Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MCU Now Accepting Applications for 2016 Scholarship Program

Eligible high school seniors are invited to fill-in applications for the 2016 Scholarship Program sponsored by the Municipal Credit Union. MCU will award a total of $66,000 in scholarship money to college-bound high school graduates. There will be eight memorial scholarships for $5,000 each, and 13 grants of $2,000 each.

In order to be eligible for these scholarships the student must be either a child or grandchild of an MCU member in good standing. The selection process will judge the applicants on their academic performance, extracurricular and community activities, references, and an essay describing the student’s goals. Applicants will also automatically be eligible for a $500 statewide Public Relations and Marketing Council Scholarship.

“MCU is deeply committed to supporting the youth throughout the communities our members work and live. Our Scholarship Program is one way we achieve this by recognizing and rewarding young people for their outstanding academic performance and community service,” said MCU President/CEO Kam Wong. “We hope our scholarships will enable these students to achieve their goals and succeed in their future endeavors.”

A student from Windsor Terrace was the recipient of the James McKeon Memorial Scholarship. Katherine O’Donnell used her $5,000 scholarship from MCU to pursue studies in biomedical engineering at Binghamton University.

Applications are now available at the following Brooklyn branches of MCU:

350 Jay Street
1560 Flatbush Avenue
2142 Ralph Avenue
1904 Surf Avenue

They are also available at any MCU branch as well as on-line on the MCU website: The deadline to submit applications in January 15, 2016.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sonny Fox Raises Funds for His Alma Mater PS 217

Sonny Fox at 90 years old
Perhaps you remember Sonny Fox, the host of the award-winning children’s television program “Wonderama” which aired from 1959 to 1967? Whether you do or don’t remember, it is worth knowing a little something about Irwin “Sonny” Fox.

Fox grew up in a Jewish family on East 9th Street between Foster Avenue and Avenue H. He had his bar mitzvah in the Young Israel of Flatbush, and went to PS 217, where he has not set foot since 1938.

Fox lives in Los Angeles now, but last year he went on a “Farewell Tour” and visited many of his old stomping grounds, including PS 217. He says a lot has changed in the intervening 80 years:
“The most striking difference is that when I went to P.S. 217 the neighborhood was half Irish and half Jewish,” he said. Fox’s old neighborhood, now called Kensington, hosts large populations of immigrants from South Asia and the Former Soviet Union as well as a growing contingent of charedi Jews moving over from nearby Borough Park. At P.S. 217, notices are printed in English, Spanish, Urdu, Bengali, Tajiki and Uzbek; more than 30 languages are spoken in the students’ homes. 
“That’s what’s so wonderful about New York. I was a child of immigrants, these are new children of immigrants in the same situation. I think of schools as laundromats taking them through the cycles of education and making them American. It keeps regenerating,” he said.
During that visit Fox offered to do a performance to raise money for the school. Calling his show “From Brooklyn to Broadway,” Fox shared many personal stories about his work with some of show-business’s most famous songwriters and others.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Composting Grows in Brooklyn

This coming month the number of people in Brooklyn participating in the newly launched composting program will be doubling.

More composting means less landfilling.
In the fall of 2013 Windsor Terrace became the first Brooklyn neighborhood to receive special composting trash receptacles. About six months later, in the spring of 2014, several neighborhoods were added to the pilot program: Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, South Slope, Park Slope, and parts of Gowanus.

Now it’s time for Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and the Columbia Street Waterfront District to join up. The parts of Park Slope and Gowanus that were not included before will also be included. To see if you are part of this new stage in trash collecting, go to the website of the NYC Department of Sanitation where you can find a PDF with a map of the newly expanded area.

All households participating in this composting program will receive compost bins to place on the street next to their trash and recycling bins. Curbside collection is due to begin during the week of October 5, except for the added areas in Gowanus and Park Slope. In those areas collection of compost will begin the week of October 26.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Brunching in Brooklyn

For those looking for the perfect place to Brunch, Brooklyn seems to have it all. According to Anna Gustafson, who has been authoring the series ‘Brooklyn Staycation’ for Sheepshead Bites, there are some great places in the Kensington area to go grab a bite.

