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Volunteers helped with the first plantings last Sunday. (Source: Laura Vladimirova)

Volunteers helped with the first plantings last Sunday. (Source: Laura Vladimirova)

In the months after Superstorm Sandy swept through Southern Brooklyn, including Bath Beach, there was help for people and pets, buildings and businesses. But one victim flew under the radar: the soil.

When the ocean met the land, the salty water crept into the root systems of gardens and tree beds along the borough’s coast. While the Parks Department has been lopping down decaying trees and replacing them with salt-resistant varieties, most local gardeners have simply replanted, neglecting the quiet killer that lurks several inches under the earth, the salt deposits that formed in the flood’s wake.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

What began as a project for a straightforward community garden in Bath Beach evolved into one with a focus on resiliency. It became a local laboratory for its planner, Laura Vladimirova, who had been granted control over a plot of land that was flooded by the storm. To make sure it survived the future, she had to become a quick study on tenacious flora that could withstand another Sandy.

“The premise of my project was to build a community greenspace with sustainable materials in Southern Brooklyn, with consideration of water usage, local and native plants, and with the idea that we all need a real green haven in our densely populated concrete jungles,” Vladimirova said.

Vladimirova’s project kicked off after she won a COJECO Blueprint Fellowship, a year-long program for Russian-speaking Jewish adults to undertake community projects. That covered the costs, but she still needed the land.

The former Bensonhurst Bean writer and Bath Beach resident reached out to SNAP to Grow! Urban Farm, another excellent community green-thumb program. They put her in touch with the Shore Parkway Jewish Center (8885 26th Avenue), which gave her the green light to develop a broad swath of their outdoor space, part of which is also where SNAP to Grow! is based.

Vladimirova hopes that teaming up with the local shul will be a win-win. It gives a ready base for volunteers, and will also help protect the building in future storms.

“This shul was hit hard by Sandy. By creating a local plant garden, I’m hoping this will effectively help drain rainwater if other large scale storms were to occur,” she said.

Volunteers helped with the first plantings last Sunday. (Source: Laura Vladimirova)

Volunteers helped with the first plantings last Sunday. (Source: Laura Vladimirova)

The garden doesn’t just have to prepare for the future; it’s still grappling with the effects of the past. It was slated to open in early September, but soil testing turned up a massive amount of those salt deposits left behind by Sandy.

Planting had to be delayed, and Vladimirova had to add “soil remediation” to her growing expertise.

“It’s so crazy how long Sandy lasts,” she said. “I imagine many lawns will that were flooded will face this issue.”

It’s a ticking time-bomb for local gardeners, she said. Many simply mowed their lawns, dug up the dead, and replanted their flowers after the storm. But as salt deposits sink deeper, gardeners are lulled into a false sense of security.

“When anyone plants, the rooting, the sprawling of the root system is just beginning and so it doesn’t go very deep,” she said. “Then they hit a salt pocket. And they die. It’s not immediate, but it damages long-term plant life and changes the pH of the soil.”

There are several types of soil remediation techniques, she said, including chemicals, worms and various holistic approaches. With sustainability a part of her focus, she avoided using chemicals, and instead opted for gypsum, a mineral compound. That was spread across the plot and given time to soak in to the soil, where it disperses deeply, breaking down and neutralizing the salt deposits.

Volunteers were finally able to plant the first batch of greenery last weekend during a soft opening. They’ll hold a grand opening this Sunday, October 19, at 1pm. During the greenthumb party, they’ll have more plantings, refreshments, and will host live music and art activities.


Maria and Chubby Campanella (Source:

The street co-naming ceremony for Angelo “Chubby” Campanella last Sunday capped off a quiet, 5-year battle in which Maria “the Ice Cream Girl” Campanella beat back City Hall smugness to get her dad remembered.

The fight for the new sign at 21st Avenue and 77th Street was chronicled this morning by the Daily Beast’s Michael Daly:

When Maria began her campaign back in 2009 … the city insisted that such honors are reserved for people like the firefighters and cops who perished in the 9/11 attacks. Maria suggested that there are other kinds of heroes, including a man who dedicated his life to his family and his neighborhood and made himself part of the fabric of the community where he lived. And a man who then demonstrated that a wheelchair can be a chariot.

Chubby’s brand of of working class heroism is worth recognizing in a blue-collar stronghold like Bensonhurst, Campanella argued. The father and daughter became a team when he began taking her on his route to keep her out of trouble. He instilled pride and confidence in her, and taught her compassion for those in need. Together, they spread goodwill throughout the neighborhood – be it through making sure every kid got ice cream even when they couldn’t afford it, or chasing down hit-and-run drivers while working the route.

A number of elected officials, including City Council Member David Greenfield, City Council Member Mark Treyger, former City Council Member Domenic Recchia, and state Sen. Marty Golden, agreed. They joined the fight.

