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Dossier on Councilmen Levins (D33), Reynoso (D34), and van Bramer (D26)

“The Council has 35 committees with oversight of various functions of the city government. Each council member sits on at least three standing, select or subcommittees (listed below). The standing committees meet at least once per month. The Speaker of the Council, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader are all ex officio members of every committee.

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two year terms every twenty years to allow for redistricting between the terms due to the national census (starting in 2001 and 2003 for the 2000 Census and again in 2021 and 2023 for the 2020 Census).” -from Wikipedia


Steven Levin

District 33- Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Bedford–Stuyvesant

Committees: Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. Member of Committee(s) on Cultural Affairs, Education, Environmental Protection, Land Use, and Transportation

Subcommittees: Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses.

NY City Council Profile

Scheduling a meeting:
Office Phone: 718-875-5200

410 Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11217

“Stephen Levin was elected in 2009 to represent the 33rd District in the New York City Council, which includes the diverse communities of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, and Bedford–Stuyvesant.

A native of Plainfield, New Jersey, Stephen moved to Brooklyn to work as a community organizer after graduating from Brown University. Stephen started his career by simultaneously running a Lead Safe House program and an anti-predatory lending program. The Lead Safe House program helped to relocate families of lead-poisoned children out of hazardous apartments. Stephen also used this program to work with homeowners to effectively and efficiently remediate lead contamination. As director of the anti-predatory lending program, Stephen organized homeowners throughout the community through grassroots outreach and community workshops about the dangers of subprime mortgages. Working with the City, local elected officials, and advocacy groups, Stephen was able to galvanize the community against the unscrupulous lending practices that were decimating the neighborhood with foreclosures. In 2006, Stephen went to work for the New York State Assembly, where his non-profit experience allowed him to advocate effectively for constituents.

As a Councilmember, Stephen has proven to be a leader on education and early childhood issues, and an advocate for increased open space in our communities and transportation safety initiatives. He has passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to notify families and teachers about potential PCB contamination, and has sponsored resolutions calling for mandatory kindergarten and breakfast-in-the-classroom.”


Antonio Reynoso

District 34- Bushwick, Williamsburg, Ridgewood (Queens)

Committees: Chair of Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, Member of Committees of Education, Gov Operations, Land Use, State and Federal Legislation, Transportation

Subcommittees: Zoning and Franchises, Task Force on Affordable Housing Preservation

NY City Council Profile

Office Phone: 718-963-314

244 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

“As the Councilmember representing the 34th district, Antonio wants to create an environment conducive to a better quality of life for residents of Bushwick and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Ridgewood in Queens. He understands that success in his district starts with strong schools, the fundamental access to affordable housing, and economic growth.

Antonio Reynoso was born and raised in the Los Sures section of Williamsburg to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. At a young age, Antonio’s parents instilled in him the importance of hard work, education, and community service. These lessons have undoubtedly influenced his core philosophy and remain with him today.

Antonio graduated from LeMoyne College with a bachelor’s degree in political science. As a Community Organizer for NYC A.C.O.R.N., Antonio led a comprehensive coalition to improve the professional lives of child-care providers by legitimizing the profession through Union incorporation.

Since 2007, Antonio has worked relentlessly for the communities throughout the 34th Council District improving the quality of life for the residents of Brooklyn and Queens.  First, being hired as a Ridgewood representative where he empowered constituencies by fostering relationships with building and small business owners and facilitating the processes of city government.  In 2009, Antonio became Councilmember Reyna’s Chief of Staff, where he oversaw and advanced progressive policies and legislative reforms for affordable housing, economic development, job creation, education, and public safety.

Antonio is an experienced leader who knows how to cultivate diverse coalitions and is focused on delivering and maximizing the necessary programs and services to the diverse populations in the 34th District.“


James van Bramer (Council Majority Leader)

Alternate Website

District 26- Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria

Committees: Chair of Committee Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations. Member of Committees of Health, Parks and Rec, Finance, Public Housing, Transport

Subcommittees: none

NY City Council Profile

Office Phone: 718-383-9566

47-01 Queens Boulevard Suite 205 Sunnyside, NY 11104

“A life long resident of Western Queens, Jimmy Van Bramer was elected to the New York City Council on November 3, 2009. He was overwhelmingly elected to a second 4-year term on November 5, 2013.
On January 22nd, 2014 Council Member Van Bramer was elected Majority Leader of the New York City Council which is the second highest ranking member in the 51 member body. As part of his duties as Majority Leader, he was also appointed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to co-chair the newly constituted Budget Negotiating Team (BNT) which plays an integral role in formulating the City’s budget process to fund critical programs, projects and organizations citywide. Council Member Van Bramer also plays a key role is working with all members of the City Council, serving as a bridge between colleagues and the Speaker.

