Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Support Your Small Businesses and Local Artisans This Saturday

I realize last weekend was the big-time shopping weekend, but I skipped that (if I wanted to get pepper-sprayed, I'd just go down to Zuccotti). However, ILFA still needs to get some gifts for friends and family, and given the handle of this blog, local gifts are the order of the day. For those in a similar boat, some suggestions:

- Check out the Built in Brooklyn Craft Fair (flyer above) from 12-6pm on Saturday at LaunchPad. They've got great items from local craftspeople, including cards and other goodies from Planet Ert, which are also available at Lily and Fig during the week (as pictured above). 

- If you haven't been inside lately, Owl and Thistle General Store keeps adding great new stuff, and Time Out New York just put them on their list of "Ten Best New Gift Shops." Here's what the TONY folks had to say:

Owl and Thistle General Store
If you want to practice responsible consumption this holiday season, Keri Cavanaugh’s eco-friendly spot is the place to go. A diverse selection of environmentally sustainable and direct- or fair trade products that are perfect for your green-minded comrades fill the quaint store’s wooden shelves. Anna Built houndstooth earrings made from vintage tin cans ($28) and Webbedware reversible geometric pendant necklaces ($48) will satisfy the green-minded jewelry lover. Foodies will appreciate McClure’s Bloody Mary mix ($9), organic Taza Mexican chocolate discs ($5), or salt and pepper shakers affixed to old Matchbox cars ($14). Impress your dad with a Paradise Body Shop wooden shave set ($35), and make sure to grab a roll of Elum driftwood-patterned gift wrap ($8) to prettify all of your holiday offerings. 720 Franklin Ave between Park and Sterling Pls, Crown Heights, Brooklyn (347-469-0432,

- Pick up some old-timey candy for stocking stuffers at The Candy Rush, just to get Dad going about the candy store in his old neighborhood where whatever you got him cost a nickel . . .

- Finally, over on Classon, Park Delicatessen never disappoints for unique local gifts. Some examples below:

Its beginning to look and smell a lot like the holiday season around here. Lights all along Washington ave, fresh cut cedar and holly in the shop this morning.

Here are some gift ideas that will inspire any kid, young or old to create something.

Valentine Paper Dolls
Each paper doll comes with 15 items of clothing that make over 20 outfits.
Add your own color and designs to totally customize.
All of the clothing is Valentine's most popular designs from previous collections.
Packaged in a sturdy reusable envelope.
Hand made and designed in house.

Graffiti Train coloring book
Back for it`s 3rd year. One of our most popular items
Features 14 Pages of freight trains to do your art on.
Spiral bound on durable 110lb stock.
Park Delicatessen exclusive

Salad Bar Taking Shape

It's not a great photo, but the salad bar in the former Brooklyn Inkspot space on Franklin just south of Park is taking shape quickly. Announced at the October CHCA meeting, the place will have all manner of veggie delights. Anyone have any word on when they're slated to open? A salad would be great after a weekend of heavy eating . . .

Friday, November 25, 2011

Built in Brooklyn Craft Fair Saturday

If you're looking to shop this weekend, skip the manic Black Friday stampedes and spend tomorrow recovering and enjoying a martini at the new Barboncino bar. The get up on Saturday and head for the Built in Brooklyn Craft Fair at LaunchPad, where you can score fantastic goodies from local merchants from 12-6pm.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Storefront Stuff: LaunchPad, Park Deli, Barboncino

(RAFT at LaunchPad, Fall Centerpieces from Park Delicatessen)

LaunchPad's been ringing in the Thanksgiving holiday with morning performances of "Observer Observed: An Abstract Occupation" from RAFT this week. They also announced last week that they're now home to a yoga worker cooperative that will be providing regular classes from Sunday - Wednesday morning, noon, and night on a sliding scale ($7-15 per class), with work-study options available as well for those with limited cash flow.

Over on Classon, Park Delicatessen has great fall centerpieces - if you're a Thanksgiving guest, skip the umpteenth bottle of wine and get some killer flowers for your hosts.

And for all those who'd rather sip than shop on Black Friday, Barboncino has just announced that their bar opens Friday

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Links

(Franklin the Turkey at the Prospect Park Zoo, Sixpoint Comes to Bob & Betty's)

 - Great to see so many people from the neighborhood out marching yesterday. The Avenue was well-represented out there.

- It was fun, also, to come home to free samples from Sixpoint Brewery at Bob & Betty's last night.

- The Prospect Park Zoo has a turkey named FRANKLIN! Incredible. You can see Franklin (named for Benjamin Franklin - as the Avenue, presumably, is as well - who suggested the wild turkey as our national bird) at the Zoo this weekend and next, if you're looking for some kid-friendly entertainment.

- Finally, if you're doing Thanksgiving locally and want to keep things healthy and tasty, let Juice Hugger Cafe help you out. The new natural foods spot on Rodgers has a complete meal and/or sides (all vegetarian) available for delivery on Turkey Day. See the flyer below or head to their website for more details.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Everywhere Thursday

(The faces of New York City policing - Ray Kelly looking like a Bond villain while clearing Liberty Square and a "white shirt" on the rampage during Tuesday morning's purge, via the NYTimes)

To commemorate the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and in response to the Bloomberg-ordered police raid on Liberty Square (which included the direct disobedience of a court order and has reduced a "public space" to a heavily-garrisoned police park), there is a huge slate of events planned for tomorrow around the city. Complete information can be found here for the whole city, and here for Brooklyn in particular.

There are hundreds of good reasons to take part tomorrow, but if you're sitting in Crown Heights and you need a reason to go, I offer these two:

1. We read a lot about how fast Crown Heights is changing/gentrifying/revitalizing/etc (on this blog as much as anywhere), but the fact remains that newcomers and longtime residents alike are hardly plutocrats. Walking down Franklin yesterday, I passed a woman who was saying to her friends, "I was priced out of Fort Greene, I was priced out of Clinton Hill, and pretty soon, I'll be priced out of this neighborhood." Moreover, regardless of whether you've been in Crown Heights 4 days or 40 years, you can't miss the ugly specter of massive inequality and a broken-to-nonexistent social safety net in Crown Heights, largely because Bloomberg et al have been all too happy to push poverty to the boroughs so that places like Zuccotti Park can remain spotless. It's an issue that affects all of us here, and it's one that the powers that be are only too happy to ignore unless its right under their noses, as it will be tomorrow.

2.. Police brutality (see the 2nd photo above) is an enormous problem in communities in Brooklyn, including Crown Heights. It's sad that it takes an occupation of a park near Wall Street to draw city- and nationwide attention to New York's paramilitary policing when city residents have been dealing with it on a daily basis for years, but still, it's good to have the issue on the table, as it most certainly will be tomorrow.

Local Happenings: Sixpoint at Bob & Betty's, Block Association Meeting at Sushi Tatsu, Searching for Soccer Coaches

(Staropramen visits Bob & Betty's last Friday)

- The Dean Street Block Association meets tonight (Wednesday) at 7pm at Sushi Tatsu (609 Franklin Avenue). Be sure to swing by if you're in the area!

- Bob & Betty's has started hosting evening beer tastings, and on Thursday night they welcome Brooklyn's own Sixpoint Brewery to Franklin Avenue. The brews start flowing at 6pm. They'll also bet getting pies from Blue Duck Bakery in next week, just in time for the holiday season to start.

- Calling all athletically-inclined souls: Do you want to coach soccer or flag football in a local league for Crown Heights kids? Get in touch with the folks at Seeds in the Middle (more info below).

We are now looking also for soccer and flag football coaches, starting end of November.
Location: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 3/4 trains to Kingston or Utica Avenues.

Flag Football:
Wednesdays and Fridays: 3:15 to 5:15 pm
Sundays 11-1 pm

Soccer (starting December) - especially girls
Mon/Wed: 3:15 to 6
Sundays: Assistant Coach (great community service for high schools) 10:30 to 12:30
12:00 to 2 pm: Girls only - lead female coach needed

Pay negotiable.
Can you help get the word out?
All volunteers welcome  as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CHCA Meeting Tonight

It's time, once again, for the Crow Hill Community Association Meeting. See you tonight at 7:30 at the Gospel Tabernacle Church (725 Franklin Ave). More info at the CHCA site.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Missing Children In Brooklyn

Two readers have contacted me recently about missing children in Brooklyn. The flyer above appeared on the C Train platform at the end of last week, and the information below was forwarded to me today. If you have any information about either of these young women, please contact the relevant authorities.

My daughter's friend and our neighbor's granddaughter Allie Loftis ran away from her home in Boston and took a bus to NYC last friday. She has been missing over a week now, but was spotted by police on video on wednesday in times square, and possibly also by a store assistant in Barnes and Noble on 7th avenue in Brooklyn.

Her family are searching NYC looking for her all day and night, and I'm trying to spread the word, especially in Brooklyn as that is the neighborhood she knows best, having visited her grandparents here often, and spent time with my daughter Soledad.

Pictures and contacts are on the following:
and more info at:

Please keep a look out for her, and if you see her try and talk to her and let her know how worried her family is, or take a photo of her and email it to or call the New York City Missing Persons squad at 212-694-7781.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Readings Tonight (Monday): Electric Literature at the Franklin Park Reading Series

The Franklin Park Reading Series is teaming up with Electric Literature tonight at 8pm for what's sure to be a night to remember, even by Reading Series standards. Complete info from their FB page is below.

The FRANKLIN PARK READING SERIES is teaming up with the innovative literary magazine ELECTRIC LITERATURE for a stellar night of readings, animated films, and our first-ever dance party! We'll be showcasing five ELECTRIC LITERATURE contributors: two favorite FRANKLIN PARK alumni, Colson Whitehead and Ben Greenman, as well as Jim Shepard, Steve Edwards, and Matt Sumell.

As always, the fun is FREE and we'll have a $4 pint drink special.

SUBWAY: 2/3/4/5 to Franklin Avenue


JIM SHEPARD (You Think That’s Bad, Like You’d Understand Anyway)
COLSON WHITEHEAD (Zone One, Sag Harbor)
BEN GREENMAN (Celebrity Chekhov, What He’s Poised to Do)
STEVE EDWARDS (Breaking Into the Backcountry)
MATT SUMELL (Electric Literature, Noon)

JIM SHEPARD is the author of six novels and four story collections, including, most recently, You Think That’s Bad. His third collection, Like You’d Understand, Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize. His short fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Esquire, Granta, and other publications, and he was a columnist on film for The Believer. Four of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, and his story “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You,” published in Electric Literature No. 1, won a 2011 O. Henry Jury Prize. He teaches at Williams College and lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts with his family.

COLSON WHITEHEAD is the author of the new novel Zone One, as well as the novels Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, and Apex Hides the Hurt. He has also written a book of essays about his hometown, The Colossus of New York, and his reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's, Granta, and other publications. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Whiting Writers Award, he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in New York City.

BEN GREENMAN is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Please Step Back, and, most recently, What He’s Poised to Do and Celebrity Chekhov. His fiction, essays, and journalism have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and Opium Magazine, and he has been widely anthologized. He lives in Brooklyn.

STEVE EDWARDS is the author of the memoir Breaking Into the Back Country, the story of his seven months in solitude as the caretaker of a remote mountain homestead along the Rogue River in Oregon. His fiction has most recently appeared in AGNI Online, The Silk Road Review, and Bellingham Review. He is working on a new nonfiction book about his grandfather’s appearance on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1942.

MATT SUMELL is currently finishing up his first collection of stories, tentatively titled Making Nice. His short fiction has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, Noon, Electric Literature, and elsewhere.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy Brooklyn, Occupy Your Block This Weekend

Occupy Brooklyn has a big weekend of events planned to highlight economic inequality in the borough, and to connect residents to the worldwide movement that started just across the bridges. More info below:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Opening Night at The Crown Inn, Beer @ Bob & Betty's Tonight

The Crown Inn, the latest effort from Matt and Toly (of Franklin Park fame), opened with a fantastic party last night (reviews are trickling in, perhaps as people get up, on Brooklynian). The place, which they've been working on for over a year, is gorgeous, with a warm interior (lots of brick, wood, and dark subway tiles) and a surprisingly spacious back garden. Some of my hazy photos are above, and you can see better shots in a slideshow from New York Magazine's Grub Street blog, which gave the place a nice advance write-up. While the place is certainly well-appointed, it's not only a high-end cocktail-and-oyster bar. They've got twelve beers and four wines on draft for $4-7, and a wide range of liquor, including 40 bourbons, behind the bar for $6-9. Food service from a pint-sized kitchen space at the back will start soon, with grilled cheese, chips, cheese plates, charcuterie, and yes, eventually, oysters. Still, the place retains a cozy, neighborhood-y feel that will make it, for my money, a huge hit.

One thing that warmed my heart last night was the show of support for The Crown Inn on the part of all the other local merchants. There are a lot of neighborhoods popping up new shops around Brooklyn and NYC, but the amount of camaraderie and reciprocity the Franklin Avenue Merchants show one another is seriously special. 

Also, if you didn't get your beer fix last night, Bob & Betty's is having another beer tasting, with Staropramen, tonight at 5pm (Six Point will be stopping by next week, too).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Final Crown Heights Farmers Market of the Season Today

From Seeds in the Middle:

First-Ever Crown Heights Farmers Market - 20 years after riots - holds last market day before winter - Jewish/minority children together beautify park until farmers return!

Central Brooklyn is one of three NYC neighborhoods with the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In response to Gov. Cuomo's Aug. 9 speech announcing Fresh Connect Farmers Markets, a team led by Seeds in the Middle opened the long-desired, first-ever Farmers Market at the corner of Albany/Lefferts Avenues. Although never funded with public monies, the market joyfully has built community among all the neighbors - once tragically torn apart during the Crown Heights riots 20 years ago. It has also spurned an unprecedented soccer program involving children of all the communities, volunteerism and a grassroots, communal movement to create healthy options for all families - affordable, easy access to nutritious food and fitness. We now seek to get lights on the field to expand sports opportunities and an expanded use of public schools for programming for all children - in an underserved neighborhood with limited options for positive, active opportunities.

Farmers Roy Hildebrant of Iona Hill Farm, New Jersey and Jamerican Farmer Rodrick Brown of Long Island have gifted the community with beautiful bounty and peace for 12 weeks, since we opened Sept. 15th. The market has allowed Seeds in the Middle to provide local youth with employment and given all access to another world - farmers - they might otherwise never encounter. The farmers have been generous in donating produce and both have come to visit and share their love of land at PS 221, Seeds in the Middle's first Hip2B Healthy School.

WHEN: Last Day of Market - Thursday, November 10, 1:30 to dark. At 4:30 pm, children plant winter garden inside Hamilton Metz Park

WHERE: Hamilton Metz Park - Lefferts Park, corner of Albany/Lefferts Avenue, Crown Heights, Brooklyn

WHAT: PS 221 classes will visit before 3 pm. At 4:30 pm, children - from young to teens who can handle shovels - will create a winter garden with decorative plants, cabbages and flowers donated by Seeds in the Middle's friends at Home Depot and the farmers themselves (who also bring rich soil from the country)! This is a reminder, that come spring, our farmers will return. And so will spring soccer! Out on the field, Seeds in the Middle lead coach Joe Cabral and our other coaches will lead boys and girls in soccer as others till the soil and install plants unfazed by winter frosts! Also - come tell our elected officials how we want to apply for grants for lights on the field!!!! And get indoor space for winter sports for all children.

WHO: Children from all communities - plus our farmers Roy Hildebrant and his family and Jamerican Farmer Rodrick Brown. They have brought beautiful gifts of health and joy and laughter to Crown Heights!
Guests invited: Special thanks to Sen. Eric Adams, Community Board 9 Chair Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, Linda Laviolette of Empire State Development, Gov. Cuomo's office, Bob Lewis and Jacqueline Follain and Jonathan Thomson of the State Ag and Markets, Denise Thomas and Maria Schumberger of the federal government, Eddie Vargas, Nancy Melissas, Alexander Mezzatesta and Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey of the NYC Parks and Recreation Dept., chef Jack Silberstein, mom Natasha (Nandi) Smith, NYPD Community Affairs Officer Vincent Martinos, former PS 91 Principal Solomon Long and PS 221 Principal Clara Kirkland. And especially our farmers Roy and Rodrick.

It took a lot of work and dedication to create the Crown Heights Farmers Market! Without them, it would not be here.

We hope to see Councilman Matthieu Eugene, Assemblyman Karim Camara, Save Our Streets, 71st Precinct Community Council, the NYPD, the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, among a few of the distinguished members of the community.

We also thank community volunteers, Charlene and Valerie Williams, Ashlee Bedford, Chana Rogatsky, teacher Savitree Williams and our youth marketers, Tavell King and Dina Borrell.

CONTACT: Nancie Katz - 917-697-3745 or Solomon Long 718-753-8932

Seeds in the Middle, named by fourth graders in central Brooklyn, is a not for profit which inspires parents, educators, students and their community to access all the opportunities New York City has to offer, beginning with improving their health, enhancing arts education and greening their environment. We are joyful, respectful, educational and engaging.

