FREE TankerTours for MARY A. WHALEN's 78th Birthday Sat 5/28

PortSide NewYork is excited to welcome you aboard our historic flagship, the tanker MARY A. WHALEN in honor of her 78th birthday!  

Sat 5/28/16 from 10am-5pm
Sign up for tours on-site. Groups of 20 will be admitted every 20 minutes. No tours at 1:00 & 1:20 as we break for lunch.
Can't make it? For other ways to experience the MARY, see Visitor Info 
Flat soled shoes recommended.  Directions here 
More Ships!  On the next pier at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Fleet Week will have three ships open to visit at the same time. Those ships will be open Thursday through Monday of Memorial Day Weekend. More info here.
Visit historic Red Hook, home to great restaurants, bars, cultural institutions and parks! Info

Please support our restoration of the MARY and other programs, donate to our Red Hook WaterStories campaign. Help us raise $20,000 by the end of June to match a grant. Red Hook WaterStories is funded in part by Councilman Carlos Menchaca and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

More about the MARY A. WHALEN

The MARY A. WHALEN is the only oil tanker cultural center in the world and an icon of Red Hook maritime history.  She is the last of her kind in the USA and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  She is significant for her role in the 1975 Supreme Court legal decision U.S. vs Reliable Transfer, a major case in US maritime law. The MARY is a symbol of  resiliency because PortSide's crew rode out superstorm Sandy on the ship, and then brought our office equipment ashore to set up and run a hurricane Sandy pop-up aid station.

The MARY A. WHALEN's story is woven into Red Hook WaterStories because she was built for the Red Hook company Ira S. Bushey & Sons and has been based in Red Hook for a good half of her life, first as a working tanker, later as a floating dock and office for Hughes Marine, and as PortSide's flagship since 2007.

The MARY was launched May 21, 1938 at Mathis in Camden, NJ and built for Bushey's, an innovative and unusually diverse maritime company which closed in the 1980s. Bushey's was based at the foot of Court Street and ran a ship yard, fuel terminal and fuel delivery fleet of tugs, tankers and barges. Bushey's built over 200 ships for the Navy and commercial service and had ships built at other yards.  Today, the Bushey property remains an active maritime site with the fuel tanks operated by Buckeye and their fuel moved by our friends at Vane Brothers. Vane runs a fleet of tugs and fuel barges and has often towed our MARY A. WHALEN for free.  Vane also introduced us to their paint supplier International Paint who has donated all the paint to recoat the decks and house.

 

Please donate now to support our restoration of the MARY A. WHALEN, public programs aboard which include TankerTours, TankerTime,
and our summer preservation internships with the WHSAD high school, 
programs off the ship such as
our Sandy recovery and resiliency work and  
Red Hook WaterStories which tells Red Hook maritime history over 400+ years.

Help us match a grant and raise another $20,000 for Red Hook WaterStories by the end of June and donate here!

1860, Slave ship ERIE sold in Atlantic Basin, a major step in movement to end slavery

On this day, December 5, 1860, the slave ship ERIE was sold at government auction in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn. One month prior, November 5, 1860,  the ship had been condemned and ordered to be sold by the United States District Court.  [Please note that this is a correction from our November 5 blogposting.  Discussion of this, and other changes are at the bottom of this post.]

This was news of national note.  

The African American Maritime Heritage program of PortSide NewYork will explore the African American experience on the water. This includes many stories of great accomplishment and much history that was forgotten and/or deliberately erased. Recovering these WaterStories presents a fuller picture of American history.

This particular blogpost is also part of PortSide NewYork’s Red Hook Waterstories that explores the history of the Red Hook, Brooklyn peninsula along a water theme. PortSide, and our home ship, the MARY A. WHALEN, are located in Atlantic Basin, the location where the slave ship ERIE was sold in 1860. 

Red Hook WaterStories is supported by funding from Councilman Carlos Menchaca

The ship was sold, after being captured and impounded by the US Government, for enslaving and importing Africans, a business banned by the federal government under the Piracy Law of 1820, which followed The Slave Trade Act of 1794, two steps in the USA’s long, slow process of devolving and banning the slave trade (the shipping of captured people) and slavery. Slavery was finally banned in 1865.  The case of the ERIE was chosen by a US Attorney, a judge, and by President Lincoln himself to signal a major change in policy on slavery and their commitment to end it.

