Brooklyn Heights Blog » Downtown Brooklyn http://brooklynheightsblog.com Dispatches from America's first suburb Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:42:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 D13 CEC Hosts Electeds and Journalists for Forum on School Desgregationhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83845 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83845#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 05:37:20 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83845

Studies show that for all its diversity, NYC has one of the most segregated public school systems in the country.  Almost two academic years after the re-zoning of P.S. 8 and P.S. 307, the District 13 Community Education Council will hold an important forum on Tuesday evening (May 16th) as part of its scheduled calendar meeting.

Desegregation: Where We Are Now & Envisioning a Path to the Future will feature panelists Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Steve Levin,  New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones and WNYC reporter Yasmeen Khan. The event takes place 6:30 – 8:30 pm at P.S. 307, Daniel Hale Williams, 209 York Street in Brooklyh.

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Yemini Business Owners To Rally Against Trump’s Muslim Ban at Borough Hall, Thursday, Feb. 2, at 5:15 p.m.http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82741 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82741#comments Wed, 01 Feb 2017 23:19:01 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82741

According to a facebook event posted today, Yemeni-American business owners in NYC will close their stores and rally at Borough Hall starting at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday. Many of the businesses on and around Atlantic Avenue are Yemini-American owned. Here are the details from the organizers:

On Thursday, February 2, Yemeni business owners across five New York boroughs will close 1,000 stores from 12pm to 8pm in response to the Trump administration’s infamous “Muslim Ban” executive order. This shutdown of grocery stores and bodegas will be a public show of the vital role these grocers and their families play in New York’s economic and social fabric and, during this period, grocery store owners will spend time with their families and loved ones to support each other; many of these families have been directly affected by the Ban.

Thursday evening at 5:15pm, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St. in the back of the building facing the plaza, the Yemeni American community will hold a rally, where some merchants will share the impact the Ban has had on them and their loved one. The program will begin with the Muslim call for prayer and a public sundown prayer by Muslim rally participants. The prayer will be followed by several Yemeni merchants and their families sharing personal stories of how their lives and families have been impacted by the ban, as well as stories read on behalf of families who are afraid to come forward.

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Halloween Happenings: Brooklyn Heights and Boo-Yond!http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81985 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81985#comments Mon, 31 Oct 2016 03:30:46 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81985

Boo, Eek!   Halloween is finally upon us!! Here’s a round up of the best of what our end of Brooklyn has to offer. Add additional events or photos of your Halloween celebrations in the comments.

Trick or Treat!

Hands down, parents in Brooklyn Heights know the two best places to be on Halloween are Garden Place and Grace Court Alley. (So do all the parent blogs, thanks for the shout out Mommy Poppins).  There, the kiddos can roam safely from one beautifully (or creepily) adorned stoop to the next. Peak trick or treating time is just before sundown but “the littles” are often out early, just after school dismissal.

Graves End Inn-Haunted Hotel

Now in its 19th year, the students of City Tech’s theater group, Theaterworks and the Entertainment Technology Department, are aiming to scare the pants off of you with their haunted house. Older kids and adults will be impressed by the theme-park level of design and production value. Enter if you dare!

Voorhees Theatre, 186 Jay Street (north of Tillary)
$5 for students (with ID) and group admission
$10 for general sales
Free to New York City College of Technology students with ID the day of the event

Dumboween

The Dumbo BID is offering a variety of activities starting with storefront trick or treating (4:00 – 7:00 pm) throughout the neighborhood (look for the pumpkin decal in shop windows). The annual costume parade, “March to the Arch” (4:30 pm) led by the Funkrust Brass Band with puppets from Great Small Works will wend its way from Brooklyn Roasting Company at 25 Jay Street to the Manhattan Bridge Arch. Immediately followed by the Archway Kids Party (5:00 – 7:00 pm) and a Pet Costume Soiree (7:00 – 10:00 pm) both in the Manhattan Bridge Archway.

Dumbo
4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
FREE

BAMboo!

The Brooklyn Academy of Music invites families to start their night of trick-or-treating at their free outdoor Halloween block party.  The event promises a bouncy house, costume contest and more.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue
4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
FREE

Halloween 313 Presents AbraCadaver!

This year’s one-night-only, one-of-a-kind, all-ages theater spectacle (put together by an all volunteer cast of kooky and creepy Clinton Hill characters) is an invitation to take “an old-fashioned stroll down the Coney Island Boardwalk [to] explore the DARK side of magic—that place where the forces of GOOD and EVIL fight for your soul…but only one will win!”  Shows repeat every 30 minutes. The block will be closed off to cars. Spectators come from all corners of NYC, go early for the best viewing spots.

313 Clinton Avenue (bet. DeKalb & Lafayette Aves)
5:30 pm  – 9:00 pm
FREE

Cobble Hill Halloween Parade

Dress to impress and strut your stuff.

Cobble Hill Park
4:00 pm
FREE

Photo Credit: Smoking Nun

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LinkNYC Kiosks Coming to Brooklyn Heightshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82015 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/82015#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2016 13:36:43 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=82015

Wi-fi communication kiosks–which earlier this year gained notoriety as hubs for porn watching–are coming to the neighborhood.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported last week that 13 sites in Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn are currently under review for kiosk placement, and a Community Board meeting on Oct. 18 was held to discuss the matter.

The Brooklyn Heights sites under consideration are Henry Street near Orange and Cadman Plaza West between Clark and Montague.

Get the full story–including LinkNYC’s response to potential privacy concerns–at the Eagle.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park Prez, Regina Myer Tapped as Head of Brooklyn Bridge Partnershiphttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81508 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81508#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 04:52:37 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81508

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports via re-printed press release Regina Meyer, current President of Brooklyn Bridge Park has been named the new President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Meyer will take the helm in November. She replaces Tucker Reed who stepped down from DPP in August after an almost five year run.

“This was an opportunity I just couldn’t refuse — a chance to really come full circle,” said Myer. “Now that Brooklyn Bridge Park is teeming with visitors, financially secure and nearly fully built, it makes sense to head back up the hill to Downtown, where I’m ready to embrace the exciting challenge of building on the area’s success over the past decade. Through smart public and private investment — in open space, in commercial development, in the burgeoning Brooklyn Cultural District — we really have the chance to shape the future of Downtown in a holistic way, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Immediately prior to her position at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Ms. Myer served as senior vice president for Planning and Design at the Hudson Yards Corporation.  During her 22-year tenure within the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) she helped spearhead the 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn as Director of DCP’s Brooklyn office, an initiative that has irrevocably re-shaped Downtown Brooklyn.

“Regina is a Brooklyn visionary, and we’re lucky to have her as our next president. Over the past decade, we’ve seen tremendous growth and investment in Downtown Brooklyn — now it’s time to build on that success by stitching the neighborhood together with vital infrastructure and continuing to advocate for targeted investment in office space to meet the demands of the growing innovation economy in the area.” said MaryAnne Gilmartin and Bre Pettis, co-chairs of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Board of Directors and president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

The release continues, “At DBP, Myer will look at ways to both build on [the] success [of Brooklyn Bridge Park] and supplement it with supportive infrastructure, like the growth of the Brooklyn Cultural District and the increased open space development throughput the district.   In particular, Myer will continue DBP’s leading role in advocating for the Brooklyn Strand.”

If you’d like learn more about Ms. Myer’s new role direct from the source, “[she] will deliver opening remarks at DBP’s Make It in Brooklyn Innovation Summit on Sept. 28 at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn. For more information, go to http://www.makeitinbk.com.

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Brooklyn Book Festival Next Sunday, September 18http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81414 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81414#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 21:10:19 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81414

The eleventh annual Brooklyn Book Festival will be on Sunday, September 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m at Borough Hall and Columbus Park (immediately north of Borough Hall). There will be readings by and discussions with writers, and books for sale. On Saturday, September 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. there will be a Children’s Day at Metrotech Commons, with many children’s authors participating.

Beginning this Monday, September 12 and continuing through the week there will be “Bookend” events held in various venues around the Borough, as well as in Manhattan and Queens. Among the events scheduled locally is a reading by the best selling children’s author R.L. Stine at the Granite Prospect on Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park, on Tuesday evening, September 13, starting at 6:00. Also on Tuesday evening, starting at 7:00, sports writer Mike Lupica will be at BookCourt to read from his new young adult fiction book, Last Man Out. There’s a full schedule of Bookend Events here.

