Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crown Heights Community Mediation Center - 2011 Leadership Training Institute

I prattle a lot about community and community improvement, but there are folks in Crown Heights who devote their days to making the neighborhood a better place, and they're asking you to join them. The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, who are also responsible for the Save Our Streets Crown Heights initiative, are now accepting applications for their 2011 Leadership Training Institute. From what their coordinator told me, a few participants found out about the program on this blog last year, which warmed my heart. Hopefully there are more great folks out there just waiting to read this.

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is now accepting applications for the 2011 Leadership Training Institute. The Leadership Training Institute is a program aimed at bringing together community members who are dedicated to working to improve Crown Heights to both strengthen their leadership skills and build relationships with others in the community.

Through the Institute, participants will meet with trainers who are experts in their fields on a variety of topics to learn from each other, and develop and ultimately implement their skills. These topics include networking, community organizing, grant writing and fundraising, coalition building, working with the media, and event planning. Participants will be able to put their newly acquired skills to use by organizing a community project as a final project of the Institute. Past groups have organized a local photography contest, a resource and entertainment fair to complement the Annual Family Day Picnic in Crown Heights, a healthy foods expo and published a guide for access to healthy food in Crown Heights.

This year, LTI will have two cohorts: One will build on momentum from last year's group by continuing to work on healthy food access and the other will work on an anti-gun violence project related to the work of our program, Save Our Streets Crown Heights.

At the end of the program, participants will come away with concrete skills as well as relationships with others in the community who are dedicated to improving Crown Heights.

Applications are available for download HERE, and can be submitted by email to mweiss@crownheights.org, fax to 718-774-5349, or in person at the Mediation Center; 256 Kingston Ave. Please direct all question to Micah Weiss at 718-773-6886.

Sonia Sanchez at Medgar Evers this Thursday

For the Crown Heights literati, from Medgar Evers College:

Sonia Sanchez Reading and Book Signing at Medgar Evers College, Dec. 2

On Thursday, Dec. 02, Medgar Evers College will host a book reading and signing for celebrated renowned
poet, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez’s new work I'm Black When I'm Singing, I'm Blue When I Ain't and Other Playsfrom 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. in Founders Auditorium at 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225. This event is FREE and open to the public.

Like her poetry, Sanchez’s plays voice her critique of the racism and sexism that she encountered as a young female writer in the black militant community in the late 1960s and early 1970s, her ongoing concern with the well-being of the black community, and her commitment to social justice. The collection includes the never-before-published dramas I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t (1982) and 2 X 2 (2009), as well as three essays in which Sanchez reflects on her art and activism. An introduction by Jacqueline Wood illuminates Sanchez’s stagecraft in relation to her poetry and advocacy for social change, and the feminist dramatic voice in black revolutionary art.

Sanchez was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books.

The event is sponsored by the Medgar Evers College English Club, the Department of English, and the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

For more information, contact the Center for Black Literature:writers@mec.cuny.edu/718.804.8883. Visit www.centerforblackliterature.org.

Affordable Acupuncture at LaunchPad

Starting tomorrow (Wednesday), local acupuncturist Sara Calabro, founder of AcuTake Health, will be offering low-cost community acupuncture sessions at LaunchPad from 11am - 6pm. Click on the flyer above for more info, but suffice to say the the prices are extremely affordable (a sliding scale from $15-35). While ILFA has never personally tried acupuncture, several family members and friends swear by it, particularly sufferers of pain relating to muscle fatigue or chronic illnesses. At fifteen bucks, why not give it a try? (Update: I just clicked over to the NYTimes site and found an article about professional football's resident acupuncturist).

There's a lot going on around the neighborhood this week, so watch this space for quick updates of this variety (for those who miss the overweening 2,500 word think-pieces, they'll be back just as soon as finals are done, and your friendly neighborhood blogger will be armed with a whole host of new ideas from grad school).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CHCA Special Meeting Tomorrow (Monday)

From the Crow Hill Community Association (more coverage at Nostrand Park, too):

Are you happy with a “WE BUY GOLD & ELECTRONICS” business opening on Park Place off Franklin Avenue?

Does the mural they have painted offend you?

Do you find it disrespectful that they have named themselves “Crow Hill Jewelry”?

Do you feel that an establishment which buys gold and electronics is simply a front for thieves to fence stolen merchandise?

Do you feel that just as Franklin Avenue has begun to flourish, this business represents a giant step backwards?

Is this an appropriate business for a quiet residential street?

Will you join with Crow Hill Community Association in trying to keep this business from opening and help us close them down if they do?


We are having a special meeting for this issue

Monday November 29th - 7:00 PM

LaunchPad: 721 Franklin Avenue

We need your help and support, this business poses a threat to the entire community

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday on Franklin - Updated

If you're really geared up to start your Christmas shopping today, don't go stand in line in Manhattan with the chumps - pick up some great deals shopping locally! About Time Boutique is having a monster sale this weekend (flyer above), and the Breukelen Coffee House is opening their new back room vintage shop, Breukelen Vintage, today, with a party from 4pm - 11pm featuring free drinks and free music.

That's just the new stuff - as always, there are plenty of places to shop up and down Franklin. If you're new to the area (or you're traveling out for one of the events above), check out the Franklin Avenue Merchants page for a complete list of what the Avenue has to offer.

Update - the lady points out that Climax Official is also having a big weekend sale.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone had a good one!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2 Great Holiday Events From Force and Flow

Force and Flow Integrated Bodywork, which recently moved to an expanded space at 1102 Dean Street, has two very interesting events coming up - check them out below! Local vendors in particularly should have a look at the second one (the Holiday Bazaar).

Also, a quick note on the recent dearth of posts: I've been swamped lately, but if you send me complete information to post (as Force and Flow did!), I'll do my absolute best to get it posted in a timely fashion. I'm hoping to expand the ILFA staff and platform over the winter in order to improve coverage of our rapidly-growing neighborhood, but in the meantime, please keep the local updates coming, and my genuine apologies to those whose notices slip past me.

Sunday, Nov 28th
6PM, meet at Force and Flow
1102 Dean St. #4
$15 suggested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds

Our monthly Sound Bath series returns with a very special installment of sonic immersion - a guided Sound Walk! On Sunday, Nov 28 Katie will lead us on a walking meditation on how we hear through the streets of Brooklyn. We will take turns, half the group at a time, walking blindfolded so that our listening senses become heightened as our ears become ever more finely tuned to the sonic environment around us. Walkers will experience the phenomenon of deep listening through other senses such as touch, taste, and smell, getting in touch with the soundscapes we usually take for granted. This is a sonic adventure not to be missed, a great way to get to know the neighborhood and to walk off all that extra Thanksgiving food!!! Bring a warm hat and coat, and if it decides to rain on us we'll do a more traditional Sound Bath indoors.

Sunday, Dec 12
12 - 7PM,
Force and Flow
1102 Dean St. #4, Between Franklin & Bedford Ave's

To throw a little spice into the holiday shopping season and to offer beautiful, locally craftedalternatives to petroleum based plastic gifts from China, Force and Flow is once again organizing a holiday bazaar. Inspired by the wildly colorful markets of the Morocco, the studio will transform into an exhilarating venue for affordable hand crafted goods. Here's a chance to spend your money on gifts that support the community, sustain the environment and satisfy your taste buds all at once. With live music, bodywork samples and other suprises, this promises to be your most surprising and exhilarating shopping outing this year!

We still have space for a few more vendors, so if you would like to sell your goods at the bazaar please contact us at info@forceandflow.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vote on Veggies Soup of the Month, and get some for FREE tomorrow!

I meant to post this earlier but the day got away from me - if you're reading before midnight, click over to the Veggies Natural Juice Bar website and vote on your favorite vegan soup. The winning soup will be available for FREE tomorrow (Wednesday - Thanksgiving Eve) at Veggies on Franklin (between Lincoln and St. Johns), so stop by for your free cup. As of a few hours ago, Lentil with Kale and Vegetables (pictured above) was in the lead.

It's worth noting that Veggies has recently started serving food all day, every day, and this blogger has yet to be disappointed. Check them out tomorrow for a sample of Crown Heights home cooking before you head out for the holiday!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Links

(photo credit: Adams IV, New York Daily News)

- Franklin Avenue's most colorful grocer, Tony Fisher, made international headlines this week by brewing up a 10-shot espresso drink at his coffee shop, the Pulp and the Bean. The NY Daily News, which has been good to Fisher over the years, broke the story, but other news outlets picked it up quickly, including Britain's Telegraph, which ran an article about the "Dieci" in their "Weird" section next to stories about an armless pianist and a farmer giving ganja to his ducks.

