North Brooklyn Boat Club Holds First Member’s Meeting of 2013

This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s Fund from local reader donations!

Things are looking up for the North Brooklyn Boat Club.  Even a hurricane couldn’t wipe the polish off their first year in the water, which took the group from mere plans and papers to a modest 20-vessel navy regularly plying the local waters.  On April 2nd the group met again to kick off their second season as a fully-operational club, and the message of the night was simple: let’s get more butts in boats.

The key points made at the meeting all supported this theme.  Membership fees are effectively reduced by $20 for the year: last year members were asked to contribute $30 to the club and needed a separate $30 membership to the American Canoe Association in order to be covered by that group’s trip insurance.  This year the club has a blanket policy with them so a $40 fee paid to the NBBC directly obviates the need for individual ACA membership.  Members were also encouraged to start down the safety training path that will result in access to club boats outside of scheduled group excursions, helping to foster a feeling of individual access to the water.  Finally, opportunities abound for individuals to get involved in a number of ways:  besides the obvious operational groups, subcommittees are working on gardening and green roofs for the space, woodworking and boat-building, and citizen science related to water quality and biology, just to name a few, providing niches for almost any related skill.

If you’re interested, there is still plenty of time this season to join up and get involved.  Check out their website, follow the group on the various social media, or just look for smoke coming from the waterfront fire pit and introduce yourself.


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Meet the Designers: Williamsburg Fashion Weekend

This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s FundRaffle by Selamat Pagi.

Design by Natalia Kraynina with KACI HEAD

There are few better signs that you picked the right thing to wear to an event than walking in and finding that the designer of your clothes went with the same choice.  While normally finding your twin out in public is an annoyance, at Williamsburg Fashion Weekend it’s a sign of maturity: styles incubated in their most intense forms on the stage here bleed onto the bodies in the crowd and out the doors towards the street.

In the most recent occurrence of the biannual show this past Friday and Saturday, the scene opened with terse, politically pointed words from charismatic frontman Arthur Arbit: it’s simply not possible to come home from H&M or Bloomingdale’s with a $29 blouse without slave-like labor being involved in some stage of that supply chain.  He then quickly stepped aside to show us several dreams and a couple nightmares of the alternative.  Selected photos are below, but you can find my full gallery from the first night here.

The first showing of the night was Uta Brauser (photos in gallery) with her Got Armor? collection.  Meant to be a critique of modern gun violence, the stylish vests and shields of this collection are perhaps too plausible, and I loved the image of models pantomiming classic runway moves as they deflected the on-stage barrage of (soft foam) bullets. Continue reading

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Help Us Map Greenpoint!

This article brought to you by a donation to the Writer’s Fund by Paulie Gee’s.

Neighborhoods are notoriously tricky things to pin down, especially in New York.  While we all love jumping on the poor guy who tries to annex McCarren Park for Williamsburg, the truth of the matter is that neighborhoods grow and contract like families and are based on common consensus rather than the legal boundaries that govern more exact areas such as congressional districts and zip codes.  So, we’re going to hit you all up for a little consensus.

I’m using a method for identifying neighborhoods presented by Elyzabeth Gaumer from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development at a geography conference in 2012.

Here’s how it works:  at this Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Market we’ll have a table set up with some basic forms.  You stop by and fill one out anonymously.  The form has two general survey questions – your age range and how long you’ve lived in the neighborhood – and a blank space for you to map the neighborhood as you imagine it.  I don’t give you a background map to use on purpose: I’m interested in how you think about it without a prompt.

Can’t make it to the market?  You can also download the form here (PDF) and fill it out and email it to us at greenpointers (at)  If you print it out and draw on it, a photo of the form is fine as long as we can read the text you wrote.

A few days after the market I’ll go through all of the responses and digitize your drawings of the neighborhood using mapping software.  Once that’s done, I’ll overlay all of the drawings on top of one another.  The result is a cool-looking graphic that shows what areas of the neighborhood we all agree on at the core and the areas that are a bit more vague around the edges where consensus isn’t as complete.  I’ll turn this into a finished map that everyone can then disagree with.


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Counting Our Homeless – An Annual Controversy

Each year, in the dead of winter, the Department of Homeless Services sends volunteers – as many as 2,000- to less-than-scenic neighborhoods around the city to do a hand-count of the city’s homeless population. This year’s survey, on January 28, 2013, will require 3,000 volunteers, and they are currently recruiting. If you’re interested in issues of homelessness in Greenpoint, I highly recommend volunteering if only to get a glimpse at the internal workings of the city’s homeless outreach machinery.

The controversy over these counts largely concerns the timing of the survey and where volunteers are looking. It is intentionally conducted late at night at the end of January, an unpleasant time to be on the street, and specifically skips pseudo-private locations favored by the homeless such as ATM vestibules.  Groups such as Coalition for the Homeless believe that the result is “a flawed effort that, year after year, has resulted in a significant undercount of New York City’s homeless population.”  The implication is clear: the survey undercounts by design, masking the problem. However, according to the survey’s designers, it is intended to provide a street-level estimate of those individuals who are truly homeless, those who do not even make it to shelters on one of the coldest nights of the year, and thus expects a smaller number to be found.

To their credit, DHS does an excellent job of creating a methodology that answers their primary question without being too perplexing to the relatively untrained surveyors. However, while I was performing the survey, there was still a significant amount of deviation from the method on the part of my fellow volunteers. Their directions call for each group to make one pass along each side of each street in a given area, administering a short survey to anyone encountered.  However, my group found it impossible to resist the temptation to call across the street to passers-by, for example- while this was done in the spirit of making the count as inclusive as possible, it undermined its accuracy as a statistical sample by effectively surveying areas twice. Opponents of these surveys also include the variability introduced by these sorts of errors and the failure to adjust counts accordingly among their complaints.

Still, especially now that homelessness has become a major local issue, I think the experience of participating in the survey is valuable even if the data generated is more questionable. You can review the informational materials and sign up here: 2013 HOPE homelessness survey

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The First Thanksgiving – in Greenpoint

I can see you've played knifey-spooney beforeFor those of us who move to New York to start our adult lives, it’s a great moment when we find ourselves in a living situation stable enough to invite our parents in to sample the recipes we’ve so enthusiastically tweeted about.

Once we start cooking and have hours to think while waiting for the turkey to hit 165, the temptation places ourselves in the historically questionable narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” – helpful natives sharing a bench with buckle-hatted outcasts for a feast of local game and new world grains – becomes borderline irresistible.  We are, after all, both the pilgrims fleeing lack-of-religion persecution and the natives gathering exotically Kickstarted jams to supplement traditional fare.

My own narrative begins many moons back. A chance encounter on the street helping an older Polish neighbor to get her groceries upstairs led to regularly assisting her with everyday tasks. The experience has provided a great lens through which I can more accurately view the impact of my own life on this neighborhood.

Continue reading

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American Cheese Month at Eastern District

The rain returns, the beach is closed, and it’s dark by the time you’re home from work; Fall has a lot to apologize for.  Luckily, like all the best apologies, this one involves lots of food: a lot of seasonal products come into their best times around now.  While many of us don’t necessarily think of cheese as having a distinct seasonality, many of the incredible farms surrounding the city are currently putting out their best products at this time of year.  Courtesy of Beth Lewand, Cheesemonger and owner of Eastern District, here are two great examples of Fall’s best.

Vermont Shepherd & Dooryard Cider

The first is a firm sheep’s milk cheese from Vermont Shepherd in Putney, Vermont.  Sheep’s milk is the hardest of the main three (sheep, goat, and cow) to procure in volume because sheep have the shortest productive season and simply produce less than other animals during this time.  They generally give birth in the late winter or early spring and produce milk to feed their lambs during the spring and summer months when pastures overflow with the grasses and herbs that contribute rich flavors to the resulting cheeses.  The wheel we tasted was originally made on May 14th of this year and has aged for exactly 141 days as of this writing, and the farmers tell us that the pastures at that time had lots of plantain and dandelion contributing to the sheep’s diet.  The resulting cheese was exceptionally mild and smooth, buttery in a pleasant, clean way, and complex without being weird.  A perfect offering for a mixed group that might not be into the funky stuff, and Beth suggested pairing it with one of the many regional ciders being produced in the French farmhouse style – crisp, not too sweet, and with a light, champagne-like carbonation.   She extended this to suggest any product in the apple abnd pear family, fresh or cooked, served alongside this universally loveable cheese. Continue reading

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Brooklyn Fancy, Manhattan Casual: A NYC Fashion Phenomenon

This past Saturday I had plans to attend an art show held in a Manhattan apartment, plans that I, a municipal employee who works in a Queens office with a “bucket truck chic” dress code, tend to find myself underdressed for.  However, a combination of a successful fall shopping trip or two and a cooler-than-usual forecast after a soggy summer left me optimistic.  The preceding months have found me DOA (damp on arrival) so I was very excited to actually look as I’d intended.

Then it rained and was far too warm for the cardigan of which I was so proud anyhow, but that’s actually beside the point. Even had I been the crisp, just-hip-enough vision in denim that I had in my mind, I still would have fallen into a trap that I’ve been victim to before, one which I’m calling – and you heard it here first (if not, link me) – BFMC. Brooklyn Fancy Manhattan Casual.

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Williamsburg Fashion Weekend S/S 2013

Designer: Nathalie Kraynina, Photo: Peter Tiso

Williamsburg Fashion Weekend’s founder, producer and creator Arthur Arbit is all about conscientious, ethical clothing made here in the USA, not in 3rd world countries.

His message was when you’re shopping for clothes made in the corporate fashion world, someone’s paying with their blood. But not these clothes…each piece of clothing featured in the shows was made by its designer’s hands or otherwise American born.

Details and photos for each designer after the jump!

Continue reading

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Mexican Standoff: Greenpoint’s Best Taco

If you’ve made it this far into the summer without downing a single taco, I don’t know whether to congratulate you on managing to avoid an increasingly ubiquitous food or console you for missing out on one of Greenpoint’s most versatile foods.  The taco has been called (was it Proust?) the ideal food of summer – cheap, good eating in the hot sun, healthier than most things that pair so well with alcohol, and easily scaleable – one is a snack, three is a meal, and five probably means a nap is in your near future.  Greenpoint, luckily, has a wide array of noble taquerias to compliment its scenic waterfront and vast oil reserves, and on one glorious afternoon, your writers sampled from each in turn.  Continue reading

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The 3rd Annual Cheesemonger Invitational, Cheese Pun Free Edition

If Mike Bloomberg were to call me tomorrow morning and tell me my services were no longer required, I’d hardly bother to hang up the phone before marching into the nearest cheese shop looking to resume my old fall-back job as a cheesemonger.  Working first for a great small, independent shop and later for Whole Foods, I’ve gained a serious respect for the work that goes into every aspect of producing and bringing to market real cheese, and this is why I went just a bit nuts when I was offered the chance to report in on the Third Annual Cheesemonger Invitational.  Located in a hard-to-find warehouse in LIC, It’s an all-night party in the name of real dairy, centered around a competition that puts the spotlight on the people who make up the industry’s most public face. Continue reading

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