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New Dock Street School Openshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81339 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/81339#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:31:10 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=81339

Your correspondent got notice Monday that at 1:00 p.m. yesterday there would be a ribbon cutting by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña for the new Dock Street School, a public middle school (grades 6 through 8), drawing “a diverse student body from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Vinegar Hill and North Park Slope”, and including a Pre-K facility with space for 75 students. The school’s entrance is on Dock Street between Water and Front streets in DUMBO. Figuring it would work in nicely with my daily constitutional, I set out at 12:30, heading down the Promenade, then Squibb Hill, then Water Street to Dock.

I didn’t know what to expect, but imagined a short ceremony at the school’s entrance, so I showed up in my walking attire, t-shirt and cargo shorts (I need those extra pockets for my phone and camera). I arrived a few minutes before one, and no one was gathered outside, so I went in. There was a guard at a desk who cheerfully directed me upstairs. At the landing at the top of the staircase I was facing the school’s office, the rear wall of which displayed the sign in the photo above. I was greeted by a school administrator and told her I knew “STEM” meant “Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics” but didn’t know what “STEAM” meant. She said the “A” was for “Arts.” This is DUMBO; figures. Perhaps we have a mini Cooper Union here, though with no threat they’ll start charging tuition.

IMG_6332We were led from the landing outside the school office to the gymnasium, where we milled around waiting for various dignitaries to arrive. I regretted my tee and shorts, as everyone seemed well dressed, and the air conditioning was doing yeoman duty. Three students about to enter sixth grade at Dock Street were seated at the speakers’ table; they were interviewed by Mary Frost of the Eagle (photo above). Update: Here’s Mary’s story.

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Among the speakers was City Council Member Steve Levin (photo above), who praised the various people and entities involved in making Dock Street School a reality, including the School Board and Chancellor Fariña, District 13 and Superintendent Barbara Freeman, the School Construction Authority and President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, and building developer and owner Two Trees Management and CEO Jed Walentas. To the left in the photo above is Dock Street’s Principal, Dr. Melissa Vaughan.

Mr. Walentas also spoke. As you may recall, there was considerable controversy over Two Trees’ proposal to build a high rise residential structure at the Dock Street site. He candidly acknowledged the crucial piece of advice he’d received from former City Council Member Ken Fisher: “Put a school in it.” Mr. Walentas said Dock Street School is “a model that shows how the City can leverage real estate values to create public benefits like building new schools, creating space for cultural institutions or updating infrastructure.” He said he hoped other developers would consider making space for schools in their buildings.

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Dr. Vaughan called the three students to the podium. She said she hoped their experience at Dock Street would enable them to become “creators.” Each of them then said what they were anticipating as Dock Street students. One of the girls said she loves math, and looks forward to “making good grades.”

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International Day of Friendship This Sunday at Borough Hallhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80884 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80884#comments Sat, 06 Aug 2016 01:43:28 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80884

This Sunday, August 7, from 1 pm to 5 pm, head over to Borough Hall for the third annual International Day of Friendship, celebrating Brooklyn’s diversity. The festivities will kick off with a “Unity Parade of Flags” from Fulton Mall to Borough Hall, followed by cultural performances, tastes of international cuisine, and more.

“I call on all Brooklynites to ‘Embrace Your Hyphen’ as Americans with distinct heritage,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “International Day of Friendship reflects the beauty of a borough where 47 percent of households speak a language other than English at home, more than one-third of residents were born overseas, and the sounds of many different languages are the music of our street corners. I invite everyone to stand with me in our diversity as One Brooklyn.”

For the event info page, click here.

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Stop the Chop: Senator Squadron Urges End to All Tourist Helicopter Flights from Downtown Heliporthttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80549 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80549#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 11:00:02 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80549

State Senator Daniel Squadron, along with Congressman Jerrold Nadler, submitted testimony at a July 11, 2016 hearing on whether to extend Downtown Manhattan Heliport’s (DMH) concessionaire agreement with Saker Aviation Service, which operates tourist helicopter flights from the heliport. At stake is whether the concessionaire agreement would be extended through April 2021, with additional short-term renewal options.

The noise and hazards from tourist helicopters have long provoked the ire of many residents in the City, and in this neighborhood in particular, and spawned the protest group Stop the Chop NYNJ. Tourist helicopter flights had been banned at other heliports across the City, which then shifted all tourist flights to DMH. In October 2011, a tourist helicopter crashed into the East River, prompting renewed calls for an end to all tourist flights, to no avail.

In a February 2016 agreement, the City reduced the maximum number of tourist helicopter flights, and ended Sunday flights and flights over land. Not good enough, according to Senator Squadron, who made no bones about his long-held position – that all non-essential tourist helicopter flights from DMH must be stopped. His testimony included the following statements:

As we said at the time of [the February] agreement, reductions are an important and positive step, but an outright ban on tourist flights from DMH is still warranted. Since the February agreement went into effect, we have continued to hear concerns from impacted community members.

Tourist flights are by definition non-essential, and have not been proven to have significant benefit for commerce or safety. However, we recognize the role of DMH for law enforcement, emergency response, and other purposes. Today, both the 30th and 34th Street heliports still operate as heliports without tourist helicopter operations. Without tourist flights, DMH could, and should continue to operate as well.

Ending tourist helicopter flights at DMH continues to have broad support. After the February deal was announced, a broad coalition of elected officials renewed their call for a ban. Even the City itself has previously supported ending tourist helicopter operations. In its Helicopter Master Plan of 1999, it was clear that the City opposed non-essential tourist helicopter operations at City-owned facilities.

In the same February agreement, the City required air quality monitoring, and research into additional noise and emission reductions from the helicopter flights. The first report on these studies is expected later this week.

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Here They Are: The Best Eats in Brooklyn Heights 2016http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80255 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80255#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 11:04:24 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80255

Your nominations have been tabulated, and after due consideration by the BHB Food Editorial Board, here are the Best Eats in Brooklyn Heights 2016:

Best Restaurant:  Jack the Horse Tavern

Close Runners-Up:  Henry’s End and Noodle Pudding (So good, it doesn’t need a website or a sign outside.)

Honorable Mentions:  Colonie and Chez Moi

Best Newcomer:  Pinto

Close Runner-Up:  Kogane Ramen

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Best Italian:  Noodle Pudding

Close Runner-Up:  Sociale

Honorable Mentions:  Queen and River Deli

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Best Mexican:  Gallito’s Kitchen

Close Runner-Up:  Gran Eléctrica

Best Diner:  Teresa’s

Close Runners-Up:  Clark’s Restaurant and Park Plaza Restaurant

Best Breakfast:  To Go – Cranberry’s  |  To Sit – Tazza

Best Lunch:  Tie between Hanco’s and Mile End Delicatessen

Best Burger:  Tie between Five Guys and two8two Bar & Burger

Best Pizza:  To Go – Fascati’s (Controversial pick! Readers either love it or hate it, but it got the most votes hands down.)  |  To Sit – Dellarocco’s

Close Runner-Up:  Table 87

Best Dessert:  Almondine

Best BBQ:  Hill Country (Not much competition in the area, true, but as reader “St. Georgette” notes, it’s the “best place to eat AND hear great live music, and with good drinks too.”)

Best Japanese:  Iron Chef

Close Runners-Up:  Ani Sushi and Hibino (As reader “Resident” notes, the only Japanese restaurant in the area “run by real Japanese people.”)

Best Thai:  After best newcomer Pinto – Tie between Lantern Thai Kitchen and Joya

Best Chinese:  NONE. As reader “Studio Brooklyn” says, “Go to Flushing Queens and bring a friend who speaks Mandarin.” Or take Karl Jungersfeld’s advice and eat “Chinese food in Chinatown either on 8th Ave in Bklyn or Downtown Manhattan.” Although, if you’re in no mood to trek to Sunset Park or another borough, “St. Georgette” recommends Yaso Tangbao in downtown Brooklyn, and the BHB Food Editorial Board wholeheartedly agrees.

Last But Not Least:  As reader “Jorale-man” wisely comments, “a general vote for the Middle Eastern restaurants that survive amid the gentrification on Atlantic.” Reader “AbeLincoln” also nominates “all the Middle Eastern places on both Hicks and Henry.” Indeed, we applaud them all, all equally good, including Tutt Café, Yemen Café, Sultan, Tripoli, Mocha Hookah, Fatoosh, Darna Falafel, and Heights Falafel. Plus, according to “Grace Court Jester” – “that Halal Cart on the corner of Joraleman and Court has great lamb.”

Thanks to all for participating. Let’s go out and eat!

 

 

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Make Music New York to Present Free Outdoor Performances in and around Brooklyn Heights Tuesday, June 21http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80229 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/80229#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 03:23:43 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=80229

On Tuesday, June 21 Make Music New York will present hundreds of free outdoor (the events will be cancelled in case of rain) musical performances all around New York City. In our neighborhood, the music will start in Cadman Plaza Park with a concert by Dominion (“experimental”) from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., followed by Brightfully (“pop”) from 1:15 to 2:15, then Janelle Costa (“electronic”) from 2:15 to 2:45, then The Afro Nick (“rock, indie rock, pop”) from 3:00 to 4:00. Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park will be the place for brass, hosting Kenny Wollensen’s MEAT (“jazz, experimental, brass”) from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m., then Triad Brass (“jazz, hip-hop, classical”) from 4:45 to 5:30, then the Funkrust Brass Band (“punk, funk, brass”) from 5:30 to 6:15, and The Marching Cobras (“brass”) from 6:15 to 7:00. From 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Hot Tea (“Latin, world, jazz”) will perform in front of the Heights Cafe, 84 Montague Street (corner of Hicks), and from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jaime Garamella (“singer/songwriter, indie-folk, rock”) will sing in front of 132 Lounge, 132 Montague (between Henry and Clinton).

There will be other performances in Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Red Hook, Downtown Brooklyn and other nearby locations. Check the map.

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OPA! The 39th Annual Greek Festival is in Full Swing on Schermerhorn St.http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/79957 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/79957#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2016 03:23:28 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=79957

Nobody parties like the Greeks, and this year’s Annual Greek Festival of the Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Brooklyn is proving it again. The church’s 39th annual festival has been in full swing all week and Saturday is your last chance this year to sample the delicious home-made Greek food and pastries, and dance the night away to festive Greek music.

On Friday evening, Schermerhorn St. (a/k/a The Hon. Nicholas Coffinas Way) was packed with endless food stands, hungry people, and a bring-on-the-weekend party atmosphere.

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The grown-ups weren’t the only ones having fun. There was plenty to keep the kids happy and entertained, including a bouncy house, a giant slide, a carnival game, and a fun house.

Greek7The adorable children from the A. Fantis school’s Greek dance troupe (pictured in the lead photo) performed for the crowds to rousing applause. Deidre Robokos, A. Fantis’ PTO President and Cranberry St. resident, said, “We prepare for months for this festival and look forward to it every year. Our neighbors come back year after year and we’re all like a big family. It’s just a great way to celebrate the food, the culture, our church, and our school.” All of the money earned goes directly to support the school.

While at the festival, a peek inside the stunning Byzantine church, that was built in 1916, is highly recommended. Also, if you’re lucky, you’ll run into the most jovial clergyman in town, Fr. John K. Lardis, who leads the tightly-knit parish.

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Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral

64 Schermerhorn St. between Court St. and Boerum Place | Saturday 6/11 hours: 4 pm – 12 am.

To read about the rich history of the church, click here.

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Is the School Rezoning A Success? Early Signs Say Yeshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/79004 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/79004#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 19:57:29 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=79004

Families were sent their Kindergarten admissions offers letters on Tuesday.  As reported by Politico, the re-zoning of P.S. 8 an P.S 307 shows early signs of success.  Unlike last year, there is no wait list for P.S. 8 and 148 students were offered a seat at the school.  Historically there is about 20% attrition among those offered seats.  If that is the case this year, there are likely to be five Kindergarten sections.  P.S. 8 Principal Seth Phillips referred to the tension caused by last year’s waitlist but added the school would likely regain it’s music room and possibly the drama room as a result of the re-zoning.  “I think this is going to work out well for everyone in the long run.”

At P.S. 307 56 in-zone students were offered seats opposed to last year’s number of just 18.  (Part of the DOE’s reasoning for the re-zoning was to create a sustainable number of in-zone students for P.S. 307).  “There are now new opportunities all around. With more students you get more funding,” Principal Stephanie Carroll said. “We’ve got tons of partnerships, and any student coming into kindergarten here will have that added advantage.”

DNAifno reports that Kindergarten waitlists have shrunk 9% over last year. The article has the complete list of all the NYC schools with waitlists this year.  DOE officials reported that 49,000 students, or 71 percent, received an offer from their first choice school, down 1 percentage point from the year before.

To accept their Kindergarten offers families must contact the school directly to make an appointment to pre-register by April 8. Pre-registering their child(ren) does not prevent them from receiving an offer at a school where they are wait-listed.

The P.S. 8 website advises:

“If you received an offer letter for PS 8, you may visit the lower school main office to pre-register Monday through Friday from 9am-12pm by April 8th, 2016. Ask for Ms. Cloud or Ms. Carrier.

The DOE requires the child’s presence at registration. Bring documentation of the student’s age and proof of residence. Click here for a list of required documentation.”

Click HERE for additional registration information for P.S. 307.

EDIT: This post has been updated with registration information for both P.S.8 and P.S. 307.

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District 13 CEC Votes 6 to 3 in Favor of P.S.8/P.S. 307 Re-Zoninghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/78307 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/78307#comments Wed, 06 Jan 2016 07:25:31 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=78307

After months of meetings, public discourse and national news coverage, the District 13 CEC has voted in favor of the re-zoning in a 6 to 3 split.   The Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch live blogged the proceedings.

The CEC first held a Working Session where they attended to other district business including the Superintendent’s Report.  The “special” Calendar Meeting then began at 8:30 (after a brief period of painfully bureaucratic debate over how and when to begin public comment) and opened with statements from elected officials or their representatives.  Councilmember Steve Levin expressed his support for the plan in a NY Daily News article and with brief remarks.  State Senator Daniel Squadron supported the rezoning.  “The proposal on the table will not solve many of the problems we are most concerned about…But, it will offer more predictability this year for the entire community for current prospective parents at P.S. 8 and P.S. 307.  And for that reason, I really do hope that the re-zoning is passed tonight.”

Several members of the Farragut community spoke out in opposition to the re-zoning echoing the previously-voiced concerns that access to hard-won programs at P.S. 307 would be taken away should the proposal pass.  P.S. 307 PTA Co-President, Faraji Hannah-Jones expressed extreme disappointment in the DOE for not meeting the terms a neighborhood coalition’s action plan for P.S. 307, including an additional five years of funding for the Magnet grant stating, “We feel disrespected.”  Executive Director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, Doreen Gallo spoke on behalf of several DUMBO parents in attendance and read a statement in opposition to the plan citing, in part the DOE’s failure to properly engage the DUMBO community for small group feedback meetings promised when the vote was delayed in October.

For the next hour, the nine members of the CEC took individual turns addressing the audience which grew more antsy with each passing minute.  CEC President, David Goldsmith who has supported the rezoning from the beginning encouraged, “We’re ready to do this.  The time is now.  We owe this to our children.  Let’s move forward.”  By far, one of the most poignant moments of the evening came from Ed Brown-who voted ‘yes’-when he reflected, “The other elephant in the room, it’s not just race.  It’s fear…Because fear has no color.  It operates on both sides.”  He continued by drawing a comparison of parents from the effected communities to deer in headlights.    “What has happened on both sides…adults…have frozen their minds.  They have their mind made up already.  They’ve decided what they want…In freezing, the kids are suffering.”

The vote finally came at 10:30 pm and took exactly sixty seconds.

SO, NOW WHAT?

  • The new zone lines shift the Dumbo and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods to the P.S. 307 zone and returns three buildings at Farragut Houses back to P.S. 307 zone.
  • Siblings are grandfathered in.  Meaning, if you live in Dumbo or Vinegar Hill and you currently have a child attending P.S. 8, their sibling will receive admissions priority at P.S. 8 over new students within the zone who do not have siblings.  In short, your children will be able to attend school together.
  • The new zoning is effective for the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Kindergarten admissions remains open until January 15th.  Parents may rank up to twelve schools on their application.  Children have the highest priority at their zoned school.  The Kindergarten Directory lists the admissions priorities for each school.

Throughout the evening electeds and CEC members encouraged the respective communities to remain engaged with the DOE, CEC and their school leadership so that the larger issues raised by the debate could be addressed collectively.  Just prior to the vote, Rob Underwood laid out via his Tumblr blog what he feels are the most pressing challenges facing District 13.  What are your thoughts on how the two school communities can move forward from here? What issues are most important to you for your child’s education?  Comment away!