Steeplechase, located at Fort Hamilton Parkway has actually be named one of the top 10 coffee shops by Gothamist so it’s really worth checking out.  There is also Hot Bagels, Elk Café and Lark Café that bring in a bunch of happy Kensingtoners.

In general, Kensington is a great place for food, and international cuisine at that.   There are many expats living in the area so the neighborhood caters to that. But for those looking for some real traditional food, check out El Mirador’s karaoke nights, tacos, cold beer and other classical Mexican eats.

Of course, one mustn’t forget Hunger Pang. Named the fourth hottest restaurants in Kensington by New York Eater last year, both the grilled hanger steak with miso butter fries, and the frisee shiitake salad are something out of this world. 

There’s lots to eat from brunch to midnight in Kensington.  And many of them have received international acclaim.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lost Wallet with $2200 Returned to Rightful Owner

In an act of pure honesty 62-year-old Michael Marino returned a wallet containing about $2200 to its owner.

Marino found the wallet on Tuesday, and together with his friend Sam Kogon, tracked the owner by Wednesday. All they knew about the man who lost his wallet was his last name, Hernandez, and that his truck had recently broken down and he had the cash so he could buy a replacement truck.
After finally finding the owner, Hernandez gave Marino a big hug.

Marino received a $120 reward for his honesty, and immediately spent the money on food. By Saturday he was once again broke, but he says he has no regrets about returning the money.

He explained that he hopes his son, who is 27-years-old, will find out about his good deed so that, “my son would know I’m a hero.”

“I’ve been honest all my life,” he said, and giving back the money was “an easy decision.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Brooklyn Bargains Fading as Windsor Terrace Becomes Unaffordable

A few years ago someone priced out of Park Slope could turn to the quieter, and less expensive Windsor Terrace as a viable alternative. Today, however, as Windsor becomes livelier, it is also experiencing skyrocketing real estate costs.
“It’s not really considered a bargain anymore, like it was a few years ago,” said Abigail Palanca, a broker with Town Residential who grew up in Windsor Terrace and lives there now. “There’s been incredible, incredible change, but there are so many families who are still here and so many new families who have moved in, the dynamic is still really nice. You still step outside and everybody says hello. When my kids run too close to the street, I hear five people calling their names.”
Windsor Terrace Brooklyn Public Libaray. Courtesy  Jim.henderson
Windsor Terrace, well-place between Park Slope, Kensington, Prospect Park and the Green-Wood Cemetery, was a well-kept secret that is no more. Subway access is decent. Commuters can expect a 45 minute trip to Midtown Manhattan on the F train. Parking in Windsor is also a bit easier than in its adjacent neighborhoods.
“When I first bought my house here, there were a lot of older people, not a lot of kids—my kids didn’t have friends in the neighborhood,” said 20-year veteran resident of Windsor Terrace, Mary LaRosa Lederer, who owns neighborhood realtor Brooklyn Real. “There were a lot of retired cops and firefighters. I’m seeing a lot of change.”
The changing demography of the neighborhood has not changed the feel of the neighborhood as much as what had been expected.
“I think the fact that we don’t have a Fifth Avenue or a Seventh Avenue or a Smith Street probably saves it a little, because the person who wants to live here has a family or wants quiet,” Ms. Lederer said. “I think that grounds Windsor Terrace a little more.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

News Flash: New York Rents are High, and are Rising

Rents Climb as Neighborhoods Gentrify
It’s no secret that rents have been skyrocketing over the past six or so years all over New York. Rents in Brooklyn reached historic highs as of April, and Manhattan has faced a steady climb in rental prices over the past year. The rent rise is one of the fallouts of gentrification, which has also been a hot topic in these parts.

To help us get our heads around the situation Curbed created a map which shows the median rents in many Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods since 2009.

The data used to create the map comes from StreetEasy, which started tracking rents in NYC in 2008. That means that although the data does reflect an accurate picture of the rental situation, it does not represent every single rental listing.

Tribeca comes out as New York’s most expensive area for rentals, as it was also in 2009. The least expensive areas are in the heart of Brooklyn, Queens, and the northern reaches of Manhattan, such as Washington Heights and Inwood. However, there is not even one neighborhood that is less expensive now than it was in 2009.

Our part of Brooklyn has maintained affordability relative to most other areas. Rents in Kensington, Greenwood, Flatbush, Forest Hills, and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens have all gone up, but only on average of about $200.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Crown Heights Butcher Seeking Assembly Seat

Menachem Raitport, resident of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is making his third bid for a seat in the New York State Assembly as a representative from the 43rd Assembly District. Raitport ran as a Republican and Conservative, despite Brooklyn’s reputation as an overwhelmingly liberal

Democratic region. Therefore it is not a surprise that his first two attempts for office ended badly. In 2010 he received a bit over 7 percent of the vote for the 43rd Assembly District, and about 6 percent in the race for the 20th Senate District last autumn.

This race, however, could end quite differently for Raitport. Due to a filing error in April, the three Democratic challengers who are competing for the seat left open by Karim Camara this spring will have to run on third party lines.

Raitport waxes hopeful due to this glitch, admitting that, “In a way, it gives me a better chance.”
The Brooklyn butcher feels strongly about many issues, including bike lanes, taxes, subsidized housing and what it means to be a Republican. Here is an example of just one of his views:
“People have a misconception. They say ‘Oh, you’re a Republican, you’re conservative, that means you’re going to cut food stamps, you’re going to cut subsidized housing, you’re going to cut this.’ That’s wrong. America has to help those who cannot help themselves. That’s what this country was built on, that’s what makes it great. The thing I don’t like is fraud and I don’t like people cheating and I don’t like people taking advantage. I believe very strongly in helping the downtrodden.”
The polls open at 6am on Tuesday, May 5. They will close at 9pm. Voters can only vote at their designated polling site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bright Lights of Brooklyn Freaking Out Residents

Brooklyn residents are not happy with the new lights recently installed into streetlamps in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Jolanta Benal expressed her distaste for the new illumination this way:
“It feels like I’m in a strip mall in outer space. I don’t want to come off as melodramatic, but it really is horrible,” she said.
Street lights in the snow, the old-fashioned way
Even after she had changed her sheer curtains for dark velvet drapes light still flowed into her living room.
“Each day that goes by, there are more of them,” she added. “There is nowhere to run and hide.”
Other residents describe the experience of being in the glow of the new lights as like being in a construction site or a set for a movie in which the film crew is shooting at night. Some even say they feel like the lights would work well in a prison yard, or as good lighting for alien abductions.

The new lights are environmentally friendly LEDs, which can save the city lots of energy, but are known to be optically harsh.
“The old lights made everybody look bad,” said architect Christopher Stoddard, who lives at the corner of Fuller Place. “But these are so cold and blue, it’s like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ out there.”
“We’re all for saving energy,” added his wife, Aida Stoddard, also an architect. “But the city can do so much better.”

The change over began in October 2013 and will eventually replace all 250,000 of the city’s lights with these LEDs. The city has a goal of reducing its overall carbon footprint by 30 percent by the year 2030. The cost of replacing the old lights with the new is estimated to be about $75 million. Savings will run about $6 million on energy costs, and $8 million on maintenance, annually. Since the bulbs last on average 20 years, about two to four times as long as sodium-vapor lamps.

“To the degree you can make the city’s operations more sustainable, it just pays so many dividends,” said Margaret Newman, the LED leader during the Bloomberg administration, .

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

(More than One) Scent Grows in Brooklyn

One of the "flavors" of Brooklyn
In 2006 Kensington resident Sophia Sylvester set out to solve her children’s “dry skin issue.” What happened next was the birth of Sylvester’s all-natural body care products business called “Brooklyn Flavors.”

The former medical assistant thought of a great way to have prospective customers take notice of her products: she created a special scent from each of about one dozen neighborhoods in Brooklyn and connected each to one of her products.

“I wasn't born here, but I was raised here and I realized that Brooklyn has so much flavor. It’s a mosaic of cultures and colors,” Sylvester said. 

In order to achieve authenticity Sylvester did some research into the history of each neighborhood, coming up with unique and yet descriptive essences to reflect on the special “aroma” of each neighborhood.

For instance, the “soft floral blend of cherry, jasmine and gardenia” of the Prospect Heights flavor refers to the famous Brooklyn Botanic Gardens found there.

“‘Church Avenue’ is a fruit blend of mango, papaya and jasmine because there are a lot of West Indians that live in the area,” she added.

Sylvester opened her store in 2013 at 820 Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights. She makes every product by hand right there in her store. Not every Brooklyn neighborhood has its own scent, but some that do include: Red Hook, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope and other very Brooklyn-ish things, like “Brownstone.”

Prices range from $7 or $8 for lip balm or shea butter soap to $30 for sea salt scrub.

We can expect to continue to see more scents and more products from this creative entrepreneur who has products for sale as far away as Jackson, Mississippi. Although now many of her ingredients come from all over the world, Sylvestor hopes that one day soon she will be able to get all her materials locally.

“Brooklyn is all I know,” she said. “It’s a beautiful city and it’s got so much history.”

Monday, February 2, 2015

Forecasters Take the Brunt of Historic Blizzard

Mayor Bill de Blasio; photo credt: The office of Public Advocate for the City of New York
After city and state officials took the maximum position to protect the safety and well-being of citizens, the anticipated “Blizzard of the Century” turned into more like the blizzard of the week. On Tuesday New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he does not regret closing schools and ordering all traffic off the streets beginning at 11pm, just ahead of the storm. Closure of the subway, however, was not mandated by the mayor’s office.

"We found out just as it was being announced," the mayor said, only 15 minutes before Governor Cuomo made the announcement on TV on Monday afternoon that for the first time in the 110-year history of the subway it would be closed for snow.

"I think it was a very big move, and certainly something we would have liked to have had some more dialogue on," said de Blasio. He did not say whether he agreed with the decision or not.

The Mayor explained that New Yorkers should consider themselves lucky that we received only 10 to 12 inches of snow on Monday night, a half to a third of what was forecast.
"Just 20, 30 miles east of the city's border, in Long Island, they got exactly what was originally projected for here," de Blasio said.
The traffic ban imposed by City Hall went into effect at 11pm and was lifted at 7:30am on Tuesday morning. The Mayor said, based on the snow predictions at the time, the closing of schools and traffic for Tuesday was a “no-brainer.”
"These were the right precautions to take. They worked," de Blasio said. "I will always err on the side of safety and caution," he said.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Borough Presidents Address Internet Inequality

New York City’s five borough presidents, together with City Comptroller Scott Stringer have created a “Five Borough Broadband Bill of Rights” to address the differential across the city of internet access.

According to a report published by Stringer, 30 percent of households in Brooklyn are without high-speed internet. That statistic compares unfavorably with the 21 percent of households who do not have high-speed internet in Manhattan. The report shows that even within each borough large differences exist. For instance, Kensington and Borough Park have the lowest rate of internet access at 47 percent of households without.

The report, which is labeled “Internet Inequality: Broadband Access in NYC,” explains that there are two major reasons for the lack of high-speed internet in the city: poor broadband quality and expense.
“New Yorkers who don’t have online access lack the tools they need to improve their education, employment and business opportunities,” Stringer said. “Just as the subway powered New York’s growth in the 20th century, high-speed broadband will power our city’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century.”

Stringer and the five borough presidents came together to produce the “Five Borough Broadband Bill of Rights” to find ways to reduce the differences between the city’s neighborhoods as far as internet access is concerned. The goal of the “Bill of Rights” is to bring neighborhoods like Kensington and Borough Park, with almost half the households without internet, to more of a parity with other neighborhoods, such as SoHo and Greenwich Village, which have almost 90 percent of households equipped with high-speed web access.