BWRC is hiring!

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center (BWRC) at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) is seeking a highly motivated and organized individual who can help advance the Center’s mission. In addition to its scholarly and pedagogical endeavors, the Center’s main public activities include “Breakfast Talks” and one major conference in the Spring semester. Topics of past public lectures include the history of biking in Coney Island, the gentrification of Sunset Park, the history of the Gowanus Canal, and the creation of a solar energy cooperative at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The next annual conference in April 2020 will investigate the effects of the emerging hospitality sector on the communities along the Brooklyn waterfront.

The Project Coordinator will be responsible for helping shape and facilitate events, promote them to CUNY and the public, and oversee the logistics of the events. Knowledge of urban planning, geography, politics, and history is helpful as most topics that the Center explores deal with one or more of these disciplines. An ability to understand and use online tools such as WordPress, EventBrite, and MailChimp is essential. In practice, the role of project coordinator bridges academia, urban planning, and event coordination. The candidate will work closely with the Center’s director.

Time Commitment: 8-15h/week, usually Tuesday mornings and all day Thursday. You will also be asked to work Fridays on occasion.

Compensation: $20 per hour

Current Graduate Students Only

Start Date: Beginning of the Fall Semester 2019

To Apply: Send a resume and a one-page statement to Professor Richard E. Hanley rhanley@citytech.cuny.edu with a subject title “Project Coordinator.” Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Visions for Newtown Creek

BWRC hosted its first Breakfast Talk of the semester, “Visions for Newtown Creek,” on October 12th, 2018. Speakers representing the Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper outlined their comprehensive, community-driven Vision Plan for the remediation of Newtown Creek.

Lisa Bloodgood, Director of Advocacy and Education at the Newtown Creek Alliance and Chrissy Remein, the Community Project manager at Riverkeeper, presented this ambitious plan starting with a brief history of the challenges inherent to environmental restoration in a densely-populated urban industrial environment. Among the most pressing concerns for residents in the area is the chronic issue of combined sewage overflow (CSO), which occurs when sewer systems are overloaded with rainwater run-off, diverting a mixture of sewage and stormwater to the nearest water body–in this case, the Newtown Creek. Watch this video by the Center for Urban Pedagogy to learn more about CSO.

Although it was designated as a Superfund site by the EPA in 2010, the formal environmental remediation process in Newtown Creek has yet to begin. While the EPA continued its research and feasibility studies, community and environmental advocacy organizations formed the Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) with local residents, businesses, and environmental advocacy groups to develop a long-term planning strategy, culminating in the 85-part Vision Plan.

At the heart of the Vision Plan is a commitment to protect and support Newtown Creek as a site of industry and employment in the community. The various strategies outlined by the report intend to strike an appropriate balance of uses between recreation and industry by reimagining what these public spaces can achieve for future generations.

Wine-Making Along the Brooklyn Waterfront

The BWRC hosted its second breakfast talk of the semester, “Making Wine on the Brooklyn Waterfront: Blending Community, Philanthropy and Education,” on Friday December 1st.

The event was led by hospitality management professor Karen Goodlad, who also directs the campus-wide Living Lab initiative. Professor Goodlad moderated a lively panel discussion that highlighted the challenges and opportunities for winemaking in the heart of the city. Goodlad’s expertise on food and beverage management helped catalyze the focus of the breakfast talk – an innovative college partnership that connects City Tech students with wine producers at the Red Hook Winery.

Joining the panel was Christopher Nicolson, a lead wine-maker at the Red Hook Winery. Nicolson educated the audience about the unique characteristics of Redhook Winery, namely its deep connections with local New York State farmers. Nicolson personally works with eight different small-scale grape producers on the North Fork of Long Island, as well as a host of other producers in the Finger Lakes region. The intimate connection between producer and winemakers allows the Redhook Winery to build a culture of camaraderie that is empowering a local production chain, anchored at the wine’s point of production in Red Hook.

Nicolson also briefed the group on the winery’s recent history, focusing on the effects of Hurricane Sandy. After the storm destroyed a significant portion of the winery’s stock, community efforts enabled the winery to bounce back and build a more resilient business model. The partnership between City Tech and the winery proved crucial to the winery’s ability to sustain itself in the months after the devastating storm.

Hospitality students and panelists, Polina Savchenko, Roberto Burbano, and Renald Castillo also shared lively insights from their first-hand work experience in the wine-making partnership program. Throughout their independent study program, the City Tech students gained critical first-hand knowledge about the wine making process and New York’s unique viticulture. The semester-long adventure culminated with the production of two special label “City Tech” wines that were bottled and distributed to City Tech for it’s campus dining services. Both “City Tech” varietals – a red and a white wine — are served throughout the year in the Hospitality Management Department’s Janet Lefler Dining Room. If you would like to learn more about New York’s growing wine industry or how you can get involved, be sure to visit Red Hook Winery.

November Breakfast Talk: Green Gentrification with Kenneth Gould and Tammy Lewis



On Friday, November 17th, BWRC hosted a Breakfast Talk featuring Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis who spoke about their book, Green Gentrification: Urban Sustainability and the Struggle for Environmental Justice. BWRC welcomed Gould and Lewis to a full house as they discussed their idea of “Green Gentrification.”

Gould and Lewis are professors of sociology at Brooklyn College and professors of sociology and earth and environmental sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center. Together, they took us through a geographical view of the Brooklyn waterfront and explained how Green Gentrification is affecting waterfront communities such as Red Hook and Sunset Park. They explained the importance of keeping communities sustainable by making an effort to keep neighborhoods affordable for the residents already living there.

The talk ended in a spirited question and answer period during which the speakers provided ways for communities to gain green infrastructure and still serve and retain current residents. BWRC was excited to orchestrate an event where people engaged in discussions about creating sustainable living conditions for New York residents. BWRC looks forward to continuing to serve as a catalyst for discussions about creating sustainable and environmentally benign living conditions throughout our communities.

BWRC Mourns the Passing of Sunny Balzano

Richard Hanley (BWRC), James Reid (CityTech), "Sunny" Balzano and his wife Tone (Sunny's Bar) gather after the screening of "Sunny's Rennaissance"
Richard Hanley (BWRC), James Reid (CityTech), “Sunny” Balzano and his wife Tone (Sunny’s Bar) gather after the screening of “Sunny’s Renaissance”

BWRC joins the Red Hook and Brooklyn communities in mourning the passing of Sunny Balzano, patron of the arts and owner of the beloved Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook. The subject of a recent book, Sunny’s Bar had been long been in the Balzano family, serving food and drink to longshoremen and other waterfront workers for decades before reinventing itself in the 1990s as a speakeasy and haven for artists, musicians, and anyone who happened to stumble across the isolated Red Hook outpost and its endearing, affable owner. 

Back in 2013, BWRC was fortunate to have Sunny attend a screening of the film “Sunny’s Renaissance,” directed by Prof. James Reed. The original post from that event follows below.

On March 13, 2013 we filled a room to capacity for a showing “Sunny’s Renaissance: Raw Hospitality on the Waterfront” for our preBar series. James Reid (Hospitality Managment) presented his documentary about the history and rebirth of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook following Superstorm Sandy.

The warmth of Sunny and his eclectic bar shown through quite palpably in the documentary, which made it all the better when Sunny and his family made an unscheduled appearance at the end to say hello and answer questions.

Thanks to James, Sunny, Tone and many others for such an enjoyable evening with the BWRC!

BWRC: Summer and Fall

Welcome back to another academic year.

Save the dates for these Breakfast Talks both 8:30am to 10:00am at CityTech in Room N119:

  • October 24th – Tarry Hum, author of Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park
  • November 14th – William Helmreich, author of The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City

During the summer BWRC ran a children’s activity and outreach table at the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s City of Water Day. We engaged about 100 children in an art activity cutting out and decorating cardboard sea creatures found off the Brooklyn waterfront.

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Photos by Citytech Prof. Robin Michals, a volunteer photographer for City of Water Day.

Double Your Impact

Did you know that any donation given to the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center will go twice as far? Thanks to a generous grant, donations given to the BWRC will be matched, allowing their full value to fund our endowment, while sending another half to our operations. In short, a donation now helps us keep our day-to-day programs like our free Breakfast Talks, Hangout Sessions and Conferences up and running while securing our future as an entity for research and public engagement. Your help is important – the only way to unlock the matching grant is to receive your donations!

Now more than ever the BWRC could use your help. The catastrophe caused by Hurricane Sandy has revealed the vulnerabilities New York faces as it confronts it’s ever changing development. The BWRC operates at the confluence of environment, history, culture and infrastructure along New York’s waterfront – exactly the same issues that Sandy revealed. Rebuilding and recovery will be short shrift without the non-partisan, independent research that the BWRC produces.

Please Donate to the BWRC. Your donations are tax deductible, and eligible for your 2012 tax return if given by December 31, 2012.

Donate Now

Please note that at this time we are utilizing the City Tech Foundation to collect donations. When directed to their web page please select “Brooklyn Waterfront Research” from the Program Designation box to ensure your donation is directed to the BWRC.


Art, Coffee, and other events

Update: Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the November 9th Breakfast talk has been postponed. A new date has not yet been assigned.

It’s been a while since we’ve updated this page, so it’s time to let you know what we’ve been up to.

First off a hearty thanks to Brendan O’Malley who worked as Project Coordinator and maintained this site through last semester. Brendan helped get the BWRC off the ground in its first year and has set the bar for a lot of the excellent programming we have planned.

In September BWRC has helped sponsor the exhibit “Brooklyn Underwater” at Kingsborough Community College. The exhibit is an artistic documentation of Brooklyn sites that will be effected by sea level rise. Many of these places are heavily developed. See for example this stunning photo by Robin Michals:

Coney Island by Robin Michals


Looking to the future, keep an eye out for more information on our upcoming Breakfast Talk, or should I say Coffee Talk. On November 9th we will be continuing our popular Breakfast Talk series with a discussion on Coffee and the Brooklyn Waterfront: Its History, Decline, Return. If you want more details or would like to reserve your space early keep an eye on our RSVP page.



Feb. 24 Breakfast Talk: “Climate Change, Sea-Level Rise, and the Future of the Brooklyn Waterfront”

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center is pleased to announce our second Breakfast Talk. Professor Klaus H. Jacob, a special research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, will discuss his projections on the impact of climate-driven sea-level rise in Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods in the coming decades. He will focus especially on those areas slated for near-term development, like Gowanus, Red Hook, and Sunset Park.

When: 8:30 am, Friday, February 24, 2012
Where: Namm Hall Room 119, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY
Free and open to the public

Pastries, coffee, and juice will be served.

If you plan to attend the talk, please RSVP here.

Autumn 2011 Waterfront Roundup


At a public meeting on November 22, seven of the city’s biggest developers unveiled competing plans for a hotel and condos in what are currently two empty parcels sandwiched between Pier 1 and Furman Street (the two will be separated by a courtyard and a pedestrian bridge over Furman Street up to Squibb Park in the Heights). The proposals feature designs that would have 150 to 180 condo units and 170 to 225 hotel rooms. The larger parcel will feature a building with the hotel, some residential units, and a restaurant/cafe, and can be no taller than 100 feet; the second parcel will contain all residential units and must be 55 feet or less in height. You can download a PDF of the formal presentation here.

The developers are Dermot, Extell, RAL, SDS, Starwood Capital Group, Toll Brothers, and the DUMBO-based Two Trees. The real estate website CURBED has previews of each design, and conducted a poll of the readers’ favorites. CURBED has extensive Brooklyn Bridge Park coverage here, including news on new construction beginning in January–a picnic area on Pier 5 and the Squibb Park pedestrian bridge–as well as the park’s failure to receive any bids for a “winter bubble” for recreational activities on Pier 5.


A new research group at Columbia University, the Center for Urban Real Estate, headed by innovative urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti, proposed the creation of a new Manhattan neighborhood, “Lower Lower Manhattan,” by filling in a land bridge between the Financial District and Governor’s Island. Chakrabarti unveiled this radical idea at a day-long conference entitled “Zoning the City” on November 15. The massive amount of dredging that the Army Corps of Engineers has to do over the next fifty years to keep the harbor’s shipping channels at a proper depth would provide the needed earth. The city’s strict regulations about building on landfill (passed after the construction of Battery Park City, which used earth from the original WTC to expand the shoreline) makes the idea highly unrealistic. The idea sounds a bit less far-fetched when place in a global context. Chakrabati notes that such techniques have been used in Hong Kong and other global cities to great success, and that New York needs to consider such options to stay competitive. The project would also include a bridge to Governor’s Island from Red Hook. For more details, check out this New York Times piece detailing the proposal.


In November, New Jersey developer Ironstate–a firm that has done much work along the Hoboken and Jersey City waterfronts–signed a deal with the city to create 900-unit rental apartment complex at the Homeport, site of a former naval base in the Stapleton neighborhood (the Navy left in 1993). A somewhat opinionated Times piece that discusses this development in terms of Staten Island’s supposed “image problem” can be found here.


Brooklyn waterfront pioneer and violinist Olga Bloom passed away on Thanksgiving Day. Her vision of using an old coffee barge as a 150-seat venue for chamber music certainly seemed a bit bizarre along the forlorn Brooklyn waterfront of the 1970s. But the space soon evolved into one of the premier venues in the city. For a brief but lovely appreciation, see this Times piece by longtime reporter Francis X. Clines.



Crain’s New York published this reevaluation of Mayor Bloomberg’s failed effort to obtain the 2012 Summer Olympics for the city, not surprisingly written by Jay Kriegel, the former head of the NYC2012 effort. The piece relates the findings of a report by NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management that reveals that most of the rezoning goals linked to the bid have been accomplished, notably those that fostered the redevelopment of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods. Kriegel may be an uncritical cheerleader for these developments, but he does bring up a forgotten but important aspect of the mid-aughts building explosion.


Perhaps the biggest Brooklyn waterfront news of Fall 2011 was the forced removal of American Stevedoring Inc. (ASI) from the Red Hook Container Terminal at the end of September. As it turns out, ASI owner Sal Catucci has had a rough relationship with the Port Authority since the company started operations on the site in 1992. ASI had not paid rent since the renewal of a ten-year lease in April 2008, claiming that the lease had been signed under duress. ASI has pursued a lawsuit contesting the lease. For more details, see this report in the Red Hook Star-Revue by George Fiala (the link will open as a PDF).


We here at the BWRC are thrilled by the new BLDG 92 Brooklyn Navy Yard Center, a museum that opened on Veterans’ Day, Friday, November 11. The Center is housed in the the four-story Building 92, which consists of the former Marine Commandant’s Residence with a newly built glass and steel annex. It also houses a Resource Center, which contains the Navy Yard’s archives, which are open to scholars.

Much of the first exhibition, “Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present and Future,” focuses on the site’s career as one of the U.S. Navy’s premier shipbuilding yards from 1801 to 1966. It also features information on the site’s pre-colonization inhabitants, the Lenape Indians, who sold the land to the Dutch in 1632, as well as some exhibits relating to some of the 240 businesses that now occupy the Yard.

The Center is free and open to public Wednesdays through Sundays, 12 to 6pm. You can take a two-hour bus tour of the Yard for $30, a one-hour version for $18, or a bike tour for $24. You can read a Times story about BLDG 92, a more historically minded piece at the New York Observer, and a short piece in The L Magazine that features a slide show.


Our Breakfast Talk series had a strong start on Friday, November 18, when Evan Hughes came to discuss the relationship that many of the writers that he wrote about in his book,  Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life, had with our borough’s waterfront. About thirty folks came out at 8:30 am to hear Evan speak and enjoy some coffee and danish. In Evan’s talk, one locality that came up again and again–from Hart Crane to Norman Mailer–was the infamous “Barbary Coast” just outside of the Navy Yard, especially along Sands Street, a now forlorn strip cutting through the Farragut Houses and under the BQE. Saloons, brothels, and tattoo parlors lined the street. Several of Hughes’s subjects could not resist the pull of “authentic” working-class life that they found there. We thank Evan again for his fascinating presentation. Look back here soon for details on our next Breakfast Talk in February.