Culture

Barano: Old World Italian Cuisine With a Modern Twist in South Williamsburg

Venturing out of Greenpoint for food can be a difficult decision with the numerous options nearby for thoughtfully prepared cuisine and the array of affordable eats in the neighborhood. The Italian food scene in South Williamsburg is a delightful excuse to cross through to the other side of McCarren Park. And if by chance you end up near the Williamsburg Bridge, Barano (26 Broadway) from chef Albert Di Meglio offers a wood-fired seasonal Italian menu featuring fresh pasta and hand-pulled mozzarella made in-house.

The dishes and the name of the restaurant (which opened in April 2016) are inspired by the village of Barano on the Italian island of Ischia, near Naples, where Di Meglio’s grandmother Giuseppina was born. “From a food perspective we try for old school classics with a modern flavor,” said Jonathan Soleimanzadeh, Barano founding partner and director of operations.

Spirit Animal, a wine shop by the Barno team is set to open next door on Broadway this spring as a complimentary space that will host tastings. In the meantime, Barano makes for the perfect date spot with it’s rustic charm and spacious-yet-cozy dining room accented by oak wood, stained tiles and vintage lighting. Greenpointers staff stopped in for dinner on recent weeknight and sampled the incredible cuisine; the pictures (and memories) are already making us crave more:

Antipasto; stracciatella, wood-fired olives, giardiniera, charred marinated peppers and house bread
Octopus with farro, mint pesto, celery, pickled radish and pine nuts
Stuffed artichoke with parsley, pecorino and bread crumbs

Pasta: Safron Gigli (right); Persian saffron, Calabrian honey, pecorino, black pepper and Duo ravioli (rear) fonduta, mushrooms, brown butter, sage and aged balsamic
Torta caprese; raw dark chocolate almond tart, Calabrian anglaise

Barano is open for dinner Monday to Thursday – 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday – 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Brunch hours are Saturday and Sunday – 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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Brooklyn Label: Rediscovering the Astral’s Legacy

The Astral (Pratt Institute archives)

A lot of local history is quickly disappearing, but one place that is holding strong is Brooklyn Label (180 Franklin St.) and the historic building it calls home. French Greenpointer Robert Arbor, proprietor of Le Gamin (108 Franklin St.) re-opened Brooklyn Label in the historic Astral Building. The former management did little to recognize the amazing history of the space, something that Arbor has dedicated himself to changing.

The Astral Apartments are not only landmarked, but the building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Arbor and his manager, Alex Russell, are determined to honor the building’s rich history and its patron philanthropist Charles Pratt, the oil baron and the richest man in 19th century Brooklyn.

Completed in 1883, the Astral Apartments were unique in their day: Unlike the flimsy tenement buildings that sprang up all around the city without basic amenities, the Astral was a kind of gift to the Greenpoint community and a solidly built showcase.

In contrast to tenements, Pratt’s building had plenty of natural light, air and even indoor plumbing, unheard of luxuries for most tenement dwellers. And the building was stunningly beautiful too!

The philanthropist hired famed architects Hugh Lamb and Charles A. Rich who also designed his stately Pratt Institute campus. Pratt commissioned them to design the Astral as a model for worker housing. Lamb & Rich based the Astral design on innovative tenement housing built by American philanthropist George Peabody in London who was a personal friend of Pratt’s.

Astral Kindergarten (Pratt Institute archives)
(Pratt Institute archives)

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The Break, Amber Tamblyn, Eckford St. Art Party and The Wild Honey Pie — What’s Happening, Greenpoint? (3/6 – 3/12)

WEDNESDAY 3/6

* Parks & Waterfront Committee Mtg — Community Board 1, Brooklyn @ CB1 District Office (435 Graham Ave.), 6:30pm, FREE, More Info
♦ An Evening with Craig Baldwin @ Light Industry (155 Freeman St.), 7pm, $8 suggested, found-footage filmmaking, More Info
♦ An Evening with Morbid Anatomy: Carnival of Souls @ Nitehawk (136 Metropolitan Ave.), 7pm, $18, Buy Tix
^ WORD + the William Vale Present Amber Tamblyn and Uzo Aduba @ The William Vale (111 N 12th St.), 7:30pm, $29, includes signed copy of Era of Ignition, Buy Tix

THURSDAY 3/7

* 25th Anniversary Screening: The Break with Q&A @ Stewart Cinema (79 West St.), 8pm, $5 suggested, Greenpointers and present a 25th Anniversary Screening of The Break! We’ll be joined by Ben Jorgensen aka ‘Monk,’ who will be taking questions regarding his upcoming book, he may even read a chapter; More Info
♫ Aurora @ Brooklyn Steel (319 Frost St.) 7pm, $25, Buy Tix
# Puerto Rican Dinner with Chef Ana Ortiz @ Archestratus Books and Foods (160 Huron St.), 7pm, $65, Buy Tix
♫ Jorge Ben vs Willie Colón @ Black Flamingo (168 Borinquen Pl.), 10pm, FREE, dress to sweat, Buy Tix Continue reading

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Ben Jorgensen Gets His “Break” at Stuart Cinema (3/7)

“The Break”

In an alternate universe Ben Jorgensen’s debut co-starring role alongside the legends Martin Sheen and Valerie Perrine in the 1995 tennis drama entitled, “The Break” was a blockbuster that garnered universal acclaim; instead Jorgensen, who goes by the name Monk, recalls the review byline, “Gone with the Wind it ain’t.”

“I flew to Miami for the premiere with Rae Dawn Chong and the movie had limited distribution for one sad weekend,” he said. While “The Break” went on to air occasionally on Showtime, Jorgensen never had a screening with friends; his sweet redemption will take place with an upcoming screening of the film at Stuart Cinema (79 West St.) on Thursday, March 7th, at 8 p.m., where Jorgensen will read an excerpt from his autobiographical book that is in the works.

Stuart Cinema is the new affordable theater space near the Greenpoint waterfront for artists to screen their films at a fraction of the cost of many Manhattan theaters.

The synopsis from IMDB:

 A depressed and destitute Nick Irons, a tennis pro banned from the tour for slugging a player during a TV match, agrees to coach a bookie’s “head case” son, Joel, who wants to turn pro. The bookie wants his son to get out of tennis and contracts Nick to discourage him. Nick begins to do that but after an episode with his old flame, Jennifer, and after seeing the kid’s determination he decides to teach him all the tricks, both physical and psychological, of the trade. The two battle the kids of a famous coach, unfair refs., injuries, travel all over the southern US, while Nick tries to woo his love back, finally to reach the big championship tennis match where all is resolved in dramatic fashion.

Full disclosure: I met Jorgensen three years ago when he moved into my Greenpoint apartment for a few months and we’ve since become friends; our mutual friends in the neighborhood have learned of “The Break” through Jorgensen but have never watched the movie, so we ordered a copy for the screening,

When Jorgensen moved to New York City in 1977 from Australia with his mother Tina Date, they lived in an artist loft on Wooster Street in SoHo where his godfather Stephen MacLean would often visit. As a Greenpoint resident today, Jorgensen is right at home: “I feel that I’ve returned to the 70s in Greenpoint, it reminds me of the artistic vibe with a local flavor that used to be in SoHo,” he said.

Jorgensen began acting as a teen when he landed the starring role in a Calvin Klein “Obsession” ad campaign (which was parodied on Saturday Night Live) and went to study under Bill Hickey, Austin Pendleton and Reed Birney. He worked on the soap opera “All My Children” in the 90s as the day-time television pioneering gay teenager Kevin Sheffield, during a season that went on to win two GLAAD awards and an Emmy. Jorgensen is currently preparing his for his role as a gay mafioso in the queer play, “Death of a Mobster,” while putting the finishing touches on his autobiographical book “Name Dropping.”

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Honoring Greenpoint’s Pioneering Female Factory Workers

(Photo via Turnstile tours)

The iconic industries of North Brooklyn were staffed by females who were underpaid and often worked in dangerous conditions. It’s high time we honor these anonymous, but heroic local workers. Some local industries preferred female workers.

Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but more often than not factory owners could underpay female workers, especially immigrant women who often lacked the language skills and awareness to demand their fair wage and better conditions.

