AS OF 11 A.M. MONDAY MORNING, 18 people were already in line with sleeping bags and tents outsde the Red Hook IKEA, set to open on Wednesday. The opening-day events (beginning 6 a.m.!) will offer more freebies than previously mentioned. The first 35 adults in line at the 9 a.m. opening will receive an EKTORP sofa, the next 100 behind them will receive a POÄNG armchair and another 2,500 will receive an IKEA gift certificate in a random amount. The first hundred kids will be given plush heart pillows.
Red Hook IKEA store manager MIKE BAKER credits hundreds of people with contributing to the 35th U.S. IKEA since its inception six years ago. At Friday’s community luncheon, held in IKEA’s 450-seat restaurant, where stunning bay windows frame the Statue of Liberty, he named his “right and left hands,”— Lorna Montalvo, who commutes from the Bronx to lead public relations and marketing; and Brooklynite Louie Fernandez, the deputy store manager. Baker himself lives “a few neighborhoods down, near the Verrazano Bridge.”
Not only is IKEA a much-anticipated furnishings store for those with cramped spaces or budgets, but it decided early in development to be a community player, too. The company employed 500 local construction workers during the building process, and has hired 500 co-workers from the surrounding areas to run the store when it opens tomorrow. Last year, IKEA provided $500,000 to create “Red Hook Works,” a job training program run by Opportunities For a Better Tomorrow (OBT) near the Red Hook East and West housing developments. Services there, including resume-writing assistance and computer training, have reached more than 3,500 since launching in August 2007, and residents of the 11231 zip code were given a three-week “head start” in the IKEA recruitment and application process. “I’ve been in workforce development for 17 years in NYC, and this is the first time that I’ve seen a company come into the city and invest in a project that doesn’t just directly benefit the company itself,” said OBT Executive Director and Windsor Terrance resident Randy Peers. “They see the bigger picture.”
In addition, IKEA Brooklyn has supported renovation of the heavily used Red Hook Senior Citizen Center and the community offices of the Red Hook East and West Tenants Associations in the Red Hook housing development.
The company, with its partners at Yoswein New York, has made efforts to integrate the store into the community in other ways. The unmistakable blue-and-yellow building has joined the ranks of other large-scale Brooklyn “green” buildings to receive LEED certification. Key features are the 6.5-acre waterfront esplanade, 70,000 square feet of a green roof to cut down on runoff and to increase oxygen production and 88,000 square feet of solar panels to help generate power for the store.
ON FRIDAY, BOROUGH PREZ MARTY MARKOWITZ announced the highly anticipated — although still partial — list of authors who will participate in this fall’s Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 14. Representatives of most major NYC publications were on hand to learn about what has become, in only its third year, a premier, attention-grabbing literary event. Confirmed authors include JOAN DIDION (The Year of Magical Thinking), DOROTHY ALLISON (Bastard Out of Carolina), RUSSEL BANKS (The Reserve), PAUL BEATTY (Slumberland), JONATHAN FRANZEN (The Corrections), RICHARD PRICE (Lush Life), ESMERALDA SANTIAGO (When I Was Puerto Rican) and TERRY McMILLAN (Waiting to Exhale).
Children’s writers scheduled to attend are GAIL CARSON LEVINE (Ella Enchanted), JACQUELINE WOODSON (Feathers), CECILY VON ZIEGESAR (“Gossip Girl”), JANE O’CONNOR (Fancy Nancy) and CHRIS MYERS (Jabberwocky).
The Borough Prez’s Literary Council — which organizes the festival — is chaired by Fort Green resident JOHNNY TEMPLE, who is also the leader of publishing house Akashic Books in Gowanus. Other council members are CAROLYN GREER, director of public events, special projects and tourism for Markowitz; and LIZ KOCH, arts and culture specialist for Markowitz.
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On Thursday morning, students from St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf talked to peers in London through the telectroscope, that transatlantic webcam/public art installation on the Brooklyn waterfront. The artist, UK-based artist, Paul St. George, and Red Hook resident KATIE EIXON, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership director of arts and culture, met with the kids at Fulton Ferry Landing. The installation closed on Sunday.