The Gowanus Clean-up: Going, not Growing, Greener Every Day

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Cleaning up the Gowanus and adjacent brownfields.

 

The clean-up and development of the Gowanus Canal and the adjacent properties has been a dream of city planners and real estate investors for decades. While plans and studies and tests and reports have been conducted and issued for years, there is much visible activity taking place, and that has increased significantly this past fall.

Two important developments have recently taken place, one very visible and one less so but no less important. One, but not first, the last cement factory, Ferrara Bros, has finally moved out of their long-time space at Fifth and Hoyt Streets, to a new parcel in Sunset Park. This follows by several years the reclaiming of the lots used by Concrete Manufacturing Co. on Smith Street. The orange trucks of Ferrara Bros. will no longer be chugging up Smith Street toward the Manhattan Bridge. The Ferrara factory lots have been cleared to the dirt and a green plywood fence now surrounds it.

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One of the dredgers, on a day off, used to clean out the bed of the Fourth Street turning basin in the Gowanus Canal.

Next to that is a large brownfield that used to support a manufactured gas plant, now being cleaned up by National Grid and the EPA. You can recognize it by the mountain of rubble sitting in the middle of it, a mound almost as high as the nearby Culver viaduct of the F/G lines.

Further down the canal, the former Concrete Mfg. Co. lot is now occupied by contractors of the EPA involved in the second big development in the clean-up of the canal, that being the dredging of the canal’s Fourth Street turning basin. Completed in November, the Fourth Street basin has recently been touted as being cleaner than it’s been in 100 years, 150 years. This is after the removal of sludge, commonly referred to as black mayonnaise, to a depth of more than ten feet, which was moved to an “exclusion zone” on the EPA site and compressed and packed in heavy plastic to prep it for safe removal to a remote treatment plant. Once the muck was excavated, the workers covered the bed of the turning basin with two feet of layers of sand, which is supposed to stop new muck from forming.

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There are those who venture out onto the canal in canoes from the Second Street dock. You can paddle all the way down into New York Harbor.

We’re not sure about how clean the basin is now. We can agree that the bottom of the basin is cleaner than its been in a century, but then there’s that water, still fetid, still on many days slick with a rainbow of oil. There’s also the little problem of the CSO that was/is a major source of the canal’s pollution. CSO stands for combined sewer overflow, which happens when heavy rains fill the neighborhood’s waste lines (combined sewers) to the point that water flows into overflow pipes that empty into the canal. That system remains in operation, and until changes are made there (and hold your nose rather than your breath waiting for that to happen) the canal will continue to be a repository for human waste and other unappealing flotsam.

The long-term plan for the Ferrara lot is an eight-building residential complex of upwards of 750 apartments, of which 70 percent are to be affordable housing units, a vague term that often means still too expensive for most people to buy or rent. At this point, groundbreaking on that development is five years away at the most optimistic estimate.

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Top: The 365 Bond apartment complex, the first new residential development on the canal, has certain environmental restrictions.         Bottom: From 365 Bond’s Web site, a photo promoting its Waterfront Park. Just please, please don’t dip your toes into the water.

Cleaning up other people’s old messes isn’t easy. Just ask the renters at the canal’s first completed project, 365 Bond Street, although actually, they may not know. The two acres on which that development sits have been certified as 100% clean by the State of New York, and yet…

Environmental laws prohibit using the ground water at 365 Bond for drinking and prohibit growing vegetables in the ground there. The mechanicals of the building include blowers that pull “contaminants” from the ground and…. Well, we’re not clear on exactly what those fans and vents do with those contaminants, but based on the description of the system, we’re not sure we want to know.

On a more positive note, tenants on the canal side get to look out onto the oily waterway and watch or join those brave coursers who use the canoe depot on the first floor of the building at the Second Street boat launch. Yes, intrepid canoers ply the length of the canal, from the head at DeGraw Street to the harbor (full disclosure: we’ve done it numerous times). But grow a few herbs? No way.

Welcome to the Gowanus Canal, going, not yet growing, greener every day.

 

Full View of Current State of Cleanup

The Gowanus Canal Clean-up sites in lots stretching from the Former Ferrara Bros. cement factory at 435 Hoyt Streets (top right) to 491 Smith Street, the former site of the Concrete Manufacturing Company (bottom, with parked buses).

 

 


 

If It’s December, It’s Dyker Time!

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The stunning light displays in Dyker Heights will be up until the end of the holiday season. It’s well worth a trip!

Dyker Heights has been an attractive neighborhood since its initial development in the late nineteenth century as a bedroom community for Manhattan’s business elite. Today, it’s a mix of modest yet comfortable semidetached homes and shockingly huge mansions, but it’s never more attractive than during the December holiday season, when the entire neighborhood lights up with a massive communal display of Christmas lights and decorations. If you’ve never taken a walk or ride during the holidays through Dyker, as it’s called locally (or Dyker Lights at this time of year), you must put it on your bucket list and get it crossed off soon, perhaps this season.

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From angels to reindeer to toy soldiers and candy canes, everything’s lit up in Dyker in December.

Anyone who enjoys the festive atmosphere surrounding the holidays, and especially the lights, will have their cravings sated in Dyker. People come from all over the world to see the Manhattan window displays in the department stores, and people come from everywhere to marvel at the lawn and house displays in Dyker Heights.

To get there, you could take one of the tour buses that come from Manhattan, or drive, but we recommend the D train to 79th Street and a leisurely walk west along 83rd or 84th Street to 10th Avenue and back. There are spectacular displays throughout the neighborhood, but the most eye-popping are on 84th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues. If you find enchantment in Christmas décor and lights, you must get out to Dyker Heights and see the show.

But enough said. There’s no marvel in talking about it. This entry is about the lights, so the lights take over the page from here. We took a tour of this year’s displays, and our photos follow. We don’t claim to be professional photographers, but they should whet your appetite to see the show in person.

 

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Not everything is bright and festive. This home has a definite flair for the dramatic.

 

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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.

 


 

Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg

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The shaded seating area at Smorgasburg Prospect Park, with vendor tents behind.

 

Who doesn’t like a good flea market? Gently used clothes, dishes, home furnishings, jewelry, art, antiques, and chatchkas offered by dozens of sellers at bargain prices. Who doesn’t like a fantastic food fest? Food to eat right now, with offerings from over one hundred vendors, all surrounding a large cluster of picnic tables. We all do, and Brooklyn is, as with so many things, a leader in both areas.

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From baseball gloves to African masks, vintage steel beer cans, and lettering, some of the many varied items for sale at the Brooklyn Flea.

Two great markets, Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, are provided by the Brooklyn Flea, a ten-year-old company that began with markets in Fort Greene and Williamsburg and has moved on to locations at Industry City, DUMBO, and Prospect Park, and is rated by numerous travel magazines and Web sites as one of the best open-air markets in the country and even the world.

We can remember the flea at both original locations, and we thought it was great then. We miss it still in Fort Greene, but have enjoyed the spiffy new surroundings at Industry City and the old architectural ingenuity evident under and around the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, long one of our favorite nabes.

The other big, regular event run by the Brooklyn Flea is the weekly Smorgasburg, a massive food event in the original East River State Park location in Williamsburg (Saturdays) and in Prospect Park (Sunday) on Well House Drive at Breeze Hill. For those who are just now checking out Brooklyn or those who somehow don’t know about this already, Smorgasburg is a monster food fair, with vendors selling an international mix of prepared dishes running the full gamut from poutine to vegan treats. A recent visit to the Prospect Park locale had us tasting delicious offerings from Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and ogling meats, sweets, and other delectables from many other vendors we noted down for next time. Everything is good, and it all tastes better sitting outside. But note that time is running out. Summer’s over, and Smorgasburg runs only through the end of this month. Miss it now and you’ll have to wait until April next year! (Dates below.)

Other important Smorgasburg notes: Pets are welcome, and at Prospect Park there’s a large area for parking bikes. We assume there’s bike parking at or near East River State Park.

Whether your passion is food or found treasures, weekends in Brooklyn can feed your individual frenzy for either or both. Visit the Flea and/or the Smorgasburg and satisfy your yearnings. You’ll have a great time doing it.

Brooklyn Flea
Saturdays, 10:00 – 5:00, Industry City, 241 37th St., Sunset Park
Sundays, 10:00 – 5:00, Manhattan Bridge Arch, 80 Pearl St., DUMBO

Smorgasburg
Saturdays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 27 this year (2018)),                                             East River State Park, Williamsburg, Kent Avenue at N. 7th Street.
Sundays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 21 this year (2018)),                                               Prospect Park Breeze Hill, off East Drive near Lincoln Road.

 

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Views from the Prospect Park Smorgasburg.

 


 

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!

 


 

Roughing it in Brooklyn: Camp Gateway

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The entrance to the walking/biking trail at Fort Tilden, just over the bridge from Camp Gateway.

 

August is almost upon us, and day camps are wrapping up programs. It’s time for those who can to plan the family summer getaway. For many, after paying the rent or mortgage and footing the day camp bill, there might not be much left to use for vacation plans. If you and your family are the outdoorsy types, we have something you should consider. There’s one place that we know of, right here in Brooklyn, where a family can spend a few nights away from home, and the summer fun can continue, without costing a small fortune: Camp Gateway!

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Two of the tent campsites at Camp Gateway.

Camp Gateway is a full-fledged, rustic, overnight camping ground at Floyd Bennett Field. It has 50 camp sites, 32 for tents and 18 for RVs (but there are no electrical hook-ups). The facility has showers and both flush toilets and outhouses (all accessible), drinking water, campfire rings and grills (no barbequing allowed, real fires only), and a general store.

And what a location! After waking up from a night under the stars, you’ll be right on beautiful Jamaica Bay, home to hundreds of migrant bird species and great fishing, and just across the Gil Hodges bridge from the beaches at Jacob Riis Park and nearby Neponsit, Belle Harbor, and the Rockaways. Fort Tilden offers wooded walks or biking (BYO), an art gallery, and additional beaches. You can also catch a ferry there to Manhattan if urban sightseeing is to your liking.

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Jacob Riis Park (top), Rockaway Beach (middle), and Fort Tilden (bottom) are all nearby in Queens, just over the Gil Hodges Bridge.

If it happens to rain, or if the kids just want to get ultra-physical after a day on the beach or fishing, you’ll be right next to Aviator Sports, which offers year-round ice skating, rock climbing, basketball and volleyball, a kids’ bungee sky jump (closed until September 5), and a pretty special arcade room that includes Max Flight, a rollercoaster simulation machine. While the kids run wild, Mom and Dad can chill at Ace’s Lounge and Patio (Wednesday-Sunday, Lounge open September – May and in bad weather, Patio open May -September). An additional great attraction is the golf center across the street, open 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., with a miniature golf course and driving range. Sounding like a vacation, isn’t it?

The camp is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and is run by the National Park Service. That helps keep rates down. Right now, a camp site or RV site is $30/night. That makes a one-week stay as cheap or cheaper than staying one night in a hotel almost anywhere in America, and definitely in NYC. You won’t confuse the area with the Maine woods, or Cape Cod, or the eastern Tennessee wilderness, but, if you’re a nature lover and can’t truly get away this summer, Camp Gateway could be just what your family will love!

Check it out here, or just drive over and have a look!

 

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The general store at Camp Gateway, right here in the rustic wilds of Brooklyn.

 

 


 

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.)

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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.

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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).

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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.

 


 

The Myrtle Avenue M Train Viaduct Rebuild is Complete, On Time and On Budget — Amazin’

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The reconstruction of the M Train viaduct east of Myrtle Avenue. It was completed on time and on budget, an almost unheard of circumstance for MTA projects.

 

On time and under budget; a phrase sweeter to any project manager than anything ever written by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, or any poet ever. Astonishingly, it applies to the rebuild of the Myrtle Avenue M train viaduct in Bushwick and the Fresh Pond Bridge by the Queens terminus.

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This drawing shows the viaduct rebuild area and adjacent buildings.

