Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kevin Parker-Carl Kruger Beer Summit


Now everyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of the State Senate Finance Committee's closed circuit TV station. So it was a bit odd when Senator Parker decided that this was the proper format for an eloquent discussion on race in America and then lit into Carl Kruger after about the 19 minute mark.
Parker explains himself to Liz Benjamin. I think. Or a good Liz Benjamin impersonator.

and

I think what's needed at this point is a Park Slope beer summit. At Freddy's. No, bad idea. In the meantime, Parker can look into hiring a freelance consultant.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steve Levin's Domino Testimony

I will speak of several key issues which I believe need to be addressed if this proposal is to be approved:

The New Domino project is proposed to be over 2.8 million square feet, the vast majority, 2.4 million square feet, is due to be residential. That translates to about 2,200-2,400 units for between 6,100 and 6,700 people. It is my opinion, as the Councilmember who represents this area, that we do not have the mass transportation, road infrastructure, basic civic service infrastructure, and school infrastructure to sustain this influx of residents. This development must be seen in the context of the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning in several ways. First, the total average FAR on the proposed waterfront site is 5.7, which exceeds the maximum FAR with inclusionary bonus of 4.7 allowed by the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning by about 21%. On the upland site, CPCR is asking for an FAR of 6.0 which vastly exceeds the maximum FAR allowed by an R6 zoning with an inclusionary housing bonus of 2.75. Both the Community Board and the Borough President have recommended decreasing the upland density to 3.6 FAR, or 40% from what CPC is proposing. In addition, the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning has allowed for the construction of additional thousands of units between the waterfront and upland sites-many of which remain empty or are just beginning to fill up now. There is clearly a cumulative effect on the neighborhood to all this development. It is my opinion that entire density of the project needs to be brought down significantly to where the total number of units not exceed 1,600 while maintaining 40% of those units as affordable.

In addition, I agree with the Community Board and the Borough President that the density for the upland parcel be brought down significantly, not to exceed 3.6 FAR.

In terms of transportation, one must ask, how do approx. 6,400 new people get to work and school every day? The development site is 1.5 miles to the nearest subway line, equidistant from the Marcy Ave JMZ stop, which is woefully underserved, and the Bedford Ave. L stop, which, according to MTA statistics released just this week, has 19,550 riders per weekday-the fourth busiest station in all of Brooklyn and the busiest single line stop in the borough. Even more astounding, the ridership only decreases by 9% on Saturdays. In addition, the proposed population increase will put local bus lines at 300% capacity during morning rush hour.

There needs to be a significant effort to address and mitigate the overwhelming strain that approx. 6,400 new people will put on our transportation infrastructure. I believe that the applicant must provide a plan to mitigate the adverse impacts because, as the EIS stated, “absent such mitigation measures, the proposed project would result in an unmitigated significant adverse transit impact.” Options should include a shuttle bus provided by CPCR to nearby subway lines and across the Williamsburg Bridge to lower Manhattan and a ferry service to Manhattan. Also, I believe that there needs to be MTA upgrades in bus service on nearby lines and an upgrade in the JMZ line subway service.

CPCR has, for some time now, offered the community 660 units of affordable housing, or 30% of the total proposed at the New Domino site. While I commend CPCR for it’s willingness to offer this much needed affordable housing, I believe that the overall density of the project can come down significantly while still providing the same number of affordable units. Several blocks south of the Domino site is Schaefer Landing, which in 2003 was rezoned for residential use, is in full context with the 2005 rezoning in terms of density, and has 40% affordable units. I believe that the New Domino can follow this model. In addition, it is very important that affordability levels of the proposed affordable units accurately reflect the median income of the surrounding community, which is about $35,000 for a family of four, and that unit sizes reflect the needs of local families with 2, 3, or more children. Finally, all affordable units must remain affordable in perpetuity.

CPCR has committed to approximately 140,000 sq. ft. of community space, 100,000 of which is to be located within the Refinery building and 40,000 of which is to be located in the final building on the north end of the waterfront site, slated to be developed in 2020. It is my understanding that the 100,000 sq. ft. in the Refinery building may potentially be used for a public school, therefore leaving only the 40,000 sq. ft. for other community uses. While I recognize that District 14 will very much need school space in the coming years I am concerned that the community has to wait ten years from now for community space other than a school. In any event, all community space should be locked in for community use and not used for any residential, commercial, or retail uses.

I continue to have concerns on others aspects of the proposed development including, but not limited to, the following:

the amount of open space created-which will, with the increase in population brought by the project, result in a net decrease for the surrounding community in terms of acreage per capita (this is especially felt on the Southside, where there is a great lack of open space to begin with).

the special permit requested which would allow for 1,694 parking spaces, significantly more than the maximum allowed by the zoning.

the overall effect of the development on secondary displacement in the surrounding neighborhood.

the overall effect of the development on vehicular traffic patterns in the surrounding neighborhood.

the overall effect on civic infrastructure such as school, police, and firefighters in the surrounding neighborhood.

It is my belief that the New Domino has a great potential to bring much needed affordable housing, community space, jobs, and open space to the Williamsburg community. However, the project as presented today would be, simply put, so big, with so much density and so many people, that the negative impacts on the neighborhood would outweigh the benefits.

It's Domino Day!



A few notes before I drop Steve Levin's testimony. Nearly 90 people signed up to speak, and it could have been more than that by the time I had to leave. The pro-Domino group vastly outnumbered the project's opponents, and they were all wearing yellow DomiYes! softball t-shirts made by developer CPC Resources.
The whole affair, which may still be going on, started at 10 am and we didn't get to Domino for two hours, which means that everyone was hanging out for the rain delay. Actually it felt like one of those corporate softball games with way too many players on one team, which means you only get one at-bat for the whole game.

It'll be a while, guys.
GWAPP poster boy Adam Perlmutter was batting 30th, followed by CB1 member Esteban Duran. OUTRAGE's Allison Cordero pinch hit at 71, while CB1 Land Use Chairman Ward Dennis arrived late and found himself batting 84th.
Lots of discussion about FARs, AMIs, density, MTA transit studies, and even hotels (Diana Reyna) and universities (Dennis Farr* Not Congressman Samuel Farr* who I incorrectly named earlier). Check out the link for highlights from yesterday's extra-innings game.
Did I mention that as Levin spoke, CPCR and Church group volunteers (finally) passed out the free lunch? Turkey sandwiches in one box. Cheese in the other. Sadly, no ballpark franks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WG Sifts through Domino Sugar


Movin on up to the Williamsburg waterfront!
On the morning before City Planning's hearing on the Domino Sugar refinery, WG News and Arts published a long article noting that opinions in the South Side are not in lockstep behind the $1.2 billion rezoning proposal (2,200-2,400 units, 1700 parking spaces, 4 acres of open space, 147,000 sq ft. of commercial space, 5.0 FAR, and maybe 6,000 new residents movin' on up' to the west side.)
Before we get into this, one point to note. No bones about it, this is an article with an agenda to derail the project and it would be better served (and stronger) in an editorial. Once an article crosses into an editorial voice, it becomes tricky to pull out the important and relevant points from the argument's slant.
But let's do it anyway.

*Williamsburg residents Frank Ortiz and Dennis Farr have something to say about the New Domino project that's worth gut checking. A new, largely luxury development that is as big as it is could displace tenants in surrounding rent-stabilized buildings. That's a big point. Tenant harassment in the South Side is real, and it is strange that South Side groups which have fought hard against it for decades are not more vocal about secondary displacement.

*Catholic parishes in the area, led by Father Rick Beuther, have indeed been organizing to support New Domino, and both Churches United groups support the project even before the they fractured over the Broadway Triangle about two years ago. There certainly are agnostic and evangelical Latinos in the South Side but the vast majority of Latinos are Catholic. Organizing residents to support or oppose a development project based on whether it meets their best interests is something that many groups do throughout the city. The article did not note that the group could be in a position to pressure CPCR for a better deal (200 more units affordable housing and less density/ fewer total units, which is what Assemblyman Vito Lopez wants, for example). But the reporter does quote, Beuther noted that CPCR has donated to his Church. That's interesting.

*CPC Resources has a PR campaign. All major developers/ development projects have a PR campaign to advance its agenda to the public. This isn't news.

*Ward Dennis' argument that the project will ultimately reduce open space along the waterfront is mentioned briefly (as Steve Levin's argument), and too quickly. This is another big deal, and you'll hear more about it on Wednesday.

*You'll also hear more about what does it mean to be affordable housing, which is mentioned by Phil DePaolo in the article. It will be a talking point tomorrow but it's a point of negotiation for Steve Levin, and possibly his best chance of influencing the project.

20 most influential includes Marty Management

Photo provided by the Borough President's office.
City Hall News posted its 20 Most Influential list of people you've never heard of. Don't get too excited. It's an extremely Manhattan-centric list. One notable Brooklynite made it: Marty Markowitz's Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura.
CHN notes how Marty values his judgment to "present all sides of an issue" and cited his work in reaching out to communities living near Atlantic Yards and Domino.
CHN writes:
As the right-hand man to an elected official with such a large and diverse population (and to one who is not seen as a likely candidate for further office), Scissura has taken on an increasingly active role in shaping his borough’s extensive agenda. And Scissura’s skill in what is known in political circles as “Marty Management” has not gone unrecognized outside of the confines of Brooklyn Borough Hall
Not everyone agrees. Cue Atlantic Yards Report, who goes to the videotape.

Breaking Domino Sugar news!


CPC Resources has adopted Bango, the Milwaukee Buck, as its new spokesbuck, to help lay out its case at City Planning tomorrow. Sorry, Richard Edmonds. Fear the deer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Short List: Earth Day Edition

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In yet another ironic twist, Mother Nature, above, forced the cancellation of Earth Day in McCarren Park on Sunday.

So in the weekend's washouts, here's a week's worth of links to sort through...

GREC Loses Greenpoint Hospital

Photo courtesy of Miss Heather/ newyorkshitty

The Greenpoint Hospital project will not go to GREC/ St. Nicks Alliance or the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. Instead, TNS Development Group received the bid to redevelop the former hospital. Read more about it here at the Brooklyn Paper.

Darryl... Darryl...


Darryl Strawberry is in town today to promote the Partnership for Perscription something in Brownsville. (note to readers, Pat Sajak is not in the photo, although the Borough President bears a strong resemblance).
This calls for a classic case of heckling.

I'm only kidding. Darryl is better than all of us in everything anyway.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!


Happy Earth Day from your local neighborhood Wastewater Treatment Plant!
They deal with your crap, so you don't have to!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Press Release of the Week: Warning! Not PG-13

NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND

MENTAL HYGIENE
Thomas Farley, MD, MPH
Commissioner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
(212) 788-5290

Health Department Highlights Health Risks of Unprotected Anal Sex among
Heterosexual Women in New York City

New survey suggests that women are less likely than men to use protection during anal intercourse

April 21, 2010 – Unprotected anal sex poses well known health hazards for men, but new research suggests that the practice is a significant health issue for women as well. More than 100,000 New York City women engage in anal intercourse each year, according to a new report from the Health Department, and many are not taking the steps needed to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Anal membranes are easily damaged during sex, facilitating the spread of infection. Past studies suggest that anal exposure to HIV poses 30 times more risk than vaginal exposure. But the New York City findings suggest that women are less likely than men who have sex with men to use condoms during anal sex. The figure is just 23%, according to the new report, compared to 61% among men who have sex with other men. The full report is available at nyc.gov/health.

“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are engaging in sexual behavior that is especially risky,” said Dr. Thomas Farley , New York City Health Commissioner. “Many people are aware of the risk of HIV when men have sex with other men, but this report shows that a large number of women also are putting themselves at high risk through unprotected anal sex. For both men and women, the overall message is clear: Never engage in unprotected anal sex. Use a condom every time.”

Just as condoms are especially important for people who engage in anal intercourse, so is HIV testing. Yet the new report finds that women who engage in unprotected anal sex have lower testing rates than women who always use condoms during anal sex – 35% versus 63%, respectively. By the same token, women who had unprotected anal sex were the least likely to report that a health care provider had offered HIV testing during the past year. Only 11% of the highest-risk women (versus 47% of those using condoms) said a provider had recommended testing in the past year – even though 94% of them had seen one.

The report does not estimate the HIV burden among women who engage in unprotected anal sex, but most HIV infections diagnosed in women result from heterosexual intercourse. Among women with known sources of exposure, heterosexual contact accounted for 90% of the infections diagnosed in New York City in 2008.

Unprotected anal sex is most common among younger women and those with multiple partners

Women 18 to 24 years old are nearly six times more likely than those aged 45 to 64 to report unprotected anal sex (11% versus 2%). And whereas 15% of women with three or more sex partners reported engaging in anal sex in the past year, the figure was just 4% among those with one partner. Reports of anal sex in the past year are similar across race and ethnicity, with Asian women reporting 8%, white women 7%, Hispanic women 6% and black women 4%.


Recommendations for reducing sexually transmitted infections

The new report highlights the importance of safer sex in a city where approximately 74,000 new sexually transmitted infections are reported each year, along with 3,800 new HIV diagnoses. Some recommendations:

* Health care providers should offer STI and HIV testing to all patients, regardless of their stated sexual history.

* People engaging in anal sex should always use condoms. Free NYC Condoms and other alternative male condoms, in addition to female condoms and lubricant, are available at locations throughout New York City . Call 311 or visit nyc.gov/condoms for more information.

* Unless they’re in mutually monogamous relationships, people who have had unprotected sex should get tested for HIV and other STIs at least once a year. Free, confidential screening is available at Health Department clinics, no appointment required. Call 311 for clinic locations and hours of operation. Services are available to people 12 and older without parental notification and without regard to immigration or insurance status.

* If you have exposed any partners to a sexually transmitted infection (including HIV), it is important to tell them so they can be tested and treated if necessary. People who want help notifying partners, or who want to do so anonymously, can find assistance by calling 311 or visiting inSPOT NYC (www.inspot.org/Newyorkcity).

PressOffice@health.nyc.gov

Happy Administrative Professionals Day!

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Happy Administrative Professionals Day! This one goes out to all the admin assistants I speak with on a regular basis during nine-to-five, though I'd like to recognize two special ladies: Community Board 1's Marie W. Bueno-Wallin, above, who handles my daily inquiries into all things Williamsburg and Community Board 4's Sharon Fludd, below, who sets up lovely dinners for Bushwick's hungry community leaders every month (okay, the photos may be slightly doctored, but I swear, Marie bears a striking resemblance to the Smoky Mountain Songbird).
http://www.playbill.com/images/photo/t/h/thigpen_1047588735.jpg
It's time to recognize the lovely assistants who put up with us every day, from nine-to-five.

Staff is asking for an encore. Here you go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you like meetings?

http://davidwalsh.name/dw-content/phptvdb-office.jpg
Lonely for human contact? Don't worry. It's a busy week.
Here's a sample email from Neighbors Allied for Good Growth about everything that's going on over the next week:

Tuesday 4/20: Grow Your Parks - The Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn presents Grow Your Parks: a Forum for Park Lovers to Share Ideas for Making our Parks Better. Propose Your Own Park Improvement Idea; Vote on Proposed Projects; and Hear Updates from NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. 6:30pm at Polish National Home (a.k.a. Warsaw), 261 Driggs Avenue/Eckford Street.

Wednesday 4/21: Williamsburg Walks Brainstorming Session - Williamsburg Walks is organizing a brainstorming session to solicit your ideas on how to make the event fun, memorable, and fulfilling. This is a chance for you to get your questions answered, to share your suggestions and to support the event in general. At the session, the organizers will update the group on our latest progress planning the event and conduct a brainstorming session about the kind of programming the community would like to see happen on their street. 6 to 8 pm at Teddy’s Bar & Grill, 96 Berry Street (corner of N8th Street). RSVP on Facebook.

Thursday 4/22: Williamsburg/Greenpoint Greenway Planning Workshop -One of a series of four community planning workshops in Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, led by NYC Department of Transportation. These workshops will inform DOT’s master plan for constructing the greenway. 6:30-8:30pm at Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th Street. RSVP to brooklynwaterfrontgreenway@dot.nyc.gov.

Saturday 4/24: Paint a Jersey Barrier - The New York City Department of Transportation selected artist Lucy Kalian to implement a design on the bike lane barrier along Williamsburg Street West between Kent and Flushing Avenues. Brooklyn Greenway Initiative seeks volunteers to work with the artist in stenciling and painting the barrier on Saturday, April 24th (between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm). Anyone interested in helping to beautify this new bike facility should contact Emily Colasacco, Manager of the Urban Art Program at ecolasacco@dot.nyc.gov and ccmpuryear@brooklyngreenway.org.

Saturday 4/24: Greenpoint Soup Kitchen Community Garden Organizing Meeting - NAG & GIFT (Greenpoint Interfaith Food Team) are teaming up to start a community garden in the backyard of the Greenpoint Reformed Church. The idea is to grow organic veggies and herbs to supplement the weekly soup kitchen meal. We will need some dedicated volunteers (at least 21) who will commit to watering every 1-3 weeks. We would also like to schedule some community time, educational workshops, and children's gardening hours. But we can’t do it without you! 4-5pm, 136 Milton St. Backyard. Come early (9am-1-pm) to help plant! Join the Facebook group!

Also, don’t forget that the City Planning Commission’s public hearing on the rezoning of the Domino Sugar site is coming up next week! Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 at 10:00AM, 22 Reade Street, Spector Hall.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Short List: McLevin Edition


Councilman Steve Levin had a big week last week. How big? Some are talking about the Councilman's superhero feats of negotiation in the Rose Plaza project (the developers upped the level of affordable housing from 20 percent to 30 percent and added a slew of 3 and 4-bedroom units) and looking ahead to his next challenge... the Domino sugar refinery.
What better place than The Short List to confer upon the new councilman an apt nickname?
Introducing... McLevin.
http://www.slashfilm.com/wp/wp-content/images/redmistaicn.jpg
McLevin can't read your mind, but he can alter your development project.

That's right. McLevin... aka The Red Mist of Affordable Housing... aka the Shea Hey kid... aka Fear the Deer.
Now, you may be asking yourselves. Steve Levin superheroic strength? Give me some examples! Or better yet, compare him to McLovin! And I am here to say, absolutely.

1. McLovin: tries cigarettes and beer in Superbad:: McLevin: rolled his own cigarettes when he started working for Vito Lopez.

2. McLovin: drivers license from Hawaii:: McLevin: drivers license from- uh- New Jersey, maybe? That's like the Hawaii of the northeast isn't it?

3. McLovin: awkward first love scene filmed with mom in the room:: McLevin: awkward first session of City Council with dad in the room.

4. McLovin: worked for Judd Apatow and his comedy mafia:: McLevin: Vito is funnier than Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan combined.

5. McLovin: no actual superpowers in new movie Kickass!:: McLevin: Red-eye death stare melts down developers.

So there you have it. McLevin. The Councilman. Steve, it could be worse.

"
Hey, um, Rami, Solomon, have you guys seen my cape? The forum is about start."

Bouquet of Rose Plaza links


Steve Levin... Land Use Superhero?

By now, you've read that Rose Plaza got done in a City Hall version of Deal or No Deal (Brooklyn Paper). And it got done Steve Levin's way. Before the Speaker made her mind up, Levin wrung out 30 percent affordable housing, 14 4-bedroom units and 60-3 bedroom units, all of which are affordable too, from the developer, Isack Rosenberg.
He also agreed to remove a waterfront beach from the esplanade plan (though this was done earlier in the negotiations) and a restaurant, ensuring that "yuppies/ hipsters" do not show off their scantily clad bodies in the middle of the Hasidic Quarter.

The story made the headlines around the newsrooms and the blogosphere. Let's link them up!

*Matt Chaban at the Architect's Newspaper has a big breakdown of the final Rose Plaza plan, including more about that beach and the AMI levels in those below market units. Nicely done, Matt.

*Land Use superhero (or supernemesis?) Eliot Brown has a summary from the New York Observer.

*Linda Collins at the Brooklyn Eagle also has a long summary, with more quotes from Rosenberg's rep, Howard Weiss

*Check out Amanda Fung's report at Crains too.

*Brooklyn 11211 weighs in as well.

*Finally, Erin Durkin, whose Daily News editorial board has earned the ire of Levin and Lopez over Domino this week, has her report on Rose Plaza.

Stephen Colbert to Williamsburg... don't bother counting yourselves

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Forbes & Hipsters
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Stephen Colbert ups the ante on the hipster counting, saying that it is preferable if Williamsburg does not count itself in the US Census, because fewer resources from the government means decaying infrastructure, which means increased hipster cred. This was coming, wasn't it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I... wanna be... anarchy... in BK....


The police raided an anarchist collective, aka the "crazy hippie warren," or the "positive energy freegan flophouse" Tuesday afternoon and arrested two individuals on outstanding criminal summonses. I got to check it out.
A few notes. Most of the anarchists wore some combination of black gray and white and don't necessarily consider themselves as anarchists but recognize the marketing potential of using the word "anarchist." Hence, Anarchist Film Festival. Of course, this works both ways. Hence the raid. Tracking...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Community Board 1, additional thoughts


Community Board members were treated to a special performance of Phantom at The Opera

I will have to add to this shortly (aka tomorrow morning), but yes, after a vociferous argument at 9 PM last night, Community Board 1 will write a letter in support of the Greenpoint Renaissance (GREC) proposal to redevelop the Greenpoint Hospital. The back and forth will be posted later. Tonight is Steve Levin's Domino public meeting at The Boiler on N. 14th Street.

Updated! Let's pick up where we left off late Tuesday night at about 8:50 PM... on... as the Community Board Turns...

8:50 PM: Tom Burrows pushes Chairman Chris to send a letter endorsing the GREC proposal for the Greenpoint Hospital development, but Chris is hesitant because "it would look like favoritism." Tom doesn't like this.
Chairman Chris: We don't know who's out there, who has applied.
Jaye Fox chimes in, saying "it is appropriate and right" to send a letter and that there is precedence for the board's actions. Then she lays the smackdown on HPD's Holly Leicht.
"Holly has been dismissive and rude. We can't let her get away with this. She's being political behind the scenes. Yet again, this is HPD being rude to this community board.
Karen Nieves asks why there won't be a letter and Chairman Chris explains that he can't resolve this issue at this time. Now everyone wants to say something, and Chairman Chris gives the floor to CB1 member (and St. Nicks staffer) Jose Leon. Chairman Chris checks the clock, which is close to 9 PM, and finally caves in.
"I can't guarantee you that they are going to listen," says Chairman Chris.
8:58 PM: There's a motion, and a second, and a near-unanimous vote. Jose abstains. Mr. Postman... send that letter!

Community Board 1: Beetles and Roses

6:10 PM: What a difference a month makes. Last month, the always present Marie from the Community Board 1 staff was kicking ass and taking names at the door for an overflow crowd. Tonight, there were still seats to be had by 6:38 PM.

Press Row is lonely tonight (it’s just Linderman and me), which is a good indication of the substance of tonight’s meeting. Ward Dennis and Simon Weiser are not here tonight. No sign from the Chairman Emeritus either. But Batman and Robin from the Public Safety Boys are in the hizzzzouse! Holla!

We have our first Young People’s Alert! Of the year. There are an alarming number of under-35 people at the meeting tonight, and they’re not all from Neighbors Allied for Good Growth. Tracking!

I should not that this is a big night for local opera star Richard Mazur, who is giving an update about the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Collaborative Against Tenant Displacement, or GWCATD.

6:41 PM District Manager Gerry Esposito reads the roll and asks for a moment of silence to honor the loss of the Polish President and

6:43 PM: We’re onto the sidewalk cafes. A representative from Enid’s is applying to renew her sidewalk license.

Ashley, the owner: Our neighborhood customers seem to enjoy sitting outside, eating and drinking, looking at our fantastic park, which is in bloom right now.

Rabbi Webber asks what the position is of the neighbors.

Ashley: They’re for it.

Café Argentino is up next, followed by River Barrel. Public Safety Chairman Mieszko Kalita leaves the room to speak with Ashley He is wearing a double-breasted navy blazer and khakis pants, and his hair is particularly vertical tonight.

6:49 PM: Now introducing Ian Jack from the Parks Department for the Asian Longhorned Beetle lecture. Ian sounds a bit like Ricky Gervais crossed with Wallace from Wallace and Grommit.

"We’re planting in CB1 until 2017 by which at this time you’ll have a million trees. Community Board 1 receives more trees than any area in Brooklyn....

“You will see the signs of your trees coming. You will literally be smothered in trees.”

The stewardship that we offer is the first step that we offer in becoming a fellow of the parks… and you’ll get to go to parties with Bette Midler, so that’s good.”

I feel like I’m at a community board hearing at Hogwarts. Cheerio!

Ian explains that he wasn’t prepared to talk about the Asian Longhorn Beetle but he will anyway and explains how the feds kill beetles by injecting the trees with chemicals.

As he is speaking, CPC Resources’ Susan Pollock and Barbara Baer enter the room, give Rich Mazur a peck on the cheek and take a seat at Press Row. Needless to say, they are in a better mood this month than last month.

Ian continues on about how the beetles are not expected to be eradicated until 2033.

These beetles have been around a lot longer than 23 years and will be around a lot longer still. If you have an infestation, report it immediately, you cannot wait to report it. Should we have an infestation, we will stand to lose a lot of the old stock.

“That’s about it to me. Ten minutes, potted version. Have you any questions?”

There are lots of tree questions, mostly from homeowners who don’t want trees forced upon them. Meanwhile, Gotham Gazette is reporting that as of 4 PM, there is no deal between Councilman Steve Levin and the developers on Rose Plaza. At 8 PM, there is supposed to be a small protest of Orthodox Jews in front of Isack Rosenberg’s home, demonstrating against the “filthy plan” that will attract “yuppies/ hipsters” to South Williamsburg that will eventually build “a beach, G-d forbid!” As if on cue, Levin’s liaison Rami Metal shows up.

7:09 PM Ladies and gentleman, Rich Mazur! Rich Mazur everyone!

Rich thanks Chairman Chris for his involvement and tells us about the collaborative of seven neighborhood groups and their work helping tenants at risk of displacement following the 2005 rezoning.

He’s got a few stats. Homelessness is up 34 percent. There have been 4500 office visits or tenant

“Our experiences since the rezoning have been that luxury and market rate development continue to generate displacement among our neighbors and friends.”

Rich is appealing to the community board to continue to demand funding for the work of the collaborative and then introduces all the tenant organizers who stand up.

The room gives them a warm applause.

7:20 PM CB1 member Simon Weiser shows up. Guess he’s not at the protest.

District Manager Esposito gives a second roll call and we’re into the meeting officially.

CB1 member Solomon Bondo stops by Press Row and lets us know that tonight’s Rose Plaza protest has been canceled.

Chairman Chris addresses the negotiations regarding Rose Plaza in his report:

“We’re sticking with 33 percent affordable housing (so far the developer has offered 30 percent). It is interesting to see that when our voice, when put before city planning and the city council carries a certain amount of weight.

Chairman Chris also addresses Nate Silver’s article in New York Magazine, which referenced Greenpoint as the 5th best district to live.

“They rated it by proximity to oil spill,” says Jeff Mann, who takes a seat at Press Row.

7:31 PM: Karen Nieves gives her first Transportation Committee report. Snaps for Karen!

She is speaking about the resurfacing of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which will occur over the next 12 weeks, and she is referencing a problem with the current bike lane. The committee is asking the DOT to look at making the lane safer.

Jeff mentions that the way that the lanes are painted, cars and trucks going over the bridge have no choice but to drive into the lanes, causing backups.

Karen moves on to update traffic calming measures on Maspeth Avenue near Cooper Park and the street reconstruction of Nassau Avenue.

Linderman notices that Jan Peterson, who reenters the room, has completely changed her wardrobe. She’s like the Cher of Community Board 1

I say hi to Ed Towns’ liaison Jonathan Noble and peak outside for a bit. Karen’s report has lasted twenty-two minutes (blogger's note: I was a little harsh in my previous post. Yes, Karen's report was long, but it was her first EVER report and there is a lot going on, particularly in Greenpoint. Snaps for Karen are warranted). The next meeting is on Thursday.

7:54 PM: Mieszko kicks things right off with a list of sidewalk cafes and license renewals as Steve Levin walks into the room.

The list goes on… and on. The committee is mostly recommending approvals for sidewalk cafes, but shortening the length and asking for fewer tables. The vote is approved.

Onto license renewals, including Berry Park’s rooftop bar. This is beginning to drag too. Steve Levin takes a call in the hallway before returns. He still looks like he just finished reading his Torah portion.

The board approves the licenses and Mieszko goes back to his seat.

8:09 PM: Chairman Chris acknowledges Steve Levin who says a few words.

“Rose Plaza is coming up for a vote tomorrow. I have been very active in my support of the community board’s stance on it.

It appears at this point that we have come to an agreement.

The conditions have not been released. I have fought very hard, and a great many of your suggestions have been incorporated.

At least 30 percent affordable. We have been able to reach an agreement.

As a councilmember, first time that I have had a big land use fight going on. The support of the community board was very very heartening to me. I was able to say, emphatically, that I have had the community board backing me up in every step that I took. I look at that both ways, and I have the community board’s back as well.

The goal of the town hall tomorrow on Domino is to foster a lively dialogue.

Julie asks Steve to summarize Marty’s argument. On Domino.

Steve says that Marty disapproved of the special permit.

Steve also acknowledges Rami for attending a waterfront hearing by the City Planning Department

Esteban: Why is the Domino meeting being held in the northside tomorrow and not the south side where the project is going to happen?

Esteban is upset about Steve not picking a place on the south side.

With all due respect, it is 12 blocks away and it’s not difficult to get to.

Steve ends his report expressing his grief and sympathy to the Polish people regarding the death of Poland’s President.

8:19 PM: Public Session! Let’s pick through the highlights.

*Dennis Stewart and two other librarians from the Brooklyn Public Library kicks things off with budgetary forecasts that could close one library in each council district and layoffs close to 30 percent of the staff. They hope to raise about $500,000 between March 1 and May 31.

*Solomon Bondo visits Press Row with the details of the deal.

3-bedrooms. Doubled it to 60 in total and they are all affordable. The developer will add on 14 4-bedrooms apartments, all affordable, and he will take out the restaurant and a beachfront. He won’t have a beachfront he’s taking it out.

Everything is going to be binding.

As a board member, I feel we’ve accomplished a lot of it. Regarding the affordable housing, it’s not about marginalizing profits, it’s doing what the community board wanted.


*Michael Arcotti, a resident who lives in a condo building near Cooper Park is endorsing the GREC proposal for the redevelopment of the Greenpoint Hospital and says that he is grateful for GREC for cleaning up that neighborhood over the past twenty-five years.

*A resident of a building on N. Eighth Street is thanking People’s Firehouse after a vacate order in the building after the landlord did illegal renovations in the basement. Other tenants are speaking up about this too and some have lived there as long as thirty years.

*A resident on Grand Street is worried about liquor licenses, particularly in the building next door to him.

“This is not Bedford Avenue. Grand Street has a tradition of a strong retail business and also being a family street. Half of them on Grand are not serving food and are just bars.

The other issue is backyard gardens. I know people want to make a living but you cannot sell people’s backyards.

-Robert Stanhope

*Brian Leventhal is introducing a new winery to Williamsburg called the Brooklyn Winery, “a new winery to manufacture urban wine.

You can come in and make wine in your own caskets.

It’s not on Grand Street. It’s on N. Eighth and Driggs (a former nightclub). And it’s not a cabaret, there’s no dancing, and they won’t be open late like a regular bar.

We’re not a bar, we’re an educational business. We’re here to teach people about the beauties and complexities of winemaking.

*Jan Peterson, Chair of the Greenpoint Renaissance takes the Community Board to task for not sending a letter of support to GREC regarding the Greenpoint Hospital plan. This is more of a polite scolding, or “a hard ask.”

*Cassie Thornton is proposing to start a temporary school to OSA. On Meeker and Vandevoort Streets (Cherry Street Park). Sunday 2-5 PM for a discussion.

“Steve Levin is for the community,” says Simon Weiser before heading out.

*Open Space Alliance’s Stephanie Thayer is inviting community members to its Community Meeting at Warsaw, 261 Driggs Avenue, on April 20, at 6:30 PM while also noting that Modest Mouse will give a benefit concert for OSA this summer.

*A woman on Grand Street tells her story about being harassed by her landlord who wants to renovate the building for a family member, while she is fighting the issue in court.

8:50 PM Chairman Chris ends the public session and we’re close to adjournment. Exciting news. Levin gets his 30 percent and 14 four bedrooms. The Domino people are happy. Karen Nieves rivaled Chairman Chris for time of possession. And Mieszko has a lot of liquor licenses to deal with. Goodnight everyone!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Census in Williamsburg: You Can't Count on Me


The Census backlash has begun, with Erica Sackin at FreeWilliamsburg lambasting the NPR story for blaming Williamsburg hipsters for not filling out the Census. Brooklyn 11211 chimes in too, as did Conor Friedersdorf at Metablog, along with the Village Voice blog.
This isn't the end of it, but one thing to keep in mind is that all these numbers are moot until next Monday, when the Census should be able to report accurate numbers from forms filled out by April 1st. That means the numbers will certainly improve.

For a closer look inside the Census numbers throughout, check out CityLimits' Jarret Murphy. I interviewed him about the Census last week, so look for that article soon too.

One more thing. The reason why the Hasidic numbers are so low? The census forms were mailed... on Passover! I spoke with UJO's executive director and he thinks that many in the community ignored the Census forms or "threw them out with the chometz." A decent excuse, and the Rabbi promises a much larger Census campaign this month to improve the response.

Community Board One Preview


It's a beetle invasion!, lots of sidewalk cafes, and the irrepressible Rich Mazur tonight at Community Board 1. Because Community Board 1 reminds me of living in a yellow submarine.
Meanwhile, at the same time, a big protest will erupt at 8 PM at 106 Ross Street, the home of Rose Plaza developer Isack Rosenberg. Sample lines from the flyer:
"Money hungry developers are bringing in the heart of Williamsburg 800 apartments for yuppies/ artists on the property of Certified lumber... they're also writing in their plans that a beach will be built there, G-D Foebid (sic)! People of Williamsburg! Let's gather and not allow this money-hungry person, to destroy our city!"
The Land Use Committee vote is tomorrow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Links: Reaction in Greenpoint


The big story this weekend was the neighborhood's reaction to the death of Polish president Lech Kazinski, which was understandably grief-stricken shock. Residents of the lively Polish immigrant community handed out flags and black ribbons, and gathered at St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic church for masses on Saturday and Sunday morning. WPIX has some video and there's more coming I imagine. While Greenpoint's conservative Polish community fled from communist rule, Kazinski's death affected everyone and was well liked on Nassau Avenue.

Now let's look at the good, bad and the less than pretty from this past weekend's stories...

The good! aka "How Sweet It Is!"

Williamsburg's development framed the weekend's coverage from Marty's surprise Domi-Yes announcement late Friday afternoon and the Daily News' mayoral visit-inspired editorial following that other editorial brimming with sugar love. Lots of good coverage to check out too including Amanda Fung's take on Crain's and Linda Collins' work at The Brooklyn Eagle.
This comes a day after the Rose Plaza negotiations went public (read my article here, Eliot Brown's Observer article here, and Erik Engquist at Crain's for some different takes). It's Deal or No Deal in City Hall this week! How many more four-bedrooms can fit in the silver case?

Also, Nate Silver (yes, that Nate Silver) rates the livability of the city's neighborhood for New York Magazine. Unsurprisingly, Park Slope tops the list. It is followed by Boerum Hill (fourth) and Greenpoint (fifth), which somehow beat out Brooklyn Heights (sixth). Williamsburg came in 20th, behind Fort Greene which came in 18th. And Bushwick?... Fuggedeboutit.

The bad:

The Hipsters Hate the Census story is getting out of hand. The Village Voice snarkily takes apart the NPR report about Williamsburg's poor census performance but not for the right reasons. Even The Hill is writing about this, and before this story, they thought Williamsburg is in Virginia.

Three important things are wrong about the NPR story (and several others covering the census), but let's start with the Hasids who are mentioned in passing.

Participation in South Williamsburg has been low, mainly because the Census workers have done poor outreach advertising that the Census is occurring, but that may be changing quickly. The United Jewish Organizations and the Met Council are launching a big outreach effort tomorrow to get people to fill out the census. Better late than never, though it is interesting to ask why they're late. The answer is not that they don't understand. The UJO knows that accurately representing the population living there means more resources would come into the neighborhood in the future. Comparing them with loosely organized Williamsburg newcomers, hipster or not, rings false.

Second, Williamsburg's SIGNIFICANT Spanish immigrant community was not even mentioned or acknowledged and they have the most complicated relationship with the Census because some may not be here legally. Luis Garden Acosta is nodding silently right now. What a wasted opportunity. Word on the street is that the Census hasn't reached out to highly mobilized Catholic groups in the neighborhood, but there will be a big push there soon.

Finally, about the hipsters. The types of industrial loft buildings in Williamsburg have changed considerably the past ten years and many new residents are moving into condos, not warehouses. Young newcomers, or whatever you'd like to call them, still like to go out in Williamsburg but increasingly, they are not living there. They're moving to Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant, Greenpoint, parts of Queens, and other neighborhoods. Can you have a hipsters failing to fill out the census story if you don't have any hipsters living in that neighborhood? It's times like these that I wish we had a comprehensive way to find out where people are living.

The less than pretty:
The New York Magazine's long profile about the relationship between Hipsters and Hasids, Clash of the Bearded Ones, is interesting, but it starts in the wrong place. The bike lane is a microcosm of what's going on, and an easy representation of the clash of the cultures angle the writer is taking, but it starts and ends with real estate. Do yourself a favor and skip the first three pages until Mayer Schwartz starts talking about how he started the Bedford Mini Mall. Then it looks at an open house on S. Eighth Street and the uncomfortable vibes that followed. That's the story.

Joe Lentol's Newtown Creek Google gamble is picking up some traction, but not everyone is impressed. L-Magazine for one called Lentol's campaign for broadband "a desperate act of magical thinking." Yikes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Short List: Taxman Edition


A Short Story has a few tips to get you through tax filing season.

First, do not visit the awning on Wilson Avenue that says PM Taxes. It is an art gallery. They do not know how to file your taxes and they will be insulted if you ask them. But do visit the gallery to check out Deborah Brown's Bushwick paintings.

Second, if you own a large landmarked building that you want to convert to condos, consider a charitable contribution to your friendly neighborhood Borough President. And your councilman.

Third, attorney fees and lobbying costs in order to get your controversial development over the hump can be written off in a new itemized deduction.

Fourth, medical costs incurred via having your child's leg singed in a metallic playground orb can also be deducted.

Finally, if your place of business was raided by the DEA or the NYPD this week, you may be able to deduct loss of revenue while your business remained closed, but you should probably see an accountant. Or just send lawyers, guns and money.

Happy filing!

Marty Markowitz Writes to Steve Jobs

An Apple Store Grows in Brooklyn from Marty Markowitz on Vimeo.

Borough President Marty "Peter Pan" Markowitz sent an email to Steve Jobs on his brand new iPad asking for an Apple store in Brooklyn. I thought that Borough Hall had already been enclosed in a giant glass cube, but that's just me. Of course, the Markowitz family is extremely excited about this development. Are you ready to play... family feud!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ms. Crespo and the RBSCC


BushwickBK's Jeremy Sapienza has been doing a little digging on this, but this appears to be a pretty straightforward fraud case. The facts here are that in 2007 and 2008, a Ridgewood Bushwick employee submitted fabricated expense reports for karate class instruction to the city. The Department of Investigation is continuing to do what it does. Investigate.

I would like to know from Hope Gardens whether these karate classes even happened. Unfortunately, the multi-service center's former director, Ana Gonzalez, passed away last year, so it is difficult to get a comment from the center on the classes. I know Ana at the time was complaining to me that these anti-gang discretionary funds had been frozen in the City Council after the slush fund scandal, but we didn't talk about karate.

As for the other rumors, the woman who is being investigated is not a former Diana Reyna campaign staffer. Reyna's office has no idea who she is.

Thursday links: Prelude to a Quaalude

http://www.doobybrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/mila-kunis-extract.jpg
Greenpoint's DL Labs was raided Tuesday for allegedly trafficking Quaaludes. Fortunately, Mila Kunis was unharmed.

I've gotten so caught up in anniversary celebrations that I missed posting a morning list of links. Let's go to the highlights!

*Every year it seems like there's some kind of weird drug bust in Greenpoint. First it was cocaine in a butcher shop's sausage casings. Then it was the hipster drug den. This time, it's the bi-coastal Quaalude laboratory. If I were running the underground Community Board 1 meth lab these days, I'd be pretty anxious.
http://www.biojobblog.com/uploads/image/01%20Breaking%20Bad%20003_1883.JPG
Hey Ward, nice stache!

*We thought Williamsburg would do poorly in the 2010 Census, but this poorly? Gothamist and Free Williamsburg take their neighbors to task for not filling out their Census forms (31.3% at the last count)

*Williamsburg Walks will be shortened from 3 weekends to 1 weekend. That's a 33 percent cut! Also getting cut? The Greenpoint Memorial Day Parade (down 25 percent!). And this is before the city's budget gets approved.

*Ralph's Water Ice is now going to be a deli. Don't worry, you still have Fortunato Brothers.

*Remember to tune into Let's Make A Deal! with this week's guest-- Isack Rosenberg and Rose Plaza!

*The Market Hotel, which is neither a market, nor a hotel, is also... not open. But it's not closed for good.

*Finally, Assemblyman Joe Lentol wants broadband so badly he will risk death by wading into Newtown Creek. At some point. Probably. Joe if you actually do this, I will be right next to you... in a boat taking photographs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thank you everyone for attending!


Who the heck are all these people?

Thanks everyone for stopping by, sending messages, writing posts for Tuesday night. We had a lot of fun (and thank you Teddy's for accommodating everyone). The blog has never felt better. Not everyone could be there. For instance, Councilman Steve Levin couldn't make it, but he sent his haircut, below right.

However, it seems like we were at the wrong party.
http://www.edrants.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/extract.jpg
Jason Bateman's Quaalude factory is in a lot of trouble these days.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Short Story: Best of... Mieszko Stories


About a month ago, a community board member who I will not name said that she ran into Mieszko this year and he took out a few pictures from his wallet to show her. Not pictures of his family, mind you. Pictures of Mieszko shirtless... hanging out, doing chores, etc. She was mildly shocked by this and will deny it if you ask her that it happened. I swear to God this happened.

Thanks everyone for making this blog possible. I was wrong. You're all celebrities. Especially Mieszko.

A Short Story: Best of... Celebrity Sightings

None of you are celebrities. I am sorry.

A Short Story: Best of... Facial Hair


The most difficult category to pick from. Transportation Alternative's Kevin Vincent is in Germany and Michael Hofmann shaved his beard, so both are disqualified. Esteban Duran's fu manchu is interesting, and definitely more tasteful than whatever is living on Will Florentino's chin. Steve Lenard put up a good campaign in the city agency division, though he was edged out by Jack Hammer. But A Short Story has to recognize the amazing two-toned beard of Rabbi David Niederman. Behold.

A Short Story: Best of... Dance Party!


A category with a lot to choose from. The Jennys at MeanRed put together a consistently slamming show and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Cheryl, but nothing tops Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez's annual Christmas Party at Warsaw. If you attended last year, you would have seen the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus doing the moonwalk late into the night with her constituents. Take some notes Anthony Weiner and Kirsten Gillibrand.

A Short Story: Best of... Hyperlocal Religious wars


Usually we think of religious wars as something happening between two nations, not between two sects in the same Hasidic section of the same neighborhood. Welcome to Holy Williamsburg!
From the Broadway Triangle to Rose Plaza, to a bevy of court cases fighting over naming rights, nothing is dull among the Satmars. Even Marty Markowitz couldn't resolve this one (and Steve Levin doesn't want to). The latest event to set off the sects? Whose matzoh tastes the best.

A Short Story: Best of... Hipster Clusterf###s


Among the bevy of events that hipsters participate in during the year, few begin to have the annoying tone of earnestness mixed with irony. I am talking about pillow fight day, no pants subway rides, the idiotarod, and the like.
This was not one of them.

Duke Riley's naval onslaught at the Queens Museum attracted museum geeks and all comers to don togas, carry tomatoes and wreck each other in an epic art battle. Even though the Brooklyn battleship was quickly and embarrassingly sacked, it proved to be one of the greatest hipster events of the past decade. Plus, anytime I get to stand shoulder to shoulder with my award winning Queens counterparts Jeremy Walsh and Willow Belden is a good day.

A Short Story: Best of... Vito moments


Everyone has their favorite Vito moment. Nearly all of them are off the record. But the best ones are when the Assemblyman is relaxed and hanging out at his beloved summer senior picnic at Sunken Meadows. The event was so momentous it had to be captured twice. Read Volume I and Volume II for a refresher course on the realities of Steve Levin and Vito's relationship. Ahhh summer memories!

A Short Story: Best of... Campaign Stunts



The chicarron man was a treat, the Maritza-mobiles were entertaining, and we still don't know exactly how Steve Levin got Chuck Schumer to endorse him so early in the primary, but the best campaign stunt of the past year by far had to be David Yassky's four square challenge. The contest roped in a lot of innocent victims, hooked a New York Observer feature and exposed me as the talentless athletic hack that I am. Well played Taxi Man, well played.