Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hasidic shoe stores

Passover is over, but this remains my favorite South Williamsburg story I've read.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Press Release of the Week: DEP Boot Camp

This is what sewage plant workers must "voluntarily go through today. Be gentle on Jimmy Pynn! He bruises easily.

Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway today kicked off the 24th Annual Operations Challenge competition, a test of skill and speed for teams of sewage treatment workers who compete in timed events for the chance to represent DEP at the New York State and national competitions that take place later this year. Four DEP teams will compete in various tasks, including fixing a pipe, repairing a pump, and rescuing an injured employee. The two winning teams will represent New York City at the State competition to be held in May at Lake George. This year’s morning-long event was held at the Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, and is sponsored by DEP and the Water Environment Federation.

This year’s four competing teams—the Sludge Fellas, the Tide Surfers, the Unknowns, and the Turtle Surfers—hail from the Owls Head, Tallman Island and North River wastewater treatment plants. Each team will compete in five timed events, including:

· Collections: Teams respond to a leaking pipe and repair it while it remains in service.

· Water Quality Testing: Teams perform tests to determine the pollution level in water to see if it meets discharge standards.

· Maintenance: Contestants remove submersible equipment, make the necessary repairs and return it to service.

· Waste Treatment Process: Teams answer multiple choice questions to demonstrate their knowledge of the wastewater treatment process.

· Worker Safety: Teams rescue a dummy in a confined space while checking air quality using safety devices and perform CPR.

The Operations Challenge is an excellent opportunity to showcase safety and training skills while recognizing the work of wastewater treatment operators. The two highest scoring teams will go on to compete in the statewide competition in May. From there, winners of the statewide contest will participate in a national competition in Los Angeles. The Operations Challenge was developed by the Water Environment Federation, the largest professional organization representing the wastewater treatment industry. The event at the Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant is sponsored by a local chapter of the organization in conjunction with DEP, which has participated in the Operations Challenge since 1987. A team from DEP has made it to the national competition for 15 straight years

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Remember when New York looked like this?

And I gotta throw some more Godspell at you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moratorium Madness!: Mieszko gets famous

It's finally happening. Mieszko is slowly becoming a celebrity. I bet this is how Jack Horner felt when Eddie Adams got his first big break.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WTF of the Week

This week's WTF of the Week comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which ran a story on the Community Board 1 proposed liquor license moratorium that seems a mirror image of Greg Hanlon's Capital New York survey of the plan which appeared on April 15.
Now, this story has been out there a while, but Greg went to the meeting, made some follow-up calls including one to the State Liquor Authority and wrote it up. The Journal had a similar angle, which 11211 notes too, but that story came out a full week after the meeting happened.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Matzoh is the new black

I know. I always link this.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pimp Release of the Week

From the US Attorney' office:

PKC:LMN F.#2010R01709
--------------------------------------X UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WILLIAM JOHNSON, also known as “Dolla Bill,” “Dollarz,” and “Dollabillz,”
---------------------------------------X EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:
C O M P L A I N T (18 U.S.C. § 1591(a))
LAURA A. SPENCE, being duly sworn, deposes and says that she is a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), duly appointed according to law and acting as such.
Upon information and belief, in or about and between January 2007 and September 2010, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendant WILLIAM JOHNSON, also known as “Dolla Bill,” “Dollarz,” and “Dollabillz,” did knowingly and intentionally recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain by any means a person in and affecting interstate commerce, and did knowingly and intentionally benefit financially from participation in a venture which engaged in such acts, knowing that force, fraud and coercion would be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, and knowing that the person
2 had not attained the age of 18 years would be caused to engage in
a commercial sex act.

Lessons from Community Board 1

The Community Board 1 resolution on the East River concerts is redactacular.

This week the hipster press discovered Community Board 1. Longtime observers, such as this blog, find it amusing that many colleagues on press row have some difficulty understanding why this civic group does what it does. Let me try to explain them with a few helpful tips.

1. If it sounds like the board voted on something outrageous, chances are it didn't actually happen.
Exhibit A: Banning the East River concerts. That's stupid, you might ask yourself. Why would a community board, which has about as much authority as a sports talk caller, pass a resolution to ban concerts in a state park that generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community?
Instead of reading a suggestive headline on the Internets and linking it verbatim (cough Vegan cough), sometimes you need to call a couple of people to verify what actually happened if you weren't there. The blogs got this very wrong this week, so throw some credit Metro's way, and Alison Bowen in particular, for sussing this out.

2. Board members don't always know what they're voting on-- especially since what they vote on gets written up after they vote on it.
In Albany, and just about in any other legislative body, legislators vote on bills that have been written into the record so they know, more or less, what they're voting on.
At the community board, sometimes the opposite happens. Board members vote on a suggestion, or a very strong feeling, to take a stand about something. What exactly? They don't know-- until the board staff writes the resolution up.
So you can imagine one's frustration when you call a board member to ask what he voted on and he says, 'I don't know, call the office.'

3. Sometimes the actual resolution is more confusing than the debate.
Back to Exhibit A. The board's resolution to "request assistance from state and city leaders about the park's permit process" (specifically who is issuing the permits, who is securing the permits, has there been a review process, has input been asked, and where is revenue going) doesn't actually make any sense. In fact, it's the job of the District Manager to research these questions and report that information back to the board. Oh, and guess what else. It's all PUBLIC RECORD. You can read about how concerts got to the East River here, here and here.

4. Sometimes the debate on one issue is about something else entirely.
Exhibit B: The liquor license moratorium. It's not about new bars coming to Williamsburg. Board members know it's silly to ban new business that bring jobs into the neighborhood and sponsor local events from coming into the neighborhood. It's about increasing enforcement for particularly bad nuisance bars and clubs, and that involves the NYPD, Department of Consumer Affairs, and City Council offices as well as the State Liquor Authority (as Tom Burrows sanely mentioned this week). Board members aren't upset at bars for staying open, they're upset at the drunk people wrecking havoc on the neighborhood after they leave late at night.

5. Sometimes equally significant issues get overshadowed during more frivolous debates.
Exhibit C: Alma Lounge. Everyone has their favorite bar they love to hate, such as Studio B (closed) Club Exit (closed), El Retorno (probably closing), and the Production Lounge (who knows), but Alma takes the cake. Daniel Susla got in front of the board Tuesday night to explain that he has had insomnia for a year-- yeah, you read that correctly-- because his illegally-operating basement neighbor blasts dance music. And city agencies are using their molasses-like enforcement strategy to shut it down by-- issuing violations that lead to court hearings that keep getting postponed. Daniel feels trapped. And a moratorium on liquor licenses will do nothing to help his situation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The East River concerts are not banned

Wow, I'll get to the moratorium discussion feedback in a second, but, no, contrary to several reports, Community Board 1 DID NOT vote to ban the East River State Park summer concerts.

The board likely voted to draft a resolution opposing it and all its deleterious effects. That resolution is being drafted this afternoon. If you think it's weird that board members would vote on something before even writing up what they're voting on, you're not the only one.

More shortly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Community Board 1: Prohibition Edition

6:15 PM: It's absolutely mobbed tonight. I haven't seen it this crowded since Broadway Triangle. And it's because of the proposed liquor license moratorium on the agenda. Yes, the board will debate banning all new liquor licenses in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. How big a deal is that? The Huffington Post sent PAID videographers to cover it.

So what else are people pissed about? The McGuinness Boulevard homeless shelter, the Polish Slavic Center Cafeteria's liquor license, the city's Greenpoint Hospital development project, the pulsating sound tomb that is Alma Lounge a zoning overlay application on N. Eighth Street, the canceled Brooklyn Night Bazaar, scatalogical concertgoers spewing out of East River State Park during the summer, more garbage, dog sh-t, and David Yassky. Again.

There's also a reporter with New York 1 who is grabbing everyone she can get her hands on-- including Community Board mascot Mieszko Kalita into the back hallway for an interview. Mieszko is going to become an overnight celebrity because of this, just you wait.

And finally, Miss Heather and friends have formed the Community Board 1 Ladies Auxiliary because they enjoyed El Rotono. Congratulations ladies!

6:35 PM Chairman Chris takes the mic and we're diving right into the debate... with a BSA application for a new gym and retail store on 272 Driggs Avenue. You can feel the tension in the air.

Next, there's another BSA application for a martial arts studio on 184 N. Eight Street near Bedford Avenue. They're going to turn the old brick warehouse into the fitness studio and the applicant describes his plan as "community-based." He takes five questions. Tension is rising.

Hey it's the Meatball Shop guy! I wrote about him! He wants a small sidewalk cafe on a skinny stretch of Bedford Avenue. Those balls are tasty but I bet there will be some objections to this one.

6:56 PM: David Yassky's up. Chairman Chris asks if he's here yet. He isn't. Sorry David. We're moving on.

