Friday, July 30, 2010

The Domino finally falls...

As you know by now, the Domino is done (unless Stephanie sues them). Let's take a look at the roundups from far and wide before adding some analysis...

*The Brooklyn Paper and Eliot Brown at The Observer look at the meaning of that Memorandum of Understanding and its role in the final vote of the project.

*Nikki Bagli's dad Charles at the Times with the quick draw!

*Wall Street Journal's zoning man Robbie Wheelan looks at some commonalities between Flushing Commons and Domino.

*Linda Collins at the Brooklyn Eagle has a long breakdown of Domino project details, in case you need to catch up.

*And here come the architect papers, with bdonline, Art Daily, and Metropolis Magazine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Photo of the day: Havemeyer Tree

Photo by Allison Davis (thanks Allison!)

If a tree falls on Havemeyer Street, does it make a tweet? Apparently, yes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WG News Reels in medium-sized Domino story

The WG News Arts throws an article about MOUs into the Domino discussions three days before the City Council's final vote on this. Phil DePaolo is hot on this issue too, and Rich Calder has a succinct article in the New York Post about this too.

Here's the WG paragraph that decently summarizes its story:

All of the countless meetings, presentations over a period of five to six years appear to be meaningless given the documents that have been made public to date—and the use of a MOU to make the promises. In fact, in the MOU it mentions that the developer can simply choose to only create the standard 20% affordable units if they choose to not take the public subsidies, far below what was promised, and it would be within the allowance of the agreement. Also, there is no mention of the 100 permanently affordable homeownership units very often mentioned as a basic part of the plan given forth by CPCR. Whether this has been written into the zoning text is unknown, but unlikely.

What's all the fuss about? Domino opponents say that Domino is set to be approved without legal guarantees of 30 percent affordable housing. The affordable housing component of Domino (660 units) is written into the "memorandum of understanding" and not into a legal contract, meaning, if the city does not deliver its public subsidies for housing, Domino's developers may not build those buildings. That's unlikely, say the developers and city officials.

"They made a promise and they're going to keep it, as they've done for 35 years," a spokesman for CPC Resources told me. They've never backed down on anything."

Councilman Levin's office isn't commenting on this for now. That may change Thursday. As could some additional legal stipulations, and the plan must also go back to the City Planning Commission.

A few questions are flapping around:

1. Why wasn't a legal document, such as a "restrictive deed" signed guaranteeing 30 percent affordable housing beyond this MOU? There is a reason here that pertains to land use law more than politics, but I imagine the MOU gives Domino's developers more flexibility for its plan.

2. What part of the city's budget would the public subsidy for Domino come from and has that piece been allocated yet?

3. What kind of oversight will exist to ensure that 30 percent affordable housing is in fact included in the plan beyond the MOU and the developer's word?

4. Will additional legal stipulations be added to the agreement to ensure the public subsidy is in place?

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's a dog day afternoon

Not for the lack of news, but more for the intensity of the humidity. There's a lot going on lately. Time for some links.

*The New York Times takes a look at questions surrounding the Loft Law. It's a cursory look, unfortunately, and we're not likely to get much more in depth from them. We'll just plow ahead.

*The rain shortened Modest Mouse and washed away Captain Jazz at the East River in an unlucky weekend for the summer concerts. Matthew Stewart reviews for New York Press.

*Now that Relish closed, Easter looks back at all the first wave restaurants that have come and gone from Williamsburg's bloated comfort-food landscape, seemingly leaving out Planet Thailand, one of the first of the first wave.

*Yes, it's hot out. So drink a soda. New York Magazine picks eight locally made ones to quench your thirst. Unfortunately, Manhattan Special, the oldest and among the best of the bunch, is not listed for some reason. No, I'm not nitpicking.

*Some concern among artists in loft buildings over FDNY raids has been quelled this weekend, as the city has now said that it only issued "violations" and that residents are allowed back into 338 Flushing Avenue (Rubulad). Several city and state sources insist that the loft crackdowns have nothing to do with the loft law enforcement.

*Domino is up for a vote on Thursday in City Council. There have been a few rumors swirling that the affordable housing levels have dropped from 30 percent to 20 percent, and they're false. Nothing has changed, except the revised design, but that isn't public yet.