P.S. 8 Principal, Seth Phillips an P.S. 307 Principal Stephanie Carroll

P.S. 8 Principal, Seth Phillips an P.S. 307 Principal Stephanie Carroll

 

 

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CEC Sets Date for Re-Zone Vote, Debates Pros & Cons of Proposalhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77880 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77880#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2015 22:13:17 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=77880

The District 13 CEC held a Working Session meeting this past Tuesday night.  Several items were on the agenda but the merits of the P.S. 8 and P.S. 307 re-zoning proposal was by far the longest and most multi-faceted debate of the evening. First, members approved a special session for the re-zoning vote.  The vote will take place on January 5th, 2016 at P.S. 56, 170 Gates Avenue (meetings generally convene at 6:30 pm).

The re-zoning vote is ten days prior to the close of Kindergarten Admissions and will enable parents to revise their applications should they be re-zoned (or their preferences change based on school tours, etc). Online Kindergarten admissions opened on December 7th and concludes on January 15th.  Superintendent Barbara Freeman offered that her office is looking to schedule meetings with the Presidents of both the P.S. 307 and P.S. 8 PTA’s “to support the work that needs to be done regardless of which way the vote goes.”  She also stated the Office of Admissions would work closely with any families affected by a re-zone to assist with the completion of their applications.

The conversation that followed was open-ended and marked the first time some members spoke publicly on the matter. Members did not find consensus, though that was not the objective.  P.S./M.S. 8 representative Amy Shire opened with an attempt to crystallize the issues in member’s minds, “What are the consequences if we vote ‘no?’ What are the consequences if we vote ‘yes?’…I think that there are going to be some things that we’re not ever going to be sure of before we vote. Like, how many families will end up going to 307 in fact if it’s re-zoned? Or, how much of a wait-list there will be at 8 if it’s not re-zoned…we’re just kind of going to have to accept that we’re not going to know exactly.”

Throughout the night, CEC members lamented the DOE’s continually changing narrative with each revision to the proposal.  Ben Greene challenged CEC President David Goldsmith, “What do YOU think this re-zone will satisfy?”  Citing P.S. 8’s 143% capacity and last year’s wait-list along with P.S. 307’s small zone, Goldsmith responded in part, “We have one [zone] that’s too small and one that’s too big. I think we have to solve that problem.”

DIVERSITY:

The larger issues of race, socio-economics and equality were, as ever front and center.  Middle School proponent Rob Underwood remarked on the addition of the FRL admissions set asides to the final proposal.  “I think we absolutely need to protect diversity in this district…But, it seems weird that we’re taking a school that is 90% students of color and 60, 65% FRL and THAT’s the one we want to put FRL set-asides. Why are we not talking about FRL [set-asides] for P.S. 8, 321 or 29?” He called the effort a “Goldielocks Solution” one that euphemistically that sends the message “we want more affluent white parents [at P.S. 307] but not too many.” Adding, “we seem to have implicitly made the decision that…P.S. 8 is ‘too far gone’ [to create diversity at that school.]”

Citing the recent Jehovah’s Witness’ announcement to sell three additional properties, CEC member and P.S. 307 PTA Co-President Ben Greene posited the FRL admissions set-asides are necessary because the onslaught of proposed development in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo would cause any freshly drawn zone lines to quickly be overrun, forcing a new debate within two to three years. “The 50% set aside was to try to make sure that [P.S. 307] stays [diverse] as long as possible while we are infusing this big zone into that school.”

CEC President David Goldsmith remarked, “I think planning for diversity in one school while not looking at other schools is a HUGE mistake…the whole idea of disenfranchisement, that 307 is serving a population that is currently typically and historically under-served in our district, absolutely it is. But the solution to that isn’t just protecting a small group of people that can go there….We have to build great schools for every child in this district across the district.”

The FRL admission set-asides came about in response to the “307 Action Plan,” a list of five requests made by a coalition of stakeholders including the P.S. 307 PTA, The Church of the Open Door and the Farragut Houses communities.  FRL set-asides were included in the final re-zoning proposal on the heels of a DOE announced of an admissions pilot program aimed at creating more diversity at seven public elementary schools including District 13’s P.S. 146, The Brooklyn New School and Arts & Letters in Fort Greene.  Those proposals had been under consideration since 2014.

Representing P.S. 9, middle school proponent Maggie Spillane posited, “One point to make too is that there ARE diverse schools zones within district 13…and I don’t know why the conversation hasn’t gone outside the 307/8 community to look at what’s going on in those [schools] and actually take some counsel from cautionary tales…I haven’t seen any efforts from the DOE or the PS8 community – which is strongly advocating for this plan – to understand what’s going on in those zones and to address the potential problems that you know may arise in that kind of situation but also to learn what is working in those zones.”

FLIPPING OUT:

One sore point was the perceived shunning of P.S. 307 by wait-listed parents last year.  Ed Brown, who represents P.S. 287 asked, “Please somebody explain to me how is this re-zoning issue going to benefit the district…Who is it benefiting? Because it’s not going to alleviate the overcrowding [at P.S. 8]. It’s going to alleviate the wait-list but…parents who are on the wait-list were offered a seat at 307…which they declined.”  Adding, “307 is a Magnet school. You can walk in with the lines being the way they are.”

Underwood stated earlier in the evening, “I can’t get my head around the flipping risk as being the pre-eminent risk..I’m just SUPER concerned that the data and the track record so far is that we have for whatever reason, 307 has not attracted parents who are wait-listed to P.S. 8 to come to 307 and now we’re going to re-draw the line and all of a sudden we think this wave of parents is going to come. Maybe it won’t.”

Maggie Spillane attempted to objectively square the “pro” re-zoning arguments yet remained skeptical of most if not all of the potential reasons to vote ‘yes.’  She criticized what she called the “walkability argument,” stating that most families in her end of D13 choose schools that are not within walking distance of their homes.  Notably, she went on to say, “I don’t know why the families who are zoned out [of P.S. 8] would be any more likely to go to 307 than families who were wait-listed this year or the families who will be wait-listed next year. IF there are things that we need to be doing to increase the attractiveness of 307 and schools like 307 to the families who the district is losing to charters [or private school], we should be focused on doing those things and not necessarily moving zone-lines just to consolidate entitlements to certain people to go to certain schools.”

During the public comment, Michelle, a self-identified District 13 parent of a child entering Kindergarten in 2016 (who is not a resident of Dumbo), offered her observation of the wait-listed parents’ decision-making, “When you have kids that are wait-listed and you ask [parents] to think about a school where they would be the “only” anything-and I think you would think about this for your kid-its very different taking a group of children and being thoughtful in how you do that…[Re-zoning] is an immediate solution that is not a complete solution but I hope it can be part of the bigger picture conversation on all of the issues that I’ve heard many of you thoughtfully discuss from a lot of different perspectives.”

PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD:

Throughout the evening, David Goldsmith cautioned the members against expecting re-zoning proposal to solve all the complex problems within District 13, “If our expectation is that this re-zone will solve the lack of long-term planning in the district in terms of housing and residential and all the things that are going on, it will never do that. I think if we’re looking for us to talk about how we rebuild our middle schools with the re-zone of 307 and 8, it will not do that. I think if we’re looking to meeting the challenge of inequality and unequal access to academic excellence throughout the district, this re-zone will not do that…I keep hearing our members asking this re-zone to do that.”

Rob Underwood expressed frustration, “We have basically spent the last more or less 6 months on this and nothing but this…How much have we talked about the schools in Bedford Stuyvesant?…I just want us to focus on the fact that we are spending a ton of time, six months of many meetings, often multiple meetings per week, focused on the P.S. 8’s wait-list for what is – and I know that people don’t like when I say it – a pretty affluent privileged community in Brooklyn Heights.”

Amy Shire fired back, “It is really easy to throw darts. We could do that for each community. I just would hope that we would stop doing that and start just looking at what are the benefits of doing this…I am also reminded of that phrase “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.  I don’t even know if this re-zone is good enough but I’m getting a sense that it could be workable if people want it to be workable.”

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1) Whether you are ‘nay’ or ‘yay’ on the re-zoning, send comments to the CEC via their online form.

2) Make your voice heard at the next CEC meeting.
Tuesday, December 15th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
M.S. 113, 300 Adelphi St., in Fort Greene
(Check the CEC website prior to the meeting to confirm this location).

3) For families applying for Kindergarten, Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions offers an excellent primer on District 13, choice, charter and private schools.

4) Also for families applying to Kindergarten, attend school open houses. P.S. 8 is hosting it’s next open house January 13th from 9-10:30 am. P.Ss 307 is holding them on Thursday December 17th from 9:30-10:30 am, Thursday January 7th from 9:30-10:00 am and Monday, January 11th from 6-7:00 pm.

OTHER BUSINESS:

As part of his President’s Report, David Goldsmith read the CEC’s letter sent to Success Academy’s President Eva Moskowitz in reaction to Fort Greene school’s “Got to Go List” spotlighted in the New York Times.  The panel heard from three mothers who testified their children were targeted for nominal transgressions such as wearing the wrong shoes, having to use the rest room or sitting the “wrong way.”  The mothers explained they were subjected to unrelenting phone calls, forced meetings with school administrators and threats of suspension.  One parent lost her job because of what she described as “constant harassment” from Success Academy.  Ms. Moskowitz was invited to the proceedings but sent an email statement just hours before the meeting instead. The missive was read out loud but not immediately available at press time.  It is expected to be posted to the CEC website shortly.

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Over-Development Dominates Squadron Town Hall Discussionhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77765 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77765#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2015 16:00:44 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=77765

As a follow up to his Seventh Annual Community Convention held this past April, State Senator Daniel Squadron held a Town Hall at Brooklyn Law school on Wednesday night.  The full Convention Report was made available to all attendees.  In his opening remarks, Senator Squadron emphasized his belief in “participatory government” adding, “State Government has the potential to have positive impact in people’s lives.”

The Senator did a bit of “house-keeping” and spoke briefly about his latest endeavors including the newly LLC Loophole report, released earlier in the day along with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon who was also in attendance.  The Senator acknowledged District Leader Paige Bellenbaum for her work in organizing the District 15 School Overcrowding Forum.  Also of note was an MTA Bus Town Hall was held in Manhattan last week.

The Senator fielded questions from constituents via index cards. Over-development, preservation of open space and school overcrowding dominated the conversation.  Greenpoint & Williamsburg advocates asked about Bushwick Inlet Park.  Others raised concerns about the Brooklyn Heights Library and encroaching development in Downtown Brooklyn.

Squadron responded thoughtfully saying in part, “Open space is a critical part of our life here in New York City…every where in the life cycle it is critical.  And, not as an after thought or a luxury to who we are as a city.  And it’s too often thought of in that way and in fact it’s dangled out as an enticement when you have development or added density or something else that community isn’t comfortable with and too often that enticement isn’t really truly public open space.”

On school over-crowding a parent pointed out the proposed re-zoning of P.S. 8 does not alleviate over-crowding at the school asking ” “If you’re going to build an apartment, how do you makes sure there’s a school seat that matches that?” Squadron described the DOE’s response to his outreach as “too little, too late.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s comprehensive re-cap offers more details on this and all the topics discussed.  But no community meeting would be complete without long-time Brooklyn Heights resident Jeff Smith’s unique perspective.   He suggested the epidemic of gun violence is the fault of the Pharmaceutical industry’s over-prescription of psychiatric drugs adding,”gun control is over” due to the invention of 3-D printing.

Senator Squadron represents neighborhoods in Downtown Brooklyn from Greenpoint to the Columbia Waterfront and in Lower Manhattan from Tribeca to the Lower East Side. We applaud and appreciate his continued efforts to advocate on behalf of the residents of Brooklyn Heights and all his constituents throughout the 26th District.

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Last Minute Weekend Suggestions: Brooklyn Heights and Nearbyhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77531 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77531#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 05:14:10 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=77531

BHB colleague and mom SongBirdNYC lets me know there are lots of events for kids and their parents this weekend. Children’s recording artist Suzi Shelton (photo) will be at the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook on Sunday, November 22 at 11:00 a.m. More information here. The New York Transit Museum has several programs for kids, including “Subway Smarts: Signals” on Saturday, November 21 from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., and a “Meet the Author” session with Samantha Vamos, author of Alphabet Trains, on Sunday, November 22, from 1:30 p.m.to 2:15 p.m. There’s more details here.

This weekend is your last chance to see the Heights Players production of Lanford Wilson’s The Hot L Baltimore. Performances are Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 22 at 2:00 p.m. at the playhouse, 26 Willow Place (between Joralemon and State streets). This is part of the Heights Players’ diamond anniversary season. Make reservations here.

This Friday, November 20, starting at 8:00 p.m., Bargemusic presents the Ellipsis Trio, who will play works by Schubert, Fauré, and Beethoven. On Saturday evening, November 21, at 8:00, Arcady Orlovsky on cello and Tamara Orlovsky on piano will play works by Tartini, Beethoven, Balakirev, and Asafiev. On Sunday afternoon, November 22. at 4:00, there will be a concert of works by Beethoven, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky, performed by Igor Pikayzen on violin, Mihai Marica on cello, and Lindsay Garritson on piano. Saturday afternoon at 4:00 there will be a free, family oriented “Music in Motion” concert, co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Doors open at 3:45; first come, first seated. There’s more information and buy tickets for the evening and Sunday concerts here.

Don’t forget Free Friday at the Brooklyn Historical Society tomorrow (Friday, November 20) evening.

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Plan for Brooklyn’s First “Supertall” Revealedhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77433 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77433#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2015 04:25:16 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=77433

This past August we noted a Crain’s piece that said developers had acquired the landmarked Dime Savings Bank building and an adjacent lot, and that, using air rights from the landmarked building, they could build something as tall as the Empire State Building on the lot, the address of which will be 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension. New York YIMBY has now provided a rendering of the building that may go there (see image), a SHoP Architects design that would stand 1,000 feet tall, claiming the title of tallest building in New York City outside Manhattan. According to the YIMBY story,, the building will be primarily residential, but with a substantial commercial component, some of which may be in the adjacent Dime Savings Bank building.

Image: SHoP Architects via New York YIMBY

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Tell Us, Daily News, When Did Johnson Street Become Part of Brooklyn Heights?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77096 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/77096#comments Sun, 11 Oct 2015 05:02:15 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=77096

Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy in today’s Daily News, report that a 14 year old boy who had earlier been involved in ” a brutal attack on another teen while riding a Brooklyn bus” was, on Monday charged with illegal weapons possession for trying to bring a pistol into school (the chronology of the Daily News story is a bit confusing; it says the bus incident was on September 3 and the pistol incident on “Monday”–presumably October 5 as the story is datelined October 10–but also says the two incidents happened “on the same week”). The story then says the boy “brought the handgun to MS 8 on Johnson St. in Brooklyn Heights.”

Well, is Johnson Street “in Brooklyn Heights”? In the words of James Thurber and, perhaps, Casey Stengel, “You could look it up.” I did (although, having lived in the Heights for 32 years, I was sure of the answer), and the result is on the map you see with this post. Johnson Street does not enter Brooklyn Heights; it is entirely, as the map indicates, in Downtown Brooklyn.

Has the Daily News ascribed to Brooklyn Heights a drang nach Osten?.

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The Elephant in the Room Part 2: Second Re-Zoning Town Hall Held at P.S. 8http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76614 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76614#comments Thu, 24 Sep 2015 03:47:38 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=76614

On Monday night, the District 13 CEC and DOE’s Office of District planning held the second of two Town Hall meetings at P.S. 8 to present the draft re-zoning proposal for the school.   As with the meeting held at P.S. 307 on September 16th, issues of race and class emerged. Now, the debate has caught the attention of the The New York Times.  Published Wednesday morning, Race and Class Collide in a Plan for Two Brooklyn Schools, was the lead story in the N.Y./Region section.  The meetings have also been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Gothamist and DNAinfo, among others.

THE SKINNY:

Comments centered around the need to include sibling grandfathering (a decision at the discretion of the CEC), attendees’ displeasure with the short time-line for approval and implementation, and lack of community engagement in the re-zoning process.  Some wanted to know the status of P.S. 8’s wait-list and current Kindergarten enrollment. Others implored the DOE to build more schools and were reminded by the DOE, CEC members and other speakers alike that capacity still exists in nearby District 13 schools including P.S. 307 and 287.  Some questioned why P.S. 287 was not included in the re-zoning draft proposal.

Enthusiastic applause erupted when Dumbo resident and father of a one year old asked, “Why is drawing a few lines on a map taking precedence over fixing a severely under performing school? I don’t want to be the bad guy in the room but nobody else wants to talk about it.”  The DOE’s Associate Director of Analytics, Jonathan Geis responded, “We don’t consider P.S. 307 to be an under performing school.  What we’re seeing is a wonderful learning community.”

