M.S. 571’s Phase Out Explained

December 20th, 2010 by Jonathan Vit

Prospect Heights’ troubled M.S. 571 would close its doors permanently by 2013, announced the Department of Education on Dec. 6th and 7th. The middle school was included in the department’s plan to shutter 26 of the city’s lowest performing schools.

“I don’t see why this school was targeted,” said M.S. 571 P.T.A. President Maria Salichs. Listen to Salichs discuss where the school goes from here:

Maria Salichs on M.S. 571’s closing by jonathanvit

The Underhill Avenue school earned a “D” on its most recent annual progress report. An investigation this fall into M.S. 571 by department officials found consistent problems at the school, including low attendance rates, poor test performance and concerns over student safety. Here’s a closer look:

Vilage of Light – A Burning Man Winter Celebration in the City

December 15th, 2010 by Ichi Vazquez

What do you do when some of your best memories take place in the middle of the desert with your closest friends, as exotic DJ beats blast all around you while you examine some of the most beautiful art pieces you’ve ever seen?

You decompress from that experience by bringing it back to life right at home, of course.

This is what the Burning Man community here in New York City did on Friday for Gratitude:Village of Light, an event that celebrated the community of like-minded artists, performers, visionaries, and kindred spirits who practice the 10 Burning Man principles year-round, and invite other to do just the same.

Burning Man is a music and arts festival that began in San Francisco around 1987. Today, the event takes place in Black Rock City, Nevada and boasts an attendance of over 50,000 participants every year, inviting people around the country and the world to take part in an experimental city that is commonly described as an expressive Utopia with extremely harsh desert conditions. In this city, currency and commercialism is non-existent (in other words, not allowed!), and another form of exchange takes its place instead: gifting.

Many major cities, including New York City no less, have a prominent community of Burning Man attendees that have over time transformed the semi-underground annual event into a full on cultural and artistic movement. Friday’s Village of Light event served as a celebration of an embraced 11th Principle, Gratitude, that was first revealed at Figment, a summer music and arts festival on Governor’s Island organized by the same community of artists. Proceeds will go towards Figment as well as the Black Rock Arts Foundation in order to support participatory culture, community and interactive art.

Here is a list of featured highlights from the event:

– A fashion show by designer Wheylan at midnight
– Dozens of 2D, 3D, and Video Art installations
– A Burlesque/Cabaret Revue

DJ Line Up
– An-Ten-Nae (Acid Crunk/SF)
– Arrow Chrome (Disorient/NYC)
– Friar Tuck (Disorient/NYC)
– Karim So (Luvstep/LA)
– The Bass (Disorient/NYC)
– Bit-Tuner (Trepok Rec./Switzerland)
– Blanco (BOOM Trike/NYC)
– D_Juice (House of Yes/NYC)
– Jon Margulies (Hobotech/NYC)
– Joro-Boro (Etno-Teck/NYC)
– Mike Vinyl (injectionmusic/Austria)
– Miss Sabado (Disorient/NYC/LA)
– Morphous w/ ShiZaru (Tsunami Bass Experience/NYC)
– The Munch Machine (petermunch.com/NYC)
– Orion Keyser (Disorient/NYC)
– Reda Briki (Disorient/NYC)
– Space Invader (MK2/NYC/SF)
– Tektite (Vitamin B/NYC)
– DJ Tinseltown (Flux Factory/NYC)

Live Bands
– Raquy and the Cavemen (NYC)
– Comandante Zero (NYC)
– Neon Dynamite (NYC)
– Lenkadu (Boston)
– Gina Ferrera (Philly)
– Siren (NYC)
– Joshua Tennent & Acoustic Noise Complaint (NYC)
– JustinJustin TOCA & Ale’ Ale’ Drummers (NYC)

For those of you who have never attended Burning Man before, Judd Weiss wrote a highly amusing and slightly explicit description of his experiences there in his blog. Since it was his first year, it’s a great read from a very personal point-of-view. But the truth is, everyone has a whole range of experiences out there, and it can be as crazy or as zen as you like it to be.

For further information, here are some links to New York City Burning Man theme camps and artistic groups. And although it is not updated often, you can also scout out information about the Burning Man in New York City website.


Kostume Kult

Image Node


House of Yes

Soundslides music credits: “Love & Happiness” (Yemaya y Ochun) [Michel Cleis ‘Floreo’ Remix]

Greenwich Village Orchestra’s Annual Family Concert

December 13th, 2010 by Edouard de Mareschal

The Greenwich Village Orchestra gave yesterday its annual Family concert at the Washington Irving High School. Contrary to other concerts of classical music, children and even babies were warmly welcome in the theater. For one hour, Music Director Barbara Yahr made an educational presentation of all the different instruments, as GVO played Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. From the violin to the piccolo to the trombone, all of them where introduced to the children.

She explains the purpose of this annual event.

The orchestra was founded in 1986 by a group of musicians from the New York Metropolitan area. What is remarkable about it is that professional players and amateurs share the same stage. Some talented young can also be part of the concert, as teenager Angela Wee, 12, winner of GVO’s Young Artist Competition who was invited as soloist in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

The families who were there really appreciated being able to go to a concert all together, and are ready to come again next year.

Meet Your Maker at Brooklyn’s (Makers) Market

December 13th, 2010 by Stuart White

The sign above the (Makers) Market, located at 3rd St. & 3rd Ave. in Gowanus.

By Stuart White

The people behind the Old American Can Factory—a Brooklyn artists’ community located in a converted cannery—are inviting New Yorkers to meet their maker.

Despite the phrase’s ominous overtones, the (Makers) Market’s goal is to put people directly in contact with the craftsmen that make the goods they buy.

“Really our criteria is enduring design, quality materials and the makers’ methods,” said Carrie Luckner-Zimmerman, who is in charge of market development. “We want the makers making at least 50% of each item, but I would say most of the makers here are making 90% of each item.”

“It’s about shopping local and meeting your maker,” she added.

The (Makers) Market website lists “overall social accountability” as one of it’s goals for its participants, and a quick overview of the market’s vendors reveals just that. From jewelry made from recycled metals, to stuffed animals made from secondhand sweaters, most of the goods on display are fabricated with sustainability in mind.

The market has certainly made a positive impression on its patrons.

“It’s terrific,” said first-time market-goer Kate Bieger, of Park Slope. “I just love seeing everyone’s handmade crafts. It’s just beautiful.”

Bieger said she was impressed by the quality of the goods of display.

“A lot of the work seems very professional, which, to be honest, I didn’t expect,” she said. “It’s like stuff in a fancy boutique.”

Though it’s only in its second season—the first was last fall—the (Makers) Market is drawing artists and artisans from all over the city and state. To see some of the market’s wares and hear from the artists themselves, check out the audio slideshow below, then take a look at the interactive map to see where the artists hail from.

View (Makers) Market Participants in a larger map

Holidays in New York circa 1830, by Candlelight

December 13th, 2010 by Bianca Seidman

In the middle of the Upper East Side’s bustle, under the long shadow of the Queensboro Bridge, sits one of the oldest houses in New York City.  The sturdy stone structure is similar to the Huguenot houses on the oldest street in America, but this isn’t quaint New Paltz, New York.  It’s almost Midtown Manhattan, where the mega watt lights flood the streets, day  and night.  On one corner of East 61st Street, steps from the East River, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum still celebrates the holidays by candlelight and the date is 1830.

When it was built in 1799, there was no East 61st Street, in fact there wasn’t much at all in the farmlands above New York City, which only extended as far as 14th Street.  The building was a carriage house on the property of Abigail Adams Smith, the daughter of President John Adams, housing farm animals and stables until the main house burned down.  Several years later, in 1826, the building was still standing and was converted to a day hotel, not for overnight lodging.

Though the museum celebrates by candlelight this month in a building restored to its historic hotel status, the structure was owned until 1924 by electricity giant Con-Edison.

The little stone house that’s survived since the 19th century has been owned and maintained since then by the Colonial Dames of America, who hope to sustain it through tours and exhibitions that carry a generous admissions price.  Visitors who attended this weekend’s candlelight tour, where the rooms are in veritable darkness save for a few strategically placed candles, seemed to appreciate stepping back into a historic New York holiday, though  cameras don’t seem to have the same appreciation for the dark.

Holidays by Candlelight at Mt. Vernon Hotel Museum from Bianca Seidman on Vimeo.

Don’t Call it a Comeback: Why Vinyl Still Matters

December 13th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Did you hear that vinyl was dead?

If so, you may have heard wrong.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, in 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased than any other previous year in the history of Nielsen. That’s 1.88 million records. An impressive number. What’s more impressive? In 2009, that number increased by 33 percent.

What’s interesting is that the market for other forms of analog devices, such as compact cassette tapes and 8-tracks, is non-existant, or relegated to “cult” status: experimental indie rock group Animal Collective is offering a free cassette of unreleased songs with every pre-order of a new shoe each member has designed for the Keep shoe company.

But the above numbers indicate that the vinyl market is hardly niche, or a blip on the radar. So why vinyl, and why now? With record companies struggling to keep up with the digital boom in the last decade the vinyl surge seems curious. How can an old form of technology thrive during a time when even MP3 players can become obsolete after a year or so of use?

