A Plot of Dirt
Prospect Ave. nr. Vanderbilt St. firstname.lastname@example.org
With the added muscle of a hundred amateur farmers, Tom Angotti turned the one-eighth-acre lot beside his Windsor Terrace house into a communal farm. Last spring, he posted a notice on his neighborhood listserv offering would-be growers the chance to harvest their own tomatoes and peppers. Within a few weeks, workers had cleared the overgrown site (save for the blackberry bushes), terraced the uneven ground, and built a massive compost bin. Angotti considers the operation a “modified CSA” with members contributing a $25 donation to care for one or more of the 2½-by-2-foot plots.
Pier 59 at Chelsea Piers, West Side Hwy. at 17th St.; 212-336-7841
Like a time-share for watercraft, the Chelsea Piers branch of this boating chain offers fractional ownership of sailboats and powerboats for up to six people. At the starting rate of $5,000, boaters get the same vessel seven times a month from April through October, with time slots running from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. Most cruise around New York Harbor or to Long Island Sound, but you can reserve back-to-back time slots for more-ambitious trips—say, out to Montauk and back.
Ice Cream Club
When Jonathan Soma’s roommate gave him an ice-cream maker, he experimented with everything from bacon to Thai chocolate before realizing he had a problem: too much ice cream and not enough people to eat it. So with $486 in start-up capital raised on Kickstarter, Soma founded the Ice Cream Club. A $5 “social” membership allows you to bring and swap pints. A “buying” membership ($27) lets you pick up a pint on the second Saturday of the month during the summer.
155 Water St., nr. Anchorage Pl., Dumbo, and 68 Jay St., at Water St., Dumbo 718-210-3650
This green rent-a-space center provides all the best parts of a workplace (fast wi-fi, bottomless coffee, a general sense that you’re not alone) minus any Michael Scotts. Both Green Desk locales teem with creative types—writers, designers, TV producers—encouraging impromptu networking and brainstorming. Space starts at $199 for a single lockable desk and goes up to $2,400 for a large office.
Create a network of free, unlimited child care by joining with neighborhood families to exchange hours of babysitting. Every hour that you babysit entitles you to an hour of sitting time yourself. The concept of swapping babysitting services is not new, but the advent of websites like this one, which helps keep track of requests and hours, and others that provide advice on rules and bylaws (achildgrowsinbrooklyn.com), has made it far easier to manage.
Every week, 288 members share in shipments of pork from the Piggery farm in Schuyler County, where heritage-breed pigs graze on 70 acres of barley, field peas, and walnut trees. Husband-and-wife owners Heather Sanford and Brad Marshall pack cardboard boxes with fresh cuts—pork chops, tenderloin, cheek medallions. “We have a complex data system so cuts are evenly distributed,” says Heather. “No one wants ham hocks every week.” Members receive a quarter- ($300), half- ($600), or whole-hog share ($1,200) and pick up their boxes at Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, Bierkraft in Park Slope, or DBA in Williamsburg.
156 Rivington St., nr. Suffolk St., and 99 S. 6th St., nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
Several nights a week, the biking-advocacy group Time’s Up! opens the doors to its grease-smeared workshops for gearheads and the bike-illiterate to help each other mend bent tire rims, shrieking brakes, and grinding gears. A trove of tools and a team of volunteer mechanics are at your disposal, though the experts won’t actually do the dirty work—they subscribe to the “teach a man to fish” school, encouraging a long-term commitment to bike maintenance. In Manhattan, Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; in Brooklyn, Mondays and Wednesdays 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
55 Washington St.,nr. Front St., Ste. 512, Dumbo
A paradise for crafters, Etsy’s Open Craft Night on the last Monday of the month lets anyone stop by the company’s Dumbo headquarters to mooch from the communal fabric and yarn bins, use sewing machines, and bond with other DIYers. Projects range in size and ambition, from knitting and embroidery to jewelry-making and bookbinding. No registration needed; just show up with your creativity between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and get to work.
A Private Chef
The Sushi Club
Like many caterers, Sushi Club chef Rico Lui prepares eight-course meals for a minimum of six-to-eight people in the comfort of his customer’s own home. But instead of a single host handling the check, each guest can pay the sushi master individually by cash, check, or credit card, turning the service into a mobile restaurant of sorts. Prices for these 2½-hour Japanese feasts usually start at $108 per person but are being discounted to $78 per person through August 31.
It may look like Match.com, but what the profilees on this site are offering isn’t romance, it’s a couch (or an extra bedroom or air mattress). Each prospective couch-sharer fills out a thorough “about me” section detailing preferences (including whether they are looking for friends, flings, or just to be hospitable). Out-of-towners should be prepared to coordinate schedules and might want to bring along a small gift like flowers or a bottle of wine—just to be polite.
540 W. 21st St.; 212-937-6580
At this art-technology center’s regular workshops you can learn how to turn your smartphone into a pocket synthesizer by hacking into it with open-source Pure Data software, or try your hand at constructing a printed circuit board, then get a lesson in open-source video-sharing programs. Eyebeam’s artists also post requests for animators or the Java-proficient, say, on the atelier’s website so legit and closet techies alike can share their skills without even leaving their own cubicles.
119 8th St., nr. Second Ave., Ste. 100, Gowanus; 718-788-2585
A motorcycle-rental club for the commitment-phobic, Jupiter’s gives bikers access to several fancy rides (a Harley-Davidson Sportster XL, BMW models 650GS, 800ST, 1200GS) for minimal outlay. Annual membership starts at $1,999—compared with the $9,000 it can take to finance, park, and maintain your own bike—and gets you access to the fleet for eighteen days over a six-month period. Members reserve bikes online, then pick them up at the Gowanus showroom or have them delivered on a flatbed truck for an extra $99.
Five Boroughs Clothing Swap
While there are many clothes-trading events, the near-monthly Five Boroughs Clothing Swap has the best assembly of work-worthy garb. That’s largely thanks to the strict membership guidelines: You must register in advance, RSVP for each swap, attend at least one per year, and bring a bag of clothes—typically a mix of mall labels like J.Crew and Ann Taylor, and the occasional designer or vintage piece—in wearable condition.
North Brooklyn Compost Project
McCarren Park, Greenpoint; northbrooklyncompostproject.org
This hundreds-strong program is a true cooperative: Volunteers (a lot of them members of nearby Greenpoint Williamsburg CSA) bring non-meat kitchen leftovers (banana peels, bread scraps, eggshells) to the communal compost pile across from the Orthodox church on North 12th Street. They agree to work the site (manning drop-off-stand shifts or aerating the compost pile) and, in return, can take the rich, surprisingly clean-smelling soil-booster back home.
Think of this as a daylong version of the Learning Annex, only with classes on henna body art and balloon animals. Organized by photographer Meg Wachter, the Skillshare lets anyone, no matter their level of expertise, teach a class of their choosing. The first learn-a-thon, held last October, featured fifteen classes and 400 attendees. Teachers must preregister, but students can simply show up to as many classes as they like for a $10 donation. This fall’s event will be October 9 at the Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School.
A Socket Wrench
Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union St., 718-243-1572
Jammed clocks, balky ceiling fans, torn suitcases—bring any of the above to the Fixer’s Collective and watch a lively bunch of handymen put their skills to use. The group meets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Thursday at Proteus Gowanus, stocked with everything from extra fabric and duct tape to power tools. The menders are particularly good with umbrellas, but they’ve also handled blenders, phonographs, and flags and once turned an old phone into an MP3 player. A $5 donation is encouraged but rarely collected.
Mixer parties for twentysomething Brooklynites who don’t want to be alone in their singlehood, each BK Hookup event has pulled in 400 to 600 people. The big draw? Ridiculous themes that serve as instant conversation-starters (past parties have included a pajama shindig with sexy bedtime stories and the Big Gay Meatup: Spring Break Edition). Events have been occurring every two or three months, with the next one slated for sometime later this summer. Cost: $7 to $15 at the door; events usually take place at the Bell House in Gowanus.
Pickles & Preserves
When canning and baking enthusiast Kate Payne and urban farmer Meg Paska got the idea to barter wares, they spread the word to the “urban ag” community through Twitter (#bkswappers). Days later, Payne’s Crown Heights apartment was filled with a crowd of 30, drinking tea and swapping pickles, preserves, fresh eggs, and baked goods made with berries plucked from public parks. Swap meets are now held every other month at a different location.
A New Obsession
Gowanus Studio Space, 166 7th St., nr. Third Ave., Gowanus; brooklynbrainery.com
The quirky $25 classes on topics like perfume-making or traditional woodcrafts don’t exactly have teachers—session leaders aren’t expected to be experts in their chosen subjects. Think of these four-week courses more like book clubs, in which participants all read up on a topic, then share their findings with the group. Will you actually learn anything? Questionable. But the idea is to whet your thirst for knowledge rather than quench it.