Our innovative strategy to fight obesity initiates at public and private elementary, middle and high schools. We weave together an array of proven programs into a comprehensive package to turn around ills driving down opportunity and advancement. We empower and educate all to get healthy and scale educational and social disparities. Our pilot schools are in Crown Heights, a neighborhood with one of the city’s highest obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates.

We teach how to grow, how to market, how to access and prepare nutritious food, how to exercise, how to engage in the arts, all the elements needed to promote life-changing lifelong health. Our partners come from all walks of life: chefs, athletes, educators, artists, builders and more.

Founded by Nancie Katz, a former Daily News investigative reporter ,and retired PS 91 Principal Solomon Long, we cross cultures. We transform gray into green, destitution into inspiration.

Seeds in the Middle needs support to continue. All donations accepted at

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

SOS Crown Heights 101 and The Interrupters TONIGHT

See below regarding tonight's event from SOS Crown Heights, whose critically important work to prevent gun violence has reduced shootings in their catchment area (central Crown Heights) by nearly 60% in the past year. Additionally, ILFA saw "The Interrupters" during SOS's "Week of Peace" a few weeks ago, and it was without a doubt one of the most powerful films I have ever watched. Absolutely incredible.

Dear S.O.S. Supporters,

Please join us on Wednesday 11/9 to learn more about S.O.S. at our "S.O.S. 101" meeting!
Learn more about the philosophy and approach and how you can get involved to stop gun violence in Crown Heights. The meeting will be at the Crown Heights Mediation Center, 256 Kingston Ave (between Lincoln and St. John's), from 5:30-7pm. RSVP by calling 718-773-6886.

Then go see "The Interrupters" at the IFC Center at 9pm! This critically acclaimed documentary profiles the Violence Interrupters of the Chicago CeaseFire project, on which S.O.S. is based.  You can see a trailer of the film and buy tickets online here. You can also buy tickets in-person on the day of the show or in advance at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street in Manhattan, open daily 10:30am–10pm).  If you can't make it to the film festival, it is also showing this week at CineClub at 285 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn. More details are here.

We hope to see you soon. Thank you for all you do for our community!
 - The S.O.S. Team


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Occupy Brooklyn (College) GA Tomorrow

The flyer says it all - come get involved on Wednesday evening at Brooklyn College.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Cops Still Creeping on Crown Heights Rooftops

From an anonymous reader regarding continued bad behavior on the part of local police officers:

I remember a while back people were posting about the police doing random roof searches around Crown Heights.  I live in Crown Heights off Franklin Ave and I've recently had the same problem.  Two cops approached my roommate and me while we were eating dinner on our roof and gave us the option of choosing what fine we wanted, which was a $500 ticket for trespassing on our own roof or an open container ticket for drinking a glass of wine with our meal.  This has happened to several people and I was wondering if you'd be interested in composing some sort of conversation on the blog in regards to the issue?  It seems to be a growing problem in the community and people are starting to feel unsafe about the police intruding on their space without notice and harassing the tenants to get into the building. Any thoughts?

Almost exactly two months ago, ILFA ran a post featuring two reports of similarly unwarranted and illegal police behavior, which provoked a fairly extensive debate on this blog, Brooklynian, and elsewhere. In light of this incident, ILFA's editorial opinion remains the same: this sort of policing is counterproductive and must stop at once. Rather than making neighborhoods safer, such petty harassment creates a culture of mutual distrust between police and communities, making neighborhoods less safe and serious crimes harder to solve. While issuing bogus citations on rooftops is a long way from the worst abuses the NYPD has committed (these include gun running, murder, and the perpetuation, through stop-and-frisk tactics, of what many reasonable people rightly consider Jim Crow policing), these are not isolated incidents. They are small but nonetheless instructive examples of the degree to which the NYPD has come to see the people of New York City not as citizens to serve and protect, but as a subject population to be kept cowed and controlled at nearly any cost, particularly in neighborhoods like Crown Heights.

UPDATE: Zachary Goelman at Epichorus, someone who knows a thing or two about dealing with the NYPD, has posted an excellent rundown of what steps individuals (and organized communities) might take to effect a change in the NYPD's behavior. Essential reading for anyone who's concerned about these incidents.

Since we've already had one go-round of comments about this topic, let me try to anticipate some of the more common criticisms of this perspective, and to explain my position a little bit more in the process:

To the suggestion that this sort of policing is the necessary response to awful incidents (last time around, people cited the Labor Day shootout that killed Denise Gay, and I can only imagine that this time people will point to the rooftop shooting that killed Zurana Horton in Brownsville): 

First, the responsive logic that leads to people calling for the elimination of activities related in some way to a shooting confuses proximity with causality. The West Indian Day Parade did not cause Denise Gay's death, nor did access to rooftops cause Zurana Horton's death. If we ban or criminalize every activity associated with some kind of crime in New York City, we'll be left with very little. Secondly, even if we do believe a heightened risk exists on account of rooftop access, and accept "vertical patrols" as a result, it doesn't follow that tickets for legal, peaceable behavior are in any way preventative. If anything, they're a waste of time and money that could be spent preventing actual crimes that actually threaten people. As several of our elected officials have noted in the context of stop-and-frisks or "zero tolerance," petty harassment is counterproductive in the long haul, making serious crime more difficult to prevent and solve (something I observed as a juror in a homicide case a year and a half ago).

To the tiresome nonsense about how either a) "you hipsters deserve this because you moved to a 'dangerous' neighborhood" or b) "you hipster whiners, there are much bigger things to be worried about, and anyway, the locals have it so much worse": 

Last time around, Brownstoner linked this post with a different photo (featuring two reasonably stereotypical hipsters on a roof somewhere in Brooklyn), engendering most of these comments, and the Observer picked up Brownstoner's link and asked "Is 'Rooftop Hipsterism' Becoming Illegal in Crown Heights?" First off, these readers are anonymous - I (and thus you, dear reader) know nothing of their age, race, gender, economic status, or anything else about them except what I can infer from their stories. Even if we designate these contributors as new arrivals, I find the suggestion that these bogus citations are a reasonable price to pay for living in an affordable neighborhood to be total bullshit. The price we pay for policing is our taxes, and no one should be subject to police harassment. With respect to the second point, there are indeed bigger things to be worried about - that's why you'll find ILFA marching against police brutality and constantly supporting SOS Crown Heights, among other such activities - but if anything, one would think that experiencing police harassment such as this would make supposedly-callous new arrivals more sympathetic to the humiliations and violence of stop-and-frisk (and worse) that are a part of daily life for far too many New Yorkers. These incidents reveal that police misbehavior affects everyone, and that anyone, no matter how seemingly "nonthreatening" (however that's being racially-coded and gendered in a particular neighborhood) can be caught up in it when cops take a "control the streets," war-zone mentality out into a community.

This brings us, of course, to the very fair point that policing is a tough, thankless job and that most officers are just doing the best they can to get home to their families at the end of the day. I'm in complete agreement, and you'll almost never find me calling out an individual beat cop here (I've witnessed situations in which individual officers get completely out of hand, but those seem to be the exception, not the rule). This problem of what we might call the "culture of policing" goes straight to the top, where Ray Kelly, Mike Bloomberg, and the rest of the top brass promote it unchecked behind desks and podiums. A comment made by NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne after the damning "NYPD Tapes" were released by the Village Voice is instructive. Responding to evidence that police commanders, despite official denials, were issuing quotas to regular officers, Browne said "It’s absurd to think that managers can’t establish goals that require minimum productivity." This seems reasonable enough until you remember that the "product" of policing is NOT stops, summonses, or arrests, but rather, safe streets. As the Voice tapes (and many other stories that followed from them) reveal, these quotas are handed down from headquarters and generate the sort of needless, unproductive harassment discussed above, which often escalates harmless incidents into serious ones. A key point here should be that such escalation makes the low-ranking officers themselves more vulnerable: it's not Paul Browne who takes the bullet when someone decides they've been humiliated in a stop-and-frisk for the last time and loses their mind, and it's not Ray Kelly who has to go looking for the shooter in a neighborhood that's become so hostile to the police that no one will talk to him. By suggesting that police "productivity" can be measured by the number of times police arrest someone, rather than by crime rates, the number of times police respond to resident needs, or the sense of safety in a community, Browne demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the way the NYPD's leadership thinks about policing. It's flaw that leads to illegal rooftop raids, stop-and-frisks, and the like in the service of producing numbers for those at the top to crow about, and it's a flaw, sometimes fatal, that affects us all.

If you've been issued a bogus summons or otherwise harassed by the police, contact the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Regardless of where you live or how often you interact with police, take a look at the NYCLU's helpful chart of what to do if you're stopped by a police officer. If you want to do something about this infuriating policing, have a look at Zachary Goelman's helpful how-to on Epichorus.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Thursday: Occupy Brooklyn GA in Flatbush, New CHCA Site, and More

Video streaming by Ustream
- Occupy Brooklyn, whose march against stop-and-frisk policing in Brownsville yesterday garnered national headlines (see video above), host their next General Assembly today (Thursday) at the Flatbush Development Corporation (890 Flatbush Ave, Church Ave B-Q stop) at 7pm.

- The CHCA has a handsome new website, complete with a regularly-updated blog where they'll be posting regular updates about everything from local job and housing opportunities to their current campaigns. One issue they're working on at the moment, along with several other local groups and Councilwoman Letitia James, is the implementation of residential parking permits for local residents in advance of the opening of the Barclays Center next summer.

- Local architectural design studio Ground Up Designers has brought back "Tips For Tuesday," a free sweepstakes for anyone looking to improve the space where they work, live, or play. From their website:

The Giveaway: Every week, from Tuesday to Friday, you can post a picture of your space (or any other design issue you’re dealing with) on our facebook page – at the end of the week we’ll pick our favorite submission and do a custom made Tips-for-Tuesday blog post specifically for you the following Tuesday. Your post will feature a couple tips, sketches, and diagrams on ways to improve your space — nothing too serious but hopefully a little helpful!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Giant Hole is on the Market!

Crain's New York and The Real Deal reported today that 341 Eastern Parkway, aka the Giant Hole at the corner of Eastern and Franklin, is on the market as a shovel-ready site. From Crain's, who broke the story almost three years since the last time anyone was working on the site:

A prime corner development site in Brooklyn, less than three blocks from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Prospect Park, is up for grabs.

The 14,000-square-foot vacant lot, located at 341 Eastern Parkway on the corner of Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, is already approved for a 77,000-square-foot, eight–story mixed-use development with 63 residential units, according to Ofer Cohen, president of TerraCRG Commercial Realty Group, the brokerage firm retained to exclusively market the site. He added that the site was assembled by the seller many years ago. 

The seller “maintained active [building] permits and, most recently, decided to take advantage of the improving conditions of the market,” said Mr. Cohen. There is no price for the site, and bids are preliminarily due Nov. 22.

The site, which is at the corner of the fledgling Franklin Avenue retail corridor, has approved plans for more than 7,500 square feet of retail space, more than 870 square feet of community space and 38 parking spots. The Franklin Avenue subway station, with access to the 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains, is also directly in front of the site. It is also near the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Public Library. 

This is a viable site for either condo or rental development, noted Mr. Cohen. Rents were projected to fetch $42 to $45 per square foot, while a condo could get in the mid-$600 per square foot range, according to Brendan Aguayo, a residential broker who worked on the original plan.

"Fledgling Franklin Avenue retail corridor," eh? Clearly Crain's has not been reading the annual ILFA development roundup. In all seriousness, though, it's remarkable how similar this article is to the one the New York Sun (RIP, neocon broadsheet, RIP) ran three-plus years ago about the original development plan. To wit (and note the author!):

A main thoroughfare in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood, an increasingly powerful magnet for recent college graduates and young professionals seeking affordable rent and access to mass transit, is undergoing a transformation. The bodegas, hair salons, and fast-food restaurants lining the section of Franklin Avenue that runs between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue, on the western boundary of Crown Heights, are slowly being replaced by organic markets, cafés, and clothing boutiques [...]

While the retail scene is rapidly changing, there is also a transformation in the residential market. A shopkeeper who owned a variety store at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin Avenue for 21 years, Eli Mazon, is now developing the building into an eight floor, 62-unit rental building. The project, which is set for completion in the spring 2010, will include studios, and one and two bedrooms, in addition to commercial office space. While the rents have not yet been finalized, the development, which will also boast a garage, gym, and doorman, will range from $2,000 a month to $3,500 a month.

So what's changed in three years? I mean, 35 new businesses notwithstanding, the various speculation I've heard about this site in the intervening 37 months (whoa - that's practically one new business a month! Just realized that, folks.) has almost always centered on the need to scale down the original plan, perhaps to a single-story Duane Reade or Walgreens. There was also talk of Medgar Evers College buying the site, as well as a bank branch. Still, three years later, it seems the original plan (8 stories, 63 units, gym - was this the one Tish was talking about? - and ground floor retail) is back on the table. So, readers, while it's unlikely we'll have much say, what would your perfect bid for this site look like?