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Year in Review: All the best stories from 2019 - Brooklyn Paper

Year in Review: All the best stories from 2019

Well that was fast! 2019 is nearly over, but it feels like just yesterday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo flexed his executive powers and threw out more than three years of planning to keep the L-train from shutting down. Of course, Cuomo’s 11th-hour ploy to avert the L-pocalypse was just three days into the year, which would sadly come to be marked by some grim milestones, including the longest ever shutdown of the federal government, the resurgence of the measles virus in the from of an outbreak affecting Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, and record setting cycling fatalities. But it wasn’t all bad! Mayor de Blasio announced his “Green Wave” expansion of the city’s cycling network, a senior friendly racket game called pickleball became the sensation of southern Brooklyn, and state Sen. Andrew Gounardes made good on his predecessor’s promise to find funding for much-needed repairs to Marine Park. And topping it all off, Congress closed out the year with a vote to nix the Verrazzano Bridge’s one-way toll, which is expected to ease traffic for long suffering Bay Ridgites heading to Manhattan, and generate more than $10 million in additional annual revenue for the state. 

 

January

Shore things and sunken dreams! City officials announced that Coney Island would receive a long sought-after stop on the city’s ferry service as part of a new express route to lower Manhattan! Locals hailed the decision as “another great victory” for the People’s Playground, since the ferry would cut the Manhattan commute down to around 40 minutes. Officials were still debating where to place the ferry terminal, but had set their sights on W. 33rd Street and Bayview Ave. by Coney Island Creek. Around the same time, Canarsie straphangers learned their seaside community would not be getting its own ferry stop, with officials claiming exisiting public transit networks get residents to Manhattan faster than a ferry would and the pier’s restrictive parking rules would make it difficult to bring a ferry stop there.

Cance-Ld: Governor Andrew Cuomo abruptly called off the year-in-the-making L-train shutdown on Jan. 3, three months ahead of the L-pocalypse, which would have shut down service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 15 months to allow for repairs to the tunnel beneath the East River, which suffered severe flood damage during Superstorm Sandy. While the announcement came as a relief to many northern Brooklynites, some residents who had already relocated in anticipation of the shutdown were none-too-pleased with Cuomo’s 11th-hour power move. 

Feeding the Furloughed: Food Bank of New York doled out hundreds of care packages at the Barclays Center to federal workers on furlough in the longest government shutdown in US history on Jan. 22. The do-gooders handed out dried food, milk, meat, vegetables, and toiletries to more than 200 people — many of whom were Transportation Security Administration employees. Meanwhile, the government shutdown forced a Gowanus-based nonprofit— Rebuilding Together — to cancel a technical education program geared towards job-seekers from low-income communities, and a cleanse of the filthy Gowanus canal was delayed yet again after Federal Environmental Protection Agency leaders were furloughed. 

Prosecutor perishes: Former District Attorney Charles Hynes passed away at a hospice-care center in Florida on Jan. 29 at 83 years old. Hynes served as the borough’s top prosecutor for 24 years, taking office in 1990 and retaining the seat until 2014, where he cracked down on domestic-abuse crimes and formed his reputation as a champion for abused women. But Hynes’ legacy was tarnished by his politically motivated prosecution of Brooklyn lawyer John O’Hara for voter fraud, and allegations that he used $219,000 in seized funds to pay a personal media consultant. 

What a drag: The parents of an 11-year-old drag queen suffered constant harassment in the form of death threats and near-daily visits by city social workers after a video of the youngster performing at a Williamsburg gay bar went viral. Coverage of the performance by right-wing publications spurred critics to file more than 150 complaints of child abuse with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, which spurred the visits from social workers. 

 

February 

That stinks! The citys neighborhood-wide rezoning of Gowanus got off to a rough start in February, when officials from the Department of City Planning and other agencies came under fire for providing a lackluster presentation to concerned locals, who were forced to wait in long lines to obtain information at booths setup at the auditorium in PS 32. Frustrations boiled over when attendees burst into chants, demanding the city make repairs to the neighborhoods crumbling public housing complexes, whose residents make up a quarter of the community, while environmental groups called on officials to do more to address the pollution along the noxious Gowanus Canal. 

Duck, duck, goose! Subway riders on the Q-line were unexpectedly diverted to an express route between Prospect Park and Kings Highway on Feb. 4 because of a goose shacking up on the tracks near Parkside Avenue. The feathered friend waddled onto Coney Island-bound tracks where it hung out for over an hour before cops successfully rescued the bird from possible danger.  

Close call: A young man survived a bullet to the head when he was shot outside a Flatlands diner on the afternoon of Feb. 17. The victim did not see the shooter, who fled from the scene in a white car, according to an eyewitness. 

Arrested development: Construction of a new cultural space at the base of Fort Greene’s 32-story 300 Ashland residential tower stalled on Feb. 20, while the city’s Economic Development Corporation hashed out a deal with developer Two Trees. As part of plans the city approved in 2013 for the building, the former publicly-owned parking lot — bounded by Flatbush and Lafayette avenues, as well as Ashland and Hanson places — was supposed to house a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, a home for the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, space for African-arts group 651 Arts, and Brooklyn Academy of Music cinemas, along with commercial tenants Whole Foods and the Apple Store, which opened in 2017 and 2018 respectively. 

Cold Case: The feds opened an investigation into the management of a federal prison in Sunset Park after over 1,600 inmates were left without heat in the dead of winter, sparking weeks of protests outside the prison. The federally operated detention center was later sued by the Federal Defenders of New York for subjecting prisoners to “inhumane” conditions when it failed to restore heat and power after a Jan. 27 electrical outage. 

Sail La Vie: Party boats were officially banned from docking in Sheepshead Bay in February, as part of an effort to eliminate the rowdy crowds that took over the sleepy seaside neighborhood during the summer. Under the new legislation, the unruly watercraft can only dock at Sheepshead piers while not in use, not pick up or drop off passengers. 

 

March

Turning a corner: The borough’s St. Patrick’s Day parade formally welcomed LGBTQ marchers for the first time in the march’s 44-year history. The organizers’ decision to permit a more queer marchers came years after leaders of the city’s St. Paddy’s Day march through Manhattan invited the Lavender and Green Alliance, an LGBTQ advocacy group, to join that procession in 2015. 

Whipped out of town: Dominatrix Charlotte Taillor chose to relocate her Bed-Stuy pleasure dungeon after an intolerant neighbor vilified her during a months-long harassment campaign. Taillor decided to pack up her adults-only classroom, called the Taillor Collective, after her neighbor Laurie Miller attacked the business and tried to get the city to shut it down out of an admitted prejudice against practitioners of the BDSM lifestyle. While Taillor announced her intention to move in March, she would actually leave until the following month, when the owner of Lift NYC Movers offered to transport the the sex educator’s dungeon furntiture free of charge. The dominatrix found a new dungeon located on a more tolerant block somewhere in Brooklyn, but asked that’s location not be revealed. 

On the lamb: Drivers on the Gowanus Expressway made room for a wayward baby lamb that found her way onto the Queens-bound side of the highway in Sunset Park on March 13 — likely fleeing a bloody death at the hands of a butcher. The lost little lamb was later transferred to an animal sanctuary in New Jersey to live out the rest of her days grazing on green pastures and rubbing cloven feet with other four-legged asylum seekers. 

Clay it ain’t so: Beloved Park Slope pottery store The Clay Pot closed in March after 50 years in the neighborhood. The shop had been a Slope standby since 1969, but was forced to close due to poor sales that owner Tara Silberberg ascribed to changing demographics. Silberberg said closing the Brooklyn location would allow her to focus on her like-named Manhattan shop, and she hoped loyal customers would follow her to the distant isle. 

 

April 

Bad pot luck! The state Legislature approved its $175 million budget without including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to create a legal weed market in New York on April 1. The state’s chief executive attributed the setback to disagreements over how the drug would be taxed, where the money would go , and safety concerns raised by law enforcement and constituents. Marijuana legalization would bring in a whopping $300 million in annual tax revenue over the coming years, Cuomo previously promised.

