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<Sydney Brownstone>

05/23/12 4:00am

By now, if you have access to the internet, you’ve probably seen the YouTube video of the man who can light his tap water on fire. The danger that unregulated fracking poses to drinking water is well-covered territory: in worst-case scenarios, fracking fluid, laced with all sorts of toxic chemicals, gets pumped into the earth (so we can get more fossil fuels!) and contaminates the drinking water supply. But now that New York State is drafting its own fracking regulations, another kind of stakeholder in clean water has begun to voice its opposition—New York brewers.

Last month, the Brooklyn Brewery, in conjunction with the Environmental Advocates of New York, hosted its first “Save Our Beer” event in Williamsburg. In front of more than 100 people, Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy made his position on fracking clear. “The idea that we would allow a practice like hydro-fracking, which could possibly destroy [the New York City water] system, is criminal,” Hindy said. “Of course we need good water to make beer.”

Brooklyn Brewery isn’t the only beer producer unsatisfied with New York State’s drafted fracking regulations. The folks at Brewery Ommegang, which pumps its water from three wells in the Catskills, started a petition when they found out that a company called Cooperstown Holstein Corp. had leased local land to drillers. Not only that—Cooperstown Holstein was fighting to overturn a law that forbids fracking in the area. If Ommegang’s water were to be contaminated by fracking fluid, the brewer would have to import water from elsewhere, move, or close.

While New York State has vowed to ban fracking in areas that provide New York City water, critics and environmental organizations say there are still some glaring loopholes. “We are not at all satisfied with the proposals that the state has put out,” Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said. “It would still be perfectly allowable for drillers to send their water to sewage treatment plants in the water supply area, even though these treatment plants were never designed to handle toxic waste.”

The wastewater Nadeau speaks of is the type of stuff that, for example, caused a dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio last year when largely unregulated gas companies pumped it back into the ground. In Pennsylvania, increased amounts of bromides have been found in rivers used for wastewater disposal. (In some studies, bromides, when combined with chlorine in the wastewater treatment process, have been found to be carcinogenic.) And, so far, New York has not addressed the monitoring or disposal of the millions of gallons of wastewater that could be produced, Nadeau says. Moreover, the disposal and reporting of waste would be left up to the gas companies.

All of this is why the Environmental Advocates and breweries are teaming up to host awareness events, like the one at Brooklyn Brewery, across upstate New York. Tommy Keegan, 41, of Keegan Ales in Kingston, will be hosting a “Save Our Beer!” event at his own brewery next month. A contaminated water supply, he said, would devastate his business. “I have two main reasons I’m concerned,” Keegan said. “My business, and then myself and my family. I have two young boys who drink water everyday.”

05/22/12 3:41pm

Map of the pipeline route.

  • Map of the pipeline route.

A 15.2 mile gas pipeline that will run from Staten Island, through Jersey City, under the Hudson River and to the West Village has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, reports the Times. The pipeline, which has been debated by environmentalists, Manhattan residents, New Jersey elected officials for months, will cost $1.2 billion and transport up to 800 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Though the commission ruled that building the pipeline under a densely populated area shouldn’t pose significant environmental threats, critics of the endeavor have been wary of things like explosions, contamination of the water supply, as well as noise from construction.

“This approval clears the way for a much-needed new natural gas supply in the New York City region,” Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for operations, Caswell F. Holloway, said in a statement. He said the project would bolster the reliability of the city’s energy supply and help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and soot by providing an alternative to more polluting energy sources like oil.

But opponents on both sides of the Hudson have cited safety concerns, including the possibility of accidental explosions beneath densely populated areas, industrial sites and bodies of water. [NYT]

Of course, even though the pipeline would be built in anticipation of an increased natural gas supply, the order from the feds says that the pipeline has nothing to do with encouraging New York’s approval of hydrofracking (regulations are currently in draft form) within its borders.

“This project is driven by a desire to bring additional, reliable, competitively priced gas supplies to New Jersey and New York end users,” the order said. “It is not designed to serve as a gathering system for gas from the Marcellus Shale.”

“The development of the Marcellus and other shale reserves is expected to proceed over decades, and will do so with or without the proposed project,” it added. [NYT]

Ominous, especially given the errors that sloppy “development of the Marcellus and other shale reserves” has delivered in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. As per the pipeline, construction is intended to begin in June. Still, the feds’ assurances surely won’t be enough to ease every fear. “If [an accident] happened in a densely populated area such as Jersey City, it’ll be nothing short of a full-blown catastrophe,” Jersey City mayor Jerramiah Healy told WCBS 880 last year. According to the New York Times, courtroom fights over the pipeline are to be expected.

05/22/12 1:19pm


Bay Ridge, meet internationally renowned ballet. It’s not often that a celebrated ballet company up and launches a high school dance program, but it seems that the Joffrey Ballet and Fort Hamilton High School will provide an exception to that rule. The company is slated to start teaching classes to 25 students at the Bay Ridge high school in the fall.

According to the Daily News, the idea was conceived at a barber shop, while the husband of one of the school’s finance teachers was touching up the Joffrey director’s, Gail D’Addario’s, highlights.

“Tommy told me (Fort Hamilton school officials) were thinking of making the school into a mini Juilliard and that’s how it all began,” said D’Addario, who lives in Bay Ridge and has been LaMarca’s client for 20 years. “If I didn’t have that conversation with him that day, this would never have happened.”

LaMarca’s wife Millie – a finance teacher at the school – had told him Fort Hamilton was desperate for a dance program.

“It’ll be Brooklyn’s own LaGuardia,” said Tom LaMarca. “This will give Brooklyn kids something they could use to fulfill their dreams – and it all came from a Brooklyn Heights barber shop.” [NYDaily News]

Meanwhile, the school will be undergoing $225,000 worth of renovations to build a proper ballet studio.

The Joffrey Ballet, a revolutionary influence on the American dance establishment, was founded by teacher Robert Joffrey and dancer Gerald Arpino in 1956, and started out as six people traveling the United States in a station wagon attached to a U-Haul. Later, the Joffrey would perform at the White House (at Jackie Kennedy’s invitation), in Russia (in the midst of the Cold War, no less), create the first “rock n’ roll” ballet (Trinity, 1970), and work with luminary choreographers such as Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp. The Joffrey Ballet has also been the subject of two films—Robert Altman’s The Company, and a full-length documentary entitled Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance.


05/22/12 11:35am

Divine Fits.

  • Divine Fits.

There’s next to no information on this quite yet, but here’s what we do know: Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner, and New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown are in a band together. That band is called Divine Fits. And, if you go to the Divine Fits’ website and click on the backdrop, you will be led through a series of images (is that a shirtless Dan Boeckner in the motorcycle helmet?) that culminate in a random Youtube video, Myspace page, flan recipe, or apartment listing (there are probably more). The news of the new group arrives quickly on the heels of the Handsome Furs’ announcement that their band days were officially over.

According to Brooklyn Vegan, the Divine Fits’ debut album will be released on Merge Records sometime later this year. British recording engineer Nick Launay, who has worked with artists such as Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Silverchair, Nick Cave, Lou Reed and David Byrne, is responsible for production.

That’s all we’ve got for now. Until we further information is released, here’s concert footage uploaded to Youtube of Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel covering Wolf Parade’s “Modern World” at Radio City in 2010. Enjoy.

05/21/12 3:12pm

Bennani and Dunham, mediums of the Other World.

  • Bennani and Dunham, mediums of the Other World.

Cue the Twilight Zone musical introduction: Two Brooklyn artists, Hayden Dunham and Meriem Bennani, are fashioning themselves into messengers from a parallel universe. Their new project, “Other Travel,” aims to deliver objects to a roster of artists and writers, ostensibly from the creatives’ mirror selves in the “other” world. “Each artist involved will receive an invitation to a specific place in New York City where the delivery of an installation or package will take place,” Dunham and Bennani explain by way of the project’s Kickstarter. “The collaboration begins when the artist chooses to produce a piece in response to the installation received.”

From the looks of the mediums’ first Brooklyn delivery to artist Amy von Harrington, Other Travel exists somewhere in the realm between fantasy and deadpan comedy. Dunham and Bennani designate von Harrington’s “Other” as a baton twirler and sweat collector in the parallel universe, so von Harrington is given an outfit soaked in her Other’s magical sweat. Psycho-spiritual dancing and the gradual closing of the portal follow while others pass the ritual on the sidewalk.

As evidenced by the videos (watch below), Other Travel invites the viewer to a vision of another, muted, alien world—and a proposal for other artists to create, building up from imaginations of its creators. Dunham, a designer featured in Brooklyn Magazine and Vice, brings her singular tone to the costumes, while Bennani expresses Otherness through video and animation. Each new artist collaboration gets a feature in what will become the Other Travel book, and will eventually culminate in an exhibition. To support Other Travel, check out their Kickstarter here.

05/21/12 8:59am

Not quite a third, but you get the idea.

  • Not quite a third, but you get the idea.

The New York Times has scooped up some unsettling information regarding New York City’s income inequality from a study to be released today. According to the city comptroller’s office, the most affluent 1 percent of New Yorkers made up one third of personal income in the city in 2009. If your jaw isn’t already on the floor, compare that figure to the national average that year—country-wide, the 1 percent had 17 percent of personal income in the nation. Hey, middle class, are you still there?

“There is some evidence of the kind of common worry that New York has a weak middle,” said Frank Braconi, chief economist in the comptroller’s office.

The report analyzed tax filings by city residents for income earned from 2000 through 2009, the most recent data available, and compared them with the national numbers. All of the numbers were adjusted for inflation. [NYT]

In a closer look at the figures, researchers found that those who made more than $1 million in 2009 (less than half of 1 percent of filers) reeled in 26.7 percent of personal income in the city that year.

John C. Liu, city comptroller, has recommended more of a progressive income-tax, but Mayor Bloomberg still remains opposed to increased taxing on the city’s wealthiest. At the same time, neither did Bloomberg think it appropriate to pass a prevailing or living wage bill. Last month, the mayor promised to veto both measures on the notion that they would act as job killers.

[via NYTimes]


05/18/12 3:07pm


It’s that time again. Last week, The L launched Literary Upstart, its annual short fiction competition extravaganza, at the Wythe Hotel, where five readers duked it out in front of our panel of judges, featuring the New Yorker’s Ben Greenman, Cal Morgan (editorial director at Harper Perennial), Luis Jaramillo (author and associate chair of the writing program at the New School), and Katherine Fausset (literary agent at Curtis Brown). At the end of the night, there could be only one winner (we tip our hats to Jonathan Goldberg with his story “Owl Stretching Time”), but today, videos of all the competitors from that first semi-final are available to watch.

Our next war of the words will take place on May 24, and the final deadline for submission is May 28. In the meantime, enjoy the fruits of the other competitors’ labors, Ben Greenman’s sparkling wit, and L Mag editor-in-chief Jonny Diamond’s considerable hosting talents after the jump.

Anneliese Downey, “Les Details”

Jonathan Goldberg, “Owl Stretching Time”

Benjamin Dolson, “Scatter The People”

Thomas Israel Hopkins, “An Obstacle To Empathy”

Jenny Hapler, “Life Camp”

05/18/12 2:23pm

Happy Friday, everybody. Video of the three baby river otters born at the Prospect Park Zoo (the first batch in more than 50 years) has finally arrived. Parents Dixie (3-year-old mama otter) and Oogie (10-year-old papa otter) must be very proud. There’s not really much more to say here other than the gibberish a person usually says to a computer screen full of playful furry things rolling around and nuzzling each other. Dawww. Bawww. Schooooookyooootohmigod bawwww. Enjoy.

[via DNAinfo]

05/18/12 11:37am

Very, very sad news today. Last night, electro-punk duo (and married couple) Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry announced that their band, the Handsome Furs, were over. They posted this short message to their website:

With a heavy heart the time has come to let all of you know that Handsome Furs are no more.

The most important thing that needs to be said right now is how extremely grateful we are to all the fans all over the world that showered us with love and support over the years. Thank you for everything! It’s been an incredible 6 years and we owe it all to you.


We’re pretty bummed out over here at The L. Last year, Lauren Beck and I had a chance to interview the Furs (watch above), and I think I can safely say that it was one of the best interviews we’ve had. Boeckner and Perry were some of the most engaged, sincere and gracious musicians I had ever met—they also seemed uniquely dedicated to challenging the indie rock establishment, traveling the world and maintaining one of the most enviable and enlightened rock star relationships ever.

We’re truly dejected at learning of the news. However, to Dan and Alexei: We wish you the best of the best, and look forward to whatever you decide to do next.

05/17/12 9:02am

Hoppy, with a hint of anti-freeze.

  • Hoppy, with a hint of anti-freeze.

If you care even just a teeny bit about fracking, odds are you’ve seen the video. You know the one—the footage from Gasland, where a man sets the water coming out of his kitchen tap on fire. It’s enough to make you think twice before you turn on the faucet for a drink, but Steve Hindy, the founder of Brooklyn Brewery, has brought up another fine point (perhaps more devastating to some) about the potential consequences of fracking. Yep, Brooklyn Brewery, which relies on New York City tap water, says beer could be in danger too.

“We need good water to make beer,” Hindy said in a video, produced by Climate Desk, below. The idea that we could ruin our drinking water system through fracking, he added, was criminal. “You can’t brew out benzene,” Mackenzie Schoonmaker, attorney for water quality watchdog Riverkeeper, also said.

While New York has vowed to ban fracking from the areas that provide water to New York City, critics are unsatisfied with the draft regulations. Environmentalists say that toxic fracking chemicals, like benzene, methanol, and ethylene glycol (that stuff in anti-freeze), could still make their way into aquifers or buffer zones. It’s for this reason that the Brooklyn Brewery has promised to campaign until adequate regulations become law. Watch the video below.

[via Grist, Climate Desk]