- As posted by Nat earlier this week, Tony also announced at the CHCA meeting that Fisher's will close will close for renovations in January, but that in the meantime he'll be stocking up for the holidays and welcomes any suggestions from local shoppers.

- Speaking of the CHCA, if you missed their meeting on Tuesday, click over to their website for information about credit opportunities in Crown Heights.

- In addition to credit opportunities, local entrepreur Sei Shiroma is offering resume-improvement services for locals seeking new jobs. His information and rates are below, but note that he's offering a sliding scale, so don't shy away if you don't have the cash!

Franklin Avenue Resumes
run by Sei Shiroma - English graduate and freelance editor - offers consulting, reviews, and revisions for most types of professional resumes. Fees will be determined on a case-by-case basis but clients can expect $50-$100 for a revision and $200 for an entire written-from-scratch resume.

To date, all of Sei's clients have excitedly gone on job interviews and happily accepted offers since their resume revamping - noteworthy placements include Pfizer, Grey Advertising, and ESL teacher in Korea. Consider Franklin Avenue resumes for your next career move. Email FranklinAvenueResumes {at} gmail {dot} com for more details.

- Finally, the Crown Heights Writing Workshop (of which this blogger is a proud alumnus) now has a blog, courtesy of workshop founder and leader Victoria Cho, a fabulous local writer who's appeared at past editions of the Franklin Park Reading Series.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Anti-Gun Violence Films and Discussion Tonight

From Save Our Streets Crown Heights and the Kings County Cinema Society, at 7pm tonight at LaunchPad:

We are proud to be partnering with several great local orgs this week to present a night of films and discussion about gun violence in our streets... Thursday evening at LaunchPad.

We are joining with Save Our Streets, a project of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center; Downtown Community Television; New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; American Friends Service Committee; and our gracious host, LaunchPad, on this important event.

Short films include:
- A Harlem Mother (2009, 10min) director Ivana Todorovic's award-winning documentary
- Playguns, by local filmmakers Michael Pinckney and Taj Lewis
- Holding Up, by Wyatt Maker and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, based in Park Slope
- Benny Lyde: A Role Model Dies Young, by DCTV Filmworks
- Halt, by DCTV Filmworks
... and more. with introductions by filmmakers and producers

Shorts curated by Nick Shimkin. Big thanks to Beyond Bullets, DCTV's ongoing media campaign to address gun violence in US cities.

Following this program (45-50min) our partner organizations will host a panel discussion about solutions and responses to recent shootings.

Panelists include:
- Lisa Jones, Save Our Streets coordinator
- Shaina Harrison, Youth Director, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
- S.O.S. outreach workers
- more to be announced

This one is free and open to all. Please pass on this info to activists, your friends, your kids, your neighbors.
This is an event for the community, not for policy makers.

Thursday, 11/18, 7pm at LaunchPad, 721 Franklin Ave. btw Park and Sterling. 2/3/4/5 to Franklin Ave

For more: Eroll Louis on efforts to curb violence in Brooklyn and the formation of S.O.S. Crown Heights in the Daily News

More shorts (less sobering ones) and a feature next Wednesday at LaunchPad- our regularly scheduled slot.
And new venues coming soon, keep ears to the ground.

Hope you can make this one; will be an informative and productive evening.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

March On Over to the CHCA Meeting Tonight

Remember that Medgar Evers College Preparatory School Marching Band, the East Coast Ocean of Soul? Well, they made it to DC - watch them perform at the national championships above (ILFA has a soft spot for MECPS because I used to help out with their middle school track team)!

Also, don't forget tonight's (Tuesday's) Crow Hill Community Association Meeting, which will focus on credit opportunities in and around Crown Heights. Representatives from People's Federal Credit Union and Banco Popular will be in attendance. Swing by LaunchPad (721 Franklin between Park and Sterling) at 7:30pm to learn more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crown Heights Has a New Bookstore

(Photo from Hawthorne Street, who covered the opening of Daddy's Basement back in September)

From Penina Roth, host of the Franklin Park Reading Series and promoter of all things literary in Crown Heights comes this guest post:

In September Luc and Shara Josaphat fulfilled a long-held dream when they opened Daddy’s Basement, a cozy bookstore on Rogers Avenue. With floor to ceiling windows and bookcase-lined walls, the shop brightens an otherwise drab strip of shuttered storefronts, bodegas, salons, and street side churches.

Daddy’s Basement was named in honor of Shara’s father, who turned his Brooklyn basement into an informal restaurant and neighborhood gathering spot. As Shara explains, “It comes from the idea of living in my father’s space – I wanted to recreate that in the mode of literature.” Even in design the bookstore echoes her childhood sanctuary – the long black sales counter mimics the bar in her father’s café.

The 30-something husband and wife owners have strong ties to Medgar Evers College – Luc graduated last year with a degree in English and Shara is now a senior, majoring in cross-cultural literature. Fittingly, last Thursday, the college’s Center for Black Literature premiered their new reading series at Daddy’s Basement.

The first installment of the John Oliver Killens Reading Series, named for the Pulitzer Prize-nominated African American fiction writer, showcased three debut authors – Angelenos Ernessa T. Carter (32 Candles) and Tanya Wright (Butterfly Rising), and Clinton Hill’s Tiphanie Yanique (How to Escape from a Leper Colony).

When the Center’s Assistant Director, Clarence Reynolds, opened the evening, he noted that, with the closing of Bed-Stuy’s Brownstone Books, Daddy’s Basement is now one of only two black-owned bookstores in New York City (the other one is the Hue-Man Bookstore & Café in Harlem).

The three authors read gripping excerpts from their books and, in an extended q&a session, discussed their craft, influences, and the creative process.

In the coming months, Daddy’s Basement will be hosting several high profile authors, including Darin Strauss (Half a Life) and Ben Greenman (Celebrity Chekhov). (Author’s note: Greenman wowed a Crown Heights audience last week at the Franklin Park Reading Series.)

Dr. Brenda Greene, director of the Center for Black Literature, praised the Josaphats. “You’re fulfilling the mission of Medgar Evers to be transformative agents within yourselves and the community by giving back.” Highlighting the business risk, she added, “You’re not going to make money selling books, but you’re pursuing your passion, which is important to do in life.” Daddy’s Basement is located at 327 Rogers Avenue, between Montgomery Street and Sullivan Place. They’re open Monday-Saturday, 11-7, and 12-7 on Sundays. 347-770-8114

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Love For LaunchPad

LaunchPad in Crown Heights, Brooklyn from Becky Bratu on Vimeo.

There are a lot of great things to say about the work Mike and the gang are doing at LaunchPad, which hosts everything from CHCA meetings to NYFA exhibitions. For a peek into their vision and way they operate, check out this great audio slideshow from the Brooklyn Ink.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Save Our Streets Crown Heights Activities Today and Tomorrow

Sorry for the late notice on this - be sure to check out SOS Crown Heights' great work here, as well as the work of their sister org, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, here.

Dear Friends of the S.O.S. Crown Heights and Crown Heights Mediation Center programs,
Sadly, there were two shootings this past week in the 77th Precinct. One occurred on November 5th, at Troy Avenue and St.Johns Place, and one occurred on November 7th, in Brower Park. With these two shootings we've now experienced 66 shootings in our neighborhood since January 2010.
S.O.S. Crown Heights organizes a shooting response for every single shooting we learn about in the 77th Precinct. During a shooting response, we make the statement that these shootings and killings are unacceptable. They last approximately 30 minutes and acknowlege the tragedy of the violence and send a hopeful message that together we can transform the community. Please help us stop the spread of violence. We want to make Crown Heights a safer and healthier neighborhood for everyone- a place where shooting a gun is simply never even considered.
Please note the times and locations for the two responses:
Date: Thursday, November 11th, 2010 (Veteran's Day)
Time: 3:00pm
Location: Troy Avenue and St. John's Place
Date: Friday, November 12th, 2010
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Kingston Avenue and Park Place
Also upcoming, we are screening several anti-gun violence films made by local filmmakers and holding a discussion about what we can do to transform the community.
Date: Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Time: 7:00pm
Location: LaunchPad, 721 Franklin Avenue
Co-sponsors: DCTV, Kings County Cinema Society, American Friends Service Committee, LaunchPad, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and S.O.S. Crown Heights
To stay up to date on our current activities I urge you to subscribe to our blog atsoscrownheights.blogspot.com and follow us on Facebook.

The Pawn Shop Returns, Nam's Builds Their Empire

Ho-ly schnikes. Did you think the pawn shop was dead and buried? Seemed like it, right? After a sizeable community protest and clear evidence of a zoning violation, the signs came down and all was quiet. But today, the owners announced that they're back like Jason Voorhees, with their pawn shop re-animated as a "jewelery shop" that also buys gold and electronics. The kicker? In a big F-U to the Crow Hill Community Association, who led the charge against them, the new place is called "Crow Hill Jewelery." The Department of Buildings can't come out and investigate the zoning until they're actually open, but they are looking into the construction complaint that was made earlier.

Meanwhile, the CHCA's next meeting is this coming Tuesday, and they'll be focusing on improving access to credit in Crown Heights. Come by LaunchPad at 7:30pm on the 16th.

In other news, Nam's new "sushi" place is looking closer and closer to opening in the old Nairobi's Knapsack space. I spoke with the owners two nights ago, and they'll be keeping their current location open for fresh produce while moving dry and packaged goods to the new shop, where they'll also have coffee and sushi bars. Perhaps this will finally allow them to widen their comically narrow aisles in the old place.

Help Crown Heights High School Students Win a National Championship

I'm behind the news this week, but as covered on WPIX-11 (video above) and NY1 and written up in the Daily News (this link is worth a click), the Medgar Evers College Preparatory School Marching Band has been invited to compete in the national championships in Atlanta, but since the NYC DOE doesn't have the funds to send them, they're trying to raise $35,000 by Saturday (I don't think ILFA has a particularly affluent readership, but if someone with that kind of cash lying around is reading, get on this!). The "East Coast Ocean of Soul" is one of the many initiatives that have made Medgar Evers a top-performing, nationally-recognized public high school right here in Crown Heights.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Good Things in Crown Heights

(via Nostrand Park: Video of the clean-up day done by high school students from First Take NYC under the guidance of a New York Times reporter)

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Clean Up Crown Heights Day on Saturday. By all accounts, the event was a big success, and the CHCA and Nostrand Park deserve a ton of credit for organizing. Remember them when the Avenues (Franklin and Nostrand) are blooming this spring!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Franklin Park Reading Series Tomorrow

The Franklin Park Reading Series returns tomorrow at 8pm. Swing by Franklin Park at 8pm for $4 beers and readings from a fantastic collection of established and up-and-coming writers. See below for the complete lineup, and if you're in the neighborhood earlier, stop off at LaunchPad first for the opening of "Identity - Masked and Unmasked" at 6pm, part of the NYFA Boot Camp Arts Festival.

The Franklin Park Reading Series is incredibly honored to host literary master RICK MOODY, author of the iconic novel The Ice Storm, several collections of stories and novellas, a memoir, and four other novels, including, most recently, The Four Fingers of Death. The Wall Street Journal calls him "one of the most prodigiously talented writers in America." He also has incredible stage presence, as this video of him reading his classic story "Boys" and an excerpt of his current novel clearly demonstrates:

New Yorker editor BEN GREENMAN is an acclaimed fiction innovator and literary humorist. Along with his demanding day job, he's produced five story collections and a novel. His most recent work, Celebrity Chekhov, is a hilarious and poignant mash-up of classic Chekhovian tales with today's tabloid characters. Remarkably, Greenman reveals the inner lives of Britney, Paris, Tiger Woods, Sarah Palin, and many more paparazzi favorites.

Novelist MONIQUE TRUONG, born in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was evacuated to the U.S. by the American military. Her first novel, the Book of Salt, received the New York Public Library's prestigious Young Lions Fiction Award, and her current book, Bitter in the Mouth, was hailed as "a beautifully written, complex story of self-discovery" by The Boston Globe.

