Friday, March 16, 2007

A Golden city on the hill?

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Yellow Hooker has a tendency to daydream. He’s not the only one, apparently.

“Many community leaders have suggested that I run for mayor,” state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) was saying the other day. “Whenever so many people of so many different backgrounds urge you to do something, you have to give it some thought.”

From police officer to Councilman to state Senator to … Mayor of New York City?

Inspired by the Senator’s words — and the lofty dreams behind them — I countered with some lofty day-dreaming of my own. In fact, I took the liberty of writing Golden’s 2014 inauguration speech — you know, for when he wins re-election.

I had the words Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar fresh in my mind.

“Marty Golden would make a great mayor,” Kassar said. “He is a smart, hard-working, common-sense conservative who knows that lowering taxes is the key to economic development and keeping crime low is crucial if we are to improve our neighborhoods.”

Drafting the speech wasn’t hard. Golden told me that his two political heroes were Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani, so all I needed to do was put in all that “morning in America” and “crime doesn’t pay” rhetoric. Here goes:

“Thank you, Bishop Sharpton, for that touching benediction. Friends, clergy, elected officials, honored guests, President Spitzer, and my fellow citizens: I am honored and humbled to begin my second term as the 109th mayor of New York City.

“Over the past four years, I have met with New Yorkers who share the common belief that possibility and opportunity is the essence of New York — and the promise of tomorrow.

“But let us not forget, four years ago, that optimism seemed in jeopardy. We worked together to divert a major fiscal crisis in 2011 by using the new tax revenue generated by Turtle Bay Casino, built over the space where the United Nations used to stand.

“My fellow citizens, let history say of us, ‘These were Golden years — when freedom gained new life, and when New York City reached for her best.’ I look forward to working with Gov. Gentile to see the realization of what is uniquely, our own, New York destiny.”

I thought I’d done a pretty good job, so I sent the copy over to Golden’s chief aide, John Quaglione.

“I liked ‘Golden years,’ but we are not commenting,” Quaglione said. (I considered that a victory!)

I also emailed a copy to Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who didn’t mind trying on the term “Mayor Golden” for size (most likely because the term “Gov. Gentile” was still ringing in his ears!).

“New York City is an important part of the empire state,” Gentile said. “I will do everything in my power as governor to help Mayor Golden succeed.”

Could it happen? Could Marty Golden someday be Mayor Golden? If he runs, at least we know one thing: Yellow Hooker isn’t the only one with a fancy for daydreaming.

The Kitchen Sink
State Sen. Marty Golden will be hosting his fifth annual “State Senator for a Day” contest, inviting local junior high school students to write a 250-word essay that begins with the words “If I were state Senator for a day…” (Our advice? Don’t try to kiss ass by starting with “If I were a state Senator for a day, I would raise salaries for all of our hard-working public servants in Albany.” The deadline for admissions is March 30. …

A man who quit the state Senate was back in the blazing spotlight last week, getting honored for donating artificial limbs to people mutilated in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Steven Mirones’s prosthetics firm Arimed made the donations. …

Students from the Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute chapters of the New York Public Interest Research Group were collecting empty bottles and cans in Bay Ridge on March 8 to promote a proposed “Bigger Better Bottle Bill.” The money raised from the collection will support the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults’ Meals on Wheels program. …

On a related note, while discussing recycling at last week’s Community Board 11 meeting, District Manager Howard Feuer revealed that he is a big fan of Borat. …

At least one union loves Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge). The five-term legislator’s belief in low taxes earned him a glorious rating of 66 percent from the National Taxpayer Union’s annual review evaluation. And he sent out a press release about it? Of course; Fossella’s ranking is high for a New York legislator — most of whom, apparently, just want to tax and spend. …

Yellow Hooker condolences to the family of beloved Bensonhurst activist Vincent Badalamenti, who recently succumbed to kidney disease at the age of 88 and will be greatly missed. Here’s hoping Vincent is allowed to take to heaven his wife Paulette’s recipe for the best meatballs in Brooklyn.

Mayor Marty? Golden won’t say

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

State Senator Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) will run for mayor on a platform of low taxes, affordable housing and expanding economic opportunity into the boroughs.

That is, if he runs for mayor, of course.

As we reported last week, Golden has definitely dipped his toe in the Republican-light mayoral waters, but he hasn’t fully jumped in.

“Many community leaders from throughout the city have suggested that I run,” Golden said. “Whenever so many people of so many different backgrounds, urge you to do something, you have to give it some thought.”

What would a Golden Administration mean for New York City? Clues could be found in the leadership styles of the men whom he says are his political influences: Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani.

“I admire them for their leadership,” Golden said. “And, like me, they were former Democrats who found that the party’s extreme liberal message difficult for them.”

Opponents would be quick to point out Golden’s lack of experience — he’s been in politics, first as a Councilman and later as a state Senator, only since 1998 — but Golden believes that his prior experience as a cop, civic leader and small business owner shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I have been able to see the challenges that people face in finding a job, paying their taxes and bills, in trying to educate their children as well as they can, and in keeping their homes and neighborhoods safe,” said Golden, who once owned the Bay Ridge Manor catering hall.

Other priorities? “Keeping crime down, moving forward in educating all of New York’s children, developing both senior and affordable housing, and keeping taxes as low as possible.

“I would look to expand the economic growth of the last few years to all areas of the city,” he said. “I have been a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, the development of the biotech industry in New York, the development of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the cruise industry.”

Golden is considered a shoe-in to win his Senate district next year, a race that isn’t expected to put much of a dent in his $425,000 campaign war chest. He’d need much, much more to run for mayor, but raising big cash would be easy — if (and it’s a big if!) he remains the only Republican in the race to succeed Mayor Mike.

Golden already has one supporter in Peter Killen, a Bay Ridge activist whose relationship with the maybe-mayoral candidate began when Golden was a cop.

“Marty Golden would make an excellent candidate,” Killen said. “He is knowledgeable, hands-on, and has always done great things for the community, even before he was elected to anything.”

But is it possible to make the leap from the Bay Ridge Manor to Gracie Mansion?

“I don’t know,” Golden said. “But I am sure that, if I was fortunate enough to be elected Mayor, I will work hard for all the people of New York, whether they be in Turtle Bay, Princes Bay, or Sheepshead Bay.”

Spoken like a true (sort of) candidate.

Wild meeting over the Green Church

March 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Everyone in Bay Ridge believes the Green Church should be saved — everyone except the parishioners at this century-old house of worship, that is.

Church officials and preservationists squared off with parishioners on Monday night at an “emergency meeting” over the fate of the cherished church.

And parishioners of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church weren’t happy.

“This whole meeting is an ambush,” said Raquel Cortizo. “[Councilman Vince] Gentile is pitting this community against the church, and I don’t think it is right.”

The trouble began after reports of the sale of the Methodist cathedral, which has graced the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ovington for more than a hundred years and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The news came as a shock to Gentile and other officials, who said church elders had assured them that there was still time to save the church from being torn down to make room for condos.

Gentile is still pushing for a deal that he, the Bay Ridge Conservancy, and Con Ed worked out that would create 87 units of subsidized housing on the church campus while generating $300,000 in annual revenue annually to pay for upkeep of the church building itself.

The church would also have complete control over the property as part of a 99-year lease, said the optimistic Gentile.

But the mood changed when Gentile invited questions from parishioners, who accused him of not inviting church members to the meeting.

“No one had any idea about this,” said Cortizo. “They were trying to keep us shut out of this meeting. Everyone is forgetting that this is our property and we can sell it if we want. These people should just mind their own business.”

Fellow parishioner Ed Smith added that the pastor, Reverend Robert Emerick, has been very open with the congregation about plans to sell the church.

“We are tired of fighting it,” Smith said. “The renovations would cost our congregation $3 million a year and we have an offer on the table for $12 million or Gentile’s proposal of $300,000 a year. Which would you take?”

Smith said the congregation is fully behind Emerick and the sale.

“It is a private property matter and the Landmarks Preservation Commission won’t even discuss the issue,” Smith added. “Do you really think [spending] $3 million for renovations is what Jesus would want us to do with everything else going on in the world today?”

Still, Gentile is pushing his plan, handing out an “Action Sheet” that offered the “names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people who can stop the destruction,” Gentile said.

The list included church elders; the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has the power to declare a building a landmark even without the owner’s permission; and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who must approve the sale of all religious property to private developers.

Sanitation ‘blitz’ on Ridge block


March 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Residents of 73rd Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues returned home from work on Monday to discover litter summonses greeting them at the door — the latest example, some say, of an ongoing ticket blitz in Bay Ridge.

“At least seven people on the block received $25 tickets,” said resident Janice Schiavo. “I am not going to pay this ticket because that would be an admission of guilt, and I am not guilty.”

The trouble began when Schiavo was leaving to work on Monday morning and noticed a Sanitation officer going through her neighbor’s trash.

“I didn’t really didn’t think much of it,’ said Schiavo. “I was late.”

Too bad she didn’t stick around a little longer, because later in the day, she returned to discover that the agent had slapped her house with a summons.

The violation on the ticket claims that she “used an improper container to store her recyclables,” which irked Schiavo, because she didn’t use a container, instead placing her recyclables out in a clear plastic bag.

“I started to talk with other people on my block, and everyone I spoke with received the same ticket and we didn’t use containers,” said Schiavo, who described herself as a “radical environmentalist from the ’60s” and, as such, vowed to fight the ticket.

The 73rd Street snafu comes after green warrior Theresa Maresco received two $100 citations for pieces of paper that were blown into her yard when she was not there, and another story about a woman who received a ticket for a dirty driveway — even though she doesn’t have a driveway!

One local official discovered a little-known tool that Schiavo and others can use in their defense against the Sanitation Department.

“If you call the number on the back of the ticket to request a hearing, you can also request the presence of the officer who wrote the ticket,” said Eric Kuo, a spokesman for Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

“If you get a ticket and you feel it was unfair, schedule the hearing, request the officer to appear, tell your side of the story, and there is a good chance that they will throw out the ticket,” Kuo said.

There is also a good chance that the inspector, busy with other things, won’t show, others said.

A Sanitation spokesman would not discuss the specific violation against Schiavo, but insisted that “ticket blitzes” are a myth.

“I know the agency doesn’t ‘ticket blitz,’” agency spokesman Matthew LiPani said. “It is unlikely that the entire block got a ticket.”

LiPani also said that Schiavo’s specific violation could have been for a number of reasons.

“It could be that there was household waste that she wasn’t aware of,” he said.

Vets: War is hell


March 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper


Four World War II vets participated in a thank-the-vets assembly at St. Anselm School.

With the war in Iraq on their minds, a group of patriotic St. Anselm School students honored four World War II veterans at the other day, but it was the graying soldiers who offered up the most important words: War is hell.

Teacher Cary Anne Fitzgerald said the March 8 assembly began with the best intentions: to honor the service of the “Greatest Generation” — especially given the students’ support for the troops in Iraq.

But the soldiers turned the event on its head, telling the students that war should be avoided at all costs.

“I just hope and pray that you kids don’t have to ever go to war,” said veteran Tom Lusnia. “No matter what you might believe, war is war, and war is nothing you want a piece of.”

Another vet, Bernie Hoganson, said he’d be happy if he never heard the word “war” again.

“Whenever anyone starts talking about war, I immediately feel negative about the whole thing,” he said.

Fellow comrades Martin O’Reilly and Fred Schwally participated in assembly, handing each student a “Certificate of Americanism.”

At least one student equated the certificate with a requirement to serve her country on the battlefield, despite the veteran’s words to the contrary.

“These veterans were brave guys,” said eighth-grader Sarah Allen. “I hope I would be able to do the same if the time comes.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Victory finds partner

March 12, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Victory Memorial Hospital — or at least a large portion of it — has been saved, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Local officials will announce next week that the beleaguered medical center — which filed bankruptcy and was recommended for closure by a state committee last year — has found a partner to keep its emergency room and popular birthing center open.

“The community is in for a big surprise,” said Bill Guarinello, new acting chair of the Dyker Heights hospital’s board of trustees “People are going to be real pleased when they discover what is in store.”

The identity of the new partners is being kept under wraps, but neither Lutheran Hospital in Bay Ridge nor New York Methodist in Park Slope are involved, a source told The Brooklyn Paper.

Details of the plan, which is still being finalized, will show a reduced, but viable role for the hospital.

“There are still some hurdles to overcome, but it will be finalized soon,” said Guarinello, who is also the chair of CB11.

The partnership means that Victory will retain its emergency room with holding beds, its diagnostic center, its nursing home, and its birth center, which handles over 2,000 births a year, Guarinello added.

Despite a state recommendation to close, Victory is still a vital cog in the neighborhood’s emergency medical machine. The center’s emergency room is at 104 percent occupancy.

The 254-bed hospital declared bankruptcy last November amid scrutiny of the hospital’s compensation practices, which included a $1.1-million severance package for departing CEO Donald DiCunto.

Guarinello believes that the presence of a new administration was an important part of the deal.

“Let’s be honest, there was mismanagement under the previous administration,” Guarinello said, “We are now looking forward to having a clean slate and moving forward with the new administration in place.”

Guarinello disagrees with the state’s recommendation that Victory should close and believes that time will prove the Berger Commission wrong.

“During the next five years, they will realize that the community needs these facilities,” Guarinello said.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

(Law)breaking news: Columnist arrested!


March 10, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

I admit it. I’m guilty as charged. And let me tell all you kids out there: littering is bad. You can take it from me.

My cautionary tale begins with the careless placement of one coffee cup on a garbage-littered shelf at the 77th Street Station. What followed were handcuffs and a ride in the back of a police van to Traffic Division 34 headquarters in Coney Island.

“This is really something,” said the guy behind the Plexiglas, whose job it was to verify my identity. “They never used to bring people in for these kinds of things. But this is what happens when crime goes down and the number of officers on the streets goes up.

“The guy I just spoke with before you is in here because he missed the trash can,” Plexiglas-man added.

“Well, I didn’t exactly miss the trash can,” said Lateek White of Red Hook, who became my cellmate moments later.

“The can was overflowing and I threw my trash in it, but it bounced out and rolled on the ground.”

The police ran his record and found an outstanding warrant for failing to respond to a citation for speeding while his wife was in labor.

“I just lost track of that citation. That day was pretty crazy,” White said.

Better to face the wrath of the law than a pregnant woman any day.

When they ran my record, I didn’t have as good of an excuse. My warrant was from a citation I received for biking on the sidewalk late one summer night a few years ago. The summons didn’t have an amount on it, so I just pleaded not guilty.

It would have been a good idea to follow up on that one.

Now Lateek and I were sharing a cell with a semi-conscious guy sleeping on the floor and another guy who was describing what heroin tastes like when it must be swallowed.

“Bitter, man, real bitter,” the guy said. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

I didn’t dare venture close enough to the bathroom stall to see if the feces smeared on the wall were fresh or just a stain, but judging by the smell, it could have gone either way.

“Good to see they arrest white people, too,” Lateek said.

I told everyone that I was arrested for littering. And just like in that Arlo Guthrie song, they all moved away from me on the bench.

By the time we were finally marched upstairs to see the judge, nine hours had passed, and I was in no mood to defend myself against the allegation of littering.

“The state would be satisfied with eight hours of community service,” the prosecutor told the judge. I stood motionless next to my lawyer, my best friend of all of six minutes.

“Or we would be satisfied if Mr. Lysiak presents the court with an article on why it is wrong to litter. Your honor, Mr. Lysiak writes for The Brooklyn Paper.”

Damn that background-check guy! Damn the power of this newspaper!

But as an alternative to eight hours wearing an orange jumpsuit along the Shore Parkway, I jumped at it.

So what did I learn from my day in jail? One vital thing, kids: Littering is a horrible, horrible thing to do. Even if you don’t see a trash can, and even if the shelf at the 77th Street Station is filled with other cups, even if you feel that the Department of Sanitation should be doing a better job, it is not right — not at all — to leave your cup there.

Oh, and one more thing: Don’t ever swallow heroin. It tastes real bitter and can mess up your stomach.

Save the Green Church. Why?


March 10, 2007


By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

There is no question that it’s sad to think that Bay Ridge United Methodist’s final Mass will soon be said by a wrecking ball. It’s a beautiful building, and it’s no wonder so many people fought to save it.

Or is it? Sometimes I remind myself of that old Vietnam-era query, “What are we fighting for?”

Won’t anyone stand up for progress any more? Won’t anyone stand up and say that the neighborhood needs more housing?

Turns out, someone is: New York City Libertarian Party President Jim Lesczynski.

“If developers were simply freed from building regulations, and allowed to build as high as they would be willing to invest, there would be enough housing for anyone who wanted to live here, and then some,” he said.

Lesczynski has a point: The reason rents are so high in Bay Ridge is because too many people want to live in too little space. But the sky is limitless, Lesczynski said, “even in Bay Ridge.”

I’m not sure I agree that we should turn the neighborhood over to the developers (unless we eliminate all the subsidies they get, I suppose!), but I do agree with his larger point: You can’t stop progress.

I doubt anyone started a movement when the Ovington Family sold the farm on which the church sits. Like the church, it had been around for many generations and, presumably, many did not want to see it plowed under.

Imagine all the families that would never have had the opportunity to live in Bay Ridge if that farm was never paved over? Imagine all the new families that will have the chance to move to Ovington and Fourth avenues once the church gives way to condos.

Not everyone wants to imagine that.

“When you see these pieces of familiarity that have been part of your surroundings, you feel your whole life crumbling away,” said Victoria Hofmo, president of the Bay Ridge Conservancy. “It feels like a part of me is being demolished by that wrecking ball.”

I can understand that. I wish my hometown would have always stayed as I remembered it, but I understand that this is an unreasonable expectation.

An aide to Councilman Vince Gentile seemed genuinely confused that anyone would question the “why” of saving the Green Church.

“The Green Church?” said spokesman Eric Kuo. “Have you ever walked by that church? It is absolutely beautiful.”

I had walked by the church many times, but maybe I never took the time to really notice it, so on Monday I wandered over yet again and tried to appreciate the church.

I hate to say it, but I was not converted. I thought of all the new condos, and I thought about how my wife and I are trying to buy something, but can’t because the prices are in the stratosphere.

Now I wait for the lighting bolt.

The Kitchen Sink
Breaking meeting: A group of local preservationists will discuss the Methodist Church sale at an emergency meeting on Monday, March 12, at 7:30 pm at PS 170 (Sixth Avenue and 72nd Street). Call Victoria Hofmo at (718) 748-5950 for information. …

Medicare, Medican or Medican’t? Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) is inviting neighbors to an information session on Medicare on March 21, at 2 pm at the Shore Hill Senior Center. Call Gentile’s office at (718) 748-5200 to RSVP. …

The Bay Ridge Community Council is holding an amateur-only photo contest. All entries must be in by March 19 and an award ceremony will be held on March 27. For more information call (718) 748-7249. Pictures of KFC rats will not be accepted. …

Dunk Full of Nuts? Chock Full of Nuts on Third Avenue at 79th Street may be renamed Chock Full of Dunkin after one astute Yellow Hooker tipster discovered Dunkin Donuts pastries and cookies being sold there. When asked, the employees at the new coffee shop just smiled and nodded. …

Kali Browne has referred to her work to preserve thrift stores in Bay Ridge as “quite likely a fool’s errand,” and Yellow Hooker isn’t one to disagree. But the news that St. Vincent’s Thrift Shop on Fifth Avenue and 62nd Street will soon be moving to Queens may be reason enough to pay her a visit online at petitionspot.com. …

Nice donation: Caroline Erskine was honored last month for giving $2.1 million to Lutheran Healthcare. …

Consider this a sign of the Apocalypse: State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman Gentile sent out a joint press release for the first time since Yellow Hooker could remember. The issue that made these longtime cats and dogs kiss? The ongoing fight to get Bay Imaging to return patient records. In a related story: Palestine and Israel are merging to form Israeltine. …

Gentile’s “Hit the Books” tour will be at New Utrecht library, at 1743 86th St., from 1:30 to 5:30 pm on March 22. Let us all hope that the Councilman’s reading voice is better than his singing voice (see story below right).

Fight to save church needs Hail Mary


March 10, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper
Preservationists and residents are cursing an unholy plan to tear down one of Bay Ridge’s most distinctive churches to make room for luxury condos.

Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, which earned a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places with its distinctive sandstone clock tower, has graced the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ovington for more than a hundred years and now looks like it could be sold by mid-March, according to representatives at Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“The sale will be all wrapped up … by the middle of March,” said company spokeswoman Kari Neering.

The unique church’s listing price of $12 million makes it unlikely that any potential suitor would maintain the historic property as is, instead inviting in the much-feared wrecking ball.

The cost of maintaining the church has been an issue for years, the church said in a statement.

“We have spent an inordinate amount of money in repair attempts, to protect the people who pass through the property of the church,” the statement said.

The news of the impending sale came as quite a shock for officials under the impression that they still had a shot at preserving one of the few standing centurion churches.

“I truly believe the church has sold out this community,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge)

The Councilman joined the Bay Ridge Conservancy to negotiate a deal that would convert the property into 87 units of subsidized housing through the Con Ed Renaissance Housing Project.

The deal promised to give the church $300,000 in revenue annually.

At the time, the church’s Board of Trustees said the proposal “did not come very close to addressing our continuing problems of the deterioration of the building and the increasing cost of maintaining it.”

Still, Gentile and others felt they could intercede, so many were outraged when The Brooklyn Paper informed them that the building was about to be sold.

“They intentionally kept us out of the loop because they didn’t want to have to deal with the bad press,” said Victoria Hofmo, president of the Bay Ridge Conservancy. “You think I am happy? They have been screwing with us for a year and a half now and they didn’t even have the courtesy to let us know that they made the decision.”

Hofmo said she has spent years on preserving what locals call the “Green Church.”

“I have no doubt residents will have a fit if they see a wrecking ball crash through that church,” said Hofmo. “No one wants to see that happen.”

The current plan involves tearing down the church and a second building to make room for a 150-seat church and a six- or seven-story apartment building.

Not everyone is embracing the plan. Gentile is still looking for a way to preserve the Bay Ridge landmark.

“We haven’t given up the fight yet,” said his aid, Eric Kuo said. “We still have some cards to play.”

Vegas Diner owner smells a rat


March 10, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The owner of a Bensonhurst hot-spot believes he was shut down because of rats — the ones in government, not the ones in his restaurant.

The Vegas Diner was allowed to reopen on Sunday after being shut down after their lunch rush on Feb. 28 by an inspector from the Department of Health. But even with the doors now open, the owner remains convinced that the process was unfair.

“We have been opened for 25 years and our reputation has always been fantastic,” said owner Ted Vlamis. “This is a case of DOH officers from Manhattan trying to look like they are doing their job after what happened at the Taco Bell [in Manhattan].”

Vlamis was referring to the infamous rat race in a Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell, where vermin were videotaped just one day after health inspectors gave it a clean bill.

Vlamis believes that now the DOH is scurrying around, looking for any little technical morsel it can pin on restaurant owners.

“Nobody is perfect, and they did find some cigarette butts behind the ice machine in the basement, and three of our cutting boards had scratches,” said Vlamis. “But it is ridiculous that we were shut down.”

The popular Bensonhurst diner, famous for its Greek omelets and cheesecake, was ordered to close at 1 pm, when DOH inspectors claim to have discovered food stored at an improper temperature, evidence of smoking, and the absence of proper food registration.

“The Vegas Diner had some significant problems and needs to do things differently,” DOH spokesman Andrew Tucker said at the time.

It wasn’t the first time the diner — twice named the best in Brooklyn by the Daily News — was cited.

The Vegas was also cited for “improperly maintained equipment” and having “cold food held above 41 degrees,” last February, but those violations weren’t severe enough to shut the diner down.

Vlamis remains steadfast in defending the integrity of his diner — and in his claims that the DOH has been nothing but a plague to his customers.

“We have lost some business,” Vlamis said. “But trust me, they won’t stay away from the Vegas Diner for long.”

Sanitation versus Sonny


March 3, 2007


By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

It’s like an old Borscht Belt joke — only Sonny Soave wasn’t joking.

“My neighbor on 80th Street received a ticket for a dirty driveway,” Soave told me the other day.

So what’s the big deal?

“She doesn’t have a driveway!” said Soave.

But he and his neighbors aren’t laughing. Rather, they’re convinced that enforcement officers from the Department of Sanitation are writing random tickets and littering them all over his perfectly clean block.

The trouble began earlier this month when Soave spotted an officer parked across the street from his house, so he went over and knocked on the car window.

“I saw her writing tickets, without even getting out of her car,” Soave said. “So when I asked her if she was going to write my neighbor a ticket and she just smiled at me and said no.”

But Soave stuck around to see what would happen, and sure enough, the enforcement officer ticketed several people on his block, including his friendly neighbor.

This is the part where Soave’s disposition went from Sonny to not so sunny.

“The ticket stated that there were papers and candy bar wrappers in her driveway. Not only doesn’t she have a driveway, but there were no papers anywhere near her yard,” Soave said.

Soave has already taken the ticket to Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and plans to ask Community Board 10 for help.

The councilman wants answers.

“People are feeling victimized by the DOS,” said Gentile. “Instead of residents feeling a partnership with their local officials, they feel they are being harassed.”

Gentile also believes that some residents have even given up on Brooklyn altogether.

Sonny Soave isn’t going anywhere.

“Brooklyn is my home,” Soave said. “Tell the DOS that they are the ones who should pack up their things and go.”

I asked a DOS employee for his response to all the vitriol.

“The truth is, they usually won’t ticket you unless you give them a reason,” said my DOS source (call him Deep Trash) over an apple martini. “If you don’t complain or ask them to do much, they won’t ticket you. Just don’t piss them off.”

Officially, a DOS spokesman said that not only don’t ticket blitzes exist, but agents are only enforcing the rules already on the book.

“The Department of Sanitation does not engage in any so-called ticket blitzes,” agency spokesman Matthew Lipani said. “The dirty area violations can be written at any time, and encompass dirty backyards, areaways, courts, alleys and air shafts, which must be kept clean at all times.”

Regarding Sonny’s neighbor’s phantom driveway, Lipani said the issue of what constitutes a driveway is not for Sanitation to decide, but for the Environmental Control Board, which is where you go when you want to fight City Hall.

So how many government agencies does it take to decide what constitutes a driveway? Berle? Dangerfield? Anyone?

The Kitchen Sink
Pass the ribs, my friends! It looks like the sale of Griswold’s has hit a snag. Sources say the restaurant, scheduled to close to make room for a bank, will now be open through May. ... Those capitalist pigs: In response to the fast-growing Chinese population in southwest Brooklyn, Lutheran Medical Center is celebrating the “Year of the Pig,” by opening the area’s first Chinese health care unit in 2004, a specialized unit designed to cater to the Chinese community and provide a culturally sensitive health care environment. Ayn Rand would be proud. …

A waste-transfer station planned for Southwest Brooklyn may be headed for the dump. Local greens are dredging up debate and petitioning residents to halt the mini-dump on the shore of Gravesend Bay in Bensonhurst. …

March is Women’s History Month! On March 8, state Sen. Marty Golden will honor the following women at his favorite place, the Bay Ridge Manor: Iris Chiu; Andrea D’Emic, principal of St. Patrick’s School; Carmella Golino, from St. Finbar; Sandy Irrera; Virginia Lake from Bishop Kearney High School; and Maureen Neuringer of the Mapleton Kiwanis. And you thought women’s history month was all about mourning Anna Nicole Smith. …

Now here’s a party: Assemblyman William Colton will be joining the Purim celebration at the Shore Parkway Jewish Center on March 4th. The celebration starts at 1 pm and ends with a costume contest. Colton will then lead participants to a rally against a waste station, where the group will toss traditional Hamantaschen cookies at the Department of Sanitation reps. …

She lost her race for the Assembly, but Lucretia Regina-Potter (who is also manager of Bari Tile & Stone in Bensonhurst) was named interim Republican District Leader in the 49th District. Congrats, Lucretia. Now, about those dirty area tickets.

New block on the block


March 3, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The likely designation of Ovington Avenue, between Ridge and Third, to the National Register of Historic Places will make it Bay Ridge’s second historic district, joining Senator Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, which was designated in 2003.

And that sets up the inevitable debate: which block is Bay Ridge’s most distinguished?

It depends on what you want: quality or quantity?

“Senator Street is the only street in Bay Ridge with brownstones on both sides,” Eric Rouda, president of Senator Street’s 300 Block Association, said at a Community Board 10 meeting last year.

The distinction of being the only block in Bay Ridge with brownstones on both sides is one thing, but then again, Ovington has one distinction that not only sets it apart from the rest of Bay Ridge, but quite possibly all of New York.

“Ovington Avenue has a row of double-width brownstones, which I don’t think exists anywhere else in the city,” said Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy. “Not even on Senator Street.”

Me-ow!

Ovington Avenue will have to wait until at least April, when the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s review board considers the application to add it to the state register of historic places. National accredation could follow.

Choosing between two elegant blocks of Bay Ridge brownstones is akin to making a father choose his favorite child, Hofmo suggested.

“They are both so beautiful it would be hard to choose just one,” Hofmo said. “The irony of it all is that [historians believe that] both blocks were created by the same architect.”

One father, two equally gorgeous children, eh?

Gentile blasts R shuttle

March 3, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The MTA leaves Bay Ridge R-train riders stranded at rush hour by taking trains out of service, Councilman Vince Gentile fumed this week.

The Bay Ridge Democrat slammed the MTA for forcing many Bay Ridge–bound R passengers to transfer to a shuttle bus at 59th Street, where trains are taken out of service rather than continuing to 95th Street.

“The MTA has designated 59th Street as the final stop for a significant portion of Brooklyn-bound trains during peak hours,” Gentile said. “This is a major concern.

“The MTA is effectively telling riders that there is no rush hour in Bay Ridge,” added Gentile, who admitted that he did not know the exact percentage of trains that get taken out of service, but said he considered one to be one too many.

The councilman fired a letter to MTA President Lawrence Reuter on Feb. 7 demanding better service for Ridge residents, and has yet to receive a response.

An MTA spokesman said that some R trains are taken out of service at the 59th Street station, but said it only happens when the trains are coordinated.

“When the train is parked at 59th Street, it means that usually there is another train right behind it, so that passengers don’t have to wait,” said the spokesman, James Anyansi.

The Straphangers Campaign, a commuter advocacy group, agreed with Gentile’s overall assessment that the R train is underperforming.

They rank the R train in the lower third of all subway trains because it “arrives with regularity less often than the average line.” In addition, the R “breaks down more often than the average line,” the group said.

A passenger who makes the commute from Bay Ridge to Manhattan wasn’t as diplomatic in her evaluation.

“It’s slow as s—t,” said Lisa Tizzichillo. “The express is a total joke and the stop [at 59th Street] is a major inconvenience.

“The one word that comes to mind when I think of the R is, slow — slow coming, slow going, slow, slow, slow,” Tizzichillo added.

A new pooposal



By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Legislators have put their foot in the middle of a messy debate by backing Mayor Bloomberg’s call to increase fines for pooper-scooper violators.

After Hizzoner called for stiffer penalties on excrement scofflaws last week, the Assembly passed a bill that would do just that, raising the fine for repeat poop-perps from $100 to $250.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) is pushing the Senate version of the bill.

“It is about time someone deals with this,” said poop-weary 79th Street resident Maryanne Gouras. “Whatever deterrent is in place now is clearly not working, and I think increasing the fine is a terrific idea.”

Gouras believes the poop problem has only gotten worse in recent months, and often finds herself hosing down her walkway on a Saturday afternoon.

“It wasn’t like this a few years ago,” Gouras added.

Golden said he was happy to back the mayor’s bid to wipe out inconsiderate dog walkers. “It’s disgusting and unhealthy,” he added.

So, is all of Brooklyn going to the dogs?

Steve Debano, who works for Petato, a dog-walking and pet-sitting service catering to Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods, believes the answer is yes, but the problem varies in severity depending on geography.

“Park Slope isn’t so bad comparatively,” said Debano. “But parts of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene are unbelievably disgusting.”

The Golden bill is required because the state legislature must approve hikes to city-administered fines. If it passes the Senate, Gov. Spitzer is expected to sign it.

The city’s pooper-scooper law — which caused controversy when it was created in 1978, yet is widely heralded today — allows cops, sanitation workers and parks personnel to ticket dog owners who don’t pick up after their pet.

Thousands of tickets have been written since, peaking in 1999, when more than 2,100 summonses were handed out, according to the Department of Sanitation.

In 2005, the last year for which there are complete records, just 471 dog-walkers were nabbed.

Some dog lovers believe increasing the fine isn’t necessary, and that results can be better by increasing enforcement of the existing law.

“Dog owners are supportive of any and all dog-poop deterrents,” said Brad Aaron who runs the pet blog “Poop City.” “But increasing the fine won’t do any good if there isn’t enforcement.”

Debano agreed that enforcement is the key.

“Raising the fine would be a great thing, if anyone ever actually got fined for it,” Debano added.

Aaron struck on one point of universal consensus.

“One thing that everybody agrees on,” Aaron said. “No one wants to step in a pile of dog poop.”

Miss Polonia crosses the bridge

February 24, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

How many Polish people does it takes to hold a beauty pageant? Just three — if you can find three, that is.

That’s how many contestants participated in last year’s Miss Polonia of Southern Brooklyn pageant — and this year, organizers hope that the rapid decline in Brooklyn’s Polish population won’t spell the end of the venerable contest.

If so, Brooklyn stands a chance of not having one of its own don the coveted tiara and ride a float in the 70th annual Pulaski Day Parade this October in Manhattan.

“The Polish-American community remains strong, but the number of participants [in the pageant] is getting less and less,” said Helen Prusinowski, a Miss Polonia pageant organizer.

The Polish-American population in southern Brooklyn has shrunk so dramatically that finding eager contestants is more difficult than finding pierogies on 86th Street. Of course, it wasn’t always that way.

There’s been a strong Polish population in Brooklyn since 1890, when Poles set up a community along Third Avenue in Sunset Park — and there are still Polish meat stores, bakeries and supermarkets in the “Little Poland” community of Greenpoint. But the older Polish-American community in Bay Ridge has fled across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“They got priced out and moved to Staten Island,” said the owner of Polinica Restaurant at 7214 Third Ave. “When we opened, half my customers were Polish, and now it is down to less than half of that — and many of my Polish customers now make the trip from Staten Island.”

The recent Polish exodus has been so dramatic, that in the last few years Staten Island has begun ITS own Miss Polonia pageant.

To be eligible for the tiara, female contestants must be single, and have at least one parent of Polish descent.

If they get past that round, the young women face a panel of high-profile Polish-American judges, who rate them on their Polish heritage, future goals, how well they speak their native language, and, of course, beauty.

The winner can earn $300, plus the coveted seat on the float at the Oct. 7 Pulaski Parade. And she even gets the Miss Polonia tiara — for at least a little while.

“A few years ago when we had more support [of the business community], the winner got to keep the crown,” Prusinowki said. “But they are too expensive now, so they get to wear them for a little bit — but we need them back.”


The Miss Polonia pageant is April 22 at Sirico’s (8015 13th Ave.). Interested contestants should call Helen at (718) 853-9351.

Searching for Tony Manero


February 17, 2007


By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Is there anyone left in Brooklyn who recognizes the name Tony Manero?

“I know who Tony Manero is, but I might be the only one left in Bensonhurst,” said Howard Feuer, district manager of Community Board 10. “There is no ‘Little Italy’ left in Brooklyn — they all moved away.”

No Little Italy?

Feuer’s first year as district manager, 1977, was the year “Saturday Night Fever” opened across the county. While most of America probably thought John Travolta’s alter ego was a fictional character, Feuer remembers seeing plenty of Travolta wannabes cat-calling the ladies from their muscle cars up and down 86th Street.

“You wouldn’t believe the crowds just cruising — just like the movie,” Feuer added. “But now the demographic has changed.”

Brooklyn’s Little Italy has become littler and littler, morphing into a Very Little Italy before becoming the Micro-Mini-Italy of today. According to the 2000 census, the number of residents of Italian descent is down to 59,112 — half that of two decades ago.

Many of the original houses dating back over 90 years are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condos.

Top Grade Meat? It is now a 99 Cent store.

The holiday lights along 18th Avenue that used to shine from Thanksgiving to New Year’s were absent last year — and local officials said they may become a permanent ghost of Christmas past.

The lack of a cohesive trade association took the blame.

“Do I think that there will be a Little Italy in Bensonhurst 10 years from now?” said Dom Trunzo, who owns Trunzo’s, a popular Italian meat and cheese market at 6802 18th Ave. “I don’t think one exists today.”

How could a neighborhood that was once so vibrant that Hollywood set a seminal disco movie there be dying? Where did all the Italians go?

“Sometimes you don’t have to kill yourself in order to kill yourself,” Manero once said in all his wisdom.

In the case of Bensonhurst’s Italian culture, you don’t have to kill yourself at all — just find a bridge.

“Italian children grew up believing that life was better across the bridge in Staten Island and New Jersey,” Feuer said. “When the Italians moved out, other immigrants saw Bensonhurst as an opportunity and the neighborhood followed suit.”

So no one squeezed the Italians out of Bensonhurst. They just wanted to live somewhere else.

“It happened within the last 10 years,” said Trunzo. “The kids got married and the parents followed the kids right across the bridge.”

Bensonhurst is now a melting pot, home of Mexican restaurants, Russian jewelers, and the number of Chinese grocery stores has reached 15. What was once known as “Little Italy” could now just as easily be called Little Russia, Mexico, or China.

“Today it is easier to find a good sushi restaurant than an Italian one,” Feuer added.

The moment when California rolls outnumber calzones marks a safe time to begin to write the obituary for Brooklyn’s “Little Italy,” and along with it the memories of Tony Manero.

But don’t bury the past just yet.

“I’m looking for Tony Manero,” I said told the counterman at Lenny’s Pizza on 86th Street and 19th Avenue. He hardly looked up, pointing to series of framed pictures memorializing that famous scene where Manero visited for a double-decker slice.

“You gonna order something?” he asked, so I told him I wanted the double-decker.

Tony Manero — Stayin’ alive!

The Kitchen Sink
It’s the perfect gift for your next big fat Italian wedding! Bay Ridge’s George Guida has published his satirical poetry collection, “Low Italian.” Good luck, George. We can’t wait for the sequel, “High Italians”! …

62nd Precinct commander John Sprague wants to get the word out that a new program in New York allows anonymous tipsters who report illegal firearms to earn a $1,000 reward. …

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D–Coney Island) isn’t happy about the Department of Sanitation’s proposal to construct a garbage transfer station at the foot of Shore Parkway. Nadler is pushing for more testing to make sure that the required dredging doesn’t contaminate the water supply — an issue that Assemblyman William Colton (D-Bensonhurst) first championed. …

Mrs. Fiore’s pre-K class at DGK Holy Cross School was the scene of a heated hopscotch fiasco. According to witnesses, a shoving match occurred when two 3-year-old girls both thought it was their turn at the square. Both parties were given a five-minute time out and have since reconciled. …

How about a raise, boss? New three-bedroom luxury units on 92nd Street between Third and Fourth avenues start at $2,200 and offer decks, parking and two bathrooms including one Jacuzzi tub.

Bensonhurst volunteer ambulance in last-ditch effort to survive


February 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Service has put its building up for sale in a last-ditch effort to save the 30-year-old life-saving institution.

“The trouble began this year when insurance rates hit $35,000 annually,” said incoming President Ron Fedele. “Combine that with the rising cost of heat, electricity, and a significant drop in donations and we just couldn’t keep up.”

The service grounded its fleet of ambulances in December, and this week, Fedele announced that BVAS would sell its headquarters on New Utrecht Avenue in hope of reopening in a smaller, and cheaper, building.

“We are going to downsize to the point where we can be successful,” said Fedele.

Lives are, literally, at stake.

Because of its small coverage area, BVAS ambulances could typically shave two or three minutes off of the standard city response time, which explains why Bensonhurst residents often called BVAS’s hotline rather than 911.

“If you call 911, your average wait time is six to seven minutes [but] if you call BVAS, the average is three to four minutes. If you are having a heart attack or stroke, three minutes is a big deal,” Fedele said.

New board Chairman Frank Morano added that the sale of the building was a necessary “first step” to ensure the future of the organization.

Decreasing expenses is half the equation. Fedele said that if donations don’t pick up, no amount of downsizing could keep the service running.

“All the volunteer groups are having problems with fundraising,” added Eileen LaRuffa, who was with BVAS when it began in 1974.

Fedele sees a correlation between a drop in donations and the new Bensonhurst melting pot.

“One key goal will be to reach out to the new community and let them know that we need their support,” Fedele said.

Fedele added that he is also working closely with state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), who secured a $2,500 grant for BVAS last February.

“These volunteer ambulance services continue to provide excellent and compassionate care to the residents of our community in our times of most need,” Golden said at the time.

A Golden spokesman said the senator plans on continuing to help the beleaguered volunteers.

“If there is any indication that they need our support again this year they can count on it,” said Golden spokesmen John Quaglione.

Fedele said BVAS ambulances should be back saving lives within eight weeks — pending the sale of their current headquarters.

“We will be back better than ever,” added Chief of Operations, William Perry.

Anyone who wants to donate or volunteer should call (718) 837-5032.

Ovington nearing history

February 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A group of artists purchased the Ovington Farm in 1850 with visions of artistic immortality — now almost 150 years later they may finally have achieved it.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering a request by residents to create a historic district on Ovington Avenue between Third and Ridge avenues.

“This is one of the only streets in Bay Ridge with all brownstones,” said Susan Pulaski, president emeritus of the Bay Ridge Historical Society. “They already designated Senator Street, so we suggested that Ovington is also deserving.”

The proposal will be considered next month, Kathy Howe, a specialist with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told the Bay Ridge Historical Society, Community Board 10 and residents of the block at a Feb 13 meeting.

If passed, the designation would mean that homeowners would still be able to make changes to their buildings — but it would prevent the state from widening the road, which had been feared.

Landmarks designation also qualifies homeowners for tax reductions and loans if they promise not to change the signature brownstone fa├žade.

“In addition to preserving the historic beauty of Bay Ridge, it also increases the value of the property,” said Pulaski.

But the designation prevents any aspiring artists from painting a brownstone bright pink, like one free-spirited resident famously did in Park Slope.

New market for Dyker Heights


February 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A former Dyker Heights movie theater that the city hoped to turn into a school will instead become a grocery store — and local residents are overjoyed.

Great Wall Supermarket is scheduled to open its 10th city store this May in the defunct Fortway Theater, which is 14 blocks from the nearest supermarket.

“It’s about time,” said resident Eacliffe Simon. “I have had to walk all the way to Third Avenue for my groceries.”

The supermarket will not only be a cut above the average greengrocer (thanks to 20,000 square feet of space) but will also employ more than 50 people, its owner said.

“This is wonderful news,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who lives a few blocks from the site.

The School Construction Authority originally eyed the Fortway, on Fort Hamilton Parkway near 67th Street, and locals have been eager for more classroom space. But plans to build a school hit a snag when some residents raised concerns about the site’s proximity to a popular shooting range, which is in the basement of the adjoining building.

“Opening a new school remains a very high priority, and we will continue to look,” Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) at the announcement of the supermarket deal last Thursday. “It just didn’t work out this time.”

Borough President Markowitz and Great Wall owner Spirro Geroulanos were also on hand for the announcement.

Geroulanos said his store would distinguish itself by its fresh produce and high-quality offerings.

“People have been pleading me to bring a supermarket to this spot,” the Beep said. “It looks like Dyker Heights has become quite the dynamic shopping strip.”

Green warrior gets litter ticket!


February 17, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper


Don’t leave your house on a windy day — it could cost you $100.

A Bensonhurst environmental leader is fighting two summons she received for trash she says was blown on her front lawn — and her local community board wants answers from the Department of Sanitation.

Theresa Maresca, who helped found a Bensonhurst recycling program, among her other green works, said she received the two $100 citations for pieces of paper that were blown into her yard when she was not there.

“I go to bed crying at night over the irony that the environmentalist of the year is getting a slap in the face from the DOS,” said Maresca.

“I am the kind of woman who doesn’t walk by a piece of trash on the street without picking it up. I can’t express to you how upsetting this is.”

To show her commitment — and demonstrate what she called the absurdity of the Sanitation Department’s enforcement effort — Maresca attended a recent Community Board 11 meeting with a plastic bag filled with scraps of trash she claims were blown into her yard.

CB11 District Manager Howard Feuer said that Maresca’s is one of several complaints his office received from residents who believe that Sanitation agents unfairly ticketed them.

“We are aware of this and we are going to take care of it,” Feuer said.

The community board passed a resolution requesting that the DOS stop issuing summonses until the board has time to complete a review.

“They are just looking for more revenue,” added CB11 Chairman Bill Guarinello. “This is a clear abuse of the public.”

A Sanitation spokesperson would not comment for this story.

Meanwhile, Maresca will bring her bag of trash, her tears and her “Not guilty” plea to court next week to fight the charges.

Ragamuffin President has Supreme swear-in


February 10, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

It is no small leap from Bay Ridge Ragamuffin to Supreme Court Justice.

State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack recently traded in his gavel and relived his days as a Ragamuffin when he administered the oath of office to the new president of the Children’s Ragamuffin Parade Organization, Colleen Golden.

Justice Schack, a former Ragamuffin Grand Marshall, also swore in Secretary Arlene Keating, Treasurer Joseph Conly and standing, in for her mom, Vice President Kelly Rignola at the Bay Ridge Manor on Jan. 8.

“Every group under the sun has a parade in its honor, but the Ragamuffin Parade is the only parade that celebrates being a kid,” a Ragamuffin source told The Brooklyn Paper. “And to have the Justice on hand for the swearing in made it quite the event.”

The group’s next parade will be on Sept. 27.

Toll speeds up commute?

February 10, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A plan by Rep. Jerry Nadler to change the $9, one-way Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll into a $4.50 each-way tariff would increase congestion or speed up the commute — depending on who is behind the wheel.

“The one-way toll has, ironically, increased congestion on the Staten Island Expressway,” said a statement released by the Gowanus Community Stakeholder Group, a group that advocates smoother transportation in and through Brooklyn.

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann agreed that an extra toll could help speed things along.

“The idea is that less truck traffic would be moving from Staten Island into Brooklyn,” Beckmann said.

Currently, cars pay $9 to cross the bridge from Bay Ridge into Staten Island, and nothing to return.

Nadler’s goal is to snatch some toll money from the free-riders who cross the Verrazano into Brooklyn, and then drive into Manhattan and enter back into New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel, which is free in the westbound direction.

Community board 10 will soon meet to discuss the effects the toll, Beckmann.

Nadler (D–Coney Island) made similar two-way toll proposals in 1999, 2001 and 2003 and each time faced defeat. Not everyone is sold on the extra toll.

“If I am going to support this, I would like to first see a comprehensive plan about how the new toll would effect the redistribute of traffic throughout the borough,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge).

And at least one resident shared Golden’s concern.

“It just means another wait,” said Bay Ridge resident Mark Lillmars, a military recruiter who crosses the Verrazano to work in Staten Island. “Just one more line for me to sit and wait through as the government trolls take my money.”

If local officials determine that the delay caused by the two-way toll is offset by a decrease in truck traffic, Nadler’s double vision may finally become a reality.

But what it means is still remains a mystery.

“Is this a good thing for Bay Ridge?” asked Golden. “The jury is still out.”

A Valentine from the Mayor


February 10, 2007


By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

It is a Yellow Hooker tradition to give Mrs. Yellow Hooker marshmallow heart-shaped Peeps for Valentine’s Day.

“After all,” I always tell her, “Valentine’s Day is only a creation of the greeting card industry — while the marshmallow peep is a creation of pure confectionary sugar genius!”

Then she smiles. Then I smile. Who needs fancy dinners or diamonds when one company in Pennsylvania has already invented the perfect expression of love — all for 33 cents?

This display of Yellow Hooker romanticism has given the critics ammunition. It is not uncommon for some locals to search for an adjective that combines the words Cupid with Scrooge. Luckily, neither “cooge” nor “scrupid” rolls easily off the tongue, but when it does, I just let it roll right in one ear and right out the other — that is until the Mayor himself called me out.

No disrespect to Mayor Bloomberg, but locals know that the real mayor of Bay Ridge is nowhere near Gracie Mansion — his throne is in front 79th and Third Avenue.

“Everyone calls me ‘the Mayor of Bay Ridge’ because I know more people and shake more hands than any politician you will ever meet,” the Mayor, Walter Short, said.

As a former bar owner back in the days when Bay Ridge was known as Bar Ridge, the Mayor has developed into an iconic character who loves two things; his wife of 50 years and his neighborhood of longer.

The Mayor says he knows more than 900 locals by first name. Yellow Hooker believes him. On any given day, the Mayor can be found sitting in front of Millennium Carpet, the Third Avenue store he owns, talking to random passers-by, and passing out free jokes and unsolicited advice. A lot of unsolicited advice.

“It just isn’t right,” the Mayor told me last February 14. “With all that she puts up with from you, this lady deserves more than stale marshmallows — she deserves her face on Rushmore.”

Stale marshmallows?

Despite that easily ignored advice, I sought out the Mayor this year, but couldn’t find him at his usual haunts.

When I did catch up with him, he told me his wife Helen had had a sudden heart attack. Fine one moment, fighting for her life the next.

“It is hard for me to breathe right now,” he said. “You just never expect that moment to come when you see everything you ever loved in your life just lying there — not knowing if the next breath she takes will be her last.”

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him.

“Go home and give your lady a hug, and don’t let go,” Hizzoner told me.

This time, I took the Mayor’s advice.

Valentine’s Day has arrived — and 33 cents never felt so cheap.

The Kitchen Sink
Offshore banking? Relax, they are just sprucing the place up. Offshore Restaurant, at 7822 Third Ave.. will close for renovations from Feb. 12 – 23. What are they going to renovate? “We are going to surprise you,” the manager answered. …

Assemblyman William Colton (D–Bensonhurst) has introduced legislation that holds electronic equipment makers responsible for the recycling of their products. No word yet on whether legislation will be introduced that requires producers of redundant press releases to be held accountable for the mess of papers littering my desk. …

Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) nominated local community leader — and Conservative Party playa — Fran Vella-Marrone for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 Environmental Quality Award for her role in improving conditions at the Owl’s Head Park treatment plant. Now, if conditions would only improve, that would be something! …

Brooklyn-based Boy Scout Troop 20 will observe its 97th birthday on Feb 11 at the New Utrecht Reformed Church in Bensonhurst. The troop, which is the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout unit in the country, recently pinned a prestigious honorary Eagle Scout emblem on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Can Don Rumsfeld say that? …

One “Fun Fact” on state Sen. Marty Golden’s Senate Kids Web site — “Keys mysteriously jingle, doors open on their own, and an unusual wind sweeps by, but no window is open. Sounds like a haunted house, right? Wrong! It’s the fifth floor of the State Capitol in Albany, New York. Strange events such as these have been reported over the years, and some actually believe the Capitol has its very own ghost. One popular theory identifies [him] as Sam Abbott, a 78-year-old night watchman who died in a fire that devastated the Capitol on March 28, 1911.” Having fun, kids? …

Throw the books at them! Happy Pets on Fourth Avenue and 99th Street is holding a book drive for shelter animals. Just drop off your used books and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards saving unloved Fidos out there.

Plaque honors hero at Bensonhurst precincthouse


February 3, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
for The Brooklyn Paper

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was on hand, but the real hero was on the wall.

Det. Richard DeGaetano, 47, a 21-year veteran who died in July from stomach cancer, was honored with the unveiling of a memorial plaque at his old stomping grounds, Bensonhurst’s 62nd Precinct.

On Jan. 13, 1992, DeGaetano was shot in the head trying to intervene in a landlord-tenant dispute in Bensonhurst. He not only survived the shot that left him blind in his right eye, but remained on active duty in the police Self-Support Unit.

DeGaetano was not just a hero and a cop’s cop, but he was also the face of the NYPD for a few years in the early 1990s, thanks to a recruitment campaign, “The Beat Cop is Back,” that featured him.

After the plaque was unveiled, the tributes flowed.

“Now they will always remember how one beat cop managed to bring the entire community together,” said Community Board 11 District Manager Howard Feuer. “It says something real nice about Det. Richard DeGaetano.”

Of butchers, bankers and candlestick makers


February 3, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
for The Brooklyn Paper

Good help is hard to find — especially when you own a butcher shop.

The owners of Frank and Eddie’s, a popular meat market at 7502 Third Ave., found that out after putting a “Butcher Wanted” sign in the window and getting very few applicants.

Finding a trained professional is apparently about as easy as finding good ribs in Bay Ridge now that Griswold’s is closed.

“In the 1960s, there used to be a butcher on every block, but today there is only a handful,” said manager Anthony Perricone. “Today, people don’t cook as much and are on the go.”

The good news is that Perricone — who started as a delivery boy at age 12 and now runs the deli that bares his uncle’s names — thinks he’s found the secret of survival in the era of the big supermarket: diversify.

“You have to provide some ready-made meals and catering to keep with the times,” Perricone said.

But having some old-fashioned custom cuts doesn’t hurt sales either.

“I get my meats here because I trust their meat,” said longtime customer Angela Hattersly. “And the grocery story doesn’t de-bone the chicken for me.”

Perricone would love to pass down his smock — and his skills — to a future generation of butchers, but he’s not sure such a thing will exist when he’s ready to hang up the boning knife.

“In 25 years I don’t think there will be any real butchers left in Bay Ridge,” Perricone said. “Except for Frankie and Eddie’s of course. We aren’t about to become another bank.”

86th Street rehab back on track


February 3, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
for The Brooklyn Paper

The 86th Street R train station will get a new staircase, safer and wider entrances, a nifty new tile job and a fresh coat of paint, thanks to $7 million in transit funding secured by local officials.

Braving the coldest day of the year last week, Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) journeyed to the station to celebrate their role in securing the cash.

“I am proud to have made good on my promise to … make much-needed repairs and enhancements [to the station],” said Fossella.

At the 90-year-old station, R-train riders currently experience conditions ranging from unappealing — broken wall and floor tiles and chipped paint on the stairs — to dangerous — the slip-preventing tread on staircases has deteriorated and a section of the staircase is crumbling.

The long-overdue makeover includes a new staircase at the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue at 86th Street, plus the replacement of the worn tread, broken tiles, and a new paint job for the risers.

“It’s pretty gross in here — especially compared to some of the stations in Manhattan,” said commuter Rachel Drupaul. “I always wondered why some stations got the cash over the others.”

Fossella said he locked in $6.68 million in federal cash, while Golden said he secured $2 million in Albany. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will contribute the remaining $6 million to rebuild the station.

The repair work will begin next year and be completed by spring, 2010, the MTA said.

The station is in the top-third of busiest stations in the New York City and is the 24th busiest of Brooklyn’s 139 stations.

Securing funds was an item on Fossella’s to-do list for years — but even though the announcement was years in the making, the pols kept it short, owing to the blustery conditions (among other things).

“This is the coldest day we’ve had here in two years,” a bundled-up Golden said with a laugh. “And I have a children’s pizza party to get to, so let’s get this moving along.”

