Friday, May 29, 2009

The Short List: Bang on a Can edition

Queens leaders are excited about this week's Short List

Ahhhh Friday, time for another Short List: a weekly look at the week that was and what lies ahead.
But first, three bits of breaking news:

After two solid performances in debates in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, this morning Steve Levin received the endorsement of the Working Families Party. This comes on the heels of Jo Anne Simon receiving the IND endorsement (John Heyer picked it up in the 39th). Also this morning, Councilman David Yassky swept in a number of endorsements from Manhattan Democratic clubs including the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, the Lenox Hill Democratic Club, Ansonia Independent Democrats, and the Concerned Democratic Coalition of Northern Manhattan in his bid for Comptroller. Over the next week, candidates are circling the wagons for petitioning which will begin on June 9th. I kind of want to waive a checkered flag and say Gentlemen! Start your petitioning!" but the closest thing I have is a 1988 Al Gore for President t-shirt. That won't do.

Evan Thies really needs a cigarette right now

Brace yourself! The new Brooklyn Community Board One members have been announced : Moshe Kahan, EWVIDCO's Karen Nieves (Mazel tov Karen!), Solomon Bondo, and Chanel Guy- Roper. Tuesday, June 9th is the next CB1 meeting where dramatic race to replace outgoing Chairman Vinnie Abate will be decided! Don't anyone, but I think I just wet myself a little bit.

And finally, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth is looking to do... gasp!... a candidates forum. They're thinking June or July. Guys... AUGUST! Please. You'll get better turnout if you wait until later in the summer. I think WGNews+Arts is interested in working with NAG but I don't think they've spoken yet.

This weekend, there's the Brooklyn Half Marathon, SCORE! the free swap event on the Gowanus on Saturday, and as always, lots to do in Bushwick. If you're in Manhattan, check out the Book Expo America at the Javits Center and either avoid or flock to the Salute to Israel parade Sunday morning (I'm convinced I will meet my future wife and at least three future ex-wives at this event). Finally, stop by the Winter Garden for the epic Bang on a Can Marathon all day Sunday. Yes, it's BYOC: Bring Your Own Can, but there are no size restrictions. Look out below!:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Column!

Short Takes - MeanRed Looks for Spaces

A grassy lot on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. A Chinese restaurant and mini-mall. A church basement on a quiet side street in Williamsburg. A former bank on a busy stretch of Manhattan Avenue.
These are not the spaces one would think of as the site of a music venue but they are exactly what Jenny Gottstein, Marketing Coordinator of Mean Red Productions, is looking for.
“It’s getting harder to do things everywhere,” said Gottstein. “It’s hard to be an independent producer because you are getting squeezed on both ends. People have less money when they go out to pay for covers and are buying two drinks instead of five. And sponsors and partners are getting their budgets cut so they have less money to spend on marketing.”
Gottstein and other MeanRed producers think of themselves as music curators more than event planners or marketers. As traditional music venues in Manhattan are becoming expensive and scarce, promoters have been looking for alternative spaces around the city to hold special events. DJs, musicians or promoters relay their artistic parameters to Gottstein who then sets about the city, scouting for a space that closely matches their specifications. This year, she has visited the back rooms of dim sum restaurants in Chinatown, pool halls, Quinceanera parlors in the Lower East Side, Italian Social Clubs in the Gowanus.
“The space has to be visually dynamic and have an interesting usage,” said Gottstein. “The dealbreaker for us is would they actually let us use their space. Some say, you’re kidding, right? But others say, yeah! It’s never ended badly. If you ask and smile, people are intrigued. It’s about smiling a lot and explaining yourself. It’s not rocket science.”
As the summer concert season begins in Brooklyn, tens of thousands of music fans will flock to East River State Park, the Prospect Park Bandshell and the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a variety of musical acts and performances. These spaces define the neighborhoods they are located in, but they are fixed and expensive to rent. Instead of booking events in established spaces, MeanRed has chosen more unusual, raw spaces, where the ambiance of the location strongly influences the creativity of the musicians and the perceptions of the audience.
Production companies like MeanRed are part of the pop-up phenomenon that has been hitting North Brooklyn recently, including retail spaces, restaurants, and art galleries.
They are the often the first organizations to reimagine a space that has been blighted and abandoned or draw attention to an area that has been underutilized. This method creates some unexpected political consequences in the neighborhoods they hold events. MeanRed is increasingly teaming up with local Friends of Parks groups such as the Open Space Alliance, to talk about holding concerts in city parks such as Sternberg and Cooper Park where the Parks Department hopes to add more programming. Assuming the permitting and liability issues can be worked out, the company is looking to partner with nonprofit groups that have sites in Greenpoint such as warehouse space or renovated housing space they can use for events.
As MeanRed expands throughout the neighborhood it will be interesting to see how they will engage in some of the political issues that have affected the neighborhood for decades, such as open space and public access to the East River waterfront, the need for affordable housing, the increasing presence of blighted lots in Williamsburg, and the cleanup of polluted waterways. They have already staked out a position on Superfund designation in the Gowanus Canal, coming out against the EPA’s involvement because they believe the agency will clean the site too slowly and shut down their popular outdoor summer space, The Yard.
This past weekend, revelers waited two hours for homemade tacos and huraches at the reopening of the space and on Sunday, danced for four hours on the banks of the Gowanus to a lineup of international DJs. Whether this group of young people can be mobilized to get politically involved in local issues is a question MeanRed producers wrestle with on a daily basis.
“It’s certainly something that’s near and dear to our heart but it has to be the right fit,” said Gottstein. “When we do community events we have organizers present who are tabling, but it’s hard to have Transportation Alternatives tabling at a warehouse party.”
Collaboration among local political clubs and interest groups such as New Kings Democrats, TA, and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, is already occurring, but turnout for political debates and rallies in that are unconnected to the Obama movement have been light this Spring. Perhaps this is what political organizing could look like in New York City in the coming years. After all, there are few better ways to get people excited about affordable housing, blight and waterfront parks than holding a concert in one of those spaces.

