Blowing Chunks on Bedford Avenue

October 29, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

Today I am going to feature two examples of north Brooklyn Halloween goodness for all to enjoy. On top of the daily dose Greenpoint Halloween decor, I am going to feature one hailing from our neighbor to the south: Williamsburg. But before I unveil it, I am going to tell the tale of what led to its discovery.

My husband was in one irritating as shit mood Saturday. He went went out for breakfast; they did not serve him properly, so after drinking one cup of coffee he left. I know this because he came by my job and to bitch about it. That was at 11:00 a.m. He asked me what he should do. I told him to eat something. “But we will have lunch out later.” he said. To wit I replied:

EAT SOMETHING! WHEN YOU DON’T YOU GET CRANKY AND ACT LIKE A WHINY BITCH!

Did my husband eat anything? Tomato salad, brie/garlic butter dip, 1/2 a baguette and numerous other foodstuffs I have personally hunted, gathered and processed were awaiting his delectation. Did he eat them? No, he didn’t. So when I arrived home an hour late he was even hungrier and bitchier.

Crankyass Husband: So where do you want to go?
Me: Driggs Pizzeria.
C.H.: (silently grouses)

So off to Driggs Pizzeria we went. Every time I stopped to take pictures hubby bitched. At one point he tried to blame my coming home one hour late for him not eating so as to be prepped my coming home an hour late. I am not making this shit up.

We arrived at Driggs. Despite dining on spicy Sicilian food and ordering a bottle of Chianti hubby was still surly:

Surly Hubby: Why are you wearing a tank top with Aquarius on it? You are not an Aquarius.
Me: Does one need to be an Aquarius in order to wear an Aquarius tank top?
S.H.: I guess not.
Me: I’ll wear what I damned well please. You’re just jealous because you don’t have an Aquarius tank top.
S.H.: I’m not.
Me: You’re just jealous because I look much finer in this tank top than you would.
S.H.: I AM NOT!
Me: I think I’ll get 12 tank tops, one for each sign. When I get up in the morning I will ask myself “Who do I feel like today, perhaps a Leo?” and wear the appropriate tankie.
S.H. Let me know when you’re feeling like a Leo.

This dialog degenerated into a squabble. Grumpy Pants said he wanted to go home. I didn’t and obliged him because I had my keys and “didn’t like his attitude”. In true passive aggressive form, he acquiesced to tagging along. We walked one block and he said:

I need to go home, I don’t feel very good.

Me (thinking this was some bullshit way of saving face): Ok, fine.

I proceeded along Driggs Avenue. I get a call.

Husband: UVA moved to Driggs and North 6*.
Me: Uh, okay. Thanks.

After asking myself why he saw fit to call and tell me this, I went to King’s Pharmacy. Upon exiting, I got another call.

Husband (strangely chirpy): I feel much better now, where are you?
Me: Bedford and North 4th.
Husband: I’ll meet you, I’m at North 7th and Bedford.

When we met I immediately asked:

Why do you feel better?

Husband: I threw up in a trash can on Bedford Avenue.
Me: Why did you throw up?
Husband: I guess I shouldn’t have had wine (with lunch) on an empty stomach.

There is a lesson in the previous tale folks, but it doesn’t end there.

We clipped down North 6th to head home. That’s where we encountered this jack ‘o’ lantern.

Mister Pukehead

HEY LOOK, IT’S YOU!

I enthusiastically exclaimed.

Yeah, I’m a bitch. A bitch who was happy her hubby blew chunks on Bedford Avenue instead of Greenpoint. That would have been really embarrassing.

Miss Heather

*This is wrong. My husband is not very good with street names.

Ask A Greenpointer: The Homeless Question, Part II

October 28, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

Homeless Man and Mercedes at McGolrick Park

I have attempted to keep my response to this question from being informed by that tendered by the Co-pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church. And, for the most part, it isn’t. I mention this because our answers ended up complementing each other. Greenpointers’s answer can be found here, follows is my take on the question posited to us:

Given all of the development and displacement, has homelessness increased visibly? If so, will the city’s new decision to start turning people away from homeless shelters (if it believes they have other housing options) affect people in search of shelter in Greenpoint?

