Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Prediction Market Intrade Puts Obama Ahead

Intrade is a prediction market where you can buy and sell "shares" in financial, political, weather and other subjects. The colorful widget above is their electoral vote predictor. As this is written, people are bidding Obama shares up, but things fluctuate by the minute. You can click on each state to see how things are going. (You need to open an account to get in on the bidding.)

For a variety of reasons, prediction markets often beat the pundits when it comes to predicting outcomes. Like the idea? Here's another one you can get in on: Bid on "Sarah Palin to be withdrawn as Republican VP nominee/candidate before 2008 presidential election." Here.

(Just because Obama is up today, that doesn't mean he will stay up. Look what happened to Hillary.)

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Dumbo Wedding: The Dresses Are Great, But We Really Love Those Umbrellas

There were some oohs and aahs when this lovely wedding party arrived in Dumbo Sunday.

Most commented upon items? The umbrellas, which were ditched when the group took off for the beach at Empire State Park.

Photos by MK Metz

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Brooklyn Girl's Solution To the Wall Street Mess, and More Brooklyn Briefs

- Just A Brooklyn Girl has a solution to the bailout mess: just find 700 billionaires who would each put up a billion to buy us out. JABG

- Brooklyn's pop-up park at Pier 1 rolls up its sod and goes away. Brooklyn Eagle

- Brooklyn's Trader Joe's is so civilized, it's boring. Racked

- The Whole Foods superstore that's been planned for the corner of 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Gowanus may be history, says Brownstoner.

- Worried that your bank won't survive the turbulence in the market? Consider opening an account at Personal Bank, a bank you can trust. NY Magazine

- A growing number of apartment buildings in the city are at risk of going into foreclosure, making thousands of tenants the next potential victims of the mortgage crisis. Crains NY

- The mayhem on Wall Street prompted the state comptroller up his estimate of Wall Street job losses, raising his projection by 60% to 40,000 jobs. Crains NY

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Chilling Palin Video: How Will She Handle a Nuclear Crisis?

Sarah Palin encounters her first crisis in the White House. What will she do?
It's supposed to be funny, but we think it's chilling.

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Dumbo Art Under the Bridge Festival -- Neither Wind Nor Rain

After the rain Sunday we rushed down to Dumbo for the 2008 Art Under the Bridge Festival. After a while it became apparent that we should have come Saturday, too, even if there was a hurricane. There was so much great stuff, we just couldn't get to everything in one afternoon.

Here's just a small bit of some of the more obvious outdoor pieces, in no particular order.

This piece was "Pachyderm," by Dan Das Mama and Karen Cusolito, in the newly opened bridge archway. You could stand inside it and experience "shifting light and sound," or sit in a chair, put on earphones and watch Current TV. (Current sponsored this year's festival.) When we came back later, video was being projected on the ceiling and walls. It was a good use of the space.

Remember those "crane" games they have in restaurants and arcades, where you put 50 cents in the slot and then try to maneuver the crane over the toy you want so you can grab it?

The modified crane contraption above is called The Clone Corporation, by Kate Kaman and Joel Erland. Instead of toys, you try to grab (here's where the art comes in) fetus sculptures. It cost two dollars a try.

We never win anything when we play these things, not even the stupid plastic cars. We really wanted a fetus sculpture, but we lost our two bucks and were too cheap to try again.

We think this was part of "Sporangia Beach" by Barbara Campisi. We couldn't find a sign but there were little egg-like spores all over the rocks on the beach which were labeled Sporangia Beach, and this looked like a thing capable of producing those spores.

This was in the lobby at 50 Washington Street. It's called "Succulent Girl Friday" by Allison Berkoy. The hair and hands are, of course, succulent plants, and the face is a video. We love her description: "resilient, prickly, and almost impossible to kill."

We're not sure what they were, but there were four or five of them and they were running down the street.

This was called "The Lost State," by Natsu. It was a colorful net type of thing, very pretty.

Bummer -- Jane's Carousel was not allowed to take passengers because there wasn't enough wall clearance. Didn't this happen last time?

Finally, this was a performance art piece called "Sustenance," by John Bonafede. The farmer peeled the potatoes while the friar read from the Bible about sustenance. The the farmer chopped up the potatoes and the friar deep fried them (you can see him heading through the door to the deep fryer just inside). Then he put a little salt on them and voila! French fries!

He handed them out to whoever wanted them. They were delicious. Very good art.

- DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival In the Rain?
- Dumbo 'Arts Under the Bridge' Festival 2007

Photos copyright MK Metz

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recovery Rally Draws Huge Crowd to Brooklyn Heights' Park, Annoys Residents

A reader sent in this photo of this morning's "Recovery Rally" in Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn Heights (it was quite foggy Saturday morning). The rally was sponsored by A&E to celebrate the 10th anniversary of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

We're sure the rally was a great idea but several people complained to us that the midnight and 7 a.m. sound checks were very disturbing to people who hoped to be able to get some sleep Saturday morning.

Last week there were no sound problems with the United Way festival in the park.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Brooklyn Hulas to New Trader Joe's

The folks at Key Food on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights must be kicking themselves right about now.

Brooklyn's new Trader Joe's at 130 Court Street is packing them in as we speak. It started with the gala Grand Opening at 9 this morning -- can all these people be unemployed? -- followed by a bit of a slowdown midday, and then: BOOM! By 4 p.m. some bizarre chemical message entered the bloodstream of every shopper in Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights. Like spawning salmon, they came to the place where they could find food.

Of course, spawning salmon don't have to deal with HUGE lines at the checkout counter, but they probably have other obstacles.

The Grand Opening

The day began at about 7:30 a.m. when a guy named Paul Mowry arrived, umbrella in hand, to find himself first in line. That's him to the left, being interviewed by NY1.

By 8:15 the line was l-o-n-g and some kind of cookie-things were handed out. Reporters from the NY Times, the Brooklyn Eagle, Daily News, NY1 and maybe others arrived. (We'll link to their stories when they come out.)

At 9 a.m. Borough President Marty Markowitz (above, middle) proclaimed this day to be Trader Joe's Day in Brooklyn. Assemblywoman Joan Millman (right) talked about how good TJs is going to be for Brooklyn's foodies, TJs "Captain” Greg Glein (holding the Proclamation) cut the red lei with the giant scissors (Jed Walentas and his family was there, too) and then the crowd rushed in.

The TJs team cheered while some people did actually hula on in (see video above) and the steel drum band played on.

Here are some officials taking the Grand Tour. (Marty Markowitz and Joam Millman in front, the Cap'n and his First Mate following.)

There's so much produce! Don't miss the apples: 49 cents a pound regular, 69 cents organic. (UPDATE: That's per apple, not per pound!)

We left after the big opening but received The Call to come back around 3:30 p.m. We joined the building crowd, picking up cheese, apples, bread and few other delicacies. The checkout lines snaked around the entire store -- that's the north side of the store in the photo above. The cash registers are on the south side!

Here's the JahPan Caribbean Steel Drum Band playing at the opening of the doors:

According to today's story in the Brooklyn Eagle, more Trader Joe's are planned for Brooklyn.

Photos and video by MK Metz

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DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival In the Rain?

The theme is 'Expect the Unexpected," but we don't think that was supposed to mean the weather. The rain is unfortunate, because this year's Art Under the Bridge Festival in Dumbo is looking very exciting, with 1,500 artists participating.

Art is supposed to be all over the "streets, sidewalks, storefronts, elevators, lobbies, the water, the waterfront, parks" and more and more. Hope it's waterproof.

Luckily, a number of the exhibit spaces are inside -- more than 100 artists will open their studios to the public, and at the new Galapagos Art Space will feature cutting edge video art.

The festival runs from 7 PM tonight, September 26th through Sunday evening.

Sunday will probably be our best shot for the outdoors exhibits.

- Dumbo 'Arts Under the Bridge' Festival 2007

Last year's neon "God Was Great" by Juozas Cernius -- Photo by MK Metz

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Let the Christmas Games Begin in Downtown Brooklyn

Fall officially started just a few days ago, but the official launch of the Christmas shopping season must be just around the corner. Already crews were out at the corner of Adams and Livingston Streets yesterday -- exactly three months before Christmas -- festooning trees with holiday lights.

Photo by MK Metz

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brooklyn's Fulton Ferry Landing: Crossroads Of the World

This plaque installed on the dock at the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn, celebrating Robert Fulton's steam ferry Nassau, says: "By 1868 One Thousand East River Crossings Daily -- Carried Fifty Million Passengers Annually."

That averages out to roughly 137 passengers in each ferry per crossing, 1,000 times a day, equaling about 137,000 passengers funneling into and off the ferries at Fulton Ferry Landing every single day.

To put this in perspective, Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan presently serves only 125,000 passengers a day. In 1860, New York City had 813,000 inhabitants -- only one tenth the number it has today, making this huge number of passengers even more remarkable.

Fulton Ferry Landing was truly the crossroads of the world 140 years ago. Walt Whitman memorialized the scene in his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.

Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers! Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! -- stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!

Lines of horse cars would carry passengers from the ferries to all points of the city. In 1853, the Brooklyn City Railroad Company was incorporated. Twelve lines converged on Fulton Ferry, and extended out to the far-off towns of Greenpoint, Green-wood, East New York, Fort Hamilton, Hamilton Ferry, and more.

This is what old Fulton Street looked like in 1855 (looking south/east, with your back to the ferry). According to the excellent Whitman's Brooklyn site, where this image came from, most of the buildings on the left are still there.

The 1939 WPA Guide to NYC says, "In the early part of the nineteenth century there was a cluster of houses, taverns stables, shanties, and stores at Fulton Ferry. The region . . . blossomed into a pleasant residential neighborhood."

In 1869, construction of the Brooklyn tower of the Brooklyn Bridge began. Sadly, the construction of the bridge destroyed Fulton Ferry's beauty and "the neighborhood became a slum."

By 1939, old Fulton Street was "a sort of Brooklyn Bowery, with flophouses, small shops, rancid restaurants, haunted by vagabonds and derelicts."

City Joinery says, "It became a slum frequented by drunks and prostitutes, and the sweet residential atmosphere gave way to a dangerous and derelict no-man's land."

Today Fulton Ferry is home to such Brooklynesque pleasures as Bargemusic, Grimaldi's Pizza, the Ice Cream Factory and the River cafe -- and yes, the Waterfall and countless tourist buses.

Photos by MK Metz

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain Stops Campaigning to Save Country

John McCain announced today that he is putting his presidential campaign on pause so he can run to Washington and save the country. He hopes to be done by Friday.

Barack Obama said the potential president should be able to do more than one thing at once, and wants the Friday debate to go on as planned.

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Bortusk Leer Taxi On Water Street in Dumbo

We've had rides like this.

This original artwork on newsprint by Bortusk Leer is pasted on a graffiti-strewn wall on Water Street in Dumbo, not far from St. Ann's Warehouse.

Photo by MK Metz

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Take a Right at Atlantic, Walk Past Cow, Ring Buzzer

If you lived near 310 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and were trying to tell people how to get to your house, you too would get to say things like: "Walk two blocks to Atlantic, cross street and make a right, walk past cow, ring buzzer."

(The cow is from the 2000 citywide public art exhibit called CowParade.)

Photo by MK Metz

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New York City: Massive Budget Cuts, Immediately

Mayor Bloomberg is calling for massive budget cuts on top of the recent cut of $2.5 billion as City Hall prepares for the worst. The Mayor is demanding every city agency and department slice 2.5 percent ($500 million) from current budgets and 5 percent ($1 billion) out of next year's budget.

Yesterday the Mayor warned that he's going to ask for a property tax increase. More cuts may be needed as revenue figures come in.

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Metal Deck Chairs at Brooklyn's IKEA

These metal deck chairs are fixtures in Brooklyn's Erie Basin Park, created from the remains of the Todd Ship Yard surrounding IKEA in Red Hook.

Besides being unexpectedly attractive, they are surprisingly comfortable.

- Brooklyn's IKEA: Havoc at the Checkout Counters This Weekend
- Ducks, Red Hook's Erie Basin
- New York Gets Flat Packed
- Brooklyn Ikea Quote of the Day
- Goodbye Ikea Apartment
- Ikea Setting Up Entire Apartment in Borough Hall Plaza, Brooklyn

Photos by MK Metz

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Brooklyn's Trader Joe's To Keep Historical Touches, Including Haunted Bank Vaults

The new employees are working like little bees to get Brooklyn's new Trader Joe's ready for its Friday opening, says the Brooklyn Eagle.

Thanks goodness the store is keeping a lot of the historic touches from the building's old Independence Bank days: a plaque commemorating Washington’s victory and, in the interior, three antique chandeliers, some original marble paneling, and a gold-leaf plaque depicting “Prudence” and “Justice.”

Downstairs, two old vaults -- long rumored to be haunted -- have inexplicably been retained.

- Brooklyn Hearts Trader Joe's. Yar!
- Brooklyn Trader Joe's to Open IN TEN DAYS

- Wandering Zombi-Like Inside Brooklyn Trader Joe's, and Almost Working There
- Has Anybody Been Hired By Brooklyn Trader Joe's?
- A Peek Into Brooklyn Trader Joe's Cathedral of Commerce
- Is Atlantic Avenue's Key Food 'Trader Joe'sing?'
- All Trader Joe's posts at McBrooklyn

Photo by MK Metz

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360 Smith Street/ Carroll Gardens Public Hearing Wednesday

CORD sent us an email reminding us that the public hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals for Oliver House/360 Smith Street will be held on Wednesday, September 24 at 10 a.m.

History: After a Zoning Text Amendment was passed, construction was halted at 360 Smith because the plans (calling for a building 70 feet high) didn’t conform to the new zoning, and the foundation was only 20 percent complete, not enough for a gimme.

Now the developer is appealing to the Board of Standards and Appeals to try to slide in under the old zoning.

The public can speak and present evidence. Generally, three minutes are allotted for each speaker. For specific guidance regarding comments, submissions, etc, contact Toni Matias 212-788-8752.

CORD still frets that Councilman Bill de Blasio will be a no-show.

Want to know more about this topic? Every post on this subject we've ever published is HERE.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Thousands Attend 'Live United' United Way Festival at Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn

At least three thousand volunteers and others supporting United Way organizations enjoyed the Live United Day of Action and Brooklyn Bridge Walk into Cadman Plaza Park, Brooklyn Heights/ Downtown Brooklyn, on Saturday.

The idea of Live United was to rev up folks to volunteer, because with the New Economy, some people are going to need a lot of help.

The stars were out: Telemundo celebrity Penelope Menchaca (above) got everybody into the mood for the Mama Mariachi band and dancers.

The crowd looked at volunteer and civic organization material at about 50 tables set around the park.

Some Red Hook Food Vendors were there, selling a LOT of pupusas!

Lots of acts; above is the kid-pleasing Puppetry Arts Theatre.

These dancers are with Dancewave, a Brooklyn youth dance company. We were really impressed with their work -- there's a short video of a bit of their dance below.

The Brooklyn Eagle has more photos here.

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Access-A-Ride Van Up in Flames in Brooklyn Heights - Update

This Access-A-Ride van spontaneously caught fire and went up in flames Friday night at 200 Cadman Plaza West, not far from the Park Plaza Diner in Brooklyn Heights.

The driver said the engine went dead, and then he saw smoke coming out from under the van. He got the disabled passenger safely out before the whole thing went up in flames.

Access-A-Ride vans transport disabled people who can't use regular mass transit.

UPDATE: The Brooklyn Eagle has more details on this incident. Interestingly, the Eagle reports (via Brownstoner) that this is the second Access-A-Ride to blow in roughly a month, and TFM Paratransit's contract with the Metropolitan Transit Authority expires next week, on Sept. 30. (TFM is one of the companies that operate Access-A-Rides for the city.)

City Access-A-Rise Van Bursts Into Flames in Brooklyn Heights Brooklyn Eagle

Access-A-Rise Van Burns Up on 8th Avenue Brownstoner

Photos by MK Metz

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Same People Who Got Our Economy Into This Mess Want Total Control By Monday

Under the latest plan to try to rescue the country's economy, the secretary of the Treasury (Henry Paulson) would get a credit line of $700 billion minimum from the taxpayers (that's maybe $7,000 per taxpayer, minimum) to buy, hold and -- possibly -- sell toxic mortgage-related assets.

The NY Times points out that that would make Washington and not New York the nation’s financial capital, expanding the Treasury secretary's power beyond anything anyone ever imagined -- to become, in effect, " the chief executive for the nation’s financial system."

Paulson is the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which still survives.

In L.A. Land, a blog of the L.A. Times, this move is called "an astounding and thoroughly un-American power grab by the executive branch, which wants an economic czar with unchecked powers who would operate in private without meaningful congressional oversight."

Here's Section 8 of the bail-out plan:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."


Dave Winer writes in Huffington Post with a possible solution:

To show their sincerity, "Bush and Cheney must resign immediately. No immunity, no pardons. Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes President, promising not to run for re-election on November 4. Her term will be one of the shortest in US history, just long enough to enact the provisions of the bill being proposed by the Republican administration . . . It's pretty simple. If they won't do it, we know they're bluffing."

Photo by SqueakyMarmot, Creative Commons license

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Fruit Season for Living Fossils in Brooklyn

Watch your step -- it's Gingko time in Brooklyn.

These Gingko biloba fruits scattered under female trees at this time of year are called stinky by many people -- the Anti-Ginkgo Tolerance Group calls them "vomit trees" -- so the city is only planting males now. (We don't actually mind the smell, much.)

Older Chinese people can frequently be seen gathering the fruit. The nuts inside are used in cooking (in congee, among other things) and they are used in Japanese dishes as well. They are sold as "white nuts" in Asian markets. Don't eat the seeds raw -- they can be poisonous in large quantities, or in small quantities in children. Toasted, they are said to make delicious snacks.

The extract of the leaves are used in memory enhancing drugs (more here).

Gingkos -- which were around during the dinosaur days -- are called "living fossils" because they disappeared from the fossil record at the end of the Pliocene, except in a small area of China.

Can't figure out why they disappeared when they are nearly indestructible, which is why they are planted in cities so much. They can survive sulfur dioxide and ozone pollution and even atomic bombs. Some living Gingkos are more than five centuries old. But there are no native Ginkgos living in the wild at all. (See Forestry.About.com)

Photos by MK Metz

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Park(ing) Day: Sitting On the Street in Brooklyn

Here are two Park(ing) Day parks carved out of parking spaces Friday in Brooklyn. The top two photos were taken on Montague Street near Hicks in Brooklyn Heights. It was a lovely little green spot for people, with a side park for dogs. Little kids got a kick out of it.

The photo below was taken on Court Street near Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. We couldn't get off the IKEA bus, but it looked like folks were enjoying themselves. Some of the passers-by seem a little bemused.

Funny -- things that people in other places take for granted -- a bit of grass, for example -- we city dwellers have to declare a day for, get a grant and build. A park the size of a parking space, for just one day.

Photos by MK Metz

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Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day in Brooklyn. Avast Me Bucko. Yar.

It's been seven years since Dave Barry mentioned the two goofy lads who invented Talk Like a Pirate Day -- Cap'n Slappy and Ol' Chumbucket, saying, "They should be on medication."

And now of course it's an international holiday.

Don't be lily-livered: Answer the phone with ''Ahoy me hearty!'' Drop your g's -- as in "fightin'" and haulin.'" Etc.

The Brooklyn Public Library has set up a search on its website for pirate-themed books, and links to a pirate vocabulary page.

Brooklyn has its own bunch of pirates -- the infamous Los Piratas Mechanicos kickball team. Their Google Groups page says, "We are currently looking for a good bunch of bad Pirates. Will train in arts of Piracy, Pirate talk, and all out thuggery(and kickball if we get to it!). Defending the Cove, and Heckling are part of the pirate lifestyle. No experience necessary, black hearts a plus."

This also seems to be a good time to publicize the Gowanus Dredgers' BacChANAL party, on Sept. 25. Why? Because their email to us starts with "Ahoy Dredgers and Deckhands!" and a pirate is coming. (That's Captain Mary, pictured above.)

Google has even unveiled a search page in Pirate Language ("I Be Feelin' Lucky")

Below is a video from Cap'n Slappy and Ol' Chumbucket:

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What's Missing In This Picture? Hint: It's in Brooklyn Heights

OK kids, put your thinking caps on. Here's a photo of a corner in Brooklyn Heights that all this summer was the scene of Earth-shaking controversy.

Then the controversy ended, and the thing that caused the controversy was embraced by the neighborhood.

Now it's gone, and no one (that we've spoken to anyway) knows why.

Guess yet?

To see our earlier posts about this thing, click here.

Photo by MK Metz

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G. Esposito Pork Store, Making Sausages in Brooklyn for 88 Years

One of the few places that still make Italian soppressata and dry cured sausage: Esposito Pork Store, run by two brothers, has been at 357 Court Street in Carroll Gardens for 88 years. The sausages are awesome, and the Italian sandwiches are amazing.

Photo by MK Metz

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Brooklyn Hearts Trader Joe's. Yar!

Sign taped to the door of the soon-to-open Brooklyn Trader Joe's at Court and Atlantic. TJ's will open with a big party on September 26.

We especially like the way the pirate-talk: "Yar!"

FRIDAY UPDATE: Our poster below reminds us it's "Talk Like a Pirate Day!"

Other Trader Joe's posts here.

Photo by MK Metz
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Blown Off Course Over Brooklyn Heights

This old-fashioned broom obviously belongs to someone who was blown off course while flying over Brooklyn Heights during the storm the other day.

Hope they made it home OK.

Photo by MK Metz

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New York City's 'Nearly Perfect' Schools vs. Brooklyn's P.S. 8

In an article entitled "School Report Cards: Are New York City Schools Really Nearly Perfect?" the Brooklyn Eagle discusses the quite incredible improvements the majority of the City's schools have made in their recently released school “report cards.”

Eighty percent of New York City’s schools received A’s or B’s on this year’s second annual School Progress Reports, the Eagle says. "Many schools made dramatic – if not unbelievable – progress, transforming in just one year from low-ranked or failing schools to A and B schools."

Then there's P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, the elementary school that really has been transforming itself into one of the most desirable schools in District 13.

The kids scored above average on the state tests -- but because P.S. 8 students didn't show as much individual improvement as other schools' students, P.S. 8 received an "F."

PS 8's grade was determined in part by comparing the kids' test score improvement to a "peer group," a problematic concept for a school still in transition. The Brooklyn Heights Blog notices that "the list of schools considered 'peers' to PS 8 has changed from last year, with some added and some placed in other 'peer' groups.

We've been told by P.S. 8 parents that Principal Phillips doesn't go in for massive test prep, preferring to use the time for subjects like music and art.

In the next year or two P.S. 8's scores will probably rise as the children who entered the school after Phillips was appointed grow to testing age.

But will Principal Phillips still be at P.S. 8? Parents worry that the Mayor will fire him if he refuses to "teach to the test." Will a private school snatch him up so fast our heads will spin?

Stay tuned.

- Brooklyn Heights P.S. 8 Caught in DOE Statistical Nightmare
- Brooklyn Heights' P.S. 8 Gets Its Porta-Classroom
- Put Middle School in Brooklyn Heights' P.S. 8, Says Yassky
- Brooklyn Heights' Booming P.S. 8 to Get a New Building

Photo by MK Metz
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