“We’re creating a neighborhood on the waterfront.”
These were the poorly-chosen words of Melanie Meyers, a representative for the Greenpoint Landing development. She appeared alongside representatives of the development at 77 Commercial Street and from various city agencies before a room filled beyond capacity at the McCarren Recreation Center on Monday evening to present preliminary plans for the developments threatening to deposit over 6,100 units of additional housing upon the north Brooklyn waterfront across the next decade. While it’s unclear what, if any, new information was conveyed to the public at the meeting, the response from the audience was clear: Greenpoint already has a neighborhood, thank you very much.
The details of the developments remained vague on many points, but the general outlines of their deal with the city are coming into focus. In exchange for development rights (purchased for what Ms. Meyers estimated for Greenpoint Landing at $8 million for 295,000 square feet, or about $27 per square foot) Greenpoint will be tossed the proverbial bone in the form of 631 units of affordable housing, 4.5 acres of city-owned park, about 2,000 square feet of publicly-accessible waterfront, and a 640 seat school. Part of this deal involves acquiring air rights from the MTA property at 65 commercial street; in order to use these air rights to build a 30-40 story tower instead of a 15 story tower, 77 Commercial still needs to secure an exception to allow for the soaring heights of R-8 zoning instead of its current R-6.
Aside from clarifications to these numbers, representatives of the developers did not meaningfully answer any questions or address any neighborhood concerns. Chief among those raised was the impending specter of a socioeconomically divided Greenpoint, with the waterfront belonging to the wealthy in towers whose business would be conducted in Manhattan and the rest relegated to their shadows cast on Manhattan Avenue. Transportation, which weighs heavily on the mind of any rush-hour G train commuter, was mentioned but met with a familiar response: we’ll do the studies when required by the development process. All of these non-answers served only to reinforce the main sentiment that this development is incongruous with the neighborhood and is not part of a comprehensive plan but rather is a short-sighted capitalization on valuable, newly-available waterfront.
People seemed dismayed by the lack of clear intentions coming from the developers coupled with a lack of clear leadership from representatives. Stephen Levin, District 33 representative, offered vague advice to ‘organize, organize, organize’ but appeared primarily interested in making it clear to voters that he was not in office when the 2005 rezoning was pushed forward. Similarly, Christopher Olechowski, representing community board 1, made it repeatedly clear that they had rejected in its entirety the development plans for the waterfront only to have them pushed through by the city regardless. If we wish to have a say in anything more meaningful than the placement of a park bench or two, it is clear that we will need to align the powerful undercurrents of resistance felt at this meeting, and do it quickly.
I have done my best to record all numbers accurately as I heard them, but please correct me on any mistaken details.
Every weekend many of us hit the farmers market circuit, navigating between Union Square Park, Union St, and Russell St in an effort to avoid the wilted offerings found at the Super A. However, there’s a simpler way: a plethora of local CSAs (community supported agriculture) – essentially a prepaid share of a farm’s produce that offer us the chance to avoid the vagaries of choice and opt instead to support a small farm that in turn supports us.
Below are several of the CSAs from which we Greenpointers can choose. Is your CSA listed? Is it missing? Love your CSA? Have any recipes? Canning secrets? Let us know in the comments.
Vegetable CSAs Note that prices are listed for full, weekly shares. Other options may be available.
Rachel Mae’s CSA: picks up at Cafe Grumpy (193 Meserole Ave), $600/24-week season. Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA: Picks up at McCarren or McGolrick Park. Weekly shares are $595/275/155/66 for veggies/fruit/flowers/eggs and $200 for a bi-weekly cheese share. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative: Picks up at Eastern District (1053 Manhattan Ave), so be sure to budget extra for irresistible cheese. $725 for a 25-week season. Southside CSA: Picks up at The Woods (48 S 4th St). Dizzying array of share options, so best to check their website for information. Donates to the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen! Lineage Farm CSA: Picks up at the Greenpoint Reformed Church (136 Milton St.) Partners Trace: Picks up at TBD (224 Franklin St) & Huckleberry Bar (588 Grand St) 20 weeks / egg shares / flower shares / berry shares / orchard shares / canned good shares
I’m particularly excited by the fish CSAs available, as they provide a good, sustainable source of fresh fish, something Greenpoint lacks outside of smoked offerings or the farmer’s market stalls. I’ve heard great things about both of these.
Mermaid’s Garden CSF: Picks up at Urban Rustic. $33/week for a 2-2.25 lb delivery, $16.50 for a 1.25 lb delivery. Possible add-ons/substitutions for shellfish.
Gabe the Fish Babe: Details online are scarce but she was enthusiastically recommended. The fish club is apparently full at the moment, but join the mailing list on the website for updates.
This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s Fund from local reader donations!
Things are looking up for the North Brooklyn Boat Club. Even a hurricane couldn’t wipe the polish off their first year in the water, which took the group from mere plans and papers to a modest 20-vessel navy regularly plying the local waters. On April 2nd the group met again to kick off their second season as a fully-operational club, and the message of the night was simple: let’s get more butts in boats.
