Author Archive

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

Fashion at the Intersection of Arts and Industry

December 5th, 2010 by Stuart White

By Stuart White

Arts and industry are colliding in Sunset Park, and for people like fashion designer Baruch Chertok, that’s a good thing.

Chertok held a show last week for his new line of accessories in Sunset Park’s Industry City—an industrial complex that recently began renting affordable studio space to artists.

Last week’s show featured pieces that Chertok—a Jewish designer—says were inspired by the keffiyah, the patterned scarf often associated with Palestinian solidarity. As Chertok put it, “Jews and Arabs are cousins,” and his pieces—some embroidered with Stars of David—are a nod to that.

In addition to holding his show there, Chertok says that he hopes to move into a studio in Industry City in the near future. According to him, it’s no longer enough to just be creative—integrating production into the process is key.

“You can have a terrific line, and it can be beautiful and fantastic, but if you can’t produce it, or you can’t produce it on time, or the fitting is not there, or certain manufacturing things are not there, then it affects the business,” said Chertok. “And if it affects the business, there goes the design.”

“You have to wear a creative hat and a business hat as well,” he added.

To see some of Chertok’s pieces, go behind the scenes of his show, and listen to the man himself talk about Industry City’s “arts incubator” and the future of Sunset Park, check out the slideshow below.

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.

Rising Housing Prices May Signal the End of an Era

November 22nd, 2010 by Stuart White

By Stuart White

People say Sunset Park is changing.  Long the home of working-class immigrants—first Scandinavian, then Hispanic and now Chinese—the neighborhood has seen a serious spike in the price of homes in the last four years, leading residents to believe that gentrification is around the corner.  Some people, like bar owner Miguel Cintron, have already been forced out of apartments because of rising rent.

While the cost of multi-family homes in the neighborhood has gone up by about 12%, single-family home prices have shot up by nearly 40% according to the NYC Department of Finance, an amazing spike considering the fact that the national average has declined by about 19% over roughly the same period.  The map below shows the locations of a few homes for sale in the area and some price comparisons between 2005 and the present.

Rain or Shine, the Show Must Go On

November 14th, 2010 by Stuart White

By Stuart White

In the city that never sleeps, the work never stops, a little bad weather notwithstanding.  While many of those who make the daily trek to Manhattan’s Times Square have a cozy office awaiting them, a veritable army of city employees, construction workers, security guards and street vendors are exposed to the elements.

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.  So here they are, those hardy individuals who keep the gears of New York turning, rain or shine.

The Press as Pest?

November 8th, 2010 by Stuart White

By Stuart White

One of the chief ironies of being a journalist reporting on pests is that in the eyes of many people, the press is itself a pest.  In the course of reporting on obnoxious bar behavior for an earlier post, one bartender answered this reporter’s question about the most obnoxious thing he’d seen in the bar with, “You, buddy.  You take the cake.”

Granted, the question came in the middle of a field goal attempt in which the gentleman seemed highly invested, but the encounter and others like it underscore an important truth: the public doesn’t much care for the old Fourth Estate.

In the wake of the midterm elections, the time seemed right to send out a survey checking up on people’s faith in the press, specifically it’s ability to report fairly on politics.  The results, somewhat surprisingly, weren’t as grim as one might imagine.

In general, the survey’s respondents were very media-savvy.  Only three of the 35 said they didn’t follow the news, and all but eight reported getting their news from multiple sources.

Despite recent dire studies, about 71% of the survey’s 35 respondents ranked their trust of the media as a four or five on a five-point scale.  One respondent, whose trust of the media only warranted a three, drew a distinction between print and television media outlets.

“If by mainstream, we’re talking about NYT, WSJ, WaPo and print pubs in general, I definitely ‘trust’ them,” said the respondent.  “It’s not that I don’t distrust cable news as much as I find it ineffective at best, and biased at worst. I don’t find it misleading, however.”

According to the respondent, much of the responsibility falls to the audience.  “Every news consumer should take ownership of what they read/watch and understand the outlet’s context,” they said.

However, despite the sample’s overall trust of the media, only one respondent described the media’s coverage of politics as “just right.”  The remainder described the media as “too biased” (41%), “too trivial” (26%), “too impulsive” (24%), or “too pervasive” (9%).

These concerns existed on both sides of the political aisle.  Of the sample’s four self-identified conservative voters, concerns about media bias, impulsiveness and triviality mirrored that of the rest of the respondents’.

One conservative respondent even saw media bias as having a direct impact on the electoral process, saying, “It absolutely changes the minds of voters.”  Another respondent called the media “purposefully polarizing.”

While respondents expressed a variety of views, the consensus seemed to be that the media tends to focus on political extremes rather than measured debate, and despite the group’s overall trust of the media, most of the respondents’ comments were tempered with criticism.

What’s the peskiest aspect of the media?  One respondent put it best, saying, “I think the debate is important, but it’s that ‘one step beyond’ factor that starts to aggravate.”

“That Guy” Revisited

October 18th, 2010 by Stuart White

While this blog has covered the foibles of obnoxious bar patrons in the past, it has only examined the issue from the point of view of fellow bar-goers.  But what do the bartenders have to say?  After all, we may be briefly inconvenienced by obnoxious drunks, but bartenders are the ones who are perpetually saddled with their inane requests, their loud remarks and—at times—their disgusting bodily functions.  With that in mind, we take a look at the pet peeves of the brave men and women who pour our drinks and deal with us at our most obnoxious.

Note:  As a caution to the reader, in true bartender fashion, some of the following language is not safe for work.

Brian M., a bartender at the venerable Brooklyn hangout Farrell’s, offered this criticism of amateurish holiday drinkers.

Brian by Stuart White

Kar G., who tends bar in Park Slope, takes umbrage with those who ask for a glass of water only after being kicked out of the bar.

Kar by Stuart White

Nick S., another Park Slope bartender, numbers amateur attorneys among his biggest pet peeves.

Nick by Stuart White

Finally, Rich V. of Bar 4 gives the lowdown on every bartender’s biggest annoyance: cheapskates.

Rich by Stuart White

The Pest in the Mirror

October 4th, 2010 by Stuart White

New York City is plagued by a litany of pests. Many have become cultural touchstones, common enemies whose persistence and prevalence have made them just as much a part of the Big Apple as the people who walk its streets. However, one New York pest stands head and shoulders above the rest, literally. I’m referring, of course, to New Yorkers themselves.

While many of New Yorkers’ foibles have been explained away by making an excuse of their always-on-the-move lifestyle and the attendant stresses of living in the city that never sleeps, let’s face it: sometimes New Yorkers can be downright intolerable.

Are you still unconvinced? Taken aback? Angrier than a Mets fan in October? If so, you’re a New Yorker, so take a moment to learn some of the reasons the rest of the world makes fun of you behind your back.

  • Enough about your pizza already.  Sure, New York is a great city for pizza, but let’s face it: for every stand-out pizza joint there are 10 dingy shanties selling rubbery slices that taste more than a little like cardboard.  And as for the New York vs. Chicago thing? Get over it.
  • Can someone do something about all these hipsters? I know, I know, New York didn’t invent the hipster, but ever since the days of Andy Warhol, it has acted as the de facto fatherland of legions of equally insufferable pseudo-intellectuals, all of whom seem to belong to terrible bands.
  • Something about New York breeds the worst kind of elitists. Yes, New York has great restaurants, enviable museums, and more nightlife than you can shake a glow-stick at. It also has about 8 million snobs who won’t shut up about it.
  • Speaking of New York elitism, being from New York doesn’t mean you can automatically do something better than the people who did it first. Leave bourbon to the pros, you yankee pests.

To Greet, or Not to Greet?

September 27th, 2010 by Stuart White

New York etiquette is a tricky subject. The list of city-specific interactions and social situations with the potential for offense goes on and on. However, some questions of etiquette are more universal, like that old chestnut: Is it appropriate to greet strangers with a friendly “Hi, how are you”?

For some, the greeting is an innocuous pleasantry; to others the rhetorical greeting is a capital offense. With such varying views, the real question is who’s peskier, the person who offers a casual greeting, or the person who rejects it?

Nathaniel Marro, a New York resident by way of Vermont, finds the universal greeting to be a bit much. “It’s more like a case where if I catch their eyes, I give them a smile and a nod, than go out of my way to say hi to them,” he said.

In fact, Nathaniel finds verbalizing one’s acknowledgement of a stranger to be something of a faux pas. He does, however, try to temper his disapproval by responding politely. “But I would think it was an odd situation,” he maintained. “I would be taken aback.”

Though many have tried to justify or explain it, the city’s sometimes-prickly demeanor can be decidedly off-putting to some. Jessica Sullivan, a southern transplant, had to put a moratorium on the beloved southern practice of greeting strangers.

In her opinion, the thought behind the greeting counts for more than the content. “For a complete stranger, the fact that they even took the time to say hello is a friendly gesture in my book,” she said. “I wish more people did it here.”

The fact that the question is rhetorical is a nonissue, a boon even. “I would just prefer the standard ‘I’m fine,’ instead of ‘Well, my dog died yesterday,’” she said.

Though Jessica misses the easy camaraderie of the casual greeting, she has taken into account the logistical challenges of greeting everyone in a city like New York. “You encounter so many more people,” she said. “If you say ‘Hi, how are you,’ to every person you pass in New York City you’d never get where you’re going.”

Though native New Yorkers are historically painted as somewhat deficient in friendliness (1907 Times article), Ray Ruiz, a Brooklyn native, bucks the trend of ignoring passers-by. “I always say hello to everyone,” he said. “But I guess a lot of New Yorkers aren’t in tune with that.”

Indeed, it isn’t easy being a friendly New Yorker. “A lot of times I get shunned,” Ray admitted. “I guess some people don’t want to be friendly.”

In a place as diverse as New York, the question of who deserves a greeting will be disputed forever. When it comes to ignoring a greeting, however, Ray Ruiz’ opinion seems definitive: “That’s just rude.”

Keeping Coney Island Weird

September 20th, 2010 by Stuart White

Coney Island USA hosted its 25th Annual Tattoo and Motorcycle Show Sunday night, drawing ink enthusiasts and interested gawkers alike. The tattoo competition categories included Best Color, Best Black and White, Best Tribal, Best Back and Best Butt, which—strangely enough—had nothing to do with tattoos whatsoever. To see some of the winners and get a feel for the scene, check out the video below.