Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 29: important Brooklyn Bridge Park event

On Thursday, January 29, there will be a public meeting about Brooklyn Bridge Park's financial model. We say, it's about time. Let's review the facts.

What: BBPDC public meeting about the Park's financial model.
When: January 29, 2009 at 6 p.m.
Where: Dibner Auditorium, NYU-Polytechnic University, 5 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.

1. Hotel and housing

As reported in the Brooklyn Paper and elsewhere, the hotel and added apartment buildings have now been halted. Not cancelled, just halted. In other words, construction of the park will proceed without the hotel and housing that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) had claimed were essential to pay for the park's $15.2 million annual maintenance. If we can build the park without the 'essential' revenue-generating elements, perhaps they were not so essential after all.

2. Budgets

The maintenance and operations budget for the park was last released in October 2005. Meanwhile, the park's construction budget has increased from $150 million to $300 million. What is the added money for?

3. Um, we live here, too.

The construction that has been planned is almost entirely at the northern end of the park. According to the BBPDC's website,

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation signed construction contracts for Pier 1 and portions of Pier 6 and the Pier 2 uplands, and broke ground on Pier 1 in January 2009.
Portions of Pier 6? Pier 6 is the end of the park near Cobble Hill. What are we getting for our tax dollars?

4. Credit where it's due

Three people must be saluted for doing the right thing:
-Judi Francis, for leading the activist fight for a park with real recreation,
-State Senator Daniel Squadron, for his leadership in demanding transparency from the BBPDC, and
-Mike McLaughlin of the Brooklyn Paper, for asking the tough questions in his reporting.

Things to say

So what do we want? Here are some very concise requests that we hope you will join us in making. (May we suggest that you print them and bring them to the meeting?)

1. We want to see the CURRENT projected Operations and Maintenance costs broken down by item.

2. We want to see the CURRENT park construction costs and the money they have on hand.

3. We want an accounting of how the money has been spent so far.

4. Now that we know that the park can proceed without the housing and the hotel, we want a memorandum of understanding that the housing and hotel will never be built. They fooled some of us once. They won't fool us again.

5. We want more neighborhood diversity among the board members of the BBPDC. All nearby neighborhoods should be represented on the park's decision-making body.
It's time to put the Brooklyn in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

6. We want a ferry from Pier 6 to Governors Island.

7. We want more recreation planned at the park, and we want year-round recreation.

8. And finally, get rid of that stupid berm. It is unusuable, it wastes valuable park land, and no study has ever shown that it will block highway noise.

The Brooklyn waterfront is the last great space left in New York. Whatever we build there will outlive all of us. And there are no do-overs. We only have one shot at making a terrific park. Is it too much to ask that the community have a say in planning the park and that we know how our money is being spent? Well, the CHA doesn't think so. We will be there making the case for recreation and transparency. We hope you will join us.

January 27: hearing to save our bridges

Here it is again: the before-and-after doomsday scenario for the historic views of Brooklyn's bridges. Community Board 2 voted, incredibly, to approve the Dock Street project as proposed. Why? Because the developer, the same Two Trees known for the Atlantic Avenue huts, promised them a new school.

This is the same old divide-and-conquer tactics that the Europeans used in colonizing the rest of the world. Two Trees has pitted preservation against education, and who is going to choose preservation over education? But it's a false choice. We can have both. Brooklyn is one in wanting to preserve the historic views of the bridges and to build new schools. Besides, why would anyone trust Two Trees after they famously tried to pass off their penthouses as 'stair bulkheads'?

What can you do to save Brooklyn from the ugliness depicted above? Convince Borough President Marty Markowitz to recommend against the proposed height at Borough Hall's ULURP hearing on the project.

What: ULURP hearing on the Dock Street project
When: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 from 4 to 9 p.m.
Where: Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street

What to say: that the building must be no higher than the bridges and that we will not be divided and conquered. If you don't trust the developer's promises, that's fair game, too.

January 26: CB6 meeting on air quality at the cruise terminal

Thanks to the Red Hook community's activism, the Community Board 6 Environmental Protection Committee will hold a meeting on air quality at the cruise terminal on Monday, January 26.

What is the issue? It turns out that, at some ports around the world, ships in port turn off their diesel engines and hook up to the city's electricity grid. This arrangement is known as cold ironing. But the cruise terminal in Red Hook does not use cold ironing. The result: air pollution in Brooklyn whenever the ships are in the port. Now the community will have a chance to find out what can be done about it. According to the CB6 website, the meeting will include a:
Presentation by representatives for the Economic Development Corporation and the Port Authority on the Clean Air initiative being undertaken at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at Pier 12 in Red Hook.
What: CB6 Environmental Committee meeting
When: January 26, 2009 at 6.30 p.m.
Where: P.S. 15 The Patrick Daly School, 71 Sullivan Street (between Van Brunt and Richards)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Trader Joe's recall

Trader Joe's has announced a voluntary recall of the following products:

-Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars,
-Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars, and
-Sutter’s Formula Cookies.

