04/25/17 2:24pm

Yesterday marked four years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh claimed the lives of 1,132 garment industry workers when the factory building they were in collapsed. Brands like Zara, Walmart, Joe Fresh and The Children’s Place were all found to have been producing clothing at Rana Plaza.

Fashion Revolution Week, April 24-30 this year, is a movement to demand clearer supply chains and safer working conditions, and asking fashion brands for a greater commitment to cleaning up the production of clothing, which is one of the biggest industrial polluters in the global economy.

The truth is that there is enough clothing on the planet to keep us all warm and dry well into the future. Not participating in fast fashion by curbing your shopping habit, or hitting vintage and thrift stores is the best way to reduce waste. You can also shop with these ethical fashion companies that provide safe working conditions and living wages for workers.

Another tactic is to shop local.

New York City was once the capital of the garment industry, and it was also one of the centers of the workers rights movement, which was galvanized, in part, by the horrible tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The women, largely Jewish and Italian immigrants, working at Triangle were sewing a fast-fashion forerunner–the fitted, puffy-sleeved tops that were essential to the Gibson Girl look. Different century, same story as Rana Plaza.

Today, the fashion industry is still alive and well in New York City, but most off-the-rack pieces are constructed thousands of miles away in Vietnam, China and India. There are still a handful of garment factories in the city though, and increasingly young, quality-obsessed companies that sell primarily online or in pop-ups are producing New York-made garments that you can feel good about buying and wearing. As a rule they’re more expensive than your average Gap tee, but of course they are. They pay your neighbors a living wage. Here are a few of our favorites. (more…)

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04/18/17 12:33pm
Denise Mei and Cait McLaughlin team up at class 3 of the W/T/F Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Intensive on March 29 at the Lutheran Church of St John the Evangelist in Brooklyn for women/trans/non-binary identifying individuals. Photo: Kate Ryan

Denise Shu Mei and Cait McLaughlin team up at the W/T/F Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Intensive for women/trans/non-binary identifying individuals. Photo: Kate Ryan

The early birds entered through the red door of Williamsburg’s Lutheran Church of St. John the Evangelist at 5:45pm. They descended a flight of stairs to a basement with tile floors, chairs stacked against the wall, the lingering smell of incense.

And a bike workshop.

“Take a sticker, and write your name and pronouns,” said Denise Shu Mei to newcomers.

One woman carefully printed “Erika” and “she/her” before sticking it to her shirt front.

 

This was the third and final class of Mechanical Gardens‘ inaugural W/T/F Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Intensive. The hands-on classes were open to women, trans persons, and non-binary individuals.

The waitlist for the series, which stands for Women/Trans/Femme, was long and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Instructor Sera Stavroula said it will not be the last.

“People were excited that it wasn’t a 101 thing,” said Stavroula, 29. “There are classes like that: “Women’s Intro to Bikes,” “Women’s Intro to Riding,” “Women’s Intro to Flat Fix.” She said she wanted to offer something more challenging.

Erika Jozwiak ponders her maintenance options at class 3 of the W/T/F Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Intensive on March 29 at the Lutheran Church of St John the Evangelist in Brooklyn for women/trans/non-binary identifying individuals.

Erika Jozwiak ponders her maintenance options. Photo: Kate Ryan

Each night Stavroula focused on a different system, how it functioned, potential issues that might arise, warning signs, ways to fix the problem, and how much the repair should cost at a bike shop. She said students got their hands dirty and sized chains, recabled shifters, and changed tires and brake pads. They learn to diagnose and fix problems, and if they need to take their bike into the shop, this class should demystify the process.

Stavroula, who has worked with bikes for six years, was the first female mechanic at a pro-shop in Richmond, VA. Today she works as the Bike to School coordinator and a mechanic at Recycle-a-Bicycle in Dumbo.

“You go into a bike shop and it’s a lot of guys,” said Stavroula. “It’s hard to access that space if you don’t have experience.” (more…)

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04/11/17 9:00am
An awesome example of rocking the full unicorn. Photo: Anya Krotova

An awesome example of rocking the full unicorn. Photo: Anya Krotova

You’ve probably noticed unicorn everything these days, whether you’re drinking your unicorn latte or sporting a unicorn manicure. For a deep dive into the history of this unicorn beauty trend, I recommend reading this article in Racked about how it came to be. If you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed wondering how you could possibly rock a rainbow mane, we talked to Anya Krotova, a stylist at Exhibit Salon, a self-described unicorn factory. She gave us the scoop on how to avoid looking like unicorn poop. (more…)

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04/04/17 9:30am

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A few weeks ago a weird thing happened. I had powered my laptop all the way down and when I went to log in I couldn’t. It kept telling me my password was wrong. I was reasonably certain I was remembering and typing it correctly, but no matter how many times I tried I couldn’t get in. So, I logged in as a guest and started the Apple ID reset process and went on with my day. Except a few hours later my phone let me know through the double authentication process that someone was trying to log in to my account in Singapore. Yeah.

