Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays to All

As usual, I think SOS Crown Heights just about nailed it. ILFA's been taking something of a break lately, but will be back with more regular postings in 2013. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tomorrow: Brooklynian's 8th Annual Festivus at Franklin Park

ILFA's already out of town for the holidays, but if you're still on the Avenue, swing by Franklin Park tomorrow night to celebrate Festivus with MikeF/whynot_31 and the folks from Brooklynian from 8-midnight in the big room. Check out the complete invite and photo updates on the construction of the festivus pole here, and join the fun on Facebook here.

Speaking of Franklin Park's big room, another event that takes place there every second Monday of the month, the Franklin Park Reading Series just got a big honor, in the form of a nod to creator Penina Roth as one of Flavorwire's "50 Up and Coming Culture Makers." Congrats all around!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Happenings: Secondary Sound Tomorrow + More

(Holiday cheer around the Avenue at Lily & Fig, Little Zelda, and on Franklin itself)

- The folks at Brooklyn Unplugged have a great event planned for tomorrow at Franklin Park. From their invite: 

Brooklyn Unplugged

Red Stefan and Franky & The Momos

December 18th, 8pm

BROOKLYN UNPLUGGED is a local music series on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every single month! We aim to showcase dynamite acoustic acts in the intimate setting of Crown Heights' first "beer oasis," Franklin Park!

We are incredibly stoked to bring to you this week: 

8 pm: Dj Alias (
9 pm: Red Stefan (
10 pm: Franky and The Momos (

For booking info, please email

Secondary Sound aims to act as a springboard for the talented musicians and artists of Brooklyn. We are currently hosting a Jam Night for all to meet, perform, challenge, and learn as well as Brooklyn Unplugged for solo acts and bands. We plan on providing booking, recording, promotion, and distribution resources for artists as well as giving back to the community by providing workshops and master classes to people of all ages and experience levels. We believe music speaks where words fail. 

Local artist Nina Meledandri sends along this link from Art in a Box for a fundraiser for kids at risk this season (she's participating). 

- A reader asks which restaurants on Franklin will be open on Christmas Day. I'll ask around, but tips are appreciated!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great Ways to Give Back on Franklin Tomorrow

Holiday giving is in full swing on Franklin tomorrow:

- Breukelen Coffee House is hosting a toy drive from 11am - 3pm. Swing by with a toy to be dropped off at a nearby shelter.

- Brooklyn's own SantaCon will also be rolling up the Avenue tomorrow, with deals at 739, Rosco's, and Mayfield (as well as NoBar and Richol Bakery nearby). Click here to learn more about SantaCon, and here to donate directly. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time-Sensitive Links

There's a longer omnibus post coming later this evening, but for now, two time-sensitive links:

- CurbedNY has a neighborhood-competition "Cup" every year (the merits of which warrant some discussion - what would Nate Silver say? - but that's neither here nor there) and Crown Heights is apparently competing this year. If you care to vote, get your clicks in before tomorrow. 

- Crown Heights Cycles has a $50-for-$25 deal going right now on Groupon (not bad if you need a holiday gift for the cyclist in your life). 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Last FP Reading Series of the Year Tonight

Last but not least...

This month Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist CHRISTINE SCHUTT (Prosperous Friends, Florida) will read with fantastic fiction writers PAULA BOMER (Nine Months, Baby & Other Stories), DAN JOSEFSON (That's Not a Feeling), MITCHELL S. JACKSON (Oversoul), and SONJA SHOLKLAPPER (DNAinfo). We'll encounter a range of characters undergoing identity crises -- including a pregnant mom on the lam, a suicidal teen at boarding school, a young married couple in a troubled relationship, a writer torn between 
family loyalty and professional ambition, and Russian immigrants hustling for their piece of the American dream.

Get set for the the holidays with cheap booze, lit-themed giveaways, and a raffle with fabulous prizes – books by our acclaimed authors, a T-shirt from our sponsor, the literary indexing site Small Demons (, and a Recommended Reading flask, courtesy of the innovative publisher Electric Literature (

Great appreciation to BOMB Magazine for recording podcasts.

Hope you can join us!


