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.


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 »

New Family Shelter at 385 McDonald Avenue

Thank you to the many neighbors who attended last week’s meeting (at PS 230) about the new shelter for families at 385 McDonald Avenue. The Kensington community had a respectful conversation on a highly-charged topic.

At the meeting, representatives from NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and CAMBA (the Brooklyn not-for-profit organization that will be running the shelter) presented detailed plans and addressed many of the concerns raised by neighbors. Read more »

New York Times Op-Ed: "What Would It Take to Integrate Our Schools?"

Orignially published in the New York Times, December 15, 2015

By Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres 

Even though we may believe that “separate but equal” public schools are inherently unequal, we haven’t been prepared to do much about it. In recent years, we’ve rarely even talked about it.

But over the past year, as the nation’s attention has turned to issues of racial justice, we’ve at least resumed the conversation. Powerful episodes of public radio’s “This American Life” (“This Problem We All Live With”) called attention to an attempt at integration in St. Louis, featuring the high school Michael Brown attended, and to a much more successful effort in Hartford.

An eye-opening study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, woke us up to the finding that New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country — and more segregated than they were a decade ago. This fall, rezoning proposals in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side raised hard questions about race, class, segregation and gentrification.

Read more »

Protecting Freelancers from Getting Stiffed

New York City is the freelance capital of the world, with over 1.3 million freelancers, so many of them right here in Brooklyn. More and more people are working “by the gig” (as graphic designers, film producers, for-hire drivers, nannies, and much more), rather than for a regular paycheck.

But despite the rapidly growing percentage of workers who are paid this way, our laws have not kept up with our changing economy. As a result, gig economy workers don’t have the protections and benefits of traditional employees.

One consequence: more than 70% of freelancers report having been stiffed out of payments they were owed – by being paid too late, too little, or not at all – to the tune of $6,390 every year, on average. I’ve heard stories from individuals who were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars they were owed.

Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, on time and in full. So on Monday, in partnership with the Freelancer’s Union, I introduced the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”  Read more »

First-of-its-Kind Legislation Will Crack Down on Nonpayment Epidemic Facing NYC’s 1.3 Million Independent Workers

Freelancers Union Unveils “Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” Sponsored by City Council Member Brad Lander, with support from AFT, UFT, 32BJ, Kickstarter, Make the Road, New York Tech Meetup and National Domestic Workers Alliance

Average Amount Each Freelancer Loses to Deadbeats Every Year: $6,390

New York - Chanting “freelance isn’t free,” hundreds of graphic designers, domestic workers, accountants, writers, adjuncts and laborers converged on City Hall on Monday to unveil the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” – first-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation cracking down on the explosion of deadbeat companies that stiff the city’s 1.3 million independent workers.

More than 70% of freelancers experience late or nonpayment at some point in their career, and they’re stiffed an average of $6,390 every year – forcing many to use credit cards or rely on government assistance to make up the difference. Read more »

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Read more »

New shelter for families with children at 385 McDonald Avenue

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’m thankful for the place that my family and I call home. Like you, I’m deeply grateful for the warmth, safety, and security, and for the space my kids have had to grow and thrive.  

Unfortunately, nearly 60,000 New Yorkers – including 24,000 kids – aren’t so lucky. As the crisis of homelessness continues in NYC, every community has a role to play. 

Like you and your neighbors in Kensington, I just recently become aware of plans from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to establish a shelter for 64 families with children at 385 McDonald Avenue (the site of a former college dorm and, before that, an assisted living facility but now vacant) that will open its doors in the next several weeks. Read more »

Remembering Bette Stoltz, a champion of South Brooklyn

On Thursday, we lost a great champion for South Brooklyn, for Smith Street, for small businesses, for manufacturing, for Brooklyn jobseekers, and for low-income kids.  Bette led the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation for many years, and was a much-loved community leader, CB6 member, organizer, gadfly, husband, mom, grandmother and friend.  Read more »

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