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 [email protected].

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

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

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

[email protected]

The Average New York Worker Predicted to ‘Burnout’ on June 20th 2024, Finds Study

• This burnout date happens 172 days into 2024.

• Lawyers experience burnout the soonest; those in energy the latest.

• New interactive map for the predicted burnout days for workers in each state.

A screenshot of the Software Connect interactive map on burnout, with the mouse hovering over New York State.

In an era where digital connectivity knows no bounds, countless workers find themselves trapped in a seemingly endless workday. Remote work, once seen as a liberating evolution, now chains many to a cycle of perpetual availability. With smartphones pinging after hours with emails and schedules, the division between work and rest blurs into obscurity.

To rub salt in the wound, IT sheriffs track the clickety-clack of productivity—or lack thereof. Yet, this relentless grind exacts a heavy toll: chronic workplace stress. Manifesting as extreme exhaustion, a growing resentment toward one’s job, and a marked drop in performance, these symptoms herald the onset of burnout – a state that straddles the line between stress and a depression borne of overwork.

Illustration by Christine Stoddard.

SoftwareConnect.com recently conducted a survey of 3,000 workers, which sought to pinpoint the day the average worker succumbs to burnout. Alarmingly, the threshold is crossed just 183 days into the year, by July 1st.

But for legal professionals, the sprint to burnout ends even sooner. By June 10th, lawyers are already throwing in their briefcases, and who can blame them? With notoriously long work hours, they’re in a league of their own when it comes to occupational exhaustion. In contrast, energy professionals demonstrate remarkable resilience, burning out the latest. By July 18th, while others are faltering, those in the energy sector are still going strong. With the critical responsibility of maintaining our power supplies and often working in challenging conditions, they manage to stay powered up longer than anyone else.

Regionally, Delaware’s workers bear the brunt of burnout earliest, by March 19th, while those in New York encounter it later, on June 20th – a full 172 days into the year.

Software Connect has created an interactive map showing the predicted burn out days for workers in each state (click on ‘embed’ to host the map on your site)

“In the current landscape, where technology has rendered us constantly accessible, the pressure to perform is relentless,” states Jeff Budiac from Software Connect. “Our survey reveals a troubling trend towards a nation on the edge of occupational burnout. It’s a clarion call for a re-evaluation of work-life balance in the digital age.”

Source: SoftwareConnect.com

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

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

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.

Brooklyn Poetry Feature: Madeleine French

The following appeared in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the newspaper:

This week, we feature the talents of poet Madeleine French:

“Geode”

As we reached Tompkins Avenue, a Dave Brubeck tune tinkled from a restaurant,

while a little further down a breeze unfurled yellow, orange and blue

embroidered skirts on the sidewalk outside a vintage shop.

Our restaurant patio shone with subdued light through an opaque white roof.

Even the butter lettuce gave a side eye to our muted words, as if it could tell

a melancholy errand brought us here. And our smiles might have been

a little stilted, until the gelato melted in our mouths and made them real.

Home now, I’m not summoning up the charming little bookstore,

with its colorful titles lined up on shelves and tables.

(New and used together, just as you’d have arranged them)

Or remembering the bass beat blasting from a block party’s speakers

as we walked by, vibrating with the breath in my chest.

I’m not picturing the toddler in pink tulle, holding her daddy’s hand,

reflecting the uncertainty of each hesitant step in her comical frown—

exactly as you once did.

Instead, I’m thinking of the shimmering quartz you parked on

your new white windowsill, just until you find the right place for it,

sparkling silvery diamond white next to your African violet.

Something beautiful in you might just be breaking open, too.

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“On Brooklyn Bridge”

Look at us, dressed for two different days

as if we’d watched dueling forecasts

I’m in a quilted jacket with jeans

while your flannel shirt

flaps in the breeze

over your tee and shorts

Puffy clouds cover the sky

like some preschooler went rogue

with the Elmer’s and cotton balls

Whatever, it all works

—even if no one can make you as mad

as I can—

Just keep walking over these wooden slats

as the bridge slopes toward South Street

the dark river glittering in the gaps

where the sun pokes its fingers

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“Your Heart, Across Prospect Park”

Pondering

blush-orange clouds

crackled over Sarasota Bay,

Maybe

I met six-thirty

from the wrong side.

In this dreamlight, I see you

Tramping

your sidewalk’s crusted slush

in Brooklyn,

Maybe

you’ve just set off

(chin tucked,

black hood bobbing)

Bearing

your battered heart

across Prospect Park.

Maybe

it’s a matter of timing

that’s all—right now, it’s

neither wrong, nor right

Crossing

Seventh, wrinkling your nose

at exhaust fumes   

Maybe

you’ll lift your eyes

when my rosy clouds paint

your rooftops

Living

a movie, as a new dawn

slaps your cheek:

“Snap out of it!”

Maybe

you’ll see it’s day breaking,

flushed and undone

Not

your heart.    

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

Madeleine French lives in Florida and Virginia with her husband. A Best of the Net nominee, her work appears in ONE ART, Dust Poetry Magazine, West Trade Review, Roi Faineant Press, Door Is A Jar, and elsewhere. She is working on a full-length poetry collection.

Letter from the Editor (Feb. 8, 2024 edition)

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The following appeared in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the paper:

Dear readers,

On the cover of this issue, you will find a photo of a man named Francis. I met him in 2018 while living in Crown Heights and he was one of many neighbors whose photo I took. There is something so intimate about taking someone’s portrait: asking for a few moments of their time, maybe longer, and trying to capture something about essence. Maybe it is their essence. Maybe it is the essence of an era or a mood. The objectives can change from portrait to portrait, assignment to assignment, project to project. I do not know anything about Francis and his life now. I know that our paths crossed in late winter a few years ago, when I was still finding my footing in Brooklyn as a hopeful transplant. I also know that he is a Black man and that representing people of color and marginalized groups in our borough is part of my duty as community editor. There is no one way to be a Brooklynite. I am proud to wish you all a happy Black History Month. In last week’s issue, the love in honor of this annual observance began and in this week’s issue, the love continues.

One person I am excited to profile for Black History Month is Jada Bennett of Bay Ridge. Jada and I met in the theater world while working on a production together in 2022. It was through that relationship that I learned that Jada is not only an actress but a dancer, singer, beauty pageant queen, and an invaluable member of the Brooklyn Cyclones staff. This Minor League Baseball team plays out of Maimonides Park in Coney Island. Jada is captain of the team’s Surf Squad, sings the National Anthem at their games, and more. I interviewed her for “Badass Lady-Folk,” my Manhattan Neighborhood Network TV show, and transcribed part of the episode here for you to read.

Speaking of contacts from the theater world, I am also thrilled to introduce you to Laurence C. Schwartz, a director I have worked with since 2021. He wrote a book about his experiences as an adjunct professor. One of the many institutions whose classrooms he has graced is Kingsborough Community College, part of the CUNY system. An excerpt about his time there appears in this issue.

Now, onto reading!

Yours in all things BK,

Christine Stoddard

Brooklyn Community Editor

‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Revering African Artifacts and New Mexican Fare

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

I stand corrected. In my previous column, I cited statistics about Brooklyn’s Black population using numbers provided by Brooklyn.org. While there was nothing wrong about those numbers (to my current knowledge), Matt Sollars, vice president of the non-profit communications firm Anat, sent me an email about Brooklyn.org. In my column, I wrote that Brooklyn.org was run by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. This was because, at time of press, the website’s footer, Brooklyn.org lists this: “© 2024 Brooklyn Community Foundation DBA Brooklyn Org.” But notice that there is no period between “Brooklyn” and “Org”–and if you didn’t know, DBA stands for “doing business as.” Sollars explained that last fall, the organization underwent a name change. Thus, Brooklyn Community Foundation became Brooklyn Org, and still runs the website Brooklyn.org. In his message, Sollars wrote: “The name change is driven by the org’s mission to engage with all of the borough’s communities and to open up philanthropy to all of its people. Brooklyn Org wants to be a platform and hub for Brooklynites to organize and support efforts to help each other and build the borough.”

It is exciting to receive emails like this for a few reasons: 1. I see that people are reading the column. 2. I get the chance to correct or clarify statements to better serve readers. 3. I learn more about our borough. 4. I feel invited to improve upon future columns.

An Overdue Museum Visit

Since the last edition of “Believe the Hype,” I have stopped by the Cultural Museum of African Art – The Eric Edwards Collection. Or at least “stopping by” was my intention. It ended up being a full-fledged visit, cut short only by other appointments. Every day for months, I have walked past this museum. The grand opening took place on November 18, 2023 only a couple of blocks from my home. This event happened prior to my coming on as community editor of the Brooklyn Downtown Star and Greenpoint Star. Had that not been the case, I might have joined some of the illustrious folks in attendance: Dr. Eric Edwards, founder and executive director of CMAAEEC; Stefani Zinerman, NYS Assemblymember, District 56; Rodney Leon, architect of the African Burial Ground National Monument, the “Ark of Return” at the United Nations, and CMAAEEC; Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai of Sierra Leone; Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, chairman of the United African Congress; and others. Opening a museum is a political game that requires funding, which Eddie Gajadar, strategic project manager for CMAAEEC, told me has been a process for the institution.

