Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Subway Jumper at Franklin Avenue Stop Slows Brooklyn Commute

The scene at the typically bustling Franklin Avenue IRT (2,3,4,5 trains) stop this morning was one that raises the hair on the back of any New Yorker's neck: caution tape, police vehicles (including Shomrim - this is Crown Heights, after all) , well-dressed reporters talking rapidly into cameras with serious expressions. The throng of commuters milling around murmured with concern, sharing information gleaned from the eyewitness accounts being snapped up by the television stations. The station was closed sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 AM for what the MTA termed initially a "sick passenger" (one of their catch-alls for any sort of individual interference with the subway).
According to an eyewitness I spoke with, a man moved to jump in front of an oncoming 4 train on the crowded platform, and another man reached to keep him from falling in front of the train. Unfortunately, the first man's momentum was too great, and both he and the man trying to save him fell onto the tracks and were hit by the train. The eyewitness was clearly a little shaken, and said repeatedly "It just smells horrible down there--like burning."
His story was repeated by a few other eyewitness that I heard speaking to reporters. However, one reporter I spoke with mentioned that police at the scene said only one individual had been struck by the train. The incident stopped 4-5 express service completely along the IRT lines, and drastically slowed 2-3 service to Manhattan (I walked up to the Eastern Parkway stop and boarded a 2 train which sat in tunnels and took about 30 minutes to reach Atlantic Avenue).
As of 10 AM, the MTA was making announcements recommending that commuters take other trains to Manhattan in the Atlantic Avenue - Pacific Street (and soon to be Barclays) station.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Runoff and Readings

The Walt Shamel (Dean North) Community Garden has a water-catchment system going in this weekend. The tank, seen above, will collect runoff from adjacent lots and store it for gardening purposes. Systems of this kind are remarkably good for New York City's somewhat troubled water cycle, for two reasons: they conserve water (NYC has oodles of it, but that doesn't mean it's free for the city to provide) and, more importantly, they keep runoff out of the combined sewer system. Unlike other major cities, New York doesn't have very many separate storm drains for rainwater, which mostly runs directly into the same system as raw sewage. The problem with a combined system is twofold: it's expensive, because it increases the volume of sewage that needs treating by mixing in water that could safely run into rivers and oceans untreated, and it overwhelms an old, overtaxed system, causing "combined sewer overflows" that dump raw sewage into local bodies of water, wreaking havoc on fragile ecosystems and drawing hefty EPA fines in the bargain. Yet another reason that community gardens are the answer to everything.

In other news, Monday (June 29th) marks the next installment of the Franklin Park Reading Series. The theme is "Coming of Age Across the USA: Tales from the Heartland, Big City, and South," and the featured speakers will be Nebraskan playwright Rachel Shukert, Alabaman comedian Dan Fontaine, and Brooklyn's own Felicia Sullivan. Come check it out.

Also, don't forget Nostrand Park's Day of Service tomorrow!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Murals

The NYC Justice Corps mural at Nostrand and Herkimer (above) has been restored after it was defaced sometime last Thursday, and looks fantastic. If you want to bring more like it to the neighborhood, Team Tish and Nostrand Park are teaming up to send local cyclists/bike enthusiasts in search of mural locations for a new mural series created by local youth with the help of Groundswell Community Mural Project. The event is part of Nostrand Park's Crown Heights Day of Service, and you can sign up for this and other great activities here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Armory Town Hall Meeting Thursday

Time was when it might have been considered safe to live so close to an armory, but that time has passed. Today, the Bedford-Atlantic Armory goes by the epithet "the notorious" (not unlike another Brooklyn resident from the area) and is the largest men's shelter in the city of New York, housing up to 350 people a night. It is also slated to become the city's primary intake center for homeless men, despite the city's initial promise to replace the one it's closing in Manhattan. The folks at the Crown Heights Revitalization Movement have taken the lead on this particular event, and more information can be found here. The meeting starts at 7pm at St. Peter Claver Church on Claver Place between Fulton and Putnam.

The plan to move the intake center to Brooklyn from Bellevue Hospital at 30th and 1st in Manhattan has been in the works for awhile, and has been vociferously opposed by residents and local pols in a series of rallies and meetings. More recently, a memorandum went around the neighborhood informing residents that a private developer seeks to establish a Drug-Free Residential Rehabilitation Service Program at 1140 Pacific Street, between Bedford and Franklin across the street from the Armory. While the clustering of these services isn't surprising, they certainly aren't a welcome addition to the area, which already leads Brooklyn in registered sex offenders as well as other less-than-desirable statistics, in the eyes of residents.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Weekend Update

Who doesn't love a self-referential truck? I see this one on Franklin almost every week.

-Tom Folsom, the author of The Mad Ones and Red Hook tour guide, was on The Daily Show on Tuesday, and apparently has a movie in the works with the Weinsteins. Not too shabby, sir.

-The new mural at Herkimer and Nostrand has already been defaced by a local Bloods-affiliated tagger. To what end, guys?

-It was a very bad weekend for our side of Crown Heights, but further east was the deadliest block in the city this past year, according to the NYT. Yeesh.

And, on that downer, everybody have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Hart and Wilson, Bushwick. Brooklyn's streets have a long history as place spaces, which gave this exceedingly well-designed streetball court an added allure. Down the street, the kids at PS 123 were playing in the school punchball tournament, which dates back as far as anyone at the school can remember. The more things change . . .

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Mural Going up at Herkimer and Nostrand

The NYC Justice Corps, based out of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, are painting a new mural of black leaders on the northwest corner of Nostrand and Herkimer. It looks great so far, and they hope to have it finished today or tomorrow (they started yesterday). A finished example of their work is right down the street at the Herkimer United Garden Club (third photo).

The artist who designed the piece going up right now can be found here. As one painter told me, NYC Justice Corps does murals all over, and are always looking for more work. If you've got a blank wall, give 'em a call.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shooting at Franklin and Dean

A poster on the Brooklynian Crown Heights Forum heard 7 shots at around 11 pm. An eyewitness in the deli on the corner said that it was directed at one person in front of the scaffolding on Franklin just north of Dean, and that it "would be a miracle" if the victim, who was hit twice in the back, lived. The shooter was in a car that fled the scene. The deli clerk said that from what he had heard, the victim was still alive when he was put in the ambulance, which left the scene around 11:30. The same clerk also mentioned that there had been a fight involving the victim about two weeks ago. Police were questioning people at the scene.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New York City's First Sears

I was in Chicago this week and last (hence the dearth of ramblings), so it struck me as fitting to return with a post about a Chicago chain's first NYC branch. This monolithic art-moderne shop at the corner of Bedford and Beverely was opened in 1925 as New York City's very first Sears. The building housed a department store, appliance, store, and auto center, and remains a Sears, as part of a mall complex built off the back, today. The structure has caught the eye of Scouting NY and Forgotten NY (as part of a great piece on Bedford Avenue), as well as served as a location in a trial run for a project called "Tourina Box."

In a reverse connection, the New York-based owners of the Sears Tower recently incensed the Second City by threatening to paint the iconic black skyscraper silver.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

North From Brooklyn

I had to be at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island for a National Running Day event at 7:45, so I pulled my shoes on at 5:45 and headed out the door, stopping along the way to take some photos with my camera phone. The image quality isn't great, but it gives a feel for the route: up Bedford Avenue (2nd photo) to the Williamsburg Bridge (my favorite of Brooklyn's three East River Bridges to run over: it's the longest and has the best views because it sits just past the curve in the river), and then up the East River to Randall's Island. I was planning to cross the Ward's Island Bridge at 102nd Street, but the guy who's job it is to lower the bridge apparently slept in (last photo).
I did a bit of grumbling as I made my way up and over the Triborough Bridge, both because I was late and because I refuse to call it the RFK Bridge. Yes, RFK would have made a great president and his early death was a tragic loss, but I'm not going to condone spending $4 million to rename a bridge after American royalty in the middle of a recession. It's not as though RFK goes unacknowledged or unremembered in NYC, and I'd like to think he'd have preferred to see that money spent elsewhere. Still, all in all, it was a great run.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Run Crown Heights!

