A Year-in-Review issue is a time to take a deep breath, pour yourself a Tullamore Dew, and take stock. At The Brooklyn Paper, our assignment is to put 2008 in the dustbin of history with one last look back. Here are some of the stories that made the past 12 months so much fun (also, click here for our columnist’s look back on a year of bad breaks, or here to read our review of the single best story of the year, or here to read Borough President Markowitz’s take on 2008 — and 2009!):
CELLMATES: The city announces that it wants to reopen the House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue, and encountered opposition every step of the way. But taking the cake was the notion of putting a middle school in the building. Councilman David Yassky initially liked the plan, but was later shamed into writing “Kids and cons don’t mix” on a blackboard 500 times.
MATZOH BOMB: Two-hundred loft-dwellers were evicted from their home of 475 Kent Ave. because an illegal basement matzoh factory threatened to turn the artist colony into a powder keg. Residents returned to their homes in May having enlightened the world of the power and potency of unleavened bread.
CRASH! BOOM! BAM!: Cobble Hill rubbernecker Werner Cohn takes pictures of every crash at the particularly dangerous Brooklyn–Queens Expressway onramp at Congress Street. His other hobby — sending the pictures to The Brooklyn Paper — spurred our investigation that revealed that the dangerous entrance is one of the most hazardous highway junctions in the state. You’re welcome.
HELP ON THE WAY: At the start of the year, at least, the biggest trend in the luxury real-estate market was the rise of concierge service. Long-term Brooklynites might say “fuhgedaboudit!” but many of these valets serve sensitive Manhattan expatriates unfamiliar with such tasks as hiring babysitters or picking up dry cleaning. These people need help!
IT’S BUMBO: Longtime panhandlers in DUMBO stood firm (and cursed) in the face of community residents who said they felt uneasy around the beggars. It was the classic tale case of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object — and after the smoke cleared, the vagabonds still occupied their corner.
PRIMARY COLORS: Hillary Clinton was the people’s choice in the Democratic primary over Barack Obama, winning 50 percent of the vote to his 48 percent. With numbers like that maybe Hill should run for Borough President after Marty Markowitz leaves office?
WATER WAR: The Pentagon finally decided to check if all that live ammunition it dumped into Gravesend Bay was still explosive. For the first time since second grade, we are afraid to do a “cannonball” into the water.
VIVA EL MERCADO: The beleaguered food vendors of Red Hook Park won — er, actually paid for — the right to sell their pan-American cuisine after the city suddenly clamped down on their unregulated market. Most of the vendors returned, but at great personal cost. Some of their loyal fans said that the city ruined the flavor of what had been a magical place.
‘MISS’ BROOKLYN: A Manhattan carpetbagger won the Miss Brooklyn competition (and eventually the Miss New York State contest), which left many Brooklynites asking, “We have a Miss Brooklyn competition?”
POLY WANNA UNIVERSITY?: Manhattan behemoth New York University acquired Brooklyn’s Polytechnic University.
WHINE COUNTRY: Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents took home the crown for the borough’s biggest complainers, whining an astounding 8,900 times last year to the city’s 311 hotline. Come on North Brooklyn — Studio B really can’t be that loud.
HOLY MOLY!: Pope Benedict XVI visited New York, but a Brooklyn Paper investigation reveals that there are fewer Catholics to care, as Brooklyn’s old line parishes shrink. But hey, religious people believe in life, death and rebirth, so maybe there’s hope yet for the borough of churches!
CANA-BIRDS!: Our photographer captured a snapshot of two pigeons enjoying a dinner of chicken parmigiana, which was even funnier the next week when editor Gersh Kuntzman made a stunning podcast of a pigeon gnawing at a chicken wing. It must be a bird-eat-bird world out there.
McCAIN IN THE RIDGE: Presidential candidate John McCain visited Bay Ridge — and no one really knows why. The defeated pol also ordered a white slice with pepperoni (seriously) from Verrazano Pizza on Fourth Avenue and 91st Street — a sign that he was out of touch with his base.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT: Workers exhumed 211 bodies from Bay Ridge’s “Green Church” — preparation for its demolition in October to make room for condos. Now that the verdant building is gone, the city is considering building a public school on the site. With that story winding down, maybe the neighborhood will finally be able to address Bay Ridge’s real issue: curb cuts.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Brooklyn Bridge turns 125! The great Gothic link to Manhattan doesn’t look a day over 80!
SHIP SHAPE: Longshoremen rejoiced when the mayor’s vision of a Red Hook and Columbia Waterfront District with bayside condos, hotels and shopping officially sank with the signing of a new 10-year lease between American Stevedoring, a shipping company, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Following that defeat, the Bloomberg Administration also quietly abandoned plans for a marina, shipyard and recreational use of a neighboring pier (though not so quiet that we couldn’t break the story wide open!).
GROUP HOME: A bunch of hopeful Brooklynites banded together to create a modern, urban commune. LSD-eating, nudist religious nuts need not apply (though keep our number on file — you know, just in case).
LESS ‘PARK,’ MORE WAITING: Planners revealed that the controversial Brooklyn Bridge Park development project’s costs had doubled to at least $300 million. Whoa! And then they later revealed that most of the sports and active recreation areas are off the table until the city and state kick in more cash. It sounds more like a black hole than a green space.
MARTYRS INC.: The restoration of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park ground to a halt for months after the contractor was busted for fleecing his employees. But the Parks Department did get all the work done in time for the memorial’s centennial in November, a spectacle attended by about 500 people.
OUR REAL WORLD: MTV announced it would bring its popular reality show “The Real World” to our borough, where the eight castmembers played cards, discussed life, and touched bodybuilder Scott Herman’s abs. No, really. They were unreal!
SWEDEBALLS: The long-awaited and, for some, dreaded Ikea finally opened — and what an opening! Eager shoppers — including The Brooklyn Paper’s Ikea bureau and its podcast team — camped out for days and thousands turned out for the first day. There was some gridlock in the early days. But just a few months after the maker of cheap furniture and delectable meatballs opened, locals were begging Ikea not to cancel its free shuttle bus and water taxi.
CONEY BALONEY: Everyone — the city, developer Joe Sitt, freak ringleader Dick Zigun — was kicking sand in each other’s eyes over the competing plans for to turn the decrepit amusement zone into a world-class attraction of rides, hotels and entertainment. By season’s end, Astroland was closed for good, and Coney seemed poised for a disastrous summer of 2009.
HOW ‘SWEDE’ IT IS!: Cheap chic retailer H&M confirmed that it would move to Fulton Mall. Brooklynites rejoice, knowing affordable and hip cocktail dresses are soon to come to the borough’s most hopping shopping district.
LODGING A PROTEST: Why stay in overpriced overrated Gaphattan when the industrial landscape of the Gowanus beckons visitors with reasonable room rates and walking distance to glorious Fourth Avenue? Three hotels are already open in the area, and more are on the way to the improbably tourist district — so many, in fact, that Councilman Bill DeBlasio wants to ban any further inns.
THE BUSIEST CHEF: A chef at the popular take-out spot the Busy Chef surrendered to cops on allegations he bilked more than $25,000 from customers’ credit cards. Chef Dan Kaufman’s attorney painted him as a “patsy” who fell victim to the restaurant’s shadowy owner, but mountains of new allegations surfaced.
TKT-YES!: The discount Broadway and off-Broadway ticket retailer TKTS opened in Metrotech, making it easier for Brooklynites to give our regards to the Great White Way. Now, if only the shows wouldn’t all be closing.
RICH DOUGH: Cops swarmed the famous Grimaldi’s pizzeria, charging that the internationally renowned DUMBO joint owed $165,000 in back taxes, but owner Frank Ciolli chalked it all up to an “accounting error” — a delicious one, no doubt.
NEW YORK CRIMES: A man terrorized New York Times readers (yes, there are still a few of them out there), stealing Sunday papers and reselling them to local bodegas. Cops arrested the man, giving the Times one of its only circulation victories this year.
FELINE GROOVY: A Carroll Gardens resident spent 15 days in the psych ward after breaking into his neighbor’s apartment and barricading himself inside in an effort to rescue a cat that was trapped in a wall. Shockingly, the cat turned out to be real. The man’s peace of mind, however? Not so much.
ARBORCIDE: The four “NYC Waterfalls” in the East River may have attracted tourists to the city — but they also killed dozens of trees in DUMBO and along the Brooklyn Promenade. After neighborhood advocates are protested, the city cut the arbor-cidal waterfalls’ hours in half. That’ll teach those Eurotrash artists!
GET YOUR BJ’S HERE: The Brooklyn Paper learned that the shoppers club BJ’s was on its way to Red Hook — and boy did we have fun with the headlines (as in, “Hookers to get BJ’s in a mall” on Sept. 25).
SOUL-LESS DOWNTOWN: Harlem restaurant Amy Ruth’s withdrew plans to come to the Fulton Mall , leaving the former Gage & Tollner site empty all year.
Not in my front yard: A Dyker Heights man proved that it’s possible to protest just about anything when he griped about the city’s plan to plant a tree in front of his home.
MISFORTUNE COOKIE: Williamsburg artist James Powderly expressed his American right of freedom of speech in China — and paid the price when Chinese police locked him in jail, threatened his life, and deported him — effectively making all of those kids who wear “Free Tibet” T-shirts seem a little tame.
QUITE ‘GRAND’: What if they held a design competition to fix Grand Army Plaza and all the winners were … French?! It would be a good thing, given that three French teams actually had solutions, like paving a car-free zone between the park’s Union Street entrance and the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Arch or adding a reflecting pool, an amphitheater and kiosks for newspapers, food, and bicycle rentals. Da gall!
ALOHA, JOE’S: Besides Ikea, the other big chain retail opening of the year was Trader Joe’s on Court Street. But unlike the hubbub surrounding the Swedish home furnishing giant, the California grocer and its Hawaiian-shirt clad army of employees won over much of the borough without incident. Must have been those salt-and-pepper pistachios in the goodie bags at the grand opening.
UPDOS FOR OBAMA: A Park Slope hair salon raised $1,600 for President-elect Obama with snark and attitude. For one night (only), Brooklyn ladies dressed up like GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and got their hair done-up like her. It was all in the name of good fun, but the sight of 11 Sarah Palins in one place was almost as horrifying as the prospect of one Sarah Palin becoming vice president.
MAMA SITA!: Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein and his wife did what megadeveloper Bruce Ratner has failed to do: they brought life to the Atlantic Yards footprint, and on Nov. 9, little Sita Dorothy Goldstein was born to Goldstein and Shabnam Merchant — and unlike most things near the couple’s Pacific Street home, the six-pound, five-ounce baby is “adorable,” the proud papa said.
MORE-TONS: Morton’s the Steakhouse opened in Downtown, and a venerable who’s who of Brooklyn royalty showed up en masse. Mayor Bloomberg even stopped in, but didn’t gorge himself on the restaurant’s prized $53 porterhouse. The move was, of course, a mis-steak.
SHELL SHOCKER: Oysters can thrive in the foul waters off of Sunset Park, scientists learned. But don’t worry — they won’t be on the menu at the raw bar any time soon.
TICKET BLITZ: A Sanitation agent buried the owners of a Fulton Street pet shop under 116 tickets in one day — one for each illegal flier. Councilwoman Letitia James negotiated a payment schedule and put forward a bill to prevent such ticket hoarding by enforcement agents.