How Screwed Will Your Subway Line Be by the L Train Shutdown? A/C Edition

During the upcoming L train shutdown set to begin in early 2019, the MTA expects 70 to 80 percent of displaced L riders to take other subway lines. This will affect not only those displaced riders, but all the commuters who currently take the lines that will become filled with L refugees. This week, the Village Voice examines the impact on the A and C lines.

From a map’s perspective, it doesn’t seem like the A/C line, which runs through Brooklyn along Fulton Street, should be impacted by the L train shutdown. It’s more than a mile from the L along most of its route, and a whole other line, the J/M/Z, runs in between the two. One would think that displaced L riders would find other options.

And they will try. But as I wrote last week, the J/M/Z is a disaster waiting to happen, and as I wrote two weeks ago, the G to Court Square will be a nightmare. Don’t even think about the replacement bus service, which will likely take forever because the Williamsburg Bridge won’t have a dedicated bus lane and the buses will dump you off not at just any subway station, but at the first subway station in Manhattan of the aforementioned overcrowded J/M/Z.

Desperate times will call for desperate measures, and the A/C is a desperate measure indeed.

After testing the J/M/Z waters, putting up with the Court Square transfer, or getting off a 40-minute bus ride from Williamsburg to Essex Street only to watch seven completely full J/M/Z trains go by, it’s exceedingly likely thousands of L refugees will revisit their options. And then they will discover a sudden appreciation for the A.

There are two groups of L riders that will find the A particularly appealing. First, there are those who will transfer from the L — which, yes, will still be running in Brooklyn — to the A at Broadway Junction. Not only will L riders from east of Broadway Junction do this, but those who get on the L at Halsey Street, Wilson Avenue, and Bushwick Avenue–Aberdeen Street will do so as well, heading deeper into Brooklyn before doubling back on the A/C.

In theory, this isn’t so bad. The A runs express, so it’s only six stops to Fulton Street in Manhattan. But given the extreme crowding expected along the G and J/M/Z, it would not surprise me if L riders at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues, DeKalb Avenue, Jefferson Street, Montrose Avenue, and even Grand Street opt for the same reverse-L-to-Broadway Junction strategy.

The problem is that Broadway Junction is not equipped for this volume. Despite being a transfer point for the A/C, the J/Z, and the L, the station feels like an accident. It’s less a major hub than three small stations cobbled together with rickety links. The J/Z and L elevated platforms are quite close together, and each resembles the small J/M/Z elevated stations elsewhere in Brooklyn. The A/C platform is below ground, requiring a transfer via a fairly low-capacity stair and escalator pairing.

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It’s an emerging pattern for the L shutdown: A route already nerve-inducingly crowded during rush hour is going to handle a load multiple times higher than it does now, with only minor or no station improvements at all to help cope with the increased ridership. Broadway Junction is getting an extra set of staircases to and from the J/Z platform. That’s it. The L platform and transfer to the A/C are getting nothing.

The other A/C transfer point affected by the shutdown will be at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, which has a cross-platform transfer to the G. I’m deeply skeptical of the ridership estimates the MTA released showing almost no extra G ridership south of the Broadway station and very little impact on the A/C. (The MTA has not released any formal numerical estimates or explained how this model works.)

I believe the issue is similar to that with the model DOT used for the 14th Street bus service: It’s not dynamic. It is predicting Day One of the L shutdown, as everyone pursues their ideal plan B. It’s not capable of modeling Day Two, Three, Four, etc. as commuters adjust to the consequences of most people coming up with the same plan B.

For any L rider starting at Bedford Avenue, Lorimer Street, Grand Street, and Graham Avenue and heading to 14th Street or points south, the G to A/C feels like the best alternative to the J/M/Z nightmare. Metropolitan Avenue to Hoyt-Schermerhorn on the G is a fifteen-minute ride, and then it’s only another three stops on the A/C to Fulton Street.

The problem with this? You guessed it: A route already nerve-inducingly crowded during rush hour is going to handle a load multiple times as high as it does now with only minor station improvements to cope. In this case, Hoyt-Schermerhorn is getting zilch.

