Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Things got started when Bob, the owner of four pawn shops around Brooklyn, saw an ad and called the landlord at Park and Franklin a few months ago. The space he saw had already been prepped for a "Cash for Gold" establishment that didn't end up opening, so he snapped up the lease. When I asked him about the connection between pawn shops and crime, he responded that he trains all of his employees personally, requires New York State identification for transactions, records everything with audio and video, and posts every item that comes into his shop on Leads Online, a for-profit service used by law enforcement agencies to help track stolen property (the NYPD come into one of his shops looking for something once every month or two). He doesn't rotate stock between shops, he abides by all state laws regarding interest rates (4% in New York State), and he's worked with the NYPD before on stings and set-ups. He says that he's more than amenable to local residents coming in looking for stolen property, though he said it only happens once or twice a year.
So Bob, by his own description, is a model pawnbroker, the ideal type promoted by the National Pawnbrokers Association, an organization that takes pains to point out that 80% of pawned items are collected by their owners, and which argues that pawn shops provide an essential service to low-income citizens who cannot get credit cards or bank accounts, as this sympathetic NYTimes article from 2007 suggested (this concern was also raised in the comments to the previous post). What's not to like?
Well, it's still a pawn shop. As I said in the last post, there is an overwhelmingly strong correlation between pawn shops and crime (seriously, Google "pawn shop property crime correlation" and you will not find a single serious study that suggests otherwise). The simple truth is that no matter how well-run it is, the presence of a pawn shop in a neighborhood means property crime goes up, because criminals THINK that they can pawn stolen items there (it's a simple calculus, really). This also means the violence associated with property crime - muggings, home invasions, etc - goes up. Sure, it's nice to know that I can swing by and pick up my phone or laptop after it's been jacked, but is the pawn shop going to give me back the sense of security I had before I was held at gunpoint, or pay the bills for the dental work I needed after I was punched in the face? Also, after the revelations of the NYPD Tapes, do residents really want to rely on officers to file reports, run searches, and get their stuff back? Put it this way - owning a pawn shop is like owning a handgun store: sure, there are intervening actors, and you're within your rights, but because your business exists, people are going to get hurt. Legality does not equate to morality.
Also, a quick note on the notion of cash loans as a service to the community, something that Laurel addressed really well in her post at Nostrand Park. Cash loans at these rates don't benefit anyone. Sure, pawnbrokers associations like to point out that close to 80% of items pawned are later bought back, but what they aren't telling you is that many people repeatedly pawn items, and pawning only gets them further into financial trouble, as they rotate pawned items to keep from losing something and constantly find themselves in deeper and deeper holes on account of the interest rates. The process is, in many ways, a form of urban sharecropping, which guarantees the pawn shop continued sources of income from hard-up residents who have no way out of the cycle.
Is the system broken? Absolutely. Banks and credit card companies (the bonanza of 2003-2007 notwithstanding) routinely redline poor and working-class communities (and particularly communities of color), keeping loans away from those who need them most. But just because the system's broken, that doesn't make it okay for pawn shops and cash-4-gold places to exploit people. I defer to the great Omar Little on this one.
So that's what we know - a well-run pawn shop is coming in, but it's still going to cause a spike in crime in the neighborhood. Where to from here? To his credit, the owner has offered to take down the glaring signs (above) and replace them with something less obvious and perhaps less likely to attract a criminal element. That's a start, but it's not really a solution. Reports have it that certain members of the community are trying to buy him out, which seems like a good way to address this (from what I understand, there's no legal recourse to stop the shop at this point process), but is admittedly expensive, especially given that the location is fitted out for this sort of business. In the meantime, the local group leading the opposition (which includes some CHCA members but is not limited to the group) is calling for a boycott of the pawn shop and the laundromat, in order to impact the landlord who brought this shop to Franklin (and who was apparently planning to have another, similar establishment from the get-go). If someone has a better idea for how to convince the landlord to address this issue (he's apparently been rather callous about the whole situation), let's hear it.
Finally, a word about the need for better credit in communities like ours. I've heard the CHCA mention ties to the Chase branch on Bedford and Eastern before, so perhaps they could help connect people to this bank and help them get access to credit on a fair footing. The city government also offers assistance opening bank accounts. I'm unaware of any credit unions in the area, but if there are, pass along the information. It's possible that we've got some financial professionals in the neighborhood as well - maybe they could be convinced to offer informational clinics to people in need of loans to get by in this economy.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
In all seriousness, pawn shops are absolutely terrible for neighborhoods. Studies by legal scholars and law enforcement professionals are clear and unequivocal - the presence of pawn shops, even those that strive for legality (and many, some say most, do not), increases crime, specifically property crime. The connection is obvious: people steal things, sometimes assaulting people, violating homes, and destroying other property in the process, and pawn them for cash. Pawn shops are also bad for property values, neighborhood image, etc, but these reasons pale in comparison to the simple fact that this pawn shop will make Franklin and the rest of the neighborhood less safe.
Tonight, residents gathered in front of the pawn shop and laundromat in protest, chanting "stop the pawn shop, protect your community," and more rallies are planned (details to come). The CHCA has also put together a petition (full text below), which isn't online yet but will likely be available to sign at LaunchPad and About Time Boutique. Some folks are also calling for a boycott of the pawn shop, which I would second (eventually, they can't buy stolen goods if no one buys them at the shop, right?), and a boycott of the adjacent laundromat, which I would only second if they are the owners of the building or the pawn shop - if not, they had nothing to do with it. Word has it that the 77th Precinct is also deeply concerned about the new shop and the spike in crime it will bring.
All of that said, I'm not sure that anything can be done the legal side to stop them, as they've already moved in, meaning they've likely cleared the bureaucratic hurdles (zoning, community boards, etc) and possession remains nine-tenths of the law. That doesn't mean nothing can be done, of course, but that the fight to come will be social and economic (boycotts, shaming, etc), not legal. Thoughts and information are welcome.
Petition - UPDATED
We the undersigned are vehemently opposed to the opening of a Pawn Shop/Cash Loans establishment in the Crow Hill community of Crown Heights. For years, residents and merchants have been working tirelessly with our elected officials and the 77th Precinct to revitalize Franklin Avenue. While we have made vast improvements there is still more work to be done and we feel it is grossly irresponsible to put this type of establishment next door to a drug/alcohol rehabilitation facility, in an area that continues to battle illicit street activity.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
9/22: Logorama and Helvetica at LaunchPad
Description: a screening of the recent eye-popping short from H5 production house in France, Logorama (2009, 16min) a 3D animated action flick that constructs a dystopian LA out of a whopping 2,500 corporate logos and mascots. From the makers: “Logorama presents us with an over-marketed world built only from logos and real trademarks that are destroyed by a series of natural disasters (including an earthquake and a tidal wave of oil). Logotypes are used to describe an alarming universe (similar to the one that we are living in) with all the graphic signs that accompany us everyday in our lives. This over-organized universe is violently transformed by the cataclysm becoming fantastic and absurd. It shows the victory of the creative against the rational, where nature and human fantasy triumph.”
Followed by Gary Hustwit’s recent celebrated doc Helvetica(2007, 80min) about the typefont, graphic design, and global visual culture.
Details: Wednesday Sept. 22 8pm at LaunchPad. 721 Franklin Ave. 2/3/4/5 to Franklin Ave. Free/popcorn provided/BYOB
Also, for those who like movies, the Willifest International Film Festival is this weekend from the 23rd - 26th in Williamsburg. Check 'em out.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
- Murder in the Cathedral at the Church of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights did not disappoint on Friday night - I'll post a longer review later in the week, but suffice to say that this is a unique and thought-provoking theater experience. Shows run Thursday - Saturday at 7:30pm, with a Sunday matinee at 2, for the next couple of weeks. Don't miss it.
- Finally, the folks at About Time Boutique got some great footage of the Brooklyn tornado.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I was stranded underground for most of this, but holy crap, what a scene! Photos to come - for now, share your stories, if you have anything. Hope everyone's ok.
Update: So it wasn't actually a tornado, just a monster storm with 100 mph winds that trashed Brooklyn and Queens. These not-so-good photos capture some of the wreckage (poor Ronald McNair Park at Washington and Pacific lost over half of its big beautiful trees), but there are tons more on the NYTimes and lots of smaller photo-blogs.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
(Matt Stewart, one of this month's readers, shares a unique approach to literary bonus features)
The rest culled from the event page:
This month's reading is headlined by literary innovator Jennifer Egan. Taking our cue from Egan's latest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, we're exploring the interplay of music, memory, and technology. Egan will be joined by debut author Matt Stewart (The French Revolution), who originally published his novel on Twitter, memoirist, drummer, and Sadie Magazine editor Jesse Sposato, and poet Coriel Gaffney, who will be accompani...ed by Brooklyn indie band The House Floor.
