Need Art? Call The Mural Kings

Bio, an artist from the Bronx, is one of five graffiti gurus who make up Tat’s Cru, Inc., or Top Artistic Talents, a company of street artists-turned-professional muralists. Known as “The Mural Kings,” these innovators of urban advertising have been (literally) breaking the rules of the art and design world for the last two decades.

Tat’s Cru tackles projects large and small, from being called upon to cover the wall of a five-story building in Poland to painting custom canvases for New Yorkers. Their work, which includes promotional campaigns, company vehicles and custom murals, banners and canvases, can be seen in urban landscapes across the globe.

Bio recently shed light on the origins of Tat’s Cru and his creative process while designing a custom piece at the company’s office in Hunts Point:

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Carroll Gardens’ Historic District Dilemmnas

Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens stands at a crossroads for preservation. The neighborhood houses a historic district that encompasses two complete blocks, but some residents want a bigger one. Others would prefer not to expand that one or designate a new one at all.

The original historic district was designated on Sept. 25, 1973. Protected structures include brownstones and some of the neighborhood’s unique front gardens, set back from the street about 30 feet.

Since then, interest in expanding the district has been a frequent reoccurring community discussion. The development boom of the last decade brought the issue to the forefront.

Some residents feel they must protect the area from impending changes that might mar the area’s unique qualities. Others maintain that they may do whatever they wish with their property.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, and John Hatheway of John Hatheway Architects were able to speak on the situation.

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Books, Bands, and Burlesque Dancing

Catherynne M. Valente read from her new novel, The Habitation of the Blessed, at the basements floor of Brooklyn’s WORD Bookstore. But what was unique about this event – even for the author – was that it incorporated dancing and music throughout her reading.

Valente has organized multimedia events before, using music and dancing alongside reading her work, but never all three at the same time. By mixing burlesque and belly dancing with band music and the spoken word, she not only wanted showcase different artists but introduce people to a new way of experiencing literature.

For this reading, Valente worked with the band Brian Francis Slattery and the West Constantinople Squeezebox All-Stars as well as dancers: Jezebel Wood, Mary Cyn and Katie Lennon.

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Brooklyn’s Last Volunteer Fire Fighters Strengthen Community

Take the Coney Island bound Q subway line to Kings Highway, transfer to the B31 bus and eventually you will arrive in the small and isolated beach community of Gerritsen Beach. In the heart of this community exists the last volunteer fire department in Brooklyn, a proud institution revered by its entire neighborhood.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has been protecting the lives and property of New York City residents for over 100 years. However, before the country’s largest paid fire department was first established in 1865, the city relied on volunteer fire companies to protect neighborhoods from life-altering emergencies.

Today, three quarters of the nation’s fire departments are volunteer departments. Volunteer fire companies save local governments millions of dollars yearly in labor costs. The National Fire Protection Association reports that as of 2008, 72% of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.

In NYC, there are nine remaining volunteer fire departments that can be found on the outskirts of the city where accessibility is limited by the FDNY. Volunteer firefighters call themselves vollies, and the vollies of Gerritsen Beach display a strong sense of community that has safeguarded the town since the department’s opening in 1922.

Doreen Garson, the current Assistant Fire Chief of the Gerritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department, has been a vollie for 24 years. She says, for her, volunteering is about giving back to her community.

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Copts Rally For Peace At United Nations

Police shot dead two young Coptic men and arrested 156 Copts who were protesting for the right to build a new church in Giza, Egypt on November 24.

As a result, the Coptic Orthodox community is pressing the Egyptian government to release the arrested Christian men and women and give Copts equal rights and treatment across Egypt.

The Copts’ argument is not without merit. The U.S. State Department’s annual religious freedom report stated that although Egypt’s Constitution recognizes non-Muslim religions, Christians still “face personal and collective discrimination, especially in government employment and their ability to build, renovate, and repair places of worship.”

In order to escape this discrimination, many have emigrated to the U.S. Since 1976, the Coptic community has gone from having 14 churches and 40,000 members to 100 churches and 300,000 in 2000, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.

As turmoil continues in Egypt, Michele Dunne, a scholar for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department official specializing in Egypt, said the government is likely to continue its approach: deny the problems and downplay any sectarian violence as isolated incidents.

“There’s not any real effort to prevent or punish discrimination. The government is not proactive. They don’t want to address these issues. There’s a lot of denial about it,” Dunne said.

To address these issues, hundreds of Copts participated in a peace rally at the United Nations on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

Fr. Anthony Hanna flew all the way from San Francisco, Calif. to join.

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Post Re-do – Queen of All Saints

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Three-Quarters Homeless: A Rally Against Transitional Houses in Brooklyn

Tenants and community activists joined together in front of 42 and 44 Christopher Avenue in Brownsville, the site of two “three-quarter houses.”

These houses present themselves as transitional program housing for the formerly homeless, recovering addicts and formerly incarcerated people. But, according to a report by the Coalition for the Homeless and the work of the Three Quarter House Project, many of them don’t offer programs at all.

Tanya Kessler is the lawyer for the Three Quarter House Project, and she represents tenants of these houses in court. On Monday, she filed a class action lawsuit against Yury Baumblit, the owner of the company that manages the houses on Christopher Avenue.

Tenants there complain that they are being illegally evicted, and now only five tenants remain in the buildings. Two weeks ago, there were over 30.

Kessler charges that Baumblit, who was indicted in 2009 on unrelated charges of insurance fraud, wants to kick people out to get new tenants in with new security deposits. The community organizer for the project, Raquel Namuche, charges that these landlords are “taking advantage of extremely vulnerable tenants.”

Below, listen to the sounds of the rally and hear the perspectives of both the tenants of the houses on Christopher Avenue and Ms. Kessler.

Tenants gear up for the protest by practicing with Raquel Namuche, the organizer for the Three Quarter House Project, the five-foot 25-year-old whose voice manages to carry even without a bullhorn.
The Rally Practice by nidanajar

Jerome David, one of the most active tenants with the Three-Quarter House Project, has experienced harassment at the hands of management since he moved in to 44 Christopher Avenue nine months ago.
Jerome David Interview by nidanajar

Barry Winstead lives in 44 Christopher with Jerome David. He elaborates on why it’s so hard to live in three-quarter housing.
Barry Winstead by nidanajar

Tanya Kessler is the lawyer for the Three Quarter House Project. She filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of Jerome David and Barry Winstead against Yury Baumblit and Company in Kings County Supreme Court.
Tanya Kessler by nidanajar

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NYC’s Newest Mobile Billboards

From Times Square’s bright lights illuminating massive billboards, to advertisements on taxicabs, buses and subways, New York City’s canvas has long been plastered with colorful money-making propaganda.  Just when every empty lamp post and brick wall seemed filled to capacity with posters and flyers, a new form of advertising appeared – bike billboards.

In recent months, My Ads On Bikes street advertising has rolled out bicycle caravans all over Manhatttan, advertising for companies wishing to deliver their messages in places, as their company slogan suggests, “where no TV, newspaper or billboard can go.”

The company promises a fully custom brand presentation on mini-billboards where users – depending on their campaign – can choose between men and women riders, and even customize the cyclist’s uniforms. Similar companies such as Traffic Display and Main Street Pedicabs have been serving as marketing street-teams for a variety of businesses across the country.

Company Bicyclists stopping for a break near Union Square

Seen as eco-friendly and cost-effective, My Ads On Bikes’ ingenuity lies in the maximum exposure the company gives to its customer’s billboards.  In a borough with over a million people roaming the streets on a daily basis, the company monitors daily traffic totals in Manhattan to ensure their client’s ads are seen in densley populated areas.

Click to find out totals for the top four heaviest populated areas in Manhattan during the day:


Ad-bikes in NYC have advertised for real-estate companies, gobernatorial candidates and caused minor controversy advertising for the MTA.

Finding the job through Craigslist, Shea Cote has been working as a cyclist for the company since November. So far, he does not seem to mind hauling the billboards-on-wheels for eight hours-a-day.

Shea Cote on My Ads on Bikes by elisestrada

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Is Spider-Man the Musical Up for a Windfall?

As Julie Taymor’s screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempests receives unflattering reviews from the USA Today and Rolling Stone, her other project, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, continues to be in the news despite not having opened yet.

For the past two months there have been negative reports about technical problems, a cast injury and forecast economic problems.

It’s a strange turn given that four months ago some major reviewers and the public, after Reeve Carney (Spider-man) performance in GMA, seemed to look forward to the debut after some skepticism with its high-budget and subject matter.

Then the preview was postponed from Nov. 14 to 28 and it’s been one thing after another:

  1. The two-hour performance became a three hours mess with the show stopping several times to fix a technical difficulty.
  2. Natalie Mendoza (Arachne) suffered a concussion after being struck by a rope while standing off stage during the preview.
  3. Economix blog pointed out that it would take “4 years before the show even begins to make up its initial investment”. And that’s if it can sell over 90 percent of the seats each week.

However, a few Broadway fan reviews suggest that the some audience members found the play entertaining despite its kinks.

And Reuters pointed out, Spider-man musical might still make billions as a global franchise like Taymor’s the Lion King. And with a well-known brand like Spider-man already established, it might just.

But what are you’re thoughts:

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Saint Lucy – Saint Patrick – A Reason to Believe

Along with 177 Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens, two of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s largest churches just emerged from a year of financial scrutiny. Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio launched an initiative to shore up the stability of Catholic churches and decrease a deficit, he stated, that they can no longer afford.

Queen of All Saints Church at 300 Washington Avenue will remain open on a tight budget according to its pastor, Rev. Joseph A. Ceriello. Saint Lucy-Saint Patrick at 285 Willoughby, will merge with Mary of Nazareth Church on Adelphi street because of low attendance and budgetary reasons, according to the, Rev. Kieran E. Harrington, diocese Vicar of Communications. The site will remain open, but the administration of Mary of Nazareth Church will determine its activity and direction and whether mass will be held there regularly.

Several parishioners at Saint Lucy-Saint Patrick church said tough times in their church are burdened by tough times in the economy. One African-American father, who preferred not to give his name, lived in Clinton Hill for 46 years and said he used to donate five to seven hundred dollars a year to the church but now can barely give half of that amount.

“The economy, it’s affecting everyone,” he said. “We can’t be expected to give our last dollar to the church when we have to help our families survive.”

While the bishop’s initiative examined the budgets of these two area churches, this soundslide concentrates on Saint Lucy – Saint Patrick, a church built on fundraisers and small donations and that sits in a neighborhood of constant ethnic change.

This story has been published at

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