In the News Archives

February 3, 2006

Cool Idea: Making Bedford Ave. Car Free

There's a movement underway to tuen Bedord Avenue into a pedestrian mall. I love the idea!

Here's a link to a website with a petition:

Car Free Bedford

February 24, 2006

Police Crack Down On Subway Photography

Push for Help As a creative person who likes to take photos in the NYC subway system I was letdown to hear that the MTA is once again cracking down on subway photographers:

Police, MTA Officials Crack Down On Subway Photography

The vice president of the New York Press Photographers Association says police are routinely cracking down on amateur and professional photographers alike on city subways, even though it’s perfectly legal to take picture anywhere on the subway and commuter rail systems.

The previous excuse for the crackdown was concerns over terrorism, to which my thinking is that if a terrorist wants to do something nasty that a formal ban on photography won't stop them. It's also a bit of a lost cause as if they focused on taking a photo they could return to the same location several times until a police officer or MTA official wasn't in view, and afterall it only takes a second or two to take a picture anyway.

The subway should be treated like any other public space. Frankly a terrorist can target any space that has a large population, so while Grand Central Station is at risk, so is any major store at Christmas time.

If the MTA is serious about terrorism on the subway system they should work more on improving all of the exits on the subway system. The majority of stations that I see have exits that look like death traps in the making. In fact it's no even so much a terrorist issue as public safety one - if there was a fire at a subway station people might in fact get killed as everyone would rush to try and exit the station through the turnstiles.

Also if the MTA is going to crack down on anything, how about quality of life issues? I'm a regular at the Bowery Street stop for the J line and that stop needs quite a bit of love:
- The escalator breaks on a regular basis
- There are no chairs to sit on while waiting for a train
- I see rats on the actual platform on a regular basis

February 27, 2006

The City Reliquary in Williamsburg

The other day I spotted this nice story on the City Reliquary which is about to move:

Brooklyn's City Reliquary Showcases Big Apple Artifacts

You can see it in the window of the City Reliquary in Williamsburg. This is a new location for the storefront collection of oddities and relics from New York City history, which doubles as a center for civic information.

Founder Dave Herman has moved it from Grand and Havermeyer to a larger space on Metropolitan Avenue. It's made up of his own items, along with the collections of neighbors and friends, like a sandwich pick from the now closed Second Avenue Deli, and an entire binder full of Statue of Liberty postcards.

“New York City's history is out on the curb or buried in people's basements," says Herman.

Here is the official website of the museum:

The City Reliquary in Williamsburg

March 15, 2006

Last Remaining Williamsburg Book Publisher Might Leave

I was very depressed to spot an article in the New York Times on the last remaining book publisher in Williamsburg. It seems their lease is being priced up, and that may force them to leave the area:

The Good Life on South 11th Street

For more than a century, the book business flourished inside two brick warehouses on South 11th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a block from the East River. Since the late 19th century, when the six-story structures were built between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue, they have often been occupied by publishers and presses, both recognized and rarefied. In recent decades, artists and performers moved in, but now they, along with the last remaining book publisher, may have to leave soon.

In the fall of 2004, a real estate concern, DOV Land L.L.C., bought one of the warehouses, which includes 36 spaces in which people live or work. Residents said the new owner made it clear to some of them that it wanted them to move out and began eviction proceedings against others. About three dozen residents in 13 living spaces went on a rent strike, and have withheld their payments for about a year.

This is sad because it's the the book publisher and the artists who have made the value of the real estate go up in the first place. I'd call for more laws to protect the arts in Williamsburg, but I'm also surprised that real estate developers don't see the value that the arts bring to their value. One of the reasons I moved to Williamsburg was that there are artist spaces and galleries to explore. It made moving from Manhattan not seem like a step down.

Without the creative element Williamsburg might as well be any other spot in Brooklyn or Queens. If developers were smart they would incorporate the arts into their plans as a selling point, instead of working against them.

March 19, 2006

Construction Cranes Invade Williamsburg

Almost everywhere you stand in Williamsburg you can see the construction cranes invading the landscape. It's a graphic symbol of the land grab that's currently going on.

In fact recently I was reading in Urban Life how one of these cranes recently hit an adjacent building:

Yes, it finally happened, we've been worried about living 6 feet from the crane and the fact that it comes within inches of our building every time it swings. The crane tipped into our building this morning between 7:30-8 am. Between the 2nd and 3rd floors, you can see 2 indents on the outside wall of 143 North 7th that were left by the 2 counterweights of the lower part of the crane. It was a frightening experiencing on the inside.

There are of course less graphic signs of the changes that are happening in Williamsburg: I recently heard that the "11211 building" which is next door to the Kellog's Diner (by Union and Metropolitan) will be converting from creative office space into a luxury condo building.

It's odd because when I first moved to Williamsburg back in Nov. of 2004 my thinking was that I was on the fringe being on the other side of the BQE. But slowly I've watched the match of progress creep from Bedford to Havemeyer Street - and now the very north of Keap Street.

By the way the nice photo in the upper right is by Fabian who has taken some nice shots of Williamsburg. His blog is at:

March 25, 2006

The Future of Freedom Tower

I was very let down to see this on the NY1 website:

Spitzer, Appearing On NY1, Says He's Concerned About WTC Rebuilding Process

Spitzer, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, says he's concerned that the Freedom Tower planned for the World Trade Center site may wind up being a building with no tenants. On NY1's "Inside City Hall" Friday night, Spitzer gave his most extensive comments yet about the rebuilding effort in Lower Manhattan.

He said that if elected governor, he'd move quickly to resolve any unresolved issues about who builds what. But he said the Freedom Tower could end up dragging down the rest of the project.

"I certainly think there's a very serious question about the economic viability of the Freedom Tower," Spitzer said of the new site's centerpiece. "I think, given the situation with number 7 WTC, which is sitting there essentially vacant, the prospect that the Freedom Tower would be built and would sit there vacant as essentially a white elephant that would sap the cash available to build the other buildings, is something that is very problematic."

To be fair Spitzer is echoing a real concern that a new tall building will attract a terrorist attack, and I think America as a whole is smarting for the "Bring it on!" mindset due to Iraq. But I think we should keep the following in mind:

1. If the terrorists are going to attack NYC again they can always attack the Empire State building if we don;t build Freedom Tower.

2. If the terrorists attack again it doesn't mean that they will crash another aircraft into a tall building. In fact if you look at the attacks in London and Madrid you could say that mass transit is more at risk. It's hard to get into the mind of a terrorist, but if anything they will attack in a setting that you wouldn't expect them to attack.

3. It's going to take at least 5 to 10 years to build Freedom Tower, that means we won't have anything up in the sky until 2011 or even 2016. I have a feeling that by the next decade the world may look a bit different. For all we know we may even go back to worrying about the Russians at that point. Yes I think 9/11 changed everything, but if it has taught me anything it's that you can expect things to change even more.

4. How about setting an example? I think the federal government should take the lead and show NYC that it's doing a better job with homeland security by putting as many federal agencies into that building. I think the Bush administration should be called to take the lead by putting the Dept. of Homeland Security into Freedom Tower, and that Democrats should be asking the "tough on security" Republicans to do this. In business this is known as "eating your own dogfood" and it's not a bad idea.

5. NYC needs more space. If the economy of NYC is to grow we need more office space for the future. There will come a time within the next 10 years that our economy will boom again, and having office space is important to keeping jobs in NYC. Already the private housing boom has sent many businesses outside of Manhattan. In fact a good engine for the economy might be to use some of the space in Freedom Tower as an incubator space to encourage and grow new companies.

March 28, 2006

Britney Birth Sculpture puts Williamsburg on the Map!

I just realized that the Britney Birth Sculpture that I've been reading about all over the place will be on display in Williamsburg! This is great as it puts the limelight on Williamsburg and takes it away from Chelsea in terms of the public mindspace. It's hardly a Brooklyn arts movement, but it's a good sign for the art galleries in Williamsburg.

This is a sample of some of the press I've been seeing:

Britney Sculpture of Birth Causes Stir

Britney Spears will soon be giving birth again — in Brooklyn, as a sexy sculpture that has drawn thousands of hate e-mails. "This is a new take on pro-life. Pro-lifers normally promote bloody images of abortion. This is the image of birth," Daniel Edwards said of his work, to be unveiled at a Brooklyn gallery in April, months after Edwards' sculpture of Ted Williams severed head stirred up an artistic storm. The life-size pop princess is naked and pregnant, crouching face-down on a bare-toothed bear rug as the baby's head appears on the opposite end.

I'm not crazy about the sculpture itself, but I think it's great that the artist has managed to ape the Koons celeb angle, playing to politics, and getting press attention - which is it's own artform.

The sculpture will be displayed at:

Capla Kesting Fine Art
121 Roebling Street
Brooklyn New York 11211
Gallery hours are 1:00- 6:00 pm Thursday - Sunday

April 12, 2006

The "Williamsburg" of Germany

Just spotted this artocle in the New York Times on a Williamsburg gallery owner who is opening annother gallery not in Manhattan but in Leipzig, Germany:

Leipzig, Mon Amour. You're Cheaper Than Chelsea

No matter the day job, in New York an artist's occupation often is staying one step ahead of the real estate market. This was true for Joe Amrhein, an artist who, in 1994, found himself dissatisfied with "just going to openings and parties and sending out slides." He decided to open a gallery in what was then an inexpensive neighborhood, North Williamsburg. Today his enterprise, Pierogi, is the area's unofficial cultural hub, where artists, curators and collectors regularly drop in. "He embodies the D.I.Y. neighborhood spirit," said Becky Smith, a contemporary-art dealer who moved her gallery to Chelsea from Williamsburg.

If so, the neighborhood, or at least Mr. Amrhein's business, is definitely on the move. He's not adding an outpost in Chelsea, as eight of his neighbors have done, or moving there outright, as Ms. Smith did. Instead, in what may be the boldest coup yet for the expanding hipster nation, next month he's adding a branch in Leipzig, Germany. The location is the Spinnerei, a former cotton-spinning mill that is now home to artists' studios and galleries associated with the Leipzig school of painting. Speaking by phone from the new premises, Mr. Amrhein called the city "the Williamsburg of Germany."

It's funny because this is the second time I've heard about how cheap real estate is in Germany. This all reminds me of that film Liquid Sky, where the girlfriend of the main character keeps telling "We're going to go to Berlin baby!"