PS8 Re-Zoning Town Hall

Lisa McKeon, a veteran educator and mother of two pressed for more details about curriculum and staff development, “I will say this, I need answers and it’s not because I want to be in P.S. 8 or its not because I want to be in P.S. 307. It’s because this entire procedure needs to be much more transparent, it needs to be much more inclusive, it needs to be much more diverse and accepting. Dumbo residents, I happen to live with you. You’re doing yourselves a disservice…Open your minds. There’s not one mention of education in this conversation!”

P.S. 307 PTA Co-President, Faraji Hannah-Jones, added, “P. S. 307 is not an under performing school. Let me get that straight right now. We have brilliant teachers, we have curious students, we have committed parents and we have champions for the community. Number one I want to address the elephant in the room being that it’s the Dumbo community. Have you been to the school? You’re using 307 to basically make your complaints about the process but you’re not once talking about your neighborhood school being 307.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

The DOE also revealed plans to introduce a proposal to relocate MS313, aka Satellite West Middle School, from P.S. 307’s building on York Street to the newly constructed Dock Street space in Dumbo. The school will also house 100 Pre-K seats.  (This proposal must be approved by the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy, aka PEP, not the CEC).  The move would free space for additional elementary student seats at P.S. 307.  But that’s not necessarily good news for P.S. 307.  “Did you know that you will be stepping on the toes of a brilliant Pre-K program that is already going  [at P.S. 307]? We have 40 seats still open…this interferes with the progress that we have been working on in that community,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones.

But, what’s really at stake is Title 1 funding.  If the percentage of students who qualify for free lunch dips below 60%, the school stands to lose those funds and the programs they make possible.  According to CEC member and P.S. 307 PTA Co-President Ben Greene, P.S. 307 received approximately $284,000 in Title 1 funds last year, a figure not likely to be made up by PTA fundraising.

CEC Member Amy Shire said at the conclusion of the evening, “Whatever happens with rezoning, I don’t think anyone thinks that a re-zone is a magic bullet…whether or not it goes through, there are lots of issues that are inter-related but much bigger than the issue of overcrowding in Downtown Brooklyn.”  CEC Member Rob Underwood agrees and sets out his thoughts on the issue, as one of the members to vote on the rezoning, in his latest Tumblr post, Thoughts on the PS8 and PS307 #D13Rezoning.

NEXT STEPS:

While the DOE compiles feedback from the Town Hall meetings, the community may continue to submit comments, questions and concerns via the form on the CEC website.   Input sent through this form is forwarded to the Office of District Planning, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the CEC simultaneously.

The DOE will present its official/final re-zoning proposal to the CEC and D13 Communities at the CEC’s next Calendar Meeting, on Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30 pm, at P.S. 307 (209 York St.).  There will be opportunity for public comment.

The CEC is required to vote on the official re-zoning proposal at a public meeting within 45 days of its presentation.  During that time, the community may continue to submit their feedback.  If there is no CEC regular Calendar meeting that meets this timeline, a Special Meeting will be called and announced to the public with at least 48 hours’ notice.  Full details of the re-zoning timeline, FAQ’s and a schedule of CEC meetings are available on the CEC website.  To receive regular updates from the CEC, enter your email address in the left side-bar of the CEC website.

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The Elephant in the Room: P.S. 8 Re-Zoning Town Hall Meeting Re-Caphttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76529 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76529#comments Sat, 19 Sep 2015 15:32:03 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=76529

On Wednesday night, at the first of two town scheduled town hall meetings, representatives of the DOE’s Department of District Planning presented their draft re-zoning proposal for Brooklyn Heights’ P.S. 8 at P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill.  The proposal was presented to the CEC on September 1st.  As previously reported, it essentially cuts the current P.S. 8 zone in half and relegates all of Dumbo and Vinegar Hill to P.S. 307. Concord Village remains in the proposed P.S. 8 zone.  Greg Whitten, DOE Associate Director of District Planning explained the need to re-zone “began with the [Kindergarten] wait-list at P.S. 8.  We saw the zone was too large.”  Director of Planning, Tim Castanza added, “I feel comfortable saying the P.S. 8 zone is one of the largest in the Borough [of Brooklyn], even city-wide.  On the flip side, 307’s is one of the smallest.” In 2014 the current zones yielded 162 Kindergarten age students living within the P.S. 8 zone while 307’s zone had 17 students residing within its borders.

ProposedZoneMap

Current P.S. 8 zone shown in Blue. Current P.S. 307 zone shown in pink.

The presentation also illustrated how the the demographics of each school would change. Presently, P.S 8 is comprised of 34% minority students while 307 currently has 95% minority students.  The proposal’s projections show P.S 8’s minority student population would drop to 25-35% and 307’s would shift to 55-65% minority students.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM:

Emotions ran high during the question and answer period and several themes emerged. Gentrification was front and center.  Rev. Dr. Mark V. C. Taylor, Pastor of The Church of the Open Door, was first to speak, at times to thunderous applause. “This plan is based on the needs of one community, P.S. 8. It is P.S. 8-centric. That also means, that it is ignoring the other community that is involved…There are issues of race and class that need to be figured out that are not here…we can come up with a plan that preserves the excellence and the leadership [of 307] that gives them time to work out their vision, does not send another group of people in here angry and ready to make changes and that brings all of us on the same page. Because, you don’t have a lot of institutions in America where the majority of white folk are willing to function under black leadership. That’s just the truth.”

A Farragut Houses resident and parent of a small child spoke passionately her voice breaking at times, “We fought hard to build this school. And we’re not just going to let people come from outside when we worked so hard and dedicated ourselves. Our blood sweat and tears are here…I don’t have no problem working with anybody. But I’m not going to let anybody take from my daughter. She is the future.”

Tiara Puglisi, an out-of-zone P.S. 307 parent commented, “My son is in Kindergarten right now. I think we’re talking about things, we’re dancing around. He is the only white child in his class. And that makes me feel like, ‘how are we going to integrate in a world where I would expect more white children in his class?’ But it doesn’t happen that way. And when kids can’t get into P.S. 8 you’re all decrying ‘my son didn’t get into pre-k!’ why aren’t you sending them to 307 now, like we are? So, I have a hard time thinking that it’s going to be a seamless integration because I haven’t seen that here so far.”

Throughout the night comments from attendees from both neighborhoods called for new schools. CEC Member Ed Brown addressed the crowd, “I want to clarify something…There is space in this school [307], there’s space at 287, there’s space in 67, there’s space in 46. So there’s something else going on here…the elephant in the room…we need to be honest with ourselves. Something else is wrong that we keep talking about new schools when there’s adequate seats already available.”

WHAT’S THE RUSH?

There were points on which attendees agreed: 1) The proposed re-zoning timeline is too short and 2) P.S. 287 should have been considered in the proposal.  P.S. 307 PTA Co-President, Faraji Hannah-Jones read a statement from a Farragut Housing resident which said, in part, “You’re going to overwhelm the P.S. 307 zone. And in a few years, we’ll be right back at the table to do this all over again. What is the rush? This process needs to be pushed back at least a year. Why is it that P.S. 287 couldn’t be in on the process?…This is putting a band aid on an open wound for temporary relief.”

Dumbo parent John Shook challenged the DOE  “I’ve gone to every single meeting about this and to bring [re-zoning] up on September first and try to implement it for next year is ludacrous.”  Another parent who identified himself as the parent of two boys said, “This seems like it was a very poorly thought out rushed process…we can say that Dumbo parents were really caught off guard by this and it appears from listening to the current 307 parents that they were also not involved in this discussion and that’s disturbing.”

FINDING COMMON GROUND:

Another Dumbo parent whose son received a spot in P.S. 8 in late August was compelled to share her experience, “we just went through a lot with P.S. 8 and my focus was going to be [on sibling grandfathering].  But I have to say with the way this meeting started, Ms. Davenport was so welcoming to us and as a wait-listed family she was so wonderful and she went on about how Dumbo was part of the bigger community.  I think as parents in this community it is our responsibility to teach inclusion and acceptance and to be one community.”

CEC Member Amy Shire queried attendees, “What I would be really interested in hearing from in this community is ‘What are the elements that people are looking for that would make it look like a good plan that people would come together around?’ What are the discussions that we need to have together? Or maybe some separately and some together? What are the things that people want to see implemented?”

As the evening began to wind down, the DOE’s Tim Castanza referred to conversations he held with the previous P.S. 307 Principal Roberta Davenport (who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year), the Interim Principal Stephanie Carroll, 307 teachers and parents.  “I wish we would have had a little bit more conversation about the positive things that are happening in this 307 community…I don’t want it to seem like there’s this idea that we’re going to take. That we’re coming in and that this re-zoning is taking resources away…We have this really wonderful school community that we want to grow. And that we have confidence that can continue to grow and continue to be excellent for more students in this district. I want to acknowledge that what we already have here is excellent.”

CEC President, David Goldsmith was also hopeful, “One of the things that’s clear…this is really about our children and I think what we see in the room here is a lot of passion for our children.”

WHAT COMES NEXT?

The CEC will hold their next town hall meeting this Monday, September 21st 6:30-8 pm at P.S. 8 located at 37 Hicks Street.  The community may also submit comments, questions and concerns via the form on the CEC website.   Comments sent through this form are forwarded to the Office of District Planning, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the CEC simultaneously.

Feedback from the town hall meetings will be considered by the DOE as they prepare their formal proposal.  The DOE will then present its official proposal to the CEC and D13 Communities at the CEC’s next Calendar Meeting, on Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30 pm, at P.S. 307 (209 York St.).  There will be opportunity for public comment at this meeting as well.

The CEC is then required to vote on the official re-zoning proposal at a public meeting within 45 days of its presentation.  During that time, the community may continue to submit their feedback.  Full details of the re-zoning timeline and a schedule of CEC meetings are available on the CEC website.  To receive regular updates from the CEC, enter your email address in the left side-bar of the CEC website.

 

 

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Wall Street Journal Eyes Possible Rental Glut in Brooklynhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76488 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/76488#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 03:56:39 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=76488

According to this WSJ story, real estate analysts are concerned about possible oversupply in the rental housing market in Brooklyn because of the large number of new buildings that have recently been completed, are about to be, or are planned in various locations, prominently including downtown Brooklyn, which real estate people have re-branded as “DoBro.”

Among the buildings mentioned as possibly affected is 180 Montague, ex “Archstone Apartments,” (at left in photo), which now faces competition from its newly completed next door neighbor 172 Montague (at right in photo). The story notes that pressure on rents now seems to be concentrated on larger, more expensive units; demand for studios or “starter apartments” remains strong.

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Is a “Supertall” Coming to Brooklyn?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75992 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75992#comments Sat, 08 Aug 2015 17:21:56 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=75992

According to Crain’s, Developers Michael Stern and Joseph Chetrit have acquired the landmarked Dime Savings Bank building at 9 Dekalb Avenue, which the story notes, could be repurposed as a high-end retail store, such as Apple. The developers have also acquired air rights which would enable them to build on an adjoining lot a building taller than the Empire State Building. The Crain’s piece quotes a “source familiar with the deal” as saying the developers will probably build something between 1,000 and 1,200 feet tall, or slightly shorter than the ESB without its radio tower. It would be decidedly taller than anything else in Brooklyn now: the tallest building in the Borough, according to Crain’s is 388 Bridge Street, at 590 feet.

The building is likely to resemble 432 Park Avenue (photo), a slender shaft about which your correspondent expressed his opinion here.

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Overcrowding Update: P.S. 8 Wait-list Movement, CEC 13 Ramping Up for Re-Zoninghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75486 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75486#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 17:19:26 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=75486

The summer seems to have brought relief to some anxious parents of children wait-listed at P.S. 8.  Though parent advocacy group WeArePS8Too’s request to restore the sixth Kindergarten section at P.S. 8 was denied by the DOE in mid-June, the wait-list now seems to be moving.  The parent network has informed this reporter a family holding the #28 slot was offered a seat earlier this week.

On the District level, the D13 Community Education Council (CEC) is ramping up to rezone.  This past Tuesday night at the Annual/Business/Calendar Meeting, the DOE’s Office of District Planning (ODP) preempted the general meeting agenda with a presentation, “An Overview of the Rezoning Process.”  Greg Whitten, Associate Director of Planning-Brooklyn and Jonathan Geis, Associate Director of Analytics-Brooklyn, emphasized rezoning will be a collaborative effort between the ODP, CEC, Superintendent, impacted schools’ leaders and the community. The six-step process follows Chancellor’s Regulation A-185 and includes the presentation of rezoning proposals to the CEC within a public forum and incorporates feedback from the community.

REZONING PROCESS:

Once the need for re-zoning has been assessed, the ODP sets out to determine zone size and devises various zone map scenarios.  The methodology used to determine zone size (the capacity of each school and number of anticipated students) is based on a variety of factors.  It includes but is not limited to the total number of full-size classrooms, the number of cluster rooms and administrative space entitled to each school and the historical enrollment increases & decreases per grade level.  Demand is determined by historical data of enrollment (from both in- and out-of-zone students), wait-lists, average class size and retention rates and anticipated growth based on residential development.

To the extent possible, zone lines are drawn taking the ideal zone size into account for each school, residential construction and population growth, impact on a school’s diversity, geographical barriers (such as highways and district lines) and the distances students must travel.  Mr. Geis stressed for this stage, the ODP will rely heavily on the CEC for “critical feedback” from the community based on their knowledge of and their relationships to key stakeholders within specific schools and neighborhoods.

PS 307 exterior

P.S. 307 Photo: InsideSchools.org

The full scope of the rezoning is yet to be determined. But during the Q&A following the presentation, CEC members were clearly thinking long-term solutions citing rapid residential development and the need for sensitivity toward diversity.  Robert Underwood asked the ODP, “How do you look across the district so you really have a comprehensive Downtown plan that considers, PS 8, 307, 287, 29, 261, 38 as a holistic whole instead of saying that’s District 13, that’s District 15?”

CEC President, David Goldsmith assured members, “One of the things that we talked about at the first meeting [of the Downtown Brooklyn School Planning Working Group, aka D13 Taskforce] was ‘who should be at this table?’  To your point, we invited 38, 261 and members of the community…the CEC President of D15 is now a member…the CEC in general will be very informed because there is a working group that does take that broader vision….We have [representatives from] the district as a whole, from one side of the district all the way to the other giving [their] perspective.”

CEC Member, Ben Greene expressed, “Are we looking [far] enough down the line?  Because my biggest concern is we do a zone change right now with PS8 and 307 and then all of a sudden now we need more capacity at 307 that we don’t have…I don’t want to see that now we’ve got to come back to the table and now push half of 307 over to 287 without putting [287] in the mix [from the beginning].  I want us to make sure that we look at all of that impact, because it’s a ripple effect.”

P.S. 287 Photo Courtesey of InsideSchools.org

P.S. 287 Photo: InsideSchools.org

Within their presentation, the ODP recommended the CEC form a Rezoning Committee. Throughout the proceedings David Goldsmith also extolled the benefits of a Rezoning Committee stating, “one of the reasons that we pushed for this larger working group (D13 Taskforce), [is] so that this smaller group (Rezoning Committee), which would have to answer to the entire CEC, would be best informed by a very large group.  So we can go to our own data people…We’ve got people that are very familiar with data from CB2, we have a lot of people that our CEC can use as resources.”  The members agreed and the Committee was formed with D13 Taskforce CEC members (Ed Brown, David Goldsmith, Ben Greene and Amy Shire) and newly appointed CEC members Carla Lorenzana, Horace Allison, and Maggie Spillane.

REZONING TIMELINE:

  • July/August: Preliminary discussions and rezoning scenario development
  • September: ODP and Superintendent present to public during a CEC meeting
  • September/October: CEC collects feedback on re-zoning scenarios, shares feedback with the DOE and makes suggestions for revisions, if necessary.
  • October/Early November (at the latest): CEC votes on final proposal.  The vote must take place 45 days after the public presentation.

Pending approval, re-zoning plan would take effect for the 2016-17 academic school year and impact only incoming Pre-K, Kindergarten, 6th grade students and/or students new to the system. Sibling preference for Pre-K and Kindergartners would be determined by the CEC during the approval process.  All re-zoned schools would continue to admit students according to their admissions priorities as dictated by Chancellor’s Regulation A-101.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Opponents of Pier Six Towers Voice Concerns At Public Meetinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75253 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75253#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 02:32:11 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=75253

At yesterday’s public meeting of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation board, revised plans for the two high rise residential buildings proposed for the landward side of Pier Six were presented for consideration. The meeting was held as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by People for Green Space.

As Mary Frost’s Eagle story reports, local residents representing various interested groups were present and expressed their concerns, as did a representative of State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office. These concerns largely were about the effect of new, dense residential development on local infrastructure, especially considering the additional residential development contemplated for the LICH site and the site of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library, and the development already occurring at Pierhouse and in downtown Brooklyn. They were united in calling for a new environmental impact study based on major changes that have taken place since the last study was completed. They also questioned the need for the housing to support the Park’s projected expenses.

Two local business groups, the DUMBO Business Improvement District and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership spoke in favor of the new buildings, stressing the positive effects on local commerce. The Partnership’s representative said that over 1,000 people had expressed interest in applying for affordable units in the proposed towers.

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Overcrowding Update: Public Advocate, Letitia James & Class Size Matters Urge DOE to Expand Capital Planhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75010 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/75010#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 12:53:12 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=75010

The City Council of New York released their Report on the Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget for the Department of Education and School Construction Authority on June 3rd.  Within it, the Five-Year Capital Plan for Fiscal 2015-2019 totaling $12.8 billion dollars, sets aside $4.4 billion for the construction of 38,754 new school seats (aka, “capacity”).

In response, Public Advocate, Letitia James and Class Size Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan clearinghouse for information on the proven benefits of smaller classes, says the DOE’s calculation won’t solve the problem, not by half.   Their June 4th joint letter to Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina, recommends the DOE double the number of seats in the capital plan. They urgently request the public to call their Councilmembers and to ask they sign onto the letter.  Brooklyn Heights’ Councilmember, Steve Levin’s office may be reached by calling 718-875-5200. Find your Councilmember HERE.

Ms. James and Class Size Matters’ Executive Director, Leonie Haimson cite Comptroller, Scott Stringer’s 2014 audit, DOE Efforts to Alleviate Overcrowding in School Buildings, which illustrates that at least one-third of NYC public schools are overcrowded and at least a third of elementary schools are at 138% capacity.  Class Size Matters’ June 2014 report, Space Crunch in NYC Public Schools, also serves as basis for much of the letter’s argument. The letter continues, “..there is a widespread consensus that the DOE’s formula for estimating school utilization levels in the Blue Book underestimates the actual level of overcrowding and the space needed to provide a sound basic and legal education. Though a working group appointed by the Chancellor made proposals to improve the accuracy of this formula in December, their recommendations still have not been released. Therefore, the City continues to make crucial decisions on co-locations, and now the capital plan based on inaccurate data.”  They stress that Mayor De Blasio’s “ambitious” ten-year plan to add 160,000 market-rate housing units, on top of 200,000 affordable units will add to an already growing problem.  The Class Size Matters’ fact sheet offers additional details and a complete list of recommendations to the DOE.

As previously reported, overcrowding came home to roost in March when fifty children zoned for P.S. 8 were wait-listed for Kindergarten.  The most recent blog post from Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions, “Is Overcrowding Inevitable in Our Area Schools?” highlights that a report included in a recent law-suit meant to halt residential development in Brooklyn Bridge Park has revealed, “according to the DOE’s own numbers, ALL of the elementary schools in District 13 sub-district 2 (which extends from Brooklyn Heights into Clinton Hill) will be at 140% capacity in just 3 years!”  The group has been sounding the alarm for more school capacity for years and points to the elephant in the room, “[the] DOE (as far as we know) is doing nothing about a problem that clearly exists in black in white in their own population growth projections!?!”

The City Council is expected to vote on the Capital Plan before the end of June.  Thanks to Senator Daniel Squadron, the School Construction Authority (SCA) is now finally required by law to collect population data and incorporate it into the agency’s five-year educational facilities capital plan.  But given the DOE’s track record, this reporter has to ask, “Is the DOE following the letter of this law?  Has the DOE incorporated real-time birth records and building permit data into this proposed Capital Plan?”  Ask your Councilmember.  The future and quality of our children’s education may depend on it.

 

 

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Local Houses of Worship in “Sacred Sites” Tours This Weekendhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74594 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74594#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 01:49:18 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=74594

This coming weekend will be the annual Sacred Sites Open House event presented by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the participating religious institutions. It will give you the opportunity to visit and receive architectural and historical information about several local houses of worship. The local participating institutions, with their addresses and open house hours, are: First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, 116 Pierrepont Street (corner of Monroe Place), Saturday, May 16 from 10:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m.; Grace Church (photo), 254 Hicks Street (corner of Grace Court), Sunday May 17, starting at 12:30 p.m.; Brooklyn Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), 110 Schermerhorn Street (at Boerum Place), Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 to 3:00 p.m.; Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Cathedral, 113 Remsen Street (corner of Henry), Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m.; and St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, 157 Montague Street (corner of Clinton), Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The open houses are free; there’s more information here.

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Coming Up at Brooklyn Historical Society This Weekhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74361 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74361#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 03:00:57 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=74361

On Tuesday evening, April 21, starting at 6:30 BHS will present a panel discussion, offered in partnership with Downtown Rising Working Group, featuring speakers from community advocacy organizations, developers, academic institutions, and others on the topic “The Rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn: Ten Years Later.” The panel will

explore the future of Downtown Brooklyn with the 2004 Special Purpose District Zoning Resolution as the starting point. We will explore the goals of the rezoning and assess the results so far, and then turn to a panel of experts on planning, community advocacy, government affairs, and development for a discussion touching on key issues still critical to Downtown Brooklyn’s future, including public space, pedestrian experience and safety, public and private development, transportation, and connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods.

The event is free, but you must reserve tickets here.

On Thursday evening, April 23, starting at 7:00, BHS, in partnership with Brooklyn Brainery, will present local beekeeper Timothy O’Neal, of Borough Bees, to talk about

the history and know-how behind this increasingly popular enterprise that is quickly joining the illustrious ranks of Brooklyn-made gastronomy. Deliciously sweet tastings included!

Admission to this event is $10, or $5 for BHS or Green-Wood members. You may purchase tickets here.

Looking ahead to next weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26, form 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. both days, BHS will host a free Zine Fest

showcasing self-published magazines by independent writers, artists, and publishers from the five boroughs and beyond. Featuring a different line-up of 75 exhibitors, workshops and panel talks each day.

There’s more information about these events here.

Photo: C. Scales for BHB.

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Soul Cycle Expands To Brooklyn Heights*http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74020 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/74020#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 18:28:57 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=74020

Feel like burning off some extra energy before you pick up that smoothie from the new neighborhood Juice Press? You’re in luck, because another health-minded Manhattan chain with a cult-like following is set to open its doors here this week. Soul Cycle, the fitness studio that has become basically synonymous with high-intensity indoor cycling (aka “spin”), has taken up residence at 55 Court Street, and will begin offering classes this coming Thursday (3/26), according to an invitation passed along to us by tipster. Discerning residents will also note that the location of Soul Cycle Brooklyn Heights  — the east side of Court Street by the new Yoga Works — could technically be considered Downtown Brooklyn, but it’s on the borderline, so why let a little thing like geographic boundaries get in the way of good marketing?

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 1.39.41 PM

All gentle ribbing aside, the new Soul Cycle seems like a great complimentary addition to the neighborhood’s current collection of health and fitness offerings, including the nearby Equinox gym (parent company of Soul Cycle) and New York Sports Club. Located steps away from the Borough Hall subway stop and equipped with 66 bicycles and eight indoor showers, it’s sure to appeal to commuters looking to get in a workout before or after their workdays. A word to the wise from someone who’s dabbled in the dark arts of spin before: you need to pre-register for Soul Cycle classes online weekly, Monday at 12 p.m. sharp, when the new class schedule is posted. For many of the more popular Soul Cycle studios, classes sell out within a matter of seconds. It’s too early to tell whether that will be the case for the Brooklyn Heights Soul Cycle, but if it is, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Plans for “Brooklyn Strand” (Not a Bookstore) Revealedhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/73979 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/73979#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 01:57:36 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=73979

Thanks to reader “DoBro84″ we have a link to the presentation (PDF) given at Monday evening’s meeting about plans for the “Brooklyn Strand,” a series of parks, green spaces, pedestrian and bike paths, and other amenities intended to tie together Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Metro Tech, the Navy Yard, Farragut Houses, and Fort Greene, and to provide a grand entrance to the Borough. If you scroll down through the presentation, you’ll find lots of interesting projected views of how the plans would change to look of specific places. One is of what would replace the parking lot (photo) in the triangle bordered by the southern wall of the New York Supreme Courthouse, Adams Street, and the walkway to the east of Borough Hall, with its apex at Joralemon Street and Adams. So, where will the judges, clerks, and others park? No doubt the plan has a solution for that.

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