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Faces/Places in the ‘Hood

November 10, 2008

This is a new series I will be starting in which I’ll be interviewing residents as well as proprietors in the neighborhood.


What’s your name and business name?  My name is Michelle and the name of my business is ‘Mirrors on Grand’. A bar located on Grand ave between Clifton place and Lafayette ave.

How long have you been in the area?  The business has been open officially open since March 29, 2008. I’ve been in the immediate area for ten years…I used to live in Fort Greene prior to Clinton Hill and my family has been here since the ’70’s.

What do you like most about this neighborhood? I like thats it’s very diverse.

Has it always been diverse?  Yeah, it’s always been diverse.

What do you like least about this neighborhood? There’s nothing I really like the least…I like everything. I take the good with the bad and I think the good outweighs the bad.

What changes would you like to see in the neighborhood? New businesses… And umm minority owned businesses that are actually from and involved in neighborhood.

Would you like to see some the new businesses that have opened up be more active in the community? Definitely…I feel like older neighborhood businesses, those places that have a reputation for themselves already, have a relationship with the community…whether it’s the arab corner store or the chinese restaurant, they all have some type of relationship with there customers. When it comes to some of the newer establishments in the neighborhood, it seems as though they welcome the new residents and don’t quite welcome the old.

Interesting…Have you ever felt unsafe in the ‘hood? NEVER! Ever, ever…only one time when I was real young visiting New York.

Where were you visiting from and how old were you? I came from England, I was 9 years old. At that point in time my family stayed on South Elliot between DeKalb and Lafayette, I happened to venture to the Myrtle side of Fort Greene park. I was scared because I didn’t know how to get home.

What are your fondest memories of the neighborhood? My fondest? Wow…there’s so many. My fondest memories of the neighborhood…Man, there’s so many…block parties are one of my favorites. Watching my son grow up in the neighborhood, I mean that’s a given. I’m a single parent and businesses, people in the streets, they look out for my son. He comes home all the time saying someone told him to tell mommy ‘hello’. I appreciate that, the community feel…the bodegas, the liquor stores, all the other businesses, it feels good that they keep an eye out for em’.

How do feel about the gentrification of the neighborhood? I love it but I hate it. When I say that…I love it that now Fort Greene/Clinton Hill gets recognition for being the diverse community based neighborhood we are, but what I hate is that they make it seem like they made Fort Greene/Clinton Hill the diverse community based neighborhood we are…

When you say they…who do you mean? The new comers…umm you know…some of the new comers feel as though they made Fort Greene/Clinton Hill but actually Fort Greene/Clinton Hill had many events, a lot of things going on and no disrepect to anyone but it was Fort Greene/Clinton Hill before them and will be after them…So the gentrification I love somewhat because now people know about the area but I don’t want to buy 2 lemons for $2.00! I want my 6 lemons for a dollar at my local Pioneer, C-Town or Met Foods. I don’t want an organic market replacing these stores…I don’t.

Tell me something about the ‘hood you think is overlooked: Umm..The Paul Robeson Theater…the church on Lafayette and South Oxford that used to house runaway slaves…I would like those kinds of things to alse be brought up about the neighborhood, the history…I mean Paul Robeson was the Denzel Washington of his time, an icon and here we have this theater in his name and no one knows or cares to rebuild this theater that we’ve had in our neighborhood for so long…

You had a fundraiser…Yes I did have a fundraiser, it was a very small turnout. Dr.English, the owner of Paul Robeson theater showed up…You know I just wish we could recognize people in our neighborhood that have been here, that have done things for the community…I mean Dr.English delivered Malcom X’s first daughter, people don’t know about that, here she is in our community, she’s been in our community, owns a theater that no one wants to help rebuild and doesn’t get any recognition. She was the only OB/GYN doctor in this neighborhood for over twenty years at one point! I just wish more people in the neighborhood were recognized…

How do you feel about the coverage of the area, media or otherwise? I don’t think it’s balanced at all, I mean this goes with the gentrication thing, I’m not mad at it because yeah I may want to go to Tillies for a latte but there’s other places in the neighborhood that have lattes…there’s this place on Bedford, even though that’s Bed-Stuy but still there’s alot places that won’t survive because they don’t get supported. Even over here Brown Betty that’s on Grand ave has great lattes and hot apple cider, she can’t afford to be open 5-7 days a week now cause she doesnt have the business but has great lattes. There’s alot of quaint businesses in the cut that are quality but don’t get the coverage or support.

Speaking of coverage, how do you feel about the brownstoner incident?(A few months ago one of Brooklyn’s most prominent bloggers, wrote a post about the closing Grand 275 in which it was stated it may be because of the ‘dodgy’ crowd at Mirrors on Grand across the street and that the 88th precinct needed to do a crackdown on the place immediately) I was really offended by that post, alot of people in the neighborhood were offended. I was especially offended, more than anything because he’d never been to the venue and would have a negative comment to make, that’s one of the sites I go on, I’m a blog reader and I just feel like it was a little bit racist…not even a little bit, it was racist. I feel like the site only makes negative comments when it comes to minority businesses. I felt like he hurt my business, I felt like he discredited Grand 275, it was their last day of being open and I felt like to say something like that to their patrons, that they wouldn’t even give a chance or possibly frequent my venue. He made it seem like Mirrors was the reason Grand 275 shutdown. The post was removed but I felt like I should’ve received a formal retraction and formal apology…it was removed but the damage was already done…I mean he really went in on me with that and it brought out some bad tension out in the comments.

Any ending thoughts?  The reason I call the bar Mirrors is because I wanted it to be a reflection of the neighborhood…the new AND the old..the new is here and the old is not to be forgotten.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. la duchessa permalink
    November 10, 2008 9:34 pm

    geesh, i still haven’t made it over there. thanks for the reminder to stop in… she ‘s lovely.

  2. November 11, 2008 1:00 am

    Love this feature! The photo and the interview are wonderful!

  3. bknesto permalink
    November 11, 2008 1:05 am

    Thank you The Changeling, it was definitely inspired by your ‘Meet your Neighbor’ posts!

  4. kyle permalink
    November 12, 2008 3:18 pm

    Nice article.

    Its interesting how people lay claims to a neighborhood. My inlaws lived here long before most of the current residents, before the BQE, when the neighborhood was mostly Italian. Things are always changing in NYC that’s for sure.

  5. bknesto permalink
    November 12, 2008 4:16 pm

    Kyle I think I’m missing your point about “laying claim to a neighborhood”…If your in-laws lived here x amount of years and then their offsprings lived here for the next 20-30 yrs, wouldnt they think of it as ‘my neighborhood’ or ‘their neighborhood’? Would it not be presumed that their observations about the neighborhood or knowledge about the dynamics and intricacies of the neighborhood may differ from someone who resided in the last 5-8 years? And of course things change that doesnt mean people won’t speak on said change…Go ask whatever westies that are left in Hell Kitchen…or their children they’ll speak on it for days!

  6. kyle permalink
    November 12, 2008 5:36 pm

    We totally agree BK. That’s why I visit your blog. I love to hear histories of the neighborhood.

    What I am kind of tired of is the whole new vs. old resident thing that takes place on all the neighborhood blogs. The Brownstoner incident you mentioned is one of them . I saw the original post and it was an unfair baseless attack. I also think that whether so and so feels welcome or supports particular businesses based on how long they’ve live in a neighborhood seems like a dubious premise. Its not as if everyone walks around with arm bands on stating the date they moved in. To me ‘my neighborhood’ is made up of the people currently living in it whether its been for a day or for forty years. The more varied the more interesting.

  7. bknesto permalink
    November 12, 2008 6:11 pm

    C’mon now Kyle people don’t wear armbands but are you honestly going to tell me that I wouldn’t for the most part be able to tell older residents from new ones?! Seriously…I mean I wouldn’t be 100% but I’m willing to bet I’d be pretty damn close. Ask a newer resident what they like best about fulton street more than likely you will hear about Olivino, Kush, Outpost, Greene Market etc., ask an older resident and it’s likely to differ(not in ALL cases, we’re not talking absolutes here, I’ll say in MOST cases)…Which is fine by the way. But the dynamic is here so there should be dialogue. In being a bit reactionary I think you missed in the interview where it was stated:
    The reason I call the bar Mirrors is because I wanted it to be a reflection of the neighborhood…the new AND the old..the new is here and the old is not to be forgotten.

    The brownstoner incident may have been about a bit more than new vs. old, I won’t say too much more than that…I will say that it was polarizing to say the least and the barrage of more than a hundred comments in a short time reflected this notion. This interview, this series, this blog isn’t about that, it’s about honesty to create understanding. It’s about giving a perspective or voice of those usually overlooked when it comes to this neighborhood. So please don’t put this interview or this blog in the ‘us vs. them’ category. While you may not agree with everything posted on this blog, nothing posted here EVER has been overtly offensive to anyone in the way I and others have been offended when reading various other neighborhood blogs or forums…I can make a list…

  8. kyle permalink
    November 12, 2008 9:15 pm

    I agree BK. Your blog is more than fair and I don’t think it has ever been offensive. Perhaps I read too much into this piece. I guess I was a little more interested in finding out about Michelle and her business than what she thinks of gentrification and neighborhood new comers is all.

  9. bknesto permalink
    November 12, 2008 10:01 pm

    Hey Kyle if you’re really interested than just stop in her bar…if my questions aren’t suitable to your liking or her answers, then you can meet her and engage in whatever conversation you like…tonight is karoake night!!

    it’s about honesty to create understanding.

  10. ShadyLady permalink
    November 13, 2008 6:24 pm

    Please excuse Michelle…she forgot to shout me out as her FONDEST memory of the hood.


  11. November 14, 2008 12:35 am

    A good reminder to go back for a drink! BK- a karaoke blogger meetup soon?

  12. bknesto permalink
    November 14, 2008 7:18 pm

    sounds good to me!!

  13. Classon-Aver permalink
    November 16, 2008 4:10 am

    Nice article, but the only and I serious here, the ONLY time I’ve ever been hassled in a NYC bar it was at Mirrors on Grand. Really. Perhaps it was because I was the only white dude there, but i don’t know. I’ve been in similar situations in NYC and never had a problem.

    So I second the Brownstoner blog. There is definitely a dodgy element at this place.

    Oh, maybe its because I’m one of the “new-comers”?

  14. bknesto permalink
    November 18, 2008 9:09 pm

    What happened Classon? What do you mean hassled?

  15. explain please! permalink
    November 19, 2008 4:26 am

    Classon how did you get hassled? Did someone beg you for a drink and kept begging you to buy them one, if so i think why? While you were there did you turn your BACK to the BAR. If you did let me tell you a little seceret there a saying never turn youback to the bar because if you do you have to buy everyone a drink that sees you. So if that what you called hassled im sorry no one told you but it really a nice bar. NOW MR BROWNSTONER DOESN’T LIKE BLACKS HE PRETENDS TOO. LOOK AT HIS BLOG HOW MANY BLACK BUSINESS DOES HE GIVES HIGH MARKS TO NONE!!!!! LOOK WHAT CHOICE DID TO THAT LANDMARK BUILDING DID HE BLOW THEM UP NOPE, BUT LET IT HAVE BEEN A BLACK OWNER HE WOULD HAD POSTED A BANNER ON TOP OF HIS BLOG !!!! ALSO PLEASE TAKE BACK THAT COMMENT ABOUT DODGY PEOPLE IT COULDNT BEEN THAT DODGY YOU WALKED IN HAD A DRINK OR TWO AND LEFT SAFE WE DIDNT READ ABOUT YOU IN THE PAPER.

  16. MOG permalink
    November 19, 2008 5:07 am


  17. Just Another White Guy permalink
    November 19, 2008 6:51 am

    What the hell is wrong with you Classon-Aver? A. I’m white… if that matters? B. Ya was a “new-comer” too (funny phrase). C. The bar is a “new-comer” as well. As for your situation at Mirrors I feel you get what you put out! If your a Dick… Your a Dick! Thanks for making “the only white dude” in any black owned, run establishment feel like they might be look at as being you after reading for your post! Your an ignorant FOOL! Welcome to the neighborhood

  18. Just Another White Guy permalink
    November 19, 2008 7:12 am

    bknesto, Michelle, I apologize for my rant, not to Classon-Ave. Michelle you are doing a great job and running an amazing public house, where all walks can come in and engage in conversation of whats happening in the world today! Thank you for the time and energy you put into creating a great establishment! bknesto, thanks for shining the light on this great gathering place!


  19. Putnamdenizen permalink
    November 22, 2008 10:23 am

    I really think someone should be more specific than Classon-Aver was when he calls people “dodgy.” As (I believe) the person who dropped a house on Brownstoner when he put up that stupid ignorant (oh gosh I am getting started again!) post on Grand 275 and Mirrors, I realize how unfortunate unsubstantiated negativity can be. Altho I only was at Mirrors once at one of its soft openings, I should check it out.

    That said, I don’t quite get the strong push back to Kyle’s comments. He seemed to be pointing out the obvious – a point that has been made by many – that neighborhoods are often in flux, and while it can be great to want to highlight your vision of what is was, is, and will be, no one can exclude others from having alternate views. This blog is a great example of sharing a very distinct voice, one which is not heard by many.

  20. Durand permalink
    January 6, 2009 5:31 pm

    Hi Michele,
    I met you at mirrors one early morning or late evening….take your pick….about a mouth ago. I honestly just stopped in to use the facilities. Your bartender ( Atractive Brunette) was very kind and so were the patrons. I wound up hanging out for over an hour. My initial destination was home. I play music with a local funk band. I actually play with a few bands…..Any whooo….I thought Mirrors would be a great place for an afternoon trio on the weekend…early evening cocktail hour …..let me know what u think.
    P.S. I live on waverly

  21. MOG permalink
    January 14, 2009 12:27 am

    Hello Durand,
    Thank you for stopping in and hanging out at Mirrors.. and thanks for the compliment to the attractive brunette (all of brunettes swore they worked that nite…lol), I would love for a local funk band to play in mirrors… send me a link to your music or drop a cd off… you can send me a link to…. Hope to see or hear u soon

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