Wednesday, December 7

Holiday Market Hidden Treasures

            The holiday season is in full swing and with it comes pop-up shops, annual markets, and a number of fairs across Manhattan.  Adding 21 new venders, the ever-popular Union Square Holiday Market houses a number of small shops including several local food purveyors.
            Right off the 14th street entrance is the Breezy Hill Orchards, a hot apple cider vender that sells homemade cookies as well.  This cider mill, based in Hudson Valley, has been attended the fair for 3 years now, serving their cider, chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread men and apple cider doughnuts.
            “We don’t use fillers, extenders, preservatives, or cornstarch,” Amy White, a student running the stand, explained, “Our pies look and taste homemade.”
            Around the corner sits Momofuku Milk Bar’s booth, home of the exclusive Peppermint Cornflake Chocolate Chip cookie.  Though not sold individually, assorted tins of cookies, crack pie, cake truffles, milk bar cookbooks, and even tote bags line the walls Momfuku’s booth. With 3 locations in Manhattan and another in Brooklyn, this dessert bar is famous for more than their cookies.
            Steering away from the dessert, Brooklyn Salsa Company sells an assortment of salsa from mild to red-hot.  Created in a loft size kitchen, the founders of this company began cooking and making deliveries on their bikes back in 2008.   
Using locally grown organic vegetables, the ingredients used are meticulously selected based on the climate and soil they’re grown in.  Today founders Rob and Matt sell over 12 salsas, with names that range from The Hot – Brooklyn to the Girl Tank.
“We’re up and running like real American Dreamers,” Rob says, “the kitchen is our way of saying get into it.”
            A trip to the far back of the Market yields a new local favorite: Mighty Balls.  A mobile food company located in Manhattan, this food truck specializes in creating foods in the shape of a ball; including their most popular meatball hero.
“We specialize in all things balls,” claims Dina Williamson, co-founder of Might Balls, “and we strive to create a unique food experience.”

BuzzFeed Gives Us 12 'Disappointing' Facts About Pop Music

Anyone who has a bone to pick with modern day pop music will enjoy the latest viral sensation to appear on BuzzFeed: 12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music, which lists right off the bat that the band Creed has sold more records in the US than the legendary guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. 

Fact #1 Creed has sold more records in the US than Jimi hendrix
Fittingly, the article's subtitle proclaims "This is the saddest thing you'll read all day. YOU LET THIS HAPPEN! YOU!"

While America has indeed let his happen, there are still plenty of Americans who are echoing this disappointing sentiment. Posted about a month ago, the post has already received over 2,400,000 views.

Behind this list, and a series of other successful viral articles is BuzzFeed writer and junior at New York University, Dave Stopera. Specializing in 'cultural buzz', Stopera had published over 1,025 posts. Stopera has not only figured out the magic formula for viral content, but also has a large stage on one of the internets largest viral platforms.  In addition to his pop music rant, his top stories have varied from "25 Cartoons You Never Knew Were Voiced by Celebrities" to "Amazing Long Exposure Airplane Photography."

Fact #12 This guy exists.
However, while no one can argue with the story's success in creating buzz, there has been some backlash comments among over 2,000 reactions. While some of the criticisms  could very well be from a bunch of 'beliebers' in response to fact #12 which says "This Guy Exists" above a photograph of Justin Bieber, others allude to the classic-rock mentality. 

"A classic-rock snob dislikes dance and pop music. said Alex Knepper, an American University student. "Classic rock snobs are the worst because they refuse to acknowledge that anything else that's ever existed might possibly be good." She closed her comment denouncing the story, and Stopera as its author, saying "Flop article, flop writer."

Another issue which was brought up was the accuracy in statistics based and change in metrics through the latter half on the 20th century. The comment which has currently holds Buzzfeed's highest social rank, receiving over 1,614 "Likes", is authored by Princeton alumni Robert Campos "They way people bought music was both costlier and less easy than it is today, with our a la carte, online music stores." He says. "The first world population was also much smaller and had we had lower expendable income." However, Campos believes Stopera is "spinning this all wrong." 

While these are certainly legitimate concerns, it is undeniable that these numbers are daunting to many a "real" music fan. Even Campos closes his statement by joking "Could it also be that only idiots buy music more?"

Controlled Violence: Where is the line drawn?

Sports, especially contact sports like football and hockey, are one of the only places in America where it is legal to assault people. Where is the line drawn, though, when the violence becomes excessive?

Ndamukong Suh’s “stomp heard ‘round the world” has only enhanced his label as a dirty player. The Detroit Lions defensive tackle was ejected from the nationally televised Thanksgiving football game after he stomped on the arm of a Green Bay Packers player. In addition to being ejected, Suh was suspended two games by NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell, who has disciplined Suh numerous times during his short stint in the NFL.

Suh has been a repeat offender of receiving ‘unnecessary roughness penalties’ for his hits on opposing quarterbacks. He has ripped off quarterback’s helmets, body slammed quarterbacks in preseason games, and delivered forearm blows to the heads of his opponents. Suh has also been fined of thousands of dollars, $42,500 so far, for these various personal fouls. At what point will this excessive violence ruin Suh’s career, not to mention his sponsorships, which include Chrysler and Subway?
Ndamukong Suh stomps on the right arm of Packer's guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. Photo: CBS

An immature but talented quarterback quarterback for Virginia Tech, Marcus Vick, younger brother of the Philadelphia Eagles Mike Vick, was seen as a player with NFL potential. However, in 2006, Vick was dismissed from the team after stomping on a defenseless player during the Gator Bowl. Vick wasn’t bothered by the move, assuring himself that the NFL would be his next step. “It’s not a big deal,” Vick was quoted as saying, “I’ll just move onto the next level, baby.”

His move to the next level wasn’t as glamorous as expected, as he went undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins but was shortly cut afterwards. Vick has never surfaced in the NFL again, only making the news from time to time for various legal troubles.

In 2000, Marty McSorley was an enforcer for the Boston Bruins of the NHL. His job, in addition to skating and playing hockey, was to protect his star teammates by getting into fights, fights that are within the rules of the NHL. These fights have an unwritten code, with players usually deciding ahead of time that they would like to fight.

On February 21, 2000, McSorley was skating behind a Washington Capitals player, Donald Brashear, with only seconds left in the game. He swung his stick at Brashear’s head, striking his exposed left temple. Brashear was knocked unconscious and suffered further injury when his head struck the ice. Brashear suffered a grade 3 concussion (on a scale of 1-4) and McSorley was suspended for the rest of the 1999-2000 season, which amounted out to 23 games.

Further legal action was taken, though, and in October of that same year, McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon, and the NHL increased his suspension to another full season. McSorley never played in the NHL again.

Violence is undoubtedly a part of sport, but there is a line that is crossed all too often by players, regardless of their league. Before Suh’s stomping incident, he was voted one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. The poll, done by Sports Illustrated, wasn't voted on by the media, but by his fellow NFL players.

The Race for Mayor of New York

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Wanna D8?

A friend of mine, who would rather his name not be featured in an article about online dating, is telling me (on facebook chat, no less) about the guy he is meeting up with later tonight. “You’ve got to see him!!” he types, and immediately sends me a link to a picture of a teenaged Puerto Rican guy. In the corner of the picture I can see the tell-tale watermark of
This friend of mine, a 19 year old art student living in Bushwick is not who anyone thought would be using the Internet to find dates when, EHarmony, and a whole crop of other matchmaking websites first cropped up. However, he is fairly typical for the New York heavy
According to OKCupid stats, students at Sarah Lawrence (one of the schools represented by people I spoke to) expect sex more frequently than any other college. Full chart available at OKCupid's blog.

