18% of Kindergarteners at PS 107 Brooklyn Will Be Twins?!

One of the lucky ones accepted to PS 107 kindergarten

UPDATE:(see below)

Everyone in Park Slope is freaking out about the kindergarten waiting list fiasco. The NY Times says that nearly 1000 more students were wait-listed this year than last year.

But the part of the NY Times story that amazed me was this quote, “(PS 107 principal) Cynthia Holton, said that among the 100 kindergarten applicants who have been accepted are nine sets of twins.”

18% of 2011 PS 107 kindergarten class will be twins!!

Either there is Clomid in the South Slope’s water supply, or Brooklyn fertility docs were working overtime in 2006.

UPDATE: NY Times City Room must have read my post, but the 18% of the entering class didn’t catch their eye in their original story.

Brooklyn Brood at Brooklyn Bowl

I would never call myself an athlete, but I have played in organized football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse; and I’m not exactly an extreme sports enthusiast, but I’ve gone rock climbing, skiing, and mountain biking.  Which is why it surprises me that I received a wound that will surely be my biggest scar this weekend… while bowling!

We went to Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday, the rock club cum bowling alley is open to all ages noon to 6 on weekends.  And while it isn’t necessarily “child friendly,” I found it to be a great place to take my my 3 1/2 year old son.  With bumper bowing, children’s movies on the TVs, and a very friendly staff, on top of excellent food by Blue Ribbon and a full bar, it makes for a nice afternoon.  Don’t expect to find changing tables or high chairs; this is a Williamsburg rock club after all, not Chuck E Cheese.  But the menu has plenty to offer the discriminating toddler, including excellent fried chicken, and stellar mac and cheese.  In addition to the very comfortable couches and tables behind the lanes, there are picnic tables and a wide open space for kids to run around, while that night’s band loads in on the adjacent stage.  My only complaint would be the price, $25/half-hour per lane adds up fast, especially when your child’s bowling ball takes over a minute to finally make it to the pins.

I think some of the fried chicken may have gotten on the soles of my shoes, because after eating between the 8th and 9th frames, I completely fell on my face forward on my delivery, with my knee breaking my fall.  I threw a gutter ball, then unbelievably I picked up the spare.  I them inspected my throbbing knee, and saw the skin had been pulled away from a two inch square on my knee.  A small price to pay for a lovely afternoon, and to see Nate have this much fun:

The Best Playground in NYC: Pier 6

You think this is dangerous...

Pier 6 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park is probably the best playground in New York City, and is the best city project since the High Line!

We finally visited the playground this past weekend. I was reluctant to buy into the hype, as I was sorely disappointed by the playground at Pier 1 (aka the scalding spheres of doom!) But I was blown away by the scale and design of the Pier 6 playground. Nate made a beeline to “slide mountain” and the giant Tee-Pee slide, which reminded me of the rocket jungle gym I used to play at as a kid, (it was later deemed a huge risk to children.) The biggest problem I see with it is kids climbing up, and then afraid to go down the slide, and it is tight quarters for an adult to rescue a tyke. Nate scrambled up to the top like sherpa and after a little trepidation went down the slide, and loved it. It was only after I saw the sign “ages 5-9.” Nate will be 3 in August. There is also a long mountain slide and a crazy rope jungle gym.

now THIS was a dangerous slide from MY childhood!

The”The Water Lab” was next, which is a boulder strewn winding stream with sprinklers, sluice, and an Archimedes’ screw. It really is a small water park with a Myst-like quality. Really beautiful with lots of things for kids to play with, and lots of spots for parent to sit just far enough away not to get wet.

We hit “Sandbox Village” next, which claims “may well be the largest park sandbox in Brooklyn, if not New York City.” I might not be the biggest anymore, as we took a lot of the sand home with us sticking to Nate (I don’t recommend going to the sandbox after the water lab.) We were a little tired to take advantage of “Swing Valley” but it looked awesome as well, (although the name sounds a little too much like a sitcom about ’70’s wifeswapping.)

The response to the Pier 6 PG has been overwhelmingly positive, but that didn’t stop some people from complaining. Some object that the playground is for children only, while New York State Assembly candidate Doug Biviano thinks the playground is dangerous, and wants to round all the corners and edges (but probably just wants any attention for his campaign.)

My Tips:

Go early, as this place gets packed by noon on weekends

Watch the street crossing at Atlantic and the BQE (that crossing can be pretty hairy)

Bring swimwear for the kids (if you don’t let them in the water park they will go ballistic)

Don’t be paranoid about your DS or DD hurting themselves.  A child could just as easily get a skinned knee on the sidewalk running to get in the park as they could on one of the Biv’s ominous boulders.

This playground really is incredible, and with the current economy, I don’t think we’ll see anything like it for years. So enjoy now before they run out of money to keep it up, or some over-protective nervous nellies ruin it.

New York Times Discovers Babies in Brooklyn!

NEWS FLASH! "Families are moving to Brooklyn!"

How is this a story in the “paper of record”?

The NY Times article “An Apartment Building Where Babies Reign” talks about a building in Brooklyn where four of the six new buyers had babies when they closed on their apartments.   I assumed there would be some interesting sub-context or a twist in the article. Maybe the area has great public elementary school (it has two, PS 146 and PS 129) or that the neighborhood, along with Park Slope,  has grown into a magnet for families in recent years (it has), or at least say that the building owner had a fetish for pregnant ladies or something (I can’t confirm that one).  But no, the best we get from nearly a thousand words in the New York Times is, that’s a lot of diapers. Couldn’t they have at least said that the building was built on the remains of an ancient Indian playground?  Throw me a friggin’ bone here, other than stating the obvious, there are a lot of babies in Brooklyn!

News flash, a lot of new parents are moving to the 718! In other news “Traffic Terrible at Rush Hour” and “New Study Finds People Think Weekends Go By Too Fast.”  This is not a news story.

(Hat-tip to Juliet.)

I Won’t Miss the Double D Pool

UPDATE 8/9/2010:
Since the pool was “saved” we were able to take a dip this past weekend.  It is a nice pool, and it is not too crowded, but my initial assessment still stands, it is a dicey area.  We go there 20 minutes before the pool opens at 11AM, so we decided to kill some time at the playground next door.  There were no children at the playground but there were two gentlemen sleeping on benches, and a third standing nervously in the corner.  I couldn’t determine if he was waiting for his “business” day to start or end. And this was all in a PLAYGROUND!

None-the-less, nice pool, crummy neighborhood.

(ORIGINAL POST 6/10/2010)

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’m not so upset about the Douglas and DeGraw pool in Gowanus closing. My wife loves the pool, as it has a 1′ deep wading pool that the nearby Red Hook pool does not. And a lot of locals were bummed when the city said it would not re-open the pool this summer due to budget concerns. A number of people have even started campaigning to keep the pool open. But I’ve never been the NIMBY sort, and if a pool has to go, I really think it should be the D & D.

I don’t object to the Draconian measures required to enter the pool (must have swimsuit, towel, nothing else is permitted) or the fact that there is not a lick of shade or that it is located 300 feet from one of the most polluted and contaminated waterways on the eastern seaboard.

I’ll be honest, going to the pool with my wife and son, we walked by a prostitute on the corner of Douglas and Nevins.  Perhaps, she was actually a lovely lady, who just happened to be dressed… how can I put this as politely as possible…skankily, and she was merely looking for pleasant conversation with gentlemen in their cars.  But I stand by my initial prostitute assessment.

Granted, I have not seen any tricking in subsequent visits, but it always left me a little uneasy.  It is a nice pool, but the industrial neighborhood west of the pool does have an unsavory under-belly.  I did not get this impression from some of the other city pools I’ve been to.  Red Hook is usually crowded, but very wholesome, and the Astoria Pool is really breathtaking, and if you haven’t seen the mini Vesuvio Playground pool on Thompson Street in Manhattan, check it out, its adorable.

I wish the city didn’t have to close any pools (or firehouses or libraries.) But one of the main draws of the Double D is that it isn’t as crowded as other pools, and maybe there is a reason for that.

Return to the Gowanus Canal

Super Fun Super FundJust felt compelled to say something about the Superfund status recently given to the Gowanus canal.

Everyone agrees that the canal needs to cleaned up. But here has been a lot of debate as to who should do it.  The EPA is now saying they will take the reins, sue the people responisble for the pollution, and clean the canal in 12 years.

Mayor Bloomberg thinks the city could have cleaned up he canal more quickly by getting polluters and developers to voluntarily contribute to the clean up.

Mike, really? C’mon!  Toll Brothers wanted to start building right away, toxic waste dump or not.  Developers don’t care about the consequences. Build, sell, move on.  That’s the developer creedo!  The canal has been an industrial dumping ground for over 100 years. It will take at least a dozen years to clean regardless who is doing it.

Really, Mike?

I mean, really?!?

I feel bad for the residents who are upset because of the stigma and loss in property value that comes with a Superfund brand.  But trust me, that stigma would be a lot worse if it wasn’t cleaned up, and people started developing cancer and high rates of birth defects.

But we really should look at what’s important, and that isn’t property values, or how long its going to take.  What is important is knowing the risks of living on a toxic dump.  And the thing that really scares me isn’t the mercuryleadPCBs, that they already now is there, but god knows what else is buried in the muck that they don’t know about.

Having the feds decontaminate the canal isn’t ideal (the government is never swift), but they do have a decent track record for cleaning up some of the worst hazardous waste sites. And at least they are not on some real estate developers pay roll (as far as I know.)

Did Karl Marx Really Like Organic Lacinato Kale?

“He who does not work, neither shall he eat” – Vladimir Lenin

Let me preface this by saying that I believe in sustainable agriculture. I love Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. I am a foodie progressive. But how come Marxism has become so tied to healthy food in Park Slope? I love fresh insecticide free fruits and vegetables, but do I have to sign-on for The Great Leap Forward to get them? The most popular organic food options in Park Slope require you to make a financial and/or labor commitment.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the communal/coop system of shared responsibility, and in an ideal world it makes perfect sense. But I live in a world that requires most of my time be devoted to my job, and what little I have left goes to my family. So call me bourgeoisie if I do a little research to get the best bang-for-my-buck (and back) before I march to forced labor to get non-poisoned food.

