Check it Out: The Brooklyn Public Library

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The plaza and portico of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza. This building is considered one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in America.

 

Every major city has a library system, and Brooklyn is no exception. Dating back to when Brooklyn was an independent city, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is the sixth largest library system in the country, with 59 branches throughout the borough. Almost everyone in Brooklyn lives no more than one-half mile from a library.

The BPL as an entity began as a private association with the merger in 1869 of two antecedent organizations, the Brooklyn Athenaeum and Reading Room and the Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn. In 1878 the merged organizations were renamed the Brooklyn Public Library, but as noted, at the time it was private, not free. The library was located on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.

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The inner lobby of the Central Branch, circa 1958, with the card catalogues on the left and information and checkout desks on the right.

The city of Brooklyn established the free Brooklyn Public Library in 1896, and today the system holds more than four million items. It welcomed just under eight million visitors last year and circulated over 14 million books and electronic media.

Between 1901 and 1923, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave the system $1.6 million to expand the system, and more than one-third of today’s total branches were built with those funds. Twenty-one of the system’s 59 branches are still referred to as Carnegie Libraries.

The main branch of the system, at Grand Army Plaza and officially called the Central Library, was considered for the predecessor organization in 1889, but no ground was broken until 1912. The original design was an ornate Beaux-Arts affair that, because of rough economic times during World War I and then the Great Depression, was abandoned after just one wing had been constructed but not finished. The site remained dormant until 1935, at which time a new design was commissioned in the then-current Art Deco style. Shaped like an open book, with the grand, 50-foot high entrance at the binder and the front and back covers fanned out along Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, respectively, the beautiful limestone building opened in 1941. The building is considered by experts as one of the shining stars of Art Deco design in the country.

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Literary images in the portico of the Central Library, including Brer Rabbit, Natty Bumppo (The Deerslayer) , Walt Whitman, and Poe’s Raven.

Above the main entrance doors are arrayed fifteen bronze images representing characters and writers from the American literary canon, including Tom Sawyer, Rip Van Winkle, Hiawatha,

Walt Whitman, Winken, Blinken, and Nod, and animals including Poe’s Raven, Brer Rabbit, and Moby-Dick.

The library today is a major cultural element in Brooklyn, offering classes and programs for kids, teens, and adults, as well as seminars, talks, readings by authors and scholars on many subjects, movie screenings, and other events, all for the general public and all free. Check with your local branch for specific events.

In this age of digital images taking over from reading for many people, the library is as necessary today as it was one-hundred twenty years ago. And, in a nod to modernity, the library’s collection includes more than 700,000 digital items.

If you haven’t been to your local branch, go check it out. If you can get over to the central branch, go and check it out. And while you’re there, join the library, look through the racks, grab a book, and check it out.

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Three of the twenty-one so-called Carnegie Libraries, built with money given by the industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Pictured L-R are the Macon Library in Bed-Stuy/Stuyvesant Heights, the Park Slope library, and the Arlington Library in Cypress Hills.

 


 

Eastern Parkway: One of Brooklyn’s many Firsts

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The original route of Eastern Parkway, the world’s first, from Prospect Plaza on the West (left) and Ralph Avenue at the East end, from an 1897 Rand-McNally City of Brooklyn map,

 

In 1866, as Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead were planning the design and construction of Prospect Park, they smartly considered means of accessing the park. Most of the land surrounding the park was farmland then. The street grid had been planned in 1839, and laid out on paper, but not much area would be cut and divided until much closer to the twentieth century. The two landscape geniuses conceived of a grand road, broad and tree-lined, with little-to-no commercial activity allowed. A road that would be a pleasant, uplifting ride (this was well before the invention of the automobile) that would deliver those from outlying areas to the gates of the park and lead them home again afterwards.

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Eastern Parkway provides pedestrian promenades on both sides, and is lined with trees for its entire length.

The plan for the road, perhaps conceptually influenced somewhat by the Champs Elysees in Paris though by no means a copy of that route, was for a broad center roadway lined on each side with tress and a wide promenade, with narrower outer roadways for local traffic to the homes and apartment buildings that would line the street. Commercial activity was to be kept to an absolute minimum, a restriction the city of Brooklyn supported. Vaux and Olmstead coined the term parkway for their new road, and so Eastern Parkway is the first of the many, many parkways we now have throughout Brooklyn and worldwide.

