Thursday, May 31, 2007

Goldwater’s out of Mike Long’s party

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The marriage was doomed from the start. But file the divorce papers, anyway: the Conservative Party has disavowed one of its founding fathers.

Last Tuesday, the party of limited government argued that marriage should consist only of the union of one man and one woman (little surprise there). What few realize is that this idea is a thumb in the eye of the man responsible for the existence of the New York State Conservative Party — Barry Goldwater. The issue is over the limits of government.

On one side we have Brooklyn Conservative Party Vice-Chairwoman Fran Vella-Marrone, who was quick to oppose Gov. Spitzer’s effort to permit gay marriage.

“The Conservative Party has been the loudest voice in this state defending traditional family values,” said Vella-Marrone.

On the other side is a ghost from the past. The founding father of the movement — Goldwater — was not only pro-Choice, but didn’t think the government should have anything to do with marriage. Goldwater may be dead — but his memory is alive and well in Bay Ridge. To this day, state Conservative Party Chairman Mi­chael Long recalls how, as a young man, Goldwater put a spell on him at the 1964 Republican National Convention at Mad­ison Square Garden.

“Barry Goldwater was the reason I got into politics,” said Long, who still has a Goldwater poster hanging at his liquor shop, Long’s Discount Wines, at 7917 Fifth Ave.

“You wouldn’t believe the feeling of hope in the air that night, that we could get this country on track and Goldwater would be the one to lead us,” Long said.

The philosophy? “Government ought to be kept off our backs, out of our pocketbooks, and out of our bedrooms,” Goldwater said.

That didn’t sit well with the religious right, which wanted the Republican Party to embrace restrictions on gay rights and abortion. Yet Goldwater insisted that conservatism meant limited government — whether on fiscal or social issues.

But that ideal is nowhere to be found on today’s political landscape.

Long may still have that campaign poster, but he has cut ties with his Goldwater past: “Some conservatives are for abortion,” he said, “but we are a pro-life party.”

Yellow Hooker has a pretty good idea of what Long’s mentor might say if he were alive to witness the changing times: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

The Kitchen Sink
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) may be angling for an unlikely voter block in his possible run for mayor — the underappreciated skateboarder. Golden recently announced funds to put Parks employees at the Owls Head Skate Park at 68th Street and Colonial Road. …

Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) is encouraging public participation in a “free walking program,” every Saturday from 10 to 11 am. Call (718) 965-6977. …

Moms are lighting up the Bay Ridge Parent message boards about playground bullies who have been kicking kids off the swings at the playground at 83rd Street and Colonial Road. See, kids! That’s one more reason to eat your leafy green vegetables.

Preacher brings hands to Ridge to perform ‘miracles’

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Hallelujah and praise the Lord! A new preacher is coming to town — and he is making some big promises.

Pastor Michael Casale says he’ll start doling out “miracles and prophecies” when his new church opens this week in Bay Ridge.

“Bring the sick and receive your miracle,” said Casale, who will oversee the Cavalry Praise and Worship Center, a new non-denominational church at 367 94th St. “Come and receive your touch from the Lord.”

Casale certainly talks the talk.

“We do miracles, prophecies — more than your average church,” he told The Stoop. “We have performed many miracles in the name of Jesus Christ, and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

Casale claims to also perform a “laying of the hands,” an act where parishioners are touched in the forehead and often collapse to ground or faint from the power of God.

“I know it is real because it happened to me when I was 13 years old,” said Casale, who claimed to be licensed by the “Summary of God,” an independent ordination group. “It is a great feeling, but hard to describe. Kind of like electricity all through your body.”

Still, some local residents are skeptical of the self-professed supernatural powers of the new preacher man of Bay Ridge.

“Is this a joke?” asked Megan Desanto. “Are we in the Bible Belt? I am not buying any of this crap.”

Why Bay Ridge? True, the pastor’s day job is as a court liaison for the 68th Precinct in the neighborhood — but he says he didn’t choose Bay Ridge, but that Bay Ridge chose him.

