Upcoming BWRC Conference Will Focus on Manufacturing on the Brooklyn Waterfront

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Navy Yard Building 128 during its midcentury industrial heyday. Photo courtesy of National Archives.

For almost twenty years, the Brooklyn waterfront has been experiencing a renaissance propelled mainly by residential development. However, there have also been some manufacturing rebounds, or at least stabilization. The history of manufacturing losses in Brooklyn stretches back to the mid-1950s. The declines continued into this century when, from 2000 to 2010, Brooklyn lost 55 percent (23,925) of its remaining manufacturing jobs. But since the current decade began, the decline has stabilized, and Brooklyn is no longer seeing decreases in manufacturing employment. Also, there has been a new vibrancy at manufacturing locations along the Brooklyn waterfront’s industrial corridor at places such as, the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Industry City, Liberty View Industrial Plaza, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

BWRC’s Fifth Annual Conference, “The Past, Present, and Possible Future of Manufacturing Along the Brooklyn Waterfront,” will examine whether these recent developments can lead to the growth of a new kind of manufacturing that will be sustainable, or whether they are just a slight interruption in an inexorable march toward residential development and service sector employment along the Brooklyn waterfront. Featured speakers will include Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, Miquela Craytor of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, and Adam Friedman of the Pratt Center for Community Development.

“The Past, Present, and Possible Future of Manufacturing” conference will take place at Brooklyn Borough Hall on April 8th, 2016, from 8:30am–12:30pm. The event is free and open to the public; you can RSVP for the event here.

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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!

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Brooklyn’s Urban Farms: Production and Education Breakfast Panel

The BWRC held its first Breakfast Talk of the semester—and our first Breakfast Talk Panel conversation ever— on Friday, February 19th. We were pleased to present a panel of four highly-qualified experts on a topic that has been steadily garnering attention over the last decade: the rise of urban farming initiatives in Brooklyn and beyond. As our panelists made clear, some of the most innovative and exciting urban farming projects have been taking place in Brooklyn, often in waterfront areas where (until recently) under-utilized space was readily available.

As BWRC director Richard Hanley’s opening remarks reminded us, the challenge of providing nutritious and sustainably grown food to a growing urban population remains a global one. Our first speaker, Diana Mincyte, an assistant professor of sociology at City Tech, helped place Brooklyn’s current urban farming projects in this global context. Mincyte, who has written widely on the environmental and social justice dimensions of agro-food systems in Europe and the United States, contrasted the current vogue for urban farming in Brooklyn to cities in Eastern Europe. There, vegetable gardens and small-scale farming are commonplace, if not always viewed in the same favorable light that has generally accompanied the rise of urban farms in American cities.

Ben Flanner, the CEO, head farmer, and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange—currently the largest soil-based rooftop farming operation in the world—described some of the challenges inherent to urban farming generally as well as some of the specific hurdles his company has faced on its way to becoming one of the most successful rooftop farms in the country. As Flanner pointed out, structural and other building considerations, issues of space in densely-concentrated urban neighborhoods, and skyrocketing real estate costs all pose significant obstacles to the viability of urban farming in Brooklyn. That established, Flanner described his company’s successful mission to create a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and profitable urban farm, as well as its recent efforts to branch out by providing landscape consulting, event hosting, adult education classes, and other educational and community ventures.

Mara Gittleman, the farm education manager at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY, spoke passionately and eloquently about her work integrating farming and gardening skills into the KCC curriculum. Describing the historical context that has shaped the built environment and affected the underprivileged communities where green spaces are most needed, Gittleman set up a contrast between the suddenly “buzzworthy” urban farms and the city’s community gardens, which are still largely unprotected and unrecognized by city authorities. In addition to her work as an educator, Gittleman continues her advocacy for community gardens as the founder and co-director of Farming Concrete and as a member of the board of directors of the NYC Community Garden Coalition.

Lastly, Mark Hellermann of City Tech’s Hospitality Management program spoke about his experience as an instructor of culinary arts and as the advisor to City Tech’s Garden Club. Underscoring the challenges posed by Brooklyn’s booming real estate market, Hellermann described the demise of the Garden Club’s former growing space on DeKalb Avenue, now replaced by a high-rise construction site (more felicitously, the Club now rents a plot from Brooklyn Grange). Hellermann also invited one of his students, Caroline Carreno to speak about her experiences both as a student in the Hospitality program and as the vice president of Garden Club.

A lively question-and-answer session followed the four speakers, as audience members contributed a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives to the conversation. The Hospitality Program provided an array of pastries and delicious jams made with fruit grown by the Garden Club, providing a tasty illustration of some of the educational possibilities that urban farming initiatives can help foster.