A view of artifacts on display at CMAAEEC. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

By the numbers, CMAAEEC is an impressive collection (re-read last week’s edition for the stats), but, more importantly to me, it is a moving one. I am more likely to be swayed by art than data. The confusing jaunt around Restoration Plaza and to the office space above the Applebee’s was all worth the trouble when I saw the exhibition. African sculptures, masks, and objects of veneration that have been collected with care from across the continent are a rarity. As Gajadar mentioned, much of the African art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is from East Africa, not spanning the whole continent. Yet Dr. Edwards, founder of the collection, which originated from his home in the 1970s, has taken great care to give these pieces a respectful public resting place. Gajadar told me that Dr. Edwards was a successful AT&T engineer and global salesman, achieving results that were largely unthinkable for an African-American man in the 1960s. African art became his investment—and obsession.

The CMAAEEC space is minimal, quiet, and full of light, allowing for reverence, reflection, and joy. That is the power of intentional design. I personally felt very peaceful looking at the works and then out the windows (yes, all of them), onto the bustling Fulton Street, one of the many arteries where Brooklyn street life pulses. It is fitting that CMAAEEC, a tribute to African ancestors, exists in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the capital of Brooklyn’s Black cultures.

Santa Fe BK

Another place that recently brought me joy and evidenced intentional design was Santa Fe BK in Williamsburg. John Watterberg, who owns the New Mexican restaurant with his wife, Melissa Klein, told me that what he hopes patrons most feel at their establishment is love. Watterberg, a native of Albuquerque, and Klein, a native of Milwaukee, first met in Brooklyn while working as a bartender and waitress, respectively. “We fell so in love in Summer 2007,” he said. And that love infuses the restaurant, which is warm and evocative of Southwestern aesthetics and hospitality.

My partner and I ordered (and highly recommend) the following: the Watterburger, Taco Salad, Chicken Flautas, and Chips & Queso. For drinks, we shared three cocktails: A Good Margarita (which is more than good), Queensmoot, and The Dornishman’s Wife. For a future visit, I am curious about the Enchiladas, as well breakfast burrito options available from 8am to 3pm, or “until they’re gone.” Note: I capitalized the names of the aforementioned dishes to indicate their exact names on the menu so you can order those specific things should you wander over to Santa Fe BK. Maybe for, say, Valentine’s Day.

Melissa (left) and John (right), the married couple behind Santa Fe BK.

While the restaurant has romantic vibes, Watterberg assured me they have a high chair and do serve families, with many dining before 7pm. Watterberg and Klein are parents themselves, with a 9-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. Their children’s favorite item on the menu is the Bacon Burrito, without the Green Chile so beloved by many adult patrons.

One of my favorite touches at Santa Fe BK? Complimentary Sopapillas with honey. The fried pastries reminded me of the family-style restaurants of my Northern Virginia childhood—Uncle Julio’s in Arlington and Anita’s in Fairfax, for any other NoVa transplants reading this.

“Badass Lady-Folk TV”: Jada Bennett of the Brooklyn Cyclones

The following is an excerpt from an episode of the TV talk show “Badass Lady-Folk,” featuring guest Jada Bennett, a dancer, singer, actress, and Brooklyn Cyclones entertainment coordinator based in Bay Ridge. Hosted by Christine Stoddard and filmed at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, “Badass Lady-Folk” is a feminist talk show that originated on Radio Free Brooklyn, where it airs on Fridays at 9am.

This transcript has been edited and condensed for print purposes:

Christine: You’re  watching  “Badass  Lady  Folk.”  I’m  your  host,  Christine  Stoddard  and  this  episode,  my  guest  is  Jada  Bennett.  Hi,  Jada!

Jada: Hi,  Christine!

Christine: It’s  so  wonderful  to  have  you, Jada.  Actress,  singer,  Brooklyn  Cyclones–what  is  your  title  there?

Jada: [I’d put it as Entertainment Coordinator and Captain of the Surf Squad.]

