For the past two years 25-year-old Tobias has served as both the publisher
and editor of Block Magazine, a free community bimonthly aimed at bridging the
gap between community journalism and a magazine format in the neighborhoods of
Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. One year into his gambit, Tobias had a
chance encounter with 24-year-old Pavony, a childhood acquaintance. They realized
they had a lot in common — backgrounds in journalism as well as a sense
that the neighborhoods in Greenpoint and Williamsburg were sorely lacking a publication
that served the diverse residents who lived there. Pavony joined up, spending
his downtime crashing on Tobias’ futon before relocating from Manhattan
to north Brooklyn.
From their sparsely decorated East Williamsburg office (reconstituted from
a changing industrial neighborhood) the duo work tirelessly to put something
for everyone in their magazine. Their target audience ranges from Hasidim, to
the diaspora encompassed by Latino culture, to the newly relocated artist community.
The topics of the pieces are equally as wideranging: recent articles include
a history of doo-wop and an examination of waste management practices in Greenpoint.
Block Magazine was used as the subject for a segment for the Williamsburg/Greenpoint
edition BCAT’s Neighborhood Beat series, a group of shows that draws on
local residents to tell the stories of various Brooklyn neighborhoods. “After
that show, [BCAT] approached us to be the hosts of the show, and for Block Magazine
to supply the content,” says Tobias.
|The pair readily agreed. The strength of the show is obvious in its ability
to draw onthe resources Block Magazine has to offer: a wealth of story ideas
and a staff with strong ties to the community, which lends the program credibility
with locals. Pavony notes that the challenge of working in a different medium
also drew them in. “We’re able to adapt to the television medium
by applying our magazine’s stories,” he says. “We take the
stories off the page and give them a setting and some color,” adds Tobias.
Recent episodes of the show have reflected Block Magazine’s marriage
of hard news journalism with a more literary approach to reporting. Pieces wander
in focus over a variety of topics: profiles of art galleries, music venues, bar
and restaurant reviews, in-depth history pieces, and examinations of local businesses,
charities and community organizations. “We try to keep each half hour show
as diverse as possible, which is what the magazine does,” says Pavony.
The pair intro each show the same way, with a scripted exchange that includes
a summation of the program as “a look at the people, places and personalities
that define two of Brooklyn’s most historic neighborhoods.” The character
that drives the culture of the two neighborhoods is heavily featured in segments,
with interviews of business owners, musicians, and resident artists all likely
staples of any given episode. A recent episode that focused on art started out
with a profile on Yuko Nii, the founder and director of the Williamsburg Art
and Historical Center, then moved to an examination of the New York Dance and
Arts Institute, then segued into a piece about Maki Yamamoto, a local artist
who works in fabric, to a profile of the gallery Parker’s Box, ending in
a segment about a coalition of galleries who open their doors late every third
Friday of the month.
|BCAT’s Neighborhood Beat series, which currently covers
eleven Brooklyn neighborhoods including Bay Ridge, Bedford- Stuyvesant, and BoCoCa
(Boerum Hill, Cobble Hil, and Carroll Gardens), can seen each weeknight at 8:30pm
on Time Warner Cable channel 56 and Cablevision channel 69.
Hosted by neighborhood leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists,
each 28-minute program offers an insiders’ historical, cultural and informative
points of view unique to the neighborhood. Open to any Brooklyn resident or organization
interested in participating, the series is part of overall goal by BCAT to engage
the general public in producing programs about their neighborhoods. To get involved,
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tobias and Pavony’s dedication to Block Magazine and their neighborhood
is unassailable. Both work other jobs to help subsidize the publication of the
mag, and stands to reason that their time is in short supply. Their work is a
self-admitted labor of love, and it seems the pair won’t be satisfied until
every story on every block heard. As Pavony puts it, “Every block unique.”
A new episode of Neighborhood Beat: Williamsburg/Greenpoint
can be seen on BCAT on the 3rd Thursday of the month with encore presentations
the following month on the 1st Tuesday and 2nd Monday & Friday on Time Warner
Cable channel 56 and Cablevision channel 69 and online at www.bcat.tv/bcat.
This article appeared in the BCAT Program Guide. Week of November 14-20.