“Vinyl sounds better than CD,” says Greg Winter, 29. “A well cared-for, clean vinyl on a good sound system will kick a CD’s ass any day.”

Winter is the impetus behind HPRS, formerly known as the Highland Park Record Sale, an underground record sale in Iselin, NJ. He began collecting vinyl about 15 years ago, but entered into the world of vinyl sales about eight years ago. He says the reason digital hasn’t buried analog is simply because the quality of sound is just not as impressive. To some, the compression process destroys the quality of the music.

Beyond that, though, Winter believes that vinyl appeals to a certain subset of music fan who cares about not only the music quality, but the music experience.

“There’s a magical quality about vinyl,” Winter says. “The feel of it, the warmth of it. Dropping a diamond tipped needle into a groove that plays music– you don’t have that engagement with a CD.”

More cynically, the question very well may not be “why is vinyl back,” but rather, “what reason does anyone have to continue to buy CDs?” In an age when music is so easy to consume digitally, the younger generations never became too attached to CDs, and older fans who never accepted them see no reason to buy them now. That vinyl has something to offer– a musical experience over a piece of plastic ephemera– seems to be the cause of its longevity. And with new hardware and software that lets you rip your vinyl to your hard drive, you can have your cake and eat it too: you can buy vinyl as a collector, and still have each song at your fingertips.

Below, see and hear more from Greg– including some of his stops along the way– and perhaps learn a little more about what it is that makes vinyl so special these days.
Read the rest of this entry »

Play in Bed-Stuy Explores Topic of Gentrification

December 13th, 2010 by Jacqueline Vergara Amézquita

“Brothers From the Bottom,” written and directed by Jackie Alexander, tackles the tensions brought forth in neighborhoods faced with imminent change. Set in New Orleans, five years after Hurricane Katrina, the play offers differing views on the topic of gentrification/revitalization through the eyes of two brothers.

A popular topic of discussion among the long-time residents of Bed-Stuy, the play’s theme appears to resonate with the audience who comes to enjoy the show at the Billie Holiday Theater located in the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza.

The play premiered on Oct. 15 and runs through Dec.19.

As the audience trickled in on Saturday night, we went behind the scenes and got a peek of the actors before they set foot on the stage.

We also sat down with Jackie Alexander before the show and asked about his motivation for writing the play, the relevance of the play’s theme in Bed-Stuy, and what he hopes the audience will walk away with.

S.T.E.M. Studio Brings Science to South Bronx

December 13th, 2010 by Kahliah Laney

The U.S. education system is like dial-up in a high-speed world: inefficient. Dial-up academia is especially a problem in the subjects of science and math.

Recently the World Economics Forum placed the quality of U.S. science and math curriculum at 48 out of 133 other nations. The National Science Foundation also reported that ethnic minorities are even less likely to pursue an undergraduate degree in science and engineering.

The U.S. is falling behind in this globally competitive economy.

But Iridescent Learning, a nonprofit science education organization, is trying to change that. The interactive STEM-based program teaches students, and their parents, about technology and engineering. Most important, however, is that students can actually apply what they learn by inventing things.

With a location already in Los Angeles, Tara Chklovski, President and CEO of Iridescent Learning Chklovski chose the South Bronx for her second science studio location. The studio, located on the first floor of the Banknote Building, will be opening its doors to students in early 2011.

Chklovski has partnered with the U.S Office of Naval Research through a Department of Defense campaign to increase diversity in STEM. The studio will receive an estimated $2 million each year through a three-year grant from the ONR to serve about 1,500 students from over 31 schools across Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx.

Here is a look at the November 4th opening festival.

Jingle Bell Jog 2010

December 12th, 2010 by Daniel Prendergast

The New York Road Runners held their annual Jingle Bell Jog in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park this weekend. This seasonal race took 6,000+ runners on a four mile trek around the perimeter of the park, beginning on Center Drive and continuing counterclockwise. The sound of the season rang throughout PP as the participants ran with bells attached to their shoes. Some runners even dressed up as reindeer and a couple of Santa’s were spotted as well. Below is a slideshow which captures the sights and sounds of the event as well as an interactive map illustrating the race course.

View Prospect Park Race Course in a larger map

Tibetan Monk With New Life In US

December 12th, 2010 by Tuan Thanh Nguyen

by Tuan Nguyen

On a late night back in December 2007, Tenzin Norbu, a Tibetan born in India, arrived in New York in a Dhachay, the traditional red robe of a Tibetan monk. After 25 years of being a Buddhist monk in different institutions in Nepal and India, after a dispute with the monastery, Norbu had decided to make a new life in the US.

In the soundslides below, Norbu talked about his new life as street vendor on the streets of Chinatown, New York.

Another clip about the monk: