03/29/17 10:04am

pete_web-800x976 (1)

The audience never sees the monster in Julia Jarcho’s new play, The Terrifying, but the lack of blood and gore does nothing to temper the fear. While definitely corporeal for residents of the unnamed small town it targets, its real power is emotional rather than physical. The fear is so severe, it’s almost beside the point whether you end up as a victim; your life is forever altered by the knowledge the monster exists.

It’s going to be difficult to actually see this version of the play– the remaining shows are sold out and when we called the theater to ask about waitlist tickets they advised showing up an hour before showtime to make sure you’re first in line to put your name on the waitlist when the box office opens 30 minutes before show time. “There are no shows…sometimes,” the very nice man we spoke to said in a not very encouraging tone. The way the show plays with fear though, exploring it in the abstract while scaring your pants off in a very real way, is worth thinking about, in this uncertain age of paranoia and the unexpected.

Jarcho’s Big Bad plots its course of destruction by following the desires of each victim. To wit, victim one is killed; the person that victim loves the most is next. It’s a great argument for never revealing one’s crushes, and an unusually cruel form of psychological torture. Teenagers are the first targets, and even in the vague time period of The Terrifying (phones, landlines to be precise, exist, but not everyone has one), their currency is rumors and gossip. (more…)

03/09/17 11:37am

Moovn Apps

On January 28, the hashtag #DeleteUber started trending with a vengeance. Following the announcement of the Trump administration’s executive order declaring a travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, NYC taxi drivers went on strike, declaring a one-hour work stoppage at JFK  in protest of the ban. At the same time, Uber announced that it would suspend surge pricing at the airport, which many saw not as a consumer service, but as an attempt to profit from the strike, and from the ban. For many already uneasy users it was the last straw for a company whose CEO was then still on Trump’s Business Council.

That same weekend Lyft, Uber’s rival in the ride-sharing game, announced that they would make a $1 million donation to the ACLU, and got a boatload of new customers out of the controversy. However, Lyft still counts Carl Icahn and Peter Thiel, two of Trump’s biggest richest supporters, as members of their board. Both companies have grappled with reputations for treating drivers poorly and for bro-centric work cultures.

Socially-conscious riders eager for an alternative have started turning to Moovn, a new ride-sharing app that prides itself on a no-surge-pricing policy for customers, as well as better wages and stronger protections for drivers. It’s also a tech business with a black founder, which is important to note as the disruption game is notoriously white.

“We put the driver first,” said Godwin Gabriel, founder and CEO, in a phone interview. “As long as we do, he or she will go the extra mile for the customer…the driver is our biggest stakeholder.” He sees other platforms as “pushing the driver to the curb.”

Gabriel went to say, “Drivers are getting paid well on our platform. We only take a 10-15 commission…we are looking at going even lower. At any time, the driver maintains 85-90% of the fare, not including tip. You hear all of these issues about drivers being disenfranchised, marginalized. They don’t earn enough on other platforms.” For lack of a better word, Gabriel explained, many drivers told him it was like “modern day slavery.” (more…)

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02/28/17 8:54am
Photo: Amanda Duarte

Photo: Amanda Duarte

We never forget the one that got away. No, I don’t mean your last Tinder date. I’m talking about missed connections of the creative variety. The song that was just a catchy chorus short of Top 40 euphoria. The webseries one clever concept away from Comedy Central success. Drafts languishing in drawers and hard drives all over the city. Murdering your darlings is essential writing advice, but sometimes you’ve got to wonder what it would be like to bring them back to life.

Amanda Duarte understands. The voice-over artist, singer, actress, and creator of the Pussy Grabs Back campaign has a monthly show called Dead Darlings, dedicated to all of those creative corpses, the ideas that were just too pretty to live.

February’s edition at the historic Judson Church began with Duarte’s rendition of the Stephen Sondheim classic, “I’m Still Here,” reengineered for life under the Trump administration. She’s an Elaine Stritch in training, and a reminder that the revolution must include humor.

After the rousing opening number, the performers and their darlings for February included work from cartoonist Emily Flake that was passed over by the New Yorker, a killed article and video short about a polyamorous commune that just happens to raise wolves by journalist Jessica Bennett (Duarte’s partner in Pussy Grab’s Back), and scenes from an abandoned play about rehab from playwright Jaclyn Backhaus. In what was perhaps the most surprising (and surprisingly emotional) moments of the night, comedian Bowen Yang lip-synced along to the infamous moment on Cycle 4 of America’s Next Top Model, when Tyra Banks screams “I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you” at recently-eliminated model hopeful Tiffany Richardson.

I didn’t know I needed that moment in my life, but Amanda Duarte did. Post-show, I chatted with her about her inspiration for the show, what it’s like to go viral, and what’s next for Pussy Grabs Back in the Trump era. (more…)

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02/17/17 1:25pm

Yesterday immigrants, both legal and undocumented, went on strike around the U.S., underscoring their contribution to the workforce and the country. Some McDonalds shut down. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, where Hillary Clinton was valedictorian in 1969 removed every piece of art created or donated by an immigrant from its halls, leaving many spots bare.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to defy state officials from red and blue states alike in an immigration sweep, the largest since Trump took office and one that many advocate groups are saying is more significant that what they’ve seen in the recent past. According to a report from immigration advocacy organization New York Immigration Coalition, 40 were arrested by ICE agents across the New York area in a five day span, and 600 across the country.

According to The Nation,  “One hundred and sixty immigrants were arrested in the Los Angeles area; some 200 undocumented immigrants were arrested in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina this past week….Another 200 people were arrested throughout the Midwest: in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.”

ICE claims that said raids are, as a spokeswoman told radio station WNYC, “ not unusual for a week long operation’,” and that  “95 percent of them had criminal records.’”ICE spokeswoman Rachel Yong Yow told the Nation on

New York Immigration Coalition spokeswoman Thanu Yakupitiyage believes ICE is exaggerating the number of those arrested with previous criminal records. As she explained in an email to Brooklyn Based, “They aren’t “raids” necessarily–but they are targeted enforcement pick-ups by ICE. If you read the memo [a leaked memo NYIC obtained], you’ll see that the way ICE justifies it is as operations targeting people with “criminal convictions.” However, people beyond those with convictions have also been swept up in some of the arrests.” (more…)

02/07/17 11:17am
PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

PS 123 in Queens. Photo: NYC DOE

Today the Senate, plus Vice President Mike Pence, voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is by many accounts the worst possible Secretary of Education and her policies will affect students in New York City, the only question is how.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps realizing that he’s running for reelection, has presented himself as a progressive defender of civil rights, including the right to education. As Chalkbeat reported, he stated that the latest New York City budget was devised “with the assumption of profound challenges from Washington.”

What he didn’t explicitly outline was how profoundly those challenges might impact the NYC Department of Education.

Dr. James Kemple, Executive Director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU Steinhardt, told Brooklyn Based that “the role of the federal government in education is pretty narrow.” Current federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in 2016, and, Dr. Kemple points out, gives states much greater discretion over their education budgets and educational standards than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind. It would usually take an act of Congress to rewrite legislation like ESSA, but with Trump’s penchant for executive orders, it’s hard to say what the future of education policy from a federal vantage point will be.

Federal money makes up only about 10% of the New York City’s DOE operating budget, but 10% of $23 billion is a significant sum. Trump has demonstrated something like eagerness to yank federal funding from Sanctuary Cities, like New York, including the provision to do so in  the executive order he signed on Jan. 25, though the legality of cutting off federal education funding is unclear.

We spoke to several education policy experts for clues on how DeVos and the Trump administration might affect New York City public schools, which we’ve outlined below. If slashing funding for schools with a high proportion of low-income students, taking away reduced-price lunches, and laying the groundwork for more charter schools and school vouchers aren’t part of your New York values, we also have some ideas for how to fight back. (more…)

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12/08/16 12:35pm

cupcake-square-hi-res_web

“New York used to be the city that never sleeps,” Penny Arcade, downtown performance legend, begins Longing Lasts Longer, her latest one-woman show now at St. Ann’s Warehouse, “now it’s the city that can’t wake up.”

This is not another nostalgic ode to a lost New York, cobblestones and cast iron paved over by concrete, glass and steel. Longing Lasts Longer is a mix of memoir, stand-up comedy, and cultural critique that hooks you in with stories about Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin’s penchant for running around Max’s Kansas City with a needle full of speed, just waiting for a victim. Then, once she’s got your attention, Penny will casually drop truths like: “There is a gentrification that happens to neighborhoods and cities. But there is also a gentrification that happens to ideas.” (more…)

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11/08/16 11:48am

Hillary Clinton may be the latest woman from New York to seek an office in the White House, but she is not the first. Shirley Chisholm and Geraldine Ferraro, both New Yorkers, made their own cracks in the political glass ceiling. As we head to the polls today, fingers crossed and nails bitten, some wearing white in suffragette solidarity, let’s take a moment to look back at the powerful women who came before Clinton.

Chisholm and Ferraro were as different as two Democrats from New York City could be. “As fierce of a progressive and critic of the system as Shirley Chisholm was, Geraldine Ferraro was a total apparatchik. She made her way up by being a machine pol,” Amy Schiller, a political commentator and CUNY doctoral student teaching a class on women in American politics at Brooklyn College this semester, told me in a phone call.

Shirley Chisholm, 1972 

In 1968 Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. She was a progressive Brooklynite who championed expansion of social services, education, and immigrant rights and used that momentum to make a presidential run in 1972. She focused on housing as the key to confronting economic inequality and championed bills to expand childcare for families, for immigrant rights, quality education, free school lunches, and consumer protection. She was, as her brilliantly direct campaign put it, “Unbought and Unbossed.” (Her memoir and a documentary about her run for president both use the slogan as a title–consider watching the latter if the returns get to be too much tonight.)

As Smithsonian Magazine pointed out in an article from last spring, “She was one of only 19 Representatives willing to hold hearings on the Vietnam War. And she was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women’s Caucus.” She sounds like everything serious progressives want in a candidate. So why don’t we remember her? (more…)

10/25/16 8:59am
Photo: New Women's Space

Photo: New Women Space

“I feel different when I’m in a room of all women,” says Melissa Wong, co-founder of New Women Space, sitting with Sandra Hong, her co-founder, in the light-filled East Williamsburg storefront they’ve dedicated to female empowerment.

The 2100-square-foot, bi-level space is calming and minimalist with plants and comfortable couches and sunshine streaming in the floor-to-ceiling windows. New Women Space offers events and workshops, each affordably priced at $10-$50, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from yoga to comedy nights to financial and career advice to collaging and other creative projects. It is, as the founders put it, “a space for women to define.”

The idea of physical spaces specifically for women is having a moment in 2016. The Wing, a women’s only social club and co-working space, is now holding court in the Flatiron District. It may also be all over your Instagram feed, too, thanks to the PR wizardry of co-founders Lauren Kassan, who previously worked for Class Pass and Audrey Gelman, a communications specialist who helped NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer appeal to a broad audience.

In Washington, D.C. and California, there’s the Hera Club, a women’s-only co-working space and business accelerator. The Wing is application-based, and those who are accepted must pay the $185 membership fee, and the Hera Club’s membership plans vary by location, but can run anywhere from $89 per month to nearly $500 depending on the size of the office space required.

There’s a considerably lower barrier to entry at New Women Space. The only application process required is for instructors and potential event organizers. Anyone who wants to attend an event needs only to pay an admission fee that’s often as low as $10. “We are here for women of all experiences,” Wong emphasizes.

New Women Space also defines itself as “gender expansive,” meaning that men, and all gender identities, are allowed at all events unless otherwise specified. “We want men to be a part of the conversation,” says Wong. “But we do want all the content providers/project cultivators to be women since that is the audience we are particularly concerned with providing support for.” (more…)

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10/20/16 12:07pm

win_feminism_reductress“Should I be planning a funeral for my sense of humor?” I wondered during the second presidential debate, as Donald Trump loomed behind Hillary Clinton and then threatened to have her jailed. I should have been laughing at my friend’s Jaws jokes, but instead I climbed underneath the bar, hugging my wine and wishing for Xanax. Before I started sitting shiva for my laughter, however, I remembered that amid the steady stream of alt-right memes and clips of Trump telling Billy Bush exactly where he likes to grab women, the internet also provides escapes from the political melee swirling around us. Reductress is one of the best ports in the storm.

Billing itself as “the first and only satirical women’s website,” Reductress, which launched in 2013, applies its simultaneously absurdist and biting humor to the conflicting streams of advice thrown at women on a regular basis. It’s that balance that makes the site worth returning to. Plenty of writers are as precise and cutting, and others just as wacky and absurd, but it’s the blend that makes Reductress stand out. Their targets include not only the mainstream women’s magazines (parodies of which are low-hanging fruit at this point), but the personal essay industrial complex, make-up blogs, and corporate attempts to cash in on feminism. The articles have an Onion-like sensibility (“Danielle Doesn’t Usually Post on Facebook, But This Is Important“), but with a keen ability to mock the tone and format of so much of women’s media (“I’m Not a Basic Bitch. I’m a Boring Woman.“).  Other must-reads include make-up tips from clowns (“foundation, foundation, foundation”), and my current favorite: “100 Acts of Self Care That Still Won’t Be Enough to Get You Through The Election.

After three years of eliciting laughs, groans, and knowing sighs from their readers, founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo are gifting readers with Reductress’s first book, How To Win at Feminism: A Guide to Having it All (And Then Some), out next week on Oct. 25, with a launch party at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO that evening. Editors Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo told me that they’d been interested in writing a book from the beginning, but feminism’s ever-increasing mainstream acceptance (or co-option) was the inspiration for chapters like “How to do more with 33 cents less” and “The nine circles of hell for women who don’t help other women.”

I chatted with founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo over email about the book, the site, and staying both funny and sane even when current events are making it harder than ever. (more…)

10/11/16 10:34am
Lost man creek

A forest has taken root in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Ilana Novick

New Yorkers used to brag about their aversion to nature. Frank O’Hara’s lines from Meditations in an Emergency, “I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life,” our rallying cry. Somewhere between the deportation of porn theaters and the arrival of rock climbing gyms, however, New Yorkers have become consumed with a desire for greenery and wide open spaces, it seems.

If you long for camping trips in the Adirondacks, but lack the time, or you’d like your foliage with a side of installation art, head to MetroTech Commons for Spencer Finch’s Lost Man Creek in Downtown Brooklyn. (more…)