It’s the end of another big, busy year in Brooklyn! This year, Kings County – like the rest of the city — saw protests against and support for the thousands of asylum-seekers who now call New York City Home; cutthroat elections; labor struggles; tragedy; and more.
Beloved local businesses have closed – but new ones, like Brooklyn Made, have opened with hopes of filling their shoes. Southern Brooklynites denounced the proposed Brooklyn Bus Redesign, but celebrated a new ferry route in Bay Ridge. The community came together to open a new dog run named in memory of a beloved local dog-lover and to call on the city to invest in Brooklyn’s school and infrastructure – and took some time to celebrate with festivals and parades.
Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, we’ve been here for it all — and we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest stories of the year so you can take a trip down memory lane before 2024.
BK Lobster landed in hot water: An investigation at the beginning of this year by Brooklyn Paper and THE CITY found that BK Lobster, a seafood restaurant that started in Brooklyn and has expanded rapidly across the country, sold multiple franchises in New York without registering them, in violation of state law.
That infraction rose questions about the chain run by CEO Rodney Bonds, who often describes himself as a “master franchise developer” and whose food operation attracted media attention for its $100 gold-infused lobster roll and locally-inspired plates like the “BedStuy B.I.G.G.I.E. Roll,” while also seeing multiple locations pop up and then mysteriously shutter across the borough since the company’s launch in 2019.
Southern Brooklynites blasted the MTA’s proposed bus redesign: In January, southern Brooklynites blasted the MTA’s latest bus network redesign, saying it would make public transit worse in the area that already suffers from lackluster transportation options.
The MTA released a draft plan for the Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign in December 2022 that “reimagines the current Brooklyn bus network” to cater to modern transportation needs. Residents from the southern half of the borough swiftly opposed the redesign, claiming the new plan cuts out essential stops and disproportionately affects families, children and seniors who rely on buses.
Bus riders further criticized the plan at feedback sessions in February and March, and the MTA continued to gather public opinions through the summer, which it will incorporate into its Proposed Final Plan, which has yet to be released.
A nurses’ strike was avoided at Brooklyn hospitals: Three city hospitals reached a tentative contract agreement with nurses, avoiding a planned strike against understaffing.
On Dec. 31, roughly 16,000 nurses spread across eight city hospitals including NewYork-Presbyterian, Montefiore Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, Maimonides Medical Center, BronxCare Health Systems, Richmond University Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center delivered ten-day strike notices to their hospitals to protest against staff shortages causing risk to nurses and patients. Contracts for thousands of nurses expired on Dec. 31, and they planned to strike on Jan. 9 if no agreement could be reached.
But, days later, nurses at Maimonides Medical Center came to a tentative agreement with hospital CEO Ken Gibbs. By the end of the month, nurses at Maimonides — along with their union colleagues at The Brooklyn Hospital Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center – ratified contracts that promised better staffing standards, pay raises, and more.
A new ferry route from Bay Ridge to Wall Street was announced: Sea-faring Brooklynites were given the good news that they would soon have a new transit option for their morning commute to Manhattan, as the city’s Economic Development Corporation prepared to launch an express southern Brooklyn ferry route along the waterfront from Bay Ridge to Wall Street.
The service began in March, offering faster service for Brooklyn riders heading to and from Downtown Manhattan, and comes as part of the organization’s Ferry Forward initiative.
The new ferry line goes from Bay Ridge, then make stops along Atlantic Avenue and Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, before making the Manhattan stops.
“The faster ferry connections in South Brooklyn will not only reduce morning commute times for residents along the South Brooklyn route but continue our Ferry Forward plan of bringing innovative and cost-effective solutions to NYC Ferry,” said Andrew Kimball, president and CEO for NYCEDC.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation unveiled plans for major Restoration Plaza revamp: The Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in February unveiled its plans to revamp Restoration Plaza as the “Restoration Innovation Campus,” an 84,000-square-foot multi-use development dedicated to serving the community’s needs and closing the ever-expanding wealth gap in the rapidly-gentrifying nabe.
Designed by architect Sir David Adjaye in partnership with the local community by way of a series of meetings in 2019, the development at Fulton Street’s Restoration Plaza will expand the plaza’s cultural center and the Billie Holiday Theatre and add new public open space. Two commercial buildings will be home to offices for existing tenants, plus “private, nonprofit and government partners committed to disrupting the racial wealth gap.”
“Central Brooklyn is a microcosm of racial inequities reflected nationwide across our cities,” said Blondel Pinnock, president & CEO of Restoration, in a statement. “With its focus on Black wealth creation, the Innovation Campus offers a new, replicable model for closing the wealth gap in communities across the United States.
Local pols urged the feds to support a slimmed-down BQE redesign: As the city geared up for its big overhaul of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, local politicians urged the federal Department of Transportation to keep the roadway at two lanes in each direction, rather than widening it back to six full traffic lanes.
The Adams administration is working to finalize its proposal to redesign the decrepit Triple Cantilever portion of the BQE in Brooklyn Heights, and plans to request funding for the project from Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal through the U.S. DOT.
But federal funding comes with rules — including guidelines for highway width. In its initial proposals, the city suggested adding a third lane to use as a bus or carpool lane or a shoulder, rather than a full-service traffic lane. In a January 2023 update, the city’s transportation department clarified it will “pursue the fewest number of lanes in conformance with any applicable Federal and State requirements.”
The city later delayed its timeline for the BQE redesign, and has not yet applied for federal funding – so the large-scale redesign isn’t expected to start until the end of 2027. In the meantime, the DOT is making some short-term repairs to ensure the triple cantilever is safe for the next several years.
The Parks Deptartment removed abandoned ships from Sheepshead Bay: All hands were on deck as city officials worked to remove sunken sailboats from the depths of Sheepshead Bay on Feb. 24.
The city’s Chief of Waterfront and Marine Operations, Nate Grove, teamed up with local Council Member Inna Vernikov to remove three sunken vessels from the waters off of southern Brooklyn, which helped to clear the waters for future boats traversing the waterway.
As part of the Greener NYC Initiative, put in place by the Council, in an effort to fight against climate change, Council Member Vernikov allocated $55,000 to aid in the removal of the abandoned vessels. The funding allowed the city’s Parks Department to get to work on removing the boats that had been lodged at the bottom of the bay for years. The process involved a tow boat, inflatable lift bags and the help of an experienced dive team.
Beloved Ukrainian diner Veselka planned a new location in Williamsburg: Veselka, the beloved East Village Ukrainian diner, declared plans to bring its authentic pierogies and borscht to Brooklyn.
The nearly 70-year-old eatery is making plans to take over a 5,000-square-foot former car wash in Williamsburg, where it will open a restaurant and commissary to sell Veselka-branded cookware and other goods decorated with the Ukrainian flag.
“Having an outpost in Brooklyn or Williamsburg has always been a dream of ours,” Veselka co-owner Jason Birchard said. “I have different vendors and friends that have locations in Williamsburg and they’re all doing very well there. Maybe I’m a little late to the game, but I’m very excited to be there.”
The city announced a new high school for Bay Ridge: In an effort to deal with overcrowding in nearby schools, it was announced in March that Bay Ridge would be getting its first high school in nearly 100 years.
School District 20 has long had schools with jam-packed classrooms, and not enough resources, so the news of a new school was a major delight to many eager residents.
For years, district locals have complained about the need for another high school to alleviate overcrowding at both Fort Hamilton High School and the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, which are both over capacity.
The proposed site for the new school — 425 Ovington Ave., the location of the St. Nicholas Home, a now-closed assisted living home in Bay Ridge — sparked excitement throughout the district, along with some skepticism.
The announcement was just the first step of opening the new school — the city’s School Construction Authority must assess the site and hold a public information hearing before work can get underway. Pols said back in March that they hoped the school would be open by 2026, but a final timeline has yet to be determined.
The vision for the proposed Coney Casino was released: Bidders looking to bring a casino to Coney Island released their vision for the gambling hub in early March, featuring a towering glass building overlooking the amusement park in the heart of the waterfront community.
Dubbed “The Coney,” the structure would feature the first legal gambling facility in the Five Boroughs, along with a new hotel just steps from the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk.
A short walk from the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, the building would immediately transform the Coney Island skyline with its imposing structure, multi-colored rooftop, and heavily-illuminated surroundings on the ground.
The renderings of the proposed development were released by The Chickasaw Nation, Legends, Thor Equities and Saratoga Casino Holdings — a group of businesses that have combined to seek out one of three soon-to-be-awarded licenses to operate a casino in downstate New York. The bidders for various Downstate casino locations are currently seeking approval from the Community Advisory Committee, which is evaluating the proposals.
The King’s College faced a financial crisis: Brooklyn Paper reported in March that The King’s College, a small Manhattan-based Christian school, was in deep financial trouble — and, as it struggled to raise funding to stay open past the end of this semester, the school allegedly stopped paying rent for student apartments in a Downtown Brooklyn apartment building.
King’s students living at the Azure, a swanky high-rise near City Point, started receiving notices about missed rent payments addressed to The King’s College in February, as first reported by the student newspaper the Empire State Tribune.
At the time, the school said it needed to raise more than $2 million to stay open. In July, King’s lost its accreditation, laid off several faculty members and announced that it would not offer classes for the fall 2023 semester – though it insisted the closure was not permanent.
Bing Bong! TikTok star opened a merch store in Coney Island: The TikTok star known for coining the the iconic catchphrase “Bing Bong” opened a flagship merch store in Coney Island.
Rapper and social media presence Travis Leon, who goes by the stage name Nems, opened the shop earlier this year after months of renovations — figuring he could capitalize on his recent viral fame to sell associated clothing and accessories.
Nems rose to internet fame while hosting an episode of SidetalkNYC, which captures life in the Big Apple in humorous one-minute videos on social media platforms like TikTok and instagram. During the episode entitled “Coney Island Ski Club,” he used the “Bing Bong” catchphrase — phonetically recited to match the noise made when subway doors are closing.
A 100-year-old Carroll Gardens pork shop, G. Esposito & Sons, said goodbye: Esposito & Sons Jersey Pork Store, a beloved butcher shop in Carroll Gardens, closed after 100 years in the neighborhood.
The Court Street shop announced that their century-long run as a staple of the local community came to an end on April 10.
“It’s tough to say goodbye after 100 years,” read a long piece of paper next to the store’s door. “We thank you for your loyalty. Love, the Espositos.”
The shop, which first opened its door in 1922 on President Street, was being run by the third generation of Espositos — a family who brought the culinary lessons from their ancestral home of Italy to the streets of Kings County.
A combination of Brooklyn’s high rent prices, a decline in business for the shop, and the owners’ not wanting to force a new generation to take over has driven the end of an era for the family, and a devastating loss for the neighborhood.
The alligator rescued from Prospect Park Lake died in a ‘tragic case of animal abuse’: Godzilla, the alligator who as rescued from the Prospect Park Lake on a frigid day in February, died on April 16 after nearly two months of “extensive” medical care at the Bronx Zoo.
A necropsy revealed that Godzilla was severely underweight, anemic, and suffering from infections of her intestines and skin, and had a stomach ulcer caused by a rubber bathtub stopper she had ingested sometime prior to her rescue. Officials believe she was an ill-advised pet who was illegally dumped in the park by her former owner.
“Despite the intensive care, the alligator was so emaciated, debilitated, and anemic, her immune system was not as strong as it needed to be and she succumbed to those infections,” the zoo said in a statement. “This was a tragic case of animal abuse. Alligators and other wild animals do not belong in the pet trade or in people’s homes.”
Tasty Bagels served its last batch of fresh-baked bagels: Tasty Bagels, the Bensonhurst bagel shop off of 86th Street, served their last round of bagels in March after 40 years in the business. The popular brand announced they would be closing their doors on March 27 in a social media post, saying “All good things come to an end.”
Tasty Bagels first opened their doors in October 1983 — primarily serving bagels by the dozen, coffee, sandwiches, and homemade appetizers. According to the shop’s website, their popularity quickly skyrocketed — and the bagel store changed its schedule to be open seven days a week, 364 days a year – only taking the day off on Christmas Day.
“Since 1983 we have had the honor of serving the Bensonhurst & neighboring communities breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the post said. “We have memories and stories to last a lifetime.”
The historic diner Kellogg’s went up for sale after a century in Williamsburg: Kellogg’s, the treasured Williamsburg diner, filed for bankruptcy, and the eatery’s owners listed the iconic restaurant for sale after nearly 100 years in business.
As first reported by Eater, the greasy spoon, which has long been a community fixture on the corner of Metropolitan and Union avenues, was forced to list the property for an initial asking price of $2.5 million following financial devastation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The diner, known for its famous neon signage, and for its prominence in the hit HBO show “Girls,” was later purchased by a Manhattan restaurateur, who will close the eatery for renovations and reopen it next year as a Tex-Mex eatery.
Coney Island called on the city to reinvest in Riegelmann Boardwalk after lack of centennial celebrations: The Coney Island Riegelmann Boardwalk turned 100 years old on May 15, and instead of celebrating with cake and balloons, residents pleaded with city officials for an adequate reinvestment in their community.
Craig Hammerman, a southern Brooklyn activist — on behalf of the newly organized Riegelmann Boardwalk Working Group — requested a meeting with Mayor Eric Adams and parks department commissioner, Sue Donoghue, to address a “pattern of disenfranchisement” in the southern peninsula.
“This once-in-a-lifetime event has passed us by without any celebratory commemoration planned by the City of New York. It’s part of a larger pattern of disenfranchisement our marginalized communities regularly experience when dealing with the city. The Riegelmann Boardwalk Working Group is hoping to change that,” Hammerman said.
A capital project addressing what locals say are much-needed repairs on the boardwalk is in the works at the city’s parks department. The city was finished design work on the reconstruction in September 2023, according to the Capital Project Tracker, and the project is now in procurement — with construction expected to begin sometime after September 2024.
Brooklyn Made made history as first borough-centered merch store: Brooklyn Made, the borough’s first merchandise shop exclusively selling Kings County-produced goods, held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the storefront in Industry City on May 18.
With 55 vendors, 90% of which are BIPOC creators, the launch of Brooklyn Made celebrated the creative minds of the borough and the diverse cultures seen across the borough.
“It’s about the makers, it’s about the designers, it’s about the small businesses but it’s [also] about this place that we call home,” said Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the driving force behind the store. “That for 300 years has embraced a measure of diversity, not seen anywhere else in the world and somehow in these 72 square miles we have made it work.”
Migrant shelters in schools infuriated parents: In the midst of the city’s ongoing migrant crisis, students and parents at several public schools fumed over the placement of migrant families in their gymnasiums as the city struggled to house newcomers.
Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers arrived in New York City this year, pushing the already-strained shelter system to its limits and forcing authorities to consider alternative housing options — like school gyms.
Worried about safety and students being blocked out of school facilities while they were being used as shelters, parents and students in Williamsburg and Coney Island rallied against the shelter placements.
The city quickly reversed course and relocated migrants out of at least one school. A City Hall spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper at the time that the schools were always intended to be a short-term solution, and that the relocation was not spurred by the protests.
Roll N Roaster bought back its back classic fries after an outcry in Sheepshead Bay: Brooklynites in June celebrated the return of Roll N Roaster’s beloved french fries, as the Sheepshead Bay eatery brought back the original frites recipe after an outcry from locals.
Formerly known as cottage fries, and now dubbed “OG Fries,” the sensational side-order left the menu in early 2022 because of a shortage of large potatoes — and were replaced by a different preparation that irked locals.
Now, though, the original is back to stay “forever,” said the restaurant’s owner.
“We went through so many fries to replace them,” said Eric Rodriguez, owner and general manager of Sheepshead Bay’s 53-year-old classic roast beef sandwich eatery. “I learned so much about potatoes in the last 16 months. It was a nightmare.”
Long-requested upgrades were announced for a Bay Ridge subway station: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it would begin installing accessibility upgrades to the 95th Street subway station in Bay Ridge this year, and began installation of a new elevator in September.
The underground station — which serves as the final stop on the R line — is only accessible from the street via staircases, and is not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Residents, including Council Member Justin Brannan, began asking the transportation agency for accessibility upgrades in 2018 – namely an elevator since the station is difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.
After years of conversations and waiting, the MTA announced it will begin implementing ADA improvements at the station.
“Way back in 2018 we pushed the MTA to include these local investments in their capital plan so we are thankful to see everything finally coming to fruition. First the 86th Street elevator and now the 95th Street elevator,” Brannan said at the time.
The Mermaid Parade swam back to Coney Island: Coney Island hosted its 41st annual Mermaid Parade on June 17, with thousands of sea-faring sirens taking to the streets to celebrate the beloved tradition.
The parade, which began at 1 p.m. at West 21st and Surf Avenue saw dozens of large floats, retro vehicles and of course immaculately costumed merfolk traipse down the street. The event wrapped up around 4 p.m. with a grand finale celebration taking place on the beach to mark the official start of Coney Island’s summer swimming season.
“The Mermaid Parade is always a celebration of the creativity of the people of New York,” said Coney Island USA’s Artistic Director, Adam Rinn.
Ample Hills returned with its OG founders: The beloved Brooklyn-based ice cream purveyor Ample Hills Creamery announced it June it would reopen under its original owners, marking another twist in the brand’s rocky history.
Husband-and-wife duo Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna announced that they had re-acquired the company, known for churning out innovative and story-themed ice creams, from Schmitt Industries, an Oregon-based machine parts company.
Schmitt had acquired the company from the couple in 2020, after the founders filed for bankruptcy. Yet, Schmitt Industries failed to turn things around, and shuttered all 12 Ample Hills stores in December 2022.
Smith and Cuscuna bought their company back in May and reopened a number of Ample Hills locations across the city — including their flagship in Prospect Heights.
However, in November, the couple were fired from Ample Hills by investor Norm Brodsky, who ponied up $1 million to back their efforts to buy the company back. The scoop shops will remain open — just not with the couple at the helm.
Plans revealed to for shuttered former Century 21 flagship store in Bay Ridge to be redeveloped as ‘urban retail landscape’: The site of the former Century 21 flagship store in Bay Ridge will be transformed into an urban retail hub with the help of the family behind the beloved department store chain, developers announced in July.