April 25, 2006

Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum passes away

Williamsburg Brooklyn is in the nation news today as Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum who led the Satmar Hasidic sect for almost 30 years passed away yesterday:

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leader Teitelbaum dies
'Gentle soul who carried himself with poise and distinction'

Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, the spiritual leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with tens of thousands of followers worldwide, died Monday. He was 91. Teitelbaum -- the rebbe, or grand rabbi, of the Satmar Hassidim -- died at Mount Sinai Hospital, said community leader Isaac Abraham. He entered the hospital March 30 for treatment of spinal cancer and other ailments.

The Satmars have 120,000 followers worldwide, according to sociologist Samuel Heilman, with large congregations in Brooklyn and the village of Kiryas Joel, 45 miles northwest of New York City. Thousands of mourners crammed into Teitelbaum's Brooklyn synagogue Monday night waiting for his body to be brought into the main sanctuary. Thousands more congregated outside, and police sent hundreds of officers to control the crowds.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Teitelbaum "a gentle soul who carried himself with poise and distinction. From the fires of the Holocaust, the grand rebbe and his uncle performed a miracle here in New York by rebuilding their community to match its glory days in Europe," Bloomberg said in a statement.

Rabbi Teitelbaum came to US fleeing the Nazi holocaust in 1946, where he lost his wife and children. A short but sweet bio of his life can be found on Wikipedia:

Moshe Teitelbaum entry on Wikipedia

May 2, 2006

Clovis Press Closes Shop

Clovis Press Closes Shop Another bit of Williamsburg Brooklyn died on Sunday. While out for an enjoyable stroll on Bedford Anenue, I came across a "going out of business sale" for the Clovis Press Bookstore. This wonderful yet small and charming bookstore was like a local landmark for me on Bedford. You would never see a bookstore like this in Manhattan, and the shop is one of things that makes Williamsburg a special place to live (and one of the many reasons I moved). From what I understand their rent went up, and they had to close shop. Across the street a huge condo construction project is in the works too.

The above collage was created in Photoshop from two photos I took with my Treo Cellphone camera on Sunday April 30th, 2006

May 5, 2006

Motorcyclist thrown off Williamsburg Bridge

I was walking home over the bridge tonight (around 10:30pm) when I noticed that there were helicopters searching the water. As I approached the center of the walkway I was informed by people standing by that there had ben an accident that caused a man to be thrown over the bridge. I also heard the unconfirmed rumor that the motorcycle was going the wrongway (but hard to tell if that was the case). As I walked further sadly I saw the motorcycle off to the side rail of the bridge in an upside down position, with cars parked around it (and plenty of police at hand). It's the type of accident that you can't even imagine.

Tonight I'm not seeing anything on the local news channels, but a Google news search turned up this news:

Motorcyclist thrown off Williamsburg Bridge
The body has been recovered

(Williamsburg- WABC, May 5, 2006) - Police tell Eyewitness News that a motorcycle was rear ended on the Williamsburg Bridge and the cyclist was thrown from his bike into the water. Police divers searched the water for the cyclist. And just before 11 p.m., they pulled a body from the water. As of late Thursday night, the Manhattan bound inner lane on the bridge was closed.

My heart goes out to tht poor motorcycle driver and everyone else involved in the accident, and I have to say that my hat goes off to the police who were on the scene searching in the dark waters by the bridge.

May 11, 2006

Williamsburg 1 Britney 0

Just when you thought that this story had used up it's full 15 minutes of fame:

Spears Dumbfounded with Sculpture of Her Giving Birth

BROOKLYN, N.Y.- "In her first public comments about a supposedly pro-life sculpture of her naked and bearing a child, pop star Britney Spears says she is shocked by it. Normally the one doing the shocking at her concerts and in the headlines, the sculpture of Spears debuted at a local New York art gallery in late March", reported A nude Britney Spears on a bearskin rug while giving birth to her firstborn marks a 'first' for Pro-Life. Pop-star Britney Spears is the "ideal" model for Pro-Life and the subject of a dedication at Capla Kesting Fine Art in Brooklyn's Williamsburg gallery district, in what is proclaimed the first Pro-Life monument to birth, in April. "I think it's the most hysterical thing I've ever seen in my life," she told WENN. "My assistant and I were totally dumbfounded when we saw it. We couldn't believe somebody actually did this."

May 18, 2006

The Great Brooklyn Hipster Civil War of 2006

I guess this should put an end to the stereotype that all Brooklyn hipsters are alike:

Brooklyn Civil War: It’s North vs. South, Ratner Against Ledger

John Flansburgh, of the band They Might Be Giants, was on the phone. "I have mixed emotions about 'fabulous' Williamsburg," said Mr. Flansburgh, 47, who has lived in that neighborhood for over 20 years, watching as bars and boutiques began to choke Bedford Ave. "It’s quickly becoming a life-size replica of St. Marks Place, and honestly, I’ve never wanted to live on St. Marks Place."