FREE - DRINK SPECIALS - Subway: 2/3/4/5 to Franklin Avenue
Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Keep)
Matt Stewart (The French Revolution)
Jesse Sposato (memoirist; Sadie Magazine)
Coriel Gaffney (poet)
The House Floor (band)
JENNIFER EGAN's most recent book is A Visit from the Goon Squad. She is also the author of the novels The Invisible Circus,which was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Look at Me, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and The Keep, as well as the short story collection Emerald City. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta, McSweeney’s, and other magazines. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. Her non-fiction articles appear frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Her 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and her most recent article, The Bipolar Kid, received a 2009 NAMI Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.
MATT STEWART made headlines worldwide when he released his debut novel The French Revolution via Twitter on Bastille Day 2009. His short stories have appeared in Instant City, McSweeney's, Opium Magazine, and other literary publications, and he blogs regularly for The Huffington Post. He lives in San Francisco. The French Revolution is now available from Soft Skull Press.
JESSE SPOSATO is a freelance writer and drummer living in Brooklyn, NY. She co-founded and edits Sadie Magazine, an online counter-culture publication for young women, and she currently writes for the Greenpoint Gazette and Appolicious on a weekly basis. Jesse's stories have been featured by Yahoo! and she has also written for Feminist Review, ELLEgirl, Useless magazine, Time Out New York, and Good Housekeeping, among others. She was recently selected for The Big Jewcy, Jewcy's list of one hundred people they think "deserve to be recognized." Jesse plays the drums in bands Holy Hail and Love Tribe.
CORIEL GAFFNEY is a Brooklyn-based poet who has been featured in New York City at Bar 13 (with the louderARTS Project), Spoken Word Café (R.I.P.), the Literary Salon, and the Bowery Poetry Club with the feminist writing and performance collaborative 500Genders. She has been published in Scapegoat Review. Coriel works as a program coordinator at a non-profit organization and as an adjunct at City College, where she is pursuing her MFA.
THE HOUSE FLOOR is a group of five friends from Blacksburg, Virginia who now live and play music together in Brooklyn. The band’s debut album, Warship, is the sonic interpretation of that friendship. Warship was featured on Nerve.com’s “5 Album” list and the band was profiled on NPR’s program “All Songs Considered.” For more information and to sample The House Floor’s music, visit http://www.myspace.com/thehousefloor.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Style Wars Fundraising Event at BAM - Iconic Film To Kickoff Restoration Fundraising with a Program at The Brooklyn Academy of Music
Globally recognized as the indispensable document of New York Street culture of the early '80s, Style Wars is the visual record of a golden age of youthful creativity that exploded into the world from city in crisis. Its vibrant legacy is alive everywhere. Style Wars has had an extraordinary impact around the globe, inspiring succeeding generations of youthful fans.
But today, the film's negatives - including hours of unseen footage - are decaying with age. This iconic cultural document must be preserved before it's too late.
Style Wars won high praise from the local graffiti writing community for its authenticity and the Grand Prize for Documentaries at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival, the first of many awards and citations. Style Wars screened on PBS television around the country beginning in early 1984.
On September 9th, join the Style Wars Restoration Fund at BAM for 3 screenings and a reception with limited edition canvases by the legendary Graffiti Kings, courtesy of "The Legends of Style." There will be live music by DJ Kay Slay and delicious food provided by Farinella Bakery. In addition, there will be graffiti masters and other special guests.
Screenings: 4:40pm, 6:50pm and 9:15pm
Tickets and Screening information: http://www.bam.org/p2486
Style Wars Restoration Fund: http://www.StyleWars.com
Monday, September 06, 2010
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
a) They are passing the lady, who I'm walking to meet.
b) They're yelling all manner of unspeakable catcalls, the most G-rated of which one kid repeats in a singsong voice, intoning "I like your ass, I like your ass."
Well, shit, at least they're a portrait of youthful racial harmony. Now if only we could teach them to treat women with a modicum of respect. What does this mean, anyway - have we established that gender trumps race and class in the hierarchy of oppression? Unlikely. Have we established that boys will be boys? Sure, but must they be misogynists, too? Might this suggest that these kids pick their catcalling up from the adults who do it? Seems reasonable. So, uh, adults, please stop teaching neighborhood kids to sexually harass women. Thank you.