Weiner Ball

I don't understand German, but there's something awkwardly efficient about the pageantry of these Frankfurt teenagers as they enter their gala in perfect rows, hand in hand. I remember my high school prom in Connecticut (ten years this Friday!). I had the flu and no date. At least I didn't get arrested for trying to smuggle booze and cigarettes into the Glastonbury Hills Country Club. Nothing like seeing your roughneck peers in rented wool tuxedos spread-eagled over a Crown Vic.

But enough about prom. Awkwardly efficient is a good way to describe Congressman Anthony Weiner, who announced via New York Times Op-Ed column that he would not be running for Mayor this year. A number of papers and sources anticipated this, from David Chen's article nearly a year ago about the Congressman to Ed Isaac Dovere's reflective piece printed around the same time last summer.

Speculating what the Congressman would or wouldn't do became a minor league sport in community newspapers this spring. At a reporter's roundtable in Sheepshead Bay last month, Weiner suggested that he was concentrating on a heavy legislative agenda in Washington and would decide whether to run for mayor by the end of May. The Courier's Steve Witt pressed him about whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $80 million would factor into his decision, and he said no. More likely, a difficult primary against City Comptroller Bill Thompson played a larger role. The press reaction to Weiner's decision is telling, because it indicates he would be taken seriously as a viable candidate. With Weiner in, the mayoral race becomes significantly more interesting to cover. We like competition. So does the public.

Ten years ago, I was nominated for Prom King. I lost, and the position had no real responsibilities, and the guy who won is know working at a Best Buy somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester, Connecticut, but that's not the point. I may never understand why candidates wait for a more convenient time to run for a higher office instead of seizing the moment. Who knows what will happen four years from now. Prom only happens once every four years. I admit it. I've been crashing high school proms. I'm not proud of it.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, top row, center, and below, right, will not run for mayor so he can spend more time with his family.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's over. Thank God.
Frankly, candidates, we're not that impressed with your performances tonight."

I'm not going to lie. It was a challenging night in from the moderator's desk yesterday, keeping both the audience of Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents and the 33rd District City Council candidates (and the moderators) interested in what was being said in the debate. Think I'm kidding? The following exchange last night actually happened:

Juliet Linderman: Did you have fun?
Candidate A: No.
Linderman: Oh?
Candidate A: It's not you, it's me. I'm just really bored with this.

Glad to know it isn't us.

I'm disappointed we couldn't webcast or podcast this on Brooklyn News 12 or NY1 so that every time a candidate said "affordable housing", "rezoning promises", or "protecting small businesses on Manhattan Avenue" viewers could do a shot. It's not your fault, Juliet. It's not your fault. It's not your fault.

Let's go to the highlights that have nothing to do with the actual debate before analyzing the afterparty, which has everything to do with the race up to this point:

*Before the debate, when offered a plastic water bottle, Ken Baer said "No thanks, I've got my own," and then pulled out a ceramic mug, that was wrapped in plastic. We pointed this out to him. "Whatever." said Baer.

*Khristina Narishnaya, one of the staff reporters at the Gazette fighting off some pregame jitters, whispered just before debate began, "If I start to have a panic attack and run away backstage, do you think anyone will notice?"

*Ken Diamondstone began to give a longer answer for a yes or no question before Gazette Publisher Jeff Mann cut him off. "But the other candidates got to give longer answers," said Diamondstone. "If the other candidates jumped off the Williamsburg Bridge, would you do it too?" replied Mann.

*Evan Thies pausing "I am the man... to bring what this community needs." Jeff later admitted it was a missed opportunity to say, 'No, I'm the Mann.' Next time, Jeff.

*Local activist Mike Hofmann wearing a GWAPP t-shirt for some inexplicable reason. The only place that GWAPP exists these days is in a TransGas legal brief and on Hofmann's chest.

*Doug Biviano avoiding controversy: "I can think of nothing more exciting than the sound of kids playing in a pool."

*Baer again. After dropping a microphone on the desk, Isaac Abraham leaned over and whispered to Ken, "You should file a lawsuit," to which Ken said, "No, I want this paper's endorsement."

*Evan Thies' parting shot at Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the Broadway Triangle: "This is the worst sham of a process that I have seen during my years working for City Council. The process has been contaminated possibly to the point of corruption. There may even be a need for an investigation at some point."

Steve Levin had an overall tempered performance and a cool answer to the Broadway Triangle question, while Jo Anne Simon had an even performance and came across extremely likable. Thies and Diamondstone seemed a little flat, but maybe that was me. One of my college friends, who trekked out to the event even though he lives in Astoria and currently works as a rock and roll musician, said he liked "the woman" the best. His band is called Liam and Me and their video has been on MTVU all week. Check it, yo:

Liam and Me - Say It Out Loud (HD) from Davis Artist Management on Vimeo.

At least the afterparty at Matchless was slamming. I mean it. Hard to beat watching a pool death match with Evan Thies and WG News+Arts' Reid Pillifant on one team and Steve Levin and Thies Body man Nick Rizzo on another team. Evan and Reid won, thanks to Reid's crazy-good pool sharking abilities. Did we mention he has a twelve gauge and a twenty gauge shotgun back in Austin? As soon as he ships them from Texas we're goin' huntin' upstate. Also, Doug "The Biv" Biviano agreed to let me borrow his children for my ten year high school reunion back in Connecticut. Practically everybody in my class is married and has kids at this point and I need to show them up.

Finally, everybody stop and recognize for a second. Gotta give some love over to Linderman for putting this thing together. How many reporters her age have floor managed a City Council debate? Answer: None. That said, we're never ever doing this again. Ever... Unless the 34th District candidates call.
After the debate, Linderman is all business

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Debators.... Debators...

Steve Levin debuts his new campaign theme song. Bet on it.

This is the last one of these things for a while, right? Yes. Yes, it is. Tonight, candidates running in the 33rd District City Council hike up to Greenpoint (or is it Williamsburg? It's a soft border line on Leonard Street and it depends who you ask) at MS 126 for the last debate of the season. Don't worry. Flu or not, the school is staying open. You know, we've had a lot of fun so far but now the candidates are on their own.

Jeff, Khristina, and Juliet at the Greenpoint Gazette are a little nervous about the event
so we're all going to do some shots at the office to loosen things up. It's going to be a challenge keeping the candidates within the time limit and keeping the sponsors from charging the stage with follow-up questions. Also, three of the candidates will be drunk.

Finally, a reminder to those in the audience, no wagering! We're in a public school.
"I'll put 4 Gs on Evan Thies and 2Gs on Jo Anne Simon beating the over."

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Short List: South Pacific Edition

Ahhhh Fleet Week. Nothing like a fresh shipment of Venereal Disease from the South Pacific to wash up onto our harbors. Y'all enjoy the Chlamydia, I'm heading to the Greenpoint BBQrawl, Meanred's reopening of The Yard with Taco Trucks(!), and Bang on a Can (it's BYOCan). The Crawl is getting a lot of press and I'm a little worried Linderman's head is going to explode, but she's a professional.

If parades are more your thing, Queens has you covered with Memorial Day marches in Maspeth, Woodside and Douglaston. The Soul Tigers will probably not be participating in Douglaston, but one can hope. Maybe next year guys. Love these guys. I can't contain myself.


Zombie Post: It was Dead... Now it's Better

Juliet Linderman took over my blog... and this happened.

New Kings Democratic Club 33rd City Council Candidates Forum: Caaaaaaan yooooou dig iiiiiiiit?!

6:43 PM: Well folks, the day has finally arrived: The New Kings Democrats are about to kick off the third in a series of 33rd city council candidates forums, this one hopefully boasting all seven (SEVEN?!) candidates. Steve Levin, a Greenpoint resident, says he’s coming, but we’ll see. The first to show is Doug “the Biv” Biviano, hailing from Brooklyn Heights. He’s shuffling through the aisles, waiting for the games to begin. And one of the Kens just turned up. He’s a little confused, but seems to be settling in just fine. He is, however, convinced that my name is Amy. Williamsburg resident Evan Thies just rolled through, with a small entourage as per usual. And here’s Boerum Hill's Jo Anne Simon, looking lovely as always in a fluffy blue coat. And the Biv brought his kids! The little redhead’s running through the aisles.

6:53 PM: We’ve got seven minutes to go, and the gangs are gathering. Still waiting on one Ken, an Abhamam and a Levin. Shake your tail feathers, guys.

7:09 PM: Everyone’s here in full force, ready to rumble. Levin’s all smiles. He says he’s feeling a little nervous. Rami “Heavy” Metal suggests pumping some pump-up jams. Steve says it worked for him for high school wrestling. Somebody put on some Jane’s Addiction, STAT! The Courier's Greg Hanlon is chatting up CB1 Transportation Chair Teresa Toro, surprise surprise.

7:15 PM: Everyone takes their seats. Ben Muessig from the Brooklyn Paper is in the row. He has no idea what I'm writing about right now and he does not care. Nice to see you too, Ben.

7:21 PM: NKD Founder Matt Cowherd takes the mic and introduces the organization, telling everyone that they can check out the debate on their website—it’s being taped. The moderators are Sabrina Gates, a fashion designer... and who’s that guy with the glasses? I don’t know, but we're going to make him get a haircut.

7:32 PM: COME OUT AND PLAAAAAAY: the rumble begins. We’re getting some introductions!

Can you hear me suckers?! I say, the future is ours... if you can count!

Short explains the format of the debate: left to right, right to left, clockwise then counterclockwise…say that five times fast. One minute, no longer. Think Vinny Abate—who’s running this meeting?! You WILL be cut off. Prepared questions, and questions from the audience will be taken. A red flag reminds candidates that they have 30 seconds, no joke. Short really needs a haircut.

Let's go to the highlights!

7:34 PM: The first question is thrown out: so, why are you running for city council? Abraham’s up aaaaaaaand he’s off!

Oooh yikes, wasn’t expecting it to get so dirty so fast. He’s got some problems with Yassky and how he handled the little things like, Newtown Creek and the 2005 waterfront rezoning promises. He promises that, “when new units are being created as firehouses are closed, I’ll be there. When there’s toxic waste that needs cleaning up, I’ll be there.” Really? Is it the end of the movie already? Aaaaaand he’s cut off!

Ken "Yogi" Baer follows Abraham's introduction. "I can do an exceptional job. I have the unique perspective of being an accountant and I am very cognizant of the issues of each of the communities in the district. I want to emphasize my ability to work with other councilmembers, interlacing the issues that are here and in the other parts of the city to make the city and district better place to live. I want to establish community control over development, improving public schools, gas grills.... AAAAND he’s cut off!

Ken Baer welcomes residents to McCarren Park

The Biv takes the mic. The guy just loves life. He loves it a lot. He loves the crowd, he loves his kids. He loves you, and he wants you to know that. He’s got faith in the possibility of politics, and wants to “engage in communities like never before.” He gives New Yorkers props, saying that we are “experts in living.” I don’t exactly know what that means, but I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks! Biv wants to have tough conversations, new and old ones, about how to create livable cities, affordable housing, universal health care aaaaaaand he’s cut off!