Then I read this NYMag story about how a hacker group that calls itself the Turkish Crime Family has demanded $100,000 in iTunes credits from Apple, threatening to randomly wipe the iPhones of users whose iCloud passwords and credentials have been compromised. I know, if this was the plot of an episode of the brief and preposterous run of CSI: Cyber, it would be laughed out of the writers room. The Turkish Crime Family? $100,000? In iTunes credits?

The truth is though, life is usually weirder than the last gasp of a once-great procedural empire that can’t even make it work with the dream team of Patricia Arquette, Ted Danson and James Vanderbeek. Maybe some criminals are just simple folks who can steal iCloud passwords, but lack the piracy skills to steal things one buys on iTunes. Or maybe iTunes credit is like catnip on the deep web. We may never know.

In any case, I got my personal cyber security reasonably locked down in the course of a few hours, mostly because I just can’t even cope with the idea of how annoying and time consuming it would be to fix. Here are my suggestions for a sort of online security spring cleaning. (more…)

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03/28/17 1:40pm

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Savvy non-profits make it easy to donate to support their work, but an online transaction doesn’t always satisfy the urge to support a cause. The desire to show up in person and volunteer your time and energy is a powerful motivator, but it can be a challenge to find the right place to volunteer, and long application processes and background checks may frustrate would-be do gooders, ready and raring to get involved.

A newish app called DEED offers an immediate way to volunteer, and aims to help users create lasting connections with others who are doing the same.

Deevee Kashi and Anthony Yoon launched DEED in October of 2016. The idea came to Kashi when he started volunteering regularly after 10 years of working in the nightlife industry. He quickly started to feel like he was stuck in a rut with volunteer opportunities. He wanted to make it easier for potential volunteers to participate in something without jumping through complicated hoops to do good.

“I also wanted to rebrand giving back for the millennial generation and reintroduce the concept as something viewed as fun as opposed to obligatory, hence the focus on group events,” he said in an email.

So far they’ve partnered with several Brooklyn organizations including BARC, House of Recovery, and North Brooklyn Farms, as well as others around the city, like The Bowery Mission, Citymeals on Wheels and the Central Park Conservancy. They’re currently working on adding volunteering opportunities in Los Angeles to the app this summer. (more…)

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03/21/17 1:43pm

In early February the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to divest from Wells Fargo Bank because of its financial backing of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. While your checking and savings accounts may seem paltry compared to the assets of the 18th largest city in the U.S., moving your money to a credit union is an incredibly effective way of investing in your local economy and taking your hard earned dollars out of the hands of corporate interests.

Large corporate banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank and TD Bank use customers’ deposits to invest in a wide range of ventures, some of which are risky, divisive and take money outside of the communities where customers live. We’re talking an oil pipeline that threatens drinking water and Native American sovereignty; we’re talking mortgage-backed securities; we’re talking investments that you the consumer are never consulted about and may never know about, in companies and with entities you would never intentionally support.

Unlike so many thorny political and financial issues of conscience though, there is a good answer for this dilemma: Join a credit union.

“It’s like shopping local,” says Michael Mattone, the vice president of public relations for Municipal Credit Union. “We’re the shop local of banking.”

(more…)

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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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02/21/17 10:33am
Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Let me introduce you to the 5th Brooklyn Scouts, where their motto is “traditional scouting for everyone.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “traditional.” Part of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA), an all-inclusive scouting organization that has been in existence worldwide since 1907, the 5th Brooklyn Scouts is not the gender-segregated experience that you remember from being a Cub Scout or a Brownie, and does not have the same history of discrimination against gay and transgender children and leaders. (Last month, The Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would allow transgender boys to join.)

Just as importantly, Brooklyn Scouts seamlessly blends the joys of forest school, the community service of a social justice club, and outdoors-focused field trips, all for $180 for the entire year. Children spend a lot of time outside, and learn real skills.

The Brooklyn chapter speaks openly about their challenge to diversify in their Park Slope enclave, which is a focus for their organization this year, as well as a historical value of the organization. “Scouting has even transcended and risen above racial divisions and prejudices in the movement’s past,” says scoutmaster Jillian Tate. “Our founder, Lord Robert Baden Powell, refused to allow racial segregation in scouting until his death in 1941–even in countries like South Africa and India where the ruling colonists attempted to create all-white organizations.” (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…)