A landlord who owns multiple properties on Franklin Avenue recently sent out an e-mail to his tenants, promoting a party that featured local DJs and promised neighborhood camaraderie. “I’ve been asked by one of my tenants to forward the following,” the message reads “And since it’s for something good, I figured it was OK to bother you.”
The party and its subsequent electronic promotion are characteristic of , a community space on Franklin Avenue that blends an old-school community feel with both new forms of communication and the greater changes happening in the neighborhood.
LaunchPad, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Park Place in Crown Heights, includes a modest indoor area with a large backyard. Since March 2010, LaunchPad has offered its space to artists, musicians and community-minded individuals looking for a local place to meet and exchange ideas. The effort has resulted in the creation of a vibrant cultural center that hosts everything from prisoner advocacy film screenings to weekend dance parties.
“There are a lot of changes happening in Prospect Heights,” says Michael Kunitzky, a hobby photographer who started the idea of LaunchPad. “One of the things that got to me the most was that you can see familiar faces around here all the time without ever saying hi. That’s where LaunchPad comes in.”
Kunitzky, who works in online advertising, first got a hold of the building on Franklin when he needed extra office space for his company. When he parted ways with his place of employment, the building remained in his hands and was unused until the young patron of the arts decided to convert it into what it is today. “Life is short, so you should practice what you preach,” says Kunitzky, who does not profit from LaunchPad.
LaunchPad is in the process of being certified as a 501c3 non-profit organization. At its founding in 2010, the community space was funded by Kunitzky’s personal savings as well as an outpouring of public support from Kickstarter.com, which acts as a funding platform for artistic projects. LaunchPad now has a fiscal sponsorship from the Brooklyn Arts Council and Kunitzky is actively looking for public money to fund the organization.
The space is home to a wide variety of ongoing programs and one-time events. The Hoover Dam Collective, a group of cross-discipline artists and musicians, regularly holds events at LaunchPad. The Crow Hill Collective, which describes itself as “a neighborhood hub for good times and friendly people,” also hosts BYOB DJ parties at the community space. LaunchPad also offers a number of classes and seminars along with Open Access periods where neighborhood residents are welcome to socialize, play games or use the free WiFi.
Allison Pelissier is an area resident who teaches a yoga class at LaunchPad on Sunday nights on a pay-what-you-wish basis. The class, a far cry from the bustling parties on Fridays and Saturdays, offers a local respite for those looking to relax, get some exercise and meet neighbors. The class welcomes yoga practitioners of all levels.
“LaunchPad is a place where everyone in the neighborhood can come together to be creative, productive and inspirational,” says Pelissier, who has been living in the neighborhood for years and has learned and taught yoga from New York to India. “Events at LaunchPad are free and by donation, which means anyone can come, regardless of financial circumstances."
LaunchPad is located at 721 Franklin Ave. For more information or to find out about hosting an event, e-mail info@BrooklynLaunchPad.org. The full calendar of events at LaunchPad can be found at www.BrooklynLaunchPad.org, and more information is at the organization's Facebook page.