Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday's watered-down links

Shekar "Shake N Bake" Krishnan, got the shotgun, you got the briefcase.

Lots to catch up on this week, through a sluggish mid-May period, so let's go through a timely list of links of things you may have missed.

*The Broadway Triangle lawsuit is... continuing. The judge in the case wants another hearing and she's zeroing in on the larger apartments, federal case law regarding public housing discrimination, and why the EIS does not support taller buildings. One interesting thing is that the judge appears to dismiss Hasidic groups (UJCARE, CJC) allied with the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition suing on grounds of discrimination, though those groups are still plaintiffs on the lawsuit. Two points for Shake N Bake. One point for Williamsburg's most fashionable Rabbi, if you're scoring at home.

*Vito Fossella woke up today and decided that maybe he probably shouldn't run for Congress... you know... after the whole drunk driving arrest-slash-secret family in Virginia episode. Anyone else notice that Fossella bears a striking resemblance to Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence?
*The Greenpoint Library is closing!... for the summer. It will be open again after Labor Day. Still, it's a bummer, but not as bad as the Washington Irving branch of the Brooklyn Public Library which in eight days will be closing forever.

*For our pissing match of the week, we go to Assembly candidate Doug Biviano, who has picked The Courier's Tom Tracy (and both newspapers) to be his launching pad for his argument for government reform in Albany in an interview with Brooklyn Heights Blog. Doug's wide-ranging answers are a response to this article written by Tom on Monday. More on this later.

*Stephen Brown has the lede of the week: Urban Counterfeiters. Nicely done Stephen.

*Reid Pillifant at the Observer has been busy covering Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial announcement, Anthony Weiner's pissing match with Glen Beck, and Chuck Schumer's chocolate fountain. Reid's at the State Convention this week covering some wild events. Here's hoping for some more gossip.

*Miss Heather at New York Shitty takes a stroll through a troubled lot on N. 10th Street. Lots of pictures, provided by Miss Heather's photo blogger colleague, Miss Mousey Brown. Here's one of them:
000_1205 by miss mousey brown.

*Finally, more trash media coverage for Bushwick, when a cyclists appeared on Judge Judy. Free Williamsburg has the info of the plaintiff and defendant, both of which are gearheads. Not a great end to Bicycle Fetish Week.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who said it? Answer...
... it's Glen Big Baby Davis! Don't worry. No one in Williamsburg said that.

Who said it?

Who said the following quote in this morning's editions:

"They don't want to leave. We're going to have to throw them out. It's just like somebody renting a house."

Was it
A. Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri
B. Glen Big Baby Davis, forward, Boston Celtics
C. UJCARE's Moishe Indig
D. GREC's Jan Peterson

Monday, May 24, 2010

Press Release of the Week: Potty Parity

Ed Towns' office strikes again, with a competitor for Press Release of the week. Behold! Potty Parity. Anyone (Jon Noble?) know how this hearing went?

For immediate release: Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oversight Committee to Examine “Potty Parity” in Federal Buildings
Hearing will focus on restroom inequality and the merits of H.R. 4869

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, May 12, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a legislative hearing to examine the merits of H.R. 4869, the “Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act.” Chairman Towns introduced the bill, also known as the “Potty Parity Act,” to address the problem of insufficient restroom facilities for women in federal buildings.

The Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act sets a strict standard in its revision of federal building codes with regard to the accessibility of restroom accommodations for men and women. The bipartisan measure, cosponsored by Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Reps. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), would require any federal building constructed for public use to have a 1 to 1 ratio for toilets, including urinals, in women’s and men’s restrooms.

The issue is more than a matter of fairness. The potential health complications for women waiting in long restroom lines are now more widely understood. These include abdominal pain, and greater risk of cystitis and other urinary tract infections that, if left untreated, can cause renal damage.

The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building . Doors open to all credentialed members of the media at 9:00 a.m. and to the general public at 9:45 a.m. A webcast of the hearing will be available on the Committee’s website at

The witnesses scheduled to testify include:

Panel I
Hon. Rep. Yvette Clarke
U.S. House of Representatives

Hon. Rep. Steve Cohen
U.S. House of Representatives

Panel II
Commissioner Robert Peck
Public Building Service
U.S. General Services Administration

Dr. Kathryn H. Anthony
Professor, School of Architecture
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Hon. Sharon Pratt
Former Mayor
Washington , D.C.

Who's The Boss?

Does this make Steve Levin (not pictured) Alyssa Milano?

Sam Roberts from The Times has an interesting article about the power of county leaders, which Brooklyn County Chairman Vito Lopez argues is diminishing, but not substantially. This is of course, in comparison to Boss Tweed and Meade Esposito, who apparently, ran everything. We're not learning a ton here, other than the fact that Manhattan County Leader Keith Wright wants to do his job well enough to stay out of prison. That's a good goal for everyone.
Vito's quote is below:

“I believe the power of county leaders is diminishing,” said Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic chairman, “but they still play a critical role.”
“The problem is, there isn’t any real substantive patronage,” Mr. Lopez, the Brooklyn leader, said. “We have a clubhouse — you have to pay rent, you have to maintain a following, and often that was done by jobholders.”

Let's contrast that with David Freedlander's similar article about the twilight of county leadership, which sort of supposes that it is true, saying that county leaders are "leaders in title only" and that "storm clouds are brewing" due to the slate of district leader challenges, which Freedlander also details here. Here's an excerpt from The Lion in Winter:

In the old days, when county leaders provided patronage, such displays were more necessary. But the county parties are a shell of what they once were. They can appoint judges, but they no longer control all the election lawyers in town. Campaign cash is easier to get for city candidates, provided mostly by the Campaign Finance Board. The unions provide the ground troops.

County leaders are best advised to get out of the way and embrace the ones who put the pieces together on their own.

“It’s not like this is 1907 and the county leader is showering riches on district leaders and they need to take it or otherwise their family won’t eat,” said one Brooklyn official. “That’s not the way the world works anymore, and that’s not the way county parties function.”

Lopez observers say that his memory has always been long, his neuroses and paranoia always in place, but that he has grown increasingly brazen, acting without regard for consequences as he places demands on his members that are becoming harder and harder for them to stomach. In the twilight of county power, Lopez acts like he is the last to know...

And just as the asks get bigger, Brooklyn officials say, Lopez’s power to do anything to enforce them is draining. When he got behind Caroline Kennedy, many people assumed that it meant a deal had been cut, and she would be the next senator. Few people now really believe that Harold Ford will represent the Empire State in the Senate, with or without Lopez’s blessing. The county leader has lost three of the last four judicial races he has been involved in. Levin did win, but Lopez lost in his own backyard.

Earlier in the article, Freedlander calls Vito New York's last political don, and he's probably right. Who else could add five district leaders for some insurance? Tony Danza, that's who.

Steve... I mean... Samantha's growing up!

The Hurt Locker vs. MacGruber

The Courier's Tom Tracy, above right, is reviewing MacGruber this week, and it's going to get ugly. When asked to compare MacGruber to The Hurt Locker, Tracy grimaced and characterized MacGruber as "not as good."
Tracy also derided the movie's use of a celery stick as a prop, general oafishness of grown men acting like teenagers, and puns regarding the pronunciation of Val Kilmer's screen name. Details to follow...

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Short List: Bicycle Fetish Edition

No, it's not sexing up your bicycle (that's illegal), it's about loving your bicycle. Showing your love for bikes to everyone at Bicycle Fetish day. Saturday pretty much all day, from noon to 10 pm.

Over at Third Ward, there's a birthday barbecue starting at 2 and continuing until whenever they run out of food (that would be Monday).

And there's a new market opening at the Greenpoint Food Market on Russell Street. It is picnic themed. Bring your own park.

Grizzly Bear Sold Out!
and it's on the loose in Governor's Island!

Grizzly Bear on Sale!

Taste of Williamsburg Video

Check out L Magazine's video of the tasty proceedings. Free Williamsburg picked this up too. Unfortunately, it already happened. You'll just have to go to thirty restaurants yourself and pick up tiny samples to replicate the gorge-fest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

District Leader round-up Part 1: Videos

Bruce Springsteen "The Wrestler" - Official Video

Bruce Springsteen | MySpace Music Videos

There are lots of candidates for the District Leader position declaring, bowing out, or confounding everyone this week. Oh, and, stop the presses! The Daily News is paying attention! Fortunately, there are a couple of videos of this rarely seen ethnographic-political ritual: the campaign launch party. Onto the videotapes!

First we have Lincoln Restler, a 50th district candidate, who tried to use Bruce Springsteen's The Wrestler, above, as his theme song, but Mickey Rourke threatened him.

Next, there's Jesse Strauss, who launched his own campaign for the fightin' 52nd... in Manhattan. I had to watch all eight minutes of this before he finally got to my question, and it gets cut off.

Finally, Steve Williamson decides to enter the ring in the 52nd, but from the looks of things, it didn't start off well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Suarez Defeats Peck at Taste of Williamsburg

Peck is increasingly frustrated with the way the cookoff performed.

In a LeBron-like collapse, Theo Peck's deep fryer never got started, and Nick Suarez's pastrami chili garnered lots of approvals. Suarez raced out to a big league and never looked back, shaking Peck's confidence to compete in future cook-offs. His victory was so dominant that it left Peck's cook-off career in shambles.
Read more about it here!

Press Release of the Week: Hepatitis Day!

Oh, and it's on Malcolm X's birthday, no less. Snaps to Shrita Sterlin and the rest of Congressman Ed Towns' office on this one.

Rep. Towns’ Statement in Observance of World Hepatitis Day

WASHINGTON , D.C. – U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (NY-10) issued the following statement today in observance of World Hepatitis Day:

“We renew our commitment today to improving awareness of chronic viral hepatitis, a silent, yet highly infectious, liver disease that affects hundreds of millions people worldwide.

“One in 12 people worldwide is infected with either hepatitis B or C – two diseases that, together, pose one of the biggest threats to the health of communities across the globe. In the United States , viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer, while chronic hepatitis B and C affect an estimated 5 million Americans and cause approximately 15,000 deaths each year.

“Only when we raise awareness of this disease, provide access to treatment and support for those who are living with hepatitis, will we being to reverse the high global infection rate. Until then, we must recognize the need for a comprehensive public health response around the world and here at home.

“I encourage all Americans to join the global fight against viral hepatitis. I proudly support national and local organizations that are working tirelessly to stamp out this silent crisis in our nation, and I urge my colleagues to join me in raising awareness about this disease. In honor of World Hepatitis Day, let us work together to eradicate this growing crisis at home and around the world.”

The Ghostbusters video

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Katie Sokoler captures Ghostbusters!

Photo of the week: Bravo photographer Katie Sokoler and her Improv Everywhere group for "haunting" the New York Public Library today. She may be my favorite photographer in Brooklyn. Let's cue some music. You know who to call...

Tuesday's Boom and Bust Links

This reunion cake was a bust, but this week's links are not.

This weeks links are inspired by two stories by two of my favorite reporters Sarah Ryley (The Real Deal) and Sal Gentile (City Hall News) who look at two sides of the same story: the Williamsburg condo explosion.

Gentile details how the city's innovative plan to turn empty and stalled condo buildings into occupied affordable units through its Housing Asset Renewal Program has itself sputtered. Why? Because investors still have too much confidence in the market. An excerpt from Gentile's article:

“Somebody has to be willing to, essentially, take less,” said Jerilyn Perine, a former city housing commissioner in the Bloomberg administration and executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council.

Perine cautioned that officials should not be criticized for attempting a novel solution to the city’s housing crisis, and said that the program’s failure might be seen as an indication that the market is once again experiencing an upswing.

“Because they have some confidence in New York, and in New York’s ability to have the housing market come back, nobody is eager to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to take 50 cents on my dollar investment,’” Perine said.

And why not. According to Ryley's report in The Real Deal, prices in Williamsburg are on the rise and units in luxury developments are selling well. An excerpt:
So, The Real Deal made some calls around the neighborhood. While nobody quite scored 40 buyers in one month, it does seem like sales and leasing activity has been strong at projects with some combination of the following three winning characteristics: "location, price and the finishes," as broker Christine Blackburn of Prudential Douglas Elliman put it. Indeed, the projects that have been popular are all in tight proximity to Williamsburg's stylishly retailed Bedford Avenue or right on the waterfront. And none have tried to pass off "hollow doors and cheap wood flooring" or "traditional" color palettes as luxury, like other struggling developers in the neighborhood, said Blackburn, whose team has sold or leased dozens of apartments in Northside Piers, 184 Kent and 70 Berry among others.

Warehouse 11 sold around 90 of its 120 apartments since January; the waterfront loft conversion 184 Kent leased 138 apartments in four months, including 38 in the last three weeks; and 70 Berry Street sold all of its 38 apartments in less than five months, according to various real estate sources.
Now even the Edge -- the 565-unit waterfront project by Douglaston Development that has withered, sales-wise, in the shadow of its significantly less expensive neighbor, Northside Piers -- seems to be catching a break.

On that note, let's take a look at five stories from the past few days that are booming.

*Coffee on bikes! Gimme Coffee and Cafe Grumpy begin delivery to McCarren? It's true. Erica Sackin investigates.

*McCarren Park's tennis courts were so decayed that a group of tennis players raised the money and fixed up one court all by themselves.

*Dr. Claw hooks Greenpoint up with tasty lobster sandwiches.

*L Magazine profiles all the DIY galleries in Bushwick.

*Taste of Williamsburg was a massive success. More on this later.

*Max Gross from The Post details the new Restaurant Row on S. Fourth Street.

*The Brooklyn Ink's Nathalie Zevi looks at fashion trends in Williamsburg.

*Finally, the biggest boom of the week? Take a look.

That's right. The National is everywhere but on May 15, they were at BAM. Listen to why.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Breaking News: Brooklyn Power Couple Engaged!

Congratulations Zimmer (aka ZFS) and Mike Freed Schnapp (MFS). A Short Story wishes you all the best and many more french toast breakfasts. I won't be cooking them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Short List: Taste of Williamsburg Edition

Because it is funnier when it is in Italian

Sunday afternoon, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and People's Firehouse will kickoff the inaugural Taste of Williamsburg at N. 11th Street. They've been marketing like crazy and it is expected to be a crowded affair (get there early, I bet they run out of food).

The event will feature multiple cookoff champion Theo Peck, below left, versus Nick Suarez, below right, for the heavyweight cooking title of Brooklyn. Read here for a preview. Peck is heavily favored, but don't sleep on Suarez, who drew pastrami chili as his go-to dish for the competition.
Check back early next week for a full round-up of the winners and losers (as well as a list of boom and bust links of stories related to Williamsburg's condo boom). May the best cook win.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Greg Hanlon's Little League team off to fast start

Juliet Linderman at the Greenpoint Gazette has a fun profile about Press Row member Greg Hanlon, in the pool above. Hanlon is the new coach of the Seneca Club Clubbies, whose team is out to a fast 5-2 record (updated).
Check out Linderman's article, but here's an excerpt:
“One of our consistent challenges out here is keeping the outfielders from wandering,” said Greg Hanlon, coach of the Seneca Club team as he watched one especially tiny and bleary-eyed left fielder wander onto the dirt, flinging her arms and twirling in circles. “We have to try and keep them on the grass. And these bathroom requests? They just keep coming.”

