Brooklyn Bounty 2014: ReConnect Café

In anticipation of Brooklyn Bounty, BHS’s premier fundraiser at 26 Bridge on October 22nd, we are profiling our participating restaurants and honorees of the Food & Heritage Awards. Below is a profile of ReConnect Café, recipient of our Pioneer Award, and part of our tasting menu.

ReConnect Café: Coffee to Buzz the Neighborhood

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Patrons show their love for ReConenct Café

When I went to ReConnect Café to interview Associate Director Efrain Hernandez, I was a little nervous I’d be found out: I am not a coffee drinker. When I declined a cup of coffee and confessed my tastes to Efrain, it turned out I was in good company—he does not drink coffee either. To my relief, he remarked, “Black coffee, that’s gross,”and I knew I was in a place that was welcoming. Instead of coffee, he brought me a delightful and refreshing iced tea, the “Ruby Red Sipper,” made with blood orange and hibiscus tisane. Though the constant stream of customers evidenced the quality of their coffee, it made sense that Efrain wasn’t a coffee enthusiast. “It’s not about the coffee so much; this is a haven for the community—a family.”

Located in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Reconnect is a café with a mission. Started by Efrain and Father Jim O’Shea, ReConnect is focused on creating opportunity for local youth. Efrain’s early story is one he describes as unfortunately typical of his neighborhood: involvement with drugs and violence, prison, and the death of close friends. But Father O’Shea was always a strong presence as his mentor, and together they decided to take action for neighborhood youth. They started holding meetings to talk about area problems, which led to selling produce at farmers markets, Christmas trees at the holidays, Valentine’s Day baskets, and then with the help of an Angel donor, ReConnect Café was born. Efrain cut all ties with his former life and moved on—moving to a new neighborhood, changing his cell phone number, finding new friends and focusing on his work to support his wife and two small daughters.

Efrain (Left) with employees and patron

Efrain (Left) with employees and patron

It can be difficult to fully understand the pressures local youth are under, and Efrain explains that “some of the kids that come here, they don’t have money for basic hygiene products. How can you get a job if you can’t clean up?” ReConnect hires these at-risk youth between the ages of 16-25 as a first job and prepares them for further employment. Employees build personal foundations at ReConnect, including “rethinking themselves” as Father O’Shea put it. “They don’t fit anywhere. It’s a disconnect. There’s no a model for how to move forward in a positive way.” The Café holds a weekly meeting on Mondays where they can discuss how things are going and set goals and action plans for themselves. One of the employees, Brad, recently had team support in completing his GED, and ReConnect proudly displayed his achievement on their menu board.

Congratulations to Brad of ReConnect Cafe

Congratulations to Brad of ReConnect Cafe

Aside from benefiting its employees, ReConnect is a neighborhood spot to enjoy. Their beans are supplied by Brooklyn based Kitten Coffee, and their café design emulates classic Brooklyn stoops. A local tattoo artist’s designs are displayed on the wall, as well as photos and messages from loyal customers who cherish their neighborhood hangout. One customer told me, “There is a sense of community here. You can feel the urban fabric, it feels fresh. It’s not a Starbucks.” The dirty “S” word aside, the neighborhood has been steadily gentrifying. O’Shea acknowledges that this can cause mixed results for local residents, but ultimately it created a market for a café such as ReConnect. “This never would have made it here a few years ago,” he said.

Father O'Shea and Efrain Edit

Father O’Shea (Left) and Efrain hard at work

For his part, Father O’Shea likes his coffee more than Efrain and me, but what keeps him coming back to ReConnect every day is the business of changing lives. He’s been working in Bed-Stuy since 1996 and has helped countless youth. “Our goal is to expand, open more cafés and create more jobs.”

 

 

As recipients of the Brooklyn Bounty Pioneer award, ReConnect Café will feature their signature pastries and beverage creations at the event. This is reason enough to be excited, but better yet, the ReConnect team will be present, and meeting them is a treat all its own.

Written by Avi Sher, Development Intern

Purchase your Brooklyn Bounty Tickets Today! 

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Photo of the Week: Electrification of the Long Island Railroad in Brooklyn

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[Electrification of Long Island Rail Road at Washington Avenue], 1903, v1984.1463.3; Long Island Rail Road construction photographs, v1984.1463; Brooklyn Historical Society

For this post, I want to share an interesting image that I scanned last week. The image above shows construction by the Long Island Rail Road near Atlantic Terminal in 1903.

The Long Island Rail Road was incorporated in 1834, and used steam-powered trains until 1905, when they switched to an electric system. As part of the switch to electricity, the LIRR constructed a number of both elevated and subterranean sections of railway in Brooklyn to replace street-level railways.  Clearly, the image above is showing work on one of the subterranean sections. The layers of people are also interesting. The well-dressed, fashionable pedestrians on top with the more humbly-dressed workers below is a telling visual, hinting at class dynamics in Brooklyn in this period. While interesting from a historical perspective, this is also just a cool picture. I love the blur at the edges of the image, and the contrast of the white snow with the people all dressed in black…

To learn more about the Long Island Rail Road in Brooklyn, see the Long Island Rail Road construction photographs (v1984.1463), the Atlantic Avenue railroad project photographs (v1992.015), and the Brooklyn commuter railroad and subway collection (ARC.152).

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our new website here.  To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Author: Halley Choiniere

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Photo of the Week: The Brooklyn Postal Service

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Post Office Scene, 1926, v1973.5.629; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society

I selected today’s image for purely aesthetic reasons. I love the color of this print. I love the long, whimsical, almost Alice-in-Wonderland hanging glass lamps with equally long pull ropes hanging from each one. I also love the perfectly tailored clothing and glossy, pomaded hair of the man in the center of the picture (see detail below of hair and tailoring). It’s one of those images that becomes more interesting and more beautiful the longer you look at it…

While I love this image for its aesthetics, I realize that some people will be more interested in the history and context of this photograph. Sadly, all that we know about this image is that it was photographed inside a postal sorting facility in 1926, probably someplace in Brooklyn. For people longing to learn more about the history of the postal system, the U.S. Postal Service has an impressively detailed history on their website, in addition to an 84-page PDF document. For people with a passion for postal-related images, Brooklyn Historical Society has more images of postal scenes in the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection (ARC.202) and the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution, also has photographic  archives.

 

v1973.5.629

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our new website here.  To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Author: Halley Choiniere

 

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Brooklyn Bounty 2014: Brooklyn Oenology

BHS’s premier fundraiser, Brooklyn Bounty, is fast approaching. Held at 26 Bridge on October 22nd, it will feature an exciting array of Brooklyn chefs providing tastings of some of the best offerings from their menus! Purchase your ticket here. To whet your appetite, we are featuring the food and drink of several of our participating chefs and restaurants in the months leading up to #BKBounty14 on the BHS Blog. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Oenology: Celebrating Creativity with Wine

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BOE Wines adorned in Brooklyn-made art.

The definition of oenology (en-olo-gy) is the science of wine, but Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) can be defined as the art of wine. Founded by aerospace engineer-turned-winemaker Alie Shaper in 2006, BOE is a wine producer that celebrates art, Brooklyn, and New York’s local cuisine and wine. BOE has had their tasting room in Williamsburg since 2010, but luckily for us their tastings will be on hand at Brooklyn Bounty 2014.

I caught up with BOE’s general manager Craig Kayaian at their tasting room to learn more about the business (and art) of wine. BOE is committed to New York-grown wines, so all of their grapes are sourced from Long Island or the Finger Lakes. Kayaian points out that New York has the largest volume of wine consumption, but much of that is European and Australian wine. BOE is highlighting the spectacular wine we can produce in our own backyard, so there’s no need to dust off any pesky carbon footprints from transatlantic wine flights when enjoying a crisp glass of BOE wine.

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Local Artists on the walls at the BOE Tasting Room.

When walking into the BOE tasting room, you may think for a moment that you’re in an art gallery. The walls are decorated with local paintings set against the rustic industrial-style interior of the room. The bright colors on the walls are complemented by the colorful racks of wine—every bottle of BOE wine is adorned with a label that features artwork by NYC based artists. The images on the bottles are eye-catching and are carefully selected to embody the feel of the wine – a true marriage of art and wine. Even better, all of the labels are stickers, so no need to say goodbye to your art after you finish the bottle. All of their art comes from local street artists, small art fairs and online galleries, offering a great platform for emerging artists.

BOE adds to the local scene not only by promoting local products and art, but by offering great events at their tasting space. I will definitely be returning for their “Pickleback” tastings, where a variety of local pickle and jerky flavors are paired with BOE wines. They also have a wine club and a wine CSA, both of which feature parties and special deals for members.

Brooklyn Oenology Tasting Room, 209 Wythe Ave in Williamsburg.

Brooklyn Oenology Tasting Room, 209 Wythe Ave in Williamsburg.

It’s not surprising Shaper is helming such an inspired shop. In her days as an aerospace engineer, she designed fighter pilot helmets, yet she ultimately found her creative passion in wine. She channeled her science chops into making a top quality product, offering it in an experience that is truly artistic.

At the end of my interview, fortunately it was “wine o’clock.” I got to sample BOE’s Social Club White, a table wine with fruity notes. It was delicious, and as I sipped and enjoyed, I took in the art on the walls with a smile and thought how fortunate Brooklyn Bounty revelers will be.

Purchase your Brooklyn Bounty Tickets Today! 

 

Written by Avi Scher, Development Intern.

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Map of the Month–August 2014

Map showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. [1919]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Map showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. [1919]. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The August Map of the Month conjures a bit of summertime nostalgia: “Map Showing How to Reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn.”   The flip side of the map, shown below, has a full team photo and roster. A quick consultation with The Complete Dodgers Record Book (Facts on File, 1984) confirms this team as the 1919 Brooklyn Robins. They finished in fifth place that year, with a 69-71 record. The next year however, the Robins made the World Series with a 93-61 season, but the Cleveland Indians won the series, taking 5 out of 7 games.

Map showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, [1919], verso. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection

Map Showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, [1919], verso. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection

So how did one get to Ebbets Field in 1919? According to this map, by elevated train to Consumer’s Park stop. Notice on this map one link between Brooklyn and Manhattan was by elevated train via the Brooklyn Bridge.

This map does not show the many trolleys that crisscrossed Brooklyn, by which most Brooklynites would have traveled to Ebbets Field. In fact, the ball club was known early on as the Trolley Dodgers, but were commonly called the Robins from roughly 1914-1931 in homage to long-time manager Wilbert “Uncle Robbie” Robinson.

Did you know the Dodgers were also known as the Bridegrooms in the 1890s? Find out why on the timeline on the Dodger’s MLB web site. This quick, nostalgic read (well, up until, say, 1957 or so?) includes photographs and is organized by decade, so you can pick and choose your history, as I did.

And for you Dodger fans, here’s the 1919 roster as shown:

Map showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, [1919], verso detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Map showing how to reach Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, [1919], verso detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Interested in seeing more maps? You can view the BHS map collection anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Sat., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view most maps.

This map was cataloged with funding provided by a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) “Hidden Collections” grant.

 

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