Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Attorney General Schneiderman During A Visit To The Gowanus Canal: EPA Budget Cuts Could "Easily Kneecap All Efforts To Clean Up This Canal"

Councilman Brad Lander with  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in Gowanus on Tuesday.
New York Attorney General addressing the Press on the shores of the Gowanus

Brad Lander addressing Trump Administration's proposed EPA budget cuts

The number one question being asked by many Gowanus residents these days is: "Will the Superfund clean-up of the toxic Gowanus Canal be affected by the proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency?"

As we all know by now, the Environmental Protection Agency is the hardest-hit agency under President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposals. The budget would cut funding for the Agency by 31 percent from its current level, EPA’s staff could be cut by about 21 percent, and the Superfund program, responsible for cleanups of contaminated sites, would have its funding cut from about $1.1 billion to $762 million.

In addition, according to Inside EPA, the Agency's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently developing "a plan for consolidating its 10 regional offices into eight, a step being justified as a way to realize 'efficiencies' but which is already sparking concerns that it could spread an already strapped agency too thin to accomplish its mission. In addition, some state sources are concerned that cutting back on the number of regional offices could also limit support..."

Less money, less staff and cuts to the Superfund program?  Doesn't sound too promising for the Gowanus clean-up, does it?

This past Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, accompanied by Councilman Brad Lander, held a press conference on the shores of the Gowanus Canal to address the proposed cuts.
"We are here today because the Gowanus Canal is an example  of a successful effort to clean up a Superfund far. We are facing now an unprecedented assault on the Superfund Program and other environmental programs by the Administration of President Trump. Last week, Trump released a budget that calls for extraordinary dangerous and extremely shortsighted cuts to nearly all federal programs to protect our environment, our health our economy and our future.  This is a cruel betrayal  of the American people and in particular, a cruel betrayal of fellow New Yorkers," Schneiderman told the press.

"The budget the President announced promises to unravel all of our gains und promises to send us back to the sad old days of choking smog and toxins in our rivers and streams," according to Schneiderman.  "There are 85 Superfund sites in New York State, all off them are now at risk. If Trump gets his way, funding for this critical program will be cut by 43%. A hollowed out EPA, with far fewer staff and an administrator who does not seem to care about environmental protection or believe in climate change could easily kneecap all efforts to clean up this canal and could have a devastating effect on Superfund sites where the clean-up hasn't even begun."

"The canal right behind us is a terrific example. It has taken decades of hard work and constant advocacy to finally put this canal on a path of clean-up. It is being cleaned up now as part of an extremely successful, cost effective program known as Superfund," Schneiderman said.

"The clean-up of the Gowanus Canal could be slowed by these cutbacks. The Administration could delay further proceedings. This is not necessary and this is something that we are going to fight against."  Schneiderman further said: "There is no rational basis for these damaging cuts. EPA represents about 2/10th of 1% of the Federal budget, yet it has a positive effect on the lives of every single American."

"If Donald Trump and [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruit think that they can get away with the massive rollback of programs that are critical of the health and wellbeing of ordinary Americans, they have another thing coming," he added.
"No New York should have to wait a single day longer than necessary to clean toxins out of our waterways," Schneiderman concluded.

Councilman Brad Lander agreed with Schneiderman that President Trump's proposed budget would represent "completely intolerable cuts to the EPA."  According to Lander, "we would be the frog boiling ourselves in toxic water if we accept these cuts, so we have to fight back."  

"It took decades of activism by many of the people who are here and many others in the neighborhood to get the EPA take a look at this canal. Once they agreed to take a look, it was the science that dictated the Superfund clean-up. They did the investigation, they tested the sludge at the bottom of this canal. It is unsafe, it is toxic. That is why the Superfund designation was made and that is why we are on a path to get this canal dredged and cleaned up and turned from a toxic waterway into a community resource."
He re-iterated that the cuts were "penny wise and pound foolish.
"The beauty of the Superfund  program is that the polluters pay for the clean-up. This is what is going to happen here. We don't need federal money to actually clean the canal. Of course, that only works if the EPA can administer the program."
In the case of the Gowanus Canal Superfund, Lander mentioned that the EPA does not yet have a "signed consent decree that tell the polluters that they are on the hook."
According to Lander: "If the administrative budget is cut and the Superfund staff can't work on the administrative order, the polluters won't pay to clean-up the canal. That would be devastating for this community and foolish for all of us."

During the press conference, neither Councilman Lander nor New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman mentioned that NYC Department of City Planning  is currently studying  Gowanus for future re-zoning and development. A re-zoning could bring thousands of new residents to the banks of this polluted waterway.

Ironically, the press conference was being held in front of Lightstone Development's new 700 residential units, and across from a large development parcel, where Jared Kuschner, President Trump's son-in-law, plans on building a 30 story luxury apartment building.

Now that the Gowanus community has learned from Schneiderman and Lander that the EPA budget cuts could certainly slow down and undermine the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal, perhaps the next question asked by the community should be:
"If that is the case, should the rezoning of the Gowanus be set aside until we are certain that the canal clean-up moves forward in a timely fashion under the Trump administration?"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Ferdinando's

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Old school Carroll Gardens. Have you ever eaten here? No? Why not?
151 Union Street

Benefit For Immigrant Families @ Strong Place This Wednesday

Reader Jennifer made me aware of a fund raising event for the National Immigration Law Center this Wednesday, March 22 from 7 to 9 pm.  The event will be held here in the neighborhood at Strong Place, 270 Court Street.

Jennifer writes:
"The National Immigration Law Center is a leading organization that is fearlessly defending the rights of immigrant families.
A $50 (minimum) donation at the door ($25 for under 25 year-olds) will help to ensure that they are able to continue defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrant families, as well as continuing the fight against Trump’s xenophobic Muslim banned the rising arrests by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

To RSVP, please visit our event page-

In A Basement On Columbia Street, Books Through Bars Volunteers Help Bridge Gap Between The Incarcerated And The “Free” World

NYC Books Through Bars volunteers wrapping books to ship out IMG_0243
Members of the NYU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega
Volunteer Bruce McDonald held several Dictionary Drives in Carroll Park
Bruce McDonald with some of the dictionaries he helped collect for the organization
Letter recently received by Books Through Bars

Twice, and sometimes thrice a week, a group of NYC Books Through Bars volunteers gather to wrap, weigh and address packages in the slightly cramped, dusty basement of Freebird Books at 123 Columbia Street.  The packages contain books from the many donations lining the basement's shelves, which have been carefully matched to a specific request from an incarcerated individual.   The volunteers represent a range of political opinions and different beliefs about the American prison system, but are united in their conviction that reading material is a human right and that individuals in prison should have access to decent educational reading material.

NYC Books Through Bars got started in Manhattan about twenty years ago.  The organization moved to the Columbia Waterfront District about four years ago, when Freebird owner Peter Miller made his downstairs space available to the organization.  Every week, BTB receives about 200 to 300 letters from incarcerated individuals.  The organization can fulfill most of the requests and more than 100 to 150  packages are shipped out to forty states weekly.
"Every letter gets a response, even if only to refer the individual to a similar organization that may cover a state that BTB does not," Daniel Schaffer, one of the group's organizers told me. "If we can not send an exact title in response to a request, we try to substitute a similar book."

Melissa Marturano, a fellow coordinator, explained that the number of letters to BTB highlights how sorely underfunded prison education is and how understocked their libraries are. "The most requested books are English-language dictionaries, mysteries, books on how to start a business, and on African-American history, " according to Marturano.  "Individuals behind bars have no access to computers.  They don't have e books," she explained.  Books provide opportunities to improve vocabulary and literacy as well as connection to the outside world.

I was first introduced to Books Through Bars by my friend Bruce McDonald, who is a fellow member of Friends of Carroll Park.  Bruce has organized several Dictionary Drives in Carroll Park and has collected over 100 dictionaries for BTB in just over a year.
Recently, while volunteering for the group, Bruce came across a request for a book in Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria. (Read the letter above).  With funds provided by Friends of Carroll Park, Bruce purchased a Yoruba dictionary online and sent it off to Victor, who had asked for it.

If you would like to donate books to NYC Books Through Bars, here are some guidelines:
- Softcovers only, please
- Nothing with excessive highlighting or underlining
- Dictionaries (all languages) are the number one request we receive
- Mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks are also in very high demand, especially mystery, action/thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, westerns
- How-to guides for all sorts of vocations, skills, and careers, as well as GED and other test prep books
- Non-fiction titles in the categories of true crime, world and US history, ethnic studies (esp. South/Central/Mezo-American), supernatural/occult, and biography

Books can be dropped off at Freebird (123 Columbia Street) during one of the volunteer packing sessions, which are every Sunday from 2:00-5:00 and Mondays from 7:30-9:30 (and occasional Wednesdays.  Check the calendar here.

Though books are always welcomed, money for postage is crucial to Books Through Bar's mission.
Please consider a contribution here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

After Heartbreaking Loss, A Carroll Gardens Family Needs Our Help

Sara Porter and Dominic Gillette of Carroll Gardens with their two older boys
 Sara with her two older boys
Sara and Dominic in happier times at Abilene
Newborn Jonas.
(photo credit: The Gillette family)

I just donated to the Sara Porter Go-Fund-Me page and am asking all my Carroll Gardens neighbors to please do the same.
Yesterday, I heard through a good friend that a family father on Luquer Street lost his young beautiful wife just a few days after she gave birth to their third child.
During this time of unbearable sorrow for this family, we can, as a community, come together to lighten their burden by helping to ensure that the children's future needs are provided for.

Here is their heartbreaking story as told on the Go-Fund-Me page
"On Monday March 13th, Sara Porter, devoted wife to Dominic Gillette, and loving mother to Mateo (4), Luca (2), and newborn Jonas passed away. This fund is for the “Gillette Boys” - a term Sara lovingly used.

Shortly after giving birth to their third beautiful boy, Jonas on Wednesday, March 8th, Sara contracted an extremely rare bacterial infection. Sara fought hard but within days she succumbed to the infection.

Sara was an amazing wife and mother who dedicated her life to her family, raising the boys, and providing them with a loving home. This is an incomprehensible, unexpected loss for Dominic and the boys and to everybody who knew her and loved her. Sara’s kindness was known the moment you met her and her beautiful smile will stay with us always.

Sara will always be the love of Dominic’s life and he will do everything to continue without her but he needs all of us to be there for him."

The page was set up by family friends Bill and Holly. They mentioned that Dominic would never ask for help on his own, but this represents such a catastrophic loss for him and his boys, that every little contribution will help immensely.
So Carroll Gardens, let us unite around Dominic, Mateo, Luca and Baby Jonas and show our support.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Downtown Brooklyn View

Snowy Downtown Brooklyn from 18 floors up. Love this view. #mybrooklynlife #brooklyn #cityscape
Snowy Downtown Brooklyn.
Taken yesterday from 18 floors up.

New York K!ds Club On Court Street To Open In May

Construction has taken a while, but the new location of New York K!ds Club and NYPreschool at 299 Court Street in the former Winn Discount store appears to be mostly completed and will open
this May.
The Court Street location will feature two classrooms and a state-of-the-art gym space over 3,000-square-foot.

According to its web site, NY Kids Club is a children's enrichment center "renowned for creative and innovative kids classes, camps, birthday parties, and events." The offerings at this location include gymnastics, dance, art, Spanish, chess and music classes.

The location will also feature New York Preschool, a New York City Universal Pre-Kindergarden provider, will offer half day classes for 2 year-olds to 4 year-olds.

Certainly, there is a growing need for such enrichment centers, as more and more young families are moving into the neighborhood and our public schools are overcrowded. However, I still miss Winn Discount. Do you?

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In Gowanus, Someone Is Using Glass Shards To Clear Their Icy Sidewalk

It sure is a pain to shovel sidewalks after a snowstorm and way too often, property owners or store owners fail to do so, making walking quite treacherous for pedestrians.
However, most are responsible and clear the snow in front of their property.

But then, there is this: yesterday, a reader took the photos above  in front of a residence at the corner of Second Street and Bond Street in Gowanus and writes:
"Some shovel their walk. Some spread salt. 124 Second Street has glass shards for those unlucky enough to trip and fall."

The reader told PMFA that 911 was called to report this rather dangerous and disturbing occurrence.
Hopefully, the sharp glass pieces have been removed by now, but just in case, be very, very careful walking past this spot.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

STELLLLLLLLAAAAA! When A March Nor'Easter Brings Snow, Ice, Rain And A Day Off


By now it has become clear that Winterstorm  Stella may not bring the apocalyptic weather that had been predicted for today, but it has certainly given many New Yorkers an excuse to relax a bit.
Instead of the 18 to 20 inches of snow this Nor'Easter was going to dump on us, it has barely snowed 5 inches before it turned into ice and then rain.  Pretty anticlimactic, I would say.
The sound of the ice hitting my Brooklyn rear windows this morning, however, was rather dramatic.

What are you up to today?  Are you at home with a nice cup of steaming cocoa or did you make your way to work?

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Wee Bit Of Fun: St. Paul's Church Hosts St. Patrick's Day Fest

One really does not need to be Irish to have a bit of fun on St. Patrick's Day. wouldn't you agree?
St. Paul's Church at 199 Carroll Street seems to agree and is inviting everyone for a corned beef and cabbage dinner with some traditional Irish beer. The cost is $15 for individuals, $5 for adults and an entire family will eat for $30.
Make sure you drop by on Friday and join the festivities.
For all related information, click here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Picture Of The Day: Not Spring Yet!

What a difference a day makes.
Just yesterday, I was enjoying the first daffodils in bloom in my garden.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Picture Of the Day: Building Bridges

Building bridges trumps building walls  #bridgesbrooklynbridge #bridges
Somewhere midway between Brooklyn and Manhattan
Building bridges makes so much more sense to me than building walls.

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain Hosts Weekly Community Oriented Events

 Photo credit: Brooklyn Farmacy
We all know that Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain at 513 Henry Street is the place for delicious ice cream Sundays, egg creams and milk shakes, but did you know that Farmacy also hosts several weekly community oriented events? Below is a listing of the current schedule. Most of these events are free of charge.

*Tuesdays from 5-7PM: Local Roots CSA pick up. For more information on signing up for a share, please visit the Local Roots CSA website:

*Wednesdays from 1-3PM: Kitting and Crochet group. FREE. All levels welcome. Chit and chat with locals while you knit and crochet over an egg cream. Instruction provided. Coordinated by Harriet Libstag.

*Wednesdays from 7-9PM: Civics Night at the Soda Fountain. FREE All welcome. A weekly group of locals meet to discuss and learn more about the current political terrain. Guest speakers, Q&A, sharing resources and information. For more information, please email

*Thursdays from 11-12PM: Musical Sing-a-long with Aardvarks great for babes in arms and toddlers this live full fountain musical morning happening has been entertaining Carroll Garden kids for almost seven years. Come for the music, stay for lunch. $10. drop in.

*Sundays from 11-1PM Acoustic Sunday Mornings: With Bobby & Bucky FREE enjoy Peter Pan Donuts and acoustic music with Bobby & Bucky every Sunday morning.

And here is a link to Farmacy's calendar to find out about all events at  Carroll Gardens sweetest spot.

Carroll Gardens Greenmarket Planning Some Great Spring Events

As the weather becomes warmer and the neighborhood re-awakens after a long winter slumber, the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket is celebrating the arrival of spring with a series of events that you might want to check out.

For the next few Sundays, Market Manager Julia Raggio has scheduled the following:

Sunday, March 19th: 8am-3pm
Greenmarket Grains will be making a highly-anticipated appearance at Carroll Gardens Greenmarket! Pick up some hearty salad staples, like Farro and Freekeh, or some unique Wheat flours made from all locally sourced grains. Learn more about the Greenmarket Grains project, and support farms striving to grow more grain in our region.

Sunday, April 4th: 10:30am-12:30pm
Special guest Isa Rodrigues visits us from the Textile Arts Center, for a hands-on demonstration on how to dye fabrics using natural materials. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity to learn a skill for more sustainable crafting!

Sunday, April 30th: 10:30am-12:30pm
Hetty McKinnon, blogger, and author of two incredible cookbooks (Community, and the highly anticipated follow-up,  Neighbourhood, to be released this summer), visits Carroll Gardens Greenmarket for a guest cooking demonstration.
Pick up some new recipes, and learn some new creative ways to eat locally.

So mark your calendar and stop by the market for fresh veggies, fruits, plants and so much more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Sadly, Garden Apothecary At 525 Court Street Will "Eventually" Close

Garden Apothecary has barely been open for two years at 525 Court Street, but its closing is most likely a foregone conclusion. The pharmacy portion in the back of the store has already closed and the remaining stock of homeopathic products, personal care products, and gifts is currently discounted up to 50%.
I asked the young man working the cash register if the store was closing. His answer: "Eventually." After pressing him further, he admitted that the closing would happen sooner rather than later. "Business at this end of Court Street is really slow" he said. "There really is no foot traffic and most people either order online or shop further down Court Street."
Garden Apothecary is owned by Kings Pharmacy on Hudson Street in Manhattan, which, according to its web site, is one of the "few independent pharmacies that is as big as a chain."

It would be sad to lose the store, since service was always friendly and offered a real choice for residents near that stretch of Court Street.