Bring up OKCupid in a room of college students and recent grads and you will find yourself with hours of entertaining stories. When asked why they joined OKCupid, many students tell a story far different from free wheeling sex-capades of college in the movies. One recent college graduate told me, “I was going to a college filled with Franciscan Friars and Nuns and I couldn't deal with finding someone to date there.”
Many straight women attending liberal arts colleges in New York City are on the site because "all the guys here are gay." 
Carly Anonsen, a senior studying elementary education at Towson University in Maryland, signed up with the dating site a few years ago. Living with her parents and commuting to school made it difficult for her to meet new people, her dating options where bleak.
This guy really, really wanted to meet Anonsen

“I though what the hell, if I don’t meet anyone it could be good for a laugh,” while she still has not met anyone worth dating on the site and has basically given up on it, she still checks it. Anonsen even showed me some of the messages she gets on the site. Her favorite is a real gem, “hey…hws u?? u look hot in ur pic !! wud u lik to hav a hot  chat with me ?? it will b fun n no harm at all !! wot say ?? i’ll do whotever u say”
The guy who went to school with Franciscan friars has recently given up on OKCupid too (it should be noted that I got in touch with me because he recently broke up with an acquaintance of mine he met on OKCupid), "I had 6 or 7 girls persistently hitting me up in a creepy way," he wrote to me, "so I had to delete it."
There are many hilarious, and creepy, OKCupid stories (and entire blogs devoted to sharing them) but every once in a while something like a "normal" college relationship develops out of the pink and blue, youth friendly site.
While writing this article I got a message from Jessie Lochrie, a 20 year old poetry student, informing me of the progress of her OKCupid date: “i just got laid via okc. he is super fine and also a phd student at MIT, who knew. i think this puts my success ratio at about 2 out of 4? literally writing this from his bathroom”
"We can just tell people we met through mutual friends, that's not weird, right?"
And my friend from the beginning the article? He and the lucky guy he met online, a student at Columbia, hit it off and are now in a relationship, but they only tell a few people how they met. 

Bringing In The Business on Franklin Ave

Franklin Avenue has a history of being a central avenue for business in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood but in the last six months the avenue has seen an influx of new kinds of business geared less towards basics and more towards indulgence.

Part of the Crow Hill Association's 25th Anniversary Mural  at the  intersection of Franklin and Eastern Parkway. Crow Hill has had a large influence in the growth of Franklin avenue by hosting meetings for new merchants  and providing support through the creation of the Franklin Avenue Merchants.

 Dana Simmions-Greco and Tyler Mcevoy who have both lived in the neighborhood for over five years felt like there really wasn't a place in the neighborhood where you could get quality wine for a fair price: "The neighborhood needs a wine shop; you hate your job I hate my job,"  Dana said commenting on how the idea came about. In June 2011 the two opened Wino(t);  "We wanted to invest in the community," Dana said. The owners are happy their shop has been well received. Wino(t) offers a small selection of spirits and a pretty hearty collection of wine , most bottles no more than $20.

The Pulp & The Bean coffee shop was part of the first wave of new businesses on Franklin Avenue coming in early 2009 with Dutch Boy Burger, Franklin Park and Breukelen Coffee House. "There's an influx of new people but it's not pushing anyone out" said Andrew Cothren who has worked at The Pulp & The Bean for a year, "look, you have a fancy wineshop next to a Caribbean restaurant" he says pointing to Wino(t) across the street.  The Pulp & The Bean features a large selection of products based out of Brooklyn "We go local whenever we can" Cothren says; their coffee beans are roasted in Park Slope and their signature blend is an ode to the neighborhood "Crow Hill" .

Rosebud Vintage appeared on Franklin in June of 2011 ,
of the apparel stores  on Franklin ave it has a higher price point: $30-260

Photo Credit for second photo: Facebook
Barboncino joined Franklin Avenue on October 6th bringing wood-oven baked pizza and and a solid selection of beers; the continuous crowd at this place might suggest its been well received.
Photo Credit: Time Out New York
Owl and Thistle General Store opened on Franklin Avenue in July 2011 and has since been recognized by Time Out New York as a great place to buy gifts and products that are locally made and sustainably produced.

While Fanklin Avenue has seen a new influx of a different kinds of business , bogegas, 99cent stores and hair salons still hold onto their real-estate as the avenue transitions. 
Nostrand Avenue, another central avenue in Crown Heights has seen less of the kind of change Franklin Avenue has.

