Oversight meeting uncovers mold and money shortages, by George Fiala

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer brought his traveling Sandy Oversight show to the auditorium of PS 15 Tuesday evening.

The auditorium of PS 15 filled up by 7 pm.

The auditorium of PS 15 filled up by 7 pm.


Flanked by three of his deputies, by Councilman Carlos Menchaca and by the Mayor’s director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson,  Stringer announced that he was in Red Hook to listen. This was not to be a normal feel-good town meeting Two lines were set up for people to tell their Sandy stories. Stringer vowed that everyone who spoke would get a follow up call the next morning. He said that for each person who wasn’t called, someone in his office would lose their job. Solutions would be found.

The biggest complaints of the night came from homeowners and businesses being overwhelmed by the lengthy Build-it-Back application process, and from NYCHA residents who are to this day suffering from mold and polluted air causing them various sicknesses including asthma.

Build-It-Back is NYC’s housing recovery program that was created to help distribute Federal relief funds. It has been severely criticized as thus far only ten houses are being worked on – out of thousands of applicants. It’s publicized failures prompted the Comptroller’s oversight campaign.

Monica Byrne tells her story as Vilma Heremia of the Carroll Garden's Association waits her turn.

Monica Byrne tells her story – Vilma Heremia of the Carroll Garden’s Association waits her turn.

Monica Byrne was first in line to speak. She introduced herself as a founder of ReStore Red Hook. She called it the only organization that was 100% staffed by volunteers, giving grants totaling $600,000 to businesses such as hers. The grants were in the form of a series of checks mailed to 51 Red Hook businesses, helping them to stay open.

She spoke of a number of problems. First of all, SBA money were loans, and nobody wanted to take on more debt. Grant programs such as Build-It-Back required documentation of losses. She said that small businesses don’t always keep receipts of their purchases, and anyway, much paperwork was lost in the flood anyway. “The problem is in the application process,” she said. She also said that relief money should go directly to those that need it, not to programs. She did not name any specific programs.

Vilma Heremia, representing the Carroll Gardens Association (CGA), told of losses to the 106 low-income homes they manage in Red Hook. “We had to change boilers and do mold remediation,” she said. CGA had to spend $1.1 million to remediate the Sandy damage. They have been able to raise a half million from private sources, and is hoping that Build-It-Back would fund much of the rest, which has come from their operating accounts. “So far it’s been a big runaround,” she said.

Soot and mold are wrecking this NYCHA resident's health.

Soot and mold are wrecking this NYCHA resident’s health.

Barbara, a resident of 80 Dwight Street, complained of black soot coming into her windows from the diesel powered temporary boilers that have been providing heat and hot water since the storm. “It’s making people sick,” she said.

Stringer interjected to say that the first audit his office took on was one of NYCHA, which is ongoing.

Another NYCHA resident, Carol Mass, explained that her daughter’s asthma has been getting worse and worse, she has to use a pump much of the time. She attributed it to the soot and to mold, but when NYCHA workers show up, they “do nothing.”

Soot and mold is wrecking her health.

NYCHA residents from both Red Hook and Gowanus came to tell their stories.

The Fifth Avenue Committee sent a slew of representatives to speak. They had suggestions for Stringer, and also seemed to be requesting a partnership with Build-It-Back to facilitate the process. One of their suggestions was that the Build-It-Back contractors be taught resiliency planning as well as simple rebuilding.

Mary Kyle, from Van Brunt’s Dry Dock Wine and Spirits, found her element in the audience. She regaled them, saying that having to appear before Build-It-Back was like a trip to visit the great OZ – all smoke and no action. She almost broke into tears, saying that the alienation she feels from the city has been crippling. She was speaking both as a homeowner and business owner. “We need money – not cups of pudding!” was how she characterized the Sandy aid that she perceived since the storm.

Mary Kyle did not mince words.

Mary Kyle of Dry Dock has experienced many frustrations dealing with the Sandy help programs.

Stringer asked her what government organizations she was referring to, specifically. Mary thought a second and mentioned SBA, FEMA, her insurance company, Build-It-Back and Red Hook Rising. “I got bupkus!” she said.

A Red Hook resident who is restoring her 1899 family home also complained about the enormous amounts of paperwork she has had to wade through. She has been able to move forward, and complimented local community organizations – specifically Red Hook Initiative, the Red Hook Volunteers, Rebuilding Together and the Good Shepherd Services. They have been “out of this world,” she said to applause. She suggested that these people be put to do the rest of the work.

Adam Armstrong, who led a campaign against diesel pollution from the Cruise Terminal, said that he felt for the people in the Houses suffering from the temporary generators. He said that he needed to fill the gap between what his insurance company paid to repair damage to his two family house, and what he has had to spend. Thus far he has been unsuccessful at getting this money. He declined an SBA application because “it’s a loan.”

Kimberly Gail Price of the Red Hook Star-Revue declares that Red Hook is not a third world country and shouldn't be treated as one.

Kimberly Gail Price of the Red Hook Star-Revue declared that Red Hook is not a third world country and shouldn’t be treated as one.

Carlos Menchaca spoke close to the end of the long evening, recalling the storm and the government response. We needed to do better and we will is what he said. At the time of the storm he represented City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in Red Hook, and got a first-hand look at the situation. Now he runs the 38th District.

He announced some upcoming meetings – a June 25th meeting back at PS 15 with Build It Back and  a Long-Term Recovery Plan meeting June 12th at the Miccio Center. He closed by saying that the most important way to get government working for the people is for the people to show up. “We need community voices to speak up,” he said.

The community did a pretty good job this evening in front of the Comptroller.

Two local dignitaries sit together, Buddy Scotto and John McGettrick

Two local dignitaries sit together, Buddy Scotto and John McGettrick

Carlos Menchaca reminds all that the strongest power comes from the community.

Carlos Menchaca reminds all that the strongest power comes from the community.

NY 1 interviews our man Menchaca.

NY 1 interviews our man Menchaca.

Red Hook's Bea Byrd sits on the NYCHA board and took in all the tales of woe.

Red Hook’s Bea Byrd sits on the NYCHA board and took in all the tales of woe.



Posted in Carlos Menchaca, NYCHA, Red Hook Houses, Sandy Related | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Daniel Cruz remembered in funeral service, by George Fiala

Daniel Cruz’s funeral service was held Monday night in the Rockaways, where he grew up. A loving crowd of about one hundred friends and family members filled the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church to celebrate Danny’s life of forty years.

Daniel Cruz's last viewing, holding a Yankee baseball

Daniel Cruz’s last viewing, holding a Yankee baseball

Cruz was left on life support following an asthma attack on May 28th. He lived with his wife and three daughters at 16 Mill Street in the Red Hook Houses. He was feeding dinner to his children when he gasped for breath and told his wife, Tynisha Rogers-Cruz to call 911. By the time an ambulance showed up to take him to Methodist Hospital, his brain had died due to lack of oxygen. He was kept alive until May 30th, as he was a registered organ donor so in death he has saved others.

Danny was an ardent sports fan. Lying in state, he was wearing a Yankees hat and jersey, his hands clutching a baseball stamped with the Yankee logo.

Crystal Riddick read statements from cards the family had received, including one from Peggy Wyns-Madison, principal of Red Hook’s PS 15.

His sister-in-law, Latisha Rogers, read his obituary. It was a heartwarming statement of his life, and included “His family was everything to him and you would never see him without one or all of his daugthters’s by his side. He was not just their father but their constant companion, their protector and their world.”

Danny's sister Marcy loved her brother

Danny’s sister Marcy loved her brother

Sister Marcy spoke lovingly of her brother. She recalled their frequent car rides together. He loved driving, and loved Honda vans. Family photos were flashing throughout on two television screens on the back wall of the church, and one of them showed Cruz beaming behind the wheel of a silver Honda van. Marcy said that normally she wouldn’t be happy driving in an open car with her hair blowing all over, but with her brother that was just fine. She recalled one time when they sat by the side of the road with a flat tire. She said that her brother was too cheap to pay for Triple A, so they just waited for somebody to come by with a jack they could borrow. After a while he asked Marcy if maybe she could pray to speed up the process. All of a sudden, a man wearing white stopped and pulled out a gold jack from a case. Danny’s eyes lit up in amazement, and he looked at his sister and asked her to pray for a winning lottery ticket!

Marcy told about how she had lost the two leading men in her life in just three years. Their father, Danny Sr., passed away in 2011. Without breaking down, she explained how her brother Danny was her rock, made her feel safe, and would show up whenever she needed help with anything. “I was lucky to have those 40 years,” she said. “Danny was my younger brother – I was the luckiest sister in the world.”

She ended by telling her brother that she would see him “on the next road trip.”

Reverend Ferguson stands over all

Reverend Ferguson stands over all

Reverend Darren A. Ferguson opened and closed the ceremony. His closing was rousing, introducing religious themes with simple street talk that everyone could understand. Looking at Danny’s family, he spoke of his own loss. His wife had died at the age of 42, over ten years ago. Dying of cancer, she made him promise that he would remarry someday. He protested, but afterwards he realized that while she would never leave his heart, in her love she wanted him to move on. He did in fact sport a large gold band on his ring finger, so probably he has.

He told everyone in the room that a funeral is not a family reunion. In other words, it is everyone’s responsibility to be there for the Cruz family. Not that Mrs. Rogers-Cruz will not be able to bring up her daughters, but a man’s voice is also important.

A theme of the evening’s service was not the untimely loss of Danny Cruz, who had just turned 40, but the gift that God has given his family and friends by his life.

Councilman Carlos Menchaca greets Danny's daughter Tea

Councilman Carlos Menchaca greets Danny’s daughter Tea

Among the guests was local Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who greeted the family along with everyone else. After the ceremony he told the Star-Revue that an investigation into the circumstances involving the death is being undertaken by NYC Public Advocate, Letitia James, as well as lawyers hired by the family. He also expressed a continuing interest in starting a local volunteer ambulance service, an idea expressed at an emergency neighborhood meeting held last week.

Daniel Cruz was buried Tuesday morning, June 10th, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, baseball in hand.

Posted in Carlos Menchaca, Red Hook Houses | 2 Comments

Emergency Meeting called in Red Hook, by George Fiala

People in Red Hook are slowly to understand that the closing of Long Island College Hospital is a disaster for Red Hook.

Captain Lenz and Carlos Menchaca leading the community discussion.

Captain Lenz and Carlos Menchaca leading the community discussion.

A tragic combination of news about a death that followed a half hour or more wait for an ambulance, plus an accident on Lorraine and Hicks that killed a 14 year-old-boy, led Wally Bazemore to call Felix Ortiz who called Carlos Menchaca who together called an emergency community meeting on Monday, June 1 at 5 pm.

So many community stakeholders showed up that the meeting had to be moved from a small room in the basement, across the hall to the cafeteria. Captain Lenz of the 76th precinct, along with other officers and Community Liaison Vincent Marrone were early arrivals. Other attendees included Robert Berrios, Henrietta Perkins, Francis Brown, who is the acting head of Red Hook East Tenants, her husband Hal, Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, Mary from Dry Dock Wines and Spirit, Khadijah James and much of the Cruz family (it was Daniel Cruz Jr., who suffered the asthma attack and died before the hospital could help him), Wally Bazemore, John McGettrick, head of the Red Hook Civic Association, Cheryl Braxton, Kimberly Gail Price, Leroy Branch from Community Board 6, Karen Blondell, two from Menchaca’s office and Mitu Maruf representing Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who was in Albany.

Looking toward the Hicks/Lorraine intersection where the fatal accident occurred.

Looking toward the Hicks/Lorraine intersection where the fatal accident occurred.

The meeting began with a long discussion about traffic, prompted by the deadly accident earlier that day. Braxton pointed out that Lorraine Street has become much busier since IKEA opened up in 2006, but no stoplights had been added. Everyone agreed that Hicks and Lorraine has had more than their share of accidents. Captain Lenz explained what happened that morning.

At about 6:50 am, 14 year-old Nicholas Soto  saw the bus arriving across the street. He ran into the street to try and catch it. This was across from the ballfield at the corner of Hicks and Lorraine. A BMW with Jersey plates, who Lenz explained was someone who was on his work to work, also saw the bus and moved a bit to the right side of his lane, without slowing down. He never saw Soto, and hit him going full speed.  Soto was thrown onto the hood of the car and smashed the right side of the windshield. The BMW carried Soto across the intersection which is when he slammed on the brakes. Hitting the brakes caused Soto to fly off the car onto the ground. Police and ambulances showed up, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital. According to the Daily News, the driver, 28 year-old Juan Mancebo, of Elmwood Park NJ, was devastated and “sat on the curb for something like two hours, crying.”

The BMW after the accident.

The BMW after the accident.

Carlos asked for advice from the concerned gathering and promised to follow up all suggestions with DOT and other branches of government. Someone asked about school crossing guards, and Captain Lenz said in fact that they have openings for guards, and he might be able to put a new person on Lorraine once one got hired. Other complaints included frequent double parking – often by trucks,  lack of stop lights and stop signs, and speeding cars. Someone suggested speed bumps, but it was explained that speed bumps are not put on roads that are part of an MTA bus route, nor are they put on two-way streets.

Another suggested having the  city buses make some stops right near the houses, allowing school kids pick up the bus more safely. Mary from Dry Dock complained about 54 foot trucks and an accident on Van Brunt last month that the police haven’t prosecuted. Robert Berrios said that buses in New Jersey have decals on them that tell drivers to slow down when approaching.

Khadijah James holds up a photo of Daniel Cruz on life support at Methodist Hospital

Khadijah James holds up a photo of Daniel Cruz on life support at Methodist Hospital

After about 45 minutes, Khadijah James got up to speak eloquently about the death of her in-law. Daniel Cruz, Jr., suffered an asthma attack last week and died as his brain did not get oxygen for at least 40 minutes. The family is very upset, claiming that ambulances were very late showing up, and only showed up after they grabbed a police officer from the street. The officer gave CPR and used his radio to get help.

A long conversation follwed with people wondering how LICH could be allowed to close. It was pointed out that a LICH ambulance used to be stationed by Coffey Park, with drivers who knew the neighborhood. Finding an address in the Red Hook Houses can be confusing to someone who has never done it before. With LICH closing, ambulances from all over are being sent to answer Red Hook calls. In fact, one of the Cruz daughter’s suffered an anxiety attack that evening, right at the Miccio Center. Captain Lenz himself radioed for an ambulance. Finally one from Maimonides showed up, and the family says it was a half hour before she was delivered to the hospital, with is on 48th Street and Tenth Avenue in Brooklyn.

Additional topics included soil and air contamination in Red Hook, and the overgrown condition of Coffey Park, as it sits fenced off awaiting a promised renovation.

Wally Bazemore telling the crowd that the Ruiz family needs the support of the community, including at Christmas time.

Wally Bazemore telling the crowd that the Ruiz family needs the support of the community, including at Christmas time.

Kimberly Gail Price speaks eloquently about the situation at LICH

Kimberly Gail Price speaks eloquently about the situation at LICH

Robert Berrios making a point.

Robert Berrios making a point.

The Cruz family occupied the first table at the Miccio lunchroom.

The Cruz family occupied the first table at the Miccio lunchroom.

Captain Lenz reading a very good local newspaper.

Captain Lenz reading a very good local newspaper.


Posted in Carlos Menchaca, Red Hook Houses | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Red Hook resident dies after delayed ambulance response, by George Fiala

Wednesday evening, May 21, Danny Cruz Jr. was busy making dinner for his three girls, Tea, 14; Savanna 12 and the youngest, Angel. Dinner was  hamburgers and potato puffs.

Daniel Cruz Jr and his girls in a recent photo.

Daniel Cruz Jr and his girls in a recent photo.

He loved making dinner, helping his wife Tynisha, who works during the day. He was getting ready for the job he held since last November. He worked the 11 pm – 7 am shift as a night watchman at the Prospect Park Rink.

He never made it to work that night.

Danny was 40 years old and suffered from asthma. He hadn’t been feeling that well but didn’t tell anyone. All of a sudden, he had trouble breathing and told his wife to call 911. Tanisha saw his distress and frantically made the 911 call. She then started giving him resuscitation. The minutes passed by with no ambulance. She told her twin sister, Latisha, to keep him breathing and ran downstairs from their 16 Mill Street apartment, in the Red Hook Houses.

She ran up and down the street, looking for any emergency vehicle. She saw nothing, went back up, and then down again. By this time more than twenty minutes had gone by. She finally saw a policeman on the street and grabbed him. He ran up, assessed the situation, and made a phone call. Within three minutes the fire department and three ambulances arrived.

Danny Cruz lying in a coma at Methodist Hospital with his mother Mercedes.

Danny Cruz lying in a coma at Methodist Hospital with his mother Mercedes.

Tynisha’s aunt, Khadijah James arrived in time to see Danny intubated and being taken down to an ambulances. “The three drivers were arguing about who would take him,” James said. Cruz finally arrived at Methodist Hospital, but it was too late. A doctor told James that he had been without proper oxygen to his brain for almost 45 minutes, and was probably brain dead. They did manage to get his heart beating again, and he was kept alive by machines. Today, at 5:00, with his family around him, the machines were turned off. Danny was a registered organ donor, and parts of him will go to save others.

But this is small consolation to his family. Khadijah recalled that two years ago Cruz’s eldest daughter Tea had a critical asthma attack, and a LICH ambulance was on the scene within two minutes and she was properly taken care of. LICH used to keep an ambulance at Richards Street, by Coffey Park, covering Red Hook emergencies. The drivers knew their way around the Houses. For someone unfamiliar with the streets and buildings of the Red Hook Houses, it could take a while to find an address like 16 Mill.

Tea gives her father a last kiss.

Tea gives her father a last kiss.

It will take further investigation to find out exactly why this happened. Was it because of problems at 911, which have been well documented? Was it because of the closing of LICH, which was just taking place on the 21st of May? All this remains to be seen. What the facts indicate is that a young father of three is gone because he didn’t get to the hospital in time.

Our hearts go out to the Cruz family.

Posted in LICH, Red Hook Houses | Tagged , | 45 Comments

The Arrogance of the Parks Department, by George Fiala

By now, most people who live or work in Red Hook know that Coffey Park, which CB 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman has called an important village square, has been closed to the public since the middle of April. Fenced off for an announced renovation, the park has remained quiet, with no renovation work apparent except for some tree pruning. Hammerman explained that the contractor has a year to do the renovation, and what part of the year they choose to work is up to them (see related article in the June edition of the Star-Revue).

John McGettrick leading last night's Civic Association meeting.

John McGettrick leading last night’s Civic Association meeting.

Many who attended last night’s Civic Association meeting expressed displeasure with what is going on, and people spoke of possible tactics to inform the Park’s Department of the community’s unhappiness at the lack of information and involvement given to us. At this point, only peaceful measures were discussed. John McGettrick, looking over the crowd and seeing political representatives from the State Assembly and Senate, suggested reaching out to NY State. The representative from State Senator Montgomery explained that this was a matter for the City Council. Unfortunately, nobody from the City Council was present at the Civic Association meeting.

At last night’s meeting, I took notes, I participated and I snapped a few photos. In addition, I left my keys there in the Beacon room. I only realized this after a beer with some neighborhood friends at Bait and Tackle. I went back to retreive them, but by then only the janitor was left. I told him my story, and he said that Mel from Beacon mentioned something about a set of keys. Mel was gone for the day, and I looked around the principal’s office, but didn’t see any keys.

So this morning I hiked over to the school, worried that the good folks at the 76th would ticket me for leaving a car past 7 am in front of a school. Along the way I walked the perimeter of the park, and noticed some parks department cars inside. As I passed Visitation, walking on Richards Street, I noticed a gaggle of people inside the park, deep in conversation. I walked over to see if I could get some information. The group, which included someone in a DOT vest, a couple of men with Parks Dept Capital shirts, and some young men and women, some holding what looked like rolled up blueprints, looked over at me, looked at themselves, and walked deeper into the park.

Here are the two cars, as well as a shot of the paving stones that the 'renovation' will demolish and replace with black tar.

Here are the two cars, as well as a shot of the paving stones that the ‘renovation’ will demolish and replace with black tar.

I kept waiting for their meeting to break up so I could ask a question – namely, what everyone wants to know – What’s going on? It was a good wait, as I got to talk to Tony Schloss of RHI, who happened to be biking through.

Finally they were done, and I walked closer to ask my question, identifying myself as with the local newspaper. First they ignored me, then one of the men from Parks glared at me and said that if needed to know anything, call 311. I told him that I had heard Marty Mahr’s presentation at CB 6, thinking that might give me some credibility, but instead he yelled back at me to then go ask Mahr, and then he stormed off.

Walking away from your's truly.

Walking away from your’s truly.

Leaving me wondering why, in this new age of Progressivism in city government, such arrogance is tolerated.

PS – the rest of the morning was charmed, as I got my keys and didn’t get a ticket! Thank you PS 15!

Posted in Coffey Park, Community Board 6, Politics | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Creating a cultural sanctuary in Red Hook, by Micah B. Rubin

The Pioneer Works Center for Arts and Innovation strives to build a thriving, inclusive community. Through classes, artist residency, workshops, lectures, exhibitions and other initiatives, Pioneer Works has created an incubator for creative exploration in the heart of Red Hook.

Noted artist Dustin Yellin is the brainchild behind the impressive Pioneer Works.

Noted artist Dustin Yellin is the brainchild behind the impressive Pioneer Works.

In mid April, Pioneer Works hosted its first annual Hack Red Hook workshop. The “hackathon” brought together nearly 100 students, artists, developers and tech junkies – including the Red Hook Initiative’s Digital Stewards who provided logistical support – for 24 hours of learning and self exploration through technology.

With the goal of creating apps to improve Red Hook resident’s lives, hackathon participants unveiled 12 apps. Of note: a community bulletin board for residents to share neighborhood information (especially in emergencies); an app that tracks street conditions and a low-cost DIY security system that alerts users if someone breaks into their property.

For Pioneer Works, technology and science are as much a part of the arts as the more traditional mediums of paint and sculpture.

Every year, Pioneer Works offers year-long residencies to emerging artists, scientists and innovators. They receive a workspace and access to Pioneer Works 3-D printer, recording studio, physics lab, metal shop, wood shop, digital and film darkroom, and a soon-to-be added observatory.

“People come in here and all the sudden they have a whole new sense of what is possible,” says Dustin Yellin, the artist who founded Pioneer Works and serves as its director. Yellin discovered Red Hook in the 1990s and also lives and works in the neighborhood. “[Pioneer Works] has been a dream for a very long time, almost 20 years,” Yellin says.

Pioneer Works began in 2011 when Yellin purchased the Pioneer Iron Works building. Originally built in 1866 (and later rebuilt after a fire in 1881), the building served as an ironworks factory until the end of World War I. It was a defunct storage facility, one of the parcels owned by Time Moving, when Yellin purchased it. Converting the space took time and energy, but the result is a cathedral to the arts with 40-foot ceilings, cascades of light with exposed bricks and beams.

“The architecture of the space is an incredible lens for the energy of the people in the space,” Yellin says. “It creates a natural sense of community and [is] so inspiring. You almost feel like you’re in some sort of holy place.”

Pioneer Works' courtyard is used for many events.

Pioneer Works’ courtyard is used for many events.

Pioneer Works hasn’t only set up a creative environment, but also seeks to demystify the creation process itself, says Dave Sheinkopf, Pioneer Works’ Director of Education.

Rotating exhibitions
In their main space, Pioneer Works hosts rotating exhibitions. “If you go to a show at a museum, you see art but don’t see [the creative] process. [Pioneer Works] is very much a museum of process. Not only do you get to see art that’s finished, but you get to see how it’s made, “ Yellin says.

This includes visiting the studios of the art and science residents, and also through participating in the classes. “Classes are priced a lot less then other classes in the city. We want to set ourselves apart by making them really accessible,” Sheinkopf says.

Pioneer Works began offering classes two years ago and now has nearly 30 instructors and an ever-growing curriculum. Have a great idea for a class? They are always open to new class ideas, Sheinkopf says.

“There are so many people taking the classes,” Yellin says. “We really have a better turnout then we ever imagined.”

Interested in making your own miso (think Japanese soup)? Sign up for “Miso: Preparation, Fermentation and Health” ($40) a class about everything miso: history, heath benefits, the fermentation process and how to make it yourself.

Maybe you’re a shutterbug? Take the “Bobble Cap Tintypes” ($85) workshop and learn to make your own tintype – think sepia-toned photos from the old west printed on metal – the first widespread photographic process.

For example, Pioneer Works also offers multiple classes on leatherworking. Learn to make a hand-made bag in “Crafting a Hand-Stitched Leather Bag” ($885) or the secrets of master European leather workers in “Traditional European Leatherwork & Handstitching” ($155).

Many classes discussing technology are also offered at Pioneer Works. “Technology is lost to most people … by learning the process of something, you can pursue it on your own and – in the case of technology – have a lot more power over your world,” Sheinkopf says.
Like hacking a DSLR to unlock hidden features. In “Hack Your Canon SLR” ($70) instructors will teach students to enable “magical” features on your camera using a simple and free firmware update.

“Electronic Voices” ($35) explores the phenomenon of sound and current and historical recording techniques. Students also recreate experiments conducted by early recording pioneers through building a makeshift phonograph and a MacGyver-styled speaker out of a post-it note, a wire and a magnet.

Looking for love? “The Science of Romantic Relationships” ($25) explores how the originally radical idea people should marry for love hasn’t quite worked out as expected. With only a third of marriages happy and enduring, the class discusses the emerging science of why love can be so tough and what science says about a successful quest for love.

And these are only shortlist of available classes.

Right now, Pioneer Works is developing long-term classes that will last between 6 and 8 weeks and a gap-year program for post high school and pre-college students.

“There are so many kids who get out of high school and don’t have an idea of what they’re doing yet. I think this [program] would help give them some focus and expose them to the incredible people that could mentor them before college,” Yellin says.

In continuing with its multidisciplinary leanings, Pioneer Works is developing a publishing arm. It currently publishes Intercourse, a biannual magazine discussing art, science and culture and published its first book “Settlements” in 2013.

Pop up restaurants to come
In addition to the rotating exhibits, Pioneer Works hosts concerts and lectures and this summer, pop up restaurants will set up shop in their 20,000 square foot garden and sculpture park.

Yellin is excited about all the great things happening at Pioneer Works and especially the effects the collaborations and classes are having on the community. “They have a whole new sense of what is possible,” he says.

Pioneer Works is located at 159 Pioneer Street (between Imlay and Conover Streets). (718) 5967-3001 Hours: Wed. – Sun., 12 pm-6 pm when exhibits are up or events happening, otherwise by appointment.


Posted in Arts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Curtain closes on Long Island College Hospital, by Kimberly Gail Price

On February 8, 2013, SUNY Downstate Medical Center voted unanimously to shut down Long Island College Hospital, triggering a nearly fifteen month battle for a land grab.

It was a bittersweet last day for LICH’s ICU nursing staff. (Photo by Price)

It was a bittersweet last day for LICH’s ICU nursing staff. (Photo by Price)

On Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm, the majority of staff was being cleared out of the once vibrant hospital.

After many months in the court of Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, the deal all came to a climax earlier that day when Peebles successfully negotiated the deal with Downstate that would allow a “full-service” emergency department and an urgent care center that will include primary, specialty and diagnostic services.

A true full-service emergency room (ER) relies on other specialties to provide follow up care. Free standing ERs do not offer other critical care services necessary to save lives. For example, a patient suffering a heart attack would only have access to stabilization, possibly a minor operation if absolutely necessary, before being transported to another hospital miles and minutes away.

Nurses, doctors and EMTs have said on numerous occasions that any time a critically impaired patient is transferred, the risk of death is greatly increased during the trip to the next facility. Now, for LICH, all patients in need of additional services must be sent elsewhere.

Being transferred to another hospital is not simply a matter of the nearest hospital. The chosen facility must have an available bed and adequate staffing levels. If the nearest hospital is overwhelmed with patients – as Brooklyn Hospital, New York Methodist, and Lutheran were last summer when ambulances were diverted – the patient would have to be transported to the nearest available hospital.

Last year, ICU patients at LICH were being transferred and far away as Staten Island and Queens because there were no available hospital beds throughout the entire borough of Brooklyn. As the population of Brooklyn continues to rise, the problem will become even more exacerbated.

LICH previously had 16 operating rooms. After a deal with Peebles is reached, there will be none. ICU will be discontinued. Obstetrics and pediatrics will no longer exist at the facility. Numerous other services will be discontinued as well.

If Peebles cannot reach a deal with SUNY Downstate by June 6, they will be disqualified. Fortis would then be eligible to negotiate an agreement. Fortis also would only be offering a standalone emergency room.

Under the newest settlement, an independent Community Health Assessment must be completed. If the assessment finds needs of the community not being met, Peebles has agreed to provide those services if they can afford to do so. With the real estate deal raking in millions for the real estate corporation, logically Peebles should be able to afford to do so.
If the assessment finds that a full service hospital is needed in the area, the possibility that LICH will be revived still exists. But many believe now that the hospital is shut down, reopening will not be a feasible option.

The health assessment should begin in the near future and will take at least 2-3 months. However a tentative date for the process to begin has not yet been determined.
At the present time, ambulatory services are scheduled to resume July 15. Peebles has suggested that this date may be changed at some point.

All non-ER hospital staffers were told they would be escorted out of the LICH buildings at 11:59 pm Thursday night. Fearing a large media presence, SUNY Downstate told employees arriving for their 7:30 pm shift that they could leave any time before midnight because all patients had been transferred out of the hospital earlier in the afternoon.
Jim Walden, lead attorney for LICH called the settlement “a bitter, sweet day.”

After the final decision had been handed down, the atmosphere in the hospital was somber. Colleagues embraced, exchanged phone numbers, and took pictures of their final moments at the institution they had worked so hard to preserve.

While the outcome of whose iron fist the keys to LICH will end up in is still undecided, the overall fate of the 155 year old hospital is bleak. Without one more last minute miracle, the fight for LICH is finally over.


  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center originated as a residency at LICH in 1969. Downstate has essentially murdered their parent by boarding up LICH.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sister was dismissed as an intern in the radiology department of LICH many years ago.
  • Brooklyn Hospital is a client of Sachs Consulting. Jeffery Sachs is Governor Cuomo’s closest friend; Brooklyn Hospital is the closest hospital to LICH.
  • Peebles was ranked as the second bidder behind Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP) in the scoring process for bidders. After BHP was eliminated, Peebles was the next choice. Although Peebles was rated sixth under the technical criteria, they were ranked first under financial criteria. Only Downstate scorers were allowed to vote on the financial criteria.
  • If Peebles had not been ranked highest financially, they would not have been ranked second overall.
  • Peebles also was the highest bidder for LICH. They refused to reveal their financial bid until all other bids were finalized to avoid being outbid. After all bids had been revealed, Peebles drove their bid up just beyond the second highest bidder.
  • Despite the technical criteria of the settlement being written to encourage a full-service hospital, one SUNY scorer graded all four full service hospital bids zero.
  • For many years, Red Hook was designated as a federal health professional shortage area. There are not enough health services or professionals in the area to provide comprehensive care to the population.
  • Although the designation is federal, New York State actually makes the decision based on the ration of medical professionals and population.
  • Last year, just as the LICH battle was heating up, the designation for Red Hook was withdrawn.
  • A Department of Health employee explained that the withdrawal was due to either more health professionals in the area or “the population has decreased – which I seriously doubt.”
  • DOH was unable to provide any statistical evidence for the withdrawal; to the best of our knowledge, no new significant health care or professionals have become available within the immediate area.
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