Recent Comments

December 31st, 2013

The 2013 Park Slope 100

Here it is: The 2013 Park Slope 100, the  seventh annual alphabetical list of 100 people, places and things that make Park Slope a special place to live. 100 Stories, 100 ways of looking at the world.

This year we had help from OTBKB readers, Facebook friends, and our colleagues at Park Slope Stoop, who will be running this list simultaneously. Much gratitude to Liena Zegare and Mary Bakija. 

For me, it's about the people around here who contribute in some way large or small or even teeny tiny to the greater good. Who made you feel good this year? Who did something kind, something smart, something creative, something interesting?

Something inspiring?

A few things on this list divert from that but for the most part that's what it's about.

Please send your comments, your typo and bad link discoveries, your fact checks and your comments to

Wow, seven years of the Park Slope 100. If you combine them, that’s 700 people, places and things to know about, think about, be inspired by.

Here goes...

His Honor the Mayor of NYC Bill De Blasio: Park Slope's mayor. Now and forever.

 Lawrence Abdullah, the good Samaritan who helped police catch an alleged groper; as Council Member Brad Laner said, "he's a "model citizen hleping to ensure the safety of his neighbors here in Park Slope.

Swati Argade for bringing ethical, yet still fashionable, clothing, jewelry, and more to her new shop, Bhoomki.

Jennifer Jones Austin, named co-chair of Bill de Blasio's transition team, she has an impressive resume filled with public service, but that’s not all. A few years back, she had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. It was difficult to find a donor but she did it. Her energy amazes...

Barclays Center. Love it or hate it: it’s here with Jay Z, Beyonce, Streisand, Bieber, Rihanna, Miley, McCartney, Billy Joel, Bruno Mars, Cold Play, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Leonard Cohen, Alicia Keys, and the Video Music Awards. Oh yeah, and the Nets!

The BEAT Festival with its immersive art all over Brooklyn, including Dispatches from Sandy, reflections from relief volunteers at the front lines of Hurricane Sandy.

The Benches that have appeared throughout Park Slope, courtesy of the Department of Transportation as requested by diligent members of the Park Slope Civic Council.

Bklynr, Props to Raphael Pope-Sussman and Thomas Rhiel who produce journalism about all of Brooklyn. Twice a month, BKLYNR publishes stories that cover the political, economic, and cultural life of the borough. Each issue contains three pieces, which is designed to look beautiful on your computer, tablet, or phone. Subscribe.

Sarah Brasky, who runs Foster Dogs NYC -- she lives in the neighborhood, and has not just placed a lot of dogs not just with foster families (many in the Slope), but has found lots of them forever homes. Plus she organized a great scavenger hunt over the summer!

Bogata Latin Bistro for the food, the service and the atmosphere. I always feel welcome, well taken care of and well-fed there. Gracias.

Brave New World Repertory because of their site-specific performance of “Street Scene,” a 1929 Elmer Rice play, using real residential buildings as an interactive set on a Park Slope Street.

Breaking Bad at the Gate. Again. Another summer with Walt, Jesse and the BB gang plus great bartenders, and a hushed crowd at Fifth Avenue’s best dive bar.

Brownstone Dreams, Kevin McPartland’s gripping novel about growing up on the mean streets of Park Slope in the early 1960s. It took five years to write, ten years to publish and a lifetime to live it.

Ann Cantrell of Annie's Blue Ribbon General Store, for bringing a sense of fun for both kids and grown-ups to 5th Avenue. We could stop in every day for a piece of candy, alone.

Dr. Cao at South Slope Pediatrics for creating such a warm and loving practice. They totally succeed in making their patients feel more like extended family members than names on a chart.

Ken Carlton for his self-published novel Food for Marriage. The Big Chill meets delicious food and juicy secrets and lies.

John Ciferni longtime owner of Tarzian Hardware, where we go when we need anything.

Citibike because biking is an awesome way to get around this city.

Sammy Cohen-Epstein: "Sammy was a remarkable kid. We heard heart-wrenching, beautiful stories at the funeral, and from kids and adults all around the neighborhood, about his young wisdom (some in his class called him “the philosopher”), his compassion and his smile, his skills as a soccer and trumpet player, and the rock-solid support he gave as a sibling and friend. His bar mitzvah was going to be November 16th," wrote City Councilman Brad Lander in remembrance of this son of Park Slope who died. RIP.

Jill Cornell because she used her corporate and theater background, street smarts and network of friends to help victims of Hurricane Sandy."


The Dolphin that found its way into the Gowanus. The borough watched as this seven foot long mammal turned up in the filthy headwaters of the Superfund canal, more than a mile from the harbor, and struggled for a day before he died. RIP.

Chiara De Blasio because she bravely shared her story about depression and substance abuse. It can't be easy to be in the spotlight. Bravo.

EidolonPark Slope's original indie design boutique since 1999 is closing. A fifth Avenue treasure for 14 years, Eidolon  was a cooperative venture with Andrea's clothing designs, Yukie's handbags, Mimi's jewelry and Amara Felice's own variety of clothing and accessories plus all of the designers who have consigned their goods to the store. Big closing sale in January.

Lucy Farrow, the South Slope 3-year-old who is showing cystic fibrosis who's boss.

Marc Russ Federman, author of the marvelously entertaining and appetite inducing book "Russ and Daughters".

The 5th Brooklyn Scouts at the Brooklyn Pride Parade. The group is committed to providing an appropriate alternative and community-oriented Scouting experience. They welcome everyone and provide a positive learning environment within the context of democratic participation, social justice, mutual respect and cooperation. Photo by  Tom Martinez. 

Forever Brooklyn, a short film by Francesco Paciocco 

Martha Foley, archivist at Congregation Beth Elohim, who is uncovering and preserving CBE's rich history and the history of the people and families, many of them Park Slope residents, who have been part of that vital community

Fourth Avenue. Block by block. Rising to it's potential.

Friends of Park Slope Library, a wonderful community of neighbors created to support the Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Gail Ghezzi for her blog and exhibition at Jalopy  Birth, Death, Repeat, an art/writing project featuring the shadow boxes of the Brooklyn designer Gail Ghezzi. Ghezzi’s shadow boxes are meditations on mortality that use antique artifacts and found objects she acquires at antique fairs, online and on her sidewalk. Each box imagines the final moments of a fictional character, and then surrounds that character with the detritus of a life.

Good Byes: Mindy Goldstein and Charlie Libin, longtime Park Slopers who are leaving for greener pastures in Greenpoint; Sweet Melissa decided to call it a day. And what a loss to  someone who loves fine baking and Saturday morning coffees with her sister (who could that be?). Two Boots: Where do we begin?

Katie Goodman for Sh*t Park Slope Parents Say (and continuing to be funny after that).

Martha and Gary Goff for their work on climate issues and with Brooklyn for Peace.

The Greed and Avarice that exists among commercial building owners and landlords on 7th Ave...leaving storefronts vacant for years at a time. Shame.

Chris Hennessy has Multiple Sclerosis but that doesn’t stop him from being a serious athlete and fundraiser for the disease.

Jennifer Kahrs, who co-founded Project Amelia to help friend and neighbor Ameilia Coffaro after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Reverend Cheri Kroon for her work organizing fast food workers and her ministry at Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.

Caroline Hitshew and Tali Biale, of the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and Barclays Center Greenmarket, respectively, for organizing great food events and finding creative ways to get us to taste new fruits and veggies every week.

Pam Katz because as co-screenwriter of Hannah Arendt (directed by Margarethe Von Trotta), she was nominated for a Lola, the German Academy Award. The film was selected as one of the top ten movies of 2013 by AO Scott in the New York Times: "Those who complain that movies can’t think don’t really know how to think about movies. This one, focusing on the controversy surrounding its subject’s 1963 book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” brilliantly dramatizes the imperative at the center of her life as a writer and philosopher, which was to compel the world to yield to the force of the mind." 

Madelyn Kent and Peggy Stafford for their Sense Writing Workshops that enables those who wish to write to let go of their inhibitions and writer's block and write.

The LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park's new skating center!

Dr. Larissa Litinova, compassionate, kind MD with a holistic approach.

The Mayoral Forums in Park Slope. Lively.

The Maurice Sendak School (PS 118) at 4th Ave and 8th Street). Love the name. Love the school.