The American Manufacturing Company

Some local female workers, however, were anything but docile. They fought for better wages and better conditions in strikes that often became violent. The American Manufacturing Company centered on West Street employed thousands of women, with many from Poland and Lithuanian. They were superior workers to men because the work making ropes required great manual dexterity and female hands outperformed men in making ropes.

The women worked long hours for poor pay, however, in 1910, the women organized a sit-down strike and engaged in a full-fledged street battle with the local police who tried to prevent them from taking over the sprawling factory. Polish women were also arrested when they violently confronted Italian immigrant workers hired to replace them. Later Puerto Rican women were brought from their native island to work in the plant, establishing a Puerto Rican presence in our area that lasts until today.

Another famous strike occurred at the Leviton plant on Greenpoint Avenue. Leviton manufactured pull-chain lamp holders for Thomas Edison’s newly developed light bulb, and in 1922 the company moved to Greenpoint. The massive factory took up two city blocks between Newel and Jewel Streets and produced over 600 other electrical items, from fuses to socket covers to outlets and switches.

(The Brooklyn Eagle Archives 06/1941)

The Leviton plant employed numerous women doing piecework. When inspectors came they saw guards on the machinery that protected the workers’ hands, but when the inspectors left the guards were removed because they slowed down assembly of the devices. Women at the plant lost fingers due to the lack of guards, which led to a demand for increased safety and union recognition in a long and bitter 1940 strike. The strikers were visited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the first time in American history the First Lady addressed striking workers. The women won the long bitter strike achieving better pay and safe conditions. Continue reading

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New York City’s First Black Principal Sarah Tompkins Garnet Began Her Career in Williamsburg

 

“Colored School #3” where Sarah Tompkins Garnet began. It still survives at 270 Union Avenue

March is Women’s History Month when we celebrate the achievements of North Brooklyn’s greatest women. Sarah Tompkins Garnet was not only the first black woman to serve as a principal in New York City, but she was also a fighter for women’s suffrage and for racial equality. She began her illustrious career locally in what was named “Colored School #3” right here in Williamsburg.

Sarah was born in the free black community of Weeksville in Bedford Stuyvesant, some buildings of which have survived and today form the basis of the Weeksville museum, a fascinating relic of Brooklyn’s 19th-century history. Her father, Sylvanus Smith, was one of Weeksville’s founders and one of the very few black Americans who were able to cast a vote in 1820 when New York State still had slavery.

African-Americans were only allowed to vote if they owned $250 worth of property- no small sum in 1820, but Sarah’s father was rich enough to meet the qualification. Her father was a strong advocate of black voting rights and Tompkins Garnet would continue his legacy, fighting against racial discrimination and for expanded voting rights. He also stressed that his daughters get educated. Garnet’s sister Susan McKinney Steward became the first black woman in New York State to earn a medical degree, and only the third in the United States. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Paul Kielmanowicz, a Polish Poet and Native Greenpointer

Native Brooklynite Paul Kielmanowicz with his book of poems

It’s high time we celebrate the hometown hero: Paul Kielmanowicz is a Greenpoint poet, born and raised, with the purest and most New York of stories: he writes on the subway and distributes his art communally. His book of poems, A Carefully Curated Chemistry, isn’t quite for sale — but he’ll tell you more about that. His poems simultaneously possess the largeness of mythology with the smallness of our fragile lives on this planet; indeed, his poems often discuss the earth and its natural splendor. Patient and probing, Kielmanowicz — who writes under the name P. E. Warren — captures in his work a delicate spirit rarely found in the competitive grit of New York. Get to know the local artist in our interview below:

Greenpointers: You grew up in Greenpoint, yes? What has it been like to see the neighborhood evolve? 

P. E. Warren: I sure did. Grew up on Russell Street, between Nassau and Norman Avenue, until the age 17. My parents purchased a single-family dwelling in Glendale, Queens, while I was entering my senior year of high school. My mother and father arrived in the New York as immigrants; they’re now citizens. My brother and I were born New Yorkers. I’m of Polish decent — 100% — but I tend to label myself as “Brooklyn,” when asked of my ethnicity. That might be perceived as foolishly amusing to some, but is fully sufficient for me. As a first-generation New Yorker, and Greenpointer, the city and neighborhood’s changed. It’s tough for me to use “evolution” to describe the happenings. Modification. I think modification’s fitting. Well. It has been an adjustment. Money is a dominance. It’ll be until it no longer is. It’s disappointing, to me at least, how intense of a power to influence or direct people’s behaviors it encompasses. But nonetheless, truthfully, the neighborhood’s safer from the days of the 90s, making it all right. Folks seem to be encountering less of the roughness. My motion, whether it be solely derived from a common aspect of adolescence most experience I cannot be sure, however, I find that I’m rarely walking out from our three-story low-rise rowhouse’s entrance vestibule onto the stoop and peering up and down the block before taking that last step down to hit the sidewalk and go about my day. The beauty of the neighborhood: we, the locals, are the living landmarks. I’ll forever put Greenpoint before myself, before my own name.      Continue reading

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Sakura Market Launches at Pony Boy

(Image courtesy of Micahel Stember)

Sakura Market is a new dining experience featuring “supreme sushi grade seafood with deep Unami flavors using healthy principles” that is launching at Pony Boy (632 Manhattan Ave.) in March.

 

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Blown away by Sushi Belly Tower this weekend in DTLA. Amazing work by @upstreamfoods

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Eckford Street Studio Hosts Family Art Party Sunday (3/10)

The exterior of local gem Eckford Street Studio

Ready your paintbrushes: Eckford Street Studio will host a Family Art Party on Sunday, March 1 from 10 AM to 2 PM at the studio’s home base, 70 Eckford Street. Families will enjoy food, games, drinks, and art (with supplies provided by the studio). Tickets start at just $35 for one adult and child, and $50 for two adults and two kids. But note: prices will go up at the door, so be sure to get yours today!

Every ticket purchased helps fulfill Eckford Street Studio’s mission to bring high-quality, affordable, and accessible art education to all members of our community.

Plus, those who attend will enjoy first dibs on the event’s auction, full of gift certificates, bar tabs, class passes, memberships, and more from some favorite hot spots including Artist & Craftsman, Artshack Brooklyn, Awoke Vintage, The Blue Stove, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Brooklyn Kitchen, Burson and Reynolds, Glasserie, Greenpoint Massage, Greenpoint YMCA, Hosh Yoga, Kanga’s Playspace, The Karcher, The Land of Barbers, Le Fanfare, Nanno, New Love City, Nitehawk Cinema, The Noguchi Museum, The Palace , Paulie Gee’s, Pheasant, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, PLAY Greenpoint, The Rack Shack, Ramona, Ringolevio, Rockin’ Locks, The Sketchbook Project, True North Training, wBees Forest School, Welcome Home Studio, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Williamsburg Hotel, Woops, The Yard, and Your Spoiled Pets .

So come have a colorful afternoon, bond as a family, and support a thriving local institution!

Program support generously provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies Director/Employee Designated Gift Fund, Jonathan and Rebekah Ambjor, Jonathan Nadler, and Jessica and Ryan Demler.

Families enjoy communal painting at Eckford Street Studio

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“Bath Haus” Renderings of the Under Construction Huron Street Bathhouse

The Bathaus (courtesy of Perkins Eastman)

Sales have officially launched along with the release of new renderings of the”Bath Haus” condo development by Caro Enterprises. The luxury development is currently under construction at 139 Huron St. with 9 units hitting the market ranging in price from $750,000 to $3,300,000. The architectural firm Perkins Eastman is behind the redesign and have a global portfolio spanning the Hilton Lagos in Nigeria and the Abu Dhabi Court Complex in the UAE.

139 Huron St. in 1940 (Courtesy of NYC tax photo archives)

A state mandate in 1895 required the construction of public baths in cities with more than 50,000 residents. The city’s poor were previously given access to floating baths off the shores of the East River, but they fell out of favor due to unsanitary pollution.

Greenpoint’s former Huron Street Bathhouse was built 1903, opened 1904 and closed 1960, it’s completion was a result of the City Beautiful Movement, which inspired ‘beautiful’ public architecture and increased municipal amenities to improve the living conditions of the city’s poorest residents.

The Bathaus (courtesy of Perkins Eastman)

25 baths were built in the Classical Revival Style around NYC with seven constructed in Brooklyn. All were based on the baths of ancient Rome. Continue reading

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