The owner and captain of the Erie, Nathaniel Gordon of Maine, did not get off free as was usually the case. He was tried and found guilty of running a slave ship - and the Piracy Law of 1820 said the punishment was execution. Gordon’s supporters, including members of Congress and even friends of President Lincoln, sought a presidential pardon; but Abraham Lincoln refused due to his conviction that a point about slavery needed to be made with the ERIE and Captain Gordon.  

Captain Gordon was distressed, in jail, and attempted suicide. He was resuscitated and was hanged at the Tombs in Manhattan and became the first – and only – importer of slaves to be executed for the crime in the USA. Soon after Gordon’s execution, Abraham Lincoln presented his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Several months later, the Proclamation was finalized, followed by the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery.  

Timeline from the ERIE to the end of slavery

August 8, 1860, The ERIE was captured close to the coast of Africa.
November 5, 1860, the ERIE was ordered to be sold at auction in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn
December 5, 1860, the ERIE was sold at auction in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn, for a reported amount of $7550.
November 9, 1861, after one hung jury and a new trial, Gordon was convicted in the circuit court in New York City. He was sentenced to death by hanging on February 7, 1862. After his conviction, his supporters appealed to President Abraham Lincoln for a pardon which was denied though Gordon was granted some extra time to arrange his affairs.
February 21, 1862, Nathaniel Gordon was executed.
July 22, 1862, President Lincoln read the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet members.
September 22, 1862, after some changes, Lincoln issued the preliminary version which specified that the final document would take effect January 1, 1863
January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress
December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was ratified and slavery banned in the USA.

The following is designed as a glimpse into the complex subject of slave ships and slavery.  Below we offer some information and links to encourage you to explore the often misunderstood history of slavery in the USA, in New York State, in New York City and in Brooklyn ( a separate city from Manhattan at that time) and the role of the maritime industry in slavery.  We ourselves are in the process of conducting more research into the maritime end of the slavery story, and if you want to share some information or get involved, reach out to us via our webpage CONTACT.

In 1860, Nathaniel Gordon and the slaver ERIE in Atlantic Basin were at the center of a major national issue and representative of a major business sector for New York and the northeast.  Slavery in the USA is often thought of as a southern activity, a thing of the plantation system; however, slaves were also owned in New York State, and the economy of New York City and Brooklyn, their financial and insurance sectors, maritime activity and trading status were hugely dependent on the economic activity of businesses that owned slaves and/or that processed the products produced by slaves. For example, New York bankers lent to southern plantations, southern cotton produced by slaves was processed in New England textile mills with the raw and finished goods moved by ships from our area and passing through our ports and insured by businesses here.

Over time, and varying by state, there was a layering of state and federal rules limiting the importation of more captured people and changes in the obligation to return escaped slaves.  Then states began to prohibit their own populations from owning slaves (but slave owners from other states could visit a non-slave state like New York with their own slaves) and finally slavery was banned completely.

The short 2010 article in the New York Times that told PortSide about the ERIE in Atlantic Basin
Note that Atlantic Basin, Red Hook is called Atlantic Docks at the time and in this article.   

Two cropped citations from the New York Herald, January 13, 1861 from the paper's lengthy review of Court actions in the year of 1860.  They read as follows:

"November 5 - Judge Betts entered an order condemning the ship Erie as a s slaver and directing her to be sold by the Marshal."

"December 5 - Deputy United States Marshal Thompson, by virtue of a decree of condemnation, sold the slave ship Erie at the Atlantic dock, Brooklyn.  The vessel brought $7,550, and the cargo, consisting of oil, water casks and some beef and pork, sold for about $300"

Short Wikipedia bio of Nathaniel Gordon
Nathaniel Gordon (February 6, 1826 – February 21, 1862) was the only American slave trader to be tried, convicted, and executed "for being engaged in the Slave Trade," under the Piracy Law of 1820. Wikipedia 

How slave ships avoided the laws against importing Africans as slaves
The prohibited business continued because there were buyers - and a government reluctant to enforce its own prohibitions against the trade. The ships used various strategies to evade detection.

Articles from the 1860s about the ERIE and Nathaniel Gordon

10/10/1860 Chicago Tribune, capture of the slave ship ERIE

Court reporter summarizes the day in court 10/24/1860

Their correspondent reports on slave ship from sea 12/24/1860

A description of slavers arrested the year and a half before the ERIE suggests both an effort to stop the trade and how much capturing and importing of Africans still continued 11/17/1862 

"South-street," who keeps a bulletin of the movements of slavers, and reports them through the Evening Post, gives the following statements

11/5/1860 United States Circuit Court; Before Judge Nelson. THE SLAVER ERIE.  

A book about Nathaniel Gordon
From the review of the book “Hanging Captain Gordon” on Amazon: "Soodalter, a former museum curator and history teacher, uses this singular event as a prism to provide an overview of Civil War-era politics, Lincoln's presidency and the maritime economy of slavery."

The judge’s sentence of Nathaniel Gordon communicates strong condemnation of slavery
“In passing the sentence, Judge Shipman, in the course of his address to the prisoner, said:

"Let me implore you to seek the spiritual guidance of the ministers of religion; and let your repentance be as humble and thorough as your crime was great. Do not attempt to hide its enormity from yourself; think of the cruelty and wickedness of seizing nearly a thousand fellow beings, who never did you harm, and thrusting them beneath the decks of a small ship, beneath a burning tropical sun, to die in of disease or suffocation, or be transported to distant lands, and be consigned, they and their posterity, to a fate far more cruel than death.

Think of the sufferings of the unhappy beings whom you crowded on the Erie; of their helpless agony and terror as you took them from their native land; and especially of their miseries on the ---- ----- place of your capture to Monrovia! Remember that you showed mercy to none, carrying off as you did not only those of your own sex, but women and helpless children.

Do not flatter yourself that because they belonged to a different race from yourself, your guilt is therefore lessened – rather fear that it is increased. In the just and generous heart, the humble and the weak inspire compassion, and call for pity and forbearance. As you are soon to pass into the presence of that God of the black man as well as the white man, who is no respecter of persons, do not indulge for a moment the thought that he hears with indifference the cry of the humblest of his children. Do not imagine that because others shared in the guilt of this enterprise, yours, is thereby diminished; but remember the awful admonition of your Bible, “Though hand joined in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished."  — Worcester Aegis and Transcript; December 7, 1861; pg. 1, col. 6.  From Wikipedia 

Lincoln resolves to use the ERIE and Nathaniel Gordon to communicate condemnation of slaving and slavery:
Quoting from Historynet: “Lincoln from the beginning had no intention of sparing Nathaniel Gordon’s life. On February 4, just three days before Gordon was scheduled to die, the president wrote, “I think I would personally prefer to let this man live in confinement and let him meditate on his deeds, yet in the name of justice and the majesty of law, there ought to be one case, at least one specific instance, of a professional slave-trader, a Northern white man, given the exact penalty of death because of the incalculable number of deaths he and his kind inflicted upon black men amid the horror of the sea-voyage from Africa.” And three years later, shortly before his own death, he told Congressman Henry Bromwell: “There was that man who was sentenced for piracy and slave-trading on the high seas. That was a case where there must be an example and you don’t know how they followed and pressed to get him pardoned, or his sentence commuted, but there was no use of talking. It had to be done; I couldn’t help him.” 

More on President Abraham Lincoln’s refusal to pardon Nathaniel Gordon
“On November 1861, Nathaniel Gordon was convicted of slave trading and sentenced to hang. Participation in the slave trade had been punishable by death since 1820, but Gordon was the first man to be executed for the crime. Between 1837 and 1860, seventy-four cases relating to the slave trade had been tried in the United States, but very few men were convicted, and even then they received only light sentences. Only one other slave trader had been sentenced to death, but he received a full pardon from President James Buchanan in 1857.” More 

Slavery was officially ended by the 13th Amendment
Slavery was officially ended by the 13th Amendment in 1865, the culmination of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1862-1863), the products of a process that lurched through American courts, pulpits and the press for well over a century, and the ERIE and its owner became pivotal symbols in the story.  

New York’s significance in the case of the ERIE and the prosecution of Nathaniel Gordon
“Captured by a ship of the African Squadron, Gordon was taken to New York City for trial in federal court—ironic, since New York had long been the epicenter of the U.S. slave trade. It had financed, fitted out and sent forth more slaving expeditions than any other American port. Slavers had typically been given a token slap on the wrist thus far. The U.S. attorney had no particular interest in prosecuting slaving cases. President James Buchanan, who occupied the White House when Gordon was arrested, had declared that he would never hang a slaver. It seemed Gordon had nothing to worry about.  But after the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, a strongly Democratic, Southern-leaning New York City found itself with a new Republican U.S. attorney, Edward Delafield Smith, who entered office determined to put an end to the slave trade. And Smith made Nathaniel Gordon his personal demon.”  From Historynet 

Importance of the site of Nathaniel Gordon’s execution
A blog about New York Corrections history shows how the location of the execution (the Tombs in Manhattan/New York City) suggests legal jurisdictional issues in the attempts to prohibit slavery. More
 

SLAVERY IN THE NORTH, IN NEW YORK CITY AND IN BROOKLYN

Some information on how Brooklyn’s economy related to slavery
In CUNY's digital collection, a discussion of the activities of leading families.  See table 3.1 for slave owning families among founders of Kings County Banks. More

Slavery in New York City
A short summary of slavery in New York City by Douglas Harper a historian, author, journalist and lecturer based in Lancaster, Pa.  
Book “Slavery in New York” 
New York City Slavery Walking Tour 

New York City ran a Municipal slave market
There was a 1711 Law "Appointing a Place for the More Convenient Hiring of Slaves" that created the slave market:  
"Be it Ordained by the Mayor Recorder Aldermen and Assistants of the City of New York Convened in Common Council and it is hereby Ordained by the Authority of the same That all Negro and Indian slaves that are lett out to hire within this City do take up their Standing in Order to be hired at the Markett house at the Wall Street Slip untill Such time as they are hired, whereby all Persons may Know where to hire slaves as their Occasions Shall require and also Masters discover when their Slaves are so hired and all the Inhabitants of this City are to take Notice hereof Accordingly." from Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, vol. II, 458, December 13, 1711

The slave market was located at Wall Street near the East River. It was second busiest slave market in the country in terms of the number of human beings it trafficked. June, 2015, it was finally memorialized with a plaque.  See and hear WNYC report about that plaque and the history of the site.

In a short slide-show presentation, Anne Guerra of Untapped Cities discusses aspects of this Municipal slave market and slavery in New York City and notes that the market had the additional intention of preventing slave rebellions (frequently selling slaves was seen as a way to keep the people from organizing).  The blog also states that the Civil War period actually saw upsurge in the slave ship business with New York City having a leading role. That upsurge and New York’s role in it may be why President Lincoln felt he needed to make an example of the ERIE and Nathaniel Gordon.  We welcome hearing from experts about our theory on that. Untapped Cities says: “Between the years 1857 and 1862, while the Civil War was being fought, America experienced a tremendous resurgence in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which had been illegal for five decades. And at the forefront of this highly illegal activity was New York City. The city’s legitimate trading tries with Africa made it easy to mask illicit slaving activity. In 1857, the New York Journal of Commerce reported that, ”downtown merchants of wealth and respectability are extensively engaged in buying and selling African Negroes, and have been, with comparatively little interruption, for an indefinite number of years.” More  

Black Brooklyn Artist delving into NYC’s slavery history

In 2015, Red Hook photographer and story teller Kamau Ware relaunched his Black Gotham project with plans to make a multi-media recreation of history with living actors, in the street, during walking tours and generate a related photo book for each story/issue.  Black Gotham will move beyond the slavery period to cover broader African diaspora content.  

