By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Community Organizations: Friends of Mother Cabrini Park protects the park in question, named in honor of the patron saint of immigrants. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Initiative and Neighbors United for Columbia Street District recently put out a powerful fact sheet calling for a continuous greenway along the entire northwest coast of Brooklynessentially, a tree-lined bike and pedestrian route away from cars and trucksand denouncing Department of Transportation efforts to widen the district's streets for traffic.
Best Restaurants: Trendy haute Mexican joint Alma (187 Columbia Street, 718-643-5400) has rooftop elegance and a shimmering, near-panoramic view. For flavor, however, try the neighborhood's major delicacies: the $4 panelle sandwiches at Ferdinando's (151 Union Street, 718-855-1545) and the beer milkshakes at Schnäck (122 Union Street, 718-855-2879, schnackdog.com). Ferdinando's didn't invent the Sicilian specialtychickpea pancakes, ricotta, and Pecorino Romano on a roll. It just perfected it. Harry Hawk, the mind behind the above-mentioned ice cream cocktail, says, "I really thought I had invented . . . a culinary masterpiece." Disappointingly, he later found a beer milkshake reference in Steinbeck. Robert Sietsema calls the venerable House of Pizza and Calzone (132 Union Street, 718-624-9107) the 70th best Italian restaurant in the citywhich, when you think about it, is saying a lot.
Best Bars: B16, Alma's downstairs cocktail joint, helps contain the scenesters waiting two hours for Saturday night rooftop seating. During off-hours, the pitch-dark, high-ceilinged back room is ecstatically calm, with the odd older couple hanging out by the pool table. You might catch even a grad student typing a thesis on a laptop in one of the straight-backed, velour love seats that, like everything in this building, look more comfortable than they are.
Best Stores: In 2001, the Voice called General Nitemare's cluttered, encyclopedic furniture stash the city's "Best '30s, '40s, and '50s Collectibles" (196 Columbia Street, 718-858-8659). The quirky owner will even refinish your selection, but don't count on 24-7 service, as GN's voicemail notes, "Mondaysometimes. Tuesdaysometimes. Wednesdaynever."
Crime Stats: The 76th Precinct serves the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Red Hook. As of late May, it reported one murder, up one from the previous year-to-date; five rapes, up two; 37 robberies, down 27; 40 felonious assaults, up two; and 52 burglaries, down eight. Between 1993 and 2003, crime dropped 61.21 percent, less than the city's overall 66.05 percent decrease.