What You Should Do If You Currently Take the A/C

Along with all my advice from the J/M/Z edition — move far away from north Brooklyn if you can, get a bike or change your work hours if those are more workable options — there’s one commuting trick that A/C riders can try availing themselves of:

  • If you currently take the A/C to and from Bed-Stuy and have an unlimited MetroCard, consider taking the C to Lafayette Avenue — I highly doubt many displaced L riders will take the C all the way from Broadway Junction — and walking to Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center. This means you’ll transfer to another line before the A/C hits the crowded G transfer at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. It’s only four short blocks from Lafayette to Atlantic-Barclays, and those stations will be relatively undisturbed by the shutdown.

No one’s saying this is an ideal solution — especially in bad weather — but it may be the best of a set of bad options. As you make the trudge to Atlantic-Barclays, consider that at least you’re no more screwed than most subway riders will be come 2019.


How Screwed Will Your Subway Line Be During the L Train Shutdown? J/M/Z Edition

During the upcoming L train shutdown set to begin in early 2019, the MTA expects 70 to 80 percent of displaced L riders to take other subway lines. This will affect not only those displaced riders but all the commuters who currently take the lines that will become filled with L refugees. This week, the Village Voice examines the impact on the J/Z lines, as well as the Brooklyn end of the M.

 The J/M/Z lines never stood a chance. Geographically speaking, they’re the only subway lines that roughly approximate the L’s journey through north Brooklyn. They’re also the only Manhattan-bound tracks within walking distance of the L, especially in the areas most impacted by the shutdown. As a result, it’s no surprise the MTA and DOT expect the J, M, and Z to pick up the largest share of riders for the fifteen-month period the L is scheduled to be out of commission.

The MTA hasn’t released any official ridership estimates for the shutdown, but we can do some back-of-the-envelope calculations using this very rough guide the MTA released back in June.

If 75 percent of the 225,000 L train riders who currently cross the East River every weekday continue to take the subway, and roughly half of those displaced riders switch to the J/M/Z, that’s about 85,000 additional riders every day. And even if it’s a mere tens of thousands of extra riders a day, this will be a very big problem.

There are two big worries about the capacity of the J/M/Z lines: Will there be enough trains to transport all these passengers? And will there be enough platform space to hold all the waiting riders?

The two questions are related: The more trains the MTA can run, the fewer passengers will be left waiting on the platform. But they’re not identical, since even with a train every few minutes, the platforms will still need to be wide enough to handle all those people.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to picture the MTA being able to run enough J/M/Z trains to deal with the expected shutdown crowds. During the morning rush hour, the L currently runs about 20 trains per hour through Bedford Avenue. Marcy Avenue, the last stop on the J/M/Z before crossing the Williamsburg Bridge, currently sees about 16 trains per hour at peak periods. The MTA hasn’t provided specifics about how many additional J and M trains it plans on running, but even if it’s several more per hour through Marcy, each train can fit only about 1,200 people. The math simply doesn’t add up.

But station capacity is arguably the bigger concern. This is what Marcy Avenue looks like during a normal weekday rush hour:

None of the MTA’s planned mitigation efforts are designed to increase platform capacity. In 1999, when the Williamsburg Bridge was shut down for five months to repair signals and tracks, the middle express track at Marcy was converted into a temporary platform. In theory, the MTA could do this again — the express track will be out of use west of Myrtle-Broadway during the shutdown — so long as it added some kind of staircase and overpass to allow passengers to access the new platform. Perhaps there are logistical reasons why this can’t be done, but the MTA has never mentioned even exploring this option and didn’t respond to Voice queries about the possibility.

In short, it’s unclear where all these extra riders will stand while waiting for trains, or how anyone will disembark at these overcrowded stations. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where MTA employees have to be deployed outside of stations to manage crowds and ensure the platforms don’t become dangerous. It’s also easy to imagine this not being done until after something bad happens.

I’m especially worried about what will happen at the first four stops in Brooklyn: Marcy, Hewes, Lorimer, and Flushing, which are all small, two-platform stations with few entrances and exits. Lorimer and Marcy are slated to get more turnstiles, and Marcy will get wider stairs as well, but none of this will actually help once commuters get onto the crowded platforms.