Just for fun, I thought I'd get some reaction from Seneca Club leaders District Manager Gerry Esposito, District Leader Steve "Cashman" Cohn, and Assemblyman Joe "Steinbrenner" Lentol and his press warrior Amy Cleary about the job Greg is doing so far.


We’re thrilled to have Greg Hanlon be the coach of our team. We couldn’t be more pleased. Greg’s a hard worker and great with kids.

Gerry Esposito: Blank stare

Steve Cohn:

That’s great! Did you know that the Seneca Little League team was undefeated two years ago?

I’m not a baseball guy, but the most beautiful thing I saw, when Chris Carter got up to bat and choked up in the bat. You have to change your swing sometimes. That’s what I say to the kids, hit the ball.

Steinbrenner Lentol:

Yes, he’s going to be an excellent coach. He really knows sports. I don’t know how well he plays, but he knows a lot about baseball. I suspect he plays himself, but you don’t have to play well. Most of the managers and coaches in baseball didn’t make it as players. It’s not required.

Lentol was working the phones on Friday, chewing Hanlon out while making a trade to Hanlon's the Seneca Club Clubbies.

District Leader Roadmap

Dave Freedlander at City Hall News lays out a preliminary roadmap for the District Leader Races in Downtown Brooklyn.
The big surprise? Longtime 50th District Leader Steve Cohn may be having second thoughts about facing a challenge from Lincoln Restler. Freedlander posits that Cohn's son Warren, a staffer in Congressman Ed Towns' office, is positioning himself to succeed Cohn. Here's Warren's oblique quote:

“It’s a possibility,” the younger Cohn said. “I feel like I can bring some youth and enthusiasm to the district. I have a good relationship to [local Assembly Member] Joe Lentol and to many of the other elected officials there.”

The other surprise is that Esteban Duran is thinking about mounting a District Leader challenge in the 53rd Assembly District... against Vito Lopez. Not running is Rob Solano, who vehemently denied challenging Lopez for the post. Here's Duran's less than oblique quote:

“The reason I would run is I would like there to be new leadership in the Democratic Party,” he said. “I would like to see the Democratic Party here locally look into expanding into different areas that have been overlooked in some ways.”

(Correction! Former) Reyna Williamsburg aide Barbara Medina's name is getting tossed around for the female DL seat in the 53rd District currently held by Maritza Davila. It is unclear whether Davila will run again, though Diana Reyna has repeatedly denied being a candidate for that spot.

The article notes that New Kings members are looking at that 53rd female seat as a possible pick-up because Diana won a close-reelection campaign in her district last year. Yet, it will be an uphill challenge because Maritza actually received more votes than Diana in the 53rd, but Diana made up just enough ground in the precincts in other assembly districts that are in her council district.
"No, I'm running for District Leader!"
Finally, the article notes the challenge in the 52nd, which will be ugly, but there's little context beyond listing the DL candidates (there are two other ones, Jesse Strauss and possibly Chris Owens).

One other thing to keep in mind. These names will change. Maybe a lot. Steve Cohn could conceivably decide to give the DL run another go, and that would not surprise me. Seeing Steve Levin jump into this race would not surprise me. Seeing a Greenpoint leader like Teresa Toro, Christine Holowacz, Susan Albrecht or Katie Naplatarski take on Linda Minucci in the 50th would not surprise me. Seeing Death Bear jump into the race would surprise me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Community Board 1: It's all about the Equity

This is as close as any of us will get to a Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning Cake

There’s a lot on the agenda at tonight’s Community Board 1 meeting, but little actual substance beyond the board’s cross examination of HPD Deputy Commissioner Holly Leicht over the Greenpoint Hospital project. That should be fun.

Meanwhile, dozens of St. Nick’s staffers and local residents are outside, in matching lime-green GREC shirts. Is there a development-related softball league in Williamsburg that I don’t know about? Tomorrow night on the Keyspan field, it’s GREC v. Domi-Yes! Also, someone should tell Esteban Duran that he’s wearing the wrong shirt.

Speaking of St. Nicks, Michael Rochford and Frank Lang are here with prepared speeches to address the Greenpoint Hospital decision. Michael also wants to update the community on superstar organizer Alison Cordero’s condition. Cordero suffered a stroke several days ago and is in a coma. She has not awakened but her eyelids are moving. There’s a somber mood in the room, as her presence is sorely missed.

CB1 member Julie Lawrence comes by to say hi to Press Row, and wants to talk about Red Gate Garden (aka Nick’s Garden) and the tennis bubble. Unfortunately I don’t know anymore beyond what has already been printed. Perhaps there will be an update from Parks official Stephanie Thayer. Meanwhile, Mieszko Kalita is wearing a bowtie and a snappy blazer. I ask CPCR’s Barbara Baer to take a picture.

6:45 PM: While Chairman Chris tests the mic and kicks the meeting off. Chairman Emeritus Vinny Abate is here. Frank Lang escorts him to the Green Room. District Manager Gerry Esposito takes the roll call. It’s sitting room only tonight.

Chairman Chris turns the mic to HPD Deputy Commissioner Holly Leicht for a presentation about the Greenpoint Hospital. And this is much less a presentation than an intense, hour-long cross-examination period. After last year’s Broadway Triangle decision, HPD might be Community Board 1’s least popular city agency.

Let’s see how Holly explains the city’s decision to award the contract to Queens-based developer TNS Development Group/ Lemle & Wolf:

“We have now designated the site to TNS development and Great American Construction. They have proposed to do 240 units of affordable housing. They will have a senior component as well, and some mixed income. I know we have heard some concern that the company is a for-profit, that they were upstate, but they are not upstate. They are in Queens but have done work in Brooklyn, but not in Greenpoint Williamsburg.

It is extraordinarily difficult right now to get financing to get projects done. Projects being done are with developers with a lot of equity. This is not an ideal situation, one that residents are not happy about, but it is difficult to get financing right now, and this is how this project got done… as a result, we are not issuing many RFPs right now. This one has slowed down considerably.

We went with the one with the most equity, we went with the team that we felt had the best chance to get financing.

GREC is not impressed by Holly's explanation.

Board members have lots of questions and I will include a sample. Land Use Chairman Ward Dennis asks Holly to compare the numbers.

Holly: The selected group got 240 units. Others ranged between 215 and almost 300 units. 300 was Ridgewood Bushwick and Bluestone. 260 was GREC/ St. Nicks.

Karen Leader: Why did this site go through an RFP and other sites did not have to go through an RFP?
Holly: The only times we don’t do an RFP is if the developer asks for a contingent site to apply for state funds. In the Broadway Triangle, the developer [had applied for state funds]. If they hadn’t gotten competitive state funds, their application would expire. This project would be big. My guess, a senior component will go for federal or state competitive funds. TNS did not ask for a lot of competitive sources and some other teams had much more reliance on competitive RFPs.

Karen: I don’t understand, it’s like a slap in the face for the community. You just disregarded what the community asked for, the letters you received from CB1 in support of that plan. I don’t understand how you came to that decision. You disregarded that. I don’t think your decision was clear.

Holly: While the community was not part of the selection process, all the things that came out of the RFP came out of the community’s points of agreement which came out of the Greenpoint Williamsburg rezoning.

6:58 PM: Chairman Chris has a follow-up, admonishing HPD for not considering organizations with long-standing track records in the neighborhood, and asks to why that wasn’t considered in the RFP

Holly: There wasn’t anything in the RFP for preference for local groups.

Chairman Chris: They have already proven they’re worthwhile. Doesn’t that play into a decision by HPD?

Holly: That’s definitely important. This doesn’t mean that St. Nicks couldn’t do this. Their track record in recent years is a very different thing than this project. We’ve seen a lot of projects stall and sit because there isn’t financial capacity to get banks to finance that.

Esteban Duran: In the past, HPD and the city, local preference was important. This GREC plan here has over 20 years in the making. People were bewildered by this decision. Despite the fact that this was a long wait, it just so happened. This decision came on a Friday. Community Board members did not know until Monday. Why isn’t HPD not looking into financing from GREC, which got $500,000 grant for the project. Why aren’t community groups preferred? I think there needs to be some type of answer

Holly: The other bid had considerably more equity. Considerably.

7:04 PM: GREC leader Tish Cianciotta, sitting at the Hasidic table, reads a statement about the bid.

HPD never communicated with our community in Greenpoint and Grec. We fought diligently for 28 years, and nobody was here when we had an issue. Right now, I want this reversed because we live here we fought for this community for years. And to see HPD finally arrive after the decision has been made is kind of insulting. It is an insult to our community, to me and my husband, and to everyone who worked on this plan. We fought for that site. We should have gotten it. It is similar to what we planned for. We wish that decision was turned over. It has to be reversed. What happened her was really bad. You should reverse this decision. It was wrong.

Rob Solano asks about permanent affordability, precedence with Yuco, a Westchester-based development company, on several small buildings in Williamsburg, and why St. Nicks wasn’t considered.

Holly: I’m not here to say bad thins about St. Nicks. It’s about banks and their balance sheet. (on the Greenpoint Hospital). I can’t honestly say what the POA (permanent affordability) is on that project, and that answer receives catcalls.

Holly answers a question whether an RFP could be reversed and she says “yes”. Her answer gets cheers from the GREC softball team.

Del Teague: I am very distressed that this project did not go to a local group and urged that the developer make the affordable housing permanent.

Holly: It is certainly a goal and we’re trying to figure that out.

7:14 PM Chairman Chris denies entertaining a community board motion to dunk Holly in the East River to see if she floats, resolving that the river is too far away from the meeting and that there is other business on the agenda.

7:15 PM: Council Chief of Staff Antonio Reynoso has a comment on behalf of Councilwoman Diana Reyna:

We too are appalled at the decision that HPD has made and we are going to fight with the community to make sure that the decision that was supposed to be made will be made. (Applause)

To choose another organization completely turns its backs against the community and we will not accept that.

It’s just that we seem to be facing constant neglect from HPD and the city of New York. We’re talking about a local organization that has a long track record. Now it seems like its all politics and we can’t stand for that.

HPD has come here after the fact.

