Saturday, January 3, 2009

31 (out of 90) to watch in 09! (according to the Brooklyn Paper)

Yesterday, the Brooklyn Paper released a list of 90 people, places, and things in Brooklyn that are sure to make noise in the new year. I went through the list and pulled out all of the items within close range of our neighborhood. Depending on how loosely you want to define the "within walking distance of Columbia St.," we got around 31 out of 90 (I included Columbia Street Waterfront District, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Gowanus). 31 out of 90 is not bad at all.

Here they are:

83. Saul Bolton: This exile from Le Bernardin and Bouley found a home on Smith Street with his eponymous eatery, where he’s cranking out the single best prix-fixe menu (four delectable courses for $40) in the borough. Sure, his and wife Lisa’s Boerum Hill Food Company didn’t make it, closing in December, but mark our words: the couple will be back with something big this year.

82. Milton Puryear: The mastermind behind the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — a long-planned connected biking and walking path that will stretch from Greenpoint to Sunset Park — will be pedaling uphill as he moves closer to realizing his dream amidst logistical challenges, a dead economy, and growing opposition, especially in Williamsburg.

78. Jonathan Ames: The versatile Boerum Hill author is following up his 2008 graphic novel “The Alcoholic” with “The Double Life is Twice as Good,” a collection of essays and stories due in July. This hard-drinking, hard-punching novelist certainly has a good gig.

69. Trees: Come spring, trees along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and at the River Café beneath the Brooklyn Bridge will — or won’t — come to life. This past summer, the poor saps were drowned in salt water spray from Oliafur Elisson’s “New York City Waterfalls” exhibition. The artist and his four salt-spewing scaffoldings are gone, but all of Brooklyn Heights will be holding its breath for the first new buds.

61: Tom Fox: The owner of NY Water Taxi could make commutes for waterfront denizens from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge a pleasant seaborne adventure if only the city would give him some long-term support.

58. Lauren Elvers Collins: As the new deputy director for the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Collins will oversee development at the possible sponge park — but it’s her work as the founder of the Windsor Terrace Alliance that could get her ’hood recognized as one of the borough’s coolest and quietest.

57. Jim Mamary: One of the borough’s most prolific restaurateurs and nightlife moguls was battered through a rough 2008. He proposed an oyster bar for Hoyt Street, but was thwarted by community opposition and his popular Trout restaurant on Smith Street, was forced to close. Can he bounce back or will he pull back from Brooklyn’s gastronomic scene? Our stomachs wait at the edge of their seats.

56. Peter Miller: The wacky events organized by the crew at Freebird Books this Columbia Street bookstall are so good that when the literati hear their name they won’t automatically think of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Miller got on the local radar screen last year by hosting a party for obvious no-show Thomas Pynchon and sponsoring a marathon of Shakespeare plays.

54-49. 33rd Council District: The race to succeed (or battle!) David Yassky to represent Brooklyn Heights is complicated by virtually everyone’s belief that Yassky will abandon his quest for comptroller and run for his seat again (after all, why did he vote to extend term limits if he didn’t want to have a safe option?). For now, the race is led by Jo Anne Simon (49), the only woman in the (currently) six-person contest. She’s been a Democratic district leader for years. If Simon falters — and Yassky doesn’t run — activist Evan Thies (50) has a good shot. He was Yassky’s right hand man during the councilman’s glory days, and has made a name for himself on Community Board 1. Like Thies, Steve Levin (51) is young and has been in the employ of a local pol (in Levin’s case, he’s been chief of staff to Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, whose Rolodex will certainly come in handy). Close to the front is Ken Diamondstone (52). This frequent candidate is blessed with a dose of moxie and gave former state Sen. Marty Connor a scare in 2006. Far back is Williamsburg activist Isaac Abraham (53), who is trying to become the first Hasidic councilman. Abraham is the garrulous public link to that often inaccessible community in South Williamsburg. But there’s no evidence that he can secure the group’s vote, let alone others in the district. Former Sierra Club branch leader Ken Baer (54) has lost prior campaigns, but he was the first candidate to say he’d stay in the race even if Yassky ran. Baer is omnipresent at local green events, good-goverment group meetings and even at the Park Slope Food Co-op, but it takes money to win these kinds of races — and he ain’t got it.

46. Charlie Statelman: The chef-owner of Cafe on Clinton in Cobble Hill is not going to let the Wall Street crash destroy all he’s worked for. Instead, he’s offering an $18, three-course meal, plus a very nice $19 a bottle wine list. And because we’re all working so hard now, he’s even offering a second happy hour from 9–11 pm. That’s a real Brooklynite.

