Nicky’s Unisex, a New Neighborhood Bar, Opens in Williamsburg

Cocktails at Nicky’s Unisex (Credit: Nicky Nyce)

Nicky’s Unisex, a new bar, restaurant and social venue, opened at 90 South 4th Street on July 3rd. The project was a long time coming, from Nicky Nyce, a 15-year veteran bartender in the neighborhood. She wanted to create a bar with “really good quality drinks, where someone will always be nice to you.”

After seeing Williamsburg’s bar scene evolve and change, Nyce aimed to open a space that was beautiful but didn’t take itself too seriously. She’d saved money for most of her career to open a bar in Bushwick, but when that lease fell through almost five years ago, it took until last summer for her to secure a new space in Williamsburg. Partnering with the owners of Magazine, as well as their investors, allowed Nyce the community and capital to start building out the bar a year ago, with the goal of opening Nicky’s Unisex on April 1.

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Protestors Lay Flowers at Doorstep of the 94th Precinct

(Image courtesy of the McCarren Gathering)

More than 100 Demonstrators laid flowers at the doorstep of the 94th Precinct Thursday evening approaching the precinct in single file along Meserole Avenue with flowers in hand, each meant to represent someone who had been affected by police brutality.

“It’s love and caring and compassion and empathy for humanity that’s actually going to push society forward,” said the protest’s principal organizer who wished to be referred to as Human X. (A Greenpoint resident, he would like to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal and to emphasize that his involvement wasn’t a form of self-promotion.)

“It was much more a protest of love than showing our outrage,” echoed Jessica Straw, a protestor and longtime resident of the Greenpoint who is a friend of Human X.

Officers at the precinct weren’t expecting the protestors’ surprise bouquet. As demonstrators placed flowers near the entrance, the police created a perimeter with metal barriers to keep the demonstration at more than an arm’s length.

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Yesterday we participated in a protest conceived by @bkwildlife and organized with collaboration of The McCarren Gathering from McCarren park to the 94th police precinct in greenpoint. where we presented/laid flowers down outside as a symbol of all the souls who have been affected by police brutality, harassment and/or unjust incarceration. This was a gathering of neighbors, humans, tax payers asking for equal and equitable treatment under the law and for an end to police brutality. Always remember that love is revolutionary. And for those of you who will ask, the cops stepped on the flowers and immediately threw them away. but we will not let them continue to step on or throw away BI+POC lives. we were so humbled to be a part of this experience spreading love #blm #brooklyninbk #brooklyninbrooklyn #brooklynfrombk #brooklynfrombrooklyn

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“The flowers, which presented a potential tripping/slipping hazard, were cleared after the protest in order to prevent injury to both members of the public and members of the Department,” Kathleen Fahey, the precinct’s Commanding Officer, said in a statement.

Thursday evening’s grassroots protest stemmed from a confrontation Human X, a Black man, had with the police a little less than two weeks ago. Continue reading

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Greenpoint This Week: Goodbye Jimmy’s, Hello Tropical Storm, Farewell Absentee Ballots, and More!

A rainbow over Manhattan Avenue following a lightning storm.

Happy post-tropical storm weekend Greenpointers! The last two weeks have felt like New York City’s own monsoon season with periodic torrential downpour occurring often with thunder and lightning; there was also a bonus hailstorm and a slathering of rainbows.

A break in the rain on Saturday morning could be the perfect opportunity to join a volunteer cleanup at McCarren Park at 10 a.m.

While the wet weather might return later today, Sunday morning will be a wonderful time to visit the McGolrick Park farmer’s market with your food and clothing scraps in tow.

North Brooklyn Compost Project will be collecting food scraps at McGolrick Park on Sunday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (pre-register here) and Green Tree Textiles will also be at the farmer’s market collecting used clothes and linens (hold off on the rugs).

If you spot a neon green refrigerator outside of the Lot Radio and are in need of fresh produce, you’re in luck, the community fridge is stocked compliments of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid.

Remember to keep your masks on while out and about, and in the meantime catch up on this week’s headlines from around the neighborhood: Continue reading

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Beloved Neighborhood Restaurant Jimmy’s Diner Closes After 13 Years

Jimmy’s Diner owners Blair Papagni and Josh Cohen outside their closed restaurant

Another beloved small business has closed in the wake of COVID-19. Jimmy’s Diner (577  Union Ave.) announced this month that the local restaurant would close for good. And yes, “The pandemic is absolutely the reason we closed,” says Blair Papagani, owner of Jimmy’s Diner.