“I felt called to Bay Ridge,” he said. “But there were never any openings until now.”

One woman said she might attend the first service on June 3. She also said that even though her mind was open, her wallet was closed.

“It couldn’t hurt to go and check it out,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “But you can be certain that I am not going to let my wallet out of sight for even one moment.”

Boo-liani in Bay Ridge; Protestors rally against Rudy

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani got a hero’s welcome inside a Bay Ridge catering hall this week — but outside, the man running for president as “America’s Mayor” got Swift-boated.

About four dozen protesters, mostly relatives of World Trade Center victims and firefighters who typically form Giuliani’s amen corner, showed up outside the Bay Ridge Manor on 76th Street near Fifth Avenue to pick apart the central piece of the former mayor’s legacy: his handling of the 9-11 terror attack.

“The mayor has blood on his hands,” said Rosaline Tallon, whose brother, Matthew Tallon, died at Ground Zero. “He wants to walk into that reception as the hero of 9-11, but we want to remind the public of who this man really is.”

Tallon and others said the mayor was responsible for the faulty radios used by firefighters that day. And they also said his leadership was anything but inspiring in the aftermath.

“My brother died because of the antiquated equipment this man bought — and people need to know the truth,” Tallon said.

The Giuliani campaign expected to take heat from the right on social issues, but now finds itself in the unexpected position of facing questions over the one piece of his resume that appears golden to the rest of the country.

The protest at Bay Ridge Manor, and others nationwide, brought back memories of the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry, which was torpedoed when some of Kerry’s former Navy comrades formed a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and started attacking the decorated war hero’s patriotism.

While some of the charges against Kerry were inaccurate, the “swift-boating” of his campaign resulted in one of his perceived strengths — his military service in Vietnam — being turned into a liability.

Now it’s Giuliani’s turn.

“We are trying to peel him back like an onion, layer by layer,” said Uniformed Fire Officers President Peter Gorman. The union official then addressed Giuliani, who had already been spirited inside the Republican-friendly catering hall, directly: “We will be here today on your home turf, in any borough, in any state.”

The media may have gotten the message, but the former mayor certainly didn’t.

That’s because as the number of protestors swelled to over 40, they were quickly corralled by police, along with the media, behind metal street barriers on the other side of the street.

“This is a frozen zone,” said Captain Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct. “Everyone is going to have to be behind the barriers we set up across the street.”

The order contradicted a Giuliani aide, who only minutes earlier, had told the media that the former mayor would meet with the press “to answer a few questions,” before hitting his fundraiser/63rd birthday party. But the mayor and his staff had an apparent change of heart after seeing the swelling protestors.

“There is nothing I can do,” said the aide. “You are just going to have to listen to what the police say.”

Instead, Giuliani’s black SUV pulled up directly in front of Bay Ridge Manor’s entrance at 76th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues — out of view of media and protestors. The mayor was quickly escorted inside, as the protestors greeted his arrival with chants of “shame on you.”

For civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who helped organize the event, the metal barriers brought back memories.

“No access and metal bars — it reminds me of his days as mayor,” said Siegel. “Just imagine, if he gets elected, these metal bars will be on a national level.”

Inside, though, Giuliani was hailed.

“Long before he was ‘America’s Mayor,’ Rudy Giuliani turned around a city everyone said was ungovernable,” state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R–Rensellaer) said in a statement. “He did it with the same principles he displayed on September 11 and on the days and weeks that followed — moral clarity, strong leadership and accountability.”

Of course, the protestors weren’t buying it.

Jim Riches, who lost his son, also named Jim, on 9-11, believes it would be a “nightmare” to see Rudy become president, and that while the mayor can run, he can’t hide.

“He acts like some big tough guy when he talks about terrorism, but the truth is my son was fighting for his life while he hid under a table,” Riches said, then addressed Giuliani, who was, alas, out of earshot.

“You are a coward, and you can run, but we are going to follow you — wherever you go.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

These mailmen are armed for dog

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

This is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the seven days of the year when the United States Postal Service tries to educate Americans on how to keep their dogs on a shorter leash.

But our local mailmen aren’t waiting to see results. After years of looking like a letter-toting piece of meat to area canines, mail carriers have finally fought back.

They’re now armed with pepper spray.

The arms race began last year, when a mail carrier in Bay Ridge became a living cliché after getting bit in the rear pouch by a German Shepherd.

“He went to drop-off the mail and the dog just took a bite out of him,” said a postal source. “He had to go directly to the emergency room.”

The mailman has chosen to remain anonymous (we’ll call him Junk Mail), and like most things in the United States Postal Service, many details must remain shrouded in secrecy. But we do know the route: a dangerous stretch on 88th Street between Colonial and Ridge avenues.

Junk Mail’s description of the beast conjured up images of Cujo.

“It was a big dog — the kind of dog that is a dangerous weapon,” said Junk Mail. “This kind of dog is on the attack when it sees people.”

It certainly wasn’t the first time a dog took a bite out of a local mail carrier. Nationwide, there have been more than 3,000 reported case of dog-bites-mailman, according to government stats.

In an effort to go into the belly of the beast, Yellow Hooker embedded himself with one Bay Ridge postal worker as he navigated the dangerous mail receptacles (often within fenced-in yards where dogs roam). As in so many combat pursuits, the key to survival was an awareness of your environment, explained Postal worker Tyrone Johnson.

“A lot of times your vision is impaired by obstructions such as fences or even doors,” said Johnson. “If you can’t see the dog coming, you need to listen.”

Johnson, who has been delivering mail for more than two years, says that people wouldn’t believe the risks letter carriers face, especially when putting the mail through the door slots while anxious dogs lay in wait. He asks for owners to throw him a bone.

“The owners need to get these dogs under control before something serious happens,” said Johnson. “At least three mailmen have been seriously bit within the last two years around here.”

Johnson says he carries Mace, but luckily, has never had to use it.

“I have been nipped a few times, but nothing real serious, yet.”

Man’s best friend is rarely to blame, according to Richard Gentles, the director of administrative services at the Brooklyn Animal Care Center.

“Just use common sense,” said Gentles. “Most people don’t know how to approach a dog, and then they get bit.”

A spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals agreed that owners need to act more responsibly, but says that the spray is downright inhuman.

“Using Mace or pepper spray is extremely dangerous and cruel,” said Beth Daphne. “They shouldn’t ever use it when there are more humane ways to keep them safe.”

Daphne says that she saw someone get pepper-sprayed once and it wasn’t pretty, and believes that instead of weapons, mail carriers should be better trained to deal with their historic arch-enemies.

“I think postal employees should be trained to better understand a dog’s body language,” Daphne said. “Most dogs aren’t looking to bite people; they are just defending their territory.”

She also would like to sweeten the pot a little bit with a small bribe.

“Spraying dogs could just make them angrier,” Daphne said. “I would advise the carriers drop the Mace, and instead arm themselves with dog treats.”

Johnson rejected that Neville Chamberlain-style appeasement.

“Some carriers give snacks, but I don’t think it is right,” Johnson said. “If the dog is used to getting treats and God forbid you run out, you are in big trouble.”

The Kitchen Sink
What a surprise! The Brooklyn Young Republicans have endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. Next, they’ll come out in favor of tax cuts! …

Two ambitious school kids, Dylan Gottesman and Bash Naran, are making a series of Bay Ridge films soon to be available at Anything has to be better than “Brooklyn Rules,” the new movie featuring Freddie Prinze Jr. (check out the scene where he clumsily folds his slice while sitting at L&B Spumoni Garden) as a Bay Ridge boy with a indefinable accent. …

The Taj Mahal, at 7315 Third Ave., knows how to treat its guests. Our source tells us that one of the waiters dealt with a crying baby by picking her up and rocking her back and forth while the parents enjoyed their Tandoori chicken. I hope they gave at least 20 percent! …

The Committee to Save Bay Ridge United Methodist Church is considering buying the centurion landmark at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues. Committee organizer Kathleen Walker said she wants preservation groups and other locals to band together. All it will take is just $12 million! …

The Stoop understands the need to work through the night on resurfacing Third Avenue, but couldn’t the jackhammering wait until morning? …

Congratulations to Tara Cernacek, who won The Stoop’s “Hero of the Week” award for her tireless work placing abandoned animals with new owners. Her store, Happy Pets, which is at 9818 Fourth Ave., has placed more than 100 shelter animals into loving homes.

Not so great wall divides; Feuding neighbor story makes The Paper

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Tear down that wall, Mr. Cunningham — or is it Mr. Moore?

That was the refrain from a chorus of residents who came to last Monday’s Community Board 10 meeting to support a man who claims he is being terrorized by his mysterious next-door neighbor.

The unneighborly spat goes back more than five years, but this cold war recently went nuclear after Robert and Cheryl Cunningham began building a 60-foot-high cinderblock wall at their home at 123 87th St. The wall is only inches from their neighbors at 127 87th St., Matthew and Jean Gershon.

Needless to say, the wall didn’t go over well with the Gershons.

“It is blocking our windows and we can’t get light or air,” said Matthew Gershon. “We are asking for someone to help us stop him.”

More than 40 people showed their support at the meeting, at which Gershon spoke at length about the situation on his block.

“In May 2006, workers removed wooden plants from our yard and broke our kitchen window,” he said. “The Cunninghams have aggressive dogs, which defecate on our property, and are rude at every chance they get.”

The Department of Buildings’ Web site lists 44 complaints against the Cunninghams’ property. One 2002 violation for working without a permit remains open.

A spokeswoman for the department said that the wall appears to be legal, given the existing zoning. But the spokeswoman, Kate Lindquist, added that “in light of the community’s concerns, we will audit the permit application again.”

That wasn’t enough for Gershon. “This guy has all of these violations, and we are being brushed off,” he said. “When is enough, enough?”

Enough may already be enough, according to the man who lives at 123 87th St., who told The Stoop that his name was not Cunningham, but “John Moore.” He invited this reporter into the house and talked about the situation, saying that he was the one being terrorized by an “insane” neighbor.

Department of Finance records show that “Moore’s” property is indeed owned by the Cunninghams. There is no mention of a John Moore in city records.

Still, “Moore” said he doesn’t understand why everyone is upset with him, and that the wall is simply the beginning of a house being built on a lot he claims not to own. City records, though, show that there is no lot between his and the Gershons’.

“I don’t know why people think I am the owner of this property,” the man said, while giving orders to the men building the structure on the property. “I am just the victim of one man’s craziness.”

Moore pointed to video cameras and high-powered spotlights that he says Gershon had directed at his property.

“That crazy man shines those lights at my bedroom window so we can’t sleep,” Moore said. “He also likes to videotape what is going on inside of my house.”

But if the CB10 meeting was any indication, residents along the quiet tree-lined block between Ridge and Colonial avenues shared one unanimous opinion: that the man living at 123 87th St. was bad news — regardless of what he called himself.

“He has been known to use aliases,” said neighbor Angelo Biondo who lives three houses down. “Everybody knows this man compromises the integrity of our neighborhood.”

Another neighbor, Charles Miller, said he expected the large turnout at the board meeting, “because our neighborhood has seen enough.”

Still, there must be a chance for a diplomatic resolution to this stand-off? No, not really.

“I have had enough of this crap,” Moore said. “I am looking to move away soon.”

Moore didn’t say where he would go, but it would certainly come as a relief to Gershon, so long as Moore makes sure to take his wall with him.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Gershon said.

Bad reviews for Alpine

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Last year’s sale of the Alpine Cinema was heralded as a four-star rescue, but reviewers rank it somewhere between “Howard the Duck” and “Battlefield Earth.”

That’s because the promise made by owner Nicolas Nicolaou to modernize the run-down Bay Ridge landmark remains unfulfilled — more than 12 months after he bought the historic cinema, critics say.

