Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getting something to hum about

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

It’s the end of April and that means only one thing in Bay Ridge: it’s time for the return of the humming toadfish.

The mysterious buzzing sound that kept half of Bay Ridge awake last year hasn’t returned — yet — but mating season has only just begun.

Bay Ridge’s close encounter of the frog kind started in April, 2005, when chiropractor Concetta Butera noticed “this awful noise.”

The hum was so loud that some residents blamed passing trains, the Owls Head sewage treatment plant, and even UFOs — but the source of the sound remained a mystery by the time the hum fell silent that October.

Last April, the mysterious humming sound was back, and baffling residents anew.

As complaints mounted, local officials again attempted to discover the source. Owls Head was the most-likely suspect — given the location and the sound itself — but the Department of Environmental Protection quickly ruled itself out after an investigation. Everyone was stumped.

Clearly, no one watches the Discovery Channel. In the early 1980s, a mysterious humming noise in a California town created a “Sleepless in Sausalito” situation — but, as the Discovery Channel reported, fish biologists eventually tracked the sound to male toadfish making a racket to find a mate.

The oyster toadfish has been described as “homely” for its large protruding eyes, broad mouth, and flesh-like whiskers surrounding a short snout. To attract a mate, it produces a vocalization that some liken to a “foghorn.”

The toadfish’s spawning season extends from April to October, which corresponds to the time when residents in Bay Ridge have reported hearing the mysterious noise. The male locates a private nesting area (often using old tin cans or decayed wood lying on the bay bottom (how romantic), and then calls out in his low, mournful “foghorn” to spawning females.

Reports of the toadfish mating season last year ignited a fish frenzy.

“The toadfish is Bay Ridge’s story of the century,” said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “Fox News was even here.”

Like most stories of the century, though it lasted about two weeks. But unlike annoyed residents of Bay Ridge, their Sausalito counterparts adopted the oyster toadfish.

Those crazy Californians celebrated their aquatic neighbors with a festival on the third Tuesday of June, when the fish really begin mating.

“We had a big festival to honor the toadfish with people dressing up as that ugly fish and a big parade marching down the street back,” said Sausalitian Stan Barbarich.

But, alas, interest died down and the festival stopped humming after just three years.

Barbarich described the sound as an “almost mechanical vibration hum, not like any animal you could imagine.”

And the toadfish is virtually impossible to catch because it often buries itself in the mud during the day, and prefers to come out at night.

“No one ever sees them, and I never heard of anyone catching one,” said Barbarich.

Barbarich said it would be a shame if Bay Ridge never had the opportunity to celebrate its humming fish.

“I highly recommend the festival,” he said. “People really love something this different.”

Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) said he would support the idea, though the longtime Owls Head skeptic suggested that he wasn’t convinced that the toadfish is the root of the local hum.

“If it is the toadfish, we think a festival would be a great idea,” said a Gentile aide. “It would bring more of that small-town feel to our community.”

The aide questioned whether Gentile would wear a toadfish costume.

Bee-lieve it! Keeper: Cellphones killing honeymakers

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Honeybees are dying all over the country — and one Brooklyn beekeeper thinks that cellphones are the culprit!

Brooklyn bee-maven David Graves, who sells his high-end “Rooftop” brand honey at the Union Square Farmers Market, is sounding the alarm about the possible cause of the crisis that has claimed the lives of billions of bees in 24 states.

“Every year, more and more bees are just disappearing and I am real concerned that cellphones are messing with their ability to find their way,” said the beekeeper.

Graves said he has about a dozen rooftop hives throughout the boroughs, with one on Bergen Street in Brooklyn, and claims to have made much of his honey on the rooftops of Bay Ridge (though he likes to keep the exact locations secret).

Graves says the apiary “die-off” is playing havoc with the production of honey and other products from the hive.

“I have had to raise the price of my honey this year to $15 for a half-pound,” Graves said. “I am anticipating having a bad year and have already put the order in for 30 packages of honeybees from South Carolina.”

More than half-a-billion bee colonies have been affected by a mysterious bee die-off — and more and more, people think this “colony collapse disorder” is due to radiation from mobile phones and the antennae that help you reach out and touch someone.

How important is this bee-tastrophe? Well, as Einstein once said, “If honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.” So start spreading the news: The end is near! (Just don’t spread it with a cellphone.)