Storyteller and comedian LESLIE GOSHKO, a Manhattan Monologue Slam Champion, is a creator of Sideshow Goshko, a frequent Time Out Critics Pick and recipient of numerous rave reviews.

Writer JENNY D. WILLIAMS received the 2010 Ross Feld Award from Brooklyn College, where she is currently pursuing her MFA.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Help Clean Up Crown Heights Tomorrow!

Sorry for the late notice, but there's a great neighborhood event tomorrow being led by the CHCA and Nostrand Park to clean up Franklin and Nostrand. Details below and at the NP site.

Saturday November 6th @ 10:AM at Park Place and Franklin Avenue

Join your neighbors as we plant daffodil bulbs on Franklin Avenue and the front of the Garden. In the spring, watch the flowers that we planted bloom!

From10:00 a.m. to noon, volunteers will loosen soil in tree pits and plant boxes & plant daffodil bulbs

Wear clothing and shoes that you don't mind getting some dirt on.
if you can, bring:
a hand cultivator
a trowel
a bulb borer
anything else that's useful for digging and planting
extra gardening tools, if you have them, for your neighbors to use.

Please RSVP to stacey{at}crowhillcommunity{dot}org so that I know how many people are committed.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Makeover on the way for Tivoli Towers

Last February, the Brooklyn Historical Society opened "Tivoli: A Place We Call Home," a multimedia exhibition curated by Delphine Fawundu on Tivoli Towers at 49 Crown Street, the area's largest building. The exhibit told the story of the 35-year old apartment complex and focused on the challenges faced by residents whose units were falling into disrepair on account of the landlord's neglect. Talks were initiated to sell the 33-story, 320 unit building, but this raised concern that the Mitchell-Lama protections that kept rents affordable would be lost and residents would be forced out.

Over the past few days, however, the big NYC papers have reported a surprising resolution to the situation: Laurence Gluck, a controversial real estate mogul with a record of clashing with tenants groups and affordable housing advocates, has purchased the building in partnership with the city. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a good explanatory article today about the structure and consequences of the deal, which will keep the building the Mitchell-Lama program until 2040 and only allow rents to rise according to a city-structured formula. Given Gluck's checkered history of trying to drive low-paying tenants from his buildings in order to flip units for market rates, housing advocates may still be wary, but with the city involved and Mitchell-Lama participation secured for the next 30 years, it seems safe to call this a victory for affordable housing and a hedge against displacement on Franklin Avenue.

LaunchPad Supports NYFA Boot Camp Arts Festival

(Editor's note: What follows is a press release concerning Franklin Avenue's own LaunchPad and the work they're doing in association with the New York Foundation for the Arts to promote the arts in Brooklyn. Check these events out starting today and running through the 20th of this month)

Pictured above (featured artworks)
El Conquistador - La Caminata -
Shaun El C. Leonardo
Identity -
Dionis Ortiz
Grain Terminal -
Ryan Murdock
Mouth Wide Open -
Rachel Selekman

LaunchPad Plays Major Role in New Arts Festival

Without the support of LaunchPads Mike Kunitzky, a new arts festival showcasing work by 38 artists of all disciplines—many of them Brooklynites from Bushwick, Fort Greene, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Red Hook, East New York, Brooklyn Heights and Boreum Hill—might never have come together. From November 8 – 20, LaunchPad is partnering with the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a major player in New York’s cultural world, to present a series of arts events. They’re part of the new "NYFA Boot Camp Arts Festival," named for a business-training program in which the 38 participating artists took part last summer. The festival, which kicks off this Thursday, November 4, at the NYFA gallery in DUMBO, consists of edgy and fresh theater, dance and music performances; art exhibits; artist talks; multimedia projects; and poetry readings. Here’s what’s on offer at LaunchPad (click here to find out what’s happening at the other festival venues in Brooklyn and those across the river):

“Identity: Masked and Unmasked,” a group show that runs from November 8 – 27 (free) and is curated by artist Rachel Selekman. Melanie Baker, Margarida Correia, Shaun El C. Leonardo and Dionis Ortiz are the visual and performance artists who explore issues of identity in their work. A free opening reception happens on the 8th from 6-8pm; there is an artist talk about the show on the 17th at 7pm (also free).

“The Artist as Documentarian: Three Perspectives” on Thursday, November 11, at 7pm (free). Documentarian Ryan Murdock presents “Grain/ Terminal (or how to build a useless building that lasts forever),” a multimedia essay about the abandoned Red Hook Grain Terminal, a monument to Brooklyn’s industrial past. Actress/director Katy Rubin presents “It Could Happen to You,” a work developed and performed by 12 homeless men and women who are members of Theatre of the Oppressed, a new acting company formed by Rubin as a medium for communal problem-solving. And playwright/actress Rosanna Plasencia presents her solo piece “Growing a Hispanic in the Bronx” about the difficulty of reconciling opposing cultural forces—in her case, the heritage of her immigrant parents, the worldview of her Euro-focused schoolteachers, and the culture of the streets.

“Words, Music and Moving Pictures” on Saturday, November 13, at 7pm (free), brings back documentarian Ryan Murdock with another multimedia essay. In “Project: Butte, America” Murdock narrates his combination folk-history-and-cautionary tale about Butte’s mining past and its questionable legacy. Poet Liliana Almendarez reads new poems and pieces from her book, A Scorched Page (lulu.com), while fellow poet Wanda Phipps reads from Wake-Up Calls: 66 Morning Poems (Soft Skull Press), Field of Wanting: Poems of Desire (BlazeVOX[books]) and Silent Picture Recognize the World, a collection-in-process. Stephen B. Antonakos, a frequent collaborator, accompanies her with original compositions performed on the guitar.

In “Song + Dance” on Saturday, November 20, at 7pm (free)—the final night of the festival—soprano Gretchen Farrar performs Spanish and English songs for voice and guitar. Ranging from Renaissance to Contemporary in style, they include pieces by Dowland, Sor, Lorca, Cordero and Brouwer. Filmmaker Michelle Chai offers not a film, but a celebration of . . . salsa. It was Chai’s passion for the dance form that led her to develop a salsa-inspired clothing line as a way to support her filmmaking, an idea she developed into a business plan at the NYFA business-training program that gave birth to the NYFA Boot Camp Arts Festival.

The NYFA Boot Camp Arts Festival, an outgrowth of the New York Foundation for the ArtsNYFA Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp, is both an opportunity for participating writers, visual artists, filmmakers and performers to showcase their work and a chance for them to put into practice the entrepreneurial skills acquired during the Boot Camp. Created to help artists become financially independent, the Boot Camp helped 55 men and women working in all artistic disciplines develop the marketing, funding, financial and promotional skills needed to increase income from their work.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Don't forget to vote today - polls are open from 6AM - 9PM. Remember, also, to turn your paper ballot over to answer the two NYC referendum questions on term limits and campaign finance transparency.

The Brooklyn Ink has a nice "state of the borough" election report up here that gets at many of the local issues at stake.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two Years of Commercial Development on Franklin

In last week's blog-birthday post, I casually mentioned that nearly 20 business had opened on or near Franklin between Eastern and Atlantic, since I Love Franklin Ave got started, prompting blogger Queer in the City to ask for a more specific rundown of which stores were new and which ones had closed. In the wake of the debates about gentrification and access to jobs at new businesses that was spawned by the pawn shop fight (there's a nice summary article on the Brooklyn Ink), it seems as good a time to take stock of the changing face of the Avenue. The following lists were compiled with this in mind, so let me know if I've missed anything - the short version is that 21 new businesses have opened their doors since the summer of 2008, with another 7 coming soon. 17 businesses have undergone (or are undergoing) some type of renovation, and 15 business (including 2 new ones and 2 renovated ones) have closed. The vast majority of this action has taken place in the four-block stretch between Eastern and Park Place (18 new business, 4 coming soon, 12 renovations, and 14 closings). For specifics and some analysis, read on:

21 New Businesses (Since Summer 2008, working north from Eastern):
The Pulp and The Bean
JamRock Kitchen
Mazon Discount
Brooklyn Inkspot (the one next to Dutch Boy)
Dutch Boy Burger
The Breukelen Coffee House
Franklin Park
Nairobi's Knapsack (now closed)
Salon (don't know the name) at Sterling and Franklin
Lily & Fig
First Impressions Dental
Alternative Healing
MySpace Realty
BNI Express Laundromat
Community Pawn (now closed)
The Pana Store
A Slice of Brooklyn
Oaxaca Taco
The Laundromat in the Jewish Hospital (on St. Marks)

