New York Nooks

Covering NYC and the Arts

Quakers Raise the Dead at Prospect Park Ceremony

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PROSPECT PARK — Elsie Powell stood at her grave in Prospect Park’s Quaker Cemetery on Saturday afternoon and told visitors about her life.

Well, it wasn’t Powell exactly. She has been dead for decades.

“My name’s not really Elsie,” whispered Alice Pope, an actress for the day. “I just play her in the cemetery.”

Keep reading at The Brooklyn Eagle

Written by Henry

June 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Prospect Park

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mp3s Give Vinyl a Boost

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News about the music industry is almost unfailingly grim, from plummeting profits to plunging sales figures. Between 2006 and 2007, overall sales revenue sank almost 20 percent.

Amid the bleak news of declines, however, some facets of the music industry’s sales are trending upward. Consumers purchased over 200 million more digital downloads in 2007 than the year before, while another medium’s sales are also climbing—vinyl records.

After ten consecutive years of declining sales figures, retailers sold over one million vinyl records in 2007, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, more than a 35 percent increase from the year before. While vinyl accounts for less than one percent of all recorded music sales, a medium many people considered long dead is actually on the rise. It’s being called the vinyl revival.

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Written by Henry

May 16, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Fix Our Xerox!

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Teachers Protest Budget Cuts

JOHN YANNO rushed out of a pharmacy in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, across the street from the John Jay High School building where he teaches sixth-grade social studies. A solid mass of untrustworthy gray clouds stood still above his head.

Shortly before school let out for the day at 3 p.m., most people on the street were dressed in winter coats; but Yanno wore a short-sleeved flannel shirt, his cropped, salt-and-pepper goatee his only protection from the cold.

He had gone to the pharmacy looking for poster board; not finding any, he returned to the school, sailed past security with a quick hello, and whizzed towards the art teacher’s classroom. There, he scored a few pieces.

Heading up the stairs with the oak tag under his arm, he stepped over a pair of gum-snapping girls and made his way through discarded plastic bags and candy wrappers, on his way to his studentless classroom—cramped, boxy and about ten degrees warmer than the hall, thanks to a radiator with a busted thermostat. Lockers lined one side and windows with drawn shades the other; tightly packed desks covered nearly every inch of floor space and posters covered nearly every inch of wall space.

Yanno laid out a small square of poster board on a student’s desk.

MONEY FOR, he wrote in black, SCHOOLS, in green, NOT, in black, WAR!, in red.

“This is all I do,” Yanno said. “I spend half my life making signs.”

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Written by Henry

May 5, 2008 at 5:51 pm

A Desire Named Streetcar

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By Henry Stewart, Special to Bay Currents

Surf Ave. Trolley Pole
A rusted trolley pole on Surf Ave., currently used to hold street signs

As Arthur Melnick drove down Surf Avenue with this writer on a recent rainy afternoon, he acted as a tour guide to the Coney Island of his youth, pointing out, amid the vacant lots, where the old swimming pools, arcades and rides used to be.

“All these empty lots were attractions,”he said. “All this was Coney Island…”

Melnick, 62, hopes to restore a small piece of Coney Island’s storied past by bringing back trolley service to its streets, a project he has been working on for six years.

Now, he might be closer than ever before to realizing his dream — the trolleys appear to fit in with several of Mayor Bloomberg’s current priorities, from going green and relieving traffic congestion to promoting a revitalized Coney Island.

“People would come to the area just to ride the trolley,” Melnick said. “It’s a tourist attraction in itself.”

It’s just a matter of convincing the city to give the OK.

Read More by downloading this pdf (and jumping to pg. 7)


Photo from the Trolley Pole page on Flickr

Written by Henry

April 10, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Coney Island

The Beginning of the End for Astroland?

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Astroland Tower

click to watch slideshow

Astroland, Coney Island’s premier amusement park, kicked off its season this year on March 16.

While most of Coney Island’s 20th Century institutions—from amusement parks like Luna Park, Dreamland and Steeplechase to the Thunderbolt roller coaster and Child’s restaurant—are long gone, Astroland keeps kicking more than 45 years after Dewey Albert first opened its doors in 1962.

Astroland “has survived the decades of destruction, rebuilding and destruction again,” said a visitor who called himself Byron the Traveler. “It’s survived the test of time through the decades.”

This may, however, be its final season.

Almost no one expected Astroland to re-open this year. In 2006, the Albert family sold the park to a developer, Thor Equities, for $30 million. Thor was not expected to re-open the park for the 2008 season, but ultimately decided to grant Astroland at least a one year reprieve while it settles its zoning battles with the city.

Will Astroland be open again in the years to come?

“Unless there’s an interim plan to establish Astroland here for another three to five years,” said Carol Hill Albert, Astroland’s current lessee and former co-owner, “I don’t see how we can.”

