Saturday, May 31, 2008

Relay for Life in Sunset Park is 15 Days Away

Whether you've been affected by cancer directly or indirectly, this is a great event for the community and for the participants.

There still time to sign up a team, and plenty of time to sponsor a team or participant. June 14th is the Relay, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The actual relay will be at PS 24, on the corner of 38th Street and 4th Avenue.

The event contact for Sunset Park is Jen Silvester. Contact her at: 718-237-7851 x9134 or

The day begins at 2 PM with registration, and it continues
with a 3pm Opening Ceremony/Survivor Lap; 4pm - 5pm - Survivor Reception; 8pm - Luminaria Ceremony. The Luminaria Ceremony is a moving part of the event during which candles are lit in memory or in honor of loved ones.

Go to the Relay for Life of Sunset Park website for more information.

Add-On to the Open Studio Tour this Weekend

Maybe the building has entrances on both sides, but a lot of the artists are listing the address for the Open Studio Tour for today and tomorrow as 253 36th Street. It's still the 3rd floor, and it's still from 11 AM - 6 PM Saturday and Sunday. Here are a couple of links to artists' pages:

Steph Costello

Andrea Goldsmith

Friday, May 30, 2008

Open Studios in Sunset Park: Tonight and this Weekend

According to brooklynpotter on (and a follow-up call to the NARS office), there will be some art to see this weekend on 35th Street. Over 60 artists will be sharing their work.

Tonight (Friday) there will be an opening reception from 6PM-9PM, and Saturday and Sunday the studios will be open from 11AM-6PM.

Stop by the NARS Foundation site's 1st Grand Art Studio Opening at 88 35th Street, 3rd Floor to check it out. It's between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Here's the information posted by brooklynpotter:

Since NARS Foundation was established in September 2006, it's taken a while to announce to the public the incredible artists we have working in our studios. To build our own community of artists, I believe that NARS needs your support and cooperation to create and accomplish future goals. Currently, NARS has 77studios in 4 sections with 103 artists. NARS Foundation is now ready to help you exhibit your work, see the work of your fellow artists and meet each other.

Our 1st Grand Art Studio Opening is in Sunset Park where 3 of our 4 artist studios are located. 61artists from 61 units with 4 guests artists each will be there. Plus, four musicians will perform original composition of their art piece. We're located in southwest Brooklyn where a new artist community is growing.

Please join us and find unexplored regions of powerful, energetic art.

Junho Lee
Founding Director
NARS Foundation
88 35th Street 3FL
Brooklyn, NY 11232
NARS Phone: 718-768-2765
Cell: 718-715-3044

Occasional Playground Option at PS 169

The Sunset Park Playground becomes all but hedonistic after 3 PM; it's not very toddler-friendly with the "big kids" tearing around and getting out their Springtime energy. However, another option is available for a safer play time. Yesterday, while doing errands around the neighborhood, I happened to notice that the gate to the PS 169 mini-playground was open and empty. I remembered that another local parent had shared some information earlier in the season, so we went in and had a grand old time.

At one point, some pint-sized skateboarders came in with their dog. Apparently, they were also avoiding the bigger kids while perfecting their "Casper" moves and slides. I got the distinct feeling that if I hadn't been there, the doggie remains would have remained. Instead, they took the dog out to the grassy area of the park across the street to do her business.

Here's the scoop: if the gate is open, small children with their parents/caregivers are welcome to use the playground. Part of the reason is to avoid vandalism and graffiti (and doggie poo). I suppose they figure that if adults start hanging out there, it will deter those with malicious intentions from committing uglification of the play-space. The custodial staff has had to spend a good amount of time cleaning up various decidedly un-artistic graffiti from walls and equipment. I saw plenty of evidence of clean-up, and unfortunately, lots of newer and really bad graffiti. Pictured are some of the examples. We need more art classes in the public schools!

In all, when available, it makes for a great afternoon option. Most of the playground is shaded later in the day as well. Another bonus. The entrance gate is on 44th, just off of 7th Avenue.

Friends of Sunset Park Library hosts its Community Spring Sale Tomorrow

While enjoying the weather and the Park tomorrow, stop by 51st and 4th to support our local library branch. The Friends of Sunset Park Library are hosting a huge rummage sale. The funds raised will go to the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Library. Lots of "gently used items" will be available to browse through and buy. If you prefer to sell your own items, a table costs $25 - and sharing a table with a friend is just fine.

The Friends of Sunset Park Library will be signing up new members, accepting donations, and helping community members to obtain or renew library cards. Information about the many diverse programs for children, teens, and adults will be available as well.

Stop by to support our library from 10 AM to 1 PM on Saturday, May 31st. Our branch is located at 51st Street and 4th Avenue.

To buy a table please contact the President Liz O'Hare at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Burned Out Van in Sunset Park

Kind of gutsy, I think. The torcher chose to do the deed right on the corner of 4th Avenue and 44th Street. It happened on Tuesday night (5/27/08). The last time I saw a car this burned out in the immediate neighborhood was on 6th Avenue between 44th and 45th; that was early last year, I think. That's even more residential. This poor van still has its garden tools and the remains of potting soil in the back.
Some kids on the street were excited about watching the flames leap into the sky from their windows, and the fire trucks that showed up were pretty exciting, too.

Hump Day Walk to Storytime

Almost every Wednesday I take my cherub to Spanish story time at El Pequeno Artista in South Park Slope. Or is it Greenwood Heights? Or is it really Sunset Park? Anyway, it's on 20th Street. In the winter, the bus ride was pretty quick, but it costs $4 round-trip (does anyone else remember the days when you could take the same bus in different directions on the same swipe?), and I didn't get my much needed exercise and fresh City air. Walking is free and much more entertaining.

Here's what we saw on the walk home today, in the order in which I found it:

Some dog poo, at least I hope it's canine-oriented, left last night. As you can see from the line in the sidewalk, this dog was not made to poop out of the way. (And for all you dog lovers who get indignant about the ONE TIME someone didn't clean up, I would have posted the diaper I also passed, but the photo was washed out due to the high chlorine level in the diaper.)

I was also able to admire the progress on another building going up across from the cemetery. It's slow-going, it seems. I've been watching it a while. I can't tell if they plan on putting another floor on. However, the L shape makes sure to block lots of annoying sunlight from entering the surrounding homes. I guess the success of the condos next door (the garden terrace on the top floor was recently featured on has encouraged the taller version.

Another few blocks brought us to the set for Rescue Me in the middle of filming a scene featuring a woman giving birth on the street. Super original! I guess they are doing the sound at a later date, or maybe she's a Scientologist who has to do a silent birth. I didn't hear any groaning or screaming or cursing, so it must be one of the two choices.

And finally, on this surprisingly low-on-garbage-in-the-street day, I found that my neighbor's roses have begun to bloom. Every year I've enjoyed passing these roses. Many of the other passers-by do as well. Some come with scissors or knives so they can enjoy them longer. Makes for a flowery end to a very pleasant walk.

Sunset Park's Sara Gonzalez Spends Big

In the wake of the news about slashed Community Board budgets for next year, yesterday's Daily News had an article about City Council members' spending habits. The story was nowhere near the front page of the News, so maybe some people missed it.

