Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three More Weeks to see Murder in the Cathedral

(photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Thanks to popular demand, the current run of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral at the Church of St. Joseph (on Pacific between Underhill and Vanderbilt) has been extended through October 10, 2010. You can see the show at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday or 2pm on Sunday afternoons. I've blogged this before, but right now, I want to give you the top 3 reasons (in no particular order) you need to go see this play.

1. This is high-quality theater, and it's right down the street. The director and composer have both won major theater awards, the actors have years of experience (and it shows - reading verse lines without sounding like Mother Goose takes extensive training, but when it's done right, it give a person chills), and the costumes, lighting, musicians, and everything else are completely professional. This play could absolutely run off-Broadway (where many of the principal people involved spend their working days) and charge fifty bucks a ticket. Instead, it's $10 ($5 each if you come in a group of four or more) and you can walk there. This is a rare opportunity.

2. The location is stunning,and it makes for a unique experience. See that photo up there? That's not a movie still, that's what this play actually looks like (you can see the heads of the audience poking up amidst the pews). The production itself is site-specific, and the director, designers, composer, and producer have done an amazing job of locating the audience in the heart of the play (it takes place in a Cathedral, after all). There are times in this production when you are very much a part of it - in two separate instances, the characters address themselves to the congregation/audience - and it draws out the themes of the work (religious faith, conflicts of duty, questions of power and privilege) in an intimate fashion that leaves you thinking about them long after you leave. This isn't "seeing" a play. This is experiencing great theater.

3. After catching the second show two Fridays ago, I caught up with Monsignor Harrington, who brought this play to his parish church by suggesting the production to the producer last year. He's the best sort of leader, one who articulates a broad vision of community and wants to bring people of all ages, ra
ces, and creeds together in the beautiful space he has. As he put it, speaking about the play (and I'm paraphrasing, but I think this is close because the comment stuck with me) "Art and culture have been a part of the church for centuries. It's possible to have a spiritual encounter without it being a sacramental experience." He wants to make his church a place where people come to encounter great art, to celebrate with friends and family (he's got an enormous church basement for functions as well as his sanctuary), to meet new people, and, of course, have spiritual experiences in all of these ways. He even suggested hosting an Oktoberfest on his sizeable patio once the space is cleared after the renovations of the church are complete. Of course, community visions like Monsignor Harrington's are only possible if the community responds (and so far it has, hence the extended run), so get out and support this initiative (and if you've got a great idea for an event of your own, let him know!).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pawn Shop Signs Come Down

Kevin from About Time Boutique took these photos today as the "pawn shop" signs on Park and Franklin came down. I don't know whether or not the shop is still opening, but I've said enough for the present. Instead, I wanted to mention that tomorrow is the LAST DAY to enjoy tax free purchases on clothing under $100 in New York City, and About Time is having a sale on a number of items, including hoodies and t-shirts, some with their excellent Franklin Avenue screen print. Support a local business and check it out!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pawn Shop - What We Know, What's To Come

(this close-up and the original photo below courtesy of Kevin from About Time Boutique)

After a flurry of weekend activity and some conversations with the owner of the pawn shop and the residents and business owners who are trying to keep it from opening, I wanted to share some information and a few thoughts of my own.

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

Pawn Shop Opens on Franklin (?!), Residents Ready to Riot

Well, this is unexpected. I was preparing a post tonight on more new businesses, specifically Bristen's unveiled menu (hand-pulled noodles, in soups and pan-fried, in the $5-7 range) and the rumor that the Franklin Park empire is looking to expand to a new location at 724 Franklin (right across from LaunchPad and next to MySpace Realty), but I didn't think they would include a brand-spanking-new PAWN SHOP opening up in the same building as the BNI Express Laundromat on the corner of Park and Franklin, on the very same block that may soon be the first part of the Crow Hill Historic District. So much for the boilerplate post about gentrification.

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.

Fighting For Franklin

The first 95% of Tuesday's CHCA meeting was everything one would expect, a State-of-Crow-Hill, complete with frequent and well-deserved applause. The CHCA has, by all measures, had a good summer in their 25th year: after a great event celebrating the Crown Heights Oral History Project in June, they created a lovely new community garden, helped sponsor the Franklin Avenue Kids Day in July, and just completed the spectacular mural project on Franklin and Eastern Parkway (update on that construction project: Eli Mazon, the discount store maven who owns the lot, has offers on the table from Walgreen's, CVS, and Medgar Evers College, but the financing isn't there right now for completion and none of them are offering enough to buy the lot outright - so it sounds like the mural will be up for awhile). Councilwoman Tish James, who co-sponsored the mural project, showed up to thank everyone for their hard work, and a few announcements were made:

- Tonight is the LAST night of Jazz at Ronald McNair Park (Classon and Eastern) from 6-9pm
- On Saturday, there will be a vigil for Jasmine Herron, the young woman who was killed biking at Washington and Atlantic on the 15th. The vigil will last from 8-9pm.
- Habitat for Humanity is building 100 affordable homes for purchase in Bed-Stuy, and are hoping to sell them to local Brooklyn residents (2% fixed mortgages).

The meeting ran an hour, they took a few questions, and things were about to wrap up, when an older man rose to introduce himself and invite everyone to attend the Panamanian Independence celebrations on October 9th, which will include their traditional parade up Franklin and finish with a street festival on Lincoln Place. Heads nodded in approval, and then he added that the Panamanian community is currently trying to get Franklin Avenue co-named "Panama Way," and asked for our support.

Now, I've always lauded the Crow Hill crowd for their openness and welcoming attitude, particularly to those of us who are relatively new to the neighborhood and could be dismissed as self-interested gentrifyers, but suffice to say that many of the folks in the meeting were distinctly and uniquely displeased by this co-naming suggestion. Much muttering ensued, and after one Crow Hill leader expressed concern that the name would be changed entirely and added "after all the work we've done for the past 25 years, I would not like to see that name changed," another woman rose to ask (well, to demand, really) why the Avenue should be co-named in the first place. The Panamanian man replied with a well-rehearsed history: Panamanians began coming to Brooklyn during the building of the Panama canal (as a result, he said, "we were always bilingual"), and New York remains the largest concentration of Panamanians outside of Panama in the world. They had settled on Franklin by 1930 - "before the Jamaicans, before the Guyanese" - and by the 1960s, they owned a wide variety of local businesses and were the majority on the Avenue. Many have left for the suburbs in recent years, he added, but "if you talk to someone in Panama about the United States, they say they want to come to Franklin Avenue." Panamanian businesses, social clubs, and churches persist on Franklin, particularly north of Park Place, and even those who have moved away come back on the weekends to see friends and attend services. As for the co-naming of the NYC street, he said that all three Community Boards had approved the proposal (Boards 3, 8, and 9) and that the City Department of Transportation was holding up the final approval on the grounds that streets cannot be named after other countries (if this was the reason they gave, it is patently false: Mulberry Street in Manhattan is also "Little Italy Way" or something to that effect, and west 46th near Times Square is "Little Brazil").

The meeting broke up without resolution, but the genuine frustration that both sides felt lingered. At the root of this issue are the well-worn questions of neighborhood ownership and entitlement that typically crop up on Franklin in the context of gentrification (earlier in the night, a local historian and high school teacher had expressed concern that the mural project did not celebrate local history, particularly because "our neighborhood is under attack from gentrification"). Claims to public space are rooted in shared, performed histories, and both the Panamanians and the self-identified Crow Hill Community, which is predominantly African-American and West Indian, can make compelling cases. For those unfamiliar with the term, "Crow Hill" has a murky history as a name for the area, but one commonly-cited explanation is that it arose because Crown Heights, and specifically Weeksville, was an antebellum settlement of free blacks. I'm sure, though they've never talked about it in a meeting, that the residents who consider themselves part of this community would much prefer to see Franklin Avenue co-named or re-named Crow Hill Avenue.