Chirlane McCraine, because she will always be OUR first lady. 

Kimberly McCreight for her excellent debut novel Reconstructing Amelia. 

Steve McGill for documenting the city in photographs -- especially the birds in Prospect Park.

Kevin McPartland, author of Brownstone Dreams, a gripping coming of age tale about growing up on the mean and violent streets of Park Slope in the 1960s. It took 5 years to write, ten years to publish and a lifetime to live.

Josh Miele, as reported by the New York Times. forty years after an acid attack by a neighbor in Park Slope, he is productive, forgiving and inspiring.

Miss America is a Park Sloper. Mallory Hytes: You go girl!

Naidre's for creating the best breakfast taco known to man.

Nemo Hits Brooklyn: Snowy Backyards in Park Slope (Photo by Sophia Romero).

New BBQ restaurants (Dinosaur, Morgans. YUM.)

Connie Nogren, long time incredible teacher at P.S. 321, volunteer at P.S. 10 and peace activist. Pictured above right. Photo supplied by Renee Dinnerstein (pictured above left).

Major Owens (RIP) Member of US House of Representatives from 1983-2007, representing Park Slope

 The continued expansion of the Park Slope Historic District, the largest historic district in New York City, containing the most significant contiguous swath of protected buildings in the entire city.

Park Slope Street Safety Partnership for getting neighbors started with actions to help make our streets safer for everyone.

Park Slope Veterinary Center for working so hard to find families for the neighborhood's homeless dogs and cats.

Prospect Park, the book about Olmstead & Vaux’s Brooklyn masterpiece by David P. Colley with photographs by Elizabeth Keegin Colley out from Princeton Architecture Press. Available at the Community Bookstore. 

Lou Reed (RIP) born in Brooklyn...

Frank Renda at Superior Auto Care for keeping local cars running (and dogs fed with treats) for more than 20 years.

Sale of a certain building on Seventh Avenue (and the potential for it's renovation). Mazel Tov!

Krista Saunders and Jill Benson for opening Ground Floor Gallery, bringing so much great art, fun events, and opportunities for local artists already in its first year.

Chris Schneider and Ryan Powers for putting on such a badass holiday light show every year.

Dree Schultz, the talented local drummer who spearedheaded Back to Class, a collaborative album to benfit the music programs of the Detroit Public Schools.

Shavuot Across Brooklyn: A consortium of Brooklyn's minyanim and synagogues, who  came together for an all-night celebration for the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Ten Commandments. It started at 8PM with services and cheesecake and ended with a sunrise service at 5AM. They are surely gonna do it again and you can come for all or part of the night and enjoy a program of learning, singing, and dancing as some of Brooklyn's finest teachers gather.

Bruce Shearhouse of American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) because not only he is one of the soccer guys but he collects equipment and school supplies for poor kids

Josh Shneider Love Speaks Orchestra. New LP, lots of airplay. A 19-piece big band for god's sakes. And the music makes you feel glorious.

Sock Monkey Press, started by Scott Adkins and Erin Courtney, publishes strong literary works that have a visual focus, using e-platforms for distribution in addition to printed books.  Recent publications include Terence Degnan’s The Small Plot Beside the Ventriloquist’s Grave, Martin Kleinman’s Home Front, and  My Apocalypse, an anthology. Coming soon: Nicole Callihan’s debut book of poetry SUPERLOOP, Hardcover with fabric case binding.

South Slope Flea, finding a new home after losing their home of 27-years at PS 321. One might say they were kicked out to make room for the Brooklyn Flea. Check it out on 20th Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.

Patrick Stewart and... 

The Patrick Stewart Tumblr.

Paula Tarzian just because.

Matthew Taub,  lawyer, OTBKB contributor and now Local Write Up, his new venture. 

Teddy Bears on Prospect Park West put up by 13-year-old Alison Collard de Beaufort after she found out that Sammy Cohen-Eckstein, one of her classmates at MS 51,  had been hit by a car and killed in October.

Terrace Books for taking over Babbo Books and keeping a bookish presence in Windsor Terrace.

Two Boots: Goodbye with love.

After 24 years, Two Boots Brooklyn is coming to a close; our last day will be November 10.

It’s been our very great pleasure to have been a part of your lives, and to have had you in ours.

Piper & Andy Wandzilak, the current operators, will be continuing on in this space as their partner, John Touhey, Two Boots co-founder, retires.

Piper & Andy will be renovating and making big changes over the next two months and are hoping to re-open sometime mid-winter.

They plan on having the same warm welcome and relaxed party atmosphere, with much of our same happy staff and management.

We all thank you for your loyalty and support all these years.

For us, this place has been like a second family and a home away from home, and we know it’s been the same for many of you.

We’re heartbroken to be saying goodbye, but we hope to see you again for our re-birth!

Most sincerely and gratefully,

Piper & Andy & John

Jeanne Theoharis for her book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks published this year and just nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Biography/Autobiography.

Ugly Duckling Presse located in the American Can Factory building on Third Street for its support and publication of POETRY, experimental and otherwise.

Unparallel Way, Emily Weiskopf's bright yellow median scupture on 4th Avenue between 3rd and 5th Streets.

Andrew Violette, former PS 321 teacher, Hillard-trained composer and pianist, organist and music director at St. Augustien Church.

Ned Vizzini, a precocious son of Park Slope, he was writing for the New York Press and New York Times while still a teenager. He is the author of four books for young adults including It's Kind of a Funny Story, which NPR named #56 of the "100 Best-Ever Teen Novels" of all time. It was made into a film. RIP.

War/Photography Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath” continues through Feb. 2, 2014. Image by Ron Haviv.

Marlene Weisman for her feminist/surrealist collage series, While I Was Stuck in the Supermarket displayed at Powerhouse on 8th in Park Slope. A graphic designer, Marlene created graphics, sketch titles, visuals, and props at Saturday Night Live from 1988-1995.


What My Daughter Wore, a blog you've just got to see for its artistry and casual hipness.And I love that blogger Jenny Williams uses Blogspot, my beloved first blogging platform.

Whole Foods! Yes.

Miles Wickam, graffiti artist, teacher and person who inspires.  From an interview with Creative Times: "First, I believe we all have creative abilities, and we need to discover and refine them. Some of us grew up without the proper support to know this about ourselves. Remember that graffiti, like all other skills, take LOTS of experience, lots of hours of practice, to refine to a level to where you know you are good. There can and probably will be LOTS of frustration and disappointment on the path. Don't give up on yourself."

William Butler School, PS 133, brand new school at corner of 4th and Baltic. Beautiful school.

Avra Wing, author of a wonderful young adult novel called After Isaac

The Wooden House Project, where Elizabeth Finkelstein provides some much-deserved attention for the neighborhood's wooden houses.

Candace Woodward, promoter and advocate of all good things in Park Slope.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in arts and culture, Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on The 2013 Park Slope 100

November 22nd, 2012

Last Night at the Bell House: Rosanne Cash

I arrived late for the Musical Extravaganza to Restore Red Hook (presented by Jalopy) at the Bell House but I didn't miss Rosanne Cash.

And that's a good thing.

At 10PM, Brad Lander, the respected City Council member for the district that includes Red Hook, Gowanus and Park Slope, took to the stage to introduce the legend who had arrived from Manhattan to pitch in for a Red Hook devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Rosanne brought incandescent star power to the stage. But her cred doesn't just come from the fact that her dad is Johnny Cash, who made her a list when she was 18 of 100 essential country songs. She is also a smart songwriter with a flair for the well-chosen word. She's got a very generous and inclusive stage presence and a husband, producer John Leventhal, who is one hell of a guitar player.

Last night she did a few songs from The List, her album of contemporary interpretations of her dad's list, including to-die-for versions of Long Black Veil, Heartaches by the Number by Elvis Costello and Motherless Children. She also did Etta's Song and Modern Blue, two new songs from a forthcoming album about the South.

She opened with the rocking Radio Operator from her 2006 album Black Cadillac, which she made after her father, her mother Vivian Cash Distin, and her stepmother June Cash all died within a span of two years. Later she treated the audience to her big radio hit, Seven Year Ache. The arrangements of all the songs by John Leventhal betrayed a  delicious roots, country and twangy blues sensibility.