7 Coming Soon:
Wood Oven Pizza
Sushi (where Nairobi's Knapsack was)
Chavella's (new store on Franklin)
724 Franklin (new bar/restaurant from Franklin Park owners)
Thai (in the former Happy Wok space)
Wine Shop (also from the FP owners)
Supermarket (in the Jewish Hospital on St. Marks)

17 Renovations and Expansions (done, planned, or in progress):
Golden Chopsticks
Franklin Express Laundry
Franklin Park (the big bar)
Breukelen Coffee House (the back room)
Nam's (forever rearranging/renovating)
About Time (repainted the facade a few times)
J&B Deli (now closed, soon to be Chavella's)
J's Wong (used to be Happy Wok, moved, but the same guys)
Homage (now closed on account of that fire)
Franklin Express Deli
Bombay Masala (opened a garden)
Preschool (mural and some indoor work)
Franklyn Deli
Sushi Tatsu (new awning, Thai menu)

15 Closed:
Scarlet Ribbons Thrift Shop
790 Franklin (I think it was an electronics place)
Diana's Desserts (now Inkspot, may have moved to Washington)
The Spice is Right (soon to be Wood Oven Pizza)
Nairobi's Knapsack (soon to be Sushi)
King Accessory (now a salon)
J&B Deli (soon to be Chavella's)
Off the Hook Communications
El Baron Grocery (soon to be 724 bar/restaurant)
Community Pawn
West Indian Cafe (now J's Wong)
Saje (actually closed just before I got here, now the Pana Store)
Homage (fire)
Muslim Bookshop (fire)
Insurance (now Oaxaca Taco)

I'm curious what observations readers have about the trends documented above, but to lead into discussion, a few observations:

- Gentrification is very clearly at work here, and yet, not everything conforms to the expected trends. Certainly the replacement of The Spice is Right with a Wood Oven Pizza place, or the disappearance of a bodega (El Baron) to make way for bar (724) is illustrative of the ways in which the local population is changing and how landlords and entrepreneurs are catering to certain tastes. That said, businesses like Saje and Nairobi's Knapsack couldn't make it, while plenty of new ones that aren't typically associated with gentrification (Mazon's new spot, the Pana Store, etc) are thriving. This isn't to suggest that gentrification is somehow less problematic or less of a trend, but just to highlight that it's one of many forces acting on the local commercial scene.

- Talking with a local merchant about businesses opening and closing this week, I got the sense that despite the rash of new openings, as he put it "a lot of people aren't doing too well." He suggested that two things are at work here - the first is that landlords are upping rents for commercial spaces since demand for them has grown, but secondly, new arrivals haven't provided the customer base some stores expected, largely because lots of them don't shop locally. One of the attractions of local businesses is that, in theory, they're more responsive to customer needs than big chains or well-established outlets, but this only works if people are willing a) to shop there and b) to provide feedback to improve these places. In order for businesses, new and old, to survive in what are still tough economic times, they need active customers.

- Commercial turnover is only part of the story: while I think the lists above are helpful, they'd be much more useful set side-by-side with information about residential turnover, particularly since the biggest problem with gentrification, and the thing that creates the most fear, anger, tension, and resentment, is residential displacement. It's worth noting that three big residential projects are complete or nearing completion on Franklin, two of which (the Ishi Condos and the expanded Jewish Hospital rentals) will likely be agents of increased demographic change and one of which (the city-sponsored St. Mark's Gardens) is intended as an anchor for affordable housing in the area.

- That said, commercial displacement acts as both an agent and symbol of change. Practically speaking, the cost of living increases when certain businesses arrive and certain ones leave, and community gathering places can be lost as well. Symbolic changes matter, too - people feel alienated and frustrated when their home stops looking like home. To capture all of these things, check out this comment from a post earlier this week. There are a lot of people, new and old, who are excited about the ways in which the Avenue is growing and changing, but there are discontents, too, and they're part of the picture of neighborhood change. In closing, then I'd pose a question I posed last year in a similar post - what, if there are any, are the best strategies for making changes (and changes are inevitable) serve the widest portion of the neighborhood possible?