Get (Red) Hooked on This Holiday Market

Justin Joseph |

For the third straight year, the Red Hook Business Alliance (RHBA) has set up the Holiday Market for art vendors from all over, to come to the Brooklyn Working Artists Coalition (BWAC) and display their work.

Located on Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn, residents of the neighborhood as well as the surrounding areas, line up to speak to a number of vendors about their artwork which ranges from paintings, to beard creams, to even stylized Christmas ornaments and decorations for the holiday season.

A sign entering the Red Hook market. Photo credit: Justin Joseph

The event began Saturday afternoon and will be going on every weekend until December 17th, so people have many opportunities to enjoy some of the best Artwork that vendors have to offer.

“We wanted to support businesses,” Victoria Alexander, one of the founders of RHBA, said in regards to starting the annual Holiday Market.

Alexander says after Covid, it was a hard time for businesses to recover what they had lost, so it really drove the RHBA to want to help the residents of the neighborhood.

That is what drove the RHBA to formally take over organizing the Holiday Market in 2021 after the community residents and businesses started the initiative to help the community recover from the after effects of Hurricane Sandy back in 2013.

The past few years the location of the event changed from having it outside select businesses in Red Hook, to inside the businesses  due to the cold weather. The RHBA felt like many of the vendors were too spread out among different stores so this year, they decided to take it to a central location in the BWAC center.

“Our purpose is to help the community, so we have this amazing space that we like to share,” said Alicia Degener, the President of BWAC. “Our vision is to give artists a place to exhibit their artwork and also makers to have a place to be able to sell and share their work with the community.”

BWAC felt like it was the prime opportunity to host such an event because they were coming off their 45th anniversary as an organization and this was a good way to end off the year. BWAC is an all-volunteer group of over 150 members working to support local artists and get their work displayed to the public.

The Brooklyn Working Artists Coalition booth. Photo credit: Justin Joseph

One returning vendor from last year named Ross Brown started a product under the name of Annie Witherspoon where they make homemade beard balms from beeswax as well as simple syrups that have a range of flavors and can be used in cocktails or other drinks.

Kira Smith is another vendor under the artist name Eanna, who has simple artwork paintings from popular shows in pop culture and anime. Smith is also showcasing her new jewelry collection made from stones she collects and uses them for her collection.

A first-time customer by the name of Andrew Shelton who visited the event found out about the event through friends seeing posts about it on social media. When he found out about the location he wanted to come see the artwork for himself. “I always like to support small businesses and local stuff… and it’s seems to be a great place to find gifts.”

With the first week of the event already off to a great start, residents have an additional two weeks to attend this years Holiday Market.

Litchfield Villa Lights Despite Park Budget Cuts

By Oona Milliken |

Across the city, trees and buildings light up to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season in New York City. In Brooklyn, the seven year tradition of lighting the Litchfield Villa in Prospect, the Brooklyn Park headquarters, took place amidst a steady downpour of rain. Martin Maher, the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner, said he instituted the tradition in order to commemorate the Litchfield building.

“It’s such a beautiful building. It’s become so important to the community so that they appreciate that the headquarters of Brooklyn Parks is right here,” Maher said. “We wanted to have a way of highlighting the building and making people feel good.”

Politicians, community leaders and Parks Department personnel in front of the LitchField Villa light switch. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Politicians, park employees and community members gathered in front of the villa to pay their respects to the park and to watch as the building was lit up with holiday lights. The event, though festive, was sprinkled with comments about the looming reality of Mayor Adam’s budget cuts. In a speech, Councilmember Crystal Hudson said that she was working with Councilmembers Rita Joseph and Shahana Hanif, the two other city representatives for areas surrounding the park, to secure funding to upgrade the Brooklyn Park Headquarters.

“We’ll be working very very hard to make sure that we can do so much more than just light up the villa but also hold it up with some city funding. No promises or guarantees, but we’re surely going to try our very hardest to get that to you,” Hudson said.

During a speech, Councilmember Hanif said the city spent less than one percent of their annual budget towards the parks. Out of NYC’s $102.7 billion budget, only $582 million goes towards maintaining and staffing the parks system, or approximately .6 percent. In contrast, the NYPD receives $5.41 billion in funding, and corrections $1.23 billion, though these agencies also received cuts to their fiscal budgets this year. Against the backdrop of Litchfield Villa, Hanif critiqued Adam’s fiscal policy and said she was hoping for a holiday miracle to maintain the parks departments in New York.

“I love Prospect Park and I’m wishing for a Christmas miracle,” Hanif said. “As you know, the administration is putting out more cuts. We are one of the only large cities that don’t have more than one to five percent being spent on our parks. That is a deep shame.”

In Sept. 2023, Mayor Eric Adams directed city agencies to cut their budgets by five percent in order to reach the rising cost of the migrant crisis. Parks are now receiving $75 million less than last year, according to reporting by the news outlet Hellgate. However, parks are not the only agency affected: on Nov. 26, the NYC Public Libraries announced that they would close on Sundays in order to meet the new fiscal goals. The number of police officers in the city has dipped below 30,000, the lowest since 1984, according to the NYTimes. Hanif said the cuts have already caused 350 staff reductions in the parks department, which will affect the sanitation and cleanliness of the park.

“I think not having the maintenance of cleanliness is going to show. This takes us back to our goals for climate justice. Parks play a big role in making sure that we meet our climate justice goals, and we are living in a climate crisis,” Hanif said. “It’s not something that we are headed towards, it’s something we’re living in. Without the support needed for maintenance workers, we’re really going to suffer.”

Maher said that Prospect Park was the pride of not just Brooklyn, not just New York City, but the world.

“You happen to be, everybody knows this, everybody from Brooklyn, you’re in the greatest park, not in Brooklyn, not in the city, not in the country. You are standing in the greatest park in the world, Prospect Park,” Maher said.

Later on in the speech, Maher added that he would be content with the Parks Department receiving one percent of the city’s budget, but would be happier with more.

“And just so you know, when you’re advocating for parks, one percent is okay, but we’ll take two.”

Pols, Residents Call for Better Flood Infrastructure

By Oona Milliken |

On Sept. 29th, 2023, heavy rainfall flooded the streets of New York City prompting Mayor Eric Adams and NY State Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a state of emergency. In Brooklyn, areas like Gowanus, Williamsburg and South Williamsburg were particularly hard hit with flood water falling more than eight inches in some parts of the city. Now, local Brooklyn politicians are attempting to prevent the next flood incident by proposing rainwater legislation to allow for a fee to fund more comprehensive water and run-off infrastructure.

At a press conference in front of McCarren Park, where flooding submerged cars in September, State Senator Emily Gallagher, alongside residents affected by the floods, as well as Councilmember Lincoln Restler and State Senator Kristen Gonzalez, introduced legislation that is expected to collect anywhere between $266 million to $892 million a year. In a press conference, Gallagher said the legislation is intended to raise money for the creation of green infrastructure in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Gallagher and press conference attendees at the event, held in area of Williamsburg that was hit hard by the flooding on September 29th. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

“You can imagine the terror as you watch the water rise. That’s what many of our neighbors here experienced with little warning from the city [on September 29th],” Gallagher said. “Green infrastructure is what we call the array of practices that use or mimic natural systems to manage stormwater runoff, rain gardens, infiltration basins, stormwater green streets, green roofs, permeable paving, the list goes on. But now take a look at this map of green infrastructure projects in New York City. There’s almost nothing in Greenpoint or Williamsburg.”

The legislation is a little bit “wonky” according to Senator Gallagher. She is not proposing an implementation of any type of fee but legislation that would allow the city of NYC Municipal Water Finance Authority to collect revenue from property owners in New York at their Finance Authority’s discretion. Right now, the Authority does not have the jurisdiction to add new fees.

According to John Paraskevopoulos, the Legislative Director for Gallagher’s office, the fee is meant to be implemented on those who own impervious surfaces such as concrete parking lots. Paraskevopoulos said that any additional revenue acquired by the Water Finance Authority would go to alleviate high water and sewer bills.

“It doesn’t mandate anything, but it creates a framework within which a stormwater fee could be implemented and authorizes the creation of one by any sewer authority in the state,” Paraskevopoulos said. “And also, if there’s any revenue left over, hopefully, it can help balance or make more equitable people’s existing sewer rates and water bills.”

Gallagher’s office is basing their legislation in part on a study on rainwater by New York’s independent budget office. The study modeled their findings off of rainwater fees in other large cities, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. in order to create revenue predictions for New York City.

Brenda Suchilt, a horticulturist for Newtown Creek Alliance, an organization dedicated to restoring and revitalizing Newtown Creek, said that creating more greenspace to absorb excess rainwater can do more than just help prevent flooding.

“There’s a lot of value in green infrastructure aside from obviously diverting a lot of this local flooding from our combined sewage overflow,” Suchilt said during the press conference. “It has an encompassing benefit for the community. Aside from the safety side, there’s an encompassing value with green infrastructure, aside from beautifying these neighborhoods and creating habitat for local wildlife, it can also help with our urban heat island effect.”

Attendee of the press conference Kelly Marks, a Greenpoint resident, said she had to help her downstairs neighbors on Sept. 29th when a wall collapsed on them with their one-year-old in the apartment. Marks said she feared another dangerous flood and hoped that the new legislation would go towards preventing potential deaths due to excess rainwater.

“The water flooded five feet on the first floor. It came in through one of the windows. It was so powerful and came in so quickly that it knocked the wall that separates [the apartments],” Marks said. “Something has to be done, because my biggest fear, besides losing lovely neighbors, watching them lose belongings and feel afraid in their own homes, I’m so afraid someone is going to die if something isn’t done soon.”

Dog-Friendly Comedy Show in Ridgewood

Slow Night at Bridge and Tunnel Brewery Features an Eclectic Crew of Local and Notable Standup Comics

By Daniel Cody |

A slow but steady rain reached Queens on Sunday night, yet Last Call Comedy’s first dog-friendly event of the month at Bridge and Tunnel Brewery still raged on.

A meager but ever-present group of comedy-enjoyers came to 15-35 Decatur Street to laugh alongside man’s best friend… but only one canine attended.

Documentarian and event organizer Eric Schleyer with his paw pal, Stout, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. Photo credit: Daniel Cody

Last Call Comedy’s “DIY” Sunday night performance has been a recurring  neighborhood treat for around six years, says organizer and performer Daniel J. Perafan, along with his colleague Eric Schleyer.

“I called Dan, and I was like ‘hey, do you want to run a comedy show at the brewery?’ And Dan is like, ‘yeah sure!’ So, fast-forward six years later, we’re still doing it and it’s pretty good,” Schleyer told the Queens Ledger.

“I knew Dan from college. We went to a few shows in college, and we were still in touch after college.”

“It started off like that,” says Perafan.

When comedy originally started showing at Bridge and Tunnel, it was not consistently an indoor performance.

During the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show took to the outdoors (out on the street in front of the brewery) to maintain precaution. Drivers passing by would slow down to listen in on the best jokes – Schleyer and Perafan say this was an early bellwether of quality material.

The Sunday night show is a good place for comedians to work out the kinks in their new humor, says Schleyer.

“A lot of the comics that come in, they’re trying out new material. So, when you bomb here, it’s not a big deal, you know what I mean?”

“They’re really honing their craft.”

Sometimes, new jokes can be a bust.

“A lot of comedians are like: ‘Are you here for the comedy or is the comedy happening to you?’”

The venue at Bridge and Tunnel has all the staples of a healthy Ridgewood–Bushwick dive: an indoor chain-link fence and motley, lacquered furniture. Sticker-plastered walls and hipsters discussing idiosyncratic localisms over specialty brews.

“We were on a few comedy specials on Amazon Prime,” says Schleyer.

“Shelflife” on Amazon Prime heavily features the Last Call Comedy crew at Bridge and Tunnel.

Sunday’s featured comics included Gina Ginsberg, Johnny MacDonald, Keenan Steiner, Stephen Pratt, Brandy Thomas – who was the host for the evening’s festivities – and Perafan.

Daniel J. Perafan on the mic, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. Photo credit: Daniel Cody

At the beginning of the performance, Thomas asked two audience members why they decided to come out that night, and pointedly, they responded, “Free event! Why not?”

As the show went on, comics worked their way around the audience, oftentimes stifled by its small size, but persistent in their edgy, quality and hard-hitting humor. Nothing was off the table: sexuality, diet, race, relationships.

Last Call Comedy is for people who like jokes that don’t hold back.

“The comedy that tends to work here is not long-form – it’s shorter, punchier stuff,” Brandy Thomas told the Queens Ledger.

More prominent and indie comics float around from Queens and Brooklyn’s various comedy clubs to Bridge and Tunnel on Sundays.

“Sometimes we get the area comics and sometimes we get the Manhattan comics. It all depends,” says Perafan.

“Especially if they like working on something new [the comics] love coming to a place like this. You have a subsection of the American audience.”

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