Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Warship Made From World Trade Center Steel

A frequent commenter and contributor to this blog Escape From Sunset Park sent me the following via e-mail and suggested I post it. I am posting the e-mail verbatim. In a way, it does have something to do with Sunset Park and New York City and beyond. Never Forget indeed!

Meet the USS New York. She was built using 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite , LA to cast the ship's bow section When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003 , "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there." Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up." "It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back." The ship's motto?

"Never Forget"

And I may add, as they used to say in the neighboring nabe of Bensonhurst where I went to high school.

"Always get Even"

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will the Sunset Ferry Ever Return?

According to our local newspaper the Sunset News New York Water Taxi has suspended ferry service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier. The word suspended appears to mean that it might come back. Several things about the article stuck out at me. One was the fact that they could only get fewer than 250 people to use the ferry. The other was the price for a one way ticket, $5.60 to Wall Street. The ride is about 20 minutes. You have to ask yourself. How did they manage to get so many people to use it at that price? With so many alternatives to the ferry in mass transportation I am surprised it lasted this long. The other problem from day one was also the fact that few people in the neighborhood even know that it's there. Probably true as well in Bay Ridge where I suspect most of the users came from.

An organization called the Sunset Ridge Alliance has been pushing for expanded service and having additional ferry service leave from the 69th street pier. The problem with that is that there is no parking available at the 69th street pier. The only way to get people to the pier would be via Bus as the only mass transportation means available. That would push the cost for a one way ticket at close to $8. At least the 58th street pier at the Brooklyn Army Terminal has an abundance of Parking. I somehow don't think that the ferry service will be back any time soon unless they can get more people to pony up these prices when public transportation by either the N, R or D trains will get you to Wall Street from the 36th street station in about 30 minutes and midtown Manhattan in about 40 for a mere $2.

This brings me to another pet peeve of mine. Most Sunset Parkers aren't even aware that the pier is there. It is an underutilized resource and recreation spot in the nabe and the only spot where you can do some fishing if you are into that sort of thing. Community organizations should use the pier to hold more events and publicize the fact the pier is there.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Memorian Ron Ardito RIP 1954-2008

A wake/memorial to Ron Ardito who recently passed away from cancer was held last night at the Rainbow Cafe/bar at 39th and 5th . Ron was born and bred in Sunset Park and was the lead singer/guitarist of The Shirts a local punk rock band that originated in the nabe and eventually found itself as a staple at the roster of the illustrious CBGB's in Manhattan. They have been lauded as a precursor to the Talking Heads, among others. The shirts were a quintessential Brooklyn band and Ron was a quintessential Brooklyn rocker. Their start as a band was doing gigs at the Rainbow Cafe. Although I was a contemporary in the nabe and live only a couple of blocks from the Rainbow I missed much of the local scene since I went to college in Manhattan and hung out there most of the time.

The Rainbow Cafe was packed with people who were either in the band or were followers of the punk rock scene. In any event, Sunset Park has lost another illustrious product of the nabe in those bygone days when the nabe was a quite different place than it is today. Time passes and things change, but we always have our memories, and when we are gone those are gone too.

There are numerous pages devoted to Ron and The Shirts and CBGB's which they loved, please visit them;

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Searching for Chinese Dumplings in Sunset Park

When my favorite dumpling place closed a couple of years ago in Sunset Park I had to go and find a replacement for it. Restaurants that specialize in dumplings are few and far between in the nabe and borough. Fortunately I did not have to search far and found two places to replace them. The first place to recommend is Family Dumpling on the corner of 7th Avenue and 56th street. This small place caters mostly to the Chinese population of the nabe as do most Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood. It seems to be a common price for dumpling places to charge $1 for 5 dumplings. I usually have $2 at a serving. They have been written up by the Village Voice and they have those reviews on the windows but haven't been able to find them online. You can always find seating at Family Dumpling as it isn't always that overwhelmingly busy. I like my dumplings with soy sauce and if you want it you will have to ask for it on the side. The bottles they have at the tables are filled with vinegar and someone thinking they are soy sauce will get a surprise when they pour it on. All n all their dumplings are far less greasy than most and they use a flat square pan skillet to fry them in. I highly recommend them if you are in the area for a quick cheap meal. Their address is 5602 Seventh Avenue.

Family Dumpling at 7th ave. and 56th street

A friend of mine always told me that if you want to know good places to eat look out for where the local cops eat. That is the case with Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House. You can almost miss it as it is off the beaten path off the corner of 8th Avenue on 48th street. This place is always busy and is frequented by the guys from the 68 and 72 precincts. Their dumplings are a little greasier than the ones at Family Dumpling. Seating during lunchtime or dinner time is on a first come first served basis. You need to grab any chair available, though most people do takeout and yes the bottles on the tables have soy sauce in them. They also have a variety of noodles and soups on their menu and are open every day until 9 PM but they are usually out of stuff by 8:30. Neither place is designed to cater to fine dining. I think the Chinese invented fast food, which means get it fast, eat it fast and get out fast. Kai Feng Fu's address is 4801 8th Ave. but as I said they are about 60 feet off the avenue on 48th street just off the corner.

Kai Feng Fu Dumpling on 48th street and 8th Avenue.

I am still on the lookout for more dumpling places to try out in the area. We'll report on how our search progresses.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cultural Happenings in Sunset Park

2nd Sunset Park Neighborhood Summit

Neighborhood Summit, All are invited..
When: Sunday January 20 at 1 to 4 PM
Cost: Free
Where: Trinity Lutheran Chruch
46th street and 4th Avenue Sunset Park.

Thanks to Sunset Park Autonomous Zone

Diocesean Mass

What: Mass in celebration of Our Lady of Altagracia (Patron Saint of the Dominican Republic)
When: Monday January 21 7PM
Cost: Free
Where: Saint Agatha Catholic Church
702 48th street Sunset Park


What: Danish Mardi Grass, dress in custome, eat Danish food, be part of the tradition.
When: Sunday January 27th 3PM to 6PM
Cost: All inclusive $25 for adults, $15 ages 7-17, $10 for under 7
Where: Danish Athletic Club
735 65th street Sunset Park (border of Bay Ridge)
For reservation call Victoria @ 718-748-5950 or Reidun @ 718-748-7844

Chinese New Year Celebration Music

What: Chinese Harmonica virtuoso Jia Yi He
When: February 7th @ 4 PM
Cost: Free
Where: Brooklyn Public Library Sunset Park
5108 4th Avenue at 51st street

Have a cultural happening in the area you would like listed?
Email me at webmaster at sunset-park dot com

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping Our Castle Keep

One of our perennial Sunset Park landmarks was covered recently by the Lost City Blog. It appears that it is in danger of extinction due to neglect. The building at one time used to house the original 68th precinct house. Reminiscent of a medieval castle one would find in southern Europe complete with what looks like a castle keep. Some people have complained that it looks like an eyesore. I have always liked the fact that it sticks out like an archaic sore thumb compared to the surrounding buildings. According to the blog the building which has been designated a Historic Landmark by the city has been bought by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association. One wonders what they intend to do with it. Just recently they also took over the old VFW Post that stood on the corner of 39th street and 8th Avenue. Rather than use that building for any useful purpose they have turned to using the front yard as a parking garage for their buses. Let us hope that they don't do the same with the old precinct house and leave it to be used as a warehouse. The building should be used for some community purpose such as a museum or community center. Perhaps our councilwoman can get off her butt and see if we can get some funding to do just that. In any case, the blog offers a brief history of the building.

Of note also is comments by a frequent contributor to this blog Escape From Sunset Park adding a bit more to the history;

  • The day the police moved out, my teenage friends and I busted the lock and put our own lock on the door. We recognized the value of the building and wanted to show the community how important it was to preserve it.

    Over the course of a few weeks, we fixed it up well-enough to stage a three day health fair. We attracted 1,776 people to the event. (we "rented" the building to the movie company shooting "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" to raise money to make the place useable for the health fair. Also, the telephone company "switchboard" for the area, now mounted outdoors on a pole was inside the building on a wall - it provided us with free phone service so we could call doctors from a medical directory that we "found" and have them volunteer to fill in blocks of time for the health fair. Our biggest moment came the night before the fair, when we had to lock the police out because they were harrassing us - in "our"

    After the health fair we held a public meeting to turn the building over to any group that wanted to use it - no one stepped forward.

    A year or so later an anti-drug program - (3rd avenue based, primarily heroin, run by a man named Santana - it was a Christ based program) took over the building and they are the ones that painted over the brick & began putting white paint in the mortar lines before they abandoned the building.

    The biggest mistake of the building was when the school of music had it listed as a nyc landmark - it made any future repairs unaffordable due to the level of "historic preservation" that had to be met.

    For awhile it was in the hands of a group that wanted to put a for profit health spa in the building.

    I absolutely love the building and it is a part of my past. There is an old horse stable on the south side of the building (Neighborhood Youth Corps used it for a summer or two - I smashed a chair against a wall in a dispute at one time and almost got my butt kicked by a couple of dozen guys) and a gang - I forget their name - bald headed, darkskinned guys occupied it for awhile - I stepped into their "lair" once with members of the Brooklyn Saints to squash an imminent gang fight - once again I was lucky to escape without a During this episode the police, now in the new 72nd precinct building hung the colors (a gang member's leather jacket on the precinct flagpole to show their contempt for the gang)..

    To the west of the building is the morgue that was part of the police operation at the time of its construction.
    I hope that the Chinese American group can save the building.
Check out the post. It makes for interesting reading and we recommend the blog as well.

Earlier this morning as I was passing by I snapped these shots of the building in question.

Let's hope that some of us in the community can band together and save this landmark. Besides giving the neighborhood character it is a bit of our history from a bygone era when New York City and Sunset Park were a different place.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Home Cooking Slovak Food at Milan's

One of the things I like about running the website for Sunset Park is that I get to explore the neighborhood in all it's corners. After having done so for the last ten years I am amazed how every day there is a new discovery. Since Sunset Park has had an explosion of eateries and restaurants it's only fair that we should write about them as well. This will be the first of many, I hope.

Milan's owner Milan Franko

I first stumbled on Milan's Restaurant a year ago when I included their page on my website. By all accounts it is the only Slovak Restaurant in the borough of Brooklyn. Yesterday I finally got a chance to try some of their food. Milan's is owned and operated by Milan Franko and his wife Miloslava who is also a professional chef who runs the kitchen and as Milan claims is the real boss. Milan and his wife emigrated to the US from Slovakia in 1991. His story is what is typical of hard working immigrants to this country who work hard at achieving their dreams. Coming from a family of chefs and restaurateurs it was always Milan's dream to open a restaurant of his own. Milan's opened it's doors 11 years ago. It wasn't long before they got rave reviews by the New York Times food critics. The restaurant is very functional and spartan. Their menu is eclectic and features dishes from Slovakia, Czech and Poland. Like most of the region one can find the same dishes across borders with some variations in the recipes.

Hungarian Goulash

The dish I had was Hungarian Goulash and potato pancakes. The Goulash was excellent to my taste buds. Now I am not a connoisseur of food, I just know what tastes good and if I like something. Milan's also serves Czech Pilsner beers on tap such as Staropramen, Urquel and Krusovice. All of them put Budweiser to shame and make it seem bland by comparison. I also had a taste of Slovak pasta with sheep cottage cheese topped of with some bacon. All in all I enjoyed the meal and liked hearing Milan's story of trying to make it in Sunset Park. The place has a homey atmosphere and the dishes seem more like home cooking than some cookie cutter kind of fare one gets in fast food places. The menu is reasonably priced and if you like East European food it's the place to go. Much of Sunset park is undiscovered territory by Sunset Parkers, not to mention our neighbors to the north and south. You should give Milan's a visit and try the food. After all, how often do you get to eat some Slovak home cooking?

Slovak pasta with sheep's cheese.

Incidentally, it's located at 710 5th Avenue off of 22nd street.

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The Cream Cake Machine of Sunset Park

Over at New York Magazine's Website they had an article about a recently unveiled cream cake machine in Chinatown. The article noted that there are only three of these machines in existence and one of them was in Sunset Park at 60th and 8th (the actual location). Being the adventurous type and being near there I decided to investigate. Hey I figured at $2 for 8 cakes, why not?

The article seemed intriguing as follows;

  • A Chinatown eatery has put something on the sidewalk that’s much more exciting than the usual bag of fish: the cream-cake machine! Unveiled for a test run yesterday outside of Quickly, a trendy bubble-tea and shabu shabu spot, the Korean contraption is just one of three in the city, said manager Patrick Chu. (The other two are at Quickly's Flushing and Sunset Park locations.) The thumb-size cream cakes cost $2 for eight and $5 for 24. Considering the machine churns out two dozen cakes every five minutes, we wonder if this means the end for the humble griddle man.
So off we went with camera in hand and $2 to try them out. Frankly I had seen the griddle carts along 8th avenue but had never tried cream cakes before. Quickly is situated around the corner off of 8th on 60th street. The machine looked just like the one in the article. I ordered 8 cakes and tried them out. The cakes taste rather a bit sweet and in some ways reminded me of Twinkies without the cream and heavy sugar. They weren't bad at all and at $2 were rather reasonably priced and a relatively cheap snack for when you have the munchies. Now that I know these guys are there I think I will occasionally stop there and get some cream cakes. I will also have to stop by one of those griddle carts and see what the competition tastes like as well.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Housing Project on 39th and 6th on again!

Earlier this morning I was passing by the construction site on the corner of 39th street and 6th Avenue. The site had been inactive for the last two months and it seemed that they had possibly run out of money or were taking a break. But this morning there was activity at the site. Being the curious sort I went there and asked the workers when the completion date was going to be. Nobody spoke English so that answer was not forthcoming. However, I did get a peek at what the ground floor would look like and having my camera with me I snapped a few shots.

The ground floor seems to be gated and fenced and there appear to be apartments that are located slightly below ground level. That explains why I kept seeing the tops of doors above the wooden fence level. Now that the project appears to be ongoing again, several questions come to mind. When the project was first proposed on the site of the old Getty service station that stood there. There were environmental issues and it had caused a controversy at the local community board as to what type of housing would be built at the site with most preferring affordable middle income housing to be put there. It was never clear to me if they were going to be condos or rentals. There is no indication of that in any of the postings on the outside. There is the issue why the site seemed to be inactive for the last two months. Did these guys run out of money? Are they selling apartments or the entire project? Were they foreclosed? Is Century 21 representing a bank? Questions, questions. I suppose we will eventually find out.

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Our Assemblyman Ortiz wants you to pay more for beer!

Our esteemed assemblyman representing Sunset Park in the state assembly Felix Ortiz has come out with an idea to raise more revenue according to our local paper the Sunset News. Supposedly the money would go to fund programs for Junior highschoolers and preventing from turning to a life of alcohol. He expects the bill to raise at least $200 million.
Our assemblyman has been a very busy boy. Last year he sponsored a bill that would have effectively banned the sale of vitamins and supplements without FDA approval and a doctor's prescription. While I find the supposed goal compelling I find it interesting that he did not also go after wine and hard liquor as well, the drink of choice of the upper classes. Instead he has targeted beer which is the drink of choice of most of his constituents. Especially Hispanics from the Caribbean and blue collar workers which make up the bulk of the voters in our district. Should this bill pass, which seems unlikely at this time with the Governor pushing for lower taxes. I wonder if many of us will like the fact that we will have to pay 25 cents a can more and $1.50 per six pack. Will the voters target their angst at Ortiz? I somehow doubt it. But, if we want to stop the consumption of alcohol, why not ban it altogether? Somehow I don't think that will happen either. The problem with raising taxes is that in the end the ones who pay are the working class and the middle class. The rich have lawyers and loopholes.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Keeping the Gowanus Part 2!

It seems that some people over at objected to my criticism of the Gowanus Expressway plans in my last post. I would have ignored them, but I feel I must comment. The condescending attitude of some of the holier than thou posters that reek of elitist smarminess simply cannot be ignored. They could have chosen to debate my points in a civil manner and refuted some of my arguments. Apparently they have no comeback so they chose what people who have no clue usually do. They decided to ridicule my post and hurl epithets. It seems to me that all these "urban renewal" types would be the type that would level the acropolis to build condos or destroy the pyramids of Egypt to make way for parking lots. How dare us peasants in Sunset Park criticize their plans for our neighborhood? Don't we know that such highly intelligent creatures that hide under rocks know more that we do? Their attitudes and posts are more reflective of who they are than they are of me and reflect on who they really are. I have learned since starting this blog that there will be those high and mighty condescending pseudo intellectuals hiding behind their anonymity. Their limited vocabulary is reflective of the poor upbringing that these people have had and the lack of manners that is permeating this society.

My views of course reflect only what I personally feel. However, I know from conversations with the folks here that I reflect the thinking of the majority here.

It is perhaps that sad case that those who live here often have no say in what happens here. The decisions made by anally retentive elites who think they know what is best for us. Frankly, it matters not a twit what they think. I won't debase myself by throwing epithets back at infantile people who still haven't grown up. We will reflect what we think on this blog and if you want to be un-civil about it, it reflects more on you than it does on us.

We are open to being educated and influenced to change our minds. We are open to being corrected on occasion. Approach us with civility and we will return the favor. Otherwise you will be ignored as you justly deserve.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Keeping the Gowanus Expressway!

It seems there is a lot of buzz about the $12.8 billion proposal by the American Institute of Architects to tear down our beloved Gowanus Expressway and replace it with a greenway. There is an abundance of comment on, Brownstoner, The Gothamist and the Gowanus Lounge.

A few comments from someone who lives here where they want to pull this off. I am willing to bet that not one of the architects that dreamed this whole thing up lives in the neighborhood. Are they going to move into the neighborhood to supervise construction for the ten or fifteen years it will take to build? How long will it take to build? This in a city that gets fleeced by corrupt contractors who milk a job for all it's worth and take ten years to fix a pothole. Will it really cost 12.8 billion or will it go severely over budget as all things do when the taxpayer is footing the bill? Where will the money come from? Do you think taxpayers in flyover country are going to like financing a bottomless pit in Sunset Park? And what about us residents who will be displaced from here to make this dream come true? And what about the factories and warehouses that provide New Yorkers with Jobs? Will they all leave for places like New Jersey or South Carolina? Why don't they let decisions like this in the hands of the people who live here instead? Why do we have to be the victims of pipedreams and greedy contractors who see manna from heaven in government contracts and the blank checks of taxpayers.

And when we tear it down, where will all the scrap steel go? Will it be sold to the Chinese so they can build aircraft carriers to bomb us with? Heck, why not? The Japanese built their aircraft carriers with surplus US steel too.

I say give the Gowanus a paint job, fix the potholes and leave it and us the heck alone.

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Will Starbucks ever arrive in Sunset Park?

With Starbucks planning a major expansion in the borough of Brooklyn we ask ourselves the question if at least one location will land in Sunset Park. While both Bay Ridge and Park Slope, our northern and southern neighbors boast several Starbucks Sunset Park has none. I am not so much concerned with their coffee as I am with the fact that most T-Mobile Hot Spots tend to be located at Starbucks. As a T-Mobile subscriber to their Hot Spot service I find it inconvenient to not have any Hot Spots for their Wi-Fi service in our neighborhood.

The only Wi-Fi access in the neighborhood is currently at the Brooklyn Public Library located on 51st street and 4th Avenue. It would be better if there were more spread out locations in the neighborhood that provided such access if you happen to have your laptop with you.

8th Avenue is already saturated with combination coffee shop/bakeries which are frequented by the local Chinese and I am not sure that Starbucks would be frequented by them should one open up on 8th Avenue. Thus I would be surprised to see one open up there. 5th Avenue would also prove somewhat problematic below 39th street since the Hispanic population there is lower scale and may not go for the overpriced, over-roasted fare the Starbucks provides. We will have to see. Barring that alternative perhaps it would be nice if enough T-Mobile subscribers in the neighborhood raised hell with T-mobile and got them to locate Hot Spots in the many alternate locations that abound in our neighborhood.

If a Starbucks does open in Sunset Park expect the first location to be somewhere north of 25th street in the northern part of the nabe that is being gentrified as we speak. In any case, I am sure that most of us could do with the Hot Spots without the coffee since the Mexican Coffee houses on 5th Avenue and the Chinese ones on 8th offer better fare at better prices. Maybe someone at T-Mobile is reading this blog and will get a hint?

Related Link: 2014

Store of the Day: The Mug Cafe, it's not Starbucks, it's better..

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chinese New Year is on it's way, Get Ready!

February 7th is Chinese New Year and it seems that some of the stores along 8th Avenue are already getting ready. Displaying their wares on the windows and hanging fireworks streams.

The following shots I took at last year's celebration. Chinese New Year is a very colorful all day celebration worth watching. Expect this year's to be even bigger than the celebrations last year and weather permitting to encompass the entire length of 8th Avenue. Bring your cameras boys and girls.

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New Building on 48th and 8th proceeding on schedule.

It seems that the building under construction on 8th Avenue and 48th street seems to be proceeding along in it's construction. From the looks of things the building seems to be another art deco version condo much like the ones we have seen on 7th avenue.
The artist's rendering below purports to show what the finished building will look like. The rendering can be seen posted on one of the billboards at the construction site. One has to wonder if the same architect is involved in all these buildings or are they simply copying each other's work.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

White People Move In, The World Ends

Yesterday as I was getting out of the house I saw a white couple walking down the block. What struck me about them was that they seemed out of place. They were somewhere possibly in their mid to late twenties. So white, they looked anemic. They looked like they belonged somewhere in Ohio rather than New York City. White New Yorkers just look different than other white people. You can tell who they are for the most part. So it wasn't hard not to notice these two as they were gallivanting down the block. All of a sudden they turned and started to go up the stairs of one of the brownstones down the block. Must be visiting, I thought to myself. But no wait, the guy had a key and he used it to enter the building. At that moment I realized that I just saw the first white people to move on the block in well over twenty years.

After several decades of white people abandoning the block for parts unknown, it got to the point of having just one family of white people left on the block and me (though I also classify as hispanic). What this change portends is hard to say at this point. Is it just the tip of the iceberg? I live in a kind of forgotten corner of Sunset Park on the border with Borough Park. Not the kind of section that would be at the forefront of gentrification. Yet here they were, two white people had somehow in a moment of insanity decided to move onto my block. What motivated them I wonder. Are they the vanguard of those dreaded hipsters I had heard so much about? Will Starbucks open a branch on 8th Avenue to cater to these people? What if this scene is being replicated on other blocks. Has the gentrification invasion begun? Or is it just a glitch in the system, an aberration from an alternate universe?

This is probably how gentrification begins. A sneak attack via moving van in the dead heat of night. The neighbors caught unawares until one morning there they are, two anemic looking Midwesterners strolling down the block. Oh well, the only thing certain about change is that it's certain.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Another Sunset Parker killed crossing street

In a tragic repetition of the tragic accident just two days before merely two blocks away another resident of our neighborhood was struck down by a car. The Daily News covers the details of the accident. I think someone ought to look at statistics, but it seems to me that we have an awful lot of these accidents in this neighborhood. Pedestrian fatalities at the hands of careless and reckless drivers seem to be prevalent in our neighborhood. It's a sad way to end the year in the neighborhood with two unnecessary and wasteful fatalities. Our condolences to the families in these tragedies.

Police Sunday investigate a livery cab that struck and killed Barbara Tjornhom, 65, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Barbara Tjornhom

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