Sunset Park's representative to the City Council was highlighted first. Yeah! Apparently, she spent almost $42,000 on consultants last year - NOT an election year for her. Considering that the median income in SP is just over $30, 000, that hurts. I don't begrudge her quality consulting, but shouldn't there be some bidding for services or shopping around? Here's the blurb about Gonzalez:

Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Brooklyn) topped the charts with $41,923 in consulting fees, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Law. Half went to her communications director, Michael Schweinsburg, and $11,000 went to Promotional Strategies, a Queens-based campaign consulting agency. Gonzalez defended her spending, noting, "I'm very careful."

Please, Ms. Gonzalez, hire a consulting agency in BROOKLYN! C'mon.

At least she didn't charge her accounts $1,160 for Crystal Apples like Diana Reyna, also of Brooklyn, did. Someone should show her to better priced tourism items for gifts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Rescue Me" filming in Sunset Park, so Move Your Car!

Ex-nuns, supposed insurance scams, questionable paternity, and sexual experimentation. Where else but in Sunset? I've never seen Rescue Me, and I was surprised to see that they are currently in Season Four. Congrats! According to the permit, it's a show on TV-9. For the honor of having this Dramedy (with plot-lines like the ones above, could it possibly be a plain Drama? Is it a soap opera?) shot on 5th Avenue, we give up the privilege of parking at the meters between 39th and 41st Streets from Tuesday the 27th at 10 PM through Wednesday the 28th at 11 PM.

This has got to be the friendliest "move your car for our snack trailer" sign I've seen yet. It says that vehicles will be TOWED to the nearest legal spot if not moved in time. Wow. That could be a great way to get them to do your alternate side parking for you! Some blocks between 6th and 7th Avenue need to clear out for street cleaning on Wednesday mornings. Maybe someone will try it as their moving method. Of course, the nearest legal spot could be over in Park Slope right now. I wonder if people will turn out to try to glimpse Denis Leary or if the neighborhood will ignore it the same way it ignored the last two film shoots. We'll see on Wednesday, I suppose.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Front Lawn Memorial, Sunset Style

There's something for everyone here. Saints, angels, lambs, fairies, flowering plants, garden gnomes, bunnies, and pinwheel holding geese in patriotic outfits. We paused for quite a while in front of this "garden." There was something quite touching about it. I have to wonder if the choices in the garden represent the tastes of each of the people named on the stones. It's organized, neat, and lovingly arranged.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Building Memorial, Of Sorts

Development in Sunset Park has had some bizarre results lately. While rising commercial rents have left dusty gaps, some for over a year, on 5th Avenue, 7th Avenue, and 8th Avenue; new development has been cropping up all over those same thoroughfares.

Condominium buildings are the most common construction. Peruse the photos on 2007 posts from Brownstoner and Sunset Park Blog, and you see that the choices for the "look" of the buildings are less than inspired. (By the way, the 7th Avenue condos featured on the Sunset Park Blog are still available in great numbers.)

However, next to the latest trend of building up with no regard for what the current or surrounding buildings look like, the "art deco" condos look super-classy. This addition of third and fourth floors to a two story building is confusing. I expected a brick facade to go up relatively soon after construction was complete, but it's been a while and nothing. I mean, the two-toned third and fourth levels are pretty normal, if still unattractive, but to have the grey underneath remain? Perhaps the work has continued to stall due to disorganization, or perhaps it's a comment on the economy. I don't know.

On 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, a huge corner "cover-up-the-work" board went up around the southern building. Here's what the work permit says: "Proposed horizontal enlargement at cellar, 1st and 2nd floors. Proposed vertical enlargement at 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th floors." Wow. Turning a two-story building into a seven-story building. I wonder if they will follow the aesthetic of the 7th Avenue building also pictured?

Another option is demolition. This was also recently highlighted, to the chagrin of brownstone lovers everywhere, in the choice to tear down a brownstone building on 6th Avenue and 54th Street in favor of a style yet to be seen. Cititour has a comprehensive reaction, including photos, to the destruction. It's the fourth post down on the page. Except for the blue tarp, the building still looks like a giant brick eight with a set of stairs.

When I used to walk down to 8th Avenue on 43rd Street from the park, I had always paused and admired the new tags from gangland on the two almost-corner houses that sold months and months (could it be over a year?) ago. First the doors and then the lower levels were tagged. Later, the windows were broken, and then the inside walls were decorated with colorful drawings. Finally, it seemed that even the vandals got bored of waiting for someone to respond to their activities. The buildings stood, seemingly ignored, for a long time.

The last time I strolled past that corner, I was shocked to discover that the two marked buildings had disappeared! They are gone. Both of them. Demolition, in this case, seemed the most prudent choice. When I peeked through the "cover-up-the-work" board, I was shocked to see just dirt. No evidence of basements or foundations or plumbing or construction materials. It looked really clean, actually. I can't wait to see what happens there. Does anyone want to bet that it will be a brick and silver-barred condominium building? Its proximity to the park makes it prime, I'd think.

Another pedestrian hit in Sunset Park

Well, it's happened again. It seems that this time the accident occurred, not from any kind of driver incompetence or maliciousness, but from simple bad luck and bad timing and bad intersections. The driver stayed at the scene (unusual these days), and no tickets were issued. The hit 11-year-old was treated at Lutheran Medical Center for injuries to his leg and head.

Sunset has had more than its share of pedestrian accidents. Thankfully, this ended up being one of the less tragic examples of the dangers some Sunset Park streets pose for pedestrians. Seems like the perfect excuse for me to shamelessly plug the petition to get a Stop Sign on the corners leading into the park. I've been told that petitions don't get a lot of attention from the City, but it can't hurt, right? Right?

In a letter from Jeremy Laufer of CB7, this explanation for the methods of the DOT regarding how to determine the need for a Stop Sign shows City Wisdom at its finest:

"DOT conducts traffic studies using federal criteria to determine if a particular intersection merits a stop sign or traffic light. If traffic volume reaches a certain level, a sign or light may be required. We understand this fact and, also understanding our local community, asked if these studies could be conducted over the summer, given a park will have higher usage, especially one with a large pool, in the summer. DOT, in their wisdom, conducted the study in February of last year and, not surprisingly, it seemed that not many people wanted to use the park in the middle of winter."

Also, studies are only conducted every 18 months; the next one will be in late July or early August, apparently. At least that will be in high season. How 46th and 6th got a four-way stop sign, and the busy shortcuts from New Utrecht and Fort Hamilton Avenues didn't, I'll never understand. There are so many near misses at these park-side intersections, that I dread the truly busy park season.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sunset Park Artist Completes 613 Commandments: Archie Rand

The Brooklyn Paper details how Archie Rand, whose gallery is on 55th Street in Sunset Park, recently completed a 15 by 93 foot mural of the 613 Old Testament Commandment. The comic, colorful style is, as Rand describes, "garish" and "vulgar." The photos in The Brooklyn Paper don't seem too vulgar to me, so either there is a lot more to be seen or my sensibilities have been corrupted. Rand is a professor at Brooklyn College, and he has exhibited his work all over the world.

Sadly, this mural had a one-time showing in Clinton Hill almost a week ago. It would be wonderful to have another showing. Isn't there a space in Sunset Park large enough to show it? I suppose the Rec Center doesn't want "vulgar" and "garish" images around the after-school program. Oh dear. The full article has photos of several commandments. Links to some of Rand's other work can be found on

Friday, May 23, 2008

And My Favorite Kind of Memorial Day Music Event...Free!

This happens every year in Green-Wood Cemetery (hence the "Annual" part of the name), and it's always a hit, rain or shine. Happily, this year will be sans rain, if the predictions hold true. So check it out before a BBQ or after a brunch, or stop by and buy some of the available fare during a Memorial Day walk in Green-Wood. Nothing could be more appropriate. Again, thanks to Lost in Greenwood Heights on for the reminder.

The Green-Wood Historic Fund Proudly Presents OUR FREE Family Event

Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2008
10th Annual FREE Concert 2:30PM

Our annual concert will showcase the music of the ISO Symphonic Band, directed by Brian Wordsdale, conductor, featuring select compositions by Green-Wood Cemetery’s permanent residents Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and other famous composers.

Bring a folding chair, a blanket and a picnic lunch. Cookout food, snacks and drinks, as well as books and souvenirs relating to the history of the Cemetery, will be for sale—and you can join the Green-Wood Historic Fund.

Admission is free and concert will be held rain or shine.

Our main entrance is located at 500 25th Street (on 5th Avenue) in Brooklyn. Via subway, take the R to the 25th Street station. Free parking is available, first come, first served.

A National Historic Landmark—Est. 1838

For more information on Green-Wood or The Green-Wood Historic Fund, call 718.768.7300 or visit us on-line at

Green-Wood Cemetery Celebrates the Bridge's Birthday, Too.

Here's a Brooklyn Bridge Birthday option for a beautiful Saturday from the ever-vigilant poster Lost in Greenwood Heights. He details events in Green-Wood Cemetery on the boards:

Green-wood Cemetery and the
The Brooklyn Bridge–125th anniversary!

Before there was a Brooklyn Bridge, there was a Green-Wood Cemetery.
By the time the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, Green-Wood was celebrating its 45th anniversary and had established itself as a Brooklyn institution.

Many of the men who played key roles in the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, including the Bridge’s primary proponent William Kingsley, master planner Henry Cruse Murphy, engineer Colonel Julius Walker Adams, Tammany Hall’s William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, Brooklyn Mayor and future New York City Mayor Seth Low and one of Brooklyn’s most prominent citizens Henry Pierrepont.

Green-Wood celebrates with its iconic neighbor on this 125th anniversary of the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Saturday, May 24th–1:00pm

As part of the celebration, Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman leads a special trolley tour, visiting the gravesites of many of those who played a crucial role in the birth of the Bridge.

The trolley tour is $20 / $10 for
Historic Fund members. Please call 718.768.7300 for trolley tour reservations. Space is limited.

A National Historic Landmark
Est. 1838, Green-Wood is a full-service, non-sectarian and not-for-profit cemetery and is open to the public.

Our main entrance is located at 500 25th Street (on 5th Ave.) in Brooklyn. Via subway, take the R train to the 25th St. station. For more info on Green-Wood or the Green-Wood Historic Fund call 718.768.7300 or go on-line to

Will the Tea Lounge Follow Other Displaced-by-Rent Slopers to Sunset Park?

Okay, it's total speculation. And I ponder this with some dread. But the news that the Tea Lounge on 7th Avenue in Park Slope is closing due to an astronomical rent rise, put the idea into my head. I've never been in the 7th Avenue Tea Lounge, and the one time I went in to get an early morning coffee at the Union Street Tea Lounge I was less than impressed with the coffee. (Although, I've heard the Chai is quite tasty.)

I love my Gran Via coffee and pan de zanahoria, and I love that I can get a croissant at La Flor for 70 cents. The tortas at Don Paco Lopez are tasty, and for $5 you get a huge selection, with avocado to boot. However, they are not hang-out spots. Gran Via is popular (as it should be) at all hours, and its skinny bar with stools is usually filled with chatting patrons. The bakeries have some tables, but they aren't cozy. Delicious, yes. Affordable, yes. And efficient. Efficient is not the vibe of a hang-out spot.

Here is one suggestion: There's a lovely, lonely spot next to where the new Amalgamated (the Slope gets more realty, we get more banks) is going in. It used to be the Brooklyn outpost of the Guatemalan chain, Pollo Campero, which opened in Sunset Park in 2004. It lasted only about a year. I suspect because we have other amazing chicken places already here. Super Pollo is a favorite with fowl-eaters, and the rotisserie right outside the 45th Street Station gets good reviews as well. (This is all second-hand, by the way, because I don't eat chicken. So, take it or leave it.) That former Pollo Campero space has been for rent since 2005. Prime 5th Avenue corner, already plumbed for a restaurant, vacant for about three years! When they first went in, I thought they'd be there for a while. My veggie mind-set is naive about that.

So, putting a Tea Lounge in that space would be ideal, for some. One major, guilty problem: it's just down the street from Gran Via. Would it affect the business there? Somehow, I don't think so. The clientele would probably be quite different. The influx of freelancers and odd-houred 20-30 somethings, many with children, would probably be the main visitors. It would be great to have a space like Cafe Sutra in "South Park Slope" or a cozier Has Beans around. At least I think so. And I'll repeat, I feel almost dirty admitting that. However, since nothing else has come in to claim the space for three years, I just want to walk by something other than a "For Rent" sign.

So, is it just Wrong? It's not a Starbucks. And we already have the Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins stores in several places. We have a Burger King, a McDonald's, a White Castle. Why not a Tea Lounge? Is it really that much more Evil?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Light Industry presents film historian P. Adam Sitney

Light Industry has been consistently hosting interesting and varied Tuesday night events in Sunset Park. This Tuesday, May 27th, sounds like it will be another event to check out. As always, tickets are $6 (available at the door), and the start time is 8 PM. The photo is from the Light Industry calendar, and it's taken from Shift, one of the films to be shown.

From their email:

Eyes Upside Down
An illustrated lecture by P. Adams Sitney

P. Adams Sitney will talk about movement and perspective in three short
films, by Marie Menken, Ernie Gehr, and Stan Brakhage. He will illustrate the ways in which these films fulfill the promise of an American aesthetic first proclaimed by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1836 and promoted in different ways by Gertrude Stein, John Cage, and Charles Olson, among others. This program reflects the argument of his new book: Eyes Upside Down: Visionary Filmmakers and the Heritage of Emerson.

About P. Adams Sitney

P. Adams Sitney is a historian of film art, a co-founding member of
Anthology Film Archives, and Professor of Visual Arts at Princeton University. He is the author of the book Visionary Film, originally published in 1974, which was the first major study on the post-war American avant garde cinema, and is today considered a classic. Among his other publications are Modernist Montage: The Obscurity of Vision in Cinema and Literature from 1992 and most recently Eyes Upside Down: Visionary Filmmakers and the Heritage of Emerson. His articles regularly appear in Artforum and other journals.

