Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Stop Eminent Domain from Closing our Studio!": Eastern Effects Asks Community For Help In Fighting City's Plan To Seize 270 Nevins Street

Eastern Effect's Movie and TV studios at 270 Nevins Street, Gowanus
Philip Warren and Scott Levy of  Eastern Effects at  Tuesday's Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group meeting.
As part of the Gowanus Canal Superfund clean-up, the City of New York and EPA have negotiated a
proposed agreement to situate one of the two retention tanks mandated in the Record of Decision at the head of the Canal rather than at the EPA suggested site which is under the pool in the Thomas Greene Park.

The City's plan relies on the taking of two privately owned sites, 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street, by eminent domain. A third site, 270 Nevins Street will most likely also be seized by the City, which plans to use it for staging purposes during the construction project.

This would displace Eastern Effects, a successful film and television studio, where many commercials, movies and television shows like  FX's "The Americans" are filmed.

Eastern Effects' founder and president Scott Levy and the studio's general manager Philip Warren attended last Tuesday's Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group's general meeting to make sure the community knew that the closing would mean a 50% loss of business and therefore real hardship. It would also represent  a loss of about 200 union jobs during filming and 31 full-time jobs.
In addition, the company contributes, by their estimate, approximately four million dollars ($4,000,000) per year to the local economy.

Levy argued that it makes little sense for the City to seize the site for temporary use, when Eastern Effects has plowed millions into the building to meet all stage 2 requirements and can support New York City's booming film and movie industry.
"I have invested millions of dollars and have spent three of the most grueling years of my life building this studio," Levy told members of the CAG.  "We did everything we needed to do."
He talked about receives calls every day for studio space, but has to turn production companies down because his are fully booked. Apparently, 46 television productions are currently filming in New York City and are competing for space.
The City of New York has recently notified Eastern Effect that it would be forced to cease operations at 270 Nevins Street.   "The City did not come to us to talk about any of this,' Levy said.  "It was news to us and was announced as 'an agreement between the EPA and the City'.  We were shocked and upset because no one came to us. Only one person from the City came to do a walk through of the building. So it was time for us to do something to protect ourselves."

Eastern Effects is asking the community's help in saving the 270 Nevis Street building, their studios, their investment and local jobs.
"We have no issue with the building of the tank. We understand that the tank is part of the clean-up that is needed for the City and for this local area," said Levy. "We are not here to debate that, but we think we are an afterthought when it comes to where to put a staging site to support that tank."
Rather, Levy makes the point that there are alternatives to the City's proposed plan. Currently, there are several building  located directly adjacent to the lots the City plans to seize by eminent domain, which are currently empty and/or for sale.
That includes 537 Sackett Street, which is located directly across the street from Eastern Effects and is currently empty.

Levy and Warren provided the community with the map pictured above, which shows some alternative sites that could be used by the City.
Eastern Effects also issued the following statement:

Keep Jobs in Gowanus – Stop Eminent Domain from Closing our Studio!
Eastern Effects, Inc. a film and television production studio adjacent to the Gowanus Canal, was recently notified by the City that it would be forced to cease operations and close in order for the property to be used as a temporary staging area for the construction of two combined sewage overflow (CSO) tanks required to clean up the canal. The Gowanus Canal was designated as a Superfund site by the EPA in 2010.

Eastern Effects leases property at 270 Nevins Street (between Sackett and Degraw Street). The studio is in the 5th year of a 20-year lease. The studio hosts over 230 well-paying jobs, utilizes local vendors, and is the setting for the hit television series The Americans.

There are underutilized and vacant properties surrounding the area that are viable alternatives for this temporary staging location. We propose that the City evaluate such sites, saving the studio from closure and maintaining New York City’s position as a leader in the film and television production industry.

Reasons to Support an Alternate Staging Site:
*Eastern Effects invested over $5 million and three years of exhaustive work in the building at 270 Nevins Street to create a state-of-the-art facility that meets the City’s stringent Level 2 stage requirements to accommodate large scale shows —the type of soundstage that productions are actively seeking in New York City. This is the company’s Flagship Studio.

*Eastern Effects is committed to Brooklyn: all five of the company’s buildings are located in the borough—four buildings are located in Gowanus and one building is currently under construction in East New York.

*Since 2009, Eastern Effects has partnered with Brooklyn Workforce Initiative to provide training and job opportunities in the film industry through the Made in NY PA Training Program. Graduates of the program are currently working on the set of The Americans. Eastern Effects also hires graduates of BWI’s CDL driver training, Red Hook on the Road.

*The site supports over 230 jobs, most of which are union. These union employees are represented by: IATSE Locals 600, 5, 817, 700, 161, 829, 764, 798, WGA, DGA, and SAG/AFTRA. Eastern Effects has 31 direct full-time employees, 3 part-time employees, and is planning an expansion this summer.

*Soundstages are unique facilities that require large, open floor plates, high ceilings, and costly specialized infrastructure. There are no viable alternatives to move the stage in Gowanus. The loss of the Flagship Studio will impact Eastern Effects’ nearby production offices, editing suites, writer’s offices, and support spaces.

*The film and television industry wants to be in New York City. A 2015 report showed that the industry brings $8.7 billion into the local economy, with 46 series produced in the five boroughs during the 2014-2015 season. The spending on production creates a ripple effect in the city’s economy, indirectly supporting an additional 20,000 full-time jobs.

*Production companies currently report difficulty in finding adequate studio space in New York City. If they cannot find space, these productions will turn to other cities, costing New York State jobs and valuable tax revenue.

Meanwhile, our elected officials already threw their support behind the agreement between EPA and the City Of New York, in which the City proposes the taking by eminent domain of 234 Butler Street, 242 Nevins Street, as well as 270 Nevins Street.
New York City Council Member Brad Lander, New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, and New York State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, issued a statement "supportive of the approach described in the proposed agreement"

New York City has already signed the agreement, but the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group has asked the EPA for a public comment period before the Federal Government signs it.
Members of the community can send their own comments on the agreement and I strongly encourage you to do so. Please mail to :

Walter Mugdan,
U.S. EPA Superfund Director 290 Broadway, Floor 19, New York, N.Y., 10007 mugdan
or email to :

To read the agreement between the EPA and New York City, please visit:

Click here to write a letter of support for Eastern Effects

Please Honor Our Veterans At Memorial Day Ceremony In Carroll Park

Everyone here in the neighborhood knows the beautiful war memorial that stands in the center of Carroll Park, but few take the time to read the long list of names on the two bronze plaques attached to the side of the monument, commemorating those Carroll Gardeners who died in the service of this country.
This Memorial Day, let's take a moment to remember Franky Manning, Joseph Milori, Pasquale Muscillo and their comrades . Read on:

Memorial Day Ceremony In Carroll Park
Monday, May 30st  at 11 am
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance.

"It is a day to honor our nation’s war dead. It is a day to honor our veterans. It is a day to pray for the safe return of all those presently serving in our military. Join us as we honor their sacrifice
and as we place a wreath at the war memorial monument."

'The Danish Café' Opening Soon On Smith Street

Amidst the many recent closings on Smith Street in the past few months, it is nice to report on a new eatery, which is settling in.
"The Danish Café" will be opening its doors at 138 Smith Street, which had previously been occupied by White Oak and Apartment.
According to the web site, the owners, Lone & Claudi, are a danish couple from a small island in
Denmark called Bornholm.  It is the second outpost for The Danish Café. The first one is located in Red Bank, New Jersey. Lone & Claudi's  story:
"We have during the years spent a lot of holidays in the US and has come to love the country and its people. It may seem as a big step, and it sure is, but when we had the opportunity to follow our dream
of living in the US, we gladly took it. We have a background of running a hotel in Denmark and even though  it is a totaly different country, we have many things in common. We wanted to present a piece of Denmark to the american people and hen the idea of a danish cafe' came up.
Now we hope, that you, our costumers, will like what we have to offer and
​look forward to welcome you in The Danish Cafe

The café will offer breakfast lunch and dinner as well as week-end brunch.  The menu includes baked goods, sandwiches and wraps and there will be a bar.

The concept is simple, but it may just work on Smith Street if the prices are reasonable. What do you think?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Picture Of The Day: T'is The Time Of Roses

Spotted on President Street.
Carroll Gardens is never as beautiful as when the roses bloom.

Great Fun At The Carroll Park Fair 2016 This Past Saturday

Kathleen Henderson, the 'Carroll Park Lady' taking charge of the bouncy house.
Kathleen will be back in Carroll Park this July.
The PS 58 crossing guard at her table selling her wares.
Mélanie of with her daughter
Ashley Holt of
One of Sugar Monster Sweets' unique creations
Members of Smith Street Stage, Carroll Park's very own Shakespeare company
Gary and Sarah of Friends of Carroll Park
Bruce and Glenn, more Friends of Carroll Park

Despite the cool weather and the mid-afternoon rain shower this past Saturday, the 2016 Carroll Park Fair was great fun. Whether selling, bargain hunting or just browsing, the fair is always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and to re-connect to old friends.

The fair is hosted every year by Friends of Carroll Park, the non-for profit, all volunteer group that keeps our park looking its best. The event is the group's biggest fundraiser and all monies raised will go to programming and plants for the park.

Did you stop by? Did you find a great buy?

Friday, May 20, 2016

"Song Of Lahore": Critically Acclaimed Documentary By Carroll Gardens Filmmaker Released in Theaters Today

Andy Schocken and Wynton Marsalis during filming
photo credit: Wasif Arshad
Filmmaker and cinematographer Andy Schocken in Carroll Gardens

This week-end, Carroll Gardens filmmaker and cinematographer Andy Schocken will be celebrating the theatrical release of his documentary Song of Lahore, which he co-directed with Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

'Song Of Lahore' tells the story of Izzat Majeed, who founded Sachel Studio in 2004, to help keep his country's once rich musical heritage alive despite Pakistan's Islamization,  and political unrest.
In an increasingly conservative culture where music is deemed sinful and where there are few opportunities for musicians to perform, Majeed encourages a group of classically-trained musicians to once again pick up their instruments and to form an orchestra.

The musicians recorded several classical and  traditional folk albums before Majeed, who had heard Dave Brubeck  perform in Pakistan in 1958 as part of a Jazz Diplomacy Tour sponsored by the US State Department, convinced the Sachel Studio Orchestra to record a version of  "Take Five".
A video of the orchestra playing this jazz classic on their traditional instruments spread quickly and garnered international attention when it was shown on BBC One.  This led to an invitation by Wynton Marsalis to come to New York, and after a week of rehearsal the Sachel Studio Orchestra found themselves performing with Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center
The film follows the musicians on this remarkable journey from Lahore to the international stage.  

'Song Of Lahore'  has been shown to critical acclaim at film festivals around the world.  It will be released in theaters in New York and Los Angeles today.

Here in New York, it will be shown at Village East Cinema. Tickets are available here.
Schocken and  Obaid-Chinoy will both be attending a question and answer session tonight following the 7:25 pm show.

Universal Music will also be releasing a companion album to Song of Lahore, featuring Sachal Studios collaborating with Western recording artists like Wynton Marsalis,  Sean Lennon, Nels Cline (Wilco) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). The album is available for presale on Amazon.

I would like to thank Andy Schocken for taking time to meet with PMFA to talk about his remarkable film.  I hope everyone will go see it this week-end. 

At This Saturday's Carroll Park Fair: 'Catrinka', Ethical Fashion Accessories Label That Invests In Women And Girls

(photo credit:

As you all know by now, the yearly Carroll Park Fair will be held this Saturday, May 21st right here in Carroll Park. One of the vendors who will be selling her goods at the fair is local resident Megan Reilly Cayten, the creator of Catrinka, an ethical fashion accessories label that invests in women and girls, while creating stylish bags and accessories.

Make sure to stop by Megan's booth and remember to support our local businesses.

About Catrinka:
"Megan's daughter, nicknamed Catrinka, was the inspiration for this line of artisanal luxury handbags that combines Megan's eye for colorful textiles with her dedication for social change: each product provides fair work to women - 4,725 days in 16 countries since its inception to date.

Catrinka invests in women to maximize its social impact, both in the present, as all bags are made exclusively by women, who invest twice as much of their income in their families as men, as well as in the future, allocating the profits of the bags sold to education and life skills mentoring for indigenous Mayan girls through the Catrinka Girls Project.

Catrinka's first initiative, The Girls Rising Collection, showcased bags from the countries featured in the 2013 documentary Girl Rising (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone and Uganda). After this successful capsule collection, Catrinka has produced beautiful new pieces, designed in Brooklyn and made by women artisans from Mexico, El Salvador, Uzbekistan, India and Guatemala, among others.

Believing as much as she does in community, Catrinka couldn't miss the annual get together at Carroll Park Fair this coming Saturday, to meet with other locals, showcase lovely bags and accessories and tell us a bit more about this beautiful project."

To read more about the Catrinka Girls Project, click here.

Find Catrinka on:
Twitter: @CatrinkaProject
Instagram: thecatrinkaproject