2007-09-30

The Brooklyn Blogade in Bed-Stuy

The Bed-Stuy Blogade
Bed-Stuy Blogade

This afternoon I attended the Bed-Stuy meetup of the Brooklyn Blogade. Today's event was organized and hosted by Petra of Bed-Stuy Blog, Eleanor Traubman of Creative Times, and Joanna Wissinger (Alexa11221 on Bed-Stuy Blog).


Bed-Stuy Blogade at Le Toukouleur

Sign-in Table, Bed-Stuy Blogade

Bed-Stuy Blogade, Le Toukouleur

The Bed-Stuy Blogadiers

Bloggers seemed almost to be in the minority at today's event, which drew neighbors, journalists, and other blog-readers, as much as bloggers.

Le Toukouleur Restaurant


We met this afternoon at Le Toukouleur, a French-African Restaurant, at 1116 Bedford Avenue, on the corner of Quincy Street in North Bed-Stuy. The space offered lots of art and objects as subjects for photography.

Detail, Wall Mural
Detail, Wall Painting, Le Toukouleur

Window Painting
Window Painting, Le Toukouleur

Drums
Drums, Le Toukouleur

Mask, Percussion, and Lanterns
Still-Life with Mask, Percussion and Lanterns

Detail, Window Painting
Detail, Window Painting, Le Toukouleur

Links


My Flickr photo set of the event
Bed-Stuy Blog
Creative Times
Le Toukouleur Restaurant

2007-09-28

Announcing the Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone Campaign

Two weeks ago, I wrote at the end of Gardeners for Recovery:
I've submitted a proposal to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to sponsor a paver for the memorial plaza through a campaign for contributions.
The online proposal form asked for information about the "group". Since I'm not a group, here's how I responded:
Please give us some information about you, your group, or organization which you would like to fundraise on behalf of.
Response: Gardeners for Recovery recognize the importance of gardens and gardening for individual, community, and global healing and recovery.
They approved my proposal. I invite you to join me in supporting the memorial. I will match the first $500 contributed toward the $1,000 goal. So, every dollar you contribute is worth two. You can visit the Gardeners for Recovery Page on their Web site for more information, or to contribute. There's also a link now in the sidebar of this blog.

The National Tour

In addition to viewing photographs, artifacts, and a film featuring firsthand accounts of 9/11 and the aftermath, individuals and communities across the country will have a chance to contribute directly to this historic effort by signing a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the National September 11 Memorial.
The Memorial and Museum recently added ten more stops to the national tour: St. Louis, MO; Little Rock, AR; Memphis, TN; Oklahoma City, OK; Ft. Worth, TX; Shreveport, LA; Jackson, MS; Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA; and Tampa, FL. By the end of the year, they will have visited 25 cities in 25 states. They have requests for 8 more cities; on their Web site you can enter your zip code to request a stop in your area.

[bit.ly]

Related Posts

on 9/11
on Ground Zero
on Recovery

Links

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center

2007-09-27

Sidewalk Skull

Sidewalk Skull, Westminster Road

Tuesday morning I detoured slightly from my usual work commute routine to pay a visit to 251 East 19th Street. Along the way I found the item above, sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, as if it had been placed there.

I don't know what it is, or was. I'm thinking raccoon, maybe opposum? Anyone out there able to provide an id?

This is the sort of found treasure I would normally snatch up and take home, to Blog Widow's chagrin. Except that I was on my way to work, not home, and running late at that. Oh, and because it still had stuff on it; looks like remnants of skin on the right cheek. And me without a baggy to put it in.

I also didn't have the foresight to whip out my ruler and place it alongside for scale. (Yes, I always carry a collapsible ruler in my bag.) It was a medium-sized skull, as skulls go. Bigger than a cat or a squirrel. Bigger than my fist, slightly smaller than my hand with fingers extended. Could have been a small dog, I guess.

The large eye orbits make me think it's a nocturnal animal. The nasal ridges are also interesting. Whatever it was, it had a good nose.

2007-09-26

Connecticut Muffin Opens Tomorrow

The Transformation is Complete
Connecticut Muffin, 1106 Cortelyou Road

The new Connecticut Muffin at 1106 Cortelyou Road opens tomorrow morning at 7am. They were putting the last-minute touches on it this evening, as you can see in the photo above. The handwritten paper sign on the door reads "Open Thursday 7:00 am". I love that: "7:00", not "7".

May 19, 2007
1106 Cortelyou Road, Future Connecticut Muffin

July 15, 2007
1106 Cortelyou Road, Future Connecticut Muffin

September 8, 2007
Connecticut Muffin, 1106 Cortelyou Road

I nominate this as the most ridiculous post yet on this blog.

2007-09-24

Illegal Conversions Kill

Update, September 25: This morning's news reports have additional information about the living situation in the building.


251 East 19th Street, the morning of September 25
251 East 19th Street

Shortly after midnight this morning (September 24), a fire broke out in a house several blocks from mine, in the adjacent neighborhood of Beverly Square East, one of the neighborhoods of free-standing, wood-frame Victorian homes in the larger area known as Victorian Flatbush. Early reports misidentified the neighborhood as Kensington. Some reports are still misidentifying the neighborhood as Ditmas Park, which is a historic district whose northern boundary lies two blocks to the south.

The immediate cause of the fire was an electric malfunction. The deeper cause is the illegal conversion of a single-family home to multiple units. The property is on file as a single residential unit, a single-family home. There were as many as 6 people living on the attic floor where the fire broke out; three of them, aged 76, 50 and 12, were killed by this fire, and one remains in serious condition. The only working smoke detector was on the first floor.

At least one report cites "numerous violations" against the owner of the building. However, most of the violations and complaints I can find are all several years old, and were all "cured" or "resolved". There is one active complaint, created today, for failure to maintain a fire-damaged building.

I learned from news reports the morning of the 25th that this was not an absentee landlord situation. The 11 people who lived on the top two floors of the building, including the three killed, are part of the owner's extended family. Three more people live on the first floor.

The existing system of DOB violations is broken. Fines and liens are insufficient deterrents. DOB and FDNY must have the authority to obtain warrants to enter buildings to investigate outstanding safety and occupancy violations. Owners' income from such buildings must be seized, paid into escrow, until the DOB and FDNY certify that life-threatening conditions have been resolved.

Links:

Hero boy dies trying to save 2 from fire (NY Daily News, September 25)
Boy, 12, dies in fire trying to save grandmother (Newsday, September 25)
Fire Kills 3, From 3 Generations, in a Crowded House in Brooklyn (New York Times, September 25)
Man Rescues Teenager From Blazing Brooklyn Rooftop (New York Sun, September 25)
Deadly fire rips through a home in Brooklyn (7Online, ABC local affiliate)
FDNY Says Electrical Wiring To Blame For Deadly Brooklyn Fire (NY1 News)
Google News

2007-09-13

News: IUCN Releases 2007 Red List of Endangered Species

Blog Widow John has a hard time watching any nature shows. We go "awwww" for the first 45 minutes at cute furry, feathery, scaly critters. Then they bring you down with "But time is running out ..."

I hope he doesn't read this.
Gland, Switzerland, 12 September, 2007, World Conservation Union (IUCN) – Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken, according to the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- IUCN Press Release, September 12: Extinction Crisis Escalates
One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.
There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation.
o The number of threatened species is increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups.
o Most threatened birds, mammals and amphibians are located on the tropical continents – the regions that contain the tropical broadleaf forests which are believed to harbour the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial and freshwater species.
o Of the countries assessed, Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico hold particularly large numbers of threatened species.
o Estimates vary greatly, but current extinction rates are at least 100-1,000 times higher than natural background rates.
o The vast majority of extinctions since 1500 AD have occurred on oceanic islands, but over the last 20 years, continental extinctions have become as common as island extinctions.
There are now 12,043 plants on the IUCN Red List, with 8,447 listed as threatened. The Woolly-stalked Begonia (Begonia eiromischa) is the only species to have been declared extinct this year. This Malaysian herb is only known from collections made in 1886 and 1898 on Penang Island. Extensive searches of nearby forests have failed to reveal any specimens in the last 100 years.

The Wild Apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), from central Asia, has been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the first time, classified as Endangered. The species is a direct ancestor of plants that are widely cultivated in many countries around the world, but its population is dwindling as it loses habitat to tourist developments and is exploited for wood, food and genetic material.

