By Aaron Simon

Garbage Is Piling Up in Transmitter Park and Neighbors Have a Clean Up Plan

Transmitter Park has a trash problem neighbors say. (Image courtesy of Christina Emilie)

Trash spilling out of Transmitter Park garbage cans and piling up on Greenpoint streets is not only bad for the environment it’s an eyesore that degrades the quality of life, according to Greenpoint-based fashion photographer Christina Emilie, who is organizing a volunteer cleanup in the neighborhood this weekend.

“Litter is something I’ve always acknowledged and felt strongly about. I’ve always been passionate about the environment,” she said.

After noticing an increase in the amount of litter during spring as more people emerged from coronavirus quarantine, Emilie says that she turned her frustrations into action.

(Image via Christina Emilie)

“Just the last few months, with everything escalating, I finally hit a breaking point where I knew I needed to step outside of my walls and start making changes in my neighborhood,” Emilie said.

Near the end of May, she incorporated solo trash cleanups into her daily routine while sharing her Transmitter Park cleanup progress through Instagram photos, gaining the attention of like-minded neighbors who asked if they could join.

“Right away I knew I needed to to see how I could organize something and to continue to relay this message of why I initiated picking up trash in the first place,” Emilie says.

Viewing the world through a camera lens in her professional life, Emilie says that there’s a simple beauty to cherish in everyday surroundings, and that the volunteer cleanup initiative helps to bring out the best in people during an otherwise stressful and isolated time for humanity.

McGolrick Park is also experiencing a garbage can overflow problem, especially on weekends, and residents nearby requested Emilie organize a similar cleanup there. Continue reading

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McCarren Park Gatherings for George Floyd Continue Rain or Shine

McCaren Park demonstrators calling for racial justice and police reform this week.

A sixth gathering at McCarren Park in remembrance of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, will continue on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., according to organizers.

A vigil was held in McCarren Park last Friday by five local residents associated with the North Brooklyn Mutual Aid volunteer group. Demonstrations in the park have since grown with thousands of people attending this week holding signs honoring Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade.

“These gatherings were intended to give immunocompromised neighbors, those caring for elderly and those with children a way to stand in socially distanced solidarity with actions across the city, not as an alternative to them,” a representative from NBMA said.

Attendees are encourage to bring a sign, wear a mask or face covering and maintain at least six feet apart to keep with social distancing guidelines; an umbrella might also be a good idea given that Wednesday’s weather forecast predicts rain.

North Brooklyn has not seen the looting and vandalism that has swept across commercial strips in Manhattan such as SoHo following demonstrations.

On Tuesday night, a tense hours-long standoff between protestors and the NYPD on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge ended when protestors were allowed to exit on the Brooklyn side.

Local politicians such as NY Assembly Member Joe Lentol and Senator Julia Salazar have called for the repeal of repeal of 50-a among other measures, to help aid the investigations of cases of police killings and deaths of people in police custody. “Passing these will help restore trust and promote transparency between our communities, the police and our criminal justice system. I am advocating to Assembly leadership to get these bills passed,” Lentol posted on social media.

A citywide curfew from 8 p.m. – 5 a.m. is in effect through the morning of Monday, June 8th.

 

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Tonight: Same time (7 p.m.) same place (McCarren Park) 📷: @mewiley @apisukh

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A filled park was silent on their knees for 30 minutes last night at McCarren park. Do what you can. Spread the good words.

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McCarren Park. June 2. Brooklyn. . . . . . #georgefloyd #vigil #protest #greenpoint #brooklyn #nyc

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Food For Brooklyn Launches Greenpoint Pantry This Weekend

The 55 Sutton St. location of the Food for Brooklyn pantry. (Via GoogleMaps)

A new food pantry and delivery service, Food for Brooklyn, was launched by married Greenpoint couple Blake and Laura Beth Comer just a few weeks ago and the number of families on their delivery route is already growing. “Yesterday I delivered a week’s worth of groceries to six families, and we’ve already picked up anther family for next week,” Mr. Comer said.

He began delivering groceries to families in North Brooklyn after coordinating with a friend volunteering with the Park Slope coffee shop-turned-food-bank Roots Cafe.

Food for Brooklyn will hold its first pantry distribution this Saturday at 55 Sutton St. from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Continue reading

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Pueblo Querido Coffee Plans Williamsburg Opening in Face of Pandemic

PQ Coffee in Greenpoint (via Google Maps)

Pueblo Querido Coffee Roasters (195 Greenpoint Ave.) opened in 2016 on the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard and instantly became a destination for quality coffee made from imported Colombian beans in a neighborhood with plenty of competition.

After signing a lease in March of 2019 for a freshly renovated Williamsburg storefront at 34 N. 6th St., 33-year-old owner Christian Guzman remains cautiously optimistic with the tentative opening of his second PQ Coffee shop that is scheduled for May 1st.

