Junior’s Birthday Cake

November 3, 2015

There I was, minding my own business in Downtown Brooklyn, when I was approached by a member of the NYPD.

“Hey!,” yelled the cop.

“Yes?”

“Do you like cheesecake?”

“Huh?”

“DO YOU LIKE CHEESECAKE?”

Despite momentarily wondering whether “cheesecake” might be a code word for some type of illegal activity, I admitted that I did, in fact, like cheesecake.

With that, the officer told me that to celebrate its 65th birthday, today Junior’s restaurant was selling cheesecake for 65 cents a slice.

To Brooklynites, there is no question about where Junior’s is located, what it serves or why a 65 cent slice of their cheesecake is worthy of a proclamation.

Junior’s restaurant was founded by Harry Rosen on the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue on November 3, 1950. Rosen said that if his was going to be a great restaurant, he had to have a great cheesecake. He and his pastry chef began tinkering with formulas for the rich sweet until they found what they considered to be the perfect recipe. The pubic agreed and Junior’s cheesecakes have gone on to worldwide acclaim.

Junior’s is now in the hands of third-generation owner Alan Rosen. The little corner restaurant with the scrumptious dessert has become a local landmark. There are branches in Manhattan at Grand Central and Times Square and a location within the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. There is a mail order business (said to sell over one million cakes per year), several cookbooks and scores of awards naming theirs the best cheesecake in the city. And a single wedge of Junior’s classic cheesecake sells for $6.95.

To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the restaurant announced that it was selling slices of its famous original New York plain cheesecake for just 65 cents—one per customer—only at the original Brooklyn location on Tuesday.

The line began forming before the sun rose. Celebratory signs and balloons were fastened to the restaurant’s famed orange exterior, crowd control barriers erected, security guards posted at the front door, a squadron of police officers stationed at the curb. Behind closed doors, thousands of cheesecakes were baked, sliced, packaged and bagged for the waiting crowd.

By the time doors opened at 6:30 a.m., the queue stretched down the block and around the corner. Some passersby called out that people had to be crazy to stand outside like that “just for a piece of cheesecake.” But they were wrong. It wasn’t “just cheesecake”—it was Junior’s.

Untitled
The crowd waits

Untitled
The deal

Untitled
One slice per customer

Untitled
Security guard keeps order

Untitled
The hard working countermen

cheesecake
The cake

Welcome to Junior’s! Remembering Brooklyn With Recipes and Memories from Its Favorite Restaurant
Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook
Junior’s Dessert Cookbook
Junior’s Home Cooking
Junior’s Restaurant
Brooklyn Eagle: Junior’s fans come in droves with loose change
NY Daily News: Slices of famous cheesecake for 65 cents
PIX11: Junior’s Cheesecake celebrates 65th anniversary
Foxwoods Casino


Halloween in the Heights

October 31, 2015

While their fellow New Yorkers complain about how the city is being destroyed by greedy developers, the residents of Brooklyn Heights bite their tongues. That’s because little has changed in the neighborhood in decades.

In 1965, the newly created New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Brooklyn Heights as city’s first historic district. Later that year the neighborhood was also named a National Historic Landmark and the following year, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

All of that governmental recognition and legal protection mean that Brooklyn Heights essentially looks the same today as it did 50 years ago—a mixture of brick homes, brownstones, grand mansions, and wooden houses (some dating back to the Civil War), punctuated with century-old shops and churches.

The area is beautiful at any time, but it takes on a special appeal when decorated for Halloween. These are streets where young trick-or-treaters still troop from door to door, and few homeowners neglect adding at least a touch of seasonal color to their stoops and thresholds.

Untitled
Pumpkins and cobwebs

Untitled
Skeleton and pumpkins

Untitled
Dried corn

Untitled
Tombstone and ghost

Untitled
“Boo” says the pumpkin

Untitled
Pumpkins and evergreen

Untitled
Pumpkins and cobwebs

Untitled
Skeletons, cobwebs, etc.

Untitled
Pumpkins and ivy

Untitled
Pumpkins and potted mums

Untitled
Pumpkins and squash

Untitled
Mums and pumpkins

Untitled
Pumpkins, cobwebs and a blue planter

Untitled
Witch, bats and ghosts

Untitled
Pumpkins and spider

Untitled
Pumpkin and metal pots

Untitled
Big pumpkins

Untitled
Pumpkins and skeletons

Curbed: How Brooklyn Heights Became the City’s First Historic District
National Park Service: Brooklyn Heights Historic District
National Historic Landmarks in New York
National Register of Historic Places
NYC: Brooklyn Heights


A Neighborhood Tragedy

August 11, 2015

I was surprised to see the pastry shop closed, and at first I thought that some kind of itinerant florist was selling bouquets in front of their lowered metal gate.

Then I noticed a sign taped to the gate and crossed the street to read it. That was how I learned that Muyassar Moustapha, the man who ran the shop with his brothers, had been killed by a speeding motorist.

Oriental Pastry, along with the family that operates it, has been a Brooklyn fixture for decades. Walking through its doors is akin to taking a trip into the past or a foreign land, with heaps of spices and dried fruits spilling from bins and barrels, a small glass case filled with fragrant, freshly baked sweet and savory pastries, a revolving selection of purring resident cats, and friendly, caring proprietors.

As I gazed at the bouquets arrayed on the sidewalk, two neighborhood boys, both about 10 years old, came over to talk. They asked whether I’d known the man who died. Yes, I had.

Tremulously, one boy worried aloud about what would happen to the cats that lived in the store. They’ll be OK, I told the boys. They’ll still have good lives. But they’ll remember Mr. Moustapha, and they’ll miss him— just as we all will.

Flowers in front of the shop.

The sign.

Gothamist: Owner Of Oriental Pastry In Cobble Hill Reportedly Killed By Driver
Gothamist: Cobble Hill Mourns
Patch: Brooklyn Pedestrian Struck, Killed by Mercedes-Benz
NY Daily News: Man, 66, Mowed Down
Yelp: Oriental Pastry & Grocery


The Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool and Beach

July 7, 2015

Wedged behind a construction fence, in a weedy corner of Brooklyn Bridge Park between Pier One and Pier Two, is one of the city’s secret delights: a pop-up pool and beach.

If you aren’t familiar with the term “pop-up,” it is used to indicate that something (a shop, restaurant, etc.) is open for an intentionally temporary period. The pop-up pool and beach were built here with the understanding that they would be demolished after five years.

These summer attractions stand beside a luxury hotel and condominium project, known as Pierhouse, which is currently under construction. As Pierhouse nears completion, the land on which the pool and beach now stand will be integrated into the surrounding park. Until that happens, they offer a perfect respite from the heat and humidity of a New York summer.

The primary feature of the tiny resort is a fenced-in blue pool that measures 30 by 50 feet and is only three to three and a half feet deep. This is a wading pool, not a swimming pool, and it is the perfect depth for young children. No electronics, food, glass, or printed materials are allowed beyond the fence (hence, I could not take any photos from inside the pool). There are also changing rooms, communal showers and toilet areas.

On the other side of pool’s fence is a sparklingly clean sandy beach complete with lounge chairs, shady umbrellas, an assortment of sand toys, balls and plastic spades and a snack bar that serves up lemonade, beer, chips and sandwiches. Aside from the food and drink, everything at the pool and beach are free.

The rules here are strictly enforced and those who want to enter the pool area are inspected by lifeguards to ensure that they comply with the clothing and health requirements. If you want to go, the pool is open daily, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, from June 26 until September 7.

Wristbands are required for entry to the pool, and they are distributed hourly on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the pool’s capacity is only 60, it is wise to arrive early before the allotted number of wristbands are taken.

Each wristband entitles the wearer to a 45-minute session in the pool. After each bathing period, the pool is closed and cleaned for the next wave of waders, splashers and sun-worshippers.

Untitled
The pool is almost impossible to see from the park

Untitled
The entryway is in the weeds

Untitled
The beach is small but lively

Untitled
The view of lower Manhattan is spectacular

Untitled
Everything is provided for visitors

Untitled
The pool has rules

Untitled
A glimpse through the fence

Untitled
Another view of the pool

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Pop-Up Pool Rules
Lizzmonade Concession Stand at the Pop-Up PoolBrooklyn Bridge Park: Pop-Up Pool
NYC Parks: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool
Brooklyn Bridge Park Project Development
DNA Info: Visitors Pop In to Brooklyn’s New Pop-Up Pool
Pierhouse
The Brooklyn Paper: Parks and declarations: Judge gives Pier 1 condos and hotel the all-clear
Curbed: Judge Rules, Again, That Pierhouse Can Rise to Its Full Height
Curbed: Brooklyn Bridge-Blocking Pierhouse Is Allowed to Keep Rising
Curbed: First Look Inside Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pierhouse Condo


That Didn’t Take Long

April 13, 2015

Well, that didn’t take long. On April 3, Hillary Clinton announced that she would be locating her presidential campaign headquarters at 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn.

Today, vendors were selling t-shirts with the slogan “Brooklyn Loves Hillary” on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Politics may sometimes be slow, but capitalism and consumerism move quickly — at least, that’s how it works in Brooklyn.

Hello Brooklyn shirt.

Brooklyn Loves Hillary shirt.

Time: Hillary Clinton Leases Office Space in Brooklyn
LA Times: Hillary Clinton bases campaign headquarters in Brooklyn
Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters to be based in Brooklyn


Emily With a Ukulele Bag Lives in Brooklyn Heights

October 27, 2014

It is just an ordinary Brooklyn bodega near a subway station in Brooklyn Heights.

But today, as I passed the store, I noticed a sheet of paper taped to the front window. I read what it said, then sought out a worker and asked him for an explanation. This is what he told me:

A Chinese guy sees this girl, he talks to her. He knows she live around here. He look for her but he can’t find her. So he write that … poem. He put it on the ATM, on the front, in the back. He put it many places. He thinks maybe she see it.

He didn’t put his phone number on it.

He put it on the ATM.

So what happened?

She see it. She take from ATM machine. 

Was this today?

No, no, one week ago. 

And?

I don’t see her again. I never see him. But I think he love her. 

Poem2

Sign in the window

Poem1

The poem


Thanks, But What Kind of Prayer Books Were Those?

September 23, 2014

The holiest days in the Jewish year are fast approaching.

This sign, hanging in the window of a day care center on Brooklyn’s Montague Street, advertises services available to the observant during the next two weeks.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the Hebrew used in their prayer books, but they might want to double-check the Engligh.

IMG_1071

Chabad of Brooklyn Heights
Congregation B’nai Avraham


%d bloggers like this: