This list literally gets harder every year, but we’ve done it again — here are the 16 people, organizations, elections, and sundry other issues to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.
16. The So So Glos
The Bay Ridge punk band is coming off a huge year touring with Conor Oberst’s pet project Desaparicidos and having one of its songs featured on Home Box Office’s mega-hit “Girls.” Now the band is back in the studio for its first full release since 2013.
15. Ample Hills Creamery
The Gowanus iced confection purveyor is on its way to becoming Brooklyn’s Ben and Jerry’s. It recently scooped up a $4-million investment from tech-industry types and a license to create “Star Wars”-branded flavors from the House of Mouse. And this year, it will open a massive new factory in Red Hook with plans to expand to grocery stores nationwide.
14. Assemblywoman Pam Harris
The former corrections officer and youth-group founder became the first black assemblywoman to represent the 46th Assembly district in November following Democrat Alec Brook-Krasny’s abrupt resignation from the post, which covers parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Coney Island.
Harris said going in that her priorities are to secure funding for the continued rehabilitation of Coney Island three years after Hurricane Sandy and to push reforms to fight the illegal home conversions plaguing her district. She comfortably won November’s special election, but will have to contest the spot again for this year’s Assembly-wide election.
13. Brooklyn’s embattled tech darlings
Recent months have been rough for some of Brooklyn’s most ballyhooed tech companies. News Corp sold its struggling Dumbo education-technology arm Amplify after firing about 500 staffers. Amplify’s neighbor Etsy’s share-price is plummeting, following the online craft e-tailer’s arrival on the stock exchange in April (an initial public offering correctly predicted by this column last year). And 3D printing pioneer Makerbot went through two rounds of layoffs, and reduced the size of its Industry City office after only moving in earlier that year, due to waning interest in the technology. Can they turn it around?
12. Liberty View Industrial Plaza
All eyes were on Sunset Park manufacturing complex Industry City in 2015, as it became home to new hipster businesses, the still-under-construction Nets training facility, and the inevitable fights over gentrification that followed. But avert your gaze a few blocks north to Liberty View Industrial Plaza for 2016, where Saks Fifth Avenue just agreed to stick the first-ever Brooklyn outlet of its Saks Off Fifth discount store, after online sales giant Amazon inked a seven-year lease there in October. Saks will join a massive outpost of Bed Bath and Beyond, and several of its other retail properties.
11. Restaurants banning tipping
Williamsburg restaurant Meadowsweet and borough restaurateur Andrew Tarlow — owner of Williamsburg’s Diner and Marlow and Sons, and Fort Greene’s Roman’s — will eliminate tipping this year, replacing gratuities with higher wages and menu prices in attempt to even out the income disparity between front-of-house staff and kitchen crews. Many eateries in Manhattan and other parts of the country have already adopted the model, albeit with mixed results — one San Francisco restaurateur reverted back to tips after struggling to retain employees.
10. Ferry tales
Mayor DeBlasio’s planned city-wide ferry expansion — which will bring at least four new stops to Brooklyn’s waterfront — won’t launch until 2017, but most of the logistics will be ironed out this year, so expect choppy seas ahead. The city still has to select an operator (who may or may not heed residents’ wishes for an additional leg to Governors Island), build all the infrastructure (ideally docks that won’t collapse like the India Street pier in 2014), and settle on a site for the Red Hook stop — on ongoing battle between residents who want it at Atlantic Basin, and the city’s preferred option on the neighborhood’s more remote southern shore. And that’s all besides continued anger that the system won’t use MetroCards or offer free transfers from other forms of transit.
9. 59th District Assembly race
The entire state legislature is up for re-election in November, but short of any resignations, the most interesting battle in Brooklyn may be in the 59th District — covering Canarsie, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, and Marine Park — which now-state Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D–Canarsie) left vacant when she joined the state Senate in November.
Democratic party boss Frank Seddio’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club has already given its nod to Persaud’s former chief of staff Jamie Williams for the gig, but an upstart could test just how much power the group still holds in its heartland — especially if the influential Caribbean bloc allied with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush) backs a rival.
Cuomo could call a special election earlier this year, but may just leave the seat open until the general election given how near it is.
8. Robert Capers
The longtime Brooklyn prosecutor just replaced now-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the borough’s top law-enforcement official, and his first big case is a doozy: prosecuting Martin Shkreli — the Sheepshead Bay-born former pharmaceutical company boss who became one of the most hated men in the country when he jacked up the price of a life-saving drug — for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme.
Capers, who comes from a family of cops, led the corruption case against disgraced former Brownsville assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. — achieving what Manhattan prosecutors could not by putting him behind bars for taking bribes.
7. Fulton Mall
Downtown doesn’t have much nightlife to speak of right now — despite the massive influx of young, moneyed residents in recent years and a few bars and eateries spilling over the border from Boerum Hill and Fort Greene — but all that could change when the City Point mall opens at Albee Square mid-year.
In addition to its retail offerings, the complex will house a seven-screen outpost of indie cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse — which serves booze and full meals to audiences and will reportedly also include a stand-alone bar — and a massive subterranean food hall featuring hip eateries (and Katz’s Delicatessen) that will stay open until the wee hours in an effort to score the post-Barclays crowd.
6. Brooklyn Public Library
Council finally approved the controversial sale and redevelopment of the Brooklyn Heights library branch after a bitter and lengthy battle with locals — now get ready for the whole thing to repeat itself in Sunset Park!
This proposal is more modest — the cash-strapped book-lending operation wants to sell its shabby Fourth Avenue branch to a developer that would tear down the single-story building and erect a larger library with 39 below-market-rate apartments on top. But the plan still has plenty of local critics, and will have to go through a lengthy public review process.
But the Sunset Park sale won’t generate any revenue, and the Heights deal will only cover $52 million of the $300 million the library system says it needs to repair its crumbling buildings. Can it come up with a more sustainable model or will more library buildings go under the hammer?
5. Coney Island
Keep an eye on the People’s Playground — the city recently announced plans to flex its beach-bod muscle by scooping up three empty lots through eminent domain in order to expand the rebounding amusement area. And political power is coalescing in the seaside nabe — Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) just got his ally Pamela Harris elected to the assembly (see 14), and Borough President Adams showed his support for Sodom by the Sea by throwing New Year’s celebrations there and by publicly challenging Mayor DeBlasio to clean up the Boardwalk’s costumed characters as he boots them from Times Square.
4. Brooklyn Museum
The Prospect Heights cultural institution raised eyebrows last year when it appointed Anne Pasternak — an arts administrator with lots of experience in big public installations but little in running an art museum — as its new director, following the resignation of 17-year honcho Arnold Lehman.
The newcomer got off to a rocky start when local artists protested the museum hosting a real-estate conference in November — organized before she took the reins — but scored a big coup the following month by nabbing long-time Guggenheim Museum curator Nancy Spector as her deputy and new chief curator.
This year’s programming is yet to be announced, but Pasternak has already set about making over the permanent collection — she is currently ripping out all of the garish decor in the museum’s Egyptian galleries.
3. 7th Congressional District race
The June race for Democratic nomination in New York’s 7th Congressional District may divide voters along racial and geographic lines. Democratic Manhattan Chinatown stalwart Yungman Lee is challenging 12-term Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, also a Democrat, for the mostly-Brooklyn-and-slivers-of-Manhattan-and-Queens district, which includes Chinatowns in Sunset Park and on the other side of the East River and large swaths of Latino-heavy Brooklyn neighborhoods. Velazquez took 82 percent of the vote when attorney Jeff Kurzon made a primary challenge in 2014, but Lee is hoping to foment anti-incumbent angst against a candidate he says “does not represent the district’s diversity.”
2. Brooklyn Bridge Park
At the Brooklyn Heights end of Brooklyn’s Front Yard, local activists and pols will continue to fight the final towers planned for Pier 6 — which park honchos claim are essential for funding the green space, but critics say are neither needed nor wanted.
The state’s economic development agency will vote on the latest incarnation of the Pier 6 plans in the fall, but could still demand a new study on how the new buildings would impact the surrounding neighborhood before proceeding, which would significantly delay construction.
At the Dumbo end of the park, activists’ fears will be writ large as much of the park’s private development opens for business, including luxury lodging 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, condominium building One John Street, and Empire Stores — a massive mall inside the shell of old coffee warehouse.
Meanwhile, the mystery of why Squibb Park Bridge is still off-limits well over a year after park bigwigs closed the bouncy span for “repairs” remains unsolved.
1. Brooklyn Paper Radio
Okay, so technically, Brooklyn Paper Radio is not one to “watch” in the new year, but it is something to listen to. The new weekly podcast — live every Monday at 4:30 pm on BrooklynPaper.com — features Brooklyn news-makers, rascals, scoundrels and, yes, journalists talking about the issues of the day. Better still, it’s hosted by two of the biggest names in community journalism: Brooklyn Paper Editor Emeritus Gersh Kuntzman and current Editor in Chief Vince DiMiceli. Each week, these titans of talent deliver an entertaining look at the greatest place on earth: Brooklyn, U.S.A.