Author Archives: Mia Brezin

Vermont Sail Freight Project sails into New York City

Imagine a ship filled with a cornucopia of locally grown, organic food, sailing down the Hudson River bound for New York City—powered only by the wind. You might be envisioning a scene straight out of the nineteenth century, or you could be thinking back to just last week, when the Vermont Sail Freight Project cruised into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project (VSFP), which we wrote about last spring, is a project that is precisely what it sounds like: a sailboat, filled with local produce and other goods, sails from Vermont to New York City, delivering its Northeast Kingdom bounty along the way. “The project’s goal is to revitalize our regional food economy through ongoing relationships with family farms and the sailing community, and to share the spoils of this integrated model with citizens all the way along the Champlain-Hudson supply chain” according to the VSFP.

Erik Andrus, a rice farmer and director of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, recently told The New Yorker, “The boat is in many ways the least important part of this. What this is really about is farming, community, energy adaptation, and revitalizing food systems in our region. The boat is a means to an end.”

“New York City has to come to terms with the fact that it’s an island and a maritime city above everything else” said Andrus, which is especially poignant as we recently pass the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. Projects like the VSFP provide examples of ways to build New York’s regional economy by working with the water, instead of against it.

A makeshift sailboat sails down the Hudson

The project is a model in sustainability from top to bottom. The forty-foot-long ship, Ceres, was built using crowd-sourced funding, and in addition to delivering local foods, it will serve as an educational platform for students to learn about local agriculture, sailing, and carbon neutrality. Goods were sold at one-day markets along the way, and customers and specialty food shops quickly snapped up the produce and foodstuffs. The zero carbon emissions continued even on dry land– Revolution Rickshaws, a pedicab company, transported goods to Quinciple, a farmer’s market subscription service that delivers food in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Ceres departed from Shoreham, Vermont, on October 6, and began a three week, 300-mile long journey to New York City, loaded down with all sorts of shelf-stable foods from Vermont and the Adirondack region of New York State. Stops and markets were held in Mechanicville, Troy, Albany, Hudson, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Beacon, Peekskill, Nyack, Yonkers, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, before finally arriving at the South Street Seaport. This voyage was the first time a wind-powered ship has delivered food to New York City since the 1950s.

Customers could pre-order food using Good Eggs, and then pick it up at either the Navy Yard on Saturday, October 26th, or at a stand at the New Amsterdam Market in the South Street Seaport on Sunday, October 27th. Food options included pantry vegetables like potatoes and carrots, honey, handcrafted sea salt, a variety of medicinal herbs and teas, fruit, beans, rice, grains, flours, oil and vinegars, wildcrafted foods, preserved foods, and (of course) plenty of maple syrup.

Bloomberg to New Yorkers: Take the stairs!

Last month Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out what is likely to be his final healthy living initiative while in office: encouraging New Yorkers to take the stairs. Bloomberg announced the creation of two bills that would promote taking the stairs as part of his many efforts to advocate exercise and fight obesity. Using the stairs as opposed to energy powered elevators or escalators is also the environmentally sustainable choice—no greenhouse gases are produced walking up a flight of stairs!

The first bill would affect new buildings, and would require that they make stairs more conspicuous via signage encouraging their use. The second bill would change building code to allow access to at least one set of stairs at all times, not just in emergency situations. The bills have to be approved by City Council in the coming weeks.

In the press release announcing the legislative package, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley stated, “Incorporating physical activity into daily routines is the best way to get the many health benefits of exercise. By integrating Active Design strategies into renovations and future buildings, New Yorkers will have new opportunities to be physically active throughout their days.”

“By making stairs enjoyable, and giving them precedence over elevators or escalators more people will use them” says architect Jack L. Robbins. This is essentially the same principle as CitiBike: by making biking accessible and simple, more people will bike as opposed to taking the subway or a car. This promotes physical fitness and environmental sustainability.

While encouraging stair use is less controversial than banning sodas, questions still remain: what about employees who work on the 20th floor? What about the 50th floor? Would office apparel guidelines have to change if employees are running up and down stairs all day? How will disability laws be incorporated?

Bloomberg also enacted an executive order that requires all city agencies to begin following the design guidelines laid out by a new non-profit organization, the Center for Active Design. The Active Design Guidelines cover a variety of design measures with the goal of “changing the environment to reshape the available choices (you’ll want to walk because it is easier, cheaper, faster, or more enjoyable)” according to Robbins. For stair-use alone they have five sections of design strategies including: “locate stairs near the building’s entrance, make them more grand, inject natural daylight, ventilation, artwork and music into stairwells, add more landing spaces to help the out-of-shape” (Atlantic Cities).

The Center for Active Design has four key tenets to promote activity and reduce obesity through the design of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods:

  • Active buildings: encouraging greater physical movement within buildings for users and visitors
  • Active transportation: supporting a safe and vibrant environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders
  • Active recreation: shaping play and activity spaces for people of different ages, interests, and abilities
  • Improving access to nutritious foods in communities that need them most.

Active design in the workplace extends beyond just stairs. In an email to the Atlantic Cities, architect Joan Blumenfeld states “It is centralizing services such as printers and copiers so that people have to get up to use them, it is pulling people out of offices into workstations and then providing lots of collaborative space that people have to get up to use (instead of sitting in their offices all day). It is not using toxic materials in buildings and furniture.”

Small changes that encourage movement throughout the day could go a long ways towards promoting a healthy lifestyle outside of the office as well. Taking the stairs could very well be one step (sorry!) in the right direction of a more fit and sustainable way of life.

Fast food workers striking for living wages

Could you survive in New York City on $7.25 an hour? That’s a mere $58 for an eight hour shift…before taxes. The idea is laughable to many of us, but it is the harsh reality for thousands of fast food workers in the city and around the country. A national movement of low-wage workers is calling attention to the low wages and poor working conditions rampant within the fast food industry by walking off the job. In the past month fast food workers in seven cities—Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Flint, and New York City—went on strike.

As Terrance Wise, who works at Pizza Hut and Burger King in Kansas City, told Democracy Now!, “What else do we have to lose? We are already slowly dying in our day-to-day lives. So why not speak up, and stand up, and let the nation know that we are suffering?” He continued, “This is really a cry for help. This great nation should not turn its back on working-class people that need help.”

Fast Food Forward, a New York City-based organization, is calling for wages to increase to $15 an hour, which would almost double fast food workers’ current median hourly wage of $8.94, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project. The striking fast food workers illustrate the growing income inequality both in New York and across the country. The Fast Food Forward website states that the average fast food worker in New York City makes $11,000 a year, while the average fast food CEO makes $25,000 a day–over twice the average workers’ yearly income. You can sign their petition to show your support for a wage increase.

The federal minimum wage, as well as New York State’s, is currently $7.25 an hour. That works out to approximately $92 a week for food, gas, clothing, and other spending money. As mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio learned when he accepted the “Workers Rising” challenge organized by UnitedNY and New York Community for Change, simply eating and using transportation on less than $100 a week is very difficult in New York City. “If we as leaders want to represent the people of our city, than we must do what we can to understand the hardships people face, and the urgency in finding ways to lift more New Yorkers out of poverty and into the middle class,” said DeBlasio.

McDonald’s made headlines earlier this month when it released its new website (in partnership with Visa) that featured a “Practical Money Skills Budget Journal” to help employees manage their money. The guide only confirmed what most people already expected: it’s impossible to survive on a minimum wage income from McDonald’s. First, the guide assumes that you have a second job. It only calculates $20/ month for health insurance. There is no mention of co-pays, prescription costs, or when you will visit a doctor between your two jobs.