*District Leader challenges get serious this week as Kings County officials have levied specific challenges to 53rd AD State Committee candidates Esteban Duran and Barbara Medina and New Kings Democrats founder Matt Cowherd, who is running for his piddly county committee seat. Tracking.

*Cono's Restaurant got robbed! Some thug flashed a gun at Mrs. Cono and demanded $200 from the cash register. It was not recorded as a campaign contribution.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Photo of the Day: Steve Levin meets Mr. T.

Photo by Stefano Giovannini
"I pity the fool who doesn't... sign this petition."

Our photo of the day comes from an old-school labor protest at 184 Kent this week, where Councilman Steve Levin joined members of the SEIU to demand fair wages and health care benefits for the workers there. Two workers were fired for trying to organize a union on site. Read more about it here.

It's picnic in the park day at Sunken Meadows!

Come seniors come all to the north shore of Long Island for Vito's 30-something annual Sunken Meadows Senior Picnic! I couldn't make it because Bush crapped out at the last minute (there's an August date too), but readers, fans and frenemies who are out there today, please feel free to send photos this way.


This comes to you from your local emergency response team, because emergencies are happening and must be reflected in ALL CAPS SO YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!






NYC CERTs are groups of neighborhood and community-based volunteers
that undergo an intensive, 11-week training program in disaster
preparedness and basic response skills. Topics include fire safety,
search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. After completing
training, teams support their local communities by assisting the
various City agencies that prepare for and respond to disasters.

Emergency services personnel are the best equipped to respond to
emergencies. However, following a catastrophic disaster, NYC CERTs
can handle initial emergency recovery while they wait for
professional first responders.

During non-emergency situations, NYC CERTs educate their communities
on emergency preparedness.

CERT members were active as they help recovery efforts after the
midtown crane collapse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Links coming tomorrow

Waaaay behind on some links. Blame the boys of summer, above. This was the last important thing to happen in Williamsburg. The rooftop restaurant next to Lokal that is also owned by Lokal will now close slightly earlier when it opens later this year. It took four hours to figure that out. Congratulations.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Short List: Petition Edition (Roll Up)

Vito, ten minutes to midnight. Unconfirmed reports had Andy Marte turning this song on in Team Vito's SUV:

So there we were. 11:50 pm. Board of Elections office at 32-42 Broadway. Not a lot going on. Katie Cucco and Kevin Peter Carroll were there, contemplating whether to file challenges. Kevin's dad was there too, wearing an identical name tag and looking to drop someone for the fun of it. So was Sarah Baker from Lincoln Restler's campaign.
As for the actual electeds, Canarsie Councilman Lew Fidler was hanging out with Mill Basin Assemblyman Alan Maisel shooting the bullsh#t. Both of them ate earlier and neither had an opponent so they were in a good mood.
KPC on the other hand was pacing around the buildings nervously wondering whether his opponent Ralph Perfetto would show up and challenge his petition, breaking a Bay Ridge blood oath of some kind. In the end, KPC decided to challenge Ralph's petition. I don't know the details, but Tom Tracy and Helen Klein do, and there's more of it here.
Then Vito showed up and the fun began...

Team Vito delivered a stack of challenges (I still don't have the full list) to the petitions of rival candidates just before midnight. After he signed in, he kept asking if I was married. Married?
"Aaron Reyna," said Vito. "You know, Aaron Reyna."
Ohhhhhhhh, I get it. But that would make Councilwoman Diana Reyna's actual husband, an ex-sergeant in the NYPD and a semi-loyal reader of this blog, angry. And the last thing I want to do is make Peter angry. Let's just cut to some Clapton and get the hell out of here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Times Visits the South Side

The New York Times visits Latino-themed nightclubs in Williamsburg and likes what it sees... hey, wait a second, what's Lincoln Restler doing here?

Actually, the article is about the "battle for the soul" of Williamsburg's nightlife. I didn't realize there was a battle, as the only bullets flying around seemed to be happening in Greenpoint.
Instead, the article suggests a segregated nightlife scene where hipsters are partying at the latest bars and restaurants near S. Fourth Street (such as Rye, Dram, Pies 'N Thighs, Traif, etc.) while Latinos who grew up in Williamsburg have few options for themselves besides going into the Meatpacking District or the Lower East Side.
Alma Lounge is one of them (Note: I had originally written that Diana Reyna had her primary victory party there. I was wrong. Her party was at Le Feu Lounge on S. Fifth Street. Alma doesn't have brick walls and a narrow corridor, and the location above does.), but so is Ooba, a tapas lounge on Grand Street, and Don Pancho, also on Grand Street, where many Latino small business owners are opening restaurants and bars.
The article ends noting that many longtime residents don't want bars of any kind on the south side. That sentiment is echoed by Luis Garden Acosta's comments in my article about Vecino Pizza (the last authentic Puerto Rican restaurant in Williamsburg), which may be closing this year.