“It’s like the canonization of a saint these days to get a block named,” one of the officials notes.

Maria and her allies kept pushing. The final hurdle was a longtime city policy against nicknames in street signs.

“I said, ‘You got to put in ‘Chubby,’” Greenfield recalls. “They said, ‘Why?’ I said, “Or nobody’s going to know who is it is.’”

The article also touches on the continuing struggles the ice cream truck industry faces, including the “chaotic… incursion of Russian and Middle Eastern immigrants who interpreted freedom in America to include selling ice cream wherever your truck takes you.”

We’ve got a feeling Campanella isn’t so worried about that, knowing that her ice cream is made all the more sweet with a hefty dose of love for the neighborhood she patrols.


Maria and Chubby Campanella (Source:

Family, friends and community leaders gathered this Sunday to memorialize Angelo “Chubby” Campanella, a neighborhood fixture and old-school ice cream man who passed away in 2009.

Campanella’s name now graces a street sign high on the corner of 21st Avenue and 77th Street to honor the late Brooklynite. Campanella was a popular Good Humor ice cream man, who was known as much for his good deeds around the neighborhood as for the sweets he delivered.


A collector lent a vintage Good Humor truck for the memorial service. (Photo by Mike Wright)

Born April 11, 1926, was, among other things, a World War II veteran. As an ice cream man, he toured the neighborhood in what would now be a vintage Good Humor truck – a model of which was on display at the ceremony, thanks to a collector – retiring in 2004 due to heart problems.

But it wasn’t the end of Campanella’s neighborhood route. He obtained a motorized wheelchair in 2006 and, as the Daily News noted in their obituary, became a ubiquitous sight once again.


Maria talks about her father during the service (Source: Mike Wright)

Meanwhile, his youngest daughter, Maria “The Ice Cream Girl” Campanella kept the family business alive, doling out frozen dairy goodness and goodwill across the neighborhood. In a more modern Good Humor truck, Campanella has pasted up photos and other tributes to her father, and organizes fundraisers for causes as varied as the truck’s menu.

Their dedication drew praise from community leaders who attended Sunday’s service, including State Senator Marty Golden, Assemblyman Bill Colton and Council members David Greenfield and Mark Treyger.


Source: Mike Wright


Bensonhurst Bean wishes all of our observant readers a L’shanah tova.

Have a terrific Rosh Hashanah, and a happy, healthy new year.

For those interested in learning more about Rosh Hashanah and Jewish traditions, you can check out this website.

As a reminder, Alternate Side Parking rules are suspended today and tomorrow. All other regulations, including parking meters, remain in effect. Schools are closed today and tomorrow, and there will be regular curbside garbage collection citywide.


They said a little prayer for pooches at the New Utrecht Reformed Church this weekend, when guest pastor EJ Emerson delivered the annual Blessing of the Animals.

A handful of dog owners turned out for the event,with EJ Emerson continuing a long tradition in remembrance of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis shared a love of animals, even penning the Canticle of the Creatures in honor of all the lord’s living things.

“Our pets bless and care for us with unqualified love and faithfulness. They’re a source of great joy. This is our opportunity to thank God and to invite a special blessing for them,” said event organizers in a statement.

The blessing took place Saturday at the church at 18th Avenue between 83rd Street and 84th Street. There was also a baked goods and jewelry sale.

Check out the adorable photos below!

We’re only just on the brink of fall, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about next spring! And if you’re anything like us, one of the best indications that winter’s over is the appearance of daffodils all over the neighborhood, from tree pits to community gardens. Want to help make that happen? It’s easy, and it’s free!

New Yorkers for Parks’ Daffodil Project, which was founded in 2001 as a living memorial to those lost on September 11, is still going strong. Last year volunteers around the city planted about 450,000 daffodil bulbs, and they’re hoping to top that number this year.

Registration for bulbs for the 2014 Daffodil Project is now open, and will end at 5pm on Wednesday, September 3. Pretty much anyone can sign up — bulbs are free to civic organizations, individuals, corporate volunteer groups, schools, and community leaders who commit to planting them in parks or public spaces like schoolyards, street tree pits, and community gardens.

There are pick-up locations around the city in September and October. So get to it, and thanks in advance for helping to make our neighborhood more beautiful!

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Improv Everywhere, the group behind the no pants subway ride and Frozen Grand Central gags, returned to Coney Island for the 5th Annual Black Tie Beach event on Saturday.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Hundreds of the group’s acolytes gathered on the shoreline in their best formal wear – gowns, tuxedos, top hats, monocles – before plunging into the water fully clothed.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

Meanwhile, those not in on the gag, which would be just about anyone else hanging around Coney Island or Brighton Beach, let loose a series of guffaws as they tried to figure out what was going on.

Source: FreeVerse Photography/Flickr

The group’s website has several photo collections from the event posted already, and they’re working on a video. In the meantime, here’s last year‘s video:

Did you catch the black tie crew? What was your reaction?

All of the photos for this post were taken by Dave Bledsoe/FreeVerse Photography, who generously posted them with a Creative Commons license on Flickr. Check out his photostream for more.

Photo by Elle Spektor

Photo by Elle Spektor

Beachgoers on Saturday were dazzled by dozens of sand sculptors who carved up the shore for the 24th Annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest.

The event, hosted by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services, saw the creation of everything from the amusing and bizarre to touching tributes, including one of Ground Zero and another to the U.S. Army.

A favorite of our two tipster-photographers, Avi Salzman and Elle Spektor, was a sand likeness of what may be your humble editor, an overweight man passed out on the sand, hat over his eyes and Nathan’s Famous cup in hand.

Arizona Iced Tea sponsored the event, giving away complimentary iced teas to and crafting their own logo in the sand.

Check out the photos.

The famed Harlem Gospel Choir. Source:

The famed Harlem Gospel Choir. Source:

Can I get an amen?

The world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir will have audiences on their feet, clapping and singing to their hearts’ content, tomorrow, August 13 at 5:00 p.m. The hour-long performance, appropriate for ages five and up, will take place at the Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) Coney Island Library, 1901 Mermaid Avenue near West 19th Street.

The performance is part of the library’s partnership with Lincoln Center Education (LCE), the educational cornerstone of Lincoln Center, to bring free music, theater and dance performances to BPL branches in August and September. We wrote about the debut performance at New Utrecht library last week.

Performing contemporary gospel with a touch of jazz and blues, the Harlem Gospel Choir is synonymous with power vocals, glorious sound and infectious energy. For more than two decades, they have been America’s premier gospel choir and have toured the globe, thrilling audiences with the inspirational power of black gospel music.

The performance will be followed by a question and answer session with the performers. Titled Lincoln Center Local Live (LCL), the series will culminate in a special presentation live-streamed from Lincoln Center’s campus.

To learn more, visit Performers, dates and locations are subject to change. All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.


The small, windowless basement of the New Utrecht library (1743 86th Street) last Sunday became the debut site of Lincoln Center Local, a new initiative out of the legendary institution that brings world-class art and performances to libraries throughout Brooklyn.

With Sasha Papernik on piano and vocals, assisted by her band, a small audience received an intimate serenade of American songbook standards, Russian folk music and Papernik’s soulful originals.



Papernik was lively and interactive during the warm performance, encouraging the audience to participate – particularly in the Russian-language children’s songs that she grew up with.

“I grew up speaking Russian and English – so it seemed natural for me to sing songs in both languages,” said Papernik. The mingling of Russian and American cultures is infused in her lineup, including her original songs. “I’ve researched how these songs have appeared in Russian classical music. I am really interested in how folk, pop, jazz, and classical styles overlap.”

While many in the audience appreciated hearing Russian sing-along songs and standards from Irving Berlin, Papernik’s most rousing performances on Sunday were her soulful originals – songs about love and friendship and rebellion. And, yet, much of the playful piano strides of Russian folk and American classics found their way into her contemporary tunes.

“I’m sure that all of these styles appear – not necessarily on purpose at first, but probably because I just love all this music and think all of it is equally important,” she explained.

The performer grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts, near Boston. Her parents were both immigrants from Moscow, and while they didn’t settle in one of New York’s popular Eastern European enclaves, she still has some roots locally that, unsurprisingly, have made its mark on her work.

“[Our family has] friends that live in Brighton Beach. Also, I love to visit the area and did one of my album photo shoots there,” she said.

Papernik arrived in New York to study at the Manhattan School of Music, where she met those she shared the stage with on Sunday: Kyle Saulnier (bass), Will Clark (percussion), and Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet). While none of the three speak Russian, the Russian-language songs have become second nature for them, she said.

Aside from working with Lincoln Center as a Meet The Artist fellow and through the Lincoln Center Local program as a teaching artist, Papernik was featured in this year’s Musical Explorers program at Carnegie Hall. Last year she released her album Victory, and is currently working on a new album, Papernik + Wu, a collaboration with partner Chris Wu to create “four hand piano music.”

Meanwhile, the Lincoln Center Local program will carry on with performance in other libraries across Brooklyn, with both in-person performances and HD streams of live performances at Lincoln Center’s Manhattan institution. The center’s reps say that the goal is to preserve art in local communities as a means to uplifting the quality of life.

While the New Utrecht performance was the first of the series, which continues until September 27, it’s not the first time the center has produced performances in local libraries. It’s the evolution of a smaller program last seen a few years ago, in which the center partnered with three to four branches in ear borough. Lincoln Center said they hope to continue expanding on the current program.

The program will continue all summer long, at libraries including the Kings Highway, Coney Island and Kensington branches. For a full schedule, check here.

Listen to some of Sasha’s music here, and follow her work on Facebook and Twitter.

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