618 St. Johns Place, between Classon and Franklin Avenues
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Subway: 2/3/4/5 trains to Franklin Avenue


DRINK SPECIALS: $4 pints, plus $1 off the first 100 drinks, thanks to Small Demons.


CHRISTINE SCHUTT is the author of three novels, including the newly released Prosperous Friends, the National Book Award finalist Florida, and the Pulitzer Prize finalist All Souls. She has also published two story collections, Nightwork and A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer.

PAULA BOMER is publisher of Sententia Books and the editor of Sententia: A Literary Journal, as well as a contributor to the literary blog Big Other. She is the author of the novel Nine Months and the story collection Baby & Other Stories. Her writing has appeared in The Mississippi Review, Open City, Fiction, Nerve, and Best American Erotica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

DAN JOSEFSON is the author of the debut novel That's Not a Feeling. He has received a Fulbright research grant and a Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters. He has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and lives in Brooklyn.

MITCHELL JACKSON is a Portland, Oregon native who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received an M.A. in writing from Portland State University and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from New York University. He has been the recipient of fellowships from Urban Artist Initiative and The Center For Fiction and is a former winner of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s award for college writers. Jackson teaches writing at New York University. Oversoul, an eBook collection of his prose, was released in the summer of 2012. His novel The Residue Years will be published by Bloomsbury USA in the summer of 2013. Find him

SONJA SHOLKLAPPER is a New York City street reporter. Her stories of murder and mayhem, Yiddish-speaking hipsters and Nollywood gossip-peddlers have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, DNAinfo New York and the New York Post, among others. She lives with her mad scientist husband in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Holiday Gift Swap Next Sunday at Force and Flow

From the folks at Force and Flow (1102 Dean Street #4, between Franklin and Bedford):

Holiday Gift Swap
Sunday December 16
12:30 – 5PM
Why spend money on gifts when you can exchange?
On Sunday the 16th, bring a couple of (nice) things* from home which you no longer want or need but which someone else might love, and come exchange them for others’ goods which you or someone you know will treasure. Wrap them up real nice and gift them: save yourself some dough, save the environment some trash, and make space in your life for new things = all good.
Here’s the short story of how this birthday celebration and “artistic response” came to be:
Friday night, around 11PM, I left the MoMA and my role there as “performer” in the Meta Monumental Garage Sale. Some of my colleagues stayed on even later, packing piles and piles of unsold shit into boxes. All this stuff, from trash to treasure, had been donated in the name of art, then priced at unusually high garage sale prices to be sold to those whom were willing and able to pay. At a salary $20 an hour, I could hardly afford most of it.
And now the Cinderella moment: the exhibit closes at 8PM and the golden carriage is a pumpkin again: all this stuff is worse than worthless, it’s a liability, costing hours of labor to pack it up, ship it to a warehouse to be sorted and shipped again to a storage unit where it will sit, at a cost, for who knows how long.
But this was conceptual art, with a statement about economics and value, and in that sense it did it’s work on me: I had two weeks to think about economics, and value, and the ridiculous amount of shit we have. I’m sure I will continue to ponder the economics of using highly trained performance and visual artists to work a register and to throw stuff into a box for a long time. The short-term pondering led me to this Gift Swap: if we’re going to make a statement about economics and value, why not consider the economics of waste and pollution and the value of human resources and personal connection?
So I’m inviting you to bring a couple of things from home that may once have been valuable to you, but which you no longer need, or which you know would be much more valuable to someone else and would make you feel good to pass the joy on. Then come and exchange them for something that could be perfect for your friend, cousin or even yourself. And come to enjoy the company, too, and to take pleasure in the excitement of finding not just something special, but a story, an interaction, a connection.
I’ll have some paper and scissors and a few pens so that you can wrap up what you get real pretty right on the spot. If you have wrapping paper or tape that you can donate to the occasion, that would be great. If you want to drop stuff off ahead of time, feel free.
Oh, and it happens to be my birthday, which makes the whole thing extra economical: a celebration and gift swap in one. If you have nothing to bring from home, or if you’re feeling the holiday spirit, just bring a snack or drink to share and take an item from me as my gift to you.
*things to bring:
-books, dvds, cds, housewares, kitchen ware in good condition, artwork, plants… clothes only if they are in great shape. I mean, you get the point: it’s not your typical clothing swap, so you can be creative, but bring something you or someone you know might like to get as a gift. And bring your friends too, the more the merrier.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Update: Ms. Noel and MySpaceNYC Event Last Friday