I loved They Might Be Giants back in the 90s, but someone needs to tell Flansburgh that the music types are now living out by Bushwick. And a "St. Marks Place" slag! How low can ya go? But the article goes on:

None of the elite streaming out of Manhattan and over the pretty bridge to the mirror world on the other side want to live on St. Marks Place. But what do they want exactly? Brooklyn isn't a united front. The North Brooklyn of do-it-yourself fashion and vinyl siding (Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick) just feels separate from brownstone South Brooklyn (from Fort Greene to Park Slope). South Brooklyn is rich and pretty; North is rougher-edged and moody. "I’m firmly committed to the notion that there’s an unbridgeable divide," said a 27-year-old Bushwick resident, who explained that he even feels this way about "literary-minded, quasi-hipsters" like himself who live in the nether regions of the Hills and Slopes and Heights. "I’ve always felt deeply uncomfortable in Park Slope. And for everything that’s hateable about Williamsburg, I have this feeling that they’re my people."

South Brooklyn is more rich and pretty than North Brooklyn?! That's like saying Coke and Pepsi are very different. But then the article has this other nasty little jem:

While the North sees the South as moneyed squares, the South frowns on the North as poseurs—intellectual lightweights. "In Williamsburg, everyone's kind of illiterate. Relatively," said Christian, a 29-year-old Williamsburg transplant who moved there from Park Slope and regrets it. "One time I was on the L train, and the girl sitting next to me was reading Women in Love, and I said, 'That's good—have you read The Rainbow?' And she said, 'No, this is my first Lawrence—is it all so deep and philosophical?’ And I was like, 'Yeah … it's literature.'" On another occasion, he said, "I met a very bright and literate girl in Williamsburg, and we immediately started having a conversation about James Wood. It turned out she lived in Park Slope."

But the article goes on to make the point that there's more to being a hipster than being well read:

"No question about it—it's hipper," said Michael Brooks, 30, over the phone, of North Brooklyn. He's a project manager with the Developers Group, the company that's bringing high-rise condos to the McCarren Park area. "If there's a hipness meter, Carroll Gardens is not on the same end of the scale as Williamsburg," he continued. "There's a lifestyle in Williamsburg. It's become a place that people want to identify themselves with, being in a place that feels like everything is happening. It's just a moment—there's a moment in Williamsburg right now."

...of course having a real estate developer tout your hipster qualities may be a sort of proof that you aren't that hip.

May 21, 2006

Clovis Press: An Inside Story

On my Flickr page someone posted some interesting inside information on the closing of Clovis Press. I hate to admit it, but maybe this isn't yet another case of landlord greed in Williamsburg. In fact it seems some of the folks who worked there tried to buy the store out before it went down. Here's a link from a related blog entry:

The end of Clovis Press

I dunno what I felt. Slight shock. Disappointment. But mainly anger. Anger at the owner, NOT anger at the landlord. When Aaron, Angela and I worked at Clovis Books, things were great. Great for the store, which we ran well. Great for us, because we ran a store we loved (even though we didn't make any money). Great for the owner, who watched her profits increase, and got three managers for the price of three peons.

May 23, 2006

Wooden Water Tanks from Williamsburg

I had no idea that the factory that made most of the wooden water tanks in NYC has their factory right here in Williamsburg:

Brooklyn Week: Rosenwach Wood Water Tanks Help Shape The City Skyline

They're a signature part of the city skyline, and even in the 21st century, wood water tanks still have a unique and necessary job here, providing water to millions of homes. The Rosenwach family has put its stamp on the city since the late 19th century.

“The tank is an icon of the city. You can almost consider it to be a flag,” says Rosenwach Tank President Andy Rosenwach. “It has so much local color in a city of glass and stone.” And it's locally made. The Rosenwach Tank Company's factory is in Williamsburg.

June 7, 2006

Owners, Homeless Man Charged In Greenpoint Warehouse Fire

Just read this on NY1:

The owner of the Brooklyn warehouse that went up in flames last month was served with criminal environmental charges Wednesday, the same day a homeless man was charged with arson in the case. The Brooklyn DA has charged Joshua Guttman and his son, Jack Guttman, with 434 counts of failure to maintain privately owned waterfront property where the Greenpoint Warehouses stood.

That's one count for each day they allegedly failed to make repairs to deteriorating piers and bulkheads after being ordered by the city to do so. They face up to $5,000 in fines for each misdemeanor, or more than $2 million total. The Guttman’s refused to comment on the charges.

June 9, 2006

A Lost Son of Williamsburg Returns Home

I just read this amazing story in the Daily News of World War II Air Force Captain who went missing, and whose body has just been recovered:

Flier coming home

At the age of 87, Frank Cunningham of Queens figured he'd go to his grave never knowing exactly what happened to his brother George during World War II. The only solid facts he knew were these: Air Force Cpl. George Cunningham was a radioman on a C-47A cargo plane that vanished 61 years ago on a flight over New Guinea.

"After a while, you think they'll never find him," Frank Cunningham told the Daily News yesterday. Then two weeks ago, a call came out of the blue from an official at the Defense Department who said his brother's remains had been recovered and positively identified.

And some backstory on George Cunningham:

George Cunningham was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the fourth of six children. When their mother, Alice, died from pneumonia in 1936, he dropped out of school and got a job as a truck driver to help support his family.

"I went in the Army in March of 1942, and he went in the Air Force in August 1942," said Frank Cunningham, who was a awarded a Purple Heart and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He said George, who hadn't married, was the only one of his four brothers who didn't come home from the battlefield.

August 10, 2006

CNN Discovers Brooklyn

According to CNN Brooklyn is now tourist worthy:

Yo! Brooklyn is the place to be

"Ten years ago, tourists visiting Brooklyn saw it as nothing more than a side trip from Manhattan. Maybe they walked across the Brooklyn Bridge or took the subway out to Coney Island, but few had dinner here or stayed the night. These days, however, Brooklyn is a destination unto itself."

...of course they include Williamsburg in their coverage:

"WILLIAMSBURG: The L train to Bedford Avenue lands you in the epicenter of hipster Williamsburg, with cafes, galleries and boutiques. At the Bagel Store (247 Bedford, 718-218-7244), have a classic bagel, cream cheese and lox, or a uniquely amazing French toast bagel with syrup. Nearby, Pema New York (225 Bedford, 718-388-8814) sells ecologically correct clothes, woven in Nepal from hemp, $25-55. And Real Form Girdle (218 Bedford) houses not an undergarment factory but a mini-mall with a bookstore, Internet cafe and the Hello Beautiful hair salon. For nightlife, Galapagos has bands, DJs and other performers _ 70 N. Sixth St., 718-782-5188 -- while Monkey Town shows videos while serving dinner -- 58 N. Third St., 718-384-1369. Also in Williamsburg: Peter Luger Steak House, the granddaddy of Brooklyn fine dining, 178 Broadway, 718-387-7400."

August 26, 2006

Justice for Looting of the Hungarian Gold Train

Some local folks at the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg just won a very worthwhile victory:

Payback Time For Looting of ‘Hungarian Gold Train’

"When the United States Army interceded a train carrying loot stolen from Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II, the liberators became villains. That was because $200 million of personal property carried by Nazis in the “Hungarian Gold Train” was never returned to the rightful owners. Now following a class action lawsuit, the U.S. government has agreed to a $25 million settlement, distributing funds to the Hungarian Holocaust victims."

August 27, 2006

Geek is Chic Again...

The latest issue of Time Out NY has a cover story on "New Dork City". It's nice to see that nerds are making a come back in a post era (it took long enough):

"Consider, as examples, the following: a reading series in which people share junior-high-school journal entries with kindred spirits; pitched lightsaber battles between organized teams; a weekend outing during which participants take over the Staten Island Ferry dressed as pirates. This is avant-nerdism: a new sensibility, an updated hip-to-be-square attitude—even a new rumbling of the collective consciousness.

The movement knowingly embraces all things geeky in a marriage of the cutting edge and the socially retarded. Fashionwise, its manifestations have been noticeable for years on the streets of Nolita, Williamsburg and the Lower East Side. “People are nerdier-looking than they were in the past,” says Jen Miller, a.k.a. Saint Reverend Jen, the elfin host of the Anti-Slam open-mike night at Cake Shop on Ludlow Street. “Everyone’s dressing like they’re on my seventh-grade cross-country team.” She herself sports pointy, Spock-like ears as “a fashion accessory".”

...the article also covers the Williamsburg Spelling Bee!

Geek is Chic: New Dork City

September 14, 2006

No Berlin isn't the "Next" Williamsburg...

I just spotted yet another "Berlin is the the next Williamsburg" article (yawn):

A New Williamsburg!

"Robert Elmes spent the month of August in Berlin. He borrowed a spare bike from a friend, one of those antique-looking, function-over-form contraptions that many Berliners ride, so he could cruise the bezirken, the boroughs. Mr. Elmes owns Galapagos, the long-standing performance-art space in Williamsburg, and he is looking either to open an outpost in Berlin, or to entirely relocate the operation to the German capital."

I think people who write this stuff just don't understand what makes Williamsburg enjoyable. Firstly Williamsburg is in the shadow of Manhattan, so it has a slightly off the beaten path quality to it which is it's charm. Berlin on the other hand is the capital city of Germany, which hardly makes it off the beaten path.

I think if there is a "next Williamsburg" it would have to be Bushwick, but noooo that's too far out for a New York Observer reporter to travel to from Manhattan....

October 13, 2006

City to Sell Firehouse

With the expanding poplation of Williamsburg isn't this a step in the wrong direction?

City's hot to sell off closed firehouses - for millions

"Shuttered firehouses in some of the city's hottest neighborhoods could soon end up on the auction block with multimillion-dollar price tags. Three years after Mayor Bloomberg outraged some neighborhood leaders by closing several firehouses to save money, City Hall is quietly preparing to sell several of the buildings, officials said yesterday.

Engine 212 in Williamsburg, Engine 204 in Cobble Hill and Engine 36 in Harlem have been declared "surplus property" by the Fire Department and will be unloaded by City Hall - even though activists are still clamoring to have the buildings reopened, city officials said. Real estate agents said the firehouses could fetch at least $2 million each from developers seeking to build luxury homes."

November 6, 2006

Buildings Popping Up like Mushrooms

I half wonder is this great boom is about to go bust, on my walk to the L train at Lorimer (on Keap Steet) I counted about three major sites where buildings have been torn down but nothing seems to be going back up:

City Sees Growth; Residents Call It Out of Control

"The city’s goals were ambitious. Greenpoint-Williamsburg was meant to be a model of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s vision for former industrial zones, an example of empathetic urban planning. In exchange for letting developers build residential towers on the waterfront, where factories had stood for decades, the city created a plan that it said would add residential growth and preserve the character of the neighborhood inland. At the same time, the plan was to provide thousands of apartments for low- and middle-income families, acres of green space, and protection for residents and businesses being displaced by the growth.