“Most of us in the Latino community don’t eat at restaurants. If we go to takeout or a restaurant, it has to feel like home,” said Acosta. “The average working class Latino will never step into the places on Bedford, which are owned largely by the white upper middle class community. Everything else is more high end.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day! Live from Smith Street!

This p├ętanque game is getting out of hand.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bat Sh#t Crazy Story of the Week: A Tie!

To the New York Post we go for our first candidate for bat-sh#t craziness in the news media, which brings us the Jihad Monkey! The Post surfs a Chinese newspaper which details how the Taliban is training primates to use assault rifles. How adorably deadly. Of course there's video. Anyone know if they have one these little guys in the back room at BARC?

Meanwhile, back in our own dusty jihadist backwater, also known as Texas, the Houston Chronicle has a story about murder, betrayal, and arson... all connected to a Baptist congregation. Insert passages from the Book of Revelations here.

Wall Street Journal Discovers Beacon's Closet
Very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal's metro section about the Williamsburg vintage institution. Although Ralph Gardner's article is written from the tone of a Manhattanite dad's sojourn to the store with his teenage daughter (and yes, that's exactly the subject of the feature, what do you expect it's the Journal), the Urban Gardner comes away with two decent insights: everyone in Beacon's closet works in a band making it difficult to retain staff and Beacon's closet is becoming pickier in the types of clothing it buys on consignment.
What does it mean? Not much beyond that, although it's worth noting that Beacon's Closet spawned the proliferation of high-end vintage and women's clothing boutiques on and nearby Bedford Avenue in the past five years.
One thing I'd like to know is whether Beacon's Closet's revenues are up or down because of this and other demographic changes on the Northside.

Steinbrenner is dead. Long live Steinbrenner

How else can we remember the most notorious owner in all of professional sports? With a Seinfeld montage!

Also, the statements are coming in. Here's the Mayor:
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Steinbrenner family. This is a sad day not only for Yankee fans, but for our entire City, as few people have had a bigger impact on New York over the past four decades than George Steinbrenner. George had a deep love for New York, and his steely determination to succeed – combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work – made him a quintessential New Yorker. George invested his heart and soul into the Yankees, and his competitive fire helped usher in new eras of Yankee greatness, reclaiming the team’s long tradition of excellence and its position as the most successful franchise in the history of American sports. He was a champion who made New York a better place, and who always gave back to the city he loved. He has left an indelible legacy on the Yankees, on baseball, and on our city, and he leaves us in the only way that would be appropriate: as a reigning world champion. We will be lowering the flags in City Hall Plaza today in honor of his achievements. George was a larger than life New York figure whose passion and drive to succeed will forever be missed.”

And here's Borough President Markowitz:

“It doesn’t matter if you root for the Yankees or the Mets—or, like me, still carry a torch for the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. We can all agree that this is a dark day for New York City baseball and for professional sports in America . The Yankees’ home turf may be the Bronx, but George Steinbrenner truly exemplified the ‘ Brooklyn attitude.’ He was tenacious, tough and settled for nothing less than excellence. With his savvy and baseball smarts, he guided the Yankees into a new golden age. I know that George Steinbrenner, like Yankee great Lou Gehrig, considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. So let’s honor him by continuing to ‘root, root, root’ for the home team. Because as George himself made clear on so many occasions, if they don’t win, it’s a shame!”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Short List; Gigilo Edition

Beer and Catholic Schools: Two of A Short Story's favorite things, together again.

It is now officially summer in Williamsburg, as the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast floods Havemeyer Street with Jersey Shore fans... I mean Italian American pilgrims waiting to attend the 123rd Dancing of the Giglio.

In other news... Jelly opens its pool party season at the East River, the Brooklyn Kickball League bris holding its all-star game, arts exhibits abound at the future home of the Northside Community Center and the basement at the Greenpoint Hospital, and I contemplate whether to turn on the air conditioning.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ten reasons why LeBron would come to Brooklyn
LeBron is not going to, but if he were at all leaning towards joining the soon to be New Jerseyless Nets, here are ten reasons why he might.

1. Susan Pollock (aka Su-Pol) offered LeBron his own tower at the New Domino site.

2. Joe Lentol and Steve Cohn are lobbying LeBron to coach their Seneca Club little league team after its embarrassing playoff defeat.

3. LeBron has always wanted to learn how to pickle his own cucumbers and he can take a pickling class at The Meat Hook.

4. Because LeBron will reveal himself as the author of Atlantic Yards Report and the entire thing will be revealed to have been a farce.

5. Vito Lopez needed LeBron's help with petitioning this week after Obama For America couldn't do it.

6. Did we mention that LeBron's favorite Peter Pan Donut flavor is coconut cream with extra cream with ice cream in the middle of it?

7. Because until New Domino gets built, he can always buy Magic Johnson's Viridian building.

8. Marty Markowitz has already offered to rename Bensonhurst LeBronsonhurst.

9. Because Brighton Beach is pretty much like South Beach but with fewer Russians.

10. Marty Markowitz and City Planning just threw in the other Domino tower, and it's going to go up to 40 stories.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CB1 spam email of the week
Now that Julie Lawrence's cat food has been consumed (it was tasty), it's time to recognize some carpet sales right in our backyard! Because when I think of July 4th, I think of Independence Day sales.

Hey Moms and Dads !!!
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Father of Devin 15 yrs of making my day almost everyday !!

Press Release of the Week: Midwifery

This week's press release of the week comes courtesy of State Senator Eric Adams, who last gave us a reaction to Pants on the Ground, raises his game to another level with "midwifery." Behold!


NYS Senator Eric Adams announces passage in the NYS Senate and the NYS Assembly of the Midwifery Modernization Act. The legislation will eliminate the requirement for a written practice agreement (WPA) for licensed midwives to practice in New York State .

Senator Adams statement: Midwives are governed by rigorous educational requirements and regulations, and they provide excellent maternity, gynecological, and primary health care for their clients. They are committed to providing safe care for women and infants.

The Midwifery Modernization Act (MMA) is an important piece of legislation. It dramatically expands options for pregnant women in our State by eliminating the requirement that a licensed midwife have a written practice agreement (WPA) with a physician in order to work in New York.

Midwives provide expert care with superb outcomes and fewer interventions (such as C-sections), and they always consult with and refer to appropriate medical specialists when necessary. It was ironic and inappropriate that they were not required to obtain a WPA with a physician when a patient needed care outside the obstetrical arena, but had to obtain a WPA for the one area in which they are specially qualified by license and experience!

This midwifery modernization legislation removes the WPA requirement, and I urge Governor Paterson to sign into law a bill that will preserve quality health care for women and their babies.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat stroke hangover links

Whenever I'm with you.. something inside starts burning...

Everyone except candidates petitioning for District Leader is staying inside during today's 100 degree heat. That's reason enough to check out these neighborhood links.

*The Bushwick mattress fire, the state's largest self-sustaining mattress fire, is still smoldering. Jesus. They cut the L train from Broadway Junction to Myrtle Avenue after this one. BushwickBK's Jonathan Mena has more on this 4-alarm.

*Speaking of fires, Free Williamsburg has videotape of the fire that almost burned down the Brooklyn Public Library's Leonard Branch but still freaked out Brian Ries. It's ok, Brian. They put it out. Here's his video:

*Also, last week, in the same neighborhood, the power failed.

*The fireworks happened on the Hudson River, and Councilman Steve Levin is pissed about it.

*Bushwick residents are feeling a little overexposed as The Times looks at two expensive membership-based arts communities (3rd Ward Brooklyn and Castle Braid, where 1-bedrooms can cost $1,700 a month at the low end.) Another article in the "Bushwick Journal" series about The Loom follows. Here's hoping that the grayish lady has gotten Bushwick out of her system and that we will soon see an "East New York Journal" or a "Middle Village Journal" instead.

*Radiac is back in the news after Assemblyman Lentol pushed a bill through the Assembly. They've actually never left. To get caught up on the fuss, read New York Press' slightly meandering but otherwise excellent article by Susan Sundberg in 2008. Also the title should have been My Chemical Romance. Opportunity missed.

*Finally, Faith No More took to the waterfront for an OSA benefit show. And MTV was there. Here's hoping the fans followed the band's advice to beat the heat.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Short List: Independence Day Edition

With temperatures set to reach record highs this weekend, A Short Story is hunkering down with a growler full of water and some sparklers... it's too hot to write anything.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Mieszko Rap

And, to continue our series, here's Mieszko rapping.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pet Shop Pete Gillespie

Del Teague isn't the only rocker on Community Board 1. There's former board member "Pet Shop" Pete Gillespie, singing a mean Scottish diddy on his acoustic guitar. Black is indeed the Colour.

Domino roundups

By now you've heard that Domino Sugar passed the City Council's Land Use Committee, all but clearing the way for its final passage next month. You've also heard that the Loft Law bill passed both houses in the legislature (and a recent amendment swapping Maspeth for Long Island City passed too). Let's go around the horn!

You've read the break, Erin Durkin's report in The Daily News and probably the New York Times' report filed by Nikki Bagli's dad (sour note: Nikki Bagli is leaving 3rd Ward for... gasp!... graduate school!), but there are a few other pieces to clock in with, starting with zoning man Matt Chaban's report in Architect's Newspaper. Chaban asks how do you make a building smaller without actually making it smaller? The answer is the sound of one hand clapping... but he does extract some nuggets from Susan Pollock who is sticking with her zoning envelope and mailing it all the way to the bank. Arch Paper:

“The zoning envelope remains the zoning envelope, so the project will continue to look much the way it is,” Pollock said. “Obviously it will have to change some with the heights coming down, but not much from our current plan.”

Pollock would not say whether the densities would be achieved through bulkier, wider buildings or smaller apartments. “There’s enough room to make that possible,” she said. The developer has held firm to its numbers throughout negotiations, arguing that it could not afford the project with anything less. “As we’ve always said, we need to keep those numbers to bring the community all of the benefits we promised,” Pollock said.

Over at Streetsblog, Noah Kazis breaks down the deal, embracing in the small victories of parking spaces reductions and a new shuttle bus paid by the developer. Kazis nicely adds expert voices from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as NAG organizer Ryan Kuonen on whether shuttle buses are a precedent for development going forward, but concludes that more could have been done in the deal.

Of course, the amount of parking originally proposed was so enormous that the New Domino will still add a flood of cars to the neighborhood, congesting the free Williamsburg Bridge just feet away, guzzling gas and exposing pedestrians and cyclists to greater danger. The policy that larded Domino with parking in the first place -- attempting to build enough off-street automobile storage to match the car-ownership rates of the surrounding area -- needs to be discarded as too disconnected from broad transportation goals.

Moreover, while the shuttle buses could quite easily disappear after a few years, these parking spaces are forever.

Brooklyn11211 gives his analysis of Domino (I bet he'll likely be a member of that new Domino Advisory Council that Steve Levin is setting up), and it's not pretty. His key paragraph:

The changes that were made to the development side of the project really amount to rearranging deck chairs. They certainly don't address any of the core objections raised by Community Board 1 or Borough President Marty Markowitz (who still has issues with the project). The height of the two tallest towers are reduced by 60' each (to 34 stories), but that floor area is just reallocated within the development site. And one of the few changes made by City Planning - reducing the height of one of the office towers - is undone by the Council. The net effect is no reduction in density, no offsetting of the per capita reduction in open space for Williamsburg (a "statistical fractional decrease" in the words of the developer - an actual reduction in available open space to you and me), no mitigation of shadow impacts on Grand Ferry Park or neighboring row houses, and no improvements to an overburdened transit system (other than a shuttle bus to make it easier for Domino residents to get to the overburdened transit system).

More roundups to go, as the New York Post, Greenpoint Gazette, Epoch Times, and Brooklyn Eagle check in. Meanwhile Eliot Brown at The Observer was covering state budget issues, so Sam Levin fills in with this story, and Courtney Gross at The Gotham Gazette was all over the city budget, so Gail Robinson takes over here.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the debut of former Observer politics editor Katharine Jose, who kept a diary of the Domino proceedings for the spanking-new Capital NY. Nicely done Katharine. Thanks for the shout-out. Back atchya.

Finally, The Real Deal looks to the property just south of Domino and sees... activity. They just renewed their permits for a 3-year extension, and 11211 looks at the work that has been done in the past six months. You're going to be hearing more about this.