Exclusive: Kellogg’s added to historic registry

Kellogg’s, the famous 24-hour Williamsburg Diner, was added to the Historic Business Preservation Registry on Saturday.

The Historic Business Preservation Registry was created with the goal of providing educational and promotional assistance to businesses that have been located in a neighborhood for over 50 years. The program, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, can receive nominations from local legislators and are decided on a rolling basis.

Elected officials and restaurant workers inside Kellogg’s Diner with the historical designation award.

Since around 1973, Kellogg’s has served Williamsburg residents morning, noon, and night. Despite the pressures the COVID-19 placed on local businesses, the Metropolitan Avenue-based eatery was able to continue serving families during the pandemic.

Navigating a business throughout a pandemic is difficult, but Irene Siderakis was able to pull it off – without any restaurant experience at all.

Before the pandemic, Irene was a stay-at-home mother for her four boys. She inherited the restaurant after her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2019.

“The worst things in life can hate you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t move forward in a positive direction, as long as you believe in yourself,” Siderakis said about what this moment meant to her. “As a woman I want to say that I’m proud of myself. I know I put my heart into it. I put all my strength into it. Just because my husband died there is the excuse to say we can’t. I’ve got four children in this world I’m responsible for. There is no can’t”.

Before her husband passed she didn’t know anything about the business—who the vendors were, how to handle payroll, or the day-to-day responsibilities. Now, she says she feels closer to him, knowing everything he did to help provide a life for her and her kids.

“It is just a fantastic, fantastic testimony to the community that this place holds that Kellogg’s fought through COVID and rose again, and reopened and kept their staff and kept everyone safe,” State Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, who nominated the business for the registry, said while presenting the award. “They closed for two months during COVID, during which the owner became very, very ill, but still made sure that she was feeding the community. And I just think this is a beautiful example of what small businesses can do for our city and our states.

Siderakis has an emotional moment after being presented with the award

The 15 or so patrons got excited by the unexpected announcement, taking out their phones to capture the moment they got to be a part of.

“One of my first memories in about 1950 was that this [referring to her booth] was a caboose you know, like real diners used to be like train cars,” longtime patron Lorraine Franzese Scorsone, 68, said.

And she’s kept the tradition alive for the latest generation, regularly taking her two grandchildren to Kellogg’s.

“Kellogs has always been probably one of the biggest staples of this community,” 13-year-old Dahlia Prettr said. She said that she can’t even remember the first time going as it’s always been a piece of her life.“ So this community, no matter how much it’s changed, it’s always still been like that. Not a close-knit family by any means. But it’s still a family.”

“If you’re born and raised here, you know everything about Kellogg’s. You know how important it is early in the morning or very, very late at night,” South Williamsburg native and Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso said to some laughs. “And I just want to thank you again for being here for 50 years, when no one wanted to be in Williamsburg 30 years ago, you were here 50 years ago, and you guys maintained it and stood strong.”

And while much was made about the history of Kellogg’s on Saturday, Siderakis is even more excited for the future.

Siderakis receives Historical Business Award

Siderakis recently held their first comedy show at the diner the previous week, where Brooklyn Magazine reported over 75 people attended. She’s also been looking at expanding their takeout options, working to supply the food for ghost kitchens. She’s even gotten a request for someone to hold their wedding reception there.

But some things are going to stay the same. The friendly service the staff at Kellogg’s are known for will continue. The menu will be just as long. And, of course, it will stay open 24 hours a day.

“They believed in me, which was the biggest thing for me,” Siderakis said about how none of this would be possible without her staff. ”I didn’t know nothing. But they believed in me. And they stuck by me. And we got it together and we made it happen. And we supported one another with the customers that believed in us. I’m so grateful for everyone that kept coming back.

Brooklyn Debate League raises $1.3M after viral post

Conyers with his debate coach DiCo (Credit: Gabriel Taliaferrow)

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

This quote is how coach K.M. DiColandrea would begin almost every debate team practice at Frederick Douglass Academy.  He would urge his students to figure out their ‘why’.

At 15, Jonathan Conyers couldn’t answer the question.

Conyers, now 27, has figured out the answer. When he was selected to tell his life story with Humans of New York, he opted to talk about his teacher, nicknamed DiCo, instead. And that’s when over $1.2 million started rolling in.

Through 12 different posts on the account, Conyers shared his life story, overcoming ‘hows’ like drug-addicted parents, getting evicted numerous times, and seeing his friend locked up at 14.

Conyers enrolled in Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem after avoiding charges for breaking into a home in middle school. The principal made him enroll in an extracurricular program. After sitting silently in the back of the debate room, Conyers finally participated when the topic of drug addiction was brought up.

“But one day they were discussing drug addiction, which is a topic I know a lot about,” Conyers said in the Humans of New York post. “So I stood up and shared my story. Afterwards Ms. DiCo asked me to stay behind. Mainly she just wanted to make sure I was OK. She was like: ‘Do you need anything?’ But after that, she was like: ‘You should join debate.’”

In hindsight, Conyers wishes he paid more attention to DiColandrea.

“She was white, from Manhattan. She’d gone to Yale. I just assumed she didn’t have any problems,” Dico said in the Humans of New York post.

But that wasn’t the case. DiColandrea revealed to his students that he was in the process of transitioning.

“They waited until I was ready to tell them,” DiColandrea said in an interview, explaining that some students had suspicions when Dico would bring his “friend” to school events. “And then it was just unconditional love.”

“DiCo could have told me he was a dinosaur, and I’d be like: ‘That’s cool. Just stay DiCo,’” Conyers said in the Humans of New York Post.

DiColandrea and Conyers knew the biggest tournament of the year was a real shot when the topic was announced: “Should juvenile offenders be tried as adults?”

While Conyers recalled feeling out of place at the tournament, he found his home on the dais.  Conyers recalled in the post that there was nothing special about his opening speeches, but on cross-examination, he destroyed his opponents asking his predominantly white and affluent opponents whether they should be the person making this argument if they don’t know anyone. 

“Jonathan needs to stick to the facts. His life story gives him an unfair advantage,” Conyers recalled a judge saying, in the Humans of New York post. 

DiColandrea taught all his students to be calm and collected. But that’s when she snapped.

“You will not do this to him. These rich kids have access to every resource. But you’re penalizing Jonathan because his life is f***ed up?” Conyers recalled DiColandrea saying, in the Humans of New York Post.

Ever since that tournament, DiColandrea has been working hard to break down those barriers in debate. A few years later, DiColandrea founded the Brooklyn Debate League – a group that seeks to eliminate the gatekeeping in debate by expanding programs and teams to urban areas.

“But it’s not always just about personal anecdotes, it’s a more fundamental, personal confidence,” DiColandrea said about teaching students a more personal and unconventional debate style. “It’s helping students understand at a really visceral and deep level, that regardless of what neighborhood they live in, or how much money their parents make, or what school they go to, or what color their skin is, or who they’re attracted to, or how they identify. Regardless of any of those identity markers, they belong in a space where the only weapon is words, because their words matter”

“And that’s priceless. Knowing your voice matters,” Conyers said. “Especially as a young Black man, presentation and how you articulate yourself are important.”

And although it’s priceless, it still costs.

DiColandrea started the GoFundMe to cover the $6,000 he personally invested to cover payroll for the small mostly volunteer staff. It was covered in 10 minutes. After two days, it already hit a million. Now over a week later, it has raised over $1.3 million.

“It feels like a mix of the day I got married, all of my birthdays combined, and the day that my student won Harvard,” DiColandrea said about the newfound attention and funds. “It feels like everybody in the world is just reaching out with this abundant outpouring of love and kindness.”

The Brooklyn Debate league operated on a small and scrappy budget, reaching around 250 people on their mailing list and about 100 students coming to tournaments.

“That’s chump change now. We can change our whole mission now,” DiColandrea said with excitement in his voice. DiCo said that he’s looking to reach every person, school and program he can throughout Brooklyn and other urban areas.