City officials say that their plan is right on schedule, especially by the waterfront, where construction has started on projects that will produce 460 below-market apartments, plus an initial few acres of parkland. But among many residents and community leaders, there is a nagging sense that the government has not moved fast enough to keep pace with developers.

In September, the city’s Department of Buildings received 337 complaints about construction in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, more than twice the filings from the community board of another fast-growing area nearby. In the heart of the rezoned area, near McCarren Park, luxury towers climb skyward, yet only nine new apartments of low- and middle-income housing are being built, far below the city’s original estimates."

Williamsburg: Buildings Popping Up like Mushrooms

December 18, 2006

Kellog's Diner Stabbing

This is pretty disturbing, I always feel safe by that diner because their's a police station right under in the subway station (I guess that assumption is incorrect):

Off-Duty Police Officer Stabbed At Brooklyn Diner

"An off-duty police officer was stabbed at a Brooklyn diner early this morning. The officer was with family members at the Kellog's Diner on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg around 4:30 a.m. when he got into an argument with a group at another table that turned violent.

"It was just a verbal argument or whatever all because the guy bumped another guy. The off-duty cop told him, 'hey listen, I'm on the job,' and then he got stabbed. That was it," said a witness.

The officer was stabbed once in the chest. He was taken to Woodhull Hospital, where he is listed in serious condition. Police are looking for several suspects who took off in a Black Infiniti. "

January 18, 2007

Spitzer Off to a Good Start

I was very pleased to read the below story about our new Govenor, I didn't even know about the legislation before this story was reported:

Spitzer Shelves New Rent Regulations

"Governor Eliot Spitzer curbed a new law about rent regulations that was approved in the final days of the Pataki administration. The proposal would have let owners of rent-regulated buildings double security deposits and make tenants pay for the cost of removing lead. The plan could have become law without legislative approval, but Spitzer stopped the process. A source close to Spitzer says the plan was scrapped because his administration was not involved in the changes."

January 23, 2007

Pfizer Shutting Down Williamsburg Plant

Pfizer Shutting Down Williamsburg Plant

This is some sad news for those who work at Pfizer in Williamsburg:

Pfizer Shutting Down Williamsburg Plant

"The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Monday that it's closing its Williamsburg plant, in a cost-cutting measure. The Brooklyn plant, which employs 600 workers, is among five plants being closed as the company cuts 10,000 jobs worldwide. The job cuts are in addition to 2,000 layoffs announced last month."

...the company got it's start in Williamsburg too, according to Wikipedia:

"Pfizer is named after German-American cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart who launched their chemicals business Charles Pfizer and Company from a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1849. Here, they produced an antiparasitic called santonin. This was an immediate success, although it was the production of citric acid that really kick-started Pfizer's growth in the 1880s."

And Pfizer stayed in Williamsburg during the hard times too...

January 31, 2007

Mystery on Marcy


Since the end of last year I've noticed this flyer by the J train strop at Marcy and Broadway. The flyer got my attention because it reminded me of those flyers that I would see after 9/11. It's also sort of haunting that it's still up several months later, so i did a Google on "Daniel Funchess" and couldn't find any further information on this flyer.

February 2, 2007

Mission = Williamsburg?

Mission = Williamsburg?

There's a great blog entry at which is designed to help folks who are moving from San Francisco to NYC to pick the right neighborhood:

San Francisco guide to New York neighborhoods

"So you’re moving from San Francisco to New York. You liked your cute neighborhood and tasty burritos and you hope to replicate this existence somewhere in the Big Apple. Well kiddo, that’s impossible. Everyone knows there is no such thing as a good burrito in NYC.

This was the fate of a friend of mine a few weeks back. When she described her desires to a broker, this broker responded with, “you’ll probably like Williamsburg.” So this friend gets in the broker’s car and heads over a bridge to another part of town. Her reaction, later over email: “I expected it to be cute. Williamsburg is not cute.” Yes, Williamsburg is definitely not cute. It’s sort of like the Mission, and I’m sure almost anyone from SF would agree that the Mission is also not cute."

Found via

February 8, 2007

Cleaning Up the Greenpoint Oil Spill

I don't know if this means that we'll get to ever see things cleaned up, but it's very much a step in the right direction:

Cuomo to Sue Exxon Over Pollution in Brooklyn

"Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo moved today to sue ExxonMobil and four other companies over millions of gallons of oil lying under the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn and to repair environmental damage inflicted on the nearby Newtown Creek.

The decision marks a sharp turning point in the state’s handling of the half-century-old spill, which in recent years has sparked lawsuits by Greenpoint residents, local elected officials and environmental groups. A 1990 agreement between ExxonMobil and state environmental officials had required the company to recover the spilled oil, but specified no deadline, levied no penalties for the pollution and required no remediation of either the creek or the polluted soil under Greenpoint.

At least 8 million gallons of oil and petroleum byproducts remain under the neighborhood, and soil tests have revealed toxic vapors emanating from the spill into the homes and businesses above. Mr. Cuomo’s action will seek a far faster pace for recovering the oil, extensive scientific testing to determine damage to the soil and groundwater under Greenpoint, and significant fines under federal environmental laws."

April 3, 2007

Roebling Street Sludge


I was watching News 12 Brooklyn (don't asky why!) and I came across this disturbing story:

Mystery, fear surround Roebling Street sludge

"It’s toxic, it smells and it keeps oozing from the ground. Oily sludge coming out of the ground at a Williamsburg construction site has some residents concerned about pollution in the area. The site is the future home of a condominium complex and current home of what some residents have dubbed the “Roebling Street Oil Field.”

Resident Robert Guskind said the oil continues to ooze out of the ground, meaning there must be an active source of the contamination. Geologists are now setting up test wells to find the source of the contamination. Residents believe the smelly sludge is made up of oil and gasoline from a nearby site.

“The other concern is that testing hasn’t been done, so no one is really sure what’s down there,” Guskind said. “When contractors start to excavate, oil could come through the ground.” The condo developer, Isaac Schwartz, said it will take several weeks to determine the source of the contamination."

...I'd link directly to the News 12 website, but non-subscribers can view it! This is yet another good example of "how old media doesn't get it".

September 26, 2007

The Sugar Factory is Safe


I was quite happy to read this, the only down note is that they won't save more of the historic architecture on the waterfront:

Domino Sugar Factory Granted Landmark Status

"It was a sweet victory for preservationists, as the Domino Sugar Refinery Building received landmark status Tuesday – saving it from the wrecking ball. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to bestow landmark status on the three connected buildings, which in their prime produced three-million pounds of sugar a day.

The new status will most likely send the site's owner, Community Preservation Corporation Resources, back to the drawing board on their plans to develop the area. The famous Domino sign would also be integrated into the development. The firm has said it does not see the need to save other buildings on the site."

Eleven 2 Eleven Boutique: Being Forced Out

I was very depressed to hear that one of my favorite local shops Eleven 2 Eleven Boutique is being forced to close due to a greedy landlord. The shop is located at 349 Union Avenue, and to the north there's a huge building boom going on which is pushing up the greed factor.

Earlier this year Stay Gold gallery which was only a few blocks away was forced to close for similar reasons. What's sad to me is that uncorporate shops like Eleven 2 Eleven are why I love Williamsburg, and if anything making sure shops like this stick around will improve the value of the real estate by making Williamsburg an enjoyable place to live. It's a good example of short sided thinking.

Show your support for the locals and visit the shop by the weekend!

December 8, 2007

Imagine Peace

Imagine Peace

War is over, if you want it...

January 18, 2008

Barack Supporters to Storm Bedford

Barack Obama

Rachel Lauter from Greenpoint/Williamsburg for Obama just clued me into this event for Sunday:

What: Visibility for Obama!
When: Sunday, January 20th from 2- 5 pm
Where: Meet us at the Bedford L Train Platform (it's supposed to be very cold outside...). Look for conspicuous Obama supporters.

October 13, 2008

Exchanging Arms with Amnesty

Exchanging Arms with Amnesty

Flyer in the window at the barbershop on my block (331 Keap Street) for a guns exchange program. Photographed October 12th, 2008 with my iPhone.

Street Fashion Statement '08

Street Fashion Statement '08

An unofficial Barack Obama t-shirt on sale in front of a store on Broadway near Marcy. Photographed on October 12, 2008.

October 20, 2008

Diana Reyna Opposes Term Limits

Diana Reyna Opposes Term Limits

While nobody is perfect it's hard to argue that Mayor Bloomberg hasn't been a net positive to New York City. However I feel strongly that it's a bad idea to change term limits with a vote of the city council. This is the sort of issue that's so big that it needs to be voted on directly by the public if they feel that term limits are a bad idea.

Here in Williamsburg our council member opposes term limits and this is my email to Diana Reyna, District 34 - Council Member - Democrat:

Dear Council Member Reyna,

I strongly urge you change your position on term limits. Even if he's a good mayor, what Michael Bloomberg is proposing is not in the best long term interests of New York City. This city has a well known history of corruption dating back to the 1800s and while terms limits alone won't solve this problem it's a step in the right direction. It's not like this city isn't a lacking for a large pool of talented people that can be drawn upon to serve in government. Even if you disagree with me I'd ask that you not vote on the issue behind closed doors and allow the public to directly vote on this issue in a referendum.


Michael Pinto

I'd urge everyone who lives in New York City to write your representative on this issue.

November 4, 2008

The Williamsburg Nerd Endorses Barack Obama (of course!)

Vote Obama

This is the sticker that I wore during the New York primary on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008. I was upset that Barack lost in New York, but not surprised. Although on the bright side he did better in Brooklyn than most other places so I'm glad I was a part of that. While I had fun handing out flyers and the like, the highlight of that day was being able to go and vote for Obama in an actual voting booth. This was a big deal to me as the 2004 race was finished well before the NY primary when I was involved in the Wes Clark campaign - and of course the years 2000 and 1996 were non-events.

I'm looking ahead to returning to the voting booth on today and hoping for the best. By the way please be extra kind to those workers at the polls - they don't get paid much and for the most part they show up year after year out of love. They'll have their hands full on Tuesday so some extra kindness will go a long way...

I've Been Waiting for This Day...

Voting Starts in Brooklyn, USA

Voting at PS 19 at 325 South 3rd Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the 2008 Presidential election. This shows the line in the hallway to get into the voting area. By the way the clock in this photo hadn't been reset it was in fact 6:05 am.

Voting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

This is the entrance to the voting area where workers rather quickly pointed people in the right direction.

Voting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Voting begins: Things look like they're off to a slow start here, but at the entrance folks are starting to line up.

Voting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Election poll workers look up my name from the previous election.

I've Been Waiting for This Day...

The first time I watched Barack Obama speak was his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention — and I was blown away. I read his books and in 2007 went to the first meetups. And then came Iowa which surprised me in a refreshing away which was followed by a very long primary season. Then came the conventions, debates and at long last today!

March 17, 2009

What type of jerk steals somebody's dog?

What type of jerk steals somebody's dog? Part I

For about a week now I've been seeing these flyers all around my neighborhood on every corner. On one sign (which I didn't take a picture of) there was another flyer asking about a person who may have been seen with Milo the missing Yorkie (a guy with a tattoo on his neck dressed up as a UPS man or something like that). What angers me is that somebody would ever steal a dog — first you can tell that Milo means a great deal to his family, and next there are so many dogs waiting for adoption in shelters that it's criminal to not help those poor creatures if you can.

In this follow up flyer below you can see how distressed Milo's family is...

According to this flyer Milo was last spotted around Rodney and South 5th, if anybody has any clues please call 917.224.0088.

Continue reading "What type of jerk steals somebody's dog?" »

July 4, 2009

Diana Reyna Isn't Working For You


Well the good news is that Diana Reyna has broken free of the Vito Lopez machine but the bad news is that just means that she's an independent hack who isn't doing anything of value for Williamsburg. The main problem with Council Member Reyna is that she voted the end term limits for both the mayor and herself — that was really a decision that should have been given directly to the voters to New York City.

Continue reading "Diana Reyna Isn't Working For You" »

Maritza Davila: She's the Choice of the Machine (Which is Why You Shouldn't Vote for Her)


The first time I ever heard of Maritza Davila running for city council was when I got the above letter from New York State assemblyman Vito J. Lopez. This was a somewhat unusual roll out for a candidate which quickly left a bad taste in mouth. So of course I did some research to get the inside scoop: Lopez was backing Davila (who was part of his staff) for the seat because he had some kind of falling out with current councilwoman Diana Reyna (who also use to work on his staff).

Continue reading "Maritza Davila: She's the Choice of the Machine (Which is Why You Shouldn't Vote for Her)" »

Gerry Esposito: An Endorsement for City Council

The other candidates running aren't bad apples, but what's badly needed in the city council race for Williamsburg is good old fashioned change — and that's why the Williamsburg Nerd is endorsing Gerry Esposito for the seat.

Continue reading "Gerry Esposito: An Endorsement for City Council" »

September 15, 2009

NYC Primaries in Williamsburg

NYC Primaries in Williamsburg

This election day was very different than the last time I voted for the Presidential race in 2008. Up for grabs is the local city seat and while voting was light the get out of the vote effort from the candidates was huge (much more intense than the Democratic primaries for President by the way). Seen here is a campaign worker for Diana Reyna who holds the seat, Maritza Davila who is a challenger.

Continue reading "NYC Primaries in Williamsburg" »

November 1, 2009

Green Depot: A Bit of Green on the Bowery

Greendepot, 222 Bowery NY NY 10012

Recentluy I had a chance to stop inside of Greendepot which is located at 222 Bowery in Manhattan and had a great time looking around the shop:

Continue reading "Green Depot: A Bit of Green on the Bowery" »

November 15, 2009

An Illustration of the Recession in Williamsburg

Dory's Hair Salon on Keap Street

For ages on my block here's been an old school barbershop next to my building on Keap Street. The clientele is mostly hispanic males from the local hood, I could tell this because once when I poked my head inside they didn't speak a word of English. Since Keap Street is off of Broadway your business has to be a bit of an institution to survive over time and the barbershop was a good example of this — every time I looked there was always someone getting their hair cut in the shop. And then the recession struck and that everything changed.

Continue reading "An Illustration of the Recession in Williamsburg" »

November 24, 2009

The Williamsburg Nerd is on Hiatus


Above: The old movie theater that was at Rodney and Broadway in 2006 — sadly this palace was torn down during the real estate boom that followed, however in the immediate recession that followed no new building went up and is now an empty lot.

This was the first blog that I ever started — and in 2006 both blogging and Williamsburg were new to me. After living in Manhattan for ten years I moved to the Burg in November of 2004 into a new world. Knowing that you should write about your passion I picked my new hood and combined it with my old interests. Some 200+ entries however this trip has come to an end.

In my hearts-of-hearts I'll always be The Williamsburg Nerd, but for now I want to refocus my creative efforts. At some point in the future I'll reinvent this websitebut for now if you want to find me the best places to look are: Where I do most of my nerd blogging. My Twitter account where I often mention what I'm doing in Williamsburg.

I'd like to thank all of the folks who supported me over the years: My friends on Flickr who encouraged me to document what I saw, the gallery owners who didn't mind me taking photos of their exhibits and the podcast Live from the WB which is now faded into history (but inspired me a great a deal).

About In the News

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Williamsburg Nerd in the In the News category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Food is the previous category.

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