Free Trees!

If you missed the wildly popular free tree giveaway through the FAB Alliance and the Million Trees NYC initiative this past spring, you'll have another opportunity on October 23 in Bed Stuy, at  Bed Stuy's Restoration Plaza: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Tree Giveaway Saturday, October 23, 2010 1:00pm – 3:00pm Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation 1368 Fulton Street Brooklyn, NY 11216

The Brooklyn Free Store

freestore1-e1280455683502-150x150 Writing in this space has become such a big part of my life, so I'm going to continue posting when the spirit moves me.

Anyhow, Mr. LH and I have been making regular trips to the Home Depot in Bed Stuy (yes, I know it's a mess, but they do have most things in one giant store, at least when they're not out of what we need, which happens regularly), and on several occasions I've noticed something interesting on Walworth Street across from the west side of the store parking lot - a makeshift tent filled with stuff and a giant sign that reads, "The Brooklyn Free Store."  I've been almost jumping out of my skin to go take photos of it and poke around.  And then I remember that I didn't say I'd never post here again!  So on our last trip, I jogged over to see what was up.

Surprisingly, the tent was filled with some decent stuff - clothing, some nice handbags, a decent collection of books.

freestore2-150x150 freestore3-150x150

There was no one nearby, and I didn't take anything.  Although I'm pretty sure the whole point is to take-something-and-leave-something in some kind of hipster experiment.  I Googled "Brooklyn Free Store" and came up with some references to something like this in Williamsburg in the early aughts that has since closed.

Are the same people behind this?  Have you ever "purchased" anything from this store?

Area Antiques: Mercantile Gallery

Received this email from a reader awhile back and realized  I never posted it: I did a little walking around in the rain today and came across an amazing store of antiques - full of quality RESTORED antiques. I spent some time talking to the owner, a very nice man, Ken. He's been in Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy for a long time but doesn't advertise. He certainly had some beautiful pieces and very fairly priced (a tall 5 drawer, curved front, oak dresser - $300!).

Just wanted to point out another resource! -g

Mercantile Gallery 1055 Fulton Street (Near Bedford)

Google street view shows them closed, but it's not clear if they were just closed at that time.

Have you been?  How's the selection?


Those Huge Bikes

Have you ever seen one of those oddly tall bicycles? 450px-Tallbike-150x150

I've always wondered how someone mounts and dismounts.

Awhile back, someone told me that these bikes were made in western Bed-Stuy, just over the Clinton Hill border.  The organization of people who make or ride these bikes (or both), Black Label NYC, were at least once located at Willoughby and Sanford.

Are they still there?

CHB Visits Black Swan

(I'm not going to label this a "review," since I went to dinner to catch up with friends and wasn't there in the mindset to be thinking critically about it.  But it was tasty so I thought it deserved a post!) A few weeks ago, Mr. Lesterhead and I met up with friends who live just across the CH / BS border.  They had been raving about Black Swan on Bedford Ave, saying they'd been there "almost every night" since it opened.  It's just over the neighborhood border and the photos we've seen have look great, so we decided we'd check it out.

The place is gorgeous!  Great inside decor, a nice outdoor seating area, a great selection of beers on tap (milk stout, which someone recommended in an earlier post, is indeed delicious).  On the night we dined I tried the evening's special, which was fish and chips. I love the standard F+C fare, but this was a special interpretation.  The fish was fried in what almost seemed like a light tempura and was wonderfully seasoned.


We split the coconut flan and the apple tart for dessert.  This is the latter - delicious.


Mr. L's only critique was the booth's wood benches, which were just a little too shallow to sit totally comfortably (and I wouldn't have noticed on my own).

Overall, a great new addition to the neighborhood!

Black Swan 1048 Bedford Ave @ Lafayette

PACC Gardening Event

Emily at PACC emailed me a little roundup of their Earth Day planting event with some photos:

Pratt Area Community Council celebrated Earth Day with its second annual gardening event on Saturday, April 17th. Last year tenants, PACC staff and volunteers spruced up Gibb Mansion's gardens for Earth Day. This year, on a cloudy morning, more than 25 volunteers joined tenants and staff at 15 Quincy Street to get their hands dirty "greening" one of PACC's affordable rental buildings. The team turned over garden beds in front and in back of the building, then planted flowers and trees including arborvitae, coreopsis, petunias, marigolds, flowering plum and cherry trees. Walk by the building on Quincy or Lexington to see what a difference a few hours of gardening makes!

A Gastro-Pub for Western Bed Stuy

Bed-Stuy Blog tipped me off to this brand-new gastropub open on Bedford near Lafayette called Black Swan. The menu was designed by former Brown Betty chef Cynthia Walker. (more on Brown Betty in our next post).  Man, this place looks amazing.  Has anyone tried it yet? I have some friends who lived near here in 2001 and I bet they'd be shocked to come back now.

Student Art Show at the Y

Students of the Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School are showing off their creative masterpieces at a show at the Bed-Stuy Y.  The opening reception was last week, but the exhibition will be up until March 25, and is a mix of photography, abstract painting, and graphic design done by 9th-12th graders at the school. The show is open to all and you do not need to be a Y member to check it out.

Y: Going Downhill?

Is it just me, or has the Bed-Stuy Y gone downhill?  Don't get me wrong- it's still a great value.  But when I joined, it was cleaner, less machines were broken, and you could actually ask the front desk staff a question.  Now the place is bursting at its seams (and it's not just the New Year Resolutioners- it's been packed for months now).  I can never even get a class schedule since the wait at the front desk takes ages, they're out of paper towels, stuff is duct-taped together, and the locker room is smelling like a musty, moldy pool.  Maybe they were overwhelmed with new members in the last year?

Honor System Fresh Foods

My boyfriend was on his way to the C station recently and as he headed up Franklin Ave. he saw something puzzling and, as he put it, "so f---ing cute," near the intersection of Monroe and Franklin. Remember that old house that was profiled in the City Section of The Times a few months ago? It was the cover story, and was written by the woman who lived in the house? She found century-old objects in a tunnel underneath it? Well, now she and whoever else lives there are gardening and harvesting and selling to the neighborhood...using the honor stand When I went to check it out, there was no one around, just an adorable farm-stand set up, some basil and sage in water, a big bushel of light purple kale, a very large fennel stalk with a small bulb and a huge bushel of lemongrass. (It said "figs" on the sign, but I didn't see any.) I waited around to see if a person would appear, but they didn't. So I put a dollar in the mailbox, chose the fennel after many (what felt like minutes) of uncertainty, and hopped down the street.

I hope the experiment in community friendliness works. I watched from afar for a few minutes and I didn't see any funny business. I didn't see anyone buy anything either.

But I've got a beautiful fennel stalk with soft leaves! What will I do with it??


Another Local Bike Shop

Like many industries in the 'hood, it seems like we've gone from desert to oasis.  Case on point: bike shops.  Bicycle Station has moved from Prospect Heights to Wallabout, while Bespoke opened a few months ago on Lafayette in Fort Greene. A reader recently emailed me endorsing an east-side bike shop:

I ride a bicycle...I think bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation in the city...And bike shops should be our hero's.  All too often we walk into bike shops and are met with cocky owners and mechanics who once realize you're not REALLY going to spend any money ignore you or give you some lip.  I take pride in my purchasing power as should everyone when penny pinching becomes the standard...anyway...Lit Fuse Cyclery is located on Willoughby and Walworth right across from the Home Depot...The owners there are the most down to earth guys I've ever met...It's the only shop that has couches everywhere to just hang out...and they can fix any bike you can possibly get your hands on...not to mention if you hang out while they fix your bike they'll most times coach you on proper bicycle repair and SHOW you what's right and wrong...that may seem counterproductive on their part but these guys aren't in it for the money...they are all about self sustaining and believe in empowering everyone to fix their own rides they've invested money I said...they actually care...

Bike shops come and go....and these guys don't deserve to go.  If you ride a bike you should stop in yourself.

The services are cheap...product installations are almost free...and they have all the cool stuff you need...fenders, baskets, accessories, etc.

Has anyone checked out Lit Fuse?  If so, is it as heavenly as my tipster reports?  Anyone with a bike on the eastern end of the 'hood might want to check it out.  Per their website, they also rent bikes, which is pretty cool.  Not sure if any of the other local shops offer this service - and what a great thing to do locally when you have out of town guests visiting!


CHB Reviews: Umi Nom

On Friday, Will and I hit up the new Umi Nom on DeKalb just past Classon. from the street

I like that they've retained the old laundry sign and added their logo.

Will asked beforehand if I had made reservations, and I said, "Reservations in the neighborhood?  Nawww."  Heh.  Umi Nom does indeed take reservations and when we arrived, there was already a 15-20 minute wait for a table inside the narrow restaurant space.  Not a big deal, but not something I'm used to facing locally!

inside umi nom

Umi Nom doesn't have a liquor license for now, so it's BYOB.  (Also, like many new restaurants, it's also cash only.  I've become accustomed to this, but it's still annoying.)

Will ran out to buy some wine, and we chilled out at the small bar in front waiting for our table.

We ended up being seated at the front window.

The menu is small plates, varied in price.  The waiter (who, by the way, was by far the friendliest waiter I have ever encountered in the neighborhood) recommended two plates per person, which range from around $5 to $13 (with one whole fish dish topping out at $21).  We decided on the spring rolls, the jalapeno lollipop wings, pad see ew, and the asian greens.

As a starter, the waiter brought us two complimentary fried crab won tons, which were delicious!

fried wontons

spring roll and lollipop wings

The spring rolls were giant, and came with a sweet / spicy sauce (spicier than the usual orange thai sauce).  The veggies were delicious, slathered in garlic and salt and some other seasonings we couldn't place.  The wings, though, were a bit bland.  They were covered in jalapeno slices and a deep fried coating, but didn't come with any sauce.  We ended up dipping them in the spring roll sauce.

For dessert, we went with the chocolate chili cake.  It was a little twist on the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake, with a little bit of chili spice and a fruity topping.

chili chocolate cake

Before tip, the meal totaled about $48.

Pros: Excellent service, nice variety on menu, BYO (for now) Cons: On the expensive side, cash only (for now)

Umi Nom is located across from the projects and adjacent to fast food takeout with bulletproof glass.  Yet the place was packed.  We definitely felt like we were in the midst of an intriguing sociological crossroads.  (Sputnik and Rustik are both close by.)

Umi Nom 433 DeKalb Ave at Classon 718-789-8806

Sweet Revenge: an Overview

On Franklin in between Greene and Lexington resides a watering hole with charm called Sweet Revenge. Here are co-owners Courtney and Christine:


These lovely entrepreneurs and I did not get to spend a tremendous amount of time speaking about Sweet Revenge itself when I visited this past Friday; however, we did get to do two things that I think sum up how cool this bar is: drink and arm wrestle.  The contests of physical strength to accompany our beverages were due to an all-ladies' arm wrestling tournament.  Thankfully, I was able to participate because of the the occasional co-ed exhibition match.  I barely eked out a win over Christine, but now I can barely raise my arm over my head.  Anyway, back to the bar.


Sweet Revenge has an early sixties decor with exposed brick walls and the occasional touch of bamboo.  The bartenders are friendly and the clientele are a wonderful mix of locals.  The space also offers an outdoor patio in the back that has an increase in value every day the weather gets nicer.   This place has a much different vibe than something you'd find over on Dekalb, but that does not mean that SR doesn't know how to party.  I have seen this place packed to the brim with patrons shaking booty to whatever DJ Sweet Revenge has chosen to host on a particular night.


I'm sure the dancing is inspried mostly by whoever is behind the 1s and 2s; however, some of its exuberance must be attributed to the libations that SR has to offer.  Sweet Revenge's drinks are extremely reasonable and the breadth of what they have to offer runs deep (from the tap to their whiskey and tequila selections).  Their Happy Hour is extremely long -- it runs from 5-9pm -- and offers specials such as a bottle of Bud and a shot of Powers for $7, or $4 well drinks.  Also, the crew at Sweet Revenge are quite the bunch of creative mixolgists,offering their own personal creations like "the white beagle" (bison grass vodka and apple juice) or "the soft opening" (citrus vodka and pink lemonade with freshly squeezed lemons), both for $6.  A main staple of my diet at SR are pints of Amerberbock for $3.

Basically, Sweet Revenge is a place where all can relax and rejoice in true Dionysian fashion.  The address is listed below and I hope to see you there.

348 Franklin Ave Brooklyn, NY 11238 (718) 398-2472‎ Opens every day at 5pm.

Volunteering at Gibb Mansion

On Saturday, I joined a crowd of volunteers to help landscape the Gibb Mansion.  The event, held in celebration of Earth Day, was coordinated by a new volunteer group called Young Friends of PACC.  Comprised of neighbors in their 20s and 30s, the group is dedicated to engaging younger community members around issues such as affordable housing and economic development. I've written about the mansion before, but PACC Executive Director Deb Howard provided some in-depth background before we started (and while we enjoyed pastries from Michael Allen Desserts - thanks, guys!).


The mansion was built in 1852 as a mansion for John Gibb, a lace manufacturer.  Over the years, it served as a fancy hotel, an orphanage and later as a short stay hotel before falling into serious blight.  In 1998, the building was sold at a bankruptcy auction and purchased by a welfare hotel.  The block association was unhappy with the thought of a welfare hotel on their street, and PACC negotiated a purchase.  Soon after, the building's facade collapsed.

The renovation was completed in 2003.

gibb mansion, bed-stuy

Today, the mansion houses low-income individuals, people with chronic diseases, and the formerly homeless.  Each resident lives in a small studio apartment, and the building is equipped with a library and a gym.  The mansion staff includes social workers, an art therapist and even an acupuncturist.


Our task was landscaping the front and side of the building, as well as building a raised bed to be used a vegetable garden for the mansion's residents.



News Channel 12 came out to cover the event. Here's PACC's Michelle Etwaroo giving an interview: DSC_0074.JPG

Gorgeous weather and great people. Not to mention a chance to get my hands dirty. DSC_0073.jpg

Sounds of Fulton

Have you ever stepped off the Franklin ave. C train and wondered where those sultry sounds to the west were coming from?  Some might be surprised to learn it's a record shop.  It is owned and presided over by an extremely nice gentleman by the name of Israel.  The shop exists underground and has a vigil knight in armor guarding its steps.  The treasure trove of wax that awaits you at the bottom of the stairs contains a collection of Soul, Jazz, R & B, Funk, and Pop records to make any audiophile's mouth water.

I spoke to Israel about the shop and he explained that it started as a thrift store, but the records just naturally took over as full time merchandise.  The store has been open for 13 years and Israel has been in the neighborhood for 30.  His uncle used to own the building on top of the store and at one point that building was also where Israel resided.  The record store is operated by a true music enthusiast and it showed -- he was unable to tell me what some of his favorite records were.  I should know better by now than to ask a question like that but the temptation always arises out of an irresistible curiosity.

As a fan of Jazz, I couldn't help but gravitate towards an LP of a live session at the Village Vanguard that featured the likes of Chick Corea and Elvin Jones.  The shop has quite a range of material: Coltrane, the Eisley Brothers, Michael Jackson, and even a rare Batman (circa Adam West) soundtrack that Israel made sure I got a picture of.  This record shop is committed to nostalgia in an enticing way.  Israel has collected a tremendous amount of original pressings by buying other people's collections (the first collection he bought was his brother's).  He will let the other guys fiddle with reissues and compact discs.

I suggest that anyone with a phonograph, record player, turn table (or whatever you call it) to head over to Israel's shop.  It is located on Fulton street just west of the Franklin ave. C train stop.  It's open from 12-8 everyday except for Saturday and on Fridays it usually closes by sundown.  As Israel will remind you, just watch your head when leaving the shop.

Goodbye Blue Monday

Goodbye Blue Monday is an unpretentiously weird bar/café/internet hub that sits on the border of Bed Stuy and Bushwick (the management is now terming this ‘Bushstuy’). While this fact would otherwise remain unremarkable, what makes GBM worth checking out is its position in the local, national and international music scene as a go-to place to book a quick gig in New York (every musician for miles knows this). The bar hosts nightly free music of all varieties—I saw a weird progressive freejazz group, followed by a more traditional upright bass and saxophone duo, a few Tuesdays ago. The bands/shows the club books are as eclectic and eccentric as the interior decorating, which is mostly a randomly arranged mishmash of retro collectibles, thrift store furnishings and nostalgia-inducing signage (flotsam and jetsam, anyone?). I’ve seen everything from indie rock to solo acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, sad bastard to glitchy noise at GBM. Once my band even played a show there on a second outdoor stage, while a strange mixture of circus/cabaret thing happened in the front room.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that this somewhat under-the-radar little gem is right here in our neck of Brooklyn. Definitely worth stopping by, sipping a Red Stripe and watching whatever happens to be going down on stage.

Goodbye Blue Monday

1087 Broadway Brooklyn, NY 11221

Collecther Featured on Brooklyn Based!

collecther, franklin ave One of the coolest stores in the neighborhood, Collecther, was featured last week on the e-newsletter Brooklyn Based!  Owner Shana Jackson is now selling her own designs in addition to cultivated vintage finds.  "Recessionista Sundays" now feature a 25% discount off of everything in the store, plus steep discounts on dresses.

I've purchased a few really awesome accessories here.  Check out the store's blog for some great photos of shoppers!

Collecther 306 Franklin Ave nr Lafayette Bed-Stuy, 347-658-7857, Tues-Sat 12-8, Sunday 12-6.

"Barack Obama: A Collection of Portraits" opens at The Gallery @ Exotic Home Gardens

A new art show on Atlantic Avenue, with works by five local artists, focuses on the man, the myth, the legend: Barack Obama.  The show was organized by Jean Patrick Icart Pierre and included his work as well as pieces by Rico Anderson, John M. Graham, Jean Dominique Volcy, and Nandi Icart Pierre.  I spoke to Jean Patrick and he said he didn't take more than a couple phone calls to gather interest and set this project in motion.  As you'll see by the photos from the exhibition, the portraits are an eclectic mix that range from renderings of Obama the super hero to a dignified grey scale work. The opening itself was a very pleasant wine and cheese and vegetable dip affair.  The exhibition will continue until February 28th.  I suggest that everyone attend and support the local talent that, through their artwork, are promulgating Obama's mantras of hope and change.

(photos by Carrie Ford and David Hamiter)

The Gallery @ Exotic Home Gardens 1213A Atlantic Ave Brooklyn NY( between Bedford & Nostrand Ave) 718-230-1536 January 17th-February 28th.

Support a Local Gay Business (Even if You’re not Gay!)

When Jessica Wolvek was growing up, she never saw a wedding in her future, because she knew she was gay, and the possibility of a woman marrying another woman was not a possibility in that era. Ironically enough, she now makes the wedding dreams of (mostly) heterosexual women happen as a floral designer, producing the floral arrangements for their weddings and receptions. She gained her expertise in floral design when she was living in Japan in the early ‘90s, teaching English as a Second Language. As it happened, a national floral design champion lived in the same town, and Jessica was given the opportunity to study the art of floral design (ikebana) with her. When she moved to San Francisco after her stint in Japan, she managed to hone her skills working for a highly recognized floral designer there. When she returned to her hometown of Brooklyn, she started experimenting with doing floral design for her friends’ weddings, When she received standing ovations at the weddings for her work, she realized she could make a go of starting her own floral design business. She started her business, FLEURS, three years ago, after many years of working very unhappily in NYC government. She runs Fleurs from her beautiful Bed-Stuy brownstone. Jessica finds it extremely fulfilling to work closely with brides making their special day become a reality. And, her impossible dream has come true for herself – Jessica will be having her own wedding after all. She will be marrying (of course not legally) her long-time partner this June, the ceremony will be taking place at Fire Island. You can see example of Jessica’s work, the press she has received, and get contact information at her website: