When the big crystal ball falls in Times Square, some of us make resolutions. Others make predictions. But we at Courier Life make lists of the people who we know will make headlines in the next 12 months. So without further ado, here are our 12 to watch in 2012!
#12: Andrew Ohanesian, artist
What do a bar, a walk-in refrigerator, and a jetway have in common?
They’ve all been in art exhibits by Bushwick’s most inventive artist, Andrew Ohanesian.
Ohanesian has built houses, hallways, and rooms inside art galleries to great acclaim — and to police consternation. For example, one exhibit, featuring a self-serve bar built inside a Wyckoff Avenue art space, caught the attention of the 83rd Precinct.
Look out for his spring exhibition, when Ohanesian will bring his prefabricated brand of trickery to Williamsburg’s most unusual gallery space, a former industrial boiler run by Pierogi Gallery called The Boiler Room.
Gallery directors who have worked with the installation genius say that his work pushes the boundaries between art and the physical realities of the everyday world.
“It’s a lot of work for Andrew,” said Famous Accountants’s Kevin Regan, who helped Ohanesian install a jetway from scratch inside his Gates Avenue studio. “I don’t know anybody else who does this kind of work with such a high level of production quality.”
It will be 10 long months before this Williamsburg author’s new novel hits bookshelves, but it’s worth the wait.
Prolific author and clerk at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint Jami Attenberg’s fourth book of fiction, “The Middlesteins,” follows a family living in a Chicago suburb and its overweight matriarch who is slowly eating herself to death.
It is not a comedy.
“But it is funny!” said Attenberg. “I tried to write it with compassion for all the characters — it’s sad, but it’s funny, too, and it’s very honest.”
But Attenberg’s not just a great novelist — she’s a journalist, short-story writer, magazine proprietor, book-slinger, entertaining reader, and all-around talent. So make sure to keep a close eye on this one.
She’s helmed the 1.3-mile greenspace since 2007, but in early 2012 she’ll be making one of her biggest and most controversial decisions: selecting a developer for a hotel and luxury condo complex at Pier 1 — changing the $350-million waterfront park forever — and the pressure is on.
Community members have long railed against her corporation — especially in 2011 — over a lack of transparency in park decisions, for allegedly scuttling plans for a year-round sports bubble on Pier 5 after it failed to attract developers, and for insisting that high-rises inside the park are the only way to fund its massive $16-million annual upkeep.
Indeed, the park is required by the city and state to bankroll its own budget so it won’t drain public coffers; instead, it will collect millions in property taxes from new development within its footprint. Watchdogs can only wait and see what luxury colossus will shadow the public park, and whether the tight-lipped corporation will seek another contractor for the much-ballyhooed winter recreation center. Maybe the private schools will come to its rescue after all.
2012’s the year that the crown prince of DUMBO development will be checking into Williamsburg — for an extended stay.
This spring, Two Trees Vice President Jed Walentas plans to open a 72-room boutique hotel, The Wythe, on N. 11th Street.
“We’ve never done this before, and it’s a bit of a risk,” Walentas told us in November.
But if Walentas’s ability to rejuvenate a neighborhood from the ground up — see DUMBO — is any indication, we’re sure the risk will pay off for this “starchitect,” and Williamsburg community leaders say The Wythe represents a “new milestone,” because of the caliber of construction.
“This seems like the first piece of upscale real estate that we’ve really seen,” said Community Board 1 Land Use Chairwoman Heather Roslund.
The hotel will contain a spacious rooftop bar with Manhattan skyline views and a restaurant managed by the man behind neighborhood stalwarts Diner and Marlow & Sons — meaning that the new building won’t just cater to out-of-towners.
We’ll be making a reservation there soon.
During last year’s “11 to watch in 2011,” we told everyone to look out for the upcoming Gateway II shopping center — because that’s where Brooklyn’s first Walmart was expected to open.
Now, we’re telling everyone to keep an eye out for their own street corner: the Bentonville Behemoth can now open almost anywhere, thanks to the company’s new, slimmed-down Walmart Express stores, which are about the same size as a large Key Food or PathMark — so wherever they can go, a Walmart could go.
Walmart won’t say where it’s going, but it definitely has Brooklyn in mind; the company’s been throwing its cash around all year, showering several southern Brooklyn non-profit organizations with donations.
Walmart also joined the fight to clean up Jamaica Bay, which is less than a mile from where Gateway II will be built — so keep your eyes peeled!
The original pizzaiolo behind Grimaldi’s is back, and he’s fanning the flames of a full-fledged pizza war under the Brooklyn Bridge.
The 80-year-old pizza king will emerge from retirement in 2012 to resurrect his old parlor on Old Fulton Street — with his legendary coal-fired oven intact — more than a decade after he sold Grimaldi’s to Frank Ciolli.
Grimaldi seized the opportunity after his old landlord refused to re-sign Ciolli’s lease — Ciolli fell behind on rent and city taxes — and then invited Grimaldi for a comeback.
But the pizza war is still on: Ciolli moved next door to a flashier 1 Front St. on Dec. 17, and promises to bring the same block-long lines of tourists waiting for a chewy, hyped-up slice.
Changes are coming to Coney Island in 2012, but at least the Boardwalk will have some familiar faces. Jimmy Kokotas, the owner of the legendary Prospect Heights eatery Tom’s Restaurant, will open an egg cream-and-burger outpost on the Boardwalk in April, joining a select group of Brooklyn-born businesses on the iconic seaside walkway.
The 75-year-old diner’s Coney outpost will replace Cha Cha’s Bar, one of five old-school Boardwalk shops that were evicted in November by Central Amusement International, the company that runs Luna Park and was tapped by the city to turn the People’s Playground into a glitzy, year-round destination.
In order to compete with Nathan’s Famous, Kokotas’s new diner will have to appeal to tourists and Coney’s faithful, who’ll be watching his first season closely to see if he has what it takes to make it on the Boardwalk.
Former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz wants to extend her controversial charter school empire into three Brooklyn neighborhoods in 2012. Her plan to open the high-performing Success Charter Network schools — which take up space in public school buildings — irks some parents and thrills others. Critics say students at space-crunched public schools — in Cobble Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg — shouldn’t have to compete for facilities such as gyms and cafeterias with charter school kids, who are chosen via lottery.
Supporters are simply happy to get more good education options for free. A battle about privatized education lies at the core of the debate — and so does the future of the city’s public school system. Moskowitz herself is highly paid, politically connected, and has aspirations to become mayor — and she has now set her sights set on kid-centric Brooklyn neighborhoods, where we’ll undoubtedly see the conflict unfold in 2012.
The Occupy Wall Street movement came on strong at the tail end of 2011 — but it looks like the protest might make its way across the West River in 2012.
With the protest’s symbolic home, Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, long evacuated, the movement’s center of power has spread to the boroughs — particularly our own — and organizers say big things are on the rise this year.
There are now satellite groups working in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Red Hook and East New York, and there have been rumblings about protestors physically occupying particular abandoned buildings on the Williamsburg waterfront — and that’s just their winter plans.
“One reason for the short term occupations now is to get ready for the spring,” said Corey, an organizer working with the nascent Occupy movement in Williamsburg. “That’s what we’re all building to. People are really excited for March 2012 — there are going to be many occupations like Zuccotti around the city.”
As the winter sets in, look out for “occupiers” huddling in the corners of Brooklyn’s public spaces — it might just be the movement’s next hot spot.
She’s been in the public eye since joining the group nearly 10 years ago — but 2011 was the year that put her on the map as the face of a post-Sept. 11 Muslim America. The Brooklynite, whose parents come from Palestine, has had a whirlwind year, with dozens of TV appearances, a community service award from President Obama and high-profile stances on everything from the www.google
“Watch out for us [in] 2012,” she said. “I am going to focus all my efforts on local politics, creating a local platform for issues for our community.”
The veteran councilman is the leading Democratic candidate to replace disgraced former state Senator Carl Kruger this year. Fidler’s been eyeing the seat — which covers a swath of neighborhoods from Brighton Beach to Bergen Beach, and overlaps with his district – since Kruger was indicted in March. Today, Fidler has more than $300,000 on hand for the race.
Fidler is a popular figure in the area he’s represented since 2002, but must give up his council seat at the end of next year due to term limits. Political insiders say it’s his race to lose, but Republicans believe the heavily blue-leaning district is in play since Rep. Bob Turner (R–Sheepshead Bay) won a surprise victory there in 2010 after Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned in disgrace during a sexting scandal.
Now that Kruger has pled guilty to corruption charges, look for Fidler to announce his candidacy very soon, and spend the next few months campaigning against Republican attorney David Storobin, his likely opponent. Gov. Cuomo is expected to call a special election to fill the vacant seat sometime in March.
Call ‘em the Brooklyn Nets — finally.
The soon-to-be-renamed New Jersey Nets are moving to the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights this fall after years of hold-ups from opponents of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project, which includes the arena and 16 planned residential buildings.
The $1-billion Barclays Center rising on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is scheduled to open in late September, with a series of highly anticipated concerts by Nets part-owner and rap mogul Jay-Z — there’s no doubt that the Marcy Houses native’s shows will fill the 19,000-seat arena. Whether or not the Nets can do the same is anyone’s guess.
Expect old-school Brooklynites who mourned the departure of the Boys of Summer in 1957 — as well as younger ones who’ve never heard of Dodger greats like Pee Wee Reese or Gil Hodges — to flock to the Barclays Center to watch the borough’s first professional sports team in two generations. But this enthusiasm might wear thin pretty quickly if the team can’t compete with its hated arch-rivals, the Manhattan Knicks.