09/06/16 11:24am


Welcome back from the long weekend! Now let’s get right into it, Brooklyn.

If there’s one theme that has emerged in this long, strange trip of an election cycle, it’s that Americans, New Yorkers included, are ready for political change. If you are dedicated to change then you have to vote–not just every four years in November, but in election cycles big and small. It just so happens that the New York State and Local Primary is next week on Sept. 13 and you should vote in it.

Why? Here’s a quick and dirty explanation. New York City leans heavily Democratic in most races, state, local and national. If you are a new candidate challenging an incumbent of the same party, as is usually the case, that means that your state and local contest is in September. Come November, the Democrats who win next week (again, most state and local offices in NYC are held by Democrats) will be largely unchallenged on the ballot, either running unopposed or against Republicans with minimal backing, funding or actual intention of serving. When very few people vote in September, and the people who do vote are dedicated to the status quo, it makes changing up our representation in Albany very difficult–and leads to the incredibly long terms in state office that we see so often in New York City.

What does that matter? Well, did you know that New York state had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country during the national primary? Did you read that only 9% of the entire U.S. voted for Clinton or Trump? Do you find it disappointing that pretty much every major candidate in this election cycle is close to 70 years old? There can be no new energy in politics, no new ideas, if voters don’t vote, starting with state and local elections.

Here are two Brooklyn candidates who will be on the ballot for State Senate next week, each running against other Democrats who have been in office for more than a decade. (You can view all the seats up for election here.) We’re not endorsing these candidates–we’re not here to tell you how to vote. We’re making the point that if you actually care about the system as whole, every race matters and there’s more opportunity to get involved in our political system than you might think. It’s also a chance to make sure that you are registered to vote on Nov. 8–the deadline to register for the general election in New York State is Oct. 14.  (more…)

10/20/15 9:51am

Eelco’s vibrant mural feels like a magical urban forest scene. Photo: Audrey Connelly

Where others in Brownsville, Brooklyn saw shuttered storefronts, N Carlos Jay, an artist with roots in the neighborhood, saw blank canvases with the potential to engage and uplift the community.

The Writing on the Walls Art District, off Belmont Avenue between Mother Gaston Boulevard and Rockaway Avenue, is the culmination of Jay’s vision. Twelve vibrant murals, painted by notable street artists and financed with a crowdfunding campaign, stake a visual claim on a neighborhood that, despite being long-maligned and underserved, has recently become a new frontier for gentrification.

As heralded by a New York Magazine cover story early in 2015, Brownsville and neighboring East New York are some of the final frontiers of gentrification in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build new affordable housing in the area is almost certainly helping to fuel a speculative rush by real estate developers to get in on the next, last hot neighborhood in Brooklyn. “What they did to Bed-Stuy, they want to do to East New York and Brownsville,” says Jay. His goal in reaching out to the neighborhood through art was to remind residents that beauty exists everywhere and to foster a sense of local ownership through creative expression. “It’s our job to make sure your voice is heard before you don’t even have a voice,” he says.

As a Brownsville native and an artist who works in a variety of media, Jay was able to gather a group of internationally renowned and emerging street artists including Ben Angotti, Lexi Bella, Joel Artista, Zeso, WERC, El Nino de las Pinturas, Fumero, Teo Doro, Welin, and Phetus to complete the first 12 murals in summer of 2015. Now Jay is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign for another 10.

The artists were given few restrictions, only that the murals and their messages stay positive, something that children in the neighborhood could look to for inspiration.  (more…)

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