Category Archives: Brooklyn

Seeing Dyker Heights Christmas Lights


photo 4photo 1-2Manhattan is not the only part of New York City that gets lit up during the holidays. Brooklyn does too, and the best place to see them is in Dyker Heights!

Residents in Dyker Heights really go all out with decorations: inflatable characters, Santas, robotic figurines and lots and lots of lights. Many of these folks in this neighborhood hire professional decorators to give their homes a holiday look. As though no expense is overlooked, these houses seem as though they’re involved in some “friendly” curb appeal competition. And a financial boost to Con Edison. You can view a video of one of these homes here:

photo 1-1photo 1photo 3-1The over-the-top outdoor decor is so much that visitors trek to here each year to view their homes. For viewing, the best spot to see “Dyker Lights” is to head to the high 80s (83rd through 86th mostly) about between 11th through 13th Avenues. As for getting here, it’s better to go by car or on a bus tour.

photo 3-2If you’re tempted to take the subway, please note you’ll have a good bit of walking ahead of you. And that’s just to get to the houses. If you must, the subway directions I found involving taking either the R train to 86th St. stop (the last one) or the D or M train to 18th Avenue. Also please note that this neighborhood section is not really that lit — in terms of street lamps.

I decided to go on a bus tour through A Slice of Brooklyn Tours, which picked my group up near Union Square. It’s called Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour.  While being on the bus for most of the trip, there are stops to walk nearby and get closer views.

Our trip to Brooklyn also extended to seeing similar holiday homes in the residential areas of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. I took both a photo and video of a “very blue” home in Bensonhurst (shown below). Here’s a clip of it:

photo-3Well, there is one in Bensonhurst, owned by a Greek man, that completely goes over the top! This is it below. You can view a video of it here:

photo 2Our bus tour guide also gave us a lot of background info on these neighborhoods and the history behind Dyker Heights’ holiday showcase. If you’re not too familiar with Brooklyn, I would recommend taking this tour instead. Plus, bring a good camera!

Along for the Ride: A Tour of Citi Bike Warehouse

Since its launch in May, Citi Bike has been getting a lot of hype and use on New York City streets. This past weekend, the bicycle sharing program participated in the openhouseny series through holding tours of its headquarters in Brooklyn next to the Gowanus Expressway.


On Saturday, Citi Bike’s Office Manager Justin Salsberg led my group around this warehouse on 3rd Avenue and 52nd Street. Taking us up and down levels and through the entire facility, Salsberg showed us every aspect of Citi Bike’s operations. Pretty much, it’s a round-the-clock command center.

The upper level houses customer service representatives and dispatch operators, who both are busy 24/7. Citi Bike staffers receive about 1,500 calls daily, according to Salsberg, with inquiries often involving “how-to” questions on even, yes, how to ride a bike. Emails are another story, as Salsberg mentioned that about 350 email responses are sent per day.

photo(65) photo(64) photo(63) photo(59)With dispatch, a logistics team monitors station needs, such as when to refill stations and tracking the rental status of 6,000 bicycles currently on the street. Staff members also interact with their colleagues at Alta Planning + Design, Citi Bike’s parent company in Portland, Oregon.

Also up in the office level, the program’s first three bicycles are on display. Aside from marking the program’s official launch, these initial bikes signify some of the challenges faced in starting off its ride.

photo(61) photo(58)Based at its Gowanus location for half this year, Citi Bike’s HQ originally was in the Brooklyn Navy Yard right up before Hurricane Sandy hit in late October 2012. Due to severe storm damage, with the loss of almost its entire fleet of 2,000 bicycles, Citi Bike staff then relocated and launched from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. Only these three bikes escaped with no severe mash-ups.

Speaking of bikes, Citi Bike’s wheels are pre-made in Montreal, with some touch-ups added on. Each Citi Bike weighs about 42 and ½ pounds, with Salsberg describing the model as “street cruiser heavy,” the weight also acts as a theft deterrent and fits in mind with the bike sharing program as being used solely to get a rider “from Point A to Point B.” Additions for the NYC bikes include LED blinking lights on the rear tire and, on the front, a protective rack that consists of a half-open side basket with bungee cords can hold in items such as a bag or a briefcase.