An update from MySpace NYC (in response to some of the questions that readers and ILFA were curious about):

Mrs. Noel is longstanding local resident and we've known her for over two years.  It just recently came to our attention that she holds these small soup kitchens/lunches for the community sporadically throughout the year, and when we heard, we informed her that we wanted to be a part of the her next effort.  Mrs. Noel lives at her property with her son, and two daughters, who also participated with us in the small event.  MySpaceNYC donated the food and materials, Mrs. Noel and her family cooked it, and we (Mrs. Noel's family and the MySpaceNYC family) served it together.  We served anyone that asked for a delicious hot plate of braised chicken accompanied with mac & cheese, water cabbage, potato salad, and veggie rice with split peas.  We primarily targeted the shelter by passing out flyers the day before and the day of the event, but we fed anybody that lined up.  Cooking Crew: Mrs. Noel, her cousin, her son, and two grand daughters.  Serving Crew: Mrs. Noel, her two grand daughters, three MySpaceNYC agents (Alex, Belle, and Reggie), and two managers (Hector and myself).  We served over 75 meals. We do not have another event confirmed on our upcoming calendar, but we are looking forward to working more in partnership with these local organizations and resources in the near future.  Feeding the community is new for us, and it was great!  We are currently discussing a "toys for tots" effort with local community leaders, and we'll keep you abreast of the details as soon as we have them all confirmed

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

New on the Avenue: Construction, Deals, Events

Apologies for the omnibus post this week, ILFA's in the midst of graduate qualifying exams, and so while I've been doing lots of writing, very little of it pertains to Franklin Avenue (though David Harvey, Neil Smith, and Lance Freeman all have a thing or two to say that's relevant here...but I digress).

Anyway, there are two new projects in the works that readers have noticed, one at Lincoln and Franklin (which Brooklynian reports will be a Grilled Cheese place) and one just down the street at the former CCM space, which will be be, according to the sign, an animal hospital. In addition, full-scale construction began this week at 605 Franklin (the yellow fence between St. Mark's and Bergen), with excavations taking place every morning, to the chagrin of some neighbors. No word yet on what that project will look like.

As for existing businesses, December is a time of reckoning for a lot of our local establishments, in part because foot traffic slows as the weather gets cold and in part because it's the close of the year. I put up a "shop local for the holidays" post last week, but in addition to goodies for your aunt in St. Cloud, there are some great deals for food and drink that have cropped up around the neighborhood in the past week.

- TasteBuds has upped their game for the holidays with truly fantastic buttermilk biscuits, available covered in gravy or as the base for their egg-and-cheese sandwiches. Get 'em on Saturdays and Sundays and coffee's only $1.

- Rosco's has launched a great new happy hour featuring $2 slices, $1 off beers and wine, and $3 off pitchers from 4-7pm (you're talking two slices and a beer for dinner for under $10 if you eat before 7).  If you're a happy hour kind of person, there are great ones on the Avenue, including those at Franklin Park, Crown Inn, Barboncino, and Mayfield (home of dollar oysters when supplies last). 

- Finally, there's a great lit event tomorrow night at Franklin Park, the NY Tyrant Brooks Launch Party, courtesy of the Franklin Park Reading Series.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

GO Brooklyn's Final Show to Feature Crown Heights Artist Gabrielle Watson

Remember GO Brooklyn back in September? Well, one of Crown Heights' own, painter Gabrielle Watson, has been selected to appear in the final GO show, which opens today at the Brooklyn Museum. It's also a Target First Saturday today, which makes two great reasons to amble up Eastern Parkway to the museum. If you're in the neighborhood, support your local artists and go check out Ms. Watson's work.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Magic Show to Benefit Newly-Revamped LaunchPad Tonight

As most folks know already, LaunchPad has undergone some big changes in the last few weeks, with It Takes A Village! occupying the space during daytime hours and the guys from Slap Dash taking over evening events management. They're still offering a great slate of arts programming, from readings to concerts to visual and performance art pieces, but like any non-profit org in this economy, they could use a boost from locals who benefit from their programming. In the interest of having some fun and raising some money, they're hosting a fundraiser - Magic Show! - to benefit the space tonight at 8pm, accepting donations on a sliding scale. If you're around, check them out this evening. Complete information from their website is copied below.

Magic Show! A Fundraiser to Benefit LaunchPad
The creative team behind the Slap Dash series presents an art party/fundraiser for their home base, LaunchPad.

Magic Show centers around a new magic-inspired art exhibition featuring local artists, curated by Jess Worby. In the tradition of the Slap Dash series, the multimedia evening will also feature magical performances, video art, screenings and readings. All of the proceeds will benefit LaunchPad, a creative gathering place focused on the arts, community programs, technology, and anything else that ca
ptures the imagination.

Visual Artists: Chi Birmingham, Nathan Bulmer, Josh Burggraf
Philip Cheaney, Rob Corradetti, C.M. Duffy, Ray Jones, Keren Katz, Victor Kerlow, Pat Kinsella, Brendan Leach, Haejeon Jessica Lee, Hye Su Lee, John Malta, Joey Parlett, Gant Powell, Matt Rota, Jess Ruliffson, David Sandlin, Erin Supinski, Dasha Tolstikova, Jen Tong, Andrea Tsurumi, Jess Worby

Animations curated by Tom Stathes

Magic and Mind Reading by Vinny DePonto

Video Art by Jason Martin

721 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn
2,3,4,5,C to Franklin Avenue station
8p gallery opening | 10p performances
$5 to $20 sliding scale donations

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happening Right Now: Bike Corral

The city began installing Franklin's first bike corral in front of Little Zelda (on Franklin's hottest block, between Sterling and Park) this morning at 8am. Photo above.

For more information on bike corrals, bike parking, and how local residents and businesses can advocate for and acquire them, check out the NYC DOT Bicycle Parking page.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PDHR Leader Ede Fox Launches City Council Campaign Tonight

Local resident and Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform leader Ede Fox officially launches her campaign for City Council tonight at JACK in Clinton Hill (505 1/2 Waverly, between Atlantic and Fulton). Swing by to learn more about Ede's campaign and enjoy some snacks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Secondary Sound Acoustic Jam Night Tonight

From the folks at Secondary Sound:

Jam Night Is Tonight! 

9pm - Midnight @ The Breukelen Coffee House

The Jam is ON tonight! Bring your friends, bring your instruments, and bring your spectacular talents for a night of rocking and rolling (and jazzing and bluseing,) cozied up in the Breukelen Coffee House at 764A Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights! 

One tiny change this evening; We will be rocking acoustically, ya'll! Turns out our sound guys are relaxing on a beautiful beach in Puerto Rico while we weather the storm here at home! Bring your amps, or your acoustic instruments and we will make this work like they did in the days of cavemen. 

Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way! See you tonight!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Free Meals From Local Resident and MySpace NYC This Friday

From their FB page:

Dear Community, 

It is our pleasure to inform you that next Friday, November 30th, MySpaceNYC will join Mrs. Noelle, a local resident and humanitarian, in feeding the community. Mrs. Noelle presented the amazing cause to our staff members and we're pleased to be apart of this event. We will set up two tables on the side walk in front of Mrs. Noelle's residence, at 568 Franklin Ave, and we will provide enough food to feed at least 150 people. We're happy to assist Mrs. Noelle and thankful to be apart of this.

Hope you plan to join us! 4 days to go!

Shop Local for the Holidays on Franklin

Black Friday has passed, as has Small Business Saturday, but for many Brooklynites the holiday shopping season is still just getting underway. If you live locally, consider getting your gifts on Franklin, where your money will go to support local merchants whose contributions to the community include sponsoring the Franklin Avenue Kids Day, the Halloween Parade, street beautification, and more. I'm in full booster mode here, but it's not just the dollars and cents - shopping locally is a social process, too, one that builds links, affection, and trust between merchants and residents on which community-based action (around a wide variety of issues) is often founded. 

ILFA has received gift guides and gift updates from the local businesses listed below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list - if you're a local merchant, feel free to pass along additional information. Readers, if you've got a great local gift idea, share it here too!

- Calabar Imports, just arrived from Washington as of this summer, has some great items on offer in their new Franklin location.

- Owl & Thistle General Store sent their gift guide around recently, and much more can be found on their website. They've made a great effort to stock the work of local craftspeople and artisans, including much of what's sold at the Built in Brooklyn Craft Fair, on a regular basis. 

- The folks at Park Delicatessen over on Classon are never short of great gifts (and fabulous flowers, if you're looking for something in that vein). 

- Stork is the place to get great gifts for the young and the restless.

- About Time Boutique may no longer have a physical location on the Avenue, but you can still get great gear that represents the neighborhood on their website. 

It'd take far too long to list all of the restaurants and eateries on Franklin, but many of them (including, based purely on walk-ins over the last few days, The Candy Rush, Little Zelda, Pulp & Bean/Bob & Betty's, and Lily & Fig) have great items wrapped for gifting as well. Gift certificates are also available at many restaurants, and are an excellent gift-based strategy for making insular Manhattanites take to the subway and come visit in the cold winter months.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday: CHCA Meeting, Wondering Around Wandering Closing Gala

Tomorrow evening should be a fun and interesting one on Franklin. First, the Crow Hill Community Association holds their November meeting at 7:30pm at the Gospel Tabernacle Church (725 Franklin). Then, Mike Perry's Wondering Around Wandering Gala kicks off at 8pm, featuring three live bands and some spectacular flower arrangements from Park Delicatessen. Tickets ain't cheap, but all the proceeds go to Sandy relief, so don't let the price deter you - this will be WAY more fun than clicking "yes" online or dropping some cash in a can (not that you shouldn't do those things too, of course).

If you can't make tomorrow's event, local artist and community leader Nina Meledandri is raising funds for relief by selling her paintings of her family's childhood vacation spot on Fire Island. Visit her website to learn more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Art On Franklin: American Landscape at Five Myles Tonight, Wondering Around Wandering Closing On Tuesday

Two quick updates on our local art scene:

- American Landscape opens tonight at Five Myles from 6-8pm (description from the gallery below). The show runs through December 16.

New work by: Marin Abell, Josh Bricker, Dan Carlson,
Chad Curtis, Dymph de Wild, Ben Finer, Daniel J. Glendening,
Peter Lapsley, Jan Mum, Tom Pnini, Leah Raintree,
Rick Reid, Corina Reynolds, Greg Stewart, John Wanzel

Organized by Dan Carlson
This exhibition collects 15 young artists from across the country who use the Romantic landscape paintings of the Hudson Valley School as a point of departure to make work that re-contextualizes America's endless bounty in late-model capitalism.
Image (above): Daniel J. Glendening

- Wondering around Wandering, the pop-up gallery and community event space from Mike Perry at 983 Dean Street, will host its regular hours tomorrow from 1-6pm and then close for two days to prepare for their final gala, featuring live music from three bands and raising funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. If you haven't had a chance to check WAW out yet, this is your last chance!

Friday, November 16, 2012

UPDATED: Protest at MySpaceNYC Saturday at 1pm

The Crown Heights Assembly will be leading a demonstration at MySpaceNYC on Saturday to protest the displacement of longtime residents and the overcharging of current tenants. More details coming soon.

UPDATED: See below for the complete press release from the Crown Heights Assembly.

Saturday: Crown Heights Rallies for Tenant Justice at MySpace Realty

Long-Term & New Residents Unite to Demand Rent History Disclosure,
Building Repairs, An End to Displacement
Contact  Nick Petrie                   914-589-8921       

Friday, November 16, 2012 – On Saturday, November 17th at 1pm, a coalition of long-term residents and new residents of Crown Heights will rally at the offices of MySpaceNYC, a real estate brokerage that profits from the displacement of long-term Black and Latino tenants and the overcharging of new tenants.  The rally, organized by a community power group called the Crown Heights Assembly, marks the beginning of a new alliance of Crown Heights residents demanding that the machinery of displacement be dismantled in our neighborhood, one brokerage at a time.

Onikah Evans is a lifelong resident of 1045 Union Street, a building acquired by ZT Realty this year; some units in 1045 Union are brokered by MySpaceNYC.  Evans said, “Right now, they’re trying to take the keys and move people out without giving them anything.  Now they’re trying to start the heat, but the heat is not hot.  It’s not coming through the radiator, it’s a false claim of heat.  They’re not doing repairs in the building.  No repairs.  Before we, used to see workers in the building everyday.  Now, we don’t see workers in the building at all.  Right now, my kitchen sink hasn’t been working for three days.  We called the office, and no maintenance.”
Nick Petrie, a tenant on St. Johns and a Crown Heights Assembly member, said, “I was shown an apartment by a MySpaceNYC Agent who adamantly promised that my landlord was responsive and responsible. The original asking price for my unit, a 2 bedroom in a rent-stabilized building, was $1900 a month. Far outside my budget, the MySpaceNYC Agent agreed to ‘bargain-down’ the price on my behalf to $1800.”

Petrie continued, “MySpaceNYC's lies became clear after living in my apartment for a few weeks. My bedroom ceiling has become deluged with water and collapsed four times. There are rats in my walls. For weeks our heat was inoperable and we had inconsistent hot water. When I asked my landlord, Elcorno Martin, to fix these problems, he first ignored me, then yelled and me and shouted profanities at me. When I told him he was legally required to give me heat and hot water after October 1st, he shouted me out of his office saying, ‘What law says that? I don't have to do that!’”
Petrie concluded, “After checking my rental history from DHCR it is clear that I am being overcharged by Martin with MySpaceNYC's aid.  The last legal rent for my unit was $1250 while I pay $1800. MySpaceNYC is profiting from the displacement and harassment of long-term residents and the illegal overcharging of new residents. As a new resident of Crown Heights, I know that I am facing different challenges from long-term residents being pushed out of their homes. I write this to be clear that we must work together to push back against the landlords and brokerage firms making money off us all.”

On Saturday, this alliance will announce, “Crown Heights isn’t MySpace; it’s our space. We will demand:

Show Us The Real Rent We call on MySpaceNYC to sign a legally binding agreement that requires the firm to show all prospective tenants the legal rental history of the apartment when they see the place.  This will prevent the illegal rent overcharges now epidemic on the Franklin Avenue corridor and spreading beyond that area.  MySpace must require landlords provide official DHCR rental histories to prospective tenants as a material condition of working with the brokerage.
Meet All Tenant Demands: Stop The Displacement & Fix The BuildingsMySpaceNYC has the power to force all of its landlords meet tenant demands as a material condition of working with the brokerage.  These tenant demands include: stop illegal evictions of long-term residents, stop refusing services and repairs, and end tenant harassment.  We demand that MySpaceNYC sign a legally binding agreement requiring its landlords meet with tenants to immediately remediate building-level and apartment-level demands.

Third Annual Franklin Avenue Roundup: Pace of Change Accelerating?

(Crane at 341 Eastern Parkway; Fatima Restaurant evicted)

It's time once again for the annual gentrification-revitalization-neighborhood change roundup, a yearly look at commercial changes up and down Franklin Avenue, the namesake of this blog and the home base of its author. I started writing ILFA in late October of 2008, three months after moving to Crown Heights. The blog initially started out as more of a personal exploration of the whole borough, facilitated by a job that had me traveling daily to public schools across Brooklyn (this is still commemorated in the tagline "Walking Around Brooklyn With a Camera and a Pen," which itself is hopelessly dated - who uses cameras or pens anymore? It stays because "Walking Around Brooklyn with a Smartphone" is worse). As I learned quickly, however, one can't live in Crown Heights for very long without encountering the rapid changes taking place in the neighborhood, and as I met more of my neighbors and spoke more frequently with local business people and community leaders, the conversations turned repeatedly to the shifting shape of Franklin Avenue. 