The soothsayers of Bay Ridge


February 3, 2007
Matthew Lysiak
for The Brooklyn Paper

Yellow Hooker’s crystal ball sees an empty wallet. How is it that so many longstanding Bay Ridge merchants are biting the dust while the only industry besides banks that seems to persevere is the fortune-teller?

It appears to be damn-near supernatural, but I counted seven soothsayers on a walk up and down Third and Fifth avenues. This means Bay Ridge has four more mystics than bookstores, seven more mystics than strip clubs (sorry, Club Shadows, but you have proven to be a poor excuse for a strip club) and only a 13,309 fewer mystics than banks.

Believers and non-believers can all agree on one issue — these tea-leaf readers know how to sustain a viable business. The greater question is… bhow?

Curses? Voodoo? Clarence Norman? (All three?)

To help answer this question, I visited two spiritual advisors within a stone’s throw of Yellow Hook Central to discover their secret — and maybe pass it along to the owners of the Tiffany Diner or Griswold’s (to paraphrase Bogie, we’ll always have ribs).

Unfortunately, my experiment was almost as short-lived as my $10-per-gypsy-budget. The spiritual advisor on Third and 83rd wanted $50 for a tarot reading, and Ellie Crystal, who may be the most well-known fortune teller in all of New York, charges $120 for an hour of saying sooth.

I called three other Bay Ridge psychics, and the least expensive was a lady who convinced me that even at her price — $25 — the reading would be useless.

Not being able to get rid of money was not a problem I expected to have in Bay Ridge.

I related the story to one friend who did work in the late 1980s as a fortune-teller for a Psychic Friends-like network, and he seemed equally confused.

“Something doesn’t sound right,” he said. “The first rule of the business is you never let a customer walk.”

Then a divine revelation hit me smack in the middle of my third eye: Could so many locals being willing to chalk up $120 for the flip of a few cards be an indication that a cloud of apprehension has settled over Bay Ridge?

On Sept. 11, 2001 I was working at a Barnes and Noble in Boston and was stunned to see the first books coming off the shelves after the dust settled weren’t books on foreign policy — but on all-too-foreign prophesy.

Could Bay Ridge be in the midst of turbulent times, causing people to reach for the nearest soothsayer?

“Yes, that is absolutely true,” Crystal told me. “It isn’t just Bay Ridge, the whole world is being shaken by its foundation and people are looking for something to hold on to.”

The world is shaking?

Yellow Hooker holds the belief that life has never been better and that the world is an inherently good place. But whenever I talk to anyone else, I realize this opinion is decidedly the minority one.

Maybe Bay Ridge has grown weary of the war. Maybe it’s the stench from Owls Head or the closing of Tiffany Diner that is driving people in search spiritual advice. Maybe the ban on trans-fats was the final straw that broke the locals’ backs.

Hard to say what did it, but something was done, and now locals are opening up their wallets to have their auras read.

“People are looking for the truth,” said Crystal, who has published books on the subject.

If only the truth was more budget-friendly.

The Kitchen Sink
The new Chock Full of Nuts has finally opened on Third Avenue and 79th Street — and The Stoop already gives thumbs up for the peanut butter cup cookies. Starbucks, meanwhile, may have gotten rid of the trans-fats from their pastries, but our sole issue is taste, so we’re staying with the red velvet treats from the Little Cupcake Bakeshop. …

A new bar/grill called Yellow Hook (no relation) plans to open shortly on Third Avenue in the old Lento’s space. A good name? Well, Bay Ridge was originally called Yellow Hook — until a yellow fever epidemic. …

State Sen. Marty Golden wasn’t lying at the ceremony for the 86th Street subway renovation when he said he had to go to a pizza party. Golden did indeed host such an affair for the PS 207 Glee Club, which had performed at his swearing-in. …

Rep. Vito Fossella is gunning for Rudy Giuliani in the prematurely crowded 2008 race for the White House. The Bay Ridge Friend of W is already one of Rudy’s “congressional liaisons.” Would Guiliani’s beloved “broken windows” policy work in Baghdad? …

Assemblyman Bill Colton invited us the other day to hear him “discuss his experience in Israel!” (their exclamation mark, not ours) at the Jewish Community House on Bay Parkway. We’d love to see the slides!

Dueling noses: Vinnie and Vito go at it over Owls Head


January 27, 2007
Dueling noses: Vinnie and Vito go at it over Owls Head
By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Councilman Vince Gentile and Rep. Vito Fossella haven’t always seen things eye to eye — and now you can add their noses into the equation.

While Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) is still fuming about the city’s slow response to the stink at the Owls Head sewage treatment plant, Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) said the mayor and his Department of Environmental Protection have come out of the nasty fight smelling like roses.

“The DEP has been less than forthright about the status of the plant,” Gentile told the mayor in a Jan. 16 letter. “They have failed in their commitment to the Bay Ridge community.”

Gentile also questioned Hizzoner’s commitment to dealing with the odor problem “in a timely manner.”

“As it currently stands, the [smell-fixing work] will not be completed until 2010, due, in part, to the DEP having fallen off its initial schedule,” Gentile wrote. “The residents in my district have been dealing with the odor problem … for many years now.”

But in politically fractured Bay Ridge, there are two sides to every story — and Fossella had his.

“I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for agreeing to take immediate action to resolve this problem,” Fossella said in a press release this week.

Fossella did urge the DEP to 0p the installation of the remaining seven of nine sewage tank covers, but still commended Bloomberg and the DEP “for keeping its promise to Bay Ridge to clear the air from Owls Head.”

He claimed “recent action” by DEP would “help contain the foul odors this spring and summer.”

Taken together, it appears that Bloomberg is breaking his commitments and acting negligently while keeping his promises and acting quickly at the same time.

Thank goodness for the two-party system.

Blog smackdown in Ridge

January 27, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Two rival Bay Ridge blogs reached the one-million-hit landmark this month — and promptly started attacking each other.

The online chat forums — bayridge. com and bayridgetalk.com — just can’t seem to get along.

It all started when John Malloy got kicked off bayridge.com a few times last summer — “for no reason at all,” he claims.

“I wanted to participate in a local online forum and this guy [the site’s administrator] was just banning anyone he didn’t like,” said Malloy, who retaliated by starting bayridgetalk.com and posting a new cyberspace Bill of Rights. That was when the cyber-fur started to fly.

“John, it will NOT work,” the administrator from bayridge.com posted at the time. “I can’t wait to say I told you so (I am one of those). So if [the rest of] you want to curse your ass off, call each other names, use ethnic slurs, just head on over there and enjoy, folks.”

But eight months later, it looks like both sites are here to stay — and one local official has taken notice.

“I like to check both sites,” Community Board 10 District Manage Josephine Beckmann said. “That’s where I first heard about the bed-bug epidemic.”

Club Shadows decries Gentile “witch hunt”

January 27, 2007
By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A lawyer for the controversial Club Shadows went on the offensive this week, calling local officials’ attempt to shut down the Third Avenue nightspot a “witch hunt” and vowing to beat them when the club’s case comes before state officials.

“This is a witch hunt and neighborhood hysteria brought about by misinformed group of churchgoers who mistakenly thought Shadows was a strip club, and perpetuated by a politician who only knows how to pander,” said William Spanakos, the lawyer.

The “politician” in this story is Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who unfairly targeted Club Shadows after mistakenly thinking it was going to open as a strip club, Spanakos said.

State Liquor Authority inspectors did find flies in several booze bottles at Club Shadows’ opening in November.

“What happened [was] that the rumors of the strippers turned out to be false and this pandering Gentile is still trying to cash in,” Spanakos said. “He brought the SLA in, they inspected every bottle in our place and find a few flies.

“Are you kidding me?” Spanakos added. “Do you know how many bottles in Bay Ridge have one or two flies? This man is a joke.”

Joke or no joke, the charges still stand.

“These are serious charges and he is going to have to answer to community,” Gentile told The Brooklyn Paper.

The club remains at risk of losing its liquor license pending the outcome of the charges, said SLA spokesman Bill Crowley.

“They have two real options,” Crowley said. “They could make a plea agreement or go before a judge.”

Club Shadows got on community radar screens only after sign featuring a curvy silhouette and the words “exotic dancers” appeared on the club, which is on Third Avenue between 90th and 91st streets.

But the strippers never materialized, and owner Joseph Domovsky insisted it was only a misunderstanding. But Gentile showed up at the opening with SLA officers, who issued the famous fly citation.

A more serious charge of not having a properly registered liquor license is also pending.

“Not having [it] could possibly result in revoking the license,” Crowley added.

Spanakos countered: “More witch hunts. There is a valid license on the premises, but it is in transition and we have submitted a name change to abide by the law.

“We are exercising our rights with the SLA,” Spanakos added.

It is you newspaper people, who are in love with sensational stories and splash front pages with nonsense, that have made this a story — and that pandering Gentile is quick to follow.”

Banksteria in Bay Ridge


January 27, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bay Ridge is in the grip of Banksteria. Will “Restaurant Row” be replaced by endless blocks of ATMs and neon signs advertising the newest promotional CD rates?

To residents caught up in “Banksteria,” the answer is, of course, yes! To we rational members of the community, the whole thing is provoking a gentle yawn and a polite smile.

Thrown into the scrapheap of Bay Ridge past — somewhere between Lento’s thin crust pizza and “Bridal Row” — is the latest news that is stoking the flames of “Banksteria”: Tiffany Diner is closing to become a bank.

A Bay Ridge mainstay at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 99th Street since 1968, the diner will soon serve its last milkshake. Commerce Bank, which holds a long term lease on the property, plans to tear it down and open a new branch in its place.

That’s the same Commerce Bank that took over Kleinfelds’ space, by the way (Banksteria!).

Like June in the famous song from “Carousel,” banks are indeed busting out all over — especially around 86th Street, where one block has six banks.

“All of these banks are taking over Bay Ridge,” said a small business owner on Third Avenue. “I’m telling you, in 10 years, you will be walking down these streets and everything you know will be gone and you will see nothing but banks.”

Everything I know will be gone? Nothing but banks?

Recent media accounts have followed the same story line: Bay Ridge’s innocence is being stolen by the nameless, faceless cooperate blob that swallows Moms and Pops indiscriminately in pursuit of profit.

“I don’t know what their global plans are,” said Happy Pets owner and Tiffany’s Diner neighbor Jason. “But we certainly don’t need a bank on every block.”

But Yellow Hooker has to ask: If the banks are coming, couldn’t it possibly be because, um, we need banks?

Indeed, if the fear on the street was backed up by reality, wouldn’t banks be running from — not to — our community? How could such a contradiction exist?

“People just like to complain, but without all these banks competing, we would be screwed by high fees,” said local advocate and community board member Allen Bortnick.

“Besides, Commerce Bank is open seven days a week — that means Sunday, too.”

So as far as I was concerned, “Banksteria” had been debunked.

Then I heard the news: Griswold’s had been sold to become — that’s right, you guessed it — a BANK!

“We are having an engineer come by [this week] to look the place over — and after the Super Bowl that should be it,” said my source inside the restaurant.

In a word: “Nooooooooooooooo!” No more Friday night rib dates! No more $11.99 brunch deals on Sunday!

This isn’t mere Banksteria. This is the real thing!

The Kitchen Sink
Thank goodness we have state Sen. Marty Golden protecting the Verrazano Bridge from would-be parachutists. One day after a judge freed a guy who jumped off the Empire State Building, Golden announced a bill to close a legal loophole that seemed to allow for such jumping. …

Jabar Albihani was honored by CB 10 for saving a young neighbor having a seizure. Albrihani was so good, he could even save Pat Russo’s political future, one local wag joked. …

Rep. Nydia Velazquez secured $550,000 for Lutheran Medical Center’s neo-natal care unit. Wow, that’s almost half of the golden parachute secured by another hospital’s outgoing CEO! …

Strange bedfellows? The Islamic Society of Bay Ridge and the International Socialist Organization will be bussing protesters to Washington to protest the war in Iraq and the “occupation of Palestine” on Jan. 27. No word on whether the commies will fund a separate bus trip to protest the notion that a “Socialist” organization would charge $35 to get to D.C. …

Bob Costas — beloved HBO sportscaster, son of Queens, short yet genial man — won Xaverian High School’s coveted Joe DiMaggio award last week for his commitment to America’s children. No, he isn’t announcing Little League games. He’s raised millions for children’s health. …

Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, a great friend of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one of the last people to see him alive, dropped by Poly Prep Country Day School for a King Day celebration last week. …

Screech! Our friends at Massey Knakal (friends? Hey, how about finding us a house we can afford!) tell us that the guy who owns the land underneath Giuffre Hyundai and Mazda of Bay Ridge is selling the property right out from under the car dealer. The 10,000-square-foot lot — between Fourth and Fifth avenues — is on sale for a cool $3 million. Giuffre’s lease runs through 2014. Can you say, “Buyout”?

Victory to Dyker Heights: We’re not dead yet!

January 20, 2007

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bring them your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (of asthma) — Victory Memorial Hospital is not dead yet.

Sure, the Dyker Heights institution declared bankruptcy and has been recommended for closure by a state commission, but hospital officials and their allies want everyone to know that Victory is still at hand.

“I have an important announcement to make,” Community Board 11 Chairman William Guarinello said to open a meeting last Tuesday night. “Victory is alive — I can’t say they are doing well — but they are moving in that direction [of doing well] and they need our support.”

Guarinello waxed poetic about the hospital.

“You can ask the ambulance drivers and you can ask the nursing staff. Believe me, they will tell you that the hospital is still running.”

Victory’s bankruptcy — and subsequent closure recommendation — came after reports that the financially strapped hospital gave a huge severance package to a departing executive.

At the time, a spokesman for the 254-bed hospital said there would be no changes in patient care at Victory — but all the naysaying about the hospital’s finances and future has made some patients weary and has resulted in less business.

“There has been a noticeable decline in patients,” said hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Neglia. “People think we are closed and we have been losing patients — so get the word out.”

Community Board 11 District Manager Howard Feuer did just that, telling everyone who would listen about his own personal experience at Victory.

“I had eye surgery there recently,” Feuer said, “and I haven’t been fitted for a Seeing Eye dog yet!”

Residents and elected officials have been using all available political channels to keep the hospital open, but Guarinello reminded them that they still needed to vote with their feet.

“If you want to see it closed,” Guarinello said. “Don’t go, and it will be.”

Hey, Bay Ridge: Fight for a real lifesaver!



January 20, 2007
By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Our local elected officials have been demanding, “Save Victory Memorial!” But Yellow Hooker wants to know, why stop with the beleaguered hospital?
When Gourmet Grill, a health food restaurant at 7812 Third Ave., closed earlier this week, there weren’t any press conferences by local politicians trying to save the jobs of a dozen or so employees.

Gourmet Grill’s motto was “Eat Smart, Eat Healthy,” and it prided itself in serving food that both tasted great and was good for you. Trans-fats? Gourmet Grill didn’t even own a fryer. This was a place that sold enough “Ginseng Fling” power smoothies and bison burgers to make a Williamsburg hipster blush.

When I saw them hauling their patented “Chicken Lite” open-flame grill machine onto Third Avenue last Saturday, I began to ask myself why Victory deserved so many would-be saviors, yet no one was rallying for Gourmet Grill — which has kept me under 200 pounds (give or take a few) for years.

Certainly, a case could be made that this fledgling health food restaurant makes a far greater contribution to the well-being of Bay Ridge than Victory. Healthy eating is, after all, the first line of defense against so many diseases and ailments that later get treated, for better or worse, at Victory.

And even some activists admit that Bay Ridge isn’t going to miss Victory anyway: “We have two excellent hospitals, Lutheran Medical Center and Maimonides,” area leader Peter Killen told The Brooklyn Paper recently.

On some level, I blame myself: I never saw Gourmet Grill’s impending closure coming. Perhaps I should’ve noticed that the place was never that crowded, or that my fellow Ridgites were reluctant to plunk down $13.25 for veal parmigiana.

But it’s not as if Gourmet Grill gave its short-order cook a $1.1-million golden parachute like Victory’s departing CEO got (despite the fact that the hospital was going broke).

Why should Victory’s incompetence should be rewarded when honest Bay Ridge businesses tank everyday for no reason other than the public’s inability to see a good thing when it’s grilling on a no-added-fat machine right in front of them?

“What can I say?” one former Gourmet Grill employee told me. “The ‘Chicken Lite’ thing never caught on like we thought it would.”

At least Gourmet Grill took its best shot. Unlike Victory’s managers, the people behind the “Chicken Lite” grill can walk away with dignity.

The Kitchen Sink
See a pothole? State Sen. Marty Golden wants you to call his office and report it. No, really. He’s been giving out the number — (718) 238-6044 — to everyone. …

Looking for a haircut? The word is that Chad at Spin on Third Avenue and 78th Street gives the best cut in Bay Ridge — but you’d better be prepared to stand on line for him. …

Hey Babies “R” Us! How about getting rid of that ridiculous 25-cent shopping-cart fee (a neatness tax?) at your Bensonhurst store? The other day, a lady with two kids couldn’t get the machine to unlock the cart, forcing her to wait 30 minutes for a store employee to help her …

Bay Ridge’s Andrew Gerardi and his band “The AGB” are trying to gain fame — for their pursuit of fame. They’re filming a pilot about a Brooklyn band trying to make it big. The filming is structured as a countdown to the band’s concert on Jan. 20 at Crash Mansion in Manhattan. …

While rumors of Griswold’s death abound, the owner of the Third Avenue pub says he’s staying open. Amen, and pass the ribs! …

Rep. Vito Fossella, one of the president’s staunchest New York allies, is now urging the now-Democratic Congress to distribute Homeland Security funds based only on risk. Here’s hoping the Democrats listen to Fossella more than his own party did when it was in power. …

Kevin Carroll is the new president of the liberal group, Brooklyn Democrats for Change. He beat Scott Klein by just two votes out of 80 cast. Recount! …

“Don’t feed the fish. Don’t tap on the glass. Don’t put your hand in the tank,” says a handmade sign taped to a six-foot long aquarium that stands guard at meetings held at Community Board 11’s Bensonhurst offices. The sign is up for good reason: four imposing foot-long pacus fish, a relative of the piranha, live in the aquarium. Those devils have sharper teeth than CB11 District Manager Howard Feuer. …

He’s fought higher taxes and now he’ll help you do them. Golden said this week that his office will again provide free basic tax preparation this year. It’s the eighth year that Golden has offered the service at his office, which is at 7403 Fifth Ave. To get the financial help, call (718) 238-6044 for an appointment for a timeslot on any Thursday night or Saturday morning between Feb. 1 and April 14. Oh, and one other thing: The program is only available to residents of Golden’s district who earn less than $30,000.

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!

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