42-38. 39th Council District: The race to succeed towering Councilman Bill DeBlasio to represent Park Slope is currently a five-man race. Bob Zuckerman (38) is currently the executive director of Gowanus Canal Conservancy. He’ll make headlines again this year if he continues to reverse the image of the fabled waterway from a polluted wasteland into a residential Garden of Eden. Brad Lander (39), who runs the Pratt Center for Community Development, enters the New Year with a teeming campaign war chest and a resume boasting public planning experience. Josh Skaller (40) is the bulldog who bit the hand that feeds him — or at least most elected officials in the city — by pledging not to take campaign donations from real estate developers. By shunning that powerful industry, can he muster a successful campaign? Craig Hammerman (41) is a living legend. The Community Board 6 district manager is a member of the first class inducted into the New York City Hall of Fame. Almost everything he does adds to his lofty stature. Longshot Gary Reilly (42), a lawyer by training, will at least be in the limelight for his support for mass transit. If people are talking about the F train this year, it’ll be because of Reilly’s hard work.

37. Michael O’Connell: It’s do or die for the son of Red Hook developer Greg O’Connell. He bought the classic railcar-style Cheyenne Diner, but is struggling with the engineering feat necessary to move it from the West Side of Manhattan to Red Hook. Maybe he can call in those guys who moved Alexander Hamilton’s “Grange” house in Harlem.

35. Geoffrey Raymond: Part of the swelling population of Gowanus artists, Raymond — recently featured on “20/20” — paints giant portraits of financial and political figures, then takes them to Wall Street and lets laid-off financiers scribble on them. “The Annotated Fuld,” covered with biting comments like, “Enjoy your old age, prick,” recently sold for $10,000.

30. Daniel Squadron: The 29-year-old Democratic state Senator-elect beat 30-year incumbent Marty Connor, just as Democrats are poised to take over the Senate. If that wasn’t enough nachas for this nice Jewish boy, he’s also engaged to marry his longtime girlfriend in 2009, too.

29. Red Hook Vendors: The beloved food vendors in Red Hook Park are trapped between a rock and a hard place, and they’re jockeying to break free. They’ll have to abide by newly enforced city regulations, but the strict enforcement strangled the character of the freewheeling market. Look for the vendors to recapture a little bit of that old flair without sidestepping the sanitation rules. And they never did get that apology that our columnist Gersh Kuntzman demanded from Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. Well, maybe this year.

26. Brooklyn Bridge Park: By year’s end, the park planners promised to open true — and permanent — parkland on the long-delayed project. The city and state have broken their word many times in the past regarding the park’s timeline, but we’re cautiously optimistic that Regina Myer, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation can green up at least a small portion of the waterfront by the end of ’09.

25. Mariana Koval: The president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and her staff have made the waterfront a destination, with a summer café, floating pool and outdoor movies, before permanent portions of the park have even been finished. She and the green team may get to increase that success if park builders stick to their ambitious construction timeline.

20. Councilman Bill DeBlasio: The Park Slope councilman stood tall (and we mean TALL) against Lilliputian Mayor Bloomberg in the term-limits battle — and now Dollar Bill is fighting for his political future in a crowded Democratic primary race for Public Advocate rather than running for re-election.

13. Simon Rich: The 24-year-old son of Times columnist Frank Rich isn’t satisfied with commuting from Brooklyn Heights to Rockefeller Center, where he writes for “Saturday Night Live” — his first novel is coming out this year. That’s not bad, but his brother and borough-mate, Nathaniel, put out his first novel, “The Mayor’s Tongue,” last year.

5. Dominick Stanzione: The day of reckoning for financially strapped Long Island College Hospital is drawing near — and Stanzione is the man in charge of the so-called “restructuring” of the Cobble Hill medical center. The state has already barred him from closing the maternity, pediatrics and dentistry wings, giving him a $4-million loan to tide him over. What will happen next depends on Stanzione’s ability to get more cash or find someone to take over the money-losing part of the facilty or, perhaps, the whole enchilada.

3. David Yassky: The two-term Brooklyn Heights councilman bounced like a pinata between credibility and dishonor in the term-limit fight. He says he’s running for Comptroller, but the minute Bill Thompson realizes he has no shot against third-term-wannabe Mike Bloomberg, there goes Yassky from that race. When that happens, look for the Terminator to see his own third term.

2. Dan Kaufman: The co-owner of the Busy Chef restaurants, who was arrested last year on charges of swindling customers out of thousands by stealing their credit card numbers. But the fun is only beginning: This year, Kaufman’s trial will start — and his lawyer is saying that Kaufman is just a “patsy” for shadowy Brooklyn Heights restaurant partner Alan Young, whose eateries fold like origami. This is going to be the trial of the century!

No comments: