Steve Levin

Greenpoint Landing Throws a Party & Doesn’t Invite the Community


What does gourmet ice cream and shovels have in common? Nothing really. But throw in some sand and a couple of key photo-ops with politicians and you’d be at a party thrown by none other than our new neighbor, Greenpoint Landing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the mega development Greenpoint Landing and how our former Borough President and current City Councilman Steve Levin sold Greenpoint up a polluted river two years ago for a towering gilded waterfront cage, I suggest you read here, here and here for more details.

For the rest of us who cringe each time another pile is driven into the ground for what will eventually be a long string of 40 story towers, then I beg you to read on and seethe in disgust as Greenpoint Landing held a “Ground Breaking Ceremony” complete with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream trucks and yet failed to invite the community. Continue reading

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Can Small Businesses Survive in North Brooklyn? Not Without Our Help

Lost our Lease

In the past year covering Greenpoint happenings, I have written about more local businesses closing than I care to remember. A simple peek on Manhattan Avenue shows a smattering of empty store fronts–some shuttered for more than a year—waiting to be taken over by some business with deep enough pockets able to afford a new tier of astronomical rents. Out you go mom and pop. Adios working artists. Sayonara small fry.

Each MONTH an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 NYC small businesses lose their leases due to profiteering rent increases.  And as we’ve bared witness, the only ones who can truly afford to occupy these newly priced spaces usually come strapped with shareholders, millions of dollars in equity, and a black bottom line.

In fact, the crisis is so dire, under the Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure 83,211 commercial tenants received eviction notices, an estimated 240,000 small businesses closed, and NYC saw more than 2 million jobs lost.

Real estate speculation is nothing new, but when it finally swoops in like that long lost relative no one ever wanted to deal with, the affect can be devastating as it takes over our lives.

So you might ask: Is there any real way to stop this? The answer is yes, but you have to keep reading to find out how.

Continue reading

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BRC Homeless Shelter will NOT be getting 16 new Sex Offenders

The controversial BRC homeless shelter at 400 McGuiness Blvd/149 Clay Street


Yesterday morning I received an email with the words WATCH OUT in big bold letters. Sitting in my inbox, like a sack of rotting onions, was a link to a New York Post article with this headline: Sex Offenders’ relocation to Greenpoint Infuriates Residents.

I blinked a couple times and continued reading as my shock and horror mounted with each sentence.

More than a dozen sex offenders were living in a Manhattan shelter prompted city officials to react—but all they did was move most of them to residential Greenpoint, sources said on Wednesday…The rapists, pedophiles, and other convicted sex criminals had been bunked up near schools and playgrounds at the Bellevue Men’s Shelter on East 30th Street in Kips Bay. They included serial sex offender, Rodney Stove, who was busted for a Manhattan bar rape…

Continue reading

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Who wants to spend $1 million dollars?

District 39 Project Expo2013


Tax season has come and gone, and hopefully by now, your nasty W2’s and 1099’s have been neatly filed away until next year. While you are sitting pretty, dreaming of all the different ways to spend that refund check (or pay the IRS back), what if I told you there was a way to spend a million dollars of city tax money instead? You’d be excited, right?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Participatory Budgeting, where a cool $1 million dollars is placed into our delicate hands to help fund neighborhood projects within the City Council’s 33rd district.

Last year, over 2,000 of you casted your vote and roped in a whopping $1.6 million dollars for the 33rd! McGlorick Park Playground got a much needed makeover, the BOOKlyn Bus shuttle drove around inspiring kids to read, and even our fellow toxic hood Gowanus saw their community center, ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, get much need repairs.

It’s time to spread the love again, and if Greenpoint wants to get a slice of that million dollar pie, we need to put our mouths where the money is and vote for our favorite projects. Continue reading

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Small Homeless Shelter opens on Russell Street

Greenpoint Lutheran Church of the Messiah at 129 Russell Street

Looks like 10 lucky people are feeling much warmer these days thanks to Pastor Amy Kinezle of Greenpoint’s Lutheran Church of the Messiah, who quietly opened a 10 person homeless shelter at the end of January.

Unfortunately, this act of kind faith has ruffled some feathers among those living close by. In a surprising lack of neighborly love, more than 400 residents had signed a petition against the shelter when the idea was first announced at the beginning of the year. Local residents, angered that another homeless shelter was opening in the neighborhood, complained the small shelter would attract mentally unstable men and/or alcoholics to the area, leaving homes open to robberies and break-ins. Continue reading

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Grab your Pitchforks. A war is brewing over CitiStorage’s future.

Rendering of Bushwick Inlet Park

Well I hate to say I told you so, but even as CitiStorage still burns, the 11 acre lot could be sold to private developers–as soon as tomorrow, warns City Councilman Steve Levin. Many of you may recall from last week’s post, the future of the CitiStorage site was on shaky ground, but I doubt any of us would imagine losing our parkland so soon.

According to the FDNY, the site is still under investigation and investigators have yet to access the origin of the fire due to hazardous conditions.  For the unforseeable future, we won’t know if there was foul play that sent CitiStorage up in smoke, but we do know the land is up for grabs, and perhaps to the highest bidder.

So while I don my silk turban and gaze once again into my crystal ball to predict what other crazy conspiracy theories might come true–like arson charges and measly insurance payouts–I am here to warn you: A war is afoot to reclaim CitiStorage as parkland and it’s time we start sharpening our skewers.