6:57: Diane Jackson from Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Coalition takes us back before she takes us forward on the Greenpoint Hospital plan.
But she gets right to the group's lawsuit against the city for choosing a rival developer, TNS Great American Construction, to build senior housing on the site:

"We submitted our proposal. It took the city approximately three years to answer proposal. And they said they had a better proposal. They came up with a very weak proposal. The city took this other organization by the hand, walked them throughout he process, helped them make changes to their proposal to make it look like our proposal. We found this out through a FOIL request and we decided to take them to court."
This gets some table banging and moderate applause.

7:05 PM: Chairman Chris: Is Commissioner Yassky here?
There's a faint "yes" in the hallway. David has the floor. He wants to make it legal for livery cabs to pick up passengers in the outer boroughs-- a practice that people do already. And that's about it.

Two questions. Rabbi David Niederman thanks David for his service to the neighborhood and asks about opposition to the plan from taxi drivers.

Esteban Duran has his blunt take: "Last time you had a proposal it failed miserably. What type of analytical data have you looked at that provides of this massive policy change? Our neighborhoods are still suffering from cuts, like the B39."

David: "You have to let the market do its thing. We've tried to relax our rules to let commuter vans to replace the bus service... We have super smart people working at TLC. I have full confidence in them. Let the drivers figure out where the passengers are and serve them there, and get rid of rules that prevent this from happening."

Shockingly this is not the end of his remarks. There are more questions and David rambles onwards. Press Row is getting restless. A Brooklyn Eagle reporter continues to juggle all her stuff and

7:32 PM: Chairman Chris introduces liquor licenses to a small wave of groans. But he makes his first MVP move of the year, allowing public session to begin now, before meeting starts. Let's summarize:

Kevin Patrick Linney on 51 Kent: I have a bar in Fort Greene. I got wind about a potential moratorium and like many people here I was concerned about the parameters, which streets, is there a time frame, will there be a risk to open a restaurant for those with a good track record.

Anthony Martin is opposed the Berry Street commercial overlay, also known as the Teddy's Restaurant Rezoning. He says he has 75 signatures opposing the rezoning and is worried the rezoning will turn Berry Street into Bedford Avenue.
"Even if loud places use their backyards, it will affect hundreds of us. Easily 30 buildings with gardens we enjoy would be subjected to noise until 2 am. There are 4 restaurants on the corner. We like this. It's enough. There shouldn't be more."

Another woman opposing the commercial overlay. "When this tips, we're are going to lose that balance. A neighborhood is made out of commerce and residents. It's the residents that support that commerce and are an important fabric of the neighborhood."

Andy Kaminsky with the Polish Slavic Center is supporting the re-submitted liquor license application, chastising its opponents for "personal vendettas" against the organization. He goes a minute over time but the Chairman allows.
"It's a politically motivated act based on two unsubstantiated allegations."

A Roebling Street resident says there are too many cars on Roebling Street and that a moratorium should have been put in place years ago.
"We don't want to be known as a drinking neighborhood." He receives loud applause.
Lost in tonight's moratorium frenzy is the fascinating back story of this organization and the community's politics.

Whoa! An opponentShe's attacking Mieszko for misleading the press! Mieskzo told me he wants nothing to do with this issue. When Mieszko is afraid of something, it's pretty f-cking serious.

Mark Wysocki on the cafeteria application. He's reading an excerpt of an interview Mieszko did with a Polish TV station, saying that he would welcome a beer at the cafeteria.
"Did you actually speak to these people," said Wysocki.
"No questions," says Mieszko.

Daniel Susla on Alma Lounge. Correction. Lost in tonight's moratorium frenzy is Daniel's year-long battle with insomnia caused by perhaps the loudest bar in the neighborhood.
"We understand the hoopla here but we're more in favor of enforcement of bars that operate outside the law." Daniel, stop smiling!

Another Polish opponent to the cafeteria.

Two more are supposed to speak against the cafeteria, but they can't speak English, so they Chairman Chris says they can't write into the record.

Felice Kirby is speaking on behalf of the commercial overlay, defending her restaurant's reputation and its outreach to its neighbors.

Another Polish resident is calling out the Executive Director of the Polish Slavic Center and her husband-- who is sitting in this meeting!-- for having dictatorial tendencies. Yikes!

It's best of Community Board 1 Teresa Toro speaks in favor of the Teddy's commercial overlay.
"Our nightlife is out of control now. The SLA gives out liquor licenses like candy. And that's something we have to address now! "
Juliet Linderman of the New York Times is here and asks what's up. It's best of Community Board 1-- that's what's up.

