Archive for the tag 'culture'

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According to L Magazine, this is what our streets look like. Lay off the acid, hippies... (Source: thelmagazine.com)

The scribes over at L Magazine – who definitely know how to write a good “Best of” list – just compiled their list of 50 Best Blocks In Brooklyn. Like the rest of the city’s media, they overlooked Southern Brooklyn. Just two blocks made it onto their list:

9. Best Block For Low-Brow Entertainment
The Boardwalk between Stillwell and 10th Streets, Coney Island
Shoot the Freak, Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s, two amusement parks, and a handful of places to buy greasy fries and Budweiser. You’re welcome.

27. Best Block For Wildlife
Shore Parkway between Bay 44th and Bay 56th Streets, Gravesend
This big-ass block is otherwise known as Calvert Vaux Park, a south Brooklyn shoreline destination for the borough’s birders.

But we know Southern Brooklyn has some great blocks. How about Emmons Avenue, the best block “where there is water and [you] can walk around pointlessely, spitting seeds and talking shit about fat relatives and friends.

Or Voorhies Avenue near East 28th Street, the best place to witness a hate crime neighbors will describe as road rage?

East 17th Street between Avenue U to Avenue Z, the best place to shatter your car’s axle going a measly 25 miles-per-hour?

Over in Gravesend, there’s Avenue V and West 11th Street, the best block on which to buy a condo if you want to see your property value go nowhere.

We’ve got loads of great blocks in and around Sheepshead Bay, not to mention the rest of Brooklyn. So, L Magazine, you wags… what the hell?

You know, I’m guessing it’s just that you don’t know our area too well. Why don’t you come down here, and we’ll take a walk to Sheepshead Bay’s prime hipster hangouts?

Brighton Beach is a dramatic docudrama chronicling the relationships of these dynamic and versatile women. Inside these women, are even tinier versatile women. And inside those... (Source: AtilaTheHun via Flickr)

When we told you that the Brighton Beach show will air on Lifetime Channel, we didn’t really know what to make of it.

Was Lifetime taking steps to re-brand for a younger, livelier generation? Were they moving from the wide-hipped Bonbon crowd to the Cosmo-downing, urban chic chickies?  You know… a little less Dorothy and a little more Blanche?

Nope! Lifetime’s audience just isn’t ready for this jackass. The Lifetime version will be “suitably feminized,” network spokesman Michael Feeney told the New York Times.

Are Russian women’s relationships so much more interesting than others? Probably not, and the shows fans are going to be pissed. Keep reading…

Khaled Hafid, 2006

Staff Sergeant Khaled Hafid is currently serving overseas as a contractor for the Department of State. He is a 10-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He has served multiple tours in more than 15 countries, including two combat tours in Iraq. He is an alumnus of Sheepshead Bay High School (1996), Shell Bank Junior High School (1992) and P.S. 52 (1989).

My neighbors, my fellow Americans: What has become of us? What has led us to this point of time? Where do we want to go next?

My name is Khaled Hafid, some of you reading this right now have heard of me. Some of you reading this have no idea who I am.

Some of you reading this see the first six letters of my name and are asking yourselves, “Is he a Muslim?”

I ask you, does it really matter?

I am from Sheepshead Bay. I grew up a block from P.S. 52 on the corner of Avenue Z and East 29th Street. My family came to the United States from Yemen in 1974 and I was born in 1978. I am an American through and through. I remember a time growing up not knowing the difference between white and black. I knew not the difference between a Jew and a Christian. As the years went on, things had changed of course, and I had learned more about my religion and culture. Where did it lead me?

Keep reading about Hafid’s journey from Sheepshead Bay to being a U.S. Marine, and his views on the Sheepshead Bay and Ground Zero Islamic cultural centers, and current American attitudes towards Muslims.

Brooklyn Jockey Club at Gravesend Racetrack (1893)

Brooklyn Jockey Club at Gravesend Racetrack (1893)

I get a lot of e-mails and phone calls asking about Sheepshead Bay’s horse racing history. People want to know what tracks were around, where the tracks were, how long ago they existed, and – of course – photos, photos, photos!

Sheepshead Bites has had a couple of historical nuggets on the tracks – which featured both horse and automobile racing – but I usually send people off to a slew of Googled links I keep on hand.

Well, over at Stevapalooza!, the blog of cartoonist Steve Bialik, a great list of all the neighborhood tracks and a summary of their history is assembled. The information includes track locations and dates of operations – as well as photos and illustrations of each one.

The best part? He’s got a bunch of tracks that I didn’t even know existed. Like the tiny Deerfoot Trotting Track, which saw a slew of murders including that of its owner (after a friendly wrestling match went too far); the poorly-named Prospect Park Fair Grounds on Avenue T and Ocean Parkway; and the Parkway Driving Club.

In the future, when people ask me about the racetracks, this is where I’ll be sending them. Kudos to Bialik for putting this great piece together!

See how it just kind of, uh, ends? That's what makes it a bay, not a canal.

Every community has its quirks, and discovering new ones always gives me a little kick. Even if it is small.

The latest discovery I made was on a recent bike ride with reader Eitan K. We were talking about the Bay when Eitan dropped a little Russian knowledge bomb on me. Our Eastern European comrades call Sheepshead Bay the “Canal.”

By no stretch of the imagination is Sheepshead Bay a canal. Canals are artificial waterways made to connect two bodies of water, usually for shipping and transportation purposes. What we have in Sheepshead Bay is… a bay. Duh.

So the misnomer intrigued me. Just as when I lived in New Jersey, I wanted to know what a “Benny” is (explanation: rich people, usually from New York, who come to the beach during the summer. Benny is short for Benjamin Franklin, whose face is on the $100 bill) or why natives always called going to the beach going “down the shore” (explanation: they’re retards).

So, I put the Sheepshead Bites machinery into action, and solicited help from our Russian-American readers.

Keep reading to find out why Sheepshead Bay is called the canal, and why one reader thinks Russian are attracted to the ‘hood.

An Ode To Clam Bars


Courtesy of iandavid via Flickr

New York Times published an appetite-whetting article about local clam bars, beginning with a conversation between strangers at Randazzo’s counter (2017 Emmons Avenue). The writer, Sam Sifton, artfully runs readers through the four types of clams, a slew of New York City-area clam bars, and the culture of the clam. For those who, like me, got turned on to raw clams only recently, it’s a great and romantic introduction to the topic, full of imagery and reverence deserving of the under-appreciated food. On a hot day, a beer and a platter of raw clams along a waterfront – any waterfront, but especially our waterfront – is a slice of beach-town paradise. For me, like Sifton, clams have become a blessed escape from clamor.

Also, be sure to check out the video the Times produced in which Paul Randazzo teaches the art of opening a clam.

Just one of the disappearing Southern Brooklyn stoops

One of my favorite memories is from August 14, 2003. Sometime in the afternoon on that muggy day, 55 million people across the Northeast United States and Canada lost power.

Lights went out. Air conditioners shut off. Computers faded to black, and the oft-overlooked hum of electric currents died out.

There was a lot of cool stuff that day – being able to see the stars in the night sky from the sands of Manhattan Beach; walking up Sheepshead Bay Road, which felt like a hollowed movie set; seeing regular joes volunteering to direct traffic just to help people get by.

But of all the things, one really cool thing happened that stands above the rest. People hung out on their stoops. They talked – face to face! - with neighbors. Without air conditioners or fans, without computers or phones, Sheepshead denizens had little to do but sit on porches, have a drink and shoot the bull.

Stoops are life. What’s it mean that Sheepshead Bay’s stoops are disappearing?

Courtesy of NJ.com

The Russian community of Southern Brooklyn is getting extra attention to make sure its residents fill out their 2010 census forms.

Approximately 90 Census Questionnaire Assistance Centers have opened in the area, including at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst. The centers are staffed with a census employee three days a week to help people fill out the forms

In addition to the centers, census workers are kicking off door-to-door efforts, focusing heavily on Brighton Beach. During the last census count, Brighton Beach, and its large Russian population were considered “hard to count” because many residents did not return their census forms.

Valeriy Savinkin, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist and liaison to the Russian-speaking community, credits the low return rate to the feelings of skepticism of the government held by many Russian immigrants in the area. Eastern Europeans, especially those that lived through the Soviet era, didn’t trust or rely on the government back in Russia and have carried over those feelings for the American government, according to Savinkin.

Find out what’s being done to increase Census return rates

Say what you want about Russians, I’ll take them any day over hipsters. YouTube user pa518 does a damn good job of illustrating just how awkward an encounter between the two would be, with totally satisfying results. Using Xtranormal, a free web service that allows anyone to type dialog and direct their own animated clip, pa518 retells a story a girl from Brighton Beach told him. It’s not so much funny as it is you can picture this crap going down in real life.

My favorite part?

Girl: I’m from the Ukraine … It’s a country in the former Soviet Union.

Guy: Dude, that’s awesome. I’m a communist too. I’m all about, like, sharing and sticking it to the man.

Girl: … I am not a communist. They actually killed my father for speaking his mind. I have no love for them.

Guy: Dude, your father must have been a dirty capitalist then, man.

Then the hipster tries to ask her out. Damn, I love hipsters. I love them so much I want to stab myself in the face with a spoon.

Sheepshead Bay Road Holiday Season December 2009

Sheepshead Bay Road Holiday Season December 2009

If your answer was “light” you were only partially right. If you said, “There are no holiday decorations hanging above”, you get first prize.

The picture was taken during the height of the Christmas and Hannukah season (yesterday), but you would never know it based on the lack of festive decor.

This year, the Bay Improvement Group was unable to drum up enough support for the festive hangings. There were not enough business owners in Sheepshead Bay who wanted to participate, so the decorations could not be hung. It’s not known if the reasons for opting out involved prohibitive costs, cultural differences, or just general bah-humbugness.

One city bus driver, who has routes in North Brooklyn and Southern Brooklyn, told us that he drives through many shopping districts, and he noticed that nearly all of them have festive decorations hanging above the main thoroughfare. Kings Highway has hanging decorations with a lit menorah. Church Avenue has snowflake decor (see below). Even Brighton Beach, with the subway lumbering overhead, managed to look festive with seasonal decor. He was curious to know why Sheepshead Bay and Avenue U business owners decided to opt out.

So, why did Sheepshead Bay Road and Ave U business owners choose to keep the streets so dark this holiday season? (And don’t say it’s dark, because I’m a bad photographer.)

Church Avenue & Coney Island Avenue - Holiday Decor

Church Avenue & Coney Island Avenue - Holiday Decor

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