“You don’t need to look any further than the New York State Championship that was held two weekends ago, right? There were over 60 schools there. And there were five of them that were public schools in New York City. And three of those were specialized schools. And we are the biggest school district In the country, we have, what, 1.1 million students? They weren’t in those spaces. And they’re not in the speech and debate circuit,” DiColandrea said, explaining the still urgent need for something like Brooklyn Debate League.

While Conyers credits a lot of how he got by in life due to his coach’s help, DiColandrea disagrees.

“I don’t know how to express it. You know, that kind of selflessness is what’s always made him so special; he’s a very humble person,” DiColandrea said. “And he wanted me to have this moment. And man, am I having it?”

Conyers now says he has figured out his why. 

“I learned that giving back and being selfless can change lives. And what he [DiColandrea] did to me has allowed me to help so many people,” Conyers said. He has been on the front lines of COVID working as a respiratory therapist. He also started a home for children who had been orphaned during the pandemic and owns juvenile rehabilitation centers in Virginia to give kids like him the resources and opportunities he didn’t.

For DiColandrea, it’s a wish come true. 

DiColandrea originally gravitated to the quote when he was 16. His high school was only a few blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11. In the weeks after, she asked for book recommendations for helping to understand and process her trauma. The teacher recommended Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. 

“As someone who experienced this firsthand, we then had an obligation to speak up about it, to make sure that it wasn’t forgotten to make sure that people understood what happened,” DiColandrea said.

And that became DiColandrea’s reason. Helping his own students to process their trauma and make sure they know that their voice matters.

“We’re talking about racism. We’re talking about, people who are undocumented. We’re talking about people who come from low-income communities. There are traumas that kids are carrying from those communities as well. I  want them to feel empowered to speak up about what is meaningful to them and what is their lived experience. To teach them about what matters and for them to feel empowered to share that on whatever level they want. That might be just in front of a friend or a classmate or it might be on a national stage at the Speech and Debate championship,” DiColandrea said.

“But that voice belongs to them. And that power belongs to them to use it, to speak up about what they think matters.”

Even though Conyers said he never had a good answer to what his “why” was – he always knew a bit of the answer. 

“All I knew was that I wanted to be like Ms. DiCo,” Conyers said in the Humans of New York post.

“I just want the world to know that there is so much more to Jonathon Conyers, there’s so much more to DiCo,” Conyers said in an interview. “We pray that we can continue to share our story and continue to share the things we have been through in much more detail, and we hope the world is supportive.”

Active shooter in Sunset Park subways

New York City experienced an active shooter situation early Tuesday morning, when an unidentified male individual began to open fire on the N line subway in Sunset Park.

According to police officials, the individual appeared to be wearing a gas mask when he boarded the train around 8:20 a.m. at the 36th Street Subway station. He then opened a canister of smoke that filled the subway car and began shooting, stricking multiple people inside the car and on the platform. Police describe the shooter as a tall black male, about 5-foot-5, with a heavy build wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a green construction vest.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, a representative with FDNY indicated that 16 people were injured in the attack – 10 of which were being treated from gunshot wounds. Other patients were injured from smoke inhalation or shrapnel, according to investigators. Five people injured in the fracas were identified as being in critical but stable condition at the time of the press conference. According to officials, none of the individuals injured face life threatening injuries.

“There are currently no known explosive devices on our subway trains and this is not being investigated as an act of terrorism at this time,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

Police indicated that no motive has been established for the shooting as of press time. The investigation remains in its preliminary stages and any information may be subject to change.

Photos from the scene, released on social media, showed blood around injured individuals who were receiving medical help on the scene as others tried to escape through the clouded platform.

“Today, we saw New Yorkers in a difficult situation and emergency helping each other,” MTA Chief Janno Lieber said at the press conference, comparing the moment to 9/11. “That’s who New Yorkers are… everyday they’re showing people in the subway, which is our public space, that New Yorkers of all varieties can come together in small spaces and get alone and create something bigger. That’s what we remember in these emergencies, as well as the tragedy.”

“Our community is shaken by this senseless act of violence,” NYC City Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park, said in a tweet. “The investigation is still active at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with all 16 of those injured. At this time we know that 10 are being treated for gunshot wounds and 5 are in critical, but stable condition.”

NYPD is asking for the public’s help with information. If you have any information you can confidentiality call Crimestoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

Murals honor Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘life after death’

Jumaane Williams speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Biggie Smalls mural (Credit: Public Advocate’s office).

By Daniel Offner

[email protected]

 

The memory of Brooklyn’s own Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace remains very much alive in Bed-Stuy.

Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, was gunned down at the age of 24 by an unknown assailant on March 9, 1997, following a performance in Los Angeles, Calif. celebrating the upcoming release of his second and final album, “Life After Death.” His murder still remains unsolved.

Shortly after his death, the Brooklyn community came out in record numbers to honor the career of one of the greatest names in hip-hop, with a funeral procession on March 18, 1997. Thousands showed up as more than a dozen stretch limousines made the trip through downtown Brooklyn towards his childhood home, at the corner of Fulton Street and St. James Place.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of this tragic event, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso held a press conference on March 9, to unveil two new murals located at 981 Fulton Street, paying homage to the hip-hop icon.

During the unveiling, Williams also highlighted the need for prevention against gun violence in the city.

“Biggie lost his life to gun violence,” Williams said on Twitter. “A quarter century later, we still continue the fight to end that epidemic.” According to data provided by the NYPD, the crime rate in New York has risen by 58.7 percent in February compared to the same time last year.

BP Antonio Reynoso and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams pose with muralists.

The artwork consists of two murals, one depicting Wallace as a child, and the other presenting a colorful depiction of Biggie dressed in his signature coogie sweater. The murals were painted by street artists Eli Salome-Diaz, Carlo Niece, and Benny Guerra, in less than a week in order to have them done in time for the unveiling.

Leroy McCarthy, who led the petition to officially co-name the intersection of Fulton and St. James in honor of Biggie, was also in attendance for the unveiling along with Lil Cease, a former member of the group, Junior M.A.F.I.A.

The new murals are just some of many works of art decorating the storefronts surrounding the corner where The Notorious B.I.G. once resided. Located on the corner is a profile of Biggie Smalls painted by Vincent Ballentine in 1999. There are numerous other works that can be seen along the block, including an enormous mural dubbed “Commandate Biggie,” located at the intersection with Lafayette Ave.

Gonzalez runs for new Senate district

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Kristen Gonzalez is running in the the Senate district that covers Greenpoint and parts of Queens

As a working-class girl from Elmhurst who commuted to middle school on the Upper East Side, Kristen Gonzalez developed an early political consciousness.

Even though she was in the same city, she realized she lived in two different worlds. At her Roosevelt Avenue station in Queens, she saw lines of immigrants waiting to get free breakfast from a Catholic charity. 

When she got off the subway at 86th Street in Manhattan, she saw lines of businessmen in fancy suits and coats grabbing their morning Starbucks. 

Even though Gonzalez is only 26 years old, she already has an impressive background in politics. At Columbia University, she was president of the local College Democrats chapter where she got involved in Get Out The Vote campaigns. 

From there she worked at the City Council writing policy recommendations through the Young Women’s Initiative, but felt like she didn’t see the needle moving. So during what would have been her senior year, she dropped out to work in Washington as a Latino Engagement intern for the Obama administration and then in Senator Chuck Schumer’s office. 

While she says the experience was informative, it also made her realize the change she wanted to make wouldn’t be found in the confines of City Hall or in the Capitol Rotunda, but rather, “it was in the working-class communities that raised me back in Queens.”

Less than 24 hours after the new State Senate district maps were released, Gonzalez declared as a candidate for District 17, which includes areas of Woodhaven, Maspeth, Long Island City, Glendale, Ridgewood and Greenpoint. 

She was first approached by the Democratic Socialists of America to run for office in December. Gonzalez thought it was a real opportunity to build a larger socialist movement in Albany.

“Next week, the strategy is to start down in southern parts of the district and, and really try to build on the movements we’ve seen with campaigns like Felicia Singh to turn up more folks in the Punjabi, Bangladeshi, and Guyanese communities,” she said. “Then coming back up to really engage and build a base of more Latino working-class families, as well.”

Gonzalez has assembled over 20 veteran progressive politicos who worked on campaigns for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán.

Gonzalez’s top three priorities are passing single-payer health care, building publicly owned renewable energy, and passing good cause eviction and ending subsidies for luxury developments.

She first got involved with DSA in 2018, organizing their tech action working group, rallying support for privacy bills like the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act to force the NYPD to be more transparent about the types of surveillance technology the department uses.

When asked about Mayor Eric Adams’s push to make New York City a hub for cryptocurrency, Gonzalez rolled her eyes.

“It’s a replication of the issue where the city moves forward in a way that benefits the very wealthy who are invested in things like crypto, but without thinking about those who are behind who just don’t have basic access to the internet,” Gonzalez said. 

A recent report from the state comptroller’s office found that over one million New Yorkers lack access to quality broadband services. As a member of the tech action working group, Gonzalez helped create the Internet For All campaign, a 46-page blueprint on how to achieve municipal ownership of broadband utilities.

Gonzalez has already raised over $23,000, and her Twitter account had such a quick influx of support and followers, the social media service put her account under review for “suspicious activity”.

“I could not be more grateful and just humbled by the support that we saw in this last week,” Gonzalez said. “We believe this is the best campaign for the district because we are representative of it.”

New bishop installed for Diocese of Brooklyn

Clergy, community leaders, and parishioners gathered at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights to watch as Robert J. Brennan was officially installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The installation, which was overseen by Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan, officially brought a close to Nicholas DiMarzio’s time as bishop. Dimarzio, age 75, originally submitted his letter of resignation on June 16, 2019.
“I can’t wait to get started, this is just incredibly exciting,” Bishop Brennan said ahead of the installation mass. “New York is a wonderful place to live. I’m going to be so happy serving the church here in Brooklyn and in Queens.
“From the day that my appointment was announced at the end of September, I just experienced such an incredible welcome,” Brennan continued. “Back in September my heartstrings were tugging as I was leaving Columbus [Ohio], but now that I’ve been here a couple days, I can’t wait to get started.”
During a question-and-answer session, Brennan explained that he is not committed to pursuing a concrete plan, but rather listening to the needs of the community and responding accordingly.
“I don’t have an actual program that says we are going to do X, Y, or Z. It would be, quite honestly, a little foolish on my part to come in and say, ‘okay, now it’s the Brennan way of doing things,’” the new bishop said. “There’s a rich history here and I want to learn from that.”
Bishop Robert J. Brennan was born and raised on Long Island, where he attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Lindenhurst and St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip.

New bishop installed for Diocese of Brooklyn

Clergy, community leaders, and parishioners gathered at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights to watch as Robert J. Brennan was officially installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The installation, which was overseen by Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan, officially brought a close to Nicholas DiMarzio’s time as bishop. Dimarzio, age 75, originally submitted his letter of resignation on June 16, 2019.
“I can’t wait to get started, this is just incredibly exciting,” Bishop Brennan said ahead of the installation mass. “New York is a wonderful place to live. I’m going to be so happy serving the church here in Brooklyn and in Queens.
“From the day that my appointment was announced at the end of September, I just experienced such an incredible welcome,” Brennan continued. “Back in September my heartstrings were tugging as I was leaving Columbus [Ohio], but now that I’ve been here a couple days, I can’t wait to get started.”
During a question-and-answer session, Brennan explained that he is not committed to pursuing a concrete plan, but rather listening to the needs of the community and responding accordingly.
“I don’t have an actual program that says we are going to do X, Y, or Z. It would be, quite honestly, a little foolish on my part to come in and say, ‘okay, now it’s the Brennan way of doing things,’” the new bishop said. “There’s a rich history here and I want to learn from that.”
Bishop Robert J. Brennan was born and raised on Long Island, where he attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Lindenhurst and St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip.

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