‘Believe the Hype’ Column: An Ode to FiveMyles Gallery

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

New York City, the City of Dreams, the city of magic and momentum. For a creative person, there may be no better place for inspiration or opportunity, with virtually every culture and industry represented. It is also the capital of hustle and ambition. New Yorkers yearn. We strive. Like many transplants, I moved here with a vision for a more exciting and fulfilling creative career and, dare I say it, life overall . I wanted access to experiencing and, in some cases, making art, music, fashion, movies, and media. While I had a few contacts when I first made Brooklyn home, I still had many more people to meet. When it came to really knowing the borough’s movers and shakers, I didn’t know anymore. Networking and making connections is crucial in a city full of millions of enterprising (sometimes pushy) people. One venue that gave me a chance early on was FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights.

Madi Dangerously & Arts East New York

Some things happened for me quickly after I moved here in mid-2016. Curator Madi Dangerously, aka Mariama Rafetna Primus, who is a local mover and shaker, invited me to participate in a group show. This was 2017 and the idea was a one-night event dedicated to the divine feminine. Not too long after that, Madi also generously invited me to participate in an exhibition on gentrification at the now-defunct Arts East New York, founded by Catherine Green. It seems that the gallery was another casualty of the pandemic. May another contemporary art space replace it. East New York deserves to have that kind of resource and space for expression. Every neighborhood does. But back to Madi: She was bringing together newcomers and long-timers alike to have visual and performance art conversations about migration and real estate. It was a welcome opportunity for someone like me who genuinely wanted to contribute to the community  that was already established here. Not all of us want a Starbucks on every corner. Thank you, Madi, for seeing that in me.

Hanne Tierney & Marine Cornuet

Insert snowball effect. By early 2018, I had my own show at FiveMyles. To that, I should say thank you to Hanne Tierney. Hanne is the founder of FiveMyles, which she opened 25 years ago. The place was incorporated as a non-profit in 1999, championing experimental and largely non-Western work or work by otherwise under-represented artists. At the time that I met Hanne, her second-in-command was Marine Cornuet, a French poet who has since moved on to a career in literary publishing. Marine was really my main point of contact, though I was immediately taken by Hanne’s warmth and passion for the arts in Central and East Brooklyn. She is a friendly, likable person, which is the type of personality more gallery owners should consider cultivating and projecting. Kindness is a skill.

Lady Pandora

My first show at FiveMyles was a one-night affair called “Lady Pandora,” and featured a video art installation, live poetry performances, and framed photos hung pretty traditionally on the wall. I directed the night, which was about feminine power and the tension between the magic and struggles of womanhood. All of the videos and photos were ones I had created; the line-up of poets, which included myself, featured mostly women who appeared in the videos and photos. They were my collaborators and the vast majority of them lived in Brooklyn, from Greenpoint to Fort Greene. One message present in much of the work is that we conjure spells because of our challenges as women. We aim to reclaim our power. The gallery was packed and I met neighbors and had conversations that still inspire me.

Since then, I have had two smaller events at FiveMyles–screenings of my film Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares and video poems from my project Belladonna Magic. The first took place last fall; the other took place this month. Maybe these events were smaller because I did not promote them as hard as “Lady Pandora,” but I suspect the attendance had more to do with the state of cultural institutions in New York City. People go out less often. Virtual events are more common. We have lost some of the synchronicity and thrilling chaos of a time before ubiquitous screens and livestreaming. What a difference a few years can make. Ironically, my reach is larger than it was before the pandemic. Social media as an arts platform has created new types of exposure and attracted new fans. Brooklyn Magazine named me one of its Top 50 Most Fascinating People in 2023. They came to that conclusion because of an online survey that spread via social media. Still, I thank FiveMyles for the in-person space to meet fans in real life and make face-to-face connections. I feel comfortable speaking for many people when I say Crown Heights will be a different place when FiveMyles closes in June. Yes, I purposely buried the lede. To quote Ruby Lindsey, who replaced Marine at FiveMyles, “Sometimes it’s just time.”

Find out more at FiveMyles.org.

Photos are from the columnist’s personal archives. 


Francophone Migrants Face Unique Challenges

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

French-speaking migrants from Africa stand outside of a shelter for asylum seekers at 47 Hall Street in Clinton Hill. In our on-the-street conversations, several men told me that they feel especially isolated as Francophones. As they have experienced, most assistance for recent migrants is only available in Spanish, and New Yorkers they meet in daily street life are unlikely to speak French. A common refrain I heard was, “Americans don’t speak French.” More than one man told me that I was the first French-speaking American they had met.

Bahei, age 34, from Senegal.



Seydinal, age 25, and Anndiaye, age 27, both from Senegal.

Bikes and shopping carts parked outside the shelter.

Migrants may live in the shelter for 30 days–a reduction from the initial 60 days that the City of New York granted. After that, they are discharged (sometimes in the middleof the night) and must find accommodations elsewhere. With no other place to go, many migrants live on the street after they have been discharged.

Camera Eye: A Visual Exploration of Glass Bottle Beach

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

File photos c. 2021 of Glass Bottle Beach at Dead Horse Bay in Gateway National Recreation Area, on the outskirts of the Marine Park neighborhood. The site has been closed since 2020 due to hazardous levels of radioactivity. From 1948 into the mid-1950s, it was a landfill with a mound elevation of 25 feet. Now eroding, the shoreline features a patchwork of broken bottles, ceramics, metal objects, clothing, and a mix of random household and industrial items.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

‘Believe the Hype’ Column: Farewell to New York Fashion Week but not to Brooklyn Fashion

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Another New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has come and gone, not to stir up a storm again until September. As it stands, the “week” sprawls into nearly a fortnight come February. This year the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea rivaled Spring Studios, which had been NYFW’s hub for more than five years. Yet those are not the only sites where fashion shows take place; they are merely the ones where major designers trample the runway. But not every designer is a household name. There are designers who make a name (and a living) for themselves without being known by Midwestern housewives. 

A Brooklynite’s Foray into NYFW

Now, not being a household name does not mean obscurity or failure. Some designers prefer to be uncommon, aiming for a narrowly-defined customer versus aiming to be loved by all. On Feb. 10, The New York Times ran a story on B Michael, a designer who has dressed everyone from Beyoncé to Halle Berry. Yet you might get deer-in-the-highlights looks if you mentioned B Michael in Des Moines. While he has a new book out—a memoir called MUSE: Cecily Tyson and Me: A relationship forged in fashion—he had zero presence at this year’s NYFW. Maybe some designers, even successful ones, don’t want the hassle of producing a world-class event and all of the digital media content that is expected these days. These things require different skill sets than producing the garments themselves, and B Michael basically runs a three-man shop. However, not every designer can afford to be so selective when it comes to opting out of NYFW. Up-and-coming designers may feel they have to participate in order to get their name out there. 

Designer: Candence Caprice. Photo by Nani Creative.

This latter category intrigues me because they are fledgling artists fueled by passion. When Lina Neubauer aka “Rainstorm”, a current Fashion Institute of Technology student, invited me to model in her Rising Collective NYFW show, I jumped at the opportunity. This was a confident young businesswoman with a vision and several events under her (very stylish) belt. The fact that she was uplifting newer designers thrilled me. Most of them were FIT and Parsons students or recent alumni. On Feb. 17 at Dom Lounge in Gramercy, we—the show producer, designers, models, hair/makeup stylists, dressers, and other crew members—collectively made many dreams come true in one night. I especially loved the energy of Hayden Lehr, who had me model her mini skirt made of recycled soda tabs and a crop top bearing her line’s logo. Just 21 years old, this was her first-ever fashion show. I heard more than one person congratulate her for having such a cohesive look: punky but still modern and bright, with clean lines. You can find her on Instagram @haydenlehr. 

Rainstorm, who also goes by Rain, was generous enough to have the “Don’t Mind If I Don’t” comedy show attend the event. In the Jan. 25, 2024 edition of the Brooklyn Downtown Star/Greenpoint Star newspapers, you may have seen the article “Brooklyn Goofballs Release ‘Don’t Mind If I Don’t’ Episode on Bagpipes.” The whole concept of our comedy TV show is that fans and experts try to persuade my boyfriend,  Aaron Gold, to like things he hates. The TV show stemmed from Aaron’s long-running podcast. Now I am in the mix as his co-host/art director and we have a team lending their directing, cinematography, editing, and producing skills. So far, we have filmed episodes on bagpipes, psychics, Shakespeare, painting, and now fashion. The hope is to convince Aaron that fashion has aspects worth appreciating. 

Fashion Week Brooklyn

Last weekend’s fashion experience made me wonder: Why is there no Brooklyn Fashion Week? Google proved me wrong. There is a Brooklyn Fashion Week, but the name is actually Fashion Week Brooklyn. It just doesn’t have the cachet or visibility of NYFW because, as cool and creative as our borough is, Manhattan is still our city’s center of commerce. FWBK was founded by the non-profit BK|Style Foundation, which aligns itself with several social causes, from human rights to HIV/AIDS awareness, and also produces international fashion events that highlight Brooklyn designers. This year, we can expect FWBK on April 7 and 13 at Kings Plaza Mall in Mill Basin.

The storefront of MOSHOOD at
Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

In doing some digging about FWBK, I found out that MOSHOOD/Afrikan Spirit, a Bed-Stuy mainstay of three decades, is in on the action. This is yet another gem located at Restoration Plaza. When I recently popped my head in there on a Saturday, the spot was, well, it was the spot. MOSHOOD’s designs have appeared on BET’s Teen Summit, Queen Latifah’s sitcom “Living Single,” and Brandy’s sitcom “Moesha.” The line, which blends African tribal designs with Western flair, has the slogan “WEAR MOSHOOD, WEAR YOURSELF,” as well as the saying, “We focus on the ensemble, not just the pieces.” Through FWBK, Moshood showcased designs at V.O Curations in London on Feb. 17. 

Designer: Hayden Lehr.
Photo by Nani Creative.

Another Brooklyn designer in that same show (there were ones from the UK and New Jersey, too), was “Free.” This tongue-in-cheek designer is totally new to me. Founder Richard Kauli, a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, declares a “distaste for the attention economy and mass surveillance of a free state” on the line’s website, the cheekily named FreeInQuotes.com. Three principles seem to guide the brand, which I am pulling directly from the Info page:

1. Lack of new/original thoughts and ideas as we consume mass media (group think)

2. Privacy is no longer possible (mass surveillance from governments and advertising companies)

3. Social media leads to constant comparison to others (lower life satisfaction and increase depression and suicide)

One example of a T-shirt you can buy from “Free” bears the words: “Great Minds Think Like Us.” Maybe calling “Free” anti-fashion would be more apt.

Snow at Floyd Bennett Field

But enough about fashion for now. While I believe the arts are essential to a beautiful, joyful, and meaningful life, I am also aware of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological needs come first. After another snowstorm, I had to know: Did the tent shelter for migrant families at Floyd Bennett 

Field have heat? Did the shelter run into any issues during the storm? A couple of days would pass before I could head over there. That meant a week had gone by since my last visit, when I staked out the public transportation situation. By then, most of the snow had melted. It was easy to drive my car around and not worry about ice or running into a snowbank.

Floyd Bennett Field, with the remnants of the snowstorm.

I noticed that steel barricades had been installed since the previous week. They formed a corridor that went from the tent shelter to the bus stop. Families walking from the shelter to the bus stop, which involved going down one road, crossing another road, and then cutting across a large empty lot, largely stayed within the barricades. I noticed one little boy stumbling along the barricade, just outside of it to play in the bits of snow that remained. A man I presumed to be his father walked inside of the barricade, almost parallel to the boy.

I parked my car at the intersection before the large lot. In the couple of days leading up to that point, I had called and emailed organizations on the NYC 311 webpage entitled “Asylum Seeker Resources.” I have many questions and many stories I am researching to write about immigration in New York City. Only one source picked up the phone: the principal of Brooklyn Collegiate High School, who said that the list is horribly outdated. The school no longer provides resources for asylum seekers. This is why on-the-ground reporting still matters. We cannot count on the Internet for everything.

I got out of my car and stopped the first family to get some quick answers. In Spanish, I introduced myself and asked if there was heat in the tent shelter. The answer was yes. And were there any problems at the tent shelter during the snowstorm? Or since? No. 

What a relief! I look forward to finding out more about our city’s asylum seekers and promise to bring updates in the Brooklyn Downtown Star/Greenpoint Star.

Eyesore: Bedford Library

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Bedford Library is closed for a major heating and cooling upgrade; it is expected to reopen in Summer 2024. If you have an eyesore in your Brooklyn neighborhood that you would like us to highlight, send us a photo at news@queensledger.com.

Letter From the Editor (Feb. 15, 2024 Edition)

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Dear readers,

As I am writing this, another snowstorm has hit New York City. We humans are still so vulnerable in the face of nature’s whims. In 8th grade, I remember being assigned an essay with the prompt “Does Mother Nature or mankind have the upper hand? Explain.” I could probably write a different essay to answer this question for every year of my life on this planet. With industrialization, transportation, and any number of other human activities, we ravage the earth. Yet humanity has so many weaknesses when it comes to natural disasters. We are constantly at the mercy of extreme temperatures and precipitation, shifting tectonic plates, and furious seas.

This thought occurred to me once again when I recently visited Floyd Bennett Field. As you will read in my column “Believe the Hype” this week, I needed to witness just how bad the conditions were at the park itself. I wasn’t thinking about recreation; I was thinking about the migrant family shelter, where about 2,000 parents and children are living in tents. My mind was on the rainstorm that attacked the park (and the rest of our region) back in January, but I also wondered about public transportation there. After all, when you are waiting for a bus, which is the only public transportation option in that far-off swath of South Brooklyn, you are exposed to the elements. Some bus stops might have a modest roofed shelter. This one does not. It is not a pleasant place to be when it is raining hard or there are strong gusts of wind. Now that there is snow coming down hard, I can only imagine how much more unpleasant the wait at that bus stop must be. When you are a new arrival to this country, fleeing immense poverty and violence, chances are good that you do not have a car waiting for you here. You take the bus and, in areas where it is possible, the subway.

This morning, on my way to the office, I trudged through the snow, across uncleared sidewalks and through an even less cleared park. I took the train, first the G, underground, where the interior walkways were slippery with ice and covered in puddles the closer I got to the tracks. Then I transferred to the 7, walking up wet steps and onto a train that wobbled on tracks aboveground. Today, at least, I felt that Mother Nature has the upper hand.

Yours in all things BK,

Christine Stoddard

Brooklyn Community Editor


‘Believe the Hype’ Column: Standout Asian Cuisine & Migration of Two Kinds

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

The best meal I had on the go this week–and, yes, I am so often on the go–was the Braised Chicken Congee Bowl at Maya Congee Café. Though I have passed the Fulton St. location in Clinton Hill on many occasions, this was my first visit. Decked out in red and gold, the quaint spot, which houses a small market, cheerfully reminded me that it was Lunar New Year. We are in the Year of the Dragon, which happens to be my Chinese Zodiac sign. How fortuitous.

View of Maya Congee Café front door. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Chino Grande

Now, my best sit-down meal of the week goes to Chino Grande, owned by Josh Ku of Win Son fame. Nestled on Grand St. in South Williamsburg, the Asian/Latin fusion restaurant even boasts regular karaoke. While I did not stay to sing my heart out, I have no regrets. The chic Mid-century design immediately pulled me in, setting a tone of relaxed sophistication. The green booths felt serene and the friendly staff contributed to the comfy atmosphere. My date and I delighted in the Chips (plantain, taro, and sweet potato) with the Sauce Caddy (Green Sauce, Ketchupmayo, Spicy Duck Sauce). We also shared the Crab Rangoon Toast and Pilón Smashed Cucumbers, and each ordered a Chorizo Egg Roll. For large dishes, I was very pleased with the presentation of the Twice Cooked Chicharrón de Cerdo (leeks, shishitos, fermented chili paste) and the lightness of the Salchicha Arroz Chaufa (longaniza, lap cheong, chorizo, red peppers, peas), which was the most guilt-free fried rice I can remember tasting. For a cocktail, I opted for the popular Chiquita Chinita (Mezcal, Red Bull Pepper, Toasted Rice), while my partner ordered the Ni Haody! (Rye, Jujube, Black Walnut, Sweet Vermouth). We finished with the tantalizing Ice Cream Sandwich (Maria cookies, guava, and cheese), which just so happened to combine some of my childhood favorites.

Chips and sauce caddy at Chino Grande. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Hardware & Discount Store

My biggest shock in the local business community this week was seeing that Fulton Home Center and Hardware Corporation is moving. You, like me, may better know this neighborhood shop simply as “Hardware & Discount Store,” as that is what’s printed on its awning. It is, or shall I say was, located near the Nostrand Ave. stop on the A/C. Now it is moving to 1507 Fulton St., by Kingston and Fulton. According to hand-written signs taped to the windows, the shop lost its lease after 40 years. I popped my head inside as movers cleared decades of inventory, and briefly spoke to the understandably frazzled owner, who took my business card and then had to get back to work. Any tips are appreciated.

Sign taped to the window of Hardware & Discount Store on Fulton St. in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Floyd Bennett Field Migrant Shelter Bus Service

Family tent shelter at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Ever since I heard about the migrant family shelter opening at Floyd Bennett Field, I have had concerns. The park is a known flood plain; on virtually any visit after a rainstorm, I have noticed soggy ground and huge puddles. In January, a rainstorm sent the city scrambling to relocate 2,000 parents and children from the tent shelter to James Madison High School in Midwood. Some Madison parents protested and there were complaints about how much sense the last-minute, poorly planned move made for a one-night respite.

Q35 bus stop outside of Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Apart from the flood plain issue, I have wondered about public transportation there. I have only ever driven to Floyd Bennett Field, located on the tailend of Flatbush Ave., going toward the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. There is a no-man’s-land quality to the park, which is littered with abandoned buildings and empty lots. The Q35 bus stop, which you will find just outside of the park, is a solid 5-7-minute walk from where the shelter tents are stationed. Make it 10 for the parents walking with younger children and strollers. In the nearly two hours I observed there on a windy Friday afternoon (after-school hours), the bus came three times. Many migrants waiting for the bus did not have proper winter coats. Their situation is dire.

Large empty lots stand in the way between the family shelter and the Q35 stop at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Would you a weld a steel rose for Valentine’s Day?

By Christine Stoddard | cstoddard@queensledger.com

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this review first appeared in Quail Bell Magazine:

The couple that welds together stays together. Certainly, I felt bonded with my partner (and frequent collaborator) Aaron Gold the night we hit up Craftsman Ave. in Gowanus for the “weld a steel rose” date night. We entered this gritty workshop fully expecting to try something new and get our hands dirty. And by “we,” I mean me. I hadn’t given Aaron too many hints about our destination because I wanted it to be a surprise. Surprises make date nights all the more thrilling! He knew we would be doing a couples activity and I had warned him to wear sturdy shoes and old clothes. Nada más. Upon our arrival, Aaron and I were warmly greeted by Chris Jeffries, owner of Craftsman Ave. and our instructor for the evening. He escorted us to a private workbench in a romantic little nook, separate from the rest of the small group in the cozy school and event space. Chris said he liked to give the date night couple their alone time and that he’s not one to hover. Even better? Chris kept his promise and let the workshop remain a secret until absolutely necessary. When the right moment came, Aaron was floored by the big reveal. Chris flashed several samples of gorgeous steel roses fabricated in that very workshop. Soon it would be our turn.

Craftsman Ave. is a place where beautiful but practical craft happens. We felt honored to not only witness the magic there but to conjure some of our own. It all happened step by step. Chris showed the group what to do and he made the rounds to ensure we were all on track. I’m the craftier of the two of us, so it was important to me that Aaron didn’t feel left out. That was the beauty of the process: Each step required different skills and could be improvised and personalized to some extent. Honestly, he was better at some steps than I was and it was satisfying to see a new side of him. It’s worth noting, though, that there is no “right” way to weld a steel rose at Craftsman Ave. There’s plenty of leeway to make your creation a unique expression of your love. Without the pressure of perfection, Aaron and I had a lot more freedom than I had realized we would when I booked this date night. Phew! And yay!

It wasn’t long before we got a hang of the basic process and were able to replicate the steps sans Chris. That’s where the lovey-dovey stuff came in. We had time to flirt, goof off, and just have fun together in a new environment. At a good stopping point, we enjoyed a bottle of wine from Gowanus Wine Merchants and a pizza from Table 87, which Chris had delivered. There was a comfy lounge at the front of the shop, away from the welding action, where we dined.

This was the first time either Aaron or I had ever welded. I had only done minor soldering in jewelry class about a decade prior. Welding and soldering are similar but different processes. Trust me—my “experience” barely counts. Despite being first-timers, we made something beautiful and felt totally safe doing it. After a relaxing four hours, we finished our first rose together! We even got to engrave and paint it, too.

We found this date night so remarkable for a few reasons:

1. We picked up a skill that looks super intimidating but, with the power of trust and love, is actually pretty manageable.

2. Chris is a delight. He knew when to pipe up and when to leave us be. Having some level of privacy is essential for date nights. That’s how you get to know each other better!

3. The food came to us. The menu was simple, delicious, and involved zero hassle in filling our bellies without derailing our craft project.

4. WE GOT TO TAKE HOME OUR CREATION AT THE END OF THE NIGHT!!! So many date nights revolving around crafts make you come back another day. For a variety reasons, this isn’t always practical. By the time we drove home, the rose was dry and ready for display.

5. None of our friends have done it! It’s truly a unique date night worth telling folks about. Everyone will want to see photos.

The verdict is in: You and your sweetie should consider welding a steel rose at Craftsman Ave. in Brooklyn. You’ll end up with a cute story and an eye-catching keepsake.

Find out more about this unusual date night idea at CraftsmanAve.com.

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