At its opening, Eastern Parkway ran from Prospect Plaza (now Grand Army Plaza) at the north end of Prospect Park to Ralph Avenue, which at that time was the city line of Brooklyn. The route was chosen based on the terrain of this section of Brooklyn. During the ice age, glaciers pushing south crunched rocks and dirt and other debris together to form a moraine, or ridge, and Eastern parkway runs along the top of this ridge. This moraine also is the basis for the neighborhood’s current name, Crown Heights, and if you ever bike north-south through the area, you’ll realize that it’s harder to bike to Eastern Parkway on either side than it is to ride away from it. 

Caribbean Parade

The Parkway is perhaps best known as the route of the annual Labor Day Caribbean parade.

By 1897, Eastern Parkway by name had been extended through East New York out to the Queens county line, just past Conduit Avenue along what today is Pitkin Avenue. This portion of the road seems not to have been parkway, but a standard street with the glorified name and an elevated rail line running above much of the length of this section. We found a Rand McNally map from 1901 that shows the Pitkin Avenue name here and the parkway turn up along its current route and into Ridgewood, though it could be that the section north of Fulton Street was either a planned or still-under-construction route.

Today, Eastern Parkway maintains the beauty and feeling that Vaux and Olmstead wanted, except of course that traffic is now a nightmare, at least at rush hours.

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Eastern Parkway at Nostrand St., approx. 1919.

There is very little commercial activity, mainly at the corners of business-district avenues like Nostrand and Utica, and there are churches and synagogues, most notably the Chabad Lubavitch world headquarters at Kingston Avenue. There are also major cultural centers at the west end, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum, and the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. And then, of course, Prospect Park, the genesis of the idea for the world’s first parkway.

Eastern Parkway is probably best known today as the route of the annual Labor Day parade honoring the Caribbean population of Brooklyn. The parkway is one of the many gems and the many firsts that Brooklyn can claim, and another of the many, many reasons that Brooklyn is the best place in the world to live.

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Eastern Parkway’s Route today.

 


Gowanus Open Studios

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Summer’s over. Many of our favorite outdoor Brooklyn activities have wrapped for the year: the great season of Celebrate Brooklyn! is long over, the public pools are closed, and Smorgasburg shuts down for the season within weeks. There’s still enough warmth for a few more barbies in the park or in your own outdoor space (if you’re fortunate in that way), but it’s time to start thinking about indoor leisure-time events.

GOS+2018+Poster 325WOne of the most exciting of those each October is Gowanus Open Studios, when artists from Atlantic Avenue to the Prospect Expressway and from Court Street to Sixth Avenue open their studios and galleries to the public. The Gowanus area is packed with dozens and dozens of artists and galleries, many of whom (260 at last count) invite us all in to their spaces to see their work and talk about their ideas and techniques. It’s a great opportunity to experience the who, the how, and the what of artistic creation.

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Collage, sculpture, and photography are some of what you’ll see at Gowanus Open Studios. Works here by (top-bottom) Kate Fauvell, Timothy Corbett, and Konstantin Dimopoulos.

If you’re an artist, it’s a great time to see what others are doing, and perhaps grab a dose of inspiration. If you’re simply an art lover, you might just find a piece that’s perfect for an empty space in your home. The weekend is a great way for families to introduce the kids to life as an artist and experience an artist’s work area (most of which will look like nothing they’re allowed to do at home.) You’ll meet artists at different stages of their careers, and the work varies from grand scale to miniature, and from painting to pottery to sculpture to assemblage and many others types of work. It’s very exciting, and for those who want to experience it all, two days is barely enough time.

And don’t forget lunch! Or dinner! Besides artists’ studios and light industry, Gowanus has a ton of great restaurants and food outlets, including Pig Beach, Runner & Stone, Monte’s, Two Toms, Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, Freek’s Mill, Table 87, Michael & Ping’s, Bison & Bourbon, Ample Hills Creamery, and many more. And let’s not forget the local breweries, Three’s Brewing, Strong Rope, and Other Half, all with tap rooms open to the public, and all three open during the Open Studios event.

The Gowanus Open Studios weekend is organized by Arts Gowanus, a non-profit organization that supports the Gowanus artistic and industrial enclave with the intention of building and promoting “relationships between individual artists, arts organizations, and the broader community” in order to strengthen the bonds between them and to “connect the world to the Gowanus community.” The open studios weekend is their largest event of the year. It’s not to be missed!

So, mark your calendar for October 20th and 21st. Hours are noon – 6:00 p.m. both days. Best public transportation is the F and G trains to Fourth Avenue, the R train to 9th Street or Union Street, and any of the many lines that pass through Atlantic Terminal.

See you there!

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Paintings and sculptures from (L-R) Joy Makon, Carol Adams, Christy Powers, Gerald Siciliano, and Joseph Burchfield, just a few of the artists you might meet at Gowanus Open Studios 2018.

 


 

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum

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The exhibits at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum cover international arts, local natural sciences, and world cultures.

 

Young minds are curious. From babyhood, the blank slate that is our new-born brain begins absorbing all that we see, examining our hands, and feet, and the faces, the touch, and smell of our parents and everything else that we sense. If we’re lucky, as we grow, as we age, that curiosity stays with us. One way to maintain that level of absorption of our surroundings is to continue to explore new things. Here in Brooklyn we’re very fortunate to have an institution that is dedicated to nurturing the developing minds of our youngest.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, in Crown Heights, is the oldest and one of the largest institutions in the country and perhaps the world dedicated to feeding and developing the curiosity and creativity of children. From its beginning in 1899, the museum has presented science, the arts, and the natural sciences with the notion of learning by experience, providing interactive, hands-on exhibits that encourage visitors to take an active part in each. 

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Some of the 30,000 objects in the collection of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. At the rear is the entrance to one of the museum’s many workshop classrooms, the Color Lab.

Six permanent exhibits offer interactive experiences in nature, art, sensory play, cultural diversity, and more. The Neighborhood Nature exhibit includes dioramas of local plants and animals found here in Brooklyn. The Our favorite is World Brooklyn where kids can learn hands on what it’s like to work as a shopkeeper, baker, grocer, builder, and other vocations.

Many of the temporary exhibits introduce young people to other cultures, other eras, and other ways of viewing and interacting with the objects and materials around us. The museum offers many weekend workshops for kids, and educators and organizations can rent a Museum on the Go case for classroom presentations and activities. In addition, the museum offers after-school programs in the arts, culture, and science, and teen programs geared toward community interaction.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was founded in 1899 by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum), with the idea that children learn best by doing. Creating a place that offers children a chance to touch, operate, and become immersed in the offered exhibits was a revolutionary concept at the time.

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The world culture area offers a strip of “shops” displaying items specific to various places around the world.

The original building was an old mansion on or near the site of the present building in Brower Park, designed by the architect Raphael Vinoly and completed in 2008 with more than 100,000 sq. ft. inside and a large roof deck and garden. It is the only LEED-certified green museum in the city. Today, the museum boasts a collection of over 30,000 natural science and cultural objects that are either on display or used in the various programs and exhibitions. There’s something of interest for kids of all ages. We suggest you grab your kids and go see for yourself. (Note: Thursdays from 2:00-6:00, admission is free!)

 

https://www.brooklynkids.org/

 The Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213, corner of St. Marks Avenue

Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri., 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thu., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Sun., 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Admission: $11 except Thursday, 2:00 – 6:00, free/pay what you wish

 


 

Pioneer Works

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There are so many reasons to love Red Hook: The waterfront, the many old warehouse buildings, now housing great modern shops and manufacturing companies such as German Kitchen Center

, the Red Hook Winery, Scanlon Glass, Steve’s Key Lime Pie, and Fairway, as well as more modern constructions like IKEA; the quaint nineteenth-century row houses along the narrow streets and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at Atlantic Basin; and the baseball and soccer fields and the large public pool at the Sol Goldman Rec Center. There are also many arts and community organizations, both commercial and non-profit, that attract visitors from all over the metro area. These include the Waterfront Museum Barge, The Brooklyn Waterfront Artist’s Coalition Gallery, and Added Value Farms.

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A group listening to an artist talk about his work at the Potoprens exhibit at Pioneer Works, September 2018.

One of the larger of the arts organizations is Pioneer Works, located in a former Ironwork factory at 159 Pioneer Street, at the foot of Imlay Street  between Van Brunt and Conover Streets. Pioneer Works is a cultural center “dedicated to experimentation, education, and production across disciplines. Through a broad range of educational programs, performances, residencies, and exhibitions, Pioneer Works transcends disciplinary boundaries to foster a community where alternative modes of thought are activated and supported.” In plainer English, the organization’s goal is “to make culture accessible to all.”

One of the ways it does that is through its Second Sundays events. Second Sundays is a free event series which provides the public free access to tour the space, visit the studios of current resident artists, and view the current exhibitions. There is live music, and the organization’s program leaders give hands-on demonstrations and programs in art, education, science, and technology.

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One of the twenty artists exhibiting work at the Potoprens show talks about his work.

The center offers classes in each of its different focuses, i.e., art, science, technology, and music. Many classes relate to the current exhibitions. Admission is free, though a reservation is required. A link to order a free ticket is on the page of each program, class, or talk.

Scientific Controversies (Sci Con) is a series of conversations between scientists on unsolved quandaries, hosted by Director of Sciences Janna Levin. Conversations can be on any scientific riddle, such as Swarm Intelligence, String Theory, Black Holes, or Dark Matter.

One of the more well-known events sponsored by Pioneer Works is the annual Red Hook Regatta, in which homemade boats race along the Red Hook waterfront in New York Harbor.  The 2018 regatta, the fourth annual, takes place on September 28th. The race features two classes of boats, 3-D printed boats and general do-it-yourself boats. All boats must fit in a 2′ x 2′ x 2′ box. Electronic controllers are provided by Pioneers Works. Registration and controller-kit pickup ends on September 9th.  Full rules are here. Spectators can watch from Valentino Park pier from 1:00-5:00 p.m. The event is free, and there is catered food available (not free) and live entertainment during a half-time break.

Visit the center’s Web site for a complete list of current goings on.

Some History

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A picture of one of the steamrollers made at the Pioneer Iron Works near the close of  the 19th century. The building is now the home of the Pioneer Works cultural center.

The original Pioneer Iron Works factory opened by circa 1866 on Williams Street at the foot of Imlay Street, under the ownership of Alexander Bass. Ten years later the company was a leading manufacturer of tar kettles and steamrollers for road construction, and sugar production machinery and “temporary railroads,” the latter two products sold to companies in Cuba to be used on sugar plantations. The factory suffered two devastating fires, one in 1881 and one in 1906 but was rebuilt each time. The company closed in the mid-1940s, about the same time as the end of World War II, and the building was used for some time after as a storage facility for the Time Moving Company.

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Map detail from 1903 showing both William and Pioneer as the names of the street where the Pioneer Iron Works was.

William Street was renamed Pioneer Street around the turn of the twentieth Century. Maps from 1898 have the way named William Street. By 1903, both names, William and Pioneer, are used as the name. Eventually, William was dropped completely.

We’re repeat visitors to the center and to  Second Sundays, and can say it’s well worth a stop-by any time you’re in Red Hook, which we think should be fairly often.

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street
Hours: Thurs – Sun, 2 – 7      Admission: FREE!

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The Coney Island Art Walls

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Out to Live, by Chris Stain, one of approximately thirty murals at the Coney Island Art Walls exhibit, through September.

 

Coney Island is known the world over as a summer entertainment magnet, famous for its teeming beaches, boardwalk food stands, and thronged amusements parks, as well as the more recent baseball games and weekly Friday night fireworks.

One of the lesser-known, but just as cool, attractions and a great reason to get yourself down to Coney Island soon is the annual exhibit called the Coney Island Art Walls. The art walls sit in an otherwise empty lot between Stillwell Avenue and W 15th Street and between Bowery Street (one block south of Surf Avenue) and the boardwalk, right behind Nathan’s hot dog restaurant. Now in its fourth year, the art walls were the brainchild of Joseph J. Sitt, founder of the real estate development company Thor Equities, which owns the land, and Jeffrey Deitch, an art dealer and former Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, who co-curates the event with Mr. Sitt.

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Just a few of the walls currently on view at the Coney Island Art Walls exhibit.

Mr. Sitt, who grew up in Brooklyn, refers to the annual exhibit as “…Thor Equities’ way of bringing life to an empty site in the core of Coney Island, while keeping the Coney feeling and stretching it in new directions.” He had the walls erected in 2015 for the first show, and they’ve been up since. As is most street art, the works are temporary, painted over when a wall is given to another chosen artist.

Mr. Deitch has been an artist, art writer, gallery owner, and curator for decades, including his stint at MOCA, where a special Art in the Streets exhibit drew record crowds. He’s now bringing that same street-art vibe to Coney Island each summer, and we’re grateful for it. This year’s artists include Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Sam Vernon, Shepard Fairey, Jane Dickson, Jim Drain, Skewville, along with many other street artists and muralists.

Besides presenting the murals, the Art Walls space hosts periodic events both public and private. The final month of the season will include the Quiet Clubbing Festival on Saturday, September 15th, with six DJs spinning their sounds from 7:00 p.m. until the wee hours. Everybody gets a headset that lets you choose which DJ you want to hear and the volume. LED robots and LED hula dancers are promised for the event. The special music events require tickets, for sale in advance or at the door until sold out.

According to the Art Walls’ Web site,  the exhibition space is open every day from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. through September, and admission is free. However, we went twice on Friday evenings and it was closed at 7:00. A mounted policeman told us it’s open during the day. On a third trip, on a Saturday afternoon, the space had been taken over by an event, which we could have attended for $60. (We didn’t.) Our advice is to get there before five o’clock on a weekday.

For more information on the music events, go here: http://donyc.com/venues/coney-island-art-walls

See you at Coney Island!

 


 

The Brooklyn Theatre Fire

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The aftermath of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire, which claimed the lives of at least 278 men, women, and children, many burned beyond recognition.

 

On December 5, 1876, upwards of 900 people were gathered in the Brooklyn Theatre enjoying a production of The Two Orphans, starring Kate Claxton and Harry S. Murdock. Claxton especially was a major star of her day, and the play, a melodrama in five acts adapted from a French play, would go on to be one of the most produced theatre pieces in the country well into the twentieth century. Just at the beginning of the final act, a cotton backdrop above the stage swayed close to a gaslight and caught fire. Several crewmen attempted to dowse the flames without stopping the show or sounding any alarms, but failed, and in the conflagration and ensuing panic that followed, at least 278 people died (an exact number was never determined). The theatre burned to the ground in ninety minutes.

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A post card depicting the Brooklyn Theatre, which opened in 1871 and burned down in 1876.

The Brooklyn Theatre stood on the corner of Johnson and Washington Streets (now Cadman Plaza East at this junction), directly across Johnson Street from where the U.S. Post Office building now stands. Built in 1871, the theatre was made mostly of wood, and was lit by gaslights. The auditorium rose three tiers high, including the first-floor Parquet Circle, a second-level Dress Circle balcony, and the Family Circle (the cheap seats) on the top tier. This third level was accessible by just one switchback staircase, and once upstairs, there was no way out except that staircase. Most of the dead had been sitting in this section of the theatre.

It was between the fourth and fifth acts that a crew member noticed the small fire in the rear fly area above the stage. Rather than evacuate the theatre, it was decided to put out the flames while the show went on. Most theatres at the time kept water buckets and wet blankets backstage for smothering small fires, and the Brooklyn Theatre had a hose tied into a dedicated water pipe. However, all those were on the deck and the fire, small though it was, was in the air, and when the curtain rose for the final act, the inrush of air from the auditorium fanned the flames, which ignited other scenic drops and the dry wood battens that held them, and the fire took off.

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A map, circa 1840, with the superimposed red area showing the location of the Brooklyn Theatre, which was built in 1871.

The performers onstage bravely tried to calm the audience as it rose and ran for the exits, but as the fire grew, the actors, too, ran to escape. Foolishly, Murdoch and castmate Claude Burroughs, a popular young rising star, went to their dressing rooms to grab warmer clothes than their costumes allowed, and both perished. Claxton and another actress, Maude Harrison, escaped through an underground passage that led from their dressing room to the box office on Washington Street.

Newspaper accounts of the fire describe horrific scenes of people being trampled, trapped, and jumping from windows, of which there were few, and ventilator outlets, and the collapse of the still-crowded and burning Family Circle tier into the middle of the ground level and on into the theatre’s basement.

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A report of the fire as published in the Brooklyn Eagle within days of the event.

The list of the dead includes not just adults, but many children and teenagers. Of the 278 known dead, 103 bodies were unidentifiable and were buried together in a mass grave in Green-wood Cemetery, where an obelisk stands today marking their final resting place.

The Brooklyn Theatre fire was at the time the worst public-assembly fire disaster in U.S. history, and today remains the third worst. A new fire code was instituted as a response, and included requiring theatres to have brick proscenium walls rather than wood, and to have a fire-proof house curtain. Those curtains, of course, were for almost 100 years after made of asbestos, now a known carcinogen and banned substance.

A fascinating footnote to the fire concerns Kate Claxton. As noted, she was a popular, highly regarded actor at the time of the fire, but just months later, she traveled to St. Louis to perform in a show there, and just after she arrived, her hotel burned down, with Claxton making another last-second escape. Thereafter, many actors refused to join any show she was in, and superstitious audiences fearfully avoided her performances. Her career was irreparably damaged.

 


 

Free Summer Fun in Brooklyn

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Free fun in Brooklyn this summer.

Okay, it’s Fourth of July week, and so summer 2018 is well under way. Temps are in the 90s, and night times can be steamy. But, despite the heat, we can’t think of too many things to do on a summer day or evening than take a swim or catch an outdoor concert or movie, and there are plenty of places to do all that here in Brooklyn, and all for free. Have a look at our quick rundown of just some of the free fun you can have this summer right here in Brooklyn.

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Fireworks over the beach at Coney Island. See them in person every Friday night at 9:30 through August.

Fireworks: Every Friday evening at 9:30 on the beach at Coney Island. Spend the whole day and wrap it up with a bang or go just for a beer and a blast. Take a blanket and sit on the beach. Offshore, you’ll see the lights of a dozen or more yachts, outboards, and party boats looming in the dark, anchored in wait for the display, which is well worth the trip. The show is a good twenty minutes of loud bangs and bright lights, with a finale that dazzles every time. Before and after, the boardwalk and amusement parks are open for additional thrills.

Music: We’ve already told you about the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival at the Prospect Park band shell, currently in its fortieth year. Organized by BRIC Arts Media, it is the concert series in Brooklyn, and one of the leading summer series in all of New York. It runs Thursday – Saturday through August 11. The full schedule can be found here.

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Celebrate Brooklyn! offers world-class entertainers in a world-class venue. Come join the fun this summer.

On a much more modest scale, the Red Shed Community Garden produces a monthly music event June through August. Coming up on Sat., July 14, are Avant Jardin, Chris McIntyre, and the Demapping Group Providence Research Ensemble, and on Sat. August 4, Charles Waters and a special Chicago guest, yet unannounced. Performances are 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Red Shed Garden 211 Skillman Ave., Bushwick

Movies:  There are at least four weekly outdoor movie series happening across Brooklyn, including

SummerScreen in McCarren Park, Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Wednesday, July 11 – August 29, 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. Live music preshow; food and beverages available or bring your own. Screenings this year will be Jawbreaker, When Harry Met Sally, Love & Basketball, Hackers, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Die Hard, and This is Spinal Tap.

Red Hook Flicks at Valentino Pier, Red Hook, Tuesdays, July 10 – August 28. This series has a great lineup of films, including Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, Creed, Captain Underpants, Roadhouse, Hairspray, Silence of the Lambs, Coco, and Dr. Strangelove.

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Free movie night at Transmitter Park, Greenpoint. There are free movies being shown all around Brooklyn this summer.

SummerSTARZ at Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Friday July 6 – August 10. 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Bring your own picnic! Screenings will be The Lego Batman Movie, Inside Out, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Coco, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Black Panther

A Summer Movie Under the Stars in Prospect Park’s Long meadow, Wednesday, July 18 – August 8. Shows start at 7:00 p.m. with pre-screening live music and activities. Scheduled flicks are The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, West Side Story, and Space Jam.

Another quick series, Movies Under the Stars, sponsored by the Parks Department, is scheduled to show six films in the first two weeks of July at various locations around the borough. (The series is in full swing throughout the city).

Other free film events include

The Cinema Garden Party’s showing of Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, Friday, July 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Quincy Street Community Garden on Quincy Street between Tompkins and Throop Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Rooftop Films’ presentation of an anthology of Sundance Short Films on July 19 and a screening of Pick of the Litter on August 23, 8:00 p.m., both events on the Central Lawn in Ft. Greene Park, DeKalb Avenue and Washington Park (Cumberland Street).

A Wrinkle in Time, presented by the Wyckoff House Museum in Canarsie, Fidler-Wyckoff House Park, Thursday July 26 at 8:00 p.m. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED at Eventbrite.

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The public pool at Sol Goldberg Rec Center in Red Hook is one of the largest in the city.

Swimming: The NYC Parks Department’s outdoor pools are open, so jump in! Red Hook’s Sol Goldberg Rec Center; D&D (Third Avenue between Degraw and Douglass) in Gowanus; McCarren Park in Williamsburg/Greenpoint; Kosciuszko Pool, Marcy and DeKalb Avenues, Bed-Stuy; Bushwick Pool, Humboldt Street and Bushwick Avenue; Sunset Pool in sunset park, 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue; and elsewhere around the borough. Pools are open from 11:00 – 3:00 and 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. You must have a bathing suit and a lock to get in. White shirts only in the pool area.

This is definitely not an exhaustive catalog of free things to do in Brooklyn this summer, but it will give you a lot to start with. Enjoy your summer!

 


 

Celebrate Brooklyn! Forty years of Entertainment

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Celebrate Brooklyn! offers audiences world-class entertainers in a world-class venue. Come join the fun this summer in Prospect Park.

 

We try to celebrate Brooklyn every day. In Prospect Park, the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival of free music, dance, and movies has been celebrating and entertaining people from Brooklyn and beyond for 39 years. Their fortieth season opened last night (June 5) and will be showcasing artists of many varied genres on weekends through August 11. Get there!

The rapper / / / Common headlined last night’s opening concert, and the Mexican-American rock band Los Lobos will perform Sunday (June 10) at 3:00. Future concerts feature well-known artists including The Jayhawks, Aimee Mann, SuperChunk, Branford Marsalis, Mala Rodriguez, Kronos Quartet, Anoushka Shankar, Brandi Carlyle, BADBADNOTGOOD, Tarrus Riley, and the Breeders. That’s just a partial lineup of the summer music, and it’s all free! (Ushers at the gate will ask for a small donation. You don’t have to give, but please do.)

Crowd image join the fun

Many concerts draw crowds from all over the city and the extended metro area.

If you’re in the neighborhood and don’t want to spend the evening, the park is open, and plenty of folks stand along the perimeter road behind the fence at the back of the audience, and/or sit in the grass across the road. Inside the gates, there are food and beverage tents serving the usual festival-style fare.

In addition to the free concerts, there will be a handful of benefit concerts for which tickets cost money. These will feature the Decembrists, Vance Joy, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Jason Mraz. A privacy fence is put up around the audience for the paid-for concerts. No roadside views available.

The full schedule for the summer is at https://www.bricartsmedia.org/events-performances/bric-celebrate-brooklyn-festival.

Besides Celebrate Brooklyn!, the BRIC organization runs a public exhibition space in Downtown Brooklyn, called BRIC House, which has a glass-enclosed TV studio that is used for BRIC TV, a public access TV channel featuring community programming; two performance spaces; and work spaces for artists. The organization also offers support for artists and media creators.

BRIC CG 40th Year

This is the 40th continuous year of the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival, organized by the BRIC organization.

The Celebrate Brooklyn! venue, the Prospect Park band shell, is on the west side of the park between the 9th street and 11th Street entrances and not far from the 15th Street entrance at Bartell-Pritchard Square. The nearest train stations are the F and G Seventh Avenue station, exit at 9th Street and 8th Avenue, one block away from the band shell, and at 15th Street-Prospect Park, exit at Bartell-Pritchard Square, 15th Street and Prospect Park West (9th Avenue). The band shell is wheelchair accessible, performances are rain or shine, and all ages are welcome, <1 and up (but note: the music is often loud).

2015_07_22 State of the Art Venue

The Prospect Park band shell has state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, and many nights hosts crowds of thousands.

The band shell was built in 1939 and renovated in 1983 and again in 1998-99. It has state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and is in an environment that can’t be beat.

If you’ve never been to Celebrate Brooklyn!, check the schedule and make a point of coming out this year. Whether you’re coming from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Long Island, or from anywhere around the world, it’s well worth the trip.(https://www.bricartsmedia.org/events-performances/bric-celebrate-brooklyn-festival)

Travel Tip: Subway, biking (bike check station at 11th Street entrance), or walking is best. Park Slope doesn’t have a glut of parking spaces on non-concert nights. When crowds come in, fugeddaboutit.

 


 

Nitehawk: Not a Movie, a Movie Theatre

nitehawk-marquee

Rendering of the marquee of the new Nitehawk Prospect Park theatre.

Already something of a fixture in central Williamsburg, the owners of the dine-in movie house Nitehawk are giving a $10-million overhaul to Park Slope’s old Sanders Theatre (more recently the Pavilion), on Bartel-Pritchard Square at the Northwest corner of Prospect Park, and later this year the Nitehawk Prospect Park will open, with first-run, classic, rare, and independent movies onscreen and drinks and dinner delivered to your table. We can’t wait. 

Looby Rendering 300w

Rendering of the restaurant under a screening room in the Nitehawk Prospect Park. Architects: Think! Architecture and Design.

The new Nitehawk will have seven screening rooms, vs. the three at the Williamsburg venue, and four of those will have 35-mm projectors, allowing for the screening of rarely shown films that are not available in today’s more common 70-mm and digital formats. And, there’s the food. Besides popcorn, you’ll be able to watch the movie while eating from a menu offering such non-traditional movie noshes as spinach-artichoke empanadas, paella risotto balls, and burrata crostini, which features roasted acorn squash and poached pears; or try a specialty item like the I, Tonya, made with shredded pork knee (ouch!), American cheese, and gremolata aioli. The owner of the Nitehawk,  Matthew Viragh, plans to offer a menu that’s different, but not unlike, the offerings in Williamsburg, so there should be more filling entrees like the sausage and pepper hoagie, the meatloaf sandwich, the Nitehawk burger, and the fried chicken sandwich. For drinks, there’s coke and root beer, and also a well-stocked assortment of whiskeys, scotches, tequilas, rums, and more. Wait service takes your order before or during the movie, and a good time is had by all.

Renovations are well underway at the Sanders, a landmarked building originally built in 1928 to replace the Marathon Theatre (opened1908). The 1,516-seat Sanders had a fifty-year run as a movie and vaudeville house. The Pavilion opened in 1996 as a three-screen multi-plex, and in the early 2000s underwent a second renovation, carved into nine screens.

Sanders Theatre ext 300w
The Sanders Theatre, from long ago, via Cinema Treasures.

The building was sold in 2006 and the new owners, Hidrock Realty, devised plans to build a six-story condominium over the theatre and the adjacent one-story building (that once housed The Park House Restaurant and then Circle’s bar and Mexican restaurant), a plan eventually approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The owners of the Nitehawk approached Hidrock about replacing the Pavilion, and in 2016 Hidrock sold the theatre to 188 Prospect Park West LLC, which immediately announced the closing of the Pavilion and the coming of the Nitehawk. Leading the renovation is Think! Architecture and Design, headquartered in Metrotech. The LPC has just approved a new marquee sign proclaiming the Nitehawk. 

 

At a time when digital viewing on multiple devices has taken over our consciousness, it’s getting harder and harder to find any outlet showing the many, many great films that have not yet been and perhaps never will be digitized. We’re excited that the Nitehawk is working to expand the number of venues for such films, and we plan on taking advantage of them, and the burrata crostini, too!