Jimmy’s diner paused service in mid-March, when Governor Cuomo put New York State on PAUSE. “I had no doubt we would reopen,” says Papagani. At the time, she was beginning remote learning with her three kids, and assumed this closure would only last a few weeks. “In the first two weeks of being closed, we watched, like everyone else, I’m sure, the stories on the news of healthcare workers overwhelmed by the huge influx of patients into hospitals on a daily basis,” Papagani recalls. “We wanted to help and do what we had always done: Feed people.”  Jimmy’s partnered with North Brooklyn Angels to produce 450 meals a day for Woodhull Hospital healthcare workers and military personnel stationed there. This continued for eight weeks until the need subsided. Still, that wasn’t enough to keep Jimmy’s in business.

In early June, when became clear to Papagani that indoor dining was not going to be returning to normal anytime soon, it was time to make some tough decisions. “Jimmy’s is located on a busy stretch of Union Avenue and our sidewalk is quite small.  The idea of outdoor dining never seemed feasible to me,” Papagani says. “On a good day, when the world was a different place, Jimmy’s maxed out at 26 seats, eleven counter seats and fifteen table seats. When indoor dining returns we would not have been able to seat the counter and spacing people out would mean a maximum of 10 people seated at a time, if we were lucky. After thirteen years, it was no longer economically possible to stay open.  Delivery is not profitable enough for us to rely on and the takeout market is super saturated right now. I mean, even Peter Luger is doing takeout.”

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See Which Businesses in North Brooklyn Received COVID Relief Money

Temporarily shuttered Manhattan Avenue  stores in March following the initial coronavirus shutdown. (Photo: Aaron Simon)

Struggling businesses in North Brooklyn haven’t been shy in applying for federal aid. The U.S. government granted between $500 million and $1 billion worth of small business loans in the northern tip of the borough, according to an analysis by Greenpointers.

Officials in the U.S. Treasury Department released data this week on the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to “small” businesses struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic. The program has been shaky in its implementation, but there’s no question that some appreciated the infusion of cash.

The dollar amount (in millions) of PPP loans per North Brooklyn zip code.
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

Greenpoint, which roughly corresponds to the zip code 11222, has received the bevy of the federal windfall in North Brooklyn, raking in approximately $160 million. And more than 75% of qualified businesses in Greenpoint applied for aid, according to an analysis by Renthop.

Some of the companies in North Brooklyn that put the biggest dent in the federal government’s coffers are local favorites. ACME Smoked Fish received a loan of somewhere between $5 million and $10 million. However, more nondescript businesses like ConsenSys, a software company that specializes in blockchain technology, also received loans to the tune of millions.

Manhattan Avenue at the end of March. (Photo: Aaron Simon)

Unsurprisingly, companies in the retail and food industry, both of which were decimated by the economic fallout of the pandemic, made up the bulk of loan applications. The federal government also cut employers within the capacious category of “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services” a healthy stack of checks. (This includes law firms, software companies and public relations agencies.)

The number of PPP loans per industry type in North Brooklyn.
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

Most loan applicants decided to neither disclose their gender nor their race or ethnicity. Of those who did, the majority were white and male. This could be due to demographic skews, bias on the part of those who administered the program or a combination of factors.

The racial and ethnic breakdown of owners who received PPP loans (of those that chose to respond).
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

The U.S. Treasury Department extended the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to August 8. In a city reeling from an ongoing economic crisis, there’s still an opportunity for businesses in Greenpoint and Williamsburg in need of extra cash to get support.

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Greenpoint Film Festival Will Host a Drive-In Edition This August

The Greenpoint Film Festival is happening this year! (Image courtesy of Greenpoint film Festival)

Summer movies in city parks seem like a distant memory, but several new drive-in theaters have made communal viewing possible in the wake of COVID-19. Now, Greenpoint Film Festival is latching onto the drive-in trend for the 9th annual Greenpoint Film Festival, which will screen 35 films between August 1st – 9th.

Films well be shown in the parking lot on Meserole Avenue and Jewel Street, hosted by Broadway Stages, and The Foundry LIC. The eight day event will showcase eight feature films and 27 short films. Special Guest Speakers and socially distant gatherings, which abide by state and city health stipulations, will also take place.


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This year we’ll be screening 35 films from filmmakers local and beyond.

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The line-up includes an opening night screening of the official Chuck Berry documentary Chuck Berry, the world premiere of before/during/after written by and starring Orange is the New Black’s Finnerty Steeves, the NYC isolation thriller Locked Alone, the U.S. premiere of wild grizzlies documentary Bear-like, feature documentary Microplastic Madness that follows Brooklyn kids as they face the global plastic pollution crisis, and short film American Marriage from Academy Award-winning Call Me By Your Name writer James Ivory. The full program is viewable on the Greenpoint Film Festival website, where tickets are also now on sale, starting at $20 per car.

Car ownership, or even a rental, won’t be necessary for those who want to attend the festival. Organizers have arranged for a row of parked, stationary cars to be available for those who need a vehicle seat. A dedicated cleaning crew will be appointed to consistently reset and clean between, before and after each movie screening.

In lieu of a traditional concession stand, Wilson Rivas Catering will provide food trucks. Bathrooms will be located outside the lot with a dedicated cleaning team servicing them regularly. Filmmakers and celebrity guests will be invited to participate in a drive-through green “red” carpet. Frontline workers are also invited to contact the festival organizers for complimentary tickets. Continue reading

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Azure Gourmet Opens Upscale Deli on Franklin Street

Azure Gourmet is now open at 113 Franklin St.

A new deli and grocery store at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Franklin Street sells all the essentials typically found at a Brooklyn bodega, but fancier. Azure Gourmet (113 Franklin St.) opened in early July, its freezers full of pints of Oatly oat milk ice cream, Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and frozen vegan meat alternatives. Shelves are stocked with Brooklyn-made dry goods, like Sfoglini pasta as well as imported specialty items. The selection is quite a contrast from the bodega across the street, 111 Franklin Deli Grocery, a Greenpoint mainstay vending mainstream grocery products like Doritos and Top Ramen.

Assorted frozen treats at Azure Gourmet

Azure Gourmet has a small fresh produce section, offering a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as ready-to-eat produce like Organic Girl salad mixes. Dairy products and their vegan alternatives (like Kite Hill ravioli and Daiya cheddar) are also for sale, as are specialty snack items, like Ithaca Craft Hummus. Continue reading

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Where to Get Tested for COVID-19 in North Brooklyn

Altru Chemists in Greenpoint offers COVID-19 tests. (Photo via Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner)

While New York City’s COVID-19 curve has thankfully flattened, the pandemic rages on across the country. In Brooklyn, we’ve been able to keep coronavirus at bay by social distancing, wearing PPE (keep those masks on!) and sanitizing our hands like our life depends on it (it does), but another important part of limiting the spread of the virus is being tested.

New York City recommends that all New Yorkers get tested, and, when necessary, continue getting tested after potential virus exposure, such as after being around a sick person or in a group setting.

Testing is quick, often free and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here’s where to get a test:

Walk-in at Jonathan Williams Houses (333 Roebling St.)

This city-sponsored walk-in testing center at 333 Roebling St. offers free tests, often without a wait. Walk in for a COVID-19 swab test: Monday- Saturday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Sundays, 8 a.m.- 12 p.m. Antibody testing is also offered Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Continue reading

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Lili and Cata Adds Backyard Manicure And Pedicure Stations

Lili & Cata’s backyard garden is open for pedicures and manicures

It’s been nearly a year since Lili and Cata Nail Saloon opened its non-toxic nail shop and cafe on Greenpoint Avenue, and after over three months of mandatory closure, the café and salon is back and better than ever, thanks to a backyard addition.

Outdoor space is of course highly sought after in Brooklyn, and Lili and Cata always planned to used their backyard for nail services, but after opening at the height of summer 2019, the founders Lilly and Jorge Rojas decided to wait to invest in improvements until 2020. Like all of us who made plans for 2020, the Rojas’ expectations slightly shifted this spring.


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Ironically, Lili and Cata’s in-salon café got its liquor license five days after closing in March, which in an ideal world would allow the business to expand revenue streams, but in a pandemic world, was more of a “bittersweet” accomplishment, Jorge said. Last month, they tried selling wine and beer on weekends, but Greenpoint has a ton of competition, so, “We decided to wait until Phase 3 to put energy into the business,” he adds. Continue reading

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Assembly Candidates Lentol and Gallagher Prepare for Absentee Ballot Count

(Image courtesy of Emily Gallagher for State Assembly)

After the pandemic struck, Kevin Forsyth, a resident of East Williamsburg, went up to his parents’ place in Connecticut to ride out the worst of COVID-19’s spread.

Anticipating that he wasn’t going to be in Brooklyn for the Democratic primary, he then filled out an application for an absentee ballot in May. But come June 23, it still hadn’t arrived. On primary day, he decided to make the two-and-half-hour drive back into Williamsburg to vote in person.

“It was pretty absurd,” he said. “But I know those primaries matter, and these races are tight. I wanted to show up for it.”

Forsyth’s story is one of ten Emily Gallagher, a candidate for the 50th District in the state Assembly, has collected to document absentee ballot irregularities during a primary amidst a pandemic. Despite voters reporting issues with absentee ballots, Gallagher remains optimistic that these votes will clinch her first position in elected office.

Incumbent Assemblyman Joseph Lentol hopes, however, that his 15% lead over Gallagher after in-person voting won’t budge. Tomorrow, the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) will put each candidate’s optimism to the test as it begins to tally mailed-in votes across Brooklyn. Continue reading

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