Slavery in the North, role of the maritime industry and the Episcopal Church
The maritime might of the northeast, its shipbuilding, ports, and seafarers meant that the North was hugely involved in direct and indirect aspects of slavery. A new museum is being planned by the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island to capture the history of the North’s involvement in slavery, the role of the Episcopal Church, and foster racial reconciliation and healing. A shuttered cathedral will be repurposed to host the museum. Quoting from a 2015 New York Times article “Tiny Rhode Island played an outsize role in the trade, thanks to the state’s financiers, a seafaring work force and officials who turned a blind eye to antislavery laws. While many slave ships were built in Boston, they were supplied, manned and dispatched from Rhode Island ports. Between 1725 and 1807, more than 1,000 slaving voyages — about 58 percent of the total from the United States — left from Providence, Newport and Bristol. Those vessels brought more than 100,000 Africans to the Americas as part of the triangle trade. They traveled to West Africa carrying rum, which was traded for slaves. The human cargo was then transported to the Caribbean in the infamous Middle Passage of the triangle. There, the ships were emptied of slaves and loaded with sugar, which was brought back to Rhode Island distilleries to make more rum to take back to Africa and repeat the cycle.”

Book about the Northern role in slavery
“Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery”

Slavery on Long Island Estates
Joseph McGill, created the Slave Dwelling Project, for which he sleeps at sites previously inhabited by slaves to underline that slavery was part of the history of the location. He recently visited Long Island estates. Here is a quote from a 2015 New York Times article
“So far, Mr. McGill, whose ancestors were enslaved in Williamsburg County in South Carolina, has slept in more than 70 slave dwellings in 14 states, alone or in groups as large as 30, with the descendants of slaves sometimes lying alongside descendants of slave owners. This weekend, he is doing his first overnight stays in New York State, bedding down on three historic properties on eastern Long Island, in some of the region’s most beautiful (and expensive) resort areas.

If these are not places where slavery is the first — or 51st — thing to pop into visitors’ heads, it isn’t because it didn’t exist in them. In the mid-18th century, New York City’s slave market was second in size only to Charleston’s. Even after the Revolution, New York was the most significant slaveholding state north of the Mason-Dixon line. In 1790, nearly 40 percent of households in the area immediately around New York City owned slaves — a greater percentage than in any Southern state as a whole, according to one study.” From So far, Mr. McGill, whose ancestors were enslaved in Williamsburg County in South Carolina, has slept in more than 70 slave dwellings in 14 states, alone or in groups as large as 30, with the descendants of slaves sometimes lying alongside descendants of slave owners. This weekend, he is doing his first overnight stays in New York State, bedding down on three historic properties on eastern Long Island, in some of the region’s most beautiful (and expensive) resort areas.

If these are not places where slavery is the first — or 51st — thing to pop into visitors’ heads, it isn’t because it didn’t exist in them. In the mid-18th century, New York City’s slave market was second in size only to Charleston’s. Even after the Revolution, New York was the most significant slaveholding state north of the Mason-Dixon line. In 1790, nearly 40 percent of households in the area immediately around New York City owned slaves — a greater percentage than in any Southern state as a whole, according to one study. “ 

NATIONAL AND GLOBAL LEVEL

The only museum of slavery in the USA
The slavery museum at Whitney Plantation opened in December 2014. 

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
The Slave Voyages database contains, in their own words, information on “more than 35,000 slave voyages that forcibly embarked over 12 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. It offers researchers, students and the general public a chance to rediscover the reality of one of the largest forced movements of peoples in world history.

Have history or comments on this you want to share? To write us, see our webpage CONTACT.


This is Nathaniel Gordon New Hampshire Legislator (1820-1908) not Nathaniel Gordon owner and Captain of the ship ERIE, executed for the crime of slave running, a pivotal case in elimination of slaving and then slavery by Americans. 

This is Nathaniel Gordon New Hampshire Legislator (1820-1908) not Nathaniel Gordon owner and Captain of the ship ERIE, executed for the crime of slave running, a pivotal case in elimination of slaving and then slavery by Americans. 

ADDENDUM: When we first posted this we were under the belief that the slave ship Erie was sold on November 5th 1860. Additional research post posting revealed that the November date was when Judge Betts issued his order for the ship to be sold but that the actual date of the sale in Atlantic Basin was December 5, 1860,  The initial posting also featured a portrait of a man said to be the slaver Nathaniel Gordon.  We now believe this was wrong and, making the same mistake as many other websites, we erroneously used a picture of a different Nathaniel Gordon.  The portrait, by N. B. Onthank,  is of a New Hampshire state legislator and philanthropist, born in 1820 and died in 1908.  (Source: New Hampshire Devision of Historical Resources)  Again, we invite any history or comments you may have to share.

 

Red Hook Ferry Testimony

NYC EDC Map

NYC EDC Map

Why this blogpost

This blogpost is in response to the uproar over the two Red Hook ferry locations proposed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  See images at bottom.  The EDC proposed these locations in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and gave the public a deadline of October 8, 2015 for comments. 

The Red Hook community via the NYS NY Rising resiliency plan it created had, over a year before, articulated its recommendation for a ferry location in Atlantic Basin.  The EDC proposal did not include Atlantic Basin. 

After the angry and frustrated responses to the DEIS in a public hearing shortly before the comment deadline and the comments submitted to the EDC DEIS, the EDC reversed itself. “We agreed to take a second look at Atlantic Basin as a landing,” said vice-president Peter Flynt in a Brooklyn Paper article “We’ve heard the community loud and clear.” In short, as of this writing, the topic is still open.

PortSide NewYork has long supported ferry service for Red Hook. Over the years, we have provided advice to ferry owners, property owners, elected officials, Brooklyn Community Board 6 and others. During 2010, PortSide advocated for waterborne transit during the Vision 2020 process. During 2013-2014, PortSide President Carolina Salguero was on the NY Rising Red Hook committee which proposed an Atlantic Basin ferry location, and PortSide staff and interns contributed research to her work for NY Rising.

EDC links

Media links

How this blogpost will work

To help resolve where a new Red Hook stop on the citywide ferry system will be located, PortSide NewYork has created this blogpost.  Here, we will link all comments that were submitted to the EDC DEIS that we receive, or any subsequent statements people want to make about the Red Hook ferry, or you can post directly in the comment section at bottom.  All statements we receive will be posted without editorial comment in alphabetical order by name of person who wrote the testimony. 

We are doing this to improve transparency by showing testimony the EDC received, to foster discussion within the community by showing what the collective is thinking, and to help media reporting for all the same reasons. 

Comments submitted to the DEIS process & other statements


Bette Stoltz, in memoriam, a tribute

By Carolina Salguero

I write to thank and honor Bette Stoltz for decades of work bettering Brooklyn. Bette passed away the Thursday before Thanksgiving, leaving many of us stunned and bereft. Some tributes from others, including her daughter Erica Stoltz, are below mine.

Bette created festivals, business organizations, collaborations, job training programs, school programs, businesses, and she founded SBLDC, the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation.  Bette dealt with the macro via the micro. Her successful community development work demonstrated a granular knowledge of community players in their diverse and contentious glory.  She worked her magic on several shopping corridors which were once moribund:  Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue, Court Street in Carroll Gardens, and then her masterwork Smith Street which she dubbed “the little street that could.”   Like Bastille Day and petanque on Smith Street? Thank Bette.  

Video about Bette Stoltz by her daughter Erica Stoltz

It was so Bette to address a problem by creating an opportunity, so when school dismissal was causing a disruptive flood of youth on revitalizing Smith Street, she created after-school programs for the students.  Her next step was to recruit the chefs and business owners from the Smith Street restaurant row of her creation and get them involved in starting a culinary arts training program in a local school. Similarly, she created thrift shops to fill empty storefronts (Smith Street once had them aplenty) and simultaneously give retail training to women from NYCHA public housing developments.  She was often a champion of the unsung and disconnected.

She worked for Brooklyn before Brooklyn was hip, and helped make Brooklyn hip in how she midwifed Smith Street into the mecca and brand it is today -- while also being an early advocate for manufacturing and industrial businesses. She helped create  training programs for bus drivers such as Red Hook on the Road. She also helped start FROGG, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, which became a strong voice for getting the EPA to declare that canal a Superfund site.  Civic and development work like Bette’s is often not easy but; “she employed her will of steel to bend the bureaucratic machine,” as her daughter Erica Stoltz says in the documentary she produced about Bette.   I recommend the video as a great tribute to Bette and her style of community development.  It is also a quick refresher course in how much parts of brownstone Brooklyn changed over 30 some years.

If you haven’t heard of Bette, maybe that’s because she did her work without a #LookAtMe buzz machine, even after that became so Brooklyn.  She deftly deployed a know-your-neighbor, fact and relationship based ethos that fostered empathetic, site-specific, organic, evolution of place – and community.

I hope someone creates a Bette Stoltz award to honor and further the understanding of her work and to ensure that she continues to serve as an inspiration.  We would be better for it.

A message from Erica Stoltz, daughter of Bette Stoltz

Dear Friends,

Thank you all for your condolences and comforting words during this difficult time. Your love has been received and has helped us as we try and pick up the pieces and heal our broken hearts.  

Bette suffered a heart attack on Monday following ambulatory surgery and never recovered.  Being the person that she was, death could not even stop Bette from her work.  The first thing she did upon leaving us was give the gift of sight to another as an organ donor.

We have received an outpouring of calls and emails asking about plans and services to memorialize this amazing woman, mother, grandmother and community leader. In this regard, Bette chose to be cremated at a private ceremony with her immediate family. However, keeping with the Bette tradition, she also wants a memorial ceremony to be held in and around her beloved Smith Street where people who know Bette will have an opportunity to speak, and, which will be followed by drinking and a procession down Smith Street that she wants to be more like a parade than a funeral so that we may celebrate her life. We are in the process of finalizing dates and locations and will send that information along shortly.  If you chose to memorialize her as well let us know and we will spread the word, join you in raising our glasses and keep her alive in our hearts forever. 

In lieu of cards and flowers donations can be made to The Culinary Arts Program at the School for International Studies through SBLDC so that her work may continue. South Brooklyn LDC is a 501c3 Tax Exempt Corporation. Your donations are fully Tax Deductible. 100% of every donation made to support the Culinary Arts Program will go to buying food and equipment for this program. In addition we would like to support the cost of bus trips to nearby colleges that have culinary programs. Send your contribution payable to South Brooklyn LDC – 268 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 and just indicate that it is for the Culinary Program.

Thank you.

Michael, Erica, Patrick, Van and Shirley.

Tributes to Bette Stoltz

Craig Hammerman, CB6 District Manager in December 2015 CB6 monthly Newsletter

Katia Kelly of the blog " Pardon me for Asking" On The Passing Of Bette Stoltz, Who Helped Revitalize Smith Street, "The Little Street That Could"

Councilman Brad LanderRemembering Bette Stoltz a Champion of South Brooklyn

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez "On the passing of Bette Stoltz"

“I’m profoundly saddened by the passing of Bette Stoltz.  Our community has lost a dedicated activist, advocate and leader who will be deeply missed.

“Bette made so many contributions to South Brooklyn that one would be hard pressed to account for them all. She was instrumental to revitalizing Smith Street and helping it become a home to thriving businesses that add so much cultural life and vibrancy to our area. She organized the Smith Street Festivals in the fall and the Bastille Day Pétanque Tornament.  She never stopped working to ensure Smith Street remained a thriving community anchor.

“Her efforts went well beyond Smith Street. By starting the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation and the Red Hook Chamber of Commerce, she worked tirelessly to expand opportunity and commerce throughout Brooklyn.  She helped organize Friends of Greater Gowanus and served on the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, working on multiple fronts to push to remediate and restore the Gowanus Canal in a green, sustainable manner. She helped to institute a Culinary Arts Curriculum at the High School for International Studies on Baltic Street. For years, Bette served as a member of Community Board 6.  

“The fact is, in so many ways, South Brooklyn would not be as vibrant, diverse and culturally rich without Bette’s many contributions. She leaves behind a proud legacy, one that we will honor by continuing to improve our community.  My thoughts and prayers are with her husband, Michael, her children and her beloved grandchildren.”