Guilty: A jury convicted 22-year-old Brooklyn man Chanel Lewis of murdering Queens jogger Karina Vetrano on April 2. Lewis was found guilty of brutally beating and choking Vetrano who went out for a run a few blocks from her 84th Street home in August of 2016 and cops arrested Lewis six months later after recovering his DNA from the scene.  

Burnt out: Dozens of Sunset Park families were left without a home after a fire gutted the top floor of their 44th Street apartment complex on April 3. Residents were forced to wait for more than a day to regain access to their units, unsure of the damage to their apartments and property, and unaware if their pets had escaped the blaze as they awaited for firefighters and building inspectors to allow them inside. The blaze erupted from the six-story apartment building’s top floor and injured 32 people in all, including nearly two dozen firefighters who suffered burns, sprains and debilitating smoke inhalation.

Measles outbreak: Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a public health emergency on April 9 at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Williamsburg Branch following an outbreak of the measles virus in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities, where nearly 300 people fell ill. The mayor’s statement required residents of four Williamsburg zip codes to seek vaccination or alternately face Department of Health violations and fines costing as much as $1,000 per unvaccinated person.  

Steely span: Brooklyn Bridge Park honchos unveiled renderings in April that show the future of the embattled Squibb Bridge. The span,  connecting Brooklyn Heights to the waterfront lawn will one day be reborn as a sturdy steel pathway, with a $6.5 Million price tag. The steel rebirth of the walkway will be just another chapter in its long, expensive saga. The old wooden bridge, which cost taxpayers $4 Million and was long off-limits for safety concerns, was demolished in October to make way for its hopefully safer second coming. 

Cold cuts: Park Slope Key Food butchers found themselves locked out of work amidst union negotiations with the grocers corporate overlords, who replaced the unionized workers with scabs while they picketed out front. The workers were locked out as punishment for picketing during their lunch hour, after grocery magnate Benjamin Levine failed to show up to the bargaining table with the butchers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342. 

 

May

Flooded with cash: The city revealed plans to reconstruct a huge portion of Gerritsen Beach in May, seeking to undo the damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to the neighborhoods already pitted roads. The $6.6 Million project would also enhance the area’s storm preparedness.

Rest in peace: Former Sheepshead Bay Councilman Lew Fidler died on May 5 at the age of 62. The longtime Democratic political operative, who represented Bergen Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Canarsie in Council from 2002 until 2013, was found unconscious in Queens on May 4, and died of natural causes, according to the medical examiner.

Disgraced: A federal judge sentenced State Sen. John Sampson (D–East Flatbush) to five years in prison for stealing $440,000 while working as a court-appointed referee for foreclosure proceedings. The senator, who was found guilty for embezzling the money in 2015, had served as the senate minority leader and chairman of the Ethics Committee

Setting sail: Singaporean conglomerate SUTL Group had a soft opening of its private marina ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina at Brooklyn Bridge Park on May 8. The pier marked the Southeast Asian company’s first such venture in the US, on eight acres of waterfront between piers 4 and 5 at a price tag of more than $28 million with space to berth up to 100 boats, ranging in size from dinghies to 200-foot vessels and offer space for casual captains at the first new marina in decades. 

New face: City Councilwoman Farah Louis won the special election for the southern Brooklyn council seat vacated by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on May 14. Louis — who served as Williams’ deputy chief of staff for six years but was passed over for his endorsement—  took home 42 percent of the vote against two other candidates, Monique Chandler-Waterman and Silvia Hinds-Radix. 

No shelter: Park Slope residents reacted with fury to plans for a new homeless shelter that would serve families on Fourth Avenue at a meeting in May. Locals shouted down and booed city officials and nonprofit shelter operators, who they accused of bailing out developers with pricey city contracts. Many Slopers expressed concern about the shelter affecting property values in the ritzy, liberal neighborhood, leading some to accuse them of being faux-progressives. 

Toxic tides: Toxic blue-green algae infested Prospect Park in late May, forcing locals to take extra precaution to avoid the hazardous material — which can give you a rash, and even kill furry canines, according to officials with the State Department of Environmental Conservation. This infestation marked the fifth consecutive summer that the algae was spotted in Brooklyn’s Backyard. The substance lives relatively dormant in Prospect Park Lake during most of the year, but blooms during the summer — causing a blue-green tint to appear on the water’s surface. 

No-moratorium: Utility company National Grid instituted a months-long moratorium on new gasoline customers in Brooklyn, Queens, and parts of Long Island in May after state regulators nixed a plan to build a massive pipeline off the coast of Coney Island. Hundreds of customers were left without gas — including would-be businesses that couldn’t open —  because of the power struggle between Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the British-based utility, which operates under a state-granted monopoly. National Grid eventually caved, agreeing to hook up new customers in late November — and pay a hefty fine to affected businesses.

 

June:

LaBelle of the ball: Legendary gospel singer Patti LaBelle kicked off Bric Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell on June 4. Locals waited in massive lines to catch the iconic American singer’s concert — which was the first in the series of summer concerts hosted by the organization, and was attended by a number of high-profile politicos, like Council members Brad Lander and Laurie Cumbo, and First Lady Chirlane McCray. 

The Brooklyn Way: Rapper Biggie Smalls was honored on June 10 with the co-naming of St. James Place as “Christopher ‘Notorious B.I.G’ Wallace Way.” The late hip-hop artist grew up on the very block — between Gates Avenue and Fulton Street — which now bears his name. A number of music fans, history buffs, and local politicians attended the unveiling ceremony for the late rapper — who was fatally shot in 1997 at the age of 24. 

Renter rights: Brooklyn renters celebrated a landmark agreement on June 14 that limited landlords’ ability to jack up rent and deregulate rent-stabilized apartments, among other provisions favoring tenants. Political leaders of both the state’s legislative chamber lauded the deal as historic victory for tenants across the state. Housing advocates — spearheaded by state Sen. Julia Salazar — began pushing lawmakers to pass nine “universal rent control” measures following the November election. 

Hammer beats gavel: On June 14, former Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman was found not guilty in Brooklyn Supreme Court on charges of using bogus documents to give himself pay-raises from the city which totaled more than $16,000 annually. If found guilty, the civic leader could have faced up to seven years in prison for using the signature stamps of two CB6 chairmen to issue himself four salary bumps over a three-year span. But Hammerman maintained that he had been authorized to use the signatures for community board business — a defense the jury accepted.  

Hank’s closes — again: Downtown Brooklyn dive bar Hank’s Saloon shut down its Adams Street location on June 16 because the new landlords of Hill Country Food Park — the food hall where the watering hole had operated for five months — gave away their spot to another business. The closure marked the second time that the famed saloon had shuttered in a handful of months, after closing their original Boerum Hill location at the end of 2018 and moving into the food hall — which kicked them out in favor of more well-known brands.  

Bye, bye barber: Legendary Brighton Beach barber Jack Skolnick hung up his shears after more than 50 years in the neighborhood on June 29. He opened up ‘Jack’s Barber Shop’ in 1964 and continued cutting the hair of many of his earliest clients, some of whom have been visiting him since he worked in his first barbershop as a teenager. Many remember Jack’s Barber Shop as an unofficial meeting place where neighbors and old friends would gossip and discuss sports.  

 

July

Shots fired: NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan slammed Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez at a Manhattan press conference on July 8 for putting gunmen back on the street. The police chief specifically criticized the prosecutor’s youth diversion program where offenders between the ages of 14 to 22 who plead guilty to weapons possession charges can partake in an 18- to 24-month educational program in place of incarceration. The district attorney’s office fired back that instead of spending their time criticizing the program, the Police Department should focus on closing open cases. 

Time Out! City Health Department shut down Time Out Market on July 10 after inspectors discovered a communal fridge shared by most of its eateries was too warm. The walk-in fridge was found operating at a balmy 58 degrees — 17 degrees over the 41-degree threshold set by the federal Food and Drug Administration to prevent the growth of bacteria. Inspectors ordered the fridge to be taken offline, which necessitated the 14 vendors using it to close down, and by extension shuttered the entire food hall. 

Powerless: A punishing heat wave and thunderstorm left thousands of south Brooklynites without power in July, forcing those in the dark to sweat it out without air conditioning as temperatures creeped above 90 degrees. Residents in Canarsie, Marine Park, Mill Basin, and parts of Flatbush suffered worst — with locals describing chaotic car crashes as traffic signals remained dormant throughout the night. The utility company’s handling of the blackouts lead to calls from some elected officials to consider city control of the power grid, claiming Con Edison was not adequately prepared to handle emergencies. 

Pedal power: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an aggressive expansion of the city’s bike lane network on July 25. The $58.4 Million plan requires the city install 80 miles of protected bike lanes per year, with several priority zones falling in Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, East Flatbush, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The announcement came amid a bloody year for cyclists, who suffered 29 fatalities citywide, and 18 in Brooklyn. 

Brash beetle: Scientists discovered a new species of beetle with a unique genitalia — right in Greenwood Cemetery! The bizarre bug was proven to be a unique specimen of the genome Agrilus, a family of about 3,000 species. Not everyone was pleased with the discovery though, cemetery tree huggers are concerned the European native could cause grave damage to the boneyards stately old trees, and should be eradicated if possible. 

 

August

Slip up! A Williamsburg basketball court became dangerously slippery after a Looney Tunes-inspired paint job made it unsafe to play on Aug. 23. To address locals’ concerns, the city’s Parks Department days later added a layer of clear paint mixed with silica sand after local ballers complained that the paint job — a public-private partnership with cartoon studio Warner Bros. — created a slipping hazard. The city also widened the court, repainted its lines to better suit the court, and replaced its backboards from distracting cartoon-covered surfaces to clear boards. 

Not O-KKK! Borough President Eric Adams put his foot in it when he compared a critic on social media to the Ku Klux Klan. Twitter user CorruptBrooklyn had slammed the beep and local Councilman Stephen Levin for their weak stance on the rampant placard parking abuse in Downtown Brooklyn on Aug. 27. Adams shot back, likening his detractor to people who “hid themselves with white hoods,” and the internet reacted swiftly to condemn the Beep’s bone headed move. 

Bridging the gap: The Kosciuszko Bridge’s decades-in-the-works second span opened on Aug. 29. The cable-stayed bridge for the Brooklyn-bound side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was ready for a fresh stream of traffic, more than two years after the grand opening of its Queens-bound side. The $873 million state project also included a pedestrian and bike path, and replaced the original 1939 built span, which was dismantled after the first section’s completion in 2017. 

Pond rescue: The NYPD brought out the big guns to rescue an allegedly “emotionally disturbed” man from Prospect Park’s shallow lake. Scuba cops rappelled into the water from a helicopter to reach the lone swimmer, who was cast away in the manmade lake that reaches a maximum depth of about 7 feet. The huge police presence brought a summers day in Brooklyn’s Backyard to a standstill as the man was hauled ashore before being rushed to Methodist Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. 

Assembly corruption: A staffer for Assemblyman Felix Ortiz was arrested for allegedly embezzling funds from the Sunset Park pols campaign in August, before a jury found him guilty in September. The staffer, Maruf Alam, served Ortiz’s office in several different roles, including chief of staff. According to a federal complaint, Alam filed false disclosure forms with the New York State Board of Elections, and cut several checks for himself while serving as the campaigns treasurer. 

 

September

Pickleball: The paper shed light on the athletic sensation sweeping southern Brooklyn — pickleball! The senior friendly sport was introduced to the area by Mill Basin resident Bob Spieler, who picked up the racket sport while spending time in Florida. Upon his return to Brooklyn, Spieler claimed he was surprised the snowbird state’s sport of choice hadn’t made it’s way to Kings County, so he joined forces with the Marine Park Active Adults and Senior Center to begin hosting pickleball matches at Marine Park’s paddleboard courts every Friday morning. 

Child Victims Act: Eighty-seven victims of childhood sex abuse filed suits in Brooklyn Supreme Court in the first month since state lawmakers open up a yearlong lookback window — known as the Child Victims Act. The law enacted on Aug. 14 gives child sex abuse victims a renewed chance to seek justice against their abusers regardless of statute of limitations. In September, 10 victims filed separate lawsuits against the Catholic Church’s Brooklyn Diocese and multiple Brooklyn-based clergyman, claiming they were abused between 1950 and 1980.

