Our favorite stories this year
The editor's picks.
A lot happened in Brooklyn this year — from environmental policies to infrastructure changes to housing reform. We’ve wrapped up the key pieces for you in “2019: Year in Review.”
Earlier this year, I asked readers what you wanted from local news, and what wasn’t working.
“I feel left out,” was a common refrain. “Getting important community news issues covered has been impossible,” one reader wrote. Readers wanted us to “focus on issues that impact our neighborhood directly,” and to deliver reporting that wasn’t “gripe-oriented” but contributes to their understanding of power, policy and their relationship to the broader Brooklyn community. We were urged to focus on “local happenings with larger implications,” and to illustrate “what can I do locally that’s connected to something larger.” Readers wanted information to “hold the problem solvers accountable.”
These themes — to more broadly reflect Brooklyn and its residents, to highlight stories that transcend individual neighborhoods, to provide depth and context in pursuit of understanding, and to hold power to account — guided our journalism in 2019.
And, boy, did we deliver. The Brooklyn Eagle published more than 3,000 stories in 2019. Here, presented in no particular order, are 20 of my favorite examples of how the Eagle rose to the challenge of inclusivity, accountability and understanding. Taken together, they represent the best of what we try to do every day.
Oh, and it’s never too late to tell me what you want to see from local news.
(I need to note that, in whittling the list down to this 20, there were so many — dozens — that could’ve been here in place of others, but I tried to select the most diverse assortment possible. Thank you to my team and many freelancers for making this such a difficult task.)
Families of those killed by police can request an independent investigation. In Brooklyn, most have not.
This is the first in a three-part series that found the city’s police watchdog was not investigating most killings of civilians by police because of strict limitations set by law. The series also looked at how other cities handle such investigations, and as a result of our reporting and the work of advocates, legislation is now being drafted to give the agency more leeway in pursuing investigations.
How well does your community board represent the district? Not very.
After the Eagle learned that all five borough presidents failed to deliver a mandatory report on the diversity of community board membership, the reports came in months overdue. Then we analyzed them. What we found? Brooklyn’s community boards, which play a vital role in their communities, don’t accurately reflect the districts they serve.
They met as children. Now married, she’s been visiting him in prison for nearly 20 years
Eagle photojournalist Paul Frangipane documented the long, difficult journey a Brooklyn mom takes to visit her incarcerated husband. This moving photo essay is the result, and has helped catalyze a call for reform.
Related: Our best photos of 2019
In Crown Heights, tensions flare around a beloved mural and a new restaurant
For at least 20 years, Brooklyn’s story has been inextricably intertwined with themes of gentrification. Few flashpoints are as illustrative of the distrust and uncertainty kicked up in the dust of rapid neighborhood change as this incident, in which a local restaurant became the target of accusations about the impending destruction of a beloved neighborhood mural.
How changes to a city housing program could save vulnerable homeowners
A convoluted, little-known city program called Third Party Transfer is facing accusations of abuse from vulnerable homeowners and advocates. The Eagle broke down what all the fuss is about, and what reformers want to do about it. Also: ‘Stolen’ Brooklyn homes to be returned after judge slams city housing program
At NYCHA’s most dangerous development, tenants wonder: Is the city doing enough?
One year since an unsolved double murder at Bushwick Houses, neighbors still live in fear. They shared their hopes for a safer community with the Eagle. Also: 44 murders occurred on NYCHA property in the past year. The majority were in Brooklyn.
Goats, geese and dogs: Here’s how many animals caused subway delays in 2018
Subway delays are an infuriating fact of Brooklyn life, but most straphangers are willing to tolerate the ones caused by furry and feathery creatures in need of a little human assistance. The Eagle crunched the numbers to put animal-related subway delays into perspective.
The BQE rehab: All seven plans, explained
Nothing is simple about the BQE’s rehabilitation, and the story has taken more twists and turns than those exhibited by the highway itself. This explainer remained a handy and oft-referenced resource to keep track of everything going on.
Like a hot dog without a bun: Feltman’s loses Coney Island home
An under-the-radar change in menu marked the end of the last place to buy a cooked Feltman’s hot dog, as the brand vanished from the very spot Charles Feltman invented the hot dog.
The reinvention of Industry City: Nearly 400 years of history
The current battle over expanding Industry City continues a long tradition of land-use fights over 35 acres of land in Sunset Park. Historian Joseph Alexiou put the current plan in the context of four centuries.
Brownsville to mayor: Why isn’t 12 a mass shooting?
After a shootout left a dozen people shot, including one fatally, Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to call it a mass shooting. The Eagle was first to ask why; after days, the mayor changed his tune. This reporting helped set the stage for the Eagle’s project to find better ways to report on gun violence, which is a big part of our plan for 2020.
After Kaporos: The Bushwick brownstone that serves as a chicken rescue center
Throughout the three days leading up to Yom Kippur, roughly 50,000 chickens are slaughtered in the streets of Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities. These activists saved more than 100 birds this year, treating their injuries in the basement of a Bushwick brownstone before transporting them to sanctuaries across the country.
Preserving Walt Whitman’s Clinton Hill house: Poet’s 200th birthday improves odds
The Eagle has covered the effort to preserve Walt Whitman’s former home at 99 Ryerson St. for years. But as the poet’s 200th birthday approached and the city looked to celebrate LGBTQ+ landmarks, preservationists’ chances seemed better than ever — and we put the whole fight in context. Also: A pilgrimage to Walt Whitman’s Clinton Hill home
Drag queen story hour at local library sparks outrage in Gerritsen Beach
When the nation’s culture wars push into Brooklyn, Brooklyn pushes back. That’s what happened when a handful of protesters decried the Brooklyn Public Library’s hosting of Drag Queen Story Hour; they were outnumbered by supporters, and opposition ultimately faded.
Related: 2019 year in review
Coney Island station’s pricey solar panels have been dark for 7 years. No one knows when they’re coming back.
The “sparking jewel” of the New York City’s subway system was part of a $310 million renovation. But, the Eagle found, it has been broken longer than it ever worked — and there’s no clear plan to fix it.
I was ‘impaled’ on a Brooklyn train track
Sometimes understanding how the city prepares for a disaster requires going into the subway tunnels and getting horribly wounded on the tracks. Or at least pretending to. So that’s what reporter Mary Frost did, and she shared what she learned about the city’s emergency planning.
Little-known rent reform law is big news for Crown Heights tenants
The rent regulation reform package passed in Albany this year was so sweeping, parts of it went completely under-the-radar. We found tenants of one building finding helpful recourse in a less heralded reform, and forging a multi-generational alliance at the same time.
Seven years after Sandy, no fix in sight for rotting abandoned homes
“You don’t just walk away from your home, you stay and fight,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Missy Haggerty. Despite the city spending millions of dollars repairing homes on the block, abandoned properties continue to jeopardize neighbors’ safety seven years after Sandy’s waters receded.
Trump is still stuck in the toxic Gowanus Canal. The neighbors plan to leave him there.
The president wanted to drain the swamp — but now he’s trapped in one, thanks to a Park Slope artist who put a sculpture in Trump’s uncanny likeness in the fetid waterway.
If the goals of local journalism are holding power to account, providing explanation and reflecting our communities, these stories show that in 2019 the Brooklyn Eagle made tremendous progress.
And we owe it to you, our readers, sources and supporters, for giving us the opportunity. Thank you.
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