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17 big stories to watch in 2017 • Brooklyn Paper

17 big stories to watch in 2017

Skyway or the highway: Williamsburg pols will keep pushing for the city to build this fantastical aerial gondola contraption over the East River to replace the L train when it closes in 2019.
East River Skyway

Our crack team of Brooklynologists calculate all the big stories you’ll be reading about over the next 12 months.

17. Woody Allen’s return to Coney

The controversial cinematographer made his first return to Coney Island since 1977’s “Annie Hall” for filming last year, and his new movie set in 1950s Sodom By the Sea — starring Kate Winslet and national treasure Justin Timberlake — is set to debut in 2017. Expect an operational — albeit computer-generated — Parachute Jump, lots of replica signs, and a few cameos by local businesses. But don’t expect bike lanes or the old Thunderbolt rollercoaster to reprise its role from “Annie Hall.”

16. Livestreamed civic engagement

No more cramming into poorly-lit community centers and school halls with crappy acoustics to catch the thrill-a-minute action of your local community board meeting — several panels around the city, including Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s Community Board 1, will begin livestreaming their general meetings online this month. It is sure to be a boon for frazzled community reporters trying to cover several meetings in one night, but will it result in more people staying home and watching from their couch, and will residents freeze up at the microphone when faced with video cameras? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

Up in the air: Revelers at last year’s J’Ouvert festivities.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

15. ‘Angel’ rises to heaven

We’re still waiting for the Sisters of Mercy to slap a “for sale” sign on the Angel Guardian Home, the sprawling block-sized former orphanage in Dyker Heights, and when they do, we’re betting it will turn into towers.

The land is zoned for row houses, but developers will want an upzoning to cram in more apartments and rake in more rent. And that will probably be fine by the DeBlasio administration — builders are now required to include below-market-rate housing when they rezone, and the gain from redeveloping the massive campus would probably go a long way to helping Hizzoner reach his goal of building 80,000 so-called “affordable” units over 10 years.

Local education officials have said the campus would make a heavenly public school in the grossly overcrowded district, but our money is on private development.

Is there a chance the track could bend?: The city will present its planned streetcar route to residents this year. Prepare for backlash.
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Tenants are expected to vacate by the end of this year, although some already have.

14. Red Hook turns racetrack

International electric-car racing series the Formula E Championship will zoom into Red Hook on July 29 and 30, bringing tens of thousands of spectators to the sleepy waterfront burg. The cars are supposed to be far quieter than their gas-guzzling Formula 1 counterparts and the race will take place off public streets at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, but we’re curious how the onslaught of onlookers will get to the subway-starved location. The B61?

13. Preparing for the L-pocalypse

The dreaded 18-month closure of the L-train tunnel to Manhattan is still two years away, but North Brooklyn residents, businesses, and pols are already preparing for the worst — and their advocacy will only ramp up this year. Local activists want the city to close Grand Street to vehicles so it is easier for buses and cyclists to reach the Williamsburg Bridge, elected officials are urging the city to consider a fantastical aerial gondola across the East River, and developers are planning private shuttle buses from their residential and office buildings to alternative subway lines. That’s if there’s anyone left to use them — many denizens are already plotting their escape, and real-estate website StreetEasy predicts they will flock to Fort Greene in 2017.

In the hot seat: Can Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez hold onto his seat this fall?
Brooklyn District Attorney’s office

12. City destroys a landmark

The city is considering building a 300-seat school on the site of the landmarked old 68th Precinct station House in Sunset Park — the only question on our minds is whether it will demolish the crumbling-but-protected structure or try to fix it up.

Our money is on the former — officials came to Sunset Park in the spring to float the school-conversion plan and said the building would “probably have to come down.” They also showed locals pictures of other schools built over the corpses of landmarks which incorporated design elements from the demolished icons.