The key points made at the meeting all supported this theme. Membership fees are effectively reduced by $20 for the year: last year members were asked to contribute $30 to the club and needed a separate $30 membership to the American Canoe Association in order to be covered by that group’s trip insurance. This year the club has a blanket policy with them so a $40 fee paid to the NBBC directly obviates the need for individual ACA membership. Members were also encouraged to start down the safety training path that will result in access to club boats outside of scheduled group excursions, helping to foster a feeling of individual access to the water. Finally, opportunities abound for individuals to get involved in a number of ways: besides the obvious operational groups, subcommittees are working on gardening and green roofs for the space, woodworking and boat-building, and citizen science related to water quality and biology, just to name a few, providing niches for almost any related skill.
If you’re interested, there is still plenty of time this season to join up and get involved. Check out their website, follow the group on the various social media, or just look for smoke coming from the waterfront fire pit and introduce yourself.
There are few better signs that you picked the right thing to wear to an event than walking in and finding that the designer of your clothes went with the same choice. While normally finding your twin out in public is an annoyance, at Williamsburg Fashion Weekend it’s a sign of maturity: styles incubated in their most intense forms on the stage here bleed onto the bodies in the crowd and out the doors towards the street.
In the most recent occurrence of the biannual show this past Friday and Saturday, the scene opened with terse, politically pointed words from charismatic frontman Arthur Arbit: it’s simply not possible to come home from H&M or Bloomingdale’s with a $29 blouse without slave-like labor being involved in some stage of that supply chain. He then quickly stepped aside to show us several dreams and a couple nightmares of the alternative. Selected photos are below, but you can find my full gallery from the first night here.
The first showing of the night was Uta Brauser (photos in gallery) with her Got Armor? collection. Meant to be a critique of modern gun violence, the stylish vests and shields of this collection are perhaps too plausible, and I loved the image of models pantomiming classic runway moves as they deflected the on-stage barrage of (soft foam) bullets. Continue reading →
Neighborhoods are notoriously tricky things to pin down, especially in New York. While we all love jumping on the poor guy who tries to annex McCarren Park for Williamsburg, the truth of the matter is that neighborhoods grow and contract like families and are based on common consensus rather than the legal boundaries that govern more exact areas such as congressional districts and zip codes. So, we’re going to hit you all up for a little consensus.
I’m using a method for identifying neighborhoods presented by Elyzabeth Gaumer from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development at a geography conference in 2012.
Here’s how it works: at this Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Market we’ll have a table set up with some basic forms. You stop by and fill one out anonymously. The form has two general survey questions – your age range and how long you’ve lived in the neighborhood – and a blank space for you to map the neighborhood as you imagine it. I don’t give you a background map to use on purpose: I’m interested in how you think about it without a prompt.
Can’t make it to the market? You can also download the form here (PDF) and fill it out and email it to us at greenpointers (at) gmail.com. If you print it out and draw on it, a photo of the form is fine as long as we can read the text you wrote.
A few days after the market I’ll go through all of the responses and digitize your drawings of the neighborhood using mapping software. Once that’s done, I’ll overlay all of the drawings on top of one another. The result is a cool-looking graphic that shows what areas of the neighborhood we all agree on at the core and the areas that are a bit more vague around the edges where consensus isn’t as complete. I’ll turn this into a finished map that everyone can then disagree with.
Each year, in the dead of winter, the Department of Homeless Services sends volunteers – as many as 2,000- to less-than-scenic neighborhoods around the city to do a hand-count of the city’s homeless population. This year’s survey, on January 28, 2013, will require 3,000 volunteers, and they are currently recruiting. If you’re interested in issues of homelessness in Greenpoint, I highly recommend volunteering if only to get a glimpse at the internal workings of the city’s homeless outreach machinery.
The controversy over these counts largely concerns the timing of the survey and where volunteers are looking. It is intentionally conducted late at night at the end of January, an unpleasant time to be on the street, and specifically skips pseudo-private locations favored by the homeless such as ATM vestibules. Groups such as Coalition for the Homeless believe that the result is “a flawed effort that, year after year, has resulted in a significant undercount of New York City’s homeless population.” The implication is clear: the survey undercounts by design, masking the problem. However, according to the survey’s designers, it is intended to provide a street-level estimate of those individuals who are truly homeless, those who do not even make it to shelters on one of the coldest nights of the year, and thus expects a smaller number to be found.
To their credit, DHS does an excellent job of creating a methodology that answers their primary question without being too perplexing to the relatively untrained surveyors. However, while I was performing the survey, there was still a significant amount of deviation from the method on the part of my fellow volunteers. Their directions call for each group to make one pass along each side of each street in a given area, administering a short survey to anyone encountered. However, my group found it impossible to resist the temptation to call across the street to passers-by, for example- while this was done in the spirit of making the count as inclusive as possible, it undermined its accuracy as a statistical sample by effectively surveying areas twice. Opponents of these surveys also include the variability introduced by these sorts of errors and the failure to adjust counts accordingly among their complaints.
Still, especially now that homelessness has become a major local issue, I think the experience of participating in the survey is valuable even if the data generated is more questionable. You can review the informational materials and sign up here: 2013 HOPE homelessness survey
A few years ago, a beer store quietly nestled into the space between the old Coco 66/68 and the corner delis. Ever since, Brouwerij Lane has managed to bring to the neighborhood access to and love for those beers that even the best-stocked specialty stores have trouble finding.
This month, on December 12, they participated in a sale that put even their exceptional tap list to shame: the one-time-only release of what many consider to be the world’s best beer, the Trappist abbey Westvleteren’s XII.
Long story short, this stuff is usually only available by making the trek to the abbey in Belgium. The monks needed a new roof for the abbey, and financed it with a one-time international sale of their already world-renowned beer.
Naturally, even before the beer was actually sold it was the subject of many a column-filling news piece. I was lucky enough to run into Erik Olsen, of Brouwerij Lane, at the Greenpointers Holiday Market this year and place an advance order for a gift set.
He told me what the process was like to distribute one of the world’s rarest beers.
Erik was contacted by one of his distributors a few weeks prior to the December 12th sale date and offered the chance to distribute the beer. Most interesting were the restrictions placed on the sale: although the beer could definitely have retailed for much more, distributors were prohibited from selling individual bottles and encouraged to only sell a single six-bottle gift set to each customer for $85.
While this might seem pricey, stores like Brouwerij Lane aren’t making a profit off this – they paid $82.50 for each box and were limited to between 16 and 80 gift sets. Of the 20 they ended up buying, they had pre-orders for every one of those before they released them on the 12th. That hasn’t stopped beer hunters from calling them non-stop about it – three calls just in the time it took to answer my questions. This has also fostered a thriving resale market in flagrant violation of the monks’ wishes for the sale. Sadly, none of the beer scalpers responded to my emails so I can’t say if people actually pay this much, but the asking price seems to be at least $400 for the set and as much as $1,000.
Even if you didn’t manage to get your paws on a Westy, Brouwerij Lane is a great spot to pick up bottles for your co-workers and a fresh pint for yourself. Many consider the Westvleteren to be highly regarded more for its rarity than flavor, so there’s plenty of other Trappist beers on their shelves if you’d like to see what all the fuss was about.
For those of us who move to New York to start our adult lives, it’s a great moment when we find ourselves in a living situation stable enough to invite our parents in to sample the recipes we’ve so enthusiastically tweeted about.
Once we start cooking and have hours to think while waiting for the turkey to hit 165, the temptation places ourselves in the historically questionable narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” – helpful natives sharing a bench with buckle-hatted outcasts for a feast of local game and new world grains – becomes borderline irresistible. We are, after all, both the pilgrims fleeing lack-of-religion persecution and the natives gathering exotically Kickstarted jams to supplement traditional fare.
My own narrative begins many moons back. A chance encounter on the street helping an older Polish neighbor to get her groceries upstairs led to regularly assisting her with everyday tasks. The experience has provided a great lens through which I can more accurately view the impact of my own life on this neighborhood.
Looking for a way to help out with storm response here in Greenpoint? I need your help! Tomorrow, Saturday November 3, the Parks Department is doing a lightning-fast survey of the whole city to get a clear and comprehensive picture of which streets are blocked to emergency vehicles. I’m coordinating the survey for a section of North Brooklyn, and I could use your help in inspecting a few of these areas.
All you need to do is look at each street in one of those sections and mark whether it’s passable (can a fire truck get down it?) or not. I estimate a section would take 1-2 hours to complete. If you can pitch in or have questions, please contact me at petertiso (at) gmail (dot) com or meet us at the north corner of McCarren Park (The corner of Lorimer and Nassau, across from Five Leaves) at 9 AM.
The rain returns, the beach is closed, and it’s dark by the time you’re home from work; Fall has a lot to apologize for. Luckily, like all the best apologies, this one involves lots of food: a lot of seasonal products come into their best times around now. While many of us don’t necessarily think of cheese as having a distinct seasonality, many of the incredible farms surrounding the city are currently putting out their best products at this time of year. Courtesy of Beth Lewand, Cheesemonger and owner of Eastern District, here are two great examples of Fall’s best.
The first is a firm sheep’s milk cheese from Vermont Shepherd in Putney, Vermont. Sheep’s milk is the hardest of the main three (sheep, goat, and cow) to procure in volume because sheep have the shortest productive season and simply produce less than other animals during this time. They generally give birth in the late winter or early spring and produce milk to feed their lambs during the spring and summer months when pastures overflow with the grasses and herbs that contribute rich flavors to the resulting cheeses. The wheel we tasted was originally made on May 14th of this year and has aged for exactly 141 days as of this writing, and the farmers tell us that the pastures at that time had lots of plantain and dandelion contributing to the sheep’s diet. The resulting cheese was exceptionally mild and smooth, buttery in a pleasant, clean way, and complex without being weird. A perfect offering for a mixed group that might not be into the funky stuff, and Beth suggested pairing it with one of the many regional ciders being produced in the French farmhouse style – crisp, not too sweet, and with a light, champagne-like carbonation. She extended this to suggest any product in the apple abnd pear family, fresh or cooked, served alongside this universally loveable cheese. Continue reading →