Restaurant coming to McCarren Park

Community Board 1 recently reviewed plans to redesign the old park house in McCarren Park.
The board is in the process of approving a new restaurant to open in the iconic but decaying McCarren Park House at 855 Lorimer Street.
The renovation and restaurant will be managed by Aaron Broudo and Belvy Klein, a duo of businessmen who have previously worked on the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Greenpoint and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.
The renovation project will cost approximately $1.2 million, and will result in the arrival of a new restaurant in the middle of McCarren Park. The restaurant, which is yet to be named, will serve coffee and snacks in the morning and then alcohol and dinner in the evening.
Broudo and Klein are currently applying for a liquor license for the space. The renovated park house is also expected to be completely electric.
Elaine Brodsky of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is confident that Broudo and Klein’s track record is reason enough to support the project.
“These are local guys and have proven they know how to run a business,” she said.
This new project in McCarren Park adds to the trend of development happening directly around the greenspace. A developer is currently applying to rezone 840 Lorimer Street in order to build a ten-story, mixed-use building across the street from McCarren Park.
If approved, the new construction would include 74 apartments, 30 parking spaces, office space, and retail space. Nineteen of the apartments would be affordable in line with the mayor’s Inclusionary Housing program.
The 840 Lorimer project is located next to the Grand McCarren Park, a new six-story rental building that opened in 2019 in a refurbished industrial facility.

Two arrests in attack of firefighter in Middle Village

Two teenagers who were part of a crowd who attacked a 44-year-old man who was walking his dog near Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village have been arrested.
The names of the 14-year-old and 15-year-old suspects are being withheld by police because of their age. Both have been charged with gang assault.
The assault took place on Friday at 10 p.m., when the victim confronted a group of people lighting fireworks, yelling and screaming. A verbal dispute escalated into a physical encounter.
A video captured by a bystander that was posted to the Juniper Park Civic Association’s Facebook page documented the moments leading up to the assault. The victim can be seen backpedaling away from the crowd as members of the group take away his dog and press closer.
Seconds later, the off-duty firefighter was tackled to the ground and driven into the concrete by an assailant who managed to wrap his arms around both of the victim’s legs.
What appears to be a group of about ten men in their early 20s descend on the victim, who is physically overwhelmed by the crowd and unable to escape, unleashing a series of kicks and punches.
The victim sustained cuts and bruising, but refused medical attention.
“Last night, things spun completely out of control,” said Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa. “You had upwards of 200 young adults rampaging through the park at different intervals, and then descended on a man walking his dog.
“Thugs and ‘thugettes’ know there are no consequences for their actions because almost nobody gets arrested any longer in this city,” continued Sliwa. “We’re going to try to bring some civility to a park that was always known as a peaceful sanctuary for the people in Middle Village and Glendale.”
While acts of violence are unusual, fireworks and late-night parties are not, said Paul Howells, a Middle Village resident who is fed up with the excessive use of fireworks throughout the summer in the park. “These people come around in cars, set them off and just leave all the trash there.”
Matthew Wenz, an 18-year-old student who will be attending Adelphi University in the fall and lives near the park, could not believe that kids from his neighborhood would attack a civil servant.
“It’s disgusting,” he said “It’s a horrible attack that shouldn’t happen anywhere, never mind this neighborhood.”
Councilman Bob Holden was quick to react following the attack and condemned the crowd’s behavior. Before being elected to the City Council, Holden was the longtime president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.
Holden met with the 104th Precinct’s commanding officer and representatives from the Parks Department to demand immediate action to keep the park safe.
“Quality-of-life crimes, like unreasonable noise, lead to more serious crime and it must be shut down so that our parks are peaceful and safe,” Holden said. “Deputy Inspector [Louron] Hall assured me that enforcement will be stepped up with added measures taken so that there will be no more incidents like the one at Juniper Valley Park.”

Here’s to another 100 years in Forest Park

For over a century, the carousel in Forest Park has been part of growing up in Woodhaven, Glendale, Ridgewood and many of the nearby neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.
In many families, several generations have fond memories of riding on the carousel, and have passed on the tradition by taking their own children or grandchildren for their first ride.
A few summers ago, the operators of the carousel added the Woodhaven Express Train. Last summer, they introduced the Frog Hopper to Forest Park. So with a few rides to choose from, along with a basketball shootout and a ring-toss game, it has been transformed into a mini-amusement park.
And so, while the carousel itself will always be known as the Forest Park Carousel, the entire site is now called the “Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village,” and it officially opened its gates for 2021 on weekends…for now. Understandably a soft open after the past year.
We were very fortunate the day that New York Carousel Entertainment was selected to be the stewards of our historic carousel’s future. They have been committed to the growth and well being of the carousel site, while at the same time remaining reverent of the carousel’s past and the feelings that the people of Woodhaven have for it.
Artistically, the Forest Park Carousel is particularly notable as it was the handiwork of the legendary master carver Daniel Muller. Muller came to the United States from Germany as a child in the 1880s. As a young man, he and his brother worked for Gustav Dentzel, a renowned carousel builder in his own right.
Dentzel’s father built carousels in Germany going back to the mid-18th century. Muller took advantage of the opportunity to learn all of these old-world skills from Dentzel, and blended it with his own realistic style to carve out a name for himself. In 1903, D.C. Muller and Bro. Company was founded.
Muller’s carvings were notable for being very beautiful and realistic. In some cases, the carvings were militaristic, with horses sporting bugles, swords and canteens.
Over 14 years, D.C. Muller and Bro. created over a dozen carousels but, sadly, today only two remain: one in Cedar Point, Ohio, and the one right here in Forest Park.
The Forest Park Carousel contains three rows of carvings. The outer row contains 13 standing horses, three menagerie animals and two chariots. The inner two rows each contain 18 jumping horses for a total of 36.
While the Forest Park Carousel is often referred to as a Muller carousel, you will also find a few carvings from Dentzel and Charles Carmel, another notable carousel artist of the same era, on the inner two rows.
The Forest Park Carousel recently underwent a major overhaul. Many of the century-old gears and bearings were carefully replaced, a repair job that took months and required that the carousel be taken completely apart piece by piece.
“We did this so it can run for another 100 years in this very spot,” says David Galst, managing director of New York Carousel. “We know that people are very protective of this carousel, and we want it to last forever.”
The Forest Park Carousel has also established themselves as a friendly partner in the community, working with several charitable groups and organizations, including the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.
We came so close to losing this carousel a few years ago. It’s mind-boggling to think of how lucky we’ve been and how good this has turned out. So it’s on all of us to support this great New York City Landmark this summer to make sure that it stays healthy and sticks around for another century for future residents of Woodhaven to enjoy.

Parents want a better Mafera Park

Residents of Glendale and Ridgewood are calling on officials to make much-needed repairs to Mafera Park.
The five-acre patch of green space on Shaler Avenue, formerly known as Farmers Oval, has been a recreational haven for generations of local children and teens alike. But now, broken playground equipment, torn rubber padding, worn football fields and an abandoned garden-turned-unauthorized-dog run have made the park unsightly and unsafe, say concerned parents.
“The park has always been a refuge. It was a little worn, but now it has deteriorated and it is getting progressively worse” said Yong Cao, a mother of two who admits she no longer feels comfortable letting her children play there.
Cao and nearly 100 other parents formed The Friends of Mafera Park several years ago to lobby for needed upgrades. Aside from fixing the vandalized roller hockey rink around four years ago, their requests have fallen on deaf ears.
The group planned to host a rally at the park on June 16 at 5 p.m., inviting elected officials, Parks Department representatives, Community Board 5 members and Community Affairs officers from the 104th Precinct to tour the park so they can see the state of disrepair firsthand.
“We have this big beautiful space but it is underutilized,” said Linda Byszynski, a leading member of The Friends of Mafera Park. “We could have better equipment and fix things up so more people can use the park and feel safer.”
Byszynski said as it stands the playground jungle gym is concentrated in a small area, where adults also use the bars to exercise, and the dog run is adjacent to the baby swings, which poses a health hazard.
What’s more, she said some people loiter in the sports fields, drinking alcohol, urinating on the grounds and leaving their garbage behind.
“We have 140,000 residents who use this park and millions of dollars are spent to upgrade other spaces like Juniper Valley Park, why can’t we have that too?” Byszynski asked.
Connie Altamirano, a community activist who has advocated for a host of local issues, said residents reached out to her for help.
“The pandemic has proven that parks are essential to our well-being and has also shown us the value of parks and open space,” she said. “The parents who asked me for help say Mafera Park is the heart of the Glendale and Ridgewood communities.”

