Saturday, December 09, 2017

Picture Of The Day: First Snow

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Snowy day in Carroll Park, Brooklyn.
How majestic the old elm trees look under a white layer.

A Brooklyn Christmas Tree Without This Ornament? Fuggetaboutit!

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A Brooklyn Christmas tree without a fire escape ornament?
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It was designed by my Brooklyn-born daughter, Celina.
Available at the Tenement Museum Shop on the Lower East Side,
or online here.
All proceed go towards the Tenement Museum.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Orange Berries And Brick Rowhouses

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Spotted on Third Place in Carroll Gardens.
Something bout the color of the berries and the brick caught my eye.

Soloist Collective: Park Slope, Carroll Gardens And Gowanus "Solopreneurs" Connect And Empower Each Other

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(photo above: soloistcollective.com)

Have you heard of Soloist Collective yet? It is a community that aims to empower skilled independent professionals to "master their craft, grow their business and lead life on their own terms." Whether you are a caterer, an artist, a therapist, a career coach or an artisan, Soloist Collective empowers you by connecting you to others for advice, referrals, bartering, friendships, and all sort of other key services that support independent work.

This past summer, a Park Slope Chapter of Soloist Collective was formed, which includes members from Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. It now includes more than 100 members, the largest in New York City.

The chapter would like to extend an invitation to other soloists to join them at their final meeting of 2017, next Wednesday, December 13 at 9am, at Bond Collective at Gowanus68 3rd Streetso other freelancers can learn more "about the somewhat hidden but growing local business community, and how why we've decided to go it independently, but not alone."

From Soloist Collective:
"Our chapter meetings typically last about an hour. Soloists take time to introduce themselves to the group and to make asks from the community, and then one member speaks about an issue they're an expert on that has value to the community. We see everyone from fitness professionals, lawyers, health coaches, real estate agents, to music teachers and interior decorators, and others exchanging cards and making plans to deepen their connections and support one another’s businesses."

Bagels and coffee provided.  Care to join me to check it out?

Community Board 6 Invites To Holiday Get Together at Royal Palms In Gowanus

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The members of Community Board 6  are extending an invitation to a Holiday get-together on Monday December 18th, 2017 from 6:30 to 9pm at the The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, 514 Union Street in Gowanus. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet those who represent us year round on issues small and large pertaining to our community.  It may also inspire some to become a member in 2018.

From CB6:
"Drop by for an evening of revelry with CB6 board and committee members as we celebrate the holiday season with our neighbors!
Free, Open to all (21+), Cash bar, Food available for purchase
Robert's Rules of Order will be suspended."


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Carroll Gardens' Famous Pig

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It is starting to look a lot like Christmas here in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
At Esposito & Sons, one of the last remaining Italian neighborhood' stores, their iconic pig is standing guard, surrounded by greenery and festive lights.

Santa To Attend Carroll Park's Annual Tree Lighting This Friday

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We all know that Santa is a busy guy this time of year. Yet, he is taking time out to attend the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Carroll Park.
The decorated tree is already standing in the Court Street border, but lighting it in the company of all the little ones in the neighborhood is magical.
So, on Friday December 8th at 6 pm, come to sing carols, have some refreshments, and say hello to the bearded man in the red suit.

Don't forget to bring some canned food to contribute to Friends of Carroll Park's food drive to help feed New York's hungry.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

PS 58 Hosting Its Very First Holiday Market This Saturday

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Are you in the middle of shopping for Holiday gifts? May I suggest staying offline and shopping locally?  Over twenty amazing vendors will be present at the first annual Holiday Market at PS58 on Saturday, December 9th, 2017.
So, no need to go far. Just come to our neighborhood public school for all the gifts you need.

From PS58:
"Join us this Saturday, December 9th from 10-4pm for the First Annual PS58 Holiday Market! You will not want to miss this exciting event filled with amazing booths from local artisans and merchants. We are partnering with Brooklyn Strategist to provide game tables for the kids in the cafeteria from 12-3pm. Bring friends ... we will see you there!"

Monday, December 04, 2017

A Moment In Time: Bagels And Christmas Trees

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Choosing a tree on Smith Street.
Photo taken Sunday afternoon.

For Paul Manafort, A 'Stop Work Order' On His Carroll Gardens Property Obviously Doesn't Mean STOP

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***Update***
photo above showing construction crew working at 377 Union Street was taken by a PMFA reader on Tuesday, December 5 at 2pm.

Over the week-end, PMFA received an email from a local resident pointing out that Paul J. Manafort's brownstone building at 377 Union Street between Smith and Hoyt Streets had received a Stop Work order from the NYC Department Of Buildings.
The order was prominently displayed to the front door of the property on Sunday afternoon, when we walked by with our camera to check ourselves.
That however, does not seem to have stopped work. According to the resident, construction workers "have been working at night. The Sheriff drove up and they shut lights off. Sheriff drove away, they resumed work. Lights on at night for weeks. Sadly, this charade goes on every weekend. And at night."
In effect several 311 calls about after-hour work have been logged on the D.o.B. website for this address since October.
A newly installed padlock on the front gate is obviously meant to discourage further visits by D.O.B. 
Paul J. Manafort is, of course, the veteran Republican strategist and Donald Trump's former presidential campaign manager.   PMFA first reported on his investment property at 377 Union Street in February 2017, after irked neighbors had complained about its unkempt condition.  What began as a blog story of a neglected brownstone led to a look at ownership and public records related to finances.
Pardon Me For Asking's investigation disclosed that Manafort had taken out mortgages way beyond the value of the property, which raised some interesting questions.
The press got hold of the story, dug deeper, and now 377 Union Street and its shady financing is included in an indictment of Manafort handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Construction crews have been working on the brownstone since the news of its ownership became public.  The latest stop-work order was issued in late November, 2017.
Obviously, Manafort has bigger legal trouble than a reprimand from the Department of Buildings, but ignoring it demonstrates that he doesn't play by the rules which apply to us all.

As The World Turns In Gowanus: A Tale Of Eminent Domain, Development Pressure, Environmental Challenges, And The Risk Of Losing A Neighborhood's Uniqueness

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Nothing is simple in Gowanus. This small neighborhood wedged between Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens has the ominous distinction of being home to an 1.8 mile man-made canal that is one of the most polluted sites in the United States, which landed it on the Federal Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list in 2010.  Besides being polluted, New York City has been allowing raw sewage to spill into the waterway during heavy downpours for decades and continues to do so.
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Raw sewage floating on the Gowanus Canal

Then there is the fact that most of Gowanus has been declared a Flood Zone 'A' by the  Federal Emergency Management Agency, which means mandatory evacuation during hurricanes.  But no superstorms are needed for floods, as flooding occurs on a regular basis even during moderate downpours.
3rd Street Bridge in Gowanus after heavy rain
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Flooding is a reality for many Gowanus residents.

Lastly, Gowanus has been targeted for development. A real estate frenzy has been unleashed by Mayor deBlasio and Councilmen Lander and Levin, when they began pushing to rezone the area from mostly manufacturing to mixed-use, which would allow more residential developments similar to the recently completed Lightstone Group rental towers along the canal. This resulted in speculative investments by developers such as Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and others.  In anticipation of the rezoning, manufacturing lots in the area have significantly increased in value, which has forced many manufacturing tenants out of the area.
Lightstone Group's 700-unit high rise rental along the Gowanus Canal

This perfect storm has pitted not-for-profit organizations, which have taken money from developers and our elected officials and these same elected officials who envision a shiny new Gowanus neighborhood against true civic associations, and neighbors who want to hold on to at least part of its history and uniqueness.

As of right now, The EPA Superfund Clean-Up of the toxic Canal seems to be on track.  A dredging and capping pilot study is about to begin in the 4th Street basin. The result will enable the EPA to finalize the design for the environmental clean-up of the entire waterway. The actual clean-up is slated to start in 2020 at the head of the Canal.

The re-zoning of Gowanus has picked up momentum.  From 2013 to 2015, Councilmen Lander held "Bridging Gowanus," a series of curated community planning meetings to help "shape a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the Gowanus neighborhood." At one of the planning meetings, the public was given a highly slanted exercise to "weigh the hard choices of density and development."
Predictably, the resulting report claimed that "nearly three-quarters of the participants who chose this scenario expressed openness to buildings of more than 10 stories (with a distribution of opinion spread about equally from 8 to 18 stories)."
How very convenient for developers.
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Councilman Brad Lander at one of the Bridging Gowanus meetings, 
promising an 'inclusive and transparent process"

By late 2016, the NYC Department of City Planning launched the Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study to develop a planning and land-use framework for the Gowanus neighborhood. Here again, local residents were asked to participate through a series of workshops. Though many in the community clearly asked City Planning to consider establishing "managed retreat from the Gowanus flood zone", the recommendation never made it into the final presentation given by the Department of City Planning in October 2017.
The reason? According to DCP:
"This interest was not mutually shared among working group members. It conflicts with core objectives established within the Gowanus Study process, including promoting investment in the creation of commercial and arts uses, housing and continued industrial use on canal-side properties."
Currently, DCP is working on a Gowanus rezoning pan, which they will present to the community in  early 2018.
No doubt, new zoning will allow for lots of 18 story high-rises along the canal in a flood zone.

New York City Department Of City Planning Gowanus Neighborhood Study
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City Planning's Winston Von Engel with Brad Lander at a 
Gowanus Neighborhood meeting, October 2017

By far the most contentious issue in Gowanus right now is the placement of the larger of two Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) and storm water retention tanks.

As part of the Gowanus Canal Superfund Record of Decision, a legally binding blueprint for the environmental clean-up of the canal, EPA has mandated that New York City construct an eight million gallon tank in the upper portion of the canal, and a four million gallon tank in the middle of the canal as a control measure meant to significantly reduce overall contaminated solid discharges to the waterway during heavy rain events.
Looking at 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street from the Gowanus Canal Side
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Double D Pool at Thomas Greene Park

EPA Region 2 suggested placing the 8-million gallon tank underneath the Double D pool at Thomas Greene Park near Nevins Street. The Agency reasoned that the pool needs to be removed anyway because it sits on the former  Fulton Municipal Manufactured Gas Plant which needs to be remediated. Also, the parkland is already owned by the City, which would save the acquisition cost.

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection on the other hand, prefers to site the 8-million gallon tank on three privately-owned sites along the canal, adjacent to the park. In early 2016, an Administrative Settlement Agreement between EPA and New York City grants the City the opportunity to locate the tank on its preferred 'canal side' location. However, the order comes with a strict timeline which requires that the City must acquire the three sites by 2020. EPA will force the City to pivot to the Thomas Greene site if this deadline is not met.

To avoid delays if this should occur, EPA is requiring DEP to prepare parallel tank and head house designs for both sites.

The City's plan relies on the taking of two privately owned sites, 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street, by eminent domain if necessary. A third site, 270 Nevins Street will also be seized and then leased by the City for staging purposes. The taking by eminent domain will displace a fair number of businesses, including Eastern Effects Studios, where the popular "The Americans" television show is filmed. it will also displace Spoke The Hub, a popular not-for-profit, which has had a presence in Gowanus for decades.

In DEP's Capital Plan for 2016 to 2019, $510 million was added "to secure land, design two CSO tanks and construct one of the two planned CSO tanks adjacent to the Gowanus Canal." That sum rivals the estimated amount for the entire Superfund clean-up of the canal and buys the community only ONE tank.

Obviously, inflating the cost of the 8-million gallon tank at the top of the canal through needless land acquisition doesn't concern Councilman Brad Lander, who tweeted that he was "very glad to have secured the $510 million in the DEP updated capital plan."
From Councilman Brad Lander's Twitter account, March 2016

Currently, an application submitted by New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) for the acquisition of these three privately-owned parcels needed for the Gowanus CSO Facility is currently moving through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.
Community Board 6 as already held a public hearing and voted to support the eminent domain action. The next step is to get approval from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. A public hearing was held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on November 27th. Adams will make a determination soon.

If the ULURP process goes according to the De Blasio administration, the city may have to fork over at least $70 million dollars for 242 Nevins Street and 234 Butler Street, according to a recent Crain's article.
Inna Guzenfeld, Diana Reyna and Richard Bearak of the Brooklyn Borough President's office
during ULURP hearing on eminent domain action for
Combined Sewer Overflow Tank and Facility.
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Kevin Clarke of NYC DEP at ULURP hearing at Brooklyn Borough Hall
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DEP's conceptual design for retention tank head house at
234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street

At the Brooklyn Borough President's hearing, Kevin Clarke of NYC's DEP stated that the City hopes to purchase the land as a "willing seller, willing buyer" transaction and said that the City had made the owners an offer.

"Not so," said Salvatore Tagliavia, the owner of 234 Butler Street, and of Sanitation Repairs, Inc. located on the property. At a Gowanus Canal Community Advisory meeting the very next day. Kevin Clarke again claimed that "the City has made offers to the two property owners."

"I would like to disagree," Tagliavia. "I am the owner of one of these properties. All I hear DEP say is that they want to do this and they want to do that, but I have not been approached on any level as far as relocation of my employees, my tenants and the not-for-profit, Spoke The Hub, that is located in my building." He added: "I think I speak for the other two owners. The only thing that we have received is a letter stating that they intend to make an offer and that they intend to acquire the property."

Tagliavia has made clear that he is not a willing seller. He had intended to sign a 100-year lease agreement with real estate development firm Alloy, so that his property could remain in his family for future generations.
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Salvatore Tagliavia and his wive Lena, owners of 234 Butler Street, 
at the November Gowanus Canal CAG meeting.

Tagliavia's property happens to also be home to the iconic 'City of New York Water Supply Gowanus Distribution Station.' The charming brick structure, which bears the neighborhood name in terra cotta and sports a medallion showing a windmill, will probably be destroyed if the City aquires the site. Yet, it is of historic significance.

Members of the community are asking DEP to incorporate the building into the CSO tank and proposed head house facility on the site.

They have been backed by Community Board 6, which asked DEP to "consider an alternative design to save the historic structure" as part of their support of the eminent domain action.

More support comes from the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which wrote in October 2017:"Based on our review of the project details to date, it appears feasible to retain and incorporate the historic former Gowanus Station Building (234) Butler Street into the project. This building which has a prominent street presence on the corner and the very edge of the city’s preferred site, has overreaching significance on the National Register eligible Gowanus Historic District. Its demolition would adversely affect both the building and the National Register eligible Gowanus Canal Historic District. To destroy this intact, architecturally distinctive example of Brooklyn’s civic and industrial heritage would be a disservice to the Gowanus neighborhood and to the city as a whole.”
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The Gowanus Station Building at 234 Butler at risk.

Poor Gowanus! So many pressures on such a vulnerable neighborhood. For developers, Gowanus is a dream come true: they have been able to buy low and will profit tremendously as soon as the area is rezoned.  Our politicians are willing to ignore the fact that the area is a flood plain and will always be threatened.
New York City, which has used the Gowanus Canal as an open sewer for decades and opposed the nomination of the canal as an EPA Superfund because it knew that it would be named as a major polluter, is now throwing crazy money at the problem by insisting on building the 8 million gallon CSO tank on private land, instead of City owned land.
     There is a real risk of losing everything that is special about Gowanus in the rush to rezone.  The speed of change has accelerated of late and will increase in the next year or two as the rezoning gets pushed through.
     When it comes time to attend the public meetings related to the rezoning, I hope you will all join me in voicing our opinions about the future of the neighborhood. If we don't collectively fight for Gowanus, the decision will be made by others.

     You may want to start by sending an email to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams before December 15, to strongly oppose demolition of the historic Gowanus Water Supply Building at Butler and Nevins Streets.  His email address is askeric@brooklynbp.nyc.gov.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Frank's Luncheonette

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Frank's Luncheonette, and a full moon at 5pm on Smith Street.


Get Your Tickets To Smith Street Stage's Winter Wassail And Support Shakespeare In Carroll Park

Smith Street Stage, the brilliant theatre company that brings Shakespeare to Carroll Park ever summer, is hosting a Midwinter Wassail on December 3th at The Actors Fund, 160 Schermerhorn Street between Smith and Hoyt Street, Brooklyn.
Join Smith Street Stagefor their third annual fundraising 'extravaganza', which will help support all of  the company's  programming in the next year, including the free performances in Carroll Park.
The event will include live Music, cocktails and appetizers, dancing. Holiday photo booth and 2018 summer show announcements.

From Smith Street Stage:
"Come celebrate with us and know that your attendance and contribution to our Mid-Winter Wassail will help support all of our programming in the next year, including Shakespeare in Carroll Park, the Early Stages series for workshops and developing new work, and our ongoing development of Educational programs with community schools. Thank you for all your support over the years...now come raise a glass with us on December 3rd!"
General Admission $30 (Includes 2 Beer Tickets)
Smith Street Supporter $50 (Includes Open Bar)
Buy your tickets here.

Dumonet Brooklyn: French "Haute Yet Hearty" Cuisine Coming To Former Red Rose Space On Smith Street

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photo courtesy of Dumonet Brooklyn 
photo courtesy of Dumonet Brooklyn 
From Dumonet Brooklyn's Instagram account

When Red Rose, one of the last iconic family-owned restaurants in Carroll Gardens closed its doors at the end of September of this year, many in the neighborhood were heartbroken. After all, the Romano family had been serving classic Italian and Sicilian specialties at their eatery since 1983. Antonio Romano and his son Santo retired after closing Red Rose and have handed over the space at 315 Smith Street to Jean-Louis and Karen Dumonet, who are currently busy re-inventing it as Dumonet Brooklyn.

According to the web site for Dumonet Brooklyn, the  new restaurant will offer "elevated French bistro dining in the heart of Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, featuring the best of American and French wines." No definite opening date has been announced, but it will be in early December.

Owner and Chef Jean-Louis previously opened Trois Jean Bistro, which he sold in 2000. He joined his mentor Jean-Louis Palladin at Palladin, at The Carlyle Hotel, and in 2003, opened "Dumonet at The Carlyle".  Since 2008, Jean-Louis has been the Executive chef of the prestigious Union Club,
the oldest private Men’s social club in the US.

Chef Dumonet describes his cooking as "contemporary, haute yet hearty, with a focus on simplicity and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. With his talented touch, exciting flavors and texture nuances are constantly rediscovered."

Soyez les bienvenus à Carroll Gardens, Jean-Louis and Karen Dumonet.