Photo Of The Day: Hurricane Sandy In Red Hook

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on Monday night, Red Hook, a vibrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, was hit badly. Red Hook is a Zone A neighborhood in NYC and thereby was under mandatory evacuation before the storm hit. It’s a good thing Red Hook was evacuated because Hurricane Sandy flooded the neighborhood with 5 feet of water. Those who don’t live or own businesses in Red Hook still frequently make the trip to visit Brooklyn‘s Ikea or Fairway. In fact, I go there for groceries every few days. As you can see in the background of this photo, taken by photographer Ben Britz, the Ikea is just a backdrop now to a littered harbor where the pictured boat was one of many tossed astray by the storm. Stay tuned for more photos of the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

[Photo Credit: Ben Britz]

Cruise Lines To Plug In Ships, Finally

More than a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. A year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes due to a $4 million price increase along the way. Now, Port Authority officials say they will approve the project and get going on it this month.

“The shore power project I expect will be on the Port Authority agenda for the June meeting,” Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye told the New York Daily News. “We’re working with our colleagues in city government to see what help they can provide and those discussions are ongoing. The environmental impacts to the local community – obviously it is an immensely populated area – are real and we’re focused on them.”

Concerned parties including state and local officials, Con Ed, Carnival Corporation and owners of ships that will use the facility, worked and debated for years to figure out how much electricity would cost and how to pay for it, before finally announcing a deal last April to split the cost.

Plugging in cruise ships is a big focus of cruise line environmental efforts, with several west coast ports already equipped to do so. When cruise ships come in to the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal they bring a lot of travelers. That business is great for the local economy. Each cruise ship also brings some 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually when they park and burn their diesel engines – bad news for the humans that live near by.

“It will be the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars per year from the road annually,” Seth W. Pinsky, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation told the New York Times.

In California, the ports of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco already have the ability for ships to plug in.

Port of San Diego Completes Shore Power System from Port of San Diego on Vimeo.

Photo by Ian Barbour via Compfight

Cruise Ships Still Choking Brooklyn, Not Plugging In, A Year Later

Almost a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. Now, almost a year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes.

Cruise ships annually bring 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter when they park and burn their diesel engines.

Last April, Gadling reported that the $15 million project would be funded with $12 million from the Port Authority, nearly $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant and Carnival Corporation would spend $4 million to retrofit their Princess Cruises and Cunard Line ships that dock in Brooklyn.

Now, costs have shot up another $4.3 million and the Environmental Protection Agency has not paid the extra money, according to local elected officials.

“It is critical that this project not fall by the wayside,” said Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn) in an article appearing in the New York Daily News.

Apparently, the cruise ships are ready to go but the system is still not in place for them to plug in, even though West Coast cruise terminals have had the ability for quite some time.

“It seems fairly pathetic that all of these things are in place but the Port Authority are twiddling their thumbs,” Adam Armstrong, 48, a blogger and father of two who lives on Pioneer Street near the terminal, told the Daily News. “I thought it was quibbling over a small amount of money considering the impact of the emissions on people’s health.”

It has been almost three years since Carnival Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Port Authority first agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power.

Last year, community leaders applauded the move to shore-side power. This year, not so much.

Flickr photo by j_bary

Five Brooklyn cafes with free wi-fi

Brooklyn is full of cafés offering their patrons free wi-fi. Here are five particularly distinctive cafés with free wi-fi, strewn across Brooklyn, from neighborhoods ranging from Fort Greene (Smooch) to Ditmas Park (Vox Pop) to Red Hook (Baked).

Are you more of a Manhattan girl or a Queens boy than a Brooklynite? Don’t worry. I’ll come up with some great café picks for other NYC boroughs later this week.

Smooch. 264 Carlton Avenue, Fort Greene.

What makes Smooch so lovely? Is it the smiling antipodean barista slowly pulling your flat white? Is it bare bones interior, seen not long ago in scenes of HBO’s contemporary noir Bored to Death? Is it the creative menu or the perfect coffee drinks? Actually, it’s all of these things as well as its outdoor benches, which make for a friendly alfresco social scene.

Glass Shop. 766 Classon, Crown Heights.

Glass Shop has a fabulous, unfinished look and feel. It’s a stylish, minimalist spot that gives New York City’s other Australian cafés (Smooch above, Ruby’s, and Milk Bar) a run for their money. The espresso drinks are perfect and there are often ANZAC biscuits on offer as well. The atmosphere in the interior is sedate and studious, with most patrons bent over their laptops. There is a back garden, which is also unfinished and scrappy.

Tillie’s of Brooklyn. 248 Dekalb, Clinton Hill.

The most traditional American coffeehouse among the five, Tillie’s of Brooklyn feels like a college town café. The proximity of Pratt Institute no doubt feeds this impression. All the coffee on offer is organic, and wi-fi is free with purchase. Thursdays witness a 7:30 pm open mic event. Many of the café’s guests are here to work. Located at the corner of Dekalb and Vanderbilt, Tillie’s straddles the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene border.

Vox Pop. 1022 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park.

The collectively run Vox Pop (café slogan: “Books, Coffee, Democracy”) is a Brooklyn landmark, a cooperative-run cafe with over 200 owners. Vox Pop is a hell raising hotbed of political passion, often with three scheduled events a day. Sing-a-longs, movie nights, blues nights, jam sessions, and story hours fill up the calendar. Vox Pop’s late hours are another plus.

Baked. 369 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook.

Baked, Red Hook’s outstanding baked goods emporium, may have spawned a quiet industry (a cookbook, accolades from Oprah, and a Charleston, South Carolina spin-off) but it’s also a downright pleasant and poppy place to have a coffee and get to work. And don’t forget that, as unquestionably tasty as the in-house pastries may be, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies sells its very delicious swingles (chocolate-dipped frozen key lime pies on sticks) just a few blocks away.

(Image: Flickr/Global Jet)

Undiscovered New York: Bike tour of Governor’s Island

New York is a city dominated by islands. Most of these islands, like Manhattan and Staten Island, are easily accessible and fairly well traversed. Yet in a city this densely populated, so well-known and discussed, there still remain pockets of isolation; islands of mysterious calm and forgotten charm that make a visitor feel as though they’ve stumbled upon the ruins of some grandiose civilization. One of the most iconic examples of this phenomenon is Governor’s Island, a tiny droplet of land in New York Harbor situated teasingly close to the hustle and bustle of New York proper but worlds-away in pace and temperament.

Governor’s Island began its history as the exclusive province of the British colony’s royal governors. It was an isolated piece of land off-limits to commoners, reserved for those of privilege. Soon after American Independence in the late 18th Century the site became home to a U.S. Army base and later a Coast Guard installation. It wasn’t until more than 200 years later, in 2003, that control was transferred back to the City of New York and the Governor’s Island National Monument was established.

It’s now 2009 and Governor’s Island is a radically different place, free of its shroud of off-limits secrecy. The island is today a free five-minute ferry ride from downtown New York, a seasonal retreat that offers visitors a wealth of unique activities, beautiful vistas and fascinating history. Best of all, Governor’s Island is tailor-made for bike riding. The site boasts over five miles of car-free bike trails winding past opulent mansions, jaw dropping vistas of New York Harbor and quiet green spaces sparsely populated with visitors.

Ready to take a look? Join Undiscovered New York as we explore Governor’s Island by bike…click below for more.
Getting There and Getting a Bike
Separated as it is from the rest of New York proper, it seems difficult to get to Governor’s Island. In truth it’s a surprisingly easy trip. Pick up a free ferry at the Battery Maritime Building in downtown Manhattan. After a quick ten minute jaunt across New York Harbor you’ve arrived at the Island’s main loading dock. All visitors are invited to bring their own bikes along on the ferry for the ride.

Once you’re off the ferry, jump on your bike and off you go to explore the island! Didn’t bring your own bike? Fear not – just left of the main ferry landing is a bike rental station, where bikes can be rented on Friday-Sunday. New York has also implemented a special Free Bike Fridays system, allowing cyclists to rent a bike for up to one hour at no charge.

Let’s Bike – Heading South
We begin our biking tour of Governor’s Island by heading left down the road out from the bike rental station. This area is one of the more densely developed part of the island, housing most of the facilities used by the U.S. Coast Guard during the Island’s stint as central command for the organization’s Eastern Seaboard activities. At its peak, the Island was home to around 3,500 full-time residents. Don’t worry, we’ll return to this area for a look before the end of our biking trip.

Along your right you’ll be able to see the elegant facades of Nolan Park peeking through the foliage, including the Commanding Officer’s House. The residences were once home to some of the Island’s high-ranking officials. They are now largely uninhabited though still retain many of their beautiful architectural details like colonnades and gabled roofs.

Off to your left, across the channel, is Red Hook, a shipping port that is now home to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. If you’re lucky you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of a massive cruise ship like the Queen Mary 2 docked at the station.

After about 10-15 minutes of biking we’ve come to the island’s southernmost tip, also called Picnic Point. The southern end of Governor’s Island is actually man-made, composed of the land dug up during the construction of the Lexington Avenue Subway line. It’s a great place to relax and chill out, offering green grass and sweeping views of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and Statue of Liberty.

More Biking – Heading North
As we head back up the Island’s other side, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of New York Harbor. As you bike along, you’re likely to gaze out at teetering sailboats, meandering their way through the Harbor. To the north lie the twin peaks of glass and steel, with New Jersey off to your left and Manhattan off to the right, split in half by the coursing Hudson River.

Just before completing the Island’s outer bike loop we’ll cycle past the imposing bulk of Castle Williams. Erected in the early 1800’s, this hulking stone fortress one stood as the main line of defense for New York Harbor, menacing would-be attackers with heavy artillery. It later served time as a prison in the early 20th Century.

With that, you’ve made it all the way back to the starting point. Return your bike or continue on and explore some of the Island’s lesser known side streets and back roads.

Other Activities
By now you’ve returned to the ferry landing. Nearby lie a whole range of monuments and activities to keep you occupied until that next ferry arrives. Just up the hill from the main landing is Fort Jay, one of the Island’s oldest forts.

Behind Fort Jay is a former military parade ground. These days its a beautiful open green space dotted with trees. At one point it even harbored a 9-hole golf course, now demolished. Off the parade grounds is Nolan Park, home to the Commanding Officer’s House as well as Colonels Row, another area of beautifully preserved mansions. The area is dotted with tables and benches, making it the perfect spot for a lazy Summer picnic.

If you’ve had your fill of forts and mansions, make sure to stick around for one Governor’s Island’s many planned summer activities including Jazz concerts, film festivals and polo matches.