Thor declined to comment on its plans for Astroland.

Click here to watch an audio slideshow that captures opening day.

Written by Henry

April 9, 2008 at 1:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Rockaway Retiree Learns to Paint

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John Russo hates puzzles.

So, years ago, he would doodle whenever his family would put one together. He saved those “doodles”—both drawings and paintings—and, many years later, his third wife, Marilyn, found them in a box. And she thought they were good.

To prove it, she took him to a local art show near their home in Queens.

“What’s the difference with this, with what you got at home?” she asked him.

She framed one of his watercolors and put it in the next show, where it generated generous praise for Russo.

“Believe it or not,” he said, “I still didn’t think I could do it.”

Four years later, he’s done it.

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Written by Henry

April 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Gardens to Close as Coney Prepares for Building Boom

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A Replay of Giuliani-Era Community Garden Controversy?
By Henry Stewart
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle

CONEY ISLAND — Two community gardens on city-owned land in Coney Island are likely to be sold to developers by next year, according to city officials.

The gardens “are located on a site we plan to offer for the development of affordable housing,” Neill Coleman, a spokesman for Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), a city agency, wrote in an e-mail.

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Written by Henry

March 8, 2008 at 8:51 pm

A Coney Island History Lesson, Hidden in Photos

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coney47.jpg

“As Coney Faces Change, Arts Venues Rush To Exhibit Photos of Amusement Area”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 25 February 2008

By Henry Stewart
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
CONEY ISLAND — As residents, developers and the city duke it out over Coney Island’s future, artists, curators and editors are looking back to its past.

Photographs of the storied amusement area, showing the neighborhood both as it is and once was, are on display across the city in museums, bars, galleries and on the pages of magazines.

“It’s an excellent time to revisit the history,” said Patrick Amsellem, the associate curator of photography at the Brooklyn Museum and organizer of the show, “Goodbye, Coney Island?” running through early April.

Click here to keep reading.


Photo courtesy Brooklyn Museum; artist unknown
Modern 1947 Coney Island, 1947; Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 11 X 14 in. (27.9 X 35.6 cm)

Written by Henry

February 28, 2008 at 8:33 pm

A Boardwalk Unfit for Walkin’

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An original video piece on the dilapidated condition of the Coney Island/Brighton Beach boardwalk:

Written by Henry

December 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Meet Chuck Reichenthal, Artist & Public Servant

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chuck.jpg

On a recent afternoon, Charles Reichenthal, better known as “Chuck,” pushed his chair out from his computer and walked towards the television that sits in the corner of his Coney Island office. A quiz show was on and the question was about poetry.

“e.e. cummings!,” he shouted at the contestant on the screen. “It’s e.e. cummings!”

Reichenthal’s knowledge of trivia, whether it’s books, music, theater, film or baseball, knows no bounds, say his friends.

“Now, if you ask me my telephone number,” Reichenthal said, “I couldn’t tell you.”

He has been the district manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 for over a decade, but as much as he may enjoy his role in greasing the gears of local government, his heart of hearts is in the arts.

“Everything else is just to get by,” said Marty Markman, who has known Reichenthal since the 1970’s. “A life in the arts, that’s what he wanted more than anything else.”

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Marlboro Residents Get Free Turkeys

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McWhite at the Giveaway

This Thanksgiving, over 200 residents of Gravesend’s Marlboro Houses will have a turkey roasting in the oven thanks to the efforts and generosity of one woman: Sara Lee McWhite.

McWhite, who grew up at the Brooklyn housing project and still lives there, has been giving away turkeys to the houses’ neediest residents around Thanksgiving Day for the last 16 years. She also gives out toys to the development’s underprivileged children at Christmastime.

Though officially a community coordinator for the New York City Housing Authority, McWhite runs these events on her own.

“I ain’t Rockefeller,” she said. “But this is me, this isn’t Housing.”

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Written by Henry

November 17, 2007 at 4:54 pm

The War that Launched 1000 Colds

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Sign of Protest

A slideshow about Saturday’s anti-war protest in downtown Manhattan. Click here or on the picture to watch.

Written by Henry

October 28, 2007 at 5:55 pm

In a Nabe Known for Tourists, Where’s the Local Bar?

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The Luna Park Saloon

The Cyclone doesn’t rattle, the Wonder Wheel doesn’t turn and Astroland doesn’t make a peep.

Many of Coney Island’s tourist attractions are closed for the cold seasons—including the beach, officially—but that doesn’t mean that there are a lack of tourists or a lack of places to grab a beer.

Labor Day marks the end of the business season for most of the rides and restaurants, but, thanks in large part to an Indian summer, several spots on the boardwalk and elsewhere were still open on Wednesday afternoon to cater to the few people, mostly tourists, continuing to patronize Coney Island’s watering holes.

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Written by Henry

October 17, 2007 at 5:09 pm