2011 rewind: Brooklyn remembers one wacky year

2011 rewind: Brooklyn remembers one wacky year
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Talk about a year for the record books!

Ask anyone and he’ll tell you — 2011 had it all.

For Brooklyn, it was the best of times — the city spared Prospect Park’s geese from another lethal gassing; the Brooklyn Aviators had a banner season; and the Barclays Center inched one step closer to opening.

But it was also the worst of times: A PTA mom swiped money meant for school trips; a madman cut a swath of terror across southern Brooklyn; and the Barclays Center inched one step closer to opening (What can we say? It’s a controversial topic!).

Through it all, we were there to boil it down for you (you’re welcome, Brooklyn!) as we continue our search for truth, knowledge and, of course, important life lessons.

The most important life lesson of 2011: don’t Tweet pictures of your groin to anyone, especially if you’re a member of Congress with plans to be the next mayor.

There’s a lot to sort through, so, before you shove 2011 into a drawer, flip the page and check out our handy “year that was” guide.

At the very least, it’ll help you put together a few New Year’s resolutions.


Pedaling tickets: Cops declare war on bicyclists, announcing that they will ticket renegade riders who speed, disobey traffic signals and signs, tailgate, and fail to signal before turning. The ferocity of the NYPD’s bikelash ebbs over the year, but cops redouble their campaign in Prospect Park in the fall after a few bicycle collisions leave two women brain damaged.

Grimm beginning: Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge) the Marine and former FBI agent who trounced Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Bay Ridge) in 2010 is sworn into office and becomes an overnight media darling. Reporters quickly take notice of Grimm, when, after a gunman seriously wounds Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), he says all members of congress should pack heat if they want.

Smoking Williamsburg: Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds starts selling a Williamsburg version of its Camel cigarettes and immediately brands the trendy neighborhood as being “about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building.” Our reporter, and proud smoker, Andy Campbell took umbrage with the depiction, but was more upset that the new smokes didn’t taste like Williamsburg at all — they just tasted like Camel cigarettes.


PTA pinch: Cobble Hill PTA mom Providence Hogan is accused of stealing more than $80,000 meant for school events and trips — using the money to pay for fertility treatments and the rent on her Atlantic Avenue salon. Hogan, who we branded as Brooklyn’s “Momstrocity,” is arrested in March. She quickly tries to hammer out a repayment plan with prosecutors — but then claims she can’t pay all the money back right away. In October, a gushing New York Times column depicting Hogan as a hapless neighborhood pariah encourages some to help the business owner pay off her debt.

Dog-gone it: Two Carroll Gardens dog food makers are so confident in their product that they decide to eat it for an entire month. Former Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman joins in the fun and tries the dog food — which he says isn’t too bad with a little hot sauce mixed in.

Pole position: Borough President Markowitz gets panned for allowing exercise teacher Stephanie Mancuso pole dance on stage during his gushingly positive State of the Borough Address at a Sunset Park school, but the longtime Prospect Park West bike lane opponent gets high marks for riding a two-wheeler into the theater.

Murder spree: Maksim Gelman cuts a swath of terror across the borough, killing four people and wounding several others in a 28-hour rampage that begins in Sheepshead Bay and continues all the way to Crown Heights before he’s arrested in Manhattan. Gelman pleads guilty to the slayings in November, claiming that he was sick of being in solitary confinement.


Send in the clowns: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus decides not to put up its tents in Coney Island this summer. The one-ring Vidbel Circus fills the void, but closes six weeks earlier than expected after drawing as few as 15 customers a night.

Sports bar stump: With the Barclays Center half up, opponents of the controversial project turn their vitriol against Prime 6, a sports bar opening across the street from the arena. Prime 6 is ultimately allowed to open, although it remains closed — at least so far.

Skating into history: The Brooklyn Aviators end their inaugural season with an unprecedented winning record – and one match shy of a 22-game winning streak. The team enters the playoffs, but lose to the hated Akwesasne Warriors.

Goose love fest: Bird lovers hold a “Hands Around the Lake” protest, demanding that the city end its geese eradication protocols in Prospect Park. The geese are eventually spared – but only because the city did such a bang-up job gassing geese in 2010.

Local pols are demanding that the city skip this year’s goose slaughter. Residents gathered last July at a vigil after more than 200 geese were exterminated.
Photo by Paul Martinka


Happy days!: The 2010 census numbers are tabulated — and the Columbia Street Waterfront District is named the gayest neighborhood in the borough!

The Music’s over: Opponents against Borough President Markowitz’s controversial plan to build a $65 million amphitheater at Asser Levy Park force him to move his popular Summer Seaside Concert Series. The concerts are moved further into Coney Island — but they’re never quite the same.

Barbecue brouhaha: Manhattan Beach residents www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2011/16/courier-yn_bay_news-bn_bbqban_2011_4_14_bk.html “>demand an end to barbecuing at the popular summer destination, claiming that the burning charcoal poses a health risk. But the protest quickly flames out: when the summer begins, their campaign is all but forgotten.

Takeru taken away: Six-time Nathan’s hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi receives the biggest setback of his stomach-churning career — he’s removed from the Nathan’s Famous Wall of Fame. Kobayashi doesn’t participate in this year’s gladiatorial gut-fest, opting to hold a “simultaneous” competition at a roof top bar in Manhattan instead. The stunt backfires when Kobayashi is accused of an illegal bun drop, which would have gotten him disqualified in Coney Island.


Music mayhem: Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents pressure promoters into cutting the number of concerts on the Kent Avenue waterfront because its crowds have become rowdy — kicking off a summer-long showdown that would result in a change in venue three blocks away.

Courting Muslims: Sheepshead Bay residents against the mosque slated for Voorhies Avenue take their fight from the sidewalk to the courtroom, but a judge shoots down claims that the mosque violates zoning rules, allowing the house of worship to be built.

Burning up: Smokers across the borough throw a fit when the city threatens to ticket them if they were caught lighting up in public parks.

In memoriam: An adorable baby gosling born against the odds in the wake of a mass goose slaughter died in Prospect Park at the end of the month under unknown circumstances


Rep. Twitterpants: Congressman Anthony Weiner can’t say “with certitude” that his groin was depicted in a photo sent from his Twitter account, but insists that the social network was hacked. He resigns in shame two weeks later.

Cover up!: An ultra-orthodox religious group bans women from wearing tank tops and short-sleeve shirts in South Williamsburg, even on days when temperatures climbed to 100 degrees!

Street naming controversy: Atheists railed against a portion of Richard Street renamed “Seven in Heaven” to honor a group of fallen firefighters because street names shouldn’t denote the presence of an almighty power — or where it hangs its hat.


Love conquers all: Brooklynites rejoice when gay marriages are performed for the first time in state history at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Leiby Kletzky killed: Police found the remains of eight-year-old Borough Park resident on July 11, and arrested Kensington resident Levi Aron for the child’s murder.

Down and out: Park advocates push the city to fund a promised park at the Bushwick Inlet, but the city says its too poor to buy the parcels necessary to build it.

Broken promises: Workers vow to hold a monthly protest at the Barclays Center arena until Forest City Ratner Companies follows through on its promise to give the community thousands of construction jobs. The protests peter out by the fall — the demonstrators must have gotten work somewhere else.


Shaken up: An 18-second earthquake and Hurricane Irene catches everyone off guard, but does little damage.

Occupy Brooklyn Bridge Park: State lawmakers sign off on a deal to allow housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and even a hotel — a move that will allow the state to finish building the park and maintain it in the future.

Icy welcome: Barclays Center officials say their arena, which will already host the Brooklyn Nets next year, would be the perfect home for the New York Islanders.

For the second straight year, Rogelio Juarez has won the mug-holding contest at Der Schwarze Kolner in Fort Greene. Here, he shows off the form that made him great.
Photo by Bess Adler

Building up: Forest City Ratner Companies says its ready to build a 33-story residential tower on Dean Street, but he’ll just be slapping together pre-fabricated parts. Shovels are expected to go into the ground next year.


Call a gynecologist: In what will no doubt be remembered as the biggest story by any news organization in 2011, the infamous “Vagina Tree,” suffered an untimely demise at the hands of Hurricane Irene.

Heft a liter: In bar sports, south Slope legend Rogelio Juarez, had a strong run in the annual mug-holding competition at Der Schwarze Kölner in Fort Greene, but ultimately fell in the national competition in Central Park.

Disco no more: Bay Ridge — once known for having a dance club on every street corner in its lustier days following “Saturday Night Fever” — wages a quiet war with loud clubs, making the neighborhood more akin to the little town in “Footloose.”

Life after Weiner: Bob Turner (R–Midwood) stomps Democratic challenger David Weprin in the race for disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat. Weprin say President Obama’s poor pol numbers hurt him. Others blamed the Democratic pol’s mustache.


My pal, Khadafy: In a strangely touching tale, Louis Schlamowitz, Canarsie’s famed autograph hound, recalls his time as a penpal with Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy, the eccentric authoritarian ruler who took time from his day job of turning Libya into one of the world’s most repressive regimes to correspond with the retired florist for more than two decades.

Crowning achievement: Bushwick artist Marni Kotak gives birth in a tiny studio as part of her latest performance piece, “The Birth of Baby X.” Was it art? A cheap stunt? Just really gross? It was all of the above!

Occupy Brooklyn: The phenomenon that started with a few dirty people sleeping in Zuccotti Park and turned into a worldwide movement finally touched down in Brooklyn, where a crowd marched on Grand Army Plaza, and local pols fell over each other to be seen with the “99 percent.”

Gunned down: In one of the biggest police corruption scandals in 20 years, five Bay Ridge cops were busted for running bootleg cigarettes and guns on their off hours — and two of the cops were much-lauded Community Affairs officers.


Where’s Josh?: Ditmas Park cafe owner Josh Rubin goes missing on Halloween amid financial and emotional strain. His family, the police, and a private detective conduct an exhaustive search for him, but the quest ends on a sad note: Rubin’s found murdered in Pennsylvania.

It Ant Art: The Brooklyn Museum went toe-to-toe against incensed borough Diocese officials over a controversial film that briefly depicted ants crawling on a crucifix. Was it art? Our art critic, the Butcher of Flatbush Avenue Extension, thought so.

Getting jerked around: A fearless Prospect Park ranger caught an armed pot-smoking masturbator gratifying himself near a playground. Normally, you’d expect a brave act like this to be followed by some kind of award. But in Andrew Marsala’s case, the city slapped him on the wrist for not calling the cops first.

Naked rampage: It was the biggest story to come out of Bay Ridge all year — according to our webmaster — an unhinged granny went totally berserk on a quiet Thursday on Third Avenue, destroying a Chinese restaurant and stripping bare and stopping traffic in a bizarre show that witnesses would describe as both “funny,” and “scary.”


Hodges snubbed — again!: Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s new “Golden Era Committee,” many of whom played with Gil Hodges, refused to send the famed Brooklyn Dodger to Cooperstown — again! — choosing former Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo for the coveted spot instead.

Rats and trash: A seemingly never-ending construction job along the New Utrecht Avenue elevated D train in Bensonhurst has created a trashy, rat-infested nightmare. But it gets worse: the rat infestation starts spreading into people’s homes.

Boardwalk bound: A handful of legendary Coney Island businesses are moving to new digs on the waterfront, after striking a deal with Central Amusement International, the group that spent the last year trying to get these businesses to clean up their acts.

School’s out: Edward R. Murrow High School, long known as a bastion of independent and free-thinking students, has become the school with the second-highest number of suspensions in the borough, thanks to a taskmaster of a principle who doles out punishment like bumper stickers.

Barbara Tremblay (right) and Stacey Minondo kiss after receiving their marriage license on Sunday. Minutes later, they were wed — the first gay couple in Brooklyn to legally tie the knot.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini