02/09/17 1:17pm

After interviewing four former Brooklynites about their move to L.A., we asked them each to share five favorite spots in their new city for food, drink, and exploring. Use their picks the next time you visit. (Who knows, they may tempt you to relocate, too.)

Yes, this is L.A. Photo: @emilioolivasphotography

Yes, this is L.A. Photo: @emilioolivasphotography

Heather D. Orozco’s Picks:

1. Santa Anita Canyon: If you live on the Eastside you’re about 20 minutes from another world in Santa Anita Canyon. Inside the canyon you’re surrounded with oaks and willows, the ground is green and mossy, and the landscape is peppered with super cool tiny little turn-of-the-century cabins. You can take the short version and end it at a waterfall and loop back, or spend the day branching off into an assortment of mountains and valleys, depending on the level of difficulty wanted. Not only does it not feel anything like L.A., it feels like you’ve been transported into some kind of secret magical medieval elf village.

2. Santa Anita Horse Races: Another gem in Santa Anita. Located at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains this is widely considered one of the prettiest racetracks in the world. For about $30 per person you can have lunch and a few drinks at their outdoor restaurant on the finish line while placing bets on horses. Great for kids, families, a date, or just friends hanging out day-drinking; this is one of my all-time favorite things to do on a weekend afternoon. (more…)

02/09/17 1:06pm
Is it real, or is life in LA all just a dream?

Is it real, or is life in L.A. all just a dream? Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

Brooklyn versus L.A. It’s a battle as old as…well, it’s old. For years, it seems that there has been a steady influx of people fleeing New York and setting up camp in Los Angeles. Perhaps you’ve lost a neighbor, a book club member, a friend, or even a significant other to the epidemic. Perhaps you’ve chuckled over a particularly excellent New Yorker piece on the matter, or accidentally lost half an hour of your life scrolling through an acquaintance’s Instagram full of tacos, sunshine, and otherworldly hikes. Maybe you’ve even daydreamed about the move yourself, perhaps while being herded like cattle through the Union Square subway station at rush hour on a Tuesday morning.

It’s undeniable that a certain culture of escape has always underscored life in New York, increasingly as of late. Sure, we’ve got it pretty damn good here, but what if we lived in a place without slush puddles the sizes of lakes? What if we were able to afford an apartment with normal-sized bedrooms? What if we could be happier? What if?

Brooklyn Based chatted with four former New Yorkers who migrated west to Los Angeles: Erica Reitman (an interior designer and writer, and previously the blogger behind Fucked in Park Slope), Eli Edelson (a television coordinator and writer), Heather D. Orozco (now a Realtor, formerly a talent buyer at The Bell House and Union Hall), and Adam Rotstein (a copywriter and comedy writer). They came from Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy and Park Slope—some had lived in Brooklyn for as little as two years, others were closing in on a decade when they left. Today, they’re scattered across the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Glassell Park, Boyle Heights, Mt. Washington, and North Hollywood, respectively. While their personal experiences have varied, they can all agree two things when it comes to the Los Angeles versus Brooklyn debate: The Mexican food is incomparable, and none of them currently harbor any dreams of ever moving back to our borough. (more…)

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02/08/17 2:19pm
Allison Crutchfield (Jesse Riggins(

Allison Crutchfield Photo: Jesse Riggins

If the lyrics on indie rock artist Allison Crutchfield’s latest record, Tourist in This Town, feel incredibly raw, it’s because their source is real heartbreak and disillusionment. Crutchfield’s punk group Swearin’ broke up in 2015 following the end of her five-year relationship with the band’s bassist Kyle Gilbride. (“It was literally like my world was turned upside down,” she recently told Brooklyn Vegan about that period.)

So the trials and tribulations of the heart had an intense influence on her wonderful new record, whose theme of love gone south is hinted at on tracks like the poppy “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” (“We’re pretty far away from Philadelphia/And that’s fine ’cause I’m really starting to hate you”); the New Wave-ish “Dean’s Room” (“There are no photographs of us/There’s nothing left to discuss”), and the ’60s girl-group-sounding “Expatriate” (“I know people change/And we’re both moving on”). Yet the catchy and driving music offsets the heartache woven into the lyrics, providing some really gorgeous moments like on “Charlie” and “Sightseeing” as well as butt-kicking ones as well such as the electrifying “Mile Away” to the punkish “The Marriage.”

It’s almost as if Crutchfield saying through this album, that sometimes you have to go through the motions for awhile, but eventually with time and self-discovery, you’ll emerge resilient.

Aside from its introspective lyrics, Tourist in This Town is notable for two reasons: First, it’s Allison Crutchfield’s full-length solo debut after her spending the last several years being in bands like the Ackleys, P.S. Eliot (with her twin sister Katie Crutchfield, who currently leads her group Waxahatchee) and Swearin.’ Second, the music on Tourist in This Town is represents a stylistic departure from her previous indie punk sound with its emphasis on synthesizers.

Originally from Alabama, Crutchfield is no stranger to Brooklyn even though Philadelphia is her current base. Both she and her sister lived in Brooklyn during their tenure in P.S. Eliot and it was in Brooklyn where that band did their final shows in 2011. Now Crutchfield is returning to the borough for a show at Sunnyvale on Feb. 9 with her backing band the Fizz. We spoke with her about the new record and the experiences that led to its creation. (more…)

02/08/17 12:06pm
It's Valentine's Day next week--may as well have a little fun with it. Valentines: Brandon Bird

It’s Valentine’s Day next week–may as well have a little fun with it. Valentines: Brandon Bird

The image of our current President screaming at CNN alone in the dark or wandering around the White House in a bathrobe at all hours that emerged in media accounts last week managed to drum up the closest thing to sympathy that I can possibly muster for that individual (don’t worry, it’s not that close).  I read that his usual dinner is a Big Mac served on a silver platter, which I promptly recognized as precisely what I fantasized being rich and powerful meant when I was seven. I tried to imagine how much time he spends doing the most vapid and boring task I can think of–poring over ratings of various network and cable television shows–to gather fodder for his inarticulate Twitter tantrums. I thought about the fact that his idea of a vacation is to fly to a hideous golf resort in Florida that he owns to eat grey, well-done steaks in an ostentatious country club while surrounded by the spineless lackeys who fawn over him. Or that this is what passes for a decent joke in the dismal, humorless world of his Congressional allies.

No, of course this thought spiral didn’t make me actually feel sorry for a man whose laziness, narcissism, casual cruelty, and incompetence will destroy lives in the weeks, months, and years to come. But they did make me feel luckier than usual that I get to live in a place where thousands of people spontaneously torpedo their day off to trek to JFK with homemade protest signs to stand up for people who are in danger, not because they are paid to but because they actually care about people who might not be exactly like them, which is a concept that many on the right can’t seem to grasp. And that it’s a city that constantly presents new opportunities to make, do, read, see, talk about, eat, and experience a diverse array of creative, funny, delicious, and thought-provoking things. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the best examples happening over the next seven days.

First though, there are two new plays from across the pond being staged In Brooklyn this week: The excellent all-female adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at St. Ann’s Warehouse (which I saw and recommend), and Escaped Alone, which opens with some pretty stellar advance reviews at BAM on Wednesday. Make it a real night out by grabbing dinner at Fort Greene’s Roman’s before or after the show–they’re running a special on penne all’arrabiata all month and will donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood. As for me, I think I will try to track down a copy of Art of the Pie, the first book selected for Food52’s new Community Cookbook Club, and hunker down with my rolling pin in the snowstorm expected tomorrow. Or, get out the glitter and glue that’s buried under your bed and make valentines for your friends like you did when you were seven, or send them the awesome SVUtines above. Spread the love. Whatever you all get up to this Ideal Week, I hope that  it keeps you sustained and inspired as the outside world roils on. (more…)

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02/08/17 12:00pm
The Singing CPA is proof that tax time does not have to be unpleasant. Photo courtesy Steven Zelin.

The Singing CPA is proof that tax time does not have to be unpleasant. Photo courtesy Steven Zelin.

Unlike many of the president’s about-face policy changes and cabinet picks, his proposed tax overhauls will take much longer to push through. Changes to the tax code that Trump advocates, like making it onerous or impossible to deduct your charitable contributions (to, say, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU Foundation), are not likely to happen until after 2017, if at all.

This is the prognosis from our trusted accountant, Steven Zelin, who has prepared our business and one of our personal returns for nearly 10 years. In that time we’ve seen his firm expand as he’s added a mix of salaried employees, freelancers, and small business owners to his base of happy clients. (If you are in this last category, you might consider holding off on a big purchase of equipment or signing a lease for your business, as Trump’s proposal to make the depreciation expense even more of a deduction will likely take effect as early as this fall or 2018—another tip from Steven.)

But we digress. The point is, if you would like to work with an accountant who is aware of the changes in place and the changes to come, and always looks out for your best interests, work with Steven and his competent staff.

Not only does he have experience working at major banks and accounting firms, Steven has some serious media cred, having appeared on ABC’s Nightline, in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and National Public Radio. (He’s also known as the Singing CPA, and his musical holiday greeting, “It’s the most deductible time of the year,” never gets old.)

Check out his services online, and schedule a meeting. Or hear him speak (and sing) in person at two upcoming free events: Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6:30pm at Urban Glass, where he’s speaking as part of their professional development project, and on Wednesday, March 1 at 7pm at Freelancers Union.

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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02/06/17 11:08am

I know it’s supposed to be 60 degrees on Wednesday, practically outdoor movie weather, but it’s only the beginning of February folks, we’ve got lots more winter to make it through. How do we get the chill out of our bones (and hearts)? Eat. And do it with friends and loved ones.

Here are seven of the the hottest dishes in Brooklyn–served piping hot, swimming in spice or just imbued with that magic so-hot-right-now-sauce. They’ll lift your spirits, stop your nose from running and maybe get your eyes and mouth watering at once.

Making uni and sweet potato pierogies at Olmsted is a labor of love. Photo: @olmstednyc

Making sweet potato and uni pierogies at Olmsted is a labor of love. Photo: @olmstednyc

Sweet potato and uni pierogies at Olmsted

Chef Greg Baxtrom and crew keep hitting the nail on the head with their stylized version of American classics at Olmsted. First came the crab rangoon, which were made with kale, served in a take-out Chinese style box and now the acclaimed Prospect Heights restaurant is making their version of pierogi, filled with the “it” ingredient that just won’t stop: sea urchin. These babies are another fine example of what can happen when high meets home-y.

Olmsted, 659 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights (more…)

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02/05/17 2:58pm

school1

There’s been a lot of talk about how Democrats have voted in the cabinet confirmation process this week, calling out senators who have voted yes on Trump’s picks. I believe that on this matter reasonable people can disagree; it really is quite rare for nominees to be rejected, but then, these are unusual times and unusual nominees, many of them. Playing politics is, literally, senators’ jobs, and it’s not that surprising that many of them are more interested in confirming the devil they know (Ben Carson) than rolling the dice and getting a new, worse devil as a new nominee. But let’s be clear about one thing: there is no worse nominee for the position of Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos. Let us count the ways:

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about basic education policy matters.

She doesn’t understand or seem to care about special education programs.

It appears that she plagiarized some of the written portions of the questions posted to her by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Her many, many conflicts of interest are not just financial, though those alone should be enough to disqualify her. Her family’s money has been used to do little more than advance extreme right wing agendas and her brother Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater–yes, the vile mercenary group.

So what are we to do?

The Senate vote is Monday (the calendar indicates it will happen after noon), so there’s not a lot of time left. Still, call, call, call. Now is the time to talk to friends and family who have Republican senators if you do not have one to call your own. Write a script for them and email it with the phone number. Offer to speak for them if they initiate a three-way call to the senator’s office. Make the script personal, talk about a child you know who deserves a real education. Talk about your own excellent public education.

It’s also time to get creative. If you have a child in your life get your best photo of them (ask their parents’ permission first!), and tweet it at every Republican senator with a Twitter account, or post to their Facebook walls. It’s a public way to register your opinion. If you’re not comfortable with a photo, just use a name and say, my daughter Libby, my nephew Frank–to personalize this is the point.

Here are a couple options:

This is my son. He deserves a SecED who believes public education is an American value. All children do. #dumpdevos

All American children deserve to be educated, not monetized. @BetsyDevos #dumpdevos

You get the idea.

Here are a few to start with @SenDanSullivan is from Alaska and the other Republican senator from the state, Lisa Murkowski, has vowed to vote no. @SenJohnMcCain occasionally shows some independence from his party and good sense, and @SenBobCorker from Tennessee has been floated as someone who could be turned.

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Graph:

This is how much Betsy Devos or her family has contributed to each senator on this list. Source: Center for American Progress; Every Voice; Federal Election Commission.

If you don’t like the tactic of using cute kid mugs to shame these Republicans into voting in the interest of public school children, then use their own fundraising against them. Here’s a chart and an article about how much all of these Republicans have accepted over the years from Betsy DeVos and her family. Tweet something like:

.@SenJohnMcCain @BetsyDeVos paid you $50,600, but you work for American children #dumpdevos

Two different campaigns have been started to “buy” senate votes. The GoFundMe started by a Philadelphia teacher to buy Senator Pat Toomey’s vote against DeVos (@SenToomey) has raised almost $70,000 (the money will go to several Philly-area educational resources). A similar campaign in North Carolina has raised $6,000 (this will go to Public School Forum of North Carolina) to buy Senator Richard Burr’s (@SenatorBurr) vote. His last tweet was about the Puppy Bowl. Tweet at both of these senators about all this. Link to the GoFundME campaigns. Get it out there for transparency, if nothing else.

Here’s what your week looks like, and no, it’s not pretty. (more…)

02/03/17 10:56am
This book dispenses common sense money advice for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

This book dispenses common sense money advice (like “don’t raid their piggy banks!”) for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

Last year when I was complaining about the cost of getting my car towed, my young son said, “Don’t worry! I can pay for it. I’ve got a cash register full of money!” I quizzically watched as he pulled out his Learning Resources toy register hidden under a pile of stuffed animals and old Lego pieces. Although we bought that toy for him in hopes of teaching him about the value of money and learning about interest through imaginary play, he had actually just assumed this was real money collecting dust in his bedroom. Epic fail.

Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), a new book by Beth Kobliner (author of New York Times Bestseller Get A Financial Life) is here to hold parents hands as they wade into uncharted conversations about cash with their kids. Beyond just receiving early entry to Stern Business School, financial talks can prevent spoiled behavior, build charitable leanings and set kids up for secure futures. Kobliner divides the book into chapters ranging from “Insurance”, “Giving Back” and “Saving for College” and further divides her chapters into age ranges. Talking to your preschooler about investing will look different than with your teenager, but from the start you can build some pretty strong scaffolding for the importance of financial security. (more…)

02/02/17 12:12pm

The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes. (more…)

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