Remembering The Baba of Rego Park

Stepping into The Baba Catering & Nite Club at 91-33 63rd Drive felt like a journey to a faraway land.
Opened in 1968, the Rego Park cornerstone was the go-to spot for anniversaries, showers, and weddings. It was the only Israeli cafe in America affiliated with a sister spot in Tel Aviv.
“This is where my grandparents Sonya and Khayka celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in a beautiful atmosphere,” said Arthur Ilizarov, who also had his Bar Mitzvah there.
The spot’s slogan was “Have fun Middle East-style.” Patrons could enjoy hummus and tahini, gefilte fish, and kafta. On Thursday night, singles were encouraged to mingle and dance.
In the 1970s, Steve Goodman was a college student who worked one summer as an audio engineer at WEVD.
“It was known as ‘the station that speaks your language,’” he recalled. “I had such fun working with Art Raymond, longtime beloved host of the Sunday Simcha Jewish, Yiddish, and Israeli music show sponsored by Cafe Baba. I can still hear his voice as he enticed listeners to plan a visit to Rego Park.
“At a time when New York was rapidly changing, it was The Baba’s sponsorship that kept Jewish music alive on the radio,” Goodman added.
“A Night In Israel” was coordinated by the Parents Council of the Salanta-Akiba-Riverdale Academy in 1971, which entertained attendees with Israeli and modern music. Art Raymond, nicknamed “The Yiddish Tummeler,” performed a comedy routine.
“I’ll always remember my parents Simon and Elise Salz’s 40th anniversary party in 1986,” said Roz Salz. “They loved listening to Israeli music, and we all sang along with the melodies in a very romantic ambiance.”
Robert Rosner was raised nearby and has since relocated to Florida, but The Baba remains close to his heart.
“I had my Bar Mitzvah reception in May 1970,” he said. “I remember how Art Raymond was there that night. He was the life of the party.”
Musician Ari Silverstein recalled many birthday celebrations at The Baba.
“I remember the belly dancer and the band performing in English, Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish,” he said. “There was also a disco ball.”
It also elicits fond memories for Michael Gluck going back 50 years ago.
“I would visit with my parents on various occasions and had my Bar Mitzvah there,” he said. “Most of the contemporary Jewish entertainers of the 1960s and 1970s performed here. My favorite show featured a comedian named Johnny Yune, who was Korean American and recited Jewish jokes. He was a guest on ‘The Tonight Show’ and was always very funny.”
In 1993, The Baba came under new management and continued as a kosher restaurant and night club.
“The only kosher Russian restaurant around” was headed by Terry Ellis, a native of Soviet Georgia. It was a family effort with the assistance of her husband Alex, daughters Yvette and Nina, ad son Max, as well as business partner Alex Gutgarts.
At the time, The Baba featured ornate chandeliers, lamps, and mirrored walls. Some of the unique dishes were red caviar with blintzes and stuffed fish and chicken in walnut sauce, a popular Georgian food.
Patrons felt as if they were in Russia as they ate blintzes with meat, Loulya Kabob, and Hinkali dumplings. On Sunday afternoons, a violinist and a gypsy dancer would entertain the crowd.
“In the late 1990s, I used to perform there every weekend,” said dancer Sira Melikian. “It seemed like an exotic castle with its diamond-like mirror mosaics adorning the outside. I was very sad to see the façade and its name change, as it was a Rego Park staple. The very special design set it apart from anything else in the neighborhood.”

