wellbeing of ordinary Americans, they have another thing coming," he added.
"No New York should have to wait a single day longer than necessary to clean toxins out of our waterways," Schneiderman concluded.

Councilman Brad Lander agreed with Schneiderman that President Trump's proposed budget would represent "completely intolerable cuts to the EPA."  According to Lander, "we would be the frog boiling ourselves in toxic water if we accept these cuts, so we have to fight back."  

"It took decades of activism by many of the people who are here and many others in the neighborhood to get the EPA take a look at this canal. Once they agreed to take a look, it was the science that dictated the Superfund clean-up. They did the investigation, they tested the sludge at the bottom of this canal. It is unsafe, it is toxic. That is why the Superfund designation was made and that is why we are on a path to get this canal dredged and cleaned up and turned from a toxic waterway into a community resource."
He re-iterated that the cuts were "penny wise and pound foolish.
"The beauty of the Superfund  program is that the polluters pay for the clean-up. This is what is going to happen here. We don't need federal money to actually clean the canal. Of course, that only works if the EPA can administer the program."
In the case of the Gowanus Canal Superfund, Lander mentioned that the EPA does not yet have a "signed consent decree that tell the polluters that they are on the hook."
According to Lander: "If the administrative budget is cut and the Superfund staff can't work on the administrative order, the polluters won't pay to clean-up the canal. That would be devastating for this community and foolish for all of us."

During the press conference, neither Councilman Lander nor New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman mentioned that NYC Department of City Planning  is currently studying  Gowanus for future re-zoning and development. A re-zoning could bring thousands of new residents to the banks of this polluted waterway.

Ironically, the press conference was being held in front of Lightstone Development's new 700 residential units, and across from a large development parcel, where Jared Kuschner, President Trump's son-in-law, plans on building a 30 story luxury apartment building.

Now that the Gowanus community has learned from Schneiderman and Lander that the EPA budget cuts could certainly slow down and undermine the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal, perhaps the next question asked by the community should be:
"If that is the case, should the rezoning of the Gowanus be set aside until we are certain that the canal clean-up moves forward in a timely fashion under the Trump administration?"


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Ferdinando's

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Old school Carroll Gardens. Have you ever eaten here? No? Why not?
151 Union Street
#Supportyourlocalbusinesses


Benefit For Immigrant Families @ Strong Place This Wednesday

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Reader Jennifer made me aware of a fund raising event for the National Immigration Law Center this Wednesday, March 22 from 7 to 9 pm.  The event will be held here in the neighborhood at Strong Place, 270 Court Street.

Jennifer writes:
"The National Immigration Law Center is a leading organization that is fearlessly defending the rights of immigrant families.
A $50 (minimum) donation at the door ($25 for under 25 year-olds) will help to ensure that they are able to continue defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrant families, as well as continuing the fight against Trump’s xenophobic Muslim banned the rising arrests by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
"

To RSVP, please visit our event page- https://goo.gl/wHuVrd


In A Basement On Columbia Street, Books Through Bars Volunteers Help Bridge Gap Between The Incarcerated And The “Free” World

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NYC Books Through Bars volunteers wrapping books to ship out IMG_0243
Members of the NYU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega
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Volunteer Bruce McDonald held several Dictionary Drives in Carroll Park
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Bruce McDonald with some of the dictionaries he helped collect for the organization
Letter recently received by Books Through Bars

Twice, and sometimes thrice a week, a group of NYC Books Through Bars volunteers gather to wrap, weigh and address packages in the slightly cramped, dusty basement of Freebird Books at 123 Columbia Street.  The packages contain books from the many donations lining the basement's shelves, which have been carefully matched to a specific request from an incarcerated individual.   The volunteers represent a range of political opinions and different beliefs about the American prison system, but are united in their conviction that reading material is a human right and that individuals in prison should have access to decent educational reading material.

NYC Books Through Bars got started in Manhattan about twenty years ago.  The organization moved to the Columbia Waterfront District about four years ago, when Freebird owner Peter Miller made his downstairs space available to the organization.  Every week, BTB receives about 200 to 300 letters from incarcerated individuals.  The organization can fulfill most of the requests and more than 100 to 150  packages are shipped out to forty states weekly.
"Every letter gets a response, even if only to refer the individual to a similar organization that may cover a state that BTB does not," Daniel Schaffer, one of the group's organizers told me. "If we can not send an exact title in response to a request, we try to substitute a similar book."

Melissa Marturano, a fellow coordinator, explained that the number of letters to BTB highlights how sorely underfunded prison education is and how understocked their libraries are. "The most requested books are English-language dictionaries, mysteries, books on how to start a business, and on African-American history, " according to Marturano.  "Individuals behind bars have no access to computers.  They don't have e books," she explained.  Books provide opportunities to improve vocabulary and literacy as well as connection to the outside world.

I was first introduced to Books Through Bars by my friend Bruce McDonald, who is a fellow member of Friends of Carroll Park.  Bruce has organized several Dictionary Drives in Carroll Park and has collected over 100 dictionaries for BTB in just over a year.
Recently, while volunteering for the group, Bruce came across a request for a book in Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria. (Read the letter above).  With funds provided by Friends of Carroll Park, Bruce purchased a Yoruba dictionary online and sent it off to Victor, who had asked for it.

If you would like to donate books to NYC Books Through Bars, here are some guidelines:
- Softcovers only, please
- Nothing with excessive highlighting or underlining
- Dictionaries (all languages) are the number one request we receive
- Mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks are also in very high demand, especially mystery, action/thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, westerns
- How-to guides for all sorts of vocations, skills, and careers, as well as GED and other test prep books
- Non-fiction titles in the categories of true crime, world and US history, ethnic studies (esp. South/Central/Mezo-American), supernatural/occult, and biography

Books can be dropped off at Freebird (123 Columbia Street) during one of the volunteer packing sessions, which are every Sunday from 2:00-5:00 and Mondays from 7:30-9:30 (and occasional Wednesdays.  Check the calendar here.

Though books are always welcomed, money for postage is crucial to Books Through Bar's mission.
Please consider a contribution here.