Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Veggies on Franklin

Nostrand Park beat me to it (and I walked RIGHT by this place this morning, dangit!), but there's a new awing up at 785 Franklin advertising "Veggies: Natural Juice Bar." If you asked me what could stop the Franklin Avenue retail renaissance at this point, I would have to tell you "nothing."

Since I moved here in August 2008, Veggie's is the 16th new storefront to open on Franklin or an immediate side street between Prospect Place and Eastern Parkway (and at least two salons are slated to open soon). The others include, in no particular order: Franklin Park, JamRock Kitchen, Pulp & Bean, Breukelen Coffee House, Lily & Fig, J's Wok (admittedly, they moved from just down the street, but their new place is MUCH nicer), Nairobi's Knapsack, The Pana Store, LaunchPad, Mazon's Discount, A Slice of Brooklyn, Dutch Boy Burger, the dentist next to LaunchPad (the name escapes me at the moment), the MySpaceNYC office across the street, and the Laundromat at Park and Franklin. Two groceries have undergone total renovations in that same span (Nam's and the Franklin Mini Market), as has the J&B Kitchen at Franklin and Sterling, and as far as I know, only three or four places have closed (The Spice is Right, King Accessory, and Homage--which tragically burned down--come to mind).

So much activity in so little time--it's likely the reason that the Franklin Avenue 2-3-4-5 stop was one of the only ones in the area to experience a bump in ridership last year. There's a lot more to say about what this means for the neighborhood's future (Nostrand Park raised the question last week), but I'll leave that to the able commenters (Nat, I'm looking at you!).

Monday Night Vinyl Club Lands on Franklin

I usually lay claim to Franklin between Eastern and Atlantic, but there are times when such a view proves too narrow. Monday, May 17th is going to be one of those days, as the Monday Night Vinyl Club descends on the Tip-Top Bar and Grill at 432 Franklin, a few short blocks north of Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy. From 7 'til midnight, a posse of DJs--old hands and newbies alike--will take part in a collaborative, all-genres, you-bring-it-you-spin-it jam session, capped off with a late-nite set of funk/soul/disco from DJ Cool Hands Luke of Rope.

This party is FREE, which wins my sight-unseen support. Also, if you've never been to Tip Top, it's a great place (the Yelp reviews alone make a strong case).

Breukelen Rebuilt Next Friday

Brooklyn artist and curator Candice Chetta has organized her second show at the Breukelen Coffee House, aptly titled "Breukelen Rebuilt." The flyer above has all the info (thanks Nostrand Park), but to recap, the opening runs from 8 'til late on Friday, May 7th, and will feature drinks, tunes, and the work of four local artists. More to come next week, but for now, put it on your calendar.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tie-ing it all together

The tie pictured above was sent to me by the lady's dad, and originally belonged to her grandfather. I was the lucky recipient of this heirloom not on account of my natty style, but rather, because it bears a tag that reads "Sam Steuer, Haberdasher 7526 5th Ave, B'klyn NY." My task was to find out how a born-and-raised Minnesotan who spent precious little time in New York City ended up with a necktie from a store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in his possession.

I started with the name and address, which is usually pure gold as far as leads are concerned, but they turned up precious little. The three-story building at 7526 5th Avenue was built in 1930, sits on the northwest corner of 76th and 5th, and contains two apartments and a storefront that currently houses Jean Danet Pastry and Brick Oven Pizza. However, I couldn't find a word about a former tenant or owner anywhere, particularly not a haberdasher, so I'll have to venture down to Bay Ridge and ask around.

As for Sam(uel) Steuer, it isn't the most common name (searches of the historical NYTimes turned up 15 results for Samuel Steuer and 2 for Sam Steuer), but it's common enough to render extrapolation about any individual useless. Several Sam Steuers were born, exchanged property, and died in New York City (one, a founder of the Hector's Cafeteria chain, while waiting to vote), but not one of them was described as a haberdasher. A pair of family trees mentioned Sam Steuers, one of whom lived in Brooklyn, but neither offered any evidence of Sam's employment. So while it seems perfectly possible that a Sam Steuer operated a haberdashery in Bay Ridge, I have no evidence of it save the tag on the necktie.

Speaking of that tag, it's not the only one on the tie. The other reads "An Original by Damon," and as it turns out, Damon crafted quite a few handsome originals in the 1930s and 1940s (scroll down for this image). This gives me a time frame, at least--Gramps must have bought that tie sometime in this period.

