Move About Myrtle Returns!

Car-free Sundays are returning to Myrtle Avenue starting this weekend, as part of the DOT's Weekend Walks program.  Each of the four Sunday events will feature programming, art, fitness, activities for kids and more. The Myrtle Minutes blog has all the details for this Sunday, which will include mural-making with Ellie Balk (yay!), food prep classes, free yoga.  Come on out and enjoy streets as public space, hang out with neighbors, enjoy free stuff.

Food Access on Myrtle Avenue

Another great program from MARP!  Here's the press release: Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project Receives Community Experience Partnership Grant to Fund Food Access Initiative Weekly Thursday Farm Stand Kicks Off on July 8th from 4-7pm in Front of Ingersoll Community Center

FORT GREENE and CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, June 29, 2010—The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project LDC (MARP) received a three-year grant through the ‘Community Experience Partnership’ to support and expand its Food Access Initiative. The $210,000 grant over 3 years will support projects under MARP’s new Myrtle Eats Fresh program, which aims to engage community members of all ages in activities to improve access to healthy, affordable food on Myrtle Avenue, and in the surrounding neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Projects include a community-run farm stand, creating and expanding community gardens on public housing grounds, a community chef program, and the formation of a hyper-local food policy task force.

The Community Experience Partnership (CEP), a national initiative, aims to support projects that specifically engage the talents and energy of older adults for the benefit of their communities. In New York City, The Atlantic Philanthropies is partnering with the New York Community Trust and United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) to develop new program models that engage older adults to increase access to healthy food in low-income communities.  “Over the last few years, older adults in Ingersoll and Whitman Houses have emerged as natural leaders in local efforts to get more fresh food in the neighborhood. We are thrilled to be able to support this trend by establishing community-based projects that address the serious need for more fresh food options on Myrtle Avenue,” commented Michael Blaise Backer, Executive Director of MARP.

With the CEP grant, MARP has hired Kassy Nystrom, formerly of GrowNYC, to manage and expand programs under its food access initiative, which started with seed funding from the Brooklyn Community Foundation in 2008 with the founding of the Fort Greene CSA, and grew to include the creation of the Ingersoll Garden of Eden in 2009. Myrtle Eats Fresh will expand that community garden, built in collaboration with Ingersoll residents, and start new gardens at both Whitman and Farragut in the following years.  A community-run farm stand will be held every Thursday in front of the Ingersoll Community Center (177 Myrtle Avenue) from 4pm-7pm from July 8th through October 28th, and will be staffed by three youth and two elders from the neighborhood. MARP has also launched a ‘Community Chef’ program, whereby several residents who have a passion for healthy cooking have been trained as certified Community Chefs and will now conduct cooking demonstrations at neighborhood events. In fall 2010, MARP will begin the process of forming a neighborhood ‘Healthy Food Task Force’, bringing together representatives from interested organizations and other groups to help synergize efforts around improving food access in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Make Music New York Comes to Clinton Hill!

Make Music New York is a live, free musical celebration across the city that takes place each June 21 — the longest day of the year. Today, hundreds of public spaces throughout the five boroughs — sidewalks, parks, community gardens, and more — become impromptu stages for over 1,000 free concerts. Eleven participating venues are located on Myrtle Avenue! PARTICIPATING BUSINESSES in Make Music New York: Anima Italian Bistro 458 Myrtle Avenue Anthony Cedras Global soul and R&B 1:00pm-8:00pm Brooklyn Junior 150 Clinton Avenue -PEMG, a community based program focused on teaching young people about Hip Hop from a cultural and Indie perspective. -Jesse Goldman (, Experimental / Swing / Americana 2:30-5:00 pm. Castro’s Mexican Cuisine 511 Myrtle Avenue 5:30p-10pm -DJ Fuerte Chez Lola 387 Myrtle Avenue 7:30p to 10:30 pm Sedric Choukroroun Brazilian Jazz Trio Shukroon, Smith & and Monaco are a joyous trio, playing their own blend of Samba-Jazz-Pop: acoustic harp-guitar, saxophones-flute and percussion Chez Oskar 211 DeKalb Avenue 7:30p to 10:30pm The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn consists of: Billy Nemec-guitar/lead vocals, Chris Pistorino-bass/vocals, David Langlois-washboard percussion/vocals, Sam Hoyt-Trumpet/vocals The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, an early jazz, swing, and blues band, composed of acoustic guitar/vocals, upright bass, homemade washboard percussion, trumpet and saxophone, plays its' repertoire of witty songs from 1920's and 30's, along with its' augmented original tunes and often bawdy lyrics sung in catchy 4 part vocal harmony. Fort Greene SNAP 324 Myrtle Avenue -Anisa Fujah from 3 to 5 (Jazz) -Soulfolk Experience 5 to 6 (also jazz) -Jesse Goldman from 6 to 7 (experimental jazz) Gnarly Vines 350 Myrtle Avenue -Carolyn Leonhart and Jay Leonhart (daughter and dad)—vocals and bass (jazz, soul, standards) 1:30pm-3:00pm and Claire “Raji” Rodriguez folk, indie, pop 5p-6p Green in BKLYN 432 Myrtle Avenue Carolyn Leonhart and Jay Leonhart (daughter and dad)—vocals and bass (jazz, soul, standards) 12p-1:15p and Claire “Raji” Rodriguez folk, indie, pop 4p-5p Los Pollitos III 499 Myrtle Avenue -5:30pm to 9pm Edwin Vasquez Band, Live Latin band Move with Grace Yoga, Dance & Pilates Studio 469 Myrtle Avenue -Nucomme - rock/soul artist 8pm -Cavalier - Hip Hop/Soul artist 8:30pm -The Outabodies - Hip Hop/Jazz/Rock artists 9pm Sans Souci Restaurant 330 Myrtle Avenue Metric Man aka The Freedom Fighter (reggae) 1pm-9pm Fort Greene Park (Myrtle Avenue entrance) All day Upright piano (Sing For Hope): all day (on-site) 12p-1pm WATCH High School 2p-3:00p JHS 185 Drumline [note: I wish this was after work! Damn.] 3:00pm-4:00pm Ronald Edmonds Middle School 113 Choir 6p-7p Maracatu New York (Brazilian Percussion)

Bird Town

On Saturday, I checked out the birdhouse-making event that was part of Myrtle Avenue Bird Town.  It was awesome!  The artists were on site constructing bird houses and feeders, and when I arrived around 11:30, the tables were packed with kids.

That didn't stop me, though, from sitting down myself to paint a house.  And a handful of adults followed once I started.


While there, I got to see some of the actual bird houses that are a part of the installation.

This (above) is a bat house!  Awesome.

Bird Town on Myrtle Avenue

(image from MARP's blog)

Now this is an awesome public art project- an eclectic collection of bird houses! The houses appear at Myrtle and Carlton (apparently that little traffic triangle is called Person Square Triangle), and at Myrtle and St. Edwards at the entrance to the park.  Plus, the artists will be doing an interactive workshop during the SONYA stroll next weekend!  Rad.

Here is the info from MARP (long, but worthwhile):

The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and the New York City Parks Public Art Program present Myrtle Avenue Bird Town, a temporary installation by artists Daniel Goers and Jennifer Wong. From May 1st through December 2010, dozens of playful birdhouses will live in trees at the Person Square Triangle (Myrtle and Carlton Avenues) and the northwest corner of Fort Greene Park (Myrtle and St. Edwards). An opening reception for the installation will take place on Thursday, May 6th at Sans Souci Restaurant (330 Myrtle Avenue) from 6-8pm, and an open workshop with artists will take place on Saturday, May 15th from 10am-4pm.

Goers and Wong will use recycled materials and experimental building techniques to create a micro-community of birdhouses in two locations along Myrtle Avenue. This colorful and whimsical collection of birdhouses will be the site of an ongoing performance as birds feed, nest, build, and care for offspring in these spaces. This exhibition will attract and engage passers-by to observe Fort Greene’s local bird population and contemplate the ecological relationship between birds and the urban environment. “Bringing public sculpture to Myrtle Avenue is part of the Partnership’s larger public art initiative to invest in the creative capital of the neighborhood and rethink our public spaces with art” says Meredith Phillips Almeida, the Partnership’s Director of Community Development. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the Partnership will organize educational workshops in the community that will teach children and adults about local bird species and environment awareness. The artists will hold their first community workshop on May 15th from 10am-4pm as part of the South of the Navy Yard Artists Annual Studio Stroll. Participants of all ages can stop by at any point to build their own bird houses and meet the artists.

An opening reception will take place at Sans Souci (330 Myrtle between Carlton and Washington Park), a bar/restaurant featuring Caribbean cuisine, on Thursday, May 6th from 6pm-8pm, and is free and open to the public. Arrive early to take advantage of happy hour specials and light refreshments. The artists will be on hand to discuss their work, their process, and the environmental message behind the piece.  Throughout the duration of the 8-month installation, the artists are documenting the exhibition’s progress and activity on a dedicated website,

The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership’s Public Art Initiative represents a multi-faceted program to establish the avenue as an access point to cultural activities for community members of diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Through efforts to bring public sculpture, art installations, studio art, and creative street furniture elements to the public spaces and sidewalks of the 20-block retail district, the Initiative aims to increase access to art for the entire community, and to support small business by driving foot traffic to the commercial corridor. For more information about the Partnership, visit Parks & Recreation’s temporary public art program has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, collaborations with arts organizations and artists have produced hundreds of public art projects in New York City parks. Committed to the exhibition of art by emerging and established artists, Parks & Recreation has supported projects ranging from international exhibitions in flagship parks to local, community works in neighborhood parks, playgrounds, and traffic islands.

Clinton Hill Dog Run?