F express: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority debuted a controversial express version the F-train on Sept. 16. The agency scheduled two Manhattan-bound and two Coney Island-bound express trains in the mornings and evenings, respectively, skipping six stations between Jay Street-MetroTech and Church Avenue. The move divided the borough along north-south lines, with southern residents happy to have a quicker commute to the distant Isle and their northern counterparts angry because the speedier shuttles skip many stops in brownstone neighborhoods that are already at capacity during rush hours. 

Triple digits: Sheepshead Bay resident Rosalie Davi celebrated her 100th birthday with friends, family and a beer on Sept. 22. The party featured a disk jockey, a Frank Sinatra impersonator, and custom made hats and mugs featuring a cartoon version of the southern Brooklyn centenarian, who came into the world the same year the US banned the sale of alcohol, the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series, and women gained the right to vote. 

Dog poop: The Gowanus Canal showed higher levels of microscopic poop following three storms last spring, which one local water tester attributed to dog poop flushing into the putrid waterway via a new drainage system designed to keep sewage from further polluting Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory. Reporter Kevin Duggan and Eymund Diegel — a member of the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, which watches over the waterway’s federal cleanup — took their lives into their own hands during a weekly morning sampling session of the water on Sept. 26. 

Not Golden: Former state Sen. Marty Golden welched on an election year promise to allocate $4 million for repairs to a deteriorating Marine Park playground.  Golden promised the funds on the eve of a hotly contested general election against Democrat Andrew Gounardes, but the funds never materialized more than 10 months after the one-time pol lost relection . Despite multiple sources claiming they could find no trace of the money, a spokesman for Senate Republicans said the Parks Department failed to fill out Golden’s filed forms in order to authorize the funding. 

 

October

Radio silence: A non-profit media company abruptly shut down the beloved, Brooklyn-based radio station WBAI-FM on Oct. 7, firing most of the station’s staff and changing the locks on its Boerum Hill offices — and setting off a messy legal battle between the station’s operators and the California-based parent company. The media company, Pacifica, claimed it was forced to shut down WBAI because of its overwhelming debt, while the station’s staff charged that Pacifica was exaggerating the station’s debts in order to seize and sell its valuable FM signal.  

Holy war: More than 1,000 Catholic marchers took to the streets on Oct. 9 to march for the beloved Brooklyn-based saint, Mother Cabrini. The protest came two months after the Mayor’s Wife, Chirlane McCray, snubbed the saint in her statue-building initiative, when she chose to build statues for seven other historic women despite Cabrini’s overwhelming victory during the public nomination process. Outrage over the snub soon became a citywide kerfuffle, with Italian-American actor Chazz Palminteri calling out the Mayor on live public radio. Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped into the debate on Columbus Day, when he announced his plans to create a 19-person committee dedicated to building a statue for Mother Cabrnini. 

Judged: Kings County Supreme Court Judge Sylvia Ash was arrested on Oct. 11 for alleged obstruction of justice related to an investigation into multibillion-dollar financial services company Municipal Credit Union. Authorities said the credit union leadership stole millions of dollars from the company, and Ash — who served as its Chair of the Board — attempted to help them evade authorities by destroying her cell phone and providing false testimony to investigators. 

Gambling den shot out: Four people were fatally shot and three others were injured in a mass shooting at an underground casino in Crown Heights on Oct. 12. Police responded to a call about the shooting at Utica Avenue between Dean and Michael Griffith streets at just before 7 am, where they found four deceased victims. The incident sparked an outcry from the local community who held a vigil on the following Monday, where several politicians — like Borough President Eric Adams — claimed the incident showed how the county was “dismissive of mass shootings in communities of color.”

Industry City rezoning: Executives kicked off a controversial plan to rezone of Industry City in October, setting up a prolonged fight with various community stakeholders over the fate of massive industrial complex — particularly Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who vowed to kill the proposal if Industry City bigwigs failed to meet a number of his demands. Among other things, Menchaca wanted the additional 1.45 million square feet of space that would result from the 12-year, $1 billion redevelopment to include space for a public school, and remove hotels and some retail space. Industry city reps quickly agreed, but then later submitted his application on Oct. 28 without including Menchaca’s requests — which is currently under review from various city agencies. 