The South Williamsburg neighborhood group El Puente is hosting a CRITICAL CALL TO ACTION tonight and everyone from Williamsburg and Greenpoint should be there. Continue reading

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Fighting Firefighters, Dinner Boat, Ticket Fetish, Live Jazz — The Hook-Up (12/2)

Artwork by Tamara Garvey


Firefighters are suing the city because they allege that Ladder 146 in Greenpoint is anti-Muslim and anti-Hispanic.

Brooklyn’s first dinner boat, “The Water Table” a World War II-era ship that will be serving up seasonal New England cuisine, launches this Friday from the India Street pier.  (Brownstoner)

Steve Levin needs a garage or a bike.   (NY Post)

And finally, if you’re not doing anything tonight, you can head to Noble Street, get a drink, eat Latkes and listen to some live Chanukah jazz music.  (Brokelyn)


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Brooklyn College, City Council, Academic Freedom, and BDS Movement Against Isreal

Brooklyn College has been the center of controversy the last few days, and Greenpoint’s City Council Member Stephen Levin has been involved in at least two sides of the many-sided issue.

On January 29th, Lewis A. Fidler (Assistant Majority Leader of the New York City Council) sent a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould, opposing the upcoming February 7th student-sponsored event at Brooklyn College featuring academics Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler – who were to address the idea of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as a response to the over four-decades long Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The letter stated: “We are asking you to either cancel this event or, if it should proceed, then to remove your school’s official support for it.”

The event, “BDS Movement Against Israel,” is sponsored by the student group Students for Justice in Palestine.

Fidler’s letter was signed by nine City Council Members, including Greenpoint’s own Stephen Levin. (Levin represents District 33, including Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, and parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope and Boerum Hill.) The letter stated that, “We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City … want their tax money to be spent on.” As Nation writer Katha Pollitt wrote, “Why do I think their position has more to do with election math than about their fears for the lofty mission of Brooklyn College?”

Fidler’s letter was consecutive to other opposition to the event, led by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. An email exchange/argument between Dershowitz – a Brooklyn College alum who wanted BC to cancel the event – and lawyer/journalist Glenn Greenwald – who insisted on academic freedom, including freedom from censorship by City Council – ensued and can be seen here.

Many, including this writer, contacted Steve Levin’s office to voice our opposition to seeing his signature on Fidler’s letter, which included the sentence “We believe in academic freedom” even as it sought to undermine it. As many residents of District 33 began to voice their dissent to Levin’s position, one Greenpoint resident, Billy Gray (@billymeltdown), tweeted: “I didn’t vote for @StephenLevin33 so he could tell students what events and opinions would be allowed.” Continue reading

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Church of the Ascension Occupied for Sandy

Church of the Ascension on Java Street has been Occupied. The church, which began helping coordinate relief efforts (with Councilmember Steve Levin) for Hurricane Sandy survivors immediately after the storm, has just been more formally Occupied by Occupy Sandy, an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street. The Greenpoint site is largely replacing the 520 Clinton Street location at the Church of St Luke and St Matthew in Clinton Hill, after a December 23rd two-alarm fire at that location which fire officials have called “suspicious” and  Church Father Chris Ballard called “arson.”

The church, Occupy Sandy’s first Greenpoint location, will serve as an office hub for the various Occupy Sandy locales in the city and as a headquarters for “volunteer dispatch operations” to the Rockaways, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook, Coney Island, Staten Island, and Sheepshead Bay, where survivors continue to struggle with little help aside from volunteers like Occupy Sandy and others.

Occupy Sandy will also use the locale to offer a regularly scheduled orientation for new volunteers interested in helping in the ongoing long-term relief effort. More information is available on the Occupy Sandy website.

Greenpoint’s response to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath began immediately after the storm through City Councilmember Steve Levin, and both Church of the Ascension and Greenpoint Reformed Church.

As reported in the Greenpoint Star and DNAinfo, there are Greenpoint residents still suffering the affects the storm including moldy basements and problems getting insurance or government to help with necessary cleanup funds.

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McGuinness [Shelter], Sharing

On August 19th, The Brooklyn Eagle speculated that an empty building near the northernmost point of McGuinness Blvd in Brooklyn had been bought by a developer, Triumph Hotels, in the knowledge that the building would likely be bought by the city to be made into a homeless man’s shelter. The residents of Greenpoint – and Councilman Steve Levin, and Assemblyman Joe Lentol – have, after all, been protesting the idea for months.

Previously, Steve Levin had said of the idea that the neighborhood “as a community [is] inundated with services that we provide to the rest of the city … on a level that no other neighborhood has to do.”

Activists and politicians have pointed out that, in care for the homeless and struggling alone, Greenpoint organizations have attempted to care for the neighborhood’s already large homeless population, through: the Greenpoint Reformed Church, Most Holy Trinity, Community Board 1, and the Outreach Project – not to mention the Greenpoint Hotel and the three-quarter house on Clay Street.

On the 22nd, The Real Deal reported City Comptroller John Liu’s office as stating that, “a fair, transparent and equitable siting process” would occur.

…And speaking of sharing: a recent article on DNA Info reported on protests by UES residents against an upgrade to the already existing garbage facility at 91st Street.

Writer Amy Zimmer points out that the upgrade is “intended to reduce the burden on neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, like the South Bronx and Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that have a disproportionate number of trash facilities.”

When imagining the enormous number of waste transfer vehicles rumbling around Greenpoint’s and Williamsburg’s children at all hours, the idea that “Upper East Siders are outraged by the possibility of trucks rumbling just feet away from where their kids play ball” makes one envious. (Italics all mine.)


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