Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another F-ing Shooting at Franklin and Dean

A familiar sight on the Avenue: flashing lights, caution tape, and worried residents milling about.

As usual, Zachary Goelman of Epichorus has the straight take (here's his Daily News article):

Lin Jun, 25, a deliveryman at Sushi Tatsu, was shot in the abdomen at approximately 9:00 p.m. Thursday [editor's. note: some reports place the shooting closer to 7pm]. He was at the payphone outside the restaurant patio. Police at the scene believe the four rounds fired were meant for others. Jun ran inside the restaurant and collapsed on the floor bleeding. The manager of the restaurant said she waited 15 minutes for the ambulance, while an off-duty paramedic performed CPR on Jun. An officer said the victim was taken to KCH in critical condition. [Officers at the scene around 10pm said they were getting reports that the victim had stabilized and would survive the incident].

Now, see, I've tried to make my posts about these unfortunate events as straightforward and news-y as possible, out of respect for the gravity of the situation and the victims. But this one hit a little closer to home, for two reasons: my lady was walking a block away when the gun went off around 7:30 pm, and the victim was a delivery guy from Sushi Tatsu II on the corner of Franklin and Dean. It's not hard to put two and two together here: if the 4 train had run a minute earlier, it could have been her. No excuses, none of this "most violent crime takes place between people who know each other" stuff, nothing to gloss it over or treat it as a part of the scenery: this could have been the end of my world as I know it. It's knocked me on my ass in more ways than one, forcing me to realize how cavalier I've become about shootings that I don't think involve or really affect me and how shockingly quickly this little life I'm trying to build could get blasted into oblivion.

So seriously, what on earth is going on? Who sprays a gun around in broad daylight, with a Skywatch visible up the street? More importantly, what do we do to keep people from doing this? I realize I'm a gentrifier and I've got a laundry list of various guilt complexes about claiming this neighborhood as my own (though I do, and I'm proud to), but I think avoiding death on your sidewalk transcends social, cultural, and economic status. I'll partner with almost anybody and do almost anything if it will guarantee (hell, statistically reduce the chances) that I'm going to find a stray bullet in my skull.

I was proud of my earlier post about the spice guys (even hoped Brownstoner would pick it up for their blogwrap and I'd get a spike on the ol' Google analytics page). I'm out for the weekend, and I was going to let that one lead the page for a few days. Now it's this, and I added the "F-ing" only because the text-remembering function of Firefox recognized the subject line "Another Shooting on Franklin Ave" and this furthered my impotent frustration. People, put the damn guns away!

Franklin Avenue Aromatherapy

(Editor's Note: Nostrand Park covered this exact same place two days ago, but their post only served to pique my interest further. Credit where credit's due--I just wanted more).

Almost every morning, I run down Franklin to Prospect Park with the lady, which takes us past the enormous old brewery complex at 960 Franklin Avenue, currently the home of Morris J. Golombeck Importers of Spices. We joke that it provides our morning aromatherapy at a far cheaper price than one of those Shaper Image alarm clocks you see in the SkyMall catalog, and make a game out of guessing the various flavors, whose ever-changing odors had been, until now, my only indication that the place remained in operation. Occasionally we'd see a truck pulling in or out of the lot or even the building entrance, but the building remained mostly a mystery to me.

Prompted by Nostrand Park's coverage a few days ago (see above), I began researching the old place, which has quite a story to tell. Founded by a cabal of hotel and saloon-keepers in 1897 to stock their shelves and share in the profits, the Consumer's Park Brewery was a precursor to today's microbreweries and brewpubs in that the owners eschewed a pure-production ethos and built a hotel, beer garden, and concert facilities on the site (their loving attention to detail includes kegs that ornament the brick facade). The brewery was also the first all-electric brewery in the United States (which, though I can't document it, may well also mean it was the first in the world), and provided electricity to neighboring homes, leading Crown Heights to sport some of Brooklyn's first electric home lighting. Merging with the New York and Brooklyn Brewing Co. to become the Interboro Brewing Company in 1913 (Frank Jump's Fading Ad blog documents the smokestack that still bears the name), the same year Ebbets Field was built a block away, the company prospered (it even had its own subway stop on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle) until prohibition did it in in the 1920s (the other brewery on Franklin, the Nassau Brewing Company at Franklin and Dean, died around the same time).

Armed with this knowledge, I passed the place this morning and dared, for the first time, to ring the bell at the office door. The buzzer rang, and I meekly poked my way in to an office straight out of a Gregory Peck movie: wood paneling, frosted glass on the entrance door, and no cubicles, just broad desks piled high with paper and various measuring devices. Introducing myself, I was greeted with a broad smile by Shelly Golombeck, one of the third generation of Golombecks to run the place (the fourth, his son, sat nearby). "You've caught me on a slow day," he said, shaking my hand warmly, "so I'll show you what we do. We import spices from all over the world, do a little manufacturing, processing, and more recently, blending on site, and we sell in bulk to the food industry, bottling companies, and pharmaceutical companies." Could I buy any? "We sell only in bulk, so the smallest sale I'll do of anything is one bag. For something bulky like oregano, that would be 22 pounds for a bag from Greece or Turkey, 30 for a bag from Mexico. And Chilean oregano is a whole different story. So a local pizza place might come in and ask for a bag of oregano, and we sell it to them. If you want pepper, the smallest is a 110 pound bag of black pepper."

"That's a big bag" I remarked.

"Not really" said Shelly, leading me over to a table where 12 different bottles of pepper sat next to an antique scale. "We do 12 different grinds, as you can see here. We're very old world: everything is touch, smell, feel, taste with us, because this year's crop is different than last year's crop." Shelly asked me not to photograph the facility (trade secrets are secret, after all), but he did allow office shots, as well as one of the entrance to the main building's cobbelstoned courtyard.

Shelly's grandfather, Morris J. Golombeck, founded the company with his son (Shelly's father, who still works there--he was on the phone when I came in) in 1955 and moved into the old brewery, which had done time as the Daisy Mattress Factory in the interim (the fading sign atop the brewery, visible from the north, is their advertisement). The walls of the office document their history--a newspaper photo of Ebbets Field with the buildings in the background, an old bottle from the Interboro Brewing Company that they bought from a collector--and 54 years later, they're still going strong (they've been on Franklin even longer than Jonesy). "We're all trained differently" Shelly says. "My brother is a lawyer, my son is a CPA, my degree is in accounting, so is my father's . . . but this is what we love to do."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nam's Takes Over

The sidewalk on Franklin just north of St. John's grows ever smaller, squeezing pedestrians between the Scylla that is Skywatch (it could be a mythical beast--just squint a little when you look at it) and the Charybdis of construction at Nam's Green Market.

Nam's, which made waves when it went organic about fifteen months ago, is one of the staples of my ongoing love affair with Franklin Avenue. It's open 24 hours. They take credit cards over 10 bucks. They have tons of fresh produce and great deals, such as enormous bunches of basil for two-fifty or four limes for a dollar (I realize I'm painting myself as a hopelessly bourgeois gentrifier here. To invoke the reflexive property, it is what it is). They have all manner of organic items and products, including a new line of tasty prepared meals for $4.99. They've got flowers for your lady. The staff is friendly. Did I mention that they're open twenty-freakin'-four hours a day? These guys are the best.

The one slight issue with Nam's, which simultaneously lends the place charm and renders it almost impossible to navigate, is it's teeny-tiny aisles, and it looks likes more narrow straits are on the way as the outdoor produce section, previously open-air, gets boxed in by metal and glass. When I spoke with the guys there today, they informed me that the motive for the renovation was both increased space (they're extending their outdoor bays on either side of their corner, both north on Franklin and east on St. John's, as visible in the first and third photos above) and reduced shoplifting (the occasional enterprising young'un makes off with a peach or a bouquet, as I learned). In addition, they'll be adding an entrance on the St. John's side of things, which will be accessed through the double doors that sit right on the corner. I have no idea where the register will go, and neither do they, from the sound of it, but as their renovations thus far have been impressive, I'm not doubting them. Besides, some of the friendliest interactions I have on the avenue are the bits and pieces exchanged as I try to slide past someone for a block of tofu.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

92nd Street Stories

Work took me out to Canarsie last week, affording a new set of Brooklyn explorations. Much of southeast Brooklyn looks and feels fairly new (and a lot of it is -- Bergen Beach and Mill Basin didn't experience residential development until the 1950s), but Canarsie is the exception, an early village within the town of Flatlands that has some nifty old buildings. Among them are the pair of white-steepled churches on 92nd Street, St. Matthew's Lutheran (first photo) and The Church of the Rock (second photo). The latter is Canarsie's oldest church, founded and built on the site in 1839 as the Methodist Protestant Church (later Grace Protestant Church). The structure has been renovated in recent years, but remains one of Canarsie's tallest buildings (apparently there's debate about whether certain high-rise projects should be counted). Up the street, St. Matthew's is the third-oldest Canarsie church, a product of German immigration to the area in the second half of the 19th century that was nearly lost to fire in 2002.

South a few blocks, PS 115 (named for longtime principal Daniel Mucatel) has some local history of its own to offer. The wrought-iron fencing that rings the century-old building bears several plaques honoring soldiers who fell in the first World War, presumably former students. The plaques originally marked trees planted in their honor, a few of which (fourth photo) remain standing. The practice was apparently common in NYC, which lost more people to the war than most cities on account of both its size and the participation of locals in merchant marine activity.

Finally, the school has a sizeable original sculpture on the grounds, courtesy of J.P. Morgan Chase. The piece is called "Amity" and is by American artist Mary Callery.


In an unrelated note, the NYTimes had a supremely unsatisfying answer to the question of why some of Brooklyn's north-south Avenues bear the names of upstate cities. Sure, I understand that they were cut in the 19th century, but who chose the names? There may not be an interesting story, but there must be a story, somewhere. Brooklyn Revealed, Forgotten NY, and this enjoyable local blog all make reference to street name origins, but none have the answer in the particular case. Anybody?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Readings Return

This photo and its twin from my previous post are undoubtedly poor images, but I wanted to capture, however feebly, the twilight ambience of Franklin Park on Monday night at the Reading Series. The readings themselves were excellent again, a cozy mélange of humor and remembrance that was neither amateur nor pretentious. As an added bonus, three of the authors read works in progress, two for the first time.

Brooklynite Alyssa Pinsker kicked things off with a reading from her upcoming memoir Big in Japan, which chronicles her time as an English teacher in a Tokyo suburb. The double-entendre of the title, referencing both the pseudo-celebrity status of a young white female to the teenage Japanese and her size relative to the local women, set the reading up nicely, dealing as it did with both the hysterical shouts of pubescent Japanese boys and the late night subway molestations of a strange man targeting an outsider. Teddy Wayne followed with a first-time reading of his upcoming novel Kapitoil, which takes the form of journal entries from a Qatari programmer moving to NYC, reading in a straight-ahead, almost deadpan monotone that conveyed both the author’s wit and the character’s naivete (though I haven’t read the novel, it seems that Wayne’s Karim Issar may serve as a Candide to the NYC finance world).

Erin Einhorn, reading from her memoir/family investigation The Pages in Between (excerpted here), opted to tell, rather than read, most of her story, enthralling the attendees and sending me running for her This American Life piece. A NY Daily News reporter, Ms. Einhorn has a remarkable knack for narrative, both written and spoken. Longtime NYC resident and wine writer Alice Feiring closed the night out with a short piece on grape harvesting in France and then an unexpected and delightful brand-new essay on love, with, of all things, rats as a unifying metaphor (it works, I promise you).

Many thanks to Franklin Park for hosting, and to Penina Roth for coordinating the series. It’s on hiatus for August, but look for them again in September!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quick Links

There's a full recap of another great installment of the Franklin Park Reading Series coming sometime tomorrow, but before I sleep, I wanted to link three things.

1. Brooklyn the Borough: Another great Brooklyn blog that I've been reading, though I was remiss enough to leave it off the blogroll. It's now in its rightful place, thanks to the in-person reminder I received when I met their editor tonight at the readings. Check them out.

2. Erin Einhorn's piece on This American Life. One of tonight's readers, Ms. Einhorn held us spellbound with her story, a partial retelling of the episode above. A friend described the effect as a "wonderful fog" that enveloped the room and its inhabitants, a descent of the silence that only exists when people are really listening, and are so wrapped up in the story that they don't even notice it.

3. The latest issue of the New York Moon has hit the streetcorners of cyberspace. I'll freely admit that this is shameless self-promotion (I have a piece therein), but the whole publication is well worth the look.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grand Grant Square

I found some fantastic old images of Grant Square while poking around the other night, so I decided to run a little "now & then" gallery. First, click through the pages of this book, Old Brooklyn in Early Photographs by William Lee Younger, and then compare them to the ones above, taken a few weeks ago (there's a nearly identical gallery with slightly higher-quality images here). The major changes are the shift from theater to church (a common occurrence in these parts) on the part of the Loew's Bedford (now the Washington Temple), and the disappearance of the spire/tower on top of the Union League Club of Brooklyn (once the center of Republican life in Brooklyn, and the erectors of the Grant statue, now serving as the Fort Greene Grant Square Senior center). For another "then" image, check out this pastel postcard/print.

The NYSun did an article on the area two years ago, which includes some very ornate apartment blocks and some impressive brownstones and brick rowhouses on adjacent streets. The square also houses the Bedford-Atlantic Armory, which is a whole story of its own, though from a purely architectural perspective, it adds to the grandeur of the space.

Two unrelated notes:

- I didn't have a camera handy, but the Imperial Motorcycle Club was having one heckuva party on St. Marks and Franklin this afternoon.

- Don't forget the next installment of the Franklin Park Reading Series tomorrow night (see below for more details)!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekend (and Monday) Fun

Shootings aside, Franklin Avenue is a blast in the summer! The Franklin Sterling Flea Market will be going strong on Saturday (check out photos and stories from last week’s market at Nostrand Park), and on Monday, the Franklin Park Reading Series returns with an eclectic lineup of locally-based writers reading their work. The event will feature drink specials, so be sure to swing by!

The authors reading are Erin Einhorn, a NY-based journalist whose book The Pages in Between tells her family’s own story of Holocaust survival, Alice Feiring, an award-winning wine writer whose latest work is a challenge to the homogenization of the industry, Teddy Wayne, whose novel Kapitoil (due in April 2010) is a darkly comic portrait of American capitalism in NYC as lived and observed by a 26-year-old Qatari programmer, and Brooklyn’s own Alyssa Pinsker, a writer and teacher who currently edits Pomp and Circumstance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the last event (many thanks to Penina Roth for organizing and Franklin Park for hosting), and I’m looking forward to this one. See you there!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shooting on Lincoln at Franklin

The following is from local journalist and blogger Zachary Goelman:

"Five to eight gunshots rang out at approximately 9:00 p.m. today. At least one round went through the window at 584 Lincoln. No one was hurt. A woman at the scene told police her son had been in an argument with another man outside. She ushered her son inside, then the bullets came, one into their front room. The police watchtower which went up about two weeks ago after another shooting came down today. I think it will be back up soon."

I wouldn't be surprised if the Skywatch returns either, though I don't know how many of these they have or how often they're deployed. I'm surprised that it took only a day for something like this to happen after it sat a block away for over a week, accompanied by beefed-up street patrols. I used to be more ambivalent about Skywatch and things of that ilk, what with the police-state feel they can impart and the general wariness I have of spending taxpayer dollars on gadgetry, but my recent conversations with a lot of local folks from a lot of backgrounds have tended to unite around a single sentiment, which is that if Skywatch means fewer shootings on Franklin Avenue, then we're not complaining.

Thanks to Mr. Goelman for the tip, and be sure to check out his blog, Epichorus.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Learning the Ropes at Brooklyn Ink Spot

Aspiring tattoo artist Maria Boehm emailed me a couple of weeks ago with a link to her blog, Tattoo Honey, which documents her apprenticeship at the Brooklyn Ink Spot, at 717 Franklin (just south of Park Pl). I'd been meaning to swing by to see her in action ever since, and I finally got around to it today.

A graduate of Parsons with an illustration major, Maria was working on a pair of studies for a commissioned piece (i.e. a customer requested a specific concept, which one of the certified artists will execute) when I arrived. A collection of her own ideas hung on a neighboring wall (bottom photo) with images from dragons to Russian dolls. She explained that while a tattoo license is fairly easy to get, and mostly hinges on knowledge of sanitary procedures, she and her mentors plan for her to spend at least eight months as an apprentice before she actually goes to work on someone's skin (she's been at it for nearly three already). Her preparations consist of drawing, often with instruments that compare to a tattoo gun including bamboo and reed pens, observing the artists in action, and tattooing fruit.

Maria keeps another blog of her sketches here, and she's definitely excited about her work, and about joining the ranks of Brooklyn tattoo artists. She's in good hands, too, with a pair of talented artists, Ed (who featured as a model in my cornhole post) and Damien, to guide her. Full disclosure--I know next to nothing about tattooing, but I spoke with these guys for ten minutes and loved almost everything they said, both about the particular aesthetics of their craft and the broader image they want to build within a community of artists. Among other things, they're starting a project to document local tattoos, both their work and others. If they put photos up, I'll have the link ASAP. Damien, who I spent more time chatting with, has an infectious passion for both his work and the neighborhood (nary a minute went by that he didn't greet someone on the sidewalk where we were chatting) that reminded me of Sue Rock. In short, this will not be my last visit to (or last post on) the Brooklyn Ink Spot--there's a lot of good stuff going on here.

Mass Transit (a non-fiction play in one act)

Setting: The Franklin Avenue Subway Station, IND "C" line, at the ticket booth on the Manhattan side.

A young woman enters the station, descending the stairs from the street (stage left).
A large grey rat enters from under the turnstiles (stage right).
Woman: (screams) Ahh-ahh-ahhhh!
Rat: (runs under automated ticket machines).
Woman: (shrieks and kicks ticket machine) Disgusting!
MTA Station Agent: (leaving ticket booth, center stage) Ma'am, what are you doing?
Woman (breathlessly): A gigantic rat just ran under there!
Agent: (pauses to give young woman a long, world-weary stare) Well, that's his home, isn't it?
Woman: (incredulous) I guess . . .
Agent (shakes head, returns slowly to booth): Mmm hmm.


Good Food, Good People

I've had the good fortune to be a part of the inaugural season of the Crown Heights CSA, which brings fresh, local, organic veggies to the nearly 100 local residents who signed up. For those who were on the fence and didn't join, I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon next year: I split a full share with four people, and I rarely get through my share of the green stuff in a week, making the $565 we paid up front more than worth it over the 23 weeks that we'll be picking up. Check out their website even if you're not a member--they've got recipes and other links posted.

I wanted specifically to call attention to one initiative that the tireless CSA organizers continue to work on: creating and maintaining low-income shares for families that want fresh produce but can't afford it. When I mentioned to a friend that I was joining a Crown Heights CSA, the clever rogue responded with a simple chant of "Gen-tri-fi-ca-tion (clap, clap, clap clap clap)," and while I protested vehemently, there's truth to the concern that ventures like these only reach a certain demographic. In order to make sure that the delicious produce being trucked in from Sang Lee Farms reaches as many people in the neighborhood as possible, the CSA is hosting a bake sale at the ever-helpful Franklin Park in conjunction with the vegetable (and coffee!) pickup, on Tuesday nights from 5-9. In simple terms, this means that you can now get an organic blueberry-almond tart to go with your happy hour pint, and help provide fresh local produce to families in need in the process. What could be more fun?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Eye for Brooklyn

I was so excited to trot out the new camera, I dared to surrender my "disinterested local" status and pulled it out on the Staten Island Ferry to take some photos. Mercifully, the tourists were on the Statue of Liberty side, leaving my rail clear for the Brooklyn skyline shots (click on the photos for bigger, better views).

A sole link today: I just added the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center to my blogroll. They do great work in the community -- check 'em out!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Game On!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, good people of Crown Heights, come one, come all, and join your neighbors in playing what I am dubbing - with no authority whatsoever - the official game of Franklin Avenue for the summer of 2009. That’s right, it’s Cornhole (and there's a chartered organization to promote it, so don't knock it)! Brought north to the streets of Brooklyn by a pair of fun-loving southerners (does Texas count as the south? I’m going with yes.) and set up every evening this past week on the Avenue between Sterling and Park, Cornhole is a distilled version of every addictive carnival game you’ve ever burned ten bucks playing down at Coney Island, only it doesn’t cost anything, and you can play it as long as you want (provided you let the rest of us get a few throws in, too). The rules are simple: place a pair of boards, with holes towards one end, at a slight angle about 20-30 feet apart, grab some beanbags, and try to toss ‘em through your opponent’s hole. If your bag sticks on the board, you've scored one point, and if you land it in the hole, you've got three. Games are to 7, 11, or any other number you agree on. Doubles work like shuffleboard, with one player from each team at each end. Boards are easy to make, but if you get the urge, you can order official models here.

A note on the pictures: they're awful, but it was almost too dark for my barely-a-single-megapixel cellphone camera. I like to think their blurred, fuzzy nature captures the fleeting joys of a fading summer evening, but that's, well, just not the case. Thankfully, the lady just got me a new Kodak digital, so I'm back in business with decent photos starting next week!

Blog titles notwithstanding, it can be hard to love Franklin Avenue every minute of every day. I don't love shootings on my corner, I don't love worrying about people groping my girlfriend and female friends, and I don't love the crime rate that necessitates the Skywatch. With rents dropping all over the city, it's easy to start wondering whether it might not be time to seek greener pastures. But then, every so often, I come home on a perfect summer evening to a scene like this: kids and adults, all races, no drama, just hanging out, playing a game and chatting away without a care in the world as the sky gets bluer and bluer until it turns to night. Throw in a spinach pizza from the Slice for dinner, and there's no other place for me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Now Nobody's Going to Believe Me

Still, I swear I didn't write it! Nor did I edit in the "K" or the "". A thousand thanks to whoever did. And now, some links:

- After the city made waves a few weeks ago by renting unsold units and effectively turning a newly-developed building at the eastern end of Crown Heights into a homeless shelter, council speaker Christine Quinn unveiled a plan to build on this model by converting up to 400 units in vacant condo building into affordable housing. And to think, I joked about this back in December. For those who would prefer to see the market run its course, I argue not against your logic but merely the pace of it--by the time the developers went bust and the market corrected the price of these units, the damage done to communities with unfinished buildings would be even greater that the perceived impact of mixed-income conversion.

- Speaking of housing, foreclosures in Brooklyn (and the rest of NYC) made news again today, not on account of any new development but rather because artist Damon Rich is using the mini-city at the Queens Museum of Art to document them visually. For an even better visual, take a look at the NYT's interactive map.

- Check out a Franklin Avenue institution, the Brooklyn Ink Spot, in action here, where tattoo artist Maria Boehm is documenting her apprenticeship.

- A journalist buddy of mine is trekking around the Middle East, and he takes a mean photo.

- My other journalist buddy has an excellent, idiot-proof guide to the power struggle playing out at Coney Island here.

Happy clicking!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Skywatch Strikes Back

In an attempt to capture the rebel fort deep within in the ice planet that is Nam's frozen food section, the Galactic Empire has deployed its evil beast machines to storm the bodega and leave no one alive! Flee down Franklin Avenue, ye freedom-loving rebel sympathizers! This explains the child I saw on a skateboard with a lightsaber earlier this week.

Ludicrous nerdery aside (though I did see a kid on a skateboard with a lightsaber yesterday, and it was awesome), that's the Skywatch, aka the NYPD's Mobile Surveillance Unit, making an appearance at St. John's and Franklin after a rash of shootings and other crime in the area (it was set up sometime during the day on Monday). The officer on the ground when I went by this morning was very friendly and informative, and told me that the location of the unit was a direct response to the shooting on this block a few days ago (which poster laveye noted on the Brooklyian thread about the Nostrand murder). He said that the Skywatch will be there for at least a few more days, accompanied by increased street patrols, with the goal of averting any retaliation or further violence. The corner is also somewhat notorious as a hangout for dealers and their affiliated gangs (one of whom, shouting "Franklin Soldiers," grabbed all the ice out of the cooler in front of Nam's and threw it across the street at some kids the other night), so their activity should be curtailed in the near future as well.

For those concerned about crime in the neighborhood, Nostrand Park has some prevention tips and advice posted, along with links to some local data and stats. The New York Times, in what appears to be their annual "crime increases in the summer" article (they ran one 102 years ago, in 1907!), linked to a very detailed map of homicides since 2003 that they intend to update regularly. If you're really concerned, you can wait for a rainy day to do your errands on the Avenue.

Finally, if you'd prefer to think of Brooklyn as a beautiful place to live, check out this great slideshow and article on Gowanus photographer Jose Gaytan, whose work is on display at the Brooklyn Library's Central Branch through August 29th.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I didn't write it, I swear!

Spotted this morning on Franklin, just north of Lily & Fig. They could use a K, but I'll take it.

I'm a lover of community gardens, so in lieu of any news, check out this great piece on the subject from the NYTimes Mag. Brooklyn gets a shout near the end.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lily & Fig Open

It's been nearly a year since a poster on the Crown Heights Forum noticed their signage going up, but as of yesterday afternoon, Lily and Fig Bakery and Tea Shop is finally open! The proprietors, Lily and Ike, have been doing a mail-order and web-based business for some time now, but their cute little spot on Franklin between Sterling and Park is their first location, and they're very excited to be there. It was construction delays, and not the economy, that held up their opening, but now they're ready to go and will open daily at 7:30 AM.

If you're in the neighborhood this afternoon, swing by for a free sample Russian tea cookie, which was crisp and buttery and did not disappoint. Neither did a strawberry profiterole, which I purchased for the very reasonable price of $1.50. They have an assortment of cakes (Lily recommended the carrot and the chocolate fudge), muffins (banana white chocolate comes with high marks), cupcakes, and cookies in the display case, and tea and coffee available behind the counter.

The space itself is light and airy, with ample seating at tables for four. As of right now, they're just offering baked goods and drinks, but they're open to feedback and have the space to develop more of a restaurant-type menu if they so desire. Even with their current wares, they'll be a welcome addition to the morning walk to the 4 train, so check them out on your way to work tomorrow.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Needs a TV Anyway?

I've seen a few of these sad little reminders of the DTV revolution around Brooklyn in the past few weeks, languishing on street corners with their mid-90s stickers (Weezer! Mean People Suck!) fading as they wait for the sanitation trucks to consign them to history. Time was when a kid who just moved to the big city could bring the TV/VCR combo from his parents' basement and be all set for entertainment, but that time has passed, and now I'm hanging on to mine only because I don't want to replace my VHS collection (Breaking Away and A Muppet Christmas Carol are the highlights). But then again, maybe my inability to tune into network TV with a UHF/VHF tuner will force me into more productive, stimulating pursuits (like blogging).
Forget the tube, I say! Instead, come sit in the glow of Brooklyn's literary lights at the monthly Franklin Park Reading Series, coming up next on Monday, July 20th. I went last week and was treated to a great hour's worth of readings that were neither dull nor pretentious, but hysterical, thoughtful, and touching. Alabama comedian Dan Fontaine kicked things off with a bit of autobiographical standup, which lead nicely into Rachel Shukert's reading of a riotous tale of European travles and trials. Felicia Sullivan closed out the evening with a chapter from her memoir of growing up in Borough Park, The Sky Isn't Visible From Here, a beautiful series of Coney Island scenes with her single mother. Attendence was good, but there's plenty of room for more, so make sure you don't miss the next event!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Rough Couple of Weeks

Some pretty awful things have happened in my little corner of Crown Heights over the last couple of weeks: pair of shootings, a subway suicide, and the fire that destroyed the apartment block above Homage (and from what I've seen since, Homage too). I don't have any analysis, but there are a lot of people hurting right now, and my heart goes out to them.

Thankfully, there are a lot of good people in CH too: Nostrand Park had a very successful day of service (thanks to all their volunteers and community pillars Bristen's and Tish James, among others), and the folks on the Brooklynian Crown Heights message boards are talking about pulling together something to help those who lost their things and livelihoods in the fire. Thanks to all of them, both for their work and for being reminders that there's a lot of good living to do in the midst of rough times.