The sample monthly budget also leaves out food, lists rent as $600 (Not in NYC! Median rent prices in Manhattan were over $3,000 for the first time ever this summer and Brooklyn isn’t far behind at $2,737), and only allocates $100 for savings. McDonald’s apparently doesn’t consider the costs of higher education, such as student loans or tuition, or think that its employees might be caring for people besides themselves.

Mother Jones has a calculator where you can determine how many hours a week you would have to work at McDonald’s in order to meet your current income. I am single and have no dependents, and I would have to work 54 hours a week in order to earn the $25,000 a year I currently make from part-time babysitting and writing. That’s almost 11 hours of work a day, five days a week, not even including the time it takes to get to and from work—there’s no way I could do that and graduate school, as I do now. In that same amount of time McDonald’s makes $160,054,320.

What does all of this have to do with sustainability? For one, a recent study published in Science showed that rising global temperatures—and the subsequent storms, droughts, and crop failures that will accompany them—will lead to a rise in violent conflicts. In the face of dwindling resources, dramatic income inequalities, such as between the average fast food worker and the average fast food company CEO, could also contribute to future conflicts. It is important to consider not just the ecological components of sustainability, but also the social ones.

Live global bike share map

As you see blue Citi Bikes dashing around the city, or as you listen to Dorothy Rabinowitz’s diatribe against bike share and face palm it, you may be curious about other bike shares around the globe. Did you know that Mexico City has one of the busiest bike share programs in the world? Or that Nashville and Chattanooga both have bike shares?

Oliver O’Brien, a researcher with the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at the University College London, has created a map showing real-time data on bike share systems around the globe.

There are currently 85 systems mapped, which equates to approximately 210,000 docks and 95,000 bikes. The map tracks the number of bikes checked out and in docks to show the number being used. The blue dots have fewer bikes in use than the red dots, and the larger dots show a greater number of docks.

Here is the Citi Bike traffic at 1:04 pm on Monday, June 17:

bike share map

This is all the bike docks in Manhattan and Brooklyn as of 1:10 pm today as well. The blue circles ringed in turquoise represent empty stations and the red circles ringed in yellow are full stations. As of this map there were two full and ten empty stations.

bike share 2

Be sure to watch the animations to see the changes throughout the day, and read more at Atlantic Cities.

“How’m I doin?” Koch on Koch

His city for three terms, 1978 - 1989. (Photo via Tablet.)

The mayor from 1978 – 1989. (Photo via Tablet.)

Edward “Ed” Koch, former mayor of New York City and the subject of Neil Barsky’s documentary “Koch”, was a decisive and charismatic figure who dominated New York’s politics for decades. “Koch” follows his tenure as mayor from 1978-1989 and includes interviews with Koch and his longtime friends and associates. The film opened in New York in February, and will be released on DVD this August.

At a recent screening at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House, Barsky described his motivations behind making the film, and what Koch’s legacy could teach the current mayoral candidates. The portrait also makes one wonder how Koch — who put his stamp all over the city in his 12 years in office — would approach new challenges, including enacting the newly released coastal protection plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg.

With an election coming up, the next mayor will be stepping into very big shoes, and at a time of rapid change. In some ways Koch may be a better yardstick for candidates than Mayor Bloomberg, as City Hall will need a skillful negotiator who can get things done without the political independence that our current mayor’s personal fortune provides.

Koch passed away on the opening day of the film this winter; Barsky lamented that Koch “would have been a great partner in promoting the film.” The film does not seek to pass judgment on him, and Koch is presented as a complex man with a deep love of New York City. While highlighting heart-warming scenes of elderly Koch sharing Passover Seder with his extended family, it also takes a critical look back at his positions while mayor on racial issues and gay rights.

Barsky praised Koch for “giving New York its morale back” after the economic crisis of the 1970s. “He knew how to say ‘no’, which is a word that New Yorkers don’t want to hear” and this helped make hard decisions to resuscitate New York’s economy, according to Barsky. Koch famously slashed city spending and jobs to bring New York back from the brink of insolvency in the late 1970s.

Koch also deserved more credit for rebuilding the city through his ten-year housing initiative which committed five billion dollars to build or renovate thousands of apartment buildings, helping to dramatically turn around decaying neighborhoods in the South Bronx. Barsky stated that the “seeds of recovery were planted by and under him” and this has been overlooked due to the harsh criticisms of Koch’s relationship with the African American community during his mayoral tenure. Koch was heavily criticized for the closure of Sydenham Hospital, a predominately African-American health care center in Harlem. Sydenham had a history in New York as one of the first hospitals that would take black doctors, and was beloved by the people it served. His ardent support of the closure, and refusal to compromise, led to protests and riots amongst the African American community. In the film, Koch retrospectively acknowledges that closing the hospital was the wrong decision.

koch2The film also focuses on Koch’s controversial relationship with the gay community. Koch, a life-long bachelor, was considered to be closeted by many people, and he always stated that his personal life was his private business. He passed unprecedented (for the time) gay rights legislation in 1986, but was heavily criticized for his handling of the AIDS epidemic and also for allegedly remaining in the closet. Barsky described the background reality: “In the 1970s, one could be gay or one could be mayor, but you couldn’t be both.”

When asked what Koch’s tenure could teach the current mayoral candidates, Barsky emphasized his willingness to say ‘no’ to special interests. The director, whose earlier career includes accomplishments in journalism and finance, expressed concern about the upcoming union contract negotiations and the excessive pandering to special interests, which will make governing difficult once the new mayor is in office. Koch “showed what government can do” and was good at governing in hard times, but struggled once New York City was on better financial footing.

Whether you love Koch, hate him, or don’t know much about him, “Koch” provides a balanced view of a controversial figure who shaped much of the New York we know and love today. Two of the best epitaphs — and signs of respect — come in the film from his sharp critics, Reverend Calvin Butts of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, and from Wayne Barrett, a journalist who uncovered much of the corruption that undid Koch’s third term. Koch himself was not a part of the scandals, but they dogged his administration. Barrett now though calls attention to the enormous building program Koch began, with hundreds of thousands of units of new housing an accomplishment for the city that rivals “the Pyramids,” in Barrett’s words.

How did Koch see himself? Like the 59th Street Bridge, which was renamed for him.

“It’s not soaring, beautiful, handsome, like the George Washington or the Verrazano. It’s rugged, it’s hard working — and that’s me.” (NYP 2/1/13)

New York Times obituary, February 1, 2013, and a summary of his mayoralty (NYT 2/2/13).

SImagines plans for Staten Island

Community participants draft ideas at a planning workshop in Staten Island. (Photo: SImagines)

Participants draft ideas for improving Staten Island at a public planning workshop. (Photo: SImagines)

While the city’s comprehensive SIRR report provides a scope for post-storm rebuilding across all five boroughs, parallel initiatives have been underway among groups across the city. Staten Island, facing the direct energy of the Atlantic, was the hardest hit borough on a per capita basis, and suffered the most fatalities.

SImagines is a visionary program of the Staten Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, in partnership with the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and the American Planning Association. The purpose of this grassroots effort is to develop a shared, unified community blueprint for the future Staten Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that will inform the borough’s recovery, restoration, and future sustainable development.

