‘Stolen Dough’ Docudrama Details Bensonhurt Inventor’s Legal Battle with Pizza Hut

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

The next time you are salivating over a stuffed crust pizza, consider its origins. It just might be another Brooklyn invention.  A new docudrama, Stolen Dough, directed by Stefano Da Frè, tells the story of Bensonhurst native Anthony Mongiello, claiming him as the real inventor of the stuffed crust pizza at the tender age of 18.

According to that same narrative, his patent was stolen by Pizza Hut, who brands the dish as Original Stuffed Crust® Pizza. The controversy stems from Mongiello’s history of communication with the company, including pitching his patent, which dates back to 1987.

The film, now streaming on Amazon Prime, tells the story of Mongiello’s one-billion-dollar lawsuit against the famous pizza franchise. At its heart, Stolen Dough is a story about capitalism, competition, and theft.

Prior to inventing the stuffed crust pizza, Mongiello worked at a local pizzeria that his friend’s father owned.

“I had a lot of respect for the small business owners, who put in 15-16 hours each day, with all the preparation of ingredients, and running a small business,” wrote Mongiello in an email forwarded to the Brooklyn Star by his media rep, Ryan McCormick of Goldman McCormick Public Relations. “However, most importantly, the person I respected  the most was my father. He worked in the manufacturing of cheese products and held several patents all related to manufacturing inventions.”

Mongiello continued crediting his father in saying, “My father was a guiding force in my life as an inventor. He was the man who invented the actual Polio String Cheese stick that was sold as snacks to families across America. We were extremely inventive as a family. My father taught me to never take anything for granted and that supplied me with the values I still hold to this day.”

Mongiello has more than 30 years of experience in the cheese industry, most notably as CEO of Formaggio Cheese.

Getting Stolen Dough from concept to streaming was a years-long process. In 2022, director Da Frè, working in collaboration with Laura Pelligrini from Rosso International Films, won a grant from the Russo brothers, known for directing four Marvel films. The brothers, Anthony Russo and Joseph Russo, who are active members of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), fund the The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Grant, which is administered by the National Italian American Foundation.

Mongiello said, “Stefano had pitched my story to them, and they loved the aspect of a true Italian American drama. The rest is history! Stolen Dough was only 1 out 7 features chosen to get funding and support from the Russo Brothers out of 1, 200 submissions.” The project won an additional grant from the Sons and Daughters of Italian American Foundation in May 2023.

Stolen Dough runs 46 minutes and is shot in a crime-suspense style. The film mixes interviews with stylized re-enactments of a young Mongiello inventing the stuffed crust pizza, pitching the idea to Pizza Hut and other major pizza franchises, and bonding with his brother over family history and pride.

“Seeing my story on the big screen and now streaming, is a dream come true,” wrote Mongiello. “I wanted to share my story with people for a very long time.”

A Brooklynite’s Quick Museum Guide to Mexico City

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Right now, local museum-lovers gushing over the Spike Lee exhibition, which was recently extended at the Brooklyn Museum. But what if you are a museum nerd who longs for warmer locales? You might consider a trip to Mexico City, which is in some ways comparable to New York City for its size, cultural touchstones, and diversity in arts and entertainment.

A round-trip flight from JFK to MEX is typically $400-600 this time of year, and I swung a private Airbnb for just under $40 a night during my six-night, mid-January stay. During the day, temperatures reached highs in the 70s and, at night, the lows hit the mid-40s. With a currency exchange rate 16 times in our favor as Americans, the cost of eating out (and just about anything else!) is a gift to a Brooklynite’s wallet.

A view of Teotihuacan, a pre-hispanic archeological complex northeast of Mexico City.

Here are some of the Mexico City museums you might visit:

Museo Nacional de Antropología/National Museum of Anthropology: A massive museum full of Indigenous and ancient, pre-Hispanic wonders. Lose hours here.

Castillo de Chapultepec/ Chapultepec Castle: The Viceroyalty of New Spain lived here, so the visit feels like a mini escape to Europe. You will find many artifacts from the 1700s and 1800s. Think Hamilton-era but Spanish.

Teotihuacan: Not technically within the city, but nearby (and worth the hour drive), this archeological wonder is unlike anything in the Tri-State area. Giant pyramids call for your comfiest sneakers!

Museo Mural Diego Rivera/Diego Rivera Mural Museum: You have probably seen it in a thousand art history textbooks, but here you can soak in its full splendor: the sweeping Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central mural.

Museo Frida Kahlo/Frida Kahlo Museum: This cobalt blue house museum is sometimes referred to as la Casa Azul. A must-see for Frida fans.

Museo de Arte Moderno/Museum of Modern Art: A unique collection of Mexican Modern art (roughly 1860s-1970s), including work by Rivera and Kahlo in its permanent collection, but also artists less frequently known to Americans. It is similar to the Mexican version of our MoMa. The gorgeous sculpture garden truly distinguishes the experience.

Museo de Tamayo/Tamayo Museum: The contemporary art museum, full of exciting work by international artists working today. It is our equivalent of the New Museum or the Whitney Museum of Art.

‘Believe the Hype’ Column: Caring For Yourself and Others, Come Clay or Snow

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

The following was originally published in the Jan. 25, 2024 print edition:

On yet another teeth-chattering morning, I found myself yanking on my snow boots and burying myself under an annoying amount of clothing. In less than 20 minutes, I was due at Artshack, where I would begin my first-ever wheel-throwing class. It was just enough time to walk, I realized as I double-checked Google Maps, but I didn’t want to risk slipping on the ice. I remembered walking through NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses earlier on in the week. The largest public housing project in Brooklyn has been under construction since 2020, and I found myself sliding on its frozen paths like a penguin. Such frustration would not be repeated that week. On a clear spring day, I could bolt over to Artshack, located on Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy, in a quarter of an hour. So into the car I went.

Warming up the car adds to the list of tasks that require winter’s slower pace. This is not a pace most New Yorkers seem to appreciate. We want to get moving, fast. Yet the reality is that we live in a place that demands extra prep on a typical January day. After we go through the annoyance of bundling up, maybe with a warm thermos in hand, we arm ourselves with ice scrapers, snow brushes, salt bags, and shovels. Then we brave the cold and all of its inconveniences. The upside is that we live in a place that experiences changes in season and snow, when it first falls, is a sight to behold.

Artshack, a Haven

Though I had never been to Artshack prior to that class, from the moment I entered, I felt at peace. Started in 2008 by McKendree Key, this non-profit community ceramics studio offers classes to children and adults, but, this being the heart of Brooklyn, it has a progressive slant. The studio, which moved to its current location in 2016, brands itself as anti-racist and queer-affirming, and claims a strong belief in “the healing powers of clay.” Classes are affordable, with opportunities for scholarships and free and subsidized programming for low-income members of the community. (Benefitting from such financial aid allowed me to take my pottery class here.) In addition to there being studio space, there is a gallery and café. The café seems to be an ecosystem of its own, with folks chatting or clacking away at their laptops.

Donations to Artshack are collected year-round and very tangibly broken down on the website at ArtshackBrooklyn.org. A $50 donation, for example, will pay for one child to come to Open Clay Time. On Jan. 27, Artshack will offer a free clay workshop in honor of Gun Violence Survivors Week as one of its regular Community Days. Participants will “create, connect, and shape symbols of peace with clay.”

My wheel teacher is Ivan Samuels, a talented artist whose pottery depicting coral reef motifs called to me. From my first interactions with him, I found him to be patient and good-humored. Any teacher will tell you that these can be difficult qualities to cultivate and maintain. Still, I didn’t detect even the slightest strain in Ivan’s voice, no matter how much I bumbled. In a society that emphasizes perfection, it was a relief to have a space to try and fail among encouragement. Clay is messy, figuratively and, of course, literally.

As I cleaned up, I remembered that working with clay sucks the moisture out of your skin. On a wintery day, that means applying even more lotion than usual. I personally prefer cocoa butter, though I must admit I have not tried any of the local Brooklyn brands. (Of course, I am open to suggestions.) You have to take care of yourself in the studio, much as you do in the rest of your life. There are consequences for neglecting what your body needs.

Severe Cold Tips For Everyone

NYC’s Severe Weather web page outlines snow safety because, depending on where you grew up and how long you have lived in the Tri-State area, it is not necessarily common sense. Our city has recently welcomed more than 100,000 new arrivals. Many come from warmer parts of the world; at this time the top countries of origin for New York City’s asylum seekers are Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. Can they really be expected to know how to dress for the weather? After all, how many New Yorkers neglect to layer up? How often do I see people of all kinds not wearing hats, hoods, or scarves, despite the fact that most of our body heat escapes through the head? Proper winter attire is not common knowledge across America; even so, having knowledge does not mean having access. Thanks to that blast of Arctic air from Canada, more than 90 people died due to weather-related causes this past week. At least three of those deaths occurred in New York state.

Floyd Bennett Field Migrants

You may be aware that many asylum seekers live at a shelter at Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park. According to ardent complaints in a Facebook group called “STOP FLOYD BENNETT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS” (which I found because of a recent New York Post article), some of these migrants are going door to door not only asking for food and money but for warm clothes. Calls for donations to the “tent city” families have filled my social media.

While writing this column, I saw @southbrooklynmutualaid post a call for donations on Instagram. On the list were gently used or new winter coats, warm layering clothes (sweaters, heat tech, jackets), winter shoes, and ponchos. Advertised drop-off locations include Roots Cafe (639 5th Ave.), Community Bookstore (143 7th Ave.), Van Alen Institute (303 Bond St., Tues.-Thurs., 10am-5pm), and Brooklyn Army Terminal (with a filled out form, available on @southbrooklynmutualaid’s Instagram bio link). Inquiries for joining up the organizing work can be sent to southbkmutualaid@gmail.com.

Savvy Snow Removal

Now back to NYC’s Severe Weather tips. In perusing the list, I was reminded to stretch before going out; shoveling snow especially is a work-out. Another tip is to cover your mouth so brutally cold air does not enter your lungs. Shoveling snow can be a major heart attack risk, so take breaks and guzzle your H20. Also, keep dry, which means going back inside and changing your clothes if you get wet from lots of sweat, melting snow, or who knows what. And let’s not forget our neighbors! If someone is a senior citizen or has disabilities, they may need assistance. We may not always have the patience for kindness, but looking out for each other is part of what makes New York City liveable.

The City of New York also has a whole Snow Response webpage on the New York City Department of Sanitation site. Did you know that you can track snow plows in the city? There is a feature called PlowNYC that supposedly lets you see where plows are working in real-time. Of course, I found out about this feature after it snowed, so I cannot tell you how well it works. I will have to wait until the next snowfall to investigate.

According to the DSNY site, it is up to residents and businesses to clear snow and ice from sidewalks. The path must be at least four feet wide; snow and ice must be removed from around fire hydrants, as well as sidewalk corner ramps. If the snowfall ends between 7am and 4:59pm, it must be cleared within four hours. If it ends between 5pm and 8:59pm, it must be cleared within 14 hours. Snowfall ending between 9pm and 6:59am must be cleared by 11am. Precise! Fines range from $100-250. Yikes. Let’s try to avoid those, shall we? And not just because of tickets, but again, to do right by our neighbors.

New Mural at Addabbo Family Health Center in Red Hook

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

On Jan. 17, the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center unveiled a youth-led mural at its Red Hook location on Richards St. The outdoor mural was made possible with funding from the O’Connell Foundation and a partnership with Red Hook Art Project. After the clinic’s Pediatrics department hosted an art contest, young adult artists (ages 18-22) pulled from the children’s artwork to create a mural design. The muralists, identified by first name only, include: Angelly, Rosana, Jaden, Aspen, and Felix.

The Addabbo Family Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center, which means it serves a high-need community.

Group shot in front of the mural at the Jan. 17, 2024 unveiling.

Brooklyn Goofballs Release ‘Don’t Mind If I Don’t’ Episode on Bagpipes

By Aaron Gold | news@queensledger.com

The following was originally published in the Jan. 25, 2024 print issue:

Do most people, when interviewed, write their own introduction to said interview? Well, Christine [editor of the Brooklyn Star and co-host of Don’t Mind If I Don’t] asked me to, so here I am, introducing you to your introduction to our team and my silly little venture outside of my comfort zone. I believe it was Rosa Parks who said, “This feels weird.” And, boy, does that sentiment still ring true today. But these are odd times, as the world continues to descend into about 14 types of madness, so what the hell? If there’s one thing I’ve learned through doing Don’t Mind If I Don’t, it’s that understanding often breeds interest. In our first episode, we tackled the most annoying instrument I have ever heard in the almighty bagpipe. What started as a fun way for me to rag on things I’m irritated by grew into an appreciation and, dare I say, respect for the noble honkbags. And with Burns Night [Jan. 25th Scottish holiday celebrating poet Robert Burns, during which there are lots of bagpipes piping] upon us, it feels right to reflect on all the growth we’ve had through doing this project. After all, I believe it was Robert Burns himself who said, “Stop misquoting people. You already did this bit in the intro already.”

Don’t Mind If I Don’t began as a podcast that ran four years. Last year, two people I greatly admire approached me about making it a TV show, which we could shoot at Manhattan Neighborhood Network and in the wilds of New York City. And speaking of people I admire, please enjoy getting to know the crew of Don’t Mind If I Don’t: me, creator/host Aaron Gold of Bed-Stuyvesant; director Thomas Dunn of Crown Heights; co-host/art director Christine Stoddard of Bed-Stuy (and, full disclosure, community editor of this newspaper); director of photography/editor Jacob Maximillian Baron, formerly of Crown Heights but now of Harlem (traitor); co-producer/production manager Nate Brown of Park Slope; and line producer Bridget Dennin of Bay Ridge.

As editor of the paper, Christine drafted all answers of the questions, dumped them in a Google Doc, and demanded that the rest of the team answer them. They mostly complied. Sometimes Christine answered her own questions because she’s weird.

I know this is painful, but I’m a sadist: What’s your one-sentence pitch for what this show is?

Aaron: Fans and experts of things I don’t like convince me why I am wrong.

Tom: It’s a show about using comedy to learn to (maybe) like something you once hated.

Jake: Aaron dislikes things for dumb reasons, experts like things for smart reasons, who will win?!

Nate: Aaron has a lot of things he doesn’t like, but he’s ready to learn about them from experts and enthusiasts who actually do like the things.

Um, why are you (we???) making this TV show?

Aaron: One part entertaining others through expanding my horizons, and one part this is the only way I would probably try these things so might as well make my pain the audience’s gain and pass the savings on to you!

Tom: Petty hatred and frustrations are the source of all good comedy. Using your knee-jerk jokes as a way to hate something a little bit less is just plain fun.

Christine: Aaron is my boyfriend and I felt like supporting his dreams and [insert more sappy stuff here.] Plus, I like being on camera and designing things.

Jake: Christine is my friend and Aaron is her boyfriend and I felt like supporting his dreams and [insert more sappy stuff here]. Plus I get to play with shiny film equipment.

Nate: Aaron’s such a people person, but there’s a lot of things that he doesn’t like. And in learning to understand why a person likes a thing, it’s an attempt to understand people that we don’t always agree with. Being able to learn and grow, and change your thoughts about something is one of the biggest things we can do as humans. Also, [insert sappy stuff here].

What was your favorite part of making the first episode on bagpipes?

Aaron: Actually playing the bagpipes was pretty fun! I didn’t expect to enjoy that, but hey, that’s the name of the game, right? Also, jumping through the paper at the beginning. What can I say? I like to make an entrance.

Tom: Having two pipists in our studio, holding their ears while the other one readied their bagpipes for the exhibition. They love their instruments, and the culture around them, but they acknowledge that they are still LOUD.

Christine: Our guests were such a delight! And I could ask them whatever I wanted—good news for a journalist.

Jake: The interview subjects were just really fun people behind-the-scenes and the set had a great vibe that day, despite the chaos of a first shoot.

Bridget: I personally loved learning the history of the bagpipes. As someone who went to school for music and has a family that is very proud of their celtic heritage; it was interesting to hear our guests talk about the musicology of the bagpipes.

Nate: I didn’t help with it, but I watched it! You could tell the enthusiasm that guests had for what they were trying to teach about it.

How is the experience of watching the TV show different from listening to the podcast?

Aaron: Hoo boy. Well, for starters, the editing is a lot more intensive. You can get away with a lot more rambling and pausing in the podcast format. Also, finding ways to keep interviews funny and lively can sometimes be a challenge, but Jake and the rest of the team do a great job finding visual jokes to plug in.

Tom: Podcasting is a much more forgiving medium. You can ramble, make faces, reference research notes…you can pretty much do anything and it will be condoned. Not so much with TV. There is a greater expectation to be entertained and you will be judged on your preparedness.

Jake: I don’t listen to podcasts other than having helped edit one about the sex lives of middle-aged divorcées, so I’m going to defer to the others on this one. Shoutout to “Women on the Remake,” though. I learned far too much.

Nate: The medium is the biggest difference for me. Podcasts are such a low-participation form of media. You can be doing anything else while listening to one. They can go on for hours, and it’s just people having a conversation. But TV is a visual medium. You have to be able to answer the question, “Why does this need to be seen and not just heard?” What about it makes it visually interesting? So it’s up to the producers and directors to figure out how to make that conversation at least a little visually dynamic.

