Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kensington Stables Protest Plan to Ban CP Horse-Drawn Carriages

Worried about what the future will be for retired horses if the carriages pulled by them are banned from Central Park; Walker Blankinship, who runs Kensington Stables near Prospect Park is protesting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans for the beloved tradition of horse-drawn carriage rental in Manhattan’s fabled park.

Are Horse and Carriage in Central Park Going to be Banned?
Not if Kensington Stables can help it.
Blankinship asserts that the unwanted horses will end up on the chopping block, slaughtered for meat, despite de Blasio’s reassurances that a loving home will be found for each and every one of the horses. De Blasio would like to see the carriages banned, as he, along with animal rights groups, see the custom as inhumane to horses.

The main group lobbying for a ban on the horse-drawn carriages is the New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) advocacy group. In a statement they claim that:

"The stable owner is putting forth a false choice by saying carriage horses shouldn't be banned because other forms of animal cruelty against horses exist. That's like saying you can't take in an abused dog found on your street corner because some other dog in a shelter somewhere else would have his spot taken. Those who want to adopt a horse want to specifically stop this unnecessary and inhumane practice of horses in dangerous midtown traffic. 
“NYCLASS has been working closely with animal protection groups including the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States, to identify individuals who are committed to providing retired horses loving homes on private farms and in sanctuaries. 
“The interest has been overwhelming. More than that, though, NYCLASS board members have guaranteed a home for every retired horse. Not one of these horses will go to slaughter."

To get the ban passed however, de Blasio needs the approval of the City Council, which might not be so easy. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that most New Yorkers want to maintain the tried and true, not to mention romantic, tradition of Central Park horses, drivers, and carriages.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Baby, Its Cold In Here!

This winter has certainly been a rough one, but if you live at 377 Ocean Parkway in Kensington, there was very little respite from the cold winter air, even in your home. That is because, despite literally thousands of complaints to the landlord over the years, very little, if anything was done to improve living conditions.

Last Wednesday, as yet another storm engulfed the New York area, the temperature in one tenant’s apartment in the building read a crisp 51 degrees. That is 5 degrees below the legal limit for a nighttime temperature. Tenants must bundle up in sweaters and blankets and gather around space heaters just to keep their tosies cozy.

“Landlords are required by law to provide heat to their tenants during the coldest months of the year,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, the commissioner of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “If they fail to do so, HPD will use all of the enforcement tools at its disposal to hold the landlord accountable and get the heat restored.”

As if. The city has received an unbelievable 48,418 calls from tenants in Brooklyn during the three and a half months from October 1, 2013 to January 12, 2014. That’s an increase of 6.5 percent since the same time last year.

And nothing seems to help the tenants at 377 Ocean Pkwy. The owners of the four-story, brown brick building, 377 Realty Associates have not responded to 205 open violations of city codes, including mold, mice, broken boilers and peeling paint. City inspectors have slapped violations on the owner for lack of heat last winter, and a dearth of hot water in January this year. Even being featured on a segment on Time Warner Cable News NY1 did not get a response from the landlord.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Small Town Feel in this Brooklyn ‘Hood

Remy's (Formerly Hummus Garden)
Isolated somewhat by some hills and highways, the section of Windsor Heights close to the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop of the G train can have a village feel for residents and visitors. A short stroll down the main thoroughfare will reveal several local shops whose numbers have been steadily growing.

Take for instance the five-month-old kosher vegetarian restaurant called Remy’s. Opened by Avi and Julie Atiae not far from their own home in Kensington, they just began with a simple café similar to the eatery Avi already runs in Moningside Heights. Things started to get a bit more interesting, however, after the couple hired Ori Guri, an Israeli-Yemeni chef who likes to do things creatively. Yes, there are falafel sandwiches on the menu alongside a choice of four types of hummus, but that is not why people will be coming from near and far to see what’s new here.

In the pint-sized kitchen Guri is concocting dishes with so much flavor that even the most dedicated carnivores: will fall in love with thick-crusted, buttery quiches that come with salad and thrice-cooked salted potatoes; will salivate over main-course salads overflowing with spinach, sliced dates, sumac-powdered onions accompanied by crispy pita chips and zaatar flavored olive oil; and will practically cry when they taste a generous serving of tilapia layered with garlic, stewed tomatoes and smooth-as-silk eggplant in a combination that Guri has named “fish moussaka.”

Remy’s is located at 3021 Fort Hamilton Parkway, at East Second Street, 718-686-1011.
(Previously named Hummus Garden) Stay-tuned for more visits to up and coming shops along the Parkway.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Donating Old Clothes? Bin There, Done That

The New York Department of Sanitation has been busier than usual removing what they believe are scam drop-off bins for donated clothing. Thirty-seven huge metal receptacles, which were illegally placed on the streets of New York, have already been removed over the past half a year. That figure represents a 23 percent surge in the number of bins removed since last year, when only 30 were taken away during the entire fiscal year.

A Legitimate and Legal Way to Donate Used Clothing
The large pink bins began to appear on New York sidewalks over a year ago in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. None of been spotted yet Manhattan. Their purpose is ostensibly to be an easy way for good citizens to donate no-longer-needed used clothing to charitable organizations; to help clothe the poor and raise funds for related organizations. Unfortunately, in the case of these bins, it is unclear in whose hands the clothing ends up.

“They are a scam and people need to be careful who they donate clothing to,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens.  He is suspicious of the bins, believing that the clothing does not end up helping the poor.

“They’re eyesores and attract vermin,” he added.

In January the Sanitation Department warned the owners of one bin located on 18th Avenue near East Second Street in Kensington with a yellow sticker saying that the owners had 30 days to remove it from the street. During that time the bin began to overflow, leaving an unsightly mess of discarded clothing on the street next to the bin. Pedestrians and businesses were, to say the least, unhappy with the situation. Finally the bin was removed, taken apart, and recycled for its metal.

Not all the illegal bins have yet to be removed. Brooklyn has taken away the most, removing 24 since July 1. The Bronx took away eight, Staten Island removed four, and Queens, one.

Dromm is pushing for a law that will required all bins placed on private property to have a name and phone number clearly marked. It will also require the bin owners to list details about where the donations are going.

“There's a level of deception that may rise to criminality,” Dromm said.

There are legitimate methods of donating old clothing. The Sanitation Department has its own clothing drop-off charity. The bins for clothing heading for re-fashioNYC are found inside commercial and residential properties.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Move Over Tower of Babble: Here Comes Boombox Art

Reaching to the heavens is a work of installation art which is not only a feast for the eyes, but for the ears as well. “Got the Power” is a display of over 100 boomboxes arranged into a tower, with the accompanying sounds emanating from about a dozen radios within the structure playing songs and oral histories which are relevant to life in Brooklyn.

Created by Bayeté Ross Smith, an artist from Harlem, “Got the Power” is only the most recent of his creations. His first boombox piece was installed in Harlem. Later he erected similar sculptures in Minnesota, Alabama, and elsewhere. The radios play music which the locals have chosen. Ross Smith requests from the residents where his tower will reside for their favorite songs and stories, creating a soundtrack that is site-specific.

"The exhibit references the role boomboxes have played in urban communities and within popular culture, the resulting sculpture and soundscape is a symbol of pride, power, and autonomy," said Ross Smith.

For his Brooklyn boombox tower, which will be located at the BRIC Arts Theater at 647 Fulton Street, Ross Smith collected stories from talking with residents in cafes, at events and getting his own connections involved. He has participants in his latest project from Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Kensington,
Bushwick and Sunset Park.
Babbling Boomboxes Speaks to Brooklynites

The tower will be on display from February 19 to April 27, 2014. Ross Smith is still in search of donated boomboxes, oral stories and songs about Brooklyn for his latest effort.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Albemarle Road Getting Safety Upgrade

Councilman Brad Lander
The stretch of Albermarle Road in the heart of Kensington is notoriously hazardous for drivers and pedestrians alike. That fact is about to change as the Department of Transportation responds to pressure from community leaders and Councilman Brad Lander to install safety measures to the stretch of road between Ocean Parkway and McDonald Avenue.

Over the coming months the DOT will be making driving lanes narrower to slow down drivers; “No Standing” signs will be put up to improve visibility; and two speed bumps will also be installed to slow down cars.

Lander says that it is commonplace for cars to drive too fast, making the area dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists as well as drivers. In just one year, 2013, there were 10 car crashes in that corridor. Earlier this month two cars collided at East 2nd Street.

“The community spoke out and Department of Transportation listened,” Lander said. “I am looking forward to walking the safer Albemarle Road next year,” he added.

The problem has been going on for so long and is so serious that residents voted to budget part of their tax money to fix the problem as part of Landers’ experimental Participatory Budgeting program.

“This has been a decade long fight. We look forward to the implementation of these devices in the springtime,” said Larry Jayson, president of the Albemarle Neighborhood Association.

“This is an important victory for residents in Kensington, who have come to Participatory Budgeting neighborhood assemblies for the last several years and noted Albemarle Road as an area that needs traffic calming measures,” said Rachael Fauss, Kensington resident and member of the Participatory Budgeting District Committee for District 39.

“With these new improvements, the community will be safer and know that its voice has been heard,” Fauss said.

Councilman Lander said that the “No Standing” signs are already in place. Residents will be able to hear more about the safety improvement plan from the DOT at a Community Board 12 meeting this month.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

NYC Trading Cards Coming Soon

You may soon see NYC Trading Cards around Kensington. Brooklyn-based artist Alex Gardega has spent six years drawing cover art for the Ambassador Yellow Pages. Now, he's using those pictures of everything from the Brooklyn bridge and the Bronx Zoo to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows and more to create trading cards.

As Gardega, 44, said,

“I’m one of these New Yorkphiles, for lack of a better term. I always love learning about New York things. Especially the ones you see all the time but don’t know anything about.”

Card by Alex Gardega


Each of his cards will have information on the back of it about the personality of the person or the information about the place. The cards will come in packs of five and will sell for $6 a pack. He's hoping to start with a limited run of 2000 cards and will take pre-orders through the site nyctradingcards.com.

Who will decide what qualifies as being from New York? Gardega plans to take on that task himself. As he said,

“Andy Warhol was from Pittsburgh, but you think of him as a New Yorker through and through. Even Dali was an eternal Spaniard but I think of him as a New Yorker, because he lived at the St. Regis forever.”