Films to be shown:
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger, Marie Menken, 16mm, 1961, 4 mins
, Ernie Gehr, 16mm, 1972-74, 9 mins
Visions in Meditation #2: Mesa Verde,
Stan Brakhage, 16mm, 1989, 17 mins

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tabla Rasa Celebrates the Brooklyn Bridge in Sunset Park

As I mentioned in an earlier post, tomorrow is the official opening of Tabla Rasa's Bridge as Icon show to honor the 125th Birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge. This is from their website:

In celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge,
Tabla Rasa Gallery presents BRIDGE as ICON. This exhibition offers artwork inspired by the world's best known bridge. The universally recognized Gothic arches provide a soaring visual metaphor for the spirit of ingenuity. As the omnipresent symbol of Brooklyn itself, the bridge has been an inspiration for poetry, cinema, music, advertising, as well as painting and graphic arts. Whether literal or symbolic, each artwork captures an individual essence of connection.

Original contemporary paintings, photographs, and works on paper will be on display, along with vintage bookplates and prints.

Among the artists exhibiting in BRIDGE as ICON are:

Ginger Andro & Chuck Glicksman

Stephen Basso

Ramona Candy

Michael Dalton

Simon Dinnerstein

Gregory Frux
Cesar Garcia

Joergen Geerds

Irma King
Vijay Kumar
Sangbin IM

Philomena Marano

Florence Neal
Lucy Nurkse
Nick Savides

Pierre Vincent.

The gallery is located at 224 48th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in SPArC (Sunset Park Artists' Community). From Manhattan, "D" train to 36 Street in Brooklyn, cross platform, and take "R" train one stop to 45th Street. Parking is available.

Tabla Rasa Gallery is free and open to the public
Thursday through Saturday, noon until 5 pm,
Call for additional hours and summer schedule updates
call (718).833.9100.

On May 20th, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn had a posting about one of the Brooklyn artists, Simon Dinnerstein, which included his "Purple Haze." Great stuff. I look forward to checking it out this week. Today, the Brooklyn Eagle had an extensive article about the gallery and the exhibit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Public Hearing for Liquor License Results in Unanimous Vote

Tonight, after hearing from the owner of Viva Mexico Tacos 2004 as well as several concerned residents, the CB 7 committee was unanimous in its decision to recommend that the liquor license for Tacos 2004 not be renewed.

In a meeting that lasted just over an hour, tales of defecation and unseemly behavior overpowered the owner's promises to improve the effect his establishment has on the surrounding area. Even though less than 25 people showed up to listen and speak at tonight's Public Hearing, there was plenty of detail about neighborhood heartache to fill the room.

The hearing began with the owner, speaking both for himself and through an interpreter, explaining that he has owned the business for approximately three and a half years. He went on to say that cameras have been installed both inside and outside the restaurant since the February shootings. He also promised to make his personal numbers available, and to post them, should there be trouble. The owner lamented that the shooting was "his bad luck" because the argument that preceded it did not begin in his restaurant. (This was later disputed by a neighborhood commentator.) In fact, he claimed that there is never violence inside his restaurant. This prompted a called out question about why police are often at the establishment. The owner glossed over the comment by pointing out that other restaurants nearby have problems with intoxication and violence as well; his restaurant is not alone.

He also claimed that patrons only drink beer, and sometimes wine, while they are eating. Again, this comment encouraged called out questions about the prevalence of hard liquor. The owner denied the presence of hard liquor at first, but then he corrected himself to say "un poquito" - a little. He clarified that many patrons bring small bottles of liquor with them, in their pockets, into the restaurant. In response to a question about operating hours, the owner stated that Tacos 2004 is open from 2 PM until 2:30 AM seven days a week.

During a less than friendly question period, the owner was confronted with questions about dancing at Tacos 2004; he denied that any dancing takes place. This brought at least one resident to his feet in response, and it led to a question about how often the owner is actually at his restaurant. He claimed to be there almost every day, and his new manager is there consistently as well. However, the owner could not estimate how often the police come to Tacos 2004, and he claimed that "perhaps one" summons had been given recently.

The report from Sergeant McGoey of the 72nd Precinct painted a slightly different summons picture. According to the report, 31 summonses (somehow the number 39 was thrown about as well), ranging from obscured windows to failing to check ID to serving intoxicated patrons to operating without a cabaret license, were issued directly to Tacos 2004 in the last 13 months. Naturally, that does not include any summonses for drunk and disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, fighting, or public urination/defecation issued to patrons outside of the restaurant. The sergeant also reported that the February 22nd shooting is still an open and active investigation.

During the commentary section of the hearing, several residents, all personally affected by the goings-on at the restaurant, stood up to speak. Tales of urine, vomit, feces, and blood began to appear. Patrons sleeping in the park after a night of debauchery was the tame side of the tales. Using residential walls as toilets was a common complaint. Stories about destruction of property, and even one incident of a very drunk patron entering a home and insisting he belonged there, were spelled out. Another resident said that her laundromat has to lock its doors during the afternoons and evenings to keep patrons from Tacos 2004 from entering and harassing women and children as they launder household clothing. Another nearby resident said that walking to work in the morning means finding all manner of human waste, and sometimes the humans themselves, in her path. She lamented that children on their way to school have to pass by this often. She also explained that returning from evening classes means crossing the street away from Tacos 2004 to avoid being harassed or made to feel afraid for her safety. She then has to re-cross the street to get home.

Several residents reiterated the presence of dancing in the restaurant. (In fact, a Village Voice review and a NYTimes article even mention it.) They also all complained of noise issues between 1 AM and 4 AM; these included obscene arguments and honking car services. Everyone agreed that Sunset Park deserves better. Several people repeated that this is a neighborhood of families, hard-working people, and concerned residents, most of whom have lived here their entire lives.

One of the more ominous comments came from a man who organized an extensive petition against the renewal of Tacos 2004's liquor license. He reminded the room that the recent shooting occurred at 9:30 PM. As summer approaches, he said, families will start to stay out later with their children, and why should they be afraid to walk along their own streets for fear of stray bullets hitting their children?

During both the questions and comments, there was a certain amount of concern shown for both the patrons and for the young ladies who work at Tacos 2004. One resident and health educator pointed out that although the owner claimed that no drugs were sold in his establishment (this was in response to accusations of cocaine use and sale associated with a stabbing in the basement of the building), for some people, alcohol is a drug and those people don't know when to stop. She said that the staff at Tacos 2004 needs to be able to judge when to stop serving a patron. (The summonses for serving intoxicated patrons seem to show the inability to judge drunkenness.)

Another concerned resident asked about the age of the "very young" and scantily-clad waitresses. The claim that these waitresses dance with patrons for $2-$4 per dance, sometimes sitting on patrons' laps, brought up concerns for the well-being of the young ladies as well. There were veiled references to prostitution, but it never became overt.

Agitated, the owner repeated a desire to be heard, and he claimed again and again that his restaurant is not the only one to cause trouble.

