Friday, May 30, 2008

The Gowanus Goes Green

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy is organizing a green festival this Sunday, June 1st, from 11am to 6pm. It will be held at The Yard, a great outdoor venue on Carroll, between Bond and Nevins. It is free and packed with activities, such as:
  • Live music from the Defibulators (a Brooklyn-based rockabilly/hillbilly band) at 12:00 and 2:30
  • Food and beverages available for purchase from V-Spot vegan restaurant, Union Hall, and the Treats Truck
  • Children’s activities including fun, do-it-yourself art projects using discarded materials and led by RePlayGround, a letter-writing campaign with Parents for Climate Protection, natural toys and arts and crafts with Waldorf Handworks, organic baby and toddler clothes from Farmer Kids and face painting with Sharon Enlow
  • A raffle with all kinds of great, green prizes
  • A working ambulance (provided by FDNY) and a display of AdRide recumbent bikes for children to explore.
  • The Dept. of Environmental Protection is planning to send a boat called the Jamaica Bay which will be available for viewing.
For more information, please visit or call Lauren at (718) 858-0557.
The Gowanus Canal Conservancy is dedicated to being the steward for
the preservation, restoration and green development of the Gowanus
Canal and environs for the greater good of the community.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Gardens of the Columbia Street Waterfront District

In addition to our sought-after playground, the Mother Cabrini Park, the CSWD has 5 community gardens, which is more than most neighborhoods. Each has it's own feel and personality. They were born from vacant lots filled with garbage, refuse, and weeds, and are a testimony of the resilience of this community. They all run on the same environmental thought: reduce waste, reuse material and recycle (most have compost bins).

On the corner of Sackett and Columbia stands the Human Compass Garden (1992), filled with trees, and somewhat sheltered from the street. It is the one with the most shade, I would recommend it on a particularly hot afternoon, for a quiet read or a reflective lunch.

From there, walk along Columbia, and in front of the B61 Carroll St stop is The Amazing Garden (1994), open, lush and ready for barbecuing with your friends and family.

On the next block is the Summit Garden (1993), extremely lush, with inviting benches.

Then take a right down Summit St, past the Gowanus Nursery, to the corner on Van Brunt and Hamilton Avenue, in front of the American Stevedoring Inc, and you will come to The Backyard (1997). In colonial times, the shore ran through the garden making the land's high-water table unsuitable for construction, but ideal for spreading greenery. It has many nooks and crannies, a wide open area for gatherings, and cultivated lots.

In the summer, the community garden volunteers of all of 4 of the above gardens put on a series of movies, Reels on Wheels, yielding bid crowds to all the gardens.

The latest addition to this list is the Urban Meadow (2008), which will be offering something completely different: feeling the grass between your toes and laying down on a blanket with friends and family for a nap or picnic.

Now that summer is here, its time to start spending more time outdoors, and the community gardens of the neighborhood are a great place to do it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inside Look: Brooklyn Waterfront and the Mary Whalen

While digging around on the internet today, I came across this footage that was taken during an Open House NY tour in 2006 in which the public was allowed tour the Brooklyn Marine terminals and the Mary Whalen ship (seen below).

In light of the recent decision to renew American Stevedoring's lease of the container port for 10 more years, this rare opportunity for people to get a glimpse into what lies behind the gates at the waterfront is important.

While I'm happy for the container port's victory, as well as the jobs and historical industry that it preserves, I also hope that events like this will continue to occur in the future and that American Stevedoring will continue to sponsor projects like the Urban Meadow on Van Brunt St., as the best thing for everyone is a good relationship and interaction between the terminals and the community.

Also, be sure to check out Portside NY, the group responsible for the Mary Whalen, and the work and events they do in the area. For example, they are sponsoring a Kayak Valet day on June 7th so that NYC Kayakers can leave their boats and walk around the neigborhood for the Red Hook arts festival.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Brooklyn Photoblog Tribute

While surfing around on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, I found this fantastic photo montage of Brooklyn scenery that was created by the Brooklyn Optimist for the recent Brooklyn Blogfest.

While it contains pictures from all over Brooklyn, I decided to include it here because some of the pictures were taken nearby, the most recognizable being in Red Hook.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Brooklyn Bridge!

Festivities for the 125th birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge started today, and as a result, the sky was lit up with fireworks.

Here's what it looked from Van Brunt St. in the Columbia St. Waterfront District.

AudraRox and the Carroll Park Free Concert Series

Even though Carroll Park isn't in the Columbia Street District, many of us who live here are quite familiar with the park as it is on our way home from the F train and many local children play there. For these reasons I'm sure that families from our side of the BQE will have no problem with walking over to the park for its free concert series this summer.

The first show in the lineup will be by AudraRox, a family friendly rock band, on June 21, 2008 (aka citywide "Make Music New York Day") at 4pm.

Check out these sites for more info:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pétanque in Brooklyn: je pointe ou je tire?

The French are coming, the French are coming! Well, really, they are already here. Indeed the Columbia Street Waterfront District and Carroll Gardens have an unusually large French presence. Big enough for PS 58, on Carroll and Smith streets, to have started a bilingual kindergarten in September 2007. You can also find several delicious restaurants offering French, or French inspired, cuisine, such as Sugarlounge, Petite Crevette, Korhogo 126, Bar Tabac, Provence en Boîte, Patois, and more. The Pitstop, however, took the invasion one step further by bringing to Brooklyn the official sport of Southern France: Pétanque.

Here's a little history for those who don't know about this century-old sport. It was invented in 1910 in La Ciotat, Provence, near Marseilles. It is a game of "boules", the goal being to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called "cochonnet" (literally "piglet") or jack, while standing with your feet together (which is where the name comes from, les ped tanco in Provencal dialect literally means "feet together").

According to sources, it is played by 17 million people in France. Pétanque is also taken very seriously - so much so that conflicts created by the game have been known to break up friendships, families and sometimes whole villages for generations.

The Pitstop is a Formula One themed Mediterranean French Bistro, with a large backyard featuring 4 Petanque courts, outdoor seating, and toys for kids. The food is affordable, simple and delicious. I would especially recommend the $9.95 brunch on the weekend. Laurent, the chef-owner, started the Brooklyn Pétanque League and the season kicked off last week. The next tournament is Saturday May 31, at 11:30am sharp. You can still sign up, no previous experience required.

Check out for more information.

The Pitstop
127 Columbia Street, Brooklyn 11231
718 875 4664
Opened 7 days
Lunch 11 to 4
Dinner 5 to 10 (to 11pm Fri-Sat)
Weekend Brunch 11 to 4

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Unveiling of the Urban Meadow

One very appealing thing about our neighborhood is the large number of community gardens and other outdoor space within several short blocks. As of this posting, there are at least four community gardens, two playgrounds (and several more than that within walking distance), and a number of vacant lots that have potential to become spaces worth adding to the list.

One example of this is the soon to be opened Urban Meadow Bklyn. Located on the corner of Van Brunt and President Sts., the Urban Meadow started out as a project by XS Space, Balmori Associates, the Parks Dept., the office of the Borough President, and Community Board 6, which aimed to explore ways of converting vacant lots into productive green spaces. By using research and data from the Columbia University Center for Climate Studies, the space was designed to provide a wide number of environmental benefits to the city around it.

In order for the space to be sustainable, it has been granted Greenthumb status, and will function as a community garden, being maintained by local residents.

On June 11, 2008, from 11:30-1:00, come down and join community members, designers, sponsors, and elected officials in cutting the ribbon of the meadow and unveiling what is to become a "smart park for New York City." This will be the first of many events to come in this new space, which will continue to become more and more beautiful as it grows and progresses.

What's the Word?

The Columbia Street Waterfront District in Brooklyn, NY is a great, but often overlooked neighborhood. Visitors to nearby Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill often think that Brooklyn stops at the BQE, and stick to the slew of restaurants, stores, and bars on that side of it. Residents on that side of town also fail to venture over here as much as they should, as they have so many places of their own to choose from and no reliance on our transportation choices, as many of us have on theirs.

Down to the South, the grittier and often-hyped neighborhood of Red Hook (which the CSWD is technically part of, according to many) gets a lot more attention as well. Maybe it's the fact that the name is catchier, as well as easier to remember and pronounce. Or, maybe it's the fact that its unique mix of industry, housing, storefronts, and people, despite being similar to our own, is is even more extreme and noteworthy. It also probably provides a truer sense of adventure to those people that hear about all of the above and decide to make the trek into the neighborhood with even few transportation options than our own.

As a result of all this, the Columbia St. Waterfront District also seems to be lacking in any cohesive blogs. There are blogs by individuals about themselves or their businesses, and there are Broooklyn or Citywide blogs that mention the area, but there seem to be none that do what we plan to do: provide an all-encompassing look at the neighborhood by providing descriptions and profiles of events, activities, stores, restaurants, bars, people, places, spaces, issues, news, and everything that goes down on and around Columbia St - from Atlantic to Hamilton and from the BQE to the water.

We'll occasionally throw in a post about stuff we like in nearby neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, and Red Hook as well, as its hard to live in the CSWD without strolling through them, but they do already get a lot of attention.