This is the key to the story, because like nearly every other American man of his generation, Gramps went to war in the 1940s, and since he went to Europe, there's a very good chance (85%, actually) that he was one of the three million soldiers who shipped out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal between 58th and 65th on 2nd Avenue in Sunset Park, just over a mile from our erstwhile haberdasher. He might not have made as big a splash as Elvis did when he graced the massive terminal with his presence, but he still would have been young and handsome, with money in his pocket and a few hours or days to spend roaming the neighborhood before heading overseas. Maybe he bought the tie at Sam Steuer's to look his best in Europe. Maybe he bought it to impress a local Brooklyn girl (Sam's daughter behind the counter telling him he looked great in it), or maybe he was thinking of the girl back home in Minnesota who would become his wife. Maybe it was just an impulse buy, or a superstitious one, a burgundy tie with embroidered fish that would hopefully bring good luck for his first ocean voyage. Maybe he needed a tie to get into the dance that night, or a dinner at a local men's club, and he never glanced twice at it. But he did buy it, and it traveled to Europe and then made its way back to Minnesota for the intervening 70 years before his granddaughter's blogger boyfriend in Brooklyn got his hands on it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

East of Main Street

One of Franklin Avenue's finest, Jae of the Breukelen Coffee House, is being featured as one of 14 personal stories in the new HBO documentary East of Main Street: Asians Aloud. The film will air on-demand in May, and will include footage of the Coffee House and Franklin Avenue.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Hair Salon on Franklin

The former King Accessory Store at Sterling and Franklin is undergoing a renovation and will open on May 1st as a new hair salon. I poked my head in yesterday, and was told "come by then, and we can cut that long hair of yours." Good deal.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reporting Back: Crow Hill Community Association Meeting

Lots of great things to report from last night's Crow Hill Community Association Meeting:


- The Historic Properties Fund of the New York Landmarks Conservancy has tagged Crow Hill as an historic district, making property owners in the area eligible for below-market loans to improve their buildings and preserve the historic character of the community.

- CHCA is partnering with the Crown Heights Revitalization Movement (whose founder got a nice write-up in the NYTimes a few weeks ago) to create the Coalition for Bedford-Atlantic Armory Reform, whose specific mission is getting DHS to build a community recreation center in the Armory without bringing Manhattan's intake center to the building. They have the support of several local pols, including Tish James and Hakeem Jeffries, and they hope to have a promise in writing from the new DHS Commissioner soon.

- Applications are now open for the NYC Summer Youth Employment Program. The program offers work experiences to NYC residents ages 14-24. The deadline is May 21, 2010.

Upcoming Events:

- If their outreach to the owner is successful, CHCA members will engage in a full-scale cleanup of the vacant lot on the west side of Franklin between Sterling and Park on the weekend of May 15th.

- The Crown Heights Oral History Project (check them out if you haven't already) will join the CHCA in celebrating their 25th Anniversary in early June (exact date forthcoming) at LaunchPad, where local residents will share some of their stories and recorded selections of the interviews will be available for purchase. This will be a night you don't want to miss!

- About Time Boutique is leading the team that will present Crow Hill's Kid's Day on Saturday, July 24th. For this year's event, they have secured the closure of Franklin between Park and Sterling, and they hope to draw close to 1,000 children from the area with all sorts of activities. They'll need donations (more information will be available at LaunchPad) to rent equipment and pay entertainers, and they're also looking for any performers who'd like to participate!

Special Guest: Crown Heights Community Mediation Center

If you don't know about these guys, they are doing GREAT work in Crown Heights. Their representative (a reverend who's name I shamefully forgot to write down) laid out a number of fantastic initiatives that they are leading in the neighborhood, including:

- Citizenship Drives: The next one is April 29th from 4-8pm. Lawyers will be on hand to take residents through the necessary paperwork on a pro-bono basis.

- Leadership Programs for young men and women (including their Young Entrepreneurship Program).

- SOS (Save Our Streets) Crown Heights: This last program is particularly pertinent in light of the rooftop shooting of a few weeks ago. Based on CEASEFire, the award-winning violence prevention program out of Chicago that Obama has cited as a model, SOS Crown Heights sends prior offenders out into the community to build relationships with those most likely to commit gun violence - gang leaders, drug dealers, and other young (mostly) men at the margins. Their motto "Don't let a 6x9 or 6 feet under be your only options. Don't shoot." encapsulates their mission, which is to encourage these individuals to think twice before pulling the trigger, and ultimately, to turn their guns in. Unconnected with the NYPD (as they must be in order to build trust, the Reverend explained), these former offenders also make a point of being present on the street during the most dangerous times of day (between 3pm and midnight) and of occupying space on corners where shoot-outs are likely, based on what they've heard through the grapevine. CEASEFire has proven very successful in Chicago--let's hope these folks do the same for Crown Heights.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Four Link Clover

In no particular order:

- Local baker Katya Schapiro, of Lily & Fig (she makes the delicious bread on the weekends) and Second Dinner has written a play that opens this Friday! A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things runs for three weekends, and has already garnered a nice review from the Brooklyn Rail.

- Fatima, the West African place at 789 Franklin, got a lot of love from the Village Voice. I'm ashamed to say I've never been, but that changes this weekend.

- NachosNY (run by a fellow local blogger) is hosting Guactacular 2010 at the Bell House on Cinco de Mayo. Sounds delicious.

- I've got no idea how this gentleman found me (was it perhaps the posts and threads around MLK Day?), but he's working to build the National MLK Memorial. I can get behind that.

Mixed Messages

Hey everybody, it's Bike Month NYC! In light of the two rather high-profile accounts of the hasid-hipster bike lane battle in the latest issues of New York Magazine and The Atlantic, this ad on the 4 train struck me as a little ironic. "Get out and strut your stuff ladies--long bare legs look great on bikes (except, of course, when a voting block the mayor needs voices an obejction to those legs passing through their neighborhood)!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crow Hill Community Association Meeting Tomorrow Night

The Crow Hill Community Association, the folks who brought you the new trees on Franklin, are at it again (the tree truck was spotted by yours truly this morning). Also, they're hosting their second consecutive meeting at LaunchPad tomorrow night at 7:30 pm. The event will feature a guest speaker from the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, news from the Association's various local initiaves (including their fantastic sponsorship of the Oral History Project), and donated nibbles from local cafes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mutiplying the Loaves

My local storefront church, the Tabernacle of God's Glory Church and Restoration Ministry, which owns the best churchmobile ever, has a table of free bread and basket of free bananas out on the Avenue today. The church, which serves a mostly Panamanian crowd, got the food donated from a local bakery and wholesaler, and is offering it for free as a service to the community, as I was told by a parishoner (who offered me a loaf). While we stood talking, a man passing by exclaimed "Free bread?! Now this is a blessing," and picked up a pair of loaves and bunch of bananas before heading out. "Thank you," he said in parting. "I'm going to make sandwiches today!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Suspect Arrested in Franklin Avenue Rooftop Shooting

From 1010 WINS comes this report. The suspect is reportedly a member of the bloods, while the four teens he shot from the rooftop at President Street and Franklin Avenue are reportedly Crips.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Best Reading Series Yet

(Clockwise from top left: Ryan Britt, Max Ross, Katie Bynum, and Mary Gaitskill. Photos courtesy of Brian Letwin via flickr.)

I usually write about the Franklin Park Reading Series BEFORE it happens, but this one was special enough to demand a review (I did one after my first visit, too). Going in, organizer Penina Roth had expressed concerns about the truncated space, which was admittedly strange: we entered through the newly-hewn tunnel via Dutch Boy, and the big room itself was neutered by a curtained wall that stretched that closed off the DJ booth and platform seating and then swung around to the bar. Despite this, though, the room worked--the curtains added a dramatic touch, and the new shape focused more attention on the readers. Also, it was packed! We sat on the floor, on laps, on the tables, on the edges of booths, and anywhere else there was room, which really drummed up the excitement inside. By the time Penina called us to order, we were basically hanging from the rafters.

It was a testament to all four readers that no one sought more comfortable environs during the show. Ryan Britt led off with an hysterical tale of post-apocalyptical Brooklyn, which Max Ross followed with an equally funny memoir of being set up by his grandmother with a (not-related-by-blood) cousin. After the break, Katie Bynum read a handful of wonderful poems that won serious praise from the night's headliner, Mary Gaitskill, who called them "really excellent" upon taking the stage.

Gaitskill herself showcased her dry wit and sharp tongue from the start, offering an uncollected story instead of one from her new book, Don't Cry, because, as she put it, "I'm sick to death of reading from it." What she did offer up was "The Astral Plane Nail and Waxing Salon," a too-close-for-comfort riff on the Lilith-Eve myth that starts out with a series of awkward, imagined letters from Ashley Dupre to Silda Spitzer before venturing into questions of mores and womanhood, which New York Magazine ran as "political fictions" last fall (full text of the story can be found here). The reading was mezmerizing, and afterwards, Gaitskill took the rare step of taking questions on the piece, which she described succinctly as "Lilith gives Eve a blowjob," and particularly on how she crafted it. No disrespect to any of the wonderful authors who've appeared before, but a lot of factors combined to make this month's series the best edition yet.

If you missed it, you can atone for your sins at Brooklyn the Borough, where Mary Gaitskill's whole reading is captured on video, and by coming to the next Reading Series on May 10th.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tonight: The Identity Crisis at Quilombo

I meant to put this up earlier, but here it is anyway: if you're around the neighborhood tonight, swing by Prospect Pond for the latest installment of Quilombo. Drink specials from 5-9 include 2 for 1 $3 draft pints, $1 off well drinks, and you can get 2 for $1 champagne cocktails and $6 caipirinhas all night. At 9, live music kicks off with The Identity Crisis, a jazz-funk combo fronted by a Russian rapper/beatboxer. Piques your interest, doesn't it?

More information about Quilombo tonight and on upcoming Tuesday nights can be found here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Franklin Park Reading Series TONIGHT

The complete post is below, but I wanted to send a final reminder: a particularly fantastic iteration of the Franklin Park Reading Series awaits at Franklin Park (enter through Dutch Boy Burger) tonight at 8pm. Don't miss it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mmmmmm . . .

The eggplant slice at A Slice of Brooklyn is an odd little thing of beauty, a quirky little play on the standard-slice-as-culinary-platform motif. It's a funny-looking ensemble: a quartet of mini-rollatini that appear to have fallen off a platter of hors d'ouevres at a black-tie gala, sitting somewhat incongruously atop one of the Slice's fine plain slices, but it works. $3. Mmmmm . . .

Saturday, April 10, 2010

MUST SEE: Franklin Park Reading Series This Monday, April 12

Alright everybody, I know it's a Monday night, but this is (a) required reading: Reading series curator extraordinaire Penina Roth is bringing Mary Gaitskill to Crown Heights. For those who don't know her work, she's a super-duper-star, someone who rarely reads in NYC and who will doubtless bring some serious fans out to our nabe to check things out (there's a reason TimeOut and the Daily News made this month's series a critic's pick). If you need further convincing, check out this pair of short stories. For those who DO know her work, well, you know you'd be a fool to skip it.

The rest, as usual, is straight from Penina. See you on Monday at 8pm, and don't forget that you have to enter through Dutch Boy Burger. Drink specials will be flowing freely, too.

"We're honored to host literary icon MARY GAITSKILL in a very rare New York City appearance. Ms. Gaitskill will read from her latest story collection, Don't Cry, followed by a Q&A session and book signing. She'll be joined by writer/storyteller RYAN BRITT, Pushcart Prize-nominated poet KATIE BYRUM, and essayist and memoirist MAX ROSS (a Crown Heights local)."

Franklin Park Reading Series: Mary Gaitskill

April 12, 8-10pm
Franklin Park Bar and Beer Garden
766 Franklin Avenue (Dutch Boy Burger entrance), between Lincoln Pl. and St. Johns Pl.

Please note that the entrance has been changed due to temporary construction.

Featured authors:

MARY GAITSKILL (Don't Cry, Veronica, Bad Behavior)
RYAN BRITT (Nerve, The Liar Show)
KATIE BYRUM (Pushcart Prize Nominee for Poetry)
MAX ROSS (The Onion, The Harvard Review)

MARY GAITSKILL’s most recent book is Don’t Cry. She is also the author of two other story collections, Because They Wanted To (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award) and Bad Behavior. A story from Bad Behavior, “Secretary,” was the basis for the film of the same name. Her novels include Two Girls, Fat and Thin and Veronica, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is an Associate Professor at Syracuse University.

RYAN BRITT’s writing has been published with Nerve and Mr. Beller's Neighborhood and is forthcoming in Opium and Clarkesworld. He has performed stories on stage with The Liar Show, The Moth, and Stripped Stories. Ryan's plays have enjoyed staged readings and full productions in New York City with Collective Unconscious, The Longest Lunch Theatre Company, and The Tank. He lives in Brooklyn.