Meanwhile, the new free transfer the MTA plans to put into place between the Broadway G station and Lorimer and Hewes will only encourage even more displaced L riders to use those two stations. A free transfer is generally a good thing, but I’m deeply concerned about how many passengers those stations can realistically accommodate. They are two of only a handful of stations within walking distance of an L stop that have direct Manhattan access, so they will receive a lot of increased foot traffic. The Montrose L station (7,000 daily weekday swipes into the station, according to 2016 ridership stats, the most recent year available) is a 10 to 15 minute walk from the J/M/Z Lorimer stop (5,000 swipes), and some people who currently walk to the Morgan Avenue (7,500 swipes) or Grand Street L (7,000 swipes) will likely walk the 20 to 25 minutes to Lorimer or Flushing (9,300 swipes). Where are all these people supposed to go?

A similar conundrum faces the M spur at Central, Knickerbocker, and Myrtle-Wyckoff avenues, since all of those stations are within fairly short walking distances of the L. (Myrtle-Wyckoff has a direct connection with the L.) Those stations have similar layouts to the Hewes-Lorimer-Flushing stops, so it’s unclear what kind of increased capacity they can support. Even worse, those three M stops only get, well, M trains, not J/Z as well, so there will be fewer trains to deal with all these people.

What You Should Do If You Currently Take the J/M/Z

I really hope you didn’t expect me to reveal some kind of secret transit system, because I don’t have one for you. Here is what I will advise, ranked by likelihood of avoiding fifteen months of commuting nightmares:

  1. Move far away from north Brooklyn.
  2. Bike to work. I highly recommend you start soon so you can get accustomed to it, because even the bike lanes will become overcrowded during the shutdown. It sounds like the city will soon legalize pedal assist e-bikes — e-bikes are pretty awesome — which should bring bike commuting within reach of more New Yorkers. If you absolutely don’t want to (or physically can’t) bike all the way into Manhattan, consider getting a cheap bike, riding to downtown Brooklyn, locking up your bike outside a subway station, and heading into Manhattan from there.
  3. If you have a flexible job, adjust your schedule to commute during off-peak hours. And by off-peak, I don’t mean 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. I mean, like, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I understand these are fairly privileged recommendations. Not everyone can afford to move, not everyone can ride bikes, and not everyone can change the hours they go to work. But it’s the best I can do. We’re all just very, very screwed.


Brooklyn O.G. Tracy Morgan Heads Back to the Neighborhood to Host a Block Party

Ever since 1996, when he first stepped into the spotlight as a Saturday Night Live cast member, Tracy Morgan has loudly and proudly declared his Brooklyn heritage. Yesterday, the Last O.G. star was back home for a block party to celebrate the unveiling of newly refurbished basketball courts and an art installation by Askew One at Marcy Playground in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“I come back here because I want to remember where I’m from,” said Morgan, who grew up in the adjacent Marcy Houses. Part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Adopt-a-Park program, the revitalized playground features a new asphalt surface, polycarbonate backboards, and a new mural, all sponsored by TBS and The Last O.G. The show, co-starring Tiffany Haddish and Cedric the Entertainer, features Morgan as an ex-con who returns to his Brooklyn neighborhood after fifteen years behind bars. Airing Tuesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on TBS, it’s already one of the year’s biggest new hits.

The 49-year-old comic got choked up during the ceremony, noting that he’d shed blood at the park, literally. “I cut my finger here!” he said. “I bled here! This is for Brooklyn! This makes me so happy!”


The Village Voice is celebrating the season’s arts and culture highlights throughout the week of April 16, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Best of Spring Arts 2018 page.


Broadway Triangle Deal Could Squeeze Out Families, Says Levin

After an eight-year-long legal battle, the city announced a deal with community groups on Monday that should finally free up vacant city-owned land at Broadway Triangle for the construction of around 375 affordable apartments.

But while community advocates have trumpeted the long-awaited settlement as a boon for racial justice and integration, critics — including the local City Council representative, Stephen Levin — argue it’s just the latest in a decades-long turf war over the contentious intersection of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and fear it won’t aid some of the low-income New Yorkers who desperately need affordable housing most.

The new agreement reverses a controversial deal with two powerful local nonprofits that some neighborhood groups had complained discriminated against some residents of color. But by requiring that the city evaluate development proposals based on maximizing the number of units to provide the most apartments possible, opponents say it will ultimately force developers to cram as many apartments as they can into the project.

