The Wilson Wow Factor

Sometimes reality hits home and hard if you’re a football fan.
Around these parts, it hasn’t been pretty rooting for either of the two local football teams since 2012, but there’s a major difference in the perception amongst Jets and Giants fans throughout the city.
The Giants fan is well aware of the history of the franchise, especially the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era.
Despite the ugliness over the last nine years, Giants fans can certainly pound their chest over the two Super Bowl victories against the big bad New England Patriots.
Jets fans don’t have the same sort of Lombardi flex. The Jets have had one winning season since 2011, and have not made the postseason since 2010.
News flash: that’s probably not changing this year.
However, there is a sense of optimism because of the presence and performance of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson during the preseason.
Look, you don’t enshrine yourself in Canton Ohio after two preseason games. However, when you consider some of the critiques being lobbed at the Jets rookie quarterback, you can understand fans being on the defensive.
Wilson’s performance in scrimmages early in training camp was weirdly under the microscope. Another news flash: rookie quarterbacks have some rough practices.
Wilson may have struggled in scrimmages, but he has played terrific in the first two preseason games.
That does not mean Zach Wilson is about to dominate his rookie season, but it does mean that you’re allowed to be excited if you root for the New York Jets.
The Jets haven’t given you much to cheer about for the last decade. A whole lot of losing seasons combined with a whole lot of bad feelings sets the bar so incredibly low that any quality play will be celebrated.
The Jets have already had their hearts broken this preseason with news that their biggest signing and most elite pass rusher Carl Lawson is done for the season with a torn achilles.
That’s awful news if you root for the green and white, however the success of this season hinges on the growth and the development of coach Robert Saleh and the quarterback Zach Wilson.
Will the rookie wow you throughout the season? The more times you can say yes, the better off Jets fans will be.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts every Sunday Night, Wednesday Morning & Friday Morning.

My Plastic Heart opens Greenpoint store

Since 2004, My Plastic Heart has been selling new, collectible, and vintage toys through its online store and later at a brick-and-mortar location in the East Village.
Earlier this year, store owner Vincent Yu and his team packed up and moved their in-person operation across the river to 40 Greenpoint Avenue, only one block away from the North Brooklyn waterfront.
“We were fairly familiar with the neighborhood and have friends here,” Yu explained during an interview. “We’ve also done shows at the [Brooklyn EXPO] convention center and we’ve been following the area as it’s developed over the past ten years.
“We were either going to stay in Manhattan or move here, and when we saw this space we knew we would never find anything like this again,” he added.
Although My Plastic Heart continues to sell a large amount of toys online, Yu believes that an in-person store adds to the toy-buying experience.
“A lot of it has to do with what we sell, it’s very tactile,” Yu said. “It also helps people know the size of a toy. Many times people have come in and said, ‘oh it’s bigger than I thought’ or ‘it’s so small.’”
My Plastic Heart is also hoping to fill a void in the Greenpoint community, which currently lacks many proper toy stores.
“We didn’t see anything like this in this area,” Yu said. “There are so many kids here who love to have somewhere to go. There are a lot of families and kids, and this feels like a great place for them.”
Ironically, the toys on sale at My Plastic Heart are traditionally targeted for an older demographic, namely adults ages 25 to 35. As Yu explains, big kids like himself are particularly attached to the media they consumed when they were younger.
Now that his generation is older and has some money in their pockets, they are ready to spend it on some nostalgia-infused plastic.
“When we were growing up, we had no computers, we had barely just gotten cable,” Yu explained of his own upbringing in Flushing. “We watched our three channels on TV and then wanted the toys from those three channels. That’s kind of where a lot of this comes from.
“It has a lot to do with nostalgia,” Yu added while picking up a Run-DMC action figure. “Some companies take toy licenses from the 80s from the 90s and recreate them. It’s not for kids, because no kids today are going to know Run-DMC.”
My Plastic Heart’s quirky dedication to the toys of yesteryear has already struck a chord with Greenpointers. Yu and company attribute the success, in part, to the dynamic sidewalks of North Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.
“From where we came from it’s like night and day,” he said. “That area was all commercial. Here, families and other people can just walk into stores.”
Having found great success in the area already, Yu hopes that My Plastic Heart can inspire others to take what they are passionate about and share it.
“If it’s really your passion, there is never a bad time to do it [start a business],” Yu said. “Even during the pandemic, we were able to make the best of it. So if it’s your passion, there are plenty of resources to learn about in New York City that can help you make it happen.”
My Plastic Heart is currently open Friday from 1 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The store is also open by appointment Monday through Thursday, but you can usually find a staff member inside ready to help if you happen to walk by.

Condo at One Boerum Place rented for $27K

Just when you think Brooklyn can’t get anymore expensive, the borough still manages to surprise you.
A wealthy renter recently paid a $27,000 per-month lease for a four-bedroom apartment penthouse on the top floor of One Boerum Place in Downtown Brooklyn.
The name of the renter is not public, but they will enjoy stunning views of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn from the heights of the new 96-story apartment building. The unit boasts 3,100 square feet of indoor space and 2,000 square feet of outdoor patio space.
One Boerum Place offers residents access to an indoor pool, sauna, two-story gym, and rooftop lounge as well.
The $27,000 a month price tag falls just short of the honor of highest ever monthly lease in Brooklyn’s history. That title goes to 149 Clinton Street, a townhouse in the heart of Brooklyn Heights that is currently being rented for $30,000 a month.
A lottery for the 42 affordable units at Boerum Hill was open to residents making up to 130 percent of the area median income (AMI), ranging in eligible income from $68,572 to $167,570. The cheapest units available rented for $2,500 per month.
Two Blue Slip, a 39-story residential tower that is part of the ongoing Greenpoint Landing development, recently opened a lottery for its 127 affordable units. Rents started at $2,370 and went as high as $3,530.
Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher took to Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the lottery.
“More than 80 percent of jobs in Brooklyn pay less than the minimum eligible salary ($81,258/year) to qualify for these units,” Gallagher wrote.
She specifically called out the 421-a property tax exemption policy,which gives real-estate developers decades worth of tax breaks for building new residential buildings where 10 to 15 percent of the units are set aside as affordable.
“Neoliberal housing policy is giving massive public subsidies to private developers so they submit a handful of units few can afford into a lottery where the chance of winning is 0.1689 percent,” Gallagher continued. “421-a is a bad joke.”

New York Transit Museum reopens in Brooklyn

After a nearly 18-month temporary closure for the pandemic, the New York Transit Museum finally reopened its doors to the public on August 14.
The museum first opened in 1976 to celebrate the country’s centennial, and has since become a favorite among locals and tourists who love its unique collection of vintage cars, photographs, and paraphernalia.
Located underground in Downtown Brooklyn’s old Court Street station at 99 Schermerhorn Street, the New York Transit Museum’s varied exhibits celebrate the stories of construction workers, transit workers, and commuters who created and sustained the city’s transportation system.
Museum director Concetta Bencivenga discussed the continued significance these stories hold during the pandemic, as well as the museum’s own experience over the past year and half.
“Not all museums are designed equally,” Bencivenga said during an interview. “We may not have the square footage of the Met or even the Brooklyn Museum, but more importantly we don’t have the same constituents.
“We have been part of our downtown Brooklyn neighborhood for 45 years, so for a lot of folks we’re the museum around the corner,” she added. “We are also a de facto children’s museum and are very well known in the international community.”
The museum stayed closed longer than many other museums in the city, yet as Bencivenga explained, this was a conscious decision.
“We wanted to make sure that everybody, our staff and visitors alike, had ample opportunity to get vaccinated,” Bencivenga said. “I am 100 percent fine with waiting as long as we did, because we did the right thing for our institution and the communities that we serve.”
Like any institution in New York City, the Transit Museum was fundamentally challenged by the pandemic. While museum leadership was successfully able to keep its entire staff intact for a full year, they finally had to lay off a number of employees earlier this year.
However, the pandemic has also proven just how vital and contemporary the Transit Museum’s work is.
“We have been very, very cognizant of the fact that we’re actually living in an historical experience,” Bencivenga explained. “So we actually have been collecting the mask verbiage, the signage, the social distance markers that have been produced by the MTA. We are basically saying everybody don’t throw anything out.
“The Transit Museum believes that you experience New York the way you do because of mass transit, you just don’t know it yet,” she added. “This is a historic experience for the entire world, but it certainly has a significant impact on mass transit.”
In addition to expanding the collection, the pandemic has also presented the museum with an opportunity to reflect on the larger history of mass transit in New York.
Some stories that museum staff tell on tours have found greater meaning, such as the Malbone Street Wreck of 1918 — the biggest subway accident in history — which was caused in part by a grieving motorman who had recently lost relatives to the Spanish flu.
Many of the other stories, however, are more familiar to the museum’s current visitors.
“We have the 20th anniversary of 9/11 coming up,” Bencivenga said, “and one of the most remarkable stories is that transit workers continued to show up. Whether it’s figuring out how to do it during the two world wars, the Spanish flu, the demise and resurgence of the system in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, or even Superstorm Sandy, transit workers are there. They are truly some of the most unsung heroes in the city of New York.”
The Transit Museum honored these dedicated employees during the city’s recent “Hometown Heroes” parade for essential workers, rolling out cars from its antique fleet to travel down the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan.
Yet on any given day, the museum is consistently dedicated to celebrating the way mass transit has shaped the ways New Yorkers work, play, and live.
“One of my favorite pictures in our collection is of Willets Point,” Bencivenga explained. “Queens is the way we know it because of the 7 train. That relationship between the people who live there and mass transit is so clear.”
The New York City Transit Museum is currently open Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All visitors, including members, must reserve tickets online in advance. Proof of vaccination and masks are also required for entry.
“If you’re interested in the artistic inspiration that people have derived from the subway or mass transit since its inception, we have a show for you,” Bencivenga said. “If you want to just come and sit in a car that maybe your parents or grandparents or you yourself used to commute or go to the World Fair in Queens or get to school, then we have a fleet for you.”

Botanical Garden towers scrapped after backlash

After many weeks of speaking for the trees, the local Loraxes and community activists at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden have successfully halted the development of two high-rise towers that would have severely impacted plant life in the park.
Proposed for 960 Franklin Avenue, the two 34-story towers would have blocked sunlight from reaching vast portions of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
Additionally, the towers would cast a shadow over many other areas throughout Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, including nearby Jackie Robinson Playground, M.S. 375, and the campus of Medgar Evers College.
This past week, opponents of the project finally declared victory in the “Fight for Sunlight.”
First, Borough President Eric Adams stated his opposition to the plan. Although the borough president only plays an advisory role in the land-use process, Adams disapproval was a strong sign of waning support.
An official statement from Adams office explained that while new development on underutilized land is welcome when it offers affordable housing or other positive benefits, the towers at 960 Franklin were without precedent.
But the towers were dealt a much bigger blow when the City Planning Commission voted against the project.
In a last-ditch effort to salvage the project, real estate developer The Continuum Company proposed a revised plan for the tower that was 17 stories tall. The City Planning Commission rejected this proposal as well.
“The proposal is not only inappropriate for this location,” said Marisa Lago, chair of the City Planning Commission, “but also casts extensive shadows over the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens’ greenhouses and conservatories, which are unique, sunlight sensitive receptors.”

Big win for Gowanus rezoning

Recent developments reveal an increasing support for the Gowanus rezoning.
Last week, Borough President and Democratic nominee for mayor Eric Adams formally announced his support for the ambitious zoning change.
Although borough presidents only have an advisory role in the land use process, Adams support for the neighborhood-wide rezone is a telling sign that the Democratic nominee would continue to advocate for similar developments if he is elected mayor.
“New York City is always changing, but every once in a while we need a sea change, and that’s what I believe we are embracing now,” Adams said during a press conference.
Adams made it clear that his support was contingent upon the rezoning’s commitment to funding public housing. Multiple NYCHA developments, including the Wyckoff Houses, are included within the area planned for rezoning, but the borough president is hopeful that the money put towards the rezoning will also assist low-income residents.
“This is about investing in public housing,” Adams explained. “Buildings cannot go up around NYCHA developments while residents see their futures go down.”
The Gowanus Rezoning has previously been criticized for opening the neighborhood to increased displacement and gentrification.
However, a new Racial Equity Report on Housing and Opportunity created by the City Council in collaboration with the Fifth Avenue Committee and Columbia University Urban History Professor Lance Freeman found that the zoning change would in fact make the neighborhood more diverse.
The report took neighborhood demographics and income into account, and determined that 20 to 25 percent of the new apartments coming to the neighborhood through the rezoning are projected to be filled by Black residents, while 25 to 37 percent are projected to be filled by Hispanic residents.
Currently, the area slated for rezoning is more than 60 percent white.
“In 2021, New York City remains one of the most highly segregated and unequal cities in the United States,” read the report. “Persistent disparities in access to economic opportunity, quality education, healthcare, housing, and open space have been revealed and exacerbated by a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black and Latino communities.
“Until recently, broad goals of citywide economic growth and housing production without specific regard to racial or socio-economic equity have long dominated the policymaking process,” it continued. “This model of pursuing ‘color-blind’ growth within a vision of New York as a global capital of finance, culture, and tourism continues to influence the City’s overall policy direction and has yet to be fully reckoned with.”
The Gowanus Rezoning was approved on June 24 by community boards 6 and 2 after many months of pushback and legal challenges.
The proposal was originally conceived during the administration of former mayor Michael Bloomberg, but found new life under Mayor Bill de Blasio. It will see 80 square blocks of the neighborhood rezoned to make way for new developments, including the controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted Public Place site along the Gowanus Canal.
The rezoning will bring approximately 8,500 new housing units to the neighborhood, including 3,000 units that would be permanently affordable.
Community groups, including the grassroots organization Voice of Gowanus, criticized both the legal process to approve the rezoning and the environmental risks that could come along with new development.
The group successfully secured a temporary restraining order that prevented the rezoning from entering the land-use review process, yet the ruling was soon reversed by New York Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine.
At the time of the rezoning’s approval, many local politicians and community members were still wary of the negative impact the rezoning would bring. Councilman Brad Lander and members of Community Board 6 both expressed their dismay that additional NYCHA funding was not included in the rezoning proposal, and called for the city to conduct a larger study of the rezoning’s potential impact on racial equity.
With the release of the new report last week, these political figures have begun to change their tune.
“As our public statements, communications to the city, and final vote to conditionally approve the Gowanus rezoning made clear, we supported a racial impact study and are glad to see one has been done,” said Mike Racioppo, district manager of Community Board 6. “More important than the study being done are the results of the study, which show Gowanus could become more diverse after the rezoning.”
In addition to the Racial Equity Report, local activists continue to demand that the city support and fund a Gowanus Zoning Commitment Task Force to maintain a steady stream of communication with members of the community.
“The task force will monitor compliance with public and private commitments, adherence to zoning requirements, and implementation of the rezoning,” board leaderhips wrote in a joint statement.

Battle of Brooklyn event returns to Green-Wood

The year 1776 was a tumultuous one for Brooklyn. As the city’s residents celebrated the issuing of the Declaration of Independence in July, British forces were preparing to transform their homes into the battlefield of the Revolutionary War’s largest engagement yet.
Following another tumultuous year in 2020, Green-Wood Cemetery will host an event this Saturday commemorating the Battle of Brooklyn. The cemetery tradition — which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic — honors those who defended the early American Republic on Green-Wood’s current grounds in August of 1776.
Organized in collaboration with Park Slope’s Old Stone House, Green-Wood’s Battle of Brooklyn event is a family-friendly afternoon featuring reenactors, demonstrations, music, and storytelling. Muskets, cannons, and horses will be present throughout the cemetery, as well as actors representing the American Continental Army and the British redcoats.
For the staff at Green-Wood, the Battle of Brooklyn’s anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the cemetery’s relationship with the borough’s history.
“Green-Wood is proud to again remember the crucial role Brooklyn played in the birth of our nation,” said Green-Wood president Richard Moylan. “We come together to honor the American heroes who fought so valiantly 245 years ago.”
Green-Wood’s resident historian, Jeff Richman, echoed a similar sentiment.
“History is both an opportunity to remember those who have come before us and learn from their lives, so that we can better live ours,” Richman said in an interview. “When we reflect on the freedoms we enjoy today in this country, we must remember that they are only possible because General George Washington, despite the defeat he suffered on this ground, was just barely able to save his army and continue the fight for independence for seven long years, until independence was won.”
The Battle of Brooklyn was a pivotal point in the American Revolution. Although it was technically a defeat for the Americans, a force of 2,000 Continental troops bravely held back over 30,000 British soldiers, giving General Washington and his army an opportunity to retreat to Manhattan and fight another day. It was the largest battle in the entirety of the war.
Greenwood’s Battle of Brooklyn event is free and open to all, yet the cemetery requires that visitors secure tickets in advance to comply with COVID-19 capacity protocols.
Visitors can select a time slot to visit the event at Masks are strongly recommended regardless of vaccination status.

Don’t pick your heroes from politics

Kathy C. Hochul is now officially the Governor of New York.
When the former Congresswoman from Buffalo was sworn in on Tuesday, she was making history as the first woman to ever hold the State’s highest office.
And indeed, her governorship is a historic moment that deserves to be celebrated. New York has been home to a passionate feminist movement since even before the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, yet somehow the State has never had a woman governor.
Yet Hochul’s term begins as that of her predecessor — Andrew Cuomo — ends in absolute disgrace. So while it is worth celebrating her achievement and the achievement of the State as a whole, the beginning of this new governorship is a time for New Yorkers to reflect on how we got here.
To put it lightly, Cuomo went down in flames. But even before his astronomical fall from grace, there were plenty of red flags. Cuomo was a classic, egotistical, old-school type of New York politician. That was clear since day one.
However, the former Governor’s capable response to the COVID-19 pandemic — at least compared to the absolutely abysmal leadership of governors from other, mostly republican, states — quickly earned the otherwise lackluster politician a new degree of national celebrity.
His daily press conferences about microbes and masks took the television slot of daytime soap operas, and became a strangely comforting cottage industry during the pandemic’s early days. Appearances on national TV shows soon followed. Then a book deal.
And just like that, Andrew Cuomo was becoming a hero to people. What a terrible mistake.
No matter how much we agree with a politician’s policy’s or beliefs, we should never put them on a pedestal so high that we can’t hold them accountable for their actions. The fanfare surrounding Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic was too much for a public servant, but as is too often the case, service is the last thing we think about when we discuss politicians. Look no further than No. 45 himself, a former reality TV star turned twice impeached president who used the nation’s highest office to fuel his ego and do little else…that is an opinion piece (or two, or three) for another time though.
So as Kathy Hochul enters office, we as voters must not forget the role politicians are supposed to play in our society. Elected officials should be serving us, their constituents, rather than using our attention to serve their own egos.
Now is a time to celebrate. New York has a woman governor, which is a historic moment too long in the making. However, we must not repeat our own history of deifying the politicians who are supposed to serve our needs.

Tom Sebazco, KINKA

Astoria-based artist Tom Sebazco helps promote the work of fellow artists at his gift shop, KINKA.
“KINKA comes from a Japanese tea ceremony,” said Sebazco. “At the tea ceremony, there is a flower displayed, but some flowers are forbidden because they are too pungent, too bright or out of season. These forbidden flowers are called KINKA.”
KINKA is located in front of Japanese restaurant Maki Kosaka on 19th Street in Manhattan,
“It may look like it’s only a gift shop, but when you go in it’s Maki Kosaka,” Sebazco said. “It was a process of ideas and inspiration among the owners and us.”
The store features one-of-a-kind works of art.
“You cannot find them anywhere else,” said Sebazco. “The endless talent pool of amazing New York City artists is on full display engulfed in succulents and unique leafy potted plants.”
The work of Shino Takeda, Miki Takatsuka, Taisan Tanaka, Hisako Baba and Kay Kojima has been featured in the store.
“Shino is a ceramic artist known for her whimsical treatments of glaze and shape,” said Sebazco. “Taisan is a world renown calligraphy painter from Japan. Miki is a sumi-e painter that concentrates and studies in the ancient traditional sumi-e technique.
“Hisako is well known for her wood fire ceramics and sake cups and carafes,” he added. “Kay is a ceramic artist that adds a small sense of agitation and balance to organic vases and candle stick holders. We just brought in Doclay Studio’s Saerom Seong, who fashions plates and other ceramics for Michelin-rated restaurants.”
Sebazco also holds events at KINKA. Recently, author Leeann Lavin discussed her book “Art of the Garnish.”
“We are hoping to have events again, but we are still in a COVID hold,” said Sebazco. “The gift store has kept the art program alive, and we will see what the future allows us to do. We cannot wait for another tea ceremony.”

Kim exposes Cuomo

Dear Editor,
Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens is blowing the whistle on $88 million in state contracts awarded to a politically connected public relations firm.
Kim urged State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to investigate “ludicrous” state contracts given to Kivvit, a PR firm run by former Andrew Cuomo communications staffers Josh Vlasto and Rich Bamberger.
While both managing directors left Kivvit in August, the firm’s current managing partner, Maggie Moran, was Cuomo’s 2018 campaign director. The Post said Kivvit’s contracts were not subject to regular “pre-audit” procedures.
Taxpayers need to know if Kivvit get those contracts via competitive bidding or on a no-bid basis, and if our $88 million was responsibly spent.
For example, what precisely are the “strategic planning & media buying” services that cost SUNY $10 million? Could that money have been used for student financial aid instead?
Kim deserves praise for exposing this scandal, and legislators in Albany must join him in pressing for a probe. They should urge Governor Kathy Hochul to cancel Kivvit’s contracts if they were obtained via illegal or unethical practices.
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

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