For those who don't know, tomorrow, Wednesday June 3rd, is National Running Day. I've been a runner for a long time, and I've always found that it's one of the best ways to explore a city, so in honor of the occasion, I've slapped together a 4-ish mile run around Crown Heights that would make a great jaunt for anyone who feels inspired to go for a jog around the neighborhood tomorrow. For a closer look at the route (or to make your own), click here.

Start at Franklin and Dean (my home corner) and head south on Franklin, past the old Nassau Brewery and Jonesy's Shop.

Take a right on Prospect at A Slice of Brooklyn, the best pizza in the area, and head past the former Jewish Hospital to Classon Ave.

Turn left (south) on Classon past St. Teresa of Avila and take another left at St. John's, which takes you past Abigail and Franklin Park (come back for a hard-earned beer at the end of the run). Follow St. John's past Nam's Greenmarket and take a quick right on St. Francis Place, which takes you up to Lincoln. Head left on Lincoln and then take another left down St. Charles Place back to St. John's, which you can follow over to Bedford. The houses on these two little side streets are cute as can be and in gorgeous condition.

Take a left on Bedford Avenue and head one block down to one of the most interesting corners for architecture in Crown Heights at Bedford and Sterling, where the Dragon Building and The Studebaker face each other. Swing right on Sterling and head east to New York Avenue, home to some grand old houses and apartment buildings and a now-decrepit convent.

Take a left on NY Ave and take it down to St. Marks, where a right takes you a block east to the big yellow Brooklyn Children's Museum at Brooklyn and St. Marks. Take another right along the Museum on Brooklyn Ave, and cut through Brower Park to Park Place.

Take Park east to a right at Hampton Place (another cute little side street) and then take another right when the street dead-ends at St. John's. Hop over to Kingston, and take a left down across Eastern Parkway, looking to your right to see the World Headquarters of Lubavitch Judaism at 770 Eastern.

Two blocks past Eastern, take a right and head back west on President Street, past some of the grandest old homes in Crown Heights. After a block (or two), take another right and head back up to Eastern Parkway, and run the parkway path all the way back to Franklin, past the grand old theaters and banks that line the thoroughfare.

Head home north along Franklin, and if you've still got energy, take a quick jaunt over one block to Bedford to Grant Square, one of the more impressive clusters of old hotels and apartments around. You've just run four-plus miles through one of Brooklyn's finest neighborhoods!

This is, of course, but one of many great runs to be had in the area. Nearly every street has its treasures, and I'm sure I've left out more great spots than I've mentioned. I also highly recommend the incomparable Prospect Park (which Olmsted called his greatest work) or, if you're feeling like a few more miles, a bridge run, making use of two of the three East River bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg). You'll be forced to spend a little time in Manhattan, but it's worth it for the views and free-flying feeling of crossing the river under your own power.

Happy National Running Day!

Enter the Dragon

Last week, I took note of a building that's caught the eye of almost every blogger to walk down Bedford Avenue between Atlantic and Eastern, a stretch once known as Brooklyn's Automobile row. The building, a former Studebaker auto showroom that's since been lovingly recreated as low-income housing, sits across the street from another fascinating structure, 1476 Bedford. Unlike its partner across the avenue, this building hasn't yet garnered any press, blogospheric or otherwise.

The current home of the New Life Tabernacle Church, the two-story brick storefront is covered with what appear to be Chinese dragons, which wind around the frieze and greet entrants at the wrought-iron outer door. The building doesn't seem to have been built to house the church, as the current signage covers some of the ornamentation (look closely for a dragon/monster face in the second photo just to the right of the main sign), but my exhaustive (read: five minute) search of the web didn't turn up any history. The dragon motif also seems an unlikely choice for an auto showroom.

If anyone knows the history of this structure, please share it! I'm going to try and catch the current occupants to ask them about it sometime soon.