Arts and Culture

We live in the cultural capital of the world. And, as you know, that artistic expression is not confined to Manhattan. Our neighborhoods are populated with exciting authors, artists, actors, and other creative professionals. We need to support these members of our community that bring beauty into our world, and encourage each other to express ourselves artistically.

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 »

More New Plans for St. Mary’s Playground

As you might have seen earlier this year, a major reconstruction is in the works for St. Mary’s Playground (under the F and G tracks, along Smith Street from Luquer to Huntington Streets).

The park has long been closed, due to MTA’s rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct and nearby Smith 9th Street station. But with that work largely complete, we’re working to bring it back!

On Wednesday night, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation will present their preliminary design for the northern half of St. Mary’s Playground (between Luquer and Nelson Streets) at the Brooklyn Community Board 6 Parks Committee: Read more »

Hope, Not Hate

The following are remarks from Council Member Brad Lander at the Brooklyn Vigil for Paris, November 15, 2015:

Article 1. Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.

Article 4. Liberty consists in the power to do anything that does not injure others.

Article 9. Every man being presumed innocent until he has been pronounced guilty.

Article 10. No one should be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not upset the public order established by law.

Article 11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.

Article 12. The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen requires a public force; this force then is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the personal benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.

We defeat terrorism by re-asserting our values. As we mourn the victims of Paris, Beirut, and Kenya, and remember those of Lower Manhattan, there’s no place better to start tonight than the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, written in Paris in 1789. Read more »

NYC ID card sign up coming to our area!

Almost a year ago New York City made history by launching IDNYC, our city’s new municipal ID card program. Since then, over half a million New Yorkers have signed up, and IDNYC is now the largest municipal ID program in the country.

If you haven’t had time to get your card yet – I’ve got some great news for you! IDNYC is coming to us. Read more »


For the many artists and friends of the arts in Gowanus, this is a month of both celebration and protest.

The celebration: This weekend will be the biggest-ever Gowanus Open Studios (produced by Arts Gowanus), with over 300 participating artists, special events, and tours. It has become one of the premier community arts events in NYC, and a real celebration of creativity and community. I hope to see you there.  

The protest: Many artists in the complex at 9th Street and 2nd Avenue (a haven of painters, musicians, graphic novelists, woodworkers, and much more) will be participating in Gowanus Open Studios for the last time, as they are being kicked out of their studios by landlords who care more about their profit than about creativity or community.   Read more »

Whose visions for Gowanus? Come take a look.

You may have seen the recent New Yorker cover on Gowanus, in which artist Adrian Tomine makes fun of “people eating their organic kale and quinoa salads while gazing across the opaque, fetid water.” It’s a funny cover, and it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves (and our neighbors). And there are certainly many ironic contradictions around the Gowanus Canal these days.   

But the issues we face in Gowanus are serious ones: How do we confront the legacy of industrial pollution, and the challenges of climate change and resiliency? How can we create inclusive neighborhoods – with room for working- and middle-class families, for public housing, for artists, for manufacturing – amidst skyrocketing real estate values? What’s the right balance of housing and jobs? Can we preserve, (or even strengthen) the mixed-use, eclectic, creative character of the neighborhood amidst change? Read more »

Public Art is Coming to Gowanus!

In your walks around Gowanus, you might have noticed a few more art pieces popping up over the last several months – like this colorful new mural on the side of the Dykes Lumber building, or the new "lounge area" at Ennis Playground.

These pieces, and several others throughout the neighborhood, are all part of a new Gowanus Public Art program that I’m launching with community partners at Arts Gowanus, the Old Stone House & Washington Park, and Groundswell. Read more »

Your Neighborhood Needs You!

Our 5th year of Participatory Budgeting NYC (PBNYC) is about to kick off, and we need your help! 

The PBNYC process gives New Yorkers the power to decide how to spend tax dollars in our neighborhoods. If you’re not familiar with PBNYC, here’s how it works: Read more »

Op Ed: In Defense of Plazas, from Times Square to Brownsville

As posted in Gotham Gazette:

by Brad Lander, Daniel Dromm, & Laura Hansen

Police Commissioner Bratton's suggestion to remove the Times Square plazas in order to rid them of desnudas is not just about the future of one of the world's best public spaces. This regressive response could undermine a policy that has transformed New York's public realm.

Pedestrian plazas are an inexpensive, effective way to advance Mayor de Blasio's agenda for a more equitable city, addressing the essential tenets of his admirable OneNYC Plan. They improve public safety, promote health and wellness, cultivate arts and culture, create new open space (30 acres so far), and generate economic activity. Miles away from the crowds on 42nd Street, dozens of New York City neighborhoods have embraced their plazas and the civic benefits they deliver. Read more »

Schools, Libraries, and Our Charity

As one of the "spirited Brooklynites" who spent last weekend running (and even helping to organize) the Brooklyn PTA 5K Fun Run for Public Schools, and then Biking the Branches in support of the Brooklyn Public Library, I completely agree with Liza Featherstone's critique in this article: that we must not come to view our schools and libraries as "charities," but as fundamental public institutions that we have a duty to robustly (and more equally) support with our tax dollars. AND that we are not doing so. AND especially not in the case of NYC's public libraries. AND that this is a real shortcoming of the budget that Mayor de Blasio put forward this week (which cuts the expense budget of the 3 library systems $10 million from last year, and includes only a scant & largely illusory increase of capital funding).

For what it's worth, though, I do think events like the PTA 5K, and Bike the Branches -- and even more participatory budgeting (PBNYC) -- can be a fundamental part of efforts to "fight privatization, not revel in it," as Featherstone rightly demands. Read more »