Sealed with an XOXO: A Nostalgic Recap of our Vintage Rose Valentine’s Market

Inside the bustling Greenpoint Loft (photo: Ben Shirai)

The Greenpoint Loft was buzzing with amore and filled with the sentimental vibes of Valentine’s days past on Sunday afternoon. The stunning space was packed with incredible vendors, excited shoppers, supportive sponsors, and community members who came together for a lovely day of shopping, music, photos, and fun activities.

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On the roof deck of Greenpoint Loft (photo: Ben Shirai)

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A Fruit Salad More Than a Decade in the Making

Mr. Berry in Greenpoint (via Google Maps)

His first day in Brooklyn, Joon Yoon was baptized in true New York City fashion—with bird poop. While others would consider this an ill omen, Joon saw his unexpected baptism as a harbinger of success. “Some people say it is good luck if you get pooped on,” he explained matter-of-factly over email.

His optimism was warranted. More than two decades since his 1997 arrival in New York from South Korea, Yoon—along with his brother, Jun Yoon—now manages a small green-grocery empire. The brothers own 11 stores (including two in Greenpoint), all of which are a gentlemanly variation on the original store’s name, Mr. Kiwi at 957 Broadway in Brooklyn. They have even expanded into Queens, opening Mr. Avo this year in Long Island City.

Although now bonafide American entrepreneurs, the Yoons originally lived in a provincial capital of middling size in South Korea. Rootless and with financial difficulties, they moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, knowing no one in the New York area. When Joon first arrived at age 23, he began working in grocery stores from the Bronx to Queens at an exhausting pace—seven days a week at 14 to 18 hours a day.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

In 2006, he was faced with a choice. The Woodside grocery he worked at was closing, soon leaving him without work. Joon and his family decided to take a leap and open Mr. Kiwi, the idiosyncratic name chosen spontaneously during a road trip. In the beginning, it was hard to gain traction. “They didn’t come with a lot of money or anything… When you don’t have money, there is no one who will give you money. So, they had to start with very little product in the store. Literally, maybe a one-item-per-shelf situation,” explained Jae Lim, their office manager, over the phone.

Mr. Plum (photo: Ben Weiss)

The brother-and-father team operated the store 24 hours a day, working in shifts. Junseok Yoon, their cousin, came soon after and became an integral part of the operation. Customers appreciated the cheap produce—sourced from Hunts Point Market—and generous portions from their juice bar, detailed Lim.

13 years later, one store became 11. And Mr. Kiwi was joined by Mr. Coco, Mr. Piña, Mr. Melon, Mr. Lime, Mr. Berry, Mr. Mango, Mr. Lemon, Mr. Plum, and Mr. Avo. The Yoon family has even recently opened a salad bar in Bushwick. Continue reading

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Amazon Cancels Long Island City HQ2 Plans

Amazon’s Seattle HQ (courtesy of Joe Wolf)

After Governor “Amazon” Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio offered the trillion-dollar company, Amazon, upwards of $3 billion in tax subsidies to locate part of its HQ2 campus in Long Island City without public discourse, Amazon has canceled its plans for Queens. Read the full statement from Amazon:

After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.

We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.

We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.

We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.

Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Director Dina Vovsi

Dina Vovsi

When we discuss the art scene in Greenpoint, we often focus on the Pencil Factory’s many inhabitants or the other visual artists working out of their studios, homes, and even in our neighborhood parks. But North Brooklyn has always been teeming with artists of many different stripes, including versatile theatermakers like director Dina Vovsi. Dina has worked in collegiate and Off-Broadway theaters, crafted plays centering on immigrant experiences, and created immersive experiences in outdoor settings. Below, we get to know the Greenpoint-based director while discussing her career, the importance of affordable housing, and — of course — her dog Bruce.

Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Greenpoint, and what brought you here? 

