Archive for November, 2010

Sheepshead Bay Rallies to Stay Alive

November 30th, 2010 by Daniel Prendergast

The Department of Education is preparing to close down around 19 underperforming schools next year. One school in danger is Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn. Although the school ranks low in comparison to some, SHB has made a huge amount of progress in the last five years. At that time, the school’s graduation rate was around 45%. Today, the graduation rate is around 62%. Sheepshead has also improved its regency exam scores greatly. These improvements have many teachers and students wondering why the DOE still wants to close SHB.

Last week, teachers and students rallied to let the DOE know that they are a school worth saving. Hundreds gathered in front of the school to show their support for SHB and each other.

New Housing in the South Bronx

November 29th, 2010 by Kahliah Laney

Housing projects in New York City were initially built to replace slums. Some might say, however, that the “projects” eventually led to concentrated poverty, a large contributor to urban decay. Others say that projects have higher crime rates and violence. Whatever the case may be the projects certainly have a larger police presence than any other housing units in the city, creating friction between residents and law enforcement.

Residents have also often complained of deplorable living conditions that may even rival slums many projects were built to replace. The role of public housing in concentrated poverty was felt particularly hard in the South Bronx in the wake of the fires that ravaged the community during the 1970s. Now, the South Bronx is being rebuilt and the signs are everywhere. There are new businesses, new residents and new places of residence as well.

These new residences however, aren’t just for the poor. To combat concentrated poverty, new housing is aimed at residents from mixed-incomes. Take a look at a few of these developments in the South Bronx.

View New Developments in the South Bronx in a larger map

Joe Long, a long time music retailer in Bed-Stuy

November 29th, 2010 by Edouard de Mareschal

Joe Long, the owner of Birdell’s, an independent record store on Nostrand Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn), began working at the store in 1957. That is why he talks about this neighborhood like no one.

Clinton Hill on Marathon Sunday

November 29th, 2010 by Geoffrey Decker

A mile down the road from Brooklyn Academy of Music, which doubles on Marathon Sunday as the borough’s most densely-packed area for crowds on the course, Lafayette Avenue in Clinton Hill is just as vibrant, if slightly less prominent.

Against a backdrop of the towering Lafayette Gardens, a troubled housing project that has had two murders since August, an entire community – residents, elected officials, churchgoers and casual fans – turned out this month to cheer on the 40,000 runners to participate in the 2010 New York City Marathon.

Artists, Industry and Uncertainty

November 29th, 2010 by Stuart White

Artist Peter Maslow at work in his Industry City studio.

By Stuart White

For many, the phrase “artists’ community” conjures a mental image that would be best described as “nudist colony-meets-gallery opening.”

But in Sunset Park’s Industry City, a 6.5 million-square foot industrial complex on Brooklyn’s bleak waterfront, a very different type of artists’ community is taking root.

The facility’s management hopes that placing creative types in close proximity with their industrial counterparts will eventually result in the vertical integration of design and production, and in turn, foster productivity and innovation. However, what the facility’s managers see as a step toward a new industrial model could be viewed as the first signs of gentrification in Sunset Park.

In an earlier post, this blog examined rising real estate prices in the neighborhood as a potential indicator of what’s in store for Sunset Park. That data, in conjunction with the neighborhood’s growing population of artists, seems fit into the equation of New York’s most famous gentrification trend: the SoHo Effect (a phenomenon that isn’t unique to New York City).

“When the artists and a creative sector come into an area, even if it’s kind of a rundown area, that precipitates changes, and that seems to be kind of a repeatable pattern,” said Audrey Anastasi, who co-directs an independently run gallery called Tabla Rasa with her husband Joe.

Tabla Rasa itself could be interpreted as a metaphor for the changes taking place in Sunset Park. Wedged between an auto mechanic and a light industrial facility that applies baked powder coatings to metal goods, the tastefully appointed gallery seems a bit out of place.

However, Joe and Audrey Anastasi have no desire to see Sunset Park become the next Chelsea, and despite what happened in SoHo and other Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Joe doesn’t see Sunset Park’s artists as having the same disruptive effect.

“The artists that are coming into the community seem to actually be buying into the community,” he said. “So as a result, it’s not the same kind of displacement as has happened in other neighborhoods.”

Peter Maslow, a painter who rents studio space in Industry City, shares their sentiment, but worries that as the artists’ community grows and gains recognition developers will have no choice but to start turning dilapidated warehouses into luxury condos.

A Larceny Pattern in Brooklyn

November 29th, 2010 by Paul DeBenedetto

Police are looking for a group of men in connection with a string of crimes against wireless phone stores in Brooklyn over the last three months. One robbery resulted in the injury of a store employee. Altogether, 8 locations were hit for a total of 52 stolen phones and one stolen laptop, police say.

Click below for a map of locations hit, and a description of the crimes.

Consumers Spend Big During Black Friday Weekend

November 29th, 2010 by Brooks Newkirk

Black Friday line
photo by tshein
Creative Commons License

Although the country’s unemployment rate is still high and the recession wages on, consumers didn’t let that stop them from shopping ‘til they dropped over Black Friday weekend. According to stats released by the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, more than 212 million shoppers hit stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, Nov. 25-27, spending a total of $45 billion.

On average, shoppers spent $365.34 this weekend, up from $343.31 last year; a 6.4 percent increase.

Shoppers came out in full force early to get some of the year’s best deals. Some started the shop-a-thon on Thanksgiving Day and one Florida family set-up camp outside a Best Buy nine days before Black Friday.

This is all great news for retailers as holiday shopping gets into full swing.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, stated in a press release. “As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up.”

Tribeca’s Never Ending Construction

November 29th, 2010 by Chase Lindsay Rosen

Tribeca is a neighborhood rich with families, restaurants, parks and things to do. It is also becoming increasingly more rich with construction sites. Residents have expressed frustration with the never ending sidewalks covered in scaffolding, lack of parking spaces due to construction machines and heightened noise.

Here is a map of the latest list of construction sites and expected dates on completion. In the interim… avoid these areas if you’re looking for parking, a quiet walking path or if you’re superstitious and don’t like walking under ladders.

View Tribeca Construction Sites in a larger map

(Pictures courtesy of

Armed and… Tasty? The Push to Arm New York’s Bodega Workers

November 28th, 2010 by Jonathan Vit

If some bodega workers have their way, they’ll be packing a lot more than relish and pickles.

Hispanics Across America provided handgun permit applications to thousands of New York bodega workers in late October. The group, which, in the past, has fought to get illegal guns off the street, is now pushing to arm many of the state’s 24 hour bodega workers, people, activist Fernando Mateo calls “sitting ducks.”

It’s an argument that has gained traction across America; arm normal citizens and watch crime rates drop. New York state has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. The state, like many others, allows a limited number of people to carry a loaded weapon; and then only under very specific circumstances.

But would guns make bodega workers safer? Gun rights advocates argue that states with lax right to carry laws have lower crime rates. But academic studies have often shown otherwise. The National Consortium on Violence Research found the only impact lax gun laws had on crime rates was an increase in assaults. Philip Cook, an economist at Stanford University, wrote in his book “Gun Violence: The Real Costs,” that any impacts of right to carry laws were statistically insignificant.

Still, in a city where bodega workers are robbed, or even killed, with startling frequency, scared citizens are looking for something that will provide even a kernel of safety. Hispanics Across America argues that bodega workers should, at least, be given the option to arm themselves.

The question is, are bodega workers comfortable packing heat while stuffing sandwiches? According to CBS 2, not likely.

Concern Over Stop-and-Frisk Continues in Bed-Stuy

November 28th, 2010 by Jacqueline Vergara Amézquita

More than four months after Governor Paterson signed a bill to limit data collected by the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk practice, Bed-Stuy residents complain the measure does nothing to solve the pervasiveness of the police tactic in their neighborhood.

Community residents claim the stop-and-frisk practice is still heavily carried out by the 81st Precinct, the local police department that was marred in scandal due to illegal practices, earlier this year.

“It’s the usual stereotypical abuse that we get, even if we’re trying to do something with ourselves,” said Chantel Boone, 24, a concerned Bed-Stuy resident.

The Center for Constitutional Rights recently released a report that documents the disproportionately high rates of stop-and-frisk tactics in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. The study reported that race and not crime is at the core of the stop-and-frisk policy.

This month, radio station manager for Hot 97/Kiss FM, Terrence Battle, made headlines when he was stopped and searched by cops in Bed-Stuy while riding in a cab. He accused the cops of racial profiling.

A native Bed-Stuy resident shared his views on the stop-and-frisk practice in his neighborhood.

Stop-and-Frisk in Bed-Stuy from Jacqueline Vergara Amezquita on Vimeo.