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Archive for the 'Arts & Culture' Category

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.

The following was sent to us from the office of City Councilman David Greenfield:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Remember parkour, the sport described by The Office‘s Jim Halpert as “the internet sensation of 2004 … and the goal is to get from point A to point B as creatively as possible”? Well, it just happened in Coney Island. And it’s much cooler than when Michael and Dwight did it.

Brooklyn-based parkour collaborative Bullettrun posted the above video over the weekend, showing their members jumping, flipping, rolling and generally being more awesome than the rest of us on the Coney Island boardwalk, Child’s Restaurant, on the beach and in front of housing developments.

The group has been around since 2007, performing their craft in streets, on the stage and on screen. Under the creative direction of Nadia Lesy, who shot the video above, Bulletrun describes itself as a “collaborative, performance, Multi-media Parkour group” that “produces live shows that are presented in theaters, galleries and in non traditional settings, such as a a high school gymnasium and city parks.”

Neat. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go parkour my way over to the deli for a bacon, egg and cheese. Strolling, slowly, while struggling to breathe under the weight of my own man-boobs counts as creative expression, doesn’t it?

Check out more awesome videos from Bullettrun.

Brooklyn-based jazz group, the Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet

Brooklyn-based jazz group, the Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet

Brooklyn-based jazz group, the Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet, led by composer, arranger and author Charley Gerard, will perform a free public concert in the Parish House of the New Utrecht Reformed Church, 18th Avenue and 84th Street, June 29 at 2:30 p.m.

Presented by Friends of Historic New Utrecht, the concert — one of a series of performances and history-related events offered each year by the Bensonhurst-based organization — will feature sets derived from Doo Wop classics, such as “Life Could Be a Dream,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Oh, Donna” and from movie songs like “Stella by Starlight,” “The Nearness of You” and “Laura.”

For more information, call (718) 256-7173, email or visit or

Ah, the heady days of the 1960s. I’m told if you remember it, you weren’t there.

So we’ll forgive you if you forgot all about that time – May 9, 1965 – when a bunch of teenagers swiped a penguin from the New York Aquarium in Coney Island.

Why would they steal a penguin, you ask? Because, man, why not?

The story goes like this: an MTA detective was on the subway at Stillwell Avenue, minding everybody’s business like he ought to. He spots a group of teens hop on his subway car carrying a cardboard box. The kids leave, but leave the box behind.

Then the box moves.

Figuring it’s a seagull – because, man, why not? – he goes to grab the box to take it outside and release it. Only after getting bit on the thumb does this detective decide to get a little more inquisitive, and takes a look inside the container.

Bam, penguin.

He called up the aquarium and they confirmed they were a penguin down, and it was returned safely.

Oh, yeah, then it happened again in 1967.

I learned all this after stumbling across the New York Historical Society video above, first released in 2012.

Washington Cemetery, Bensonhurst

Washington Cemetery, Bensonhurst

There are few sights as comforting to the homesick Brooklyn native as the borough’s skyline whizzing by as you sit aboard an elevated subway, looking down on your domain. Yet, despite the sense of place it delivers, it’s not an often celebrated view, perhaps easily taken for granted.

Sheepshead Bay

Sheepshead Bay

Bensonhurst native Dave Mandl gets it. So he took to borough’s many elevated subway lines recently, and captured some of the stunning, purely Brooklyn views it affords – even through its mucked-up windows.

Coney Island

Coney Island

The photos were featured in Flavorwire, where he wrote:

One day this past February, with the city blanketed in snow and illuminated by amazing winter light, I decided to toss my perfectionism aside for a month and make a virtue of necessity, shooting a series of warts-and-all landscape photos from Brooklyn’s elevated subway lines — called, naturally, Elevated Landscapes. Since there’s no other way to capture these particular shots, aside from possibly renting a helicopter, it seemed a shame to let them get away.

Sheepshead Bay

Sheepshead Bay

Although there are many shots of Brownsville, Gowanus and Bushwick, Mandl paid a solid amount of attention to capturing Southern Brooklyn, including Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Coney Island and Borough Park.

Coney Island Creek and Belt Parkway

Coney Island Creek and Belt Parkway

It’s no surprise that Mandl would spend a great deal of time looking at the neighborhoods below hipster DMZ line. Aside from being a native, he’s also a bit of an emissary for the area, communicating our alien eccentricities to the cool classes up north. He’s done photo essays on “unknown Brooklyn” (yet very known to us), the Bath Beach roots of Iggy Pop, Bensonhurst’s tradition of colorful nicknames, and even finding a few treasures we didn’t know about, like one of Brooklyn’s last unpaved roads.

Coney Island

Coney Island

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Photos courtesy of Dave Mandl, used with permission.

The Mengels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

The Mangels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

Green-Wood Cemetery historian Jeff Richman is using Kickstarter to raise money for an exhibit on William F. Mangels, a German immigrant and inventor based in Coney Island who was a leading developer of America’s amusement parks at the turn of the last century. The project goal is to raise $17,500 by July 27, of which $3,291 has been donated so far.

Here’s the video for the project:

The proposed exhibit, titled “William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” will be installed at Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel, and will feature “real pieces of Mangel’s rides and games – a carousel horse, a 22nd-foot-long shooting gallery, and actual Whip cars and original sketches, in Mangels’s hand, of The Tickler,” in addition to historic photography, video, and written correspondence.

If the Mangels name sounds familiar, it’s because we wrote about him last year when carnies unearthed a World War II-era shooting gallery behind one of their booths while cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy. The gallery has been restored and now sits next to Coney Island USA as part of their living museum. For $5, you get 100 shots at nailing metal tanks, airplanes and soldiers as they zip around the booth.

The Daily News reports that Richman spent the last 10 years collecting materials from all over the country for the exhibit—and although Green-Wood Cemetery has been curating exhibits since 1998, this would be the first ever dedicated entirely to one person.

The funds raised would offset the costs of graphics, lighting, monitors, framing, shipping, and video necessary to give Mangels his much-deserved tribute—and as is customary with Kickstarter fundraisers, backers will be rewarded with a variety of handsome prizes, including exclusive merchandise and even private tours for the most generous supporters.

- Sam Shokin

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