Gentrification doesn't lack for attention in the borough of Kings, and many residents profess to being sick to death of the entire topic. Still, it's a process that affects all of us who live in Crown Heights, and one which I think warrants continued critical attention. Over the last four years, I've tried to use ILFA in two ways: first, to report on and occasionally analyze these rapid changes from my own perspective (new-ish arrival, ed-non-profit employee, community association member, urban history graduate student) but with a sympathetic ear to the diversity of local perspectives (from the excited to the disgusted); and, secondly, to create something of a forum (one necessarily limited to those with the time, technology, and inclination to read and comment on blogs) for the discussion of these issues. In that spirit, and without further ado, here's the rundown (and here are the ones from 2011 and 2010)

52 New Businesses Since August 2008 (working north from Eastern - this year's 16 additions in bold):

The Pulp and The Bean
JamRock Kitchen
Mazon Discount
Brooklyn Yoga Collective (replaced Marianne's Hair Braiding)
Brooklyn Inkspot (the one next to Dutch Boy)
Dutch Boy Burger
The Breukelen Coffee House
Franklin Park
Nairobi's Knapsack (now closed)
Pine Tree
Away We Go Postal
The Beauty Boutique
Brooklyn Fit Lab 
739 Franklin
The Candy Rush
Lily & Fig
It Takes a Village (sharing space with LaunchPad)
First Impressions Dental
TasteBuds (replaced About Time Boutique, now online)
Alternative Healing (now closed)
Black Ice NYC (replaced Alternative Healing)
Rosebud Vintage
Little Zelda
The Crown Inn
MySpace Realty
Owl and Thistle General Store
Bella Greens
BNI Express Laundromat
Crow Hill Jewelry (the pawn shop - now closed)
Sweet Basil 
The Pana Store
Modern and Vintage Shop
Calabar Imports
Excelsior Cycles (replaced United Community Church of God)
Franklin Roadhouse (now closed)
Mayfield (replaced Franklin Roadhouse)
Rosco's (replaced A Slice of Brooklyn)
A Slice of Brooklyn (now closed)
Oaxaca Taco (now closed)
Gueros Tacos
Eve and Mike's Pharmacy
The O Experience (salon above Imperial Bikers M.C.)
The Laundromat in the Jewish Hospital (on St. Marks)
Compare Foods
Posh Nails NYC
Kecia J. Weaver Law Office

8 Coming Soon (based in part on rumors):

Pizza Place (in former African Hair Braiding space, 800 Franklin)
Falafel Place (next door, 798 Franklin)
742 Franklin (MySpace storefront, rumored to be Starbucks)
Indian Place (738 Franklin, SW corner of Franklin and Sterlin)
Island Seas (in the old 3Ds space)
Coffee Shop (former Muslim Bookshop space, lost in fire)
Bollywood Bar (in former Ebita Reality space)
1000 Dean Street (to contain beer garden/food court)

25 Renovations & Additions (done, planned, or in progress - this year's in bold):

Fisher's/Bob & Betty's 
Gourmet Deli Grocery (Lincoln and Franklin)
Golden Chopsticks
Franklin Express Laundry 
Brooklyn Inkspot (moved up the block)
Franklin Park (the big bar)
Breukelen Coffee House (the back room)
Barboncino (added yard, event space coming)
Nam's (forever rearranging/renovating) 
Christopher Deli (new awning)
Bristen's/Island Thyme (now closed)
About Time (always keeping it fresh - now TasteBuds)
Community Garden (in a storefront space - now closed)
J&B Deli (now closed, became Chavela's)
J's Wong (used to be Happy Wok, moved, but the same guys)
Homage (now closed on account of that fire) 
Lasting Impressions Salon
Franklin Express Deli
Bombay Masala (opened a garden)
Preschool (mural and some indoor work)
Franklyn Deli
Sushi Tatsu (new awning, Thai menu)
Dean Deli Grocery
Organic Deli Grocery (badly damaged in recent fire)

30 Closed (11 closures this year, in bold):

African Hair Braiding (to be Pizza Place)
Passion Hair Salon
Translation Services (to be Falafel Place)
Scarlet Ribbons Thrift Shop (now wino(t), moved to Fulton)
NA Candy Store (deli)
Marianne Hair Braiding (now Brooklyn Yoga Collective)
Aissatou Hair Braiding (sign says they moved nearby)
Fatima (one of the best West African restaurants in NYC)
790 Franklin (electronics place)
Diana's Desserts (now Inkspot, moved to Washington)
The Spice is Right (now half of Barboncino) 
Bristen's (now Away We Go Postal)
Nairobi's Knapsack (now Pine Tree)
King Accessory (now The Beauty Boutique) 
3D's (to be Island Seas)
J&B Deli (now Chavela's)
Alternative Healing (now Black Ice)
Off the Hook Communications (now Little Zelda)
El Baron Grocery (soon to be The Crown Inn)
West Indian Cafe (now J's Wong)
Crow Hill Jewelry (the pawn shop)
Saje (closed just before I got here, now the Pana Store)
Homage (renovated, fire)
Muslim Bookshop (fire)
United Community Church of God (now Excelsior Cycles)
Franklin Roadhouse (now Mayfield)
Ebita Real Estate Office