KATIE BYRUM is a poet from Louisville, KY. In 2008 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn and is a copy editor for Electric Literature and The Feminist Press.

MAX ROSS has written for a number of magazines that turned into websites, some of which still actually exist. His work has been published in The Onion, The Harvard Review, and The Rumpus, and he's working on a collection of stories titled Masters in Sadness.

There Was a Guy Shooting People from a Rooftop?!

That's the question you got if you lived in Crown Heights this week, right after the one about "did you ever go into any of the stores that were involved in that massive drug bust on Nostrand?" It was a bad week for a blogger to be traveling for work, that's for sure, but an even worse one for the general reputation of the area, which has enjoyed some positive attention over the last year on account of community and business efforts to promote it. Now, just as the NYPD release the latest statistics showing a significant bounce in crime over the past three months, the neighborhood once known as "Crime Heights" has suffered a trio of newsmaking events (the face slashings, the busts, and the wannabe sniper) that have vaulted it back into the anti-pantheon of NYC's most dangerous places.

I wasn't around to report on any of these events, and since the drug bust was hailed as a success by officials ranging from Tish James to Commissioner Kelly (as well as by the many residents who reportedly alerted the DA and NYPD about the dealing) and also can be taken as evidence that the neighborhood is getting increased attention from those in power, I'll stick to editorializing about violent youth, in two acts.

Act I (in which the bystander recoils in horror when they realize that someone who isn't old enough to drive is raining death down from a rooftop): Incidents like this demand a coordinated anti-gun policy that includes serious gun control. To our mayor's credit, he's done some of his best work on this issue, founding Mayors Against Illegal Guns and taking a beating that may have damaged his dreams of higher office on account of his aggressive pursuit of safer streets. This means creating meaningful carrots and sticks that encourage youth (and everyone else) to hand over guns and information about gun trafficking but make possession and illegal sales of firearms serious offenses. Beyond this, it means a coordinated federal strategy that repeals the Tiahrt Amendments and allows law enforcement to track and prevent the movement of guns from shows and rural areas (where they can be purchased cheaply and easily) into cities and crime rings. Note to the NRA: you can keep your guns--just stop selling them to underage gang members. If you think this somehow threatens your liberty, well, I defer to the great Barney Frank (I know he wasn't talking about guns, but the general sentiment, as well as the excellent delivery, holds true).

Act II (in which the bystander, having recovered from his shock, realizes that the victims are laughing and that the students milling about are both a nuisance and, occasionally, a threat): The more serious posters on Brooklynian have been having an excellent debate about the kinds of things that lead to youthful nihilism among underserved populations--lack of opportunity/perceived opportunity, wretched home lives, and contempt for authority stemming from inequitable treatment of the kind Bob Herbert has been writing about--and I won't reproduce them here. What I will do is advocate for increased after-school programming, and more forcefully, longer school days. They may cost more in the short term, yes (though KIPP and other charter schools are doing it around the nation with the same funding that public schools receive), but if you don't want "kids on the street," don't dump them onto the street between 2pm and 3pm every day without much to do. After-school programs, particularly active ones involving sport and other healthy competition (where would-be gang-members can compete, burn off their energy, strut their stuff, and be aggressive without killing anybody) are the first to go as school budgets are cut in lean times, and the ensuing uptick in juvenile crime isn't unrelated. In the best of times, these programs help close the circle: not only should we do our best to keep guns out of the hands of kids, but we should give their hands something else to do.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Eaten: (the) Dutch Boy Burger

Ignore the terrible quality of the photograph -- the food was delicious.

The lady and I decided to sample Dutch Boy Burger on Sunday night, which proved to be a rewarding experience. There's a far better write-up from New York Magazine here, but three points are worth repeating: the ingredients are high-quality and locally-sourced (the menu goes as far as to thank the butchers and bakers on the back page), the food is tasty, and the atmosphere, though currently truncated by the ongoing building-code drama, is lovely. I went for the Dutch Boy Burger (what else could I have ordered, really?), just under a half-pound of beef smothered in onions, mushrooms, and cheese that satisfied my craving nicely. The lady had the mac and cheese, which was a little on the small side for $6, but very tasty. The side of fries was particularly good, straddling the exterior/interior crispy/mushy divide well with the lightest hint of seasoning. Other reviews, including support for the veggie burger, are popping up on Brooklynian, and several people I spoke to raved about the feta-stuffed lamb burger.

We ordered out because we wanted to eat in the beer garden around the corner, but as soon as the code/permit issues are resolved, you'll be able to order directly from the staff at the bar and in the garden, and the kitchen will be open until 1 AM (no small victory for those in need of late-night bites in Crown Heights). There isn't room for more than a few tables in the little storefront, but the retro decor (including the sign!) is perfect, just right for sharing a milkshake.

In short, Dutch Boy is a most welcome addition to the avenue, though you didn't need me to tell you that. Swing by sometime soon if you haven't already.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Beanbags Return!

Friday, 6:30pm, Franklin Avenue: Ed of the Brooklyn Ink Spot and yours truly face off on opening day (courtesty of julesdewit on flickr).

It's officially spring when the season starts. No, not that season . . . beanbag season! I was already in a good mood strolling home from the 4 on Friday--the week was over, the weather was warm, the sun was shining, people were out enjoying themselves on stoops and folding chairs--when I saw the gathered crowd and heard the satisfying thump of denim sack on plywood. I'd promised the lady I'd hustle home and clean up the apartment for the company we had coming, but if there's one rule I live by, it's that there's always time for a game of beanbags/cornhole/lawn toss. Was it my fault I went on a three-game run in the dying light?

In all seriousness, I could go on a solid twenty-minute rant about how beanbags embody everything people dream about in a city neighborhood, but even putting it into words cheapens the ease with which a spontaneous sidewalk shindig like this transcends whatever other categories we put ourselves in during the rest of the day. Suffice to say that when I'm old and grey, I will reminisce fondly about it, and if I possessed any literary talent, I'd write a short story about it and read it at the Franklin Park Reading Series.

For those who haven't yet experienced the beanbags, come and join in the fun! The ringleaders are now on twitter (@bkbeanbags) to let you know when they'll be playing, including this evening. They've also got a lovely photoset, linked above. Games take place out in front of LaunchPad on Franklin just south of Park.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Weekend Events: Easter Eggs!

The LaunchPad folks are at it again, this time with an Easter Egg Party for kids of all ages on Saturday, April 3 from 2pm-midnight. From their website: Little kids come early, big kids stay late. We'll have some juice and snacks for the little kids. BYOB for the big kids.

First Saturdays also return this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum, where you can design an embossed copper amulet with Egyptian symbols (in preparation for your work on the Easter Eggs, no doubt) and otherwise make merry to the strains of Egyptian-inspired funk.

Also, don't forget to swing by Lily & Fig today to complete your census form if you haven't done so already!

Update: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden's month of cherry blossoms, Hanami, gets started this weekend (and the weather, as of now, plans to cooperate). This brings me to one of my absolute favorite pieces of Brooklyn history: the BBG's cherry trees are nourished by topsoil from Ebbets Field.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

An Eyeful on Franklin, Courtesy of Eric Adams

Walking to work today, I spied a CBS 2 camerawoman setting up her gear, and I immediately kicked into blogger mode (tiny notepad? check. cellphone camera? check. stubble? check.). Why was she there? Was something wrong? Was the shot going to be a chilling intro on the nightly news? She rolled her eyes and gestured skyward to the pair of plaid-clad rear ends staring back at us from the billboard on Sterling and Franklin and said "no, just here for that."

State Senator Eric Adams has certainly garnered a lot of attention with his "Stop the Sag" campaign, which has placed several such billboards around Crown Heights at a cost of $2,000. While Adams and others opposed to saggy pants deride the fashion as "self-imposed racism" and "convict chic" (many argue that the style originated in prisons, where belts are a no-no and clothes don't always fit too well), most locals interviewed for the story, particularly the young men sporting the trend, shrugged it off as a comfort or generation-gap issue. While I have the benefit of not being expected to represent my race at every turn as a white guy (when I wore my JNCO jeans well off my backside in middle school, it brought me nothing more than parental mocking), I'm slightly loath to ascribe much significance to the impact of sagging pants on the fortunes of young men, if only because a) the trend seems to be on the way out, what with skinny jeans making the rounds and all, and b) racism, in all its permutations, runs far deeper than the clothes on our backs. What do you think . . . was this money well spent, or a publicity stunt (or both)? Do we need to lean on our youth to hitch up, or would we be better off just letting them grow out of it?

All those who are convinced by the billboard and find themselves in need of new, better-fitting pants should look across the street to About Time, where I'm sure they'd be more than happy to deck you out.