Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Brooklyn Real Estate Booming

Brooklyn Buildings Booming
Since 2011 finding an affordable dwelling in Brooklyn has become increasingly difficult. In neighborhoods like Clinton Hill and Red Hook prices have soared from $120 per buildable square to $212 in 2014.  In Williamsburg and Greenpoint we see the same kind of rise, from $107 to $209. Even in low income areas such as Bushwick, Crown Height and Bedford-Stuyvesant prices are almost doubled from $51 to $93 per square foot.

With such soaring prices developers are searching elsewhere in Brooklyn for more affordable projects. Some of the newbies to the building boom are Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush and Kensington.

“I always want to be more on the affordable side,” said developer Eli Karp. 

Karp was explaining why he was moving his work to some of Brooklyn’s budding, under-developed neighborhoods such as Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Flatbush.

“Most of the land I bought in Prospect Lefferts Gardens I bought for $40 to $65 per square foot,” he said, “whereas in Crown Heights, people are asking close to $100 or over.”

Making money on the development is not a sure thing, however. Lower priced areas are generally not in great demand, and it is not always known if that will change just because someone builds a new building.

“Are you going to be able to rent those units? Are people going to appreciate the value you’ve put in those projects?” Karp said.

Another problem for builders is opposition from neighborhood residents who may be unaccustomed to new building development.

“There are long-term residents in a lot of these marketplaces who may not completely embrace the new construction,” said David Maundrell, president of the brokerage firm Aptsandlofts.com.

Maundrell pointed out the case last summer of the Hudson Companies’ high-rise at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. A community group had filed a lawsuit which had temporarily halted construction on the 23-story tower. Since the developer was in compliance with all the relevant zoning and construction laws, the suit was dismissed, but not before Hudson Companies incurred added expenses to their project.

“Some people have made fortunes,” on such projects, a Hudson Companies principal David Kramer explained. But, he said, “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

BPL Announces Two Programs to Help Immigrants

Linda E. Johnson, CEO and President of the BPL
Last week the Brooklyn Public Library announced the launch of two new programs designed to help immigrants in Brooklyn attain US citizenship and to help them with any legal services they might need.

Prepare for Citizenship is a program which will offer a formal, 11-week course for ESOL learners. The course is being offered at the Kensington, Canarsie, Sunset Park and Flatbush branches of the BPL. The course will prepare students for the English and Civics parts of the Citizenship test, plus provide free legal assistance. Prepare for Citizenship is offered under the auspices of Catholic Migration Services (CMS) ad with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The second is the Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) Community Fellows program, which offers crucial legal assistance to poor immigrants throughout Brooklyn. Two Fellows will be welcomed to the BPL, while five other organizations throughout New York City will also receive two IJC Community Fellows this year. This program will officially begin later in November.

Together these two programs offer important support to Brooklyn residents in need of assistance with legal and/or citizenship issues.

"Brooklyn Public Library serves a diverse and multiethnic borough and is a critical resource for immigrant communities, which too often face barriers accessing information and assistance," said Linda E. Johnson, president & CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library.   
“There are nearly are nearly 700,000 immigrants in New York who are one step away from becoming U.S. Citizens, and many of them haven't done so because of cost, fear of a cumbersome process, or access to legal counsel,” said Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal. “Our libraries have long acted as a safe and accessible hub for immigrants. By providing legal services, the Brooklyn Public Library is taking a smart and innovative approach that will benefit not just our immigrant communities, but our city as a whole.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kensington Artist Sharpens Look at Women’s Roles

Traci Talasco’s sandpaper kitchen installation starkly states her view of the social assumptions of women’s roles, and domestic duties.

“This is more of a political piece that has to do with these unrealistic expectations for women to be homemakers,” said the Kensington artist. “We’re juggling careers and home lives but there is still this unrealistic idea that women are going to be homemakers.”

Rub Me the Wrong Way is Traci Talasco's commentary on women's roles
Talasco explained that her use of sandpaper points out the contrast between the materials that are traditionally thought of as feminine, which are usually soft and warm, to the reality of the rough duties of domestic existence. She points out that over time the sandpaper will be worn away as people walk through and touch the installation, just as she hopes the struggle against women’s traditional roles will wear down those stereotypes.

“It illustrates in a funny way this idea of women being worn out — being worn down by these expectations,” she said. “But it also metaphorically represents this idea of wearing down these gender stereotypes that don’t make sense in 2014.”

Talasco is not only interested in political statements. The exhibition, called “Rub Me the Wrong Way,” is also a work of art, Talasco contends. Each and every visitor that leaves behind a fingerprint of shoe scuff will change the piece.

“It is also something, in the end, that I feel will be visually beautiful and funny,” she said.

Traci Talasco’s installation, “Rub Me the Wrong Way” is already open at the Brooklyn Arts Council Gallery at 55 Washington Street between Front and Water Streets in Dumbo. Call 718-625-0080 for more information.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Newly Renovated Loews Theater Set to Open in January

Ever since the intended restoration of the Loew’s Kings Theater in Flatbush was announced last year, excitement around the project has been growing. Known as one of only five “Wonder Theaters” in New York and New Jersey, the advancing restoration, due to conclude in January 2015, will bring the theater back to its glory days of 1929.
On the way to its former splendor: The Loew's Kings Theater-Photo courtesy of Matt Lambros

The theater has been closed and abandoned since 1977, but after a year of work it will be brought back to the look and feel of its “sumptuous interiors inspired by the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House.”
The 3,000-seat theater, Brooklyn’s largest, will become a cornerstone of Brooklyn culture, with more than 200 performances scheduled each year, “including music, dance, theater and comedy.”
A press release stated that:

"The Kings Theatre will serve as both a cultural and economic cornerstone for the Brooklyn community, presenting more than 200 performances annually—including music, dance, theatre, and comedy—providing a resource to foster and support creativity in the area, creating jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to the neighborhood."

Photographer Matt Lambros has been chronicling the progress of the re-birth of the Loew’s ever since his first, pre-renovations photograph he took in 2011. Lambros has been keeping a blog, After the Final Curtain, which not only covers the progress of the Kings Theater, but also reveals the state of other crumbling performance spaces. With the help of the Theater Historical Society of America Lambros will publish a book on the subject in early 2015.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kensington Library Pulls Misused iPads

It appears that a pilot program to make iPads available for Kensington Library patrons between the ages of 2-5 went south.  After two years of use and abuse, public library officials decided to scrub the iPads availability due to older kids and even some parents covertly used the hand-held computers to make on-line purchases, play violent video games, and visit porn sites.

The 18th Avenue branch equipped the iPads with age-appropriate applications designed to help children learn to read, and other educational functions. Unfortunately it happened all too often that older kids took the iPads away from the younger children, changed passwords, installed the apps that they wanted, and then played on the devices. One older child even took a picture of himself and set it as the background picture for the iPad.
Kensington Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

The last straw came when patrons saw inappropriate videos and nudity displayed on the iPads, prompting library officials to remove them from the library. Officials are now exploring other ways of using the computers.

“We’ve had the most success with iPads that are used as part of our programming, including literacy classes for adults and programs for children with special needs,” said Emma Woods, spokeswoman for the library.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hurtful Graffiti Found on Kensington Mailbox

After weeks of rising anti-semitism throughout the world;  reports of Hamas terrorists shooting rockets into Israeli civilian populations; and the use of women and children in Gaza as human shields; some anti-Muslim graffiti has turned up on a mailbox in the Kensington section of Brooklyn.

The graffiti consisted of the words “Allah is evil” and “Islam is barbaric,” spray painted on a mailbox on Ocean Parkway. There is some speculation that, although the neighborhood is composed of both Jewish and Muslim residents who usually live together in peace, the fact that the month of Ramadan coincided with the defensive battle Israel launched in Gaza to protect its civilian population could have caused the perpetrators to resort to this form of insulting speech.

The NYPD are investigating the incident, which resembles a similar event that occurred in November 2013 when the same exact words were seen on a mailbox and a Muni Meter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lincoln Center Local Live Coming to a Library Near You

Throughout the months of July, August and September residents of Brooklyn and Queens will be treated to special free music programming sponsored by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Education and the Brooklyn and Queens public libraries.

Broadway Pops International will bring musical theater to the Kensington Library on Autust 16 at 2pm
The variety of music will be wide, with 14 different offerings ranging in styles from opera to gospel to flamenco and American musical. The music will be presented in one-hour sessions which will also include discussions with questions and answers with the performing artists. These encounters allow the audience to engage in a more meaningful and enjoyable way with the music.

The first performance was on July 12 at the Queens Central Library. It was flamenco dance performed by Elementos de Flamenco. The last show of the series will be live streamed from the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center and will take place on September 27th. The encore performance will be viewable at five Brooklyn Public Library locations, including at the Kensington Library at 4207 18th Avenue. The Queens Public Library will also have 13 branches participating. For more information go to the Lincoln Center schedule.