“It would totally exclude larger families and largely exclude most families,” says Levin. The new deal, he says, “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

This week’s settlement is the latest skirmish in a battle over the Broadway Triangle — a wedge of land bound by Broadway, Flushing Avenue, and Union Avenue that has long been splintered along political and ethnic lines. The triangle of trash-strewn vacant lots and parking lots was once home to light manufacturing and the headquarters of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, but as manufacturing uses moved away, it became a no man’s land that power brokers from both the Latino and Jewish communities wanted a slice of.

When pieces of the land were rezoned for residential use in 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the development rights to certain parcels were handed off with no competitive bidding process to two politically connected nonprofits — Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a Bushwick-based nonprofit founded by disgraced assemblyman Vito Lopez, and United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, an umbrella group for the area’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

A coalition of other Williamsburg- and Greenpoint-based community groups that said they’d been excluded from the process promptly sued the city in state court. The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition — which included nonprofits like St. Nicks Alliance, Los Sures, Churches United for Fair Housing, and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A — argued that the deal violated fair housing laws by giving an unfair advantage to Hasidic residents, both by providing a disproportionate number of multi-bedroom apartments they said would favor that community’s larger families, as well as requiring low-rise buildings, seen to cater to observant Jews who can’t take elevators on the Sabbath.

State Supreme Court Judge Emily Goodman agreed, and issued a preliminary injunction halting the rezoning on city-owned parcels.

Years of settlement conferences later, the city finally agreed this week to cut a deal that it says will make it possible to move forward with long-stalled construction of affordable housing and that community groups argue will counteract decades of segregation on two main fronts.

First, residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s predominantly African American Community Board 3, just to the south of the development site across Flushing Avenue, will be granted community preference on half of the units. Under the original plan, only residents of the mostly white and Latino neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint would have gotten preference.

In addition, the city agreed to pay $2.4 million over three years to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A to pay for tenant services that the organization said are needed to fight racially motivated displacement of black and Latino residents in privately owned residences in north Brooklyn.

The plan will also be punted back to the request for proposal process, voiding the earlier deal with Ridgewood Bushwick and UJO.Local nonprofit developers with projects in Community Board 1 and Community Board 3 will get a slight advantage in the request for proposal process over other developers, according to the settlement.

And in an effort to correct the contentious breakdown of apartment sizes, which plaintiffs argued would favor the Hasidic community, the requirement to maximize the number of units may actually dissuade developers from building any three- or four-bedroom apartments at all.

The revised plan will use tax-exempt bonds and federal low-income housing tax credits under the Extremely Low and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) plan, which limits the number of studios and requires a minimum number of apartments with two or more bedrooms. But even with those guidelines, a developer would only get the maximum number of apartments by including around 70 percent studios and one-bedrooms and 30 percent two-bedrooms.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a community to say you need more studios and one-bedrooms,” says Levin, who as a staffer to Lopez supported the original 2009 deal. “That’s usually what developers want. You get more money by building studios and one-bedrooms particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

Factions of Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic community swiftly divided along political lines over the settlement as news of it broke this week. Gary Schlesinger, a Satmar activist and political opponent of UJO, came out in support of the revised project, saying the Hasidic community needed smaller apartments for newlyweds and that larger families were already leaving the city for suburban areas upstate and in New Jersey.

Rabbi David Neiderman, the head of UJO, countered that the new plan was a “backroom deal” and a “travesty of justice” that discriminates against Jewish families.

“The litigation is used as a pretense for a political giveaway and a discriminatory agreement against large families, because some of them are Jewish,” he says, taking issue with the unit size as well as the inclusion of Community Board 3, which would intentionally “dilute the chance for Jewish families” to get apartments.

“There’s no desire here to make this a development that excludes families,” insists Adam Meyers, an attorney for plaintiffs at Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A.

Alexandra Fennell, of Churches United for Fair Housing, says that the city would look at requests for proposals based on many different criteria, and there was still some “wiggle room” for developers to submit proposals with three- and four-bedroom apartments, even if they’re now disincentivized from doing so. But she stressed that the disproportionately high number of large apartments in the original proposal would have mostly served Hasidic families at the expense of their neighbors. “There is a need for some larger [apartments] but the majority of the families in this immediate geographic area are families of between two and three people,” she says.

Citywide, demand for smaller affordable apartments outweighs demand for larger ones, according to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. An analysis of census data from 2010, the most recent numbers available, showed that around 24 percent of families in the three Williamsburg and Greenpoint zip codes had five or more members. Of households with five or more family members, white households outnumbered black and Latino ones by about 1,197.

Fennell says that, instead of the original deal, her coalition is looking forward to a transparent bidding process and hopes the city will find “a plan that will serve diverse groups and will be available and equitable for everyone.”

The same ethnic and political fissures flared this year during the contentious rezoning of an adjacent swath of land formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after it was bought by Orthodox Jewish–owned Williamsburg developer the Rabsky Group. That project was approved by the City Council, though the plaintiffs in the Broadway Triangle lawsuit argued that the rezoning would likewise favor Orthodox residents along similar lines, after the developer wouldn’t commit to a breakdown of apartment sizes until the eleventh hour.

“I don’t want to see a plan that intentionally excludes anybody,” says Levin of the new agreement. “If the plan were to move forward and intentionally exclude larger families because they happen to be Jewish or Orthodox, then I think that is problematic in and of itself.“

Rabbi Niederman said that UJO was considering legal recourse, insisting that “there’s no question this is a calculated effort to discriminate against poor Jewish families.” The fight for the Broadway Triangle is far from over.

Note: This article has been updated to indicate that while nonprofit developers with projects in Community Board 1 and Community Board 3 will get preference under the new settlement, other developers such as Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (now RiseBoro) will not be barred from applying, as was initially reported.

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‘Crossing Brooklyn’ Contains Multitudes at the Brooklyn Museum

Can contemporary art be très Brooklyn? The answer is yes, if you’re French or negatively predisposed to the sort of idealism taking root in New York’s artiest borough. Part of a movement that has fully flowered in American cities like Chicago and Houston, Kings County’s own seeding of socially engaged art is on view in a survey called “Crossing Brooklyn: Art From Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond” at the Brooklyn Museum. Billed as a show focusing on artists who are “engaged with the world,” the exhibition proves by turns inspiring and cringe-worthy. Like genuinely radical politics or Frenchmen in Speedos, it promises to leave few unfazed.

A display that features more than 100 artworks by 35 artists (or artist groups) who live or work in the borough, “Crossing Brooklyn” is committed to examining the area’s “established role as a creative center” but sports a significant subtext promoting the local version of an emerging avant-garde. For those who missed the memo, the past decade has witnessed a gradual shift toward community-centered art on a global scale. A multigenerational response to $58 million Balloon Dogs and $142 million Francis Bacon triptychs, these creative efforts have largely been designed to counteract two historically related phenomena: art’s ongoing gentrification and the cultural effects of rising income inequality. For those who prefer their art to critically address their time, socially engaged art — or, as it’s alternately termed, social practice — may provide a last best hope.

Curated by Eugenie Tsai and Rujeko Hockley, “Crossing Brooklyn” presents works in virtually every medium, including a few most people will have never heard of. Titled after Walt Whitman’s famously expansive “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” the exhibition unfolds in the fifth-floor galleries, yet it also spills out onto the museum’s sidewalk and its green areas, not to mention several off-site spaces that include Brooklyn’s streets, its waterways, and not a few square miles of air rights. Like much of the Brooklyn Museum’s popular programming, the show is intended to extend art to a wider public. And like nearly all socially engaged art today, the display is anxiously preoccupied with the new definitions, social responsibilities, and real-world impact of art beyond the confines of the art world.

The product of visits to many of the borough’s reported 4,600 studios, “Crossing Brooklyn” varies wildly in form, execution, and quality. The number of clunkers on view is shocking at first — until you consider the amount of reflection that goes into reinventing art’s wheel, one struggling artist at a time. For every hermetic John Cage–inspired performance (Gordon Hall) and instance of someone bundling up twigs to make a photo-diary (Matthew Jensen), you’ll see an equal number of cases of winning innovation and downright usefulness. Among the latter are the greenmarket, vegetable gardens, and bicycle-generated “Energy Hub Station” that Linda Goode Bryant and the Project Eats collective have parked right outside the museum. Among the former, there’s Miguel Luciano’s videotaped record of his work with a rural community in Kenya. A flat-screen representation of the artist making self-portraits-as-kites with children, the work is not just Million Dollar Arm–moving, it actively demonstrates how art, like sports and learning, can open up unfathomed possibilities in people’s lives.

Other works in this vein coalesce around a couple of tropes that have emerged jointly with the rise of social practice. The first is the alternative-economy ideal, which in “Crossing Brooklyn” takes on several manifestations. The most activist of these is Heather Hart’s “Bartertown,” a temporary marketplace established to get perfect strangers to trade everything — goods, services, songs, experiences — except currency. The second features an increasingly popular think-by-walking artist’s motif (by my count, six show participants pick up on this peripatetic notion). Its most eloquent exponent is the adventurous Marie Lorenz, whose elegant multiscreen-and-balsawood installation, Archipelago, shows her traveling NYC’s mysterious waterways to update Diogenes’ dictum, solvitur ambulando: It is solved by boating.

Whatever you think of their heart-on-their-sleeve work, these artists deserve credit for doing something so huge it’s almost foolhardy — pitting art’s symbolic and activist power against the laissez-faire effects of raw finance. Skeptics may consider the struggle against Goliath’s instrumental values a mismatch, but it’s hard not to root for the Davids’ long-term odds. Battle lines are drawn: See this show and decide which side you’re on.



“A history of happiness is a funny thing since, for a long time, happiness was viewed as merely the absence of history,” write the editors of n+1. “Then came modernity.” Staying true to this observation, which was made almost 10 years ago in their 2005 issue, the editors of n+1 stop by fellow Brooklyn literary institution BookCourt to launch their new anthology, Happiness: Ten Years of n+1. Editors Keith Gessen, Carla Blumenkranz, and Marco Roth, among others, read from the collection and talk about how the fledgling publication that used to pay its writers in beer became what Malcolm Gladwell praises as “the rightful heir to the Partisan Review and The New York Review of Books.” Since n+1 reintroduced us to the intellectually fired spirit of a Viennese coffee house, via thought-provoking articles with titles like “Bed-Stuy: Do or Die?” and “Against Exercise,” a happy celebration is only fair.

Mon., Sept. 15, 7 p.m., 2014



Bed-Stuy gem Do or Dine boasts a menu with items like “Miso-Corny” and “Pho’rk Chop.” Flavors are played with as much as words: expreso aioli, Dr. Pepper–glazed frog legs, foie gras in a doughnut (“a Dough or Dine collaboration”). It is in this same spirit of fun that Do or Dine joins Sound Liberation Front in presenting Rub-a-Grub Brooklyn, a bash that opens with DJs Linh and Lil Tiger, and headlines with poet-DJ Rich Medina, credited with popularizing funk and afrobeat in clubs around the world, and Queen Majesty, with her salvaged reggae 45s in tow. House chef Justin Warner, winner of Food Network Star, hosts — a prelude of sorts to his show Rebel With a Culinary Cause, premiering this fall. All this, plus the evening’s special menu, penned by Warner and fellow chef George McNeese? Stuy a while, won’t you?

Sun., Aug. 31, 5 p.m., 2014


Charles Bradley+Mac DeMarco+Benjamin Booker

You can hear the sweat in Charles Bradley’s voice, but seeing the perspiration live in a dank warehouse at the first Vans House Party of the season will convince any disbelievers that the 62-year-old Daptone crooner is the lounge singer with the voice of God from the mythic Spike Lee version of Bed-Stuy that never actually existed. Canadian transplant Mac DeMarco is a habitué of Bradley’s childhood stomping ground, and harnesses the neighborhood’s gritty soul on his recent lo-fi release, Salad Days. With New Orleans native Benjamin Booker, it’s like modern-day incarnations of James Brown, Townes Van Zandt, and Arthur Lee gathering for a laid-back summer jam in Greenpoint.

Thu., June 12, 7 p.m., 2014


Here Are the Five Best Memorial Day Weekend Food Events in NYC

Not fighting the traffic or beach crowds this three-day weekend? Make the most of sticking around the city by taking advantage of what’s cooking up around town.

Free Suckling Pig Roast, Ariana, 138-140 West Houston Street, Friday, 7 p.m.

This Village Russian restaurant is kicking off the weekend with a free suckling pig roast and punch party. At 7 p.m., the kitchen will start serving up bits of the buckwheat-stuffed hog, and the bar will pour a berry and vodka punch. You’ll want to get there early to partake — food and drink are first come, first served.

Passport to Taiwan, Union Square, Sunday, noon

Come Sunday, Union Square will be filled with performances, art exhibits, and plenty of food celebrating Taiwanese-American heritage and culture. Look for goodies like bamboo tamales, shaved ice, oyster omelets, and intestines with noodle. Food-related exhibits include dough figurines and sugar paintings, which showcase the artists’ use of edible materials for creative purposes. A full line up of food vendors and activities can be found on the event’s website.

Rub-A-Grub, Do or Dine, 1108 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, Sunday, 2 p.m.

With a three-part menu accompanied by DJ sets, this musical feast includes bloody marys, beer and shot specials, and record-sized plates of hearty BBQ. Music will be provided by the I Love Vinyl crew, and a selection of appetizers courtesy of Justin Warner’s team are also part of the tasting menu. Tickets start at $15 for the event without food and $30 if you plan on dining or drinking.

Manhattan by Sail’s Out@Sea Party, Slip 1 — Battery Park, State Street at Battery Place, Sunday, 9:45 p.m.

Celebrate having Monday off by staying up late on a Sunday with this two-hour boat party geared toward the gay and lesbian crowd. Hop aboard the Clipper City Tall Ship where you’ll find a full bar — including Jello shots, pickle backs, and other drink specials — and a DJ, who’ll play sets as you take in the city skyline. Tickets are $20 if you use the promotional code MBSFFOS14; they can be purchased through the Manhattan by Sail website.

A Drinking Game NYC presents Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, A Celebration of Whimsy, 21-A Clinton Street, Monday, 9 p.m.

To cap off the weekend, head out for this live stage version of the 80’s cult classic, which involves drinking — both by the actors and the audience. When you hear key phrases and buzzwords, everyone drinks, which means that by the end of the show, certain lines may not come out as intended — or at all. There’s a cash bar inside the theater that will provide beer, wine, and soda, though the event is 21 and up. Tickets are $15.


A Taste of Brand New Dekalb Restaurant and a Chat With the Owners

Most restaurant-owners don’t break into song midway through an interview, but then, most restaurants don’t have a guitar stashed in the corner. Most restaurants also lack an owner who’s played with most of the Wailers, or whose grandfather schooled the Skatelites in Ska before Ska was a thing. But Dekalb Restaurant (564 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-857-7097, is not most restaurants.

Opened in late January by a rag-tag team of artists, musicians, and long-established New York food people, Dekalb sits on the ground floor of an old linen factory/laundry on its namesake street, just off Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Co-owners Ras Levi and Stefan Fahrer, among many others, spent the last nine months painstakingly reassembling discarded bits of Gotham into a lush, beautiful space that warms as it welcomes you.

The parquet floors came from a 77th Street mansion; the dining room walls and ceiling, from Pilgrim mental hospital in Long Island; and the seats are upcycled pews from some unnamed church, still numbered with tarnished brass plaques. There are iron bars from nineteenth-century fire escapes and below-bar coat hooks from an old butcher shop.

And though each piece has its own story, it all came from Evan Blum, an old Fahrer family friend, who happens to run Demolition Depot (216 E 125th Street, 212-860-1138,, a reclaimed materials warehouse uptown. When he walked into the space, Fahrer says, “I just thought, I want to do something [here]. I didn’t care — I was just going to take whatever was around me that could make sense and find a way to make it work, and just make it work.”

“That’s that spirit,” Levi says. “That’s like OK…This guy, we can do anything!” Laughter all around.

Stefan Fahrer grew up in the loose Manhattan of the 1980s and 1990s working parties for his dad’s catering company (which employed folks like Anthony Bourdain and catered parties for Danny Meyer and the Village Voice) so food is in his blood, though he dabbled in business administration, real estate, and software development before finding his way back to food service.

Last year, team Dekalb built out a garden in an adjacent empty lot and held farmer’s markets to meet the neighborhood: “We weren’t making money [off last summer’s markets],” says chef Alexander Skarlinski. “It was really about speaking to people and getting used to the farm, and it was a good way for me to know where to go.” This summer, they plan to continue that and add live music (Levi’s in charge of that), workshops and activities, and outdoor dining.

But what about the food, you ask? Read all about it on the next page.

Salt-roasted beets with egg crumble and mushroom-tarragon dressing
Salt-roasted beets with egg crumble and mushroom-tarragon dressing

At first glance, Skarlinski’s menu yields February’s usual snowy suspects: lots of root vegetables, hearty winter greens, and squash. But as you eat it — as I did, before I chatted with the team — dishes are surprising.

For starters, there’s a gorgeous salt-roasted beet salad ($7), crumbled with dry, hard-cooked egg that reads like Latin-American farmer cheese (I had no idea what I was eating; I had to ask and was shocked to learn it was egg), which Skarlinski later told me he thinks of as an omelette. Then, crispy fried brussels sprouts ($5) seem standard enough, but dip them in the toasted mushroom tarragon vin they share a plate with, and they’re not so normal after all.

Other dishes, like nutty parsnip gnocchi ($8), soft dumplings scattered with toasted seeds, taste both rich and healthful at once. This rich/healthy flavor also worked in a dish of parsnip and butternut squash ($5) fried into “tots” (as in tater) atop a pureed pear sauce.

As a fairly new arrival, Skarlinski still learning New York’s Byzantine food-sourcing system, but he wants to use the best ingredients available from as local a radius as possible. “I’m trying to limit my inventory to these basic ingredients so I can focus on getting a better quality of the initial ingredient,” he says. “But really what I’m trying to do is make responsible food. I’m not trying to do this outlandish, over-the-top, nonsense food.”

Skarlinski comes from a fine-dining background, having worked his way through art school at one of Baltimore’s fancier eateries, where he started mopping floors on a dare and had worked his way up to sous chef within four years. “I’ve worked for a lot of chefs in the past who would just let me get away with wrapping things in bacon because it tasted good, or ordering foie gras when we were doing well, or using fine ingredients, and that’s a problem for me. We can make a better dish using humble ingredients, make a better fine dining.”

But Skarlinski’s not trying to preach: “Look,” he says. “We’re not going to change the world, or even New York fine dining, but I think, for myself, I can start to simplify things, and refine things to a point that the food is approachable to a lot of people, but I’m still serving something that’s considerate of what went into it.”

So the lamb on the menu is lamb neck ($20), slow-braised and served over a winter vegetable ragout with just a touch of salsify creme and crispy fried kale leaf. There’s also a brittle strip of green banana, assembled like particleboard; use it like a cracker and scoop up the rest.

Levi is a vegetarian (and a builder by trade, the space is his handiwork, and he met Skarlinski on a job site), so he wanted to keep the menu flexible enough to accommodate herbivores and others with restricted diets. Much of the menu is (or can be made to be) vegan or gluten-free, including the ravioli ($20), stuffed with mushrooms and served over greens and a smoky eggplant butter with skordalia. Until Skarlinski mentioned it, I had no idea the pasta wasn’t semolina.

By the time we finish everything, we’re too stuffed to consider dessert, but parsnip and yogurt, with “caramel glass” ($6) and beer-soaked figs ($5) with walnuts and ice cream seem worth returning for. And we’re looking forward to music in the garden, come summer.

Scroll down for more delicious shots of dishes.

Crispy fried brussels sprouts
Crispy fried brussels sprouts
Parsnip gnocchi with seeds and mustard
Parsnip gnocchi with seeds and mustard
Fried banana polenta with stewed leeks and ham crisp
Fried banana polenta with stewed leeks and ham crisp
Mushroom ravioli with chard, smoky pureed eggplant, and skordalia
Mushroom ravioli with chard, smoky pureed eggplant, and skordalia
Braised lamb in creamy winter vegetable ragout with crisped kale and plantain
Braised lamb in creamy winter vegetable ragout with crisped kale and plantain