Monday, March 02, 2015

Mexican Eatery 'Mad Dog & Beans' On Smith Street Closes After Just One Year

The storefront at 276 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens seems to be cursed. The last two eateries that occupied the space, Bino and Arthur, opened and closed in rather quick succession.
Mad Dog & Beans, a casual-upscale Mexican restaurant, with a "theme based on the Mexican Revolution", seems to have continued this pattern.  After just over a year, the eatery has closed its doors.
Reader Demy just wrote in to say:
"Last Saturday night I headed to Mad Dog & Beans, the Mexican spot on Smith, for dinner. Had some great, authentically Mexican (not Tex-Mex) meals there. But a sign on the door said "Closed". No note, no explanation. Any idea if they're still in business?"

When I walked by yesterday, there were boxes stacked on the table closest to the door and the place looked as though it had been cleared out. It definitely seems defunct.

Mad Dog & Beans is just two doors down from Cubana Café, which also just closed recently.
Across the street, two storefronts sit empty after Savoia, the Italian eatery closed a while back.
Perhaps the long cold winter has kept people at home and away from restaurants, which may have contributed to these closings. What do you think?

What's Up With Cubana Café on Smith Street?

One can only hope that Cubana Café at 272 Smith Street here in Carroll Gardens is just undergoing a renovation and will re-open soon. But this small favorite Latin eatery has been closed for a while now newspapers have been obscuring the interior.

There is no mention of a closing on the restaurant's web site or on Yelp, but reader Nik Z. reports that Cubana has been taken off of Seamless and that the phone number is disconnected. Not a good sign by any means.

Cubana Café has been a go-to place for many years in the neighborhood. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is casual, unpretentious, the food wonderful and the mojitos even better.

If the café has closed for good, I will most definitely miss their mojitos, their chick pea salad, and most importantly, their grilled shrimp sandwich.

Does anyone have more info on this place?
Thanks to Ben U. for first alerting us to the closing.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Poppy's Catering On DeGraw Street Turns Into Pop-Up Coffee Shop And Bakery this Week-End

photos courtesy of Poppy's Catering

Poppy's Catering opened its doors at 243 DeGraw Street between Clinton and Court Street in early 2013. Two years later, the business has grown and thrived in our neighborhood.

A few days ago, I received an email from owner Jamie Schmones Erickson, reporting that she has recently taken over a kitchen on Columbia Street, but has kept the DeGraw Street location.
Which is great news, because that allows Jamie to use the storefront as a bakery, and a pop-up coffee shop. "On Valentines day we opened for the first time selling coffee and baked goods and the response from the neighborhood was wonderful!" she writes.

And the pop-up returns this week-end:
"This Saturday, Saturday, February 28 from 9 am to 3 pm, we will be doing our second Pop Up with a new variety of baked goods, plus some sandwiches, salads and soup options. Plus some packaged goods like our granola and jarred preserved lemons."

So don't forget to stop by.

"Thanks For The Amazing Memories": Bocca Lupo Closes Its Doors In Cobble Hill

photo credit: Google Maps
photo credit: David S.

I am sorry to report that Bocca Lupo, the popular rustic Italian eatery and drinking spot at 391 Henry Street at the corner of Warren Street has recently closed its doors. It had been operating at this spot since 2006.

Reader David S. contacted PMFA to share the sad news. He sent the photo above of the closing notice that is currently hanging in Bocca Lupo's window.

He writes: "Heard they had been struggling. Sad to see it close. I was a fan."

Nine years for a restaurant these days seems to be a long run.  Obviously, Bocca Lupo did lots of things right.
Were you a fan? Will you miss it?

Ridgewood Savings Bank Will Host A Small Business Financial Workshop At Its Court Street Branch

photo courtesy of Google Maps
Ridgewood Savings Bank is offering a Small Business Financial Workshop at its Cobble Hill branch at 244 Court Street on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 5 pm to 7 pm.   Led by Ridgewood's Small Business Specialist Mark Stazzone, the workshop "is meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs or anybody interested in learning the necessary steps to form a successful business."

Refreshments will be served.
Please rsvp by March 4th.

True to its dedication to community investment, Ridgewood Savings Bank has been a tremendously engaged partner in the past few years by partnering with neighborhood groups to provide various free educational classes. These classes range from Fraud Prevention classes at the Eileen Dugan Senior Citizens Center, to Teach Children to Save at the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. 
You can learn more about the bank's history here. It is actually a quite interesting read.

Pile Driving In A Flood Zone: D.o.B. Holding Informational Meeting In Red Hook That Might Interest Gowanus Residents

Red Hook

Residents of Red Hook and Gowanus share many of the same problems in regards to flooding and development pressures,  That's why an upcoming community meeting in Red Hook on March 4th with the New York City Department of Buildings will most certainly also be of interest to Gowanus residents.

The meeting notice was sent to me by a Red Hook resident, who thinks that the two communities could have a good dialog to discuss all common concerns.

Read below:
Hi All
Some of you will be experiencing development on your blocks soon: King/Sullivan Streets multifamily development; Dikeman/Richards; Wolcott between Van Brunt and Richards, etc.. 
Because we're in a flood zone, much new development in Red Hook will be elevated and involve some kind of piles. This meeting with DOB has been put together to help prepare and inform adjacent residents. 
Other items on the agenda are the new parking lot at the former Revere site and traffic concerns. 
Preliminary information regarding new flood maps and flood insurance will also be available. There will be a larger flood insurance and mapping event with Congresswoman Velazquez and NYC in the spring. 

Department of Buildings - Community Informational Session 

RE: Increased Pile Driving in Flood Zone AE 12
March 4th, 7 pm., PS 15 (entrance on Sullivan St.)

Dear Neighbors:

In addition to the questions/concerns listed below, please come to the meeting with your own experiences or concerns regarding the present and ongoing increase of pile driving in Red Hook. This meeting is meant to help the community prepare for more elevated buildings, provide guidance and help to assuage anxiety.
• Many are not getting notified of imminent pile driving
• What is the protocol for protecting one's building?
• How destructive is it? Is my building at risk? (we had an incident recently of a pile falling onto an adjacent property and, next door to that house, cracks developing but that property owner had not been notified of the pile driving.)
• Are there alternatives? What are helical piles? What is the expected difference between wood and steel piles?
• Does pre-augering help?
• What are the developer's responsibilities?
• Is there a cumulative effect?
• How do soil conditions factor both in terms of types of piles used, how far down they must go but, also, how different soil types determine particle velocity and frequencies. Apparently Red Hook has a lot of fill.
• In general, what kinds of information regarding pile driving and excavation are owners of adjacent buildings entitled to before having to hire an attorney or engineer?

ADDED by FN- Re: Block 576 - Wolcott and Van Brunt
87 Wolcott Development (50' x 113') – caisson or helical pile driving and monitoring of underpinning of adjacent buildings on lot line -Block 576 Lot 10

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Change Of Management And New Concept For People's Republic Of Brooklyn On Smith Street

A few days ago, I received the following email from neighborhood resident Ben U. :
"People's Republic Of Brooklyn on Smith St has closed and re-opened with a new name, management, concept and slight renovation. Most people probably wouldn't view this is a huge loss to the neighborhood, but it was one of very few chill, unpretentious spots to get a beer on Smith St. for the past few years. It also had a very multi-cultural clientele, which I dug -- a good cross-section of Brooklyn. Most importantly, they had world-class chicken wings, with homemade sauces by the chef, a self-described wing enthusiast. It will be missed. The soft opening of the new place happened last night. I couldn't tell you what's on the menu because I was too bummed -- just had a beer and left."
I stopped by People's Republic at 247 Smith Street two days ago. Though the name still seems to be the same, a quick look inside confirmed that the bar has gotten a facelift.

Have you been there recently? What do you think of the new concept or did you prefer it better before?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Picture Of The Day: Frozen Solid

The Gowanus Canal at the Fifth Street Basin near Whole Foods.

Notes From Last Night's Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting: Brad Lander And His "Trade-Off" Urban Planning For Gowanus

Doug Sarno, EPA Gowanus Community Advisory Group facilitator
Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal addressing the CAG
Councilmember Brad Lander
The Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Committee (CAG) had a full agenda for last night's general meeting at Mary Star of the Sea Senior Center.

Christos Tsiamis, Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal Superfund, gave members of the CAG a brief update on what is currently taking place in the canal.  "We have been doing quite a bit of work in the area of 7th Street and Public Place that will help us design the clean-up of the canal. Together with National Grid, we have been able to use a new technique to collect data that will help us determine where the liquid tar is in the canal." 
The technique allows the fitting of three different measuring instruments that are fitted to the rig that goes into the canal. "I believe it is the first time it has been used in the country. We are very excited, because we were successful and were able to get a lot of valuable information. It will also save us time. We are going at a good pace."

Tsiamis also talked about the importance of climate change when considering a remedy for the Gowanus Canal.  "We thought that is was important to take into account sea level rise because it will be reality and see how that impacts our work in the canal.  So that you know, we are designing the cap [at the bottom of the canal] to have a lifetime of a hundred years.  We looked at data that has been created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency,
projections made by the Army Corps of Engineers and by New York City.  
The projections vary from 1 to 6 feet.  That is important for our calculations and something that really needs to be taken into account."

A good portion of last night's meeting had been set aside for a presentation of  the draft planning framework for Bridging Gowanus, Councilman Brad Lander's ambitious initiative to "develop a neighborhood framework for the infrastructure and land use plan needed for a safe, vibrant and sustainable Gowanus".

Since members of the the CAG have been working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency on issues relating to the canal's environmental  Superfund clean-up in the past few years, the topic of re-zoning the Gowanus area seemed extremely relevant.

Councilmember Lander together with several other local elected convened Bridging Gowanus back in August 2013.  Several meetings were held throughout 2014. The results of Bridging Gowanus, which was released this past November and can be viewed here, identified eight core values held by the community.  Along with infrastructure investment, a genuine mix of uses, making sure that local manufacturers continue to thrive in Gowanus, historical preservation, and support for its artist community, the participants of Bridging Gowanus called for more affordable housing.
"We did ask people to think hard of the tradeoffs that are necessary," Brad Lander told the CAG last night. "These kinds of investments and achieving the level of preservation we just talked about costs a lot of money." 
During the Bridging Gowanus process, participants were asked what kind of building density they would be willing to allow, from no additional residential development, to low rise residential development, to "heights above brownstone heights" seen in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.  
According to Brad Lander, "a majority of people have said that if we really believe that the plan will address the set of goals that we are talking about, they would be open to additional residential development at densities in some cases higher than the  brownstone context. That's probably the most contentious piece of this."

Oh, yes, it is the most continuous aspect of Bridging Gowanus. During the final presentation in November, Lander claimed that most people were open to high rises from 8 to 18 stories to achieve the goals set forth. The density was determined by a rather misleading exercise given to residents at the public meeting in June which asked residents to add two stories to a base height four story building for each amenity (school, pre-k, park, art space, etc) they felt was important to the neighborhood. Those who checked off every amenity ended up with 18 story buildings. 

I have told Councilman Lander on various occasions that this exercise tactic was disgraceful. I repeated that claim personally last night.  Where in New York City is that sort of  'trade-off' zoning applied?
What do you think would happen if Lander told the people in Park Slope that the neighborhood would have to be up-zoned by two stories because a new school needed to be built there? Or by another two stories because more pre-k spaces were needed?
Why would we agree to it in Gowanus? 

The public comment period for Bridging Gowanus has been extended to the end of March. Please take a moment to add your voice.

Questionnaire distributed at a"Bridging Gowanus" meeting in June 2014.
The 'results' were used by Lander to claim that most residents were ok 
with 8-18 story buildings in Gowanus


"Black Gold At The Morbid Anatomy Museum": A Perfect Pairing In Gowanus

Black Gold co-owner Sommer Santoro with barista Devin Castaldi-Micca

Black Gold, the popular Carroll Gardens coffee, antiques and record shop, has recently opened a satellite location within the ground floor of Morbid Anatomy Museum at 424-A 3rd Ave at 7th Street in Gowanus.  The new café shares the large space with the museum's gifts shop, and the two make a wonderful pairing.
Where else but in Gowanus can one enjoy a cup of coffee sitting next to examples of taxidermy and other curiosities?

Earlier this week, I stopped by to meet up with Black Gold's co-owner Sommer Santoro. She and her partner were approached by the museum last fall about renting an existing coffee bar that had recently vacated the ground floor space. They jumped at the chance to open a second location and felt that it would be a perfect fit for them. After all, they have always offered an eccentric selection of antiques and ephemera along with their coffee at their original shop on Court Street.

Besides, Santoro and her partner share many mutual connections with the museum's directors. "We are kindred spirits", Santoro told me with a smile.

Besides its signature Rook Roasters 30 second pour-over coffee, "Black Gold At The Morbid Anatomy Museum" is offering a full expresso bar, using beans from Brooklyn-based roaster Variety Coffee. The fresh backed goods come from local bakeries Ovenly and the Good Batch. And of course, they sell vinyl records here as well.

So next time you walk by, stop on in. The café offers free wifi, so you can sit down and do some work. And of course, don't fail to check out the museum's exhibit and its very cool gift shop.

Black Gold At The Morbid Anatomy Museum 
424-A 3rd Ave at 7th Street,
Open 7 days a week