Even The Chairman Emeritus wants to pile on:

I was shocked at the decision that HPD did on this wonderful plan that St. Nicholas had and completely just threw it out to complete strangers. To people that never knew this neighborhood. I’ve been here for 92 years practically. I was born in the hospital. I was chairman of the advisory board for Greenpoint hospital. I played ball next to the lots. Every time we got hurt, we went to the Greenpoint hospital to get treated. Seeing what has happened now…

I just want some community to come up with a plan for the people in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood, no place else. Whether a senior center or housing, people in this neighborhood shouldn’t have to travel to see their friends. They’ll be right here.

What did happen? I resent the fact that complete strangers are coming in and preempted one of the best organizations in our community. This is a complete slap in the face. We want to take over this building. You can rest assure its in good hands.

Finally, GREC leader Jan Peterson adds her two cents:

If we’re at a place where people are talking about money. We have thousands of hours of community people working on the redevelopment of this building for the past 28 years That’s worth something. Going to institutions where you know the people who are there, that’s worth something. It’s all about the money and they can’t even prove that St. Nick’s cant’ get the money.

We’re down to a fact of governance. If the community board cannot be heard. If the CDC, St. Nicholas, is acted as if it is just one of any number of competitors and they don’t matter, how can that not undermine democratic practice and community. If this mayor does not understand that communities are what makes most things work.

If we’re talking about delivering, that is not going to move really quickly.

How do you give public land to a private developer, then this is it.

Why is a private developer there, when we don’t even know if they are going to keep it permanently affordable. We’re here in Swinging Sixites Center. Who’s going to listen to the seniors? They can build the building, but they can’t operate the building without Swinging Sixties or Cooper Park Houses.

Are you actually going to say or do anything based on what you are hearing here? We want a dialogue now and we’d rather dialogue now rather than take the next step.

Holly: I’d be happy to hear the conversation well before ULURP

Chairman Chris: I think the deputy commissioner has heard that this community would like the agency to seriously consider this decision and reverse it.

7:30 PM: The GREC trial is over and Bill Carbine, Assistant Commissioner HPD talks about the 27 Hooper Street office relocating. Instead they will be providing mobile units, helping people out in a library, and in other locations at a regular basis. Team GREC, nearly all of it, files out of the room into the hallway.

7:37 PM: There’s a motion for a sidewalk café for a new thai restaurant on Bedford Ave between N. Fifth and N. Sixth Street. Ward says this stretch of Bedford is very crowded and there isn’t enough sidewalk to begin with.

7:40: Who likes zoning text amendments more than A Short Story? Answer: No one. Facial Hair All Star and City Planning liaison Steve Lenard mentions the City Planning’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (, while also mentioning a new zoning text amendment about car-sharing. This is going to be riveting. I can feel it.

Lenard explains that car sharing is like car rentals but with two big differences. You can rent a car by an hour. The car sharing organization can take care of gas, insurance, and all the aspects of owning a car.

Rich Mazur: Is this a car rental? You rent by the hour?
No, Rich. It’s car sharing.

Lenard: This is a private operator. This is not a city program. Currently there are three companies operating in New York City…

This sounds like a commercial for Zipcar. In fact, let’s just run a commercial for Zipcar while Rich tries to open a window because it is 80 degrees inside.

Steve sums up: We’re basically fixing up the zoning to recognize it and clarify when it is appropriate in off-street parking facilities.

Heather asks the benefits of this zoning text amendment and the limits that they are placing. Steve answers that some buildings consider it an amenity and explains that zoning does not make it clear where car sharing is permitted while Rabbi David Niederman stands up to squint at Steve’s Powerpoint slide.

I ask Frank Lang what he thinks and he says the amendment will allow City Planning to move away from requiring so much onsite parking in new developments.

8:00 PM: Time for some internal business. Chairman Chris takes nominations for the board’s executive committee. Yes it’s that time again. Everyone is re-nominated for their positions, except Land Use Chairman Ward Dennis, who declines. Yes, Ward decided to step down from the Land Use Committee since he has become Co-Chair of NAG.

8:08 PM: After District Manager Gerry Esposito asks for a moment of silence for Marie’s husband, St. Nick’s Frank Lang, on behalf of Michael Rochford, gives a presentation about an idea to deck the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to create a park on the south side.

“I am the guy that HPD said doesn’t have any money to develop the Greenpoint Hospital site,” says Frank.

Frank explains that St. Nicks Alliance and El Puente will be working on a project called the Green Light district. Councilmember Diana Reyna will support a study to look at the BQE north of Broadway to S. 3rd Street, particularly the South Third-Fourth Street block.

There’s a community meeting at May 20 and May 26 at PS 19 235 S. Third Street to talk about improving and expanding parks on the site while looking at a pilot on what it would take to deck.

Rob Solano: I applaud you for coming way way early with this and not after the fact. Ballpark this. When do you think this could happen?

Frank Lang says this is preliminary and can’t give a figure, but says that the study will cost $100,000 after Simon Weiser asks.

Lincoln Restler joins Press Row, notices the blog and mentions that he used to get the Fred Savage look-alike comments when he was a kid. As opposed to Ben Savage. Is this because his face is shaped like an upside-down Hershey’s kiss drop?