ASG Equities — the real estate firm of the Gindi family, who founded the flagship Century 21 location on 86th Street in 1961 — will revamp 150,000 square feet of commercial space across 15 buildings on 86th and 87th streets and repurpose more than 700 feet of retail storefronts. The company aims to introduce a mix of quality supermarkets and shops selling clothing, cosmetics, medical necessities, food and more.
A slew of southern Brooklyn massage parlors were cited for possible prostitution: City agencies cracked down on a slew of southern Brooklyn storefronts apparently posing as massage parlors for their alleged engagement in illegal prostitution and other unlawful acts.
The city’s Department of Buildings last summer issued multiple violations to the profile of buildings including Rose Spa at 7620 Third Ave., Matcha Body Wellness Spa at 7004 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Bayside Sun at 9401 Third Ave., and Wang Wang Spa at 311 76th St.
“In the past few years periodically we received word from neighbors who are concerned about locations they suspect are involved in illegal day spas and massage parlors,” Community Board 10 chair Josephine Beckmann told Brooklyn Paper at the time.
She said residents started to question the shop’s validity when they noticed the massage parlors posted irregular hours of operation and stayed open late into the night, covered their windows with signs or curtains, and didn’t open themselves to the general public.
A new exhibit ,‘The Book of HOV’, paying homage to Jay-Z, opened at the Brooklyn Public Library: A new multimedia Jay-Z-inspired exhibit with thousands of personal objects from the rapper’s career opened at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch on July 14.
The compilation includes never-before-seen photos, musical instruments, a life-sized replica of the recording studio where the “Can’t Knock The Hustle” singer recorded some of his first hits, and a mural made of hand-cut and scanned news clippings illustrating the path through Jay-Z’s 13 albums and the companies he founded like Rocawear.
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with over 140 million records sold. He was born in New York and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Marcy Projects to later become the first hip-hop billionaire in 2019.
A teen boy died three weeks after being pulled from Prospect Park Lake: A Brooklyn teenager died on July 6, nearly three weeks after a near-drowning incident in Prospect Park Lake.
Rikeverns “Ricky” Joassaint, 13, was pulled from the lake by bystanders after struggling to stay above the surface while swimming with friends shortly before 5:30 p.m. on June 13. The middle-schooler spent three weeks “fighting for his life” at New York-Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist Hospital but succumbed to his injuries Wednesday.
“It is with deep sorrow and sadness that I announce the passing of Ricky,” the boy’s father, Sergo Joassaint, wrote in an update on the fundraiser set up to pay the teens’ rising medical bills.
Joassaint said Ricky “fought and held on” until his mother arrived from the Caribbean to be at his Brooklyn bedside.
A judge tossed a UFT lawsuit, and allowed Success Academy to co-locate in Sheepshead Bay: The latest conflict between New York City’s public schools and charter school communities reached a conclusion just before the city’s largest charter school system opened for the year.
On Aug. 11, days before Success Academy Charter Schools opened its doors on Monday, Aug. 14, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Frank E. Lyle tossed a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers and allowed Success Academy to co-locate its schools in two Department of Education public school buildings – one in at P.S. 225 in Queens, and the other at the Frank J. Macchiarola Educational Complex in Sheepshead Bay.
Opponents had said the co-location would violate the state’s class size law and put public school students and staff at a disadvantage. The UFT and its supporters said were “very disappointed” in Lyle’s decision, while Success Academy’s founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz, said the lawsuit as a whole was “unconscionable.”
A DOE spox said the department was “pleased” with the ruling.
UFT president Michael Mulgrew told Brooklyn Paper at the time that the union planned to appeal the court’s decision.
Four people took part in the annual Key Lime Pie Swim: Four swimmers from the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers braved the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the annual “Key Lime Pie Swim” on July 29, paddling all the way from Coney Island to Red Hook, all for a bite of Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie.
Since July of 2020, CIBBOWS founder Capri Djatiasmoro has organized the 10-mile swim to Steve’s as part of her “foodie swim” program, which sees long-distance open-water swimmers plunge into the sea to traverse to local food destinations.
Djatiasmoro started the program as a way to explore new restaurants and eateries in Brooklyn while introducing people to open-water swimming.
“My prime directives in life start with love, because I love it [swimming] so much and I hope everyone learns to love the ocean as much as I do and loves safely,” she said.
The troubled East Williamsburg venue Avant Gardner faced another costly lawsuit: One of Brooklyn’s largest music venues, Avant Gardner, was sued by a security firm it hired to carry out monitoring mandated by the New York State Liquor Authority.
In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, T&M Security LLC, the firm chosen to monitor Avant Gardner, accused the venue of breach of contract, defamation and other civil charges in Manhattan Supreme Court. T&M sought at least $2.6 million in damages after Avant Gardner allegedly illegally ended its monitoring agreement prematurely and refused to pay T&M.
Spreading across an entire East Williamsburg block, Avant Gardner, which houses three separate venues including the Brooklyn Mirage, has been engaged in a struggle with the State Liquor Authority for the past five years after the SLA continuously voiced its concerns about safety on the premises.
The suit was filed shortly after after two Avant Gardner patrons were found dead in Newtown Creek after leaving the venue in separate incidents — and just weeks after former patrons sued the venue after security officers and staff at Brooklyn Mirage allegedly harassed and assaulted patrons.
Heavy rains flooded Brooklyn neighborhoods: A state of emergency was declared in New York City on Sept. 29 after torrential rains flooded streets and subway stations, and Brooklyn got some of the worst effects of the raging storm.
The downpour began on the evening of Sept. 28, and as much as three inches of rain had already fallen in Kings County by the next morning — with more still to come.
Flood maps showed up to 11 inches of flooding in some parts of Brooklyn on Sept. 29 filling subway stations and major roadways with water. Rising waters devastated homes, local businesses and arts studios, many of which are still working to recover.
For many, the storm was a sign of what is to come as climate change brings more frequent and intense storms to the city.
The inaugural One Bite Pizza Festival was hosted in Coney Island: Tropical storm Ophelia didn’t stop a few thousand pizza lovers from converging on Coney Island for Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy’s inaugural One Bite Pizza Festival at Maimonides Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, on Sept. 23.
Over 35 iconic pizza joints, among them New York City’s very own pizza institutions like Di Fara, Lucali, and John’s of Bleecker Street, served a few thousand pies to the hungry crowd clad in rain gear and umbrellas, braced against the torrential downpours.
The festival is named after Portnoy’s YouTube series, where “Stool Presidente,” as his fans call him, judges pizza places across the country based on one bite, rating them between one and ten — which can make or break a small business owner.
The pizza parlors that fired up their pizza ovens on the Cyclones’ turf were Portnoy’s all-time favorites among the over 1,000 pizza spots he has tried over the past few years.
A new Bay Ridge dog run was named after late canine-loving resident: On September 15, city officials joined with the Decolvenaere family to unveil a new dog run on Shore Road named after Frank Decolvenaere, a beloved Bay Ridge resident who was hit and killed while walking his dog in 2020.
The $1 million project transformed an unused stretch of asphalt into an open greenspace that welcomes Bay Ridge community members and their four-legged friends.
Decolvenaere, who lived in Bay Ridge for more than 20 years, was headed home from a walk with his dog, Stormy, in 2020 when he was hit by a teen driver near the corner of Fourth Avenue and 101st Street. He died on impact, and Stormy, who was also injured in the accident, made it 10 blocks home to alert Decolvenaere’s wife, Demetra.
“Our family misses my father every day and so it meant a lot to us to have the Shore Road dog park named in honor of him,” Michael, Decolvenaere’s son said. “Frank really loved his dog and his neighborhood, and so we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate his life and commemorate him.”
Locals celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Third Avenue Festival: The Third Avenue Festival, the fan-favorite street celebration in Bay Ridge, celebrated 50 years in the neighborhood on Oct. 1. with its traditional massive 25-block bash full of music, games, and vendors.
The yearly event hosted by Merchants of Third Avenue, a civic organization dedicated to boosting Bay Ridge businesses, runs completely off community support and volunteers, according to Dan Texeira, president of MOTA.
Chip Cafiero, an event manager who has been participating in the festival for 46 years, said the best part of the bash is being able to bring the whole neighborhood together, and getting the local shops some new customers.
“The most exciting factor is just people coming out and having a good time and celebrating the 50 years,” Cafiero said. “That’s what makes this festival different from other festivals because it’s very community-oriented, it’s very family-oriented.”
Brooklynites mourned the death of Bed-Stuy activist Ryan Carson: The sudden death of advocate and Bed-Stuy resident Ryan Carson shocked Brooklynites in October.
Carson was fatally stabbed while waiting at a bus stop on Malcolm X Blvd and Lafayette with his girlfriend, who was not injured, in the early hours of Oct. 2. He was 32 years old.
Police later arrested 18-year-old Brian Dowling in connection with the murder. Dowling was charged with second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Carson was a social justice advocate who most recently worked as Senior Solid Waste Campaign Manager at New York Public Interest Research Group. In 2021, Carson created the No OD NY campaign and lobbied for safe injection sites to combat overdoses.
Friends and colleagues remembered Carson as a dedicated environmental advocate, a “beloved” friend and mentor, and a “tremendous friend.”
An NYPD tow truck driver killed 7-year-old Kamari Hughes in Fort Greene: 7-year-old Kamari Hughes was fatally struck by the driver of an NYPD tow truck in Fort Greene on Oct. 26.
According to police, Hughes was walking across the street with his mother when a police tow truck traveling westbound on Myrtle Avenue made a right hand turn onto North Portland Avenue and hit him.
The driver of the tow truck, NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent Stephanie Sharp, was later arrested in connection with the incident; witnesses said she did not initially stop after striking Hughes, only coming to a halt when bystanders flagged her down — and that she was reportedly on her cell phone at the time of the crash
At his funeral service in November, family and friends remembered Hughes as a “kid with a huge heart, stern beliefs and a lot of energy.”
His mother, Taqunda Hughes, said at the service that she would “give anything to get him back.”
“I watched my baby be born into this world ever so quietly,” she said. “He made not one sound. I watched him be taken. I did. And I’ve been standing ten toes down ever since.”
Thousands of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge for a ceasefire: Weeks after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack in Israel, thousands of Brooklynites marched across the Brooklyn Bridge calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as Israel expanded its ground operations in the region.
Within Our Lifetime, the group that organized the Oct. 28 protest, estimated a crowd of over 100,000 people joined in the demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinian community, with signs from the crowd reading “7,770 people dead,” “Bombing children is not right,” and “Ceasefire now.”
WOL leader Nerdeen Kiswani said the march brought together people from all faiths and backgrounds as people realized that “there’s a lot more urgency” for a ceasefire due to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. At that time, roughly 8,000 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza — by the end of December, the death toll had reached more than 20,000.
Brooklyn saw a historic election season: All of New York City’s 51 City Council seats were up for grabs on Nov. 7, with key races in District 47, where current Council Members Justin Brannan and Ari Kagan fought to represent the newly-drawn district, and District 43, where Democrat Susan Zhuang, Republican Ying Tan and Conservative Party candidate Vito LaBella faced off.
Shortly after polls closed, Zhuang declared victory in the contentious race for city council in District 43, New York City’s first Asian-majority district.
Zhuang, the former chief of staff for Assembly Member William Colton, ran on a platform committed to public safety — including cracking down on hate and racism in southern Brooklyn — improving public education, increasing affordable housing, and demanding action from the federal government on New York’s migrant crisis.
Brannan also secured a victory on election night in the contest for the newly redrawn 47th District, capping off the most hotly contested race in this sleepy election cycle. The highly contentious race kicked off last December when Kagan left the Democratic Party to become a Republican.
Kagan’s move followed the 2022 City Council redistricting process, which combined parts of his and Brannan’s current districts, 43 and 47 respectively, into a new District 47. The redrawn district includes the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Coney Island.
Coney Island brewery tapped out: The Coney Island Brewery taproom at the base of Maimonides Park baseball stadium closed its doors for good on Nov. 9 due to financial woes.
The taproom had struggled to turn a profit for several years due to “seasonality of the area” and the “high costs associated with running a taproom,” according to the Boston Beer Company, which purchased the Coney Island Brewery in 2013.
“Unfortunately, we don’t see a path to profitability in the future,” a spokesperson for the Boston Beer Company told Brooklyn Paper.
Coney Islanders made a last ditch effort to save the brewery, but owners say the closure is final. Among those locals hoping to save the establishment are members of the peninsula’s famed Polar Bear Club, who told Brooklyn Paper that, since the taproom’s closure, they’ve struggled to find a local hangout to warm up in after icy swims.
“It’s a shame,” said Polar Bear Club President Dennis Thomas.
Luna Park debuted a winder wonderland: Luna Park, one of Coney Island’s beloved amusement parks, announced in November that it would extend summertime excitement into the winter months for the first time ever with Frost Fest, a holiday celebration full of winter activities.
From mid-November to early January, the park, which is usually closed between September and March, invited Brooklynites to enjoy its winter-themed playground with an ice skating rink, rides and attractions, twinkling lights and festive décor, photos with Santa, shopping and festive food options.
The team launched its winter wonderland on Nov. 18 with a tree lighting ceremony attended by costumed carolers and stilt walkers, local elected officials, and special words from Luna Park’s owner Alessandro Zamperla.
“Luna Park is the heart of south Brooklyn and the heart of Coney Island and this is really the moment for people to have an open heart and share joy,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback in terms of enthusiasm and excitement as soon as people are able to walk in and see what we’ve created.”
The DA dropped assault charges against a Bensonhurst dad: The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in November dismissed assault charges leveled against a Bensonhurst father who stepped in to defend his teenage son against an adult attacker in September.
Ting Duo Lei, 52, was arrested and charged with assault on Sept. 30 after he allegedly hit 24-year-old Hassan Saab after a violent altercation broke out when Saab showed up at the Lei family home allegedly looking for Lei’s son Brian. Saab had reportedly attacked 13-year-old Brian two days earlier following a schoolyard scrap involving some of Saab’s younger relatives.
Members of Bensonhurst’s Asian community and local politicians rallied in support of Lei after footage of the incidents — including Lei fighting off Saab in his front yard — began circulating on social media.
“We would like to thank the parents and community organizations and community leaders for their overwhelming support,” the Lei family said outside Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday morning. “We also want to thank our spokesperson Karlin Chan for helping us during this difficult time and understanding the legal system.”
Brooklyn remembered comic Kenny DeForest: Brooklyn Paper broke the news in mid-December that local stand-up comedian Kenny DeForest had died after succumbing to injuries he sustained in a bike accident. He was 37 years old.
We initially reported that friends and family were raising money to help with the comedian’s medical care. An online fundraiser set up by DeForest’s friends sought to cover his medical bills after the Dec. 8 crash, but organizers were forced to give donors a grim update on Dec. 13, when DeForest passed away at Kings County Hospital, surrounded by parents, family and friends.
The fundraiser has raised close to $180,000 from over 2,000 donations.
DeForest, a Missouri native, was best known for his work in the New York comedy circuit and his appearances on Comedy Central, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Late Show with James Corden and HBO’s “Crashing.”
An illegal Bay Ridge weed shop was shut down: City and state officials shut down a controversial Bay Ridge weed shop for operating without a license and ignoring multiple violation warnings.
Big Chief, an unlicensed dispensary at the corner of 74th Street and Third Avenue, was hit with a court order for selling cannabis and related paraphernalia for months without a legal license and ignoring the Office of Cannabis Management’s and law enforcement’s requests to stop.
Along with the court order — handed down by Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Kathy Hochul and OCM — city officials are looking to penalize shop owners and property owners for allowing illegal activity to occur for so long.
“Unlicensed cannabis stores selling unregulated products pose a health risk to New Yorkers and hurt the businesses that are following the rules,” AG James said in a statement. “New Yorkers who buy and use cannabis shouldn’t have to worry about the quality and safety of the products they are purchasing, which is why all shops must be licensed and regulated.”
Brooklyn’s first legal dispensary opened: The very same week Big Chief was busted, the borough saw the opening of its first legal dispensary, nearly three years after recreational marijuana was first legalized in New York State.
Grow Together in Gravesend is owned by Christopher Ledlum and Steven Sapoznik, who the state’s Office of Cannabis Management described as “an experienced local entrepreneur and justice-involved individual.” The shop is New York state’s 36th legal adult-use marijuana dispensary – but the first in Brooklyn, as back-t0-back lawsuits dragged out license approvals in the borough.
“At Grow Together, we are more than just a dispensary,” reads the shop’s website. “We are a community hub dedicated to promoting wellness, education, and empowerment. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, our mission is to provide a safe and inclusive space where individuals can access high-quality cannabis products, explore their well-being, and connect with like-minded individuals.”
According to Grow Together’s site, the shop offers marijuana flower, pre-rolls, edibles, and potent oils and concentrates, as well as cannabis-related items like lighters and rolling papers.
Parts of Atlantic Yards project went up for auction: Two decades after the ambitious Atlantic Yards project was first announced, the rights to the remaining parcels of the $6 billion plan to redevelop 22 acres in and around Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill will be auctioned off in less than a month — with plenty of promises left unkept to the community.
And with the 20th anniversary of the project now in the rearview mirror, a coalition of advocates are putting the past developers of Atlantic Yards on blast, calling on whoever ends up in charge to finish the project and do the right thing for Brownstone Brooklyn.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights dazzled once again: ‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, festive celebrations, and spectacular Christmas displays — and no display is more spectacular than the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights show, one of Brooklyn Paper’s biggest stories each year.
Every December, Dyker Heights residents deck out their homes with glamorous snowmen, decorative Santa Clauses and Nutcrackers, and millions of twinkling lights, and invite visitors down to ooh and ahh at the sight.
This year, we spoke to the Lights’ founder, Lucy Spata. Spata, credited as the pioneer of the age-old tradition, started to decorate her home in 1986 after her parents passed away as a way to honor her mother’s love for decorating. What started as a small sentiment quickly grew into a Brooklyn must-see.
As the event grows each year, tourists flock to southern Brooklyn, prompting mixed feelings from local residents. But Spata said she has no intention of ending the legacy.
“When you go pay my mortgage, then I’ll stop,” Spata told Brooklyn Paper. “If you don’t like it, from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2, go on vacation because it’s not stopping.”