8:00 PM SPLIT QUESTION:Thies, Levin, Simon: Why should people be confident that you will act independently of the elected officials with whom you are so closely aligned? AKA: Are you guys corrupt, or no?

It’s Levin’s time to boss up. Sitting in a room full of people who don’t trust you, and participating in a debate sponsored by your boss’ rival democratic club, it’s gotta be tough up there, Steve. He says that he’s “very proud of the work I’ve done for his office, especially in affordable housing…There are times when I disagree, and I will be independent. I’m running as my own guy.”

8:10 PM: A small business question. Thies gets down on the mayor for forgetting about small businesses, and agrees that commercial rent control, mircro-loans and the establishment of a city-bank “without the red tape.” He also wants to eliminate the unincorporated business tax. Abraham says small business tax cuts are what’s up. Yogi Baer says rent stabilization is great. He also says there should be LOCAL CURRENCY. Seriously? Seriously? Oh, also, Ken... you’re way over time.


1. Short asks if each candidate would support a five per cent hike on sales tax, or Quinn’s plan to tax people earning $300,000/year. Quinn’s all around!
2. So, what are you guys reading?

Diamondstone: The Nation
Levin: A People’s History by Howard Zinn
Simon: The Great Bridge by David McCullough
Thies: Essays on Humanism By Kurt Vonnegut
Baer: He likes to read the newspaperstimes every day, local papers.
Biv: Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now, the Courier and the Greenpoint Gazette. Major points for Biv!

Yes or No to Kent Avenue Bike Lane:
Levin: Yes
Simon: Yes
Thies: Yes
Abraham: Yes (!)
Baer: Yes
Biv: Yes

East River Bridge Tolls?
Simon: Yes
Thies: Yes
Abraham: No
Baer: Yes
Biv: No
Diamondstone: Yes
Levin: only if the price is correlated to the cost of subway.

Condoms in schools?
Thies: Yes
Abraham: Parents decide
Baer: Yes…followed by some unwelcome commentary
Biv: Yes
Ken: Yes
Levin: Yes

Simply the greatest sex scene of all time.

ROTC in Schools?
Abraham: Yes
Baer: No
Biv: Condoms!
Diamondstone: No
Levin: No
Simon: No
Thies: Yes

Cell phones in Schools?
Baer: can’t wrap his head around a yes or no question
Biv: No
Diamondstone: not sure
Levin: for emergencies
Simon: Yes
Thies: in school but not in class—Nice one, Thies!
Abraham: if they keep it in a condom!

Favorite Restaurant?
Biv: Can’t chose, it’s like picking a favorite child?
Levin: Grimaldis—Nice one, Levin!
Simon: Downtown Atlantic
Thies: Five leaves—Nice one Thies!
Abraham: Peter Lugers aint kosher

Music you like?
Levin: Bruce and Brahms
Simon: is having a tough time with this one. She says there’s a CD that she listens to sometimes…someone who got killed in a car crash…oh, Patsy Cline!
Thies: New U2, But it sucks. Thies just lost my vote for mentioning U2.
Abraham: His favorite song? Anything you can do I can do better! Hardy har, Abraham.
Baer: Bruce Springsteen, born in the USA! Nice one, Baer. I sort of don’t believe you though.
Biv: loves karaoke. Of course he does!
Diamonstone: Pete Seeger at his 90th birthday….

Evan Thies can't live, with or without effective governmental reform.

Do you endorse plans for Broadway triangle? Zing!
Simon: if it’s community-based
Thies: No
Abraham: No
Baer: No
Biv: doesn’t know
Diamondstone: too many sides to the issue
Levin: Yes

Favor term limits extension:
Simon: no, but sort of
Thies: no, never, not philosophically
Abraham: no, democracy went down the city hall toilet, I’m going to clean it
Biv: two terms
Diamondstone: against extension of term limits
Levin: philosophically opposed to term limits, but not opposed to a ref. being put to a vote
Baer: rambles again…I do support term limits,

Gowanus Canal and Newtown creek, do you support Superfund sites:
Thies: yes
Ab: yes
Baer: yes
Biv: superfund it baby!
Ken diamondstone: yes
Levin: supports whatever is fastest and most effective
Simon: ditto

One word about the next person:
Baere to biv: handsome!
Biv to diamond: lot of heart
Ken to levin: vito-proof
Lev to simon: very intelligent
Simon to thies: prayerful
Thies to Abraham: determined
Ab to baerr: entertaining.

Biv: glad the other ken didn’t say that to me! Oh, come on Biv! A gay joke? Really?

8:55 PM: Closing Statements
BIV: I believe in the possibility of politics and so do you, and that’s why we’re here. I want to leverage the world stage, we don’t use our gov. I want to take a slice of the war pie to procure health care for all. Five of the ten people I talked to in Mccarren park did not have health care. Obama said he needs us and I need you! I sailed across the ocean on a 27 foot boat. I fear nothing. (What?!)
That's it. Short and Levin start singing and dancing on the little piece of stage that juts out into the audience.. Be sure to come out to the Greenpoint Gazette debate Tuesday, May 26, 7 PM at MS 126 (John Ericsson424 Leonard Street, Brooklyn, NY). Sweet Home Greenpoint!

Vito Lopez endorses David Yassky for Comptroller

From the office of David Yassky...

"I am honored to have the support of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Democratic organizations," said Council Member Yassky. "While dynamic and progressive leaders continue to join our campaign, I remain focused on fighting to deliver results and an accountable City government for taxpayers. I look forward to working with these organizations throughout this campaign and as Comptroller to create jobs and rebuild our economy for all those New Yorkers who have been forgotten and left behind."

"As Comptroller, David Yassky will hold government accountable, help rebuild the City's economy, and protect and expand the City's affordable housing stock," said Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. "New Yorkers deserve a Comptroller that will fight for taxpayers to ensure their dollars are being spent wisely. David's record and vision for the Office prove that he will be that Comptroller."

What does this mean for the 33rd City Council race, upcoming petitioning, the Broadway Triangle plan, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, and a whole bunch of policy initiatives affecting the neighborhood? What's David's move now? Will he endorse Steve Levin now? Evan Thies? Somebody else? No one?

According to Yassky spokesperson Danny Kanner:
"These are great candidates running for the seat and the voters for the 33rd will make the right decision."

Community Board Four: Reyna and Dilan together again

Community Board Four selects its new officers. — Photos by Aaron Short

It was so beautiful out on Wednesday that I nearly forgot it’s Bushwick’s time of the month, yes, another Community Board Four meeting. Don’t fret, BushwickBK is here, reporting from Hope Gardens MultiService Center. I walked in at 6:32 PM, just as District Manager Nadine Whitted was taking roll call.

On my left, I glance at a small office where Anna Gonzalez, Hope Gardens Director and one-time CB4 Chair, works out of, before taking my seat. Usually Gonzalez, her family, and her staff are hanging out in the office while the meeting occurs, finishing up the day’s business. Tonight, the room is locked and the lights darkened.

For more, read!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Column!

Short Takes – Gerry Esposito

If you asked me to pick one person who would be considered Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s ultimate insider, I would pick Gerry Esposito.
As the District Manager of Community Board One, Gerry has worked as a tireless advocate for North Brooklyn for more than thirty years. He has been a regular presence at community board meetings, often also working behind the scenes with public officials on issues such neighborhood rezoning promises, cuts to police and fire services, long-term transportation projects, and securing meeting space for community organizations.
The office itself, with its charming wood paneling and framed newsprints of past neighborhood battles and victories, is a reflection of stability and quiet persistence. Gerry would be one of the last people to chain himself up to an illegal condominium construction project or an endangered firehouse to demonstrate against a project. He would more likely make a phone call or write a letter to achieve a similar result. In some cases, he has significantly helped speed up the advocacy.
So when Gerry showed up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sleek, multimedia-friendly volunteer service event, held at the Armory Track and Field in Washington Heights on April 21, he was surprised to find that he had been uninvited. Two NYPD officers escorted him from the event after two mayoral aides identified him inside the lobby. Jim Dwyer from the New York Times recounted the event in last Saturday’s paper, but I will provide some background.
Several days before the event, Gerry sent an email to his district manager colleagues to come to the event and let the Mayor know how they felt about the proposed budget cuts to their community boards. With annual budgets between $150,000 and $200,000, community boards, like other city agencies, were facing across-the-board cuts of 5 percent in November, and another 7 percent in January of next year. Most boards consist of a District Manager and one or two staff members. District managers including Robert Perris of Community Board Two (Downtown Brooklyn) and Nadine Whitted of Community Board Four (Bushwick) believe they would have to cut one salaried position if the cuts were approved.
“The cuts impact our ability to do what we need to do. We’re just trying to hold onto the meager money we have,” said Whitted, who drafted a letter last month on behalf of the board to the Mayor urging him to reverse the cuts. “We have three and a half on salary now.”
Whitted has not heard back from the Mayor or his staff about the letter. Neither has Perris. Perris heard about the incident from Gerry shortly, pointing out the irony of the Mayor proposing a new volunteerism initiative and holding an event promoting public service at the same time he was reducing staffing budgets for a local governmental service organization largely run by volunteer community leaders.
“I don’t think he’s done as much time in jail as Councilmember Charles Barron but he’s been a forceful advocate for Greenpoint and Williamsburg,” said Perris. “He’s not a tiny guy. Maybe that was part of it.”
He’s also running for office. After years of waiting for seats to open up for an Assembly seat or a city-level position, last Fall Gerry declared his candidacy for City Council in the 34th District. This is not an open seat. When I asked Esposito Campaign Manager Morgan Pehme whether Gerry went to the volunteer service event with the intention to raise awareness about his campaign or cause a scene, Pehme said this was not the case.
“He wasn’t coming to the Mayor on an issue of civil disobedience,” said Pehme. “Councilmembers are given a budget of about $1 million for their council offices whereas the community board picks up all the slack for work that the councilmembers don’t do. He has two employees and he’s going to have to let one go. Gerry’s been on the community board longer than anybody. It shows what kind of integrity he has.”
Chris Olechowski, one of two candidates for Community Board Chiar, said board members were astounded that this episode occurred. He believes that the incident is a slap in the face to the entire community and that Mayor Bloomberg owes Gerry and the board an apology.
“The Mayor’s people were making assumptions that Gerry was going to prepare a disruptive activity and there’s nothing that indicated that he would have been disruptive,” said Olechowski. “As far as protesting the cuts on the community board, that’s a legitimate issue that needs to be raised. A decrease, even a minimal one would weaken the need to implement recommendations and make referrals. Cutting funding will weaken our ability to voice our opinions and concerns locally.
Gerry did not want to call advocating for community board funding civil disobedience. He sees his actions as representing the interests of the community board in addition to working with the administration to live up to its obligations regarding the neighborhood’s rezoning plan and address other community concerns.
While Mayor Bloomberg may be willing to entertain dissension from the public, such as the line that snaked out City Hall’s security gates during the Term Limits hearings, the same may not appear true for governmental employees and community leaders who want to air their concerns publicly. As of this week, Mayor Bloomberg and his staff have still not apologized to Gerry. “They said, I should call Nazli [Parvizi, Commissioner for Community Affairs],” said Esposito. “I said, “Since I’m the one being refused entry to the meeting, perhaps it would be appropriate if they called me.’ Nobody every called me. I have not heard from anybody.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pre-Post Debate Mortem: Who got served?

The next debate will be a dance off.

Hats off to New Kings Democrats today, whose City Council debate in the 33rd District (encompassing Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, and bits of Park Slope) was by and large a success. It's hard to assess these things from the moderator's chair, so Juliet Linderman will be submitting a monster guest post tomorrow morning about how the debate went. My highlights for the evening were Evan Thies' anticpatory look when Jo Anne Simon had to say something nice about him, Gazette Publisher Jeff Mann texting Levin Campaign Manager Deb Feinberg to write down Isaac Abraham's "Vito Power" line, Doug Biviano saying he built a raft that sailed across the ocean, and Steve Levin's constant wanting gaze in my direction whenever he answered my questions. I love you too, Steve.

In the meantime, check out the round-up from WG News+Arts, Brooklyn Heights Blog, The Brooklyn Paper, Greenpoint Gazette, Under the BQE (Who is this girl? Do I know you?) and Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. Louise, were you in the house or did you get lost on the way? (Edited. Ahh Louise, you were there. Very good.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Kings... Come out and Plaaaaaaaaaayyy

Oh it's on. Tonight. 7 PM. Harry Van Arsdale School Auditorium. 257 North 6th Street. Williamsburg. And also Greenpoint.

Count us as a twee bit excited for New Kings Democrats' first ever debate featuring the seven candidates for City Council in the 33rd District. It's Simon vs. Thies vs. Diamondstone vs. Baer vs. Levin vs. Biviano vs. Abraham for the 33rd!

Questions about slush funds or the pension scandal? That's a deal breaker ladies!

Many of the candidates have asked me for hints about what is going to be discussed during the debate. So far I've been mum, but I can let it slip that one-third of the questions will cover plot twists from last night's Gossip Girl season finale! Evan Thies, right, is already spending the afternoon pouring over hours and hours of transcripts from Season 2.
Seriously, though, we will be bringing the heat. It's on. It's so on. Right Vince Vaughn?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Our safety word is Esposito

Mayor Bloomberg Releases the Hounds

Last week, perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of May's Community Board One meeting (representing Greenpoint and Williamsburg) was a time-filling anecdote from local "Good Guy" District Manager Gerry Esposito. Esposito told the public about the time he was escorted out of Mayor Bloomberg's volunteer service organization event. Well, the Times picked it up and Jim Dyer recapped the anecdote. This isn't the first time in recent memory the Mayor has embarrassed himself in public. I just always seem to happen to know the people involved. I will be writing in some more depth about Gerry and this episode in my column this week. Keep on riding' Gerry.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Short List: Yassky Staffer Relocation Edition

This week's edition of The Short List is dedicated to Councilman David Yassky's former Chief of Staff, (yes, former) Jill Nelson, who has been an invaluable part of Team Yassky (9-6 through the regular season) for the past several years. Nelson is moving to California to pursue other opportunities. We'll miss her. As long as she can still boss around Rami "Heavy" Metal via conference call.

The Greenpoint Gazette breaks some news across yo face this afternoon with the tip that IS 318 is SHUTTING DOWN because of a flu outbreak. This is one of those stories where the staff is itching to go to happy hour (Lokal 5 PM every Friday) and then a parent calls the editor mentioning something about having to occupy their kid for the next week after 300 kids called in sick. This is happening in Queens too. If there was a flu outbreak out every time I had a final exam in high school, I would be a case study for the Center for Disease Control. Seriously, we need to contain this.

Also in the neighborhood, Newtown Creek Alliance members take stock of several recent environmental events including the beginning of dredging pollutants in the Hudson River, the Mayor visits Bushwick, Juliet Linderman profiles a delicious cupcake bake-off at Union Pool, The Courier's Greg Hanlon has a round-up of the 39th District City Council forum in Park Slope and notes whether the Artists and Fleas market has been a success, Mike McLaughlin delivers caution about the future operation of Coney Island, Laura Hofmann passes along an odd story about metal detectors and the Greenpoint Oil Spill, Greenpointers Joann Kim announces the winners of the India Street mural design, Brooklyn Heights Blog's Sarah Portlock sifts through parking permit proposals in Brooklyn Heights, and Ben Muessig of the Brooklyn Paper writes that Brooklyn Kickball players are having trouble avoiding several small trees planted near the McCarren Park ball fields. Also, the Brooklyn Kickball League outlawed styrofoam containers on the field which means players will have to fill their margarita-to-gos from Turkey's Nest inside those BP-free aluminum flasks.

Looking to the weekend, Anna D'Agrosa has the BushwickBK round up, which includes openings at Ad Hoc Art and Eastern District tonight, Where's My Park Day all day Saturday on Kent and N. 14th (note: this is not a trivia contest) and two record release parties Saturday night at 3rd Ward and Union Pool where Free Tacos and Children will be available. Not sure who's children. Are they Hasidic?

And then there's next week, when New Kings Democrats will bring you Williamsburg's first city council debate in four years, held at the Harry Van Arsdale High School Auditorium, (257 North 6th Street). We will have a full debate preview on Tuesday, but if you're thirsty, Ben Muessig has a feature on Steve Levin missing earlier debates, in the Brooklyn Paper. Want to know what I think about this article? Ask me at the debate afterparty, location TBA. Hey New Kings, this beer's for you!

Finally, I have to recognize Dealice Fuller, Community Board One All-Star and East Williamsburg community gardner. She asked me how I was doing this week, and I shrug my shoulders, just like I usually do, and said, I'm taking things month by month. "Honey," she said," You're biting off more than you can chew. You need to take things day-by-day." Amen Dealice. Amen.