Links:

IUCN 2007 Red List Home Page
Fact Sheet

2007-09-12

A Flatbush Urban Farm

"Green Acre" is the cover title of the current issue of New York magazine. The 800 square feet - 1/5 of his lot - Manny Howard cultivates in his Flatbush backyard only amounts to .018 acres, but hey, it's got chickens and potatoes.
I started my farm, hereafter referred to as The Farm, in March, with my eye on August as the month I’d eat what I had grown. It was, in original conception, equal parts na├»ve stunt and extreme test of the idea that drives the burgeoning “locavore” movement. According to this ethos, we should all eat food produced locally, within 100 miles—some say 30—of where we live, so as to save our planet and redeem our Twinkie-gorged souls. Now that the “organic” label has rapidly become as ubiquitous and essentially meaningless as the old “all-natural,” the locavores have established a more sacred code, one meant to soothe our anxieties about what goes into the food we eat.
- My Empire of Dirt: An Experiment in Brooklyn-Style Subsistence Farming
I live in a verdant part of Brooklyn where the houses are detached and fairly big, but without much land. My backyard is 20 by 40 feet, prone to flooding in the lightest rain and thus unsuitable even for grass; the only living thing back there was a half-dead cherry tree, which, in my first chore as a farmer, I chopped down. Then I sent out soil samples for analysis, and the results were dire: No nutrient content to speak of and high levels of lead. A toxic wasteland. It wasn’t so much dirt as clay, and before it was buried by five and a half tons of fecund topsoil trucked in from a Long Island farm, I had to excavate a drainage system, a crosshatch of graded trenches, with a deep hole in the middle that went all the way down to sand.

...

One afternoon, shortly after the pinkie incident, while Caleb and I were scraping shit out of the rabbit hutch—one of the many farm chores that keep you perpetually busy while seeming to accomplish nothing—a clutch of women from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden gathered at the top of the driveway. They were judging the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition and had been attracted by the planter boxes I had in front of the house filled with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. They wanted to congratulate us on setting such a public example for how food could be grown in the city.

Caleb and I exchanged a look and ushered them into the backyard. The Farm blew their minds.

Their excitement allowed me to see my garden through fresh eyes. The corn stood five feet high in uniform rows, green beans shooting runners up their substantial stalks. Butterflies skimmed above the fanlike leaves of the collard greens, and cucumbers hung heavily from the lattice I had built for them. The herbs were glorious—the fennel blossoms tasting powerfully of licorice, the dense rosemary bush promising years of service. Amid the greenery, bits of color flashed out—a yellow squash, a bone-white eggplant, an orange tomato. The potato plants stood so tall and thick that we couldn’t have anything less than a bumper crop. The judges from the Botanic Garden marveled at our spectacular achievement, and so, for a moment, did I.

That was one week before the tornado.

Thanks to my gardening neighbor, Nelson, who told me about the article and showed me the cover of his New York magazine this morning when I bumped into him at the subway station this morning on my way to work. Mr. Howard is a neighbor I haven't met yet. I wish him well in his endeavor, and hope I get to meet him, his family, and his livestock some day.

2007-09-11

Canaries in the Coal Mine: Honeybees and Climate Change

NASA scientist Wayne Esaias believes that a beehive's seasonal cycle of weight gain and loss is a sensitive indicator of the impact of climate change on flowering plants. A hobbyist beekeeper, he hass found signals of climate change in his records of the weight of his beehives, and wants to enlist other beekeepers to contribute their observations as well:
The 25-year NASA veteran has made a career studying patterns of plant growth in the world’s oceans and how they relate to climate and ecosystem change, first from ships, then from aircraft, and finally from satellites. But for the past year, he’s been preoccupied with his bee hives, which started as a family project around 1990 when his son was in the Boy Scouts. According to his honeybees, big changes are underway in Maryland forests. The most important event in the life of flowering plants and their pollinators—flowering itself—is happening much earlier in the year than it used to.
- Buzzing About Climate Change
[The] 1-to-5-kilometer-radius area in which a hive’s worker bees forage is the same spatial scale that many ecological and climate models use to predict ecosystems’ responses to climate change. It also matches the spatial scale of satellite images of vegetation collected by NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. This similarity of scale means that all these ways of studying ecosystems could be integrated into a more sophisticated picture of how plant and animal communities will respond to climate change than any one method alone could provide.

Esaias is particularly interested in comparing the hive data to satellite-based maps of vegetation “greenness,” a scale that remote-sensing scientists commonly use to map the health and density of Earth’s vegetation. Scientists have been making these types of maps for decades, and they have used them to document how warming temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are causing vegetation to green up earlier in the spring than it did in the 1980s. Such maps are an excellent general indicator of seasonal changes in vegetation, says Esaias, but by themselves, they won’t tell you something as tangible as when plants are flowering.
- Will Plants and Pollinators Get Out of Sync?
About half of the approximately 6 million honeybee colonies in the United States are kept by individual or family-scale beekeepers. Esaias’ vision is to develop a how-to guide, an automatic data recorder, and the computer and networking resources at Goddard Space Flight Center that would be needed to collect and preserve the data. Ideally, a hive data recorder would be hooked up to the Internet so that volunteers’ hive weights could appear on a Website hosted at Goddard. His goal is to get the cost per kit below $200 and then to get NASA funding to outfit a network of volunteers — HoneybeeNet — and analyze their data.

“Ultimately, what we’d like to have is thousands of these across the country. Even if we can get the cost down to $200 a piece, that is still a lot of money to ask for until you have a test data set that proves it is valuable,” admits Esaias. He’s been working with local bee clubs in Maryland, rounding up some 20 volunteers who already have or are willing to purchase their own scales. He hopes that the data collected during the 2007 spring-summer season will be a prototype that will convince NASA to fund a pilot project.

Links:

HoneybeeNet
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
Heat Island Effect

Gardeners for Recovery

Update 2007.11.20: Added clarification that cobblestones will not be marked. Added link to related posts, including the announcement page.
Update, September 28: The Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone Campaign is online.

What is to give light must endure burning.
- Victor Frankl, survivor of the Nazi holocaust.
Tribute in Light, shot blindly out the window of a moving cab in downtown Manhattan earlier this evening, the 6th anniversary of the attacks.
Tribute in Light, September 11, 2007

I've written several posts so far comprising an irregular series related to the symbiotic practices of gardening and grieving:
  1. 1, 5 and 25
  2. Five Years After, "Ths Transetorey Life"
  3. Nihilism and Squirrels
  4. The Death of Takeo Shiota
  5. The Daffodil Project
  6. The IPCC Report
  7. The Garden of Memory
  8. In the Shadow
What I've not written about so well is what follows - what accompanies and emerges from - grief.

The National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center

Also see my other posts on 9/11.

9/11 memorials, Union Square Park, September 24, 2001
9/11 memorials, Union Square Park, September 24, 2001

Recently, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation announced:
... it will now be called the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center – in order to reflect more fully the Memorial and Museum’s commemoration of the September 11, 2001 attacks as a national tragedy that changed the course of history. The Memorial & Museum will honor those killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York City, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, as well as those killed in the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993, and will continue to emphasize the site-specific nature of building a tribute at the World Trade Center.
- Press Release, August 15, 2007 (PDF)
For the first time, there will be a national tour of a traveling exhibition associated with the museum:

To involve as many people as possible, the Memorial & Museum have created a traveling exhibition that tells the story of September 11 from the point of view of victims' families, first responders, survivors, and everyday people who came together on that terrible day and in the agonizing days that followed. The traveling exhibition offers Americans the opportunity to come together again to pay tribute to those who were killed on September 11 as well as to support the heroic first responders whose selfless acts saved thousands.


Individuals and communities across the country will have a chance to contribute directly to this historic effort by signing a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The exhibition will also feature a timeline of the events, photographs, artifacts, and a short film.

Here are the first cities and dates. Check local listings for details, or check on the National Tour page.

  • Columbia, SC, September 10 and 11
  • Raleigh, NC, September 15 and 16
  • Norfolk, VA, September 19 and 20
  • Pittsburgh, PA, September 23
  • Charleston, WV, September 26
  • Cincinnati, OH, September 29 and 30
  • Lexington, KY, October 3
  • Fort Wayne, IN, October 6 and 7
  • Lansing, MI, October 10
  • Aurora, IL, October 13 and 14
  • Madison, WI, October 17

Other cities will include Sioux Falls, SD, Des Moines, IA, Omaha, NE, and Wichita, KS.

Links:


2007-09-07

News, September 7, NYC: Brooklyn Woman Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

The Health Department today confirmed the season’s first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a 41-year-old Brooklyn woman. So far this season, the Health Department has identified WNV in 139 mosquito pools citywide – eastern Queens, southeastern Bronx and Staten Island have had significant activity. WNV has been detected in all five boroughs.
- Press Release
In past years, WNV cases have been reported much earlier in the year.
The patient began feeling ill in mid-August. Her symptoms included fever, headache, fatigue, weakness and muscle pain. She was hospitalized on August 25th, and is now home recovering. Because she traveled outside of New York City during the two weeks preceding her illness, she may have been exposed to WNV either in New York City, or elsewhere.

2007-09-06

Project FeederWatch

Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada have opened registration for the 2007-2008 season of Project FeederWatch.
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each species they see at their feeders from November through early April. FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.
- What is Project FeederWatch
Next year's seasons begins November 10. They begin shipping kits in September. There's a $15 registration fee.

Links:

Project FeederWatch, Bird Studies Canada
Project FeederWatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

2007-09-04

Gowanus Nursery under threat

Updated 22:00 EDT: Added links, maps, and legend.

Gowanus Nursery, as it appeared on their opening day this Spring
Gowanus Nursery
I received the following email this afternoon through the Gowanus Nursery mailing list.
On Wednesday August 22, a small group of business owners, employees and clients attended a city planning meeting that was to decide the fate of a few parcels of land located on Summit and Carroll streets.

The likely outcome is that Gowanus Nursery (45 Summit Street) will be forced to move, once again.

Remarkably, this change is a thinly disguised 'spot zoning' to allow for a residential development in a grandfathered commercial zone. This action, in the words of Community Board 6, has been the most aggressive use of ULURP (re-zoning) procedures that the current board has ever seen, forcing out active and flourishing businesses to make way for residential development.

Borough President Marty Markowitz's recommendations suggest that the nursery occupied lot provides property owners the opportunity to lease under-developed land with minimal investment (part true since the only investment came in the form of our own labor and financial funding.) There seems something fundamentally wrong with labeling well-used open 'green' space as 'under-developed'.

On a personal note, I am frustrated not only by the futility of the work we have already logged here, but also by the casual way that zoning change is happening in 'our' neighborhood. Last year, you, my customers and colleagues came to offer your services during the first move. Now, I ask for your help to help save this 'green oasis' from perishing in the changes affecting all of Brooklyn.

One of the questions asked by the city planning commissioners was "We have heard a lot of testimony about how this is the 'best' nursery, could you please give some definite examples to support this statement?" Well, we hope that our garden making has been successful; stimulating ideas and offering advice, suggesting different ways of seeing plants and how they affect our environment directly and indirectly. Of course, something akin to a mission remains: providing to gardeners experience-based knowledge and the broadest selection of perennial plants for Brooklyn gardens.

We hope that you can take the time to email the following parties to let them know in a few words what makes us an important part of the neighborhood and the whole Brooklyn experience.

Council representative - Bill de Blasio, deblasio@council.nyc.ny.us;
City Council Speaker - Christine Quinn, quinn@council.nyc.ny.us;
Land Use Committee Chairperson - Melinda R. Katz, katz@council.nyc.ny.us;
Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The following are some statements to paste into your appeal:

It's impossible to run a nursery without land.

Businesses such as these provide necessary services to the community, and are the reason we choose Brooklyn.

Please help Gowanus Nursery to remain a Brooklyn institution.


I located a map of the proposed zoning change. This was certified to begin ULURP as far back as May 14th of this year.

Proposed Zoning Change Affecting Gowanus Nursery

The area enclosed by the dotted line is proposed to be rezoned by changing from an M1-1 District to an R6 District. The heavy solid lines indicate where the Zoning District Boundaries would like after the proposed zoning change. To become effective, the proposed changes must be approved first by the City Planning Commission, then the City Council.

Here's a map, courtesy of OASIS-NYC, that shows the current uses of 45 Summit Street and nearby properties:

Gowanus Nursery, 45 Summit Street

Legend:
Legend image1 & 2 Family Residential
Legend imageMulti-family Residential (3 or more Residential Units)
Legend imageMixed Use (Residential and Commercial)
Legend imageCommercial
Legend imageInstitutions
Legend imageTransportation & Parking
Legend imageIndustrial (corresponds to Zoning's "Manufacturing" designation)
Legend imageVacant Lots

Comparing these two maps, it appears that most of the properties along Carroll Street within the proposed zoning change are already in residential use. The proeprties along Summit Street, however, are in industrial use, consistent with their M-1 Zoning designation.

The question of whether or not Gowanus is "the best" nursery is a red herring. This seems like a suspiciously convenient carve-out for someone. Who is going to reap the windfall from eminent domain-style tactics that strip privileges from one group and class of residents to benefit another?

Links: