09/14/11 8:57am

Photo by Nadia Chaudry

  • Photo by Nadia Chaudhury

The owner of Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea, Park Slope’s java icon, tried to keep the cafe’s Seventh Avenue location open, but her landlord has declined to renew her lease. So, less than a block away, Melissa Rapoport is trying again—she’s opening a new coffee house at 72 Seventh Avenue, a short stroll from Ozzie’s old spot at No. 57.

“Despite the fact that I was trying to bring our rent up to date, the landlord sent a five day notice to clear out,” Rapoport says. “At one point I was able to cut a check from the bank for $20,000 more than I owed and he still wanted Ozzie’s to leave.”

She claims that she lost the lease because her landlord, Kevin Kelley, didn’t want her as a tenant anymore. On two different occasions, she says, Kelley asked her to meet to work out the lease’s details, but kept changing the terms in an attempt, she says, to force her out.

Kelley tells it differently.

“She didn’t pay the rent for nine months,” he says. When asked to speculate why, he says, “You’ll have to ask her.”

Employees at Bark Slope Salon and Visions, Ozzie’s neighbors and fellow Kelley tenants, declined to comment on Ozzie’s closing, saying that they each had good relationships with their landlord and did not want to damage them.

Rapoport has had financial troubles over the past year. National Grid has sued her. And she was forced to pay a $15,500 settlement to a former barista who alleged he was fired because he was associated with the Industrial Workers of the World.

Rapoport and her ex-husband, Allon Azulai, founded the original Ozzie’s on Fifth Avenue 18 years ago. That location will stay open and be a separate entity from the unnamed place Rapoport hopes to open before October 1. Taking over the former site of restaurant La Taqueria, Rapoport’s new spot will strive for a “smaller, more intimate” establishment. It will also serve alcohol, and the menu will feature more locally produced beverages.

Rapoport emphasized that she will be running this shop alone. When she and Azulai were married, they owned both the Fifth and Seventh Avenue Ozzie’s. After they divorced, Azulai managed the Fifth Avenue location and Rapoport the Seventh. (Azulai would not answer any questions about the Seventh Avenue location closing or about Rapoport’s imminent relocation.)

“They don’t really have anything to do with each other,” said an Ozzie’s employee who did not want to be identified.

09/08/11 3:15pm

Brooklyns Fort Hamilton High School has an especially large population of homeless students.

  • Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School has an especially large population of homeless students.

New York, like any other big city, is a case study in contradiction. Extreme wealth and inhumane blight can share a block. The Department of Education’s new report—that the number of homeless students in the New York City school system has quadrupled since 2008, from 10,209 to 42,980—is another solemn reminder that for all the talk of the city’s luxuries and cultural appeal, it is still home to massive and inexcusable inequalities.

Housing affordability is an issue that someone like Mayor Bloomberg will fail to address, again and again, because addressing such an issue is not in his DNA. Rent and cost of living prices continue to soar despite an anemic economy. The minimum wage gets you pathetically little. Homelessness is at its highest in NYC since the Great Depression, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Particularly among families, the steady decline in the number of affordable rental apartments has contributed to the surge in homelessness.

And teachers, under attack from Democrats and Republicans alike, are blamed for the academic struggles of students who do not have a comfortable room in which to study when they go home to at night. There is a reason school districts in wealthy areas vastly outperform districts in impoverished areas, or schools like Fort Hamilton High School and New Utrecht High School (cited in the Post story that reported the study) have especially large populations of students without homes. Yes, a motivated homeless student with a motivated teacher can achieve as much as anyone, but the challenge of succeeding in school while knowing that a home is something you can no longer take for granted must be immense. Politicians ensconced in their own bubbles of relative luxury can forget this, or never know it in the first place.

09/07/11 1:50pm

Long Island Universitys Brooklyn Campus.

  • Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.

When hungover students show up to sleep through their afternoon classes today at Long Island University, they might be snoozing without the contemptuous stare of a professor. WNYC reports that hundreds of professors at LIU’s Brooklyn campus are going on strike today, citing a contract that doesn’t guarantee any kind of wage increases for the first three of five years.

The university characterizes the battle as one between funneling the university’s “scarce resources” towards faculty or student scholarships. The faculty contends that too many funds are directed toward administration personnel. Either way, these are tough times for universities. Students and faculty are squeezed alike.

If you can’t muster any sympathy for a full-time professor going on strike you suck, at least take some time to read about the plight of the adjunct professor. A bulk of the teaching workload at many universities falls upon the shoulders of underpaid, overworked professors without health insurance and little shot at the ever-shrinking number of tenured positions available. It’s an especially strange and sad system for those folks.

09/06/11 3:40pm

This is never a good sign.

  • This is never a good sign.

If you’re an elected official and you want to exit a parade route to attend a luncheon, don’t do it when the New York Police Department is buzzing around. You will be arrested. And your time will be horribly wasted. Yesterday, city councilman Jumaane Williams and a staffer to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Kirsten John Foy, were handcuffed and Foy was shoved to the ground (see video below) after they attempted to exit the West Indian Day Parade to dine at a luncheon at the Brooklyn Museum.

According to NBC New York, even after Williams and Foy tried to show the officers their credentials, they were not allowed to pass. Witnesses said 15-20 police showed up and shoved Williams and his entourage. Foy was knocked to the ground. Cops said the situation escalated because someone in the crowd pushed a police captain. Williams and Foy were held at Union Temple of Brooklyn, charged with nothing and released an hour later.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries told the Daily News that this incident was “further evidence of the siege mentality the NYPD has unleashed against black men in New York City.” Watch this video of the altercation, and you might see where Jeffries is coming from.

08/31/11 3:26pm

Good luck getting around this thing.

  • Good luck getting around this thing.

When you walk over to the Barclays Center to catch an inevitably disappointing Nets game, you might have to start tiptoeing on the sidewalk, or pinching in your elbows to avoid a tractor trailer. Forest City Ratner, never a community favorite, is still igniting local opposition. According to Atlantic Yards Report, in July FCR submitted a plan to the Parks Department to install 206 bollards around the arena, which revealed that several of the sidewalks surrounding Barclays will be much narrower than what FCR originally analyzed in their 2006 environmental impact statement that ultimately helped FCR win approval from the state.

The effective widths (the portion of the sidewalk pedestrians use for travel after a buffer zone on each side of the sidewalk is subtracted from the design width) of several sidewalks have now narrowed, including one on Dean Street, an entrance to the arena. Three out of four sidewalks have seen their effective widths shrunk from five years ago in the latest FCR plans. Cyclists coming down Dean Street will also have to dodge vehicles dropping off arena patrons because a lay-by lane will run parallel with a bike lane.

These modifications from the 2006 plan were the result of a revised 2009 proposal approved by the Empire State Development Corporation without an environmental impact study. This led to a lawsuit that community organizers, residents, and local politicians won in 2011. Despite this, sidewalks are smaller. And Bruce Ratner retains his spot in the pantheon of Brooklyn supervillains.


08/31/11 10:34am

Just a big misunderstading.

  • Just a big misunderstading.

Well, it turns out Hotel Le Bleu is just French for “The Blue Hotel,” not “that morally bankrupt bluish hotel on Fourth Avenue…” After someone from Hotel Le Bleu left us a comment claiming that they did not actually charge $999 for a single night during Tropical Storm Irene and the whole thing was a huge mistake, we contacted them to find out what exactly happened.

I spoke on the phone with Dev Dugal, who is vice president of Marketing and Information Technology at Globiwest Hospitality, the company that manages the Hotel Le Bleu. He explained that the process for allocation of rooms is completely separate from rates. Rates can be raised in seconds, in what he called “real time.” Like other hotels, Le Bleu works with travel websites like Expedia to post vacancies. In this case, Expedia did list a rate of $999. However, this happened, according to Dugal, because on Friday night, Le Bleu filled to capacity. They sent an email to Expedia telling them not to list vacancies but this email was never returned.

Dugal says possible power outages at the hotel or Expedia’s weekend services, which are automated, led to this lack of an email response. Therefore, Expedia listed open rooms, when there were none. Le Bleu didn’t want anyone to try to book rooms so they did what Dugal now thinks “might not have been the best thing to do.” They raised the rate to $999, thus hoping an astronomical rate would discourage people from showing up.

One person did show up to book at the $999 rate, saying that they did so as a precaution against the approaching hurricane. They got the room, but according to Dugal, they will be fully refunded the difference between the $999 rate and the normal rate, which is $269. He says rates have never risen above $399, and that was for New Years.

He also said only four employees were at the hotel over the weekend. “The Daily News could have spoken to anyone, a desk manager or a housekeeper. I don’t know who the editor to spoke to. Anytime you call our hotel, everyone gives a name.”

08/31/11 8:57am

McCarren drunks of yore.

  • McCarren drunks of yore.

Does the mantle of gentrification show cracks? Will alcohol and other, um, “organic substances” derail utopian dreams of sweeping everything undesirable under the rug? Maybe: The Brooklyn Paper reports that “a group of middle-aged men” have been sleeping on benches in McCarren Park, showering in the sprinklers, and allegedly leaving urine and feces on the park grounds.

One nameless parent complained that one drunk man accidentally stumbled into her stroller—she admits he apologized—though she called the whole affair “visually displeasing.” More than 100 park users groused to officials at an Open Space Alliance meeting. The blog New York Shitty has photographs of the sleeping men and feces of unclear origin lying on a playground surface.

The sight of possibly inebriated men sleeping in a park can be unsettling to anyone. It’s normal to desire cleaner parks and the people posting at places like the Friends and Families of McCarren Park Facebook page have the right to be distressed. But headlines like “Greenpoint Drunks Ruining McCarren Park with Filth” are endemic of a culture that tends to miss the bigger picture. It is easy to be reactive: see something unpleasant, broadcast your concern, enlist a media outlet to amplify that concern. There’s nothing wrong with that. The question that should be asked, though, is why are they sleeping there?

In the BP article, Councilman Steve Levin thinks they have homes but may be too drunk to get there. Local minister Ann Kansfield believes they might be sick and suffering, unaware that they are defecating in the park. Both are probably right. Sympathy will do a lot more good for the individuals themselves and the community than outright condemnation. The tragedy isn’t that people are sleeping on your benches and dirtying your playground. Rather, it’s that these people aren’t getting the help they need, whether it’s an adequate home, counseling for alcohol addiction, or access to mental health services.


08/29/11 2:13pm

The Archangel Michael recommends Park Slopes Hotel Le Bleu.

  • The Archangel Michael recommends Park Slope’s Hotel Le Bleu.

Let’s say an archangel showed up at your door this past Saturday and said, “Here’s $1,000, good sir/madam—sorry, I’m bad at identifying genders—you may do with it whatever you like, but you must spend it before the evening is through, and you must spend it locally.” And you’re like, “There’s a hurricane outside, archangel! How will I gamble away $1,000 with all of these howling winds?” “I’ve said all I can,” the archangel said. “Actually, no I haven’t, there’s this hotel in Park Slope charging $1,000 for a room tonight.”

You take the archangel’s money, grab a few brews, and head over to the trendy Hotel Le Bleu in trendy Park Slope where the concierge happily informs you that, exceptionally, a room costs $999 a night instead of the typical $250. You thank your lucky stars that you don’t live in an evil communistic country and hand him your $1,000.

Of course, there’s tax, and you only brought $1,000, so Hotel Le Bleu tells you that paupers and hurricanes kind of go well together anyway, and kicks you out of their trendy lobby onto (somewhat) trendy Fourth Avenue.

Later that night, your power now cut, you bust out a crappy flashlight and unearth an old French-English dictionary. It turns out “Hotel Le Blue” roughly translates to “That morally bankrupt bluish hotel on Fourth Avenue that, if there were any justice in the world, would be fiscally bankrupt too.”

08/25/11 12:10pm


  • Sodega

Poorer people drink more soda than richer people. Residents of wealthy Chelsea and Greenwich Village are the least likely to indulge in the soft drink, while those who live in Flatbush and East Flatbush are the biggest fans of sweet carbonation, the Post reports.

Only 11.2 percent of those two affluent neighborhoods reported drinking one sweetened beverage a day. On the other hand, nearly half the population—45.7 percent—of Flatbush enjoyed a soda everyday, almost the same as in the South Bronx. The Health Department released the figures yesterday, shocking Flatbush’s city councilman, Jumaane Williams. “It’s disturbing,” he told the tabloid.

Mayor Bloomberg might be wrong about a lot of things, but he’s been right on at least one issue: food stamps should not be used to buy sugary beverages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, though, recently blocked the city from implementing an experimental two-year ban. As the mayor said, “We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything else being proposed anywhere else in the country—and at little or no cost to taxpayers.”


08/23/11 4:22pm

The first (and last) Staten Island postcard, from 1661.

  • The first (and last) Staten Island postcard, from 1661.

Congratulations to Staten Island, a land mass that first emerged from the sea 350 years ago to greet a haloed collective of Dutch, French, and Belgian settlers, all blessed by the glory of god. Mayor Bloomberg will pay what is probably a rare visit to celebrate the oft-maligned borough’s 350th birthday. (Apparently you can get there by crossing this bridge?)

Scientists postulate that before the settlers arrived, the island was ruled by plesiosaurs and aliens, which the settlers appeased with offerings of home-made beads and syphilis. Centuries later, Staten Island can not only celebrate its birthday, but also its apparently top-noth beaches and the continued genius of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, likely the only Staten Islander of whom anyone has heard.

Well, and the Wu-Tang Clan. Are they still looking for interns? And do they offer stipends for that $13 toll?

(Image: NYPL)