To some, it was the worst year in decades. To others, it was merely horrible. But for us at The Brooklyn Paper, 2009 will go down in history as another 12-month period when lots of interesting, important, newsworthy, exciting, traumatic and Atlantic Yards things happened.
Here’s our gimlet-eyed view on the year that was:
Better than Luger?! The century-old king of steaks, Peter Luger, is dethroned when The Brooklyn Paper officially pronounces that its quality has slipped — allowing newcomer Morton’s The Steakhouse to eclipse the legend. Luger’s “meat pillow” is juicy, but the steak itself — though still often hailed as the best in the borough — is not beefy enough for our critic’s palate.
Porn again: Hijackers take over a Web site created by Coney Island landowner Joe Sitt — and suddenly www.thefut
‘Park’ing problem: The price tag for Brooklyn Bridge Park skyrockets to almost $350 million from its original $150 million budget from 2002. Development officials are also forced to admit that their controversial source of revenue for maintenance — 800 units of luxury housing inside the park, plus a hotel, too — are off the table because of the downturn in the economy.
Big splash: Despite the downturn, city officials announce that they’ve lined up the cash to turn the defunct McCarren Park Pool back from a concert venue into a public pool. Mayor Bloomberg finally breaks ground on the $50-million restoration project in early December, and promises a finished product by 2012. We’ll be waiting.
Obama falls flat: Sixpoint Craft Ales, the Red Hook brewery whose “Hop Obama” ale may have at least swayed the drunken vote in favor of our new president, is ordered by federal agents to stop brewing on the grounds that the brew house didn’t have permission to use the then-candidate’s likeness.
A new Miss Brooklyn: Keelie Sheridan, the 22-year-old pride of Manhattan Beach, shot for the stars with an Irish jig, a last-minute tap routine and a smokin’ swimsuit contest before she is handed the tiara at the 2009 Miss Brooklyn contest. But unlike the previous year’s winner, the legendary Leigh-Taylor Smith, Sheridan is defeated at the Miss New York contest. Smith, of course, almost won Miss America.
RIP: Blogger Bob Guskind is discovered dead in his Park Slope home of an apparent drug overdose. The creator of the Gowanus Lounge Web site was an affable neighbor and a well-respected journalist.
Superfund me: The Toll Brothers’s controversial mixed-income housing project on the Gowanus Canal is discreetly approved by the Department of City Planning, but the project runs into a speed bump when the federal government shows up with a proposal to list the canal as a Superfund site. Now the Toll Brothers are waiting as the feds and city battle it out.
Big $ky: The highest-priced apartment in the tallest Brooklyn building goes on sale for a measly $6 million. The Manhattan-style luxury apartment at the “Clocktower Residences” has views on all sides of the city, and 3,000-square-foot terraces. But by the end of the year, $6 million seemed like a bargain, when DUMBO developer David Walentas puts his $25-million apartment at 1 Main St. on the market in October, giving way to competition and arguably one of our greatest headlines ever: “Clock tease!”
Rupert can’t resist: Brooklyn Paper Publisher Ed Weintrob announces that the (awesome) weekly he founded in 1978 has been sold to the Rupert Murdoch-led News Corporation and would relocate from DUMBO to Metrotech. Nine months later and we’re still going strong, as our September awards sweep in Chicago revealed.
Hairy situation: Steve “Leon” Lutz wins the borough’s Beard and Moustache Championship, despite the facial hair mogul’s recent run-in with fire days before the contest. That’s a true champion.
Arborcidal maniacs: It’s official! Last year’s salt-water-spewing public art project, “NYC Waterfalls,” did kill trees at the River Cafe, as we had reported last summer. Months later, cafe owner Buzzy O’Keeffe files a notice of claim against the city.
‘Dock’ing station: Opponents of David Walentas’s plan for an 18-story tower next to the Brooklyn Bridge trot out historian David McCullough, who calls for no buildings anywhere near the fabled span. Months later, of course, the City Council ignores the opponents — and evidence of city collusion with Walentas — and votes in favor of the plan.
Delays and delays: Officials from the Prospect Park YMCA tells us the long-sought Park Slope Armory will open in September, finally giving way to recreation-deprived children at nearby schools. Little do they know, but the center will be delayed two more times, and now it’s slated for a mid-January opening.
Homeless congregation: Members of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church allege that the Metropolitan New York Synod seized their place of worship. The heavenly battle is still being waged in civil court, and the governing body of the church in Boerum Hill finally speaks out this month against its opposition.
Au revoir: Patois, the pioneering Smith Street bistro, closes after 11 years in the business. When it opened, the strip’s gentrification began in earnest.
G whiz: While construction continues on the elevated portion of the F train, the G train is extended to Church Avenue. The new “Brooklyn Local” allows Park Slopers to go to Greenpoint without transferring. In an editorial, The Brooklyn Paper admonishes its readers to “use it or lose it,” because once the construction is completed, it is expected that the MTA will once again terminate the G at Smith-Ninth street — unless massive ridership can be documented.
Principal peeved: PS 20’s controversial principal allegedly assaults a teacher’s union representative, bringing an abrupt end to his allegedly rage-filled tenure. The union rep, who is also a kindergarten teacher, is reportedly on the receiving of kicks and punches from the allegedly loco headmaster, Sean Keaton, who lashes out during a meeting regarding, oh this is too perfect, discipline.
Gehry canned: Whatever your opinion about Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, most people liked architect Frank Gehry’s original, ambitious design. So there were howls when Ratner fires Gehry to supposedly save money. Opponents to the mega-project pile on after the announcement, saying that the scaled-down arena is proof of the developer’s financial instability. Later in the year, Ratner releases a new arena rendering that either looked like the future of American architecture or a George Foreman grill, depending on whom you asked. Ratner would end the year with a spate of good news, including a couple of big court wins, a deal with a Russian billionaire to buy 80 percent of his money-losing Nets, and a slam dunk sale of hundreds of millions in bonds that will pay for construction of the arena.
Weiner feast: Joey “Jaws” Chestnut smashes the world-record in the Coney Island hot-dog-eating contest, retaining the Mustard Yellow International Belt for the good ol’ U.S. of A for another year. Chestnut consumes a whopping 68 hot dogs and buns, compared to 64-1/2 by the weiner-eating legend from the land of the rising bun, Takeru Kobayashi. For his part, Kobayashi pledges to return stronger than ever for next year’s contest, though insiders say he’s cooked.
Meadows of shame: Lazy bums are leaving trash all over Prospect Park — but no one is worse than MIH Ventures, which holds its annual “Heatwave” event without giving any warning to park officials that they expected tens of thousands of revelers. Prospect Park initially says it will seek repayment from the event organizers, but eventually accepts an apology and a promise to volunteer in a future clean-up.
Dustup: Red Hook residents aren’t too welcoming when a company announces it will open a concrete plant next to the Ikea and across from a local farm. Locals say that the factory would release dust, but US Concrete saw the location as perfect given its proximity to the Battery Tunnel and the Gowanus Expressway.
Waterworld: It conjured images of a post-apocalyptic wasteland — a barge meant for life at sea, complete with a sustainable garden and chicken coop. The “Waterpod,” as it was known, is a statement about global warming, but creator Mary Mattingly wasn’t done there. She has begun construction on an “Air Ship, Air City,” a bizarre house built on top of a building Downtown. It also has chickens.
Rest in peace: The borough is wracked by the death of Ayveq’s son, Akituusaq, who succumbs to pneumonia at the New York Aquarium at age two. His dad, who became an international legend thanks to his habit of masturbating by slapping up against the tank glass inches away from stunned onlookers, had died a year earlier. Akituusaq, it turns out, was too young to follow in his father’s fins in that regard, giving his already grief-stricken mourners even more reason for sadness.
Never again: Our editor’s bike is stolen for the third time in 15 months, bringing in a new verb into common use: “to be gershed.”
Prospect Park wrest: Park Slope mommy Amy Sohn puts out a book about Park Slope mommies which makes her the toast of the Park Slope mommies — until the inevitable backlash from Park Slope mommies who resented her depiction of Park Slope mommies. The hysteria dies down a month later when Park Slope daddy Jonathan Safran Foer puts out a book decrying humanity’s consumption of animals for food, giving all the Park Slope mommies something else over which to obsess.
Vue to a kill: Is there any bigger news in the drinking community than the opening of the long-awaited rooftop bar at Hotel LeBleu on Fourth Avenue? But while fresh-air loving booze-hounds swill mojitos and cavort to a thumping disco beat, residents of all the new neighboring condos are up in arms.
Discomfited: The makers of Southern Comfort liqueur fail to live up to their name by sending a cease-and-desist letter to a bunch of Bay Ridge rockers called “The Southern Comfort Band.” Not to pick sides, but what else are you going to call a band that plays the Allman Brothers, the Outlaws and Lynryd Skynyrd? (Well, you won’t call them cutting-edge.)
Primary matters: Two free-for-all City Council elections in the heart of our coverage area end up not being particularly suspenseful after all: Brad Lander trounces four opponents in the Park Slope-Carroll Gardens district, while Stephen Levin, former chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez, beats six challengers. Both went on to win the general election two months later. (There’s a reason why the media always says that the Democratic primary is akin to election in New York City.)
Bigot they are: A group of anti-Semitic, anti-gay morons from a Kansas-based “church” pickets in front of supposedly godless Brooklyn institutions, including Brooklyn Technical HS (there are gays there!) and Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope and the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill (there are Jews there!). The picketers, holding signs that included “The Jews killed Jesus” and the inexplicable “Bitch Burger,” are able to make their point (what was it again?) without any recorded incidents of violence (darn. Well, you can’t win ’em all!).
We win: The Brooklyn Paper walks off with three more big awards at the Independent Free Papers of America conference in Chicago. In the ensuing celebration, Editor Gersh Kuntzman and Senior Editor Vince DiMiceli take the Vic Jose Award for General Excellence on a whirlwind tour of every bar on the Near North Side.
It’s the economy, stupid: A new report reveals that the borough has lost jobs and its unemployment rate is up. A week later, the owners of the Oro Condo announce a 25-percent price cut. Just a coincidence?
Bling fling: The chairman of Community Board 2 complains that the city failed to put enough sparkles in the new sidewalk on Fulton Mall. The city retorts that he should wait until enough people have walked on the sidewalk, when it will be suitably scuffed up.
Third timer: Mayor Bloomberg wins a third term — but not with any major help from Brooklyn, which handed challenger Bill Thompson 50 percent of the vote to Bloomberg’s 46. Borough President Markowitz romped to a third term with 85 percent of the vote.
Billion-dollar bash: State officials reveal that the new Kosciuszko Bridge will cost $1 billion, though Gov. Paterson grumbles that we probably don’t have the money to replace a bridge whose parts keep falling off.
Fresh man: Rep. Mike McMahon says he supports health care reform, yet votes against the House health care reform bill. He says he wants it cheaper and better. Look, we all do, but can we fix the country’s health care problems before our 21-year-old reporter qualifies for Medicare?
It’s all about us: The Brooklyn Paper celebrates its 30th anniversary — just in time for its 32nd anniversary (OK, so we’re not always punctual). The commemorative edition — the biggest in our history — quickly becomes a collector’s item all over Brooklyn.
Labor pains: State Department of Labor inspectors swoop down on 25 Park Slope restaurants, hitting their owners with fines and back pay for alleged wage violations. Ensuing coverage reveals that the Labor Department missed the elephant in the room: the vast majority of restaurant workers are here illegally.
He’s Backman: The Cyclones name former Met legend Wally Backman as this year’s manager, continuing a tradition of bringing in former Mets who then don’t win the championship. Maybe Backman will break the trend.
Hygiene crime: In what might be the crime of the year, a man steals Rogaine, Nicorette and Crest White Strips from the Target at Atlantic Terminal Mall. Cops were seeking a bald smoker with badly yellowed teeth.
Windows 10: Jazz songstress Norah Jones enrages some Cobble Hill neighbors with her plan to punch 10 windows into her windowless sidewall on Amity Street. Preservationists say the move will encourage other windowless wall owners to do the same. And you know how little encouragement those people need!
Bonds away: Bruce Ratner sells $511 million in tax-free bonds, putting him on decent enough financial footing to beginning construction on Atlantic Yards, his supposedly $4.9-billion arena, residential and office complex. Only the arena and one or two buildings are on the table right now, but the developer still says he’ll build the whole thing.