This is probably true, but it is his liquor license that is up for renewal. And it is his restaurant in which three men were shot, and one killed, not three months ago.

Hopefully, the full CB 7 vote and the official state licensing powers-that-be will listen to the unanimous vote of the CB 7 committee. Hopefully, the owner of Tacos 2004 can turn his establishment into a true restaurant, minus the liquor problems and borderline prostitution issues.

Tacos 2004 actually has some fans of its FOOD. I suggest lots of Jarritos Tamarindo and horchata. Hire the woman on the corner of 44th and 5th to make her limeade for the restaurant. If the owner was even on the verge of truthful, he makes his money with his food, not with the liquor - and certainly not with the dancing waitresses. Show us that this is so! Serve pernil beyond compare and tacos that beat out Matamoros. Serve tortas at 2 PM and Chilaquiles all day and evening. Sunset Park residents like to eat!

Sunset Park Garden Club is looking for members

The Chinese Garden, lovingly designed, assembled, and cared for by the Sunset Park Garden Club, was the subject of destructive rage a short while ago. There is now no sign of what was once a ceramic pagoda, a bridge, and a swimming dragon. The sparkling stream (created with glass beads) still exists, but many of the beads have been extracted. Apparently, some person (or persons) who dislike all things Asian-inspired felt it necessary to use a large boulder within the Chinese Garden to smash the decorations to pieces over two or three days. The items had been bought with a grant given to the Club.

Other difficulties the garden, which sits close to the 6th Avenue and 44th Street entrance, has experienced include plants stolen, a wonderful tree forcibly removed, and parents allowing children to romp about within the confines of the garden. The tall gate surrounding the garden makes it clear that the garden is for visual, not physical, enjoyment. The image of the Chinese Garden is its current, growing state. If you missed the decorative aspects, hopefully some of them will be replaced in the near future.

On Saturday, members of the SPGC weeded, cleaned up, and replanted many plants. On Sunday, another member was continuing with the planting and spoke about replacing some of the glass beads in the stream. The lovely garden at the 7th Avenue and 41st Street entrance looks wild and wonderful, and it will also be tended to for weeding and cleaning. Eager and willing hands are always needed to continue the efforts. There are several areas of the park that are nurtured and cared for by the Club. No experience is necessary!

If you would like to join the Sunset Park Garden Club (no minimum time commitment needed!), contact Naomi Alvarez at or at 718-851-0875. You can also call 718 965-6538 for more information.

Sunset Park Garden Club's mission statement: To nurture, beautify, and maintain the diversity of our historic park and its peoples.

Tonight: Liquor License Renewal for Tacos 2004

CB 7 is hosting a Public Hearing about the Liquor License renewal for Tacos 2004 Viva Mexico TONIGHT at 6:30 PM. The entrance to the offices is on 4th and 43rd even though the address is listed as 4201 4th Avenue. It is open to the public, and the hearings generally last between one and two hours...but you can leave early if you must.

Friends of Sunset Park
sent out an email reminding concerned residents about tonight's public hearing. I can't vouch for the content as completely factual (I do know that the 6 PM start time listed for the Public Hearing is off by 30 minutes - the time is 6:30 PM.), but perhaps the author can be forgiven as enthusiastic about the neighborhood's safety:

2004 VIVA MEXICO, is one of a least 4 bars on 5th Avenue between 39th and 41st Streets that parade as restaurants and whose only business is to prey on immigrant men whose need for "companionship" makes them easy targets for over-consumption/abuse of alcohol, as well as illegal substances. Aside from the alcohol abuse, 2004 VIVA MEXICO also provides dance partners at $2-$3/dance. Therefore, it is also operating as a CABARET; it was our understanding that their site doesn't permit the operation of a cabaret. Further, anyone who looks in can see that they are operating over capacity. Just count the number of tables and chairs and do a quick sq. footage calculation; you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.
As the warmer weather approaches patrons of these bars enter the park in their drunken stupor to relieve themselves, as well as to sleep the morning away; great example for our children!! It is also not unusual to see totally alcohol-impaired patrons get into their cars after exiting one of these bars and drive away. Scary, to say the least... And, if you live on 40th or 41st Streets, try getting some sleep between midnight and 3-4 AM while (1)Car Service cars are competing for customers as they leave the bars via RELENTLESS honking and screaming while negotiating fares, (2)Bar patrons carry on loud and obscene conversations under residential windows, (3)Bar patrons get in their cars and turn car radios to maximum volume, (4)Bar patrons line up against residential walls to urinate and on and on.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Post-It's My Park! Day Observation

Some people take the whole concept of "It's My Park!" differently than the original intention. According to the City Parks Foundation, the intent is "to help restore and preserve their community's local green space and recreation areas, all while having fun and building neighborhood connections." Some residents and visitors took it as a chance to claim the park as their own, personal playground and trash-heap.

Due to our son's very early waking hour lately, we were out in the park just before 7:30 AM this morning (Sunday). This is what we saw:

Thankfully, the trash was consistently food-wrapper oriented. There was no evidence of dirty diapers and used clothing/bedding this morning. However, the wrapper trash was quite carpet-like in its presence. What I truly don't understand (and I know this is an age-old question from those who feel a sense of responsibility to their neighborhoods) is why don't people just put their trash in the baskets? They were less than half-full up near the playground and around the "bench walk." Granted, at the back end (7th Ave) section of the park, several baskets were full...of household bags of trash. However, that back area was practically devoid of trash. Now, it could be that the Sunset Park Staff had already cleaned up the back, but they usually start on the front of the park. And they do a great job cleaning up after the selfish, lazy, immature people who can't hang onto their wrappers and tissues and plastic and bottles and bags and cobs and other disposable objects. Take a look at the same space (but from the opposite side) just an hour later.

Pretty solid work, I'd say.

The downside of doing good work is that it's positive reinforcement for people to continue being selfish. The argument I get from my high school students is: "He gets paid to clean it up." Listen, maintenance of a space is different from cleaning up after your lazy butt! Yes, the staff will pick it up, but they shouldn't have to pick-up after you. That should have ended around the age of four. Carry trash to the basket. It's not going to hurt. Really.

Sunset Park's Chinatown Gets Some Press

Brooklyn's Chinatown had a busy week in two popular publications.

The Village Voice's Robert Sietsema gushes about our Chinatown as being less crowded, less touristy (for now), more sunny and just better than other boroughs. Here is a particularly gushy-gush: "The scene that flanks you as you float northward on Eighth is a salutary one, with vendors selling soft bean curd, miniature Hong Kong cakes, and banana-leaf-wrapped rice meals studded with sausages and dates." I can't say I've ever floated along 8th Avenue, but it's lovely to see some attention given to places other than Pacificana and Ocean Palace. Mr. Sietsema focuses on noodle shops with a passing nod to a Vietnamese sandwich shop in the 50's. Sadly, he didn't make it past 46th Street, so he didn't stop in to Ba Xuyen, but it gets props in the next publication. Check out his mentions of the Hong Kong Supermarket, Lan Zhou, Quickly, Than Da, China Tea, and Yun Nan flavor snack here.

Ears at Ba Xuyen's #1 sandwich get noticed in TimeOutNY's Restaurants & Bars section. It's the second section of "Think Pig" in Issue 659. It comes with a lovely graphic that shows a poor little piggie's edible parts...pretty much the entire pig.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unpaid (but not unappreciated) Political Positions Available.

What does Sunset Park need? Active residents! We have a lot of specific groups that root for specific causes. However, Brooklyn Optimist details an opportunity for both genders (apparently, each gender is represented equally) to get involved. The position is called a County Committeeperson for the Kings County Democratic Party. As Brooklyn Optimist explains it, the CC for the KCDP is the lowest level of elected office. Ground up, I say.

According to Brooklyn Optimist's blog, some activities will include: "deciding how the Kings County Democratic Party will operate: which candidates the party will endorse or nominate to serve as our public officials, which judges it will select to rule our courts, and many other issues" in and around your area of Brooklyn.

Check out the details here and here. The description of the "chosen" Brooklyn areas does not include Sunset Park, in fact, it only mentions Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. A narrow sliver, to be sure. Some think it's a futile effort, but getting people involved in their neighborhoods is rarely a bad idea.

Sunset Park Tenants' Rights Forum on Saturday

I received this email from Neighbors Helping Neighbors:

This is just a quick reminder that Neighbors Helping Neighbors and our Tenants group is sponsoring a bi-lingual Tenants’ Rights Forum tomorrow, Saturday, May 17th at PS1, 309 47th Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenues). The event goes from 12:45 PM to 4:00 PM.

Come to:

- hear from legal experts about tenants’ housing rights

- share your housing experiences with your neighbors,

- talk about some next steps

- enjoy delicious food from Sunset Park restaurants

- hear some great music

- enter a raffle for a $25 gift certificate to Key Food!

Green-Wood Terrace View Featured

Ever since this building started going up, my hubby and I have wondered about the people who chose to live there. We'd do our weekend walk up 5th Avenue, and while passing Green-Wood Cemetery, we'd ignore the bottom half of this building and think about the terraces extending on the top floors. I missed the recent open house for one of the units (open house = snoop's hobby), but a friend told me they look good on the inside. Can the outside be forgiven? Of course, I might have the building wrong, but the color and texture from the featured photos are pretty unique. I love what they've done with the terrace...and I wonder if I could bring some wine and deviled eggs over for a visit on a sunny day. Hint, hint.

Enjoy the luscious photos from

Liquor License Hearing for Viva Mexico Tacos 2004

Those of us in a five block radius of 39th Street will certainly remember the recent events at Tacos 2004 at 39th Street and 5th Avenue that resulted in three people shot, one of whom died. Well, the liquor license has come up for renewal. Residents who live near-by complain of consistent fights and drunkenness outside the restaurant. The laundromat next door recently changed hands, and one of the reasons told to customers was the irritating and dangerous behavior of patrons exiting Tacos 2004. The behavior is not limited to late hours; it begins early on and continues through the nights. I wouldn't want to mitigate the concerns of Union Street residents, but I think shootings and bloody noses and loud fights and vomit in the area trump the occasional shrieking about romantic encounters (or the desire for them).

The Public Hearing will take place on Monday, May 19th, 2008 at 6:30 PM at the usual location of 4201 4th Avenue. Enter on 43rd Street. The posted signs say that members of the community are invited to attend and give testimony. Call 718-854-0003 for more information.

Signs are posted around the neighborhood in both Spanish and English.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Light Industry Hosts Jennifer Reeves: Short Films and Post-Show Discussion

When and Where?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 8pm
55 33rd Street, 3rd Floor
Brooklyn, NY

How much?
Just Six Bucks!

What exactly?

Six films, ranging from five minutes to 17 minutes, will address subjects like adaptations of William Carlos Williams to women seeking pleasure to a public premiere of a diary film focussed on Cuba. It sounds very artsy, very experimental, and very cool. Go to the Calendar section of Light Industry's website to see full descriptions.

According to the email sent from Light Industry:

Jennifer Reeves (b. 1971, Sri Lanka) is a New York-based filmmaker. Her films have shown extensively, from the Berlin, New York, Vancouver, London, Sundance, and Seoul Film Festivals to many microcinemas in the US and Canada, the Robert Flaherty Seminar, Princeton University, and the Museum of Modern Art. In 2007 Reeves performed her double-projection films Light Work Mood Disorder and He Walked Away (with music by Anthony Burr) at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Wexner Center, AFI Fest, Diapason Gallery in New York, Kino Arsenal in Berlin, and the Contemporary Art Museum of Strasbourg. Her HD short Light Work I screened at Sundance 2007, where Reeves also participated on a panel, "Art and Technology," moderated by Ruby Lerner.

Reeves teaches film courses part-time at Cooper Union, the Bard College MFA Program, and Millennium Film Workshop.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Charter School Approved for CSD 15

A new charter school is opening in September 2009, and Sunset Park kids are eligible (and encouraged) to apply. The Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is headed by educators (although it's also heavy on the corporate and technology experts), and the academic planning team is chock full of Ivy League and accomplished educators. The members aren't grounded in mainstream urban education, but a lack of entrenched cynicism (who me?) is probably healthier than too much reality. Besides, they're starting out with just 88 sixth-graders, and the class size is promised to be just 22. With numbers like that, most classroom management and discipline will take care of itself. With numbers like that, keeping track of absences and blips in work will be manageable. With numbers like that, English Language Learners and children who have deficiencies in reading/math skills will benefit tremendously. With numbers like that, I think Sunset Park should get involved and flood the lottery! As it says on their website: "Through the state lottery system, Brooklyn Prospect hopes to serve a student population that mirrors the racial and socio-economic demographics of the surrounding community."

Those who have very young children may not realize that Sunset Park is in the same Community School District as Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Red Hook. Seems odd, I know. It has its advantages if you are informed and active. It's not as though the southern part of CSD 15 often gets notices about school events or recruitment from its northern neighbors. And for many parents in the area, the language barrier serves as enough reason to stick to the neighborhood where there is a concentration of parents who have similar translation/service needs.

However, the main middle school in our area, Charles O. Dewey (I.S. 136), does not have promising test results in either English Language Arts or Math. Despite recent improvement, both subjects are still pretty dismal. The same building, at 40th Street and 4th Avenue, houses Sunset Park Prep (M.S. 821). Approximately the same number of students (in the middle 400 range) attend each middle school, but the test scores are radically different. So Sunset Park does have a close-by choice of middle schools. However, the building holds about 900 tweens and teens (yes, students can be up to 15 years old in middle school).

That said, the opportunity to attend a small middle school (really, the most frightening educational choice for parents in NYC) with high standards is something to be happy about. Hopefully there will be plenty of outreach to all the corners of CSD 15. So far, I can vouch for the press release being sent to the Sunset Park Parents group, but then many of that group are transfers from other Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Park Slope. I'm sure Ms. Marzulli also sent it out to the principals of the Sunset Park elementary schools.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Commercial Rents in Sunset Park

My shock and horror at losing Ho Ho Cleaners got me thinking about what commercial rents actually are around here. I figured landlords were asking too much, but I really had no idea what the difference in commercial and residential rents are. I have a better idea now.

The two storefronts that sit just one block up from my beloved Ho Ho want $3000 per month for each space. The landlord suggested that a barber shop or fortune teller might work well in the spaces. When I suggested a tutoring center, he said that wouldn't make enough money. I guess fortune telling is more lucrative than I thought! By my unscientific estimate, those two store fronts have been available for close to a year. If approximately 450 square feet with a working bathroom and white paint job are what you want, call 347-424-3147. Both are still available.

On 6th Avenue and 45th Street, there's a storefront that has been available for a couple of years. Well, that's not entirely true. It looked like someone had rented it because clean-up was in progress for a while and a new awning went up. They cleaned out some nasty looking stuff. However, it didn't open. I never got a call back about the price, and the agent to whom I spoke couldn't find the listing. Hmmmm. That might explain why it hasn't rented. Or, maybe there's something nefarious going on with the building. I love intrigue. As the photo shows, it's listed with three separate agencies, yet it still hasn't rented! Looking it up on the site, I found a listing for a space "ideal for a cafe" that was listed on 7th Ave and 46th Street. Maybe they got the location slightly off? It was listed for $1900. Then again, it's described as being on a commercial strip, so probably not. This has another grocery across the street and a laundromat one block up. However, I too think it is ideal for a cafe. Coffee and sticky buns by day, wine bar and tapas by night? C'mon somebody! Step up! It's probably less than $1900 because it's not on a commercial strip.

Basically, there are quite a few deals to be had, but the locations (under the Gowanus?) and conditions of the storefronts are pretty sad. Based on my 90 minutes of research, it sounds like my friend on 8th Avenue with the two storefronts doesn't really want to rent out the spaces. Those are Park Slope prices. Or maybe he's holding out for good fortune. I just can't wait to find out what the new rent for Ho Ho will be. You KNOW I'm calling them to find out.

Sunset Parents Want (more) Playground Equipment

The desire for improved playground equipment in Sunset Park came up again on the Sunset Park Parents group, and the Sunset Park playground is often the subject of heavy sighs and snarky comments. It's also incredibly crowded, which speaks to the popularity of the space despite the complaints. Then again, it may just mean that the many, many children in the area are desperate for playspaces (or their parents/caretakers are desperate to get them out and about).

Recently, one of the SPP group parents visited the Harmony Playground in Park Slope and was reminded that Sunset kids don't get funky water features (although the spitting sun is pretty funky with its new graffiti) and that one of the play areas has plywood covering broken floorboards. This one actually had one of the rods meant to keep kids from tumbling down, tumble down. Granted, it was because a teenager was sitting on it (and he promptly looked very innocent and said, "Damn. That's dangerous for the little kids. They need to fix that."). The Parks staff had it fixed with duct tape by the next day, and it was fixed more permanently within a couple of days. Much more quickly than I expected, to be honest. The run-down play area is actually the shorter one. I'm guessing it's designed for toddlers.

In fact, the overriding opinion on the SPP board seems to be that a completely separate area for toddlers, or pre-school and younger, would be ideal. Since several daycare centers and several elementary schools use the playground for daily recess breaks and for special outings, it can become quite the madhouse for the belly-first walkers, even before the 3 PM onslaught.

I took a closer look at the other two play areas today, and while they aren't sparkling or fancy or particularly clean, they do seem safe and in decent repair. The troublesome space seems to be the oldest one: the one made of actual wood. The one meant for the littlest kids.

There's a meeting of interested parents planned, and the enthusiasm seems very high. Hopefully progress can be made towards more child-friendly equipment. The concentration of young 'uns in the area shows now sign of slowing, that's for sure.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Correction to time for It's My Park! Day in Sunset Park

According to an email I received from the Friends of Sunset Park, the time is different from the website. Here's what they sent out:

Dear Friends,
Welcome back to the outdoors!!!
Join us this Saturday, May 17th for
"IT'S MY PARK DAY" Spring Edition
Come by from 10:00a.m.- 3:00p.m.
-The Children's Native Plants Garden-
(between the swings + Comfort Station)
and play in the dirt. We'll be weeding, raking, planting and reconnecting with each other after hibernating all winter long. All ages welcome!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

We're Losing HO HO

I got the shock of my week on Saturday when I went to pick up and drop off my shirts. First, I was confronted with this sign:

My innocent mind thought, "Oh how nice. She's taking a well-deserved vacation!" But when I asked how long the place would be closed, both she and her son looked at me for what seemed like a very long time and the son broke the terrible news. Ho Ho Cleaners and Tailors of 8th Avenue and 47th Street was really, really closing. At least in that location. You know why they are moving? RENT! It's more than doubling, apparently. Whoever the landlord is hasn't looked up the street one block to see the two empty storefronts that have been trying to get tenants for almost a year now. (More on that later in the week.)

And where are they moving? Get this: PARK SLOPE! 4th Street and 7th Avenue. My confused look must have translated into: "Uhhh. Isn't the rent a lot higher there?" because the son explained that they could charge a lot more there for cleaning and tailoring than here. I'll say. This place put in perfect cuffs on several pairs of pants for nothing, and it's been taking care of my husband's shirts for years. It may seem like a splurge, but wrinkled shirts are depressing in the AM.

I have to say, I was (and am) so sad about this. I have enjoyed trekking over to Ho Ho to pick up shirts and have micro-chats with the proprietress. She's very friendly and capable and Park Slope doesn't deserve her! Well, I've dropped off my last batch of button-downs with Ho Ho. And now I have to find a place that will clean and press shirts for me for a reasonable sum.

This is clearly a sign that residents are going to have to chase rents in the near future. What's next? No more $3.50 sandwiches from Ba Xuyen?

Thank you, Ho Ho, you have indeed been Very Good to us! Best of luck in Park Slope, and the store fronts on 8th and 46th/47th will probably still be open if and when you want to return.

New Ferry Service Starts Monday - 5/12

The $6 ferry from the Brooklyn Army Terminal starts tomorrow, Monday the 12th of May. It has two trips (so far?) each way. The AM shift is at 6:25 and 8:25, and the PM shift is 4:30 and 6:30. According to The Brooklyn Paper, the trip from Sunset Park (NOT starting from the Rockaways; that will take you an hour) will only take 20 minutes. Hmmm. I guess it doesn't count boarding time and launching time. Then again, perhaps everything is much more organized than I imagine. I'm going to withhold judgment until I hear how the ferry actually works out with timing and logistics. I'm tempted to take my stroller-pushing self onto the early ferry just to check it out. Maybe on a particularly warm, pleasant day. Anyone want to do a boat-trip?

Another juicy detail from The Brooklyn Paper's article is that a 40 ticket book will get you a 10% discount - but you have to cough up the $216 all at once to get the fare to $5.40 per trip. I suppose it also requires some faith that the ferry will be around for at least a month. At least it brings it closer to the express bus price of $5 per trip.

Be wary of checking out the NY Water Taxi Website for reliable information. Unless my tap water via Brita filter is spiked with something fun, my reading of the website says something very different from the ever-reliable Brooklyn Paper. As I read it, it says that it leaves Pier 11 in Manhattan at 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM. That seems very silly.

Some criticisms of the new commuter ferry include the timing of the sparse launches. Considering the cost, my guess is the ferry customer working in or very near lower Manhattan is going to be a trader-type. My experience with trading floors is a 7 AM start (it was an international bank). Sounds like 6:45 AM would work out. If you're like me, you'd prefer 6:30 AM to get some coffee and a sticky bun, but I doubt most traders are like me. Another random criticism (from The Daily News, but I'm not even going to bother linking to it) was the inclusion of Sunset Park in the commute. I suppose if the ferry is full of Queens Commuters, that would make sense. However, there has been a tentative optimism, at best, regarding this whole "new" ferry service. It's a two-year subsidy commitment (so they say), so attempting to fill the ferry is probably a good idea. I wonder why they're not stopping at Seagate?

There was also the mention of a ferry service for the summer taking Sunset Park and Bay Ridge residents (and whoever else wants to, I suppose) TO Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways for sunning and fun. Won't THAT thrill Riis Park goers. More of South Brooklyn there! It's a very nice beach, however. Worth a visit. And if the price is $6, it's also worth the time-saver and train to the bus combo on a hot day. Driving involves a parking fee (in-season) and the hassle of the Belt. We'll see if it materializes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Limb Ripped Off Of Sunset Park Newcomer

In one of the most egregious acts of "anti-newcomer" behavior we've seen in recent Sunset Park events, a transplant to Sunset Park has been violated in a public and wanton manner.

The little tree you see pictured showed up during the planting blitz we had a couple of months back. It looked more like a divining stick than a viable candidate for growth, and I wondered if we'd see leaves once spring arrived.

It has persevered; leaves are indeed sprouting and thriving. However, one-third fewer leaves will be seen due to the violence exacted upon this stubborn survivor. One of its three limbs was ripped off a few days ago. Even before buds could appear, the tree was attacked and forced to continue on with one less arm.

What goes through the mind of someone who chooses to remove a living arm from a neighbor? Is it a need to take aggression out on something that can't fight back? The feral cats might scratch you or pee on you. The corner drunks will surely bestow some sort of fluid on you. So what do you do? You choose the smallest, most pathetic looking tree within a ten block walk and you tug and pull (because even if you thought it was dead, once you attempted to pull off the limb you'd know there was still life in there) and eventually lacerate the defenseless, adolescent tree. Congratulations. Do you feel like a tough guy now?
Here's the end result:

Despite (or perhaps because of?) the abuse tolerated at the hands of some hooligan, this tree has managed to push out lots of buds and leaves in just a few days. Check out the gorgeous red and green shoots below.

It's My Park! Day - One Week Away

If you are a regular park goer, you tend to overlook major problems. You enjoy the rolling hills, the many shady trees, the opportunities for tostadas and ices, the diversity of fellow park-goers, and the amazing views. However, when you're there with a child, you can't do that. The broken glass is the biggest issue for me. A friend's toddler has ended up with some pretty broken glass in her mouth. Can't blame the kids. It's colorful and shiny and available. Unfortunately, it's a little too available.

Other joys of park going in Sunset Park are used diapers and condoms in the playground, occasional vomit from our resident imbibers, bottle-caps of all makes and models, and the ever-popular elote and bone combo. Thankfully, squirrels tend to really enjoy the elotes and bones, so those get cleaned up fairly regularly.

Well, get over yourself and get cleaning! Next week, all of us complainers and heavy-sighers can put our hands and knees where our mouths say we should be. "It's My Park! Day" is next Saturday (May 17) from 10 AM to 1 PM. I suggest that those who aren't directly involved in the Garden Club bring heavy gloves and plastic bags and go around cleaning up after those who choose to leave their good times behind. Of course, if you prefer gardening, go for it. But the less-popular cleaning up will need more energetic volunteers than the more overt beautification I would think.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Etiquette of Double-Parking

Most of my time in NYC has been as a vehicle-less lass. However, for a couple of years in the 90's, and for almost two years now, I've been traipsing around in a car when the bus or train were too daunting. And yes, I've double-parked when I couldn't find a space within a reasonable distance. That reasonable distance has gone from a five-block radius to a two-block radius since having a kid to tote around. And admittedly, I was lucky with parking when I lived in the now unaffordable Carroll Gardens; I left for work before 7 AM and got back right around 4 PM. That allowed me to use the school parking on my block. Yeah!

So, this morning, at about 9:40 AM, I left with my cherub to greet the pouring rain and dash to the safe haven of our car. The closer I got to the car (Michigan plates - better be a visitor and not one of those people who uses another address to get cheaper insurance), the more my heart sank. The ONLY double-parked car was in front of my car. At first I thought that I could maneuver my way around it and get out. But no. I checked the dashboard for a number. But no. I honked the horn - the friendly reminder honk - a couple of times. But no. So I waited, occasionally honking again. It was only at 10:05 AM that the owners of the car BEHIND me arrived and left. This gave me the room to back up and around the double-parker. Hooray! I could get to CostCo before it got too gross.

In my years with a car I've learned a few things about double-parking etiquette. The first thing to learn is that it's still ILLEGAL. Just because there is a seeming agreement to not ticket double-parkers who arrive five minutes early and leave no more than five minutes after the alternate side parking is in effect, that doesn't mean it CANNOT happen. In fact, there was a recent spat of ticket giving.

The second (and most important to me this morning), is to leave a number where you can be reached on your dashboard. The parking rules here are only an hour and a half. Don't tell me that you're leaving the neighborhood, or even your home-base, in that time. It's only human to realize that your car could be blocking someone in. I know some people will say, "Well, if you needed to leave, why didn't YOU double-park and let the guy with the Michigan plates and "Everlasting Life" and "fish with Greek writing" bumper stickers take a legitimate space?" Yeah, well, that's why I made an effort to find a legal space the day before. How difficult is it to put a little piece of paper with your cell number or home number on it so I can call you to please move your car? It saves me from honking (my car is more like a bleat) and annoying my neighbors. Or, it saves me from wishing you into your everlasting life a little early - I'm sure that must be bad karma for me. The good news is that I scooted into the back seat for the fifteen minutes and changed my baby's diaper and listened to NPR. I also left a very polite note on the windshield suggesting that my neighbor leave a number next time he needs to double-park. I thought that was much more appropriate than leaving the dirty diaper on the windshield.

The third piece of etiquette to learn and love is to move your car to the other side a little early, or at least not LATE. You're not going to get a ticket for parking on the "illegal" side at 9:57 AM when the hours end at 10 AM. You can also do what they do in CG and CH, wait in your car for a while and enjoy the neighborhood scenery. In the same vein, don't park someone in early. It's better to do a spin around the block with the extra three minutes. Youjust might find a space.

There are a couple of things I'd also mention in more detail (try to double-park where someone can still get out, like before or after the fire hydrant or the corner), but hopefully everyone gets the idea. I feel so much better now.