A/C Trains to Stay Running (Instead of Becoming Fish Colonies)

Ugh. I often feel like the A/C line will be the very last to see new train cars.  And now that suspicion is validated.  AM NY recently reported that the MTA's decided to keep them in service even longer than scheduled, instead of tossing them into the ocean.  I'm sure the G is not even in the plan for new trains. How nice are those super new trains that show all of the upcoming stops (and thus can be programmed for any line, instead of having to see the "this route not in service" light on the 4,5 when you're in a 1,2,3 car)?  The only thing I don't like about them is the fact that they all have their letter / number in red on the front car.  Part of the fun is seeing the colored circle rounding the corner into the station.

Police "Sting" on the B38

This in recently from a disgruntled reader: This morning I was waiting for the B38 at the corner of Classon and DeKalb. As usual when it came, it was packed - or at least the front half was. Every time I get on the bus, we are all squeezing into the front because nobody moves back. On the rare occasion, the bus driver asks that people move back, but nobody ever does. I missed the first bus this morning as there was no room to get on and waited 15 minutes for the next one to come. Again, the front was packed, so I joined about 15 people who got on at the back of the bus. I am not trying to avoid paying the fare - I buy my monthly ticket every month for over 6 years now - I am simply trying to get to work on time. About 6 undercover cops got on the bus and asked everyone who walked on through the back door to get off. They held us there for about 20 minutes while they checked our identification and wrote us all tickets for $100 for trying to evade the fare. One man was taken away in handcuffs - I heard him say he was a felon and I believe he had an outstanding warrant or something.

I have mixed feelings about this. I mean, why are the cops spending time on this?  Then again, fare evasion costs the MTA millions of dollars every year.  Then again, I'm sure some if not most of these riders were MetroCard holders who just needed to get to work.

In the six years I've lived here, the B38 has been consistently effed up when it comes to rush hour.  I'm not sure why they can't get the timing right.  If it was me who had been stopped by the cops, I'd be pissed.  Maybe Tish James can help make this route function better.

Have You Seen a Giant Penis on the G?

Some days, the CHB inbox cracks me up.  Here's a recent note:

To Whom it may concern:

Pratt student David Livingston has been performing his absurdist art piece Big Dick in the city for the past sever months. The artist wears a 6' long flaccid felt penis that he sewed and stuffed with sofa upholstery. All of his video art pieces thus far have taken place in various New York City neighborhoods. This time he rides the Brooklyn G train and the A train into Manhattan.

I have to admit, the video is pretty funny.

The Very Happy G Train Conductor

Every now and then, I get on a train that has a very enthusiastic conductor.  It's nice to not only hear the announcements, but to also get a little something extra. My neighbor sent me a link to this very jovial G train conductor making station announcements at 4am, which is pretty amazing.  Have you ever been on his train?

I haven't ever heard this guy (I can safely say I have never, ever ridden the G at 4am), although I do usually end up on the same morning C train and recognize the conductor's very specific pronunciation.

Do you have a favorite local train conductor?

Four Downer Weekends Begin Tonight

No G service at all for the next FOUR weekends.  Of course, there'll be a shuttle bus.  But still. Looks like the A is running on the C line this wknd, so at least that's running.  Last wknd we had a shuttle down the Fulton corridor, which sucked (especially since the 2,3 was also screwy).

Not related to Clinton Hill specifically, but if you happen to be a web developer, the MTA just made their meta data available.  Maybe someone in the 'hood can come up with an app that makes tracking this stuff easier.

B38: Still Crappy

My new job necessitates taking the R train at DeKalb, so I am back to taking the B38 (at least on days when I am wearing heels).  Today, I saw a huge crowd waiting for the bus and groaned.  And then four (yes, FOUR) B38s pulled up, all in a row.  Seriously?  They still haven't worked this out? And btw, why does the B38 now turn down Ashland?  Is it because of the new building construction? $!@&!!!

CHB Interviews: Theresa King, Myrtle El Photographer

1. Where in Brooklyn did you grow up? Tell us a little about the Brooklyn childhood experience. Until I was seven years old, we lived in Bedford Stuyvesant as tenants in a brownstone. My father then took a position in Brighton Beach where we lived for many years and where I graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. I then left Brighton and spent some years on Clinton Avenue, Franklin Avenue and Atlantic Avenue which was my last apartment in Brooklyn.

As a child and young adult, I recall the warmth of the different neighborhoods, the feeling of extended family, the variety of images, street games, schools, - the local candy stores where we were always made to feel welcome, the unique vistas from each neighborhood and most certainly the diversity of the population. Is there a Brooklynite of my generation who can ever forget the delicious smells from the local bakeries? Brooklyn is an awakening of the senses and a unique, diverse and special universe of its own and I am proud to have been raised there.