Neighbors with dogs have been interested in a full-time dog run for awhile now to cater to those who cannot make off-leash hours (or who have playful dogs who thrive with more exercise off-leash).  It looks like the Myrtle Ave Brooklyn Partnership is organizing a community meeting around the idea of adding a dog run under the BQE.  I'm in favor- the space there is underused, so why not be creative about its potential? Props to MARP for their forward thinking. Here's the info I have from the group:

Please forward this email to any dog owners in the area who might be interested in discussing this and sharing their ideas.  This should be a quick meeting to gauge interest in this idea.  If the community displays to MARP that we like this idea, they will likely back this plan and help it become a reality.  So please spread the word and route your evening dog walk over to clinton ave & the BQE to find out what the buzz is about.
Community Meeting w/ Clinton Hill Dog Run & MARP
RE: Potential BQE 'All-Weather Dog Run'
on Tuesday 4/27 7PM
@ Clinton Ave underneath the BQE
BYO Dog!

Designing the Myrtle Ave Pedestrian Plaza Gallery

As we've reported before, the service road on Hall Street near Bergen Bagel has been selected by the NYC Department of Transportation as a public plaza site.  While the city gears up to build out a permanent plaza, Myrtle Ave Brooklyn Partnership will host a pop-up workshop displaying the ideas submitted for the project so far.  There will be an opening reception on Friday night from 5-8, and gallery hours this weekend. It's a really cool way to get involved in an urban planning project that will actually come to life right here in our neighborhood.

Here's more info:

You are invited to view and comment on submissions received through our open call for ideas, along with best practices collected by our staff, at the upcoming “Designing the Myrtle Pedestrian Plaza – Pop Up Exhibition and Workshop” from February 5th – 13th.  Please come by to view and comment on the submissions, and contribute your own ideas on sustainable design elements, amenities (seating, public art, etc.), and programming for the Pedestrian Plaza that will be built on the Myrtle Avenue service road between Emerson and Grand.     Feel free to forward our invite (below) to your own email lists, friends, neighbors, etc.

CHB Interviews: M. Blaise Backer

In honor of MARP's 10th Anniversary, CHB spoke with their director - M. Blaise Backer - about the organization's history, his job and how we can get involved as neighbors. 1. You're celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project. How was the organization started?  Could you also explain the difference between MARP and the BID? MARP, our non-profit local development corporation, was actually born out of an economic development committee at Fort Greene SNAP, another local non-profit located on Myrtle Avenue. It was decided back in the last 1990’s that the committee should spin off into its own organization given the critical need to focus on Myrtle Avenue’s economic development. A number of key local stakeholders, including representatives from Fort Greene SNAP, JPMorgan Chase, Pratt, St. Joseph’s, LIU, and local merchants, residents, and funders came together to found the organization, form the initial board of directors, and incorporate in 1999. They hired MARP’s first executive director, Jennifer Gerend, shortly thereafter. In 2002, MARP sponsored the formation of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District, in cooperation with a steering committee made up of Myrtle merchants and property owners, and it began operations in April of 2005. Together MARP and the BID use the umbrella name Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership to represent many of the initiatives, campaigns, and events that are a product of both organizations’ operating budgets and boards.

2. What's your professional background? How long have you been heading MARP? I have a graduate degree in Urban Planning from NYU Wagner, and an undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Virginia. I’ve been at MARP since the fall of 2002, and became its executive director in June of 2004.

3. Do you live in the neighborhood?   If yes, is it great to spend all of your time in the area, or do you miss commuting to a different neighborhood? Yes, I’ve lived in Fort Greene for 8 years, and walk to work every morning. It’s great to have such an easy commute, as I’m not much of a morning person, but I definitely do less leisure reading without a subway commute. It’s helpful to be able to walk most of Myrtle Avenue every morning and evening as part of my commute in order to monitor the physical condition of the streetscape and to have casual interactions with the avenue’s small business owners.

4. What is a typical day like on the job? This is a truly difficult question to answer, and I’m rarely able to capture the essence of a typical workday. My job entails everything from managing the organization’s finances and contracts, writing grants and fundraising, collaborating on the day-to-day aspects of various organization programs with my colleagues, corresponding with MARP’s board and with city agencies and elected officials, and responding to calls and emails from various local constituents. I have days where I’m outside using my hands by helping the Ingersoll residents to build planting beds for the community garden, other days where I’m helping to negotiate a lease between a new merchant and a property owner, and others where I barely leave my desk as I deal with some of the administrative requirements of running a small non-profit.

5. In your opinion, what is the Partnership's biggest success? I guess I’d consider our biggest success the fact that with all of the economic development work we’ve done on Myrtle over the last decade, and with all the private and public money that we’ve helped to attract, that we’ve still managed to keep it a predominantly locally-owned retail strip with a high percentage of minority business owners. The corridor actually has a higher percentage (about 78% at the moment) of minority- and woman-owned businesses today than it did when MARP started. That, along with the fact that 97% of the businesses are still independent and locally owned, is evidence that MARP’s strategy of gradual, community-based economic development that has a strong grounding in preserving neighborhood character and context, can minimize the retail gentrification and small business displacement that can often accompany major economic development initiatives and the emphasis of new construction over the preservation of existing building stock.

6. What do you hope to see in the next ten years? I’m anxious to see the pedestrian plaza and major streetscape improvements we’ve spearheaded between Hall and Emerson completed (estimated to be done in about 3 years), and to see the remaining vacant lots along Myrtle and down by Flatbush get developed with attractive buildings. Other than that, I’d like to see Myrtle Avenue with a healthy retail mix, full of interesting, independent businesses, with the sidewalks fully planted with street trees large enough to provide a mature tree canopy, with all the historic buildings fully restored and all the storefronts with open-mesh security gates (or no gates), and fully-functioning and reliable B54 bus service.

7. Any advice for Phillipp Kellogg, the head of the new Fulton BID? Phillip and I know each other well, and I think the new Fulton BID is in very good hands. We’ve already spoken a few times since he started, and my staff and I are here to help Phillip in any way that we can. Once some of the basic BID services are up and running, I recommended that he work on raising some outside funding to help property owners rehabilitate some of the rundown historic buildings through matching grants, particularly on the Clinton Hill end of the avenue, and to work to fill those retail spaces with businesses to lower the vacancy rate and attract foot traffic.

8. What kind of services does the Partnership provide to local businesses on the avenue? The Partnership provides most of the traditional services that a BID provides (Maintenance/Sanitation, Marketing, and Beautification), plus a lot more due to the additional fundraising and programs that MARP is able to provide. The Partnership oversees the marketing program for the avenue, which includes everything from our branding campaign, ‘Home Grown & Locally Owned,' to special events like our recent ‘Move About Myrtle’ events on Sundays in September, to special promotions and programs like the Holiday Windows Contest, Explore Myrtle Avenue, the Myrtle Windows Gallery and our Public Sculpture Program.  We also created and manage the website, and our quarterly email newsletter and Facebook profile. The Partnership pays for sidewalk sweeping on Myrtle seven days a week, 14-hours a day, to keep the avenue clean and to prevent the garbage cans from overflowing, and we get graffiti removed once a month. We provide a lot of one-on-one assistance if a merchant is dealing with a problem with a city agency or utility company, and do what we can to cut the red-tape that they all inevitably face at one point or another. We provide a lot of assistance when it comes to new entrepreneurs looking for a retail space on Myrtle, and will help to negotiate leases with property owners that we know. We provide signage improvement matching grants of up to $1000, and façade improvement matching grants or interior build-out matching grants for historic buildings of up to $10,0000. We also have a summer youth mentorship program that currently places 15 high school students from Ingersoll, Whitman, and Farragut Houses at each of 15 Myrtle businesses. The Partnership pays their salaries for 20 hours/week, while the merchant provides supervision. A lot of our other programs are not necessarily direct assistance to businesses, but rather focus on the avenue as a whole as we continually work to draw more foot traffic to the retail corridor and improve its public space. For example, we facilitate the planting of new street trees, pay to have the young trees watered twice a week during the warm months, pay to have the tree pits weeded and mulched about twice a year, and do a lot of urban planning work and advocacy to improve the streetscape and transportation infrastructure in the area. We also have a Food Access Initiative, which has helped to start-up the Fort Greene CSA two years ago, spearheaded the creation of the Ingersoll Community Garden between Prince and Ashland, and is doing its best to attract a new supermarket down by Flatbush.

9. How can someone get involved with the Partnership?  Are there volunteer opportunities available? The MARP board actually has a few open seats available, and the nominating committee will be meeting with potential candidates over the coming months. So if you have a lot of energy, passion, and skills to devote to a local organization like MARP, I encourage people to get in touch with us so I can forward their resume to the board. We do have a lot of people get in touch with us expressing interest in volunteering, and we’ve honestly had a hard time leveraging all of this interest because we do not sufficient personnel to properly manage volunteers and potential projects that they could work on. In particular, we’ve had a lot of young professionals who work in the urban planning field approach us about creating a sort of a Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Urban Planner Corps that we can rely on to help us with facilitating Charrettes and community outreach projects, but again, we haven’t had the capacity to take this on yet. It would be great to have some help with this if any of your readers are particularly passionate about getting involved.

10. I won't ask you to pick an absolute favorite hangout given your position, but where do you like to grab a bite or relax locally? Well, I really try to mix it up a lot, given that I know how important it is to support the neighborhood’s independent businesses. And given that I work on Myrtle and live closer to Myrtle, I try and show a lot of love to DeKalb and Fulton on the weekends, and also tend to explore the other great neighborhoods of Brooklyn. I really can’t think of a place that I frequent a lot more than any other, with the exception of the Fort Greene GreenMarket every Saturday morning.

11. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why? I’d have to go with Cherry Garcia. Part yuppie, part hippie, with irregularly-shaped chocolate bits.

Myrtle Windows Being Painted for the Holidays!

Artists are beginning to paint their windows on Myrtle Ave storefronts.  Local artist and friend of CHB Ellie Balk will be painting on Sunday and invited readers to stop by: "HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS"

Please join me at Karen's Body Beautiful (MYRTLE-BTWN WAVERLY/CLINTON) this SATURDAY/SUNDAY as I create a "Stained Glass" Map on the front window for the MARP Myrtle Ave. Windows Project.

• Holiday windows will be on display through the end of December and all visitors and shoppers will be able to vote via text message for their favorite storefront design from Monday, November 23rd until Sunday, December 13th (winners will be announced shortly afterward).

The Project from Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP):  "We hope that this unique program will help to drive visitors to the avenue to view your works, and to support our merchants (the majority of whom are local, independent, small business owners) during this holiday season by shopping locally."

Ellie painted the beautiful mural on the side of Tillie's!

MARP Celebrates 10th Anniversary

MARPturns10 The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary on December 2 with food tastings, wine and live music.  The party is open to the community (tickets are required and can be purchased here).

So much of Myrtle Avenue's transformation is due to the amazing team at MARP.  I for one am grateful to have so many independent (and locally owned) businesses nearby.

Next week, CHB will chat with M. Blaise Backer, Executive Director of MARP, about his job, the organization and how to get more involved.

Designing the Myrtle Avenue Pedestrian Plaza

Plaza Bloga The deadline for the Myrtle Avenue Pedestrian Plaza Call for Ideas is TOMORROW.  (The service road near Bergen Bagel was chosen this past spring as a NYC DOT Public Plaza Project site.)

For more info on how to submit, check out the post on Myrtle Minutes.

MARP has also set up a Facebook group to follow the progress and to allow people to submit ideas, news and feedback.

As evidenced by the packed tables outside of Bergen Bagel during Move About Myrtle, this plaza will be well-used.

Myrtle Ave Wants Your Feedback!

The Myrtle Windows Gallery - displays of art in local businesses' windows - celebrates its first anniversary this weekend.  They'd like to hear from local residents about what worked and what didn't, and how to improve the program.  Here's some info from Myrtle Minutes: If you haven't had a chance to check out the fourth exhibition in the Myrtle Windows Gallery, make sure you do so this weekend! We'll be saying goodbye to this show, curated by Kennis Baptiste of The Rising Arts Gallery, next week. Come out to Tamboril (between Steuben and Grand) on Sunday from 4pm-9pm to celebrate this fantastic show that featured the works of ten Brooklyn artists in our MWG storefronts, as well as inside Pillow Cafe and Tamboril.

So, what did you think of MWG's first year? How did art in storefront windows impact your experience walking down Myrtle? We want to hear from you, so please send us your feedback! You can post comments here, or send them to Oh, and while you're touring this exhibition, remember to thank your Myrtle merchants who have generously donated their storefronts for the cause of promoting public art! I'm not sure if the holiday window painting was part of this program, but it was one of my favorite Myrtle Ave art projects!

holiday window painting at polish bar

Myrte Avenue Partnership Wins Placemaking Award

myrtlepc Congrats to the Myrtle Avenue Partnership on their recognition of the "Home Grown and Locally Owned" campaign.  We look forward to checking out the vendors highlighted in the upcoming Fall 2009 campaign!  (Also looking forward to the loyalty program- read below!)

FORT GREENE and CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, July 23, 2009—The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership (the Partnership) received the ‘Placemaking Award’ honor during the NYC Department of Small Business Services’ annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards ceremony at Gracie Mansion last week.  The Partnership was chosen from over 100 city-wide nominations for this honor, which recognized its Home Grown & Locally Owned campaign for the Myrtle Avenue retail corridor in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. According to the city’s criteria for ‘Placemaking’, the award “honors a completed project by an individual or organization which increases the visibility, stature and overall identity of a neighborhood, resulting in greater visitation and economic activity.”

Initially launched in January 2007, the Home Grown & Locally Owned branding campaign was created by the Partnership to showcase the Myrtle Avenue merchants in postcards, print and electronic advertising, and streetlight banners, in an effort to promote the neighborhood commercial strip and encourage nearby residents to support the local economy.  The campaign leverages the historic “Mom and Pop” character of Myrtle Avenue and strives to distinguish its mix of over 150 individual retailers by featuring the personal stories of entrepreneurs who have invested their time, energy and money in building their small business, and therefore the neighborhood, reminding shoppers of the familiar face and the personalized service they experience at a locally-owned business.  The campaign also serves as a call to local shoppers to invest in urban neighborhoods, helping to prevent the displacement of locally-owned businesses while ensuring continued opportunities for first-time entrepreneurs.

“The Home Grown & Locally Owned campaign reinforces the reality that the success of our small businesses and the vitality of our neighborhoods are closely intertwined,” commented Michael Blaise Backer, Executive Director of the Myrtle Avenue Partnership, who accepted the award at Gracie Mansion on Monday.  The campaign has increased local awareness of new business openings on Myrtle Avenue, broadened residents’ familiarity with local business owners, and increased daytime and evening foot traffic on the Avenue. A new phase of the Home Grown & Locally Owned campaign will be rolled out in September 2009, during a month-long celebration of the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project’s 10th anniversary.  In tandem, the Partnership plans to launch Myrtle Miles, an Avenue-wide loyalty card program, where shoppers will receive points and bonuses for their local Myrtle purchases.

Myrtle Ave Winner in NYC Plaza Program

A few years ago, MARP partnered with Project for Public Spaces to analyze a few places along the avenue in need of community feedback.  Community members were invited to participate and work together on potential solutions.  One of these spaces -- the service road on Myrtle Ave between Grand and Emerson -- was recently selected as a NYC Plaza Program site.  The program, run by the NYC DOT, aims to assure that every New Yorker is within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.  The DOT funds planning and construction of chosen sites. Congrats to them, and I look forward to seeing what's in store!

Reinventing the Public Space under the BQE

My coworker and neighbor, Aurash, attended last weekend's SpaceBuster event under the BQE.  Below, he reports on the event. -------------------------------------------------

We tend to forget, but the space under the BQE is ours. It’s one of the largest tracts of public space in our neighborhood, and it’s an eyesore.


On Saturday afternoon, the Space Buster landed in Clinton Hill to change that outlook. The Space buster is described on the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s website as “an inflatable bubble-like dome that… expands and organically adjusts to its surroundings.”


The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership (MARP) and the Storefront brought the Space Buster, designed by Raumlabor Berlin, to CH to house a workshop on the future of the space. When the workshop began, we quickly discovered that the din of automobiles will preclude any activity requiring intimate conversation from occupying the space, but we weren’t deterred, and a lively debate on other possible uses ensued. The facilitators from PRATT coaxed ideas out of us, including, but not limited to: •    Community Garden •    Skate Park •    Light Garden •    Swimming Pool •    Farmers/Flea Market •    Bike Lanes •    Movie Screening Space •    Art Space

A participant rendering from the event

A community garden seemed to be the use of choice, which I think is an ingenious idea. A community garden would help us meet our goals of becoming more sustainable by improving our local food supply, and sequestering CO2 and other emissions. A garden would also increase economic development, beautification, and create a destination out of the space under the BQE, which would unite both sides of Park Avenue, not divide them. The debate we had during the workshop was thoughtful, respectful, and visionary, what else would you expect from CH residents. But I challenge the community to think bigger than the ideas we came up with. Let’s try and transform the entire length of Park Avenue into a vibrant corridor, with the public space under the BQE as the river of activity that gives life to the now desolate avenue.

MARP has taken the lead, but the community can start actually transforming the space when the construction equipment is cleared out. Perhaps we can begin by initiating a clean up or guerilla gardening effort. Then we can begin programming the space. We can organize a skateboard contest or a film screening, for example. Those events may help us overcome the first large obstacle, which is envisioning a quality space along Park Avenue.

A participant rendering from the event

MARP plans on compiling all the data gathered at the workshop and submitting it to the NYCDOT. But we can’t wait for them to pick up the ball. Let’s start thinking about how to improve the space, and by doing so we will be ready to play a constructive role when the local government is ready to partner with us.

For more pictures about the Space Buster event, visit the MARP website.

Re-Imagine the Space Under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

I am very disappointed to say that I will be in California for a work event this weekend, and won't be able to attend this awesomely creative community workshop!  Please report back if you attend, and help reinvent the wasteland that is the space under the BQE! spacebuster

CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, April 20, 2009—The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and Storefront for Art and Architecture will host a community workshop in the space under the BQE on Park Avenue at Washington Avenue on Saturday, April 25th from 3-4:30pm inside SpaceBuster, a temporary public art installation created by German architecture firm raumlaborBerlin. The Partnership invites residents and other stakeholders to participate by brainstorming creative permanent and temporary uses and physical improvements with the help of volunteer facilitators from Pratt Institute’s Planning program.  The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required, as space is limited.

The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and Storefront for Art and Architecture bring Spacebuster, a mobile inflatable art installation, to the Wallabout area of Clinton Hill on Saturday, April 25th, to help kick off a community planning process for the future of the area under the BQE. Spacebuster, created by the Berlin-based architecture collective raumlaborberlin, is designed to temporarily occupy open urban spaces such as squares, parking lots, and green spaces with a primary function to serve as a location for community events. Join the Partnership under the BQE, to submit your ideas for short- and long-term physical improvements, temporary or permanent programming ideas, or anything that will enhance the space, which has long been regarded as an eyesore in the community. The event is free but space is limited, so RSVPs are requested at if you plan to attend.

“SpaceBuster provides the perfect setting for this workshop, allowing us to bring people together in the underutilized space at the center of this discussion,” explains Meredith Phillips Almeida, the Partnership’s Director of Community Development. The pavilion itself is comprised of an inflatable bubble-like dome that emerges from its self-contained compressor housing, and expands and organically adjusts to its surroundings, like a highway overpass. The material is a sturdy, specially-designed translucent plastic, allowing the varying events taking place inside of the shelter to be entirely visible from the outside and likewise the exterior environments become the events’ backdrops. This is the most recent project under the Partnership’s Arts & Enterprise Initiative, a multi-faceted program to establish the avenue as an access point to cultural activities for community members of diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Through efforts to bring public sculpture, art installations, studio art, and creative street furniture elements to the public spaces and sidewalks of the district, the Initiative aims to increase access to art for the entire community, and to support small business by driving foot traffic to the commercial corridor.

Sponsored by Storefront for Art and Architecture, the SpaceBuster will travel throughout New York City hosting various community events from April 17th to the April 26thFounded in 1982, Storefront for Art and Architecture is a nonprofit organization committed to the advancement of innovative positions in architecture, art and design. As a public forum for emerging voices, Storefront explores vital issues in art and architecture with the intent of increasing awareness of and interest in contemporary design. For the complete SpaceBuster schedule visit


Meredith Phillips Almeida, Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, (718) 230-1689 or

Joseph Grima, Storefront for Art & Architecture, 212.431.5755 or

MARP Seeking Artists for New Installation

MARP will continue its very cool Myrtle Windows Gallery Exhibition and has extended a call for artists!  If interested, you must act fast.  The application deadline is Friday, February 13! Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership Seeks Submissions for Our Upcoming Myrtle Windows Gallery Exhibition

Myrtle Windows Gallery (MWG) is an open air art gallery that ‘breaks down the walls’ of the traditional private art gallery to bring two-dimensional art to the public arena via the storefront window, where it is accessible to anyone simply walking down the street. Ten Myrtle Avenue storefronts temporarily transform part of their windows into gallery space for the works of local artists. The initiative helps bring together artists, local businesses, and the community in a dialogue about art in public spaces.

Installation System The installation system serves to create a uniform look that unifies the exhibit, and displays work in a way that does not damage the merchant’s space or the work itself. The system includes a solar shade to provide a clean backdrop for the artwork while maintaining light and view through to the interior of the shop. A cable hanging system allows the artwork to hang in the window in front of the shade. The Partnership will not provide insurance to cover the art during this exhibition; however, the artist has the option to secure his/her own policy to cover theft or damage to the works while installed in the storefronts.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria MWG seeks ten (10) existing two-dimensional works of art (paintings, prints, photographs, collage, mixed media etc.) that can be easily installed in each of ten storefronts windows. Preference will be given to local artists whose work captures or is inspired by urban life. If the artist chooses to offer pieces for sale the Partnership will receive a commission on each sale, to be negotiated with the artist prior to the exhibit. Given that community accessibility is a key component of the mission of this initiative, we hope to exhibit works at a broad range of prices.

Application Process The following materials must be received by Friday, February 13, 2009 at 5pm at: Myrtle Windows Gallery, 472 Myrtle Avenue, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11205 • Complete contact information including name, address, telephone and email address • CD of images of the works to be included in the exhibition, with index listing title, medium and dimensions for each • Narrative description of the collection of works to be included in the exhibition • Current Resume and artist statement

Artists will be notified by February 18, 2009, and installation will take place beginning February 23, 2009.

Click here for photos from our last Myrtle Windows Gallery Exhibition, with works by artist Anne Lafond.

Please email with questions.

Myrtle Ave Holiday Window Painting: TOMORROW

I was finally able to meet one of my contacts at MARP - Jennifer Stokes- in person earlier this week!  She and all the folks at MARP have been going above and beyond with innovative programming in our neighborhood. Tomorrow, artists will paint and decorate the windows of local businesses for the holiday season!  Passers-by will be able to vote for their favorite via text message.  This is a great opportunity to take a stroll, grab some lunch, a cocktail or some hot cocoa, and do some holiday shopping locally.

Here's the complete press release:

Join us this Saturday, 12/6 as local artists bring holiday cheer to Myrtle storefronts using paint and lights!


Myrtle Holiday Windows Contest: A New Spin on a Popular Holiday Tradition

Watch as Local Artists Bring Sixteen Storefront Windows on Myrtle Avenue to Life with Festive Holiday Scenes!

FORT GREENE and CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, December 3, 2008 – On Saturday, December 6th from noon to 5pm, seventeen storefronts along Myrtle Avenue spanning from Washington Park to Classon Avenue will come to life with holiday spirit as part of the first annual Myrtle Holiday Windows Contest. The contest will bring local artists to Myrtle to create festive holiday scenes on a portion of each participating merchant's storefront window using paint and holiday lights. Residents and shoppers will be able to vote for their favorite holiday window via text message up until Christmas Day, and the winning artist or team of artists will receive $250 in Myrtle Avenue gift certificates as a prize. Take a stroll down Myrtle this Saturday, and watch the transformation take place! This project is sponsored by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership (the Partnership) as part of their ongoing effort to bring art to public spaces to draw more people to the retail corridor, and is supported in part by a generous donation from the PrattStore.

The Myrtle Holiday Windows Contest is the newest installment in the innovative Myrtle Windows Gallery program, which brings two-dimensional art traditionally limited to the private gallery to the public arena via the storefront window where it is accessible to anyone walking down the street. The Holiday Windows Contest creatively uses the storefront window as canvass to bring art to the community, holiday cheer to the avenue, and shoppers to Myrtle.

All the painting will take place during five hours beginning at noon this Saturday, December 6th, creating a sort of live art performance where the art-making is as much part of the excitement as the final product! All are invited to come out and watch the holiday magic happen. The following businesses are participating in the contest (listed in order travelling from west to east on Myrtle between Washington Park and Classon Avenue): Fort Greene SNAP (329 Myrtle); Ray's Barber Shop (331 Myrtle); Gnarly Vines (350 Myrtle); Burzh-wa (352 Myrtle); Kinara II (368 Myrtle); The Bakery (154 Vanderbilt); Duncan's Fish Market (385 Myrtle); Kiini Ibura (388 Myrtle); Kapella's (417 Myrtle); Karen's Body Beautiful (436 Myrtle); Jive Turkey (441 Myrtle); Joseph Tyler Salon (456 Myrtle); Barking Brown (468 Myrtle); Zaytoons (472 Myrtle); Optimum Care Rehab (474 Myrtle); Pillow Cafe (505 Myrtle); Square Root Café (584 Myrtle).

Special signage posted in each window will instruct viewers on how to cast a vote for their favorite holiday window via text message. The 'polls' will be open from December 6th through December 25th, when the winner will be announced on our website at The painted windows will be on display through early January.

"We're excited to put our own spin on holiday storefront windows traditionally seen in larger department stores, bringing cheer to Myrtle Avenue in a fun, unique way. We are proud to have professional artists, art students, and even local school teachers and students participating in this project. This is a wonderful expression of not just holiday spirit, but community involvement as well," explains Meredith Phillips Almeida, the Partnership's Director of Community Development. The Partnership hopes this contest will boost foot traffic to Myrtle Avenue during the holiday shopping season, and is encouraging residents to support the area's small businesses by shopping local during these tough economic times.

Myrtle Ave Holiday Windows Contest!

From MARP, who has extended their entry deadline for this program: We're still looking for artists for our inaugural Holiday Windows Contest! We've added a prize to sweeten the deal: the winning artist/team of artists will receive a packet of gift certificates totaling $250, valid at participating Myrtle Avenue businesses! See below for details on how to apply. Send us your holiday window ideas! _____________________________________ Calling all artists, art teachers, art students, and other artistically talented folks! This is a fun and simple way for you to share your talents with the entire community during this holiday season! We re starting a new holiday tradition on Myrtle Avenue the Myrtle Holiday Windows contest! We re looking for local artists who are willing to help us bring some holiday cheer to the avenue by using temporary paint and holiday lights to create festive storefront windows. We ll supply up to $100 for paint, brushes and lights. The art-making is as much part of the excitement as the final product! All the painting will take place on Saturday, 12/6 from noon to 5pm, and we ll invite visitors and shoppers to come out and watch the storefronts come to life! People will be able to vote via text message for their favorite, and the winning designers will be featured on our website. The art will be displayed until early January 2009. See details on how to apply below. Applications are due by Sunday, November 16th. Please share with others who might be interested! Guidelines: -Preference will be given to local artists. -Artists muse use the removable paint and LED lights provided by the Partnership (all products applied to the windows must be removable and must not damage the glass in any way). Painting will take place on the INSIDE surface of the storefront window.

-The Partnership will supply lights, paint and brushes totaling no more than $100 per storefront. -If selected, artists must commit to painting their assigned window on Saturday, December 6 between 12 and 5pm. -Final designs must be approved by the participating merchant, and artists are strongly encouraged to communicate with merchants during final design process (we'll facilitate communication). How to apply to become a Myrtle Holiday Windows ARTIST: Please send the following VIA EMAIL to

1. Name, address, telephone and email contact information 2. Select up to three Myrtle Avenue businesses that you would like to work with (or you can let us pair you with a Myrtle merchant if you don t have a preference) 3. In 350 words or less, tell us about your proposed design ideas for the storefront window. All designs must be done using temporary paint and incorporate holiday lights, and should reflect a holiday theme. Sketches are not required, but feel free to send one. Be creative! 4. Photos or links to examples of your past work Please apply ASAP! We hope to confirm all artists by Friday, November 21st.