Christine: Yeah,  so  we  met  at  “The White  Blacks” [at Theater for a New City]  which  is  a  production  that  has  come  up  on  this  show  a  couple  different  times  because  I  had  Melanie  Goodreaux, the  writer-director  on.  When  I  met  you  at  that  production,  I  was  immediately  struck  by  your  range  because  you  played  a  couple  different  characters and you  also  sang  beautifully in  it.

Jada: Thank you.

Christine: No  one else  really  sang in that show,  so  it’s  nice  to  have  some  singing.

Jada: Yeah,  I  had  to  sing  in  the  audition  for  that  show.

Christine: Were  you  told  you’d  be  singing?

Jada: No,  not  initially. I  auditioned  for  that  show  [in 2022],  and  I  came  in–I  knew  that  the  show  had  already  been  done  before  and  that  I  was  coming  in  and  I  wasn’t  sure  how  many  people  had  done  the  show  before  that  were  coming back.  I  wasn’t  sure how  everything  was  gonna  work  but  I  went  in  and  I  knew  that  I  would  be  playing  a  couple  of  characters,  but  I  also  didn’t  know  the  extent  of  all  of  that. So  I  read  for  both  Raunika–no,  Raunika  doesn’t  have  lines–I  read  for  Gladys  and  Patricia,  only  one  scene  for  each  one, and  they  were  very  different  from  each  other,  and  I  was  like,  “Okay,  all  right,  let’s  roll  with  this.”  That show definitely  tested  how  much  I  could  do  at  once.

Christine: Yeah.  (laughs)

Jada: Because  even  though  I  had  smaller, shorter  time  on  stage,  I  knew  that  I  had  a  lot  to  convey  in  that  short  amount  of  time.  So  I  was  just  making  sure  that  when  I  was  in  that  character, I  was  in  that  character  just  living  in  that  person’s  world  and  making  that  world  as  big  as  I  possibly  could,  so  that  the  words  that  I  was  saying  still  had  the  story  behind  them.  Yeah,  that  was  a  lot  of  fun. I  would  do  that  show  again  in  the  heartbeat.

Christine: Yeah,  that  was  a  beautiful  show.  So  then  during  the  audition,  they  were  just  like,  “Hey,  can  you  sing?”

Jada: Yeah,  so  I  was  reading  for  Patricia  and  there’s  a  story– you  and  I  are  in  the  scene  together,

Christine: I’m the mean  white  girl.

Jada: You  were  a  passé  blanc  in  the  street  and  I  knew  you  and  knew  who  you  were. So I  had  to  read  that  in  the  audition.  And  it  said,  “The  hills  are  alive”  because  I  was  singing  “The Sound of Music.” And  so  I  just  went  for  it  and  sang  it, and  they’re  like,  “Fantastic,  great.  So  you’re  gonna  really  sing  this then.” She  was  like,  “Can  you  sing  it?  Can  you  do  it?” So  I  just,  I  sang  it, and  I  went  for  it,  and  she’s  like,  “That  really  did  it  for  us.  So  now  you’re  doing  this  on  the  show.”  I  was  like,  “Sounds  great.”

Christine: So  how  did  you  get  into  acting?

Jada: Oh,  I  mean,  I  have always  been  doing  it  since  I  was  little.  I  was  always  that  kid  that  was,  like,  doing  performances  for  my  stuffed  animals  and  for  my  family. Like,  I  did  it  all  the  time.  I  made  my  little  brother  do  it.  So  I’ve  always  been  around  art.  I  started  as  a  dancer  first.  And  then,  when  I  really  got  into  acting  and  shows  would  have  been  my  fifth  grade  year. I  had  just  moved  to  a  new  town  and  I  met  some  people  and  they  were  doing  the  school  musical  and  so  I  decided  to  do  it  as  well.

Christine: Aw,  so  you  would  have  friends?

Jada: Yeah,  correct. It  was  “Cinderella”  and  I  got  the  fairy  godmother. Ever  since  then,  I  did  every  school  musical,  like,  from  then  on  till  I  graduated. In sophomore  year  of high  school,  I  was  doing  “Hairspray” and  decided  that  I  just  wanted  to  do  it  forever.  So  here  we  are.

Christine: Aw.  So  what  kind  of  dancing  did  you  start  doing?

Jada: I  did  what  every  little  girl  who  did  dance  as  a  little  kid did.  I  started  at  like  two,  three  years  old,  and did  the  same  tap /ballet  combo  class: half  of  the  class  is  tap  and  half  of  the  class  is  ballet.

That’s the end of the excerpt! Watch the full episode at Youtube.com/@badassladyfolk or below. Find out more about Badass Lady-Folk at BadassLadyFolk.com.

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