PQ Coffee owner Christian Guzman

In the midst of a pandemic, Guzman says that that he has no choice but to push forward with the opening due to his rent obligation and business insurance payments. Guzman hopes that after pouring all of his resources into furnishing the new space with Colombian murals and even a vintage car inside of the store, PQ Coffee will bring life to the currently barren stretch of N. 6th Street near Kent Avenue.

Due to his leveraging of the Greenpoint shop as collateral in the Williamsburg lease terms in lieu of a what would have been nearly a million-dollar deposit, Guzman says that the stakes are high, but that there remains reason for optimism as his new coffee shop will be one of the only businesses open on the entire block.

A latte at PQ Coffee in Greenpoint.

On a typical business day in the pre-coronavirus years, PQ Coffee in Greenpoint would serve approximately 300 customers seeking a caffeine fix per day. During the recent quarantine weeks, the coffee shop is lucky to see more than 50 customers walk through their doors in a day. “One, two weeks ago, it was dead,” Guzman said.

Online orders for PQ Coffee’s signature beans help to compensate for the decline of in-person sales, according to Guzman. Coffee bean orders for both delivery and pickup continue to increase, especially mail orders from Brooklynites who have decamped from the city and are still craving their go-to brew.

Guzman utilizes his relationships with farmers to import single-origin beans sourced directly from small farms in Colombia that he and his team roast weekly in-house. “In Colombia everything is picked by hand,” he says, adding that the high altitude and climate in his native region in Colombia known as the “Coffee Triangle” allow for a chemical-free growing and harvesting process with fewer insects to fend off.

PQ Coffee owner Christian Guzman

Construction began on the new Williamsburg space in early 2019, but delays due to the building’s electrical and construction inspections pushed back the original December 2019 opening.

“They got everything passed and then coronavirus hit,” Guzman said. “Contractors stopped, plumbing didn’t want to come, the electrician didn’t wan to come; so it was closed for almost a month.”

As of this week, all inspections have passed and the final touches are being put in place at the N. 6th Street space, and if the espresso machine Guzman ordered from Italy arrives in time, PQ Coffee will be open one week from today, when Guzman’s first rental payment is due.

“The rent in Williamsburg is like two times the amount of my Greenpoint rent,” he said.

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Volunteer Rescue Group Checks on Abandoned Bodega Cats During COVID Crisis

The local non-profit Greenpoint Cats is checking in on abandoned bodega cats.

Becky Wisdom, co-founder of Greenpoint Cats, says that taking care of just one of Greenpoint’s multiple cat colonies can be lot of work during normal times. “There’s a lot of vet visits; one gets sick, one gets in a fight with a racoon,” she said. Wisdom has tended to a Franklin Street colony since April of 2018, and has since grown her reach beyond Greenpoint with the help of a network of volunteer cat rescuers.

With the arrival of the pandemic, Wisdom noticed that bodegas and delis began shutting down, some leaving behind their shop cats, such as the cat at Franklin Deli and Grocery (111 Franklin St.), which she has since confirmed is still being fed.

 

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Wisdom and Greenpoint Cats core member Magdalena Travis say that three more people have since reached out to their group with reports of potentially abandoned bodega cats as word of their mission spread this week via Instagram. Continue reading

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Musician Nate Palan’s Greenpoint Balcony Transforms Into a Stage During the Pandemic

Nate Palan takes to the stage

Nate Palan is a musician and songwriter who has seized the quarantined moment to help entertain his neighbors from his Greenpoint apartment balcony. With the help of his acoustic guitar and a memorized songbook of covers, the courtyard of Palan’s building transforms into a sort of outdoor concert venue:”It’s the most convenient travel gig I’ve ever had. I can just open up my front door and my stage is right there,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Greenpointers posted footage of Palan’s children’s singalong performance sent in by his neighbors along the northernmost stretch of Greenpoint. As both a part-time children’s music instructor and event performer with his band The Last Nites, the progression to balcony performer during New York’s pause has been natural: “I have a neighbor that lives a couple of floors down whose daughter attends my music classes and she loves the kids’ version, so she said ‘we should do a happy hour for the adults sometime soon.'”

Following the now-routine 7 p.m. ‘thank you’ cheer for health care and essential workers last Sunday night, Palan set-up on his balcony and started an acoustic set with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by timely covers of R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World” and The Ramones’ “I wanna be Sedated.”

Palan says that the feedback from his neighbors on the quarantine performances is largely positive: “I was hesitant to do it even in the first place because I didn’t want to be a nuisance.”

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Delivering Sandwiches in Greenpoint, Blue Light Speak Cheesy Helps Fill Gap Left by Shuttered Restaurants

Andy Chetakian’s business The Blue Light Speak Cheesy delivers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches in Greenpoint.

