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15 to watch in 2015

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s that time of the year, when we set our sights on the horizon and make some informed guesses about what might be coming down the pike. Here are our 15 people, places, things, and cartoon characters to watch in this newest set of calendar pages.

#15 Gowanus goes K-Town

The owners of Red Hook eatery The Good Fork are planning a Korean barbecue restaurant and karaoke den in Gowanus. We are fasting and singing “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” nonstop in preparation.

#14 Etsy

The do-it-yourself-juggernaut that allows craftspeople to sell their wares online is expanding in Dumbo Heights, a mixed-use development in the former Watchtower complex. Etsy’s new digs come with $5 million in state tax breaks and big ambitions, including nearly doubling the size of its staff by 2019, and opening a brick-and-mortar store on the ground floor. The new headquarters is not set to be finished until 2016, but talk of an initial public offering, which chief executive officer Chad Dickerson has said is “definitely a possible outcome,” and a recent shake-up on its board of directors will give Brooklyn tech gazers plenty to keep track of in the coming year.

#13 Tesa Wilson

Tesa Wilson is a passionate advocate for parents in Williamsburg. She has been a member of the Community Education Council 14 in Williamsburg for 10 years. Former Borough President Marty Markowitz appointed her president of the council four years ago, and she has held the post since. Wilson said she plans to devote her time and energy in 2015 to mobilizing parents. She aims to bring groups of parents from her district to Albany to hold sit-ins demanding the influence of corporations on politics be diminished.

Such an action would no doubt increase her visibility beyond the confines of her community, but she insists she has not been bitten by the running-for-office bug.

“This is the kind of work that is very rewarding for me,” she said. “I get to see parents who thought that they were voiceless become empowered.”

#12 Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, and the side of a building

The last lot in Brooklyn Bridge Park set aside for development is the subject of yet another showdown between activists and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. Park management has picked 14 proposals for the two towers it wants to rise on the spot, but has not revealed who the developers are, and is hamstrung from making a final pick by an ongoing lawsuit. Potentially entering the fray is Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (see #8) who during her campaign said tax proceeds from the five already-built or under-construction private buildings in the park should be enough to pay for its future, and that park honchos haven’t shown the need for the last two buildings. Instead, she suggested a ferry terminal could be a good moneymaker, but said no decisions should be made until the park opens its books.

Meanwhile, developer Toll Brothers is building a hotel and condo building called Pierhouse alongside Pier 1, and neighbors are outraged that it is blocking part of the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The Brooklyn Heights Association says this is in violation of a 2006 agreement to preserve the view, but park bigs say the view-blocking design is perfectly legal and was approved by the public during planning. Construction is still underway, but enough is done that this hulk of luxury accommodations is blotting out a beloved part of the skyline, and it is a lot harder to get buildings torn down than it is to build them, so in 2015, our advice is to get used to staring at these walls. (A reporter for the website Gawker recently took another tack and not-so-subtly suggested that its readers burn the building down.)

#11 Justin Brannan

If you aren’t already paying attention to Bay Ridge’s Justin Brannan, now is the time to start. In his mid-30s, Brannan is a fixture in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, acting as both cheerleader and coach to the in-flux area. He’s connected — Brannan is Bay Ridge Councilman Vincent Gentile’s director of communications, a small business owner, and president of the Bay Ridge Democrats. He also founded the charitable group Bay Ridge Cares. His boss is eyeing the now-vacant congressional seat formerly held by tax cheat Michael Grimm. If Gentile gets the job, Brannan could move on Gentile’s Council seat. Brannan called that a “Rube Goldberg scenario,” but we’re not ruling it out.

#10 The mega-development formerly known as Long Island College Hospital

Long Island College Hospital is closed, but it is yet to be seen exactly what kind of luxury housing is going to rise in its place, and what kind of medical service will be provided on-site.

#9 The mega-development formerly known as Atlantic Yards

Construction has rebooted at B2, the modular residential skyscraper at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street besieged throughout 2014 by delays and a contractor dispute involving allegations of design flaws, and ground has broken on a below-market-rate apartment building on Carlton Avenue. The latter building is the first to start work with Chinese-government-owned developer Greenland as a majority owner, and will be constructed using traditional building techniques, rather than the modular methods Forest City Ratner wanted for the rest of the 15-tower town. With Greenland picking up the pace of construction to meet a 2025 deadline for below-market-rate housing in the complex, there is sure to be more tension between Forest City and its newly in-the-driver’s-seat partner, and more twists and turns in this perennially convoluted planning and construction process.

#8 Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon

Longtime Brooklyn Democratic Party functionary Jo Anne Simon now has a modicum of real power as Brooklyn Heights’ assemblywoman. So how is she going to use it?

Simon made her name as a reformer in the party, pushing back against the old-boys’ club led by now-disgraced former assemblyman Vito Lopez. She won procedural changes to boost transparency within the party, but had to win the support of the machine to beat out rival Dem Pete Sikora, who had the backing of the insurgent Working Families Party and won 22.5 percent on that line in the general election despite asking people to vote Simon.

Before taking office, Simon helped draft a bill to make hospital closures more transparent in the wake of the mess surrounding the shuttering of Long Island College Hospital, but she has so far refrained from taking decisive positions in the fights over the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights library, and the building of two final towers in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

#7 Red Hook

Undaunted by the floodwaters of superstorm Sandy and the two measly bus lines that connect the waterfront neighborhood to the rest of Brooklyn, developers are looking to build big in Red Hook. And not just luxury housing. Hollywood developer Est4te Four is planning to mix that standby of new development with huge amounts of office, retail, and performance space, envisioning new space at five formerly industrial buildings — and counting — including one section with a waterfront park.

Williamsburg developer Samba Partners is bucking another real estate convention — building up — with 22 new townhouses on King Street, which are slated start selling this spring.

Sure, there is now once-every 90-minute ferry service from Fairway Market, but seriously, how are all these people supposed to get to work, whether work is Downtown or in Red Hook? We will continue trying to understand.

#6 The legacy of Charles Hynes

Upon being roundly defeated by Ken Thompson, Hynes, the 23-year district attorney hailed for inventive anti-recidivism programs, quickly saw his legacy blemished as Thompson assembled a special team to reopen Hynes’s old cases. The team has overturned one conviction after another, most recently that of Derrick Hamilton, who served 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit and was released in 2011. And in June, it was revealed that Hynes is under scrutiny for potentially criminal behavior of his own, with the release of a bombshell city report stating he may have used $200,000 in funds seized from suspects to pay a political consultant. The fallout from the revelations has already triggered the resignation of Judge Barry Kamins, who e-mails showed gave near-daily political advice to Hynes during the 2012-2013 campaign, including guidance on how to handle wrongful conviction claims. The publication of a New Yorker investigation into Hynes’s failed prosecution of Samuel Kellner, who reported sexual abuse in the Hasidic Jewish community, and whom Hynes tried to charge with extortion, further sullied Hynes’s time in office.

But reports of state and federal investigations into Hynes’s activity loom, leaving us to examine if and when the other shoe will drop, and from how far up.

#5 The Sunset Park waterfront

Cut off from the rest of Sunset Park since Robert Moses’s Gowanus Expressway went up in 1941, the harbor-side of the neighborhood has long been defined by its auto-body shops, porn stores, factories, and federal prison. All that is still there, but as new investment rakes across the borough, even this far-flung, uninviting area is seeing changes. Bush Terminal Park, a former brownfield with breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty, opened in November, ending 40 years of disuse that followed the closure of the shipping hub.

Meanwhile, the area’s big industrial hubs are getting an influx of high-end tenants, with Industry City bagging the Nets’ practice space and pleasure palace and the tech-arts workshop Eyebeam, and Brooklyn Army Terminal named as a possible home to a test-tube beef manufacturer. Also, the Sims recycling plant is powering up New York’s largest ever windmill, and eyeing other renewable energy options, making the innovation impossible to miss — from the Staten Island Ferry or the Gowanus Expressway.

The changes aren’t without controversy — a fashion incubator and a high-end chocolatier have drawn accusations of furthering gentrification — but they are certain to keep coming, and we’ll be keeping track.

#4 The Democratic National Convention

We’ve already laid out why Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio stink as 2016 convention host cities. The only question that remains is whether Democratic party planners know what’s good for them. We should find out soon.

#3 Michael Grimm’s seat

Yes, we want to see how much time if any the tax cheat and just-departed Bay Ridge congressman gets. But the race is heating up for his seat, and from the speculation and coy statements currently swirling, it looks like it is going to be a many-directional fight, with a lot of willing candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties. This should be interesting.

#2 Crummy the Pigeon

Still riding high off our readers picking him to replace lackluster Nets mascot the Brooklyn Knight and scoring a weekly Nets column in the pages of this illustrious paper, Crummy the Pigeon is the curmudgeonly sports and garbage-food critic the world needs. Luckily for the world, we are going to continue making him available. Though if he doesn’t cut back on the drinking and the Marlboro Reds, he may not be long for his rafters. To Crummy’s health!

#1 Our readers

Look, we know this reads suspiciously like the cop-out that was the 2006 Time magazine Person of the Year award, but our readers are always surprising us with their creativity, passion, antics, tomfoolery, and insight. We have no way of predicting what you all might do in the coming year, but past experience shows that many of our best story ideas come from something as simple as an e-mail, not from some public relations hack sucking down iced coffee in a cubicle in the Midtown section of Manhattan, but from actual Brooklynites who are out there chasing the dream. So keep doing what you’re doing, and if you think it’s interesting, drop us a line at editorial@cnglocal.com. Let’s make this year another one to remember.

Updated 6:31 pm, January 7, 2015
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Reasonable discourse

Roberto Gautier from Brooklyn Heights says:
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a fat target of developers like the Toll Brothers, whose Pierhouse's luxury condo/hotel is tucked under the Brooklyn Bridge and peaks a bit higher than agreed upon, according to neighborhood activitists who see Pierhouse as obstructing "iconic" views of the Brooklyn Bridge.
A look at Toll Brothers' web site reveals their business plan. It seems as if they are in a sort of partnership with Brooklyn Bridge Park's 85 acres as the "front yard" for Pierhouse. Toll Brothers' position as landlord within a city park is made possible by a generous 97-year lease which will bring the TB's a handsome income.
Jan. 7, 2015, 3:03 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I kept thinking "this list is so boring I expect to find myself on it."

Then I got to #1.
Jan. 7, 2015, 4:08 pm
Nathan Tempey (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Zing.
Jan. 7, 2015, 4:50 pm
Nathan Tempey (Brooklyn Paper) says:
I suppose that's what we get for expressing a little reader appreciation.
Jan. 7, 2015, 5:58 pm
ty from pps says:
I could live in Dumbo Heights.
Jan. 7, 2015, 7:48 pm
John from Sunset Park says:
You forgot to include Dominick Recchia.
Jan. 7, 2015, 8:32 pm
Bob from Bay Ridge says:
And that's a bad thing?
Jan. 8, 2015, 6:39 am
yo mama from the hood says:
yawn
Jan. 11, 2015, 1:32 pm
Norman Oder says:
You wrote that "Construction has rebooted at B2."

Actually, no. Nothing's happened at the site at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, the first Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park tower.

Nor is it clear whether construction of modules has resumed at the factory at the Navy Yard, now called Forest City Modular. All we know is that Forest City is re-hiring workers who were laid off and hiring new workers.
Jan. 11, 2015, 5:20 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Brannan is overrated. But he cuts a mean rug. And he can inhale doughnuts like no one else. Even had one named after him. True story.

No politicians should ever be considered "top things" until they have a proven track record. Look at the truth behind de Blasio's "animal rights" narrative in the 2013 election: the facts are that a real estate tycoon pal of de B.'s wanted the stables that the horse carriage industry occupies, which are on prime West side real estate. The real estate guy donates a huge chunk of money to de Blasio's campaign and de Blasio acts like he's a board member of PETA, when in fact de B. was actually only trying to wrest the stables away to be turned into expensive condos for his pal/donor. Then you get "activists" on board, like the Brannan fellow, to try to "push the narrative". Horse ——.

Does it matter to you that de Blasio had his 50th birthday party at Barclays and it was financed by Bruce Ratner and Forest-Ratner the mega-developer who built Barclays?

The Dems in this city are as duplicitous as the GOP. As the saying goes: "The Republicans will stab you in the front, the Democrats will stab you in the back."

Vote for neither. Find people with actual integrity. Not manufactured integrity and baby-holders trotting out homeless dogs and children with cancer to manipulate your vote. This list sucks and, in my opinion, so does Justin Brannan. 100% manufactured and groomed. Calculated to win your vote and make you "feel good" (get a council seat).

(Lest you forget: Brannan was a player at Bear Stearns and in venture capital/hedge funds - not where honest people go to make a living.)

(And his band, Indecision, is a non-entity that was similar to the tee-totaling of the PMRC and other puritans. No sex, no smoking, no drinking. Irish local yokels and other hooligans. Sort of like the Mighty Bosstones, but with less talent, if that is even possible. Catholic schoolgirls.)
April 27, 2016, 4:17 pm

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