World Class People's Market (deli)
Insurance (now Oaxaca Taco)
Oaxaca Taco (now Gueros Tacos)

5 New Construction Projects Underway:

341 Eastern Parkway 
Four Story Development (on site of CHCA garden)
505 St. Marks Residential Development
Four-Story Building (fence just went up, NE corner of St. Mark's and Franklin)
1000 Dean Street

Some thoughts:

- The pace of change seems to be accelerating along Franklin. The Avenue added approximately 12 new businesses a year in the first three years ILFA was tracking it, but it added 16 this year, despite a tighter, pricier rental market and increased competition for storefronts. In past years, there have been 4-5 places coming soon; this year, there are 8, and that's not including three or four other storefronts under renovation without prospective tenants, two new four-story developments, and the two looming mega-projects (of which more below). For that matter, new construction on Franklin is happening for the first time since I've been tracking this, and bricks and mortar are flying fast and furious this year. 

- Closures have picked up considerably as well - of the 52 new businesses since August 2008, 6 have closed, and another 24 have gone under as well, for a total of 30 since 2008. Only 4 businesses closed between ILFA's 2010 and 2011 roundups, as compared with 11 this year. Competition for space is picking up, and landlords are looking for new, higher-paying tenants. Fatima, one of the best West African restaurants in New York City, was evicted this week, and four African hair salons in two blocks have been closed over the past year. There was a time when ILFA tried to argue that changes on Franklin didn't conform neatly to typified gentrification trends (citing the openings of JamRock Kitchen, the Pana Store, the Pawn Shop, etc), but that's no longer a viable argument. 

While residential displacement is often at the core of debates around gentrification (with good reason), commercial displacement can play a major role as well. Rent stabilization and rent control are imperfect protections for residential tenants, but NYC hasn't had commercial rent stabilization at all since 1962. When businesses go, especially gathering places like hair salons, community support networks dissipate. Coupled with rising prices for housing and food in the area and zero-tolerance policing, these kinds of closures hasten the process of displacement.

- Prognosticators have been searching for a tipping point since before I arrived (was it when Nam's went organic? When Franklin Park opened?), and while I'm hesitant to ascribe too much significance to one or two events, it seems fair to say that some game-changing developments, most notably 341 Eastern Parkway and 1000 Dean Street, loom on the horizon. These developments, which have attracted millions of dollars of investment from some rather well-known players (you may have heard of Goldman Sachs), are another big reason that the pace of change feels different. Earlier changes were often the work of longtime local residents or merchants, putting their own dollars back into renovations or new efforts. Folks with more Brooklyn-wide restaurant experience followed quickly (the guys at Franklin Park/Dutch Boy/Crown Inn come to mind, as do the Gueros/Rosco's folks), as did first-timers with visions. Still, these folks weren't so big as to change the game by their mere presence. Now, however, citywide/global capital has made its way to Franklin. What will it bring? We'll know soon enough. 

In closing, it's been another year of rapid changes for Franklin, and things don't show any sign of slowing. There are lots of reasons to be excited about the neighborhood - vacant storefronts are now full, crime is down, cooperative community beautification efforts have improved the streetscape and provided great local youth events (including the Kids Day) - and there are lot of longtime residents (and some new arrivals, too) who've worked very hard to make these things happen. There are also reasons to be ambivalent or frustrated about changes, with displacement and rising costs of living (and doing business, if you're a merchant) often chief among them. There's more to say, but this post is long enough, so I'll kick it to the readers: How do you feel about the rapid changes? How can local residents (whether they've been here for a month or a decade) affect and channel these changes to the benefit of the greatest number of people in what is, today, a very diverse community? And what's next for Franklin?