This is not a very easy question to answer. There are a number of reasons why, among them:

  1. I do not have any statistics.
  2. A number of people many would presume to be homeless, e.g.; “bums” (like the folks often seen drunk/passed-out on Greenpoint Avenue), are are not homeless. They have a place to call home— or family residing here— but prefer to consume alcoholic beverages al fresco.
  3. Given the previous point, it is impossible to approach this question without touching upon the subject of substance abuse.
  4. “Displacement” (in my opinion) is a separate issue altogether.

Having made my misgivings known, I will attempt to answer this question using the one thing I can offer: personal experience.

Visibility: When I first moved to Greenpoint I lived on Clay Street. The impact of crack was very evident back then. This is why I would not use the stairwell on Box Street to access the Pulaski Bridge. A number of people (presumably addicts) were living there; the steps were littered with shit, crack vials and hypodermic needles. It was really bad. I would walk south and use the ramp at Eagle Street instead. Around 2003 this changed. The Box Street entrance to the Pulaski has little in the way of tenants nowadays save pigeons. LOTS of pigeons.

It should also be noted that within the last year I have seen a noticeable reduction in the number of people loitering on (and around) Greenpoint Avenue as well.

Do I think the previous changes are indicators of a reduced homeless population? Absolutely not. I cannot profess to know what the 94th Precinct has in the ways of priorities, but I strongly suspect reducing the visibility of the homeless problem here is one of them. One need only go to Huron, India or Java Street (west of West Street), Commercial Street, McGolrick Park or (occasionally) McCarren Park to realize the homeless population is alive and (not so) well.

Police activity aside, I would like to add (on a related note) that after the Terminal Warehouse fire there was a noticeable uptick of drug and homeless activity on my block: Green Street. These people clearly came from somewhere. Given the timing, close proximity and the privacy my block affords (due to 1/4-1/3 of it being demolished) it is not unreasonable to deduce these people used to reside in or around the market.

My conclusion: the homeless “bum” population is less visible by virtue of the fact it has become more dispersed.

Substance abuse: It is an epidemic here. As I mentioned earlier, a number of people (women mostly) one sees drinking themselves to oblivion on the streets are not homeless: they’re addicts. And being addicts, they hang out with other addicts (many of whom are, in fact, homeless). Here’s an example, let’s call her “Wendy”.

Wendy is married and has a daughter. She lives with her husband in apartment right here in Greenpoint. I would place her age as being in the mid-thirties, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at her: she looks much older. Wendy, like her husband, has a full-time job. I have seen her commuting on a number of mornings.

I have spoken with Wendy on occasion; she’s a very nice, funny person. Several years ago she happened to be in The Vortex (a local junk shop which has since relocated to Bushwick) when I came in. I was told by Geoff, the cashier, that a gentleman had come by asking about me (because I was not returning his phone calls and numerous voice mails). I cringed. Wendy was there when he happened to come by:

Wendy: Ugh, that guy was an asshole. He had no personality.
Me: Oh, he has a personality alright…
Wendy: Yeah, a personality like SHIT.

Wendy hit the nail right on the proverbial head. This guy had a personality like shit. Now try to reconcile the above witty retort with its author sitting on the streets, throughly inebriated, slurring and shouting along with some of Greenpoint’s surliest bums. Perhaps it may seem a contradiction to some, but it isn’t: Wendy is two different people. When sober, Wendy is pretty cool. When drunk, she becomes yet another “bum” sitting on the sidewalk.

There are a lot of “Wendys” in Greenpoint. They may or may not have homes, but the majority of them do have family members who reside in the area. Family members who have become resigned to their brother’s, sister’s, cousin’s, aunt’s, uncle’s alcoholism and living on the streets.

Leszek Kuczera is probably the most visible example of this phenomenon to come to the public’s attention. Who the hell is he, you ask? Mr. Kuczera was the chap accused of starting a certain conflagration in this neighborhood. Instead of railroading him (let’s face facts: there is no way in hell this man did it), the judge saw fit to order him into rehab. I applaud this decision. Too bad it took a burning building to make it happen.