AIA Staten Island and Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning designed a series of Planning and Reconstruction Workshops with assistance from the American Planning Association, FEMA, The College of Staten Island, and The Staten Island Foundation. These workshops bring Staten Island residents and community leaders together in a collaborative environment focused on developing a tangible plan for neighborhood recovery.

Three meetings have been held so far: the East Shore, the North Shore, and the South Shore. The West Shore community meeting will be held later in the summer.

Earlier meetings have engaged citizens and professionals alike. Watch the video below to see the project in action:

More outdoor summer movies!

As a followup to our recently published guide to Brooklyn’s best outdoor summer film screenings, here are the best of the other boroughs, plus a few more we missed in Brooklyn:

Check out this awesome map that Curbed made to spatially plan your cinematic fun.


1. Bryant Park: HBO Summer Film Fest: Manhattan: E 42nd St, New York, NY, 10018

Movies start at 5 pm, and the festival kicks off with Tootsie on Monday, June 17. This venue tends to get crowded, so get there early to stake out a spot.


2. Hudson River Park: Riverflicks: Manhattan: 205 12th Ave, New York, NY, 10001


This event is billed “for grownups” and they don’t disappoint. Featuring many of last year’s blockbusters, such as Silver Linings Playbook (which kicks the series off on July 10), Looper, and Argo. Movies start at dusk (8:30ish) and there’s free popcorn.

3. Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum: Manhattan: Pier 86, New York, NY, 10036

*Oct 02 - 00:05*

Enjoy a movie on the landing deck of the Intrepid, but come early–space is limited. Doors open at 7:30 and there is no admittance after 8:30. Screenings include Jaws, Star Trek, and the original Karate Kid.

4. Roosevelt Island Southpoint Park: Manhattan: Roosevelt Island, New York, NY, 10044

Take the tram on over (or the F) to check out the progress on Cornell’s new campus and to see a movie—date night alert! Screenings include The Hunger Games, The Breakfast Club, and Pitch Perfect.

5. Riverside Park Pier 1 Movies Under the Stars: Manhattan: W 70th St, New York, NY

This year’s theme is “Song and Dance” and will feature films like Fiddler on the Roof and Little Shop of Horrors, starting at 8:30 every Wednesday night.

The Bronx:

1. Bronx Terminal Market: Bronx: 810 Exterior St, Bronx, NY, 10451

Cross watching The Goonies on the roof of a parking garage in the Bronx off your bucket list! Starting at 7:30 there will be pre-film festivities with community groups and the movies will start at 8:30. All of the films are family friendly.


1. Socrates Sculpture Park: Outdoor Cinema 2013: Queens: 3205 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, 11106


The film list hasn’t been released yet, but there will be local restaurants, and performances by musicians and dancers before each screening. The event will be held every Wednesday from July 3 – August 21.


More Brooklyn:

1. Habana Outpost: 757 Fulton St, Brooklyn NY, 11217

Enjoy classic films with a margarita on the side every Sunday at 8pm. Best of all, screenings run until October 27, so you can pretend it’s summer all fall long.

2. Prospect Park Bandshell: Prospect Park West and 9th St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

On July 13, at 7:30 pm, catch Dracula with a live score by the Philip Glass Ensemble and Kishi Bashi… for free! Later in the summer you can see Beasts of the Southern Wild with a live score by Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin, and The Wordless Music Orchestra/ Slavic Soul Party… also free!

3. Lavender Lake: 363 Carroll St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Every Tuesday and Wednesday catch a show at Lavender Lake, one of Gowanus’ hottest bars—recently named Best Canalside Patio by New York Magazine. Movies TBA.

4. Flicks on the Beach (Coney Island): 1001 Boardwalk West, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Every Monday in July and August you can make the trip down to Coney Island and see a great mix of films on a giant 40-foot inflatable screen! This summer’s selections include Little Fugitive, The Hunger Games, and Fame.

All Over:

1. Films on the Green: Manhattan/ Brooklyn

French films will be shown at parks throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan, starting off with Mississippi Mermaid.

For a day by day breakdown of summer movies check out The Skint’s guide here.

Citi Bike protested by sculpture

Citi Bike launched this week in Manhattan and Brooklyn to much fanfare and consternation. A Clinton Hill resident, cartoonist Alex Gruss, found a creative way to share his opinion of Citi Bikes. He protested corporate advertising by placing this sculpture among the racks.


Photo by Alex Gruss

Gruss explained his project: “I celebrate the idea of saving energy and bicycle riding but I am outraged by the fact that a huge conglomerate has been invited to advertise themselves on every corner of New York City. That’s what I tried to convey when coming up with the idea of mixing the art piece with the Citibank bicycles.” The piece was created by sculptor Jack Jano.


Photo by Alex Gruss

Ferry service updates: Red Hook’s is back, and Rockaway’s stays

extralargeThe fast and inexpensive ferry service between Manhattan and Rockaway will stay for another six weeks. The service, key for Rockaway residents who’ve been sans subway since Sandy, will stay through Labor Day by Mayoral decree.

In other news: Free weekend ferry service between Red Hook, Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan has resumed as of this Saturday, May 25th. Get ready to enjoy lobster rolls, Key Lime pie, the amazing sunset views and all the other joys of Red Hook.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance says of the Red Hook service

Enjoying the dining, nightlife, arts, and culture scene in Red Hook–not to mention basking in the neighborhood’s postcard-perfect views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor–will get a whole lot easier thanks to this new service from the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The Red Hook Summer Ferry will run on weekends between 10am and 9pm, departing every 25 minutes from Pier 11/Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and making two stops, one at a presently unused landing at the foot of Van Brunt Street and one at IKEA. The Van Brunt Street stop in particular is expected to draw visitors to the neighborhood’s small businesses, many of which are still struggling to recover from the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy.

Along with government officials and waterfront advocates, Red Hook business owners are cheering the new service. “We learned that the East River can bring heartache, devastation and loss of business, but if the ferry lands at Van Brunt street this summer, the East River will also be responsible for bringing profits back to businesses and the assurance of survival and progress within this community,” said Triciann Botta, owner of Botta di Vino in Red Hook.


The City is paying for the Summer Red Hook Ferry, with a partner sponsorship from Fairway Market, and assistance by IKEA through the expansion of its existing service.

To further strengthen the City’s water transportation network, Red Hook Summer Ferry passengers can score a free transfer to northbound East River Ferry boats at Pier 11.


Images: DNAinfo and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

Free! Outdoor! Summer! Movies in Brooklyn

Your all-encompassing guide to Brooklyn’s largest free summer movie events: L Magazine’s SummerScreen, Syfy’s Movies with a View, and Rooftop Films Summer Series.

L Magazine’s SummerScreen Series: McCarren Park, every Wednesday at 6 pm

July 10: Can’t Hardly Wait — An homage to teen films of the 1980’s? Sounds like a good way to start the summer.

July 17: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure An even better pick. Tim Burton and Pee-Wee explore the importance of bicycles.

July 24: The Craft — ‘A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who even slightly anger them.’

July 31: The Goonies — ‘A group of kids embark on a wild adventure after finding a pirate treasure map.’ Sean Astin before his later forays into Middle Earth.

August 7: Speed — ‘A young cop must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.’

August 14: Audience Choice

There will be food trucks and musical entertainment to kick off the show.


Syfy’s Movie with a View Series: Brooklyn Bridge Park, every Thursday at dusk

July 11: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – ‘A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite of what the principal thinks of that.’ Iconic.

July 18: Enter the Dragon – ‘A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.’ The legendary Bruce Lee.

July 25: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – ‘A poor boy wins the opportunity to tour the most eccentric and wonderful candy factory of all.’ Starring Gene Wilder, source of memes.

August 1: 8 Mile – the Eminem creation story.

August 8: Roman Holiday – A beautiful film, directed by William Wyler. Story by Dalton Trumbo, featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

August 15: Rocky  Oscar for Best Picture, 1977. Stallone was also nominated for actor and screenplay, following two earlier writing/acting nominees, Chaplin and Welles.

August 22: Vertigo – Some would say Hitchcock’s finest, which may also be an inadvertent self-portrait.

August 29 – Audience Choice: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Good Will Hunting or Lost in Translation

Get to Brooklyn Bridge Park early to get a good spot and purchase snacks and drinks from local vendors including Blue Marble Ice Cream, Luke’s Lobster, No. 7 Subs, Lizzmonade Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar.


Rooftop Films: Features independent films, various locations and times, free movies are noted and regular screenings are $13

Friday, May 17
FREE SCREENING: Check out director Reuben Atlas’ doc Brothers Hypnotic, following the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, screens outside MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn. Atlas will be on hand for a Q&A, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble will perform.

Saturday, May 18
Screening of New York Mayhem, a collection of short city-centric films, on the rooftops of Industry City, 220 36th Street at 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park.

Wednesday, June 12
FREE SCREENING: Interface Films, a tech-ey collection of short films documenting life in the computerized postmodern world, screens outdoors at MetroTech Commons.

Saturday, June 22
Frank V. Ross’ film Tiger Tail in Blue, about a young writer and his wife trying to stay afloat financially (and romantically) in NYC, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory, 232 Third Street in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Thursday, June 27
BAMcinemafest presents Drinking Buddies, a Joe Swanberg-directed film about two Chicagoans become romantically-involved while working together at a brewery. The film screens in the outdoor parking lot at BAMcinématek at Fulton Street and Ashland Place in Fort Greene.

Saturday, July 6
Mia Engberg’s film Belleville Baby, about a woman reminiscing about a quirky love affair in Paris, has its New York premiere on the roof of the Old American Can Factory at 232 Third Street in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Monday, July 8
FREE SCREENING: Bending Steel, a David Carroll-directed documentary exploring the lives of professional strongmen, screens on the Beach in Coney Island, W 12th and the beach, right near Luna Park.

Friday, July 12
A selection of short films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival screen on the rooftops of Industry City, 220 36th Street at 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park.

Thursday, July 18
Shaka King’s film Newlyweeds, a stoner romance about two pot-smoking Brooklynites, screens on the roof of the Trilok Fusion Center for the Arts, 143 Waverly Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill.

Friday, July 19
i hate myself 🙂, a film by Brooklyn director Joanna Arnow about her relationship with “poet-provocateur” James Kepple, screens on the roof of Industry City in Sunset Park.

Saturday, July 20
FREE SCREENING: Short Term 12, a film about a supervisor at a foster-care facility directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Thursday, July 25
Director Shannon Plumb’s film Towheads, following a New York mother and artist trying to balance her personal life with her professional one, screens on the roof of the Trilok Fusion Center for the Arts in Clinton Hill.

Friday, July 26
The annual Animation Block Party goes down on the lawn of Greenpoint High School for Engineering and Automotive Technology, 50 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

Saturday, July 27
A selection of short films about technological innovation in the arts, including Eva Weber’s documentary, Black Out, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Thursday, August 1
Daniel Dencik’s modern adventure/explorer film, The Expedition to the End of the World, screens at the Waterfront Museum aboard the 914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, in the water at 290 Conover Street in Red Hook.

Friday, August 2
FREE SCREENING: Meredith Danluck presents North of South, West of East, an installation that uses four massive screens to tell separate storylines attempting to depict the American identity. The installation screens outdoors at MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn.

Saturday, August 3
Cutie and the Boxer, a film about the 40-year marriage between New York painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Thursday, August 8
Lotfy Nathan’s film 12 O’Clock Boys, about a gang of young dirt bikers in West Baltimore, screens on the lawn of Automative High School in Williamsburg.

Friday, August 9
The Todd Sklar-directed film Awful Nice, about two brothers who travel to their family lake home after their father dies, screens on the rooftops of Industry City in Sunset Park.

Saturday, August 10
Director Petra Costa’s family drama, Elena, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Friday, August 13
Documentary F— For Forest, about an environmental organization that makes cash by selling erotic films online, screens on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Saturday, August 17
The 2013 summer series concludes with a selection of sharp short films, screened on the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus/Park Slope.

Cicadas: harmless, noisy, edible, cute?

Nature at work on its own timetable: the cicadas are coming! Every seventeen years, billions of Brood II cicadas emerge from underground, where they have been feasting on tree root xylem fluids in preparation for their spring Dionysus festival of molting, mating, and noise-making. For the next four to six weeks, prepare for lots of bugs and a constant 7kHz mating buzzzzzz.

These harmless cicadas who are about to swarm the East Coast have been underground since 1996–the same year that brought us $1.22 gas prices, the divorce of Prince Charles and Lady Di, the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and the Spice Girls first number one hit “Wannabe.”

Why now? The cicada nymphs only emerge from the ground when the soil is 64 degrees or warmer, eight inches down. New York Public Radio has created a map showing ground warmth to see where the cicadas will appear. Look at that dark orange dot right over New York City…!


If you see cicadas in your neighborhood, you can report them to the Magicicada Mapping Project, a National Geographic supported initiative. According to their website, cicadas have been spotted from Pennsylvania to Georgia. If you aren’t sure if the black-bodied, red-eyed large bugs suddenly swarming your apartment are cicadas or not, here is a (terrifying) cicada gif to compare to:

Time lapse from T. Nathan Mundhenk on Wikipedia

What to do about the impending swarm? If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! According to the Cicada Invasion blog, cicadas are a rich source of protein with about the same amount per pound as red meat. Cicadas are also said to be full of vitamins and minerals, low in fat, and they have zero carbs. Jenna Jadin wrote a cicada cookbook in 2004 that features recipes for Soft-Shelled Cicadas, Cicada Rhubarb Pie, and El Chirper Tacos, among many others.

As Jadin explained to Radiolab, “Cicadas are really, really easy to catch. They just sit there. They don’t have any defensive mechanisms.” The best time to harvest cicadas for cooking is when they first appear, as that’s when they’re the most succulent. “They’re a grub basically. They haven’t formed their exoskeleton yet. They haven’t hardened. Wings haven’t unfurled,” said Jadin.

If you want to try cooking some cicadas at home, first boil them for four to five minutes to remove soil particles that can be harmful. Then you can freeze them, roast them, which gives a nutty flavor,or start on any of the dozens of recipes popping up all over the internet. If you have shellfish allergies, be cautious because cicada exoskeletons have the same materials as many shellfish.

Cicada JELLO is one option for eating the insects.

Cicada J-E-L-L-O, it’s alive!


Future of civilization envisioned at NY Times “Energy” talk

The New York Times “Energy for Tomorrow” conference opened with a keynote speech by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stressed the need for cities to act now to build a more sustainable future. To the audience at the ticketed event and over live stream, he described an urban future where, by 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. Historically, cities have encouraged freedom and the formation of knowledge, and Bloomberg linked this to the progress on sustainability that cities, as opposed to the federal government, are making. He touted his own personal involvement with the Sierra Club’s campaign to retire one-third of the nation’s 500 coal fired power plants by 2020; so far 144 have been closed. Bloomberg chalked up some of this success to the expansion of natural gas and said he is “in favor of fracking, but not in our watershed… we all have to make decisions–there’s no free lunch.”

Mayor Bloomberg speaking at the Energy for Tomorrow conference (

Mayor Bloomberg speaking at the Energy for Tomorrow conference (

Mayor Bloomberg laid out his guidelines for how New York City has moved its sustainability goals forward and how other major cities can achieve their aims:

  1. Develop a plan with ambitious, achievable, measurable goals such as PlaNYC 2030. He especially emphasized the need for metrics to calculate the impact of sustainability. Scientists and policy makers can argue about the impact of climate change but as long as your metrics are sound no one can argue with your conclusions, he stated.
  2. City governments need innovation, creativity, support, and strength to push policies through because they are not always popular at first. In other words, it is important to use private sector skills and resources to achieve your goals, too. Bloomberg offered an example of New York’s latest public-private partnership: the Food Waste Challenge, where over 100 restaurants will be diverting their food waste to compost. “The program will help meet the City’s PlaNYC goals to divert 75 percent of all solid waste from landfills by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste comprises one-third of the city’s more than 20,000 tons of daily refuse and restaurants account for 70 percent of commercial food waste. Participating restaurants have pledged to reduce 50 percent of the food waste they send to landfills through composting and other waste prevention strategies” according to the press release from the Mayor’s office. Bloomberg also described a new public-private partnership to expand the community garden network by allowing gardening organizations to use nine acres of under-utilized city land.
  3. “Be a thief.” In other words, steal the best ideas from around the world, such as bike share, and use them to improve your own city.

In regards to Hurricane Sandy, the Mayor urged immediate action and said “climate change may or may not have caused Hurricane Sandy” but there is no question it was intensified by warming waters and higher seas. He stated the necessity of New York City re-engineering its energy infrastructure, and expanding its green infrastructure. More policy recommendations related to Hurricane Sandy will be announced in the forthcoming Mayor’s Report, due at the end of May.

Mayor Bloomberg concluded his remarks by urging cities to be at the forefront of environmental change, and cautioning city leaders not to walk away from an extensive environmental agenda. Sustainable environmental choices are good for the economy, he said, and that is how they should be sold to concerned constituents. He advised leaders to focus on the short-term, and not to worry about the world fifty years from now because we have plenty of reasons to act now to improve the world.

Mayors’ Panel: How do we Reinvent our Cities for the Third Industrial Revolution?

The city of 2025 could be crisis-ridden if the world doesn’t create more sustainable models of urban development. Research says that our cities will continue to expand and increase in population, while their populations will bring rising consumption and emissions. Alongside these huge challenges, there are also opportunities for businesses: electric vehicles, new low-carbon means of cooling, and energy efficient buildings. We ask a group of mayors to outline an urban planning strategy for 2025.

Moderator Bill Keller opened the panel discussion by asking each mayor or former mayor to give a general overview of sustainability initiatives they had pursued in their cities.

Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, spoke about developing their Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and called cars “the cigarette of the future.” Stephanie Miner, the mayor of Syracuse, New York, described the need to integrate sustainability into every decision made by the city agencies and the importance of keeping a “big picture” view.

Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, described Bogota’s BRT system, and their famous bicycle highways: a 60 kilometer long, 15 meter wide network that runs throughout the city exclusively for cyclists. Peñalosa emphasized the equity component of sustainability when it comes to decisions about distributing road space between cars, bikes, pedestrians, and mass transit.

Finally, Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, spoke about initiatives to address the large amount of vacant land in Phoenix; a whopping 43 percent of the land within the city is vacant. One of the largest vacant parcels is being turned into an urban garden with help from the International Refugee Committee. Stanton’s goals for this and other sustainability projects are to be “positive and replicable” and he emphasized the need to “integrate sustainable thinking in our entire culture.”

How do you sustain programs in the face of changing politics, economics, migration, and other urban problems?

Lerner cautioned leaders to “not project tragedy” and to invest one’s energy in changing the current paradigm. He advocated a system of mobility that combines all modes of transport, using smaller cars, and using incentives to encourage bus use.

Miner encouraged starting with small benchmarks to prove that sustainability initiatives can work, and then moving on to a larger, comprehensive plan because other people get too overwhelmed with the changes.

In contrast, Peñalosa advocated for a more comprehensive approach because “in the end people like it even if they don’t at first.” He again emphasized equity concerns and the importance of involving all parts of the city in decision making for each neighborhood. He believed that buses should have priority road space and whatever is left should be divided up for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles. He cited an example of one day a year when Bogota is a car-free city, and everyone still gets to work using public transit. He called public transit riders “heroes.” Finally, he discussed bike lanes and said they “need to be more than a cute architectural feature and should be a right like a sidewalk.”

Greg Stanton questioned the “sustainability of sustainability” on the federal stage, and mentioned its importance on the city level, especially to young people. He said that young people want to move to cities where long-term sustainability is part of the comprehensive plan, and therefore pursuing sustainability initiatives on the local level is good for the economy.

What are the major obstacles to implementing sustainability policies?

“Everyone in the city has to understand the idea or scenario that you are proposing” said Lerner. He equated small projects to “urban acupuncture,” which are small projects that provide a jolt of energy for the whole process of planning. He also said it is the city’s responsibility to be more effective since that is where most of the world’s population resides. He cited three basic things that everyone can do: use less cars, separate our garbage, and live closer to work or bring work closer to us.

Miner said that the biggest obstacle is that all policy decisions are made in a bureaucracy that has designed cities for cars and not for green infrastructure. She described the challenges as “constantly going uphill to fight the battle” to bring sustainability into the governmental thought process. Miner also said she would welcome the state and federal government to partner with Syracuse, but that they cannot wait for them to do so.

Stanton echoed Miner’s attitude towards the federal government when he said “we wrote off the federal government a long time ago.” He believes that cities are on their own and are going to have to lead without state or federal backing. As the mayor of a city in a very conservative state it is even more important to be a leader on sustainability issues since it is not a priority on the state level, Stanton said.

How do you propose funding these sustainability ideas?

The two American mayors, Miner and Stanton, advocated using tax breaks as leverage and public-private partnerships to fund sustainability projects. In Syracuse, tax breaks are only given to developers that use LEED standards. Stanton touted the public-private partnership example of Solar Phoenix 2, the most successful home solar company in the U.S. He also emphasized pursuing projects that ultimately save cities money, such as recycling and bike share programs.

Peñalosa talked about the problems associated with rising land costs that force people into slums or far from the city, which forces them to be dependent on cars for transportation. He advocated for government intervention to buy land because “cities must grow in the right places.” Lerner succinctly stated his funding strategy: “cut one zero off and you have creativity, cut two off and you have sustainability.”

Jeremy Irons discusses his film “Trashed” with New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin

The documentary feature film “Trashed” highlights solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all. Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons has teamed up with British filmmaker Candida Brady to record the devastating effect that pollution has had on some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Jeremy Irons passionately discussed wanting to use the medium of film to educate and raise awareness about a “curable subject.” He offered several policy recommendations: stop incinerating trash, compost food wastes, and reduce packaging. He encouraged New Yorkers to aim for zero waste—San Francisco recycles 80 percent of their wastes, while New York is around a measly 15 percent. Irons instructed consumers to never use plastic bags (which take around 500 years to decompose), and to remove excessive packaging from items they purchase in the store to send a message to manufacturers to reduce packaging.

Jeremy Irons discussing trash and "Trashed" (

Jeremy Irons discussing trash and “Trashed” (

Irons also talked about environmental and justice issues related to electronic waste, such as old computers that end up burned in Africa. His solution is for the burden to be on manufacturers to take back old electronics and demolish or reuse them safely. He repeated that industries should have to prove that their products are 100 percent safe rather than consumers demanding this of manufacturers.

He cited environmental and social concerns like beached orca whales whose bodies are completely toxic, children with increased rates of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and allergies, and chemicals being emitted from incinerators of which we don’t know the effects. He connected the dots of excessive consumption and waste to overarching problems with our “throw-away” culture today. Irons decried the “unholy sin” of buying something and then tossing it away, and cautioned that we need to value everything for its quality—from relationships to material objects—and to rethink the attitude towards the way we live.

A kayaker’s perspective of Brooklyn

The North Brooklyn Boat Club has released a new map “Get to Know North Brooklyn Waters” just in time for the warm weather kayaking season. The map includes a currents chart and points of interest along the East River and Brooklyn waterways. According to their website, “The currents chart indicates the times of slack water each day, or the point at which the East River shifts direction between the incoming flood and outgoing ebb tides that occur twice a day.” Check out their beautiful map here and get ready to hit the currents.

The future of NYC’s waterfronts, according to the mayoral candidates

On April 9, over 600 people attended the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s (MWA) Conference, “Leadership for Our City of Water: Living with the Water, not Fighting It.” The conference was held at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park aboard the Hornblower Infinity. Among these 600 people were six of the mayoral candidates, who laid out their visions for the future of New York City’s waterfront. There were common views amongst all the candidates: all saw the waterfront as an important city resource, and all wanted a return to a “working waterfront.” Concerns about equitable rebuilding post-Sandy were frequently expressed, while the means by which to pay for it was more unclear. All of the candidates spoke in favor of expanding ferry service between the five boroughs, and many mentioned using a metro card swipe to pay for a ferry ride.


City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the first candidate to speak in a series of one-on-one discussions moderated by Christopher Ward, MWA Chairperson. Quinn pledged, “I will be a waterfront mayor” and strongly stated that New Yorkers can “still live near the water–we can’t hide from it.” She discussed focusing on hard and soft infrastructure changes, expanding Staten Island’s Blue Belt system, and researching sea walls as storm protection solutions. Quinn cautioned that “every community is different [and] would require a different response” when asked about Governor Cuomo’s buyout programs for affected areas. She emphasized developing the Brooklyn waterfront as a resource especially for its employment potential. If elected mayor, Quinn would appoint a Deputy Mayor of the waterfront, but stop short of creating a Department of the Waterfront.

Christine Quinn discussing the waterfront (

Christine Quinn discussing the waterfront (

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio was the next candidate to outline his vision for the waterfront. He emphasized using the federal aid from Hurricane Sandy as an opportunity to correct economic injustices. De Blasio described the placement of NYCHA Housing in environmentally vulnerable areas as “systematic decisions to isolate poor people,” and called for larger investments to address these problems. When asked about PlaNYC 2030, Bloomberg’s sustainability plan, De Blasio said he would continue to follow it as mayor. De Blasio is an advocate for a “holistic ferry system” that would be integrated into all five boroughs, and he would use federal aid to pay for the majority of the cost. De Blasio also described Governors Island as “even more central to the recreational and educational possibilities of our city in the next ten to fifteen years.”

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson spoke of “working with the community to build better and smarter” in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He outlined his waterfront vision including niche businesses, parks combined with affordable housing and amenities, and using the waterfront as a learning tool for non-profits and schools. He emphasized the development opportunities along the Brooklyn waterfront, but cautioned that every area is different and there would not be just one solution. Thompson said he would create a comprehensive plan to address various areas, establish timetables, align resources, and communicate with communities. He proposed establishing a commuter tax and using weight based registration fees to raise funds in order to expand and integrate ferries into the larger mass transit system.

John Liu, the current City Comptroller, spoke next about his vision of “reclaiming the waterfront for people who live here now and newcomers alike.” He supports restoring the smaller waterways, such as the Gowanus Canal and Flushing Creek, as well as returning to a working waterfront. Liu is an advocate for integrating ferries throughout the boroughs, a cross-harbor freight tunnel, and potentially using Liberty Island as a multi-ferry station. If elected mayor, Liu would integrate water transportation issues into the Department of Transportation rather than create a new department. He emphasized sustainable growth and his desire to “restore New York City as a world class city.”

John Catsimatidis, the CEO of the Red Apple Group and Gristedes Foods, described himself as the best mayoral candidate for the waterfront because he is the “only candidate with investments in the waterfront.” He emphasized the need to increase funding to attract more cruise ships and draw tourists from the ships into the city. Catsimatidis is also an advocate for using Liberty Island as a terminal to connect tourists with the transit system, but he is also in favor of using Ellis or Governors Island. His overarching vision for NYC is to continue to improve upon existing conditions to prevent backsliding into the past.

The last mayoral candidate to speak was Adolfo Carrion, Jr, the Bronx Borough President. He touted his record for improving the waterfront in the Bronx by rebuilding piers and increasing public access in Hunts Point. He is an advocate for creating a Department of the Waterfront to have a “new platform for waterfront issues across the five boroughs.” He emphasized working with the Department of City Planning, and said “people need to have a real voice in how we grow.”

The moderator and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance Chairperson Christopher Ward described his initial reactions to the mayoral candidate’s platforms. He was impressed that six candidates attended, and cited Hurricane Sandy for placing waterfront development squarely in the public eye. Ward also called for more detailed and structured plans to guide development along Brooklyn’s waterfront and for the proposed freight tunnel. Ward’s critiques concerned the specificity of the candidates’ plans: Who will pay? How will these visions become reality? With just over six months to go until Election Day, the mayoral candidates have shown their “broad strokes and vision,” according to Ward, but the nuts and bolts of financing, balancing public-private partnerships, and implementation remain to be seen.

Riding the future of the Brooklyn Waterfront Conference

On Friday, March 22, the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center and University Transportation Research Center hosted “Bikes and the Brooklyn Waterfront: Past, Present, and Future.” The speakers delved into the history of biking, current undertakings to create bike lanes and redesign streets, and proposed future plans–all with a focus on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Hayes Lord, Director of the Department of Transportation’s Bicycle Program, touted the DOT’s progress in connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan and creating sub-networks within neighborhoods via bike lanes. He cited bike lanes installed on Kent Avenue, Prospect Park West, Plaza Street, and Prospect Park Drive as examples of safe places to cycle within Brooklyn. Lord also gave instances of bike lanes being used to improve car traffic, such as on Empire Boulevard where a new bike lane calmed a busy intersection.


Bike lane on Kent Avenue: Flickr

Lord said the next expansion of cycling infrastructure will focus on increasing the amount of bike lanes in Queens. He discussed the risk of accident decreasing as more cyclists are out and about because automobile drivers are forced to be more aware. The DOT is now focusing on bike corrals as part of their bike to school initiative, and Lord’s overall message was one of using bike lanes to incorporate cycling into family life and get young people biking early on. When asked about the proposed Citi Bike Share program and if it could be terminated under a new mayor, he replied “Ending bike share would be political suicide” and discussed the political power of the sheer number of bikers in the city. An audience member asked about NYPD’s refusal to investigate cycling deaths, and Lord said that the DOT is working with NYPD on an “equitable enforcement campaign” to hold drivers accountable when cyclists are hit.

The Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Project Director Ted Wright presented various improvements along the Brooklyn waterfront. In 2008 there was a grand total of zero miles of bike paths, and no dedicated right of way for cyclists. By the end of 2013 there will be thirteen miles of bike paths along the waterfront. Wright cited several examples of how bike lanes have been creatively constructed to adapt to various streetscapes. In Williamsburg a residential rezoning on Flushing Avenue led to a parking protected bike lane and a two way path that increased weekend biking by 300 percent since 2009. In Brooklyn Bridge Park a temporary bike path was created along Furman Street that can be shifted as construction continues. On Piers 7-12, there was a safety problem with the number of trucks and freight, so separate bike and pedestrian paths were created to increase the sight line. These adaptations show how bike lanes can be implemented in a variety of circumstances and traffic flows.

The next speaker was Steve Durrant, the principle of Alta Bike Share which manages bike sharing programs around the world. Alta will be operating Citi Bike Share in NYC, scheduled to start in May. Durrant discussed the benefits of bike share programs to help children bike to school and in emergency relief situations, such as Hurricane Sandy. He touted the economic benefits to stores that are located near bike share stations, as well as the increased tourism revenue. Similar to Hayes Lord, he had a strong focus on getting youth comfortable with cycling early on and continuing into adulthood.


Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride:

Milton Puryear, the co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, discussed public space and the mental health benefits of green spaces as an escape from the built environment. Puryear mentioned the Naval Cemetery, Williamsburg Bridge Park, and Columbia Park as green spaces that are easily accessible by bike. He promoted the Brooklyn Greenway’s annual “Waterfront Epic Ride,” a 40 mile ride along the waterfront from Newtown Creek to Rockaway Beach which will be held on July 27th this year.

Ben Shepard, City Tech professor, community organizer, and author of The Beach Beneath the Streets: Contesting New York City’s Public Spaces presented on the radical aspects of cycling. Shepard discussed Times Up and their antiwar demonstrations, efforts to reclaim public spaces, and bike memorials and rides to bring awareness to cyclist safety. Bicycles are also extremely useful in disaster situations, as the bike powered generators and supply transporting cargo bikes showed during Hurricane Sandy. Shepard advocated “creating green infrastructure on a community level” as a pathway to a more resilient NYC.

“The Harbor Ring” is an idea advocated by Mike Lydon of Street Plan Collaborative which would link all five boroughs via a bike path along the water. The main missing piece is a path over the Verrazano Bridge. Lydon likened the economic and tourism possibilities to the Golden Gate Bridge, and described how local businesses would benefit from the increased traffic of a path.

The Proposed Harbor Ring (

The Proposed Harbor Ring (

The last speaker of the conference was David Trimble, the director of the Red Hook Criterium, an annual underground bike race where riders compete without brakes. The “Crit” was founded in 2008, and last year boasted 200 riders and over 5,000 spectators. It is held inside the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and is the only public event held there. This June another Criterium race will be held in the Brooklyn Navy Terminal. Trimble spoke about the positive effects the race will have for the still recovering Red Hook community and their efforts to work with local businesses. For example, the race promoters designed a “Red Hook Passport” through which a cyclist can earn official race gear with a certain number of stamps from participating businesses. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a special edition race T-shirt was sold, and over $50,000 of the profits from it were donated to Restore Red Hook.

David Trimble (

David Trimble (

A screening of Racing Towards Red Hook, a short documentary about the  2011 Red Hook Criterium, closed out the conference.

It’s National Grilled Cheese Day!

What a perfect day to curl up with a cheesy, melty grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. In honor of the BEST non-holiday of the year, here are some tips for creating a local, sustainable, delicious grilled cheese on your own, as well as local restaurants that can provide you with a delicious, conscious sammy. Spoiler alert: One sandwich contains lobster, salted caramel, and cheese aka the trifecta of food perfection.

To make your own local grilled cheese, you have to start with fresh, delicious… cheese. The Hudson Valley region produces amazing cheeses, and many are available for purchase at cheese shops and farmers’ markets. Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse is based in Milford, NJ, and is available at the Union Square Greenmarket. They also bake bread–one stop grilled cheese shopping!

Bobolink Breads (

Bobolink Breads (

Consider Bardwell Farm is another local cheese maker that has won dozens of international awards. Bardwell is located in West Pawlet, Vermont, and produces mostly goat cheese  (goat cheese, fig, and honey grilled cheese). You can see pictures of their adorable goats and cows here.

Murray’s Cheese Shop and BKLYN Larder are two great shops to pop in and sample a wide variety of local cheeses. The cheesemongers are very knowledgeable and will guide you on your quest to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Murray’s even has a whole section devoted to “grilled cheese fixins” and a Melt Pack that you can order with everything you need to make the ultimate GCS — a store after my own heart, clearly. Both BKLYN Larder and Murray’s also sell breads, charcuterie, meats, jams and dozens of other ingredients to make the grilled cheese of your dreams.

Murray's Cheese Heaven (

Murray’s Cheese Heaven (

Now that we have the cheese down, its time for the bread. Bread Alone uses flour, dairy products, eggs, and fruit from regional farms and is committed to using environmentally responsible practices. Bread Alone breads are available at dozens of grocery stores around the city, through FreshDirect, and at the Union Square and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets.

For the grilled cheese purists, you can bake your own bread using flour made with organic, local grains from Cayuga Pure Organics, available in NYC at these locations.

Want to just pick up a sandwich on your way home or enjoy one out on the town? Brooklyn Magazine has you set with the Top 10 Grilled Cheeses in Brooklyn. Celebration!

In Astoria, not only does the Queens Kickshaw feature a grilled gouda sandwich with guava jelly, black bean hummus, and jalapenos (it is as delicious as it sounds), they also support local and fair trade coffeemakers, craft breweries, and more, and have great composting and recycling programs.

Lobster Grilled Cheese! (

Lobster Grilled Cheese! (

Reallllly want to celebrate and indulge in what could possibly be the best sandwich in the entire world? Go to Hudson Common and marvel at/ consume their Salted Caramel Angry Lobster Fatty Melt for this week only. According to Gothamist, it’s made of “Yancy Farms White Cheddar Curds, Brooklyn Salvatore Smoked Ricotta, 2 Sisters Gouda, Tickler Cheddar, Fromage Blanc, Prairie Breeze Cheddar, and Butter Milk with Red Chili-Chipotle Lobster Salad with a caramel drizzle atop the sandwich to finish it off.” It costs $22 (which is really nothing when compared to this food nirvana) and is available through April 19.

For more grilled cheese recipes and mouth-watering photos, see Grilled Cheese Social, an amazing blog devoted to all grilled cheese, all the time.


Meatloaf Grilled Cheese (

Meatloaf Grilled Cheese (

Happy Cheesing!

Growing the Battery Urban Farm

The Battery Urban Farm, a project of the Battery Conservancy, sprang up in the spring of 2011. It is the largest educational farm in Manhattan. I recently sat down for an interview with Lauren Kaplan, the farm’s Project Coordinator, to learn about how the farm has evolved, how it weathered Hurricane Sandy, and what 2013 holds for the organization. To get involved with the Battery Urban Farm, come to their volunteer days on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm.

What were some of the big projects you worked on this season– new school groups, other ways the farm expanded? What was different from the first year?

2012 was a thrilling year for us. As you know, The Battery Conservancy opened the farm in April 2011, and we worked with about 860 students over the course of that first year. In our second year, we recognized some new needs from our community, and made significant program changes to respond to those. We brought on a magnificent Farm Educator and Farm Foreman, developed curriculum for our guided farm education classes, streamlined field trip visits for schools and camps with our Enrichment Visit program–and we launched a City Seedlings summer program for little children, weekly volunteer hours, and monthly Saturday harvest hours and community farm-stand days.

We were lucky enough to partner with Grow to Learn NYC to get our food into school cafeterias, and decided to host a new Spring Fest event for our families and farm friends. (We even got a surprise visit from Growing Power’s Will Allen!) Ultimately we ended up doubling the number of students we worked with to 1,800. All in all, a pretty amazing second year.


What did the hurricane do to the farm? The offices? How does this bode for the future of the farm, Battery Park, and the Battery Conservancy in general? 

The Battery Conservancy took a blow–there’s no doubt about it. Our office, on the lower level of a waterfront building, was quite literally washed away–we had floor to ceiling flooding for days. The walls fell down. We lost literally everything. The park was flooded, but between our amazing staff and tireless volunteers we managed to a lot of damage control–flushing out soils and cutting back plants. Recent soil tests have assured us that we can be planting by April!

With all of the unanticipated expenses and the month without any office space, equipment, or supplies, we are certainly set back, and are still in the process of recovery… But just like our gardens, we’re resilient, and are investigating new relationships and funding opportunities (including our soon-to-be-announced Indiegogo campaign!) to help us spring back.

There have been plans to move the farm’s location since it started… what is the plan now? What are you working on over the winter? What are plans for next season?

The Battery Urban Farm was originally started (at the request from eight students) as a one year project. But what do you say when those students–and hundreds more–all want the farm to stay? You say yes. Battery Urban Farm isn’t going anywhere. We might relocate or change in shape a bit, as we grow and make room for the Bikeway – but we’re here for good, as long as our community wants us and the funding is in place.

We’ve been using the winter to map out some really exciting new goals for this year, including plans to pilot a Teacher Training course to enable teachers and gardeners to become garden educators, roll out some educational signage in the farm, and to further develop our Education Apprenticeship and Farm Internship programs. The first big change you’ll see, though, is our Earth Fest event on April 20! [Note: to learn more about Earth Fest and other recent farm happenings you can read the newsletter here].

The Battery Urban Farm

The Battery Urban Farm

What are the Battery Conservancy’s plans for their other projects?

The Battery Conservancy has always followed sustainable practices in the farm, but this year we’re taking it a step further to not only practice but promote sustainability within our community. We are thrilled to be kicking off the season and celebrating Earth Day with Earth Fest: an event to bring families and farm friends together to promote food, farming and sustainability in our community. We hope you’ll join us for a day of service on the farm, which will include demonstrations, arts and crafts, workshops and games–and other activities to inspire all of us to eat thoughtfully, reduce waste and feel empowered to create more green space in our communities.

Also, keep your eyes open for more updates on the spectacular SeaGlass, our amazing aquatic carousel that simulates a ride to the bottom of the sea. The chambered nautilus-inspired pavilion is being constructed now, and we will have a sneak preview of the ride at our annual gala in June before it opens to the public in fall.

SeaGlass Carousel

SeaGlass Carousel (

How do you see the Battery Urban Farm fitting in with the larger farming scene in New York City? Do you collaborate with other farms locally? Do you see Battery Urban Farm having a niche or a specific role to fill?

There are a lot of really exciting farms and garden projects sprouting up all over NYC, and one of our goals is to continue to encourage more of that–both passively by serving as a model and inspiring example, and actively through events and working with partner organizations. Each of these farms and gardens has something special to offer.

Battery Urban Farm is unique in two ways. First of all, we’re very accessible, located at street-level in the middle of a public park, rather than squeezed into an empty lot in the middle of a block or tucked away on a rooftop, where passersby cannot see (and often aren’t even aware of) the farm. Anyone can walk into Battery Urban Farm, including any of the 6 million visitors that The Battery receives annually. Second, we are the largest educational farm on public land in all of Manhattan. And as the #1 “top gainer” in the 9-and-under population (a whopping 129% growth according to a recent NY Times article), Battery Urban Farm is in a prime position to serve a key educational role in the lives of thousands of downtown children and schools. We are a model, and we hope to see similar projects in other NYC public parks to complement the good work that individual schools and community gardeners are doing. We all need to work together to inspire young farmers and a general appreciation for the work that we do (and the food that we grow).

Ultimately, though, we feel that each NYC farm or garden has a very important role to play and something unique to offer, and we try to connect our student farmers and their families with as many of these projects and organizations as we can.

Have your experiences working at the farm changed your views on sustainability? What do you see working and what needs to be improved in New York? Especially in light of Hurricane Sandy, have you noticed a conversational shift around sustainability and urban farming?

I have noticed that existing conversations about sustainability have begun to reference Storm Sandy as further evidence of our need to make positive changes. I unfortunately cannot say that I personally have seen many new conversations start in sectors that maybe weren’t previously concerned with sustainability – but I would love to be proven wrong about that. The shortest answer I can give to this question is to read the recommendations in the Urban Design Lab’s The Potential for Urban Agriculture in NYC. Short of that, one of the biggest changes I believe we can and should make now is to create a city-wide composting program. 40 percent of food is lost from farm to landfill. We recognize the need, we have the tools, and it can happen now. NYC needs to build on the great work that GrowNYC and the NYC Compost Project have already started with DSNY. I also think we should follow Chicago’s inspiring example in streamlining and formalizing the process to make public land available for farmers and farmer development programs.

On a more personal note, I believe that you make more positive change when you inspire healthy
eating habits than you do when you limit unhealthy ones. Rather than spending our time trying to tax or outlaw the bad foods, let’s educate kids on what good food is and get them excited about it by allowing them to grow it, tend it, harvest it, prepare it, and taste it themselves. Let’s see if they inspire their parents, like these boys did, to make changes at home–whether it’s cooking or composting more or wasting less. Let’s do more in this city to get parents and teachers to start gardens in their backyards. Let’s inspire people to want to make good or more well-informed decisions rather than trying to take something away from them.

[SeaGlass Carousel, which is coming to the Battery, is designed by WXY Architects; see our interview with architect Claire Weisz here.]


New bike share station spotted in Bed-Stuy

A Citi Bike Share station has appeared in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, on the corner of Grand and Fulton Streets —

NYC’s long planned bike share program will be starting in May, and locations are planned throughout Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. An app is coming soon to help cyclists locate the nearest station. Riders will purchase either a 24 hour, seven day, or unlimited pass, but rides can be no more than 30 minutes in length before the bike must be returned to a station. Signs at each station will show local bike routes, attractions, subway stops, and nearby bike stations. Learn more about the plans here.

Bike docks

Bike docks

BIke Dock

BIke Dock

So many places for bikes!

So many places for bikes!

Citi Bike Share rates and tips

For more details of another new station nearby on Monroe and Classon Street, see Brooklyn Spoke.

Photos: Mia Brezin