Greenpoint Gazette
Michael Cesarczyk
L-R WMAAC Children's Class and Daytime Manager Lindsey Isbell and Mahayana Brown

BabyFEST Raises a Village

BY Michael Cesarczyk

First-time parents have good reason to be a little anxious. Along with all the joy and excitement that comes with caring for their firstborns comes an avalanche of uncertainty – hiring the right nanny, buying cute clothes and safe toys, selecting healthy food, locating a top school, and making sure they can afford it all.

Luckily for them, two neighborhood moms teamed up last week to present the first annual Brooklyn BabyFEST. Jessica Glorieux of parenting website Motherburg and Susan Anderson of community group Town Square assembled over 100 exhibitors and speakers at JHS 126 (424 Leonard Street) on Saturday, April 27th, to advise moms and dads on everything baby.

For $15, attendees were given a bulging gift bag and access to wealth of information ranging from prenatal care to college savings plans. In the midst of workshops, demos and discussions in several rooms, national and local businesses mixed seamlessly. Among the hometown companies were Little Duck Organics, offering new grain-based cereals in strawberry, blueberry and banana flavors; the Greenpoint YMCA, which currently has a summer membership special ($250 for the whole family); and Grand Street’s Bird River Studios, kicking off its first summer art and theater summer camp on July 15th. Sign up before June 1st to receive a 10% discount. Registration is still open for Morning Toddler Art (2-3 years) and Spring Kids Afterschool (4-12 years). Daddies got support too with NYC Dads Group, a growing community of fathers that meets several times a week and organizes workshops and New Dad Boot Camps ($65). To top it off, BabyFEST ticketholders were given 60 raffle prizes, including a limited edition stroller given away by Baby R’oues and an entire IKEA nursery.

Fittingly, parents also got their first peeks at some of the neighborhood’s new arrivals. Tribeca Pediatrics, which opened its Williamsburg office four years ago, is opening a Greenpoint branch at 288 Driggs Avenue. Williamsburg Northside Schools, on hand with fun, educational summer camps for ages 1-4, revealed their plans to expand into two new locations – one for their daycare, the other for their elementary school – in the next few weeks. ABC Child Center, which opened as New York City’s first Polish-American daycare on Nassau Avenue in 1993, introduced their new Infant and Child Center (for ages 6 – 24 months). Although its programs will begin in June, parents can tour the newly completed Center during its Open House on Saturday, May 11th (12:00 – 2:00PM).

True to Williamsburg’s status as a musical mecca, there were plenty of live musical performances to enliven the mood. Around noon, Little Rockits by Frolic! gave a mini-rock and roll show, mixing classic pop songs (like the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”) with originals about the G train and little robots. Rock and roll play space Frolic! is currently offering a special summer membership June 1st – August 31st. Sign up by May 15th and receive two bonus weeks of play. Then, after a special diaper derby, Williamsburg Movement and Arts Center (WMAAC) teachers Lindsey Isbell and Stephanie Brown demonstrated a Mi-Shake with Brown’s 14-month-old daughter, Mahayana. Lautaro of Bilingual Birdies followed, serenading toddlers in English and Spanish.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Assemblyman Joe Lentol were both glad to attend an event curated specifically for New York’s fattest-growing and most child-friendly region. In January 2011, the New York Times dubbed Williamsburg “Toddlertown.”

“It’s time,” proclaimed Markowitz. “Brooklyn is exploding in terms of expectancy of parents. The baby boom is fully fledged and that’s why Brooklyn is the stroller derby capital of the world.”

Anderson, whose eight-year-old son, Brent, had just returned from Greenpoint Little League’s kick off game, agreed. “With all the baby explosion going on in this neighborhood, these services are appreciated. It’s hard for a new parent to obtain and process all the information out there. You suddenly have to become an expert in education, nutrition…all those things. And it’s also great to bring parents together and became part of that village,” she said.

Glorieux also hoped that BabyFEST fostered a sense of community. “For me, motherhood was an adventure,” said the mother of two. “I like people to know that there’s always a lot to learn if you want to. Anything you’re interested in, other people are interested in too, and we wanted to create a safe, non-judgmental place for parents.”

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