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The Streets of Central Brooklyn

Thursday, July 30, 2009

by guest blogger Ferentz Lafargue
(photo by Madame Chang)

(photo by Madame Chang)

Alternate Side Parking
I had a few friends visiting from out of town this weekend and on Monday morning when we went to move their car for alternative side of the street parking, I couldn’t help but notice how it felt like a block association meeting because there were so many neighbors out moving their cars. When I moved onto this block in April 2008 I might see about seven cars double parked on alternate side of the street parking days. A year and a half later, there were at least a dozen cars and countless neighbors outside talking.

Given the current economic downturn, I have to believe that one reason for this impromptu neighborhood gathering then that more of my neighbors have either been laid off or for those who are independent contractors, the jobs simply aren’t as plentiful as they were a year ago.

What also struck me the more that I thought about this scene where neighbors were swapping hellos, weekend tales and job leads, is why don’t politicians capitalize on the captive audiences that are out there four days a week practically twiddling their thumbs for an hour and a half. Alternative side of the street parking days are a great opportunity for local politicos to talk to constituents, maybe even mobilize them to do a community service project, or engage them in another capacity. Making use of this poorly utilized time, might provide great insights on how to address community issues.

The Corner
I think the next five years in Central Brooklyn will be decided on street corners. There has been an a fervent debate going on in central Brooklyn about the Bedford Armory, where part of the reason that residents do not want this influx of homeless men in the area is that they do not want more people loitering on the corners during the day. If you walk around certain blocks it’s astounding to see a dozen young men idling. There are occasionally young women in these ciphers, but not to the extent that these young men are out there these days. This raises brows in flush economic times, but during an economic downturn, this borders on precarious. An under-discussed issue is that the civil-rights generation’s presence on these corners are eroding and that almost overnight younger leaders will be expected to address a range of issues that range from job-training, reentry to public health, without the philanthropic support that was present in the 90s and earlier in this decade. This is why the city council races in central Brooklyn are so important this year, because when candidates like Mark Winston Griffin, Saquan Jones and Tremaine Wright are getting out on the block, they are engaging the people we can least afford to lose at this time.

Comments [1]

Dollars and Sense of Blackness: Central Brooklyn

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Snapshots of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights

WNYC invited community members from Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant to talk about economic issues directly affecting Central Brooklyn. Here are some of their responses and the issues they felt were most pressing in their communities.

Listen to The Brian Lehrer Show, broadcast live from The Jerome L. Greene Space, on the topic:

>>>Atim Annette Oton, Owner of Calabar Imports, Editor and Publisher of Calabar Magazine


Housing: 'There has not been a commitment by this administration to affordable housing. It’s almost like you need to redo the census and ask 'how much do you earn?' and 'how much can you really afford?' If you go down and talk to anyone in Brooklyn, the telephone bill has gone up, the light bill has gone up, the gas bill has gone up, the food has gone up. My salary has not gone up. So how am I paying $1500 for a one-bedroom?' otimhead

Seniors: 'I think the biggest issue for seniors is, how do we survive this economy? Even some of them living in rent stabilized apartments in the community. The Social Security has not really increased substantially. They are really making fundamental decisions of life and death. Do I eat or do I get my medication or do I pay a bill? Their children are also losing their jobs so that additional support is gone.'

Education: 'Parents who fundamentally could be involved in their child’s education are working longer hours. That’s a downturn of the economy. You used to work 40-50 hours, now they are doing 60. …there has been a periodic drop in high school graduations. Most kids don’t see college as their future because they have no access to funds.”

>>>Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Community Organizer within Black Muslim community in BK


Fatherhood: 'I have seen a lot of young men around my age (I'm 32), who have younger children and are out of work. I see a lot of young men in my neighborhood, Bed-Stuy meets Bushwick meets East New York--a lot of men are spending more time with their kids. Taking their kids to school, I see tons of young men taking their kids to day care in the morning or picking their kids up. ibrahim100

I met a guy on the bus who was taking classes so he could get custody of his children back. He had the time because he did not have a full time job to go get the extra stuff he needed to make him more pertinent in his children’s lives. There is always a little lining, it was encouraging even if it was depressing at the same time.'

Underground Economy: 'As someone who grew up watching the crack era and seeing it all evolve, there was a time in New York where things were not that great, but you could join the underground economy and make a lot of money. You can’t do that any more. People aren’t making big money hustling.'

>>>April R. Silver, Founder and Director of Akila Worksongs Communications Agency


aprilheadCreative Community: 'In addition to working in the media, I work with artists, independent artists, the spoken word, poets, filmmakers, writers, and there are less opportunities for these artists to support their craft. Many of them are educators to supplement their income. I’ve seen mostly the programs get cut, they have not necessarily been taken off the table, but the budgets have been cut.'

'They are struggling trying not go back into the work force because they really do want to work as fulltime artists. If they try to speak or lecture at colleges, where they used to get $1500, they are now being asked to do the same thing for $500.'

>>>Benita Miller, Founder & Executive Director, Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective

The Future Generation: 'We need to take the focus off material gain and celebrity excess. We have to teach young people how to imagine a different world. You know what's funny? benitaheadI see poor kids having Louis Vuitton Parties because Kanye West talks about it. If that's the life kids are imagining, we're setting them up for failure.'

Employment: 'We also see a lot more young women looking for work while they are pregnant. That's new.'

Isolation: 'Some of these communities are so isolated. I don't think I've seen a place as isolated as Brownsville. These communities are isolated and the jobs are downtown; so the question becomes how do you bring isolated communities back in?'

>>>Pam Green, Executive Director of the Weeksville Heritage Center, and currently serves on the Board of Community Resource Exchange and on the Advisory Board of Learning through Expanded Arts Programs (LEAP)


weeksvilleEmployment: 'As a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, certainly I can see the usual impact - houses that are not being sold, some abandonment, lay offs, fewer summer youth jobs, and deterioration of properties in parts of the community. Near our historic site, there’s almost a level of 'business as usual', in that nothing drastic yet has happened to our immediate neighbors.'

'We are about to begin construction of a new education and cultural arts center. Once this news became public, we began to receive visits and calls from neighborhood folks looking to be hired. As our project is completely city funded, we do not have the authority to hire. It is all done through the contractors, selected by the city through competitive bidding. Fortunately, there are requirements for hiring minority and women owned enterprises, but again, we can only recommend companies and pass along the names of others.'

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Arianna Huffington on Pigs at the Trough

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, talks about how corporate corruption and greed have led to the economic crisis. She wrote Pigs at the Trough in 2003, and now, six years later, shes updated it. The book is a harsh indictment of corporate corruption and Wall Street ...


NJ Corruption Scandal Widens

Monday, July 27, 2009

WNYC's Bob Hennelly discusses the latest in the NJ scandal and what we can expect in the week ahead with Soterios Johnson on Monday's Morning Edition.

Details continue to emerge about the corruption scandal that has implicated the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, two state assemblymen, five ...

Comments [3]

Astoria Hosts Music Festival

Friday, July 24, 2009


Astoria, Queens will be rocking out this weekend...

The Astoria Music and Arts Association is hosting its second annual Music Now festival this Saturday. The event is a celebration of the music, art, and culture of Queens residents. The ...


Lawrence McDonald on The Fall of Lehman Brothers

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lawrence McDonald, former Lehman Brothers vice president, explains what happened at Lehman Brothers and why the financial services firm was allowed to fail. In A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the ...


Massive Corruption Arrests in NJ

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A group of unidentified handcuffed men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J.. to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing as part of a major corruption and international money laundering conspiracy probe. (AP/Mel Evans)

A group of unidentified handcuffed men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J.. to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing as part of a major corruption and international money laundering conspiracy probe. (AP/Mel Evans)

Federal officials announced further details of a major investigation into corruption and money laundering in New Jersey and Brooklyn.

As part of an ongoing, 10-year investigation, FBI agents arrested dozens of people this morning, including the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, as well as the deputy mayor and council president of Jersey City.

A federal prosecutor says the money-laundering arrests include several rabbis in Brooklyn and New Jersey. A congregant of a synagogue in Deal, New Jersey, says he witnessed FBI agents removing boxes from the Deal Yeshiva this morning.

In addition to the corruption and money laundering charges, is one detailing a kidney-trafficking racket. The accused trafficker, Brooklyn-based Levy Rosenbaum, allegedly obtained kidneys from Israeli donors at the cost of $10,000 apiece and sold them for as much as $160,000.

A cooperating witness who had been charged with bank fraud in May 2006 was named in all 29 of the criminal complaints released by the U.S. District Court.

WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly discusses the arrest on All Things Considered.

A group of unidentifed men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J.. to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing. (AP/Mel Evans)

A group of unidentifed men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J.. to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing. (AP/Mel Evans)

U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release (PDF)

Some of those charged:

Peter Cammarano III, the newly elected mayor of Hoboken and an attorney, charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday, from an undercover cooperating witness.