“Something is happening to the number of bee hives in New York — and studies have shown that bees get disoriented from cellphones,” said Timothy McCabe, the curator of Entomology at the New York State Museum.

A study found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby, though its unclear what happens when the phone or the tower is a bit further away, said McCabe.

“The study shows that if you put the phone very close to the hive it affects their ability to communicate,” McCabe said. “But the effect on the bees still needs further study in terms of greater distances from the cellphones.”

Graves, whose rooftop bees are especially vulnerable due to their high location and close proximity to cell phone towers, believes the theory may be more than just buzz

“Bees are very sensitive with their direction, if you move a hive just three feet away, the bees get confused and hover in the spot where the hive used to be for hours,” Graves said. “I believe that these towers are messing up my bees.”

Today, there are approximately 10.5 million wireless phone subscribers in New York City, and thousands of cellphone antennae throughout the boroughs, although there has been no way of accurately measuring the amount of radiation or the effect, if any, it is having on the bees ability to bumble.

In March, 2005, the City Council, citing health concerns, required the city to maintain a list of the locations of cellular phone antennae.

But it may not be so easy to save the bees. Even the beekeeper admitted that he’s part of the problem.

“I do have a cellphone,” Graves admitted. “But I feel so guilty every time I use it that I may just get rid of it.”

Our local board is a hot ticket!

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Who says that community board meetings are a bore? If people would only experience the excitement first hand, they’d see that the meetings are as entertaining as an episode of “American Idol”!

Take last week’s Community Board 10 meeting. Where else can you be sitting and listening to a fairly routine debate about sidewalk cafe permits when all of a sudden someone gets up and starts screaming?

It started out innocently enough last Monday night at the Knights of Columbus meeting hall, when New York University professor Wade Goria’s name came up on the list of people who wanted to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

For the uninitiated, public comment periods are the Ellis Island of democracy — a time when the great huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, can breathe free and say whatever they feel. Those of us who cover community board meetings for a living have seen screaming matches, shoving matches and, in one notorious Lower East Side board meeting a few years ago, a riot by police officers (yes, we’re still being deposed for civil suits!).

So it’s no wonder that Goria thought he could just get up to the mic and say what was on his mind. Unfortunately, he had chosen to attend a meeting on a night when the board was set to vote on a big zoning issue, so the turnout was better than usual (and, as usual, there was even free marble cake and coffee!). This may have played a role in what went down.

What went down? Goria went down.

As a historian, Goria said he wanted to address the much-discussed likelihood that the historic Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, “The Green Church,” would indeed be sold and torn down to make way for condos.

This has been a controversial issue in the neighborhood, as community groups that want to save the church clashed with parishioners who, believe it or not, want to sell. The reverend at the Green Church even once invoked his Lord and Savior to explain why the congregation needed to sell the building and raise money for its larger mission.

Pastor Robert Emerick’s passion even cowed Councilman Vince Gentile into submission. But that didn’t matter to Goria.

“Pastor Emerick says that he is selling the church to be closer to Jesus,” Goria started in. “But I don’t think Jesus would want to see his house of worship be destroyed to line the pockets of corrupt church elders looking for a $12-million payday.”

But before Goria could go any further, he was interrupted by screams from the standing-room-only audience.

“He is out of order!” one woman shouted. “He is not allowed to say that.”

Goria tried to speak again, but this time, CB10 chairman Dean Rasinya — a retired cop! — intervened on behalf of the growing chorus seeking to end the professor’s lecture early.

“You are out of order,” Rasinya said, giving Goria the stare-down.

Undeterred by the warning, Goria looked back down at his two pages of notes and continued where he left off about the church’s supposed corruption.

“Pastor Emerick was sent by the hierarchy to make sure this sale went through,” Goria tried again. Before he could finish his next sentence, Rasinya leapt out of his chair, and with one clean swipe, grabbed the microphone out of the historian’s hand.

A stunned Goria paused for a moment before exiting stage left, much to the approval of the cheering audience.

Goria, who has taught International Relations for 18-years at NYU, later said he was hoping to deliver the message that the sale of the Green Church was “a corporate ruse” and church elders are money-hungry. He also wanted to say that the government should seize the church building and preserve it — but he never got the chance. Rasinya had delivered his own brand of justice.

One CB10 member said Goria was censored because he committed a violation of the public comment rules.

“You can’t just stand up there and say this or that about someone’s religion,” the member said. “This isn’t anarchy, and when he attacks a religion, it is the chairman’s responsibility to maintain order, which is what Dean did.”

Goria said he wasn’t trying to insult anyone’s religion, and that he should have had the right to speak about what he feels is a robbery of historic proportions.

“It was public comment session and my right of free speech was taken away,” said Goria. “Now I know how Martin Luther felt.”

Men like Goria don’t show up at every meeting, but if you thought community boards were all about rezoning lectures, or 30-minute debates on whether or not to put a traffic light on 86th Street, you’re going to miss out on some great action (and marble cake and coffee, too).

The Kitchen Sink
Our pal Fran Garber is at it again. The doyenne behind Bay Ridge’s Regina Opera Company begged us to “tell the world” that she’s looking for an actor to fill a “non-singing, non-speaking” role in her upcoming production of Puccini’s “Tosca.” Remember, would-be thespians, there are no small roles, even if there are small opera companies. Garber asked actors to email her at …

The Najjar family was well known in Tripoli as being the premier bakers of baklava. Now the clan is trying to live the American dream in Bay Ridge at Sweet Treats, their appropriately named shop on Fifth Avenue at 68th Street. …

Vampires in Bay Ridge? Aspiring screen writer Anthony Capialbi sees dead people, and they gather in Owl’s Head Park. Check out his short film, “Destiny’s Child (Devil Witch Vampire),” for free on YouTube. It’s set in Bay Ridge! …

Don’t look now, but state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is keeping an open (and green) mind to the mayor’s environmental plan. “Pollution and congestion are major issues that effect quality of life …

and that they do need to be addressed to a degree,” he said through an aide. …

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge) applauded the recent Supreme Court ruling that prohibits partial-birth abortion. Fossella said he will oppose any effort in Congress to reverse the Court's ruling.…

Pol: Bloomy’s plan is not ‘ferry’ good

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Commuters in Bay Ridge who want a 12-minute water taxi ride into Manhattan have been left at the dock — and they have Mayor Bloomberg to blame, a local pol charged this week.

Just hours after the mayor gave his much-lauded “Greener, Greater New York” speech on Sunday, Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) fired back saying that the Bloomberg administration is ignoring a very simple, low-pollution mass transit alternative for Bay Ridge.

“The Mayor proposed an ambitious plan on Earth Day, but for some incomprehensible reason, did not act on a plan that would ease the notoriously traffic and lead to cleaner air across Brooklyn,” said Gentile.

Earlier this year, Gentile and Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) secured $500,000 to transform the 69th Street pier into a ferry-ready dock. But the Department of Transportation has not spent the money to do the job — and that makes the green-minded Gentile see red.

“The Transportation Commissioner made it very clear to us that they are not interested in the ferry service [from Bay Ridge],” said Gentile.

Even a Republican joined the Democratic councilman’s call for more ferry service.

“Ferry service from 69th street would help improve the daily commute for countless local residents,” said Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge). It’s not as if Bay Ridge lacks a ferry tradition. Before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964, passengers regularly cruised to Staten Island. Many believed that the bridge obviated the need for new service — but now residents are reconsidering.

“It would absolutely be a nice thing for this community,” said local activist Peter Killen. “People are always looking for alternative routes of transportation.”

Killen was involved in the last attempted resurrection of the pier in 2000, but says he was also shot down by the DOT.

New York Water Taxi, the company that operates “taxi” boats all over the city, is warm to the idea of running boats out of the Bay Ridge.

“We would certainly consider the possibility,” said company rep Robert Pandolfo. “It isn’t too complicated. All the terminal would need is a bumper system and a ramp built into the dock.”

The DOT did not return several requests for a comment, leaving others to wonder if the mayor green rhetoric was just Earth Day hot air.

“The opportunities have been there, and the city has steadfastly refused to take them,” Gentile fumed.

Move your asphalt! Paving plan released

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Twenty-two local roads from Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst will be getting a well-deserved makeover this summer — a tiny fraction of the thoroughfares that deserve the spring cleaning, at least one local official said.

Commuters will get a smoother ride, of course, but only after enduring a few bumpy weeks of construction.

Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge, said she was pleased by the list, but wanted more roads in her neighborhood to get the pampered treatment.

“Overall, I am very happy,” she said. “The roads that need it most are going to get the attention, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

She said the neighborhood got about one-third of what it requested. Specifically, a stretch of 65th Street was left off the list.

“The Department [of Transportation] has its own way of evaluating needs, and you never get everything you ask for,” the ever-cheery Beckmann said.

The work at each site should take no longer than two weeks from beginning to end, according to Beckmann.

Of course, it doesn’t take two weeks to pave a street. First, the top layer of asphalt is removed in a process called “milling.” Then (and here’s the part that drives drivers nuts), the Department of Transportation leaves the bumpy road surface unpaved for a week so that utility companies can make sure nothing has been damaged. If DOT gets the go-ahead, the road is resurfaced with fresh sticky asphalt, which takes an additional day or two.

Local drivers say they will trade the two weeks of inconvenience for a smoother ride down the road.

“Some of the roads can do a number on your car,” said Bensonhurst resident Alex Maur. “I think the work is long overdue.”

The Department of Transportation said all paving should be completed by July 1, but added that individual sites could be rescheduled. The agency would not comment about Beckmann’s request for far more street repavings.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ridge on a slippery ‘Slope’

By Matthew Lysiak

After my last column, I received a simple, eloquent and to the point piece of mail:

“Take your Yellow Hook yuppie bulls—t back to Pennsylvania,” the hate mail read. “I’ve lived in Bay Ridge my whole life and am sick of you dark-rimmed-glasses-wearing pseudo-intellectuals and your small-town minds.”

The column, if you recall, was about the funereal mood that has covered Bay Ridge, which has seen the deaths of three children since February. In the article, I did mention that I grew up in Pennsylvania, which, apparently, set off my dear reader, who gave only his email address:

Of course, the letter writer’s critique was absurd; Yellow Hooker doesn’t wear glasses. And, more important, the writer was under the mistaken belief that I’m some kind of Yuppie newcomer. I may have moved to Bay Ridge at night, but I didn’t move last night.

But the missive writer did hit onto one important trend: The Yuppies are coming, the Yuppies are coming. And they have a few demands. They’re attracted to Bay Ridge because of the prices, but they have no interest in letting Bay Ridge be Bay Ridge.

What they’d prefer, actually, is Park Slope — but they can’t afford the rents there, so they come here.

“I moved to Bay Ridge because renting in the Slope is prohibitively expensive,” said Rachel Chaput. For the most part, she’s been happy. But, still…

“Bay Ridge’s infrastructure is lacking,” said Chaput, who still does her shopping at the Park Slope Food Co-op, that bastion of organic shopping, once-a-month shifts and vaguely Utopian aspirations.

“Enlightened, community-friendly businesses like you find in Park Slope, with an emphasis on natural and organic food and leisure are missing in Bay Ridge.”

That wasn’t all this Sloper wanted to change about the Ridge.

“We don’t have a preschool co-op in Bay Ridge,” said Chaput. “They have several in Park Slope.”

There goes the neighborhood — and here come the 3-year-olds in their Misfits T-shirts.

The most recent example of the Slopization can be found at the new trendy Third Avenue and 81st Street kids clothing store “Hip Squeak” — with its angry monkey logo shirts for $59.99 — which will most likely be standing long after Bay Ridge’s cherished centurion churches are reduced to rubble.

Exhibit B: A mother, out to breakfast with her small children on Easter morning at the Bridgeview Diner on Third Avenue, needed to change a dirty diaper — which she proceded to do on a chair in full view of the breakfast crowd (euphemistically speaking, let’s just say the diaper wasn’t merely wet). Eggs Benedict anyone?

Just as Park Slope was once filled with bridge-hoppers from Gaphattan looking for more bang for the buck, Bay Ridge is filling up with Slopers being seduced by the lower cost of living here.

“Everyone is making the move from Park Slope to Bay Ridge,” said 36-year veteran real-estate broker Lewis Volakos of Three Star Realty. “It is no great secret why: Park Slope is far more expensive while Bay Ridge is a better place to live.”

But who would ever want to leave Park Slope, which is the hippest, coolest, happiest place in the whole world, right?

“Bay Ridge is actually a much nicer area,” Volakos continued. “The houses are spaced out more and it is right next to the water.”