Tuesday, December 6

Forgotten Block Turn Into Forgotten Open-Air Gallery

On a quiet strip of Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn, stores stand empty but distinctly different from those on surrounding blocks. In one window, a black cardboard elephant stretches its trunk in the air. In another, an illustration shows a bony woman pushing her head through the breaking ground. This splash of art on an otherwise seemingly unremarkable block raises questions; who made these pieces, and perhaps more importantly, who put them here?

The history of the Willoughby Windows, as the installation is officially called, traces back to 2009. It was then that Metrotech BID, a non-profit organization that focuses on the revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn, got its eye on the vacant block awaiting demolition and contacted its owners. The property’s possessors agreed to let Metrotech, along with self-proclaimed “cultural think tank” Ad Hoc Art, use the space to display the art of fifteen local artists. The idea was not only to gave the local art scene a boost, but to also completely re-create the rejected block which would have otherwise stood grey and vacant. Oddly enough, Metrotech’s interest 
in the project has fizzled over the years although the art still stands on Willoughby Street. “[Willoughby Windows] is not an active project of ours,” a representative for Metrotech said when asked for a comment. “The art will stay there until the whole block is demolished in a few years.” When asked why the project is left unattended, Metrotech had no comment.

In a city like New York, where vacant storefronts are something that one comes across quite often, the Willoughby Windows project was a promising change in scenery. While development project often stall for years - as seems to be happening in this case - building sites stand unused. Metrotech has attempted to revitalize the Downtown Brooklyn area for years, and has undoubtedly succeeded in many ways; for example, a campaign targeting the area’s sidewalk cleanliness brought the percentage of “acceptably clean” streets from forty to ninety-five percent in only a few years.

Small projects can easily get trampled by bigger ones, and the rejected art at Willoughby Windows seems to be an unfortunate example. While the pieces still stand under bagel store and dry cleaner signs, they have a hopeless aura to them like animals waiting for slaughter. A graffiti written in delicate cursive on one of the store windows offers an ironic take on the project: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

A Place to Frolic, Please!!

The white arrows indicate where playgrounds can be found in New York. (courtesy of:

Like Robert Moses, Mayor Bloomberg also sees the importance of playgrounds. On November 30th, Bloomberg opened the 200th “Schoolyard to Playground” at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights.

PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability agenda, identified public schoolyards that could be opened up year-round in neighborhoods most in need of open space,” said Mayor Bloomberg in the November 30th press release.  

“Schoolyard to Playground” is part of Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative to enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers. The $87.6 million program is a collaborative project between the Parks Department, the Department of Education, and the non-profit Trust for Public Land that seeks to promote physical activity and to ensure children have access to safe and clean playgrounds.

 Less than half of New York City’s public elementary schools have usable playgrounds, according to the Trust for Public land website. PlaNYC has set the goal of converting 258 schoolyards in all five boroughs by 2013. Upon completion, the playgrounds will be maintained by the Department of Education.

According to the administration’s press release, 71 percent of New Yorkers now live within a ten-minute walk of a park or playground.

Today, there are more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities in New york City, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1895, a state law was passed that dictated, “Hereafter no school house shall be constructed in the City of New York without an open-air playground attached or used in connection with the same.” Seward Park, at Hester and Essex Street on the Lower East Side, was opened in 1903 and became the first municipally-built playground in the country (prior parks had been privately sponsored). From 1934 to 1960, during Robert Moses’ reign as Parks Department Commissioner, the number of playgrounds in the city grew from 119 to 777.

Community Board 7 has been advocating for schools to open their playgrounds to the public after hours, on weekends, and during the summer. Even with Riverside Park and Central Park nearby, the residents who live along Amsterdam Avenue in the 80s still have a long walk to reach outdoor recreational spaces. “We are still unable to open school playgrounds to the public because of the Department of Education policy of requiring a custodian to be on site to clean up and lock up the playground after hours,” said a spokeswoman from CB7, “and we don’t have the funding right now.” According to a article about CB7’s initiative, it costs between $50,000 and $100,000 a year to maintain a school playground after school hours.

Even though 300 acres of new parkland have been added since 2007, according to the PlaNYC website, New York City still has “less open space per person than almost any other major city in America."

cartoon du jour