11. Luxury housing comes to NYCHA

The New York City Housing Authority will this year seek community approval for its controversial plan to build market-rate housing on land at Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill — but everyone should be watching how this plays out, as the cash-strapped agency intends to replicate the project at other public housing complexes across the city.

No F’in way: Carroll Gardens resident Erin Lippincott is leading a local campaign against the proposed F express service.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

The authority says it needs to build the 500-unit development — half of which will be market-rate, half below-market — to pull itself back from the brink of bankruptcy and to pay for much-needed repairs to the run-down structures that have occupied the site since the 1960s. But many tenants are worried they’ll lose parking to the new tower and that nearby affordable retail will give way to upscale stores when more moneyed residents arrive, amongst a host of other fears — and they’ve claimed the agency isn’t listening to their concerns. They’ll have a chance to make their voices heard when the plan comes before Community Board 6.

10. Build It Back keeps struggling

Who would have thought back in 2012 that we’d still be waiting for the city to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy? And yet, here we are. 2016 was a bad year for the program. Mayor DeBlasio belly-flopped on his promise to fix all homes by year’s end and had to give the program a $500-million taxpayer bailout. Meantime a house in Gerritsen Beach collapsed because hasty contractors cut safety corners, and Hizzoner threatened to give some applicants the boot for slowing down the program’s progress.

We’re hoping the program gets above water in 2017, but we aren’t holding our breath — the Daily News reported on Jan. 2 that only 60 percent of homes in the program are done.

Checkered: The Formula E electric-car race will quietly zoom into Red Hook in July. The thousands of fans who come to watch it? Maybe not so quietly.
Photo by Paul Martinka

9. Trolley wars

But Main Street’s still all cracked and broken! The city is supposed to release a route for Mayor Deblasio’s $2.5-billion Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar system this year, and then embark on a tour of community boards along the Sunset Park-to-Queens trolley line, where local residents and merchants will almost certainly fight over every scrap of street space. Some residents do like the idea — several public housing tenant leaders recently announced their support — but others are worried that it will fast-track gentrification nearby, that they’ll lose parking, or simply that the whole scheme is a boondoggle for the developers who came up with the plan in the first place and subsequently donated $245,000 to DeBlasio’s controversial campaign fund.

8. The F Express

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority divided the borough last year when it revealed a proposal to bring the long-lost express F train back to Brooklyn in fall 2017 — and that chasm will only grow wider if the agency decides to push forward with the plan and begins promised community meetings about it. Southern Brooklynites have been demanding the service’s return for years, as it will shave around seven minutes off their commutes to Downtown and Manhattan. But Brownstone Brooklynites were aghast to learn the change would halve orange-bullet service at six of their stops during rush hour, and have since organized to “rail” against it unless the transit body promises to add more regular F trains.

7. Can a Republican win Bay Ridge?

It’s no secret conservative Bay Ridge is getting bluer by the day, but in the 2017 race to replace term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile, we just can’t help but wonder if a conservative could take the seat. Right-leaning heavy hitters Bob Capano, Liam McCabe, and John Quaglione have either formally announced or have indicated strongly that they’ll run.

A Woody Boardwalk: Director Woody Allen’s new movie set for 2017 release was filmed in Coney Island.
Associated Press / Thibault Camus

Gentile is a Democrat — and he was even elected to a third term — but local politcos say there’s no telling which way the area will swing.

“In the entire County of Kings, that is the only seat that is a contested seat. Most are overwhelmingly Democratic, but in that area — Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights — it’s a toss-up,” said Ralph Perfetto, a Democrat district leader.

Still, Gentile beat Capano, a supermarket manager and adjunct professor, in 2009 and Quaglione, a staffer to token Brooklyn Republican state Sen. Marty Golden, in 2013 by wide margins.

Sky-bound: We're betting the Angel Guardian home will become high-rises.
Angel Guadrian Home / Facebook

6. Brooklyn gets more ferries

All aboard! Retro transportation will be all the rage in 2017 (see item No. 9), and nowhere will feel the fever more than Brooklyn’s waterfront when the city rolls out its new $55-million ferry system this summer. Downtown and North Brooklyn already has a few floating people movers, but officials are extending service to Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge — and promising to peg the price to that of a subway ride (sorry, no free transfers, though).

5. J’Ouvert

Come summertime, expect a heated public debate over what Mayor DeBlasio should do about this year’s J’Ouvert celebration — the pre-dawn party throughout Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens that precedes the West Indian American Day Carnival on Labor Day and has been plagued by violence in recent years. The city gave organizers their first parade permit last year and doubled the police presence at the event, and Hizzoner promised it would be “safer than ever.” Instead, it was the bloodiest ever — gunmen killed two people and injured four. Critics, including Assemblyman Walter Mosely (D–Crown Heights), have called on the mayor to cancel the 30-year-old event, but DeBlasio insists it will continue. He hasn’t said exactly how he and police plan to curb the violence, however.

4. Tebow to Cyclones

College football phenom-turned-failed New York Jet Tim Tebow signed with the Mets organization last September. He played in the Arizona Fall League, and if he does well enough in spring training, the powers that be are likely to bump him up to the Cyclones for grooming toward full-fledged Met-hood. Legendary Clones skipper Tom Gamboa said the heartthrob and outspoken Christian doesn’t have a prayer of making it to the big leagues, but we’re rooting for Timmy anyway, because it would be the hottest story in Brooklyn sports since pro baseball returned to the borough in 2001.

Police office down: Kiss this landmarked former police station house goodbye.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

3. Gowanus

Brooklyn’s stinkiest nabe is in for a big year. The city will unveil its plan for rezoning the neighborhood for more residential development, but it remains to be seen how much of it will be based on the “Bridging Gowanus” blueprint local Councilman Brad Lander spent years developing with residents — which calls for more below-market housing, flood protection, and incentives to keep manufacturing space.

The already-booming nabe was named the 14th most-expensive neighborhood in New York last year by real-estate site Property Shark, with a median home-sale price of $1.2 million — up from $720,000 in 2015.

Timmy time: We want Tim Tebow in Brooklyn so bad that we Photoshopped him into a Cyclones uniform.
CNG composite using AP image

Meanwhile, the city will begin dredging the coal-tar infested Gowanus Canal, unearthing god-knows-what from its murky depths, but also hopefully making it a little less gross in the process.

2. The race for District Attorney

Kings County will choose a new top prosecutor this year after Ken Thompson’s untimely death from cancer in October. He anointed Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Gonzalez as acting district attorney while he was sick, but the position is up for grabs again this fall. Thompson’s widow has already endorsed Gonzalez — the borough’s first Latino to hold the post — although he hasn’t officially announced whether he will run, and other contenders for the powerful position are now emerging.

The city’s former human rights commissioner Patricia Gatling and civil rights attorney Marc Fliedner, who worked as an assistant district attorney for 15 years, have already thrown their hats into the ring, and several others are eyeing a run — including Democratic District Leader Ann Swern, who was former District Attorney Charles Hynes’s first deputy; Fox News correspondent and former Brooklyn Bar Association president Arthur Aidala; state Supreme Court judge Shawndya Simpson; and outgoing Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

1. Boning for bronze

Breed, Brooklyn, breed! The Borough of Kings is this close to overtaking Chicago as the country’s third-largest city, and could snatch the title sometime next year if Brooklynites really commit to popping out new residents. The Windy City still ranks bronze in the population category with 2.72 million in 2015, compared to Brooklyn’s near-fourth at 2.64 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But Brooklyn’s growth surely has those Midwesterners looking over their shoulders — the Borough of Churches has enjoyed an average population gain of 27,984 per year since 2010, compared to Chicago’s measly 4,896. So throw away those free New York City condoms and get to work!

To make it easy on you, we’ve compiled 10 ways Brooklyn can overcome Chicago by 2017.

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