Displacement: The people being forced out of this neighborhood (or the “displaced”) should not be confused with the derelicts who reside on our streets. Most of the people in north Greenpoint (the area I know best) who have been or at risk of being displaced are Hispanic. They obviously have moved somewhere, but the streets of Greenpoint appear not to have become their new home.

Another group that is especially vulnerable to becoming homeless during the rampant luxurification of Greenpoint are the elderly. Block Magazine wrote a nice, concise article on the subject of homelessness and displacement. Here’s an excerpt:

Laura Hofmann, long-time Greenpoint resident and member of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Planning and Parks, believes that, “a lot of the homelessness in the neighborhood now and the homelessness that will be here in the future is a direct result of community members just being priced out of where they’ve been for years and years.” Recently, Hoffman befriended an elderly woman who had been paying a local landlord to sleep in a back hallway after being evicted from her apartment.

It should hardly be surprising that landlord harassment against the elderly is a serious problem here. The prospect of ousting a long-term rent-stabilized/controlled tenant (and upping one’s rent rolls) is very tempting to many landlords. Enough so to use extra-legal means in order to make it happen. I for one find this sickening.

For this reason a bill has been proposed that would give the green light for tenants to file harassment suits against their landlords. I think this is a positive, if belated, development. Brownstoner has a nice post about it. Be sure to check out the comments, as it will give you an excellent idea of how contentious an issue landlord harassment is. Follows are some particularly offensive ones for your enjoyment:

terrible idea like rent control and stabilization laws. nyc is fuck up because of those laws. unlike other cities.

I agree with armchair (the above commenter — Ed Note.). This will definitely lead to a lot of frivolous lawsuits. Every time a tenant has a bad hair day, they will decide to hire a hack lawyer to go after their landlord. Nine times out of ten the person bringing suit will be behind on his/her rent. Hopefully the law will set the bar high for standard of proof.

rent control and rent stabilization are crap. anti-american. do away with it all. it is biased towards the young and those new to the city. why should one person have to foot the bill for another. go live in a building you can afford.

Did you know earning a paltry $100,000 a year makes you fresh out of college with little work experience? I didn’t.

1st if your apartment is near market then MOVE if the LL isnt giving you essential services – secondly if you are just making 100K combined with graduate degrees then you are very young and clearly havent been working very long (less than 3yrs) so again if you are making over 100K (with full benefits and 2-3mo OFF) at less than 3 yrs in your career you are clearly much better than middle class and you really shouldnt be relying on a private LL to subsidize your housing (not that you shouldn’t take advantage of the law if it lets you – just that the law is wrong and isnt helping who it should)

Not surprisingly, landlords are crying foul:

How about a law saying a landlord can sue a tenant for harassment. My RC tenant, who pays $240 for a 6 room 1300 square foot apartment is constantly calling the city claiming there is no heat or no hot water. Her apartment is the hottest in the whole building because she is on the top floor and I’ve gone up there with a thermometer and shown her that it’s sometime 74 or 76 and she’s complaining! So the city comes and gives me fines for things like “encumberances in the hallway” or cracked plaster in an airshaft for god’s sake. Even she doesn’t give a shi##t about these violations. I spend more money heating her apartment than she pays in rent, and still have to paint it, repair it, etc. It’s a great law, she has family who have absolutely no responsibility to help her out, but the city instead shifts that burden onto a stranger, a private citizen, because he’s a landlord.

The previous comments are indicative of the disparaging attitude many have when it comes to homelessness and displacement, e.g.; if you’re poor or an alcoholic, it is your own damned fault. Even I will concede that the previous is occasionally true. Occasionally. Every person has a measure of responsibility for the situation he (or she) finds herself in. But being the white liberal (my husband warned me about becoming) I cannot help but feel that blaming the victim has become the de facto attitude nowadays when it comes to approaching problems which have no easy, clear-cut solutions.

It’s a shame, as it draws attention away from the from the real reason we have the problems such as homelessness, tenant harassment and displacement: policy-makers and the people who elected them. We, dear readers, are the ones who have failed.

Miss Heather

P.S.: Here’s another article some of you might find of interest. Check it out.

Ask A Greenpointer: The Homeless Question, Part I

October 28, 2007 ·
Filed under: Area 51 

Hideaway Sleeping on Manhattan Avenue

Hordes of affluent people may see fit live in Greenpoint nowadays, but the fact of the matter is large numbers of homeless people do too— and no amount of policing is going to make them go away. Therefore, it didn’t surprise me when someone sent us a question about the homeless situation in Greenpoint. Here it is:

Given all of the development and displacement, has homelessness increased visibly? If so, will the city’s new decision to start turning people away from homeless shelters (if it believes they have other housing options) affect people in search of shelter in Greenpoint?

All I can offer in the way of an answer to the above question is a subjective one. Therefore, I have asked that the Co-Pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church (who works with a great number of homeless individuals and people at high risk of becoming homeless) to an answer this question as well. This is her response (mine will follow later today tomorrow):

Answering a question about whether the level of homelessness in a certain area is rising or declining isn’t as easy as one might imagine. You might think, “hey, let’s just go out one night and count up all the homeless people, then compare the numbers to other years.” Well, a great group of volunteers actually do this once a year. But, such a count isn’t so scientific since:

  1. not everyone who is homeless can be found in one night and
  2. not everyone who is homeless is sleeping outside.

When most folks think of someone who is “homeless,” images of drunks sleeping in the park come to mind. Such folks might constitute what I think of as visible homelessness. In Greenpoint, many of the visibly homeless folks sleep in empty lots, vacant warehouses or park corners. The root cause of such homelessness is often traced to the person suffering from mental illness and/or addiction. Many folks don’t realize it, but for people who suffer from mental illness and lack stable housing, it’s especially difficult to stay on meds and continue to receive treatment. Making doctors appointments and getting prescriptions refilled often go by the wayside when the one’s life is chaotic.

This is a no-brainer, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s a lot easier to lack shelter in the summer or in California. In New York, being homeless is especially dangerous in the winter. I’m sure many of our neighbors will recall that a year and a half ago the bodies of two men were found frozen solid on Moultrie and Calyer Streets. Doctors note that alcohol consumption can trick the human body into thinking its warmer than it really is. Some folks don’t know how cold they are until it’s too late. Booze also causes blackouts, and someone’s in a blackout, he or she has a far greater chance of not going inside to get out of the cold.

Another kind of homelessness might fall into the category of “housing instability.” This would be when someone can’t afford shelter or is between apartments. When rents are raised to the point that they cannot be paid, the tenant is usually evicted. When someone can’t find a place to live, they have a few options: couch surf with a friend, live out of their car, get a room at a place like the Y, sleep in the park, etc. Again, this is a lot easier in June than it is in January.

So, is homelessness on the rise in Greenpoint? And now, a disclaimer from your local church pastor. I am not a social scientist. I know there are plenty of ministers who think they are, but let me share a secret – seminary is great, but it doesn’t make you an expert on everything. What I did learn, though is that being a pastor should require me to say what I know for certain and how and why I know it. It should also require me to admit what I don’t know for certain. In this case, I do not know for certain about the demographic trends regarding homelessness in Greenpoint. I haven’t conducted an all-night count.

Instead, I am relying on intuition and observations mixed with conversations with homeless folks and what I hear from reliable people who have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in Greenpoint. The unscientific answer to the question is that visible homelessness is most likely declining while housing instability is rising. As the neighborhood continues its gentrification, Greenpoint is increasingly less likely to host newcomers who are visibly homeless. There are more people and businesses in the area, which increases the possibility that homeless people will be asked to “move on” from wherever they are sleeping or congregating.

Additionally, I have heard that the City is doing a better job of treating the root causes of visible homelessness and of helping homeless people find permanent housing. While my inner skeptic screams “that’s impossible,” a congregant of ours who works as a social worker at a shelter confirmed that things have really changed for the better over the past 10 years.

Still, the City shelter system is no picnic. There is a real reason why many people prefer to live on the streets than enter into the shelter system. On top of it, most shelters will not accept you if you have alcohol on your breath. That can create a definite catch-22 for people who are addicted to alcohol. What actually happens to homeless folks in the area is that most either tough it out on the streets or move to another neighborhood.

Gentrification combined with the rapid increase in real estate prices is leading to an increase in housing instability. The numbers of people who can’t afford their rent is rising significantly. I suspect that a good portion of the people who receive groceries at our food pantry fall into this category: they have a roof over their heads, but they aren’t sure they can afford it long-term. Consequently, money that was once allocated towards food is now going to rent.

Many of the people who face eviction and cannot find housing in the neighborhood are moving elsewhere. Some move in with friends or family, others to neighborhoods with cheaper rents. A sad aspect of this is that it changes the make-up of our community, leading to less economic diversity and a break in the neighborhood bonds that help create an overall sense of community.

There’s a reason why so many of us enjoy Greenpoint. It’s a neighborhood where many people genuinely care for one another. It’s also a place where many people live on the low end of the economic spectrum.

In one of the nation’s wealthiest cities, there are millions of people who cannot make ends meet. It happens for a variety of reasons, and consequently, there is no easy solution. Still, I would encourage all of us to treat one another with respect and caring. It’s a real tribute to our community that many of you have offered to volunteer to serve dinner at the church on Wednesday nights. There is definitely a need, and we’re confident that the program is going to
grow significantly in the coming months.

If you’d like to help out, please call us at (718) 383-5941 or email us at:

pastor (at) greenpointchurch (dot) org

If you have any extra canned or boxed food that you could donate, please leave it on the front steps of the church at 136 Milton St (between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street). I promise, it will get to people who are hungry and will make a tremendous difference.

Pastor

Halloween Photo du Jour: The Wicked Witch of (West) India Street

October 28, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

The Wicked Witch of India Street

The above lovely lady and her kitty cat carrying companion can be seen at the northwestern corner of India and Franklin Street. For as long as I have lived here this house has gone all-out when it comes holiday decorating. Until last year their Christmas “display” employed showcases filled with animatronic carolers and elves. Take my word for it: that was much, much scarier.

Miss Heather

Halloween Photo du Jour: Sleeping Beauty on Manhattan Avenue

October 27, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

Sleeping Beauty

Those of you who reside on my side of Greenpoint Avenue should know where the above picture taken: World of Flowers. What you may not know is the name of this  slumbering cat is, indeed, Beauty. She’s actually a tuxedo cat, but has decided to showcase her dark side in the spirit of Halloween.

To close on a pumpkin-related note, the current stretch of stanktastic weather has forced the The Brooklyn Kitchen to postpone their pumpkin carving contest until Sunday, October 28 at 2:00 p.m. Pumpkins will be for sale, but you need to bring your own knife. Or I suppose you could probably purchase one such utensil in their store.

The Brooklyn Kitchen
616 Lorimer Street
Brooklyn, New York 11211
(718) 389-2982

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that pies of the apple and pumpkin variety are promised for your delectation as well. Yum.

Miss Heather

Pervy Polka For The People!

October 27, 2007 ·
Filed under: Area 51, Greenpoint Magic 

Dirty Polka

As some of you might remember, I scored the above album at the local Salvation Army recently. Well, last weekend a reader named Noel came forward, borrowed it and burned it onto a CD for me. This weekend, dear readers, I pass along the joy of pervy Polka to you.

The following tunes can be yours by simply clicking the above image!

  1. Py Je Ku Ba Polka
  2. Change Your Partners
  3. Helen’s O Berek
  4. Sad Girl Polka
  5. Polka Louise
  6. OJ Mamo Mamo Polka
  7. Girl From Brooklyn Polka
  8. I’ll Hug you Tight O Berek
  9. Krakowiak Dance
  10. I’ll Never get Married O Berek
  11. Polish Wedding Polka
  12. Family Polka (my personal favorite)

Those of you who wish to learn a little more about the man behind the music, Ray Budzilek, can do so by clicking here.

Enjoy!

Miss Heather

P.S.: Thanks again Noel for helping me share the gift of music with my (our) fellow Greenpointers. It was totally worth being subjected to watching my husband dance around like a total imbecile (in his underwear) after uploading it.