8:18 PM: Councilman Steve Levin arrives and shakes hands with City Planning’s Steve Lenard. Chairman Chris calls the roll and public session ends with, 30 members are present. Steve Levin has the floor:

Last month has been a busy one, particularly CB1. I want to thank everyone for coming out to testify on Domino for the City Planning Commission. I encourage everyone to come out and make their opinions known. That’s the best way to influence public debate.

Levin notes several pubic forums his office will organize in the neighborhood, including one on McGuiness Avenue.

“McGuinness is a impossible, dangerous place from one end to the other. DOT needs to seriously reconsider how to do safety there,” says Levin.

Levin also notes a construction worker killed on a site on Meserole Street in Greenpoint and says his office will look into the site. He mentions tomorrow’s Council meeting, which will address day care, and future budget meetings where a number of city services could potentially get cut. Also… Car Sharing!

8:26 PM: Chairman Chris gives his report, noting that funding for community boards is pending.

“The last voice of people living in our communities is the community board process. Because boards are so important, we need to have good people taking on leadership positions. One committee that still needs to be filled is the environmental committee. We need people to step up to the plate here. I’m looking for someone to think this through.”

Gerry Esposito pipes in that Community Boards have not had an increase in their budgets in 20 years.

“When I started in the 1970s, I had five employees. Now I have two. But I have the power of fifty. The wind beneath our wings." It's official. Gerry is the Bette Midler of Community Boards.

8:36 PM: Committee Reports! Sylvia from the Historic Preservation Committee, a Land Use Subcommittee, is addressing the renovation of a church. The motion is approved.

Transportation Committee’s Karen Nieves actually tap dances during her report and mentions the blog. This is getting weird.

Karen mentions the Sparta Cycling road race proposal on Bedford Avenue for September and the Brooklyn Greenway meeting which happened last week. For the record, this report is not as long as her first report.

Public Safety Committee Chiarman Mieszko Kalita takes the floor.

“Last meeting of the Public Safety was the most crowded, 56 people, more than there are here right now. Apparently people do need a drink in this neighborhood.”

Mieszko reads off the list for sidewalk cafes and those are approvals. Approved.

Now we’re into liquor licenses. There’s a lot of them and this report beginning to drag

Mieszko explains that the committee will not consider any property where there are two

He also explains The Woods’ expansion efforts to open a bar in the rear of a property, for a community group to distribute a CSA.

Del Teague quietly slips out of the building. Both Rob Solano and Esteban Duran are gone, and I don’t even see Ward anywhere. Everyone is checking out. This is the longest board meeting in recent memory where absolutely nothing happened.

9:04 PM: Public Session! We’re almost done. Let’s just stick to the highlights.

*Joseph Garber is pissed at everyone. First he lambasts Chairman Chris for cutting public session speakers from 3 minutes to 2 min. Then he lambasts Rabbi David Niederman for being selected to the attendance committee even though he showed up late tonight. Then he tells everyone who all the new Deputy Mayors are and he has copies of two hardcover books that the former Deputy Mayors wrote.

“A lot of stuff is happening!... I attended two of the charter revision meetings!...”

The bell rings, but Mr. Garber continues anyway and he insults Jan Peterson for speaking for ten minutes about GREC and the board again for not letting him talk for three minutes.

Someone shouts, “Now you’re turning everybody off.”

Garber: “What’s an extra minute! That is not democracy!”

*Guido Cianciotta: “We know just what HPD is trying to do. They were disgraceful. After 28 years of fighting, they came along to give to somebody upstate.

Nobody paid attention. They look at you and play you for a fool. It is up to this community board, to make sure that this person who wants this property should not get this property. He destroyed the things that people believe in. There are some people who stab you in the back, that you’re not going to get this, we know him, or we want the mayor. We want Greenpoint hospital for GREC and this board needs to make sure that it goes that way.”

*Michael Rochford has some remarks:

Thank you all very much and thank you on behalf of Alison Cordero who is in the hospital recovering from a stroke. I want to thank the board for saying so many kind things about St. Nicks.

We faced so many challenges when people said we couldn’t do things. We have people fighting to change redlining. When we had garbage, we went and fought garbage…

That’s the part of the dividends given to the community.

When a developer has been put in more equity. When they put in more equity, they’re going to be looking for more return and that means more risk.

Not only have we had a benefactor come forward with half a million dollars, a gift to the project. We also found two developers, private developers, we have built over 10,000 units of housing in the city. If there is any question about the financial viability of our organization I think we are ready to answer every question from HPD.

Stephanie Thayer offers updates for Transmitter Park, and a comfort station on Greenpoint Playground. She thanks NCMC and Barge Park Pals for the playground. Also, on India Street, the planters are in and a pier could be built soon. On McCarren Park, OSA has hired workers to supplement their work to keep the park clean. Also the McCarren Tennis association held its own fundraiser and resurfaced one of the courts. There’s also a fundraiser on Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday.

That’s pretty much it. Next month’s meeting is on June 3 and there will likely be a two month summer break. Maybe by then, we’ll have a rezoning cake.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Community Board 1 preview, lots of small plates
Mieszko Kalita, Ward Dennis and Heather Roslund remember a time before the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Rezoning called... The Wonder Years.

Tonight, HPD's Holly "Go" Leicht and City Planning's Steve Lenard will be on the agenda giving updates on two projects in the neighborhood. Leicht will touch on the RFP process for the Greenpoint Hospital while Lenard will talk about car sharing. I predict a muted catcall or two, as St. Nicks is still smarting over the decision to award the RFP to Great American Construction.

Also, several liquor licenses are up for grabs, including The Woods, which is looking to expand its S. Fourth Street bar. So far, the plan which was brought up at last week's public safety committee meeting, has gotten mixed reviews.

Finally, so you've heard, today is Williamsburg Rezoning Day! Apparently NAG is having its own Rezoning Day celebration without cake but with a new song at tonight's board meeting from the Broadway musical, Promises Promises. Can I make a suggestion? How about "Knowing When to Leave?"

Happy Rezoning Williamsburg Waterfront!
All we need to do is change the frosting!

Today, as Ward Dennis the Land Use Menace observes, is the birthday of the Greenpoint Williamsburg waterfront rezoning. Your rezoning is five years old today! (City Council voted on the rezoning on May 11th in 2005).

So what has changed? Let's go to 11211!

Things have slowly improved on the open space side of the equation in the past year. The first phase of Bushwick Inlet Park is now open as a soccer field (and a rather nice one at that). 0.28 acres down, 28 to go. Unfortunately, no headway has been made on the acquisition of the rest of the future Bushwick Inlet Park, so there is no waterfront access, no picnic area, no dog run, no bosque, no gardens and no great lawn. A waterfront pier opened last year at Northside Piers, the first taste of the publicly-accessible waterfront that one day is to run from North 3rd Street to Newtown Creek. That day is still far off, even for the Northside - the esplanades at 184 Kent, Northside Piers and the Edge are still not publicly accessible, and construction activity on land has rendered the pier a part-time amenity.

Up in Greenpoint, waterfront access is farther out on the horizon - there can be no waterfront esplanade until there is waterfront development. Work is soon to be underway at Transmitter Park, so maybe the public will have a real park to enjoy by the time we get to the 6th anniversary. But that's the good news for Greenpoint. The bad news is that sludge tank is still where it has been for the past five years - smack dab in the middle of a proposed waterfront park. And 65 Commercial Street is still in the hands of the MTA, which means that it too is still not a park

Here's to the next five years of waterfront rezoning. Take it away David Bowie...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eric Peterson is Williamsburg's only Yalie worth writing about
Budding Parks Department star Eric Peterson, above, reacts to the New York Observer article about Yalies living in Brooklyn. (Eric runs Parks operations at Randall's Island, a hell of a commute.) Quoth the Yalie:

I thought it was pretty funny, and true in some cases. I even posted it to my Facebook profile. Another of the quotees is from my high school, and the little brother of one of my best friends growing up.

For a host of reasons, NYC does seem to be Yale South. Not that we don't settle in DC, New Haven, Louisville, the Bay Area or Kigali, but New York's energy level and diversity of pursuits is especially attractive to Yalies.

We do love Yale and feel a big connection to other Yalies. Over 1000 alumni came to the four "Feb Club Emeritus" parties held in NYC in February, and several hundred local youngish alumni volunteer in NYC with the Admissions office, staffing college fairs and interviewing applicants. Then there are the more established outlets like the Yale Club on Vanderbilt Ave and the recently reinvigorated Yale Alumni Association of Metropolitan NY.

And it helps that Yale is only $28 round trip and less than two hours from Grand Central, which makes it easier for us to make it up to New Haven often for football games/tailgate parties, lectures, performances, symposia and other such attractions.

Mother's Day Monday Links

Makin your way in the world today takes everything you've got... wait, that's the wrong lyric.

Brooklyn was awash with windy Mother's Day brunches straight outta the Golden Girls, as families could be seen at restaurants throughout the borough squabbling over who should pay the bill.
As for the news-o-sphere it was more like Law & Order. Let's go to some links.

*A tip of the newscap to The Village Voice and Graham Rayman for its blockbuster report about fudging crime statistics at the 81st Precinct. There's a follow-up about the 90th too.

*People may have feared a security threat when the J train shut down operation on the bridge last week, but the long-term story is overcrowding on the line.

*Is Hotel Toshi legal? Is it illegal? According to a well-placed administration source, the city won't know until it sees it for itself. Hotel Toshi's Robert Chan thinks he's right, but the state legislature may pass a new bill clarifying what makes a legal hotel and this one may go to the courts eventually.

*In the blotters, if you see a snorkel-masked man walking around Williamsburg, he will probably rob you.

*The Sucuzhañay attacker got manslaughter, but was not convicted of a hate crime. BushwickBK has a nice summary to get you caught up

*Finally, Saturday's gun buyback program was apparently a success, as 287 guns were brought in, though it was a little hard to get one rifle into police custody.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Short List; Big Momma's Day Edition

Happy Mother's Day everyone! A weekly list of links returns on Monday morning. And a special shout-out for the District Attorney's Mother's Day special gun buyback program at eight churches throughout Brooklyn.