10/19/14

Box of Gourds, Sterling Place


The Great Pumpkin at the Eco-Dock

From 2 to 6 PM on Sunday, October 26, you're invited to the "Great Pumpkin Sail and Oyster Fest" at the Bay Ridge Eco-Dock, at the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge.

Pirate costumes are encouraged.

The historic Hudson River sloop Clearwater will dock at 3 PM with a cargo of pumpkins and remain dockside for tours. The pumpkins will be distributed for children to decorate.

The tentative program includes:
  • Performance by Bob Wright and band;
  • Making plaster oyster shells with Heather of Plaster-A-Go-Go;
  • Oyster aquaculture demos by representatives of the Billion Oyster Project;
  • A photo exhibit of historic maritime Brooklyn by the Scandinavian East Coast Museum;
  • A game led by BRACA;
  • An art project with the Ridge Creative Center;
  • Free chowder from The Greenhouse restaurant.
Sponsored by Council Member Gentile, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Bay Ridge Arts and Cultural Alliance, Scandinavian East Cost Museum, The Greenhouse Cafe, and BJ's.

October 26 will also be the last day of the season for boat rides and tours from the Eco-Dock.

For more information, call 718-748-5950.

Mourning the Passing of Black Bed-Stuy

In a poignant Daily News editorial, Bedford-Stuyvesant native Ron Howell confronts his iconic Brooklyn neighborhood's passage from black to white.

According to the 2010 Census, Bed-Stuy's white population rose by 700% over the previous decade. That trend has only accelerated since. Thousands of blacks, priced out of the neighborhood where they and their parents grew up, are being forced to search for more affordable rents in Canarsie, Brownsville, Rockaway, or down south. 

The Republic of Brooklyn, once a point of convergence for southern and Caribbean blacks, has been overrun by realtors and their investment partners. Thousands of long-time Bed-Stuy tenants, many living in brownstone houses with fewer than six units -- and therefore outside the protection of rent stabilization -- can no longer afford the rent. These tenants are the first to go when a subdivided brownstone house changes hands. Sometimes, the new landlord, typically an investor buying a "package" of houses, may offer a few thousand dollars to buy out the lease.

That money will quickly be spent on an only marginally better rent in some far-flung, unfamiliar new Brooklyn neighborhood.

10/18/14

City Sees Record Level of Eviction Prevention Cases

In FY 2013, the Human Resources Administration, the City's Social Services Department, disbursed an unprecedented $121.6 million in rent to private landlords on behalf of tenants facing eviction. By comparison, HRA paid landlords only $48 million in FY 2005.

Housing advocates say they've never seen this many New York City tenants in trouble. One Bronx agency reported serving more than 1,300 eviction prevention clients last year. 

On the tenant side, eviction is usually the result of job loss, resulting in rent arrears. From the landlord side, eviction can be the result of stealth rent increases on rent-stabilized units or legal rent increases after a vacancy. The more empty units are "churned," the higher the legal rents -- and the more rent payers it takes to lease the unit. As a result, overcrowding in rental housing in New York City is now at "epic" levels.

Last year, 138,732 eviction cases were filed in New York City. The number of completed evictions has held steady over the past three years at about 30,000 annually. More cases are filed than evictions completed because tenants move out or find ways to come up with the rent -- including an HRA "one shot" -- after being brought to court.

Under the deBlasio administration, the city Department of Homeless Services has mounted an eviction prevention public awareness campaign, "Reach Out Before You're Forced Out of Your Home", and has opened more "Homebase" centers offering tenants eviction prevention services. But despite increased staff and funding for these homelessness prevention initiatives, about 56,000 New Yorkers, most of them families with children, are homeless. They have been caught, advocates say, in the affordable housing crisis sweeping the city.

Elderly people living in rent-regulated apartments in gentrifying neighborhoods are at high risk of harassment and eviction based on claims that they live elsewhere, or that their pets, belongings or behaviors are a nuisance to other tenants.  In 2013, the city's Adult Protective Services (APS), which evaluates (often elderly) tenants alleged to be mentally or physically handicapped, was involved in 2,054 eviction cases.

Landlords, for their part, claim that often the only way they can get their tenants to pay rent is to take them to court, and that increases in city taxes, water and sewer have put pressure on rents.

