Sunday, December 30, 2007

eBay sellers leap to cash in on Benazir Bhutto assassination

by Matthew Lysiak

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has become big business in cyberspace.

Within moments of her death, dealers were cashing in on the tragedy by hawking memorabilia of the slain leader.

"This is a rare and unique item from a true martyr for democracy and human rights," posted eBay seller Historybuffalo, who listed a $650 Bhutto autograph on the auction site within moments of her murder.

A signed 4-by-6-inch photograph of a smiling Bhutto sitting in a leather chair has attracted bids up to $305.

The prices for the Bhutto memorabilia surpassed some mementos of John F. Kennedy. His signature on an index card was selling for $150 yesterday.

In addition to autographs and photos, refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, and even the Dec. 28 issue of the Daily News were up for grabs.

"It's the nature of the event, combined with The News photo and headline that give that issue great value," said memorabilia collector Rick Cipolla, 54, who swooped up six copies of the paper to resell.

"I expect to get about $10 for the Daily News issue."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blame bus for the trip down aisle


Thursday, December 27th 2007, 4:00 AM

These Brooklyn commuters are used to being taken for a ride - and not a fun one.

With fare and toll hikes looming, Bay Ridge residents are stuck taking express buses that are the wrong size on local routes.

"These buses are a nightmare," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. "The aisles are too small. Seniors and moms with strollers, and residents with disabilities, are all saying this is unacceptable.

"These buses weren't meant for shoppers with bags or mothers with kids."

Beckmann says angry calls began flooding her office more than a year ago about the B1, which runs from Bay Ridge to Kingsborough College, and the B64, which runs from Coney Island to Bay Ridge.

Both buses make local stops but are still outfitted as express buses, which are equipped to hold more passengers for the longer rides into Manhattan.

Local buses generally hold fewer commuters, but provide more space to make it easier to handle the traffic from frequent stops.

"Residents feel cheated and aren't getting their money's worth," said Beckmann.

Diane Hunt, 62, who is disabled, agrees, and says the narrow center aisle is impossible for her to navigate.

"The middle aisle is the main problem, but another problem is that the seats are so close together that I have to sit with my legs in the aisle," said Hunt, who used to take the B1 from Bay Ridge to Sheepshead Bay before giving up. "These buses never should have been on this route in the first place."

Residents who had no problem walking even found the task of entering and exiting the bus tedious.

"The aisle is so narrow that it is just ridiculous," said the retired Fred Gilbo, who used to take the B1 from Bay Ridge to 14th Ave., where he worked for a telephone company.

"The MTA is quick to find the money to find raises for its big shots, but they can't find the money to get our bus problem fixed."

The Transit Authority is aware of the space problem and is working to give commuters a little more room, said spokesman Charles Seaton.

"We are in the process of retrofitting those buses to transit bus specifications," said Seaton. "That will include replacing the seats, which would create more room for passengers."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Retailers shrug off holiday glow


Tuesday, December 18th 2007, 4:00 AM

Holiday lights? Humbug! say the merchants of Bensonhurst.

Brooklyn's "Little Italy" is darker this holiday season because the lights that usually bedeck the neighborhood's business district have apparently become a ghost of Christmases past.

In previous years, the local business group had little problem collecting cash for the lights, which usually went up shortly after Thanksgiving, but for the second straight year, many merchants are playing Scrooge. Locals say that reflects a population shift that has made Bensonhurst the city's newest melting pot.

"It used to be all Italian, but now Bensonhurst is full of different ethnic groups with different traditions," said Bensonhurst Board of Trade Executive Director Anthony Neglia, whose job it is to collect the $225 donations for the lights from businesses along the neighborhood's 86th St. shopping artery.

The percentage of Bensonhurst residents born in Italy has shrunk from 28.7% in 1990 to 12.1% in 2000, U.S. Census figures show.

During the same time frame, Chinese immigrants from Sunset Park and Russians from Brighton Beach have moved to the area in droves, along with a smattering of immigrants from Poland, Pakistan, Mexico, Vietnam, ­Ecuador, Egypt and Guatemala.

"Why would I pay?" asked the manager at the Polish restaurant Gospoda on 86th St. "I really don't care if there are lights on the streets."

One store owner said he didn't even notice that this holiday season fell dark. "I have been here for 12 years, and I have no idea what Christmas lights you are even talking about," said Baku Bakery owner Rebecca Adam.

While some say the influx of new immigrants is responsible, the merchants claim they're not the Scrooges in this tale.

"This place could use a little holiday cheer and I think the lights would be good for business," said the manager of New Ruan's Chinese restaurant, Donald Ruan. "Last year we even sent a check to the board, but it was returned back to us a few weeks later."

Board of Trade officials said they received so few donations, they refunded the merchants who did pony up the $225.

Community Board 11 District Manager Howard Feuer said he has gotten used to seeing more sushi and less ravioli in the neighborhood, and that he expected holiday shoppers to descend on 86th St., illuminated or not.

"Over the last 30 years, I have seen one change after another for this neighborhood, but lights or no lights, 86th St. will be strong," Feuer said.

Bay Ridge hospital wins death reprieve


Friday, December 14th 2007, 4:00 AM

A Bay Ridge hospital on the critical list will live another day, under state orders.

Victory Memorial Hospital is being forced to keep its emergency room open past a planned Feb. 1 closure date.

"We are waiting for them to resubmit a plan that assures us that there will be a safe transition," said Jim Clyne, state Health Department deputy commissioner.

A state report has indicated that while Victory must close by next June, a plan for an urgent care center must first be in place.

"It will stay open for now, but its future is still uncertain," said Victory President and CEO Dr. Vincent Calamia. "Everyone's priority is to deal with this situation in a safe and orderly manner."

The decision comes after the state rejected plans for Downstate Medical Center to take over emergency care services at Victory, which already has dismantled its birthing center.

Victory was one of nine hospitals around the state - five in the city - that the Berger Commission said should be closed. But neighborhood health advocates point out the hospital's emergency room is at 104% capacity.

The 254-bed hospital declared bankruptcy in November amid scrutiny of its compensation practices, which included $1.1 million in severance for departing CEO Donald DiCunto, and settled on the Feb. 1 closure date to satisfy the Chapter 11 filing.

The state indicated that it expects the emergency room to close as scheduled on June 1, much to the chagrin of officials.

"A closure of this emergency room would be devastating for this community, and it would certainly put lives at risk," said Bill Guarinello, acting chairman of Victory's board of trustees.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) have filed a lawsuit against the Health Department to reverse the decision to close the hospital.

"Based on our efforts ... and the community's outcry, I believe the state had to take another look," said Gentile. "Though this halt doesn't guarantee anything past six months .... my colleagues and I will continue to pursue all possible measures to keep the doors of Victory open."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Phone bills can skyrocket overseas

Take steps to avoid exorbitant hidden fees

When traveling, costly and unexpected charges can pile up quickly. (iStockphoto)

By Matthew Lysiak | STAFF WRITER
December 14, 2007
Web designer Dave Stolte got a very expensive shock when he came back from an overseas trip to discover he'd racked up an iPhone bill of $3,000.

"It was a minor heart attack when I saw it," said Stolte. "I was sure it was a mistake, but then I called up customer service and they informed me that the bill was correct."

Stolte said his wallet got raked over the coals by the per-use international roaming data plan, which he feels AT&T was less than forthright about when he called to discuss it on his way to the airport.

"The rep on the phone quoted me $.005 per KB but did not disclose what that would translate to in layman's language," said Stolte. "I'm a Web developer as part of my career and I couldn't even tell you how many KBs the average Web page is, no less a text message to my son, an e-mail with a photo to my mother, or a quick check of Google Maps -- and that's part one of the trap."

After posting about it on a blog his bill was finally relieved, but most people aren't so lucky.

That's because in most cases freebie features like no-roaming charges stop at the border's edge, even if a cell phone is inactive and text messages or online content are received while abroad.

In most cases consumers can be charged exorbitant amounts of money no matter how high the billΩ unless a few guidelines are strictly followed.

"If you are in a foreign country and have brought your cell phone but do not plan on using it very often and do not anticipate receiving phone calls of importance, be sure to turn off your phone," said Alan Timmons, a spokesman for the Telecommunications Action Center, a consumer watchdog group.

"Another option is to rent a phone upon arrival in your destination country which may be much cheaper than the cost of using your cell phone on a foreign network," Timmons said.

There is also another piece of advice consumers should take to heart.

"I learned one thing out of all this, ask a hell of a lot more questions," Stolte said

The Puritans get a lap dance

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Lets face it: Bay Ridge has long had a reputation for being an uptight, prudish community, but all that is about to change.

That’s because four women were kind enough to help local straphangers pass the time by doing erotic pole exercises complete with lap dances, and lots of flesh — and it was all caught on video.

But it wasn’t just for fun. The clip, titled “Sexy Pole Dance Girls in NYC Subway,” started getting noticed after it was submitted to, a Web site that bills itself as “Jackass” meets MySpace, and offers cash prizes for contestants who perform dares on camera. The perpetrator(s) of the craziest stunt can win $10,000.

The footage on the Web site (also available on YouTube) shows four scantily women, straddling various subway poles and grinding up against several guys who look like they are enjoying the ride (the subway ride — get your mind out of the gutter!).

Mouths drop to the ground as the girls show off their moves before a packed car of stunned commuters — including small children. At one point in the video, NYU theater student Marissa Lupp, 20, even performs a lap dance that would make the strippers at Scores blush.

The ladies — who call themselves the “Pole-ite Girls” — say they got their warmest reaction right under the streets of conservative Bay Ridge.

“The R-train got held up in Brooklyn so we were on it a long time and we were surprised that the passengers were so friendly and kind,” said Lupp, 20, who along with Isis, Jessica Wu, and Laura Lee Anderson hatched the scheme for the two-hour ride last March. “Everyone was so engaged, they were cheering us on and giving us lots of encouragement.”

Our community is known for many things — but wild and crazy times it is not.

After all, Bay Ridge is the place where a poster for the Showtime series, “The L Word,” which featured snuggled-up lesbians, elicited mass protests from state Sen. Marty Golden.

Of course, it wasn’t just Bay Ridge that got treated to a free show — straphangers on the N, Q, and L lines also got their two bucks’ worth, and it is hard to say exactly how many commuters were actually local residents.

But no matter how many of them were real Ridgites, it was evident that the pole girls certainly had their share of local fans — the end of the clip shows the entire car of commuters applauding, with one woman even dropping some cash in a hat.

“We missed our stop about six stops ago,” one smiling man told the camera. “We stayed on for the show.”

But don’t look for this to become a trend — Bay Ridge isn’t about to become one big strip club anytime soon. It is, after all, still Bay Ridge.

“These girls aren’t performing artists,” one woman who saw the video said. “These girls are a bunch of damn whores!”

OK, maybe the community isn’t in for a big change, but that doesn’t take away the fact that for at least one brief moment in time Bay Ridge and risqué went hand in hand, or at least lap in lap.

Matthew Lysiak is a freelance writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
On Sunday morning, pedestrians walking in front of Paneantico, which is located on 9124 Third Ave., were greeted by a severed pig head glaring down from a top of a telephone booth. …

Someone must have slept in on Tuesday morning: workers at the Rite Aid on Third Avenue and 79th Street were having a breakfast picnic on the sidewalk as they waited for almost an hour for their tardy manager to show up. … Blogger Right in Bay Ridge may call it “the typographical topography of Bay Ridge,” but The Sink just calls it plain stupid. Whatever it is, “Joy Perfumes and Styels,” which is located at 410 86th St., needs some help with the spelling on that big red sign of theirs. …

Congrats to Susan Romero, who was just appointed to Community Board 10 by Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). …

Spotted, by a reliable Sink source, CB10’s land-use committee Chairwoman Joanne Seminara tasting a free sample of chips and salsa at Fairway supermarket in Red Hook — and double-dipping in the communal salsa! …

Congratulations to the Xaverian High School Choir that traveled to Washington DC to sing for President Bush. We hear that “W” was, in fact, a no-show, but the only president that matters to The Sink — Borough President Markowitz — was there a few days earlier to pin the boys with his famous “Brooklyn” lapel tags (see photo below).

Warmer winter riling up raccoons


Thursday, December 13th 2007, 4:00 AM

Brooklyn residents have been dealing with an unexpected side effect of the recent climate change - raccoons.

Sightings of raccoons are way up in Brooklyn at a time when they should be down, and some are blaming the strange behavior on warm winters.

Whatever the cause, residents have had enough of the masked menaces.

"I deal with these raccoons all summer, but they are usually far less trouble this time of year," said hairstylist Chad Nardine, 28, of Bay Ridge who has had the critters hiss at him when he takes out his garbage.

"This is kind of crazy. I mean, we are in December and these crazy creatures are running around like it is July."

One inconvenient truth may be that warmer-than-usual winters are throwing raccoons out of kilter, causing confusion in their biological sleep clocks, which are set by the timing of the cold weather.

"Seasons are lasting longer and unusual things are happening," said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson Laurie O'Connell. "It is safe to say that mild winters are one of the reasons they are still out and about."

The strange abundance of December raccoons are even leaving tracks across the blogosphere as the garbage eaters appear in a broad belt stretching from Cobble Hill to Prospect Park and down to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

"I saw a raccoon running across the street ... on Marine Ave.," posted a blogger on "Went to take out the garbage yesterday and I have a raccoon lying in my garbage pail in my backyard and it scared the heck out of me."

Last spring, the raccoon problem got so bad that Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) began handing out supplies of Critter Ridder, a humane raccoon repellant - but demand quickly exceeded supply .

"It's something that a lot of people are still dealing with, and the city isn't offering us any help," said Gentile. "It looks like now we might have to keep a supply of Critter Ridder into fall and early winter."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hotel Le Bleu: New luxury hotel features a gritty Park Slope view!


Tuesday, December 11th 2007, 4:00 AM

Adams IV for News

The eight-story upscale LeBleu Hotel is located on Fourth Ave.'s industrial - but up-and-coming - strip.

Rooms renting for up to $369 a night feature plasma television, a Bose stereo system and complimentary flaxseed body lotion.
This hotel has all the accommodations: 42-inch plasma televisions, Bose stereo systems, complimentary flaxseed body lotions - and a Jiffy Lube right next door.

Its Hotel Le Bleu, Park Slope's lap of luxury right in the heart of Fourth Ave.'s industrial strip, jammed between a taxi company and a car repair service.

The elegant eight-story Brooklyn hotel features 48 rooms ranging in price from $329-$369, with the higher price offering a view of the lower Manhattan skyline - and a nearby Hertz Rent a Truck depot.

But the upscale hotel in an area sooner associated with prostitution than fine living has raised more than a few eyebrows since it opened its doors last month.

"It's crazy to see this kind of hotel popping up in the middle of this area," said Joseph Panaro, a dog walker who regularly traverses the strip. "It took me by complete surprise. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Most residents were surprised, but they're quick to agree that this isn't your father's Fourth Ave. - especially since the trendiness of Seventh Ave. has crept down to Fifth Ave. in recent years and seems to be unstoppable.

"We thought it was weird at first, but this area is changing," said Susan Cee, 46, who works at Staples on the next block.

"Look around. This is not an industrial area anymore," said Steve Winson, who works at Taxis Needed, next to the new hotel. "We are up and coming."

Hotel owner Joe Tonacchio said people laughed at his idea to build a hotel surrounded by noisy construction and a Jiffy Lube - but he could end up with the last laugh.

"Mark my words, within five years Fourth Ave. will be the next Park Ave.," Tonacchio said.

That's because the industrial buildings and smokestacks that formerly marked the strip are giving way to condos as the historically gritty stretch is in the midst of a face-lift to accommodate the growing demand for housing overflowing from Manhattan.

Tonacchio, who also owns a condominium directly across from the hotel, says get used to it.

"Parts of Fourth Ave. are still industrial, but in the next year or two, 3,000 apartments will be nearby," Tonacchio said.

"Most of these people don't have enough room to house guests from out of town."

Of course, there also will be the Manhattan business class looking for a slice of Brooklyn.

"It's different, but I like it," said first-time Le Bleu guest Joel Billings, who was on a business trip from South Carolina. "It is kind of eclectic and it is cheaper than Manhattan. I have to say we are satisfied."

Subway pole dancers enrage MTA


Monday, December 10th 2007, 4:00 AM

Giancarli for News

Talk about a steam train! 'Pole-ite girls' Marissa Lupp (l.), Laura Lee Anderson and Jessica Wu (kneeling) are burning up Web with subway strip show video.

Video still from girls dancing on train on a dare.

Video still from girls dancing on train on a dare.
The N train may need to be changed to the NC-17 and the L could be dubbed the lap dance express.

That's because commuters on the lines got their two bucks worth - and then some - when four leggy New Yorkers set out to turn the subway cars into strip-club Champagne lounges.

On a dare from a Web site promising $10,000 for the best pole dancing in public, the quartet took a ride on the wild side and their winning video has become a rage on the Internet.

"It was literally get on the train and go," said Laura Lee Anderson, 24, of Queens, one of the vivacious vixens videotaped performing Scores-type moves on a Manhattan-bound N train.

Gal pals Jessica Wu, Marissa Lupp and Isis Masoud joined Anderson for the hip-grinding stunt that had male riders ogling and skipping their stops, females smirking - and the MTA fuming.

"The last thing we want is for anyone to turn our subways into roving burlesque stages for crude exhibitionists," said NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges.

"While the rules don't specifically state lap or pole dancing ... what is depicted here is disorderly conduct," Fleuranges added.

The N train divas had no regrets and saw their cleavage-baring act as a golden opportunity.

"Strip dancing in public can be a little nerve racking, but we were all broke and in between jobs and it seemed like a good way to make some cash," said Masoud, an aspiring actress and choreographer.

Armed with a boom-box blasting Prince's "Erotic City" and bolstered by shots of vodka, the self-described "Pole-ite" foursome stood clear of the closing doors March 1, stripped off their coats and got jiggy with metal aisle poles.

Dressed in a skimpy mini dress and leotard, Lupp, 20, a New York University theater student, gave new meaning to the word straphanger.
Dangling from overhead handrails, she lowered herself on a male rider, who eagerly accepted a lap dance.

Dangling from overhead handrails, she lowered herself on a male rider, who eagerly accepted a lap dance.
In a midriff-revealing blouse and short plaid skirt, Wu, 25, of Queens, punctuated her acrobatics with a leg split. "Don't tell my mom," the NYU grad said.

Filmed with a Sony Handycam and edited by Masoud, the women submitted their video to and collected the grand prize.

When it was downloaded on YouTube, the four-minute clip - titled "Sexy Pole Dance Girls in NYC Subway" - became a four-star hit, attracting more than 61,000 views.

"They won because sex in a public place always sells," said Darren Niermerow, 29, co-founder of the Web site.

But Lupp's parents said they never dreamed their daughter's celebrity would hinge on her subway pole dexterity.

"We're traditional conservative people and I was a little chagrined when I saw her do a lap dance on that guy," said Marshall Lupp from his Essexville, Mich., home.

With Pete Donohue and Clare Trapasso

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Evil O’Malley is in the Hall

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

They’re putting the biggest bum of ’em all in the Hall. On Monday, Major League Baseball’s Veterans Committee elected Walter O’Malley, whose name will live on in villainy forever thanks to his decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles, to the Hall of Fame.

It’s safe to say that very few votes came from this borough.

“The man was a traitor who only cared about making as much money as he could,” said Ridge teacher and lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan Richard Montalbano. “Hall of Shame, yes, but Hall of Fame, no. The guy is a bum and he’ll always be a bum.

“I’ll never visit the Hall of Fame so long as I live,” added Montalbano.

Another longtime resident did plan on visiting the Hall, albeit as something a notch above a spectator.

“I plan to be at the ceremony next July just to yell out, ‘Rot in hell, O’Malley,’ at the most opportune times,” posted Rabbitman on

O’Malley moved the team after the 1957 season. The residents of Bay Ridge were hit especially hard because a number of players lived in Bay Ridge during the season, including Pee Wee Reese, who lived on Barwell Terrace and 97th Street; Duke Snider, who lived on Marine Avenue between 97th and 98th streets; Carl Erskine, who lived on Lafayette Walk and 94th Street; Roger Craig, who lived on Colonial Road between 68th and 69th streets; Danny McDevitt, who lived on Colonial Road between 70th and 71st streets.

In addition, Carl Spooner worked in the off season at Marathon Motors on the corner of 69th Street and Fourth Avenue and Rube Walker lived on 76th Street between Colonial Road and Ridge Boulevard.

There are even rumors that real-estate brokers refused to show Jackie Robinson houses in Bay Ridge.

No wonder how easy it was to hate O’Malley. From the 1930s until the late 1950s, living in Bay Ridge meant always having the possibility of running into Pee Wee Reese getting a cup of coffee or Carl Erskine shoveling show.

And one man took it all away from you. No wonder people still tell the old joke, “If Stalin, Hitler and O’Malley are in a room and you only have two bullets, who do you kill? Answer: You shoot O’Malley twice, just to make sure he’s dead!”

“There was blood on the streets,” said Jerry Polizzi, whose art supply store bearing his name is located on 7813 Third Ave. “They cursed him up and down.”

To locals, O’Malley chose money over memories when he moved the Bums to L.A. after he couldn’t squeeze the city for a new stadium. The hatred runs deep, so deep in fact, that it spans generations.

Bob Nevin worked as a young ticket taker at Ebbets Field for 50 cents a day. His family was torn at O’Malley’s cold-hearted move, but his experience also shows that the oft-repeated adage that O’Malley drained all of the borough’s joy isn’t exactly true.

“My father, my mother, my brother, my sister, they were all in tears,” said Nevin from his bar seat at O’Sullivan’s Bar on Third Avenue. “All but me — I’m a Yankees fan so I couldn’t stop laughing.”

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
On Dec. 22, the Canny Brothers, a Dyker Heights musical band of brothers, will be hosting their last gig of the year at Bally Bunion at 9510 Third Ave. The band is fast becoming a frequent staple at Irish pubs and local radio stations across the city. Better catch them before they aren’t so local. …

Another local musician, Frankie Marra, has launched a Web site ( Marra used to work for Bruce Springsteen. …

“The Winds of Change,” which is the newsletter of the Brooklyn Democrats for Change, is chock full of interesting liberal thoughts, including a restaurant review of our French bistro, Petit Oven, located on 267 Bay Ridge Ave. Reviewer Patrick Daniel Gatti gave it four and a half stars. …

DEP’s fresh idea stinks up Ridge

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner
Residents demonstrate how they feel about the odor along Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Move over Dior, Chanel, and Ellen Tracy, the Department of Environmental Protection has unleashed a new perfume just in time for the holiday season and residents are giving it a big “thumbs up” — up their noses to plug up the stench.

Since last summer, that unmistakable odor of sewage has been creeping out of catch basins along Fort Hamilton Parkway between Marine Avenue and 99th Street. After residents complained, DEP odor experts last week dropped nylon socks filled with pine deodorizer.

But it hasn’t helped!

“The stench is absolutely repugnant,” said odor weary resident Fred Birkenfelv, who attends the senior center at St. John’s Church on the street of the offending scent. “I’ve been dealing with this smell for over a year, and let me tell you it is quite potent.” In fact, locals now say that the fresh scent of pine has made the raw sewage smell even worse.

“I think adding the pine made the existing smell even more potent,” said Aaron Green who lives in an apartment building near the offending odor.

“The minute I walk out of my car it hits me,” added Arlene Ross, who lives a few sniffs away. “Whatever they put down there didn’t make it better.”

But Santa won’t be the only one filling up stockings this December. DEP intends to put more pine-filled socks in the sewers, said agency spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla.

“We are aware of the odor and we are monitoring the situation closely,” Padilla said. “We will also be dropping in more pine deodorant socks within the next few weeks.”

If that doesn’t work, how about some chestnuts roasting on an open fire?

New Esprit grows up with customers

Esprit hopes to recapture the American retail scene after it sold its interests to foreign investors in 1989. (Handout / December 5, 2007)

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
December 5, 2007

If it can happen to Transformers, Cherry Coke and the Boston Celtics, then why not that floral crop jean jacket? Children of the '80s say hello to a familiar face -- Esprit. The iconic clothing line of the Reagan era is vying for a sequel.

After opening three Manhattan stores since 2004, the once-vintage-now-modern retailer has returned to reclaim its place in the American market with a bold move to the city's busiest stretch on Fifth Avenue's Rockefeller Center between 48th and 49th streets.

"Esprit's first three Manhattan stores have been so well received that it seemed natural to open our next store in this famous New York landmark location," said Jerome Griffith, president of Esprit North America.

Natural or not, following nearly a decade of absence from the American fashion scene, the company, which has storefronts in the Flatiron District, Time Warner Center and SoHo, isn't trying to play to teen girls in the mall anymore.

"Our customer has grown up, she used to be 14 and she is now 34," said an Esprit spokeswoman. "We have grown up with her."

That means the line now has a more mature target and is branching out by unveiling twelve clothing lines annually in a combination of style and marketing reminiscent of H&M meets Gap.

The Esprit concept of youthful, affordable luxury wear was founded in 1968 by a young "hippie" couple Susie Russell and Douglas Tompkins and later spearheaded into the dominant clothing line of the '80s. The couple divorced in 1989 as the company's American presence went the way of the Berlin Wall, and interests were bought by foreign investors. But the store didn't fizzle off like New Coke, instead it relocated ala David Hasselholf -- which is to say it repackaged its concept in Europe.

Now, after opening 640 retail stores in more than 40 countries, they are now getting serious about re-conquering the US market.

"It is an interesting move and a real good location," said Leslie Price, editor of "What they are offering now is safe, fairly affordable quality clothing and where better to set up then in Midtown, where everyone already dresses that way?"

Monday, December 3, 2007

DEP dumps pine deodorizer to cover smell from Brooklyn pipe project


Monday, December 3rd 2007, 4:00 AM

Egan-Chin for News

DEP solution for sewer smells in Bay Ridge? Socks full of air freshener in drains, residents complain.
It's the bureaucratic equivalent of trying to cover up bad body odor with Chanel No. 5.

For more than a year, residents of one Brooklyn neighborhood have been complaining about a stomach-churning smell wafting from the site of a former sewer pipe project.

The city's response? Tossing nylon socks filled with pine deodorizer into the catch basins.

That hasn't stanched the stench. In fact, locals say the scent of raw sewage is even more noticeable now.

"I think that adding the pine made the existing smell even more potent," said Aaron Green, 27, one of the Bay Ridge residents who is sick of the stink.

The stink has been hovering over a stretch of Fort Hamilton Parkway between Marine Ave. and 99th St.

The odor cropped up in the summer of 2006 after the completion of a $6.9 million project to combine the underground sewer pipes there, residents say.

As complaints mounted, the community board notified the city Department of Environmental Protection, which began dumping piney perfume onto the site.

"It seems to have improved the situation," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

Not everyone agrees.

"The minute I walk out of my car it hits me," said Arlene Ross, who lives a few sniffs away. "Whatever they put down there didn't make it better."

DEP spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla adamantly refused to say what is causing the smell or how the agency plans to stop it.

Told of the neighborhood complaints, she said more pine socks would be put in the catch basins over the next few weeks.

Pressed further, she said the DEP would eventually install filters.

"We are aware of the odor and we are monitoring the situation closely," Padilla said.

Not close enough for John Lynch, who has lived on the block for the past year.

"I walk outside and I smell raw sewage almost every day," he said. "This stench offends everyone around here."

Fred Birkenfelv, 73, who attends the senior center at St. John's Church on the street, said he worries the odor could be unhealthy.

"The smell is worse than nauseating," the retired Texaco driver said.

"We walk by and it may just make us gag, but there are mothers pushing baby carriages. If a little one gets a whiff of that, who knows what damage it could do?"

Coney Island Polar Bears greet snow with (what else?) Atlantic Ocean dip


Monday, December 3rd 2007, 4:00 AM

Not everyone was as plucky as the Polar Bears of Coney Island.
The weather outside was frightful but the Polar Bears found it delightful.

On the first snowfall of the season - a little more than an inch fell in Central Park - 60 members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club trudged down the icy Boardwalk to take the plunge into the chilly waters off Eighth St.

"I immediately lost feeling in my hands and feet, but then it felt amazing," said Polar Bear Vice President Eric Weiss, 33, who works in advertising and is in his fifth season with the 100-member club.

"I don't swim much in the summer because I don't like crowds, but today was nice - no wind, calm water and parking was a breeze," Weiss added.

"I used to question my sanity, but after the initial shock, you begin to see the joy and realize Polar Bears aren't that crazy," said Capri Djatiasmoro, the 37-year-old club secretary, who also works in advertising.

With the water temperature reaching an "invigorating" 48 degrees, Djatiasmoro even said, "It was a little warm for my taste."

Eli Cohen, a Polar Bear for 13 years, said he and other "old-timers" are sure the water is not as cold as it used to be - and blame global warming.

They say they want to invite former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Prize for his efforts highlighting climate change, to make their case.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cops help deliver baby in Bay Ridge


Friday, November 30th 2007, 4:00 AM

DeCrescenzo for News

Rebecca Encalada Williams with her baby boy, Christian Jaden.
Two quick-thinking cops delivered a baby boy who came unexpectedly above a popular pizza parlor in Bay Ridge.

Police Officers Vito Viola and Lance Sigman came to the aid of Rebecca Encalada Williams, 27, after she went into labor on the floor of her Fifth Ave. apartment Monday.

"It is the craziest story, and I wouldn't believe it if it didn't happen to me," said Williams.

Her labor actually started on Sunday, when she began to feel pains. She had her husband, Sharif, take her to Methodist Hospital, where staff examined her and then sent her home.

"They told me I had some time and I didn't feel a lot of pain, so it made sense to me," said Williams.

When the next morning came and the pain subsided a little more, she thought it was safe to send her husband off to work. But only minutes later, something began to feel different.

"I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but then I felt the baby's head," said Williams. "I knew that once it starts coming out it doesn't go back in, so I called 911 right away."

Minutes later, she opened the door for the officers, who quickly took control, first ordering her to lie down. They got towels from her bathroom, slapped on latex gloves and instructed her on how to push.

Three pushes later, out came the baby.

The officers carried Williams down the four flights of stairs and past the Pizza Wagon, which occupies the ground floor of the building.

"When the officers delivered my baby, it felt like a miracle," said Williams.

The baby, named Christian Jaden Williams, tipped the scales at 5 pounds 6 ounces despite arriving five weeks ahead of schedule. He was held at Maimonides Medical Center a few extra days as a precaution.

"We just had the baby shower, and no one was expecting this to happen so soon," said Williams.

Williams will have one great story to share with Christian - and maybe something else.

"My baby will probably always have an urge for pizza and not know why," she said, "but I like pizza too, so that works for me."

Sliwa to city: Elect me!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The lines between politics and entertainment are always hard to distinguish, but things got a whole lot blurrier on Nov. 7, when radio host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa threw his beret into the political ring by announcing that he is considering a run for city public advocate.

If he wins the 2009 race, Sliwa says he will abolish the position.

“My first day of office would be to tell everyone to pack up and go to the employment line because there is no more public advocate,” Sliwa told the Brooklyn Young Republicans at Peggy O’Neill’s on Fifth Avenue.

The news that such a high profile name had formally dedicated himself to the Republican cause had the crowd cheering as if their hair were on fire (then again, what else is Sliwa supposed to do, given that he’s about to lose his WABC morning show to the “reformed” Don Imus?).

But more than running for any specific office, Sliwa spoke to the mostly middle-aged Young Republicans in a broader context of reclaiming the conservatism grassroots base — rooted in a philosophy of individualism — a message that many of today’s Republicans have shunned.

But whether Sliwa is a Conservative purist or a self-aggrandizing hack, as his critics allege, isn’t as clear.

This is the same Sliwa who admitted he had staged publicity stunts to get media attention for the Guardian Angels, including having his older sister pose as a mugging victim whose purse was returned to her by an Angel.

It is also worth nothing that Sliwa’s Angels, which he founded in the late 1970s while the Brooklyn Prep HS dropout was working as a night manager at a Bronx McDonald’s, have also made the city safer.

Whatever the case, Sliwa’s famed rapid-fire speaking style held the Youngish Republicans in thrall. He walked back and forth with the sort of tense, tightly coiled energy that suggested a snake about to strike.

Of course, he had to know that his red meat message of shrinking government would be well received.

“He came to our little bar in Bay Ridge and spoke to our group like he was speaking to the hundreds of thousands of listeners he is accustomed to speaking with every day,” said club Vice President Britta Vander Linden. “We were glad to know he was serious about getting involved.”

Maybe. Maybe not. One bad sign (at least according to this free market, school voucher, gold-standard-loving columnist) was that the one time Sliwa interrupted his fire and brimstone was to plug his upcoming “reality show” about his Guardian Angels patrolling New Orleans that is going to be taking the slot left open on A&E cable with the demise of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

“They can’t keep me down,” Sliwa told the crowd.

That might be true, but the months ahead will determine whether Sliwa is serious about embedding himself with the Republican cause or if Bay Ridge is just another stop in his own personal reality show.

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Fresh from their joint appearance at a rally for Victory Memorial Hospital last week, rival pols state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilman Vince Gentile dedicated a new “multi-purpose room” at McKinley Park School last Thursday. But don’t necessarily believe that these guys are starting to like each other; the dedication at the Seventh Avenue school is in memory of two of New York heroes, Police Officer Kevin Lee and Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino. …

The sale of Griswold’s restaurant, which is located on Third Avenue near 78th Street, is rumored to be on hold, but unfortunately, it looks like the chances of the Sink’s favorite rib shine reopening are between slim and none. …

The Dyker Heights Civic Association just honored our pal Ilene Sacco with a luncheon at the Bay Ridge Manor. Sacco, a lawyer, got her plaque from the group’s current president, our other pal Fran Vella-Marrone.

Staying safe online during the holidays

By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork

More Americans than ever are expected to congest the information superhighway this holiday in search of that elusive perfect gift, but those looking to play cyber-Santa better may soon discover that even the Web has a Grinch.

That's because online consumers shouldn't expect good will from spammers and viruses whose plan is to decorate computer screens with an unprecedented assault of potentially harmful spam. Of particular concern is phishing, an attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a legitimate message from a trustworthy site. eBay, PayPal and online banks are common targets.

"We typically see an increase in phishing activity before a regular two-day weekend, but the volume of phishing sites and corresponding e-mail in just this past 24 hours (after Black Friday) is quite astounding," said Dean Drako, president and chief executive of Barracuda Networks, an industry leader in e-mail and Web security. "We expect this blitz to continue."

Drako reported a more than 10-times surge in phishing sites created and three times the number of phishing e-mails sent out since the Friday after Thanksgiving. The increase means that scammers and their criminal networks are working feverishly to cash in on the holiday blitz -- at your expense.

But careful shoppers face little risk, so long as they follow the usual virus-protection advice -- meaning don't click on anything you don't recognize, according to Matt Sergeant, an anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, a market leader in Web security.

"Only shop at stores you know about or have previous knowledge of, or stores that have a well known reputation," Sergeant said. "Don't buy anything from emails you receive, unless they are offers from companies you have a previous relationship with."

And one more thing: Just don't ever, ever, open that Christmas greeting card attachment from an unexpected friend no matter how jolly it may appear.

"Don't open greeting cards from people you don't expect them from," said Sergeant. "The volume of these is likely to remain about the same over the holiday season, but expect them to take on a more Christmas-y feel."

Towering threat over LES supermarket

Pathmark feels ripple effects of shift in NY grocery store scene

By Andrew Lisa and Matthew Lysiak | STAFF WRITER and special to amNewYork
November 29, 2007

Olivia Henderson doesn't know where she'll shop if there's any truth to the speculation that the Lower East Side's Pathmark will soon be demolished for a skyscraper.

"It's not like there's nowhere else to go," she said, motioning to her home at the Rutgers Houses just across from the supermarket's parking lot. "It's just that there's nowhere closer -- and nowhere cheaper."

The blog-fueled talk began when a sales brochure revealed that the site is on the market for $250 million, and detailed the owner's two proposals -- one for a 55-story building to be built atop the Pathmark's current location -- and the other for two towers, each more than 50 stories -- to rise above the grocer's parking lot.

The talk of the latest behemoth building fits a larger pattern of gentrification of the Lower East Side and underscores the changing face of the New York grocery business.

"Throughout the city, smaller grocery stores -- neighborhood stores -- are getting pushed out by stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's," said Stuart Elliott, editor of The Real Deal, a New York real-estate publication. "Gristede's and Pathmark and those types of places are becoming fewer and fewer." And nowhere is the speculation more believable than on the Lower East Side, where enormous shifts have recently occurred.

"The retail mix is changing," Elliott said. "Varvatos replaced CBGB. You're seeing an influx of boutique hotels. What's been happening in the Bowery might affect some of the future of the housing there. Nonprofits are looking to cash out on their holdings there. The Salvation Army has been selling some buildings."

Pathmark had no comment on the future of the site at 227 Cherry St., nor did city officials and the organization behind the brochure, Developer Resource Group. No matter what, the Pathmark may well become the next victim of local stores succumbing to rising rents and intense competition from high-end chains. "There is no information yet," said Susan Stetzer, district manager for Manhattan Community Board 3, which encompasses the Lower East Side, "but it's clear that there is going to be some development."

She conceded that her office has been inundated with calls regarding the demolition of one of Manhattan's last local supermarkets with a full parking lot. The supermarket's popularity was unmistakable on a recent rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, with the lot jammed with cars and more waiting to get in. And the Pathmark's value to residents is also borne out by a startling fact: More than 95 percent of food stores in the city do not qualify as traditional supermarkets, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Like many of the shoppers who rely on the Pathmark, Marcus Davis brings his own shopping cart. Although the Cherry Street resident hadn't heard of the plan, he wasn't surprised.

"What's it mean? It means I'll have to pay twice as much at the bodega unless I want to get on a train to go buy food in Brooklyn. But what else is new? They keep building, we keep moving away."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

High hopes for high-tech Barbie doll

Mattel aims for status as must-have toy
By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
November 28, 2007

Hey, Ken! Get off the laptop already!

That could be the new marketing cry if the virtual world of Mattel¹s new Barbie Girls -- the doll, MP3 player, and interactive computer game rolled into one -- is as big a retail hit this season as the company hopes.

Barbie Girls is a slim, immobile doll that plays music and connects to a computer -- and an online virtual world where girls can create a personalized avatar, design their own apartment, shop at a virtual mall, and chat live with other kids.

It may be getting tagged as this year's hot new Christmas gift, but whether young girls are tech savvy enough to fulfill the marketing hype remains to be seen -- or could be a forgone conclusion, if you ask Barbie Girls marketing rep Rosie O'Neill.

"It will absolutely have appeal," said O'Neill. "Kids this age are already going online and have familiarized themselves with this kind of process." But will it become the hot, must-have toy of the shopping season?

Employees at Toys "R" Us in Times Square said sales were brisk, but a representative said it won¹t be known until a Dec. 12 report if it will be the toy that single-handedly drives traffic into stores, like Tickle Me Elmo and Furby did in years past.

Although its made it to the top five of nearly every "must-have toys of '07" list, including Toys "R" Us' own list and that of the National Retail Federation, Barbie isn¹t exactly a trailblazer for interactive toys.

Bella Sara, Shining Stars, Ty Girlz and the popular Webkinz were all targeting preteens long before Barbie came on the scene, but Mattel¹s entry does raise the bar.

"It distinguishes itself with its richness of play in creating a 3-D character that walks around, talks and lets the girl be the ultimate fashion designer," said O'Neill.

But others aren't so sure that 6 year olds -- or parents -- are ready to be introduced to a new virtual world this Christmas. "It is a very sophisticated doll for a young girl," said Barbie expert Bradley Joseph, of the United Federation of Dolls, an organization devoted to the study and collection of dolls. "It may end up being only a niche item that appeals to really tech-savvy kids."

Its success or failure could serve as a litmus test for the limitations (or lack thereof) of selling previously adult technology to a younger consumer base.

But if early indications are a barometer, then maybe Barbie has a fighting chance at a seat next to Elmo in the pantheon of great Christmas hits, at least according to Kelly Disque Cullen, the public relations manager at Toys "R" Us Times Square.

"The item fits into one of our big trends for this holiday season, Internet connectivity, and it blends the real world with the virtual world for girls who love music," Cullen said.

"That sounds pretty cool, they should have one for boys" said Yanni Gouras, 7, who was eyeing the display at the Times Square Toys "R" Us, where it sells for $49.99. "But I don't really care. I mean, dolls are for girls."

Bay Ridge residents use Internet chat room to crackdown on crack house


Tuesday, November 27th 2007, 4:00 AM

A group of Internet-savvy Bay Ridge residents has punched through the gray world of HTML-code anonymity and is trying to clean up its neighborhood.

Local business owner Jason Miller was joined by a group of fellow cyberactivists in an effort to push officials into action against a suspected crack house allegedly located on quiet, tree-lined 93rd St. between Third and Fourth Aves.

Miller, in a speech at Community Board 10's October meeting, went short of directly naming the location or even calling it a "crack house," as do many in the community, instead spelling out his concerns as a local resident and business owner.

"I have personally witnessed suspicious activity," said Miller. "Not only does this alleged activity pose a direct threat to the safety of community members, but local businesses in our area have had to tolerate acts of vandalism, panhandling and customer harassment from the people who frequent the location."

The group, who met several months ago on chat site, has used the chat room as a launching off point in hopes of instigating real world change.

But residents of the house in question have a different story and say they are the ones being harassed. A man named Joe, who says he owns the property, dismissed the chat- room-group-turned-activists' talk as cyberbluster.

"There are rumors going around about everyone's house, I don't know what to tell you," he said. "We're not bothering anyone."

The inside of the house, which is currently for rent, appeared orderly during a recent visit, with no outward signs of drug use; the few people there appeared affable. The owner added that he is currently in transition and hopes to sell the house shortly.

Tax records list the owner as A. Terrone and show the property as three years behind in its taxes, a total debt of about $24,000.

The police wouldn't discuss any ongoing investigations, but CB 10 Chairman Dean Rasinya made clear that officials are addressing the issue.

"We are aware that this has been an ongoing problem," said Rasinya. "This board has been speaking to the 68th Precinct and they are taking this matter very seriously."

Miller's speech was months or maybe even years in the making, he said, and came as a culmination of local frustrations over the often-speculated-about crack house.

Miller, who lives directly behind the house, said he got the ball rolling several weeks ago after realizing that many others on the local chat board shared his concerns.

A neighbor of the home applauded the group's effort.

"This house has been a nuisance for over a year now," said one neighbor. "Everyone on the block knows what's going on. Someone needs to step in before somebody gets hurt."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday tree again called Christmas tree in Bay Ridge


Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

'Christmas' tree on Shore Parkway and 90th St. State Sen. Martin Golden refuses to rename 'holiday tree'.
The Christmas is back in Christmas tree - at least in Bay Ridge.

After demoting its evergreen to just a "holiday tree" a year ago, Bay Ridge will let a 17-foot Brooklyn evergreen regain the lofty title after snowballing criticism.

State Sen. Marty Golden, who last year blasted the decision by a local group to eradicate Christmas, rejoiced.

"The people spoke last year, urging that in the future this tree-lighting event be known as a Christmas tree-lighting event, and the Shore Road Garden Council heard this message and willingly changed the event's name," Golden spokesman John Quaglione said.

The holiday jeer began last November, after hundreds gathered at the city-owned Shore Road Gardens Park for a tree-lighting ceremony - complete with a Santa Claus and signs announcing the "holiday tree" lighting.

"It is ridiculous and absolutely unacceptable," huffed Golden, an Irish-Catholic Republican, at last year's scene. "There is no such thing as a holiday tree."

Shore Road Garden Council Vice President Linda Allegretti said her group wasn't trying to play the Grinch - it was only intending to be considerate of the multiethnic neighborhood's Jewish and Islamic communities.

"We're trying to be inclusive," Allegretti said at the time.

Allegretti didn't offer an explanation for the retreat.

"After what happened last year, I don't think I want to make a comment," she said yesterday.

This year's celebration, advertised as a Christmas tree lighting, as part of a broader "holiday festival," appears to cover all bases, said Community Board 10 Chairman Dean Rasanya.

"If they wanted to try to widen the envelope a little bit and call it a holiday tree to be a little more inclusive, that's fine," Rasanya said. "If they want to call it a Christmas tree, that's fine, too."

Golden celebrated the switch as a victory.

"You cannot take away the fact that a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree and not a holiday tree. This neighborhood wants a Christmas tree to be called a Christmas tree - that is not too much to ask," he said.

Amid community unrest, American Place clothing store cleans up its act


Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

Now, that's an American Place.

The community spoke, and American Place, a bargain clothing store that opened last month in Bay Ridge and is preparing to set up shop in Bensonhurst, listened.

A week after residents outraged by cartons of cheap clothing on the sidewalk outside the store said "not in my neighborhood," the retailer has changed course and cleaned up its act.

"The outside bins were just a promotion to let everyone know we arrived, but everything is cleaned up now," said American Place owner Raymond Smour. "We like to open with a big bang."

If creating a stir was the goal, mission accomplished. Residents flooded Community Board 10 with complaints after American Place Bay Ridge's Oct. 16 opening, saying that large cardboard cartons with clothing, bedding and footwear overflowed onto the store's sidewalk.

Smour said he was shocked by the uproar, especially since when he had opened his other five stores in the city, there weren't complaints, only consumers flocking to his 99-cent shirts and heavily discounted merchandise.

"I've never gotten a reaction like this before, but now that I know, I have made some changes."

But the timing is far from coincidental. The merchant's concession comes ahead of another anxiety-riddled American Place opening, this one on the site of what had been an 86th St. catering institution, the Oriental Manor.

To fend off problems at the Bensonhurst store, Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) intervened to let Smour know that South Brooklyn residents don't appreciate a mess.

"They have already taken all their clothing inside, painted the walls and promised to continue to keep everything orderly," Gentile said after meeting with Smour. "They just needed to be brought in line with our community's expectations."

The victory was long and grueling, especially for residents hoping the Bay Ridge spot would become a grocery.

The store, at Senator St. and Fourth Ave., originally was rumored to become a Waldbaum's after a Duane Reade pharmacy closed in August, but when the store's doors reopened, shoppers were instead greeted by the large cardboard bins that quickly became the talk of the town.

But now that American Place is taking its business inside, at least one resident, who called the new store an "abomination" is warming up to the new retailer, albeit with some reservations.

"That's beautiful news, I'm so glad they finally got all that stuff off the sidewalk," said Diane Hunt, 62, who lives down the street. "But I'm still not sure what made them think that was an acceptable way to sell merchandise in Bay Ridge."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Teachers at PS 185 in Bay Ridge fight unfair parking tickets


Monday, November 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

Some Bay Ridge educators just got schooled in the ABCs of unfair parking violations.

A number of teachers from Public School 185 whose legally parked cars were towed by city workers into illegal spots, then later slapped with $60 fines, are vowing to fight the "outrageous" violations.

"I am so upset at the unfairness of the situation," said teacher Lillian Turrugiano, who was in the middle of a lesson when she was notified her car had been towed and ticketed.

"This whole thing is one big annoying nuisance."

The trouble began Oct. 26 about 8 a.m., when four teachers thought they had lucked out in finding some open parking spots on 86th St. between Ridge Blvd. and Third Ave.

Parking has been tight on heavily congested 86th St. since May, when a sewer repair project began.

"There were no signs or workers, nothing to indicate you couldn't park," said Turrugiano.

But 45 minutes later, a crossing guard told the teachers their cars had been towed and ticketed without warning after construction crews got city workers to move the cars across the street - where they violated alternate-side parking rules and were issued citations.

Now the teachers are crying foul and vowing not to pay the violations.

"This is completely unacceptable because all of these cars were parked legally, and the staff was engaged in full activity with our children," wrote PS 185 Principal Kenneth Llinas in an angry letter to the city's Parking Violations Bureau unit on behalf of the teachers.

The steamed faculty then took their case to Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) - who gave the city's bureaucracy a failing grade in communication skills.

"This is another case of one hand not knowing what the other one is doing," said Gentile, referring to a lack of coordination between employees of the Department of Design and Construction, who had the cars moved, and law enforcement personnel, who fined them.

"It's a sad commentary that I wasn't surprised to learn that DDC personnel had knowingly moved these four teachers' cars into illegal parking spaces. It would be almost humorous if real money weren't involved."

The 18-month renovation of 86th St. is slated to be completed by next fall.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Curtis Sliwa considering a run for city public advocate

Friday, November 16th 2007, 4:00 AM

He's about to be booted off his morning radio gig in favor of Don Imus, but Curtis Sliwa is thinking about his next job - a run for city public advocate, the Daily News has learned.

If he wins the 2009 race, Sliwa says he will do the booting.

"My first day of office would be to tell everyone to pack up and go to the employment line because there is no more public advocate," Sliwa told the Brooklyn Young Republicans at Peggy O'Neill's in Bay Ridge.

"This is a declaration of war, and the battle must begin," he said. "This is a useless position, and we are just wasting taxpayer money."

It's not the first time a candidate has vowed to abolish the office. Candidate Jim Lesczynki was trounced in 2005 by a margin of 745,035 to 17,034.

Matthew Lysiak

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Legislation is for the birds

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bay Ridge’s pigeon man can be found most summer days on the corner of 79th and Third Avenue selling used books off a fold up table. When the guy spots a family walking by, he calmly extends his hand up in the air and moments later a pigeon swoops down and sits on it.

Of course, the guy isn’t the reincarnation of St. Francis, he just hides some breadcrumbs in his hand or something, but while the act may be a little tacky, it shouldn’t cost him a $1,000, which could become a reality if one local pol gets his way.

This anti-pigeon measure is the brainchild of Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Bensonhurst), who on Monday unveiled an ambitious plan to outlaw the feeding of pigeons. His goal, he says, in to cut down on that feared social menace: pigeon droppings.

“The people of New York are sick and tired of dodging pigeons and their droppings as they walk around the city,” Felder said. “The government needs to take responsibility for this issue and end the free reign of pigeons in our city.”

Felder is well known to readers of The Brooklyn Paper. This is the Othodox Jewish man who hid in a City Council men’s room rather than vote for openly gay Councilwoman Christine Quinn for speaker (even though he supported her!). And this is the same member of that esteemed body who started crusading against flyers and handbills after his mother got a litter summons for an errant circular.

This time, at lease, Felder has identified one of the true horrors of city living. Everyone has had that moment, usually during a nice summer day, when something hits the top of your head and after reaching in your hair with hopes that what you felt was an acorn or anything but the pigeon guano now in your hair and hand.

Inconvenient, yes, but is this really the reason we elect our public servants into office?

Yellow Hooker may not be a scientist, but on face value, the concept of trying to stop pigeons from pooping on us comes across as slightly insane. Pigeons don’t survive in the city because we feed them. They survive here because there is garbage all over our streets that they eat. We already have laws against garbage and everyone just ignores those.

I mean, no one can seriously believe that this city needs more bureaucracy in the form of a pigeon czar (that’s right, a pigeon czar!) any more than we need more reasons for law enforcement to ticket residents, or more reasons for neighbors to call 311 to report 9-year old girls throwing bread crumbs on her stoop.

What’s next? Are we going to sponsor legislation to outlaw rainy days or cursing cab drivers?

St. Francis, the 12th-century friar who was known for preaching to birds, wouldn’t have lasted two hours in this environment.

There are prices of city living that we all must deal with and the occasional pigeon poop in the hair is one of them. Local pols who are oblivious to the limits of their own powers are another.

Matthew Lysiak is a freelance writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Aink
Credit where due: Blogger “Left in Bay Ridge” told me the news: A Starbucks is opening up at 85th Street and Third Avenue, raising the community total to four. …

Last week, Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) joined former patients of Bay Imaging to announce the release of thousands of medical records held hostage by the radiological facility during an 18-month fight. Woman who need access to their records are encouraged to call Gentile’s office at (718) 748-5200. …

Watch out Gentile: Speculation is heating up that state Sen. Marty Golden’s able aide, John Quaglione, is eyeing a run for City Council. Gentile is not term-limited until 2013. …

You, too, can sue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority! In an effort to give a voice to commuters, Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) is urging residents to e-mail complaints about driving since the start of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge construction, which Fossella will submit to a judge as part of his lawsuit against the MTA. E-mail testimonials to …

CNBC’s Lawrence Kudlow was the guest of honor at the Brooklyn Conservative Party’s Nov. 1 dinner at Rex Manor on 60th Street and 11th Avenue. In addition, Sgt. Nick Badolato received the Jim Ryan Award for Longtime Service to the conservative cause. The party’s county chairman Jerry Kassar was also on hand, along with state Sen. Marty Golden and New York State Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long. And it’s not exactly lions lying down with lambs, but Kings County Republican Party Chairman Craig Eaton was also there.

High rents at root of tree price hike

By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNewYork

November 15, 2007

You better hope that eggnog is spiked ‹ the priciest Christmas trees in the world just got even pricier.

That¹s because the soaring cost of Manhattan real estate is seeping through to the sidewalks, where tree dealers are already feeling the holiday pinch. This translates into bad tidings for city consumers already accustomed to paying unprecedented pine prices, although just how large the increase will be is yet to be determined.

³It¹s unbelievable, the cost of renting the space to sell my trees has quadrupled since I began,² said Scott Lechner, whose Winnebago will be parked next week on Sixth Avenue and Spring Street at the site of one of the world¹s most prominent tree stands. ³The rising cost of the real estate on top of the increases in fuel has created a real problem for us and all tree dealers.²

It wasn¹t always this complicated. In 1982, when Lechner began his journey into the forest of sturdy Canadian Balsams and the more fragrant Balsam Firs, setting up a stand in the city was a lot simpler ‹ and cheaper. But in today¹s Manhattan, nothing comes cheap ‹ not even the sidewalks. In the past few years, the rent at his spot in SoHo has increased from $2,500 to $12,500, according to Lechner, who plans to offset the expenses by selling more trees at the same price.

³We try to internalize the increases because I believe the tree stand is one place where there should never be sticker shock.²

The sheer volume of Lechner¹s fresh-cut inventory might help him absorb the rising fees, but the numerous small dealers scattered throughout the city won¹t be as fortunate.

That means for most residents, tree prices will keep rising, but don¹t expect residents to stop paying.

The tree market appears to be insulated from the rising fees of Manhattan sidewalk real estate prices, at least in part, by a captive audience intent on carrying on a cherished tradition no matter what the price.

Most will keep choosing to pay $250 for a 10 foot Frasier fur at the local stand when the same tree can be picked up at a nearby Home Depot for a fraction of the price because, at least for some locals, the act of haggling with a disheveled salesman and dragging a 100-pound tree 12 city blocks in inclement weather isn¹t just a tradition, but a moral duty.

³There is something wrong with taking your kids inside a department store to pick out the family Christmas tree,² said long time SoHo regular Andrew Dalton. ³I am willing to pay these ridiculous prices once a year to abstain from that sin.²

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trading stromboli for sashimi

Asians dominating larger part of Bensonhurst¹s Little Italy
By Matthew Lysiak | Special to amNewYork
November 14, 2007

It¹s official ‹ sushi now rules over ravioli 32-22 in Brooklyn¹s Little Italy of Bensonhurst.

A recent walk down the famed Christopher Columbo Boulevard between 60th and 86th streets now tallies 16 Italian restaurants versus 17 Asian eateries.

The count along 86th Street from 15th to 24th avenues has Italians outnumbered by a margin of 15-6.

Asians dominating larger part of Bensonhurst¹s Little Italy Lenny¹s of ³Saturday Night Fever² fame serves a large Asian demographic. Photo
While outsiders may be shocked at the news, locals view it as the inevitable culmination of a demographic tidal wave years in the making.

³This is supposed to be Little Italy, but everyone here knows that all the Italians moved to Staten Island,² said La Bella Pizza owner Mohammed Haman, who says he bought the 86th Street pizzeria six years ago from an Italian family who crossed the Verrazano.

The new merchants are also quick to point out that Italians didn¹t get the boot, but instead fled to greener pastures with Chinese from Sunset Park and Russians from Brighton Beach filling the void. For the most part, the transition has been seamless.

³Now Bensonhurst is a diverse community and everyone has embraced us,² said New Ruan¹s manager Donald Ruan, whose Chinese restaurant recently opened at 1955 86th St.

Officials aren¹t shocked by the result, but are surprised over just how quickly the retail face of the community ‹ once dubbed the ³real Little Italy of New York² by travel writer Eleanor Berman ‹ has transformed. The number of Italians in the neighborhood, down to 59,112, is a little more than half that of two decades ago, according to the 2000 Census. Since 2000, that number has likely fallen farther.

On 18th Avenue, the site of the Feast of Santa Rosalia, Chinese novelty stores and beauty parlors now line the streets once dominated by espresso toting old men. Along 86th Street, headless chickens hang upside down outside one Chinese storefront only a block from Lenny¹s pizza, where Manero of ³Saturday Night Fever² famously ordered a slice of double- decker pizza.

Lenny¹s manager Nick Cerra says that while the changes may be hard to accept for many longtime residents, the ³Little Italy² within Bensonhurst will endure, albeit in a littler version.

³Over time, everything changes, but one thing society can¹t live without is tradition,² said Cerra. ³The Chinese are going to keep moving in while the Italians keep moving out, but Lenny¹s is going to be around forever ‹ even Asian people love pizza.²

Time capsule relics unearthed 47 years too early


Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 4:00 AM
A Bay Ridge time capsule unearthed 47 years prematurely may finally find a new resting place - back in the same old hole.

The unlikely scenario of the beleaguered time capsule, which had to be disinterred after its burial site was unexpectedly sold to a developer only three years into its time travel, has taken another bizarre twist as officials push to have it buried back in the original plot.

"It may sound strange, but I would love to see the capsule back in that spot," said Bay Ridge Sesquicentennial Committee coordinator Peter Killen. "That location has historical significance and is easily accessible to everyone in our community."

The capsule could use a good rest after the past few months it has had.

It was originally buried in 2003, during an elaborate ceremony, on the front lawn of the Bay Ridge Funeral Home at 7614 Fourth Ave., but was dug up in February 2006 to make room for condos after the owners sold the property to developers Nizar Khoury and Moussa Khalil.

"I was absolutely furious," said committee co-chair Ted General. "No one informed us that the capsule was going to be disturbed, and for a few days we didn't even know its whereabouts."

The capsule was resting undisturbed in Khoury's garage, but when committee members discovered its location, they arranged for it to be housed at the Fort Hamilton Harbor Defense Museum, where it will stay until a permanent home can be found.

"We'll store it for as long as you like; it's our pleasure," Col. Tracey Nicholson, commander of Fort Hamilton, told the committee at a ceremony.

Of course, it wasn't supposed to be this complicated.

The original idea was to preserve a piece of the past as a way of commemorating Bay Ridge's 150th anniversary.

The group collected newspapers, pictures, photo books, menus and just about everything to help future generations understand what life was like in the year 2003.

Construction on the favored site won't be completed for another two years, but if the capsule ends up going back into the same grave, the developer promised it will have a much deeper slumber.

"We would like to see the capsule on our property and it is our desire to make that happen," said Khoury. "A seven-story building is going up in that spot, and I can promise you those buildings won't be moving an inch before 2053."

South Brooklyn's still hungry for a pizza the past


Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 4:00 AM

Mom-and-pop pizzerias may be giving way to pizza franchises in the Midwest, but in Tony Manero's old stomping grounds in South Brooklyn, customers still hunger for a slice of nostalgia.

"I just don't understand how people can eat Domino's or those other pizza chains," said Filippo Giuffrie, who next month is opening up his own brick oven pizzeria on Third Ave. "I know that in Bay Ridge people appreciate a quality pie as much as in any other place in the country."

Giuffrie's pizzeria - which will be named Zio Toto, after Giuffrie's uncle Salvatore - replaces a usually successful franchise outlet, Cheesesteak Factory, which closed its doors at the 84th St. location last August after only a few months of business.

Giuffrie said his new pizzeria will succeed where the franchise failed because it will be a family affair.

"My mom is even going to be in the kitchen making the gnocchi fresh," said Giuffrie, who came to the U.S. from Italy and lives in Bensonhurst.

Southern Brooklyn's apparent insulation from the national trend of franchise pizza joints squeezing out mom-and-pops may in part be due to the downright hostility many locals feel toward their corporate counterparts.

John Miniaci Jr. of Johnny's Pizza in Sunset Park, whose father, John Sr., founded the neighborhood pizzeria in 1968, even started a petition drive in hope of blocking the opening of a Papa John's franchise outlet from moving to his block.

His anti-Papa John's petition went to the pizza titan's corporate office in Kentucky with 2,200 signatures. Papa John's didn't respond to the petition and opened as expected last month, but Miniaci insisted there was no noticeable drop-off in his business.

"It actually really burns my customers up that they tried to piggyback off the little guy, but my business hasn't missed a beat," said Miniaci. "This part of Brooklyn is very family-oriented and they expect fresh, not frozen, ingredients."

Food critic Adam Kuban, who runs the pizza-centric Web site, said the secret to southern Brooklyn's invulnerability to chains is all about familiarity.

"Most of Third and Fifth Aves. are lined with true mom-and-pop restaurants and businesses, and the owners and customers have real relationships with each other," said Kuban. "Bay Ridge also seems to have a fairly strong Italian presence, too - and they're not going to take a shine to chain places."

That's a slice of wisdom Miniaci takes to heart.

"I know you are supposed to try the competition, but I am just not ready to put that bitter taste in my mouth," he said.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Trust kills the evil superbug

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

When a student at PS 101 was recently diagnosed with the feared “supervirus,” a notable event happened in our small corner of Brooklyn — communication.

It was fast as it was efficient: the parents of the infected student learned of their kid’s diagnosis of MRSA, a “superbug” resistant to most drugs, on Oct. 26 and soon after informed the school’s administration, who quickly passed the knowledge along to the city’s Department of Health and the rest of the school’s parents. It all happened within 48 hours.

Principal Greg Korrol should receive a standing ovation for the profound lack of noise — as in the absence of panic, public outcries, or rioting parents that followed the news.

Sounds easy, right? Well, apparently not. The rest of Brooklyn should take notes from how Bensonhurst handled this threat to public safety and it begins and ends with an environment of trust.

By contrast, in Canarsie, the Health Department knew that PS 211 seventh grader Omar Rivera had died of the virus more than five full days before parents were informed. No one can ever be certain of anyone’s intentions, but the move did more than anger a lot of people. It also exposed something about the relationship between the school and the community best described by one pol with a knack for clever one-liners.

“What did they know and when did they know it?” asked Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie).

Rhetoric aside, the actual threat to schools appears to be miniscule. The Health Department says the vast majority of serious cases occur in hospital settings, and that healthy people are likely to heal on their own or with little treatment. Better yet, officials are reporting that the Bensonhurst student is on the road to a fast recovery.

In the aftermath of the Canarsie debacle, local schools are now taking common-sense precautions, like at Coney Island’s IS 239, where the PA system frequently reminds kids to wash their hands.

Of course, washing hands, keeping cuts clean, and avoiding too much skin-to-skin contact with sick people is a good idea no matter what viruses are floating around, but in any crisis (or potential crisis), the most-effective weapon is the free exchange of information, which only happen in an environment of trust among parents, students, and the administration.

Matthew Lysiak is a freelance writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
A big thanks to Mrs. Lauren’s pre-K class at DGK Holy Cross School, located at 8502 Ridge Blvd., for welcoming The Sink in to her class to speak about the exciting life of a reporter as part of the school’s career day. Favorite question: Do you get to speak to firemen? …

Ladies be on the lookout! Last Friday a woman on the Bay Ridge Parents message board reported a flasher struck while she was waiting for the B16 at 92nd and Shore Road. …

To the nice cashier at Associated Market, at 7918 Third Ave., please refrain from wiping your runny nose with your sleeve before handling our spy’s produce. …

Where is WABC radio host Curtis Sliwa going after the news that he is being replaced by Don Imus? To Bay Ridge, of course! Sliwa will be the guest speaker on Nov. 14 at the Young Republicans meeting at Peggy O’Neill’s on Fifth Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets at 7:30. …

Our pal Dolores Keeler wants you — but only if you’re a graduate of Bay Ridge High School, the center of learning now known as the High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology. Keeler is trying to revive the Alumni Association, so if you fit the bill, call Anna at (718) 837-1807. …

Our friends at the Rankin-Healey VFW, on Fourth Avenue near 93rd Street, had an awesome Oktoberfest. Making the scene were Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny and Councilman Vincent Gentile. Our spy sent us photos, but they were all blurry — an indication that everyone had a great time.

Vito’s V-Z suit driven from court

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Road-raging pols have dropped the legislative pens, called in the lawyers, and now must wait, wait, and wait some more.

That’s was the news this Monday after Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman James Oddo (R–Dyker Heights) filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to temporarily halt reconstruction work on the Verrazano Bridge.

Judge Phillip Minardo rejected the lawsuit, but directed both pols to return to court on Nov. 27 to see what steps the quasi-state agency will take to minimize congestion on both sides of the bridge.

The judge’s implication was clear: if the MTA doesn’t improve the congestion faced by commuters, the door is wide open to future legal action.

Fossella and Oddo took the rare step of seeking the temporary restraining order to prevent the MTA from beginning the next phase of the project, which they say has so far been a mismanaged nightmare, until they come up with a better way to move traffic.

Pols were in a rush, so to speak, because the Phase II, which will shift the reconstruction work from the right lane to the left, is set to begin — and once it does, it would be harder to halt.

The ruling didn’t succeed in halting the work, but it achieved a well-trafficked compromise, at least according to Fossella.

“The lawsuit succeeded in forcing the MTA to develop a series of initiatives today to improve the daily commute and reduce commute times,” said Fossella. “This is the first time that the MTA has come to the table with serious proposals to fix this problem.”

Fossella is referring to several concrete proposals the MTA must now come up with to minimize the impact of the project, which will be presented to his office on Monday.

The MTA also welcomed the judge’s ruling as an opportunity for more negotiations, but cautioned that scrapping the plans altogether, as Fossella has suggested, would only result in more delays, according to agency spokeswoman Joyce Mulvaney.

“We will continue to work with elected officials on ways to ease traffic,” said Mulvaney. “This is necessary work and our goal is to get the job done and get out of people’s lives, but re-designing the project at this point would only increase the risk that the work won’t end on time.”

The first phase of the 15-month $65-million project began in June, when one lane in each direction was closed for a lower-level rehab, a complete removal and reconstruction of the roadway, parapet wall and utilities, and rehabilitation of the steel beneath.

The construction has also spilled over into the streets of Bay Ridge, where on many weekdays rush hour traffic has gridlocked parts of 86th Street to a grinding halt from cars bottlenecking at the bridge entrance.

“The bridge is a nightmare,” said commuter Mark Lillmars. “Ferry service is beginning to sound better and better every day.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Topshop: SoHo's British invasion

Chic clothing store comes to Broadway
By Matthew Lysiak

Special to amNewYork

November 7, 2007

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Topshop and its cheap, chic clothing are rumored to be invading stateside with an American flagship debuting in the heart of SoHo as early as this spring.

The location at 478 Broadway, which could be up to 90,000 square feet of retail space, would replace landmark skateboard store Yellow Rat Bastard, and further fortify the neighborhood's already strong retail blend. The move makes sense, according to one retail expert.

"SoHo is the epicenter of the New York City shopping scene, and when you think of how much space they'd need and the type of walk-through traffic they'd want, it really only makes sense for them to open on Broadway in SoHo," said Leslie Price, editor of the retail blog that broke the story.

"Topshop is more expensive than H&M and Forever 21, and they operate similarly with trend-driven clothing and rapidly rotating stock."

Philip Green, whose company, the Arcadia Group, owns Topshop along with several other British retailers, was in New York in late April to scout a site for the flagship and may have been seduced by the neighborhood's diverse retail landscape that already includes Bloomingdales, Uniqlo and Prada and cheap-chic chains like H&M and Forever 21.

Broadway below Broome Street will also be getting a boost from the upcoming opening of Muji, a Japanese enviro-minimalist household goods retailer at 455 Broadway on Nov. 16th, and Crate & Barrel's CB2 which opened yesterday at 451 Broadway.

The invasion may not be the Beatles, but by simultaneously appealing to funky 16-year-olds, sophisticated twenty- and thirty- something's and Gwyneth Paltrow (as stated on the retailer's Web site), the move has already generated significant retail buzz across the blogosphere. This week retail sites from to were glowing at the news and readers were salivating at the chance to loosen their purse strings.

But solid information has been hard to come by -- a spokeswoman for Yellow Rat Bastard wouldn't comment on any impending closure, Topshop's press office didn't return repeated requests for a comment, and building owner Vornado Realty Trust also had no comment. But the tight lips haven't transpired to the consumer end, where some shoppers have already popped the cork.

"I heard the news and I can't wait for Topshop to open in SoHo," said local shopper Sarah Millard. "I think this whole area is quickly becoming the best place to shop in the city."

Bay Ridge store gets dressing-down from neighborhood

Tuesday, November 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

It's no Century 21!

Bay Ridge residents are tossing their hangers at American Place, a bargain clothing store that opened last month that they say has become an eyesore - while local officials are questioning its legality.

"Residents don't like messes, and this place is an absolute disaster," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

"The sidewalks are blocked, clothes are thrown all over the place and last week when it rained, we got complaints that there was wet underwear all over the sidewalk.

"This just isn't Bay Ridge," Beckmann said.

The store, at Senator St. and Fourth Ave., originally was rumored to become a Waldbaum's after a Duane Reade pharmacy there closed in August.

Talks of a long-overdue quality supermarket sparked excitement from residents.

But when the store's doors reopened on Oct. 16, instead of fresh meats and produce, shoppers were greeted by large cardboard cartons overflowing with last season's clothing, bedding and footwear bursting onto the sidewalk.

"It looks like a tacky eyesore that makes the whole neighborhood look shabby," said Tony Innocete.

"It's like a giant 99-cent store that has clothing piled everywhere."

The new storefront quickly became a hot topic for local blogs, where residents vented their fears of a broader community trend of mom-and-pop shops disappearing into an abyss of discount stores.

"It's a disgrace to the neighborhood, and I've never seen such an abomination in my whole life," said Diane Hunt, 62, who lives down the street from the new store.

"It is disgusting that officials tell us they are trying to clean our neighborhood up and then they let this place open up."

The Sanitation Department has fined the bargain outlet several times for violating the 3-foot limit stores are allowed for sidewalk displays.

The business also is violating the building code by operating on the second floor without a permit, said Beckmann, who is planning to ask American Place to rein itself in.

That effort may be futile.

"Come back in two weeks when I am finished adding my new men's department in the basement," said a man who identified himself as the store's manager but wouldn't give his name. "Unless you are here for my green card I have nothing further to say."

Friday, November 2, 2007

More affordable TriBeCa? Dream on

By Matthew Lysiak
Special to amNewYork
In the idealistic vision dreamed up by officials in TriBeCa to put affordable housing in a location renowned as one of the priciest in the world, something
had to give.

Now, local officials are learning a lesson renters and prospective first-time buyers learned long-ago: TriBeCa may be the last place to look for affordable housing, but not for a lack of community support.

“Everybody wants affordable housing in TriBeCa,” said Community Board 1 Director of Land Use and Planning Michael Levine. “The demand is there, and the rezoning proposal could accomplish it on a moderate scale.”

The idea to add belowmarket housing in the northern part of the neighborhood east of Hudson Street has been years in the making and was finally approved by the board last
month. But the plans have since been shelved in a case of not enough carrot and too
long a stick, at least as far as developers are concerned.

That’s because to be eligible for the increase in floorto- area ratio — a type of allowed building space that the board is offering to lure developers to incorporate cheaper housing — other restrictions apply. Rules on allowed height, coupled with the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s demands that all structures conform to the neighborhood’s 19th century framework would cut heavily into developer’s profits, ultimately hindering the project’s viability.

But there will be no development without cheap housing, says Councilman Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan). “The City Council has made it clear that any rezoning must have an affordablehousing component,” said Gerson. “It is unconscionable to let the current
trend persist, especially when you consider that TriBeCa has always had a significant economic mix.”

The idea of affordable real estate in TriBeCa strikes many as an oxymoron. At $1,242 per square foot, space here is among the priciest in the city. Last year, Forbes magazine ranked the 10013 zip code as the 12th most expensive in the U.S., but that
wasn’t always the case.

TriBeCa was once an industrial district dominated by warehouses before a major revitalization saw warehouses converted into loft apartments and new businesses
emerged. Now the area is a fashionable, trendy residential neighborhood.
The local push for affordable housing is part of an effort to keep whatever remains of TriBeCa’s blue-collar roots.

“TriBeCa is not just for the very wealthy,” Gerson said. “Our community is at its best when we have a good mix of all the folks.”

The syringe don’t fit

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Now that several weeks have passed since our community was tabbed the “steroid capital of the world,” at least one thing is clear, Bay Ridge deserves some answers.

Lowen’s Pharmacy and Dolphin Fitness have been named by authorities in the ongoing steroid probe, yet only one charge has actually been filed, no one has been jailed, and even more inexplicably, all three remain open for business.

Am I the only one wondering if we’ve learned nothing from Richard Jewel? Of course, you remember ex-security guard Richard Jewell, who was accused of bombing the 1996 Olympics, yet was never charged. He then underwent a trial-by-media before he was eventually exonerated – then sued several media outlets and got millions.

But almost 12 years later, government officials are still chirping like birds. In May, state agents raided Lowen’s, whch is at the corner of Bay Parkway and 69th Street, pulling out $200,000 in steroids, they claimed. A second raid on Oct. 16 yielded $7.2 million in human growth hormone, they claimed again.

After the second raid, law enforcement wasn’t as tight-lipped as it usually is.

“It was a closed circle,” once source told the Daily News. “Lowen’s processed thousands of prescriptions a month from a stable of doctors. Customers found out about these doctors … through the gyms.” That newspaper — and others — said that sources identified Dolphin Fitness, on Bay Ridge Parkway, as a roid-referral service.

I admit the innocent-until-proven-guilty thing has become a dated concept in this day and age, but imagine the daunting task of running a business, in a small close-knit community like Bay Ridge, amid charges that haven’t even been formally made.

After all, if there isn’t enough evidence to shut down these places after at least five months of investigating, how is there enough to publicly point the finger?

Maybe the charges are true, but to this columnist, that’s a hard sell. So far, there’s been months of investigation that have revealed, at best, that a few consenting adults have chosen to hurt themselves (or potentially heal themselves, if you believe Suzanne Somers, who swears that human growth hormone is the fountain of youth).

But no matter what happens, the truth is that residents will always view Dolphin Fitness and Lowen’s with suspicion — and in a small town like ours, reputation is one thing you can’t get back.

If Lowen’s and Dolphin Gym are ultimately vindicated (not that they’ve even been charged yet!), then this columnist hopes that at least they learn a thing or two from the Richard Jewel case — the lawsuit part of the case, that is.

Matthew Lysiak is a freelance writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink
Give that man a raise: Even though Gov. Spitzer announced his U-turn on the illegal aliens’ driver’s license proposal, state Sen. Marty Golden’s spokesman, John Quaglione, had a press release in our “In” basket the same day. That’s a hard-working public (or, more accurately, Golden) servant. …

A stretch of homes on 84th Street between Colonial and Third avenues were spooked out for Halloween and looked fantastic. …

Best deal in Bay Ridge? A generous bag of date sweetened yogurt-covered pretzels for under $2.50 at Appletree on Third Avenue near 80th. …

This week’s cold spell means the Shore Road basketball courts, at 79th Street and Shore Road, are unofficially closed for the summer. We had a good run, but now it is time for The Sink to balloon up on Peppino’s Vodka pizza (which is our winter tradition). …

Anyone notice less dog poop on Ridge Boulevard lately? We have!

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!
Lysiak exposing the lack of security at the Towers pipeline