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“The pain caused by Bernard Madoff will be lasting and felt by a great many people. There can be little doubt that the method by which he used his Jewish identity to worm his way into the confidence of many Jewish investors and charities will be among the most memorable aspects of his villainy. But those concerned about the future of American Jewry have far more pressing worries than the money Madoff stole and lost or the ammunition he might have given to anti-Semites. The real question is whether, at a time when resources are growing relatively scarce, the American Jewish community will finally take the full measure of the threat to its long-term survival and husband its straitened resources to address that threat openly, honestly, and effectively.”

(via Commentary)

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savethebrooklynbridge1In a recent editorial, “A Con Grows In B’klyn,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, like The Brooklyn Paper before it, voiced its support for the controversial 18-story residential building and public middle school that opponents argue will forever block views of the historic Brooklyn Bridge.  But unlike The Brooklyn Paper, which published a measured, point-by-point rebuttal to critics of the project, Post writer Steve Cuozzo reveled in denouncing what he called the “farcical arguments” and “blatantly bogus claims” of the “cranky opposition.”

Singled out for particular abuse were City Councilman David Yassky, the New York Times, and the organization “Save the Brooklyn Bridge” which Cuozzo accused of printing and distributing misleading and “fake” images of the planned tower.

[The best and most up-to-date chronicling of the DUMBO Dock Street Project, including local opinion (pro and con), can be found at DumboNYC.com.]

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guttman-space“You may feel as if you’d stepped into a quirky 19th-century museum, but that’s not how Mr. [Peter] Guttman, a travel photographer, sees the densely packed four walls, floor and ceiling of his family’s living room. His meticulously organized collection of rare folk art and handmade tools, toys, weapons, textiles, baskets, ceramics, etc., dedicated to the memory of extinct or nearly-so ways of life and assembled as snugly as a jigsaw puzzle, is ‘a mirror of my personal life,’ he said, ‘a diary of global travels.'” (Audio Slide Show) (via NY Times)

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“Milton Parker, who brought long lines and renown to the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan with towering pastrami sandwiches and a voluble partner who kibitzed with common folk and celebrities alike, died in Queens on Friday. He was 90 and lived in Manhattan. . . .

‘In the history of delicatessens, Milton Parker’s Carnegie Deli caused more heartburn to the Jewish world than anything I’ve ever heard of,’ Freddie Roman, the veteran borscht belt comedian, said this week on the savethedeli Web site. ‘His pastrami sandwich was incredibly much too large for human consumption.’” (via NY Times)

[Parker was born the same year as my father and both grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Parker’s passing reminds me of my father’s frequent boasts of having served in the same Army battalion as the owner of the Pastrami King, the venerable Queens Boulevard delicatessen that my father proudly referred to as the “Carnegie of Queens.”]

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“The Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village, which is believed to be the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country, will close on March 29, its owner announced on Tuesday, citing “the current economic crisis.” The announcement came nearly five years after the store was about to close, only to be given a last-minute reprieve when a new owner purchased it.”

(via NY Times)

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The New York Times ran an obituary yesterday about Joseph Ades, “the white-haired man with the British accent, the expensive European suits and shirts,” who had been a fixture among the vendors at the Greenmarket in Manhattan’s Union Square. I was drawn to the article not because of a remembered encounter with Ades but because of my interest in the legal obstacles facing street vendors, often immigrants and people of color, in New York City. In the Times’ obit, David Hughes, the operations manager at the Greenmarket, noted that Mr. Ades conducted his business on the fringes of the market “because he never obtained a permit to do business there, and if he staked out a spot too close to the vendors, someone would complain and security guards would be alerted.” Although Ades managed to persist through this wink-wink arrangement, most street vendors are not so fortunate.

New York’s Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that serves “New York City’s most vulnerable residents through a combination of direct legal service, systemic advocacy, community education and political organizing,” several years ago established the “Street Vendor Project” to assist vendors who have been victims of New York’s aggressive “quality of life” crackdown (vendors have been denied access to licenses, restricted from streets closed to them at the urging of powerful business groups, or penalized with onerous fines for minor violations).

The most successful of the project’s public fundraisers is the “Vendy Awards,” a juried competition between five or six of New York’s best “street chefs,” with the winners determined by the attending public (who pay for the pleasure of sampling the various fare – all proceeds going to support the project’s work) and a panel of food “experts.” This past fall, the judges at the fourth annual event, held at the Tobacco Warehouse in DUMBO, included well-known food writer and journalist Calvin Trillin.

As to Mr. Ades (R.I.P.), his story, as told in the obituary, is a romantic one, to be sure, but better to ask almost any New York City vendor for his or her story if you want the real word on the street.

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I LEGO N.Y.

lego-taxiAfter 11 years in New York, illustrator Christoph Niemann moved to Berlin with his wife and young sons. “During the cold and dark Berlin winter days, I spend a lot of time with my boys in their room. And as I look at the toys scattered on the floor, my mind inevitably wanders back to New York.” (via NY Times)

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dockstreetrendering“Opponents of a controversial residential tower proposed to rise next to the Brooklyn Bridge brought their case to Borough President Markowitz on Tuesday night, bitterly describing developer Jed Walentas’s project as bad public policy and a disastrous way to treat the fabled and legendary span.” (via The Brooklyn Paper

[Notable among the opposition was two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough whose 1972 history of the Brooklyn Bridge, “The Great Bridge,” remains, alongside Alan Trachtenberg’s “Brooklyn Bridge: Fact and Symbol” one of the essential texts for understanding the cultural context of the bridge’s construction. A letter from McCullough was read by a representative from the Simon & Schuster publishing house.]

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In the years since the felling of the World Trade Center towers, the Brooklyn Bridge has taken on an increasing symbolic importance to New Yorkers. The bridge is now used as a backdrop for almost every local television news broadcast while the adjacent state and city parks along the East River in DUMBO, Brooklyn are regularly used as settings for fashion and other advertising photography and for television shows of various stripes. The relationship between developers, preservationists and those favoring the construction of a new middle school, is a contentious one that likely won’t be resolved any time soon. Even if the proposed development gains the necessary approvals, it is not clear when, or if, the project will ever be completed. One need look no further than the oft-delayed and scaled-back plans for the Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn to know that the battle to preserve the sanctity of the Brooklyn Bridge will be a long one.

Wondering if a New School in Brooklyn Is Worth Blocking the View (via New York Times)

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Brooklyn Redux

 A year ago August, Beth and I bought a condo — a “pied-a-terre” — in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood known by the Disney-esque acronym, “DUMBO” (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Having returned to my roots (sort of), albeit part-time, after 26 years of happy exile in New England (I was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Forest Hills, Queens; and we’ll continue to maintain a home in Northampton, Massachusetts), I’m intending to do some writing about my re-discovery of the borough — and city — of my childhood where, as fate of course would have it, both my adult children now reside. As is often the case when I promise myself to get serious about my writing, we’ll see.

(Full photo)

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