Ridgites may have to accept the concept of Slopization as part of our reality, because as the number of Slopers increase, the merchants looking for their money are sure to follow.

Once it was Tony Manero walking down the street while eating two slices pressed together. Now, it’s a guy pushing an $800 stroller while listening to Life in a Blender on his iPod.

Where will it all end? In Dyker Heights, of course.

“Bay Ridge real estate is now going up,” said Volakos. “So some people [from Bay Ridge] are moving into Dyker Heights.”

The Bay-Ridging of Dyker? That is a lot to grasp, especially for this pseudo-intellectual small-town mind.

The Kitchen Sink
Community Board 11’s District Manager Howard Feuer is having back surgery, a source told The Stoop. Everyone wants Feuer to get well soon, but there is a silver lining to his health cloud: “At least the golf course will get a breather from that mad swing of his,” our source said. …

We love Cebu on Third Avenue and 88th Street, especially for the French toast brunch special, so we were disappointed to learn that they had to close shop for a few days to fix the damage done by a water main break. …

More restaurant woes: Amelia Ristorante on Third Avenue and 83rd Street has been “seized by the landlord,” according to a sign in the window. Thankfully, we can still find homemade ravioli at Gino’s on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street. …

Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer may be a freshman legislator, but she has some power. “Wow, that lady really knows how to throw,” said one Little Leaguer at last Saturday’s opening ceremony of the 68th Precinct Council baseball league. …

Councilman Vince Gentile took exception to our headline two weeks ago linking him to Bruce Ratner. “I am a big fan of the Yellow Hooker,” he said after reading the recent column about his efforts to save the Green Church. “But let me make one thing clear, I would never try to pull a Ratner.” Then he followed up with an e-mail: “I just got a call saying, ‘Bless you for all you’ve done to try to save the Green Church.’ I wonder if Bruce Ratner gets those calls?”

Condos for Christ?

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Is the physical structure of a church sacred ground that should be preserved at all costs? Or is it merely mortar and stone that has nothing to do with its congregation’s larger mission?

More and more Bay Ridgites, both religious and secular, are asking that question anew, amid reports that two old churches within a few blocks of each other will soon be facing the wrecking ball.

The question “What is a church” came up during the discussion over the fate of Bay Ridge United Methodist, also known as the “Green Church,” on Fourth and Ovington avenues. The 100-year-old structure is slated to be sold and then torn down for condos.

Many residents of the area pleaded with the church to save the building, but Rev. Craig Miller of Our Saviors Lutheran jumped into the fray to explain what a “church” really is.

“A church isn’t just static brick and mortar, it is dynamic — and sometimes the external must be shed like the skin of a snake, so that the body can survive through adapting to the changing times,” said Miller, whose own building, on Fourth Avenue near 80th Street, may also soon be torn down.

Many residents disagree — believing that the physical presence of the church also carries important historical and religious connotations.

“I think tearing down Our Saviors is pure sacrilege,” said Maryanne Gouras, who sent her children to the church’s preschool. “It used to be that a church was considered sacred ground and that no one would think for one minute of tearing it down.”

Gouras isn’t alone in her anger over the coming condos being built over the ruins of century-old churches. A group of residents, led by Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), tried to save the Green Church, but the church leaders persisted in their desire to sell — to the detriment of the entire community, according to one Brooklyn historian.

“If they take the attitude that these are just old buildings that don’t matter then we aren’t going to have anything left to show our children of our past,” said Robert Buonvino, president of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, which works hard to maintain the 300-year-old Dutch reformed church at 18th Avenue and 83rd Street.

But Buonvino’s passion misses the point, Miller said.

“At no time in all of the Bible does Christ give to the church a command to build structures and preserve them for all of time,” said Rev. Miller.

“We are currently spending 50 percent of our resources on maintaining the structure, and we would like to have that number around 15 percent.”

Both Buonvino and Miller did agree on one thing: if churches are to be saved, the community — not just parishioners — has to get involved.

“The responsibility of keeping our historic structures standing ultimately rests in the hands of the community,” Buonvino said.

The reverend agreed: “Truth is, there just aren’t as many people in the pews, and that means less income,” Rev. Miller said. “All of Brooklyn should begin to get used to the idea of saying goodbye to a lot of these old churches.”

Bay Ridge’s Boys (and Girls) of Summer open the season

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The Boys — actually, the boys and girls — of Summer have finally taken the field.

Glove- and bat-toting kids from age 5 to 14 paraded through Bay Ridge and then stormed the diamond at Frank Schnurr Field last Saturday for the sunny opening day ceremonies of the 68th Precinct Youth Council’s baseball league.

The league has a storied history — judging from the stories people told.

“When I was a kid playing for the 68th Precinct Youth Council, I couldn’t wait for my mom and dad to take me to Opening Day to start the baseball season” said Council President Bob Capano, a former left fielder.

Everyone from T-ball players to full-fledged Little Leaguers — plus the politicians who love them — participated in the parade, but it was all business once the players got onto the field, which is along Shore Parkway near 83rd Street.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Opening Day without some Opening Day jitters.

“Last season, we were real good, but a lot of people left, so I’m not sure how we’ll do,” said Ahmed Dolah, 10, who plays outfield, catcher, and second base. He’s also a vital table-setter.

“I am smaller and I walk a lot, so my job is to get on base so the guy behind me can drive me home,” he said.

It was nice to see such focus on the fundamentals, but at least one coach reminded her players of youth baseball’s most important rule — the one that suggests that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

“At this age, there is no winning or losing, it is all about having a great time,” said Darcy Falcone, who will manage a team of 7- and 8-year-olds. “There are no outs, and every child gets to take a swing and round the bases.”

A level playing field, if you will. No wonder the local politicians flocked to the opener.

“There is nothing better in America then Bay Ridge and baseball in the summertime,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D-Bay Ridge), a self-described “rabid-New York baseball fan.”

Not to be outdone (or lose the youth baseball vote), state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Bay Ridge) played a little catch with the boys in uniform.

And, of course, Borough President Markowitz stopped by to reminisce about the good old days.

“I just love baseball,” the Beep said. “My favorite team is the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

The Beep admitted later that the only position he played as a kid was “left out.”

Murder rap for mother in Bay Ridge

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The mother who allegedly left her newborn baby girl outside to die has been charged with murder.

Laura Sergio, 25, was indicted last week for smothering her newborn with a towel shortly after giving birth, according to District Attorney Charles Hynes. The indictment said that Sergio left the baby in a plastic bag at a Colonial Road home on April 6, and that the crime was discovered only after Sergio went to a nearby hospital complaining of abdominal pain.

Sergio “left a helpless victim to die,” said Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Kagan at Sergio’s April 9 arraignment.

At the same court hearing, Sergio’s lawyer Thomas Cascione insisted that his client thought she was constipated, not pregnant, and that she was very confused about events surrounding the baby’s birth.

This week, Cascione was unavailable for comment.

The scene around the Colonial Road Tudor-style home is somber, as neighbors remain in shock over the heinous act.

Sergio is facing life in prison — all for an death that could have been easily avoided.

“This is a tragic incident by a desperate young woman,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “These incidents can be avoided through awareness of [laws that] allow parents to leave newborn babies at safe haven sites like police precincts and hospitals.

“Our goal is to ensure the safety of children,” Gentile added.

Zoning? Bensonhurst calls out, ‘Next!’

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights got theirs, now Bensonhurst wants “in” on the downzoning frenzy.

“It is time for Bensonhurst to get the rezoning ball rolling,” said Bill Guarinello, the chairman of Community Board 11 at last Tuesday’s CB11 meeting.

“We are going to make this a big issue soon,” he added at the meeting, which was at the Holy Family Home on 84th Street.

The audience sighed with approval after Guarinello’s comment, though the chairman cautioned a downzoning scheme takes time to wend its way from conception to completion.

“Dyker Heights had a pretty big head start on us, but our time is coming,” said Guarinello, though he did not offer a time-frame for the downzoning push.

The goal of would-be downzoners is to curb “overdevelopment” by restricting builders from tearing down houses for taller condos. Downzone efforts are already completed or under way in Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene and other areas where residents are seeking to protect a low-rise feel.

But opponents say that downzoning results in less housing — which is critically needed as Brooklyn grows.

CB11 District Manager Howard Feuer believes that a zoning change would maintain the character of Bensonhurst.

“If we are successful,” said Feuer. “the [area] will be a mirror image of what it is now.”

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Lysiak exposing the lack of security at the Towers pipeline