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July 17th, 2012

Dancing Under the Stars Tonight in Park Slope

 Tonight is Dancing Under the Stars, the Fifth Avenue BID’s summer music/dance program (every Tuesday evening in July and August).

Coincidentally, I just ran into Irene LoRe, who runs the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID  at Forty Weight/Sweet Wolf’s on Sixth Avenue and 12th Street.

Tonight DJ Chris Style in Washington Park will be spinning the beats for great dancing.

Starting at 6, of course, Park Slope’s favorite rock band, Rolie Polie Guacamole, will do an hour of music for kids.

At 7, Dj Chris Style will spin the dance beats that will get Fifth Avenue moving!

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July 14th, 2012

We’re Having a Block Party on Third Street! Today!

Third Street between 6th and 7th Avenue is having its first block party ever. EVER.

Finally, after all these years, one of the newer residents decided to organize one and she did a great job.

She put together a planning committee, she got a permit from the city to close the street, she organized activities for children and, best of all, rented one of those spacewalks.

Bernette Rudoph, an elderly and talented artist, is doing a wood sculpture activity with the kids.

What’s really fun is that the street is closed to traffic and the kids can ride their biks and scooters up and down the streets. Also, there’s fire hydrant sprinkler, a time honored way for city kids to cool off.

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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.”



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June 29th, 2012

Fourth Avenue’s Church of the Redeemer to be Torn Down

From Francis Morrone, architectural writer and historian, I have just learned that the Church of the Redeemer, built in 1866, on Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street in Brooklyn is going to be torn down.

Morrone says that it is one of his favorite churches designed by Patrick Keely, who designed hundreds of churches. Obviously, it is not a designated landmark. “If it’s not torn down, it will probably fall down on its own,” he writes on Facebook.

“I like the play of volumes, the intimate scale, the good detailing, the side garden. I love imagining the church in 1866, when it was slightly more bucolic in these parts, and today, when the church shares its sidewalk with the subway entrance,” he adds. “And I love the mosaic sign for this church down in the subway station. It looks to me like Keely had a somewhat larger budget than he usually did with his Catholic churches. I’d love to see it with its stone cleaned.”

Francis Morrone is an architectural historian and author of Architectural Guidebook of Brooklyn. Morrone’s essays on architecture have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, American Arts Quarterly, the New Criterion and the New York Times. In April 2011 he was named by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the 13 best tour guides in the world.

He thinks a high rise condo is going to be built in its stead.

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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.





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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.


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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.

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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 ..

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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December 28th, 2010

No Word From Brad Lander on Snow Removal Emergency

Many in Park Slope’s 39th district are wondering what City Councilmember Brad Lander thinks of this snow removal emergency. Hey Brad, where are ya??????

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December 15th, 2010

2010 Park Slope 100

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for: the 2010 Park Slope 100. This is the fifth  annual alphabetical list of 100 people, places and things that make Park Slope such a special place to live. 100 Stories, 100 ways of looking at the world.

This year I received many tips from readers of OTBKB. Quite a few of these blurbs were written by OTBKB readers.  Thanks to all!  Please send your typos, your fact checks, your comments to me.

Heck, I know you will.

Five years of the Park Slope 100. That means that  if you combine  all the lists there are 500 people, places and things. A sort of  mini-history of Park Slope since 2006.

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December 7th, 2010

Survey Shows Support for PPW Bike Lane and New Traffic Configuration

I heard it on NPR this morning and I just got the email from Rachel Goodman, City Councilmember Brad Lander’s press representative,with news that the Bike Lane survey has been released and the findings are positive for supporters of the new traffic configuration and two-way bike lane on Prospect Park West.

The survey will be presented at a public meeting of the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee on Thursday, December 16th at 6:30pm at New York Methodist Hospital Auditorium, 506, 6th Street in Park Slope. Copies will also be available at the City Council’s hearing on Cycling in New York City on Thursday, December 9th, at 250 Broadway, 10am.

The 13-question survey was collected online and in-person October 15 – 30, 2010. According to Lander’s press release: “It was not a randomly-sampled public opinion poll, nor was it intended as a referendum on the project.  While it was used as an organizing tool for active supporters and opponents of the project, responses reached far beyond organized advocacy networks.”

Here are the stats on the survey itself. It was completed by 3,150 Brooklyn residents (828 living on Prospect Park West or the blocks immediately adjacent to the street; 1,137 elsewhere in Park Slope; 1,185 elsewhere in Brooklyn ).

According to Lander, “The responses show deep interest in the project, with over 2,000 respondents answering open-ended questions (in addition to the multiple-choice questions), and over 1,000 respondents voluntarily providing contact information.”

And here are the actual results:

Among the 3,150 respondents overall, there is broad support for the project:

* 54% (1,522 respondents) wish to keep the configuration as-is
* 24% (688 respondents) wish to keep the configuration, with some changes
* 22% (633 respondents) wish to go back to the previous configuration

Among all respondents living in Park Slope (2,210 respondents):

* 49% (888 respondents) wish to keep the configuration as-is
* 22% (408 respondents) wish to keep the configuration, with some changes
* 29% (530 respondents) wish to go back to the previous configuration

Among the 272 respondents living on PPW, there is a roughly even split between those wishing to keep the bike lanes and those wishing to go back to the previous configuration:

* 31% (85 respondents) wish to keep the configuration as-is
* 18% (50 respondents) wish to keep the configuration, with some changes
* 50% (137 respondents) wish to go back to the previous configuration

Detailed findings from the survey (including methodology) are available at

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