An Old Prescription for Sour Faces

Clowns from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed on Monday in the waiting room of the Children's Hospital at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.Robert Stolarik for The New York Times Clowns from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed on Monday in the waiting room of the Children’s Hospital at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.

When the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus made its first appearance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week, it marked a return to the borough where it was born in the 19th century. The circus revived another tradition on Monday, when it staged a performance for young patients, staff members and other guests at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.

The performance featured the familiar circus clowns, who elicited smiles from children being treated at the hospital. That same desire — to bring a little joy to a place often in need of it — was the reason Ringling Brothers had for decades performed outside Bellevue Hospital, now called Bellevue Hospital Center. Back then, the circus went all out for its hospital shows, which would also attract nearby residents, even bringing along some of its elephants.

“Dr. Ringling’s medicine is of the finest quality, easy to take, good for almost any ailment; children love it and adults enjoy it,” Dr. William F. Jacobs, Bellevue’s medical superintendent, told The New York Times in 1946, when about 6,000 people, many of them children, watched the show. “I’ll prescribe it any time in same dosage for young and old alike.”

From 1960:

From 1944:

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In an Area Plagued by Violence, a ‘God Squad’ Hits the Streets

The Rev. Gilford Monrose, center, took part in a prayer during a vigil in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, on March 11 for Kimani Gray, a 16-year-old man who was shot and killed by the police. The council was formed in 2010 to try to improve relations between the police and residents in the area.Michael Nagle for The New York Times The Rev. Gilford Monrose, center, took part in a prayer during a vigil in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, on March 11 for Kimani Gray, a 16-year-old man who was shot and killed by the police. The council was formed in 2010 to try to improve relations between the police and residents in the area.

The Rev. Gilford Monrose was asleep in his Brooklyn apartment on March 9, when a text message from another pastor knocked him from his slumber: BROOKLYN: *POLICE SHOOTING* E52 ST X SNYDER AVE, LEVEL 1 MOBILIZATION CALLED. It was 11:39 p.m., and Mr. Monrose was about to begin the most trying week of his life.

Since 2005, Mr. Monrose has been the pastor at Mt. Zion Church of God on East 37th Street in East Flatbush, a densely populated neighborhood where many residents have roots in the Caribbean. His church is within the 67th Precinct, long referred to as one of the two deadliest precincts in New York.

The facts — 75 shootings and 15 murders in 2012 — back up that claim. Death notices by text messages are nothing new to Mr. Monrose. The victims’ names haunt him: Patrick Mondesir, 21. Shantel Davis, 23. Trevonne Winn, 24. All killed within the 67th Precinct.

What is notable about Mr. Monrose, 37, is how involved he’s become in the aftermath of these violent deaths. In late 2010, he helped found the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, an affiliation of local clergy. The group’s goal was simple: religious leaders would act as liaisons between residents and the police in an area where tensions between the two groups run high.

The clergy council appointed Mr. Monrose as president. From the beginning, he insisted the group would be hands-on. When there is a shooting, members head to the scene, wearing yellow rain slickers emblazoned with the council’s name. They speak to the press, comfort mourners, soothe angry witnesses. They visit wounded shooting victims. When a family cannot afford a funeral, they raise money.  “Our role,” Mr. Monrose said, “is to diffuse a potential disaster in Brooklyn.”

Mr. Monrose quickly divided the 3.4-square mile area into 14 sections, assigned each part a sector head, and christened his response team the God Squad.

On March 9, police officers shot and killed Kimani Gray, a 16-year-old who the police said had pointed a gun at officers. Mr. Gray lived and died within the 67th. He was petite, baby-faced and popular. The shooting tipped off what Mr. Monrose called “a perfect storm” in the area. For days, the neighborhood roiled with anger, and young people met nightly to march down the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Church Avenue. Sometimes, they turned violent.

“We’ve been saying that this type of thing could happen for a long time,” said Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, who described a neighborhood strangled by a lack of resources and heavy-handed police officers. “There is a breaking point where people say, ‘We’re tired.’ And when you’re in pain, and when you’re angry, you do things that are counterproductive.”

The clergy council had been tested before. On June 14, 2012, officers shot and killed Shantel Davis, an unarmed woman traveling through the precinct in a stolen car. A crowd quickly gathered at the site of her death. They chanted “murderers,” as investigators worked the scene.

Clergy council members dropped everything and ran to the crowd. “It was an emergency situation,” said the Rev. Charles Galbreath, 29, the group’s treasurer. “Being present, being there to offer prayers,” he said, “was critical.”

But the events of Mr. Gray’s death would test the council like never before.

Mr. Gray died on a Saturday night. The next Monday, said Mr. Monrose, “all hell broke loose.”

“I’m in a board meeting at the church and my phone starts to ring off the chain,” he said. Some of Mr. Gray’s supporters were marching down Church Avenue, overturning trash cans and throwing debris at officers.

Mr. Monrose ran outside, where he met Mr. Williams. As the group whipped past neighborhood institutions — the Trini Breakfast Shed, advertising hot roti; the Botanic du Roi Salomon, selling religious knickknacks — the pastor and the politician followed on foot. “We literally ran from Nostrand Avenue up to 55th Street behind the crowd, trying to get in front of them, yelling, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this,’” Mr. Monrose said.

The group stopped at 55th Street. Officers in riot gear surrounded them. Police helicopters buzzed overhead. “I went to the police,” said Mr. Monrose, “and I said to them, ‘Please, let me talk to the young people so that no one could be arrested, and we don’t have a blood bath in the streets.’”

Eventually, an officer handed Mr. Monrose a bullhorn. “I had that bullhorn in my hand for about three hours,” he said, “praying, giving instruction, giving the microphone to a few community leaders, young people, just trying to maintain the crowd. And we maintained that crowd.”

Around 11:30 p.m., Mr. Monrose instructed everyone to join hands. They obeyed. The Rev. Terry Lee, another clergy council member, took the horn and silenced the group. “What we need is love,” he shouted. “Everybody say ‘love.’” The crowd responded: “Love.” They prayed. And then the group erupted into shouts: “Justice!” A woman fell into her neighbor’s arms. “Justice! Justice!” By 12:05 a.m., fewer than a dozen supporters of Mr. Gray remained at the corner.

While other precincts have clergy councils, Mr. Williams said this council stood alone in its street-level approach.

Tracey Winn, 41, first met council members when her son, Trevonne Winn, was fatally shot outside his uncle’s Crown Fried Chicken shop in 2011. She lives in Rock Hill, S.C., and flew to New York the day after his death. “On the news I asked to find out: ‘Who is the person in charge of the 67th precinct?’ This was Pastor Monrose,” she said.

The council raised the money to send Mr. Winn’s body to Rock Hill. Mr. Monrose and Ms. Winn are in constant contact. “He’s been a person who, like no one else, has kept me going,” she said. “It’s been two years and he understands: It feels like it happened yesterday.”

The council has faced challenges. The group operates independently from the Police Department, and has no funding. Their efforts are also limited: On March 13, two nights after the march for Mr. Gray, a rally ended in more than 40 arrests, despite the clergy’s presence.

Mr. Monrose said the council’s role was not to assign blame  — Who had a gun? Who pointed first?

“That’s going to be hashed out in the court of law,” he said.  The council’s job is to keep the peace and provide comfort, he said. “And how we do that is we have to be in the streets.”

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Starbucks Is Headed for the Port Authority

They may have to rename it the Port Authority Buzz Terminal.

Commuters passing through the city’s main bus depot in Midtown already have several options for a place to grab a cup of coffee. There are cafes on all levels, including a large Au Bon Pain outlet that faces Casa Java, a shop dedicated to serving coffee in a range of strengths and flavors.

But unlike just about every other major transportation hub in the metropolitan area, the bus terminal has never had a Starbucks. Commuters craving Frappucinos have had to walk as much as a block in any direction to sate their thirsts.

That void is scheduled to be filled this spring when a Starbucks opens side by side with Casa Java on the main floor of the terminal, on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets. It will fill a space left vacant when a Zaro’s bakery closed a couple of years ago.

“If you had to draw an X at the most prime spot in the terminal, that would be it,” said Stephen Napolitano, the terminal’s general manager. “That’s my Fifth Avenue, if you will.”

The Cake Boss Cafe opened late last year at the Port Authority. Yana Paskova for The New York Times The Cake Boss Cafe opened late last year at the Port Authority.

Mr. Napolitano said he believed all of the cafes could coexist because there are so many customers to serve. He said about 250,000 people flow through the building each weekday. Most are commuters, but some get on or off long-haul buses.

The Starbucks lease is part of an effort to revive some of the moribund ground-floor spaces in the building. Late last year, the first Cake Boss Café opened in the storefront in the northeast corner of the terminal on 42nd Street.

That space, which once housed a Duane Reade drugstore, sat vacant for years while a developer, Vornado Realty Trust, tried to arrange to construct a 40-story tower over the north wing. Another main-floor space in that wing is being filled with a two-level branch of PNC bank, the first full-service bank branch in the building, Mr. Napolitano said.

He said the Port Authority had decided to stop waiting for a resolution of Vornado’s interest in the “air rights” over the tower and to find tenants for the building while West Midtown is on the upswing.

“The decisions were made to move forward and whatever happens with the air-rights deal will happen,” Mr. Napolitano said. “That’s why you see the Cake Boss in there now.”

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Chicken Dancers at a Dodgers Game

Dear Diary:

I’ve found that some of the most New York moments happen outside New York.

I attended a spring-training Dodgers baseball game in Vero Beach, Fla., a number of years ago. Inexplicably, the announcer played the “Chicken Dance” between innings. Two guys to the left of me jumped onto their seats and started a very enthusiastic chicken dance on their seats.

A group of old codgers in Brooklyn Dodgers jerseys started to have an animated conversation among themselves while they pointed at the chicken dancers dipping, flapping and spinning to the music while perched on top of their chairs.

Finally one of the old Dodger fans stood up and yelled in pure Brooklynese: ”What the hell is up with you guys? Are you from Wisconsin or something?” The chicken dancers looked stunned and stopped in mid-flap. One of them nodded yes.

The Brooklyn guy just nodded at his amazed friends with a look of I-told-you-so pure self-satisfaction and the two guys from Wisconsin quietly sat down and were left shrugging their shoulders at each other. They didn’t move for the rest of the game.


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