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.

Planning for the future of Gowanus

When we launched the “Bridging Gowanus” community planning process a year ago, we knew we were taking on a big challenge. 

We’ve seen (and smelled) the fetid water after a rainfall.  I was there when it flooded its banks during Hurricane Sandy.  And we knew these toxic waters might seem still compared to asking Brooklynites to debate too-often-polarizing questions about development, density, infrastructure, industry, and housing. 

But deciding not to engage seemed worse.  Should we just wait and let developers make plans of their own (or pretend that they won’t)?  Should we allow hotels, big-box stores, and self-storage facilities (all currently allowed “as-of-right” throughout the Gowanus) overrun the whole area?  Should we miss the opportunity to frame the community’s priorities for the new mayoral administration? Read more »

Bridging Gowanus Second Meeting Thursday

On Thursday, we are holding the second community planning meeting about the future of Gowanus. The meeting is Thursday, March 20 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm in the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center.

Last fall, I joined together with Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Council Member Stephen Levin to announce Bridging Gowanus, an inclusive community-driven planning process to develop a long-term vision for a safe, vibrant, and sustainable Gowanus.

Bridging Gowanus is an effort to bring together a wide range of community members to identify broadly-shared goals, discuss different viewpoints, and build consensus around a neighborhood framework for the infrastructure and land use regulations needed in the Gowanus Canal area. Read more »

Locals and Officials to Brainstorm Improvements for Gritty Fourth Avenue

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01/14/2014

Fourth Avenue is an "unwelcoming" thoroughfare with a lifeless streetscape, and new luxury highrises aren't doing much to improve it.

Those are a few of the gripes local residents shared in a recent survey about Fourth Avenue, the gritty, industrial stretch on the western edge of tree-lined Park Slope where several residential towers have sprung up in recent years.

The Park Slope Civic Council will present the survey results at a Tuesday meeting where locals and elected officials will brainstorm an action plan for improving Fourth Avenue.

City Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin are scheduled to present their visions for the avenue's future, and residents, business owners and community groups will share their top priorities for the busy street. Read more »

Eagle Clothes Sign Could Be Restored, U-Haul Says

DNAinfo
08/05/2013

The eagle could soar again.

The vintage Eagle Clothes sign removed last week from a Gowanus rooftop could once again grace the Brooklyn skyline, if the building owner can win permission from the Department of Buildings.

"We know that sign is important to the community, and we want it to continue to be part of the community in one way or another," said Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul International, which owns the building on which the Eagle Clothes sign was placed in 1951.

He added, "U-Haul loves that sign and it's something we've been proud of since we’ve owned the building. If we didn't like it, we would have put up a U-Haul sign."

News of the Eagle Clothes sign's demise struck a nerve in Brooklyn, where many saw its disappearance as yet another symbol of the borough's march toward gentrification.

City Councilman Brad Lander wrote to U-Haul asking that the company restore the marquee to Third Avenue and Sixth Street. Lander offered to help U-Haul acquire the proper city permits to do so.

Lander said he was "saddened" by the sign's disappearance, calling it "a significant contributor to the unique character of the Gowanus neighborhood and one of the defining features of the Brooklyn skyline." Read more »

Lander sends letter to U-Haul urging preservation of Eagle Clothes sign

On July 30th, Councilmember Lander sent a letter to U-Haul imploring the company to restore the iconic Eagle Clothes sign. The sign is located on top of the U-Haul building at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street and has been partially removed. Residents have petitioned to have U-Haul restore this cherished symbol from our past.

See the letter below.

  Read more »

The real champions of change

I’m honored to be in Washington DC today to receive a “Champions of Change” award from the White House for work (along with Alderman Joe Moore from Chicago, and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito from East Harlem) on participatory budgeting.

I’m excited to meet and learn from other elected officials, not-for-profit leaders, and community organizers who are pioneering new forms of civic engagement and open government (like Jessica Klein, co-founder of Rockaway Help, which created new technology tools to enable people to collaborate for disaster relief). 

But there is something not-quite-right about getting an award for something as inclusive as participatory budgeting (which The New York Times called “revolutionary civics in action”). The whole idea of participatory budgeting is to see elected office not as a vehicle for one person’s leadership, but as a way to bring people together to take shared responsibility.  The best part of participatory budgeting is how people step up together to act as stewards of the shared public realm – our schools, parks, public transportation, streets, libraries – that makes our life together possible, and sometimes even ennobling. Read more »

Statement on Pacific Street Library

The recent agreement between the City Council, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Brooklyn Public Library system has given a reprieve to the Pacific Street Branch, at least through the end of the Bloomberg Administration. BPL issued a statement committing to “working with elected officials and community stakeholders to develop an appropriate plan for the Pacific Street building through an open community process.” Read more »

Our City's budget, and our values

Last week was a busy one at City Hall. We passed two important police reform bills (more on those here), overrode the mayor’s veto of legislation that will guarantee paid sick days for a million more New York workers, and we passed the City’s FY2014 budget, for the fiscal year that begins today (for good measure, we also passed a bill to “save brunch,” which had apparently become threatened due to an outdated law).

In budget negotiations, we were able restore the essential public services proposed for cuts by Mayor Bloomberg. Libraries will keep their full hours. Low-income families will keep their childcare. Our neighborhood firehouses, parks, and pools will remain open. You can access all the details of the City’s FY2014 budget here, and on those areas where the Council focused on restorations and additions here. Read more »

And the winning projects are...

What a weekend!

Yesterday, we wrapped up our second Participatory Budgeting vote - the culmination of a process that empowers New Yorkers to decide how tax dollars are spent on projects in their neighborhoods. Read more »