L. Harvey Smith, a New Jersey Assemblyman and recent mayoral candidate in Jersey City, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.

Daniel Van Pelt, a New Jersey Assemblyman, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.

Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, charged with taking a $10,000 cash bribe.

Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield and an attorney, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.

Louis Manzo, the recent unsuccessful challenger in the Jersey City mayoral election and former state Assemblyman, and his brother and political advisor Robert Manzo, both with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in Louis Manzo’s campaign.

Leona Beldini, the Jersey City deputy mayor and a campaign treasurer, charged with taking $20,000 in conduit campaign contributions and other self-dealing in her official capacity.

Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

Saul Kassin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

Edmund Nahum, of Deal, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

Mordchai Fish, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. His brother, also a rabbi, was charged as well.

Names, ages, charges for each defendant (PDF)

Complaints: (PDFs)

U.S.A. v. Daniel M. Van Pelt

U.S.A. v. Peter Cammarano III, Michael Schaffer

U.S.A. v. Jack Shaw, Edward Cheatam, Leona Beldini

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Blessing the Dragons

Thursday, July 23, 2009

[nggallery id=108]
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe christened some dragons in Central Park today...Well, he took part in the traditional Chinese blessing of dragon boats preparing for next month's 19th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Queens.

The festival's feature events are races between the 38-foot-long, ...


The Naked Cowboy Launches Mayoral Bid

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watch out Mayor Bloomberg!

Times Square street performer The Naked Cowboy (aka Robert John Burck) launched his campaign for Mayor of New York City this morning with a speech and a song. His promise: "To do more with less."

The announcement was a media circus with journalists ...


Bloomberg, Chamberlain, et al.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From left to right: Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, before signing the Munich Agreement, September 29, 1938.

From left to right: Neville Chamberlain, Édouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, before signing the Munich Agreement, September 29, 1938.

Since there's been


40 Years Later: Walking on the Moon

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Brian Lehrer Show

Brian Lehrer celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with recordings of the moon landing and President Richard Nixon's conversation with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Listeners add memories of the moon walk and thoughts on space exploration.

The Leonard Lopate Show


Comments [2]

'Los Cuatro Amigos'... The Four Friends?

Monday, July 20, 2009

[slideshow id=104]
With the issue of mayoral control of schools hanging in the balance, State Senators Ruben Diaz, Sr., Pedro Espada, Jr., Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger met for lunch to publicly discuss the amendments they want included in the controversial legislation. The group wants a parent training center ...


Malachy McCourt Remembers His Brother

Monday, July 20, 2009



Pulitzer-Prize winning author Frank McCourt passed away this weekend. Malachy McCourt joins Leonard Lopate to talk about his older brother’s life and accomplishments.


Minor League Baseball or Law School? A Sotomayor Diary

Friday, July 17, 2009


Reporter by Marianne McCune and Zila Acosta

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor captured the attention of millions of Americans during her confirmation hearings this week. Twenty-year-old Zila Acosta comes from a part-Puerto Rican, part-Dominican family. Her mother is a ...


Brooklyn's Fishing Contest Underway

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The sun is out, the sky is clear, the wind is blowing a light breeze...and it's a great day to go fishing.

Prospect Park has launched its 62nd annual kids fishing contest. From Wednesday through Sunday children will get to ...


Number 7 Is Number 1

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Straphangers Campaign annual ranking of the city's 22 major subway lines comes out today. The Number 7 line, between Flushing, Queens, and Times Square, takes the lead for its frequent service, clean cars and availability of seats during rush hour. The Number 7 beat out the defending champion L ...


NYC Streets: Pedestrian Friendly Or Deadly?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, is recommending City Hall do a better job of enforcing city traffic laws that protect pedestrians. Wiley Norvell, the group's spokesman, says not enough is done to punish reckless drivers.

Norvell says he wants to see more resources dedicated to safer traffic control, ...


WNYC to Acquire WQXR

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


>>FAQ from WNYC's Listener Services

WNYC to Acquire Classical Station in Three-Way Deal
You could think of it as a game of musical chairs involving The New York Times, Spanish language broadcaster Univision, ...

Comments [108]

Sonia Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings: Day 3

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Listen live to the hearings starting at 10am

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation Monday on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Most analysts ...


Jane Jacobs Way

Monday, July 13, 2009

[slideshow id=102]
A block of Hudson Street in the West Village has been named "Jane Jacobs Way" in honor of the urban planning activist who fought to preserve the neighborhood by campaigning for sidewalks and against highways.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer says Jacobs' spirit and vision are ...