The reason why there’s no full basket is due to safety reasons, such as riders who might think of a basket as an extra seat and try to place their young children in it. It also deters any garbage from being left with the bike.

Heading back downstairs, the lower level of the warehouse is a bike storage and repair station area. A good portion of space is for bike stacking, as Citi Bikes are lined up after being repaired for reuse at various stations through Manhattan and Brooklyn. Parked vans are used for loading and delivering bikes ready to go. When asked station region was the busiest, Salsberg quickly answered Midtown, particularly around Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

photo(57) photo(56)photo(57)On one side, there is a repair room called Station Tech, where maintenance on station parts such as docking ports and touchscreen kiosks take place here. Literally, the room is stocked with various pieces of hardware.

photo(53) photo(52) photo(51) photo(50)Another large space down here is a body shop where close to 20 mechanics work rotating shifts in either the morning, afternoon or evening to repair close to 10 bikes a day. Of course, tires get damaged by parts getting stuck in them, and there’s a container called Big Apple Shrapnel showcasing these bits and piece. Vandalism is the biggest repair issue, with most of it having to do with removing stickers.

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Salsberg also shared some tips and side stories. As Citi Bikes can go missing or get stolen, despite a tracking system and a hefty fee, DOT, NYPD and the general public have been helpful in calling in about spotting bikes out of their normal places. One interesting find was of a Citi Bike hanging from a tree in Harlem.

And for those riders who face a dilemma called the “biker bump”  – where a CitiBike is locked in but not correctly – Salsberg gave this answer. Lift the bike by both the front handle and back seat, and put it through in a motion that’s like you’re shoveling. It will click in.

Day Tripping at EscapeMaker’s Local Food & Travel Expo

This past Saturday, EscapeMaker, a travel website for day tripping, presented its third annual Local Food & Travel Expo inside Brooklyn Borough Hall. In keep with its focus on getaways, the expo showcased attractions in or connected to New York State, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. And Brooklyn also had a big part.

photoHosted by Brooklyn Tourism, Brooklyn’s rising locavore scene took center stage at this year’s expo. In also celebrating the rebirth of the city’s agricultural past, a “best of” cornucopia of companies offered samples to visitors.

Stinky Bklyn in Carroll Gardens had soft and hard cheeses on display. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que celebrated the opening of its Park Slope location with pulled pork. Kelso Beer Company in Clinton Hill served up two choices of brews while Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Winery poured tastings of its red and white labels. Right outside of Borough Hall, a small farmer’s market offered additional edibles for sale.

photo-9 photo-8 photo-7 photo-5Other Brooklyn-based outlets on hand included Edible Brooklyn, Allan’s Bakery, Coney Island’s Luna Park, Cacao Pietro, Urban Oyster Tours, and Brooklyn Museum.

While Brooklyn has much to offer visitors, EscapeMaker’s expo also recognized destinations within a day’s drive or train ride.

In heading upstate, the second level at Borough Hall centered on destinations outside of the city. New York State’s “Country Byways” encompasses a number of natural and historical attractions found in this region such as in the Finger Lakes and Greater Niagara. Howe Caverns Adventure Park offers hands-on activity, while town of LeRoy is known as the birthplace for Jell-O, invented there in 1897.

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From Pennsylvania, Brandywine Country Cooking School featured dishes from its classes. To further go on about food-related trips, Vermont is a good place to go for good eats, and not just maple or cheese. Visit Vermont tourism board featured the state’s “Dig In Vermont” campaign is flavored with specialty foods, wines, and microbrews. Outdoor pursuits and places to stay were also represented.


Apples are New York State staple, and, at the expo, the New York Apple Association had plenty to give away. Informational materials on apple picking and different varieties were also available. Of course, we need transportation to get to places. So, in keeping with that portion of travel, ZipCar, Metro-North and Amtrak handed out materials on promotions. For those who like to going on foot, the Appalachian Mountain Club gave presentations on backpacking and hiking.

Overall, the EscapeMaker Local Food & Travel Expo had good resources to encourage exploring – culinary pursuits, especially.