How do we, as a whole community, navigate these competing claims? Localities celebrate local history all the time with plaques, landmark signs (13 homes on Park Place will likely be landmarked this fall thanks to the efforts of the CHCA), and the like, but when it comes to street names, solutions are less obvious. Chicago solves this problem with as many "honorary" renamings as residents ask for, which can lead to fairly ridiculous signage (one stretch of Devon Avenue in Chicago goes from Golda Meir Way to Jawaharlal Nehru Way to Muhammed Iqbal Way in three blocks), but in NYC, from what I understand, only one honorary co-name is posted per street. It would be easy for me to just say "hey, let's leave it Franklin and celebrate our history in other ways," but that would ignore the fact that the name Franklin itself reflects a very traditional, white, male, political history that is stamped across our street grid (and many other places) without apology or reflection. To some extent, "Franklin" has been appropriated by those who live there now - the Pana Store sells red-and-white "Franklin Ave" shirts and I've heard teens holler "Franklin Crew" at others leaving Jackie Robinson Middle School - which suggests that origins and history aren't everything, even if they lend significant power to groups making claims to space.

So I don't know how to answer this, and I certainly don't blame anyone for being frustrated about it. Street names might seem trivial, but when neighborhood boundaries and ownership are contested, as they are in northwest Crown Heights, these things matter. Should we back the Panamanian community in seeking a co-name? Should an alternative be proposed? Should we leave it Franklin and continue to celebrate this guy (who once worried about the "darkening" of "superior" Americans . . . and he was referring to Germans, though he had little love for any other race)? This isn't rhetorical - let's hear it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie at LaunchPad Tonight!

Sorry for the short notice on this one - see below from Kings County Cinema Society:

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

CHCA Meeting Tuesday @ 7:30

Fresh of the completion of their 25th Anniversary Mural Project (shown above), the Crow Hill Community Association Meeting is having their first meeting since June today at 7:30pm. If you're new to the area (I figure a lot of people are this time of year), these meetings are a great, welcoming, low-pressure way to find out what's going on in the neighborhood, meet some neighbors, and start thinking about all the different ways to get involved in the great community that is Crown Heights North/Crow Hill. They tend to run a well-managed hour, feature speakers from local government, non-profit orgs, churches, and law enforcement, and there are usually snacks. Come by at LaunchPad, 721 Franklin Avenue (between Park and Sterling).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekend Roundup - Tornados, Theater & Tacos

- As the Brooklynians have noticed, Oaxaca Taqueria opened their third location on Prospect just west of Franklin this weekend. The menu (available online) is the same as their other two locations, offering tacos, enchiladas, tortas, quesadillas, salads and some classic Mexican sides at typical "just a little more upscale than the hole-in-the-wall taco joint" prices ($2.95 for a taco, $2.50 for an enchilada, $7.95 for a torta, etc). The bare-bones interior has a few high cocktail tables to stand at, but it looks like their primary business will be take-out and delivery. I tried the steak taco (pictured above - food photography is not my strong suit) at the recommendation of the staff last night, and was pleased with my purchase, particularly once I dribbled some Valentina on it. Also of note was that I took this photo at 10pm on a Sunday night, which is to say that they'll be open late. NachosNY, what's your verdict?

- 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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tornado!?! (Updated)

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.

Murder in the Cathedral Opens Tonight

T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral opens TONIGHT at the Church of St. Joseph on Pacific between Underhill and Vanderbilt at 7:30. I wrote about this awhile back, but seriously, go check this out: a site-specific production in a beautifully-restored church, award-winning NYC theater stars, and the first production of this play in New York in 10 years, for only $10 ($5 if you come in a group of four or more).

Crow Hill's Creative Underclass

If you're in the visual arts, there are a pair of ways to be seen this month on Franklin (and for those of us who like to hang around artists, there are great things to see).

- On Saturday and Sunday, in honor of their 25th Anniversary, the Crow Hill Community Association (next meeting is this coming Tuesday - more on that later), will be turning the construction fence at Franklin and Eastern into a fantastic mural. If you have a great idea, it's not too late to submit a drawing and claim a panel! Details can be found here, and even if you're not an artist, they could use your support on Saturday and Sunday.

- Monday marks the submission deadline for the first (hopefully annual) Crow Hill Film Festival, a joint venture from community creativity-promoters (I made that term up, but it fits, right?) Five Myles and Breukelen Coffee House, with additional help from LaunchPad. It's probably a little late to make a film (unless you want to bang out a quick documentary about the CHCA mural), but if you've got work you want to show (under 30 minutes), go to The festival will run up and down Franklin October 7-9, and Nostrand Park has the complete press release.

I couldn't help but notice the use of Crow Hill in both of these projects - now that Nostrand Park has given us the boundaries of Crown Heights, can we get the boundaries of Crow Hill?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Primaries matter, especially in local elections (large chunks of Brooklyn will go back to farming before they go Republican), so get out and pull some levers today! Polls are open from 6am - 9pm, and you can find your polling place here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Franklin Park Reading Series Monday at 8!

(Matt Stewart, one of this month's readers, shares a unique approach to literary bonus features)

I've gotten a few emails from people new to the area in the last couple of weeks, which makes sense, since it's the time of year when jobs and school start up again. For all those new to Crown Heights (as well as everybody's who's already here), make a point of putting the Franklin Park Reading Series on your calendar. Great writers, interesting themes, performances, and $4 beers, at 8pm every second Monday of the month. You will not be disappointed - Penina Roth puts on one of the best shows in town (this month, the series is featured in New York Magazine and the NY Daily News).

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’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

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend Events

Just a quick rundown:

LaunchPad offers Second Saturday Songs and Sounds on Saturday at 8pm.

Five Myles opens "A State of Flux" on Sunday.

The Franklin Park Reading Series returns on Monday night.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Celebrating 40 Years of Medgar Evers College

Medgar Evers College, Crown Heights' own branch of the City University of New York, turns 40 this year, reaching a middle age that its namesake, slain civil rights leader Medgar Wiley Evers, never attained. In celebration of the college's 40 years of service and continued expansion, MEC is hosting a series of events that will culminate later in the month, but which kick off tomorrow with a student art show from 5-8pm at the College's 1650 Bedford Avenue entrance. The complete MEC press release is below.

Medgar Evers College Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary This September

BROOKLYN, New York, August 25, 2010 - Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York shall celebrate its 40th Anniversary this fall. Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of Medgar Wiley Evers and a powerful civil rights activist in her own right, shall serve as honorary chair of the 40th Anniversary celebration. The College was named in honor of the martyred civil rights leader on September 28, 1970. The days surrounding this 40th Founders’ day represent a unique opportunity to celebrate vital years of tradition and continuity, of links to the past and the present, and most importantly, of new beginnings and a bright future.

Over the past four decades, Medgar Evers has made enormous strides: growing exponentially from an initial enrollment of 1,000 students in 1970 to over 7,000 students registered today. When the College initially opened in 1970, faculty and students moved between a number of venues for classes before settling in its first permanent home in a former High School in 1972. Today, Medgar Evers College is a fast-growing urban campus set to open a $247 million-dollar, state-of-the-art, School of Science, Health and Technology this fall.

The College offers a burgeoning array of degree programs including a new Accelerated BPS in Business Management Services as part of its continuing mission the College intends to link the curriculum closely to positive employment outcomes. Its accomplished faculty corps includes some of the best and brightest in academia boasting several Fulbright scholars, a Guggenheim fellow and respected researchers working in collaboration with entities such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Its student scholars have captured first place in prestigious competitions like the Wharton Undergraduate Marketing Conference case competition and presented their original research at conferences across the globe.

“The College’s great strength is in its legacy of providing a way where there was no way,” said Medgar Evers College President William L. Pollard. “It has been a beacon for those who strive for excellence even as their circumstances deem otherwise. This year, we celebrate that legacy and our rich history of educating one student at a time in the leading student centered college in CUNY.”