8:12 PM: Chairman Chris introduces the moratorium. Here he is, unfiltered:
We have not set a date for this to start or stop. We would like SLA to adopt a moratorium for this neighborhood.
We've had several complaints recently, people complainig about late hours, noise, loitering
One thing is apparent-- You cannot control people outside an establishment loitering in the street.
I think the community board has a responsibility to find equilibrium for residents who live here who want piece of mind as well as those establishments who are here who provide those services responsibly.
We're not saying it's going to be permanent... but we're going to at this point send a message. This is a tremendous burden on this community-- the saturation of bars opening up. We have a responsibility to all members of the community, not just to those who want to come here and have a good time.
Chairman Chris has some stats. In 2010 there were 138 applications with no rejections and all allowed to have liquor licenses.
This year, 1st quarter, 54 new applications. That's 220 applications projected over the year, a potential 50 percent increase. How much can this community stand? At this point we have come to a crisis with this issue.

Esteban has a question about the SLA and Chairman Chris goes off on the agency.

"They don't have to listen to us, but I know they get complaints from time to time.
This is different. It doesn't involve any one application, it's an overall community issue. We're not saying that the establishments are not good establishments, but they have to understand there's a responsibility here for everyone in this community. At some point, things become oversaturated, there comes a breaking point.
Let's get a consensus from the business community and residents about a plan, but right now it's not working.
What I'm asking for is to take the first step and ask the community board to take the first step.

Tom Burrows asks why all the city agencies are being left off the hook on this issue instead of just the SLA.

8:27 PM: Whew! Heather Roslund gets the mic, and she presents the Teddy's Rezoning for a vote. It passes unanimously. Felice is going to get her sidewalk cafe. At this point the room empties out.

8:33 PM: Phil Capanegro of the Parks Committee introduces a motion to formally oppose the Brooklyn Night Bazaar's Night Market's permits. The event has been canceled but the permits are still filed with the city. Needless to say, this passes unanimously.

8:38 PM: It's Mieszko time! You know something is going on if my report is more than eight pages. It's nine pages"
Mieszko reads a long list of liquor licenses, ending with Momofuku Milk Bar.
"They also will provide milkshakes known as White Russians that will also have liquor," says Mieszko.
There's a no vote for a couple of restaurants, 299-301 Graham Ave, and 35 Grattan Street.
And a yes on 17 renewals.
And now, El Rotorno restaurant, whose license renewal will be denied.
"What were the complaints," asks Esteban.
"They're in the minutes," says Mieszko.
Chairman Chris is confused.
"Women dancing with men for money-- usually men don't refuse that," says Mieszko.
Chairman Chris cuts him off and the motion carries.

Mieszko brings up the Brooklyn Night Bazaar's liquor license application, which soundly voted down. Rough night for the nightmarket.

Mieszko says that there will be a panel of three members, Ward, Mieszko and Will Florentino, to handle liquor licenses and that the public safety committee held a meeting about the McGuinness homeless shelter proposal. And that's it.

9:01 PM: Coucnilman Steve Levin arrives-- to one-quarter of the room still here-- and talks about his opposition to the homeless center.
"We want to say thank you to BRC for your proposal but you should go back ot the Bowery and out of Greenpoint.
Steve also announces that Noble Street is now open and the fence is down, and there was a hearing to address "fair share" concerning waste transfer stations.
Steve also mentions that the MTA will leave its 65 Commercial Street lot for Maspeth, which he had strong behind-the-scenes role expediting.
Steve has a few other issues to update, but I have to chill with Capital New York's Greg Hanlon in the hallway.

9:12 PM: Karen Nieves gives a summary of Transportation. I'm not going to lie, I'm still chilling with Capital New York's Greg Hanlon so I don't know what this is about. Probably bike lanes. Or parking.

9:20 PM: There's a motion to close. Chairman Chris shoots it down and gives the mic to Diana Reyna's Antonio Reynoso, who has a number of items, including some worry about the MTA's movement to a new location under the Williamsburg Bridge and a reminder that there isn't much open space in the south side either.

Lincoln Restler has the floor and notes

9:28 MP: Public Session! We're almost done. Let's summarize.
*Laura Hofmann and OUTRAGE is opposing the mayor's budget regarding waste transfer stations.

*Jane Wolowacz, a longtime N. Eighth resident is upset about the excessive noise and garbage due to the waterfront concerts.
"It's impossible for senior citizens to sit in front of the back yard and enjoy the day. People get very frustrated by the crowd that comes to the concerts. When they leave, they leave bottles, cans, condoms, and they urinate on your trees. This park was not created for the vendors or the business there. Give us this park for the residents. I have to take a sleeping pill. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you can't go the park because they start concerts."

