This summer and fall, the Speakeasy Bookmobile has been out and all about in the boroughs of New York City. We’ve been to Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx — and have had the pleasure of connecting face to face with readers all along the way. Read on for some snapshots from recent deployments.
With Bronx River Art Center: Scary Night, Halloween Extravaganza
- Where: Bronx River Art Center, 1087 E. Tremont Ave., The Bronx
When: Saturday , October 29th: 4:30-6:30 PM
- What: A gathering of teaching artists, staff members, students and parents open to the public. A scary and fun evening of music, candy, party favors, and FREE Halloween.
At BRAC, nestled between West Farms and Van Nest in the Bronx, the Bookmobile joined local Halloween festivities. Adults and children alike showed off costumes, enjoyed candy, and browsed and selected books (including some appropriately-spooky picks).
With DreamYard: Harvest Festival 2022
- Where: Hayden Lord Park, 1677 Andrews Ave South, The Bronx
When: Saturday, October 29th: 1-3:30 PM
- What: An annual autumnal festival, including pumpkin painting, music and dancing, face painting, and a costume contest.
This year’s Harvest Festival, hosted by Bronx arts and social justice-oriented nonprofit DreamYard, featured a group of very excited young people ready for the Halloween weekend underway. Painting — of both pumpkins and faces — as a major hit during the day!
With PS/IS 268Q: Annual Character Day
- Where: PS/IS 268Q, 92-07 175th Street, Jamaica, Queens
When: Friday, October 28th: 10:30 AM – 2 PM
- What: For students K-8: A celebration of all things books and book characters, led off by a parade of students dressed as book characters. The day will also include visits from authors.
This Halloween Friday, the Bookmobile drove east to Jamaica, Queens to support Character Day at one of the neighborhood’s public elementary and middle schools. Students ages 5 – 14 greeted us, coming in by grade, and donning the garb of their favorite superhero (local or mythical), royal figure, or Manga character. The Bookmobile serviced the majority of the PS/IS 268Q’s student body of over 700 — and found ourselves short on books! Thankfully, English teacher Ms. Melody Davis led efforts to surface like-new books from the school’s own surplus supply, and every child who visited us was able to leave with a book of their choosing in hand.
With Van Alen Block Party
- Where: Gowanus-Red Hook, NY / Douglass St & Bond St, Brooklyn
When: Saturday, October 22nd: 12-8 PM
- What: This year’s Van Alen Block Party – a day of food, music, dancing in the streets and a celebration of the creative energy of Gowanus! Free and open to the public.
On this crisp fall Saturday, the Bookmobile joined musicians, dancers, artisans and community members at large in Gowanus. The outing was colorful and exuberant, a literary invitation for the Halloween season punctuated by the sound of drums, the smell of empanadas, and the sight of joyful children reveling in face paint and free books.
With Bay Ridge BID: Fun on 5th Friday Night Live Open Streets
- Where: 7720-7724 5th Avenue, Bay Ridge, NY
When: Friday, September 30th: 6-9 PM
- What: Come strut your stuff while enjoying local restaurants and retail, engage with artists, and dance to live entertainment. All ages welcome!
Our burgundy Bookmobile rolled up on 5th Avenue amidst the throng of people and Friday night fun. Bay Ridge’s Business Improvement District or BID works to promote the beautification of Bay Ridge, support small business, and promote social justice. We at the Bookmobile were ecstatic to once again be of service to our eager readers.
With BK ROT: CYCLEdarity Fundraiser
- Where: 1278 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221
When: Friday, September 30th: 4-6 PM
- What: Come meet the team, explore new things, connect with each other, and collectively dreams! Welcome to our CYCLEdarity fundraiser mixer. This event is FREE and open to all!
The Bookmobile arrived once again to Myrtle Avenue. This time, our crew was distributing free books in support of BK ROT, NYC’s pioneering community-based, bicycle-driven, fossil fuel free, waste and compost hauling service. It was a pleasure to help drum up excitement for their CYCLEdarity fundraiser and show how community action based initiatives can work in tandem for the advancement of social justice.
With READ 718 and Brooklyn Book Bodega: Back-to-School in Bed-Stuy Kick-off to the Brooklyn Book Festival
- Where: READ 718, 336 Malcolm X Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 11233
When: Sunday, September 25: 12-4 PM
- What: A back-to-school event celebrating young readers.
Fueled by a shared mission of building community, increasing book access, and fostering a love of reading, this collaborative family event kicked off the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Bookends series. The afternoon included readings by Brooklyn authors, art-making workshops, and a community mural at READ 718’s center in Bed-Stuy. Though geared towards readers grades K-12, the event was open to and visited by readers of all ages.
With The Conference House: Staten Island 1776 Peace Federation Celebration
- Where: The Conference House, at 7455 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10307
- When: Saturday, September 17: 11 AM-4 PM
- What: A whole-family day of festivities, including historical reenactments, dancing, live music, cooking demonstrations, and child-specific activities.
In partnership with the Conference House, the SpeakEasy Bookmobile served as an envoy and advocate of peace through the free dissemination of books to the community. This all served to celebrate the 246th anniversary of Staten Island Peace Conference, which was an attempt between the English Crown and Colonial leaders to negotiate peace before the onset of hostilities. Here we see a historical reenactor in seeking his next good read!
On Myrtle Avenue, in Brooklyn: Touch a Truck Day!
- Where: Clinton Ave, between Myrtle and Willoughby, Brooklyn, NY
- When: Saturday, September 10, 10AM – 2PM
- What: The first ever Touch a Truck Day on Myrtle Avenue will bring an opportunity for kids to get up close with all kinds of large trucks and vehicles! Big trucks – book giveaway, rafts for kids, music, and more – will fill the block
Green trash truck? Check. Yellow tow truck? Check. Burgundy Bookmobile Truck? Check! On the inaugural Touch a Truck Day organized by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, the SpeakEasy Bookmobile was part of a fleet of trucks that opened their doors (and in our case, our awnings) to let the community and its children know what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes, or rather, drive a day on our wheels. The Bookmobile’s function within our community, as demonstrated in the charming photo of our young reader to the left, helps enrich the lives of all within our communities. Reading is life and we are always delighted to provide free new books in places where they are needed most.
In East Harlem, Manhattan: Taft Back to School Event
- Where: Taft Houses, 115th between Madison and Park, East Harlem
- When: Tuesday, August 30: 1 PM – 5 PM
- What: In partnership with Made for Me Books and NYCHA, TAFT’s Annual Back to School Event
This summer, the Bookmobile returned to East Harlem for a bright and joyous Taft Houses back to school celebration. Books were just one part of the party’s offerings: back-to-school haircuts, free food and snacks, complimentary backpacks. Council Member Diana Ayala of District 8 stopped by to offer her gratitude: “I love what you guys are doing!” Pictured here are sisters London (11), Paries (11) and Saniyah (10), alongside bookseller Lawson.
In Red Hook, Brooklyn: Red Hook West Family Day Celebration
- Where: Coffey Park, between Dwight St. and Mill St.
- When: Saturday, August 27, 12 PM – 4 PM
- What: In partnership with Red Hook Initiative, Red Hook West Family Day Celebration is an all-ages day of community festivities.
On Saturday the 28th, the Bookmobile returned to Red Hook — again in partnership with RHI. On the ground, we met members of the community, including some familiar faces from August 11th! We met Destiny, 18 years old, who picked up a copy of One. “This is perfect — I have dyslexia, and I’m looking for a new book!” she exclaimed. We also met 8-month-old Leah, and her mother, Lisa, who left with An Angel for Solomon Singer. “You mean I’ll get to see myself on the website?” said Lisa, with excitement.
With Bay Ridge BID: Fun on 5th Friday Night Live Open Streets
Where: 72-85 Streets along 5th Avenue, 5th Ave, Brooklyn
- When: Friday, August 26: 6 PM – 9 PM
- What: Bay Ridge Friday Night Live — An all-ages block party featuring local restaurants and retail, engage with artists, and dance to live entertainment!
For the last Friday of this August, we brought our books-on-wheels to Bay Ridge’s brownstone-lined 5th Avenue. Despite heavy rains earlier in the evening, we were fortuitously able to open “shop” for Bay Ridge families— alongside local DJs, artists and merchants. We even enjoyed a small hula-hoop performance from acrobat, dancer and House of Speakeasy Book Specialist Lawson Pindar.
At Highland Park, East New York: NYC Reads Initiative Back to School
- Where: Lower Highland Park Playground, at the corner of Jamaica Ave. and Cleveland St.
- When: Wednesday, August 24: 2 PM – 5 PM
- What: East New York NYC Reads Initiative Back to School Event
As the summer winded down, the Bookmobile had the opportunity to reconnect with NYC Reads Initiative and Literacy Inc. (LINC), with both of whom we’ve also partnered in past seasons. The deployment was also a chance to distribute some much-anticipated children’s and YA books donated to us by the wonderful Brooklyn Book Bodega! Pictured here are four-year-old Kaira with her brother, Malik, seven years old.
At Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn: Small Press Flea
- Where: Central Library Plaza, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY
- When: Saturday, August 20: 10 AM – 4 PM
- What: Small Press Flea (SPF), in partnership with BOMB Magazine, made its return to the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch for another beautiful August day with your favorite local publishers and magazines
On Saturday the 20th, the Bookmobile featured picks from Greenlight Bookstore and our own collection — this time for sale, to support our outreach efforts. We shared the sidewalk with publishers including BOMB Magazine, Night Boat, Ugly Duckling and Verso Press — and even got a visit from Julian Shapiro-Barnum of “Recess Therapy.”
In Red Hook, Brooklyn: Red Hook Initiative Block Celebrations
- Where: Red Hook Initiative Center, 767 Hicks St, Brooklyn, NY
When: Thursday, August 11: 11 AM-4 PM; Freedom School Graduation. This event was primarily with 9th and 10th graders, but was also open to the community.
- When: Thursday, August 18, 2 PM-6 PM; Red Hook Initiative Block Party! ALL ages!
At Red Hook Initiative, the Bookmobile came out to support young people of the Red Hook Houses in RHI programming milestones. Here, we also met brothers Jeremiah and Messiah, pictured to the left. “When I have superpowers, I will fly,” Jeremiah (right) told us. “But the only way I will use my powers to fly is when I’m saving the world.” Visit our corresponding blog post to read more about our wokr with RHI!
At Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn: Weeksville Green
- Where: Weeksville Heritage Center, Buffalo Ave. between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street
When: Saturdays, July 30; August 6, 13: 12-4 PM
- What: Every Saturday, Buffalo Ave. between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street in Brooklyn closes to vehicle traffic and parking, allowing the street to open up for community programming. Click here for Open Streets programming with NYC DOT.
Back at WHC, the Bookmobile shared Buffalo Ave with groups including Seeds in the Middle and Cremas Absalon Haitian Liqueur. Olivia, pictured here, works for the latter and lives in Queens; “I need a good book. The Barnes & Noble near me closed down!” she told us.
On 31st Ave, Astoria, Queens: Open Streets
When: Saturdays: July 2, 16, 30; September 3: In partnership with 31st Ave Open Streets
What: Every Saturday, 31st Avenue between 33rd and 35th Streets in Astoria closes to all motor vehicle traffic and parking, and opens up for walking, cycling, dining and community programming. Click here for programming.
Where: 31st Avenue between 33rd and 35th Street, Astoria, NY, 11106
Throughout the summer, we brought our shelves repeatedly to the streets of Astoria. Here, we’ve set up alongside community-fulcrums including Astoria Food Pantry, Connected Chef and Podcast on the Streets. Passerby — with many with babies, dogs, or friends in tow — were excited to add reading to their rotations for these Saturdays. Passer-by were excited to see books set up for the taking. “The minute the Bookmobile opens, kids come out of the woodwork. It’s wonderful!” observed John, a volunteer for 31st Ave Open Streets.
At Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn: Fifth of July
- When: Saturday, July 9: In partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center, 11 AM – 4 PM
- What: A 5th of July gathering of contemplation, community and Black history.
- Where: Weeksville Heritage Center, 158 Buffalo Ave.
As part of WHC’s annual celebration, which centers Black New Yorkers and a history of collective emancipation movements in America, the Bookmobile provided community-members free access to works by Frederick Douglass, August Wilson, and Roxanne Gay, amongst other prominent writers of the African diaspora. Find more on the Bookmobile with Weeksville here!
At the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn: Juneteenth
- When: Sunday, June 19: In partnership with ArtsConnection & Culture Connected, 2 PM -6 PM
- What: Brooklyn Museum’s Honoring Juneteenth, a day of FREE family activities from community partners in celebration of Black liberation, creativity, community, and joy! Click here for the schedule.
- Where: The Brooklyn Museum (Biergarten/Sculpture Garden), 200 Eastern Pkwy.
At the Brooklyn Museum, in which our partners provided the art supplies and we the books. Readers carried away picks from The Divine Comedy to collected Louise Glück poems to Babymouse graphic novels.“Books are agents of change and envoys of new realities,” our Bookseller Jesús Rivera reflected afterwards.
At the Adams Houses, The Bronx: Juneteenth
- When: Saturday, June 18: In partnership with NYCHA and Artbridge, 12 PM-4 PM
- What: A Juneteenth celebration of art installations with food, games, art activities, free books, and music by DJ Swan
- Where: Adams Houses in The Bronx: E. 152nd St. & Wales Ave.
June 18th was a New York summer family day, centered on celebration of public art and literature. Many eager readers young and old visited us in the southern Bronx; hands small and large opened opened joyously to receive books. Read more here.