The audience screamed "one more song" when the band left stage and she obliged with one more. Her depth of spirit was clearly on display as she thanked the audience in return and urged the crowd to give generously to aid the restoration of Red Hook."

"I don't think I've ever had so much fun performing in New York City."

Photo by Tom Martinez


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 1 Comment »

October 30th, 2012

Message from Brad Lander: Picking Up From Sandy

Here is an update from City Councilmember Brad Lander who also serves Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park and Kensington. He included the photo above by Conor O'Donough.

I hope you and your family made it safely through the storm. Mercifully, the damage in the neighborhoods in this City Council district was not too bad. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures and heard about the heartbreaking fires and widespread flooding elsewhere the city.

Volunteers Needed

I was heartened by all of the emails I got yesterday from people who wanted to help. There are two shelters in the 39th Council District, John Jay High School and the Park Slope Armory, that need volunteers. You need to be willing to work an eight hour shift and cannot bring your children. The Armory is sheltering people with additional medical needs, so volunteers should be comfortable working with the elderly, disabled, or others who may need extra support.

While those are the two shelters in my council district, there may be other shelters closer to you. Enter your address here to find the closest shelter to you and reach out to see if they are also in need of volunteers.

You can sign up to volunteer during future emergencies at the City’s service website.

Reporting Damage

If you see any downed trees or other debris from the storm, your first call should be to 311 (If there is an immediate danger to life, call 911 right away). Make sure to write down the tracking number from your 311 call.

We should remember that the effects of this storm are being felt across New York City, and agencies will rightly be prioritizing trees on power lines and other especially dangerous situations.

My office is also recording damage in the district and following up directly with City agencies. You can report storm damage on my website (make sure to include the 311 tracking number).

More News Coming Soon

Mayor Bloomberg is expect to give a press conference shortly with updates on the City’s response to the the storm and updates on transportation and agency closures. I will send out another email later today with additional updates.

Gowanus Canal

Many of you contacted me yesterday with concerns about the Gowanus Canal, a highly polluted waterway, which flooded neighboring streets. I have communicated with EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck and NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. Thanks to both of them for making the time, and communicating quickly (with each other, and with me) about our concerns at the canal.

If you live near the canal, do not touch standing water in the area, or any sediment or debris left by Gowanus flood-waters.

After the storm, the EPA and DEP are committed to work together conduct any sampling needed to address potential issues of toxicity created by the flooding.

Prospect Park

We checked in with Prospect Park staff this morning and learned that the park was hit hard. They are still assessing damage, but will be reaching out in the coming days for donations and volunteers to help put the park back together.

I look forward to seeing many of you - and working with you - in the coming days as we clean up from the storm.


PS: If you are looking for something inspiring after this brutal storm, check out this picture of an amazing rainbow above the Gowanus Canal this morning.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Message from Brad Lander: Picking Up From Sandy

October 3rd, 2012

If You Had a Million Bucks What Would You Do?

Councilmember Brad Lander truly wants to know: What would you do with $1 Million?

Tonight in Park Slope, residents are coming together to tell City Councilmember Brad Lander how to spend $1 million of City funds on projects in their neighborhood.

Next spring, their votes will choose the winning projects. The process, called “Participatory Budgeting,” gives New Yorkers a chance to vote on how some of their tax dollars are spent.

WHAT: Participatory Budgeting Neighborhood Assembly

WHEN: Wednesday, October 3rd, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

WHERE: Greenwood Baptist Church, 461 6th Street (at 7th Avenue), Brooklyn

Last year's ideas ranged from the kooky to the sublime: a Gowanus Canal Gondola (aka a “Gowandola”), filling potholes, renovating schools, and building parks. I wasn't there, but I hear that the conversations were sometimes heated (what do you expect?) but creative and inspiring.

Participatory budget meetings are going on all over the city. This meeting is one of five in Councilmember Lander’s district in September and October, and one of more than fifty city-wide.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on If You Had a Million Bucks What Would You Do?

July 25th, 2012

City Council Approves Park Slope Historic District Expansion in South Slope

Park Slope's historic district just got BIGGER.

New York's City Council voted today to approve an expansion of the Park Slope Historic District, making it the largest historic district in the city. The City Council vote affirms the Landmarks Preservation Commission approval on April 17, 2012.

This expansion will include 580 buildings  from approximately 7th Street to 15th Street (including the 7th Avenue frontage), 7th Avenue to 8th Avenue, and along 15th Street from 8th Avenue to Prospect Park West (including the western side of Bartel Pritchard Square). A map of the expansion is available at the LPC website.

The extension also includes the former Ansonia Clock Works factory, once the world’s largest clock manufacturer, as well as homes built for its workers.

Here is a statement from the Council:

“The Council’s action not only celebrates a storied part of the city’s industrial past, but the sensitive adaptive reuse of the factory complex and its contribution towards the vitality and historic character of the area,” the Park Slope Civic Council said in an issued statement. “The Civic Council is united in our desire to maintain the neighborhood’s quality of life and to ensure that it is preserved for future generations of Park Slope residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on City Council Approves Park Slope Historic District Expansion in South Slope

July 20th, 2012

Park Slope’s Brad Lander Called Social Justice Hero by The Nation

An article by Peter Dreier in the July 30-August 6, 2012 edition of the Nation calls Park Slope's City Councilmember Brad Lander one of today's social justice heroes. Here's an excerpt

"Since his election to the New York City Council in 2009, Brad Lander has become a master at inside/outside organizing, using his office to encourage grassroots mobilization. Lander served for a decade as executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a Brooklyn nonprofit, which garnered national recognition for its combination of community organizing and community development. Lander then spent six years as director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, helping groups organize for neighborhood improvement. He led a successful campaign to create New York City’s inclusionary zoning program, which requires developers to set aside 20 percent of their units for low- and moderate-income families and to pay building service workers a living wage.

"On the council Lander has led the fight for a living-wage law, community involvement in budgeting, affordable housing and an inspector general’s office to monitor the NYPD. A co-founder of the council’s progressive caucus, Lander, 43, helped catalyze a group of activists and academics to formulate One City/ One Future, a progressive manifesto for economic development."

Who else is on this list. Dunno. Don't have access to The Nation online. Pay Wall!


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Park Slope’s Brad Lander Called Social Justice Hero by The Nation

June 30th, 2012

Real-Time Bus Arrival and Location Info for the B61 Bus

Help is on the way for the riders of the B61 bus. I got to know a little bit about riding the bus in Park Slope when I was commuting to the city for court reporting classes. Because I had that heavy (HEAVY) backpack, I would wait for the bus on the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I saw the same people every day and some days we got mighty impatient. There was always someone standing way out in the middle street looking southward for the bus. "Is that a bus," we'd ask.

Truth of the matter, it was almost always more prudent—and faster—to just walk to the subway at Grand Army Plaza or Flatbush Avenue. But sometimes you just want to take a bus.

On cold winter mornings, there was always such relief when the bus finally arrived. On most mornings there was just plain relief that there was a bus at all.

Well, some exciting changes are  afoot for riders of the B61 bus.

City Councilmember Brad Lander's press guy sent out a release yesterday about the debut of something called BusTime on the B61 bus, making it the second bus in Brooklyn with the system that provides real-time bus arrival and location information. You an learn how the system works here.

The system, which is already in use for the B63 bus on Fifth and Atlantic Avenues, uses GPS devices on buses, which lets bus riders use their cell phones and computers to find out where the next buses to arrive on a route actually are.

I will say that it sounds like a big improvement over standing out in the middle of the street, risking injury, to check on whether there's a bus coming. Especially for those of us who need distance glasses and can barely see two blocks away. Quite often a van or a truck looked like a bus and I (and others) got our hopes up.

There are other planned improvements to the B61 bus, as well.

· More frequent buses in the PM rush hour, increasing the average headway from ten to nine minutes.

· More reliable service at all hours resulting from:

o An increase in the amount of time the bus has to make the run and to recover at the end of the route.

o A change in the location of the bus driver shift change from the middle of the line to the end of the line.

Lander says: “Bus Time is a great step forward for B61 bus riders, who are looking for more reliable bus service. The MTA has brought Bus Time to the B61 at our urging and I look forward to taking further steps to making the line a great bus for the neighborhoods it serves."



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Real-Time Bus Arrival and Location Info for the B61 Bus

June 26th, 2012

Vote Hakeem Jeffries: Charles Barron Endorsed by David Duke, Former KKK Grand Wizard

There's quite an intense race in Brooklyn's 8th congressional district (which includes Fort Greene, Bed Stuy, Prospect Heights and East New York) going on. Turnout will be the key to who wins.

City Council Member Charles Barron and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries are duking out it out. Last week, Charles Barron got a toxic endorsement from David Duke, a former KKK Grand Wizard and fervent anti-semite.

And what a great reason to vote for Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who is running for congress in the 8th congressional district against City Council Member Charles Barron for Ed Towns' congressional seat. Not that you need a reason to vote for Jeffries, who is a good guy.

City Council Member Brad Lander has worked closely with Jeffries on issues including affordable housing, creating good jobs, and building stronger neighborhoods. "He’s great at bringing people together to make real and concrete change. He’s going to be a fantastic Congressman. I hope you can support him if you live in Prospect Heights, East New York, Bed Stuy, or one of the other neighborhoods in the district," writes Lander in an email.

According to the Daily News: 

The battle for a Brooklyn Congressional seat will likely hinge on one neighborhood in the sprawling and diverse new district- Bedford-Stuyvesant, political insiders say.

With record low turnout expected for the June 26 Demoratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ed Towns, controversial City Councilman Charles Barron upstart and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries have flooded Bed-Stuy with campaign literature and door to door visits in recent weeks, residents say.

“It's the Ohio of the district,” a Jeffries campaign staffer said, referring to the perennial swing state in Presidential elections.

While each candidate has carved out sections of strong support in the recently redrawn 8th Congressional district, neither one currently represents more than small enclaves of Bedford-Stuyvesant, long seen as a must win area for any black pol. As many as 9,000 votes are up for grabs based on prior turnout.





Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Vote Hakeem Jeffries: Charles Barron Endorsed by David Duke, Former KKK Grand Wizard

June 25th, 2012

OTBKB Endorses Nydia Velazquez for Congress

Here's the way I am voting on Tuesday, June 26th in the democratic primary: Turns out I'm in the 9th congressional district and not the 7th. So I voted for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. That was a no-brainer. Now if I can just keep my congressional districts straight.

For  congress in the newly redrawn 7th district I am voting for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, the incumbent, because she's been doing a good job for twenty years and she cares about health care, education and transit. According to Brad Lander, "she led the successful effort to get the Gowanus Canal declared a Superfund site, which will bring hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the Canal in the decade to come."

It's a race to watch because she's being opposed by Dan O'Connor, City Council Member Erik Marin Dilan and George Martinez (the Occupy Wall Street candidate).  Interesting candidates all.

But Nydia's the one I'm going for this time.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on OTBKB Endorses Nydia Velazquez for Congress

June 22nd, 2012

Steve Levin, One of Park Slope’s City Council Members

Here's a nice picture of City Council Member Steve Levin drinking a Coca Cola at the First Annual North Brooklyn Boat Club Summer Solstice party last night.

Steve's a very good guy. He represents parts of Park Slope; he shares Park Slope with Council Member Brad Lander.

Yes, he's as young as he looks. I don't think he's still in his twenties but he's probably just this side of thirty.

He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey and came to Brooklyn to work as a community organizer after he graduated from Brown University.

He ran a  Lead Safe House program and an Anti-Predatory lending program, both based in Bushwick. In 2006, Stephen became Chief of Staff to Assemblymember Vito Lopez. IN November 2009, Stephen was elected to represent the 33rd District of Brooklyn, which covers Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, and Vinegar Hill

I remember that election very well. You can read my Breakfast of Candidates  interview with Steve Levin here.

North Brooklyn is part of Steve's district, and the North Brooklyn Boat Club is a very happening thing in that neck of the woods.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Steve Levin, One of Park Slope’s City Council Members

June 22nd, 2012

The Problem with Fourth Avenue

Read this honest assessment of the new construction and negligible planning on Fourth Avenue by Robbie Whelan in the Wall Street Journal.

How did this happen in a neighborhood that fought like hell (and failed) to prevent the Atlantic Yards project, freaks out about a Barnes and Noble going in on Seventh Avenue, and cares about landmarking and all the rest. I hope Whalen is wrong when he states bracingly: "Brooklyn is going to be stuck for decades with this depressing wasteland of cheap materials and designs."

The optimist in me hopes that good minds (hello Brad Lander, Steve Levin, Park Slope Civic Council, Park Slope Neighbors) are working on ways to FIX what's wrong with Fourth Avenue. The zoning was screwed. No one was mandated to put storefronts on the Fourth Avenue side of their ugly high rise apartment buildings. Hence, it is an avenue with little or no street life. Thank goodness for the businesses that have set up shop there. The blocks between Union and President have some street life going on (Oxaca, Mission Delores, Rock Shop, Root Hill, an eyeglass store a wine shop). And between 2nd and 3rd Streets there's Two Moon Art House and Cafe.

There needs to be more and much in the way of amenable city planning or organic and artistic development. Is that even possible anymore?

Here's an excerpt:

Just as great architecture can lift the spirit, bad architecture can crush it.

In few parts of New York is this more the case than with the rash of new apartment buildings along Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue, the six-lane street that runs south from Atlantic Terminal and cleaves Park Slope from Gowanus. Because of bad decisions by Amanda Burden's City Planning Department and the profit-above-all-else motive of some developers, Brooklyn is going to be stuck for decades with this depressing wasteland of cheap materials and designs.

Just how bad is Fourth Avenue? Consider the latest addition, a 12-story rental apartment building ..

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on The Problem with Fourth Avenue

June 15th, 2012

Park Slope’s Brad Lander Proposes NYPD Inspector General

Brad Lander, one of Park Slope's City Council Members (yes, we have two, two City Council Members), has proposed legislation to add oversight to the NYPD in light of the Stop and Frisk controversy. A couple of days ago, he introduced legislation, along with Councilmember Jumaane Williams and 22 of his colleagues, to create an Inspector General for the NYPD. It sounds very Gilbert and Sullivan but it also sounds like a very good idea.

You can read about the new bill in the New York Times. Bur first read what Lander had to say about this effort on his blog.

We live in the greatest city in the world, so it’s not often that I find myself wishing that we had something that exists in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, but not here in New York. All of these cities have independent oversight for their police departments – which means there is someone whose job is to ensure that the police department’s operations are effective, efficient, and protect our civil liberties.

With good oversight, people are more likely to follow the rules. Taxpayers can be more confident their money is well spent. Rights are more likely to be respected. Communities are more likely to build relationships of trust.

Without meaningful, independent oversight, problems grow and fester. Rules are broken. Pressure from the top outweighs what’s right. Money is wasted. People take shortcuts with the truth. Our civil liberties are less likely to be protected. Agency morale suffers. The bonds of trust between the police and communities around the city are frayed. Policing becomes less effective. We need to stop this trend.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Park Slope’s Brad Lander Proposes NYPD Inspector General

June 5th, 2012

Video of Stop & Frisk Discussion at Beth Elohim

There was a panel with NYC Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, City Councilmember Brad Lander and others at Congregation Beth Elohim last night about the NYPD's stop and frisk policy and improving relations between the police and the community.

I wasn't there. Were you? Via Google I found this short You Tube video of Bill de Blasio speaking last night. City Councilman Brad Lander is sitting behind him.

Have a look.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Video of Stop & Frisk Discussion at Beth Elohim

July 20th, 2011

Brad Lander’s Shiva Visit to Leiby Kletsky’s Family

Earlier this week City Councilmember Brad Lander visited the family of Leiby Kletsky, the 8-year-old Borough Park boy who was brutally murdered last week. He wrote about his experience with the family and it is on his website today. I was in Europe during this terrible tragedy and I knew nothing about it until I got back to New York on Sunday night. I was moved by Lander's reflections on his visit with the family and am reprinting it here for those who haven't had a chance to read it.

No words can ease or describe the grief, or heal the wounds, but -- like so many people I've talked to -- I've been thinking about it constantly for the past week, and wanted at least to write down some of what I've been feeling.

We were all heartbroken by the tragedy -- especially those with close ties to the Borough Park and Kensington communities, or the Orthodox Jewish community, or those of us with young kids … but really all of us, beyond Brooklyn, beyond New York, beyond the Jewish community, beyond parents.  The killing reminded us that despite everything we do to keep our kids and each other safe, there are spaces of senseless terror, of incomprehensible evil.  That the things that are absolutely most dear and precious to us can be taken away in a heartbeat, for no reason at all.