What are your hopes and dreams and unicorn fliffy-fluffs for this show?

Aaron: A budget would be nice. One that doesn’t come from my bank account. Aside from that, I’d love to be on a streaming service with a regular production schedule. This stuff takes a lot of time and effort and getting paid to do it all would go down oh so smoothly.

Tom: There are so many things we all don’t like in this world and comedy is still the best way to talk about it without making people feel like they have to eat their vegetables at family dinner. I think it would be interesting to have guest costars with our hosts, so we could learn the petty hatreds of our favorite celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc…

Jake: This is the kind of show that I feel like has the potential to get bigger and more creative with each shoot, especially considering how creative and collaborative the whole team is. Oh, and getting paid more than Taco Bell and free office coffee would be a lovely bonus, but then again, I’d just be using the money on Taco Bell anyway.

Nate: I absolutely want to see Aaron out in the field doing Billy On the Street-style interviews with regular people, to see if he’s alone in his hatred of a specific topic, or if he’s a part of the general consensus. And maybe even a street segment after he’s learned about the subject, so maybe he can go do things like teach the world about how okay bagpipes are!

Do you believe in life after love?

Aaron: Yes, of course! I think getting your heart broken is a great way to shatter a lot of the illusions of a relationship and help crystallize what you actually like and don’t like in reality. I know that’s not a joke but I take Cher lyrics very seriously.

Tom: Very much so. Why just the other day someone ate the last half-sour pickle in the fridge. I still can’t bring myself to talk about it. My wife tells me I am brave to put my feelings out there like this, being so open.

Jake: My heart knows only hate.

Nate: Only if I could turn back time.

And now, dear readers, go watch the first episode of Don’t Mind If I Don’t on YouTube. The channel handle is @dontmindtheshow. So, that’s: youtube.com/@dontmindtheshow. You can do it! We believe in you!

Year in Review: Our Last Round-up of Last Year

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

The following was printed in the Jan. 18, 2024 edition of the newspaper; view the series cover art collection here.

This issue represents Part 3 of our Year in Review series, which features highlights and reflections from our borough. Putting together this series has been a community effort, with different organizations in North and Central Brooklyn participating. They have submitted quotes, statistics, and photos, and, as possible, given their time to phone interviews with the Brooklyn Star. Here is an official thanks to all of the organizations who responded to our requests; you have helped give our readers a fuller idea of some of the incredible things that happened in Kings County in 2023.

Here are the last drips and drops of the official Brooklyn Star 2023 Year in Review:


Brooklyn Borough Hall

The following is a 2023 Year in Review quote submitted via email by the office of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso:

“Borough President Reynoso’s highlight of the year was the release of his Comprehensive Plan for Brooklyn, the first borough-specific, large-scale planning effort ever in our city’s history. The Plan recognizes that Brooklyn is patterned with deep inequities–from access to affordable housing, to health outcomes and quality of life. For example, between parts of Park Slope and Brownsville, life expectancy differs by nearly a decade and median household income varies as much as $125,000. When it comes to housing, the disparities are just as stark. Between 2010 and 2020, Community District 5 built or preserved more than 12,100 affordable housing units—but Community District 10 only built or preserved 7 affordable housing units over the same period. Rooted in data like this and containing over 100 maps and 200 land use, policy, and budgetary recommendations, the Plan identifies the specific challenges and needs across the borough’s neighborhoods to put forward strategic opportunities to build toward equity. The Plan is not a rezoning, but rather a roadmap chock-full of actionable ways to ensure that all Brooklynites are housed, healthy, and supported. More info is available at https://www.brooklynbp.nyc.gov/the-comprehensive-plan-for-brooklyn/.

Another highlight of the year would have to be the Borough President’s continued advocacy around addressing the harmful legacy of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). Ever since the infamous urban planner Robert Moses tore through through working-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn to build the BQE, the expressway has cut communities in two and sentenced largely Black and Brown, Latino, and AAPI New Yorkers to decades of toxic pollution. You can see this clearly in Los Sures Williamsburg, where Borough President Reynoso grew up and served as a Council Member representing the 34th Council District. This year, Borough President Reynoso was joined by Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez to call on the State to renew BQGreen, a project that would aim to mitigate environmental harms and reconnect the neighborhood. This more-than-decade-in-the-making plan would platform over a portion of the BQE that runs below street level in Williamsburg and build a 3.5-acre park with a flower garden, playground, baseball diamond, barbecues, and more.”

-Isabel Panno Shepard, Brooklyn Borough Hall Press Secretary

Brooklyn Public Library

Photo of Brooklyn Public Library Central

The Brooklyn Public Library happily reported several highlights for 2023 in a phone interview with the Brooklyn Star. One was Books Unbanned, a digital iniative that allows teens and young adults (ages 13-21) from across the country to apply for a card and access e-books that may be banned in their local jurisdictions. Last year, more than 2,500 book titles were questioned in libraries across the U.S., which is the highest number in more than 20 years. Since April 2022, more than 7,000 teens from all 50 states have applied for the card. Collectively, they have checked out more than 170,000 books. San Diego and Seattle Public Libraries, in addition to Boston and Los Angeles County, have since joined the effort.

The library’s popular companion podcast for Books Unbanned is called Borrowed and Banned. Produced by Virginia Marshall, the seven-episode series investigates the rise in book bans across America, and was recently named one of the top 25 podcasts of the year by The Atlantic. Interviews with youth, as well as commonly challenged authors appear on the podcast. Some notable names include Maia Kobabe, George M. Johnson, and Mike Curato.

As part of its Books Unbanned initiative, in October, BPL collaborated with Teen Vogue for a celebration of Let Feedom Read Day. The day featured a conference with teens about the critical importance of literature in society, covering themes like our right to access information and the need for civic engagement as it relates to reading and learning.

2023 also marked the 20th year of the library launching its PowerUP! Business Competition. Previous winners have included Greenlight Bookstore, Island Pops, and Bogotá Latin Bistro. In 2023, BPL awarded more than $40,000 to aspiring entrepreneurs. The award ceremony was hosted by Sally Herships, director of the audio program at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a frequent guest host on NPR’s daily economics podcast. The grand prize went to Noel Gaskin, Jovon Browne, and Cheryl Culpepper for Hemp Thyself, which is a licensed CBD health and skin company.

Another highlight for BPL was “The Book of HOV,” an exhibition celebrating the life, work, and legacy of Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, a Brooklyn native and legendary hip-hop figure. Over the course of nearly five months, the exhibition, which graced the Central Library, attracted more than 600,000 visitors. This marked a 74 percent jump in attendance for the library. On the last day of the exhibition, almost 11,000 patrons visited the library. This was the largest number of library visitors in a single day in the institution’s history. The line to enter the library was so long that it extended down Flatbush Ave.

A new Sunset Park Library branch opened in November 2023. The newly developed branch is nearly 21,000 square feet, making it close to twice the size of the previous branch. The new branch features a new HVAC system, as well as 49 units of permanently affordable housing atop the building. Nine of the units are specifically for victims of domestic violence. Most of the units will rent for between $500 and $1,000 a month. Anyone who meets the income, credit, and family size requirements may apply for the apartments, regardless of immigration status. The joint library/housing project was made possible through a partnership between Brooklyn Public Library and the Fifth Avenue Committee, alongside the New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Prior to the new branch opening, an interim library had been provided at 4201 Fourth Ave. at 43rd St. in a space the New York City Police Department made available.

To find out more about the Sunset Park Library, visit: https://www.bklynlibrary.org/locations/sunset-park

Brooklyn Ballet

The following is a quote submitted via email by Lynn Parkerson, founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Ballet:

“Our 20th year was a glorious celebration–of looking back and looking forward, at what we have accomplished and towards a bright future. The people of Brooklyn fuel our creative process, our education programs, our performances on the streets and stages throughout the borough. We are a high-impact arts organization. Ask any of the communities we serve or audience members who see us perform. We have an impressive track record and we’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities of what a dance company can be.”

In December the Brooklyn Ballet presented its annual The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Teheatre in Flatbush. Here is the official description of the production: “Culturally immersive, The Brooklyn Nutcracker  transforms familiar Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent the heart of Brooklyn’s cultural mosaic, From a mysterious pop and locking Herr Drosselmeyer and a daring hip hop battle scene, to a bohemian Mother Ginger, the characters embark on an enchanting journey from Victorian Flatbush to modern day–with exciting detours through notable Brooklyn landmarks, including a visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden [sic] and a Flatbush Avenue subway platform.”

More than 5,000 students attended morning performances of The Brooklyn Nutcracker. All students came from local Brooklyn schools in low-income areas.

The 2024 performance season will begin in March.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The following is an excerpt of an email submitted by Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to list the organization’s highlights for 2023:

“Construction really ramped up at Abolitionist Place this year. The new 1.15 acre of open space located between Duffield Street and Albee Square West will have a children’s play area, waterplay feature, lawn space, a dog run, multiple seating areas, and more. Abolitionist Place is slated to open in spring 2024.

In July, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced an investment of over $40M in Downtown Brooklyn, that will deliver streetscape improvements, transportation and public space upgrades, and pedestrian safety enhancements. A key win for Downtown Brooklyn is the $8M funding for the Fulton Mall Streetscape – adopting the recommendations and designs of DBP’s Public Real Action Plan.

In September, Metropolitan Transit Authority CEO Janno Lieber, Chief Accessibility Officer Quemel Arroyo, Councilmember Lincoln Restler, and DBP President Regina Myer unveiled the newly-renovated Fulton Mall entrance of the Hoyt St. Subway Station. The renovations were paid for by Macy’s, and include a new elevator — a win for accessibility in the neighborhood!

By the time fall came around, Willoughby was freed from the shackles of the sidewalk sheds that had enveloped 345 Adams Street for the past seven years – shrouding Willoughby Plaza and the adjacent sidewalk of Adams Street. Finally, we could again sit outside and enjoy food from nearby businesses while soaking in the Downtown Brooklyn sun!

DBP’s public art program saw the installation of Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong’s COMMON GROUND, a site-specific interactive public art piece in partnership with Van Alen Institute. With its sound-activated lights, the work offered a playable topography that transformed The Plaza at 300 Ashland into an oasis for sitting, socializing, and gathering. The piece was accompanied by programming featuring from Brooklyn artists who activated the space with their movement and sound.

Downtown Brooklyn’s Shared Streets network got brand new colorful asphalt art. Inspired by natural landscape and topography, Terrain Park by Ann Tarantino uses vibrant hues to create a lively streetscape that complements the street furniture, bike racks, granite blocks, and signature planters of Downtown Brooklyn’s Shared Streets ped spaces.

Originally unveiled at Clumber Corner near the Brooklyn Bridge, Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings by Sherwin Banfield — a project of the Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo Art Fund — was relocated to Columbus Park in August.

This year, Downtown Brooklyn welcomed a wave of shop and dine establishments – adding new and fresh flavors to the neighborhood.

• A slew of healthy food places, such as Quality Greens Kitchen, Sweetgreen, Everytable, and DIG — which lead us to renaming Willoughby Street Salad Alley.

• Classic-style fast food joints, such as 7th Street Burger, Dave’s Hot Chicken, and 375° Chicken n’ Fries. Meanwhile, beloved Circa Brewing Co. rebranded in December with a new name: Sound & Fury Brewing.

• Fast-casual eateries, including Mighty Quinn’s, Halal Munchies, Empanada Loca at AL B’s, Jack’s Stir Brew, Osteria Brooklyn, Nan Xiang Express, Silky Kitchen, German Doner Kebab concession at Columbus Park, and Wonder — just to name a few.

• 2023 further cemented Downtown Brooklyn as a recreation destination. Openings included tennis club Court 16 at City Point BKLYN; and Pilates studio [solidcore] at 11 Hoyt.

• In the world of fine dining, Gage & Tollner began offering lunch service, and famed chef Michael Brogan opened up Maison Sun at 200-3 Schermerhorn. And that’s not all — more beloved establishments plan to open their doors in 2024, such as Sephora, Raising Canes, Fogo de Chão, and Hot Peppers Inc.; as well as grocery stores Fresh Grocer and Gourmet Glatt.

2023 marked the tenth year of our annual Downtown Brooklyn Presents programming series! Throughout the season, we hosted several events in celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, including Check the Rhime Hip-Hop Karaoke, a hip-hop edition of Bare Feet Downtown Brooklyn with Mickela Mallozzi featuring The Ladies of Hip-Hop, a Juneteenth celebration with 651 Arts, and an all-out hip-hop party titled FLAVORS with the renowned DJ Spinna.

To celebrate the public spaces that make Downtown Brooklyn so great, we held several car-free events on the streets, including Downtown Brooklyn Car-Free Earth Day on Albee Square and Albee Square West…”

Looking forward to all that Brooklyn has to offer in 2024!

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