Friday, June 15, 2007

Daily News loves Brooklyn, too

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The New York Daily News isn’t just a Manhattan daily; it has lots of love for Brooklyn, too. Just ask them.

At least that was the tabloid’s message to Bay Ridge as the News’s top brass showed up at the Bridgeview Diner, which is at 9011 Third Ave., to make their case to anyone willing to fork over $10 for a $3 breakfast and a mug that the News is connected to our community’s concerns.

“We want you to know that we understand [that] we have an intimate trust with the people of Bay Ridge,” said Editor-in-Chief Martin Dunn, his British accent clashing with the diner waitresses’ Kings (County) English. “We believe this trust is sacred and that is why we are Brooklyn’s paper.”

But it wasn’t an easy sell. This was, after all, Bay Ridge, where Community Board 10 meetings sometimes last well past “24” (and that’s just the public comment portion!), and where discussions over the placement of a traffic light can lead to several hours of heated debate.

The News brass got an earful.

“I want to know why your reporters can’t figure out where Dyker Heights ends and Bay Ridge begins,” said one woman. “I would appreciate it if you could work on that.”

Other complaints included the font size of the crossword puzzle, the dumbing-down of the news (“If people want to see Paris Hilton, our coverage will have to reflect that,” replied Dunn), and the firm belief that the News has a Yankees bias.

“Why can’t you split the coverage?” asked one man, to audible cheers of approval from the audience. “Give the Mets equal time and make it half Yankees and half Mets?”

One man went off about coverage of a proposed Gowanus Expressway tunnel, but an editor quickly put him in his place. “That is a conversation to have at a community board meeting,” the editor replied. “I don’t think this is the appropriate venue.”

Yeah, that went over well. If these Manhattan-based Daily News people want to be Bay Ridge’s hometown paper, they better learn quickly that every resident has an issue and every resident wants to be heard.

The brass gave few answers — it was, as Hillary Clinton once called it, a “listening tour,” after all. Boroughs Editor Steve McFarland, who works out of the Manhattan office, and Brooklyn Bureau Chief Paul Shin listened along with columnist Denis Hamill and reporters Joyce Shelby and Jotham Sederstrom, a Brooklyn Paper alum who was interrupted mid-waffle when Dunn tapped him to brief the audience on the Atlantic Yards project — which the News has endorsed, despite, apparently, its editor’s lack of knowledge of the project. Sederstrom exchanged his salt shaker for a microphone (yes, he salts his waffles!) and gave a well-thought-out off-the-cuff presentation (maybe he, not some guy from England, should be running “Brooklyn’s daily paper.”)

Bay Ridgites know they already have a local paper (you’re holding it in your hands), but the News did have one secret weapon with which even The Brooklyn Paper can’t compete: Hall of Fame cartoonist Bill Gallo.

Gallo, who landed a job as a copyboy at the News in 1941 (taking a break to serve in World War II), was hounded by autograph seekers throughout his breakfast and even chimed in on the Yankees/Mets controversy. “Sometimes with A-Rod it can be difficult to fit anything but Yankees into the paper,” said Gallo. “The man hits 20 home runs in a month and then scores again with the blondes over breakfast.”

Ah, Gallo. That’s a newspaperman.

Kitchen Sink
It was a great night at the Bay Ridge Community Council’s 56th annual dinner dance at El Caribe in Mill Basin. The wine flowed like whisky at the open bar, where we chatted with the Bay Ridge Jewish Center’s rabbi, Micah Kelber, about God and eminent domain (He — God, that is — apparently opposes it). Later, Kelber gave a great benediction that asked the Lord to “banish all hate.” Not bad. Lawyer Michael Connors and Hinsch’s owner John Logue won this year’s Civic Awards (Connors for his advocacy for the elderly and Logue for a career of service that included forever banishing three-hour no-parking during alternate-side days — his greatest legacy. Not even Logue’s work on child abuse prevention got as big an applause!). Judge Matt D’Emic swore in the new officers (Robert Cassara replaces Barbara Vellucci as president) and later chatted with former congressional hopeful Steve Harrison, who looked in fine shape for another run (and we don’t mean the Marathon!). Michael Arenella and the Dreamland Orchestra provided the wonderful, 1930s-style entertainment. And the filet mignon was outstanding. The waittress even hugged us when we told her we didn’t need a glass for our Corona — we could just swig it out of the bottle. It was that kind of night! …

In other Sink developments, the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District is having a party and everyone is invited. Just show up on June 16 at 11:30 am at 75th Street and Fifth Avenue. …

Community Board 10 voted unanimously this week to support efforts to save the emergency room at Victory Memorial Hospital from its scheduled closure.

Mob war in ’Hurst? Yaawwwn.

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Funny thing about modern life: More people were interested in the finale of “The Sopranos” than the possibility of a real life mob war going on in Bensonhurst.

Even after police said that a member of the Genovese crime family was slain execution-style in his Bath Beach home last Thursday and a Gambino crime family member was almost rubbed out as he sat in his Caddie, the changing demographics of Bensonhurst left most residents yawning in their sushi.

The murders raised some eyebrows because the Gambinos and the Genoveses have a deep and dark past in organized crime. But in recent years, the once close alliance between the families had begun to sour.

The full curdle began last Tuesday, when Robert DeCicco, whom federal authorities say is an associate of the Gambino family, was shot three times in the arm, with another bullet grazing his head, as he sat in his car on Bath and 17th avenues in Bath Beach.

DeCicco, 56, is the son of a once-powerful capo to Gambino Godfather John Gotti. True to omerta, he told cops he couldn’t identify the masked gunman, who fled in a white Lincoln Continental.

Then, two days later and only a mile away, the body of Rudolph “Cueball” Izzi, 74, a Genovese associate, was found face down in his white striped pajamas on his bed in his Bensonhurst home.

This wasn’t Izzi’s first brush with law enforcement. The reputed mobster was an associate of Rosario Gangi, a Genovese captain whose crew long dominated the Fulton Fish Market, and has been on police radar screens for more than 40 years.

The two alleged mobsters were neighborhood fixtures with notorious pasts, with both having spent time in jail, but by all accounts their last couple of years have been quiet and unremarkable — a far cry from their colorful heydays.

Izzi was even known around town as a meticulous dresser with an uncanny ability to color coordinate his wardrobe.

Twenty years ago, news of twin, mob-linked shootings would have shaken the community, but today it hardly registers as a tremor.

Many residents around the shootings even seemed confused by the idea of a mob war.

“A mob war?” said one woman who lives on the block near the intersection of the DeCicco shooting. “I am sorry, but I don’t understand.”

Another woman said heard about the murder, but didn’t know there was a mob connection.

“I was in the shower when I heard the gunshots,” said the woman, who also lives on the block of the shooting. “I didn’t know the man and I hadn’t heard anything about the mob.”

Of course, there were the usual characters playing the classic role of wise guys (if not wiseguys).

“You have to watch who you ask,” said one of the men, who were standing at the corner of Bath Street and 17th Avenue. “You don’t want to find yourself with any problems.”

Limp, Forrest, limp! Ridge man makes it that extra mile — or 70.

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

They may have talked the talk, but could they walk the walk?

That was the question as two aspiring travel writers embarked on a five-day, 150-mile walking tour throughout New York City. This adventure began, like most epic journeys, in Brooklyn.

“We will walk 30 miles each day, in hopes of experiencing more of the city than anyone ever has over the course of a week,” said Rob Moncure, 27, who, along with college buddy Matthew Green, 27, first had the idea to get to know the city that most of us only know through mass transit.

“Our route will take us through diverse landscapes and neighborhoods, sights both well-known and obscure.”

Moncure had yet to experience the Big Apple and hadn’t seen his friend in a while, so the idea of experiencing New York together seemed a natural fit.

They planned on beginning their march on Monday, June 4, and completing it by Friday, June 8 — giving them five full days to finish the task.

But Rob and Matt’s excellent adventure soon turned out to be a bogus journey (like the time they rode a Greyhound bus for 52 consecutive hours just for the heck of it).

Shortly after the halfway point, the grueling quest claimed its first casualty: Moncure had to drop out because of, what else?, foot pain.

“I had tremendous pain in my ankles,” said Moncure, who ended up sidelined last Wednesday after walking a respectable 83 miles. “The front of each ankle was incredibly swollen. Each featured a large lump that didn’t feel any more comfortable than it looks.”

At least the West Coast native got a healthy dose of Brooklyn flavor before he was sidelined — the pair scheduled the walk so that its first dinner would be in, where else?, Bay Ridge.

“It has the most diverse restaurant selection in the entire city,” said Moncure. “The only problem was selecting only one eatery.”

They settled on Vesuvio, at 7305 Third Ave. Moncure ordered the Manhattan pizza, and Green ordered fettuccine primavera.

“Vesuvio’s was great,” said Moncure after the meal. “The food was the best we had to that point.”

The two friends also met some of Bay Ridge’s good Samaritans along the way.

A local religious leader was inspired by the duo’s exploits and reached out to contribute. The Rev. John Farrell of Christ Church Bay Ridge, which is at 7301 Ridge Blvd., offered the men a place to rest their weary bones that first night.

After that, it was back to the races. At the time, Green thought it would be a walk in the park.

“We are well known for our strenuous methods of training and preparing for our trips,” he said at the time. “We included such intensive measures as eating pizza and watching ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’”

That kind of training may lead people to think this kind of thing is easy, but when Gary Jarvis tried to run all 1,742 miles of Brooklyn earlier this year, he made it halfway and petered out.

The sidelined borough runner had some advice for the two aspiring city walkers: “Wear comfortable shoes, take some toilet paper, and go through neighborhoods you’d otherwise not have occasion to visit,” said Jarvis.

“Oh, and stretch those hamstrings.”

Green, the Bay Ridge native, must have listened, because last Friday, he finally crossed the finish line at City Hall, where he was greeted by the hobbled Moncure.

The walker-extraordinaire’s words would have made Don King blush.

“Roll over Lewis and Clark and tell Neil Armstrong the news,” said Green. “The pantheon of great American explorers is a little more crowded.”

Dyker Heights house is now one for the ages

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A college thesis has finally made history.

Dyker Heights’s famed “Saitta House” has made it to the National Register of Historic Places — thanks to a New York University medical student who did his college thesis on the neighborhood’s under-appreciated history.

“Bay Ridge was getting all the historic press and it seemed to me that Dyker Heights has gotten the short end of the historic stick,” said the student, Christian Zaino, who pushed for the historic recognition for the hand-crafted, 110-year-old house at 1134 84th St.

“This house … deserves this recognition,” he said.

The Saitta House is a two-and-a-half-story, one-family Queen Anne dwelling with Tudor decoration that beautifully shows the hand of architect John J. Petit, who built it at the direction of Beatrice and Simone Saitta.

The home has for a long time been a local curiosity, but now it carries the distinction of being the first house in Dyker to carry the historic designation, which is long overdue, according to Zaino.

“The home is such a masterpiece that it was featured on the cover of the June 1901 issue of Scientific American’s building edition,” said Zaino, who is also president of the Dyker Heights Historical Society. “No other house in Dyker Heights retains so much of its original architectural and structural components — both interior and exterior — as the Saitta House. It represents the original ideals, way of life, and quality architectural design of the original Dyker Heights development.”

The house couldn’t escape Zaino’s attention, since he lives across the street from it. He turned his inspiration into action, and got the support of Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, before filing the paper work to get the house designated. The rest, as the say, is history.

The house was officially designated on May 30.

Is it any surprise that Zaino got a passing grade on his thesis, too?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ridge pipeline terror

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

Last week’s arrest of four terror suspects who allegedly plotted to blow up jet fuel supplies at John F. Kennedy Airport reignited fears in Bay Ridge about the neighborhood’s own terror target: the very pipeline that carries jet fuel to the airport.

The 40-year-old Buckeye pipeline, which runs from Linden, New Jersey to JFK, has an unsecure portion in Bay Ridge — and some locals believe the pipeline has a bulls-eye painted on it.

And that was even before last Saturday, when authorities announced that four Muslim men were allegedly plotting to ignite a JFK fuel line. The plotters also apparently believed that causing an explosion at the airport would trigger blasts up and down the pipeline. The news shook residents, resurfacing fears that they could have a terror target in their own back yards.

“Of course, we are on edge,” said Avery Greene, a resident of the Towers of Bay Ridge, which is on 65th Street between Ridge and Third avenues. “It is hard to imagine how many people could die if that pipeline got into the wrong hands.”

Shortly after 9-11, federal anti-terror officials toured the area near the twin high-rises, which was then well known as both a haven for the homeless and the site of the pipeline. Authorities concluded, however, that there was no threat to Bay Ridge.

Tenants argue that the wire fencing surrounding the cavern fails to prevent the homeless, let alone more dangerous intruders, from entering the area.

“The open chain link fence around the rail yard provides no protection whatsoever against a terrorist attack,” Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) said this week. Fossella first raised security concerns about the pipeline in 2005.

“It is time for the parties to resolve who holds responsibility for securing the area and act immediately to fortify it.”

Still, not everyone thinks the pipeline is a terror threat.

The pipeline couldn’t be safer, according to the Ohio-based Buckeye Pipe Line Co., which transports an estimated one million barrels of petroleum across 3,900 miles and 10 states.

A company spokesman said there has not been a single security breach since the pipeline was built — and he doesn’t anticipate one.

“[It is] patrolled on a weekly basis at minimum and there is a shut-off valve every half-mile,” said the spokesman, Roy Haase. “We are a very safe institution that has delivered billions of gallons of petroleum without any harm.”

Haase added that part of the security feature was the fact that the pipeline was buried several feet underneath the earth.

“The pipe is three-to-four feet underground,” said Haase. “There are no portions of the pipeline that are exposed.”

That was news to this reporter, who had no problem reaching the exposed portion of the pipeline and snapping a picture of himself touching it. All it took was crawling through a hole in the fence and navigating down a small hill.

A Department of Transportation truck actually drove by as this reporter snapped pictures of the pipeline, yet did not stop.