“He pledged all of these renovations, but it looks the same as it did before,” said moviegoer Tom Brice, who said the news stories of Nicolaou’s purchase of the theater last year led him to believe that big changes were coming.

“Families used to go to the movie theater to get away from life, but who wants to go to that dingy looking Bingo hall?” he asked.

Nicolaou told The Brooklyn Paper that he understands the community’s concerns, but blamed the usual suspects — the city bureaucracy — for the delays.

The city threw the blame back at Nicolaou, who only applied in March for a permit to replace his 50-year-old air conditioning and heating system. That permit has been granted, yet the work has not begun.

Nicolaou promised to make fast work of renovations, which will include a new lobby ceiling, a new lobby carpet, and an entirely new electrical infrastructure for the 86-year-old theater. He also vows to partition off some interior space to create two additional theaters — though the Department of Buildings has not yet given him a permit for that work.

Nicolaou said the repairs and renovations would cost $1 million. At this point, his contractors will work only at night and in the morning, so as not to require him to close during the critical summer season. Movie theaters typically take in 40 percent of their year’s box office in the three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“This summer we have committed to having all the big films coming out,” said Nicolaou. “We will have ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ‘Transformers,’ ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Harry Potter’ and more.”

But everyone’s a critic: Residents believe they have waited long enough — especially given that the Alpine is the only show in town.

“It is a year and he has done nothing with the theater,” said another moviegoer who gave only the first name Matthew (and who is not this reporter). “The place is not a theater. It’s a s—t shack.”

Community expectations were heightened at the announcement last May that Nicolaou had bought the beloved theater for $6 million. The announcement was such big news that two local lawmakers — Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — held bizarre back-to-back press conferences to crow about their role in finding a buyer for the last moviehouse in a neighborhood that once had a half-dozen.

Now, despite the delays, Nicolaou reiterated his commitment to making his million-dollar baby a real contender.

“We are here for the long run and we will give the people the theater they deserve,” Nicolaou said, promising “a grand reopening” this fall.

In other words, roll ’em!

Ridge to get own Jack Bauers

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

An elite anti-terror response team focused on chemical, biological, and radiological attacks will soon be stationed at Fort Hamilton — as long as some final hurdles are cleared.

The so-called “Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team” would be a 22-member elite terror response unit comprised of Army and Air National Guard personnel that could be deployed at a moment’s notice in the event of a suspected chemical, biological, or radiological attack.

The squad would rush to the scene of an attack and assist emergency personnel in determining the exact nature of the problem.

Pols say that while we haven’t faced the ticking-clock scenario just yet, post 9-11 New York needs to be ready for everything.

“We must always be prepared,” said Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge). “A civil support team would ensure that New York has the manpower, resources, and training it needs to respond to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction.”

The only other such response team in the state is surrounded by grass-chewing cows not al Qaeda-targeted skyscrapers. It’s located at Stratton Air National Guard Base in upstate Scotia, just outside of Albany.

That unit was up and running on 9-11, but its team didn’t arrive in Manhattan until hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

At Fort Hamilton, the unit would be equipped with a vehicle that Jack Bauer, the fictional star of the television drama “24,” could only dream of: a state-of-the-art mobile analytical laboratory that can identify toxic chemical, biological or radiological contaminants, all while navigating the busy drive-through at Nathan’s on Seventh Avenue and 86th Street.

But having the search for WMD expanded to Brooklyn isn’t a done deal yet.

“The team is in the forming stages and is actively hiring,” Fossella aide Britta Vander Linden told Community Board 10 last Monday. “We are extremely optimistic that it is going to happen.”

Fossella and Rep. Peter King (R–Long Island), both pushed for the local tactical team, but said there are a few remaining hurdles, including inserting language into federal legislation to increase the number of authorized toxic units nationwide from 55 to 57, and securing additional funding. The language passed the House last week.

King said the funding would be a piece of cake, too.

“New York is such a target by would-be terrorists,” said King. “[Everyone will see that] it is vital for it to have an additional civil support team located downstate.”

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