They don't talk about the real estate market

Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance Meets

At 7:30 PM on Thursday, October 23, the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance will host its 5th meeting, in the basement meeting room at St. Ephrem's Rectory, at 929 Bay Ridge Parkway in Dyker Heights.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways of broadening the coalition, including community outreach and a possible town hall meeting in early November.

According to the announcement, a total of 2,000 local residents who have attended meetings or learned about the BHPA online have signed the group's petition (either on paper or online). The eventual goal of the drive is to present the signed petition to local elected officials including Mayor deBlasio, State Senator Marty Golden, State Assembly Member Nicole Mattiotakis, State Assembly Member Alec Brook-Krasny, and City Council Member Vinnie Gentile.

Follow BHPA on Facebook.

10/17/14

Blind Witch, 95th Street


Local Fracktivists Host Kemmerer Fundaiser at Owl's Head

Owl's Head Fundraiser

Local fracktivists John Avelluto, Seth Kavanagh, Bob Muldoon and Cindy Trinh are aware of the huge implications fracking would have for New York State. That's why they're backing Democrat Jamie Kemmerer, the anti-fracking candidate, for State Senate on November 4.

They invite you to join them from 7-9 PM on Monday, October 20 at the Owl's Head Wine Bar, at 479 74th Street in Bay Ridge, for a Kemmerer fundraiser.

If, as incumbent State Senator Marty Golden should have, you've done your homework, you know that the controversial, high-risk horizontal drilling process called fracking wouldn't just pump more methane into an already-flooded export market. Fracking would majorly impact the state's food and wine producers, its energy policy, its storm resiliency, and plenty more.

Beyond clean water and clean air, what's at stake is literally whether New York will move forward to a renewable energy future or backward into fossil fuel redundancy.

How fracking could accelerate climate change [FiveThirtyEight.]

Commercial Re-Zonings, Exploding Nightlife, Threaten Mom and Pop

What can be done, beyond ranting about the hipster invasion, to preserve local small businesses in Brooklyn and beyond?

Mom and pop stores are part of the glue that holds neighborhoods together. They anchor the local economy; they play a role in neighborhood life; and they help create a sense of place.

In some parts of the city, like the Upper West Side, chain stores have practically been zoned out to protect neighborhood businesses, but, as these communities have learned, re-zoning may not be enough to save the neighborhood's small businesses. And sometimes, re-zoning is what drives them out.

In a study summarized in this Daily News op ed, a Hunter College research team studied 10 years worth of business directory data, mapping commercial changes in Brooklyn from 2002 to 2012, to find out where and why small businesses were displaced. The team learned that, although big box stores chip away at Mom and Pop's profits over time, the biggest problem by far for Brooklyn indie business owners has been their wholesale displacement from areas of the city due to "slash and burn" re-zoning for private development.

When commercial space is expanded through re-zoning, it gives landlords incentive to drive out their existing commercial tenants in order to sell or re-develop their properties. If the re-zoning includes big commercial storefronts, existing tenants will be replaced by big national chain stores. 

The Bloomberg administration re-zoned big swaths of Brooklyn in an effort to expand their economic growth potential. A re-zoning in downtown Brooklyn in 2004 wiped out an entire row of thriving independent restaurants and stores to make way for high-end chains. It was the city that turned Fulton Mall into a high-end retail strip.

This kind of displacement isn't inevitable, the authors say. Essex Crossing, a huge re-development proposed for the Lower East Side, carves out rent-stabilized space for existing Essex Market tenants.  And there's no reason why this kind of accommodation can't become a part of every commercial development subject to public review.

But in Brooklyn, it's not just re-zonings that have displaced established small businesses. In neighborhoods like Williamsburg, where 90% of bars and restaurants have opened within the past 10 years, the exploding nightlife has pushed out the bodegas, dry cleaners, small clothing stores, hair salons, florists, and funeral homes that once served the Puerto Rican and Dominican populations still living there, cutting the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in half.

Small business owners can't defend themselves against this kind of rapid commercial turnover. Their landlords can easily replace them with tenants who can afford to pay higher rents.

It's time, the authors say, for the deBlasio administration, which has so far focused only on affordable housing and preventing residential displacement, to look at ways to protect the city's small business owners.

The City Council is considering a bill: the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, that could help level the playing field for small business owners by extending commercial leases and offering them some protection against rent gouging and extortion. 

Blog Archive


"Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein