Look Back Brooklyn, 2010


We looked back over 2010 and took stock of some of our favorite trends, developments and stories. What a year, Brooklyn! We’re signing off until 2011 (though we will send out a New Year’s Eve-themed Tip Sheet next week) but first, from Brooklyn Based to you: Thank you for making this the most dynamic, contentious, delightful and outright weird place anyone could ever want to live.  Here’s what we all got into last year:

Barclays’ Parking Lot
In April, one month after the groundbreaking for Atlantic Yards, Daniel Goldstein issued a sad yet inspiring public statement. After six-plus years of leading the battle charge against AY, he struck a $3 million dollar deal to step down as the “official” spokesperson for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and evacuate his home (which the state had already seized) in 17 days. Ratner had already tried four times to get him to drop the suits; this time, eviction was imminent and he could either accept a lowball offer from the state or get paid handsomely to pack up his family quickly. But Goldstein made clear that AY was never about one apartment, and despite the fact that this abuse of eminent domain was upheld by the courts, all was not lost. “Our fight has—and this is one of the victories—given hope, inspiration and encouragement to innumerable people that a community united can fight principled fights worth fighting, regardless of the outcome,” he wrote.

Case in point: Judge Marcy Friedman recently ruled against the Empire State Development Corporation for claiming in its review that the buildout would take 10 years, when they knew it would take 25. Now they have to go back and rationalize their findings. It’s not stopping the project–which is now looking like a big-ass parking lot–but it is exposing some of the lies that helped push it through, and hopefully prevent another boondoggle like this from ever happening. Other good AY news: Norman Oder is writing a book about the entire case, which has taken a strange turn as of late, with Ratner trying to lure Chinese investment in exchange for green cards.

Hipster Hooray
We can’t begin to express how tired we are of the endless hipster debate. Haven’t kids always worn dumb clothes and disaffected attitudes like badges of honor? This year though, despite the publication of two books capitalizing on hipster haterade (Look at this F*cking Hipster, by Joe Mande and Stuff Hipsters Hate: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent by Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz) the whole conversation began to mellow, at least a tiny bit. Back in January Justin Richards wrote a piece for New York Press called “Meet the Helpsters” in which he presented plenty of evidence that plaid-clad Williamsburg is up to more than cocaine and performance art. Richards profiled community organizers, rooftop gardeners, political activists and urban planners, all of whom might be picked out of a line-up and charged with hipsterism, but who are also working toward admirable goals like sustainable food systems, social justice and a greener Brooklyn.

Then, Lincoln Restler and Kate Zidar made a major splash on the political scene by running for district leader positions. Now, neither Restler nor Zidar is a classic Williamsburg hipster (though he sports heavy horn-rims and she teaches at Pratt), but compared to Brooklyn’s old guard politicians they may as well have campaigned in skinny jeans, Bette Midler tees and asymmetrical haircuts. Restler won his race, beating out the son of a long-time pol, though Zidar lost, and their organization, the New Kings Democrats are here to stay. Any way you slice it, in 2010 we all had to acknowledge that hipsters do more than just go to NYU, work as stylists and cash their parents’ monthly checks–even if they’re wearing the same glasses that got us beat up on the playground in fourth grade.

Clinton Hill Officially Gentrifies
For the first time in its years-long history of gentrifying, a Clinton Hill resident could find her favorite local artisinal cheese at not one, but two gourmet food shops. No, really, the drinking and eating scene on Fulton Street in Clinton Hill hasn’t advanced much beyond West African cuisine and bulletproof Chinese in the last 10 years, so it’s exciting to see fresh options on this strip. Now you can find Grayson and grass-fed beef at the Brooklyn Victory Garden, macaroons at Desserts by Michael Allan, get a drink at Fulton Grand or the just-opened Hanson Dry, and, very soon, shop at the Greene Hill Food Co-op, which will change Putnam for the best. (Their buying club starts Jan. 19!) Nearby, Franklin Ave. is also quickly changing its tune, with Dough, Choice’s brand-new donut shop; Alcatraz, a gourmet Mexican spot we take out from often; and Allison Stewart’s sweet new coffee shop, Bedford Hill. When Stewart christened her café with this name she probably sparked the imagination of a million brokers. Look for the term describing the Clinton Hill-Bed Stuy border in 2011–that’s a BB prediction.

The Great Absolut Brooklyn Debacle
This summer Absolut released a special edition vodka, flavored with apple and ginger, called Absolut Brooklyn. You’ve seen it, and its Spike Lee-designed label, in ads all over the city, and on blogs all over Brooklyn. Absolut sponsored the Brooklyn Blogfest 2010, and got a wide variety of bloggers to post about the product in exchange for a Flip camera. Not all of the bloggers made it clear that they were participating in a “quid pro post” as J. David Goodman called it in the New York Times, and a blogging ethics debate took flight. Did the deal break the code of journalistic ethics? Sure. But many of the bloggers who wrote about their Brooklyn appletinis don’t think of themselves as a member of any journalistic association or club, and hey, journalists, you can’t post a sign that says “No Bloggers Allowed” and then expect the blogoverse to follow your rules. No matter what side you come down on here, the big reveal for the Brooklyn blog world was this: People are watching, reading and following, more closely than you think.

The Weirding of Prospect Park
We love that The Brooklyn Paper both keeps us up to date on community news around the borough and makes time and space (it’s a print publication in 2010–they still have to contend with an inflexible newshole) to follow their quirky obsessions. All summer long they reported on strange occurrences in Prospect Park, ranging from piles of chicken heads to a goose found with an arrow lodged in its neck to epic trash heaps, in a series called Meadows of Shame. The park story that really went the distance though, hit the public on July 12, when it was revealed that the federal Agriculture Department had rounded up and killed nearly 400 Canadian geese that had been summering in Brooklyn. Government officials cited airline safety as the reason, and Brooklynites gathered the following week to honor the dead fowl.

End of Days Weather
So there was a tornado this fall. In Brooklyn. What more can we really say? Well, a couple things. Thanks to social media, we followed the tornado, not just from our windows, but via Twitter and the crazy photos people posted on Flickr and Facebook. The green sky was our first warning that crazy weather was to come–the second came when we read this “@redhooklobster: I swear a small tornado just came down van brunt st! Hail green sky. I was sitting in my car. Very scary.” The tornado ripped up trees all over the borough, including one in Fort Greene that was home to a bee hive. City Room published a story about the homeless bees–and their well intentioned human helpers, that was our favorite tale from the Great Brooklyn Tornado of 2010.

My Coffice is on Latte Lane in Laptopistan
Maybe it’s just because some of us here at BB have spent a considerable amount of time in the Pacific Northwest, but coffee, and coffee shop culture has always seemed like an old story to us. Then, Jon Reiss, one of our favorite new writers, pitched us a guide to coffices–coffee shops for working–last summer. He did a bang-up job on the story (though many of you were pissed that we left off your favorite coffice), and the concept ricocheted around the New York media. In December The New York Times published this piece reporting from “laptopistan,” the same week that Time Out New York presented a whole package of coffee stories, including one titled, “Best Coffee Shops for Doing Work.” Then, in last Sunday’s Week in Review section, the NYT gave “coffice” a shout out as a 2010 neologism, which apparently originated in South Korea.

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