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Brooklyn’s Urban Farms: Production and Education. Breakfast Talk on Friday, Feb. 19th

Although the current urban farming movement predates its arrival in Brooklyn, some of the most innovative and dynamic urban farming is being done in that borough. While urban farms address issues of sustainability, nutrition, and “food deserts,” they have always had an educational component to them.

BWRC’s first breakfast event of the new semester will be a panel discussion on urban farms along the Brooklyn waterfront. The panelists will include urban farmers and educators: Ben Flanner of the Brooklyn Grange, Mara Gittleman of KCC Urban Farm, and Mark Hellerman and Diana Mincyte of City Tech.

The event is Free and Open to the Public. However, reservations are strongly encouraged.

RSVP Here

When:
February 19th 2016 – 8:30am

Where:
New York City College of Technology
Atrium 632
300 Jay St, Brooklyn NY

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Neil DeMause Discusses Ever-Changing Coney Island

Neil deMause gave the BWRC a fascinating Breakfast talk on the Coney Island Chapters of his new book Brooklyn Wars.

Here are some pictures from the event:

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The New Coney Island: Who gains, who loses? Breakfast Talk on Nov. 13th

November 13th, 8:30am at the New York City College of Technology, come hear Neil DeMause speak about how Coney Island has been changing.

Coney Island is in the midst of one of the biggest overhauls in its century-plus history: a redevelopment plan that’s involved over a decade of battles between city officials, amusement operators, developers, local residents, and, at times, protesters wielding amputated mermaid tails. This has been a transformation where much has been gained and lost. What is the future of America’s Playground? And whose vision of that future shapes public policy?

DeMause is a contributing editor for City Limits magazine, a frequent contributor to the Village Voice, and a former op-ed columnist for Metro New York. He is co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit” (University of Nebraska, 2008) and is currently at work on “The Brooklyn Wars,” scheduled for publication in early 2016. You can find him on Twitter @neildemause.

The event is Free and Open to the Public. However, Reservation strongly encouraged.

RSVP Here

When:
November 13th, 2015 – 8:30am

Where:
New York City College of Technology
Namm Building, Room 119
300 Jay St, Brooklyn NY

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Historian David Herlihy Speaks on Bikes and Coney Island

The historian, David Herlihy, came to the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center on October 8. 2015 to present his recent research on the biking craze that hit Coney Island in the 1880s and lasted into the 1930s.  His presentation touched upon the first organized bike ride to Coney Island and the building of America’s first bicycle path which was built along Ocean Parkway and led to Coney Island.  He also recounted the exploits of racers in Coney Island’s velodromes and the Boardwalk act of “Bikers in a Basket.”

For his presentation, Mr. Herlihy was presented with a framed photograph of the Coney Island Boardwalk at dawn, shot by the BWRC staff photographer, Professor Robin Michals.

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Riding and Racing: Bikes at Coney Island (1880-1930)

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Courtesy of the Pryor Dodge Collection

Cycling along the Boardwalk at Coney Island is not new. In the 1880s, Coney Island was a frequent destination for club-oriented, high-wheel riders from New York City. During the great bicycle boom of the 1890s, Coney Island hosted numerous amateur and professional races. A velodrome (a type of bicycle race track) continued to flourish there into the 1930s. At about that time, adult recreational cycling enjoyed a major comeback, and Coney Island once again became a haven for recreational cyclists. Come learn about this fantastic period in Brooklyn history!
Come learn about this fantastic period in Brooklyn history!

RSVP here. Free!

Friday, October 9, 2015. 8:30am
New York City College of Technology
300 Jay St – Namm 119

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Adding Resiliency to the Brooklyn Greenways

We’d like to thank Milton Puryear for a great Breakfast talk to close out our Spring semester. 

His informative presentation on Capturing Stormwater Runoff Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway can be downloaded.

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BWRC Breakfast Talk on Stormwater Infrastructure on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is May 8

The next BWRC Breakfast Talk will be on Friday, May 8th from 8:30am to 10:00am with Milton Puryear speaking about:

Capturing Stormwater Runoff Along the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway

  • Can resiliency and recreation mix?
  • Can the new Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway help protect Brooklyn from the next Sandy?
  • Can the new greenway contribute to a cleaner harbor?

The answer to each is yes! Come learn about the recently released The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Stormwater Management Plan that details how the building of stormwater infrastructure during the construction of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway can contribute to protecting the waterfront from coastal flooding as occured during Superstorm Sandy.

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Speaking will be Milton Puryear co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

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