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Archive for the 'Arts & Culture' Category

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


Thousands of current and former Southern Brooklynites gathered on the pothole-pocked streets of Bensonhurst to munch on arepas, taste-test some homemade pink lemonade, and bargain-down designer-ish handbags at the beloved 86th Street Festival on Sunday, June 8.


The festival spanned from 19th Avenue and 86th Street to Bay Parkway and 86th Street and ran from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.


Dogs on leashes, toddlers on leashes, DVDs, bubble teas, chicken kebabs, bonsai trees, and at least 5,000 locals met under the el-train to enjoy a sunny outdoor festival that so many neighbors look forward to.


Pam Lagana, a Southern Brooklynite who’s been coming to the festival since it started, said that this time, her favorite booth was the $10 massage stands.

“There were more stands this year, more vendors, more rides. It was very nice,” Lagana said.


In fact, the 2014 festival seemed more strategically organized, with the entire block from 19th Avenue to 20th Avenue consisting of what must best be known as “bouncy castles,” with at least a dozen moonbounce attractions, slides, and playpens for kids.


According to event organizer Chip Cafiero, proceeds from the event fund the Southwest Brooklyn Parks Taskforce to bring programming to local parks. Half of the proceeds also go to the 62nd Precinct Community Council for Bensonhurst quality of life maintenance.


One thing remains certain: After more than a decade, the 86th Street Festival is more than just a thrifty day in the sun, it’s a neighborhood staple.



Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Test cars have been running on the Thunderbolt ahead of its public opening sometime next week, and a new generation of riders are preparing themselves for the $10 thrill on the resurrected, reimagined ride. But how many of those riders will remember the original Thunderbolt? And how many of those will remember the home beneath the coaster?

That home, a modest looking shack wedged beneath the ride’s wood and steel beams, was made most famous by Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, where it was the childhood home of protagonist Alvy Singer. Many likely figured it was an artistic embellishment, that the actual building there was little more than a utility shack.

Timpano inside the home.

Timpano inside the home.

But locals knew better. The gritty looking home, surrounded by brush and a layer of paint that looked like it had been applied in Biblical times, was actually the home of Mae Timpano and Freddie Moran. While it wasn’t much to look at from the outside – except for its odd placement – many would be surprised to learn that it was well-kept on the inside, with six rooms and a grand piano, and a stock of Coney Island tea (a.k.a. beer).

The home and its two long-time residents became the subject of a short documentary, Under the Roller Coaster. Released in 2001, shortly after the coaster and home’s demolition, it  examined the home, and the couple’s, place in Coney Island history. Here’s a synopsis.

In 1946, while working as a waitress on Coney Island, Mae met Fred Moran, the owner and operator of the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They soon fell in love, and for forty years they lived together in Fred’s house — right under the Thunderbolt’s first turnaround.

Fred died in 1982, and the Thunderbolt carried its last thrill-seeker soon after. In 1988, Mae moved out, and the house was sold to a developer [Horace Bullard] who dreamed of building a new amusement park on the famed island. But the coaster was silent for twelve years, and in November 2000, with no warning, the city of New York bulldozed away one of its great urban treasures. Here, Mae tells the story of her years living in the house that the Thunderbolt rattled.

Timpano passed away in 2009.

When you ride the new Thunderbolt for the first time, make sure to take a moment to remember these two icons, and the long journey Coney Island has taken that the ride represents. And some wise words from the documentary:

“That’s the funny thing about Coney Island. It seems that once you get sand in your shoes, you never lose it.”

Here’s the full documentary:

Update: It looks like Curbed had a similar idea, and published a more in-depth piece about the coaster and home’s history.

Two hundred years ago this week, the now historic village of Gravesend was rocked by a violent and tragic outburst that may have been the town’s first murder-suicide.

The bicentennial was first noted by historian and friend of the site Joseph Ditta, who posted on his blog of Gravesend history about two gravestones in the 364-year-old Gravesend Cemetery at Gravesend Neck Road and McDonald Avenue.

Ditta came across two stones, cracked and flaking with age, baring the names of 2-year-old Barnardus Ryder and his father, Jacobus Ryder. The Ryders died just 10 days apart, with the child passing on May 29, 1814, and the elder on June 8, 1814.

At first, Ditta writes, one might assume the two were killed by a “contagion [that] carried off multiple relatives, as [illnesses] did for eons before the advent of standardized sanitation and medical care.”

But on further research, Ditta discovered this wasn’t the case. He writes:

[A]ssumptions often prove dangerously wrong. On Monday, May 30, 1814, the day after little Barnardus Ryder died, readers of the Commercial Advertiser, one of New York City’s leading newspapers, stumbled across this shocking report from the otherwise tranquil reaches of southern Kings County:

New York, Commercial Advertiser, Monday, May 30, 1814

Newspapers up and down the eastern seaboard, from New Hampshire to Maryland, and as far inland as Ohio, recounted the tale of Gravesend’s “horrid transaction.” The version printed on June 1 in the Long-Island Star, Brooklyn’s leading weekly, managed to spell “Ryder” correctly, and added the detail that Jacobus — “long esteemed as a worthy and pious man, and . . . apparently in his right mind on the evening previous to the melancholy and dreadful act” — confessed in the letter to his father that he “imagined he heard a voice commanding him to execute the deed.” He lingered, sadly, until June 8, and died at the age of 44 years, three months, and 23 days.

Ditta doesn’t say in his post whether this was Gravesend’s first murder-suicide, but he told us that it’s quite possible.

“It very well could have been. It was a shocking story then, and even now, 200 years later,” he said.

By the time of the murder, Gravesend, one of the six original towns that later became Brooklyn, was already nearly 169 years old. But with a population numbering in the hundreds, it’s unlikely that a previous incident would have escaped the attention of record keepers.

The Ryders remain among the borough’s most famous residents, a founding family whose name still adorns streets, schools and libraries. The first Ryder, Barent Jurianz Ryder, emigrated from Holland in 1658. He later married Aeltie Van Voorhies, another familiar surname.

Check out the full story of these headstones and what came of Ryder’s descendants on Ditta’s Gravesend Gazette. You can also read this August 2009 Q&A with Ditta about Gravesend’s history, and check out his book, Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Ever heard of the One Day On Earth project? Me neither. But it sounds pretty cool.

On one designated day, thousands of filmmakers across the globe set out to record their communities. The resulting footage is uploaded, mapped and made available for viewing, allowing digital travelers to take in the sights and sounds of one day, from all corners of the Earth.

Nifty, huh? That day was April 26, 2014. The New York City version of the project – creatively titled One Day in New York City – gave the filmmakers an additional prompt. They asked participants to film stories that investigate one or more of 10 specific questions about New York City, such as “Why are you in your city?”, “What is the worst thing that could happen to your city?” and “How are people changing the future of your city?”

I learned about this project when I stumbled across the above video, which I thought was nifty on its own. Uploaded by Vimeo user “czechyorker” as a submission to the project, it’s a cool time lapse of the waves coming ashore on Coney Island beach. The filmmaker notes that it was filmed at 6 a.m. in an attempt to capture the sunrise, but the day turned out to be too gray for that.

And that’s okay, because anyone and everyone goes for the sunrise. But I think the sullen weather lends some drama and poignancy if it’s considered an answer to the questions above. (Why am I in the city? Pretty beach. What is the worst thing that could happen to your city? Oh, you know, pretty ocean rising to wash the whole damn place away.)

Anyway, enjoy!

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