Dina Vovsi: I’ve lived in Greenpoint for about two and a half years. Before moving here, my partner and I were in Kensington for a year, and before that, I lived in Williamsburg for six years, so I’ve spent a lot of time in North Brooklyn. I am super lucky — my name was drawn in the affordable housing lottery for an apartment in a brand-new, mixed-income building, which has made being an artist significantly more possible over the past couple of years. It’s been a financial game-changer, and I can’t stress enough how everyone needs to be submitting for these buildings on NYC Housing Connect; I know quite a few people who have been selected recently, so it’s really not as impossible as legend says. We live in the quieter, north end of the neighborhood, and I love being near the water and walking our dog, Bruce, to Transmitter Park and Greenpoint Landing. More people know his name than mine, which I’m totally fine with. Continue reading

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V-Day Blood Harvest, Glitterthon, Full Moon Breathwork — What’s Happening, Greenpoint? (2/14 – 2/19)

THURSDAY 2/14

* TRIVIA Night! Teach Me Sweetheart @ Archestratus (160 Huron St.), 8pm, FREE, Hey Friends and (Trivia) Lovers! Join me for Valentine’s Day Trivia at Archestratus. Swing by Solo or with a team of up to 4, RSVP
♫ V-Day Glitterthon w/ Darkwing, Daddies, Low Anxiety Nevva @ Gutter Bar (200 N. 14th St.), 8pm, $7, More Info
♫ The Jones Family Retro Show Presents: Valentines Day 1976 @ Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St.), 9pm, FREE, More Info
♫ Tropical Past & Future x Noche Romantica @ Black Flamingo (168 Borinquen Pl.), 10pm, FREE, More Info

FRIDAY 2/15

^ Brooklyn Poets Reading Series @ 100 Bogart (100 Bogart St.), 7:30pm, FREE, poetry, wine and light refreshments, More Info
♫ H8BB V-Day Blood Harvest // Haybb&BSteel&STD&MeanSiders&Tetchy @ Rubulad (Secret Location) 8pm, $10, Buy Tix
♫ Live at Muchmore’s! w/ Eric Benoit and Friends @ Muchmore’s (2 Havemeyer St.), 8pm, FREE, Buy Tix
♫ The Rigors of Love // Tablopan @ Scholes St. Studio (375 Lorimer St.), 8pm, $15, More Info Continue reading

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Greenpoint’s Adam ‘Babyface’ Kownacki Follows Local Boxing Tradition

Adam ‘Babyface’ Kownacki (courtesy of Adam Kownacki)

Recently, heavyweight boxer Adam ‘Babyface’ Kownacki has generated a lot of local excitement. The Polish-born, but Greenpoint bred, Konwacki is 19- 0 in his professional career. A huge contingent of locals showed up to support Kownacki in his last match in the Barclay’s Center. Kownacki continued to climb up the heavyweight rankings by earning a second-round TKO victory over former title challenger Gerald Washington (19-3-1, 12 KOs). The talented Kownacki is only the latest in a long tradition of excellent North Brooklyn boxers. The first local champion boxer dates to the era after the Civil War when prizefighting was still illegal.

Local boxing champ and Medal of Honor winner Sam Collyer (courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Williamsburg Civil War hero and bare-knuckle fighter Sam Collyer won both the Medal of Honor and a lightweight world championship in the days after the War Between the States, but Collyer was a puncher and not a boxer. He won a few title defenses in the 1860s, but was later embarrassed in the ring by perhaps the greatest local fighter, McAuliffe in an 1888 match staged in a local theater, in which McAuliffe humiliated the former champ with his technical boxing prowess. Continue reading

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Floating Timber Bridge Proposed to Span Newtown Creek

Courtesy of CRÈME Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design

Williamsburg-based CRÈME introduced renderings of Timber Bridge at LongPoint Corridor: A 275-foot-long, 16-foot-wide, floating pedestrian and biking bridge made of sustainable glue-laminated and pressure-treated timber, to span Newtown Creek from Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint to Vernon Blvd in Long Island City.

Courtesy of CRÈME Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design

The bridge is designed to have pivoting features to open and close in around 3 minutes for the many boats and barges on Newtown Creek, the 3.8 mile-long federal Superfund site that will undergo remediation over the next decade.

Courtesy of CRÈME Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design

To prevent flooding, the bridges’ platform would move with the tide and have green spaces on either side. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports that the bridge was the idea of Jun Aizaki, a 20-plus year North Brooklyn resident and Pratt Institute graduate.

Construction would take approx. two years and cost more than $32 million to build. LongPoint Bridge could potentially receive city funding and additional backing from private donors, such as Amazon, who the firm is exploring as a donor. The bridge is also backed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and State Assemblyman Joe Lentol; a newly registered nonprofit, Friends of Timber Bridge, is seeking to raise funds for the project.

Courtesy of CRÈME Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design

A Kickstarter campaign by the design firm raised $30,266 last summer, which was short of the $50,000 goal. Momentum for the bridge may pick up with the anticipated localized tech industry boom led by the potential for Amazon to build HQ2 in Queens, bringing tens-of-thousands of new jobs and residents to the area served by the proposed bridge.

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L Train Non-Shutdown Begins April 26 With Night and Weekend Service Changes

(Image courtesy of Roshan Vyas)

Five weeks after releasing a statement announcing that the L train shutdown is averted, the MTA announced its “Alternative Service Plan” for construction on the Canarsie Tunnel during nights and weekends, when L trains will run every 20 minutes from Bedford Ave to Manhattan.

The work would begin on April 26, and is estimated to last 15 – 20 months. The previous plans to lengthen the G train and provide shuttle buses across the Williamsburg Bridge are not included in the new plan, but service will increase on the G, M and 7 subway lines. An MTA shuttle will run from Bedford Avenue to the J/M Marcy Avenue station and to the G/L Lorimer Street station and back, according to amNew York.

According to NBC New York, the plan includes (and excludes):

  • Work on overnights/weekends begins the weekend of April 26;

  • The MTA does not anticipate closing 14th Street to vehicles, which would have happened under the previous plan;

  • The MTA is not  planning shuttle buses or HOV lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge;

  • The MTA is not planning shuttle buses or HOV lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge;

  • Beginning at 10 p.m. every night, L trains will run every 20 minutes;

  • The MTA recommends customers use other subway lines – the G/J/M especially;

  • The MTA will not be lengthening G trains as previously planned;

  • The MTA will run a “loop bus” from Bedford Avenue to those other subways;

  • concerned about crowding at First Avenue and Third Avenue in Manhattan. They are considering making those stations EXIT ONLY;

  • Work should last 15-20 months but an end date is unknown

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Northbound Trains Will Skip Greenpoint Avenue in March

GreenpointAve_GTrain_nmgreenfield_674-500x209

 

Service changes for the G train are slated to begin March 1, to make way for construction crews to install three elevators at the Greenpoint Ave stop, Councilmember Stephen Levin posted on Facebook:

We have some service changes to the G Train coming up as we make the line better. Here are the details

1. The next phase of the project to bring full ADA accessibility to the Greenpoint Avenue G station, including three new elevators and other accessibility features, will require round-the-clock track and platform access to construction crews. Beginning at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, March 1, 2019 until 5:00 a.m. on Monday, April 1, 2019, northbound G trains will not stop at Greenpoint Avenue. Customers will be able to access the station by taking MTA NYC Transit bus service or taking a northbound G train to 21st Street in Queens and then back riding on a southbound G train to Greenpoint Avenue. There will be no change to southbound G service during this time at this station.

2. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 4, 2019 until 5:00 a.m. on Monday, April 1, 2019, southbound G trains will not stop at the Flushing Avenue G station. This southbound bypass is necessitated by an MTA NYC Transit flood prevention project at the station, as the staircase leading to/from the southbound platform of the station will be closed for the flood mitigation upgrade. Customers will be able to access this station by taking a southbound G train to Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues and then taking a northbound G train to Flushing Avenue. There will be no change to northbound G service during this time at this station.

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The Unlikley Story Behind Williamsburg’s Washington Statue

(Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives)

These last bone-chilling, frigid days have been hard to bear, but these freezing days have reminded me of the horrible cold the Continental Army endured during the darkest moments of the revolution and of a unique local statue that captures Washington’s suffering during that freezing winter. Situated in Continental Army Plaza, right near Roebling Street’s entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, the Equestrian Statue of George Washington at Valley Forge is decidedly the most impressive piece of public sculpture in North Brooklyn. Perhaps the only thing that can rival the awe the statue inspires is the incredible story of how an honest politician (that rare breed indeed) gifted it to the city.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives

The statue was dedicated in 1906, and presented to the City by local Congressman James R. Howe and the Committee of Supervision and Construction. It was sculpted by Henry Mervin Shrady, a New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, who was commissioned to make his first major public work after winning a design competition in 1901. The huge statue was cast at Roman Bronze Works on Green Street in our area and is anchored to a granite base designed by Lord and Hewlett.

Image courtesy of Ephemeral New York

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