What’s Up With the Mets?

The Mets started this season on a strong point, and for a moment were the top team on the NL East.  However, such dominance didn’t last long; although it’s still very early on in the season, they’re already below .500, and while they could make it to the wild card later on in the season, they’ll have trouble taking the NL East title from the Nationals.  But it’s not entirely bleak for the Mets; while this season is shaping up to be a tough one for the team, it’s not over yet.  I recently read an interesting article arguing that the Mets are setting the groundwork for a big win in the near future.

The Mets have still got some pretty talented players in their roster; they might have lost Colon to the Braves in a bittersweet loss, but Jay Bruce has been stepping up to the plate in a big way, in many instances hitting home-runs that have saved the game.  Alderson and Collins seem to be making decisions similar to a few years ago when they were rebuilding the team.  Some spots on the Mets roster could spell trouble, for example Asdrubal Cabrera.  For the second straight season, he’s forced to play the infield’s most difficult position while fighting through all sorts of injuries.  This happened last year as well, and it didn’t end great.  Flores and Duda are both out, meaning that Collins needs to rely on Reyes, Bruce and Rivera.  Sometimes this goes well – Jay Bruce has been doing very well this season – but not always.  

While this is a perfectly acceptable approach when expectations are low, it’s not sustainable if the Mets want to be the last team standing.  According to a quick survey on baseball insiders, the Mets are the only baseball team that consistently plays shorthanded.  That’s perfectly fine if you don’t expect to break .500, but it doesn’t look good if the Mets want to get as far as they did in 2015, or even last year.  For the Mets to make it to postseason, Collins and Alderson need to play a lot more aggressively.  Such players as Rosario, Cabrera, Reyes and Conforto, if used properly, could help propel them to postseason as opposed to making fans wait years for any hope of making it to postseason.   

from Ari Kellen | Sports http://ift.tt/2qgFPzq

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Eating All the Way to Citi Field

eating all the way to citi field by ari kellenI love Queens a whole lot, but most people in Manhattan and Brooklyn don’t visit much, apart from going to see the Mets.  Most people just view the 7 line, which runs through the heart of Queens, as little more than a long ride up to Citi Field.  Yet there’s so much more off this above-ground line than meets the eye.  Next time you’re on your way to “meet the Mets”, here are some great places to grab a bite or a drink right off various stops on the 7 line:

Irish pub woodside (Woodside 61st St): Once upon a time, New York was scattered with Irish ethnic enclaves, most of which have faded away as their residents moved out.  One of the few neighborhoods that still has a sizable Irish population is Woodside, Queens.  Although the Irish community isn’t as large as it once was, the pubs in Woodside still offer a level of authenticity that’s now lacking in most of Hell’s Kitchen.  If you don’t want to spend $12 for a Bud Light at Citi Field, then visit Donovan’s or Sean Og’s, both of which serve better beer for half the price.

Papa’s Kitchen (Woodside 61st St): In addition to being an Irish neighborhood, Woodside is home to a large Filipino community.  My favorite joint to visit is Papa’s Kitchen, a tiny spot (I don’t know how they fit in there) serving delicious, authentic Filipino.  Since so much Filipino food is deep-fried, it’s the perfect food to soak up that beer you had at Sean Og’s.  On evenings, they do karaoke, making Papa’s Kitchen an experience that goes beyond food.   

Tibetan food (Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights): Jackson Heights is the center of New York’s small but tight-knit Tibetan community.  Here, various hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve up top-notch noodles and momo (a type of dumpling) at ridiculously low prices.  Two places that really stand out are Phayul and Lhasa Fast Food.  Both of these are pretty hard to find; the former is up some stairs marked by a nondescript sign, and the latter is literally in the back of a cell phone shop.  But they’re well worth a visit, and will fill you up for less than what you’ll pay for a hot dog and fries at Citi Field.  

Tortas Neza (Junction Blvd): Owner Galdino Molinero, also known as “Tortas”, is an avid soccer fan who has turned his cash-only food truck into a love letter to the fútbol of his native Mexico.  While his loyalties lie with the Pumas, his 18 different overstuffed sandwiches are each named after a different Mexican soccer team.  Even if Tortas Neza is geared towards soccer, that’s in no way to discredit these sandwiches as a good prep for a baseball game.    

Rincon Criollo (Junction Blvd): After the Cuban Revolution closed down their popular Havana restaurant, the Acosta family brought their home-style cooking to Queens, opening Rincon Criollo in 1976.  Ever since, the restaurant has earned a well-deserved reputation for good old-fashioned, home-style Cuban cooking, and was even featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.  The portions here are generous, prices reasonable, and the taste beats even Citi Field’s sausage & pepper sandwiches.  

Flushing Chinatown (Flushing Main St): It’s well-known that Flushing is home to New York’s largest and most authentic Chinatown, though most New Yorkers seldom visit; it’s even further than Citi Field, and once you get there, there are so many places, and it’s such a large neighborhood, that it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed.  Yet for your post-game dinner, there are some places that are well worth a visit: the food stalls of the Golden Shopping Mall, hot oil wontons from White Bear, fall-apart tender Muslim lamb chops from Fu Run and the flavorful traditional Sichuan of Spicy & Tasty.  All of these serve truly delicious, stand out food at low prices, offering an authentic experience you can’t get anywhere else in New York.  

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Flipping a Stolen House

flipping a stolen house by ari kellenFew things are more cutthroat and surreal than the world of New York City real estate.  In a city that’s home to some of the world’s most outrageously expensive property, people will do just about anything, even in a place as far-out as Canarsie.  Yesterday, Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man for stealing a woman’s house with fraudulent paperwork and then flipping it to unsuspecting investors.  

This story begins when former Board of Education administrator Hillary Kerman went where many people go after retirement: Florida.  Kerman used to live in the two-family house before a fire in the early 2000s, and has since left the house vacant, waiting for the right time to sell.  She spends her summers elsewhere in Brooklyn, and her winters and springs in Florida.  While she was in Florida, Kenneth Pearson came up with a plan: steal the house with fraudulent papers and then flip it with the help of investors.  Last spring, Kerman noticed that something was amiss that May when she didn’t get her annual tax bill for the house.  When she dug further, she found out that somebody had filed fraudulent paperwork to steal her house, and then went to the house and found that it had been completely gutted.  

Although Kerman had left the house vacant for some years, the damage from the fire was minimal, and many things were still left in the house, including vital documents and various personal effects: her and her grandparents’ wedding albums and all of her parents’ possessions, and somebody had even torn out the trees and rosebushes in the house.  Prosecutors were surprised to see how quickly the thief had moved.  Pearson sold the house to flippers in just two months for $265,000 (these are Canarsie prices, not Manhattan prices), who never bothered to look inside.  It had been cleaned out, and so they knocked down all the walls to make an open floor plan.  

Since this happened, Kerman needs to sort out various details, such as how to start getting her mail again.  The investors are also having a hard time getting money from their title insurance company.  After a month-long grand jury, the police finally found Pearson, who now faces four felony counts.  The most serious charge, filing a false instrument, carries 7 ½ to 15 years in prison.  

If you’d like to learn more about this bizarre story, you can click here!

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Is Pepsi Getting Political?

is pepsi getting political by ari kellenThe current political situation in the United States has left many people upset and disillusioned, with just about everybody and every brand getting political.  The Women’s March back in January was a gigantic protest event that truly rocked the country, with one out of every 100 Americans taking part.  During the Super Bowl, one notable Budweiser commercial told the story of founder Adolphus Busch, which explored his early years as an immigrant with a subtext critical of Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant stance.  Even Pepsi has taken a stand in their most recent commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, yet this was pulled almost as quickly as it was released.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the commercial features Kendall Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, leaving behind a modeling shoot to join a vague protest march.  By handing one white police officer a Pepsi can, she’s able to bring everybody together.  In the background, Skip Marley’s song “Lions” plays.  The song references the Lion of Judah, a symbol in Rastafarian ideology meant to save Africans and the diaspora from the colonial powers (i.e. rich white people like Kendall Jenner’s family).  

One thing that’s always fascinated me about commercials is their ability to create unique worlds and events, if only for about 30 seconds to a couple minutes at most, that in the real world would never happen.  This new Pepsi commercial is definitely one of those, yet it’s also kind of tone-deaf.  The protests to which this commercial pays homage started out against Wall Street and the inequities of capitalism, exemplified by gigantic corporate giants (like Pepsi).  

It might seem like a complete lack of self-awareness that Pepsi would try to make itself a champion of the protestors, yet at the same time this follows one of the basic tenets of advertising: go where the money goes.  It follows a trend that various other big brands are going: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Burger King and even the Fearless Girl statue set up by the State Street fund.  For those who are concerned about the direction of big business and our country as a whole, such moves can seem refreshing; a way to say “we’re on your side”.  But at the same time, it’s difficult to decipher whether or not they’re sincere, and whether or not these big corporations are doing the same thing they’ve always done: try and make more money, just this time with a different tone.  

from Ari Kellen | Musical Minded http://ift.tt/2o9QtIw

Mixed Feelings About Colon

Mixed Feelings About Colon by Ari KellenThere were some mixed feelings for Mets fans tonight as Bartolo Colon made his first Citi Field appearance of the season.  Because this time, baseball’s lovable everyman wasn’t playing for the Mets, but rather for their fabled rivals of the NL East, the Braves.  And maybe it got to the Mets’ heads: over the course of a 12-inning game last night, the Mets were only able to get one run and five hits.  Although the Mets won their first game of the season on Monday, such playing isn’t going to get it done.  

For six innings, deGrom was doing well, yet Robles let some hits go that allowed the Braves to tie the score and bring the game into overtime.  When he went out to the mound, Colon was met with cheers from both his former teammates and their fans.  Yet after Colon spelled doom to the Mets, those fuzzy feelings may go away soon.  As Bruce pointed out, you’re almost guaranteed to get a fastball from Colon, which puts players on the defense.  By hitting Colon’s “mistakes”, few and far-between as they are, Bruce was able to score the only run for the Mets of the game.  

The Mets’ frustrations after various blown chances came to a head in overtime.  Rafael Montero, the seventh of eight Mets pitchers, wiggled out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the 11th with a double-play grounder from Garcia.  Yet his magic died out in the 12th after Matt Kemp was able to get a two-run shot that propelled the score to 3-1 in favor of the Braves.  This might be discouraging, but it’s also only two games into baseball season.  Anything can happen, and I’m excited to see what this entails.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to head up to Citi Field soon!  

from Ari Kellen | Sports http://ift.tt/2o2dZa0

What You Didn’t Know About Prospect Park

what you didn't know about prospect park by ari kellenAlthough it isn’t as well-known as Central Park, as Brooklyn’s largest park, it’s got plenty to offer.  While you’re out exploring Prospect Park, you might want to know some trivia so you can look out for historical details you may have otherwise forgotten.  I recently read an article in TimeOut that shared some facts about the park that you may not have known.  They might surprise you:

It use to be a popular spot for farm animals: After Prospect Park first opened in 1867, it was a popular hangout spot for local livestock.  While they weren’t allowed on the land, it was a tough law to enforce, and dozens of stray farm animals were regularly found on the land.  

It was built on a battle site: During the American Revolution, the land on what is now Prospect Park was part of the Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn.  It marked a valiant stand by the soldiers of the 1st Maryland Regiment, who although vastly outnumbered by the British were able to cover for George Washington while the rest of the army retreated.  

It used to have a full replica of Mount Vernon: To commemorate George Washington’s 200th birthday, Robert Moses erected a full replica of his home.  Sadly, however, it was torn down after just two years.  

It was part of an Indian trail: In the 17th century and earlier, Brooklyn was home to Lenape Indians, who used a well-worn trail that later became the best route of travel between the Dutch towns of Brooklyn and Flatbush.  It even played a part in the Battle of Brooklyn!  When Prospect Park was established, it became East Drive.  

It’s the final resting place of some 2,000 people: Since at least the 1840s, Prospect Park served as a Quaker cemetery.  Since Quakers rejected headstones as a form of vanity, many of these graves were unmarked.  If you’re curious, you can always bring a ouija board to the park at night!

It was made by people paid $1.70 a day: The construction workers who helped build the park, mostly poor Irish immigrants, were paid on a daily salary that today couldn’t even buy a Starbucks coffee.  It’s hard to adjust for inflation (inflation didn’t start being properly recorded until 1913), this wasn’t a big sum by any means.  

It used to host “ice baseball”: In the 19th century, Prospect Park’s frozen lake hosted a unique winter game known as “ice baseball”.  It was much like regular baseball, except it was done with ice skates and a slightly different ball.  It attracted thousands of spectators and players from as far away at Baltimore.  

It has an historic statue of Lincoln: After Lincoln’s assassination, Henry Kirke Brown created a series of large bronze statues of the late President.  The one in Prospect Park was the first one to be dedicated, so it holds the honor of being the Union’s first Abraham Lincoln statue.  

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration http://ift.tt/2orhaHy

Mets Players To Watch

mets players to watch by ari kellenBaseball season is coming up!  I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited to meet the Mets of 2017!  After various players went down for the count last season, and the Mets blew their chance to make it into the playoffs, fans are watching with anticipation.  Spring Training isn’t always an accurate indicator as to a team or player’s performance, but nonetheless, some names have been standing out.  Here are eight different players to watch this season:

Michael Conforto: Conforto got off to a hot start this season, hitting well above .300 with more at-bats than any other player.  He’s been playing well, but at the same time it’s unclear as to where you can put him.

Fernando Salas: The Mets are getting excited about Salas, who is typically the first out of the bullpen.  Yet he’ll be playing an even bigger role as this season starts, setting up for Addison Reed.  Nonetheless, he hasn’t pitched much this spring and needs to shake off those cobwebs.

Brandon Nimmo: While Nimmo showed promise at the World Baseball Classic, a hamstring injury has prevented him from playing in Grapefruit League games since his return.  

Josh Smoker: This left-handed pitcher has had a good spring, which makes him particularly attractive to Terry Collins.  

Matt Harvey: Harvey had a bad 2016, and although his Grapefruit League has started out well, he’s still having trouble getting through the order.  His surgery typically requires about 10 months to fully recover, and that’s still a few months away.  

Ben Rowen: After being signed early on in the off-season and showing some promise during Spring Training, Rowen’s unorthodox style is tough for hitters to combat, yet whether or not he can continue to command his pitches remains to be seen.  

Zack Wheeler: Wheeler is expected to start the season off, yet it isn’t clear what will happen if he out-pitches Harvey.  His innings limit keeps changing, and so the idea of having him work out of the bullpen has been floated.  

Lucas Duda: After back spasms got in his way during the Grapefruit League, Duda is back into action, and looks ready to deliver.  He’s hit .296 with five runs scored, five doubles and two homers, so things are looking good.
If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

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Finding Inspiration in New York

finding inspiration in new yorkNew York is filled with inspiration no matter where you go.  Even if you aren’t the creative type, it’s not hard to feel inspired in the five boroughs, even as older residents complain about gentrification.  I recently read an article that interviewed six designers that are making inroads in the New York fashion scene, asking them to share what they consider New York’s best spots for inspiration.  Some of these didn’t really resonate with me, but there were a few spots they mentioned that I do truly love:

St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery: This church on 10th and 2nd Avenue was once on the farm of Pieter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam’s notoriously cranky one-legged governor.  According to legend, his ghost haunts the church, angry that his property has been turned into an Episcopalian church (he was a devout Calvinist).  All ghosts aside, there’s a graveyard in the back that offers plenty of peace and quiet if you ever need to be alone.  

The Lower East Side: As one of New York’s oldest neighborhoods and one of its first slums, there’s always something exciting happening here, even if the dynamic of the neighborhood has changed dramatically.  It’s filled with great coffee shops, bars, restaurants, clubs and small boutiques.  

Strand Bookstore: Even if it’s considered kind of a touristy place, it’s one of the few touristy places that New Yorkers actually love visiting.  They have books here on just about every topic you can think of, offering endless sources of inspiration.  

Brooklyn Flea: Any creative person could find some great ideas in all of the things going on at Brooklyn Flea, whether it’s the music, art or furniture.  Even though people in Brooklyn like to pretend they don’t care, they prep for the Brooklyn Flea.  

Chelsea: Whether it’s the High Line, the art galleries or the fabled Chelsea Market, there’s plenty to do out here, and the entire neighborhood has a great vibe.  There’s an app called “See Saw” that lets you search art galleries by neighborhood, which is of course great fun in a place like Chelsea.  

from Ari Kellen| Travel Page http://ift.tt/2ms27Mm

Brooklyn’s Mohawk Community

brooklyn's mohawk community by ari kellenWhenever immigrants arrive in New York, they often congregate, creating ethnic enclaves in various neighborhoods.  While the demographics of these neighborhoods often change as older residents move out and newer ones move in, you can often see traces of their legacy: Hell’s Kitchen still features plenty of Irish pubs, places like Sammy’s Roumanian and Yonah Schimmel remain alive and well in the Lower East Side, and Mulberry Street is still dotted with Italian restaurants.  Yet in many other instances, these ethnic enclaves vanish without a trace: you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Alphabet City was once the center of New York’s “Kleindeutschland”, and chances are you haven’t heard of “Little Caughnawaga”, Boerum Hill’s small but tight-knit Mohawk Indian community.  

The Mohawk are not native to Brooklyn; they’re a tribe whose ancestral homeland is near what is now Schenectady.  They got kicked out of the region after choosing the wrong side during the American Revolution, and found themselves in reservations in Canada and northern New York.  Starting in the 1920s, Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reservation near Montreal found work building bridges and skyscrapers in New York City.  For whatever reason, these men congregated in an area that’s now in Boerum Hill.  Over time, their families moved down with them, forming an enclave known as “Little Caughnawaga”, which by the late 40s had about 700 members.  

At this time, Boerum Hill was a mostly Irish and Italian neighborhood, yet there were certain focal points of the Mohawk community.  One bar, known as the “Wigwam”, was a popular hangout spot for Mohawk ironworkers to discuss jobs and pick up mail from relatives up north.  Mohawk women would cook traditional white cornbread with kidney beans at a nearby lunch counter.  One Presbyterian church even offered sermons in Mohawk.  In 1949, a New Yorker article titled “Mohawks in High Steel” spoke of a growing neighborhood with “signs of permanence”.  Despite such signs, the Mohawk retained close ties with home; weekend and summer trips to visit friends and families in reservations up north were common.

Thanks to a rise in crime and a difficult economy, the “signs of permanence” that the New Yorker wrote about started to fade.  The community dwindled by the 60s, with many returning to Canada or marrying non-Indians and moving to the suburbs.  The Mohawk-speaking Presbyterian Church was converted into apartments, the Wigwam went out of business and traditional Mohawk bread is hard to find in Brooklyn.

While traces of “Little Caughnawaga” are few and far-between, it’s not a legacy that’s been forgotten by the Mohawk themselves.  In reservations, some Mohawk still retain thick Brooklyn accents, and ironworkers from these reservations still come to New York for jobs.  It’s nonetheless sad to see that this neighborhood has faded away, yet ultimately all things must pass.  

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Queens

10 Things You didn't know about queens by Ari KellenWhen asked what the “hot” borough is, most New Yorkers will tell you it’s either Manhattan or Brooklyn.  And there’s plenty of great stuff to do in both, without a doubt.  But that’s not to discredit their eastern neighbor, Queens.  In a city as unique as New York, Queens still stands out.  It might not boast the brunches of neighboring boroughs, but it’s still got a whole lot to offer, and is rich in history.  Here are some facts you might not know about Queens:

It’s really big: With 2.3 million residents, Queens has just 400,000 less people than Chicago.  If it seceded from the rest of New York, it would be the fourth largest city in the US; the country’s current fourth-largest city, Houston, is a few thousand residents behind.  

It’s actually named after a Queen: Like many places in Colonial America, Queens is named after a British monarch: Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II.  When the British took the area from the Dutch in the 1660s, the region got some new anglophile names: “Nieuw Amsterdam” became “New York” in honor of the reigning monarch’s brother, the Duke of York, while the neighboring counties were renamed “Kings” and “Queens” in honor of the reigning monarchs.

It’s the final resting place of Harry Houdini: Located a good distance from any subway line, Machpaleh Jewish cemetery is fairly nondescript.  However, it’s the site of Houdini’s grave, a popular mecca for Halloween revelers and aspiring magicians.  It’s fastidiously looked after by The Society of American Magicians and the Houdini Museum in Scranton.  

The Rockaways is New York’s premier surfing spot: Located at the very end of the A train, the Rockaways is arguably New York’s best beach.  Hurricane Sandy hit it hard, but it’s been making a major comeback, and its beach is home to some great waves.  Even without a board, it’s well worth the trip.

It’s the most diverse neighborhood in the world: New York’s always been a diverse place; when it was a remote trading post with only 400 people living there, there were 18 different languages.  But Queens brings that to a whole new level; the 2000 Census counted 138 languages spoken in the borough, yet some experts estimate that number to be around 800.  Furthermore, a lot of these languages can’t be heard anywhere else in the world.  

The food is amazing: The brunch spots in Queens might not be as well-known as Brooklyn’s or Manhattan’s, but that’s not to discredit the food scene in Queens.  The neighborhood’s ethnic diversity means that you can get a whole lot of delicious and authentic food you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

Some of the world’s best pianos are made in Astoria: Although New York was historically a center of manufacturing, that’s changed recently due to high taxes and expensive real estate.  Yet the piano company Steinway & Sons, founded in Astoria in 1853, is staying just where it is, and has been using the same factory for 100 years.  

It’s the site of a major film studio: Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio, and home to New York’s only backlot.  Classic films and TV shows such as “Animal Crackers”, “Goodfellas” and “Sesame Street” have all been filmed there.  It’s also the home to New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, a great museum chronicling film history.

There’s an abandoned Civil War fort in Queens: In 1862, the government built a fort to watch over the ships entering and leaving New York Harbor.  Although Fort Totten Park never saw battle, it had a long history as a base and training station for the US Army.  Some of it remains a training ground for the army reserves, but the public part is a great park.   

It’s the hometown of a lot of big names: The Ramones, Simon & Garfunkel, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett, Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Louis Armstrong are just a few famous musicians who come from or have lived in Queens over the years.  

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration http://ift.tt/2lddYOl