Community Meeting on Proposed Development at 5th Avenue Key Food

You may have seen the news that a developer is planning a new residential development on the site of the Key Food supermarket on 5th Avenue (at Baltic Street) in Park Slope.  Like many of you, I am very concerned about the potential loss of yet another of the area’s large, more-affordable grocery stores. Together with local advocates, we’re doing everything we can to keep a neighborhood supermarket at this location. Read more »

Don’t drive into the Gowanus. Help us improve the parks instead!

First things first: don’t drive your car into the Gowanus Canal – as an out-of-state, hit-and-run driver did over the weekend, after he hit a parked car and slightly injured a woman and her infant daughter (all three of them are going to be fine, and he was taken into custody).

A better way to get involved in Gowanus: work with us to improve the parks and open space in the neighborhood.  

As one part of my office’s “Bridging Gowanus” initiative, we’re working to create, upgrade, and connect public open space throughout the neighborhood. The long-term goal is a “Gowanus Greenscape” that would connect a series of parks, plazas, canal-front open space, safe places to walk and bike, public art, and a clean, publicly-accessible canal.

We’ve got a long way to go toward that vision, but – thanks to the work of some great partners, especially the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the Gowanus Alliance, and Gowanus by Design – we’re off to a great start. Read more »

Statement in Support of the Disposition of 163 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY (CEQR #15HPD085K)

Permitting the sale of one long-vacant lot (by the Carroll Gardens Association) will permanently preserve 28 units of low-income housing, and two much-loved community gardens.

Statement to Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Economic/Waterfront/Community Development & Housing Committee

Monday January 11, 2016 

This evening representatives for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Carroll Gardens Association, Inc. (CGA) will present a proposal to amend a project previously approved by Brooklyn Community Board 6, including an amended Land Disposition Agreement and Urban Development Action Area Plan (UDAAP). The proposal is subject to approval by the New York City Council and the Mayor.

The proposal would allow the Carroll Gardens Association to sell the long-vacant, 1,991 square foot vacant lot located at 163 Columbia Street (between Kane and Degraw Streets) to Avery Hall Investments, for redevelopment as a four-unit, market-rate residential building, pursuant to the existing zoning.

Allowing this sale will enable the CGA to permanently preserves 28 units of affordable housing for low-income families, and explore the preservation and creation of additional affordable housing. It also helps us to achieve the permanent preservation of two much-loved community gardens on Columbia Street. Read more »

Ennis Playground – What’s your vision?

You might have seen that that last year, my office—together with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams—allocated $1.85 million in public funding to renovate Ennis Playground -- located between 11th & 12th Streets and 2nd & 3rd Avenues in Gowanus. We’re working together with the NYC Parks Department to upgrade the entire park over the next few years, including the children’s play area, basketball courts, and seating area. Read more »

Statement of NYC Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres on the First NYC “School Diversity Accountability Act” Annual Report

New York City Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres, co-sponsors of the “School Diversity Accountability Act” (Local Law 59 of 2015 and City Council Resolution 453 of 2015), issued the following statement after the release of the first annual report by the NYC Department of Education:

Confronting segregation and advancing diversity in NYC’s public schools is an urgent moral, practical, and policy imperative. It will not be achieved quickly, but that cannot be an excuse for inaction.

Our goal in legislating the ‘School Diversity Accountability Act’ was to create an annual report to measure how we are doing, see what steps we are taking, and begin to measure progress — or lack thereof — each year. Read more »

Statement by City Council Member Brad Lander on Allegations of NYPD Crime Statistics Downgrading by Ray Kelly

"Ongoing oversight of NYPD crime statistics reporting is a valuable function for the NYPD Inspector General, regardless of who is mayor or commissioner, and part of why we worked to establish the office -- but Ray Kelly has zero credibility on the topic, since he actively prevented meaningful oversight and harshly attacked accusers of nearly-identical charges multiple times during this tenure.  Read more »

Looking back, looking forward – our 2015 year-in-review

In many ways, the closing months of 2015 have been unsettling ones.

Attacks in Paris and San Bernadino renewed our fear of terrorism, and overall the U.S. saw almost as many mass shootings as days of the year. The backlash (fueled by vitriol from the Republican primary campaign trail) has posed threats to the core values of freedom and tolerance symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. Meanwhile, the abnormally warm weather (December was the most “abnormally warm” month in recorded history) has us rightly worried about climate change. Just this week, the absence of any consequences for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland again exposes the gaping flaws in our justice system. And rising street homelessness has called our attention to the ongoing problems on inequality and poverty in our own city.

But in each case, we’ve stood together and sought to make a difference. Read more »

Gowanus Canal Clean Up Update

Update: On April 15, 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reached in agreement on the location of two sewage and stormwater retention tanks in Gowanus: an eight-million gallon tank will be built on privately-owned property along the Canal, between Butler and Degraw Streets, and a smaller four-million gallon tank will be located on a City-owned property at 2nd Avenue and 5th Streets. You can read the full agreement here.

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Black mayonnaise. Poo-nami.  Rumors of a three-eyed catfish.  

I know this update isn’t well-themed for the holiday season – I’m not aware of any Christmas carols about “combined sewer overflows” – but we wanted to give you an end-of-year update on the work to clean up the Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal has been deeply polluted for more than a century, making it a long-time source of local lore—and cringe-inducing headlines.

However, since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the canal as a “Superfund” site in 2010 (after longstanding advocacy by many local leaders), the Federal, State, and City government have all committed significant resources to reversing many decades of environmental degradation and neglect. Projects are underway that will, over the next several years: dredge the toxic sludge at the bottom of the waterway, curtail its use as an open sewer, remediate the land nearby, and minimize neighborhood flooding.

Here’s some of the progress toward a cleaner Gowanus that we’ve seen in the past year: Read more »

#AnnotateNYC (my first trip to genius.com)

Earlier this month, I had the chance to visit the new genius.com HQ (on 3rd Street between Hoyt & Bond, just a few steps from the Gowanus Canal).

genius.com (aka rapgenius.com) allows users to annotate & interpret song lyrics, news stories, and any other form of text on the web.  It was launched in 2009 with a focus on hip-hop lyrics, and expanded in 2014 to cover other forms of media. This year, they moved to Gowanus, so I went by to check it out.

Although I’m not certainly not a hip-hop connoisseur, I love the idea of a community of people annotating, interpreting, and arguing about text. It’s a lot like an online version of the Talmud. Or a University of Chicago seminar. Or a committee mark-up of a piece of legislation.

So I’ve signed up, and tried my hand at my first two annotations. Read more »

Why (as a library-lover) I'm supporting the Brooklyn Heights Library project

I am voting today in strong support for the Brooklyn Heighs Library project (you can read about the project here) and wanted to take the opportunity to explain my vote. While I respect the opinion of those who disagree, to me it is clear that this is a big win for our public libraries – one that will help secure the BPL system for years to come. This is not an apology, or a compromise. It’s a good and important project, and I am genuinely proud to support it.

I love our public libraries. To me, they are essential public spaces – not only for learning to love reading and getting lost in books (so deeply important to me), but also for education, access to technology (fundamental in the 21st century), learning history, appreciating & making culture, community organizing and events and classes, immigrant integration, job-seeking and so much more. They are both magical and urgently practical places.

Read more »

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