The abrupt arrival of coronavirus changed the state of restaurants and how people access food overnight, and independent entrepreneurs who are pushing through the pandemic to prepare and deliver food are helping to feed hungry would-be diners faced with fewer options.

Andy Chetakian’s dream is to own and operate a small diner, but for the time-being she’s happy running her grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich pop-up The Blue Light Speak Cheesy from her Greenpoint apartment, “I kinda like the freedom of the pop-up,” she said.

In pandemic-free years past, Chetakian popped-up at Brooklyn coffee shops such as the now-closed Budin (114 Greenpoint Ave.), where she prepared signature grilled cheeses sandwiches like the Staycation with habanero pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses, grilled pineapple, and basil on sourdough bread during the week, and cheesy egg sandwiches for weekend brunch.

Originally from Southern California where she began experimenting grilled cheese pop-ups in the small college town Fullerton in 2014, Chetakian moved on a whim three times between Brooklyn and Los Angeles with her business and most-recently relocated to Greenpoint in January.

The Speak Cheesy had just begun popping up at The Screen Door (145 Driggs Ave.) serving breakfast sandwiches to-go near McGolrick Park when the pandemic hit and the ice cream shop temporarily closed along with countless other restaurants in New York.

“I spent three weeks locked in my room just like everyone else, and I didn’t think that working was going to be an option for me, but I had all this time to sit and think, and I got some inspiration from friends that were talking about how they have a hard time getting groceries and they want more food delivery options,” she said.

On Saturdays, Chetakian delivers grilled cheese sandwich kits in Greenpoint from the menu on the Blue Light Speak Cheesy website. Orders can be placed through Saturday, and she makes the deliveries herself to ensure proper service.

Breakfast pick-up is available at Chetakian’s Greenpoint apartment (complete with contact-less window drop) on Sundays between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Customers can order up to two sandwiches for pick-up and choose from time slots that are spaced out in 15 minute increments in order to prevent crowding.

While her brick and mortar dreams are on hold, Chetakian says that she’s fortunate to skip the stress of the current situation facing restaurant owners: “I feel soo bad for all of the restaurants that are trying to keep their spaces and continuing to pay rent,” adding that she hopes that government aid will be sufficient to help all affected businesses reopen.

“I think this might be a lot longer than I originally thought,” Chetakian said.

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Cherry Point Permanently Closes as Relief Fund Raises Money for Staff

Cherry Point (664 Manhattan Ave.) closed permanently last month.

A New York City restaurant owner is brave to take up the challenge of running a food service establishment during normal times, but the strain some restaurants experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic was the final straw.

“It was incredible, the time arch,” recalls Vince Mazeau, owner of Cherry Point (664 Manhattan Ave.), who made the fraught decision to permanently close his English-inspired farm-to-table bistro last month.

(Courtesy of Cherry Point)

“From the end of the second week of March to the beginning of the third week, I thought, ‘I have to keep the restaurant open so my staff can keep earning money.” Most of the Cherry Point staff remained onboard since the restaurants’ May 2016 opening, and Mazeau has launched a relief fund for proceeds to be evenly split among his employees.

Other businesses in the area have since followed suit, including Gimme! Coffee, which announced the closure of its Williamsburg and Nolita shops this week.

Faced with a tough decision as an independent restaurant owner not primed for takeout, Mazeau worked out an agreement with his landlord who agreed to stop collecting rent while he seeks out a lease takeover.

“It might seem like I made a split second decision to close permanently, but I let my landlord know,” he said. Continue reading

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Quarantine Portraits Show Greenpointers From Their Apartment Windows and Fire Escapes

Waiting out the pandemic, photographer Johnny Cirillo has spent recent weeks indoors along with the rest of his fellow Greenpoint neighbors adhering to social distancing guidelines.

His new photo series captures friends in their quarantined state from their apartment windows, balconies and fire escapes.

While his projects such as the weekly Fashion Sundae photo series on the Greenpointers website are on hold, Cirillo has started to film drone videos (much to the excitement of his son Cassius) of Buzz Lightyear making sure all is well in the area, which served as inspiration for the portrait series. Continue reading

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Williamsburg Landlord Mario Salerno Waives Rent for Hundreds of Tenants Due to Coronavirus

Williamsburg landlord Mario Salerno is waiving rent for all of his tenants for April 2020.

Lifelong Williamsburg resident and landlord to hundreds of tenants, Mario Salerno announced on Monday that he will waive April’s rent for all of his residential and commercial tenants.

Salerno’s gas station and auto body shop at 451 Lormimer St.

Salerno who is 59-years-old was born on Metropolitan Avenue and his father started a gas station at 451 Lorimer St. in 1959, which his family still operates as Salerno Auto Body ShopContinue reading

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