Halloween Photo du Jour: Gnomes on Franklin

October 26, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

Hallowen Gnomes

I posted this photo on flickr a week ago. One of my (crazy talented and feline loving) friends commented:

This is going to give me nightmares.

Would you expect anything less from the man responsible for this?

OUCH!

The above photo dates from July 13. They’re still going at it lest any of you happen to be wondering.

Miss Heather

Greenpoint Girls, It’s Your Time To Party!!!

October 26, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

In keeping with this week’s roster of Halloween festivities, today I offer something for the ladies of Greenpoint: HUNK-O-MANIA.

HUNK-O-MANIA!

The hottest male dancers in NYC are set to grace the stage at Club Europa this evening. The bar opens at 5:30 p.m. and “girls” are promised free admission and 1/2 price drinks until midnight. It’s encouraging to see sexual objectification cuts both ways nowadays!

Club Europa
98 Meserole Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11222
(718) 383-5723

To help you get the proper Greenpoint attitude for the aforementioned Halloween hootenannies, I leave with this YouTube video of my buddy Borixon and five fellow Polish homies (Polmies?) slamming down some fierce rhymes. I have no idea what they’re saying, but then again you don’t really need to know Polish to “get” it: the feral female on a leash pretty much says it all.

Miss Heather



Love Keeps You Warm

October 26, 2007 ·
Filed under: Area 51, Greenpoint Magic 

Love Keeps You Warm Flyer

Yesterday I received an email from a fellow Greenpointer named Spring. She writes:

We have a yarn club at my work, called the Darn Yarn, and Love Keeps You Warm is our very own project that we’ve started this year. I’ll also point out though that we’re running out of our donated yarn and we’re not working nearly as fast as we’d like to. Aside from a few small bundles of yarn that have been donated here and there, all of the yarn we use we’ve pitched in to buy. Last year Diana, the lady who started this, crocheted over 300 scarves on her own, with yarn that she personally bought. If Diana can contribute 300, think how many scarves and skeins of yarn we could get if this was more public! We can’t afford to advertise in all the normal ways as we have no budget, so I thought I’d ask if you could mention this in your blog.

I am quite crafty (in ways I care not to recount here), but knitting is not my forte. Firstly, it requires a level of patience I simply do not possess. Secondly, when one has five cats any endeavor that involves yarn (ribbon, string, etc.) is doomed to certain failure. I speak from experience and have the scratches to show for it.

That said, I know Greenpoint and that little place to the south called Williamsburg have many knitters in their ranks. I’ve seen women knock out a scarves on the L train like no one’s business. Why not knit something and donate it to this cause? I am certain one of these children would love to get a scarf, hat or stuffed animal to lift his/her spirits this holiday season.

An hour or two of your time is such a small price to pay. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll donate all that yarn you’ve been meaning to do stuff with* but somehow never got around to it.

For more information email Diana Previtire at:

dprevitire (at) actorsequity (dot) org

On a related note, I have been long remiss in giving a shout-out to fresh art’s Sock Monkey Work Shop. I have purchased two such monkeys. I love them, as does my cat Bodhi.

Bodhi and his Monkey

To give you an idea what fresh art is about, here is an excerpt from their mission statement:

The mission of fresh art, a non-profit organization, is to provide expanded artistic, personal development, and entrepreneurial opportunities to New York City artists with special needs. We are also dedicated to enhancing public awareness of these artists’ talents and concerns, their agencies’ work, and on the use of art as a tool for healing, growth, and positive change.

I speak from experience when I say art heals. If I didn’t operate this blog I would be a much more imbalanced person. The previous having been said, fresh art needs volunteers. Those who are interested in volunteering can learn more by clicking here. Or you can make a donation by clicking here.

Miss Heather

*or steal it from work. Shh.

Halloween Photo du Jour: Black Cat on Franklin Street

October 25, 2007 ·
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

Black Cat on Franklin Street

I strongly encourage everyone to check out this kitty cat (located on Franklin between Huron and India Street). Its head and tail move. Since taking the above photo, he has been joined by a spooky ghost. Very neat!

Miss Heather