Read the FDA press release for the details.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Irondale needs help

The economic recession has hit Brooklyn theatre. Joe McCarthy of Cobble Hill is the Development Director of the Irondale Ensemble Project . He writes in to say that your contribution would go a long way toward helping the Irondale in tough times. The Independence Community Fund has announced a challenge grant: they will give one dollar for every four dollars raised by March 31, 2009.

Here is a YouTube video about the Irondale.

And here are the next two shows, from Joe:
The first upcoming show, opening January 29th, is a play called "In This Place," which was written and directed by Ain Gordon, and stars Brooklyn’s own Michelle Hurst in an one-woman tour-de-force performance. We are co-producing it with 651 Arts. It tells the true story of Daphney and Samuel Oldham who, in 1829, were the first free African-American couple to build their own house in Lexington, Kentucky.

M.U.G.A.B.E.E. - In February for two nights, the 27th and 28th, the brothers Maurice and Carlton Turner, musicians/story-tellers/creators from Mississippi who work under the name M.U.G.A.B.E.E., will join us. Their web site says, "Their name, which is an acronym meaning Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction, describes a group divinely guided to be musicians, singers, rappers, songwriters, producers, actors, poets and teachers, they do it all, and they do it all well."
See the Irondale website to make a contribution and learn more.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brooklyn Bridge Park: important meeting January 29

The Cobble Hill Association has had many questions over the past several years about the funding scheme for Brooklyn Bridge Park. We are pleased to report that, after the prodding of State Senator Daniel Squadron, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) has announced that it will release revised cost and revenue projections.

One would think that such reporting and transparency would be automatic for a public entity like the BBPDC, a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, but one would be wrong. We are grateful to Senator Squadron for his work on this matter. Here is the 411 on the meeting:
What: BBPDC public meeting about the Park's financial model.
When: January 29 at 6 p.m.
Where: Dibner Auditorium, NYU-Polytechnic University, 5 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.
Senator Squadron's staff has told us that the BBPDC will release financial data before the meeting. We will keep you in the loop once the data have been released. We will also distribute information to help the community frame questions for the event. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MTA: going your way, or going away?

The MTA will hold a public hearing in Brooklyn on January 28 regarding its proposed service cuts and fare hikes. We encourage everyone to attend and make the case for more public transportation, not less. The MTA's official hearing notice explains the procedures for speaking:
Registration to speak will be open until 9 p.m. on the dates of the hearings. Oral testimony is limited to 3 minutes per speaker. To register to speak in advance of the hearings, for more information, or to comment in writing contact Douglas Sussman, Dir, MTA Community Affairs, 347 Madison Ave, NY, NY 10017, (212) 878-7483. Additional information can be found at Comments may also be made on the MTA website.
What: MTA hearing
When: Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Where: 333 Adams Street, the Brooklyn Marriott

making much out of mulch

This year's tree-mulching campaign in Cobble Hill Park was a great success. Tom Synnott of the Cobble Hill Tree Fund writes in with this report:
Despite the cold weather and the threat of deep snow (which never materialized) we had a record tree chipping—631 trees. A good deal of mulch was given back to parents and children in Mulch-fest bags provided by our friend and Brooklyn Forester, Andy Rabb.

Many people helped make this a successful neighborhood event as well. For the Tree Fund there were Dick Van Bolt, Sarah Erlij, John Kibbe, Georgia Willett,Tony Zinsser, Proctor Schenk, Gale, Ian and Tom Synnott and a new addition to our group Jennifer Stoody. Three troops of boy scouts did yeoman work gathering trees from nearby blocks, pulling trees to the chipper and disentangling lights and ornaments form the trees. Troop 815's Scout Master Louis Garcia, Troop 213's Scout Master Rich Kelley, and Ass't Scout Master Chris Conner made the work go faster and seem fun at the same time. I think there was a third troop but don't have their number at this time.

Two truck-loads of mulch went to Red Hook Park where they will improve the fields.

We were fortunate to be able to get warmed up and have hot chocolates at the new coffee shop 'Ted and Honey' which bore up well with the noise.

Finally, Hollis Fitch and his able helper from Prospect Tree Service made it all possible.

Thanks to everyone for all your hard work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

sad news

Vincent 'Jimmy' Cincotta of the Jim and Andy fruit and vegetable market on Court Street died unexpectedly on Thursday. The wake will be held today and tomorrow (Sunday) from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Raccuglia, 323 Court Street at Sackett. His funeral is scheduled for Monday. We extend our condolences to his loved ones.

Friday, January 9, 2009

rally for Brooklyn: January 11

What you see above are before and after shots of a view from the Brooklyn Bridge. On Sunday, January 11, there will be a rally to stop Two Trees Development from building a high-rise tower that will destroy the historic views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. This event is of concern to all New Yorkers.

What: "Save the Brooklyn Bridge Rally"
When: Sunday, January 11, 2009 from 10.30 to 11.30 a.m.
Where: Prospect Street & Washington Street, the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge

From the talking points distributed by the rally's organizers:
Two Trees Management Company’s proposed Dock Street High-Rise Tower and the Impact on the Brooklyn Bridge: The Community Perspective

The DUMBO Neighborhood Association, Fulton Ferry Landing Association, Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association and the Brooklyn Heights Association are united in opposition to the proposed rezoning of the Dock Street development site to R8.

We are opposed to the project in its current form because:

The project is too tall. Community Board 2 unanimously opposed a similar high-rise building planned for this site in 2004 because it was out of scale in height and density for this location. The tower presently proposed is even taller! The highest portion of the proposed development is projected to be 212 feet high (187 feet plus 25 feet for mechanicals).

The Dock Street building, if built, will block out the views to and from the Brooklyn Bridge. The developer may say this is a different building than the previous proposal, but its potential impact on the Brooklyn Bridge is very much the same as it was in 2004. It would permanently diminish and detract from the grandeur of the Brooklyn Bridge and compromise the viewshed from the walkway.

The project is out of scale with its surroundings. The site is in a transition area and abuts two historic districts, Fulton Ferry Landing and DUMBO. The buildings in Fulton Ferry Landing are primarily low-rise 19th century rowhouses and warehouses which create a “bowl” around the Brooklyn Bridge. They gradually increase in height and density to the north and rise to the early 20th century former industrial buildings of DUMBO closer to the Manhattan Bridge. This proposed large-scale R8 project will abruptly interrupt this progression and is completely out of context.

• We strongly believe that no building higher than the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge should be permitted on Dock Street.
Yes, this is the same developer who is trying to get away with the penthouses at 194 Atlantic Avenue.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

literary evening in Cobble Hill: January 23

We have been asked to spread the word about the following event. As a fan of the Gossip Girl television show, I am pleased to do so. You know you love it.

The Parents and Teachers Association of PS 29
cordially invites you to

An Evening of Fiction by Cecily von Ziegesar,
Dominic Preziosi, and Julia Lichtblau

Discussion, Refreshments, Book Sales
All proceeds benefit the PS 29 PTA.

Friday, January 23, 2009
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
$7 INDIVIDUAL TICKET ($15 with onsite childcare for PS 29 students)

PS 29 Auditorium
425 Henry Street
Brooklyn , NY 11201
Between Baltic and Kane Streets

Cecily von Ziegesar is the author of the bestselling young adult series, "Gossip Girl," upon which the hit TV show is based. She will read from her debut adult novel, "Cum Laude," to be published by Hyperion in September, 2009. The novel, set on the campus of a college in Maine, explores the issues that confound us all during our first year in college.

Dominic Preziosi's fiction, articles and essays have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including Avery, The Brooklyn Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Storyglossia, and JMWW Journal's Best of 2007. He teaches at the Gotham Writers Workshop, has taught writing at CUNY, and been an editor at McGraw-Hill, Forbes, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College.

Julia Lichtblau's fiction has appeared in Pindeldyboz and Tertulia and been chosen as a finalist in writers contests sponsored by Moment Magazine, New York Stories, and Salt Flats Annual. She was a journalist for 15 years at Dow Jones and BusinessWeek in New York and Paris.

All three writers are PS 29 parents.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

House of Detention rally

Yesterday morning the community held a rally at the Brooklyn state courthouse on Adams Street in support of the Stop BHOD lawsuit. From the Stop BHOD blog's account/ of the day's events:
Yesterday was a big day for the Stop BHOD coalition. We held a successful rally outside the State Supreme Court building and received a favorable hearing in front of the judge inside. After more than two hours of arguments by our side and the City, and intense questioning of both sides from Judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the judge decided to maintain the cap on the number of prisoners allowed to stay at the jail until she renders a final decision next month. The judge committed to making that final ruling by February 11.
The rally was well-attended by neighborhood activists, elected officials, and 2009 candidates for local office.

CB6: waterfront news

On Monday, Greg O'Connell and I co-chaired a very well-attended meeting of the CB6 Economic and Waterfront Development Committee. The occasion for the meeting was to hear from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) about its plans for the Atlantic Basin, a key portion of the Red Hook waterfront, and to hear presentations by Tom Fox of New York Water Taxi and Carolina Salguero of PortSide New York. Phoenix Beverages (no website?) was also there to answer questions.

Currently, EDC expects to complete negotiating a lease by March 2009 for Phoenix to occupy Pier 11. There will also be two RFP's (requests for proposals) in February 2009: one for a vessel tie-up and one for a cultural vessel.

Those who follow waterfront news may recall that EDC had earlier issued RFP's for Piers 7 through 12, which the City expected to acquire from the Port Authority. Those plans were scuttled when the Port Authority granted American Stevedoring a ten-year lease extension for Piers 7 through 10.

At the meeting, I and others asked EDC not to rush into new commitments for Pier 11 until the committee and the community had a chance to be heard by the Port Authority regarding the possibility of releasing Pier 7 for alternative use. CB6 will reach out to the Port Authority to attend the committee's next meeting.

194 Atlantic: in the news

The New York Times published an article this past Sunday about the penthouses at 194 Atlantic Avenue. Here is the link.

Everything is on hold while the Department of Buildings waits for Two Trees, the developer, to reply to DOB's notice of intent to revoke the permit. Two Trees is supposed to have ten days to reply, but they have insisted on more time. Perhaps they are having more trouble than usual explaining this one away.