Oh, That’s What It Is!

December 12, 2013

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Word on the street (Wall Street Journal, that is) is that the ice skating rink at Bed Stuy’s Restoration Plaza may be resurrected as early as next year. That’s exciting! But how many of you knew that thing was an ice skating rink?

I live around the corner. Been through that courtyard plenty of times. I don’t know what I thought it was. I guess maybe an old fountain or some kind of spectator area. For what? I don’t know. It’s one of those many things you see all the time and don’t really think about. It’s just there.

Well in any case, it’s good news for Bed Stuy! Now when are my restaurants coming?

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NYC Man

October 28, 2013

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We lost one of our own here in New York. Lou Reed’s untimely death is dispiriting to everyone but it’s especially depressing when we grew up with this guy right in our back yards.

Reed was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island and became the embodiment of the Lower East Side 60′s/70′s music and art scene. Surely there are thousands of Lou Reed tributes floating around right now, but being a photographer myself, I’d just like to share some of Reed’s images.

All photos via Steven Kasher Gallery.

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Traffic Alert: Obama in Brooklyn

October 24, 2013

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Head’s up! Don’t go into Prospect Park tomorrow. No cycling. No jogging. Don’t even think of bringing your dog. The park will be off limits from 12-6pm as the president’s helicopter is set to land on the grass. He’ll also be in Crown Heights so expect delays around the area. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Bed Stuy House Tour

October 16, 2013

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It’s house tour season! This weekend, come check out my neighborhood. The Brownstoners of Bed Stuy have organized their 35th annual tour for this Saturday, October 19th. What makes Bed Stuy so unique in the old home department is that to date, the homeowners have not done extensive renovations, so all of the original details remain. But hurry up! With gentrification, dumpster diving may become more exciting than house touring for all of you lovers of historic materials.

Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. It is advised to go with the advance purchase as these events have sold out in the past.  No online purchase. Click on the image or link to see where you can purchase tix.

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Manhattan is the New Brooklyn

October 2, 2013

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Coming of age in Brooklyn in the 70′s and 80′s meant that you were a bridge and tunnel person.  Brooklyn was not the hip utopia it is these days. One had to cross the water into the city for anything resembling culture. Now Brooklyn is the place to be. It’s become more of a brand than a boro. Do you know how many dogs are named “Brooklyn”? A lot.

As you know, housing prices are just about up there with Manhattan now. Is it sustainable?

This past weekend was an eye opener for me that things may have gotten too extreme. Just a couple of personal anecdotes to share…

Ran into an old friend from Park Slope (as in born and raised). The guy has bucks. His family still owns a building right on the park. He was saying how he moved out of the neighborhood because he couldn’t take the sense of entitlement anymore. Now lives in Manhattan. I was thinking “Jeez, Brooklyn has gotten so snotty that you fled to the city?” It kind of makes sense when you think how it feels like to see your home town change so drastically. He doesn’t hold the same sentimental memories of the city because it was never his own community.

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Brooklyn Bagel, in CHELSEA!

My second epiphany came when I realized that I had to go into the city to find a real flea market. No, not some hipster artisan curated market, not that there’s anything wrong with, but somewhere to look for real vintage and antique items minus the Etsy sellers. Not that there’s anything wrong with Etsy sellers. I just wanted dirty old antiques sold by crusty middle aged vendors. Luckily, the Antiques Garage, Hell’s Kitchen Flea and 25th Street Market was just what I needed. In Manhattan, not Brooklyn.

Lastly, while wondering around the city, I couldn’t get over how many old people there were. Like even older than me. Way older! And then I realized that there aren’t really all that many old folks left in Brooklyn’s more popular neighborhoods. That seems appropriate enough to me, since I’m considering moving to the city myself when I get old and decrepit. Doorman building with elevator and terrace in the hub of the universe.

Or at least by the time I retire, it will be the hub of the universe once again. The circle is half complete.

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Photoville, Brooklyn 2013

September 18, 2013

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Photoville is getting ready to pop up for Year II starting tomorrow. If you missed it last year, your loss, but you can catch it this time around. The action packed photography event occupies a huge space at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

What is “Photoville”? It’s a photo exhibit, a classroom, a dog park and a beer garden all rolled into one.

Exhibitions are hung in shipping containers scattered around the site. Sign up in advance for any of the workshops. Have a beer. Get a tintype portrait. Bring your dog.

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Save the Mermaids!

May 8, 2013

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The annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade has morphed into a huge event since the first stroll down Surf Avenue in 1983. Now personally, having lived on Surf Avenue back in ’83, I thought the small freak and geek fest was awesome. These days, it seems like everyone in Brooklyn shows up and it’s too crowded for my grumpy middle aged ass.

But anyhoo, that doesn’t mean the show shouldn’t go on. The mermaids are in danger this year, my friends. Yeah, Sandy. After spending over $100k to restore their headquarters, they need to raise some clams to pay for cops and toilets for Coney’s unofficial start of summer.

Here, let the Kickstarter video speak for itself.

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Broken Angel Dog (and Block Party)

March 11, 2013

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This is Simba. He lived in the most famous building in Clinton Hill, Arthur Hill’s Broken Angel. The 84 year old Arthur was evicted after years of struggling to hang onto his house-as-art project. Now Arthur needs to find a new place and Simba needs fostering. Can you help? If so, please contact shannonkernerATgmailDOTcom.

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Perhaps you can meet Simba and Arthur at the Broken Angel Block Party on March 15th. If it looks familiar, yes, it was the backdrop of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. The event takes place all day and night, so stop on by, y’all!

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Brooklyn Party Spaces

February 14, 2013

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Happy Valentine’s, y’all! Doing anything special? Very exciting morning over here in the Reclaimed residence. Hubby went to work reeeealllyyyy early (the usual time) before his romantic date with jury duty. I’m doing something a bit more in tune with the holiday. I shall be looking into a couple of places to hold our 25th anniversary party this year. The 8/8/88 date was lucky enough after all.

When we got married, all I really wanted was a big ole’ loft party. Gosh, that was back when even Soho had unfinished loft spaces. My mother said the relatives wouldn’t appreciate my beer keg wedding so we compromised on an over the top kitsch Russian restaurant called Primorski in Brighton Beach. The friends loved it. Free flowing vodka and a heavily accented Russian band singing top 40. What’s not to love? I think the relatives didn’t quite understand the kitsch factor and just thought we were tacky.

Oh well. Fast forward 25 years and now I’m gonna have the non-wedding I’ve always wanted. Actually, I’ve graduated from the loft space to something with an outdoor area as well. So, what is a person to do when they want a completely laid back alternative party space with absolutely no structure?

My first thoughts were to rent a huge house upstate and have folks stay the weekend. The best wedding I ever shot as a photographer was on Fire Island. Couple rented a house on the beach for the week and held a lovely, casual “hang-out” wedding. They danced. They swam. They kayaked. They picnicked on the beach. Doesn’t that sound so much better than a party at a wedding factory? But alas, I was outvoted on an out-of-town party.

Anyhoo, enough rambling. Here’s what I found:

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The Moran Victorian Mansion is actually a residence. A beautifully restored detached brownstone mansion with a garden and even a bar. If you scroll back a few days to the post about a contractor looking for a work/housing exchange, this is the very same place! What I love about this place is 1. It’s gorgeous. 2. It’s right around the corner from my house. and 3. The price isn’t cray-cray. Basically, it’s $500 per hour for the event.

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The Akwaaba Mansion is also located in Bed Stuy. Prices are lower than The Moran, coming in at $400 per hour including the courtyard but if you factor in the mandatory gratuity plus the fact that you must rent all guest rooms for evening events, it comes out to more. The room rentals may be a plus for moi if people come from out of town, but then there’s the added chore of getting them to pay for their own rooms.

280 Washington (photo at top) in Clinton Hill is a great deal for smaller parties. Jessica got back to me immediately but informed me that the party limit is 50 people and since I just want to casually invite people off the street to pretend I have friends, this wasn’t a good match. She was extremely helpful though, pointing me in the direction of other venues and caterers. The rates are about $200 per hour plus insurance. All of the guest rooms can be rented.

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Then there’s Shell’s loft space. A 5000 square foot, four bedroom in Clinton Hill that can be rented overnight for $1200. Guests can stay for the entire weekend for the price of one of the other places that has outdoor space. It’s everything I wanted for my own wedding but I’m stuck on that damn outdoor space these days!

Here’s a list of awesome venues that were out of my budget. We’re talking $6000-10000 for space rental alone. Worth it for a wedding but not an anniversary.

Coney Island Museum and Sideshow would have been my number one choice but if it’s a weekend party, you have to compensate for their lack of performance tickets as well so it would have gotten pricey. Besides, I’m sure there will be enough freaks at my party. Who needs to hire more? Currently undergoing renovation due to Sandy but will be ready by June.

TBD in Greenpoint has a great indoor/outdoor party space. A beer garden with picnic tables? Can’t get more casual than that.

There were also some amazing places in Manhattan and Queens. Shout out to Gary’s Loft, Queen’s County Farm Museum and The Foundry.

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Gowanus Housing Needs Our Help Today!

November 7, 2012

regarding relief efforts at Gowanus Houses, please call 347-806-6435. Contributions can be delivered to

Gowanus Community Center, 420 Baltic Street in Brooklyn and will be accepted until 6 p.m.

::: GOWANUS HOUSES SUPPORT – WED. 11/7 :::
Today, we’re expecting heavy rains and high winds. The NYC alerts we’ve received tell us to stay home or to find a nearest shelter.

The families in the Gowanus Houses buildings, especially seniors, the ill and the homebound that are STILL WITHOUT POWER, HEAT AND HOT WATER have no choice but to stay home. These are the people who rely on relief efforts to get food, water, blankets.

Since the City of New York is doing virtually NOTHING to help Gowanus residents, the family of donors, volunteers, community organizations and faith based organizations have become their life line.

Yesterday, we struggled greatly to provide relief to Gowanus residents who are angry, hurt and frustrated that they are not getting the support or communications needed by city, state and federal agencies about further disaster assistance.

On day five, we can not stay in our warm homes, with access to refrigerated food and the ability to come and go as we please…or as we need.

On day five, we will practice self-determination and community-building. We will practice movement building.

Our goals:
1. Get families enough food, water and other supplies to last three days
2. Make sure that sick residents have enough medication and see medical personnel by the end of the day
3. Get residents connected to the appropriate agencies that can provide further disaster relief.

:::VOLUNTEER:::
We need about 20 volunteers for door-knocking, distribute food and complete food/water/supply deliveries to our families as well as make assessments of the medical needs of elders, sick and home-bound residents.

Volunteers are being asked to meet at the center (see address below) at 12 p.m. If you are interested in serving as an outreach coordinator and if you can help bring in donations and package bags of food for families, please come at 11 a.m.

Outreach and distribution will go on until 6 p.m., weather permitting.

We also need help in the evening, when we tend to have less volunteers, to deliver hot food to home-bound residents between 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. We would need 10 volunteers to get this done. If you can do evening hours, please check this page or FUREE’s web page for an update.

:::DONATE:::
We need food! We need supplies! We need your help!

Please donate as much as you can; no donation is ever too small! Please give only what is on the list so we don’t have an excess of food and supplies that we can’t move:

- Baby food (vegetarian, with meat/chicken, fruit, cereal stages 1, 2, 3)
- Water
- Evaporated, powdered and regular milk (1/2 gal. or smaller)
- Soy milk
- Pediasure
- Ensure
- Glucerna
- Ready made formula (with iron, regular/soy/sensitive)
- Canned goods (beans, vegetables, tomato sauce, soups, tuna fish, sardines, vienna sausages)
- Protein/granola/cereal/fruit bars
- Apple Sauce
- Diapers (newborn, sizes 1, 4 and 6)
- Toddler training pants (sizes 4+)
- Flashlights
- Batteries (especially C and D)
- Candles/Flashlights
- Peanut butter
- Sliced bread
- Fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, etc)
- Disposable hand warmers
- Gloves
- Socks
- Dry Ice (we have none and already, some residents’ insulin have gone bad.)

Goods can be delivered between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to the address listed below.

Please DO NOT BRING clothing and blankets.

We also need cash contributions so we can purchase what is needed and to support this relief work at Gowanus Houses.
To donate online, visit http://furee.org/donate or make checks payable to FUREE. Indicate if you are donating for relief efforts or to support FUREE’s overall work in the memo/notes sections.

::: CONNECT RESIDENTS TO SERVICES :::
Our friends from South Brooklyn Legal Services will be on site and visiting residents to apply for FEMA assistance and other assistance.

We will also have medical personnel from the NYU Medical Center to check in on the sick and homebound and to make sure that residents have their needed medication.

Volunteers are needed to alert residents of these FREE services and to help pick up prescriptions from local pharmacies to deliver to residents.

LOCATION:
Gowanus Community Center, 420 Baltic Street in Brooklyn

To sign up, please send e-mail to valery[at]furee[dot]org or lucas[at]furee.org

Again, thank you all for support!

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Yo, From Brooklyn

September 25, 2012

Tony Danza raps about Brooklyn peeps. Didn’t know Carl Sagan was from the Borough of Kings. See? We have some smart people.

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Block Party Season

July 23, 2012

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Block party season is here. This usually means I complain about people barricading an entire street for a few kids to play. If I’m around when it’s my own block, I go inside to my A/C and kvetch about the loud music.

But this year I decided to join in the fun. And guess what? I had a good time!

I grew up in apartment buildings on busy streets, so there were no parties on my block when I was young. I do remember going to my best friend’s block parties on E. 28th Street back when the neighborhood had lots of children of the non-Hasidic persuasion. There were rides and bouncy houses and entertainment. They don’t seem to go all out like that these days.

This block party reminded me that I live in a “neighborhood” of which I’m part of . Although I am friendly with my neighbors and often stop to schmooze with them, I never fully participated in the whole “block” experience.

Now they are not just my friendly neighbors. They are friends.

So, the next time there’s another dumb block party on your block, join in! You might actually enjoy it.

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Ooh La La Bed Stuy

July 19, 2012

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Oh great! A new French creperie just opened on Nostrand and Macon, right on the way to my gym. Now I can grab some pastries to nosh on while on the elliptical.

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I stopped into Le Paris Dakar after my work out this morning. Keeping fit is overrated anyway.

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Yes, the owner is really French! You know what that means? Great croissants! Not that Balthazar crap you find in every cafe in the city. They have plain, almond, chocolate and raisin. I inhaled my plain but I did pick up on the awesomeness of it while doing so.

Disclosure: I only tried the croissant and was too gross and sweaty to do a real interview with owner Mouna, so any info I give you from here on in, I stole from articles in Bed Stuy Patch and Bed Stuy Gateway.

Le Paris has made to order crepes and yummy looking pastries. You can pretty much have breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert here. They offer sweet and savory crepes (with a vegetarian section!), omelette crepes, salads and sandwiches. The “Dakar” comes in to play with the refreshing drinks. The menu also states that they will occasionally serve Senegalese specials. Mouna is of Senegalese ancestry.

The website is still under construction but you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates. They are certainly open for business right now and will really get rocking by September.

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Filmed in Brooklyn

July 16, 2012

Seeing Saturday Night Fever the other night just gave me a warm fuzzy feeling about Brooklyn. So fuzzy that I had to come up with an entire list of movies filmed in my favorite boro. Check out my NYC list of films here.

By the way, this isn’t in any particular order. That would take too much effort. It’s what comes into my mind first. I tried to pull up some under-the-radar films that aren’t necessarily the best, but at least you won’t see them on every other list.

1. Saturday Night Fever. A classic. I refused to see it for about 15 years after it came out because I cringed at those type of guys. Oddly enough, I kind of miss them now that they’re not so prevalent. Great Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge memories. And yes, I’m old enough to have danced on that 2001 floor.

2. The Warriors. Come out to play-ay? What more can I say-ay? Only that my friend’s dad wrote the novel. And it features Coney Island.

3. Do The Right Thing. This summer, as hot as it is here in Bed Stuy, I keep saying I’m gonna throw a garbage can through Saraghina’s window. If you don’t get the reference, you need to rent your ass this movie. Actually, most of Spike Lee’s movies celebrate Brooklyn, but this one is my favorite.

4. Laws of Gravity. A little known 1992 indie film. Was it great? That’s to be debated, but it could be a great cult classic. Filmed in Greenpoint and my high school buddy Arabella was in it, so it gets the friend plug.

5. Dog Day Afternoon. “Attica! Attica! Attica!” Pacino at his finest right there on Prospect Park West in Windsor Terrace.

6. Moonstruck. An ode to Carroll Gardens. And the moon. Cher is awesome. Norman Jewison, the same guy who did Fiddler on the Roof, directed this movie, proving that there’s no difference between Jews and Italians. We’re all loud and like to eat.

7. The Sentinel. Horror movie that scared the bejesus out of me back in 1977. Mostly filmed indoors, but the sentinel looks out over the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

8. Requiem for a Dream. Another Coney Island backdrop! And a shout out to another fellow Murrow HS alum Darren Aronofsky.

9. Last Exit to Brooklyn. A disturbing look at the seedy side of 1950′s Red Hook. But a great film!

10. Boardwalk. Gosh, I only saw this movie once and I really don’t remember it. I do remember seeing Ruth Gordon and Lee Strasberg filming it on the boardwalk back in the late 70′s when I was a young-un. Oh, how I loved Ruth Gordon.

11. Over the Brooklyn Bridge. Oh boy, I pulled this one out of my you know what. Don’t remember if it was any good. Was Margaux Hemingway IN anything good? Elliot Gould, a Jewish deli owner in Brooklyn. Shelly Winters, Sid Caesear, Carol Kane…ring a bell? I think I have to rent it.

12. The Chosen. Never heard of it? Two words. Robby Benson. Six words. Robby Benson plays a Hasidic Jew. Nuff said.

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