The celebration shall commemorate its inspirational heritage of community involvement, intellectual achievement, and abiding commitment to social change with several events:


Friday, September 10, 2010 5:00pm-8:00pm
Art Show Reception

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 11:30am
Thomas N. Todd, Esq., Keynote Speaker

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
College and Community Day
Freshman Year Address, Student Clubs, Block Party

Monday, September 20, 2010
Golf Tournament – Dyker Heights Golf Course

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Student Day
Fashion Show, Dining Etiquette, Panel Discussion

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Founders Day, Alumni and Visionaries Dinner

Monday, October 04, 2010
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Academic Building I

For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Style Wars at BAM on Thursday

Style Wars, a great piece of NYC's underground cultural history, comes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday. Check out the press release below for more details.

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
Q&A: 6:50pm
Reception: 6:50pm

Tickets and Screening information:
Style Wars Restoration Fund:

Monday, September 06, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

So it begins . . .

It's still two days away, but the 43rd Annual West Indian Day Carnival is already taking over Crown Heights. Above, a vendor sold ices with canned condensed milk on top to a crowd of eager kids on Eastern Parkway, while music drifted over from President Street and Franklin, where the block was closed for preparations.

If you're new to the area and haven't heard about the Carnival, this is not to be missed: it's one of the largest street festivals in the world, featuring incredible floats, would-be carnival queens dressed to the nines, delicious food, fantastic music, and somewhere over a million people lining the route. The Brooklyn Public Library has a nice history of the event here, and I've got some photos from last year's event here, but nothing really does it justice besides seeing it in person.

Another Bodega Gets a Makeover

The Franklyn Bergen Express Deli at Bergen and Franklin is the latest neighborhood market to undertake a major renovation, following in the footsteps of Nam's Green Market and the Franklin Mini Market. It's a somewhat unsurprising development, though I wonder about a a few things:

1) Bergen and Franklin is a few blocks north of the Franklin Avenue retail boom, which seems concentrated between Eastern Parkway and Park Place. Is this a harbinger of a northward push for retail redevelopment?

2) Laurel had a thoughtful post on Nostrand Park awhile back tackling the bodega gentrification issue, specifically the frustration longtime residents feel when a place goes from dingy to delightful seemingly to please newcomers. At the sneak peak of Gentrifying Brooklyn: The Buying, Selling, and Repackaging of Crown Heights (a film Laurel is co-directing with fellow NP blogger Abeni), a number of landlords made their case for gentrification/revitalization, arguing that by investing in local property, they felt they had earned the right to remake it in any way they saw fit. As for bodega owners, I wonder if they're also building owners. If they're not, perhaps their makeovers are driven less by a new clientèle and more by pressure from landlords to look a certain way. Unlike residents, commercial establishments aren't protected by rent control, and with so many look-alike markets up and down Franklin and Nostrand, I wouldn't be surprised if landlords are starting to lean on their tenants to shape up or ship out.

3. Finally, in that same post, Abeni and Laurel proposed a bodega boycott, of sorts - they make the case that local residents shouldn't patronize the dingy ones with shoddy service, and that by bringing their business to tidy, classy markets, we'll help drive other establishments to clean up their act. This leads me to our ILFA question of the weekend: are you loyal to a specific bodega? If so, why? I've found that the quality of service, much more than the quality of the products or general appearance of the store, keeps me coming back, as well as proximity. When it's done, the Franklyn Bergen Express Deli will be a block from me, but I think I'll still be going to the Dean Grocery Corp, despite its shabby interior, because a) it's so close to my apartment that I routinely go there in whatever I've slept in and b) the guys there know me by name, know what I'm looking for, and don't mind giving me a pack of peanuts for free if I realize I came by without my wallet. But who knows - maybe the new place will be too good to pass up.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

At Least They're Not Grown Up Yet

An idyllic scene on Franklin: waning light, waning summer, one of the last days before school starts, and three boys, no more than ten or eleven at the oldest, are scampering up the Avenue with skateboards, bikes, and other effluvia of youth in tow. One is black, one is white, and one is hispanic, and they appear gloriously heedless of the social geography in Crown Heights shifting beneath their feet. I haven't enjoyed watching children at play this much since the Franklin Avenue Kids Day (pictured above). Less than a block ahead of me, they shout, saunter, and swing playfully at one another, until a young woman strolls by in the opposite direction, and at that point, I realize:

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.

Tree Talks Back