 

For the past ten months or so, M train riders have been taking shuttle buses from the Broadway and Myrtle Avenue stop to the end of the line in Middle Village, Queens. This inconvenience was due to the reconstruction of the viaduct carrying the trains turning between Broadway and Myrtle Avenues just east of the Myrtle Avenue station and the rebuilding of the Fresh Pond bridge in Queens.

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Note the close proximity of residential buildings in these before and after shots of the reconstruction (facing opposite directions).

Both sections of the railway are over 100 years old, and both had the original track laid. No longer. There’s 600 feet of new track, 700 feet of new third rail, and new signals and electric cables. The project was due to be completed by the end of April, and sure enough, today, April 30th, the line reopened, at a cost within the $163 million budgeted. The MTA has a time-lapse video of the rebuilding on its Web site.

Because of the project’s close proximity to both residential and commercial buildings, people in those buildings had to be relocated during the endeavor. The MTA helped in their relocation and in fact paid the rent due on the apartments and stores while the tenants were out. Now that the project is complete, those tenants will be allowed home again.

That’s the good news. The bad news: At 12:24 p.m., approximately seven hours after it opened, the line suffered a severe service stoppage when a switch blew at the Myrtle Avenue station. Hours later, M train service was completely down from W 4th Street in Manhattan all the way out to Middle Village. Can’t anybody here play this game?

 


 

Flatbush’s “Little” Neighborhood War

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Flatbush and Church Avenues, in the heart of both Little Haiti and Little Caribbean. Which will it be? (Image subject is Erasmus High School, which is not involved in the neighborhood designation dispute.)

 

As in all cities (and boroughs), New York’s immigrants, especially upon first arrival, have tended to congregate in specific neighborhoods, and in time these areas have become identified with the groups that have come together there. Those inside and out of each neighborhood often come to refer to it as Little X, such as Little Italy in Manhattan and Little Odessa here in Brooklyn. For those within the neighborhood, the moniker can be a source of ethnic or expat pride.

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A map from the CaribBEING Web site showing the approved Little Caribbean neighborhood.

For the past six months or so, there has been a bit of a dustup going on in Flatbush, where local groups with the backing of Borough President Eric Adams and the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID got approval last year to name the area along Flatbush Avenue from Empire Boulevard to Nostrand Avenue, an almost thirty-block stretch, Little Caribbean. Such approvals are given by the city council, and the Little Caribbean designation was apparently greenlighted by councilman Jumaane Williams’ office. That didn’t sit well with assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte, who, in a September 27th letter to Mayor De Blasio, asked to have the official designation put on hold. She is hoping to have a separate designation of a “Little Haiti” within the same area.

Bichotte, the first Haitian-American in the New York State assembly, says there had been conversations about a Little Haiti designation well before any for a Little Caribbean. However, a six-year-old organization called CaribBEING, led by founder Shelley V. Worrell, has been pushing the Little Caribbean agenda for going on three years. Bichotte claims that the Little Haiti name was first proposed a decade ago.

Little Caribbean w Little Haiti copy

This map shows the very unofficial boundaries of both Little Caribbean (in blue) and Little Haiti (in gray).

The affair heated up when a local community activist, Ernest Skinner, sent a public response via e-mail to Bichotte and other officials on both sides of the issue asking why there needed to be a Little Haiti separate from Little Caribbean. “When did Haiti stop being part of the Caribbean?” he asked, following that up with some disparaging remarks about the country and its historic place in the world and, more specifically, the West Indies. Bichotte demanded an apology and noted that Skinner’s remarks showed why Haitians often feel excluded from the Caribbean community and want their own separate designation within the Little Caribbean area. [Note: To our knowledge, no one associated with CaribBEING has taken any part in any name-calling.]

Councilman Williams appealed for a “more fruitful dialogue” and hopes to work with all involved to get designations for both Little Haiti and Little Caribbean. Bichotte, in her letter to the mayor, stated she and her Haitian supporters wanted the Little Haiti designation to be approved before that of Little Caribbean. The struggle continues.

“Little” neighborhood designations are all about national and cultural pride. So is the infighting. We’re all for national and cultural pride when it’s conducted in a positive way. Yet, throughout history, how many wars have been fought, how many people have died, over just these?