Haase said he has been receiving quite a few complaints lately, but most are due to misperceptions, like the idea that igniting a pipeline at JFK would spread through the pipes connected to parts of Queens and Brooklyn.

“That idea is patently absurd,” said Haase. “There is no oxygen or air in the pipes, which you need for combustion.”

State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is calling for “full review of this portion” and the “implementation of necessary changes.”

"The fear is very real," said Golden."We cannot be too cautious in the times in which we live."

Eulogy for the Green Church

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

The Green Church will not be saved — you can take that to the bank and cash it. Yet despite the writing on the check, some members of the community continue to fight the inevitable.

Call it denial (or call it optimism), but many residents are having a hard time coming to terms with losing their beloved church, which according to a spokeswoman for the Massey Knakal realty giant, is as good as sold.

“The property is under hard contract,” said Keri Neering.

So Bay Ridge United Methodist, the 107-year-old structure on Fourth and Ovington avenues, will be torn down and it will become condos — but don’t blame a lack of effort from local preservationists. They have worked hard, and against long odds, to maintain the integrity of our neighborhood, prompting the consensus cliché — the Hail Mary.

The first “Hail Mary” attempt was by Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who worked out a deal that would have saved the church, added condo units to the neighborhood, and yielded a $300,000 annual windfall for the church for upkeep.

Most viewed Gentile’s pass as a perfect spiral, except for the congregants of the church, who wanted no savior (at least in terms of saving the structure).

The second Hail Mary attempt (remember you get four downs) was thrown by the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church. They urged people to call the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has the power to declare a building a landmark even without the owner’s permission. But that pass never even made it back to the line of scrimmage: Landmarks promptly declined the request to protect the 100-year-old church.

Then, historian Wade Goria raised the roof at last month’s Community Board 10 meeting in yet another attempt to save the church. Goria, whose microphone was pulled out of his hand at the previous meeting by CB10 Chairman Dean Rasanya after he bashed the Methodist hierarchy, began an impassioned sermon of his own, ranting and screaming (at times, quite eloquently) at the standing-room-only audience.

“We can not let them take this from us,” Goria shouted. “This is our community, this is our church, and this is our fight, now is the time to make our voices heard.”

Yellow Hooker is thinking a new cliché might be more appropriate. This one involves an obese woman and the final few notes of a song. Well, they gave it a shot (or two, or three).

The Kitchen Sink
Everything Zen? Not at least as far as the garbage and debris at Shore Road Park is concerned. The trash is located between two of the park’s most-cherished attractions: the Zen Garden and the Butterfly Park. Before we can cleanse the doors of perception, perhaps officials should first cleanse the large cement stones and the old fencing. …

War, what is it good for? How about the best shawarma with garlic sauce? Bay Ridge Neighbors for Peace is now meeting on Mondays at Mazza Plaza, which is at 8002 Fifth Ave., at 8 pm. …

A source tells The Stoop that state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is closer to running for Mayor. “Let me put it this way, at this point we feel quite encouraged,” said the source.

Ridge inventor milks it

By Matthew Lysiak
The Brooklyn Paper

A Bay Ridge inventor is ready to go national with her innovative breast-feeding blouse — and she’s bringing her four children with her.

Mother is truly the mother of this invention, and entrepreneur Missy Reder owes her success to her four small children’s healthy appetites.

“I have always felt proud to be able to nurse my baby,” said Reder. “I never want to hide my baby under a blanket.”

Reder might never have invented her now-celebrated “Slurp and Burp” had she been able to find anything remotely helpful on the market when she had her fourth child last year.

So, she then did what all good inventors do; she took matters into her own hands.

“I was feeding the baby at 2 am when all of a sudden it came to me,” Reder said. “The whole design, everything, it all just came to me at once.”

Her invention is a sash that is worn over one shoulder and under the mother’s opposite arm, with an additional loop of layered cotton material — it’s patented, by the way! — that conceals the entire breast. The design allows the mother to be covered and the baby to be uncovered.

The rest, as they say, is “Slurp & Burp” (her husband gets credit for the name) history.

One mom who watched the invention in action thought it was brilliant.

“This idea is genius,” said Helen Vershavsky. “I wish they had these when I was nursing.”

Now Reder’s invention is the talk of baby land (or, at least, Babytalk Magazine, which will feature the invention in an August article that will call it a “must have” for moms who travel with an infant).

Reder isn’t the normal inventor; her trade by day is as a speech therapist and she is a regular at local yoga classes (not to mention raising four hungry children).

“I want to encourage other women to go ahead and follow their dreams,” said Reder. “We are all exhausted, but if there is something you want to pursue, don’t let a few dark circles stand in your way.”

Welcome to Lysiak's Resource Guide!

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