*There's another resident on the East River waterfront concerts.
Del Teague seconds this complaint.
"I cannot describe how horrible these concerts have made our lives. The entire area is just devastated. If you can't get out of the neighborhood, your weekend is ruined. They start early in the morning doing sound checks, and it's loud. There are so many people, you can't walk through the streets."

There are some other comments going on, but I'm giving the last word to Ward who wants the board to put public session to the beginning of the meeting. So that issues like the quality of life on the Williamsburg waterfront get heard earlier in the meeting. Now that's a good idea. Goodnight.

Press Release of the Week

Media Advisory: FBI Bomb Training, Live Fire Demonstration
Special Agent Bomb Technicians (SABTs) Available for Interview

What: Bomb training exercise and explosive demonstration with FBI Special Agent Bomb Technicians (SABTs) as they train local and state law enforcement on various explosive devices, such as IEDs. This will include a live fire explosive demonstration. Interviews of SABTs will be available.

When: Tomorrow, Wednesday April 13, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

Who: FBI Special Agent Bomb Technicians and local law enforcement

Where: Suffolk County Police Training Facility
110 Old Country Road
Westhampton, New York

Additional Information: The SABT program is part of the FBI’s Hazardous Devices Operations Center in our Critical Incident Response Group. All bomb techs are certified through a rigorous six-week program and recertified every three years. Bomb techs regularly work with evidence response units, HAZMAT, and SWAT teams of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners. Suspicious packages and suspicious vehicles represent about 90 percent of the calls bomb techs respond to, which could include weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and improvised explosives devices (IEDs).

Press credentials and RSVP are required. Please RSVP to ******

CB1 Preview: Bringing the Angry

Community members on their way to CB1 tonight to speak about the liquor moratorium.

There's a lot of angry items on the agenda tonight but the war on alcohol is leading it off. At least during the Broadway Triangle meeting I had an idea who was going to show up. Tonight, I have no clue. It could be dozens of angry long-time residents upset about a specific bar on their block-- which this proposal will not solve. It could be dozens of new bar and restaurant owners who object to the arbitrary nature of the ban. It could be David Yassky trying to sell the rezoning again.

Wait-- David is coming tonight? Well, there you go.

I think the board will probably debate which sections of the neighborhood have the highest concentration of bars and propose a few saturation points for no new licenses, but we'll see shortly. Like I said, I don't know how it's going to go tonight, but nobody, not even a small town community board executive committee can keep this kid from dancing his heart out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday links

Happy Civil War Day Confederate readers!

Welcome back! Let's sift through some links.

Iconoclastic sportswriter Greg Hanlon hits this one out of the park. If you read one long magazine-y Capital New York piece this week, it should be this one about gentrification and Williamsburg schools.

But you probably can't help yourself, so check out this Steve Kornacki piece on Mario Cuomo, which goes into alleyways that Matt Bai strolled by.

Prohibition in Williamsburg? Hardly. But board members, including 11211, are upset at the flood of liquor licenses coming into Community Board 1. Lots more on this tomorrow.

BushwickBK launched a site redesign a week ago. It's worth some trolling.

There's going to be a park-- finally-- at 65 Commercial Street in Greenpoint.

Also-- finally-- that stalled condo-movie theater on Metropolitan Avenue will open on Memorial Day.

Laura Nahmias at City Hall News says sources are speculating that Mary Markowitz's chief Carlos Scissura is at the top of the heap to challenge Marty Golden in Bay Ridge. Wait, really? Points for creativity, but the headline editor has to tack on Running with Scissura for this piece to work.

Finally, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky chastises formerly chaste pop star Avril Lavigne on his facebook page, but I bet he secretly wanted to sing this at his karaoke birthday party last month.

Blue Man Group Vists Newton

Hat tip to Lacey Tauber for the video.

It's not quite Jimmy Pynn but the Blue Man Group make wastewater treatment fun don't they?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yes UConn!

Photo courtesy of AP

I almost forgot. Thank you Coach Calhoun, Kemba and the Heart Attack Huskies for making this birthday especially fulfilling. Go Huskies! There, I'm done.

Sto Lot! I'm turning 30!

Thanks Miss Heather and everyone else who wished me a happy birthday. So, my present to you is getting this thing started again. Expect a round-up of long links tomorrow with more witty observations that you expect from A Short Story, year 3-0.