Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Knit PH at Freddy's Bar, Dec. 6 '09

Peg Byron and her producer Zena Kennedy are documenting craft nights and music at Freddy's Bar — working title "Freddy's: Not Just Any Bar and Backroom." Cringe Night, Opera Night, Diorama Lodge, Guitar School, Old-time Jam... and of course Knit PH. Organic yet fragile, Freddy's Bar formed like a tropical reef with a collection of the most rare and fascinating life. Among the questions I was asked, two stuck in my mind...

"Why knit at Freddy's?"
In 2003 Café owner Mary Cohen and I started a knitting circle at her coffee shop, Prospect Perk. That's also when the Atlantic Yards boondoggle started... a wealthy private developer, Bruce Ratner, falsely declared a large public area of Prospect Heights as blighted to drive people from their homes so construction for his arena could begin. Freddy's bar was declared the ground zero of demolition.

Mary blurted "How can you call our neighborhood blighted when it has a knitting circle?" Soon Knit PH was born. I started a MeetUp account and called Freddy's manager Don O'Finn to pitch a knit night — wish granted.

"What do you get out of it?"
There's no monetary gain, I've actually paid for all the MeetUps. The answer is much simpler — I take great pride in adding positive value to my neighborhood, Prospect Heights. I feel that people need a destination where they can socialize away from work and family, refocus and clear their minds. In a computerized world of virtual communication it's easy to lose your humanity amidst info-blather and techno-garbage. In the cold winter months the simple act of knitting with a group over a beer, wine, or coffee reconnects and re-humanizes each of us.

Diana, Meg, and Valerie waited for Peg and Zena to move the lights out of the way and took a seat at the long table. Soon everyone popped in for beer 'n' balls. Valerie's crochet hat has grown into a large doily. It's good to see Maggie, Charlotte, and Carol again. Some in the group are seasonal knitters. Carol is in mid-sweater, and Maggie is crocheting a handsome man's scarf for a friend.

Meg finished her green Big Bad Baby blanket — a great cause for celebration! She mentioned that her husband Brett created an iPhone app for counting street trees. "Trees Near You" it's called. I told her I'd get her in touch with someone at the Audubon Society. Meg still has enough yarn left over to start a few baby hats. Nici admired the apple green color, she coached Meg through 4-needle knitting. Nici is making a very warm charcoal gray tubular scarf with a cable edge. Turns out that Meg and Nici are neighbors in South Slope. I told them to check out my friend Pete's gourmet bake shop on 18th and 5th — Little Buddy Biscuit Company. Screw the diet! Pete's "Orange Cardamom, Coconut w/ Currants & Macadamia" cookie melts in your mouth.

Diana finished a perfectly knitted square for our Afghans for Afghans charity drive, then started another. She's amazing, I don't know where she gets the energy. Sarah is almost finished with her parents' tea cozy, she'll be sending it to Seattle soon. Turns out she and Meg are from the same neck of the woods in Seattle — 6 degrees of Meg Lemke.

Maggie asked when we're having Casserole night gain. We had it last year closer to spring, but this year we should plan on February 2010. By then we'll be over with the holiday gorging.

It's now December 2009...
Ratner's firm (Forest City Ratner) still declares that Brooklyn desperately needs a basketball team from New Jersey to give us "hope." Although the Atlantic Yards Nets Arena recently won an appeals case, it is still mired in court as angry residents continue to sue in protest. Ground breaking is still halted but a threat still looms.

In a recent State Court decision, Columbia University was denied use of Eminent Domain to expand and build into Harlem ("Court Deals a Blow to Columbia's Expansion Plan"). Harlem is now spared from the same reasoning that Forest City Ratner has claimed to evoke Eminent Domain in Prospect Heights. With a raised cynical eyebrow, I wonder if buying a judge and few of our boys in Albany is part of the cost of building the Nets Arena. People may not realize it, but when they knit at Freddy's they become a witness to an interesting time in Brooklyn's history.

Well... that's my part of the documentary.

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