PARK SLOPE FOOD COOP /PARK SLOPE CSA / URBAN ORGANIC

Park Slope Food Coop

When most people think about organic food in Brooklyn they usually think the Park Slope Food Coop. It really is a remarkable organization in their size and longevity. The Park Slope Food Coop, was founded in 1973 by a small group of neighbors who wanted to make healthy, affordable food available to everyone who wanted it, and are now the largest active food co-ops in the United States. They have over 15,000 members who run most day to day operations and the coop carries a wide selection of produce and groceries.

Only members can shop at the coop.

The Park Slope Food co-op requires a $25 membership fee, and a $100 “investment” for each adult.

And each adult is required to work 2 hours and 45 minutes once every four weeks.

So in order to save “20 – 40%” on groceries, my family will need for fork over $250, and work 71.5 a year. Even if you value your time at minimum wage, that’s $768 the first year. (It makes Costco’s $50 membership seem like deal, and the Coop doesn’t even sell caskets.)

So I’ll have to spend over $2500 a year at the Food Coop to make it worthwhile financially, for an overcrowded supermarket, that has no parking, doesn’t deliver, and often gets its politics too involved in its food. Of course you can’t put a price tag on the feeling of your own self regard, (or the weird sense you might be in a cult.)

I know some members will say that is harsh. But harsh is the Coop’s double makeup policy, which says if you miss a work shift, you now owe two shifts. This sounds a lot like predatory credit card practices at the worst, or a lot like “The company store” at the least.

You load sixteen tons of organic onions, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt

Park Slope CSA

Another option is the local CSA, community supported agriculture. CSAs consists of a group who agree to support a farm operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. At The Park Slope CSA, founded in 2000, you buy a share in the farm, and starting in June, you get 22 weeks of produce. You can’t get fresher food, a wide variety of fruits and veggies, and a lot of it, from June into November. There is also an option to buy flowers, eggs and other goods.

$644 gets you 22 weeks of vegies (20 weeks of fruit.) Membership for the 22 week season requires 5 hours of work (37 bucks at minimum wage) plus a $25 membership fee. So that’s $706 bucks you fork over for 8 1/2 pounds of veggies plus fruit a week. For argument sake that would run $1680 if you wanted produce for a year (which you cant have, damn that Northeastern winter!)

So that will only satisfy your organic jones for less than half a year, and you have to pick up your share either tuesday or Thursday afternoon (also no parking, no delivery) and you are at the whim of Farmer Ted and the weather . If there’s a late spring frost upstate, don’t count on those strawberries, and if there is a bumper crop of collard greens, better stock up on your Paula Deen recipes and ham hocks, you’ll be seeing them all until November.

Urban Organic
Urban Organic is a home delivery service of organic produce based in Park Slope, and has been around for over 10 years. They buy bulk produce, groceries and dairy organic farmers’ cooperatives, distributors and individual farmers.  All of our produce is Certified Organic.  You can also purchase organic dairy products and some other organic groceries.

In addition to a one time $25 membership fee, $34.99 gets you 15-18 items organic fruits and vegetables, (1-3 pieces of each item) a week, delivered to your home. You don’t get to pick exactly what you want, but they post online what the next box will have, and you can make limited substitutions, say you don’t like collard greens. (They also have smaller, $24.99, and larger $44.99 boxes.) $1845 a year for the standard box.

Mind you, this is not for your locavores, its all organic, but a lot of it is from the major agribusinesses, and often shipped from thousands of miles away, especially in late fall and winter.

Other Options…

In Brooklyn there are a lot of options to get organic produce, in addition to the growing organic sections in local supermarkets, there are several farmers markets that have loads of organic produce (although don’t be fooled, just because it grown locally, doesn’t mean its organic), Fairway and Trader Joe’s have decent organic sections, Fresh Direct has a decent and growing organic selection, and while the Whole Foods in Gowanus may be on hold, the Bowery Whole Foods store in Manhattan does deliver to much of Brooklyn.

Many these options have been deemed as being too expensive, but once you factor in the hidden costs of the coop and CSAs, and the fact that I don’t need to spend every 4th Saturday afternoon stocking shelves, they don’t seem so bad.  (And as an added bonus my dad will stop calling me a pinko.)

This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!

<span How did I get here?
In the back of my head, I always thought I'd be a father someday…the key word is someday.  But in the meantime I was just going to enjoy life. And being an indie J.A. in New York, there is a lot to enjoy.  As I was floating through my existence, I woke wand realized I now had a beautiful wife, 2 beautiful cats, an beautiful son, and a beautiful home.  It was very anti-kafkaesque, I was the same, but everything else was different, and better. More Frank Capra than Franz Kafka. In any event, raising a brood in Brooklyn has been a trip.  Turns out I really really like being a dad and a husband, a lot more than I i liked being a hipster doofus, and I'd like to share my discoveries and observations, and get yours.
My entourage then…  and now!