2. How was the El different from the subway? Did people prefer one or the other?

The elevated trains brought light, air and street life to those riding them. One was no longer on a subway under the ground where dark walls, fellow passengers and Ms. Subways and other ads were your only companions.  Indeed our subways take us quickly from one station to another while we read, doze, study, and often use the time in many productive ways.  We are still underground individuals waiting for our stop so that we can get out, go upstairs and see the light of day.

I found the El a different experience. Much like a painting or a poem simply looking out of the windows at the passing scenery - the small apartment buildings so close that you could see folks eating at the kitchen table, almost touch the oil cloth on the tables and linoleum on the floors and imagine yourself part of this unknown family.  Sometimes the profusion of television antennas on the roofs became a picture in itself. Then there were the distant views - office buildings large and small, and of course the people walking, the young girls and other family members looking out of a window for hours at a time. They always had a small pillow to lean on and I used to wonder, "what are they thinking, what are their dreams, who are they" - these strangers who live among us, but with the constant rumble of a train going past them. Do they even notice us as we notice them? Do they even hear the El anymore?  There are still some elevated portions of subway lines operating and I enjoy riding them. I still think of the people in those buildings and still think and visualize scenes and life around them. As for preference, I can only guess. The dreamers and visualizes among us, I imagine still love the elevated trains that remain. 3. What do you remember about Clinton Hill and Fort Greene during the days of the El? Have you been back to Myrtle Avenue recently? If so, has anything remained the same?

I haven't lived in Brooklyn since the 1970's. I still recall lovely brownstones on Clinton Avenue, businesses on Myrtle Avenue, and the struggles, successes and kindness of the people who lived there. In connection with the photo exhibit at the New York Transit Museum, Sunday, October 18, 2009, I will be leading a tour of my photographs in the exhibit. And on Saturday, November 7, 2009, I will lead another tour group of youngsters and their families down Myrtle Avenue. We will all take photographs and it certainly will be a learning experience for me as well as for the young photographers.

4. People were obviously very fond of the El.  Did anyone lobby to preserve it? My recollection is that a small group did attempt to save it to no avail. I've done a bit of searching recently on the internet, but haven't come up with anything in the archives. It would be wonderful if an interested reader of this article found some information and shared it with us. 5.  How does your Brooklyn background influence your artistic work? Brooklyn is a feast for the eyes, an ever-changing place, a home to a multitude of ethnicities, and a profoundly unique and incredible borough of New York. I've yet to meet someone from Brooklyn without a strong opinion, a willingness to "step up" when asked as well as a sense of belonging to a community. Brooklyn is ENERGY. How could I not be influenced by this place where I was raised and lived in different neighborhoods, met many people of different backgrounds, religions and beliefs? It opened my eyes to settings, people, interactions, styles of architecture, cultural differences and so much more. My photography is a product of these sensory and personal experiences- from riding the El, the subways, the trolleys, to walking to school - from the beach at Brighton to the Botanical Gardens to the cheesecake at Juniors, and the Cyclone at Coney Island - From the music in Prospect Park during the summer to the street corner A cappella groups on so many street corners. I credit my native borough with creating who I am and wherever I am, I always manage to let people know that I AM FROM BROOKLYN.

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 in...like 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!


Making Sense of the New Parking Rules

I canvassed several streets Sunday morning on my way to the Y to see if there was a rhyme or reason to the new reduced parking regulations. Thankfully, there does seem to be a logical system.  Based on my walking route, it seems that Lafayette and streets south will be cleaned on a Monday-Tuesday schedule, while north of Lafayette will be Thursday - Friday.  East of Cambridge gets cleaned earlier.

I haven't canvassed the northern neighborhood yet - any idea what the divisions are there?


Sorry for not posting this sooner, and hopefully you're not already at work having not moved your car.

The new 2x/week street cleaning begins today and as such, the new alternate side parking rules are in effect.

While at first glance it looks to be a sweet relief from the old system, I fear it might actually be more complicated.  Some blocks are Mon / Tues and some are Thurs / Fri.

How did it go this morning?

Moses and the BQE, Part II

Robert Moses, the city planner responsible for much of the look of today’s city, proposed the idea for the BQE in 1940.  Construction was interrupted by World War II, and work did not begin until 1945, with the first section opening in 1945.   While the BQE has left Clinton Hill only mildly changed, it strongly affected other neighborhoods, like Red Hook. In 1940, Moses grew concerned that increased traffic from LaGuardia Airport and trucks using the Triborough Bridge would tax the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges and the smaller side streets in Brooklyn and Queens, and proposed an expressway cutting across both boroughs.  “The present streets are narrow and congested, with crossings at every block,” he wrote in his proposal.  “The crazy-quilt pattern of the streets inherited from the villages that grew together to form the present borough adds to the difficulty of travel.”

His plan proposed to build on an existing road which already connected Queens Boulevard and the Kosciuszko Bridge in Greenpoint, extending it northward to the Grand Central Parkway and southward through Brooklyn.  The original plan called for the expressway to run directly along the shoreline from the Wiliamsburg Bridge down to the Manhattan Bridge, which would have bypassed Clinton Hill entirely.  However, as this plan would have dramatically affected the Navy Yard – which was then still a military facility – the city altered the route a few blocks south, to its present location.

Even so, construction didn’t even get underway anyway until after the war.  Construction began on the first new section in 1945, as part of Moses’ postwar development programs a section which connected the Williamsburg and Kosciuszko Bridges opened in 1950.  Moses seemed fascinated by the construction – a 1974 biography reports that Moses rented the penthouse floor of the Marguerite Hotel for his office; the hotel was just alongside the construction site, so Moses could keep a sharp eye on the proceedings.  However, sometimes Moses would just stare out the window, watching.  One of his assistants later said in an interview that “I never saw him look happier than he did when he was looking out of that window.”

Moses may have been happy with the construction, but several other Brooklynites were not.  Residents of Brooklyn Heights were concerned about the expressway’s impact on their historic neighborhood and its postcard views of Manhattan; when they complained, Moses shifted the route four blocks west to the very edge of the shoreline, and built a park above it – the Brooklyn Promenade.  Residents originally asked that this park be used for private gardens, but Moses insisted it be made available to the public instead.

Other neighborhoods weren’t as lucky, however.  Entire blocks were often cleared to make way for BQE overpasses, in the name of “slum clearance.”  He did leave behind the occasional park here and there, but many found this cold comfort.

In Red Hook, instead of an overpass, Moses dug a below-ground ditch to run the expressway through, plowing it straight through the center of the neighborhood.  Moreover, instead of covering it over as he had in Brooklyn Heights, Moses left the Red Hook section open, funneling pollution from passing traffic into surrounding Red Hook Streets.  He also left behind very few options to cross over the expressway from either side of the neighborhood, which in effect cut off Red Hook from the rest of Brooklyn.  At the time, Red Hook was a working-class neighborhood with active waterfronts; only a single exit connected the waterfronts with the BQE, causing traffic bottlenecks from trucks delivering goods.  Red Hook’s industrial waterfront declined soon thereafter, and with it, the rest of the surrounding neighborhood.

Today, a number of residents alongside the BQE are brainstorming ways to take back some of the space Moses left us with.  While here in Clinton Hill we’re brainstorming ways to use the space under the bridge, in Cobble Hill and Carrol Gardens Mayor Bloomberg has proposed constructing a roof deck over a nine-block stretch of the expressway, and then building housing on top of that.  Moses may have largely ignored most neighborhood’s wishes in planning the BQE, but it seems many neighborhoods are starting to take it back.

Parking Free-For-All Comes to the Neighborhood

Awhile back, we received news that alternate side parking would be reduced from 4 days to 2 per week in Community Board 2.  After many months of waiting, we're nearly there. Most exciting?  While the signs are being changed, ALL ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING RULL WILL BE SUSPENDED.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Alternate Side Parking Regulations Suspended in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Starting May 18 for Six to Eight Weeks as DOT Posts New, Reduced Street-Cleaning Restrictions

Release # 09-020

Suspension is the first of three phases for neighborhoods in Community District 2

Effective Monday, May 18, 2009, Street Cleaning/Alternate Side Parking Regulations will be temporarily suspended in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill sections of Brooklyn's Community District 2 for approximately six to eight weeks as the Department of Transportation (DOT) installs approximately 2,000 signs with new, reduced regulations. In most cases, daytime residential street cleaning parking restrictions will be reduced from twice a week to just once a week to ease parking for local residents. On commercial corridors, some streets will now be cleaned more often and regulations will be better coordinated to help ensure some curbside parking for local shoppers. The new rules were established by the Department of Sanitation at the request of Community Board 2. Changes for the rest of the district will occur in two additional phases, which will be announced over the summer.

Street Cleaning Regulations will be suspended within the following borders from May 18 until further notice:

North: Flushing Avenue (included) from Navy Street to Classon Avenue.

East: Classon Avenue (included) from Flushing Avenue to Fulton Street.

South: Fulton Street (not included) from Classon Avenue to Flatbush Avenue.

West: Flatbush Avenue (not included) from Fulton Street to Myrtle Avenue; Myrtle Avenue (included) from Flatbush Avenue to Navy Street; Navy Street (not included) Myrtle Avenue to Flushing Avenue.

The new regulations will take effect once sign changes are complete in the entire area. The changes do not affect 8:00 am to 6:00 pm parking rules or meter regulations, or any other parking rules that are not street cleaning regulations.

The DOT will give advance notification before enforcement resumes, and the public is encouraged to check the DOT's Web site at www.nyc.gov/dot and call 311 regularly.

Our Local Reps React to the Proposed Budget Cuts

Last week I attended the Society for Clinton Hill monthly meeting because Letitia James was scheduled to present about the Mayor’s proposed budget (and Sisters of Mercy were scheduled to speak about their plans for the site).  However, schedules being subject to change, the SOM decided not to show up, but NYS Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries spoke along with Ms. James.  Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.  I should preface this by saying I have a very intimate knowledge of the City’s budgeting process, as I spent several years working as a budget analyst for the Mayor’s budget office and at a City agency.  As a result, I became extremely cynical about our local politicians because I learned firsthand how they grossly spin facts in order to appease the voting public.  To be honest, I was not expecting much from Ms. James or Mr. Jeffries. However, I was very impressed with both of their command of our local issues and what appeared to me to be a genuine, passionate commitment on their part to the needs of our community.

Summary of Hakeem Jeffries' remarks:

Income Taxes:

Although we find ourselves in difficult times, the middle class and the poor should not have to bear the burdens of the sacrifices that need to be made, and  he supports an increase in the income tax of the wealthy in this State (in opposition to our Governor).

MTA cuts:

The MTA has serious credibility issues, especially given that not too long ago they were found to be keeping two sets of books.  It is not a cost efficient agency, and the proposed cut to the B25 bus line does not make any sense.   The G train serves the neighborhoods that are showing the most growth in the City, and therefore should be maintained at current service levels.

Summary of Letitia James' remarks:

The Bailout:

Disgraced AIG gave Barclays $400 million to purchase the naming rights of the proposed Atlantic arena.  ‘Nuff said right there.

Budget cuts:

The police department will not hire the previously planned 1,000 officers.  The 88th precinct is already down in staffing, so this will not help matters.

A reduction of 15 EMS tours and 1 firefighter from each fire company.  Also not good.

Libraries will be cutting hours and laying off 170 employees.  35 libraries will reduce hours to 5 days a week.  Museums and cultural institutions will be reduced by 20%, on top of a 14% cut that was already taken in November.  Very bad.

The proposed cut of the B25 line:  the rationale was for this was that the C line goes along the same route.  However, this does not help the elderly or disabled for whom it is difficult to take the subway (mayven aside: there are certain days when I’m tired or have a lot to carry when I wonder how anyone who is NOT absolutely physically fit negotiates the NYC subway).

Federal stimulus funds will only go for brick and mortar projects, which will help the construction industry but not the City or State budget woes.

Neither had a lot of time for their remarks, and there weren’t a lot of time for questions, but the audience seemed very receptive to and appreciative of their efforts.

Even More Street Construction and Disturbances?

Received these emails recently:

  • I live at the corner of St. James Place and Atlantic Avenue.  Today, construction crews started digging up the street yet again - I think it's the third time in three years.  I asked the crew what was going on and they said that they're first testing the water pipes and then plan on digging up more of the street to replace water pipes.  I said "The street was just paved.  Does that mean that there's no coordination between street paving and water mains?"  The guy replied with a smile, "Yes."  I was pretty horrified by this - what a waste of tax dollars.  I noticed them digging on Waverly as well.  I'd like to try to find the most productive way to suggest to the Bloomberg administration that coordination of road work may save lots of unneeded spending.  Thoughts?
  • There was a road construction crew at the intersection of Gates and Waverly working until 3 AM last night, making lots of noise and rattling the buildings. How on earth is it legal to do work that late at night? I called 311 around 12:40, and they claimed they'd send someone out to investigate. Of course, the work continued for another 2.5 hours.

Apparently National Grid is not held to noise pollution rules, and may work 24-7.

Anyone else being kept up late?

Fulton Construction and Parking Problems

Received this from a reader:I live in Clinton Hill at Washington Ave and Fulton St.  There has be a lot of continuous construction going on in this general area, making it very difficult to find parking.  Does anyone know if Alternate Side of the Street Parking has been temporarily suspended in the area due to construction?  I checked nyc.gov and there was no such notice posted.

That work's been going on for years now, and I've heard no such thing about parking rules being suspended because of it.  Wouldn't it be nice if they were, though? I never considered the effect this must continue to have on parking availability in that immediate area.  Is there a way to petition for this?

I do know that the alternate side rules are being reduced in the near future, from four days to two, in our community board district.  No word on when the change will take effect.