Council Member Van Bramer was also reappointed to chair the Council’s Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee. As Chair of the committee, he has direct oversight over 200 libraries and thousands of cultural organizations, institutions and programs throughout New York City. During his first four years as Chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Council Member Van Bramer fought hard to restore over $575 million for our City’s libraries and the arts.

In 2013, as an active member of the New York City Council’s budget negotiating team, he helped secure $106 million for capital funding projects that will continue to help our City remain a world class destination.
As a Council Member, he has dedicated himself to addressing the issues that the people in the 26th Council District care about. From 2009 to 2013, Council Member Van Bramer’s office helped over 12,000 constituents with a wide variety of issues, including: illegal drag racing, graffiti on private properties, cleanliness of residential streets, necessary traffic safety improvements, immigration/deportation cases, social services and general quality of life complaints.

Since taking office, Council Member Van Bramer has continued to aggressively tackle overcrowding in our schools. In just four years, he has played a pivotal role in securing six new schools within the 26th District. The addition of these new schools will provide over 2,600 seats to neighborhood children in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.

During his first term, Council Member Van Bramer allocated over $10 million toward enhancing parks throughout the 26th District. With this funding he has helped build new dog runs, renovated existing playground facilities and increase the about of green space throughout the community.
A community organizer, Council Member Van Bramer is the son of two active union members. While growing up he sometimes followed his stepfather, a public-school custodian, to work. As he watched his stepfather polish classroom floors and scrub desks so that children and teachers could have a clean learning space, Council Member Van Bramer learned the importance of hard work, and the powerful impact that seemingly small efforts can have on the lives of working people. Council Member Van Bramer has carried those lessons throughout his life.

Council Member Van Bramer’s career has been devoted to making our community stronger and making life better for Queens families like the one he grew up in. From 1999-2009, he served as the Chief External Affairs Officer of the Queens Public Library. As the library’s link between community members and government, Council Member Van Bramer worked to protect and expand important library services, such as after-school programs and English language classes. He also led members of the Queens community on annual trips to Albany and Washington, D.C. to help them make their voices heard by government officials. In addition, Council Member Van Bramer served as a member of Community Board 2 and its Land Use Committee from 2006-2009.

Before joining the leadership of the Queens Borough Public Library, Council Member Van Bramer fought to protect the rights of regular people in the democratic process by working on the Clean Money, Clean Elections campaign. As the organization’s Deputy Field Director, Jimmy brought together Queens community leaders and working people from every walk of life to win important changes in election laws. Council Member Van Bramer has also worked as a reporter for Lesbian and Gay New York (LGNY), now Gay City News, a community newspaper, where he brought attention to the AIDS epidemic and bias/hate crimes.

The ideals that Council Member Van Bramer has worked for over his entire career — respect for working people, equality for all, and the importance of improving quality of life in our community — were instilled in him by his family and strong Catholic upbringing here in Queens. His father, William Van Bramer, was a lifelong member of Printers’ and Pressman’s Union Local 2. Elizabeth Van Bramer, Council Member Van Bramer’s mother, helped support the family by taking a variety of jobs in their neighborhood, and she was a member of Local 1893 of the International Brotherhood of Painters.

Council Member Van Bramer is proud to have been educated in Queens’ public schools. He graduated from P.S. 70, J.H.S. 10, and William Cullen Bryant High School. He then worked his way through St. John’s University. Since 2004 he has represented his neighborhood and the 37th Assembly District on the New York State Democratic Committee. Additionally, he is a past President of the West Queens Independent Democratic Club and a member of the Board of Directors of the Ridgewood Democratic Club.
Majority Leader Van Bramer currently lives in Sunnyside Gardens with Dan Hendrick, his partner of 15 years. The two were married on July 28th, 2012 with Council Member Van Bramer becoming the first openly-gay elected official to get married in the borough of Queens.“

Some Demographics for the Different Neighborhoods Surrounding Newtown Creek




D33- Levin

White, non-hispanic: 76.9%
Black, non-hispanic: 1.2%
Asian, non-hispanic: 4.9%
Other, non-hispanic: 0.6%
2 or more, non-hispanic: 1.7%
Hispanic/Latinx: 14.7%

Median Age: 34

Median Household Income: 45k

Employment Breakdown
White Collar: 62%
Blue Collar: 38%

Bachelor’s or higher: 51%
Did not attain HS diploma: 19%

Interesting Points:

  • Provost St borders the wastewater treatment facility, a number of blocks adjacent to Provost are home to scrap, auto, trucking, other business-to-business industries.