Artsy: District Attorney Eric Gonzalez launched a program that would allow Brooklynites charged of misdemeanor offenses to forfeit their day in court and repent for their crimes with classes at the Brooklyn Museum. Under the scheme, defendants will undergo a two-hour group course led by artists who specialize in social justice-themed work, where they will analyze and discuss artistic installations from the museum — and then create their own art in response to the experience.

 

November

Back on air: Listener-funded radio station WBAI resumed broadcast on Nov. 7 after a month-long closure. The Boerum Hill station came back on the air after a state judge ordered its parent company — California-based nonprofit Pacifica Foundation — to lay off its attempts to silence the channel. Pacifica executive John Vernile ordered the station closed on Oct. 7, claiming the non-for-profit could no longer support WBAI and its multimillion-dollar debt, which led to protest from hosts and listeners. 

New money: State and city leaders teamed up to fund $11.1 million in renovations for Marine Park — after money promised by former State Senator Marty Golden failed to materialize after he lost his election in November 2018. The funds — announced on Nov. 19 — will pay for much-needed renovations at the playground marked by peeling paint and pools of stagnant water. The $11.1 million comes from State Senator Andrew Gounardes, City Councilman Alan Maisel and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and more funding is expected to roll in once the city budget is finalized. 

Broken water main: A water main ruptured in Sunset Park on Nov. 24, causing a 30-foot wide crater to open and spewing massive amounts of water throughout the nearby roadways for several hours. The northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 44th Street was swiftly swamped, and nearby vehicles were submerged under several feet of water — forcing Police Department tow trucks to move them to accommodate first responders’ attempts coral the water main.  

Seeing red: The Prospect Park Zoo’s cutest new residents made their public debut in November, when the newest batch of red panda cubs strutted their stuff in the public eye for the first time. The rouge tinted raccoons were born over the summer and cared for by their mother in their indoor den until they were ready to explore their enclosure, and they did not disappoint. 

 

December

Pizza de résistance: A Greenpoint pizzeria owner cooked up a cheesy homage to Maurizio Cattelan’s now-infamous piece “Comedian,” which was literally a banana duct taped to a wall that sold for $120,000 at a Miami gallery on Dec. 7. Fornino owner Michael Ayoup duct-taped a margherita pizza pie to his pizzeria’s wall asking for a meager $100,000 to make it yours. 

Williamsburg beachfront: Developers unveiled plans on Dec. 12 for two massive skyscrapers along with new beaches and parkland planned for the Williamsburg waterfront. Two Trees Management want to erect the 650- and 600-foot towers at a former industrial fuel-oil-storage once owned by Con Edison which the firm had purchased the day prior. The development will house a YMCA featuring a pool on its first floor. Of it’s 1,000 residential units, 250 will be reserved for apartment-seekers making between 40-60 percent of the city’s area median income. 

Both ways: US Congress passed long-awaited legislation to reinstate split tolls on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on Dec. 17. The move will allow the MTA — the agency governing charges on the span — to charge drivers head in both directions along the span at half the current rate. The bridge has had a federally-mandated one-way toll since the 1980s, with the charge currently at $19, with discounts for E-ZPass users and residents of the Rock. MTA chief Pat Foye estimates this move will produce between $10-15 million in additional annual revenue for the cash-strapped transit agency. 

Empire on Lincoln: Sisters Ana Prince and Brenda Castellanos opened their third restaurant in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in December — on the same block as their first two! Their third venture, Antojitos del Patron, will focus on traditional Mexican dishes, as opposed to their first restaurant Taqueria el Patron, which serves up California style Mexican grub across the street. 

New Years Destitution: Residents of a Bedford-Stuyvesant homeless shelter were forced to pack their bags and move to other shelters in the city’s system, after the shelter was “flipped” to accommodate homeless men with mental health issues. Shelter residents say it’s just another chapter in the Department of Homeless Services web of cruel bureaucracy, while neighbors and elected officials claim the change was dropped on their head with no warning, giving them little time to prepare for a new element in the neighborhood and say goodbye to the women of the shelter. 

 

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