Freedom Market fosters dialogue and community

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, concerned Greenpointers responded by organizing the McCarren Gathering. The Gathering, which was organized in part by the group North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, meets daily in McCarren Park to address racial injustice, economic injustice, and other issues afflicting BIPOC communities.
In addition to the daily meetings, McCarren Gathering has organized other events and initiatives since its inception over a year ago. One such initiative is the Freedom Market, which promotes and sells products from local BIPOC-owned small businesses.
“Freedom Market was created because of struggle,” said organizer Trevor Bayack. “It came out of this struggle I saw, the way that racism is rooted in economic issues. So we started coming together to talk strategy so we could channel resources from the haves to the have nots.”
The Freedom Market hopes to achieve this goal by offering exposures to local small businesses owned by people of color. The products on sale at the market range from baked goods to home essentials like soap, and customers are encouraged to bring their own bags and shop sustainably.
In addition to its economic mission, the Freedom Market — like the McCarren Gathering as a whole — aims to foster conversations about the realities of racism and the economic, social, and emotional impacts it has.
Originally from East Flatbush, Bayack moved to Greenpoint a couple years ago. He sees the Freedom Market and McCarren Gatherings as an opportunity to educate other Greenpointers and make the neighborhood more thoughtful and inclusive.
“Me personally, I had never fully felt welcome at McCarren Park,” said Bayack. “That’s why the McCarren Gathering is so empowering, because it’s occurring in a space that was not made for the Black and Brown community.”
“The people at the Gatherings are not people I would normally see,” he added. “After the murder of George Floyd, many people realized that they had to take action. So it isn’t preaching to the choir, but sharing our message with the community that needs to hear it.”

While the Freedom Market and McCarren Gathering is meant in part to educate people about injustice, the event is still primarily focused on elevating the voices and work of BIPOC communities.
“What we try to do at McCarren Gathering and the Freedom Market is let the people most affected be in leadership positions and have their voices heard,” said Bayack. “Our white allies are invaluable, but still they attend with the knowledge to defer to the affected communities.”
The Freedom Market is held every Friday at 7 p.m. near the baseball fields in McCarren Park, weather permitting. Additionally, McCarren Gathering organizes other programming at their daily meetings, including book clubs, open mics, self-defense classes, yoga instruction, and special pop-up events in other locations.

For additional information, follow Freedom Market on Instagram @freedommarketnbk.

New park opens under Kosciuszko Bridge

Under the K Bridge Park, a new public park built beneath the overpass of the Kosciuszko Bridge, officially opened last week.
The new park is seven acres and comes equipped with bike paths, greenspace, and skate park.
“The Kosciuszko Bridge project continues to reap benefits not only for motorists, pedestrians and the cycling community, but for a North Brooklyn community craving for more open space in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Under the K Bridge Park is living proof that the Kosciuszko Bridge project didn’t just connect two New York City boroughs, but is helping to transform an entire community.”
The bike lanes at Under the K connect to North Brooklyn’s growing bike lane network and to Queens via the shared-use path on the Kosciuszko Bridge.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge officially opened in August 2019 and included pedestrian walkways and bike lanes. The project represented the first major bridge crossing built in New York City since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened to traffic in 1964.
Under the K also features more than 20,000 trees and plants, bringing a much needed touch of color to the largely industrial Newtown Creek waterfront.
“With the addition of this truly innovative urban park, DOT is expanding those benefits to further integrate green, open space for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers,”. “The COVID-19 public health emergency underscored the need for outdoor recreational opportunities and that’s exactly what Under the K Bridge Park provides,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. “With expansive walkways, innovative design and landscaping, this bridge truly connects people through infrastructure and greenspace.”
The new park will be open daily from dawn until dusk, with COVID-19 health and safety measures in place to ensure park visitors comply with the state’s guidance on masks, social distancing, and gatherings.
“North Brooklyn has been historically underserved with its amount of parks and open space,” North Brooklyn Parks Alliance founding board member Joseph Vance explained. “Under the K Bridge Park opens the door for innovative transformation of underutilized public land for open space.”

City Council candidates speak in Park Slope

The seven candidates running for the Democratic nomination for an open Park Slope City Council seat spoke at a forum in J.J. Byrne Playground on May 23.
Sitting before the historic Old Stone House, the hopefuls discussed issues pertinent to a diverse district that encompasses parts of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington.
The event was organized by the Park Slope Civil Council in partnership with Community Board 6 and the 5th Avenue Business Improvement District. Proceedings began with comments from the district’s current representative, Councilmember Brad Lander.
“I could not be more optimistic about this set of candidates,” said Lander. “They are working their butts off right now. They have a month to go and it is really hard to be a candidate.”
Lander is currently a candidate for city comptroller in a busy race that pits him against Speaker Corey Johnson and others.
The candidates present at the forum event were Justin Krebs (nonprofit theater owner and political organizer), Mamnun Haq (cab driver, labor organizer, and public health advocate), Briget Rein (teacher, labor organizer, and member of Community Board 6), Shahana Hanif (activist and the current director of Community Engagement for Brad Lander), Brandon West (voting rights activist and City Hall budget staffer), Jessica Simmons (school principal), and Doug Schneider (civil rights attorney and Democratic district leader).
Topics discussed included school reopenings post-pandemic, small business recovery, affordable housing, and the controversial Gowanus rezoning. Lander supports the rezoning and multiple candidates directly addressed their disagreement with the current council member during the event.
This year will mark the first time ranked-choice voting will be used for New York City elections, including for primaries. Voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. The Park Slope Civic Council shared information about ranked choice voting at the end of Sunday’s event.
The democratic primary is scheduled for June 22.

New retirement home for park animals

The Parks Department is sending the concrete animals children have been playing on for decades into retirement.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver last week announced plans for the creation of the very first “NYC Parks Home for Retired Playground Animals.”
The new grove, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, will be a contemplative space where New Yorkers can visit these concrete creatures to enjoy a moment of nostalgia and salute some of the city’s hardest working public servants.
“After decades of service to New York City, and with perfect attendance records across the board, it’s time for these Parkies to hang up their hats and enjoy a life of leisure,” said Silver. “Instead of moving down south to Florida, they will get their place in the sun in Flushing.”
Five animals – two dolphins, one aardvark, one camel, and one frog who until now were living out their last years in storage – will be the first residents in the new space, which is set to open this fall.
The animals will remain in their current state, without repainting or touchups. The space will include new plantings, as well as benches. New pathways will allow parkgoers to easily access the area from three separate points.
Most of the concrete animals in city parks were added in the 1980s and 90s under former Commissioner Henry Stern, who tasked Parks designers to incorporate animal art into every new playground project.
While some features were designed by staff in-house, most (like the frog, which can be found in many New York City playgrounds) were prefabricated by manufacturers.
As these playgrounds are renovated, the objects are often removed to make way for new play features and to add more accessible play space.
The concrete animals were discarded when they reached the end of their service, but starting now these worn and much-loved figures will make Flushing Meadows their home.

Activists, pols rally for Bushwick Inlet Park

Local activists, politicians, and community members gathered along the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront last week to advocate for the complete construction of the long-promised Bushwick Inlet Park.
The event was organized by the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, a community group that has been fighting for the project for nearly two decades.
In 2005, large portions of Williamsburg and Greenpoint were rezoned under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition to new development, elected officials promised an expansive, miles-long park along the area’s formerly industrial coastline.
Although North Brooklyn has since experienced a boom in new development, the promised park remains elusive 16 years down the line.
“The population growth along the North Brooklyn waterfront initiated by the 2005 rezoning has exceeded the city’s estimates by historic proportions,” said Steve Chesler, an organizer with the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “Yet, the creation of Bushwick Inlet Park promised to help mitigate this new neighborhood density is happening at a snail’s pace.
“After 16 years and counting, only 8 acres out of 27 are built or in progress,” he added. “For our health and well being, the city must speed up its execution and funding for completion of this public green space and fulfill its commitment to its residents.”
“Sixteen years into the redevelopment of the neighborhood and we have 20 percent of the park we were promised,” said Ward Dennis, another Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park organizer. “We hope to at least make some progress and get rid of this building.”
The building in question is a large, storage warehouse along the waterfront. In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city bought the site for $160 million, rekindling hope that the full Bushwick Inlet Park would become a reality.
However, there are currently no plans in place to demolish the structure.
“We are here to celebrate the capital investment of Mayor de Blasio,” said Catherine Thompson. “We are grateful because he secured the future of Bushwick Inlet Park. Now Mr. Mayor, tear down this building!”
Thursday’s rally was attended by multiple local officials and members of the Triboro United Youth Soccer Club.
“I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for picking up the broken pieces left by the Bloomberg administration and the mostly disastrous 2005 rezoning,” said Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher. “Mayor de Blasio, we are almost there and your term is almost up. Let this be a part of your legacy.”
Counciman Stever Levin said he is currently working to include the park project in the soon-to-be-finalized city budget, with a special focus on demolishing the warehouse. The budget must be finalized ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
“Justice delayed is justice deferred is justice denied,” said Levin. “That is what we are seeing right now. There is a generation of kids in North Brooklyn who need this space.”

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