East Williamsburg

D34, Reynoso

White, non-hispanic: 43.1%
Black, non-hispanic: 9.3%
Asian, non-hispanic: 12.7%
Other, non-hispanic: 0.5%
2 or more, non-hispanic: 1.6%
Hispanic/Latinx: 32.7%

Median Age: 32

Median Household Income: 44k

Employment Breakdown
White Collar: 70%
Blue Collar: 30%

Bachelor’s or higher: 19%
Did not attain HS diploma: 47%

Interesting Points:

  • Borinquen Plaza I and II and Hylan are three NYCHA housing projects along Flushing Ave, with a pocket of unemployment in those neighborhoods.
  • Cooper Park is a public park and housing project in Northern Williamsburg, ~7 south of the QBE
  • Most of the properties bordering the creek (north of Meeker) are non-residential, business-to-business wholesale and processing, fabrication businesses.
  • Access to the creekside is very difficult from Williamsburg.


Hunters Point-Sunnyside-West Maspeth, Queens

D26, van Bramer

White, non-hispanic: 35.4%
Black, non-hispanic: 2.5%
Asian, non-hispanic: 24.3%
Other, non-hispanic: 0.8%
2 or more, non-hispanic: 2.1%
Hispanic/Latinx: 34.8%

Median Age: 35

Median Household Income: 56k

Employment Breakdown
White Collar: 62%
Blue Collar: 38%

Bachelor’s or higher: ~41%
Did not attain HS diploma: ~27%
(made of avgs of three different neighborhoods, may vary)

Interesting Points:

  • Heavy development in the Court Square of Sunnyside, Hunters Point.


Calling all life coaches

Calling all Life Coaches!

Looking for hospice workers for the human species.

Applicants must submit brief (under 1 page) essay on why s/he feels qualified for the job.

Modest pay.



forgotten space / the sea as non-space

I hadn’t quite connected big box stores to container ships, and the idea of non-space and non-place,  til i came across this still.
Marc Augé writes about non-place in his eponymous book on Supermodernity , and Robert Smithson of course said it first (“non-site, the gallery as a kind of blank):


Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, still from The Forgotten Space (2010)


which is from the movie The Forgotten Space, whose promo text reads:

The Forgotten Space follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. And in Bilbao, we discover the most sophisticated expression of the belief that the maritime economy, and the sea itself, is somehow obsolete.

From Smithson’s writings:

Oblivion to me is a state when you’re not conscious of the time or space you are in. You’re oblivious to its limitations. Places without meaning, a kind of absent or pointless vanishing point.

Instead of putting something on the landscape, I decided it would be interesting to transfer the land indoors, to the Non-site, which is an abstract container.

Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, still from The Forgotten Space (2010)


Floating Studios for Dark Ecologies – personal notes

I have been struggling (again) with ways to succinctly describe what I am up to in Portland. I’ve had over 40 meetings since June 1, engaged with (taken the time of) a host of generous people, and what I’ve come away with is that the project is perceived alternately as:

Really exciting | How can I participate? | Too science-y | Too arty | Too esoteric | Too pro-industry | How can you help me?

So I’m trying to work it out in a semi-public way on this blog, and therefore trying to be responsible for my language, and to provide some context for these thoughts.

Comments always welcome.

Back to definitions.

Environmental awareness is, finally, a sense of irony, because it is through irony that we realize that we might be wrong, that identity might not be as solid as we think, that our own gaze might be the evil that we see.”

– Timothy Morton, Thinking Ecology: The Mesh, the Strange Stranger, and the Beautiful Soul (2010)

I asked Tim Morton for a succinct definition of “dark ecology.” While not brief, it’s full of guideposts:

There are parts of dark ecology that I’ll need to tease out here before I give you the telegraphic definition.

1. Depressing. Melancholy. Ecological awareness is depressing (suffering etc.) and also ontologically depressing, because I’m literally pressed from all sides (including the inside) by other beings

2. Mysterious. When you start to look, ecological awareness requires that distinctions become blurred but not dissolved: life-nonlife, sentient-nonsentient, intelligent-nonintelligent, conscious-nonconscious, existing-nonexistent. etc etc To be a thing is to be a mystery.

3. Uncanny. (a) Ecological awareness takes a noir form. You realize you are implicated. The tools you use to realize this (global technological devices) are also implicated in the very thing you are realizing. (b) It’s like knowing something unconscious about yourself, which is impossible–kind of glimpsing it sidelong. You don’t mean to harm earth when you turn your ignition key. And you’re not–it’s statistically meaningless. But at Earth magnitude (billions of key turnings) this is exactly what happens. The difference between me (Tim, little me) and this member of homo sapiens (species me). The latter is a hyperobject, not just an abstract concept.

When you put these together you get this nifty sentence: Ecological awareness has a loop form, because ecological beings have a loop form, because things in general have a loop form.

Through ecological awareness you realize that things just are what they are, but are ever so slightly different from what they are, all the time. The reaction to this takes many forms. There is a hierarchy of them, which you can imagine as moving from the outer brittle layers of a chocolate to its inner, sweet layer:


At first, dark ecology seems like a tragedy. Our attempt to escape the web of fate IS the web of fate. But in the end (in some ecological future to come), dark ecology is funny, in a sweet, nonviolent and outrageous way.

– Timothy Morton (personal correspondence)

I am struck by guilt and shame as a space that can really inform both the draw to the abject “post-Amercian (Rebecca Solnit) landscapes, and a way to unpack this anti-aesthetic. In the end, I’m going to conclude that while we can’t live without the rules of aesthetics (which are malleable, and bumpy in time), we need to be very awake to how they operate as instruments of power (see the hatred/ perceived danger of neo-environmentalists like Peter Kareiva or Emma Marris and the Breakthrough Institute, for instance, as undoing a lot of environmental work that’s been done in the last three decades). I think guilt and shame need some proper psychiatric treatment, in public, in groups. Superfund site exploration as group therapy.

So I tried to rewrite this project description anew:

FSDE is an art/science lab for hands-on creative inquiry into the Dark Ecologies of urban Nature. ArtScience Resident Experts and Amateurs (AREA heads) design and guide participatory field trips, workshops and discussions that mix citizen science, civic engagement, and artistic output in experimental, open-ended ways, in order to intimately experience problematic landscapes and their agents. Often this means coming close to the discomforts and realities of urban spaces that have industrial legacies. While the Superfund megasites of North Portland may provide a spectacular example of this sort of landscape, your own backyard may be a miniature brown field, and this is precisely the point: to connect, awaken and charge citizens with a thirst for knowledge and the tools and connections to do something.

FSDE is also interested in a shift of the imagination (a “nudge,” thank you, Una Chaudhuri). This is work we began in Dear Climate, which asks: what is inner climate, and what would that change look like? As we face more uncertainty, can we move to a generosity rather than a scarcity model that extends to species beyond the human? And can we appreciate the porosity – the blur – between self and other? Can we move beyond empathy, and cultivate compassion that is not based on similarity Can we embrace the “strange stranger?”

And finally, FSDE aims to allow grief and hope and conflict to exist simultaneously within the bounds of the project.

FSDE wants you to draw your own conclusions, question the given aesthetics and terms that constitute nature/culture, good/bad, ugly/beautiful), and partake in the transformations possible in the landscapes that surround your city. FSDE believes artists, designers, permaculturists, naturalists, and creative citizens of all sorts should not only be invested in/entitled to their surroundings, but could cultivate a robust biophilia, and have a place at policy tables to determine how aesthetics, values, morals and the desires of human AND non human agents can play out in determining urban futures.

Dark ecology’s aims are not to celebrate the dark, or to depress participants. In fact, quite the opposite can occur: there is hope in taking the reins and opening ones eyes. There are small, large and enormous leverage points to be had, with will and organization. And there is beauty and ugliness at work. The point is to not do that online UX quick-swipe “hot or not” move to get rid of the ugly as fast as one can, but to realize that you are not only soaking in it, but without doubt, implicated in its manifestations (which are only artifacts).

The project aims to use art as a tool for social change: nudging our capacity to encounter is the first step toward stewardship. Sometimes this stewardship does not look as clean and pure as the “typical environmentalist” would like (that would require editing out huge swaths of competing realities).

FSDE’s goal is to make a space in which one can be awake. And therefore connected. This is not a logical connectedness, but one of many points, overlaps and conflicts. There needs to be a safe place (in Winnicott’s terms, to be held) where one can explore grief, hope, science, longing, and most importantly, the imagination.

Morton’s second book, The Ecological Thought was discussed by philosopher Levi Bryant thusly:

“Ecology shows us that all beings are connected. The ecological thought  is the thinking of interconnectedness. The ecological thought is a thought about ecology, but it’s also a thinking that is ecological… It’s a practice and a process of becoming fully aware of how human beings are connected with other beings– animal, vegetable, or mineral.”   – Levi Bryant, The Ecological Thought: A Reply to a Critic

And this is what FSDE aims for: to perform ecology, not just learn about it or support it whilst omitting (at convenience and ad nauseum) one’s complicity in its jaw-dropping, anthropogenic scope.