At the shiva, after talking to his parents, I met one of Leiby's neighbors, who talked to me about how Leiby would play ball with the little kids in his building, about how rare it is for an 8-year-old to play with 4-year-olds, about how he had a heart of gold, living up to his name (Leiby is from the Hebrew lev, for heart).

While neither words nor actions feel meaningful in the face of the tragedy, the response of the Orthodox Jewish community has been remarkable.  I've been deeply impressed over the past two years with the extraordinary voluntary (chesed) organizations and efforts in the community, for so many causes -- taking care of sick families, helping kids go to summer camp, providing social and health and mental health services, and so many others.  The past week showed that like no other.

The Shomrim, Hatzoloh, and Misaskim organizations mobilized over 2,000 people to look for Leiby when he went missing, in partnership with the NYPD (and I thought that the 66th Precinct did a very good job as well, responding rapidly and seriously, and in partnership with the community).  Individuals, shuls, families, groups, all put down what they were doing to help.  And when he was found, they all put down what they were doing to grieve together, to show the family that they are not alone, that Leiby has become all of our child.

And, of course, as difficult as it is to grapple with, Levi Aron, the deranged murderer, is part of the story that we have to confront as well.  He committed a monstrous, evil act, and must face the consequences as part of our enactment of justice.  But we can't simply pretend that he is from some other planet.  His family is also from our community, also heartbroken beyond words, also wrecked by senseless violence, also longing for it to be two weeks ago somehow, or for a world beyond this pain and violence, or for some small glimmer of hope for something better.

So, despite the impossibility of any good answers, the questions remain.  I don’t know how or if we could make sense of it, but I do believe that we have a responsibility to figure out what we can do to make Leiby's memory be for a blessing.

I've been hugging my kids tightly all week, trying to hide from them the fact that I’ve sometimes been on the verge of tears, not wanting to let them go.  But, of course, we have to.  They have to grow up in this same world, with terror and evil that we can't always keep them safe from, sometimes can't even explain to them.  And, of course, also with the possibilities for great good shown by the chesed organizations and all the acts of solidarity and love.

One good resource for talking to kids about tragedy and grief -- this one, but also the inevitable if thankfully less impossibly painful other events that will take place in their futures -- is this guide from Ohel, an Orthodox Jewish organization.  I encourage parents to take a look, and use it to talk with your kids.

I've also been in numerous conversations with parents, reflecting on what we let our kids do, where we let them go, and when.

Let me be clear: there is no way that Leiby or the Kletsky's could have prevented this senseless act.  They had rehearsed the route with him, walked it with him, made sure he knew people and businesses along the few short blocks.  This was a random and incomprehensible act of terror, something that could happen to any of us, and that is what terrifies us.

But still, we can't help thinking about what we can do, in our families & our communities, to make our kids safer.

If you haven't made sure to talk to your kids about what they can do to be safe when they are out in the community, it is always a good time to do so.  My office put together this flyer on street safety for kids, for some forums we did with the NYPD and schools earlier this year.  They don't guarantee anything, but they can help.

At the shiva, Leiby's father and grandmother were talking to me about other things we could do to keep kids safer in the future -- more security cameras, more innovative use of mobile technology.  They know it won't bring Leiby back, but that perhaps their indescribable pain could help keep other kids safe in the future.  I was struck by their courage, and their commitment to find some good out of their tragic loss.  After we are done mourning, we should talk more about this, about what we can do that recognizes our kids grow up, and become independent, but also helps keep them as safe as we reasonably can.

In the days after 9/11, at another moment of indescribable grief in response to senseless terror, our city had a remarkable quality to it.  We were scared and angry.  But we also found a spirit of community that I had not seen before.  For a few weeks, we really saw that we had a shared fate, that we are in this together.  We did not just want revenge, or even only want justice (though we certainly did want it).

We also wanted to provide comfort together, at the scale we had felt pain and loss together.  We wanted to build a city and a world where that kind of pain do not exist.  That is impossible, sadly, but our heartfelt desire brought us together across so many lines, and made us dream about it, and try to do a few things to get us closer.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this September, I'll be carrying Leiby's memory with me.  I hope that we will not stop at celebrating the killing of Osama Bin Laden, or pushing for just punishment for Levi Aron, though justice is certainly required.

I hope we can also build upon that sense of shared fate, the belief that Leiby was all our child, that we are all New Yorkers now as we were on 9-11-01, that we should dream and work together for a world where this kind of pain is not possible, through small steps and large, and keep doing what we can for a world where healing is bigger than killing.

In the meantime, I'll keep giving my kids a couple of extra-tight hugs every day, and trying to remember to be thankful for every blessed moment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Brad Lander’s Shiva Visit to Leiby Kletsky’s Family

May 25th, 2011

Save This Park Slope Firehouse: Rally Today at 11AM

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed closing 20 firehouses and 8 of them are in Brooklyn, including Engine Company 220, located at 530 11th Street in Park Slope.

The community is fighting it and there's a demonstration this morning.

Join Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Brad Lander, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley  and Borough President Marty Markowitz will join Park Slope and Windsor Terrace residents THIS morning to rally against the closure. If the Bloomberg Administration is allowed to proceed with this closure, response times at fires will increase dramatically for Park Slope and Windsor Terrace residents. Arrival of the second engine necessary to get water on the fire would rise from 4:08 to 5:24 (a 30% increase). The elected officials and residents will call on the Mayor to explore other savings or revenue options, rather than seeking to save $55 million by putting lives at risk.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 25 at 11am
WHERE: Engine Company 220, 530 11th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn
WHAT: Rally and press conference
WHO: Residents of Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember Brad Lander, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy, Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Al Hagan

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Save This Park Slope Firehouse: Rally Today at 11AM

February 15th, 2011

Lander: Livable Streets/Reduced Alternate Side Parking

Now the Mayor wants to grade the cleanliness of city streets. First restaurants, now this. Council Member Brad Lander, who's district includes Park Slope, Boro Park, Kensington, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens thinks it a good thing. He was  pleased that Speaker Quinn announced today (in her State of the City address) that she intends to move forward on a bill he introduced last year:  Intro 287 which would require the Department of Sanitation to reduce alternate side parking to once a week per side in Community Board subdivisions that achieve cleanliness ratings of 90% or above on Mayor's Office of Operation's "Scorecard."

Good street score = Less alternate side of the street parking. Okay. Here from Lander himself:

Author Calvin Trillin once joked that “You can park your car on the streets of New York, or you can have a full-time job -- but you can't possibly do both.”  Unfortunately, for too many New Yorkers, this is all too close to reality.  By allowing communities to reduce alternate side parking to one day per week, this legislation can minimize the sense of dread that that all drivers feel on a day when alternate side parking is in effect. It will also reduce unnecessary car trips, thereby decreasing air pollution, since in many neighborhoods a good portion of the daily traffic consists of people looking for parking.

This proposed legislation builds on the success and leadership of my own community board, CB6 in Brooklyn, whose district manager Craig Hammerman has helped to lead the way on this issue.  And I look forward to working with Councilmember Sara Gonzalez and CB7 in Brooklyn -- who have been keeping their streets clean and patiently requesting the same treatment for years -- and other Councilmembers and Community Boards around the city.

I am proud to be a supporter of a more livable and sustainable city for users of all modes of transportation.  This legislation is an important part of broader efforts to make our streets and our city work better not only for drivers, but also straphangers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Lander: Livable Streets/Reduced Alternate Side Parking

February 11th, 2011

Brad Lander: LICH in Jeopardy

Here is City Council Member Brad Lander's letter to Governor Cuomo about his decision to delay grants to LICH putting the hospital's survival in jeopardy.

I was very distressed to learn this morning that the Cuomo Administration has decided to delay grants to Long Island College Hospital/SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which may force the hospital into bankruptcy. I call on the governor to immediately restore these promised grants, in order to protect the health and safety of Brooklynites.

Long Island College Hospital serves people from throughout Brooklyn, and is especially important to residents of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens, for whom it is the nearest medical facility. Long Island College Hospital operates 300 beds, and annually delivers over 2,500 babies and has over 55,000 emergency room visits. Long Island College Hospital also provides 2,500 people with good jobs.

Last year — in recognition of financial challenges facing LICH, and in dialogue with the community — LICH began the process of merging with SUNY Downstate Medical Center. That deal will both preserve LICH as a great community hospital, and achieve efficiencies in the delivery of health care in Brooklyn. As part of the deal, LICH and SUNY Downstate were promised $62 million in state grants.

By delaying these grants, and suggesting that they might be cancelled, the Cuomo Administration is placing the merger, the survival of LICH, and the health of our communities in jeopardy.

I ask Governor Cuomo to respect the State's commitment to LICH/SUNY Downstate, to immediately restore these grants, and to help secure the future of LICH, SUNY Downstate, and the health of our communities.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Brad Lander: LICH in Jeopardy

January 27th, 2011

First Event of the Park Slope Interfaith Social Justice Network

The Park Slope Interfaith Social Justice Network is newly formed organizations, which includes Old First Reformed Church, Congregation Beth Elohim, Kolot Chayeinu, St. Augustine Roman Catholic, Church, Greenwood Baptist Church and The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.

Other congregations (and individuals outside congregations) are welcome to join!

The group is having its first community event sponsored by Brad Lander on Monday, January 31st at Old First Dutch Reformed Church 729 Carroll Street at Seventh Avenue.

At 7PM, there's a potluck dinner. Participants are asked to bring a dish to share as well canned or dried goods as a donation to the food pantry at St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church.

At 7:30PM, there will be a discussion about homelessness in New York City with a representative from Coalition for the Homeless and CAMBA. Conversation points to include: Where do we stand? What can we do to combat homelessness? What can we do to help out?

You can RSVP for this event here.

Monday night is also the HOPE Count, the annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), sponsored by the NYC Department of Homeless Services.

In this event, NYC DHS and volunteers canvass parks, subways, and other public spaces to count the number of
people living without shelter in New York City. You can register for this event here.

The Hope Count begins at 10:30 PM.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 1 Comment »

January 27th, 2011

Tonight: 6:30PM Community Conference Call with Brad Lander

Tonight at 6:30 PM: There's a Community Conference Call with Brad Lander to review his annual report on his office's 2010 accomplishments.

I want to encourage you to join me and my staff for the conference call we are hosting to review my annual report on our 2010 accomplishments this evening at 6:30.

To RSVP for the conference call click here, and we will send you all the information you need. You can RSVP right up until the last minute this evening.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Tonight: 6:30PM Community Conference Call with Brad Lander

January 26th, 2011

Petition to Provide Better Alternatives for F/G Station Closures

As EVERYONE knows by now, north-bound F/G-train platforms at the 15th St. and Ft. Hamilton Parkway stations will be closed for the next 5 months (with south-bound closures to follow afterward).

No one denies that  major track work on the F local tracks is necessary but F/G train users and losers believe that the MTA should provide service alternatives.

Many want the MTA to extend  B68 bus (which runs along Prospect Park Southwest and Coney Island Avenue) past its usual terminus at Bartel Pritchard Square (at the 15th St/PPSW Station), to 9th St and 8th Ave, where riders could pick up the F train.  Brad Lander has set up a petition and urges straphangers to demonstrate their support.

Already 1000 F/G subway riders have signed a petition for better transit alternatives.

If you are interested you can sign a petition to the MTA for better service alternatives.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Petition to Provide Better Alternatives for F/G Station Closures

January 25th, 2011

Annual Report From Brad Lander

City Council Member Brad Lander has just released his annual report to the community. The report is broken down by issue, and by the various neighborhoods in the district and you can read it here. There is going to be a conversation about the report, some of the issues it raises, and where things are headed in 2011 on Thursday, January 27 at 6:30 PM. The public is invited to participate via community conference call. You can RSVP for that here. In the introduction he writes:

As a deep believer in democratic accountability, I believe it is essential toreport back to the community.One year into my tenure in the City Council,I’m pleased to share this first annual report onsome of what we accomplished in 2010, what we learned, and what we’re hoping to do inthe year to come.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Annual Report From Brad Lander

January 20th, 2011

Panel Votes to Bring Millennium Brooklyn to Park Slope

Last night the Panel for Educational Policy, which consists of 13 appointed members and Chancellor Cathie Black, voted to locate Millennium Brooklyn High School inside the John Jay High School Complex making it the fourth high school in that large Seventh Avenue building in Park Slope. Prior to the vote there was a four-hour public hearing at Brooklyn Tech. From reports on Park Slope Patch, it sounds like the public hearing, attended by staff, students and other supporters of the schools within the John Jay Complex, was similar  to the public hearing at the John Jay Complex last week.

There has been much controversy surrounding the way the Department of Education has handled the proposal to bring Millennium to Park Slope.  It was originally presented as a proposal but soon seemed a fait accompli after Lisa Gioe Cord, the principal who has been selected to run Millennium Brooklyn, told her current school that she would be leaving (to start the new school).

At a hearing last week at the John Jay Complex staff and students complained that the John Jay schools were  "set up to fail" when they were routinely denied funding for, among other things, improvements to the schools derelict building.

Others cried racism and "separate but unequal" treatment because the new school is set to be funded very generously by the Department of Education, as it is considered a selective school and part of the chancellor's New School Initiative.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan told the crowd last week: “This proposal is an egregious insult to the existing schools. Don’t blame the demonstrators. Take Millennium and take it off the table right now…Strengthen and build what’s here before you. Before you do anything new, you must help those who are here."

OPINION: What to many seemed like a fait accompli is now a reality. On the plus side, Millenium Brooklyn could be a "win by association" for the schools now in the complex in terms of much needed improvements (thought it is painfully obvious that this funding would never have happened without Millennium). What has been forgotten in all this is that Millennium Brooklyn has the potential to be an excellent new high school choice for Brooklyn students.

It is time to take a look at the recommendations presented by City Councilmember Brad Lander that he believes will be critical in helping to ease—and possibly heal—the tensions raised by bringing the new school into the building.

  • Insure safety with respect for all students by removing the metal detectors for the entire John Jay campus and developing a strong building-wide safety plan.
  • Commit to diversity at the John Jay campus by ensuring that the John Jay campus includes an ongoing mix of non-selective and selective options, and that the new school – and all schools there – work to reflect Brooklyn’s diversity, and serve English language learners and students with special needs.
  • Provide equitable and adequate resource investments across schools by implementing long-overdue building-wide improvements, and making sure that investments tied to these changes serve all the schools equally.
  • Conduct space planning in an equitable, transparent, inclusive manner, in consultation with all the principals.
  • Establish a “John Jay Campus Council” to build community among the schools, and partnerships with the broader community to help the schools succeed together, create shared spaces and institutions, fundraise, and connect to resources.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 6 Comments »

January 13th, 2011

MTA Won’t Budge on Shuttle Buses for F-Train Users/Losers

Seems that the MTA is playing hardball and will not provide shuttle buses to those left stranded without a subway station (Ft. Hamilton and 15th Street F trains stations) starting next week.

My friend just heard from City Councilman Brad Lander's office. Lander met with BP Marty Markowitz, Jim Brennan and the MTA and they will not add shuttle buses or increase routes along the B61 at all.

They are adding  bike parking at Church and adding a B35 bus stop at the Church Street station. Neither solution does anything for anyone wanting to board at 15th Street or Fort Hamilton. Bad news.

Okay, you say. So those commuters have to walk to the 9th Street or Church Avenue stations. What's the big deal? Or they should just get on the train going in the other direction to Church Avenue and then get on the Manhattan-bound trains from there.

Think again.

It's really not the best solution for kids, for instance, who take the subway to schools in other parts of Brooklyn or Manhattan. A friend's daughter takes the F train from 15th Street to Fourth Avenue and then switches to the R train there. The proposal would mean that she, at 12-years-old, should get on the train at 15th and take it out to Church Avenue (which is a bit of a trek on the tracks) and then cross over to the Manhattan bound tracks and get the F back in the right direction to Fourth Avenue.

This is a hardship for the people who rely on the 15th Street and Ft. Hamilton stations. This is a big inconvenience. This is a lot of extra time on the subway for students and other commuters.

Solution? Well, how about shuttle service. The commuters over there really want that so why is the MTA being so tight fisted about it. When you take away (albeit for much needed improvements) you gotta give something back.

Shuttle buses are what the commuters who use those stations want.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 4 Comments »

January 12th, 2011

A Moment of Reckoning for Park Slope & John Jay

Last night at the public hearing about the DOE's proposal to locate Millennium 2 in the John Jay Complex  on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, students, administrators, and teachers presented strong and passionate arguments about the Department of Education's mishandling of the situation. In my opinion it is  clear that the DOE must listen closely to charges of racism, segregation and inequality (financial and otherwise) regarding the three schools that are already inside that building.

The overheated meeting last night, which took place in the overheated auditorium, exposed many serious issues that must be addressed by the DOE—and the Park Slope community. I think there is a radical disconnect between the community and the schools in the JJ complex, which serve, primarily, minority students. Few families from affluent and white Park Slope have opted to enroll in any of those school let alone tour through them to see what they're about.

As expressed last night, the students at those schools feel like barely tolerated guests in the community, at best, and criminals at worst. Many students in their remarks pointed to the metal detectors and police presence at the school and outside of it.

According to many who spoke last night, the lack of diversity, the lack of funding, and the sense of separation from the community have created a segregated institution within a community that views itself as enlightened and progressive. The students who spoke truly understand this disconnect and they expressed how it's left them feeling "other" and marginalized. Clearly, Park Slope locals have serious misunderstandings about what really goes on in the school building and they rarely venture inside to find out.

And then comes the proposal to locate Millennium as the 4th school inside those walls. With the schools' history of DOE neglect no wonder it caused such a negative reaction (and explains the loud and sometimes disruptive environment last night). According to accounts, Millennium 2 was originally presented to the staff and students as a proposal by the DOE but soon it was clear that it was a fait accompli.

What was even more galling to the staff and students and many in the crowd last night was the huge amount of money that will be poured into this new school effort, funding that has been repeatedly denied the schools in that building.

Millennium 2 is part of the DOE's coveted New Schools Initiative (it will be the 8th in that program) and money is no object for that program, which also brings in corporate funding for those "special" schools.

It seems that the sky's the limit for Millennium 2 while the DOE claims poverty when it comes to improving the quality of life in the John Jay complex (improving ancient bathrooms, plumbing, bell systems, classrooms, windows, walls, etc.).

Even if the opening of Millennium 2 is ultimately a win-by-association for the other schools it is painfully obvious to the teachers and students that improvements to the building and the school would NEVER have happened unless a "Park Slope approved school" was going in there.

Over and over teachers and administrators made the following point: the schools in the JJ complex were set up to fail while Millennium 2 is being set up for success. And what's the success formula: funding for the physical plant, funding for teachers, electives, guidance, after school activities and everything else that makes a good school good.

I agree with many who spoke that the  JJ building is an embarrassment and the fact that it exists within this supposedly enlightened neighborhood is even more of an embarrassment. Many in this neighborhood would never allow their children to attend a school with non-working bathrooms, no electrical outlets and general derelict condition. Why is that good enough for the children in our district who go there???

Last night was truly a moment of reckoning that was a long time coming. Issues that have been kept under cover for a long time came flowing out. Racism. Segregation. Class issues. Money for some, financial neglect for others. Better schools for the rich, inferior schools for the poor. Misunderstanding between community and school populations.

Albeit, the talk was mostly from the side of the schools in the John Jay Complex, who don't want Millennium to be located in the building. Their counter-proposal is to invest in the schools that are already in there.

Representatives from the Secondary School of Research presented a list of demands they want addressed immediately, including the removal of the metal detectors which create a humiliating experience for the students and staff. A name change: Park Slope Collegiate instead of the John Jay Complex. And, of course, a long list of improvements to the building plus the restoration of the new school funding that those schools NEVER got.

A representative from Borough President Marty Markowitz's office said that Markowitz will advocate for that list of demands (minus not putting Millennium 2 in the building).

Later Brad Lander spoke honestly to the crowd about their charges of racism and inequality. He has his own list of what needs to be done there including the elimination of the metal detectors, a new name for the complex, and renovation of the physical plant. He also proposed a community/school council for understanding and connection between school and Park Slope.

Representative Jim Brennan also spoke to the crowd with these strong words: "This proposal is an egregious insult to the existing schools. Don't blame the demonstrators.. Take Millennium and take it off the table right now...Strengthen and build what's here before you. Before you do anything new, you must help those who are here."

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 7 Comments »

January 11th, 2011

City Hall Hearings and Snow is on the Way

With another snowstorm on the way, New York City officials are hopefully being smart about preparations for this one which comes on the slushy heels of the last botched snow recovery when days after Christmas  snow crippled the outer boroughs and parts of Manhattan.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from Tuesday evening through Wednesday at 6PM. The heaviest snow is supposed to begin after midnight tonight.

The National Weather Service is saying that New York City and Northeast New Jersey could get 8 to 14 inches of snow.

Yesterday's hearings at the City Council revealed what too many citizens already ascertained: things were seriously mismanaged if they were managed at all during the Blizzard of 2010.

The mayor was missing in action.

His deputy wasn't in town and he made a bunch of mistakes.

Our own city councilman, Brad Lander, was on vacation and there was definitely the feeling in Park Slope that we could call 311 and be told that there were just too many calls or we could, well, just sit in the snow and suffer. Councilman Steve Levin was around and he issued complaints about the city's slow response early and loud.

Politicians have every right to go on vacation but they must leave their offices in good hands in the event of an emergency. That's just plain common sense.

The sanitation department was not plowing in the outer boroughs and the outer boroughs really felt like outer I don't know where. Streets in Manhattan looked pretty darn tidy compared to what was going on out here in Park Slope.

It's not that we didn't enjoy a couple of quiet snow days. But many of us feared what would happen if there was a health or fire emergency or some other kind of personal or civic disaster.

This is a big wake up call for emergency relief efforts in New York City and hopefully things will get worked out before another disaster comes our way.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on City Hall Hearings and Snow is on the Way

January 10th, 2011

Brad Lander’s Blizzard Cleanup Report

Today's the day!

The New York City Council will hold hearings to examine why the City’ s cleanup efforts were so very bad during the Blizzard of 2010 (and other storms) and figure out what needs to change to prevent these problems going forward.

Yesterday Brad Lander sent his constituents a District blizzard cleanup report, to analyze the response in the neighborhoods of the 39th District and to summarize major issues that arose so they can be further investigated and addressed in the Council hearings and beyond.

Click on this link to read the Blizzard Report. Click on read more to see an summary of what's included in the report.

-An analysis of the 392 communications Councilmember Lander’ s office received in the week following the blizzard, including the work that was done to address those complaints
-A description of the on-the-ground observations by staff, the councilmember, and constituents
-A description of the dozens of conversations that Councilmember Lander’ s office had post-cleanup, with residents of blocks that were not plowed for days (including a meeting with residents of a Kensington building where a veteran died a possibly-preventable death on Monday, 12/27), with key neighborhood institutions (e.g. hospitals), with sanitation workers (at a field visit to a sanitation garage), and other members of the public
-A summary of available news reports that address issues that arose in the district.

The finds of the report reiterate how deeply flawed the response to the blizzard was for the residents of Brooklyn. Throughout the week, Councilmember Lander’ s office received 392 complaints about unplowed streets, unshoveled subway entrances, poor access to hospitals, and stuck cars (including a stuck DSNY plow truck on Henry St, which remained stuck until late Wednesday evening). Ave C, Cortelyou, Ditmas Ave & Ave F, which are major east-west streets in Kensington were unplowed until Friday, evening, a full 5 days after the storm began.

An analysis of the data shows that the number of complaints about unplowed streets dramatically increased from Community District 12 (which includes Kensington & Borough Park) as the week went on. District 12 composed only 21% of complaints on Tuesday, but rose to 60% of calls on Thursday and Friday. Operations at the CB12 garage were clearly worse than at other locations. Councilmember Lander welcomes the recently announced decision to transfer the District 12 supervisor; however, a full investigation of what happened here is required.

As has been noted in media accounts, the City’ s 911 call system and EMS response was overwhelmed by the storm. One apparent, tragic consequence was the possibly-preventable death of a veteran, Mr. Joel Grossman, who lived at 135 Ocean Parkway, in the 39th District. Mr. Grossman began calling 911 at noon on Monday, December 27th, and neighbors began calling 911 around 6 pm, when they heard screams coming from his apartment. However, an ambulance did not arrive until after 7 p.m., by which time Mr.
Grossman had died.

The report also identifies elements of poor prioritization of cleanup in the 39th District. Several key streets around the districts three hospitals (Long Island College Hospital, New York Methodist Hospital, and Maimonides Hospital) were not plowed on Monday, and in some cases not until Wednesday. In addition, key pathways and entrances to subway stations were not prioritized, and were not cleared until Wednesday.

The City Council as a whole will be conducting a more complete investigation through several standing committees and community-based hearings. These hearings and other follow-up is necessary to investigate questions such as why a “ snow emergency” was not declared, what the chain-of-command was at key decision-points, etc.

While Councilmember Lander’ s report provides only a local view of the response, the analysis and experience of our office during this storm clearly indicate the need for several adjustments in citywide policy to improve response to the next major snowstorm:

-A full investigation of the DSNY Brooklyn District 12 response
-The adoption of technology that will allow sanitation dispatchers to know when a block has been plowed, and which streets remain uncleared
-A review of equipment and staffing levels at Sanitation
-An increase in collaboration between tow and plow operations
-The prioritization of the removal of snow around hospitals and subway entrances

Councilmember Lander looks forward to feedback from members of the public on this report, and to following up on these issues at the upcoming City Council hearings and beyond. It is essential that we understand the mistakes that caused the inadequate response, require accountability for these errors, and identify and correct systemic problems before the next major snowstorm.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Brad Lander’s Blizzard Cleanup Report

January 5th, 2011

Brad Lander On F-Station Closures at 15th, Ft. Ham & Smith/9th Streets

Printed below is Brad Lander's response to the frustration of many Brooklyn strap hangers who use the 15th Street, Ft. Hamilton and Smith/ 9th Street F and G train stations, which will be closed for many months due to renovations.

You can be sure, Lander's office is getting plenty of phone calls. On the one hand: people get that improvements need to be made and that can mean station closures. But still, imagine if your subway station was being closed down and alternatives would add time to your already laborious commute.

How would you feel?

Lander says that he will be working to "push the MTA to provide better alternative service during the project."

I'm not sure what that means -- bus service, bikes, scooters, sleds?

The P.S. to this letter is quite apt. He writes: I know this frustration comes right on the heels of the City’s deeply inadequate snow removal efforts. Kensington in particular bore the brunt of the City’s failures, with some blocks not getting plowed until the early morning of New Year's Day."

Lander says that he also plans to "redouble my efforts to insure that all our communities get the full level of government services they need and deserve."

Hear, hear.

Brooklyn never felt so much like "the outer borough" as it did during the recent snowstorm. The abrupt closing of these important stations feels like another added difficulty to "outer borough" life.

Ah, urban life.

Many of you have contacted my office today after learning abruptly that Queens-bound F/G service will be suspended at the Fort Hamilton Parkway and 15th Street stations for the next five months.

This is part of a necessary project to rehabilitate the F/G line. But the MTA did not do enough outreach to provide advance notice and has not offered adequate alternative service. I will be working immediately to push the MTA to provide better alternative service during the project.

The closure is part of the rebuilding of the F line's local and express tracks from Bergen Street to Church Avenue. The MTA is rebuilding tracks, signals, and switches along this entire section of the line. In order to complete the project, they need to detour the F train to the express tracks, which do not stop at either 15th Street or Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Unfortunately, the MTA has informed us that this means:

  • Queens-bound service will be suspended at both stations from Jan 2011 – May 2011
  • South-bound service will be suspended at both stations from Nov 2011 – March 2012

More information on the changes can be found at the MTA website.

The MTA has indicated that they will expand late−night bus service on the B61 to the 15th Street. However, the MTA is not currently offering any rush-hour enhanced bus or shuttle services and it is not offering any enhanced service for Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Instead, the MTA is just instructing people to go south to the Church Avenue station, and then turn around there for Manhattan-bound service (at what is already an extremely crowded station).

While this project is necessary, the fact that an alternative form of transportation is not being provided is an unacceptable hardship on people in Kensington and Windsor Terrace. In addition, too little notice was provided; as of last night, there was no notice up at the Fort Hamilton Parkway station, and the station clerk did not have information on the project.

I am calling upon the MTA to implement alternative service — either in the form of regular shuttle bus service (at least at rush hour) or by extending and expanding service of nearby bus lines. I have been in touch with MTA officials to suggest these kinds of alternatives, and will continue to strongly urge the MTA to implement them. I will of course be in touch with you as we learn more about what alternatives might be available.


P.S. I know this frustration comes right on the heels of the City’s deeply inadequate snow removal efforts. Kensington in particular bore the brunt of the City’s failures, with some blocks not getting plowed until the early morning of New Year's Day. In addition to the City Council hearing on January 10th to get to the bottom of what went wrong, I plan to redouble my efforts to insure that all our communities get the full level of government services they need and deserve.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | 3 Comments »

December 28th, 2010

Message from City Councilmember Brad Lander

Dear Neighbors,

I know it's been an extremely frustrating few days for many of you. My staff has been hard at work, trying to help the scores of people who have contacted my office while I’ve been on my way back from out of town.  From the many of you who have e-mailed or called, I know that the snow (and car and bus) removal seems to be taking much longer than usual. We are still following up with the Department of Sanitation to address some of the major streets in the district (including Henry Street, Prospect Park West, McDonald Ave, and Cortelyou Road in Kensington) and have passed many of your requests about other streets on to them as well.

Unfortunately, we now hear that it may not be until the end of Wednesday before some streets in our neighborhood are plowed, even for the first time.  (FYI-- alternate side parking remains suspended for Wednesday).  If your street hasn't been plowed or if there is a sidewalk that needs attention, my office has set up an online form at

You can also e-mail us at, or call us at (718) 499-1090.  You should try 311 first, but I know they have been overwhelmed, and slow to respond.  I know that one more web-form is NOT what you need if you’re still stuck on your street – but we will do our best to follow up to requests submitted at Of course, if there is an emergency, you should call 911.

The City Council has set up a hearing to review the City’s response to this storm for January 10th at 1pm. We’ll be asking questions about what happened, why the response seems so inadequate in so many neighborhoods across the city, and what needs to be done for the future. I’ll be eager to hear your stories – however frustrating – as we prepare for that hearing. In the meantime, good luck.  And thanks so much to all of you who have helped your neighbors get through the storm and dig out afterwards! --Brad

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Message from City Councilmember Brad Lander

December 28th, 2010

Lander’s Office Not Optimistic About Snow Removal on Side Streets Today

After I spoke with Brad Lander, City Councilmember of the 39th District, on the phone, I got this message from Michael Freedman-Schnapapone one of his staff members:

We've been fielding a number of calls & emails from constituents today (over 60 at last count) which we are working diligently to bring to the attention of the Department of Sanitation & the Office of Emergency Management.

After speaking with the Department of Sanitation, we are not optimistic about the City getting all of the side streets clear by the end of today. Our office definitely wants to hear about major streets that are not clear, issues with abandoned vehicles preventing plowing, and other issues preventing emergency vehicle access. We'll be following up at the end of the day with more information. There has also been a City Council oversight hearing that will look into the storm response scheduled for Jan 10th at 1pm.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Lander’s Office Not Optimistic About Snow Removal on Side Streets Today

December 28th, 2010

Brad Lander Weighs In

Turns out our dedicated City Councilmember Brad Lander was in Florida during the blizzard and was stuck at the Tampa Airport for many hours today. He's back now and says his office received 100 phone calls about snow removal problems.

I spoke to him a couple of hours ago as I was leaving the park (with David Pechefsky coincidentally) and asked him what went wrong and he said he had no information but some theories, and will look into it in the days ahead. The City Council will be having a hearing about the problems on January 10th.

In the meantime, Lander advised locals to call 311, call his office and in real emergencies, call 911. He believes that the snow will probably be cleared sometime tomorrow.

He said his office would be issuing a statement sometime this evening or in the morning.

"You probably haven't had a vacation since 2009," I told him.

"It wasn't much of a vacation," he told me.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Civics and Urban Life | Comments Off on Brad Lander Weighs In