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Gender Fluidity, Artistic Anger, and More Exhibitions This Week

(image via Dacia Gallery / Facebook)

Non + Binary
Opening Thursday, August 8 at Dacia Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through August 10.

Gender fluidity seems to be trendier than ever lately, which of course means that big companies and brands are rushing to make money off of the latest marginalized identity seen as “cool.” However, these people, whether they be non binary or genderfluid or have another term that feels better to them, are actual people with hearts and minds who are more than just a buzzword. Photographer David Scoven’s latest solo show at Dacia Gallery seeks to showcase that, featuring portraits of four models who identify outside of the binary in some way. Through various outfits, poses, and expressions, they show that one person’s gender doesn’t have to always look like one thing.

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A Showdown Over a Controversial Gas Pipeline Has Taken a Bushwick Empanada Joint ‘Hostage’

Courtesy of Empanada City.

A disagreement over a proposed gas pipeline could keep Bushwick from some sweet and savory empanadas. Lefferts Gardens favorite Empanada City plans to open its second location at 321 Starr Street next month. However, the restaurant, along with any other businesses seeking gas service, is being denied gas from National Grid until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) approves a National Grid-backed pipeline extension that would bring natural gas from New Jersey to New York City. The NYSDEC rejected the pipeline extension, citing water quality concerns, on May 15.  More →

New Film Shows Jay Maisel Leaving His Masterpiece, a 6-Story Bowery Bank

Jay Maisel is one of our greatest living photographers, known for his gorgeous, striking street photography and his eye for the art in the mundane. He is also, incidentally, New York’s most successful amateur real estate speculator. In 1966 he bought a six-story, 72-room bank building in the pre-gentrified Bowery. “The Bank” became his home, his studio, and a cabinet of curiosities housing his massive, ever-growing collection of found objects. More →

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Performance Picks: PowerPoints, Alan Turing, and More


(image via Hotline / Facebook)

Hotline Comedy
Thursday, August 1 at 2A, 7:30 pm: FREE

Drake sung all about hotline bling, but if that wasn’t quite your thing, now you have the chance to get some hotline comedy at this weekly show hosted by Kendall Payne and Allison O’Conor—sorry that last part didn’t rhyme. It’s free, it’s stand-up, it’s at a reasonable hour; what more do you want? To start August off, they’ve assembled Randall Otis, Rebecca O’Neal, Lili Michelle, Diego Lopez, and Mariah Oxley to fill your ears with the dulcet tone of jokes. And if you don’t make it this week, you can come next week, or the week after. Weekly comedy shows happen impressively often!

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Lawsuits Stall Development of Greenpoint Superfund Site

170ED418-7CE1-41A4-A9FF-98252165CAC5In passing, the old plastics factory located at Franklin and Dupont Streets in Greenpoint seems like an abandoned industrial relic. In actuality, the curved, art moderne NuHart building has become an increasingly attractive property that has swapped hands several times in just a few years. But the 1930s building is tagged as a superfund site—meaning it contains hazardous waste threatening the environment and public health—and a legal standoff is preventing it from being razed for a 325-unit apartment building. Monday, neighbors demanded answers about the state of the project and the complicated cleanup process. More →

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Essex Crossing’s Rooftop Farm Takes Fresh Produce to New Heights

urban farm and better view_optA new farm on the Lower East Side is proving that rooftops are for more than sunset cocktails and illegal barbecues. Essex Crossing Farm, which opened today at 125 Delancey Street, will grow fresh, affordable produce for local vendors and residents. It’s part of Essex Crossing, a mixed use series of buildings hosting market-rate and affordable housing as well as the sprawling Essex Street Market. At 10,000 sq. ft., Essex Crossing Farm will be the largest urban farm on the island of Manhattan.

“Food that’s grown right here and harvested is more nutritious and more tasty than any food you’re going to get anywhere else,” said Linda Bryant, founder of Project EATS, a main partner of the farm and the host of the opening. Bryant started Project EATS during the 2008 global food crisis, when food prices around the world hit a dramatic high.    

Essex Crossing Farm is located atop the Essex, an apartment building with 50 percent affordable apartments and market-rate studio apartments starting at a totally reasonable $3,492. The farm features rows of individual lots growing produce such as turnips, beets, radishes and spinach, and looks out over sweeping views south to the Lower East Side and north to Midtown. Project EATS plans to grow at least 10,000 pounds of produce at the farm each season, a quota set by another one of their farms, across from Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brownsville. The public can get Essex Crossing Farm’s produce at their “Farmacy,” currently located in Essex Crossing Park, at Broome Street between Clinton and Suffolk. 

urban farm better radishes_opt (1)

Despite the farm’s posh location, Project EATS says the goal is to get affordable-housing residents both fresh produce and leisurely activities a few steps from their home. Essex Crossing will have 561 affordable units total at its buildings. Affordable units open now include 11 condominiums at 242 Broome Street, 98 rentals at the Essex, 104 rentals at the Rollins, and 99 senior rentals at the Frances Goldin Senior Apartments. Under construction are 84 affordable studio rentals strictly for elderly residents in a new development at 140 Essex Street, and 121 affordable rentals at 180 Broome Street. In addition to giving affordable-housing residents cheap produce options, Project EATS plans on hosting rooftop events specifically for these residents, including free yoga, group farming sessions, and free Saturday breakfasts inspired by the Black Panthers’ “Free Breakfast Program,” which provided free breakfast to children before school.

“The ultimate goal of ours is to really help to support and strengthen the ties between residents,” said Bryant. “We see each other as a unit of people working to make the best possible place for us to live.”  

Bryant says events open to affordable-housing residents will begin towards the end of August, and others will be open to the general public. A collaboration with Seward Park Educational Campus will allow students to plant produce at the farm. 

Nonetheless, for all the bridges it is building with local schools and residents, Essex Crossing Farm still has work to do in bridging the divide between Essex Crossing and the public housing residents across the street. “When I first came down here, it seemed like the NYCHA residents were concerned about this as a development and how that was going to impact them,” said Bryant.

urban farm view photo_opt

The development at Essex Crossing did not come without skepticism from residents of the housing authority’s Seward Park Extension complex or from other Lower East Side activist groups. According to Bowery Boogie, new development at Essex Crossing sites cost the neighborhood 500 parking spaces. Essex Crossing has also been cited in broader arguments against high-rise developments that activist organizations such as the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors Coalition say are changing the architectural and neighborhood character of the Lower East Side. The Essex is 26 stories tall.

Still, Project EATS is confident this gap between NYCHA and Essex Crossing can be alleviated through complementary events and free vegetables. “That’s going to be a wonderful challenge,” said Linda. “We’re going to go across the street and say, ‘We want you to come over here and join us and we’re going to come over and join you.’ It’s about building bridges and community.”

Essex Crossing Farm was created in collaboration with partners including developers Delancey Street Associates and the nonprofit Project EATS, which already owns ten urban farms across the boroughs. The project’s primary goal is to provide produce that fits each community’s desires and price point. Farms in neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York, for example, have offered produce like callaloo and okra to please their largely Caribbean populations. 

Essex Crossing Farm’s “Farmacy” is currently open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11am-4pm. It will move to a permanent location at Market Line, Essex Crossing’s bazaar-like food hall on Broome Street between Clinton and Essex, this fall.   

Correction, Aug. 1: This post was revised because it was imprecise about the number of affordable units at Essex Crossing.

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Street Artist Sara Erenthal Takes Her ‘Raw, Primal’ Self-Portraits Indoors

Sara Erenthal (Photo: Meryl Meisler)

The Storefront Project is currently covered in upcycled canvases. Sara Erenthal, one of the city’s most notable and prolific street artists, has moved her works to Orchard Street. 

If you take long, aimless walks around Brooklyn like I do, you’ve likely come across Erenthal’s work at some point. She draws those graphically simple female faces, recognizable for their triangular cheeks, oversized eyes, and little red mouths. The faces are all hers, she says—but she calls them “subconscious” self-portraits, depictions of herself that have been stylized away from strict identifiability. “It’s not a very literal representation, but a representation of emotion,” she told me. “My voice.” 

This isn’t the only style she works in, but it’s what she has become known for. She’s also known for repurposing found objects into canvases, “upcycling” them. Her portraits often materialize on discarded things, the mattresses, refrigerators, and wood panels that dot the city’s gutters—and they can vanish as quickly as they appear, whenever intrigued passersby feel moved to take them home. “I’m making art accessible, giving people a chance to pick up an original piece,” she said, of the benefits of this practice. “And I’m cleaning up street corners!”

Because her style is abstracted, almost cartoon-like, the portraits can feel quite universal. Many women, the artist reports, have expressed that they connect with her self-depictions, and it’s not hard to see why that would be. Erenthal frequently pairs her faces with small, sincere quips, messages like “Perfectly Flawed,” which she once wrote on a hairline-cracked mirror. Or “Lift Me Up,” which appeared on a prone, hingeless door. The themes she’s most interested in include “displacement, survival, and liberation,” which she explores all over New York through feminine figuration. There’s something wide-reaching about this practice, like she’s conducting an investigation into female power and pain, writ large. 

But with Backstory, the solo exhibition she and curator Nina Blumberg opened at the Storefront Project last week, Erenthal is sharing very personal experiences. The exhibition consists of self-portraits in the recognizable style, largely on repurposed surfaces like thrift-store paintings, art prints, and old photographs (they’re for sale at gallery prices, but still maintain many of the qualities of her free public art). They work together to tell viewers about Erenthal, a self-taught artist who was raised in Borough Park, Brooklyn, in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. She left home at the age of 17 to avoid an arranged marriage, to live a secular life, and to chase her creative impulses. Echoes of the religious part of her past recur in the exhibition: a self-portrait laid over an old photograph of an Orthodox person, for example, is called “You Can Take the Girl out of the Village.” 

Other lived experiences and eras appear, too, with equal clarity. Erenthal explores intense romance in pieces like “I’m Infatuated,” in which a self-portrait is laid over a blooming white flower. And her journey toward discovering her artistic style appears in “I Didn’t Want to Draw Apples,” a piece in which portraiture literally trumps still life. The exhibition’s title takes on multiple meanings, with all of this historical digging in mind: the upcycled canvases each have a backstory, because they were once something else, but Erenthal’s personal backstory is on display, too. Each image becomes a chapter in a larger autobiographical narrative.

Still, even with all this intimate excavation, there’s something inclusive or relatable about each of the faces in Backstory. As with the street portraits, there’s enough interpretive malleability in their features to allow for broad identification. “It’s just a very raw, primal, human expression,” Erenthal mused, when I asked why she thought her own repeated visage spoke to so many people. “There’s no definition of race or nationality…it’s feminine, of course, but it could be anyone.” In this way, her somewhat generalized iconography can speak very deeply to individualized experiences. Her own, of course, particularly in Backstory. But also—in this gallery, or in passing on a street corner—almost anyone’s. 

“Backstory” is on display through August 18 at Lower East Side gallery The Storefront Project. The gallery is open to the public from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday.

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The Last Little Skips Show and More Art This Week

(image via The Living Gallery Outpost / Facebook)

Opening Tuesday, July 30 at The Living Gallery Outpost, 7 pm to 9 pm. One night only.

While art space The Living Gallery originally started in Bushwick, it has since expanded to a smaller outpost location in the East Village. To celebrate that space’s two-year anniversary, the gallery will be hosting one of their signature “BYO Art” nights, which are exactly what they sound like. Rather than entering into a space where some elite artists has their work on display, BYO Art welcomes anyone who makes art to bring a piece and hang it on the walls. There’s a $10 suggested donation, but any sales made will go directly to the artists in full.

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Oat Milk Soft Serve Comes to Williamsburg

(image courtesy of Whipped Urban Dessert Lab)

You might have to take a shuttle bus to get it, but you can now enjoy a frozen treat made from the latest trendy dairy substitute: oat milk. The Boston-based, woman-owned Whipped Urban Dessert Lab has now officially set up shop in Williamsburg’s North 3rd Street Market, where they’ll be serving oat milk soft serve to cool your overheated soul.

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New CBD Bill Could Be Even More of a Buzzkill For Bodegas

CBD products at L Stop Gourmet

On the heels of the New York City health department’s ban on CBD-infused food and drink, the State Assembly wants to crack down on where bodegas and other mom-and-pop CBD stores are getting CBD from in the first place. A bill approved by the New York State Assembly and awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature is attempting to better regulate the industry by introducing licensing, lab testing and production requirements. The bill was spearheaded by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell, 123), who says that the CBD industry is seeing “increasing consumer demand and interest” and needs to be put under control. Still, for some bodegas, the measure is just another hit to a product that’s already been hard to get off shelves. More →